I was recently in Oxford on the trail of Evelyn Waugh’s contributions to the University magazine The Isis. This was my first ever visit to Oxford, and though I was expecting to find the ‘gables and cupolas, exhal[ing] the soft airs of centuries of youth’, nothing quite prepared me for the outstanding beauty of the city. I had a quick look around taking lots of pictures in an uninformed way, and realised after circling the spot a few dozen times that the grand neoclassical building I had just been admiring, was, in fact, the library admissions office I had been looking for.
After registering and reading the Bodleian Library Oath aloud …
“I hereby undertake not to remove from the Library, or to mark, deface, or injure in any way, any volume, document, or other object belonging to it or in its custody; not to bring into the Library or kindle therein any fire or flame, and not to smoke in the Library; and I promise to obey all rules of the Library.”
… I was able to pass through the gates into possibly the most stunning library in the country. I carried the enormous tomes containing The Isis from 1922-1924 over to my seat in the upper reading room and had to take a moment to appreciate what an absolute joy this research can be sometimes. Without being overly sentimental, it really is something to read about Waugh and his friends larking about on the roof of the ‘Radder’ (Radcliffe Camera) with a film camera, and to look out of the window where you are sitting to see that very building.
The Isis is proving to be incredibly helpful to my current research and the 4 or 5 hours it took to get through 2 years of the then weekly publication flew by. I will be returning soon I am sure.