I continue with the long letter at the beginning of the vacation, continuing with a description of elections for the Oxford Union, which took up much of my time and attention during this period. The President I mention was Philip McDonagh who became an Irish diplomat as did his younger brother Bobby, who had a meteoric rise in the Union – which rather put paid to slow starters of the previous year, principally myself.

I also describe here the second dinner party I enjoyed in the Dean’s rooms, this involving the reading of ‘Hay Fever’, which was a hoot. Interestingly, the girl he met in Cyprus was a school friend of Aruna Gooneratne.

And though I was uncharacteristically modest about it in the letter, I do think the Master’s comment at collections suggests I had made a mark of sorts.

The pictures are of the Master, Lord Redcliffe-Maud, the Tutor for Admissions who was later Master, John Alberry, Michael Soole as he was then, and the McDonagh brothers in their later distinguished careers.

From the city of aquatint 23

9 December continued

Unfortunately the College did not do as well as I’d hope, but Michael my chief protégé did get on Treasurer’s Committee, and the candidates for high office whom the College supported did succeed. The present President, whom we also support, was having a vast fight against the majority of the Standing Committee, but he won out, and had a party last Thursday to celebrate – in the course of which I had a drunken conversation with C.P. Snow – besides doing other things like being fed black coffee with a spoon in the President’s rooms at Balliol and being guided to the gate by our faction’s chief female whom I narrowly prevented from ordering me a taxi, before staggering home and being violently sick all over my bed, to my scout’s disappointment and, I think, secret admiration since the last occupant of the room did the same and he got a first and also came from Eton. I hasten to add, as an extenuating circumstance, that the port and whiskey at the Union had been preceded by champagne and whiskey simultaneously at my neighbour’s birthday party – and cider before dinner at a Labour Club plotting session. Incidentally, after my Union success, the lunatic fringe has elected me to the standing committee of the Elections Society, founded this term by all those who failed to get elected to anything, for the purpose of rigging all future elections of any society whatsoever. I hope for assistance at our JCR elections, when I shall be opposed by a Rugby Club heavy, who’ll probably win.

The Dean held a party last week for the girl who prevented his holiday to Cyprus this term from being a complete horror, even though he has decided never to go abroad again. Unfortunately, though a 2nd year Classicist, she’s on the wrong side at the Union. Still, the evening was superb, everyone being slightly tipsy and reading ‘Hay Fever’ and playing consequences with hilarious results, because rather than despite the presence of our Asst College Secretary and the St. Edmund’s Hall Secretary also. Due to there being only eight people, the Dean doubled as the maid and gave a marvellous performance. He’s promised, if his parents don’t mind, to take me to the pantomime with them on Boxing Day – in addition to his grown-up’s party on the 21st, when all the Fellows dance round the College, doing the thing in which you keep going up and down – the College Porter was about to challenge them last year, when he realized who they were.

There’s also going to be an outing, on the 19th itself, to see our Tutor for Admissions’ first play to be publicly performed. A vast bout of cheering should sway the reviewers. This Monday, the Senior Common Room lost their University Challenge match against the JCR, who won the national competition last time – this being the joke conclusion to the whole business. Quite a few of us went up to Manchester, and cheered lustily for the SCR and they were doing rather well, when Tom Parker forgot his Popes, though he still maintains he was right and the quiz-master wrong. The Dean also made a mistake about a Yarborough, and my Tutor failed to spot a tricky question about the Aeneid, but they are said to have fared best of all the Dons who ever took part.

I go tomorrow for a few days to Charles’ – the person I went to last year – to relax from this hectic life and return on the Wednesday to take up residence permanently till Mods – unless I feel terribly bored and rush off to the Gooneratnes for a day or two. The College has already started emptying quickly, since everyone except those doing exams and foreigners have to be out by tomorrow, though, or because, the interview candidates start pouring in on the Monday.

I have decided though to ignore them and start cramming the moment I get back – no one seems to believe I will but it shall be done. The Master, incidentally, thanked me at Collections for what I’ve done for the College, but I believe that was just a reference to the Union success – much as I’d like to think it was my helpful manner.

The College did have a marvellous success last Tuesday, when the Choir produced ‘The Dream of Gerontius’ in the Town Hall, with a wildly cheering audience – people being heard to remark on the ability of a College that could produce a thing like that – all the other large College concerts in Oxford having been a flop this term, and our Music Scholar being considered the best conductor in Oxford now. Also, both University productions at the Playhouse this term were by Univ men. I sense a desperate attempt to convince myself that this is the best College in the place, but I do believe I’m right.