The Parents' Review
A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture
"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
Memories of Arnold and Rugby 60 Years Ago
by a Member of the School, in 1835, '36 and '37.
[Thomas Arnold, 1795-1842, was headmaster of Rugby School from 1828-1841. Though he died of a heart attack at the young age of 46, he was poet Matthew Arnold's father, H. O. Arnold-Forster's grandfather and Aldous Huxley's great-grandfather.]
Chiefly Chats with my Youngest Children.
(Continued from "The Parents' Review," March, '96. page 38.)
IN THE SIXTH--ARNOLD'S--FORM (Aug. 1836 to June '37).
My memories of life in Class must needs take the form of disjointed jottings, disjecta membra. I cannot be sure of their sequence, and they would hardly fall into heads.
The themes which Arnold set us proved my severest tasks. I used often to read on the subject three or four hours before setting down to write. If he approved, it was ample reward. One such subject I recollect was the "Life of old Parr." I carefully collected in a long Latin theme all the main social and political movements of the century and a half over which he lived, and to do this I had give up eight hours. His general remark to the Form was, that "most of the themes showed an utter absence of the dramatic sense: that he did not want a history of the times, but of things that would have struck such a man as Parr,--his having seen, for instance, the cart laden with sheaves of arrows going to Flodden Field, or the new Bibles in the churches chained to the desks, and the crowds gathering round to hear them read." Not long after, he gave as a subject, "The meeting of Alexander, Julius Caesar and Napoleon in Hades." So I sought to dramatise. I can just recall that I attempted to draw Julius Caesar as a cynical censor of both Alexander and Napoleon, and made him use in referenc to the death of the Duc d'Enghie, Fouché's comment, "'Twas worse than a crime, 'twas a blunder," Contrary to my expectation, instead of a pleasant comment he looked grave and displeased, as though he thought I must have a moral screw loose to have adopted and used such a remark.
I was more successful in a Greek prose theme, "A Periplus from London to Athens." His words in mentioning my exercise with a few others in Form, and his kind sweet smile, seemed worth to me more than all my trouble.
In Latin and English verse I was also named more than once. In one copy, which, as usual, he looked over with me, sitting, as we used to do, alone beside him at his desk, he marked a word as a mistake in quantity. I said, "Lucretius so used it," and quoted the line. He looked quite pleased at my knowing the passage, but then added with his winning smile, "I would not advise you to take Lucretius for your authority in scansion: you had better confine yourself to Virgil, Horace and Ovid."
Upon every "construe" which a fellow made when called up, he set distinctly its own separate value. For many years I preserved the book in which I had recorded carefully every experience of my own, but with the notes of Prince Lee's Lectures in the Upper Fifth, and the seven numbers of the Rugby Magazine, it disappeared in some of those removals in after life to which I have adverted above.
The most fatal word in a stern, but unfrequent voice was, "Sit down." The next expression was, "That will do," expressed in three cadences, the one implying barely moderate, the next fair, and the other good. Then came "Thank you, that will do"; "Thank you"; or, "Thank you, very good." When pleased with an explanation in answer to a question he had put, his favourite expression was "Clearly," pronounced distinctly as a tri-syllable. It was like the light of a lamp thrown on the answer.
In such lectures as Thucydides, or Eyre Evans Crowe's French History, his wealth of illustrations were listened to with eager interest and filled us with marvel at their appositeness and variety, culled from the history of one nation after another. A few brief words and we had brought before us a coincidence, a parallelism, or an antagonism from ancient or modern history.
On another occasion he dwelt upon the necessity of having some system for connecting chronology with history: he did not set much store by the "Memoriae Technicae" then commonly in vogue.
As a wider mode he advised us first of all to connect the commencement of each century with some event in a nation's history: and then mentally reckoning backwards and forwards approximate to the dates of events in the interval. He instanced to us how readily English History lent itself to this method. Thus:--
Egbert's accession marks... ... ... ... ... ... 800
or, he said, we might even go so far as to take the
Defeat of Edward by Bruce, at Bannockburn, in ... ... ... 1314
as a date for that century from its importance, and because from its form it was so easy to remember; and
In like manner, towards more accurate knowledge, we might choose events coinciding, as nearly as may be, with the half centuries; and still further pursuing the method with more exactness, select events coincident with the quarters of the centuries. Thus we should be enabled to sychronise intermediate events with very close correctness. But, he added, there are times in the histories of nations which require a knowledge of chronology year by year: thus, in Greek History, in the 100 years from the Ionian Revolt, 500 B.C., to the conquest of Athens by Lysander, and the return of the Ten Thousand 400 B.C., we should discriminate between the events of each year; at least for the first twenty-one years tot he battles of Plataea and Mycale, and for the twenty-eight years of the Peloponnesian war.
