A sketch of Matthew Arnold’s life must begin with a reminder of the life and work of his father. Thomas Arnold (1795–1842) would hold a prominent place among the minor Victorians even if he had not been the father of a major one. He was the son of a Collector of Customs for the Isle of Wight. After achieving distinction at Oxford he decided against holy orders and during 1819–24 was his brother-in-law’s partner in a school at Laleham, on the Thames near Staines; later he took in private pupils. In 1820 he had married Mary Penrose, the sister of an Oxford friend. His appointment as Headmaster of Rugby (1828) inaugurated a career that was to bring national repute to the school and to himself. Through his personality and his program Arnold did a great deal to rouse English public schools out of moral, religious, and intellectual lethargy, brutality, and what Sydney Smith in 1810 had called “a system of premature debauchery.” His aims and methods drew some criticism, then and since, mainly because of his imposing premature moral responsibility upon his boys, in particular those seniors who were given a share of disciplinary power; but the many-sided revolution he brought about was almost wholly good and it was widely emulated.
KeywordsPrivate Tutor Disciplinary Power National Repute Summer Neighbor American Tour
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