NOTES ON SOURCES
A work with the above title will provoke inevitable comparison with its predecessor-the Alumni Oxonienses-and enquiry will reasonably be made as to how it stands, in respect of range and of copiousness of information, when compared with that well-known work. It is, we hope, no indication of a grudging spirit, if we begin by insisting on the fact that the difficulties which Mr Joseph Foster encountered, great as they were, are small in comparison with those which confronted us. It is a bare statement of fact to say that we had to undertake four or five years of work before reaching his starting point. As is well known, Colonel Lemuel Chester, the American genealogist, amongst his numerous and extensive collections, made or procured a complete transcript of the Oxford matriculations. Mr Foster bought this, after Col. Chester's death, and used it as the basis of his work. Now the Oxford matriculation records, unlike those of Cambridge, give, as a rule, the parentage and birth-place of the student. This list was, therefore, sufficient for his purpose. He was under no necessity of going behind, or beside, it, by consulting the College Admission Registers. As regards this part of his work he started with his materials at hand, fully prepared.
A very different experience awaited the Cambridge undertaking. In the first place the original records of matriculation had to be carefully examined from the commencement in 1544. They had never been transcribed, or even indexed, until Mr Stonebridge, the chief clerk at the Registry, undertook the work of compiling a preliminary list. This, of course, had to be verified by comparison with the originals. But more than this, owing to the scantiness of the Cambridge matriculation records, we found it occasionally necessary to appeal to the College registers for information. On doing this, we found, to our surprise, that the cases were very numerous in which a student duly entered at a College had nevertheless neglected the statutory duty of matriculation. This of course involved the obligation of working through all the sixteen College Admission Registers. It was well worth the trouble, not only for the number, but also for what may be called the quality, of the names thus added, as the omissions are largely found in the case of youths of social or political importance. Such men generally entered as fellow-commoners, and, as they did not contemplate proceeding to a degree, they often neglected to matriculate. The monumental instance in point, here, is that of Oliver Cromwell. He was duly admitted at Sidney, April 23, 1616, and resided for a year; but, as he neither matriculated nor graduated, the University, as such, entirely ignores his presence.
The number of names thus recovered is large. We reckoned that some 3000 in all were obtained from College sources, and added to the list of those academically matriculated, between 1544 and 1659 alone. The results of our labours, so far, were published, in 1913, in the Matriculations and Degrees, 1544-1659.
Unless a very different state of things existed at Oxford, which we have no reason to suppose, the number of Oxonians given by Foster must be seriously defective, since it rests almost entirely on the matriculation lists. We may therefore fairly claim that, if we have had a heavier task, we have, in return, obtained a much more complete list than that of the sister University.
The foregoing remarks apply only to that comparatively later part of University history which starts with the commencement of the matriculations in 1544. But, as the title indicates, the scope of our work is considerably more extensive than this. We have ventured to set before us a much more ambitious aim. This is, in fact, no less than that of obtaining a complete Roll-call, or list, of all the members of our University from the earliest date-whatever that date may be, in the thirteenth century. No such attempt has ever yet been made, we presume, on behalf of any ancient University; and no such attempt can, we feel sure, from the nature of the case, ever approximate to complete success. Foster's Alumni does not commence until 1500, and there are not many names in his work between that date and 1570; these being mostly taken from the Degree lists and Wood's Athenae. Our earliest recoverable students date from 1261.
This account of the University Records is largely re-written from that given in the Introduction to the Matriculations and Degrees, 1544-1619. It must now be given of the various records from which our knowledge of the University career of the students is drawn, as these are but little understood outside.
I. The Matriculation Register.
By a statute of 1544 every student was required to matriculate on his entrance to the University. This was on the occasion of his taking the oath of fidelity to his Alma Mater, a ceremony presumably of very ancient origin, if not coeval with the foundation of the University, though no earlier records of the ceremony are preserved. The only exception was in the case of those under 14, who were supposed not to comprehend the nature of their obligation. They are distinguished by the term impubes.
As this is the only official record of membership, it ought to be complete and trust-worthy. Unfortunately it is neither the one nor the other. Very many names of students who undoubtedly came into residence are omitted altogether. Indeed one negligent Registrary has emphasized his term of office (1590-1601) by failing to record any matriculations at all. The formalities by which the matriculation was effected differ from those now in vogue. At the present day the freshmen all attend in person at the Senate House, and there sign their names, before the Vice-Chancellor. In olden times, when the students were mostly boys, their names were sent in to the Registrary by the prelectors-College officers with some of the duties of a tutor-and these were copied into the official books by the Registrary or his clerk. Fortunately most of these prelectors' lists have been preserved in their original form, so that we have been able to correct, and supplement deficiencies, by comparison with them. But the consequent labour has been heavy, as the prelectors scribbled their lists, often almost illegibly, on shabby little scraps of paper, and the blunders of the copying clerk are numerous, and sometimes almost incredible in their carelessness. Some examples of the consequent results will be found further on.
