Saturday, July 22, 2017

Newman's Omaha Connection


Father Juan Velez kindly sent me a review copy of his new book, Holiness in a Secular Age: The Witness of Cardinal Newman, published by Scepter. I'm about two-thirds through the book, which serves as an excellent introduction to Newman's life, projects, and works, exploring his educational projects especially--not the just The Idea of a University, but the practical experience Newman had teaching and administering education at Oxford, in Dublin, and at the Oratory School.

In the course of describing Blessed John Henry Newman's affinity for friendship, Father Velez mentions the first Bishop of Omaha, Nebraska, James O'Connor, whom he met at the Propaganda Fide in Rome while studying for the priesthood. I wondered why an American bishop would be studying in Rome, but then discovered with a little research that Bishop O'Connor was born in Ireland, came to the United States, studied at St. Charles Seminary in Philadelphia, and then went to the Propaganda College in Rome, where he was ordained in 1848. Then he became the first bishop of the Diocese of Omaha:

Bishop James O’Connor was appointed to replace Bishop O’Gorman in 1876. In 1880, the Dakotas were separated and the Diocese of Sioux Falls was established. Montana was dropped three years later. In 1885, the Diocese of Omaha, consisting of Nebraska and Wyoming, was established.

During Bishop O’Connor’s administration, many of Omaha’s older parishes were founded and the Franciscan Fathers arrived in the area.

After the Creighton family gave Bishop O’Connor the college they had endowed, Creighton University was entrusted to the Society of Jesus in 1878.

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, then Father O'Connor returned to the United States after ordination:

The following year he was appointed rector of St. Michael's Seminary, Pittsburgh, and in 1862 rector of St. Charles's Seminary, Overbrook, Pennsylvania. In 1872 he was appointed pastor of St. Dominic's Church, Holmesburg, Pennsylvania. In 1876 he was appointed Vicar Apostolic of Nebraska, and on 20 August of the same year he was consecrated titular Bishop of Dibona by Bishop Ryan of St. Louis. During his episcopate the vicariate developed with wonderful rapidity. The construction of the Union Pacific Railway in 1867, and more especially the extension of the Burlington Railway in the seventies and eighties, opened up Nebraska to colonists, and white settlers began to pour in from the Eastern states. It became the duty of the new vicar to provide for the growing needs of the faithful, and the yearly statistics of the vicariate show how successful were his labours. 

When he was consecrated " titular Bishop of Dibona", that was like a holding place designating a mission territory where no established diocese yet exists. It would be fascinating to read some of the letters between Newman and Bishop O'Connor! I don't have ready access to those letters, but I wonder if they corresponded about issues of university education, since Bishop O'Conner was involved in the establishment of Creighton University.

Friday, July 21, 2017

The Catholic Branch of the Ingalls Family


From ChurchPop:

Edith Florence Ingalls is mentioned only in passing by her nickname, Dolly, in The Little House in the Big Woods, by Laura Ingalls Wilder. She was only a baby in the chapter entitled “Christmas.” But that’s a thrill enough for this great-great-grandchild of hers! But what’s even more amazing is the story of how that branch of the Ingalls family converted to Catholicism, which gave me my Catholic faith.

Edith grew up to marry Heil Nelson Bingham and together they raised 6 children in Oakes, ND. Although not a Catholic family, they chose to send all their daughters to the Catholic school in town. Something must have struck Edith’s husband about the Catholic faith because eventually he converted to the Catholic Church, but Edith resisted. They were married for 38 years before he passed on.

Twenty years after his passing and as her time drew near, Heil appeared to her in a dream telling her, “Edith, you need to make up your mind.” The next morning she requested a priest. The family thought she must mean a minister, but Edith refused to see him and sent him away insisting that she wanted to see a Catholic priest. A priest was fetched and she received her sacraments, passing away the next day.


Edith was Laura Ingalls' cousin; her father was Peter Riley Ingalls, Charles Philip Ingalls's brother. This is a fascinating family account of conversion. Please read the rest there as the author describes how Heil and Edith's daughters became Catholic and married Irishmen, handing down the Catholic faith to future generations.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

An Ordination in Dachau

During the English Recusant period the missionary priests had travelled to Rome, Reims, Douai, or Vallidolid for their seminary training and ordination. We know that some of the martyrs joined the Jesuit order or expressed the hopes of becoming Jesuits after they were arrested and imprisoned. Francis Phillips writes in The Catholic Herald about a secret ordination in Dachau, where 2,759 priests and seminarians were imprisoned (and 1,034 died) between 1938 and 1945. Karl Leisner had been sent there because he made a disparaging comment about Hitler:

On 14 December 1941, he was moved to Dachau and assigned to the priests’ block. Under the harsh conditions of the camp his TB worsened and his hopes of being ordained a priest seemed unachievable. Then, as Providence would have it, Bishop Gabriel Piguet of Clermont-Ferrand arrived in Dachau as a fellow-prisoner on 6 September 1944 – and only a bishop is authorised to confer the sacrament of ordination. This was duly requested for Leisner by a Belgian priest, Fr de Coninck.

