Page images
PDF
EPUB
[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

THOMAS ARNOLD, seventh child and youngest son of William and Martha Arnold, was born on June 13th, 1795, at West Cowes, in the Isle of Wight, where his family had been settled for two generations, their original residence having been at Lowestoff, in Suffolk.

His father, who was collector of the customs at Cowes, died suddenly of spasm in the heart, on March 3rd, 1801. His two elder brothers, William and Matthew, died, the first in 1806, the second in 1820. His sisters all survived him, with the exception of the third, Susannah, who, after a lingering complaint in the spine, died at Laleham, in 1832.

His early education was confided by his mother to her sister, Miss Delafield, who took an affectionate pride in her charge, and directed all his studies as a child. In 1803, he was sent to Warminster school, in Wiltshire, under Dr. Griffiths, with whose assistant master, Mr. Lawes, he kept up his intercourse long after they had parted. In 1807, he was removed to Winchester, where, having entered as a commoner, and afterwards become a scholar of the college, he remained till 1811. In after life he always cherished a strong Wykehamist feeling, and, during his head-mastership at Rugby, often recurred to his knowledge,

[merged small][ocr errors]

there first acquired, of the peculiar constitution of a public school, and to his recollections of the tact in managing boys shown by Dr. Goddard, and the skill in imparting scholarship which distinguished Dr. Gabell ;—both, during his stay there, successively head masters of Winchester.

He was then, as always, of a shy and retiring disposition, but his manner as a child, and till his entrance at Oxford, was marked by a stiffness and formality the very reverse of the joyousness and simplicity of his later years; his family and schoolfellows both remember him as unlike those of his own age, and with peculiar pursuits of his own ; and the tone and style of his early letters, which have been for the most part preserved, are such as might naturally have been produced by living chiefly in the company of his elders, and reading, or hearing read to him before he could read himself, books suited to a more advanced age. His boyish friendships were strong and numerous. It is needless here to enumerate the names of those Winchester schoolfellows of whose after years it was the pride and delight to watch the course of their companion through life; but the fond recollections, which were long cherished on both sides, of his intercourse with his earliest friend at Warminster, of whom he saw and heard nothing from that time till he was called upon in 1829 to write his epitaph, are worth recording a, as a remarkable instance of strong impressions of nobleness of character, early conceived and long retained.

Both as a boy and a young man he was remarkable for a difficulty in early rising, amounting almost to a constitutional infirmity; and though his after life will show how completely this was overcome by habit, yet he often said that early rising was a daily effort to him, and that in this instance he never found the truth of the usual rule, that all things are made easy by custom. With this, however, was always united great occasional energy; and one of his schoolfellows gives it as his impression of him that "he was stiff in his opinions, and utterly immoveable by force or fraud, when he had made up his mind, whether right or wrong." It is curious to trace the beginnings of some of his later in

* See Letter on the death of George Evelyn, in 1829.

[ocr errors]

terests in his earliest amusements and occupations.

He never lost the recollection of the impression produced upon him by the excitement of naval and military affairs, of which he naturally saw and heard much by living at the Isle of Wight in the time of the war; and the sports in which he took most pleasure, with the few playmates of his childhood, were in sailing rival fleets in his father's garden, or acting the battles of the Homeric heroes with whatever implements he could use as spear and shield, and reciting their several speeches from Pope's translation of the Iliad. He was from his earliest years exceedingly fond of ballad poetry, which his Winchester schoolfellows used to learn from his repetition before they had seen it in print; and his own compositions as a boy all ran in the same direction. A play of this kind, in which his schoolfellows were introduced as the dramatis persone, and a long poem of “Simon de Montfort," in imitation of Scott's Marmion, procured for him at school, by way of distinction from another boy of the same name, the appellation of Poet Arnold. And the earliest specimen of his composition which has been preserved is a little tragedy, written before he was seven years old, on “Piercy, Earl of Northumberland,” suggested apparently by Home's play of Douglas ; which, however, contains nothing worthy of notice, except, perhaps, the accuracy of orthography, language, and blank verse metre, in which it is written, and the precise arrangement of the different acts and scenes.

He was, however, most remarked for his forwardness in history and geography. It was on these subjects that he chiefly gave early indications of that strong power of memory which, though in later years it depended mainly on association, used to show itself in very minute details, extending to the exact state of the weather on particular days, or the exact words and position of passages which he had not seen for twenty years. One of the few recollections which he retained of his father was, that he received from him, at three years old, a present of Smollett's History of England, as a reward for the accuracy with which he had gone through the stories connected with the portraits and pictures of the successive reigns; and at the same age he used to sit at his aunt's table arranging his geographical

cards, and recognising by their shape at a glance the differ counties of the dissected map of England.

He long retained a grateful remembrance of the miscellane books to which he had access in the school library at W minster, and when, in his Professorial chair at Oxford, quoted Dr. Priestley's Lectures on History, it was from recollection of what he had there read when he was eight y old. At Winchester he was a diligent student of Russ Modern Europe; Gibbon and Mitford he had read twice before he left school; and amongst the comments on his r ing and the bursts of political enthusiasm on the events of day in which he indulged in his Winchester letters, it is curi as connected with his later labours, to read his indignat when fourteen years old, “at the numerous boasts which everywhere to be met with in the Latin writers.” “I v believe,” he adds, “ that half at least of the Roman histor if not totally false, at least scandalously exaggerated: hov different are the modest, unaffected, and impartial narration Herodotus, Thucydides, and Xenophon."

The period both of his home and school education was short to exercise much influence upon his after life. B always looked back upon it with a marked tenderness. keen sense which he entertained of the bond of relationshi] of early association,-not the less from the blank in his domestic recollections occasioned by his father's death an own subsequent removal from the Isle of Wight,-invested a peculiar interest the scenes and companions of his child His strong domestic affections had acted as an important guard to him, when he was thrown at so early an age int new sphere of an Oxford life; and when, in later years, h left the head of the family, he delighted in gathering roun the remains of his father's household, and in treasuring up particular relating to his birth-place and parentage, even graves of the older generations of the family in the church at Lowestoff, and the great willow tree in his fi grounds at Slattwoods, from which he transplanted shoot cessively to Laleham, to Rugby, and to Fox How. Ever in the family history, with the alteration of hereditary 1

« PreviousContinue »