The Usefulness of Classics

Another British policeman (Pumphrey) interrogates the headmaster (Crumwallis) of a worse than mediocre private school:

‘Hmmmm’, said Pumphrey. ‘You seem to do a lot of classics.’

It was not the remark Mr. Crumwallis had been expecting, but he perked up, as he frequently did in interviews with parents, when an opportunity for fraudulent self-congratulation presented itself.

‘Yes, indeed’, he said. ‘We lay great stress on them. So sad to see their decline — their so rapid decline — in other schools, elsewhere. But if the private schools will not be custodians of the great classical tradition, who will be?’

Mike Pumphrey did not feel called upon to reply. He wondered whether, in view of the decline of classics elsewhere, classics teachers might not be in a state of glut upon the market, and therefore to be had cheap. He rather thought they might be. He looked cynically at Mr. Crumwallis, swelling with spurious pride.

(Robert Barnard, School for Murder, 1983, ch. 9)

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