bc Antonia Forest
One page on the Collecting Books and Magazines website, Australia.  
Updated 29th October, 2011.



Katherine's ANTONIA FOREST Page.

AUTUMN TERM re-issue


bc Antonia Forest (not her real name) was by all accounts a very private person. She was born in North London in the 1920s although even this date is a guess, based on the fact that her father was sent to France from Russia at the age of 12 to avoid being conscripted into the army. We assume he would have been born around the turn of the century. Antonia Forest's mother was an Irish Protestant who spent her early days in Dublin. How her parents met up has not yet been revealed. Antonia Forest apparently was educated at South Hamstead High School and according to an article in the July 1997 issue of Book & Magazine Collector by Debra Grice, based her characters on people she came across during her childhood.

The above article also mentions that Antonia Forest's favourite children's authors were Christine Chaundler, Dorothea Moore and Ethel Talbot. She was in fact a far more talented writer as her books have come to prove, being seen as similar in quality to those of Arthur Ransome and Noel Streatfeild. Antonia Forest was, unlike most other girls' authors, never a teacher! After she left school she did work for a while in a government clerical job and in a library before seriously tackling her true aim in life: to become a published author. 1948 saw the publication of her first novel, AUTUMN TERM, which introduced the Marlow family of 8 children. Their father served in the Royal Navy and the family lived in London, although the author would soon move them to the country to freshen up the plotline and give her more scope for the children's adventures.

From - Jenni Ambridge: Sad news in the Daily Telegraph Sat 6/12/03 that Antonia Forest died 28/11/03. She was reported to be writing an 11th book about the Marlows in Sue Sims' interview in 1995. Has anyone got any further information re this book?

REFERENCE: *Book & Magazine Collector, London, July 1997 issue. Article by Debra Grice.
*Geoff Towne. Thanks, Geoff.

CHRONOLOGICAL LISTS of BOOKS with reviews hot-linked

1. Autumn Term, 1948
The Marlows and the Traitor, 1953
Falconer’s Lure, 1957
4. End of Term, 1959
5. Peter’s Room, 1961
The Thursday Kidnapping, 1963
7. The Thuggery Affair, 1965
The Ready-Made Family, 1967
9. The Cricket Term, 1974
10. The Attic Term, 1976
11. Run Away Home, 1982

The Player’s Boy, 1970
The Players and the Rebels, 1971

Although only 4 of these books are school stories, all except the two historical books belong to the same series, but are set in the holidays.

**From: Karelia
You may already know this but I looked up the Faber website http://www.faber.co.uk and discovered that Autumn Term has already been [re-] released. Click Search, then enter Forest, Antonia and Autumn Term in author and title. You will get the entry for it. It came out on 16 Oct 2000. Faber Children's Classic -Autumn Term; Author: Antonia Forest; Availability: In print; Cover: Paperback; ISBN: 0-571-20640-9; Price: £4.99.
All of you should buy it as the only way the non-school titles are going to get reprinted is if the school ones sell well.

Antonia Forest’s Marlow Family Stories
An Introduction by Debra Grice
Antonia Forest has long been my favourite writer of children’s fiction. Even during that period in my teens when I thought I had kicked the school story habit (little did I know!) I still indulged in an annual read of her stories about the Marlow family, and I always felt they deserved to be much more widely known. She writes well and her characters and situations are vividly true to life. Although the first was written over forty years ago they seem less dated than many other series of books, perhaps because each has a background consistent with the time it was written. When I was at school in the 1970s Kingscote seemed to be the only fictional school which bore any resemblance to my own educational experience.

There are ten stories about the present-day Marlow family, plus two historical novels which deal with their ancestors, and one unrelated story for younger children, The Thursday Kidnapping. Although they were written over a period of 35 years, they cover a little under two and a half years of the lives of the Marlow family. When we first meet them in Autumn Term, Giles, the eldest, is in the Navy, like his father; Karen is head girl at Kingscote School; Rowan is a shining light in the netball team; Ann is a dedicated Girl Guide; Ginty is an attractive and popular member of her form; Peter is at the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth; and Nicola and Lawrie, the twins, are joining their sisters at school for the first time. The others, in their various ways, have all made their mark and the twins are determined to live up to the family reputation. Their fellow pupils are an intriguing mix of good and bad, notably Tim Keith, the Headmistress’s niece, who becomes Lawrie’s best friend. Tim is not the stuff of which schoolgirl heroines are made, being neither sporting nor straightforward, yet she remains oddly likeable. More complex is Lois Sanger, an unscrupulous senior with a grudge against the Marlows, whose sins never quite find her out. There are no secret passages, no floods, fires nor dramatic cliff rescues, nothing which could not be expected to happen in the best regulated of real life schools. In this respect Antonia Forest is reminiscent of Evelyn Smith, and there are a number of other similarities to be found in their work. In a recent letter Antonia Forest told me that as a child she had read a couple of Evelyn Smith’s books, but had preferred Christine Chaundler, Dorothea Moore and Ethel Talbot. By the time she came to write Autumn Term, authors such as Streatfeild and Ransome had brought children’s fiction nearer to real life, so she felt her book should follow suit.

