Published in 1934, this book has little value as social history—except perhaps in documenting the curious desire of the gently-born English of the time to get rid of their children, especially their boys, for the greater part of the year—but it is delightful nonetheless. The Demon is the irrepressible Tony Morland and the book chronicles his adventures during the Easter, Half-term, Summer, and Christmas holidays. Tony is an obnoxious, busy, grubby, boastful, voluble, exaggerating little boy based on Angela Thirkell’s youngest son, Lance Thirkell, who was born in 1921 making him, at the time of publication, about thirteen.
Tony is actually presented on paper as being thirteen (mid-way between the two youngest girls at the Rectory with whom he often plays (and spars): Rose at fourteen-and-a-half who adores him and Dora at twelve-and-a-half who does not, and I think the purpose of this age was to give him long trousers and send him off to the Upper School at the conclusion of the installment. In fact his speech and actions are that of an eight- or nine-year old boy and the action—what there is of it—of the story takes place a year after that of High Rising as Adrian and Sybil Coates have just had a baby girl. So ignore the stated age—it’s just there so his mother can worry about whether his spirit will be crushed by the move to the Upper School. (Adrian Coates tells her his sympathies lie with the masters and the other boys.)
As will so often be the case as we read along with Angela, [Read more…]