St Paul's School > History > Famous Pupils

Famous Old Paulines

Thomas Gresham
Founder of the Royal Exchange
John Milton
Poet
Samuel Pepys
Diarist
GeorgeJeffreys
Judge Jeffreys, Lord Chief Justice to James II
John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough
Military commander
Edmond Halley
Astronomer
John André
British hero in the American War of Independence
George Dance the younger
Architect
Thomas Clarkson
Anti-slavery campaigner
Benjamin Jowett
Classicist
Bertrand Edward Dawson
Royal physician
Laurence Binyon
Poet
Sri Aurobindo
Hindu sage and mystic philosopher
Gilbert Keith Chesterton
Authorand poet
Edmund Clerihew Bentley
Author and poet
Edward Thomas
Author and poet
Ernest Shepard
Illustrator
Compton Mackenzie
Author and playwright
Bernard Law Montgomery
Field Marshal in WWII
Paul Nash
Artist
Isaiah Berlin
Philosopher
Dennis Brain
French horn player
John Weitz
Fashion designer, author and historian
Alexis Korner
Blues musician

Thomas Gresham (c. 1518-1579), SPS c. 1524-1531

Thomas Gresham

Thomas Gresham rose to recognition in the Mercers company, which was originally a London trade guild for exporters and importers of textiles. Proving himself effective as Queen Elizabeth's royal financial agent in the Netherlands (although his methods are remembered as more effective than ethical), he was knighted in 1559. By 1565, he had persuaded the Mercers and the Corporation of the City of London of the merits of building the Royal Exchange, a focal point for business dealings in London, which the Mercers and the Corporation duly provided a site for.

Furthermore, his will stated that revenue from the Exchange should be used to found an educational establishment providing free lectures in the City, and consequently Gresham College was founded, and remains in Holborn today.

Gresham's name was also given to Gresham's Law, the principle that "bad money drives out good," or if depreciated, mutilated or debased currency is in concurrent circulation with money of high value i.e. precious metals, the good money will be withdrawn from circulation by hoarders. However, it has subsequently been shown that the principle was stated long before Gresham's time.

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John Milton (1608-1674), SPS c. 1620-1624

John Milton OP


A poet from the age of ten, Milton studied passionately at school, rarely finishing his lessons before midnight - a true linguist, he learnt French, Italian and some Hebrew, in addition to Latin and Greek. Milton was a skilful organist, and once at Cambridge (he was admitted to Christ's as a pensioner in 1624 or 25), became a skilled swordsman, thinking himself 'a match for anyone' when fencing.

Milton was a polymath: while he wrote, he continued to read and study widely. He was a popular tutor and travelled through Europe from 1637 to 1639. On his return, his attentions were consumed first by his employment as a tutor and later by the political turmoil of the English Civil War. In 1641 he began publishing pamphlets against the Episcopal Church and what he perceived as the unfinished English Reformation. Areopagitica, his famous defence of a free press, appeared in 1644. However, while Milton's influence grew, his eyesight deteriorated until he became completely blind in 1651.

After the execution of Charles I, Milton became involved in the Commonwealth Government of Oliver Cromwell, serving as Latin Secretary to the Council of State. He served these duties faithfully, publishing a number of political works as circumstances demanded. Upon the restoration of the monarchy, Milton was placed under house arrest, fined, and released. It was during the period after his fall from public power that Milton wrote his most celebrated works. Though he had reputedly penned parts of Paradise Lost, arguably his greatest work, as early as 1642, the epic's completion came no earlier than 1663, during which time he also wrote Samson Agonistes. The former was not published until 1667, and the latter in 1671, with Paradise Regained. Milton continued to write, but died of gout in 1674.

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Samuel Pepys (1633-1703), SPS c. 1649-1651

Samuel Pepys OP

Pepys was born in London, the fifth of eleven children of a tailor, John, and Margaret Kite, the sister of a Whitechapel butcher. After attending Huntingdon Grammar School he returned to London at the end of the civil war before attending St Paul's School. His diary of 1660 later recalls his rejoicing at the Execution of Charles I in 1649.

He went to Magdalene College, Cambridge, before entering the service of Edward Mountagu as his secretary and agent in London. By the time his diary ended in 1669 he was a successful man rich enough to retire and live "with comfort, if not in abundance." He then went on to dabble in politics, standing unsuccessfully at several by-elections.

Becoming Secretary to the Admiralty in 1673, he was forced to resign in 1679 and was sent to the Tower under suspicion of selling naval secrets to the French. The charges were subsequently dropped, and he became the Secretary to the King for Naval Affairs in 1684. He was arrested again in 1690 on charges of Jacobite tendencies, and again the charges on him were dropped.

In 1701, as his health was failing, Pepys moved in with his companion, Will Hewer, in Clapham, where he died in 1703.

It is very hard to piece together the years of Pepys' life after 1669 when he stopped writing his diary. The years that are recorded portray him as (in the words of biographer Richard Ollard) a "randy bewigged figure whose name, as a symbol of a slightly risqué conviviality, has been appropriated by this wine-shipper or that restaurant. An irresistible air of bedroom farce clings to him." Although no other account of his own life exists (as is not the case with his accounts of events such as the Great Fire), "he allowed himself not a shred of dignity" according to biographer Claire Tomalin, who for this reason decides to believe his own account of himself.

Her conclusion of Pepys is as "both the most ordinary and the most extraordinary writer you will ever meet."

