Colin McIlwaine seems to have made a nice little earner out of collecting schoolboy howlers. His Selection of Schoolboy Howlers, first published in 1928, had gone into a fifth edition by 1930, while two further anthologies, More Schoolboy Howlers and Smith Minor Again followed. An obvious thought occurs with such collections. It must have been tempting to bulk out genuine howlers with made up ones, but since McIlwaine gives no sources for his examples, it is almost impossible to differentiate between the real and the suspicious. A date attached to each howler would also be useful from a social historical point of view. It would be interesting, for instance, to chart the rise of the specifically ‘ schoolboy’ howler as opposed to the malapropism beloved of eighteenth century compilers of joke books, such as Joe Miller’s Jest Book. My own tentative research has brought to light a chapter devoted to them in a book dating from the 1880s, but it doesn’t follow that the author of this book was supplied with howlers by schoolmasters of his acquaintance. It could be that certain howlers had become part of common currency by this period.
Some howlers collected by McIlwaine can be dated quite accurately.
‘ Joan of Arc was canonised by Bernard Shaw ‘
‘Mussolini is an ugly man. He wears the shirt of the Madonna, and when he smiles he makes people weep. He has been killed four times…He can do everything and knows everything and loves playing the saxaphone with his family. Galileo was charged with High Treason because he said that Mussolini moved round the sun, and not the sun round Mussolini.’Continue reading →
Thus begins the front page article published in the January 19th 1951 issue of John O’London’s Weekly. In it the art critic F.M.Godfrey recounts the campaign of Anthony Emery, a mature undergraduate at Pembroke College, Oxford, to supply examples of modern art for the Common rooms, hostels and Unions used by every undergraduate in Britain.
The crusade to inspire students with the right attitude to ‘ the good, the beautiful and true’ had begun just after the war at Emery’s own college, where, shocked by the ignorance of modern art shown by serving officers, he ( a wartime officer ) and some like-minded friends had pledge to subscribe a £1 each to established a small collection for their common room. Inspired by the guidance of Sir Kenneth Clark, who had chosen for them a painting each by John Minton, John Piper and Duncan Grant, they had gone on to choose their own pictures.
As Godfrey remarks, Emery’s manifesto, which he called ‘A New Oxford Movement’ had the spirit of the reformer about it. And Godfrey himself echoed his sentiments.
‘Our appalling ignorance towards modern art must be eradicated when we are at the impressionable …age of under twenty, and we must conquer the schools to secure a lasting influence upon our manhood. If we had a ministry of culture and in it a department for the dissemination of modern art, here are the brains and the will to conduct it. For already half of Oxford has succumbed: Pembroke, Worcester, Brasenose, Exeter and New College, Magdalen and St Edmund’s Hall are outbidding one another in the effort to acquire the largest collection of modern painting in the United Kingdom ‘.Continue reading →
Found among the papers of the mathematician Norman Routledge (1928-2013) this affectionate memoir of E.M. Forster. Routledge had known Forster in the 1950s when he was a Fellow at King’s College, Cambridge. He went on to become a distinguished teacher of mathematics and was a close friend of Alan Turing, inheriting some of his books. The second half of his working life was spent teaching maths at Eton. These notes were probably for a talk he gave to the boys there (mid 1960s) with a sound recording of Forster talking (probably this piece from YouTube) and some reading from his books. The notes are written on the back of the maths homework of one Hope-Jones minor…
I wish I was going to tell you about a great hero- figure, spouting brilliant and amusing things, and combining an amazing literary fertility (an earth-shaking novel every year) with great and noble deeds -what should they be? – fighting injustice and involved in passionate love affairs? But he is none of these.
