Chapter I

Grammar Schools of the Middle Ages and of the Renaissance.


THE GRAMMAR SCHOOL is one of the oldest institutions in Leeds. It is older than the Corporation. It is hundreds of years older than any other school in the city. It was a product of the Renaissance, and if we are to understand its history we must have some idea as to what is meant by the Renaissance and the manner in which it influenced education.

NOW THE RENAISSANCE is one of those terms which it is singularly hard to define. We may describe it as the change from the medieval to the modern world, but the moment we try to discover how this came about, or to fix precise dates for it, we find ourselves involved in a mass of facts which in one aspect appear to be causes and in another results, and the process seems to go back indefinitely into the past and to merge itself with equal indefiniteness in the future. The ramifications too of the movement are manifold, and the multiplicity of subjects and variety of results add to the difficulty of the problem. In one feature however they all agree. They are all characterized by a revolt against authority.

In the Middle Ages authority is everywhere dominant. In the state there was the pyramid of classes known as the feudal system leading up to the distant figure of the Emperor. In the Church there was the ecclesiastical hierarchy culminating in the Pope. Both Emperor and Pope were regarded as the vicegerents, temporal and spiritual, of God, and their power was buttressed up by an immense mass of theory, which was accepted as true without any real attempt to test the foundations on which it was based. Underlying all was the authority of the Bible, or rather of the Bible as interpreted by the Church, and with it in a queer way were combined the doctrines of Aristotle and the principles of Roman Law. It was much the same in other things—in philosophy, in theology, in science, in art. Current ideas were looked upon as infallible, and doubt was regarded as heresy and original research as a sin.

WHEN THE REVOLT first began it is hard to say, but we shall probably be not far wrong if we date it somewhere about the end of the thirteenth century, for events were happening then which must have caused many to doubt much that they had hitherto accepted as true. Think how terribly the theory of the divine character of the Papacy and the Empire must have been impaired by the long contest between the two vicegerents of God and the unscrupulous tactics and final collapse of both. Think too what must have been the effect of the Crusades; how men's minds must have been affected by contact with strange customs and strange creeds; what scepticism as to the inspiration of those who had preached the war must have been excited by the failure to wrest Palestine from Moslem control; what a slur the conduct of many of the warriors must have cast upon Christianity. Mark too how the absence of the nobles, their deaths in battle, and the expenses of the campaign, did much to shake the whole edifice of feudalism. The leaven was clearly being mingled with the lump, and the confusion and turmoil of the two dismal centuries that followed were the signs that the old order was yielding place to new. Old theories, old ideals, old systems were vanishing, and new knowledge, new beliefs, and new problems were gradually taking their place.

ONE OF THE MOST POTENT forces in the sapping of the old and the development of the new ideas was the great movement known as the Revival of Learning. Latin and Greek indeed had never died out. Latin was in constant use. Greek was the spoken tongue of the Eastern Empire. But it was for practical purposes that they were employed, and of the ancient authors little was known. In the vernacular tongues too such literature as existed was scanty in quantity and bald in expression, though towards the end of the thirteenth century the first glimmer of a change appears in Dante, who stands on the threshold between the old and the new worlds. Like many other tendencies of the time however the improvement was premature, and the vernacular literature had to await the revival of the classical influence. For the latter much was due to Petrarch (1304— 1374), in whom devotion to the classics was largely combined with the creed of "Italy for the Italians." Round him gathered disciples, and men of rank and power were impressed by his views.

The first enthusiasm was for Latin, but this soon led on to Greek. Here there were at first great difficulties, but little by little teachers were got, grammars and dictionaries compiled, manuscripts collected, edited, and above all printed, for it was just at this period that printing with moveable types came into use. Libraries were founded, statues and other relics of antiquity collected, academies started for discussions on philosophical, antiquarian, or literary subjects, and the revival which had begun in Italy spread before long to the furthest borders of Christendom

And what was the result? The study of any new subject always modifies the way in which men have been wont to look at things, and we can see clearly how the men of the Renaissance from the masterpieces of antiquity learnt to value style, how their eyes were opened to appreciate beauty of every kind, and how the restless inquisitive-ness and daring scepticism, so characteristic of the Greek genius, marvellously reinforced the mental tendencies of the time.

