The Persephone Book of Short Stories: The English Lesson by Margaret Bonham


Miss. Maurer is a new English teacher at a girls’ school. She has to teach seventeen girls in IVa, and so far it has proven to be a tiring job. Miss. Maurer is yet to set the tone in the class, so if she is too kind her students become naughty, and if she is too stern her students laugh at her back! After another frustrating day without being able to maintain order in her classroom, Miss. Maurer decides to treat herself with something nice. So she goes out for tea “somewhere rich and warm.”

On the same day, Prue, one of the students in IVa class is taken out by her mother to a restaurant to celebrate her birthday. Prue is busy telling her mother about how she is ragging Miss. Maurer in class with her friends, but her mother is distracted by a beauty at the restaurant. This ‘beauty’ Prue’s mother refers to turns out to be Miss. Maurer, who in Prue’s views is a hag! Prue’s mother is a sophisticated woman, so when she keeps insisting Miss. Maurer is an unusually beautiful woman, Prue and her classmates have to reconsider if there’s more to Miss. Maurer than what they see!

The English Lesson is a good story. I believe as we grow old our perceptions on beauty also change. Miss. Maurer’s students are too young to understand that beauties do not always have “golden curls.” But if they did realize it (it looked like a student or two were warming up to the idea that Miss. Maurer is, in fact, a beauty towards the end of the story), they would have learned a small but valuable lesson in life!

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