Comments, EdgeNotes, In Focus

Disappointed intellectuals of the new Elizabethan age!

Recently, I had yet another book proposal turned down by a publisher. Merely the last in a long line of many. Still, it left a bitter taste of disappointment in my mouth.


Steve Latham


I have to conclude, I think, that either my work is simply not good enough, or (perhaps more charitably toward myself) that it isn’t marketable, won’t appeal to the public.

While the latter may make me feel a trifle avant garde, a little above the hoi polloi, it doesn’t satisfy my desire for self-validation through publication.

The same goes for articles, most of them rejected.

Again, I could take refuge in the response, that I’m just too good for them.

But this rings hollow these days. The grand confidence of youth, and early adulthood, when I ranted and raved on any subject, is replaced by the sad dejection of age, and its concomitant realism.

Naturally, I am continuingly grateful to the ongoing generosity of The Prisma’s Editor, who long ago, invited me to contribute a regular opinion piece to the newspaper.

It was a rather personal invitation, which I am often tempted to think she must regret, in which she told me to ‘write anything you like’ – a rather dangerous offer.

I think part of the cause for my authorial failures, besides my obvious lack of talent, lies in my class origins, and the particular historical conjuncture into which I was born.

This period was simultaneously one of great advantage, and disadvantage – through the vast expansion in educational opportunities during this post-war New Elizabethan Age.

At eleven years of age, I took the much-feared Eleven-Plus Exam, and passed. This enabled me to escape the bullying and boredom of the working class milieu I was born into.

I was able thereby to go the Grammar School, which, though I now decry its philosophical-political model of selective education, did enable me, and other kids to widen their horizons.

Although made-fun-of for my broad Lancashire accent, there and subsequently at University, my mind was awakened to all manner of ideas and possibilities.

I remember walking, a little conceitedly,  with my friend around, what was pretentiously called, aping the ancient universities, the Quadrangle, discussing philosophy.

I recollect he called me a ‘vitalist’: I didn’t know what that meant, but it pleased me so much I’ve remembered it.

University too spoiled me for ordinary life, making me dissatisfied with the humdrum: constantly looking for new concepts, filling my head with useless notions.

There is one thing to be said for the older education systems, which merely trained the lower orders for their functions as ‘hewers of wood and drawers of water’.

This was that they became happy with their lot in life. Otherwise, they would be, as I was, always discontented, wanting more.

Thus was created a generation of academics manqués: taught to deal in abstractions, but with no outlet.

Some managed to use their talents. But my trouble is that my reach exceeded my grasp, my ambition was greater than my ability.

(Photos: Pixabay)

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