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Title: Oxford
Author: How, Frederick Douglas, 1853-
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Oxford" ***

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Internet Archive/American Libraries.)



[Illustration: MAGDALEN BRIDGE AND TOWER]

OXFORD

DESCRIBED BY F.D. HOW PICTURED BY E.W. HASLEHUST

[Illustration]

DANA ESTES & CO. BOSTON

_Printed in Great Britain_

Beautiful England

  _Volumes Ready:_

OXFORD
THE ENGLISH LAKES
CANTERBURY
SHAKESPEARE-LAND
THE THAMES
WINDSOR CASTLE

LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


                                                                 Page

Magdalen Bridge and Tower                               _Frontispiece_

Magdalen College from the Cherwell                                  8

Oxford from Headington Hill                                        12

Martyrs' Memorial and St. Giles                                    16

The College Barges and Folly Bridge                                20

Fisher Row and Remains of Oxford Castle                            24

The Cottages, Worcester College Gardens                            28

Old Clarendon Building, Broad Street                               32

Christ Church                                                      36

Brasenose College and Radcliffe Library Rotunda                    42

Botanic Gardens and Magdalen Tower                                 48

Iffley Mill                                                        52



[Illustration: OXFORD]


For beauty and for romance the first place among all the cities of the
United Kingdom must be given to Oxford. There is but one
other--Edinburgh--which can lay any serious claim to rival her. Gazing
upon Scotland's capital from Arthur's Seat, and dreaming visions of
Scotland's wondrous past, it might seem as though the beauty and romance
of the scene could not well be surpassed. But there is a certain
solemnity, almost amounting to sadness, in both these aspects of the
Northern capital which is altogether absent from the sparkling beauty of
the city on the Isis, and from the genius of the place.

The impression that Oxford makes upon those who, familiar with her from
early years, have learnt to know and love her in later life is
remarkable. Teeming with much that is ancient, she appears the
embodiment of youth and beauty. Exquisite in line, sparkling with light
and colour, she seems ever bright and young, while her sons fall into
decay and perish. "Alma Mater!" they cry, and love her for her
loveliness, till their dim eyes can look on her no more.

And this is for the reason that the true lovableness of Oxford cannot be
learnt at once. As her charms have grown from age to age, so their real
appreciation is gradual. Not that she cannot catch the eye of one who
sees her for the first time, and, smiling, hold him captive. This she
can do now and then; but even so her new lover has yet to learn her
preciousness.

It is worth while to try to understand what are the charms that have
grown with her growth. There was a day when in herself Oxford was
unlovely to behold, and when romance had not begun to cling to her like
some beautiful diaphanous robe. It is possible to imagine a low-lying
cluster of wooden houses forming narrow streets, and occupying the land
between the Cherwell and the Isis, nearly a thousand years ago. In those
days no doubt it was reckoned a town of some importance, but, with the
possible exception of the minster of St. Frideswide, there was nothing
to relieve its squalid appearance.

After the Norman Conquest, when most of the houses in the town had been
destroyed, there began to be a certain severe dignity rising up with the
building of the forts and the castle by Robert D'Oily, who came over
with King William. The fine and massive tower, with a swiftly flowing
branch of the Isis at its very feet, forming a natural moat, still
stands as the single relic of D'Oily's castle, and the first in point of
age of the existing charms of Oxford. Standing, as it does, inextricably
mixed up with breweries and the county jail, it must feel itself in a
forlorn position, and slighted by those who give it a mere glance on
their way from the station to view colleges, old indeed, but, in the
opinion of the ancient tower, things of mushroom growth! And yet, close
by stands something older even than the tower. Inside the castle walls
was an immense mound, and there it stands to this day. No one rightly
knows its age, and, except for the romance which hangs about anything,
the origin of which is lost in the mists of ages, it adds but little to
the charm of Oxford.

Another grand old tower is said to have been the work of Robert D'Oily,
viz. that of St. Michael's Church in Cornmarket Street. Besides being
part of a church, this was also one of the watch towers on the city
walls. It is well worth looking at, for it has the further interest of
having adjoined the north gate into the city, over which were certain
chambers forming the Bocardo Prison, which remained in use until
comparatively modern times.

The severity which marked the outward appearance of the city during the
first few centuries after the Norman Conquest gradually disappeared, to
make way for the brighter and more exquisite beauty of later days. Thus,
in the fifteenth century, the massive walls and watch towers still
dominated the place. From close to Magdalen College they ran by the edge
of New College gardens (where the most perfect remains are still to be
seen), and then turned to go along the city ditch (now Broad Street),
and so to St. Michael's in "the Corn", and away down to the castle tower
near St. Thomas's. Nowadays these severe lines have practically
disappeared. Oxford has laid aside the armour which once she had in
self-defence to wear, and has clothed herself in lovelier garb.

One by one the objects upon which we feast our eyes to-day sprang up,
and more and more beautiful became the view of Oxford. Mr. Andrew Lang
in his charming book tells us that at the end of the thirteenth century
"the beautiful tower of Merton was still almost fresh, and the spires of
St. Mary's, of old All Saints, of St. Frideswide, and the strong tower
of New College on the city wall, were the most prominent features in a
bird's-eye view of the town." To these must be added (as has been
mentioned) the walls and watch towers, which must have lent a certain
grimness to the whole.

[Illustration: MAGDALEN COLLEGE FROM THE CHERWELL]

Two hundred years later Oxford's most beautiful tower came into being,
on the site of what had been the ancient Hospital of St. John, and had
been given about the year 1560 by King Henry VI to William Patten, in
order that he might there establish the college of St. Mary Magdalen.

Magdalen Tower, rising 150 feet in exquisite proportion, and standing
just where the Cherwell is spanned by the well-known bridge, is in the
opinion of many the fairest sight in Oxford. The way in which it springs
from a pile of embattlements, and the grace of its pose and form, claim
for it more than a word of admiration for its share in the adornment of
Oxford.

So far the view of the town was dependent for beauty upon its spires and
towers. To-day it would be allowed by all that a great deal has been
added to this beauty by the domes, which have brought their dignity and
rounded lines to the general scenic effect.

It was not till two centuries had passed from the creation of Magdalen
Tower that the central gateway into Christ Church was surmounted by the
well-known Tom Tower, erected by Sir Christopher Wren to hold "Great
Tom", a mighty bell which once belonged to Osney Abbey. This was the
first of the domes to rear its head. But it was not long left solitary.
Seventy years afterwards the great dome of the Radcliffe Camera rose up
in the space between All Souls and Brasenose colleges, and was
thenceforth the first object to take the eye of one who looks on Oxford
lying glorious in her meadows.

And so we come to one aspect of the place. For him who wants to look
upon her as a whole, to realize at once that he is drawing near to one
who is all beautiful, everything depends upon the manner of his
approach.

It is probably true that the people of a hundred years ago had the best
of it. In very early days, when men rode on pack horses or were drawn
thither in wains, or tramped through marshy tracts and by evil roads,
their eyes were apt to be fixed upon the ground lest they or the horse
they rode should put foot in a hole. Then, too, the view they obtained
was not at first so beautiful as it has since become.

To-day the disadvantages are greater still. Far the larger number of
people approach Oxford by train, and although on drawing near the city
from the south a sight is obtained of towers and spires, it is by no
means a happy point of view; and the visitor is probably engaged in
getting his bag out of the rack and collecting his papers and umbrella,
when he might be obtaining a first impression, though a poor one, of
Oxford. Should he be more fortunate, and approach by motor car, again
he loses much. A vision, perhaps, for a moment, as he tops some rising
ground, and then, before he has had time to gasp his admiration, he
finds himself bounded on either side by the unlovely villas of a suburb.

