Jeremy Makes a Stand

Share this

They left the wood, crossed the River Garth, and came out on to moorland. Here, for the first time Jeremy smelt the sea; the lanes had been hot, but here the wind blew across the moor, with the smell of sea-pinks and sea-gulls in it. The grass was short and rough, the soil was sand . . . Jeremy’s excitement grew. He knew now how every line of the road would be . . .

I’m not sure how old I was when I first read Hugh Walpole’s Jeremy, but I think I was 9 or 10, for I had just gone away to boarding school, and I can remember the stab of longing that that description of the Cole family, on their way to their annual holiday at a seaside farm in the West Country, gave me. Exiled in a red-brick prep-school on the flat and muddy coast of the Bristol Channel, I dreamed with a desperate, nostalgic homesickness of the Devon lanes and cliffs and sandy beaches I’d left behind, and the sound and smell of the sea – the proper sea. The school holidays couldn’t come soon enough, and I knew exactly how Jeremy felt.

I understood how Jeremy felt about most things, and coming back to him all these years later he still seems entirely real and solid to me, and the trilogy of novels in which he appears just as magical, though sadly, like many of Walpole’s books, they are barely remembered today. It’s a pity, for I can’t think of a better account of growing up, capturing with great psychological subtlety as they do both the ecstatic, here-and-now happiness of being young and the miserable isolation of it too.

It’s the morning of Jeremy’s eighth birthday, in December 1892, when he’s first introduced to us, ‘a small, square boy with a pug-nosed face’ sitting up in bed in his father’s rectory in the cathedral town of Polchester, glorying in the thought that there are sausages for breakfast, and that now – by prior agreement – he has the right to sit in a particular wicker chair in the nursery that has hithe

Subscribe or sign in to read the full article

The full version of this article is only available to subscribers to Slightly Foxed: The Real Reader’s Quarterly. To continue reading, please sign in or take out a subscription to the quarterly magazine for yourself or as a gift for a fellow booklover. Both gift givers and gift recipients receive access to the full online archive of articles along with many other benefits, such as preferential prices for all books and goods in our online shop and offers from a number of like-minded organizations. Find out more on our subscriptions page.

Subscribe now or

About the contributor

At school Hazel Wood was a founder member of the Anti-Games League, dedicated to the secret sabotage of hockey and lacrosse pitches. She hopes she has since made up for it in other ways.

Share this

Comments & Reviews

Leave a comment

Customise this page for easy reading

reading mode