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Judge Jeffreys (1648-1689), SPS dates unknown

Judge Jeffreys

George Jeffreys was born in Acton in 1648. He was called to the bar and proceeded to rise rapidly through many ranks to become Lord Chief Justice in 1683 and Lord Chancellor in 1685.

The infamous Judge Jeffreys is best remembered for his treatment of the rebels involved in the Monmouth rebellion. James Scott, the illegitimate son of Charles II, was made Duke of Monmouth in 1663. When James II, the younger brother of King Charles, and Monmouth's uncle, succeeded to the throne in 1685, there were strongly adverse feelings among Protestants for the new hard-line Catholic King, and Monmouth became the champion for those who opposed King James. In June 1685, Monmouth landed in Lyme Regis, Dorset, from Holland, and managed to raise arms against the king in the Monmouth rebellion.

The rebellion soon fizzled out and Monmouth was executed, but the King was not satisfied, as he did not wish any of his opposers to escape punishment. He thus sent Judge Jeffreys to exact his revenge on those suspected of being involved with the rebellion. In what became known as the Bloody Assizes, several hundred suspected rebels were either fined, whipped, hanged, or sent as white slaves to Barbados.

Despite this a large proportion of the country was much opposed to James II regarding his heavy-handedness and treatment of Protestants. Parliament therefore urged William of Orange, also the nephew of James II, to protect them from extreme Catholic rule. The Dutch William thus landed his troops in England in 1688, an arrival known as the Glorious Revolution. This and the positive reaction of the English people at this arrival intimidated James, who decided to take up William's offer of free passage to France in exile. Jeffrey's also attempted to flee the country, but was discovered, and imprisoned in the Tower of London for his own protection. He died there a year later in 1689 from excessive drinking.

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John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough (1650-1722), SPS c. 1665

John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough

John Churchill began life as the son of an impoverished squire and is now remembered as a general and arguably one of the greatest military commanders of all time. It is said that Churchill learned the rudiments of strategy from a book in the School library.

In 1665 he became a page to the Duke of York before joining the army in 1667, in which he rose rapidly. He was made a major general after helping James II to crush the Monmouth rebellion in 1685. However, doubting the stability of the King and fearing his religious policies, he began to transfer his loyalties to William of Orange, who Marlborough then supported in the Glorious Revolution of 1688. When William III had exiled King James, he had Churchill made Earl of Marlborough at his coronation.

Nevertheless, Marlborough remained with divided loyalties as he began secret communication with the exiled James II, as he became disillusioned with William's poor treatment of the future Queen Anne, to whose friend and attendant, Sarah Jennings, Marlborough was married. When this was discovered, he lost royal favour, but in 1702 Anne ascended the throne and made Marlborough a duke. His military talent and his gift for diplomacy led him to great success in the War of the Spanish Succession. He and Prince Eugene of Savoy also claimed such victories as Blenheim (1704), Oudenarde (1708) and Malplaquet (1709), among several others.

In honour of his victory at Blenheim, Queen Anne had Blenheim Palace, one of Britain's most stately homes, built for him. The Duke of Marlborough still lives in the palace today.

Marlborough was an extremely ambitious man, notable for his lack of loyalty with a great desire for wealth and power, for which he has often been criticised. Nevertheless, he was one of the greatest British military commanders of all time.

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Edmond Halley (1656-1742), SPS c. 1673

Edmond Halley

Edmond Halley was born to a wealthy family in Haggerston, now northeast London.

After leaving St Paul's, Halley attended Queen's College, Oxford in 1673, and began to work with the Astronomer Royal, Flamsteed, in 1675. In 1676, before he had finished his degree, Halley gave up his studies and, with the financial support of both his father and the King, Charles II, set sail to St Helena in order to map the stars in the southern hemisphere. Although the weather wasn't conducive to astronomy, Halley managed to discover and catalogue many stars and nebulae, and he returned to find himself with a reputation as one of the leading astronomers of the time. He was elected a member of the Royal Society on 30th November 1678, becoming one of its youngest ever fellows at 22. Flamsteed, the Astronomer Royal, who had praised Halley when he was a student, cooled towards him as his reputation spread.

In 1684, Halley began to consider why an inverse square gravitational force exists on planets in elliptical orbits. Halley, Wren and Hooke considered this problem at length but were unable to solve it. However, Halley discovered that Newton had found the answer, and Halley, recognising the genius of Newton as greater than his own, urged Newton to write the "Principia Mathematica", and paid for the publication from his own pocket.

In 1691 he applied for the Savilian Chair of Astronomy at Oxford, but the opposition of Flamsteed brought David Gregory to the chair instead. Halley encountered dissent towards himself regarding his apparent lack of belief in the Bible's creation story, which even Newton had accepted. In 1720 Halley finally succeeded his rival, Flamsteed, to the post of Astronomer Royal, much to the displeasure of Flamsteed's widow, who sold all her husband's instruments so that Halley would not have the use of them.

From 1695 Halley had become more involved with the study of comets. Noticing that historical records of comet observations were following a regular cycle, he thus identified the comet to which his name would be given and by which it would be made famous. Although he had died fifteen years earlier, Halley achieved immortality when, as predicted, his comet returned in December 1758.

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GEORGE DANCE THE YOUNGER, RA (1740/1 - 1825) SPS c. 1756 (recorded in SPS registers as Steward of the Feast

Architect and portrait artist George Dance the Younger was the son of the Architect and Surveyor to the Corporation of London who built Mansion House. He trained as an architect in his father's office and also spent time in France and Italy. On his father's death in 1768, he took his position with the Corporation of London, designing important public buildings such as Newgate Prison (1770) and St Luke's Hospital.