The next two novels in the series are both holiday stories. In The Marlows and the Traitor, the four younger Marlows are staying by the sea when they encounter one of Peter’s superior officers from Dartmouth. Again, in Foley we have a “baddie” who is not without personal magnetism, and a plot which manages to be exciting yet convincing. Apparently Antonia Forest had not originally intended to write a series, but when she had the idea for a book about a traitor and wondered who the children should be who had to deal with him, it occurred to her that the youngest Marlows would do very well. In Falconer’s Lure, a family tragedy moves the Marlows from London to Trennels, the ancestral farm. This story introduces Patrick Merrick, the boy next door, who appears throughout the rest of the series and becomes increasingly important to both Nicola and Ginty. Here, he acquaints Nicola with the pleasures of hawking. The family also take part, according to their talents, in the local festival.

In End of Term we return to Kingscote, minus Karen, who is now at Oxford, and Rowan, who remains at Trennels to run the farm. Nicola, Lawrie and Tim are now in Lower IVA and are established members of the school. Here the school Christmas play is central to the plot-Lawrie is forced to resort to subterfuge to get the part she desperately wants, and Antonia Forest uses the Nativity play to look at the religious beliefs of Patrick, a fervent Catholic, and Miranda West, Nicola’s Jewish friend.

Peter’s Room follows directly on from End of Term. It is the Christmas holidays, and the four younger Marlows, together with Patrick, enliven a spell of wintry weather by creating their own private version of the Brontės’ Gondal and Angria fantasies. This imaginary world has an all too tangible effect on the children’s relationships, and cuts into the usual holiday round of riding and parties. I think this is the most original book of the series and I’m surprised it hasn’t become more of a classic of children’s literature.

The sixth book of the series is The Thuggery Affair, in which Lawrie (always my favourite Marlow) takes centre stage with Peter and Patrick. They become embroiled with a local gang of teddy boys, and accidentally uncover a drug smuggling racket. As always, the villains of the piece are more than just cardboard stereotypes and there is more to the children’s behaviour than the usual straightforward heroism found in more traditional adventure stories. This is perhaps the most dated of the series probably because of the very “sixties” music and slang, but it remains an extremely entertaining read.

In the seventh book, The Ready-Made Family, Karen arrives home unexpectedly from Oxford to announce her intention of marrying a middle-aged widower with three children. This situation stretches the family’s relationships to the limit: by the end of the book, not only are Patrick and Nicola still estranged, but also Karen and Rowan, together with Peter and their new brother-in-law, Edwin Dodd. The Dodd children, however, have become part of the extended family, and Nicola’s bid to rescue Rose Dodd from a potential child molester forms the climax to the action.

In The Cricket Term we are back at Kingscote for Lois Sanger’s final term at school. Again events are dominated by the school play, this time The Tempest, and by the inter-form cricket competition which becomes the focal point for Lois’s resentment against the Marlow family. The last school story, The Attic Term, centres on Ginty, who finds herself at a loose end during the absence of her best friend Monica, who has been injured in a car crash. Meanwhile in London things are going badly for Patrick at his progressive Catholic day school. Ginty starts making illicit telephone calls to him and lands them both in trouble. The twins have now reached the Upper Fourth, and their term is enlivened by sundry skirmishes with authority, and the preparations for the End of Term concert.

The final story in the series, Run Away Home, finds the Marlows at home for Christmas. Mrs Marlow is summoned to the bedside of her sick mother in Paris, leaving Giles, who is home on leave, in charge. Together with Patrick and the young Dodds, the family becomes entangled in a plot to smuggle a young Swiss boy out of the country, a risky enterprise which nearly ends in disaster.

I recently asked Antonia Forest if there are any additions to the series to be expected. She replied that she has been writing a new book “in fits and starts, and making lamentably slow progress”, so I shall just have to keep my fingers crossed that there is more to come At the moment the four school stories are available in Puffin books, and I have been told that when the paperback rights revert to Faber they intend to re-publish the entire series, but this will not be for some time.

I’d like to finish by making a heartfelt appeal for a copy of Falconer’s Lure - I lent mine to someone years ago and haven’t seen it since. Does anyone have a spare? I have a short article by Antonia Forest entitled “Hampstead Between the Wars: the anachronistic background to The Thursday Kidnapping”, which I should be happy to copy for anyone who is interested - I have her permission provided it’s for private reading. If you’d like a copy, please send two 18p stamps to: Debra Grice, 60 Conduit Road, Stamford, Lincs. PE9 1QL, UK. #


The Marlows and the Traitor
Reviewed by Jenni Ambridge
Involving only Ginty, Peter, Nicola and Lawrie, who are spending several days in a hotel by the sea with their mother while the drains are done at home during the Easter holidays. Nicola befriends Robert Antiquil, apparently a retired navy officer, now fisherman, but really a member of Scotland Yard, who is looking for spies. While out for a walk, Peter thinks he sees one of his tutors, Foley, unfortunately the very one who gave him a very bad ticking off the week before when he lost his head in an exercise and another boy was knocked overboard.

