Wednesday, January 25, 2017

University Reform: Cambridge

Review of:
Report of the Commissioners for the Reform of the University of Cambridge (1852).

The bill for the reform of the University of Cambridge, which will in all probability be again submitted to Parliament this year, as it originally stood embodied to a certain extent the proposals contained in the report of 1852. It was further modified by the Government, in partial compliance with the remonstrances contained in a letter written by five of the commissioners to the Government in the spring of last year, and, as finally amended, contained provisions of the following kind for the reform of the constitution of the University. It proposed, in the first place, to abolish the caput. This body is a committee consisting of six members, holding office for one year. To them all graces, or resolutions, to be laid before the senate, are submitted; any member has a veto upon the measures proposed, and has it thus in his power to postpone them during his tenure of office. The committee is framed in accordance with the ancient constitution of the University. It contains one representative of each of the three faculties of theology, law, and medicine; one member of the non-regent house, which consists of those M.A.'s who have upwards of five years' standing, and one member of the regent house, which is composed of those who have less; and finally, the vice-chancellor, who is always the junior head of a college. The graces submitted to this body are prepared by the heads of houses, who have thus not only the right of preparing all business for the senate, but have also, through the vice-chancellor's vote in the caput, the power of peremptorily putting a stop to any proceedings of which they may disapprove. The objections to this system are so obvious, that no one defends it; but there is some difference of opinion as to the nature of the body which is to replace it. The government proposed last year a body, to be called the Council of the Senate, which was to consist of four heads of houses chosen by the heads, four professors chosen by the professors, and eight resident members of the senate chosen by the resident members of the senate, half of each of the three constituent parts going out of office every two years. The commissioners wished the whole of the body to be elected by the resident members of the senate, as the corresponding body at Oxford is elected by the congregation. As to its powers, no question was raised. It was to prepare and to approve of all graces to be laid before the senate by a simple majority, and not, as was the case with the caput, by a unanimous vote. The bill also empowered the University to grant licenses to members of the senate to open their residences for the reception of students, who were to be matriculated and admitted to all the privileges of the University without being of necessity members of any college, and to make regulations for the government of such establishments when so opened; and in order to insure the exercise of these powers, it enacted, that if the University did not frame such regulations to the satisfaction of the commissioners appointed by the bill within a year, it should be incumbent on the commissioners to proceed themselves to frame the statutes necessary to supply the defect. The bill also conferred upon the colleges, subject to the approval and control in case of default by the commissioners, many powers in relation to the college statutes and revenues; but it contained no provision for the reform of the University statutes, —a most important omission,—and made no reference to the commissioners' proposal for the institution of a general board of studies. The bill further enacted, that no oaths or subscriptions shall be necessary for any lay degree; but that no person shall become a member of the senate unless he has signed a declaration of membership of the Church of England,—an unnecessary restriction, which concedes the principle, and takes away the grace of the concession. Coupling this, however, with the power which Dissenters will have under the statute of opening halls of their own, the question may be considered as practically, though most ungracefully, settled, at least for the present.

The solution of the questions at issue between the commissioners and the Government is so inextricably mixed up with the more general question of the functions of the University, that we do not propose to discuss them in detail. Contenting ourselves with the general statement that we are on the whole decidedly in favour of the adoption of the recommendations of the commissioners, we will go on to state the principles which have led us to that conclusion.

The general object of the bill, when amended as proposed, is the transfer of the government of the University from the heads of houses to the resident members of the senate. This has been represented as being nothing more than a contest between what Lord Lyndhurst calls the "grave" and the "youthful" elements in that body. We can well understand the policy of representing the question as being merely one between Conservative and Liberal; but this is not the way to arrive at the merits of any question, least of all such a question as this. Indeed, to any one whose recollections of Cambridge are somewhat more recent than those of the strange old man who, having passed that extreme limit of human life at which strength is but labour and trouble, retains almost all the strength and eloquence which were so conspicuous in the last generation but one,—to younger men, the notion of a wild democracy of resident masters of arts is a great deal more strange than that of a frantic mob of quakers, or a bloodthirsty crew of orators from Exeter Hall. The sheep whom his lordship's imagination invests with wolves' clothing are by taste and habit amongst the most conservative of mankind, and are about as likely to injure the constitution of the body to which they belong by rash reforms, as the ingenuous youth who come up to college from year to year to justify their mothers' alarms by over-application to their studies. We do not like to substitute generalities for facts; but it would be much more like the truth to say that the real question at issue is a question between the colleges represented by the heads of houses, and the University represented by the members of the senate. We believe the question to be one which goes to the very root of all University reform, and that upon its solution the whole character of Cambridge education will depend.

Whoever reads the Elizabethan statutes—still, be it remembered, nominally in force—will be struck by the circumstance that their object is to effect something which no one now attempts. They prescribe a regular curriculum, enforced by acts, opponencies, responsions, and attendance upon University lectures, to which the college instruction is considered as entirely subordinate. In short, they recognise examinations, of whatever kind, only as means to an end, and look upon the University, to use the words of the commissioners, as "an educating, and not a prize-giving body." Competitive examinations, and the whole system of "honours," is of very recent origin. It has grown up since 1746 or 47, in which year the first mathematical honour list was published; but it has been so much extended by the establishment of the classical tripos in 1824, of the natural and moral science triposes in 1851, and by the accumulation of a variety of prizes and University scholarships, that whatever education is now given at Cambridge is given exclusively by means of competitive examinations. It is not at first sight apparent how this is connected with the predominance of the colleges over the University; but the fact may be easily explained.