The influence however was not the same everywhere. Different nations had different characteristics and were differently affected. In Italy there was a great outburst of literature and art, but in both before long form became more valued than matter, and execution than inspiration. The Northern races were of a more practical turn of mind. They admired the classics, but it was the thoughts that appealed to them more than the language in which they were embodied. Hence, though great scholars arose among them, the main influence of the Renaissance is to be seen rather in the development of writers in the vernacular tongues and in the impulse it gave to the study of more solid subjects. One of these was science. The ancient Babylonians and Egyptians had for their times a creditable knowledge of astronomy, medicine, and geometry, and the Greeks did much to develop these and to lay a firm foundation for the science of mathematics, but it was not till the Renaissance that any substantial further advance was made. Another was theology. Hitherto men had known the Scriptures only through the Latin version. Now Reuchlin laid the foundation for the study of Hebrew, Erasmus produced an edition of the New Testament in Greek, and before long almost every civilized land had a vernacular version of its own. The writings too of the early Fathers were studied. The effect was great. Knowledge of the Bible was no longer confined to the clergy, and men could not fail to contrast the early Church with that of their own days and to criticize the prevalent abuses. Nor was it only practices but doctrines also that now began to be doubted, and there was every material for an explosion when some one should appear to kindle the first spark.

BUT IT WAS NOT ONLY on Literature and Art, on Science and Theology, that the Revival of Learning had influence; it profoundly affected Education also.

There were of course schools in England long before the Renaissance. Mr. A. F. Leach (to whose writings every school historian is under an immense obligation) has traced them back to Augustine, and regards them as the lineal descendants of the schools of ancient Rome. Here in Yorkshire the school at York goes back at least to the eighth century, and those at Ripon and Beverley in all probability to the time before the Conquest. There were always youths of a studious turn of mind. The Church—and this, it should be remembered, was the surest avenue to honour—required a constant supply of clergy. Choristers had to be taught to read and sing. Lawyers had to be educated. Bailiffs, merchants, clerks, had to know at least how to write and keep accounts. Education however was not so widely diffused as it is now. For the vast bulk of the populace it was unnecessary. Few persons needed to write, and there was but little to read. Music and art were in their infancy. Science can scarcely be said to have been born. Mathematics beyond mere ciphering was the study only of the professed scholar. History was largely a matter of legend. Of geography the knowledge was rudimentary.

There seems little doubt however that the Renaissance, greatly increased the number both of students and of schools. Dr. Rashdall tells us that “in the later Middle Age the smallest towns and even the larger villages possessed schools where a boy might learn to read and acquire the first rudiments of ecclesiastical Latin; while except in very remote and thinly populated regions he would never have had to go very far from home to find a regular Grammar School,” and Mr. Leach regards 300 as a moderate estimate of the number of Grammar Schools in England in 1535, and says that the proportion of such schools to the population was about four times as great as it was in 1864.

SCHOOLS THEN were numerous. They were also diverse in origin. There were schools attached to most cathedrals and collegiate churches. In many a parish church too there were chantries, or endowments for priests to sing mass for the souls of the founders, and one of the common duties of a chantry priest was to teach the young. Monasteries had schools, but mainly for their own novices and singers, though S. Mary's Abbey at York maintained a boarding house for 50 boys who attended the cathedral school—the cost of board and tuition for a boy was a little more than a penny a day. To many hospitals—almshouses it may be noted rather than infirmaries—schools were attached. Gilds founded schools, sometimes confined to the children of the gildsmen, sometimes open to outsiders. There were schools too endowed by enlightened individuals, and many a great noble had a schoolmaster in his castle to educate the boys of gentle birth who came to be trained as pages.

