A Festschrift in Honour of A.V.C. Schmidt
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Classically, being a Balliol man involves something more than being a man whose academic position happens to be at Balliol. That is a lesson I learned when, still a youngish fresh Fellow, I dutifully wore a College tie to a gaudy: ‘Good of you to wear that’, said a well-disposed pillar of the Senior Common Room as we trudged up the staircase to high table, ‘especially seeing as you’re not one’. No: a real Balliol man is a tutor at the College who has previously been an undergraduate there. It is a stiff test that most of humanity is bound to fail: it excludes, for example, many recent Masters as well as most of the Fellowship; and, in truth, these more inclusive days have seen it become a dwindling category. But the Senior Common Room I joined still boasted several representatives of the species. A few weeks after arriving at the College a colleague explained to me at lunch that he had not only succeeded his tutor but even moved in to occupy his old set. When I expressed surprise at such an odd turn of events, he asked me rhetorically: what is an academic career, but moving from a Balliol chair to the left of the fireplace to the well-worn Balliol chair to the right?
Of that select group, Carl Schmidt was one of the most celebrated. Balliol man and boy, a prodigious undergraduate whose startling intellectual prowess was still vividly...
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