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There is a Talk on the Third Program”: Barbara Pym and the Wireless


Quite recently a tenant came up before a rent tribunal complaining that his landlord would not allow him to have a wireless set; and he was appealing for a considerable rent reduction—almost 75 percent as it happened. The magistrate allowed the appeal and declared that a wireless set must be considered as an integral , indeed essential, part of ‘family life’ (1950: 259).


This anecdote, recounted by the poet and BBC producer (1942—48) Patric Dickinson, captures the significance of the radio in the life of the community in 1950s Britain. As a presence practically in every household in the land, the BBC was a major force in cultural life of that society.

The novels of the British authors Barbara Pym (1913—1980) reflect the moods of the time; it often seems as though her characters are engaged in an on-going dialogue with views and ideas that were expressed in the popular media (especially radio and newspapers). This paper will demonstrate how Pym uses the radio, to aesthetically enrich the text and as part of her social commentary.

 “Not many sets of initials became universally recognizable during the twentieth century, and those that did often had ominous overtones, from SS to KGB. . . But everyone knows the BBC,” observes the author and journalist, Geoffrey Wheatcroft (2001). It is thought of “in the terms usually reserved for the venerable institution in British society – parliament, the Civil Service, the law Courts and the colleges of Cambridge and Oxford” maintains Krishan Kumar (1977: 237).

At the end of the war BBC radio services were reorganized into three channels: the Light Programme, the Home Service Programme, and the Third Programme Following the foot-steps of Lord Reith, the first Director-General of the BBC (from 1927 till 1938), the BBC regarded the mission of the radio to inform, educate and entertain the British public. (It is noteworthy that unlike American radio, BBC radio was a monopoly until1972). Through classical music, plays, poetry, talks, discussions – as well as its comedies, reviews and dance music, the BBC established itself as a distinctive and finally authoritative cultural institution (Kumar 236).

The Third Programme, which was launched in September 1946, was the jewel in the crown of BBC programming, and was intended, according to its creator,  Sir William Haley, the Director-General, for “persons of taste, intelligence, and of education” (Carpenter 12). Haley explains his rationale in the following excerpt:


I have always believed . . . that every civilized nation, culturally and educationally, is a pyramid with a lamentably broad base and a lamentably narrow tip. And. . . I devised these three programmes with the idea that we would have a Light Programme which would cover the lower third of the pyramid. We would have a Home Service which would take more than the middle third, take everything up to the tip and then we’d have a Third Programme. Now it has been said that this was stratifying or segregating listeners into classes. Well, it was in a way, but that was only the start; it was not meant to be a static pyramid. And my conception was of a BBC through the years – many years – which would slowly move listeners from one stratum in this pyramid to the next” (as quoted in carpenter 9)  


The Third was born at an exciting time, the previous year a new Labour government was elected with a huge majority, and there were high hopes for a new and more egalitarian society. According to the composer  Alexander Goehr, whose father the conductor often worked for the Third, its imagined listener  was a “hard working, Labour voting school master in (say) Derby, who was interested in international theatre, new music, philosophy, politics, and painting and who listened selectively to all these things on the Third” (Carpenter 14). 

The planners hoped that 50% would listen to the Light programme, 40% to the Home and 10% to the Third. In reality,  in 1951 the BBC Audience Research Department found that 70% of the listeners listened to the Light, 29% to the Home and only 1% to the Third (the numbers on a Sunday night were 80% to the Light and 19 to the Home) (Wythenshawe 1953: 80). Sometimes the numbers of listeners to the Third were too small for the research department to even record.[1] Ironically, BBC own research department treated the audiences for the Light, Home, and Third as synonyms with working class, middle class and upper-middle and upper class, respectively (Marwick 182).

Specific references to the radio are rare in Pym’s novels, but, deserve a closer attention, as we can see from the example from Less Than Angels (1953—54):


When they had finished in the kitchen [Mabel and Rhoda} took their seats by the wireless in the drawing-room, each with some sewing or knitting.

