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a wig when he entered school ; but the boys found out
the place where the wig was hung, when not in use, and
took liberties with it. Once again Dr. Parr was consulted.
This time his answer was, " Wear a broader brim, Thir."
So Mr. Butler made up his mind to seek from his university
the right to wear the scarlet gown and hood. 3 It is probable
that the opposition, which was offered in the Senate to the
necessary grace, was due mainly to the recent controversy
between Mr. Butler and Mr. C. J. Blomfield. But Thomas
Smart Hughes, in an amusing letter which he wrote to his
old schoolmaster after the voting in the Senate House was
over, ascribes it to the chronic ill-will on the part of Trinity
men towards their Johnian neighbours, and gleefully boasts
of the craft of Butler's friends in getting the grace pro-
posed on Trinity Commemoration Day. 4 A few weeks
later, Robert Wilson Evans, 5 of Trinity College, a native of

1 The story was first told in the Memoir of Bishop Blonifield, by ALFRED
BLOMFIELD, M.A. G. Matthews must have been quite a new boy at the time of
his fight, as he only entered school in February, 1809. He graduated at Cam-
bridge and took orders, and was for many years a curate in Sussex. In 1833
Bishop Maltby, at Dr. Butler's intercession, presented him to the living of
Rudgwick, near Horsham. (Butler's Life and Letters ; vol. ii. p. 53.)

2 Mr. John Evans and Mr. W. R. Gilby were both elected fellows of their
respective colleges.

3 Butler's Life and Letters > vol. i. p. 63.

4 Ibid., vol. i. p. 64.

5 Robert Wilson Evans was second son of John Evans, Esq., M.D., of
Llwynyngroes, Oswestry, and was born at the Council House, Shrewsbury,
on August 3Oth, 1 789. He seems to have remained at school for ten years ;
B.A., 1811 ; M.A., 1814; B.D., 1842; elected fellow of Trinity in 1813, and



SAMUEL BUTLER 269

Shrewsbury, and one of Butler's earliest pupils, graduated
as seventh Wrangler, and carried off the second Chancellor's
medal. His name became in after years very familiar to
English church people in connection with the authorship of
The Bishopric of Souls, The Rectory of Valehead, Tales of
the Ancient British Church, and other books of a religious
character.

A still more brilliant scholar, Marmaduke Lawson, went
up to Cambridge from Shrewsbury in 1811. He was at
first a member of St. John's College, but after a few
months' residence he migrated to Magdalene. In 1812
Lawson gained the Browne medal for a Latin ode. In
1814 he was elected Pitt university scholar, and in 1816
he was bracketed Chancellor's medallist with John Graham,
of Christ's College, afterwards Bishop of Chester. His letters
to Dr. Butler are humorous and clever, and he shows
similar characteristics in a parody on Gray's Bard, written
to commemorate an attempt by the Vice - Chancellor to
suppress the Union Society at Cambridge, and in other
ephemeral productions. He was three times elected M.P.
for Boroughbridge in Yorkshire, but his political career was
brief, as he died before reaching the age of thirty. 1

for some years a tutor of that college. In 1836 Dr. Butler, after he was appointed
to the See of Lichfield and Coventry, made him his examining chaplain and
gave him the living of Tarvin in Cheshire. In 1842 Mr. Evans accepted the
college living of Heversham, and from 1856 to 1865 he was Archdeacon of
Westmorland. He died on March loth, 1866. It appears from a letter written
to Dr. Butler, that in 1818 Mr. Evans was a candidate for the Woodwardian
Professorship of Geology at Cambridge. He had been for some years a geological
student, and felt much aggrieved, he tells Dr. Butler, that he should be opposed
by Mr. Sedgwick, a man so little qualified that his friends only ventured to say
in his favour that three months' study would be sufficient to qualify him. This
statement of Mr. Evans as to Professor Sedgwick's ignorance of geology at the
time of his election is amply confirmed by the writer of his memoir in the Diet, of
Nat. Biog. (Add. MSS. Brit. Mus., 34,584.)

1 Marmaduke Lawson, who was eldest son of the Rev. Marmaduke Lawson,
of Boroughbridge, was born in 1794, and was at Shrewsbury School for four
years before going up to Cambridge. He graduated B.A. in 1816 and M.A. in
1819, and was elected fellow of Magdalene College. In 1818 he published a
pamphlet in answer to an attack made by the Rev. F. H. Maberley on the
morality and discipline of the university which displays much of the quaint
humour which pervades his letters. (See Butler's Life and Letters, vol. i. p. 76.)



