John Henry Newman.

Some remarks on the present studies and management of Eton school online

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/ do not know that any apology is necessary for
discussing, in a public Pamphlet, the merits of a
public Institution. Whatever the abstract right
may be however good or bad the moral right
that every parent of a boy at a public school has
to use his best efforts towards improving the advan-
tages of his son, cannot in reason be disputed.
Not that this right is to be used in an indiscrimi-
natemuch less an insolent and contemptuous man-
ner. I should be very sorry if I could be guilty
of using a word personally disrespectful to any one.
I wish the prosperity of Eton, and, therefore,
wish to see many present obstacles to its advance-
ment removed.


THE rapid demand for a third edition of these
Remarks is highly satisfactory to the Author; in-
asmuch as it tends to shew that the importance of
the subject he has discussed is properly appreciated
by those whose interests are mainly concerned. The
Author would fain hope, that the Governors of
Eton will not confound a demand for reasonable
improvement, with a cry for total and indiscrimi-




nate revolution. There is neither magnanimity
nor wisdom in resisting what is proved to be expe-
dient. Surely, the idea of conducting a great
public School on principles that have no harmony
with the opinions and wishes of the public, is an
egregious folly . But the public I mean the opu-
lent and liberal, but, at the same time, thinking
and intelligent, aristocracy of the public look
with confidence to the adoption of prudent and
essential alterations at Eton. It is the duty, no
less than the interest, of the government of the
School to concede them.

I have already stated that I shall probably
discuss, at some future period, the manner in which
the Collegers are treated at Eton. For the pre
sent, I am disposed to keep my facts and opinions
from the Public, in the hope that the Governors of
the College will see the necessity of immediately ame-
liorating or rather of totally altering the condi-
tion of the boys who are more especially en-
trusted to their care.

This I promise the Public: that in exposing the
manifold wrongs endured by the Collegers at Eton,
I will expose the truth. / will use neither disguise
nor compromise. What I know certainly, I will
set down fearlessly . But I repeat it I trust the
good sense and virtue of the Provost and Fdlows
of Eton will anticipate my intentions.

FEBRUARY 10, 1834.


IT would be a needless waste of words to set
about shewing, that, at the present moment,
a spirit of uncompromising enquiry and refor-
mation is developing its full energies through-
out the country. It is a spirit which will not
be contemned, nor can it be resisted, with im-
punity. It has summoned every public insti-
tution before its tribunal; and woe be to those
which have made no preparation for trial ! Yet
it is impossible not to see that there are some
public bodies which have formed the resolution
of defying and encountering public opinion, and
have staked their hopes of existence on a firm
and unflinching nay, a contemptuous and
scornful rejection of the demands of a reason-
ing and enlightened age. There arc men whose

wisdom consists in a stubborn refusal to im-
prove. With a blindness, which baffles expla-
nation, because it leads directly to their own
downfall, they hate reform as if it were revolu-
tion, being apparently ignorant that they are
proceeding the right way to ensure a revolution
which will be no reform. But they are wrest-
ling with a power that will laugh to scorn their
puny endeavours. Their brazen gates will be
but as touchwood before the strong arm of the
giant. With such men, I fear, any exhorta-
tion on my part will have but little weight.
The wisest suggestion that could be offered
the most modest remonstrance that could be
made will by them be received with the same
grin of contempt, and the same scowl of hate ;
but I shall not be deterred from giving advice,
because it is likely to be rejected ; nor shall I
fear to assail the citadel of bigotry, because I
feel assured that the garrison will defend it to
its last gun. Amongst other public institutions
in England, which have signalized themselves
by an undeviating adherence to antiquated
errors, I am compelled to instance Eton
School as holding an unfortunate pre-emi-
nence. Whilst every other public school has
chosen the wiser part, and accommodated itself
to the demands of the age by timely and judi-
cious reformation, Eton alone seems resolved to

make a stand against improvement, and to fight
single-handed the battle of prejudice and