There is a talk on the ‘Third Programme,’ said Rhoda, as if to make amends for worrying about such a trivial thing as unwashed dishes, ‘something about the betrayal of freedom.  It might be. . . ‘she stopped and began tuning the wireless set, for she had been going to say ‘interesting,’ but the word seemed inadequate.  ‘I think it’s already started, but I expect we’ll soon get the thread.’

They sat back in their chairs and a torrent of words rushed at them. A man seemed to be talking, at phenomenal speed, about tables and why they did not rise up into the air.

‘I suppose this is the right program,’ said Rhoda doubtfully. ‘He must be thirsty, talking so fast and for an hour too. Still, I suppose he would have a glass of water by him.’

‘It is a recording,’ said Mabel, consulting the Radio Times. ‘Perhaps they have put it on too fast.’

They listened for a little longer and then Mabel said tentatively, ‘it would be a pity to miss the beginning of the play.’

Without a word her sister altered the tuning of the set. ‘I dare say Malcolm and Deidre might have understood some of it,’ she said. ‘We cannot hope to now.’

There was a certain tragic dignity in her utterance. What had freedom to do with tables? She wondered helplessly. And yet they were not free to rise up into the air of their own accord, so there might be some connection. (LTA 41)         



 This anecdote is a rather unusual account of one of the six Talks entitled “Freedom and its Betrayal,” given by the young (thirty-three year old) Fellow of Old Souls College Oxford Isaiah Berlin on the Third Programme between October and December 1952. Berlin’s biographer Michael Ignatieff acknowledges that the lectures were “fiendishly difficult hour long talks, delivered in a clipped, rapid–fire Oxford accent” (204). These talks led T.S. Eliot to congratulate Berlin on his “torrential eloquence.”  (205) (Pym may allude to it in her use of “torrent of words.”) Berlin himself confessed to being an extremely nervous speaker: “I hate lecturing; I’m a very nervous lecturer. Every lecture I’ve ever delivered has been an agony to me. And I said to Miss Kallin [the producer Anna Kallin of the Third Programme], ‘Look, I can’t, I don’t know how to talk, I’m no good at all. I certainly can’t talk live, because I’ll be absolutely petrified. I can only talk into a machine’” (Carpenter 127).

Consequently, as Mabel comments after consulting the Radio Times -- the program guide of BBC radio-- Berlin’s talks had been recorded before-hand, in order to alleviate his anxiety.

The above scene is more than an amusing portrayal of the listening preferences of the two middle-aged sisters, or an inside joke intended for those readers who could recognize the program and appreciate the humor. Although they readily admit their intellectual inferiority, the sisters’ inability to follow Berlin’s lecture points to the on-going debate regarding the inaccessibility of many of the Third talks. To attract the cultural minority to radio, the BBC developed a policy of “no compromise” in providing the highest standards of programming on the Third Programme, whether in music, drama, poetry, or Talks. The no compromise policy discouraged the use of various techniques of writing and delivery commonly known as broadcast style. It was hoped that this policy would overcome the perceived notion that the intended audience and guest broadcasters thought of radio as a mass medium providing primarily entertainment (see Snodgrass 105).

Mabel and Rhoda, looking for some diversion at the end of the day, turn to a play on the Home Programme:


[and] were soon absorbed in the play, for it was about people like themselves, being an adaptation of a well-known stage success.[2] After a while both the sisters realized that they had heard it before, but neither could remember exactly how it ended. So life seemed to go round in a circle, with tables hurtling through the air (LTA 41-2)



In contrast to the content and the delivery of the Berlin talk, the play is much more enjoyable (it also confirms the finding of the BBC audience research about the connection between social class and listening preferences). The sisters acknowledge the educational value of the Third Program, but in practice even a repeated program is better than listening to the incomprehensible Berlin. It seems that the sisters’ aspirations to better themselves through the boon programs offered by the Third are rather limited. Like most people, they prefer a radio which is relevant to their lives, as the narrator specifically comments it is “about people like themselves.”

