Literary Landmarks of Oxford/Jesus

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John Richard Green, the Historian, and himself a Jesus man, said, in 1862, that "if Christ Church was the last and grandest effort of Mediævalism, if Trinity and St. John's commemorated the reaction under Philip and Mary, Jesus, by its very name, took its stand as the first Protestant College in Oxford." It was founded in 1571, under a charter granted by Queen Elizabeth, Defender of the Faith, who took all the glory of the foundation, but did very little to help it on to success. The real and active progenitor of the institution was D. Hugh Price, a good Welshman, who wished to be permitted to bestow his estates for the benefit and maintenance of certain scholars of Wales, that "they might be trained up in good letters." And many distinguished scholars of Wales, and of elsewhere, but especially of Wales, have benefited by the training. The Library is rich in ancient Welsh manuscripts; and in the Bursary is kept a striking example of the Cambrian good-fellowship and hospitality, in the shape of a mammoth silver-gilt punch-bowl, which weighs over two hundred and seventy-eight ounces, and holds ten gallons; the accompanying ladle weighing thirteen ounces and a half, with a capacity of half a pint. The bowl itself is five feet two inches in girth; and tradition says that it is to become the permanent property of any person who is possessed of strength enough, of arm and of head, to lift it to his lips, and to drain its full contents at a draught. Unlike the famous yachting trophy, of which we hear so much in later years, the cup has been "lifted" more than once, in the phraseology of Britain; but it has never been "carried away," as we phrase such things in America.

Dr. Johnson was a guest of the Vice-Principal of Jesus in 1782, in rooms which were probably—not positively—"in the southwestern corner of the Outer Quadrangle, on the first floor," where, and when, he lifted his mighty voice in unbroken monologue; and drank gallons of tea, out of moderate-sized vessels.

Green, born in Oxford, and spending many of his happiest years there, knew and loved both town and University. He went to Magdalen Grammar School at the age of eight, and he won and Open Fellowship at Jesus at sixteen, before he was old enough to go into residence. His biographers tell us he entered college a friendless, homeless boy, and that he continued, as an undergraduate, to lead a solitary life. His Welsh co-students, with their close home-associations, looked upon him as an English interloper, and left him much to himself. But he found books in the Library, sermons in the stones of Oxford, and good in everything. He read enormously; and he wandered, in his solitary, studious way, among the spots and the buildings which were rich in their associations of ancient times, recalling, as he went, the memories of the past, and in his own mind combining them and putting them together in coherent form.

While at Jesus, he contributed to the Oxford "Chronicle" a series of papers on "Oxford in the Eighteenth Century," which attracted some attention. He left college in 1859, without distinguishing himself particularly in the college course.

His rooms at Jesus are unknown; and the Hall-porter, in 1899, had never heard his name!