Thomas Arnold, 1840
13 June 1795|
West Cowes, Isle of Wight, England
|Died||12 June 1842
Rugby, Warwickshire, England
Cause of death
|Rugby School Chapel|
|Education||Lord Weymouth's Grammar School; Winchester College|
|Alma mater||Corpus Christi College, Oxford|
|Occupation||Educator and historian|
|Known for||Reforms to Rugby School (immortalised in Tom Brown's Schooldays)|
|Title||Regius Professor of Modern History, Oxford|
|Successor||John Antony Cramer|
|Children||Matthew Arnold, Tom Arnold, William Delafield Arnold|
Thomas Arnold (13 June 1795 – 12 June 1842) was an English educator and historian. Arnold was an early supporter of the Broad Church Anglican movement. He was the headmaster of Rugby School from 1828 to 1841, where he introduced a number of reforms.
Early life and education
Arnold was born on the Isle of Wight, the son of William Arnold, a Customs officer, and his wife Martha Delafield. He was educated at Lord Weymouth's Grammar School, Warminster, Winchester, and Corpus Christi College, Oxford. There he excelled at Classics and was made a fellow of Oriel in 1815. He was headmaster of a school in Laleham before moving to Rugby.
Career as an educator
Arnold's appointment to the headship of Rugby School in 1828, after some years as a private tutor, turned the school's fortunes around, and his force of character and religious zeal enabled him to turn it into a model followed by the other public schools, exercising an unprecedented influence on the educational system of England. Though he introduced history, mathematics and modern languages, he based his teaching on the classical languages. "I assume it as the foundation of all my view of the case, that boys at a public school never will learn to speak or pronounce French well, under any circumstances", so it would be enough if they could "learn it grammatically as a dead language". Physical science was not taught since in Arnold's view, "it must either take the chief place in the school curriculum, or it must be left out altogether". Arnold was also opposed to the materialistic tendency of physical science, a view deriving from his Christian idealism. He wrote that "rather than have [physical science] the principal thing in my son's mind, I would gladly have him think that the sun went round the earth, and that the stars were so many spangles set in the bright blue firmament. Surely the one thing needful for a Christian and an Englishman to study is Christian and moral and political philosophy".
Arnold developed the Praepostor (prefect) system in which the top (sixth) form were given powers over every part of the school (carefully managed by himself) and kept order in the establishment. The novel by Thomas Hughes, Tom Brown's Schooldays portrays a generation of boys "who feared the Doctor with all our hearts, and very little besides in heaven or earth; who thought more of our sets in the School than of the Church of Christ, and put the traditions of Rugby and the public opinion of boys in our daily life above the laws of God".
Arnold was not a great enthusiast for sport, which was permitted as an alternative to poaching or fighting with local boys and which did not become part of Rugby's curriculum until 1850. He described his educational aims as being the cure of souls first, moral development the second and intellectual development the third. However, this did not prevent Baron de Coubertin from considering him the father of the organized sport he admired when he visited English public schools, including Rugby in 1886. When looking at Arnold's tomb in the school chapel he recalled he felt, suddenly, as if he were looking upon "the very cornerstone of the British empire". Coubertin is thought to have exaggerated the importance of sport to Thomas Arnold, whom he viewed as “one of the founders of athletic chivalry”. The character-reforming influence of sport with which Coubertin was so impressed is more likely to have originated in the novel Tom Brown's School Days rather than exclusively in the ideas of Arnold himself. “Thomas Arnold, the leader and classic model of English educators,” wrote Coubertin, “gave the precise formula for the role of athletics in education. The cause was quickly won. Playing fields sprang up all over England”.
He was involved in many controversies, educational and religious. As a churchman he was a decided Erastian, and strongly opposed to the High Church party. His 1833 Principles of Church Reform is associated with the beginnings of the Broad Church movement. In 1841, he was appointed Regius Professor of Modern History at Oxford.
His chief literary works are his unfinished History of Rome (three volumes 1838-42), and his Lectures on Modern History. Far more widely read were his five books of sermons, which were admired by a wide circle of pious readers including Queen Victoria.
He married Mary Penrose, daughter of the Rev. John Penrose of Penryn, Cornwall. They had five daughters and five sons, including the poet Matthew Arnold, the literary scholar Tom, and the author William Delafield Arnold. One daughter died in infancy. Their eldest daughter Jane Martha married William Edward Forster, and when William Arnold died in 1859, leaving four orphans, the Forsters adopted them as their own, adding their name to the children's surname. One of these children was Hugh Oakeley Arnold-Forster, a Liberal Unionist MP, who eventually became a member of Balfour's cabinet. Frances Arnold was the last of Thomas Arnold's children to 'fall asleep in death.' She never married and died in 1923.
Arnold bought the small estate of Fox How, near Ambleside in the Lake District in 1832, and spent many of his holidays there. He died suddenly of a heart attack on the eve of his 47th birthday, at a time when his influence was still growing. He is buried at Rugby chapel.
