Asterisk denotes entries on real places.
There is a constant emphasis on the world within the world: the university as a second city within the city; the college within the university; and, finally, at Judas College, the hidden quadrangle, the Salt Cellar, within the college itself. There is no world portrayed outside the city: The closest the reader comes to that is at Oxford railway station, which acts as a symbol of arrival and departure, or the river, which flows out of Oxford. All this is embedded within an iconic vision of Oxford, the “city of dreaming spires.” This provides a neat geographical metaphor for the self-absorption shown in various ways by the primary characters, each of whom is too self-contained to be able to engage properly with the world at large.
Judas College. Fictional Oxford college that lies somewhere beyond Broad Street. Zuleika Dobson’s connection to Oxford is through her grandfather, the warden of this college. Founded by Christopher Whitrid Knight, in the reign of Henry VI, its dedication to the disciple who betrayed Jesus could only belong to a fictional college. Most Oxford colleges have a reputation of one kind or another, and Beerbohm here implies that Judas is the least worthy of colleges. Like most colleges, Judas is a self-contained world, but Beerbohm suggests that even by Oxford standards it is remote and cites an episode of its history when sixty armed men hid within Salt Cellar, its most secret quadrangle, for a month before their presence was betrayed by the warden of that time. The current warden of Judas is thoroughly unworldly and remains mostly aloof, even from the life of his own college.
Zuleika lives in the warden’s lodgings during her stay at Oxford, further underlining her family’s dislocation from the university, the town, and the town’s residents. The reader sees her in her room, leading a fairy-tale existence in which she is waited on, hand and foot, by her maid, while all her possessions, however inappropriately, are ornamented with jewels. The duke of Dorset, a distinguished member of the college, chooses to live in ordinary lodgings in Broad Street, in the belief that this brings him into closer contact with the “town,” but in truth, he is no closer to the townsfolk than he would be if he lived at the college, as he is waited on by the landlady, Mrs. Batch, and her daughter Katie, in exactly the same way as he would be looked after at the college. His contact with the city is limited to dealing with tradesmen. Otherwise the reader encounters him in the streets only in the company of other students.
*River Thames (tehmz). England’s longest river, which runs through Oxford. The climax of the novel takes place on the Thames during rowing competitions. It is here that Oxford’s students throw themselves into the river at the end of the final race, emulating the duke of Dorset, who has sworn to drown himself for love of Zuleika. The river provides a symbolic and literal means of escape from Oxford and, by extension, life itself, the two having been equated throughout the novel, particularly in a scene earlier in the novel, when the duke, temporarily “sent down” from Oxford, is accompanied to the railway station by a mock-funeral procession (a not-uncommon practice in Oxford until just after World War II).