ST. Edmund's Hall. Oxford.
Balliol College, Oxford.
Trinity College Library.
In a similar way the various colleges at Cambridge number among their children Jeremy Taylor, Sir Isaac Newton, Edmund Spenser, Milton, Bacon, Dryden, Lord Chesterfield, Wordsworth, Lord Palmerston, Cowley, Herbert, Macaulay, Coleridge, Darwin, Bulwer Lytton, Byron (whose statue by Thorwaldsen adorns the library of Trinity), as well as Thackeray, Tennyson, and John Harvard, the founder of Harvard College in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It is noteworthy, also, that the present Chancellor of Oxford is the Marquis of Salisbury.
The Bodleian Library, Oxford.
As might be expected, the libraries of these Universities are of great value, and, in particular, the Bodleian Library at Oxford has but two or three superiors in the world. Founded in 1445, it was formally opened by Sir Thomas Bodley in 1603, who obtained a grant entitling it to a copy of every book copyrighted in England. It now contains about four hundred and sixty thousand printed volumes, twenty-seven thousand volumes of manuscripts, and fifty thousand coins and antiquities. Among the latter are some original drawings by Raphael and Michelangelo; while among its most precious treasures are an edition of Plato brought from Egypt, and, dating from 806 a.d., a manuscript copy of Virgil equally old, and the first Bible printed at Mainz.
Of the two University towns Oxford is the more beautiful. In fact, there is no spot in the whole of England that offers such a perfect combination of Arcadian simplicity of nature and perfection of old Gothic art as Oxford and its environs. Lovers of trees (and who in England can be other than a worshiper of arboriculture?) find here abundant proof that "the groves were man's first temples." Many of Oxford's shady walks, dark with gigantic oaks and elms, suggest cathedral aisles, and near the little river Cherwell, a tributary to the Thames, are solitary promenades, where one may wander, lost in noble reveries, yet held to earth by the most exquisite of natural attractions. He who has strolled, on a fine summer morning, behind old Magdalen College in Addison's walk, when the adjoining trees seemed vibratory with the songs of larks, which had for an accompaniment the murmur of the classic stream, will surely never forget the experience; and it would well repay a visit to Oxford merely to look upon the velvety turf which carpets all its storied courts with an unbroken emerald sward, reaching from finely pebbled paths up to gray walls on which the ivy clings caressingly; for at the sight of these historic halls of culture, embellished by such exquisite surroundings, one thinks of a group of aged poets, crowned with laurel and seated upon divans buried deep with flowers.
Magdalen College, Oxford.
Addison's Walk, Oxford.
No place that I have ever seen breathes such an atmosphere of mental sweetness and repose; and if one could be a disembodied spirit, and live only in the intellectual, Oxford would be a paradise. It is a beneficial thing for a reflective man of middle life to walk alone, or possibly with some entirely congenial spirit, along the embowered paths of Oxford and Cambridge, or through their quadrangles whose walls have echoed to the footsteps of so many brainy men of England. How many dreams of future greatn ess have been nurtured here, for one that has been realized! How many castles have been built upon foundations light as air! How many fond illusions cherished until experience dispelled them as the sun the dew! Yet, even though no great success on the world's stage has been achieved by those whose high ambitions, cradled here, failed subsequently of attainment, the broadened culture they obtained was, probably in most cases, never regretted. For to a thoughtful, refined nature the influence of a classical education, even though it have no practical bearing on the acquisition of money, is of priceless value. It gives a subtile, but recognizable, flavor to the thought and diction of the man who has been trained by it, and through the lense of intellectual sympathy enlarges evermore his mental vision. Like pure, invigorating mountain air, it is a tonic, even though one cannot live by it alone. Whatever happens, it remains a permanent possession and an indestructible part of the immortal soul. It is like the depths of the ocean, unruffled by the superficialities that curb and crest its waves; or like the mighty equatorial current that sweeps round the globe, tossing the flotsam and jetsam of the commonplace on shores of which it takes no heed. Realizing its value, the man of middle life feels almost irresistibly impelled to stop the University youths whom he encounters and counsel them to make the most of their rare opportunities, while yet they last; for well he knows that all great mental gains must be the bud and flower of the full, rich spring or early summer of life, not the untimely bloom of autumn. To shape the future, and to be the sculptor of its destiny, is the privilege of youth alone, when "Hands of invisible spirits touch the strings Of that mysterious instrument, the soul, And play the prelude of our fate"; and it is only then that we have courage, after repeated failures, to begin again. Moreover, when the realization of missed or wasted opportunities comes in later years, the loss is usually irreparable; for character has then been formed, the mind is no longer plastic, environment has become rigid, and the iron fetters of circumstances cannot be broken.