From the city of aquatint 28

This letter records a tragedy, the first I had to face when the cousin I had stayed with when I got to England, Clary Abeywardene, lost her husband Hector. I got the news of his heart attack just when Mods started, so I could not go down, and he suffered another and was dead by the time I got there. I think I was of use, despite my recording a detachment that I now regret.

But I also record here the continuation of intense activity despite having to study for Mods, and the range of entertainment the College provided amongst its less than five hundred members.  The pictures are of the Tolkien Society, also known as the 1996 for the end of the world as predicted as Nostradamus, with a Pope and an Emperor; and of the first two editions of ‘Martlet Pie’, the magazine I had initiated.


18th March 1973

I have been here since Wednesday, rather surprised by Hector’s death, and slightly guilty in that I didn’t come down at once, and succeeded in persuading myself that he was getting better, ostensibly because of exams, really because I couldn’t bear to leave Oxford. In fact, I was planning to get back on the Wednesday night itself, for the theatre with the Dean as a reward for getting to bed early during Mods. – he kept shouting ‘Goodnight’ across the quads when he saw me out after 10 – and the Union reception, exciting even though I didn’t make Standing Committee – 6th out of about 20, but only 5 get on – and our Mods celebration party and the mad Tolkien lunch. Mods itself was great fun, and I did better than I expected, considering the lunacies of the previous week – 3 dinners; the Dean vs JCR President’s football match which consisted of people who hadn’t played for 10 years, and which ended in a draw, though the referee had to disallow their goals and kick the ball for us and send the Dean off the field; the College Revue, with an item all about me which was remarkably restrained, and Tom Parker singing ‘I’m a Curate thin & pale’ which brought the house down – though I did succeed in working more than I’d done all term. It was great to have reached the end and stride down the High in subfusc and carnations, and a daffodil on the last day, prior to champagne and gin – just before I came down here, and the satirical self-defence I adopt towards funerals, and a too objective sympathy to really feel that I’m a decent person. I don’t think I am, though the horror is that I’m not particularly upset about it.

I shall hang on here for another week or so, and then potter back to college and try to summon up the energy to go somewhere – with the blasé onset of middle-age prematurely, I can think of nothing more desirable than curling up for the Vac in Oxford with innumerable novels, though I feel I shouldn’t give in. One of my innovations in College has been a magazine. I was self denying enough not to demand the Editorship, though I got hold of someone I could rely on for it, because he admired my articles in the STC Mag!