Rich in anecdote, and displaying all the author’s customary mastery of his subject, The Dons is Noel Annan at his erudite, encyclopedic and entertaining best. The book is a kaleidoscope of wonderful vignettes illustrating the brilliance and eccentricities of some of the greatest figures of British university life. Here is Buckland dropping to his knees to lick the supposed patch of martyr’s blood in an Italian cathedral and remarking, ‘I can tell you what it is; it’s bat’s urine.’ Or the granitic Master of Balliol, A.D. Lindsay, whose riposte on finding himself in a minority of one at a College meeting was, ‘I see we are deadlocked’. But, entertaining as it is, The Dons also has a more serious purpose. No other book has ever explained so precisely – and so amusingly – why the dons matter, and the importance of the role they have played in the shaping of British higher education over the past two centuries.
Reviews of The Dons
A series of sparkling biographical essays on some