A system which places success entirely in passing certain tests with distinction, necessarily increases the influence of the colleges, as the college authorities are of necessity better acquainted with their own pupils than professors can be. The consequence of this has been, that the college lectures have almost entirely superseded those given by the professors of the University; and by the operation of a precisely similar cause, they have been themselves, to a great degree, superseded by the instruction given by private tutors. Thus Mr. Cooper, late tutor of Trinity, says:
"The lecturers' functions are superseded to a considerable extent by the private tutors. The competition for university honours is so great, that the students eagerly seize upon any advantage which can improve their prospect of success; and as the private tutor can devote more of his time to the individual student, and carry him more rapidly and with less exertion over his field of study, they lean more upon his assistance than that of the college lecturer. In the present state of our mathematical examinations for honours, I believe that it cannot be otherwise. I do not think that the higher classes of students could acquire that readiness in displaying the knowledge they possess which the work of the senate-house demands, without some private assistance in addition to college lectures." Evidence, p. 153.
Indeed, when the object is to introduce into the mind of the student a definite quantity of information, reproducible on short notice in a certain specific form, the system of private tuition will of necessity supersede all others. Of course, when such a system is fully carried out, the Universityis reduced to a mere examining-board, and, as far as direct instruction is concerned, the undergraduates might as well come up to London once a year, for a week at a time, to be examined, as live at Cambridge. Upon the effect of this system on the students we may quote the following passages from the evidence of Dr. Philpott, the Master of Catharine Hall, and from Dr. Whewell, the Master of Trinity College:
"I believe that the notion prevails extensively among the students that the continued assistance of a private tutor is indispensable for the attainment of high honours; but I think that this notion does not rest on any good foundation. I am inclined to think, on the contrary, that the continued reliance on a private tutor is in many cases of great injury to the student, and that much sounder and more knowledge would have been acquired [of this we have no doubt], and a higher honour gained [this is contradicted by universal experience], if the student could have been persuaded to rely more on his own strength and resources, and either to depend altogether for guidance and assistance on his college tutor, or to have recourse only occasionally, and towards the end of his course, to the help of private tuition. Instances occur repeatedly of failure to obtain high honours in the case of students who have had the benefit (as they consider it) of continued private tuition, and instances are also to be found [Mr. Cooper expressly contradicts this] in sufficient number to prove the advantage of reliance on a student's own personal exertion, in which high honours have been gained by students who have had little or no private tuition."
The following are the remarks of Dr. Whewell on the same subject:
"At present, most of the students have private tutors during the greater part of the time that they are here, at an expense of from forty to sixty guineas a-year. It would much improve the influence of our Cambridge education upon the minds of the students if they were not commonly allowed to have private tutors, especially during the latter part of their undergraduateship; for the dependence on private tutors enfeebles the mind and depraves the habits of study; and the private tutor's instructions having for their object merely the student's success in a coming examination, without the more general or dignified tone which public teaching naturally assumes, lower the character of our teaching."
Dr. Whewell further observes:
"I began to speak of this subject as a matter of expense; but if I may here pursue it with reference to its other defects, which are made the subjects of inquiry also, I may add my very decided opinion that no system of education which is governed entirely, or even mainly, by examinations occupying short times with long intervening intervals, can ever be otherwise than a bad mental discipline. Intellectual education requires that the mind should be habitually employed in the acquisition of knowledge, with a certain considerable degree of clear insight and independent activity. This is universally promoted by the daily teaching of the lecture-room, with the sympathy and interest that the mutual action of various minds produces; it is not necessarily or greatly promoted by the prospect of an examination. It is true, however, that in the lecture-room, according to the present habitual temper of Englishmen (for I do not think it was always so, nor need be always so), many students would be inert and idle, and these may be stimulated by the hope of honour, or the fear of disgrace, in an examination; and undoubtedly college examinations or university examinations, since their institution (for both are of recent date), have been accompanied with great activity in college and university studies on the part of many, and with some exertion on the part even of the most idle, when the fear of disgrace has been applied to produce this effect. But the influence of our English university education would be utterly degraded, if examinations and their consequences were to supersede the influence of the college lecture-rooms; or if college lecture-rooms were to attempt to make their claim to respect and regard depend solely upon their being the successful rivals of private tutors in preparing students for university examinations."
These quotations sufficiently illustrate one ground of the connection between the system of educating by competitive examination and the predominance of the colleges over the University. A link of equal, if not of greater power is to be found in the weight which success in the University examinations has in the college elections to fellowships. However much it may be regretted, there can be no sort of doubt that the prospect of obtaining fellowships is the power by which the whole education of the University is worked. With the important exception of Trinity College, the distribution of fellowships depends almost entirely on the degrees obtained by the candidates; so that the result of the whole system is, in a few words, that the office of the University is to provide tests, for which the students are prepared by private tutors, and by which the distribution of college emoluments is regulated. It is obvious, that this state of things must be greatly promoted by throwing the whole government of the Universities into the hands of a body which represents the colleges and nothing else. It is because we believe that it has a tendency to break up this system, that we hope to see the fullest effect given by parliament to the recommendations of the commissioners. It would be impossible within our limits to discuss all the changes which may be expected—very gradually, no doubt— to flow from the reforms, of which we look upon the present bill as the first instalment and the indispensable condition. We will confine ourselves to an attempt to show how homogeneous are the defects of the existing state of things, and how closely all prospect of substituting a real education for the present system is connected with every measure which tends to give the University a voice, we had almost said an existence.

A plan of education prepared with a view to competitive examinations—to which the colleges will always be devoted while competitive examinations measure their comparative success—has two capital defects: it influences only a very small proportion of those who are submitted to it; and it addresses itself to the lowest parts of their intellectual and moral characters. If we suppose that twice as many persons are candidates for such honours as actually obtain them, and if we add a certain number who are more or less influenced by the fear of being "plucked," we should arrive at the total number of persons to whom the influence of the examinations extends. It is obvious that it is very much less than the total number of persons examined, and that those who are not influenced are precisely those to whom the guidance of others would be most valuable. A large proportion of the undergraduates are, of course, to a very considerable extent idle and self-indulgent; a good many are absolutely stupid; a few are energetic and clever. It probably matters little whether you succeed or not in driving into the head of a thoroughly stupid man as much Greek as will enable him to see that the authorised version of the New Testament is a translation, and as much mathematics as will enable him to remember for about a fortnight before and after his degree examination that two straight lines cannot enclose a space, and that two sides of a triangle are greater than the third;—all that can be really done for such a person is, to give him encouragement to pass his three years inoffensively, and to receive the indirect influence of the University kindly. Nor do we think that there is any very particular use in giving some ten or fifteen remarkably energetic youths a certificate that they have displayed great diligence, much readiness, considerable coolness, and an aptitude for acquiring and reproducing particular kinds of knowledge,—they are pretty sure to make these facts sufficiently apparent to all whom they may concern in the ordinary transactions of life; but there is a very large class of persons who are by no means stupid, by no means indocile, and yet not qualified by nature either for keen personal competition or for continuous self-sustained exertion. These persons will be diligent if they are taught, and will be idle if they are not taught; and upon their diligence or idleness depends the question whether the years which they spend at college shall be amongst the most useful or amongst the most useless years in their lives. The system of examinations directs its attention exclusively to the first two classes, and altogether fails to influence the last. If a man is ready, shrewd, self-reliant, and energetic, it stimulates him into unnatural and often injurious activity in a contracted sphere. If he is extremely stupid, it plagues him into an effort, the effects of which disappear as soon as it has been made, whilst the effort itself is remembered only as a disagreeable episode in his life; but if he is just of that character which most requires and would be most benefited by a teaching and guidance which would excite his attention and win his respect, it either leaves him altogether uninfluenced, or inspires him with a low easily gratified ambition, leading to the acquisition of those second-rate honours which seem to have been devised for the express purpose of fostering vanity without attesting merit.

