Page images

discipline, no attempt at tutorial guidance or assistance, no attempt to insure that some part of the day is given to private work, is ever thought of. So far as the college authorities are concerned, he is free to initiate himself into the mysteries of the tavern life of the city. In the case of Glasgow, only very recent changes have removed the dangerous attractions of that life from the very precincts of the university. In many cases, the student's lodging must still be in neighborhoods where they abound, and for all they are within easy distance. The young student's first introduction to the gateway of higher learning is blended with no impressive associations. The hurry and bustle of the city crowds in upon the college, and save for the hour or two when he is present at lecture, he is in the midst of city life. Learning dwells in no shady quadrangles; no graces of architecture carry back his imagination insensibly to the hallowed associations and the long-drawn sympathy of the past. Four cen. turies of university history lie behind him, but they have been centuries in which adversity has been mingled in no small degree with a scanty and rare prosperity. The continuity of their history has more than once been roughly broken. They have left no relics to tell of the devotion which a home of learn. ing could inspire. The 'pious founder' is conspicuous only by his rarity.

The Scotch student is a stranger, no doubt, to many of the influences that university life, under happier or more congenial circumstances, might give, but he deserves abundant praise in that he gains so much from the little that is given him. That bracing atmosphere of self-dependence, that pressing necessity for exertion and for self-denial, is to him the air in which he best thrives.

When he joins the university, the student does not enroll himself the mem. ber of a college which claims to dispose of some three or four years of his life. He pays a fee for six months, and at the end of that time his connection with the university ceases until it is renewed afresh the next year. When, how, or indeed whether at all

, he proceed to his degree, is left entirely to his own judg. ment. But at the end of each college session, the rewards for eminence in the classes are dispensed according to the votes of the students, who are thus constituted judges over their fellows; and the prizes thus adjudged are distributed, in the case of Glasgow, at a public meeting, which answers in some degree to the ‘Laureation' ceremony of old days. Nay, more than this, the highest honorary office in connection with each university-an honor which, troublesome as it must often be, has been held and prized by a long line of the greatest names amongst the poets, statesmen, and orators of Great Britain—is dispensed according to the votes of the students assembled in the Comitia of four nations. Once every two or three years, the college walls are plastered with electioneering squibs, and an electoral contest, turning generally on political principles, and conducted with all the acidity of emulation which might be expected where material interests are at stake, agitates for weeks the bosoms of the youthful constituency. Nor is the office of Lord Rector one merely honorary. He may play a very important part, both in directing the government and dispensing the patronage of the university; and yet all attempts to wrest the election from the students have failed.

College Life in England. Contrast with this the life of the English University. There the undergrad. uate finds college life take hold of him, even before its educational work begins. His lodging, his mode of life, his society, are all to be found within the walls

[ocr errors]

of the college. The few non-collegiate students have had no such effect in modifying the tone of either university as to make them any thing more than a rare exception. The mass of the undergraduates still come, and still must continue to come, under the influence of college life. Before a lecture is attended, before an hour's work has been done, the associations of the place, its rules, its ceremonies, its observances, have insensibly closed in upon him. He must pass a qualifying examination, in parts so simple that most Scotch students would consider it to be something of a degredation, and yet demanding a fixed and imperative modicum in certain directions, which, with his defective preliminary training, that student might find it hard to satisfy. The rules and hours for leaving college, the morning roll-call or chapel, the common meal, the halfofficial bedmaker or scout, all impress the freshman with the fact, before his first day is done, that he is the member of a monastic and disciplined institution. He must acquiesce in an unwritten social code, not severe indeed, but unbending in its strictness. His very amusements are regulated for him. When attendance at lecture begins, it is only a part of the same life. In some room -perhaps a special lecture-room—but more likely the sitting-room of the lecturer or tutor, the audience of a few undergraduates assembles. They dispose themselves round the table, and the lecture is delivered in a half conversational way. The professorial lectures in connection with the university are of course different, but form only a slight element in undergraduate life. Besides these half conversational lectures aforesaid, he is assigned to one of the tutors of the college, who is answerable for the lectures ho attends, for the amount of reading he manages to accomplish, and for his general amenableness to discipline. In this bond lies one of the most valuable, and at the same time most characteristic, parts of college life at Oxford: the student is not isolated, but feels himself the member of a regulated community, and the special charge of one, at least, of those who lead it. Beyond these minor regulations, the contrast between the two university systems widens and deepens as we come to the larger range of associations comprised in the life of an English undergraduate. He must be dull of imagination-perhaps he is often dull of imagination--to feel no impulse stirred by all the historic past of which the life arouud him appears only the outcome of today. The quiet and scholastic dignity of the college precincts, the slowly amassed treasures which learning has gathered round her as the offerings of ages, the memories of the past brought home by the presence of the scenes in which that past seems still to live, all this has an influence none the less telling because often drawn in unconsciously on the part of the recipient. It may be that all this is only the fetichism of learning or education, that it is a little more than a sublimated superstition. But we must be forgiven if we cling to those associations which an English university can still give, if we find something in the possession of a dignified history and a fitting home which deepens a love in itself not unworthy, nor likely, even if ignoble, to endure too permanently amidst the opposite influences that must soon assail it.

