I was rather amused to learn that the poet Philip Larkin was very fond of girls' school stories when he was a teenager. He apparently read all the big names - EBD, EJO, DFB and several with which I was unfamiliar, particularly Dorothy Vicary. When Larkin was in his final year at Oxford in 1943 and still trying out various types of writing, he decided to write some material of his own, under the name of Brunette Coleman. Among the results were two fairly short novels and some poetry. The novels, 'Trouble at Willow Gables' and 'Michaelmas Term at St Bride's, are spoofs in the manner which might be expected of a 21-year-old student and although well-written, betray a rather schoolboyish interest in spanking and lesbianism! These were never meant for publication, though and were intended to amuse Larkin' s friends. The poems, however, are very charming, and, according to Professor James Booth, author of the recent Larkin biography, 'Life, Art and Love' the Brunette Coleman persona enabled Larkin to try out a different poetic voice. I am quite taken with one, School in August, two stanzas of which I have quoted below:
The cloakroom pegs are empty now,
And locked the classroom door,
The hollow desks are dim with dust,
And slow across the floor
A sunbeam creeps between the chairs
Till the sun shines no more
Who did their hair before this glass?
Or scratched 'Elaine loves Jill'
One drowsy summer sewing-class
With scissors on the sill?