From 1793 onwards he drew a remarkable series of over 200 portraits in pencil of his friends and acquaintances. Fifty-three of these portraits were bought by the Royal Academy and the rest were sold privately in 1898, on the death of Dance's grandson. At a later date however, the National Portrait Gallery and the British Museum managed to acquire more than 50 of them.

1836 Sir John Soane, who was Dance's teacher as well as his friend, also acquired a collection of Dance's drawings, which are now housed in the 'shrine' cabinet in the North Drawing Room of his Museum. These drawings reveal Dance to be a brilliant draughtsman as well as a designer of great originality. They range from drawings Dance made during his time as a student in Italy (1758-64), through to his public works and the country house designs of his later career. Of his private house commissions his celebrated design for the library at Landsdowne House, Berkeley Square (1788-91) is perhaps best known, but he also designed houses at Stratton Park, Hampshire (1803-6), Coleorton, Leicestershire (1804-8) and Ashburnham, Sussex (1813-17) all of which exhibited startlingly new ideas.

Dance remained the City Surveyor, until 1895/96, and then lead a somewhat reclusive life in poor health at his house in Upper Gower Street.

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John André d 1780

John Andre

Born in London to French Protestant parents, André felt obliged to enter his father's counting house in order to care financially for his family. He was much drawn to the glamour of military life, but coming from a merchant class family he did not have the means to be promoted, as this usually involved the transfer of large sums of money. However, an unsuccessful love affair made him decide to follow his dreams of a military career.

Commissioned in 1771, he went to America in 1774 as a lieutenant with the Royal English Fusileers, and then made his way to Canada via Philadelphia and Boston. During the siege of St Johns by the Americans in 1775, André was captured and kept as a prisoner of war in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where his fluency in German enabled him to make friends with the locals.

In 1776, in a prisoner exchange, André was returned to General William Howe, and presented him with a set of military drawings of the forts he had observed while a prisoner of the Americans. Howe was impressed by his resourcefulness and promoted him to a captain, placing him under Major-General Charles Grey. He fought many battles under Grey, and his diary from the time still remains one of the most reliable historical sources of the war from the British side.

Benedict Arnold was an American soldier whom George Washington made commander at West Point. Arnold, who was to become one of history's most famous traitors, was not a popular officer, and felt that his efforts were unappreciated. He began, secretly, to correspond with General Sir Henry Clinton, the British commander, via André. They struck up a deal that, in exchange for £10,000, Arnold would turn the fort at West Point over to the British, or allow it to be captured very easily.

However, when André went over to the American lines in order to clinch the deal, he was caught by the Americans, and since he was dressed in civilian clothing he was immediately assumed to be a spy. He begged George Washington to allow him to be shot as a soldier rather than face the dishonour of being hung as a spy, but Washington, though impressed by André, did not comply with his wishes. André was hanged in Tappan, New York on October 2nd, 1780.

John André is commemorated by a number of inscriptions which remember him not only as a brilliant soldier in the service of the British, but also as an artist, musician, poet and linguist, who charmed many of the people who met him, including his enemies.

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Thomas Clarkson (1760-1846), SPS dates unknown

Thomas Clarkson

Thomas Clarkson was born in Wisbech, the son of a headmaster, and seemed destined for an academic or clerical career. However, while he was at St John's College, Cambridge, he happened to enter an essay competition. The title of the essay was, "Is it right to make men slaves against their will?" Clarkson had never considered the subject before, but in writing the essay he carried out considerable research, including reading Benezet's "Historical Account of Guinea". Clarkson won first prize in the competition, and shortly afterwards on the way home to London, in a place called Wadesmill, he had a spiritual experience which he later described as "a direct revelation from God ordering me to devote my life to abolishing the trade."

Clarkson then contacted Granville Sharp, who had already begun an anti-slavery campaign, sympathetic publisher James Phillips, and many others of similar sentiments. In 1787 Clarkson's pamphlet, "A Summary View of the Slave Trade and of the Probable Consequences of its Abolition" was published, and in the same year they formed the Committee for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade, with many prominent members.

Clarkson's task was that of collecting information to support their motion, which he did largely by interviewing sailors and gaining information about the use of instruments such as shackles, handcuffs, branding irons and thumbscrews, all of which were used to restrain and subdue the future slaves while at sea.

The Abolition of the Slave Trade Act was passed in 1807, but Clarkson was not satisfied with this step only. He published a book, "A History of the Abolition of the African Slave Trade", and later joined with Thomas Fowell Buxton to form the Society for the Mitigation and Gradual Abolition of Slavery. It was not until 1833 that Parliament finally passed the Slavery Abolition Act, which gave all slaves in the British Empire their freedom.

A monument was erected in his honour in 1879 in Wadesmill. The inscription reads: "On this spot where stands this monument in the month of June 1785 Thomas Clarkson resolved to devote his life to bringing about the abolition of the slave trade."

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Benjamin Jowett (1817-1893), SPS 1829-1836

Benjamin Jowett

First come I; my name is Jowett,
There's no knowledge but I know it.
I am the Master of this College.
What I don't know, is not knowledge.

Student jingle, Balliol College

Jowett is probably best remembered for his translation of Plato's Dialogues, but he is also remembered as a man generous with both his hospitality and his conversation.

