February 5, 2015

Success and failure at school: Winston was jubilant that, after three attempts, he had passed into the Royal Military College at Sandhurst. Although he had achieved a standard which admitted him to the cavalry and not to his father’s desired infantry regiment, he wrote what his own son later called ‘a somewhat insouciant letter to Lord Randolph.’ He received ‘one of the most formidable rebukes of Lord Randolph that survive.’ He was told that his failure to meet infantry standards, ‘demonstrated beyond refutation your slovenly happy-go-lucky harum scarum style of work for which you have always been distinguished.’ His father predicted that if Winston could not prevent himself ‘from leading the idle useless unprofitable life you had during your schooldays and later months, you will become a mere social wastrel, one of the hundreds of the public school failures, and you will degenerate into a shabby unhappy and futile existence.’ He told his son not to reply because ‘I no longer attach the slightest weight to anything you say about your own acquirements and exploits.’

A crushed Winston replied, ‘I am very sorry indeed that you are displeased with me…’ and promised he would ‘try to modify your opinion of me.’

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