Two aging professors, one a rhetorician (Stan Johnson), the other a philosopher (Dennis Ryan), will attempt to make their way to Cambridge, England, there to search out the paths trod by Oliver Cromwell and Ludwig Wittgenstein: Cromwell in the 17th century, Wittgenstein in the 20th century. Cromwell’s head is buried in a secret location in the Chapel of Sidney Sussex College. Wittgenstein is buried (presumably his entire body) in Ascension Parish Burial Ground, in the northwest of Cambridge, about a nine minute bus ride from our digs at Sidney Sussex College.

Sidney Sussex College was founded in 1596, making it one of the newer of Cambridge’s 31 colleges, under the terms of a will of Lady Frances Sidney, Countess of Sussex, and aunt of the famous poet, Sir Phillip Sidney. Sidney Sussex was the college of Oliver Cromwell, who came to Sidney Sussex on 23 April 1616, the day William Shakespeare died. He left in 1617 without taking a degree.  That Sidney Sussex was Cromwell’s college, albeit briefly,  accounts, in part I suppose, for his skull being interred at the College. It does not account for why his head was not buried there until 1960. There are reports of sightings of Cromwell’s ghost since the interment of his skull. These are tales to be elaborated on in subsequent postings.

The College has produced five Nobel Prize winners (the fourth highest among Cambridge colleges) and played a critical role in the code-breaking successes at Bletchley Park during WWII. Dennis and I will be housed in ensuite rooms in a relatively new addition to the college, Blundell Court, built in 1967. The building even has a lift (an elevator to you non-Anglophiles). During term, the rooms are occupied by third and fourth year students or possibly graduate students. A factor in our decision to stay at one of the Cambridge colleges rather than at a more conventional hotel, is that the room charge we pay is returned to the students, in part, by way of reducing their boarding costs during term. That seems felicitous. Also not to be discounted is that this will be a sort of return to the halcyon days in the sunshine of our golden youth when we were college students. I haven’t occupied a “dorm” room since 1965 when I was the first resident of 415 Barr House, Ogg Hall, at the University of Wisconsin. That particular iteration of Ogg Hall was demolished a few years ago, but Blundell Hall survives. A later post will discuss the source of the name Blundell as relevant to Blundell Court.

But wait, there’s more. We shall also visit the iconic pubs and shops of Cambridge whose walls could tell tales too. We shall, as best we can, ferret out their stories and share them with you, gentle reader, if indeed there be any—tales or gentle readers.

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