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Thomas Arnold
by [?]

When the child was only six years old, the father died from “spasm of the heart.” At this time the boy had begun to take Latin, and his education was being looked after by a worthy governess, who daily drilled his mental processes and took him walking, leading him by the hand. On Sundays he wore a wide, white collar, shiny boots and a stiff hat. The governess cautioned him not to soil his collar, nor to get mud on his boots.

In later years he told how he looked covetously at the boys who wore neither hats nor boots, and who did not have a governess.

His mother had a fair income, and so this prim, precise, exact and crystallized mode of education was continued. Out of her great love for her child, the mother sent him away from home when he was eight years old. Of course there were tears on both sides; but now a male man must educate him, and women were to be dropped out of the equation–this that the evil in the child should be curbed, his spirit chastened, and his mind disciplined.

The fact that a child rather liked to be fondled by his mother, or that his mother cared to fondle him, was proof of total depravity on the part of both.

The Reverend Doctor Griffiths, who took charge of the boy for two years, was certainly not cruel, but at the same time he was not exactly human. In Nature we never hear of a she-lion sending her cubs away to be looked after by a denatured lion. It is really doubtful whether you could ever raise a lion to lionhood by this method. Some goat would come along and butt the life out of him, even after he had evolved whiskers and a mane.

After two years with Doctor Griffiths, young Arnold was sent to Manchester, where he remained in a boys’ boarding-house from his tenth to his fourteenth year. To the teachers here–all men–he often paid tribute, but uttered a few heretical doubts as to whether discipline as a substitute for mother-love was not an error of pious but overzealous educators.

At sixteen years of age he was transferred to Corpus Christi College at Oxford. In Eighteen Hundred Fifteen, being then twenty years of age, he was elected a Fellow of Oriel College, and there he resided until he was twenty-four.

He was a prizeman in Latin, Greek and English, and was considered a star scholar–both by himself and by others. Ten years afterwards he took a backward glance, and said: “At twenty-two I was proud, precise, stiff, formal, uncomfortable, unhappy, and unintentionally made everybody else unhappy with whom I came in contact. The only people I really mixed with were those whose lives were dedicated to the ablative.”

When twenty-four he was made a deacon and used to read prayers at neighboring chapels, for which service he was paid five shillings. Being now thrown on his own resources, he did the thing a prizeman always does: he showed others how. As a tutor he was a success: more scholars came to him than he could really take care of. But he did not like the work, since all the pupil desired, and all the parents desired, was that he should help the backward one get his marks, and glide through the eye of a needle into pedagogic paradise.

At twenty-six he was preaching, teaching and writing learned essays about things he did not understand.

From this brief sketch it will be seen that the early education of Thomas Arnold was of the kind and type that any fond parent of the well-to-do Middle Class would most desire. He had been shielded from all temptations of the world; he could do no useful thing with his hands; his knowledge of economics–ways and means–was that of a child; of the living present he knew little, but of the dead past he assumed and believed he knew much.