Countless people have helped me with this book-those who taught me, whom I have taught with, and whom I have taught.
It was my great good fortune as a sixth former at Dulwich College to be taught by Raymond Wilson, then Head of English, later Professor of Education at Reading University; it was he who kindled-indeed ignited-my life-long love of English, and of teaching also. Peter Clay ton and Christopher Rowe were enormously helpful in my time as a student teacher at long Edward VI School, Norwich; I am also deeply grateful to former colleagues Reggie Watters and Edward Baines for their wise expertise and generosity, and to all members, past and present, of my Department at Bedford School. And I am no less indebted to my many thousands of students over the years: they have constantly stimulated and increased my interest in all things literary and linguistic, and I hope they all enjoyed my classes as much as I did.
I would also like to thank Tim Kirkup, Sarah Dixon, Michael Tucker, Roger Allen, John Fleming, Robert Kapadia, Paddy Grove and, especially, Louise Berridge, whose detailed criticisms and suggestions have been invaluable; Madeleine Metcalfe, my long-suffering editor; John Penny for his wonderful illustrations; and finally my wife and daughters for their love and patience while the book was being written.