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 EARLY STUARTS AND CIVIL WAR
Relations between town and gown, though still troubled, were, on the whole, better in this period than during the 16th century. The position of the University was strengthened by the grant in 1604 of the right to return members to Parliament, (fn. 1) and in 1605 by a new royal charter. The first privilege was obtained largely through the influence of Lord Cecil (Robert Cecil), the Chancellor, and Sir Edward Coke. (fn. 2) The charter of 1605 repeated the provisions of Elizabeth I’s charter of 1561 about university jurisdiction, (fn. 3) and defined the university precincts as extending one mile from the farthest buildings of the town. It granted to students and privileged persons exemption from serving on juries, and also the right to buy and sell freely within the town. It provided that the officials of the University might make search for prostitutes, for scholars wandering about by night, and for those who had no honest means of livelihood, and it also gave them the power to put down all plays and other entertainments. (fn. 4) In 1607 University and town were quarrelling about their respective rights to the Tolbooth; (fn. 5) in 1612 it was decided by the Privy Council that Chesterton was within the university precincts. (fn. 6) In 1615 the play Ignoramus, produced for the royal visit of that year, (fn. 7) satirized in the name-part the Recorder of the Borough, Francis Brackyn, and was regarded as pouring ridicule on the common lawyers in general. (fn. 8) In the following year the townsfolk sought a new charter which should make Cambridge a city. The University was at once on the alert, fearing that such enhanced status could not fail to menace its own privileges. Eventually it was successful in its opposition, receiving a letter from the king that he would grant no titles of honour which might disturb or endanger the University. (fn. 9) Mullinger considered that the resignation of Brackyn from the recordership in 1624 caused relations to improve, (fn. 10) but, five years later, there was a great controversy about the claim of the University to control the price of candles. (fn. 11) One issue which was keenly debated throughout the whole period was that of the relative precedence of the Vice-Chancellor and the Mayor. This had been settled in the Vice-Chancellor’s favour by a royal letter of 1606, (fn. 12) but it was still giving trouble in 1612, (fn. 13) and the problem came up again during the Civil War when the townsmen were perhaps more confident of encouragement by the parliamentary party. In 1645 the Mayor, John Lowry, refused to take the customary oath to maintain the University’s rights. The heads of houses, as a result, petitioned Parliament against this and other infringements of their privileges. The attitude of the Lords was, on the whole, more favourable to the University than that of the Commons, of which Lowry was a member, but no immediate decision was made by either body. (fn. 14) In 1647 the old dispute about precedence flared up again, and judgement was given by the House of Lords in favour of the Vice-Chancellor. Further a general order was made by the same house that the Mayor should respect the privileges of the University. (fn. 15)
Under the first two Stuart kings official control was close, and tended to become closer. The government was not ungenerous, and James I had, of course, a very sincere interest in learning. At the same time care was taken to ensure the loyalty of the academic body to the established system. In 1603 a grace of the Senate decreed that whoever should openly oppose the doctrine or discipline of the Church should be ipso facto suspended from his degrees. (fn. 16) The failure of the Hampton Court Conference was followed by the publication of the Canons of 1604, which ordered that the services according to the prayer book should be used in college chapels, and surplices should be worn at such services on Sundays and holy days. They also provided that no one was to be ordained or permitted to preach without subscribing three articles, affirming the royal supremacy, the due authority of the book of common prayer, and of the articles of religion. (fn. 17) The enforcement of the surplice caused great heart-burning among the Puritans. ‘God grant’, wrote Samuel Ward of Emmanuel, ‘that other worse things do not follow the so strict urging of this indifferent ceremony.’ Sidney and Magdalene had already given way; ‘now what remaineth but that we—unless we will be singular— should take it up’. (fn. 18) At the end of the year 1604 the Chancellor, Cecil, wrote to the Vice-Chancellor and heads, ordering strict conformity and requiring to be informed of any delinquents. (fn. 19) However, the degrees of the University were still conferred without any test or subscription, (fn. 20) until in 1613 the king issued a mandate that no one should be admitted to the doctorate in any faculty or to the degree of bachelor of divinity unless he subscribed to the three articles of the Canons of 1604. (fn. 21) In 1616 another royal mandate required a similar subscription from those who took any degree in the schools. (fn. 22) In theological and controversial matters the talents of Cambridge divines were fully employed by the government. The translators of the Authorized Version of the Bible were carefully chosen in equal proportions from the two universities. Among the Cambridge representatives were Lancelot Andrewes, John Overall, Lawrence Chaderton, Andrew Byng, and Samuel Ward. (fn. 23) The last, who became Master of Sidney in 1610, was chosen by the king as one of the English representatives at the Synod of Dort; out of the total delegation of five, four were Cambridge men. (fn. 24)
The members of the University were, in general, strongly royalist in their attitude to the problems of the day, and consequently loyal supporters of the doctrines of submission and of non-resistance. In 1622, in obedience to a letter from the Privy Council, the opinions of the German theologian Paraeus, who had expounded certain limitations on the royal prerogative, were condemned by the Senate, and his commentary on the Epistle to the Romans burnt in the Regent Walk. (fn. 25) It is hardly surprising, therefore, that the House of Commons and the common lawyers, who were becoming increasingly jealous and resentful of prerogative power, were, throughout the years 1603-40, suspicious of the universities, which they could, with justice, regard as the intellectual seed-beds of a political theory which they were coming more and more to dislike. The matter was raised early in James’s reign by a law-book, The Interpreter, written by John Cowell, Master of Trinity Hall. (fn. 26) This was meant to show the common elements in the civil and the common laws, but Cowell also expressed himself in favour of a very high idea of the royal prerogative. His theories were attacked by Sir Edward Coke, and both the Commons and the Lords drew the king’s attention to the book. On this occasion James informed the lower house that he was very much displeased with the book, and considered that it impugned the common law. Finally it was suppressed by royal proclamation. (fn. 27)
During this period the power of the heads, which had become so great under the Elizabethan statutes, continued to increase. (fn. 28) The only check which they received was their failure in 1614 to regulate the election of the university burgesses according to the method used in electing the Vice-Chancellor, which, had they been successful, would have given them almost complete control over the seats. (fn. 29) A statutory interpretation made by the heads was nullified by a letter from the Chancellor, Northampton, and they were forced to accept a free election by the qualified voters. (fn. 30) In 1621, however, they again raised the same contention and got their point of view upheld by the king, though the University appears quite soon to have finally shaken off this restriction. (fn. 31) Henry Howard, Earl of Northampton, had became Chancellor in 1612 on Cecil’s death. One party among the regents had wished to elect Charles, Duke of York, who was nominated without the king’s consent. This aroused royal displeasure and made Northampton unwilling to stand, but eventually he agreed to accept office. (fn. 32) He survived two years only and was succeeded by his nephew, Thomas Howard, Earl of Suffolk. (fn. 33) In 1615 the king made his first visit to Cambridge, Prince Charles and the Elector Palatine having come two years before. (fn. 34) The royal visit was as great an occasion as the famous visit of Elizabeth in 1564. There was the same lavish hospitality, the same series of acts and disputations, the highlight of the visit being George Ruggle’s comedy, Ignoramus, which James enjoyed so much that he paid a second visit only a few months later to see it acted again. (fn. 35) At the end of 1624 the king was again in Cambridge, and, on this occasion, the ratification of the marriage treaty between Charles, Prince of Wales, and Henrietta Maria of France was signed. (fn. 36)
In 1625 the accession of Charles I was followed by the fall of the most prominent Cambridge graduate in high office, the Lord Keeper, John Williams, Bishop of Lincoln. (fn. 37) He was a wise and moderate counsellor who might have held back the royalist extremists, and, in the new reign, the hotheads had more scope than under James. In the Church the Arminian school, led by William Laud, was becoming more important; already in 1622 Joseph Mead of Christ’s had written of a commencement sermon, preached ‘totally for Arminianism’. (fn. 38) The fear of Rome was being aroused by the love of ceremony shown by the new school, while, in theology, their attitude towards the Calvinist doctrine of grace aroused much controversy. The most celebrated of these struggles was caused by Richard Montagu’s Appello Caesarem, which came out in 1625. Montagu, a fellow of King’s, had been drawn into discussing what the authoritative doctrines of the Church of England really were through the spiritual difficulties of a parishioner who was worried by Roman apologists. In the effort to reassure her, he sought to establish that many tenets, which might be picked out for condemnation, either by Rome or by Geneva, were not in fact the true teaching of the Church of England at all, and that, in many cases, that Church had deliberately suspended judgement. Among these doctrines was that of predestination, though Montagu denied that he was an Arminian. His teaching was much disliked by the Puritans, and was viewed with little favour by Archbishop Abbot, but King James gave him some support, and he issued his Appello with a dedication to the new king in order to vindicate his opinions.
