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Rowlandson's Oxford by A. Hamilton Gibbs
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Rowlandson's Oxford

by A. Hamilton Gibbs

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Rowlandson's Oxford
The task of writing a book on Oxford University is by no means an easy one. If it be a novel there are countless pitfalls to entrap the author—points small and inconsequent to the reader who cannot proudly claim the City of Spires as his Alma Mater, but irritating beyond description to the man who knows and loves Oxford.

But if modern Oxford dealt with from the romantic and sentimental point of view as the background of a story contains such a network of difficulties, the Oxford of two hundred years ago, Rowlandson’s Oxford, contains them multiplied a hundred times, because it now becomes a question not of reproducing the vivid pictures of the hour and moment, but of recreating the atmosphere of a time that is silent in death.

It is, therefore, with great diffidence that I have attempted to resuscitate the life and moods of Oxford of the eighteenth century. Barely two years have elapsed since the days when I looked out from my windows into the quad of my college. All the work and play, the alarums and excursions which go to form the life of the average Undergraduate have not yet had time to fade into dim, half forgotten memories. Alma Mater still grasps me in her warm hand. So vivid indeed are all the impressions which I received from the friendly gargoyles and the peace-touched lawns, the beautiful colleges with their silent cloisters, the full-blooded twenty-firsters and bump-suppers, and the thousand and one everyday happenings, that I might be merely awaiting the passing of vacation to go up once more.

With all the Undergraduate interests still so strongly at heart, I think that it is natural that I should have studied the Rowlandson period with the mind of the Undergraduate and have carried out my task from the Undergraduate point of view. It is difficult to give any idea of the quaintness, delight, and amusement caused by going back two hundred years to a University so like and so unlike—like, in that the men, although so different outwardly, had practically the same ideas as we have and carried them out in the same colleges, even in the same rooms, in a precisely similar manner; unlike in that the Dons were a breed of men differing in every respect from those who look after us to-day. ( )
  amzmchaichun | Jul 20, 2013 |
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