A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 3, the City and University of Cambridge. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1959.
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THE AGE OF NEWTON AND BENTLEY, 1660–1800
During this long period the University produced men of the first eminence, as the title of the section suggests, but it was, on the whole, a time of stagnation rather than of progress. The change into the great reforms of the 19th century was a slow process, and there is no single date which forms a satisfactory boundary mark between the two periods; perhaps 1800, the last year of the century and the date of the foundation of Downing College, (fn. 1) will serve as well as any.
At the Restoration Cambridge was happy to return to its traditional royalism. As a gesture of loyalty the royal fee-farm rents, purchased after 1650, were returned to the king as a free gift. (fn. 2) The dispossessed fellows and heads of houses resumed their old positions. Of the five heads who had been the first to suffer expulsion in 1644, four, Cosin, Martin, Sterne, and Lany, survived. (fn. 3) Martin lived to enjoy the presidency of Queens' only until 1662; the other three were all soon promoted to bishoprics. At Jesus Sterne took the place of John Worthington, one of the leading moderates of the Cromwellian period, who made way for him willingly enough, writing: 'When I came hither first it was not my seeking and I could have left it all willingly for Dr. Stern, if he could have brought himself in, as ever I entered upon it.' (fn. 4) At King's the Platonist Whichcote was replaced by James Fleetwood, and at St. John's Whichcote's old tutor and adversary, Anthony Tuckney, made way for the Royalist propagandist, Peter Gunning, later Bishop of Ely. At Trinity the place of John Wilkins, one of the leaders of the new scientific movement, (fn. 5) was taken by Henry Ferne, to whom the mastership had been promised during the Civil War, though he held it only a very short time. At Puritan Emmanuel William Sancroft, who had been ejected for refusing the Engagement, (fn. 6) became Master in 1662 in the room of William Dillingham. His feelings on his return to his old College were mixed. On the one hand he bemoaned the poor condition of the buildings, the low attainments of the students, and the poverty of the fellowships and scholarships; on the other he was highly satisfied that he found no disaffection, 'but a general outward conformity to what is established by law'. (fn. 7)
The standard of such conformity had been established by the Act of Uniformity (1662), which ordered all professors and all masters and fellows of colleges to declare their adherence to the Anglican liturgy, to disclaim the right of resistance to the king, and to declare the Solemn League and Covenant an illegal oath, on pain of losing their places. (fn. 8) Among those who suffered as a result was the great naturalist, John Ray, who lost his fellowship at Trinity. (fn. 9) Generally speaking, the University was happy to follow the government's lead. In a recent study of university representation it has been shown that the university burgesses in Charles II's Parliaments were normally supporters of the court, (fn. 10) and in so acting they were only reflecting the sentiments of their constituents. Certainly the king made full use of academic loyalty. Degrees by royal mandate were generously granted; this is especially true of the first year of the reign when mandate degrees numbered 160, 121 of them being doctorates of divinity, (fn. 11) though some of this spate of academic honours may be accounted for by the delays and hindrances suffered by those who would, but for the war, have taken degrees in the ordinary course. A more serious evil was the appointment to fellowships by royal mandate. Though the king declared in 1674 that compliance with these recommendations was not expected except when the candidate was properly qualified, (fn. 12) the evils of the system continued. To John North, Master of Trinity 1677–83, mandates were 'very irksome', his biographer wrote. He knew that they must lead to corruption and to the decay of the College, and, though he could not disobey them, 'he found out a way, by pre-elections, to obviate an inconvenience he could not resist'. (fn. 13) The Crown interfered too in elections to college headships. When the aged Edward Martin of Queens' died in 1662, the majority of the fellows chose Symon Patrick President, but Anthony Sparrow was forced in by royal mandate, and Patrick eventually decided to fight the matter no more. (fn. 14)
The general history of the University during Charles II's reign was uneventful, except for serious outbreaks of plague in 1665 and 1666. (fn. 15) The second Duke of Buckingham became Chancellor on Manchester's death in 1671, (fn. 16) but was removed three years later by the king and was succeeded by the Duke of Monmouth, (fn. 17) who was in turn removed in 1682 and succeeded by the second Duke of Albemarle. (fn. 18) A scheme which attracted some interest, though in the end nothing was done, was the plan for a new commencement house and library. In 1669 Bishop Cosin promised money for this purpose, (fn. 19) and a few years later it was being pressed by Isaac Barrow, Master of Trinity, who was Vice-Chancellor 1675–6. (fn. 20) Tradition relates that Barrow urged the heads to build a 'theatre' for university ceremonies which should surpass Archbishop Sheldon's building at Oxford, then recently completed. The heads were too cautious to venture upon such a scheme, so that Barrow, to show what could be done, began in his own College the beautiful library designed by Christopher Wren. (fn. 21) The University had to wait for a senate house and an enlarged library until the 18th century. (fn. 22)
After the accession of James II royal interference was carried to a height which even the loyalty of Oxford and Cambridge could not tolerate. Loyalty to the king and to the Church of England were sentiments which had drawn much of their force from their connexion with one another. Under a Roman Catholic king who was determined to advance the interests of his own faith, Royalism and Anglicanism began to pull apart, instead of together, and, in the struggle for the hearts of Englishmen, it was Anglicanism which won. There were no corporate bodies in the kingdom which had been more faithful than the two universities; there were none where the king's infringement of statutory rights was more glaring, and where it was made more clear what the king's most faithful supporters might expect. As a 19th-century Cambridge writer said: 'thus terminated the designs of James the Second against the two universities; and it is not too much to say, that the following out of those designs cost him his throne.' (fn. 23) The story of the fellows of Magdalen College, Oxford, forms the best-known part of the whole subject, but the events at Cambridge are also of considerable interest, not least because they introduce in an important role one of the greatest of Cambridge men, Isaac Newton.
In December 1686 Richard Minshull, Master of Sidney, died, and Joshua Basset, fellow of Caius, who was reputed to be a Roman Catholic, was appointed by royal mandate to succeed him, and was dispensed from the necessity of taking the statutory oaths. (fn. 24) The next attack was on a broader front. In February 1687 a royal mandate ordered the admission of a Benedictine monk, Father Francis, as master of arts without any oath or subscription. (fn. 25) To obey this command would have meant disregarding several statutes of the realm, and the university authorities considered this a breach of trust and a violation of their oaths. If Francis were to have a vote in the Senate, the door would be thrown open to many others of the same persuasion; as Newton wrote to a friend, 'if a priest be a master, you may have a hundred and they must choose burgesses to Parliament'. (fn. 26) Moreover it was feared that the Francis affair was only the preliminary to the introduction of the Jesuits. The Senate decided to advise the ViceChancellor, John Peachell, Master of Magdalene, not to admit Francis, and to petition the king to withdraw his mandate. Meanwhile Francis was told that the Senate was ready to admit him if he took the oaths, which, quite naturally, he refused to do.
Further petitions to the king through Albemarle, Chancellor of the University, proved fruitless, and the Vice-Chancellor and deputation from the Senate, among them being Isaac Newton, who then held the Lucasian chair of mathematics, were summoned before the ecclesiastical commissioners in London. It appears that Newton stiffened the purpose of the delegation, and persuaded them to reject a proposal that Francis should be admitted provided that this were not construed as a precedent. (fn. 27) In the letter which has already been mentioned, Newton expounded his view that the royal command must not be obeyed if it contravened the law of the land. In addition, he thought, 'those that counselled his Majesty to disoblige the University cannot be his true friends for 'tis notorious that no body of men in England have been so loyal'. (fn. 28) However, their past loyalty did not help the delegates in London. They were examined by Lord Chancellor Jeffreys, and, in Burnet's view, Peachell, who was a weak man, made a poor defence, and was treated with great contempt by the Lord Chancellor. In May 1687 he was sentenced to be deprived of the vice-chancellorship and to be suspended from the mastership of Magdalene. The other university representatives were merely ordered to give readier obedience to the king's commands in future. However, the new Vice-Chancellor, Balderston, Master of Emmanuel, seems to have been a man of more spirit than Peachell, while the court, having done so much, then let the matter drop, 'which was', as Burnet wrote, 'too plain a confession, either of their weakness in beginning such an ill-grounded attempt, or of their feebleness in letting it fall, doing so little after that they had talked so much about it'.