The resultant controversy formed an important strand in the web of politics between the accession of Charles and the dissolution of his third Parliament in 1629, and is therefore national rather than academic in its importance. (fn. 39) However, it had reper- cussions in Cambridge, and it further antagonized the House of Commons, with its Puritan leanings, from the universities. Montagu’s book was at once attacked in the house. In January 1626 the matter was remitted by the king to five bishops, including Andrewes and Laud, who reported that Montagu had affirmed nothing against the doctrines of the Church of England. This was followed by a conference, over which Buckingham himself presided, which reviewed, in Mead’s words, ‘the points of predestination, falling from grace, liberty of the will, in Montagu’s book’. (fn. 40) His case was defended by Bishop Buckeridge and by Francis White, while his opponents were Bishop Morton and John Preston, Master of Emmanuel, the most eminent of the Cambridge Puritans. The latter side, S. R. Gardiner thought, failed to make their case good, but they were supported by the Commons in the Parliament of 1626, who adjudged Montagu worthy of punishment and ordered that his book should be burnt.
There for the moment the matter rested, but controversy flowed freely. (fn. 41) Only a short time after the House of Commons had censured the Appello, Buckingham himself was impeached (May 1626). At the end of the month Lord Suffolk, the Chancellor of the University, died, and the king decided that the favourite should succeed him. (fn. 42) The duke’s case was pressed hard by two of the Cambridge bishops, Montaigne of London and Neile of Durham, and many heads were active in the same cause. However, there were many in Cambridge who disliked the suggestion of dictation, and who did not wish to choose a man who had been impeached. (fn. 43) Buckingham’s opponents decided to nominate Lord Berkshire, son of the late Chancellor, and an active contest developed between two candidates who represented the two sides of the current religious and political struggle. (fn. 44) According to Joseph Mead of Christ’s, who voted for Berkshire, great pressure was used in the duke’s interest, but his final majority was only six, according to the lists of voters, which majority Mead reduced to three. ‘What will the parliament say to us?’ he lamented, ‘did not our burgesses condemn the duke in their charge given up to the Lords ? I pray God we hear well of it; but the actors are as bold as lions, and I half believe would fain suffer that they might be advanced.’ (fn. 45)
The House of Commons was indeed highly incensed at the election, and resolved that the University should be required to send a deputation to give them an account of the whole affair. At this point a royal message instructed them to proceed no further, since the University might elect whom it pleased. After this passage of arms the question of the Cambridge chancellorship was swallowed up into the wider issues raised by Buckingham’s impeachment, and in June 1626 Parliament was dissolved, nothing having been done to heal the rupture between the University and the House of Commons. (fn. 46)
As Chancellor of the University Buckingham was popular and successful. He expressed his anxiety to stand well with scholars and his desire to leave some memorial of his chancellorship to posterity. (fn. 47) The form of this memorial was to have been a new university library, to be built at a cost of £7,000 between Great St. Mary’s and the schools quadrangle, but this admirable design came to nothing because of the Chancellor’s assassination in 1628. However, he gave the University a collection of oriental manuscripts, and new silver staves for the bedells. (fn. 48) His visit in 1627 was, according to Mead, the occasion of great rejoicing so that ‘somebody will scarce worship any other God, as long as he is in town’. (fn. 49)
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In August of the following year the duke was dead, and the king in the middle of his difficulties with his third Parliament. The House of Commons’ committee on religion had been further considering the case of Montagu (fn. 50) who in July was promoted to the see of Chichester. It was an unwise moment to promote so unpopular a man, (fn. 51) but the king had no desire to compromise with the Puritans. In November 1628 a declaration was issued forbidding future search or disputation as to the meaning of the 39 articles, and in January 1629, as part of the same policy of stilling controversy, the Appello was suppressed. (fn. 52) Charles and Laud, now Bishop of London, might hope that they could now put down the disputes which had caused so much trouble; however, in February 1629 the House of Commons were still inquiring into Popery and Arminianism in the universities, and the Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge was asked for the names of persons who had written against the teachings of the 39 articles. (fn. 53) In March Parliament was dissolved, and the royal policy put beyond open question for more than a decade.
