North’s heart was further softened by the dangerous illness of his son Brownlow. He had also read a book that the Duchess had given him. He was determined to change his way of life, deciding to study at Oxford, with a view to becoming a vicar in the Church of England. With great application he went to Magdalen Hall, Oxford, getting his degree in 1842. It must have been difficult for a man of thirty, who had always ignored his studies and who lived only for pleasure. He led an exemplary life at Oxford and had been promised a curacy at Olney, the former parish of John Newton, when the Bishop of Lincoln received an anonymous letter from someone, setting out some of the excesses of North’s life. It seems that he realised that the condition of his heart made him unfit for holy orders. Although he was aware of his sinful nature and wanted to turn to God, he told someone, “I never apprehended Christ, I never accepted him as my sin-bearer and my righteousness,”
His time at Oxford was not wasted. The mental discipline and religious training were very useful to him, and his degree made it possible for the Free Church of Scotland to allow him to preach when the time came.
Magdalen Hall is now called Hertford College.