Thursday, 31 March 2011


One of Oxford's archetypal views, the Bridge of Sighs that links the college buildings together. 
On Friday Willian Charnley, the Junior Warden, and I were guests of Hertford College for their John Donne Dinner.  Past Master Sir Nicholas Jackson Bt who is also an Honorary Fellow of the college was also present.  The dinner commemorates John Donne, the poet and much else, who was a student at Hart Hall, a predecessor of Hertford College between the ages of 11 and 14.
John Donne seemingly depicted in one of his less metaphysical and rather more sensuous moods. 
The dinner was preceded by a talk in the chapel on John Donne's The Good-Morrow.  We were taken through an explanation that was entirely in keeping with the metaphysical nature of the poem and the poet.  Also in the spirit of early seventeenth century enquiry and curiosity we were exposed to a huge number of references and influences contained in the poem.

Our minds having been given a thorough refreshment we went on to an excellent dinner.  It was amongst other things part of the farewell for Dr John Landers who is standing down as Principal.  He was one of our guests at the Education Dinner the previous evening.  In my talk I noted his departure with regret as he has helped sustain our links with the college most effectively.

Our links with Hertford go back over a century and date from the time when Past Master The Reverend Henry Boyd was Principal.  This was a post he held for forty five years from 1877 to 1922.  Today we support a Drapers' Company Research Fellow at the college, although currently because of an early departure of the last incumbent to study elsewhere, the post is vacant.

John Donne led a quite extraordinary life.  He managed to spend a significant amount of money on good living, travelled widely, went to prison and generally pursued a most precarious life.  He was a member of parliament and despite being a Catholic held various positions in the Church of England, eventually rising to be Dean of St Pauls. In addition, of course, he produced some of the most interesting and memorable poetry and prose in the English language.

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