I am going to allow myself a little boast -- because, as Richard Baron has already noticed in his comment on the last post, I was elected a Fellow of the British Academy yesterday. In fact I have known about this for a couple of months. It's one of those things where you get a letter saying that this is on the cards, but that is not going to be official until it has actually been passed formally at the AGM... and you are not to breathe a word etc etc.
If you are like me -- female, neurotic, and conscious of a variety of past indiscretions that might make you seem decidedly un-papabile -- you have these terrors that you will be blackballed at the last minute. In fact, when the email message came from the Academy to say that all had gone through, I was convinced that it was going to be a convoluted apology, explaining that things had not gone smoothly at the last minute ... but I would still be welcome at the dinner (which is how the election is celebrated) as my place had already been laid.
Actually all went well and I had a great time and a great feast (and, no -- just in case anyone from the Daily Telegraph is reading this -- it wasn't at taxpayers' expense; we paid for our revels). There were over 30 people elected at the same time as me (you can see the full list here). But I was especially pleased that they included my old mate Andrew Wallace Hadrill...not just because I was pleased in a generous altruistic kind of way, but (as we admitted to each other last night) each of us would have been pretty miffed if the other had got in first. I mean I would have offered him fulsome congratulations, but would have been spitting inside. (There -- how's that for honesty!).
The joke is, of course, that I used to slag the Academy off something terrible.
I used to say that it was a club for old men (with a particularly strong suit in papyrologists). And now here I am talking (as I just have) as if it was a question of when rather than if I I would be elected. That is I confess the over-confidence of the morning after talking ... and by this evening I shall think it is a bloody miracle I made it at all (did they get the wrong Mary Beard).
But I had already rather changed my view about the importance of the Academy in general. I mean someone's got to stick up for Humanities in the coming "austerity (as it is euphemistically known) and there is noone in a better position than them. I certainly intend to shout even louder about how we must not slip into the next Dark Ages etc etc
So starting as I mean to go on, I harangued Philip Ford (my colleague in MML and boss of the University Library Syndicate) with alcohol-assisted passion about how we should be doing even more to support the Library... that, if even apparently minor periodicals were discontinued that Library as a research resource built up at incalculable cost over 8 centuries, the value of the place as a research resource would be diminished for ever.... etc etc. I am sure you can write the speech (as no doubt Philip could).
But it is still worth saying -- and saying often. (Sorry Philip.)