Their father is involved in naval exercises not far away, and their mother goes to join him. Nicola and Peter discover Foley's apparently deserted family home. The following day they go back there with Ginty and Lawrie. While exploring the cellars the twins find some strange things – coded letters and formulae, and microfilm with torpedoes. Foley suddenly turns up – pointing a gun - and tells them to go with him. Lawrie falls over on the way to Foley's boat and manages to get away in the fog. She gets on a bus back to the hotel, but realising she hasn't any money to pay the fare dashes off the bus and is hit by a car. Unconscious in hospital, she can give no clues to the police, Mrs Marlow and Robert Antiquil, as to where the others are.

Foley has taken them on his boat to Foley's Folly Lighthouse, from which his ancestors caused ships to be wrecked so they could steal the cargoes. It turns out that Foley is a spy for the Russians, who will be coming to get him in a few days once the Navy have left the area. Ginty doesn't want to go on the submarine, having a horror of being in enclosed spaces which began when she was trapped in the cellar of their London home during the blitz. Nicola and Peter know that the Russians will want to kill them, so they plan their escape, which involves Peter apparently drowning, but really hiding upstairs in the lantern room. At night they take it in turns to signal for help, finally getting a response. It all ends in a shoot up on the beach with Peter, armed with Foley's gun, the submarine, the Russians, Foley and the British Navy steaming in at the last minute. Nicola's best moment is when they are going home on the destroyer and she realises for the first time she doesn't feel seasick.

Falconer's Lure : the story of a summer holiday
Reviewed by Jenni Ambridge
The first book set at Trennels, originally the home of Great-Uncle Lawrence (who is now dead) and his son Jonathan. The Marlows had always spent summers at Trennels; this is the first time they have been back since the war. Nicola is now 13 and meets up with Patrick Merrick, aged 15, whom she remembers as Peter's friend from before the war. Nicola is introduced to falconry by Patrick, and they spend most of their days flying Regina and Jael, until Jael is accidentally shot by Peter.

Various other events occur in the book such as Nicola finding a rare book on falconry, which Mr Merrick sells for a vast sum and Peter, who is scared of heights but pretends he has got over it, getting stuck on the cliffs while photographing peregrine chicks. Several days are taken up by the Colebridge and District Summer Festival. Nicola sings and comes second, Ann plays piano and Lawrie is to recite two poems. She gets to meet Ellen Holroyd, a famous person in the theatre world, who decides that Lawrie shows great promise in acting.

All the family are involved in the regatta – swimming, diving and sailing, and Rowen, Nicola and Patrick take part in the gymkhana. Peter and Patrick's friendship is disturbed by Jael's death – which was an accident – and the cliff incident, but is resolved during the diving, which Peter wins. Ginty spends most of the holiday being sensitive and thoughtful, supposedly the after effects of the ordeal she went through in the previous book, but mostly from having been led on by one Unity Logan in the Middle Remove, who is soppy and into "sentimental wallow". Ginty comes to her senses after the Regatta, realising that she has followed Unity far enough.

The future of the family is affected by the death of Jon in a plane accident. The Marlows find out that Trennels is entailed to their father who decides to live there and carrying on farming. Rowan decides to leave school and take over the farming, not wanting her father to leave the Navy. Their London house is eventually sold to the Merricks, as Mr Merrick has been elected an MP in London. Patrick had been concerned with the problem of what to do with Regina in London. This was sorted out when Nicola gets permission to take her back to school. However when they are out with Regina one day, she flies off and becomes a wild hawk. Nicola is then left with Sprog to take to school. Patrick doesn't consider him to be any good, as they are unable to teach him to hunt for himself.

The Ready Made Family
Reviewed by Jenni Ambridge
The story opens with Nicola, home from school along with the others due to a mass flu epidemic, reading Persuasion in the conservatory and then seeing her oldest sister Karen, who should have been at Oxford, walking up the drive. Karen has come home to tell the family that she plans to leave Oxford to marry Edwin Dodd, who works at Oxford, in three weeks. They are shocked to learn that Edwin is 41 years old (Karen is 19), and was separated from his wife, until her recent death in a plane accident, as well as being the father of 3 children aged 10, 9 and 5. Everyone is too shocked – and disapproving - to be pleased or happy for Karen, and things worsen when she asks if they can all stay at Trennels until they find a house, as Edwin has been made the new county archivist so needs to live locally. On the same day Mr Tranter, the farm manager has a stroke and is not expected to survive the night. He slowly recovers but is still in hospital at the end of the book.

The Dodd children arrive first – boisterous Chas, shy Rose, and childish Phoebe (Fob) who attaches herself to Peter. Edwin arrives a few days later. They all dislike him from the start. Karen and Edwin marry in a simple service at the local church then go to Devon for a few days honeymoon. The Marlows find the children fun and easy to handle, but Edwin is awkward with everyone, and inclined to be hard on the children. Matters are made worse by Peter, who, annoyed by Edwin's adult attitude to the Marlows, teases him in a very rude, provoking, supposedly brotherly way.

