Page images
PDF
EPUB

and the changes of their residence, was carefully preserved for his children in his own handwriting, and when in after years he fixed on the abode of his old age in Westmoreland, it was his great delight to regard it as a continuation of his own early home in the Isle of Wight. And when, as was his wont, he used to look back from time to time over the whole of this period, it was with the solemn feeling which is expressed in one of his later journals, written on a visit to the place of his earliest school-education, in the interval between the close of his life at Laleham, and the beginning of his work at Rugby. “Warminster, January 5th (1828). I have not written this date for more than twenty years, and how little could I foresee when I wrote it last, what would happen to me in the interval. And now to look forward twenty years—how little can I guess of that also. Only may He in whose hands are time and eternity, keep me evermore his own; that whether I live, I may live unto Him; or whether I die, I may die unto Him; may He guide me with His counsel, and after that receive me to glory through Jesus Christ our Saviour."

In 1811, in his 16th year, he was elected as a scholar at Corpus Christi College, Oxford; in 1814, his name was placed in the first class in Litteræ Humaniores; in the next year he was elected Fellow of Oriel College; and he gained the Chancellor's prize for the two University Essays, Latin and English, for the years 1815 and 1817. Those who know the influence which his college friendships exercised over his after life, and the deep affection which he always bore to Oxford, as the scene of the happiest recollections of his youth, and the sphere which he hoped to occupy with the employments of his old age, will rejoice in the possession of the following record of his undergraduate life by that true and early friend, to whose timely advice, protection, and example, at the critical period when he was thrown with all the spirits and the inexperience of boyhood on the temptations of the University, he always said and felt, that “ he had owed more than to any other man in the world.”

LETTER FROM MR. JUSTICE COLERIDGE.

Heath's Court, September, 1843. MY DEAR STANLEY, When you informed me of Mrs. Arnold's wish that I would contribute to your memoir of our dear friend, Dr. Arnold, such recollections as I had of his career as an under-graduate at Oxford, with the intimation that they were intended to fill up that chapter in his life, my only hesitation in complying with her wish, arose from my doubts, whether my impressions were so fresh and true, or my powers of expression such as to enable me to do justice to the subject. A true and lively picture of him at that time would be, I am sure, interesting in itself; and I felt certain also that his Oxford residence contributed essentially to the formation of his character in after life. My doubts remain; but I have not thought them important enough to prevent my endeavouring at least to comply with her request; nor will I deny that I promise myself much pleasure, melancholy though it may be, in this attempt to recall those days. They had their troubles, I dare say, but in retrospect they always appear to me among the brightest and least chequered, if not the most useful, which have ever been vouchsafed to me.

Arnold and I, as you know, were under-graduates of Corpus Christi, a college very small in its numbers, and humble in its buildings, but to which we and our fellow-students formed an attachment never weakened in the after course of our lives. At the time I speak of, 1809, and thenceforward for some few years, it was under the presidency, mild and inert, rather than paternal, of Dr. Cooke. His nephew, Dr. Williams, was the vice-president, and medical fellow, the only lay fellow permitted by the statutes. Retired he was in his habits, and not forward to interfere with the pursuits or studies of the young men. But I am bound to record not only his learning and good taste, but the kindness of his heart, and his readiness to assist them by advice and criticism in their compositions. When I wrote for the Latin Verse prize, in 1810, I was much indebted to him for advice in matters of taste and Latinity, and for the pointing out many faults in my rough verses.

Our tutors were the present Sedleian Professor, the Rev. G. L. Cooke, and the lately deceased President, the Rev. T. Bridges. Of the former, because he is alive, I will only say that I believe no one ever attended his lectures without learning to admire his unwearied industry, patience, and good temper, and that few if any quitted his pupil room without retaining a kindly feeling towards him. The recent death of Dr. Bridges would have affected Arnold as it has me: he was a most amiable man; the affectionate earnestness of his manner, and his high tone of feeling, fitted him especially to deal with young men; be made us always desirous of pleasing him; perhaps his fault was that he was too easily pleased; I am sure that he will be long and deeply regretted in the University.

