Tenure or no tenure: a case from 1972

O'Donoghue Manitoba pic.

‘Publish or perish ‘ has long been an accept truism among academics; those University staff  hoping for promotion will only achieve it if they are judged to have published a sufficient amount of published research to justify it. After all, university teachers are expected to researchas well as teach.

There must be many examples of University teachers failing to progress along the road towards a professorship, but your Jotter can think of two glaring cases. At my own University a certain expert in textual criticism, who was taken on by the department of English on the strength of a degree and a B. Litt in English , from Oxford University and who proved to be a popular teacher among his students ( his classes on bibliography and his lectures on Bob Dylan as a poet were highly appreciated) , failed to climb the greasy pole of academic promotion mainly because he published little or anything throughout his forty or so years in the department. He began as a Lecturer and retired (I believe) as one.

Another better known example was Monica Jones, the lover of Philip Larkin, who while a Lecturer in English at the University Of Leicester, failed to publish a single research paper or book, although she was regarded as a well-respected teacher with a particular interest in Sir Walter Scott. While her colleagues were promoted she remained firmly ensconced in the position as Lecturer, and retired holding that post. In her case, it wasn’t a lack of energy or intellectual capabilities that held her back. Like Larkin she left Oxford with a first class degree in English, but like Larkin, who in .’Vers de Societe’ resented having to ask an ‘ ass about  his fool research ‘, didn’t see any point in publishing learned papers or books within her field. She preferred teaching, and according to those who attended her lectures and classes, was a gifted communicator. Continue reading

Hazing, rushing and dinging: an Englishman’s impressions of American student life in the early 1950s. Part 2

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…Co-eds, the girls from Cornell itself, are not allowed to enter the house unless there are chaperones—a married couple over 25—ant the house is registered for a week-end party so that the bar may be opened…At some universities the fraternities have “ house mothers “ to preserve civilisation and to prevent Army table-manners from creeping in…The sororities  are few in number, and they have a more efficient methods of choosing new members …I have been told that in some sororities, a girl who lacks a date for an important week-end can lose much of her prestige wit the rest of the house; and it would seem that the systemic discussion of dates, which the sororities tend to encourage, contributes something to the perfect self-assurance of the American collage girl, which is even more effective that the traditional reserve of the English woman as a barrier to  close acquaintance.



The college dating system is an equally interesting phenomenon. In modern America it has developed into as formal a code of behaviour as the rules of medieval chivalry and the French Courts of Love …To get a Saturday date in America it was preferable to telephone the girl  on the Monday before. It appeared that it would be impolitic move to telephone on the Friday, even if hte girl has no previous engagement for Saturday she will probably refuse, to avoid the loss of prestige which would result from  being without a date before Friday. Dating activities are limited by convention—the cinema and drinks afterwards, visits to a roadhouse, fraternity parties, or dances—and are usually fairly expensive…The formalisation of dating behaviour tends to restrict the norm of conservation to small talk, and since one may sometimes date a girl only once, there is no chance of  any more than the most standardised small talk. There is the occasional dissatisfaction with this system, particularly the “ blind “ ,. or prearranged dates, where the parties are unknown to each other; the men complain of having to produce the same stereotyped conversation  with yet another first date, and the girls of having to endure the standardised  advances of another man she knows very little about…




I should perhaps add that  the impressions recorded here are based mainly on a university which is privately endowed, among he top ten colleges of the Eastern states, and whose fees of $600 – 700 are more than $100 higher than many other comparable non-state universities in America; so that the type of student and methods of teaching may differ considerably from some of the state colleges and from the enormous universities of the Midwest…And let me add finally…that the generosity of the Americans outdoes that of any other nation I know…that American workers seem to have more ideas and certainly more initiative than most of their European counterparts; and there is an unquenchable interest here in foreigners, which gives rise to most elaborate arrangements for their welfare, and which contrasts strongly with the zenophobia generally found in Britain, even in a supposedly cosmopolitan place as London….

