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ART. 1.-THE ENGLISH UNIVERSITIES. From the
German of V. A. Huber, Professor of Western Literature at Marburg. An abridged Translation, edited by Francis William Newman, Professor of the Greek and Latin Classics at Manchester New College, and formerly Fellow of Balliol College, Oxford. Two vols. 8vo, in three parts. London: 1843.
It is a remarkable, but by no means a singular, or unaccountable circumstance, that our Universities should have allowed a foreigner to lead the way, in relating their history and pointing out the relation in which they stand to the other institutions of England. Perhaps a resident member of either. University is not the best qualified for the latter of these offices; but it might at least have been expected that abundant leisure, the command of libraries and documents, joined to filial affection towards their Alma Mater, would have prompted some Oxford or Cambridge man, to give us, if not a philosophical history, continuous Annals of his University. We need not now inquire why this natural expectation has been disappointed, and the labours of Wood and Fuller have neither been carried on by succeeding antiquaries, nor applied to a higher use than their authors were capable of giving to them. The excellent George Dyer's Works on the History and Privileges of the University of Cambridge, though they do not deserve the unmeasured contempt with which Huber speaks of them, influenced possibly by their reforming spirit, which he so much dislikes, are meagre and ill-arranged. We are not aware that Oxford has had any historian from whom either a native or a foreigner could satisfactorily learn what was its condition, external and internal, at
Vol. VI. No. 23.-New Series.
the commencement of the present century, or what changes have since taken place in it.
Of the author of the present work we know nothing beyond what he himself has told us, that he is Professor of Western Literature at Marburg, and that he has paid three several visits to Oxford, and resided a considerable time in England. It is hardly necessary to say of a German, that he has neglected no means within his reach of making the historical portion of his work accurate and full. But he has also obtained a very correct insight into the national institutions and character of England, and though he sometimes judges us severely, as in his remarks on the cant which, he says, taints all our conventional language on the subject of morals and religion, we meet with none of those instances of gross and ludicrous ignorance, which a Frenchman usually exhibits when he writes about this country, His book is therefore a valuable addition to our historical libraries. We cannot say much for its attractions to a general reader. The extent of the obligation which we owe to the Translator and the Editor for condensing, recasting, and curtailing the original could only be estimated by a laborious comparison of the English with the German work; we doubt not that it is great. But there is still a heaviness in the general effect, and an uncouth rudeness in the style,* more especially when the author deals in metaphor. His earnestness leads him into the occasional assumption of a very dogmatic tone, which we could fancy to have been caught from the perusal of Niebuhr's writings, whose strong and passionate convictions sometimes vented themselves in harsh censures of those who might doubt or dissent. Sometimes, too, we think that Professor Huber is misled by his love of new combinations (an ignis fatuus of the modern school of History), to imagine relations which do not exist, and strain analogies beyond the truth. Thus, having described the old division between Northernmen and Southernmen at the Universities, and shown its effects as late as the seventeenth century, he goes on to observe that it still continues to manifest itself; that Liberalism has its seat in the North, and Toryism in the South, and that “at every shaft which strikes an English University, men's eyes instinctively turn northward for the bowman who shot it.”-i. p. 87, 88. The rudeness which long marked the North of England, as compared with the South, and which produced the peculiar characteristics of the men of that region, when they became members of the Universities, was the effect of its later civilization; the descendants of the Brigantes submitted slowly to the authority of law and its natural results. When the Welsh began to resort in considerable numbers to Oxford, they espoused the same party as the Northernmen, and supported it by the same violent means.-i. p. 359, note. The modern Liberalism of the North of England (for Scotland must not be confounded with it merely from proximity) has been owing to the rise of manufactures there, itself the result neither of ethnological nor political causes, but of the abundance of coal and its application to machinery. The sharpest flight of arrows which has rattled on the University of Oxford in our times, was shot from behind the shield of a Northern Review; but of the three bowmen, the Rev. Sydney Smith, Mr. Payne Knight, and Professor Playfair, the last only was a Northernman.
*. The translator may have something to answer for : “ Fruitful monographic stuff,” T. ii. p. 115, note, for “fruitful materials for a monograph,” is rather too close an
imitation of the German.
