Page images
[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

That God's greatest work is the Master of Trinity."

And that is what William Whewell was-Master of Trinity, and nothing else. He was a don in temperament, in learning, in conduct. A very great don, to be sure, but still a don. His view of his own importance was exaggerated, as his estimation of the universe was contracted. Within his own boundaries, he was an imperious autocrat; and he attempted, by instinct rather than by design, to carry his autocracy into the world. It is not astonishing, therefore, that he made many enemies, of whom Thackeray was the bitterest: that stories should have been told to his discredit is the punishment which he shares with all those in authority. He would not permit an undergraduate to sit down in his presence, said one; he is always insolent and overbearing, said another. And

Mr Clark, his most loyal apologist, confesses that he was often at fault. "There are two

ways," says he, "of doing most things, and Whewell was unlucky in nearly always choosing the wrong one.' No wonder, then, if he were unpopular, and if on one occasion he marched from his college to the Senate House with a prize-fighter on either side of him. But his fault was largely, as Mr Clark points out, a fault of manner. He browbeat rather from habit than from conviction; and it may be true, though it sounds a monstrous paradox, that Whewell" was in reality an extremely humble-minded man, diffident of himself, and sure of his position only when he had the approval of his conscience for what he was doing." However, whatever his character, he was a great master, and as a great master he will ever claim the glory which the careless world denies him.

Far more polished and more august was Dr Thompson another Master of Trinity, who is still fresh in the memory of the present generation. In all things he differed from Whewell

save in autocracy. They were both born rulers, and it was not their fault if the province over which they ruled was a small one. But with autocracy the resemblance vanishes. Dr Thompson chilled with an epigram, while Whewell crushed with a heavy bludgeon of contempt. Moreover, Dr Thompson had the advantage from a spectacular point of view. No portrait of Whewell can be compared to the alert,


kindly, contemptuous figure of
Dr Thompson as we remember
him. The ivory head of his
cane was of the same tone as
his sallow face, to which his
silver hair was as a crown, and
in every feature there was
sense of learned, amiable superi-
ority. And behind that curious
mask was as quick a wit as
ever flashed at folly. This
Master was not rude, but ruth-
less, and his jests are still the
treasured heritage of
of Cam-


at least, there need be no retrogression, and the critics who put the blame of our "certain ruin " upon these seats of learning should go back a few steps on the path of history. To compare the Cambridge of to-day to the Cambridge of Gunning's 'Reminiscences,' .which were gathered under George III. and the Regency, is to acknowledge that in all essentials modern Cambridge is superior to its predecessor. In one point only do we admit a manifest inferiority. When all the Heads of Houses were blackguards, and all the fellows were drunkards, Cambridge gained in picturesqueness what it lost in repute. Gunning frankly acknowledges that the versity in his day plumbed the very depths of disgrace, and there is scarcely a single man who figures in his entertaining volumes that would be endured in our more modest days. But it would be absurd to suggest for one moment that Mr Clark's book can be set on the same shelf with Gunning's. A difference of temperament explains much, and it is certain that the excellent Gunning would have uncovered some scandals even in our reputable days. Yet the essential difference is a difference of material. Gunning and Mr Clark are writing about entirely different races of men. In Gunning's book Now, Dr Thompson, and there are stories which recall Henry Bradshaw, and Palmer Aubrey's 'Lives' in their mixbelong to the last decades of ture of truth and phantasy; in the century, and we may ap- Mr Clark's there is but a record plaud their achievements with- of honest endeavour and sound, out incurring the charge of if eccentric, character. It is fogeydom. In our universities, not from spite that Gunning

For the rest of Mr Clark's scholars, Lord Houghton belongs rather to England than to his university, and though Henry Bradshaw deserves a panegyric in every history of Cambridge, it is Edward Henry Palmer who of them all best served his college and his country. Yet let it not be thought that he was not also a loyal pupil of Cambridge. True, he died the death of a hero; true, also, he girded at the restraints of an academy; but he was still in sentiment an undergraduate, still in learning a professor. Whether Cambridge made the best of her treasure may be doubted, even if we do not follow Sir Walter Besant's condemnation of the university's behaviour. At any rate, we cannot deprive Cambridge of the distinction of having educated and encouraged so fine a professor and so intrepid a man.