In 1835, the High Master of St Paul's, John Sleath, described Jowett as "the best Latin scholar" he had ever sent to Balliol College, Oxford. Jowett singularly excelled himself and was elected a Fellow of the College while he was still an undergraduate. He took a First in Literae Humaniores, and having won the Chancellor's Prize for a Latin Essay, was appointed a tutor.

Jowett was also involved in the Oxford Movement, and later in the movement for university reform. Still, as a much dedicated tutor, he was a candidate for mastership of the College in 1854. It was not until 1870 that he was finally elected Master of Balliol College, although in 1855 he had been appointed Regius Professor of Greek. Having published The Dialogues of Plato in 1871, he was finally elected Vice-Chancellor in 1882.

Jowett's love for Balliol College was such that he left the majority of his property to the College when he died. He was also an avid supporter of music and theatre at Oxford, attending a great many performances of the Oxford University Dramatic Society, as well as being one of the main proponents of the Balliol Sunday concerts. He was also a great encourager of the Oxford University Press.

Jowett's enthusiasm for all aspects of life at the University was unrivalled.

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Bertrand Edward Dawson, 1st Viscount of Penn (1864-1945), SPS 1877-1879

Bertrand Edward Dawson

Dawson joined the School in 1877 as a Scholar, was a soprano in the Choral Society, and left in 1879 for University College, London. After graduation he worked for several years as a physician, before being appointed Physician-extraordinary to King Edward VII, a position he retained with George V until 1914, when he was made physician-in-ordinary. He served as a consulting physician (acting rank Major General) during the Great War, and attended the King. During this time Dawson noted the poor physical fitness of the troops, and saw that the future of the medical profession lay as much in the promotion of health as in the curing of the ill. He was subsequently (1919) appointed Chairman of the Consultive Council on Medical and Allied Services, which published the Dawson report of 1920; the document foreshadowed a national health service, and ultimately became one of its cornerstones when it was set up. That same year he was elevated to the peerage, and was to become one of the most active members of the House.

In 1936, George V suffered a series of debilitating attacks of bronchitis. With the consent of the Royal Family, Dawson administered a fatal morphine injection to the King and friend he had served so loyally, and prepared the famous radio broadcast "The King's life is moving peacefully to its close". Later that year Dawson opposed a Lords Euthanasia Bill to legalise euthanasia, because it "belongs to the wisdom and conscience of the medical profession and not to the realm of law." Dawson was promoted to Viscount, and remained in the households of Edward VIII and George VI (he treated numerous members of the Royal Family and foreign monarchs, such as Queen Maud of Norway and King Leopold of Belgium), working until his own death, aiding the preparation of the White Paper for the NHS. In addition to numerous honours and honorary degrees, Dawson was President of the Royal Society of Medicine (1928-1930), the British Medical Association (1932, its centenary year and 1943) and the Royal College of Physicians (1931-1938).

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Laurence Binyon (1869-1943), SPS dates unknown

Laurence Binyon

Born in Lancaster, Binyon is best known as a war poet, particularly for his poem For the Fallen written in 1914, of which the fourth stanza adorns many war memorials throughout the country:

They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

It would take four more years of fighting and the deaths of over two million Allied soldiers before the full impact of Binyon's words was made plain.

Having studied at Trinity College, Oxford, where he won the Newdigate poetry prize, Binyon first published poetry in 1894. He then worked at the British Museum, where he developed an interest and expertise in Chinese and Japanese art. Binyon published articles on Botticelli, Blake and English water-colourists, earning himself a name as an art critic as well as a poet.

During the Great War Binyon refused to fight, and instead served with the Red Cross, visiting the front line in 1916. After the War, he published four books of poetry, The Winnowing Fan: Poems of the Great War, The Anvil, The Four Years, and Collected Poems. Much of his poetry not related to war has the English landscape as its subject.

In addition to his poetry, Binyon spent his life after the War working in museums, lecturing and writing. He wrote nine plays in verse, of which six were performed, including Arthur (1923).

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Sri Aurobindo (1872-1950), SPS dates unknown

Sri Aurobindo

Sri Aurobindo was born in Calcutta, but at the age of seven was sent to study in England. His father's specific instructions were that his education should be entirely Western and with no contact with the cultures of India and the East. However, in 1893 he returned to India to work with the Baroda service, working first in the Revenue Department and in secretariat work for the Maharaja, then as a Professor of English, and finally Vice-Principal at Baroda college. Here he made up for the deficiency in his education, and learned Sanskrit along with other Indian languages, plus a great deal about Indian culture.

Sri Aurobindo became a major player in the battle for Indian independence from the British. Despite various allegations made against him regarding his supposedly subversive political activities, his influence came not from direct political action but through the press. He became the acting editor of Bande Mataram, the daily paper of the Indian Nationalist Party, which was immediately circulated throughout India.

In 1907 he was prosecuted for sedition, but was acquitted. Despite being only an organiser and writer he was now obliged to come forward to head the Nationalist party in Bengal. In 1908 he was arrested in connection with terrorist action in the Alipore Conspiracy Case, and although he was imprisoned awaiting trial for a year, not enough evidence could be found to make a conviction. When he was released in May 1909, the party was a wreck, incapable of any truly effective action.

