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9. The Voyage
[Greek text] Mounting the bark, they cleft the watery ways.--Homer.
Four beautiful cabined pinnaces, one for the ladies, one for the gentlemen, one
for kitchen and servants, one for a dining-room and band of music, weighed
anchor, on a fine July morning, from below Crotchet Castle, and were towed
merrily, by strong trotting horses, against the stream of the Thames. They
passed from the district of chalk, successively into the districts of clay, of sand-
rock, of oolite, and so forth. Sometimes they dined in their floating dining-room,
sometimes in tents, which they pitched on the dry, smooth-shaven green of a
newly-mown meadow: sometimes they left their vessels to see sights in the
vicinity; sometimes they passed a day or two in a comfortable inn.
At Oxford, they walked about to see the curiosities of architecture, painted
windows, and undisturbed libraries. The Reverend Doctor Folliott laid a wager
with Mr. Crotchet "that in all their perlustrations they would not find a man
reading," and won it. "Ay," said the reverend gentleman, "this is still a seat of
learning, on the principle of--once a captain, always a captain. We may well ask,
in these great reservoirs of books whereof no man ever draws a sluice, Quorsum
pertinuit stipere Platona Menandro? What is done here for the classics?
Reprinting German editions on better paper. A great boast, verily! What for
mathematics? What for metaphysics? What for history? What for anything worth
knowing? This was a seat of learning in the days of Friar Bacon. But the Friar is
gone, and his learning with him. Nothing of him is left but the immortal nose,
which, when his brazen head had tumbled to pieces, crying "Time's Past," was
the only palpable fragment among its minutely pulverised atoms, and which is
still resplendent over the portals of its cognominal college. That nose, sir, is the
only thing to which I shall take off my hat, in all this Babylon of buried literature.
MR. CROTCHET. But, doctor, it is something to have a great reservoir of
learning, at which some may draw if they please.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. But, here, good care is taken that nobody shall please. If
even a small drop from the sacred fountain, [Greek text], as Callimachus has it,
were carried off by any one, it would be evidence of something to hope for. But
the system of dissuasion from all good learning is brought here to a pitch of
perfection that baffles the keenest aspirant. I run over to myself the names of the
scholars of Germany, a glorious catalogue: but ask for those of Oxford,--Where
are they? The echoes of their courts, as vacant as their heads, will answer,
Where are they? The tree shall be known by its fruit: and seeing that this great
tree, with all its specious seeming, brings forth no fruit, I do denounce it as a
barren fig.
MR. MAC QUEDY. I shall set you right on this point. We do nothing without
motives. If learning get nothing but honour, and very little of that; and if the good
things of this world, which ought to be the rewards of learning, become the mere
gifts of self-interested patronage; you must not wonder if, in the finishing of
education, the science which takes precedence of all others, should be the
science of currying favour.