Bright, indeed, would be the hopes for Scottish learning, if one, at least, among her seats—say the oldest, and that least pressed by the hurry and the bustle of our time-were to gain such a fàbric; not of gaudy splendor, but worthy of a past so dignified, though so austere as hers. A new light would rise upon that northern shore, to replace that which shone ages back from the burnished roof of her cathedral.

The Rectorship-Its Literature. The office of Rector, the direct representative of the student's interest in the administration of University affairs, is now peculiar to Scotland, although an officer similarly elected belonged to the old Continental Universities, –

-as the arbiter in quarrels between students, and between professors and students, such matters belonged to the Rector's Court, and any severe sentence, such as rustication and expulsion, could be pronounced only by the Rector. It became incorporated into the organization of Glasgow because in the Bull of Pope Nicholas V. constituting a general study, the new institution was clothed with all the rights and privileges belonging to the University of Bologna. In the same way, and at an earlier date, the University of St. Andrews was modeled after those of Paris and Bologna, and the Rector was chosen by the four procurators who represented the four nations into which the students were divided according to the districts from which they came. Edinburgh did not possess a Rector in 1858.

The office has been filled from time to time by the most eminent men in Great Britain, and the occasion of the inauguration has been improved by the utterance of noble sentiments fitly expressed, and through the press, addressed to the ingenuous youth of the whole kingdom.

The biographer (Dr. Beattie) of Thomas Campbell has devoted a chapter to the poet's Rectorship of the University of Glasgow from 1826 to 1829, some extracts from which will throw light on the functions of this office, to which the Scotch students are much attached. The poet regards his election, over Mr. Canning, the popular Tory orator and statesman, and Sir Thomas Brisbane, after a heated canvass, by the unanimous vote of the four nations, 'as the crowning glory of his life.'

The majority of the professors having agreed to support Mr. Canning, one of the rival candidates, employed all their influence to secure his election. The

Nations, however, mustered very strong in support of Campbell; he was ex. tolled as the beau-ideal of a patriot, a poet, a British classic-above all, as one of themselves—a son of the same Alma Mater; the only man living who could fill the office with dignity, and restore the 'invaded rights' of bis constituents! It is amusing, at this day, to peruse the clever and often caustic arguments by which his claims were vindicated against all comers.' The enthusiasm called forth on the occasion was shared by most of the young talent in the University; and, though tinctured with much amiable extravagance, the speeches, in praise, or in defense of Campbell, were often eloquent, and in every instance triumphant. Every hour the tide flowed more strongly in his favor; every meeting brought new volunteers to his standard-hoisting counter placards, and shouting their lo-paans over the College Green.' One of the ardent leaders, when called upon to record his vote, threw himself into a theatrical attitude, and, at the top of his voice, thundered out 'Campbell! His example was followed by nearly the whole body; and this show of hearts,' as the Rector observed, 'made his election a flattering distinction—a sunburst in his experience of life -for he loved the College of Glasgow, as the home and birthplace of intellect.'

The Rector was inaugurated in April, 1827. In a letter dated the 13th, the new Rector writes :

I delivered my inaugural speech yesterday with complete success; the enthusiasm was immense. I dined afterward with the professors, in the Faculty, with a party of forty strangers, invited on my account. ...

I find the Rectorship will be no sinecure._I have sat four hours examining accounts, and hearing explanations from the Faculty, with Sir John Connel, the Dean of Faculty, my co-examiner and visitor, to whom the professors are anx. ious to render their accounts.... T. C.

In the published Reminiscences of a Student, there is the following notice :

I was a student then, and like others, was charmed with his Inaugural Ad. dress. We have had the most distinguished men of the day successively elected to the office of Rector; Sir Robert Peel, Lord Stanley, Lord Brougham, Lord Jeffrey, Sir James Mackintosh, and many more celebrated in oratory, science, and general literature. I have heard all their addresses; but none of them came up to that of Thomas Campbell. Perhaps we were disposed to be enthusiastic, knowing that he was an old gownsman of our own; but, whatever the predisposition might have been, the streams of eloquence issued from him and carried us onward in admiration and applause until poetry itself poured on us like a whelming flood: a flood that carried the soul captive in its resistless power. To say we applauded, is to say nothing. We evinced every symptom of respect and admiration from the loftiest tribute, even our tears—drawn forth by his eloquent recollections of olden times—down to escorting him with boisterous noise along the public streets.

