Depressed in the desolate quads of Oxford

Sydney Spencer had already noted that Oriel College was the worst affected by the enthusiasm of his fellow students to join up. A friend still at Oriel found himself one of just seven students in the second and third year:

October 15th Thursday
Higham is coming here in a moment or two – it is now 2 pm – to go for a walk with me … He is a boy – for he is not quite 21 – who has had an extraordinarily easy & smooth life, an only son, & a much loved one, & a favourite in the neighbourhood from which he comes… He has been at Oriel College two years …Now has come this war. He loses school friends & college friends galore. He returns to Oriel to find that he is one of seven men left who are not freshers. He finds Oriel so desolate that he quotes words of one Sheridan’s to the effect that

one quadrangle is desolate & empty, grass grows on the gravel & owls & bats flit where peals of youthful laughter used to make glad the air.

In fact he, an enforced non-combatant, feels hopelessly lost & did feel when I had tea with him on Sunday hopelessly dumpy. He can’t shake off the feeling of blank loss when he thinks of all the men who are gone off to the front, among them his great chum Leslie Wisely.

Diary of Sydney Spencer, 1914 (D/EX801/12)

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