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Tom Brown's Schooldays

3.27 of 5 stars 3.27  ·  rating details  ·  1,148 ratings  ·  78 reviews
A classic of Victorian literature, and one of the earliest books written specifically for boys, Tom Brown's Schooldays has long had an influence well beyond the middle-class, public school world that it describes. An active social reformer, Hughes wrote with a freshness, a lack of cant, and a kind, relaxed tolerance which keeps this novel refreshingly distinct from other s...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published by Puffin Classics (first published 1857)
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George
Jun 10, 2008 George rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Christian Soldiiers, and Defenders of the True Faith. Knights of the Bath
A must read for any of the legions of Flashman fanatics (like myself) if only for a better understanding of what George MacDonald Fraser was satirizing in his famous, and infamous Flashman, series. Of course, this was aimed at Victorian boys to inspire them to be better Victorian gentlemen and not to jaded, cynical world weary reprobates like myself. So, perhaps I'm not the most appropriate reviewer of this book. No doubt, Tom Brown, Arnold and the author himself would arm wrestle each other to...more
Jim
This is the story of a boy, Tom Brown, and his years at Rugby school during the tenure of Thomas Arnold as headmaster, in the early Victorian era.

Unless you're a hopeless anglophile, you might prefer watching one of the dramatisations of this story. (The made-for-television film with Stephen Fry as Doctor Arnold is especially good.) The films tend to have more plot than the book, which is more a series of chronological anecdotes set amidst statements of philosophy than it is a novel. The philoso...more
Surreysmum
[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...more
Christine
Aug 07, 2012 Christine rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Victorian or children's literature lovers
Shelves: for-classes
I made a lot of connections between this 1857 English novel and Robert Cormier's 1977 novel The Chocolate War. I wrote a 20 page paper comparing the two and how they portray Catholic schools negatively, and are really novels for adults, rather than children.
Bev Hankins
Tom Brown’s Schooldays by Thomas Hughes is one of the first (if not the first) books about boys and adventures in public school life. First published in 1857, Hughes was looking to write a novel for boys that would tell about the public school life “in a right spirit but distinctly aimed at being interesting.” In it, he introduces us to Tom Brown—first describing his home village and his life there and then following Tom through his years at Rugby under Dr. Arnold. We are given Tom’s experiences...more
Dave/Maggie Bean
I hate to admit it, but my introduction to young Master Brown was via George MacDonald Fraser’s Flashman series. Fraser’s anti-hero was based on Hughes’ school bully, Harry Flashman. I hate to admit it even more, but Fraser’s Flashman is such a likeable villain; I actually put off reading Hughes’ novel because of said character’s loathing for Brown.

Having since read it, I can honestly say that I find Brown even more likeable than his nemesis, as he was hardly the “goody two shoes” Fraser’s versi...more
Paul Foley
The point of education is not to learn stuff, but to build character... according to this 19th century classic of a boy's life at an English public (that is, private) school. Character is of course built playing sports, like Rugby football, a sport which in this book resembles a kind of riot with rules, where small boys are pitted against large boys and little or no thought is given to the dangers of concussion, broken limbs, or death. It's a rough and tumble environment, great fun until someone...more
Edward Butler
(For the full picture, see my review of Alec Waugh's The Loom of Youth.) The shortcomings of Hughes as a novelist are largely compensated by his historical value as a sort of Victorian cosmogonist. He fashions an indelible image of school as a crucible for character formation, but character for Hughes is in no sense a private matter, but thoroughly religious and political. Hence it would be a mistake to treat this text as a Bildungsroman; it answers to completely different purposes. Hughes is qu...more
Rik
I nearly didn't read this as I found the opening chapter about the Browns rather boring, however being advised to skip this was good counsel. The rest of the book was an enjoyable insight into public school, and from what I have heard from friends, not too much has changed. Sometimes the exact meaning of some passages was lost on me, however this did not detract from the enjoyment as I like to have to get the dictionary out (it means learning a new word!). I loved the frank and open assumption t...more
Justin
I very very rarely put a book down without finishing it. I love Victorian novels, but I could not get into this one. I read about 150 pages and then called it quits. It was too preachy for me. It went into too much detail about how to play various rough games and sports, none of which I am the least bit interested in. I suppose it is a good snapshot of public school life, but there are many other, and better, novels that are capable of accomplishing the same. I did, however, enjoy Hughes' conver...more
Charles Faulkner
I have to admit from the word Go, that trying to get me to sit down and read anything longer than a regular novel is harder than Arnold Schwarzenegger.

