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Each week, Wednesdays at 2:00pm, Simon Image from Oxford Walking Tours, the oldest and most established walking tour company in Oxford, leads a literary tour. It starts at Carfax Tower (where the High meets Cornmarket and St Aldates). Booking details can be found here…
“Oxford! The very sight of the word printed, or sound of it spoken, is fraught for me with most actual magic.” Max Beerbohm’s words in Zuleika Dobson ring as true today as when they were written a hundred years ago.
Oxford’s magic has inspired generations of creative writers, some of them internationally famous, like J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, others known to a more restricted but discerning readership, like Philip Larkin and Beerbohm himself. The walking tour evokes many of these unique personalities and shows you the places where they studied and relaxed, were rapt by religious fervour, composed in mad or erotic delirium, or drifted away into dreams of other worlds and other days. The walk will take you round the centre of “that sweet city… with her dreaming spires,” as Matthew Arnold phrased it, and give you a genuine flavour of Oxford’s glorious literary past, and her vibrant present. Colleges will be visited so that the living atmosphere of the university, preserved jealously through long
centuries, can be experienced just as it was by the writers themselves.
The tour lasts for an hour and a half which gives plenty of time to wander and savour the delights of the ‘English Athens’: its halls, chapels, cloisters, and gardens which, as W.H. Auden expressed it, the rooks still haunt “like agile babies.” The whole history of the English language can be traced in these ancient places, right up to a 21st century of dynamic change, and the resonant names of Shelley, Swift, Wilde, T.E. Lawrence, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Waugh, Amis, Philip Pullman and Le Carré will come to assume greater significance and fascination, even for those who know their work well. For those who do not, a whole new world of knowledge and imagination awaits discovery.
There is also a tour dedicated to J.R.R. Tolkien, and forthcoming is a Lewis Carroll walk.
SIMON IMAGE has been a tour guide for well over twenty years and is a public speaker (http://www.questforthecentre.co.uk/).
The walk costs £12; £11 concessions; £9 for Oxford residents, students & alumni; £7 children.