Category Archive 'Oxford University'
06 Aug 2019

Laudator Temporis Acti

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Benjamin Parsons Symons, 1785-1878 (Warden, Wadham College 1831-1871)

To his younger colleagues in the Senior Common Room:

“You don’t drink as much as your grandfathers spilled.”

19 Dec 2016

Oxford Removes Gender-Specific Titles

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Michael Fane, the hero of Compton Mackenzie’s bildungsroman Sinister Street describes the idea of the gentleman.

“Every day more and more loudly the opinion goes up thar these gentlemen are accidental ornaments, rather useless, rather irritating ornaments of contemporary society. Every day brings another sneer at public schools and universities. Every new writer who commands any attention drags out the old idol of the Noble Savage and invites us to worship him. Only now the Noble Savage has been out into corduroy trousers [Update this to “blue jeans.” –JDZ]. My theory is that a gentleman leavens the great popular mass of humanity, and however superficially useless he seems, his existence is a pledge of the immanence of the idea. Popular education has fired thousands to prove themselves not gentlemen in the present meaning of the term, but something much finer than any gentleman we know anything about. And they are not, they simply and solidly are not. The first instinct of the gentleman is respect for the past with all it connotes of art and religion and thought. The first instinct of the educated unfit is to hate and destroy the past. Now I maintain that the average gentleman, whatever situation he is called upon to face, will deal with it more effectively than these noble savages who have been armed with weapons they don’t know how to ue and are therefore so much the more dangerous, since every weapon to the primitive mind is a weapon of offense.”


Meanwhile, today, at the same Oxford Michael Fane once attended, the noble savages, now called Social Justice Warriors, are in full and open revolt against, not only the Past, but against Nature itself.

Daily Mail:

Oxford University has told colleges and academic departments to remove gender-specific titles such as Mr and Mrs from their websites and leaflets.

The guidance, contained in a document from the Equality and Diversity Unit, suggests only academic terms like Dr and Prof should be retained.

It advised that while the process of removing gender-specific titles is underway, people should be given the option of appearing without any prefix. …

Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell supported the University’s stance on gender specific titles.

He told MailOnline: ‘A person’s name is usually sufficient to identify their gender if an identification is required for some good, practical reason.

The guidance suggests only academic terms like Dr and Prof should be retained.

‘It is a positive thing to not always emphasise gender. We are all human. Why does our gender matter so much and why should it be constantly highlighted by titles?

‘In an age when more people are defining themselves as transgender or gender-fluid, using gender-based titles ignores the new reality and could cause needless offence.’

The cultural legacy of 1968 has turned every elite university, on both sides of the Atlantic, into a lunatic asylum.

26 Jun 2016

UK Students: “We Woke Up Feeling Betrayed This Morning”

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Standing outside a university café, after a night of celebration following her final exam, 19-year-old (Oxford) medical student Evie Rothwell said she was feeling a sense of “betrayal” this morning.

“A really important decision was made for us by the older generation,” she explained, noting that exit polls showed that three-quarters of voters aged 18 to 24 wanted to remain in the EU. By contrast, more than 60 percent of seniors aged 65+ voted to leave.

“Essentially people much, much older than us — and who won’t be around for the consequences — are giving us a future we don’t want,” added Jack Lennard, who just finished his undergraduate degree in archeology and anthropology.


To which Wretchard replied (on Facebook):

Essentially people much older than you gave you what you now take for granted. They won World War 2, fueled the great boom, walked through the valley of the shadow of nuclear death — and had you.

You didn’t make the present, nor as you now complain, are you making the future. No children, no national defense, no love of God or country.

But that’s just it. You’ve brainwashed yourselves into thinking someone else: the old, the older, the government, the dead would always do things for you.

If you learn anything from Brexit, learn that nobody got anywhere expecting someone to do things for him.”

20 Jan 2016

Maurice Bowra

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detail, Bowra memorial sculpture, Wadham College, Oxford University.

Maurice Bowra (1898-1971) was a renowned Classical scholar and Warden of Wadham College, Oxford from 1938 to 1970.

From The Dons — Mentors, Eccentrics, and Geniuses, 1999 by Noel Annan:

Sayre’s Law holds that academic politics are so bitter because the stakes are so low.