That again at some particular crisis a more minute exactness than even this should be sought; as in Roman History, from the Consularship of Cicero B.C. 63 to the death of Julius Caesar B.C. 44, we should endeavour to synchronise events by months or even by days.
The depth of his tones, and the pathos of his voice when he read out for turning into Greek iambics Wordsworth's piece commencing--
"Great Jove, Laodamia, doth not leave
still linger in the chambers of memory like far off echoes. What did not attract me was his fondness for Aristotle's Rhetoric: he appeared to consider it the easiest of Greek books. His sermons oftentimes in their love of analysis and definition, though so far forth hardly adapted to attract young listeners, bore the marked impress of this partiality. To me the Rhetoric presented a dry terminology. I often wished he would call me up in Cicero's De Natura Deorum, with which perhaps I was as conversant as almost any in the Form, but this he reserved for the highest; or in Aristophanes, which my familiarity with Shakespeare helped me to appreciate.
Herewith the remembrance of a little device of mine can still provoke a smile. Finding he never called me up in Aristophanes, I bethought me that I would lead him into doing so. My scheme might have had every chance of "drawing" Bonamy Price [political economist and Rugby schoolmaster] or [James] Prince Lee [assistant schoolmaster to Arnold]. As one little witticism after another came up in the Greek, I paralleled it in a low whisper to the fellow sitting next to me, William Lea, with some expression from Shakespeare which had occurred to me while getting up the lesson. I was hoping to hear a sudden, "--, go on." Lea nudged me, I turned to his face and saw his eyes directed with a look of terror towards Arnold's desk; thither then I turned mine. I cannot forget the lightnings that flashed from his eyes and the wrath which sat upon his brow as his tall form stood before me. No word was spoken. Alack! I was not called up; neither then, nor ever in Aristophanes.
The early morning lesson was in the Septuagint. Under his vivid teaching the rolling eloquence and grand prophetic inspiration of Deuteronomy grew into one's whole soul, spite of struggling through it in the crabbed Greek. Nearly at the close of my year we had reached the last part of Judges. I was construing when I came to the passage c. xviii. 30: "Jonathan, the son of Gershom, the son of Manasseh," and was speaking with some hesitation, for we had found in getting up the chapter that there was a different reading of "Moses," instead of "Manasseh." Many eyes were turned to Dr. Arnold, enquiringly. Noting our interest in the point he threw a smile round. "Yes," he said, "this is one of the instances which shows the advantage we derive from possessing independent versions. Both our authorised version from the Hebrew and the Septuagint from the Vatican MS. read 'Manasseh'; only Jerome's Vulgate preserves what was undoubtedly the ancient reading, 'Moses.'" He then explained to us how the Jews came to alter it, from repugnance to the thought of their great Lawgiver's grandson lapsing into idolatry, and the easy process by which the alteration was made. We were taught also to look to the Vulgate, and more especially the Septuagint, as co-ordinate authorities with our own version: a view which fuller experience has only deepened.
It befell me, on what must have been December 4th, 1836, to read in my turn in Chapel the second evening lesson,--the 10th chapter of Hebrews. I knew it well, but I suppose through constitutional excitement and nervousness in beginning--perhaps confused between the two different readings--I left out the interrogation in v. 2: "Would they not have ceased to be offered?" and so made nonsense of the clause.
The next day came severely the remark, that when any member of the Sixth was reading before the school, he should take care not to make mistakes which destroyed the sense. Arnold had no belief in or sympathy with nervousness. He did not know what modern science has indicated,--the different effect produced by what may be called a dactylic, instead of the usual spondaic rhythm of the heart; or the different nervous temperament in one whose pulse was tardy like his own, and in one whom very slight excitement would make it spring up from a normal 75 to 100. He might perhaps have lived a longer life, but of less concentration and usefulness, had his pulse been more elastic.