Later in the same year (1687) certain parts of the statutes of Sidney Sussex College which reflected harshly on Popery were altered by the ecclesiastical commissioners. (fn. 29) After the invasion of William of Orange, James revoked these changes, and displaced Basset. Peachell had been restored to the profits of his mastership a month or so earlier. (fn. 30) By that time it was too late to woo academic opinion. Both in March and in September 1688 the royal agents were writing that the temper of the University was very uncertain. (fn. 31) In November the Prince of Orange landed in England, and the following month he was in London. For a short time the country stood on the brink of anarchy. Alderman Newton's diary describes very vividly the alarm caused in Cambridge by a rumour that a force of disbanded Irish troops was coming to burn the town and cut the throats of the people. For several nights the town was dominated by a mob, 'many scholars among them', which did much mischief under the pretence of seeking for Papists, (fn. 32) one of the sufferers being the bursar of Corpus, who lost his books and papers, and had to hide to save his skin. (fn. 33)
With the transfer of the crown to William and Mary the adherents of high prerogative sentiments, which were by no means dead in the University, found themselves in a very difficult position. Could they, in the light of everything which had been official Church of England teaching for so long, desert their anointed king and swear allegiance to the new sovereigns ? The problem of conscience went deep. Here Newton, who had been elected to the Convention Parliament probably because of his steadfastness in 1687, (fn. 34) exerted himself to act as a mediator between the University and the new order. In a series of letters to the Vice-Chancellor, John Covel, Master of Christ's, he urged acceptance of the new regime and submission to the new oaths, while he also endeavoured to obtain a bill confirming the university charters. (fn. 35) In so doing he performed a real service to Cambridge by helping to smooth over a very difficult period of transition. However, not everyone could accept such arguments. The most prominent among the Non-jurors, Archbishop Sancroft, was a Cambridge man and former head of a house, and it is curious to note that Cambridge seems to have had far more Nonjurors during William III's reign than Oxford—42 against 14—though it is difficult to tell how complete the lists are. (fn. 36) Out of the Cambridge total 28 were fellows of St. John's, then and long afterwards the predominant High Church and Tory college. (fn. 37) Non-juring sentiment long remained strong there, (fn. 38) and Abraham de la Pryme, who was at the College in the 1690's, mentions separate meetings of Jacobites: 'the service they used was the Common Prayer, and always pray'd heartily for King James, nameing him most commonly; but in some meetings they onely prayed for the King, not nameing who . . .'. (fn. 39) Party feeling long remained very bitter, as will be shown later. William Reneu, who was an undergraduate at Jesus from 1705 to 1709, wrote that he liked the College and found 'the lads' 'very civil and kind. . . . But among themselves they are up to the ears in division about High Church and Low Church Whig and Tory.' (fn. 40)
After 1689 the University moved into quieter days. The problem of mandate degrees was dealt with by an agreement that letters mandatory should be issued only 'at the receipt of a petition from the Chancellor, and that the Chancellor should not petition unless he had received a certificate, signed by a majority of the heads of houses, recommending the applicant as intellectually qualified'. (fn. 41) Assurances were also given that the proper fees should be paid. (fn. 42) Royal attempts to nominate to college headships were decisively checked by the free election of Provost Roderick of King's in 1689 in defiance of a royal mandate. (fn. 43) Albemarle had died in 1688, and Archbishop Sancroft has refused to accept the chancellorship, (fn. 44) which, after the Revolution, went to the Duke of Somerset, who held it until 1748. (fn. 45) Relations with the town remained fairly quiet, though, as Alderman Newton's diary shows, old suspicions endured. (fn. 46) A dispute in 1705 over the precedency of the Vice-Chancellor in the Guildhall when he came to swear in the Mayor and bailiffs led to the then Mayor being discommuned, though he soon submitted. (fn. 47) After the Restoration numbers had risen again; in 1672 they were reckoned at 2,522 (though this included servants), (fn. 48) but they fell steadily in the latter part of the 17th and through the first half of the 18th centuries, reaching their lowest point about 1760. Oxford also suffered in a similar way, but at Cambridge the decline was much greater. J. A. Venn estimated that from 1600 to 1699 Cambridge welcomed 30,000 freshmen and Oxford 31,000; from 1700 to 1799 the comparable figures were 16,000 and 25,000. Matriculations, which in 1620 had been about 450 at Cambridge, had fallen to about 190 in 1700 and about 150 in 1750. It seems that numbers fell more at Cambridge, quality at Oxford. (fn. 49) Certainly, at the end of the 17th century, the Fenland university saw no lack of intellectual activity, though the impetus was hardly maintained after 1700.
There is plenty of information about the general life of that time. Orders by Charles II for the proper performance of the divinity acts (1668) and of the statutory college exercises (1676) suggest that there were irregularities, perhaps as a result of the war, (fn. 50) though the heads claimed in 1675, in their answers to a series of questions propounded by the Chancellor, that 'the laudable customs laid aside in the late times are generally restored'. (fn. 51) Nevertheless they made it clear that some disciplinary rules were not observed strictly; there were laxities about closing college gates at night, about men frequenting taverns and avoiding chapel services, and about M.A.s neglecting to wear academic dress. One change of social custom which the heads noticed was that coffeehouses were now much in fashion. When John North was at Jesus (B.A. 1664) there had been but one and that newly established, though his biographer, writing about 1725, lamented how common they had become and how much time scholars wasted as a result. (fn. 52) The German von Uffenbach, who visited Cambridge in 1710, mentioned the 'Greek's Coffee House' where he read the journals and met 'the chief professors and doctors', (fn. 53) and the habit continued throughout the 18th century. (fn. 54) The general tone of Uffenbach's description is rather contemptuous. The town he thought as mean as a village and the entertainment poor; were it not for the colleges Cambridge 'would be one of the sorriest places in the world'. (fn. 55)
Useful information about the general lines of college teaching is provided by tutors' manuals of study, such as that of Daniel Waterland of Magdalene (c. 1706). (fn. 56) The undergraduate was to study philosophy, classics, and divinity. Mornings and evenings were to be given to the first, afternoons to the second, Sundays and holy days to the third. The divinity course consisted mostly of sermons in English. The classical authors included Terence, Ovid, Virgil, Horace, Juvenal, Sallust, Livy, Caesar, and Cicero in Latin; Homer, Hesiod, Theocritus, Sophocles, Euripides, Xenophon, Thucydides, Isocrates, and Demosthenes in Greek. The philosophical course covered arithmetic, trigonometry, Euclid, astronomy, Rohault's Physics, Newton's Optics, Locke on the Human Understanding, Pufendorf on The Law of Nature, Grotius's de Fure Belli et Pacis, and books on ethics and metaphysics. A contemporaneous scheme of Robert Green, fellow of Clare (1707), is similar, though the divinity section is more prominent. (fn. 57) The picture can be further filled out by undergraduate accounts of their own studies. At Corpus in 1704 William Stukeley was attending the lectures of two tutors, one professing 'classics, ethics, logic, metaphysics, divinity', the other 'arithmetic, algebra, geometry, philosophy, astronomy, trigonometry'. (fn. 58) In 1710 Ambrose Bonwicke of St. John's was dividing his time between logic, Greek prose and translation, Latin prose and verses, Hebrew, and 'holy duties', and in 1713 was beginning to study Taquet's Euclid and Rohault's Physics, though he found mathematics 'somewhat difficult'. (fn. 59) On the other hand, William Reneu of Jesus wrote in 1707 that he was 'not a little taken with the study of naturall philosophy'. Eighteen months later he was in the middle of keeping his exercises for the B.A. degree, and had kept an act on the following questions: Philosophia naturalis non tendit in atheismum; Materia non potest cogitare; Materia est divisibilis in infinitum. (fn. 60) Abraham de la Pryme of St. John's who took the same degree in 1694 describes an examination in the College 'in retorick, logicks, ethicks, physicks, and astronomy; then we were sent to the publick schools, there to be examined again three more days by anyone that would'. (fn. 61)
In all the programmes of study which have been mentioned, mathematics take quite a prominent place, in striking contrast to the state of affairs depicted by Holdsworth in the early part of the 17th century. (fn. 62) This change is perhaps the most important single characteristic of the period under discussion; indeed it has deeply influenced the whole nature of Cambridge studies right up to the present day. Peacock has pointed out how, at this time, the authority of Aristotle was destroyed and replaced by the dominance of mathematics without any statutory change taking place. (fn. 63) Though the changes took a long time to work themselves out, (fn. 64) they were beginning to have their effect in the years after the Restoration. Roger North, who was at Jesus 1667–8, described in his autobiography how he studied Descartes's theory of vortices. Though this was opposed by many, he found 'a general inclination, especially of the brisk part of the University, to use him'. Algebra North considered too difficult, but he made good progress with Euclid, 'having got Barrow, which is much the best'. (fn. 65) Isaac Barrow, whose work is thus praised, was the most distinguished Cambridge mathematician of the generation before Newton. Like John Ray, he had been a pupil of James Duport. (fn. 66) He had studied Bacon, Galileo, and Descartes, though he was critical of Cartesian ideas, employing against him Bacon's warnings against argument based merely upon hypothesis. (fn. 67) In 1663 he became the first Lucasian professor of mathematics, (fn. 68) largely through the good offices of John Wilkins, who had been for a short time Master of his College, and whose interest in science has already been noted. (fn. 69) Though he did not entirely shake himself free from older mathematical methods, Barrow did important work, coming near to the invention of the differential calculus, and was regarded by his contemporaries as a man of great genius. (fn. 70) Newton, who came up to Trinity as a sub-sizar in 1661 and who succeeded Barrow in the Lucasian chair in 1669, was indebted to him for most of the instruction which he received in mathematics. He had read none when he came into residence, though he learned a good deal as an undergraduate. In 1665, two years before he became a fellow of Trinity, he worked out the principles of the theory of gravity when he had gone down from Cambridge because of the plague. His most important work on the theory of gravitation and in optics was done between 1666 and 1692, the first edition of the Principia Mathematica being published in 1687. (fn. 71) In the latter part of his life he became first Warden and then Master of the Mint, and his scientific investigations came to an end. (fn. 72)
