Kingsley Amis (1922-1995) and Denis Norden (1922-2018)

From: The Life of Kingsley Amis (2006), by Zachary Leader:

“In 1934 the City of London School was located in what Amis describes as a “rather oppressively dignified” brick and Portland stone building with “lots of corridors and a vast agoraphobic playground”…To get to it from Blackfriars station involved a walk of a hundred yards…to a side entrance on John Carpenter Street. Only in the sixth form were boys permitted to enter the school by the front steps leading on to the Embankment…

Other boys from modest backgrounds…often took languages on the Modern side, as did Denis Norden, an exact contemporary of Amis’s at CLS…

Amis remembered him as glamorous and brilliant: “The school intellectual. If I’d been asked to name a boy who might be a great writer or professor, I’d have mentioned Norden.” Norden, though, saw himself as merely flash: the boys who were truly brilliant were mostly on the Classics side. This was the school’s view as well…

Part of what kept this tradition alive in Amis’s day was the influence of the headmaster, F.R. Dale…

…Amis held him “in terrified veneration”. Norden thought he “looked more like a headmaster than any headmaster who ever lived”.

…When Norden won a school essay competition in the fifth form, he selected The Collected Stories of Guy de Maupassant as his prize book, a rather racy choice. Dale passed it to him “with a slight lift of the eyebrow”.”

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