Revival In The Public Schools
( Originally Published 1921 )
IN the first three decades of the century the public schools were in a parlous state. Their low moral tone, their narrow classical curriculum, their poor intellectual results, their roughness and bullying, their bad feeding and housing, were no longer likely to be tolerated merely because they were established institutions. The era of the Reform Act knew how to "mend or end" institutions which were not fulfilling their purpose. Evangelicalism was not tolerant of societies which appeared to encourage profanity and vice. Outside the circle of parents who were accustomed to send their boys to public schools were utilitarians demanding a "modern" curriculum, nonconformists objecting to clerical control, and democrats looking for schools which should be open to parents of smaller means.
In Prussia a situation in many respects similar had led to the suppression of the old boarding-schools and the establishment of a system of first-grade day-schools. The work had been carried out in the first decade of the century, and the new Gymnasien, as they were termed, had already proved themselves a success. In England, in the heyday of Individualism, such drastic action by the State was impossible; but, if no reform had come from within, it is hard to believe that the public schools could have survived another fifty years. Demands for their supersession were already beginning to be heard. It has been suggested that it would have been better in the long run had they not reformed themselves and had they been ultimately abolished. It may well be that the needs of the present day would be better met by an efficient system of local day schools with an atmosphere of work and a strong esprit de corps. But could such schools have been erected on the ruins of a discredited system? Bedford Grammar School may be taken to represent the type of school demanded. To produce several hundred Bedfords would require several hundred first-rate headmasters; and, had they existed, they would be almost certain to have reformed the existing schools. Probably it was a much smaller number who actually achieved the latter task.
During the years which immediately followed the reform, tradition assigned the major portion of the credit to Thomas Arnold of Rugby. As in the case of many other great reputations, a reaction followed; and to-day it has become fashionable to speak of the "Arnold myth." The discussion has not been free from bias. Alumni of great schools which can boast their own famous headmasters can be pardoned for seeking to revise a version of history which ignores their names. But the pure question of fact is capable of objective historical determination. The question of pure fact is how far the existence of Arnold brought about the reforms. It is when we ask how much credit is to be given to Arnold for what he did, how much greater a man (if at all) was he than other contemporary headmasters, how far he was merely a product of his times, whether if he had not done what he did someone else would not have done it, that we enter on a sphere where conjecture is hardly capable of proof or of disproof.
It is necessary in the first place to set out clearly the reforms which are admitted to have taken place. The moral tone of the schools was vastly improved; discipline was changed, largely by a new bias given to the prefect system; the curriculum was somewhat widened by making French and mathematics regular subjects instead of "extras"; teaching became more efficient and industry more common ; an improvement took place in diet and housing; " dames," where they existed, were replaced by house-masters; and the school chapel became a powerful influence. In consequence of these internal changes public confidence was restored; the middle class was attracted to the public schools; a number of new schools were set up on the same lines; some of the old grammar schools became indistinguishable from the original seven; nonconformists came to approve of the clerical headmaster; and the rise of a "religious difficulty," such as that which has done so much to hinder the progress of elementary education, was obviated.
Next it may be noticed that these changes differ considerably in the extent to which they require a strong personality for their attainment. Changes in curriculum, diet, housing, and the position of assistant masters are matters of organisation which can be effected by committees or by headmasters of ordinary capacity, if only public opinion demands them. Improvements in teaching are more dependent on the human factor; but they call, not for a few outstanding personalities, but for an adequate supply of well educated teachers, such as were sure to become available so soon as the universities began to take their duties seriously. But a sweeping reform of moral tone required individuality of a high order; and it is to the changes which took place in this sphere, the changes which did more than anything else to conciliate public opinion, that Arnold's admirers look for their main proofs of his influence. None of these reforms can, however, be overlooked; for they all represent a change of opinion in the nation at large, to which the public schools responded.
The roughness of the material provision for schoolboys was a mediaeval tradition dating from the old monastic days when the mortification of the flesh, whether voluntary or compulsory, was regarded as a means of purifying the spirit. Pecuniary motives of course entered; in the days of the Renaissance, Erasmus and Vives hint that to starve your pupils was the quickest road to fortune in the scholastic profession. Then too Locke's hardening theory reflected a widespread belief, which seemed to give educational sanction to the dictates of economy. But, above all, no one before Thring realised the inevitable effect of external conditions on character. Dr Johnson once remarked that, because a man happened to be born in a stable, he was not therefore a horse; but it is equally true that, if a boy be brought up in a pig-sty, he will tend to become a pig. However, the Platonic view that beautiful surroundings implant in the soul an unconscious love of beauty, which later in life will develop into a conscious striving after the ideal, had no meaning for the early Victorians. Their ideas on such matters savoured of Sparta rather than of Athens. It is from the seventies that most housing legislation dates ; the early Victorian placed his workpeople in slums and his own children in bare class-rooms and uncomfortable boarding-houses. Glaring evils, however, began to be remedied. At Rugby, in the interests of work, James gave the boys separate studies, and Butler followed his example at Shrewsbury'. At Eton the headmastership of Hawtrey (1834–1852) saw sweeping changes. But, even in 1838 "a deputation which waited upon the authorities with a request that a supply of water might be laid on in College was dismissed with the rebuff:—' You will be wanting gas and turkey carpets next''"; and, a few years earlier, a suggestion of including potatoes in the dietary evoked from one of the fellows the enquiry, "But who is to peel the potatoes?3" Only in 1846 were a heating system and a water supply introduced, and tea and breakfast provided. At the same time the boys were given small separate rooms; suitable furniture was provided; sick rooms and lavatories were built ; and a "proper staff of servants was engaged to do all menial work under the supervision of a resident matron4." Complaints as to food were a frequent cause for school mutinies. The Public Schools Commission completed the sweeping away of the old barrack life in the seven schools; but it was left for Thring to raise the matter to a higher plane by proclaiming the effect of the "almighty wall" on character. Arnold was brought into little connection with these troubles; however, he superseded the Rugby "dames" by house-masters, a change which was going on elsewhere. At Eton Lyte puts its beginning about 1824, but it was not completely effected till fifty years later5. Governors would naturally favour the change as giving masters an income independent of that derived from the school funds; but it was only the changed attitude of masters which made it an advantage; it might easily have become an incentive to profiteering. '
