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THE LONDON UNIVERSITY.1
(Edinburgh Review, February 1826.)
Few things have ever appeared to us more inexplicable than the cry which it has pleased those who arrogate to themselves the exclusive praise of loyalty and orthodoxy, to raise against the projected University of London. In most of those publications which are distinguished by zeal for the Church and the Government, the scheme is never mentioned but with affected contempt, or unaffected fury. The Academic pulpits have resounded with invectives against it; and many even of the most liberal and enlightened members of the old foundations seem to contemplate it with very uncomfortable feelings.
We were startled at this. For surely no undertaking of equal importance was ever commenced in a manner more pacific and conciliatory. If the management has fallen, in a great measure, into the hands of persons whose political opinions are at variance with those of the dominant party, this was not the cause, but the effect of the jealousy which that party thought fit to entertain. Oxford and Cambridge, to all appearance, had nothing to dread.
Hostilities were not declared. Even rivalry was disclaimed. The new Insticution did not aspire to participate in the privileges which bad been so long monopolised by those ancient corporations. It asked for no franchises, no lands, no advowsons. It did not interfere with that mysterious scale of degrees on which good church men look with as much veneration as the Patri. arch on the ladder up which he saw angels ascending. It did not ask permission to search houses without warrants, or to take books from publishers without paying for them.
i Thoughts on the Advancement of Academical Education in England 1826.
There was to be no melo-dramatic pageantry, nc ancier: ceremonial, no silver mace, no gowns either black or red, ng hoods either of fur or of satin, no public orator to make speeches which nobody hears, no oaths sworn only to be broken. Nobody thought of emulating the cloisters, the organs, the painted glass, the withered mommies, the busts of great men, and the pictures of naked women, which attract visitors from every part of the island to the banks of Isis and Cam. The persons whose advantage was chiefly in view belonged to a class of which very few ever find their way to the old colleges. The name of University was indeed assumed ; and it has been said that this gave offence. But we are confident that so ridiculous an objection can bave, been entertained by very few. It reminds us of the whim. sical cruelty with which Mercury, in Plautus, knocks down poor Sosia for being so impudent as to have the same name with himself!
We know indeed that there are many to whom knowledge is hateful for its own sake, - owl-like beings, creatures of darkness, and rapine, and evil omen, who are sensible that their organs fit them only for the night, - and that, as soon as the day arises, they shall be pecked back to their nooks by those on whom they now prey with impunity. By the arts of those enemies of mankind, a large and influential party has been led to look with suspicion, if not with liorror, on all schemes of education, and to doubt whether the ignorance of the people be not the best security for its virtue and repose.
We will not at present attack the principles of these persons, because we think that, even on those principles, they are bound to support the London University. If indeed it were possible to bring back, in all their ancient loveliness, the times of venerable absurdities and good old nuisances — if we could hope that gentlemen might again put their marks to deeds without blushing - that it might again be thought A miracle if any body in a parish could read, except the Vicar, or if the Vicar were to read any thing but the Ses vice, - that all the literature of the multitude might again be comprised in a ballad or a prayer, — that the Bishop of Norwich might be burned for a heretic, and Sir Humphry Davy hanged for a conjurer, - that the Chancellor of the Exchequer might negotiate loans with Mr. Rothschild, by
extracting one of his teeth daily till he brought him to terms, - then indeed the case would be different. But, alas ! who can venture to anticipate such a millennium of stupidity? The zealots of ignorance will therefore do well to consider, whether, since the evils of knowledge cannot be altogether excluded, it may not be desirable to set them in array against zach other. The best state of things, we will concede to them, would be that in which all men should be dunces together. That might be called the age of gold. The silver age would be that in which no man should be taught to spell, unless he could produce letters of ordination, or, like a candidate for a German order of knighthood, prove his sixtyfour quarters. Next in the scale would stand a community in which the higher and middling orders should be well educated, and the labouring people utterly uninformed. But the iron age would be that in which the lower classes should be rising in intelligence, while no corresponding improvement was taking place in the rank immediately above them.
England is in the last of these states. From one end of the country to the other the artisans, the draymen, the very ploughboys, are learning to read and write. Thousands of them attend lectures. Hundreds of thousands read newspapers. Whether this be a blessing or a curse, we are not now inquiring. But such is the fact. Education is spreading amongst the working people, and cannot be prevented from spreading amongst them. The change which has taken place in this respect within twenty years is prodigious. No person surely, will venture to say that information has increased in the same degree amongst those who constitute what may be called the lower part of the middling class, farmers for instance, shopkeepers, or clerks in commercial houses.
