Page:An Academic Sketch.djvu/43

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40
The Romanes Lecture 1892

But we have been dealing with the ecclesiastical sphere alone. I incline to believe that in the province of lay life, once narrower but now wider by much, and ever widening more and more, we might arrive at the same comparative result. But the process of inquiry is far more arduous; and the relation between the lay life of the country and the Universities is far more difficult to trace. Nor could it with advantage be brought down to the varied and multiplied developments of the present day.

Perhaps the department of political life, so far as it goes, would enable us better than most others to bring into juxtaposition the performances of our two ancient Universities. The contributions of Cambridge to the work of governing the country, during the last century, were large and brilliant. But I do not know whether she can allege any thing so telling in this respect as the following recital.

The usual practice of both has been to choose a Chancellor from an order not lower than that of Peers. In the year 1772 Oxford selected from among her alumni, to be her Chancellor, Frederic Lord North. From that day to this, from the election of Lord North to the election of Lord Salisbury, every one of her Chancellors, six in number, has also been, or has become, a Prime Minister of the country. The fact, taken in its rude outline, and without any attempt at the determination of relative rank between these and other statesmen, such as Pitt or Fox, Peel or Canning, seems to point to some specially strong tendency of Oxford methods towards the exigencies of public life.