To posterity [the novel A Separate Peace] offers up a minor curiosity: its portrait of Brinker Hadley, a cunning verbal torturer based on [author John] Knowles' Exeter schoolmate Gore Vidal. (Vidal has publicly admired the novel.) Hadley is a campus cynic-dandy of a style Exeter specializes in developing. Taking the type broadly, James Agee, Dwight MacDonald, Gore Vidal, and George Trow all attended Exeter, all experienced the splendor of its reproving coldness, and each, in a way, spent a lifetime writing his way out from under it. Here I should add, without including myself (trust me) in anyone's company, I attended Exeter, was a campus cynic-dandy, and, three weeks shy of graduation, was asked by the school administration, in no uncertain terms, to leave.
--Stephen Metcalf, Slate, on old Exeter traditions, going strong in 1945, 1982, and 1994