Throughout '36 I had hopes of being able to sit for a scholarship, limited to my native county, at Corp. Chris. Coll., Oxon [Corpus Christi College, Oxford]: it was confined to candidates between 14 and 19. The previous one had fallen vacant just after I was 14. The expectation of this one hung on from month to month. I went for my Christmas vacation, even then hoping to be called up from home any week, but the resignation of the Fellowship, and consequently the vacancy of the Scholarship below it, was not declared till a few weeks after I was 19, and so superannuated.
At the Christmas Examination in Extras, I endeavoured a rather ambitious programme. I can recall only two of the subjects I presented: one, the "Tenth Satire" of Juvenal to translate and say by heart; a second, "The Dorian Migration," from Thirlwall, a tough subject. Repetition did not come easily to me, so I thought that the Juvenal would help to increased fluency for every-day work; but in the vivâ voce, being put on at one place by Arnold, then suddenly stopped and put on at another, confused me, and I did not do myself justice, though my answers showed that I had mastered the contents of the Satire.
In the questioning on the Dorian migration I was getting on swimmingly, till in a reply I mentioned the "sorrowful signs" Bellerophon bore with him. "And what are the Greek words?" was Arnold's rejoinder. I had, alas, contented myself with Thirlwall's text! "In reading up a subject," was the rebuke, "you should never content yourself with the author's statements, but verify his references." So I had no prize adjudged, and the passage in Iliad vi. 166, when I afterwards looked it out, left an abiding remembrance, but were σηματα Λνγρα to me.
Another extra I attempted for Easter, '37; sending in a poem for the prize, the subject set being "Pilgrimage." In this I gave a sketch of the Crusades, and then dwelt more fully on a few chosen incidents in the usual heroic measure. The prize was assigned to Richard Congreve for one in Spenserian stanza. When I read his philosophical treatment of the subject, I felt how far his reach was above my narrative style, and how justly the prize was allotted to him, and for years afterwards I often read his poem, keeping it amongst my Rugby papers till, as I have said, they disappeared.
In those days there was not, as now, cocoa and biscuits before going in to prayers and lesson before breakfast. Sitting up for work to the limit allowed over night resulted in hurrying down and generally running the 300 yards to big-school to prayers; since for these Arnold never expected a Sixth Form fellow to be late. Then there was the hour's lesson, and when I reached the house again, chilled and "leer," appetite for breakfast was pretty well gone. Then by mid-day, hunger almost ravenous came on, with no resort but the "Tuck Shop." To meet Arnold in coming out of this was to incur a frown and look of vexation. Of course the effect of the "Tuck Shop" [candy store] was again to spoil dinner; especially as, according to the even still too common fraud in public schools, the food was sometimes in a state to be repulsive. Hence it issued that one was living on the capital of the constitution, with strength slowly running down in that long winter half.
Now and again I had to betake myself to the sick room towards the close of the week's work. But old Bucknill's idea was that all boys had two ailments only, overfeeding or shamming; so purgative pills were dealt out to do more mischief, when the system was crying out to be braced by a tonic.* Hence I felt that I was not making headway as before. An incident in the Sixth did not make things more pleasant. A levee of the Form was called by Ch. Arnold, the Head, at which he reported that K----had struck Charles Gell, and proposed a vote of censure upon him for such a breach of good fellowship between one member of the Sixth [Form] and another. In this he was supported by Arthur Clough.** How K----came to strike Gell I could never imagine; he was a tall, wiry, athletic, high-spirited fellow, very popular; Gell was retiring and inoffensive, physically weak, who died afterwards, before his degree. When put to the vote, out of the thirty on the side of the room nearest Arnold's seat four head fellows held up their hands in favour of the censure, then, with a break, one or two; then, on the second side, three, or, perhaps, four, including Fred. Gell and Lewthwaite; and, on the third side of the room, myself alone. The negative was not put, the censure fell through, and the levee broke up, re infecta. K---- came across me afterwards at the School gates, rated and sneered at me for my vote on what I thought his cowardly act. He went so far that I expected every moment a slap in the face, so I clenched my fist by my side ready to dash in a return blow. The row would have been a short and sharp one. I might have struck him hard once or twice, and then his superior height and strength would have told against me. However, he thought better of publicly incurring a second quarrel, which could hardly have failed to reach Arnold's knowledge, and went away. The occurrence did not tend to friendly feelings from those who support him. It perhaps disclosed, also, how liable at any time the Sixth Form System was to disruption, even during the height of Arnold's influence.
