Saturday, October 24, 2009

My Hero / Mother Mercedes Lawler IBVM by Antonia Fraser

Antonia Fraser

My Hero: Mother Mercedes Lawler IBVM

Antonia Fraser
Saturday 24 October 2009 00.05 BST

hat fires up a love of history in a young person? I have come to the conclusion that for every celebrated historian who sets the youthful imagination ablaze, there are quite as many quirky individuals, in my case a Catholic nun at a convent school to which I was sent, initially as a Protestant, at the age of 14. It is true that I had already discovered history for myself. I regarded it as a private, even secret pleasure; my parents had both been classicists at university. As a romantic eldest child, I dreamed of castles and queens – and of course knights and princes, princes charming. But oddly enough no history was officially taught at the Dragon School, Oxford, which I had attended for four years, something I have recently checked from the printed reports, in case I had, in that useful modern phrase, misremembered.

It was not until I reached St Mary's Convent, Ascot, that I encountered an inspired teacher of history who was as entranced by the subject as I was. Mother Mercedes Lawler IBVM had educational qualifications summed up in the official history of the school as follows: she "sort of blew in from Ireland". But she had the supreme qualification of enthusiasm: suddenly history was no longer private but an exciting public topic on which we were all entitled – no, encouraged – to have views. I can still see her now, her cheerful, slightly rubicund face (the stiff white coifs and black habits of the 1940s tended to exaggerate the colours of the complexion) and soft Irish accent as she began with the words she pronounced as often as possible: "The Empress Maria Theresa . . ." Many years later, writing about Marie Antoinette, I criticised the empress quite strongly as a mother. For Marie Antoinette, unlike me, was 15th out of a family of 16, and also unlike me had a mother who paid little attention to her education. Suddenly I could hear Mother Mercedes's reproachful words in my ear and for a moment it seemed ungrateful to criticise the woman she admired, when she herself had done so much for me.


001 My hero / Oscar Wilde by Michael Holroyd
002 My hero / Harley Granville-Barker by Richard Eyre
003 My hero / Edward Goldsmith by Zac Goldsmith
004 My hero / Fridtjof Nansen by Sara Wheeler 
005 My hero / Mother Mercedes Lawler IBVM by Antonia Fraser

007 My hero / Ernest Shepard by Richard Holmes
008 My hero / JG Ballard by Will Self
009 My hero / Alan Ross by William Boyd
010 My hero / Ben the labrador by John Banville

011 My hero / Vicent van Gogh by Margaret Drabble
012 My hero / Franz Marek by Eric Hobsbawm


017 My hero / Jack Yeats by Colm Tóibín
018 My hero / Francisco Goya by Diana Athill
019 My hero / Max Stafford-Clark by Sebastian Barry
020 My hero / Arthur Holmes by Richard Fortey

036 My hero / Robert Lowell by Jonathan Raban
037 My hero / Beryl Bainbridge by Michael Holroyd
038 My hero / Charles Schulz by Jenny Colgan
039 My hero / Oliver Knussen by Adam Foulds
040 My hero / Annie Proulx by Alan Warner

041 My hero / David Lynch by Paul Murray
042 My hero / Edwin Morgan by Robert Crawford
043 My hero / Anne Lister by Emma Donoghue
044 My hero / Jane Helen Harrinson by Mary Beard
045 My hero / Edmund Burke by David Marquand
046 My hero / Shelagh Deleaney by Jeanette Winterson
047 My hero / Christopher Marlowe by Val McDermid
048 My hero / Gwen John by Anne Enright
049 My hero / Michael Mayne by Susan Hill
050 My hero / Stanley Spencer by Howard Jacobson

051 My hero / William Beveridge by Will Hutton
052 My hero / Jean McConville by Amanda Foreman
053 My hero / Alexander Pushkin by Elaine Feinstein
058 My hero / Cy Twombly by Edmund de Waal

079 My hero / Gene Wolfe by Neil Gaiman
087 My hero / Alberto Moravia by John Burnside
096 My hero / Isaac Babel by AD Miller
097 Lucian Freud by Esi Edugyan
100 Thomas Tranströmer by Robin Robertson
102 My hero / David Hockney by Susan Hill


190 My hero / Iris Murdoch by Charlotte Mendelson
194 My hero / René Descartes by James Kelman
199 My hero / Albert Camus by Geoff Dyer


No comments:

Post a Comment