Reference > Cambridge History > Cavalier and Puritan > English Grammar Schools > Henry Savile
  Eton Sedbergh  


The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume VII. Cavalier and Puritan.

XIV. English Grammar Schools.

§ 4. Henry Savile.

The appointment of Henry Savile to the provostship was wrung from the queen only by his own repeated solicitations, and, moreover, it was a direct infringement of the college statute, which enjoined that a candidate should be in holy orders, and vested the election itself in the provost and fellows of King’s; but, notwithstanding, the royal intervention proved eminently beneficial in the sequel, and Savile’s claims were indisputable. He had travelled much; he was a savant and a collector of manuscripts; and it was chiefly through the influence of Burghley (no undiscerning patron) that, some ten years before, he had been promoted to the wardenship of Merton college—an office which he continued to hold, in conjunction with the provostship, down to the day of his death. His fine presence, great powers of work and genuine attainments eminently fitted him, indeed, for the discharge of official duties, and, although not free from the reproach of excessive eagerness in the accumulation of wealth, it might be urged in extenuation that he showed almost equal readiness to part with it again, in promoting worthy objects. On succeeding to office, he made it one of his first cares to restore and augment the library, the fabric of which, at that time, was in a ruinous condition, while the collection itself had remained very much what it was at the death of Edward VI. As a master, however, Savile inspired awe rather than affection; with the King’s men, he was distinctly unpopular, owing to his obvious partiality for promising “aliens.” The oft-cited story, preserved by John Aubrey, recording his antipathy against “wits,” is hardly to be taken seriously, and was probably little more than a sarcasm, designed to convey his majestic contempt for those artifices wherewith the ingenious schoolboy, from time immemorial, has sought to produce upon a master the impression of a painful studiousness which has no actual existence.  5  The men whom he promoted to fellowships at Merton—to name only Henry Cuffe, afterwards regius professor of Greek, Francis Mason (author of Vindex Ecclesiae Anglicanae), Edward Reynolds and John Earle, afterwards bishops of Norwich and Worcester respectively—together with his discerning patronage of the then struggling study of mathematics in Merton, certainly suggest something more than a stolid preference for mere plodding industry over original power and special aptitudes.   5

Note 5. The sense in which the term “wit” is used by Aubrey (Lives, II, ii, 525) differs, probably, from that in which it is employed by Hacket (see post, p. 378), who belonged to an earlier generation, and it may be questioned whether Savile himself used the word. It was not until after the restoration that it came to denote ingenuity of contrivance rather than intellectual capacity. [ back ]

  Eton Sedbergh  

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