However, he had dedicated his year in prison almost exclusively to the practice of Yoga, and upon his release he made the decision to withdraw from political life in favour of a spiritual one, although his intention was to return to the political field later when his efforts might be more effective. In 1914, after four years of silent yoga he began a philosophical monthly publication, the Arya, in which his most important works e.g. The Life Divine and Essays on the Gita appeared. However, the publication folded abruptly after six and a half years.

At this time, Sri Aurobindo lived at Pondicherry, French India. His time was spent writing and exploring spirituality through Yoga. Although he originally lived with only four or five disciples, this number grew as many people came in order to follow his spiritual path, and a community grew up around him.

The Mother

The Mother

In 1914 he met Mirra Alfassa, a French woman, to whom many divine perceptions and events have been attributed. In her he recognised a great divine power and as a result she became known as the Mother. Both equally spiritual people, they recognised that India, though controlled by the British, could be free on a spiritual level, and thus they took on this task. They created a community which the Mother called Sri Aurobindo Ashram, and she took over the task of running it when Sri Aurobindo went into total seclusion in 1926 which lasted up to his death in 1950.

In 1968 the Mother founded a city known as Auroville, in which people were intended to live an entirely pure and spiritual life, and thus find the divine in themselves. There would be no money in Auroville, no rights to property, and nobody would wield any power over anybody else. Since the Mother's death the city has strayed somewhat from the original ideal but there are many who continue to keep her philosophies, and those of Sri Aurobindo, alive.

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Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936), SPS 1887-1892

Gilbert Keith Chesterton

G. K. Chesterton was a prolific and brilliant writer, who produced many works still greatly valued to this day, including the "Father Brown" mystery stories, which continue to be adapted for television. He forged great friendships with literary icons such as George Bernard Shaw and H. G. Wells. However, in his modesty he described himself as a mere "rollicking journalist", and when he didn't learn to read until the age of eight, a school teacher once said to him, "If we opened your head, we should not find a brain but only a lump of white fat." However, his apparent lack of a brain did not prevent him from having very strong opinions and the wit to argue them. He was one of a very few journalists who opposed the Boer War. In 1922 he radically attacked the idea of eugenics, one of the most advanced and popular ideas of the time, and the subsequent events in Nazi Germany confirmed the wisdom of his seemingly reactionary views.

He was a man of great faith; in 1922 he was converted to Roman Catholicism from Anglicanism and became a great champion of the faith, writing many theologically oriented works, for example the lives of the saints Thomas Aquinas and Francis of Assisi. However, in 1893, during a period of depression and disillusionment, he became fascinated with diabolism and experimented with occult practices such as the Ouija board. His faith was later renewed and helped not a little by his courtship and marriage, in 1901, to Frances Blogg.

In 1895 Chesterton had left university and gone to work for Redway publishers, followed by T. Fisher Unwin, and his first published works were in broadsheets such as The Speaker, Daily News etc. In 1900, his first collection of poems, Greybeards at Play, was published. He published his first novel, The Napoleon of Notting Hill, in 1904, and in 1908 he published The Man Who Was Thursday, which was adapted for stage in 1926 by Mrs Cecil Chesterton (his-sister-in-law) and Ralph Neale. He also wrote literary biographies of Robert Browning and Charles Dickens.

In 1909 he moved out of London but continued to write, lecture and travel energetically, but in 1914 suffered a physical and mental breakdown. However, he recovered, and after the First World War he became President of the Distributist League, supporting the idea that all property should be divided up equally between all members of society. He also edited his own publication, G. K.'s Weekly, and took over the editing of his brother's publication, the New Witness, upon Cecil's death in 1918.

As he grew older, he had become a well-respected man; he received honorary degrees from Edinburgh, Dublin and Notre Dame universities, and in 1934 he was made Knight Commander with Star, Order of St Gregory the Great. On June 14th 1936, G.K. Chesterton died at his home in Beaconsfield. His literary estate was managed for the next 52 years by his secretary, Dorothy Collins, until her death in 1988.

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Edmund Clerihew Bentley (1875-1956), SPS dates unknown

E C Bentley

Edmund Clerihew Bentley was born in Shepherds Bush, and attended St Paul's from 1887. He became great friends with G. K. Chesterton, and together they excelled as members of the Junior Debating Club, as well as writing many poems and essays for its newsletter, The Debater. He went to Merton College, Oxford, to study classics, and then afterwards studied law, but abandoned it in favour of journalism.

Bentley was a newspaperman, and was very influential in the literary world. Although he wrote only four mystery books, the most famous being Trent's Last Case, some say he is the father of the mystery novel. Dorothy Sayers and Howard Haycraft thought he had brought a great naturalism to the medium of the detective novel, which had previously been dominated by melodrama and purple prose. He apparently had a great influence too on writers such as Agatha Christie and Ngaio Marsh.

However, Bentley is perhaps better remembered today as the inventor of the poetic style to which he gave his middle name, the Clerihew. This is a humorous four-line poem, made up of two rhyming couplets, which are more or less in the rhythm of prose. They are usually biographical in some degree, describing somebody whose name will usually end the first, or sometimes the second, line of the poem. Bentley invented the Clerihew while still at St Paul's and his life-long friend, G. K. Chesterton, also wrote them. This is an example of one of Bentley's original Clerihews, written while he was still at school:

Sir Humphrey Davy
Abominated gravy.
He lived in the odium
Of having discovered sodium.

Bentley must be considered great indeed to have invented, and given his name to, a poetic form which rivalled the Limerick.