Bishop Piguet agreed, on condition that the ordination was authorised by the bishop with whom Leisner was affiliated and also that of the Archbishop of Munich, as Dachau was in his diocese. These authorisations were obtained clandestinely through the good offices of a young woman, Josefa Imma Mack (she was later to become a nun). She used to visit the plant shop at the edge of the compound at Dachau, where flowers and food grown by the prisoners was sold to the public, and where she was able to communicate with priest-prisoners assigned to work there.

She smuggled in the necessary letters of approval, along with the holy oil, a stole and the ritual books. The ordination, on 17 December 1944, took place in the chapel in Block 26 in great secrecy. Zeller records that the ceremony “made a lasting impression on the priests who were present.” The Bishop’s violet cassock was made from fabric from stocks pillaged by the Germans; the mitre was made by Fr Albert Durand, the only British priest at Dachau. Several hundred clergymen supported the young deacon, who wore an alb over his striped prison clothes.

Please read the rest there. Phillips reviewed the book from which this story is taken here. The Priest Barracks: Dachau, 1938-1945 by Guillaume Zeller is published by Ignatius Press. Pope Saint John Paul II beatified Leisner on 23 June 1996.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Church and State in Colonial British America

The Eerdman's blog offers an excerpt from Mark A. Noll's book The Old Religion in a New World about the development of religious freedom in the colonies before the American Revolution:

Before the mid-eighteenth century, church and state were bound together more closely in New England (with the exception of Rhode Island) and the Chesapeake colonies of Virginia and Maryland (along with South Carolina) than they were in England at the same time. As part of the settlement of William and Mary as British monarchs in 1689, Parliament passed “An Act for exempting their Majesties Protestant subjects, dissenting from the Church of England, from the penalties of certain laws.” This Act guaranteed freedom of worship to Trinitarian Protestant Nonconformists, even as it reaffirmed existing laws prohibiting the dissenters’ entrance to the universities, membership in Parliament, or service as officers in the army and navy. (Roman Catholics and Unitarian Protestants continued to suffer harsher disabilities.) The New England and Chesapeake colonies acknowledged this Act of Toleration, but in practice they restrained New England’s non-Puritans and the Chesapeake’s non-Anglicans more closely than non-Anglicans were restrained in England.

If the history of New England and Chesapeake colonies explains much of the intermingling of church and state that remained in the American states of 1791, where, then, did advanced notions about the separation of church and state, as embodied in the First Amendment, come from? Part of the answer is contained in the history of these vigorous establishments themselves. Such lonely voices as Roger Williams’s and momentary outbursts of toleration like the Maryland Act of 1649 did point, however feebly at the time, to what would follow. More direct support for non-traditional relations between church and state appeared in the colonies founded after the Restoration of Charles II in 1660.

Please read the rest there. If you are interested, the book from which this excerpt is taken is available for free digital download:

During July, Eerdmans is pleased to offer The Old Religion in a New World as Logos Bible Software’s Free Book of the Month. Grab your Logos digital copy before this special offer expires.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

William Bonde, RIP


William Bonde, a Bridgettine monk of Syon Abbey died on July 18, 1530. English Catholics like Bonde and other Bridgettines (Richard Whitford and John Fewterer), and Thomas More were writing works in the vernacular to defend and explain Catholic Church teaching. Bonde wrote “The Pylgrimage of Perfection” in 1526 and “The Directory of Conscience” in 1527. He was buried in the chapel of Syon Abbey--which, according to this blog was about as wide as Salisbury Cathedral--but his resting place is unknown because Syon Abbey was suppressed in 1538 and its buildings destroyed.