He happens to have lived since the war in the college, Kings, where I was an undergraduate, and so one would occasionally meet him on social occasions. He’s rather non-descript in appearance – has a moustache and rather dowdy clothes and speaks very little but listens a lot. Very gentle eyes. Is greatly loved by all who know him– has indeed the air of always having been loved without having had to strive for it. Can be very amusing if he wishes, but you have to listen carefully– I’ve seen people quite fail to notice that he has been making fun of them. Continue reading →
Found in a box of old text books (Zinn collection) is this copy of part two of C. B. Heberden’s edition of Euripedes’ Medea ( notes and appendices) published by the Clarendon Press in 1886.Stamped in gold lettering on the light brown cover of this distinctly dull-looking school text book are the words MESSEL/TARVERS. Inscribed in pencil on the fly-leaf we find ‘ L.Messel/Tarvers ‘, which suggests that it belonged at one time to Leonard Charles Rudolph Messel ( 1872 – 1953), father of the famous stage designer Oliver Messel. Beneath the inscription are two pencil and ink drawings—one of a veiled lady in Victorian dress, the other a small profile of a man’s head.
Leonard was the eldest son of Ludwig Messel, a German stockbroker who had emigrated to Britain, possibly in the late 1860s.He married and in 1890 bought Nymans, a 600 acre estate near Hayward’s Heath in West Sussex. His son Leonard was sent to Eton, where he joined Tarver’s house, and that is all we really know about his life as a schoolboy. However, if he did execute the two drawings, then he obviously passed on his artistic skills to his son Oliver, who may also have inherited skills from his mother, who was the daughter of Edward Linley Sambourne, the eminent Punch cartoonist. This being so, it is equally likely that Oliver, who also attended Eton, inherited his father’s copy of Heberden’s Euripides, and it was he who drew the veiled woman and male profile. Continue reading →
"Here come I, my name is Jowett
All there is to know, I know it
I am Master of this College
And what I don’t know isn’t knowledge."
This squib gently mocks the pretensions of arguably Balliol College’s most famous Master. Jowett was a Greek scholar, and like many classicists through the ages, felt that a grounding in Latin and Greek was sufficient qualification to tackle most areas of knowledge. But he was also a dedicated theologian and an educational reformer. This letter, which another hand (possibly the same one that snipped out Jowett’s signature, thus losing text) has dated in pencil 5th November 1874, four years after Jowett was appointed Master, is addressed to a Mr Buckland (possibly a member of the celebrated clan of eccentric scientists). In it Jowett, who was always interested in Indian affairs and was a member of the 1854 committee drawn up to debate the future administration of the colony, shows his keenness to promote the benefits of an education at Oxford University to young men who might wish to join the Indian Civil Service. Previous to 1858, when it closed, such candidates would have been trained at Haileybury College, near Hertford, but Jowett argues that an Oxford education might prove more attractive to these young men than a stint at Haileybury, should that institution be ‘revived’.
Found among the papers of L.R. Reeve* this affectionate portrait of Dorothy Brock much admired educationalist and the headmistress of the Mary Datchelor School in Camberwell for 32 years.
Dame Dorothy Brock, O.B.E., was at one time Headmistress of the Mary Datchelor School, in Camberwell. Her pupils were very fortunate indeed to be learning under the direction of one of the best speakers in London, and much as I admired the platform genius of the late Mrs E. M. Burgwin of Brixton, I am fairly sure that if it were possible to have a choice of listening to one of them on the same evening I should choose Miss Brock.
It may be that her successor was, or is, as excellent a teacher as her immediate predecessor, and as charming a personality, for probably the appointment was open to all the leading women of Great Britain, but whatever the name of the fortunate successor, she had one of the hardest tasks in the country when she stepped into Dr Brock's shoes, and one would like to know how the traditional pioneers of public schools for girls, Miss Beale and Miss Buss, would stand up to such an appointment.
It’s bad enough to learn that nineteen British prime Ministers attended Eton College without learning recently, as I did, that one Eton man was so enamoured of the benefits of a classical education that he seriously suggested that Latin and Greek were the only subjects that should be taught in the classroom.That man was not, incidentally, Boris Johnson, but Edward Balston.
Balston—the son of William, that famous papermaker familiar to all students of palaeography—attended Eton in the 1820s and early 30s and then entered King’s College, Cambridge in 1836. Awarded the Browne Medal for Latin verse every year from 1836 to 1839, he was unusually elected Fellow of King’s in 1839, two years before he graduated, though why it took him five years to gain his B.A. is not adequately explained. In 1842 he became a priest.
