Copy of a letter to an Oxford graduate teaching in Oxford

I noticed a small sense of warmth and pleasure in the amount of recognition and interest in our existence shown by stockbrokers, and I realised how unusual an experience this is for me. When I mentioned this, you sounded contemptuous of an interest that depends only on the financial benefits to them of the commissions on my buying and selling of shares, as if there was some other kind of appreciation to be obtained from people.

Unfortunately I have never found it possible to do so. I only wished I could, and of course still do wish, although it is apparently as theoretical as wishing for pigs to fly. I certainly never wished to have to support myself by investment; it was forced upon me by my exile from a university career. As there was a total lack of sympathy with, not to say hostility to, my plans for getting another degree with which to return to a normal academic career (although starting at an age with would have been slightly late by normal standards, and extremely late in terms of my own development) I pursued a policy of saving money out of my pathetic salary and studying the Investors Chronicle; as well as doing research in anything for which I could get funding, in the expectation (of which I gradually realised the naivety) that the quality of the work which I would produce in any field would soon lead to my re-admission to the academic community.

As it happened, the excellence of my work provoked even more energetic opposition to my re-entry into society as an accepted academic. The opposition was well-directed to maximise the difficulty of my gaining re-admission to a career. What could be better calculated to keep me in exile than a campaign of slander and choking off even such money as would naturally have accrued to my associates if they had not been slandered to their families, or if their families had not spontaneously slandered them on account of their association with me?

Lack of money made it impossible to do the research which I needed to do to strengthen my claim either on further financial support or on re-entry to an academic career. The purpose of any research which I might have been able to do would have been to strengthen my claim to re-entry to an academic career, but until that became possible, I would continue to need funding to do research outside of a university.

So it was fortunate that I had started to take an interest in investment from the very earliest days after being thrown out of the university with no usable qualification. A second class degree was a disqualification rather than a qualification for anything I could do. The characteristics which made me so highly suited to an academic career made me unsuited to any another.

I would never have wished to have to spend time on investment. However good I may manage to become at making money, it is a complete waste of my time, even if it is making some use of the ability which should really be devoted to making advances in science, and contributions to civilization in the way of books, which nobody else would be likely to make. I always wished to spend my time as purposefully as possible.

In the days of my innocence, before my life was broken by being prevented from taking the School Certificate exam, I thought that only subjects which would be useful to me in a career of scientific research were not a waste of time. But I considered myself fortunate that I was still at an age at which the taking of exams per se would help to establish my claim to the future career which I so unequivocally needed to have. In the circumstances, I thought it would be justifiable to spend my time taking a great many exams, including those in subjects which were pointless and trivial but enjoyable (since taking exams at my own pace in anything was an intensely enjoyable activity). Being forced to 'do subjects' in an unfocussed way, for a remote examination objective or for none at all, disgusted me and made me wish to leave school and work from correspondence courses, whether or not the subject in question was one which I regarded as relevant to my future career.

Incidentally, although I derive a mild sense of recognition as a person from a stockbroker taking an interest in my activities, I do not derive any such thing from academics writing glowing testimonials about my research or published books without sending me any money. In fact, I derive from it only a horrifying sense of rejection; since if the best I have been able to do has gone nowhere towards securing for me recognition as a person who needs to be having a salaried academic career, how can I imagine that anything I may do in the future will succeed any better? At least my stockbrokers recognise me as a person who is using their ability as best they can to make money, even if they do not know what it is that I need the money for.

Our social position may appear anomalous, and our aims and objects incomprehensible, but they can all be regarded as precisely determined by my ejection from society, or exile from a university career, at the end of the ruined education.

Celia Green
March 2002