Jim's Reviews > Tom Brown's Schooldays

Tom Brown's Schooldays by Thomas Hughes
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's review
Jul 19, 09

really liked it
bookshelves: this-sceptred-isle, fiction
Read in July, 2009

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 philosophy in question was that championed by Doctor Arnold, which sought to root education in Christian ethics, to end the culture of bullying that held sway in most schools (as personified by the character Flashman), and to inculcate a sense of respect for all people, regardless of social standing.

If you're an anglophile, you'll probably like the what-ho, jolly good tone of the writing. There's a lot about cricket bats, rugby football, and toasted cheese in here.

If you're a fan of George MacDonald Fraser's Flashman series, this book might be of interest, as this is where Harry Paget Flashman makes his literary debut as a young bully, toady, liar, cheat, and all-round scoundrel.

From a historical standpoint, this book is a good illustration of the philosophy of "muscular Christianity," a brand of Anglo-Saxon Protestantism that combined the virtues of social ethics, clean living, and personal reliability with manliness as expressed in team sport and outdoor pursuits. It was an adaptation of Christianity to Victorian mores.

This book was also an early example of the public school novel, a popular youth genre which has had echoes in later works. As I read about Tom Brown's Rugby, I kept thinking it was a bit like Hogwarts, but without the magic.

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02/05 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-1 of 1) (1 new)

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message 1: by Thom (new)

Thom Dunn Sorry, this Ugly American just keeps wishing Tom would find himself an assault rifle and go blasting. Hey ! There's an idea for some kinda alternate history, what-if book. I'll work on it and work off my vengeance fantasies. (Not to worry, I'm 69 and need a cane to get around).


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