270 SHREWSBURY SCHOOL

Up to the year 1812 the Shrewsbury boys appear to have
been in the habit of attending the services at St. Mary's
Church on Sundays. But in that year Dr. Butler, apparently
without consulting the trustees, gave up the practice of going
to St. Mary's and had service in school chapel instead, both
morning and afternoon. Unfortunately the school trustees,
though consenting to the afternoon service in chapel, refused
to sanction the change so far as Sunday morning was con-
cerned, in spite of the cogent reasons Dr. Butler urged in
favour of making it; 1 and from that time forth, until the
school was moved to Kingsland, it remained the custom at
Shrewsbury for the boarders to attend morning service at the
parish church. In one of his letters to the trustees on this
subject Dr. Butler speaks of the school numbers as in-
creasing; and there is no doubt that, after he had been
about ten years at Shrewsbury, his prospects there began
to look far more hopeful than had hitherto been the case. 2
But the increase in numbers, though steady, was by no
means rapid, and in 1815 Dr. Butler thought seriously of
becoming a candidate for the head -mastership of the
Grammar School at Leeds. 3 But in the following year the
number of admissions was largely increased, and after 1816
the only difficulty about numbers that ever occurred in
Dr. Butler's time was how to find room for the boys. 4

1 Add. MSS. Brit. Mus., 34,583.

3 In 1809 Dr. Butler's house was full, or nearly so, as we learn from a letter of
his to the Rev. Evan Griffith. (Ibid., 34,583.)

3 In the Butler MSS. in the British Museum there is a long letter to Dr.
Butler, signed J. Sheepshanks, and evidently written at his request, in which
full information is given as to the duties, emoluments, etc., of the Leeds head-
mastership. The writer, if not one of the Leeds masters, was, at any rate, a
resident in the town.

4 In 1814, as we learn from a letter which Dr. Butler wrote to the trustees,
enclosing some correspondence between himself and Mr. Jeudwine, there were
forty-eight boys in his house, but only four in Mr. Jeudwine's. The Head
Master had, by this time, become possessed of a second house in School Lane,
and he told the trustees, as he had already told Mr. Jeudwine, that he proposed
to open a second boarding-house. On the merits of the plan the trustees declined
to express any opinion. By 1817 the new house was in full operation, and
Dr. Butler had in that year seventy boarders in his two houses. In 1818 this
number had increased to eighty-one. (Add. MSS. Brit. Mus., 34,584.)



SAMUEL BUTLER 271

In the autumn of 1817 a young fellow named Abraham
Cawston, who had just left Shrewsbury School, became the
subject of almost universal conversation and interest through-
out England under the sobriquet of " The Fortunate Youth."
This boy was a son of Mr. John Cawston, of Chippenham,
near Newmarket, and was admitted at Shrewsbury School
in 1815, being then fifteen years old. He seems to have
possessed good abilities, having risen in two years' time to be
third boy in the school. But he is described by one of his
school-fellows l as given to shamming himself " out of school "
in order to devour novels and romances. In the course of
the summer holidays of 1817 Cawston had an attack of
typhus fever, from which he had not sufficiently recovered
to be able to return to Shrewsbury when the school reopened
at the beginning of August. 2 There seems no doubt that his
brain was affected by this illness, and soon after he became
convalescent, aided, we may suppose, by his extensive ac-
quaintance with works of fiction, the boy concocted a
marvellous romance about himself, which appears to have
been accepted, not only by his own immediate relations,
but by business men, bankers, lawyers, and others, on whom,
as a rule, it is not easy to practise imposition. Probably
Cawston told his story to his family before returning to
school after his illness. 3 There is no doubt of the fact

1 The Rev. F. E. Gretton. (See his Memory's Harkback.)

2 The boy was taken ill at Edinburgh, but was convalescent when his father
wrote to Dr. Butler on August 5th, and was expected home immediately.
Mr. Cawston would have preferred his son to go back to Shrewsbury straight
from Scotland, but the boy's mother was anxious to see him at home first.
The father added that he intended him to return to school shortly, and that
he hoped to keep him there till the time came for him to go to college in October,
1818. (Add. MSS. Brit. Mus., 34,584.)