 It is interesting to note that Mabel and Rhoda doubt whether even the more educated Deidre and Malcolm could be able to understand the Talk “‘Malcolm and Deidre might have understood some of it,’ she said. ‘We cannot hope to now.’” Pym uses the radio program anecdote as part of the characterization of the sisters as middle-aged women whose interests are limited to their small community, house, and church. However, a subtle social criticism can be detected: there is no need to alienate good people like the sisters and make them feel inadequate. It seems that this episode suggests that the Third Programme could and should be made more accessible

Another program which is mentioned in Pym’s novels is Woman’s Hour. It was launched in 1946 a month after the Third Programme. Incidentally, Woman’s Hour became part of the Light Programme and it still runs today as part of radio 4.

In The BBC from Within (1953), Lord Simon of Wythenshawe, Chairman of the BBC from 1947 till 1952, explains the nature of the Woman’s Hour

Woman’s Hour is a broadcast from 2.0 to 3.0 p.m. every weekday, at a time when, with the midday meal over and children back at school, housewives can relax or so plan their housework that they can do it while listening. . . .

The programme consists of four or five short talks or discussions each day, with interludes of music, and the reading of a serial story. All the usual subjects which are found in women’s papers are covered.  It is addressed to women of all ages, of all income groups, of all standards of education     


The veracity of this last claim is challenged at least twice in Pym’s work; in Excellent Women (1949—51), when the protagonist Mildred Lathbury turns on the wireless after lunch for some distraction, what she hears is a “woman’s program and they all soun[d] so married and splendid, their lives so full and yet so well organized, that [she had] felt more than usually spinsterish and useless.” (EW 28)

Here too, Pym uses a specific radio program both to shed more light on her character, and by contrasting her world with that of the women who are featured on the program to subtly criticize that program’s intake of reality. The woman’s program is not intended for women like Mildred; it only accentuates her feelings of inadequacy.

A similar example is offered in Pym’s next novel Jane and Prudence (1950—52); here too the narrator comments on the suitability of Woman’s Hour to her kind of female characters.

[A]fter Jessie had gone out for the afternoon, Miss Dogett felt restless and dissatisfied (she is suspecting something). She put her feet up as usual for her after luncheon rest and listened to a woman’s program on the wireless, but somehow its competent little talks about breast feeding, young children’s questions and a housewife’s life in Nigeria did not see, to be planned for an elderly spinster.  (178).



Miss Dogett is an old and difficult spinster and Mildred is quite a young woman but both of them are not part of the imagined community that the radio attempts to create. Florida Scott-Maxwell, a psychoanalyst, who gave several talks on the Third Programme in the 1950s, observes that  

[t]he radio and television are used not only to distribute news, information, and entertainment, but also to establish a tribal atmosphere; everyone using Christian names, everyone surprisingly fond of everyone else. It all seems to say, and this must be what we want to hear it say: “We are all one, and nobody has anything to fear” (Scott-Maxwell 1971[1957]: 14)


Family, children and housework were at the center of the woman’s universe in post-war British society, and Pym seems to suggest, in the above quotes   it is no wonder, that her spinsters feel estranged from the reality as reflected in the radio programs intended for those women.