No, the coaching days were the best for those who wanted to see what
Oxford looked like as a whole. From the top of the London coach, as
Headington Hill was reached, there must have been on a summer morning a
minute or two of ecstasy for those who first caught sight of the
glittering city at their feet. Not quite so fair a view, but beautiful
enough, was theirs who came by way of Cumnor from the Berkshire Downs;
but the coach top was the place, from whichever side the traveller came.

And yet there is something better still. I would have, could I arrange
it for my friend, a more gradual approach yet. I would take him off the
converging roads while yet Oxford was unseen. I would lead him in the
early morning of a summer day--it must ever be summer--away where the
river washes the feet of the old town of Abingdon, and thence by
pleasant paths through Sunningwell we would ascend Boar's Hill. There on
a grassy spot, a hanging wood partly revealed below us, we would lie
face downwards on the turf and gaze on Oxford lying far below--the
Oxford Turner saw--Oxford in fairy wreaths of light-blue haze, which as
they part, now here now there, reveal her sparkling beauty. There is no
other place so fit to see her first; no day too long to gaze on her from
here, and mark fresh beauties as the shadows change. Here we would lie
and marvel at the scene, then let the dreams of days gone by--the days
that wove the long romance of Oxford--enthral us till we hardly know
whether time is or was.

Away there to the east and south the river shines. Now in the heat of
summer well within its reedy banks, but often spreading itself in
flood-time far and wide. So those two Franciscans find it. They draw
near to Oxford, but when a mile or two from Abingdon are checked by many
waters, and take refuge in a house in a wood belonging to the monastery
of that place. Nearly seven hundred years ago! And yet they come into
the dream as if it all had happened yesterday, and they were still to
set on foot the labours of their order in the low wooden slums of St.
Ebbe's, and still to train such men as Duns Scotus and Roger Bacon.

And the scene changes as the eye follows the river to the city walls.
There is a mellower sunshine on the plain, and autumn mists hang lightly
over tower and spire. What is that slender blue column which rises above
the centre of the town and melts into the hazy air? Surely it is the
smoke of the pyre on which the martyrs have but now perished! Ridley and
Latimer--for months they have been face to face with death. Their
figures move through the streets. From Bocardo, the town prison, they
are led to separate confinement in other parts of the city. Now to St.
Mary's Church, now to the Divinity School are they taken to be
examined--a miserable farce--by those who seek to curry favour with a
bloody queen. At last the end. Was it this morning that the sheriff's
officers came to lead Ridley from the mayor's house, where he had passed
a peaceful night, and risen to write a letter on behalf of certain
tenants of his in London, that justice might be done them when he died?
There he goes in close custody, dressed in his bishop's gown and tippet,
with a velvet scull cap on his head. Behind him comes Latimer, an old,
old man in threadbare gown and leathern girdle, keeping up as well as he
can with the rest. They pass along what is now called Cornmarket Street,
and under the Bocardo gateway, where is St. Michael's Church, and as
they get close beneath the prison each casts a look upwards if he should
see Archbishop Cranmer at the window.

[Illustration: OXFORD FROM HEADINGTON HILL]

So they go on a few yards more till the city ditch is reached, which now
is Broad Street. There are the crowd, the faggots, and the stake. No
time is lost. Cheerfully they two embrace and strip themselves for
death. The chains secure them to the posts. The bags of gunpowder are
hung around their necks. They loudly commend their souls to God. Soon
comes release to the aged Latimer. The flames have leapt up to the
powder, and in a moment his sufferings are done. Not so merciful is the
end of his brother martyr. Slowly, with shocking agony, his lower limbs
are burnt away, and not till he has suffered the extremity of pain does
he at last join Latimer in Paradise. That little slender column of blue
smoke! So was the dream provoked, and the pathetic tragedy of 1555 has
passed before our eyes to-day.

The summer sun shines out, a gentle air blows off the mists, and from
afar the road to Woodstock is all lively with a gallant company. Mary is
dead. The University have sent a deputation to meet Elizabeth the Queen
at Godstow. No longer a prisoner at Woodstock, she rides gaily into
Oxford. At the northern gate she is welcomed by the mayor, and the city
bestows its gifts of plate and money. For days her scholarly mind is
entertained with public disputations, relieved at intervals by
theatrical shows. It is all brilliant and light-hearted; a weight has
been taken from the country.

Then comes a vision of such times as Oxford has never seen before or
since. The city is in turmoil. The whole countryside is alive with
troops. There is civil war. The University is for the King, the townsmen
(had they their way) are Roundheads to a man. Citizens in scant numbers,
scholars in profusion, are working at the trenches to fortify the place.
What with these trenches across from the Cherwell past Wadham and St
John's and so by St Giles' Church, to the Isis on the north, and from
Folly Bridge, through Christ Church meadows and Merton gardens (where
the remains can still be seen) to Magdalen on the south, and with the
numerous rivers and conduits which form so many natural moats on west
and east, the city soon becomes impregnable. To-day such puny efforts
would be ludicrous, but in those times of cannon balls which could
scarcely pierce a two-inch board, they more than suffice, did he for
whom the work was done but have a better heart.

In Christ Church and in New College quads there is a sound of drums and
tramping feet as the bands of pikemen and halberdiers furnished by the
students are busily at drill. Magdalen Bridge is fortified. On the great
tower hard by stones have been heaped to hurl upon a passing enemy, but
are destined to be never used.

Now there is a fresh stir. The bands of armed students march through all
the streets, finally parade the High, and disband at the Divinity
School--a demonstration to impress the townsmen and encourage the royal
guests.

Side by side with all this warlike preparation, and mingled with the
martial ring of steel and discipline of troops, Oxford presents an
aspect of frivolity unequalled except by an Eights' Week of to-day. The
Queen has her Court at Merton, and the city is full of ladies of high
degree. Their flounces and their furbelows are everywhere, and daily
they congregate in Christ Church meadows and Trinity Grove, to hold
revels displeasing to the Heads of Houses, who fear for the youth in
their charge, and a mockery to their own hearts, which are anxious
enough. Their dresses may be fine, but they themselves are lodged in
garrets, and they miss the dainty fare to which they are accustomed. And
all the while the wit and learning of the University knows little
diminution. It takes, perhaps, a lighter and more courtly tone, as it
strives to amuse and gratify the unwonted throng it entertains. War,
women, wit--all stirred together in one seat of learning! Surely never
was such a medley known!

Then from each point of vantage within our view on that hillside--nay,
from the very spot on which we lie and dream--there are continual
movements of the troops. The King brings his cavalry right here, within
a mile or two of Abingdon, waiting to do battle with Essex should he
advance from Reading. Brown leads the Roundheads now to Wolvercote, now
to Shotover, and anon to Abingdon. Down there by Sandford Ferry Essex
takes his troops across the river, skirts the city to the eastwards and
makes his camp at Islip for a while, then on across Cherwell and so to
Bletchington and Woodstock, blockading all approaches on the north. Now
one sees glitter of steel and gleam of pennon to the west, as Waller is
beat back at Newbridge on the Isis, above Eynsham. Scarcely has this
scene flitted through the brain, than from far away eastwards, hard by
Chinnor, there seems to come a shouting and a noise of horses at the
gallop, as Rupert bursts upon the enemy's convoy, and drives them into
the Chiltern Hills, himself returning with his prisoners and spoils by
way of Chalgrove, when again comes sound of battle, and he in his turn
is for a moment held at bay by Roundheads' "insolence". No matter which
way we turn our eyes, each bit of rising ground, each bridge across a
stream gives birth to some imagining of skirmish or of ambuscade in that
long civil war that waged round Oxford.

