Event: Attended Kings School, Canterbury 1896 to 1898.
‘Adam Brandon was born at Little Empton in Kent in 1839. He was educated at the King’s School, Canterbury, and at Pembroke College, Cambridge. Ordained in 1863, he was first curate at St Martin’s, Portsmouth, then Chaplain to the Bishop of Worcester; in the year 1875 he accepted the living of Pomfret in Wiltshire and was there for twelve years. It was in 1887 that he came to our town; he was first Canon and afterwards Archdeacon. The Cathedral
Hugh Walpole’s initial connection to Kent was through the King’s School in Canterbury, where he seems to have had a happier time than Somerset Maugham around 15 years earlier, although the school was an influence on the work of both authors. His memories are recorded in a manuscript at the Kings School.1 Walpole ‘has no difficulty in presenting quite adequately a varied host of characters,’ writing people from ‘bishops to schoolboys’ in his work. Possibly using his time at The King’s School as inspiration, ‘he confidently takes us into school-masters’ common rooms’2 . Boarding school locations are clearly influential, and in his diaries Walpole depicts on the 9th of September his real-life experience of when he ‘went down to Canterbury’ and to the Cathedral where he ‘saw the old school again’.3 Recollecting ‘how small it seemed- the old Courtyard, the Big Hall […] Very touching,’4 it is clear the school held vivid memories. Writing about ‘schoolmasters bickering’ and ‘little jealousies in a cathedral town’,5 Walpole moves ‘with startling and enthralling rapidity’6 to engrain possible Kentish influence. Mentioning the back story of the character Adam Brandon, ‘born at Little Empton in Kent in 1839,’7 in the opening of The Cathedral, his Kentish past is quickly alluded to before the action commences.
Alongside schooling, Walpole’s time in Kent draws reference to reading. It is depicted in his diaries, as when he caught [the] train for Ashford, and on the ‘way down read first vol: of “Pelle” which” he describes as ‘charming’.8 Travelling through Kent brought him time to read, where, in an additional trip ‘frozen in the train down to Canterbury reading Our Mutual Friend (Diaries, 178), Walpole discusses Dicken’s ‘determined turn towards modernism’ - clearly his time in Kent brought him not just writing inspiration, but ample time to read.
For The King’s School as a possible ‘original’ of Dr Strong’s Academy in David Copperfield see David Copperfield: a Curated Walk. Walpole wrote the film adaptation for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1935 and played a minor part himself. Later diary entries reference Walpole’s friendship with another Kent author, Joseph Conrad. Other literary friends and acquaintances with a Kent connection include Elizabeth von Arnim and H. G. Wells. The archive of Sarah Grand material held by ICVWW includes reviews of his work, suggesting that she admired his writing. However fellow author Somerset Maugham would notoriously pillory Walpole as Alroy Kear in Cakes and Ale.
Priestley, J. B. ‘Hugh Walpole.’ The English Journal 17: 7 (1928). 529–536. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/803829. Accessed 14 Jan. 2021.
Stape, J. H. ‘Sketches from the Life: The Conrads in the Diaries of Hugh Walpole.’ The Conradian 34(1): 2009. 163–184. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/20873661. Accessed 6 Jan. 2021.
Steele, Elizabeth. ‘Walpole, Sir Hugh Seymour (1884–1941)’. https://doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/36711. Published in print: 23 September 2004 Published online: 23 September 2004 This version: 07 January, 2010.
Walpole, Hugh. The Cathedral. 1st World Publishing, Incorporated, United States, 2004. (Original publication, 1922).