3 Dr. Butler's biographer assumes (Life and Letters, vol. i. pp. 134, 135) that
Cawston never returned to school after his illness. But the evidence of the
school register is conclusive of the fact that the boy did not leave Shrewsbury
till October 2nd, 1817. If it be true that Cawston's delusions were due in
the main to his illness, and that, on the strength of the story he told his family,
;i2OO was placed at his disposal by his brother-in-law, the occasions on which
Dr. Butler was surprised at the boy's "profuse supply of money" must have
been subsequent to the summer holidays of 1817. Cawston appears to have
gone home on October 2nd, probably in order to have an interview with
Mr. Weatherly, the solicitor who had undertaken to manage his affairs, and



272 SHREWSBURY SCHOOL

that while he was still at Shrewsbury Dr. Butler was struck
with " the profuse supply of money which he always appeared
to have," and wrote to remonstrate with his father on the
subject. And this money, as it afterwards transpired, was
advanced to him, either by his brother-in-law or by his uncle,
on the strength of his romantic story. 1

The story was as follows. Some two years before, Cawston,
on his way back to school, made acquaintance with an old
gentleman in the stage-coach, who subsequently invited him
to come to his house in the neighbourhood of Shrewsbury.
Not long afterwards, the old gentleman, whom he found
living in a very humble way, told him that he was possessed
of enormous wealth, and held out hopes that he would make
him his heir. Ultimately, in the course of the year 1817, his
mysterious friend had made him a deed of gift of his whole
fortune, earnestly requesting at the same time that the iron
chest, in which the deed of gift and other important docu-
ments were deposited, should not be opened before January,
1818. Soon after this Cawston's benefactor died. "The
fortunate youth" left Shrewsbury on October 2nd, and
rumours of his strange story and wonderful prospects soon
began to find their way into the newspapers. Gradually
the details of his enormous but quite imaginary possessions
were unfolded. They included a palace in Spain, with a
valuable picture gallery, and extensive estates, not only in
that country, but in Italy and Germany as well. His
property in England alone was said to exceed half a
million in value. Mr. Weatherly, a Newmarket solicitor
of high reputation, was so persuaded of the truth of the

while he was at home it was arranged that he should not return to school
again. Mr. Cawston wrote to this effect on October I5th. It is evident
from his letter that Dr. Butler was now informed for the first time of the
great property of which Abraham Cawston was supposed to be the possessor.
Mr. Cawston's reference to his last letter to Dr. Butler, in which, he said,
he had expressed his intention of going to Shrewsbury with his son when he
returned, is also conclusive of the fact that the boy had only recently gone home.
(Add. MSS. Brit. Mus., 34,584.)

1 According to Mr. Gunning, the relation who placed ,1200 at Cawston's
disposal was his uncle. But Dr. Cory, the master of Emmanuel College,
Cambridge, who appears to have had his information directly from the Cawston
family, says it was his brother-in-law. (Butler s Life and Letters, vol. i. p. 142.)



SAMUEL BUTLER 273

story that he accepted instructions from young Cawston
for his will, and consented to act as his executor. He
also took the requisite steps for having him made a ward
of Chancery. So clear and precise were "the fortunate
youth's" statements, so pleasing his manners and address,
and so modest and self-restrained did he show himself when
large advances of money were pressed upon him, 1 that the
public delusion about him lasted nearly three months. But
Cawston became at last over-confident, and ventured to ask
a few gentlemen to dinner in London for the purpose of
getting their opinion on the merits of some Sicilian wine
which he represented as made from grapes grown on his
own estates. A doubting guest, thinking* he recognized the
stamp on one of the corks as belonging to a well-known
firm of wine merchants, made inquiries on the subject, and
ascertained that the firm had recently supplied Cawston with
Sicilian wine. 2

The first public expression of distrust came from the
Morning Chronicle of December nth, 1817, and it soon
became generally known that there was no foundation for
any part of " the fortunate youth's " story. Cawston seems to
have left England soon after the exposure of his deception
in the matter of the Sicilian wine and to have gone to Italy.
But some months elapsed before the fool's paradise in which
he had been living entirely disappeared, or, as his father ex-
pressed it, " his eyes were opened to the duplicity of which
he had been guilty." 3

1 See GUNNING'S Reminiscences. Mr. Gunning says that Cawston might, if
he had liked, have "availed himself of thousands which were offered him."

2 Ibid.

3 Cawston returned to England after a time, and subsequently settled down to
educational work at Flempton, near Bury. From this place he wrote to his old
master on April 25th, 1826, asking him for a testimonial as to his position in
Shrewsbury School at the time he left, in the hopes that this might supply in some
respects the want of a university degree. (Add. MSS. British Museum, 34,586.)
Ultimately he was ordained. In November, 1839, he wrote to Dr. Butler, who
was then Bishop of Lichfield, asking him for a testimonial or recommendation.
With this request Dr. Butler not unnaturally declined to comply, on account of the
many years which had elapsed since any communication had passed between them.
Cawston is supposed to have died about 1840. (Butler's Life and Letters ; vol. i.
p. 143 and voL ii. p. 350.)