Many of the more notorious and glaring
defects of that foundation have often been
brought before the public ; but the weapons
of opinion have hitherto fallen nearly harm-
less on its brazen armour. The events, how-
ever, that have marked the last few years of
English History, are certainly pregnant with
fearful admonitions to all public bodies, bidding
them prepare against the scrutinies with which
a vigilant and informed nation will, undoubt-
edly, visit its trusts. Yet, strange to say,
the public business of Eton School is essen-
tially, if not exactly, the same that it was 50
nay, for what I know, 100 years ago.
But since it is probable that many of my rea-
ders are unacquainted with Eton, I will preface
my observations with a brief sketch of the con-
stitution of that establishment. The College
was founded in 1441, by King Henry VI. It
consists of a Provost, Seven Fellows, one Head
or Upper Master, and one Lower ; together
with 70 Students. All that a gentleman's edu-
cation in those days embraced, was, undoubt-
edly, provided by the Statutes for those 70 col-
legers, or students. Moreover, it was provided
gratuitously; but I shall reserve my remarks on


this subject to some future occasion. These
collegers are elected off to King's College, Cam-
bridge, as fast as vacancies occur at that found-
ation, which has the same number of fellow-
ships that there are collegers at Eton, and is
solely supplied with members from that source.

Such is the statutable foundation of Eton
College; but there are, in addition, JU) Assistant
Masters, or Tutors, who, however, are not
members of the College, but are gentlemen,
almost unexceptionably, from King's College,
Cambridge, engaged by the upper and lower
Masters to assist them in teaching the collegers
and oppidans, or boys who do not belong to
the foundation. These latter form the main
bulk of the school, varying in number, of course;
but the total of both sorts of students may be
stated to be, in general, considerably upwards
of 500.

The Provost is appointed by the Crown. The
Fellows are elected by themselves and the Pro-
vost. The Head Master is appointed by the
Provost; the Lower by the Provost and Fellows.
The Provostship is very nearly an autocratical
office. The school is divided into six forms ; of
which the sixth is the highest, and is the only
one limited in its number of boys, which is never
allowed to exceed 22. -The fifth form consists
of three divisions ; the upper, middle, and lower


A boy takes a year to pass through each of the
two lower, but remains in the upper until a
vacancy occurs in the sixth form. It may, on
an average, require two years and a half to get
through the upper division. Between the fourth
and fifth, there is an intermediate form, called
" The Remove" which consists of two divisions,
and a boy is six months in each. As my obser-
vations will principally apply to these upper
forms, I shall not describe the remainder. The
work of the fifth and sixth forms is, with too
trifling a difference to be worth mentioning, the
same. On Sunday, they do a Latin theme.
On Monday they repeat from 30 to 35 verses of
the Poetse Grseci, construe the same number of
lines of Homer, together with 70 lines of the
Scriptores Romani. Sometimes one half of
this latter is not done but in place of it, the
lesson of Homer is done over again. Tuesday
is a holiday, on which, however, they do a copy
of verses, varying in number according to the
ability and industry of the individual. The
higher boys seldom do less than from 30 to 36 ; .
the lower from 22 to 30. On Wednesday they
say about 36 lines of Ovid or Propertius by
heart, construe 35 lines of Homer, and 70 of
Virgil. They also do a copy of Lyrics, which ^tk
must not be less than six stanzas in length. On
Thursday they say some Greek Grammar by


heart ; and construe 35 lines of Greek prose ;
generally Lucian. On Friday they repeat by
heart the Homer which was construed on Wed-
nesday and Monday, and the Virgil which was
construed on Wednesday. They also construe
70 lines of Horace's Epistles or Satires, and 35
lines of Greek prose. On Saturday, they re-
peat by heart the Horace which was construed
on the previous day ; construe some 30 or 35
verses of the PoetaB Grseci, together with some
Greek Testament, and are examined in a few

pages of Seeker. No lessons are learnt in school

I ' TT K i

hours. Hie boys are - previously prepared in

their lessons by their tutors, and the school-times
are devoted to examination. All that is read
r^ over and above what we have stated, is called
jr"33T^ v * ' private business^ ' It is not required by the
school, but is done by the tutors privately with
their pupils. I have given the outline of what
is called .a "REGULAR WEEK;" but that is ma-
terially interrupted arid curtailed by holidays,
whether accidental or periodical.