The Newtonian philosophy spread rapidly through the University. About 1694 Samuel Clarke defended in the schools a question taken from Newton, and in 1697 he published his translation of Rohault's Physics with references to the Principia. (fn. 73) One of the most influential of early Newtonians was Richard Laughton, a very successful tutor of Clare, who both published a sheet of questions on the Newtonian teaching and, as proctor, actively promoted disputations founded upon it. (fn. 74) Another supporter, though not himself a mathematician, was Richard Bentley, Master of Trinity. He encouraged Roger Cotes, who did much of the work for the second edition of the Principia (1713), by building him an observatory over the great gate of Trinity, (fn. 75) and also William Whiston, who became Lucasian professor in 1703. (fn. 76) The last named brought out Newton's Universal Arithmetic, though he was not himself an especially able mathematician. In 1710 he had to leave the University because he had avowed Arian opinions. (fn. 77) John Flamsteed of Jesus, who had become Astronomer Royal in 1675, may be reckoned among the distinguished Cambridge mathematicians of this period; his astronomical observations provided Newton with many important data. (fn. 78) In 1704 the Plumian professorship of astronomy was founded and Cotes elected; (fn. 79) in 1707 the benefaction of Lady Sadleir endowed mathematical lectureships in several colleges. (fn. 80) The increasing importance of these studies was naturally reflected in the schools, and, as the 18th century advanced, proficiency in them became the undergraduates' sole means of winning a high degree. (fn. 81)
Mathematics was not alone among the sciences in making considerable advance at the end of the 17th century. In 1703 John Francis Vigani, who had been teaching at Cambridge as long ago as 1683, received the title of professor of chemistry. (fn. 82) An undergraduate who heard him lecture called him 'a very learned chemist . . . but a drunken fellow'; (fn. 83) a modern critic judged him to be a skilled experimenter and an accurate observer. (fn. 84) He lectured in a laboratory at Queens', and later, again under the patronage of Bentley, at Trinity; (fn. 85) one of his main interests was in materia medica. Of other medical subjects, anatomy was certainly being taught in 1692, again by an Italian, (fn. 86) and George Rolfe was given the title of professor of anatomy in 1707. (fn. 87) Corpus was the home of one group of students about whose scientific interests a good deal is known. The leading members were Stephen Hales, fellow 1703, and William Stukeley, admitted 1703. They collected plants and projected a new edition of Ray's catalogue of the plants of the Cambridge district, which had been published in 1660; (fn. 88) they searched the surrounding countryside for fossils; (fn. 89) they dissected animals. (fn. 90) Stukeley was allowed a room in college for his chemical experiments; (fn. 91) he attended Vigani's lectures at Queens', (fn. 92) and witnessed electrical experiments and 'many Philosophical Experiments in Pneumatic Hydrostatic Engines'. (fn. 93) Hales left Cambridge in 1710, but continued his scientific work; he made important experiments on blood-pressure, examined the problem of preserving water and meat on sea-voyages, and studied the ventilation of prisons. R. T. Gunther has called him the greatest physiologist of the 18th century. (fn. 94) Pre-eminent, however, among the Cambridge natural scientists of the century after the Restoration was John Ray, who had left the University in 1662. He did excellent work as a botanist; with his friend Willughby he laid the foundations of Ornithology and Ichthyology—in Cuvier's judgement his zoological work was 'the basis of all modern zoology'; (fn. 95) the example of him and of his circle perhaps stimulated an interest in science in the University which has never since died out. (fn. 96) In 1691 he published The Wisdom of God manifested in the Works of Creation, the basis of his book consisting of 'common places' which he had delivered in Trinity College chapel 30 years before. In it, C. E. Raven says, Ray turned from identifying and classifying specimens to interpreting processes and investigating the laws of the universe, and, as a result, it ought to have a 'primary place in the development of modern science'. (fn. 97)
Of non-scientific studies there is much less to say. Barrow, who became professor of Greek in 1660, referred in an address of 1661 to the small numbers attending his lectures, which suggests that Greek studies were not very flourishing. (fn. 98) After the Restoration the study of Locke made considerable strides, one of the first to introduce it being Charles Kidman of Corpus, and the Essay on the Human Understanding became a well-known textbook in the 18th century. (fn. 99) In 1681 the Knightbridge professorship of casuistical divinity was founded, (fn. 100) and in 1684 Nicholas Staggins became the first professor of music. (fn. 101)
The annals of 18th-century Cambridge group themselves round three sets of events: the controversies in which Bentley took part, the policy of the Duke of Newcastle as Chancellor, and the abortive reform movement of the 1770's associated with the name of John Jebb. Bentley's interest in mathematical studies has already been noted. (fn. 102) He was certainly the greatest English classical scholar of the time—perhaps of all time—and his reputation had been established before he became Master of Trinity in 1700 by his Epistle to Mill (1691) and by the Dissertation on Phalaris (1697, 1699). (fn. 103) Unfortunately he combined with the highest ability an overbearing and unprincipled temper of mind, an incapacity for working with others, and a propensity to litigation which made him the storm centre, both of his College and of the University, for a generation. (fn. 104) His bio- grapher, Bishop Monk, wrote of his final struggle to avoid deprivation from his mastership that he might have made an excellent lawyer, even an able soldier, 'but all must agree that such a display suited any character rather than that of a learned and dignified clergyman'. (fn. 105) The story of the quarrels between Bentley and the fellows of Trinity has been told elsewhere. (fn. 106) In the first part of his mastership his chief opponent was a layfellow, Edmund Miller; (fn. 107) in later years Miller's place was taken by a more pertinacious man, Dr. John Colbatch, Professor of Casuistry, who pursued the Master with bitter, though unsuccessful, enmity, until Bentley's death. (fn. 108) These long-continued feuds were harmful and expensive to the College. When the legal proceedings finally terminated, they had cost Trinity £4,000, being double the amount of the annual dividend of all the fellows. (fn. 109)
These Trinity quarrels naturally aroused much interest in the University. Moreover Bentley was a strong party man, and he became involved in the party feuds which were characteristic of the life of the time. At the end of Anne's reign he had flirted with the Tories, dedicating his edition of Horace (1711) to Harley, Earl of Oxford, (fn. 110) though, after the accession of George I, he finally identified himself with the Whigs. (fn. 111) In his later difficulties it was his steady policy to appeal for the protection of the Crown against the visitatorial rights of the Bishop of Ely, and to magnify the jurisdiction of the King's Bench at the expense of the university courts. His first dispute with his university opponents arose out of his office as archdeacon of Ely. It was claimed that his official had improperly granted probate of wills to heirs of members of the University, and a grace was passed (1712) that no archdeacon of Ely or his official should be capable of holding the vice-chancellorship. Monk considered that this was directed at Bentley personally, and was inspired by the prejudice against him which had been aroused by the complaints of his own fellows. This question was, however, settled in 1714, and the grace of 1712 was rescinded. (fn. 112)
Bentley's next brush with his opponents came two years later over the question of a loyal address on the suppression of the Rebellion of 1715. The Vice-Chancellor, Waterland, Master of Magdalene, was a friend of Bentley's and a partisan of government, but the address was vetoed in the Caput. However, the Master of Trinity managed to take his opponents unawares by again moving the address on a day when they were not present. As a result the Caput was filled up by his own supporters, and the address passed successfully, and was at once presented at court. Bentley's triumph was complete, but his enemies were bitterly angered; as he himself wrote to Samuel Clarke, 'the fury of the whole disaffected and Jacobite party here against me and Mr. Waterland is inexpressible'. (fn. 113)
In 1715 the Hanoverian government had shown its good will to Cambridge by the gift of the library of John Moore, formerly Bishop of Ely. (fn. 114) This increase in the size of the university library led to the building of a new senate house since the room previously used for ceremonies was now required for books. The foundation stone of the senate house was laid in 1722, and the building was completed in 1730. (fn. 115) Both George I and George II contributed generously to the work. In 1717 George I paid a visit to Cambridge, and the usual festivities appropriate to such occasions took place. (fn. 116) One result of the royal visit was, however, as will soon be explained, another quarrel between Bentley and his enemies. A few months earlier the regius professorship of divinity had fallen vacant through the death of Dr. James. Bentley had set his heart on succeeding to this office, which was of considerable value, (fn. 117) even though, as a head of a house, he was disqualified from being elected. (fn. 118) Though his opponents appeared to be powerful, (fn. 119) he was a better tactician than they, and, by an unscrupulous use of times and seasons similar to the means by which he had carried the loyal address of 1716, he secured a majority among the electors for himself.