Changes in curriculum before the Royal Commission were slight. Arnold made French and mathematics regular subjects instead of "extras" for which special fees were charged; but James had been extremely fond of teaching mathematics, and Butler, following him, had included it as a regular part of the Shrewsbury studies. It was only in 1851 that Eton1 elevated the senior mathematical master, Stephen Hawtrey, a relative of the head, to the full status of an assistant master, and his six assistants remained in a subordinate position till the Commission. They were in fact the lineal successors of the visiting teacher of writing and arithmetic, usually a scrivener's clerk, who in the seventeenth century had been allowed to teach the boys out of school hours. So persistent were archaic survivals that, even at a time when Cambridge, with one of whose colleges—King's—Eton was most closely connected, reserved its highest honours for mathematicians, mathematical masters were neither allowed to wear gowns nor to take a share in the general discipline of the school, received lower salaries and could not become house-masters ! The attitude of headmasters towards mathematics is illustrated by a story of an interview between a newly-appointed mathematical master and his chief. The assistant's attempts to extract from the head any expressions of opinion on the mathematical syllabus were cut short by the brief answer, "That's as you please"; and, when he went on to make enquiries as to his status and disciplinary powers, as for instance whether the boys would be expected to cap him, he received the equally curt reply, "That's as they please." The attitude of all headmasters, however, was not like this; Charles Butler of Harrow (1805-1829), for instance, was himself a wrangler, and made a little mathematics compulsory, and French soon followed. French was everywhere taught like a dead language; indeed Arnold insisted in the interests of discipline that it should not be taught by foreigners but by the ordinary form master, and up to very recent times experience has justified his view. We have seen that history was taught for one hour a week during one term in the year at Eton, Rugby, and Shrewsbury, and that some geography, chiefly ancient, was taught at Eton. The Eton Atlas of those days had modern maps opposite the ancient maps; but countries which lay outside the Graeco-Roman world, such as Scotland, Ireland, and Russia, were unrepresented. Arnold wrote: "Although some provision is undoubtedly made at Rugby for acquiring a knowledge of modern history, yet the history of Rome and Greece is more studied than that of France and England"; and he defended the procedure on the ground that ancient history could be studied from original authorities who were at the same time first-rate historians and in the front rank of literature, which is not the case with modern history. Arnold was a historian, and the historical bias which he gave to classical studies is perhaps the most noteworthy feature of his curriculum; in other schools ancient history was almost as completely ignored as modern. Non-classical subjects in fact made less progress in the older schools than in newer schools like Cheltenham; and it was only after the Royal Commission that they began to receive serious attention. We must not, however, forget that most of the intellectual stimulus of Eton was supplied not by the class teaching, but by the tutorial system; and that tutors often induced their pupils to do an amount of serious general reading in history and in English, and even in foreign, literature which might sometimes astonish our examination-ridden generation.
We next turn to improvements in teaching, which were very general. Butler of Shrewsbury (1793–1836) stands out at the head of the reformers. The school had sadly declined from its former high estate; and in 1798 an Act of Parliament was passed to reform the statutes and, in particular, to abolish the provision that the headmaster must be a burgess of Shrewsbury and an old Salopian. Butler was the first head appointed under the new scheme, and entered on his duties at the early age of twenty-four. He was one of the foremost scholars of his time and an excellent organiser. His system of periodical examinations and pro-motion by merit rather than by seniority was hailed as a striking novelty. His great triumph came when Kennedy, while still a pupil of the school and only a scholar-elect of Trinity, won the Porson Prize. Butler's improvements in method consisted largely in diminishing the old "grammar grind." For generations it had not been considered enough that boys should understand and apply the rules of syntax; they must learn them by heart in the exact Latin words of the text-book. Even in sixth forms every word of the author was parsed and the rule for its construction given in Latin1. If the reader wishes to realise the procedure, let him read examples from a famous schoolmaster of the seventeenth century, Richard Brinsley2. It was not enough that boys should learn the declensions and conjugations; they must also know by heart rules, of course written in Latin, which were supposed to teach how to form the various cases or tenses, though in reality the rule was unintelligible save by reference to the forms themselves ! Greek grammar, in particular, was a labyrinth of technical terms, of separate conjugations and declensions which had no real existence, and of endless complications of which the modern schoolboy has never heard. Correct Attic was at a discount, and forms were gathered indiscriminately from every dialect. Butler and his successor Kennedy (1836-1866), being at once first-rate scholars and first-rate teachers, could see what was needed and could supply it; and in the course of fifty years intelligible grammars resulted. Butler's old pupils carried his methods to other schools. But, entirely apart from Butler's influence, a new type of assistant master was arising; we all know Tom Brown's "young master3 "—Cotton—who "seemed to have the bad taste to be really interested in the lesson and to be. trying to work them into something like appreciation of it, giving them good spirited English words, instead of the wretched bald stuff into which they rendered poor old Homer; and construing over each piece himself to them after each boy, to show them how it should be done."
Maxwell Lyte gives two passages 1 supplied to him by a correspondent whose name he does not quote, which give a detailed description of classical teaching at Eton, first under Keate and then under Hawtrey. Keate was for his time an excellent scholar, but he attempted the impossible task of teaching 120 boys at once—the whole of the sixth and fifth forms. Hawtrey introduced organisation; he withdrew with the thirty top boys into the library, abandoned the idea of personally supervising a number of assistants teaching in the same room, divided the rest of the school into a number of parallel forms of manageable size, gave to each a form master for the whole of its work, and, having carefully selected his men, left them a large amount of liberty. The result was that, though he was himself a believer in the older methods, the younger assistants introduced Butler's reforms. At first this produced a chaos of older and newer methods, but in the long run the new methods triumphed.