It was not, however, so much by the authorities of the college that Arnold's character was affected, as by its constitution and system, and by the residents whom it was his fortune to associate with familiarly there. I shall hardly do justice to my subject, unless I state a few particulars as to the former, and what I am at liberty to mention as to the latter. Corpus is a very small establishment, -twenty fellows and twenty scholars, with four exhibitioners, form the foundation. No independent members were admitted except gentlemen commoners, and they were limited to six, Of the scholars several were bachelors, and the whole number of students actually under college tuition seldom exceeded twenty. But the scholarships, though not entirely open, were yet enough so to admit of much competition; their value, and still more, the creditable strictness and impartiality with which the examinations were conducted, (qualities at that time more rare in college elections than now,) insured a number of good candidates for each vacancy, and we boasted a more than proportionate share of successful competitors for university honours. It had been generally understood, (I know not whether the statutes prescribe the practice,) that in the examinations a large allowance was made for youth; certain it was that we had many very young candidates, and that of these, many remarkable for early proficiency succeeded. then a small society, the members rather under the usual age, and with more than the ordinary proportion of ability and scho

We were

larship; our mode of tuition was in harmony with these circumstances; not by private lectures, but in classes of such a size as excited emulation, and made us careful in the exact and neat rendering of the original, yet not so numerous as to prevent individual attention on the tutor's part, and familiar knowledge of each pupil's turn and talents. In addition to the books read in lecture, the tutor at the beginning of the term settled with each student upon some book to be read by himself in private, and prepared for the public examination at the end of term in Hall; and with this book something on paper, either an analysis of it, or remarks upon it, was expected to be produced, which insured that the book should really have been read. It has often struck me since, that this whole plan, which is now I believe in common use in the University, was well devised for the tuition of young men of our age.

We were not entirely set free from the leading-strings of the school; accuracy was cared for; we were accustomed to vivâ voce rendering, and vivâ voce question and answer in our lecture-room, before an audience of fellow-students, whom we sufficiently respected; at the same time, the additional reading trusted to ourselves alone, prepared us for accurate private study, and for our final exhibition in the schools.

One result of all these circumstances was, that we lived on the most familiar terms with each other: we might be, indeed we were, somewhat boyish in manner, and in the liberties we took with each other; but our interest in literature, ancient and modern, and in all the stirring matters of that stirring time, was not boyish; we debated the classic and romantic question ; we discussed poetry and history, logic and philosophy; or we fought over the Peninsular battles and the Continental campaigns with the energy of disputants personally concerned in them. Our habits were inexpensive and temperate: one breakup party was held in the junior common room at the end of each term, in which we indulged our genius more freely, and our merriment, to say the truth, was somewhat exuberant and noisy; but the authorities wisely forbore too strict an inquiry into this.

It was one of the happy peculiarities of Corpus that the

bachelor scholars were compelled to residence. This regulation, seemingly inconvenient, but most wholesome as I cannot but think for themselves, and now unwisely relaxed, operated very beneficially on the under-graduates; with the best and the most advanced of these they associated very usefully: I speak here with grateful and affectionate remembrances of the privileges which I enjoyed in this way.

You will see that a society thus circumstanced was exactly one most likely to influence strongly the character of such a lad as Arnold was at his election. He came to us in Lent Term, 1811, from Winchester, winning his election against several very respectable candidates. He was a mere boy in appearance as well as in age; but we saw in a very short time that he was quite equal to take his part in the arguments of the common room; and he was, I rather think, admitted by Mr. Cooke at once into his senior class. As he was equal, so was he ready to take part in our discussions: he was fond of conversation on serious matters, and vehement in argument; fearless too in advancing his opinions- which, to say the truth, often startled us a good deal; but he was ingenuous and candid, and though the fearlessness with which, so young as he was, he advanced his opinions might have seemed to betoken presumption, yet the good temper with which he bore retort or rebuke, relieved him from that imputation; he was bold and warm, because so far as his knowledge went he saw very clearly, and he was an ardent lover of truth, but I never saw in him even then a grain of vanity or conceit. I have said that some of his opinions startled us a good deal; we were indeed for the most part Tories in Church and State, great respecters of things as they were, and not very tolerant of the disposition which he brought with him to question their wisdom. Many and long were the conflicts we had, and with unequal numbers. I think I have seen all the leaders of the common room engaged with him at once, with little order or consideration, as may be supposed, and not always with great scrupulosity as to the fairness of our arguments. This was attended by no loss of regard, and scarcely ever, or seldom, by even momentary loss of temper. We did not always convince him-perhaps we ought not always to have

« PreviousContinue »