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Lord Clarendon's Resumé of Results.
up, in order that full time should be devoted to the classics, and at the same time we are told (by Dean Liddell and others) that the boys go up to Oxford, not only not proficient, but in a lamentable state of deficiency with respect to the classics."*
This is a spontaneous and somewhat informal remark of Lord Clarendon's, excited, it would appear, by a feeling of indignation which would not be repressed. There is nothing quite so strong in the calm and judicial tone of the Commissioners' Report. After having indulged himself in this little outburst, he resumes in a tone of appeal to the head-master, whose position was certainly not to be envied :
63555. What we are now aware of is this, that at present the whole time of the boys is devoted to classics, notwithstanding which we hear the principal of one of the first colleges in Oxford [Dean Liddell] telling us, that, generally speaking, almost all the boys come up in a melancholy state of deficiency in respect to their classical attainments, and that among those so painfully deficient, Eton stands prominently forward !—I am sorry for it.'
We believe that Mr. Balston's sorrow has not proved to be of that kind which brings forth fruits meet for repentance. Let us hope that it still may. There is large room for such a crop.
Our account of Eton must be incomplete from want of space ; but it would be manifestly imperfect without some reference to the Moral Education carried on there. We need scarcely say, that by moral education at Eton we do not mean special lessons directed to the training of the character, and founded on the presumed superior wisdom of the teachers as compared with that of the pupils. This presumption, which had considerable weight in the educational systems of the old world-among Jews, Greeks, and Romans; among the Chinese, too, and ancient Hindoos—has long been accounted slow' at Eton. No Eton boy is supposed really to need any such training. Indeed, the
very charm of the place, in his eyes, is, that if such a notion does really occupy the brains of the authorities,' so called, they take care not to obtrude it offensively. He likes Eton, because he can do virtually pretty much as he pleases there, and is relieved from a good deal of what, in other places, is called discipline. And we confess that though there is very much in the actual system of Eton that we entirely disapprove of, we cannot regard the spectacle of this community of 900 boys, embracing so many incongruous as well as homogeneous ingre
In the very teeth of this uncontradicted declaration, the Bishop of Oxford asserted, only a few months ago, at a public meeting, that parents who send their boys to Eton, possess a 'real guarantee in the system, for their attaining a sound education.'
dients, compacted into a harmonious whole by the operation of laws and principles framed for the most part by themselves, without the greatest admiration. Such a spectacle is seen nowhere else in the whole world, and deserves a more philosophical examination than it has yet received. We join not, therefore, the ranks of those who denounce public schools in the abstract, and would destroy Eton, and Harrow, and the rest. We would, indeed, reform them root and branch; purge them thoroughly, that they may bring forth more fruit; but we certainly would not pluck them up from the ground. We have no space now to follow out the large subject on which we have entered, and therefore confine ourselves simply to two or three leading features especially characteristic of Eton. One of the points which strikes all beholders is the personal bearing of Eton boys. Everybody allows that they are gentlemanly in manners, and those who are infatuated in their advocacy of everything Etonian, losing their heads, would have us accept this, which is an accompaniment, as the manifest and sufficient outcome of an Eton education. We are not so infatuated We neither forget nor ignore the claims of the commonwealth upon these favoured members, and are too blind to see the necessary connection between organized idleness' and the training of a gentleman. Are the grace and charm of manner which we admire the proper products of, for instance, the evasion, idleness, and ignorance which are, at present, essential concomitants of the ordi. nary school lessons ? If it were so, it would follow that the boys, in their eager pursuit of play and dissipation, are, in fact, only protesting in a practical way against what would, on that supposition, be the absurd theories of their teachers. So that Robinson, who cares nothing about lessons himself, and mercilessly teases Jones, who does, is in point of fact a great reformer, ready, both by precept and example, to witness for the truth, even to the extent of leaving school a perfect igno
He has successfully defeated every effort made to teach him, and he comes from Eton—a gentleman. Is this a valid instance of the eternal law of causation? If it is, we had better make common cause with the lads (and most pleasant fellows we should find them to co-operate with), and proclaim from the house-tops the great truth, that hands are henceforth to be up, and heads down. To adopt the words of an ingenious and able writer on education :
"If physical exercise and amusement are indeed the leading purpose of our great schools, then let the fact be avowed and acted oncedat armis toga : let the gown give place to bat, ball, and wickets ; let cricket be promoted, vice classics, superseded, and let the head
Gentlemanly School-boys of Eton.
mastership be transferred to that vir candidatus, Mr. Lillywhite, or the classically denominated Mr. Julius Cæsar.'*
It cannot be surely that the masters also-although, as becomes them, decently maintaining the contrary principle in words—are really themselves taking part in the great reformation at Eton ? On this supposition it would be their business to make the lessons as uninteresting and unprofitable as possible, to receive the dictation of the boys as to the manner of conducting them, to take more pupils than they can do justice to, to correct the exercises in the absence of the boys, and so on. Any master, then, who infringed on these established habits' would of course be unfaithful to the compact, and would need to be reminded that calling on the boys to prepare their lessons honestly and faithfully was 'too bad,' and rendering them interesting and instructive in the class-room quite intolerable. But we must be serious, for certainly the subject is.
