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Refusing female love interest


Sentimental relationships with women
Brian Sewell Writer
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[Q] Did you have…? I mean, do you mind if I ask you if you did ever have any relationships with women? I mean, did something…? Did you ever try it out, or…?

Well, no, I didn’t have… I think I had sentimental relationships, certainly with two girls at The Courtauld. A girl called Jill Rigden. And Jill came in one morning. We used to work seated at the same desks in the main library, and break off halfway through the morning and go and have a sixpenny cup of coffee at The Gondola across the square. And she came in and I was already working and she said, 'Let’s go and have some coffee'. 'It’s too early'. 'No, I want to talk to you'.

So we went to The Gondola, and she just said, 'Are you going to ask me to marry you?' And I said, 'Why?' She said, 'Well, David', who was her boyfriend, 'proposed to me last night. And if you are not going to propose to me, I’m going to accept'. And of course I had absolutely no idea that, in her mind, it had got anywhere near to that sort of decision.

And I just… I said, 'No', immediately. And then at the end of my life at The Courtauld, there was a younger student who did much the same thing. And who was really very broken when I said no. She had not… she had no alternative in mind. She just wanted to know whether, as I was graduating, was anything going to continue afterwards.

Born in England, Brian Sewell (1931-2015) was considered to be one of Britain’s most prominent and outspoken art critics. He was educated at the Courtauld Institute of Art and subsequently became an art critic for the London Evening Standard; he received numerous awards for his work in journalism. Sewell also presented several television documentaries, including an arts travelogue called The Naked Pilgrim in 2003. He talked candidly about the prejudice he endured because of his sexuality.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: Courtauld Institute of Art, Jill Spencer Rigden, Jill Spencer Allibone

Duration: 2 minutes, 23 seconds

Date story recorded: 2008

Date story went live: 28 June 2012