[Illustration: MARTYRS' MEMORIAL AND ST. GILES]

One dream more. Naseby has been fought and lost. Fairfax is at the gates
of Oxford, where Charles has once again sought shelter. The city might
have resisted long, but his heart has failed him. It is three o'clock on
an April morning, and dark. A little company of three--a gentleman, a
scholar, and a servant--ride out of the city over Magdalen Bridge. The
servant is the King. So comes the beginning of the end, and Oxford has
no more visions of the ill-fated Charles.

Thus dreaming an hour or two has passed away, and she still lies there
before us unexplored--beckoning us to her with every charm that delights
the eye and kindles boundless expectation. Let us, then, draw closer and
get a nearer view. Old as she is, she invites an inspection as close as
we will. The ravages of time do not in her case mar the loveliness which
each year seems to renew and to increase. Most people are conscious of
the fact that in looking back upon their past lives, especially upon the
days of their childhood, it is the sunshine that abides with them and
not the shadow. In all the memories, let us say, of a garden in which we
played as children, the days are hot and bright, the flowers always
blooming.

So it is with Oxford. Heaven knows the place is often enough shrouded in
cold, wet mist: for weeks together the streets are muddy beyond all
other streets: at the beginning of each term (save that one by courtesy
called "summer") the chemists' shops are (or used to be) filled with
rows of bottles of quinine, to enable the poor undergraduate to struggle
against a depressing climate. But who remembers all these things in
after years? The man of fifty hears Oxford mentioned, and there comes
back to him at once a place where old grey buildings throw shadows
across shaven lawns; where the young green of the chestnut makes a
brilliant splash of colour above the college garden wall; where cool
bright waters wind beneath ancient willows, and it is good to bask in
flannels in a punt. In fact it is the few days of real summer--the two
or three in each "summer" term--that he remembers in accordance with
memory's happy scheme, in which it is the fittest that survive.

It is in summer, then, that we draw near to feast our eyes more
intimately on Oxford's charms. Not first of all upon those which she
hides away within her outer cloak of beauty, but upon the garment which
she borrows from Dame Nature, and wears with such inimitable grace.
Meadows, gardens, rivers, trees: these are the materials of which the
robe is woven, and to each belong at least some names that have become
famous beyond the boundaries of Oxford.

Who has not heard of Port Meadow--the town's meadow, as the name infers?
Low it lies on the river bank to the north-west of the town. For
hundreds of years--since the time, indeed, of the _Domesday Book_--it
has belonged to the freemen of Oxford, and to-day may still be seen
their flocks of geese, white patterned on a ground of green, with here
and there a horse with tired feet ending his days where grass is soft
and plentiful. The Isis, the Upper River as here it is commonly called,
has a special beauty as it flows along the edge of Port Meadow, for
above it hang the Witham woods, and on its edge is the little hamlet of
Binsey, giving a touch of human interest and rural picturesqueness to
the scene. It is worth while to row or sail against the stream until the
whole of the meadow is passed by, for then comes Godstow, where Fair
Rosamond found refuge, and where she was at last laid to rest. It must
in all honesty be confessed that to the average undergraduate the place
was reckoned desirable, not so much on account of the historical
interest just mentioned, as because, after a long pull up the river on a
summer afternoon, it was possible to obtain at the little inn upon the
river bank what was euphemistically called "eel tea", a meal which, as a
matter of fact, consisted of stewed eels washed down by unlimited
libations of cider-cup!

Far smaller in extent, but even more famous, is the tree-girt space
called Christ Church Meadow, lying between that college and the river.
Port Meadow may be said to be a wide bright outskirt of the natural robe
of Oxford: Christ Church Meadow, with its Broad Walk and its mighty
trees, is like a fold about her feet deep-trimmed and bordered with a
silver braid. It is here that on Show Sunday, in Commemoration Week,
in June, those who hold high places in the University, with favoured
guests, and some few undergraduates, pace up and down, or used to pace
in days gone by; for it belongs to a more modern pen to say whether the
old custom still obtains, or whether it has passed away with other
things of ceremony, such as (to compare small things with great) the
custom of forty years ago, in pursuance of which an undergraduate would
now and then array himself in his most brilliant attire and saunter up
and down the High. Does the old street feel slighted, one wonders, at
the fact that it is "done" no more?

[Illustration: THE COLLEGE BARGES AND FOLLY BRIDGE]

Close by the meadow the college barges line the banks of the Isis, and
then come other meadows on either side--meadows nameless and undignified
by pageantry, but sacred to Oxford's special flower, the fritillary, and
stretching away to where Iffley stands, with its memories of J.H.
Newman, and where the old mill, beloved of painters, was burnt down a
few years ago.

One other meadow there is, smaller than either of those already
mentioned, and less beautiful in itself, though highly favoured in its
immediate surroundings. It stands within the grounds of Magdalen
College, and is bordered on either side by the divided waters of the
Cherwell, before they pass beneath Magdalen Bridge. Around this meadow
is a shady path beneath an avenue of trees, and it is this path that
attracts attention to the meadow; for it is said that it was here that
Addison loved to pace up and down, as in the early years of the
eighteenth century he thought out his essays for the _Tatler_ or
_Spectator_.

The rivers of Oxford--the Isis and the Cherwell--are so much part of her
meadow loveliness, that the one seems almost to include the others.
Where the meadows are the fairest, there the rivers gleam and sparkle in
the summer sun of memory. The Isis, stately stream, proud of the great
oarsmen she has taught, and of historic boats that she has borne; the
Cherwell, winding, secretive, alluring, willow-girt, whispering of men
and maidens, and of the dream days of ambitious youth. Each river has
its bridge. The mightier stream, as is most fitting, spanned where for
centuries the road has passed from Oxford into Berkshire; the little
Cherwell, to make up for any loss in navigable importance, crossed near
Magdalen Tower by the lovely bridge which was built over the two
branches of the stream more than two hundred years ago.

The meadows and the rivers bring to mind the trees. What and where would
be the loveliness of Oxford without her trees? Some have already been
mentioned--the stately elms of the Broad Walk, and the old gnarled
willows along the Cherwell's banks. But there are others, needing
perhaps a little looking for, but none the less an integral part of
Oxford's beauty when once found. One of these, the great cedar in the
Fellows' garden at Wadham, was wrecked in a gale not so very long ago,
and many who had been familiar with its dark-green foliage contrasting
with the soft grey of the chapel walls, feel almost as though they had
lost a friend.

Then just across the road there are the limes of Trinity, pollarded
every seven years to form the roof of an avenue, a most retired spot,
but counting for much with those who love green leaves and dappled
shade.

