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Literary Guide

Arnold, Matthew (December 24, 1822 - April 15, 1888)

Oriel College

Arnold has been called the 'Poet Laureate of Oxford', and coined the famous phrase 'city of dreaming spires' in reference to the architecture of the city. Arnold, who studied at Balliol and later became a fellow of Oriel, often wrote about Oxford in his poetry.

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Auden, W.H. (February 21, 1907 - September 29, 1973)

Christ Church

A widely influential poet and critic, Auden returned to Oxford after his graduation as the prestigious Professor of Poetry at Christ Church. Later in his life, after having lived in America, he once again returned to Christ Church, and lived in Oxford until his death.

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BerkeleyBerkeley, George (March 12, 1685 - January 14, 1753)

Berkeley is one of Britain's greatest philosophers, famous for his Principles of Human Knowledge, in which he equated existence with perception. He came to Oxford late in life to enroll his son as a student, but died before leaving. He is buried in Christ Church Cathedral.

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Buchan, John (August 26, 1875 - February 11, 1940)

Brasenose College

Buchan was a Scottish novelist who also served as Governor General of Canada. He won a prize for being the best writer amongst all Oxford undergraduates while at Brasenose College (the Newdigate Prize). He wrote the thriller 39 Steps, later made into a movie by Alfred Hitchcock.

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Dexter, Colin (September 29, 1930- )

A current Oxford resident (and Cambridge graduate), Dexter achieved fame with his Inspector Morse novels, which later became a popular television show, about a grumpy police inspector who studied Greats (classical literature and thought) at Oxford University.

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Charles DodgsonDodgson, Charles (January 27, 1832 - January 14, 1898)

Christ Church

Better known as Lewis Carroll the author than Charles Dodgson the mathematician, he is best remembered for Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, a story invented for the daughter (Alice Liddell) of the college's head.

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Fowles, John (March 31, 1926 - November 5, 2005)

New College

An English novelist and essayist, some of his better-known works include The Magus, The French Lieutenant's Woman and The Aristos.

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Golding, William (September 19, 1911 - June 19, 1993)

Brasenose College

Golding, a graduate of Brasenose, was an English novelist, poet and winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature (1983). He is best known for his novel Lord of the Flies.

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Greene, Graham (October 2, 1904 - April 3, 1991)

Balliol College

Greene was a prolific English novelist, playwright, short story writer and critic, and also a heavy drinker who could be found at all hours of the day at the Lamb & Flag pub on St. Giles'. His novels include The Quiet American, The Third Man, and End of the Affair.

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Hardy, Thomas (June 2, 1840 - January 11, 1928)

Many scenes in Hardy's Jude the Obscure take place in Oxford, which he calls Christminster. For instance, the meeting point for Jude and Sue Brideshead is at the Martyrs' cross on Broad Street, and another scene takes place at Fourways, which is Carfax.

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Hopkins, Gerard Manley (July 28, 1844 - June 8, 1889)

Balliol College

One of Britains most admired poets, Hopkins returned to Oxford after graduation for a year as an assistant priest. His works include Duns Scotus's Oxford, and To Oxford.

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Huxley, Aldous (July 26, 1894 - November 22, 1963)

Balliol College

Writer of novels, poetry, screenplays, short stories, and children's literature, Huxley graduated with a first from Balliol. Oxford life features in his works Those Barren Leaves and Eyeless in Gaza.

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James, Henry (April 15, 1843 - February 28, 1916)

Henry James wrote about Oxford in his works entitled A Passionate Pilgrim, Portraits of Places, and English Hours. He lived in Oxford (15 Beaumont Street) while writing The Altar of the Dead.

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Samuel JohnsonJohnson, Samuel (September 18, 1709 - December 13, 1784)

Pembroke College

Johnson was one of England's greatest literary figures: a critic, poet, essayist, biographer and lexicographer. He dropped out of college after little more than a year because he couldn't afford the tuition. Later in his life, he returned to Oxford often to use the university libraries to work on his dictionary, and the University awarded him an MA in return.

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Lawrence, T.E. (August 16, 1888 - May 19, 1935)

All Souls College

Widely known as Lawrence of Arabia, Lawrence grew up in Oxford (from age 12 - at #2 Polstead Road), studied at Jesus College, and then was later offered a post at All Souls College after World War One. During his time at All Souls, he worked on The Seven Pillars of Wisdom.

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Lewis, C.S. (November 29, 1898 - November 22, 1963)

Magdalen College

An author and scholar, Lewis taught as a fellow of Magdalen College for nearly thirty years. He is best known for his works on medieval literature, Christian apologetics, and his children's series The Chronicles of Narnia. Lewis was a close friend of J.R.R. Tolkien, also a professor at Oxford.

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Locke, John (August 29, 1632 - October 28, 1704)

Christ Church

Locke is one of the famous British empiricist philosophers, author of An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. He graduated from Christ Church in 1656, received his MA in 1658, and was lecturer in Greek. He is buried in Christ Church Cathedral.

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Murdoch, Iris (July 15, 1919 - February 8, 1999)

Somerville College

A prolific novelist, Murdoch taught as a philosophy fellow at St. Anne's after graduation from Somerville. She married fellow author John Bayley, who was a professor at the University.

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Pullman, Philip (October 19, 1946- )

Exeter College

A current resident of Oxford, Pullman studied English at Exeter. He returned to Oxford after graduation, teaching in middle schools, and then at Westminster College. His best selling trilogy, His Dark Materials, is partly set in a ficticious college (Jordan) which is based on Exeter.

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RuskinRuskin, John (February 8, 1819 - January 20, 1900)

Christ Church

Ruskin was an English author, poet and artist, although he was more famous for his work as an art critic. Ruskin College of Drawing, on High Street, was named after him. Although it is not formally connected to Oxford University, it does have close links with it.

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Shelley, P.B. (August 4, 1792 - July 8, 1822)

University College

One of the major English Romantic poets, Shelley's works include Ozymandias, Ode to the West Wind, To a Skylark, and The Masque of Anarchy. Shelley was expelled from Oxford after only one year after he published his pamphlet The Necessity of Atheism. He refused to recant his views in order to be reinstated.

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Smith, Adam (June 5, 1723 - July 17, 1790)

Balliol College

Smith, author of Wealth of Nations, is widely regarded as the founder of modern economics. Leaving his native Scotland in 1740, Smith studied as an undergraduate at Balliol College.

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Tolkien, J.R.R. (January 3, 1892 - September 2, 1973)

Merton College

A professor at Merton College, Tolkien first shared his writing of The Hobbit as member of the Inklings - a regular group of writers (including C.S. Lewis and Charles Williams) that met weekly to discuss their works (often at the Eagle & Child pub on St. Giles'). He went on to achieve fame as the author of The Lord Of The Rings.

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Oscar WildeWilde, Oscar (October 16, 1854 - November 30, 1900)

Magdalen College

Wilde was a playwright, novelist, poet, and short story writer who was widely known for his barbed and clever wit. Wilde called Oxford 'The capital of romance' and was later imprisoned for homosexuality after falling for another Magdalen student whom he met through his cousin, the poet Lionel Johnson.

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Read more about Literary Oxford in this great article