The influence of these examinations, restricted as it is, is not by any means of the healthiest kind. Their natural result is, that the end is entirely lost sight of in the means. Men try to get knowledge, not for the sake of the knowledge, nor for the sake of the mental discipline which is given by its acquisition, but because knowledge gives marks, and marks lead to fellowships. Hence the tendency of a system of examinations is to confine all education to those subjects which are best fitted for that purpose. The curriculum is confined in the first place to mathematics and classics. The mathematics have a natural tendency to dwindle into analytical tricks, and the classics to run into mere philology. This was so strongly felt at Cambridge, that some time since a board of mathematical studies was appointed for the express purpose of controlling the natural eagerness of the examiners to set an undue value upon mere feats of strength as contrasted with sound scientific knowledge. The remedy was creditable to the University; but it is obvious that it was calculated only to repress a particular symptom of a disease which, in one form or another, must always be the consequence of a system based exclusively on competitive examinations. Further and most significant illustrations of this fact are to be found in the miserable failure of the moral and natural science triposes established some years since. Whatever opinions may be entertained as to the utility of such studies, as compared to classics and mathematics, no one, we suppose, will doubt that they are in themselves more likely to attract the attention of young men; but this has been so little the case, that the number of persons who have taken honours in the moral science tripos has been only about eight a year, whilst in the natural science tripos it has been only five or six. The reason is, that the whole University system is so exclusively based upon competitive examinations, that the study of subjects unsuited for such examinations is a mere pretence, and cannot under the existing system be efficiently carried out. A less notorious but equally striking illustration of the same thing is to be found in the view which the undergraduates themselves take of the different papers in a college examination. The examinations at Trinity College, for example, are composed partly of mathematical, partly of classical, i.e. philological, and partly of historical and literary questions relating to the authors whose works are the subjects of examination and to the times in which they lived. It might have been supposed that the students, at any rate, would attach more importance to the last class of papers, and would take more interest in them than in the other two; but this is so far from being the case, that they are, or were, always spoken of emphatically as "cram" papers, because it is precisely upon those subjects that the greatest amount of credit can be got by merely mechanical tact and study. It requires a considerable amount of really scientific knowledge to solve difficult mathematical problems, or to construe well a difficult passage from the classics; but it is the characteristic of the system of education by examinations to degrade the study of what ought to be the most interesting of all subjects—history, morals, and literature, as distinguished from philology—into a mere affair of analysis and memoria technica. The moral effects of this system are as bad as its intellectual effects. Not only does it tend to prevent the growth of any real love of knowledge, but it antedates the struggles of life, and robs the student of much of the freshness of what ought to be his happiest years. Any one whose recollections upon the subject are fresh will bear out our assertion, that a large class of persons go to the University solely with a view of getting a fellowship, which would enable them cither to take orders or to enter one of the lay professions upon independent terms. To such a class the precise nature of the accomplishment for the acquisition of which they are to be rewarded is matter of comparative indifference. Human nature would be very different from what it is, if, with so many cheap places of education as now exist, this class were not a large and increasing one. The intense eagerness which pervades every portion of English society to rise in the world, to "succeed" in one shape or another, sends up yearly to Cambridge a whole set of students hungering and thirsting after degrees which will be both creditable and profitable to them, and which will raise them some steps in the social ladder. In one point of view, no doubt this is a very favourable symptom, and a subject for congratulation,—we should wish to see the wish for a good education as widely felt, and the means of gratifying that wish as widely diffused, as possible; but it is the desire of education itself which we wish to see increased, not the desire of the money and rank supposed to be its consequences, which is already abundantly powerful. Whatever measures may render the Universities more easy of access to the great body of the nation, we would cordially support; what ever would induce a larger number of persons to devote the time necessary for the purposes of University education to the instruction of their sons (a far more difficult task), we should approve of still more strongly; but we have no wish at all to see the Universities degraded into mere arenas, in which the performance of certain mental feats is rewarded by the payment of £1400 or £1500 and a considerable accession of social importance. Allow the University to be the scene of a constant selfish scramble for money-prizes, and its higher purposes will, after a time, be altogether forgotten; yet this is the direct and inevitable consequence of the present system of competitive examination. It would be hard to find a more forcible exposition of this evil than that which is incidentally given by the commissioners in speaking of the character of the mathematical examinations:
"It can hardly be denied, that an excess of book-work, called for in examinations, has a decided tendency to give industry an advantage over innate talent, or at least to place them more nearly on a level; and not merely industry (which, if well directed, and sanctioned by high motives, merits every recognition), but that perverse and obnoxious form of it, which, looking to the result of examinations only as a stepping-stone to worldly progress, is content thenceforward to throw overboard as an incumbrance, or to forget as utterly uninteresting, the acquirements of months or years of painful and grudgingly given toil.
This is, in fact, the great vice of the examination system, or rather a perversion of it from its legitimate use (that of ascertaining that sanctioned studies have been effectually pursued), to which the University, as an educating rather than a prize-bestowing body, ought to lend itself as little as possible. Where college-emolument is the direct object and avowed end of an examination, as in that for fellowships, scholarships, &c., the ready production of knowledge, however incoherent, will always offer a temptation difficult to resist; but in the University examinations those who have not this stimulus, and who resort to the University for education and for education only, should be protected from its injurious influence, and taught to rely rather on a moderate amount of knowledge, soundly and honestly possessed, than on a larger amount, got up for the purpose of exhibition, with little comprehension of its real bearings and connections. [It must be remembered, that in thirteen out of seventeen colleges fellowships are conferred exclusively in accordance with the degrees taken, and in two others—St. John's and Sydney—chiefly on that principle. It is only at King's, where all the scholars become fellows, and at Trinity, where the examinations are independent of the degrees, that this is not so.]
The evil of 'cramming' is so great, and its influence on the character, both intellectual and moral, so fatal, that we may be excused for dwelling on it somewhat at large. It originates, as already stated, in a misdirection of industry to the apparently honourable, and certainly advantageous, result of passing a good examination, rather than to the acquirement of sound knowledge for its own sake; and will never be eradicated, but continue to reappear in some form or other, while the results of examinations have the direct influence which they actually have on the prospects of those who undergo them. The causes of this influence are beyond the control of the University, and lie deep-seated in our social system, where they are daily acquiring new power."
We cannot agree with the commissioners in considering that the remedy for this state of things is to be found principally, or even to any very great extent, in improved regulations about examinations. It appears to us that a far more efficient remedy is to be found in the vigorous prosecution of the measures which they have themselves proposed for the reconstitution of the University as a body, distinct from and superior to the colleges, imparting instruction to the undergraduates upon its own principles, and by the agency of its own officers. In order to carry out such a plan, the Report proposed, amongst other things, the establishment of several new professorships, and of a class of public lecturers subordinate to the professors, to be engaged for the most part in catechetical teaching. It further recommended the establishment of one general and of several special boards of studies, to be charged with the general supervision of the subjects lectured upon, with a view to producing something like uniformity of plan and purpose amongst the various professors. Some of these boards have been, we believe, already established by the University itself; but we regret to observe that the bill contains no reference to the general board of studies, notwithstanding the remonstrances of the commissioners. The Report further proposes, that the course of study at present necessary for the B.A. degree should be considerably modified; and that, after passing through an examination in classics and mathematics analogous to the previous examination, or, as it is popularly called, the 'little-go,' the students should be allowed to pass four terms more in attendance on the lectures of some one or more of the professors and public lecturers, with a view to obtaining a place in some one of the existing or future triposes. Our own opinion is decidedly opposed to this change. We do not think that three years and a quarter is at all too long a period for steady continuous application to a given set of subjects, nor do we think it is by any means desirable that the Cambridge calendar should be further encumbered with abortive triposes. The existing state of things has many faults; but it is at least sufficiently definite. The alteration proposed by the commissioners appears to us to halt between two systems. It gives half to the colleges and half to the University; and inasmuch as it leaves untouched the whole system of mathematical and classical honours, and of fellowships thereto appended, it seems to us that it would only add to the existing confusion, by increasing the number and diminishing the efficiency of the competitive examinations now in operation.