This monograph from Oxford University Press describes the efforts of the Bridgettines to defend and reform the Catholic Church:

This book investigates how Syon Abbey responded to the religious turbulence of the 1520s and 1530s. It examines the eleven books three brothers - William Bonde, John Fewterer and Richard Whitford - had printed during this period and argues that the Bridgettines used vernacular printing to engage with religious and political developments that threatened their understanding of orthodox faith. Through these works - and their some twenty-six editions - the Abbey presented itself as part of the vanguard of the Church, fighting heterodoxy with a three-fold commitment to reformed spiritual leadership, vernacular theology and the spiritual education of the laity. It used its printed books to to augment inferior parochial instruction; bolster orthodox faith and contradict evangelical argument; resist Henry VIII's desire for ecclesiastical supremacy; and defend the monastic way of life.

The book has three principal aims. First, to continue the debate about the nature of late medieval Catholicism by directing attention to one community that publicly proclaimed a very specific Catholic identity. Second, to highlight the shifting nature of that identity, which developed continuously in response to evangelicalism. Third, to emphasise the importance and impact of conservative vernacular theology in this period.


Reforming Printing makes a strong contribution to our understanding of the Bridgettine community of Syon Abbey, and more generally the monastic and Catholic response to the developments that culminated in Henry VIII's break with Rome. It sheds new light upon the religious climate of the 1520s and 30s and will be of considerable interest to literary scholars and historians of the English Reformation, especially those working on early modern religious writing.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

James Hope-Scott and Henry Manning

While I'm at the Spiritual Life Center today here in Wichita to present on "St. Thomas More: Conscience and Martyrdom" and "Blessed John Henry Newman: Conscience and Conversion", it's appropriate that I mention two contemporaries of Blessed John Henry Newman who were born on July 15.

Henry Manning was born on July 15 in 1808, James Hope (he added the -Scott later) in 1812.

Henry Cardinal Manning, the second Archbishop of Westminster, is one of the famous converts who became Catholic through the influence of Newman in the Oxford Movement. He and Newman had a rather contentious relationship during their Catholic years. The story of his conversion is told in David Newsome's The Parting of Friends: The Wilberforces and Henry Manning.

James Hope-Scott, on the other hand, was a most faithful friend and defender of Newman. He was a barrister and represented Newman during the Achilli trial. More on his life from the Catholic Encyclopedia:

third son of the Honourable Sir Alexander Hope, G.C.B., who was fourth son of John, second Earl of Hopetoun, a Scottish title dating from 1703. His mother was third and youngest daughter of George Brown of Ellerton, Roxburghshire. During early childhood his home was the Military College at Sandhurst, where his father was in command. Afterwards he went abroad with his parents, staying in succession at Dresden, Lausanne, and Florence, and thus gaining a mastery of the German, French, and Italian tongues. In 1825 he entered Eton, whence, in 1828, he matriculated at Christ Church, Oxford. After a visit to Paris in 1829 he went into residence at Oxford the same year. The degree of B.A. he took in 1832, coming out in the fourth class in literis humanioribus. Next year he was elected a Fellow of Merton. In 1835 he gave up his intention of entering the ministry of the Established Church, and began to study law under conveyancers, his call to the bar at the Inner Temple taking place in 1838. Meanwhile, in the latter year he graduated B.C.L. at Oxford, proceeding D.C.L. in 1843. In 1838, after publishing anonymously in pamphlet form a letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury, he saw through the press Gladstone's work entitled "The State considered in its Relations with the Church". Next year he and Roundell Palmer (the future Earl of Selborne) projected "The History of Colleges". In 1840, at Newman's request, Hope wrote in "The British Critic", a review, later published separately, of Ward's translation of "The Statutes of Magdalen College, Oxon." The same year, as junior counsel for the capitular bodies petitioning against the Ecclesiastical Duties and Revenues Bill, he delivered the remarkably able speech which moved Brougham to exclaim, "That young man's fortune is made." In 1840, moreover, he was appointed Chancellor of the Diocese of Salisbury, which post he held until 1845. About the same time he took part in the foundation of Glenalmond College, in Perthshire, for the education of the Scottish Episcopal youth. In 1840-41 he spent some eight months in Italy, Rome included, in company with his close friend Edward Louth Badeley. On his return he became, with Newman, one of the foremost promoters of the Tractarian movement at Oxford. His next publication was a pamphlet against the establishment of the Anglo-Prussian Protestant See of Jerusalem, of which a second edition appeared in 1842. In 1849 and 1850 there came the Gorham trial and judgment, and in the latter year the agitation against the so-called "Papal Aggression". These events finally determined him upon the course of joining the Catholic Church, into which, together with Archdeacon Manning, he was received in London in 1851 by the Jesuit Father Brownhill.