Although the University was predominantly royalist at this time, the Cambridge Puritans formed a coherent and important group. In the early years of the century the school was at its highest point. For most of the Puritan preachers, Professor Haller wrote, ‘a Cambridge education culminating in a Cambridge fellowship was the starting point of their careers’. (fn. 54) The core of Puritanism in the University was the pulpit, and it was the succession of ‘spiritual’ preachers (fn. 55) who kept the school alive. Thus Thomas Goodwin related how he had left ‘the florid sermons and strains of wit’ at the university church, and gone with the Puritans of his college (Christ’s) to hear Dr. Sibbes, ‘whose preaching was plain and wholesom’. (fn. 56) It was such preaching which caused the anguished soul to turn towards God, and, with each convert, broadened the stream of the message. Sibbes himself, whom Goodwin went to hear, had been converted by Paul Baynes, (fn. 57) and himself converted John Cotton, fellow of Emmanuel and one of the founders of New England. (fn. 58) Cotton himself, determined to proclaim his teaching in the university pulpit, preached a plain, practical sermon on repentance. The critics were disappointed by his performance, but this same sermon converted John Preston, fellow of Queens’. (fn. 59) The most important centre of the Puritan pulpit was the lecturership at Holy Trinity, held successively by Sibbes (1610-15), Preston (1624-8), and Thomas Goodwin (1628-34). (fn. 60) When James was on the throne, the preaching of William Perkins was still fresh in men’s minds, (fn. 61) and, of the other leaders of Elizabethan days, Chaderton lived until 1640, having resigned the mastership of Emmanuel in 1622. (fn. 62) There was no one in the University more deeply respected than he, as James I himself showed. (fn. 63) A fellow of Christ’s, to which society both Perkins and Chaderton had belonged, who came up against authority was William Ames. At Christmas-tide 1609 he preached against the celebrations of the season, especially cards and dice and the practice of choosing lords of misrule. He was already under suspicion of nonconformity, was suspended from his degrees, and had to resign his fellowship. He finally became professor of theology at Franeker in Holland. (fn. 64)
Two of the most prominent Puritan leaders in the second and third decades of the century were Richard Sibbes and John Preston. The former became preacher at Gray’s Inn (1617-35) and Master of Catharine Hall (1626-35). (fn. 65) He was influential both in Cambridge and among the lawyers and citizens of London, and his sermons, taken down and printed, became ‘something like classics of popular edification’. (fn. 66) His career ran very parallel with that of Preston, the most interesting of this whole group. (fn. 67) Elected to a fellowship at Queens’ in 1609, he had become one of the most successful of Cambridge tutors. (fn. 68) Despite his Puritanism, he was a man of great flexibility and address—in Fuller’s judgement ‘a most perfect politician, and used, lapwing-like, to flutter most on that place which was farthest from his eggs’. (fn. 69) He had come to the royal notice as an able disputant during the king’s visit in 1615, (fn. 70) but his Puritan leanings seemed likely to impede his success at court. He was a celebrated preacher, (fn. 71) and townsfolk and men from other colleges crowded to hear him catechize in the chapel at Queens’ until this was forbidden. (fn. 72) Since this deprived him of any general audience, and since the lecturerships at Trinity and St. Andrews the Great were suppressed at about the same time, Preston decided to preach an afternoon sermon at St. Botolph’s, a plan which he carried through despite the veto of the bishop’s commissary, who then complained to the king, who was at Newmarket (1620). As a result, Preston had to preach a recantation, which he skilfully performed so that ‘he neither displeased his own party nor gave his enemies any great advantage’. (fn. 73) He soon gained greater favour at court; he preached before the king at Royston and made an excellent impression, while Buckingham came to think that he might be a useful means of controlling the Puritan party and of winning them for his interest. Preston was appointed chaplain to the prince, and, in 1622, through Buckingham’s patronage, succeeded to the mastership of Emmanuel on the retirement of Chaderton. (fn. 74) Two years later he was elected to the Trinity lecturership after a hard contest in the course of which the king, who feared the effects of giving him a pulpit in Cambridge, offered him a bishopric if he would withdraw. (fn. 75) On this occasion Buckingham again supported him, but, as the duke more and more ‘sticked to the prelats’, (fn. 76) Preston became less useful to him and less worth cultivating. He died in 1628, a comparatively young man, after a brilliant, but unfulfilled, career.
In the years immediately following his death the party’s position became more and more insecure. Some of the Puritans, like his successor in the Trinity lecturership, Thomas Goodwin, left their preferments and went abroad. (fn. 77) Others went to New England, the Puritan refuge in an evil generation. A very high proportion of the early emigrants were English university men, and of these the greater part came from Cambridge—100 Cantabrigians to 32 Oxonians. (fn. 78) Of that 100, 35 were connected with Emmanuel, and there was no Cambridge personality so well remembered across the Atlantic as Preston. (fn. 79) It was an Emmanuel man, John Harvard, who gave his name to the college in the new Cambridge which perpetuated the traditions of the old. (fn. 80) It was two former fellows of Emmanuel, John Cotton and Thomas Hooker, who were the most prominent ministers of Massachusetts and Connecticut respectively. Not that Emmanuel was alone in transmitting the traditions of English university life. It was a Jesus man, John Eliot, who translated the Bible into the language of the Massachusetts Indians. (fn. 81) It was Henry Dunster of Magdalene who securely established Harvard College. (fn. 82) Of the original overseers of the college, five were Trinity men, while Dunster’s successor as President, Charles Chauncy, had been a fellow of Trinity. (fn. 83) The standing which the new college quickly attained is shown by the incorporation in 1657 of a Harvard B.A. at old Cambridge; ‘his testimonial of degree and carriage’, John Worthington recorded, ‘was under the hand and seal of Mr. Chancy B.D. (sometime Fellow of Trinity College here) now Master of the College in New England and others’. (fn. 84) One of the most remarkable episodes in the story of 17th-century Cambridge is the way in which its traditions were taken across the Atlantic to establish academic life in North America.
Buckingham was succeeded as Chancellor by Henry Rich, Earl of Holland, who had been recommended by the king in answer to the University’s request for a nomination. (fn. 85) In the decade after his election, royal influence was at its height. (fn. 86) The high church school was supreme, and critics were severely dealt with. In 1632 Nathaniel Bernard preached at St. Mary’s against high-church doctrines and practices. He was arrested, remitted to the high commission, and died in prison, having been treated, it is said, with great cruelty. (fn. 87) In 1634 the puritanically inclined Samuel Ward was writing to Ussher that the condition of the University was worse than at any time in the halfcentury he had known it. ‘New heads’, he bemoaned, ‘are brought in, and they are backed in maintaining novelties, and them which broach new opinions. . . .’ (fn. 88) Although Ward mentions no names, he was probably thinking of Edward Martin of Queens’, Laud’s chaplain, William Beale of St. John’s, and, above all, John Cosin of Peterhouse, whom Mead had earlier called a superstitious innovator and hardly a sound Protestant. (fn. 89) At Peterhouse he introduced a great number of ornaments and a more elaborate ritual into the chapel; (fn. 90) there was a ‘glorious new altar . . . and a great crucifix hanging over it’, an ‘incense pot’, and a picture of ‘the Holy Ghost in form of a dove’, while all the members of the College bowed to the altar as they came in and went out. (fn. 91) Nor was the new school sounder in doctrine than in ritual; in 1635 D’Ewes and Ward were lamenting to one another that they had heard justification by works openly maintained in a commencement act, (fn. 92) while not far from Cambridge the monastic household of the Ferrars at Little Gidding seemed to the Puritan to display the results of such teaching.