T



274 SHREWSBURY SCHOOL

Several communications seem to have passed between Dr.
Butler and Cawston soon after the boy left school, and the
doctor gave his pupil much good advice as to the necessity
of being on his guard against designing people. He recom-
mended him to place himself "under the care of some able
and highly respectable man at the university." The whole
business must have caused great annoyance to Dr. Butler, not
only because he had been so completely taken in by one of
his own boys, but because it turned out afterwards that
Cawston had spoken abusively of Shrewsbury School, and
had made Dr. Butler a witness to the truth of his story
by quoting the remonstrances which he had addressed to his
father about the superabundant supply of pocket-money with
which he seemed to be furnished at school. 1

The following year, 1818, is notable for an "Epidemic of
Turbulence" which seems to have spread through most of
the public schools of England. From Dr. Butler's corres-
pondence with the Head Masters of Eton and Winchester it
appears that both these schools, as well as the Charterhouse
and the Military College at Sandhurst, had suffered from
" the epidemic." Dr. Butler, indeed, asserts that among the
leading schools there was only one real exception. The chief
incidents of insubordination which are mentioned in connec-
tion with Shrewsbury are "boar hunting" with a neighbouring
farmer's pigs, 2 getting up fights in the town, breaking the
windows in the school library and the Head Master's study,
and posting up a placard in Hall threatening Dr. Butler
with personal violence. It appears from the circulars that
were subsequently sent to parents that the chief grievance
alleged by the boys as an excuse for their insubordination
was a want of sufficient food. Other grievances of which
there is mention were the "encroachments" made by the
Head Master and his use of "public punishments" where
" private punishments " would have sufficed. 3

1 See Butler 's Life and Letters ; vol. i. pp. 140, 141.

2 The boar hunting is described by one of the boys, F. E. Gretton, in a letter
written at the time of the disturbances to his father, the Dean of Hereford, as
"most brutal and disgraceful." (Add. MSS. British Museum, 34,584.)

Ibid., 34,584.



SAMUEL BUTLER 275

A general fine seems to have been levied to meet the cost
of replacing the broken windows, the Head Master under-
taking to exempt from payment Mr. Jeudwine's boarders, as
well as the day boys, if it should appear that only three boys
at most in each case had taken part in the disturbances. 1
Three of the ringleaders were "expelled" on November 2ist,
and five other boys were " dismissed " from the school at the
end of the half-year. 2

Writing on December 6th, 1818, to his old antagonist, the
Rev. C. J. Blomfield, with whom he was now completely
reconciled, Dr. Butler expressed a hope that he had by that
time chained those "luctantes ventos tempestatesque sonoras,"
which had given him such "a stirring half-year," as completely
as " their old master in Virgil." 3

About the same time Dr. Wood, the Master of St. John's
College, Cambridge, wrote to Dr. Butler to express the thank-
fulness felt by " every member of the university interested in
the support of discipline " for his firmness in resisting " the
turbulence and self-will of presumptuous boys." 4

The Rev. S. Tilbrook, too, his humorous correspondent and
brother angler, joined in the chorus of congratulations, satiris-
ing the boys' complaints of insufficient food by an amusing

1 Butler's Life and Letters, vol. i. pp. 156-162.

2 One of the three boys in question was a praepostor who had been sentenced to
" dismissal " on November igth, and was to have left for home early the next
morning. The immediate offence which caused his "dismissal " was his sending
a notice round the town by the bellman that some particular boy, of whom he dis-
approved, had been made a praepostor. But in the course of the night, accom-
panied by two other boys, he broke out of the house and ran away, leaving an
angry and abusive letter for the Doctor behind him. It was after this occurrence
that the three boys were "expelled." Dr. Butler announced their expulsion
publicly in school, and although it is evident from the inquiries which he subse-
quently made on the subject of the Head Masters of Winchester, Eton, and
Harrow that he would have liked, if possible, to modify the sentence which he had
somewhat hastily passed upon them, he felt it impossible to do so in the face of the
opinion expressed by all three Head Masters that such a course was unusual and
undesirable. No steps, however, were taken by him to communicate the fact of
the expulsion to the college tutors at Oxford and Cambridge. He urged, indeed,
the parents of two of the boys to get them admitted at some college immediately,
and one of them, as a matter of fact, matriculated at Magdalen Hall, Oxford, on
November 28th. (Add. MSS. British Museum, 34,584.)

