28 November 2014

A fellow undergraduate

Maria Casares (1922-1996),
star of Cocteau’s Orphée
When I was an undergraduate at Somerville College, Oxford, in the early 1950s, there was a fellow undergraduate called Jane* Smith. She had a strikingly self-possessed manner which made it difficult for people to become familiar with her, and her strong resemblance to Maria Casares, the film actress whose father Santiago Casares Quiroga had been Prime Minister of Spain, was often remarked upon. We spoke a lot to each other for several terms, and you could say we were friends.

We lost touch completely a few years after I left college, and I have never heard from Jane since. I was thinking of her recently, and looked her up on Google, via which I learnt that she had donated money to Somerville College recently, in 2010-11. (The Somerville College Report for Donors of that financial period does not say how much any of the donors contributed.)

Jane is likely to have known decades ago that I was attempting to set up a research institute in an attempt to remedy my position. If she knew that I was still appealing for funding at the time she made her donation to Somerville, she might have considered making a donation to me instead of, or as well as, making one to Somerville.

My education, paid for by the State, left me with no source of income and no way of working my way back into an academic career. Jane had not been exposed to State education, having attended St Paul’s Girls’ School, a prestigious private school in London, where contacts with wealthy families could be made.

One might have expected that college friends would be sympathetic to the needs of their friends (a friend in need is a friend indeed). However, Jane donated to a socially recognised institution but not to mine. Nor have any other of my college friends helped me in my attempt to remedy my destitute position, which I found shocking.

There were a good many people at Somerville who were aware of my impoverished position relative to theirs, but who gave me no financial or other help in response to my appeals, although they probably did make donations to socially approved organisations such as Somerville College or Oxfam.

People seem to think that if someone cannot get support from a socially recognised source, they should not receive any at all.

* Names have been changed.

I appeal for financial and moral support in improving my position. I need people to provide moral support both for fundraising, and as temporary or possibly long-term workers. Those interested should read my post on interns.