II. Degree Lists.
It might naturally be supposed that as the conferring of degrees is the principal corporate act of a University, the records of these acts would be fairly complete from the first. Unfortunately this is very far from being the case. For nearly the first two centuries our history, in this respect, is a blank. We can find nothing but a casual reference, here and there-in a bishop's register, on a monument, in a deed, in the Calendar of Papal Letters, and so forth-that the man in question was a graduate.
1. Our continuous records commence with the Grace Books. These exist from 1454. As a matter of fact the 'Proctors' Accounts' are preserved from a slightly earlier date. It is a pity that these were not included when volume A was published. We have inserted the information they yield as to degrees to the present day. The first four volumes, labeled A, B, ??, ??, have been published in the Luard Memorial Series. They cover the period 1454-1588.
These books contain two distinct classes of records. There are the 'Proctors' accounts,' or returns of the fees paid and received for every kind of University work; and there are the official acts of the University in the way of conferring degrees and appointments, of public notices, addresses, and so forth. The two series naturally to some extent cover the same ground; and in the first volume (A) they are mingled together. B and ??, respectively, contain the two series separately, and therefore much of their information is given twice over. ??, and its successors, report only the corporate acts of the University. As in all such documents, there are many omissions; that is, in a number of cases where the University is recorded as having conferred a degree the proctors have no entry of any fee being paid, or of any 'caution' (i.e. pledge) for the performance of the necessary acts having been deposited. And conversely the proctors often record such payments and deposits when the University has failed to record a degree. For the purposes of this work, where brevity is necessary, we have made no distinction here. We have regarded either sort of entry as practical proof that the degree was conferred. But, besides the Grace Books, we have two other sources of information as to the degrees conferred.
2. The Ordo Senioritatis. Cambridge used to boast, until a few years ago, of being one of the only two. The other was the old Catholic University of Louvain, destroyed during the French Revolution, in 1794. The arrangement of the lists, in this case, seems to have been governed, from the first, in accordance with the intellectual merits of the candidates. It was really an order of merit. The reason for regarding the old Cambridge 'ordo senioritatis' as having been abolished in 1909 is that in that year the arrangement in individual order-the one constant characteristic all through-was abandoned, and the men grouped in classes. Universities in the world which possessed a really ancient 'Honours Examination List.' This was the famous Mathematical Tripos. In its later stage it was a very rigorous and impartial test of intellectual capacity. It must have acted as a powerful stimulus, at a time when exertion in general was slackening; and many a hard-headed youth from the north of England who came to College with little classical or literary culture, found, in the 'Tripos,' full scope for his native powers. A long list of Judges and other famous men might be compiled from amongst the 'high wranglers.'
But in its origin-the first extant list is in 1491-it is simply what its unvarying title implies. It was an 'order of seniority.' In a place where many men were in constant intercourse, and had to take part in processions, compete for appointments, and so forth, some recognized principle of seniority was desirable. What were the grounds on which the arrangement was originally made, it is now impossible to say. In many cases priority was certainly granted to social position: the fellow-commoner, or young man of family, often stands first. In other cases, as in that of Dr John Caius, in 1530, it looks as if intellectual pre-eminence was the determining cause. A short account of the gradual evolution of the ancient Ordo into the later Tripos is given in the introduction to Grace Book ??. It is sufficient to say here that it supplies a second list which can be used to supplement the list derived from the graces for degrees.
3. The Supplicats. But there is a third list to be considered. Before a grace for a degree could be passed, the University required a testimonial from the College authorities that the candidate had kept the requisite number of terms, and was otherwise duly qualified. This, which was signed by the College prelector, took the form of a 'request' for the degree. Hence the name of 'supplicat.' As a rule there is no need to appeal to these supplicats (they are generally preserved from the latter part of the sixteenth century). But in years where the degrees are omitted-as happens occasionally-they become important. As a matter of precaution we have consulted them throughout.
So much for the principal University records. But, as already intimated, these give no personal information, beyond the very vague suggestion as to social status, afforded by the fact of matriculation as fellow-commoner, pensioner, or sizar. It is from the College Admission Registers, exclusively, that we can obtain such facts as parentage, birth-place, age, school, and so forth. A fairly full account is given in the Matriculations and Degrees, of the dates of commencement and fulness of information afforded by these registers. But enquiries are so often made on this subject, from those outside, that it will be well to give a brief summary. We have to thank the respective authorities for permission to publish the contents of these registers, including some already printed. In the case of the four Colleges which have published their registers with biographical details we have, of course, only summarized the information afforded, and acknowledged it under each entry.
