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Title: Oxford
Author: Thomas, Edward
Language: English
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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.

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produced from images available at The Internet Archive)



                                OXFORD

   THE ILLUSTRATIONS IN THIS VOLUME WERE ENGRAVED AND PRINTED BY THE
                    CARL HENTSCHEL COLOURTYPE, LTD.

          [Illustration: THE CLARENDON BUILDING, BROAD STREET


 It is the Roman Doric portico of the “Building” we see rising in the
centre of the picture, surmounted by a huge leaden figure, forming one
                  of the _acroteria_ of the pediment.

 This noble piece of architecture was erected from the proceeds of the
sale of copies of Lord Clarendon’s _History of the Rebellion_, completed
                               in 1713.

Looking west, on the right are some old houses, beyond which lie Trinity
                        and Balliol Colleges.]



                    OXFORD · PAINTED
                    BY JOHN FULLEYLOVE R.I.
                    DESCRIBED BY EDWARD
                    THOMAS · PUBLISHED BY
                    A. & C. BLACK · LONDON · W

                   _Published November 1903_



Prefatory Note


Most of these chapters have been filled by a brief search into my
recollections of Oxford. They aim, therefore, at recording my own
impressions as faithfully as the resultant stir of fancy would allow.
But I am also deeply and obviously indebted to several books, and in
particular to the histories of Oxford by Parker, Maxwell Lyte, and
Boase; to Mr. F. E. Robinson’s series of College Histories; to
_Reminiscences of Oxford_ and its companion volumes from the Clarendon
Press; and, above all the rest, to Anthony à Wood, and to the Rev.
Andrew Clark’s perfect editions of that writer’s _Life and Times_, and
of John Aubrey’s _Brief Lives_. The Editors of _The Daily Chronicle_,
_The Illustrated London News_, and _Crampton’s Magazine_ have kindly
given me permission to reprint a few pages from my contributions
thereto.

                                                   EDWARD THOMAS.



Contents


CHAPTER I
                                                                    PAGE

ON ENTERING OXFORD                                                     1


CHAPTER II

THE STONES OF OXFORD                                                  23


CHAPTER III

DONS ANCIENT AND MODERN                                               69


CHAPTER IV

UNDERGRADUATES OF THE PRESENT AND THE PAST                           101


CHAPTER V

COLLEGE SERVANTS OF THE PRESENT AND THE PAST                         147


CHAPTER VI

THE OXFORD DAY                                                       165


CHAPTER VII

IN A COLLEGE GARDEN                                                  207


CHAPTER VIII

OLD OXFORD DAYS                                                      219


CHAPTER IX

THE OXFORD COUNTRY                                                   245


CHAPTER X

IN PRAISE OF OXFORD                                                  255



List of Illustrations


                                   Owner of Original.

1. The Clarendon Building,       _Mr. John Fulleylove, R.I._   _Frontispiece_
     Broad Street

                                                             Facing page

2. Oxford, from the Sheldonian   _Mr. Cecil Turner, M.A._              6
     Theatre

3. Bishop Heber’s Tree           _Mr. John Fulleylove, R.I._           8

4. St. Edmund’s Hall                “          “                      12

5. The University Church of         “          “                      18
     St. Mary

6. Iffley Church from the        _Mr. J. W. Taphouse_                 20
     South-East

7. Tom Tower, Christ             _Mr. F. E. Sidney, F.S.A._           24
     Church College

8. St. Giles’s, looking towards  _Rev. George Wharton, M.A._          26
     St. Mary Magdalen
     (South)

9. Christ Church--Interior of    _Mr. J. W. Taphouse_                 28
     Latin Chapel

10. St. Peter’s-in-the-East          “       “                        30

11. University College--Private      “       “                        34
      Garden of the Master

12. Merton College and St.           “       “                        36
      Alban’s Hall

13. Oriel College        _The Royal Institute of                      38
                         Painters in Water-Colours_

14. Grove Street         _Mr. J. W. Taphouse_                         40

15. New College          _Mr. John Fulleylove, R.I._                  42

16. Interior of the                 “   “                             44
      Bodleian Library

17. Interior of the      _Sir William R. Anson, Bart.,                46
      Library, All         D.C.L., M.P._
      Souls’ College

18. The Cloisters,       _Mr. John Fulleylove, R.I._                  48
      Magdalen College

19. St. John’s College              “   “                             50

20. Magdalen Tower and              “   “                             52
      Botanic Garden

21. Magdalen Tower and              “   “                             54
      Bridge

22. All Souls’ College   _Mr. F. P. Osmaston, M.A._                   56
      and the High
      Street

23. Interior of the      _Mr. John Fulleylove, R.I._                  58
      Sheldonian
      Theatre

24. Corpus Christi                  “   “                             60
      College

25. Christ               _Mr. J. W. Taphouse_                         62
      Church--Peckwater
      Quadrangle

26. The Radcliffe        _Mr. Henry Silver_                           64
      Library, or
      Camera Bodleiana,
      from All Souls’
      College

27. Entrance Gateway of  _Mr. J. W. Taphouse_                         66
      Hertford College
      and the Radcliffe
      Library

28. Interior of the      _Mr. James Orrock, R.I._                     68
      Cathedral of
      Christ Church

29. Magdalen College,    _Mr. J. W. Taphouse_                         72
      from the Botanic
      Garden

30. The Radcliffe Library, or          _Mr. Henry Silver_             80
      Camera Bodleiana, from
      Brasenose College Quadrangle

31. Bishop King’s House                _Mr. John Fulleylove, R.I._    82

32. The Clarendon Building,            _Mr. Henry Silver_             86
      looking East

33. All Saints’ Church, from           _Dr. A. Hugh Thomson_          92
      Turl Street

34. Trinity College                    _Dr. George Garlick_           96

35. Interior of the Library of         _Mr. J. W. Taphouse_           98
      Merton College

36. Christ Church College--Tom         _Mr. Edgar J. Elgood, M.A._   104
      Quadrangle

37. Holywell Church                    _Mr. John Fulleylove, R.I._   112

38. The Bathing Sheds, or                        “    “              120
      “Parsons’ Pleasure”

39. Interior of the Hall, Magdalen     _Mr. James Orrock, R.I._      136
      College

40. A “Study” in the Bodleian          _Mr. John Fulleylove, R.I._   138
      Library

41. The Tom Quadrangle,                          “    “              156
      Christ Church, from the
      South Entrance

42. Corpus Christi College and                   “    “              158
      Merton Tower, from
      Christ Church Meadows

43. The Entrance to Queen’s            _Mr. Horace Field,            162
      College from Logic Lane                    F.R.I.B.A._

44. Exeter College Chapel, from        _Mr. J. W. Taphouse_          172
      Ship Street

45. Entrance to the Divinity           _Mr. John Fulleylove, R.I._   178
      School

46. The River Isis                                  “    “           184

47. The Sheldonian Theatre                          “    “           188
      and Old Clarendon
      Buildings

48. Jesus College                                   “    “           200

49. Fellows’ Garden, Exeter            _Mr. J. W. Taphouse_          210
      College

50. In Trinity College Gardens         _The Rev. Arthur H. Stanton,  214
                                         M.A._

51. The Fellows’ Garden, Merton        _Mr. John Fulleylove, R.I._   216
      College

52. The Library, Oriel College         _Mr. C. F. Bell, M.A._        224

53. Magdalen College Tower,            _Mr. John Fulleylove, R.I._   226
      from the Meadows

54. The Cloisters, New College         _Mr. James Orrock, R.I._      232

55. Broad Street, looking West         _Mr. Walter S. S. Tyrwhitt,   238
                                         M.A._

56. The High Street looking            _Mr. A. T. Hollingsworth_     240
      East

57. The Botanic Garden                 _Mr. Christopher Bradshaw_    242

58. Oxford, from South Hinksey         _Mr. J. W. Taphouse_          248

59. Oxford from Headington                          “    “           250
      Hill

60. The Old Ashmolean                  _Mr. John Fulleylove, R.I._   260
      Museum and Sheldonian
      Theatre


_The illustrations in this volume were engraved and printed by the
Carl Hentschel Colourtype, Ltd._



ON ENTERING OXFORD



CHAPTER I

ON ENTERING OXFORD


Passing rapidly through London, with its roar of causes that have been
won, and the suburbs, where they have no causes, and skirting the
willowy Thames,--glassy or silver, or with engrailed grey waves--and
brown ploughlands, elm-guarded, solitary, I approached Oxford. Nuneham
woods made one great shadow on the land, one great shadow on the Thames.
According to an old custom, it rained. But rain takes away nothing from
Oxford save a few nice foot passengers. It transmutes the Franciscan
habit of the city to a more Dominican cast; and if the foil of sky be
faintly lighted, the rain becomes a visible beatitude.

One by one the churches of St. Mary the Virgin and All Saints’, and the
pleasant spire of the Cathedral, appear; with the dome of the Radcliffe
Camera, Tom Tower of Christ Church, and that old bucolic tower of Robert
d’Oigli’s castle on the west. For a minute several haystacks, a
gasometer, and the engine smoke replace them. But already that one cameo
from February’s hand has painted and lit and garnished again that city
within the heart, which is Oxford. I think, when I see an old woodcut of
a patron holding his towered foundation in his hand, about to bestow it
as a gift,--as William of Wykeham is depicted, holding Winchester,--that
even so Oxford gives to us the stones of church and college, the lawns
and shrubs of gardens, and the waters of Isis, to be stored in the
chambers of the soul--“Mother of Arts!”

                              Mother of arts
    And eloquence, native to famous wits
    Or hospitable, in her sweet recess
    City or suburban, studious walks and shades.

So ran my thoughts and Milton’s verse; and possessed, as it is easy to
become in such a place, with its great beauty, thinking of its great
renown, my mind went naturally on in the channel of that same stream of
verse, while I saw the Christ Church groves, the Hinksey Hills, and the
grey Isis--

    See there the olive grove of Academe,
    Plato’s retirement, where the Attic bird
    Trills her thick-warbled notes the Summer long;
    There, flowery hill, Hymettus, with the sound
    Of bees’ industrious murmur, oft invites
    To studious musing; there Ilissus rolls
    His whispering stream.

But the dark entry to the city, on the western side, suddenly changed my
thoughts. It is well known. It is the most contemptible in Europe. It
consists of a hoarding, a brewery, and suitable appurtenances. Of more
recent date is the magnificent marmalade shop, the most conspicuous
building in Oxford. On the north and east the approach is not worse,
consisting, as it does, of sermons in brick, arranged in perfectly
successful imitation of Tooting. On the south the fields are melancholy
in apprehension of a similar fate. In short, one ignorant of the city
might believe that he was approaching the hub of the universe.

Then, the Norman tower appeared again, and the afforested castle mound
rose up. A bell, and many bells, began to sound. The present vanished in
charge of a westward-going motor car, containing three gentlemen with
cigars and a lady; and the past, softer than the cooing of doves and
more compelling than organ music, came with the twilight from the tower
of St. Michael’s church.

At sunset or at dawn the city’s place in the world, as a beautiful
thing, is clearest. Few cities look other than sad at those hours; many,
unless hid in their own smoke, look cheap. Oxford becomes part of the
magic of sunset and dawn,--is, as it were, gathered into the bosom of
the power that is abroad. Yet, if it is one with the hills and the
clouds and the silence, the human dignity of the place is also
significant. The work of the ancient architect conspires with that of
the sunset and of long, pregnant tracts of time; and I know not whether
to thank, for the beauty of the place, its genius or perhaps the
divinest series of accidents that have ever agreed to foster the
forward-looking designs of men. In the days when what is admirable in
Oxford was built, the builder made no pretence to please his neighbour.
He made what he loved. In many cases he was probably indifferent to
everything else. But the genius of the place took care; and only the
recent architects who have endeavoured to work in harmony with the place
have failed. There is a gentle and puissant harmonising influence in
Oxford which nothing can escape. I am no lover of Georgian architecture
and am often blind to the power of Wren; but in Oxford I have no such
incapacities; and I believe that here architecture should be judged, not
as Norman or classical, as the work of Wolsey or Aldrich, but as Oxford
architecture. The library at Christ Church, or any other work of the
eighteenth century, seems to me as divine a thing, though as yet it
lacks the complete unction of antiquity, as Mob Quad at Merton or
Magdalen Tower. To pass from the Norman work of St. Peter’s in the East
to the Palladianism of Peckwater quadrangle, is but to descend from one
to another of the same honourable race. If certain extremely new
edifices wear out a thousand years they will probably be worthy of
reverence at the end of that time, and be in harmony with Merton chapel
and Balliol hall at once. Nothing is so deserving, few things so
exacting, of respect, from transitory men as age. Things change, and
improvements are questioned or questionable; but, for me, age is as good
as an improvement; and Oxford honours what is old with particular
dignities and graces; under her influence the work of age is at once
blander and more swift.

But this gentle tyranny,--as of the Mother of

[Illustration: OXFORD, FROM THE SHELDONIAN THEATRE

On the extreme left of the picture shows the roof of the Schools; the
dome of the Radcliffe Library, St. Mary’s tower and spire, and Merton
tower, occupying the centre of the picture.

To the right, over part of Brasenose College, are the elm trees of the
Broad Walk. In the foreground are the pinnacles and roof of the Bodleian
Library.

The view is from the Cupola of the Sheldonian Theatre, looking south on
a stormy day.]

Christ, who, in Leonardo’s picture, unites angel and holy child and St.
John with outspread hands,--is exerted not only upon the stones, but
also upon the people of the place. A man may at Oxford rejoice in the
company of another whom it is a self-sacrifice to meet elsewhere. He
finds himself marvelling that one who was merely a gentleman in London
can be interesting in Long Wall Street or on the Cherwell. The superb,
expensive young man who thinks that there is “practically nobody in
Oxford”--the poor, soiled scholar--the exuberant, crimson-lipped
athlete, whose stride is a challenge, his voice a trumpet call--the lean
and larded æsthete, busily engaged upon the quaint designs of oriental
life,--all discover some point in common when they are seen together in
the Schools, or on the riverside.

I was never more effectually reminded of this Oxford magic than when I
heard the City Band playing opposite University one day. I was
indifferent, and for the time ignorant and incapable of knowing, whether
the music was that of Wagner or Sousa. It seemed to me the music of
Apollo, certainly of some one grander than all grand composers. And yet,
as I was informed, what I had entirely loved was from an inferior opera
which every street boy can improve.

It was another music, and yet symphonious, that I heard, when I came
again to Addison’s Walk at Magdalen. I stopped at Magdalen cloisters on
my way--

    O blessed shades! O gentle cool retreat
    From all th’ immoderate Heat
    In which the frantic World does burn and sweat!--

Let any one who has laughed at Oxford discipline, or criticised her
system of education, go there in the morning early and be abased before
the solemnity of that square lawn; and should he be left with a desire
to explain anything, let him take up his abode with the stony mysterious
beasts gathered around that lawn. I like that grass amidst the cloisters
because it is truly common. No one, I hope and believe, except a
gardener, an emblem, is permitted to walk thereon. It belongs to me and
to you and to the angels. Such an emerald in such a setting is a fit
symbol of the university, and its privy seal.

It is still unnecessary to pass an examination before entering Addison’s
walk. It is therefore unfrequented. A financier made a pretty sum one
Midsummer-day by accepting gratuities from all the strangers who came to
its furthest point--“a custom older than King Alfred.” But, although
they are not vulgarly so called, these walks are the final school of the
Platonist. It is an elucidation of the Phædo to pace therein. That
periwinkle-bordered pathway is the place of long thoughts that come home
with circling footsteps again and again. It is the home of beech and
elm, and of whatsoever that is beautiful and wise and stately dwells
among beech and elm.

More than one college history is linked with a tree. Lincoln College
reverently entreats the solitary plane

[Illustration: BISHOP HEBER’S TREE

To the left are seen the steps leading to the Radcliffe Library, over
which appears a portion of the buildings of Brasenose College, divided
by a lane from the gardens of Exeter College, in which the Bishop
planted the chestnut tree named after him.

The spire of Exeter Chapel shows to the right. The iron railings
surround the Radcliffe Library.]

tree. William of Waynfleet commanded that Magdalen College should be
built over against the oak that fell after six hundred years of life a
century ago. Sir Thomas White was “warned in a dream” to build a college
at a place where there stood a triple elm tree. Hence arose St. John’s
College. Two hundred years ago the tree was known to exist, and there is
ground for the pious belief that a scion still flourishes there.

Nowhere is green so wonderful as at Magdalen or Trinity. But their
sweetness is no more than the highest expression of the privacy of
Oxford. Turn aside at the gate that lies nearest your path; enter; and
you will find a cloister or cloistral calm, free from wolf and ass. “The
walks at these times,” said a vacation visitor, “are so much one’s
own--the tall trees of Christ’s, the groves of Magdalen! The halls
deserted, and with open doors inviting one to slip in unperceived, and
pay a devoir to some Founder, or noble or royal Benefactress (that
should have been ours) whose portrait seems to smile upon their
overlooked beadsman and to adopt me for their own. Then, to take a peep
in by the way at the butteries, and sculleries, redolent of antique
hospitality; the immense caves of kitchens, kitchen fire-places, cordial
recesses; ovens where the first pies were baked four centuries ago; and
spits which have cooked for Chaucer! Not the meanest minister among the
dishes but is hallowed to me through his imagination, and the Cook goes
forth a Manciple.” With a little effrontery and an English accent you
may enjoy the inmost bowers of the Fellows or, _Si qua est ea gloria_,
gather fruit from the espaliers of the president. The walls are
barricaded only with ivy, or wallflower, or the ivy-leaved toadflax and
its delicate bells. But the stranger never learns that the seclusion of
Oxford is perennial, and that only in the vacations may he suffer from
what the old pun calls _porta eburna_. The place is habitually almost
deserted, except by the ghosts of the dead. Returning to it, when
friends are gone, and every one is a stranger, the echoes of our
footsteps in the walls are as the voices of our dead selves; we are
among the ghosts; the past is omnipotent, even terrible. Echoes, quotes
Montaigne, are the spirits of the dead, and among these mouldering
stones we may put our own interpretation upon that. And no one that has
so returned, or that comes a reverent stranger for the first time to
Oxford, can read without deep intelligence the lines which are put into
the mouth of Lacordaire in “Ionica”:--

    Lost to the Church and deaf to me, this town
    Yet wears the reverend garniture of peace.
    Set in a land of trade, like Gideon’s fleece
    Bedewed where all is dry; the Pope may frown;
    But, if this city is the shrine of youth,
    How shall the Preacher lord of virgin souls,
    When by glad streams and laughing lawns he strolls,
    How can he bless them not? Yet in sad sooth,
    When I would love those English gownsmen, sighs
    Heave my frail breast, and weakness dims mine eyes.
    These strangers heed me not--far off in France
    Are young men not so fair, and not so cold,
    My listeners. Were they here, their greeting glance
    Might charm me to forget that I were old.

Some time ago I went into a grey quadrangle, filled with gusty light
and the crimson of creeper-leaves, tremulous or already in flight. A
tall poplar, the favourite of the months from April to October, was
pensively distributing its foliage upon the grass. There, the leaves
became invisible, because of brilliant frost, and in a high attic I
heard once again the laud or summons or complaint of bells. That was All
Saints’; that, St. Mary’s; that, the Cathedral’s; and that was their
blended after-tone, seeming to come from the sky. Each bell had its own
character or mood, sometimes constant, sometimes changing with the
weather of the night. One, for example, spoke out sullenly and ceased,
as if to return to musing that had been painfully interrupted. Another
bell seemed to take deep joy in its frequent melodious duty--like some
girl seated alone in her bower at easy toil, now and then lifting her
head, and with her embroidery upon her knee, chanting joys past and
present and yet to come. Once again I felt the mysterious pleasure of
being in an elevated Oxford chamber at night, among cloud and star,--so
that I seemed to join in the inevitable motion of the planets,--and as I
saw the sea of roofs and horned turrets and spires I knew that, although
architecture is a dead language, here at least it speaks strongly and
clearly, pompous as Latin, subtle as Greek. I used to envy the
bell-ringers on days of ancient festival or recent victory, and cannot
wonder that old Anthony à Wood should have noted the eight bells of
Merton as he came home from antiquarian walks, and would often ring
those same bells “for recreation’s sake.” When their sound is dead it
is sweet to enter that peacefullest and homeliest of churchyards, St.
Peter’s in the East, overlooked by St. Edmund’s Hall and Queen’s College
and the old city wall. There is a peace which only the thrush and
blackbird break, and even their singing is at length merely the most
easily distinguishable part of the great melody of the place. Most of
the graves are so old or so forgotten that it is easy--and in Spring it
is difficult not--to perceive a kind of dim reviving life among the
stones, where, as in some old, quiet books, the names live again a
purged and untroubled existence.

In Oxford nothing is the creation of one man or of one year. Every
college and church and garden is the work of centuries of men and time.
Many a stone reveals an octave of colour that is the composition of a
long age. The founder of a college laid his plans; in part, perhaps he
fixed them in stone. His successors continued the work, and without
haste, without contempt of the future or ignorance of the past, helped
the building to ascend unto complete beauty by means of its old and
imperfect selves. The Benedictine Gloucester House of 1283 has grown by
strange methods into the Worcester College of to-day. The Augustinian
Priory site is now occupied by Wadham. St. Alban’s Hall is no more; but
its lamp--“Stubbin’s moon”--is a light in a recess of Merton. Wolsey
drew upon the bank of old foundations for the munificence which is still
his renown. A chantry for the comfort of departed souls became a kind of
scholarship.

[Illustration: ST. EDMUND’S HALL

The picture shows the north wall of the Hall, pierced with windows
looking on to the graveyard of St. Peter’s in the East.

The confused mass of chimneys and dormer windows give a picturesque
appearance to this side of the Hall.

New College Gardens lie beyond the wall running across the picture.]

Duke Humphrey’s library was the nest from which Bodley’s august
collection overflowed; the very timber of the Bodleian was in part
Merton’s gift. No city preserves the memory and signature of so many
men. The past and the dead have here, as it were, a corporate life. They
are an influence, an authority; they create and legislate to-day.
Everything in the present might have been foretold, and in fact existed
in some latent form, in the past, as Merlin was said to have foretold
the migration of Oxford scholars from Cricklade, _i.e._ Greeklade.
Therefore, in Oxford alone, as I walk, I seem to be in the living past.
The oldest thing is not as in most places a curiosity. Since it is told
of Oxford, the story is not lightly to be discredited, that Ludovicus
Vives, who was sent as professor of rhetoric by Wolsey, was welcomed by
a swarm of bees, and that they, “to signify the incomparable sweetness
of his eloquence,” settled under the leads of his study at Corpus
Christi College, and there for a hundred and thirty years continued,
until they dispersed out of sorrow for the fallen Stuart family. When
dawn arrives to the student, after a night among books, and the towers
and spires seem to be just fresh from the acting of some stately drama;
or at nightfall, when the bells ring as he comes, joyful and tired, home
from the west,--then the city and all its component ages speak out, as
if the past were but a fine memory, richly stored and ordered.

Once, answering the call of one of those bells that are to a scholar as
a trumpet to a soldier, I found myself at a service that had in it
elements older than Oxford. I was surely at a Greek festival. The
genial, flushed, slightly grotesque faces of the College fellows
contrasted with the white children of the choir, very much as the
swarthy faun with the young god in Titian’s “Bacchus and Ariadne.” The
notes of the choristers and of the organ were moulded to finer results
by the severe decorations of the carven stone around and above. When one
sang alone, it was as it had been a dove floating to the windows and
away, away. There were parts of the music so faint and so exquisitely
blended that the twenty voices were but as the sound of a reverberating
bell. A voice of baser metal read the lesson with a melancholy dignity
that made the words at once pleasing and unintelligible. When the last
surplice had floated past the exit, the worshippers looked a little
pained and confused, as if doubting whether they had not assisted some
beautiful rash heresy. Turning into High Street, I was rudely called
back from a fantastic visit to Tempe, by the wind and rain of every day.
The usual pageant of study and pleasure was passing up and down.

Here was a smiling gentleman, red as the opening morn, with black
clothes, white tie,--one who scoffs at everything but gout. He notes in
the fragrance of his favourite dishes omens of greater import than
augurs used to read from sacrificial victims.

Here was a pale seraph, his eyes commercing with the sky. He has taken
every possible prize. Nobody but his friends can think that he is
uninteresting.

Here was a little, plain-featured, gentle ascetic, one of the “last
enchantments of the middle ages” that are to be seen still walking about
Oxford. Five hundred years ago he might have ridden, “coy as a maid,” to
Canterbury and told “the clerk of Oxford’s tale.” Now, the noises of the
world are too much for him, and he murmurs among his trees--

    How safe, methinks, and strong behind
    These trees have I encamped my mind,
    Where beauty aiming at the heart,
    Bends in some tree its useless dart,
    And where the world no certain shot
    Can make, or me it toucheth not,
    But I on it securely play,
    And gall its horsemen all the day.
    Bind me, ye woodbines in your twines.
    Curl me about, ye gadding vines,
    And oh so close your circles lace,
    That I may never leave this place!

Here was a youth not much past seventeen. In his face the _welt schmerz_
contends with the pride in his last _bon mot_. He is a wide and subtle
reader; he has contributed to the halfpenny press. He has materialised
spirits and moved objects at a distance. In the world, there is little
left for him except repose and weak tea.

Here was one that might be a monk and might equally well be St. Michael,
with flashing eyes and high white forehead that catches a light from
beyond the dawn and glows. He is a splendour among men as he walks in
the crowd of high churchmen, low churchmen, broad churchmen,
nonconformists, and men who on Sunday wear bowler hats.

Here was a shy don, married to Calliope--a brilliant companion--one who
shares a wisdom as deep and almost as witty as Montaigne’s, with a few
fellows of colleges, and ever murmuring “Codex.”

Here was one, watched over alike by the Muses and the Graces;
honey-tongued; athletic; who would rather spend a life in deciding
between the Greek and Roman ideals than in ruling Parliament and being
ruled by society. He strode like a Plantagenet. When he stood still he
was a classical Hermes.

Here was a Blue “with shy but conscious look”; and there the best of all
Vices.

Here was a youth, with gaudy tie, who believed that he was leading a
bull-dog, but showed a wise acquiescence in the intricate canine
etiquette. May his dog not cease before him.

Here was a martial creature, walking six miles an hour, pensively, in
his master’s gown. His beard, always blown over his shoulder, has been
an inspiration to generations of undergraduates, and, with his bellying
gown, gives him a resemblance to Boreas or Notus.

Probably because the able novelist has not visited Oxford, men move
about its streets more naïvely and with more expression in their faces
than anywhere else in the world. There you may do anything but carry a
walking-stick. (As I write, fashion has changed her mind, and
walking-sticks of the more flippant kinds are commonly in use.) There
are therefore more unmasked faces in half of Turl Street than in the
whole of the Strand. Almost every one appears to have a sense of part
proprietorship in the city; walks as if he were in his own garden; has
no fear lest he should be caught smiling to himself, or, as midnight
approaches, even singing loudly to himself. A don will not hesitate to
make the worst joke in a strong and cheerful voice in the bookseller’s
shop, when it is full of clever freshmen.

Yonder they go, the worldly and the unworldly, the rich and poor, high
and low, proving that Oxford is one of the most democratic places in
Europe. The lax discipline that broadens the horizon of the inexpert
stranger is probably neither unwise nor unpremeditated. It is certainly
not inconsistent with the genius of a city whose very stones may be
supposed to have acquired an educative faculty, and a sweet presence
that is not to be put by. No fool ever went up without becoming at least
a coxcomb before he came down. In no place are more influences brought
to bear upon the mind, though it is emphatically a place where a man is
expected to educate himself. A man is apt to feel on first entering
Oxford, and still more on leaving it, that the beautiful city is
unfortunate in having but mortal minds to teach. There is a keen and
sometimes pathetic sense of a great music which one cannot wholly
follow, a light unapprehended, a wisdom not realised. Yet much is to be
guessed at or privily understood, when we behold St. Mary’s spire,
marvellously attended, and crowned, when the night is one sapphire, by
Cassiopeia. And the ghosts take shape--the cowled, mitred, mail-coated,
sceptred company of founders, benefactors, master-masons, scholars,
philosophers, and the later soldiers, poets, statesmen, and wits, and
finally some one, among the rich in influence of yesterday, who embodies
for one or another of us the sweetness of the place.

For me, when the first splendour of the city in my imagination has
somewhat grown dim, I see in the midst and on high, a room, little wider
than the thickness of its walls, which were part stone, part books; for
the books fitted naturally into the room, leaving spaces only for a bust
of Plato, a portrait of Sir Thomas Browne, a decanter, and a window
commanding sky and clouds and stars above an horizon of many towers.
There, too, is a great fire; a dowager brown teapot; with a pair of
slippers,--and to get into them was no whit less magical than into the
seven-league boots. I see a chair also, where a man might sit, curled,
with the largest folio and be hidden. I guess at the face of the man
under the folio. He was a small, shrunken, elvish figure, with a smile
like the first of June often budding in a face like the last of
December. In rest, that face was grim as if carved in limestone; in
expression, like waters in Spring. His curled, ebony hair had a singular
freshness and hint of vitality that gave the lie to his frail form and
husky voice. Cut in wood, the large nose and chin, peering forward,
would have served well as the figure-head of a merry ship, and to me he
seemed indeed to travel on such a ship towards a land that no other man
desires. His talk was ever of men, fighting, ploughing, singing; and how
fair women be;

[Illustration: THE UNIVERSITY CHURCH OF ST. MARY

The podium and part of one of the Doric columns of the Canterbury Gate
of Christ Church show at the extreme left of the picture.

The lantern of the Radcliffe Library appears between the column and the
picturesque house covered with greenery, above which rises the tower and
spire of St. Mary’s, the University Church.

Between this house and a lower building--St. Mary’s Hall--runs St.
Mary’s Hall Lane, emerging into “the High” opposite the porch of St.
Mary’s Church.

The buildings on the extreme right of the picture are those belonging to
Oriel College.]

with jests and fancies that disenthroned all powers except fantasy and
adventure and mirth. Out of doors, at Yarnton or Cumnor or Tew, he
seemed near kinsman to the sun and the south wind, so that for a time we
were one with them, with a sense of mystery and of pride. And, whether
in or out of doors, he loved the night, because her hands were soft, and
he found the shadows _infernis hilares sine regibus_, as in the world of
Saturn. He would hail the morn as he saw her from a staircase window
with “Sweet cousin” and such follies; and would go into the chapel on
summer evenings without a candle to see prophet and apostle lit by the
tender beam. He wrote, and never printed, much verse. When I look at it
now, I wonder in what language it was conceived, and where the key is
hidden, and by what shores and forests to-day, men speak or dream it.
The verses seem to maturer eyes but as crude translations out of
silence. Yet in the old days we called him sometimes the Last, sometimes
the First, of the Bards, so nimble and radiant was his spirit. He seemed
one that might have written _Tamerlane_ in his youth, after a pot of
sack with Shakespeare at the “Crown” in Cornmarket Street. I know not
whether to call him immemorially old or young. He had touches of the
golden age, and as it were a tradition from the singer who was in that
ship which

     First through the Euxine seas bore all the flower of Greece.

Unlike other clever people in Oxford he was brilliant in early morning;
would rise and talk and write at dawn,--go a-maying,--sing hunting
ditties amid the snow to the leaden east and the frozen starlings, by
Marston or above Wytham and Eynsham. His laugh fell upon our ears like
an echo from long-forgotten, Arcadian existences; it was in harmony with
the songs of thrushes and the murmur of the Evenlode. Coming into his
room we expected to see a harp at his side. But where are the voices
that we heard and uttered?--

    Are they exiled out of stony breasts,
    Never to make return?

Once more is the blackbird’s fluting a mystery save that it speaks of
him, last of the Bards.

“Beautiful Mother,” he sang, to Oxford, “too old not to be sad, too
austere to look sad and to mourn! Sometimes thou art young to my eyes
because thy children are always young, and for a little while it was a
journey to youth itself to visit thee. More often, not only art thou old
and austere, but thy fresh and youthful children seem to have learned
austerity and the ways of age, for love of thee, graciously apparelling
their youth,--so that I have met old Lyly in Holywell, and Johnson at
the Little Clarendon Street bookshop, and Newman by Iffley
rose-window,--with their age taken away, by virtue of a mellower light
upon thy lawns and a mellower shade under thy towers, than other cities.
Or have I truly heard thee weep when the last revelry is quiet, and the
scholar by his lamp sees thee as thou wast and wilt be, and the
moonlight has her will with the spires and gardens?

[Illustration: IFFLEY CHURCH FROM THE SOUTH-EAST

The massive Norman tower of the Church shows to the left of the picture,
the chancel extending eastward to the right.

A yew tree--perhaps of the same age as the Church--covers part of the
building, serving to throw into relief the remains of a cross, the shaft
and base of which are ancient.]

Oh, to the sad how pleasant thy age, to the joyous how admirable thy
youth! Yet to the wise, perhaps, thou art neither young nor old, but
eternal; and not so much beautiful as Beauty herself, masked as Cybele!
And perhaps, oh sweet and wise and solemn mother, thou wilt not hear
unkindly thy latest froward courtier, or at least will let him pass
unnoticed, since one that speaks of thee,

    “Cannot dispraise without a kind of praise.”

Or will it more delight thee to be praised in a tongue that is out of
time, as thou seemest out of space and time?--

    “Vive Midae gazis et Lydo ditior auro
     Troica et Euphratea super diademata felix,
     Quem non ambigui fasces, non mobile vulgus,
     Non leges, non castra tenent, qui pectore magno
     Spemque metumque domas. Nos, vilia turba, caducis
     Deservire bonis semperque optare parati,
     Spargimur in casus. Celsa tu mentis ab arce
     Despicis errantes, humanaque gaudia rides.”



THE STONES OF OXFORD

[Illustration: TOM TOWER, CHRIST CHURCH COLLEGE

The palisade enclosing the graveyard of St. Aldate’s Church is on the
left; some of the buildings of Pembroke College appear to the right.

The gateway in the centre of the picture is the west entrance to Christ
Church from St. Aldate’s, and leads into the Fountain Quadrangle. The
tower, to the level of the finial of the ogee-headed window, is of the
date of Wolsey’s foundation; the remaining part was added by Sir
Christopher Wren.]



CHAPTER II

THE STONES OF OXFORD

    Quia lapis de pariete clamabit, et lignum,
    quod inter juncturas aedificiorum est, respondebit.


Standing at Carfax, and occasionally moving a step to one side or
another, I see with my eyes, indeed, the west front of Christ Church,
with Tom Tower; the borders of All Saints’ and St. Mary’s; and that grim
tower of St. Michael’s; and the handsome curves of High Street and St.
Aldate’s, which are part of the mere good fortune of Oxford: but,
especially if a dawn light recall the first dim shining, or a sunset
recall the grey and golden splendour of its maturity, I may also see the
past of the University unrolled again. For at Carfax I am in sight of
monuments on which is implied or recorded all its history. On the south,
above Folly Bridge, is the gravelly reach that formed the eponymous
ford; between that and Christ Church was the old south gate; and,
through Wolsey’s gateway, lies the Cathedral, speaking of St.
Frideswide, the misty, original founder,--King’s daughter, virgin,
martyr, saint,--and, with its newly revealed Norman crypt, which
perhaps held the University chest in the beginning, representative of
Oxford’s piety and generosity. On the east, in the High Street,
University College and St. Mary’s and Brasenose speak clearly, although
falsely, of King Alfred. There, by St. Peter’s in the East, was the old
east gate; and in sight of these is Merton, the fount of the collegiate
idea. On the north, in Cornmarket Street, St. Michael’s marks the place
of the north gate, and while it is one of the oldest, is by far the
oldest-looking place in Oxford, rising up always to our surprise, like a
piece of substantial night left by the dark ages, yet clothed with green
in June. On the west, the Castle tower, twin made with St. Michael’s by
the first Norman lord of Oxford, lies by the old west gate; and the
quiet, monstrous mound beyond recalls the days of King Alfred’s
daughter’s supremacy in Mercia. At Carfax itself there is still a St.
Martin’s church, a descendant of the one whose bells in the Middle Ages
and again in the seventeenth century, called the city to arms against
the University, but long ago deprived of its insolent height of tower,
because the citizens pelted the scholars therefrom.

Moved by the presence of a city whose strange beauty was partly
interpreted from these vigorous hieroglyphics, mediæval and later men,
who had the advantage of living before history was invented, framed for
it a divine or immensely ancient origin. Even kings, or such as quite
certainly existed, were deemed unworthy to be the founders. We believe
now that the first mention of Oxford was as an inconsiderable

[Illustration: ST. GILES’S, LOOKING TOWARDS ST. MARY MAGDALEN (SOUTH)

Some picturesque houses on the left lead to the entrance of St. John’s
College, seen through the trees. Farther on appears the tower of the
Church of St. Mary Magdalen in Cornmarket. The mass to the extreme right
above the cab shelter is part of the west side of St. Giles’s and the
houses surrounding the Taylor Institution and new Ashmolean Museum.

The posts and rails in the foreground enclose a grassed space in front
of St. Giles’s Church.

The time is sunset in summer.]

but progressive township in the reign of Edward the Elder, Alfred’s son:
but those old lovers attributed to Alfred the restoration of a
university that was in his time old and honoured; and some said that he
endowed three doctors of grammar, arts, and theology, there; others,
less precise than those who put the foundation of Cambridge at 4317
B.C., discovered that Oxford was founded by the Trojans who (as used to
be well known) came to Britain from their burning city. But to Oxford
the Trojans brought certain Greek philosophers, and at that early date
illustrated the universal hospitality and independence of nationality
and language that were so characteristic, before the place became a
Stuart park. And as the Athenians had in their city and its attendant
landscape all those natural beauties and utilities which make possible a
peerless academy, so also had the Britons, says Anthony à Wood, herein
agreeing with Polydore Vergil, “when by a remnant of the Grecians, that
came amongst them, they or their successors selected such a place in
Britain to plant a school or schools therein, which for its pleasant
situation was afterwards called _Bellositum_ or _Bellosite_, now
Oxford.” Among these generous suppositions or dreams was the story that
Apollo, at the downfall of the Olympians, flying now to Rome and now to
Athens, found at last something congenial in the brown oak woods and
silver waters of Oxford, and a bride in the puissant nymph of Isis; on
which favoured site, as was fitting, there afterwards arose a place,
with the learning and architectural beauty of Athens, the divine
inspiration of Delphi, and the natural loveliness of Delos....

There is, said Anthony à Wood, “an old tradition that goeth from father
to son of our inhabitants, which much derogateth from the antiquity of
this city--and that is: When Frideswyde had bin soe long absent from
hence, she came from Binsey (triumphing with her virginity) into the
city mounted on a milk-white ox betokening innocency; and as she rode
along the streets, she would forsooth be still speaking to her ox, ‘Ox
forth,’ ‘Ox forth’ or (as ’tis related) ‘_bos perge_’ (that is, ‘ox goe
on,’ or ‘ox (goe on) forth’)--and hence they indiscreetly say that our
city was from thence called Oxforth or Oxford.”

But there has never been composed a quite appropriately magnificent
legend that could be received by the faithful as the canonical fiction
for Oxford, as the _Aeneid_ is for Rome; and now there can never be.

There is, however, still a pleasant haze (that might encourage a poet or
a herald) suspended over the early history of Oxford. It is unlikely
that the place was of importance in Roman times; later, its position on
a river and a boundary brought it many sufferings at the hands of Dane
and Saxon. But no one need fear to believe that, early in the eighth
century, Didan, an under king, and his daughter Frideswide established
there a nunnery and built a church of stone, now perhaps mingled with
the later masonry. It was rebuilt by Ethelred in the eleventh century
with a quite exceptional fineness in the Saxon workmanship; and was
girdled by the churches

[Illustration: CHRIST CHURCH--INTERIOR OF LATIN CHAPEL

The Shrine of St. Frideswide appears in the middle of the picture,
standing in one of the eastern bays of the north wall of the choir. The
north side of the Shrine is seen, together with the ancient wooden
watching-chamber above.

A tomb shows between the column and the seventeenth-century reading-desk
at the right of the picture, also a glimpse of the choir.

The carved oak stall front immediately under the Shrine is probably of
the time of Wolsey, and part of the furniture of his choir.

To the left is the east window of the Chapel--filled with stained glass
representing scenes in the life of St. Frideswide, designed by Sir
Edward Burne-Jones, Bart., and executed by Mr. William Morris.

The two figures represent a visitor to the shrine of the saint and a
verger.]

of St. Martin, St. George, St. Mary Magdalen, St. Mary the Virgin, St.
Ebbe, St. Michael, and St. Peter in the East; and the last two, to one
who had stood at Carfax in 1100, would still be recognised, if he
visited the shadowed doorway and stern crypt of the one, and the tower
of the other, though he might look in vain for what he knew in “The
Seven Deadly Sins lane” and elsewhere.

Whatever learning then flourished in the city is now to be found in its
architecture, in Prior Philip’s book on the miracles of St. Frideswide,
and in the inestimable atmosphere of the place. We can guess that there
was much that is worthy to be known, from the eloquent monkish figures
of the corbels in Christ Church chapter-house; and can wistfully think
of the wisdom that was uttered in Beaumont, the royal palace and learned
resort, whose gardens lay at Broken Hays and near Worcester College; and
in Osney Abbey, whose bells--Hautclere, Douce, Clement, Austin, Marie,
Gabriel et John--made music that was known to the Eynsham abbot on May
evenings, when it was a rich, calm retreat, and not as now, a shadowy
outline and a sorrowful heap of stones beyond the railway station. More
than the ghost of the abbey survives in the sketch of its ruined but
still noble walls, in the background of that picture of its last abbot,
in a window of the south choir aisle at Christ Church.