The animosity of his enemies was soon to have a chance of showing itself. On the occasion of the king's visit several new doctors of divinity had been created, from whom Bentley, as regius professor, claimed a fee in excess of that which had formerly been customary. This was disputed, especially by Conyers Middleton, a member of Trinity College, who eventually sued for the recovery of his money in the vice-chancellor's court. The vice-chancellorship was then held by a friend of Middleton's, Thomas Gooch, Master of Caius, who had been elected in November 1717 by Tory votes, and who was thus from a party point of view hostile to Bentley. The Master of Trinity's relations with his fellow heads were very bad, and they cannot have been improved when in September 1718, on the issue of a decree to arrest Bentley at Middleton's suit, the Master locked up the esquire bedell in his lodge for some hours. When the court met, the defendant did not appear, whereupon Gooch, with the consent of the other heads who were present, suspended him from his degrees. Later the Vice-Chancellor refused to allow an appeal to the Court of Delegates and threatened to declare Bentley's professorship vacant. In October 1718 the Senate passed a grace depriving Bentley of his degrees, most of the heads and doctors present voting against him. (fn. 120) The details of the subsequent controversies must be read in Monk's Life. Gooch was twice re-elected Vice-Chancellor by his partisans in order to keep him in the saddle, a very rare thing at the time. An active pamphlet war developed, and the quarrel attracted widespread interest. Naturally it became involved with the domestic strife at Trinity. Bentley, Middleton, and Colbatch all became engaged in lawsuits in the Court of King's Bench, in which the Master's general policy was to put his opponents into the position of appearing to deny the authority of the courts of common law. It was not until 1723 that the judges declared in Bentley's favour in the matter of his degrees, (fn. 121) and even then his opponents kept up the struggle. Only after the issue of a peremptory mandamus was the grace of October 1718 rescinded by the Senate (March 1724). (fn. 122)
The whole extraordinary story reflects very little credit on any of the parties. Though Bentley had certainly behaved truculently, his opponents had acted in a most highhanded manner. He had, as Monk says, 'been convicted and sentenced upon a charge of which he had had no notice, unsummoned and unheard, without opportunity of disproving, or explaining, or apologizing for the alleged contempt'. (fn. 123) The proceedings illustrate very clearly the bitterness of personal and faction feuds; they say little for the wisdom of any of those who took part in them; they could do nothing but harm to the reputation of the University as a place of religion and learning. It is a sad commentary on the time that Bentley, far the most distinguished Cambridge scholar of his generation, spent so much of his life either in initiating litigation or in staving off his enemies' assaults. Winstanley suggests that the prestige of the university courts suffered as a result of blunders like those made in this case, which was not the only one of its sort. (fn. 124)
It might also be argued, more generally, that the University as a whole, apart from its courts, was in no way benefited by such clumsy and inequitable behaviour.
Violent party divisions affected university politics for some years longer. In 1729 Tory feeling was strong enough to elect Lambert, Master of St. John's, the most Tory of colleges, to the vice-chancellorship in preference to Mawson, Master of Corpus, (fn. 125) and in 1733 and 1734 there were again contested elections for the same office. (fn. 126) In the middle years of the century, however, control over university affairs fell more and more completely into the hands of the Duke of Newcastle, who became High Steward in 1737 and Chancellor of the University in 1748. (fn. 127) He was also, of course, until after the accession of George III, one of the chief ministers of the Crown, and thus in a position to reward those of his academic constituents who showed themselves loyal supporters of the government. Winstanley has shown how close at this period was the connexion between national and university politics. (fn. 128) Heads and fellows of colleges wanted to be on the winning side in order that they might share in the spoils which the victors had to bestow, while the politicians saw in college and university offices a way of rewarding their friends and of extending their influence in the state. Like all 18th-century politics it was a two-way traffic—from the bottom upwards as well as from the top downwards. Newcastle operated the system in Cambridge more consistently and thoroughly than anyone else. He was not always successful, and he often busied himself in affairs which could have been settled perfectly well without him. (fn. 129) Few Chancellors, however, can have played a more active part in Cambridge life. (fn. 130) He certainly had a genuine affection for his old University, but his chief interest in it was that of a politician, (fn. 131) and he did not always use his influence in ways which were beneficial; for instance, his activity in getting mandate degrees for his supporters was harmful to the prestige of the University. (fn. 132) Other politicians would, of course, have acted in much the same way given the same opportunities. When Newcastle had been elected to the chancellorship on the death of the aged Duke of Somerset in 1748, there had also been a possibility that the Prince of Wales might stand as a candidate. The king was opposed to this, and nothing came of it in the end. The prince, Winstanley says, had no interest in education or learning; he 'desired to become head of a learned society in order that he might convert it into a stronghold of his party and increase his means of rewarding his followers'. (fn. 133)
The sway of Newcastle, 'that old fizzling duke' as the poet Gray called him, (fn. 134) was never absolute. He was for a time successful in getting his supporters chosen ViceChancellor for a second year, but eventually this aroused resentment, and he had to give up the attempt. (fn. 135) He did play a part in the elections of heads of houses, though in 1762 Goddard was elected Master of his old college, Clare, against his wishes, and their later relations were very bad. (fn. 136) In professorial elections too his influence was powerful in the background, though he appreciated the need for great caution in using it. (fn. 137) Some of the difficulties which he experienced are illustrated by the story of the disciplinary regulations of 1750. Very soon after he became Chancellor, the heads were employed in drawing up new regulations, perhaps because he feared an official inquiry into the state of the University. (fn. 138) The regulations were very unpopular with the main body of residents because they were thought to represent an attempt at dictation by the Chancellor and the heads, and they came into force only in a modified form in June 1750. (fn. 139) Feeling was still very disturbed, and an effort to enforce the new rules at the dinner of the Westminster Club (November 1750) led to a trial in the vice-chancellor's court as a result of which several persons were punished for insulting the senior proctor. One of the accused then raised the disputed question whether there was an appeal from the court in disciplinary matters. (fn. 140) Feeling again ran high, and it was not until March 1752 that the question was submitted to a group of referees, which, however, never reported and no decision was taken. One of Newcastle's services to Cambridge which ought to be recorded is his considerable part in carrying through the additions to the university library building which took place during the same decade. In 1755 he laid the foundation stone of the new east front, which he opened three years later. Both he and King George II contributed very generously to the work. (fn. 141)
His hardest struggle to maintain his influence at Cambridge took place after his fall from power in 1762. In this change of his fortunes many of his old supporters deserted him, and, on the death of Lord Hardwicke in 1764, his power in the University was challenged by Lord Sandwich who stood for the High Stewardship as the nominee of court and government against Newcastle's candidate, the second Lord Hardwicke. (fn. 142) Sandwich, 'Jemmy Twitcher', was a man of a moral character such as to shock even the tolerant 18th century. Gray's views of him and his clerical supporters are shown in his scathing verses The Candidate, (fn. 143) but, although Sandwich was not the most suitable of persons for academic office, with government backing he was a dangerous candidate. Both sides organized their forces with skill and unflagging zeal, even before the death of the first Lord Hardwicke in March 1764. When the vote took place Hardwicke carried the day by two votes in the non-regent house, but among the regents the votes were equal. It was later discovered that one of Sandwich's supporters among the regents was in fact already a non-regent, and that his vote was thus invalid. Finally in 1765 the Court of King's Bench granted a mandamus for the sealing of Hardwicke's appointment. Though the margin was narrow, Newcastle had won against great odds. When he died in 1769 the Duke of Grafton became Chancellor in his stead. (fn. 144)
At the time of his election the new chancellor was Prime Minister, and his government was struggling with the problem of John Wilkes and the Middlesex election. The placid surface of 18th-century life was being broken through. New social conditions, new views of political life, new demands for reform were all making themselves heard and felt, until, a quarter of a century later, the great fear aroused by the French Revolution was to hold back the forces of change for a whole generation. Cambridge participated both in the movement of reform and in the movement of reaction. Its constitution indeed had been framed, by the Elizabethan opponents of Puritanism, to make changes difficult, and to tip the scales heavily in favour of a policy of caution. (fn. 145) Certainly the problem was too difficult for the reformers of the seventies to solve. The first question raised was that of subscription to the 39 Articles. In 1771 a grace for freeing all degrees from subscription and another exempting B.A.s only, both brought forward by Robert Tyrwhitt, fellow of Jesus, were rejected by the Caput, (fn. 146) though there was much sympathy in the University for the idea of relaxing the requirements.
