Page:Alumni Oxoniensis (1715-1886) volume 1.djvu/14

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Alumni Oxonienses : Preface.

connection with their respective colleges. Cambridge also is doing something to redeem the apathy of the past,[1] Dr. Mayor having edited a small portion of the interesting admission register of St. John's (1882); while the present year has witnessed the appearance of the valuable register (1558–1678) of Gonville & Caius, admirably edited by Dr. Venn. It is much to be wished that the former work may not be allowed to remain in its present unfinished state. Even where a college has no one willing to edit its register much might be done if it would publish a complete list of its scholars, fellows and earlier members, with the salient facts of their career. Such works as The Worthies of All Souls, by Prof. Burrows, editor of The Visitors' Register, 1647–58, are most valuable for the purpose.

A beginning has also been made with the registers of our public schools. In addition to Stapylton's Eton School Lists, the Rugby School Register 1675–1874, and Welch's Alumni Westmonasterienses, the registers of the St. Paul's School have been edited by the Rev. R. B. Gardiner, and that of Merchant Taylors' School from 1562 to 1874, with the help of that Civic Company, by the Rev. J. C. Robinson. The special feature of this last work is the invaluable series of entries under the mastership of Mr. Dugard. That painstaking pedagogue had previously been Master of Colchester School, of which the admission register is about to be edited by my friend Mr. J. H. Round. The Manchester School Register (1734–1837) was published by the Chetham Society a few years ago, and there are others which ought some day to find their way into print.

I may now briefly recapitulate the most important features of this work. In the foremost rank I would place its value to the biographical student, supplying, as it does, the parentage, birthplace, and age of admission of every Oxford man, and placing the searcher on the road to obtain yet further information.[2]

As a striking instance in point, I may refer to the matriculation entry of John Butler, Bishop of Oxford, 1777–88, which occurs on page 203. Even in that scholarly work, the Dictionary of National Biography, the bishop's parentage is wholly ignored, and it is actually stated that 'he was not a member of either university.' Yet, in addition to his matriculation entry in which his parentage is given, my pages show that he graduated B.C.L. in 1746, and proceeded to D.C.L. in 1752.

Again, for genealogical purposes, it would be difficult to over-estimate its value. Volumes of pedigrees similar to those contained in the Heralds' Visitations (excluding, of course, the ladies) might with ease be compiled from its pages; indeed, the alphabetical arrangement which specially distinguishes my work, itself suggests such pedigrees, and provides them almost ready-made. Nor should it be forgotten that, as already shown, these admissions, while containing in their original entries the essential element of visitation-pedigrees, surpass these famous records in the actual authenticity of their evidence. More especially, however, is their evidence of value as a help to tracing the cadets of 'Our Noble and Gentle Families.' It is only from such records as these that this notoriously difficult task can ever be satisfactorily accomplished, and many a missing link discovered which has long been sought in vain.

Further, to the student of our social history, the description in the admission-entries of the father's social status will prove of peculiar interest. From this he will learn to what extent the mixture of classes prevailed, and what were the principal couches sociales from which the University was recruited. For, in the words of the late Mr. Green, that most picturesque historian, 'The son of the noble stood on precisely the same footing with the poorest mendicant among Oxford scholars.' Light is also here thrown on a problem that has yet to be solved: What were the classes from which the clergy mostly sprang at various periods of our history?

To many, no doubt, it will be interesting to trace, as from this register they can with ease, which were the chief districts of England from which Oxford drew her students, and which college, or colleges, maintained a local character.

Other similar points will easily suggest themselves; but I would lay stress, before I close,

  1. The 'Athenæ Cantabrigienses' of Cooper, for instance, was allowed to succumb on the completion of the 2nd volume.
  2. It is desirable to explain that the residence of the father given in the matriculation entry in this work is that at which he resided at the time of the child's birth. It is, therefore, of special value as a clue to the parish register, though it may not represent the parent's normal abode.
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