Written by Pattie Flint, Brighton College Archive
Friday, 23 June 2017

Brighton College has in its archives a very, very small diary. Measuring no bigger than 6cm by 9cm, it contains four months’ worth of brief, scribbled entries in the life of Charles Campbell Ross, a precocious 12-year-old who would later become an MP for the Conservative Party in the St. Ives Constituency. In the next several blog posts, we will exhume and examine the ups and downs of his young life in the context of attending school at BC.

NameAgeDate of AdmissionDepartmentClassWhere BoardedGuardianDate of RemovalCause of RemovalRemarks
Charles Campbell Ross 9 ½ 13 Aug 1858 Left Xmas 63 & Xmas 58 R6 Principal Mrs. Ross 10 Hanover Crescent, Brighton Mmas 1866   33 Brunswick Road 53 pay separate


While the wordy and talkative would find the size of the diary less than ideal, it cannot be said of the 12-year-old Ross that he was a descriptive fellow, and there is much blank paper in the tiny notebook. The first entry in this diary could not even be considered a proper sentence: Went to the crescent to dinner the Parks & the little children were there we had some singing in the evening. Run-on sentences are Charlie’s forte. However, there is a sort of charm the reader gets when reading through his entries. His refusal to write nothing but Sunday as usual at the end of every week is enough to drive the reader to tears. However, by reading between the lines, the drama of Charlie’s young life begins to unfold.

On the 4h of January, a woman named Alice Day asks Charlie to act in a play called Blue Beatle, which he accepts. From then on, on days when he is not attending dances or parties, he is rehearsing. On the 7th, he brags that he has learned the whole part in half an hour and rewards himself by purchasing two coins for his coin collection. On the 13th, the lifestyle of a thespian begins to get to Charles when he gets a sore throat as a result of rehearsing. The following day when he reports feeling worse, Dr. Brown puts a brush and spirits down his throat. Research shows this was a common remedy, although this author has to wonder if a rough brush to the back of the throat was really an effective treatment. Ross was ill, or as he calls it seedy for the next several days, until the 23rd. He resumes his acting slowly but with enthusiasm, even as he goes back to school at Brighton College on the 28th of the month. However, the final blow comes on the last day of the month, the 31st, on which he writes, Was put into upper French went with Blayers to the post office to try some new English ... Mama wrote a note to me to tell me that I can’t act.

Oh Charlie! The cruelty of your mother’s brutal honesty. Charles Campbell Ross does not write again about acting, or any plays, in the rest of his entries, and we certainly know that he chose politics over the stage when he was an adult. Was his acting a passing fancy; something to pass the time while on holiday? Or was it a deeper passion that was stifled by a mother’s candour? We will never know. Stay tuned for our next blog entry on Ross’ eventful, young life. It can only go up from here, right?

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