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of degrees taken by all students was 91 -5. From 1506, when the registers begin again, to 1535, when the commencement of operations against the monastic houses seemed to indicate the advent of grave religious changes, the average number of yearly degrees granted was 127. In 1506 the number had risen to 216, and only in very few of the subsequent years had the average fallen below 100. From 108 in 1535, the number of graduates fell in 1536 to only 44; and the average for the subsequent years of the reign of Henry VIII. was less than 57. From 1548 to 1553, that is, during the reign of Edward VI., the average of graduates was barely 33, but it rose again, whilst Mary was on the throne, to 70.
If the same test be applied to the religious Orders, it will be found that they likewise equally profited by the new spirit. During the period from 1449 to 1459 the Benedictine Order had a yearly average of 4 graduates at Oxford, the other religious bodies taken together having 5. In the second period of 1506-1539 the Benedictines who graduated number 200, and (allowing for gaps in the register) the Order had thus a yearly average of 6-75, the average of the other Orders during the same period being 5*2. If, moreover, the number of the religious who took degrees be compared with that of the secular students, it will be found that the former seem to have more than held their own. During the time from 1449 to 1459 the members of the regular Orders were to the rest in the proportion of 1 to 9-5. In the period of the thirty years immediately preceding the general dissolution it was as 1 to 9. Interest in learning, too, was apparently kept up among the religious Orders to the last. Even with their cloisters falling on all sides round about them, in the last hour of their corporate existence, that is in the year 1538-39, some 14 Benedictines took their degrees at Oxford.
In regard to Cambridge, a few notes taken from the interesting preface to a recent "History of Gonville and Caius College " will suffice to show that the monks did not neglect the advantages offered to them in the sister university.1 Gonville Hall, as the college was then called, was by the statutes of Bishop Bateman closely connected with the Benedictine Cathedral Priory of Norwich. Between 1500 and 1523 the early bursars' accounts give a list of "pensioners," and these "largely consisted of monks sent hither from their respective monasteries for the purpose of study." These "pensioners paid for their rooms and their commons, and shared their meals with the fellows. All the greater monasteries in East Anglia, such as the Benedictine Priory at Norwich, the magnificent foundation at Bury, and (as a large landowner in Norfolk) the Cluniac House at Lewes, seem generally to have had several of their younger members in training at our college. To these must be added the Augustinian Priory of Westacre, which was mainly frequented (as Dr. Jessopp tells us) by the sons of the Norfolk gentry." 2
The Visitations of the Norwich Diocese (1492-1532), edited by Dr. Jessopp for the Camden Society, contain many references to the monastic students at the university. In one house, for example, in 1520, the numbers are short, because " there were three in the university." In another case, when a religious house was too poor to provide the necessary money to support a student during his college career, it was found by friends of the monastery, until a few years later, when, on the funds improving, the house was able to meet the expenses. This same house, the Priory of Butley, "had a special arrangement with the authorities of Gonville Hall for the reservation of a suitable room for their young monks." One object of sending members of a religious house to undergo the training of a university course "was to qualify for teaching the novices at their own house"; for after they have graduated and returned to their monastery, we not infrequently find them described as "idoneus preceptor pro confratribus ";
1 J. Venn, Gonville and Cazus College (1349-1897), Vol. I. 2 J. Venn, Gonville and Caius College (1349-1897), Vol. I., p. xvi.
"idoneus pro noviciis et junioribus," &c Moreover, the possession of a degree on the part of a religious, as an examination of the lists will show, often in after life meant some position of trust or high office in the monastery of the graduate.
