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On our way from the Railway Station at Slough, a short divergence to the east, will bring us to
UPTON, a small village, about half a mile to the east of Eton. The manor was formerly part of the possessions of Merton Abbey. Our principal object of interest at Upton is the Church, an old Saxon structure, with an “ivy-mantled tower," "rugged elms," and "yew-trees' shade,” and where the turf does, indeed, lie in "many a mouldering heap.” This picturesque burial-place is named, with the greatest confidence, in rivalry to that of Stoke, as the scene of Gray's immortal Elegy.
Eton College Chapel is seen to great advantage from the Fifteen-arch Bridge, as it is called, albeit possessing only three or four arches ; crossing this bridge, we are speedily at the Gate of Eton, where we may best begin the excursions of the day.
Entering the first or western quadrangle of Eton College, we are reminded of the necessity of shortly recurring to the historical associations of
the place, while contemplating the statue of the founder, which adorns the centre of the court-yard.
In 1440, King Henry the Sixth purchased the perpetual advowson of the parish of Eton, for the purpose of founding a College ; sufficient endowments he also provided, by charter, for its maintenance. The early foundation consisted of a provost, ten priests, four clerks, six choristers, twenty-five poor grammar scholars, and twenty-five poor infirm men to pray for the King. This foundation was particularly excepted in the act for the dissolution of Colleges and Chantries in the reign of Edward the Sixth. The statutes for the government of the College were, in substance, the same as those for the regulation of Winchester College, founded by William of Wykeham.
The first head master was William Wayneflete, Bishop of Winchester, afterwards Provost of the institution, and founder of Magdalen College, Oxford.
The manor of Eton, Mr. Lysons informs us, “was acquired by the College in the reign of Edward the Fourth, of the Lovel family, who inherited it through female heirs from the families of Fitz Other, Hodenge, Huntercombe, and Scudamore. The parish church of Eton, called in ancient records Eton-Gildables, having been suffered to fall to decay, the inhabitants are permitted to attend divine service in the College Chapel. The Provost of Eton is always rector, and has archidiaconal jurisdiction within the parish. There is a chapel of ease in the town, served by one of the members of the College: it was built for the use of the inhabitants, by William Hetherington, the munificent benefactor to the blind, and poor of other descriptions, who had been one of the Fellows of Eton."
In 1464, a treaty of union and mutual defence was concluded between Eton, Winchester, and King's College, Cambridge, to which foundation, as vacancies occur, the senior King's scholars are annually elected from Eton. At King's College, those upon whom the election has fallen complete their education free of expense, and at three years' standing are admitted to fellowships without passing any examination. At nineteen years of age the scholars are superannuated.
Eton sends also two scholars to Merton College, Oxford, where they are denominated Post-masters, and has likewise a few exhibitions of twenty-one guineas each, for superannuated scholars.
Among the distinguished persons who have held the provostship of Eton, we may enumerate Sir Thomas Smith, well known as a diplomatist and statesman in the reigns of Henry the Eighth, Edward the Sixth, Mary, and
Elizabeth ; Dr. Stewart, clerk of the closet to Charles the First ; Sir Henry Saville, one of the most profound and elegant scholars of the time in which he lived; he was tutor in Greek and mathematics to Queen Elizabeth, who held his abilities in the highest estimation. Sir Henry founded two professorships, in astronomy and geometry, in the University of Oxford, where, for six-and-thirty years he held the wardenship of Merton College. He is known as an author by his “ Commentaries on Roman Warfare,” his “Rerum Anglicarum post Bedam Scriptores,” but chiefly by his celebrated edition of the writings of St. Chrysostom. Sir Henry died at Eton, and lies buried in the College Chapel.
To the above may be added the amiable and accomplished Sir Henry Wotton, whose important public services make it necessary for us more particularly to record his name as one of the preëminently distinguished provosts of Eton.
Robert Boyle, the great natural-philosopher, was offered the provostship, but declining it, Waller the poet was appointed; but the Chancellor refused to set his seal to the appointment, it being contrary to the statute that a layman should hold the office, though there had been precedents for it.
The establishment, as now constituted, consists of a provost, vice-provost, six fellows, a master, under-master, assistants, seventy scholars, called of the foundation and distinguished by wearing black cloth gowns, seven lay clerks, and ten choristers, together with the usual inferior officers and servants.
The scholars on the foundation form a small proportion only of the Eton boys; the great majority being the sons of the nobility and gentry from all parts of the country; these varying in number, according as the abilities of the Head Master may be more or less highly estimated, but never less than four or more than six hundred, are domiciled in boarding houses throughout the town, under their respective Dames and Dominies, and are hence denominated Oppidans, in contradistinction to the collegians, or boys on the foundation.