Of the trees of Oxford pages might be written. They are everywhere,
though not everywhere in prominence. Often enough it is just the peep,
the suggestion of hidden beauty, that is seen as we pass from one
college to another and a green bough overtops the wall. Lovers of Venice
know how delightful is the same thing here and there along a side canal,
where a treetop is reflected with a crumbling wall in the still water
below. In Oxford these overhanging boughs have no reflections, but the
patch of purple shadow on the pavement is often as valuable to the
picture. Talking of Venice brings to mind a bit of Oxford that must
often remind the wayfarer to and from the railway of the Italian city.
Not far from the old castle tower that has been already mentioned, a
branch of the river flows in a lovely curve, and has upon one side
weather-stained old brick walls, and on the other a causeway upon which
stand ancient gabled houses. These buildings and the causeway reflect in
the grey-green water of the river, and when the posts that edge the
latter are taken into account, and a figure or two lounging by the rails
are repeated in the reflections, the whole scene is not a little
reminiscent of Venice in a quiet scheme of colour.

But this has nothing to do with Oxford's trees. Before turning our
thoughts to any of her other beauties, that noble chestnut tree must be
remembered which stands in Exeter garden, and, surmounting the wall,
shades some of the Brasenose College rooms. In one of these lived Bishop
Heber, and the tree on which he looked from his window has ever since
been called by his name.

It is but natural that such thoughts as these should bring to mind the
Oxford gardens, which some have thought the very choicest jewels that
she wears. And indeed there is an indescribable charm in these old
college gardens, with their trees and their herbaceous borders, their
lawns and their high old walls--a charm which must, one fancies, have
grown gradually, so that it depends for its existence not so much upon
the actual beauty of each spot, as upon the spirit and associations
that differentiate them from all other gardens. Not that they have not
beauty of a most enchanting kind. St. John's, New College, Worcester--to
name the three that occur most readily--possess gardens of special
loveliness, and the two former of great size, that of St. John's being
five acres in extent. It is to this that one should find one's way to
see the most fascinating garden of all. The front of the buildings, with
the beautiful library windows, suggests some lovely old manor house, and
as one looks back across the lawns and through the trees the effect is
not only dignified, as is that of so many college gardens, but is full
of the peace and quiet beauty of one of England's stately homes.

[Illustration: FISHER ROW AND REMAINS OF OXFORD CASTLE]

Not a little has the modern revival of gardening, which has brought back
the old herbaceous border, added to the charm of college gardens. It has
been said with truth that the secret of a garden's beauty lies mainly in
its background. How true this is! Flowers may blaze with colour in an
open field--and who has not marvelled as he passes in the train the
seed-ground of some great horticulturist?--but seen thus they have but
little charm. In a college garden a border filled with delphiniums and
madonna lilies is backed by sombre yews, while the thick foliage of elm
or chestnut quiets harmoniously the farther distance. See how the
spires of blue--now declaring themselves for Oxford, now for
Cambridge--are twice as vivid for the contrast, and how the lilies shine
against the deep dark green, like fairest maidens round some black
panelled hall! Or see again the monthly roses, blushing at intervals
along an old grey wall: how tenderly are their hues enhanced by contrast
with the time-stained stones! Such are a part of the fascination of
Oxford gardens.

Quite unlike these, yet having an attraction of their own which many
miss, are the Botanical Gardens hard by Magdalen Bridge. Their situation
on the brink of the River Cherwell, and almost under the shadow of
Magdalen Tower, is what probably appeals most strongly to the ordinary
observer, while those who merely pass the gardens by will delight in the
gateway, the work of Inigo Jones, with its statues of Charles I and II.
Formal these gardens are of necessity, but there hangs about them a
certain feeling of antiquity. They somehow seem to take their place
among their old-world surroundings; and fitly so, for they are the
oldest gardens of their kind in the country, having been originated by
the Earl of Danby as an assistance to the study of medicine, nearly
three hundred years ago.

Across the way, at Magdalen College, exists a pleasure ground which
cannot rightly be included among Oxford's gardens, though it is
certainly one of her best-known natural adornments. This is the deer
park adjoining the New Buildings. It is almost worth while in the summer
vacation to loiter near the narrow passage leading from the cloisters,
to witness the start of surprise and to hear the sight-seers' remarks,
as they suddenly come out from the dusk and impressive gloom into a
blaze of sunlight, with gay new buildings bright with window-boxes
straight before them, and a little herd of dappled deer feeding in the
sunshine and the shadow of the park. Hundreds of years seem to roll
away: the very locality appears to change: the visitor could scarcely
look more astonished if he were suddenly transported from the Coliseum
to the gardens of the Tuileries! No wonder a tourist once remarked, as
he issued from the cloisters: "I guess, sir, I've riz from the dead!"

It is tempting on this summer day to linger where grass is green and
trees throw grateful shade; and indeed it would seem that few of all the
many pens that have set down Oxford's charms have given their due to
these her natural delights. But there is much that crowds into the mind
and urgently complains lest there be not space enough to do them honour.
What of her streets? Perhaps no other city in England--some say in the
world--can boast of streets of equal beauty.

From Magdalen gate the High Street begins its curve--a true line of
beauty. Its variety of architecture and mixture of old with new might
suggest (to those who have only read and never seen) an inharmonious
whole. But somehow this is not so. The severe front of University
neither kills nor is killed by the seventeenth-century work, with
eighteenth-century cupola and statue of George II's consort, just across
the way. The old-world shops and gabled houses contrast with the modern
buildings, which contain the new Examination Schools, or show where some
college or other has forced its way into the High. They contrast, and do
not spoil the picture. Indeed it will be a cause of much lamentation, if
more of these old houses of the citizens of Oxford should be thrust
away, and the character of the street be changed to one long series of
college buildings, losing in colour, in variety, and in antiquity, and
especially in the story that it still tells of University and city
interdependent, and seeking each the other's good. It is the glorious
Church of St. Mary the Virgin that seems to bind all the varying charms
of the street together. Standing near the centre of the High, it
dominates the whole. The stately thirteenth-century tower with its
massive buttresses is surmounted by "a splendid pyramidal group of
turrets, pinnacles, and windows", from which the spire shoots upwards.
To a trained eye this spire is a continual marvel, when seen from a
short distance away, on account of the transparency of colour which for
some unexplained reason it presents. A silver grey hardly describes it;
but _light_ clothes it with a diaphanous glory, now warm now cool in
colour, and always lovely. Facing the street is an ornate Italian porch
with twisted pillars, erected in 1637. Above the entrance is the famous
statue of the Virgin and Child which gave such offence to the Puritans.

[Illustration: THE COTTAGES, WORCESTER COLLEGE GARDENS]

What stories the place could tell! It was here that John Wycliffe
thundered against the Romanism of his day. It was here that Cranmer
recanted his recantation, and promised that the hand that wrote it
should be the first to suffer at the stake. Hither, too, were laid to
rest the remains of Amy Robsart, brought after death from Cumnor. Space
will not allow of any recital of the famous names of those who have
occupied the University pulpit herein. But memories crowd into the mind
as the rather dreary interior of the Church is pictured. Here some
thirty-six or seven years ago an undergraduate went, full of
expectation, to hear Dr. Pusey preach. The crowd was great, and he had
to stand, while for an hour and a half or so the great man poured out a
learned disquisition against the Jews! Here too, about the same time,
the youthful members of the University flocked to hear Burgon's evening
sermons--quaint and original as the man himself--in one of which, after
describing the episode of Balaam and the ass, he threw up his hands and
cried, "To think that that type of brutality should speak with the voice
of a man--it delighteth me hugely!"

One of the beauties of the streets of Oxford is that they mostly have
something admirable at either end. Thus the picture of the High Street
is finished at one end with Magdalen Tower and Bridge, and at the other
with Carfax Church, or rather, nowadays, with all that is left--a very
ancient tower--of the City Church which stood upon the site of a
building so old that coins of the date of Athelstan were found beneath
its pavement.