It would require a minute acquaintance with the various resources of the University, to which we make no claim, to draw out a scheme for the education of University students complete in all its parts. We agree with Mr. Blakesley in thinking that the various educating bodies—professors, colleges, and private tutors—might all, under a proper system, find enough to do; but we do not think this can be accomplished unless the existing system is so far modified as to give to the University its legitimate supremacy over the colleges. We should wish arrangements to be made which would revive the operation of the Elizabethan statutes, not, of course, in form, but in spirit. In our view, the lectures of the professors ought to be the mainspring of the whole. A certain number of courses of lectures might be selected by the University, attendance upon some of which should be compulsory upon all students, whilst the others might be optional. Merely for illustration, we would suppose that all students were obliged to attend either classical or mathematical lectures, and at least one of another list, comprising theology, law, physiology, history, political economy, &c. At present, attendance upon University lectures amounts, generally speaking, to hearing a man read aloud a chapter in a book. To prevent this, the recommendations of the commissioners might be carried out by the assignment of a staff of lecturers to every professor whose class might be sufficiently numerous to warrant it (to which posts the existing private tutors would naturally be appointed), amongst whom the professor would divide his class, to be personally and catechetically instructed in the various subjects lectured upon, from ten to twenty persons being allotted to each lecturer. The classes might be constructed according to the results of a great number of examinations, taking place perhaps three or four times in a term, and resembling those by which private tutors who have pupils enough to divide them into classes give them an opportunity of testing their proficiency. The frequency of such examinations, the small number of examinants, and the obscure and individual character of the result, would effectually confine them to their proper character of tests, and destroy their importance as great personal competitions. Once a year each professor might publish a list of his pupils, divided into alphabetical classes; and at the end of the University course these class-lists might be consolidated, without any such examinations as at present exist, into a University class-list, also alphabetically arranged. If some system of this kind were established, it would make such demands on the time and thoughts of the pupils, that the college lectures and the instructions of the private tutors would of necessity conform to it, and would, of course, find their own level according to their value, just as they at present do with respect to the two examinations prescribed by the University. The fellowships might still be awarded as at present, either by reference to the University tests, or by competitive examinations, which are, in our opinion, as well adapted for the purpose of awarding prizes as they are unfit for purposes of education.

Such a change as this could, of course, be effected only by slow degrees; the steps by which it might be brought about are —the substitution of classes, arranged alphabetically, for the present arrangement in order of merit; the multiplication of passexaminations; and increased activity on the part of the professors and the various boards of studies recommended by the commissioners, and partially instituted by the University.

The question, who is to teach? appears to us to a great extent to involve and to answer the question, what is to be taught? We think that if the principle that teaching is to be individual, catechetical, and undertaken for its own sake,—which it is never likely to be so long as closely competing bodies are the teachers—and not for the sake of exceptional honours awarded to successful pupils, were fully carried into practice, the discussions, which at present so much perplex the whole question of University reform with respect to the quality of the instruction to be afforded, would find their own solution.

It is certainly not for want of discussion that great difference of opinion exists upon the subject of the functions and objects of University instruction. Mr. Froude and Mr. Pattison in the Oxford, and Mr. Clark in the Cambridge Essays, have defended the existing practice of the University with an energy which is all the more remarkable when we remember the character of Mr. Froude's relations with Oxford, and the liberalism of Mr. Clark; and their side of the question has been maintained with an ability which fills us with admiration by Lord Lyndhurst in the House of Lords. But notwithstanding the practical acquaintance with the subject enjoyed by the writers in the Oxford and Cambridge Essays, and notwithstanding the extraordinary ability which characterises the speech of Lord Lyndhurst, we cannot think that the real point of the question has been sufficiently brought forward. Amongst other causes which have tended to obscure it, one is an "idol of the cave" which haunts the brains of a certain class of writers on this subject. Dr. Newman considers that a University (being derived from universus) ought to teach universal knowledge; that is, if we apprehend his argument rightly, that the University ought to show the relations which all sciences bear to each other,—such as the relation between morals and metaphysics, between law and theology, between electricity and physiology, between physiology and metaphysics, and so on; so that the instruction given in any one branch of learning might have a certain relation to that which is afforded in any other: and something to the same effect, if we understand him rightly, is Mr. Pattison's doctrine, that it is the exclusive function of the University to teach the "scientia scientiarum." In the first place, the word "university" has no such meaning as Dr. Newman applies to it. A universitas in Roman law means simply a corporation. The College of Surgeons, the Fishmongers' Company, Goldsmiths' Hall, are just as much universitates as Oxford and Cambridge. We suppose that even Dr. Newman would hardly contend that, as such, they ought to perform operations, or to affix the hall-mark to plate, in relation to the eternal fitness of things, and having regard to the connections between all the sciences. There are other objections besides this. What is the relation between any two given sciences? What, for example, is the relation between botany and theology? What is the connecting link between geology and international law? Where does political economy intersect with surgery? Or, coming to sciences between which some connection is universally recognised, have we quite settled the boundaries between theology and metaphysics, between metaphysics and morals, or between theology and geology or ethnology? We can understand that a man should maintain such a doctrine who has the face to assert that no Protestant body can teach astronomy correctly, because all astronomical investigation points to the conclusion that the earth moves round the sun, whereas in fact the sun moves round the earth, which we can only learn from theology; but to every mind which has not learnt under the influence of theological narcotics that
"Right is wrong, and wrong is right,
And white is black, and black is white," 
the doctrine that any body is bound to teach what no human being ever yet learnt, and what in all probability no finite intelligence is capable of understanding, is a great mystery. Oxford and Cambridge are quite incompetent to teach the scientia scientiarum. If a man wants his son to learn that, he had better send him to read with a Struldbrug, and matriculate him at the University of Laputa.

Lord Lyndhurst and Messrs. Froude and Clark come before us in a far less questionable shape. Lord Lyndhurst draws a delightful picture of the character of the education which the University of Cambridge affords, as contrasted with that which is given by more showy but less solid institutions. In his lordship's view of the case, the Cambridge student is led through the whole cycle of the classics, and through the whole range of mathematics; and thereby has the advantage not only of the study of literature of the most elevating kind, but also of the strictest scientific discipline. Mr. Clark repeats the same statement at much greater length, and enters into a classification of the different species of education, which he describes as primary, commercial, liberal, and professional. Mr. Froude justifies the University system, as exemplified at Oxford and Cambridge, by drawing a distinction between Information and Education, and by insisting on the paramount importance of the latter; which, in his opinion, the Universities, and they only, continue to impart.

The answer to Lord Lyndhurst's theory is, that it is false in fact. No doubt such an education as he describes would be both efficient and liberal in the highest degree; but we never knew any one to whom it was really given. The University of Cambridge teaches nothing at all. It gives to certain persons certificates of the fact that they displayed more efficiently than certain other persons an acquaintance with some branches of knowledge; but it will give such a certificate for either classical or mathematical knowledge to the exclusion of the other, and hardly ever, as matter of fact, has occasion to give them for both.