Nor were all schools of the same type. Some were distinctly elementary—A B C Schools, Reading Schools, Writing Schools. There were Song Schools, probably intended mainly for choristers but in which other subjects besides music were taught. There were Grammar Schools. Often two or more of these were combined. Thus the school at York in 796 included what we may perhaps call departments for Grammar, Song, and Writing, and that at Northallerton in 1426 for Grammar, Song, and Reading. In such cases if the schools were small the work might possibly all be done by one master. Where there were distinct masters the Grammar master ranked first and the Song master second—e.g. at Rotherham the Grammar master received £10 per annum, the Song master £6 13s.4d. and the Writing master £5 6s.8d.

THE GRAMMAR SCHOOLS were never elementary schools, and reading, writing, and arithmetic were not supposed to be taught in them. They were, says Mr. Leach, “of exactly the same type and performing precisely the same sort of functions as the Public Schools and Grammar Schools of to-day.” Their object was to enable a youth to go straight into a learned profession or to the university, and the curriculum was adapted to the requirements of the universities. Every university student before he could go on to higher work had to be taught the Trivium, which comprised three branches—grammar, dialectic or logic, and rhetoric, i.e. the structure of language, the laws of reasoning, and the method of stating opinions clearly and persuasively. These were the subjects taught in the Grammar Schools, and in the Middle Ages Latin was the medium almost exclusively employed in teaching them. For this there was more than one reason. As an intellectual discipline the study of Latin is unequalled. It is a difficult tongue—far more difficult than any of the modern languages now learnt in schools —and requires accuracy, clearness, and “grit” on the part of the student. It is also the key to a noble literature, far inferior indeed to Greek, but well worth studying both in itself and as the basis of much that has been written since. Before the Renaissance however it was mainly on utilitarian grounds that it was taught. It was the language of the Church, of Law, of Medicine, of Diplomacy. It was the tongue in which learned books were written. It was the regular vehicle of communication with men of other lands. Accounts were kept in it. The proceedings of public bodies were recorded in it. Lectures at the universities were delivered in it. It was necessary then not merely to read and to write Latin but to speak it.

In early days most of the teaching must have been oral, for all books were manuscripts, and manuscripts were rare and costly. The pupil had to rely entirely on what his master told him, writing down words, phrases, and rules, and committing them to memory. The Psalms—in Latin of course—were learnt by heart. Cato's “Moralia” was often used as a delectus. What other authors were studied depended on the knowledge of the master or the manuscripts which he possessed. In any case they were few, and the list did not often extend beyond Ovid, Vergil, Cicero, and Christian writers such as Prudentius and Boethius. These were probably repeated or read aloud by the teacher, commented on, and translated—into French as well as into English, we are told—and either in isolated phrases or in lengthy passages learnt by heart by the pupils. Words were parsed, points of grammar discussed, exercises written in prose or verse. Little-attention however was paid to style. All that was aimed at seems to have been the acquisition of a working knowledge of the language and the application of this to the purposes of the Trivium.

WE SHOULD MAKE a great mistake however if we were to imagine that it was simply with the intellectual training of his pupils that the medieval schoolmaster was concerned. Their moral development was equally his care, and in every Grammar School great importance was attached to the instruction of the boys in religion, in morals, and in manners. This was only to be expected from the ecclesiastical origin of many of the schools, but it remained a characteristic feature after the Reformation, and the tradition and happily the practice still survive. What stress was laid on this can be seen in the famous Wykehamist motto— “manners makyth man” — and in innumerable statutes and regulations.

Sir William Ermystead, for instance, one of our own benefactors, ordered that at Skipton the Master “immediately after entering the school shall say the Psalm Miserere Mei Deus which he shall not omit under the penalty of 20d. for each day and if he shall wilfully omit daily for a month he shall be removed.”

At Wakefield the Master had to swear— “the youth of this schole I shall diligentlie instruct in religion learning and good manners.”