Many of the latitudinarian clergy shared this point of view, and a meeting was held in London in June 1771 to prepare a petition to Parliament, one of the members of the committee being John Jebb, a former fellow of Peterhouse and a leading Cambridge reformer. (fn. 147) In 1772 the question came up in Parliament, and there was much support for granting relief to the laity, though not to the clergy. Consequently there were many at Cambridge who felt that it would be wise to take some action. Counsel advised that the University was competent to modify its own rules in the matter, and, though graces for abolishing all subscription on taking degrees were rejected, another grace was passed which required B.A.s merely to declare that they were members of the Church of England. This was a very meagre concession, but it was the only practical result of the anti-subscription movement. Parliamentary support came to nothing, and the agitation petered out. (fn. 148)
It had been an important weakness of the movement that many of its advocates, Jebb among them, had been suspected of leanings towards Unitarianism. (fn. 149) Jebb did not declare himself openly until 1775, (fn. 150) but the suspicion that he held unorthodox views unquestionably hampered the other Cambridge reform agitation of that time, with which he was much more closely associated, the movement for a reformed examination system. The original inspiration for this had been the college examinations introduced at St. John's by William Samuel Powell, who became Master of that College in 1765. (fn. 151) Jebb wished to extend this idea to the whole University, and to institute annual examinations for all undergraduates, including noblemen and fellow-commoners, in 'the law of nature and of nations, chronology, history, classics, mathematics, metaphysics, and philosophy, natural and moral'. (fn. 152) Jebb's plan met with much opposition, especially among those, Powell himself among them, who feared that such a scheme would weaken the autonomy of the Colleges and deprive them of the control of the instruction of their men. (fn. 153)
In May 1773 Jebb brought forward a grace approving of the principle of university examinations which was vetoed by the Caput. (fn. 154) This probably aroused resentment, and, as a result, the Vice-Chancellor himself proposed a grace for the establishment of a syndicate to consider the matter. This was duly established, and it finally reported against examinations, as it had probably been designed to do. (fn. 155) Next year Jebb brought forward a grace for another syndicate, which was set up and which recommended an annual examination for fellow-commoners and noblemen, and a second-year examination for pensioners and sizars (who would be sitting the normal Senate House Examination at the end of their course as their social superiors did not normally do). The graces embodying the syndicate's recommendations were, however, lost in the non-regent house. (fn. 156) Undaunted Jebb produced yet another scheme which aimed at connecting the new plan more closely with the lectures of the college tutors, and which made one of the examinations to be taken by noblemen and fellow-commoners the same as that prescribed for other undergraduates. However, in October 1774 this scheme was also rejected. (fn. 157) Next year Jebb's cause was severely damaged by his avowal of Unitarian opinions. When in 1776 he made his last unsuccessful effort to pass his scheme, he knew that he had no hope of success; as he wrote at the time, 'the dastardly friends are running out of the University as if from a plague. They give every reason but the true one, which seems to be the fear of being caught in my company.' (fn. 158)
After 1776 the cause of university reform made no further progress, and after 1793 liberal principles in Cambridge, as elsewhere, went down beneath the flood of reaction. The chief representative of Tory principles during the Revolutionary War was Isaac Milner, President of Queens' 1788–1820. Under his predecessor, Robert Plumptre, that College had been on the liberal side, though, as the Whig Henry Gunning lamented, it 'became afterwards as remarkable for its opposition to liberal opinions'. (fn. 159) In Gunning's opinion it was Milner's policy to magnify the seriousness of the Jacobin danger in the University, more especially over the case of William Frend, fellow of Jesus, who was prosecuted before Milner himself as Vice-Chancellor for a pamphlet which was alleged to attack the public religion of the realm and to prejudice the clergy in the eyes of the laity (May 1793). (fn. 160) After a trial in which Gunning thought that Milner showed a determination to convict, Frend was sentenced to be banished from the University, the sentence being affirmed both by the Court of Delegates and by King's Bench. Gunning made no attempt to defend the accused's pamphlet, which he thought flippant and irreverent, but in his opinion—though it is the opinion of a political adversary of Milner and his friends—the object of the prosecution was political rather than religious, and was designed to brand Frend as a publisher of sedition and a revolutionary. Milner certainly wrote to Wilberforce later: 'I don't believe Pitt was ever aware of how much consequence the expulsion of Frend was. It was the ruin of the Jacobinical party as a university thing . . .', though he bemoaned that dangerous ideas were still strong at Trinity. (fn. 161) Gunning believed that he had himself been stamped as 'disaffected' by Milner's circle, (fn. 162) and that the same suspicion had deprived his friend Francis Wrangham of a fellowship at Trinity Hall. (fn. 163) In his own College Milner certainly took no chances. In another letter to Wilberforce he described how his disapproval of the principles of the existing fellows had led him to go outside the College for tutors, for 'I was positively determined to have nothing to do with Jacobins or infidels'. (fn. 164)
It has already been shown that, throughout the 18th century, numbers were low. (fn. 165) The average number of B.A. degrees fell from 185 in 1667–99 to 106 in 1734–66, and recovered only slightly to 114 in 1767–99. (fn. 166) Even in the later 18th century the number of graduations sometimes fell a long way below the average. Gilbert Wakefield, who took his B.A. degree in January 1776, wrote: 'seventy-five of us took our degrees that year; very few compared to former times. . . . The best of these seventy-five were but moderate proficients; and those of us in the highest posts of honour, greatly inferior to our immediate predecessors, and to those who succeeded us.' (fn. 167) Most of the students who came up were ordinands, and a far higher proportion took degrees than in earlier centuries; therefore the fall in the number of undergraduates was much greater than the figures for graduations by themselves suggest. Of the colleges St. John's and Trinity shared an unquestioned pre-eminence; (fn. 168) the former was the largest College in the University from about 1640 to about 1785 when Trinity overtook it, (fn. 169) and thereafter went steadily ahead. One important reason for this advance was certainly the institution of a proper system of fellowship elections after the protest of the ten fellows against elections without proper examinations in 1786. (fn. 170) In many colleges there were few men in residence except the scholars; (fn. 171) when Gunning came up to Christ's in 1784 there were only three admissions that year; 'two of the men', he says, 'professed not to read, and I was ignorant of the first Proposition in Euclid'. (fn. 172) King's still preserved its peculiar privileges, and was at that time more of a small closed society of Etonian fellows and scholars that at any other. (fn. 173) The poet Gray, himself an Etonian, warned a friend against sending his nephew into college at Eton, writing, 'I know too that a certain (or very probable) provision for life is a thing to be wish'd: but you must remember what a thing a fellow of King's is.' (fn. 174) It must be added, however, that Winstanley's judgement is far more favourable. (fn. 175)
The general environment of university life was not greatly changed during the century. There is nothing new to say about relations with the town; (fn. 176) if they got no worse, they got no better, though Defoe made a shrewd point in saying that the dependence of the town on the trade brought by the University gave the latter the final whip-hand. (fn. 177) Town and gown 'rows' were one form taken by the rioting and disorder which was common at the time. (fn. 178) The social life of Cambridge displayed, naturally enough, the characteristics of the century. The general tone was low, though it should be remembered that the scandals have been better preserved, in the accounts of annalists like Gunning, than the good which unquestionably existed alongside them. Many of the resident M.A.s were college tutors or were engaged in clerical, or sometimes in medical or in legal, work, but often they had far too little to do, and while they held their fellowships they could not marry. Drunkenness was the commonest social evil, (fn. 179) and it often resulted from the lack of any better occupation. Idleness and drunkenness brought with them even worse evils, which are most clearly described in Gunning's account of the senior fellows of Trinity in 1787. Some of them earned his praise, but for the rest this judgement may be taken as typical: 'The Rev. James Backhouse B.D., like most of the Seniority, was considered a man of gallantry; but Cambridge not being the scene of his amours, he was not thought so immoral as the rest. (fn. 180)
Many undergraduates too did very little. Men of noble birth or who could claim relationship with the sovereign were allowed degrees without examination though they had to reside six terms, (fn. 181) and both they and other fellow-commoners, who could not claim such privileges of birth, were generally licensed to do very little and to be as idle and extravagant as they pleased. (fn. 182) Naturally there were exceptions to this, such as Henry Cavendish, one of the most eminent of 18th-century scientists, who was a fellow-commoner at Peterhouse. (fn. 183) The well-known Trinity tutor, Thomas Jones, (fn. 184) set James Scarlett, later Lord Abinger, to keep an act, which 'was a very unusual step in a fellow-commoner' (c. 1788), (fn. 185) and Gunning says that the first fellow-commoner to appear on the Tripos was Felix Vaughan of Jesus (B.A. 1790). (fn. 186) At the other end of the social scale the position of the sizars had improved; though they still held in some respects a menial rank, their menial duties were disappearing. (fn. 187) The Gradus ad Cantabrigiam of 1803 states that the distinction between them and the pensioners was not pronounced. (fn. 188) All undergraduates came into residence later than in the 17th century—generally at between 17 and 18, (fn. 189) a fact which made the ancient practice of 'chumming'—two or more persons sharing the same room—inconvenient. (fn. 190)
Among those who had their own way to make in the world there were many who worked very hard, for instance Christopher Wordsworth, the future Master of Trinity, was working 10 hours a day before his B.A. examination in 1796. (fn. 191) Bishop Watson, though admitting that those who took no degree had no spur to their exertions, considered that 'there is no seminary of learning in Europe in which youth are more zealous to excel during the first years of their education than in the University of Cambridge'. (fn. 192) He himself was second wrangler in 1759. During his first two years at Trinity, he had learnt some Hebrew, considerably improved his Greek and Latin—among the authors he mentions being Demosthenes and Tacitus—made advances in mathematics, and studied Locke, Pufendorff, and King's 'book on the Origin of Evil'. (fn. 193) In 1767 Framingham Willis of Caius described his day as follows: he generally rose at 5, read for an hour, took a walk, and came back for chapel at 7. After that came breakfast followed by 3½ hours reading from 9 until 12.30, then dinner, followed sometimes by a visit to a friend's room, a dish of tea, and a glance at the newspapers in a coffee house, followed again by chapel at 6, a walk and supper. (fn. 194) He is silent about his evenings, but George Pryme, who came up to Trinity in 1799, generally went to his rooms after chapel at 5.30, and 'read till ten or eleven o'clock'. (fn. 195) When the lethargy of the century is deplored, it is worth remembering that there were always a good many such students who, with few examinations to check their progress, took a real interest in their work. (fn. 196)