R. M. Healey

Hazing, rushing and dinging: an Englishman’s impressions of American student life in the early 1950s. Part 1

Jot 101 Cornell 1950s pic


Writing in the Spring 1952 issue of New Phineas, the magazine of University College, London, Gordon Snow, who spent a year at Cornell (above), was pleasantly surprised at what he found there.


The academic syllabus.


My first impression…was one of surprise at the liberty and freedom which the students were given in choosing their courses; it seemed as if there was none of the overspecialisation that some of the honours courses in England tend to fall into…Second impressions, however, revealed that defects did exist in the system; many of the arts courses are run to cater in part for agriculture or science or hotel-school students, who have to fulfil a certain number of requirements in the liberal arts, and , who consequently, may have an interest in the theory of a liberal education but very little enthusiasm in practice for their particular requirements. As a result, there is not a great deal of homogeneity in purpose, or interest in the very large arts lecture classes , and many of the students who have come to college for vocational training pure and simple find the arts courses irksome. Since there students may be as much of two-thirds of the class, the lectures have to be scaled down to their needs: hence the universal and horrifying use of enormous anthologies for particular periods of literature, expensive as all American books are, and with up to 1,400 pages in double columns of fine print. My own anthology consists of representative selections from American poetry and prose, from Captain John Smith to Ernest Hemingway, and the lecture has to eat his way at high pressure, through major and minor writers, three times a week, making his own selections for his students from among the selections in the book, and to a large extent predigesting critical reactions to them. Independent  thought is not inhibited my this method of teaching, since I have come across many examples of it already, but it can scarcely said to be encouraged. To this extent, and to the extent that they continue a no-specialised study of several subjects, American colleges are a smooth continuation of  the high schools and their methods; the students are given a very thorough grounding in he subjects taken at English grammar schools , wit the benefit of the maturer mind which the college student brings to them, and since there are as many Americans who go to college —or at lead begin college—as reach the Sixth Form of English schools, the universities here serve their purpose, a very different one from the English universities, well enough… Continue reading

All Souls Stories by AL Rowse

by Lady Ottoline Morrell, vintage snapshot print, June 1926

A L Rowse (centre), Roger Makins and Evelyn Baring  photographed in 1926 by Lady Ottoline Morrell,

We found some pages cut out from an undated issue of The Contemporary Reviewin the Jot 101 archive the other day. These seven pages contain an article by A. L. Rowse entitled ‘All Souls Stories’, and like so many of the historian’s writings on his old college, mix amusing gossip with valuable reflections on academic bad behaviour.


All Souls, as Rowse admits, has always aroused curiosity and astonishment from outsiders, including those from the University itself.  Why are some graduate contenders elected and others rejected? Is success in a formal examination the sole route to a life fellowship? What part did the legendary cherry stone problem play in the process? If fellows are the crème de la crème of academic excellence at the University and beyond it, why is it that some Fellows are evidently not of this calibre ?

Rowse gives an example of one particular Fellow whose behaviour suggested that he was not up to the job, Sir ( later Viscount) John Simon. For some reason this nitwit managed to be appointed Home Secretary, Foreign Secretary, Chancellor of the Exchequer and Lord Chancellor, while being ‘ not much good’ in any of these posts, according to Rowse, who obviously knew the man well enough to make this judgment. Rowse recalls him addressing the Junior Fellows in an attempt at bonhomie, while managing to get their names all wrong. Then there was the time that the newly married Simon and his wife arrived at what they thought was the home of Lord Courtney, a pro-Boer politician, only to find that they had come to the home of W.L.Courtney, then editor of The Fortnightly Review. There was also the time that Simon found himself talking in ‘ labourious’ French to the French Ambassador, who turned out to be Frederick Kenyon, Director of the British Museum. Simon, according to Rowse, also made a mess of handling Hitler and Mussolini. Rowse charitably called this incompetence examples of Simon being   ‘ accident prone ‘.Most non-All Souls men would see them as acts of blithering idiocy. Continue reading