With this book, that most certainly was not a problem.

Thomas Hughes' work brings the very real world of Rugby School onto paper and in such detail that you would believe his work true, were you not to know otherwise. Brown's school life would be hell upon itself, were it not for a newly found chum, Harry East - known affectionately as "Scud". The...more
Rebecca
PRE-1920S BOOK CATEGORY
Naturally a book written so long ago is not anything like the style of young adult books written now. In some ways this made it more difficult to read, simply because the language and way of telling the story feel so old and, in some ways, obsolete. However, the basic story of "Tom Brown's Schooldays" is interesting and can be to any reader willing to put in the effort to read it.
Elizabeth
This is among the first (if not the first) novel written for and about English schoolboys. Though not a bad novel, its chief value is probably historical. You can see the ideology of the English public school system (both at its best and through dark hints at its worst). Readers of later works (P. G. Wodehouse's cricketing stories come to mind) will certainly see the legacy of this book.
Sarah Tipper
This is the first book I’ve ever read about a boy’s school and I read it because I bought the first of George MacDonald Fraser’s Flashman books (and Flashman is a character in Tom Brown’s Schooldays). There is a scene of tossing (calm down, it’s really not what you think) in which the bully Flashman and his cronies put younger boys in blankets and chuck them ceilingwards. At Rugby School (where the book is set), there are a lot of bullies, and the author Thomas Hughes was trying to help stamp it...more
Andy Weston
Sep 18, 2007 Andy Weston rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: all
read many times and quoted. Especially the passage about being Cricket Captain, 'only the Doctors job is more important'. Quoted when I announced the cricket captain each year at Lytham in assembly. Used as A level PE info also for the football chapter.
Katie
I absolutely adore this book even though it chronicles the coming of age of a young boy in Britian. I feel its a book that every young man/boy should read that will give him a sense and understanding of loyalty, brotherhood, character, and fortitude.
Simon
Read because CLR James reckons this has as much to tell us about how English sport developed as any book. I can see the argument. I also enjoyed the book, despite it representing a set of values I don't over admire, far more than I expected to
Dave
“Tom Brown’s Schooldays” by Thomas Hughes (1822 – 1896) was originally published in 1857, and clearly inspired other school novels for many years to come. One can see the impact it had on Wodehouse’s school stories, as well as “Goodbye, Mr. Chips”, and others as well. Add to that, the use of the character Flashman (the school bully in the first part of the book) by George MacDonald Fraser for his series of stories, and you begin to see just how much influence this book has had over the years. Th...more
Ian
I've read all the Flashman novels so I was interested in going back to the original source. Also, having been to an English public school myself I was curious as to how things changed between the 1830s and the 1970s. I also have vague memories of a TV series from the 1970s, many of which appear to have been the product of the series' scriptwriters and not from the original source.

I found the book rather less enjoyable than I hoped, in part because Flashman himself is little more than a bit part....more
Eric Thomas
OLD TIME (PRE-1920) 'JUVENILE' FICTION

