[In the following passage from the author's reminiscences of Eton, Stone admits Eton produces a minority of graduates who give the scchool a bad name, but he insists that most of the boys develop strong, trustworthy characters. GPL].

Experienced critics, at the universities and elsewhere, complain that the Etonian, with his delightful and leisurely manners, his urbane ignorance and his quiet assumption of superiority wherever he goes, is something between a conceited puppy and a vapid antelope; he lacks backbone and moral grit, any real grounding in knowledge, any consciousness of his own shortcomings. But we like to think that this criticism is prejudiced; it is superficial and grudging. The flaunting, worthless Etonian is more easily noticeable than the best type; and the impartial observer will be forced to admit that if the Etonian standard is very high, it is nevertheless passed by a large proportion of candidates; and the certificate won by a good school career is the most valuable passport which a boy can take when he sets out on his travels. It is a passport of friendship and trust; and wherever the hero finds himself, in office, mess, pavilion, or smoking-room, he carries with him the talisman which brings him friends and makes strangers trust him, by a sort of magic which is no magic at all, but the stamp of manhood impressed upon his character out of school. This may seem to be a disparagement of work. But it is quite the opposite, seeing that most of the work at Eton is done out of school. This part of the system leaves it to boys to decide when they will find time for the preparation of lessons, "extra works," problem papers, and so on; and it is hardly necessary to remark how deeply this responsibility for getting work done influences a boy's mind. It is no transparent fiction; a lazy boy can really escape a great deal of work, if he likes; and the absence of direct coercion, as in hours of "prep.," must help to form character, as well as the casual intercourse and the stringent conventions which exercise the youthful mind out of school. ["Out of School," 104-5]

Related Material


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

Last modified 30 July 2006