"Arriving at the mount of St. Mary's, I have brought you some fine bisketts baked in the Oven of Charitie, carefully conserved for the chickens of the Church, the sparrows of the spirit, and the sweet swallows of salvation.
In spite of these evil symptoms, a Greek oration and plenty of Latin plays were ready for Queen Elizabeth when she visited Oxford in 1566. The religious refugees, who had "eaten mice at Zurich" in Mary's time, had returned, and their influence was hostile to learning. A man who had lived on mice for his faith was above Greek. The court which contained Sydney, and which welcomed Bruno, was strong enough to make the classics popular. That famed Polish Count, Alasco, was "received with Latin orations and disputes (1583) in the best manner," and only a scoffing Italian, like Bruno, ventured to call the Heads of Houses THE DROWSY HEADS--dormitantes. Bruno was a man whom nothing could teach to speak well of people in authority. Oxford enjoyed the religious peace (not extended to "Seminarists") of Elizabeth's and James's reigns, and did not foresee that she was about to become the home of the Court and a place of arms.
The gardens of Wadham College on a bright morning in early spring are a scene in which the memory of old Oxford pleasantly lingers, and is easily revived. The great cedars throw their secular shadow on the ancient turf, the chapel forms a beautiful background; the whole place is exactly what it was two hundred and sixty years ago. The stones of Oxford walls, when they do not turn black and drop off in flakes, assume tender tints of the palest gold, red, and orange. Along a wall, which looks so old that it may well have formed a defence of the ancient Augustinian priory, the stars of the yellow jasmine flower abundantly. The industrious hosts of the bees have left their cells, to labour in this first morning of spring; the doves coo, the thrushes are noisy in the trees. All breathes of the year renewal, and of the coming April; and all that gladdens us may have gladdened some indolent scholar in the time of King James.
In the reign of the first Stuart king of England, Oxford became the town that we know. Even in Elizabeth's days, could we ascend the stream of centuries, we should find ourselves much at home in Oxford. The earliest trustworthy map, that of Agas (1578), is worth studying, if we wish to understand the Oxford that Elizabeth left, and that the architects of James embellished, giving us the most interesting examples of collegiate buildings, which are both stately and comfortable. Let us enter Oxford by the Iffley Road, in the year 1578. We behold, as Agas enthusiastically writes:
"A citie seated, rich in everything, Girt with wood and water, meadow, corn, and hill."
The way is not bordered, of course, by the long, straggling streets of rickety cottages, which now stretch from the bridge half-way to Cowley and Iffley. The church, called by ribalds "the boiled rabbit," from its peculiar shape, lies on the right; there is a gate in the city wall, on the place where the road now turns to Holywell. At this time the walls still existed, and ran from Magdalen past "St. Mary's College, called Newe," through Exeter, through the site of Mr. Parker's shop, and all along the south side of Broad Street to St. Michael's, and Bocardo Gate. There the wall cut across to the castle. On the southern side of the city, it skirted Corpus and Merton Gardens, and was interrupted by Christ Church. Probably if it were possible for us to visit Elizabethan Oxford, the walls and the five castle towers would seem the most curious features in the place. Entering the East Gate, Magdalen and Magdalen Grammar School would be familiar objects. St. Edmund's Hall would be in its present place, and Queen's would present its ancient Gothic front. It is easy to imagine the change in the High Street which would be produced by a Queen's not unlike Oriel, in the room of the highly classical edifice of Wren. All Souls would be less remarkable; at St. Mary's we should note the absence of the "scandalous image" of Our Lady over the door. At Merton the fellows' quadrangle did not yet exist, and a great wood-yard bordered on Corpus. In front of Oriel was an open space with trees, and there were a few scattered buildings, such as Peckwater's Inn (on the site of "Peck"), and Canterbury College. Tom Quad was stately but incomplete. Turning from St. Mary's past B. N. C., we miss the attics in Brasenose front, we miss the imposing Radcliffe, we miss all the quadrangle of the Schools, except the Divinity school, and we miss the Theatre. If we go down South Street, past Ch. Ch. we find an open space where Pembroke stands. Where Wadham is now, the most uniform, complete, and unchanged of all the colleges, there are only the open pleasances, and perhaps a few ruins of the Augustinian priory. St. John's lacks its inner quadrangle, and Balliol, in place of its new buildings, has its old delightful grove. As to the houses of the town, they are not unlike the tottering and picturesque old roofs and gables of King Street.
To the Oxford of Elizabeth's reign, then, the founders and architects of her successor added, chiefly, the Schools' quadrangle, with the great gate of the five orders, a building beautiful, as it were, in its own despite. They added a smaller curiosity of the same sort, at Merton; they added Wadham, perhaps their most successful achievement. Their taste was a medley of new and old: they made a not uninteresting effort to combine the exquisiteness of Gothic decoration with the proportions of Greek architecture. The tower of the five orders reminds the spectator, in a manner, of the style of Milton. It is rich and overloaded, yet its natural beauty is not abated by the relics out of the great treasures of Greece and Rome, which are built into the mass. The Ionic and Corinthian pillars are like the Latinisms of Milton, the double-gilding which once covered the figures and emblems of the upper part of the tower gave them the splendour of Miltonic ornament. "When King James came from Woodstock to see this quadrangular pile, he commanded the gilt figures to be whitened over," because they were so dazzling, or, as Wood expresses it, "so glorious and splendid that none, especially when the sun shone, could behold them." How characteristic of James is this anecdote! He was by no means le roi soleil, as courtiers called Louis XIV., as divines called the pedantic Stuart. It is easy to fancy the King issuing from the Library of Bodley, where he has been turning over books of theology, prosing, and displaying his learning for hours. The rheumy, blinking eyes are dazzled in the sunlight, and he peevishly commands the gold work to be "whitened over." Certainly the translators of the Bible were but ill-advised when they compared his Majesty to the rising sun in all his glory.
James was rather fond of visiting Oxford and the royal residence at Woodstock. We shall see that his Court, the most dissolute, perhaps, that England ever tolerated, corrupted the manners of the students. On one of his Majesty's earliest visits he had a chance of displaying the penetration of which he was so proud. James was always finding out something or somebody, till it almost seemed as if people had discovered that the best way to flatter him was to try to deceive him. In 1604, there was in Oxford a certain Richard Haydock, a Bachelor of Physic. This Haydock practised his profession during the day like other mortals, but varied from the kindly race of men by a pestilent habit of preaching all night. It was Haydock's contention that he preached unconsciously in his sleep, when he would give out a text with the greatest gravity, and declare such sacred matters as were revealed to him in slumber, "his preaching coming by revelation." Though people went to hear Haydock, they were chiefly influenced by curiosity. "His auditory were willing to silence him by pulling, haling, and pinching him, yet would he pertinaciously persist to the end, and sleep still." The King was introduced into Haydock's bedroom, heard him declaim, and next day cross-examined him in private. Awed by the royal acuteness, Haydock confessed that he was a humbug, and that he had taken to preaching all night by way of getting a little notoriety, and because he felt himself to be "a buried man in the University."
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