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The Progress of the Nation page 5

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In Cambridge, during this period, were founded nine colleges, namely: - peter, house was founded by Hugh Balsham, afterwards Bishop of Ely, about 1282. michael college, dedicated to St. Michael, was founded and endowed about 1324, by Harvey de Stanton, Chancellor of the Exchequer to Edward II. university hall was founded by Richard Badew, Chancellor of the University, in 1326, but was soon after destroyed by fire. king's hall was built by Edward III., but afterwards united to Trinity College. clare hall was a restoration of University Hall, by Elizabeth de Clare, Countess of Ulster, and named in honour of her family. pembroke hall was built by Mary de St. Paul, 1347, widow of Aymer de Valence, Earl of Pembroke, in memory of her husband, who was killed in a tournament soon after their marriage. She named it the Hall of Valence and Mary. Bennet college was founded near the same time by the united guilds of Corpus Christi and St. Mary, assisted by Henry Duke of Lancaster. trinity hall was founded about 1350, by William Bateman, Bishop of Norwich. gonvill hall was founded by Edward Gonvil, parson of Terrington and Rushworth in Norfolk, about the same time as Trinity was built.

These were for the most part small and simple establishments at first, but have arrived at their present wealth and magnificence by additional benefactions.

The numbers of scholars who rushed into these schools at first was something extraordinary; nor were their character and appearance less so. They are described by Anthony a Wood as a regular rabble, who were guilty of theft and all kinds of crimes and disorders. He declares that they lived under no discipline nor any masters, but only thrust themselves into the schools at lectures, that they might pass for scholars when they were called to account by the townsmen for any mischief, so as to free them from the jurisdiction of the burghers. At one time4 according to Fitz-Ralph, the Archbishop of Armagh, there were no less than 30,000 students - or so-called students - in Oxford alone; but he says that they were again reduced to less than 6,000, so many of them had joined the mendicant friars.

Such was the disorder of the two universities at this time, the violent quarrels, not only betwixt the students and the townspeople, but also betwixt each other, that many of the members of both universities retired to Northampton, and, with the permission of Henry III., commenced a new university there; but the people of Oxford and Cambridge found means to obtain its dissolution from the king. About thirty years afterwards they tried the same experiment at Stamford, but were stopped in the same manner.

London at this time so abounded with schools, that it was called the third university. Edward III. built the college of St. Stephen at Westminster for a college of divinity, which was dissolved by Henry VIII. Archbishop Bradwardine founded a theological lecture in St. Paul's Church, and John of Gaunt founded a college for divines in St. Paul's churchyard. There were various schools besides these, but the most remarkable were the great schools of law, which arose out of the provisions of the Great Charter, which fixed the chief courts of justice at Westminster. Sir John Fortescue, who studied in one of these inns of court, describes them as a great school or university of law, consisting of several colleges. "The situation," he says, "where the students read and study is between Westminster and the City of London. There belong to it ten lesser inns, and sometimes more, which are called the inns of Chancery, in each of which there are a hundred students at least, and in some of them a far greater number not constantly residing." In these the young nobility and gentry of England began to receive some part of their education, so that with all these colleges of learning and of law, the laity as well as the clergy began to reap the benefits of education.


Amongst the theologians of this period, none surpass for extent of learning, talent, and eloquence, Robert Grosteste, or Greathead, Bishop of Lincoln. He was originally a very poor lad; but the Mayor of Lincoln, noticing his quickness of faculty, took him into his house and put him to school. He studied at Oxford, Cambridge, and Paris, his splendid talents acquiring him many patrons. Bacon, who knew him well, gives this testimony of him: - "Robert Greathead, Bishop of Lincoln, and his friend, Prior Adam de Marisco, are the two most learned men in the world, and excel all the rest of mankind both in divine and human knowledge."

Greathead was one of the very few real Greek scholars of the age, and was equally versed in Hebrew, French, and Latin. But, beyond his learning, which he has embodied in many voluminous works, his noble and independent character stands pre-eminent in those times. We have mentioned his opposition to the Pope inducting mere infants into church livings; and the caution which the cardinals are reported, by Matthew Paris, to have given the Pope when he threatened to take vengeance on him, is remarkable, as indicating their knowledge of the tendency of the age. "Let us not raise a tumult in the Church without necessity, and precipitate that revolt and separation from us which we know must one day take place."