Even the studious had their amusements. Willis wrote in August 1767: 'I have been somewhat more gay and idle than I should have been this last fortnight, in making parties to go on the water and in riding out to Newmarket and the country round about Cambridge in little one-horse chaises, which they call Bougees.' (fn. 197) The sport most frequently referred to was, however, shooting, for which Cambridge, before the fens were drained, offered wonderful opportunities. Gunning describes how snipe were to be taken on the outskirts of the town itself, while in the fens the wildfowler had an almost free run, as the diary of John D'Oyly (admitted at Corpus, 1792) makes clear. (fn. 198) Cambridge also catered for more intellectual pleasures. Music was popular; (fn. 199) John Hinckesman of Queens' described, in a letter of May 1742, '3 very fine Consorts' which were 'a continued scene of Mirth and Gaiety.—they found such Great Encouragement that they wou'd very gladly have performed a fourth time if they cou'd have got Leave from the Vice-Chancellor'. (fn. 200) Theatrical performances at Sturbridge Fair also became common towards the end of the century. The University had earlier resisted them, and an Act was passed in 1737 against theatrical performances at Oxford and Cambridge, (fn. 201) but subsequently opinion seems to have accepted players at the fair, though the University still opposed the opening of a playhouse in the town itself. In 1747 'A Trip to Cam- bridge, or the Grateful Fair' by Christopher Smart was acted at Pembroke; this seems to have been the last of the long series of college plays. (fn. 202)
The course of study for the B.A. degree lasted for ten terms; the undergraduate was formally admitted to a College in the Easter Term, but only began residence in the Michaelmas Term following. Thus his tenth term was the Michaelmas Term of his fourth year and he took his examination and graduated in the January following. (fn. 203) College instruction remained predominant, though its precise form changed during the century. College tutors during the 17th century normally had only a few pupils and had no continuity of tenure; moreover the formal instruction was still in the hands of lecturers. (fn. 204) In the 18th century the lecturers ceased to perform any functions and their work fell exclusively into the hands of the tutors. At the same time as their office became more important, their tenure became more permanent and their numbers smaller. At the smaller Colleges one tutor would take into his hands all the college teaching; at the larger there would probably be two. Thus at Trinity in 1755 two definite tutorial 'sides' were set up, whereas in 1745 there had been eight tutors and in 1725 twelve. (fn. 205) Among 18th-century tutors who are still remembered are Richard Laughton of Clare at the beginning of the century (fn. 206) and Thomas Jones of Trinity at the end. (fn. 207) Jones, according to a pupil, 'was remarkable for the attention he gave to the progress of his pupils, and for his kind and guardianlike interest in their general conduct and welfare. His lectures on Moral Philosophy and Metaphysics . . . were most able and comprehensive.' (fn. 208) However, the system of tutorial lectures in the hands of the tutor and one or two assistants did not provide a sufficiently high standard of teaching when the Senate House Examination increased in difficulty, and more and more undergraduates who wanted to do well went to private tutors. The biographer of Thomas Robinson, who went up to Trinity in 1768 and who was seventh wrangler, noted that this 'was considered a high degree at that time for one who had not enjoyed the advantage of a private tutor'. (fn. 209) The system of private tutors was expensive, and led to cramming; moreover it led to serious dangers of favouritism on the part of examiners towards their own pupils. (fn. 210) Richard Watson, who was second wrangler in 1759, had, he thought, been put below an inferior man who was a private pupil and fellow collegian of the senior moderator. (fn. 211) The authorities appreciated the dangers of the situation, and in 1781 a grace was passed excluding from honours those who had employed a private tutor within two years of taking their examination; (fn. 212) Gunning says that this step was taken as the result of a serious case of partiality in the examination of that year. (fn. 213) However, since there was a demand which private teaching met, it went on without serious check.
The routine of the academic year at the end of the period, and the course of the exercises and examinations for the B.A. degree, can be traced in detail in several sources. (fn. 214) The exercises, by which the candidates had for so long been tested and their place in the Ordo Senioritatis determined, continued to be important, (fn. 215) though often, especially in the case of the weaker men, reduced to a formal minimum by the practice known as 'huddling'. (fn. 216) The content of the questions was generally mathematical, though one of them was expected to be on a philosophical subject. (fn. 217) Rouse Ball considered that 'they provided an admirable training in the art of presenting an argument, and in dialectical skill in attack and defence', (fn. 218) and that was certainly the view of contemporaries. Bishop Watson, who had frequently acted as moderator, considered that 'if in anything we are superior to Oxford, it is in this, that our scholastic disputations in philosophy and theology are supported with seriousness and solemnity', though he feared that they were falling into decay because, since the dinner hour had moved from mid-day into the afternoon, it was more difficult for members of the University to attend them. (fn. 219) The dramatist Richard Cumberland spoke in a similar vein of 'their exercises in the mathematical schools, and their examinations in the theatre, as forming the best system which this country affords for the education of its youth'. (fn. 220) Even John Jebb thought that the exercises would be perfect if only they were held in English instead of in Latin. (fn. 221)
As the century went on, they gradually declined in importance at the expense of the 'examinations in the theatre' to which Cumberland referred. There had always been some sort of examination of the questionists in the schools before they took their degrees, and in the first third of the century this gradually took the form of the Senate-House Examination, which became much later the Mathematical Tripos. (fn. 222) Its precise beginnings are difficult to date; Rouse Ball thinks that it arose about 1730, perhaps as a means of determining the position of candidates about whose place some doubt was felt. (fn. 223) In its early years it was merely supplementary to the exercises, but as, early on, it came to be conducted in English and as the candidates were chiefly questioned in mathematics, it gradually became clear that it was a much more exact and searching test than the disputations. As a result the order of the names on the list became more important, and the ancient Ordo became, what it had originally not been, an order of merit. After 1747 the lists were printed, (fn. 224) and after 1752 they assumed their permanent division into wranglers, senior and junior optimes, and those who had merely qualified for a degree. (fn. 225) The titles of the classes derived from the disputations. In early days any M.A. could and did take part in the examination, though this practice ceased in the latter part of the century. (fn. 226)
In 1763 an important change was introduced by Richard Watson when acting as moderator. Previously men had been examined by colleges without reference to their attainments. Watson classified them into groups according to their performance in the schools. Unless a candidate appeared in a high group, it was of course impossible for him to take a high degree; but none the less the examination, not the exercises, now became the final and crucial test. Watson's object was to cut down favouritism by examining men of comparable merit together, but in fact he had made the exercises merely preliminary and subsidiary to the examination. (fn. 227) In later years men were able to challenge their places in these groups before the examination began, which made the exercises even less important. (fn. 228) In 1763 it was further decided that the relative position of the senior and second wranglers should be settled by the examination and not by the disputations. (fn. 229) In 1779 the number of moderators was increased from two to four, the examination was extended to four days, one of them being given to 'natural religion, moral philosophy, and Locke's Essay'. (fn. 230) By that time, though the questions were still being dictated, the answers were written; originally they had been given orally. Problem papers were printed from about 1790. (fn. 231)
The examination had now assumed a developed form, and had become compulsory for all those taking the normal B.A. degree. Its contents were overwhelmingly mathematical. Jebb in 1772 outlined its scope so far as the best students were concerned as follows: the first six books of Euclid, plane trigonometry, the first rules of algebra; mechanics, hydrostatics, apparent astronomy, and optics; the 11th and 12th books of Euclid, conic sections, spherical trigonometry, the higher parts of algebra, Newton's Principia; problems on extractions of roots, solution of algebraical equations, and bookwork on fluxions; Locke's Essay, Butler's Analogy, Clarke's Attributes. The last section is given only a minor place since Jebb says that 'as the highest academic distinctions are inevitably given to the best proficients in mathematics and natural philosophy, a very superficial knowledge in morality and metaphysics will suffice'. (fn. 232) This syllabus represented, Rouse Ball thinks, the reading of the very best men, and would have been far above the comprehension of the average wrangler of the time. (fn. 233) The general standard was low since textbooks were poor and many undergraduates came from schools where mathematics were not taught. (fn. 234) Paley, who was senior wrangler in 1763, had learnt none at Giggleswick School, but had received some instruction from a private tutor just before he came up. (fn. 235) Gunning's statement about his examination in 1788 that 'the first and second problems were for the extraction of the square and cube roots, and what was never before heard of, every one was required to attempt them as far as three places of Decimals' has been doubted. (fn. 236) However in 1799 the moderators officially announced that they would require of every candidate a knowledge of the first book of Euclid's Elements, arithmetic, vulgar and decimal fractions, simple and quadratic equations, and selected books by Locke and Paley—which seems a moderate demand enough. (fn. 237) The mathematical standard may not have been very high, but the mathematicians were in the saddle, and it would be difficult to dispute the judgement that they controlled Cambridge studies almost as completely as the logicians had done in the Middle Ages. (fn. 238)
The question of partiality has already been mentioned. (fn. 239) There is a very interesting description by William Gooch of Caius, who was second wrangler in 1791, of the examination of that year, in which Peacock of Trinity was senior wrangler and Lax of the same college one of the moderators. (fn. 240) Gooch did not dispute that Peacock was rightly first, but he did consider that Lax had made the difference between them appear greater than it really was. While the examination had still been going on, he had written: 'I've been shamefully us'd by Lax to-day;—Tho' his anxiety for Peacock must (of course) be very great, I never suspected that his Partially [sic] would get the better of his Justice.' Another practice which affected the strict impartiality of the order of names was the right of the Vice-Chancellor, the proctors, and the senior regent to place four 'honorary optimes' where they would in the list, though this right was not exercised after 1792. (fn. 241)
During the century several prizes were founded for which undergraduates could compete. Among the most important of these were the two Smith's prizes, founded by the will of Robert Smith, Master of Trinity (1768), for mathematics and natural philosophy. The examination came immediately after the Senate House Examination, and the distinction was much coveted by able mathematicians. (fn. 242) Several classical awards were also founded at this time. In 1747 the Battie scholarship was established. (fn. 243) In 1751 Newcastle presented two annual gold medals for classical studies, and in 1752 the members for the University founded four prizes for exercises in Latin prose. (fn. 244) In 1774 Sir William Browne founded the medals named after him for a Latin ode, a Greek ode, and for Latin and Greek epigrams. (fn. 245) In comparison with the prestige of the Senate House Examination, the incentives to classical scholarship were nevertheless very few until the establishment of the Classical Tripos in the next century. When the great Greek scholar, Richard Porson, who was first chancellor's medallist and third senior optime in 1782, was elected to a Trinity fellowship on his merits as a classical scholar, this was considered a very rare distinction. (fn. 246)
Responsibility for preparing undergraduates for the Senate House Examination lay in the hands of college tutors and private coaches. The promotion of higher studies was the duty of the professors, who, as several new chairs were founded during the century, were quite a numerous body. It was very unfortunate that they were practically excluded from teaching undergraduates, and, as there was little demand for advanced teaching, most of them had little to do, and it was all too easy for their chairs to become mere sinecures. Many of them did not lecture, and, though Winstanley suggests that the picture was not quite so black as it has usually been painted, it was certainly black enough. (fn. 247) Thomas Sherlock, writing about Bentley's candidature for the regius chair of divinity, referred to the 'general neglect or indeed contempt' of the other chairs, (fn. 248) and there is plenty of evidence to support this view.