One sign of the increasing intellectual energy of the schools is to be found in the magazines which began to appear. That of Harrow began in the last year of Charles Butler's headmastership; A. H. Clough had much to do with one at Rugby; while several short-lived attempts were made at Eton, some of a higher literary quality than are usually to be found at the present day.
In spite of improvements, the seven public schools, with the exception of Eton and Rugby, were never lower in public favour than in the thirties and forties. Moberley (1835–1866) was by no means the least of Winchester's masters, but by 1855 the number of commoners had fallen to 68. Harrow dropped to 127 under Charles Butler and to 69 under Wordsworth (1835–1844). Charterhouse stood at 104 in 1832 and had only risen to 121 in 1863. Westminster, which in 1818 had numbered 324, fell to 100 in 1835 and below 8o in 1841. Even Shrewsbury under Kennedy only numbered 133 in 1841 and scarcely rose for twenty years. The persistence of bad housing arrangements at Shrewsbury and the reputation of Winchester for hardship and bullying have been put forward as reasons.
We now reach the vital question of school tone. It may be well to approach causes by way of symptoms. The most astonishing of these symptoms to modern times is the constant recrudescence of mutinies and lock-outs. At Winchester there were several mutinies between 1775 and 1793, the most serious arising from a refusal to let the boys attend a performance by a military band in the Close. For two days the boys held the College buildings under the red flag, and the episode was terminated only by numerous expulsions. Goddard had some insight into the use of self-government as a corrective; but things went back under his successor, and in 1818 a rising was put down by two companies of soldiers with fixed bayonets. At Rugby in 1797, the headmaster having ordered the boys to pay for damages done to a tradesman against whom they had a grievance, they blew up the door of the head's study and made a bonfire of his books and the school desks. On the appearance of a body of special constables and the reading of the Riot Act, they retired to an island in the Lake"; again soldiers were called in, and the island was taken by assault. George III's standing question when he met Eton boys was, "Have you had a rebellion lately, eh, eh? " Keate was as powerful in suppressing rebellions as he was powerless to produce an administration which would remove the rebellious spirit. Most modern headmasters would think it time to resign when rotten eggs had flown round them on several occasions. Not so Keate; each time he saw it through, and half a dozen expulsions and forty or fifty floggings testified to his triumph. After one occasion when he was so occupied from lock-up on Saturday night to the early hours of Sunday morning, he reigned in peace. Even Butler of Shrewsbury had his windows broken and put a stop to insubordination only by three expulsions. The last serious rebellion was at Marlborough in 1851.
This chronicle of mutinies is but the most striking evidence that discipline, as now understood, was non-existent a hundred years ago. Assistant masters were only just beginning to be expected to help the head in discipline outside their own class-rooms. James at Rugby was often warned of impending disorder by notes thrown in at his window, though he was one of the first headmasters to think it unfair to expect boys to give information against their schoolfellows'.
Unfortunately these external disorders were indicative of worse evils which rarely came to the knowledge of the staff. Readers of these pages will hardly need to be told of these. For every one person who is acquainted with most of the sources of information on the schools of this period, a hundred know Tom Brown's Schooldays. The salt water, tossing in a blanket, and roasting; the drinking, gambling, and loose talk; the profanity which was much more than a mere mannerism, are all familiar. Tom Brown's Rugby was bad enough; the record of, Long Chamber at Eton throws a more ghastly light still on what was probably common. "Parents who wished to avoid the worst evils of Long Chamber and yet secure the advantage of the scholarships entered their boys as oppidans and allowed them to remain such until the extreme limit of age was reached at which they could enter upon the foundation" of Eton and so of King's afterwards. "Cruel at times the suffering and wrong; wild the profligacy. For after eight o'clock at night no prying eye came near till the following morning; no one lived in the same building; cries of joy and pain were equally unheard; and, excepting a code of laws of their own, there was no help or redress for any one'." Thring is here writing from his own memories.
Before asking how these evils have been remedied, it is ecessary to ask whether they really have been remedied, We may ignore the class of croakers who believed that a Spartan discipline was an actual benefit to character. The war has surely exploded them and their theories for ever. The British boy, from whatever class he come, who was held by these laudatores temporis acti to have been " spoilt " by comfort, has shown that he can undergo a physical and nervous ordeal to which no previous generation since the age of the early martyrs had been subjected without a thought of drawing back unless or until he had "seen it through." The doctrine of Thring (and of Plato) is " justified of her children." But it is a more plausible contention that only the material side has improved, that bullying and misery have ceased, but that the true moral tone is no better. The life of an oriental slave gang, it may be argued, has been exchanged for the luxury of Imperial Rome; vice has become attractive instead of abhorrent; public schools are not more virtuous but only more civilised. A true answer would probably be somewhat as follows. There are now about a hundred schools, great and small, conducted "on public school lines," whereas there were formerly but seven. At any given time there will be a few of these in which the worst influences are at work. Gambling tends to appear more often than of old in a few of the wealthiest; occasionally drinking becomes prevalent, but less than in the old days. As long as we think only of positive vices we may be tempted to take too gloomy a view. But, if we think of the good that there is in these hundred schools and compare it with the amount which could be found a hundred years ago, our pessimism vanishes. Far more boys, when they reach the university and are free to order their own life, order it on lines of which their headmasters would approve. The improvement may have been mainly in mid-Victorian days; there may have been even a retrogression in the wealthier schools in more recent years; but the gain, on the whole, stands. We have now to consider how it was achieved.