Bowra was fierce in loyalty to his ideals. But he differed from other intellectuals in being even fiercer in loyalty to his friends. If a choice had to be made between friends and truth, friends won. His loyalty to people and institutions was passionate and uncompromising; if a friend failed, for instance, to get a post he concealed the blunt truth in comforting him afterwards and took it out on his opponents. Such tenderness did not extend to them: he pursued his enemies relentlessly. When he gave the oration at the memorial service for his old tutor Alec Smith the air was so dark with arrows he despatched, like Apollo spreading the plague among the Grecian host before Troy, that you half-expected the guilty to totter forth from St. Mary’s and expire stricken on the steps of the Radcliffe.”


Annan also mentions, anent Bowra, some interesting German terms.

Bowra belonged to a generation who put enormous weight on friendship. Friendship was something more than casual geniality: it made demands, it imposed duties and much should be sacrificed for it. It was not to be confused with party-going, still less with Mitdabeisein [“being there” — JDZ] . Friendship implied unreserved affection and support, but it was a dry fierce heat, not humid; he was vehement, and he rebuked. He wanted his friends to do well. Like Jowett he expected them to make the most of their gifts. Whatever they produced was not enough: they must push on and do better still; and he could awaken self-confidence and dispel what he used to call ‘a sad state of Minko*.'”

* ‘Minko’ is the German colloquialism for Mindwetigkeitskomplex, or inferiority complex.

21 Sep 2015

David Cameron’s “Happy, Golden Bygone Days”

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Scene from The Riot Club (2014), a film based on Oxford University’s Bullingdon Club.

Decadent British undergraduate clubs are at the top of international news items today. An unauthorized biography of British PM David Cameron links him in his undergraduate days at Oxford to the posh Bullingdon Club, whose members wear a custom-tailored white-tie uniform in special club colors costing something in the neighborhood of £3,500, and (far more scandalous) the Piers Gaveston Society, named for the catamite of King Edward II.

The Tatler describes the latter club:

The Gav is theoretically men-only, and slightly camp – it’s named after Edward II’s lover and its motto is Fane non memini ne audisse unum alterum ita dilixisse, or ‘Truly, none remember hearing of a man enjoying another so much’. The joke is it was only founded in 1977. The 12 members, a self-selecting group of good-looking former public-school boys, each invite 20 guests to the ball, ideally the most beautiful girls at Oxford. Plenty of rumpy in the bushes ensues. For last summer’s debauch, guests were given only 72 hours’ notice with a stiffie in their pidge (pigeonhole) and told to present themselves at a hired coach, which drove them deep into the countryside. Phones and cameras were confiscated and the location kept secret. Guests arrived to find a live sex show on a stage and a decadent dance tent.

Michael Ashcroft’s forthcoming biography of David Cameron has made the news in a big way on the basis of one particular anecdote, which the Daily Mail summarized:

A distinguished Oxford contemporary claims Cameron once took part in an outrageous initiation ceremony at a Piers Gaveston event, involving a dead pig. His extraordinary suggestion is that the future PM inserted a private part of his anatomy into the animal’s mouth.

The Tatler, in 2014, published a guide to secret Oxford drinking clubs.

James Delingpole, a contemporary of Cameron’s at Oxford, published in 2012 a description of the ethos and activities of a variety of scandalous Oxbridge clubs, complete with photos.

11 May 2015

“A High Wall and a Deep Ditch”

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Rebecca Roache, Research Fellow and Senior Research Associate at Oxford, was moved to anger by the Conservative victory in the recent British election.

One of the first things I did after seeing the depressing election news this morning was check to see which of my Facebook friends ‘like’ the pages of the Conservatives or David Cameron, and unfriend them. (Thankfully, none of my friends ‘like’ the UKIP page.) Life is too short, I thought, to hang out with people who hold abhorrent political views, even if it’s just online. …

[T]he view that I have arrived at today is that openly supporting a political party that—in the name of austerity—withdraws support from the poor, the sick, the foreign, and the unemployed while rewarding those in society who are least in need of reward, that sells off our profitable public goods to private companies while keeping the loss-making ones in the public domain, that boasts about cleaning up the economy while creating more new debt than every Labour government combined, that wants to scrap the Human Rights Act and (via the TTIP) hand sovereignty over some of our most important public institutions to big business—to express one’s support for a political party that does these things is as objectionable as expressing racist, sexist, or homophobic views. Racism, sexism, and homophobia are not simply misguided views like any other; views that we can hope to change through reasoned debate (although we can try to do that). They are offensive views. They are views that lose you friends and respect—and the fact that they are socially unacceptable views helps discourage people from holding (or at least expressing) them, even where reasoned debate fails. Sometimes the stick is more effective than the carrot.

