Poetry professor 'relieved to quit'

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The Independent Culture

Oxford University's first professor of poetry sang the praises of her subject as she put her resignation and allegations of a smear campaign against a rival firmly behind her.

Ruth Padel held the prestigious post for just nine days, becoming the first woman in the chair's illustrious 301-year-history after winning the academic accolade earlier this month.

On Tuesday night she was applauded as she performed a series of poems at the Hay Festival of Literature - just hours after speaking of her relief at stepping down from the job as the controversy over her election raged on.

Professor Padel insisted she had done nothing more than be very "naive and silly" by sending emails to two journalists highlighting allegations already made against her main rival during the run-up to the election.

Derek Walcott, 79 and former favourite for the job, withdrew after Oxford academics received up to 100 anonymous letters which reportedly detailed an allegation of sexual harassment made against him.

His decision left the way open for Professor Padel, who is the great-great-granddaughter of Charles Darwin, but her election win proved short-lived when details of the emails she had sent emerged.

It meant her election to the chair was quickly mired in controversy and she stepped down soon after.

Speaking at a brief press conference at the Hay Festival of Literature, in mid-Wales, Prof Padel said she was troubled by the thought that people might believe her emails formed part of the campaign against Mr Walcott.

"I have acted throughout in complete good faith, but I can, of course, see that people can misconstrue that," she said. "I do want to apologise to him, but I cannot apologise for things I have not done and I have not done the campaign."

She added later that she felt "relieved" now that she had stood down. "As soon as I was told yesterday that there were people in Oxford who were severely against me I thought it was the right thing."