Page images
PDF
EPUB

V. As, on the one hand, his interest and sympathy with the boys far exceeded any direct manifestation of it towards them, so, on the other hand, the impression which he produced upon them was derived, not so much from any immediate intercourse or conversation with him, as from the general influence of his whole character, displayed consistently whenever he appeared before them. This influence, with its consequent effects, was gradually on the increase during the whole of his stay. From the earliest periool, indeed, the boys were conscious of something unlike what they had been taught to imagine of a schoolmaster, and by many, a lasting regard was contracted for him; but it was not till he had been in his post some years, that there arose that close bond of union which characterized his relation to his elder pupils; and it was, again, not till later still that this feeling extended itself, more or less, through the mass of the school, so that, in the higher forms at least, it became the fashion (so to speak) to think and talk of him with pride and affection.

The liveliness and simplicity of his whole behaviour must always have divested his earnestness of any appearance of moroseness and affectation. “He calls us fellows,” was the astonished expression of the boys when, soon after his first coming, they heard him speak of them by the familiar name in use amongst themselves; and in his later years, they observed with pleasure the unaffected interest with which, in the long autumn afternoons, he would stand in the school-field and watch the issue of their favourite games of football. But his ascendency was, generally speaking, not gained, at least in the first instance, by the effect of his outward manner. There was a shortness, at times, something of an awkwardness, in his address, occasioned partly by his natural shyness, partly by his dislike of wasting words on trivial occasions, which to boys must have been often repulsive rather than conciliating ; something also of extreme severity in his voice and countenance, beyond what he was himself ai all aware of. With the very little boys, indeed, his manner partook of that playful kindness and tenderness, which always marked his intercourse with children; in examining them in the lower forms, he would sometimes také them on his knee, and go through picture-books of the Bible or of English History, covering the text of the narrative with his hand, and making them explain to him the subject of the several prints. But, in those above this early age, and yet below the rank in the school which brought them into closer contact with him, the sternness of his character was the first thing that impressed them. In many, no doubt, this feeling was one of mere dread, which, if not subsequently removed or modified, only served to repel those who felt it, to a greater distance from him. But in many also, this was, even in the earlier period of their stay, mingled with an involuntary and, perhaps, an unconscious respect inspired by the sense of the manliness and straightforwardness of his dealings, and still more, by the sense of the general force of his moral character; by the belief (to use the words of different pupils) in “his extraordinary knack, for I can call it nothing else, of showing that his object in punishing or reproving, was not his own good or pleasure, but that of the

,"_" in a truthfulness-an aldıxpivecama sort of moral transparency;" in the fixedness of his purpose, and “the searchingness of his practical insight into boys,” by a consciousness, almost amounting to solemnity, that “when his eye was upon you, he looked into your inmost heart;" that there was something in his very tone and outward aspect. before which any thiny low, or false, or cruel, instinctively quailed and cowered.

And the defect of occasional over-hastiness and vehemence of expression, which during the earlier period of his stay at times involved him in some trouble, did not materially interfere with their general notion of his character. However mistaken it might be in the individual case, it was evident to those who took any thought about it, that that ashy paleness and that awful frown wer: almost always the expression not of personal resentment, but of deep, ineffable scorn and indignation at the sight of vice and sin; and it was not without its effect to observe, that it was a fault against which he himself was constantly on the watch-and which, in fact, was in later years so nearly subdued, that most of those who had only known him during that time can recall no instance of it during their stay.

But as boys advanced in the school, out of this feeling of fear grew up a deep admiration, partaking largely of the nature of awe, and this softened into a sort of loyalty, which remained even in the closer and more affectionate sympathy of later years."

“ I am sure," writes a pupil who had no personal communications with him whilst at school, and but little afterwards, and who never was in the Sixth Form, “ that I do not exaggerate my feelings when I say, that I félt a love and reverence for him as one of quite awful greatness and goodness, for whom I well remember that I used to think I would gladly lay down my life ;" adding, with reference to the thoughtless companions with whom he had associated, "I used to believe that I too had a work 10 do for him in the school, and did for his sake labour to raise the tone of the set I lived in, particularly as regarded himself.” It was in boys immediately below the highest form that this new feeling would usually rise for the first time, and awaken a strong wish to know more of him. Then, as they came into personal contact with him, their general sense of his ability became fixed, in the proud belief that they were scholars of a man who would not be less remarkable to ihe world than he was to themselves; and their increasing consciousness of his own sincerity of purpose, and of the interest which he took in them, often awakened, even in the careless and indifferent, an outward respect for goodness, and an animation in their work before unknown to them. And when they left school, they felt that they had been in an atmosphere unlike that of the world about them ; some of those, who lamented not having made more use of his teaching whilst with him, felt that “a better thought than ordinary often reminded them how he first led to it; and in matters of literature almost invariably found, that when any idea of seeming originality occurred to them, that its germ was first suggested by some remark of Arnold”—that “still, to this day, in reading the Scriptures, or other things, they could constantly trace back a line of thought, that came originally from him, as from a great parent mind." And when they heard of his death they became conscious—often for the first time- of the large place which he had occupied in their thoughts, if not in their affections.

