Gladstone's Library, Hawarden

Peter Francis, director of Gladstone's Library, has planned the final talk of the year - and this one will be particularly personal. Author Richard Beard will stay at the library in December, and his new book, Sad Little Men, deals with the phenomenon of private schooling. Peter himself attended boarding school in the 70s, and the experience, he argues, left an indelible mark on both the young pupils and the country.

Richard Beard's Sad Little Men is one of the most riveting and disturbing books that I have read for a long time.

When Boris Johnson was elected 64 per cent of his cabinet were privately educated. That is typical of Conservative governments: 71 per cent of John Major's cabinet and 91 per cent of Margaret Thatcher's were also privately educated.

Seventy per cent of British Prime Ministers were educated at Public Schools.

Richard claims that a pandemic is a mad time to put this sort of privileged public school educated PM in charge of the country

Does that matter? Well, yes.

Often sent away from home at seven or eight-years-old, this privileged education had over the years suppressed emotions, trained people for war or taught pupils how to mange what remained of the British Empire. The elite schools promised its successful pupils' power, influence and leadership - statistics show us they often achieve their goal.

This observant book chronicle's Richard Beard's own privileged schooling and lifts the lid on much of the damaging nonsense of public school life in the 70's and 80's.

I am older than Richard and can vouch for the accuracy of what he writes from a decade or more earlier. I can match his horror stories with my own.

I look forward to my conversation with Richard as he talks about this important and timely book.

Philip Larkin wrote that your parents "f**k you up... They may not mean to, but they do. They fill you with the faults they had..."

For many, these schools, in loco parentis, did the same.

• Richard Beard is in conversation with Peter on Friday, December 10, 7pm at Gladstone's Library. Copies of Richard's book will be for sale. Tickets are available now on