I read this book about 19-Feb-2007. This is the first time I've read this book. The book is copyright 1899. This note was last modified Tuesday, 20-Feb-2007 21:20:54 PST.
This note contains spoilers for the book.
Generally in the form of a "school story", like much of the early Wodehouse (which it seems to slightly predate). Full of slang, and Latin, and French, but I can usually puzzle out what they're on about.
I think it's really linked short stories, though I don't know of any ealier publication off-hand. There's a section at the end giving some history of Stalky's later life, via his friends talking at a reunion. He's off in India and Afghanistan, playing the Great Game I guess, not fully in accord with the Politicals.
I jumped on this when it hit Project Gutenberg because of the references to it in Anthony Price's novels. Price also alludes to the fact that Stalky is somewhat based on Lionel Dunsterville. He didn't mention that Beetle is partly based on Kipling.
Stalky and his co-conspirators in study number five are clearly bright as hell, though somewhat focused into one area (each). And Stalky is a first-rate leader. He thinks further ahead than others his age, and he has a very good feel for the politics of any situation. And while he doesn't insist on serving his revenge cold, he's willing to if that's the best approach.
Unlike in the Wodehouse books, the masters and the head of the school are mostly somewhat insightful and quite smart (always excepting King), and one of them is even on friendly terms with Stalky & Co. And the boys and the masters are somewhat in agreement on the limits to which things can be taken. Also, Stalky & Co. are on the outside of the "games" obsession.
I think my favorite bit is still the early bit where they make friends with Col. Dabney—specifically, McTurk, who is the son of a large landholder in Ireland and has been raised with a proper understanding of the management of game, tells Dabney they've seen his keeper shoot a gun at a vixen in breeding season, and they've come to him to tell him this. Just before the masters come to catch them trespassing. And Dabney ends up giving the masters a first-rate chewing out, especially when they attempt to assert their non-existant authority.