Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 56.djvu/23

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AN ENGLISH UNIVERSITY.

matter of intimate experience. They differ widely from their sister institutions in other countries, and in attempting to give some conception of their peculiarities the writer proposes to restrict himself chiefly to Cambridge, because there are not very many striking differences between the latter and Oxford, and because the scientific supremacy of Cambridge is sufficiently established to render her an object of greater interest to the readers of the Science Monthly.

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The Right Hon. Lord Acton, M. A., LL. D., Trinity. Professor of Modern History.

First of all, it must be borne in mind that throughout most of their history these institutions have been closely related, not to the body of the people, but to the aristocracy. This was not so much the case at first, before the university became an aggregate of colleges. Then a rather poor and humble class were enabled, through the small expense involved, to acquire the rudiments of an education, and even to become proficient in the scholastic dialectic. But ere long, and with the gradual endowment of different colleges, the expenses of a student became much greater, and, save where scholarships could be obtained, it required some affluence before parents could afford to give their sons an academic training. Hence, the more fortunate or aristocratic classes came in time to contribute the large majority of the student body. Those whose intellectual attainments were so unusual as to constitute ways and means have never been debarred, but impecunious mediocrity had and still has little place or opportunity. It is well to remember, in addition, that the Church fostered these universities in their infancy, that it deserves unqualified credit for having nursed them through their early months, and that it continues to have some considerable influence over the modern institutions. Finally, the growth of Cambridge and Oxford has largely been occasioned by lack of rivals in their own class. In this branch or that, other institutions have become deservedly famous. Edinburgh has a