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'Twas not for me love's tales to pour
Unbid in Leonora's ear;
Then wherefore lie I prisoned here?
Yet many many a lonesome year
2. My love—'twas but a fearful sense
Of beauty linked with noblest birth ; Of the soul-piercing influence
Of one too fair, too proud for earth!
My race may boast no equal worth-
3. Farewell ! Insatiate be thy rage !
Death comes-long-prayed he wings his way. Foretold by a care-hastened age,
Uncheered by hope's least, faintest ray. Bethink thee-when thy bones shall rot, (But for this deed thyself forgot,)
Touched by thy victims thrilling lay Discerning Time shall bless the strain That warbled to a King in vain !
C. B. B. FALSE MODESTY AT ETON.
Nihilo sapientior ille,
Hor. Sat. 11. üi. 53.
I hope I do not exceed the bounds of liberty in attacking a fault commonly found in Eton boys, which, in addition to my own experience, I have had noticed to me by others, who have at first sight detected it : I mean that excessive dread of ridicule, which is so painfully manifest in their conduct before their schoolfellows. I do not say that this is peculiar to Eton boys, but it is certainly a strong feature in their character. Moreover I do not deny that it has its cause ; for I have also noticed that they are particularly fond of ridiculing one another. Whether there may be any other additional reason, I know not; but it is a plain fact, that each one has an instinctive dread of the eyes of all being turned upon him, and would like to slink into any corner, to escape their gaze.
I cannot, I think, do better than notice a few instances, in which this feeling often occurs. Some boy's parents come to see him at Eton : they come from Slough perhaps in no very elegant vehicle ; they find their son, say, in Chapel, but are told that he will soon be out, and naturally wait, so as to have the first opportunity of meeting him. Presently he comes running out among his school-fellows, and is astounded at the sight of his father and Mother, whom perhaps he fancied a long way off; and with the idea, that all his companions will be looking at him, and talking about what his Pater and Mater are like, (for Father and Mother are names not recognized in the lower part of the school,) he feels half inclined to cut them, and does not greet them in the manner he would have done anywhere else. Perhaps had they come in a carriage and four, it would have been different : but even then he would have felt somewhat uneasy. This case certainly applies almost entirely to boys in the lower parts of the school, but there are others equally applicable to all.
Suppose a fellow be a minute or two late for Church : rather than go in, whilst everyone is staring, and some are observing how he smokes, and others thinking what a muff he is for being so late, he stays out altogether, and incurs a long punishment, all because he imagines everyone to be ridiculing him,-a thing which he can't bear. What makes the Sixth Form boy so nervous in speaking ? Why, he thinks, all these fellows, whose eyes are fixed on me, are observing, either that I have got but poor calves, or that I am not standing in the middle of the room, or that I am trying to speak in a very fine tone of voice, but that it is quite a failure. So he fancies ; and would rather speak at Election before a number of visitors, than commonly before the boys. Again, a boy is asked a question in school; he knows the answer well enough, but will not speak it out, for fear of drawing attention to himself. These are all results, trifling as they are, of the same feeling.
But, of course, there are cases in which this is a much more serious matter ;—when a boy is driven out of what is right by ridicule. We may, I hope, fairly say, that this is a rare case ; and that, when there is no settled inclination to wrong, mere ridicule will seldom effect that, which is contrary to a boy's good feeling. But we may say, I think with truth, that the same feeling, particularly if it be ably attacked by some boy who has a good deal of influence in the school, sometimes stays boys of bad character, if not from evil, at least from publicly displaying and boasting of their wrong behaviour, and so misleading others by it; for, as Horace aptly says,
But it is worthy of observation how soon this feeliny wears away at the University. There a young man begins to feel himself more independent of the mere thoughtless opinion of his equals. He begins to learn, that all that are around him do not care so much about what he is employed in, as to be always making remarks on him : yet even then, as many will testify, if he visits Eton for a short time, he feels the same undefinable dread, existing as it were in the atmosphere of Eton alone.
That Eton boys are prone to ridicule not only their companions, but anyone else who may come in their way, I admit : but then what is the reason why they feel this ridicule so acutely? Surely it is, that while each one fancies himself deserving of it, which he very probably may be to a certain extent, he does not consider that those who laugh at him are equally worthy of, and often equally meet with derision, just
Horace says in the words with which I have headed my paper,
And I believe it to be a true conclusion, that we are afraid of ridicule, because we do not fancy that our derider has equally vulnerable points ; just as one boy will not fight another, because he does not think his blows will do as much injury as his adversary's. If then we only open our eyes, so as to see how those who attack us are open to our retaliation, we shall have something to help us to sustain our presence of mind, when circumstances mark us out as objects for ridicule.
Again then, in conclusion, I beg that my schoolfellows, (for so I hope I may still call them,) will pardon me for attacking a fault, which they may not have noticed in themselves, and one which I confess to having laboured under myself, in no small degree. And I hope, that they will consider me as much a lover of Eton, as if I had praised all her customs, her attractions, and her pleasures; inasmuch as it is difficult for one, who has tasted of the latter, to believe that there are any of the former to require redress.