For these reasons, I’m tired of reasoned debate about politics—at least for a day or two. I don’t want to be friends with racists, sexists, or homophobes. And I don’t want to be friends with Conservatives either.

14 Mar 2014

Oxford in the 1950s

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Dining Hall, Christ Church College, Oxford

The London Times Education section reviewing Oxford English Professor John Carey’s memoir, The Unexpected Professor: An Oxford Life in Books looks back admiringly at Oxford in the 1950s.

Oxford in the 1950s was a pretty strange place. The English syllabus stopped at 1832. Carey’s finals happened to take place in very hot weather, so “people quickly abandoned their jackets, ties and gowns. Heaps of them littered the floor, along with other trash brought in by candidates – teddy bears, smelling salts, wilting carnations – so you had to wade through a sort of flea market to get to your place.” His interview to become a graduate student was conducted by “an old-style don who did not really believe in literary ‘research’”, followed by dinner – and then it was out to the bowling green.

And there were also, of course, “toffs” everywhere. When Carey was asked to take over the teaching of English literature at Christ Church, then considered Oxford’s most aristocratic and exclusive college, for the academic year 1958-59, he says now, “it really was like Brideshead Revisited. The snobbery was astonishing.

“One student told me about a night in the year when the idea was to break more windows in Peckwater Quadrangle than your father or grandfather had done. So it created a maelstrom of glass. He was quite innocently walking through and a piece from a tonic-water bottle bounced off a wall and blinded him in one eye. He was absolutely unresentful. He was a public schoolboy and regarded that as the kind of risk you take: young gentlemen will let off steam – and if you were in the way, you were in the way.”

Things have obviously changed since then.

01 Jan 2014

Season’s Greetings from Oxford U. (Really from the Ashmolean Museum)

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Large version.

18 Jul 2011

Lost Michelangelo Painting Found at Oxford

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Michelangelo?, Crucifixion With The Madonna, St John And Two Mourning Angels, 16th century, currently, Ashmolean Museum

The British Province of the Society of Jesus must be gearing up for a major weekend in Las Vegas. They just sold the oldest intact surviving European book, the Stonyhust Gospel, to the British Library for £9m ($14.3m). Now, they’re getting ready to put up the spout a painting identified by an Italian art historian as a Michelangelo which could conceivably fetch $100m or more at auction.

Campion Hall, one of six Permanent Private Halls (essentially small-scale divinity schools, operated by different religious denominations or religious orders thereof) at Oxford University, owns a painting purchased by a previous master at a Sotheby’s auction in 1930.

It was scientifically-examined using infrared photography by Antonio Forcellino, an art historian who has written several books on Michelangelo (including the just-published The Lost Michelangelos), who found that the painting was based upon a cartoon in hand of Michelangelo himself.

The painting was previously believed to have been executed by Marcello Venusti, a Mannerist painter who sometimes worked from Michelangelo’s designs. But Forcellino was convinced that the painting was really the work of the master’s own hand, and he was able to associate the painting with a close friend of the famous artist, Tommaso Cavalieri, by the presence of 18 seals of the Cavalieri family coat of arms still present on the edge of the panel.

Art Info story

Daily Mail

IOL scitech

BBC radio interviews Campion Hall Master Brendan Callaghan 2:13 audio

04 Jun 2011

Worcester College Tries Banning Library Topless Half Hour


Worcester College Library

The Daily Mail reports that Worcester College, Oxford (Rupert Murdoch’s alma mater) is attempting to suppress some undergraduate examination period hijinks.

Worcester College was founded in the 18th century, but incorporates portions of Gloucester College, a Benedictine foundation dating to 1283, dissolved by Henry VIII in 1539.

Undergraduates at Worcester College have been threatened with disciplinary action if they continue removing their tops in the library on Wednesday afternoons.

A group of students calling themselves the Breakfast Club started stripping off in 2009 to brighten up boring revision days.

Up to 40 male and female students became involved in the group action for a 30-minute period between 3pm and 4pm every Wednesday

They carry on their work partly-clothed – some of the girls are even said to have removed their bras.

