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SCARCELY any question of English local history has been a more fruitful source of controversial discussion, than that which has for its object to ascertain, with precision, when, and by whom, the University of Oxford was founded. Some writers have not scrupled to place its origin in the twelfth century before Christ. They assert, that when, in the year of the world 2855, Brutus the Trojan, great grandson of Æneas, came into this island, he was accompanied by certain Greek Philosophers, who first settled at a place, called from their establishment, Greeklade, but afterwards removed to a situation close by the spot now occupied by Oxford ; where they established Schools, and to which, on account of its


pleasantness, they gave the name of Bellositum. This opinion, to which Cay, Fox, and Twyne, give their support, is maintained by J. Rouse, or Ross, of Warwick, who lived in the reign of Edward IV. and is styled by Dugdale, a famous antiquarya. Others ascribe the foundation of the University to ARVIRAGUS, a British King, contemporary with the Roman Emperor Domitian. A third party, rejecting these accounts as wholly fabulous, maintains, without, however, pretending to fix the precise time of institution, that the University was founded shortly after the introduction of Christianity into Britain.

It can scarcely be necessary to observe, that all these accounts of the origin of this celebrated literary establishment rest on the

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a" In Brompton's Chronicle, written before Rouse's “ time, it is asserted, that, before the year of Christ “ 632, certain Schools for Greek and Latin were “ established at Greeklade, (Cricklade in Wiltshire,) « and Latinlade, (Lechlade in Gloucestershire ;) but

no mention is made of such Schools being removed “to Bellositum, Ryd-ychen, or Oxenford."


uncertain ground of tradition. The last of them is not, however, so wildly improbable as the two that precede ; since it is generally acknowledged, that the existence, on or very near the spot occupied by modern Oxford, of one of those Institutions, distinguished in ancient times by the name of Studia Generalia", may be traced to a period far more remote than any of which satisfactory records now exist. But it is not till near the end of the ninth century that we find the light of authentic history beginning to beam on the academical annals of Oxford. At that time, the Schools, which had subsisted here for

ages, had sunk into that state of extreme depression, into which, in a kingdom long harassed by successive hordes of ignorant and savage invaders, the seats of learning might naturally be expected to fall. In this melancholy condi

General studies, i.e. places of general learning, a name bestowed on the higher public Schools, previously to the adoption of the term University. The latter term originated either in the universality of sciences taught, or in what was taught being learned ab universis scholaribus.

tion they are said to have been found by King ALFRED; who, having, by the complete overthrow and consequent expulsion of the Danes, succeeded in restoring 'to his dominions the long untasted blessings of peace and security, had leisure to meditate on the best means of promoting the welfare of his subjects. And this wise, this truly patriotic King had not to learn that a right education is the greatest of earthly blessings, the sure basis of national as well as of individual prosperity and happiness. He knew, that with the intellectual character, the external circumstances of a people are always found to improve. Alfred had himself experienced the want of proper instructors. In his youthful days, so general and so extreme was the ignorance which prevailed, that, between the Thames and the Humber no person could be found capable of translating a Latin letter. Alfred reached the twelfth year of his age without having learned to read. And although, after having, with his step-mother's assistance, mastered the rudiments of Saxon literature, he profited by the leisure that he

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