Before the Conquest Oxford had been visited by parliaments and kings; it
now began to be honoured by learning and art. _Olim truncus eram....
maluit esse deum._ It had often been violated or burned; in Doomsday
Book it appears as a half desolate city, despite the churches; but it
had already begun, though again checked by fire that flew among the
wooden houses with such ghastly ease, to assume the proportions and the
grace which were fostered by William of Wykeham and a hundred of the
great unknown, and in the last few years by Aldrich and Wren and
Jones,--crowned by the munificence of Radcliffe,--illuminated with green
and white and gold and purple by the unremembered and by Reynolds,
Morris, and Burne-Jones. The Saxon work at St. Frideswide’s was
superseded or veiled by the Norman architects; the fine old pillars were
in part altered or replaced; and the relics of the Saint herself were
transferred ceremoniously and “with all the sweet odours and spices
imaginable,” to a more imposing place of rest. Upon the base of the old
fortifications probably now rose the bastions of the mediæval city wall,
once so formidable but now defensive only against time, and unable any
longer to make history, but only poetry, as they stand peacefully and
muffled with herbage in New College Gardens, or at Merton or Pembroke,
or by the churchyard of St. Peter’s in the East.

The history of that age in Oxford is indistinct, and recorded events
therein have a suddenness, for modern readers, which is vivid and
fascinating, but to the historian at least, painful and false. And so
the birth of the University, in the midst of darkness and noise, is to
us to-day a melodious sudden cry. It is as if a voice,

[Illustration: ST. PETER’S-IN-THE-EAST

To the extreme right of the picture, through a huge buttress on the
south side of the chancel, is pierced the doorway to the twelfth-century
crypt, extending some 36 feet under the chancel of the Church.

To the west of this buttress, in the angle formed by another buttress,
appear the remains of a Norman arcading, broken through for the
insertion of the early fifteenth-century window. The windows of the nave
showing in the picture are also of this date, as is the south porch.

It will be noted that this porch has a room over it--probably the
lodgings of a priest. Across the graveyard and Queen’s Lane to the west
are the buildings of Queen’s College; to the immediate left of the yew
tree in the centre of the picture shows the east end of the Chapel; more
to the north the dome of the campanile appears.

To the extreme left of the graveyard shows a portion of the ivy-covered
north wall of St. Edmund’s Hall (see other picture).]

unexpectedly arose, calling--and the words are said to have been used by
two poor Irish students in an ignorant and worldly land--“Here is wisdom
for sale! Come, buy!” We know that famous lecturers from the continental
universities came; but not with what eloquence and applause they spoke.
It may confidently be surmised that there was something sweet to learned
minds in the air or tradition of the place. The walls are fallen or
forgotten that heard the prelusive lectures of Pullein and Vacarius; and
the brilliant Franciscan house in St. Benedict’s is chiefly known by its
influence in the founding of Balliol, and by the greatest schoolmen, its
alumni. But if we go to the grey domestic little lodgings, with “arms
and rebusses that are depicted and cut in stone over each door,”
vestiges of a Benedictine scholastic house, at Worcester College, we may
fancifully pierce beyond John Giffard’s foundation and the preceding
Carmelites, to the earliest lovers of learning who loved Oxford too. At
St. Mary’s the work of the fancy is easier and more sure. There the
University books, and there a money chest, reposed. There were the
highest deliberations and ceremonies. There a man was graduated, and
from its porch he passed out a clerk of Oxford.

If the University was early associated with a place of holiness and
beauty, still more firmly was it rooted in a becoming poverty. It had
neither a roof nor a certain purse. For years it had not a name. The
University was in fact but a spirit of wisdom and grace; men had heard
of it and sought it; and where one or two were gathered together to
take advantage of it, there was her school and her only endowment. Now
and then to such a group came in a legacy of books or gold. But that was
a crop for which no one sowed, and before it was possible, it had been
rumoured that there was something in Oxford not visible, yet very
present and necessary; and scholars came with as great zeal as was ever
cherished by reports of gold. They brought what in their devotion they
came to seek. Thus Gerald of Wales came, and for three days read aloud
his glorious book to large audiences. Every day was marked by sumptuous
and generous feasts. It was, indeed, “a costly and noble act,” as he
says himself, “for the authentic and ancient times of the poets were
thus in some measure renewed.” Carmelites, Dominicans, and Franciscans,
and vivid men from the University of Paris, came to teach. Even then,
the University quarrelled with the town over the price of victuals and
rooms, and invaded the extortionate Jew. There, about the streets,
walked the magnificent Franciscans, Roger Bacon and Grosseteste, and the
pure and gracious and learned St. Thomas Cantelupe.

Early in the nineteenth century there was a Chancellor set over the
scholars by the Bishop of Lincoln, in whose diocese Oxford lay. Very
soon the Chancellor was elected by the University; and the Masters in
congregation could legislate, and sometimes did, although questions were
often effectually decided by a popular vote among the students,--who
also themselves chose by vote the heads of their hostels or halls. For
there were, at an early date, houses already associated with learning,
and governed either by a common landlord or by a scholar of some
standing and age. There a man might read, and comfort himself according
to his means, and finally at night stamp up and down a passage, to warm
his feet, before going to sleep in a crowded bed-chamber. On any day
there was a chance that some splendid man, coming a little in the rear
of his fame, would arrive in Oxford, and lecture or read a book. Should
kings, or priests, or rude citizens interfere, the scholar could
rusticate voluntarily--as he sometimes did--at Stamford, or Reading, or
Maidstone, or Cambridge, and there, as best he might, by study and
self-denial, as by a sacrament, recreate the University. The City, and
until our own time the Crown, had to pay in round sums for such an
insult as the hanging of several scholars; the money lined the bottom of
St. Frideswide’s chest. A man with no possessions but the leaf of a
manuscript, or a dagger, or a cloak, left it with the keepers of the
chest as security for a loan, whether he were Welsh, or Hungarian, or
Italian, or French.

An Englishman, William of Durham, who had enjoyed the University
hospitality at Paris, first kindled the flame which was to be kept
burning by so many afterwards, as a _focus perennis_ for the homeless
student. He left Paris after a town-and-gown quarrel, along with many
French students, whom Henry III. welcomed to Oxford in 1229. William
went to Rome, before returning to England, and remembered Oxford when he
lay dying at Rouen--perchance reminded there of the city which until
fifty years ago was equal with it in ancient beauty, and has been
clouded in the same way. He left in his will a sum of money to the
University. It was employed in making more steadfast abodes for Oxford
students; at a house, for example, that stood on the site of the
bookseller’s shop opposite University College lodge. This act is counted
the foundation of University College, with its original four masters,
who shall be thought “most fit to advance or profit in the Holy Church
and who have not to live handsomely without it in the state of Masters
of Arts.”

There had previously been similar Halls, and many were afterwards
founded,--Hawk Hall, Perilous Hall, Elm Hall, Winton Hall, Beef Hall,
Greek Hall, Segrim Hall; in fact so large a number that half the Oxford
inns are or were perversions of the old Halls; and even tradesmen who
are not innkeepers now make their rich accounts among the ghosts of
forgotten principals. These had not in them the necessary statutes and
“great bases for eternity” which a college deserves. But henceforward
there were some fortunate students who might indeed have to sing or make
Latin verses in order to earn a bed, or a crust and a pot of ale, while
making their way to or from Oxford; but, once there, they were sure of
such a home as no other place, unless, perhaps, the place of their
nativity, could give.

“It is all,” says Newman, speaking of a college, “and does all that is
implied in the name of home. Youths, who have left the maternal roof,
and travelled some hundred miles for the acquisition of knowledge, find
an

[Illustration: UNIVERSITY COLLEGE--PRIVATE GARDEN OF THE MASTER

The building to the left is the east end of the College Chapel, the
entrance tower being seen over the dividing wall almost in the centre of
the picture.

A bay window to the extreme right of the picture, looking over the
garden, is part of the Master’s Lodging.]

_altera Troja_ and _simulata Pergama_ at the end of their journey and
their place of temporary sojourn. Home is for the youth, who knows
nothing of the world, and who would be forlorn and sad, if thrown upon
it. It is the refuge of helpless boyhood, which would be famished and
pine away if it were not maintained by others. It is the providential
shelter of the weak and inexperienced who have still to learn how to
cope with the temptations which lie outside of it. It is the place of
training for those who are not only ignorant, but have not yet learned
how to learn, and who have to be taught, by careful individual trial,
how to set about profiting by the lessons of a teacher. And it is the
school of elementary studies, not of advanced; for such studies alone
can boys at best apprehend and master. Moreover, it is the shrine of our
best affections, the bosom of our fondest recollections, a spell upon
our after life, a stay for world-weary mind and soul, wherever we are
cast, till the end comes. Such are the attributes or offices of home,
and like to these in one or other sense and measure, are the attributes
and offices of a College in a University.”

In the unconscious preparation for such a place William of Durham was
the first to leave money; the founders of Balliol the first to gather a
number of scholars under one roof, with a corporate life, and as we may
assume, a set of customary, unwritten laws; but Walter de Merton was the
first to endow and provide with tenements and statutes a college, in all
important respects, like a college of to-day,--a place even at that time
standing in a genial avuncular relationship towards the students, which
was rich in influence and the making of endearing tradition. Perhaps the
Merton treasury, still conspicuous for its steep roof and burliness, was
part of the founder’s gift; and no building could have been a fitter
nest of an idea which was for so long to make little of time. The Hall
retains some features of the same date. Almost at once the chapel began
to rise, and its light was coloured by the topmost glass just as it is
to-day. In fact, Merton with its older little sister foundation of St.
Alban Hall was, until the _annus mirabilis_ of Mr. Butterfield, in
itself a symbol of the origin and growth of Oxford as a collegiate
university and as a place of beauty.

The royal Dervorguilla was the godmother of the kindly college life of
to-day. She was the wife of the founder of Balliol, and was often in
Oxford, with her honoured Franciscan, Richard of Slikeburne, to look
after her sixteen scholars at Old Balliol Hall, in Horsemonger Street,
now Broad Street. Close by, at the Church of St. Mary Magdalen, she
devised an oratory for the Balliol men. They chose their own Principal,
who presided at disputations and meals. They had breakfast and supper
together, and the more comfortable of them paid anything in excess of
their allowance which the expenses of the common table might demand. One
poor scholar lived on the crumbs. Thus were men less often compelled to
borrow from the Jews at 60 per cent on the security of their books.

While Balliol was so progressing, and University College had its
statutes, and Merton already had its Hall,

[Illustration: MERTON COLLEGE AND ST. ALBAN’S HALL

The entrance Quadrangle of the College is shown in the picture, to the
right of which is the Warden’s residence.

The building farther to the right is the Library, the steps of which
show in the immediate foreground.

St. Alban’s Hall, recently attached to Merton College, appears over the
north-east corner of the Quadrangle.]

the spire of the church of St. Mary the Virgin first rose against the
sky. Then also the ashes of St. Frideswide were promoted to a new and
more precious place of rest. The sculptor at work upon the shrine had
evidently at his side the leaves of maple and crowfoot and columbine,
ivy and sycamore and oak, hawthorn and bryony, from the neighbouring
woods, where the saint had lain in hiding or ministered to the
calamities of the poor; and perhaps the season was late autumn, for
among the oak leaves are acorns, and some of the cups are empty. All
these things he carved on the base of the shrine.

It was of this period that the story was told that two barefooted,
hungry travellers from the west were approaching Oxford, and had come in
sight of it near Cumnor, when they found a beautiful woman seated by the
wayside. So beautiful was she that they knelt at her feet, “being simple
men.” _Salve Regina!_ they cried. Then, she bending forward and
speaking, they were first surprised that she should speak to them; and
next ventured to speak to her, and ask her name. Whereat she “raised her
small golden head so that in the sun her hair seemed to flow and flow
continually down,” and looked towards Oxford. There two spires and two
towers could just be seen betwixt the oak trees. “My name,” she said,
“is known to all men save you. It is Pulchritudo. And that,” as she
pointed to the shining stones of the city, “is my home.” Those two were
silent, between amazement and joy, until one said “It is our Lady!” and
the other “Lo! it is Venus, and she sits upon many waters yonder.”
Hardly had they resumed their ordinary pace when they found an old man,
seated by the wayside, very white and yet “very pleasant and alluring to
behold.” So to him also the simple wayfarers knelt down. Then that old
man bent forward and spoke to them with golden words, and only the one
who had called the beautiful woman “Venus” dared to speak. He it was
that questioned the old man about the woman and about himself. “My name
is Sapientia,” he said, and “that is my home,” he continued, and looked
towards Oxford, where two spires and two towers could just be seen
betwixt the oak trees. “And,” he concluded solemnly, “that woman is my
mother and she grows not old.” The men went their way, one saying, “It
is a place of lies”; the other saying, “It is wonderful”; and when they
looked back the old man and the beautiful woman had vanished. In the
city they were often seen, but the two strangers could not speak with
them, “for they were greatest in the city of Oxford. Some said that he
was an Austin friar and she a light woman; but they are not to be
believed.” And when they had dwelt in Oxford a short time and had seen
“what store of pious and learned and illuminated books were in the
Halls, and what costly and fine things in its churches and Convents,”
the one said, “I believe that what Sapientia and Pulchritudo said was
the truth”; and the other said, “Truly, the city is worthy of them
both”; wherefore they dwelt there until their deaths, and found it “the
most loving and lovely city” in Christendom.

[Illustration: ORIEL COLLEGE

The Hall and Chapel stretch across the picture, in the centre of which
appears the porch. The three niches contain figures of the Virgin and
Child and Edward II. and III. under canopies.

The tower of Merton College shows above the roof of the Chapel. This,
with the louvres and ogee gables, forms a picturesque sky-line.]

Dervorguilla and Walter de Merton had thus made the University a father
and a mother to the scholar. For a time, indeed, the principals had
often to transfer their _penates_; the founder’s inheritors lived in
scattered tenements which they changed from necessity or choice, now and
then; yet they had the imperishable sentiment of home, and for some
years they had little more, except in a small degree at Merton and
Queen’s, since the colleges neither demanded nor provided that the
scholars should study according to rule.

Under Edward II. Exeter College was founded, and linked from the
beginning with the west country, by the simultaneous co-foundation of a
school, and the rule that all the scholars should thence be drawn.
Decent poverty and love of learning were the other qualifications of a
scholar. Then followed Oriel, with Edward II. as its founder, the
advowson of the Church of St. Mary the Virgin as part of its support,
and its name derived from the Hall of La Oriole, which it received
early, and soon afterwards occupied. Its library was the first college
library; but the acquirement was technically defective, and the Fellows
of Oriel could not resist the students who broke in and carried away the
books. Fellows and admirers repaired the loss.

Philippa, Queen of Edward III., was joined with her chaplain in the
foundation of Queen’s College “for the cultivation of Theology, to the
glory of God, the advance of the Church, and the salvation of souls.” A
little subtlety on the part of the founder and sentiment on the part of
the queens, enabled the college to exchange compliments with Anne of
Bohemia, Henrietta Maria, Charlotte and Adelaide. The founder was a
Cumberland man, and his college attracted a neighbour or a man who spoke
with his accent or had the same traditions to become one of the fellows,
equal in number with Christ and His apostles. Before and after the
beginning of colleges, men from the same district made a small “new
Scotland” or “new France” in Oxford streets. Thus the scholars of St.
George’s and Oriel were for some time largely Welsh; at Balliol and
University College there were many northerners. At all times these
divisions were emphasised by conflicts with tongue and arrow and sword.
Scholars overlooked their Aristotle at bloody arguments in Grove Street
and Cornmarket, between North and South, Irish and Welsh and Scotch, in
combinations that varied unaccountably or according to the politics of
the day. You might know a scholar, as an ancient tinker remarked the
other day, remembering the boxing booths of his youth, by the way he
fought. The election of a chancellor, or a church wake, and an exchange
of lusty oaths between men of two parties were the occasion. In later
years Realists and Nominalists,--Orthodox and Wycliffites,--now and then
reduced their disagreement to simple terms. Nor were the citizens with
difficulty persuaded to take or make a side in the disputes, whether
they encountered the scholars at inns, or as they stood on
market-days,--the sellers of hay and faggots and hogs, stretching in
their regular places from the East gate, in front of St. Mary’s and All
Saints’, to Carfax and the

[Illustration: GROVE STREET

     This narrow street runs from the High Street opposite St. Mary’s
     Church alongside St. Mary’s Hall and Oriel College, emerging near
     to Merton, part of the tower of which College appears.

     It contains some picturesque half-timbered buildings, some of which
     are shown in the picture.
]

Cross Inn. Once, a northern chaplain, “with other malefactors,”
embattled themselves and sought out the Welshmen with bent bows, crying
to the “Welsh dogs and their whelps” that an Owen or a Meredydd who
looked out at his door was a dead man. The Welshmen were driven out of
the city with ignominy and blood. The Northeners robbed and murdered
indiscriminately, and destroyed not only books but harps, until, finding
an ale-house, they were incontinently appeased. On another occasion some
townsmen burst in, on a Sunday, upon a few scholars, wounding and
despoiling them. The scholars spread their story and collected friends.
The townsmen responded to the sound of horns and St. Martin’s bell.
Countrymen from Hinksey and Headington came to the help of the
unlearned. The air whistled and hummed with the flight of arrows and
stones; the streets were crimsoned. But the reverend gentleman who led
the learned was untimely shot down, and his cause evaporated. Some
scholars fled to the country, some to sanctuary, and were comforted by
the excommunication and fining of their opponents. After a similar fight
the University was allowed that exemption from the city courts which it
still enjoys. In fact, the disturbances earned very cheaply for the
University concessions which put the citizens at a disadvantage, and
emphasised distinctions, so as to cause other disturbances in turn.
Henry V., himself a Queen’s College man, at last interfered with an
order that scholars would only be treated as such if they were under the
rule of an approved head. It was an attempt to banish the wild errant
scholars, often Irishmen, and to make a common type of Chaucer’s Clerk
of Oxenford, who had been to Padua and knew Petrarch’s verse. He was one
who, even in his devotion to books, did not forget the souls of his
benefactors, for which he was, in the first instance, endowed to pray--

    And he was not right fat, I undertake,
    But looked holwe, and therto sobrely;
    Ful thredbare was his overeste courtepy;
    For he hadde geten hym yet no benefice,
    Ne was so worldly for to have office;
    For hym was levere have at his beddes heed
    Twenty bookes clad in black or reed
    Of Aristotle and his philosophic,
    Than robës riche, or fithele, or gay sautrie;
    But al be that he was a philosophre,
    Yet hadde he but litel gold in cofre;
    But al that he myghte of his freendes hente
    On bookes and his lernynge he it spent,
    And bisily gan for the soules preye
    Of him that yaf hym wherewith to scoleye.
    Of studie tooke he moost cure and moost heede,
    Noght o word spake he moore than was neede,
    And that was seyd in forme and reverence,
    And short and quyk and ful of hy sentence.
    Sounynge in moral vertu was his speche,
    And gladly wolde he lerne and gladly teche.

But William of Wykeham, before that time, had given to New College a
code of ornate and intricate rules for morals and manners, which became
a legacy to the University at large; and in the first place checked the
savage liberties of scholars; in the second, helped to make learning
more “humane,” to make the “Arts” the “humanities.” He built a chapel
for the exclusive use of the scholars of his foundation. That in
itself

[Illustration: NEW COLLEGE

     William of Wykeham (1404) built the noble tower which stands free
     to the extreme right of the picture. A portion of the chapel is
     seen to the left of the tower, and forms, with it and the trees, a
     noble group.

     The new retaining walls in the foreground are part of a recent
     addition to the College.
]

was an inestimable addition to the golden chain by which Oxford holds
the memories of men. To the chapel they were to go every day, and there
to say their _Paters_ and _Aves_. Its Latin--the fittest language to be
uttered amidst old architecture--and its coloured windows alone are not
to-day as they were in Wykeham’s time. He built the bell-tower and the
cloisters, and so gave to generations a pleasant vision, and--when
dreams are on the wing--a starting-place or an eyrie for dreams. He
built also a kitchen, a brewery, and a bakehouse. He stocked both a
garden and a library for college use. Long before the “first tutor of
the first college of the first University of the world” entered Oxford
with post horses to assert his position, the Warden of New College had
the use of six horses. He wore an ermine amice in chapel. He had his own
palace apart. But the humblest member of the foundation had been as
minutely provided for by Wykeham’s code. Above all, the scholar was not
to be left to himself in his studies, but to the care of an appointed
tutor. And in 1387 the new college proceeded to William of Wykeham’s
quadrangle, with singing and pomp. It was the first home of scholars in
Oxford, which was completely and specially fashioned for their use
alone, to be

    A place of friends! a place of books!
    A place of good things olden!

In the next century the ideas of Walter de Merton and Dervorguilla and
William of Wykeham were borrowed and developed by loving founders,
architects, and benefactors. The building of Lincoln College, next
founded, was begun as soon as its charter was received; a chapel and a
library, a hall and a kitchen, and chambers on three storys, finely and
nobly built, were a matter of course. In the same way, All Souls’ front
quadrangle, practically as we see it to-day, was built at once by
Archbishop Chichele, the founder; and at Magdalen, which was next
founded, the tower began to rise on the extreme east of the city, to
salute the rising sun with its pinnacles, and on May morning, with a
song of choristers.

For Oxford, the fifteenth century was an age of libraries and books.
Looking back upon it, Duke Humphrey of Gloucester seems its patron
saint,--donor of books to the Benedictines who lived on the site of
Worcester College, and to the University,--harbinger of the Bodleian. We
can still catch the savour of the old libraries at Merton where the
light coloured by painted glass used to inlay the gloom under the wooden
roof, or behind the quiet latticed windows above the cloisters at Christ
Church. “What pleasantness of teaching there is in books, how easy, how
secret,” says Richard de Bury, Bishop of Durham, an old Oxford man, and
the giver of the first library to Oxford. “They are masters who instruct
us without rod or ferule, without angry words, without clothes or money.
If you come to them, they are not asleep; if you ask and inquire of
them, they do not withdraw themselves; they do not chide if you make
mistakes; they do not laugh at you if you are ignorant. O

[Illustration: INTERIOR OF THE BODLEIAN LIBRARY

     The portion of the Library shown in the picture is a storey built
     above the Divinity School by Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, son of
     Henry IV., and the spectator is looking east towards the wing added
     by Sir Thomas Bodley at the close of the sixteenth century.

     Books cover every available inch of wall space, but the trusses of
     the old timbered roof are visible, as are also the more modern
     galleries, supported by wooden columns. These are for obtaining
     access to books placed high in the Library. The strands of light
     which bar the centre aisle are from the south windows of the
     building, overlooking the Fellows’ Garden of Exeter College. The
     windows also serve to light the “studies,” the latticed and
     balustered doors of which may be seen standing open at intervals
     (see illustration of one of these “studies”).

     The cases in the immediate foreground are used for modern books.
]

books, who alone are liberal and free, who give to all who ask of you
and enfranchise all who serve you faithfully! by how many types ye are
commended to learned men in the Scriptures given us by the inspiration
of God!... Ye are the wells of living waters, which father Abraham first
digged, Isaac digged again, and which the Philistines strive to fill
up!...” Bury was a friend of Petrarch and Bradwardine, a Chancellor and
Treasurer of England, and his love of books became so famous that he was
reported “to burn with such a desire for books and especially old ones
that it was more easy for any man to gain our favour by means of books
than of money. The aumbries of the most famous monasteries were thrown
open, cases were unlocked and caskets were undone, and volumes that had
slumbered through long ages in their tombs wake up and are astonished.”
The great discoverer’s pleasure at the university of Paris corresponds
to that of visitors to Oxford in later years. “There,” he says, “are
delightful libraries, more aromatic than stores of spicery; there are
luxuriant parks of all manner of volumes; there are Academic meads
shaken by the tramp of scholars; there are lounges of Athens; walks of
the Peripatetics; peaks of Parnassus; and porches of the Stoics. There
is seen the surveyor of all Arts and Sciences, Aristotle, to whom
belongs all that is most excellent in doctrine, so far as relates to
this passing sublunary world; there Ptolemy measures epicycles and
eccentric apogees and the nodes of the planets by figures and numbers;
there Paul reveals the mysteries.” And to complete the resemblance of
Oxford to such a place, he gave all his books to “our hall at Oxford,”
where the masters and scholars were to pray for his soul. The fate of
his collection may have been worthy, but is mysterious. It is said to
have been divided, and part of it perhaps went to Balliol. It could have
found no more honourable abode than the Balliol library. From the
beginning gifts of books had come in, but chiefly what was even then
old-fashioned, until the middle of the fifteenth century. It was the
period when Guarino at Ferrara was an inspiration to Europe. Robert
Fleming was one of his pupils, and sent beautiful manuscripts to Lincoln
College library; and at Lincoln books flowed in before cash. Three
others of Guarino’s pupils were Balliol men: Gray, Bishop of Ely and
Chancellor of the University, whose books were collected with Guarino’s
help, and passed, the finest of their day, to Balliol at his death;
Free, public reader of physic at Ferrara, a great benefactor of
libraries, and a historian of trees and plants; and Tiptoft, Earl of
Worcester, splendid, eloquent, cruel; who had made golden speeches to
the Pope, the Cardinals, the men of Padua; had translated Cicero; and on
his return, adorned England with his learning and patronage, and shocked
it with the refined cruelties of Italy. His collection of manuscripts
went with Duke Humphrey’s to the University library, where a room was
made for them, over the quiet Divinity School then being built between
St. Mary’s and Durham Hall. Tiptoft was the most striking type of

[Illustration: INTERIOR OF THE LIBRARY, ALL SOULS’ COLLEGE

     At the extreme east end of the Library is a seated marble figure of
     Sir William Blackstone, by Bacon, the standing figure on the north
     side in the recess being that of Sir Christopher Codrington, the
     Founder of the Library, by Sir Henry Cheere.

     Behind the statue is placed a case containing ancient articles
     discovered in excavations on the site of the College.

     Book-rests and chairs for students are placed at intervals in the
     Library, which is nearly 200 feet long by over 30 feet wide.

     Bronze busts of Fellows alternate with vases on the cornice of the
     upper bookcases.

     The colour of this Library is especially suited to its purpose,
     being quiet and restful to the eye; the proportions are excellent,
     and help the dignity of the room.
]

the Renaissance, of English blood. But it was the Italian Renaissance;
and after his death the direct influence of Italy was small in Oxford.

It was, however, an Italian, Vitelli, who uttered the first words of
Greek in Oxford. Plato was soon to enjoy a new life there, and to be
woven into the past of Oxford, as if he had really been of its children.
_It comes et paribus curis vestigia figit._ It was an age of great,
unpopular men who came and went suddenly and obscurely in Oxford, like
the first lecturers of the twelfth century. They were divinely inflated
with the beauty of Greek--a language always more strange and exotic and
fascinating to Englishmen than Latin--and with admiration of the
restorers of that beauty, Chrysoloras, Chalcondila, Politian. Grocyn, a
Magdalen man, fresh from Italy, taught Greek in the hall of Exeter.
Linacre, a great physician and Grecian, was Fellow of All Souls’. The
refined, persuasive Colet, whose “sacred fury” in argument Erasmus
praised, was also a Magdalen man, and founder of St. Paul’s school. Sir
Thomas More, the most perfect, but unhappily not the most influential
type of the English Renaissance, was at St. Mary Hall. Erasmus met them
all in Oxford, within that old gateway of St. Mary’s College in New Inn
Hall Street. As they stepped out after the symposium, one pointed to a
planet in the sky:

“See how Jupiter shines; it is an omen,” said he.

“Yes,” said another, “and we have been listening to Apollo.”

For a time the Grecians were ridiculed and attacked in the streets by
men who called themselves Priam, Hector, and Paris, and behaved--like
Trojans. In that first enthusiasm men seemed very near to the
inaccessible gods. Perhaps some were disposed to follow Pico della
Mirandola in pursuit of them. There was therefore a party which opposed
the study of Greek as heretical; and More was withdrawn from Oxford to
avoid the danger.

From the beautiful Magdalen cloisters came the men who launched Corpus
Christi College, just after Erasmus had published the New Testament in
Greek and the ancient Brasenose Hall had at last grown into a college.
The founder gave copies of Homer, Herodotus, Plato, and Horace, which
still survive. There was a public lecturer in Greek on the foundation.
Erasmus himself applauded and prophesied liberally of its future. It was
the “new college” of the Renaissance, as Wykeham’s had been of the
Middle Ages. The readers were to be chosen from England or Greece or
Italy. And among the first members of the college was the mystical
Bavarian dialler, Nicholas Kratzer, who made a dial in Corpus garden,
and that exquisite one for Wolsey, which is to be seen, in drawing, in
the library. Wolsey’s own college was built over against St.
Frideswide’s, part of which, together with one side of its cloisters,
was destroyed to give it place. It contained the largest quadrangle and
the most princely kitchen in Oxford. When Henry the Eighth spoiled the
monasteries, the bells of Osney were carried to Christ Church; and one
of them, over Wolsey’s gateway, does what it can to

[Illustration: THE CLOISTERS, MAGDALEN COLLEGE

The Hall and Chapel of the College stretch nearly across the picture
immediately in front of the spectator, the oriel window which lights the
daïs of the Hall marking the division between the west end of the Hall
and the east end of the Chapel.

Farther west, and closely adjoining the Chapel, at the south-west angle
of the Cloisters, rises the Founder’s Tower. A gateway under the Tower
leads to the Quadrangle of St. John the Baptist and the entrance to the
College.

The figures above the buttresses of the Cloisters were probably not
designed for their present position, but add to the picturesqueness of
the Cloisters, which, it will be observed, project from the main body of
the buildings.

Above the gleaming roof of the Chapel appears the beautiful bell tower
of the College, detached, and built at a different angle from the Hall
and Chapel, which are continued in the same line. The tower is 145 feet
high, and was completed about 1505.

Men in Masters’ gowns walk and converse on the grass.

The time is late afternoon.]

call the undergraduates home at nine, with a deep voice, as if it spoke
through its beard, which pretends to be B flat--“Bim-bom,” as the old
leonine hexameter says.

    Hark! the bonny Christ Church bells--1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6--
    They sound so wondrous great, so wondrous sweet,
    As they trowl so merrily, merrily.
    Oh! the first and second bell,
    That every day, at four and ten, cry,
    “Come, come, come to prayers!”
    And the verger troops before the Dean.
    Tinkle, tinkle, ting, goes the small bell at nine,
    To call the bearers home:
        But the devil a man
        Will leave his can
    Till he hears the mighty Tom.

So runs the catch of a later Dean. At Christ Church also there was a
lecturer in Greek. The dialler, Kratzer, was made mathematical
professor. Wolsey’s chapel never rose above a few feet in height, and
the uncompleted walls remained for a century; St. Frideswide’s became,
almost at the same time, the cathedral of the newly-created see of
Oxford, and the chapel of the college.

The grandiose Christ Church kitchen, which caused so much laughter
because it was the Cardinal’s first contribution to his college, was in
fact rather characteristic of the age that followed. It was built with
the revenues of suppressed monasteries. It was almost contemporaneous
with the destruction of many priceless books by reformers who were as
ignorant of what is dangerous in books as a Russian censor. The shelves
of Duke Humphrey’s library were denuded and sold. The shrine of St.
Frideswide’s, where the University had long offered reverence twice a
year, was shattered; the fragments were used here and there in the
buildings of the time. The relics of the saint were husbanded by a pious
few in hope of a restoration; but they were finally interred with those
of Peter Martyr’s wife--a significant mixture. It was the age when the
University became the playground of the richer classes, and the
nobleman’s son took the place of the poor scholar in a fellowship. Now
men found time to dispute with Cambridge as to which university was of
the greatest antiquity. The arguments put forward in Oxford were seldom
more convincing than this: that Oxford was named from a ford, Cambridge
from a bridge; and since the ford must have been older than the bridge,
Oxford was therefore founded first. Greek for the time decayed, and the
founder of Trinity College feared that its restoration was impossible in
that age. As to Latin, Sir Philip Sidney, who was at Christ Church, told
his brother that Ciceronianism was become an abuse among the Oxonians,
“who neglected things for words.” Oxford was dignified mainly by the
architecture of Christ Church; by the foundation of Trinity, St. John’s,
and Jesus College, all on learned and holy ground; by the martyrdom of
Latimer and Ridley, opposite Balliol; and by great names, like those of
Burton and Marston at Brasenose, Peele at Broadgates Hall (Pembroke),
Raleigh at Oriel, Hooker at Corpus Christi. Religion was still in the
pot, and men could not confidently tell what it would turn out to be. On
the one hand,

[Illustration: ST. JOHN’S COLLEGE

It is the east front of the College we see in the picture, the library
occupying the south end to the left. The garden upon which it looks is
one of the most beautiful and extensive in Oxford.

Some buildings of Balliol College show to the left.

The time is late afternoon in summer.]

the Earl of Leicester, as Chancellor of the University, mended and
confirmed its organisation; on the other hand, John Lyly was “the
fiddlestick of Oxford,” and other Magdalen men, lovers of open air, and
especially in the windy forest of Shotover, slew the King’s deer. At the
new college of St. John’s, fellows and presidents suffered for the old
religion, and Edwin Campion was hanged; they preserved, and still
preserve, the statue of St. Bernard from the old foundation to which
their college succeeded. At the end of the century, the most effective
Oxford man of his time, William Laud, became Fellow of St. John’s. He
built a new quadrangle, and as Chancellor made of the statutes that long
and many-tailed whip which every one knows. He created modern Broad
Street by deleting the cottages which stood near and opposite to
Trinity. The impressive, uncomfortable Convocation House was his work.
Within sight of it was the library which Sir Thomas Bodley earlier in
the century had built and stored. It became the calmest, most inviolate,
and most learned place in Europe.

At Christ Church, Dean Duppa, the first of the improvers of Oxford, was
beginning the work of destruction which the Puritans continued so well.
But it was then the good fortune of several colleges to receive large
additions of a simple and homely character, which did more than any
others to make Oxford what it is. It was the age of the retired Lincoln
College chapel, with its carved panels of perfumed cedar and rich,
quaint glass; the placid garden front of Wadham, as seen through the
cedar tree to-day; the front and colonnades of St. John’s which look on
the garden; the south end of the Exeter garden front that sees so much;
the front quadrangle of University College; the hall and chapel of St.
Mary’s Hall; the east end of Jesus College chapel, which was just
finished when Henry Vaughan arrived; and the front quadrangle of
Pembroke College, converted from Broadgates Hall by a clothier, the Earl
of Pembroke, and James I., and opened with ceremonies which included a
fantastic Latin oration by Sir Thomas Browne, as senior undergraduate.
The architecture of Wadham is a remarkable proof of the influence of
antiquity upon men and things in Oxford. The founders, in 1609, were
Nicholas Wadham and Dorothy, his wife, of Merifield in Somerset. The
builders were mainly west country men, and worked in that lingering
Gothic style which was still vital in Oxford, and seems to have guided
the hand of Wren (if it was Wren) when he planned the fan tracery of
Brasenose library. But in the building of Wadham chapel, one John Spicer
and his men seem to have been haunted by the beauty of the Perpendicular
churches of their native Somerset. The windows are so clear a
reconstruction of this dream that an experienced judge refused to
believe that they were of later date than Christ Church. Thither came a
son of Sir Walter Raleigh and Robert Blake, who took opposite sides when
the Civil War broke out.

There was a prelusive struggle between town and gown in the year before
the war. The chancellorship of Laud had roused opposition; but the
University was almost unanimous for Charles, and easily chose

[Illustration: MAGDALEN TOWER AND BOTANIC GARDEN

The tower of Magdalen College is seen rising over the trees of the
Botanic Garden, illumined by the last rays of the setting sun.

Beneath the poplar is one of the gate piers, and through an opening in
the clipped hedge shows the basin of a fountain.

Two girls walk in the meadows.]

its side, when he demanded a loan on the eve of the war.

Van Ling had just painted the windows of University College chapel. The
Dean of Christ Church, or rather “Smith of London,” had just finished
the airy over-traceried approach to Christ Church hall, upon which every
one looks back as he steps down to the cloisters. Other work was in
preparation at Christ Church. But all building suddenly ceased.

A brief visit of Parliament troops to the yet unfortified city was
recorded by the shattering of the Virgin and her Child over St. Mary’s
porch. After Edgehill, the King came to Oxford, and the effect was worse
than the mutilation of a Virgin of stone. The University Volunteers,
some armed with bows, were drilled in the quadrangle of New College and
Christ Church, and skirmished in the Parks. The royal artillery lay in
Magdalen Grove. New College tower and cloisters became the arsenal: New
Inn Hall the mint. Charles and Queen Henrietta Maria were lodged at
Merton. The Court was held at Christ Church. A Fellow of Magdalen and a
Fellow of All Souls’ edited the royalist gazette, _Mercurius Aulicus_,
“the latter pleasing more with his buffoneries.” The besieging
Parliamentarians were spread about the high ground of Headington, and
the low fields on the north of the city.

The greater number of scholars left Oxford, and their rooms were
occupied by ladies and cavaliers. College trees were cut down for use in
the defences. A little war, much gallantry and coarseness, drove away
learning and tranquillity, unwilling to linger for the sound of Sir John
Denham’s smooth and insipid Muse, which produced _Coopers Hill_ in 1642.
The Muses were probably in hiding abroad with Lovelace and Marvell; for
Milton was writing only prose, and George Wither, a Magdalen man, was a
captain of Parliamentary horse at Maidstone. Yet a contemporary pamphlet
says that “Robin Goodfellow” found the Muses near Eynsham. “He had not
gone as far as Ensham, but he espied the nine Muses in a vintner’s porch
crouching close together, and defending themselves as well as they could
from the cold visitation of the winter’s night. They were extream poore,
and (which is most strange) in so short an absence and distance from
Oxford they were grown extreamly ignorant, for they took him for their
Apollo, and craved his power and protection to support them.”

One room at Trinity College was pleasant still; for the glass of the
window was richly painted with a St. Gregory. And there Aubrey received
the newly-published _Religio Medici_, “which first opened my
understanding.” He carried it to Eston with Sir Kenelm Digby. Coming
back to Oxford, he bade a servant to draw the ruins of Osney “two or
three ways before ’twas pulled down.”

Plague came in 1643, fire in the following year. The Cavaliers were
reputed to have embezzled books from the Bodleian, which had formerly
resisted, and won the respect of, Charles himself. The colleges

[Illustration: MAGDALEN TOWER AND BRIDGE

The Bridge runs westward across the picture, some buildings of the
Botanic Garden appearing on the extreme left.

Over the centre of the Bridge rises the fine tower of the College, while
to the right above the north balustrade of the Bridge shows the roof of
the Hall and Chapel.

On the ground floor of the gabled buildings are the kitchens, the upper
storey being used as sets of rooms for students.

We see part of the river Cherwell.]

made what some call a “friendly loan” of all their plate: it was never
returned or replaced by the King. Week by week, they furnished him with
labour and cash. And when the Parliamentarians entered at last, there
were at Merton, for example, “no Bachelors, hardly any Scholars, and few
Masters,” and the hall was untenantable. The triumph of Parliament
brought with it an inquisition in Oxford, which resulted in the exile,
not without force, of the greater number of heads of houses and fellows
for refusal to submit. The soldiers broke the Magdalen chapel
window-glass; Cromwell himself took away the college organ to Hampton
Court. But “the first thing General Fairfax did, was to set a good guard
of soldiers to preserve the Bodleian Library. He was a lover of
learning, and had he not taken this special care, that noble library had
been utterly destroyed.” The chief objection to the intruded fellows and
heads of houses seems to have been that they were intruded and were
likely to stay. As for their accomplishments, though some lacked humour,
they seem to have been respectable. The undergraduates and bachelors
were in the main loyal to Cromwell; and when Prince Charles was rumoured
to be approaching Oxford, New College tower became a Parliament citadel,
and a troop of horse was enlisted from the colleges. The old glory of
religion faded; the sound of distant Latin chanted was no longer heard
in Christ Church and New College. But in one house, three devoted men
preserved the old religion right through the Commonwealth, constantly
and without molestation. Other changes made men more content. Three
coffee-houses were opened in Oxford and patronised by royalists and
“others who esteemed themselves virtuosi and wits.” Men who would have
adorned any age came up. Christopher Wren came to Wadham, and thence to
All Souls’. Evelyn revisited Oxford and found no just ground to regret
the former times, ... “creation of Doctors, by the cap, ring, kiss,
etc., those ancient ceremonies and institutions, as yet not wholly
abolished.” At All Souls’ he heard “music, voices, and theorbos,
performed by some ingenious scholars.” At New College “the chapel was in
its ancient garb, notwithstanding the scrupulosity of the times,” and
the chapel at Magdalen was “in pontificial order, the altar only I think
turned table-wise.” Then he dined at Wadham, and wrote down an account
of what he saw at the Warden’s, “that most obliging and universally
curious Dr. Wilkins.” The transparent apiaries, hollow speaking statues,
dials, waywisers, and other “artificial mathematical and magical
curiosities,” which he saw, well illustrate the activities of the time
in the cradle of the Royal Society.

A little after Wren came Thomas Traherne, the poet, to Brasenose, still
enjoying that childhood which he praised so adeptly. We may think of him
in the peaceful embowered city as having that characteristic ecstasy at
the sight of common things which his lyrical prose describes. “The corn
was orient and immortal wheat which never should be reaped nor was ever
sown. I thought it had stood from everlasting to

[Illustration: ALL SOULS’ COLLEGE AND THE HIGH STREET

On the right of the picture are the entrance gate and part of the south
front of All Souls’ College. West of the College, and facing the narrow
street leading into Radcliffe Square, shows the east end of the south
aisle of St. Mary’s Church, and the white pinnacles of the Nave.