Balston loved Eton so much that he couldn’t wait to return there. In 1840, before he had even graduated, he became an assistant master at his alma mater. Twenty two years later he was chosen as Head. In July 1862, not long after his appointment, Balston came up before the Clarendon Commission on Education. On hearing his views on the primacy of classics in the classroom Lord Clarendon was appalled:
Another piece by L.R. Reeve, this on the writer and psychologist J.H. Wimms (Joseph Henry.) He is unknown to Wikipedia and his dates are also unknown but a remark by Reeves that his children must by now be grand parents or great grand parents (written circa 1970) puts Wimms birth date at about 1870. He published a paper in the British Journal of Psychology on The Relative Effects of Fatigue and Practice produced by Different Work in 1907 and earlier in 1903 Elementary Biology (Pilgrim Press). Wimms is mentioned in an earlier jot on D. W. Brogan where Reeve describes him as 'the finest lecturer I have ever known' - no mean compliment, as Reeve was a constant attender of lectures throughout a long and busy life. The Brogan piece also has background on L.R. Reeve.
J. H. WIMMS
The finest lecturer for any university is the man who can maintain an unbroken interest on almost any occasion. Trite, but true; and the greatest I have ever known was J. H. Wimms, M.A., of Goldsmiths’ College. He was one of those rare scholars who can maintain the attention of students who, even with no desire to learn are, in spite of themselves excited by the magnetic presentation of the lecturer, and find eventually that they have quite a fair knowledge of one or more specific subjects. Continue reading →
The rule among the dons of Oxford and Cambridge up to the end of the nineteenth century was that you were permitted to take a degree at these 'august' institutions as long as you weren’t a dissenter or a Jew. At around about the same time, when the first colleges for women were established, similar restrictions were applied to women, who were only granted degrees at Oxford in 1920, and shamefully, at Cambridge in 1948. At the latter University, woman were palmed off with 'certificates' up to that date.
Today, when we are so aware of discrimination against minorities, mathematicians who admire the astonishing achievements of the Jewish-born James Joseph Sylvester (1814- 97) invariably pick up on the fact that despite being ranked second wrangler in the 1837 Cambridge University Tripos, Sylvester, as someone who as a Jew had refused to take the Thirty Nine Articles of the Church of England, was barred from graduating. Nor was he permitted to compete for a fellowship or obtain a Smith’s prize. A year later, and still without a degree, Sylvester was appointed Professor of Natural Philosophy at the University of London, where he had been a student for a short time from the age of 14. It was only in 1841, when Trinity College, Dublin awarded him the degrees he needed that Sylvester was officially qualified to teach students.
From the L.R. Reeve* collection this piece about a distinguished teacher written in about 1971/2. Can find nothing about him online but Reeve's piece may revive memories.
John C. Felgate I find now lives in Australia. I wonder why. Has he a son or daughter, brother or sister already out there who made him decide to leave his numerous friends, acquaintances and relatives in England where he was so popular and respected?
I doubt whether I shall ever know. That question, however, is not very significant. What is important to me is the fact that the memory of John (rarely Called Jack) always brings to mind many happy days together at dinners, reunions, conferences, not to mention one afternoon some years ago when he called unexpectedly at my bungalow in Kingskerswell, and left a note informing me where I could locate him at Newton Abbot. I found him, and that reminiscent happy evening was the last time we met. Continue reading →
From the papers of L R Reeve* this affectionate portrait of a minor character in British education. He does not have a Wikipedia page and is unknown to the DNB, but WorldCat record books on history especially a few text books in the Piers Plowman Histories series which were in print from 1913 - 1957. The other author involved in the series and covered by Reeve was also from Goldsmiths - Ethel Howard Spalding
J. J. BELL
I cannot possibly take an objective view of the late J. J. Bell; for his presence in any circumstances always exhilarated me, and other people seemed to be similarly affected, because there was invariably a rustle of anticipation whenever he joined an assembly. He was not a conscious showman, yet his demeanour was that of a laughing cavalier, a manner perfectly suitable, as he was morally and physically one of the bravest men of his generation. For some years before 1914, he was a lecturer at Goldsmiths' College. At one period he had to face an exceptionally high-spirited and restless group of young men. During one lecture his students were particularly troublesome. "You are a lot of rebels and hooligans!” he finally shouted, as he walked out of the lecture room. Continue reading →
From the L.R. Reeve collection - this worthy piece about Caroline Graveson of Goldsmiths’ College. She is commemorated at their library site which is where the photo comes from (with much thanks). Her dates are not given but she started there in 1905. Reeve, as usual addresses the subjects speaking skills ('…her elocution was perfect…majestic'.)
