The subject set for the Lothian prize in 1883 was ‘Justinian’. For a month before leaving on a tour of Egypt, Palestine and the Balkans George Curzon slaved at the British Museum. Those books of which he could get copies were packed on the journey. The essay he wrote in intervals of leisure on steamers, in his tent, or on camel-back. From The Times he learned in a café at Bedapesth a few weeks later that he had won the prize. This was the first step on the road to a recovery of self-respect and confidence. Later in that year, after another bout of concentrated reading, he sat for and was award a Fellowship at All Souls. One more academic goal remained. In December, Curzon happened to see, busily at work in Bodleian, an acquaintance who had taken a First and whom he imagined, wrongly, to be preparing an essay for the Arnold Prize. The subject was ‘Sir Thomas More’. Quite undeterred by the fact that he knew nothing about Sir Thomas More, Curzon determined to compete.
For nearly four months he shut himself up in London and worked twelve or fourteen hours a day. The essays must be handed in by midnight on a Monday. On that evening Curzon took the train to Oxford, continuing to write until the last moment. As the clocks tolled twelve he knocked up the janitor at the Schools, apologising for the inconvenience on the grounds that this was the winning essay. A few weeks later the press announced that the Hon. G. N. Curzon had been awarded the Prize. No one had ever before won both the Arnold and Lothian prizes (Dilks, 21–22).
He read classics which were divided into parts—Mods and Greats. He was required to spend six terms on each. For Mods he had to read Greek and Latin: Greats included History and Philosophy. Richard Farrer took it upon himself to warn Curzon to concentrate on his studies.
Nevertheless, he was considerably pained to discover when the results were out that he had not got a first (Goradia, 88).