We are two part-time academics. Ellen teaches in the English department and Jim in the IT program at George Mason University.

Oxford · 5 August 05

Tuesday we went to Oxford to meet one of Ellen’s net friends, who showed us around. We started off in Christ Church Meadows. Friendly cows grazed a short walk from the railway station and the shopping mall.

We walked down to the Thames

and walked along the riverside. The Thames is a much used river. People in punts, people sculling,

and waterbirds, too.

From the river, one can see colleges across Christ Church Meadows. The dreaming spires of the nineteenth century, more or less as Jude saw them.

But Oxford is no longer a nineteenth century town.

Nor is the university the nineteenth century university. Some things remain, though. We passed All Souls’ College. The gates were locked against us and all the world beside.

The lawn is freshly mowed, immaculately manicured and the locked gates had been freshly gilded.

We walked on to the Bodleian. There’s gorgeous vaulting in "Duke Humphries Library." the Divinity School.

One of the statues over the door has been beheaded. Maybe during the Civil War? [Update: Waugh in comments below suggests this was a Reformation gesture, he also corrects the location]

On to Merton College. We walked through Mob Quad. This was the model for the college quadrangle with staircases off it.

As we passed the chapel, we stared at the gargoyles.

Then on to Christ Church, which charges admission (can charge admission because portions of the Harry Potter movies were shot there). Christ Church is not just a college, it’s the cathedral as well. In the cathedral, there are stained glass windows by Burne-Jones. This is Saint Cecilia:

in which are recounted various episodes in the hagiography complete with latin inscriptions: hic angelus … sanctam ceciliam docet.

And finally to the quadrangle of Christ Church. Much larger than those of other colleges, dominated by Tom Tower and centered on Mercury, the fountain into which 1920’s hearties used to throw aesthetes.

The quadrangle was guarded by a fierce proctor. When we sat on the low wall between the path and the grass (where cloisters would have been, had Wolsey’s plan been followed), he bellowed at us to get up. A slight cloud over our Oxford tour.

We followed on to the Ashmolean, then to Somerville, then to a pub. We looked in at the Eagle and Child, but it was full of Tolkien tourists (we saw a great crowd of them taking pictures of the sign before going in), so we crossed the street to the Lamb and Flag.

An evening concert in the chapel of Exeter College rounded the day off.

Posted by: Jim

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  1. The Thames as it runs through Oxford is called the Cherwell; the spires are from the seventeenth and eighteenth century, not the nineteenth; the figures in the divinity school (not Duke Humfrey, which is above it and has a hammer beam ceiling) were damaged during the reformation: Oxford was royalist during the civil war and thus an unlikely site for the enforcement of the parliamentary ordinance against images, and statues; all colleges in the center charge admission and did so before Harry Potter; porters not procters occupy the gate of Christ Church.
    Waugh    Aug 5, 11:24am    #
  2. I loved the photographs. And it’s very nice of you both to share your holiday with us. It must be a pleasure to be walk about in the beauty of the moment.
    Bob    Aug 5, 3:44pm    #
  3. Re:1. On a point of detail. The Thames as it passes through Oxford can be called the Isis. The Cherwell is a separate river which runs into the Thames below the city centre. The spires are more less as Jude saw them in the Nineteenth century, only one significant one added (Nuffield). But the tower of Merton College, among those shown, goes back to Fifteenth C., and the spire of St Mary the Virgin, the University Church (also visible), is early Fourteenth C. Not all the colleges in the centre of Oxford charge admission e.g. Exeter, and no other charges on the same scale as Christ Church. Thank you for the information about the headless statue.

    I liked the photographs too.
    Martin    Aug 21, 1:13pm    #
  4. If it’s the Thames above Oxford and the Thames below Oxford, then non-Oxfordians will call it the Thames in Oxford: entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem.

    As I understand it, proctors look for misbehaviour to correct, porters guard doors. The person Christ Church may well refer to as a porter was acting as a proctor.

    I probably should have added Alice Liddell to Harry Potter as the reason Christ Church can levy a considerable charge for entry.

    I have corrected the Bodleian reference, though that Oxford was Royalist during the civil war is no argument that the damage wasn’t done then: once Oxford fell, the victorious Parliamentary Army would have had an opportunity for isolated symbolic iconoclasm.
    jim    Aug 22, 8:15am    #

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