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‘It appears to me that a simple, straightforward account of my life in retirement from day to day should suffice to show that, for a variety of interests, civic sense, tolerance and a readiness to meet and mingle with all sorts and conditions of men and (up to a point of course) women, a retired schoolmaster can hold a candle to any Tom, Dick or Harry…’
So writes A. J. Wentworth (B.A.), formerly a teacher of mathematics at Burgrove prep school for boys, now passing his retirement years in a typically English rural village where somehow he seems unable to stay out of trouble. Indeed he lurches from mishap to misunderstanding, whether at the Conservative Association or the local am-dram society, the cricket club dinner or the vicarage Christmas Party. His pièce de resistance is the escorting of two schoolboys on a trip to Switzerland that unexpectedly detours into Italy. The misadventures that Wentworth records are many, but the reader soon sees that he brings them upon himself – by being irredeemably self-important, generally incompetent and persistently accident-prone.
Wentworth is the comic creation of H.F. Ellis, and was first introduced to readers in the pages of Punch magazine. A.J. Wentworth, B.A. (Retd) was first published in 1962, a sequel to The Papers of A.J. Wentworth, B.A. (1949). There is pathos as well as great humour in Wentworth’s self-delusion, and he ranks alongside the Grossmiths’ Mr Pooter as a classic comic study in blinkered English manners.
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