Page images

Some memorial remains of the quadruple alliance of the four friends, West, Ashton, Horace Walpole, and Gray; enough to show us that schoolboys could be happy a hundred and fifty years ago, that genius was not always persecuted, that letters. were honoured. Eton has always been loyal to the memory of Gray, whose genius seems more akin to that of the school than. that of the wayward Shelley. Gray is held in the highest honour at Eton. His bust is in the Upper School, his portrait hangs in the Lodge, and specimens of his handwriting are preserved in the Boys' Library; and the • leaving book' given by the Head Master to the boys leaving the school is a copy of his works. Shelley is still perhaps best remembered at Eton. as 'mad Shelley,' and there would seem to be a vague idea that he left the school early. It is said that Shelley himself imagined he had been sent away from Eton. The neglect of his memory there is as complete as if it had this justification. in fact. He stayed at school long enough to outlive the 'Shelleybaits' (p. 32), and become Sixth Form, in which capacity he spoke a passage from the Catilinarian orations in the Upper School: we may fancy that his sympathies were rather with the rebel than with the Consul. People were living only a few years ago, who recollected him as a very gentlemanlike young man,' who could be kind' to younger boys, i.e. ask them to breakfast.

Shelley had a friendly remembrance of Eton. He mentions his rural joys ‘in summer after six, like any

other Eton boy. He did not think bitterly of Eton, unless some lines in the dedication to the Revolt of Islam’ are to be construed so. It is true that he cared to know nothing that his tyrants. taught or knew,' and that it was the harsh and grating strife of tyrants and their foes' from the near schoolroom,' which roused his first revolt against tyranny. Yet we would gladly believe that, even for Shelley, some of the gentle influences of Eton brought comfort, and that, if the schools were hateful to him, the fresh May dawn, and the 'glittering grass' of the Playing Fields, which witnessed his first dedication to the spirits of liberty and beauty, were bound up in his sacred memories, as was to Henry More that same tranquil scene, in which he commended himself to the Christian life.

Shelley once compared his critics to men who should go to a gin-shop for a leg of mutton ;' and it may be feared that Etontradition can see little in Shelley beyond the gin-shop. At any rate there is nothing at Eton to commemorate the fact that one of the greatest of English poets was educated there, thoughthere is room in the Upper School for his bust, and in the gallery of the Cloisters for his portrait.


We have no space to enter into the details of the history of Eton during the latter part of the eighteenth century, and record how like and how unlike the Eton of a hundred years ago. was to the Eton of to-day. How George III. honoured the school by his patronage, and charmed old and young by his. simple wit; how there were rebellions under the worthy and learned but unfortunate Dr. Foster (can it be he who whipped his scholars now and then ?') and Dr. Davies, who taught Wellesley, Lord Grey, and Porson, whose name lives in the school record as the founder of valuable scholarships and prizes ; how Canning and his friends of the Microcosm distinguished themselves at Speeches; how the Oppidans went to Hounslow: Heath to see Westminster beat Eton at cricket; how they hunted and rode, and drove tandems, shirked absences when they liked, poached and even coursed hares in Windsor Park, gambled, got up theatricals, and read the ancient and modern classics under the lenient but not unsuccessful rule of Dr. Goodall, the incarnation of Eton,' whose principle, whether he invented the saying or not, appears to have been it always was so,' and to whose easy-going neglect we may fairly believe that some of his successor's difficulties were due. That successor was Keate.

What manner of man was Keate ? He belongs to ancient history as much as Mr. Pitt or Dr. Johnson, and yet it is not sixty years ago since he changed his fancy dress' as Head Master for the humdrum costume of a Canon of Windsor, and there are many old Etonians living to whose senses of sight, sound, and, we may add, touch, the word Keate has a perfectly vivid and individual meaning.* We try to call him Dr. Keate, but we cannot frame our lips to pronounce it. "Dr. Arnold and • Dr. Hawtrey' sound natural enough, but · Doctor' is an unnecessary addition to the simple formula Keate.' best known to our age by Mr. Kinglake's description of him in • Eothen,'-a

La description, however, which those who knew him best have never accepted, except as a vigorous and overdrawn caricature. How are we to reconcile with itself this combination of man of the world and barbarian, of Valentine and Orson, of kind-hearted gentleman and scolding tyrant? How understand this lord of misrule abroad and kindly father of a family at home?

One of his colleagues used to speak of himself as having

* The cocked bat, by the way, which Keate was the last Head Master to wear, and from which Hawtrey had a special dispensation from William IV., was the Court hat, wore ceremonially by the Head Master, who was supposed to be always on duty and always in full dress. Dr. Hawtrey and Dr. Balston never dined out at Eton except in gown, cassock, and bands.



lived forty years in buckram, and some partial solution of the riddle may perhaps be found in the fact that the days in which Keate lived were the last great days of make-believe. It has even been said that Keate expected boys to tell lies to him, as a tribute of respect to his position. We do not believe it, as a personal reflection on Keate—but does the Queen expect the truth to be told her when she issues a congé d'élire ? As the Fellows of Eton again and again met in the College Chapel to elect“ without fear or favour of persons' the King's nominee, so Keate in his armour of buckram accepted without demur excuses based on the supposed condition of things, and might have been put out if a too veracious boy insisted on raising the veil of truth. Such make-believe will never cease in the world; but it has perhaps never been exalted into a rule of life as it was at Eton fifty years ago. The whole system of public school discipline was one of winking at real or fictitious offences. Everything was forbidden, and everything permitted. Drinking at the Christopher' was as much and as little unlawful as bathing and boating. The Masters knew neither of one nor the other. Goodall and Keate ignored the 4th of June, though the King went to see the boats go up, and William IV. even invited Keate to accompany him. • He did not know that there was such a thing,' is the answer which he is reported to have made to the Royal command. Provost Goodall used to say, I wonder why Mrs. Goodall always dines early on the 4th of June, and orders her carriage at six. Boys were expected to shirk' Masters and Sixth Form twenty times a day. They were punished for being found out, not for doing wrong. Rules were unreasonably strict, and it was understood on both sides that they were made to be broken. If you were not found out, all was well; if you were found out, you suffered for not observing the rules of the game.