It would be very unlikely to hear of even one ex-student, trained at Goldsmiths’ College, London, when Miss Graveson was the Vice-Principal, who would speak disparagingly of one of the most gracious educationalists of her long era and an illustrious member of the Training College Association. For Miss Graveson was one of those exceptional women whose integrity, judgment, fairness, and dignity were suggested immediately one met her, and one always felt that any of her interpretations was likely to be the right one. Continue reading →
From the L.R. Reeve* collection of short sketches of people he had met - this affectionate piece about psychologist May Smith O.B.E (1868-1968). There is a very brief entry at Wikipedia but a lot more in an article on early women industrial and experimental psychologists which details sleep privation tests she performed on herself in her study of fatigue amongst workers. Our photo is from the Science Museum and is of a Dotting Machine made by Edgar Schuster. It was used for testing accident-proneness in industrial workers by May Smith and her fellow psychologist Millais Culpin while she was at the Industrial Fatigue Research Board. This was a body originally set up to study the health of munitions workers during World War I. As often with L.R. Reeve, an assiduous attender of lectures, he evaluates oratorical style - in her case 'compulsive' and '..much more unassuming than she ought to have been.'
Mr Alec Rodger M.A., of Birkbeck College, London, has recently contributed, in a Bulletin of the British Psychological Society, a well-deserved tribute to the late Miss May Smith, O.B.E., whom for many years I considered to be among the dozen ablest psychologists in this country; and to this day my opinion has never changed. Moreover, Mr Rodger's survey of her career strengthens my previous conviction of her wide outlook, for although I saw her, heard her unruffled, steady speeches, read accounts of diligent research, such as studying, with Dr Millais Culpin, 1,000 people in all walks of life to find 60 per cent showing some sign of mental ill-health, I never knew of her close knowledge of so many of our eminent pioneers in psychology. I knew that she had been associated with William McDougall, Millais Culpin and Cyril Burt; but the fact that she had been influenced by the eminent Samuel Alexander, Lord D'Abernon, Lord Woolton and the steady, clear-thinking Eric Farmer was news to me;and Mr Rodger’s account of her early days emphasises once again how frequently we meet people for years and suddenly learn that we have both lived in the same locality for a long period, and experienced a human environment of similar interest. Miss Smith and I both knew some of Manchester's leading figures and eminent learned men. Continue reading →
From the Peter Haining papers, this typed manuscript outline of a Billy Bunter vampire story by the great researcher and expert on British comics and periodicals W.O.G. Lofts (1923-1997). He wrote a book on the Bunter author Frank Richards and another on Charteris's The Saint. This story project appears not to have been taken up by The Magnet.…Count von Alucard sounds familiar…
To: The Editor (C. M. Down Esq)
The Vampire at Greyfriars. - Rough Sypnosis.
A new boy arrives in the Remove from a titled family in Eastern Europe. He is strange looking with jet black hair in a windows peak, orange eyes, with large incisor teeth that gives him a wolfish look. Dressed in a long black cloak over his school uniform Count Von Alucard is indeed a very lone wolf. When Bunter tries to tap the new boy for a loan he gives him such an evil look that the Fat Owl of the Remove makes a hasty retreat. With his white drained face Alucard is a very strange fellow indeed to be sharing a study with Herbert Vernon-Smith and Redwing.
From the papers of L R Reeve* this affectionate portrait of a minor character in British education. She does not have a Wikipedia page and is unknown to the DNB, but WorldCat record many books on history and education by her, some of which were continually reprinted into the 1960s. Her first book The problem of rural schools and teachers in North America (London : Stationery Office) was published in 1908 and she is noted as revising a book in 1960, so one could speculate her dates were something like 1880 - 1965. Her text books Piers Plowman Histories were in print from 1913 - 1957.
