Cloudesley Brereton (1867 – 1937)

Poems by Brereton with
design by Sturge Moore

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."

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) delegate to many educational conferences, student at many summer schools and speech writer. 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 - Miss Spalding, Wickham Steed, Cloudesley Brereton, Nicolas Murray Butler, Asquith, Dr Hugh Crichton Miller and Dr W H R Rivers. Hoping to air some of these soon, starting with the forgotten writer, translator, philosopher, educationist and poet Cloudesley Brereton (1867 - 1937.)


  The London Education Committee probably continues a custom I encountered more than sixty years ago. At the end of every year three inspectors visited all training colleges in London (probably also in England) to interview outgoing students who aspired to be placed on the 'London List' and teach under the London County Council.

  I aspired. At the appointed time I went in the great hall where, at a long table covered with documents, sat Coudesley Brereton, M.A., L-es-L, (Paris), flanked on either side by another inspector; and there immediately occurred a rare moment when my shaky nerves responded to a severe test in a 'question and answer' procedure. Dr Brereton: 'You are Mr Reeve'? 'Yes, sir'. 'Do you know Mr Girling'? 'Oh yes', I replied, 'I know Mr Girling'. Asked the chairman, 'What does Mr Girling think of you?' I'm afraid I don't know, I answered, 'but I hope he was impressed by my teaching'. I clearly remember a smile and an approving nod at the reply, and within fifteen minutes I was out of the hall: successfully on the list, I was informed the next day.

  Perhaps I should explain to the uninitiated that Mr George Girling was an L.C.C. inspector who each year visited Home Office schools throughout the country to examine boys who had been sent from London. In our Manchester school, Barnes Home, we had about 150 London boys. Yound as I was at the time of the above interview I realised immediately that such a question might easily bring out a candidate's self-esteem, his boasting tendencies and his irritating suggestion of superiority. I realised moreover that the three inspectors were experienced in the art of interviewing, and that bluff was useless to most applicants. Furthermore I might add in passing that Mr Girling was a very distinguished-looking man, although maybe not among the most outstanding of London inspectors. Perhaps it would be true that he was a normal type in his professional environment, and to reach the normal status in London is to reach a high standard, for the inspectorate has always been a group of outstanding men and women. I remember in this connection that on one occasion when an Education Officer was appointed the names of unsuccessful candidates were not made public because so many distinguished people were unsuccessful.

  Brereton himself, for instance, may have been one of them. It was a very high compliment to make him Editor of the English Education section of the 14th edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica; and I note that one of the contributers under his editorship was Sir Percy Nunn on Educational Theory. Brereton himself wrote on 'Foreign Languages' and other articles. I have not read any of his books, but I am informed that The Organization of Modern Languages is concisely written and a useful book for any student. Indeed his all-round knowledge of French History was his great speciality; but in addition he was partly responsible for Education and History and Universities; therefore one presumes that he was a versatile scholar with French as his special subject. Having resided and taught in London for so long, inevitably I often heard from colleagues and other sources of the prominent Cloudesley Brereton: his personality, his wide knowledge, his oratory; but as he was divisional inspector not in my division I never saw him in a school; occasionally, however, I noted his presence at evening meetings, and although I heard criticisms and tributes about certain inspectors I heard only the adverse remark about Brereton: that in spite of his extensive knowledge of the language his French accent was poor. That criticism I can fully understand for, although I will go anywhere in France with a blank notebook to jot down anything should like to say, and in spite of linguaphone records my accent is one of the world's worst.

  Yes, I liked and admired the prominent LCC inspector in spite of a searching, but short and fair interview. I like especially the news regarding his elderly life. I am informed that he was a Norfolk man, who on retirement returned to his native county and rented a farm. That is perfectly credible, for some years later, at a certain meeting in London I noted a rustic-looking man wearing countryman's clothes, sitting prominently at the front of the audience. His face as familiar. I am pretty sure it was Cloudesley Brereton. It is delightful to see a man unashamed of his vocation - especially when he graduates as a hoary son of the soil. If he represented 'the return of the native' the attitude of genmen who had been farming all their adult days might have been fairly tolerant, especially if his father had been an agriculturist. Usually I believe a lifelong countryman is not particularly effusive to a retired city man who takes up farming.

  There are of course exceptions. If the superannuated newcomer admits his ignorance he may find the local people willing to give sound advice. As for Brereton's arrival I should anticipate plenty of idle talk at first concerning the latest addition to the census, especially in the nearest hostelry. The early gossip, while not hostile, might be on the critical side, but I should anticipate a gradual ascent to popularity, with many requests for talks to Rotarians, W.I's and other adult bodies, added perhaps to a seat on the local council, until he would ultimately wonder whether his activities were more arduous than ever.

5 thoughts on “Cloudesley Brereton (1867 – 1937)

  1. admin Post author

    Not entirely unrelated to Pooter – both Reeve and Brereton – but both slightly later and a little more serious and slightly less comic characters than him and perhaps one or two rungs up the class ladder of the time – also hard to imagine them with a raffish son like Lupin…

  2. Anonymous

    Cloudesley Brereton was a great friend of Henry D. Davray (ie :Wilde, Harris, Wells, Lord Beaverbrook…). Do you have any information about this friendship?


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