Past the porch and the new extension of Brasenose to the High Street
rises the tower and spire of All Saints’, the distance being closed by
the tower of St. Martin at Carfax.]

everlasting. The dust and stones of the street were as precious as gold:
the gates were at first the end of the world. The green trees, when I
saw them first through one of the gates, transported and ravished me;
their sweetness and unusual beauty made my heart to leap, and almost mad
with ecstasy, they were such strange and wonderful things. The men! O
what venerable and reverend creatures did the aged men seem! Immortal
cherubim! And young men glittering and sparkling angels, and maids
strange seraphic pieces of life and beauty!”

Again, books began to flow in their natural courses to the libraries.
Selden’s eight thousand came to the Bodleian. Building was resumed; for
Brasenose chapel was half built by the time of the Restoration.

The Restoration restored to Oxford the Church, a few excellent old men,
and the morals of the siege. The august Clarendon was indeed Chancellor;
but the city became a fashionable resort. Charles II., with his Queen
and Castlemaine, were there in 1663, and again with the Parliament in
the year of the plague. “High-thundering Jove,” runs a contemporary
ballad, supposed to be spoken by London to Oxford:--

    High-thundering Jove cannot withstand thy charms,
    That Britain’s mighty monarch in thy arms
    Canst hold so fast, and quite to overcome
    The greatest potentate in Christendom.

The aim of scholars, said Anthony à Wood, “is not to live as students
ought to do, viz., temperate, abstemious, and plain and grave in their
apparel; but to live like gentry, to keep dogs and horses, to turn
their studies into places to keep bottles, to swagger in gay apparell
and long periwigs!” There was too much punning, thought Eachard. In his
inquiry into the causes of the contempt of the clergy, he is not kind to
the University of the day, and asks, “Whether or not Punning, Quibbling,
and that which they call Joquing, and such delicacies of wit, highly
admired in some academic exercises, might not be very conveniently
omitted?” The first Common Room was established at Merton soon after the
Restoration. But in that age even Common Rooms seem to have been but
privileged and secluded inns, and quite without the severely genial
amphictyonic character of to-day. When Pepys visited Oxford he naturally
found it “a very sweet place”; spent 2s. 6d. on a barber in its honour;
10s. “to him that showed us All Souls’ College and Chichley’s picture”;
2s. for seeing the Brasenose butteries and the gigantic hand of the
“Child of Hale”; and having seen the Physic Garden, the hospital, and
Friar Bacon’s study, concluded: “Oxford mighty fine place, well seated,
and cheap entertainment.” But the cheap entertainment is now among the
lost causes. A little while afterwards, Evelyn attended the opening of
the Sheldonian Theatre, built by Wren. He complained of the “tedious,
abusive, sarcastical rhapsody” which was permitted on that occasion to
the _Terræ Filius_, a kind of Billingsgate Aristophanes, who
half-officially represented the undergraduate aversion to sweetness and
light. The university printing-office

[Illustration: INTERIOR OF THE SHELDONIAN THEATRE

The proceedings of Commemoration take place here, at which time the
_area_--entered by the door to the left--is crowded by visitors.

One of the two figures is gazing at the pulpit from which the prize
poems and essays of successful candidates are recited.

The axe and fasces projecting from the pulpit denote the justice of the
awards.

The upper gallery is supported by wooden columns standing upon a podium
partially surrounding the _area_, and the building altogether is one of
Sir Christopher Wren’s best works.]

lay under the theatre, and, says a ballad of the time--

    What structure else but prides it to reveal
    Treasures? which bashful this would fain conceal; ...
    Spain, Gascoin, Florence, Smyrna, and the Rhine
    May taste their language there, tho’ not the wine.
    The Jew, Mede, Edomite, Arabian, Crete,
    In those deep vaults their wandring ideoms meet,
    And to compute, are in amazement hurld,
    How long since Oxford has been all the world.

At Magdalen, men were planting the elms of the grove and laying out the
walks round the meadow. Bishop Fell was completing the west front of
Christ Church, which the Civil War had interrupted, and planting those
elms in the Broad Walk that look on the Cathedral and Corpus and Merton,
and, farther off, Magdalen tower. In 1680 Wren’s tower over Wolsey’s
gateway at Christ Church was finished. One of the Osney bells was recast
to hang therein.

The resistance of James II. fell in this coarse, frivolous,
self-satisfied age. He was welcomed to Oxford by music and ceremony. The
conduit “ran claret for the vulgar.” But when he adventured to force his
nominee into the presidentship of Magdalen, he could not even procure a
blacksmith to burst a resisting door. Again, the University stood to
arms to oppose Monmouth’s rebellion, and clothed its members in scarlet
coats, with scarves, and white-plumed hats; but had to be contented with
the bonfires in celebration of the victory at Sedgemoor, and a
full-dress parade. Not long afterwards many yards of orange ribbon made
the High Street gaudy with a pretence at honouring William III. But the
colleges were vigorously Jacobite, and proved it by drinking the healths
of the Stuarts as long as they could. Merton, Exeter, All Souls’, and
Wadham were the exceptions. One example of the lighter occupations of
the period is to be found in a story of somewhat earlier date, told of
Dr. Bathurst, Vice-Chancellor and President of Trinity. “A striking
instance of zeal for his college, in the dotage of old age, is yet
remembered. Balliol College had suffered so much in the outrages of the
grand rebellion, that it remained almost in a state of desolation for
some years after the Restoration, a circumstance not to be suspected
from its flourishing condition ever since. Dr. Bathurst was perhaps
secretly pleased to see a neighbouring and once rival society reduced to
this condition, while his flourished beyond all others. Accordingly, one
afternoon, he was found in his garden, which then ran almost continuous
to the east side of Balliol College, throwing stones at the windows with
much satisfaction, as if happy to contribute his share in completing the
appearance of its ruin.” I seem to find an echo of the sentiment of very
different men, with a love of the old time amidst the politics and wine
of the day, in Aubrey’s ejaculation: he wished that monasteries had not
entirely been suppressed; for if but a few had been left, “what a
pleasure ’twould have been to have travelled from monastery to
monastery!” Nevertheless, the Oxford output of bishops was not
decreased, and the number of quiet scholars--men like

[Illustration: CORPUS CHRISTI COLLEGE

In the centre of the quadrangle rises a cylindrical dial, surmounted by
a “pelican in her piety,” the badge of the Founder of the College.
Behind, to the right, is the great entrance gateway and tower.

The College cat gives scale.]

Hody of Wadham--was larger than one might conclude from the pages of
_honest_ Thomas Hearne, of St. Edmund Hall.

It was upon an old monastic foundation--once Gloucester College, then
Gloucester Hall--that the one new eighteenth-century college was
established. Gloucester Hall had numbered among its inhabitants several
famous, rather odd men, like Tom Coryat and Thomas Allen, but had fallen
away after the Restoration. It was, in short, almost a possession of
nettles. The buildings were only kept on the edge of desolation by the
Principal and two or three families in residence. The seventeenth
century had made one fantastic attempt to retrieve the Hall. A colony of
twenty students from the four Patriarchates of the Eastern Church was to
be regularly established there. But the dreamy plan was soon parched and
destroyed in the odour of scandal. After much trifling procrastination,
the Greeks were succeeded by Worcester College, and a lucky poverty left
the worn old buildings for a little longer untroubled. A library, a
hall, and a chapel were prepared for the new society. Wide spaces of
land on every side of it were retained or acquired, which afterwards
gave the college a fat rent and its incomparable bosky and watered
garden.

While Worcester was being founded in the conventional way, Oxford was
developed by such buildings as the cloister at Corpus, the Pembroke
chapel, the hall at All Souls’, the front quadrangle at Queen’s, and the
little Lincoln “Grove” cottages. Then also the Trinity College lime
trees were planted. In most of the work of that time Dean Aldrich of
Christ Church had a hand or a word. This clever and genial tutor was one
of the best men of his day, and quite typical of the early eighteenth
century. He seems to have been one to whom action came more naturally
than dreams, if he dreamed at all; and he could easily express the many
sides of his personality in a lasting way. A happy and golden
mediocrity! He encouraged Boyle in the dazzling indiscretion of _The
Epistles of Phalaris_. He wrote the enduring Oxford Logic, a smoking
catch, and “Hark! the bonny Christ Church bells”; and perhaps this
translation:--

    If on my theme I rightly think,
    There are five reasons why men drink,
    Good wine, a friend, or being dry,
    Or lest we should be, by and by,
    Or any other reason why.

The size of his architectural designs is seen in Peckwater quadrangle at
Christ Church; their charm, in All Saints’, which the moon loves. Soon
after his death in 1710, the stately library at Christ Church and that
copious one at All Souls’ were begun.

In the year of the building of Pembroke chapel, Samuel Johnson entered
the college, where they preserve his deal writing-table and china
tea-pot. As Aldrich represents the early part of the century in Oxford,
so Johnson represents the middle. Men are nowadays disposed to blame the
cheerfulness of an age that produced a hundred immortals who do not give
the true

[Illustration: CHRIST CHURCH--PECKWATER QUADRANGLE

Through the opening between the west end of the College Library on the
right, and some houses inhabited by Masters of the College on the left,
appears the spire of the University Church of St. Mary. Part of the
pediment of the buildings on the north side of Peckwater Quadrangle
shows beneath.

The piece of masonry on the extreme right of the picture is part of the
wall of the passage leading to Tom Quadrangle.

Two undergraduates converse to the left.]

ring. The college historians often entitle one of their
eighteenth-century chapters the “dark” or “iron” age; and indeed, as a
“school of universal learning,” the Oxford of that day might be called
in question. It was more aristocratic and exclusive, perhaps, than it
had ever been, and it failed to justify itself. “What class in life”--it
was a song by a fellow in a play of the period--

    What class in life, tho’ ne’er so great,
    With a good fellowship can compare?

And in the same play, says one, of Horace, “He was a jolly _utile dulci_
dog, and I believe formerly might be fellow at a college.” Yet in our
backward glances over Oxford history, how often do we stop when we reach
that age! whether we are drinking from an old reminding tankard with the
date 17--, or looking at one of its books, or living in one of the rooms
which it wainscotted or furnished, heavily but how genially! “You are a
philosopher, Dr. Johnson,” said Edwards, his college friend. “I have
tried too in my time to be a philosopher; but I don’t know how,
cheerfulness was always breaking in.” Cheerfulness broke in pretty often
in Oxford. And that was a time when there was more love of Oxford than
ever before. Even the wealthy Fellows of All Souls’ (“that Eden to the
fruitful mind,” as Lady Winchilsea called it at that time) never bought
their college; and when one of them was taunted with the quip that
Oxford was less learned than Bath, he was able to reply that it was also
more fashionable. I find, too, in its love of the past, as in its love
of nature, something heartier, though I daresay less mystical, than our
own. Johnson’s love of Pembroke is an example. He had lived there as an
undergraduate only fourteen months, and there seems to have been little
that was tangible, to take hold of him in so short a time. Yet when he
came back long after, and heard old Camden’s grace after meat--which
they still use--he was at home. It is true that men of that age could as
little appreciate its blank verse as we can compose it, but there were
many who could then appreciate what we can now only describe. The
country (in summer)--antiquity--good living--were fine things; but when
they wrote, it was theology, or morals, or inaccurate philology. There
was a man, long ago with God, who after much waiting obtained a fine
coveted room at New College: instead of writing a sonnet forthwith, he
expressed a wish to kick some one downstairs incontinently. On one
occasion, it is said, the head of a college, and a great lover of
Oxford, who was jocund and recumbent after a feast, was with great
circumstance invited by several wags “to accept the crown of this old
and famous kingdom, since King George has resigned.” To which he slowly
replied, without surprise, that “if we can hold our Court of St. James’s
in this Common Room, we shall not demur.” Warton’s _Companion to the
Guide_ and Wood’s _Modius Salium_ are full of what we should call poor
Oxford humour; but I think there is sufficient indication of the
laughter it caused, to make us pause in any condemnation of it as
compared with our own “thoughtful mirth,” which

[Illustration: THE RADCLIFFE LIBRARY, OR CAMERA BODLEIANA, FROM ALL
SOULS’ COLLEGE

     Across the picture runs a cloistered screen separating the green
     quadrangle of All Souls’ College from Radcliffe Square. Over an
     entrance to the College to the left rises an octangular ogee roof,
     protecting some beautiful wrought-iron gates.

     To the right of this is the grand sweeping entablature of the
     Camera, bearing its majestic dome and lantern. This dome may
     compare with some of the finest in Europe.

     The time is morning.
]

inspires mainly a desire to say something more mirthful and less
thoughtful. And for those who care for none of these things, what
sweeter or more dignified picture of quietness and study is there than
at Lincoln in Wesley’s time, or at University under Scott, or Christ
Church under Jackson? What handsomer than the Camera which was built in
the middle of that century, or better to live in than Fisher’s buildings
at Balliol? Or what inheritance more agreeable than the old
bowling-greens, so happily celebrated in the Sphæristerium; or than the
college gardens, which are nearly all eighteenth-century gifts? It has
been said that the only movement in the eighteenth century was a very
slow ascent to the nineteenth. That is not quite so, as many will agree
who look at the re-fronting of University College chapel and hall, which
was done when the wonderful century was reached at length. In fact, if
we condemn the eighteenth century, we have to disown a large part of the
nineteenth. In Oxford that is especially so. The destruction of the old
chapels at Balliol and Exeter, and of the Grove at Merton, was carried
out only fifty years ago; so long have the dark ages lingered in Oxford.
As for the new buildings at New College, Christ Church, Merton, etc.,
they have been so widely condemned that it is to be presumed there is
some merit in them, which an age nearer the millennium will praise.

But those works are only the less admirable and more conspicuous emblems
of the nineteenth-century reformation. It had at length become possible
again for a man to keep his terms and take his degree without continual
residence within college walls. The numbers of the University grew
rapidly, and at a time when more efficient tutors and discipline made
Oxford attractive to many who were neither frivolous nor rich. Oxford
became, in fact, a place of education. The previous century had been
conspicuous for great names and lack of system; what was achieved was
due to individual endowment and energy; and the able men stood somewhat
apart from their contemporaries. Wesley, for example, not only failed to
make a strong party, but even to rouse an opposition of useful size. The
nineteenth century, on the other hand, was a sociable one in matters of
intellect. There were few lonely names. There were many groups. College
after college--in a few cases before, in nearly all cases after, the
first Commission--became known for their style of thought more than for
their noblemen or wine. The fault of monkishness was either blotted out
or exchanged for one that is more commonly pardoned to-day, _nimium
gaudens popularibus auris_. At first, this meant an emphasis upon the
distinction between college and college. It required more than a walk up
Turl Street to get from Oriel to Balliol. The competition engendered by
the new separate honour schools probably increased this for a time; and
it was reported of one Head that, when told that Worcester College was
above his own in a class list, he turned to the butler, and asked where
Worcester was. But the east wind of the Commission changed all that. At
the same time

[Illustration: ENTRANCE GATEWAY OF HERTFORD COLLEGE AND THE RADCLIFFE
LIBRARY

     The gateway and wall have disappeared, this view of the Library
     being shut out by the new high buildings.

     To the left of the picture is a part of the College, and over the
     gateway shows a portion of the old Schools, the majestic dome and
     lantern of the Radcliffe Library filling the intervening space.

     A couple of undergraduates lean against the building to the left of
     the picture.
]

the friendly and often stimulating intercourse between senior and junior
members of the colleges grew apace, and was no doubt encouraged by the
increasing fashionableness of athletic sports, which gave a “Blue” the
importance of a fellow, and a greater consciousness of importance.

In its progress towards what is most admired in modern Oxford, Balliol
is the most interesting college. Nearly all other colleges have indeed
acquired a more or less thorough resemblance to Balliol in its good and
bad points, but no other college has been so long, so persistently, and
so progressively devoted to the same ideal. Even those who do not wholly
like that ideal cannot fail to admire the consistency and energy of the
men who have achieved it, or could find the like to any comparable
extent in colleges that cherish other affections.

But nowhere has there been an entire rupture with the past, or anything
new which has not in a sense been laid reverently upon the foundations
of the old. If one could see Keble College without its buildings, it
might well seem to be not the youngest of the colleges. So, too, with
Hertford College, which is indeed but the rejuvenation of the old homes
of Hobbes, Selden, and Matthew Hale: it has doffed knee-breeches and
periwig, and even those perhaps unwillingly, since its fellowships are
lifelong for the celibate. And in the architecture of Oxford, some of
the most novel effects of last century were produced by work in the same
spirit of reverence for the past. Here, a window received back its
casements again; there, a fine roof was rescued from its burial under
the impertinent superimpositions of more egotistic innovators. No other
age and city perhaps would have been so curious and fortunate in
restoring the old, as when at Christ Church the old floral marble base
of St. Frideswide’s shrine was restored after three hundred years in the
wilderness. Part was found in the cemetery wall, part in a well-side,
part in a staircase, part in a wall: and almost the whole now rests in
the Cathedral again.

[Illustration: INTERIOR OF THE CATHEDRAL OF CHRIST CHURCH

     At the east end of the choir is seen the wheel-window with two
     circular-headed windows underneath, restored in 1871.

     Above these rises the late groined roof of the Choir, its richness
     contrasting well with the Norman arches below, which spring from
     corbels attached to the pillars.

     The Cathedral is also the College Chapel.
]



DONS ANCIENT AND MODERN



CHAPTER III

DONS ANCIENT AND MODERN


MODERN

The senior members of the University are perhaps as interesting as they
have ever been. The freshman or other critical stranger to the city
finds them less picturesque, if his ideal be anything like that of the
youthful Ruskin, who looked for presences like the Erasmus of Holbein or
Titian’s Magnificoes, and was disappointed at Christ Church by all save
one. For the President or Master, whose absolutism used to be the envy
of kings, now bears his honours inconspicuously. The fellows of colleges
are no longer, indeed, a distinct and noticeable class, but are, for the
most part, purely and simply scholars, or historians, or instructors of
youth. The conscientious, capable, and hard-working Don is probably
commoner than he has ever been; and his success is great. But even he
might echo the cry against a possible tendency towards mere educational
efficiency in fellows, which is expressed in the exclamation: “Nothing
is so much to be feared as that we should one day compete with the
Board Schools.”

“O goodly usage of those antique times,” when it was a sufficient grace
to be a scholar, and it was a kind of virtue to quote from Horace and
never to play upon words outside Homer. Here and there such a man
survives, always old, married to the place, and yet with a widowed air,
looking as if he had crept out of one of the reverend pictures in the
hall, and still clear-sighted enough to see the length of Broad Street
and regret it, fumbling with the spectacles which he bought to protect
his eyes in the first year of railway travelling. No one could draw him
quite so happily as the Sub-Rector of Lincoln College, and in his latest
book he gives us a charming hint, and there, quite appropriately, but
too pathetically, he allows the old scholar to die.

“The Church, indeed,” he writes, “was mouldy enough, and the air within
was close and sleep-giving; and as the old parson murmured his sermon
twice a Sunday from the high old pulpit, his hearers gradually dropped
into a tranquil doze or a pleasant day-dream--all except the old
Scholar, who sat just below, holding his hand to his ear, and eagerly
looking for one of those subtle allusions, those reminiscences of old
reading, or even now and then three words of Latin from Virgil or the
_Imitatio_ with which his lifelong friend would strain a point to please
him. They had been at school together, and at college together, and now
they were spending their last years together, for the old Scholar had
come, none of us knew

[Illustration: MAGDALEN COLLEGE, FROM THE BOTANIC GARDEN

     Part of the tower of Magdalen College is seen to the left of the
     picture, under which are some of the glass houses of the Botanic
     Garden.

     Above the pillar surmounted by a vase appears the roof of the
     College Hall, and farther to the right sets of rooms and the
     kitchens.

     Three arches of Magdalen Bridge show to the right.
]

whence, and settled down in the manor-house by the churchyard, hard by
the Rectory of his old companion. And so they walked together through
the still shady avenues of life’s evening, wishing for no change,
reading much and talking little, lovers of old times and old books,
seeking the truth, not indeed in the world around them, but in the
choice words of the wise men of old: _Pia et humilis inquisitio
veritatis per sanas patrum sententias studens ambulare_.


I

Such a one there was, until recently, to be met walking on a fine day
between Magdalen and Oriel; or even, in April, as far as the Shotover
road in expectation of hearing the nightingales; or as far as Carfax to
learn whether the tower was looking any older. He was exquisitely
courteous, without a tinge of mere courtliness, and could hate and
contemn. Such was his loathing of what was unseemly that he begged he
might be awakened by any one that heard him snore. If he was a
misogynist, it was because he was shy and ignorant of women. He would
gently insinuate, and as if it were temerity, that even good women
cannot distinguish between fiction and Jane Austen, and have been known
to deposit pins in ashtrays. He could not express an opinion upon
subjects which he ignored or disliked, and when they were discussed in
the Common Room, he had an irrepressible sympathy with both sides. Thus
he was no politician, but was at one with members of Parliament of both
sides, by means of a little genial commonplace. But on his
hobby-horses--_sublimis in equis_--he had a sweet eloquence which he
“hoped was not persuasive.” For he disliked proselytisers more than
proselytes. In later years, he became too deaf to be quite honest in
answering a stupid or knavish man. He had, too, a little vocal
impediment which he could use rhetorically. Preaching one day at a
country church, he was dwelling at length upon the good qualities of a
prophet.

“That’s parson all over,” murmured now and then a grey parishioner, and
inquired of whom he spoke.

“Isaiah or Habakkuk,” explained his neighbour.

“Then I don’t believe,” answered the disappointed man, “there is such a
person--unless ’tis another name for parson.”

When an old lady lay a-dying, and was troubled concerning the destiny of
her magpie and tame hare after her death, the curate amiably suggested
that Providence would take care of them.

“No, no,” she interposed, “give them to Mr.----.”

He was, despite features which the dull might call plain, remarkably,
and I had almost said physically, beautiful, because of the clear
shining of his character. The tender motives that often moulded his
lips, the purity and grace that found expression in his eyes, and that
fluctuation of the lines of the face in thought which is almost light
and shade, wrought an immortal beauty out of Nature’s poor endowment.
Nor was that only when he was in a fit small company. Some men, when
not moved by such an influence, lapse into that sculptured and muddy
expression which is the chief quality of photographs. You may surprise
them void and waste. But if he was ever surprised, it might be seen that
he turned to the intruder fresh from a spiritual colloquy. His smile, on
opening Plutarch, was as if he blessed and was blessed, and restored the
beholder to the age of the first revival of learning. Very soft--some
said mincing--was his step among his books, as not knowing what or whom
he might disturb. If you saw him in the Bodleian, he seemed its familiar
spirit, and in some way its outward and visible expression or heraldic
device. Though a wide and learned reader, he had published nothing that
had anything to do with books. In his youth he had circulated “An Elegy
written within sight of Keble College,” and in later years speculations
on the Jurassic sea and the migration of birds. He often read aloud to
himself, and even to others on being provoked, in his sounding
wainscotted room in sight of All Saints steeple. Especially he liked to
chant Sophocles, and to the opening of _Electra_ gave a solemn and
almost religious sweetness in the rendering. Then it was that we knew
how he had gained and preserved that notable grace of pronunciation. He
used to say, “It is a fine day,” instead of “Tserfineday.” And thus of
every day he made a rosary of gracious thoughts and deeds among men and
Nature and books; and apparelling a worldly life with the sanctity of
unworldly temperance and charity, his homeliness became dignified
without losing its simplicity, and almost ornate with courtesies that
never set a blush in the face of truth.


II

Of the successful man who is a Don by accident I confess an ignorance
that borders on dislike. He is perhaps a scholar, certainly a courtier.
He has the open secret of perennial youth. It is very likely that he
dabbles in light literature, and may have written a book of fiction or
history with a wide circulation. He was a gay, discursive parodist in
his youth; chose his own ties, or thought he did; worked hard, and
concealed the fact from his inferiors. His extreme caution to-day might
appear indiscreet to an impartial judge. He writes letters to the
_Times_ on important matters on which he seeks information; or if his
old self should be assertive, he writes over the name of “Justice” or
“One who knows” in a penny paper, and is indignant towards the friends
who fail to recognise his style and point of view. In this and every
possible way he keeps a firm connection with the great outer world. He
knows the female cousins of all the undergraduates of his college, and
many of them have been mildly in love with him in a punt. He is often in
London, where he is very academic, and would wish to appear merely
well-informed. When he meets London friends in Oxford, he is anxious to
prove that he at least is not a mere Don; yet his friends can only
wonder that there is now no such thing as an Oxford point of view, but
only an Oxford drawl. His sitting-room is magnificent, and like style,
conceals the man. It is no wonder that a man with such arm-chairs should
be well satisfied. His books are noble up to the year 1800--abundant and
select, often old, always fine; but after the year 1800 a certain
timidity of taste may be observed. Of course his friends’ books are
there, with the books which you are expected to know in country houses.
For the rest, he has overcome the difficulty of selection by not
selecting. As the college has good port and is indifferent in its choice
of white wine, so he has good classics and a jumble of later work. He is
charitable, a ready contributor to approved causes. He has travelled,
and is never reduced to silence in company. He is a good talker, knowing
how not to offend. He is a brilliant host, suave, considerate,--with
comprehensive views,--and ready to make allowances for those who are not
Dons. Perhaps he is in the main a summer bird. Then he shows that he is
a gallant as well as a scholar and man of the world. He is the
figure-head of his college barge during The Eights, and with an
eye-glass, that is a kind of sixth sense, he surveys womankind, and sees
that it is good.


III

There was lately also a more Roman type amongst us. He had a lusty
Terentian wit that was not in the fashion of these times; and his proud
frankness about everything but his soul found even less welcome from a
generation that liked to talk of little else. “A little hypocrisy”--such
was his advice to freshmen, but not his practice--“a little hypocrisy is
useful to a virtuous man, since it is hard not to appear a hypocrite,
especially when one is not.” He was what is called an intemperate man.
For, though a small, fastidious eater and short sleeper, he was a man of
many bottles; nor had he the common gift of repenting of the truths
which claret inspired and port enabled him to express. He never learned
to whine over private infelicity--a weighty shortcoming; or to moralise
on the infelicities of others--which was almost a virtue. A small
Kantian once asked him how he felt after a bereavement. “It has never
occurred to me,” was his reply, “to think how I felt.” An unsuccessful
man himself, and burdened by his more successful and more indolent
relatives, his catchword was, nevertheless, “Success.” But he perhaps
hated more than a noisy failure a noisy success. Always scheming on
behalf of others, he laid no plans for himself, except by writing his
own epitaph, on the day before his death. He ate, drank, was merry, and
did his duty. He was the life and soul and financial saviour of his
college. At no time was he a profound student; he had been elected to a
fellowship on account of his birth; yet the brilliant scholar and the
nice courtier of the college admitted that he, the chapel, and the cook
were equally indispensable. In fact, he was as near to the ideal head of
a college as it would be wise to have in an ancient university. He could
not lecture, and was a poor judge of imitation Greek prose. He radiated
a clean and vigorous worldly influence through both Common Rooms. He
knew every undergraduate who was within the reach of knowledge. His
judgment of men was as consummate and as untransferable as his judgment
of wine. It was his custom to say that there had been three
philosophers, two ancient, one modern, in the history of the
world--Ecclesiastes, Democritus, and Sir William Temple of Moor Park. To
his pupils he used to pronounce that, “since you are average men and
will never be able to understand Ecclesiastes or take the trouble to
understand Democritus,” they should follow the Englishman. He then
repeated from memory this passage (with such solemnity that I believe he
felt it to be his own):--

“Some writers, in casting up the goods most desirable in life, have
given them this rank--health, beauty, and riches. Of the first, I find
no dispute; but to the two others much may be said; for beauty is a good
that makes others happy rather than one’s self; and how riches should
claim so high a rank I cannot tell, when so great, so wise, and so good
a part of mankind have, in all ages, preferred poverty before them--the
Therapeutae and Ebionites among the Jews, the primitive monks and modern
friars among Christians, so many dervises among the Mahometans, the
Brachmans among the Indians, and all the ancient philosophers; who,
whatever else they differed in, agreed in this, of despising riches, and
at best esteeming them an unnecessary trouble or encumbrance of life: so
that whether they are to be reckoned among goods or evils, is yet left
in doubt.

“When I was young, and in some idle company, it was proposed that every
one should tell what their three wishes should be, if they were sure to
be granted: some were very pleasant, and some very extravagant; mine
were health, and peace, and fair weather; which, though out of the way
among young men, yet perhaps might pass well enough among old: they are
all of a strain; for health in the body is like peace in the state, and
serenity in the air; the sun, in our climate at least, has something so
reviving, that a fair day is a kind of sensual pleasure, and of all
others the most innocent.”

The last words he would often repeat, with this comment: that people
to-day were so much busied with sunsets and landscapes and colours
that they had no such hearty feeling for Nature as the old
seventeenth-century statesman, philosopher, and gardener had.

“Read Cowley and Pope,” was his only criticism in English literature.
“Any one can be a Keats, though few can write as well,” he argued, “but
it is not so easy to be like Pope.” Meeting Browning one day, and
telling him that he enjoyed some of his poetry, the poet asked him
whether he understood it. “No,” said the Don, “do you?”

For twenty years, when men spoke of---- College, they thought of him.
“The University of Oxford,” said an old pupil who lived to send his son
to that college, “the University of Oxford, at least as a place of
education, consists of old----, the river, and the college pump.” That
college is now like Roman

[Illustration: THE RADCLIFFE LIBRARY, OR CAMERA BODLEIANA, FROM
BRASENOSE COLLEGE QUADRANGLE

     The gateway to the left of the centre of the picture is the
     entrance to the College from the Square in which stands the
     Radcliffe Library.

     The great dome of the Library rises above the gateway tower,
     dominating the Square, the College, and indeed all Oxford.

     On the extreme right is the entrance to the Hall, running east, the
     direction in which we are looking. In this Quadrangle formerly
     stood a metal group of Samson slaying the lion, which, it is to be
     regretted, has been removed. It served to give scale to the
     Quadrangle.
]

literature without Lucretius, or a wine-glass of cold water.

When I look back and see him, more military than ecclesiastical (except
for a snuffle) in his doctorial scarlet, I think that it was partly his
brow that was his power. It was a calm, ample, antique brow. In the
ancient world the brow made the man and the god. It was as divine as
ægis or thunder or eagle. It was more magisterial than the fasces. It
commanded the Consulate and troubled the dominion of Persia and cast
down the power of Hannibal. The brow of Jupiter--of Plato--of
Augustus--was a hill of majesty equal with Olympus. The history of old
sculpture is an _Ave!_ to the brow. Now the soul has descended to the
eyes. In politics, war, literature, above all in finance, victory is
with the eyes. The old man had the godlike span of curving bone; but his
eyes slept. It was his good fortune and Oxford’s honour that he ruled an
Oxford college.


IV

Among the younger men is one who spent perhaps a year in trying to
combine high living and high thinking; then made a compromise by
dropping the high thinking; and at last, perhaps as the result of some
solemn intervention, became ascetic. He is a friend of authors and
potentates. He understands a bishop, and takes a kindly interest in
east-enders, so long as they are in Oxford. His aspect is grave and
calm, since life, in losing half its vices, has lost all its charm. Like
fine cutlery, his manners lack nothing but originality; he has a good
taste in flowers, and can even arrange them. Nor is the taste in books
limited by his connoisseurship in binding. He is a free and fearless
reader, yet careful in the choice of books to be left on the table. If
style were finish, his writing would be famous; but his beautiful style
is always subordinated to a really beautiful handwriting. His originally
dilettante interest in palæography has lured him into some genuine
research among old manuscripts. His lectures are therefore fresh,
thoughtful, and perfect in gesture, delivery, and composition. I seem to
behold Virgil himself at the end of one of his descants, or Politian at
least. If he had not more love of the applause of his most graceful
pupils than of the learned world, he might be renowned. But he is
content to be three-quarters of a specialist in history and more than
one of the arts, and to be a lodestar to the ladies of his audience.
Perhaps only they can do him justice.


V

There is (or was) to be found at the top of a mouldy Oxford staircase
the most unpedantic man in the world, seated underneath and upon and
amidst innumerable books. In the more graceful than sufficient garments
of his leisure, he looked like Homer, with hair still ungrizzled. He
spoke, and back came the _Iliad_ and the _Odyssey_ on that stormy sound.
But he could so well dissemble this physical magnificence that he passed
in

[Illustration: BISHOP KING’S HOUSE

     The part of the house showing in this picture faces to the north;
     the east front, at right angles with this, being in St. Aldate’s.
     The white buildings at the left are on the east side of St.
     Aldate’s. It was built by Bishop King, the last Abbot of Osney and
     the first Bishop of Oxford. The front was rebuilt in 1628.

     Inside, on the first floor, is a coffered ceiling, richly painted
     and gilt, probably of the sixteenth century, and by Italian
     workmen.
]

different clothing for an able-bodied seaman and a member of Parliament.

He loved the forest and cloud and sea as if they had been brothers. To
visit him in his ancient room was to take a journey to Nature: to walk
with him, in all weathers--to Wood Eaton, Sunningwell, Fyfield,
Northmoor--was to go with a talking and genial embodiment of the
north-west wind and a dash of orchard scent.

His room was alive with the spirit of old histories. Famous
men--Pericles or Alexander or John XXII.--seemed to live once more when
they were discoursed of in that eloquent chamber. It may have been
illusion,--for there was little talk of historical principles,--but on
leaving him, a man felt that he had gone away “before the mysteries,”
and that if he could but live in the rooms of Urbanus, the past would be
wonderfully revealed. Then, a day or two afterwards, he could remember
only Urbanus himself, and, after a brief indignation at the cheiromancy
quite unwittingly practised, admitted that that was sufficient.

I am not sure whether he professed history or divinity or Chinese. He
wrote, however, an epoch-making treatise on “The Literature of
Aboriginal Races, with special reference to Sumatra”; an invaluable
brochure on “The Jewellery of the Visigothic Kings”; “A Complete
Exposition of the Ancient Game of Tabblisk”; and “A Brief Summary of the
Loves of Diarmad O’Diubhne.” His sonnet to M. Mallarmé, though it has
been described as _trop mallarmisé_, is justly admired. But he did not
write ten volumes of reminiscences.

I can see him, in a brown library or a pictured hall, beginning a
lecture. He moves about a little uneasily, like the late William Morris,
and as if he would rather use deeds than words. An old book lies open
before him: now and then he turns over a page, reads to himself, and
smiles. The conscientious undergraduate looks at his watch and begins
spoiling his pen upon the blotting-paper. He comes to take notes; but
Urbanus does not care. Suddenly the lecturer laughs heartily at a good
passage and begins:--

“I think perhaps you will like this story....”

And he reads, punctuating the matter with his own lively appreciation.
Somerville and Lady Margaret and St. Hugh’s look resigned; future first
(or third) class men look contemptuous; a Blue feels that his time is
being wasted,--he must complain,--he rises and walks out as Urbanus
remarks:--

“I don’t know your name, sir, but you can sleep _here_, if you wish.”

Urbanus closes the book five minutes before or after the appointed hour;
some one mutters about “the worst lecturer in this incubator of bad
lecturers”: such is his influence, not so much injecting knowledge as
dredging and maturing what is already gained, that others can think of
him easily as a humanist of the great days, who has survived in his old
college, with an indifference to mere time which is not incredible in
Oxford, where memories three centuries old are still alive in oral
tradition.


VI

Philip Amberley, late fellow of----, took it much to heart that he was
not born in 1300. He would have been a monk, and would have illuminated
Ovid to the astonishment of all ages. All he could do in this age was to
perform his tutorial duty, and to write a few pages of noble English in
a caligraphy that was worthy of the ages he loved. He wrote but one
book, which he burned, because nobody would give him £5 for it. A not
very old or very credible story tells how an intelligent alien blurted
out the question, at the high table of Philip’s college: Whether the
uncomely heads before the Sheldonian Theatre were not the fellows of
that same college. The inquirer was corrected with asperity; and in
revenge he always stated that he afterwards received photographs of the
younger fellows, by way of removing the mote from his eye. But Philip
sent a photograph of the least human physiognomy, signed with full name
and college. For the rest, he had that uncertainty of character which is
called conscience in the good and timidity in the bad, and in him meant
merely that he exchanged an act for a dream. He was filled with a
supreme pity, even for the Devil, whom he called “that immortal
scapegoat of gods and men.”

He died on an evening of July, while the scent of hay in passing waggons
filled and pleased his nostrils, lying in his half-monastic,
half-manorial home, not far from Oxford. How often had he celebrated the
sweetness of the dead grass as an emblem of comely human death! For a
little while he spoke of his friends, of the “beautiful gate” of St.
Mary’s, of his columbines (the older sort), and of a copy of Virgil
newly come from Italy. We listened silently. Life was still an eloquent
poet on his lips. But Death was a strong sculptor already at work upon
his face and hands. The last waggon passed below his window as he lay
dead, and the friendly carter shouted “Good-night.”

Now, we three were ashamed that we could find no tears for the loss of
such a man; and again, that we should suffer any alteration of our joy,
at having seen what we had seen. We recalled the past through half the
night. As we sat, none of us looked more alive than he, amidst the old
gloomy furniture, refashioned by the moon. We were but the toys of
night, of the smooth perfumes and the sounds of nothing known, and of
the presence which was like a great thought in the room. Then as the
coming day mingled with the passing night, a cold pale beam--ῶ φάος
ἁγνὸν--came to the four. As often a symbol becomes an image, so the beam
of light seemed to be the very spirit of which it was a messenger,
hailed by our eyes and hearts. It was beautiful as the Grail with many
angels about it,--awful as the woman of stern aspect and burning eyes
that visited the dream of Boethius. It was worthy to have ushered
visions yet more august. Ah! the awful purity of the dawn. The light
grew; our fancies were unbuilt; we became aware of a holy excellence in
the light itself, and enjoyed an almost sensual

[Illustration: THE CLARENDON BUILDING, LOOKING EAST

     On the right stand those grotesque thermes partly surrounding and
     forming an entrance to the enclosure of the Sheldonian Theatre, the
     old Ashmolean, and the Schools.

     They are a quaint and conspicuous feature in Broad Street.

     Above them towers the Clarendon Building, with its worn and richly
     coloured surface, the columns of the portico relieved against the
     sky. A portion of the Indian Museum appears in the centre of the
     picture, the old houses forming picturesque foreground objects to
     the left.
]

melancholy repose. The owls were silent. The nightingales joined their
songs to the larks’. And I went out and walked and remembered his
epitaph--_Vita dulcis, sed dulcior mors_--and another July day, when
Philip Amberley was alive.

How he would walk! with what an air, an effluence, humble, and of
consequence withal! Half the village dallied among their flowers or
beehives to see him going. His long staff was held a foot from the upper
end, which almost entered his beard. He bore it, not airily with
twirling and fantastic motion, as our younger generation likes to do,
but solemnly, making it work, and leaning on it as if it were a sceptre,
a pillar, a younger brother. His eyes appeared to study the ground; yet
indeed all that was to be seen and much that is commonly invisible lay
within their sway. It was said he kept eyes in his pockets. His shanks
were of the extreme tenuity that seems no more capable of weariness than
of being diminished. Returning or setting forth, especially when seen
against the sky at sunset or dawn, he was a portent rather than a man.
His person was an emblem of human warfaring on earth--a hieroglyph--a
monument. His movements were of epic significance. His beard did not
merely wag; it transacted great matters. In setting out he himself said
he never contemplated return; it was unnecessary; at most it was one of
several possibilities. Yet had he a big laugh that came from his beard
like a bell from a grey tower. He would even sing as he walked, and was
the sole appreciator of his own rendering of “The All Souls’ Mallard,”
in a broken, grim baritone.

All day we walked along an ancient Oxfordshire road. It was the most
roundabout and kindly way towards our end, and so disguised our purpose
that we forgot it. The road curved not merely as a highway does.
Demurring, nicely distinguishing between good and better, rashly
advancing straight, coyly meandering, it had fallen in love with its own
foibles, and its progress was not to be measured by miles. At one loop
(where the four arms of a battered signpost all pointed to--nowhere) the
first man who trod this way must have paused to think, or not to think,
and have lost all aim save perambulation. So it stole through the land
without arresting the domesticities of the quiet hills. Often it was not
shut out from the fields by hedge or fence or bank. For some leagues it
became a footpath--its second childhood--“as though a rose should shut
and be a bud again”--with grass and flowers unavoidable under foot and
floating briers and hops overhead. In places the hedges had united and
unmade the road. From every part of it some church could be seen: Philip
would sometimes enter in, having some faith in the efficacy of reverence
offered by stealth on these uncanonical holy days. On our way he
sometimes paused, where bees made a wise hum in glowing gardens; or
where the corn-shocks looked like groups of women covered by their
yellow hair, as the sun ascended; or where the eye slumbered, and yet
not senselessly or in vain, amidst a rich undistinguished landscape,
made unreal and remote by mist; and he would whisper an oath or a line
of Theocritus or a self-tormenting speech--“Six hundred years ago
perhaps one of my name passed along this road. Oh! for one hour of his
joy as he spied his inn, or carved a cross in the church of St. John, or
kissed the milkmaid at yonder gateway. Or would that I could taste his
grief, even; his fresh and lively grief, I think, had something in it
which my pale soul is sick for. For me the present is made of the future
and the past. But he--perhaps--he could say, ‘Here am I with a can of
mead and a fatigue that will do honour to my lavendered sheets; _Ave
Maria!_ here’s to you all!’” Yet Philip’s mood was not seldom as clear
and simple as that.

