three pairs of lovers with space

MEMOIRS OF A BROOMSTICK BY VICTOR ROTHSCHILD

 

Nathaniel Mayer Victor Rothschild (1910-90), who later succeeded an uncle as 3rd Baron Rothschild, was at Harrow, then widely considered the second most prestigious boarding-school in England, from 1924 to 1929, when he was aged nearly fourteen to eighteen.

He published his autobiography, avowedly reticent about his private life, as Memoirs of a Broomstick (London, 1977). Presented here is everything about homosexuality in its first chapter, “The Beginning”.

 

Victor Rothschild holding a hoop, 1914

Eleven boys were fired from my house at Harrow school in my first term.[1] I did not know why at the time, there having been no indoctrination on such matters either at home or at Stanmore.[2] This lacuna in my education was, however, soon filled: just a fact or a way of life according to inclination or particular circumstances. Being intellectually precocious, no doubt unpleasantly so, I was frequently punished. This usually took the form of a beating - often by the Schilizzis who also went from Stanmore to Harrow - for being cheeky or for ‘lip' as it was then called at Harrow. I was frightened of the beatings because they were so painful. A boy called Stilwell knew this and threatened to report me for lip to the head of the house unless I agreed to have a homosexual relationship with him. I was sufficiently unnerved by this blackmail to take the unpardonable step of reporting Stilwell to my house-master, C. G. Pope. Stilwell got into terrible trouble or so it seemed at the time. Until then Mr Pope had disliked me; but after my astonishing behaviour I became one of his favourites and was quite often let off the hateful early morning school. He helped me with a thank-you letter to my Austrian cousin Alphonse - in  Greek because my German was not good enough. (Alphonse, who had one of the best stamp collections in the world outside the British Royal family, read only a Latin-Greek dictionary when travelling by train.)

Harrow "toffs" observed by local "toughs" at Lords Cricket Ground, 1937

One of the many hideous aspects of life at Harrow school (which is, no doubt, much more civilized now) concerned ‘Privileges’. It was a three-year privilege to wear bedroom slippers. The icy stone steps in our house therefore produced very painful chilblains: according to matron, it was through lack of calcium. It was a three-year privilege to whistle (as if one wanted to), to have a hot bath, or to close the lavatory door. A boy called Usborne did not go to the lavatory for a whole term as a result. We were much mystified by this feat of endurance but I suspected he secretly relieved himself at the Music School which, because of its cellular construction, was also the headquarters for homosexual activities. A boy called Whidborne minor, whom I thought particularly beautiful, behaved very badly to an older boy, Hewlett, in the Music School. Whidborne told Hewlett that he could do whatever he liked to him. Hewlett complied with alacrity and imagination, upon which Whidborne screamed and shouted, asserting that he had been indecently assaulted. Hewlett left Harrow on the 4 p.m. train to London the next day. Beautiful as he was Whidborne minor was treated with some reserve and caution from then onwards. [pp. 13-14]

 

[1] “Christmas 1924”, ie. September-December 1924. His house was called The Grove, and he left in the Easter-Midsummer term of 1929, all according to The Harrow School Register 1845-1937, ed. J.H. Stogdon (London, 1937) II p. 241. From the same source, it is clear that while Rothschild used genuinely Harrovian surnames in his account, he muddled them to make the boys unidentifiable.

[2] Rothschild’s preparatory school in Great Stanmore near Harrow in Middlesex.