Then see how Broad Street, as it narrows again towards the east, gives a
fine view of the Sheldonian Theatre, where many who have helped to make
their country's history, have been honoured by the granting of degrees,
and of the Clarendon Building with its lofty pillared porch, where once
the University Press was housed. Or look at that superb approach to
Oxford from the north, a boulevard of great breadth and dignity. From
St. Giles' Church, at which the road from Woodstock and from Banbury
converge, how fine is the prospect ending as it does in the tall trees,
before the dignified front of St. John's College, and the tower of St.
Mary Magdalen's Church.

The streets of Oxford! What scenes have been enacted there! Kings and
queens have paced them between cheering crowds; town and gown have
surged and struggled up and down their length, till from the highest
point at Carfax the water was turned on from Nicholson's old conduit
just to cool their ardour. Now and again a hush has fallen on all the
city, and from St. Mary's booms a minute-bell. Shops are half-closed and
flags half-masted. Then through the silent streets winds a black-robed
procession, half a mile in length, and one of Oxford's best-known sons
is carried to his rest. Or, maybe, all is bright with pleasure-seeking
crowds and ladies decked in all their bravery, and just a glimpse is
caught of scarlet and of black, with gleam of silver mace, as the
Vice-Chancellor's procession goes to give degrees. Or, just once more, a
line of Oxford cabs--who does not know the Oxford cab?--each with
unlicensed number of undergraduate fares, goes to the sound of rattle
and of song to speed the departure from his Alma Mater's arms of one who
has outstepped the limits of her patience.

So it goes on: a varying scene of dignity and ribaldry, taking each
other's place from time to time. But most often through all the years
the streets are filled with those who, day by day, come in from all the
country round, bringing their produce, seeking what they lack, and all
oblivious of the learned life of Oxford.

But there are so many people, to whom the human interest in the fairest
city counts for more than all the rest, that it is time to wander among
the quadrangles, the halls, the chapels, and the other ancient fabrics
that speak of the university life of Oxford. As we pass in through many
a massive gateway, tread many a stone-paved path, climb many an old oak
stair worn by the feet of many generations, it is strange if no strand
of sentiment puts us in touch with some of those who have passed that
way before.

And first to Merton, oldest of university colleges. It is almost sad to
write the words, for it is hard not to feel a pang of regret that the
charming old tale, once indeed confirmed by the Court of King's Bench
itself, that King Alfred founded University College in the High Street
years before any other was suggested, is a myth. The men of "Univ" have
at least the consolation that the tradition has existed, and if, in
spite of hard facts, they cling to the romance, there will be few to
blame them. It was Walter de Merton, Chancellor of England and Bishop of
Rochester, who invented colleges as we know them, and, by founding that
one which is known by his name, did, in 1265, set the model for all
future collegiate establishments. Mr. Eric Parker in "Oxford and
Cambridge" truly says, "Walter de Merton founded more than Merton
College. His idea of a community of students working together in a
common building towards a common end, inspired by the same influence and
guided by the same traditions, was the first and the true idea of all
colleges founded since."

[Illustration: OLD CLARENDON BUILDING, BROAD STREET]

The momentous step taken by this great Bishop in thus founding an
institution on these lines for the study of Theology, is remarkable as
illustrating the spirit of revolt from the absorption by monks and
friars of all existing educational affairs. The College was strictly
limited to secular clerks, who were "sent down" if they chose to join
any of the regular Orders. The subsequent religious history of the
College has had curious vicissitudes. Wycliff was a Fellow, and Merton
stood by him in the face of the rest of Oxford. Then came a wave of
Romanism; and in the reign of Mary she could count on Merton to provide
fanatics in her cause. A Fellow of Merton presided over the burning of
Ridley and Latimer, and the Vice-Chancellor who preached on the occasion
was also a Merton man. In the middle of the seventeenth century all this
was changed, and no grimmer Puritans were found in Oxford than the men
of Merton. It seems as though the founder's spirit of religious freedom
has from time to time cropped up, with an independence and hardihood
worthy of his name.

But it was not all at once in 1265 that the College sprang into
existence. At first Walter de Merton housed the students in lodgings in
what is now called Merton Street, building a hall and kitchen to provide
for their sustenance. Then followed the chapel with its grand tower, and
lastly the buildings for the students. As one stands in the quaint
little Mob Quad (the origin of which name has apparently been lost) it
is good to realize that this is the first collegiate quadrangle known.
How far the thought takes us back! How near to the fountainhead of much
that has grown familiar--so familiar that few people, and no
undergraduates, trouble their heads about it! It is just _there_: like
the river, and the trees, and the sky it exists, but why or how it came
into existence matters nothing to them. Take for example the office of
Dean. In every college there is a Dean, to whom is committed the order
and discipline of the place. Should there be a bonfire in the quad, it
is he who comes out and frantically attempts to put it out. Should an
unlucky undergraduate oversleep himself more often in the week than
college rules allow, it is the Dean who sends for him and gates him,
that is to say, confines him within the college gates after sunset or
thereabouts. The Dean is looked upon as an "institution", not wholly
delightful but still a necessary bit of Oxford life; but very few
undergraduates are aware that one must go back to the times of Walter de
Merton to find out how he came into being. The life of a student in the
first college was planned to be lived in great simplicity. His fare was
to be of the plainest, and he was not to talk at dinner. He was never to
be noisy. The rules, indeed, went so far as to say that, if he wanted to
talk at any time, he must talk in Latin. It may be supposed that human
nature was much the same in the thirteenth century as in the twentieth,
and such a life must have proved difficult to some. In order to enforce
the rules one student in every ten was made a kind of "præfect", with
disciplinary power over the others. Hence the "decanus", and lo! the
first of all the Deans!

Merton had not existed for much more than a century when it became
possessed through the magnificence of Rede, Bishop of Chichester, of its
wonderful library, so that not only has it the oldest quadrangle, but
also the oldest mediæval library in the kingdom. There is not a room in
Oxford so impressive with a sense of antiquity. Its lancet windows, its
rough desks sticking out from the bookcases, the chains which thwart the
project of the book-thief, all help to obliterate the ages; though the
decorations of the ceiling, and the stained-glass windows, tell of the
desire of later centuries to soften the original sternness of the room.
It is here that one must wait quietly as dusk begins to fall, if one
would see faint forms of those of whom Merton boasts as her noblest
sons. To all of them is this old room familiar, and to none more so than
to Henry Savile, lover of books and warden of the College just three
hundred years ago. He it was who induced Merton to give prompt and
generous aid to that other Fellow of the College, Sir Thomas Bodley,
when founding the great library that bears his name. Surely the spirits
of these two men at least must haunt the place!

And he who wrote of Oxford's sons--Anthony Wood--is he too never here?
And Patteson and Creighton of these later days, bishops who gave their
lives, the one upon a savage shore, the other to the endless toil of the
great diocese of London. Do they not pass along, and people with their
memory the shadowy recesses of this ancient place?