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Edward Thomas (1878-1917), SPS dates unknown

Edward Thomas

Philip Edward Thomas was born on March 3, 1878 in London, the eldest of six sons. He was sent to St Paul's School and then went up to Oxford, winning a history scholarship to Lincoln College. In June 1899 he married Helen Noble and their first child, a son, was born six months prior to Thomas's finals. Despite the fact that he was financially dependent on his father and now had a family to support, Thomas never deviated from his ambition to write - his father had wanted him to enter the civil service. During the next few years Thomas earned a living as a writer, although it was a rather precarious living. He wrote essays, biographies, topographical books, reviews and introductions, as well as editing anthologies.

In 1914 a small group of Georgian poets - Lascelles Abercrombie, Wilfred Gibson and John Drinkwater - were living in and around the Gloucestershire village of Dymock. Sometimes Rupert Brooke stayed, and the four poets wrote poems for a quarterly magazine, New Numbers, which was published by the group from Gibson's house. The group, along with other poets, became known as 'The Dymock Poets'. In the spring of 1914 the American poet, Robert Frost, and his family arrived in the area and moved into a cottage called 'Little Iddens', near the village. Already known to the others by virtue of his reviews of their work, Thomas, together with his family, arrived at Dymock in the late summer of 1914, a few days after war had been declared. During this time Thomas and Frost became great friends and Frost, who admired Thomas's prose, encouraged him to write poetry.

Thomas wrote his first poem in December 1914. All 143 of Thomas's poems were written between December 1914 and January 1917 when he went to France. During his lifetime his poems were published under the pseudonym, 'Edward Eastaway'. During the eleven months between August 1914 and July 1915 Thomas was indecisive about whether to take his family to America to live in New England, near the Frosts, or whether he should enlist. Finally he made the fatal decision to enlist, was passed medically fit in July 1915 and then joined the Artists Rifles. Three months after joining up Thomas was a Lance Corporal instructing officers at Hare Hall Camp, near Romford, Essex and while there he composed over forty poems.

On Easter Monday (April 9) 1917 the first day of the Battle of Arras opened with a huge artillery bombardment. At 7.30 am Edward Thomas, who was standing at the Beaurains Observation Post, was killed by the blast of a shell which exploded nearby.

Relatively little of Thomas's prose has survived, although some titles were reprinted in the 1970s when a revival of interest in turn-of-the-century writers occurred. On the other hand Thomas's poetry, which embodies similar virtues to the prose, has become popular. In a sense all of Thomas's poems are war poems, not merely through being written during the war. Sometimes they openly recount the impact of fighting in France on the Home Front - as in the dialogue poem As the Team's Head Brass; at other times the references are more subtle, such as The Green Roads which sketches the tenuousness of wartime life. Lights Out, inspired by a bugle call, records the hopes and fears of an individual soldier who expects to die.

As Andrew Motion indicates in the Oxford Companion to 20th Century Poetry, the strength of Thomas's poetry lies in its ability to indicate, subtly and discretely, the emergence of a recognisably modern sensibility. Thomas's poems act as a link between the old and new in a manner more profound than his Georgian contemporaries.

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Ernest Shepard (1879-1976), SPS dates unknown

Ernest Shepard (sat)

E H Shepard was born in 1879 and died in 1976, and was chosen by A A Milne to illustrate the loveable Pooh and his friends Piglet, Eyeore and Tigger, who have become household characters to many thousands of children.

Shepard attended schools in London and at fourteen, he entered St Paul's School, where his artistic talent came to the attention of the staff. He applied for and was granted a scholarship at the Royal Academy Schools, specializing in painting and sculpture. He studied there from 1897 to 1902, during which time he set up a small studio with another student.

Between 1900 and 1914, Shepard illustrated seven books, including David Copperfield by Charles Dickens (1903) and Tom Brown's Schooldays by Thomas Hughes (circa 1904). During this period, Shepard was influenced by two artists in particular, Frank Dicksee and Edwin Abbey, both friends of the family. Shepard struggled and persisted through many rejections, but continued to send in several ideas a week to Punch magazine. Finally, in 1907, two of his drawings were placed in Punch, and he soon became a regular contributor of cartoons. Shepard was also an admirer of Sir John Tenniel's imaginative fanciful artistic style (Alice in Wonderland), which was quite different from his own.

Ernest Shepard is best known, though, for his work as a children's book illustrator. It was through Punch that Shepard was introduced to A. A. Milne, the author who made him famous. Shepard illustrated Milne's four Pooh books known worldwide: When We Were Very Young (1924), Winnie-the-Pooh (1926), Now We Are Six (1927), and The House at Pooh Corner (1928). Milne later invited Shepard to visit his home to draw sketches of his son, Christopher Robin, and his stuffed animals, Kanga, Roo, Tigger, Eeyore, and Piglet. Shepard also delighted in drawing his own children and wife. Reflecting superior draftsmanship, attention to detail, and a use of line that was clear and precise without being heavy, Shepard's pictures are praised for capturing the features, personalities, and moods of both children and anthropomorphic animals.

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Compton Mackenzie (1883-1972), SPS dates unknown

Compton Mackenzie

Born in West Hartlepool in 1883, Mackenzie was educated at St Paul's and then at Magdalen College, Oxford. Although he originally studied for law he abandoned this to pursue a writing career. His first play, The Gentleman in Grey, was written in 1907. As well as his plays, he wrote many successful novels, for example Sinister Street in 1913.

