[More than any other writer on the subject I've encountered, Christopher Stone conveys why for him and so many others their years at Eton proved the happiest time of their lives. His reminiscences published in 1909 describe a period in the school's history after reforms had removed some of the horrific deprivations and bullying of the Long Chamber but before a great deal of work was expected of the boys. It's obvious from the following psassage — as throughout the rest of the book — that academic achievement held little importance for him. Above all, Eton is an earthly paradise where, for a student's last year or two, he lives in an idyllic pastoral world isolated from the world's troubles. Note how issues of family, economic pressures, and sexuality are absent from this world. GPL].
he glorious part of Eton life is its happiness. The routine is so well organised that when a boy is accustomed to the discipline of school work and house-fagging, he is freed gradually from the trammels of authority, till in the summit of his glory as President of Pop or Captain of his House, he is royal in his liberty as well as in his responsibility. The whole growth of his character is beautifully graduated; there is very little of the smug intellectuality of the conventional monitor or of the offensive worldliness of the inferior undergraduate. And happiness, pleasure, crowns all, and is "superinduced." Never can anyone be so splendidly, unconsciously happy as in his last year at Eton, with no sense "of ills to come, no care beyond to-day." It is fine to think that these boys are able to carry out into the world something of that glow of youth which was not dimmed by premature cares. "They belong, these boys," says Mr Parry, "to that great army which marches all its days, yet leaves no track by which its pilgrimage may afterwards be traced. They are but the rank and file of the world, who do the main share of the work of the world, who have aspirations or who have none, who spring to the call of duty, who lend a hand, who call a cheery word, who help the lame dogs that they chance upon, and who do these things all the better, we. like to believe, because of the spirit of Eton." ["Oppidans," 123]
- The Captain of the Boats and Undergraduate Prestige at Eton
- Bully Football and the Wall Game
- "A minimum was required" — The Easy-going approach to education at Mid-Victorian Eton
Stone, Christopher. Eton. London: A. C. Black, 1909.
Last modified 30 July 2006