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- Life of John Coleridge Patteson - 6/144 -


This piece of self-discipline was crowned by joyous notices of being 'sent up for good' and 'for play' in the next half; when also occurs a letter showing a spirit of submission to a restriction not fully understood:--

'Tuesday evening.

'My dearest Father,--Hearing that "Israel in Egypt" was to be performed at Exeter Hall on Friday night, I went and asked my tutor whether he had any objection to my running up that night to hear it, and coming back the next morning, quite early at six. My tutor said that, without any absurd feelings on the matter, he should not think himself of going to such a thing in Lent. "It was not," he said, "certainly like going to the play, or any of those sort of places," but he did not like the idea of going at all. Do you think that there was any harm in the wish?

'I do not ask because I wish you to write and say I may go, but because I wish to learn whether my asking at all was wrong. Even if you have no objection, I certainly shall not go, because for such a trifling thing to act in opposition to my tutor, even with your consent, would be very foolish.

'...Good-bye, my dearest Father. God bless you, says your affectionate and dutiful Son,

'J. C. P.'

This year, 1844, the name of Patteson appeared among the 'select.' 'I shall expect a jolly holiday for my reward,' he merrily says, when announcing it to his sisters. He had begun to join the Debating Society at Eton, and for a while was the president. One of the other members says, 'His speeches were singularly free from the bombast and incongruous matter with which Eton orators from fifteen to eighteen are apt to interlard their declamations. He spoke concisely, always to the point, and with great fluency and readiness. A reputation for good sense and judgment made his authority of great weight in the school, and his independent spirit led him to choose, amongst his most intimate friends and associates, two collegers, who ultimately became Newcastle scholars and medallists.

'That the most popular oppidan of his day should have utterly ignored the supposed inferiority of the less wealthy section of the school, and looked on worth and high character as none the worse for being clothed in a coarse serge gown, is a fact seemingly trivial to ordinary readers, but very noticeable to Eton men. As a rank and file collegian myself, and well remembering the Jew and Samaritan state that prevailed between oppidans and collegers, I remember with pride that Patteson did so much to level the distinctions that worked so mischievously to the school. His cheerfulness and goodness were the surest guarantee for good order amongst his schoolfellows. There was no Puritanism in him, he was up to any fun, sung his song at a cricket or foot-ball dinner as joyfully as the youngest of the party; but if mirth sank into coarseness and ribaldry, that instant Patteson's conduct was fearless and uncompromising....'

Here follows an account of an incident which occurred at the dinner annually given by the eleven of cricket and the eight of the boats at the hotel at Slough.

A custom had arisen among some of the boys of singing offensive songs on these occasions, and Coley, who, as second of the eleven, stood in the position of one of the entertainers, gave notice beforehand that he was not going to tolerate anything of the sort. One of the boys, however, began to sing something objectionable. Coley called out, 'If that does not stop, I shall leave the room;' and as no notice was taken, he actually went away with a few other brave lads. He afterwards found that, as he said, 'fellows who could not understand such feelings thought him affected;' and he felt himself obliged to send word to the captain, that unless an apology was made, he should leave the eleven--no small sacrifice, considering what cricket was to him; but the gentlemanlike and proper feeling of the better style of boys prevailed, and the eleven knew their own interests too well to part with him, so the apology was made, and he retained his position. The affair came to the knowledge of two of the masters, Mr. Dupuis and Mr. Abraham, and they gratified their warm sense of approbation by giving Patteson a bat, though he never knew the reason why, as we shall see in one of his last letters to one of the donors.

His prowess at cricket must be described in the words of his cousin, Arthur Duke Coleridge, who was at this time in college: 'He was by common consent one of the best, if not the best, of the cricketers of the school. The second year of his appearance at Lord's Cricket Ground was the most memorable, as far as his actual services were concerned, of all the matches he played against Harrow and Winchester. He was sent in first in the Harrow match; the bowling was steady and straight, but Patteson's defence was admirable. He scored fifty runs, in which there was but one four, and by steady play completely broke the neck of the bowling. Eton won the match easily, Patteson making a brilliant catch at point, when the last Harrow man retired. Full of confidence, Eton began the Winchester match. Victory for a long time seemed a certainty for Eton; but Kidding, the Winchester captain, played an uphill game so fiercely that the bowling had to be repeatedly changed. Our eleven were disorganised, and the captain had so plainly lost heart, that Patteson resolved on urging him to discontinue his change of bowling, and begin afresh with the regular bowlers. The captain allowed Patteson to have his way, and the game, though closely contested, was saved. His powers of defence were indeed remarkable. I saw the famous professional cricketer Lillywhite play once at Eton in his time, and becoming almost irritated at the stubbornness and tenacity with which Coley held his wicket. After scoring twenty and odd times in the first, and forty in the second innings, (not out), Lillywhite said, 'Mr. Patteson, I should like to bowl to you on Lord's Ground, and it would be different.' 'Oh, of course,' modestly answered Coley; 'I know you would have me out directly there.'

