07 January 2015

Recognising that I was exceptional

When I was at Somerville College, Oxford, I got to know Mary Adams of the BBC, who was the mother of a college friend of mine, and hand in glove with Dame Janet Vaughan, the socialist Principal of Somerville, and with Professor Sir Alister Hardy. Upper-class top people of a certain age were those most likely to recognise my exceptionality, although not to give me any help.

Mary Adams OBE seemed to recognise that I was exceptionally advanced in understanding psychology. When, as an undergraduate, I was in a car with her and her daughter X, I was explaining someone’s psychology to her daughter, who had had difficulty trying to communicate something to this someone. I said that people have barriers. Mary Adams said, ‘She won’t understand that. You have to have years of experience to become aware of people’s barriers.’

J.B. Priestley
Some years later, Mary Adams tried to convince Sir George Joy that he should stop X and Y from working with me in my incipient research institute. ‘They are normal girls in their early twenties,’ she told him. ‘They are no match for Celia, who might well be twice their age in psychological understanding.’

Another time, earlier on, she had described me as ‘more man than woman’. J.B. Priestley (whom I met through Mary Adams), after having had a meal out with me and X, said to Mary Adams that I was ‘perceptive in a range that could be sinister,’ as Mary Adams told me later.

She also told me that I had impressed Priestley; he was (she said) afraid of me.