The statutes of Dronfield School charged the Schoolmaster and Usher “that they bring up their scholars in the fear of God and reverence towards all men; that they teach them obedience to their parents, observance to their betters, gentleness and ingenuity in all their carriage, and above all things that they chastise them severely for their vices, viz., lying swearing and filthy speaking.”

So too at Giggleswick— “What scholar or scholars soever shall commit any misdemeanour or behave themselves irreverently at home or abroad either towards their parents friends strangers or others whosoever shall be severely corrected.”

And at Harrow— “The schoolmaster shall have regard to the manners of his scholars and see that they come not uncombed unwashed ragged or slovenly; but before all things he shall punish severely lying, picking and stealing, fighting, filthiness or wantonness of speech, and such like.”

IT SHOULD be noted that the control of the Master was clearly not limited to the schoolhouse but extended to the conduct of the boys in the streets and at home.

Much of this training was done in a quite informal way, but after the invention of printing books were certainly often used. The Bible does not appear to have been regularly taught in the schools till the beginning of the seventeenth century, but there were several Catechisms in use and also the Primer— “the layfolk's service book” —of which an official edition for schools was issued from 1545 to 1651. As to manners, Erasmus' “De Civilitate Morum Puerilium” was in considerable use, and emphasized self-respect and consideration for others as the bases of true courtesy. What however would be most familiar to boys was the “Carmen de Moribus” —verses prescribing how they ought to act throughout the day—at the beginning of Lily's Latin Grammar which for many years was used in wellnigh every school.

EXAMPLE HOWEVER is far more effective than precept, and in the statutes of the schools great stress is laid on the qualifications to be looked for in the master. Here is a list culled from the regulations of a few Grammar Schools. A schoolmaster should be a learned man, apt to teach, severe in government, with a high sense of responsibility, of a sociable and loving disposition, a good judge of character, godly, discreet, sober, honest of living, whole of body, continent, diligent, undefamed. He should not be a drunkard or haunter of taverns, a whoremonger or given to unseemly behaviour with women, a gamester, lavish in unnecessary expenditure, prone to excess in apparel, a putter of tobacco, a swearer. His hair must not be long, curled, or “ruffinlike.” Some statutes stipulate that he should have had some experience in teaching, others that he should be unmarried, but in the fifteenth century there seems to have been a distinct reaction against celibate and clerical masters. Usually however he had to be in full clerical Orders, though to secure his attention to his scholastic duties he was often forbidden to undertake any “cure of souls” without the express leave of his Governing Body. In some places after the Reformation we find it enacted that he must not be a papist, a puritan, an anabaptist, a socinian, etc.

For a paragon like this the pay was decent though not extravagant. In the reign of Henry viii an ordinary chantry priest received about £5 per annum, a canon of a cathedral about £20. Mr. Leach says that many masters of small Grammar Schools did not get more than the former sum, but that “in the Edward vi refoundations £20 per annum seems to have been the standard aimed at, which with outgoings for repairs, allowance for an Usher and the like, would give about £12 per annum to the Headmaster.”

Salaries however varied considerably. In the fifteenth century the Grammar master at Acaster got £5, at Rotherham £10. In the sixteenth century the Master at Ripon had a salary of about £10 but appears to have nearly doubled this from other posts which he held. In 1583 the Master at Pontefract got £20 and the Usher £5 7s. 2d. At Wakefield in 1607 the Master had £26 13s. 4d. and the Usher £12. It is very difficult however to find out what a master did really receive for there were fees and perquisites of various kinds.

