Every academic should at least read Mary Beard’s review in the TLS on two works on Polybius, because not everyone will read the essay to which she refers.
And because not everyone will even read the full review, here is the part that really matters.
This from Mary Beard (who also praises John Ma; I knew him before he became famous):
The most moving contribution to Polybius and His World is the final essay by one of Frank Walbank’s three children, Mitzi, “Growing up with Polybius: a daughter’s memoir”. It makes a wonderful counterpoint to Henderson’s story of the publishing history of Walbank’s commentary on Polybius, from the original proposal down to discussions of the sales figures and royalties when the last volume appeared (1,026 copies of Volume Three sold in the first accounting year). For Mitzi Walbank also explores the relationship of her father with his work, describing what it was like to be a child in a household where Polybius was at the breakfast table too. She writes with tenderness and affection (“I’m very proud of my dad” is her final sentence). But there is wistful sadness as well. “Polybius was the enemy,” she explains, “a baleful presence in our lives” – because he made the children’s well-intentioned, yet already rather distant father, even more distant. “I remember a walk in Delamere Forrest as a teenager; he told me about resin and I told him about school. He listened politely. It was a struggle but we both tried.”
She also sees with chilling clarity how her father became increasingly dependent on Polybius, as her mother became increasingly ill (“full-blown bi-polar disorder involving swings between singing-in-streets-spending-sprees . . . and the lying-in-bed-all-the-time-weeping . . . kind of behaviour”). “For Frank,” she writes, “his work on Polybius was a refuge, and a certainty, the only certainty . . . . He could continue all alone to watch over and unpick Polybius, engage with and assess him, have a relationship that was not available anywhere else.” The children predictably reacted in different ways: the experience of living with Polybius did not dissuade Mitzi’s elder sister Dorothy (Thompson) from becoming a classicist herself, and a distinguished Cambridge ancient historian to rank with her father.
Academics themselves are usually reluctant to reflect on how their intense, obsessional and often very solitary interests affect those around them. And formal obituaries tend to draw a polite veil over the day-to-day structures and personal relationships that foster or undermine research projects. It is as if all those hours alone with the books somehow take place in a social and emotional vacuum. It was a brave move on the part of Bruce Gibson and Thomas Harrison to commission Mitzi Walbank’s memoir for Polybius and His World. It should, I am afraid, be required reading for every academic.