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many benefits on the city of his birth. During this and succeeding reigns the councils of state were frequently held at Oxford, but it is needless to mention them particularly. The city itself flourished or became depressed according to the varying prospects of the University, on which it had been chiefly dependent. In the Wars of the Roses it suffered much; and several times it was nearly depopulated by the ravages of pestilence. No very remarkable public event occurred till the reign of Mary, when, in October, 1555, Bishops Ridley and Latimer were burnt opposite the front of Balliol College, and in March, 1556, Archbishop Cranmer suffered on the same spot.
In the early part of the great Civil War, Oxford fell alternately into the hands of each party; but when the king quitted London, he made this city his head-quarters, holding his court there, and a Parliament of the Lords and members of the Lower House who still adhered to him. The city remained in possession of the Royalists until the king's cause became hopeless, when it surrendered to Fairfax. With this event all of interest apart from the University ceases. The only thing that need be mentioned is that, owing to the supposed attachment of the University to the Stuarts, troops were quartered in Oxford at the advance of the Pretender into England in 1715.
Oxford is the county-town, and the seat of a bishopric. It is a borough by prescription, and sends two Members to Parliament. With the University it contains nearly twenty-six thousand inhabitants. It stands on a slightly elevated tract of ground, almost insulated by the rivers Thames and Cherwell: and, including the suburbs, is nearly two miles long and about a mile broad. All the more important public edifices are of an ecclesiastical or academic character.
As has been mentioned, the University has been stated by some early writers to have existed in the most remote period of even fabulous English history. Others, however, have been content to make Alfred the founder, or at any rate the restorer of the University. But it is now admitted that there is no authentic notice of the existence of a University at Oxford before the reign of Henry II., though there were schools of learning much earlier. Even as early as 1149, Vacarius, an eminent civilian, taught the Roman law, and had numerous students resort to his lectures—a circumstance which denotes an approach to the character of a University. The first Charter was granted by Henry III., in whose reign it arose to great eminence, being only surpassed by the University of Paris, while in scholastic learning it was considered to be unequalled. Wood states that there were in this reign three hundred halls at Oxford and thirty thousand students. This is, no doubt, an extravagant exaggeration; but a great number of students resorted to it from the Continent, and the names are preserved of a great many halls that have long ceased to exist. In succeeding reigns the prosperity of the University greatly varied. A very frequent cause of its depression was the disputatious temper of the students, who would not be content with their peaceful logical contests. With the townsmen their quarrels were frequent, and with others not very uncommon. On these occasions it was usual for them to leave Oxford in a body, and take up their residence elsewhere; and generally the townsmen had some trouble in prevailing on them to return. One of the most serious quarrels with the townsmen occurred in February, 1344-5, when several persons were killed on each side. Grostete, the Bishop of Lincoln, in whose diocese the University then was, placed the town under an interdict, from which he did not relieve it till 1357; and then not till the mayor and sixty of the chief burgesses had bound themselves and their successors by oath, and under penalty of a fine of one hundred marks for each omission, to attend on every anniversary of the tumult, at St. Mary's Church, and, after the performance of mass for the souls of the clerks and students slain in the fray, present each a penny at the high altar. The citizens made many attempts to get rid of the unpleasant duty, but they continued to be subjected to, it, under a modified form, to our own day; the ceremony being only abrogated by the Convocation in 1825. With others, however, the scholars were not always so fortunate. About a century before this affair with the townsmen, the students in a disturbance with some Italians of the suite of the Papal legate, who was then staying at Osney Abbey, killed the brother of the legate, who in consequence placed the University and also the clergy of Oxford under interdict; and thirty of the students were by the king thrown into prison. On this occasion the students had to do penance, and to get some bishops to participate in it with them before they could assuage the anger of the representative of his Holiness.
During the reigns of Richard II. and the succeeding sovereigns, the preaching of Wiclif, who was professor of theology at Oxford, excited great commotion, and for awhile threatened to lead to the dissolution of the University. Then came the wars of York and Lancaster, and pestilence followed in their train, so that at the early part of the reign of Henry VII. the University was greatly depressed. As peace became established, it again flourished, and continued to flourish till the general suppression of religious houses, and afterwards the Reformation for a time checked its progress. Layton was the commissioner sent by Cromwell to Oxford, and he boasts, in a letter to his master, dated Sept., 1535, that he had " set Dunce in Boccardo, and utterly banished him from Oxford for ever."* But that was not all; he not only set him in Boccardo, but had all the copies he could find of his works, torn to pieces or burnt. The libraries of Oxford suffered grievously on this occasion; and worse four years later, when an order was sent down to destroy or mutilate all popish and improper manuscripts. This was done so thoroughly, that many mathematical works were destroyed because the diagrams were magical; and all that had illuminations were burnt or defaced, as being figures of saints, though frequently they were only representations of kings or other eminent persons. Multitudes of MSS. were destroyed, or consigned, says Wood, to the vilest purposes. The University could not but suffer, being thus deprived of what Wood, in recording the circumstances, well calls "its supports, the libraries." The destruction of MSS must have been frightful; beside what were destroyed in the University library, they were removed from the Colleges by the waggon-load. We talk of the ignorance of the " dark ages," because so few MSS.