The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XIV. The Victorian Age, Part Two.

V. University Journalism

§ 6. The Isis

As The Cambridge Review was supplemented by The Granta, The Isis was started in 1892 as a light-hearted and flippant variant on the sobriety of The Oxford Magazine. A prominent feature in the paper is the series of “Isis Idols” with illustrations.

Of other Oxford magazines of the nineteenth century, The Oxford Critic and University Magazine (1857), conducted chiefly by undergraduates, was the first to shake off the lumbering verbosity which came from Johnson and survived longer in the universities than elsewhere. Its criticism was occasionally smart, but its verse lacked distinction. The Oxford Spectator of Copleston and Nolan (1868), in shape and size like Addison’s famous periodical, is still remembered as a deserved success. It was humorous on esoteric subjects like Oxford philosophy, but, also, was capable of seizing the charm of Oxford in such a passage as this:

  • When I look back to my own experience, I find one scene, of all Oxford, most deeply engraved upon “the mindful tablets of my soul.” And yet not a scene, but a fairy compound of smell and sound, and sight and thought. The wonderful scent of the meadow air just above Iffley, on a hot May evening, and the gay colours of twenty boats along the shore, the poles all stretched out from the bank to set the boats clear, and the sonorous cries of “ten seconds more,” all down from the green barge to the lasher. And yet that unrivalled moment is only typical of all the term; the various elements of beauty and pleasure are concentrated there.