There are also extra masters for teaching the
French, Italian, and German languages, as well
as writing, drawing, and arithmetic. Attend-
ance on either of them is voluntary, and forms
no integral part of the school business. Whe-
ther the business done with these masters ought
not to be brought into closer contact, and more


intimate union with the regular business, greatly
to the advantage and credit of the teachers, as
well as the learners, I may, perhaps, discuss on
some future occasion. The Duke of Newcastle,
about six years ago, founded three scholarships
for the best proficients in Classics and Divinity:
each is tenable for three years, and is of the
\varly value of t'~><>; so that one falls vacant
every twelve month-. Tlu-se seholarships are
open to all students in the school, above a cer-
tain rank; the examiners are Mtoer public ma<-
ters ; and I will add. it would be better if they
were never prirate tutors. In fact, the ar-
gument which excludes a public assistant,
ought, in its proper consequences, to exclude
any one connected with the school. The scho-
lars have to attend chapel twice every whole
holiday, and once every half holiday. And
now, I hope, I have said enough to enable per-
sons who are not so fortunate as to be "Eton
men," to understand the following remarks.

I shall be grossly misunderstood, if any in-
tention of triumph or insult be attributed to me,
when I proclaim, with the fearL - .. BS of con-
seious truth, that, if the interest of Eton is to be
maintained, its abuses must be reformed. The
world, indeed, has for a long time been amused
with a vague probability of future amendment ,
some scanty glimmerings of hope, that if some


fortunate concurrence of accidents should ever
take place, if one man should have compassion
enough to relent, and another have energy
enough to propose, and if divers other equally
substantial and tangible possibilities should all
happily come to pass, why then we should see
some GREAT CHANGES AT ETON. What these
portentous changes- these melancholy phan-
tasms of distempered heads, which have scared
the imaginations of some respectable persons,
REALLY ARE, the uninitiated have not yet been
allowed to understand.

At other times, the matter is put in a differ-
ent light ; and an objection to reform is drawi
from the very constitution of the College, inas
much as there appears to be a doubt WHERE
and HOW, reform is to begin. The head master,
being but the servant of the Provost, can do
nothing against the will of his employer, in the
regulation of the school; and how the Provost,
, for the last twenty-four years, has had
nothing to do with the practical management of
the boys, can venture to meddle with the ex-
isting order of things, seems to involve a mys-
teryto make a gordian knot much too difficult
for ordinary knuckles to untie. I really blush
to notice such unbecoming and frivolous juggling
with common reason. But I fear that such
nonsense is entertained in high quarters, with a


fondness and pertinacity, which shows how
anxiously any pretence for defying improvement
is hunted out of the den of folly. If the objec-
tion I have stated mean any thing, it is this;
that there is in the constitution of Eton College
an inherent principle, directly repulsive of re-
form. But I warn the advocates of so stupid
and pernicious a doctrine against its open
avowal. The public care nothing for the colli-
sion or adjustment of the ruling interests of the
school; they demand the reformation of abuse;
and they will not be checked in their demand
by any unintelligible prevarications about
WHERE the responsibility of the reform is to lie.
My own opinion of this formidable difficulty
is very easily explained; the head master is
appointed by the Provost, and is certainly re-
movable at his pleasure; but he is also EN-

OF THE BOYS ; and if there be any change,
the adoption of which HE thinks essential to
the good of the school, but which the PROVOST
resists as inexpedient, there is no alternative
left for the master, BUT TO RESIGN.

It is time, however, to specify some of the -
more serious and prominent defects of the school.
In doing this, I shall not hunt about in search
of objections to the subordinate parts of its dis- ;
cipline; I am influenced solely by a regard for


its bettor government ; and I should be sorry if
any of my expressions gave personal offence.
But whilst 1 deprecate unbecoming asperity, I
will set forth my opinions with that manful and
fearless resolution which the subject demands.

