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The central character of Tom Brown’s Schooldays is Rugby School; everyone and everything is contrived to show us how the school works, an unfamiliar place to which the book’s huge working-class audience had no access. Similarly, Two Years before the Mast is the account of a Harvard student, who, diagnosed with an eye condition, takes time off from his studies to work as a commion seaman, participating in a closed fraternity which was as inaccessible to New England's literary circles as Rugby was to Welsh miners. — Mark Bernstein

Last modified 13 July 2006