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12/19/2014 09:24 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

What Famous Authors Really Thought About Oxford

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Every university, and university town, is subject to never-ending debate among loyal alumni and sneering rivals as to its relative merits. Few universities, however, have drawn comment from such illustrious personages as Oxford, one of the most prestigious and storied institutions in the world. Many brilliant writers attended Oxford and became devotedly attached to it; others developed no such loyalties despite their years there. Still others fell in love with the stately grounds without ever having studied at the university. Literary society abounds with witty quips and poetic odes on the subject of Oxford. Oxford in Quotations, a new book from Bodleian Library (yes, the one at Oxford), gathers together a number of the most slyly funny and sentimentally beautiful quotations about Oxford. We've excerpted some of the most vivid quotes from famous authors, whether they're in favor of Oxford or against it:

"And that sweet City with her dreaming spires."
-Matthew Arnold

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"In spite of the roaring of the young lions at the Union, and the screaming of the rabbits in the home of the vivisect, in spite of Keble College, and the tramways, and the sporting prints, Oxford still remains the most beautiful thing in England, and nowhere else are life and art so exquisitely blended, so perfectly made one."
-Oscar Wilde

"There are few greater temptations on earth than to stay permanently at Oxford in meditation, and to read all the books in the Bodleian."
-Hilaire Belloc

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"Towery city and brancy between towers;
Cuckoo-echoing, bell-swarmed, lark charmed, rook-racked, river-rounded;
The dapple-eared lily below thee; that country and town did
Once encounter in, here coped & poised powers ..."

-Gerard Manley Hopkins

"The truth is that Oxford is simply a very beautiful city in which it is convenient to segregate a certain number of the young of the nation while they are growing up."
-Evelyn Waugh

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"But Venice, like Oxford, had kept the background for romance, and, to the true romantic, background was everything, or almost everything."
-Oscar Wilde

"I was therefore entered at Oxford and have been properly idle ever since."
-Jane Austen

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"Oxford lends sweetness to labour and dignity to leisure."
-Henry James

"I wonder anybody does anything at Oxford but dream and remember, the place is so beautiful. One almost expects the people to sing instead of speaking. It is all like an opera."
-William Butler Yeats

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"Oxford is a little aristocracy in itself, numerous and dignified enough to rank with other estates in the realm."
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

"The world surely has not another place like Oxford; it is a despair to see such a place and ever to leave it, for it would take a lifetime and more than one to comprehend and enjoy it satisfactorily."
-Nathaniel Hawthorne

Excerpted from Oxford in Quotations © Bodleian Library, 2014

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