Edward Lucie-Smith was at King’s from 1946 to 1951 and was in School House. Like Patrick Leigh Fermor, he was very conscious of the School’s literary tradition.
“Another thing which makes it difficult to write about my time at King’s is the fact that, apart from Eton and perhaps Harrow, this is already the most literary of public schools, in the sense that a number of well-known writers have attended it, and most of them have left accounts, more or less disguised, of the time they spent there. Among these alumni were Hugh Walpole and Somerset Maugham, both of whom appear to have been miserable. Another, earlier, and to me more interesting pupil, was Walter Pater, whose novella, Emerald Uthwart, is, in some pages, the memorial to the time he spent in Canterbury.”
Lucie-Smith re-read Emerald Uthwart before writing his own chapters on the School. He describes the influence of ‘Fred’ Shirley, the visits of Somerset Maugham and Field Marshal Montgomery, the Kent countryside, and writing his first poem for The Cantuarian. Here he recalls the coldness of School House:
“…the school buildings were hard to heat. School House, the boarding house where I had been placed, was a gaunt pile faced with knapped flints that looked like a Victorian rectory. Much of it, at ground- floor level, consisted of tiled corridors through which draughts whistled. The heavy doors were equipped with garden-gate type latches which seldom caught properly if you slammed them. With eighty boys going in and out, these doors tended to hang open whatever the weather. Upstairs some of the dormitories were immensely high… As we went to bed, our breath hung in the air in steamy clouds. We piled all the clothes we had on top of our blankets, and were still cold… We sat in our classrooms wearing overcoats. Our frozen feet were encased in several pairs of socks, and then in Wellington boots. In spite of the cold, the wool and rubber made them sweat, and a faint, acrid stink gradually filled the room.”