Bring Me a Grape

What a peculiar, in some respects downright weird little world this fascinating biography introduces us to. Imagine a very clever, very plain, very spoiled little boy, born at the turn of the century into the intensely competitive upper-middle or lower-aristocratic class in Britain. Conventional success at sports, diplomacy, the professions, or business being ruled out by physiology and temperament, he makes it his business from his first days at school to entertain his fellows and masters by superior knowingness. Following this policy, he gains a place at Eton as a King's Scholar. Then, against all prediction, by an unflagging campaign of ingratiation and bedroom politics, he achieves Etonian apotheosis by election to "Pop," an exclusive society in an exclusive school, peopled by the athletic, the aristocratic, and the beautiful.

From Eton, trailing clouds of glory, he goes to Balliol to read history, again with a distinguished scholarship. Oxford, though, disappoints him. History is hard work, and dons are less impressionable than schoolmasters and schoolboys. So he leaves with a third-class degree, and sets about turning charm and cleverness into a literary career that will supply his needs: money, sex, good food, comfortable surroundings, and the friendship of the rich and powerful—many of whom he's already met at school, that being one of the emoluments of an upper-class private education.


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