New York is the city that never sleeps. Paris, according to its nickname ‘cité des rêves’ (city of dreams), is the exact opposite and when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life. Yet, for those who rather dream with their eyes open and wish they could spend every waking minute in the company of a piece of English literature, Oxford is the real Mecca. This Valhalla of knowledge and culture cannot fail to fascinate any lover of poetry, prose, philosophy or drama. So should your travels take you from rainy Holland to even rainier England this year, don’t miss out on the following literary hot spots!
Oxford has plenty to offer for the future Keatses and Wordsworths among us. Actually, wait, make that the future Shelleys and Eliots. Shelley, for one, started his Oxford education at University College on 10 April 1810. Like a proper Oxford student, who is way too busy ‘living the Oxford lifestyle’ to actually go to class, he only attended one lecture. However, dear old Percy made up for this by reading for up to sixteen hours a day. In addition, he published two novels, two collections of poetry and a pamphlet called The Necessity of Atheism, which got him kicked out of uni like the rebel he was.
If you continue along the High Street in the direction of Queen Street and take a left, you see the most famous, or should I say notorious, college of all: Christ Church. Packed with posh private school kids waiting to spend daddy’s money and beat up state school kids. If you happen to be the latter, go have a little cry in the beautiful dining room (you know, the one from Harry Potter) and console yourself with the idea that the likes of John Locke, W.H. Auden and Lewis Carroll were once in your sorry shoes. Speaking of Lewis Carroll, you CANNOT escape Alice in Wonderland when you’re in Oxford. The girl is everywhere. This is not only because Carroll both studied and taught (he was a mathematician, yes really, hence all the number games in Alice) at Oxford, but also because Alice Liddell, the girl that the character Alice was based upon, was the daughter of the dean of Christ Church. The more you know.
The Lord of the Rings fans among you should definitely not miss out on Exeter College, Tolkien’s alma mater. He started out studying Classics, but switched to English in 1913, graduating in 1915 with first-class honours. When he wasn’t studying, he could often be found in the Eagle and Child pub on St. Giles’ street, discussing his work (a little book called The Hobbit) with some likeminded individuals. Among them was C.S. Lewis, a brilliant student who received a first in (take a deep breath) Greek, Latin, Philosophy, Ancient History and English and became a philosophy teacher at University College and a Fellow and Tutor in English at Magdalen College. You, however, probably know him from a book series he was working on during his time at Magdalen. Something about a lion, a witch and a wardrobe?
Of course, this is only the tip of the iceberg. Now it is up to you to get yourself to Oxford and discover the rest. Happy hunting!
(Header image courtesy of Noppawat Tom Charoensinphon via Getty Images)