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was a mistake. And the truth is the very reverse.* The old system was to have Professors of different branches, with a suitable division of labour, who were tutors to the University at large: leaving it, however, to individuals, at their discretion, to seek additional instruction from any Master of Arts. The new system is to have College Tutors, who practically draw off the pupils from the Public Professors, so that only those who teach some modern popular science are able to get full classes; always excepting divinity professors, attendance at whose lectures is exacted by the bishops from candidates for ordination.
Public Preachers. The University sermons are, for the most part, preached in the parish church of St. Mary's. No public prayers are celebrated by the University, but in the separate College Chapels the ordinary services are conducted, and the University assembles only to hear sermons. Of these, two are preached every Sunday during term time, and one on every redletter saints' day. Of the annual sermons thus required, a considerable number are preached by the Heads of Houses, or by the Canons of Christ Church. The rest are to be supplied by the Masters of Arts who are clergymen. The principle adopted is this: to let each take his turn, beginning with the seniors, and proceeding downwards to the juniors. But as the number of Masters every year ordained priests, has for some time past exceeded the number of annual sermons to be preached by them, we understand that the time falls later and later in life when they will be called on in their turn.
Select Preachers. A very disagreeable abuse gave rise to a new regulation. To defray the expense of travelling from the country, the sum of five guineas was very properly allotted to the preacher. But, whoever found it inconvenient to obey the summons to preach in his turn, would write to request some one of the residents at Oxford to become his substitute; and would generally choose one on whom he might depend. Some of the chaplains of the Colleges, and others who resided pretty closely in the University without much occupation, were thus led practically to profess themselves always ready to preach for the fee of five
*The list of Professors is as follows:
Regius (or Royal) Professors-of Divinity, of Civil Law, of Medicine, of Hebrew, and of Greek.
Margaret Professor of Divinity-(founded by the mother of Henry VII.) Professors of Natural Philosophy, of Geometry, of Astronomy, of Moral Philosophy, of Ancient History, of Music, of Arabic, of Botany, of Poetry, of Modern History and Languages, of Anglo-Saxon, of Common Law, of Clinical Practice, of Medical Practice, of Anatomy, of Chemistry, of Political Economy, of Sanscrit.
Lecturers in Arabic, Anatomy, Experimental Philosophy, Mineralogy, and Geology.
In all, Twenty-four Professorships, and Five Lectureships.
guineas. In consequence, for a length of time sermons were inflicted on the University, having nothing to recommend them, unless antiquity and frequent repetition could convert trash into valuable matter. Early in this century the University did at last wake to a sense of the disgrace, and a number of Select Preachers is now annually appointed by authority, who shall preach in turn whenever he to whom it falls in rotation shall decline to officiate in person. It is generally admitted that the result of the change has been greatly for the better. There may be many opinions as to the orthodoxy of the Select Preachers, in the true sense of the word orthodoxy; but they cannot easily be inferior in this respect to their predecessors the Chaplains, while in intellect they are greatly superior.
Public Examiners. These also are a race of men newly appointed, and now fill a most important station. Within the memory of persons not old, there was no systematic examination of candidates for degrees: but every candidate got some friend who was a Master of Arts to put a few simple questions to him; and another friend (we believe) to testify to his merits; after which ordeal he was approved. At present there are two public examinations in the course of the first four years, prior to taking the Bachelor's degree. The earlier and minor examination, called 'responsions,' (or popularly, little go,) is under the management of the Masters of the Schools, as they are named in contrast to the Examiners, the latter title being reserved for those who hold the higher place. It is only at the later examination that any classification of the candidates according to their literary merits, takes place. They are now separated into five classes,' of which the lowest contains those adjudged worthy of a degree, but of no peculiar honour. Those who distinguish themselves for mathematical acquirements are also honoured by having their names printed in separate classes. Hence a double first,' or 'double second' class, is familiarly used of a student whose name is found in the first or in the second class of each branch. But of the details of study more will be said afterwards.
The examinations were originally intended to have been chiefly carried on by interrogation and reply, the candidate also translating aloud any portion of a book pointed out to him by the Examiner. This is still the most essential part of the ordeal, for obtaining the degree. But more and more stress has been laid on the paper work, in the case of candidates for honours; so that one who is candidate for a first class may probably be in the schools for five or six days together, and six hours each day; while he is engaged directly with the Examiner for only half a day. The schools are always open, even to strangers; so that even the public reporters might take down the examinations, if they were capable of understanding them well enough.
A great practical difficulty has been experienced in the University from the existing plan. Four new examiners are every year required. They ought, for the most part, not only to be men of real talent and acquirements, but to have obtained high 'classes' themselves; as without this it is but seldom that they can obtain public confidence. But experience has seemed to show, that of the yearly classmen less than four on an average are annually added to the residents at Oxford. This is a difficulty that might easily be removed, were there less dread of innovation, or more opportunity of bringing about agreement between different views. If the Examiners were paid more liberally, many would take the office more than once; some would come up from 'the country,' (that is, in Oxford dialect, from all other parts of the kingdom,) for the special object. But now it is so laborious, so ill paid, and so thankless, that few will take it more than once; whether as a sort of duty to the University, which they are ashamed to refuse, or as a means of adding a little more lustre to their names.
Another mode of relieving the Examiners might prove far better; viz. by a greater distribution of the labour into numerous hands. We believe that at Cambridge the chief Examiners are permitted to call in assistants, to perform the drudgery of the easier papers; while they reserve for themselves the judgment of all the more difficult and important. As far as we are aware, the Oxonians still labour under the want of some such regulations. It has been said, that the Board of Heads is so behind public opinion, that the changes made from time to time are generally many years too late, and new changes still seem needed, to the annoyance or triumph of those who declaim against innovation as useless or pernicious.