If there be any truth in the principles held by the enemies of education, this is the most dangerous state in which a country can be placed. They maintain that knowledge renders the poor arrogant and discontented. It will hardly be disputed, we presume, that arrogance is the result, not of the absolute situation in which a man may be placed, but of the relation in which he stands to others. Where a whole soci. sty is equably rising in intelligence ; where the distance between its different orders remains the same, though very order advances, that feeling is not likely to be excited An
individual is not more vain of his knowledge, because he participates in the universal improvement, than he is vain of his speed, because he is flying along with the earth and every thing upon it, at the rate of seventy thousand miles an hour. But if he feels that he is going forward, while those before him are standing still, the case is altered. If ever the diffusion of knowledge can be attended with the danger of which we hear so much, it is in England at the present ma ment. And this danger can be obviated in two ways only, Unteach the poor, - or teach those who may, by comparison, be called the rich. The former it is plainly impossible to do: And therefore, if those whom we are addressing be consis. tent, they will exert themselves to do the latter; and, by increasing the knowledge, increase also the power of an extensive and important class, a class which is as deeply interested as the peerage or the hierarchy in the prosperity and tranquillity of the country; a class which, while it is too numerous to be corrupted by government, is too intelligent to be duped by demagogues, and which, though naturally hostile to oppression and profusion, is not likely to carry its zeal for reform to lengths inconsistent with the security of property and the maintenance of social order.
“But an University without religion!” softly expostulates the Quarterly Review.-"An University without religion!” roars John Bull, wedging in his pious horror between a slander and a double-entendre. And from pulpits and visitationdinners and combination-rooms innumerable, the cry is echoed and re-echoed, " An University without religion !"
This objection has really imposed on many excellent people, who have not adverted to the immense difference which exists between the new Institution and those foundations of which the members form a sort of family, living under the bame roof, governed by the same regulations, compelled to eat at the same table, and to return to their apartments at the same hours. Have none of those who censure the Lon. don University on this account, daughters who are educated at home, and who are attended by different teachers ? The ausic-master, a good Protestant, comes at twelve; the dancing-master, a French philosopher, at two; the Italian master a believer in the blood of Saint Januarius, at three. The parents take upon themselves the office of instructing their child in religion. She bears the preachers whom they pre
fer, and reads the theological works which they put into her hands. Who can deny that this is the case in innumerable families? Who can point out any material difference between thu situation in which this girl is placed, and that of a papil at the new University? Why then is so crying an abuse suffered to exist without reprehension ? Is there no Sacheverell to raise the old cry, - the Church is in danger, - that cry which was never uttered by any voice however feeble, or for any end however base, without being instantly caught up and repeated through all the dark and loathsome nooks where bigotry nestles with corruption? Where is the charge of the Bishop and the sermon of the Chaplain, the tear of the Chancellor and the oath of the Heir-apparent, the speech of Mr. William Bankes and the pamphlet of Sir Harcourt Lees? What means the silence of those filthy and malignant baboons, whose favourite diversion is to grin and sputter at innocence and beauty through the grates of their spunging-houses? Why not attempt to blast the reputation of the poor ladies who are so irreligiously brought up? Why not search into all the secrets of their families ? Why not enliven the Sunday breakfast-tables of priests and placemen with elopements of their great-aunts and the bankruptcies of their second cousins?
Or, to make the parallel still clearer, take the case of a young man, a student, we will suppose, of surgery, resident in London. He wishes to become master of his profession, without neglecting other useful branches of knowledge. In the morning he attends Mr. M'Culloch's lecture on Political Economy. He then repairs to the Hospital, and hears Sir Astley Cooper explain the mode of reducing fractures. In the afternoon he joins one of the classes which Mr. Hamilton instructs in French or German. With regard to religious observances, he acts as he himself, or those under whose care he is, may think most advisable. Is there any thing objectionable in this? Is it not the most common case in the world? And in what does it differ from that of a young man at the London University? Our surgeon, it is true, will have to run over half London in search of his instructors; and the other will find all the lecture-rooms which he attends standing conveniently together, at the end of Gower Street. Is it in the local situation that the mischief lies? We have observed that, since Mr. Croker, in the last session