What was Patrick Leigh Fermor’s school reading list?

Not a normal post, but one where we are actively seeking your feedback and contribution via the comments section (see Leave a Reply above) in response to a question asked in an email from reader Jonathan in New Zealand.

One other question I have for the community , is (being a product of UK post 1970s progressive state education), what would be a basic reading list of the key classics (greek and Latin) that Paddy and his peers would have been exposed to during their school days?

Any ideas?



7 thoughts on “What was Patrick Leigh Fermor’s school reading list?

  1. Allen Ennis

    The essay Mr. Powell is referring to was first published in “The Pleasures Of Reading” ed. by Antonia Fraser, Bloomsbury 1992. It is more recently collected in “Words Of Mercury” a fine selection of his writing in the John Murray travel series, 2003. The essay is called “Early Reading And Desert Island Books” and touches on much of his early reading both in school and for pleasure. It’s 5 1/2 pages long so I’m sure you’ll excuse me for not typing it all out here – well worth the purchase.

  2. Christopher Lord

    Surely Catullus as well, suitably (for the time) edited and/or chosen ? I imagine Christos Paganakis is referring to the Loeb edition with its traditional red leather binding (green for Latin) indispensable for exam preparation.

  3. Christos Paganakis

    Xenophon’s Anabasis , ( a partial ” History ” of the wandering Army of Alexander the Great ) was a favourite taught text , in fact there used to be special editions with the Greek on one page with the english translation on the facing page , so you could cover either up and then read and verbally translate ( construe ) from one to the other . The Greek then (1930s ) was rather harder to master as in textbooks it was often printed in a rather heavy ” Teutonic ” looking font ( possibly the result of German influence in the post 1830 Hellenic State . As well as Fuchs the beer brewers ( ” Fix ” beer ) it was German academics who also headed south to set up the new nation’s schooling and higher education system from scratch ) .
    And there were more accents – diacritical marks – to comprehend and master , in the texts .

  4. angelica deverell

    I agree with Judy Stove……and I bet there was some luscious Ovid as well. As protected virgin school girls it was wildly illicit poetry for us……….terrific stuff!

  5. Judy Stove

    Haven’t got Paddy’s books in front of me, but certainly the curriculum would have included Julius Caesar’s Gallic Wars, Virgil’s Aeneid, Horace’s lyrics. Greek? Homer and Sophocles. There’s a story about the headmaster who introduced his pupils to Sophocles as follows: “Boys, this term you are to have the privilege of reading the Oedipus Coloneus of Sophocles, a veritable treasure-house of grammatical peculiarities” (apparently in C.M. Bowra’s 1945 address to the Classical Association: reference in the indispensable Gilbert Highet, The Classical Tradition, 1949 and 1976, p. 494). Luckily, gifted students such as Bowra and PLF appreciated the poetry, not just the grammatical quirks.


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