Such was the case with almost all who were in the Sixth Form with him during the last ten years of his lite, but with some who, from peculiar circumstances or greater sympathy with him, came into more permanent communication with him, there was a yet stronger bond of union. His interest in his elder pupils, unlike a mere professional interest, seemed to increase after they had left the school. No sermons were so full of feeling and instruction, as those which he preached on the eve of their departure for the Universities. It was now that the intercourse which at school had been so broken, and as it were stolen by snatches, was at last enjoyed between them to its full

It was sometimes in the few parting words, the earnest blessing which he then bestowed upon them, -that they became for the first time conscious of his real care and love for them. The same anxiety for their good which he had felt in their passage through school, he now showed without the necessity of official caution and reserve, in their passage through life. To any pupil who ever showed any desire to continue his connexion with him his house was always open, and hig advice and sympathy ready. No half-year, after the four first years of his stay at Rugby, passed without a visit from his former scholars; some of them would come three or four times a year; some would stay in his house for weeks. He would offer to prepare them for their University examinations by previous examinations of his own; he never shrunk from adding any of them to his already numerous correspondents, encouraging them to write to him in all perplexities. To any who were in narrow circumstances, not in one case but in several, he would at once offer assistance, sometimes making them large presents of books on their entrance at the University, sometimes tendering them large pecuniary aid, and urging to them that his power of doing so was exactly one of those advantages of his position which he was most bound to use. In writing for the world at large, they were in his thoughts, “in whose welfare,” he said, “I naturally have the deepest interest, and in whom old impressions may be supposed to have still so much force, that I may claim from them at least a patient hearing." (Serm. vol. iv. Pref. p. lv.) And when annoyed by distractions from within the school, or opposition from without, he turned, he used to say, to their visits as “to one of the freshest springs of his life.”

exteni.

They, on their side, now learned to admire those parts of his character which, whilst at school, they had either not known or only imperfectly understood. Pupils, with characters most different from each other's, and from his own-often with opinions diverging more and more widely from his as they advanced in life— looked upon him with a love and reverence which made his gratification one of the brightest rewards of their academical studies—his good or evil fame, a constant source of interest and anxiety to them-his approbation and censure, amongst their most practical motives of action-his example, one of their most habitual rules of life. To him they turned for advice in every emergency of life, not so much for the sake of the advice itself; as because they felt that no important step ought to be taken without consulting him. An additional zest was imparted to whatever work they were engaged in, by a consciousness of the interest which he felt in the progress of their undertaking, and the importance which he attached to its result. They now felt. the privilege of being able to ask him questions on the many points which his school teaching had suggested without fully developing—but yet more, perhaps, they prized the sense of his sympathy and familiar kindness, which made them feel that they were not only his pupils, but his companions. That youthfulness of temperament which has been before noticed in his relation to boys, was still more important in his relation to young men. All the new influences which so strongly divide the students of the nineteenth century from those of the last, had hardly less interest for himself than for them; and, after the dulness or vexation of business or of controversy, a visit of a few days to Rugby would remind them, (to apply a favourite image of his own)“ how refreshing it is in the depth of winter, when the ground is covered with snow, and all is dead and lifelese, to walk by the sea-shore, and enjoy the eternal freshness and liveliness of ocean." His very presence scened to create a new spring of health and vigour within them, and to give to life an interest and an elevation which remained with them long aster they had left him again, and dwelt eo habitually in their thoughts, as a living image, that, when death had taken him away, the bond appeared to be still unbroken, and the sense of separation almost lost in the still deeper sense of a life and an union indestructible.

What were the permanent effects of this system and influence, is a question which cannot yet admit of an adequate answer, least of all from his pupils. The mass of boys are, doubtless, like the mass of men, incapable of receiving a deep and lasting impression from any individual character, however remarkable; and it must also be borne in mind, that hardly any of his scholars were called by rank or station to take a leading place in English society, where the effect of his teaching and character, whatever it might be in itself, would have been far more conspicuous to the world at large.

He himself, though never concealing from himself the importance of his work, would constantly dwell on the scantiness of its results. “I came to Rugby," he said, "full of plans for school reform; but I soon found that the reform of a public school was a much more difficult thing than I had imagined." And again, “I dread to hear this called a religious school. I know how much there is to be done before it can really be called so.”—“With regard to one's work,” he said, “be it school or parish, I suppose the desirable feeling to entertain is, always to expect to succeed, and never think you have succeeded.” He hardly ever seems to have indulged in any sense of superiority to the other public schools. Eton, for example, he would often defend against the attacks to which it was exposed, and the invidious comparisons which some persons would draw between that school and Rugby. What were his feelings towards the improvements taking place there and elsewhere, after his coming to Rugby, have been mentioned already; even between the old system and his own, he rarely drew a strong distinction, conscious though he must have been of the totally new elements which he was introducing. The earliest letters from Rugby express an unfeigned pleasure in what he sound existing, and there is no one disparaging mention of his predecessor in all the correspondence, published or unpublished, ihat has been collected for this work.

If, however, the prediction of Dr. Hawkins at his election, has been in any way fulfilled, the result of his work need not depend on the rank, however eminent, to which he raised Rugby School; or the influence, however powerful, which he exercised over his Rugby scholars. And if there be any truth in the following letter from Dr. Moberly, to whose testimony additional weight is given, as well by his very wide difference of political and ecclesiastical opinion, as by his personal experience, first as a scholar at Winchester, and an under-graduate at Oxford, then as the tutor of the most flourishing college in that University, and lastly, in his present position as Head-master of Winchester, it will be felt that, not so much amongst his own pupils, nor in the scene of his actual labours, as in every Public School

1) See page 44.

1

« PreviousContinue »