Ginty and Patrick, whose friendship had developed in 'Peter's Room' spend much time with each other, riding Catkin and Patrick's new pony Blackleg. Nicola is upset at losing Patrick as a friend.

Nicola and Peter take the children to Yetland Cove for Chas' birthday, and on the way back, manage to stop an accident happening on the railway. Their resulting lateness and the police involvement mean everyone gets in trouble, and Peter is whipped across the face by Edwin with a horsewhip, after being rude to him. A solution to the housing problem arises when Mrs Tranter moves to her sister's house. The relief is short-lived as they discover that Rose, who does not want to leave Mrs Marlow, has run away. Nicola follows her trail and eventually finds her in Oxford, where Rose has gone to find her Mummy, whom she believes to be still alive. A strange man has picked her up, pretending to be her Uncle Gerry, who tells Rose he will take her to Mummy. The girls finally escape from him, and run into Edwin, to whom Nicola had sent a telegram. The Police arrest Uncle Gerry while Edwin, Nicola and Rose go home on the train. Nicola gets along ok with him and tells him about the farm logs which were found in Peter's room in the shippen.

The Thursday Kidnapping
Reviewed by Jenni Ambridge
A day in the life of the four Ramsay children. Ellen, Neil, Jamesina (Jamie) and Robert (Bobbin) live with their parents and a Hungarian family, Freddy, Marika and Bart Kodaly in a big house in Hampstead. The two fathers work together "at the lab". The day begins with Ellen doing her paper round, and bumping into Kathy Fisher, a spoilt girl of her own age, who is known for her sneaking and telling lies. The two mothers are off to the sales all day so the children are left to mind Bart, do the shopping, have their lunches and then take Jamie and Bobbin to a party at half-past three. Once the mothers have left, Ellen makes a list of what everyone wants for lunch – each one picks their favourite food plus something special to have for pudding.

The shopping is done then they go to the library. Kathy sees them, and when Bart is momentarily left on his own in the pram outside, goes to talk to him. An old lady speaks to her, and Kathy pretends Bart is one of her many brothers and sisters. Her stories get taller and the lady obviously doesn't believe her, so Kathy has no option but to wheel Bart away.

The children come out of the library to find Bart is missing. They search all over Hampstead and end up going to the Police Station to report his disappearance. Arriving home they see Bart's pram in the garden. Everyone assumes that Bart is in the pram, so Ellen rushes in to ring the Police and tell them everything's ok. She comes outside to find that Bart is still missing. They take the pram and shopping inside, and Ellen cooks their special dinners which nobody now wants. Smokey, Kathy's dog, is discovered in the house with one of Bart's mittens. The children decide that he must have come in through the garden door. They use him to track down Bart, only he leads them all over the Heath, then on to the Spaniards Road, where Jamie and Bobbin run out into the traffic. Still chasing Smokey back to the park, Jamie and Bobbin have no idea what has happened, only Ellen and Neil see the resulting accident involving three cars and a motorbike.

Bart is finally tracked down to Kathy's home – where she is trying to entertain him, and has set the table for tea with the best tea things. A fight starts and the tea things are knocked over, just as Mrs Fisher comes home. She goes mad at Kathy and the others, and the Christmas tree falls over in another scuffle, the candles setting the curtains alight. When everything calms down, the children take Bart home to baths and tea. The adults come back, thinking all is well, but then start wondering why Jamie and Bobbin aren't at the party. The excitement gets to Neil, who blurts everything out to Freddy, and then Ellen answers the door to a policeman, come to tie up the ends.

The Player’s Boy
Reviewed by Jenni Ambridge
This is the story of Nicholas Marlow, aged 11, who lives at Trennels with his brother, Geoffrey, a farmer, and sister-in-law, Kate. He is an excellent student with a photographic memory, and a good singer. On the way home from school one Saturday with his friend Adam he bumps into Antony and Thomasine Merrick and their cousin Gilly, members of the gentry. They are apparently Papists, so most people avoid them. The next day Adam's sparrowhawk flies into the garden of the Merrick's house, and while rescuing her, the boys overhear a conversation between Antony and Gilly, regarding Lord Essex, to whom Gilly is a steward. Lord Essex opposes the Queen and Gilly wants Antony to come to London to help to gain a Catholic England.

That evening Geoffrey brings a guest to dinner - Kit Marlowe, a playwright. Nicholas sits up with them, and the late night causes him to oversleep, missing his lift to school next morning. Due to this and several other things that happen that day, Nicholas goes with Kit to London. This involves travel by ship, then a meeting with friends of Kit, including Robin Poley whom Nicholas dislikes. Kit gives Nick a letter of introduction to his patron, Harry, Earl of Southampton. Kit is accidentally killed in a brawl, and Robin Poley takes Nicholas to London, making him swear an oath to listen to conversations in Southampton's household, and let Robin know.