A public school is a preparation for the Uni-
versity, and by its adequate or imperfect execu-
tion of this purpose, its good or ill government
must be determined. By this I will judge Eton;
nor can I imagine any denomination of reason-
ing animals who could possibly object to such a
criterion. The education provided at Eton is
insufficient for its purpose in every department,
in religion, letters, and science. To begin with
the most important ; there is but ONE religious
lesson in the week ; and as even that solitary
one is missed, as often as by the will of the Ca-
lendar, or the Provost, Saturday is a half holi-
day, I cannot with due allowance made for va-
cations possibly suppose that there are more
than 25 religious lessons in the year. It is very
remarkable, that, whereas no possible contin-
gency, short of an entire week of holidays, is
allowed to interfere with TWO lessons of Homer,
Horace, and Virgil, the religious instruction of
the week is so entirely the sport of saints' days
and holidays, that not even the highest boys can
read one of the longer Gospels in twelve months.
Moreover, the lessons being given at such great



and uneven intervals of time, it is impossible for
any but very industrious students to retain a con-
nected view of what they read. Now, I defy a
contradiction of this statement; and I ask whe-
ther every parent of a boy at Eton has not a
right nay, whether it is not his most solemn
duty to God and his conscience, to remonstrate
against this neglect of the most important arti-
cle in education ? Nor do I complain solely
of the omission of what is good, but of the
practice of that which is positively evil. The
boys are not only defectively instructed in the ^
nature and doctrines of Christianity, but are
most perniciously taught to regard some of its
highest duties as a matter of annoyance and co-
ercion. They are COMPELLED to attend chapel,

exclusive of Sundays, at the least four,
often five, sometimes even six, times in the
week. The evil might, in some degree, be Vf
mitigated, if worship on the week days were
devoutly performed ; but the boys are neither
expected to bring Prayer Books into Church,
nor to join in the service. The prayers are
read in a slovenly manner, being usually accom-
plished in 25 minutes. Very frequent COMPUL-
SORY attendance on Divine Worship, even if
properly done, can have none but a bad effect
on MEN and men, too, of religious minds; but
upon the YOUNG the consequences are incalcu-
lably disastrous.


Upon the young, who generally mistake
associations of ideas for opinions, and with
whom inveteracy of custom is equivalent to
energy of conviction, the effects of this sys-
tem are doubly deplorable. Attendance on
church becomes, in after life, an irksome and un-
comfortable duty, and that which was intended
by a merciful Creator to be an everlasting me-
morial of his care and benevolence to man, to
be the medicine of sorrow, and the purification
of thought, is converted, by a stupid and obsti-
nate adherence to forms, whose single claim to
respect consists in the longevity of their mischief,
into an uneasy and unprofitable ceremony ;
thus God is robbed of his mercy, and man of
his consolation. Perhaps I may seem irreve-
rent, and to be using terms more solemn than
befits the occasion ; but no words CAN express
the awful responsibility incurred by those who
deliberately, and in spite of demonstrative rea-
son, persist in tampering with the eternal inte-
rests of souls. The matter I speak of is nothing
temporary or trivial ; either I or my adversaries
are wrong ; if I am in error, in the name of
religion let me be confuted by some argument.
I profess with the most fervent sincerity, I know
not even the ghost of a reason, which could be
conjured up against me out of the grave of
rotten antiquity. But if 1 am right, shame and
dishonour to those who have neither the wisdom


nor the courage to acknowledge refutation, and
to amend error, even though their obstinacy im-
perils higher interests than those of this world ?
Nor is it only on the week days, that I complain
of religion being neglected at Eton. Even the
Sabbath is not honoured with proper reverence..
That day, which now, thank God, brings reli-
gious comfort and instruction to the poorest
cottager, brings but little of either to the Eton
student. It is really hard to believe, that a rich
ecclesiastical establishment, founded for the
especial purpose of educating persons for the
Church, should inculcate, in the consequences
of its mis-government, a most wicked contempt
for the Sabbath. The upper boys, on that day,) ^
are required to learn some perchance licenti-
ous lines of the Poeta3 Graeci ; the Remove are! '
drawing maps ; both are possibly engaged also
in writing a theme, which, whatever the THEORY
of the matter may be, is of no practical service
to religion or morals. The fourth form are con-
struing, or preparing to construe, a few verses
of the Greek Testament, which they are not
taught for the sake, or with the possibility of
promoting religion, but for the inoculating of
them with the virus of Greek Grammar rules.
I pronounce this to be a disgraceful reproach to % ^
the school. We have a right to demand, that,
in a religious establishment, Sunday shall be

