The character Captain Hook, main protagonist of J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan, definitely attended a British public school:

Hook was not his true name. To reveal who he really was would even at this date set the country in a blaze; but as those who read between the lines must already have guessed, he had been at a famous public school; and its traditions still clung to him like garments, with which indeed they are largely concerned. Thus it was offensive to him even now to board a ship in the same dress in which he grappled her, and he still adhered in his walk to the school’s distinguished slouch. But above all he retained the passion for good form.

-- Chapter 14, "The Pirate Ship"

In later interpretations of the story by authors other than Barrie - for example, Geraldine McCaughrean's excellent 'sequel' Peter Pan in Scarlet - Hook is portrayed as specifically an old Etonian: that is, an alumnus of perhaps the most famous public school of them all. I'm curious whether this specifically is supported by the original text, or if it was first made up by someone other than Barrie.

In Barrie's original Peter Pan, is there evidence that Hook was an Etonian?


2 Answers 2


The Novel (1911)

From Chapter 14 of Peter Pan and Wendy:

To tell poor Smee that they thought him lovable! Hook itched to do it, but it seemed too brutal. Instead, he revolved this mystery in his mind: why do they find Smee lovable? He pursued the problem like the sleuth-hound that he was. If Smee was lovable, what was it that made him so? A terrible answer suddenly presented itself—"Good form?"

Had the bo'sun good form without knowing it, which is the best form of all?

He remembered that you have to prove you don't know you have it before you are eligible for Pop.

Pop is an Eton social club.

The Play (1904)

If you're looking for confirmation outside the novel (1911) the original text was actually the play (1904) where Hook's final words are (emphasis mine):

The incredible boy has apparently forgotten the recent doings, and is sitting on a barrel playing upon his pipes. This may surprise others but does not surprise HOOK. Lifting a blunderbuss he strikes forlornly not at the boy but at the barrel, which is hurled across the deck. PETER remains sitting in the air still playing upon his pipes. At this sight the great heart of HOOK breaks. That not wholly unheroic figure climbs the bulwarks murmuring 'Floreat Etona,' and prostrates himself into the water, where the crocodile is waiting for him open mouthed. HOOK knows the purpose of this yawning cavity, but after what he has gone through he enters it like one greeting a friend.

Where 'Floreat Etona' (may Eton Flourish) is the motto of Eton College.

A talk at Eton College (1927) entitled "Captain Hook at Eton"

Further Barrie gave a talk at Eton college in 1927 entitled "Captain Hook at Eton" where he opens with the words (emphasis mine):

This talk with you arises out of a sort of challenge from the Provost. I was here this year on June 4, and in a speech at luncheon the Provost challenged me to disprove this terrible indictment, “James Hook, the pirate captain, was a great Etonian but not a good one.” Now in my opinion Hook was a good Etonian though not a great one, and it is my more or less passionate desire to persuade you of this—to have Hook, so to speak, set up for good—that brings me here this afternoon in spite of my better judgment.

  • 1
    Excellent answer! That's pretty definitive.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Feb 15, 2018 at 11:53
  • 1
    @Randal'Thor I wasn't sure which angle you were most interested in so I covered all bases. Feb 15, 2018 at 19:14

There are multiple instances of "slouching" being associated with Eton:

  • Anthony Powell's description of the "world-famous" slouch of Eton:

    A boy of fifteen was walking slowly along the far side of the road with one hand in his pocket and the other supporting a pile of books, which rested like a field-marshal's baton against his thigh. His top hat was at the back of his head and he wore exceptionally short trousers and light-coloured socks. One of his shoulders was higher than the other and a slight sag at the knees made him an almost perfect specimen of the world-famous Eton slouch.

    This quote is used, for example, in this blog post discussing Hook and Eton. Passages elsewhere in the book imply Powell went to Eton soon after the Great War.

  • From the Eton College Chronicle itself, the June 2, 1910 edition:

    It is in reality something not unconnected with the famous Eton Slouch, and is fought tooth and nail by earnest people like Lord Roberts and the Bishop of Birmingham.

  • From The Importance of Being Eton, by Nick Fraser, an Old Etonian:

    With its clothes, its slouch, its odd fashions combining with irremovable customs, Eton is frequently depicted as if it were the originator of the British toff style.

  • A Major General criticized the Eton Volunteer Corps' slouching (from a 1906 newspaper article):

    "Many of the boys walk in the most extraordinary way. I would advise you to put more life and 'go' into your walk, whether in the street, at Lord's cricket ground, or elsewhere. Instead of slouching, walk as if you thought some thing of yourselves. As a Guards' officer once said to his men: 'Try and walk as if you had a sovereign in your pocket.'"

  • Another 1906 article, by P.G. Wodehouse:

    Mr. Bourchier’s Eton slouch is the admiration of all who see it.

So we have several instances of various classes of people, some of them Etonians themselves, associating a characteristic slouch with Eton — especially in the early twentieth century (around the same time Peter and Wendy came out). From this, the very passage quoted in the question can be taken as evidence that the public school in question is Eton.

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