Longing to Become a Wiser Man than Before

(The day before the trip: Packing and imagining what it will be like…)Image

I got a strange feeling when school was over for the Spring Semester and Summer came. I’ve gotten the same feeling each time after the Spring Semester at State. The reason is that I climb a mountain all semester, and it reaches its peak once you take your last final: the last day of work is done! However, afterwards, there is no gradual decrease; rather, it is a tremendous drop-off, like a 90 degree cliff. The last week of school one studies for finals incessantly, normally pulling a few all-nighters along the way, and then, all of a sudden, once the final exam is over, there is nothing left to do. Time goes from seeming like a particle of dust that is fading before your eyes all to quickly to seeming like it is the whole cosmos itself and you do not know exactly what to do with so much of it all at once. I went home (Vicksburg, MS) for two weeks with nothing to do, waiting to travel to Europe for six weeks as I study at the University of Oxford.

As I reflected on how to capture the magnitude of this trip (this is my first time going overseas), I decided that a blog would be a great way to record these memories. Many great writers have recorded their travels through letters. This semester in class I read a few letters by the great American writer, Henry James. He wrote a letter to his brother, the great American psychologist, William James, from Rome on October 30, 1869. The title the editors of the The Portable Henry James gave the letter was “On the Grand Tour,” hence the name of my blog — On the Grand Tour: Studying at the University of Oxford. It is going to be an amazing time. I have traveled quite a bit around America, but never anywhere else outside The United States of America.

James is famous for his “travel essays,” and I think it would be fitting to quote him here. In this excerpt, he is raving about how great Rome is: “From midday to dusk I have been roaming the streets. Que vous en dirai-je? At last–for the first time–I live! It beats everything: it leaves the Rome of your fancy–your education–nowhere. It makes Venice–Florence–OXFORD (all caps added because I think it is neat that he even mentioned the city that I will be living in!)–London–seem like cities of pasteboard. I went reeling and moaning thro’ the streets, in a fever of enjoyment…. The effect is something indescribable. For the first time I know what the picturesque is.”

I am looking forward to being able to say the same thing as Henry James. For me, it might not be Rome. It might be Pisa (I’ve always been inordinately intrigued with the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and have always wanted to go there), or it might be Paris, London, and of course, Oxford (where I will be living and studying). The “where” is not as important as the feeling when it actually comes. Obviously, as evident by these comments, I plan on traveling around Europe as much as possible. I mean, why not? Why stay in Oxford the whole time? I’ve learned so much about myself and life in general each time I’ve traveled to different regions of America, and I cannot imagine how much more I will learn when I go to Europe. I will conclude with another from excerpt from Henry James: “In fine I’ve seen Rome, and I shall go to bed a wiser man than I last rose–yesterday morning.” Above all, I hope to be able to say the same.


Field Brown


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