Writing on the wall

7th March 2008 at 00:00
Former pupils of one of Britain's most notorious authors have provided a salutary warning to all teachers: the truth will out.

The late Anthony Burgess had a reputation for his smoking, drinking and unusual sexual proclivities. The film of his most controversial novel, A Clockwork Orange, was withdrawn from public exhibition in Britain due to copycat violence.

But pupils he taught at Malay College, in Malaysia, an elite school known as "the Eton of the East", have revealed that he showed disregard for censorship even before that, setting D.H. Lawrence's famously racy Lady Chatterley's Lover as a class text.

Recalling Burgess's exploits to Dr Rob Spence, of Edge Hill University in Lancashire, former pupils said that Burgess was famed for his drunken antics. He even wrote a parody of the school song.

Burgess left the school after a dispute with the principal. When his first novel was published in 1956, harshly portraying the head of a Malay-esque school, a pupil's request that the school library should stock a copy met with a terse response from the principal: "Over my dead body."

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