In addition to radio-specific references, Pym’s novels offer many instances where we can find allusions to issues that were discussed on the radio or published in The Listener (the weekly BBC magazine which published a selection of the best talks featured in the previous week). Geoffrey Wheatcroft explains the importance of the Listener at that time:


For anyone who grew up in England in the quarter century after the war, the Third Programme and The Listener were rivaled only by Penguin paperbacks as profoundly influential conduits of unofficial education. In his recent memoir, A Short Walk Down Fleet Street, the veteran political columnist Alan Watkins describes his boyhood in a South Wales mining village, whence he won a university place in 1950. Fifty years on he remains convinced that more than anything else, it was reading the series Ideas and Beliefs of the Victorians, which The Listener printed from the Third Programme, that got him into Cambridge. “Who needs the BBC”? The Atlantic Monthly 


Ideas and Beliefs of the Victorians, which Wheatcroft mentions, was a series of 54 talks that was broadcast throughout 1948 on the Third Programme. The speakers were the most prominent scholar of the time, among them Pym’s own supervisor from the Africa institution Daryll Forde who gave a talk on “Anthropology –the Victorian synthesis and Modern Relativism.” Additional talks were given, for example, by John Summerson the art historian about style, Alec Vidler about “The Tractarian Movement, church Revival and reform, T. M. Parker about “The Tractarians’ Successors: The Influence of the Contemporary Mood” and Monsignor Ronald Knox spoke about “Newman and Roman Catholicism.”

Echoes of these lectures could be found in Excellent Women; in his talk about Newman Knox argues: “Curiously his influence belongs to our age, rather than to his own” (1966: 130). Indeed both Mildred the narrator who reads a biography of Newman, and the anthropologist Everard Bone whose sympathies lie with Newman’s conflict and its resolution, could testify to Cardinal Newman’s influence.

There are additional references to issues discussed on the radio in the conversations of different characters.  In Excellent Women,  a discussion of religion alludes to the series of BBC talks, by C. S. Lewis “Beyond Personality: the Christian View of God,” (especially in the essay “The New Man” broadcasted in April 1944 and published in The Listener two days later). The question, which Lewis acknowledges “is often asked,” is, “If Christianity is true why are not all Christians obviously nicer than all non-Christians” (171).

In the novel, this subject is raised by Helena Napier – a non-Christian: (In her use of the word “Christians,” Pym accepts C. S. Lewis’ definition of that concept. He uses the word “Christian to mean one who accepts the common doctrines of Christianity” (1997[1952]: ix).   “One expects [Christians] to behave better than other people,” “and of course [they] don’t.” The answer offered by the Christian narrator Mildred Lathbury, “Why should we? We are only human” (EW 93), concurs with Lewis’ conclusions: “It is not much use trying to make judgments about Christians and non-Christians in the mass. . . if you want to compare a bad Christian and a good Atheist, you must think about two real specimens whom you have actually met” (172–3). The discussion between Helena and Mildred alludes also to the belief, which Lewis attempts to refute, that the “whole world [is] neatly divided into two camps–Christians and non-Christians – and that all the people in the first camp at any given moment should be obviously nicer than all the people in the second” (171).

 In A Glass of Blessings, a conversation between the narrator Wilmet Forsyth and her mother-in-law Sybil about the role of women in general and combing work and marriage in particular, points to issues that were discussed by the psychoanalyst Florida Scott-Maxwell in 1955 in a series of three talks on the Third program, Scott-Maxell challenges what she calls the “feminine paradox” by saying:


What society seemed to say to us was something like this : ‘”You don’t belong to yourselves, but to others. It is the claim of others that will decide your lives. So forget yourselves, and try to be what others want you to be.”

  This is startling advice to receive, and it has had some dubious consequences. There is a deep level in us where we are still amazed, and still saying “Really forget ourselves? Isn’t that an alibi for everything? And really be what others want us to be? Is it safe?”  It was reckless advice to give, and if we have adapted ourselves to others and we are instinctive chameleons, no one needs to complain (Nov 22, 1955).


. Moreover, in the last talk appropriately entitled “A New peace Between Men and Women” Scott-Maxwell argues: “Whenever women do anything new it is always said they are about to lose their femininity. Society is constantly alarmed about this as though femininity was important but fugitive.”