In 1635 Laud, who had become Archbishop of Canterbury in 1633, notified the Vice-Chancellor, William Beale, that he intended to visit the University as metropolitan, and inquired whether it possessed privileges which would grant it exemption from his authority. Later in the same year the University replied that it did consider itself to be so exempt, but the Archbishop persisted in his claim, and the matter was finally heard before the King in Council in June 1636. The royal decision was favourable to the Archbishop so far as both universities were concerned, and his right to visit was recognized, provided that, on each occasion, the royal approval should be given. (fn. 93) In fact, the visitation was never carried out, but the lines which it would have taken are suggested by the ‘certain disorders’ detailed by Laud’s advisers in Cambridge, which included neglect of public prayers by fellows of colleges, the disuse of clerical habits and the wearing of gay-coloured clothes and of long hair, the neglect of Fridays and fast days, the disrepair and misuse of parish churches and college chapels, the heedless and irreverent conduct of the university sermon and of services in college chapels, some of which were unconsecrated. (fn. 94) The high-water mark of the Laudian period was reached with the Canons of 1640, which required all members of the University not to contravene the doctrines of divine right and non-resistance, and all M.A.s to take an oath approving of ‘the doctrine, discipline, or government established in the Church of England’. (fn. 95)
The high-church Canons of 1640 were passed by Convocation when the royal system stood on the very verge of breakdown. When Parliament again assembled in 1640 the growing power of the Laudian party in the universities cannot fail to have increased the distrust felt by Puritans and Parliamentarians for Oxford and Cambridge. Already in the Short Parliament William Beale had been called to account for an attack on Parliament in a sermon preached some years previously, (fn. 96) and in December 1640 the Long Parliament appointed a committee to consider the abuses in religion and civil government ‘either done or suffered by the universities’. (fn. 97) In January 1641 the House of Commons passed resolutions against Cosin who was accused of introducing superstitious innovations and of attacking the royal supremacy; (fn. 98) it was also resolved that no subscription ought to be required from those taking degrees, a resolution which was renewed by orders of both houses dated January 1643. (fn. 99) In 1641 it was ordered that the tables should be removed from the east end, the rails taken away, and the chancels levelled in churches, while all images were to be removed and bowing forbidden. (fn. 100)
The question of ceremonies was relatively simple; what were much more difficult were the problems of church order and civil obedience, and there were many people, whose sympathies had been in general Puritan, who were not prepared to follow down the steepening slope towards disloyalty and civil war. Among them was the Master of Emmanuel, Richard Holdsworth, who was Vice-Chancellor 1640-3, and who, in his oration at the Commencement in 1641, warned his hearers against the dangers menacing the Church and the threatened decay of learning. (fn. 101) In March 1642 the king and his eldest son visited the University and were received with an enthusiasm (fn. 102) which was soon to be put to a practical test. Soon afterwards the king asked the University, first for contributions of money, and then for the college plate, promising to return the value of whatever was given. (fn. 103) In consequence of the royal request a large amount of plate was collected, the most strongly loyalist colleges, like Queens’ and St. John’s, being in the forefront. (fn. 104) In the meantime the parliamentary party had also been organizing under Oliver Cromwell, who lay in wait on the Huntingdon road to intercept the plate on its way to the king at York. News of this reached Cambridge, and part of the plate was hurriedly collected and entrusted to Barnabas Oley, fellow of Clare, who eluded the ambush and brought it safely to the king; but Cromwell, moving into Cambridge, was able to prevent the dispatch of the remainder. (fn. 105)
The story of the Civil War in the town and county of Cambridge has been told elsewhere. (fn. 106) A predominantly royalist university in a predominantly parliamentarian countryside could not fail to suffer severely, though the royalist accounts of events give naturally only one side of the picture, and the evidence is conflicting. (fn. 107) Three of the heads, Martin of Queen’s, Beale of St. John’s, and Sterne of Jesus, who had all taken a leading part in the dispatch of the plate, were arrested by Cromwell, and eventually lodged, together with the Bishop of Ely, Matthew Wren, in the Tower. (fn. 108) In May 1643 the Vice-Chancellor, Holdsworth, was also arrested for permitting the royal declarations to be reprinted at the university press, (fn. 109) and a few months later Samuel Ward died, after having been imprisoned, together with many others, at St. John’s. (fn. 110)
The everyday life of the University went on under many difficulties. An order of the House of Lords (March 1643) that no one should damage or violate the university buildings, attack the students, or take away any of their goods or property, (fn. 111) confirms the complaints of the royalist Querela Cantabrigiensis. (fn. 112) In March 1643 Cromwell’s demand for a subsidy was refused by the heads, (fn. 113) and, as a result, money was forcibly seized from bursars of colleges. (fn. 114) In October the University petitioned Parliament for protection against those who had begun to sequester college revenues on the ground that plate and money had been sent to the king, (fn. 115) and that the University had thus become liable to the penalties for delinquency. However, the wiser heads among the Parliamentarians saw the dangers of such a policy. The Earl of Manchester warned the Lords against the dislocation in the University which would be caused if the sequestration went on, (fn. 116) and in January 1644 Parliament decreed that the revenues of the University and Colleges were not to be sequestrated, though measures were also provided against ‘delinquents’. (fn. 117)
For them the future looked steadily blacker as Parliament gained more complete control. An ordinance of August 1643 against ‘all monuments of superstition and idolatry’ was followed by the devastations of William Dowsing in the college chapels and parish churches (December—January 1643-4). (fn. 118) In January 1644 a parliamentary ordinance entrusted the regulation of the University to Manchester, who was to appoint a committee to eject those deemed unfit for their places, and to sequester their goods. He was also to take special care to enforce the Covenant. This inquisition resulted in a large number of ejections, and almost all the colleges suffered severely. The five most obnoxious heads, Cosin, Beale, Martin, Sterne, and Lany of Pembroke, suffered at once, and were followed later by Paske of Clare, Collins of King’s, Bishop Brownrigg of Catharine Hall, Comber of Trinity, and Holdsworth of Emmanuel. The colleges which suffered most heavily were Peterhouse, Pembroke, Queens’, Jesus, St. John’s, and Trinity, where all or most of the fellows were turned out, and most of the others lost a considerable number. Among the sufferers were the poets Crashaw of Peterhouse, Cleveland of St. John’s, and Cowley of Trinity, the royalist propagandist Gunning of Clare, Oley of the same college, who had taken the plate safely to the king, and the mathematician Seth Ward of Sidney. (fn. 119)
