People have tried to talk me out of liking this book since well before I read it. There's something less than subtly discouraging about opening your book on a quote by a George Sampson that says "an unpleasant book about unpleasant boys at an unpleasant school". But I don't know who George Sampson was and, after looking it up in google, only this guy shows up:
I am inclined to disregard his opinion. Of course, if I were to read the fifth line of the introduction I would find that Wells "condemns the heroes as self-righteous bullies", and I do know who Wells is, but let's be honest. I never make it that far in the introduction.
I love the book. Stalky, Beetle and M'Turk have so much fun being unpleasant that I'm completely on their side. They're bullies, but they're fun bullies, and brilliant ones, and they enjoy playing with language and messing with people just as much. I don't mind that they're mean. They usually only pick on the strong. Of course, there's this scene.
"He says he doesn't know anything about bullyin'. Haven't we taught you a lot?"
"He says we've taught him a lot. Aren't you grateful?"
"He says he's grateful"
But I'm a vengeful little twat, and I think those guys had it coming. Beatings happened in that sort of school, and this one is unusually light-humoured. I remember the one in Saki ( in The Unbearable Bassington, I think), the one doing the flogging enjoyed, but these guys are not sadists. I like that they're ruthless, it's epic. Speaking about epic, what's there not to like about a whole story translating Horace? Nothing, that's what. It's not even about nostalgia, because honestly, it's hasn't been that many years since I stopped studying latin and I haven't got the time to be nostalgic just yet.
It's just that... When King complains about the smells that come from the other class, Paddy comments, because he remembers last term's Ode:"Non hoc semper erit liminis aut aquae caelestis patiens latus."
"This side will not always be patient of rain and waiting on the threshold".
King, the teacher, retorts: "And you remembered? The same head that minted probrosis as a verb! Vernon, you are an enigma."
When your whole class has been called names for similar reasons for many years, that cracks you up.
And there's french, too:‘Shut up! Did you ever know your Uncle Stalky get you into a mess yet?’ Like many other leaders, Stalky did not dwell on past defeats.
The cheroot burned with sputterings of saltpetre. They smoked it gingerly, each passing to the other between closed forefinger and thumb.
‘Good job we hadn’t one apiece, ain’t it?’ said Stalky, shivering through set teeth. To prove his words he immediately laid all before them, and they followed his example. . . .
‘I told you,’ moaned Beetle, sweating clammy drops. ‘Oh, Stalky, you are a fool!’
‘Je cat, tu cat, il cat. Nous cattons!’ M‘Turk handed up his contribution and lay hopelessly on the cold iron.
I feel you, M'Turk. I too resort to frech in desperate situations.
And there's english:"Come to my arms, my beamish boy!" carolled M'Turk, and they fell into each other's arms dancing. "Oh, frabjous day! Calloo, callay!"
That's Through the Looking Glass. They're total fanboys, they adore or dispise.
I suppose that, being Kipling-the-evil-imperialist, it might be relevant to include this quote too: He shook it before them- a large calico Union Jack, staring in all three colours, and waited for the thunder of applause that should crown his effort.
They looked in silence. They had certainly seen the thing before- but [...]. What, in the name of everything caddish, was he driving at, who waved that horror before their eyes? Happy thought! Perhaps he was drunk.