At the inn--a classic inn to Oxford scholars--while the wind was purring
in a yew tree, he put all his gloomier fancies in a tankard, where they
were transmuted by a lambent ale and the “flaming ramparts” of that
small world. The landlord was unloading a dray. As it is with men and
clothes, remarked Philip, so with ale; the one grace of new ale is that
it will one day be old. “May I,” he said, “in some world or another, be
at least as old as this tankard, in the course of time: if I deserve it,
as old as this inn: if I can, as old as these hills, with their whiskers
of yew. Or, so long as I am not solitary, may I be as old as the sun,
which alone of all visible things has obviously reached a fine old age!”
He told me that his only valued dream was of an immemorial man, seated
on a star near the zenith; and his beard’s point swept the hilltops,
while with one hand he raised a goblet as large as the dome of the
Radcliffe to his lips, and with the other stroked his beard and caused
golden coins to flow in cascades into the countless hands of those
underneath; and in a melodious bass he said continually, “It is well.”

In his youth he had wedded Poverty, and when in the course of nature she
forsook him, he gently transferred his heart to Humility, regretting
only that he could no longer dress badly or make his own toast, without
affectation. He would give a beggar a handful of tobacco, and ask
sincerely, “Is it enough?” At the inn, he might have been lightly
treated for the respect with which he shamed the most unhappy outcast,
if he had not indifferently accepted the homage of the squire.

“Which book of the _Æneid_,” said that magnate of fifteen stone, at
seeing a Virgil in his hand, “do you like best?”

“The sixth.”

“And why?”

“Because I have just read it over again.”

“And which do you like next?”

“The second, because I read it first, and loved it (I was twelve) better
than anything but rackets.”

So he turned to the five tramps, the first I ever saw leave their hats
undoffed at his approach, who sat opposite.

They spoke, proclaiming themselves human; but their clothes, their
twisted bodies, and their gnarled, grey, bare feet, seemed to be the
original material from which some power had adventured to carve their
desperate faces, and then desisted in alarm, lest it should make a
gnome. They might seem to have newly risen out of the soil, with all its
lugubrious dishonours about them, and in an elder world might have
commanded the reverence of simple men, as Chthonian apparitions. I have
seen dead pollard-willows like them, and rocks out of which the sea has
wrought figures more humane. “Pedestalled haply in a palace court,” they
would have amazed the curious and confounded the wise; drinking beer at
“The Pilgrim’s Chair,” they happened to agree with Philip’s “idea of a
wild man,” which he had treasured on a dusty Platonic shelf of his mind
for fifty years. The _urpflanze_ found at last could not bring a finer
joy to a botanist than they to him. His mind wandered about his
discovery. “These great men”--he said--“are the victims of a community
that permits nobody to break its own law, and is indignant that a
poacher or a thief should claim the foregone privilege. On these men
falls the duty of keeping up the capacity of our race for breaking
law--a natural capacity. I should like to see--fill the pot,
landlord--something like the American arbor-day established in this fine
country. On that day men should plant, not a tree, but a wild emotion.
Not all of us, alas! could find one to plant. But such a wild man’s day
would be a noble opportunity for the divine instincts that are now
relieved or ill-fed by politics, fiction, religious reform, and so on.
I am for a more than Stuart, indulgent, anti-parliament government on
one day, when the policeman should clink tankards with the tramp, as if
he too were a man. See here!”--he mildly concluded, exposing the
unwilling palm of the nearest tramp,--“this good fellow is so
appreciative that he has taken my coppers and left the silver in my
purse.” Ordering the landlord to fill tankards all round--“for this
gentleman,” he said, pointing to the pickpocket--he soon made the whole
party harmonious, eloquent, and gay.

He spoke few words. His Virgil lay open still. Now and then his random
speech or a laugh at a bad jest floated joyously--like lemons in a
punch-bowl--over the company. Every one astonished every one with shrewd
or witty things. Not a man but thought himself almost as fine a fellow
as Philip Amberley. Not a man but on leaving him was a little abashed as
he took a last glance at my friend, and saw what manner of man he was.

“There he goes,” said Philip solemnly, as he leaned forward to watch
them reeling up the lane, singing as if their feet were shod and their
pockets full, “There he goes--an almost perfect man. I seem to see them
as one man, made up of the virtues or unselfish vices (which are all the
most of us can achieve) of all five, as a painter collects a beautiful
face from many mediocrities. Every one of them has his fustian soul
‘trimmed with curious lace.’” And so he continued; with generous and
cunning speech freeing of rust, nay!

[Illustration: ALL SAINTS’ CHURCH, FROM TURL STREET

     All Saints’ Church was built in 1708 from a design by Dr. Aldrich,
     Dean of Christ Church. The tower, lantern, and spire, which appear
     in the picture, are well proportioned.

     There are some ancient half-timbered buildings on the right, and
     between them and the Church tower, at the south end of Turl Street,
     is a glimpse of the High Street.

     North of the nave of the Church, along “The Turl,” shows a portion
     of the buildings of Lincoln College.
]

burnishing, the unused virtue in these abjects. “I have avoided what is
called vice,” he said, “because it is so easy, and I do not love easy
things;” and for the same reason he frowned but tenderly on those who
had not avoided it.

While the sunlight was failing, we were left by ourselves. But Philip
was not alone. He had laid his book and ale aside, and looked at the
solemn row of empty chairs against the wall. His eyes wore the creative
look of eyes that apprehend more than is visible. In those chairs he
beheld seated what he called his Loves--the very faces and hair and
hands of his dead friends. I have heard him say that they appeared “in
their old coats.” Night after night they revisited him--“of terrible
aspect,” yet sweet and desirable. They were as saints are to men whose
religion is of another name than his. He could say and act nothing which
those faces approved not, or which those faint hands would have stayed.
Embroidered by the day upon the border of the night, their life was an
hour. Out of doors he saw them, too, in well-loved places--gateways
above Hinksey, hilltops at Cumnor or Dorchester, Christ Church groves,
or fitting Oxford streets--such as (he believed) had something in them
which they owed to his passionate contemplation in their midst. There he
heard them speak softlier than the wings of fritillaries in Bagley Wood.
_Si quis amat novit quid hæc vox clamat_.... But his own face comes not
to satisfy the longing of those who watch as faithfully, with eyes
dimmer or of less felicity.


THE PAST

The Oxford graduate of the past is far too pale a ghost in literature.
He lies in old books, like a broken sculpture waiting to be
reconstructed, and survives but in an anecdote and from his importance
after leaving Oxford for a bishopric or a civil place. For one memory of
a Don there are a hundred of soldiers, statesmen, priests, in the
quadrangles and streets. He is in danger of being treated as merely the
writer of a quaint page among the records of the college muniment-room.
Erasmus, Fuller, Wood, Tom Warton, preserve and partly reveal the spirit
of the past, and help us to call up something of the lusty, vivid life
which the fellows and canons and presidents led in their “days of
nature.” There is, for example, a Dean of Christ Church, afterwards
Bishop of Oxford and last of Norwich, who has still the breath of life
in him, on John Aubrey’s page.


I

He was “very facetious and a good fellow,” and Ben Jonson’s friend. When
a Master of Arts, if not a Bachelor of Divinity, he was often merry at a
good ale parlour in Friar Bacon’s study, that welcomed Pepys and stood
till 1779. It was rumoured that the building would fall if a more
learned man than Bacon entered, a mischance of which the Dean had no
fear. When he was a Doctor of Divinity “he sang ballads at the Cross at
Abingdon on a market-day.” The usual ballad-singer could not compete
with such a rival, and complained that he sold no ballads. Whereat “the
jolly Doctor put off his gown and put on the ballad-singer’s leathern
jacket, and being a handsome man, and had a rare full voice,” he had a
great audience and a great sale of sheets. His conversation was “extreme
pleasant.” He and Dr. Stubbinge, a corpulent Canon of Christ Church,
were riding in a dirty lane, when the coach was overturned. “Dr.
Stubbinge,” said the Dean, “was up to his elbows in mud, but I was up to
the elbows in Stubbinge.” He was a verse-maker, of considerable
reputation, of some wit and abundant mirth, with a quaint looking
backward upon old places and old times that is almost pathetic in these
verses:--

    Farewell rewards and fairies,
    Good housewives now may say,
    For now foul sluts in dairies
    Do fare as well as they.
    And though they sweep their hearths no less
    Than maids were wont to do,
    Yet who of late for cleanliness
    Finds sixpence in her shoe?

    Lament, lament, old abbeys,
    The fairies’ lost command;
    They did but change priests’ babies,
    But some have changed your land;
    And all your children sprung from thence
    Are now grown Puritans;
    Who live as changelings ever since,
    For love of your domains.

When Bishop of Oxford, he had “an admirable, grave, and venerable
aspect.” But his pontifical state permitted some humanities, and he was
married to a pretty wife. “One time,” says Aubrey, “as he was
confirming, the country people pressing in to see the ceremony, said he,
‘Bear off there, or I’ll confirm you with my staff.’ Another time, being
about to lay his hand on the head of a man very bald, he turns to his
chaplain (Lushington) and said, ‘Some dust, Lushington’ (to keep his
hand from slipping).” He and Dr. Lushington, of Pembroke College, “a
very learned and ingenious man,” would sometimes lock themselves in the
wine-cellar. Then he laid down first his episcopal hat, with, “There
lies the doctor”; next, his gown, with, “There lies the bishop”; and
then ’twas “Here’s to thee, Corbet” and “Here’s to thee, Lushington.”
Three years after attaining the bishopric of Norwich he died.
“Good-night, Lushington,” were his last words.


II

There is also in Aubrey another such ruddy memory of a fine old
gentleman--a scholar, a thoughtful and genial governor of youth, “a
right Church of England man,” and President of Trinity. In gown and
surplice and hood “he had a terrible gigantic aspect, with his sharp
grey eyes” and snowy hair. He had a rich, digressive mind, “like a hasty
pudding, where there was memory, judgment, and fancy all stirred
together,” not suited to his day; and began a sermon happily, but not at
all to Aubrey’s taste:--

“Being my turn to preach in this place, I went into

[Illustration: TRINITY COLLEGE

     The entrance to the College is under the tower at the west end of
     the Chapel, which appears towards the right of the picture.

     The architecture of the Chapel is worthy of being seen, though the
     covering of green prevents this--a custom carried to excess in
     Oxford buildings.

     Opposite, at the extreme left, is a portion of the east end of the
     Chapel of Balliol College, and the trees are standing in that
     remnant of an old orchard fronting the Broad which forms the
     spacious approach to Trinity College.
]

my study to prepare myself for my sermon, and I took down a book that
had blue strings, and looked in it, and ’twas sweet Saint Bernard. I
chanced to read such a part of it, on such a subject, which has made me
to choose this text....”

He concluded, says Aubrey:--

“‘But now I see it is time for me to shut up my book, for I see the
doctors’ men come in wiping of their beards from the ale-house.’ He
could from the pulpit plainly see them, and ’twas their custom in sermon
to go there, and about the end of sermon to return to wait on their
masters.”

Undergraduates who pleased him not were warned that he might “bring an
hour-glass two hours long” into the hall. He was inexorable towards
wearers of long hair, and would cut it off with “the knife that chips
the bread on the buttery hatch.” It was his fashion to peep through
key-holes in order to find out idlers. Says one: “He scolded the best in
Latin of any one that ever he knew.” It seemed to him good discipline to
keep at a high standard the beer of Trinity, because he observed that
“the houses that had the smallest beer had most drunkards, for it forced
them to go into the town to comfort their stomachs.” Yet in his
exhortations to a temperate life, he admitted that the men of his
college “ate good commons and drank good double beer, and that will get
out.” And he was a man of tender and exquisite charity. When he saw that
a diligent scholar was also poor, “he would many times put money in at
his window,” and gave work in transcription to servitors who wrote a
good hand. His right foot dragged somewhat upon the ground, so that “he
gave warning (like the rattlesnake) of his coming,” and an imitative wag
of the college “would go so like him that sometimes he would make the
whole chapel rise up, imagining he had been entering in.” The Civil War,
thinks Aubrey, killed the old man, just before he would have been fifty
years President. For it “much grieved him that was wont to be so
absolute in the college to be affronted and disrespected by rude
soldiers.” The cavaliers and their ladies invaded the college grove to
the sound of lute or theorbo. Some of the gaudy women even came, “half
dressed, like angels,” to morning chapel. A foot-soldier broke the
President’s hour-glass. So he gathered his old russet cloth gown about
him and closed his eyes upon the calamity and died, still a fresh and
handsome old man.


III

John Earle, a notable scholar and divine of the seventeenth century, a
fellow of Merton, and afterwards Bishop of Worcester and Bishop of
Salisbury, has drawn the picture of “a downright scholar,” which I may
not omit. Earle had the most concentrated style of any man of his time;
each of his sentences is a document. His characters are as clear and
firm as the brasses on Merton altar platform, and likely to endure as
long.

“A downright scholar,” he writes, “is one that has

[Illustration: INTERIOR OF THE LIBRARY OF MERTON COLLEGE

     The newel posts, balusters, and hand-rails of the staircase leading
     to the ground-floor show in the centre of the picture, to the right
     and left of which are bookcases and the quaint “Jacobean” screens
     peculiar to this Library.

     The ribbed barrel roof is covered with timber, the dormer windows
     which light the Library appearing on the left, over the staircase.

     An old oak coffer, bound with iron, is placed to the left of the
     staircase.
]

much learning in the ore, unwrought and untried, which time and
experience fashions and refines. He is good metal in the inside, though
rough and unsecured without, and therefore hated of the courtier that is
quite contrary. The time has got the vein of making him ridiculous, and
men laugh at him by tradition, and no unlucky absurdity but is put upon
his profession, and done like a scholar. But his fault is only this,
that his mind is somewhat much taken up with his mind, and his thoughts
not laden with any carriage besides. He has not put on the quaint garb
of the age, which is now become a man’s total. He has not humbled his
meditations to the industry of compliment, nor afflicted his brain in an
elaborate leg. His body is not set upon nice pins, to be turning and
flexible for every motion, but his scrape is homely, and his nod worse.
He cannot kiss his hand and cry Madam, nor talk idly enough to bear her
company. His smacking of a gentlewoman is somewhat too savoury, and he
mistakes her nose for her lip. A very woodcock would puzzle him in
carving, and he wants the logic of a capon. He has not the glib faculty
of gliding over a tale, but his words come squeamishly out of his mouth,
and the laughter commonly before the jest. He names this word College
too often, and his discourse beats too much on the University. The
perplexity of mannerliness will not let him feed, and he is sharp set at
an argument when he should cut his meat. He is discarded for a gamester
at all games but ‘one and thirty,’ and at tables he reaches not beyond
doublets. His fingers are not long and drawn out to handle a fiddle,
but his fist is clenched with the habit of disputing. He ascends a horse
somewhat sinisterly, though not on the left side, and they both go
jogging in grief together. He is exceedingly censured by the Inns of
Court men for that heinous vice being out of fashion. He cannot speak to
a dog in his own dialect, and understands Greek better than the language
of a falconer. He has been used to a dark room, and dark clothes, and
his eyes dazzle at a satin doublet. The hermitage of his study makes him
somewhat uncouth in the world, and men make him worse by staring on him.
Thus he is silly and ridiculous, and it continues with him for some
quarter of a year, out of the University. But practise him a little in
men, and brush him over with good company, and he shall outbalance those
glisterers as much as a solid substance does a feather, or gold gold
lace.” One story is told of him. He was sharp-tempered and much beloved;
his servitor was endeared to his faults, and inquired respectfully one
day why his master had not boxed his ears. To which he replied “that he
thought he had done so; but indeed he had forgot many things that day”;
it being the day of Charles I.’s execution. Whereat the servitor wept,
and received the admonition unexpectedly for his pains.



UNDERGRADUATES OF THE PRESENT AND THE PAST



CHAPTER IV

UNDERGRADUATES OF THE PRESENT AND THE PAST


THE PRESENT

What a thing it is to be an undergraduate of the University of Oxford!
Next to being a great poet or a financier, there is nothing so absolute
open to a man. For several years he is the nursling of a great tradition
in a fair city: and the memory of it is above his chief joy. His follies
are hallowed, his successes exalted, by the dispensation of the place.
Surely the very air whispers of wisdom and the beautiful, he thinks--

     Planius et melius Chrysippo et Crantore dicit!

That time is the one luxury he never regrets. It is a second childhood,
as blithe and untroubled as the first, and with this advantage over the
first: that it is not only good, but he knows that it is good. What
games! what books! what walks! what affections! are his. Time passes, we
say, although it is we--like children that see the square fields
receding from their swift train--that pass. Yet, with these things in
Oxford, he seems to lure time a little way with him upon the road. The
liberty of a man and the license of a child are his together. Of course,
he abuses them. He uses them, too. Hence the admirable independence of
the undergraduate, which has drawn upon him the excommunication of those
whose concern is with the colour and cut of clothes. He is the only true
Bohemian, because he cannot help it--does not try to be--and does not
know it. He is the true Democrat, and condescension is far less common
than servility in his domain. He alone keeps quite inviolate the
principle of freedom of speech. It is indeed true that, as anywhere
else, fools are exclusive as regards clever men and different kinds of
fools; and snobs, as regards all but themselves. But theirs is a rare
and lonely life. At Christ Church they have actually a pool, in the
centre of their great quadrangle, for the baptism of those who have not
learned these fine traditions; it is appropriately called after Mercury,
to whom men used to sacrifice pigs, and especially lambs and young
goats. And there is no college in Oxford where any but the incompatible
are kept apart, and few where that distinction is really preserved. As
befits a prince in his own palace, the undergraduate usually dispenses
with hypocrisy and secrecy, and thus gives an opportunity to the
imaginative stranger. Such an one drew a lurid picture of a horde of
wealthy bacchanals, making night hideous with the tormenting of a poor
scholar. It was not said whether the sufferer was in the habit of doing
nasty and dishonourable things, or had funked at football, or worn
ringlets over his collar: it was

[Illustration: CHRIST CHURCH COLLEGE--TOM QUADRANGLE

     The front of the picture is occupied by part of the basin of the
     fountain, from the centre of which rises a pedestal bearing a
     figure in bronze of “Mercury” (restored). In reality the figure no
     longer shows above the water-lilies in the basin, but engravings of
     views of the Quadrangle in the eighteenth century, in which a
     figure of Mercury appears, are still to be seen, and the fountain
     was once called “The Mercury.”

     The entrance gateway to the College and a portion of Tom Tower
     appear in the background.
]

almost certainly one of the remarkable efforts of imagination which are
frequently devoted to that famous city and its inhabitants. The patience
of the undergraduate is extreme. It is extended to tradesmen and to the
sounds of the Salvation Army. He greets bimetallists with tenderness,
teetotallers with awe, and vegetarians with a kind of rapture, tempered
by a rare spurt of scientific inquiry. If he makes an exception against
sentimentalism, he relents in favour of that place, “so late their happy
seat,” when he goes down. Mr. Belloc has put that retrospection
classically:--

    The wealth of youth, we spent it well
    And decently, as very few can.
    And is it lost? I cannot tell,
    And what is more, I doubt if you can....

    They say that in the unchanging place,
    Where all we loved is always dear,
    We meet our morning face to face,
    And find at last our twentieth year....

    They say (and I am glad they say)
    It is so; and it may be so:
    It may be just the other way;
    I cannot tell. But this I know:

    From quiet homes and first beginning,
    Out to the undiscovered ends,
    There’s nothing worth the wear of winning,
    But laughter and the love of friends.

       *       *       *       *       *

    But something dwindles, oh! my peers,
    And something cheats the heart and passes,
    And Tom that meant to shake the years
    Has come to merely rattling glasses.
    And He, the Father of the Flock,
    Is keeping Burmesans in order,
    An exile on a lonely rock,
    That overlooks the Chinese border.

    And one (myself I mean--no less),
    Ah! will Posterity believe it--
    Not only don’t deserve success,
    But hasn’t managed to achieve it.

    Not even this peculiar town
    Has ever fixed a friendship firmer,
    But--one is married, one’s gone down,
    And one’s a Don, and one’s in Burmah.

       *       *       *       *       *

    And oh! the days, the days, the days,
    When all the four were off together;
    The infinite deep of summer haze,
    The roaring boast of autumn weather!

       *       *       *       *       *

    I will not try the reach again,
    I will not set my sail alone,
    To moor a boat bereft of men
    At Yarnton’s tiny docks of stone.

    But I will sit beside the fire,
    And put my hands before my eyes,
    And trace, to fill my heart’s desire,
    The last of all our Odysseys.

    The quiet evening kept the tryst:
    Beneath an open sky we rode,
    And mingled with a wandering mist
    Along the perfect Evenlode....


I

The average man seldom gets into a book, though he often writes one. Yet
who would not like to paint him or have him painted, for once and for
ever! And, _a fortiori_, who would not wish the same for the average
undergraduate? I can but hint at his glories, as in an architect’s
elevation. For he is neither rich nor poor, neither tall nor short,
neither of aristocratic birth nor ignobly bred. Briefly, Providence has
shielded him from the pain and madness of extremes. He plays football,
cricket, rackets, hockey, golf, tennis, croquet, whist, poker, bridge.
In neither will he excel; yet in some one he will for an hour be
conspicuous, if only at a garden-party or on a village green. He never
rashly ventures in the matter of dress, and when his friends who are
above the average are wearing very green tweeds, he will be just green
enough to be passable, and yet so subdued as not to be questioned by
those who stick to grey. He is never punctual; on the other hand, he is
never very late. In conversation, he will avoid eloquence for fear of
long-windedness, and silence for fear of appearing original or rude: at
most, he will be frivolous to the extent of remarking, about a pretty
face, ‘Oh, she is _alpha plus_!’ As a freshman only will he make any
great mistakes. Thus, he will have several meerschaums; will assemble at
a wine party the most incompatible men, and conclude it by all but
losing his self-respect; and will for a term use Oxford slang as if it
were a chosen tongue, and learn a few witticisms at the expense of
shopkeepers, if he is free by the accident of birth. But he will
speedily forget these things and become a person with blunt and tender
consideration for others, and may be popular because of his excellent
cigarettes or his ready listening. He will in a few years learn to row
honestly, if not brilliantly; to know what is fitting to be said and
read in the matter of books; to discuss the theatre, the government, the
cricket season, in an inoffensive way. Add to this pale vision the
colouring implied by a college hat-band and a decent, ruddy face, and
you have the not too vigorous or listless, manly man, with modest
bearing and fearless voice, who plays his part so well in life, and now
and then--on a punt, or at a wedding--reveals to the discerning observer
his university. The late Grant Allen knew him by his broad, brown back,
and his habit of bathing in winter in a rough sea.


II

He has come to Oxford, much as a man of old would have come to some
fabled island, out beyond the pillars of Hercules; for even so Oxford is
out beyond the world which he knows--

    The Graces and the rosy-bosomed Hours
    Thither all their bounties bring.

Perhaps his schoolmasters have been Oxford men. But that has not
disillusioned him. He has been in the habit of thinking of them as men
who, for some fault or misfortune, have come back from the fortunate
islands, discontented or empty. They have not known how to use the
place: he knows, or will learn to know; and he dreams of it in his
peaceful country school, or at a London school, where boys go as to a
place of business, and make verses as others cast accounts. To some
Oxford men, Matthew Arnold’s “Thyrsis” is the finest poem that was ever
written; and he knows it by heart already; has sighed ignorantly over
it; and as his train draws near to Oxford, he repeats it to himself,
with a most fantastic fervour, as if it were half a prayer and half a
love-song, and certainly more than half his own. The pleasant excited
uncertainty, as to whether he has seen the Fyfield elm, or whether that
oaken slope was Cumnor, and his happy surmises while his eye skips from
tower to tower in the distance, blind him to the drizzling, holiday air
of the platform: he has no time to remember how it differs from
Eastbourne: he is so set upon beholding the High Street that he is
indifferent to the tram and the mean streets, and is not reminded of
Wandsworth. The cabman is to him a supernal, Olympian cabman. He pays
the man heavily, and quotes from Sophocles as he steps through the lodge
gate, amid the greetings of porter, messenger, and a scout or two. The
magnificent quadrangle gives a dignity to his walk that is laughable to
senior men. He goes from room to room, making his choice, and knows not
whether to be attracted by the spaciousness of one suite, or the
miniature sufficiency of another,--the wainscot of a third, the
traditions of a fourth, or the view from a fifth.

In the evening, at dinner in the college hall, he puts all of his
emotion into the grace before meat, and by his slow, loving utterance
robs the fellows of their chairs and the undergraduates of their talk.
He scans curiously the healthy or clever or human faces of his
contemporaries at the table. As all visible things are symbols, he
supposes that something, which he is too inexperienced to understand,
distinguishes these youths from the others with similar faces in London
or elsewhere. He answers a few questions about his school and his
athletic record. Then he falls back upon the coats of arms and the
founders’ portraits on the walls, and is glad when he has returned to
his room. There, the unpacking and arrangement of a hundred books fill
the hours until long after midnight. For he kneels and opens and reads a
page, and dreams and reopens, and goes to the window, to listen or
watch. Not a book but he finds flat and uninspired, and quite unworthy
of his first Oxford night. He wants something more megalophonous than De
Quincey, more perfect than Pater, more fantastic than Browne, more sweet
than Newman,--something that shall be witty, spiritual, gay, and solemn
in a breath,--something in short that was never yet written by pen and
ink, although often inspired by a night like this.

    The eager hours and unreluctant years
      As on a dawn-illumined mountain stood,
    Trampling to silence their loud hopes and fears,
      Darkening each other with their multitude,
    And cried aloud, Liberty!

And so he sleeps; but in spite of his great dreams, he is not
disappointed when he looks out upon the glorious company of the spires
and towers of Oxford. He rises early, and is surprised when he meets
only the college cat in the quadrangle, and the gate is shut. But he
returns quite cheerfully to his room, to read Virgil while the dreamy
sky is still tender with the parting touch of night.

After breakfast, and some disbursements to porter and scout, he begins
to make acquaintances, over a newspaper in the junior common room, or at
a preliminary visit to his tutor. With one, he walks up and down High
Street: he learns which are the tailors and which are not. With another,
he goes out to Parson’s Pleasure, and likes the willows of Mesopotamia,
and sees New College Tower: he wants to loiter in the churchyard of Holy
Cross, but is scornfully reminded that Byron did much the same. Queen’s
College inspires his companion with the remark that Queen in Oxford is
called “Quagger.” The Martyr’s Memorial calls forth “Maggers Memugger”;
Worcester, “Wuggins”; Jesus, “Jaggers”: and he is much derided when he
supposes that the scouts use these terms.

After luncheon, he cannot get free, but must watch football or the
humours of “tubbing” on the river. His companions, with all the easy
omniscience of public-school boys, are so busy telling him what’s what,
that he learns little of what is. And at tea, he is as wise as they, and
has the tired emotion of one who has been through fairyland on a motor
car.

A week in this style broadens his horizon; his optimism, still strong,
embraces mankind and excludes most men. A series of teas with senior men
and a crowd of contemporaries fails to exhilarate him. The shy are
silent: the rest talk about their schools; appear advanced men of the
world; and shock their seniors, who in their turn dispense tales about
dons, and useful information: and he feels ashamed to be silent and
contemptuous of what is said. His grace in hall has become so portentous
that his neighbour hums the Dead March in _Saul_ by way of
accompaniment.

With some misgiving he goes alone to his room, sports his oak--which
others so often do for him when he is out--and puts his room in order.
His college shield, brilliantly and incorrectly blazoned, hangs above
the door. Photographs of his newest acquaintances rest for the time upon
his desk. He has not yet learned to respect the photograph of a
Botticelli above the mantelpiece, and has tucked under its frame a
caricature of some college worthy, with visiting-cards, notes of
invitation, a table of work, and his first _menu_. On the mantelpiece
are photographs that recall tenderer things, along with his meerschaum
and straight-grained briar. For a minute he is interrupted by a kick, an
undeniable shout, a cigar, and behind it the captain of Rugby football.

“Can you play?” says the captain.

“I have never tried,” says the freshman, modestly.

The captain retires, after conferring an indignity in pert
monosyllables, and familiarly inquiring after “all your aunts.”

“How do you know I have any aunts, Mr.----?” he inquires.

“Oh,” replies the captain, “I never heard of a

[Illustration: HOLYWELL CHURCH

     Holywell is the Campo Santo of Oxford, and many names famous in her
     history are found there.

     The almost ruined cottage and desolate garden make a suitable
     foreground.

     The view is from the north-west.

nephew without an aunt, and I am sure you couldn’t do without several.”

“I wonder why he came to Oxford,” reflects the freshman.

“He’s mistaken his calling,” chuckles the other on the way downstairs.

The freshman lights his meerschaum (holding it in a silk handkerchief),
and begins to make a plan for three or four years. But he never
completes it. He believes Oxford to be as a fine sculptor, and wishes to
put himself in its hands in such a way as to be best shapen by the
experience, in a “wise passiveness.” He wants to be a scholar, and fears
to be a pedant. He wants to learn a wise and graceful habit with his
fellow-men, and fears to be what he hears called a gentleman. He wants
to test his enthusiasm and prejudices, and fears to be a Philistine. He
wants to taste pleasure delicately, and fears to be a _viveur_ or an
æsthete. None of these aims is altogether conscious or precise; yet it
is some such combination that he sees before him, faint and possible, at
the end of three or four years. Nor has he any aim beyond that. He will
work, but at what? Neither has he realised that he will be alone and
unhelped.

At first the loneliness is a great, and even at times a delirious,
pleasure; and whether he is in a church, or in the fields, or among
books, it is almost sensual, and never critical. Oxford is, as it were,
doing his living for him. He is as powerless to influence the passage of
his days as to plan the architecture of his dreams. He only awakens at
his meals with contemporaries, and sometimes at interviews with tutors.
The former find him dull and superior. The latter tell him that in his
work he is indeed gathering honey, but filling no combs; and find him
ungainly and vague. He consoles himself with the reflection that he is
not becoming a pedant or a careless liver. He writes verses to celebrate
the melodious days he lives. All influences of men fall idly upon him--

        They on us were rolled
    But kept us not awake.

The digressive habit of mind not only grows upon him; he cultivates it.
His tutor says that it is impossible to give a title to his best essays.
Long, lonely evenings with books only encourage the habit. But he can
defend it, and laughs at criticism. Shakespeare’s dramas, he says, flow
through the centuries, like the Nile; his flood is not so vast, that it
may not be aggrandised by many a tributary. It has come down to us
vaster than when it reached Milton or Gray, not only by definite
commentary, but by the shy emotions of a myriad readers. We add to it,
he says triumphantly, by our digressions; and what revelation it may
make in consequence, to a far future generation, we cannot guess. In his
pursuit of words, which soon enthrall him, he goes far, rather than
deep. Wherever the word has been cherished for its own sake, in all
“decadent” literature, he makes his mind a home. He begins to write, but
in a style which, along with his ornate penmanship, would occupy a
lifetime, and result in one _brochure_ or half a dozen sonnets. It is a
kind of higher philately. But it takes him to strange and fascinating
byways in literature. He loves the grotesque. Now and then, he lets fall
a quotation or even a dissertation on such a book at dinner, and
suddenly he is launched into popularity.

First he is hailed as a decadent, and shrinks. When the shrinking is
over, he secretly falls in love with the half-contemptuous title, and
seeks others who accept it. Now he is never by himself. Those with whom
he has no sympathies like him because he happens to know _Pantagruel_
and a few books such as some undergraduates keep between false covers.
His room is fragrant with unseasonable flowers, with the perfume of
burning juniper, burning cassia, and cedar, and sweet oils. What if the
honourable ghosts of Oxford frown upon his strange devotions? He is at
least living a life that could not persist elsewhere. At chapel, he is
reading Theophrastus. He is studying an undercurrent of the Italian
Renaissance at a lecture on Thucydides. As if he were to live for ever,
and in Oxford, his existence is such that his stay in Oxford or in life
becomes precarious. He is reputed to be a connoisseur in wines,
pictures, and sixteenth-century furniture. He is a Roman Catholic by
profession, an agnostic by conviction; yet no religion or superstition
is quite safe from his patronage. He mistakes the recrudescence of
childishness for a sad and wise maturity. Freshmen are struck by his
listless gaiety and the unkind and seeming wise solemnity of his light
expressions. If to sit sumptuous and still, to discourse melodiously of
everything or nothing, to be courteous, sentimental, cold, and rude in
turns, were wisdom, he is wise. He acquires the lofty cynicism of the
under-informed and the over-fed. He can talk with ease and point, about
the merely married don, about virtue as the fine which the timid pay to
the bold, about the dulness of enthusiasm and the strange beauty of
grey. At what is temperate and modest he throws satire with a bitterness
enhanced by a secret affection for what he lapidates. Like a man who
should paint an angel and call it a thief, he narrowly pursues his own
choicest veiled gifts with a malicious word. In short, his brilliant
conversation proves how much easier it is to think what one says than to
say what one thinks. Yet is he now a harder student than he has ever
been, and allows nothing to disturb him at his books. He has nodded at
European literatures through half their courses, in the lonely hours
when his companions are asleep. He is planning again, and realises that
it would be a showy thing to get a first class. His conversation becomes
gloomy as well as bitter. People suspect that he means what he says; and
he mutters in explanation that experience is the basis of life and the
ruin of philosophies. His friends simply accept the remark as untrue. He
is now often reduced to silence among those who sleep well. He no longer
pours a current of fresh and illuminating thought upon things which he
not only does not understand, but does not care for, in politics or
art.

He slips out of brilliant company, to enter occasionally among religious
circles where they are tolerant of lost sheep, and has begun to pay his
smaller bills and to find out what books he must read for a degree, when
the examination day arrives. Then he borrows his old dignified look of
indolence in the sultry schools, while he writes hard, and secures a
second class by means of a legible handwriting, clear style, and amusing
irrelevance. He goes down, alone, still with a fascinating tongue,
desperate, and yet careless of success, ready to do anything so long as
he can escape comfortable and conventional persons, and quite unable to
be anything conspicuous, but a man who has been to the garden of the
Hesperides and brought back apples that he alone can make appear to be
golden in his rare moments of health.


III

He is one who knows that three or four years at the University is a good
investment. He comes up with an open scorn of idlers, both gilded and
gifted. Whether he is clever and successful or not, he has a suspicion
that dons are underworked, colleges expensive hotels or worse, and is
determined to change all that. Not infrequently such a one is perverted
by a happy evening with a few acquaintances, early in his first term. If
he is not, he is a white elephant. The dons are alarmed by his
instructions, the undergraduates by his clothes. “If this were not an
old conservative creek,” he seems to say, “promotion would go by merit,
and I should soon be at the top of the tree and begin repairs.” But the
University remains unchanged.

He looks about him for a more stealthy passage to his ends.

A vernal impulse, it may be, sends him to a tailor’s shop, and in the
unwonted resplendence that follows he is almost a butterfly. In a
jocular spirit he calls upon the persons whose invitations he used to
ignore. If he is clever or amusing, or apparently labouring under a
delusion, he is liked. In his turn he is called upon. He begins to find
that there is something in himself which has a taste for all that is
human. _Homo sum_, he mutters, with one of the classical quotations
which are to his taste. He will dally with the multitude for an hour or
two,--a week,--why not for a term? When he is in the company of the sons
of old or wealthy families, it occurs to him that rank and wealth are
powerful: it follows, and can be demonstrated, that the power cannot be
more justly exercised than in the furthering of honest and meritorious
poverty. He will make a concession; possibly another visit to a tailor;
perhaps a little champagne. Several discoveries follow.

It would be not only difficult, but contemptible, to play football or to
row; yet he can learn to play lawn tennis. He is presently quite at
home, if not in love, at garden parties. He mistakes the curious
interest of men and women, in one who is entirely different from
themselves, for a compliment to his adaptability.

Society bores him rapidly. He has had enough of vacation visits and
picnics during the term, and revives his acquaintance with work and the
indolent fellows. But that is not necessarily attractive. Also, his
friends and admirers will not let him disappear; and he returns to
frivolity in a serious and plotting spirit. He tolerates nearly every
one, and in particular the influential. They cultivate him, clearly, for
his intelligence, his independence, his originality. Why should he not
cultivate them for their own petty endowment? He enters office at the
Union. He is elected to presidentships, secretaryships.

He is lucky if he does not learn from others--what he will not easily
learn alone--that his resemblance to them is neither his best nor his
most useful quality. And so he finds that after all there is nothing in
ideals, and steps into a comfortable place in life; or perhaps he does
not.


IV

The many-coloured undergraduate looks as if he had been designed by the
architect of the “Five Orders Gate” in the Schools’ Quadrangle. His hat,
his face, his tie, his waistcoat, his boots, represent the five orders;
as in his great original, the Corinthian is predominant, and like that,
he would never be thought possible, if he had not been seen. Yet he
moves. Despite his elaborate appearance--destined to endure perhaps for
all time, or as long as a shop-front--it is impossible to guess what may
be his activities. He may be a famous oarsman or cricketer, in which
case his taste forbids him to adopt the broad blue band of his rank,
unless there are ladies in Oxford. He may be a hard-working student who
adopts this among many methods of showing that his successes fall to him
as naturally as Saturday and Sunday. He may be an amateur tragedian, or
magazine-wit, or æsthete, who finds the costume less embarrassing
although less distinguishing than cosmetics and an overcoat of fur. He
may be a billiard-player who has chosen this contrasted, barry, wavy set
of colours as his coat of arms, or the perambulating _mannequin d’osier_
of several tailors, a transcendental sandwich-man. Or he may be a
“blood” of many great connections and expenses; genial in his sphere;
pleased with the number of his debts and the times he has been ploughed
in “Smalls”; hunting or rowing keenly, while he lasts; and except when
he has to work (which sends him to sleep), a sitter up at nights over
cards and wine--

    Strict age and sour Severity,
    With their grave saws, in slumber lie.
    We that are of purer fire
    Imitate the starry quire.

Or his great expenses and connections may not exist. He is perhaps a
poor and worthless imitation of all that is great,--who does not know
Lord X., of whom he tells such dull stories,--whose relatives are
neither retired, nor in Army, Navy, or Church,--and entirely respectable
in the Vacations, when he earns by his own self-sacrifice what was
earned for his models by the

[Illustration: THE BATHING SHEDS, OR “PARSONS’ PLEASURE”

These sheds are built on the banks of the river Cherwell, the willow
trees lining the stream being fitted with platforms at all heights for
plunging.

A figure to the right is taking advantage of one of these stations;
others are dressing or preparing to bathe.

The time is near sunset in summer.]

unscrupulousness of their ancestors. In short, he may be a most
brilliant, most fascinating, or most modest person, who has chosen to
appear piebald.

His room is decorated with photographs of actresses, along with perhaps
a Hogarth print, a florid male and a floral female portrait, an
expensive picture of a horse, and copies from Leighton. In a corner is a
piano, which he is perhaps eager and unable to play. The air is scented
with roses and cigarettes. The window-seat is strewn with hunting-crops,
bills, a caricature of himself from an undergraduate paper, several
novels and boxes of cigarettes, a history of the Argent-Bigpotts of
Bigpott, and, under a cushion, some note-books and a table of work.

He is to be met with everywhere; for he is not ashamed to be seen. He
lives long in the memories of travellers from Birmingham who wait five
minutes in Oxford. In the Schools he is a constant attendant, always
sanguine, not quite cheerful or satisfied with the company, yet equal
(at his Viva Voce) to a look of ineffectual superiority for the man who
ploughs him with a smile. He is also to be found by the river, during
the Eights, when he cheers and looks very well; in a bookshop, where he
recognises Omar and some novels; or in the High, which never wearies
him, although his bored look seems to say so.


V

He has come up with a scholarship from school. There, he took prizes,
had an attack of brain-fever, and edited the magazine: and he has come
to the University as if it were an upper class of his old school. His
aim is, as many prizes as possible and a good degree. The tutors here,
like the masters at school, he regards as men who turn a handle and work
up more or less good material into scholars, as a butcher makes
sausages, all exactly alike to the eye, out of a mysterious heap. At
first he is in great awe of a fellow, and wears his scholar’s gown at
its utmost length, and as proudly as star and riband--he will hardly
take it off in the severe quarter of an hour in which he permits himself
to drink coffee and eat anchovy toast after dinner; and he sometimes
pretends to forget that he has it on until he goes to bed. Perhaps on
one occasion he trips his tutor over a quotation or something of no
account. He scans the tutor’s bookshelves, and finds odd things between
Tacitus and Thucydides which make him ponder. At length, he is less
respectful; opens discussions, in which, having tired the tutor, he
returns very well satisfied. For he has a patent memory, as he has a
patent reading-lamp and reading-desk. Nothing goes into it without a
bright label, as nothing goes into his note-book without honours of
pencilled red and blue. His copy of Homer is so overscored that one
might suppose that the battle of the pigmies and cranes had been fought
to a sanguinary end upon its page.

At school his football was treated with contempt, yet with silence,
except by very small boys. At college he is anxious to do a little at
games. The captain of the boats asks him, as a matter of course, to go
down to the river, to be tubbed (or coached) in a pair-oar boat; and he
replies that he “will willingly spare half an hour.” He shows some good
points at the river; is painstaking and neat. His half-hour is
mercilessly multiplied day after day. He is to be found at the
starting-point in February, in his college Torpid, and proves a stately
nonentity or passenger; discovers that rowing abrades more than his
skin, and gives it up just before he is asked to. For the future he
sculls alone, once a week, when it is mild, and oftener when his friends
are visiting him--which he does not encourage. At such times he learns
that it is quite true that Oxford possesses some fine drawings, marbles,
stained glass, and a library of little use to a determined “Greats” man.
These he exhibits to the visitors impatiently and with pride. He returns
to his work unruffled. Already he has scored one First Class and a
_proxime_ for a prize. Yet his tutor pays him qualified compliments,
which he attributes to the natural bitterness of a second class man. The
tutor sometimes asks him what he reads; to which he replies brightly
with a long list of texts, etc.