The 'Rector Magnificus,' under date of April 25, writes :

The professors have received me with great politeness,—the students with enthusiasm. The principal did me the honor of preaching before me yesterday, as Lord Rector, in the Common Hall, where I attended morning and evening; and I am now making the circuit of hearing the professors lecture in their different classes. I am to stop till the 1st of May, when the principal has requested me to make the valedictory address, which he usually delivers to the students at the breaking up of the session. Meanwhile, I attend the Faculty Hall daily, and, with several of the professors, go through an inspection of their books and records;" and take notes, in order to qualify myself for knowing how far the rights of the students are respected, and the vast funds of the college properly applied. There is great openness in the conduct of the professors, and a will. ingness to be examined on all points, that augurs well for them. They have even expressed their thanks to me for not running away, like the most of Rectors, leaving their duties unfulfilled, and the professors to be calumniated by the suspicions of the students.

On the 21st of May, Campbell was again in London, and busily engaged in his two-fold duties of Rector and editor. The first of his series of 'Letters to the Students of Glasgow,' was now sent to the press, and published for gratuitous distribution among his young constituents. These letters, on the epochs of literature, appeared, though not at regular intervals, in 'The New Monthly :' and confirmed the high impressions which he had left behind him, of taste, eloquence, and classic erudition. His welcome from the late scene of his labors in Scotland, was very emphatically expressed by his friends in London, whose kindness and hospitality were redoubled on his return to Seymour street. But the grand object on which he had set his mind, and to which, to a certain extent, he had pledged himself, was to investigate their rights, and secure certain advantages to the students of Glasgow, of which, it was alledged, they had been, hitherto, unjustly deprived.

July 17th, 1827.-A gold medal will be given for the best composition in English verse, that shall be executed by any student in the University of Glasgow, before the 20th of January, 1828. The invited competitors are all students who may attend during the ensuing session. The subject and the length of the composition are left entirely to the choice of the candidates. Each candidate will affix two mottos to his production, but is not to announce his name, in any other way than in a sealed letter, accompanying the poem. Both are to be transmitted to the principal of the college. A silver medal will be given for the second best composition, if executed by any student in the gowned classes.

Oct. 31. ... The Royal Commissioners and the Professors, entre nous, have had a considerable difference; and the former have referred the point in dispute to the Dean of Faculty and myself

, as Rector. The professors, or part of them, at least, wished to avoid this point being arbitrated, and to leave the issue to the Court of Session. ... They therefore proposed replying to the Commissioners that the point could not be so settled, because the Lord Rector was going back to London, and the Dean of Faculty was out of town. I went immediately to the Faculty, and told them that I should not go to London, as I intended, if I could be of any service in arbitrating the matter in question; and that they must find the Dean of Faculty to meet me. I shall thus save myself from all appearance of showing disrespect to the Royal Commissioners. ... At this crisis, it is of great moment, that, as the friend and advocate of the student, I should conciliate the Commissioners. After all, I fear my poor boys will get but scrimp justice from the royal visitants.

Nov. 14.—The whole students have waited upon me in a body, to announce my re-election without one dissentient voice. They drew up, to the number of fourteen hundred, under Mr. Gray's windows, followed by crowds of the townspeople. I harangued them from the drawing-room window. It would have cheered you to hear the expressions of their enthusiasm.

Dec. 22.-I have received your kind letter, together with the Students' Petition and its eight bundred signatures. I will deliver the letter to Lord Aberdeen, the moment he is come to town. I need not say what pleasure it gives me to see it so ably drawn up, and to look back on the manly conduct of my constituents at their public meeting. I think the committee was right in not risking the possible evils of delay by waiting for additional signatures. The very reluctance of a timid minority to sign the appeal, is a powerful though indirect argument in proof of the influence of the professors, and the absence of those gentlemen may thus contribute to our success. . . I am neither pleased, nor surprised, at what you tell me of the Faculty refusing you a copy of the records respecting the rights of rectorship; but you may assure my constituents that copies shall be procured for you of every paper that is just and necessary for the students to peruse.

May 8, 1828.-I trust before my rectorship is out, to distinguish it by a real benefit to the University--that is, to get all the new publications for the college library, copies of which the law awards to it, but which the booksellers contrive to keep back. The trade, I believe, owes us thousands of volumes for which they have charged the poor authors, but never accounted to us. I have also hopes of getting the Faculty to cooperate with me in the scheme of endowing college tutorships; and thus uniting the advantages both of the English and Scotch University systems.

The students resolved to give permanent éclat to the rectorship of Campbell, by electing him for the third time. Of this honor, the highest that could be conferred, no instance has occurred for a century; and in reply to the committee, Campbell thus expressed himself:

In the character of your friend, Students of Glasgow, I desire only to prove to you my friendship; and therefore, if I can be of any use to you, I will come to you in any capacity in which you choose to invite me, -as you Rector, or as your simple adviser.

I always thought from the beginning of this great crisis—the Visitation—that until its end, there can be nothing more important for the students of Glasgow, than to have a Rector animated with a devoted and determined spirit in their cause.

We shall give elsewhere specimens of this Rectorship literature.

« PreviousContinue »