Alan Bennett
Alan Bennett

One of Britain's favourite men of letters has revealed he was "touched up" by men when he was a child.

But Alan Bennett defied conventional thinking by hinting the experience did not leave him traumatised and emotionally scarred.

Talking to the Radio Times magazine, the 78-year-old, who was raised in Leeds, said: "One often found one's legs were touched up by old gentlemen, in a mild sort of way.

"It never got beyond that. It didn't bother me. I knew it was wrong, but I knew I shouldn't say anything about it because I knew they would get into trouble.

"But the notion one would be scarred for life..."

Bennett revealed he came under pressure to rewrite part of his 2004 play The History Boys because its portrayal of a teacher who fondles pupils was not negative enough for the authorities.

But the request was refused by Bennett who refused to make alterations.

"I just said no," he said. "It never occurred to me. It's a ridiculous idea that I might rewrite it and I said so, kindly, it was never on the cards."

Bennett came to fame as a member in the early 1960s with Beyond the Fringe, which he wrote and performed along with comics Peter Cook, Dudley Moore and Jonathan Miller.

The Yorkshire-born playwright is gay and in a civil partnership. On the marriage reform: "I couldn't understand what all the fuss was about over gay marriage."

"I haven't met anyone who cared one way or the other. Civil partnership mattered but I really couldn't understand why the far right-wing Conservatives were making so much fuss.

"It doesn't threaten marriage. The whole thing seemed to me a storm in a teacup."

Bennett, whose writing is known for its keen awareness of class and social mores, also called for private schools to be abolished.

"I do believe that if private education was abolished, and we only had one system of education, the whole atmosphere of this country would alter.

"A lot of the class divisions and silly stuff about old Etonians in the cabinet, all that would go. I just feel that we would be much more a nation."

The near-national treasure said he would not have achieved his success under current conditions in education.

"I would never have been able to go to university with the conditions that pertain today," he told the Radio Times.

"My parents wouldn't have been able to afford it and wouldn't have felt able to borrow money to that extent."