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Oxford   By: (1853-)

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Printed in Great Britain

Beautiful England

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Magdalen Bridge and Tower Frontispiece

Magdalen College from the Cherwell 8

Oxford from Headington Hill 12

Martyrs' Memorial and St. Giles 16

The College Barges and Folly Bridge 20

Fisher Row and Remains of Oxford Castle 24

The Cottages, Worcester College Gardens 28

Old Clarendon Building, Broad Street 32

Christ Church 36

Brasenose College and Radcliffe Library Rotunda 42

Botanic Gardens and Magdalen Tower 48

Iffley Mill 52

[Illustration: OXFORD]

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

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

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

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

After the Norman Conquest, when most of the houses in the town had been destroyed, there began to be a certain severe dignity rising up with the building of the forts and the castle by Robert D'Oily, who came over with King William. The fine and massive tower, with a swiftly flowing branch of the Isis at its very feet, forming a natural moat, still stands as the single relic of D'Oily's castle, and the first in point of age of the existing charms of Oxford. Standing, as it does, inextricably mixed up with breweries and the county jail, it must feel itself in a forlorn position, and slighted by those who give it a mere glance on their way from the station to view colleges, old indeed, but, in the opinion of the ancient tower, things of mushroom growth! And yet, close by stands something older even than the tower... Continue reading book >>

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