Professor Huber writes with high admiration of our English Universities, and especially of Oxford, which, indeed, appears best known to him. This may surprise us in a foreigner, and especially the native of a country in which Academical Education is so differently carried on. He expresses himself, too, with unwarrantable bitterness of the party who seek for University Reform, and whose success he believes to be more imminent and more dangerous than we at all apprehend it to be. Paradoxical as it may seem to our readers, who have been accustomed to regard Oxford as the citadel of Toryism, we believe that a secret longing for the freedom, which no academical teacher in Germany enjoys, prompts his admiration for our more independent establishments. We know not what
be the relation between the University of Marburg and the ruling powers of the State ; Hesse Cassel has not been celebrated for the wisdom or liberality of its government; at all events the fate of Dahlmann and his colleagues, in the neighbouring kingdom of Hanover, shows how frail is the tenure by which academical teachers hold their liberty of speech and action. If those regulations are still in force, which the Congress of Carlsbad enacted, when alarmed at the prevalence of democratic tendencies at the Universities, every Professor is liable to have his class-room visited by a delegate from the Diet, that the tenour of his teaching may be known, and must submit to him, if required, the compendium or notes from which he lectures. Or if these degrading regulations have fallen into disuse, it has been because public teachers have felt the necessity of anticipating them, and have, in general, been careful to give no umbrage to the State. Several passages in Huber's work show how deeply he feels and resents this tyrannical control; e. g. i. p. 290, where he is speaking of the condition of the Universities, after some strict regulations made by Commissioners in the reign of Queen Mary, and of privileges granted them at the same time:
“But with all these advantages, the state of things continued to be, upon the whole, as lamentable as in the previous period. The number of Doctor's Degrees in the six years of this reign were, in Divinity three, in Laws eleven, in Medicine six; while the Masters of Arts, in each year, varied from fifteen to twenty-seven.
“The cause of this failure is easy to discover. The Universities had everything except the most necessary element of all, FREEDOM ; which, by the immutable laws of Nature, is always an indispensable condition of real and permanent prosperity in the higher intellectual cultivation and its organs. In vain has brute force at every time sought, for the sake of some political aim, to thwart this law of nature; those shadowy beings, scientific officers and corporations, can never become a substitute for the genuine and wholesome energy of life. If we can do without this energy, it were better not to lose time and trouble in expensive experiments for infusing a galvanic existence. But if the true and natural life be needed, then let its prerequisite be granted—Mental Freedom.” -i. p. 290—1.
Now whatever shackles the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge bear, imposed by themselves or by the State in former times, they are practically exempt from such servitude as the continental governments impose. The visitorial power of the Crown, the imperial authority of Parliament, exist indeed in the Constitution, but in practice are a nullity. No Royal Mandate goes forth, for any more weighty purpose than the honorary creation of a Doctor; and the utmost that a reformed House of Commons could accomplish, was to send up a measure of University regulation, to be stifled by the Peers. England, which we commonly call a Monarchy, and which Huber considers as a Republic, is a curious bundle of organizations, ultimately dependent on and controlled by the state, but each within its sphere acting by its own impulse, and rarely interfered with by any extraneous power. Our ecclesiastical and municipal corporations, our schools, Colleges, and Universities, are virtually subordinate to Chancery or the King's Bench, to Parliament or the Crown, and gross abuse or illegal assumption is ultimately checked. But the slow process by which any offending body is made to feel the displeasure of the supreme authority is very different from the electro-magnetic rapidity with which in Germany absolute power strikes the objects of its dislike. With us, as long as the individual teacher transgresses no law of the land, he is safe from the law, and his academical superiors can only proceed against him by forms long established, and for offences recognized and
defined. The Professor in Germany, if he promulgate free doctrines, does it with the rod suspended over him, and without any definite warning for what cause it may be inflicted. Such a condition cannot but be irksome to any man of a free spirit, and our author appears to have thought that neglect of duty towards the State on the part of an University, arising from the absence of control, is a less evil than such a degrading pupillage.
The appearance of this work in an English dress is due to the liberality of Mr. James Heywood, who has also contributed some valuable matter to the appendix. His known zeal for University Reform, and for the removal of that injustice, which denied him the honour of a degree, except on condition of renouncing his Nonconformity, leads us to conclude that his primary object has been to awaken attention to the state of the Universities, and procure the improvement of their laws, discipline and studies. We fear that he has not adopted a very promising mode of attaining this object. The bulk of the work, and those qualities of the style which we have already noticed, tend to prevent it from being popularly read, notwithstanding the illustrations by which he has endeavoured to relieve its dryness. As the Author is strongly opposed to University Reform, except in his own peculiar way, which is not likely to satisfy any party, it has been found necessary to counteract his text by notes, in which the Editor corrects his statements or controverts his reasoning. Could Mr. Heywood have prevailed on Mr. Newman to have given in a distinct form to the world, the excellent matter which now lies scattered through his Preface, and his Notes on the text and Notes on the Appendix, we think that an impression would have been made upon the public mind, in favour of the object which Mr. Heywood has at heart, which we cannot anticipate from this translation. His personal knowledge of Oxford would have prevented the repetition of the outcry, so often raised against the advocates of a change—that they know nothing of the system which they seek to amend; and the sound sense, and deep religious and moral feeling which his remarks display, would have been far more efficacious in producing conviction, without the incumbrance of a controversial form.
We do not suppose that our readers would feel much interest in the mere antiquarian history of the Universities, though in itself a most important part of the general history of England in the Middle Ages. It would be impossible to present an abridgment of that which has been already so much abridged by the author and the editor. The most remarkable circumstance, and one which continues to this day, to influence the whole