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Fast Fiction: Tutorial

...'Actually, I looked up both names in one of those tedious guides to Eng Lit -but not a word, not one blessed word ... I suppose I could have, erm, consulted other works of reference - but, really, I couldn't be bothered. Anyway, I just haven't the time ... I'm still working on my edition of Sir Thomas More's Utopia, you know.'...

Richard Mallinson tells a tale of academic pressure.

'I wish I'd written those lines,' mused my elderly Eng Lit tutor, as we sat sipping sherry in his room at the university.

'Lines?' I said, realising I hadn't been paying attention.

'Yes, "Pale hands I loved beside the Shalimar, / Where are you now?'"

'Hm, are they by Kipling?'

'Ah, that's what I used to think ..."

I stared at him. 'But - ?'

'In fact, they're by a late-Victorian poet, called, erm, Adela Nicolson, writing under the name of Laurence Hope.'

'Oh?'

'Actually, I looked up both names in one of those tedious guides to Eng Lit -but not a word, not one blessed word ... I suppose I could have, erm, consulted other works of reference - but, really, I couldn't be bothered. Anyway, I just haven't the time ... I'm still working on my edition of Sir Thomas More's Utopia, you know.'

'Yes,' I said, 'and how long is it that you have been - ?'

'Oh, everybody asks that. Let's just say about, erm, nine years.'

'And when will it be ready, do you think?'

He fell back in his chair. 'Oh, please, please,' he murmured, 'I can do without this pressure. I'm under enough as it is, what with one thing and another. In fact -Nanother sherry, perhaps? - I've been told to ... slow down.'

'Oh, I didn't mean to - '

'Now, if we'd been talking about Harold Nicolson, well, erm, I could have told you a thing or two . . . Oh, yes, indeed.'

I wonder why I didn't I feel as sorry for the old boy then as I do now.

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