Organisation undoubtedly played some part. Separate studies, smaller dormitories, supervision, removal of grievances, and other points which have been already noted did much to suppress the influence of the worst boys, and to develop a cheerful outlook which is itself of great help to the promotion of a healthy mind. Men and boys who are well-treated themselves are more likely to be considerate for others; the brutal soldiery who ravaged Belgium were themselves the product of brutal treatment. Cruelty means selfishness; and selfishness is the ally of sensuality.
But organisation has its limitations. Good policing and good opportunities give the decent boy a chance. Most boys have generous instincts, healthy tastes, and even a desire to use their mental powers, though not always on the subjects which their teachers desire. But there is in every boy a relic of the ape and tiger, and of the savage. In a good home the good is brought out and the bad is atrophied by disuse. Thus each new generation rises to the level which its predecessor has attained. But "a society formed exclusively of boys, that is, of elements each separately weak and imperfect, becomes more than an aggregate of their separate defects; the amount of evil in the mass is more than the sum of the evil in the individuals ; it is aggravated in its character, while the amount of good, on the contrary, is less in the mass than in the individuals, and its effect greatly weakened 1." Personal influence is therefore needed in a school to take the place of parental influence at home.
This personal influence is exercised both by the head-master and his assistants. It was not till long after Arnold's time that the present friendly relations between boys and masters became common. We get just a trace of it at the end of Tom Brown, in the conversation between Tom and the new master; but Cotton was no ordinary assistant master. Mr Rowbothom, in his History of Rossall, tells us that "with a few single exceptions the natural enemy theory" between masters and boys held the field till the headmastership of H. A. James (1875-1886). Edward Bowen, who took a post at Harrow in the sixties, lamented that the master had nothing to do with the boys1, though he himself became a typical example of the changed relations. Almond of Loretto, who managed his school almost like a family, was regarded as an eccentric (1862). But, even if masters had not yet learned to mix with boys on easy terms out of school and if boys still looked on their masters as distant gods on Olympus, masters began to be really intent on boys' well-being, and boys replied with admiration, though not yet with affection. The new type of master likewise stimulated intellectual activity; and intellectual activity reacts on character. To quote Arnold once more, "Experience has led me more and more to believe in this connexion, for which divers reasons may be given. One, and a very important one, is that ability puts a boy in sympathy with his teachers in the matter of his work and in their delight in the works of master minds; whereas a dull boy has much more sympathy with the uneducated, and others to whom animal enjoyment is all in all."
When once good traditions have been established, the influence of men of ordinary sound common-sense and character is sufficient to maintain them. Schoolboys' in-tense conservatism makes them, like certain States mentioned by Macchiavelli, hard to win but easy to hold when won. But the first establishment of good traditions needed men of that inexplicable power of winning over opposition which is very rare, coupled with the tact which gains positions by working round them when they seem to present insuperable difficulties to direct assault. Almond of Loretto and Thring of Uppingham, who both built up schools almost out of nothing, had an easy task compared with the headmasters of the thirties, who had to pierce through a barbed wire entanglement of hostile traditions. Such work could' only be accomplished by the headmaster, since a particular tone penetrates the whole school; and the headmaster, in virtue of his position, finds it harder to bridge the gap between himself and the boys than do his assistants. These considerations may explain why the headmasters who are credited with producing most improvement in the moral tone of their schools were men rather of forceful and dominating than of winning and lovable personalities.
The school chapel gave these powerful characters an opportunity for direct assault. Dean Stanley and the author of Tom Brown both represent it as a scene of Arnold's triumphs. The chapel was there before; but Arnold was the first headmaster of Rugby to get himself appointed chaplain: this was essential to his conception of the pastoral relation in which a headmaster should stand to his pupils. In the next generation a school chapel came to be considered as an essential feature of a boarding-school; but it was not so earlier. Charles Butler had no chapel at Harrow and probably never preached a sermon to his boys. Though a chapel existed at Shrewsbury, the governors insisted, against Samuel Butler's wishes, that the boys should attend the parish church on Sunday mornings, in order that any one-sidedness in his preaching might be counteracted by the sermons of the parochial clergy1. Most headmasters of the period agreed with Arnold, but the influence which they exercised from the pulpit of course differed enormously.
The chapel was the only place where, on ordinary occasions, the headmaster was brought into direct touch with his school as a whole. Otherwise his immediate influence was brought to bear almost exclusively in the class-room, and on the sixth form only. But the right treatment of a sixth form was discovered earlier than that of the middle parts of the school. The reason is easily seen. We commonly speak of sixth form "boys"; but these "boys" are intellectually men, and at other ages of the world would have been so considered. While the art of understanding boys was still to be learned, a headmaster had only to treat his sixth "as gentlemen," to apply, that is, to them canons of behaviour with which he was well acquainted outside the class-room walls, and the way was clear to bring to bear on them whatever influence as man to man he possessed. Boys would be kept aloof by the very dress of a headmaster who, till Temple (headmaster of Rugby, 1858–1869) set them the example, never doffed their clerical robes; but young men could tell a man beneath the uniform. It is curious how this simple plan of behaving inside the sixth form room as they did outside was discovered simultaneously by a number of headmasters who had no model to follow. Hawtrey, Arnold, Moberley, and Charles Butler none of them ever saw any of the others teaching; yet the contrast which Lyte's correspondent draws between Hawtrey and Keate would not be inappropriate to any of the four. "Hawtrey may be said to have done by encouraging what Keate tried to do by threatening. If there is any truth in that melancholy caricature by which Keate is known to most men, if his battle-cry really was ' I'll flog you,' it is no less true that Hawtrey's characteristic utterance was, `Very well, very good exercise,' said with a gracious emphasis which never lost its charm. Men have almost grown old who still feel thankful that they once lived with a man who, though quite at home in the most brilliant circles, did as truly as Lacordaire'love young people.'" Or contrast these two passages: "Keate had as lower master acquired a rooted distrust in the honour of boys in general, and he used to make point blank charges quite at random....The effect of this was to encourage the very evil which he wished to check2." "There grew up a general feeling that 'it was a shame to tell Arnold a lie—he always believes you."'
