The name of her late Majesty Queen Anne has for some little time been a kind of party watch-word. Many harmless people have an innocent loyalty to this lady, make themselves her knights (as Mary Antoinette has still her sworn champions in France and Mary Stuart in Scotland), buy the plate of her serene period, and imitate the dress. To many moral critics in the press, however, Queen Anne is a kind of abomination. I know not how it is, but the terms "Queen Anne furniture and blue china" have become words of almost slanderous railing. Any didactic journalist who uses them is certain at once to fall heavily on the artistic reputation of Mr. Burne Jones, to rebuke the philosophy of Mr. Pater, and to hint that the entrance-hall of the Grosvenor Gallery is that "by-way" with which Bunyan has made us familiar. In the changes of things our admiration of the Augustan age of our literature, the age of Addison and Steele, of Marlborough and Aldrich, has become a sort of reproach. It may be that our modern preachers know but little of that which they traduce. At all events, the Oxford of Queen Anne's time was not what they call "un- English," but highly conservative, and as dull and beer-bemused as the most manly taste could wish it to be.
The Spectator of the ingenious Sir Richard Steele gives us many a glimpse of non-juring Oxford. The old fashion of Sanctity (Mr. Addison says, in the Spectator, No. 494) had passed away; nor were appearances of Mirth and Pleasure looked upon as the Marks of a Carnal Mind. Yet the Puritan Rule was not so far forgotten, but that Mr. Anthony Henley (a Gentleman of Property) could remember how he had stood for a Fellowship in a certain College whereof a great Independent Minister was Governor. As Oxford at this Moment is much vexed in her Mind about Examinations, wherein, indeed, her whole Force is presently expended, I make no scruple to repeat the account of Mr. Henley's Adventure:
"The Youth, according to Custom, waited on the Governor of his College, to be examined. He was received at the Door by a Servant, who was one of that gloomy Generation that were then in Fashion. He conducted him with great Silence and Seriousness to a long Gallery which was darkened at Noon-day, and had only a single Candle burning in it. After a short stay in this melancholy Apartment, he was led into a Chamber hung with black, where he entertained himself for some time by the glimmering of a Taper, till at length the Head of the College came out to him from an inner Room, with half a dozen Night Caps upon his Head, and a religious Horror in his Countenance. The Young Man trembled; but his Fears increased when, instead of being asked what progress he had made in Learning, he was ask'd "how he abounded in Grace?" His Latin and Greek stood him in little stead. He was to give an account only of the state of his Soul--whether he was of the Number of the Elect; what was the Occasion of his Conversion; upon what Day of the Month and Hour of the Day it happened; how it was carried on, and when completed. The whole Examination was summed up in one short Question, namely, WHETHER HE WAS PREPARED FOR DEATH? The Boy, who had been bred up by honest Parents, was frighted out of his wits by the solemnity of the Proceeding, and by the last dreadful Interrogatory, so that, upon making his Escape out of this House of Mourning, he could never be brought a second Time to the Examination, as not being able to go through the Terrors of it."
By the year 1705, when Tom Hearne, of St. Edmund's Hall, began to keep his diary, the "honest folk"--that is, the High Churchmen--had the better of the Independent Ministers. The Dissenters had some favour at Court, but in the University they were looked upon as utterly reprobate. From the Reliquiae of Hearne (an antiquarian successor of Antony Wood, a bibliophile, an archaeologist, and as honest a man as Jacobitism could make him) let us quote an example of Heaven's wrath against Dissenters
"Aug. 6, 1706. We have an account from Whitchurch, in Shropshire, that the Dissenters there having prepared a great quantity of bricks to erect a spacious conventicle, a destroying angel came by night and spoiled them all, and confounded their Babel in the beginning, to their great mortification.
Hearne's common-place books are an amusing source of information about Oxford society in the years of Queen Anne, and of the Hanoverian usurper. Tom Hearne was a Master of Arts of St. Edmund's Hall, and at one time Deputy-Librarian of the Bodleian. He lost this post because he would not take "the wicked oaths" required of him, but he did not therefore leave Oxford. His working hours were passed in preparing editions of antiquarian books, to be printed in very limited number, on ordinary and LARGE PAPER. It was the joy of Tom's existence to see his editions become first scarce, then VERY SCARCE, while the price augmented in proportion to the rarity. When he was not reading in his rooms he was taking long walks in the country, tracing Roman walls and roads, and exploring Woodstock Park for the remains of "the labyrinth," as he calls the Maze of Fair Rosamund. In these strolls he was sometimes accompanied by undergraduates, even gentlemen of noble family, "which gave cause to some to envy our happiness." Hearne was a social creature, and had a heart, as he shows by the entry about the death of his "very dear friend, Mr. Thomas Cherry, A.M., to the great grief of all that knew him, being a gentleman of great beauty, singular modesty, of wonderful good nature, and most excellent principles."
The friends of Hearne were chiefly, perhaps solely, what he calls "honest men," supporters of the Stuart family, and always ready to drink his Majesty's (King James') health. They would meet in "Antiquity Hall," an old house near Wadham, and smoke their honest pipes. They held certain of the opinions of "the Hebdomadal Meeting," satirised by Steele in the Spectator (No. 43). "We are much offended at the Act for importing French wines. A bottle or two of good solid Edifying Port, at honest George's, made a Night cheerful, and threw off Reserve. But this plaguy French Claret will not only cost us more Money but do us less good." Hearne had a poor opinion of "Captain Steele," and of "one Tickle: this Tickle is a pretender to poetry." He admits that, though "Queen's people are angry at the Spectator, and the common-room say 'tis silly dull stuff, men that are indifferent commend it highly, as it deserves." Some other satirist had a plate etched, representing Antiquity Hall-- a caricature of Tom's antiquarian engravings. It may be seen in Skelton's book.
Thanks to Hearne, it is easy to reproduce the common-room gossip, and the more treasonable talk of honest men at Antiquity Hall. The learned were much interested, as they usually are at Oxford, in theological discussion. Some one proved, by an ingenious syllogism, that all men are to be saved; but Hearne had the better of this Latitudinarian, easily demonstrating that the comfortable argument does not meet the case of madmen, and of deaf-mutes, whom Tom did not expect to meet in a future state. The ingenious, though depressing speculations of Mr. Dodwell were also discussed: "He makes the air the receptacle of all souls, good and bad, and that they are under the power of the D--l, he being prince of the air." "The less perfectly good" hang out, if we may say so, "in the space between earth and the clouds," all which is subtle, and creditable to Mr. Dodwell's invention, but not susceptible of exact demonstration. The whole controversy is an interesting specimen of Queen Anne philosophy, which, with all respect for the taste of the period, we need not wish to see revived. The Bishop of Worcester, for example, "expects the end of the world about nine years hence." While the theology of Oxford is being mentioned, the zeal of Dr. Miller, Regius Professor of Greek, must not be forgotten. The learned Professor endeavoured to convert, and even "writ a Letter to Mrs. Bracegirdle, giving her great encomiums (as having himself been often to see plays acted whilst they continued here) upon account of her excellent qualifications, and persuading her to give over this loose way of living, and betake herself to such a kind of life as was more innocent, and would gain her more credit." The Professor's advice was wasted on "Bracegirdle the brown."
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