Page 126. " The undergraduate, in his brief periods of residence, is too buoyant to be mastered by the spirit of the place. "

The three terms of the undergraduate academic year are each eight weeks long. These three terms are known as Michaelmas Term, Hilary Term, and Trinity Term.


Perhaps in part due to undergraduates’ detachment from the daily life in the city, there is traditionally a rivalry between ‘town and gown.’ In the early days of the university, there were violent conflicts between the two communities, and the colleges were surrounded by walls for their members' safety. An especially notorious fight between town and gown occurred in Oxford in 1355, and this skirmish has become known as the riot of St. Scholastica Day.

Page 126. " Oxford is too damp for that "

Oxford is one of the wetter locations in England. It has a maritime temperate climate, with precipitation evenly distributed throughout the year.


Oxford reflected in a puddle on a wet afternoon
Permission Granted by Copyright Owner for Use on Book DrumOxford reflected in a puddle on a wet afternoon - Credit: M.L. Costa
Page 127. " Oxford was venerable and magical, after all, and enduring "

Oxford has a great tradition of fantasy literature written by members of the university. Lewis Carroll (1832-1898), author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865), J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973) who wrote The Lord of the Rings (1954-1955), C.S. Lewis (1898-1963), who penned The Chronicles of Narnia (1950-1956), and Philip Pullman, whose trilogy His Dark Materials opens in Oxford, were all academics at the University.

Page 132. " on the playing-fields of Eton "

“The Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing-fields of Eton,” is a quotation often attributed to the Duke of Wellington (1769-1852), who was a student at the public school from 1781 to 1784.

Page 133. " volleyed by Prometheus "

Prometheus was a Titan in Greek mythology. He was known for his cunning intelligence and for being a friend to mankind.  He stole fire from the gods and gave it to man; in punishment for this act he was chained to a rock where each day an eagle fed on his regrowing liver.

Page 133. " Alcestis going to her doom "

In Greek mythology, Alcestis was a princess who offered to sacrifice her life in order to spare the life of her husband, King Admetus, who had accidentally angered the gods. She was rescued by Heracles.  

Page 133. " spirit of Juvenal "

Juvenal is the anglicized name of Decimus Iunius Iuvenalis, a Roman poet. He is best known as the author of the collection of satirical poems known as the Satires.

Page 149. " Marius sitting among the ruins of Carthage "

Gaius Marius (157 BC – 86 BC) was a Roman general and statesman who played an important part in the transition of Rome from Republic to Empire.


The American painter John Vanderlyn (1775-1852) painted a famous picture of Marius amid the ruins of Carthage.