The classifications of Messrs. Froude and Clark appear to us to be entirely fallacious. Indeed, they are so neat and portable, that it is quite impossible not to mistrust them. When a man tells you that the great error of life is to confound the provinces of the Reason and the Understanding, or of the Imagination and the Fancy, or of Information and Education—fanum habet in cornu—we are involuntarily reminded of Messrs. Taper and Tadpole, and their famous cry of " Our young Queen and our old institutions." We are greatly sceptical as to the soundness of any distinction denoted by two substantives ending in -ation and beginning with capital letters.
[If any thing were wanting to make us distrust Mr. Fronde's theories, it would be supplied by his extraordinary inaccuracy as to matter of fact. In the Oxford Essays, pp. 50, 51, occurs the following passage: "At the London University, in the pass-examination for a bachelor's degree (and degrees are there taken at the age at which the course at Oxford only commences), there are required {we believe we speak fairly within compass) the Greek and Latin, the French and German languages, logic, moral philosophy, an indefinite quantity of mathematics, astronomy, anatomy, organic chemistry, and a general acquaintance with the results of all the other physical sciences, all Greek history, all Roman history, and, as if this were not enough, thrown in as a mere trifle to make the grouping complete, all English history. For the degree of M.A., taken two years later, all ancient history is required, and all European history to the close of the eighteenth century." And, at p. 254, Mr. Pattison says, "The London University has been crushed under the pressure of the superior weight of metropolitan life." It is quite obvious that Mr. Froude (who speaks of the "Gower-Street Council") and Mr. Pattison both confound University College, London, with the University of London,—a blunder peculiarly inexcusable in Oxford men. It would take more room than we can spare to show the utter inaccuracy of every sentence written by Mr. Froude upon the subject. He obviously misconceives the whole character of the institution which he criticises, and transfers his Oxford notions upon the subject of degrees to a body which looks upon them quite in a different light from the old Universities, for reasons which are sufficiently obvious to every one who knows that the University of London is only a central examining board for no less than thirty-three different institutions, including, amongst others, Oxford and Cambridge. An ordinary degree at the old Universities is a mere bene discessit, at the University of London it is a prize; so that, with something like 1300 undergraduates, that body has but 542 B.As. and about 50 M.As. The examinations for these degrees are therefore necessarily more arduous than at the other Universities; but Mr. Froude vastly exaggerates their difficulty. Out of fifteen subjects of examination which he specifies, not one is correctly stated; and the "anatomy, organic chemistry, and general acquaintance with the results of all other physical sciences," exist only in his own imagination. What really is required is as follows: one Greek and one Latin book, chosen and announced two years before by the examiners from a printed list; considerably less mathematics than are necessary for the lowest honours at Cambridge, the amount required being most carefully specified at pp. 43, 44 of the University Calendar (this is Mr. Froude's "indefinite quantity"); certain parts of animal physiology—also carefully specified; the introduction and the first and second books of Whateley's Logic; three books of Paley's Morals, and Butler's Three Sermons on Human Nature; either French or (not and) German enough for translation and re-translation; the history of Greece to the death of Alexander; of Rome, to that of Augustus; of England, to the year 1700. The statement about the examination for the M.A. degree is correct as far as it goes, but is defective from the writer's obvious ignorance of its character, shown (amongst other things) by the unmeaning remark, "taken two years later." The M.A. degree at the University of London is a high honour, and is hardly ever taken at all. The two years is the minimum. There is another misstatement in the same place, about the law examination at the inns-of-court: Mr. Froude repeats the statements of a foolish letter to the Times, in which the writer had mistaken a list of the books from which the reader (Mr. Phillimore) intended to lecture for a list of the books which he, the pupil, was expected to get up. The exact information as to the London degrees was attainable in any recent London University Calendar, and as to the law examination at the inns-of-court: had it been less accessible and more recondite, Mr. Froude would certainly have been more correct.]

"General knowledge," says Mr. Fronde, "means general ignorance. Oxford" (and the same defence, mutatis mutandis, is often applied to Cambridge), "knowing well that if she attempted to educate by merely imparting information, the task was an endless and impossible one, has confined her teaching to specimens the most complete and illustrative which the world afforded her of the several subjects of general study. Thus she has not undertaken to teach languages, but language—language in the two most highly organised forms which it has assumed. So with philosophy, and so with history; in both cases she has confined herself to the treatment of the subject by a few great thinkers, selecting, with peculiar judgment, the writings of heathens, because in them the purely human character can best be studied free from any foreign element or influence. She has not entertained the ambitious expectation that in three years she can teach her pupils to understand the entire fortunes of mankind. She has thought it sufficient if she can bring them to understand something of man by studying his actions in close and minute detail." [Oxford Essays, p. 53.] And to somewhat the same effect Mr. Clark observes: "It cannot be too often repeated, that the object of a general or liberal education is not to impart the greatest possible amount of what is strangely called 'information', but rather, in the true sense of that much-abused word, to inform the mind, to fit it for the acquisition and retention of all sound learning, and for the perception of beauty and truth. To effect this, we must employ such processes as shall train the three great faculties—reason, memory, imagination—to a natural and harmonious development. That mind is maimed and crippled wherein one of these members has been exercised, to the neglect and enfeeblement of the other two . . . . Reasoning is divided into two main divisions, exact or demonstrative, and moral or probable. The study of mathematics exercises almost exclusively the former, the study of classics chiefly the latter process; and there is no conceivable subdivision of either process which is not brought into play by the one study or the other."

We take these two passages to constitute the answers of one school of admirers of the existing University system to the attacks which have been made upon it by some of the reformers. With far greater sympathy for the Universities than for many of their assailants, we cannot but regret the line taken up by their defenders. We shall not stop to consider minutely how far Mr. Froude's ingenious argument is an afterthought. There is something grotesque enough in the notion of the original authors of the Oxford curriculum selecting the writings of heathens, "because in them the purely human character could best be studied." We should like to know what Dean Jackson would have said of such a sentence. The phrase "purely human" would have sounded very strange at Christchurch some thirty-five years ago. It would not, we imagine, be hard to show that the selection of studies at Oxford was guided to a very great extent by accident, and to a still greater extent by the nature of the accomplishments possessed by the governing body, who naturally preferred to teach what they knew or could easily learn themselves. We take wider ground than this, and assert that the distinction between information and education is a mere distinction of words and not of things; and that the classification of education, as being primary, commercial, liberal, and professional, is really no classification at all.

No human being ever advocated the doctrine, that information, in the sense of mere acquaintance with a number of facts, is in itself desirable. Even Mr. Froude's bête noir, the "Gower-Street Council," would not give much to know that Mr. A. lives at 100 Gower Street, and Mrs. B. at 101. The greatest enthusiast for "general knowledge" has some principle of selection. He proposes to teach what he considers desirable to be known, and not to teach what he does not. On the other hand, we never yet heard of any education which did not consist of information. The old Persians, who taught their children to ride, to draw the bow, and to speak the truth, gave them at least three very useful pieces of information; when a child is taught to suck, which is perhaps the earliest of all educational processes, it is taught the practical application of hydrostatics. Indeed, education without information is like substance without qualities, or speech without words. The question, therefore, between Messrs. Froude and Clark on the one hand, and their despised opponents on the other, is only a question as to the comparative usefulness (a word which the gentlemen in question generally print in inverted commas) of certain kinds of information, and not a question between two processes of different kinds. Mr. Clark's classification of education seems to us to be open to precisely the same criticism. Professional, liberal, and commercial education, all imply primary education; and a professional education is to a great extent a liberal one. Indeed, neither classification seems to us to advance the question one step. It still remains precisely where it was, and is shortly this: What is the most useful kind of information which can be imparted to a young man between eighteen and twenty-two, independently of his future plans in life; and what is the most effective way of imparting it? Nor can we see that these gentlemen contribute in any degree to the solution of the question by contrasting the shallow character of that "general knowledge which is general ignorance" with the thoroughness with which the Universities teach classics and mathematics. Is there any necessary connection between what is modern and what is superficial? Is there in the nature of things some alternative between teaching philology and mathematics thoroughly, and a little universal knowledge superficially? Why might not the University, if it thought it on the whole best to do so, teach nothing but Fearne's Contingent Remainders, and allow nobody to leave Cambridge without an absolutely perfect acquaintance with all the learning involved in a full appreciation of the great mystery of Perrin v. Blake? Why might not Cain, or the Life of Tom Jones, or the Arundines Cami, be made the subjects of study as profound and as minute as Thucydides or Plato? We can suggest many reasons why they should not, but none why they could not. The wisdom of learning well what you learn at all, and of not attempting to teach your pupil more than he can take in, is unquestionable; but it is recognised, though Mr. Froude may not think so, at other places than Oxford, and by other banks than those of the Isis and the Cam. These gentlemen may be right in supposing that classics, mathematics, and what Oxford men call "science," are more useful than any other parts of learning, but that is not because they are the only subjects capable of being studied profoundly, but because of some inherent convenience or excellence.

