Latin, stockings, and snobbery - Naomi Mitchison, George Orwell and others remember their schooldaysby Ian Irvine / August 21, 2013 / Leave a comment
Published in September 2013 issue of Prospect Magazine
Janice Galloway with classmates at primary school (third row, far left)
Naomi Mitchison recalls her days at the Dragon School in Oxford before the First World War:
“I liked the smell of school, I liked hanging up my coat with the rest… The only wretched thing was that when I started school I had to start wearing black stockings which went right up under my button-below-the-knee knickers. Apart from that I wore a blue serge skirt and a blue jersey, but I did at least have a school blazer with badge. I remember in my first term a boy approached me with a tin and asked if I would like some bread and cheese. Not being allowed to eat cheese and supposing myself not to like it, I hesitated. But when he opened the tin it was hawthorn buds which I ate happily and still eat… I felt I was being admitted into the society.”
George Orwell writes about prep school in 1915:
“The snobbishness that was an integral part of my own education would be almost unthinkable today, because the society that nourished it is dead. I recall a conversation that must have taken place about a year before I left St Cyprian’s. A Russian boy, large and fair-haired, a year older than myself, was questioning me.
“‘How much has your father got?’
“I told him what I thought it was, adding a few hundreds to make it sound better. The Russian boy, neat in his habits, produced a pencil and a small notebook and made a calculation. ‘My father has over 200 times as much money as yours,’ he announced with a sort of amused contempt.
“That was in 1915. What happened to that money a couple of years later, I wonder? And still more I wonder, do conversations of that kind happen at preparatory schools n…