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My inspiration for The Graduate Wife


The importance of good manners
Frederic Raphael Writer
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So, anyway, we came back to England and I did my stuff with ATV and The Limits of Love was published. And then I... I sort of thought that I… I don't know, I didn't quite know what I was going to do and I then wanted to go back to Spain. I think it was partly because of the friends we'd had there, partly because I'd sort of had enough of trying to be a writer in East Bergholt. East Bergholt... I remember very well I met Paul Jennings on a train. Do you know who Paul Jennings was? I met Paul Jennings who, in those days had a column in The Observer and he was a fairly bumptious little Catholic man. And I met him on the train and I'd just bought the Penguin Pocket Dictionary. And the Penguin Pocket Dictionary for some reason had those catch words at the top of each page, and the ones that they had were very comic, actually. I don't quite remember. And I remember pointing that out to Jennings and he wrote a column using what I'd pointed out to him, but although we lived in the same village he never gave me a ring to thank me for telling him or drop me a note and I thought, as we say in the business, bugger you. And, I thought that about quite a lot of people who don't have any manners. I'm quite keen on manners, partly because of my father, partly because of Winchester, to which I didn't go, and manners makyth man. But, also, because I suspect manners as a sort of wonderful device, English good manners, for showing respect for people you don't respect. And, I've always been very good at that really. So, I'm very correct when roused. Very. Also, very grammatical.

So, we hung around England and then said Stella Richman said… I said to Stella Richman, I really want to get back to Spain. Do you think I could go on doing stuff? Oh yes, she said, fine. So, I was able to go back to Spain with some ideas or some books, I can't remember, to do into television plays. And, I went back and then I wrote another novella while I was down there which was called The Graduate Wife. In those days it was quite a thing in the posh papers, The Observer and places – Katherine Whitehorn used to write about the, you know, the problem of the graduate wife. I don't know what the bloody problem with the graduate wife was. I mean, I had a graduate wife and she didn't seem to have a problem, but apparently graduate wives were not being properly treated by graduate husbands or non-graduate husbands, and it all had to have something done about it. The English always think something can be done about absolutely everything, especially those things that nothing can be done about. So, The Graduate Wife is funny. The Graduate Wife is based, actually, on a couple who had come to see us while we were in East Bergholt, in our little cottage, and the couple was composed of Jeremy Atkinson and Janet, the wife that he had married after she had solicited my advice back in Oxford in 1954. And, they had a child or two, we're now talking about 1960. And, they came and stayed with us because they were on a circuit and I wasn't aware of the fact, and again, I say 'the English' as if I wasn't part of them. Of course, I am part of them, because I don't want you to say I'm not. On the other hand I observe them. They are very good at cadging.

Born in America in 1931, Frederic Raphael is a writer who moved to England as a boy. He was educated at Charterhouse School and was a Major Scholar in Classics at St John's College, Cambridge. His articles and book reviews appear in a number of newspapers and magazines, including the Los Angeles Times and The Sunday Times. He has published more than twenty novels, the best-known being the semi-autobiographical The Glittering Prizes (1976). In 1965 Raphael won an Oscar for the screenplay for the movie Darling, and two years later received an Oscar nomination for his screenplay for Two for the Road. In 1999, he published Eyes Wide Open, a memoir of his collaboration with the director Stanley Kubrick on the screenplay of Eyes Wide Shut, Kubrick's final movie. Raphael lives in France and England and became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1964.

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: The Graduate Wife, Paul Jennings, Stella Richman

Duration: 3 minutes, 32 seconds

Date story recorded: March 2014

Date story went live: 10 September 2014