Among the latter, the most distinguished in after life are enumerated in Harwood's Alumni Etonienses : from these we may select the names of Bishop Fleetwood, Bishop Pearson, Earl Camden, Doctor Stanhope, Sir Robert Walpole, and the learned John Hales.
Through the influence of Sir Henry Saville, who was assisted by him in his edition of St. Chrysostom, Hales was elected a fellow of Merton College, Oxford, and afterwards obtained a fellowship at Eton, which he held, together with a canonry of Windsor, until he was deprived for refusing to subscribe to the Covenant, or take the oath of allegiance to the Commonwealth ; in consequence of this harsh proceeding he was said to have been reduced to great distress. Hales' title to the appellation "learned” is not derived from any work of importance appearing during his life, but from papers published after his death, entitled “Golden remains of the evermemorable Mr. John Hales, of Eton College,” which give sufficient evidence of his extensive learning.
Of scholars not upon the foundation, whose names are familiar to our political and literary history, we may enumerate Harley, Earl of Oxford, Lord Bolingbroke, the great Earl of Chatham, Lord Lyttelton, Gray, Horace Walpole, West, Waller, Fox, Canning, the Duke of Wellington, the Marquess Wellesley, and Hallam the historian.
The buildings of the College, with the exception of the light and elegant Chapel, are of red brick, enclosing two large quadrangles, extending between the street and the river, the principal front facing the Thames, a neatly disposed garden extending from it to the river. The parapets are embattled, the windows ornamented with cut stone, and the tout ensemble of the buildings is well calculated to convey an excellent idea of a place consecrated to scholastic retirement. The outer quadrangle comprises on the east the clock-tower, and apartments of some of the masters; on the north the lower school, above which is the long chamber or dormitory for the scholars on the foundation; the west side is occupied by the upper school, supported upon an arcade, the work of Sir Christopher Wren; the south side of this quadrangle is bounded by the Chapel.
The statue of Henry the Sixth, in the centre, is of bronze, upon a marble pedestal ; it is the work of Francis Bird, an artist of the time of George the First, but is not considered to possess any transcendant merit. The pedestal has an inscription in Latin, of which the following is a literal translation :
TO THE NEVER-FADING MEMORY
OF THE MOST PIOUS PRINCE HENRY THE SIXTH,
KING OF ENGLAND AND FRANCE,
AND LORD OF IRELAND,
HAS ERECTED THIS STATUE
OF ITS MOST MUNIFICENT FOUNDER,
The Chapel attracts universal admiration, and is justly considered one of the most chastely elegant Gothic structures of the kind that England possesses ; the lofty and well-proportioned windows, the massive buttresses, and airy pinnacles, unite in conveying an impression of perfect grace and beauty in ecclesiastical architecture. The Chapel is one hundred and seventy-five feet in length. The interior, plain and unadorned, has a cold and naked aspect, by no means calculated to sustain the feelings of reverential awe with which we regard the exterior of the sacred edifice. The sides of the interior are wainscotted to a considerable height; there are seats, rising tier above tier, for the scholars and masters.
The spirit and character of the interior is wholly lost by the bad taste of the decorations—desecrations we were almost tempted to call them : but is it not something more than ridiculous that a wainscot-screen, supported by Corinthian columns, from a design by Sir Christopher Wren, should be suffered to conceal the original stone altar-piece enriched with canopied niches, in perfect correspondence with the general character of the structure ?
Behind this Corinthian screen, which, we were happy to learn during our last visit to Eton, is about to be removed from its misplacement here, is concealed a curious monument of the Reverend Doctor Murray, thirteenth Provost of the College: this, now much dilapidated, consisted of a halflength figure of the Provost, coloured after life, in full ecclesiastical robes ; a Latin inscription beneath, recording his learning and personal worth : on either side were figures of Time and Religion curiously sculptured in alabaster, with, on the basement, a horrible memento mori in the shape of a human skeleton minutely carved in lime-wood. The roof of the ante-chapel is well worthy attentive observation; being supported by exquisitely formed Gothic arches, the corbels sculptured with cherubims, displaying the royal arms richly emblazoned.
Below the west window of the ante-chapel is a marble statue of Henry the Sixth, in his robes of state, crowned with a diadem, executed by Bacon in 1768, at the expense of the Reverend Henry Bentham, fellow of the College, who bequeathed a considerable sum of money for this purpose.
Among the eminent persons buried here are, Lord Gray of Wilton, henchman to King Henry the Eighth ; John Longland, Bishop of Lincoln, con