Nor was the training then received any light matter of form; but it meant long years of study, and the possession of a degree was, too, a public testimony to a certain proficiency in the science of teaching. Thus, for example, George Mace, a canon of Westacre, who became a pensioner at Gonville Hall in 1508, studied arts for five years and canon law for four years at the university, and continued the latter study for eight years in his monastery.1 William Hadley, a religious of the same house, had spent eleven years in the study of arts and theology;2 and Richard Brygott, who took his B.D. in 1520, and who subsequently became Prior of Westacre, had studied two years and a half in his monastery, two years in Paris, and seven in Cambridge.8
"With the Reformation, of course, all this came to an end," writes Mr. Venn, and we can well understand that this sudden stoppage of what, in the aggregate, was a considerable source of supply to the university, was seriously felt. On the old system, as we have seen, the promising students were selected by their monasteries, and supported in college at the expense of the house. As the author of the interesting account of Durham Priory says, " If the master did see that any of them (the novices) were apt to learning, and did apply his book and had a pregnant wit withal, then the master did let the prior have intelligence. Then, straightway after he was sent to Oxford to school, and there did learn to study divinity."1
Moreover, it should be remembered that it was by means of the assistance received from the monastic and
conventual houses that a very large number of students were enabled to receive their education at the universities at all. The episcopal registers testify as to this useful function of the old religious corporations. The serious diminution in the number of candidates for ordination, and the no less lamentable depletion of the national universities, consequent upon the dissolution of these bodies, attest what had previously been done by them for the education of the pastoral clergy. This may be admitted without any implied approval of the monastic system as it existed. The fact will be patent to all who will examine into the available evidence: and the serious diminution in the number of clergy must be taken as part of the price paid by the nation for securing the triumph of the Reformation principles. The state of Oxford during, say, the reign of Edward VI., is attested by the degree lists. In the year 1547 and in the year 1550 no student at all graduated, and the historian of the university has described the lamentable state to which the schools were reduced. If additional testimony be needed, it may be found in a sermon of Roger Edgworth, preached in Queen Mary's reign. Speaking of works of piety and pity, much needed in those days, the speaker advocates charity to the poor students at the two national universities. "Very pity," he says, "moves me to exhort you to mercy and pity on the poor students in the universities of Oxford and Cambridge. They were never so few in number, and yet those that are left are ready to run abroad into the world and give up their study for very need. Iniquity is so abundant that charity is all cold. A man would have pity did he but hear the lamentable complaints that I heard lately when amongst them. Would to God I were able to relieve them. This much I am sure of: in my opinion you cannot bestow your charity better." He then goes on to instance his own case as an example of what used to be done in Catholic times to help the student in his education. "My parents sent me to school in my youth, and my good lord William Smith, sometime Bishop of Lincoln, (was) my bringer up and 'exhibitour,' first at Banbury in then at Oxford till I was a Master of Arts and able to help myself."
He pleads earnestly that some of his hearers may be inspired to help the students in the distress to which they are now reduced, and so help to restore learning to the position from which it had fallen in late years.1
Of the lamentable decay of learning as such, the inevitable, and perhaps necessary, consequence of the religious controversies which occupied men's minds and thoughts to the exclusion of all else, it is, of course, not the place here to dwell upon. All that it is necessary to do is to point out that the admitted decay and decline argues a previous period of greater life and vigour. Even as early as 1545 the Cambridge scholars petitioned the king for an extension of privileges, as they feared the total destruction of learning. To endeavour to save Oxford, it was ordered that every clergyman having a benefice to the amount of £100, should out of his living find at least one scholar at the university. Bishop Latimer, in Edward VI.'s reign, looked back with regret to past times "when they helped the scholars," for since then " almost no man helpeth to maintain them." "Truly," he said, " it is a pitiful thing to see the schools so neglected. Schools are not maintained, scholars have not exhibitions. . . . Very few there be that help poor scholars. . . . It would pity a man's heart to hear what I hear of the state of Cambridge; what it is in Oxford I cannot tell. . . . I think there be at this day (a.d. 1550) ten thousand students less than there were within these twenty years." In the year 1550, it will be remembered, there was apparently no degree of any kind taken at the university of Oxford.
The fact appears patent on this page of history, that from the time when minds began to exercise them
1 Sermons (1557), f. 54.