“Yes, but what do you read when you unbend?” says the tutor. “Did you
ever read _Midshipman Easy_?” (with a touch of exasperation).

The youth blushingly replies: “No, I never unbend.”

Nor is the other far more pleased when he brings with him, on a short
vacation boating holiday, a volume of the _Encyclopædia Britannica_.

Now and then he speaks at the Union. There and at afternoon teas with
ladies he is known for the lucidity of his commonplaces and the length
of his quotations. For the most part he talks only of his work and the
current number of the _Times_. His work, meantime, is less and less
satisfactory to every one but his coach. Some say that he will get
another first, and will not deserve it. Already he is learning that
three or four years among “boys” is not helpful to his future. No one so
much as he emphasises the distinction between third and second year
undergraduates. He is always looking for really improving conversation,
and play of mind without any play. A book tea would please him, if it
were not so frivolous.

Once only he lapses from the rigidity of his ways. He thinks it a matter
of duty until it occurs, when the hearty and informal reception given to
his rendering of “To Anthea” discourages any further condescension. With
that exception, he moves with considerable dignity among mankind: in all
things discreet, with a leaning towards the absurd; in most things well
under control, yet, in spite of his rigidity, really luxuriating in the
sweets of a neutral nature that never tempts temptation. He sends in a
neat, flowery, and icy poem for the Newdigate Prize, and wins. He gets
his second First Class and an appointment which he likes at the same
time. He enters for a fellowship, and his failure calls forth the old
story about the cherry tart that was offered to likely competitors at a
fellowship examination, where the cleanest management of the stones
meant success.

He goes down with his degree, and confident, applauded, unmissed. His
friends say that he lacks something which he ought to have. What is it?


VI

He has come up to Oxford with an unconquerable love of men and books and
games; is resolved not to be careful in small matters for a few years;
and has a clear vision of a profession ahead. Others think that a
fellowship and a prize are his due; he vaguely regards them as nice. But
he has a strong belief that any kind of distinction is dangerous at
Oxford, and among the least of its possibilities. He respects the
scholar and the Blue, and sees that they might equally well be made in
another city or on another stream. Bent upon a life among men, he sees
that a university is a place where many are men, but where many of the
suspicious and calculating passions of a bigger world are in abeyance;
and thinks that it should therefore be the home of perfect rivalries and
friendships.

He will attend the lectures of----, which are outside his course. He
will accept some hearty excesses in the rooms of---- as equally
important. When he comes up his sympathies are universal. He is eager
and warm in his liking of men and things; and he is straightway on happy
terms with undergraduates and dons. After a few terms his versatility is
hard-worked in order to give something more than an appearance of
sympathy in the company of athletes, reading men, contemplative men, and
wealthy men. For a time his success is sublime. The reading man thinks
there was never such a student. The rowing man approves of his leg-work
and his narratives at those little training parties for the enjoyment of
music, port, and fruit--“togger ports.” His method appeals to the don.
Now and then, indeed, some one a little more reticent than himself puts
him to a test, and he may discourse on Aquinas to a Unitarian Socialist,
or on Gargantua to one deep in Christian mysticism or fresh from the new
year’s advice of his great-aunt. In such cases, either he is repulsed
with sufficient narrowness on the part of the other to supply a
necessary balm, or he makes a surprised and admiring convert, who may do
odd things on account of his inferior versatility. For quite a long time
he may have the good fortune to let loose his interest in the Ptolemies
in the neighbourhood of other admirers or neutral gentlemen. And so long
all is more than well. He is popular, exuberant, and in a fair way of
growth, albeit a little overdone. It is true that in tired moments he is
likely to choose the path of least resistance and find himself in not
very versatile company. But what a life he leads! what afternoons on the
Cherwell between Marston and Islip in the summer; and beyond Fyfield,
when autumn still has all that is a perfecting of summer in its gift!
The admiring plodder who hears his speeches says that he will some day
be Lord Chancellor. His verses have something beyond cleverness in them:
they have a high impulsion, as when spring makes a crown imperial or a
tulip. And listening to his talk or reading his letters, one might think
that he will be content to be one of those men of genius who avoid
fame--but if their letters are unearthed two hundred years hence they
will have the life of Wotton’s or T. E. Brown’s. His friends think that
such a clear-souled, gracious, brilliant creature would leaven the
Senior Common Room and draw out the shyness of ----, and twist the neck
of ----’s exuberant dulness.

The liberal life, close in friendship with so many of the living and the
historical, on occasions almost gives him the freedom of all time. His
friends note that Catullus or Lucan or Dante is nearer to him than to
other men. He quotes them as if he had lived with them and were their
executor, and by his sympathy seems to have won a part authorship of
their finest things. He expounds the law and makes it as exhilarating as
the _Arabian Nights_, or as if it were a sequel to _Don Quixote_. And in
history the dons notice his picturesqueness, which is as passionate as
if he could have written that ardent sonnet:--

    The kings come riding back from the Crusade,
    The purple kings, and all their mounted men;
    They fill the street with clamorous cavalcade;
    The kings have broken down the Saracen.
    Singing a great song of the Eastern wars,
    In crimson ships across the sea they came,
    With crimson sails and diamonded dark oars,
    That made the Mediterranean flash with flame.
    And reading how, in that far month, the ranks
    Formed on the edge of the desert, armoured all,
    I wish to God that I had been with them
    When the first Norman leapt upon the wall,
    And Godfrey led the foremost of the Franks,
    And young Lord Raymond stormed Jerusalem.

So the glories of youth and history and summer mingle in his brain and
speech.

No one is so married to his surroundings as he, and while he appears to
many to be shaped by them--beautiful or grotesque--as an animal in a
shell; to a few he appears also to shape them, so that Oxford in his
company is a new thing, as if it were the highest, last creation of the
modern mind. He does not acquiesce in the limp mediævalism of the rest,
but recreates the Middle Ages for himself, finding new humanities in the
sculptures, and beauties in the perspective, strange sympathies between
the monkish work and the voices and faces of those who sit amidst it. In
his own college he effects a surprising “modernisation” by removing a
little eighteenth-century work and revealing the fifteenth-century
original. Thus all history is to him a vivid personal experience.

But he is overwhelmed by his versatility, and cultivates that for its
own sake, and at last loses his sympathy with all who are not as he. The
athletes begin to treat him as a poser. The hard workers stand aloof
from his extravagances. With different sets he is treated and rejected
as a man of the world, a hepatetic philosopher, a dilettante; ... some
speak of the literary taint; the dons are tired. He is in danger of
becoming the hero of the most unstable freshman and his scout. And so,
though he has perhaps but one failing more than his contemporaries, and
certainly more virtues, he is ridiculed or feared or despised, and goes
about like Leonolo in the play, who wandered

              Because perhaps among the crowd
    I shall find some to whom I may relate
    That story of the children and the meat--

until he has the good luck to fall back upon his friends. There he is
safe again. His name will indeed be handed down through half a dozen
undergraduate generations for his least characteristic adventures, but
if that is a rare distinction, and equivalent to a press immortality, it
is likely to be of no profit to him. Where he used to be an expensive
copy of a Bohemian, he becomes at last as near the genuine thing as any
critic, with a wholesome fear of being absolute, would care to
pronounce. His one pose is that of the plain-spoken, natural man, in the
presence of a snob. Everywhere he is as independent as a parrot or a
tramp. In life, few are to be envied so much. For he achieves everything
but success.


VII

The important undergraduate is one who has been thunderstruck by the
inferiority of the rest. He cannot, if he would, be rid of the notion.
In a large college the distinction between himself and others is
cheerfully acknowledged by them, while he leads a painful life. In a
small college, for a year or two, he is so handled that he may sometimes
wish he were as other men are. At the end of that time he has by
contagion created a covey of important men, and now, to his moral,
athletic, and intellectual excellence, and his superior school, is added
the excellence of being several years older than the majority. He
establishes a despotism for the good of the college. He is willing to
take the fellows into partnership, makes advances, and, when coyly
repulsed, has his sense of importance increased by the knowledge that an
opposition exists. His splendour is marred only by the stranger, who
mistakes his brass-buttoned blazer for a livery, and finds his pomposity
well worthy of such fine old quadrangles,--and requests him with a smile
and half a sovereign to exhibit the chapel and the hall, and “tell me
who are the swells”!

He walks about Oxford with a beautiful satisfaction. “A poor thing, but
my own,” he seems to say, as he enters the college gate. Little boys in
the street pull off their caps as he passes, and the saucy, imprudent
freshman does the same. He rows, he plays football and cricket, he
debates, all indifferently, but with such an air that he and even some
others for a time believe that he is the life and soul of the college.

He has been captain and president of everything, when he finds that
there is no further honour open to him, and he muses almost with
melancholy. The others find it out somewhat later; he is dejected.
Though fallen, he is still majestic. He stalks about like a foxhound in
July, or like a rebellious archangel--

    Is this the region, this the soil, the clime?...

Once more October returns. A new generation of freshmen is invited to
tea, and for one glorious hour his old vivacity returns, as he
questions, instructs, exhorts. “The President of the O.U.B.C. once said
to me, ...” or “When I was in the college boat and we made seven bumps
...”--such are his conjuring terms.

Perhaps in a few years he returns, to find that the college is not what
it was, and that his nickname is still remembered.


VIII

He is one whom the Important Undergraduate regards as a parody of
himself. For he resembles the other in no respect. He is a clean, brave,
and modest freshman, with too great a liking for the same qualities in
others to be disturbed by any faulty affectations that may go along with
them. When he comes up he has a few friends in Oxford, keeps them, and
is well contented. He plays his games heartily, and is almost as glad to
cheer, when he is not good enough or pushing enough to play. Nothing can
destroy his regular habits, and at first he narrowly escapes being
despised for them by his inferiors. He is comparatively poor and not
very clever. Neither has he any amusing oddities, or stories to tell,
or much whisky to dispense. Yet he finds notoriety thrust upon him. If
it were not for his firm and blushing manner, he would never have his
room empty for work. Very soon, he is the only man in the college who
may sport his oak with no fear from the thunders of distant and idle
acquaintances. Every one wishes to possess him. The athletes cannot
withstand his running, his hard fielding. The more unpopular reading-men
are first attracted by his simple habits as a freshman, and then
surprised that they are not repulsed when they hear that he will get his
Blue; he is always their protector. The elegant and stupid men, at least
for a few terms, know no man who so becomes a cigar, and is so fit to
meet their female cousins at breakfast. The brilliant men like him first
because he is a mystery; next, because he recalls to them their “lost
youth,” which was nothing like his; and finally, because he is so
friendly and so naïvely rebukes their most venturesome sallies. His
presence in a room is more than a wood fire and a steaming bowl. He
seems to know not sorrow--

    Clear as the sky, withouten blame or blot.

It is sorrow-killing to see his amazement at sorrow, like the amazement
of those spirits in Purgatory who exclaimed, as Dante passed: “The light
seems not to shine on one side of him, though he behaves as one that
lives.” Men of very different persuasions are fascinated by “the young
Greek” in the Parks or on the river. He is successful everywhere, and is
in time captain of football and president of the debating and literary
society, although his knowledge of literature is confined to Scott’s
Novels, _Hypatia_, and the _Idylls of the King_. He accepts the advice
of the Important Undergraduate, here and elsewhere, and unconsciously
ignores it, with happy results. For his contemporaries believe that he
has launched his college upon one of those sudden, mysterious ascensions
that mean social, learned, and athletic improvement at once. To the last
he is diffident, and at the same time always capable of doing his best.
“Can you clear that brook?” one asks in the Hinksey fields. “I don’t
know,” is the reply, and over he goes, a foot clear amongst the orchis.
Not a great deal more powerful than the cox, he strokes a boat that has
never been bumped, and is the only oar whom the rest all praise. To see
him halting over a commonplace speech at a college function, or making
the most ludicrous new verses to the alphabetical song of “Jolly old
Dons,” and winning applause; or dropping his head on his knees at the
winning-post on the river; or carried for the hundredth time round the
quadrangle on some festive night--is, nobody knows or asks why, an
inspiration. And after his last farewell dinner he smiles, as if he knew
everything or had the _pitié suprême_, as he notices the follies which
he supposes he is “not clever enough for,” and goes down to his manor or
country curacy very happily.


IX

There was for a short time, amidst but not of the University, a student
whom I cannot but count as a “clerk of Oxenford.” He came from no
school, but straight from a counting-house. All his life he had been a
deep, unguided delver in the past. An orphan in the world, he had chosen
his family among the noble persons of antiquity. Cæsar was more real to
him than Napoleon, and Cato more influential than any millionaire. He
had tasted all the types, from Diogenes to Seneca and Lucullus. When he
tired of his counting-house, he tried to imagine a resemblance between
it and a city state, but was himself but a helot in the end.

So it happened that he came to live in a cottage attic, five or six
miles from Oxford. He wanted to be a university man. He despised
scholarships as if they had been the badge of the Legion of Honour.
Colleges he would have nothing to do with, because they spoiled the
simplicity of the idea of a university in his mind. They had made
possible the social folly of Oxford. But in his reading of history he
had travelled no farther than the Middle Ages towards his own time; and
a picture of Oxford life in that day fascinated him. He believed that it
was still possible to lead the unstable, independent, penniless life of
a scholar; and he knew not why a student should hope or wish to be
anything like a merchant or a prince. A merchant had money, and a prince
flattery: he would have wisdom. It was likely to be a long search, and
in his view it was the search that was beyond price. He wanted wisdom as
a man might want a star, because it was a rare and beautiful thing. So
his studies were a spiritual experience. The short passages of Homer
which he knew by heart had something of religious unction in his
utterance.

He left London afoot, with a parcel of books strapped to his shoulders;
his only disappointment coming from a landlord who refused to pay for
his singing with a meal, as he would have done six hundred years ago. A
farmer treated him generously, under the belief that he was mad.

A few antiquated Greek texts and notes, an odd volume of Chronicles from
the Rolls Series, and an Aldrich, adorned his room, and with their help
he hoped to lay the foundations of a seraphic, universal wisdom.
Gradually he would become worthy to use the Bodleian and contend with
the learned gown and hostile town.

Once a week, in the beginning, he walked into Oxford. He saw the river
covered with boats, and laughed happily and pitifully at men who seemed
to know nothing about the uses of a university. A good-tempered youth,
in rowing knickerbockers, was a fit disciple for his revelations, he
thought, and was about to preach, when he barely escaped from a bicycle
and a megaphone. Almost sad, murmuring Abelard’s line

    Sunt multi fratres sed in illis rarus amicus--

he hastened to the city. The spires gave him courage again, and he ran,
singing an old song:--

    When that I was a scholar bold,
    And in my head was wealth untold:
    Heigh! Ho! in the days of old
    In Oxford town a scholar trolled.

Every one in a master’s gown received a bow. He was mistaken for a
literary man. And once in Oxford, he went, seriously and as if at a
ceremony, through a minutely prepared plan. He attended service at one
of the churches, and especially St. Mary’s. He took long, repeated walks
up and down High Street, and into all the lanes, which he hardly knew
when their names had been changed. Then he sat for an hour in the
oldest-looking inn. In blessed mood, he tried the landlord
unsuccessfully with Latin, and waited until some scholar should call and
exchange jests with him in the learned tongue, or perhaps join him in a
quarrel with the town. The only scholar that called talked in a strange
tongue, chiefly to a bull-pup, and never to him. And late at night he
stole reluctantly home, never so much pleased as when, in a dark alley,
he was saluted by a proctor, and asked if he might be a member of the
University. But the little note inviting him to be at---- College at----
A.M. on the following day never came, and he was cheated of the glory of
being the first member of the University who could by no means pay a
fine.

At the end of this holy day he spent the night with his books, thinking
it shame to sleep away the ardent,

[Illustration: INTERIOR OF THE HALL, MAGDALEN COLLEGE

     At the east end of the Hall, facing the spectator, is the daïs and
     high table, lighted from the north by an oriel window looking into
     the Cloister Court (see picture of Cloisters).

     Portraits of College dignitaries adorn the walls above the dado.

     The long tables and seats in the foreground are used by the
     undergraduates.
]

memoried hours that followed. When sleep caught him at last, with what
happiness and pomp he walked down St. Aldate’s and along Blue Boar
Street and Merton Street, and came suddenly upon Wren’s domed gate at
Queen’s! or paused in St. Mary’s porches, or found the inmost green
sanctuary of Wadham Gardens!

Once he dreamed that on a Sunday he preached from the little outdoor
pulpit at Magdalen, where he mounted by some artifice of sleep’s. The
chamber windows and quadrangles were full. His voice rose and linked to
him the crowd outside in High Street. All remained silent, even when it
was known that the hieroglyphics were skipping from their perches in the
cloister and carrying off large numbers, no one knew whither. Those that
were spared--and his voice rose ever higher, and expanded like the
column and fans of masonry at Christ Church--were stripped of their
waistcoats and ties and all their luxuries and dignities. Their hair was
shaved: presently they were all cowled, and with a great shout hailed
him Chancellor. He floated down from the pulpit and led them down the
High, evicting the pampered tradespeople and fettering all parasites.
Singing a charging hymn, they marched in procession to St. Mary’s, and
thence to a feast at Christ Church hall; when he awoke with the din of
revelry.

Sometimes, in his dreams, he saw enacted the Greek tragedies, to the
accompaniment of the organs of New College and the Cathedral.

Now that he knew his plays by heart, he came oftener to Oxford, and
gained the freedom of the Bodleian. Every day he came, bringing his own
books to fill the interval before the library books arrived, although
for the most part he stared at the gilt inscriptions outside his alcove
window, or at the trees and roofs farther off. When he was hidden among
the expected volumes he read but feverishly. He put questions to himself
in the style of the schoolmen, and pondered “whether the music of the
spheres be verse or prose.” He tingled all over with the learned air,
and was intoxicated by the dust of a little-used book. The brown spray
that fell from a volume on the shelf before him was sweeter than the
south wind. Week after week obscured his aims. The only moments of his
old chanting joy came to him in his still undiluted expectations, when
he came in sight of the city--

    O fortunati quorum jam mœnia surgunt!--

and at night, while the river shone like an infinite train let fall from
the shoulders of the city.

He sold his books in Little Clarendon Street, and whenever he wished to
read, there he found them and others ready. Most of his time passed in
the corner of an inn, where he sat at a hole in the dark window as at a
hagioscope, and with heavy eyelids watched the University men. And it
was possible to earn a living by selling the _Star_ for a penny, night
after night, and to have the felicity of dying in Oxford.

[Illustration: A “STUDY” IN THE BODLEIAN LIBRARY

     The window in the “study” looks south into the Fellows’ Garden of
     Exeter College. To the right, outside the picture, is the main
     aisle of the Library, shown in another drawing, and to the extreme
     left is a glimpse of the cross aisle leading to the staircase
     entrance to the Library, the columns supporting the galleries, and
     the ancient timbered roof.

     Beneath the coloured bust of Sir Thomas Sackville, and on the
     screen forming one side of the “study,” are placed rare portraits
     of distinguished persons, and “drawings” by old masters, etc.

     In the showcase fixed over the specimen-drawers are books, relics,
     autographs, etc., and objects of great value and antiquity.
]


THE PAST


I

    Whilome ther was dwellynge at Oxenford
    A riche gnof, that gestės heeld to bord,
    And of his craft he was a carpenter.
    With hym ther was dwellynge a poure scoler,
    Hadde lernėd art, but al his fantasye
    Was turnėd for to lern astrologye,
    And koude a certeyn of conclusions,
    To demen by interrogaciouns,
    If that men sholde have droghte or ellės shoures.
    Or if men askėd him what sholde bifalle
    Of everythyng, I may nat rekene hem alle.
        This clerk was clepėd hendė Nicholas.
    Of deernė love he koude, and of solas,
    And ther-to he was sleigh and full privee,
    And lyk a mayden mekė for to see.
    A chambrė hadde he in that hostelrye
    Allone withouten any compaignye,
    And fetisly y-dight, with herbės swoote,
    And he himself as sweete as is the roote
    Of lycorys, or any cetėwale.
    His Almageste, and bookės grete and small,
    His astrelabie, longynge for his art,
    His augrym stonės, layen faire apart,
    On shelvės couchėd at his beddės heed.
    His presse y-covered with a faldyng reed,
    And all above there lay a gay sautrie,
    On which he made a-nyghtės melodie
    So swetėly, that al the chambrė rong,
    And _Angelas ad Virginem_, he song;
    And after that he song the “Kyngės noote”;
    Ful often blessėd was his myrie throte,
    And thus this sweetė clerk his tymė spente
    After his freendės fyndyng and his rente.

Such was a “clerk of Oxenford” in Chaucer’s day, living probably on the
generosity of a patron, and differing only from his patron’s son,
inasmuch as he was saved the expense of a fur hood. In the rooms of
most, Bibles, Missals, or an Aristotle or Boethius, took the place of
the Almagest of the astrologer; and more conspicuous were the rosaries,
lutes, bows and arrows of the undergraduates. In their boisterous
parti-coloured life of almost liberty, even an examination was a vivid
thing, and meant a disputation against all comers in a public school, to
be followed by a feast of celebration, visits to taverns, and probably a
dance,

    After the scole of Oxenfordė tho;

and so, after a fight with saucy tradesmen or foreigners, to bed, or
Binsey for a hare, or to other night work.


II

“A meere young Gentleman of the Universitie is one that comes there to
weare a gowne, and to say hereafter, he has been at the Universitie. His
Father sent him thither, because hee heard there were the best Fencing
and Dancing Schools. From these he has his Education, from his Tutor the
oversight. The first element of his knowledge is to be shewne the
Colleges, and initiated in a Taverne by the way, which hereafter hee
will learne for himselfe. The two marks of his Senioritie, is the bare
velvet of his gowne, and his proficiencie at Tennis, where when he can
once play a Set, he is a Freshman no more. His Studie has commonly
handsome shelves, his Bookes neate silk strings, which he shows to his
Father’s man, and is loth to untye or take downe for feare of
misplacing. Upon foule days for recreation hee retyres thither, and
looks over the prety booke his Tutor reades to him, which is commonly
some short Historie, or a piece of _Euphormio_; for which his Tutor
gives him Money to spend next day. His maine loytering is at the
Library, where hee studies Armes and bookes of Honour, and turnes a
Gentleman Critick in Pedigrees. Of all things hee endures not to be
mistaken for a Scholler, and hates a black suit though it be of Satin.
His companion is ordinarily some stale fellow, that has been notorious
for an Ingle to gold hatbands, whom hee admires at first, afterward
scornes. If hee have spirit or wit, he may light of better company, and
may learne some flashes of wit, which may doe him Knight’s service in
the Country hereafter. But he is now gone to the Inns of Court, where he
studies to forget what hee learn’d before, his acquaintance and the
fashion.”

                                            From the _Microcosmographie_.


III

The younger Richard Graves (1715-1804), a contemporary of Shenstone and
Whitfield at Pembroke, has sketched, in his own person, the unstable
undergraduate of sixteen, in his progress from set to set. It is a very
lasting type. “Having brought with me,” he writes, “the character of a
tolerably good Grecian, I was invited to a very sober little party, who
amused themselves in the evening with reading Greek and drinking water.
Here I continued six months, and we read over Theophrastus, Epictetus,
Phalaris’ _Epistles_, and such other Greek authors as are seldom read at
school. But I was at length seduced from this mortified symposium to a
very different party, a set of jolly, sprightly young fellows, most of
them west-country lads, who drank ale, smoked tobacco, punned, and sang
bacchanalian catches the whole evening. I began to think them the only
wise men. Some gentlemen commoners, however, who considered the
above-mentioned very low company (chiefly on account of the liquor they
drank), good-naturedly invited me to their party; they treated me with
port wine and arrack punch; and now and then, when they had drunk so
much as hardly to distinguish wine from water, they would conclude with
a bottle or two of claret. They kept late hours, drank their favourite
toasts on their knees, and in short were what were then called ‘bucks of
the first head.’”


IV

THE LOWNGER

    I rise about nine, get to Breakfast by ten,
    Blow a Tune on my Flute, or perhaps make a Pen;
    Read a Play till eleven, or cock my lac’d Hat;
    Then step to my Neighbour’s, till Dinner to chat.
    Dinner over, to _Tom’s_ or to _James’s_ I go,
    The News of the Town so impatient to know:
    While _Law_, _Locke_ and _Newton_, and all the rum Race
    That talk of their Modes, their Ellipses, and Space,
    The Seat of the Soul, and new Systems on high,
    In Holes, as abstruse as their Mysteries lye.
    From the Coffee-house then I to Tennis away,
    And at five I post back to my College to pray:
    I sup before eight, and secure from all Duns,
    Undauntedly march to the _Mitre_, or _Tuns_;
    Where in Punch or good Claret my Sorrows I drown,
    And toss off a Bowl to the best in the Town:
    At one in the Morning, I call what’s to pay,
    Then Home to my College I stagger away.
    Thus I tope all the Night, as I trifle all Day.

                         From the _Oxford Sausage_.


V

I have taken from Glanvil’s _Vanity of Dogmatizing_ the original version
of the story of Matthew Arnold’s Scholar Gypsy.

“There was very lately a lad in the University of Oxford, who being of
very pregnant and ready parts, and yet wanting the encouragement of
preferment, was by his poverty forc’d to leave his studies there, and to
cast himself upon the wide world for a livelyhood. Now, his necessities
growing dayly on him, and wanting the help of friends to relieve him, he
was at last forced to join himself to a company of Vagabond Gypsies,
whom occasionally he met with, and to follow their Trade for a
maintenance. Among these extravagant people, by the insinuating subtilty
of his carriage, he quickly got so much of their love and esteem; as
that they discovered to him their Mystery: in the practice of which, by
the pregnancy of his wit and parts he soon grew so good and proficient,
as to be able to outdo his Instructors. After he had been a pretty while
well exercised in the Trade; there chanc’d to ride by a couple of
Scholars who had formerly bin of his acquaintance. The Scholars had
quickly spyed out their old friend among the Gypsies; and their
amazement to see him among such society, had well nigh discovered him;
but by a sign he prevented their owning him before that crew, and taking
one of them aside privately, desired him with a friend to go to an Inn,
not far distant thence, promising there to come to them. They
accordingly went thither, and he follows: after their first salutations,
his friends enquire how he came to lead so odd a life as that was, and
to joyn himself with such a cheating, beggarly company. The Scholar
Gypsy having given them an account of the necessity, which drove him to
that kind of life; told them, that the people he went with were not such
Imposters as they were taken for, but that they had a traditional kind
of learning among them, and could do wonders by the power of
Imagination, and that himself had learnt much of their Art, and improved
it further than themselves could. And to evince the truth of what he
told them, he said he’d remove into another room, leaving them to
discourse together; and upon his return tell them the sum of what they
had talked of. Which accordingly he performed, giving them a full
account of what had pass’d between them in his absence. The Scholars
being amazed at so unexpected a discovery, earnestly desired him to
unriddle the mystery. In which he gave them satisfaction, by telling
them, that what he did was by the power of Imagination, his Phancy
binding theirs; and that himself had dictated to them the discourse,
they held together, while he was from them: That there were warrantable
wayes of heightening the Imagination to that pitch, as to bind
another’s; and that when he had compass’d the whole secret, some parts
of which he said he was yet ignorant of, he intended to leave their
company, and give the world an account of what he had learned.”



COLLEGE SERVANTS OF THE PRESENT AND THE PAST



CHAPTER V

COLLEGE SERVANTS OF THE PRESENT AND THE PAST


THE PRESENT

The fact that no porter or other college servant has recently received a
D.C.L. is no proof of his insignificance. “The President and your humble
servant manage very well between us,” said one porter, with perfect
truth. College servants are the corbels and gargoyles that complete the
picturesqueness and usefulness of Oxford. The oldest are not so much
serviceable as quaint, often grotesque, reminders of an age that has
gone; their faces are apt to express grim judgments upon the changes
which they have helplessly watched; and they are among the stoutest
retainers of the past. The younger are either very much like any other
good men-servants, silent, receptive, curious but uninquiring,
expensive, and better able to instruct than to learn; or they are
average men, with Oxford variations. In spite of their profound
knowledge of the richer classes, they remain, as a body, good
conservatives, with the half-sarcastic, half-reverent servility of their
order. They do not often change; the men whom they serve are replaced
every year by others; and looking on at generation after generation,
they are not only skilled and practical psychologists, and almost the
only persons in Oxford who wear silk hats on Sunday, but perhaps the
most enduring human element in the University. “Well,” says an
eighteenth-century “scout” to another to-day, in an undergraduate
“dialogue of the dead”--“Well, I suppose gentlemen are no worse and
servants no better than in my time?” “Such a thing is impossible” was
the reply. Yet one may surmise that they are more plutocratic, at least,
than they were, if it be true that every summer at a Scottish hotel one
may find “Mr. and Mrs. Brown of---- College, Oxford” on the pages of
the visitors’ book, in a handwriting known to the buttery. In the game
which they play with the undergraduates, they know all their opponents’
cards. Yet, until a member of the University is admitted to the cellar
and pantry parliament, they will always be praised as reticent and
discreet. A little inexperience will soon reveal, as the freshman knows,
the other qualities of the college servant.


I

He awakens you every morning by playing with your bath, and is a
perpetually recurring background to the sweet disquiet of your last
half-hour in bed. In serving you, he serves himself; and late in the day
he is to be seen with a wallet on his back, bent under such “learning’s
crumbs” as half-empty wine-bottles and jars of Cooper’s marmalade. In
these matters he has a neat running hand, without flourishes. No man has
the air of being so much as he the right hand of fate. When he drinks
your wine and disappoints a joyous company, when he assumes your best
cigars, and leaves only those which were provided for the freshman of
taste--so inevitable are his ways that you can only hope sarcastically
that he liked the fare. He appears to have a noble scorn of cash, when
he asks for it; and you are bound to imitate. All the wisdom of the wise
is cheap compared with his manner of beginning a speech with, “If you
please, sir, it is usual for freshmen to, ...” while he is dusting your
photographs. He is blessed with an incapacity to blush. His politics are
those of the majority; his religion has something in common with that of
all men. He could be conscientiously recommended for a post in a temple
niche or a street corner, with the inscription “For twenty years a mate
at sea, and blinded in the pursuit of my duties,” or “Crippled in
childhood.” He is equalled only by his “boy,” who is perhaps older than
himself. I remember one such. I should like to have known his tailor,
who must have had a genius for style, for fitting aptest clothes for
men. His coat was as many-pocketed as Panurge’s, and as wonderful. Its
bulges and creases were an epitome of----; its “hang” might serve as the
one true epitaph, if suspended over his tomb. With all his faults, he
had that toleration which the vicious often extend to the good, but do
not often receive in return. He was a fellow of infinite wiles that were
wasted but not thrown away in a world of three or four quadrangles and a
buttery. Full of traditions, he was their master, not their prey; and
though he was the shadow of great names, he seemed conscious of being
their inheritor too. For he had served men who had got fellowships and
even Rugby or rowing Blues. With leading cases out of this mighty past
he defended his misdemeanours and supported his proposals. In vain he
toiled after time; he was always a generation behind. If a man failed in
“Smalls” or Divinity, he was told that Mr.----, the “Varsity
three-quarter,” did no less, and Mr.----, who rowed at Henley and was
sent down after a bonfire, was ploughed four times. “Lightly like a
flower” he wore his honours, tyrannising over men who never got Blues
and were never sent down, and smiling away awe and ridicule alike. “I
never saw nor shall see such men as Pirithous, ...” he might have said;
it mattered little to him; and even Pirithous was only respected after
many years, when he had become an investment of the “boy’s.” He quoted
wise saws, was full of advice, offered with a kind of humility and yet
indifference, because you were so small a factor in his
self-satisfaction.

    High on your summit, Wisdom’s mimick’d Air
    Sits thron’d, with Pedantry her solemn sire.

    In every glance and motion you display,
    Sage Ignorance her gloom scholastic throws
    And stamps o’er all your visage, once so gay,
    Unmeaning Gravity’s serene repose.

And so he goes through life, with all the pomp of learning--of the
reality, none--complacent, imposing, and yet hardly a man.


II

Of the college cook it is easy to say too much. He is a potentate
against whom there is no appeal on earth. “Much knavery,” says Ben
Jonson, “may be vented in a pudding.” In the days of the _Shotover
Papers_ he could offer in exchange for a recipe “an introduction to some
country families.” At the monastic door of his kitchen, as he meditates
his mysteries, something of the Middle Ages clings to him yet, and he is
half an abbot, contemptuous of a generation that makes small demand upon
his subtlety and wealth. It is said that he comes of brilliant ancestry
and has fallen. What heights there may be in the world from which a man
could be said to fall in becoming a college cook, I do not know. For
years he made clear the distinction between fancy and imagination. By
fancy he lived, and on his fancies generations fed. He could disguise
the meanest materials, and make them illustrious, subtle, or exquisitely
sweet. He was _animal propter convivia natum_. In his grey kitchen, with
chestnut beams aloft, a visitor seemed to assist at the inauguration of
a perpetual spring. On the one hand was the earth--the raw material--the
mere flesh or fish; and out of this, with upturned sleeves, like artist
or conjuror, he made the flowers flourish and the leaves abound. By the
perfume, it was a mysterious indoor Mayday. And so he lived, and was
feared and respected. But it was admitted that he had rivals. Something
in a grander style was yet to be done....

It was mid-February. Wherever I looked, I saw first the cold white sky
above and the snow beneath, and secondly the red faces of skaters out of
doors, and indoors the blaze of great fires and the purple and gold of
wine. Winter was to be met in every street--white-haired, it is true,
but nevertheless a lusty, red-faced fellow, redder than autumn, with a
grip of the hands and a roaring voice. As I passed the kitchen, the cook
was silently at work. His hair was like the snow, his face like the
fire. The brass, steel, pewter, and silver shone. The kitchen, with its
fragrance, lustre, and quietness, was like an altar. There, too, was the
priest, with stainless vestment and sacerdotal bearing. And as I left
him and mounted the stairs, I seemed unblest. I found Scott tedious,
Pater excessive, and Sir Thomas Browne a trifler, and threw them aside.
Soon there was a knock at the door, and a man--a throne, domination,
princedom, virtue, power--swept magnificently in. A light and a warmth,
beyond the power of fire to bestow, accompanied him. He bent down
solemnly and laid a little white covered plate upon the hearth. Before I
could speak--“the gods themselves are hard to recognise”--he was gone. I
uncovered the plate with something of my visitant’s solemnity--

    Fair spirit of ethereal birth,
    In whom such mysteries and beauties blend!
    Still from thine ancient dwelling-place descend,
    And idealise our too material earth;
    Still to the Bard thy chaste conceptions lend,
    To him thine early purity renew;
    Round every image, grace majestic throw;
    Till rapturously the living song shall glow
    With inspiration as thy being true,
    And Poesy’s creations, decked by thee,
    Shall wake the tuneful thrill of sensuous ecstasy.

It was the climacteric of his career, and he shall go down to posterity
upon the palates of men, not as one who worked out his recipes to three
places of decimals, or as a distinguished maker of “bishop” or “posset,”
or as one worth his weight in oysters, but as the creator of that
necessary which is in fact brown bread, toasted and buttered.


III

Most pontifical of all college servants was old Acamas, who was not long
ago to be seen, in his retirement, apparently beating the city bounds,
and now and then standing sentry and defender of some old gate or
archway. I first noticed him in the chapel quadrangle of----, and could
almost have mistaken him for a fellow of the old school, such was his
aspect, and the reverent, half-wondering air with which he surveyed the
buildings. But he took off his hat to the junior fellow, and I was
undeceived. There was something pathetic in that salute. He was himself
apparently far worthier than the young man in flannels of the chapel and
the ancient arms; and he seemed to know it, as he bent and trembled over
his stick to declaim:--

“He may be a very clever young gentleman, but, bless me, it is not the
Greek that makes the scholar. There was the old President, who never
looked at his book, and was all for horses;--but he had a way with him;
he would swear just so, so; he was a scholar, if ever a man was. But the
new ones are just all book or all play. They came in about the same time
as bicycles and steam ploughs and such nonsense. And there’s too much
lady about the college now; and such ladies! they are so dressed that it
is hard to tell which of them is quite respectable....”

And so he went on, a little less reverent than he looked. But it was
only a crimson heat of old age, and soon passed.

What a fine, decent figure he was. He was clothed in a dull black suit,
with black tie, and an old-shaped hat, and wore his gloves. He had
unquestionably a professional mien, and could not have been a gardener
or groom. He was something old, settled in the land and known to the
stars, traditional. His sorrow was nothing less dignified than
disestablishment. It was time to be going. The enemy was in possession
and insulting. He had been in the Balliol fellows’ garden ages ago, and
knew what a line the old buildings made against the sky, and what the
scene is now. He would walk about, hoping to express a volley of scorn
by his silence to persons with no ear for silence. He never went into
Tom quad at Christ Church without missing the figure of Mercury--perhaps
a copy from John of Bologna, and taken down early last century--which
used to preside over the fountain, still known as

[Illustration: THE TOM QUADRANGLE, CHRIST CHURCH, FROM THE SOUTH
ENTRANCE

     This Quadrangle was formerly cloistered. The springers, the wall
     ribs of the vaulting, and the bases of the buttresses may be seen
     on the two sides of the Quadrangle shown in the picture.

     The Great Hall and tower founded by Cardinal Wolsey are on the
     right or southern side, whilst opposite, over the eastern
     buildings, rise the tower and spire of “The Cathedral Church of
     Christ in Oxford.”

     Part of the basin of the fountain is seen on the left.

     The time is late afternoon in summer.
]

“Mercury,” and used as a water ordeal or court of ultimate appeal by
undergraduates. “That old pagan fellow,” he used to say, “told you more
about the size of that quadrangle than the guide-books do”; and
certainly nothing short of that or a playing fountain would so
pleasantly expound the spaciousness of Wolsey’s square. When some one
proposed burning in effigy certain officials at the time of Edward
VII.’s coronation, he “did not remember that such things were done at
George’s.”

He stopped to look at the new buildings of the college, and pointing at
the whitened stone, said, “I don’t believe that stone is stone at all.”
As he passed an entry, full of bicycles, he said sadly, without a
thought of scorn, “It was built by public subscription,” and with his
hand in his pocket, he seemed to be thinking that the finest thing in
the world was to be the sole founder of a college. He once had a distant
prospect of the Banbury Road, and would like to make night beautiful
with its burning.

He still leaves Oxford by coach, or not at all. I believe that he calls
Market Street “Cheyney Lane,” and Brasenose Lane “St. Mildred’s,” and
Pembroke Street “Pennyfarthing Street.” To hear him talk of St.
Scholastica’s day gives one a pretty notion of the antiquity of Oxford
and himself. In 1354, on that day, several scholars found fault with the
wine of a city vintner, and threw it at his prosperous face. The vintner
gathered his neighbours and threatened. St. Martin’s bell was rung, and
the city made fierce preparations at the accustomed summons. Then St.
Mary’s bell was rung, and the University came forth with bows and arrows
and slings. “Slay,” and “Havock,” and “Give good knocks,” cried the
citizens. The fight was long and bloody, and disastrous to the scholars.
So for many centuries the city had to appear penitentially at St. Mary’s
on St. Scholastica’s day. In 1825 this institution ceased at the
corporation’s request. But Acamas will never forgive them, and hardly
the University for giving way. “When laudable old customs dwindle, ’tis
a sign learning dwindles,” he would say, as Hearne said, when there were
no longer any fritters at dinner. Nor is he to be moved by the mundane
glories of his college in the schools or elsewhere. A brilliant
“examinee” of the college, and his particular aversion, having gained a
First in Law, when it was pointed out to him by the scholar’s scout, the
old man remarked: “And now I hope he knows what a privilege it is to
belong to this college.”

How slow and decorous he was at the buttery hatch, performing even his
own business as if he were about that of another. He carried a plate as
if it were a ceremony; and his imperturbability would have completely
endowed a railway porter and several judges. In hall, when once the
needs of all the diners had been supplied, he would stand like
“Teneriffe or Atlas unremoved,” an effigy, a self-constituted symbol of
olden piety and order, bent on asserting sweet ancient things, while
fellows raced into hall, and undergraduates raced

[Illustration: CORPUS CHRISTI COLLEGE AND MERTON TOWER, FROM CHRIST
CHURCH MEADOWS

     To the left of the picture shows a portion of the east boundary
     wall of the gardens of Christ Church, shadowed by elegant silver
     birch.

     Part of Corpus Christi College looks over the Fellows’ Garden,
     divided from Christ Church Meadows by a wall, upon which is a fence
     of flowering dahlias.

     The Chapel tower of Merton College rises grandly against the sunset
     sky.

     In the foreground a pathway fenced from the Meadows runs farther
     on, under the old south city wall, passing under the Fellows’
     Garden of Merton, shown in another picture.
]

out. He was one with the coats of arms emblazoned on the panels or the
glass, and the benefactors’ portraits up among the shadows of the roof
timber, and with the dial on the grass, which says, “I change and am the
same.”

He is now seldom outside the old city wall, unless he goes in May to the
river through Christ Church or between Merton and Corpus. When he sees
Tom tower he makes the melancholy revelation that he once heard Tom boom
one time less than the appointed number. As for the flowers in the
window-boxes, it is “cook’s work”; he has seen the like ornament “on
pastry.” On a bank holiday he is clothed in extraordinary dignity and
gloom, and stands with an expression that wields a mace, in the hope of
repelling the pleasure-seeker from some holy or learned retreat. If he
were not mistaken for an eminent person, it would fare ill with those
whose footsteps he dogs, lest they should commit some desecration. He
can hardly permit smoking in the quadrangles, and has to turn his back
to avoid seeing the accursed thing. At one time, a man dared not run
through the purlieus of the Divinity School, for fear of the nod of
Acamas.