[Illustration: CHRIST CHURCH]

Now let us stroll on--'tis but a step--to Christ Church. Sometimes it
seems as though this should take precedence of all other colleges. Its
chapel is Oxford's Cathedral, its quadrangles are the finest, its
founder was in some ways the most famous; and lastly (and of least
account), if one who has tried the task of "seeing Oxford" in an
afternoon is asked what he remembers best, it is ten to one that he
will say "the staircase and its ceiling leading up to Christ Church
Hall". And it _is_ of extraordinarily impressive beauty. The fan
groining of the roof, supported by just one slender column, which
springs from the foot of the staircase, is of exquisite form and
lightness. Then the wide, flat steps that turn at an acute angle, and
then lead on straight to the entrance of the Hall, form a worthy
approach to what has been described as the grandest of all mediæval
halls in the kingdom, except only that at Westminster. Let us stand
aside here for a moment and picture some of those who have ascended
these stairs in days gone by. A fanfare of trumpets sounds, and Henry
VIII goes up with ponderous step. Here too comes Queen Elizabeth,
jesting in caustic fashion with her courtiers, as she sweeps along to
witness a dramatic entertainment in the Hall. Of lesser folk there pass
by Dr. Fell ("I do not like thee, Dr. Fell"), who finished the building
of Tom Quad in 1665; and then a quiet studious-looking man, a fellow or
senior student of the College, who has nothing in his appearance to call
attention. But this is Burton, by some accounted a morose person, but by
those who knew him intimately a cheery and witty companion. Here, too,
with slow and faltering step comes Pusey in extreme old age, and Liddon
of ascetic mien. Hark to the laughter! It is Stubbs--historian
Bishop--with witty saying falling from his lips. And there is Liddell,
feared of the undergraduate, but splendid both in figure and in face.
And many another shade would fancy depict taking the old familiar way:
men of renown, but none, however royal his demeanour, however high his
literary rank, none to compare with him, Wolsey the great Cardinal, the
founder of the place.

It is worth while before we explore further to think for a few moments
about this wonderful personality, one of the most remarkable of all
Oxford's sons. At the very end of the fifteenth century he is discovered
as a Junior Fellow of Magdalen, then as Dean of Divinity, and in the
first years of the next century as Rector of Lymington. Rapidly climbing
the ecclesiastical tree, he reappears as Cardinal Archbishop of York,
and resumes his close connection with Oxford, in the guise of a great
promoter of learning, paying the salaries of lecturers out of his own
pocket and so on. But the position of a mere patron of education did not
satisfy his ambition. He determined on founding a college which should
eclipse even that of Wykeham--the already famous New College. He was a
rich man, but the vast undertaking upon which he had set his heart could
not be paid for out of the private purse of any living man. He was in
high favour with the King, and persuaded him to allow him to plunder
the monasteries, and devote the proceeds to the expenses of the great
foundation which he called Cardinal's College. Besides several small
religious houses, he, in 1522, obtained the surrender of the Priory of
St. Frideswide in Oxford itself.

Wolsey was possessed of sufficient funds to make a beginning. Clearing
away some portion of the old Church of St. Frideswide, he laid the
foundation of what afterwards became Christ Church in the summer of
1525. The work went on apace, but in a very few years there came a
serious check. Henry VIII had made up his mind to marry Ann Boleyn, and
this particular matrimonial venture had a curious influence on the
fortunes of the College. It came about in this way. To marry Ann, it was
necessary for the King to get his marriage with Catherine dissolved. The
Papacy declined to grant the decree. The ultimate result of this was
Henry's determination to free himself and his country from the power of
Rome. This in its turn resulted in Wolsey's downfall. The work of
building Cardinal's College ceased, and there was a great probability
that the beginning already made would be demolished. The King, however,
changed his mind, and in 1532 refounded and endowed it. It now received
the name of King Henry VIII's College. This title it bore for some
fourteen years, at the end of which the See of Oxford was removed from
Olney Abbey to St Frideswide's, which had already become a part of the
College. From that date the whole foundation, partly educational and
partly ecclesiastical in character, became one institution, and was then
and for ever after called Christ Church. It is an extraordinary story,
and, mixed up as it is with the rise and fall of Cardinal Wolsey, lends
a great amount of human interest to the inspection of the College.

There is nothing else at all like it in existence. Collegiate and
ecclesiastical life are inextricably mixed up. There is a Dean: but
instead of being an official appointed to keep order among the
undergraduates, he is both Head of the College and Dean of the
Cathedral. The great quadrangle is partly like the quad of another
college, in containing certain sets of rooms in the occupation of
undergraduates, and partly like a cathedral close, inasmuch as therein
is the Deanery and the residences of an archdeacon and canons. The
Cathedral itself is, though small, a dignified and beautiful building of
true cathedral character. At the same time it is the College Chapel, and
the undergraduates who daily attend its services are privileged to
worship in a magnificent fane, but at the same time must lose that sense
of what, for want of a better word, must be called the home-like charm
which endears to so many their College Chapel. The scenes, too, that
the quadrangles witness are curiously varied. Now there is a procession
of divines wending their way to some diocesan function, with bishops and
chaplains bringing up the rear, and anon a crowd of undergraduates,
smarting beneath some fancied grievance, or merely celebrating some
success upon the river, noisily express their wish to paint the college
red.

But Christ Church is not the only unique college in Oxford. As there is
no other to be found in any university so curiously combined with the
cathedral and ecclesiastical dignitaries of a see, so is there no other,
in this country at all events, that has preserved its original
intention, as a college for Fellows only, as has All Souls. Here no
noisy undergraduate is allowed to disturb the calm. There are, indeed,
four Bible Clerks who are undergraduate members and reside within its
walls, but their very name is enough to guarantee their unobtrusive
respectability--if indeed they exist in the flesh at all, for it is said
that none except the Fellows of the College have ever seen one! The
foundation is rich both in money and in fine buildings. Taking no share
in education within its own walls--having, that is to say, none of the
usual routine of college lectures and so on--it has had to justify the
retention of its wealth. This it has done to the full, for it provides a
large part of the funds for the teaching of Law in the University, and
greatly aids the study of Modern History. It also has shown itself most
liberal in supplying the wherewithal for the ever-increasing needs of
the Bodleian Library.

To most people All Souls is chiefly familiar for its entrance facing the
High Street, with porch and tower of the founder's date (1437), and for
its chapel and library. The chapel possesses in its reredos a work of
art which is one of the chief goals of the sightseer in Oxford. It
covers the entire east wall, and consists of an immense series of
niches, in which are numberless statues, surrounding a crucifixion scene
in the centre. Of its kind it is certainly the most beautiful thing in
the whole University. It was robbed of its statues and walled up in the
seventeenth century, but has been restored with wonderful success a
quarter of a century ago. The Library, called after its donor, Sir
Christopher Codrington, is singularly beautiful in decoration. It is 200
feet long, and contains every imaginable book necessary for the Student
of Law. By permitting a very wide use of this room All Souls College
gives one more evidence of its desire to further the general educational
work of Oxford.

Within the walls of a place so redolent of Law it is not strange to find
that Blackstone (he of the "Commentaries") had his rooms, but it is
remarkable to find how diverse are the professions which have been
adorned by Fellows of All Souls. Statesmen one might expect, and it
is not difficult to conjure up the form of the late Marquis of
Salisbury, stooping over a volume of Constitutional Law in the
Codrington Library. Easier, perhaps, to imagine him thus than in the
garb of a Christian warrior, as he stands in one of the niches of the
Chapel reredos. The Fellows of All Souls are supposed under their
statutes to be _splendide vestiti_, and in this respect Lord Salisbury,
who was probably never aware of what he wore, must have singularly
fallen short of the standard. But even so he would seem a more natural
personage to haunt the still quadrangles of the College than his
antagonist, Mr. Gladstone, who was an honorary Fellow of the College,
but whose impulsive, eager vivacity would harmonize ill with the spirit
of the place.

