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- Life of John Coleridge Patteson - 3/144 -

was as free as could be expected, and I have impressed on his mind the meanness, cowardice, and wickedness of the habit, and what it will end in here and hereafter. He has promised that he will never offend in future in like manner, and I really believe that his desire to be away from the school and at ease among his friends induced him to trump up the invitations, &c., to Mr. Cornish, in which consisted his first fibs. I shall watch him closely, as I would my own child; and Cornish has done wisely, I think, by giving the proper punishment of confining him to the school-court, &c., and not letting him go to his friends for some time. The dear boy is so affectionate, and has so much to work on, that there is no fear of him; only these things must be looked after promptly, and he must learn practically (before his reason and religion operate) that he gains nothing by a lie... He is very well, and wins one's heart in a moment...

'Ever your affectionate Brother,

'F. G. C.'

The management was effectual, and the penitence real, for this fault never recurred, nor is the boy's conduct ever again censured, though the half-yearly reports often lament his want of zeal and exertion. Coley was sufficiently forward to begin Greek on his first arrival at Ottery, and always held a fair place for his years, but throughout his school career his character was not that of an idle but of an uninterested boy, who preferred play to work, needed all his conscience to make him industrious, and then was easily satisfied with his performances; naturally comparing them with those of other boys, instead of doing his own utmost, and giving himself full credit for the diligence he thought he had used. For it must be remembered that it was a real, not an ideal nature; not a perfect character, but one full of the elements of growth.

A childish, childlike boy, he was now, and for many years longer, intensely fond of all kinds of games and sports, in which his light active form, great agility, and high spirit made him excel. Cricket, riding, running-races, all the school amusements were his delight; fireworks for the 5th of November sparkle with ecstasy through his letters, and he was a capital dancer in the Christmas parties at his London home. He had likewise the courage and patience sure to be needed by an active lad. While at Ottery he silently bore the pain of a broken collar-bone for three weeks, and when the accident was brought to light by his mother's embrace, he only said that 'he did not like to make a fuss.'

Consideration for others, kindness, and sweetness of nature were always his leading characteristics, making him much beloved by all his companions, and an excellent guardian and example to his little brother, who soon joined him at Ottery. Indeed, the love between these two brothers was so deep, quiet, and fervid, that it is hard to dwell on it while 'one is taken and the other left.' It was at this time a rough buffeting, boyish affection, but it was also a love that made separation pain and grief, and on the part of the elder, it showed itself in careful protection from all harm or bullying, and there was a strong underlying current of tenderness, most endearing to all concerned with the boys, whether masters, relations, friends, or servants.


BOYHOOD AT ETON. 1838--1845.

After the Christmas holidays of 1837-8, when Coley Patteson was nearly eleven years old, he was sent to Eton, that most beautifully situated of public schools, whose delightful playing fields, noble trees, broad river, and exquisite view of Windsor Castle give it a peculiar charm, joining the venerable grandeur of age to the freshness and life of youth, so as to rivet the affections in no common degree.

It was during the head-mastership of Dr. Hawtrey that Patteson became, in schoolboy phrase, an Eton fellow, being boarded in the house of his uncle, the Rev. Edward Coleridge, one of the most popular and successful Eton masters. Several of his cousins were also in this house, with other boys who became friends of his whole life, and he was thoroughly happy there, although in these early days he still felt each departure from home severely, and seldom failed to write a mournful letter after the holidays. There is one, quite pathetic in its simplicity, telling his mother how he could not say his prayers nor fall asleep on his first night till he had resolutely put away the handkerchief that seemed for some reason a special link with home. It illustrates what all who remember him say, how thoroughly a childlike being he still was, though a well-grown, manly, high-spirited boy, quite able to take care of himself, keep his place, and hold his own.

He was placed in the lower remove of the fourth form, which was then 'up to' the Rev. Charles Old Goodford, i.e. that was he who taught the division so called in school.

The boy was evidently well prepared, for he was often captain of his division, and his letters frequently tell of successes of this kind, while they anticipate 'Montem.'

That of 1838 was a brilliant one, for Queen Victoria, then only nineteen, and her first year of sovereignty not yet accomplished, came from the Castle to be driven in an open carriage to Salt Hill and bestow her Royal contribution.

