Sunday 18 February 2024

Academic Lubrications

    The complex social and intellectual machinery of Oxford University at this time was lubricated by vast quantities of alcohol. Magdalen was perhaps one of the most bibulous of Oxford’s colleges, with its resident fellows being particularly prone to overindulgence. During 1924 and 1925, the Senior Common Room paid off a debt by selling twenty-four thousand bottles of port, raising the sum of £4,000. Fellows who wagered against each other would calculate their winnings in terms of cases of claret or port, rather than cash. The Senior Common Room butler was once observed carrying a silver tray laden with brandy and cigars through the college cloisters at eleven o’clock one morning. On being asked what he was doing, the butler replied that he was bringing one of the fellows his breakfast. Lewis kept a barrel of beer in his rooms to entertain colleagues and students, but otherwise seems to have avoided the alcoholic excesses of the prewar years.
Alister McGrath, C.S. Lewis—A Life: Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet (Colorado Springs, CO: Tyndale House Publishers, 2013), pp. 115-16.