Page images
PDF
EPUB

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 specially to deal with young men; he 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. We were then a small society, the members rather under the usual age, and with more than the ordinary proportion of ability and scholarship; 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 vivá voce rendering, and viva 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 break-up 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 done so—yet in the end a considerable modification of his opinions was produced : in one of his letters to me, written at a much later period, he mentions this change. In truth, there were those among us calculated to produce an impression on his affectionate heart and ardent ingenuous mind; and the rather because the more we saw of him, and the more we battled with him, the more manifestly did we respect and love him. The feeling with which we argued gave additional power to our arguments over a disposition such as his ; and thus he became attached to young men of the most different tastes and intellects; his love for each taking a different colour, more or less blended with respect, fondness, or even humour, according to those differences; and in return they all uniting in love and respect for him.

There will be some few to whom these remembrances will speak with touching truth; they will remember his single-hearted and devout schoolfellow, who early gave up his native land, and devoted himself to the missionary cause in India; the high-souled and imaginative, though somewhat indolent lad, who came to us from Westminster-one bachelor, whose father's connexion with the House of Commons and residence in Palace Yard made him a great authority with us as to the world without, and the statesmen whose speeches he sometimes heard, but we discussed much as if they had been personages in history; and whose remarkable love for historical and geographical research, and his proficiency in it, with his clear judgment, quiet humour, and mildness in communicating information, made him peculiarly attractive to Arnold; -and above all, our senior among the under-graduates, though my junior in years, the author of the Christian Year, who came fresh from the single teach

« PreviousContinue »