THIS RAISES THE VEXED QUESTION of “Free Schools.” It is certain that many schools—Leeds itself is a case in point—were specifically styled Free Schools, and although about the meaning of the term different theories have been advanced (e.g. that it denotes freedom from external control, or schools in which a liberal education was given) Mr. Leach maintains, and the history of our own school bears him out, that “a free school meant undoubtedly a school in which because of the endowment all or some of the scholars .... were freed from fees for teaching.” Mr. (now Lord) Bryce in his report on Lancashire schools in 1868 appears indeed to think that all Grammar Schools were originally free, for he says that “the earlier founders seem to have directed their schools to give instruction without charge mainly because such had been the practice in past times .... education was held to be a thing for which a man should not pay otherwise than by freewill offerings” —a theory of which the effects still remain in the general underpayment of teachers. Mr. Leach however states definitely that there were Grammar Schools which were not free, and Free Schools which were not Grammar Schools. In any case the freedom was not unlimited though the limitations were not always the same. There were restrictions, for instance,. as to subjects. Thus at Sedbergh Roger Lupton in 1527 ordered that “the sayd mayster shall not be bounde to teche ne cause no scoler of hys to teche any other thyng but gramer to any chyldren except the trends of the sayd childern wyll gyve to the seyd Scolemaster, or to the Scoler with the master's assent that shall teche theym, for theyr labour as they can agree with the sayd Scolemaster and Scoler.”

The freedom too was often restricted to the natives or inhabitants of the district. Other children indeed— “foreigners” or “strangers” they were called— were not excluded from the school, but they had to pay for their education, and their number was often limited. Westminster in the time of Elizabeth had 80 “peregrini.” At Harrow the Master might take as many foreigners as he conveniently could and charge them fees. At Wakefield the foreigners in the classes under the Master were not to exceed 20 and in those under the Usher 10. It was due to the severity or laxness of such restrictions that some Grammar Schools, like Leeds and Bradford, remain great day-schools, while others, such as Harrow and Sedbergh, have developed into boarding schools.

THE FEES then paid by foreigners and especially by boarders might be a substantial addition to a master's stipend, and he had often other means of increasing his income, for, to quote Mr. Bryce again, “neither the earlier nor the later creators of schools intended that well-to-do people should contribute nothing to the schoolmaster's support. Though sometimes forbidding him— doubtless for the sake of the poor—to receive any school hire they authorised admission fees and recognized the custom of cockpennies and other voluntary gifts, provided, only that these should not be exacted from the needy.”

The cockpennies require perhaps a word of explanation. In some schools cockfighting was the custom on certain days, and the master for a fee provided cocks for his pupils, and the fee survived when cockfighting had fallen into disuse. Of such payments a case mentioned by Mr. Leach may serve as an adequate illustration. In 1681 a complaint was made against Posthumus Wharton, of Sedbergh, for exacting 20/- or 21/- as an entrance fee and 40/- a year from every boy, besides 20/- at Christmas and variable sums as cockpennies at Shrovetide. Mr. Wharton acknowledged that he charged an entrance fee, but this was quite compatible with the school being a Free School, e.g. at S. Paul's an entrance fee of 4d. was prescribed, at Bowes boys paid on admission 6d. to the Master and 4d. to the Usher, and at Wakefield the “ingress” fee was 12d., except for the poor, while foreigners paid double. As to the cockpennies he stated that they were given in most of the neighbouring schools and that at Sedbergh the custom was an old one. The other payments, he said, were either presents “from some though very few particular parents of the wealthiest or ablest sort,” which he accepted “in good manners and out of respect,” or a recognition of his “extraordinary care and pains” in getting up at 4 a.m. and spending “most part of the time in the evenings” in order to help on the boys.

THIS CASE shows too that a Free School was attended by children of wealthy parents, and the evidence is clear that a Grammar School was not intended to be limited to the children of the poor. Mr. Bryce says— “A founders first idea was .... to set up some sort of a place of learning to prevent the people, rich as well as poor, from growing up in absolute brutishness,” and he points out that the difficulty of getting taught pressed not only on the poor but on the better classes also, that the gap between classes was not then so great, and that the Church, for which the schools were intended to provide clergy, was recruited from all ranks. So too Mr. (later Sir J. G.) Fitch in his report on Yorkshire Schools states that the founders undoubtedly contemplated a union of classes for purposes of instruction, though they probably had a sincere desire to offer to the humblest citizen the chance of rising to high scholarship and to the social advantages and the public usefulness which accompany it—an idea which at Leeds has been constantly maintained and worthily carried out. According to Mr. Leach, “the poor who are spoken of in these old foundations are not the poor in our sense, the destitute poor, the unsuccessful among the labouring classes, but the relatively poor, the poor relations of the upper classes. That occasionally bright boys were snatched up out of the ranks of the real poor and turned into clerics to become lawyers, civil servants, bishops, is not to be doubted. But it was the middle classes whether country or town, the younger sons of the nobility and farmers, the lesser landholders, the prosperous tradesmen, who created a demand for education and furnished the occupants of the Grammar Schools.”

