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ERRATA. Page 209, line 31, motto of the Representative Newspaper, for “ We dose," read
« We doce.” 34, for “A veakly publication called the Literary Gazette," read
“A weekly publication called the Literary Gazette." 223, 32, for “Sir James Quackingtosh,” read “Sir James Mackintosh,"
LONDON MAGAZINE, .
MARCH 1, 1826.
THE CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY.
Deum timeto: Regem honorato : Virtutem colito:
Disciplinis bonis operam dato.—Stat. Acad. Cantub.
'Tis three blue beans in one blue bladder.-Mat. Prior. This system the men of Cambridge profess to hold. The credit of honouring the King çannot justly be denied them, inasmuch as they never fail to honour those whom he delighteth to honour; and “ from former friends, when out of place," do dutifully and most pertinaciously avert their eyes. But Alma's profession of loyalty, any more than her pretensions to religion and virtue, we are not now called on to examine; this paper is devoted to the consideration, how far she fulfils the promise implied in her last recommendation to her alumni—“ Disciplinis bonis operam dato."
As mathematics are the study which the University mainly, and the only one she cordially encourages, we shall do well to inquire, in the first place, into the scientific attainments of her graduates. To ascertain their quality and amount, it will be necessary to consider merely the result of the examination, which closes the academical career of the students; and which, from the place where it is held, is known at Cambridge by the name of the Senate-house examination. By this result the merits of her system must be tried. The University herself looks upon it as a test; and the public may, therefore, safely form their conclusions by it.
The reader will observe, that the list of names, published in our last Number, is the return of under-graduates commencing Bachelors of Arts. For this degree, as it is technically called, all those students may offer themselves candidates, who, during the term of their undergratuateship, a period of three years and a quarter, have resided in college the regular number of terms, which amount to about one half
At the conclusion of this period, on a cold Monday morning, in the month of January—long looked to, and long after remembered—the “Father" of each college conducts, with some solemnity, to the Senatehouse, his flock of candidates for the University diploma. As the examination by which that distinction is to be earned, may he said to be exclusively mathematical, the term bachelor of arts, if it have any MARCH, 1826.
of each year.
meaning at all, must imply a person competently skilled in science. It is a badge of academical honour appended to the name of him, who, by his meritorious exertions, has acquired it; and it continues to form part of his style and title, until it is superseded by the higher designation of master of arts. As nothing but the payment of certain fees, a subscription to certain articles of faith, the taking of certain oaths, and a farcical ceremony in the schools,* are requisite to the attainment of this latter distinction, which must, therefore, virtually have been acquired at the examination before spoken of, it may be held that the University considers the bachelor of arts a master of the mathematical science.
The better informed reader will look upon this explanation as savouring very much of freshness, at least, if not of mere folly. Let him reflect, that not every reader is fully enlightened, and that many are quite in the dark. What will it bring him in a year?" was the anxious query of a worthy alderman, more conversant with treacle than with academic terms, when his son wrote home to inform his friends that he had “ taken his degree.” Let the knowing reader reflect also that names, as the Quarterly Reviewer teaches us to believe, are things; and that, in the present instance, they are things of weight. That such a person is a Master of Arts, is, in common parlance, observed of a man as a recommendation. It is a mark of approbation, with which the University authenticates the proficiency of those who bear her stamp, and than whom “none pass so general current through the world,” for the advantages of a finished education. The liberal professions, in fact, acknowledge in it a sufficient passport of admission; and therefore it concerns us to know precisely what it means.
Before proceeding to inquire into the result of the Senate-house examination, it is necessary we should lay down some unobjectionable rule, by which we may pronounce whether that result is creditable, or the contrary, to the system of whose merits it is the acknowledged test. Now, it is a principle universally recognised in well regulated schools, that the merits of the teacher are to be estimated by the proficiency of the majority of his pupils. There will always be a certain number of students, who, from natural advantages, or the contrary, rise far above, or fall equally below, the average standard of excellence. Their extraordinary proficiency, or extraordinary deficiency, is justly excluded from the reckoning, when an estimate is to be formed of the diligence and ability of the master.
Every commencing Bachelor of Arts is obliged to swear that he has, among other things, duly kept all the acts prescribed by the statutes. Now, as the present practice of the University does not compel any man to keep all
, and as the greater part of the students actually keep none, they are made to go through a mock ceremony, before being allowed to enter the Senate-house, else would they be forsworn. This is the jesuitical way in which Alma, rather than be at the trouble of revising the statute, defeats its provisions, and teaches her sons to respect the sanctity of an oath. To keep an uct, be it observed, is to defend an author against the arguments, not of all comers, as in old time, but of a specified number of opponents. The ceremony spoken of bears the significant name of huddling, a term by which all oath-taking at Cambridge, of which there is an infinite deal, may not unaptly be designated.
“ This doing business in a huddle,
Should force our rulers to new inodel."
