The Warden of Wadham

Maurice Bowra was the Warden of Wadham College, Oxford from 1938 to 1970. I once saw him in the pub nearest to Wadham, The King’s Arms. I was going to say simply that I once saw him in the King’s Arms, but that would be, in a way, to out-Bowra Bowra.

Bowra was a distinguished classical scholar, but he is also remembered for his ambiguous sexuality and a handful of witty quotations, some of which derive from it. Here’s a selection:

  • I am a man more dined against than dining.
  • Buggery was invented to fill that awkward hour between evensong and cocktails.
  • With one or two exceptions, colleges expect their players of games to be reasonably literate.
  • Splendid couple—slept with both of them (on hearing of the engagement of two of his friends).
  • Buggers can’t be choosers (explaining his engagement, later called off, to a plain girl).
  • I don’t know about you, gentlemen, but in Oxford I, at least, am known by my face (on covering his head, rather than his middle, when a punt-load of ladies mistakenly entered the stretch of the River Cherwell reserved for male naturists, known as Parson’s Pleasure).


Filed under Literature

2 responses to “The Warden of Wadham

  1. In re the last: In Larry Niven’s Known Space universe, the planet Gummidgy has a super-tropical climate and strong UV, so people darken their skin artificially (with melanin pills) and walk around naked except for wraparound sunglasses. As a result, one of the male characters cracks wise that nobody knows you on Gummidgy except the women. (This was before gay sexuality could be openly mentioned in American science fiction.)


  2. Thank you, John. I am not a reader of science fiction, I fear, but I am glad to hear that humour is not entirely absent in the genre.


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