You just knew this was going to be a good one from the opening quote followed by the casual toss-off:
I was living in England, doing a couple of terms at Oxford U. on Renaissance Art, Shakespeare, Dante, and Wisdom Lit of the Old Testament. I had left a fiancé in the States...How many fictional scribblings have I started off with some variation on that theme, the variation being fiancée? Too many to count. (Either that or the ol' reliable, "I was in 'Nam in '67, doing a second tour...", inspired by the prank calls of a friend to a local radio station.)
I caught the Oxford bug vicariously via Iris Murdoch and the ads for summer lit programs in the Sunday New York Times. I was a goner after reading an article about the girl who loved Middlemarch who fell for the boy who loved Shakespeare...
George Elliot’s Middlemarch was caughtIt was the mid-80s, before the Internet made clipping newspaper articles superfluous. I saved articles from dozens of papers, collecting them like S&H Green Stamps. Among the most memorable described a young lady’s account of meeting a young man at an Oxford series covering English literature; she was deeply into George Eliot’s Middlemarch while he was a Bardophile. In my mind's eye she had the face of Jennifer Connelly and a body made for sin.
by second-hand intoxication
from an Oxford late-life student
following Austen’s oeuvre.
The moral? Days spent reading about other readers reading in Oxford can ruin you for a lifetime.
* - (Sing to ancient jingle that no one born after 1970 will recognize: "if you think it's butter, but it's not! It's Chiffon." Yes Betty Duffy quotes Anna Karenina and I quote old television commercials. Alas. And old songs too: "Nobody does it better...though sometimes I wish I would." Indeed the label on her post can be answered in the affirmative: tis a sin to write so well.)