We got a kick out of Laurie Taylor’s column about a university admissions interview that went horribly awry.
“I prefer Charles Dickens,” I said firmly. “And why?” said my interviewer. “Well,” I said “I don’t think that Jane Austen is as realistic as Dickens. She doesn’t write about poverty and deprivation and disease and crime and the working class. She’s much more middle-class.”
I’d rehearsed this argument on the train down from Liverpool. It had sounded all right to me in the carriage but now that it echoed around this book-filled room it seemed oddly unconvincing.
My apprehension was only increased by the changed expression on Professor Gregory’s face. Whereas before he’d seemed almost benevolent he now looked like a man who had finally trapped a troublesome rodent.
“So,” he said, “Let me get this right, you think that it’s only possible to be realistic about the working class. You think that a writer like Austen who wishes to record the sentiments of more middle class subjects is necessarily unrealistic?
I sensed a trap door slowly opening beneath my feet. “Well,” I said, “The working class are more real because they do all the real work. They don’t ride around in carriages and go to balls. They’re… erm.”
“The salt of the earth?” said Professor Gregory glancing across his desk to a pile of application forms as though already anticipating his next interview.
I smiled weakly. “Sort of,” I said.
Professor Gregory is our new hero. 🙂