Whilst, for these reasons, we cannot fully sympathise with the University conservatives, we are equally unable to go along with the popular cry for reform. We feel strongly that the Universities are and must be places of education for the comparatively rich,—for those who have sufficient means to enable them to spend the first twenty-four years of their lives in pursuits which will not afford them any definite prospect of immediately earning a livelihood at the end of that time. To turn the Universities into finishing schools for the middle and lower classes, would be to destroy their usefulness altogether. No doubt provision might be made, by certain applications of part of the University funds, for extending their advantages to a small number of able youths of the poorer classes; but these must of necessity be the exceptions. If a man is to pass at once from the University to a shop or a counting-house, he had better not come there at all. The expense of a University education is not a question of money. It is a question of time. If it is to retain any portion of its distinctive character, it must take place at a time of life when the mind has attained a certain maturity and power of apprehending great subjects, and must not be cramped by the necessity of being turned to immediate money profit. At all events, if we vulgarise the Universities by shortening the time of study, by teaching such common accomplishments as go to raise the salary of a clerk, or to increase the value of a commercial traveller, we shall have to establish some other places of education for the training of statesmen, of clergymen, of lawyers, of physicians, and of gentlemen. The usefulness of the teaching of a University depends upon the degree in which it qualifies men to take high stations in life, and to serve their country in those functions in which a certain grasp of intellect and clear perception of large principles is more necessary than any amount of mere commonplace cleverness. To compare the rough-and-ready tact of a common man of business with the real power and intellect of a highly educated person of equal original powers, is the commonest, the vulgarest, and the silliest of all mistakes. It is like comparing a gossiping country apothecary in good business to a first-rate London physician, or a keen-witted attorney to one of the fifteen judges. We will assume, therefore, that in considering the usefulness of different branches of study we are to take into account a somewhat remote future, and an enlarged sphere of action. Upon this view of the subject, we think there is much truth in what Messrs. Froude and Clark urge with respect to the advantages of classical study. We do not quite see our way to agreeing with Mr. Froude's admiration for it on account of its "heathenism." Surely there is a modern literature which is not altogether ecclesiastical. A man might read Blackstone's Commentaries, or even Hallam's Constitutional History, without knocking his head against many "theological prejudices." It is not every man who looks at the universe through ecclesiastical spectacles, and who finds in all the events of life contrasts between the human and the superhuman, the ascetic and the Benthamic, and hints upon the subjects on which Milton's devils had so much conversation. Still, no one can deny that we get a greater amount of literary excellence in a smaller range in the classics than is to be found elsewhere, and we will go so far as to concede to Mr. Clark the truth of his apology for philology—that "it would take many pages to write out at length the inductive syllogisms which have to be proposed and solved in determining the true meaning of a difficult sentence in Thucydides or Tacitus." Our concession will be made all the more readily, inasmuch as the same would be true of speaking or taking a walk, of throwing a stone at a mark, or of any other of those processes which admit of a logical description, but which are performed by the agency of a kind of habit which becomes almost instinctive. We will also admit the full value of mathematics as a mental discipline; and we should wish not only to admit, but to call closer attention than is usually bestowed upon it, to the fact, that these subjects are unquestionably far more convenient for the teachers than any others; that by their selection it is easy to ascertain that the pupil has really mastered his instructions; to choose the particular branches to which he is to address himself, and to compare his progress with that of others. But it is not so clear that what is pleasantest for the tutor is best for the pupil, or that it is wiser to learn, because it is easier to teach, Greek and Latin, than English history. The conclusive objection to the existing Cambridge course of study is, that the students will not learn it, and the University cannot make them. That a man, fully instructed in the whole range of classics and mathematics, has received an admirable education, may be perfectly true; but it is quite consistent with this that twenty other persons have received almost no education at all in order to fit him out. It may be better to learn mathematics than to learn law; but it is certainly better to learn law than to learn nothing. The interests of the students who would have adopted studies of various kinds are sacrificed to those of the few who take an interest in what are considered the highest kinds of studies. It may be answered, that the failure of the natural and moral science triposes is conclusive against this view;—it does, in fact, confirm it. The University adopts a mode of teaching—competitive examination—totally unfit for any subjects except classics and mathematics; and then turns round on the students and says, "You take no interest in the studies which I do not enable you to learn."

The advantages claimed for the present studies of the University consist partly of their intrinsic value, and partly of the mental habits necessary for their cultivation; partly, that is, of the matter taught, and partly of the manner in which it is taught. In respect of the intrinsic value of the studies pursued many arguments are urged, with which our readers are undoubtedly sufficiently familiar. No one capable of forming an opinion upon the subject doubts that classical literature is, as far as style goes, the best of all literatures, and that it contains much valuable matter in a small compass. Of the intrinsic value of mathematics greater doubts may be entertained. Except in certain special studies, they are of little use; indeed the knowledge and the application of the higher branches of analysis are almost exclusively confined to professional mathematicians. In such pursuits as civil engineering, navigation, and the like, certain results, condensed into short practical forms, are used, in total ignorance of the principles upon which they are based. It must be observed moreover, that however intrinsically valuable a profound acquaintance with classics or mathematics may be, a superficial acquaintance with them is almost entirely useless; and that they are sure, in most instances, to be less thoroughly learnt, and more thoroughly forgotten, than almost any other subjects. If, after infinite labour, a man has learnt at twenty-two to construe some of the easier parts of Xenophon and Virgil with some sort of approach to accuracy, the value of his knowledge is considerably diminished by the reflection that he is sure to have forgotten it by twenty-three. If he has obtained an equally unsatisfactory knowledge of some of the commoner rules of political economy, there is, at any rate, a chance that later in life he will find them less useless than he would find the other accomplishment. A forged cheque, which you cannot present for payment, is less valuable than a bad sovereign, which you may pass innocently.

Of the value of the two branches of study as a mental training, we shall only say, that we fully agree in the common opinion upon the subject. We think that either of them, taught as they are to the better class of students at Cambridge, has a great tendency to give habits of accurate, patient, continuous thought, and to impress upon the mind the necessity of understanding the principles upon which rules are founded, as well as the empirical application of the rules themselves. Thus far we fully agree with the University conservatives. We differ from them in thinking that, for many reasons, a great proportion of people are quite incapable of studying classics or mathematics in such a manner as to derive from their studies any mental training at all. We further think that the advantages in point of mental training derived from the existing studies depend almost entirely upon the manner in which they are conducted; and that if other studies were pursued in the same manner, they would produce the same results. The question as to the comparative intrinsic value of different studies admits of little more than assertion and counter-assertion. The other part of the problem seems to us to require more illustration and discussion than it has hitherto received. We will not undertake to say how many of the subjects which are at present comprised in the examinations for the natural and moral science triposes are fitted for the purposes of University education. We should feel very considerable doubt about some of them; but we are quite sure that others admit of study as close, as accurate, and as consecutive as either classics or mathematics, and that they would afford to some at least of the students a far more useful mental training. As at present constituted, the new triposes, as they are called, are a mere mockery. They are open to bachelors of arts only, and are therefore altogether excluded from the ordinary curriculum; and they are moreover entirely dependent on a single competitive examination, so absurdly constituted, that a student has to be examined in some five or six different subjects, any one of which would furnish him with ample work during the whole of his University course. Such an institution is of course ineffectual.

