« PreviousContinue »
one or other, if not several, of these writers. Naturally one finds a certain sameness in their tone and much repetition of their anecdotes. Sir H. Maxwell Lyte's History, now in its fourth edition, laid the excellent foundation; Mr Wasey Sterry and Mr Lionel Cust added some independent research; Mr R. C. Austen Leigh ('Etoniana,' Nos I-XXI) still collects antiquarian details of minute accuracy. Others are more bent on rehearsing with relish their early escapades, and were evidently as desperate fellows as ever was Mr Robert Shallow before he became Justice of the Peace and Ratolorum too.' The remainder content themselves with thoughtfully reflecting their impressions of the scenes among which they passed their boyhood. It is true that among all these there is no tale so outstanding as 'Tom Brown,' so brightly popular as 'David Blaize,' so soft as 'Eric,' so soaring as 'The Hill,' so saucy as 'Stalky & Co.,' so perverse as 'The Loom of Youth.' The Eton books have for the most part a balance and a reticence characteristic of the place. The sleeve displays a deal of embroidery but not the heart. One has to go deeper for that.
There is, then, a difference to be found between the Eton type and others. In what does it consist? A guest at a country house once said: 'If there are two Eton men in the smoking-room I take my candle and go upstairs.' The remark cuts both ways. To go on 'yarning' of your schooldays may argue want of manners and consideration for others or some narrowness of outlook; but it also suggests the overmastering attraction of the theme. At the Front it is said to be noted that Old Etonians meet with an eagerness quite unlike that of others, and it would not be unfair to claim that the affection for Eton has few parallels. In the last century the liberal bounty of Old Harrovians was far greater and their cricket attendance not less devoted, but then the needs of Harrow were supposed to be more urgent. Perhaps a better test may be found in desertions. There is evidence that many boys are sent to Eton whose parents were prominent at other schools, but very few Etonians send their sons elsewhere except for pecuniary reasons. If this be so, it becomes a matter of some importance to examine the sources of such affection and to ask whether it is earned rightly and fairly or by over-indulgence.
How does Eton compare with other schools in results; and what are the Public Schools doing for our Fatherland in War and in Peace? We know they are the admiration and despair of other countries and often abused in this. Are they to be remodelled or preserved ?
The answer, as regards war time, need not be difficult. There has been no more remarkable, no more convincing outcome of this war than the splendid efficiency of those two classes, the Public School officer and the ordinary private soldier. It is not only that each is so surprisingly good at his job, but that they work so well together, that as a whole the officers love their men and the men their officers. At a time when at home the relations of labour and capital are dangerously strained, the representatives of the same two classes are sharing privations and risking death together at the Front with a mutual loyalty and keen affection which has gone far towards the saving of England.
War, however, is not a normal state. There can be no doubt about the absolute need for the Public School officer in the army. What about peace? To decide whether the output of the Public School fails in peace would be a harder task. The limits of an article forbid a searching examination, yet lists of the heads of departments, religious and civil, furnish, no less than the army Commands, a prima facie verdict in its favour. The Navy we omit, of course, though not unrepresented in high command; it specialises at too early an age. Nor will we enumerate eminent ecclesiastics, statesmen, rulers of dependencies, permanent secretaries, legal authorities and the like, and then strike out those who have had no public school training, because, however convincing the result may appear, it will be really superficial, inasmuch as the Public School is the most obvious English method of education.
The mention of the viceroys of India suggests a test for our question. For that high office a remarkable succession of Etonians may be claimed. Yet since it is one that requires rank and fortune, and these do largely gravitate towards Eton, this test is also inconclusive. Therefore, without further labouring the point, we may at least be justified in claiming that Eton has well discharged its function in providing that 'there may
never be wanting a due supply of fit persons to serve God in Church and State,' or, as Mr Wasey Sterry puts it, 'to get the world's work done, to spread the blessings of the pax Britannica and the imperium Britannicum among the less fortunate nations of the earth, to cultivate that religion which consists in loving mercy, and doing justice, and walking humbly with our God.' A noble programme indeed; what we have to ask is whether the due supply is of as high merit and as ample as is warranted by the material furnished to the greatest school in the world.
'It is in her public schools and universities,' said George Canning, 'that the youth of England are, by a discipline which shallow judgments have sometimes attempted to undervalue, prepared for the duties of public life. In my conscience I believe that England would not be what she is without her system of public education, and that no other country can become what England is, without the advantage of such a system.'
