Winchester College Publication Winchester College Classic Talks - Page 5

apparently interviewed the candidates for the chair of History. That really must have been terrifying. She also insisted that the chair should be filled immediately, even though the Oxford faculty wanted to freeze it for a year for financial reasons. There is no indication that the government offered to make good the shortfall, and so in a way the affair of 1541 and the untransferred lands was re-enacted. Admittedly, by then the government was providing the university with quite a lot of other funds, and might have felt that it was doing its bit. Two last questions before we turn to the professors themselves: why 1541, and why Greek and not Latin? It was what was being done all over Europe, part of a genuine Humanist renaissance of ideas. France, for instance, had appointed two lecteurs royaux in Greek and two in Hebrew in 1531 – again not putting Latin in the first shop window; admittedly, Latin there only had to wait three more years, whereas the Latin chairs in both Oxford and Cambridge were not endowed until the nineteenth century (1854 and 1869 respectively). It is tempting to think that Latin had to wait because it was less threatened, being a good deal more of a genuine European lingua franca than Greek. Boys at Winchester in the early sixteenth century could be beaten if they were found speaking English rather than Latin, whereas Greek was much rarer. It tells a tale that the sixteenth-century statutes of both St Paul’s and Merchant Taylors’ stipulate that a headmaster should have Greek as well as Latin ‘if such may be gotten’: it does not sound as if it could be taken for granted. There may be something in this, but the more salient explanation is likely to be the link with Christian texts, both the New Testament and the early fathers. Nearly all the early Regius professors duly worked on patristic texts, and several who had held the chair formed part of the team producing the King James Bible in 1611. The same was true of Hebrew, another of Henry’s Regial foundations: that was taken as biblical Hebrew, though more recent holders have spread their interests more widely. In fact, all five of those initial Regius chairs can be seen as more closely connected with one another than one might think. Ecclesiastical law was one of the three areas designated for the Professor of Civil Law, while medicine was still very much a matter of going back to the Greek texts, especially the Hippocratic Corpus and Galen. Several of the early professors of Greek were in fact more respected for their contribution to medicine than to Greek, though it is less clear that anything they wrote could have made anyone well. That was true of the first professor, the Wykehamist John Harpsfield; he also set the tone in a further way, being the first to be sent to gaol. He was a strong Catholic, which makes his appointment by Henry more remarkable, and he came into his own under Mary, when he was extremely vigorous in the persecution of Protestants. A print survives of his cross-examination of Thomas Cranmer in St Mary’s Church, Oxford (Figure 6). It was his faith that led to his imprisonment in Fleet Prison, for on Elizabeth’s accession he refused to swear the Oath of Supremacy; he was not released until 1574. Figure 6 Thomas Cranmer answers the charges put to him by John Harpsfield So the early professors were clerics, and it was a young person’s post, limited originally to three years at a time. They then went off to country parishes. The tos and fros of religion under Mary and Elizabeth had their impact on the chair as well, as the next two professors were both thrown out and both in turn reinstated, so that those two – George Etheridge and Giles Lawrence – had four tenures between them. The professors were required to lecture five times a week from 8 to 9 a.m. on Homer, Demosthenes, Isocrates, Euripides, ‘or another’: five lectures was clearly soon felt to be over-arduous, and the schedule was reduced to four in 1564/5. Some light on what ‘lecturing’ meant becomes clearer when we come to the first figure of real 8 9