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Last Day in Oxford

I began my last day in Oxford with a visit to The Victoria Arms Pub in Marston. You may ask: "Why?" The answer is: simply because it is mentioned in Sheldon Vanauken's "A Severe Mercy" and figures in some of the Inspector Morse stories by Colin Dexter.

The heavy frost that morning was especially enchanting. C. S. Lewis wrote to a young correspondent in 1955, "We had our first frost last night--this morning the lawns are all grey, with a pale, bright sunshine on them: wonderfully beautiful. And somehow exciting. The first beginning of winter always excites me: it makes me want adventures."

Oxford was replete that morning with that quality which Reginald Fanshawe once called "grey magic".

"Calm, cold, and sad, the soft mists brooding bathe
In ghostlier glamour chapel, tower, and hall,
Dome, pinnacle, spire; they clasp and subtly swathe
Oxford's grey magic. Cold and calm the pall
On blade and branch, as for life's funeral,
Clings of the crystal rime. No hue, no breath
Marreth the world's white, immaterial,
Motionless beauty, pure as love's last wreath,
Laid on the form austere and solemn lines of death."

I also paid a visit to the Turf Tavern, another favorite of Inspector Morse. Mind you, I didn't eat or drink at the Victoria Arms or the Turf.

But I did enjoy coffee and pastry at the Eastgate along with Jim and Michelle Belcher, my walking companions for the day.

We stopped by Dorothy Sayers' birthplace and even got to see inside the bright blue door.

St. Philip's has to be my favorite secondhand bookshop in all of Oxford. Well worth a visit for every bibliophile.

The Belchers and I continued our Vanauken Tour with a stop at the ancient church of St. Ebbe's and its Romanesque door....

The rest of my day in Oxford consisted of such an embarrassment of riches I shall content myself with captions where necessary since the pictures tell the story so well....

Wesley Memorial Methodist Church

The Trout Inn, Godstowe

And here I am at the Kilns once again, decked out in my wellies for a late afternoon tramp over Shotover Hill.

I am often asked, "What is your favorite C. S. Lewis book?" Perhaps my favorite is the very last book Lewis prepared for the press-- "Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer". In that book he says, "We--or at least I--shall not be able to adore God on the highest occasions if we have learned no habit of doing so on the lowest. At best, our faith and reason will tell us that He is adorable, but we shall not have found Him so, not have 'tasted and seen.' Any patch of sunlight in a wood will show you something about the sun which you could never get from reading books on astronomy. These pure and spontaneous pleasures are 'patches of Godlight' in the woods of our experience." On my walk over Shotover, you can see in the photo above that I experienced just such a patch of "Godlight".

And the view from the top of Shotover Hill was simply spectacular.

I finished the day with supper at The Bird & Baby, site of many a merry meeting of The Inklings. I was treated to a delicious lamb supper by my hosts, Cole Matson and David Baird, leaders of The Oxford C. S. Lewis Society.

Then we gathered for the meeting of the Society in the Old Refectory of Harris Manchester College--a room in which Lewis once lectured on "The Hegemony of Moral Values".

Here I am sharing a word with Richard Jeffries, resident of Oxford since the 1940s.
After delivering my paper on the subject of "C. S. Lewis & Father Walter Adams: An Examination of the Experience of Spiritual Direction" we repaired to the Junior Common Room of Harris Manchester where Peter Miller (left) stood me to a very fine pint of Tetley's Bitter. A perfect way to end a perfect trip!


Roger said…
Thanks for all the photos Will... I'll point 'Inklings' readers to your site again tomorrow (when my next post is due).

Thinks... "I must visit Oxford again".

I spotted an old friend (actually a member of the Charles Williams Society) in one of the photos of the CS Lewis Society evening.
Will Vaus said…
You are welcome! And thanks for pointing your readers to my blog. I am always thinking I must visit Oxford again. Your old friend is Richard, I presume.

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