Both the one and the other, being the effects of what may be called an accident, to wit, the bounty, or the parsimony of nature, ought in no degree to be imputed to the system ; and the exertions, or contrarywise, the neglect of those, who act under it. Such is the wise principle, by which particular communities, who are regardful of the welfare of their children, judge of the merits of those to whom they have entrusted their education. Now, what is the University of Cambridge, but a great school or academy ? and why should not the excellence of her system and her teachers be tried by the universal test? She is not, indeed, dependant upon the public for support, like an ordinary establishment, which flourishes or decays according as it is well or ill regulated and conducted-would she were! She takes, in fact, little herself from each individual student -a few pounds-a trifle; and to charge her, as the Edinburgh reviewers do, with exacting exorbitant fees, argues in them more parsimony than candour. But her revenues are nevertheless ample ; they were bestowed on her for the purposes of education. Those who gave them are long since dead and gone; and if they have not left her responsible to the public for the return she makes for them, instead of being, what they desired to be thought, public benefactors, they have combined only to erect a public nuisance. But whether, on this score, the community has, or has not, a right to look narrowly into her proceedings, for the proficiency of her pupils, at least, she is accountable; in this respect, she is precisely in the predicament of an ordinary school. She either did, or did not take them, on an understanding that their education was to be completed in those branches of knowledge which she professes to teach. If she does not take them on such an understanding, and for the purpose of teaching them something or other, why, in God's name, then, does she call herself a “ a seminary of sound learning and religious education ?" and still more why do people entrust their sons to her care? Is it imagined, that to breathe the atmosphere of the Cambridge fens--not over wholesome, as we well know-is sufficient to make men better and wiser ? or that the two letters BA. at the end of the name, are an adeqnate compensation for the heavy charges of a college maintenance incurred by the parent, and the yet heavier charge of three critical and important years wasted by the son ? To suppose this were to rate the intellects of our enlightened countrymen no higher than those of the Christian grandsons of Hengist and Horsa, who bought Greek and Latin titles of the Romish priests, for broad lands and beeves of oxen. But if she does take them on an understanding that their education is to be promoted, and yet allows them to leave her venerable arms as ill-informed, in every respect, as they entered her precincts, is she not indirectly the means of defrauding the parent of his money, and directly the pupil of his time? Whether under high-sounding names, and a grave exterior, she has or has not, all along, so deluded the public; or, to speak more properly, whether the public has not deluded itself, can be ascertained only on the principle laid down.
This requires us to leave out of the reckoning the first division of graduates, or those who have obtained honours. The number of the latter happens, this year, to be unusually great. The average may be stated to be between fifty and sixty. Let us concede them to be, what their several titles seem to imply, excellent, super-excellent, and super-super-excellent mathematicians respectively. Their incomparable proficiency must not be allowed to interfere with our estimate of the merits of the system. It was the extraordinary bounty of nature, who had lavished on the soil a fertility so great, as to require little pains, or skill, at the hand of the cultivator, to the production of a plentiful harvest.
The public will observe also, that throughout the long list of graduates, of which our last Number had space for only the honours, the names are not arranged alphabetically,or in the order of their respective colleges. The University professes to assign to each individual, from the first man to the last, the exact place in the list to which his merits entitle him. We can thus ascertain the least as well as the greatest proficients in science. But, besides those whose names are inscribed on the roll, there is generally a residue of unhappy persons, whose number may be estimated, on an average, at about ten or twelve, who, to use an ugly cant phrase of Alma's, are“ plucked," or refused their diploma. Towards the lower end of the list also, there is frequently a line of distinction, or bracket, drawn, cutting off a greater or less number of names; and these are understood to be persons who have barely obtained their degrees; the last twelve of whom, custom has been pleased facetiously to denominate “the twelve apostles.” To these two classes let as many names, taken from the same extremity of the list, be added, as shall suffice to make the total number equal to that of the honours ;-these also may be dismissed from our view, as persons, whom some deficiency of intellect, or unhappiness of disposition, has disqualified for success in the “ exact sciences," and whose failure cannot reasonably be held to reflect any discredit upon the University. The excellence of the Cambridge system may be fairly tried by the proficiency of the remainder, who, besides forming the central divisions, constitute a large majority.
We shall first state what the University herself expects of this large body, comprising, generally, the students destined hereafter to fill the most responsible situations in the state; and often exhibiting names revered by the community, like Wilberforce, Walpole, Romilly, Sheridan, Whitbread, &c.; and then, to the best of our knowledge, show how far their performances answer her expectations. The public will observe, that Alma Mater is no severe mother-no harsh taskmistress, reaping where she has not sown, and gathering where she has not strawed. The questionist, or candidate for the degree of BA. is expected to “take into the Senate-house"-a technical phrase requiring no explanation-the vulgar rules of Arithmetic, four books of Euclid, and the first part of Algebra, a term that has obtained, from the division of Dr. Wood's Elements of Algebra-the work in common use at Cambridge-into four parts, the first of which comprises the ordinary algebraical operations, simple and quadratic equations, and the laws of progression and proportion, &c.
The Cambridge reader, if any such deign to cast his eye on ou pages, will be disposed to think us very unnecessarily tedious in our explanations; but well known as these particulars may be to him, it so happens that we do not recollect to have yet seen them in print ;