Eric Anderson

Full of sound and fury

John Knox, Cranmer complained, was ‘one of those unquiet spirits, which can like nothing but that is after their own fancy, and cease not to make trouble and disquietness’. Yet this awkward cuss, son of a merchant in Haddington and initially a young Roman Catholic priest, became a pillar of the Reformation in Europe and

A rebellion among Rugby schoolboys proved perfect training for its ringleader in putting down a Jamaican slave-rising in later life

The public schools ought to have gone out of business long ago. The Education Act of 1944, which promised ‘state-aided education of a rapidly improving quality for nothing or next to nothing’, seemed to herald, as the headmaster of Winchester cautioned, the end of fee-paying. Two decades later Roy Hattersley warned the Headmasters’ Conference to

Tales out of school

The Old Boys’ Network, by John Rae At Westminster School, under the shadow of Big Ben and at the very centre of national life, 600 of the brightest, quirkiest and most stimulating boys and girls in the country spar with teachers of similar character. Results are spectacular. The difficulty for the headmaster, however, is that

Public skool monkey business

Listing page content here I misjudged this book. I thought the airport fiction promised by the literary editor would take me nicely to New York, where I was going the next day. However, at 846 pages, weighing in at one kilo, Jilly Cooper’s Wicked! is long enough to get you to Australia. On my second

Gods and heroes made human

Nigel Spivey set out to write these stories for his children. He confesses, endearingly, that the children grew up faster than he wrote the book. Perhaps that was as well since the bookshops are well-stocked with Greek myths for children. What he gives us instead is a lively retelling of the main myths and legends

One man and his dog

Six weeks after the defeat of the Taleban Rory Stewart started to walk across Afghanistan. He took the direct route through the central mountains from Herat to Kabul when there was still deep snow on the paths and ice cracking underfoot. The chances of surviving the weather, the Pashtun, Taleban and al-Qua’eda while entrusting himself

Diary – 15 November 2003

In all the endless talk about school examinations I have never heard this important point made. It is that ever improving school exam results are the nearest thing yet to a panacea for universal happiness. Just notice how many people they please. Pupils, or students as everyone calls them these days, like getting A grades

The old order changeth

As a historical novel Thomas Gage is more Hardy than Tolstoy. The classic historical novel — as concocted by Walter Scott and perfected by Tolstoy — gives the reader an unexpected viewpoint from which to witness a great historical moment. Fictional characters with fictional relationships are the centre of attention, but they weave in and

Settling in Seattle

In Waxwings Jonathan Raban triumphantly transfers the skills of an award-winning travel writer to his second novel. (The first was written 18 years ago.) Like the author, the principal character has moved from Britain to Seattle, ‘where herring gulls were a traffic hazard and all streets led down to the water’. Tom Janeway is Distinguished