Miss Spalding was a most astonishing historian who still makes me feel google-eyed when I remember some of her activities.
In appearance she seemed so fragile that one would think a gentle summer breeze would blow her over. Yet when she lectured at Goldsmiths' College, London, cheeky men students, immediately after ragging unmercifully an instructor in physical training, would sit in her presence during a history lecture hardly daring to flicker an eyelid. Should, however, an unusually presumptuous newcomer take a chance, a slightly sarcastic smile and a softly spoken snub would make a blushing, wriggling mortal wish he were miles away from such and unexpected agony; and the tributes to Miss Spalding's uncanny disciplinary power can be heard even to this day when elderly men meet at college reunions.
Found among the papers of the long defunct literary agency Michael Hayes of Cromwell Road S.W.5 - parts of a manuscript memoir by one L.R. Reeve of Newton Abbot, South Devon. Mr Reeve was attempting to get the book (Among those Present: Very Exceptional People) published, but on the evidence of the unused stamp Hayes never replied and L. R. Reeve published the book himself through the esteemed vanity publisher Stockwell two years later in 1974.
L R Reeve had in a long life met or observed a remarkable selection of famous persons. He presents 'vignettes' of 110 persons from all grades of society (many minor or even unknown) they include Winston Churchill, Dorothy Sayers, H H Asquith, John Buchan, the cricketer Jack Hobbs, J.B. Priestley, H.G. Wells, Marconi, E.M. Forster, Duchess of Atholl, Marie Stopes, Oliver Lodge and Cecil Sharp -- 'it is unnecessary to explain that many I have known have not known me. All of them I have seen, most of them I have heard, and some of them have sought information, even advice from me." Reeve states that the unifying qualification all these people have is '… some subtle emanation of personality we call leadership, and which can inspire people to actions unlikely to be undertaken unless prompted by a stronger will."
Reeve was a teacher throughout his life and deputy head of 3 London schools, headmaster of Loughborough emergency schools, ex-president of London Class Teachers Association and very early member of the British Psychological Society (55 years)... I calculate he was probably born in about 1900. His style is markedly unexciting but he has much information unavailable elsewhere.. He sent 6 typed manuscripts to (from the smell) the chain-smoking agent Hayes...This is L R Reeve's admiring take on Nicolas Murray Butler (1862 -1947) an American philosopher, diplomat, and educator. He was a somewhat divisive figure and not universally liked. One notable critic of Butler was Beat poet Allen Ginsberg. While attending Columbia, Ginsberg scrawled the words "Butler Has No Balls" on his grimy dorm window. This must have been just before Butler died and it seems to have lead to the poet being chucked out of college.
Found among the papers of the long defunct literary agency Michael Hayes of Cromwell Road S.W.5 - parts of a manuscript memoir by one L.R. Reeve of Newton Abbot, South Devon. He was attempting to get the book (Among those Present: Very Exceptional People) published, but on the evidence of the unused stamp Hayes never replied and L. R. Reeve published the book himself through the esteemed vanity publisher Stockwell two years later in 1974.
Stockwell books are necessarily rare - there is one copy on sale in the world at a stratospheric $350 in America but WorldCat records 16 copies in major libraries. L R Reeve had in a long life met or observed a remarkable selection of famous persons. He presents 'vignettes' of 110 persons from all grades of society (many minor or even unknown) they include Winston Churchill, Dorothy Sayers, H H Asquith, John Buchan, the cricketer Jack Hobbs, J.B. Priestley, H.G. Wells, Marconi, E.M. Forster, Duchess of Atholl, Marie Stopes, Oliver Lodge and Cecil Sharp -- 'it is unnecessary to explain that many I have known have not known me. All of them I have seen, most of them I have heard, and some of them have sought information, even advice from me." Reeve states that the unifying qualification all these people have is '… some subtle emanation of personality we call leadership, and which can inspire people to actions unlikely to be undertaken unless prompted by a stronger will."
