I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Home Reviews An Awfully Big Adventure

An Awfully Big Adventure

Enda O’Doherty
Patrick Leigh Fermor: An Adventure, by Artemis Cooper, John Murray, 448 pp, £25, ISBN: 978-1848546707 In summer 1933 the eighteen-year-old Patrick Leigh Fermor moved out of the London house of his tutor, Denys Prideaux, who had prepared him for the London Certificate after he had been expelled before sitting his final examination from the King’s School at Canterbury. The immediate cause of his expulsion was being caught in flagrante delicto, holding hands on the street with the pretty Nellie Lemar, the daughter of a Canterbury greengrocer, but in fact this offence was more in the nature of a last straw, a previous housemaster’s report having diagnosed Leigh Fermor as “a dangerous mixture of sophistication and recklessness” whose possible influence on other boys was a matter for concern. Prideaux had meanwhile successfully guided his young charge through his examination, qualifying him to enter Sandhurst military college, which he intended to do in the autumn. Somewhat predictably however he fell in with a bad set, the decadent, bohemian upper class youths who hung about the bar of the Cavendish Hotel whom the Daily Mail, not without a curl of the lip, had christened “The Bright Young People”. Young Leigh Fermor enjoyed his post-Prideaux freedom, and the boozing and the clubs (the Nuthouse, the Boogie-Woogie, Smoky Joe’s), but his debts were mounting, his allowance very limited and his aspirations towards a literary career apparently going nowhere. By this stage his parents had come to accept that he had gone cold on the idea of Sandhurst. His father’s suggestion that he might consider training to become a chartered accountant seems to have concentrated the young man’s mind; he was immediately overcome with “ … a sudden loathing of London. Everything … seeming unbearable, loathsome, trivial, restless, shoddy … Detestation, suddenly, of parties. Contempt for everyone, starting and finishing with myself.” The solution was simple: to leave England and travel. With his pound a week allowance he would walk across Europe, from the Hook of Holland to Constantinople, sleeping in barns and shepherds’ huts, living off bread and cheese and keeping the company of tramps and vagrants. Leigh Fermor bought his ticket for passage to Holland on theStadhouder Willem, leaving from Tower Bridge on December 9th, 1933, bringing with him some comfortable and serviceable clothes, drawing blocks, notebooks, pencils and a few books – a small English-German dictionary, The Oxford Book of English Verse and the first volume of the Loeb…

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