PREFACE TO THE SIXTH EDITION.
I RECEIVED the following letter from an old friend soon after
the last edition of this book was published, and resolved, if
ever another edition were called for, to print it. For it is
clear from this and other like comments, that something more
should have been said expressly on the subject of bullying,
and how it is to be met.
"I blame myself for not having earlier suggested whether you
could not, in another edition of Tom Brown, or another story, denounce
more decidedly the evils of bullying at schools. You have indeed done
so, and in the best way, by making Flashman the bully the most
contemptible character; but in that scene of the tossing, and similar passages,
you hardly suggest that such things should be stopped-and do not suggest
any means of putting an end to them.
"This subject has been on my mind for years. It fills me with grief
and misery to think what weak and nervous children go through at school
-how their health and character for life are destroyed by rough and
"It was some comfort to be under the old delusion that fear and
nervousness can be cured by violence, and that knocking about will turn
a timid boy into a bold one. But now we know well enough that is not
true. Gradually training a timid child to do bold acts would be most
desirable; but frightening him and ill-treating him will not make him
courageous. Every medical man knows the fatal effects of terror, or
agitation, or excitement, to nerves that are over-sensitive. There are
different kinds of courage, as you have shown in your character of Arthur.
"A boy may have moral courage, and a finely-organized brain and
nervous system. Such a boy is calculated, if judiciously educated, to be
a great, wise, and useful man; but he may not possess animal courage;
and one night's tossing, or bullying, may produce such an injury to his
brain and nerves that his usefulness is spoiled for life. 1 verily believe
that hundreds of noble organizations are thus destroyed every year.
Horsejockeys have learnt to be wiser; they know that a highly nervous horse
is utterly destroyed by harshness. A groom who tried to cure a shying
horse by roughness and violence, would be discharged as a brute and a
fool. A man who would regulate his watch with a crowbar would be
considered an ass. But the person who thinks a child of delicate and
nervous organization can be made bold by bullying is no better.
"He can be made bold by healthy exercise and games and sports;
but that is quite a different thing. And even these games and sports
should bear some proportion to his strength and capacities.
"I very much doubt whether small children should play with big ones
-the rush of a set of great fellows at football, or the speed of a
cricketball sent by a strong hitter, must be very alarming to a mere child, to a
child who might stand up boldly enough among children of his own
size and height.
"Look at half-a-dozen small children playing cricket by themselves;
how feeble are their blows, how slowly they bowl. You can measure in
that way their capacity.
"Tom Brown and his eleven were bold enough playing against an
eleven of their own calibre; but I suspect they would have been in a
precious funk if they had played against eleven giants, whose bowling
bore the same proportion to theirs that theirs does to the small children's
"To return to the tossing. I must say I think some means might be
devised to enable schoolboys to go to bed in quietness and peace-and
that some means ought to be devised and enforced. No good, moral or
physical, to those who bully or those who are bullied, can ensue from
such scenes as take place in the dormitories of schools. I suspect that
British wisdom and ingenuity are sufficient to discover a remedy for this
evil, if directed in the right direction.
"The fact is, that the condition of a small boy at a large school is
one of peculiar hardship and suffering. He is entirely at the mercy of
proverbially the roughest things in the universe-great schoolboys; and
he is deprived of the protection which the weak have in civilized society:
for he may not complain; if he does, he is an outlaw--he has no protector
but public opinion, and that a public opinion of the very lowest grade,
the opinion of rude and ignorant boys.
" What do schoolboys know of those deep questions of moral and
physical philosophy, of the anatomy of mind and body, by which the
treatment of a child should be regulated?
"Why should the laws of civilization be suspended for schools ? Why
should boys be left to herd together with no law but that of force or
cunning? What would become of society if it were constituted on the
same principles ? It would be plunged into anarchy in a week.
"One of our judges, not long ago, refused to extend the protection
of the law to a child who had been ill-treated at school. If a party of
navvies had given him a licking, and he had brought the case before a
magistrate, what would he have thought if the magistrate had refused to
protect him, on the ground that if such cases were brought before him
he might have fifty a day from one town only ?
" Now I agree with you that a constant supervision of the master is
not desirable or possible-and that telling tales, or constantly referring to
the master for protection, would only produce ill-will and worse treatment.
"If I rightly understand your book, it is an effort to improve the
condition of schools by improving the tone of morality and public opinion
in them. But your book contains the most indubitable proofs that the
condition of the younger boys at public schools, except under the rare
dictatorship of an Old Brooke, is one of great hardship and suffering.
"A timid and nervous boy is from morning till night in a state of
bodily fear. He is constantly tormented when trying to learn his lessons.
His play-hours are occupied in fagging, in a horrid funk of cricket-balls
and footballs, and the violent sport of creatures who, to him, are giants.
