Lapas attēli
PDF
ePub

of a building, these charters and statutes are the support on which the foundations severally rise, and by which they should be rightly examined. Some account, then, of charters of foundation, and statutes, necessarily involving too, as they must, many points of history and antiquity, will be looked for by some as a leading article in a work of this kind; and antiquaries at least would deem that a meagre work, which should keep the Archives of the Institutions, of which it treats, wholly out of sight.

What next becomes the natural subject for inquiry in a seat of learning, is, without dispute, the philosophy of the place. This, like the operations of mind in general, is a work of progress, neither to be made, nor exhibited, all at once. Some may ask, perhaps, in the pride of modern literature—what was the philosophy of those times, when monasteries and colleges were first erected ? And others, as forward to reply--The philosophy of the dark ages. True: but the darkness of those ages was their light, as in a future age, our light will, on various subjects, be considered as our darkness. Whatever the philosophy or religion of our ancestors might be, they were the philosophy and religion of their age, a trembling light in a misty sky, yet the characteristic feature of an existing people, as much as a sun could be in all its glory; and, what forms the character of a nation cannot but be a prominent feature in their history.

True it is, these times were the periods so bustling, and military, and full of events : private feuds and public insurrections left but little room for the calm studies of literature; wars and devastations, massacres, rebellions and revolutions, were the ordinary occurrences, diversified indeed, and, it may be, somewhat embellished, by feats of chivalry, and tales of romance. It was the age of refined savagery. Philosophy was not to be found in the halls of princes, nor in the castles of their nobles : their ambition was in the field, and their profession was only arms. But they had moments of pause

and reflection: then they founded religious houses and colleges thither, as to a focus, all their scattered rays of knowledge were drawn; and all we can know of their philosophy and literature we must be content to gather amidst dreams of monks, and impostures of the priesthood.

Yes! it is through those rustic and close avenues, that we walk to the more ample, airy space of modern science: and there even our self-esteem may unite with our love of truth, to exact liberal description and circumstantial detail : so that the philosophy of the place, in its progress from something very confused to something more clear and perfect, becomes a consideration, with which readers, of any learning themselves, can never dispense.

In connection with this, men of genius and taste will expect to find some allusions to the state of the arts. Not that our Universities were ever academies, in the sense of the word as now used in modern Europe, for academies of the fine arts; or that our colleges display that exhibition of excellent paintings which are found as well in the colleges, as palaces, of Italy: when colleges were first built, painting had not been much subjected to the rules of an art; it was all grotesqueness; it savoured only of the cloyster; it had advanced but little beyond the daubing of a saint, and a founder of a college, or of the gaudiness and glitter of a Romish missal. Yet, what then? what there was of art among our ancestors was to be found principally in those houses, where abbots were architects, and monks and nuns were limners; and in our colleges, as well as our other public buildings, of the University, an intelligent observer will trace the progress of architecture. At Cambridge we have few good paintings; our good portraits are but few—there are some and we have remains of Saxon architecture, the most perfect examples of the Gothic, and some admired specimens of all the Grecian orders.

And, though it may not be expected of an historian to speak much in the language of the painter, or to come with his line and rule, and to adjust the proportions of arches, of columns, of entablatures, and pediments, with the minuteness of a professor; yet in the description of edifices he must sometimes use the terms of art; and, though he has only time to take a rapid glance, and can speak only as it were from the eye, still he must consult the taste of the times, and, occasionally, delineate the immediate appearance, and general aspect of a building.

Next to buildings, it may be expected by some, that the groves, gardens, and public walks ought to be considered: these are parts of our whole; and in these environs and retreats of our Lyceum, not only the passing traveller lingers with delight, but academical students pass

their hours of relaxation and ease. In every serious work there should be room left for occasional embellishment, places which resemble the scenery about a large portrait.-In a history of an University, the aspect of the country, and the places consecrated to retirement and contemplation, cannot fairly be overlooked. With respect to the former, though we have nothing which calls from the occasional visitor the language of rapture; no amphitheatre of rocks, nor chain of lofty mountains ; no transporting vallies, nor charm of lake-scenery; no impetuous sounding torrents, nor streams of fire bursting from the bowels of the earth ; no sounding shore, no elevating boundless expanse of ocean; though, in a word, we have but little that is enchantingly beautiful, or majestically, transportingly grand; but little that invites the landscape gardener, and admirers of the picturesque; still there will be found even here, what will repay description, and should be worth perusal.

The school of Plato, his academia, it is well known, was a small garden, adorned with statues, and planted with plane trees: Cicero has made a happy allusion to it, and Pliny has given a beautiful description of his own. Cowley, an enthusiast to Cambridge, we must suppose by his own testimony, was greatly attached to her grovesa; and though Milton was not so, we have chosen to consecrate Christ College garden to his muse, by ascribing a fine old walnut tree to his planting. And of his own description of garden-scenery, at least, we may say, manet vero et semper manebit : sata est enim ingenio. Nullius autem Agricolæ cultu stirps tam diuturna, quam poetæ versu seminari potest. There may, therefore, be those, who, when they visit a place consecrated to philosophy, may choose to be conducted to her gardens and favourite retreats, though the historian hastening to weightier matter may, perhaps, too fastidiously exclaim with Gray, “ I have no magical skill in planting roses. I am no conjurer there."

Bibliographical observations will, of course, be looked for by those called learned readers. Our Universities and Colleges present an assemblage of libraries; and

a“ O sacri fontes, et sacræ vallibus umbræ, Quas recreant avium Pieridumq. chori.”

COWLEY.

[ocr errors]

libraries are the wardrobes of literature; whence men properly informed might bring forth something for ornament, much for curiosity, and more for use; not merely as those, who string together without meaning, end, or taste, fragments

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

« Of polish'd and piebald languages."

HUDIBRAS.

but as those, who know the value of ancient MSS. and books for the purposes of general literature, or some of the nicer inquiries of criticism, to settle controversies, and to silence cavils. Here even the writer of a catalogue only might render immense service to the investigator of antiquities, to students whether classical or metaphysical, political or theological. A learned reader may, indeed, easily look for more information than can be crowded into a work, aspiring at general utility, though he might feel gratified to find, that what afforded him amusement, could administer, at the same time, to his favourite studies.

But some readers, (and, I believe, most thinking readers) will raise their expectations highest towards biography: I think most justly; and to that point a writer should push his most serious attention and principal care. For what is a state? Not brick and stone, and mortar; not triumphal arches, nor mausoleums that would cheat the grave: not written constitutions, ancient privileges, nor rights upon charters; but “men, highminded mena." And what are Universities ? not senatehouses, libraries, and schools; not gardens and groves; museums and chapels; nor yet monastic dreams, clerical

• Sir William Jones.

« iepriekšējāTurpināt »