Page images

spoken of could be nothing more than grammar schools; but the passage proves, what, indeed, is well established by other evidence, that such schools already existed in many of the monasteries and principal towns. It was at these that the Scotish youth were prepared for their attendance upon foreign universities.

Another of the Scotish universities-that of Glasgow -was also founded within the present period. The bull of foundation was granted at the request of James II. in 1450, by Nicholas V., "a pope distinguished by his talents and erudition, and particularly by his munificent patronage of Grecian literature.”* Other royal and episcopal charters were subsequently granted by King James II. (20th April, 1453); by Bishop Turnbull (1st December, 1453); by Bishop Muirhead (1st July, 1461); and by King James III. (10th December, 1472). But, "in none of the papal, royal, or episcopal letters of privilege, of a date prior to the Reformation," observes the writer of the able and elaborate account of the University of Glasgow appended to the General Report of the late Commission of Inquiry into the state of the Universities of Scotland, "is there any distinct trace of the constitution of the university; and it can scarcely be said that any of these documents refers to the existence of a college, or to the possession of any property. It does not appear that it was the intention of the founder of the university that the members should

*Report of the Scotish University Commissioners, p. 213. See a character of Pope Nicholas V. by Gibbon-who observes that his "fame has not been adequate to his merits”— in Decline and Fall of Rom. Emp. ch. 66.

† Evidence of Univ. Com. ii. 230-263.

live collegialiter, maintained at a public table, and resident within the walls of a separate building. Universities might be established (and some still exist on the continent) without having even class-rooms for the students. The University of Paris subsisted in great efficiency from the age of Charlemagne to the middle of the thirteenth century (a period of nearly five hundred years) without having any schools or places of auditory, except such as were hired in the houses of individuals. During the first twenty years after the foundation of the university of St. Andrew's, great inconvenience was suffered, not merely from the want of such rooms, but from the multiplicity of schools in the different religious houses, all of them claiming to be considered as constituent parts of the university; and even after a Pædagogium was founded in 1430, for the schools and halls of the Faculty of Arts, and for chambers to be used by the students in that Faculty, the studies of the Faculties of Theology and Law were conducted in other buildings; and the congregations of the university continued for at least 130 years to be held in the Augustinian Priory." A piece of ground, however, with the buildings upon it, in the High-street of the city, was granted to the University of Glasgow by James, the first Lord Hamilton, in 1460, being the site on which the college stands at the present day.



Dark and unproductive as was the greater part of the fifteenth century in England and France, the revival of

* Report, p. 214.

letters in the western world dates from this age. For some time before the final conquest of Constantinople in 1453, the course of political events in the eastern empire had led to a more frequent intercourse than heretofore between its subjects and their fellow Christians of the west, and had not only drawn some of the most distinguished ornaments of the Byzantine court, including three of the emperors themselves, to visit the Latin kingdoms, but had induced several learned Greeks to come over and settle in Italy. "In their lowest servitude and depression," as Gibbon has said in one of his well-poised sentences, "the subjects of the Byzantine throne were still possessed of a golden key that could unlock the treasures of antiquity,-of a musical and prolific language, that gives a soul to the objects of sense, and a body to the abstractions of philosophy." It cannot, perhaps, be said that the knowledge of the Greek tongue was ever entirely lost in western Europe; there were probably in every age a few scholars who had more than a merely elementary acquaintance with it. It is certain, however, that it was not a common study even among the most learned. The most eminent universities -such as Bologna, Paris, and Oxford-were without any regular Professor of Greek. Even the few who did read the language seem to have read only the writings in it on science and philosophy. Warton has shown that both the Iliad and the Odyssey were apparently wholly unknown, or at least not understood, in Europe from the fourth to the fourteenth century.* The renewed intercourse that has been mentioned between the East and the West in the early part of the latter century * Hist. of Eng. Poetry, i. 128, and ii. 392.

rapidly effected a great revolution in this respect. Petrarch, about the year 1340, began the study of the language of Homer, under the instructions of the learned Barlaam, who had come to Italy as ambassador from Andronicus the younger; and, although the separation of the two friends soon after stopped the Tuscan at the threshold of the new literature, his friend Boccaccio twenty years later was more fortunate in obtaining the assistance of Leontius Pilatus, a disciple of Barlaam, and, under his guidance, penetrated to its inner glories. Meanwhile, the destruction of their ancient empire had driven a crowd of illustrious Greek exiles to Italythe Cardinal Bessarion, Theodore Gaza, George of Trebizond, John Argyropulus, Demetrius Chalcondyles, Janus Lascaris, and others—some of whom taught their native language in the universities and chief towns of that country, while the rest, by their translations, by their writings, and their converse with the public mind in various ways, assisted in diffusing a taste for it and a knowledge of it even beyond the Alps. Nor, as Gibbon has remarked, was the ardour of the Latins in receiving and treasuring up this new knowledge inferior to that of their Greek guests in imparting it. The merits of Pope Nicholas V., in the patronage of Greek literature, have been already noticed. During the eight years that he wore the tiara (from 1447 to 1455) this active and liberal head of the Christian church added five thousand volumes to the library of the Vatican. Many of these were Greek books, or translations of them into Latin. "To his munificence," continues the great historian, "the Latin world was indebted for the versions of Xenophon, Diodorus, Polybius, Thucydides, Herodotus, and

Appian; of Strabo's Geography, of the Iliad, of the most valuable works of Plato and Aristotle, of Ptolemy and Theophrastus, and of the fathers of the Greek church. The example of the Roman pontiff was preceded or imitated by a Florentine merchant, who governed the republic without arms and without a title. Cosmo of Medicis was the father of a line of princes whose name and age are almost synonymous with the restoration of learning; his credit was ennobled into fame; his riches were dedicated to the service of mankind he corresponded at once with Cairo and London; and a cargo of Indian spices and Greek books was often imported in the same vessel. In his palace distress was entitled to relief, and merit to reward: his leisure hours were delightfully spent in the Platonic academy; he encouraged the emulation of Demetrius Chalcondyles and Angelo Politian; and his active missionary, Janus Lascaris, returned from the East with a treasure of two hundred manuscripts, fourscore of which were as yet unknown in the libraries of Europe.*

Gibbon adds, that, "after a short succession of foreign teachers, the tide of emigration subsided; but the language of Constantinople was spread beyond the Alps; and the natives of France, Germany, and England imparted to their country the sacred fire which they had kindled in the schools of Florence and Rome." Although, however, it has been necessary, for the sake of chronological distinctness, to notice the revival of learning in Europe in this place, the light of that great dayspring scarcely reached our own country within the present period. The Greek language did not begin to be taught * Decline and Fall of Rom. Emp. ch. 66.

« PreviousContinue »