In 1852 he managed Newman's defence in the libel action brought against him by Achilli, and in 1855 he conducted the negotiations which ended in Newman's accepting the rectorship of the Catholic University of Ireland. As to Hope's professional work, within a few years of his call he devoted himself wholly to parliamentary practice, in which his success and emoluments became prodigious. This was the palmy period of railway construction, and eventually he became standing counsel to almost every railway in the realm. In 1849 he was appointed Q.C., with a patent of precedence.

How he came to change his name:

His first wife, whom he married in 1847, was Charlotte Harriet Jane Lockhart, only daughter of John Gibson Lockhart and granddaughter of Sir Walter Scott. She soon followed her husband into the Catholic Church. A year later he became tenant of Abbotsford to his brother-in-law, and on the latter's death, in 1853, its possessor in right of his wife, thereupon assuming the name of Hope-Scott. Not long afterwards he added a new wing to Sir Walter's mansion. In 1855 he bought the Highland estate of Dorlin, whereupon he built a new house, selling the whole to Lord Howard of Glosson in 1871. In 1858 he had to mourn the loss of his wife, who died in childbed, the newborn child dying shortly after, and Walter Michael, his infant son and heir, before the close of the year. His second wife, whom he wedded in 1861, was Lady Victoria Alexandrina Fitzalan- Howard, eldest daughter of the fourteenth Duke of Norfolk, of whose children Hope-Scott had been left guardian. In 1867 he had the honour of a visit from Queen Victoria at Abbotsford, and in the same year he bought a villa at Hyères, in Provence. Like her predecessor, his second wife died in childbed in 1870, after giving birth to James Fitzalan Hope, now (1909) M.P. Hope- Scott never overcame the grief and shock entailed by this last bereavement. He now withdrew from his profession, surviving his dead wife but little more than two years, and dying in 1873. His funeral sermon was preached by his old and intimate friend Cardinal Newman in the same Jesuit church of Farm Street in which, two and twenty years back, Hope-Scott had made his submission to the Catholic Church. His charities and benefactions were wellnigh boundless. It is reckoned that from 1860 onwards he spent £40,000 in hidden charity. Among his innumerable good works, he built at a cost of £10,000 the Catholic church at Galashiels, near Abbotsford, and he was the chief benefactor of St. Margaret's Convent, at Edinburgh, wherein he lies buried.

More about him at Abbotsford here.

At his funeral, Newman praised him for his "tender conscience", his generosity, his talents and gifts as a barrister and advocate, and then concluded:

O happy soul, who hast loved neither the world nor the things of the world apart from God! Happy soul, who, amid the world's toil, hast chosen the one thing needful, that better part which can never be taken away! Happy soul, who, being the counsellor and guide, the stay, the light and joy, the benefactor of so many, yet hast ever depended simply, as a little child, on the grace of thy God and the merits and strength of thy Redeemer! Happy soul, who hast so thrown thyself into the views and interests of other men, so prosecuted their ends, and associated thyself in their labours, as never to forget still that there is one Holy Catholic Roman Church, one Fold of Christ and Ark of salvation, and never to neglect her ordinances or to trifle with her word! Happy soul, who, as we believe, by thy continual almsdeeds, offerings, and bounties, hast blotted out such remains of daily recurring sin and infirmity as the sacraments have not reached! Happy soul, who, by thy assiduous preparation for death, and the long penance of sickness, weariness, and delay, has, as we trust, discharged the debt that lay against thee, and art already passing from penal purification to the light and liberty of heaven above!

And so farewell, but not farewell for ever, dear James Robert Hope Scott! He is gone from us, but only gone before us. It is for us to look forward, not backward. We shall meet him again, if we are worthy, in "Mount Sion, and the heavenly Jerusalem," in "the company of many thousands of angels, the Church of the first-born who are written in the heavens," with "God, the Judge of all, and the spirits of the just made perfect, and Jesus, the Mediator of the New Testament, and the blood which speaketh better things than that of Abel."

Thursday, July 13, 2017

On the Son Rise Morning Show with Matt Swaim

Matt Swaim--back on the Son Rise Morning Show temporarily to help with hosting duties while Anna Mitchell is on maternity leave--and I will talk about Servant of God Rose Hawthorne Lathrop, aka Mother Mary Alphonsa. We'll talk about 7:50 a.m. Eastern/6:50 a.m. Central.