Degrees. The University has the power of bestowing degrees in four different 'faculties;' in Arts, in Law, in Medicine, and in Divinity. Indeed we must add, in Music, strange as it may sound. There is no Doctor of Arts,' but there is a Doctor of Music.' By Arts is understood all the non-professional education which is considered proper for students in general; to speak roughly, Latin and Greek, and a little Mathematics. But while degrees are bestowed in all these faculties, the University has no examination, and almost no instruction in any of them except Arts. A person who has become a Bachelor of Arts, passes as a thing of course to the degree of Master of Arts, Bachelor of Law, Doctor of Medicine, or if he be a clergyman, to Bachelor and Doctor of Divinity. We believe he has to compose and play a piece of music, before he can be made Doctor of Music. That no instruction is obtainable in Law or Medicine at the University, such as to qualify a person for mediocrity in either department, is notorious. A medical school is deprecated by many, as
a source of moral corruption to the place. Under such circumstances, it may seem marvellous that they can continue to bestow degrees in these faculties; or rather marvellous, that the public are ignorant enough to give the value of a straw to such degrees. But the Divinity degrees are no better. As there is no examination in divinity, so neither is there any education in it. Biblical antiquities and Hebrew criticism do not enter the University system of study, so as to be incumbent on those who are to take degrees in divinity: and, in spite of the desires and exertions of several recent professors, the titles, Bachelor and Doctor of Divinity, are attainable with no more knowledge of the subject than is needed to press through the first degree of B. A. The candidate and the Professor carry on (in theory) a Latin disputation; which is an old form passed from hand to hand, and we believe, generally read out by one party only. By statute it is requisite that the disputation shall occupy a full hour. If the reader finish too soon, he begins again, and continues reading till the time is up. We are not aware that there has been any recent improvement in this matter.
It is thus clear that the only degree worth having which the University bestows, (except that fine titles dazzle the ignorant,) is that of Bachelor of Arts. This alone is preceded by a really honest examination, or has any thing to do with intellectual attainments. Numerous objections are urged against examining any who have passed out of pupillage; but if they prove any thing, they prove the uselessness of all farther degrees.
When a foreigner or an Englishman, unacquainted with Oxford, hears that a certain clergyman has received the degree of Doctor of Divinity, it is naturally imagined that such a one has eminently distinguished himself as a divine. He must surely be a celebrated preacher, or theological writer; a commentator on the Scriptures; an ecclesiastical historian; or at least, it must have been ascertained that he has superior biblical knowledge? But no. His degree avails nothing to show that he is not Doctor sine doctrina, as well as Doctor sine discipulis; one who neither does teach, nor could teach, nor means to teach Theology.
The degree of Master of Arts must be taken, before the student is considered to have finally passed out of pupillage, and to be capable of holding any public offices. It may be worth remarking, that if, in place of the title Master of Arts we were to substitute Doctor of Arts, (as the Germans say, Doctor of Philosophy, of those in a corresponding stage,) it might express the sense better. We do not know why Master of Medicine, Master of Law, &c., should be never used; nor, Doctor of Arts: but Master is Magister,' which seems to mean the same as 'Doctor,' viz. Teacher. Also at the taking of the Master's Degree, formal leave is given by the Vice-Chancellor to 'read' certain
books, as Aristotle, &c. This is explained, and no doubt correctly, to mean that the Master is at liberty to lecture publicly on these subjects: so that he is properly styled Doctor. The room which is named the Metaphysical School, (in which the public examinations are now conducted,) was once peculiarly used for the disputations and lectures of the Masters. Nor only so; but any Master was at liberty to receive the invitation of any number of students to become their public Lecturer; which was a check upon incapacity or indolence in a Public Professor. Any such deficiency would soon empty his benches, when more competent teachers could so readily be substituted.
The modern changes have not only suppressed the liberties of convocation, but have nullified the rights of the Masters. It is useless to give them in name such rights, while the Metaphysical School is closed against them, and the Colleges forbid the attendance of pupils.
University Scholarships. Recent benefactors have usefully added to the former system different scholarships open to the competition of all under-graduates (or sometimes bachelors) of the University; for proficiency in Greek and Latin, in Law, in Hebrew, in Mathematics. By holding these, a person does not enter a new College. They are, in fact, little more than a public honour, and an annual pecuniary benefit: and are generally held for a short period of years.
Public Libraries. The celebrated Bodleian Library, we need hardly say, is one of the finest in Europe; if the number and rarity of the books and other curiosities be the measure of excellence. But owing in part to the restrictions of Sir T. Bodley, the founder, in part to the spirit of the place, it is almost of no utility to the common residents. Indeed, most Colleges have far better libraries than are wanted or cared for by the vast majority; and the Bodleian is accessible only at hours when those cannot frequent it who are actively employed. In winter it is open from ten to three o'clock, in summer from nine to four, to Bachelors and those of higher degrees. It is unlawful to take any book out of it, or to have fire or candle within the walls. The building is heated by hot air conveyed from without, which painfully affects the heads of many persons, perhaps added to the smell of the books. A few solitary students reside in Oxford for the purpose of reading in the Bodleian: one or two Professors spend much time there; or a straggling man of letters from foreign parts. But as if to secure that even these shall get as little good as possible out of the magnificent collection, the catalogues are so defective that no one can learn what books are there; nor, we believe, will the librarians venture to guess within twenty thousand how many they have. The cause is this; that the funds for buying books are very ample, while no fund exists