Winchester College Publication Winchester College Classic Talks - Page 7

for imitation, and are a mix of excerpts from genuine texts, some translations of his own and of others from, for example, Greek into Latin, and some of his own compositions. Some are full of in-jokes and puns on pupils’ names, such as a riff on ‘who is the tiniest boy in the school’ (not something one could get away with now!). The boys would then be set their individual compositions, to be handed in on fixed days of the week: Latin prose on Tuesdays, Latin verse on Wednesdays, more Latin prose on Saturdays, and so on. I gather that teaching at Eton still had a similar timetable in the 1960s. University teaching may not have been very different, though the concentration on specified authors implies that the professor would also take the students through those texts. After all, university students need not have been very much older; we know of many students who went up at the age of about fifteen. I shall pass quickly over his successor, Sir Henry Cuffe, who had the distinction of being executed for treason. He was involved with the Earl of Essex in his rebellion against the aged Elizabeth; Cuffe himself seems to have deserved what he got, as he appears to have been particularly vigorous in urging Essex to look for all sorts of support once he had fallen out of favour. I was very proud of having an executed predecessor until I discovered that the very first Regius Professor of Civil Law had got there first, being hanged, drawn, and quartered at the very beginning of Elizabeth’s reign. It was evidently a high-risk profession. The next Wykehamist was John Harrys or Harris (Figure 11), professor from 1619 to 1622. His role as professor is little documented, although quite a bit is known about his time as Warden of Winchester, which lasted up until the Civil War. A particular hazard of the time was posed by a sequence of visitations to the school, a sort of seventeenth-century equivalent of Ofsted inspections but decidedly more threatening. John Harmar, indeed, had been taken to task in 1608 by one Archbishop Bancroft for ‘living and dining too well’. In 1635–6 Harrys was faced by Archbishop Laud, who singled out a certain ‘George Jonson, one of your Fellows’, as one who was ‘to be more diligent to perform his duty therein than formerly he hath done’. What is more, ‘if there be not more attendance and teaching, less charges and whipping than is reported, the school will never thrive, nor the College recover its power againe’. Still more threatening was a further visitation during the Civil War, with three regicides who were unlikely to look with favour on a college with such close associations with the crown. But Harrys clearly put up a good defence, and he, and the school, emerged unscathed. 12 A few tenures later came the fourth and (so far!) final Wykehamist, John Harmar junior, nephew of the first. He would seem to have been a rather credulous gentleman; at least, a story was told of his being taken in by an undergraduate who posed as a visiting Greek Orthodox priest and invited him to a sermon. He might have suspected something, one would think, as the sermon took place in the bar of The Mitre Hotel. I have felt close to this John Harmar during the last day or so, as I have been looking at a very fine Greek poem that he inscribed on a volume still in the Figure 11 John Harrys or Harris; English College’s possession (Figure 12). School, follower of Cornelius Johnson The volume itself is a translation of the Old Testament book of Jeremiah into Greek hexameters composed by an old Winchester pupil. Harmar’s own inscription is also in hexameters, and he clearly had tremendous fun writing it, scouring the Greek lexicon for a wonderful collection of noise- words, some of them extremely rare. It translates as follows: For John Ailmer, translator of Jeremiah’s laments into Greek hexameters The prophet Jeremiah sat there grieving in his heart as he pondered terrible deeds and viewed the ill-fated troubles of the people of his Israel. Weighed down by miseries, he bent his head this way and that, indignant at the evil ways that had by now grown old among mortals. Dragging up pity from his wearied heart with a Figure 12 Flyleaf of John Ailmer, Musae sacrae: seu Jonas, Jeremiae Threni, & Daniel Graeco redditi carmine (1652) 13