Playing at Homer

The Illinois Teacher Vol. V: Arnold of Rugby

“Thomas Arnold was born in 1795, at Cowes, in the Isle of Wight, where his family had been settled for two generations. In 1807 he was sent to the public school at Winchester, where he remained until, in his sixteenth year, he was transferred to Corpus Christi College, Oxford. He was during his boyhood, as indeed ever afterward, of a shy and retiring disposition; but his manner as a child, and till his entrance at Oxford, was marked by a stiffness and formality, the very reverse of the joyousness and simplicity of his later years. He never lost the recollection of the impression produced upon him by the excitement of naval and military affairs, of which he saw and heard much by living at the Isle of Wight in the time of war; and the sports in which he seemed to take most pleasure, with the playmates of his childhood, were sailing rival fleets in his father’s garden, or acting the battles of Homeric heroes, and reciting their several speeches from Pope’s translation of the Iliad.


During his residence at Oxford he was noted for his originality and deep earnestness. He carried off several prizes, and his acquisitions were very considerable. He was particularly fond of Aristotle and Thucydides, and was deeply imbued with the language and ideas of the former. Next to these he loved Herodotus. Arnold was not, however, as eminent among his fellows at the University as he afterward became among the first scholars and writers and thinkers of England. His style of composition, during the period of his University residence (which embraced about eight years), was somewhat stiff and labored. He had not entirely overcome the indolent habits of his boyhood, or the morbid restlessness, the occasional weariness of duty, the disposition to indulge in vain scheming without definite purpose, and the intellectual doubts, which beset all young men upon their entrance into life.”

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