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miscalling those in authority over us. He was a good master, inasmuch as he kept order in the school, and carried on the work of teaching about eighty boys by four masters, all in one room, with great regularity and with no marked inconvenience. Whatever might be the noise and games going on when he was absent, the moment his step was heard in the porch silence and order at once reigned.
Flogging with a cane was not uncommon for more serious offences, while for slighter ones he would box the ears pretty severely. If a boy did not obey his orders instantly, or repeated his offence soon afterwards, however trifling it might be, such as speaking to another boy or pinching him surreptitiously, he often, without another word, came down from his desk and gave the offender a resounding box on the ear. On one occasion I well remember his coming down to a rather small boy, giving him a slap on one side of his head which knocked him down flat on the seat, and when he slowly rose up, giving him another, which knocked him down on the other side. Caning was performed in the usual old-fashioned way by laying the boy across the desk, his hands being held on one side and his feet on the other, while the master, pulling the boy's trousers tight with one hand, laid on the cane with great vigour with the other. Mr. Crutwell always caned the boys himself, but the other masters administered minor punishments, such as slight ear-boxes, slapping the palm with a flat ruler, or rapping the knuckles with a round one. These punishments were usually deserved, though not always. A stupid boy, or one who had a bad verbal memory, was often punished for what was called invincible idleness when it was really congenital incapacity to learn what he took no interest in, or what often had no meaning for him. When the usual extra tasks or impositions failed with such a boy he was flogged, but I cannot remember whether in such cases his conduct was improved or whether he was given up as "a thoroughly lazy, bad boy, who was a disgrace to the school,” and thereafter left to go his own way. Such boys were often very good playfellows, and the magisterial denunciations had little effect upon us.
Mr. Crutwell was, I suppose, a fairly good classical scholar, as he took the higher classes in Latin and Greek. I left school too young even to begin Greek, but the last year or two I was in the Latin class which was going through Virgil's Æneid ” with him. The system was very bad. The eight or ten boys in the class had an hour to prepare the translation, and they all sat together in a group opposite each other and close to Mr. Crutwell's desk, but under pretence of work there were always two or three of the boys who were full of talk and gossip and school stories, which kept us all employed and amused till within about a quarter of an hour of the time for being called up, when some one would remark, “I say, let's do our translation ; I don't know a word of it.” Then the cleverest boy, or one who had already been through the book, would begin to translate, two or three others would have their dictionaries ready when he did not know the meaning of a word, and so we blundered through our forty or fifty lines. When we were called up, it was all a matter of chance whether we got through well or otherwise. If the master was in a good humour and the part we had to translate was specially interesting, he would help us on wherever we hesitated or blundered, and when we had got through the lesson, he would make a few remarks on the subject, and say, “ Now I will read you the whole incident.” He would then take out a translation of the “ Æneid” in verse by a relative of his own-an uncle, I think-and, beginning perhaps a page or two back, read us several pages, so that we could better appreciate what we had been trying to translate. I, for one, always
as the verse was clear and melodious, and gave an excellent idea of the poetry of the Latin writer. Sometimes our laziness and ignorance were found out, and we either had to stay in an hour and go over it again, or copy it out a dozen times, or some other stupid imposition. But as this only occurred now and then, of course it did not in the least affect our general mode of procedure when supposed to be learning our lesson. Mr. Crutwell read well
, with a good emphasis and intonation, and I obtained a better idea of what Virgil really was from
enjoyed these readings,
his readings than from the fragmentary translations we scrambled through.
