When Dalrymple first put pen to paper

Dalrymple recalls his boyhood in the 1890s, when he learnt to write

using a pen with a refractory nib that I dipped in a china inkwell full of watery but nevertheless deeply staining ink, filled regularly by the teacher from a metal jug that contained gallons of the stuff. How proud I was when I finished a page without making a blot! (Can you, I wonder, still buy blotting paper?) The smell of the ink is with me still; somehow it lingered long after school and got even into my clothes and hair, like cigarette smoke. The ink got into my skin as well, and would not come out even by rubbing with pumice stone. I also remember the callus on my middle finger caused by pressure from the wooden handle of the pen. I wanted mine to be the largest in the class to prove that I had written more than anyone else.

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