The vacant places were filled by men approved by the Westminster Assembly of Divines and appointed by Manchester. No one, it was decreed, was to be admitted to an office in a college without a certificate that he had taken the Covenant. (fn. 120) Clearly the war and the ejections produced serious disturbances in the ordinary course of study. Henry Newcome, who went up to St. John’s in May 1644, says, ‘there were but nine admitted of that great College that year’, and refers to the existence of a ‘bitter feud between the old fellows and the new’. (fn. 121) Among so many changes, and with so many fellows of little experience, it must have been very difficult to carry on college business. John Worthington, who became Master of Jesus in 1650, records a disagreement about the rules governing fellowship elections, when two of the fellows put forward a theory of their own. ‘For this’, he wrote in his diary, ‘they could bring forward nothing but conjectures; and what the sense and practice was, none of the new society could know. . . .’ (fn. 122) If all the strains and stresses of a period of such rapid change are considered, it is remarkable that the University, under the Interregnum, was as prosperous as in fact it was. One reason certainly was the existence of a group of men, many of them of outstanding ability, who stood sufficiently remote from the strife to be ready to carry on under every regime, even though the exigencies of the time sometimes prevented them from holding the same office. Among them were Love of Corpus, the only college head to hold his place through every change up to 1660, Worthington himself, and the Platonist group, men like Henry More, Benjamin Whichcote, Provost of King’s 1645-60, and Ralph Cudworth, Master of Christ’s 1654-88. (fn. 123) A second reason was the ability of many of the men brought forward by the changes. Mullinger was inclined to think that they were inferior to those who had preceded them, (fn. 124) and that was certainly the traditional viewpoint expressed by Walker and Thomas Fuller. (fn. 125) Yet even the nonjuror, Thomas Baker, praised the Puritan masters of St. John’s, (fn. 126) and Fuller himself admitted that in such times the University might well have done far worse. (fn. 127) It was no doubt a help in maintaining continuity that friendly relations were sometimes preserved between supplanters and supplanted. Whichcote even insisted that his ejected predecessor should continue to receive a part of the Provost’s stipend. (fn. 128) In 1648 Holdsworth, ejected Master of Emmanuel, wrote to William Sancroft that his successor, Anthony Tuckney, had been with him to get permission to ‘look somewhat into my study’, which Holdsworth had granted on condition that no books were left abroad. The new Master complained to the old that he found Sancroft unfriendly. Holdsworth answered that he had argued the case on grounds of conscience to which Tuckney had assented, adding that he would ‘take it very kindly if you would not come to him as a Master, yet if but as a friend, he would take it for a special favour, and bid you very welcome’. (fn. 129)
During the years immediately following the ejections, there was much activity in several departments of university business. Some important financial measures came into effect. In 1645 the University and Colleges were exempted from taxes and contributions to the public service. (fn. 130) In 1646 a grace was passed for the regular audit of the Fenn and Neel chests. (fn. 131) In 1649 and 1650 Parliament made provision for the augmentation of the stipends of the heads, many of whom were very insufficiently paid. (fn. 132) Successful efforts were made to obtain for the University Archbishop Bancroft’s valuable library, though this was returned to Lambeth after the Restoration, (fn. 133) and in 1648 Parliament voted £500 for the purchase of a collection of Hebrew books. (fn. 134) In 1649 the first scholars on the foundation of John, Lord Craven of Ryton, were elected. (fn. 135) However, the shadow of civil dissension still lay heavy on Cambridge. Royalism was still strong, and in 1647 Zachary Cawdrey, fellow of St. John’s and proctor, was deprived of his proctorship for using the book of common prayer and for expressing royalist sympathies. (fn. 136) According to one of his pupils the pursuivant who waited upon him at the schools would have been kicked to death by the students if Cawdrey himself had not intervened. (fn. 137) The death of the king in January 1649 was followed in March of the same year by the execution of Lord Holland. (fn. 138) He was succeeded as Chancellor by Manchester, who was in turn removed in 1651 for not taking the Engagement. (fn. 139) This was a promise to be faithful to the Commonwealth as established without king or House of Lords, to which heads of houses and fellows of colleges had been ordered to subscribe in October 1649. (fn. 140) However, it was not enforced until the end of the following year, and, as there were many of Puritan views who could not conscientiously take it, it led to another series of ejections, which dragged on for some two years. Again many heads of houses were ejected: the Masters of Magdalene, Pembroke, Catharine Hall, and Jesus; as well as Batchcroft, Master of Caius, who had been ejected in May 1649. With the heads there went also a number of fellows, (fn. 141) among them being Sancroft of Emmanuel whose letters give an interesting account of the whole affair. (fn. 142) It is clear from the letters of his correspondent, Samuel Dillingham, that there were many who made the promise in an equivocal sense. (fn. 143) Dillingham could not satisfy himself of the honesty of this, (fn. 144) but the dilemma is the natural fruit of any revolutionary situation. If it be remembered that the demand for subscription had moved from the Canons of 1640 to the Engagement of 1650, it will be appreciated how great were the difficulties of conscience with which the academics of that generation were forced to contend.
These few years immediately after the king’s death mark the high watermark of Puritan extremism. The more fanatical Independents, in their search for the pure religion of the spirit, and in their distrust of forms, came naturally to distrust learning, and to believe that, from a spiritual point of view, it was dangerous rather than valuable, since it checked the free flow of unhampered religious feeling. Criticism of this type levelled at the universities was implicated with another line of criticism, most prominently expressed by John Milton, (fn. 145) which attacked cumbrous and outdated methods of study and curricula, and it is difficult to disentangle the two strands. William Dell, who became Master of Caius in 1649, represented chiefly the former, though he also saw the need for more modern studies. John Webster, who published his Academiarum Examen in 1653, concentrated rather on the neglect of physics and mathematics and on the slavish dependence of the universities on antiquity. Webster and Dell were answered from Oxford by John Wilkins and Seth Ward, formerly of Sidney, in the Vindiciae Academiarum (1654); and in Cambridge the cause of the universities was defended by Sidrach Simpson, Master of Pembroke, and Joseph Sedgwick. (fn. 146) With the summons of the Barebones Parliament, highly critical of all established institutions, in 1653, the danger reached its height, threatening perhaps the actual destruction of the universities but with the end of the parliament the danger passed. (fn. 147)
The years of the Protectorate marked in the University as elsewhere a return to more conservative courses. In January 1654 the Engagement was repealed, (fn. 148) and in September of the same year an ordinance was made for a visitation and revision of the college and university statutes, though no action was taken. (fn. 149) The leading men in university affairs were competent and conscientious. (fn. 150) In 1659, after the removal of Richard Cromwell, there was another outcry against the universities, (fn. 151) but this died away, and all united in welcoming the Restoration. In May 1660 Manchester was restored by the Lords to the chancellorship, (fn. 152) and the ejected heads soon returned to their own again. The wheel seemed to have come full circle since 1640.