By what steps had Eton reached its high position of the 19th century? They are too well known and described by too many writers to need detail here. It was planned and replanned by Henry VI after the model of Winchester as a religious foundation for a College of secular priests with clerks and choristers, a school for his boys and a retreat for his almsmen. He built and rebuilt the Chapel to be the choir of a huge church, and left it the most beautiful and dignified Chapel in Britain, the shell of it architecturally as much superior to King's College, Cambridge, and to Henry VII's Chapel, Westminster, as the internal fittings of it are inferior to both. St George's, Windsor, has, of course, far more magnificence and far more ingenuity of construction, but in severe purity of design the Eton stonework is, with the possible exception of vaulted Lancing, unsurpassed.
The lodgings for his priests and a schoolroom and chamber for his scholars claim also to be the Founder's work. More was prevented by the troubles and ruin of the saintly and sorrowful King. Surviving with difficulty the Yorkist attacks the Foundation maintained its rights till the Tudor peace. Of College Hall the stately fabric of stone stops abruptly at the top of the great
oriel window. The next course and the roughly built parapet are in brick; all the wars of the Roses had intervened. The provostship of Roger Lupton added to the cloister the exquisite west front and state rooms. This was in 1520. Then came the royal supremacy and Reformation. Henry VIII stripped the church of its ornaments, the inventory of which has just been recovered by the diligence of the learned Provost of King's. Under Edward VI suppression was threatened, and Protector Somerset intruded into the Provostship Sir Thomas Smith. Hoc fonte derivata clades.' Sir Thomas was a married man-'quidam laicus et conjugatus.' It was his successor, Dr Bill, who wiped out the precious mural paintings, but it was Smith who cleared away the High Altar, abolished the Founder's festivals, and grabbed rooms from his neighbours to house his wife.
From that time there has been steady trespass on back-premises by claustral residents. It would appear from the plan that the lodgings, probably built for forty members of the College, now house three resident families, and that the Provost's Lodge, having extended a new suite to the north and annexed the election state-rooms, even intruded its kitchen into a portion of what was built by the Founder for his scholars. Thus Lady Smith secured her husband's company at dinner, and the High Table lost it. Of course a celibate clergy may be an objectionable adjunct to a school, though a large majority of the masters is now unmarried, but it must be owned that a married clergy is more expensive. We do not grudge Lady Savile the attractive house (1603) which bears her husband's name, but the addition of an upper storey for families (1750) to Cloisters cut off sun and air from a very beautiful court. Meanwhile Upper School had completed the quadrangle of Schoolyard (1680-90); and Provost Henry Godolphin had repaired hall and kitchen, and lined Chapel with fine oak wainscote, incongruous but handsome. About a century passed before the next great building era. This dates from 1840 and may be taken as beginning Victorian Eton.
These, then, were the chief epochs in the growth of the College buildings. They show the distinctive characters of 15th, 16th, 17th, and 18th century styles. In the growth of the school there were epochs hardly
less distinct. The Oppidans, numbering many sons of Henry's courtiers, increased under such Headmasters as Thomas Aldrich (1515) or John Newborough (1690), whose pupil Sir Robert Walpole (K.S.), in his long tenure of office, made the nation wealthy and the school popular. Andrew Snape (1711-1720), Hoadley's adversary, attracted further attention and drove out Thomas Thackeray as Headmaster to Harrow. Then came a critical and uneasy time, till harmony was restored by the ability, fashion and wit of Dr Barnard (1754-1765), for Horace Walpole 'the Pitt of Masters,' for Dr Johnson 'the only man who did justice to my good breeding.' Some held him superior to Garrick, but Mrs Berkeley declared him to have a black heart' ('Etoniana,' XVIII). Much had been owed to Provosts Savile, Wootton, Rouse, and Allestree, and much to the genial scholarship of Headmaster Goodall, to the cordiality of George III and William IV, and something to the stormy fame of Keate.
During all this time the oppidan boarding-houses were gradually becoming more closely connected with and recognised by the school. Extant bills of early Etonians show rough but adequate attention paid to the boys' wants. For the Collegers, on the contrary, it would seem that the Fellows could spare neither fit accommodation nor sufficient food. Clerks, choristers, conducts had been excluded from college buildings. Head and Lower masters were unsalaried. As the cloister lodgings were absorbed, so also were the College emoluments. It was the fashion of the times. In the days of non-resident bishops and pluralist parsons, and the deadness of the social conscience, it was the natural thing for the Fellows to divide among themselves the annual income of the estates-no very large sum after all: W. H. Roberts's average (1771-1783) was 1247. plus 2217. for 'fines,' or 345l. in all. Later, the fines increased under a bad system of leases. The commutation of fellowships in 1870 was 1000l. The Fellows did as a matter of course what everyone did; it would have been strange indeed for a colonel to forgo profit from his regiment or the army paymaster to carry none of the soldiers' pay to his own bank account. That William Pitt should not present himself to a sinecure office was surprising. No such surprise is recorded in Eton audits.