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day of religious instruction ; and sure I am
that this holy day cannot be systematically per-
verted to secular pursuits, without entailing-
grievous ill consequences. I am aware I may
be met with the rejoinder, that these conse-
quences HAVE NOT been produced ; and though
the public instruction of the school be confess
edly no greater than I have stated it to be, yet,
provided the instruction is communicated SOME-
HOW, the MANNER is of little importance. In
answer to which, I say, that, even on the suppo-
sition of no evil having arisen, this is no reason
against remedying what you cannot but admit
to be wrong. And if it be urged, that, for no
better reason than this, you may safely persevere
in a vicious course of education, you throw up
the whole question of education at once ; all

' I preference of mode is at an end. If good habits
can possibly spring as the natural produce of
evil, it can no longer signify what habits you
engender. Is any man prepared to maintain

^- such a position ? yet there is no alternative be-
tween this and the admission of the justice of
my reasoning. But the truth is, incalculable
, evil HAS BEEN produced. When I assert that,
men educated in this habitual disregard of the
sanctity of the Sabbath, and this profane mode
^v, of attending service on week days, have gene-
rally felt a disinclination to attend public wor-


ship altogether, 1 certainly assert no more than
such men themselves are ready enough to admit.
The evil which has arisen to individuals, is, in
fact, enormous ; but if I extend the sphere of
my contemplation, and regard the matter as
affecting public and national interests, it as-
sumes a more serious aspect, and furnishes sub-
ject for graver and more melancholy reflection.
I need not point out how large a proportion of
the English Clergy have received public educa-
tions. Will the most bigotted advocate of the
Church, as it is, deny, that, for the last 150years,
a secular spirit has been making great way, es-
pecially amongst the upper orders of the hierar-
chy ? And can it be doubted, that, if the
Clergy had been better instructed in the solemn
nature of their high and holy duties if a deeper
reverence for their profession a more earnest
devotion of their best energies to the service of
their Lord a more profound sense of their obli-
gation to promote HIS interest, and a less inter-
ested desire to further THEIR OWN in a word,
can it be doubted, if the Clergy had been more
religiously educated, that, instead of the tem-
pest, whose gathering howls are now threatening
their existence, the same sunny and serene sky
would be now smiling over their heads, which
gilded and glorified their most palmy days ? I
ask the question in candid and sober sincerity ;
I crave an answer in the same spirit.


I have proceeded on the supposition, that
religious knowledge is neglected at Eton. But
though this be unanswerably true in reference
to the PUBLIC instruction, we are told that this
defect is made up by " private business."
This private business does not relate exclusively
to religion ; what I have to say on this head,
therefore, will be equally applicable to the
other branches of instruction. The very term
" private business" in a PUBLIC school, in-
volves an absurdity ; for it can only be under-
stood to mean something which, to a certain
amount, will remedy the defects of the school.
But this, of course, is ADMITTING THE EXIS-
TENCE OF DEFECTS. If any such exist, I
demand their removal : and if you assert that
they CANNOT BE REMOVED, you admit the
incapacity of a public school to give the full
benefits of education. But what is the real
amount of good produced by this " private
business?" In the first place, a large number
of boys are not private pupils ;* and when we

* By a curious regulation, the collegers are prohibited
} from being private pupils. I believe the prohibition arose
from a desire to save expense : but as the expense is VOLUN-
TARY, I cannot see the propriety of forbidding it. In the
mean time, I recommend the government of the school,
in whatsoever person or persons that abstract idea may re-
side, to curtail the COMPULSORY expenses of the colleger,
which are infamous in amount, and perfectly unjustifiable


take into the account how much of the masters'
time is occupied by the public business of the
school, we cannot suppose that they have it in
their power to give more than between two and
three hours' private instruction, weekly, to their
respective pupils ; the utmost that can be effect-
ed by such means, is very limited certainly,
by no means equal to a remedy of the very defi-
cient public instruction of the school. The good

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Online LibraryJohn Henry NewmanSome remarks on the present studies and management of Eton school → online text (page 1 of 3)