Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Oxford

Dwight Longenecker takes us on "An Imaginative Literary Tour of Oxford," including:
If we wander down cobbled Merton Street we will avoid the traffic on the High Street and find ourselves almost at the entrance to C.S. Lewis’ Magdalen College. First we will stop at the botanic gardens—a hidden secret in Oxford. Not only did the fictional Sebastian Flyte stroll through the gardens, but Lewis Caroll loved spending time there, and until recently an ancient Black Pine grew here which was the inspiration for J.R.R. Tolkien’s ent, Treebeard.

Watch your step as you cross the busy high street to enter Lewis land. You can visit the chapel at Madgalen where he worshipped daily and as you pass through the quad to the left through an archway you will see the “New Buildings” where C.S. Lewis kept the rooms where he would tutor his students and where the Inklings would head after the pubs closed to continue their rowdy meetings. Did you know the poet John Betjeman was a student of both C.S. Lewis and T.S. Eliot? Lewis at Magdalen and Eliot when Betjeman was a boy at Highgate School where Eliot taught for one unhappy year.

Turning to the right you will see a gate opening into what looks like woodland. It is the semi-wild park that runs beside the River Cherwell. There is Addison’s Walk named after the eighteenth century essayist. Lewis, Tolkien and Hugo Dyson walked this circular walk that frosty night when they had the important conversation about myth that helped bring Lewis to the point of his conversion to Christianity. ....

Turl St. and "The Mitre"
Nipping back across the High Street, we will watch out for red double decker buses, black cabs and students on battered bicycles with gowns a flapping. Jostling with crowds of tourists, we have to visit the church of St. Mary the Virgin—the University Church. This is where Blessed John Henry Newman was vicar from 1828-1843. In that pulpit not only stood John Henry Newman, but C.S. Lewis preached his famous sermon, The Weight of Glory, here. John Wesley preached here and Thomas Cranmer—author of The Book of Common Prayer along with the Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley were tried in this church for heresy before being burnt at the stake in the Broad Street just a few hundred yards away. ....

If we go up the High Street a bit further and turn right we will come into the delightful little street called “The Turl,” which links the High Street to the Broad. .... As we go up the Turl we will peep into Lincoln College on the right. That is where John Wesley was a fellow and where Methodism got started. .... A bit further down the Turl is Exeter—Tolkien’s college. We will stop in to see the bust commemorating him in the chapel.

The Turl opens out into the Broad where more of literary Oxford awaits. Around the corner beyond the Bodleian Library is Hertford College where Charles Ryder and his creator Evelyn Waugh were students. Tucked in behind that is the Turf Tavern where Oxford sleuth Inspector Morse downs a pint, and a bit further on, if you know how to find St. Cross churchyard we could look for the grave of Charles Williams. .... [there is more]