Despite the dislocation of war, numbers remained high throughout the whole period. Writing in 1897, John Venn pointed out that ‘absolutely—not relatively merely—the number of graduates in the years about 1625-30 was greater than was ever attained again till within living memory’, and he added that, when allowance was made for the growth in population, the older universities had not yet regained the position which they held in the early 17th century. (fn. 153) In 1622 the University numbered a little over 3,000. (fn. 154) An assessment to the poll tax in 1641 gives rather more than 2,000, (fn. 155) but another estimate of 1651 gives rather more than 2,800, (fn. 156) so it appears that the troubles of the war years did not at once lead to a major decline. It should be added that these figures are very difficult to compare exactly. The 1622 and 1651 figures include college servants, who, together with certain other persons, were excluded from the 1641 figures. (fn. 157) All the residents, both graduate and undergraduate, still lived under comparatively cramped conditions. Furniture was bare and simple; (fn. 158) rooms were shared between several inhabitants, with the beds in the centre and small ‘studies’, divided off by partitions, contrived in the corners of the room. (fn. 159) ‘For chambers,’ wrote Joseph Mead to Sir Martin Stutevile, ‘the best I have in my power, that John Higham sleeps in, hath 4 studies, and neere me; and I had thought to have devised some change that they might keep together, otherwise I must dispose of your son in the new building, where I have a study voyd in one of the best chambers. (The new building hath but two studies in chamber, and 2 beds.) But a master of art is the chamber fellow; he makes it thereby inconvenient for my use.’ (fn. 160) Young men of rank came up as fellow-commoners, who paid higher fees and dined at the high table. Below them came the pensioners, and, at the bottom of the social scale, the sizars, who gained their education by performing menial services, and who were recruited from a wide range of humble homes. (fn. 161) From them were recruited the chapel clerk, the porter, the butler—for instance, ‘the colledg butler, a junior bacheler’ described by Mead (fn. 162) —while those who had no definite office waited on the fellows, fellow-commoners, and pensioners, called them in the mornings, and did their errands. (fn. 163)
The origins of the tutorial system have already been studied. (fn. 164) It formed the most important element in the education of Elizabethan and Jacobean Cambridge, though it worked very differently from the tutorial system of modern times. Each tutor had only a small number of pupils who lived around him, often in the same rooms or on the same staircase, and who were consequently under his immediate supervision and care. He advised them and often assisted them in their work, and the close personal relationship with a small number of pupils meant that the tutor’s influence could strike deep, more especially because the comparatively young age at which ‘the lads’ then went up was very favourable to close ties between tutor and pupil. (fn. 165) Contemporary sources provide abundant information about the leading men. One of the most prominent was John Preston, whom Fuller called ‘the greatest pupil-monger in England in man’s memory, having sixteen fellow-commoners (most heirs to fair estates) admitted in one year at Queens’ College’. (fn. 166) Another tutor who was a well-known theologian and who attracted many well-to-do pupils was Joseph Mead of Christ’s. (fn. 167) His method of teaching is described by John Worthington. After he had laid a foundation by daily lectures and discovered what the interests of his pupils were, he treated them as individuals and set them each a separate task. In the evening they came to his chamber to satisfy him that they had carried this out, were asked if there was anything they had not understood, and their queries answered. ‘And then, having by prayer commended them and their studies to God’s protection and blessing, he dismissed them to their lodgings.’ (fn. 168) His letters, which have so often been quoted, shed some more light on a college tutor’s problems in the 17th century. He had great difficulty in obtaining a just allocation of rooms for his pupils because the Master favoured his own kinsmen among the fellows so that, having secured the best rooms, they might easily get pupils. One of his pupils of an easy and compliant nature was drawn into bad company, falsified his bills, and had to be removed. (fn. 169) Money matters played a considerable part in the relationship, since the tutor was responsible for his pupil’s bills. When D’Ewes was at St. John’s, his allowance was very small, and, when he went down, his tutor, Richard Holdsworth, accompanied him home, ‘not only to perform the last loving office to me, but to receive some arrearages due to him upon his bills’. D’Ewes’s father was at first incensed that his son had exceeded his allowance, but ‘considering the smallness of my exhibition and how frugally I had lived during my being at the University, he discharged those arrearages, and parted in friendly sort with my tutor’. (fn. 170) In this case as in many others the friendship between the two men endured long after their formal connexion as tutor and pupil had ended. (fn. 171) Not only was this true in the case of a fellow-commoner like Simonds D’Ewes; it holds true also of the sizar, Henry Newcome, and his ‘dear tutor’, Zachary Cawdrey. (fn. 172) What a parent might expect of a tutor is expressed in a letter to William Sancroft. The writer confesses that he hopes for something out of the ordinary, and relies on Sancroft for a true picture of the boy’s abilities. He desires that his son, besides his common task, should read a Greek author, make some progress in the Hebrew Bible, and learn some geometry and arithmetic. For recreation he suggests French so that the boy may not forget what he knows. ‘Above all, my desire is, that Sundays, fast days, and the like, may have their particular employment in divine studies, besides his constant reading of the scriptures morning and evening. . . .’ (fn. 173)
The curriculum of undergraduate study had undergone no changes since the 16th century. The authority of Aristotle was still predominant. It had survived the changes of the Renaissance and the Reformation, and was perhaps at its height during the reigns of James I and Charles I. James Duport, a Trinity tutor, was advising his pupils on the eve of the Restoration: ‘in your answering reject not lightly the authority of Aristotle, if his owne words will permitt of a favourable, and a sure interpretation’, (fn. 174) and the idea is re-echoed over and over again by contemporary writers. (fn. 175) It is therefore not surprising that, in the lists of books bought for Mead’s pupils, books on logic take first place, and that almost everyone began with Bartholomew Keckermann’s Compendium, one of the many introductory treatises. (fn. 176) Naturally disputations still played an important part in academic life. At the turn of the century a discussion about Peter Ramus could lead to an uproar in the schools. (fn. 177) Twenty years later D’Ewes was disputing in the schools, on the first day to his own satisfaction, but on the second he did less well and came away crestfallen. He also attended the commencement acts and listened to the leading men who took part in them, though, on the second day, he had a poor place and could not hear properly. (fn. 178) It was on great occasions such as this that rising men made their names, and the connoisseurs savoured a display of dialectical brilliance. John Hacket described the act held before the Elector Palatine in which John Williams and John Richardson, the Regius Professor of Divinity, were opposed to one another. The professor, Hacket said, was a man who fought hard only with a worthy opponent— ‘therefore he did not dally with Mr. Williams at this time, but laid at him with all his puissance. Nothing could be more delightful for two long hours and better to us that were the lookers on.’ (fn. 179) There were very few men who could ever aspire to such heights, but the fact that such was the standard of excellence profoundly affected the everyday round at college lecture, exercise, or declamation.