Nick meets Harry's page, Humfrey Danvers, who takes him to Harry and Lord Essex. Nick tells them of Kit's death, and eventually confesses that Robin has asked him to spy on the household. They all depart for Titchfield, Harry's house near Southampton, where Nick helps with the falcons, and feels safe. In September Will Shakespeare visits Harry, and Nick is asked to sing for him. Nick goes with Will to become a player's boy. He joins the players who have been on the road for some time as all the London playhouses are currently closed. To the company he is Will’s young cousin, to Will he is Kit’s cousin. It is not until May that they hear London is free of plague so they can return. Will meets up with Richard Burbage who asks him to join his new group, the Lord Chamberlain's Men. Nick gets to know the players - John Hemings, Henry Condall, Augustine Philips, Tom Pope, Will Kemp the clown. He helps with props, learns to fence then gradually begins to take on speaking parts. He bumps into Humfrey in February while running errands, and they meet regularly after that.

Will's youngest brother, Edmund, aged 16, turns up one day, having been sent to Will by their father, in some trouble. Edmund is very outgoing and makes friends with everyone quickly. Nick has small parts in all four plays over Christmas/New Year. Robin Pope is suddenly unable to play Juliet so Nick has to step in. He is very nervous, but does ok, although Will thinks he could give more feeling to the part. Christmas day is spent with the Burbages and their five children. Bess, the oldest, cries when Nick sings a sad song. On Boxing day Nick plays Juliet again, but better. He sees the Queen.

The company tour the country during the summer. They are playing A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Worcester when Will gets word that his son, Hamnet, has had a fall and is very ill. He returns to Stratford. Some time later, when the company is at Oxford, Will returns with the news that Hamnet died.

Humfrey goes on an expedition to Spain with Lord Southampton, Lord Essex and Walter Ralegh. He doesn’t want to go, Nick would love to. They are away for 6 months, return safely, but the expedition was unsuccessful.

On Nick’s 16th birthday he goes to Tyburn with Edmund and two girls to see three papists hang. He is shocked when the third one is Antony Merrick, who quotes from a play. That evening Nick has two parts in Henry IV, ‘Kate Percy’ and ‘Feeble’, a tailor. In the middle of a speech by Feeble, he stops. Everyone is amazed, as he is always word perfect, but Edmund explains it is the speech that Antony made. On the way home Will asks him about Antony. They speak about religion, the problems between Catholics and Protestants. The conversation leads on to how Nick knew the Merricks and Will asks him if he really is Kit’s cousin. So Nicholas tells him the truth. Will says he must go home to see his brother, who should know that Nick is still alive.

They are to be in Streweminster for four days. Nick gets a lift to Trennels and walks in to find only a maid servant at home. Geoffrey has gone to Dorchester to fetch Kate and the children (3 boys, 2 girls) and her father, who has recently been widowed. Nick decides not to say who he is and gives his name as Arden, from Stratford. He leaves to walk the 35 miles back to Streweminster.

The Player’s and the Rebels
Reviewed by Jenni Ambridge
Continues straight on from Player’s Boy - Nick arrives in Streweminster afraid that the company would have left, but finds them about to play The Merry Wives. He rejoins them afterward, glad to be back. The company return to London and find there are problems with their theatre (which they own) - the owner of the land the theatre is on is not keen to renew the lease, so one night they pull it down, and ferry the timber across the river to rebuild it at Bankside, in Southwark.

Humfrey fears he will be thrown out, as a new younger page has been taken on by Harry. Nick suggests Humfrey writes music for the company, and asks Will about it. However Humfrey is too loyal to leave Harry. They go to Ireland to crush the rebels; Nick watches them marching out of London.

A name has to be chosen for the new theatre and Edmund comes up with The Globe. It is completed in mid May. Nick discusses his future with Will - he is to go home when his voice breaks - then won’t be able to return to acting for a year until it mends. Will Kemp leaves the company.

The news from Ireland is disappointing. Humfrey is in Dublin Castle, glad not to be fighting, but employed as a secretary. He notices a letter from the Queen to Lord Essex about Lord Southampton. He is to be demoted, but Essex is praised. Humfrey is angry at Essex’s actions against Southampton, as Harry has given Essex years of devoted service. On their return to London, Essex falls out of favour with the Queen, is put under guard in York House, then falls ill. Humfrey tells Nick that this always happens when Essex falls out with the Queen; he duly recovers. Humfrey tells Nick about the letter, who says he has been right not to tell Harry about it. They go back to Ireland again.

In November Will is summoned to see the patron, Lord Hunsdon, and told to perform Troylus and Cressida - ‘for the Court’s edification as a lively Homily against the courses pursued by the Earl of Essex’. Will argues against this, saying that it was written long ago and had nothing to do with Essex. However they have no choice. They play at Whitehall Palace on Christmas Night. Afterwards Will is asked to see the Lord Chamberlain, who wants him to write a play for Twelfth Night - 11 days away - as the Queen will have a special young guest, who doesn’t speak English, so it must be an easy comedy with songs and dances. Will starts thinking of an Italian tale he once read about twins.