[Illustration: BRASENOSE COLLEGE AND RADCLIFFE LIBRARY ROTUNDA]

To-day it seems almost strange to find that All Souls has recruited the
ranks of great ecclesiastics, but so it is. From there came Archbishop
Sheldon, Bishops Heber and Jeremy Taylor, and many other great divines.
Even Architecture can claim a Fellowship of All Souls for one of its
greatest masters, Sir Christopher Wren.

But time presses. Oxford, all beautiful in her surroundings, great in
her history, splendid in her buildings, unique in such foundations as
have just been described, means so much more to most who have claimed
her as their Alma Mater. They have had some inkling of all these
things: especially perhaps they have imbibed, and made their lifelong
possession, a sense of her natural charms: but no matter what their
college may have been, no matter how little illustrious, historically or
architecturally, it is round the college life, the rooms, the
friendships, the homely details, that their loving memory hangs. It is
there that first they knew what independence meant: there that the
chairs and table were their very own: there that they could come and go
almost as they liked: there that they first knew the delight of
_voluntary_ work.

How it all comes back! A freshman passes the Entrance Examination just
well enough to get rooms in College--the last set vacant. They look out
upon a wall at the back of the buildings; in themselves they are small
and dark, the bedroom a mere cupboard. But they are his own. He enters
and finds a pot of marmalade and a tin of Bath Olivers on the table, put
there by the forethought of his scout. He gets his boxes open: hangs up
the school groups and the picture of his home: puts his books into the
shelves--and has made his abode complete. He waits impatiently for the
cap and gown he has ordered. The door flies open, and in rushes his
special friend, who has preceded him from Marlborough. The old threads
are picked up and knit together in a moment--and so the life begins.
There is not much variety from day to day: chapel first thing, at which
five attendances are required weekly, Sunday morning service (owing to
its length) counting as two--then breakfast, seldom altogether alone. It
is the most sociable meal of the day, which says much for the youth and
health of the breakfasters! Should it be Sunday the undergraduate may
hope (often in vain) to be asked to breakfast by some man in lodgings.
Otherwise he will be condemned to feed either upon cold
chicken--tasteless and a little dry--or upon gherkin pie, known only (by
the mercy of Providence) to certain colleges in Oxford, and consisting
of a dish of cold fat, interspersed with gherkins, and covered with lid
of heavy pastry.

Afterwards, on week days, there are lectures, then a quick change to
flannels and a hurried luncheon, and then in summertime the river or the
cricket fields. Back again he comes to cold supper and long draughts of
shandygaff in hall; then a pipe or two and a chat, and then (sometimes)
a spell of reading before bed and sleep. But all this is nearly forty
years ago:--a mere memory:--but yet it is things like these that first
come to mind when Oxford's name is heard.

And then the scout! How many memories he brings! The college servants
were a race apart with curious standards of their own. It is true they
fattened on the undergraduate. Did not the cook of a certain college
disdain to enter his son at the college for which he cooked, and send
him to Christ Church? Did not each scout bear away all that was left
upon his masters' tables in a vast basket, beneath the weight of which
he could scarcely stagger home? Quite true, but all the same how would
the freshman have fared had not his scout looked after him, seen that he
did what it behoved him to do, and kept him not seldom from some faux
pas? A senior scout had often an almost fatherly regard for the men upon
his staircase. One, who comes at once to mind, would stand and urge and
argue long enough by the bedside of some lazy youth, for whom an
interview with the Dean was imminent, persuading him to get up for
Chapel, and the same man would take it seriously to heart if any of his
particular gentlemen behaved in a manner which he considered unseemly. A
good scout attached himself to his many masters and never forgot them.
If any member of a college revisits his old haunts after years of
absence, the one man who may be depended upon to give him a warm welcome
is his old scout.

Of the tutors and fellows of the colleges, and their frequent kindness
to the junior members of their college, this is not the place to
expatiate. They are of course an intimate part of every man's college
life, and around them many happy memories will generally dwell. The
point that it is desired to emphasize is that, in looking back upon
Oxford, it is these matters that have been briefly described--the
details of the college and the college life--that are remembered with
the greatest affection.

A Trinity man will tell you of the Grinling Gibbons carvings in the
Chapel, but he thinks with greater tenderness of an old armchair in his
rooms in the garden quad. A Corpus man will take a pride in belonging to
a college that has always set before itself a high standard of learning,
and is suitably possessed of a magnificent old library, but it is of his
quaint old rooms in the little quiet quad that he dreams, when his
thoughts go back again to Oxford.

The mention of Corpus brings to mind the fact, that this is almost the
only college of those in the front rank to retain the charm of being
small both in size and in numbers. All who have in their day belonged to
a college of this kind will remember with pleasure the absence of
"sets", and the possibility of knowing every other member of the
college. Were Corpus to be revisited to-day by any of its distinguished
members of the past, such as Lord Tenterden, John Taylor Coleridge, Dr.
Arnold of Rugby, or John Keble, he would find far less change than in
almost any other college in Oxford. Till lately much the same might
have been said of Oriel, where one is brought to a pause the moment the
gate is passed by the sight of one of the most beautiful of all
quadrangles, of which the chief adornment is the charming porch of the
hall, with its canopy and wide flight of steps. But Oriel is no longer
to rank as one of the moderate-sized colleges. Enriched by Mr. Rhodes it
has pushed its way into the High Street, and a new quadrangle is
beginning already to arise. The fame of the College has been great. It
has sent out an extraordinarily large number of prominent Churchmen, and
the place is also full of memories of such men as Sir Walter Raleigh,
Gilbert White, Tom Hughes, and that great provost and scholar Dr. Monro.
It must be hoped that its increase in size, and the publicity of its
buildings, will not detract from the excellence of the College, though
it must be allowed that, by joining the ranks of the larger colleges, it
loses something of its individuality and charm.

Among those larger foundations Balliol is perhaps the best known, and in
some ways the most remarkable. It has had a curious history. Founded
almost at the same time as Merton, it is by its own members held to be
the oldest of all the colleges. But alas! the front that it presents,
though respectable enough, is quite modern, and cannot be included
among the things that help to make Oxford lovely. Then, again, for
hundreds of years it remained an obscure place with no pretensions of
any kind. Since the Mastership of Dr. Jenkyn in comparatively recent
times it has managed, by throwing open its scholarships, to attract the
finest scholars from all over the country. It can now boast a world-wide
reputation; for the Balliol scholarship is known by all to be the chief
prize offered in the University.

[Illustration: BOTANIC GARDENS AND MAGDALEN TOWER]

Balliol has had many remarkable masters, but none more so than Dr.
Benjamin Jowett, a man of such wide sympathies that he attracted to the
College an extraordinary assortment of men. Not only were distinguished
men of learning to be found there, but a good sprinkling of the scions
of the noble houses of the country, while rooms were always found for
men of every colour and nationality--Jews, Turks, infidels and heretics.
As the men so the buildings present an extraordinary mixture. The
Library and the old Dining Hall are of fifteenth-century work. The new
Hall and the principal front (already mentioned) are by
Waterhouse--mid-Victorian; while, to crown all, the Chapel was erected
by Butterfield, whose confidence in his own creations prevented him from
being influenced by the great architectural beauties of Oxford, and
caused him to have no hesitation in setting up buildings, so
incongruous with the spirit of Oxford, as Balliol Chapel and Keble
College. It is, then, for its mental, rather than its physical beauty,
that Balliol claims attention. The inevitable mention of the College has
taken up space, which might well have been bestowed upon the many lovely
bits of ancient stonework that feast the eye in quiet corners and
retired quadrangles, each going to form that inner beauty which Oxford
wears within her robe of natural adornment.