Let us suppose that, by some such revival of the powers of the professors as we have indicated, it were made a reality. We are not prepared to say what professors would be included in the list; but it would certainly include theology, law, modern history, political economy, and some other subjects. For the sake of a single special illustration of our meaning, let us suppose a student to choose the professor of English law. What sort of education would he get? We will suppose the textbook adopted to be the common legal handbook—Stephen's Commentaries. The curriculum might perhaps be somewhat as follows: In the first year the professor would probably endeavour to give a general view of the subject. He would begin with some discussion of Blackstone's definition of law in general, and municipal law in particular. He would go on to personal rights, and particularly to proprietary rights. He would then explain what is meant by real, and what by personal property. Taking real property first, he would point out the distinction between corporeal and incorporeal hereditaments, and explain the fundamental maxim of English law, that all land is held of some superior lord. He would then shortly explain the general rules as to the quality of estates—freehold and copyhold, and as to their quantity—estates in fee-simple, fee-tail, for life, or for terms of years. He would say something of the difference between legal estates and trust estates, and something also of prescription and inheritance. He would then go on to personal property, and point out the different modes in which it is acquired—as by invention, contract, bankruptcy, and the statutes of distribution. He would next explain the rights arising out of the private relations of master and servant, husband and wife, parent and child, and guardian and ward. Some of the principal points of the law of public rights, of wrongs and their remedies, and of crimes and their punishments, would complete the course. Much most accurate and definite knowledge on all these subjects might be imparted in the first year. Such of the students as fully understood what they then learnt might be taken over the same ground more minutely in their second, and more carefully still in their third year; and the others might, with great profit to themselves, be forced to attend the same lectures a second, and, if necessary, a third time. The function of the lecturers (if the number of students were such as to make them necessary) it is not easy to illustrate without going a good deal into detail. But suppose that the professor had lectured upon the subject of personal incapacity to commit crime, by reason of infancy, coverture, or insanity; and suppose he had referred, amongst other things, to the doctrine that insanity only entitles a man to acquittal when it incapacitates him from distinguishing right from wrong. The lecturer might put to his class various questions tending to test their grasp of the principle. He might ask them how, upon the principle in question, you can punish a man who does not, when sane, believe in the difference between right and wrong? How far an insane and violent impulse to commit a crime is a defence? What would be the effect of proving that the prisoner laboured under a delusion if the evidence stopped there? And he might set them as an exercise to read and report upon the cases of Lord Ferrers, of Onslow, of Sir A. Kinloch, and of M'Naghten. Three years' lectures upon such a plan as we have suggested would certainly not be a very desultory or superficial study; and we think that no one who has ever made the experiment, will doubt that such of the students as thoroughly understood even that small part of the learning of uses and trusts, or of contingent remainders, or of special pleading, which is contained in the Commentaries, would have gone through a pretty severe mental training. To write down with perfect accuracy the outline which Mr. Sergeant Stephen gives of the proceedings in bankruptcy, would require as clear a head and as strong a memory as the reproduction of almost any mathematical "bookwork;" whilst it would require not much less ingenuity and logic to solve some of the problems, of which the reports are full, than to trace a curve or calculate a chance. No doubt definitions are not used in law with the same precision as in mathematics; but we do not think that the meaning of words and the precise value of facts are ever scanned by any human being with such ingenuity and such sagacity as by a special pleader. As to the intrinsic value of law and mathematics, when acquired, opinions of course will differ: we cannot help thinking that something might be said on the legal side of the question, and that minds would occasionally be found which would take an interest in that study, and which no earthly power could induce to learn mathematics. One such course of lectures as we have recommended would, if united with a certain amount of classics or mathematics, be quite enough fully to occupy an undergraduate's career; and we think we have said enough to show that it might be made a study infinitely more severe, searching, and continuous, than any thing which the University now teaches. We can see no reason why a man should not pass three years most profitably in studying Stephen's Commentaries, J. Mill's or Ricardo's Political Economy, Butler's Analogy, or Carpenter's Physiology. It is, to our minds, utterly unintelligible why there should always be assumed to be an inexorable dilemma between teaching a person classics and mathematics thoroughly and teaching him every thing else superficially. That the existing system of the University of Cambridge is so contrived as to create such a difficulty we quite understand; but if a man lays out his day in such a manner, that if he does not employ all the morning in arranging his toilette, he has to fritter it away in gossip, we should feel more inclined to advise him to lay it out more wisely than to join with him in lamenting that the constitution of life is such that he must either be careful about trifles or careless about matters of importance.

So far we have pretty freely criticised the principles and the practice of our alma mater; but it must never be forgotten, that there is another and a far pleasanter side to the subject. That the education which the students give to themselves and to each other is far more important for good or for evil than any thing which they derive from lectures or examinations, is a fact universally recognised by those who have themselves experienced its character. A youth of nineteen, just emancipated from school-restraints, and master for the first time of his actions, must be very unimaginative and very passionless if the world does not wear a strange appearance in his eyes, if his curiosity is not awakened by numberless questions on all sorts of subjects, if, in the free collision with his equals and superiors, he does not find his previous prejudices, feelings, and estimate of himself, of others, and of all the relations of life, undergoing all sorts of changes, and assuming all kinds of new and strange forms. He must be very fortunate if, in the outburst of passion, he does not find his way into situations in which he will learn sterner lessons than any which the schools have to teach him. He must be very unobservant, if he does not find in the careers of his associates commentaries of the most curious kind on life in a great variety of shapes. Add to this, that if such a youth has talent enough to come within the range of the express instructions of the University, he is sure to read, or at any rate to skim, novels, poems, memoirs, histories, political pamphlets, the latest theology, the fashionable metaphysics, voyages and travels, reviews, newspapers, and sermons, with an omnivorous appetite which will hardly come to him again. All this may be very desultory, very disconnected, very unsatisfactory in a thousand ways; but it will nevertheless happen. Perhaps a not unwise criticism might say to such a person, in the words of one who is pretty sure to be one of his favourite poets,
"Thy dream was good;
While thou abodest in the bud,
It was the stirring of the blood.
If nature put not forth her power
About the opening of the flower,
Who is there that would live an hour?"
It is through this kind of fermentation, acting on many minds and assuming many forms, that the most important part of University education is performed. The difference between a man who has and one who has not enjoyed that advantage, lies much more in the influences under which he has passed through the stage which connects boyhood and manhood than in the possession or non-possession of particular accomplishments, accompanied by the habits of mind which their acquisition in a particular manner engenders. What, then, is the duty of the University? It is, we think, rather that of an alma nutrix than of an alma mater. At best it can but assist nature. The most important part of the education which it professes to give is out of its reach, and is regulated by influences over which it has but an indirect control. We do not, however, agree with Mr. Carlyle's suggestion, that the best University would be an hotel, with a certain number of police regulations, a good library, and a competent quantity of stationery. There is, as we have been all taught by a familiar and venerable authority, a certain great capitalist who is always ready to relieve the labour-market by an unlimited demand for idle hands. The peculiar office of a University, in our opinion, is to supply to the students precisely that kind of employment which a profession supplies to grown-up men. The University course of study ought to be a permanent solid occupation, the diligent prosecution of which should be attended by the ordinary rewards, and its neglect by the ordinary penalties of diligence or negligence in a profession—that is to say, the obtaining or not obtaining of the rewards which the University has to give. The comparison may appear fanciful, but it may be carried further; for as a man is not to be envied who makes himself a slave to his profession, so the University, which has it in its power to regulate the conditions under which the profession of study shall be carried on, ought to make such arrangements as should suggest to the minds, or rather to the instincts, of the undergraduates the truth that their studies are to be followed with a certain liberality of spirit, and with a full acknowledgment of the value of many influences collateral to them. It is an unwise thing to condemn a high-spirited young man to pass the three freshest years of his life in a continual bondage to examinations, so that, as soon as one ordeal is passed, he is to begin to prepare himself for another. He ought to have much leisure. If he is industrious, he will have no sort of difficulty in occupying it; and being thrown on his own resources whilst it lasts, it will probably be the most useful part of his University course. If he is idle, no amount of college regulations will diminish his idleness; and, after all, the University must assume a certain amount of industry on the part of its pupils in all its arrangements. It is on this principle that we strongly agree with Mr. Blakesley in advocating the maintenance of the present long vacation as a most valuable part of the University year. We must remember, that the students are growing, are forming their plans and opinions of life, and that they must have frequent opportunities of doing so unfettered by University restrictions. They have arrived at an age at which the natural sanctions of industry begin to operate, and at which artificial stimulants ought as much as possible to be dispensed with. In medical and legal education there are some prizes to be won, and some emoluments; but there are, and obviously ought to be, no such things as class-lists. The reason is, that the connection between future success in life and present industry are so obvious, that any other inducements would operate only as disturbing forces, diverting the mind from the endeavour to obtain knowledge to the endeavour to obtain from others a certificate of something which is taken as conclusive evidence of knowledge. In the profession followed at the Universities the connection is not so obvious, and it therefore becomes necessary to increase the artificial inducements to exertion; but every arrangement and every practice of the University ought to be made to testify to the fact, that a University education is meant to benefit the student and not to satisfy examiners, and that its object is the instruction gained and not the honours which attest its attainment.