*A touch of the ludicrous mingles with this recollection. The dull sick room, with its north aspect, was now and then cheered by Fuller's joining me out of sheer idleness. He was careful to take no harm from the doctor. In spite of the watchfulness of the she-dragon who acted as matron, he contrived, making all sorts of wry faces and contortions, before her very face to secret his dose of pills. Then, when she was safely gone, would produce them with a chuckle.
**I cannot refrain from dwelling for a moment on my reminisences of Clough. I do not think I ever spoke with him while we were in the Sixth [Form], but the features of his beautiful face seem as clear now as though I had seen him but a month ago. He sat next but one on Arnold's right; my seat was on the opposite side with my back to the south window of the Library, the full light from which streamed upon Clough's face when he raised his head. There stand out distinctly the features which I loved to look on, for they seemed to realize to me a portrait such as I had seen by some great Italian Master, touched into life. The dark hair drawn across the white brood brow; beneath, the dark deep eyes, the long black lashes and the thoughtful countenance; and above all the almost feminine expression of trust and affection with which he looked up at Arnold in answering his questions or hanging on his words.
Matthew Arnold [Thomas Arnold's son, who became a poet] joined the School in '37 and was placed next me. I found him very reserved, and he seemed to have a singular constraint towards his father. Henry Bunsen was on my other side and we were friendly till he left, when I became next to William Lea; with both of these I fell in during after life. The companion with whom I was most intimate was Octavius Carey. We kept up mutual visits in our vacations while he was at Oxford and I at Cambridge, corresponding afterwards till the bloody day when, through his own chivalrous sense of honour, he fell at Moodkee. [Battle of Mudki, December 18th, 1845.]
Geology I dabbled in, having met with "[Charles] Lyell's Principles" in the School Library. A piece of spar still remains which I obtained from the lowest Lias at the deep cutting, then being made, on the London and Birmingham Railway; I loved to gaze from the top of its banks on the three spires of Coventry. The slight knowledge acquired of what was then a new science was like a seed thrown into the ground, which did not germinate till long years after. I still eagerly pursued Entomology, chiefly with Wratislaw.
Among the most cherished reminiscences of the Sixth are the dinners to which Arnold invited us, in small detachments, once each half year. There were always some guests of note, public men, or old pupils who had done well at the Universities. His conversation was frank and unconstrained, and he threw himself, with all the eagerness of his nature, into any topic discussed. At the first dinner in the Autumn half, the question of admission of Jews into Parliament came up. His strong views on the identity of the Church and State led him to speak as he was wont to do, most determinately against it, holding the opinion that, by so doing, we should relinquish the Christian character of the nation and the hopes that Christianity would become its moving force. [Arthur Penrhyn] Stanley's Life of him has since shown that, closely allied thereto, the question of his position as a Fellow in the new University of London was weighing deeply upon his mind and that he had, as yet, not lost hope that an examination in books of the Greek Testament as part of the subjects for a Degree might be upheld, as giving to the University a character distinctly Christian without Sectarianism.
At dinner in the first half of '37, I think it was Lake who started an observation in laudation of the efforts which were begun to be made to resuscitate the Welsh tongue. The suddenness and force with which Arnold, his eyes flashing, threw himself on the opposite side quite startled me, sitting close by him and hanging on his every word. He dwelt upon the evil that would result from encouraging in the Welsh a feeling of national isolation from England; that the statesman's aim should be to blend the two peoples together into one nation, and that he could only regard anyone who encouraged such revival of the Cymric as no less than an enemy of England.
[Cymric is the name of the Welsh language.]
Then, when we moved into the drawing-room, there was the chat with dear, sweet Mrs. Arnold, making enquiries of, and showing interest in, each one of us separately; or some intellectual conversation with Miss Arnold (Jane); or games with some of the little children, the youngest not long out of the nursery. Those short hours were like a green oasis and running waters in a sandy waste.
At the end of the half, I hoped to be allowed to sit in the Exhibition examination, not, of course, with the slightest idea of getting one, for I knew both that I was over age, and that I was in attainment below those to whom they would fall; but with the idea that the examiners would place in their order of merit, and state the marks of any of the Sixth who chose to sit. This I was informed could not be allowed, and so my time at Rugby came to an end with disappointment. No loss, may be, since I was so used up, that I did not even care to accept the friendly invitation of Tom Hughes to come and stay with him for two or three days at his father's house on my way home.
Proofread by LNL, Apr. 2021
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