he general of view of Dr. Arnold's life at Rugby must not be closed, without touching, however briefly and imperfectly, on that aspect of it, which naturally gave the truest view of his mind and character, whilst to those at a distance it was comparatively but little known.
Perhaps the scene which, to those who knew him best, would bring together the recollections of his public and private life in the most lively way, was his study at Rugby. There he sat at his work, with no attempt at seclusion, conversation going on around him — his children playing in the room — his frequent guests, "whether friends or former pupils, coming in or out at will — ready at once to break off his occupations to answer a question, or to attend to the many interruptions to which lie was liable; and from these interruptions, or from his regular avocations, at the few odd hours or minutes which he could command, would lie there return and recommence his writing, as if it had not been broken off. "Instead of feeling my head exhausted," he would sometimes say after the day's business was over, "it seems to have quite an eagerness to set to work." "I feel as if I could dictate to twenty secretaries at once."
Yet, almost unfailing as was this "unhasting, unresting diligence," to use the expression of a keen, observer, who thus characterized his impression of one day's visit at Rugby, he would often wish for something more like leisure and repose. "We sometimes feel," he said, "as if we should like to run our heads into a hole — to be quiet for a little time from the stir of so many human beings which greets us from morning to evening." And it was from amidst this chaos of employments that he turned, with all the delight of which his nature was capable, to what he often dwelt upon as the rare, the unbroken, the almost awful happiness of his domestic life. It is impossible adequately to describe the union of the whole family round him, who was not only the father and guide, but the elder brother and playfellow of his children; the first feelings of enthusiastic love and watchful care, carried through twenty-two years of wedded life, — the gentleness and devotion which marked his whole feeling and manner in the privacy of his domestic intercourse. Those who had known him only in the school, can remember the kind of surprise with which they first witnessed his tenderness and playfulness. Those who had known him only in the bosom of his family, found it difficult to conceive how his pupils or the world at large should have formed to themselves so stern an image of one in himself so loving. Yet both were alike natural to him; the severity and the playfulness expressing each in their turn the earnestness with which he entered into the business of life, and the enjoyment with which he entered into its rest; whilst the common principle, which linked both together, made every closer approach to him in his private life a means for better understanding him in his public relations. [I, 234-35]
Stanley, Arthur Penrhyn. The life and correspondence of Thomas Arnold, D.D., late head-master of Rugby school, and regius professor of modern history in the University of Oxford. 4th ed. 2 vols. London: B. Fellowes, 1845.
Last modified 16 July 2006