Another writer to whom I owe much—Mr. Foster Watson—tells us that the Grammar Schools drew from the middle class, higher and lower, both in towns and in the country. Other evidence that the schools contained boys of different classes may be found in the bequest in 1369 of 2d. each to 60 “poor clerks” of the Grammar School at York—evidently implying that all the boys were not poor—and the order in the statutes of Giggleswick that the Master should teach “indifferently the poor as well as the rich.”

ABOUT THE INTERNAL organization of the schools our information is small. The scholars were probably more numerous than is often thought; at Skipton, for instance, the chantry priest taught 120 boys. The hours certainly were long. At Eton in 1528 the boys rose at 5 a.m., school began at 6, at 9 they had breakfast, at 9-45 school, at 11 dinner, at 1 school, at 5 supper. At Wakefield in 1607 school lasted from 6 (or in winter, sunrise) to 11 and from 1 to 6, and the vacations were two weeks in summer and three at Christmas. Two half-holidays a week were customary and Saint's Days were whole holidays, though the boys had usually to attend church. As a rule the teachers were two-—the Master and the Usher—and any assistants that were added were of an inferior type. Much work however was done by what we should call pupil teachers. At -Eton and at Winchester the upper boys used to hear the lower Forms their lessons. At Rotherham the top boys gave lectures to the lower ones. We have already seen how at Sedbergh the Master could appoint a scholar to teach subjects other than grammar, and at Archbishop Holgate's schools the “scolemaister” might appoint a “scoller” to “hear and teache such as cannot reade, so that no one scoller be appointed above one daie in the weeke.” At Giggleswick there were two prepositors “for order and quietness in the school.”

A good picture of what went on probably in most places can be got from the statutes of Rivington School (1566).

“The Master and Usher shall divide their scholars into forms more or fewer as the number of them shall require and as they be able to teach and the scholars have wits to learn . . . Commonly either of them may teach 3 forms and 10 or 12 in every form, and those must be in one form that be of like forwardness in learning and capacity to understand that that is taught. If the number of pettys [i.e. elementary scholars] that learn to read be more than the Usher can well teach some of the elders and scholars by course may be appointed by the Master and Governors to help him.”

The discipline seems to have been harsh. Roger Ascham thought that masters were far too impatient with slow boys, and punished far too severely— “any learning learned by compulsion tarrieth not long in the mind”—but he adds— “God forbid but all evil touches, wantonness, lying, picking, sloth, will stubbornness, and disobedience should be with sharp chastisement daily cut away.” Brinsley, a practical schoolmaster, also urged that there should be more discretion in punishment, but he would not abandon the rod— “God's instrument,” he calls it, “to cure the evils of their conditions, to drive out that folly which is bound up in their hearts, to save their souls from hell, to give them wisdom. . . . To spare them is to hate them, to love them is to correct them betime. . . . One stubborn boy suffered will spoil or at leastwise endanger all the rest.”

FOR SOME OF THESE FACTS the evidence quoted is of somewhat late date, but so far as organization is concerned, there was probably not much difference between prae- and post-Renaissance schools. It is important however that we do not confuse the effects upon education of the Revival of Learning with those of the Reformation—at any rate in England.

