Peter Pan, Language and the State

Captain Hook goes to Eton
Part of the Language, Discourse, Society book series (LDS)


In 1925, Barrie wrote a short story called ‘Jas Hook at Eton, or The Solitary’ for inclusion in an anthology of short stories for children, The Flying Carpet (Barrie, 1926(b)). Instead of being published in that anthology, the story was delivered as a speech to the First Hundred at Eton on 7 July 1927, and published in The Times. It was replaced in the anthology by a sequel to ‘The Blot on Peter Pan’ (see pp. 39–41 above), a short story called ‘Neil and Tintinnabulum’ which describes how the male narrator loses his godson when he is absorbed into the life of a public school — the title reflects the loss as the little boy’s name is changed at school from Neil to Tintinnabulum, from English to Latin. Latin is the element which connects the two stories. The autograph manuscript version of Barrie’s 1927 story is accompanied by a leaf of manuscript in an unidentified hand which gives the following Latin inscription for James Hook: ‘Gratissimus Almae Matris filius magistro inform. et alumnis omnibus avete hoc ivto Iunii die MDCCC? ex Moluccis Iacobus Hook Floreat Etona’ (Beinecke, 1927).1 The sequence from the earlier story ‘The Blot on Peter Pan’, which turns on the child’s use of language as picture puzzle, to ‘Neil and Tintinnabulum’, therefore, describes the passage from the most elementary of child’s play in language to the most elevated of linguistic/cultural norms.


Language Policy Short Story Fairy Tale Grammar School Psychic Life 
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  1. 4.
    The Taunton Commission of 1864–8, investigating ‘middle’ (that is nonpublic) schools, had recommended a class-based tripartite division of the educational system (upper and professional, mercantile and higher commercial, upper working class). Despite the inclusion of secondary education in general state policy after 1902, it is clear that the three types of school — public, secondary and elementary — correspond to and reinforce such a division. Sir Francis Sandford makes the distinction between elementary and secondary education the basis of his introduction to Matthew Arnold’s Reports on the Elementary Schools 1852–82 (Arnold, 1899): ‘Education should be based upon three principles — the mean, the possible, the becoming, these three. The term “mean”, used here in the ordinary Aristotelean sense, seems, as applied to elementary education, to be equivalent to what Mr. Forster called “a reasonable amount of instruction”; not confined to the three R’s on the one hand, not trenching on the domain of secondary education on the other’ (Sandford, Introduction to Arnold, 1899, p. viii).Google Scholar
  2. 7.
    Thomas Hughes, Tom Brown’s Schooldays, Rugby, by an old boy (Hughes, 1857),Google Scholar
  3. Frederick W. Farrar, Eric, or, Little by Little, a tale of Rosslyn School (Farrar, 1858),Google Scholar
  4. Francis Anstey, Vice Versa, or, A Lesson to Fathers (Anstey, 1882),Google Scholar
  5. Talbot Baines Reed, The Fifth Form at St. Dominic’s, a school story (Reed, 1887). Thomas Hughes’ book was by no means the first school story (see Fielding, 1749), but his book can none the less be seen as a decisive moment in the establishment of the boys’ school story as a genre.Google Scholar
  6. 12.
    ‘I realised that I had been taught (if only by default) to suppress, and even deride, my primary native North-West Mercian tongue.’ ‘All my writing has been fuelled by the instinctive drive to speak with a true and Northern voice integrated with the language of literary fluency.’ Alan Garner, ‘The Fine Anger’ in aaa Fox and aaa Hammond (eds), Responses to Children’s Literature, 1978, pp. 1–12 (p. 5 and p. 10).Google Scholar

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© Jacqueline Rose 1992

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