Tag Archives: Rosalind Murray

“Probably I caught you young and over influenced you.”


An invaluable (but it seems not widely recognized, probably because most people read superficially), occasional occurrence in reading is that one comes across observations that jostle the mind (suggest new ways of looking at things) and “surface” (which is to say bring to mind; elicit in one’s consciousness) “new” thoughts and formulations that one was not looking for, that come unexpectedly, that are “ancillary” to the subject or main topic of the book.



From William H. McNeill’s biography of Arnold J. Toynbee:

On her twenty-first birthday Gilbert Murray wrote to [his daughter, Rosalind Murray] as follows: “It is very strange to think of you being a grown up woman, though in a way you have been like a grown up companion to me since you were about eleven.” That, indeed, was why establishing real independence of her father was so hard. Gilbert Murray had shared literary interests with Rosalind which he could not share with his wife; and when she began to show precocious skill he undoubtedly transferred some of his own disappointed literary aspirations to his daughter. (Murray was related both to Rudyard Kipling and to W. S. Gilbert; and he once confessed that as a young man he had been jealous of Kipling’s literary success.) … Gilbert Murray … both wished to see his daughter become independent and hated to have her do so. “We used to be rather specially close and intimate,” he wrote to her in 1912, “and agree in our interests and ideas. Probably I caught you young and over influenced you. And now you are thinking for yourself in all sorts of ways and differing from me, not so much in views as in general feelings. That is all right. Only the process of breaking asunder is a necessarily painful one: it has been so for me and I imagine that it probably has for you. And I know I have sometimes been sarcastic and unkind …. And, dear, I am very sorry and won’t do it any more.” … [Gilbert Murray letter to his daughter Rosalind, June 29, 1912]

“It may be that . . . I am no longer any good to you. … I think about you constantly, I admire your work, and I love you. I think, in trying to readjust our relations from parent and child to friend and friend, we have both made a lot of blunders. It is a difficult job and we were sure to do so. But it would be rather humiliating if you and I had not enough brains and sensitiveness to avoid the most ordinary pitfalls of life.” [Gilbert Murray letter to his daughter Rosalind, December 14, 1912]

Yet, even though the family pattern meant that they were often separated, by far the most important person in Rosalind’s childhood was [her father] Gilbert Murray. When she was only one and half years old, Murray set out ”to teach her to talk by making her give me orders–‘Run’, ‘Stop’, etc.” “It is a great help she is so intelligent,” he informed her grandmother in 1893. He cultivated her (undoubtedly precocious) literary skills, asking her to write him poems when she went away to school and offering delicate, lighthearted criticism of the childish verses she sent back.

— William H. McNeill, Arnold J. Toynbee: A Life (Oxford University Press, 1989), pp. 56, 58-59



Probably I caught you young and over influenced you.

Over-influence. Parental over-influence. At an early age (their children’s). During their children’s development years.

Has this been studied and written about by psychologists?

It is certainly worth thinking about.

One usually reads about the dangers of parental neglect, and the benefits (taken as a given) of parental involvement in their children’s lives. To foster and nurture (the latter) growth and wellness and the development of positive attributes. But is it possible that some parents become over involved? That a certain distance should be maintained?

This is tricky. But I thought of my own parents, who seemed to do a good job in this respect. They could at times — often, in fact — be overly critical. But many of my pursuits, interests, and achievements — while fostered by them to an extent (for example, my mother had a lot to do with instilling in me a love of reading) — were carried on by me largely independent of them: my thoughts in private, my activities (such as hanging out with, playing with, and learning from friends) not that closely supervised by them.

This makes me reflect on my own parenting style, possible faults of mine in this respect, and how no one ever seems to think about this.



Rosalind Murray (1890–1967) was a British-born writer and novelist known for The Happy Tree and The Leading Note. Her father, Gilbert Murray (1866-1957), was a famous classical scholar.

In 1913, Rosalind Murray married the Oxford don Arnold J. Toynbee, who became a world famous historian.


— posted by Roger W. Smith

    November 2020