Making real men

Whether it is a mark of decadence or of advancing civilisation, we find it harder and harder to credit how the English middle classes treated their children. This is from the “obit of a 90-year-old judge (SIr Gervase Sheldon)”: in the _Telegraph_ today:

bq.. John Gervase Kensington Sheldon, always known as Gerry, was born on October 4 1913 in Burma, where both his parents were working as doctors. His younger brother died in infancy having been given too strong a dose of a prescribed drug by a local chemist; Gerry was given the same dose, but spat it out.

Aged six, he was sent to England to board at Ovingdean preparatory school in Sussex, spending holidays with his grandparents. His mother came home once a year to see him, his father once every three years.

He grew into a fun-loving, mischievous boy, and at Winchester held the record for the number of beatings in a term.

p. The rest of the obit, after war service, is taken up with the most notably savage sentences he handed down — 15 years to a Hell’s Angel for attempted murder; 25 years for a drug smuggler who shot a Customs man, and so on. It is another mark of change that the obituary finds his childhood worthy of mention. I suspect that, had he died fifty years ago, only the record of his beatings would have been thought remarkable.

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