The Amateur as English Man of Letters: the salutary case of Edmund Gosse


Edmund Gosse by John Singer Sargent

There must be very few examples of literary men who have managed to penetrate the hallowed halls as a professor in one of the greatest universities of the world—the University of Cambridge, no less—without a degree. The brilliant orientalist, Samuel Lee, a former carpenter of humble background who taught himself Hebrew, Arabic and a dozen other languages in his spare time while working as a lowly-paid schoolteacher, was one. Lee was appointed Professor of Arabic at Cambridge in the early nineteenth century, having already distinguished himself as an independent scholar, and had to be granted a special MA through an act of parliament before he could take up his post. The literary odds and ends man Edmund Gosse, whose famous father, the naturalist Philip Gosse  had seen to it that the Holy Bible had been his principle reading matter as a child,  was another. These are two rarities. It’s hard to recall any other contenders in the modern era.


Back in those mid Victorian days, when early advancement in the arena of learning sometimes began with a junior post in some national cultural institution, such as a national library or a museum, Edmund Gosse was given the post of library cataloguer at the British Museum on the strength of a certain verbal facility and ‘a working knowledge of Italian, French and German’. Today, as well as a good degree from a good university, candidates for an equivalent post in the British Library would probably need a diploma in librarianship or in archive administration plus a few years of practical experience. He or she might even need to have passed the dreaded Civil Service Examination.


No such problem for the young Edmund Gosse. In 1866 he breezed at the tender age of seventeen into his cushy ‘opening’ worth £90 a year thanks to the ‘influence ‘of the novelist and cleric Charles Kingsley, a friend of his father. His literary colleagues at the Museum included Richard Garnett, who became a fixture in the Library, the poet Arthur O’ Shaughnessy and the exotic Theo Marzials, later to become a favourite poet of John Betjeman. To his credit, Gosse did not rest on his laurels. Perhaps recognising that he had had a fortunate start to a literary life for someone with no formal qualifications, he worked hard on the two languages—Danish and Swedish– that he guessed might help him progress. Continue reading

I once met E.M. Forster

IMG_1569Found among the papers of the mathematician Norman Routledge (1928-2013) this affectionate memoir of E.M. Forster. Routledge  had known Forster in the 1950s when he was a Fellow at King’s College, Cambridge. He went on to become a distinguished  teacher of mathematics and was a close friend of Alan Turing, inheriting some of his books. The second half of his working  life was spent teaching maths at Eton. These notes were probably for a talk he gave to the boys there (mid 1960s) with a sound recording of Forster talking (probably this piece from YouTube) and some reading from his books. The notes are written on the back of the maths  homework of one Hope-Jones minor…

I wish I was going to tell you about a great hero- figure, spouting brilliant and amusing things, and combining an amazing literary  fertility (an earth-shaking novel every year) with great and noble deeds -what should they be? – fighting injustice and involved in passionate love affairs? But he is none of these.

He happens to have lived since the war in the college, Kings, where I was an undergraduate, and so one would occasionally meet him on social occasions. He’s rather non-descript in appearance – has a moustache and rather dowdy clothes and speaks very little but listens a lot. Very gentle eyes. Is greatly loved by all who know him– has indeed the air of always having been loved without having had to strive for it. Can be very amusing if he wishes, but you have to listen carefully– I’ve seen people quite fail to notice that he has been making fun of them. Continue reading

The £10 a year Professor—-academic privations in post WW1 Austria

When the Austro-Hungarian empire was dissolved following the end of World War One the new nation of Austria came into being. The economic consequences for this country was a drastic devaluation of the krone (or Crown) and inevitable hyperinflation. The following short article in the December 1921 issue of the University College Magazine is a chilling report of the privations suffered by academics in Austria and other countries in central Europe:

As a result of the privations which they had to undergo, ten per cent of the professors in Austria died between1918 – 20. Consumption is usually the first symptom---and that means the end is not very far off when there are no supplies of fresh milk and nourishing food, with nothing but a chilly room in the heart of winter, and no fire in the grate.
On October 15th 1921, one tin of milk in Vienna cost kr. 240, and today, since the appalling crash of the krone, probably costs 500 at least. A professor’s weekly salary therefore would be entirely expended on the purchase of three tins of milk.
The case of a Professor of Egyptology---met personally by the present writer in Vienna—is typical of many. He was working many hours every day as a clerk in the tramway office. Imagine---and pardon the suggestion—Professor Flinders Petrie filling up returns of ‘bus tickets, at the headquarters of the L.G.O.C, and being proud to have obtained such dignified work.
Eighty to 120 thousand kronen is the average salary of a professor. At present exchange rates this represents a maximum of £10 a year.
Try to imagine a professor in the University of London living on £10 a year!!
And the lot of a student is by no means brighter.2,000 kronen, the average monthly income of about 7,000 Austrian students will now buy 3s 6d, or a pound.
But there is fortunately a happier side to this otherwise gloomy picture.
The Universities of twenty-nine different countries banded themselves together last year to save, in so far as they could, the thousands of students and professors in the Universities of Central Europe. The £150,000 raised “fulfilled a noble purpose”, as Sir Maurice de Bunsen, former British Ambassador in Vienna wrote, “in keeping alight the torch of learning in countries where its brilliancy has been overshadowed by the national disaster.”
Let us all unite again this year and continue this splendid work.
Complete guarantees have now been obtained which warrant us starting relief work immediately in the Russian Universities. Your help is needed to make this possible.

John C Felgate

From the L.R. Reeve* collection this piece about a distinguished teacher written in about 1971/2. Can find nothing about him online but Reeve's piece may revive memories.


John C. Felgate I find now lives in Australia. I wonder why. Has he a son or daughter, brother or sister already out there who made him decide to leave his numerous friends, acquaintances and relatives in England where he was so popular and respected?
I doubt whether I shall ever know. That question, however, is not very significant. What is important to me is the fact that the memory of John (rarely Called Jack) always brings to mind many happy days together at dinners, reunions, conferences, not to mention one afternoon some years ago when he called unexpectedly at my bungalow in Kingskerswell, and left a note informing me where I could locate him at Newton Abbot. I found him, and that reminiscent happy evening was the last time we met.
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Sir Fred Mander

From the Reeve* collection this study of  Sir Frederick Mander (1883 -1964) headmaster and trade unionist and the General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) from 1931 to 1947. He was an important figure in British educational history but there is no photo of him available. He may be in this photo of members of the National Association of Head Teachers taken in Leamington Spa in the 1950s. Teachers are not movie stars and most searches bring up a British moustachioed character actor called Miles Mander who was born in 1884…Reeve is good on detail, especially speaking style - it is useful to know that occasionally Sir Fred 'murmured at the end of a sentence.'


The late Sir Fred Mander was at one time a highly successful headmaster in Luton. During that period of his life he was popular with children, staff and parents; the school was throbbing with life and happiness, and when he resigned to labour in a wider sphere, Luton lost a splendid headmaster, although he still continued to exert a great influence in other branches of life in his own town.
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Caroline Graveson of Goldsmiths’ College

From the L.R. Reeve collection - this worthy piece about Caroline Graveson of Goldsmiths’ College. She is commemorated at their library site which is where the photo comes from (with much thanks). Her dates are not given but she started there in 1905. Reeve, as usual addresses the subjects speaking skills ('…her elocution was perfect…majestic'.)