Will writes ‘Twelfth Night’ quickly and parts are given out. Nick is to play Viola. Humfrey is asked to write some airs and is paid for his songs. On the night, Humfrey sneaks away to go to the play, delighted at hearing his own music. Nick is terrified all week, as his voice has started to crack. He is lacklustre throughout the play, knowing how important it is that for the play to succeed. He just gets through but the other actors find out. Going home afterwards with Will, they meet Ralegh, and Nick is stunned to silence at meeting his hero.

The following Sunday Nick goes to Paul’s Yard to meet Humfrey. Robin Poley meets him, telling him he has watched him come here for the last 6 years, and as he hasn’t so far kept his oath, he can redeem himself by listening to conversations at the Globe. If he doesn’t Will would be accused of treason or Humfrey accused of being part of his brothers’ plots. Nick is told to write down information and hand it in at the bookshop. Humfrey arrives soon after and says they are going to Titchfield but won’t say why.

Nick wakes the next morning with an aching head and a cough and by the following day is very ill. He spends a week in bed in the parlour with Will and Edmund keeping an eye on him as they fear he is close to death. Eventually the fever passes and he convalesces for a few days. Bess had been very upset and comes to visit so she can see for herself that he is alright.

Will is writing Hamlet. Nick goes to see Humfrey, who is amazed that Nick was not frightened of dying. Nick’s reason is that it is something that must happen, so there is no point being scared. He asks Humfrey about writing music for Hamlet, says he’ll see him next Sunday. Humfrey says not next Sunday but will give no explanation. Nick guesses that something serious is going to happen concerning Humfrey’s brothers.

Not having any parts in plays, Nick helps sweep and tidy the playhouse and while John Hemings is ill, takes on the task of checking bills and noting the takings. He is sitting in an alcove doing this one day when he hears a stranger asking August Philips if the company will put on Richard II tomorrow for 40 shillings. August agrees, and after he has left Nick hears the stranger and a second person discussing the plan - they want Richard II played because Essex liked it. The second person is Gilly Merrick. Nick writes down exactly what they said and takes it to the bookshop in Paul’s Yard.

Will is upset that they have to learn the parts so quickly and because he doesn’t want to be thought in sympathy with Essex’s followers. Nick plays Harry Percy and sees Robin Poley watching the crowd. Will says Humfrey may write music for Ophelia’s songs, Nick says they are at Titchfield. Will is surprised as he saw Lord Southampton in London.

Nick is afraid that he has betrayed Humfrey as well as Gilly and his gang, and goes to Paul’s Yard to look for him. He finds Humfrey on the way home who tells him that Lord Essex and friends were to possess Whitehall Palace and arrest the Queen’s advisers. Word must have got out because the Lord Keeper and Lord Chief Justice came from the Queen with 200 or so servants, to ask what Lord Essex was intending. They were taken prisoner. Since there was no hope of surprising Whitehall they all went into the city shouting that there was a plot against Lord Essex, that the Crown would go to Spain. They were not taken seriously. Word started that Lord Burghley and a herald were coming to proclaim them traitors, so they slipped away.

Humfrey and Nick go to Drury House to collect Humfrey’s clothes then Essex House to collect his lute. George is there with Gilly. The Lords have been released. George is not pleased that Humfrey has left Essex. Suddenly they see Harry and Essex come into the garden, and the house is surrounded by soldiers. All the doors and windows are barricaded. A soldier yells for Essex to yield in the Queen’s name. If they don’t the house will be blown up. The talking goes on, women and children allowed to leave. Essex and Southampton surrender. They are all stunned. George says he will follow them to the Tower. Soldiers search the house, Nick and Humfrey make it to the wall. Humfrey jumps down, Nick is about to hand him his lute when Robin Poley turns up with a sword, saying he will take Humfrey to the soldiers. Nick jumps on him with his sword and knocks him out. They run home and find Will engrossed in his writing.

Humfrey tells their story then goes to bed. Will asks Nick for the rest - having seen the connection between today’s activities and the request for Richard II. Will says Nick would not have been the only informant, so he shouldn’t feel too badly, and it shows the company were innocently drawn into the plot. Will thinks Nick leaving soon would be good for his safety as well as allowing Humfrey to adjust better to life without Nick there as a constant reminder of what will happen to Harry, Essex and his brothers. Will also says Nick should never tell Humfrey what he has done. Will says he does want Nick to come back, Nick is pleased.

Everyone is talking about Harry and Essex the next day. The Privy Council orders immediate closure of all playhouses, so they are all worried but to different degrees. Some think they may never be allowed to put on a play again, others think their heads will go as well. Humfrey stays with August.

