[I]t was a long established rule in Cambridge colleges that wives — especially wives — were banned from High Table. High Table was the preserve of the Fellows who cultivated self-importance with the same exquisite care that lesser mortals might be expected to lavish on a prized stamp collection or a breed of racing pigeons. Their conversation revolved around the finer details of the most abstruse subjects — their own subjects, naturally, about which they could expatiate at length while avoiding the embarrassment of having to discuss subjects about which they knew little or nothing. Mistresses were preferred to dull, silly wives.  Indeed, a Fellow might invite any woman to dine provided she was not his wife.

Jane Hawking, “Travelling to Infinity:  My Life with Stephen.”

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