He goes to his bed in fear and trembling,-worse than the reality of the
rough treatment to which he is perhaps subjected.
" I believe there is only one complete remedy. It is not in magisterial
supervision ; nor in telling tales; nor in raising the tone of public opinion
among schoolboys-but in the separation of boys of different ages into
"There should be at least three different classes of schools,-the first
for boys from nine to twelve; the second for boys from twelve to fifteen;
the third for those above fifteen. And these schools should be in different
"There ought to be a certain amount of supervision by the master at
those times when there are special occasions for bullying, e.g. in the long
winter evenings, and when the boys are congregated together in the
bedrooms. Surely it cannot be an impossibility to keep order and protect the
weak at such times. Whatever evils might arise from supervision, they
could hardly be greater than those produced by a system which divides
boys into despots and slaves. "Ever yours, very truly,
" F. D."
The question of how to adapt English public school
education to nervous and sensitive boys (often the highest and noblest
subjects which that education has to deal with) ought to be
looked at from every point of view.
For those who believe with me in public school education, the fact stated in the
following extract from a note of Mr. G. De Bunsen will be hailed with pleasure,
especially now that our alliance with Prussia (the most natural and healthy European
alliance for Protestant England) is likely to be so much stronger and deeper than
heretofore. Speaking of this book, he says,-" The author is mistaken in saying
that public schools, in the English sense, are peculiar to England. Schul Pforte (in
the Prussian province of Saxony) is similar in antiquity and institutions. I like his
book all the more for having been there for five years."
I therefore add a few
extracts from the letter of an old friend and schoolfellow,
than whom no man in England is better able to speak on
"What's the use of sorting the boys by ages, unless you do so by
strength: and who are often the real bullies ? The strong young dog of
fourteen, while the victim may be one year or two years older .... I deny
the fact about the bedrooms: there is trouble at times, and always will
be; but so there is in nurseries-my little girl, who looks like an angel,
was bullying the smallest twice to-day.
Bullying must be fought with in other ways,-by getting not only the
Sixth to put it down, but the lower fellows to scorn it, and by eradicating
mercilessly the incorrigible; and a master who really cares for his fellows
is petty sure to know instinctively who in his house are likely to be bullied,
and, knowing a fellow to be really victimized and harassed, I am sure
that he can stop it if he is resolved. There are many kinds of annoyance--
sometimes of real cutting persecution for righteousness' sake-that he
can't stop, no more could all the ushers in the world ; but he can do very
much in many ways to make the shafts of the wicked pointless.
"But though, for quite other reasons, I don't like to see very young
boys launched at a public school, and though I don't deny (I wish I could)
the existence from time to time of bullying, I deny its being a constant
condition of school life, and still more, the possibility of meeting it by the
"I don't wish to understate the amount of bullying that goes on; but
my conviction is that it must be fought, like all school evils, but it
more than any, by dynamics rather than mechanics, by getting the fellows
to respect themselves and one another, rather than by sitting by them
with a thick stick."
And now, having broken my resolution never to write a
Preface, there are just two or three things which I should like
to say a word about.
Several persons, for whose judgment I have the highest
respect, while saying very kind things about this book, have
added, that the great fault of it is "too much preaching; "
but they hope I shall amend in this matter should I ever write
again. Now this I most distinctly decline to do. Why, my
whole object in writing at all, was to get the chance of
preaching! When a man comes to my time of life, and has
his bread to make, and very little time to spare, is it likely
that he will spend almost the whole of his yearly vacation in
writing a story just to amuse people? I think not. At any
rate, I wouldn't do so myself.
The fact is, that I can scarcely ever call on one of my
contemporaries nowadays without running across a boy already
at school, or just ready to go there, whose bright looks and
supple limbs remind me of his father, and our first meeting
in old times. I can scarcely keep the Latin Grammar out of
my own house any longer; and the sight of sons, nephews,
and god-sons, playing trap-bat-and-ball, and reading " Robinson
Crusoe," makes one ask oneself, whether there isn't something
one would like to say to them before they take their first
plunge into the stream of life, away from their own homes, or
while they are yet shivering after the first plunge. My sole
object in writing was to preach to boys: if ever I write again,
it will be to preach to some other age. I can't see that a man
has any business to write at all unless he has something which
he thoroughly believes and wants to preach about. If he has
this, and the chance of delivering himself of it, let him by
all means put it in the shape in which it will be most likely
to get a hearing; but let him never be so carried away as
to forget that preaching is his object.
A black soldier in a West Indian regiment, tied up to
receive a couple of dozen, for drunkenness, cried out to his
captain, who was exhorting him to sobriety in future, " Cap'n,
if you preachee, preachee; and if floggee, floggee; but no
preachee and floggee too!" to which his captain might have
replied, " No, Pompey, I must preach whenever I see a chance
of being listened to, which I never did before; so now you
must have it altogether; and I hope you may remember
some of it."