As headmasters had the opportunity and the power of influencing directly only their young men of the sixth form, we see the importance of that bias given to the prefect system by which it was made the vehicle for transferring the headmaster's influence to the rest of the school. The sixth form, still sufficiently fresh from boyhood not to have forgotten the nature of boys, with no "natural enemy" tradition to break down, mixing freely with the boys, and regarded by the boys as the élite of their own number, could do what the masters did not yet know how to do, and had a hundred-fold more opportunities to do it. No one believes that Arnold invented prefects. They had descended from the early grammar-schools where the monitors were used to eke out the resources of a staff consisting of the headmaster and an usher. In the old days they marked attendances, heard accidence, inspected tidiness, and exercised some sort of supervision in church, at meals, and out of school: in fact we may call them the non-commissioned officers of the school. Their teaching functions seem to have vanished with the provision of a more adequate staff, and only one effort was made to revive them. The result was an interesting interlude which, however, exercised no influence on the subsequent development of education. At the time when the monitorial system of Bell and Lancaster was believed to be a panacea for all the difficulties in elementary education, Russell (1818–1832) introduced it at Charterhouse, taking the 120 top boys himself for part of the time, while they taught the lower forms for the rest. So great was public confidence in the monitorial system that the numbers rapidly rose from 233 to 480 in seven years. Even then he had only eight masters. But experience soon condemned the system; the numbers fell back to 103, and Russell resigned. Seeing that Russell's monitors were of the same age as the later pupil teachers, the experiment cannot be considered as intrinsically unpromising, in spite of its failure.
This incident is strong evidence of the fluid character of educational institutions at this period. Russell overlaps Arnold. Arnold's modification of the prefect system was superficially small compared with Russell's. Prefects already supervised, reported, and punished in every public school. In the same sense the functions of king, lords, and commons are the same now as they were in the reign of Queen Anne. But James's lament that his house was the hardest to manage because it contained the largest proportion of older boys shows the change in working. So does Keate's action in flogging his whole sixth form in front of the assembled juniors, who viewed the performance much as we might imagine a Prussian battalion watching its N.C.O.'s sent to the guardroom in a body1. What kind of influence could Keate imagine his prefects would possess after this?
Tradition credits Arnold with setting the example of the way in which prefects became the means of transmitting the headmaster's influence. A vague hazy public impression may assign to him all the reforms which occurred in public schools during half-a-century: in this sense there truly is an "Arnold myth." But for this myth Stanley and Tom Hughes are not responsible. They make this one definite claim; and Arnold himself defends his use of the prefect system exactly as we should expect its acknowledged author to defend it. Can the claim be brought to the definite test of evidence? We think it can. The change is not one of those reforms, like improved scholarship or greater keenness or greater urbanity, which are natural outcomes of the spirit of the age. It was a discovery—a very simple discovery it appears, like Columbus's treatment of the egg; but no one discovered it before, and everyone used it afterwards. These are the two propositions which need to be proved.
Fortunately the number of public schools was so small that the first proposition can be proved by the process of direct enumeration. The only shadow of a counter-claim is that made by Leach for Winchester. Arnold himself, in a spirit common amongst English, and especially among Whig, reformers, seeks to base his reform on the traditions of the past, and to minimise the change. He contends that the prefect system was in existence at Winchester when he was a pupil there under Goddard. If so, the tradition had been completely forgotten at Winchester, so far as the real Arnoldian spirit of the institution was concerned; for, after Goddard's time, came a period when rowdyism reached its height, and Leach himself admits that Winchester had a peculiar reputation for bullying throughout the reign of Arnold's contemporary Moberley (1835-1866). The impression which Moberley leaves is that of a humane and scholarly man, fearfully Victorian in decorum, too clerical to be understood by boys or young men and too sedate to understand them, and too conventional to be an originator'. Keate's flogging exploit shows how completely absent the spirit of Arnold's prefect system was at Eton ; and Hawtrey's reforms were those of an efficient administrator rather than of a leader of men. Charter-house tried to modify the prefect system on quite different lines. Butler of Shrewsbury had on one occasion expelled all his prepostors, though he subsequently took them back; and Kennedy, though an excellent teacher, was too impulsive and violent in temper to exercise a steady influence. Westminster was undergoing a period of eclipse. At Harrow Goldwin Smith described the form of government as "moderate anarchy"; and C. S. Roundell definitely asserts that the Harrow sixth consciously attempted to follow Arnold's lines, as depicted in Stanley's Life (published 1844), under the guidance of Charles James Vaughan, one of Arnold's pupils, who transformed the school between 1845 and 1859.
Vaughan's reform of Harrow brings us from the proof of the negative proposition that the Arnoldian working of the prefect system is found missing in every one of the seven schools before his time to the positive proposition that its spread was directly due to his influence. Vaughan found Harrow with 69 boys and, when he resigned because he held that a headmaster had contributed all the ideas he had to give to a school in fourteen years, he left it with 469. Harrow was the only school of the old seven which was revived by one of Arnold's disciples ; but, when we remember that, with the exception of Eton, the other public schools sank during the Arnoldian epoch to the position now occupied by the smallest members of the Headmasters' Conference, we see that the evidence of Arnold's influence has to be sought rather in the new schools which were rapidly founded on public school lines than in the ranks of the seven'.
Three of these schools were founded during the forties. Cheltenham, the earliest, was a definite attempt to found a new type of school. Marlborough aimed at providing an education less costly than that of the public schools for sons of parish clergymen, but without any specific views as to the type of government which should prevail. Rossall had somewhat similar aims, but the first headmaster was a fervid Arnoldian with more faith than discretion, whose ideas almost anticipated the modern American experiments in self-governing communities. Yet in twenty years all came to be of the uniform public school type, as it is now understood. Marlborough led the way; its happy-go-lucky system of the first decade broke down the most completely; and it was deliberately reformed on Arnoldian lines by Arnold's own disciple Cotton: at Rossall subsequent head-masters cut down the powers of the prefects within Arnold's limits: and Cheltenham, under Barry, abandoned its alternative experiment, which had proved unworkable.
