The Life and Death of Rochester Sneath [Hardback]by Humphry Berkeley
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Description of The Life and Death of Rochester SneathH. Rochester Sneath no longer exists. And if you wished to put your son's name on the waiting list for Selhurst School, near Petworth, Sussex, you might have a little difficulty. It doesn't exist either. But, as this collection of Sneath's letters, and the replies, proves, you can fool most of the people most of the time. Particularly, it seems, if the people happen to be the head masters of thos emost English private institutions - public schools.
In early 1948 Sneath began his brief and glorious career. Letters, like canes, mortarboards and jaundiced rugger balls, began to appear in headmasters' offices, whose occupants, with two notable exceptions, appeared to find nothing strange in Sneath's requests or his exhortations. Pompous, indignant, eccentric, pushing, toadying, or just plain dotty, the letters were answered with a seriousness which is barely credible. For he wrote of:
- infestations of rats
- the possibility of 'engineering' Royal visits
- how to hire a private detective
- junior masters with club feet and warty noses
- ghosts, cricket, statues, new buildings, 'monster' reunions
George Bernard Shaw was puzzled, Sir Giles Gilbert Scott was booked up, as was Sir Adrian Boult. Sir William Reid Dick was eager. After four or five letters the Master of Marlborough becaqme exasperated, while the head master of St Benedict's was livid. A certain master displayed a cupidity not normally associated with men of the cloth; the new Master of Rugby was grateful for some wise advice; the head master of Stowe could not have been more helpful about sex. There was talk of Sneath succeeding the hea dmaster of Eton. One head master was so drawn to Sneath that he recommended Selhurst to a prospective parent, who promptly applied for a place on behalf of her son. His name was placed on 'the waiting list for the Waiting List'.
Sneath's letters comprise a gentle and unmalicious, but devastatingly accurate parody of the public school system - a collection so intelligently absurd that it defies adequate description.
Press and Industry Reviews"The funniest book I have read for ages"
- The Daily Telegraph
"I just laughed and laughed"
- The Times
- The Times Educational Supplement
"I laughed out loud on every page."
- The Scotsman
"One of the funniest books since The Diary of a Nobody, or, if you prefer, Decline and Fall."
- Richard Crossman
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Contents of The Life and Death of Rochester SneathThe book consists of Humphry Berkeley's letters to, and the replies from:
- The Master of Marlborough, on the engineering of Royal visits
- The Headmaster of Rugby, some wise and friendly advice
- The Headmaster of Sherborne, on the lawless behaviour of his boys
- The Headmaster of Charterhouse, asking for support in Sneath's application for membership of the Headmaster's Conference
- The Headmaster of Stowe, askings for advice on sex education
- The Headmaster of The Oratory, advising on how to get compensation from the government
- The Rector of Beaumont, requesting advice on exorcism
- The Headmaster of Oundle, concerning the chaplain's inefficiency as a rat catcher
- The Headmaster of Haileybury, requesting a reference for a warty and club-footed teacher
- The Headmaster of Ampleforth, concerning an exhibition of public school art destined for South America
- The Headmaster of Harrow, on the evil influence of Harrovians
- The Headmaster of Blundells, regarding an invitation to preach a Sunday sermon
- The Headmaster of Malvern, about the Headmaster's Conference
- The Headmaster of St Benedict's, on the 'low character' of his boys
- The Headmaster of Tonbridge, 'a helluva shock for old Rootie'
- The Headmaster of Eton, applying for his job
- The Warden of Radley, about a prestigious cricket match at Lords
- The Headmaster of Winchester, a descendant of Selhurst's founder