Boys’ ideas of right and wrong

223. Tom Brown’s School Days by Thomas Hughes

I actually began reading this a few weeks ago, but didn’t get into it, and then found this very good reading of it among Librivox’ newly catalogued works. I’m guessing the lone reader may have had a bit of a public school education himself – he certainly seemed very comfortable reading the quotations in Greek and Latin.

Once the story gets going it’s a very good one, describing Tom Brown’s time at Rugby and his growth there, in company with his friends Arthur and East, and under the supervision of The Doctor. I read Hughes’ preface to the 6th edition as describing it mostly as a polemic against bullying, and while that is an important issue I think there is rather more going on. Hughes is very open about recommending a whole moral code to his intended readership of (public) school boys of his time, from a particular Victorian view of Englishness, boyhood and Christianity. I wouldn’t espouse it all myself, by any means, but I can see that he ties it together, and justifies whatever he sees as being at all non-mainstream. He is very strongly against bullying, in all its forms, and sees it as a trait to be stopped early (often through corporal punishment) or never.

The volume I have also includes Tom Brown at Oxford, which I’m looking forward to reading, now that I’ve got interested in the characters and how they are progressing. Will Tom’s moral compass hold true as he is exposed to new ideas? Indeed, how much will he be?

Over in Niccolo Rising, chapter 5, Claes, Felix and their friends are also showing their ability to cause large amounts of mischief without malice (we hope).


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6 Responses to “Boys’ ideas of right and wrong”

  1. bob miles Says:

    First of all the name is Tom Brown’s Schooldays (THREE words not four)

    There was never a book about Tom Brown at Oxford.

    The book was written for ALL classes of boys, not just for the Public School boys
    And if you couldn’t “get intio it” then you must be a dumbell! I could “get into it” at the age of ten!

  2. kaet Says:

    Mr Miles,

    I am sorry you felt the need to be rude to me, but I will respond to your comments.

    Yes, my printed volume of the book is entitled Tom Brown’s Schooldays & Tom Brown at Oxford, with ‘schooldays’ as one word, but the Librivox version I was actually reviewing gives it as two words.

    As I said at the time, that printed copy (Wordsworth Classics, 2007, ISBN 9781853261084) includes the sequel, published by Thomas Hughes in 1861, which I am currently enjoying reading. I do not see why you feel the need to attack me just because you haven’t come across it before.

    You may be right that other classes of boys were interested by the book, but Hughes does seem to address mostly those from public schools in his asides. You are welcome to hold a different opinion.

    I object strongly to being insulted because I come to books at a different time and place from anyone else. Perhaps I would have been more enthralled by it at age ten, and perhaps I wouldn’t. Perhaps I would 6 months ago, and not now. I do not see how this is any kind of reflection on either of our levels of intelligence.

  3. AlexM Says:

    I found your site on technorati and read a few of your other posts. Keep up the good work. I just added your RSS feed to my Google News Reader. Looking forward to reading more from you down the road!

  4. kaet Says:

    Thanks Alex.

  5. Chris Says:


    I was just doing a vanity search, as one does 🙂 and found your review of Tom Brown’s School Days. (Your rather rude correspondent is right, I’m afraid, about the title. I mis-transcribed it from Gutenberg.) I’d like to thank you for your kind words about my reading. It is a real boost when one’s work is appreciated.

    I chose to read the book because I remembered the children’s TV series from the 1970s. I particularly remembered the bullying, especially the roasting scene. To be honest, I wasn’t so taken with the religious aspects of the novel as I was reading it, but overall I’m glad I had a go.

    I recently saw that Gutenberg has Tom Brown at Oxford, and I’m thinking of reading that for LibriVox too. There are a number of readers who have read series, and I like to follow the series with a single voice.

    By the way, I didn’t go to a public school, although I did study Latin at school. My wife, on the other hand, went to a very minor public school, and coached me in the Greek pronunciation.

  6. kaet Says:

    Chris, thank you for the reading! Please let me know if you do record Tom Brown at Oxford as well. I’m enjoying reading it myself, but keep getting distracted into other things. And well done to both you and your coach on the quotes.

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