Rosemary Sutcliff Diary, 20 April 1988 | “Canterbury Quad, sky full of stars and a new moon to bow to…

(Posted again, original two years ago; comments kept)

April 20th Wednesday. Jane arrived at 10.30 and we set off. A lovely day and would have had a lovely run, but I still haven’t got rid of the car sickness after all, so felt wretched from Petersfield onward. We called for lunch with James C at the Quaker place, lovely old home, much of it 15th & 16th Cent., but myself lunched on brown bread an a cup of tea. Had a rest and then did the remaining dozen miles with no problem and felt alright from then on. Got to the G’s at tea time & watched Magdalene having her indian dance lesson (enchanting) while we had tea.

Went off (driven by Jane) to the Rawlinson dinner. This in full cherished evening dress and in my new Posh Frock, which I am not altogether happy with. Dinner by candlelight surrounded by dons and fellows with their ground down dinner jackets and their guests (mostly more dons and fellows). After the Loving Cup had been around, Tim took me for the ten minute break into the chapel around the Canterbury Quad, which was cold but lovely, with sky full of stars & a new moon to bow to, and then back to finish dessert and port for another  hour and a half, sitting in different positions and with different partners. Talked Greece most of the time with the Chaplain on my left & the Classics man on my right, both of whom were very nice to me. Oh, I mustn’t forget the scent of rain battered hyacinths of window boxes in Dolphin Quad.

© Anthony Lawton 2012

This will have been a formal dinner at an Oxford University college – note the ‘dons and fellows’. Reference to Canterbury and Dolphin Quads suggests this will have been St John’s College. According to Wikipedia, Canterbury Quad is the first example of Italian Renaissance architecture in Oxford. It was completed in 1636.

Author: Anthony Lawton

Chair, Sussex Dolphin, family company which looks after the work of eminent children’s & historical fiction author Rosemary Sutcliff (1920-92). Formerly CEO, chair & trustee of various charity, cultural & educational enterprises in UK.

4 thoughts on “Rosemary Sutcliff Diary, 20 April 1988 | “Canterbury Quad, sky full of stars and a new moon to bow to…”

  1. I’ve yet to come across anyone bowing to the new moon but it’s not uncommon for the superstitious to turn loose change (“silver”) in their pockets over three times and make a wish on first seeing it. Going back to the original post, how miserable it must have been to be car-sick on a lovely drive like that… I wonder where “the Quaker place” was? It could have been Jordans, but would that be slightly off the route to Oxford?

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  2. Bowing to the new moon was an old custom in England, though i don’t suppose it’s still observed. It appears to have been originally a Celtic tradition, and of course RS was well up on Celtic mythology. Here’s a piece from Alexander Carmichael’s “Carmina Gadelica” on the custom of bowing to the new moon:
    http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/celt/cg1/cg1057.htm

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  3. I’m sure you are right about the college being St John’s. (Richard) Rawlinson endowed the Rawlinson professorship of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford (held by JRR Tolkien 1925-1943) and was a benefactor to St John’s, which was his college. I *think* the chaplain in 1992 was the Revd. Timothy Gorringe.and at a guess the Classics man was Malcolm Davies. What fun to have been at that dinner! – I would have been about half a mile away at the time…

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