In the throng little Patteson was pressed up so close to the Royal carriage that he became entangled in the wheel, and was on the point of being dragged under it, when the Queen, with ready presence of mind, held out her hand: he grasped it, and was able to regain his feet in safety, but did not recover his perceptions enough to make any sign of gratitude before the carriage passed on. He had all a boy's shyness about the adventure; but perhaps it served to quicken the personal loyalty which is an unfailing characteristic of 'Eton fellows.'

The Royal custom of the Sunday afternoon parade on the terrace of Windsor Castle for the benefit of the gazing public afforded a fine opportunity for cultivating this sentiment, and Coley sends an amusingly minute description of her Majesty's dress, evidently studied for his mother's benefit, even to the pink tips of her four long ostrich feathers, and calling to mind Chalon's water-colours of the Queen in her early youth. He finishes the description with a quaint little bit of moralising. 'It certainly is very beautiful with two bands playing on a calm, blessed Sunday evening, with the Queen of England and all her retinue walking about. It gives you an idea of the Majesty of God, who could in one short second turn it all into confusion. There is nothing to me more beautiful than the raising one's eyes to Heaven, and thinking with adoration who made this scene, and who could unmake it again.'

A few days later the record is of a very different scene, namely, Windsor Fair, when the Eton boys used to imagine they had a prescriptive right to make a riot and revel in the charms of misrule.

'On the second day the Eton fellows always make an immense row. So at the signal, when a thing was acting, the boys rushed in and pulled down the curtain, and commenced the row. I am happy to say I was not there. There were a great many soldiers there, and they all took our part. The alarm was given, and the police came. Then there was such a rush at the police. Some of them tumbled over, and the rest were half-knocked down. At last they took in custody three of our boys, upon which every boy that was there (amounting to about 450) was summoned. They burst open the door, knocked down the police, and rescued our boys. Meantime the boys kept on shying rotten eggs and crackers, and there was nothing but righting and rushing.'

A startling description! But this was nothing to the wild pranks that lived in the traditions of the elder generation; and in a few years more the boys were debarred from the mischievous licence of the fair.

Coley had now been nearly a year at Eton, and had proceeded through the lower and middle removes of the fourth form, when, on November 23, he achieved the success of which he thus writes:--

'Rejoice! I was sent up for good yesterday at eleven o'clock school. I do not know what copy of verses for yet, but directly I do, I will send you a copy.... Goodford, when I took my ticket to be signed (for I was obliged to get Goodford, Abraham, and my tutor to sign it), said, "I will sign it most willingly," and then kept on stroking my hand, and said, "I congratulate you most heartily, and am very glad of it." I am the only one who is sent up; which is a good thing for me, as it will give me forty or fifty good marks in trials. I am so splitting with joy you cannot think, because now I have given you some proof that I have been lately sapping and doing pretty well. Do not, think that I am praising myself, for I am pretty nearly beside myself, you may suppose.'

One of his cousins adds, on the same sheet: 'I must tell you it is very difficult to be sent up in the upper fourth form, and still more so in the middle remove.'

The subject of the Latin verses which obtained this distinction was a wreath or garland, and there must have been something remarkable in them, for Mr. Abraham preserved a copy of them for many years. There was something in the sweetness and docility of the boy, and in the expression of his calm, gentle face, that always greatly interested the masters and made them rejoice in his success; and among his comrades he was a universal favourite. His brother joined him at Eton during the ensuing year, when the Queen's wedding afforded the boys another glimpse of Royal festivity. Their tumultuous loyalty and audacity appear in Coley's letter:--

'In college, stretching from Hexter's to Mother Spier's was a magnificent representation of the Parthenon: there were three pillars, and a great thing like this (a not over-successful sketch of a pediment), with the Eton and Royal arms in the middle, and "Gratulatur Etona Victoria et Alberto" It cost 150, and there were 5,000 lamps hung on it. Throughout the whole day we all of us wore large white bridal favours and white gloves. Towards evening the clods got on Long Walk Wall; and as gentle means would not do, we were under the necessity of knocking some over, when the rest soon jumped off. However, F--- and myself declared we would go right into the quadrangle of the Castle, so we went into the middle of the road and formed a line. Soon a rocket (the signal that the Queen was at Slough) was let off, and then some Life Guards came galloping along, and one of them ran almost over me, and actually trod on F---'s toe, which put him into dreadful pain for some time. Then came the Queen's carriage, and I thought college would have tumbled down with the row. The cheering was really tremendous. The whole 550 fellows

Life of John Coleridge Patteson - 3/144

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