The Adventures of Mr Verdant Green, an Oxford freshman first appeared in serialized form in the Illustrated London News in 1851, then in book-form in 1852. The author, Edward Bradley, wrote under the pseudonym of Cuthbert Bede.
No other book of its genre – the Adventures sold 100,000 copies in twenty years – was as powerful in fixing in the public mind the Oxbridge ideal of English education. The Adventures ignored the excesses of student life, the staple fare of so many accounts of university stories, and instead portrayed an Oxford where the official intellectual and moral influences were minimal, but where the genius loci and student interaction were the main forces for good.
Early in the story a clergyman advises his friend: ‘It is formation of character that I regard as one of the greatest of the many great ends of a university system; and if for this reason alone, I should advise you to send your future country squire to college.’ Having explained how the informal side of Oxford works, the clergyman stresses that while the advantages of social education ‘come in secondary ways, and possess the mind almost imperceptibly, yet they are of primary importance in the formation of character, and may mould it into the more perfect man’.