Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Monday, 27 September 2010

John Aubrey

Last Saturday I finally got round to visiting the Bodleian exhibition "My wit was always working: John Aubrey and the origins of experimental science." This is part of Oxford's celebration of the 350th anniversary of the foundation of the Royal Society, itself a development from the academic clubs of the University in the 1650s.

The exhibits provide a fascinating insight into the intellectual world of the later seventeenth century, and is accompanied by a book:

John Aubrey and the Advancement of Learning

What emerges is the wide range of Aubrey's interests, far beyond his Brief Lives and his antiquarian and historical works. Aubrey and the world of his friends - Antony Wood, Robert Hooke et al - is made visible in his books and notes.

The portrait on the book cover is from 1666, and is now in the Ashmolean collection. it shows a considerably more elegant figure than the one depicted by Roy Dotrice in his famous one-man play about Aubrey from 1967.

There is a biography of Aubrey here. He is buried in the churchyard of St Mary Magdalen here in Oxford, and there is a modern memorial plaque inside the church.

The exhibition, to which admission is free, is open until October 31st, and is to be found in the exhibition room in the quadrangle of the Old Bodleian. It is well worth visiting.

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