Three days later August attends the Privy Council having been summoned. The players had told him to say “what chanced that evening and no more”. He comes out raging as they only wanted to confirm the facts and “never supposed we’d played Richard other than in all innocence.” They all celebrate that evening. Nick thinks sadly about his leaving, thinks of Bess who would surely miss him. He imagines coming back in a year’s time and meeting her again. A match with Bess would certainly delight her mother. He thinks about mentioning it to Will on the way home but can’t quite do so. Will wants him to take a letter to Lord Hunsdon next day as he needs to know whether they are to play on Shrove Tuesday.

In the morning Nick is amazed that he had contemplated marrying Bess - blames it on rhenish. He can’t shake off the idea though, knowing that Bess, although only 13, loved him. He thinks he should love her back, but while fond of her, he knows he doesn’t love her. He finds some relief in the thought of leaving, she might miss him at first but may care for someone else by the time he returned.

Nick arrives at Westminster Hall to find Harry and Lord Essex’s case starting. Lord Hunsdon is inside so he has to wait all day. In the evening they come out - the case has obviously not gone well. Essex is dejected, Harry comes out with his head up, but looking like he has walked into a nightmare. Nick gives his message to Hunsdon who says they are to play Hamlet. He returns home and tells Edmund and Will what he had seen.

During Hamlet, Nick looks straight at the Queen and knew that ‘the Queen was old’. She is withdrawn, and the crowd quiet. Suddenly the words start to take on another meaning, descriptions of Hamlet sounding like Essex. The Queen near the end makes a sound ‘half-pain, half-anger’. Everyone freezes, but the Queen makes no move, they continue to the end. Will says nothing will happen to them. Edmund finds out that the Queen signed Essex’s death warrant before coming to the play.

On Sunday Nick parts from Will and Edmund after morning prayer, intending to see Humfrey. But he is not up yet. So Nick walks by the river, past the Tower, and eventually reaches Deptford, where he had arrived eight years before. A sailor approaches him and speaks a Latin phrase to which Nick automatically replies. It is Adam.

They go to a local pub and exchange stories. Adam has been at sea for five years. After the incident at their school, when Adam had been sent home in disgrace (the teacher had discovered that Nick had been doing Adam’s homework for him), he was thrashed by his father and sent to work at the mill. One evening Adam’s mother had told him that the mill would go to Adam’s younger and more clever brother; it would be best for Adam to make his own way in life. The next time he went to Colebridge for market day, Adam kept the flour money, rode to Poole, sold the horse and went to sea.

Adam says he is thinking of going home after this voyage, Nick thinks he could go too. But they are to sail on the next tide. Nick sees that this would make everything easier as he wouldn’t have to say goodbye. So he hastily writes to Will explaining … ‘tell Humfrey - another hesitation - and Bess for me.’ The ship they are sailing on is the Ark Royal, which was Ralegh’s. Some people Nick knows are also in the pub; he asks them to take the letter to Will then goes with Adam.

The story of what happened next is related in The Cricket term - Edwin has been reading the farm books which Peter found in the Shippen. He copies out the diary extracts written by Geoffrey Marlow, concerning Nicholas - that he disappeared, was thought dead for years, then returned some eight or nine years later. He stays with them for a while then goes back to London to be a player. They get a letter from him later to say that he has married Bess.

VISITORS WRITE   -    Prior to the introduction of the Visitors' Book.

The Marlows Saga by Sue Isle

Antonia Forest's Marlow stories are "different". I think of them not so much as school stories as a family saga, some of them within the confines of Kingscote Girls School and some not. There are six sisters and two brothers, Giles in the Navy and Peter at Dartmouth Naval College. The main characters are the youngest, twins Nicola and Lawrence (Lawrie), because she was meant to be a boy!

The twins are packed off to boarding school at age 12, having to deal with an already-established family history and four older sisters always held up to them as examples. Karen is Head Girl, which is especially dire. Next is Rowan, practical and good at sports, then the beautiful, rather flaky Virginia (Ginty) and then Ann, who is too good to be true and runs a troop of Guides at school. They meet Tim (Thalia), the Headmistress' Niece and also the slimy Lois Sanger who hates to lose at anything and makes life difficult for the twins because they're the sisters of her archenemy Rowan Marlow.

Even from the start, Nicola is the star of the series. AF doesn't fall into the cliché of having the twins be identical in behaviour as well as appearance, though there are several "twins change places" episodes. Nicola and Lawrie are very different people. Nicola's first move, in "The Autumn Term" (1948) is to stop the train in order to retrieve her special Swiss Army knife. The love of her life is the Royal Navy, with which her family is closely linked through her father (Commander Marlow), and then both her brothers. I think Nick can be summarized by one of "The Autumn Term's" first scenes, unpacking in the room she's to share with her sisters.

"It would show nicer feeling, Nicky dear," commented Rowan, "if you had Giles instead of his ship and possibly an expensively framed cabinet portrait of Father and Mother instead of Nelson. Don't you think so, Ann?"

Lawrie is my least favourite of the sisters, which I think is intended by AF. It's stated a few times, particularly early on, that the others in the form like Nicola better, but this is never a simply outlined fact. Lawrie's unconscious brilliance at acting is matched, step by step, with her frustrating childishness and lack of interest in anything that isn't about Lawrie Marlow. Yet Tim Keith, who starts off as the friend of both twins, soon gravitates towards Lawrie, championing her in any battles against Nicola.