A general survey of university studies at this time may conveniently begin with the three ancient faculties of divinity, law, and physic, and then go on to the other arts subjects and to the sciences. The Lady Margaret and regius professorships of divinity were the most valuable of the University's chairs since King James I had annexed a wealthy rectory to each of them. (fn. 249) The first was little more than a very well-endowed sinecure; (fn. 250) the regius chair involved important duties because the professor presided over the divinity disputations, which were taken very seriously by academic opinion, and which involved both earnest preparation and mental dexterity. (fn. 251) An act kept by an able man would crowd the schools, as did Isaac Milner's for the B.D. Degree (1786), which Watson called 'a real academic entertainment'. (fn. 252) Some of the holders of the chair were remembered for the ability with which they presided over the disputations. (fn. 253) Others seriously neglected their duties, among them being Bentley, (fn. 254) and, most glaringly of all, Richard Watson, who was elected to the chair in 1771. His previous interests had been mathematical and scientific, and he himself claimed only to know 'as much of divinity as could reasonably be expected from a man whose course of studies had been directed to, and whose time had been fully occupied in, other pursuits . . .'. (fn. 255) For ten years he carried out his duties efficiently. In 1782 he became Bishop of Llandaff, but he did not consider the emoluments of that poor see sufficiently great to enable him to resign his chair, even though it became more and more difficult for him to perform his duties since his health deteriorated seriously. In 1787 he had to appoint a permanent deputy. (fn. 256) According to Gunning many attempts were made to get him to resign, (fn. 257) but he held his chair until his death in 1816, having then lived for many years near Windermere. Apart from the two ancient professorships, two new divinity endowments ought to be mentioned. The first is the Norrisian professorship of revealed religion founded in 1777; (fn. 258) the second the benefaction of John Hulse (1790) for the endowment of a course of sermons and for the foundation of the office of christian advocate, whose duties were to be to answer objections against the Christian religion. (fn. 259)
The history of religious thought at Cambridge during this long period is naturally a subject far too large for these pages; some few suggestions alone can be made as pointers to the main course of ideas. The heirs of the theology of the Cambridge Platonists had been the Latitudinarians, the most prominent of whom, like Tillotson, Stillingfleet, and Tenison, were Cambridge men. (fn. 260) They preached a liberal approach to religious problems, which derived partly from their sympathy with the scientific view of the world as a place of order and of system. They exalted the role of reason in religion, arguing that natural religion and Christian revelation were to reinforce one another in their claims on the believer. They preached a gospel of works; a good life was more Christian than a correct viewpoint on some disputed question, formed amid all the bitterness of theological strife. (fn. 261) The most influential member of the school in the 17th century was John Tillotson of Clare, Archbishop of Canterbury 1691–4, who, it has been written, 'struck the key-note which in his own day, and for two generations or more afterwards, governed the predominant tone of religious reasoning and sentiment'. (fn. 262)
The influence of John Locke, which was great at Cambridge, (fn. 263) worked in a similar direction. A thoroughgoing disciple among Cambridge theologians was Edmund Law, Master of Peterhouse and Bishop of Carlisle, whose Considerations on the Theory of Religion was published in 1745; the chief value of the book lies in its appreciation that man's religious beliefs develop as he becomes more civilized. (fn. 264) Law befriended William Paley, who became fellow and tutor of Christ's 1766–76, and who was one of the most prominent Cambridge thinkers of the later 18th century. His Moral and Political Philosophy (1785) is utilitarian; the love of pleasure and the fear of pain are stimulated by the hope of heaven and the fear of hell. When the theological sanctions are removed, his ideas lead on to those of Bentham. (fn. 265) His Evidences of Christianity (1794) is an example of a type of apologetic in which the century was prolific; he appeals to the evidence of miracle as the most convincing proof of the Christian revelation. The book remained a Cambridge textbook for a very long period. His Natural Theology (1802) is a development and illustration of the famous argument that, from the existence of a watch, may be inferred a watchmaker. (fn. 266) Paley's ideas are clearly and cogently expressed rather than original or philosophically acute, but they certainly had a great influence in the University. Mullinger says that 'the influence which they . . . exercised over the character and tendencies of Cambridge thought and education for nearly a century can scarcely be over-estimated'. (fn. 267)
The success of the Christian apologists who had defended the faith against the assaults of the deists had been won by an appeal to Christian evidences and to the truths which were common both to natural and to revealed religion. The result was apt to be a simple Bible-religion which diverged considerably from the complex theological statements of traditional Christianity. One especial difficulty was the doctrine of the Trinity as expressed in the Athanasian creed. Among the theologians of the day, Professor Norman Sykes says, 'the doctrines of Arius received a new vogue and acceptance; not as the private speculations of individual divines, but as the true doctrine of Scripture'. (fn. 268) Opinions of this type were common in Cambridge in the 1770's and 1780's, and they form the background to the campaign for the relaxation of subscription in 1771 and 1772. (fn. 269) Some of the Cambridge liberal theologians, like Jebb, left their preferments and became Unitarians. (fn. 270) Others, though continuing to profess the orthodox faith, were anxious to make the terms of subscription to the church's doctrines as little burdensome as possible by whittling away dogmas which appeared offensive. The most important Cambridge representative of this way of thinking was Richard Watson, who, as regius professor of divinity, held a position of great influence. The truth of Christianity, he thought, could be based only on evidence, of the weight of which man was competent to form a judgement. He refused to concern himself with abstruse theories about original sin, about election or reprobation, or particularly about the nature and attributes of God or Christ's pre-existence before the Incarnation. In controverted problems like the Sonship of Christ, he was anxious to give the widest possible latitude, believing that rigid theological systems had always been hostile to the progress of religious truth. (fn. 271) Similar views were expressed by John Hey, Norrisian professor 1780–95. He argued that the orthodox and the Socinian points of view on the Trinity differed only over things which no man could really understand. If men were to admit that these issues were quite incomprehensible, moderation and concord would be promoted. Assent to formulae of doctrine like the 39 Articles could not bind men in the spirit, and they had to be applied in relation to the circumstances of the times. Where men did not understand, they should give their assent as the best means of promoting peace and order. (fn. 272)
The birth of the Evangelical school gave rise to a sharp reaction against theology of this type. Among the early Evangelical clergy in the Cambridge district were John Berridge of Everton (Beds.), Henry Venn of Yelling (Hunts.), and Charles Simeon, fellow of King's and vicar of Holy Trinity. (fn. 273) The story of the rise of these opinions in the University will be most conveniently told below. (fn. 274) At the end of the century Simeon and Isaac Milner were the most prominent Evangelicals in the University, and Cambridge was already making its contribution to the most cherished of all Evangelical good causes, the campaign against slavery, through the work of William Wilberforce and Thomas Clarkson, both of St. John's. Clarkson's attention had first been drawn to the subject by winning a Member's prize in 1785, for which the Vice-Chancellor, Peter Peckard, Master of Magdalene, had set as a subject the lawfulness of involuntary servitude. (fn. 275)
Neither of the two remaining faculties of civil law and of physic was in a very flourishing state at this time. The statutory requirements for the LL.B. degree had been watered down, and the degree was regarded as a soft option, though not one which was much sought after. (fn. 276) The regius professors were in general conscientious and lectured regularly; as the Colleges did not provide any legal teaching, they had the field to them- selves. (fn. 277) Common law was not taught at the beginning of the century, but in 1788 the title of 'professor of the laws of England' was given to Edward Christian until the foundation of Downing College should be completed. (fn. 278) Few medical degrees were taken and the standard was low. (fn. 279) The opinion of George Dyer, writing in 1814, gives an interesting contemporary view of the medical school: 'Cambridge has never been considered as the proper place for the medical or anatomical student. The proper place is a great city like London or Edinburgh—for numerous crowded hospitals, and other public institutions, must always furnish materials for lectures and experiments, which cannot be supplied in a town comparatively small, and with a single hospital.' (fn. 280) Between 1700 and 1817 the regius chair of physic had only three occupants, Christopher Greene, Russell Plumptre, and Isaac Pennington. All of them were distinguished merely by their longevity; no advances in medicine are connected with their names. (fn. 281) The professors of anatomy were not more distinguished. Sir Busick Harwood, who was professor from 1785 to 1814, lived in Cambridge, gave lectures, and was a well-known figure in university social life, but he has been called a 'very third-rate scientist'. (fn. 282) The one great exception to the rule of mediocrity was William Heberden of St. John's, who lectured for about ten years before he left Cambridge for London in 1748. (fn. 283) LangdonBrown calls him 'the first man who tried to rationalize pharmacology and materia medica, while in clinical medicine he insisted on direct observation without slavish adherence to tradition'. (fn. 284) His most distinguished pupil was Robert Glynn, who spent most of his life in Cambridge, where he was well known both for his eccentricities and for his benevolence. (fn. 285) There was a long-standing dispute between the University and the Royal College of Physicians, which claimed the power to prevent medical graduates of the universities practising in, or within seven miles of, London without a licence. This was settled in 1722 by a compromise. The College offered to appoint their fellows entirely from the list of university doctors, and the University of Cambridge undertook to confer medical degrees only in strict accordance with the statutory requirements. (fn. 286)
