Schoolboy honour

Schoolboy honour - Henry Cadwallader Adams I read this in the 1862 Routledge, Warne and Routledge edition ("a new edition, with illustrations"). It occurred on the library shelves in accidental juxtaposition with another schoolboy story, "Edgar Clifton", by a different Adams (Charlotte), and no two stories could be less alike. Whereas Charlotte's tale involved a small group of boys under a single tutor, exploring the rather higher points of moral reasoning, this one is set in the hurly-burly of a barely-disguised Winchester public school, and insofar as schoolboy stories are ever realistic, I suspect this one was pretty much so, even given its didactic purpose (which is clear).

The principal relationship in the story is between two contemporaries, Cole and Austin, and they share with their housemates passions for sports (particularly rowing), ordinary schoolboy temptations (cribbing, telling lies to the master), and several adventures in the neighbourhood - on the river, on private gaming property, and in pubs - that don't seem outside the realms of possibility. The account of the conduct of the school (the progression through the various forms, the authority of the elder boys, etc.) also seem authentic enough to a reader of the occasional boy's tale.

The story is well shaped, coming to a fitting climax during and just after a big rowing event (lovingly described); Austin ends up taking a beating from a harsh senior rather than incriminate his friend Cole in a poaching incident or tell an outright lie to save himself.

Austin himself, once he is established as the moral centre of the novel, becomes less interesting, but the depictions of the "lesser" boys - the louts and the gambling-prone, and the truly vicious (though the vices are barely hinted at; it sounds as if it's drink and women, though) - those interested me because probably closest to being drawn from life.

And, of course, with any public school novel, we have to make the obligatory note - yes, fagging is referred to, but not in any extensive way, and with no suggestion of impropriety. Adams wasn't going there at all.