A tutor had wide liberty to make up a programme of study for his pupils, and it is worth saying something about one of these programmes, drawn up by Richard Holdsworth of St. John’s, later Master of Emmanuel, probably when he was a fellow of St. John’s, 1613-37. (fn. 180) The mornings were to be devoted to logic and philosophy, the afternoons to humane letters and history, an arrangement which accords with that adopted by Matthew Robinson during the Civil War. (fn. 181) The freshman began with a synopsis and then with a textbook of logic, followed by ethics and physics according to much the same method. He began also to dispute in his tutor’s chamber as a preliminary to the public disputations ahead; as James Duport advised his pupils, ‘use often to dispute and argue in Logick, and Phylosophy with your Chamberfellow, and acquaintance when you are together’. (fn. 182) In his second year the student was to study controversies in ethics, physics, and metaphysics; in his third Aristotle. Towards the end of the course disputations in the schools played a more and more important part. Duport advised that the arguments be got by heart and warned against ‘that dull, cold, idle way of reading syllogismes out of a paper’. It is not enough to state an argument; it must be pressed home—’call upon your adversary for an answer, and leave him not till you have one’. (fn. 183) In classical studies Holdsworth mentioned all the major Latin authors, and, as would be expected, many fewer of the Greek—only Hesiod, Theocritus, Homer, Demosthenes—in addition to Aristotle. In the list of books for Mead’s pupils the chief attention, among Latin authors, was concentrated on Horace, Juvenal, and Persius. Virgil is mentioned only once and Livy never. Among the Greeks there is no mention of Plato, of Herodotus or Thucydides, or of the tragedians. (fn. 184)
Holdsworth also outlined a course for those who came to the University without aiming at a degree, a class which would include many of the fellow-commoners. Among the books mentioned here were Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy, Erasmus’s Encomium Moriae, More’s Utopia, and poems by Crashaw, Herbert, and Buchanan. (fn. 185) Simonds D’Ewes, himself a pupil of Holdsworth and a fellow-commoner who did not take a degree, was a more serious student, though the fact that he was both a Puritan and a prig does not make him typical. He went regularly to disputations and exercises, both in his own College and in the schools. He heard the poet George Herbert’s rhetoric lectures and Andrew Downes’s lectures on Demosthenes’ De Corona. He studied textbooks of logic and Aristotle’s Physics, Ethics, and Politics. He read Florus’s Roman History, Macrobius, and Aulus Gellius, and translated some of Horace’s odes into English verse. For recreation he read Spenser’s Faerie Queene, and it was probably his personal interest in history which led him to read the old English chronicles, Philippe de Comines, Guiccardini, and the history of Columbus’s discoveries by Peter Martyr. (fn. 186)
Life in Cambridge had its lighter side too. The most characteristic amusement of the pre-Civil War period were the plays which were acted on great occasions. (fn. 187) Very often, like Club Law (1597) and the Return from Parnassus (1602), they satirized the townsfolk or the common lawyers, (fn. 188) as did also Ignoramus, the most famous and successful of them all. (fn. 189) The performances were not always equally successful, (fn. 190) and they sometimes were the occasion of serious inter-collegiate jealousy. (fn. 191) In February 1611 the presentation of a comedy at Trinity was followed by a serious riot between the men of that College and of St. John’s since the Johnians considered that violence had been used to keep them out of the performance. (fn. 192) The Puritans were strongly against the plays. Samuel Fairclough, an undergraduate of Queens’, refused to take the part of a woman in Ignoramus since he thought it wrong to wear woman’s apparel, and would not give way even to the arguments of the Vice-Chancellor. (fn. 193) There was some ground for the Puritan censure. The plays were coarse, often obscene, and not perhaps the most suitable spare-time amusement for future clerics, of whom many, in Milton’s famous words, ‘have been seen so oft upon the stage, writhing and unboning their clergy limbs to all the antic and dishonest gestures of Trinculoes, buffoons and bawds, prostituting the shame of that ministry which either they had or were nigh having to the eyes of courtiers and court ladies, with their grooms and madamoiselles’. (fn. 194) The favour extended to the academic drama was not extended to other plays. A royal order of 1604 forbade comedies and tragedies in English, along with bear-baiting and bull-baiting, within five miles of the town. (fn. 195) The general disciplinary decrees of the heads cover familiar ground. They pronounced in 1607 against disorder at public assemblies and disturbances at night, (fn. 196) and against drinking and the new vice of taking tobacco, (fn. 197) in 1636 against irregularities in apparel, and against students being out of their colleges at night, or wandering about without their tutors’ leave. (fn. 198) However, in general, university discipline had become less strict than in former times, and students were allowed considerably more liberty. (fn. 199) Outdoor exercise was limited in scope. Duport disapproved of football as ‘a rude, boistrous exercise, and fitter for Clownes than for Schollers’, (fn. 200) and certainly, in D’Ewes’s time, a football match ended in a fight between St. John’s and Trinity. (fn. 201) Swimming was another of Duport’s dislikes, though riding he liked better, and ‘bowles or shooting or pitching the barre’ he recommended. (fn. 202) Most of the Colleges had their own bowling greens and many their own tennis courts; college archery butts also existed. (fn. 203)
Academic studies saw no outstanding development during this period. Greek was not very flourishing, (fn. 204) though Andrew Downes, who was regius professor of Greek, 1585- 1625, was a distinguished scholar. (fn. 205) So was James Duport, who became Greek professor in 1639. His translation of Job into Greek verse (1637) was for many years a wellknown book in the University. The only lectures which have been preserved are those which he gave on Theophrastus, which show a wide range of learning. (fn. 206) Another language which attracted attention at this time was Arabic, to which men were led by their interest in the scriptures. In 1632 Thomas Adams established an Arabic chair, which he later permanently endowed, for Abraham Wheelock, (fn. 207) who in 1638 also became holder of an Anglo-Saxon lecturership founded by Sir Henry Spelman. This, however, lapsed after Wheelock’s death. (fn. 208) Another projected endowment which had even less result was Lord Brooke’s history lecturership. Since there was no Cambridge scholar suitable for the place, the founder appointed the Dutchman, Isaac Dorislaus, who began to lecture at the end of 1627. In his lectures he was thought by many to favour popular government too much and to be too critical of monarchy. In consequence Matthew Wren, who was then Master of Peterhouse, complained to Laud, and the lectures were forbidden by royal order. This prohibition was later withdrawn, but Dorislaus lectured no more. Though Lord Brooke left an endowment for the chair in his will (1628) no one seems to have given lectures. (fn. 209)