There are a lot of battles in "Autumn Term" and the series in general; intense, age-mate quarrels and even feuds between different ages, as Lois Sanger, Rowan's old enemy, becomes the personal foe of Nicola when, to save her own face, she gets the twins thrown out of the Guides company. Stephen King wrote that you never have any friends like the ones you have when you are twelve. Perhaps you never have enemies like that either, and you never know the pain and bewilderment when one suddenly turns into the other.

Yet the personal clashes between Tim and Nicola and Nicola and Lawrie are forgotten when Tim rashly gets the form involved in performing a play. In the chaos and excitement, Lawrie's gift shows for the first time as she and Nicola play "The Prince and the Pauper", rewritten into play form by the rash and desperate Tim. Their performance brings the book to a triumphant finish and the realisation that, like the other Marlows, they are good at something! Readers had to wait another 11 years for the twins to go back for the next term. "End of Term" (1959) follows "The Marlows and the Traitor" and "Falconer's Lure". I have not read the former, but know it was not a school story. I believe it introduces the character of Patrick Merrick, who becomes Nicola's best "home friend" and later is 'stolen' by her older sister Ginty, who has very different ideas about Patrick! Patrick, a rather shy, intelligent boy, is two years older than Nicola and an old-style Catholic. His family has stood against the changes in the Catholic Church, which brings them quite a bit of grief. "Falconer's Lure" concerns this friendship between Nicola and Patrick, who flies a peregrine falcon. I can't say much more than that because I was only able to read it once and that long ago.

The characters are quite consistent throughout the series and apart from a few minor problems caused by being written over 35 years, it's possible to ignore the fact that they weren't written one or two years apart as is the usual way with series. The only two written close together were "The Cricket Term" (1974) and "The Attic Term" (1976), the last two school stories. AF apologises for one inconsistency at the beginning of "The Thuggery Affair" (1965) which is a "home" story featuring Patrick, Peter and Lawrie up against the local gang. By this time, cadets had to be 18 to enter Dartmouth College, not 13, which was Peter's age when he first went there. AF declares that short of expelling Peter, the only other way out is to assume a sort of alternate reality (my words) where the original truth remains so.

"The Ready-Made Family" comes between "The Thuggery Affair" and "The Cricket Term" but I have never read it. I know it must contain fairly drastic changes, because suddenly Rowan's out of school at 18 and running the family farm and Karen, who'd gone to college, is suddenly married to a widower with three children! I found these two fates rather a cop-out; Karen was at university, had all this potential, and suddenly she's stuck making cakes and being stepmum to three children when she's not even out of her teens! Tying Rowan down to the farm was another fate-worse-than, in my opinion, though without these two there was more time for Ginty and Ann as well as the twins. Maybe that was why AF 'wrote them out'?

Patrick Merrick is one of my favourite characters, maybe particularly because he is outside the school setting. Nicola herself admits she rarely thinks about him in school, just as she doesn't think much about her best friend Miranda when she's at home. The two are in separate, never touching worlds. She doesn't think about Patrick as a boyfriend. He is someone who understands how she thinks, who doesn't need everything explained. One of the best parts of "End of Term" is where Nicola and Patrick ride over to Wade Abbas (where Kingscote School is located), to look at a carving of a falcon inside the Minster cathedral. Nicola's feelings when sister Ginty moves in on him are more those of someone whose best friend has been 'stolen' than a relationship being broken up. Which it is, of course, but a peculiarly innocent one which perhaps does mark the age of the earlier books. The 'supporting story' of Patrick and Ginty begins in "Peter's Room" to the best of my recollection. Another home story, it concerns the Marlows and Patrick becoming involved in a very intense roleplaying game based on those the Brontes invented in their childhood, years before science fiction fans began 'official' versions. Patrick, despite his religious preoccupations, doesn't at all seem like a prig. He's reassuringly dense in the matter of Ginty - can't the boy see what a twit she is, no of course not, he's sixteen! In "The Attic Term", where less attention is paid to the twins than in previous books, this relationship does come crashing down through Ginty's foolishness and once more Patrick and Nicola drift back into closer friendship, even more so in the last Marlow book, "Run Away Home", where the friends assist a young boy who wants to return to his father in France. The father lost a custody battle, but the boy refuses to leave it there.

I was pleased to see the older Marlows, who'd drifted out of the picture, make a return here. I'm very much looking forward to reading the new book.

Sue Isle (1997): Sue lives in Perth, Western Australia, with a growing and competing population of houseplants and books, together with three rats who are plotting to take over the world if they can only stay awake long enough. She works as a court reporter and is always looking for ways to use the info gained for writing, without being locked up by the Australian government. She has one book, "Scale of Dragon, Tooth of Wolf" and 13 stories to her pro credit so far and also enjoys writing the occasional fanfic. Other interests include cycling, roleplay gaming, the Illuminati card game and going to sf conventions.

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