The Iffley History Society

Interactive Maps
of Iffley Sites
Where is
The History
of Iffley
About the

Literary Iffley

Iffley Literary References:

Three Men in a Boat (To say nothing of the Dog)', 1889, Jerome K. Jerome (1859-1927). See the end of Chapter 18 for his view of Iffley.
"'Iffley lock and Mill, a mile before you reach Oxford, is a favourite subject with the river-loving brethren of the brush. The real article, however, is rather disappointing, after the pictures. Few things, I have noticed, come quite up to the pictures of them, in this world."

"...Between Iffley and Oxford is the most difficult bit of the river I know. You want to be born on that bit of water, to understand it. I have been over it a fairish number of times, but I have never been able to get the hang of it. The man who could row a straight course from Oxford to Iffley ought to be able to live comfortably, under one roof, with his wife, his mother-in-law, his elder sister, and the old servant who was in the family when he was a baby. First the current drives you on to the right bank, and then on to the left, then it takes you out into the middle, turns you round three times, and carries you up stream again, and always ends by trying to smash you up against a college barge. Of course, as a consequence of this, we got in the way of a good many other boats, during the mile, and they in ours, and, of course, as a consequence of that, a good deal of bad language occurred."

".....Fishing along the river: 'the river abounds in pike, roach, dace, gudgeon and eels, jack and perch. You can see them there in shoals." The text of 'Three Men in a Boat (To say nothing of the Dog)', 1889, Jerome K. Jerome.

Oscar Wilde at Magdalen College, whose boat club was founded in 1859. He gave up rowing after his first term: "I don't see the use of going down backwards to Iffley every evening", he remarked."

James Boswell's Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D, published 1791 (6 years after Johnson's death), Edited Selections, p.1275. The book was an immediate success.
"'Dr. Johnson and I went in Dr. Adams's coach to dine with Mr. Nowell, Principal of St. Mary Hall, at his beautiful villa at Iffley, on the banks of the Isis, about two miles from Oxford.
Dr. Nowell is celebrated for having preached a sermon before the House of Commons, on the 30th of January, 1772, full of high Tory sentiments. Dr. Johnson said to me, "Sir, the Court will be very much to blame, if he is not promoted." I told this to Dr. Nowell; and asserting my humbler, though not less zealous exertions in the same cause, I suggested, that whatever return we might receive, we should still have the consolation of being like Butler's steady and generous Royalist,
"True as the dial to the sun,
Although it be not shone upon."
We were well entertained and very happy at Dr. Nowell's, where was a very agreeable company; and we drank "Church and King" after dinner, with true Tory cordiality."

George Santayana, The Last Puritan, 1935. Here are some extracts relating to Iffley from his novel.
"They were in Grove Lane, leading down to the meadows and the barges, where a boatman would ferry them across. It was Oliver's favourite way of going to Iffley, avoiding the town as much as possible and keeping among the green fields."

"Iffley Court is to let. Take it and turn it into a home for convalescent officers who have no domicile in England, for Canadians, for instance. You can easily put up ten or a dozen; and you needn't live with them; you can live here in the vicarage, and merely keep an eye on the establishment next door."

"You remember those two poplars at the entrance to that little tea garden? …
Poplars, twin sisters, whispering side by side:
The winds unite them, and the winds divide."

"….in the garden of the lock-keeper's cottage, beside the tall upstanding rose-bushes, like little trees,..."

(At the lock-keeper's house) "They've moved to old Mrs. Tubbs. The first little white house, sir, at the turn of the road. You can't miss it, sir, with 'Hawthorne Lodge' written on the gate".…a modernised cottage, clean and comfortable, when once you overcame the oppression of its tiny windows and low ceilings."

."..that evening as he walked back to Oxford by the deserted river…Christmas holidays...He stopped short, and looked back towards Iffley Mill, still faintly visible beneath its poplars." A George Santayana home page, themes & sites, no actual text.