But the man of that time in philosophy was Roger Bacon, as Chaucer was in literature. Bacon was born near Ilchester, and educated at Oxford, and afterwards at Paris. On his return to England, at the age of twenty-six, he again settled at Oxford, and entered the order of Franciscan friars of that city, that he might study at leisure. He soon abandoned the beaten track, and struck out a course of inquiry and experiment for himself. He was not content to study Aristotle alone at second hand, but he made himself master of Greek, and went to the fountain head of ancient knowledge.

But that did not satisfy him. He sought to make himself acquainted with Nature, the great fountain of all our human knowledge. He declared that if you would know the truth you must seek it by actual inquiry and experiment. In this system of philosophising he preceded Francis Bacon nearly three centuries and a half; but he was before his time, and, therefore, the benefit of his teaching was, to a great degree, lost. His great work, the "Opus Majus," contains the result of his researches; and he states in that work that he had expended 2,000 in twenty years on apparatus and experiments - a sum equal to 30,000 of our money at present. This he had done through the generosity of his friends and patrons, having made a greater amount of discoveries in geometry, astronomy, physics, optics, mechanics, and chemistry, than ever were accomplished by any one man in an equal space of time. In his treatise on optics, "De Scientia Perspectiva," he gives you the mode of constructing spectacles and microscopic lenses. In mechanics, he talks of having ascertained by experiments wonders that we have not yet reached by steam; of a mode of propelling ships so that they should require only one man to guide them, and with a velocity greater than if they were full of sailors. "Chariots," he says, "may be constructed that will move with incredible rapidity, without the help of animals." He speculated and believed in the capability of raising the most wonderful weights by mechanical contrivance, and of walking on the bottom of the sea. But, unfortunately, he has not left us the explicit exposition of these marvels. His system of chemical analysis has, however, been greatly praised by some modern chemists, and it is evident that he was well acquainted with gunpowder. "A little matter," he says, "about the bigness of a man's thumb, makes a horrible noise, and produces a dreadful corruscation; and by this a city or an army may be destroyed several ways." He then explains that sulphur, saltpetre, and powdered charcoal are the ingredients of this wonderful explosive substance. Whether Bacon discovered this mixture, or whether he learnt it in his Asiatic reading, has been a query. At all events, he knew the fact, and in the reign of Edward III. gunpowder came into use in war.

Bacon was the martyr of science. Instead of benefiting by his discoveries, the ignorant monks of his order accused him of necromancy and dealing with the devil. He was kept in close confinement for years, and he was not allowed to send his "Opus Majus" to any one except the Pope. After receiving a copy of it, Clement IV. procured him his liberty, but he was very soon imprisoned again by Jerome de Esculo, general of the Franciscan order. He continued in confinement this time eleven or twelve years, and, on coming out, old and broken down by his cruel suffering, he still continued his labours with undiminished ardour till his death in 1292.

A kindred spirit to Bacon was Michael Scott, who was born about the beginning of the thirteenth century at his family seat in Scotland. By his study of astrology and alchemy, in common with Bacon and the great inquirers of the time, he obtained the reputation of a magician, which has mixed up his name with the wildest popular legends and superstitions of Scotland. So strong were the convictions of his countrymen that he was a magician, that Dempster assures us many people in Scotland in his time dared not so much as touch his works. Bishop Tanner says, "He was one of the greatest philosophers, physicians, and linguists of his age; and, though his fondness for astrology, alchemy, physiognomy, and chiromancy made people think him a magician, none speaks or writes more respectfully of God and religion than he does."

He was deeply read in the Greek and Arabic languages, and, while residing at the court of the Emperor Frederick II., he translated for that prince the works of Aristotle into Latin, to which Bacon attributes the high admiration which those works obtained afterwards in Europe.

