On The Art of Reading eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 188 pages of information about On The Art of Reading.

     Sweetly, rather, to ease, loose and bind
     As need requires, this frail fallen humankind ...

—­but to invent what will be commercially serviceable in besting your neighbour, or in gassing him, or in slaughtering him neatly and wholesale.  But still the whisper (not ridiculous in its day) will assert itself, that What Is comes first, holding and upheld by God; still through the market clamour for a ’Business Government’ will persist the voice of Plato murmuring that, after all, the best form of government is government by good men:  and the voice of some small man faintly protesting ’But I don’t want to be governed by business men; because I know them and, without asking much of life, I have a hankering to die with a shirt on my back.’

VI

But let us postpone What Is for a moment, and deal with What Does and What Knows. They too, of course, have had their oppositions, and the very meaning of a University such as Cambridge—­its fons, its origo, its [Greek:  to ti en einai]—­ was to assert What Knows against What Does in a medieval world pranced over by men-at-arms, Normans, English, Burgundians, Scots.  Ancillary to Theology, which then had a meaning vastly different from its meaning to-day, the University tended as portress of the gate of knowledge—­of such knowledge as the Church required, encouraged, or permitted—­and kept the flag of intellectual life, as I may put it, flying above that gate and over the passing throngs of ‘doers’ and mailed-fisters.  The University was a Seat of Learning:  the Colleges, as they sprang up, were Houses of Learning.

But note this, which in their origin and still in the frame of their constitution differentiates Oxford and Cambridge from all their ancient sisters and rivals.  These two (and no third, I believe, in Europe) were corporations of Teachers, existing for Teachers, governed by Teachers.  In a Scottish University the students by vote choose their Rector:  but here or at Oxford no undergraduate, no Bachelor, counts at all in the government, both remaining alike in statu pupillari until qualified as Masters—­ Magistri. Mark the word, and mark also the title of one who obtained what in those days would be the highest of degrees (but yet gave him no voting strength above a Master).  He was a Professor-’Sanctae Theologiae Professor.’  To this day every country clergyman who comes up to Cambridge to record his non-placet, does so by virtue of his capacity to teach what he learned here—­in theory, that is.  Scholars were included in College foundations on a sort of pupil-teacher-supply system:  living in rooms with the lordly masters, and valeting them for the privilege of ‘reading with’ them.  We keep to this day the pleasant old form of words.  Now for various reasons—­one of which, because it is closely germane to my subject, I shall particularly

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On The Art of Reading from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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