Oxford is a walled city still, and within her black and golden, crumbling, scabrous, aged, dignified, and eternal walls lie pockets of rarefied air, places where, turning a corner or entering a conversation, the breath catches and for an instant one is taken up into . . . if not the higher levels of heaven, at least into a place divine. And then, in the next moment, there comes an eddy of grit, and the ghostly echo of mediaeval oxcarts is heard rumbling down past Christopher Wren’s bell tower on their way from Robert D’Oilley’s castle to his grand bridge over the river.
Up the High towards the tantalising curve, but before entering it, at the very foot of St Mary’s wise divinity, I made an abrupt turn north, and there, oddly satisfying in its scorn for a deliberate and formal perfection, was the quadrangle with the round earthiness of the Radcliffe Camera in its centre, bounded on its four sides by the tracery of All Souls on my right, the height of St Mary’s at my back, Brasenose College on the left giving nothing away, and before me, where there should rightly have been trumpets and gilt, the unadorned backside of the Bodleian and the Divinity School. I was home.
—Laurie R. King, A Letter of Mary
I am loving every bit of Laurie R. King’s series following the adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Mary Russell, including the convoluted plots, the witty banter, the delightful cast of minor characters and the historical details. But Mary’s love for Oxford, which matches my own, positively thrills me to my toes.