However gained then, it is so far satisfactory that Eton should have the credit—which is all but unanimously allowed it—of turning out the most gentlemanly school-boys in Europe. We rejoice, as all the world does, in the result, even though it would appear to be due neither to the pervading tone of idleness, nor to the systematic wrong-headedness of the teaching, nor even to the peculiar public school system,' which, unless we are misinformed, does not, when in full operation, as at Rugby, for example, always generate the 'charm of manner,' the perfect 'grace' of the gentleman. What, then, can this acknowledged general characteristic of Eton boys be owing to ? We would suggest two simple yet obviously sufficient causes. One is the influence of the tutorial system which has quietly modified the public school principle that boys are to be governed by their own sense of what is right; and the other is the influence upon the boys of their home training. Eton, it should be remembered, receives as pupils the very élite of the most distinguished families of England. Coming from circles where grace and refinement of speech and manners constitute the very air they breathe, it is scarcely to be wondered at, that in the society of others who have had a similar home training, they retain some at least of the characteristics previously stamped upon them. However this may be, Eton generally claims the credit due to that result, and we will not refuse to allow it.
But Eton claims more than this. She claims to represent in her discipline the public school system ;' by which is meant the principle’ (as laid down by the commissioners, in their report),
• Dr. W. B.
See On the Report of the Commissioners,' &c.
of governing boys mainly through their own sense of what is ‘right and honourable;' which,' they go on to say, 'is un*doubtedly the only true principle,' requiring, however, as they allow, 'much watchfulness, and a firm, temperate, and judicious . administration, to keep up the tone and standard of opinion,
which are very liable to fuctuate, and the decline of which 'speedily turns a good school into a bad one.' These words, which are intended as a concise evaluation of the public school 'system' are, we conceive, liable themselves to some exception, inasmuch as they suggest the inquiry, whether the formation of the 'tone and standard of opinion' is to be left to the boys' 'sense of what is right and honourable.' We cannot but see in the past history of Eton the very disastrous consequences of leaving the only true principle’ to operate without the needful checks upon it. How, for instance, did it work in controlling the iniquities of the Long Chamber? The boys shut up together every night for twelve hours in that dreadfulden by the pious * provost and fellows,' were left, as far as we can see, to the full operation of the only true principle.' Where was the sense of what was right and honourable, when every kind of tyranny and immorality was practised by the very leaders of public opinion? How did the principle operate in checking the quite recent brutalities of Westminster School? We would advocate the permission of a considerable amount of liberty to children, and are fully satisfied that there is much more 'cribbing, cabin
ing, and confining' than is good either for masters or pupils, in the discipline of many schools; but whatever the amount of liberty granted, it should always be exercised on the understanding that it may at any moment be authoritatively interfered with, and, if necessary, superseded. There has been far too much at Eton of the only true principle,' and far too little of the ‘firm, temperate, and judicious administration' which should check its excess; and it is impossible not to see that this has arisen from a want of the earnest, conscientious sense of deep responsibility, which ought to characterize unmistakably the authorities of such an institution.
To quote again the instances already cited. When public opinion at last waked up the consciences of the Eton authorities --which if left to themselves would have apparently slept on for ever-and the Long Chamber was abolished, and a master in
college' appointed, the cankerous moral evils, before nurtured by the system, were destroyed; but then this was brought about by the direct interposition of another principle—that of appointing a responsible officer. So far, then, 'the only true principle' was at fault, and great good effected, by entirely superseding it.
Drinking Customs of Eton.
The principle “pur et simple’ appears to us to be also interfered with in the institution of which we have already spoken highly -the 'tutorial system' at Eton. The assistant masters, who represent the advantages of this arrangement in terms somewhat too glowing, considering how nearly they are interested in promoting it, mainly recommend it, and we think judiciously, not on the score of its leaving the pupil to his own lights, but on that of the personal influence that they are, by its means, enabled to exercise over him. They stand to him in loco parentis (that is the stock phrase), but this very phrase includes within it the deep responsibility of the master, and is so far antagonistic to the only true principle.' We could only wish, in the interest of the Eton boys, that the excellent tutors at Eton gave rather more time to the performance of their quasiparental duties, and rather less to the infinitely less important business of construing and correcting exercises ;' and generally that it was practically acknowledged throughout the entire institution that the masters exist for the boys, and not the boys for the masters. Sir J. T. Coleridge's and J. O.'s castigation of the Eton masters has not yet sufficiently whipped this principle into them.
But we have a few words more to say on the 'only true principle, and would inquire how it operates in respect to the 'drinking customs of Eton. Our readers will hardly believe, what the evidence of this report abundantly shows, that drinking is 'connived at,' and 'countenanced by the authorities, and treated as a part of the system.' It appears that at least a hundred boys may go into the “Tap' and the Christopher' every ordinary day, and stay there · for hours,' and that the number of boys, and the time spent in these places, are greatly increased on Sunday afternoons after four o'clock.
It also appears and this is the strangest feature of all—that in spite of a sham prohibition, no master, and certainly no monitor, nor person in authority of any kind, has power to interfere with these practices, however much he may deplore them; nor would he be aided by the reverend head master, provost or fellows, in any attempt he might make to put a stop to them. Other injurious customs of the place, -such as the initiation into the 'swell'set, or Cellar'
'-an honour much coveted and valued—by drinking at one breath, the contents of a glass 12 or 15 inches in depth, are well known and denounced by some of the masters, and complained of to the head master, whose general advice in regard to such points, is, we understand, 'that such things should be seen as if they were not seen, and known as if they were not known' -a principle, if we consider it well, wonderfully suggestive.