The influence of the former may confidently be described as good. It caused an increase in schools and scholars. It led also to the introduction of new subjects. Greek, for instance, and sometimes Hebrew, became part of the Grammar School curriculum. Other subjects too, as Mr. Foster Watson points out, gradually crept in. Hoole, who became Master of Rotherham School c. 1633, urged that in order to write Latin verses boys should study English poetry and try their hands first at writing English verse. Points in rhetoric were sometimes illustrated from English literature. Themes did not always deal with classical topics. “The numerous printed phrase-books and treasuries of passages arranged according to subjects included quotations from modern authors (in Latin) containing references to books and events contemporaneous and recent as well as medieval and ancient, to illustrations from recent books on science, mathematics, and other studies.” Logic however was before long crowded out, and rhetoric though it lasted longer ultimately met with the same fate.

Methods also were changed. It was no longer necessary for the teacher to dictate, and the pupil to learn what he said by heart. Texts were printed. Dictionaries, commentaries, grammars, were accessible to all. Note-books too were used instead of tablets and slates. This had its drawbacks however. Memory was weakened and there was less scope for individuality in the teaching. Grammar, for instance, became stereotyped by Lily's “Brevissima Institutio,” becoming the authorized Latin Grammar in 1540, and the publication of Camden's Greek Grammar in 1597. On the other hand more authors were read, and the standard of scholarship was raised. The main object was still to get a working knowledge of the language, but students were no longer contented with the barbarian Latin of the Middle Ages. They aimed at purism in vocabulary and elegance of style. Mr. Foster Watson however points out that this was by no means all.

“Roman and Greek literature were studied not so much as ends in themselves as the storehouses of eloquent and adequate expression, the happy hunting ground of the right thing to discourse about and the right way of saying it. The reading of classical authors was required, but the student was expected to have his note-book at hand into which he transcribed all phrases and information likely to be of use for the need of conversation and of written exercises ... It was not purely a matter of memory—the choice of phrases and passages for future use was intended to exercise the pupil's judgment and train his taste, and the scholars obtained their results by active research. The aim of the great teachers of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries was mainly that the pupil should acquire power of classifying the contents of books read, of analysing the paragraphs, sentences, phrases, words, so as to bring them into comparison with those of other authors. The pupil was expected to show active initiation in gaining control over the material of reading and to register his observations in his note-books and commonplace books, so as to use the material from his own independent standpoint of free composition and fluent speech.”

Linguistic training thus had an educational as well as a utilitarian value. If properly carried out it developed observation, intelligence, taste, and accuracy both of thought and expression. Whether however this ideal was at all generally attained is doubtful. Then as now much depended on the ability of the pupil and the personality of the teacher. Ascham says that “the young gentlemen of England carry commonly from school with them a perpetual hatred of their master and a continual contempt of learning.” The former was probably due to the harsh discipline, the latter not so much to the subjects learnt but to the foolish methods employed. Grammar seems often to have been taught by rote, without explanation and without reference to actual authors. “The common way,” says Ascham, “used in common schools to read the grammar alone by itself is tedious for the master, hard for the scholar, cold and uncomfortable for them both ... I remember when I was young in the north”—he came from Kirkby Wiske— “they went to the Grammar School little children, they came from thence great lubbers, always learning and little profiting. . . . Their whole knowledge . . . was tied only to their tongues and lips and never ascended up to the brain and head, and therefore was soon spit out of the mouth again.” In some country schools indeed translation seems never to have been attempted at all. Composition too was taught by the “making of Latins” i.e. by the boy being set to turn English ideas straight into Latin, not, as Ascham advocated, by gaining facility gradually through retranslation. “There is no one thing,” he says, “that hath more dulled the wits or taken away the will of children from learning than the care they have to satisfy their masters in the making of Latins.” Milton thought it preposterous to require from “the empty heads of children” the composition of themes, verses and orations.

