The poet T.S. Eliot. The polo star Tommy Hitchcock. F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. This diverse group of Americans came to Oxford in the first quarter of the twentieth century—the Jazz Age—when the Rhodes Scholar program had just begun and the Great War had enveloped much of Europe. Scott Fitzgerald created his most memorable character—Jay Gatsby, the Oxford man in the pink suit—shortly after his and Zelda’s visit to Oxford. Fitzgerald’s creation is a cultural reflection of the aspirations of many Americans who came to the University of Oxford seeking beauty, wisdom, and social connections.
Beginning in 1904, when the first American Rhodes Scholars arrived in Oxford, this book chronicles the experiences of Americans in Oxford through the Great War and the years of recovery to 1929, the end of Prohibition and the beginning of the Great Depression. This period is interpreted through the pages of The Great Gatsby, producing a vivid cultural history. It shows just how much Fitzgerald, the quintessential American modernist author, owes a debt to the medieval, the Romantic, and the European historical tradition. Archival material covering the first American Rhodes Scholars who came to Oxford during Trinity Term 1919—when Jay Gatsby claims he studied at Oxford—enables the narrative to illuminate a detailed portrait of what a “historical Gatsby” would have looked like, what he would have experienced at the postwar university, and who he would have encountered around Oxford—an impressive array of artists including Eliot, W.B. Yeats, Virginia Woolf, Aldous Huxley, Evelyn Waugh, Winston Churchill, J.R.R. Tolkien, and C.S. Lewis.
In Foundation, the chronicler of London and of its river, the Thames, takes us from the primeval forests of England's prehistory to the death, in 1509, of the first Tudor king, Henry VII. He guides us from the building of Stonehenge to the founding of the two great glories of medieval England: common law and the cathedrals. He shows us glimpses of the country's most distant past--a Neolithic stirrup found in a grave, a Roman fort, a Saxon tomb, a medieval manor house--and describes in rich prose the successive waves of invaders who made England English, despite being themselves Roman, Viking, Saxon, or Norman French.
With his extraordinary skill for evoking time and place and his acute eye for the telling detail, Ackroyd recounts the story of warring kings, of civil strife, and foreign wars. But he also gives us a vivid sense of how England's early people lived: the homes they built, the clothes the wore, the food they ate, even the jokes they told. All are brought vividly to life in this history of England through the narrative mastery of one of Britain's finest writers.