He is a mirror of good manners, which he has learned out of love, and
not necessity. He has a great store of antique information--statutes,
precedents, fables--which, as in an aumbry, he keeps fragrant by much
meditation, and is pleased to display. His elaborate courtesies are
interpreted almost as insults by the new generations; men wonder what
they have done to deserve his withering respect. It is reported that on
one occasion, at twilight, a vigorous gentleman brushed past him,
between the Camera and Brasenose. Acamas turned, with a soft and bitter
protest against “a gentleman forcing what he could command.” “If,” said
he, “the Vice-Chancellor were here, he should know that a gentleman had
insulted an old college servant by mistaking him for a townsman.” ... He
bowed and almost broke his heart when he recognised the beaming face of
the Vice-Chancellor.

He is the corrector of all new abuses and the defender of old, and
through his father, a college butler and long since dead, he has the
times of Trafalgar fresh in his mind, with imposing third-hand memories
of the days when Oxford was Jacobite. The subtle distinguishing marks of
all the colleges, as far as concerns fashions of morals and manners,
scholarship and sport, he knows by heart, and professes such an
experienced acquaintance with like matters that in the High or by the
Long Bridges he knows at sight a “Greats” man or a “Stinks” man or a
mathematician; of which last he is a determined hater; and when on one
occasion he remarked on the good looks of a certain plain person, he was
forced to explain that he meant “good-looking for a mathematician.” He
would at need devise a new coat of arms for Magdalen or St. John’s, or
improve “the devil that looks over Lincoln.”

Of “his own college” he knows everything, from the cobweb on Jeremy
Taylor in the library to the oldest beam in the kitchen roof. He knows
the benefactors and their benefactions, their rank, and everything but
the way to pronounce their names; and has a kind of unofficial bidding
prayer in celebration of their good deeds. His ideal of a head of a
college is an odd mixture of Dean Gaisford and Tatham of Lincoln; for he
demands some eccentricity along with dignity and repute, and in the
course of three-quarters of a century he has combined the two. The
common-room chairs he knows better than those who sit in them--their
history and their peculiarities, and who have sat therein. By nice
observation he is aware of the correct way of crossing a quadrangle, and
of whose furniture should be consumed in bonfires. The spires and
gateways of the city are close friends to him, and “Isn’t _she_
beautiful,” or “Isn’t _he_ looking well,” or “They have their little
ways,” is his comment as he passes one or other of the things that have
brooded over his life continually. He can tell when the bats will come
out of the tower in a fine January or a windy March; when the swifts
shall scream first by All Saints’; and the colour of New College tower
when a storm is due from the west. I can think of him as being the deity
of the place, in a mythopœic age, and picture him _corniger_, with
fritillaries in his hoary locks, as the genius of Isis, up in a niche at
the Bodleian.


THE PAST

I have no doubt that the past had many such to show, and that the
present, when it has graduated into a past, will not be found wanting;
but the ways of the college servants of old are buried deep in oblivion.
They were less numerous then, when a senior and a junior student slept
in the same room, and the latter made the beds, etc. Upon scholars,
Bible-clerks, and the like, fell a great many of the duties which are
now the scout’s--as waiting at the fellows’ table in hall, and the
pleasanter although more thankless task of calling up the fellows and
more luxurious commoners in the morning. Not only was the scholar or
“servitor” a practical servant for part of his time, but the regular
servants could be students also, and we may guess from the Corpus
statutes that they must sometimes have attended lectures and have taken
degrees. A story runs that a vain scholar had sent some Latin verses to
his tutor by the hand of a servant, who quickly read and corrected them,
to the humiliation of the scholar, when he received them back, with the
comment, that his work seemed to have been revised by one who was
acquainted with the Latin tongue. No doubt a man of this stamp often
rose, or if he stayed in college made his attainments profitable. A man
who was once manciple at Wadham became a noted maker of mathematical
instruments. The manciple bought and distributed provisions in the
college: the cook or

[Illustration: THE ENTRANCE TO QUEEN’S COLLEGE FROM LOGIC LANE

The cupola and entrance gate beneath, appearing across the road at the
end of Logic Lane, form one of the most attractive objects in the High
Street.

Behind the cupola shows part of the campanile and pediment of the
buildings of the College on the north side of the Great Quadrangle. The
statue is that of Queen Caroline, consort of George II. The buildings on
the left of the picture belong to University College.]

cooks and butlers were sometimes called upon to furnish a banquet of
“nine hundred messes of meat, with twelve hundred hogsheads of beer and
four hundred and sixteen of wine,” as at Balliol, when a Chancellor of
twenty-two years of age was installed: the porter was prominent, but as
yet much subordinated to the head of the college, to whom he delivered
the keys at an early hour: the barber, who was sometimes also the
porter, was the welcome dispenser of true and false news, and at Wadham
survived until the sixties of last century, when he insisted that the
amateur actors should have their wigs dressed by him, under pain of
being betrayed to the Warden. Of the old servants--_heu prisca
fides_--we can only guess at the devotion, from the story of old Thomas
Allen’s servitor, who was overawed by his master’s mathematical
instruments and his reputation of astrologer, and would “impose on
freshmen or simple people” by telling them that spirits were often to be
met coming up Allen’s staircase “like bees.” John Earle has preserved
the ways of an old college butler, from his experience as a fellow of
Merton.

“An old College Butler is none of the worst students in the house, for
he keeps the set hours at his book more duly than any. His authority is
great over men’s good names, which he charges many times with shrewd
aspersions, which they can hardly wipe off without payment. His Box and
Counters prove him to be a man of reckoning; yet he is stricter in his
accounts than a usurer, and delivers not a farthing without writing. He
doubles the pain of _Gallobelgicus_, for his books go out once a
quarter, and they are much in the same nature, brief notes and sums of
affairs, and are out of request as soon. His comings in are like a
Tailor’s from the shreds of bread, the chippings, and remnants of the
broken crust: excepting his vails from the barrel, which poor folks buy
for their hogs, but drink themselves. He divides a halfpenny loaf with
more subtility than _Kekerman_, and subdivides the _a primo ortum_ so
nicely, that a stomach of great capacity can hardly apprehend it. He is
a very sober man, considering his manifold temptations of drink and
strangers, and if he be overseen, ’tis within his own liberties, and no
man ought to take exceptions. He is never so well pleas’d with his
place, as when a Gentleman is beholding to him for showing him the
Buttery, whom he greets with a cup of single beer and sliced manchet,
and tells him ’tis the fashion of the College. He domineers over
Freshmen when they first come to the Hatch, and puzzles them with
strange language of Cues and Cees, and some broken Latin which he has
learnt at his Bin. His faculty extraordinary is the warming of a pair of
Cards, and telling out a dozen of Counters for Post and Pair, and no man
is more methodical in these businesses. Thus he spends his age, till the
tap of it is run out, and then a fresh one is set abroach.”



THE OXFORD DAY



CHAPTER VI

THE OXFORD DAY

    With cares that move, not agitate the heart.


In other cities the past is a tradition, and is at most regretted. In
Oxford it is an entailed inheritance. Nevertheless, by way of a gaudy
foil to this hale immortality, fashions flourish there more luridly, and
fade more suddenly, than elsewhere. Afraid, therefore, that I might
stumble upon anachronisms unaided, I addressed myself as a seeker after
truth to several freshmen who might have been expected to know
practically everything. One wished to be excused because he was standing
for the secretaryship of the Union, and was “somewhat out of touch with
ordinary life.” He had been busily opening debates in half the colleges
of Oxford, in order to prove his sound principles and high capabilities,
and enclosed this table of labours:--

11th inst., at ----: “That in the opinion of this house His Majesty’s
government has done its best.”

12th, at ----: “That the struggles of the poor towards a larger and freer
life are not to be discouraged.”

13th, at ----: “That vegetarianism is opposed alike to our traditions
and our present needs.” Also later (to oppose): “That a wave of
imperialism causes a reformation in the standards of literature.”

(14th, twenty-first birthday.)

18th, at ----: “That poets are the interpreters of their age.”

19th, at ----: “That in encouraging sports this University approaches
more nearly to the Greek ideal than at any other period of its existence
has been the case.”

20th, at----: “A paper on ‘Mentality in Life and Art.’”

21st, at ----: “That Oxford has not sufficiently realised and reformed
its national position since imperialism became an acknowledged fact.”

Another gentleman of more tender years and less exuberance forwarded the
_menu_ of his college junior gaudy, in itself a pleasant reminder of the
more solid occupations of undergraduates. He had made a table of a day’s
life, alongside the dishes, like this:--


                     _Soup_
Macedoine.                       _The Senior Proctor._

                     _Fish_

Turbot and Lobster Sauce.        _My tailor: and to buy a meerschaum._

                     _Entrées_

Tomates Farcées.                 _My Coach._

                     _Joint_

Saddle of Mutton.                _If possible, my philosophy tutor._

                     _Game_

Pheasants.                       _Aristotle._

                     _Sweets_

Pudding à la Belleline.          _Eights._

                     _Glace_

Neapolitain.                     _The Master._

                     _Savoury_

Oysters à la Bonne Bouche.       _Jones’s hair._


He had “no time for more.”

Of the third answer I can just see this fragment, in a fine confident
penmanship, among the flames: “Oxford life falls under three heads,
which I shall discuss separately. They are Religion, Education, and
Social Life. And first of Education. My tutor breakfasts at eight. He
has forty-eight pupils, and four ladies from Somerville College. He has
one lecture and to-morrow’s to prepare. In the afternoon he will be
fresh and cheerful at the college barge, watching the races. He is
writing two books, and is on the Board of Guardians. In spite of this
the great thing about Oxford education is the way it stamps a man--‘the
cast of Vere de Vere,’ as the poet says; no matter in what position in
life his lot is thrown, a certain easy grace----”

I find a more rational description of an Oxford day as it was in 1867,
and as it was up to the publication of Mr. Rhodes’s will, in the _Oxford
Spectator_, one of the most enduring of undergraduate periodicals.

“The whole History of Philosophy,” says the writer, E. N[olan], “is
simply the story of an ordinary Oxford day.... In the morning, when I
awake, the eastern dawn, as it shines into my room, gives my philosophy
an Oriental tinge. I turn Buddhist, and lie thinking of nothing. Then I
rise, and at once my tenets are those of the Ionics. I think, with
Thales, that Water is the great first principle. Under this impression I
take my bath. Then, yielding to Animaxander, I begin to believe in the
unlimited, and straightway, in a rude toilette, consume an infinite
amount of breakfast. This leads to the throwing open of my window, at
which I sit, an unconscious disciple of Anaximenes, and a believer in
the universal agency of Air. I lock my door and sit down to read
mathematics, seeming a very Pythagorean in my loneliness and reverence
for numbers. I am disturbed by a knock. I open the door and admit my
parlour-maid, who wishes to remove the breakfast things. She is
evidently an Eleatic, for she makes an abstraction of everything
material, and reduces my table to a state of pure being. Again I am
alone, and as I complete my toilet before my mirror, I hold, as
Heraclitus did, the principle of the becoming, and think that it, and it
only, should be the rule of existence. I saunter to the window, and
ponder upon the advantages or otherwise of taking a walk. I am kept at
home by some theory of the Elements, such as possessed Empedocles. Now I
bethink me of my lunch, and I become an Atomist in my hunger, as I
compare the two states of Fulness and Void. At last Atomistic Necessity
prevails, and I ring my bell. Lunch over, I walk out, and am much
amused, as usual, with the men I meet. I notice that those who have
intellect superior to their fellows neglect their personal appearance.
These, I think, are followers of Anaxagoras: they believe in νοῦς, and
they deny the Becoming. Others I noticed to be bent upon some violent
exercise. I feel myself small and weak beside them, wondering much
whether I, who to them am but half a man, am man enough to be
considered, sophistically, the measure of all things. I console myself
with remarking to myself that I surely know my work for the Schools
better than they. Behold! I am Socratic. Virtue, I say, consists in
knowing. So I chatter away to myself, feeling quite Platonic in my
dialogue, until I meet a luckless friend who is to be examined next day
in Moderations. I walk out with him far into the country, talking to him
about his work, and struggling against my deeply-rooted antipathy to
exertion of any kind. Surely Aristotle could not have been more
peripatetic, or Chrysippus more Stoical. The dinner-hour makes me
Epicurean, and I pass unconsciously over many stages of philosophy. I
spend an hour in the rooms of a friend who is reading hard for honours.
I come away but little impressed with the philosophy of the Schoolmen.
The evening passes like a dream. I have vague thoughts of recurring to
my former good habits of home correspondence; but this revival of
letters passes by, leaving me asleep in my chair. Here, again, as at
dinner, I doubtless pass through many unconscious stages. At length I
begin to muse upon bed. It is a habit of mine to yield to the vulgar
fascinations of strong liquors before retiring for the night.
Philosophy, I learn, works in a circle, ever returning unto itself. It
is for this reason, perhaps, that my last waking act is inspired both by
Hegel and Thales. Hegel prompts me to crave for Spirit: Thales
influences me to temper it with Water.”

Yet, if the Oxford day, as is fitting, can always be expressed in terms
of philosophy, it is sometimes more complex, often more simple than
that; and it is longer. It begins and ends at 7 A.M. At that hour, the
student and the fanatical novel-reader, forgetful of time, the passive
Bacchanalian, and the man who prefers the divine, long-seated Oxford
chair to bed, are usually persuaded to retire; for unacademic voices of
servant and starling begin to be heard in the quadrangle. The blackbird
is awake in the shrubbery. Very soon the scout will appear, and will not
know whether to say “Good-night” or “Good-morning,” and with the vacant
face of one who has slept through all the blessed hours of night, will
drive men to bed. There is a dreamy laying aside of books--volumes of
Daudet and Dickens, Fielding and Abbé Prévost, Morley, Roberts and
Poe,--old plays and romances,--Stubbs, and the Chronicles, Stuart
pamphlets,--Thucydides, Aristotle, and later Latin than Quintilian. If
there is to be a Divinity examination later in the morning, there are
Bibles scattered up and down, epitomes, and a sound of men’s voices
asking the difference between one and another version of a parable, and
“Who was Gallio?” and preparing all the playful acrobatics that will
pass for knowledge in the Schools. While these are trying to sleep, with
the gold sunlight winning through their

[Illustration: EXETER COLLEGE CHAPEL, FROM SHIP STREET

The Chapel of the College, rebuilt by Sir George Gilbert Scott in 1857,
rises in the centre of the picture, and with its spire forms a
conspicuous feature in Ship Street.

Below is that part of the College fronting “The Turl.”

On the right are some of the buildings of Jesus College.

The sun of a late summer afternoon strikes the western gable of the
Chapel.]

eyelids, one or two picked men are rising of their own free will, and
some because they have to run in the Parks before a training breakfast;
others are arguing with themselves or with their scouts that it cannot
possibly be nearly half-past seven; or later on, that a passing bell or
a bell-wether has been mistaken for the college chapel bell; others
expelling the awakening scout with more frankness: some doze and doze,
with alternate pricks of conscience and necessity, and desperately
deciding to rise, have to saunter about, too late for chapel, too early
for breakfast; the majority murmuring that all is well, and enjoying the
pleasantest of thefts from daylight; for, to the man who need not, or
will not, rise, the chapel bell is a blithe and kindly spirit, that sets
a crown upon the bliss of oncoming sleep and gives a keener edge to his
complacency, as he thinks of the cold, sleepy virtue that walks in the
world below. The chaplain, a man of habit, is also getting up. No one
has ever seen a fellow late for chapel.

When the service is over, those who have attended are either awake or
asleep again. The service itself is of an awakening kind, and has a
vigour that is unknown outside Oxford.

    Oh, dear and saintly chaplain,
    Time toils after you in vain!
    When you stroked the Eight to glory,
    Did you prove this quite so plain,
    As at morning chapel daily
    And at evensong again?

So run the verses which express the kind of vigour in vogue.

Now the perfervid reading man, and the man whose genealogical tree is
conspicuous for a constant succession of maiden aunts, go to their cocoa
and eggs: and, within three hours afterwards, the average man, to
porridge, fish, eggs and bacon, coffee and oranges; the decadent, to
cigars, liqueurs and wafers; the æsthete, to his seven wonders and a
daffodil; and some, of all classes, to the consolations of philosophy
and soda-water. Only the last-named habitually break their fast in
solitude. For it is in Oxford the most social meal of the day. It may
begin at any time from eight until half-past eleven--anything later
being “brunch”--and last until half-past one. Some even believe that an
invitation to breakfast embraces the afternoon. Lectures seldom
interfere with the meal, since the man who leaves for their sake is not
usually missed. A very early breakfast is pregnant with yawns, and may
also be forgotten; a very late one is unhappily curtailed. Ten o’clock
is an ideal to be striven after. The host has to be studious not to
invite two men who are “blues,” or who are entered for the same
examinations, or who are freshmen from the same school, which would be
apt to produce treatises instead of conversation. It is dangerous also
to have two epigrammatists. For that leads to a game of shuttlecock and
battledore between the two, and of patience among the rest.... He knows
that four men incapable of these things are coming, and as he peeps from
his bedroom to see that all is ready, he hears their steps and laughter
echoing up the stairs. He is rapidly surveying them all in his mind,
wondering how such excellent ingredients will mix, when they enter,
having picked one another up by good fortune on the way, and already got
rid of a possible tendency to talk about politics, weather, or dreams.
They discuss everything. One who is bound to be a fellow starts on “the
æsthetic value of dons.” One who has never left England offers a
suggestive remark on Swiss scenery or the effect of palms against a
sunrise in the Pacific. The transitions are indescribably rapid; yet the
link of merely an epigram or a laugh, or possibly the very sense of
contrast and incongruity, makes the whole run on as some fine hedge of
maple, hawthorn, holly, elm, beech, and wild cherry runs on, and is fine
and nothing else, except to a botanist. The talk is a play in five acts:
each man is in turn a chorus. But whether the subject be freshmen, or
Disraeli, or Sancho Panza, or the English aristocracy, it is treated as
it never was before. Perhaps that is the result of the detached attitude
of a number of very young men. Perhaps it is because each in turn, of
the five average men, is touched with genius temporarily by accretion
from the other four. One says a dull thing, another a silly thing, a
third a rash thing, a fourth a vague thing, and straightway the fifth
catches fire and blazes with something of the true light from heaven,
and he not less than the rest is astonished. The spirit of the
conversation is as different from the prandial spirit as shortbread from
wedding cake. It has neither the richness of that nor the frivolity of
tea. The breakfast talker seems to depend very little on memory. He
remembers fewer stories, less of the book he read on the night before,
than at a later meal. He is thrown more entirely upon the resources of
his own fantasy. The experience of sleep still lies like a great water
between him and yesterday. In the cold, young, golden light, among the
grey stones of the quadrangle, the brain, too, rejoices in its own life,
and forgets to look before and after. Habit is weaker. He catches
another glimpse of the “clouds of glory,” if only in a mirage. He is
renovated by the new day; and although by dinner-time he will have
advanced to warmer sympathies and a more tranquil satisfaction, there
will then be something more cynical in his indolent optimism than in the
sharp but easily warded points of morning wit.... Of course, a breakfast
party of men in training for the Torpids is another thing. That is a
question of arithmetic. So, too, with a breakfast given formally to
freshmen, which is mainly a question of time and stories about dons.
Breakfasts with fellows are either of the best kind, or they are
ceremonies. There are some colleges, where the fellows not only feel
that there is no need of condescension, but they do not condescend: the
elder is not expected to be preternaturally simple, nor the younger to
be abstruse. In other colleges, such breakfasts of the great and small
are sometimes farces and sometimes ceremonies. The don knows that the
other’s knowledge of the _Republic_ is small; the undergraduate is
equally aware of the fact: the one assumes that he has an index to the
other’s mind; the other that one so scathing in his opinion of essays
will be the same in his treatment of little quips about the Colonial
Secretary or accounts of pheasant-shooting in the Christmas vacation:
one is determined to pounce; the other not to be pounced upon. The scout
who changes the dishes indicates whether it is a ceremony or a farce. If
he smiles, it is the one; if he does not, it is the other. Not
everybody, indeed, in these colleges has the same misfortune, though any
one may, as the young man who carefully prepared a paraphrase of one of
the obscurest articles in the _Encyclopædia Britannica_ and two brand
new epigrams artfully inwoven, and served them up as he sat down at the
breakfast table of the bursar, who smiled and commented moodily: “What a
boon the _Encyclopædia_ is to the tired man!” But breakfast with even
the best of dons has this disadvantage, that he can bring it to an end
with a word; so that his guest may afterwards be seen disconsolately
reading a newspaper, and feeling that to have eaten food is hardly more
to have breakfasted than to have dined.

Between nine and one o’clock the different species of Oxford kind are
either within doors--sleeping, talking, or working--or to be seen in
various conditions of unrest; observers and observed in the High, in
pairs or singly; and, if freshmen, either stately in scholars’ gowns or
apparently anxious to convince others that they have just picked up
their commoners’ gowns; sauntering to the book-shops, or to look at a
cricket pitch or a dog; or hurrying to lectures with an earnestness
that strangely disappears when they are seated and the lecture is begun.

In the stream of men there is one thin black line that is
unwavering--the line of men, with white fillets of sacrifice under their
chins, going to the examination Schools. This is the only place in the
world where the plough is still wrought into a weapon of offence. They
are under the care of a suitable, ferocious, wild man, who is one of the
Old Guard of the opposition to women at Oxford; and in his bleak
invitation to ladies, to proceed to their appointed rooms, lays terrible
stress upon the word “women,” as if it were a term of abuse in his
strange tongue. He is partly responsible for the reply of an
undergraduate to an American who asked, what might be the name of the
buildings which he so admired and which made him feel at home?

“That,” said the undergraduate, “is the Martyrs’ Memorial.”

“And who are those going in?”

“They are the Martyrs.”

“But I thought they were burned three hundred years ago?”

“Sir,” said the undergraduate impressively, “they are martyred twice
daily.”

“Well, I guess Oxford is very Middle Age and all that, but I didn’t know
it went so far as that”: and the humane visitor went away, talking of
agitation in the _New York Herald_.

Of all Oxford pastimes, that of going to the bookshop

[Illustration: ENTRANCE TO THE DIVINITY SCHOOL

The doorway through which a servant with a silver “poker” is preceding
the Vice-Chancellor leads to the old Divinity School.

The window at the end of the lobby--usually called the “Pig
Market”--looks into Exeter College garden.]

after breakfast is one of the most wise. There the undergraduate meets
the don whose lecture he has slighted; in fact, he meets every one
there, or escapes them, if he thinks fit, behind one of the tall piles.
Some prefer leap-frog and hopping contests in the quadrangle. In some
colleges they are said to read Plato under the trees in the morning: in
others, it is to be presumed, in spite of the negligent capers of the
wearers, that the hours are spent in choosing the necktie or waistcoat
best suited to “flame in the forehead of the morning sky.” Another
amusement is to go to the Divinity School and see the Vice-Chancellor,
seated between the two neat and restless proctors, conferring degrees.
Near, and on either side of the daïs, the ladies are enjoying the scene,
with no traces of any selfish “I would an’ if I could.” Below them sit
dons who are to present members of their colleges,--a pale, superb,
militant priest conspicuous among the rows of English gentlemen. Farther
removed from authority is the Opposition, half a hundred undergraduates,
who merrily applaud the perambulations of the mace-bearer or the
deportment of their friends. Pale blue, and scarlet, and peach-coloured
hoods make a brave contrast with the dead grey light and colourless
stone of traceried ceiling and pillared walls, and the dim foliage of
trees and ivy outside.

Lectures are a less stately pleasure. Some lecturers walk up and down
the room as in a cage, and pause only for a more genial remark than
usual, with uplifted gown and back to the blazing fire. Others laugh at
their own jokes, or even at jokes which they leave unexpressed. Some
are stern and impassioned: some appear to be proposing a health; others,
again, a vote of condolence. One came in clothed for travel, twenty
minutes late, and after a few remarks, said that brevity was the most
pardonable of the virtues, and that he had to catch a train; and left.
In the old days, Merton was famous for Schoolmen, Christ Church for
poets, All Souls’ for orators, Brasenose for disputants, and so on, says
Fuller. That is not quite so now. Yet, as then, “all are eminent in some
one kind or other,” although the undergraduate does not always perceive
it. Some are noted for research, some for views, some for condensation.
An impartial observer once remarked that, “even when he is abridging an
abridgment, an Oxford lecturer always had views.” A scratching,
coughing, whispering silence is respectfully observed. Once upon a time,
a lady (not English) entered a famous hall, guide-book in hand,
spectacles on nose; went from place to place, contemplated all, and
incurred only the amazement of the lecturer and the admiration of the
audience. It is to be noticed that the audience of what M. Bardoux
good-naturedly calls Monks, is in most cases far more interested in
note-books than in the lecturer. Some will spend three consecutive hours
in lecture rooms, and therein compile very curious anthologies. Even
that does not conduce to enthusiasm; and nobody in recent years has been
electrified in an Oxford lecture room. “I have discovered,” writes an
outsider, “with much difficulty that there are two classes in Oxford,
the learned and the unlearned: my difficulty arose from the fact that
the latter were without coarseness and the former without enthusiasm.”
And certainly in a city that loves to light bonfires, and is never more
herself than when she is welcoming a guest, enthusiasm is astonishingly
well concealed. It may be detected occasionally among gentlemen who are
conducting East-Enders from quadrangle to quadrangle, or among those who
like the ground-ivy beer at Lincoln College on Ascension Day, or among
those who salute financiers and others in the act of becoming Doctors of
Civil Law at the Encænia. It was said that some one unsuccessfully
spread his gown as a carpet for the late Mr. Rhodes’s feet: it is
certain that some played upon him with little jets of truth very
heartily, and asked Socratic questions, on that august occasion.

At luncheon there is, however, some enthusiasm; not for the meal, which
is commonly a stupid one, but for the long afternoon, to be spent in the
parks, or on the river, or in the country, east to Wheatley, west to
Fyfield. These matters, or the prospect of a long bookish afternoon
indoors or (in the summer) under a willow on the Cherwell or Evenlode,
encroach too absolutely upon luncheon to allow it to be anything more
than an affair of knives and forks. As for the country, a man used
frequently to walk so as to know all the fields for twenty miles on
every side. But the walker is vanishing. Games take away their
thousands; bicycles their hundreds; the motor car destroys twos and
threes. On Sundays walking is almost fashionable; on week-days it is in
danger of becoming notorious as the hall-mark of a “reading man.” An
uninteresting youth was once asked, as a freshman, what exercise he
favoured, and replied, “I belong to the reading set and go walks.” The
remark was generally considered to lower him to the rank of the
_Intellectuels_, or as the “Guide Conversationelle” translates the word,
the Prigs. That guide, which appeared in the _J.C.R._ in June 1899, is
so characteristic in its humour that I cannot apologise for quoting from
it:--

   GUIDE CONVERSATIONELLE DE L’ÉTRANGER À OXFORD

   L’Américain.                   The Anglo-Saxon.
   L’Espion.                      The proctor.
   Le Chauvinisme.                Imperialism.
   Le Morgue.                     Self-respect.
   Le Noble.                      The good fellow.
   Le Bourgeois pauvre.           The tosher [an unattached student].
   Le Mauvais Repas.              Hall [dinner].
   Le Repas.                      The Grid [iron; an Oxford social club].
   Le Culte.                      The Salvation Army.
   Le Fou.                        The earnest man.
   Le Lion.                       The don.
   L’Intellectuel.                The Prig.
   Merci.                         ----
   Vous me devez cinq francs.     Oh! it doesn’t matter.
   Je suis Athée.                 I am broad.
   Il est dans le mouvement.      He is a gentleman.
   Il a manqué son coup.          I hate that man.
   Suivre les cours.              Reading for a second.
   Républicain de Vieille Roche.  Little Englander.
   Opportuniste.                  Conservative (or) Liberal.
   Socialiste.                    Radical.
   Collectiviste.                 Socialist.
   Le vertu.                      Our English way.
   Etre vicieux.                  To be out of it.
   Il arrivera.                   His father got that place.
   J’ai peur.                     Where’s the good of ragging?
   C’est faux.                    In some respects you are right.
   Tu en as menti.                Surely you must be mistaken.
   Abruti.                        My dear Sir!

The river (or _l’après midi_) is the new college of the nineteenth
century. As an educational institution it is unquestioned. The college
barges represent perhaps the most successful Oxford architecture of the
age. Certainly it was a thought of no mean order which set that tapering
line of gaudy galleys to heave and shimmer along the river-side, against
a background of trees and grass, and themselves a background for the
white figures of the oarsmen. It is a fine lesson in eloquence to listen
to the coaches shouting reprimand and advice, in sentences one or two
words long, to a panting crew. One can see the secret of English success
in the meek reception which a number of hard-working, conscientious,
abraded men give to the abuse of an idler on the bank. On the afternoon
of the races all is changed. The man who yesterday shouted “Potato
sacks!” or “Pleasure boat!” now screams “Well rowed all!” Before and
behind him flows all of the University that can run a mile. The faces of
all are expressive in every inch; all restraint of habit or decorum is
gone for the time being. The racing boats make hardly a sound; and for
the most part the rowers hear not a sound from the bank, but only the
click of their own rowlocks. Here and there a rattle is twirled; a bell
rings; a pistol is fired; and a pair or several pairs of boats creep
into the side, winners and losers, and languidly watch the still
competing boats as they pass. The noise of rattles, bells, pistols,
whistles, bagpipes, frying-pans, and shouts can be heard in all the
colleges and in the fields at Marston and Hinksey, where it has a kind
of melody. Close at hand, it has a charm for the experienced tympanum:
for in the cries of the victorious colleges the joy of victory is too
great to allow of any discordant crow of mere triumph; the cries of
those about to be beaten are too determined to have in them anything of
hate. Such is the devout enthusiasm of the runners on the bank that if
their own college boat is bumped they will sometimes run on to cheer the
next boat that passes. The mysteries of harmony are never so wonderful
as when, opposite the barge of a college that has made its bump, the
sound of a hundred voices and a hundred instruments goes up, from dons,
clergymen, old members of the college, future bishops, governors,
brewers, schoolmasters, literary men, all looking very much the same,
and in their pride of college forgetting all other pride. “If the next
great prophet comes in knickerbockers, with good legs and a megaphone,
he will be received in Oxford,” says one as he leaves the river. “Was a
prophet possible? Would he be a warrior, or an orator, or a quiet actor
and persuader? Out of the wilderness, or out of the slum?” Such were the
questions asked. “In any case he would not be listened to in Oxford,”
thought one. “Why not? provided his accent was good,” thought another.
“Comfort yourself,” said a third; “some one would ask at hall table what
school he came

[Illustration: THE RIVER ISIS

     On the right is the gold-and-white barge of Magdalen College
     undergoing repair. The masts and barges of other Colleges line the
     side of the river, and Folly Bridge closes the prospect.
]

from; the question would go round; and the prophet would retreat from
the refrigerator.” “But suppose him a sort of Kipling, twenty or thirty
feet broader every way----”

“Send up some buttered crumpets and slow poison” was the epitaph of the
conversation, which was, after all, between children of a cynical age
and in the hour of tea. But there is many a true thing said at tea in
Oxford. The hours from four to seven are nothing if not critical. It is
an irresponsible, frivolous time, and an interregnum between the tyranny
of exercise and the tyranny of food. Nothing is now commended; yet
nothing is envied. I suspect that some of the causes of the University
love of parody might be found by an investigator in the Oxford tea. Over
his crumpet or “slow poison” the undergraduate who is no wiser than he
should be legislates for the world, settles even higher matters, and
smilingly accepts a viceroyalty from Providence. With some it is a
festival of Slang--venerable goddess! I have heard a philologist trace a
little Oxford phrase to the thieves of Manchester a century ago or more.
Now he plans profound or witty speeches for the Union, devises “rags”
and rebellions, and writes for the undergraduate magazines, and has his
revenge in a few well-chosen words upon coaches, dons, captains of
football, and all forms of Pomposity, Dulness, and Good Sense.
“Common-sense,” says one, “is nonsense _à la mode_.” He luxuriates in
the criticism of life, and blossoms with epigrams. He says in his heart,
“In much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge
increaseth sorrow,” and sets himself to make sayings which, if not truer
than proverbs, are funnier. Others prowl: _i.e._ they go through that
promiscuous calling upon acquaintances which is the bane of half its
beneficiaries. Some of these prowlers seem to live by this kind of
canvassing--thieves of others’ time and generous givers of their own.
They will boast of having taken twenty teas in one afternoon. But on
Sunday comes their judgment. They wear a soberer aspect on their way to
the drawing-rooms of Oxford hostesses. In the comfortable chairs sit the
incurable habitués--cold, saturnine spectators, or impudent,
stiff-hearted epigrammatists, handing round at regular intervals neat
slices from the massy joints of their erudition or their wit. They smile
sadly and yet complacently over their tea-cups as the prowler enters.
They wait until the victim is in right position, viz. with a perfectly
true remark about the weather, or Sunday, or sport, or dentists; and
then suddenly “slit the thin-spun life” with an unseasonable query or
corroboration. The hostess smiles imperceptibly. In a few moments the
prowler is gone. “Mr. ----,” says the hostess, “you pronounce the
sweetest obituaries I ever meet, but I have never known you to pronounce
them over the deceased.”

    Here glow the lamps,
    And teaspoons clatter to the cosy hum
    Of scientific circles. Here resounds
    The football field with its discordant train,
    The crowd that cheers but not discriminates....

There are also teas with the young, the beautiful, and the virtuous in
the plain and exclusive northernmost haunts of learning in Oxford. The
University could not well do without their sweet influences. Yet if men,
in their company, are often better than themselves, as is only right,
they are perhaps less than themselves. Also, in wit carnivals, it is
permitted to women to use all kinds of weapons, from a sigh to a
tea-urn; to men they are not permitted, although they have nothing
sharper or more rankling in their armoury. Hence, on the part of
generous women, a sort of pity, and on the part of men some timidity and
(short of rudeness) tergiversation. And I am not privileged to give an
account of a real Somerville tea.

But it is a thing impossible to praise in rhyme or prose the pleasures
of tea at Oxford--perhaps especially in autumn, as the sun is setting
after rain--when a man knows not whether it is pleasanter to be rained
upon at Cumnor, or to be dried again by his fire--and the bells are
ringing.

    Not that Nepenthes which the wife of Thone
    In Egypt gave to Jove-born Helena,
    Is of such power to stir up joy as this,
    To life so friendly.

Perhaps, as you light candles, and ask, “What is warmth without light?”
your companion replies, “A minor poet”; and when you ask again in
irritation, “What is light without warmth?” he is ready with, “An
edition of Tennyson with notes.” And not even the recollection of such
things and worse can spoil the charm of Oxford tea. Then it is that the
homeliness of Oxford is dearest. And what a carnival of contrasts in
men and manners can be seen in a little room. “Oxford,” writes the
_Oxford Spectator_,--

                          Oxford is a stage,
    And all the men in residence are players:
    They have their exeats and examinations;
    And one man in his time plays many parts,
    His acts being seven ages. At first the Freshman,
    Stumbling and stuttering in his tutor’s rooms.
    And then the aspiring Classman, with white tie
    And shy, desponding face, creeping along
    Unwilling to the Schools. Then, at the Union,
    Spouting like Fury, with some woeful twaddle
    Upon the “Crisis.” Then a Billiard-player,
    Full of strange oaths, a keen and cunning card,
    Clever in cannons, sudden and quick at hazards,
    Seeking a billiard reputation
    Even in the pocket’s mouth. And then the Fellow,
    His fair, round forehead with hard furrows lined,
    With weakened eyes and beard of doubtful growth,
    Crammed with old lore of useless application,
    And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
    Into the lean and study-worn Professor,
    With spectacles on nose and class at side;
    His youthful nose has grown a world too large
    For his shrunk face; and his big, manly voice,
    Turning again towards childish treble, pipes
    And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
    That ends this strange, eventful history
    In utter donnishness and mere nonentity,
    Without respect, or tact, or taste, or anything.

I said that undergraduate magazine humour was a tea-table flower. I
should have said that it flowers at tea and is harvested after dinner.
The penning of it is a nocturnal occupation, and the best wit is
sometimes the result of that pregnant nervousness which comes from
competing with time. It was until very lately

[Illustration: THE SHELDONIAN THEATRE AND OLD CLARENDON BUILDINGS

     The steps from Cat Street lead to the enclosure of the Theatre, the
     east entrance of which is seen. Above the entrance, and crowning
     the roof of the Theatre, rises Sir Christopher Wren’s cupola, from
     the windows of which a panorama appears of unsurpassed beauty and
     interest.

     On the right of the picture is the south front of the Clarendon
     Building.
]

a tradition that undergraduate journalism should be anonymous. Of many
good and feeble things the authorship will now probably never be known.
“Hath the rain a father? or who hath begotten the drops of dew?” And it
is an odd thing that so few reputations have been promised or made
therein. Probably the writers of the Cambridge _Light Green_ and the
“Lambkin Papers” in the _J.C.R._ of Oxford have alone not only shown but
fulfilled their promise in contributions to an undergraduate periodical.
The explanation is that the cleverest men are content to produce either
parody or what is narrowly topical, and both of these are usually born
in their graves. “Parody,” said a don, “is always with us, and nearly
always against us.” Parody and its companions are, in fact, a sort of
unofficial bull-dogs, that persecute all forms of bad, and even good,
behaviour which do not come within the proctor’s jurisdiction. The
proctor is a favourite victim. “O vestment of velvet and virtue,” runs
an obvious parody in the _Shotover Papers_ of 1874, by “Gamble Gold,”--

    O vestment of velvet and virtue,
      O venemous victors of vice,
    Who hurt men who never have hurt you,
      Oh, calm, cruel, colder than ice.
    Why wilfully wage ye this war? is
      Pure pity purged out of your breast?
    O purse-prigging Procuratores,
      O pitiless pest!

The wise fool, the foolish wise man, the impostor, and the ungainly
fanatic, are all game to the undergraduate satirist. “We draw our bow
at a venture,” he writes; “so look to it, don and undergraduate, boating
men and reading men; look to it, O Union orators, statesmen of the
future; look to it, ye patrons of St. Philip’s and St. Aldate’s; look to
it, ye loungers in the Parks; look to it, ye Proctors, and thou, O
Vice-Chancellor, see that your harness be well fitted, that between its
joints no arrow shall pierce. Our aim is careless, but perhaps it may
strike deep; if we cannot smite a king we shall contentedly wing a
freshman.” Not seldom this note of Titanic defiance is struck by the
freshman himself. If he cannot be an example of what is most subtle in
literature or most brilliant in life, he will peacefully consent to be
in his own person a warning against the commonplace. He is, indeed, very
often among the parodists, although as a rule he does not get beyond
imitation. Perhaps the large percentage of parodists will account for
that timidity of poets which has left Cambridge almost without a tribute
from its countless band. The gay, sarcastic man who dines next to you,
or is a fellow-officer at the Union, is bound to hear of your serious
follies in print, and will as infallibly make that an excuse for rushing
into print himself. I have even heard it seriously urged that the number
of critics in Oxford accounts for the silence of nearly every one else,
and that not the irresponsible undergraduate alone blasts the blossoms
of wisdom while he takes the sting out of foolishness. A cautious use of
high teas might be recommended as a step towards seriousness.

Some, even to-day, fly speedily from tea to work. Upon others, and in
some degree upon these, dinner lays a cheerful hand in anticipation. The
optimist becomes “happier and wiser both.” The very pessimist rises at
least to a cynic. Under the head of dinner I include, first and least,
the discussion of the cook’s poetry and prose, if one may be permitted
to make the distinction, since his joints have been called “poems in
prose”; second, the feast of reason, etc.; third, those acts of pleasure
or duty which came naturally to the wise diner. The first two are hardly
distinct acts. “We _devour_” says Leigh Hunt, “wit and argument, and
_discuss_ a turkey and chine.” The word “dinner” was once derived from
the Greek word for terrible, and was held to imply not so much its
terrors for the after-dinner speaker, as for the man who came simply to
eat. Most Oxford colleges have accordingly an elaborate and forcible set
of rules for humiliating the sordid man. In old days he apparently
quoted from the Bible, which every one knew, just as every one knows the
_Times_ to-day; and consequently a quotation from the Bible was punished
along with puns, quotations from Latin and Greek, and oaths. As
unbecoming to a feast of reason, flannels and other clothes belonging to
the barbaric hours of life are forbidden. The unpunctuality of such as
obviously come only to devour is treated in the same way. Gross
inadvertence or apparent physical incapacity to do anything but eat have
also been punished in gentlemen both punctual and suitably clothed; but
these and other excesses of virtuous intention are not always
sanctioned by the High Table. The punishment usually takes the form of a
fine to the extent of two quarts of beer, which the sufferer has to put
in circulation among his judges. Punning, too, is attacked. It was time
that the pun should go. It was becoming too perfect, and a monopoly of
the mathematical mind. Two hundred years ago men laughed at this:--“A
chaplain in the University of Oxford, having one leg bigger than the
other, was told that his legs might be _chaplains_ too, for they were
never like to be _fellows_.” To-day, it is doubtful whether it would be
honoured by the fine or “sconce.” Yet the pun has in a sense been
supplanted not very worthily by the “spoonerism.” That, too, has become
a very solemn affair. It is in the hands of calculating prodigies, and
men are expected to laugh at “pictures defeated” instead of “features
depicted” and the like. It smacks of the logic required for a pass
degree, while the old puns _sentent plus le vin que l’huile_. Yet the
spoonerism is venerable in years; and Anthony Wood records among his
pieces of humour the saying of Dr. Ratcliff of Brasenose, that “a proud
man will buy a dagger or die a beggar.” Nor is the anecdote extinct, as
one may learn from the laughter at any High Table, where it is known
that men do not discuss ontology. Oxford humour, at and after dinner,
may be divided under these heads:--

(1) The Rag.
(2) The Epigram.
(3) Humour.

