E.S. Turner

  • Dean Farrar and ‘Eric’: A Study of ‘Eric, or Little by Little’, together with the Complete Text of the Book by Ian Anstruther
    Haggerston, 237 pp, £19.95, January 2003, ISBN 1 869812 19 0

From the 11th century to the 19th not a single Eric was to be found in England, according to the Harrap Book of Boys’ and Girls’ Names. Then in 1858 the schoolmaster Frederic Farrar, not yet a dean, published that passionately morbid tale Eric, or Little by Little. This was the book which, in the face of much mockery, put the wind up two generations of youth. Parents, seizing the wrong end of the stick, at once saw Eric as the ideal baptismal name, to the ultimate dismay of its recipients. Of Eric Gill, Robert Speaight says that being called Eric ‘might not unfairly be described as starting life with a handicap’. The Great War showed what handicapped Erics were made of; in 1918 my cousin Eric, up from Biggin Hill in a two-seater fighter, overhauled – little by little – a homing Gotha bomber and contributed to its destruction. It is unlikely that more recent Erics – Ambler, Sykes, Shipton, Heffer – oozed shame when signing their names.

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