3 Butlers Life and Letters, vol. i. p. 161.

4 Ibid., vol. i. p. 163.



276 SHREWSBURY SCHOOL

account of the rapacious appetite of an old school-fellow,
whose performances, as he describes them, 1 can only be
compared to those ascribed to St. Patrick in the old song :

" St. Patrick was a gentleman, who came of decent people," etc.

In 1820 two bills were introduced into the House of
Commons by Mr. Brougham, which, in Dr. Butler's opinion,
affected injuriously the future prospects of the Endowed
Grammar Schools of England and tended to lower the tone
of public education. These bills were vigorously attacked
by Dr. Butler in a published letter to Henry Brougham,
Esq., M.P., dated October ipth, 1820. The clauses which
the writer considered specially objectionable and dangerous
were those that enabled any school authorities to whom the
election of masters was entrusted

(1) To require any master appointed after the passing of
the bills to teach reading, writing, and accounts.

(2) To regulate the number of boarders he might receive,
or to restrain him from taking any boarders at all.

(3) To oblige him to receive into the school any number
of scholars on any terms they might please to impose.

It seems strange at first sight that Dr. Butler should have
entertained any objection to the masters of Grammar Schools
being required to teach " reading, writing, and accounts"
Mathematics were taught, and effectively taught, 2 at Shrews-
bury in his time, although it was almost entirely as private
lessons and not as part of the regular school work. There
was a writing master also from the first, though a special fee
was charged for his lessons. But Dr. Butler's objections to
the proposed regulation went deeper doubtless than this ;
it is evident that he regarded the clause in question as
directed against classical instruction and intended to
facilitate the substitution of commercial education for
classical education in Endowed Grammar Schools. Taking
this view of the object of the clause Dr. Butler naturally

1 Butler s Life and Letters, vol. i. p. 162.

2 Between 1808 and 1840 twenty-eight Shrewsbury men obtained a Wrangler's
place in the Mathematical Tripos at Cambridge, and one gained a first class in
mathematics at Oxford,



SAMUEL BUTLER 277

laid stress, in his letter to Mr. Brougham, on the injury
which would be done to parents if their sons were deprived
of an education calculated to qualify them for the learned
professions.

In answer to the other proposals of the bills Dr. Butler
argued that it would be impossible to provide a stipend
sufficient to attract men of distinction if the masters of
Grammar Schools were not allowed to take boarders, and
incidentally he pointed out that at the time of its original
foundation Shrewsbury School was intended for the use of
town boys and strangers indiscriminately.

It should be mentioned that one of the clauses of Mr.
Brougham's bills, as amended in committee, exempted
certain schools Eton, Westminster, Winchester, Harrow,
the Charterhouse, and Rugby from the effect of the
proposed legislation. 1

As soon as Dr. Butler had ascertained that it was intended
to make an exception in favour of these schools on the
ground of their being "public schools" he wrote to the
Hon. H. G. Bennet, M.P., asserting in strong terms the
claims of , Shrewsbury to be placed "on at least as favourable
a footing as any of these schools," and subsequently, on
January 2ist, 1821, he published a second letter to Mr.
Brougham, in which the claims of Shrewsbury to be a
"public school" in the same sense as the six exempted
schools were carefully and ably set forth.

Dr. Butler had originally intended to address the second
letter to the Right Hon. C. J. Villiers, M.P., 2 but Mr.
Brougham had behaved so courteously with regard to the
first letter that he thought it better to address the second
letter to him also.

To those acquainted in the most elementary way with the
history of Shrewsbury School Dr. Butler's arguments are

1 See BAKER'S Hist, of St. John's College (Ed. Mayor).

2 It was by the advice of Mr. Villiers that Dr. Butler dealt separately with his
general objections to Mr. Brougham's bills and the claims of Shrewsbury to
exemption from their effect Mr. Villiers expressed his opinion that there would
be no difficulty in getting Shrewsbury put in the list of exempted schools. (Add.
MSS. British Museum, 34,585.)



278 SHREWSBURY SCHOOL

familiar enough at the present day ; but as he was the first
person to put them forward publicly, it is only fair to his
memory to repeat them, much as he stated them to Mr.
Brougham. In the first place he calls attention to Camden's
statement, made originally in 1586, that Shrewsbury was the



Online LibraryGeorge William FisherAnnals of Shrewsbury School → online text (page 27 of 56)