Duns Scotus, though supposed to be of Scotch origin, was educated at Oxford, from which seat of learning he went to Paris, to maintain before the university of that city his favourite doctrine of the immaculate conception of the Virgin. He had profoundly studied moral philosophy, mathematics, civil and canon law, and school divinity. No man of his age was so admired and applauded, but his works now sleep, covered with the dust of ages.

William of Ockham was a very learned and eloquent theologian, who maintained the temporal independence of kings, and was supported, against all the efforts of three successive Popes to crush him, by his patron the Emperor Ludwig of Germany; but, on the death of that prince, he was compelled to recant. He did not long survive this humiliation, having for many years borne the title of the Singular and Invincible Doctor. During his life appeared Wycliffe, who, under happier auspices, proclaimed the freedom of religion.

The historians of this period, from whom, and from the parliamentary writs and statutes, our history is derived, are chiefly these: -

Matthew Paris has been greatly quoted as a high authority from the earliest times to the year 1273, or to the end of the reign of Henry III. Matthew Paris, however, on inspection, divides himself into three persons, all monks of St. Alban's, namely, Roger Wendover, Matthew Paris, and William Rishanger. Matthew Paris's own share comprehends only the period from 1235 to 1259, about twenty-five years. He continues Wendover, and Rishanger continues him. The work of Matthew Paris is the "Historia Major." Besides this he wrote the lives of Offa I. and II., and of twenty-three abbots of St, Alban's. Wendover's chronicle, "Flores Historiarum," reaches from the Creation to the year 1238, and is divided at the birth of Christ into two halves. Matthew Paris, in copying Wendover, has taken care to infuse here and there his own spirit, which was one of great freedom of remark on kings, priests, popes, and, what is singular, on the usurpations of the Court of Borne itself. Matthew had seen the world and courts, and had picked up a great quantity of amusing anecdotes and curious characteristics of great men. He went as ambassador of Louis IX. to Hacon of Norway, and, at the Pope's instance, made a visitation of the monastery of Holm, in that kingdom, He was employed in writing history by Henry III., and even assisted by him in it. He says, "He wrote this almost constantly with the king in his palace, at his table, and in his closet; and that prince guided his pen in writing in the most diligent and condescending manner." No historian who has written of his own times has shown more boldness and independence than Matthew Paris. Though a monk, he did not hesitate to paint the corruptions of a monastic life in the most plain colours, nor to denounce the corruptions of the Church and hierarchy at large with equal honesty. For this he has been assailed, and charged even with interpolating falsehoods by those whom his honest freedom had offended. But Matthew Paris was not only a most accomplished man for that age, but one of the most incorruptible of those who ever associated with kings and pontiffs. He is declared at the, same time to have been "famous for the purity, integrity, innocence, and simplicity of his manners."

Matthew Westminster copied Matthew Paris's "Flowers of History," which had not then been printed.

Thomas Wykes wrote a chronicle extending from the Conquest to 1304. He was a canon in the Abbey of Osney. The latter years of his chronicle, from 1293, are supposed to be by another hand.

Walter Hemmingford, a monk of the Abbey of Gisborne, in Yorkshire, wrote a chronicle of about the same period with Wykes, ending 1347. John de Trokelowe and Henry de Blandford, who are supposed to have been monks of St. Alban's, wrote histories of Edward II., as did also the anonymous monk of Malmsbury.

Bartholomew Cotton, whose work still remains un-printed in the Cotton MS., has copied other chronicles in his earlier pages; but the reign of Edward I. to the year 1298 is a very valuable contribution to our history.

Robert Avesbury, who was registrar of the court of the Archbishop of Canterbury, wrote the history of Edward III. to the year 1356. His account is most valuable, He gives us many particulars that appear nowhere else, which, as he had access to the best sources, are undoubtedly correct. They serve us to test the accounts of Froissart, who is apt to merge into the romantic. In this work of Avesbury's abound original letters of Edward regarding the attack on Cambray in J1336; the expedition into Brittany in 1342; relations of the circumstances which led to the battle of Crecy by officers and eye-witnesses, and despatches from the camps of the Earl of Derby and the Black Prince; with similar most interesting and invaluable documents.

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