It seems that the rather depressed Wilmet, who lets others decide for her, represents what Scott-Maxwell would like to change. In this exchange Sybil demonstrates the ways in which society oppresses women:  


“Those splendid and formidable women! I often think that was one of the reasons why Noddy didn’t want you to have a job – for fear you might turn into the kind of woman one sees getting out of the train at St. James Park or Westminster, carrying a briefcase with E.R. stamped on it.” (GB 11)



Scott-Maxwell encourages women to find the balance between “what [they] are for the sake of others and what [they] are for the sake of [them]selves”.  Thus Wilmet meekly responds:

“I suppose some of them try to combine marriage with a career – I mean the ones who carry baskets as well as briefcases and look both formidable and worried, as if they hoped to slip into the butcher’s before going into their desks.” (GB 11)


Wilmet, in contrast to Sybil, sympathizes with the plight of career women; she knows that some of them are trying to combine marriage with a career. Her stand, although tentative, alludes to views by Simone de Beauvoir in The Second Sex, for whom combining home and work meant a “burden of the ‘double day’ [which] underpinned the subordinate position of women in society” (see Lewis 1990: 168, Bruley 1999: 121).

The Second Sex appeared in English in 1953, but in 1951 upon its publication in French, Kathleen Bliss, a well known intellectual and the editor of the Christian Newsletter (from 1945 till 49) reviewed the book on the Third Programme, it was published in The Listener on January 11 1951. According to Bliss,


It is important to make it clear that Simone de Beauvoir is not railing against home and family life as such – though I must say I think she comes very near to it. What makes her angry on behalf of women is that this world is painted in the exaggerated colours of romance – she is to man a goddess—and hides from her that she is going to be a slave, not to him so much as to his male assumption that all these tasks, and this little world, fall to her lot inescapably, unalterably and rightly just because of her sex. . . .The woman who works meets many difficulties. . .. To attempt to become a female sovereign person is to break with the past at great cost. For the married woman the essential step is to reject outright and for all the mystification of her role” (62-63).


Although there are no direct references to de Beauvoir in A Glass of Blessings, the similarity in attitudes testifies to the skepticism in Pym’s work about the possibility of reconciling the demands of the family and a career.

The rift between the humanities and science and the adequacy or inadequacy of women’s education is an issue which appears often in Pym’s work. At the beginning of the 1950s, her novels express the belief that studying the humanities is the right choice for women, but by the time she writes No Fond Return of Love (1957—60) that confidence is no longer there. In 1957, Russia’s achievement, as being the first country to launch an earth satellite, caused concern in the western world and in Britain, and there were countless discussions about its implications on the radio and in all the newspapers

Accordingly, the prestigious Reith lectures, the annual lecture series on the Third Programme in honor of lord Reith, of 1957 were given by George F. Kennan on the subject of Russia, The Atom and The West. (The cover of the Listener from November 14th announcing the lectures featured the Red Square in Moscow).

An echo of the public concern regarding Russia’s technological superiority is expressed in No Fond Return of Love as well. Dulcie the protagonist, who studied English at Oxford, is having doubts about the sufficiency of the humanities. Dulcie is not surprised to hear her niece Laurel’s response to a question (asked by a neighbor, a woman botanist) about her best subjects at school, “I liked English and history best,” and she “sardonically” thinks: “How many a young girl must have given the same answer to that question and really what did it mean?” Finally Dulcie asks herself: “What answer should a girl give now when asked what had been her favorite subjects at school? Russian and nuclear physics were perhaps too far advanced, as yet, but English and History could hardly do” (LTA 42–43).

In 1957 the British diplomat, author and politician Harold Nicholson gave a talk on BBC radio, which appeared in The Listener as well, entitled “Science or the Humanities”.


