The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XII. The Romantic Revival.

XIII. The Growth of Liberal Theology

§ 5. The noetics

Meanwhile, new life began to stir in the universities. At Oxford, Oriel college was reaping the advantages of its reforming zeal. Ruled in succession by two energetic provosts. Eveleigh and Copleston, who encouraged their pupils to reason freely, the college became noted during Copleston’s provostship (1814–28) for the unfettered criticism indulged in by its fellows. Oxford nicknamed them the noetics or intellectuals, and had some reason to fear and dislike the Oriel common-room. A society accustomed to defer to authority and the voice of tradition was a little shocked by the freedom with which the Oriel men submitted anything and everything to criticism. They favoured reform alike in academic and in ecclesiastical politics. They had no agreed programme, and formed no party; yet their friendship and common aims were likely to make them a considerable influence in the church, when they should be called to the high office to which their gifts entitled them. To form a party was never their wish; indeed, it would have defeated their chief object, which was the creation of a habit of intellectual independence.