It is, we believe, its very universality and its success in driving out all rivals which have made the Arnoldian system appear to many to be so obvious a development as to have needed no master mind for its origination. The decade before its acceptance should dispel this feeling of inevitableness. When Cheltenham was founded by zealous Evangelicals, Evangelicals had not yet reconciled them-selves to the public school system. It was primarily a day school. But its chief peculiarity was that the head-master was responsible only for his pupils' intellects; their conduct was supervised by a committee, which dealt with schoolboy offences like a board of magistrates. A third difference, the existence of a Military and Civil Service side, to which Woolwich and Sandhurst stand in the same relation as do Oxford and Cambridge to the classical side, became the parent of all modern sides, though most of them fell short of their model and became mere dumping-grounds for the inefficient. The continuance of day-boys at Cheltenham—in this respect imitated by Clifton—and the general adoption of modern sides, show that the peculiar disciplinary system was not swamped by a mere desire for assimilation. The reputation of Cheltenham under Dobson (1845–1859) stood high; its practice is often quoted by the Public School Commissioners on doubtful points in connection with the intellectual régime of the schools which were within their purview. Dobson was a fine teacher and organiser of teaching; probably more intellectual work was done than at the public schools. There was never, as at Marlborough, a danger of a collapse. The disciplinary system merely gave way to the rival system because the latter was. seen to be successful elsewhere while the former proved to be simply unworkable. The failure of a rival system at a school which in many ways was a pioneer brings into relief the success of Arnold's system as it was consciously transplanted to Marlborough by Cotton.
Marlborough was founded by local enterprise, aided by a host of prominent supporters, especially to afford education to sons of the clergy. The advent of the railway had ruined coaching; and a historic mansion, which for many years had served as a coaching hostelry, was secured as a home for the new school. The appearance of two hundred boys proved that it met an effective demand. Most of them were under sixteen; some came from home, some from private schools, some from local grammar schools. It was thus an illuminating experiment. It was free from traditions, good or bad. All that was brought was boy nature. The masters could feel that they had a free hand to suit their system to their material; if they failed, they could not blame preceding generations; if they succeeded, the credit was their own. Fame did her best for the new enterprise; within a short time the numbers stood at five hundred. But the first builders did not erect a lasting structure. Something was amiss. The boys exhibited the sporting instincts of all English country lads : their poaching exploits threw the feats of Tom Brown's schoolfellows into the shade. "The general feeling between the masters and the boys was one of distrust and enmity1." The school got out of hand; in 1851 there was a rebellion of the same type as had occurred so often in the older schools. The headmaster knew that the boys had ground for their complaints; he compromised; things were patched up for the moment; the mutiny broke out again; books were burned; boys were expelled; finally the headmaster resigned. The first stage in the experiment was completed, and the result could be written up. The old laissez-faire methods of public schools were a failure, not through bad traditions, but through an inherent defect of their own. They had been tried on new material, and had produced the old results.
Here was an opportunity for a crucial experiment on the part of Arnold's disciples. The governors elected Cotton, the "young master" of Tom Brown. He made the prefect system a reality. A crusade was proclaimed on drinking and breaking bounds. The prefects spent most of their half-holidays in "drawing" public-houses. There was opposition. Cotton assembled the school and addressed them thus : " The Council informed me on my appointment that the school was in a bad state of discipline, and they hoped that I would allow no boy to go out except in pairs under a master. I told them I could not accept office on such terms, that the school I hoped to govern was a public school, not a private one, and I would try to govern it by means of prefects. The school knows now how matters stand. They must either submit to the prefects or be reduced to the level of a private school and have their freedom ignominiously curtailed. The prefects are and shall be, as long as I am head, the governors of the school. As soon as I see that this is impracticable, I shall resign.''
Cotton was victorious. He and his assistants wisely saw that some outlet for the boys' physical energies was necessary, and they wrote circulars to the parents in support of games. Football had for some time been the chief winter pastime in public schools; but Marlborough had much to do with making it a regular institution. Cotton and many of his staff came from Rugby; hence the Rugby variety of the game was introduced. Old Marlburians were responsible even more than old Rugbeians for creating university Rugby football. From the universities it spread to the nation. Well may we wonder what the devoted bishop of Calcutta, if he could revisit this earth on a Saturday afternoon, would think of the later developments of his device for preventing Marlborough boys from poaching. Critics of Arnold sometimes hold him responsible for the subordination of work to games in public schools. Arnold's whole direct contribution was that he sometimes stood on the touch-line and looked pleased. Indirectly he dammed various undesirable outlets for boys' vitality, which in consequence flowed the more vigorously within permitted channels. Cotton saw how games had proved a counter-attraction and deliberately encouraged them. He can scarcely be blamed because others have carried them to excess. Nor was he a Prometheus who slipped a dose of animal spirits into little men and produced the race of boys, as any reader of accounts of school life in the thirties and forties will admit. It is less easy to say when Marlborough. masters ceased to be the "natural enemies" of their pupils ; but it is not an unlikely hypothesis that games contributed to this result. Cotton was succeeded by another Rugbeian, Bradley (1858-1870), and for a time it won a pre-eminence in scholarship and sport almost without a parallel. Arnold's system had been justified by one at least of her children.