It would be very unlikely to hear of even one ex-student, trained at Goldsmiths’ College, London, when Miss Graveson was the Vice-Principal, who would speak disparagingly of one of the most gracious educationalists of her long era and an illustrious member of the Training College Association.
  For Miss Graveson was one of those exceptional women whose integrity, judgment, fairness, and dignity were suggested immediately one met her, and one always felt that any of her interpretations was likely to be the right one.
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D.W. Brogan

© National Portrait Gallery, London

From the Reeve* collection. D.W. Brogan's books have become somewhat hard to sell but he is here recalled as a great lecturer by a connoisseur of lecturers (and Dons.)


From what I had read and heard I hoped to see an attractive man, when I attended a lecture at King’s College, in London. I was not disappointed. He must be one of the most interesting lecturers in Cambridge; and his memory, particularly concerning American history is certainly uncanny: a phenomenon which must have been apparent to millions of people who have heard his ready responses to questions from America which surprised the American questioner, who had evidently expected to puzzle the Cambridge don with unusual questions.
  Few at the lecture had seen him previously; and his fresh complexion, sturdy body, unostentatious delivery and pleasing voice, was that of a cultured countryman. The audience of seventy were rewarded by an enjoyable hour of lecture and discussion. I can remember a few meetings as enjoyable, but we were learning something new in the best possible environment, and I dare not hope to enjoy a happier afternoon.
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Arthur Augustus Tilley francophile and academic

Found in a copy of The Romantic Movement in French Literature - Traced By a Series of Texts (C.U.P. 1924) this obituary of A.A. Tilley by his co-author H.F. Stewart - also a distinguished Cambridge academic and francophile, but so far rather neglected on the web. It appeared in The Cambridge Review 6/3/1943. It is a model of its kind and gives a glimpse into a vanished world..


Arthur Augustus Tilley - December 1, 1851 - December 4, 1942.No one who visited Arthur Tilley in the evening of his long life but must have felt himself standing on hallowed ground, in the presence of a veteran who, having fulfilled his course, was quietly, serenely, awaiting his call. "Le vent de l'éternité le frappait au front." Not that there was anything pietistic about his conversation. He would speak with grave simplicity of things deep and high, and pass easily to current events upon which he commented with shrewdness and vigour, or to the sometimes affectionate, sometimes caustic, review of men and their doings in the past. And what a range, and how varied, his memory covered! He was the favourite nephew of Anthony Trollope, whom as a boy he adored and as a mature critic he greatly admired. He had known everyone worth knowing i the University for 70 years, and his recollections were sometimes starling. A propos of a picture card of the Puy de Dôme he said to me the last time I saw him, "I took Bradshaw up there; I shouldn't have done so if I had known his heart was bad."

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The Miseries of Modern Life

Miseries of Travel (Rowlandson 1806)

In 1806 a witty Oxford don called James Beresford published The Miseries of Human Life, or The last Groans of Timothy Testy and Samuel Sensitive, in which a pair of curmudgeons railed against all the 'injuries, insults, disappointments and treacheries of everyday life'.Today they would probably be diagnosed with clinical depression, but Bereford’s book turned out to be a huge best-seller, proving that black humour is always popular in the UK. Indeed, rarely has mental illness been a source of such razor –sharp observations as those that emerged from the mouths of these Regency Victor Meldrews.

Some of the wit directed at miseries associated with coachmen, ostlers and taverns is very much of its time, but much of it has remained timeless and can still raise a smile today. I particularly like the following examples from their observations on ‘ Miseries of the Table ‘

After eating mushrooms—the lively interest you take in the debate that accidentally follows on the question ‘whether they were of the right sort ?’

Nicholas 'Horse Whisperer' Evans and his disastrous Scottish mushrooming party of a few years ago, gravely ill after consuming specimens of cortinarius speciosissimus, might wince at this one.

Or what about this ?

On taking your dinner from an a-la-mode beef house –the relish of your favourite dish disturbed by the perpetual recurrence of a doubt whether the animal you are feeding on was a native of the stall or of the stable

Seemingly, horse meat was ending up in fast food outlets even in Regency times!

To be continued… [RR]