The Chronicle of Abingdon has a very diverting account of Robert's punishment and conversion. "He filched a certain field without the walls of Oxford that of right belonged to the monastery, and gave it over to the soldiers in the castle. For which loss the brethren were greatly grieved--the brethren of Abingdon. Therefore, they gathered in a body before the altar of St. Michael--the very altar that St. Dunstan the archbishop dedicated--and cast themselves weeping on the ground, accusing Robert D'Oily, and praying that his robbery of the monastery might be avenged, or that he might be led to make atonement." So, in a dream, Robert saw himself taken before Our Lady by two brethren of Abingdon, and thence carried into the very meadow he had coveted, where "most nasty little boys," turpissimi pueri, worked their will on him. Thereon Robert was terrified and cried out, and wakened his wife, who took advantage of his fears, and compelled him to make restitution to the brethren.
After this vision, Robert gave himself up to pampering the monastery and performing other good works. He it was who built a bridge over the Isis, and he restored the many ruined parish churches in Oxford-- churches which, perhaps, he and his men had helped to ruin. The tower of St. Michael's, in "the Corn," is said to be of his building; perhaps he only "restored" it, for it is in the true primitive style- -gaunt, unadorned, with round-headed windows, good for shooting from with the bow. St. Michael's was not only a church, but a watchtower of the city wall; and here the old northgate, called Bocardo, spanned the street. The rooms above the gate were used till within quite recent times, and the poor inmates used to let down a greasy old hat from the window in front of the passers-by, and cry, "Pity the Bocardo birds":
"Pigons qui sont en 1'essoine, Enserrez soubz trappe voliere,"
as a famous Paris student, Francois Villon, would have called them. Of Bocardo no trace remains, but St. Michael's is likely to last as long as any edifice in Oxford. Our illustrations represent it as it was in the last century. The houses huddle up to the church, and hide the lines of the tower. Now it stands out clear, less picturesque than it was in the time of Bocardo prison. Within the last two years the windows have been cleared, and the curious and most archaic pillars, shaped like balustrades, may be examined. It is worth while to climb the tower and remember the times when arrows were sent like hail from the narrow windows on the foes who approached Oxford from the north, while prayers for their confusion were read in the church below.
That old Oxford of war was also a trading town. Nothing more than the fact that it was a favourite seat of the Jews is needed to prove its commercial prosperity. The Jews, however, demand a longer notice in connection with the still unborn University. Meanwhile, it may be remarked that Oxford trade made good use of the river. The Abingdon Chronicle (ii. 129) tells us that "from each barque of Oxford city, which makes the passage by the river Thames past Abingdon, a hundred herrings must yearly be paid to the cellarer. The citizens had much litigation about land and houses with the abbey, and one Roger Maledoctus (perhaps a very early sample of the pass-man) gave Abingdon tenements within the city." Thus we leave the pre-Academic Oxford a flourishing town, with merchants and moneylenders. As for the religious, the brethren of St. Frideswyde had lived but loosely (pro libito viverunt), says William of Malmesbury, and were to be superseded by regular canons, under the headship of one Guimond, and the patronage of the Bishop of Salisbury. Whoever goes into Christ Church new buildings from the river-side, will see, in the old edifice facing him, a certain bulging in the wall. That is the mark of the pulpit, whence a brother used to read aloud to the brethren in the refectory of St. Frideswyde. The new leaven of learning was soon to ferment in an easy Oxford, where men lived pro libito, under good lords, the D'Oilys, who loved the English, and built, not churches and bridges only, but the great and famous Oseney Abbey, beyond the church of St. Thomas, and not very far from the modern station of the Great Western Railway. Yet even after public teaching in Oxford certainly began, after Master Robert Puleyn lectured in divinity there (1133; cf. Oseney Chronicle), the tower was burned down by Stephen's soldiery in 1141 (Oseney Chronicle, p. 24).