He took a break from writing to serve in the Dardanelles in the First World War, and in 1917 he was appointed the director of the Aegean Intelligence Service in Syria. After the war he published two volumes of war memoirs, Gallipoli Memories and Greek Memories, as well as numerous other much respected works such as Whisky Galore. In 1928 he settled on the island of Barra, which became the background for many great comedies of Scottish life, the latter being the most famous. A film, based on his novel Whisky Galore, came out in 1949 and was shot entirely on Barra.

Compton Mackenzie was originally named Edward Montague Compton, since his father had dropped the family name "Mackenzie" when he became an actor. However, as Mackenzie's pride in his Scottish heritage grew, he added the Mackenzie back into his name. Such was his love for his nation that he became a founder member of the Scottish National Party and was knighted in 1952. His autobiography, My Life and Times, filled ten volumes and was written between 1963 and 1971. It was finished just before his death in 1972.

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Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery (1887-1976), SPS 1902-1906

Field Marshal Montgomery in a tank

The son of an Ulster clergyman, Montgomery was educated at St Paul's before his training at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst. He entered the army in 1908, and began to gain a reputation for himself in the First World War as an excellent trainer of troops, and a consummate perfectionist with regards to fitness and efficiency. In the Second World War he commanded the 3rd division in France until the evacuation of Allied troops from Dunkirk in May 1940, after which he held a key defensive post in the southeast of England.

In August 1942 he was appointed commander of the British 8th Army in North Africa, an army recently disheartened after a defeat by the German general, Erwin Rommel,
which had driven them back to Egypt. He managed to restore his troops' shaken confidence, and after a victory at the Battle of Alamein, he drove the Germans out of Egypt and two thousand miles across Africa into Tunisia.

He shared responsibility with the US General Dwight D. Eisenhower over the Allied invasion of Sicily in July 1943, and then proceeded to lead the 8th Army steadily up Italy's eastern coast until he was called home to lead the Allied armies into France in 1944. He was then asked by Eisenhower to be Commander in Chief of all Allied ground forces for the Normandy landings. Much planning for this invasion was done at St Paul's School, at the time situated in Hammersmith.

Despite Montgomery's great pride, often described by many as arrogance, and his recent promotion to the rank of Field Marshal in 1944, he was forced by Eisenhower to take an increasingly subordinate role in the invasion, which caused tension between them. During the German advance at the Battle of the Bulge, however, Montgomery was given temporary command of two American armies. In the final stages of the war, his troops moved unstoppably across the north of Germany to the Baltic.

He was put in command of the British forces occupying Germany in 1945-46, and in 1946, in addition to his knighthood, was appointed 1st Viscount Montgomery of Alamein, at which he won his most famous battle. He was made Chief of the Imperial General Staff in 1946, and then chairman of the permanent defense organisation of the Western European Union (Britain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg) in 1948. In 1951-58 he was deputy commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).

Monty was generally thought to be an outstanding commander, despite being sometimes described as excessively cautious and over-prepared, a tendency which exasperated his "superiors". He always insisted that his troops and equipment were entirely in order before any action was taken, and thus he tended to produce steady successes, even if a little on the slow side.

There are many people, however, who have condemned Montgomery for his treatment of others: failure to give others credit for their own victories, insubordinate treatment of his superiors, and humiliation of those beneath him. Some have even condemned his military tactics, claiming that he was often far too overcautious. B.E. Boland in his book, Patton Uncovered, claims that, even in the Battle of El Alamein, Monty's most famous battle, he made an "unpardonable mistake" in allowing the vastly inferior and under-supplied German forces to escape uncaptured, the Germans knowing they could count on his "limitless caution".

Aside from his military command, he was also a contributor to military literature. He wrote his Memoirs in 1958, as well as many other theoretical and historical treatises on warfare, his last book to be published being A History of Warfare in 1968.

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Paul Nash (1889-1946), SPS dates unknown

Paul Nash

Paul Nash, the son of a successful lawyer, was born in London in 1899. Nash was educated at St Paul's School and the Slade School of Art, where he met Stanley Spencer, Mark Gertler, William Roberts and C. R. W. Nevinson. Influenced by the work of William Blake, Nash had one-man shows in 1912 and 1913. He was one of the most individual British artists of his period, taking a distinguished place in the English tradition of deep attachment to the countryside whilst at the same time responding imaginatively to European modernism. He saw himself as a successor to Blake and Turner.

At the outbreak of the First World War Nash enlisted in the Artists' Rifles and was sent to the Western Front. He took part in the offensive at Ypres and had reached the rank of lieutenant in the Hampshire Regiment by 1916. Whenever possible, he made sketches of life in the trenches. In May, 1917 he was invalided home after a non-military accident. While recuperating in London, Nash worked from his sketches to produce a series of war paintings. This work was well received when he exhibited later that year.

As a result of this exhibition, Charles Masterman, head of the government's War Propaganda Bureau (WPB) recruited Nash as a war artist. In November 1917 he returned to the Western Front where he painted several more pictures. Nash's work during the war included The Menin Road, The Ypres Salient at Night, The Mule Track, A Howitzer Firing, Ruined Country and Spring in the Trenches.

Nash was unhappy with his work as a member of War Propaganda Bureau. He wrote at the time: "I am no longer an artist. I am a messenger who will bring back word from the men who are fighting to those who want the war to go on forever. Feeble, inarticulate will be my message, but it will have a bitter truth and may it burn their lousy souls."