There is one point which has been made by several of the
Reviewers who have noticed this book, and it is one which, as
I am writing a Preface, I cannot pass over. They have stated
that the Rugby undergraduates they remember at the
Universities were "a solemn array," "boys turned into men before
their time," a "semi-political, semi-sacerdotal fraternity," &c.,
giving the idea that Arnold turned out a set of young
squaretoes, who wore long-fingered black gloves, and talked with a
snuffle. I can only say that their acquaintance must have
been limited and exceptional. For I am sure that every one
who has had anything like large or continuous knowledge of
boys brought up at Rugby, from the times of which this book
treats down to this day, will bear me out in saying, that the
mark by which you may know them is their genial and
hearty freshness and youthfulness of character. They lose
nothing of the boy that is worth keeping, but build up the
man upon it. This is their differentia as Rugby boys; and if
they never had it, or have lost it, it must be not because they
were at Rugby, but in spite of their having been there; the
stronger it is in them the more deeply you may be sure have
they drunk of the spirit of their school.
But this boyishness in the highest sense is not incompatible
with seriousness,-or earnestness, if you like the word better.
"To him (Arnold) and his admirers we owe the substitution of the word
'earnest' for its predecessor 'serious.' "-Edinburgh Review, No. 217, p. 183.
Quite the contrary. And I can well believe that casual
observers, who have never been intimate with Rugby boys
of the true stamp, but have met them only in the every-day
society of the Universities, at wines, breakfast parties, and
the like, may have seen a good deal more of the serious or
earnest side of their characters than of any other. For the
more the boy was alive in them, the less will they have been
able to conceal their thoughts, or their opinion on what was
taking place under their noses; and if the greater part of
that didn't square with their notions of what was right, very
likely they showed pretty clearly that it did not, at whatever
risk of being taken for young prigs. They may be open to
the charge of having old heads on young shoulders: I think
they are, and always were, as long as I can remember; but
so long as they have young hearts to keep head and shoulders
in order, I, for one, must think this only a gain.
And what gave Rugby boys this character, and has enabled
the School, I believe, to keep it to this day ? I say fearlessly,
-Arnold's teaching and example; above all, that part of it
which has been, I will not say sneered at, but certainly not
approved-his unwearied zeal in creating "moral
thoughtfulness" in every boy with whom he came into personal contact.
He certainly did teach us-thank God for it!-that we
could not cut our life into slices and say, " In this slice your
actions are indifferent, and you needn't trouble your heads
about them one way or another; but in this slice mind what
you are about, for they are important"-a pretty muddle we
should have been in had he done so. He taught us that, in
this wonderful world, no boy or man can tell which of his
actions is indifferent, and which not; that by a thoughtless
word or look we may lead astray a brother for whom Christ
died. He taught us that life is a whole, made up of actions
and thoughts and longings, great and small, noble and ignoble;
therefore the only true wisdom for boy or man is to bring the
whole life into obedience to Him whose world we live in, and
who has purchased us with His blood; and that whether we
eat or drink, or whatsoever we do, we are to do all in His
name and to His glory; in such teaching, faithfully, as it seems
to me, following that of Paul of Tarsus, who was in the habit
of meaning what he said, and who laid down this standard
for every man and boy in his time. I think it lies with those
who say that such teaching will not do for us now, to show
why a teacher in the nineteenth century is to preach a lower
standard than one in the first.
However, I won't say that the Reviewers have not a certain
plausible ground for their dicta. For a short time after a boy
has taken up such a life as Arnold would have urged upon
him, he has a hard time of it. He finds his judgment often
at fault, his body and intellect running away with him into
all sorts of pitfalls, and himself coming down with a crash.
The more seriously he buckles to his work the oftener these
mischances seem to happen; and in the dust of his tumbles
and struggles, unless he is a very extraordinary boy, he may
often be too severe on his comrades, may think he sees evil
in things innocent, may give offence when he never meant it.
At this stage of his career, I take it, our Reviewer comes
across him, and, not looking below the surface (as a Reviewer
ought to do), at once sets the poor boy down for a prig and a
Pharisee, when in all likelihood he is one of the humblest and
truest and most childlike of the Reviewer's acquaintance.
But let our Reviewer come across him again in a year or
two, when the "thoughtful life" has become habitual to him,
and fits him as easily as his skin; and, if he be honest, I
think he will see cause to reconsider his judgment. For he
will find the boy, grown into a man, enjoying every-day life,
as no man can who has not found out whence comes the
capacity for enjoyment, and Who is the Giver of the least of
the good things of this world-humble, as no man can be who
has not proved his own powerlessness to do right in the
smallest act which he ever had to do-tolerant, as no man
can be who does not live daily and hourly in the knowledge
of how Perfect Love is for ever about his path, and bearing
with and upholding him.