I am reading Masters of the Post: The Authorized History of the Royal Mail, a thumping big tome by Duncan Campbell-Smith, and I came across a passage that reminded me of a particular Waterloo of mine. The author noted that Anthony Trollope, who worked for the General Post Office before gaining fame as a novelist, wrote a summary of developments in Ireland for the 1857 “Postmaster General’s Report to the Treasury.” Which took me back to 1968 and the Graduate Record Exams, the GREs.
An English major at Syracuse University, I had dreams of going to graduate school, eventually wearing a tweed jacket with leather elbow patches and smoking a pipe at some cozy Eastern university, chatting with undergraduates in my book-lined office. But first I would need a good score in the English portion of the GREs.
Every fourth question was about Anthony Trollope. I had never read a word of Anthony Trollope. Nothing. When the test was over, I was over. I stumbled into the lobby and there was my high school classmate Harry Weintraub, over from Hamilton College, lounging on a padded bench, having finished early.
Harry saw me, smiled and said, “Anthony Trollope, my favorite author.”
Harry went on to graduate school, a number of them in fact. I was given a 1A by my draft board and decided to take my chances with the Air Force.
Four years later, my GRE scores, though pallid, were still enough to get me into the School of Library Science at S.U. But when I told the school secretary, a saint named Muriel J. Dustin, “M.J.” to everyone, that I didn’t want to begin right away, she said that unless I matriculated, i.e., started the program immediately, my GRE scores would glide past their expiration date and would have to take the exams for a second time. After four years of beer and intellectual sloth, I could not imagine coming face-to-face with Anthony Trollope again. I matriculated.