Found - loosely inserted in a copy of his novel A State of Denmark this typescript of an interview with Robin Cook aka Derek Raymond. At one point he says he is 60 which dates it at 1991. It does not appear to have been published. Many of the typos have been cleared up. It was probably transcribed from a tape recorded in a noisy pub with a break in a Chinese restaurant and back to the pub. Robin Cook, cult novelist and author of The Crust on Its Uppers was also known as Derek Raymond. He had to change his name as it was the same as the best selling author of schlock medical thrillers (Coma etc.,).
Dead man upright. Chap still walking around who really oughtnt to be. Bit like your nameless policeman. Yea, lots of policemmen like that esp the busted ones. All driving minicabs. What can you do after being a bent policeman? and you know London well what can you do next/ Dont do research with police. Had lunch once . Id rather do it from imagination. Better relations with French police. How to beat people up with a telephone book. Known a lot of busted ones in my time, disciplinary reasons, sex casess, bisexual ones. Back in West Hampstead. Been there a year until I finish the book. Memoirs out next month BBC series. Kenneth Trodd. Scriptwriter is a man called William Golding. The man in charge is Kenneth Trodd. First met him years agao back in 1962 when he wanted to make a film of Crust on its Uppers, used to have endless talks. He did singing tec with Dennis Potter. So its in as good hands as it could be. Three 50min episodes, they will draw on all 4 books. Continue reading →
L. B. Pekin was the author of 5 books published by Virginia & Leonard Woolf's Hogarth Press in the 1930s - Public Schools: their Failure and their Reform (1932) Progressive schools: their Principles and Practice (1934) and a Hogarth pamphlet The Military Training of Youth (an enquiry into the aims and effects of the OTC).He also penned a short book on Darwin in their 'World-makers and World-shakers' series (1937) with a jacket by John Banting or possibly Richard Kennedy (who did most of Pekin's jackets). Kennedy later wrote A Boy at the Hogarth Press. L.B. Pekin's real name was Reginald Snell. This pamphlet on St Christopher's, a progressive school at Letchworth (still going strong and still vegetarian) was loosely inserted in his book on public schools.
The Way of Life at St Christopher School, Letchworth
By L. B. PEKIN
It is too easy for a school to make extravagant claims for its contribution to the happiness and welfare of mankind. We can never know how much, in the end, we are able to do for our children. At the most we can but believe that by giving them a community in which they may develop most freely, according to the mysterious laws that guide the growth of the human spirit, they will be able to become most thoroughly themselves, knowing themselves and knowing what they midst do with their lives. At the most we can believe this–and at the least, too; in either case our responsibility and our opportunity are alike tremendous. Every school worthy of the name must be founded on a faith; none will perfectly succeed in living up to its highest hopes. In the paragraphs that follow we shall give the most honest description of one school that is built on a firm faith in a certain way of life, if we set out the things we believe to be good for the growth of the human spirit in the child; and we shall want to make the honest admission that such a description must needs be rose-tinted–it cannot give a fair picture of the daily difficulties and occasional perplexities, the half-failures and the part-victories that must occupy a large share in the life of any school. Here, at any rate, are some of the things which we believe and for which we work.
At Jot we love and devour lists...This list was found among the paper of Norman (Arthur) Routledge (1928-2013), mathematician, teacher of mathematics at Eton and one time friend of Alan Turing. It appears to have been compiled by another teacher, Peter Lawrence, in 1983 and was circulated "in the hope that Masters will without diffidence suggest additions and/or deletions (especially in their own department/field), as well as drawing my attention to any non-OEs I may have included in error…" Reprinted here warts and all:-
OE tie -Gieves & Hawkes
OLD ETONIANS OF NOTE
Coningsby, Ld Vere, Millbank &c
(Disraeli "Coningsby" passim)
Capt Hook (J M Barrie "Peter Pan")
Davy Jones (Erik Linklater "Pirates of
the Deep Green Sea")
Rockingham, Marquess of, "Under Two Flags"
('none rowed faster than stroke')
Sultan & Eunuch (C B Cochrane "Nymph Errant")
Bertie Wooster (P G Wodehouse passim)