I wrote about Nathaniel Hawthorne's youngest child for the blog roll at the National Catholic Register. Part of her story how she and her husband became Catholics but then had to separate:

Rose Hawthorne’s conversion to Catholicism in 1891 shocked the family. Her father had died in 1864 and her mother moved the family to Dresden, Germany, where Rose met George Parsons Lathrop. Because of Franco-Prussian War, Sophia moved again, back to England. There she died in 1871; Rose and George were married later that year in an Anglican Church over the objections of her brother and sister; they thought it was too soon after their mother’s death and that Rose was too young and vulnerable to marry.

They had a troubled marriage; he abused alcohol and their only child Francis died of diphtheria in 1881. George edited The Atlantic Monthly and Rose wrote poetry. They lived in New London, Connecticut and took instruction from a Paulist, Father Alfred Young, and were received into the Church. Like many new converts, they were filled with zeal and worked for the Church together on several projects, including the Catholic Summer School Movement and a history of the Visitation Convent in Georgetown.

In 1895, Rose and George took the extraordinary step of asking the Catholic Church for a permanent separation—not an annulment of their marriage—because of George’s instability and alcoholism which endangered Rose. Neither would be free to marry until the other died so they demonstrated their belief in the indissolubility of marriage and in the Sacrament of Matrimony even as they separated. George died of cirrhosis of the liver three years later.

Years ago I read Sorrow Built a Bridge by Katherine Burton, herself a convert to Catholicism. As I recall, reading this biography was like reading a novel. It was an excellent portrayal.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

To Vest or Not to Vest, That is the Anglican Question


Several British newspapers are noting that the General Synod of the Church of England has voted that their clergy do not need to wear liturgical vestments during church services, in view of how society has become more and more informal. This blog, by an Anglican living in Rome, reminds us that the Church of England has rejected vestments in the past, using the mitre worn by bishops as an example:

In the first place, I would like to begin with a little historical background, the mitre is of Roman and Pontifical origin, it derives from a non-liturgical papal tiara knowns as the camelaucum - it was worn as early as the eight century, as shown in the Liber Pontificalis, the biography of the Popes. Around the 10th century it started to be worn at important processions and services by Bishops and during the later Middle Ages its use became more or less defined as we know it today with the mitre being used for dramatic moments during the Mass, during the Te Deum or originally even at particular times during Advent and Lent, Good Friday or Candlemass liturgies, etc. The use of mitres was adopted quite soon in the English Church as well, by the 12th century it was widespread throughout the country, we do know of very fine examples of embroidered English mitres from the 12th to 16th centuries. By the time of the Reformation, especially under Edward VI mitres fell out of use and it was not until the 19th century, in the wake of the ritualist revival it was once again adopted, notably thanks to Bishop Edward King of Lincoln. Although the history of the Church in England goes back to Saint Augustine of Canterbury in the 6th century, its Reformation only goes back 500 years and the mitre was only unpopular for about 300 years and its use has again been part of the Anglican tradition for about 200 years.


Please read the rest there. This blog, from an Evangelical Anglican view point, reminds readers of the Vestments Controversy during Elizabeth I's reign:

With the ascension of the new queen, many Marian exiles hoped for further reform upon their return to England and for the final removal of vestments from mandatory church use. The new queen, however, sought unity with her first Parliament in 1559 and did not want to encourage nonconformity. Under her Act of Uniformity, backed by the Act of Supremacy, the 1552 Prayer Book was to be the model for ecclesiastical use but with an even more conservative stance on vestments that went back to the second year of Edward VI's reign. The alb, cope, and chasuble were all to be brought back into use, while the exiles had abandoned even the surplice. The queen assumed direct control over these rules and all ceremonies or rites. There was a great deal of diversity of opinion. Some agreed with the queen in practice but encouraged preaching against vestments. Others were in favor of vestments altogether. And even others, like Miles Coverdale, were anti-vestment altogether.

The debate continued among the more conformist clergy and the nonconformist clergy. In 1563 an appeal was made to ecclesiastical commissioners to exempt the petitioners from wearing vestments. It was approved by all the commissioners except for Archbishop Matthew Parker. Parker then went on, in 1566, to draw a line in the sand against the nonconformity. This brought about a general protest and established one of the thorns in the sides of the soon to be non-conformists and Puritans.


Please read the rest there.

I presume that Low Church and Broad Church congregations would welcome more casual dress by their clergy, but that the Higher the ritual in other congregations, the more formal the liturgical dress. Perhaps this Synodal decision will be another step for some High Church Anglicans in their journey to coming Home to Rome through the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham?

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Happy Birthday, Sir Kenelm Digby!

