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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume VII. Cavalier and Puritan.

XIV. English Grammar Schools.

§ 17. Summary.


 19 
In the course of another ten years, however, the ascendency gained by presbyterians and independents, first in the Westminster assembly and, subsequently, in parliament, began to operate, eventually culminating in the expulsion of the Anglican clergy from both Oxford and Cambridge; and, however much such a revolution in the character and composition of those bodies might be deprecated, it could hardly be maintained that their condition during the reigns of James I and his son was on a level with the requirements of the times. In each, the course of studies was too narrow, the discipline lax and the cost of living, for the ordinary student, holding neither scholarship nor exhibition, a serious obstacle. Among puritans and members of the church of England alike, accordingly, those parents who attached importance to the religious element in the education of their sons, and who could afford to retain the services of a private tutor, often preferred to keep them at home; but, if unable to do this, they would send them to a “private grammar school,” where Latin, Greek and, sometimes, Hebrew, would be taught, although rather with reference to Scriptural studies than the acquirement of a classical knowledge of those languages. With families of the upper class, again, it was a common practice for the eldest son, as soon as he reached the age when he would otherwise have gone to the university, to be sent to travel abroad with his tutor; and, with that experience, the period of tutelage was supposed to reach its consummation. At the larger public schools, however, it now became not uncommon for pupils to remain until they had reached the age of nineteen, or even twenty—at Eton and Westminster this was especially the case—and the maintenance of discipline became somewhat more complicated. It is with reference to such conditions as these that John Locke, who, educated at Westminster under Busby and, afterwards, as senior student and lecturer at Christ Church, Oxford, had had ample opportunities for forming an opinion, summed up the comparative advantages of home and public school education in the following words:
Being abroad [i.e. at a public school], ’t is true, will make your son bolder and better able to bustle and shift among boys of his own age; and the emulation of school fellows often puts life and industry into young lads. But till you can find a school, wherein it is possible for the master to look after the manners of his scholars, and can show as great effects of his care of forming their minds to virtue, and their carriage to good breeding, as of forming their tongues to the learned languages, you must confess that you have a strange value for words, when, preferring the languages of the ancient Greeks and Romans to that which made ’em such brave men,—you think it worth while to hazard your son’s innocence and virtue for a little Greek and Latin.
  24
  In other words, it was the aim of John Locke to place the emphasis on education rather than on instruction; and, throughout the period with which we are concerned, there appears to have been a desire on the part of founders to give the schoolmaster a somewhat larger discretion. At Ashford in Kent, it is true, Sir Norton Knatchbull and his nephew, although both of them distinguished as scholars and patrons of learning, had retained the limitation of the school which the former had founded (1632), allowing it to remain as that of “a free school for the instruction of children of the inhabitants in Latin and Greek”; but, at Audlem in Cheshire, founded by two citizens of London some ten years later, their design is described as being the free instruction of the youth of the parish, “in such authors of the English, Latin, and Greek tongues as are usually read in such schools”; while Robert Lever, in 1641, founded his school at Bolton-le-Moors in Lancashire, for like instruction, not only in grammar and classical learning, but, also, “in writing, arithmetic, geography, navigation, mathematics, and modern languages.” Other founders preferred to use less definite terms; and, in Huntingdonshire, the new school at Ramsey (recently redeemed from the fenland) was, by mutual agreement (1656), designated as “for the education of the youth in the best ways of religion and learning”—for which a precedent had been set at Kidderminster, where, in 1634 (long prior to the association of the school with Worcester college, Oxford), the words used were, “in good literature and learning”; while, at Bradford, incorporated in 1662, we find “for the better bringing up of children and youth in grammar and other good learning and literature.”   25
  Generally speaking, the profession of a schoolmaster, at this period, was only too truly described by a high authority, namely, archdeacon Plume (fellow of Christ’s college, Cambridge, and founder of the Plumian professorship in that university), as being “in most places” “so slightly provided for, that it was undertaken out of necessity, and only as a step to other preferment”; 20  while, in 1654, we find the preacher of the funeral sermon for Thomas Comber, master of Trinity college in the same university, describing him, when an usher at Horsham, as “not like those now a days who make their scholars to hate the Muses by presenting them in the shapes of fiends and furies.” 21  This severity, not to say brutality, in enforcing discipline, appears to have increased, rather than diminished, subsequently to the restoration, and Plume insists on the superiority, in this respect, of the schools attached to “cathedral and collegiate churches” over other grammar schools throughout the country, where, he goes on to say,
schoolmasters are of late years so fanciful, inducing new methods and compendiums of teaching which tend to nothing but loss of time and ignorance. 22 
  26

Note 19. Locke, Thoughts concerning Education (ed. Quick, R. H.), p. 46. [ back ]
Note 20. Account of Hacket, prefixed to his Century of Sermons, by Thomas Plume, D.D. (1675), p. iv. [ back ]
Note 21Sermon at the Funerall of Dr. Comber, by R[obert] B[oreman], B.D. (1654), p. 4. [ back ]
Note 22. Account of Hacket (u.s.), p. xix. [ back ]

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