Rossall brings to our notice an over-development of Arnold's system. Woolley, the first headmaster, had been a great friend of A. P. Stanley at Oxford, had been greatly impressed by his account of Arnold's work, and doubtless believed that he was copying its main feature. He had not, however, seen the system at work, and the turn which he gave to it overstrained its possibilities. His prefects practically ruled; he was little more than a constitutional monarch. His successor Osborne (1849-1870) was surprised to discover that, when his prefects "advised" him to give a half-holiday, he was expected to take their advice as that of a cabinet. He at once pruned down the system within Rugby limits, though there is no evidence of any direct contact with Arnold or his disciples. When the monitors tendered their resignation, he merely remarked, "Gentlemen, you are monitors and will continue to be monitors." An exaggerated imitation is distinct evidence that Arnold's contemporaries recognised that he had added something individual to the previously prevailing practice. It may be significant that the "natural enemy theory" is recorded to have come to an end under James, because James came from Marlborough, and Marlborough was made by Cotton, the very man in whose favour Tom Brown relaxed the theory !
Space forbids a detailed account of the rise of subsequent new schools; but Arnold's spiritual descendants were carrying his system everywhere. Wellington won its position under Benson (1859—1868), a pupil of Prince Lee, one of Arnold's masters, at Birmingham, and himself a master at Rugby; Haileybury under A. G. Butler (1861—1867), a pupil at Rugby under Tait and a master under Temple; Clifton under Percival (1862—1878), another Rugby master. Of the older schools which developed on the same lines, Repton owes its position to Pears (1854-1874), a house-master at Harrow under Vaughan, who raised the numbers from fifty to 250. Malvern was founded "on the system of Winchester," which we take to be the first attempt, while adopting Arnold's system, to dissociate it from Rugby. It is interesting in this connection to notice which schools play Rugby and which Association football. If a school plays Rugby, it is almost always possible to prove that it consciously followed Arnold's traditions and acknowledged it; such is the case with the majority of great schools outside the seven. The converse is not so universal; Repton, for instance, plays Association because the Rugby influence came by way of Harrow. As time went on, there was a tendency, especially in the case of High Church schools, which could not forget Arnold's theological views, to look to Winchester as the fountain of the system1. Was not Winchester the oldest of our public schools? Did not Arnold, in his defence of the prefect system, sign him-self " A Wykehamist"? The mediaeval associations appealed to the High Church clergy, who were fast becoming the prevailing party; and perhaps it was well, in the interests of the system, that they should believe that it was under Arnold exactly what it had been in the days of William of Wykeham. Undoubtedly the schools with a High Church bias tended to get their masters from Winchester, where Moberley was supposed to have suffered in loss of numbers from his religious views. Bradfield, Lancing, and Radley represent this tendency. Sherborne is also a school where no direct Arnoldian influence can be traced. But even when full account has been taken of all the schools where no such influence is evident, it is clear that it was the others which led the way, attained the more commanding numbers, impressed the public mind, and carried the rest along with them.
Arnold's influence was by no means confined to the twenty or more schools which became large boarding-schools and rivals of the seven. Four examples may be taken from the great day-schools. Prince Lee, afterwards bishop of Manchester, left Rugby to become headmaster of King Edward's School, Birmingham (1837-1848). Among his pupils were three great bishops, Benson, Light-foot, and Westcott. Walker, a pupil of Rugby under Tait and a master under Temple, spread Arnold's influence, first to Manchester, where his work was warmly commended by the Schools Inquiry Commission, and afterwards to St Paul's (1876). Mr McDonnell, in his History of St Paul's School2, describes him as " the one headmaster of his time who attempted to show that education of the best possible kind, both moral and intellectual, could be given in surroundings different from those of the stereotyped boarding-schools." Finally, J. S. Phillpotts, a Rugby master, initiated the growth of Bedford (1862–1874) from a curse to the town under guise of a charity1 into its present position as a school which has attracted residents to Bedford on such a scale as to double the population of the town in twenty-five years.
Arnold was evidently not without honour in his own country, as in addition to Lee at Birmingham we find one of his assistants, Hill, headmaster of Warwick from 1843 to 1878, and one of his pupils, J. P. Collis, raising the old foundation school at Bromsgrove2 into a really good first-grade school, though smaller in numbers than most of those which we have mentioned. Still more interesting is it to find Arnold influencing Nonconformist schools. Mill Hill was founded in 1807 and was intended from the first to follow public school lines; but, apart from the classical curriculum, the founders had evidently no clear idea what were the points to be imitated in a public school of their day, and we hardly wonder at it. But Priestly (1834–1853) considered the problem solved by the appearance of Arnold; for he corresponded with him3, tried to imitate his confidence in boys, and occasionally despaired. "This is what Arnold calls 'boy nature,"' he exclaimed when some boys had committed an act of meanness, "but what am I to do with the eleven boys4? " Here is an instance of a headmaster of another denomination treating Arnold during his life-time as the accepted ideal of a head. When Arnold's Life was published, a member of the committee suggested that many of his customs might be introduced at Mill Hill, but Mr James considers5 that the imitation a Later Millington, a disciple of Thring, left a lasting name here. We wonder if there is any other instance of a school which came under the double influence of Thring and of Arnold.
It must be admitted that Arnold's influence was helped on by the fact that he was a Liberal and a Broad Church-man. Conservatives and High Churchmen were, so to speak, the natural allies of the public schools and might be suspected of more anxiety to defend than to reform them. Arnold largely won over those who would support them only if they were reformed. He defended them more for what they might become than for what they were. His type of churchmanship, which sought union between the Church of England and Nonconformists, not from in-difference to distinctive tenets, but from his profound sense of the importance of what they had in common, was the only type which could have led Nonconformists to send their boys with perfect confidence to schools staffed for the most part by clergy of the Church of England. What-ever be our views on the question of the "schoolmaster-parson" at the present day, it is indisputable that, almost up to the close of the nineteenth century, parents had more confidence in clergymen as headmasters than in laymen. Even Nonconformist members of governing bodies hardly trusted a layman to exercise the same influence on his pupils' characters, even if they were able to escape a suspicion that his reluctance to take orders was due to a feeling of unfitness. Indeed Arnold is sometimes blamed for perpetuating the clerical headmaster by being so unconscionably good a specimen of a bad class !