However high-profile visitors including heads of state regularly visit the library as part of a tour of the university, and there have been a string of complaints.

Librarians sent an email to the college saying the practice was ‘unacceptable’ and ‘a distraction to other readers’.

In their email to students, the library committee warned: ‘While half-naked half-hour may have seemed like a piece of harmless fun, we ask you please to stop this kind of behaviour in the library.

‘If inappropriate behaviour continues, library staff will refer the matter to the Dean.

18 Oct 2010

Viking Massacre Victims Found in Oxford

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Somebody seems to have whacked this poor chap over the head several times with a sword.

Excavation of a building site in 2008 for new student housing for St. John’s College, Oxford University revealed the remains of thirty-odd male individuals of fighting age bearing signs of violence and in some cases burns.

The conclusion of experts is that these represent the remains of victims of King Aethelred the Unready‘s St. Brice’s Day Massacre of November 13, 1002.

The Chronicle of John of Wallingford reports:

For it is fully agreed that to all dwelling in this country it will be well known that, since a decree was sent out by me with the counsel of my leading men and magnates, to the effect that all the Danes who had sprung up in this island, sprouting like cockle amongst the wheat, were to be destroyed by a most just extermination, and thus this decree was to be put into effect even as far as death, those Danes who dwelt in the afore-mentioned town, striving to escape death, entered this sanctuary of Christ, having broken by force the doors and bolts, and resolved to make refuge and defence for themselves therein against the people of the town and the suburbs; but when all the people in pursuit strove, forced by necessity, to drive them out, and could not, they set fire to the planks and burnt, as it seems, this church with its ornaments and its books.

A second similiar mass grave was found more recently in Dorset.

Smithsonian Magazine has the story.


11 May 2009

Books Out of Reach at Bodleian

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Oxford’s Bodleian Library

The news has even reached India’s DNA news service (Bombay) that librarians at Oxford have banned step ladders and refused all access to books on upper shelves.

Britain, to make up for the monstrosities it perpetrated on its colonies during its empire days, has since the culmination of the Second World War been celeritously progressing on a path of political correctness — to the extent of first starting to call a spade a wilting water lily and then beginning to nurse a whimpering nanny state.

Now, an old stanchion of olde Blighty has caught the contagion. The Bodleian Library of the University of Oxford, where many a ruminative afternoon was spent by the likes of Gladstone and Attlee, Wilde and Shelly, and Hawking and Tim Berners-Lee, has made the books in its uppermost shelves out of bounds for students — or anyone else for that matter.

The reason: three-year-old British health and safety regulations that the library’s authorities happened to trip upon recently. Better late than never, the library has deemed the use of stepladders to be too risky for a scholar’s life and limb. The momentous decision has been arrived at irrespective of the fact that in the centuries of its existence, no untoward incident is on record to have occurred in the Bodleian owing to the use of ladders for reaching books in the higher rows.

So is there a way to access the books? In one word, no. The authorities say, respecting the national love of tradition, the books stay where they are: in their “historic” locations. If one wants access to a particular volume, one can always try at the British Library in London. And yes, there are also the digital versions.

It was several decades ago that Yale closed all the fireplaces in in residential dorms after the fire marshal declared that they constituted a fire hazard.

One of contemporary nincompoopery’s most characteristic features is an infatuation with the idea of Progress so complete that it excludes totally the ability not only to draw lessons from the evidence of the past, but even to recognize that the possibility of continuation with the past exists. Revolutionary change today is always vital and obligatory. And anytime events produce the slightest break with ordinary routine, as in the case of Islamic terrorists captured post 9/11, a group of experts must be hastily assembled to re-invent the wheel.

Oxford librarians simply cannot recognize that people have climbed stepladders to reach books for centuries, just as Yale’s administration could not access the fact that people heated homes and cooked with fireplaces for centuries, all with entirely acceptable rates of untoward incident. Similarly, the Bush Administration could not grasp the fact that American military commanders had previously encountered illegal combatants and that practically effective policies and customs applying to such circumstances have existed throughout the history of human conflict. Instead, George W. Bush had to invent new policies and order policy drafts from Justice Department attorneys.

The Bodleian’s high shelf books are exactly like mankind’s history, tradition, and the experience of all our deceased predecessors: out of the reach of contemporary idiots.

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