04 November 2011

Aged one

Celia Green, aged one
copy of a letter
Thank you very much for finding and sending the scan of the photograph of me aged one. We still have not found the original (all this moving around while being so short-staffed) and I would have been sorry to lose it altogether.
I think my mother realised it showed how precocious I was and kept it hidden, so that we only found it after her death. It was in a box-file in which she had kept other mementos of my precocity, such as the first book which I was found to be able to read, and the introduction which I wrote at age 5 for my arithmetic textbook. I know that she gave the little book away when I was thrown out at the end of the ruined education, and I expect she thought she should accept that I had come to nothing after all, as she had always been told was likely. At the same time she dismantled my cupboard full of chemicals, which was symbolic of my wanting to take a degree in chemistry (externally from London, when I was 14).
We looked for the introduction to the arithmetic textbook, and Charles was disappointed not to be able to see it, but it was not in the box so she must have thrown that away as well, in acknowledgement of the ruin of my life.
Looking back, I am afraid that the tragedy of my life and of my parents’ lives was determined very early on by my father’s willingness to be influenced by educational experts.
My mother said there was one who visited me ‘to see how precocious a child could be’, and in fact I remember someone who sat in the corner of the room when I was about four and asked my father guardedly when I had learnt to read. To which my father replied ‘She could read anything by the time she was four. ’
This ‘expert’ was probably one of those who promoted the view that precocity was meaningless, just an anomaly in early development.