11 March 2020

Hand-shaking in Oxford

The onset of the Chinese Plague has engendered a feeling that shaking hands is a gracious gesture which may not be without its implications for the transmission of (what PF would call) Biodiversity.
I imagine there are readers who are not sorry to be spared the Sign of Peace, whether in the Liturgy or in social intercourse.

I am reminded of two (separate) passages in Gaudy Night (Dorothy Sayers, 1935).

(1) He got up and held out a hand.
"Peter ... what are you thinking about? One doesn't shake hands at Oxford."
"The elephant never forgets." He kissed her fingers gently. "I have brought my formal cosmopolitan courtesy with me ..."

(2) "I'll come and die upon the barricades."
"I think you would," said Miss Chilperic, astonishingly, and, in defiance of tradition, gave him her hand.

There can be few universities about which so much fiction  ... and even a little fact ... has been written ... can anybody remember any other allusions to such a 'tradition'?


Oliver Nicholson said...

I recall a distinguished professor of German complaining that when he was elected to a fellowship at an Oxford college in the early 1960s he was introduced to a rather punctilious mediaevalist and, on proffering his hand, he was told "We don't shake hands in Oxford".
The reason generally given (as with the even odder and surely now disused Cambridge custom of not greeting colleagues in the street) was that you met the same people so often that greeting them formally became absurd.

vetusta ecclesia said...

Is it not also a convention that barristers do not shake hands?