Both the remaining regius chairs of Greek and of Hebrew were sinecures of small value, to which fellows of Trinity had first claim since their college provided the stipends. (fn. 287) There was little demand for instruction in Oriental studies; Hebrew and Arabic were both neglected, though a second Arabic chair, the Lord Almoner's professorship, was created in 1724, and was generally held with the Adams professorship. (fn. 288) The Arabic and Hebrew professors sold wares which there was little desire to buy; it might have been thought that classical studies, the backbone of education in the grammar schools, would have occupied a more prominent place. However, the examination system worked against them. The poet Gray wrote in 1736 that he had no talent for mathematics or for metaphysics, but he hoped soon to be able to return to his classical studies, 'though I see them fallen into great contempt with most people here'. (fn. 289) Though Cambridge had really great scholars in Bentley and Richard Porson, who became regius professor of Greek in 1792, most of the occupants of the Greek chair were undistinguished. (fn. 290) The other Greek scholars produced by the University at this time whose names are remembered are Jeremiah Markland, fellow of Peterhouse, who edited some of Euripides' plays, Richard Dawes, fellow of Emmanuel, author of Miscellanea Critica, and John Taylor, fellow of St. John's, librarian and registrary, who edited the Attic orators. (fn. 291) None of them, however, held teaching positions where their learning might have influenced the University. Porson himself lived mostly in London, and did not lecture.
Of philosophical studies there is even less to say. (fn. 292) Locke's theories were further developed in Observations on Man by David Hartley, sometime fellow of Jesus, which sets out the theory of the association of ideas. (fn. 293) The Knightbridge chair, which might have given a lead in the study of moral philosophy and theology, was a sinecure, and the professors probably never lectured until the 19th century. (fn. 294)
The story of Lord Brooke's history lectureship has been told elsewhere. (fn. 295) In 1724 King George I founded professorships of modern history both at Cambridge and at Oxford. These chairs were to be royal appointments, the professors were to be skilled in modern languages as well as in history, and they were to maintain assistants to give instruction in modern languages out of their stipends. Edmund Gibson, Bishop of London, who desired to train suitable young men as diplomats and travelling tutors for the aristocracy, was ultimately responsible for the scheme. Twenty scholars were to be appointed and instructed free of charge in modern languages, and yearly reports of their progress were to be sent to the king. (fn. 296) Samuel Harris, fellow of Peterhouse, was duly appointed to the new chair, but within a very few years interest withered away, and the history professorship became yet another sinecure. In 1768 Thomas Gray was appointed to the chair, and, as the question of the neglect by the history professor of his duties was raised at this time at Oxford, Gray was asked to submit proposals for reform. He duly suggested that the heads of houses should nominate undergraduates to be instructed both in modern languages and in history, that the professor should reside at least half of every term and should give at least one public lecture a term, as well as private lectures to his own pupils. Though the situation clearly weighed on his conscience there is no evidence that Gray himself ever lectured. (fn. 297) When he died in 1771, he was succeeded by John Symonds, who was genuinely interested in the subject and who lectured regularly until his death in 1807, though he had to persevere in the face of many discouragements. (fn. 298)
In mathematics and the natural sciences the impetus of the Newtonian generation was not maintained. (fn. 299) Indeed the influence of Newton upon English mathematicians was so great that the English school used the geometrical and fluxional methods which he preferred almost exclusively, and so became very isolated from the development of mathematical studies on the Continent. (fn. 300) It is strange that, in a century when mathematical studies became so predominant in the University, Cambridge was not rich in outstanding mathematicians. The Lucasian chair was held from 1710 to 1739 by the blind Nicholas Sanderson, who was a very conscientious professor, but his successors, including the very able Edward Waring, neglected their duties in various degrees. (fn. 301) The Plumian chair, after the death of Cotes, (fn. 302) was held by Robert Smith, later Master of Trinity and founder of Smith's prizes, for 44 years. He was a good mathematician, and his Opticks has been praised as a textbook on the subject, (fn. 303) but he probably did not lecture during the latter years of his tenure of the chair, and his successor, Anthony Shepherd, was grossly negligent. (fn. 304)
The study of chemistry was more actively pursued. (fn. 305) Richard Watson, who was elected to the chair in 1764, admitted later that, when he was elected, he knew nothing of chemistry, but he worked hard to master the subject, became a very competent chemist, and gave lectures which were well attended. Moreover in 1766 he obtained a crown stipend of £100 per annum which was continued to his successors in the chair. (fn. 306) At the end of the century the professorship was held by William Farish who drew large audiences to a course on the application of chemistry to the arts and manufactures of Great Britain. (fn. 307) Lectures on chemistry were also given by Isaac Milner, who became the first Jacksonian professor of natural and experimental philosophy in 1783. These seem to have been amusing and popular rather than learned, but he drew large audiences. (fn. 308) Other scientific studies fared much worse. The Woodwardian chair of geology founded in 1728 had no really active holder before Adam Sedgwick, elected in 1818. (fn. 309) The first occupant of the Lowndean chair of astronomy and geometry, founded in 1748, Roger Long, had a real interest in the subject, but his two successors did nothing at all. (fn. 310) However, in this field, Cambridge did produce something. In 1765 an observatory was built at St. John's, and Neville Maskelyne, Astronomer Royal, who first brought out the Nautical Calendar (1766), was a Cambridge man. (fn. 311) In 1724 Richard Bradley became the first professor of botany. The study of the subject fluctuated a good deal, though it was aided by the foundation of the Botanic Garden between 1760 and 1763. (fn. 312) Thomas Martyn, who began his lectures in 1763, gave an annual course for over 30 years, though he got but little support. In 1798 he left Cambridge, but he continued to hold the professorship until his death in 1825. (fn. 313)
Martyn had, at least, striven hard to do his work for thirty years with little support, and had only given it up when he reached old age. There was good and conscientious work done all through the period, but the bad outweighed the good, in many ways, and some endeavour must be made here to assess the reasons why this was so. The 18th century was a bad time for all corporate institutions, the members of which thought, in general, much more about the pleasures of place than about the duties of office. In the universities serious harm had probably been done by indiscriminate appointments to offices by royal mandate after 1660, which lowered the standard of the senior men who naturally set the tone. Party feuds were bitter, and, since they were closely connected with personal animosities, they distracted men's minds from the proper work of the University in teaching and research. Moreover the influence of a Newcastle suggested all too forcibly that political loyalty or the chance of family connexion were more likely to lead to promotion than scholarship or devotion to duty. Bentley, the predominant figure of the first half of the century, was deeply embroiled in personal feuds and political manœuvres, and his unscrupulous and overbearing ways did no good either to his own College or to the University as a whole. Moreover the financial rewards which the University had to offer were very meagre, and they compared very poorly with incomes in the church or in professional life. Consequently able men tended to look for careers elsewhere, to marry and vacate their fellowships, while very often it was those who lacked the talent or the perseverance to make a success of the outside world who stayed behind in Cambridge. Numbers fell considerably, and, as 'chumming' disappeared, expenses tended to increase. (fn. 314) A large proportion of the men who came up were ordinands, and there were fewer of those who came up for a more general education, a fact which suggests that the appeal of the University was getting narrower. The ever-growing dominance of mathematics may also have kept away those who had no inclination for such studies. (fn. 315) The English universities were corrupt and incompetent, and they suffered as a result. As G. M. Trevelyan says, the education they offered was a monopoly, and, like other such articles, 'was both dear and bad. The country houses, the Dissenting Academies, and the Scottish Universities did more than Oxford and Cambridge to nourish the widely diffused English culture of that period of our civilisation.' (fn. 316)