If we are satisfied that Arnold really exercised the influence which is attributed to him, it hardly matters to discuss whether his reputation is deserved. It is always easy to show that a great man was the product of his time, but this does not prove that he was merely its product. Arnold knew what other schools were doing, he read current educational literature, he bore the impress of Corpus and Oriel. He could not have succeeded had the time not been ripe; there was need of parents who demanded an improvement in the moral and intellectual tone of schools before schools could be created to satisfy their demands. Nor could he have succeeded in "mending" the public schools among a people who had not the English preference for "mending" to "ending." But, when it is urged that his reputation is due only to the lucky accident of his posses-sing two such biographers as Dean Stanley and Thomas Hughes, we have to ask whether it was not precisely this power of influencing pupils so unlike as Arthur Stanley and Tom Hughes which was the secret of his greatness. All his life he was getting other people to transmit his enthusiasm. That was how it spread. That is how the influence of all great moral reformers spreads and is the proof that a man is a great moral reformer.
More serious than such arguments is Mr Lytton Strachey's line of criticism in Eminent Victorians. He recognises fully as a historical fact that Arnold set the type for public schools in the nineteenth century; he indulges in no stock argument by which a great man is explained as a mere link in a chain of causes; he does not even labour the point that some of his contemporaries labelled his products as prigs. Had no one described them by some unpleasant epithet, the probability would be that there was nothing new in the type. In reading Mr Strachey, however, we must carefully distinguish the definite arguments from the general impression produced by his masterly power of grouping his material. We believe that Mr Strachey could tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, and yet so group the truth that he would make St Francis appear as a super-tramp and Caesar as an arch-gambler who won the world by "going double or quits" over his gaming debts. The serious educational criticism is contained in his account of the manner in which a reforming headmaster would proceed to-day. He would try the effect of civilising his pupils. He would invite his sixth to his wife's drawing-room; he would introduce them to modern literature, art, and music; he would make them realise what counted to men. We suspect that, allowing for the difference of the age, this was what Vittorino da Feltre and the other great Italian teachers of the Renaissance did. Thring is certainly far nearer to this ideal than Arnold.
Arnold was something of a Puritan; he thought it waste of time for boys to read Nicholas Nickleby. Yet, if Arnold had been a century ahead of his time, he would very likely have failed. The father of Matthew Arnold must surely have had something of the spirit of sweetness and light in him, but the age was not congenial to it. The young barbarian of the thirties was not prepared to be moralised by aesthetic. The bullies of Tom Brown were very different raw material from the athleticised products of the preparatory school who are depicted in the Loom of Youth. Mr Strachey's error is the same as that of certain con-temporaries who think of Russian Bolsheviks as British working men who happen to speak a foreign language. Bolsheviks are the brutalised products of brutality; so were the fag-roasting bullies of Rugby. British working men are good-hearted folk who from time to time get a wrong sense of values into their heads; so are Alec Waugh's athletic-crazy public school boys. Mr Strachey makes good sport with Arnold's references to the Old Dispensation; but, to brace himself for his task, Arnold, like Luther, had to think he was fighting the devil in hand to hand conflict. Nowadays the devil lays mines and disappears, and head-masters need wile rather than hard hitting to defeat him.
The mention of the Loom of Youth brings us to our last point. There must be readers who have exclaimed, "Why discuss whether Arnold was the father of the public school system, when the progeny is so little one to be proud of? " The public schools have certainly run off Arnold's main track on to the siding of athleticism. A means has become an end. Alec Waugh's picture is incomplete, but it is probably true. Very bad things happen in public schools; they probably happened far more frequently a hundred years ago. There are many good things which public schools fail to do; in particular, they fail to make the majority of their pupils into really educated men; we believe the same to be true of every single kind of educational institution in the country. Unfortunately it is very difficult to see any man or any institution as it really is and not to condemn it; because we unconsciously make comparisons with other men or other institutions, which we have never seen without a halo. Still more difficult is it to see the seamy side of anything and to supply the good side. Moreover to know a man or to be a member of an institution is a very different thing from seeing it as it really is. Alec Waugh's description of his old school may contain nothing but truth; yet those who are led by its perusal to a wholesale condemnation of modern public schools, had they happened to be pupils at that school, might not have recognised the picture. If a full picture were painted of any educational institution, old university or new, municipal school or elementary school, its admirers would be aghast. The failures it turned out, the chances it missed, the worst acts any of its members committed—in most cases only the recording angel chronicles them. May it not be that Alec Waugh's school was superior in this, that it made him long for what it appeared not to supply—which is half-way to supplying it—while the majority of institutions send forth their alumni unconscious of what they lack?
In any case Arnold is no more responsible for the development of public schools for all time than was St Francis for the friars of Chaucer's day or Aristotle for a fourteenth century disputation. His prefects were the sixth form chosen for their brains, not athletes chosen for their bodily prowess. Games were to him merely a particular way of spending leisure, preferable to poaching, window-smashing, or drinking, not the serious purpose of life. Arnold routed the army which the devil brought. up against him in' his own day, so that few of his Old Regulars are fighting now; he is not to blame that the devil has raised new levies. Bullying is dead; fear of "bad form" has taken its place. Hostility to religion has been replaced by indifference, intentional blasphemy by meaningless oaths, lawlessness by over-obedience to the "bloods," idleness by turning play into work. To put the matter to a practical test : would a parent nowadays send his son to a public school if he had only the schools of 1820 to choose from? And are there not plenty of schools, large and small, to which he can safely send him today? The devil's reserves are not equal to his shock troops. A few of the latter remain, and some of Alec Waugh's readers may mistake them for new recruits : they are only the hardest to kill of the original force. If anyone under estimates Arnold because he did not anticipate the devil's moves a hundred years ahead, that man does not know the devil.