Fun facts about the schooldays of well-known authors and other literary types
September is the ‘back to school’ month, so to take the edge off that inevitable sinking feeling, we’ve put together ten great facts about the schooldays of famous writers. Some authors have been teachers, but all have been schoolchildren at some point. Here’s our pick of the best facts about writers at school. We’ve included a link on some authors’ names to previous interesting posts we’ve written about them.
Samuel Johnson had only three pupils enrol at the school he opened in his hometown of Lichfield in the 1730s. However, one of those three pupils was the actor David Garrick, who later followed Johnson to London to seek his fortune.
Samuel Johnson’s 1755 Dictionary of the English Language defined the word ‘pedant’ as a ‘schoolmaster’. (More facts about Johnson’s Dictionary here.)
When he worked as a schoolteacher at Highgate School in the 1910s, T. S. Eliot taught John Betjeman, future Poet Laureate.
In the 1960s, Helen Corke wrote a book about D. H. Lawrence’s time as a schoolteacher in London called D. H. Lawrence: The Croydon Years.
Anyone who has been to an English public school will always feel comparatively at home in prison. – Evelyn Waugh
Roald Dahl had what is perhaps every child’s dream job when he was a schoolboy: he was a taste-tester for Cadbury’s chocolate. Later, of course, he would write Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (1964).
And while we’re on the subject of Roald Dahl… His school report once read: ‘I have never met anybody who so persistently writes words meaning the exact opposite of what is intended.’ (More surprising Roald Dahl facts here.)
As a young boy at boarding school, while struggling to cope with bullying and depression, Graham Greene claimed he played Russian roulette.
When he was the victim of racist bullying at Rugby School, a young Salman Rushdie found solace by reading The Lord of the Rings.
An author ought to write for the youth of his own generation, the critics of the next, and the schoolmasters of ever afterward. – F. Scott Fitzgerald
At high school, J. D. Salinger was so fond of acting that he signed the yearbook with the names of the roles he’d performed in school plays.
Samuel Beckett drove the future wrestler Andre the Giant to school. (More fascinating Samuel Beckett facts here.)
Image: Portrait of Roald Dahl (author: Carl Van Vechten), public domain.