Thoughts of a Catholic convert

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Thursday, June 23, 2011

A vampire Fellow of All Souls College

- gilded wooden angel from the roof of the Chapel at All Souls College (see bottom of post)

I'm still reading A Discovery of Witches: A Novel by Deborah Harkness. The book isn't great but still it's fairly interesting - it has a lot of info about Oxford, it has a couple of minor but positive gay/lesbian characters, and it focuses on details often overlooked, like scents. The vampire character describes the way his friend smells to him ...

You smell of willow sap, and chamomile that's been crushed underfoot. There's honeysuckle, and fallen oak leaves too, and ancient things ... horehound, frankincense, Lady's mantle ...

But anyway, the vampire character, a scientist, is a fellow of All Souls College, Oxford :) This college is different than the others at Oxford ....

Unique to All Souls, all of its members automatically become Fellows, i.e., full members of the College's governing body. It has no undergraduate members, but each year recent graduates of Oxford and other universities compete in "the hardest exam in the world" for Examination Fellowships ...

But times change ...

The word on Oxford University's All Souls fellows exam is: axed

It is thought to be the hardest exam in the world. For almost a century, just a handful of the brightest young Oxford graduates have been picked to sit it each year and often only one is successful.

But this year, for the first time, the All Souls fellows exam is dropping its most gruelling element – the one-word essay question. The task has defeated even the most brilliant of minds in requiring them to open an envelope, inside which is a card with a single word – for instance, innocence or morality – and to write coherently about the subject for three hours.

The historian Lord Dacre and the author Hilaire Belloc were not up to the challenge, unlike the philosopher Sir Isaiah Berlin and the judge Richard Wilberforce. Those who excel, and who succeed in four other – more conventional – papers, are admitted to Oxford University's graduate-only college, All Souls. ....

- (click to enlarge) The Chapel still retains its original medieval hammer-beam roof, which together with the gilded wooden angels that adorn the ends of the beams dates from the fifteenth century. The angels owe their current brilliance to a late twentieth century regilding. - Architecture of the college


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