Even the speaking of Latin did not pass without criticism. It was the aim of all good schools and 'was often prescribed by their statutes. At Manchester Latin was to be spoken by “all scholars learned in grammar.” At Giggleswick the Master “shall not use in school any language to his scholars which be of riper years and proceedings but only the Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, nor shall he willingly permit the use of the English tongue in the school to them which are or shall be able to speak Latin.” At Heath “ the Scholars under the Master must all speak the Latin tongue.” Brinsley says, “ it is a usual custom in schools to appoint Custodes or Asini to observe and catch them who speak English.” To help boys to acquire the art letters were written in Latin, Latin plays acted, and books used like the “Colloquies” of Erasmus, which dealt with topics of the day in classical language. Ascham however thought that boys tried to talk in Latin far too soon, before they understood “that the brain doth govern the tongue and that reason leadeth forth the talk.”

Too much stress however must not be laid upon these criticisms. It is a healthy sign for schoolmasters to be critical as to their work, and it is indubitable that in some schools—e.g. at Rotherham under Hoole—the standard of classical erudition was remarkably high. Still Mr. Foster Watson is probably right when he says that in the later sixteenth and seventeenth centuries far too much importance was attached to grammar, and “literature became merely a vast territory for the illustration of grammatical rules.”

IF HOWEVER THE INFLUENCE of the Revival of Learning upon education was good that of the Reformation was little less than disastrous. The early Reformers indeed had no hostility to education and welcomed the study of “the holy languages,” but the divorce question brought Henry viii into opposition to Rome, and this, led on to the dissolution of the monasteries, and then of the chantries and religious guilds. The former put a stop to the monastic schools, but the latter was much more harmful to education. There were two Acts affecting the chantries. The example of the dissolution of the monasteries had proved infectious, and local notabilities were beginning to seize for themselves the revenues of the chantries or the lands with which their forefathers had endowed them, while the priests were said—though of this I do not know of any evidence in Yorkshire—to be trying to convey them away for their own profit. This did not suit Henry viii, and in 1545 an Act was passed enabling him to deal with the chantries as he thought fit, and in 1546, he sent out commissioners to investigate their origin, revenues and work. He died however before confiscating the property of many, but similar powers were conferred on Edward vi by a second Act, passed in 1547. In this, which was based explicitly on doctrinal reasons, the preamble suggested that the money might be better used for education and for the poor. Many Grammar Schools however were utterly ruined, for though the Act empowered the commissioners to maintain those connected with chantries it stipulated that this was only to be done when the maintenance of a school was included in “the first foundation and ordinance” thereof. The persons too who were to decide whether the schools should be continued had no special knowledge of the districts affected, and even when the school was continued the lands which constituted the original endowment were as a rule confiscated and an annual sum given instead, and the latter remained fixed while the former in most cases would have increased in value, with the result that many schools fell into serious financial, difficulties and were quite precluded from developing.

The case however of the elementary schools was far worse, for it was only Grammar Schools that could be continued, and all the others came to an end. The intention of the government had been to throw the education of the poor upon the clergy, and even before this time directions had been given that all chantry priests should “exercise themselves in teaching youths to read and write and bring them up in good manners and other virtuous exercises,” and that all persons holding ecclesiastical benefices should for each £100 so received give “competent exhibition” [fixed later at £3 6s. 8d.] to one scholar at Oxford, Cambridge or some Grammar School. This however proved utterly impracticable, especially when the clergy ceased to be celibates and had families of their own to support, and the Grammar Schools, although elementary education was quite out of their province, tried for a time to fill the gap, for the knowledge of reading and writing was essential for their own pupils; but with their limited staff, their often impoverished condition, and the raising of the classical standard required by the universities, they found it impossible to teach both elementary and secondary subjects. Some of them indeed sank into merely elementary schools, but the teaching of “petties” fell for the most part into the hands of private individuals, often quite unfit for the work, till at length the want was supplied by the liberality of new founders, the work of societies, and in recent years by the action of the state.

Speaking generally then the effects of the Reformation may be said to have been the ruin of elementary education and a serious restriction both in number and in usefulness of the Grammar Schools, and, we may add, a considerable falling of in the number of scholars, as the facilities for education were decreased and a clerical career no longer offered the same prospects to a promising lad.


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Postscript Assistant Masters since 1854

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