One of them is a very familiar personage. Her name is Mother Church. She is, in many ways, an admirable and dedicated person, deeply concerned about her children, endlessly and tirelessly careful for every detail of their welfare. Her long experience has taught her to understand her family very well. She knows their capabilities and she knows their weakness even better. She is patient and imperturbable, quite unshockable (she has witnessed all of the considerable range of human wickedness in her time) and there are no lengths to which she ill not go to educate her family. She has a huge fund of stories, maxims and advice, all of them time-tested, and usually interesting as well. She is very talented, skilled din creating a beautiful home for her children; she can show them how to enrich their lives with the glory of music and art. And there is no doubt that she loves God, and wishes to guide her children according to his will. On the other hand, she is extremely inclined to feel that her will and God's are identical. In her eyes there can be no better, no other, way than hers. If she is unshockable, she is frequently cynical. She is shrewd, with a thoroughly earthy and often humorous shrewdness. She knows her children's limitations so well that she will not allow them to outgrow them. She will lie and cheat if she feels it is necessary to keep her charges safe; she uses her authority 'for their own good' but if it seems to be questioned she is ruthless in suppressing revolt. She is hugely self-satisfied, and her judgement, while experienced, is often insensitive and therefore cruel. She is suspicious of eccentricity and new ideas, since her own are so clearly effective, and non-conformists get a rough time, though after they are dead she often feels differently about them. This is Mother Church, a crude, domineering, violent, loving, deceitful, compassionate old lady, a person to whom one cannot be indifferent, whom may one may love much and yet fight against, whom one may hate and yet respect.
Teachers dread nothing so much as unusual characteristics in precocious boys during the initial stages of their adolescence. A certain streak of genius makes an ominous impression on them, for there exists a deep gulf between genius and the teaching profession. Anyone with a touch of genius seems to his teachers a freak from the very first. As far as teachers are concerned, they define young geniuses as those who are bad, disrespectful, smoke at fourteen, fall in love at fifteen, can be found at sixteen hanging out in bars, read forbidden books, write scandalous essays, occasionally stare down a teacher in class, are marked in the attendance book as rebels, and are budding candidates for room-arrest. A schoolmaster will prefer to have a couple of dumbheads in his class than a single genius, and if you regard it objectively, he is of course right. His task is not to produce extravagant intellects but good Latinists, arithmeticians and sober decent folk. The question of who suffers more acutely at the other's hands - the teacher at the boy's, or vice versa - who is more of a tyrant, more of a tormentor, and who profanes parts of the other's soul, student or teacher, is something you cannot examine without remembering your own youth in anger and shame. Yet that s not what concerns us here. We have the consolation that among true geniuses the wounds almost always heal. As their personalities develop, they create their art in spite of school. Once dead, and enveloped by the comfortable nimbus of remoteness, they are paraded by the schoolmasters before other generations of students as showpieces and noble examples. Thus teh struggle between rule and spirit repeats itself year after year from school to school. The authorities go to infinite pains to nip the few profound or more valuable intellects in the bud. And time and again the ones who are detested by their teachers are frequently punished, the runaways and those expelled, are the ones who afterwards add to society's treasure. But some - and who knows how many? - waste away quiet obstinacy and finally go under.