The first, saving when it amounts to house-breaking or assault, or
should endanger the perpetrator under the last Licensing Act, consists
in the thoughtful preparation and execution of something unexpected for
the benefit of an offending person, or in the elaboration of something
visibly and audibly funny for fun’s sake at the expense of the artists
alone. It was “a rag,” for example, two hundred and fifty years ago, as
also more recently, to make a various and crowded ceremony of the
enforced exit of a popular undergraduate. The hero may be mounted on a
hearse or a steam-roller, and proceed with stately accompaniment. Or he
may go in pink with a pack of bull-dogs, and whips dressed as proctors,
to the tune of “ The Conquering Hero.” Some prefer twenty-four
barrel-organs, if obtainable. But the “rag” is a branch of decorative
art that deserves a volume with illustrations. No one who has not
studied it can guess at the beautiful work which is devoted to the
conversion of a gentleman’s bedroom into a sitting-room. Any one who
would teach us how divine a thing the rag can be made, would be heartily
thanked. I may remark, in passing, that it gives full play to the
intellect,--is, in fact, a counterpart to the occupations of the
schoolmen, and is neither less practical nor less ingenious, and reaches
its highest perfection in the hands of scholars who can do nothing
without remembering Plato, and say nothing without remembering
Aristophanes. Lest I should be suspected of not being on the side of the
angels in recent controversy, I will give no examples, save a trifling
one which has just been recalled for me by a volume of Hazlitt. We made
a supper party of six with Corydon, our host at ---- in Oxford. His
gestures (particularly a gracious way of bowing his head as he smiled)
had a magic that quickly made our number seem inevitable and right. Very
soon all were talking eagerly in harmonious alternation. A choicely
laden board of cold viands, which none seemed to have noticed, stood
unvisited, and was finally cleared. Corydon was speaking (of nothing in
the least important) when the servant carried in a strange but dainty
course of little, fine old books that sent the conversation happily into
every nook that rivers from Helicon visit. Again and again came in
dishes of the same character, for which Corydon’s purse and library had
been ransacked. The wealth of how many provinces--to use an honoured
phrase--had gone to the preparation of that meal! “And by the way, I
have some cold fowls and wine and fruit ready,” the host said
suddenly.... One found that Shelley and champagne were good bosom
friends; another that a compôte of port, Montaigne, and pomegranate was
incomparable.... This Hazlitt also was at that excellent supper and
“rag.” Nor can I omit a mention of the strong sculptor who strove all
night in the midst of a wintry quadrangle, in order to astonish the
college with a snow statue of the most jovial fellow of the society,
with a cigar between his teeth and a bottle in each hand. Mr. Godley has
sung of a more boisterous rag, “the raid the Saxon made on the Cymru
men,” which was in this way:--

    Mist upon the marches lay, dark the night and late,
    Came the bands of Saxondom, knocking at a gate,--
    Mr. Jones the person was whom they came to see--
    He, they said, had courteously asked them in to tea.

    Did they, when that college gate open wide was thrown,
    Go and see the gentleman, as they should have done?
    No: in Impropriety’s indecorous tones
    (Quite unmeet for tea-parties) loud they shouted “Jones!”

    Straightway did a multitude answer to their call--
    _Un, dau, tri, pedwar, pump, chwech_--Mr. Joneses all--
    Loud as Lliwedd’s echoes ring all asserted, “We
    Never asked these roistering Saesnegs in to tea!”

    Like the waves of Anglesey, crashing on the coast,
    Came the Cymru cohorts then: countless was their host:
    Retribution stern and swift evermore assails
    Him who dares to trifle with gallant little Wales....

One who might be supposed to know said in 1899 that where a Cambridge
man would know an article from the _Encyclopædia Britannica_ by heart,
an Oxford man would abridge it in an epigram; and there, he contended,
was a difference and a distinction. But the epigram is said to be dying.
It were greatly to be regretted, if that were true, since the epigram
was the handsomest medium ever chosen by inexperience for its own
expression. As poetry is a criticism of life by livers, so the epigram
is a criticism of life by those who have not lived. It used to be the
toga of the infant prodigy at Oxford. “If only life were a dream, and I
could afford hansoms!” or “A little Jowett is a dangerous thing!” used
to pass muster in a crowd of epigrams. But I seemed to see the skirt of
the departing epigram this year, when a young man exclaimed that he had
discovered that, “After all, life is the thing,” in a discussion
concerning conduct and literature: and the shock was hardly lessened by
the critical repartee that the remark was “not only true but
inadequate.” A few years ago smaller notions than that were not allowed
to go into the world without their fashionable suit. That was the
epigram. It was a verbal parallel to legerdemain. The quickness of the
fancy deceived the brain: or rather the brain made it a point of
courtesy to be deceived. For there was a kindly conspiracy between the
speaker and the hearer in the matter of epigrams. A certain degree of
skill was expected of the latter, who knew almost infallibly whether a
saying was an epigram, just as he would have known a hearse or a skiff.
It was the jingling bell which every one but the exceptionally clever
wore in his cap, to prove that he aspired to talk. All were
epigrammatists, and regarded as alien nothing epigrammatical. When “Lady
Windermere’s Fan” was played at Oxford, even those who had not heard
them before laughed at the epigrams in the Club scene. One such remarked
to a persevering imitator of Wilde: “The epigrams in ‘Lady Windermere’
were a faint echo of yourself.” But these are other times, and when the
same youth, bald and still young, very recently ventured to clothe a
little truism archaically, the curate next to him touched a note of
horror mingled with contempt as he said, “That sounded like an epigram.”
In one respect an Oxford dinner is the better for the absence of
epigram. The machine-made article is impossible. It used to be as
ineffectual as the prayers of Thibet. A man might be seen, forgetful of
the world, nursing his faculties from soup to ice, in the gestation of
an epigram. Thus it tended to cast a shadow over conversation, and to
replace the genial, slow, and whist-like alternations of good talk with
the sudden follies of snap or the violences of bridge. Breakfast itself
was sometimes made the occasion of duels, with a thrust and parry not
oftener than twice in a course. A man would come melancholy to luncheon
because he had not hit upon a good thing in the lecture which preceded
it. Nevertheless, there was something to be said for the manufacture, if
not for the manufacturer. His epigrams could be repeated _spontaneously_
by another. Thus an elderly morose undergraduate, unable to knot a bow,
would one day ejaculate at the wrong moment: “A woman is never too
stupid to be loved, nor too clever to love.” The next evening a simple
and dashing boy would make a hit with it, by nice judgment of time and
place. Much applause was sometimes accorded to the wit of laborious,
obscure young men who were content to father their offspring upon the
illustrious. Thus, one undergraduate was once found slaving at an
original work, entitled “Addenda to the Posthumous Humour of the late
Master of Balliol.”

Of humour, the third division, there is nothing to be said. It has been
met with at the Union, in spite of the notice:--

        Lost!
    A sense of humour
    by the following gentlemen----
    They will take in exchange early numbers
    of _Sword and Trowel_ or a selection
    of hatbands.

For the most part, the heavier vices and lighter virtues of speech are
said to flourish there. “It is a pity,” said a critic of the Union,
“that so many ingenious youths should disarm themselves by pretending to
be in the House of Commons, which they rival as a club.” A Frenchman has
said that its histrionic wealth at one time equalled the house of
Molière. Indeed, as a home of comedy it is the most amusing and
accomplished in Oxford; and on that account, probably, the public
theatre seldom provides anything but opera and farce. A bland, clever
youth, stooping like a candle in hot July--his body and a scroll of
foolscap quivering with emotion, as he suggests to a smiling house that
the Conservative party should bury its differences under the sole
management of Mr. Redmond: a stiff, small, heroic figure--with a mouth
that might sway armies, a voice as sweet as Helicon, as irresistible and
continuous as Niagara--pouring forth praise of the English aristocracy
and the Independent Labour Party, to a house that believes or
disbelieves, and applauds: a minute, tormented skeleton, acrobatic and
ungainly, so eloquent on the futility of Parliament, that he might
govern the Empire, if he could govern himself: one who is not really
comfortable without a cigarette, yet awes the house by his superb
complacency, as he utters now and then a languid epigram about the
Irish peasantry or indigo, in the brief intervals of an apparent
colloquy with himself:--these and a multitude of the fervid, the
weighty, the listless, the perky, and the dull, are among the Union
orators of yesterday. “I went to the Union to be amused,” says one.
“They were debating a question of literature. A brilliant man opened; a
learned opposed. Others followed--some for, some against, the motion;
others again made observations. I was not disappointed. I was edified.
There was no research. There was little originality. But there was a
dazzling simplicity and lucidity, and an extraordinary power of treating
controversially the profoundest matters as if they were common
knowledge; above all, the reserved gestures, the self-control, were
dignified, and made me believe that I was listening to the opinions of
an assembly of middle-aged men of the world, and not a handful of
students not yet past their majority.” But the glories of Union oratory
are weekly: the theatre is consequently a favourite evening lounge; some
even prefer it on Thursdays. It is noticeable that the house is more
familiar than elsewhere in its praise or disapproval of the players.
Half a dozen in the dress circle will hold a (rather one-sided)
conversation with the stage for half an evening. It is also customary,
and especially on Saturdays, for the audience to sing the choruses of
songs to their taste many times over, and then to revive them in the
quiet streets. Banquets, and the reception given to the speeches of
actors and managers, and the nature of those speeches as well, prove
the hearty fellowship between University and stage. It has long been so.
“At a stage play in Oxford,” says one old author, “(at the King’s Arms
in Holywell) a Cornishman was brought in to wrestle with three Welshmen,
one after another, and when he had worsted them all, he called out, as
his part was, Have you any more Welshmen? Which words one of Jesus
College took in such indignation that he leaped upon the stage and threw
the player in earnest.” It must be admitted, however, that such
familiarities on the stage itself are now unknown.

To a stranger walking from the Union or the theatre, after Tom has
sounded the ideal hour of studious retirement, Oxford might well appear
to be a nest of singing birds. The windows of brilliantly lighted rooms,
with curtains frequently undrawn, in dwelling-house or college, reveal
rows of backs and rows of faces, with here one at a piano and there one
standing beside, singing lustily, while the rest try with more or less
success to concentrate their talents upon the chorus: probably they are
singing something from _Gaudeamus, Scarlet and Blue_, or other
song-books for students, soldiers, and sailors; or, it may be, a folk
song that has never come into print. Sometimes, in the later evening,
the singing is not so beautiful. For here those sing who never sang
before, and those who used to sing now sing the more. Perhaps only the
broadest-minded lover of grotesque contrasts will care for the ballads
flung to the brightening moon among the battlements and towers. But the
others should not

[Illustration: JESUS COLLEGE

The romantic tower and lowering gateway of the College are almost in the
centre of the picture--a bit of Exeter College appearing above the
buildings to the left.

Two masters are engaged in vigorous argument in front of the Principal’s
door, over which is a “hood” of the Georgian period, in quaint contrast
with the surrounding style of architecture.]

judge harshly or with haste. These are but part of the motley in which
learning clothes itself. Much sound and fury is here no proof of
deep-seated folly; nor quietness, of study; nor are a man’s age,
dignity, and accomplishments in mathematical proportion to the
demureness of his deportment. I notice on one little tankard these
philosophies in brief, scrawled with a broken pen:--

    Ah! who would lose thee,
    When we no more can use or even abuse thee?

    ΠΑΝΤΑ ΡΕΙ

    Qui vit sans folie n’est pas si sage qu’il croit.

    The old is better.

    How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
    To rust unburnished, not to shine in use.

    ΜΙΣΕΩ ΜΝΑΜΟΝΑ ΣΥΜΠΟΤΑΝ

    Assiduitate non desidia.

    Too much study is sloth.

    Desine fata deum flecti sperare precando.

    Quittez le long espoir et les vastes pensées.

And though some are evidently framed with an eye confined to the
tankard, how applicable all are to the shining pewter and life itself!

You shall be in one small sitting-room, on an evening, while in one
corner a ditty from the _Studentenlieder_ is hummed; in another, Hagen’s
_Carmina Medii Ævi_ or W. B. Yeats or Marlowe is declaimed; in another,
you shall hear ghosts or sports discussed; in a fourth, the orthodoxy of
the _Inferno_: yet the whole company shall be one in spirit. And the
same in another such room--where a dozen men are divided into groups
around three of the number who are reading, for discussion, the rules of
the Salvation Army, the _Anthologia Planudea_, and a Blue Book.

At the top of an adjacent staircase there is a lonely gentleman eating
strawberries and cream, and thinking about wall-paper; or one like a
gnome, amidst innumerable books,--his floor strewn with notes, phrases,
queries,--writing a prize essay; or one reading law, with his
newly-presented football cap on his head; one reading Kipling and
training a meerschaum; one alternately reading the _Organon_ of
Aristotle and quoting verbatim from Edgar Allen Poe to admiring workers
at the same text; or one digesting opium, and now and then looking for
five minutes at one or other of a huge pile of books at his side--Paul
Verlaine, Marlowe, Jeremy Taylor, the _Odyssey_, Ariosto, and Pater. The
staircases creak or clatter with the footsteps of men going up and down,
to and from these rooms. Outside one or two sets of rooms the great
outer door--the “oak”--is fastened, a signal that the owner wishes to be
undisturbed, and practically an invitation to trials of strength with
heel and shoulder from the passer-by. In the faintly lighted
quadrangles, men are hurrying, or sauntering, or resting on the grass
among the trees. Perhaps there is a light in the college hall. The sound
of a castanet dance played by a band--or a song--comes through the
window. The music grows wilder. The chorus swallows up the song. There
are half a dozen conductors beating time, among the crowded benches of
the audience. The small lights are but stains upon the air, which is
composed of cigar and cigarette smoke. Mirth is eloquently expressed in
every way, from laughter to a snore. The candles begin to fall from the
brackets; the seats are carried out; and, to a still wilder tune, two
hundred men join hands and dance. The band is given no rest: in fact,
they are unable to rest, and the same glow sits in their cheeks. But in
the darkness they slip away. For all the candles are out, and there is a
bonfire making red weals upon the grey walls; then another dance; and a
hundred times, “Auld lang syne,” until the college is quiet, and but
rarely a light is seen through curtains and over battlements: and the
long Oxford night begins. _Large reponens_, we build up the fire. If it
be autumn, we will hardly permit it ever to go out, thus consoling
ourselves for the transitory glow of the sun, and fantastically handing
on the sunsets of many summers and the dawns of many springs, in that
constant flame. Sitting before it, we seem to evolve a fiery myth, and
think that Apollo and Arthur and other “solar” heroes more probably
leapt radiant from just such a fire before the eyes of more puissant
dreamers in the old time. The light creeps along the wall, fingering
title after title of our books. They are silently preluding to a second
spring, when poets shall sing instead of birds, and we shall gather old
fragrant flowers, not from groves, but from books. We see coming a long,
new summer, a bookish summer, when we shall rest by olive and holm oak
and palm and cypress, and not leave our chairs--a summer of evenings,
with tropic warmth, no cloud overhead, and skies of what hue we please.

    There many Minstrales maken melody,
    To drive away the dull Melancholy,
    And many Bardes, that to the trembling chord
    Can tune their timely voices cunningly:
    And many Chroniclers, that can record
    Old loves and warres for Ladies doen by many a Lord.

A certain Italian poet used “to retire to bed for the winter.” He had
some wisdom, and we will follow him in spirit; but, having Oxford rooms
and Oxford armchairs, that were not dreamed of in his philosophy, we
need not stay abed. Few of the costless luxuries are dearer than the
hour’s sleep amidst the last chapter of the night, while the fire is
crumbling, grey, and murmurous, as if it talked in its sleep. The
tenderest of Oxford poets knew these nights:--

    About the august and ancient _Square_
    Cries the wild wind; and through the air,
    The blue night air, blows keen and chill;
    Else, all the night sleeps, all is still.
    Now the lone _Square_ is blind with gloom,
    A cloudy moonlight plays, and falls
    In glory upon _Bodley’s_ walls:
    Now, wildlier yet, while moonlight pales,
    Storm the tumultuary gales.
    O rare divinity of Night!
    Season of undisturbed delight:
    Glad interspace of day and day!
    Without, an world of winds at play:
    Within, I hear what dead friends say.
    Blow, winds! and round that perfect _Dome_
    Wail as you will, and sweep, and roam:
    Above _Saint Mary’s_ carven home,
    Struggle and smite to your desire
    The sainted watchers on her spire:
    Or in the distance vex your power
    Upon mine own _New College_ tower:
    You hurt not these! On me and mine
    Clear candlelights in quiet shine:
    My fire lives yet! nor have I done
    With _Smollett_, nor with _Richardson_:
    With, gentlest of the martyrs! _Lamb_,
    Whose lover I, long lover, am:
    With _Gray_, where gracious spirit knew
    The sorrows of arts lonely few....

And it is day once more; and beauty, the one thing in Oxford that grows
not old, seems a new-born, joyous thing, to a late watcher who looks out
and sees the light first falling on dewy spires.



IN A COLLEGE GARDEN



CHAPTER VII

IN A COLLEGE GARDEN


In spring, when it rained, says Aubrey, Lord Bacon used to go into the
fields in an open coach, “to receive the benefit of irrigation, which he
was wont to say was very wholesome because of the nitre in the aire, and
the universal spirit of the world.” Nor is it difficult in a college
garden to associate the diverse ceremonial of Nature with the moods and
great days of men. What, for example, can lay such fostering hands upon
the spirit that has grown callous in the undecipherable sound of cities,
as the grey February clouds that emerge from the sky hardly more than
the lines in mother-of-pearl or the grain of a chestnut? I have
thought,--in that garden,--that we are neglectful of the powers of herb
and flower to educate the soul, and that the magical herbalists were
nobly guessing at difficult truths when they strove to find a “virtue”
in every product of lawn and sedge. There is a polarity between the
genius of certain places and certain temperaments; our “genial air” or
natal atmosphere is, we may think, enriched by the soul of innumerable
plants, beyond the neighbourhood of which some people are never quite
_themselves_. And this college garden of smooth, shining lawn, and trees
that seem more than trees in their close old friendship with grey
masonry, has a singular aptness to--I had almost said a singular
knowledge of--those who have first been aware of beauty in its shade.
“If there be aught in heredity, I must perforce love gardens; and until
the topographer of Eden shall arise, I have set my heart on this.” So
says a theologian, one of its adornments in academic black and white.

Old and storied as it is, the garden has a whole volume of subtleties by
which it avails itself of the tricks of the elements. Nothing could be
more romantic than its grouping and contrasted lights when a great,
tawny September moon leans--as if pensively at watch--upon the garden
wall. No garden is so fortunate in retaining its splendour when summer
brusquely departs, or so rich in the idiom of green leaves when the dewy
charities of the south wind are at last accepted. None so happily
assists the music and laughter and lamps of some festivity. And when in
February the heavy rain bubbles at the foot of the trees, and spins a
shifting veil about their height and over the grass, it seems to reveal
more than it conceals. The loneliness of the place becomes intense, as
if one were hidden far back in time, and one’s self an anachronism. It
is a return to Nature. The whole becomes primeval; and it is hard to
throw off the illusion of being deep in woods and in some potent
presence--

[Illustration: THE FELLOWS’ GARDEN, MERTON COLLEGE

The portion of this garden shown is bounded by the south-east portion of
the old City Wall, with one or two bastions still remaining, and the
terrace walk formed on a mound level with the top of the steps, shown in
the picture, commands a fine view of Christ Church Meadows and the Broad
Walk. A grand avenue of lime trees is on the left, where at a lower
level is placed an armillary sphere.

The time is near sunset.]

    Hoc nemus ...
    Quis deus incertum est, habitat deus.

At such times the folded gloom gives up the tale of the past most
willingly.

The casual stranger sees little in the garden but neatness and repose.
He may notice how luckily the few trees occur, and what warmth the
shrubbery bestows, when they are black with rain and the crocus petals
are spilt in silence. In a little while he may be privileged to learn
what a great space for the eye, and especially for the imagination, the
unknown gardener has contrived out of a few roods of high-walled grass.
He will perhaps end by remarking that an acre is more than so many
square yards, and by supposing that it is unique because it is academic.

But it is no merely academic charm that keeps him there, whether the sun
in October is so bright on the frosty grass that the dead leaves
disappear when they fall,--or on a spring evening the great chestnut
expands; its beauty and magnitude are as things newly and triumphantly
acquired; and it fills the whole space of sky, and in a few minutes the
constellations hang in its branches.

It is rather perfect than academic; a garden of which the most would say
that, after their own, it is the best. Its shape and size are accidents,
for it embraces the sites of an old hall, a graveyard, and an orchard of
Elizabeth’s time; and the expert mole might here and there discover
traces of a dozen successive fashions since it was clipped and carved by
a dialist and peppered with tulips. But a thoughtful conservatism and a
partnership between many generations have given it an indubitable style.
The place has, as it were, a nationality, and the inevitable boundaries
are apparently the finishing-strokes of the picture and not its
aboriginal frame. Yet it is no natural garden into which any one may
stroll and scatter the ends of cigarettes. A strong customary law is
expressed by the very aspect of the place. Hence, part of it is still
sacred to the statelier leisure of the dons. Hence, where any one can
go, whether by right, or from a lack of beadles, it is the good fortune
of every one to find himself alone when he reaches the spot. Even so,
the trees have never quite their just tribute of dignity and ceremonial.
They would be pleased to welcome back the days when Shenstone could only
visit Jago secretly, because he wore a servitor’s gown; when even Gibbon
remembered with satisfaction “the velvet cap and silk gown which
distinguish a gentleman commoner from a plebeian student”; and when,
within living memory, the “correct thing for the quiet, gentlemanly
undergraduate was a black frock-coat and tall hat, with the neatest of
gloves and boots,” on his country walk. The garden, when its borders
were in scrolls, knots, and volutes, was certainly not among

          The less ambitious Pleasures found
    Beneath the _Liceat_ of an humble Bob,

but was chiefly honoured by those who had graduated into a grizzled wig
“with feathery pride,”--Mr. Rakewell of Queen’s or Beau Trifle of
Christ Church, or the ornate gentleman who are depicted in
Ackerman,--and by dons who had never lost their self-respect by the
scandal of keeping the company of undergraduates. When Latin was the
language of conversation at dinner and supper, the trees looked their
best. The change came, perhaps, in the days of the President who went
about the world muttering _Mors omnibus communis_, or when our
grandfathers made the gravel shriek with their armchair races across the
quadrangles; for in those days, according to an authority on roses,
undergraduates either read, or hunted, or drove, or rowed, or walked
(_i.e._ up and down the High). The pile of the lawn continued to deepen,
and the trees to write new legends upon the sky.

The limes are in number equal to the fellows of the college, and, with
the great warden horse-chestnut and the lesser trees, make up a solemn
and wise society. They waste no time. Now and then they talk a little,
and when one talks, the others follow; but as a rule the wryneck or the
jackdaw talks instead; and with them it seems to be near the end of the
day, nothing remaining save _benedictus benedicat_. In the angriest gale
and in the scarcely grass-moving air of twilight the cypresses nod
almost without sound. They are sentinels, unarmed, powerful in their
unknown watchword, solemn and important as negroes born in the days of
Haroun Alraschid. They say the last word on calm. And so old---- goes
there often, to remember the great days of the college fifty years ago,
and, looking priest-like with his natural tonsure and black long gown,
seems to worship some unpermitted graven image among the shadows. When
_he_ is in the garden, the intruder may see a complete piece of mediæval
Oxford; for the louvre, and the line of roofs, and the mullioned windows
are, from that point of view, as they were in the founder’s time.

At the feet of the trees are the flowers of the seasons in their order.
Here and there the precious dark earth is visible, adding a charm to the
pale green stems and leaves and the splendid or thoughtful hues of
blossom. The flower borders and plots carve the turf into such a shape
that it seems a great quiet monster at rest. One step ahead the grass is
undivided, enamelled turf: underfoot, the innumerable blades have each a
colour, a movement, a fragrance of their own,--as when one enters a
crowd, that had seemed merely a crowd, and finds in it no two alike.

On one side is the shrubbery, of all the hues of the kingdom of green.
Underneath the shrubs the gloom is a presence. The interlacing branches
are as the bars of its cage. You watch and watch--like children who have
found the lion’s cage, but the lion invisible--until gradually, pleased
and still awed, you see that the caged thing is--nothingness, in all its
shadowy pomp and immeasurable power. Seated there, you could swear that
the darkness was moving about, treading the boundaries. When I first saw
it, it was a thing as new and strange as if I had seen the world before
the sun, and withdrawing my eyes and looking at the fresh limes

[Illustration: IN TRINITY COLLEGE GARDENS

The wrought-iron gates, supported by noble piers, to the left of the
picture, open immediately opposite Wadham College. The road between the
College and the gates leads to the New Museum, the Parks, and Keble
College. There is no entrance for the public through these gates.

Some of the fine trees which adorn this eastern part of the gardens are
shown.]

was like beholding the light of the first dawn arriving at Eden. And in
the evening that accumulated gloom raised the whole question between
silence and speech, and did not answer it. The song of the blackbird is
heard, cushioned among the sleepy cooings of doves. And when they cease,
how fine is the silence! When they revive, how fine is the song! For the
silence seems to appropriate and not to destroy the song. The blackbird,
too, seems to appropriate and make much of the silence when he sings.
The long meditations of the gowned and ungowned therein are not of less
account because the only tangible result is the perfect beheading of
dandelions as they walk to and fro.

    How shall I name you, immortal, mild, proud shadows?
    I only know that all we know comes from you,
    And that you come from Eden on flying feet.
    Is Eden far away, or do you hide
    From human thought, as hares and mice and coneys
    That run before the reaping-hook and lie
    In the last ridge of the barley? Do our woods
    And winds and ponds cover more quiet woods,
    More shining winds, more star-glimmering ponds?
    Is Eden out of time and out of space?
    And do you gather about us when pale light
    Shining on water and fallen among leaves,
    And winds blowing from flowers, and whirr of feathers,
    And the green quiet, have uplifted the heart?

Not often can the most academic dreamer see Faunus among those trees or
Daphne in the laurel again.

On the grass the shadows of the roof, and later, of a tree, make time an
alluring toy. The shadow is cut in finer and sharper angles than the
roofs make, in the rich, hazy, Oxford light.

To walk round about the garden twice could not occupy an hour of the
most tranquil or gouty human life, even if you stayed to see the
toadflaxes and ferns in the wall, to note the shape of the trees, and
admire how the changing sun patronises space after space of the college
buildings. Yet no maze or boundless moor could give a greater pleasure
of seclusion and security. Not in vain has it served many academic
generations as a sweet and melodious ante-chamber of the unseen. For, as
an old book grows the richer to the wise reader, for the porings of its
dead owners in past years, so these trees and this lawn have been
enriched. Their roots are deep in more than earth. Their crests traffic
with more than the doves and the blue air. There is surely no other
garden so fit to accompany the reading of _Comus_ or the _Æneid_. They
become domesticated in the heart amidst these propitious shades. But not
many bring books under the trees; nor are they unwise who are contented
to translate what silence says. The many-coloured undergraduate lounges
there with another of his kind, and may perhaps encounter the shade of
some “buck” or “smart” of old, who will set a stamp of antiquity on his
glories. Choleric old---- walks there sometimes; but either a caterpillar
falls, or the leaves turn over and unburden themselves of their rain;
and he comes back, loudly thinking that, if a covered cloister had been
in the place of the trees, he would not have lost a very ingenious
thread of reflection about the greatest good of the greatest number.
And---- goes there after a college meeting, and

[Illustration: FELLOWS’ GARDEN, EXETER COLLEGE

On the extreme left of the picture is part of the two-storeyed Library
of the College, built in 1856. Farther on is the south end of the lobby
to the Divinity School (“Pig Market,” see other picture), at the base of
which are some steps, leading to an earthen embankment overlooking
Radcliffe Square.

Bishop Heber’s tree is planted at the south-east corner of this
embankment (see other picture), and shows between the aged acacia tree
and the dome of the Radcliffe Library, which appears to the extreme
right of the painting.

A group of Fellows are seated under the acacia, probably resting after
playing bowls.]

changes his mind. The merry breakfaster finds that a turn among the
trees will add the button-hole to his complacency. The grave young
scholar, with his gown almost to his heels, and the older one whose gown
and cap resemble nothing that is worn by any save a tramp, meet there on
summer evenings. The freshman gives the highest colour and purest
atmosphere to his prophetic imaginings when he walks there first. One
says that the garden is partly a confessor and partly an aunt. Above
all, it is the resort of those who are about to leave Oxford for ever;
and under its influence those who have forgotten all their ambitions,
and those who are beginning to remember them, meet on some June or
October afternoon, to decide that it has been worth while; and between
the trees the college has a half-domestic, half-monastic air; all else
is quite shut out, except where, like a curve of smoke, a dome rises,
and the wraith of a spire among the clouds.



OLD OXFORD DAYS



CHAPTER VIII

OLD OXFORD DAYS


The history of a college like New or Wadham is written clearly on its
walls. It rose by one grand effort, from one grand conception, at the
will of founder and architect. All its future uses were more or less
plainly implied in the quadrangles, chapel, and hall, through which the
opening procession marched with solemn music; they stood in need of
little more than time and good fortune. Such a college was then in a
sense mature, fully armed and equipped, before the founder’s decease.

But it was more characteristic of an Oxford college to be evolved
irregularly, by strange and difficult ways, with much sudden expansion
and decline, into its present state. Thus Lincoln and Oriel were, for a
short time after their foundation, fallow, if not extinct. The latter,
in spite of its renovation by a king, after whom it was at first
inclined to be named, grew up around the humble, illustrious tenement of
La Oriole, where its early scholars dwelt, and whence they gave their
society its lasting name. That cradling tenement has its parallel in
many a college history.

In the thirteenth or fourteenth century some Oxford citizen would build
a pair of cottages, where a carpenter and an innkeeper came to live. At
the inrush of students to welcome a famous lecturer, the spare rooms of
those cottages received their share. Some of the lodgers stayed on,
liked the carpenter and his wife and family, with whom they lived on
terms of social equality; and in a generation the tradition of
entertaining scholars was established. A few years saw the formation of
a colony of students from one countryside or great estate. As the custom
was, they chose a superior from among their number. In those days, if an
American had run upstairs to the head, he might have had a more
satisfactory answer than he had yesterday to his command: “I’ve come to
take rooms in your college!” for the hostel was, roughly speaking, an
hotel. The members fought side by side in the battles of the nations
(viz. Northerners, Southerners, etc.), and of town and gown. They bent
over the same books. They sang the same songs. And together they came to
love the place, the two cottages and those adjacent into which they had
overflowed. Such a group fled from the ancient Brasenose Hall to
Stamford, in one of the University migrations, in 1334; carried with
them the knocker of their lodgings in the shape of a brazen nose, and
fixed it to the door of their “Brasenose Hall in Stamford.” If they
forgot to take it back on their return, it nevertheless “got perched
upon the top of the pineal gland” of the college brain; and with
characteristic spirited piety the descendants of the old hall-men found
it out in 1890, and hung it in a place of honour and safety.

In later life one of the carpenter’s tenants became a bishop, or a royal
almoner. Either at the height of his fame and wealth, or on his
deathbed, he would remember his old retreat, and its associations with
law and Aristotle and

    Breed and chese and good ale in a jubbe.

There his old friends or their successors still dwelt, and learned and
taught and fought. So he gave money for the purchase of the cottages; a
neighbouring garden plot, perhaps a strip of woodland outside the walls,
and the rents of some home farms for the revenue; together with the
advowson of a church--if possible the one which he remembered best in
Oxford, or if not, then one within his diocese or influence. He sketched
the statutes, which fixed the number of the scholars and the rules for
electing new ones and a head. He himself chose the first head. The
scholars were to remain unmarried and in residence; to study the Arts,
or Theology, or Canon and Civil Law; and to pray for his soul.

The carpenter’s and innkeeper’s tenants found themselves suddenly
powerful and rich. They had their own seal, and a new and more settled
enthusiasm, and a diapason of duties and ceremonies, added to their
life. They had their aisle in the church whose shadow reached them on
summer evenings. If their estates were large and well managed,--if the
country was prosperous, and the head obeyed the statutes and the fellows
the head,--their progress was swift. Perhaps a legal difficulty
interposed delay, or their rents disappeared. Perhaps the fellows
quarrelled with the head, or the discipline was such that the fellows
climbed into college at late unstatutable hours and became a scandal in
the University. But a descendant or neighbour of the founder, or a
parishioner of the college living, came to their help. One gave a
present, in order that he might be remembered in the college prayers:
another sent books: a former fellow who was grateful or pitiful made a
rich benefaction when he went to court. Already the little original
tenements were tottering or too small. They must build and rebuild. Then
a “second founder” adopted as his children that and all succeeding
generations of scholars, who should praise him for a benefaction larger
than the first.

They pull down the old buildings, all save a flanking wall with a
gateway to their taste, and begin to build. The benefactor sends teams
of oxen to carry wood and stone. They are quarrying at Eynsham and
Headington, and in the benefactor’s own distant county. They are felling
oaks at Cumnor or Nuneham, actually before the bronzed foliage has
crisped to brown. All day the oxen come and go: on the river, the boats
are carrying stone, slates, and wood, unless the frost binds the barges
among the reeds and the foundation soil breaks the spade. The master
mason has already roughly hewn a statue of the patron saint or the
founder, or his

[Illustration: THE LIBRARY, ORIEL COLLEGE

Across the picture, opposite the spectator, appears the Library, a
dignified building of the Ionic order of architecture, designed by James
Wyatt about 1788. It occupies the northern side of the inner quadrangle.

On the ground floor, in the rusticated “basement” upon which the Library
stands, are the Common Rooms of the College.

The time is late afternoon in summer.]

rebus and coat of arms. He has decided that the old doorway shall be the
entrance to the college kitchen, lying far back in the main quadrangle,
which will not only take in the site of the demolished buildings, but
the neighbouring garden and a lane that could be spared. If he is
unfortunate, he may have to stop when he has completed only the
entrance, with the head’s lodgings vigilant above it, and a few sets of
rooms adjacent on either side, already occupied. If all is well, in a
few years, or perhaps at the end of the mason’s life, the shining whole
is the admiration of Oxford. The bishop who is to consecrate the chapel
comes informally to see it a few days beforehand, and is therefore able
to restrain his wonder when he comes pompously with the chancellor and
all the great names of the University. The chapel and hall face the
entrance. All round are the dwelling rooms, on two storeys, if we count
the long-untenanted attics. On one side alone there is twice the space
of the old cottages; but the arrangement is the same--the rooms
branching on the left and right from a staircase that rises from ground
to attic. The library is on a first floor: on one side of it, the
windows invite the earliest light,

    Whan that the belle of laudes gan to rynge
    And freres in the chauncel gonne synge;

on the other, they enable the late student, who cannot buy light, to
read until the martins cast no shadow as they pass in June: and there
they put the gorgeous Latin poets and missals, embroidered with colours
like the bank of a brook, and along with them the dull works of a
benefactor, in that very corner where the spider loves them to-day. The
fellow who loves sleep will not choose the eastward-facing, library side
of the quad. But they have made it almost impossible for him to
oversleep himself. For in a humbler truckle-bed a younger scholar sleeps
near him. Some rooms contain three beds side by side. Leading out of
this dormitory are little cupboards or studies, sometimes under lock and
key, for solitary work. Most of the walls are ungarnished; a few are
hung with coloured cloth or even frescoed. The furniture is simple and
scanty. The hall itself has but a “green hanging of say,” a high table
for the seniors, and two pairs of forms and tables on trestles for the
juniors. The kitchen is more opulent, with its tall andirons,
chopping-board, trivet, gridiron, spit, and great pot and chafer of
brass, its pans, dishes, and platters; while in the buttery there are
four barrels abroach. Now and then an old member or admirer of the
society sends a group of silver vessels: the most honoured becomes the
loving cup that circulates on gaudy days; and with it goes some
significant toast, as the _jus suum cuique_ at Magdalen accompanies the
“Restoration cup,” on which the names of James II.’s ejected fellows are
engraved. For while the college grows, and sends its just proportion of
astute or learned men into the world, it flowers with customs and
traditions--prayers in the chapel, festivals in the hall,--the Christmas
boar’s head decorated with banners at Queen’s,--the ancestral vine at
Lincoln. At dinner

[Illustration: MAGDALEN COLLEGE TOWER FROM THE MEADOWS

To the left of the picture appear those noble black poplars of which
Oxford is justly proud. The College tower is seen between them and
another group of trees, Magdalen Bridge and the elms in the “Grove”
finishing to the extreme right.

The time is late afternoon.]

the tables shine with flagons and tankards, and great “sprig salts” of
silver plate, which were the main college investment, the pledges of
affection, or, as at Wadham, the customary gift of those who were
admitted to the dignity of the high table. The shining of most was put
out for ever in Charles I.’s melting-pot at New Inn Hall; and only the
lists survive, each tankard and ewer and candlestick described by its
donor’s name.

Thus, by the fact of their coming from neighbour villages and towns,
perhaps also from one school, to a home on which they depended for their
learning and the necessities of life, the fellows and scholars became
knit together, with noticeable characteristics and peculiarities--almost
a family resemblance; and in religious or political difficulties they
made a solid strength of opinion and influence. A little heresy might
break out under Henry the Eighth or Mary. A great benefaction might
encourage the building of another quadrangle or a new library, and the
institution of more fellowships and scholarships. They contributed a
handsome quantity of plate to the king, and an officer to his army; or,
to a man, resisted the Puritan intrusion after his death. Such were the
more conspicuous events of centuries. The conflicts in the University,
according to some proverbial Latin verses, were in early times at least
as important as the boat race to-day. They were a subtle measure of the
state of parties and movements; and in these the college played its
part. And when the days of fighting were over, there was the University
lampoon: “These paltry scholars,” says an old ballad, supposed to be
addressed by an Oxford alderman to the Duke of Monmouth,--

    These paltry scholars, blast them with one breath,
    Or they’ll rhime your Grace and us to death.

The college was busy in sending out into the world of Church and State
its more vigorous members--those who excelled in the age when
examinations were disputations that sometimes became almost a form of
athletic sport; and in keeping within its walls the quieter spirits, who
were willing to spend a life among manuscripts, in perfecting the
management of the college estates, or in the education and discipline of
others. From a scholarship to a fellowship, and from a fellowship to a
college living, were frequently made the very calmest windings to a
happy decent age, though no doubt the last stage sometimes led to such a
regret as this:--

    Why did I sell my College Life
    (He cries) for Benefice and Wife?
    Return, ye Days! when endless Pleasure
    I found in Reading or in Leisure!
    When calm around the Common Room
    I puff’d my daily Pipe’s Perfume!
    Rode for a stomach, and inspected,
    At Annual Bottlings, corks selected:
    And din’d untax’d, untroubled, under
    The Portrait of our pious Founder!

It was a fine thing to sit day after day, in rooms sweetened, as in
Burton’s day, with juniper, or in the college library, which was as a
bay or river mouth leading into the very land of silence--to sit and
write, or not write, as you pleased; and, in the days when books were
no longer shelved with their faces to the wall, look up at

    Bullarium
    Cherubini

printed in gold upon the glowing calf, and making mystical combinations
as night came on. There, and in hall, chapel, study, and garden, men
doomed to very diverse fates and stations went and still go, and found
it possible to live a more enchanted life than anywhere else.

The refractory Headington stone crumbled, and while the classical
buildings became yearly less handsome than when the masons left them,
the Gothic gained by the rich inlay and delicate waste of weather and
time. As if time and weather wrote the chronicles of the society, the
walls came to have a singular influence upon each generation, and gave
them, as it were, a common ancestry and blood--noble blood, for all.
Even when they departed they had the irrefragable right of exiles to
look back and salute.

And yet how different the life within those walls which some now living
can remember! Sixty years ago, they lament, “no man was ever seen in the
streets of Oxford after lunch without being dressed as he would have
been in Pall Mall.” Charles Reade at Magdalen “created a panic even
among the junior members” by wearing a green coat and brass buttons, as
Dean of Arts. Sixty years before that, George Colman had matriculated in
a grass-green coat, “with the furiously bepowdered pate of an ultra
coxcomb.” And now, says the first-quoted authority, “shooting-jackets
of all patterns, in which it is not given to every man to look like a
gentleman,” have taken the place of frock-coat, tall hat, and gloves,
“in which every one looked well.” The change from knee-breeches to
trousers early last century was made possible by the gross lenience of a
proctor.

Without college or university games, the old Oxford day was very much
unlike our own. Bonfires of celebration, almost alone among modern
amusements, are of great antiquity, in street and quad. A hundred years
ago the man who would now row or play cricket for his college, was
hunting, or pole-jumping across the fields; or, if he was original, he
took the long walks which were popular a few generations ago, but are
now so exceptional that I know nobody who ever saw, and recognised,
Matthew Arnold’s tree, though some are lazily inclined to believe that
it is the one elm that dwells with the seven firs on Cumnor Hurst.

