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Here, then, the reader apprehends the first great characteristic distinction of Oxford–that distinction which extorted the rapturous admiration of Lipsius as an exponent of enormous wealth, but which I now mention as applying, with ruinous effect, to the late calumnies upon Oxford, as an inseparable exponent of her meritorious discipline. She, most truly and severely an “Alma Mater” gathers all the juvenile part of her flock within her own fold, and beneath her own vigilant supervision. In Cambridge there is, so far, a laxer administration of this rule, that, when any college overflows, undergraduates are allowed to lodge at large in the town. But in Oxford this increase of peril and discretionary power is thrown by preference upon the senior graduates, who are seldom below the age of twenty-two or twenty-three; and the college accommodations are reserved, in almost their whole extent, for the most youthful part of the society. This extent is prodigious. Even in my time, upwards of two thousand persons were lodged within the colleges; none having fewer than two rooms, very many having three, and men of rank, or luxurious habits, having often large suites of rooms. But that was a time of war, which Oxford experience has shown to have operated most disproportionably as a drain upon the numbers disposable for liberal studies; and the total capacity of the university was far from being exhausted. There are now, I believe, between five and six thousand names upon the Oxford books; and more than four thousand, I understand, of constant residents. So that Oxford is well able to lodge, and on a very sumptuous scale, a small army of men; which expression of her great splendor I now mention (as I repeat) purely as applying to the question of her machinery for enforcing discipline. This part of her machinery, it will be seen, is unique, and absolutely peculiar to herself. Other universities, boasting no such enormous wealth, cannot be expected to act upon her system of seclusion. Certainly, I make it no reproach to other universities, that, not possessing the means of sequestering their young men from worldly communion, they must abide by the evils of a laxer discipline. It is their misfortune, and not their criminal neglect, which consents to so dismal a relaxation of academic habits. But let them not urge this misfortune in excuse at one time, and at another virtually disavow it. Never let them take up a stone to throw at Oxford, upon this element of a wise education; since in them, through that original vice in their constitution, the defect of all means for secluding and insulating their society, discipline is abolished by anticipation– being, in fact, an impossible thing; for the walls of the college are subservient to no purpose of life, but only to a purpose of convenience; they converge the students for the hour or two of what is called lecture; which over, each undergraduate again becomes sui juris, is again absorbed into the crowds of the world, resorts to whatsoever haunts he chooses, and finally closes his day at—-if, in any sense, at home–at a home which is not merely removed from the supervision and control, but altogether from the bare knowledge, of his academic superiors. How far this discipline is well administered in other points at Oxford, will appear from the rest of my account. But, thus far, at least, it must be conceded, that Oxford, by and through this one unexampled distinction–her vast disposable fund of accommodations for junior members within her own private cloisters– possesses an advantage which she could not forfeit, if she would, towards an effectual knowledge of each man’s daily habits, and a control over him which is all but absolute.

This knowledge and this control is much assisted and concentrated by the division of the university into separate colleges. Here comes another feature of the Oxford system. Elsewhere the university is a single college; and this college is the university. But in Oxford the university expresses, as it were, the army, and the colleges express the several brigades, or regiments.