M Profile: Caron Freeborn - Cambridge's Unlikely Don; She Was a Drug Addict at 14 Whose Family Paid Protection Money to the Krays. Home Was an East End Council House, She Played Truant from School and Dreamed of Being a Stripper. Remarkably, Caron Freeborn Is Today a Leading Academic Light on Renaissance Literature at Cambridge University

The Mirror (London, England), April 10, 2001 | Go to article overview

M Profile: Caron Freeborn - Cambridge's Unlikely Don; She Was a Drug Addict at 14 Whose Family Paid Protection Money to the Krays. Home Was an East End Council House, She Played Truant from School and Dreamed of Being a Stripper. Remarkably, Caron Freeborn Is Today a Leading Academic Light on Renaissance Literature at Cambridge University


Byline: Barbara Davies

Her cockney accent may seem out of place in the book-lined study, but the audience of undergraduates hang on to her every word.

Straight out of their various public schools, the students are initially shocked by the effing and blinding of their English tutor, but at Cambridge University, Caron Freeborn is regarded as something of an oracle when it comes to Shakespeare.

"When I first came here," she smiles, "if I opened my mouth to say anything, people would laugh. Because of my accent they assumed I must be saying something funny."

Sitting in her favourite armchair, the 35-year-old cuts a striking figure in Lacroix and Prada, spiky heels and tattoos - hardly the stereotypical Cambridge don.

But then growing up in the heart of London's working-class East End, where her family paid protection money to the Krays and she became a drug addict by the age of 14, Caron's aspirations once extended only as far as working as a hostess in an illegal drinking den.

When she played truant from school, preferring to get high with her friends, she could never have imagined that one day she would be a leading academic and an expert on Renaissance literature at one of the world's most famous universities. Not to mention an up-and-coming novelist.

As a child, Caron assumed her life would follow a path no different from that of the rest of her family, who have been in the East End for "as long as anyone can remember".

Her waitress mother Bobbie and her gas-fitter father Tony had married as teenagers and both had left school with virtually no education to start earning a living to help support their own parents.

Born Caron Severn, she grew up in a two-bedroom, end-of-terrace house with a tiny garden, sharing her bedroom with her adult cousin Kenny, who was brought up as her brother.

"My mum always told me that when she first moved to the house she thought she had died and gone to heaven because it had a bathroom and electric lights in all the rooms," says Caron.

"When she was a girl she was so poor that when she got her first job and bought a bar of soap she had to lock it away from her sisters. Our house was luxury compared to those days."

Like the rest of her family, Caron was raised in a culture where violence and criminality were the norm.

Her uncle Ronnie, who owned a scrap yard in Stepney, used to pay protection money to the Krays and every Friday night he had to go to the pub for a drink with them.

"Had to," emphasises Caron, "absolutely had to.

"And when Kenny was a kid, the Krays used to give him a couple of quid pocket money each week."

Caron readily admits that her family are "not quite legit".

"Where I come from, everything in everybody's house is hooky. It's all bought down the pub."

Her childhood years were rough and ready but loving and happy. The tiny family home was never silent - on the rare occasions the TV was switched off, her father would play his Tony Bennett records and sing along noisily.

Holidays abroad were out of the question, but each year the family would pile in to her father's Ford Cortina and head off to Pontins in Great Yarmouth.

Like the rest of her family, education held no meaning for Caron and she regarded her school years as nothing more than a hardship.

"When I was little, I wanted to be a stripper," she laughs. "I thought the music was fantastic. That was the beginning and end of my ambitions."

But her love of books was the thing that would finally set Caron apart.

"I started off with Alice In Wonderland which I found in the local library and I never looked back," she says. "I used to spend my pocket money on Enid Blyton."

By the time she reached senior school in 1977, it was becoming clear that she was far brighter than her contemporaries, but for Caron this was more of a curse than a blessing. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

M Profile: Caron Freeborn - Cambridge's Unlikely Don; She Was a Drug Addict at 14 Whose Family Paid Protection Money to the Krays. Home Was an East End Council House, She Played Truant from School and Dreamed of Being a Stripper. Remarkably, Caron Freeborn Is Today a Leading Academic Light on Renaissance Literature at Cambridge University
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.