In any case it seems as if the theory of a mass-production of potential inventors is that which has been confirmed in the minds of educationalists throughout the world by the great Russian achievement. So everybody, in great Britain at least, is now considering whether we have not in the past fifty years devoted too much of our time and money to what one loosely called ‘the Humanities’ – namely the teaching of classics, history, languages, and the arts – and too little of our time and money to the instruction in the sciences. In any case the scientists in this country are asserting that not nearly enough of our educational equipment is devoted to science and contending that the Russian Satellite now whirling round us is a proof that they have been seeking for years to present to the parliament and the government is overwhelmingly proved. So I suppose that all the little boys and girls in this island will be henceforward be taken away from the history books and the literature primers and set down to science. This prospect fills me with gloom (696-97),


Although Pym and Nicholson are aware of the fact that some changes will have to be made in order to compete in the post satellite reality, and Dulcie admits that  “English and History could hardly do,” both feel sad about the prospects of a society that has turn away from the humanities.[3]

In her novels Pym treats the radio and The Listener as a resource and even a form of inspiration. The information that she heard or read is recorded and later integrated into the opinions and the attitudes of her characters.. In a talk given in February 1956 to the Barnes Readers’ Circle, “The Novelist’s Use of Every Day Life,” she explains her technique: “Everyday life is not for every novelist, but . . . each one must make use of some of it. . .  Many people enjoy the kind of novel that they might be living in themselves, and that constantly reminds them of their own lives; more amusing, more interesting perhaps, but familiar. . . I always think that reading these novels is like looking in through a window. You’re interested in what is going on in the house but glad not to be inside it” (MS. Pym. 98 fols. 56–60).  

Since the radio played such a significant role in the life of the British people in the 1950s, it is part of the setting of Pym’s novels as well. Whenever it is explicitly mentioned, as in the examples of the sisters from Less Than Angels and the spinsters from Excellent Women and Jane and Prudence, the radio is used to characterize and to critique. Some of Pym’s heroines do not find in the radio, which professes to be all inclusive, any reflection of their own lives. Even worse, it demonstrates their alienation from the rest of society and emphasizes their feeling of inadequacy.

The presence of the radio in Pym’s work has another surprising dimension; as an avid listener to the radio, her auditory imagination was sharply developed. She had a very sensitive ear and paid a close attention to all different aspects of the spoken English language. Thus, whenever her novels are read out loud her characters come to life and the comedy of her work is enhanced.  In a talk on the Third Programme “Broadcasting and Literature,” the writer Alan Pryce Jones (1908—2000) makes an observation about radio drama:  “Once the visual element is taken away, the dramatist can make [a] simple story infinitely more powerful” (1949 August). This comment seems to apply to Pym’s work as well; whether it was the cultured Oxbridge voice of Piers Longridge (A Glass of Blessings), the slightly common voice of father Bode (GB), the penetrating voice of Lady Selvedge (An Unsuitable Attachment) or the Welsh dialect of Mrs. Morris (EW). Pym heard her different characters talk in their own distinctive way and was concerned not only with what they had to say but as importantly with how they said it.






Works by Barbara Pym


1978 [1955]. Less than Angels. New York: Harper & Row.

1984 [1952]. Excellent Women. New York: Quality Paperback Book Club.

1984 [1953]. Jane and Prudence. New York: Quality Paperback Book Club.

1984 [1961]. No Fond Return of Love. [New York:] Harper & Row.

The Papers of Barbara Mary Crampton Pym (1913–80): Oxford: University of Oxford, Bodleian Library.


Criticism and Contexts

Bliss, Kathleen. 1951. “On becoming a Female Person.” In The Listener.January 11: 62—63.

Bruley, Sue. 1999. Women in Britain since 1900. Houndmill: Macmilan.

Carpenter, Humphrey. 1996. The Envy of the World: Fifty years of the BBC Third Programme and Radio 3, 1946—1996. London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson

Dickinson, Patric. 1950. “The BBC.” In Flower of Cities A Book of London.  New York: Harper and brothers.

Hewison, Robert. 1981. In Anger: British Culture in the Cold War 1945–60. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson.

Ignatieff,  Michael.1999. Isaiah Berlin: A Life. New York: Henry Holt.

