Home  »  Volume IX: English FROM STEELE AND ADDISON TO POPE AND SWIFT  »  § 28. New Chairs at Cambridge

The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume IX. From Steele and Addison to Pope and Swift.

XV. Education

§ 28. New Chairs at Cambridge

Between 1702 and 1750, Cambridge founded chairs in chemistry, astronomy and experimental philosophy (Plumian), anatomy, botany, Arabic, geology, astronomy and geometry (Lowndean); and Oxford instituted chairs of poetry, Anglo-Saxon and anatomy. It cannot be said that the regius professorships of modern history, founded in 1724 by George II at both universities, did much to advance the study of modern history during the eighteenth century; still, they are, at least, evidence of goodwill on both sides, though spoiled by vaguely conceived aims and faulty organisation. The work of antiquaries like Anthony à Wood and Thomas Hearne was more to the purpose.

The lethargy which seized upon English university life in the mid-eighteenth century seems to have been less profound at Cambridge, the university which enjoyed a measure of court favour; Oxford was persistently Jacobite down to the death of George II, and, in consequence, forfeited influence and lost opportunties for usefulness. The Cambridge senate house was opened in 1730 and, almost immediately, was made the scene of university examinations, which, from that time, became of a serious character. The chancellor’s regulations of 1750, which aimed at stiffening discipline and reducing the expenses of undergraduates, produced a flood of pamphlets which give incidental information on the condition of the university. The Academic, one of the best known of these, credits undergraduates with “taste for music and modern languages,” and due attention to mathematics, natural philosophy and the ancient languages. The Remarks on the Academic, while dissenting from the conclusions of its opponent, agrees with it as to the condition of learning at Cambridge.