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Re: Miss Lee and Latin

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Posted by Robin Selby on January 10, 2019 at 10:51:48 user RobinSelby.

In Reply to: Re: Miss Lee and Latin posted by wdmtgts on January 10, 2019 at 02:29:59:

The Sir William Borlase Grammar School in Great Marlow strikes me as a good candidate for Miss Lee’s school.

According to a report (http://www.¬buckinghamshirepartnership.¬¬/130576/¬marlow-_report.pdf):

‘Marlow’s most famous school in West Street was founded by Sir William Borlase School [sic], in 1624’. (p43)

‘The Borlase school is a seventeenth century charity school founded by Henry Borlase in 1624 and still in use as a grammar school. After a reorganisation by the charity commissioners and a major building programme, the school reopened as a boys' grammar school in 1881. After the 1902 Education Act, Buckinghamshire County Council was able to provide funds for further building and for scholarships. Girls were fully admitted to the school in 1988’. (p75)

The problem is that in say the 1920’s it was not co-ed. But as we know, Ransome altered facts as he wished; I myself have made a boys’ school co-ed in a novel to suit the plot.

The school ( plays hockey among other sports. A former head boy describes the school as a ‘wonderful community of wacky and extraordinary individuals – a great place for young people to grow and be inspired’. In such company, the daughter of a successful Chinese pirate would not have been particularly conspicuous.

Wiki ( states that alumni include Hugh Walpole. Walpole ( was at Cambridge. During the war Ransome lobbied for the establishment of a bureau in Moscow to counter German propaganda, and in 1916 Walpole was put in charge. Hugh Brogan describes how this led to a breach between Ransome and Walpole, which lasted for 16 years.

Walpole wrote a very favourable review of Peter Duck (published in 1932). Ransome wrote to Walpole: ‘Is this an olive branch?’ Walpole replied ‘A twig’, and the quarrel was over. Walpole had a house at Keswick in the Lake District, and Brogan records that Ransome visited Walpole to give him some trout a few weeks before he died on 1 June 1941.

Missee Lee was published in 1941, and in a letter of 13 August 1941 Ransome told a correspondent that it was being printed. I therefore wonder whether he added the pointed reference to Great Marlow, which is otherwise difficult to explain, as a covert nod towards Walpole just after Walpole died. Miss Lee was heading for Cambridge in at least February 1941, so this is not attributable to Walpole’s death. According to Brogan, Genia recorded that apart from Madame Sun Yat Sen, Miss Lee was based on a Chinese girl whom Ransome once met who yearned to go to Cambridge. If it was not for this it would have been more likely for Miss Lee to go to Oxford rather than Cambridge, since Oxford was so much closer to Great Marlow. She must have visited Oxford while at the school, and the reference to Cooper’s Marmalade suggests that she may have had breakfast there.

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