One of the few college games was confined to the fives courts, which lay
within the walls and have long disappeared, and are inconceivable
to-day, when competition and spectators on ground remote from the
colleges are characteristic of Oxford sport. Earlier still, a form of
college game was the “vile and horrid sport” of forcibly shaving those
who were about to become Masters of Arts, and the “tucking” (_i.e._
scratching on the chin with the thumb nail) of freshmen, which the first
Earl of Shaftesbury put down at Exeter. These customs cast but a feeble
shadow to-day in the occasional solemnity of trimming a contemporary’s
exuberant or ill-kept hair. A more appropriate form of celebrating the
taking of degrees was an elaborate supper, which is now less often
possible, when a man frequently takes his degree in solitude and leaves
Oxford immediately. William Paston, in the fifteenth century, writes,
that he was made bachelor on a Friday and had his feast on the Monday
following. He was promised a gift of venison, and though disappointed,
his guests “were pleased with such meat as they had.” Even William of
Wykeham, who forbade every possible game to his scholars at New, and
would not allow the post-prandial leisure to be spent on ordinary days
around the fire in the middle of his great hall, provided that, after
supper, “on festivals and other winter nights, on which, in honour of
God, his Mother, or some other saint,” there is a fire in the hall, the
fellows might indulge in singing or reading “poems, chronicles of the
realm, and the wonders of the world.” Some of the college halls
preserved their old central fireplaces, under a louvre, until early in
the last century. While the fellows dined, a servitor stood there, and
read aloud from the Bible, in the first days of the college; or, as at
Trinity in 1792, recited a passage from Homer or Virgil or Milton.
Southey records it as a rule, that every member of the University could
go by right once a year to Balliol hall, and “be treated with bread and
cheese and beer, and all on condition that, when called upon, he should
either sing a song or tell a story.” Those who were unqualified
doubtless stayed away. Yet there is little sign that the temperate or
secluded undergraduate suffered for his gifts. Whitefield himself, who
cost his relatives £24 for his first three years, and wore “woollen
gloves, a patched gown, and dirty shoes,” says that the other men left
him alone when “he became better than other people,” as a “singular odd
fellow,” at Pembroke. There was, however, one custom which must have
left such men with a sore memory. For the “fresh night” was long the
common doom of men soon after entering the University. There were fires
of charcoal in the hall on All Saints’ eve, All Saints’ day and night,
and onwards to Christmas day and Candlemas day; and the freshmen were
brought in before an assembly of their seniors among the undergraduates.
Anthony à Wood describes the ordeal thus:--

“On Candlemas day, or before, every freshman had warning given him to
provide his speech, to be spoken in the public hall before the
undergraduates and servants on Shrove Tuesday night that followed, being
always the time for the observation of that ceremony.

“Feb. 15, 164⅞, Shrove Tuesday, the fire being made in the common
hall before five of the clock at night, the fellows would go to supper
before six, and making an end sooner than at other times, they left the
hall to the liberty of the undergraduates, but with an admonition from
one of the fellows (who was then principal of the undergraduates and
postmasters [at Merton]) that all things should be carried in good
order. While they were at supper in the hall, the cook (Will Noble) was
making the lesser of the brass pots full of cawdel at the

[Illustration: THE CLOISTERS, NEW COLLEGE

The great west window of the College Chapel shows above the Cloisters to
the east. The window was painted from designs made by Sir Joshua
Reynolds.

To the right of the drawing is the picturesque group of the Warden’s
Lodgings.

The area of the Cloisters was consecrated as a private burial-place for
the College, 19th October 1400.]

freshmen’s charge; which, after the hall was free from the fellows, was
brought up and set before the fire in the said hall. Afterwards every
freshman, according to seniority, was to pluck off his gown and band,
and if possible make himself look like a scoundrel. This done, they were
conducted each after the other to the high table, and there made to
stand on a form placed thereon: from whence they were to speak their
speech with an audible voice to the company; which if well done, the
person that spoke it was to have a cup of caudle and no salted drink; if
indifferently, some caudle and some salted drink; but if dull, nothing
was given to him but salted drink, or salt put in college beer, with
tucks to boot. Afterwards when they were to be admitted into the
fraternity, the senior cook was to administer to them an oath over an
old shoe. After which, spoken with gravity, the freshman kissed the
shoe, put on his gown and band, and took his place among the seniors.”

Wood himself not only earned pure caudle, but sack as well, with an
oration in this vein:--

“Most reverend Seniors,--May it please your Gravities to admit into your
presence a kitten of the Muses, and a meer frog of Helicon to croak the
cataracts of his plumbeous cerebrosity before your sagacious
ingenuities. I am none of the University blood-hounds that seek for
preferment, and whose noses are as acute as their ears, that lie perdue
for places, and who, good saints! do groan till _the Visitation_ comes.
These are they that esteem a tavern as bad as purgatory, and wine more
superstitious than holy water; and therefore I hope this honourable
convocation will not suffer one of that tribe to taste of the sack, lest
they should be troubled with a vertigo and their heads turn _round_.”

Except at such a special season as that, the old Oxford day bore more
resemblance than our own to the life elsewhere. The fashions in cards
and dress were the same as in London; the outdoor amusements were those
of other town or country gentlemen. There was horse-racing at Spurton
Hill and Brackley, cock-fighting at Holywell. Edgeworth’s contemporaries
attended the assizes, and interfered on behalf of justice, in spite of
sheriff and judge. Anthony à Wood went to fish at Wheatley Bridge, and
“nutted at Shotover by the way.” And early rising was a tradition in
every college until last century. The undergraduate, who to-day lives on
historical principles, is often later than his sixteenth-century
original was to dine, when he sits at his breakfast of steak and XX in a
fine old room. Chapel at six o’clock and a lecture at seven was a common
doom. Shelley and Hogg, after their days spent in shooting at a mark,
and making ducks and drakes and paper boats at a Shotover pond, sat up,
indeed, until two, over their conversations on literature and chemistry,
but rose at seven, because it was customary. While dinner was at ten or
eleven, breakfast was an informal meal. Some attempted to do without it:
hence a morning preacher swooned on the altar steps. Wood speaks of the
juniors “at breakfast in hall” in 1661. The majority took beer and
bread from the buttery, and probably taking it in one another’s rooms,
started the genial custom of breakfast parties, which was perfected
early in the nineteenth century. “Let the tender swain,” says the
well-spiced _Oxford Sausage_, a mid-eighteenth-century product of Oxford
(and Cambridge) wits,--

                      Let the tender Swain
    Each Morn regale on nerve-relaxing Tea,
    Companion meet of languor-loving Nymph:
    Be mine each Morn with eager appetite
    And Hunger undissembled, to repair
    To friendly Buttery; there on smoaking Crust
    And foaming Ale to banquet unrestrained,
    Material Breakfast! Thus in ancient Days
    Our ancestors robust with liberal cups
    Usher’d the Morn, unlike the squeamish Sons
    Of modern Times: Nor ever had the Might
    Of Britons brave decay’d, had thus they fed,
    With British Ale improving British worth.

The institution of breakfast, whatever happened to British worth, was
certainly helped forward by the tea, rolls, and toast which slowly
ousted ale. Lectures and disputations in private or in the Schools
followed breakfast. The latter possibly encouraged inter-collegiate
sports, since Exeter and Christ Church on one occasion resolved their
disputation into a fight which attracted Masters of Arts. And well it
might; for otherwise they were in danger of dining like fighting cocks
and amusing themselves like doves: the sixteenth-century fellows of
Corpus, for example, were permitted no games but ball in the college
garden. Examinations are still a select and expensive form of
amusement. The stories told of celebrated men and their _viva voce_
conflicts with examiners, and the like, have inspired more than one to
go into the Schools in a mood of smiling irreverence. The fame
resulting, it is true, has to be propagated by much anecdote from the
lips of the hero himself. In the Middle Ages the humour was of a lustier
kind. The parsley crown went, or should have gone, to the most brazen
giver and taker of learned wit. In Anthony à Wood’s day, one William
George, “cynical and hirsute in his behaviour,” was a noted sophister
and disputant, and improved his purse by preparing the exercises of the
dull or lazy for public recitation. The nature of these examinations, in
their dull old age, has been recorded by one who took part:--

“Two boys, or men, as they call themselves, agree to _do generals_
together. The first stage in this mighty work is to produce arguments.
These are always handed down from generation to generation, on long
slips of paper, and consist of foolish syllogisms on foolish subjects.
The next step is to go for a _liceat_ to one of the petty officers,
called the Regent Master of the Schools, who subscribes his name to the
questions, and receives sixpence as his fee. When the important day
arrives, the two doubty disputants go into a large dusty room, full of
dirt and cobwebs, with walls and wainscot decorated with the names of
former disputants, who, to divert the tedious hours, cut out their names
with their penknives or wrote verses with a pencil. Here they sit in
mean desks, opposite to each other, from one till three. Not once in a
hundred times does any officer enter; and if he does, he hears one
syllogism or two, and then makes a bow, and departs, as he came and
remained, in solemn silence. The disputants then return to the amusement
of cutting the desks, carving their names, or reading Sterne’s
_Sentimental Journey_, or some other edifying novel.”

Thus, towards the end of the eighteenth century, “great progress is made
towards the wished-for honour of a bachelor’s degree”; the goal might be
reached, if the undergraduate knew a few “jolly young Masters of Arts,”
by answering questions concerning the pedigree of a race-horse. Such was
the lack of interest in the disputations that they were called “wall”
lectures, after the name of their principal auditor.

A little poaching gave a very attractive substitute for cross-country
running. But increasing college discipline and the heightening average
of wealth and birth among students cut off the more violent sports of
the Middle Ages. The unattached, poor Welsh and Irish students, who kept
up the University name for rough and adventurous relaxations,
disappeared before the Reformation; and after the Poor Law Act of 1531
had condemned begging scholars, who were not authorised under the seal
of a university, to be treated as able-bodied beggars, there can have
been few to poach at Shotover and Abingdon. The masked Mohock revels and
Jacobite struttings of the Augustan age were a poor alternative. The
blithe and fearless spirit of trespassing, so common among
undergraduates, is the sole survival to-day, if we exclude the pious
uprooting of stakes and fences on fields supposed (by reference to
Doomsday Book) to be common land. Before and after the Puritans, who
preferred music in their rooms, there was free access to the acting of
dramas in Latin and English, and earlier still, to the miracle plays of
Herod and Noah and the like. Even during the Commonwealth private
theatricals were popular; and Wood speaks of one John Glendall, a fellow
of Brasenose, who was the witty _terræ filius_ in 1658, when the Acts
were kept in St. Mary’s Church, as “a great mimick, and acted well in
several plays which the scholars acted by stealth in Kettle Hall, the
refectory at Gloster Hall,” etc.

For centuries the ale-houses were full of university life. At one time
there were three hundred in Oxford. They had excellent uses before a
common room perfected the homeliness of the college; and even
afterwards, in the eighteenth century, a poetical club met at “The Tuns”
to display their wit. There the undergraduates freshened and shared
their wit, before each had an ample sitting-room, and before the junior
common room,--where now the newspaper rustles, and the debate roars or
chirps, and the senior scholar, on rare occasions, speaks to a not
wholly reverent college meeting from the time-honoured elevation of the
mantelpiece. The men of Balliol continued the old-fashioned devotion to
the “Split Crow” in Broad Street long after the coffee-house had become
fashionable. The vice-chancellor, being president of the rival and
neighbouring society of Trinity, scoffed at the Master’s

[Illustration: BROAD STREET, LOOKING WEST

On the left of the picture is the enclosing wall of the Sheldonian
Theatre, with its startlingly picturesque thermes. A flight of
semicircular steps leads to an entrance between two of them.

In the first bay of the wall, seen through the palisade fence, is the
old Ashmolean Museum, and farther on is a glimpse of Exeter College. The
spire is that of the College Chapel.

By the large tree standing near the Church of St. Mary Magdalen are the
buildings of Balliol College, and nearer to the spectator is the
entrance to Trinity College and Kettle Hall.

Some of the houses to the right of the picture are fair specimens of
eighteenth-century domestic architecture.

Two or three bicycles are shown, and the time is early noon.]

attempt to discourage them; “so now they may be sots by authority.” The
disorder was winked at because it increased the “natural stupidity” of
the Balliol men of the day. But the attitude of the University towards
humour two centuries ago was a wily mixture of patronage and ferocity.
The _terræ filius_ was only not official in his reckless bombardment of
order and authority at the annual University Act. It was as though a
jackdaw should be invited to church. He and his companion (for they
hunted in couples) were chosen, as regularly as proctors, by election;
and to become _terræ filius_ must have been the blue riband of the
wilder sort of University wits. Year after year pairs of _terræ filii_
fired their random shots at great and small, always with audacity,
sometimes with the utmost scurrility; and year after year one or both of
the pair suffered expulsion, or, like Addison’s father, public
humiliation, for their scandalous and opprobrious words, which no doubt
earned the gratitude of irresponsible juniors.

It was long a common recreation, a recreation only, to go on the river
in a boat, and to row or be rowed to some place of meditation or
festivity, or to go with music and wine upon the Isis to Godstow Bridge
or Sandford--

                        And there
    Beckley provides accustom’d fare
    Of eels, and perch, and brown beefsteak.

And the mention of Sandford carries with it many memories for modern
Oxford men, even if perch is not always to be had--of winter afternoons
when the mulled port was as sweet as a carnation, and a voice from a
slowly-gliding barge was the sole sound in all the land. One joyous
company long ago went, “like country fiddlers,” to Farringdon fair, with
cithern, bass viol, and violin. The city itself offered other amusements
than the theatre, music hall, billiard tables, and picture shows of
to-day. Freaks, monstrosities, mountebanks, jugglers, were welcome not
only to undergraduates of fifteen or sixteen. There was “a brazen head
that could speak and answer” at the Fleur de Lace on one day; on
another, strange beasts. On May-day a maypole stood near St.
Peter’s-in-the-East and opposite the “Mitre.” A bear-baiting was always
a possibility. There was a fencing school at hand. One who cared for
none of these has left this account of his Oxford day in the seventeenth
century:--

    _Morn, mend hose, stu. Greek, breakfast, Austen, quoque dinner;_
    _Afternoon, wa. me., cra. nu., take a cup, quoque supper--_

_i.e._, interprets Wood, in the morning he mended his stockings, studied
Greek, took breakfast, studied St. Augustine, and dined; and in the
afternoon, walked in Christ Church meadows, cracked nuts, took a drink,
and had supper.

Above all, in and after the time of Cromwell the city provided
coffee-houses,--the real, steaming, smoking, witty thing. The
hospitality and spirit of careless intercourse between college and
college which they fostered belong to the present day. They were first
opened, too, at a time when much of mediæval life was

[Illustration: THE HIGH STREET LOOKING EAST

The Mitre Inn is on the left of the picture, and above the white
building rises the tower and lantern of All Saints’ Church. A part of
these buildings has been removed for the extension of Brasenose College.
Farther on, the spire of the University Church appears above the porch
of All Saints’, and a portion of the battlements of All Souls’ College
closes the perspective.]

departing, when Christmas sports were dying, and Latin conversation at
dinner and supper was going out of use; and Anthony à Wood laments that
scholar-like conversation (“viz. by quoting the fathers, producing an
antient verse from the poets suitable to his discourse”) was accounted
pedantic, and “nothing but news and the affairs of Christendom,” he says
scornfully, “is discoursed of, and that generally at coffee-houses.” At
some, perhaps at all of them, there was a light library, which
apparently resembled the library of a modern college barge. A copy of
Rabelais, with poems and plays, all chained in the old manner,
embellished Short’s coffee-house. Later came the _Tatlers_ and
_Spectators_ and _Connoisseurs_, for “such as have neglected or lost
their Latin or Greek,” as Tom Warton said:--

“As there are here books suited to every Taste, so there are liquors
adapted to every species of reading. Amorous tales may be perused over
Arrack punch and jellies; insipid odes over orgeat or capilaire;
politics over coffee; divinity over port; and defences of bad generals
and bad ministers over whipt syllabubs. In a word, in these libraries
instruction and pleasure go hand in hand; and we may pronounce, in a
literal sense, that learning remains no longer a dry pursuit.” And in
Gibbon’s day the dons changed their seats from chapel to hall, and from
common room to coffee-house, in an indolent circle; and not only dons,
but the infinite variety of University types in the distinguishing
raiment of that day--

    Such nice distinction one perceives
    In cut of gown, and hoods and sleeves,
    Marking degrees, or style, or station,
    Of Members free, or on foundation,
    That were old Cato here narrator
    He must perforce have nomenclator.

There, or at an ale-house, which appears to have been less exposed to a
proctorial raid, the sociable spent the Oxford evening, which grew
longer as the nineteenth century approached. Sunday evenings were
frequently devoted to the fair sex in Merton walks, which were always
gay.

    My hair in wires exact and nice,
    I’ll trim my cap to smallest size,
    That _Polly_ sure may see me,

exclaims an eighteenth-century spark, with a hint that the kindly
relations between town and gown sometimes reached the married state. Yet
another writer with an eye for the amusing side of Oxford life drew the
following picture, which a diligent seeker might, with difficulty,
parallel to-day. Gainlove and Ape-all, two Oxford undergraduates, are
talking:--

“_Gainlove._ What, bound for the Port of Wedlock, Sir?

“_Ape-all._ No, no, no, no, Sir; I only use her as a Pleasure boat to
dabble about the stream with, purely for a Passo Tempo, or so. O Lord,
Sir, I have been at London, and know more of the world than to make love
to a woman I intend to marry--only it diverts the spleen to talk to a
girl sometimes, you know--and ’tis such a comedy, when one gallants them
to college, to

[Illustration: THE BOTANIC GARDEN

The Garden is surrounded by a wall, commenced in 1632, pierced by
several noble gateways one of which shows to the left of the picture.

The entrance gateway fronting the High Street was designed by Inigo
Jones.

The Garden is a favourite promenade and spot for rest; Magdalen Tower is
seen to great advantage through its grand trees.]

see all the young Fellows froze with envy, stand centinel in their
niches, like the figures of the Kings round the Royal Exchange. And the
old Dons who would take no more notice of one at another time than a
bishop of a country curate, will come cringing, cap in hand, to offer to
show the ladies the curiosities of the College--when the duce knows they
only want to be nibbling.”

Those who liked not these things had at least as good an opportunity of
quiet work as to-day. A separate set of rooms for each member of a
college had gradually become almost universal in the eighteenth century;
and the great outer door or “oak” shut off those who wished from the
rest of the world. Shelley was so pleased with that impervious door that
he exclaimed: the oak “is surely the tree of knowledge!” The simplicity
of the quarters within, before much of undergraduate social life was
passed in their rooms, would astonish modern eyes, if we may judge from
contemporary cuts, that show a few chairs, a small table with central
leg, a cap and gown on the wall, an inkhorn hanging by the window, a
pair of bellows and tongs by the fire, and over the mantel-piece a
picture or mirror. But there the undergraduate was safe from duns “with
vocal heel thrice thundering at the gate,” and, let us hope, from dons,
in colleges where they came round at nine in the evening, to see that he
kept good hours. Dibdin tells us that, as he closed the _Curiosities of
Literature_, he saw the Gothic battlements outside his window “streaked
with the dapple light of morning.” Ten years later, in the first year
of the nineteenth century, Reginald Heber, then at Brasenose, looked out
from his window and saw the fellows of All Souls’ thundering the “All
Souls’ Mallard” song--

    Griffin, Turkey, Bustard, Capon
    Let other hungry mortalls gape on,
    And on their bones with stomachs fall hard.
    But let All Souls men have the Mallard.
    Hough the blood of King Edward, by ye blood of King Edward,
    It was a swapping, swapping mallard--

carrying torches and inspired with canary as they sang. No one appears
to have heard the song again. And with that sound old Oxford life died
away.



THE OXFORD COUNTRY



CHAPTER IX

THE OXFORD COUNTRY

_Lætissimus umbra._

And the eye travels down to Oxford’s towers.


The walls of Oxford are tufted with ivy-leaved toadflax, wallflower, and
the sunny plant which botanists call “inelegant ragwort.” They form a
trail from the villages, upon wall after wall, into Ship Street and
Queen’s Lane, by which the country may be traced. In the same way, the
city may be said to steal out into the fields. Not only do we read the
epitaph of a forgotten fellow in a quiet church, and mark a resemblance
to Merton or Lincoln in the windows of an old house in North Hinksey
Street, but the beauty of the windy Shotover plateau, with its slopes of
hyacinth and furze, and the elmy hills of Cumnor and Radbrook, are
haunted and peopled by visions of the distant spires. They give that
mild, well-sculptured country a soul. Even when the city is out of
sight, its neighbourhood is not to be put by. Everywhere it is a
suspected presence, a hidden melodist. Whether in memory or
anticipation, it is, on all our walks, “like some grave thought
threading a mighty dream.”

I could wish that an inexorable Five Mile Act had kept it clear of red
brick. Newman and Ruskin hinted at the same. I know not how to describe
the spirit which turns a few miles of peaceful southern country into
something so unique. But if I mention a wood or a stream, let the reader
paint in, as it were, something sweet and shadowy in the distance, with
his imagination or recollection; let it be as some subtle perfume in a
_pot pourri_ which makes it different from all others.

There is a beautiful, sloping acre, not far from Oxford, which a number
of great elms divide into aisles and nave, while at one end a curving
hawthorn and maple hedge completes them with an apse. Towards Oxford,
the space is almost shut in by remote elms. On one side I hear the soft
and sibilant fall of soaking grass before the scythe. The rain and sun
alternating are like two lovers in dialogue; the rain smiles from the
hills when the sun shines, and the sun also while the rain is falling.
When the rain is not over and the sun has interrupted, the nightingale
sings, where the stitchwort is starry amidst long grass that bathes the
sweeping branches of thorn and brier; and I am now stabbed, and now
caressed, by its changing song. Through the elms on either side, hot,
rank grasses rise, crowned with a vapour of parsley flowers. A white
steam from the soil faintly mists the grass at intervals. The grass and
elms seem to be suffering in the rain, suffering for their quietness and
solitude, to be longing for something, as perhaps Eden also dropped
“some natural tears” when left a void. A potent, warm, and not quite
soothing

[Illustration: OXFORD, FROM SOUTH HINKSEY

Elms and willow trees fringe the slope of the hills leading to the
valley, in which the city shows sparkling in the morning sunlight.

Commencing from the west or left side of the picture, we see the tower
and lantern of All Saints’, with the dome of the Radcliffe Library
telling dark against the sky; then come the University Church of St.
Mary, Tom Tower, and the stretch of buildings of Christ Church, with the
Great Hall of the College, the Cathedral spire finishing the group.

Merton Tower stands detached to the east.

The almost level line of the horizon, with the trees bordering the river
to Iffley, frame as beautiful a group of buildings as any to be seen in
England.

Farm sheds show under the willow trees to the left.

The time is the early morning of a summer day.]

perfume creeps over the grass, and makes the May blossom something
elvish. I turn and look east. Almost at once, all these things are
happily composed into one pleasant sense, and are but a frame to a tower
and three spires of Oxford, like clouds--but the sky is suddenly
cloudless.

I suppose that ivy has the same graceful ways on all old masonry, yet I
have caught myself remembering, as if it were unique, that perfect
ancient ivy that makes an arcade of green along the wall of Godstow
nunnery. And in the same way, above all others I remember the pollard
willows that lean this way and that along the Oxford streams--like
prehistoric sculpture in winter, but in summer a green wave and full of
voices. Never have I seen sunsets like those which make Wytham Wood and
Marley Wood great purple clouds, and the clouds overhead more solid than
they. How pleasant are Cherwell and Evenlode, and those angry little
waters at Ferry Hinksey! When I see the rain a white cloud and Shotover
Hill a grey cloud, I seem never before to have seen the sweetness of
rain. October is nowhere so much itself as among the Hinksey elms, when
the fallen leaves smell of tea (and who that loves tea and autumn will
cast a stone?). The trees, whether they stand alone or in societies, are
most perfect in autumn. Something in the soil or climate preserves their
farewell hues as in a protracted sunset. Looking at them at nightfall,
it is hard to believe that they have been amidst ten thousand sunsets
and remained the same; for they ponder great matters, and not only in
the autumn, but in May, when the silence is startled by the gurgling
laughter of the hen cuckoo. When spring comes into the land, I remember
a mulberry that suspended its white blossom, among black boughs, over a
shining lawn at the edge of the city; and the bells that in March or
April seemed to be in league with spring, as we heard them from the
fields. And how well a conversation would grow and blossom between
Headington and Wheatley or Osney and Eaton! Some that loved not the
country would flourish strangely in wisdom or folly as the roads rose or
fell, or as the grey oak stems of Bagley Wood began to make a mist
around us. The only incidents, in twenty miles, were the occasional
sprints of one who was devoted to a liver, or the cometary passing of
one on a bicycle that sang _Le Roi d’Ivetot_ as if it were a psalm
containing the whole duty of man. And how a book--even a “schools”
book--taken on the river or the hills, would yield a great sweetness to
alternate handlings and laughter of several companions; or, if it were a
dull book, might be made to yield more than its author ever meant. I
have ever thought that the churchyard with a broken cross at Hinksey,
and the willows below and the elms above, if one takes George Herbert
there, is a better argument for the Church than Jewel and Chilling
worth, if the old yew had not seemed the priest of some old superstition
still powerful.

No one can walk much in the Oxford country without becoming a Pantheist.
The influence of the city, the memories, the books he is fresh from,
help the indolent

[Illustration: OXFORD FROM HEADINGTON HILL

The elm trees of the “Grove” of Magdalen College show to the extreme
left of the picture. The buildings of the College do not appear.

To the right of the “Grove” are the two spires of the Cathedral and the
University Church of St. Mary, with the Radcliffe dome and the “Schools”
tower farther on.

The view is looking west, at sunset in corn harvest.]

walker, who is content to sit under a hedge and wait for the best
things, to make his gods. The lanes are peopled with no fairies such as
in Wales and Ireland nimbly feed the fantasy, which here, in
consequence, is apt to take flight in wonderful ways. I remember one
(and Ovid was not at all in his mind) who was all but confident that he
saw Persephone on flat pastures and red ploughlands, gleaming between
green trees, when the hawthorn was not yet over and the roses had begun,
and the sapphire dragon-fly was afloat, on the Cherwell, as the boat
made a cool sound among the river’s hair, betwixt Water Eaton and Islip.
On the quiet, misty, autumn mornings, the hum of threshing machines was
solemn; and there at least it was a true harmony of autumn, and the man
casting sheaves from the rick was exalted--

                    Neque ilium
    Flava Ceres alto nequiquam spectat Olympo.

Everywhere the fancy, unaided by earlier fancies, sets to work very
busily in these fields. I have on several afternoons gone some way
towards the beginning of a new mythology, which might in a thousand
years puzzle the Germans. The shadowy, half-apprehended faces of new
deities float before my eyes, and I have wondered whether Apollo and
Diana are not immortal presences wheresoever there are awful trees and
alternating spaces of cool or sunlit lawn.... In the lanes there seems
to be another religion for the night. There is a fitful wind, and so
slow that as we walk we can follow its path while it shakes the heavy
leaves and dewy grass; and we feel as if we were trespassing on holy
ground; the land seems to have changed masters, or rather to have One.
Often I saw a clean-limbed beech, pale and slender, yet firm in its
loftiness, that shook delicately arched branches at the top, and below
held out an arm on which a form of schoolboys might have sat,--rising
out of fine grass and printing its perfect outlines on the sky,--and I
could fancy it enjoyed a life of pleasure that was health, beauty that
was strength, thought that was repose.

The Oxford country is rich in footpaths, as any one will know that goes
the round from Folly Bridge, through South Hinksey, to the “Fox” at
Boar’s Hill (where the scent of wallflower and hawthorn comes in through
the window with the sound of the rain and the nightingale); and then
away, skirting Wootton and Cumnor, past the “Bear” (with its cool
flagged room looking on a field of gold, and Cumnor Church tower among
elms); and back over the Hurst, where he turns, under the seven firs and
solitary elm, to ponder the long, alluring view towards Stanton Harcourt
and Bablock Hythe. He may take that walk many times, or wish to take it,
and yet never touch the same footpaths; and never be sure of the waste
patch of bluebell and furze, haunted by linnet and whinchat; the newly
harrowed field, where the stones shine like ivory after rain; the green
lane, where the beech leaves lie in February, and rise out of the snow,
untouched by it, in polished amber; the orchard, where the grass is
gloomy in April with the shadow of bright cherry flowers.

One such footpath I remember, that could be seen falling among woods and
rising over hills, faint and winding, and disappearing at last,--like a
vision of the perfect quiet life. We started once along it, over one of
the many fair little Oxford bridges, one that cleared the stream in
three graceful leaps of arching stone. The hills were cloudy with woods
in the heat. On either hand, at long distances apart, lay little grey
houses under scalloped capes of thatch, and here and there white houses,
like children of that sweet land--_albi circum ubera nati_. For the most
part we saw only the great hawthorn hedge, which gave us the sense of a
companion always abreast of us, yet always cool and fresh as if just
setting out. It was cooler when a red-hot bicyclist passed by. A sombre
river, noiselessly sauntering seaward, far away dropped with a murmur,
among leaves, into a pool. That sound alone made tremble the glassy dome
of silence that extended miles on miles. All things were lightly
powdered with gold, by a lustre that seemed to have been sifted through
gauze. The hazy sky, striving to be blue, was reflected as purple in the
waters. There, too, sunken and motionless, lay amber willow leaves; some
floated down. Between the sailing leaves, against the false sky, hung
the willow shadows,--shadows of willows overhead, with waving foliage,
like the train of a bird of paradise. Everywhere the languid perfumes of
corruption. Brown leaves laid their fingers on the cheek as they fell;
and here and there the hoary reverse of a willow leaf gleamed in the
crannied bases of the trees. A plough, planted in mid-field, was curved
like the wings of a bird alighting.

We could not walk as slowly as the river flowed; yet that seemed the
true pace to move in life, and so reach the great grey sea. Hand in hand
with the river wound the path, until twilight began to drive her dusky
flocks across the west, and a light wind knitted the aspen branches
against a silver sky with a crescent moon, as, troubled tenderly by
autumnal maladies of soul, we came to our place of rest,--a grey,
immemorial house with innumerable windows.



IN PRAISE OF OXFORD



CHAPTER X

IN PRAISE OF OXFORD


Many have written in praise of Oxford, and so finely that I have made
this selection with difficulty. I have excluded the work of living men,
because I am not familiar with it. Among that which is included will be
found passages from the writings of one who was at both Universities,
John Lyly; of two who were at Cambridge only, Dryden and Wordsworth; of
two who were at neither, Hazlitt and Hawthorne; and of several brilliant
lovers of Oxford whose faith was filial and undivided. Almost all the
quotations have wit or beauty enough to defend them, even had they been
less apposite: their charm is redoubled in this place, since they are in
Oxford’s praise. They are worthy of a city which a learned German
compares with the creations of Poussin and Claude. But they are in no
need of compliment. I could only wish that I had put down nothing
unworthy of their blessing. I have; and so they stand in place of
epilogue, where they perform the not unprecedented duty of apology.

     “There are also in this Islande two famous Universities, the one
     _Oxford_, the other _Cambridge_, both for the profession of all
     sciences, for Divinitie, phisicke, Lawe, and for all kinde of
     learning, excelling all the Universities of Christendome.

     “I was myself in either of them, and like them both so well, that I
     meane not in the way of controversie to preferre any for the better
     in Englande, but both for the best in the world, saving this, that
     Colledges in _Oxenford_ are much stately for the building, and
     _Cambridge_ much more sumptuous for the houses in the towne, but
     the learning neither lyeth in the free stones of the one, nor the
     fine streates of the other, for out of them both do dayly proceede
     men of great wisdome, to rule in the common welth, of learning to
     instruct the Common people, of all singuler kinde of professions to
     do good to all. And let this suffice, not to enquire which of them
     is the superior, but that neither of them have their equall,
     neither to ask which of them is the most auncient, but whether any
     other bee so famous.”

                                                   JOHN LYLY.



     “Where the Cherwell flows along with the Isis, and their divided
     streams make several little sweet and pleasant islands, is seated
     on a rising vale the most famous University of Oxford, in Saxon
     Oxenford, our most noble Athens, the seat of the English Muses, the
     prop and pillar, nay the sun, the eye, the very soul of the nation:
     the most celebrated fountain of wisdom and learning, from whence
     Religion, Letters and Good Manners, are happily diffused thro’ the
     whole Kingdom. A delicate and most beautiful city, whether we
     respect the neatness of private buildings, or the stateliness of
     public structures, or the healthy and pleasant situation. For the
     plain on which it stands is walled in, as it were, with hills of
     wood, which keeping out on one side the pestilential south wind, on
     the other, the tempestuous west, admit only the purifying east, and
     the north that disperses all unwholesome vapours. From which
     delightful situation, Authors tell us it was heretofore call’d
     _Bellositum_”--CAMDEN.

    Ye sacred Nurseries of blooming Youth!
    In whose collegiate shelter England’s Flowers
    Expand, enjoying through their vernal hours
    The air of liberty, the light of truth;
    Much have ye suffered from Time’s gnawing tooth:
    Yet, O ye spires of Oxford! domes and towers!
    Gardens and groves! your presence overpowers
    The soberness of reason; till, in sooth,
    Transformed, and rushing on a bold exchange
    I slight my own beloved Cam, to range
    Where silver Isis leads my stripling feet;
    Pace the long avenue, or glide adown
    The stream-like windings of that glorious street--
    An eager Novice robed in fluttering gown!
                     WORDSWORTH.

     “King James, 1605, when he came to our University of Oxford, and,
     amongst other edifices, now went to view that famous Library,
     renewed by Sir Thomas Bodley, in imitation of Alexander, at his
     departure brake out into that noble speech, If I were not a King, I
     would be an University man; and if it were so that I must be a
     prisoner, if I might have my wish, I would desire to have no other
     prison than that Library, and to be chained together with so many
     good Authors _et mortuis magistris_. So sweet is the delight of
     study, the more learning they have (as he that hath a Dropsy, the
     more he drinks the thirstier he is), the more they covet to learn,
     and the last day is _prioris discipulus_; harsh at first learning
     is, _radices amaræ_, but _fructus dulces_, according to that of
     Isocrates, pleasant at last; the longer they live, the more they
     are enamoured of the Muses. _Heinsius_, the keeper of the Library
     at Leyden in Holland, was mewed up in it all the year long; and
     that which to my thinking should have bred a loathing caused in him
     a greater liking. _I no sooner_ (saith he) _come into the Library,
     but I bolt the door to me, excluding lust, ambition, avarice, and
     all such vices, whose nurse is idleness, the mother of ignorance,
     and Melancholy herself; in the very lap of eternity, amongst so
     many divine souls, I take my seat, with so lofty a spirit and sweet
     content, that I pity all our great ones, and rich men that know not
     this happiness_.”

                                                _The Anatomy of Melancholy._



    But by the sacred genius of this place,
    By every Muse, by each domestic grace,
    Be kind to wit, which but endeavours well,
    And, where you judge, presumes not to excel.
    Our poets hither for adoption come,
    As nations sued to be made free of Rome:
    Not in the suffragating tribes to stand,
    But in your utmost, last, provincial band.
    If his ambition may those hopes pursue,
    Who with religion loves your arts and you,

[Illustration: THE OLD ASHMOLEAN MUSEUM AND SHELDONIAN THEATRE

The Old Ashmolean Museum, with its noble entrance, stands to the left of
the picture; on the right side is part of the south front of the
Sheldonian Theatre.

An entrance to the enclosure from Broad Street is seen between the
thermes and a part of the north side of the street.

The collection of the Old Ashmolean Museum is removed to the Taylor
Institution.]

    Oxford to him a dearer name shall be,
    Than his own mother university.
    Thebes did his green unknowing youth engage,
    He chooses Athens in his riper age.
                       DRYDEN.

     “Rome has been called the ‘Sacred City’--might not _our_ Oxford be
     called so too? There is an air about it, resonant of joy and hope:
     it speaks with a thousand tongues to the heart: it weaves its
     mighty shadow over the imagination: it stands in lowly sublimity,
     on the ‘hill of ages,’ and points with prophetic fingers to the
     sky: it greets the eager gaze from afar, ‘with glistening spires
     and pinnacles adorned,’ that shine with an eternal light as with
     the lustre of setting suns; and a dream and a glory hover round its
     head, as the spirits of former times, a throng of intellectual
     shapes, are seen retreating or advancing to the eye of memory: its
     streets are paved with the names of learning that can never wear
     out: its green quadrangles breathe the silence of thought,
     conscious of the weight of yearnings innumerable after the past, of
     loftiest aspirations for the future: Isis babbles of the Muse, its
     waters are from the springs of Helicon, its Christ Church meadows,
     classic, Elysian fields!--We could pass our lives in Oxford without
     having or wanting any other idea--that of the place is enough. We
     imbibe the air of thought; we stand in the presence of learning. We
     are admitted into the Temple of Fame, we feel that we are in the
     Sanctuary, on holy ground, and ‘hold high converse with the mighty
     dead.’ The enlightened and the ignorant are on a level, if they
     have but faith in the tutelary genius of the place. We may be wise
     by proxy, and studious by prescription. Time has taken upon himself
     the labour of thinking; and accumulated libraries leave us leisure
     to be dull. There is no occasion to examine the buildings, the
     churches, the colleges, by the rules of architecture, to reckon up
     the streets to compare it with Cambridge (Cambridge lies out of the
     way, on one side of the world)--but woe to him who does not feel in
     passing through Oxford that he is in ‘no mean city,’ that he is
     surrounded with the monuments and lordly mansions of the mind of
     man, outvying in pomp and splendour the courts and palaces of
     princes, rising like an exhalation in the night of ignorance, and
     triumphing over barbaric foes, saying, ‘All eyes shall see me, and
     all knees shall bow to me!’--as the shrine where successive ages
     came to pay their pious vows, and slake the sacred thirst of
     knowledge, where youthful hopes (an endless flight) soared to truth
     and good, and where the retired and lonely student brooded over the
     historic, or over fancy’s page, imposing high tasks for himself,
     framing high destinies for the race of man--the lamp, the mine, the
     well-head whence the spark of learning was kindled, its stream
     flowed, its treasures were spread out through the remotest corners
     of the land and to distant nations. Let him who is fond of
     indulging a dream-like existence go to Oxford, and stay there; let
     him study this magnificent spectacle, the same under all aspects,
     with the mental twilight tempering the glare of noon, or mellowing
     the silver moonlight; let him not catch the din of scholars or
     teachers, or dine or sup with them, or speak a word to any of its
     privileged inhabitants; for if he does, the spell will be broken,
     the poetry and the religion gone, and the palace of enchantment
     will melt from his embrace into thin air!”

                                                   HAZLITT.



     “Oxford ... must remain its own sole expression; and those whose
     sad fortune it may be never to behold it have no better resource
     than to dream about grey, weather-stained, ivy-grown edifices,
     wrought with quaint Gothic ornament, and standing around grassy
     quadrangles, where cloistered walks have echoed to the quiet
     footsteps of twenty generations,--lawns and gardens of luxurious
     repose, shadowed with canopies of foliage, and lit up with sunny
     glimpses through archways of great boughs,--spires, towers, and
     turrets, each with its history and legend,--dimly magnificent
     chapels, with painted windows of rare beauty and brilliantly
     diversified hues, creating an atmosphere of richest gloom,--vast
     college halls, high-windowed, oaken-panelled, and hung around with
     portraits of the men in every age whom the University has nurtured
     to be illustrious,--long vistas of alcoved libraries, where the
     wisdom and learned folly of all time is shelved,--kitchens (we
     throw in this feature by way of ballast, and because it would not
     be English Oxford without its beef and beer) with huge fireplaces,
     capable of roasting a hundred joints at once,--and cavernous
     cellars, where rows of piled-up hogsheads seethe and fume with that
     mighty malt-liquor which is the true milk of Alma Mater: make all
     these things vivid in your dream, and you will never know nor
     believe how inadequate is the result to represent even the merest
     outside of Oxford.”--HAWTHORNE.

     “Beautiful city! so venerable, so lovely, so unravaged by the
     fierce intellectual life of our century, so serene!

    There are our young barbarians, all at play!

     And yet steeped in sentiment as she lies, spreading her gardens to
     the moonlight, and whispering from her towers the last enchantments
     of the Middle Age, who will deny that Oxford, by her ineffable
     charm, keeps ever calling us nearer to the true goal of all of us,
     to the ideal, to perfection,--to beauty, in a word, which is only
     truth seen from another side?--nearer, perhaps, than all the
     science of Tübingen. Adorable dreamer, whose heart has been so
     romantic! who hast given thyself so prodigally, given thyself to
     sides and to heroes not mine, only never to the Philistines! home
     of lost causes, and forsaken beliefs, and unpopular names, and
     impossible loyalties! whose example could ever so inspire us to
     keep down the Philistine in ourselves, what teacher could ever so
     save us from that bondage to which we are all so prone, that
     bondage which Goethe, in his incomparable lines on the death of
     Schiller, makes it his friend’s highest praise (and nobly did
     Schiller deserve the praise) to have left miles out of sight
     behind him--the bondage of _Was uns alle bändigt, DAS GEMEINE!_ She
     will forgive me, even if I have unwittingly drawn upon her a shot
     or two aimed at her unworthy son; for she is generous, and the
     cause in which I fight is, after all, hers. Apparitions of a day,
     what is our puny warfare against the Philistines, compared with the
     warfare which this queen of romance has been waging against them
     for centuries, and will wage after we are gone?”

                                                   MATTHEW ARNOLD.



                                THE END

           _Printed by_ R. & R. CLARK, LIMITED, _Edinburgh_.

                   *       *       *       *       *

[Illustration: J&L Black

London]

                   *       *       *       *       *

A COMPANION VOLUME TO ‘OXFORD’ IN MESSRS. BLACK’S SERIES OF BEAUTIFUL
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sobriety of colour that accords well with the inner associations of the
subject. With both text and pictures so good, the book will take a
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PUBLISHED BY ADAM AND CHARLES BLACK. 4, 5 & 6 SOHO SQUARE. LONDON, W.

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