John Gardner at Home

Memories from Luís Duarte D'Almeida

Dear John,

I’m writing to you from Delphi, where I’ve been spending some days. The oracle has been mute for many centuries, unfortunately. But I hiked the slopes of Mount Parnassus and visited the marvellous Korycian Cave, where the great god Pan used to be worshipped.

Our guide told us that one main principle governed the offerings made to the gods: one ought to give the very best one had. Not to please the gods, but because to do so prepares one better to deal with the different kinds of loss one is bound to meet at some point or other.

I liked the thought -- and of course it doesn’t matter whether it is to the gods or to anyone else that you make such outstanding gifts. And it occurred to me right there in Pan’s cave -- for you have been on my mind these days -- that you have always come across to us, your students, as giving us the best you have as a teacher. I will always remain deeply grateful for your kindness, your generosity, your brilliance, your modesty, your humaneness, and your open-mindedness (not to mention all the time your dedicated to us). I feel both very lucky and very privileged to have been your student; and it’s your example and no-one else’s that I try to follow in my own teaching.

I am sorry I didn’t have the courage to write to you earlier. But I want to tell you that above all else I think of you as someone who -- through your kind and patient advice -- truly changed my life. Twice, in fact: first when I was deciding whether to apply to Oxford and we met on a cold January morning when I was visiting for a few days; and then, crucially, when I was considering going back to Portugal at the end of the DPhil. You encouraged me not to return, and had I not followed your advice -- and then benefited from your support -- my life today would be very different.

Thank you, John, ab imo corde.

And um forte abraço (as we say in Portugal).