CHAPTER II--THE EARLY STUDENTS--A DAY WITH A MEDIEVAL UNDERGRADUATE
Oxford, some one says, "is bitterly historical." It is difficult to escape the fanaticism of Antony Wood, and of "our antiquary," Bryan Twyne, when one deals with the obscure past of the University. Indeed, it is impossible to understand the strange blending of new and old at Oxford--the old names with the new meanings--if we avert our eyes from what is "bitterly historical." For example, there is in most, perhaps in all, colleges a custom called "collections." On the last days of term undergraduates are called into the Hall, where the Master and the Dean of the Chapel sit in solemn state. Examination papers are set, but no one heeds them very much. The real ordeal is the awful interview with the Master and the Dean. The former regards you with the eyes of a judge, while the Dean says, "Master, I am pleased to say that Mr. Brown's PAPERS are very fair, very fair. But in the matters of CHAPELS and of CATECHETICS, Mr. Brown sets--for a SCHOLAR--a very bad example to the other undergraduates. He has only once attended divine service on Sunday morning, and on that occasion, Master, his dress consisted exclusively of a long great-coat and a pair of boots." After this accusation the Master will turn to the culprit and observe, with emphasis ill represented by italics, "Mr. Brown, the COLLEGE cannot hear with pleasure of such behaviour on the part of a SCHOLAR. You are GATED, Mr. Brown, for the first fortnight of next term." Now why should this tribunal of the Master and the Dean, and this dread examination, be called collections? Because (Munimenta Academica, Oxon., i. 129) in 1331 a statute was passed to the effect that "every scholar shall pay at least twelve pence a-year for lectures in logic, and for physics eighteenpence a-year," and that "all Masters of Arts except persons of royal or noble family, shall be obliged to COLLECT their salary from the scholars." This collection would be made at the end of term; and the name survives, attached to the solemn day of doom we have described, though the college dues are now collected by the bursar at the beginning of each term.
By this trivial example the perversions of old customs at Oxford are illustrated. To appreciate the life of the place, then, we must glance for a moment at the growth of the University. As to its origin, we know absolutely nothing. That Master Puleyn began to lecture there in 1133 we have seen, and it is not likely that he would have chosen Oxford if Oxford had possessed no schools. About these schools, however, we have no information. They may have grown up out of the seminary which, perhaps, was connected with St. Frideswyde's, just as Paris University may have had some connection with "the School of the Palace." Certainly to Paris University the academic corporation of Oxford, the Universitas, owed many of her regulations; while, again, the founder of the college system, Walter de Merton (who visited Paris in company with Henry III.), may have compared ideas with Robert de Sorbonne, the founder of the college of that name. In the early Oxford, however, of the twelfth and most of the thirteenth centuries, colleges with their statutes were unknown. The University was the only corporation of the learned, and she struggled into existence after hard fights with the town, the Jews, the Friars, the Papal courts. The history of the University begins with the thirteenth century. She may be said to have come into being as soon as she possessed common funds and rents, as soon as fines were assigned, or benefactions contributed to the maintenance of scholars. Now the first recorded fine is the payment of fifty-two shillings by the townsmen of Oxford as part of the compensation for the hanging of certain clerks. In the year 1214 the Papal Legate, in a letter to his "beloved sons in Christ, the burgesses of Oxford," bade them excuse the "scholars studying in Oxford" half the rent of their halls, or hospitia, for the space of ten years. The burghers were also to do penance, and to feast the poorer students once a year; but the important point is, that they had to pay that large yearly fine "propter suspendium clericorum"--all for the hanging of the clerks. Twenty-six years after this decision of the Legate, Robert Grossteste, the great Bishop of Lincoln, organised the payment and distribution of the fine, and founded the first of the CHESTS, the chest of St. Frideswyde. These chests were a kind of Mont de Piete, and to found them was at first the favourite form of benefaction. Money was left in this or that chest, from which students and masters would borrow, on the security of pledges, which were generally books, cups, daggers, and so forth.
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