The three assistant masters, then called ushers, were very distinct characters. The English and writing master, who also taught French, was a handsome, fair young man named Fitzjohn. He was something of a dandy, wearing white duck trousers in the summer, and always having a bright-coloured stiff stock, which was the fashionable necktie of the day, Those being ante-steel-pen days he had to make and mend our quill pens, and always had a sharp penknife. He was consequently the authority among the boys on the different knife-makers and the best kind of hones for keeping them sharp ; and when he declared, as I once heard him, that some knives required oil and others water on the stone to bring them to a proper edge, we marvelled at his knowledge. What raised him still higher in our estimation was that he was a fairly good cricketer, and, even more exciting, he was one of the County Yeomanry, and upon the days appointed for drill or inspection, when from his bedroom over the schoolroom he came down in his uniform with sword and spurs, and marched across the room, our admiration reached its height. Though rather contemptuous to the younger boys, he was, I think, a pretty fair teacher. I learnt French from him for about two or three years, and though he taught us nothing colloquially, and could not, I think, speak the language himself, yet I learnt enough to read any easy French book, whereas my six years' grinding at Latin only resulted in a scanty knowledge of the vocabulary and grammar, leaving me quite unable to construe a page from a Latin author with any approach to accuracy. Of course this was partly due to the fact that one language is much more difficult than the other, but more to the method of instruction. Had half the time been devoted to teaching us simple colloquial Latin thoroughly, I feel sure it would have been far more useful to those who left school early, and who had no special talent for languages. The only use Latin has been to me has been the enabling me to understand the specific descriptions of birds and insects in that tongue, and also to appreciate the derivation from Latin
of many of our common English words. If the remaining time had been spent in learning German, the result would have been far more useful, but I do not think this language was taught in the school.
The second master, or head usher, was named Hill. He had the end desk opposite to Mr. Crutwell's, and was a rather hard man, who knocked the boys' knuckles with his ruler very severely. On one occasion I remember seeing a boy whose hand was not only black and swollen from blows, but had the skin cut, and was covered with blood. In this case I think a complaint was made by the boy's parents, and Mr. H. was informed privately that he must be more moderate in the future. I do not think I ever had any lessons with this master.
The youngest of the ushers was named Godwin, and was a nephew of Mr. Crutwell. He was rather a large-limbed, dark young man of eighteen or twenty. He was very good natured, and was much liked by the boys, in whose games he often took part. He was, I believe, studying the higher classics with his uncle with the idea of going to the University, but I never heard what became of him afterwards. He taught generally in the school, but the only recollection I have of him as a teacher was in one special case. Shortly before I left the school, I and a few others were put to translate one of the works of Cicero, and we were to be heard the lesson by Godwin. We had none of us any experience of this author before, having translated only Ovid and Virgil. We sat down and worked away with our dictionaries till we knew the meanings, or some of the meanings, of most of the words, but, somehow, could not fit them together to make sense. However, at last we thought we had got something of the meaning. We were called up, and the boy at the head of the class began his translation. When he got stuck Godwin asked the others if they could help him, and when we could not, he would tell us the meaning of some difficult word, and then tell the translator to go on.
He went on bit by bit till we got to the end of a long sentence. Then Godwin asked us if we thought we had got it right. We said we didn't know. Then he said, “Let's see; I will read it just as you have translated it." This he did, and then we could see that we had not made the least approach to anything that was intelligible. So we had to confess that we could only make nonsense of it. Then he began, and translated the whole passage correctly for us, using very nearly the same words as we had used, but arranging them in a very different order, and showing us that the very ideas involved and the whole construction of the sentence was totally different from anything we had imagined. He did all this in a good-humoured way, as if pitying our being put upon a task so much beyond us, and, so far as I now recollect, that was our last as well as our first attempt at translating Cicero. I felt, however, that if we had had Godwin for our Latin teacher from the beginning we should have had a much better chance of really learning the language, and, perhaps, getting to understand Cicero, and appreciate the beauty and force of his style.
Next to Latin grammar the most painful subject I learnt was geography, which ought to have been the most interesting. It consisted almost entirely in learning by heart the names of the chief towns, rivers, and mountains of the various countries from, I think, Pinnock's “School Geography," which gave the minimum of useful or interesting information. It was something like learning the multiplication table both in the painfulness of the process and the permanence of the results. The incessant grinding in both, week after week and year after year, resulted in my knowing both the product of any two numbers up to twelve, and the chief towns of any English county so thoroughly, that the result was automatic, and the name of Staffordshire brought into my memory Stafford, Litchfield, Leek, as surely and rapidly as eight times seven brought fifty-six. The labour and mental effort to one who like myself had little verbal memory was very painful, and though the result has been a somewhat useful acquisition during life, I cannot but think that the same amount of mental exertion wisely directed might have produced far greater and more generally useful results. When I had to learn the chief towns of the provinces of Poland, Russia,