One Oxford poet confessed to me that I had been scary because I talked American and wore tennis shoes.
Washing dishes as a 17-year-old in an Oxford college and seeing the privileged lifestyles of the undergraduates there convinced me that a system that allowed luxury for the few at the expense of the many needed to be challenged.
A fellowship to Oxford acquainted me with the depths of English cooking. By the twenty-first century, London’s best restaurants are as good as Paris’s, but not in the 1950s.
In 1952, I recited aloud for the first time, booming in Oxford’s Sheldonian Theatre from a bad poem that had won a prize. I was twenty-three.
I wonder anybody does anything at Oxford but dream and remember, the place is so beautiful. One almost expects the people to sing instead of speaking. It is all like an opera.
I was a very shy girl who led an insulated life; it was only when I came to Oxford, and to Harvard before that, that suddenly I saw the power of people. I didn’t know such a power existed, I saw people criticising their own president; you couldn’t do that in Pakistan – you’d be thrown in prison.
It was 1988, and I was just finishing a D.Phil at Oxford University on the topic of ‘Nietzsche and German Idealism.’
As a financial historian, I was quite isolated in Oxford – British historians are supposed to write about kings – so the quality of intellectual life in my field is much higher at Harvard. The students work harder there.
When I arrived to study at Oxford in October 1963, the bohemian style was black plastic or leather jackets for women and black leather or navy donkey jackets for men. I stuck to cavalry twills and a duffle coat, at least for a few months.
When I finished my initial year at Oxford, I flew home to marry Kirby, who had been my girlfriend in college. We had met on a blind date.