Mad Laughter

"The only disadvantage I laboured under at St Paul's School," Eric Newby once recalled, "was that I had a curious sense of humour which meant that if anything came up in class that had a suggestion of double entendre it caused me to dissolve into hysterics for which I was punished, sometimes quite severely. In other words, I had a dirty mind.

"For instance, on one occasion when we were reading

[Sir Walter] Scott's Marmion aloud, it became obvious to myself and everyone else in the class that by the working of some hideously unnatural process of selection it would fall to me to read a completely unreadable part of the romance in Canto Two, entitled 'The Convent,' which concerned the blind Bishop of Lindisfarne. And you could have heard a pin drop when I got to my feet.

"'No hand was moved, no word was said
"Till thus the Abbot's door was given
"Raising his sightless balls to heaven -'

"was all I could manage before going off into peals of mad laughter and to be beaten by John Bell, the High Master, who showed where his sympathies lay by beating me hard and then giving me a shilling. I have never forgiven Scott."

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