After the war Nash experimented with surrealism and abstract art. He also taught at the Royal College of Art and worked as a designer and book illustrator. During the Second World War, Nash was employed by the Ministry of Information and the Air Ministry and painting produced by him during this period include the Battle of Britain and Totes Meer. Kenneth Clark, Director of the National Gallery declared Totes Meer to be "the best war picture so far I think". It was an immediate success when displayed at the National Gallery in May 1941. Paul Nash died in 1946.

Totes Meer

Totes Meer

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Isaiah Berlin (1909-1997), SPS 1922-1928

Isaiah Berlin

Berlin was born in Riga, Latvia, the son of a Jewish timber merchant. Berlin's grandfather on his mother's side was a Hasidic rabbi. Berlin had some religious education but confessed later that as a child he found the Talmud a ''very, very boring book." At the age of 11 he emigrated with his parents to England. During World War I and the Revolution, he saw the ill omens of a totalitarian ideology struggling for power.

Berlin was educated at St Paul's School and Corpus Christi College, Oxford. To his father's disappointment, he did not go into the family timber business. From 1932 he taught at Oxford, where he became friends with A. J. Ayer and other leading analytic philosophers. Berlin was a founding father with Austin, Ayer, and others of Oxford philosophy, but after publishing several papers on the rebellion against idealism, he broke away from the general spirit of positivism.

During World War II Berlin served in the British Information Service in New York and later as First Secretary of the British Embassy in Washington. After the war he met the film director Sergei Eisenstein in the Soviet Union, who was in poor spirits after Stalin had condemned his film Ivan the Terrible, and the writers Boris Pasternak and Anna Akhmatova, both also in disfavour by the authorities. Later Berlin gave his account of them in the essay 'Meetings With Russian Writers.' "When we met in Oxford in 1965 Ahkmatova told me that Stalin had been personally enraged by the fact that she had allowed me to visit her: 'So our nun now receives visits from foreign spies,' he is alleged to have remarked, and followed this with obscenities which she could not at first bring herself to repeat to me." (from 'Conversations with Akhmatova and Pasternak' in The Proper Study of Mankind, 1997)

From 1947 to 1958 Berlin wrote and lectured at Oxford, London, and at several American universities. In 1956 he married Aline de Gunzbourg a Frenchwoman; who had three sons from previous marriages. Between the years 1957 and 1967 he held the prestigious Chichele Chair in Social and Political Theory at Oxford. Among many other academic distinctions, he was from 1966 a professor at the City University of New York.

Isaiah Berlin was one of the most formidable defenders of philosophical liberalism and distinguished practitioners of the history of ideas. He took R. G. Collingwood's (1889-1943) idea that the thought of a period or an individual is organized by 'constellations of absolute presuppositions'. Thus philosophical analysis required a historical dimension, but Berlin argued against the Marxist determinist view of history and rejection of free will. "History does not reveal causes; it presents only a blank succession of unexplained events", he said. However, he acknowledged that a historian's approach to his subject cannot be entirely objective or value-free, some degree of moral or psychological evaluation is inevitable. "I do not here wish to say that determinism is necessarily false, only that we neither speak nor think as if it could be true, and that it is difficult, and perhaps beyond our normal powers, to conceive what our picture of the world would be if we seriously believed it..." (from 'Historical Inevitability', 1953)

Berlin died in Oxford in 1997, aged 88, of a heart attack following a long illness. "I don't mind death," he once said, "But I find dying a nuisance. I object to it."

Lady Berlin

Lady Berlin, wife of the late Isaiah Berlin, unveiling a photographic portraitof him in the Walker Library.

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Dennis Brain (1921-1957), SPS 1934-1936

Dennis Brain, son of Aubrey Brain of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, is considered one of the most distinguished French horn players of all time. He played in several orchestras, including the Royal Philharmonic, and made numerous recordings. Benjamin Britten's Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings was written for Brain and for Peter Pears (tenor). Malcolm Arnold's Horn Concerto No. 2 received its first performance by the Hall Orchestra, conducted by the composer, and with Brain as the soloist. Tragically, his other passion, cars, was to be the death of him only two weeks after this event, as he was killed in a road accident in August 1957 while driving back from the Edinburgh Festival. Francis Poulenc's Elegy for horn and piano was composed as a memorial.

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John Weitz (1923-2002), SPS 1937-1940

Born in Germany, Weitz was educated in England and then moved to America in 1940. He worked for the Office of Strategic Services before embarking on a highly successful career in fashion, founding John Weitz Designs in 1954. His fashion sense did not just extend to his business: he was elevated to the International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame in 1971. Aside from this business, Weitz was also a notable writer and historian, with novels such as Friends in High Places, and historical works such as Hitler's Diplomat: The Life and Times of Joachim von Ribbentrop.

John Weitz's sons Chris, also an Old Pauline, and Paul, are now successful writers/producers/directors in Hollywood with titles to their names such as "American Pie" and "About a Boy".

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Alexis Korner (1928-1984), SPS 1941-1943

Moving to England from France at the start of the Second World War, Korner developed a passion for boogie-woogie, despite his father's disapproval of his tastes. Joining Chris Barber's band (also an Old Pauline) as a pianist and guitarist, he became involved in the London skiffle scene. With Cyril Davies, he opened a blues club in Soho in 1954, and there began a very blues-based musical career of broadcasting and performing. Alexis Korner has been described as the Governor of British Blues. He was a pioneer and a major influence on many pop groups in the 1960s and later, releasing twenty-five solo albums and playing and performing with some of the greatest musicians of all time.

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