‘This was a signal for decided increase in the firing. No sooner were the outposts clear of the town than the Boers in twos and threes galloped into it and began to fire from the houses. All kinds of worthy old gentlemen, moreover, who had received us civilly enough the day before, produced rifles from various hiding-places and shot at us from off their verandahs. Indeed, so quickly did the town revert to the enemy’s hands that Somers Somerset, the despatch rider of the ‘Times,’ was within an ace of being caught. He had arrived late the night before, and having found a comfortable bed at the hotel went to sleep without asking questions. The next thing he remembers is the landlord rushing into his room and crying in great excitement that the Boers were in the town. He scrambled into his clothes, and jumping on his horse galloped through the streets and was not fired at till he was more than a quarter of a mile away. History does not record whether among such disturbing events he retained his presence of mind sufficiently to settle his hotel bill.’
This was the passage set in the A Level Prose Composition paper (O & C) in 1969. It is from Winston Churchill’s account of the Boers’ capture of Lindley in 1900, originally sent as a despatch to The Morning Post.
I have lost count of the people who have confessed that reading English at the University has put them off reading ever since—as an enjoyable pursuit, that is.
A very senior member of the royal family was visiting an Oxford college in the 1960s, and when introduced to the only English tutor, expressed surprise that there was a course in English at Oxford.
On the other hand, classicists in the past have been introduced to the work of English and American writers by the process of prose and verse composition.