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TagEngland

Oxford and Cambridge

It was very interesting next day to see Cambridge. In many ways it is a contrast: there is something, I can hardly say whether of colour or of atmosphere, which at once strikes a more northern, a bleaker and a harder note. Perhaps the flatness of the country, suggesting places seen from the railway beyond Crewe, has something to do with it. The streets are narrow and crowded: the non-university parts depressing enough. Some things – such as King’s College Chapel, in which I was prepared to be disappointed – are indeed beautiful beyond hope or belief: several little quadrangles I remember, with tiled gables, sun dials and tall chimnies like Tudor houses, were charming. One felt everywhere the touch of Puritanism, of something Whiggish, a little defiant perhaps. It has not so much Church and State in its veins as we. The stained windows in the Halls show figures like Erasmus and Cranmer. Oxford is more magnificent, Cambridge perhaps more intriguing. Our characteristic colour is the pale grey, almost the yellow of old stone: theirs the warm brown of old brick. A great many Cambridge buildings remind one of the Tower of London.

— C. S. Lewis, undergraduate at University College Oxford, writing to his father after making his first visit to Cambridge (8 December 1920).

faith

We’re in a society that thinks entirely about faith, because of our sense of encroachment by Islam, and our defiance against that because we have our own way of being, which of course is based in Christianity. But no one is Christian. So we’re trying to defend an ideal which we can’t really define ourselves, which we almost entirely don’t believe in. And we’re coming up against something which is quite overwhelming and encroaching and dictatorial – some aspects of Islam – and yet at another level, there’s something so beautiful and glorious about it. And so I feel as if this conflict is entirely about faith, and yet the one thing no one wants to talk about is faith.

Nicola Barker

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