Kumar, Krishan. 1977 “Holding the Middle Ground: The BBC, the Public and the Professional Broadcaster.” In Mass Communication and Society.   Eds. J. Curran et al. London: Edward Arnold, pp. 231—48.

Leavis, Frank. R. 1972 [1962]. Nor Shall My Sword.  London: Chatto & Windus.

Lewis, C. S. 1997[1952].  Mere Christianity. Glasgow: Fourt Harper Collins.

Lewis, Jane. 1990. “Myrdal, Klein, Women’s Two Roles and Postwar Feminism 1945–1960.” In British Feminism in the Twentieth Century, ed. Harold L. Smith. Aldershot Hants: Edward Elgar, pp. 167–88.

Marwick, Arthur. 1994. “The arts, books, media and entertainment in Britain since 1945” in Understanding Post-War British Society. Edited by James Obelkevich and Peter Catterall. London: Routledge.

Nicholson, Harold. 1957. “Science or the Humanities?” In The Listener  October 31: 396-97.

Pryce-Jones, Alan. 1949. “Broadcasting and Literature.” In The Listener August 25:317

Scott-Maxwell, Florida. 1955. “The Feminine Paradox.” In The listener. September 22nd: 464—66.

———.1955. “A New peace Between Men and Women.” In The listener. September 29th. 502—4.

———.1971 [1957]. Women and Sometimes Men. New York: Harper Row.

Snow, Charles Percy. 1959. The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution: The Rede Lecture 1959. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Snodgrass, David. 2003. “The Debate over a Style for serious radio Talks on the BBC: 1946—1957.” Journal of Radio Studies. 10/1:104—119.

Third programme. 1966 [1949]. Ideas and Beliefs of the Victorians. New York: E.P.Dutton.

Wheatcroft, Geoffrey. 2001. “Who Needs the BBC?” In The Atlantic Monthly. March..

Wythenshawe, Lord Simon O. 1953. The BBC From Within. London: Victor Gollancz






[1]Part of the reason for the small percentage of listeners to the Third Programme was technical problems in the receptions of its signals due to congestion on the medium wave-band (some of these problems have a political connection,  the Third Programme planned to use a certain powerful wave length that would be widely audible, but on August 25th the Russians snatched this frequency, and the Third had to use other inferior frequencies. This move that was perceived by the English as hostile beginning of a new cultural war. Carpenter comments that it was an early shot in what a few months later came to be called the Cold War (Carpenter 23).


[2] In addition, this segment points at another characteristic of the BBC radio and perhaps even a subtle criticism of its Drama Department. Although after the war the BBC could boast a large number of writers and artists among its stuff and contributors (most of them Oxford graduates. Hilary, Barbara’s sister, worked in the BBC and many of the writers were acquaintances and perhaps even friends of the Pym sisters). According to the cultural historian Robert Hewison, the amount of work they were able to do as writers “was questionable.” The Drama department, for instance, “did very little to encourage original radio plays – producing only three especially written for radio in 1946, one in 1947 two in 1948—preferring to concentrate on adaptation of the classics” (Hewison 41).   



[3]The public debate regarding science and the humanities continued with the lecture by the novelist and scientist C.P. Snow (1905–80). In The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution: The Rede Lecture he addresses these changes and the rift they created in society. In this lecture he also reacts to the debate sparked by Leavis and offers his view of the role of education in modern society. In 1962 Leavis retaliated with a personal attack on C.P. Snow in his Richmond Lecture at Downing College Cambridge: Two Cultures? The Significance of C. P. Snow, and with another essay entitled “Luddites? or There is Only One Culture” (1972). In the latter Leavis proudly presents Dickens as a Luddite and argues that the non-scientists dons are “the custodians of culture” who, “at this time of rapid and confident and large scale reforms, make the authoritative and decisive recommendations in the field of higher education.” To point out these things continues Leavis “is not to be a Luddite. It is to insist on the truth” (95).