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New Left Review I/168, March-April 1988


Terry Eagleton

Resources for a Journey of Hope: The Significance of Raymond Williams

Raymond Williams and I arrived in Cambridge simultaneously in 1961, he from a long stint in adult education to a college Fellowship, I from a year’s teaching in a Northern secondary modern school to an undergraduate place. [*] This is the text of a memorial lecture for Raymond Williams given in Oxford on February 12th and organized by Oxford English Limited. It was hard to say which of us was more alienated. Williams had made the long trek from a rural working-class community in Wales to a college which seemed to judge people (as I was to find out later to my cost) by how often they dined at High Table. He looked and spoke more like a countryman than a don, and had a warmth and simplicity of manner which contrasted sharply with the suave, off-hand style of the upper middle class establishment. He never got used to the casual malice of the Senior Combination Room, and was to write years later, in a fine obituary of F.R. Leavis, that Cambridge was ‘one of the rudest places on earth . . . shot through with cold, nasty and bloody-minded talk’. I found myself marooned within a student body where everyone seemed to be well over six foot, brayed rather than spoke, stamped their feet in cinemas at the feeblest joke and addressed each other like public meetings in intimate cafes. It was a toss-up which of us was going to make it.

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