a story lives forever
Sign in
Form submission failed!

Stay signed in

Recover your password?
Form submission failed!

Web of Stories Ltd would like to keep you informed about our products and services.

Please tick here if you would like us to keep you informed about our products and services.

I have read and accepted the Terms & Conditions.

Please note: Your email and any private information provided at registration will not be passed on to other individuals or organisations without your specific approval.

Video URL

You must be registered to use this feature. Sign in or register.


Sexually curious but still inexperienced


Amorous but not erotic
Frederic Raphael Writer
Comments (0) Please sign in or register to add comments

I've no doubt that the main form of sexual activity at Charterhouse, and any other school in which boys of 14 to 18 were secluded, was masturbation. Not that you had much to masturbate about because there was very little in the way of pictures or other aids, but, on the other hand, between the ages of 14 and 18 you don't need an awful lot of help in that department. There may have been people who didn't masturbate. There were certainly House purity... not committees... I don't know what they were called... clubs or something, where people affected to be extremely chaste, but anyway.

My sexual experiences were limited to the holidays because in the holidays I went to the Liberal Jewish Synagogue to be prepared for a sort of Liberal Jewish version of confirmation. I didn't learn Hebrew. I did receive so-called students' exercises while I was at school at Charterhouse which I dreaded anybody opening because they were stamped Liberal Jewish Synagogue. That's all I needed. So I was ashamed not in myself, but I was frightened that people would find out and jeer. I actually dreaded that, but my father wanted me to go and I was very docile and I went. The upside of going to these classes between the ages... from the age of about 15, 16 was that there were some girls with moustaches, but there were some who did not have moustaches, and one of them was a very pretty girl called Hilary Phillips with whom I got on very well. She lived in Portland Mansions off Baker Street and her parents wanted her to go to Oxford so they wanted me... they wondered if I could help her with her Livy. So there was a certain trade-off between irregular Latin constructions and the kisses which followed them. Hillary was keen but careful, and with good reason in the 1940s. She was also convinced, as many Jewish girls were at that time and not only Jewish ones, that if she wasn't engaged by the time she was 18 or 19, the shelf loomed. I didn't make much headway with Hilary in the unbuttoning department, but kisses were very nice and we had those and there was the promise of buttons in due course. That was only during the holidays. Now during the term not only did she write me letters, but after I came back from New York so did one of the girls that I had met in New York who had been somewhat more... generous. Her name was Mary-Jane and she wrote me scented letters with... promising extended pleasures when next we met.

The thing about Charterhouse was that there was a headmaster, a famous headmaster in the 1920s, who said at the headmasters' conference where they were discussing homosexual behavior in public schools, 'My boys are amorous, but not erotic'. Some of them were more amorous than others and one or two of them were certainly erotic, one of them being Simon Raven who was expelled from Charterhouse in my very first, as we used to call them, quarter. There were three quarters in the year; there would be, wouldn't there – a British joke. Simon was expelled, but he was so popular and he'd already got a scholarship to King's that, actually, it didn't seem to matter that he had been expelled for what was called 'the usual thing'. I had no idea what was 'usual' or what the 'thing' was. Of course, as I went up through my own House, I was aware of certain crushes that people had on smaller boys.

Born in America in 1931, Frederic Raphael is a writer who moved to England as a boy. He was educated at Charterhouse School and was a Major Scholar in Classics at St John's College, Cambridge. His articles and book reviews appear in a number of newspapers and magazines, including the Los Angeles Times and The Sunday Times. He has published more than twenty novels, the best-known being the semi-autobiographical The Glittering Prizes (1976). In 1965 Raphael won an Oscar for the screenplay for the movie Darling, and two years later received an Oscar nomination for his screenplay for Two for the Road. In 1999, he published Eyes Wide Open, a memoir of his collaboration with the director Stanley Kubrick on the screenplay of Eyes Wide Shut, Kubrick's final movie. Raphael lives in France and England and became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1964.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: Liberal Jewish Synagogue, 1940s

Duration: 3 minutes, 51 seconds

Date story recorded: March 2014

Date story went live: 13 August 2014