He did. He researched her. Someone told him that she had a special interest in John Milton. It did not take long to discover the century to which this man belonged. A third-year literature student in Beard’s college who owed him a favor (for procuring tickets to a Cream concert) gave him an hour on Milton, what to read, what to think. He read “Comus” and was astounded by its silliness. He read through “Lycidas,” “Samson Agonistes,” and “Il Penseroso”— stilted and rather prissy in parts, he thought. He fared better with “Paradise Lost” and, like many before him, preferred Satan’s party to God’s. He, Beard, that is, memorized passages that appeared to him intelligent and especially sonorous. He read a biography, and four essays that he had been told were pivotal. The reading took him one long week. He came close to being thrown out of an antiquarian bookshop in the Turl when he casually asked for a first edition of “Paradise Lost.” He tracked down a kindly tutor who knew about buying old books and confided to him that he wanted to impress a girl with a certain kind of present, and was directed to a bookshop in Covent Garden where he spent half a term’s money on an eighteenth-century edition of “Areopagitica.” When he speed-read it on the train back to Oxford, one of the pages cracked in two. He repaired it with Sellotape.