An Oxford don considers what his colleagues might look like, collectively, to a ‘non-don’, in terms of arrogance, bumptiousness, insolence, economic parasitism, hypocritical libertarianism, ‘revolutionary attitudinising’, administrative competitiveness, professional small-mindedness, public-school sexuality, and pseudo-medieval gluttony.
He does so by mocking a commemorative volume published for the late Maurice Bowra, so we see early twentieth century Oxford through the lens of 1970s’ Oxford (with worries about grammar school eradication, for example), yet with abiding contemporary relevance (there being little change in what Carey calls a budgerigar’s cage). The essay’s ending is redemptive, honouring, despite everything, Bowra’s intellectual breadth and inspirational role.
Related recommendation: Gore Vidal’s ‘The Hacks of Academe’ (TLS, 20 February 1976)
Genres: Profile or character, Satirical