But there are more secret treasures still. It is wonderful as one
contemplates the walls, the towers, the domes, the battlements, the
spires, that mark the position of this or that famous portion of the
University city, to try to realize the wealth of treasure that is hidden
there. The foreigner who comes in August and sits upon the steps of the
Clarendon Building while he studies Baedeker from beneath the shadow of
a tilted Panama, knows most about them. Most, that is to say, excepting
always the knowledge of those to whose care they are entrusted. The
ordinary English man or woman, unconnected with Oxford, has never heard
of them. The undergraduate and the ordinary don has seen some part just
now and then, when some enthusiastic guests have had to be taken round
the sights.

And yet a book of many volumes might be written to tell of the things
both rare and exquisite that Oxford hugs most close to her breast. He
who cares to look may find them everywhere. There is not a college in
all the University that does not possess something precious, either for
its intrinsic beauty or for its historical interest. And it is not hard
to find these treasures: they are gladly shown to all who care to see;
though it might be thought, from the small general knowledge of their
existence, that they are so jealously guarded as to make it next to
impossible to gain access to them. In the Bodleian Library alone are
countless objects of the greatest beauty and interest spread out beneath
glass cases for all who will to see. Scores of illuminated manuscripts
of all nations, and of such age that it is a marvel to see the colours
still so bright and pure: historical books and documents of the most
fascinating description, such as the exercise books used by Edward VI
and Elizabeth when children: the collection of relics of Oxford's
greatest poet, Shelley,--his watch, some few autograph poems, and more
than one portrayal of his refined and rather boyish face.

Speaking of portraits brings to mind the wealth of these that in the
picture galleries, and in college halls and libraries, Oxford possesses.
Not only does she prize them for their beauty--and how great that is can
best be seen in Christ Church Hall, upon the walls of which the works
of Gainsborough, Hogarth, Lely, Reynolds and other great painters
hang--but from the story that they tell of the fame her sons have won,
and of the love they bore her, in token of which they joyfully poured
out their wealth that she might be more worthily adorned.

Of other pictures too Oxford has goodly store. Over two hundred thousand
engraved portraits are in the Hope Collection, while water-colours by
Turner, David Cox, and other masters are the gems of the Ashmolean
collection. Keble College cherishes one famous picture. In the Liddon
Memorial Chapel is hung Holman Hunt's "Light of the World".

How much the beauty of the interior of Oxford's ancient buildings is
increased by the glowing colours of the light, that finds its way
through stained-glass windows, it is hard to say. These windows are so
numerous and so beautiful that it is difficult to imagine what many a
chapel, hall, and library would be without them. They are of every date,
from ancient fragments, such as may be seen in the windows of the
Library at Trinity, to the great Sir Joshua Reynolds' window in New
College Chapel, and the still later examples of Burne-Jones' art, which
are among the chief beauties of the Cathedral; and they include such
splendid instances of old Flemish art as may be found in Lincoln College
Chapel.

[Illustration: IFFLEY MILL]

Of carved work in wood and stone there is much that is precious, though
many of the larger statues are not examples of the highest form of art.
Still there are traceries and capitals of exquisite design to be found
everywhere, and of statuary there is at least Onslow Ford's pathetic
figure of the poet Shelley to be seen at University College, beneath a
dome which does its best to mar the whole effect.

Of wood carvings the most beautiful are Grinling Gibbons' work at
Trinity and Queen's, and the most interesting the old oak altar at
Wadham, brought there from Ilminster, the home of Nicholas and Dorothy
Wadham, the founders of the College.

New College and Corpus each can boast the possession of their founder's
pastoral staff, silver gilt, and in the former case both jewelled and
enamelled; while Exeter and Magdalen prize among their chief treasures
tapestry hangings of great beauty, the former designed by Burne-Jones,
and executed by William Morris (both Hon. Fellows of the College), the
latter of considerable antiquity, having been presented to the College
by Prince Arthur, son of Henry VII. But so innumerable are the artistic
delights hidden in every corner of Oxford that it is impossible to do
more than thus suggest their existence.

And now, before it is quite time to turn away, we will out into the
sunshine once again. There is one memory of Oxford to which expression
has not yet been given. It is connected with the sparkle, the gladness,
the sunshine of the place: it is the music of the sound of Oxford--the
song, if you will, it always used to sing. To-day there is a difference.
The rumble of the tramcar, the hoot of the motor, are heard in her
streets, and since the era of much married fellows, the wail of the
infant rises from the solid phalanx of perambulators on the pavement.
But once upon a time--how long ago!--all through the summer day and
summer night there was a kind of music in the air. The whisper of the
wind that stirred the willows made soft accompaniment of the splash of
paddle in the stream: the birds sang lustily amid the gentle rustle of
the garden trees, and when the thrush retired to roost the nightingale
took up the tale. The very footfall of the men hurrying to lecture was a
pleasant sound, for then they needed not to punctuate their progress
with the sharp tang of the bicycle bell. And best of all the bells made
music morning and evening at the chapel hours. Not the despairing music
of a peal, that falls and rises only to fall again, till nervous men are
racked, but a cheerful note--just one--but different from each side;
and, amongst all, that one that each man knew to be his own and loved,
and knows it still to-day and loves it still. It is true enough that
other sounds, less musical, are heard by memory's ears. Sometimes the
nightingale would take to flight, affronted that her note was drowned by
"the shout of them that triumph, the song of them that feast", as the
College kept high revel in honour of the Eight. Even now it is possible
to hear the raucous yell of "Dra-ag", to summon those who lingered over
luncheon and kept the char-à-banc from starting for the Cowley cricket
grounds, and none who have once heard it can forget the roar mingled
with the rattles, pistol shots and bells, that draws closer and even
closer, as the Eights come racing to the Barges. Scarcely music,
perhaps, but for all that a part of the song of Oxford life.

But in all the sweetest sounds that have till now gone up from earth to
heaven Oxford has had its part. Not only have birds and meadows, trees
and rippling streams made constant music to the God who made them, but
the heart and voice of man have not unworthily joined in. What of Keble
and Clough from Oriel, singing indeed a different strain, but singing
for all that? What of Bishops Heber and Ken, from All Souls and from
New? Of Robert Browning of Balliol, and Landor Trinity's chief poet? And
lastly what of Shelley, recognized at last as singer of immortal verse?
These and a host of lesser songsters, each with his several songs,
joining with the glorious harmonies that have for so long been sent up
from Magdalen, New College, and from that ancient fane where once St.
Frideswide rested, make good the claim of Oxford as a city of sweet
song.

There is no more to say--or rather there is no space in which to say
it--and thoughts which have been revelling in Oxford's loveliness must
be turned once more to the homelier duties from which they have for a
while escaped, and he who writes must lay aside his pen all sorrowful
that on such a theme he could no better write.

And he who reads? Surely someone will say "So this is Oxford! This is
the chief of all our seats of learning, and no word of wise professors
or of lecture halls!" Just so. It is not at the lectures men learn most.
It is the spirit of the place, the friends they make, the living in an
atmosphere so fair and sweet, that counts for almost all. It must be
that, wherever they may walk in after years, their share in what has
been wrought so beautiful and hallowed by the life and work of noble
men, will tend to guide their footsteps in the higher path.





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