Tom Brown's Schooldays (Oxford World's Classics)

Tom Brown's Schooldays (Oxford World's Classics) - Thomas Hughes [These notes were made in 1984:]. Despite the preachiness and rather offensive Toryism, I rather enjoyed this - really the grand-daddy of school-stories. The shape is so familiar - from new boy through various troubles to responsible upper-school-man, the whole thing ending with a gala of some sort: in this case, a cricket match. Hughes does not attempt to hide the fact that Tom's hero-worship of Dr. Arnold is autobiographical in origin. But I doubt if there was any real-life counterpart of the saintly Arthur (unless, perhaps, he was a relative of Tennyson's A.H.H.?); and I doubt very much if Flashman the bully was drawn entirely from life. The whole picture seems so very pretty and naive, even with the fagging and the bullying, compared to the cynical view of the public schools we have come to accept. There is one curious passage about "miserable little pretty white-handed curly-headed boys, petted and pampered by some of the big fellows, who ... did all they could to spoil them for everything in this world and the next," which Hughes footnotes mysteriously "I can't strike out the passage: many boys will know why it is left in." As an Old Boy, one can only assume that Hughes was well aware of the sexual goings-on, but this is as close as he gets to mentioning them. Tom apparently exists in a sexless realm of brotherly love and hero-worship until he's 19 years old! Oh well, it's a kid's book, and that makes the preachiness a little less objectionable too, since kids have a high tolerance level for that sort of thing - they have no qualms about skipping! This book is the very embodiment of that Victorian English complacency I find half fascinating and entirely repulsive: how could one be so very sure that one's home, one's school, one's Church and one's God were the only possible ones for the best sort of man?