Winchester College Publication Winchester College Classic Talks - Page 3

The Greek chair dates from 1541; the Cambridge equivalent had been established a year before (Catherine Parr was a Cambridge woman). Each had an initial stipend of £40, and I have been told that the Cambridge professor is still ceremonially presented with a purse of £40 a year. That is not the only thing that the Cambridge professor gets that the Oxford one does not. The Cambridge chair has a coat of arms (Figure 2). Prominent features are the owl of Athena at the top, and what looks like a grasshopper, but is, I think, a cicada at the bottom. The owl signifies wisdom; the cicada perhaps indicates the sweet flow of words and culture inspired by the Muses. The grasshopper, we are told, was also a heraldic emblem favoured by Napoleon. I make no comment on that, and of course none of this rankles with me at all. The Oxford chair was to be linked with the newly founded college of Christ Church, which was originally to be called Cardinal College, as the real founder was Cardinal Wolsey (Figure 3, also from Christ Church Hall): Henry took it over, shall we politely say, after Wolsey had fallen from grace and died. For all the magnificence of the buildings, one can see that they were never finished: the main quadrangle was to be surrounded by a cloister, and the bases for the pillars and the framework for the arches linking it to the buildings are all in place (Figure 4). That was not the only thing that Henry left undone, and this takes us back to that original stipend of £40. Figure 2 Coat of arms of the Regius Professor of Greek, Cambridge University Figure 3 Cardinal Wolsey; by Sampson Strong That was not a negligible sum in 1541; a readership was founded at the same time, and that had a stipend of just £5. It is always hard to give modern equivalents, and one website helpfully says that, depending on how one does the sums, it would come out at somewhere between £20,000 and nearly £10 million. The best guess might be somewhere between £25,000 and £30,000 – a living wage, certainly, especially for an academic living in and fed by his college. Still, the centuries passed, and in the middle of the nineteenth century, the stipend was still £40. It would have sunk by then to something like a sixth of its original value; most college tutors were by then earning perhaps £200, most professors £600, and the theological Regius professors probably about £800. It is understandable that two nineteenth-century professors, Thomas Gaisford and Figure 4 Tom Quad, Christ Church 4 5