NR Digital

Poor Like Whom?

by Theodore Dalrymple
Personal and literary reflections on the concept of poverty

When I was a student I lived in poverty, though I didn’t know it. The conditions in which I lived would now be regarded as abject and intolerable, good enough reason for emergency public assistance. The house in which I lived was unheated and so cold that in winter it seemed colder inside than out. I had to jump into bed quickly if I did not want to freeze, and, once I was in, I used to observe the cloud of vapor emerging from my mouth. Ice formed on the inside of the windows by morning.

I lived in bohemian squalor. Housework was not a priority of mine (it was beneath me) and when I had money I bought champagne and smoked salmon. The rest of the time I lived on bread or the like. Why did I not think of myself as poor?

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