We have pointed out what appear to us to be the defects of the University in this respect, and have attempted to suggest a remedy, consisting principally in a return to the ancient system, adapted to the present state of knowledge; but we cannot conclude without paying the very highest tribute that any words of ours can pay to the indirect influences of Cambridge life on those who are so happy as to share them. On such a subject we cannot feel, and do not care to affect, impartiality. We believe the English Universities, and especially Cambridge, to be the very noblest places of education that ever deserved the gratitude of mankind. We do not wish so much to point to the grandest list of great names that adorns the annals of any society, as to that common type of character which we all know and love so well. Where can we find such a seminary for all the simple manly virtues which have made England what it is? Can the youth of any other country vie with the youth of England in that quiet strength, that noble modesty, that frank courage, without which wisdom is cunning and knowledge vanity? Many lessons are taught at Cambridge which are not to be learnt from books. In the midst of all the heat of a system founded on competition, we never remember an unworthy word or an ungenerous feeling. The innate nobility of the subjects of the experiment prevents at least one of its most obvious bad consequences. Whatever we may think of competitive examinations, we cannot charge them with producing envy or ill-will. On the contrary, they are fair manly vigorous contests, conducted in perfect honour and with the noblest spirit. Who has not seen men, excluded by the success of others from the objects of their fondest ambition, perhaps from a prospect of early independence, congratulate their successful rivals, with a total unconsciousness that they are doing any thing more than a thing of course? How many tales the University could tell of hopeful buoyant energy winning its way to a career of honour and usefulness against every impediment of fortune. How nobly does it nurse that utterly fearless social democracy in which are engendered the rough courtesy and gallant stoicism of demeanour which are the most essential elements in our conception of an English gentleman. What a noble society is that, of which the very idleness is more energetic than the studies of other nations, and in which the diligence of mere youths equals and often surpasses that of grown men. Whatever faults our Universities have, we assert that their indirect influences are incomparably good. Cambridge may in some respects be an arida nutrix, but she is at any rate a nutrix leonum. Whatever else men do or do not know on leaving Cambridge, they know their places. They know how to respect and obey their elders and betters; and therefore, respecting and commanding themselves, they go forth as the very flower of the race which has girdled the world with its empire, which rules those who submit, and strikes down those who resist, with more than Roman force and Roman justice. ["Ce people romain, dont l'Angleterre reproduit si fidelement la grandeur, la dureté, la liberté traditionnelle, la personnalité superbe, et l’indomptable énergie." Montalembert, l’Avenir politique de l'Angleterre, pp. 11, 12.] Cambridge is at once a source and a representative of that imperial character which is not so much our most precious possession as the very soul of the nation itself. The eye would be taken from the body, the spring from the year, if those grand sources which nourished Bacon and Milton and Newton were dried-up or polluted. A noble blood circulates in the veins of our Universities; for they nourish, and in no small degree create, the wisdom of the wisest, the courage of the bravest, and the strength of the strongest of the nations. Peace be within their walls, and plenteousness within their palaces; for our brethren and companions' sake we have wished them prosperity.

Thinking thus of these great bodies, and especially of Cambridge, we would advocate no reforms which did not tend to stimulate to even greater efforts a spirit which perhaps needs but little stimulus. We would never degrade so noble an education as the Universities at present afford; we would only extend its direct influences beyond their present sphere. We would not bate one jot of the high demands which Cambridge makes on the intellect and on the heart. Let the teaching be as severe, as concentrated, as laborious as it is now; but let it be extended to all, and let it interest all. In these days, in which so many voices complain of the narrowness and inefficiency, sometimes even of the stupidity, of the only nation in the world which has the magnanimity to tolerate such language, we rejoice to be able to call upon one of our most venerable institutions to extend its power and to widen its influence, not in the language of despondency or of reproach, but in the words of one of the greatest— though even he was not the greatest—of Cambridge men: "Consider," we would say to the Universities, as he said to the Lords and Commons of England,—"consider what a nation it is whereof ye are, and whereof ye are the teachers,—a nation not slow and dull, but of a quick, ingenious, piercing spirit; acute to invent, subtle and sinewy to discourse, not beneath the reach of any point the highest that human capacity can soar to . . . . Now once again, by all concurrence of signs, and by the general instinct of holy and devout men, as they daily and solemnly express their thoughts, God is decreeing to begin some new and great period in his Church, even to the reforming of reformation itself: what does he, then, but reveal himself to his servants, and, as his manner is, first to his Englishmen? I say, as his manner is, first to us, though we mark not the method of his counsels, and are unworthy. Behold now this vast city; a city of refuge, the mansion-house of liberty, encompassed and surrounded with his protection; the shop of war hath not more anvils and hammers, waking to fashion out the plates and instruments of armed justice in defence of beleaguered truth, than there be pens and heads there, sitting by their studious lamps, musing, searching, revolving new notions and ideas wherewith to present, as with their homage and their fealty, the approaching reformation. Others as fast reading, trying all things, assenting to the force of reason and convincement. What could a man require more than a nation so pliant and so prone to seek after knowledge? What wants there to such a towardly and pregnant soil but wise and faithful labourers, to make a knowing people, a nation of prophets, of sages, and of worthies?"

National Review, April 1856.

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