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The Blue Lagoon
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The Blue Lagoon

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Born on April 9, 1863, in Kingstown, Ireland, Henry de Vere Stacpoole grew up in a household dominated by his mother and three older sisters. William C. Stacpoole, a doctor of divinity from Trinity College and headmaster of Kingstown school, died some time before his son's eighth birthday, leaving the responsibility of supporting the family to his Canadian-born wife, Charlotte Augusta Mountjoy Stacpoole. At a young age, Charlotte had been led out of the Canadian backwoods by her widowed mother and taken to Ireland, where their relatives lived. This experience had strengthened her character and prepared her for single parenthood.

Charlotte cared passionately for her children and was perhaps overly protective of her son. As a child, Henry suffered from severe respiratory problems, misdiagnosed as chronic bronchitis by his physician, who in the winter of 1871 advised that the boy be taken to Southern France for his health. With her entire family in tow, Charlotte made the long journey from Kingstown to London to Paris, where signs of the Franco-Prussian War were still evident, settling at last in Nice at the Hotel des Iles Britannique. Nice was like paradise to Henry, who marveled at the city's affluence and beauty as he played in the warm sun.

After several more excursions to the continent, Stacpoole was sent to Portarlington, a bleak boarding school more than 100 miles from Kingstown. In contrast to his sisters, the Portarlington boys were noisy and uncouth. As Stacpoole writes in his autobiograhy Men and Mice, 1863-1942 (1942), the boys abused him mentally and physically, making him feel like "a little Arthur in a cage of baboons." One night, he escaped through an adjacent girls' school and returned to Kingstown, only to be betrayed by his family and dragged back to school by his eldest sister.

When his family moved to London, he was taken out of Portarlington and enrolled at Malvern College, a progressive school with refined students and plenty of air and sunshine. Stacpoole thoroughly enjoyed his new surroundings, which he associated with the description of Malvern Hills in Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Aurora Leigh (1857): "Keepers of Piers Plowman's visions / Through the sunshine and the snow." This environment encouraged his interest in literature and writing.

The idyll end

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