(1) Peterhouse. Commences in 1617, and records, from about 1635, the parentage and place of education, in many cases. It was published, with many biographical details, by Dr T. A. Walker, in 1912.
These remarks apply to College records; but there is one serious omission which, in all likelihood, will never be made good. It is that of the ancient Hostels or Boarding houses. That these institutions, like every other corporation or common gathering place of men, must have possessed account books is fairly certain. And it is almost equally certain that these accounts must have contained the names of the students, and the sums due from them. Take, for example, Physwick Hostel, which was attached to Gonville Hall for nearly 200 years. It was far more populous than the Hall, and though it may not have bred professional theologians to rank with the bishops and other dignitaries who adorned the predominant partner, it probably ranked higher in social distinction. This we know indeed to have been generally the case with the Hostels, the Colleges being by comparison frequented by the poor and industrious students. Many a younger son of the knights and squires of Norfolk and Suffolk must have been enrolled for a year or two in Physwick Hostel, but their names can never be recovered. And this house was but one of many in Cambridge. They died out rather suddenly towards the middle of the sixteenth century, two or three of them just surviving long enough to appear in the earliest matriculations from 1544. But, so far as is known, no trace of any Admission Register, or other contemporary record, of any one of them has ever turned up in Cambridge or elsewhere.
EPISCOPAL AND OTHER RECORDS
So far we have been concerned with what may be called the continuous records of the University and the various Colleges. But these do not carry us back beyond, generally speaking, the middle of the fifteenth century. For the recovery of earlier names we are dependent upon various and casual sources of information. We can only mention a few of these.
1. Episcopal Registers.
Another class of information in the Episcopal Registers is interesting, and may prove valuable as more registers are printed. This consists in the occasional licences granted by the bishop to allow a clerk to leave his parish, for a specified period, for the purpose of study at the University. For instance, Thomas Aylward, Vicar of Havant, obtained such leave for 5 years, in 1405.
2. College records or account books.
But the most interesting lists contained in these particular account books consist in those of the Pensionarii, viz. of the students who, not being on the foundation, paid a 'pension' or rent for their rooms; which was duly entered in the bursar's books. These lists, at Gonville and Caius College, commence about 1491. The following is the entry for Lady Day, 1513.
Mr Farwell debet xxxs.
Doctor Wright xxs.
Mr Harman iiis ivd.
Mr Repps, monachus, debet pro suâ pensione is viiid.
Monachi Norwicences debent xiiiis.
Ds Belham debet iiis ivd.
Ds Mayner debet iiis ivd.
Ds Brycotte debet iiis.
Mr Englysthe debet xxxs.
Mr Carman debet vis viiid.
Mr Bolen debet vis viiid.
Mr Knyvet debet vis viiid.
Monachi de Lewes debent xs.
Ds Atherole et Ds Crome debent pro 3 terminis xs.
Mr Aldrich debet vs.
Some research, it need not be said, is required in order to identify these men, but what has been ascertained will be found under their names. Several of the monks who formed a large constituent element amongst these pensioners are mentioned in the Visitation of their monasteries by the Bishop, as well as by Dugdale, and elsewhere. It may be remarked that it is almost entirely due to this College entry that these students can be assigned to Gonville Hall, or, in the case of several, to the University in any way. When it is remembered that Gonville Hall was one of the smallest in Cambridge, and that probably most of the other colleges have similar material lying buried out of sight in their muniment rooms, it becomes plain that a vast amount of fresh information will some day come to light.
Another clue to missing names was found by Dr Peile amongst the records at Christ's College. This was a list of allowances to sick scholars, viz. to those who were unable to take their meals in the common Hall. As these lists dated from a time prior to the Matriculations, they supply a number of names not to be found elsewhere.
3. Miscellaneous public documents; Patent and Close Rolls, Papal Letters and so forth.
Of such miscellaneous records, strange to say, one of the earliest is found in a very unsuspected quarter, viz. in the Pleas of the Forest. At a court held at Huntingdon, July 1, 1286, an enquiry was held as to infringement of the King's right to exclusive hunting in the 'warren of Cambridge,' i.e. in the extensive unenclosed lands around the town. A number of instances are cited of those who had hunted hares there when they were scholars at Cambridge.
Actually the earliest known brief list of scholars-also one of offenders who obtained the King's pardon-is printed in Fuller's History, p. 29. The names are those of 'Southern'-i.e. south of the Trent-students who had taken part in a formidable riot against the Northerners, in 1261.
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