This is an incredibly slow story. While many claim it to be the "Grand Pappy" of all boarding school books, I had a hard time catching on. Make no mistake, this isn't any Harry Potter. It's definitely has young adults in mind as it was written to inspire men to bravery and gentlemanly behavior, attempting to get rid of bullying and other practices that would be contrary to those former principles. It's a bit didactic in that regard, which isn't a bad thing,...more
Lisa
One of the few thorns in my college literature classes! Tom Brown was part of the syllabus of our Victorian literature class not because of its literary value but as a portrait of the Victorian psychology. After all, it was schools like Rugby which shaped the great writers, thinkers, empire builders and political figures
of 19th century England, not the least among the literary figures being Matthew Arnold, the son of Rugby's headmaster Thomas Arnold. Thomas Arnold in Tom Brown figures as a guidi...more
William S.
I enjoyed this book. I read it for one reasons primarily, and that is that I so enjoy Fraser's Flashman series, that I wanted to read and discover where the bully got his start. And Flashman really is bad news! As a boys' school graduate myself, I enjoyed also taking a look at an early British school. It looks just ghastly, from the dismal food to the horrible bullying. As a resident of Maryland's Eastern Shore, I was taken aback to read the boys' singing about the British glorious campaign in t...more
Susie
I read this as a kid and, as a young girl, felt rather awkward reading it. I only realised partway through that it was specifically aimed at boys. When I took it back to the school library I was rather embarassed that I'd borrowed it.
Ellis L.
I must the the only person around who did not pick this up because of the Flashman series. Rather, I noticed it and the first thing that popped into my head was Tomkinson's Schooldays, from Ripping Yarns. So I was reading it for a lark. And because it was free on my Kindle.

To my surprise, I'm rather enjoying the book. I don't really need the insights into Victorian life or background for Flashman; in fact, I'm enjoying the writing itself. The tone is jovial and thoroughly modern (for the 19thc)....more
Frightful_elk
I love this book.
A great coming of age story. For me this book is about learning to stand up for what's right, no matter how hard that is. The fact that Tom eventually accomplishes this through his Spirituality makes this a really unusual children's book. All the more unusual for the fact that the spiritual development is discussed frankly and not explored through metaphor or symbolism.
Add to that a beautifully real portrait of mid nineteenth century public school, and very real and naughty boys...more
Adrianne
OLD-TIME (PRE-1920) 'JUVENILE' FICTION
This is the story of the coming of age of a young boy and his friends. We see the development of their social interaction, physical development, their boldness and the spirit that young boys contain. The novel maybe difficult for young adults to read today because the language does present a barrier. However it is a good novel in showing the development of young adolescent boys and the interactions they have with one another. I would recommend this to young...more
Amanda
I love boarding school books, but I could not STAND Hughes narrator. It was all over the place and distracting.
Danny
Please save me from Bad A-level reading.
combine the mind-numbing tediousness of Tom Brown and the general shiteness of harry Potter (yes I'm One of the very few people on the planet who doesn't like HP)and you've got yourself a rip-roaring A-level course.
after having to do so much work on the frankly outdated exploits of one young Tom Brown, it's hard to say i enjoyed the book itself.
Tom Brown is hugely unlikeable, as is his Ron Weasly wannabe friend East. the book is merely a series of school h...more
Katy
A laborious and tedious read. Elements are interesting but the language is heavy going and outdated.
Megan
Tom Brown is a practical, good-natured, likable boy. His school career is marked by stubborn bravery and mischief making until he is asked to take a new, sickly student under his wing. Tom and his best friend East defend Arthur from bullies and show him the ropes while he in turn teaches them deep lessons about integrity, faith, and death. The book is not exciting reading at first, but the depth and energy of the second half make up for the first. Although it is a young adult book the older styl...more
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Librarian note: There is more than one author by this name on Goodreads.

Thomas Hughes was an English lawyer and author. He is most famous for his novel Tom Brown's Schooldays (1857), a semi-autobiographical work set at Rugby School, which Hughes had attended. It had a lesser-known sequel, Tom Brown at Oxford (1861).
More about Thomas Hughes...
Tom Brown at Oxford Tom Brown's Schooldays & Tom Brown at Oxford David Livingstone Overlord: General Pete Quesada and the Triumph of Tactical A Tom Brown at Rugby

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“I want to leave behind me the name of a fellow who never bullied a little boy, or turned his back on a big one.” 9 likes
“Don't be in a hurry about finding your work in the world for yourself—you are not old enough to judge for yourself yet; but just look about you in the place you find yourself in, and try to make things a little better and honester there.” 6 likes
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