Kenelm Digby, Catholic convert and son of one of the Gunpowder plotters, was born on July 11, 1603--almost three years before his father's execution. From Cambridge University:

A dark shadow lay over his family name when, aged 24, Sir Kenelm Digby raised a fleet to sail against the enemy French in the multicultural world of the Mediterranean. In his new book, Joe Moshenska (Faculty of English) looks at the intellectual, political and culinary life of a man driven by a thirst for knowledge. . . .

Sailing south in January 1628, Digby left behind a beloved wife and two sons, the youngest just a few weeks old. He was a man on the make. Despite being well-connected and highly educated, he had a black mark against his name. His father, Everard Digby, had been hung for treason against the crown. Revealed to be a co-conspirator in the Gunpowder Plot, Everard was subjected to the most grisly of executions. In front of approving crowds, his heart was ripped out and his genitals sliced off.

Everard Digby maintained his dignity right up to the moment he lost consciousness. He professed that he “deserved the vilest death” and made an impassioned plea that wife and sons not be punished for his crime. Everard’s fortitude became legendary but his family lived with a sense of disgrace. The blood stain in the title of Moshenska’s book is a reference to a wound cut deep into a man with an extraordinary thirst for knowledge and experiences.

Seventeenth century England was layered in complexity. Raised as a gentleman and a Roman Catholic in a country that had officially broken its ties with Rome, Kenelm Digby learned early on to tread a delicate line between faith, politics and expediency. As a practising Catholic student at Oxford, he was unable to “weare a gowne” (matriculate) and each November endured the bonfire celebrations that reminded him of his father’s death. But Digby had friends in high places and the means to travel.

Trips to Europe, the first when he was aged just 14, helped Digby to develop the worldly ease and diplomatic skills so vital to him later in life. In Italy, his nimble mind won admiration in philosophical debates. In France, his handsomeness gained the (embarrassing) attention from the older and powerful Queen Regent. Visiting Spain, he socialised with the future Charles I – and became dangerously entangled in negotiations for a royal marriage bringing two disparate nations together.

The single voyage that allowed Digby to establish himself as a loyal subject was almost derailed by those who sought to discredit him as papist. The 1620s saw England engaged in an expensive war with its Roman Catholic neighbours. When he finally got the commission he sought from the king, it gave him permission to sail wherever he chose and to take as prizes any ships belonging to enemies of England. He was empowered to undertake any action “tending to the service of the realm and the increase of his knowledge”.

More about the book here; looks fascinating!

Monday, July 10, 2017

The Oxford Experience


From the Imaginative Conservative, by Jason Baxter:

And as you walk through these streets and quietly pass into and then out of the shadows, you feel a smallness: these buildings have been here for centuries and have that noble antiquity of an earlier and prouder age that did not ask “how much” but “what should be done.” The buildings don’t look down on you, because they’re too lofty, too concerned with higher dreams. You feel small because you know that, to them, you are nothing. They have heard centuries of idle chatter and adolescent boasting; they have heard the first authentic thoughts of learned men; they have seen trees, older than the New World, grow up and die within their walls. These buildings feel as old as the seasons and the streams that flow constantly among them. Experiencing such august nobility in Oxford is to encounter a solemn, foreboding, and mysterious antiquity.

And it’s not only American tourists who get this strange, melancholic feeling about Oxford. Even those iconic titans, Lewis and Tolkien, whose personalities have blended into the stones of the city, felt it, too. Tolkien, in his wonderful Anglo-Saxon manner, called Oxford that “Many-mansion’d, tower covered” city “in its dreamy robe of grey/… aged in the lives of men,/ Proudly wrapt in mystic mem’ry overpassing human ken.” In Lewis’s short poem “Oxford,” he describes this city as a place of deep serenity, like the perpetual movements of the city’s somnolent rivers: “A clean, sweet city lulled by ancient streams…/ A refuge of the elect, a tower of dreams.” Similarly, Hopkins called Oxford, “Towery city and branches between towers; / Cuckoo-echoing, bell-swarméd, lark charméd, rook-racked, river-rounded.” And if you go inside the Ashmolean Museum, you will see any number of romanticizing paintings of the city that give you an Oxford, bathed in soft light. What the Pre-Raphaelites did for knights and ladies, these painters did for Oxford: they give a painfully nostalgic view of the medieval city. To such astute observers, Oxford is that city that mingles antiquity, the natural, and a keen sense of nostalgia.



Read the rest there. I concur.

Pictures (c) Stephanie A. Mann, from my week at the Oxford Experience in 2010.