An Oxford University Chest by John Betjeman hits the £1 shelf in my shop.
Oxford University Press, 1979, Paperback.
2nd printing. [First Published: 1979] Illustrated by way of: Black & White Photographs; Black & White Drawings;
From the cover: The Oxford University Chest is that august universitys quaint term for its treasury, so called because its curators used to keep the cash in an iron-studded box. Sir John Betjemans book is, therefore, aptly named, for it is a treasure-house of amusing sketches of university life, lyrical tributes to Oxfords pastoral pleasures, and characteristically pungent architectural judgements. First published in 1938, and reproduced here without revision or retrospective embellishment, An Oxford University Chest is a delightful period piece, an unashamedly sentimental evocation of the charms, beauties, and absurdities of Oxford.
For Betjeman there are three Oxfords: Christminster, Motopolis, and the University. Christminster is the market town of Hardys Jude the Obscure, with its narrow streets, terrace-houses, local pubs, and cheerful community spirit. Motopolis is Betjemans name for the industrial invasion of the town begun by Lord Nuffields motor car factory. But the University is the real focus of this book its ridiculous yet magnificent pageantry, its bewildering vocabulary (schools, Torpids, subfusc), and above all its characters. We meet Professor Harpoon, pottering along unchallenged in his field of Medieval Ichthyology ; Buffy Bounce, an old Blue not overburdened with grey matter; pompous, port-swilling undergraduates with imposing titles; dim cocoa-sipping undergraduates with flat, unmemorable surnames; omniscient scouts (college servants), the uncrowned kings of the colleges, to whom no don or undergraduate is a hero.
Over a third of the book is devoted to an architectural tour of the town and university buildings, in which factual information is enlivened by anecdotes and accounts of relevant historical events.
This rich mixture is complemented by Moholy Nagys remarkable photographs, Osbert Lancasters irreverent line drawings, and etchings of the towns magnificent buildings.
The Oxford that Betjeman describes may no longer exist, and perhaps it never did. There is no doubt, however, that this book offers a magical distillation of the charm that Oxford still exerts over every visitor or citizen.
Good. A little faded at the spine and on to the margins of the wrappers. Leans slightly. Pages gently age tanned.
192 pages. Index. Bibliography. 9¾” x 6¾”.
This book will be listed, sooner or later, for £5.00 on my delightful website… (added to my Local History category.) but get 50% off buying from my blog… below…