The next cricket season this champion was disabled by a severe sprain of the wrist, needing leeches, splints, and London advice. It was when fixing a day for coming up to town on this account that he mentioned the occurrence of the previous year in a letter to his father:--

'I have a great object in shirking the oppidan dinner. I not only hate the idea of paying a sovereign for a dinner, but last year, at the cricket dinner, I had a great row, which I might possibly incur another time, and I wish very much to avoid.'

Then, after briefly stating what had passed, he adds: 'At this dinner, where the captain of the boats manages it, I should be his guest, and therefore any similar act of mine would make matters worse. You can therefore see why I wish Tuesday to be the day for my coming up.'

The sprain prevented his playing in the matches at Lord's that summer, though he was well enough to be reckoned on as a substitute in case any of the actual players had been disabled. Possibly his accident was good for his studies, for this was a year of much progress and success; and though only seventeen, he had two offers of tutorship for the holidays, from Mr. Dugdale and the Marchioness of Bath. The question where his university life was to be spent began to come forward. Studentships at Christchurch were then in the gift of the Canons, and a nomination would have been given him by Dr. Pusey if he had not been too young to begin to reside, so that it was thought better that he should wait and go up for the Balliol scholarship in the autumn.

In the October of 1844 he describes to his eldest sister the reception of King Louis Philippe at Eton, accompanied by the Queen, Prince Albert, and the Duke of Wellington:

'The King wore a white great coat, and looked a regular jolly old fellow. He has white frizzle hair and large white whiskers. The former, I suspect, is a wig. The cheering was tremendous, but behind the royal carriage the cheers were always redoubled where the old Duke, the especial favourite hero, rode. When they got off their horses in the schoolyard, the Duke being by some mistake behindhand, was regularly hustled in the crowd, with no attendant near him.

'I was the first to perceive him, and springing forward, pushed back the fellows on each side, who did not know whom they were tumbling against, and, taking off my hat, cheered with might and main. The crowd hearing the cheer, turned round, and then there was the most glorious sight I ever saw. The whole school encircled the Duke, who stood entirely alone in the middle for a minute or two, and I rather think we did cheer him. At last, giving about one touch to his hat, he began to move on, saying, "Get on, boys, get on." I never saw such enthusiasm here; the masters rushed into the crowd round him, waving their caps, and shouting like any of us. As for myself, I was half-mad and roared myself hoarse in about five minutes. The King and Prince kept their hats off the whole time, incessantly bowing, and the King speaking. He walked arm-in-arm with the Queen, who looked well and very much pleased. The Duke walked with that Grand Duchess whose name you may see in the papers, for I can't spell it.'

Very characteristic this both of Eton's enthusiasm for the hero, and of the hero's undemonstrative way of receiving it, which must have somewhat surprised his foreign companions.

A week or two later, in November 1844, came the competition for the Balliol scholarship, but Coley was not successful. On the Saturday he writes:--

'The scholarship was decided last night; Smith, a Rugby man, got the first, and Grant, a Harrow man, the second.... I saw the Master afterwards; he said, "I cannot congratulate you on success, Mr. Patteson, but you have done yourself great credit, and passed a very respectable examination. I shall be happy to allow you to enter without a future examination, as we are all quite satisfied of your competency." He said that I had better come up to matriculate next term, but should not have another examination. We were in about nine hours a day, three hours in the evening; I thought the papers very hard; we had no Latin elegiacs or lyrics, which was rather a bore for the Eton lot. I am very glad I have been up now, but I confess it was the longest week I ever recollect. I feel quite seedy after a whole week without exercise.... The very first paper, the Latin Essay (for which we were in six hours), was the worst of all my papers, and must have given the examiners an unfavourable impression to start with. The rest of my papers, with the exception of the Greek prose and the critical paper, I did very fairly, I think.'

A greater disappointment than this was, however, in store for Coley. He failed in attaining a place among the 'select,' at his last examination for the Newcastle, in the spring of 1845. Before the list was given out he had written to his father that the Divinity papers were far too easy, with no opportunity for a pretty good scholar to show his knowledge, 'the ridicule of every one of the masters,' but the other papers very difficult.


Life of John Coleridge Patteson - 6/144

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