assures us that in his time all the Seniors of Trinity were addicted to rather squalid vices. It is merely because he combines with a love of truth a sense of picturesqueness. We shall never again see within the walls of Cambridge so eccentric a gentleman as Samuel Peck, B.D., who gave the country-folk the benefit of his legal advice, and then proclaimed"A lawyer would have put you to expense: Sam Peck never takes a fee, but he loves gratitude; and he will accept a few sausages, a joint of pork, a couple of fowls, a goose, or a turkey, or any article that your farm produces." But the Rev. Samuel Peck, despite his mean gallantries, was an angel of virtue compared to the Rev. James Backhouse, B.D., that of intrigue whose denunciation by Porson not even Gunning is bold enough to quote. All this is changed, with glory to our university, yet not without a tinge of regret to ourselves. The dark


ages of scholarship have passed away, and are succeeded (maybe) by a too general intelligence. The old times were more entertaining and less meritorious; they would, of course, have inflamed the ire of the jealous Radical and given some colour to the popular charges. For all that, they still attract us; and while we are glad to read Mr J. W. Clark's amiable record, we pray that in some corner of Cambridge there lurks a Gunning who will preserve the eccentricities of the last decades. There remains (or did remain) at least some curious material different in its essence from Gunning's, yet not unworthy a skilful attention. All we ask is a seeing eye and a bold pen that will treat it without venom and without timidity. Then in twenty years we may have another book that shall earn an honourable place by the side of Henry Gunning's 'Reminiscences,' which remains after half a century a unique and matchless record.



THE column under Sir C. Warren, which was to attempt to turn the right of the Boer forces investing Ladysmith, moved off on the 20th January only to find itself face to face with an elevated plateau, its precipitous sides scored with watercourses, which stretched for some miles north-west from a point on the river's bank, midway between Trichard's and Potgeiter's drifts, towards Acton Homes, thus completely barring the way to the open country lying south of Ladysmith. This ridge terminated on the south in Spion Kop, an almost inaccessible mountain except where the nek joins it to the main ridge; its top a high plateau running to two sharp points overlooking and enfilading the Boer trenches on each side. It was impossible to exaggerate the strategic importance of this hill; our guns there would render the Boer trenches before Potgeiter's drift untenable, and they had no second line of defence. So on the early morning of the 24th inst. it was decided to make a nightattack on it. The nek was strongly held by the Boers, who also occupied a spur on which they had constructed thirtyfive rifle-pits to bring a crossfire upon the advance. The only possible point for our attack was the south, with sheer precipices right and left; a narrow footpath admitting men

in single file only led to a flat table-land on which the Boers had commenced to dig a trench; while in front there were several lines of schansjes. The night was pitch dark, and our men were not discovered till they were within thirty yards of the first schansje. The Boers fired one volley and fled precipitately. The second line poured in a heavy fire, but also fled at their approach. The cheer with which our men rushed into them was heard by the troops in the camp below, and told them that the attack had succeeded. It was now four o'clock in the morning; the mountain top was shrouded with mist, but at eight o'clock it lifted, and immediately the Boers, who had evidently been preparing, opened a terrific cross-fire with shells and rifles from the lower ground. For two hours the men were under the heaviest shell and Maxim-Nordenfeldts' fire, the latter firing off twelve shells in quick succession, each one a few inches above the other, with most deadly effect. Three times they advanced against the Boer position, and each time had to retire. This lasted till eleven o'clock, when our batteries found the Boer hitherto invisible, and immediately silenced The fight continued for the rest of the day, our men under a heavy fire pushing

guns, almost them.

[merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

Was such a decision necessary? Was it necessary for our guns to fire upon our own men? Was it necessary to retreat at all from the key of the position, which our men had won? Was it necessary to

leave the momentous decision on which hung the fate of Ladysmith-of the campaignon the shoulders of a major of mounted infantry, a corps in the nebulous condition that leaves the men uncertain whether they are fish or fowl? We heard that the Boers were galloping wildly about, their

waggons were trekking, their laagers were breaking up; on one side of all this confusion were two or more divisions of British, on the other 8000 more, waiting, expecting to burst out and join them-a little more, only a little more, and the back of the Boer army was broken. Were there no generals to appeal to? Every one knew General Woodgate was shot; there was General Buller across the river; there was General Warren with his division down below; there was General Clery somewhere; there was General Lyttelton; General Coke was on the hill; General Hart was about, surely out of these one could have been forthcoming. Of that army of Staff that left their college to set things right in South Africa, were none of them about? It is not in the curriculum taught at the college, though it is an axiom of common-sense, that the "highly placed" staffofficer may, on occasion, turn "galloper," and tell a general that he is wanted. Did it not occur to one of these to overstep the line of study? Are there no heads left in Natal? It would seem so. If there are, the Boers have the monopoly. A correspondent tells us

"Things had been done in huggermugger fashion, and the gunners had no precise information imparted to them as to the object and scope quite unaware of the movement led of the day's operation. They were by General Lyttelton, which resulted in the capture of the northern spur of Spion Kop: the consequence was that the Scottish Rifles and 3rd Rifles bursting over the reverse slopes. At suffered from their own shrapnel 6 P.M. both regulars and colonials had

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »