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Hale E. Classics as a Test of Character in Victorian Public School Stories. 2008.
Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://e-publications.une.edu.au/1959.11/2092
Classics as a Test of Character in Victorian Public School Stories
The night before Tom Brown starts school at Rugby he and his father, Squire Brown, stay at the Peacock Inn in Islington. While Tom sleeps upstairs, the Squire smokes a cheroot in the snug, musing on how to advise his son about life at school: "Shall I tell him to mind his work, and say he's sent to school to make himself a good scholar? Well but he isn't sent to school for that - at any rate, not for that mainly. I don't care a straw for Greek particles or the digamma; no more does his mother [...] If he'll only turn out a brave, helpful, truth-telling Englishman and a gentleman and a Christian, that's all I want." (Sanders (ed.) 1989: 73-4). For the Squire, the classical curriculum is not an end in itself. He stresses instead morals, manners, religious observance, and patriotism as the desirable outcomes of a public school education. Tom will indeed 'turn out' from Rugby having demonstrated that he has all these virtues. But, though he will be a 'truth-telling Englishman', he will not be a scholar. Yet it is scholarship in public school stories that I examine in this article, for, though Tom Brown does not become a 'good scholar', "Tom Brown's Schooldays" and other novels like it take care to emphasize the importance of good scholarship, particularly scholarship in Latin and Greek, in forming good character.