All offences were indifferently punished by flogging. If other Head Masters did not say • I'll flog you' as often as Keate, their practice was not very different to his. Gabell of Winchester flogged boys daily; so did Butler of Shrewsbury and Butler of Harrow. The urbane Longley flogged fifty boys one morning for going to see a steeplechase. It was the recognized method of dealing with boyish offences; and was upheld by public opinion much in the same way as fighting was considered, a generation ago, the natural way for boys to settle their differences.

We are not defending the system which Keate carried out with extravagant vigour;' but it is only fair to Keate's memory to point out that he was more conspicuous than other schoolmasters, chiefly because he never disguised his method of


government; as the author of • Etoniana' says, he was always parading his battalions. He was a humane man, and could not have liked it; but he probably thought no other method of government was possible. It ought also to be remembered that it was a period of mutinies and riots, a period when flogging was the rule in the Army and Navy, when rough discipline more than once saved the country from serious explosions of discontent, and when vigorous government was everywhere in the ascendant.

We do not think Keate a successful disciplinarian. The story of the stone thrown at him in school shows that he could be merciful as well as severe ; but the offence should have been impossible. He lived in the midst of turmoil; and whatever teaching he did was done under difficulties hardly to be conceived now-a-days. He kept the school together without any conspicuous failure; and if he flogged the whole school often in detail, and once wholesale, he was never unpopular. Boys saw through the buckram. They cheered him the very morning after they had all been flogged; they delighted to remember their schooldays as presided over by him, and no Head Master has had warmer friends among the boys over whom he reigned than Keate. A hundred kind actions are recorded of him; and those who knew him best knew of many more acts of generosity done in secret. The Eton boys in Wellington's army crowded to welcome him when he visited Waterloo in 1815. Guardsmen would cross Pall Mall to shake hands with him. He was beloved by curates, neighbours, and parishioners, in his retirement at Hartley Wespall. He delighted to have young people about him, and to help them in their studies and amusements; and it may be said that his true character was only known when he ceased to act a part. But we are bound to say that the system which he carried out was a bad one, even for the times; and that it is neither to his credit, nor to that of Provost Goodall, that no effort was made to alter it during the tenure of his Mastership.

Of Keate's teaching, when and where he could be heard as in play,' away from the hubbub of the Upper School, we have the following testimony :

• The Sixth Form had special lectures on Greek plays, and it is well ascertained that in his quiet class-room Keate used to give out his vast knowledge, seasoned with perfect taste and free from all pedantry, to a respectful party of eighteen lads, who were too much behind the scenes to be afraid of him. It may fairly be doubted whether there was any man who was doing better work than this in any English school, except Butler of Shrewsbury. Few are the traditions of Keate’s critical tenets; and when asked after his retire


ment to let others have the benefit of his written notes on the books he had expounded, he shrank from the suggestion with unique bashfulness; but it was honestly believed by his best pupils and assistants that they owed almost everything to his soundness of mind and vigorous accuracy, and it was well known that if an exercise came into school badly altered, he pointed out the mistakes in “ Chambers” to the terror of negligent tutors. He may at least be said to have been the main, if not the sole, support of scholarships no less than of discipline, to have done all he could to make up for the deficiencies of his staff, and to have left a very strong mental impression on several lads who at Oxford, at Cambridge, and at St. Stephen’s, proved themselves to be first-rate men.'

His successor, Dr. Hawtrey, was, as all the world knows, a very different man. Keate was downright, surly, and peremptory. Hawtrey was sententious, polite, and ceremonious. "Keate was a martinet; Hawtrey was a pedant.

Keate concealed his merits ; Hawtrey aired them in the public view. Keate was careless of personal appearance; Hawtrey was something of a dandy. Keate was a sound classical scholar: Hawtrey, who knew far more of literature, ancient and modern, who wrote fluently and elegantly in French, Italian, and German, who lived with the men of letters of his time both in England and in France, was shaky in points of grammar; and his teaching was rather rhetorical than logical, had a tinge of absurdity in it, and did not always let the man of letters be seen through that mannerism, rather than affectation, which caused him to be misunderstood and taken for a fop instead of a scholar, and for a sentimentalist instead of a reformer far more practical than his critics. He stimulated scholars, but did not touch louts and dunces. But if not a great teacher, Hawtrey was a man of ideas; he reformed the school course ; he put an end to the Middle Ages at Eton and introduced the modern system ; though to the end of his time, and for twenty years more, Eton education was almost exclusively literary. He did away with Montem, and with the cordial help of Provost Hodgson abolished Long Chamber. * By God's help I will do something for those poor boys,' said the Provost; and the Collegers were put into a decent dwelling, and humanely treated. Yet so hard was it even for Hawtrey to put off the sham severity which was thought to be part of the character of a Head Master, that when the Sixth Form asked him to have water laid on in College, it is said that the only answer returned was, 'You will be asking next for tapestries and ices.'

Hawtrey's courage in dealing with the school on principles of common sense had its reward in the gradual disappearance of


« PreviousContinue »