The history of Cambridge medicine in this period is one of great names, but of no real progress in the subject as an academic study. William Harvey, the discoverer of the circulation of the blood, though a M.D. of Cambridge, did all his work in London. (fn. 210) His College, Caius, already enjoyed a reputation as a nursery of eminent physicians. (fn. 211) It produced the most distinguished Cambridge medical man of the time, apart from Harvey, Francis Glisson, Regius Professor of Physic, 1636-77. He wrote on rickets (1650) and on the anatomy of the liver (1654), and a modern writer says of him that ‘he raised clinical observation and morbid anatomy to an altogether new level’. (fn. 212) However, he ceased to reside in Cambridge at the beginning of the Civil War. There are nevertheless several signs of a more modern approach to medical studies. The mathematician, John Wallis (B.A. 1637), was the first to maintain in a disputation the theory of the circulation of the blood, (fn. 213) and there are a number of contemporary references to dis- sections and anatomical lectures. (fn. 214) Among those employed in such studies during the Protectorate were the naturalist, John Ray, and a group of his friends at Trinity. Ray’s modern biographer suggests that this widespread interest in comparative anatomy was the natural result of the impact of Harvey’s great discovery on scientific circles. (fn. 215) In mathematics, the master science of the century, there had been even less progress than in medicine. In Holdsworth’s undergraduate curriculum there is no mention of any scientific or mathematical studies other than Aristotelian physics. (fn. 216) Mathematics had been excluded from undergraduate studies in the Elizabethan statutes, apparently because it was considered to be primarily a technical subject forming part of such practical sciences as surveying and navigation. (fn. 217) At Cambridge mathematical studies played very little part. There was no professorship until after the Restoration. When in 1634 Seth Ward found some old mathematical books in the library of Sidney he could not find anyone in the College who could help him to understand them. (fn. 218) Cambridge did produce distinguished mathematicians, but there was no career for them in their own University. William Oughtred was a country parson. (fn. 219) Henry Briggs, Seth Ward, and John Wallis all held mathematical chairs at Oxford, the last two being also members of the group out of which the Royal Society developed. (fn. 220)
All over Europe men were being profoundly influenced by ‘the new or experimental philosophy’ of the scientific revolution, the philosophy of Galileo, of Francis Bacon, of Descartes. As yet, however, Cambridge was still living in the mental climate of scholasticism, though its dominance was no longer undisturbed. A keen critic of medieval traditions and of academic formalism was John Milton. In his undergraduate exercises he had dared to attack the ‘petty disputations of sour old men . . . studies . . . as fruitless as they are joyless’, and had directed his hearers’ attention to history, to geography, to politics, to the physical and biological sciences. Too much time, he argued, was spent on verbal logomachies, when what was needed was the study of useful branches of learning. (fn. 221) As Professor Haller has pointed out, the Puritan appeal to experience and to practical results in religion ran parallel to the scientist’s appeal to the same things in his own subject. (fn. 222) If, from one point of view, Milton’s influence worked towards changes, so, from another, did that of Francis Bacon. He has perhaps been given too generous praise as one of the main founders of the inductive method, (fn. 223) but he certainly gave the new movement the advantage of his prestige and of his great literary power. (fn. 224) He seems to have valued his connexion with Cambridge—for instance, he presented his old University with copies of Novum Organum and De Augmentis—and to have been highly esteemed there in turn. (fn. 225) In his will he instructed his executors to found ‘two lectures in either the universities, one of which lectures shall be natural philosophy’, but unfortunately the funds were lacking to carry this scheme out. (fn. 226)
In the middle of the century, though the entrenched power of scholasticism remained very strong, the new ideas were becoming sufficiently powerful to arouse the fears of a strenuous supporter of the old ways like James Duport of Trinity. (fn. 227) Among those who excited his suspicions may well have been the group known as the Cambridge Platonists, of which the most important members were Benjamin Whichcote, Ralph Cudworth, John Smith, and Henry More. All of them were prominent in the Cambridge of the Interregnum, Whichcote being Provost of King’s and Cudworth Master of Christ’s; and, since they were thinkers not men of affairs, and stood somewhat outside current religious and political controversies, they also continued to play an important role after the Restoration. The relationship of their ideas to the new philosophy is, to some extent, a matter of dispute. Ernst Cassirer thought that, though they were personally sympathetic towards scientific research and the dissemination of knowledge, their philosophy had a very different basis from that of the new empiricism. Their ideas, he urged, were metaphysical rather than mechanical, their attitude contemplative rather than active. (fn. 228) On the other hand many writers have argued that the teaching of the Cambridge Platonists, through their condemnation of religious dogmatism and their exaltation of the role of the free, rational human spirit, is closely linked with the new philosophy and with its condemnation of traditional Aristotelianism. (fn. 229) Canon C. E. Raven even speaks of the great debt owed by the whole scientific movement to ‘the wise liberal and reverent teaching of the Cambridge school’. (fn. 230) They were clearly influenced by Descartes rather than by Bacon. The English thinker had created a divorce between theology and philosophy which they could not accept, while the Frenchman seemed to have provided a consistent and theistic interpretation of the universe. (fn. 231) However, their admiration for Descartes waned steadily. Henry More, who had been an enthusiastic supporter of his ideas, later attacked his division between matter and spirit, (fn. 232) and Cudworth’s True Intellectual System controverted this same dichotomy, and argued for an organic conception of the universe which should overcome the division between thought and extension. (fn. 233) Naturally enough both More and Cudworth were strong opponents of Hobbes. (fn. 234)
The Platonists are important in theology as well as in philosophy. All the leading members of the group, except More, had been members of Emmanuel College. Educated in the traditions of Calvinistic Puritanism, they had moved towards a more rationalist conception of religious truth than that in which they had been educated, and, when they became teachers themselves, they contributed towards the widespread rejection of Calvinism which marked English theology in the Restoration period. (fn. 235) Here Whichcote is especially important. Less a profound scholar than a stimulating thinker and preacher, he enjoyed great influence in the University as holder of the Trinity lecturership for almost 20 years after 1636. (fn. 236) His liberal tendencies aroused the fears of orthodox Puritans, like his old tutor, Anthony Tuckney, Master successively of Emmanuel and of St. John’s, and the root of the differences between the two points of view can be seen in some letters which the two men exchanged in 1651. (fn. 237) Tuckney thought that Whichcote tended to overstress the authority of human reason and to underemphasize that of scripture. To Whichcote scripture had all too often been used to create division and to destroy charity. ‘Truth is truth,’ he urged, ‘whosoever hath spoken itt, or howsoever itt hath been abused: but if this libertie may not bee allowed to the universitie, wherefore do we study? . . . Sir, I oppose not rational to spiritual; for spiritual is most rational. . . .’ (fn. 238) It was in reason that the Platonists saw the distinctive quality of man; in the words of the text which Whichcote had always on his lips, ‘the spirit of man is the candle of the Lord’. (fn. 239) Recoiling from the controversies, the formalism, the legalism of their day, the Cambridge Platonists turned towards the reason implanted by God in the human heart, the fruit of which must be seen in a holy life. (fn. 240) Though Smith died young in 1652 as a fellow of Queens’, Whichcote, More, and Cudworth all had long careers after 1660. They did not found a school, but their ideas are an important source of the Latitudinarian theology of the end of the century. (fn. 241) In many ways they looked to the past rather than to the future, but, in their stress on human reason, on charity between religious opponents, and on the moral element in religion, they point towards the liberal thought of the 18th century. To define their role in the development of theological and philosophical speculation in more precise terms would be too complex a task for these pages.
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