THE CHARACTERS IN "TOM BROWN'S SCHOOL DAYS." 's
How much of a classic Tom Brown's School Days has become is proved by such a reprint as this which Mr. F. Sidgwick has edited and for which Lord Kilbracken has written an intro- duction. Here we have " Toni " edited, as Lord Kilbracken says, like a Greek play, with historical notes, footnotes, and emenda- tions. It may not be generally known that the various editions of Tom Brown have shown some slight variations in text and punctuation. Thus the passage in which the arrival of Tom at Rugby and his amazement at the transcen- dent assurance of East are described goes on to tell how East explains the motive of his patronage of Tom—he has received " half a sov." from his aunt who is interested in Tom, and he hopes that if he plays his part of patron well the half- sovereign will become a pound on the next occasion. "There's nothing for candour like a lower-school boy," comments Hughes after relating the incident. A footnote says, "In many editions this phrase has curiously become corrupted into ' There's nothing like candour for a lower-school boy.'" Probably the corruption would never have occurred if Hughes's meaning had been verbally clearer than it is—if, for instance, he had written " There's nothing like a lower-school boy for candour." Apparently Hughes took no trouble to refine upon his text in any of the successive editions. We may be thankful for that. If he had been unduly sensitive about the criticisms of those who recognized themselves in the story, he might have taken the heart out of his story in removing imaginary offences. There is some evidence that he was a little sensitive, as he once begged an old Rugbeian not to discuss with him the characters in the book. But how resolute he was to let everything stand that be had written may be illustrated by the retention of the following sentence " One of the moralists whom we sat under in my youth—was it the great Richard • Tom Brown's School Days. With a Preface by Lord Bilbracken, an Intro- duction,.Notes, and Illustrations. Edited by I', Sid wick. London : Sidgwick and Jackson. [10s. 6d. set.] Swiveller or Mr. Stiggins P—says, 'We are born in a vale, and must take the consequences, of being found in such a situa-
tion.' " Hundreds of persons must have told Hughes that that remark came from Mrs. Gamp.
The chief interest of this new edition is that Mr. Sidgwick's researches have carried the work of identifying the characters in the story further than it has ever been carried, and as far, we may add, as it will ever need to be carried. Colonel Selfe's labours in this matter in a pamphlet published in 1909 are known to all Rugbeians. He identified the chief characters, and it is in numerous minor respects that Mr. Sidgwick has carried on the research. As a rule, we find neither value nor interest in the kind of elucidation which presupposes that the
author of a work of creative art has drawn every character from life, and has himself experienced every situation which he describes, According to this assumption Mr. Kipling must have been a private soldier, a museum-keeper, a fakir, a hunter, an engine-driver, a cod-fisher, and goodness knows what else besides. The case of "Tom Brown," we must admit, however, is exceptional. Perhaps we could not support the admission by logic, but at all events we feel that we do want to bear about every " identification" in which there is the least reality. We should remember, nevertheless, Hughes's own disavowal of having portrayed any real person except the famous headmaster and founder of our modern monitorial public-school system, Dr. Arnold. Arnold is mentioned by name at the end of the story. Mr. Sidgwick says :— " While it is reasonable to suppose that his protagonists are composite, it can hardly be doubted that, as he drew Mr. Aislabie, 'Old Thos.,' and the other School House servants from life, so he could himself have named the originals of Benjy, old Blowhard, and Velveteens ; and although it would be impertinent to seek an historical foundation for the main plot of tho story, the parallels adduced in the following annotations to many of the episodes suffice, I submit, to establish the fact that Tom Hughes had no hesitation in drawing on his own experience."
In September, 1856, Hughes wrote from Deal to Alexander Macmillan that he was engaged upon a school story, and offered to send some specimen chapters. The Macmillans approved, and began to print it before the book was finished.
In December, 1856, Hughes's little daughter died, and he bad not the heart at once to continue the MS. It was even proposed that the Rev. Septimus Hansard (the alleged original of Holmes, the " sturdy cheery praepostor of another house ") should finish the book. Hughes fortunately soon continued it himself, no doubt finding distraction in it from his grief, and perhaps having the complexion of his thought coloured by the test of his faith (through which lie came triumphant) to an extent that commentators have not suggested or imagined. In 1857 Charles Kingsley read the proofs and wrote :-
" It will be a very great hit. It is an extraordinary book. Take it all in all, you won't see such smart writing, such knowledge of slang and all manner of odds and ends, combined with the actual knowledge of boys, and with the really lofty tone of religion and the broad humanity in any living writer. Beside, it is the only book of its kind. I should have been proud to have written that book, word for word as it stands. . . . I have laughed and cried over the book to my heart's content. Funny bits of it are worthy of Lever, and serious bits of it worthy of-1 can't say whom."
Now we come to the identifications. Tom Brown is not entirely a portrait of Tom Hughes himself; both Tom Hughes and his elder brother George enter into the composition ; Tom. Brown in the fight is partly Orlebar, whom we shall mention again later ; in the cricket match he is mainly Tom Hughes. The theory that George Arthur was a picture of Dean Stanley as a boy is so widespread that it may be impossible to destroy it. But the statement of Mrs. Hughes is conclusive :—
" As to Arthur being from Dean Stanley it was only the Christian name which would have given rise to such an idea, as Stanley left Rugby soon after my husband went as quite a small boy, and they did not know one another till after Tom Brown was written."
When Tom Brown. was published, Stanley read it and remarked, "It is an absolute revelation to me : opens up a world of which, though so near me, I was absolutely ignorant." The sensitive, generous character of Arthur, weak in physical
power, leonine in moral courage, was probably founded partly on Theodore Walrond and partly on W. P. Adam. Colonel Selfe, however, thought that East was in the main drawn from W. P. Adam. The Rev. A. Orlebar contributed the fact that Adam bore the nickname of "Scud," which East has in the story. Thomas Arnold (the doctor's second son), however, says : "East must have been identified by many Rugbeiana with Sayer, a strong, thick-set boy, rather low down in the school." Slogger Williams was (only in his fighting character and not in moral respects) the R3V. Augustus Orlebar, Vicar of Willington, Bedford, for fifty-four years, who died September 30th, 1912.
• As regards the incidents of the story, everyone will remember in particular the football match and the fight. In those days when the School House "took on" the rest of the school at football it was still the custom to play in trousers. The School House boys always affected white duck trousers " to ahow that they didn't care for hacks "(i.e., were indifferent to hacks). There is no mention in the account of the match of running with the ball, which is of course the characteristic of the Rugby game. Mr. Sidgwick says
"The history of the introduction into the Rugby game of running with the ball was carefully investigated in 1895-7 by a special committee of the Old Rugbeian Society, whose labours resulted in a pamphlet chiefly consisting of letters received from Rugbeians of about 1820 to 1840, including Tom Hughes. The principal conclusions are (i) that the first player who actually picked up the ball and ran forwards with it towards the opponent's goal was William Webb Ellis, and the date 1823, and (ii) that this act was then and for years afterwards considered of doubtful legality, only gradually became accepted as part of the game, and was finally recognized-though with limitations-by a 'Bigside Levee' in 1841-2, the Captain of Bigside then being Tom Hughen."
The fight in which Tom Brown vindicated the propriety of Arthur's having broken down and wept in form as he read aloud the most affecting lines in Homer is undoubtedly in the main a reminiscence of an actual fight between Orlebar and Bulkeley Owen Jones. The Rev. Bulkeley Owen Jones, now in his ninetieth year, is Chancellor in the Diocese of St. Asaph, after having been Warden of Ruthin, North Wales, for more than fifty years:-
"The two principals were Augustus Orlebar and Bulkeley Owen Jones, ` backed' respectively by J. G. Hollway and Tom Hughes. What caused the fight has not been recorded ; but it aroused interest at the time partly because the combatants were in the Upper Fifth and the Upper Middle Fifth respectively, and partly because Orlebar ` fainted and could not come up to time,' and Jones, who was ` much more punished,' was so disfigured that Dr. Arnold did not know him. Arnold stopped the fight : and both combatants, when they recovered, had to repeat two hundred lines of Virgil to him for breaking the rules. Both also became and remained firm friends. Their last meeting was appropriate enough, as is shown in the following reminiscence of the Rev. A. Orlebar : `I was sitting under a tent in Dr. James's garden at the time when so many Rugbeians wont up from far and wide to attend the unveiling of the statue to dear old " Tom Brown." Whilst I sat there musing on the years that were past, and on what changes had occurred at Rugby and in my life since I had left the school as a boy, an elderly clergyman came along and sat down beside me. We began to talk, and he soon told me that he was actually in the school when Arnold died. That opened the flood- gates of both memory and tongue, and I asked him his name, for I did not recognize him. When he mentioned it I stared in surprise, but when I told him mine he looked at me perfectly astonished. Then we shook hands heartily, expressed our delight at thus meeting, and. had a pleasant chat referring to the "little turn up" we had had when we were both boys at Rugby !'"
Of course, the- author of the most famous school story in the world was a preacher. He was magnificently indifferent to the canons of art as laid down by his critics. Even the fight ends in a sermon, and a very good sermon too, on the ethics of using the fists. "Not preach ? " he would say in effect. " Why, that is all that I write for. if there were no chance of preaching there would be no novel from me. So let criticism go its own way and I will go mine." Yet it may be added in partial justification of the critics that the best sermon in the book is, after all, that which is contained in solution in the narrative and is not deliberately preached. It is that final passage in which the reader takes leave of Tom Brown at Arnold's tomb, a passage noble in sincerity and magnificent in truth of phrase, a passage which no normally constituted schoolboy of any age can read without a piercing . emotion.