29 MAY 1936, Page 13


OXFORD IN TRINITY TERM [To the Editor of TILE SPECTATOR.] SIR,—Change in Oxford is arrested every year by the Summer Term. If, as Who's Who used to inform us, the Sitwells left Oxford by reason of the continued success of the Gilbert and Sullivan season, they would now have to recognise its permanence as a revered, sacred and perennial religious occasion. Attendance should be n ale compulsory by the Oxford Preservation Trust.

" Oxford as we knew it " is the cry of the transitional class between the Bullingdon and the Labour Club ; the Oxford that looked back to TennYson and Bishop Stubbs ;. the Oxford which built North Oxford. The once revolutionary clique of dons' wives and relatives, who dominate the City charities in Tory interests, fight in a last ditch.

Poetry h now a safe by-product of the O.U.B.C. Apart from stroke's success with the " Newdigate " it is interesting to observe a rowing poem published in the Oxford Magm.ine which. seems to derive from the same school.

", Eight men of thew in that thin exquisite shell " it begins.

"Peter was Stroke: he's in the Service now.

- But what's become of Richard, who rowed Four!

How Charles did curse him when he broke an oar Funny to meet old John in Piccadilly On my last leave !—he just said, 'Hullo Bow !'.

We lunched together. What's become of Billy ?

. The smell of Water brings them back somehow."

—(somehow is the operative word).

- The university papers too have lost their aestheticism ; their tone is moral, dull and competent. They carry on their everlasting duel as to which of them truly represents the views of Oxford. On the one hand are those who favour admission of women to take part in the Union debates ; on the other, those who profess to deplore the publicity which Oxford gets from controversies such as these.. It would be a mistake not. to consider jobs like the 'Red Flag debate and the Pembroke dinner Strike (suceessful) seriously. No one in Oxford takes them seriously ; that is the most significant point. Without consciousness of it there is a change in the basis of student life; its political convictions are easier to canvass because of changed economic circumstances. There was some genuine grievance and resentment behind the Pembroke strike; some genuine conviction in the Red Flag debate. But there is still enough freedom in English universities to assert oneself lightheartedly.

The "New Union" appears to be the idea of a very small minority. Opportunities for debate with women students taking part have always existed in the college debating clubs, and no sufficient demand exists for a university institution to rival the older body. Being demo- cratic it is fairly certain that in time it will yield.

Sir Oswald Mosley's latest visit was greeted with restraint and steel chairs. His technique in a hall deserves study. He provokes his audience to individual questions and then a roving body of Fascists moves down on the questioner in order to scratch- his face, deliver rabbit- punches and generally carry out all the fouls known to sport. On this occasion the audience retaliated indig- nantly, and before the police restored order three Fascists were injured. Mr. R. H. S. Crossman, in a courageous but misguided endeavour to reach the platform and give the Leader a few words of advice, found himself on-the floor, but was not silenced. One intellectual advance of the term has been the rumoured discovery of an undergraduate with the rare gift of logic. 'mi. quality is seen in everything that he writes, and has become the hope of his college tutors. Unfortunately his premises are so obscure, and his reasoning so close that although each step of his argument follows infallibly from the preceding, neither his tutor nor outside assessors have yet been able to gauge the accuracy of his results. It is not even known whether he has attained any results, or if so to what subject, mathematics. philosophy or economies they properly belong. " Except fin' one thing, I would never hesitate to say that he has the best brain I have ever encountered." his tutor is reported to have said. " The one difficulty is that I have never understood him." There the matter rests.

• Another fin-de-siMe symptom in intellectualism was provided by Mr. Scott-Suell's exhibition at Ryinan's galleries. Emotions aroused in the artist by music Were here expressed in images and colour ; and a reaction to several nineteenth-century ambitions, delicately achieved, may almost be deduced from this created world of fantasy and fairy story.

Oxford's relation to sociology remains uneasy and amateurish, despite the political clubs. The introduction of " Modern Greats " was supposed to remedy this deficiency, but by perpetuating a eombination of philo- sophy, polities and economics in undefined doses, and by excluding law and history from reform, the deficiency has in effect been perpetuated. The law school with considerable merits contains no critical examination of the legal system in relation to the actual world ; it merely instructs men in the obscurities. of existing law and in the historical " reasons " for these ; jurisprudence is half-heartedly added as a semi-philosophical jargon of international lawyers.

On the other band " politics " is studied in Modern Greats usually as a weak third subject ; it can be little else than the study of international current affairs so long as there is no serious academic approach to the basic problems of sociology and law. Modern Greats is, in other respects, a hard school, and law an easy one, to which Rugger blues usually turn having nibbled hi vain at Kant and Ricardo.

So much for the cultural reaction as it stands in Oxford ; and surely with Eights week and Commemoration dances, the Eucaenia, garden parties, and gaudies Oxford in summer term should be a rallying-point. The sentiment of old young men who " came up nearly ten years ago " (that is, they went down five years back) will flow freely after gaudy dinners and at other occasions of nauseatingly public admiration of one's recent past. Older Oxford men are more silent, but perhaps their feelings on returning are more difficult to express. Summer term is something besides an incident in time ; it is nearly a popular fete. Despite the self-importance of individual memories of the smell of water, or of strawberry ices on the barges or any other adjunct of a life so often written about and yet to be described, Oxford distils annually and without regard for crocodile tears a momentary fair- ground excitement. In this the chefs and scouts are as powerful agents of reaction as the buildings themselves, keeping everything the sonic, the same picnics, dinners and buffets. Let us hope that these will only cease to be exclusive in an age of plenty.—I am, Sir, &c., Yo I it OXFORD CORRESPONDENT.