Godfrey Lushington

General Description

Date: 1856
Genre: Prose essay


◦ Mackail, J. W. Life of William Morris .

◦ “Godfrey Lushington”. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

Scholarly Commentary

Guest Editor: PC Fleming


Godfrey Lushington (1832-1907) wrote this rather scathing essay on his alma mater. Lushington, whose twin brother Vernon also published in the April issue of The Oxford and Cambridge Magazine, received a degree from Balliol College in 1854, and was elected to a fellowship of All Souls College in the same year. This essay was his only contribution to the Magazine.

Lushington favored University reform, and was involved in a lawsuit challenging the process of awarding fellowships (Dictionary of National Biography). The lawsuit provides a useful context for reading this essay. See, for example, his criticism that, at Oxford, “Scholarships and Fellowships [were] given away without regard to competence, or for baser reasons” (239).

Lushington begins with the early history of the University, established as “an institution of religion and learning” (235), and laments its inactivity during the Reformation. Oxford, says Lushington, accepted Protestantism in apathy, and still kept “old spirit of Romanism, with all its evils and none of its justification” (237). The Colleges faired no better, and the Reformation rid them of poor, religious scholars and filled them with gentlemen’s sons. Oxford changed not actively, but passively, and maintained its old statutes simply out of tradition, so that eventually scholars lived “in the eighteenth century under rules for the fifteenth” (239).

Even in the middle of the nineteenth century, Lushington argues, wasting of funds, sinecurism, and mismanagement plague the university, and the connection with the Church and the aristocracy weakens Oxford even further. He sees Oxford as behind in all kinds of education: the fine arts, the natural sciences, law, medicine, politics, etc. (243). What Oxford really offers is entrance to a Society, but one that is too aristocratic, and, because of the system of small colleges, too sectarian.

In the context of The Oxford and Cambridge Magazine, Lushington’s comment that young men will be disappointed if they come to Oxford in search of a religious calling (248) is somewhat ironic. With the exception of Charles Faulkner, all of the Morris brotherhood entered Oxford with plans of entering the clergy, and all ultimately chose other paths (see Mackail 62).

Lushington does give what he feels are “practical remedies.” He favors looking back to Oxford’s past, and again becoming “a National place of Religion and Education.” It is Oxford’s policy of exclusion he most fervently opposes, and he argues that “Oxford must open her doors, and welcome in all classes, all religions, all forms of knowledge” (251). Lushington also favors abandoning the classics as a basis for education, in favor of subjects more relevant to modern society: poetry, philosophy, history, mechanics, languages, and the like (253).

In the last few pages of the essay, Lushington imagines himself, escorted by personified Time, visiting the Oxford of the future. He finds it a congenial place, welcoming to both men and women, to the rich and the poor.

Printing History

First printed in The Oxford and Cambridge Magazine , April, 1856.

Electronic Archive Edition: 1