In praise of Nanny

The new issue of The Biographer’s Craft is up with its usual mix of interesting tidbits and valuable research links. I like this item about acclaimed playwright and author Alan Bennett, who decided to leave his literary estate and working papers to the Bodleian Library at Oxford University.

There’s nothing unusual about an author making a bequest of his archive, but unlike many authors who’ve sold their papers for top dollar, Bennett offered his legacy gratis. The reason:

“I felt in a way it’s a recompense for the education I was given,” he told the Economist in an interview. “I went to state school in Leeds. I went to Oxford on a scholarship. I benefited at every stage from the nanny state, as it is disparagingly called. It would be unimaginable now to be a student and free of money worries. But I was lucky in my time and I’m grateful to be nannied.”

We’ve all been nannied in various ways, but it takes a certain amount of grace to acknowledge it. Bennett apparently has that grace, to go with his talent.

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