[In the following passage from the author's Eton in the Forties by an Old Colleger (1898), which comes near the end of the book, Coleridge praises kind headmaster of this often brutal school, who liked to tell students about their work, "'Very well; very good exercise.' . . . with a gracious emphasis which never lost its charm." Coleridge contrasts him to the previous headmaster, Keate, whose "mission was to keep down mannishness and swagger" (369). GPL].

decorated initial 'H'awtrey delighted to give boys the sweet pride of authorship. Men have almost grown old who still feel thankful that they once lived with a man who, though quite at home in the most brilliant circles, did, as truly as Lacordaire, "love young" people." When he was at the height of prosperity, he said publicly: "Living here, I cannot feel the sadness of growing old, for this place supplies me with an unfailing succession of young friends." Other men have been more kind, more charitable, more tender: but he had a poetical enthusiasm which burnt through vanities and feeblenesses, and fell in light and warmth on shy boys, on proud and ungainly lads, on homely and ordinary teachers, not less than on brilliant and noble students.

A school cannot be managed by sympathy with boys alone. It must be shown how Dr. Hawtrey's singular generosity told on the government of Eton. He was better supplied with assistants than Keate had been, though his field of choice was strictly limited to King's College. But when he had selected a man, there were two ways of dealing with him. One was the way of repression, the other was that of encouragement. Hawtrey adopted the latter. To a very young man he was as respectful as to a man of mature age, bearing with those crudities and eccentricities by which young men often estrange themselves from their superiors. Therefore his colleagues worked for him, though not in his own groove, as the Marquis Wellesley's young men had worked for him at Calcutta — nay, there were some among them who were to him what young warriors had been to King David and to Admiral Nelson.

Dr Hawtrey

Dr. Hawtrey by Herbert Herries. [Click on thumbnail for larger image.]

Besides this universal generosity, bearing on all varieties of character, Dr. Hawtrey displayed a special liberality — in dealing with that which of all things most shapes the character — religion. He was not a theologian, though he could deliver short sermons that were at once orthodox and eloquent. He could no more fathom the controversies of the age in which men were swayed by Newman or by Arnold, than he could take the measure of the new philosophies growing up by the side of the new [367/368] theologies. Had he been suspicious, narrowminded, or cold-hearted, he would certainly have quarrelled with three or four of the best of his assistants in the first ten years of his government. As it was, he became the faithful friend and moderate supporter of several AngloCatholic colleagues. Had he set his authority against them, had he even let them be thwarted, more than they were thwarted, by the alarmed Protestantism of Eton College, he would have lost the services of men who could not be replaced. But it must be understood that nothing could be further from his mind than a cool calculation of such results. He obeyed his good heart. He knew by a heavenly instinct when he had a truly good man at his side; he was sagacious enough to perceive that certain tastes might lead to Rome, but he was not to be scared by such a danger. He stuck to his friend, he backed up his colleague, because he knew and cherished goodness.

Such was the man; not an accurate scholar, though versed in many tongues; not thoroughly well informed, though he had spent �30,000 on books; not able to estimate correctly the intellectual development of younger men, though he corresponded with the leaders of England and France; not qualified to train schoolboys in competition with a Vaughan or a Kennedy, possessing the advanced "knowledge of a later generation, for he had never been a University man, only a Kingsman; not one that, could be said to organize well, for from first to last he dealt in make-shift and patchwork; yet for all that a hero among schoolmasters, for he was beyond his fellows candid, fearless, and bountiful: passionate in his indignation against cruelty, ardent in admiring all virtue and all show of genius; so forgiving, that for fifty years he seized every chance of doing kindness to a man who had tormented him at school; and so ingenuous, that when he had misunderstood a boy's character, and then found himself wrong, he suddenly grasped his hand, and owned his error magnanimously. Many men have laughed at his rhetoric, and made themselves a reputation for wit by telling stories of his behaviour. Such men have probably never read the second part of Don Quixote. The knight was, after all a true gentleman of fine mind, and his death was pathetic. Our headmaster was worthy of a high-souled poetical nation in its best age. [369/70]

Another Old Etonian on Dr. Hawtrey

Keate's successor, Hawtrey, almost beat him on his own ground. As an eccentric, a caricature of usherdom, a butt for anecdotes, Hawtrey is a serious rival. But as to character and method he is in contrast to the Baffin. "Keate was Eton, and Eton was Keate;" with all his narrowness and his inability to think of anything but discipline, Keate commanded Eton as insistently as the chimney-stack of Hodgson House does to-day, whereas Hawtrey was cramped by his duties as Head Master, and only really blossomed out when he became provost: his cosmopolitanism, his elegance of demeanour and costume, his passion for the delicacies of literature, and his delight in the courtesies and dignities of his position, only had full scope when he had moved across from Dr Lloyd's house to the Lodge. By his sweetness of heart and unobtrusive generosity and leniency, no less than by his ugliness, and his lisp, and his dandified appearance, he has won a most secure place in the affections of all Etonians. [Stone. p. 80]


Coleridge, Arthur Duke. Eton in the Forties by an Old Colleger. 2nd ed., rev. London: Richard Bentley, 1898.

Stone, Christopher. Eton. London: A. C. Black, 1909.

Last modified 30 July 2006