Thomas the Younger's daughter Mary Augusta Arnold, became a famous novelist under her married name of Mrs Humphry Ward, whilst Tom's other daughter, Julia, married Leonard Huxley, the son of Thomas Huxley and their sons were Julian and Aldous Huxley. Julia Arnold founded in 1902 Prior's Field School for girls, in Godalming, Surrey.
Arnold Family Tree (partial)
The biography, Life of Arnold, published two years after his early death by one of Arnold's former pupils Arthur Penrhyn Stanley, is considered one of the best works of its class in the language and added to his growing reputation. A popular life of him by the novelist Emma Jane Guyton also appeared. In 1896 his bust was unveiled in Westminster Abbey alongside that of his son, Matthew and the Times asserted that "As much as any who could be named, Arnold helped to form the standard of manly worth by which Englishmen judge and submit to be judged". However, his reputation suffered as one of the Eminent Victorians in Lytton Strachey's book of that name published in 1918.
A more recent public school headmaster, Michael McCrum of Tonbridge School and Eton College in the 1960s through 1980s, and also a churchman and Oxbridge academic (Master of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge and Vice-Chancellor), wrote a biography and reappraisal of Arnold in 1991. McCrum was steeped in the significance of Rugby and of public schools; he too had briefly been a master at Rugby and was married to the daughter of another former headmaster.
More recently, a biography entitled Black Tom has been written by Terence Copley. Both McCrum and Copley have sought to restore some of the lustre to the Arnold legacy which has been heavily under attack since Strachey's sardonic appraisal.
A. C. Benson once observed of Arnold that, "A man who could burst into tears at his own dinner-table on hearing a comparison made between St. Paul and St. John to the detriment of the latter, and beg that the subject might never be mentioned again in his presence, could never have been an easy companion". Posthumously, Thomas Arnold was an influence on Baron Coubertin who started the modern Olympic movement.
Depictions on screen
He has been played several times in adaptations of Tom Brown's School Days, including by Sir Cedric Hardwicke in the 1940 film version, Robert Newton in the 1951 film version, Iain Cuthbertson in the 1971 television version and Stephen Fry in the 2005 television version.
- The Christian Duty of Granting the Claims of the Roman Catholics (pamphlet) Rugby, 1828.
- Sermons Preached in the Chapel of Rugby School, London: Fellowes, 1850 (original 1832).
- (translator), The History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides, (3 vols.) London: Fellowes, 1845.
- Principles of Church Reform, Oxford: Fellowes,1833.
- History of Rome, London: Fellowes, 1838.
- Sermons: Christian Life, its Hopes, Fears and Close, London: Fellowes, 1842.
- Sermons: Christian Life, its Course, London: Fellowes, 1844.
- The Interpretation of Scripture, London: Fellowes, 1845.
- Introductory Lectures on Modern History, London: Longmans, Green & Co, 1842.
- Strachey, Lytton (1918), Eminent Victorians, p. 173
- J. J. Findlay (ed.), Arnold of Rugby: His School Life and Contributions to Education (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1897), p. xvii.
- Thomas Hughes (1857), "7", Tom Brown's Schooldays
- Beale, Catherine (2011). Born out of Wenlock, William Penny Brookes and the British origins of the Olympics. DB Publishing. pp. 118–119. ISBN 978-1-85983-967-6.Coubertin would be better known for promoting the first International Olympic Games of 1896.
- Muddied Oafs, The Soul of Rugby, Richard Beard, Yellow Jersey Press, 2004, ISBN 0224063944
- Physical exercises in the modern world. Lecture given at the Sorbonne, November 1892.
- Timothy Hands, Thomas Hardy: Distracted Preacher? London: Macmillan Press, 1989, p. 3.
-  for Frances and quotation.
- Prior's Field School - A Century Remembered 1902-2002 by Margaret Elliott, published by Prior's Field School Trust Ltd, ISBN 0-9541195
- Worboise [Guyton], Emma Jane: The Life of Thomas Arnold D. D. (London, 1859).
- Sir Joshua Fitch (1897), Thomas and Matthew Arnold and their influence on English education, London, Heinemann, pp. 1, 56
- J.A.Gere and John Sparrow (ed.), Geoffrey Madan's Notebooks, Oxford University Press, 1981
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Cousin, John William (1910). A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature. London: J. M. Dent & Sons. Wikisource
- Arthur Penrhyn Stanley, The Life and Correspondence of Thomas Arnold, London: Fellowes, 1845 (original 1844).
- Tom Hughes, Tom Brown's School Days, London: Penguin, 1994 (original 1857).
- Lytton Strachey, Eminent Victorians, London, 1918, available online at http://www.bartleby.com/189/301.html
- Michael McCrum, Thomas Arnold, Headmaster, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989.
- Terrence Copley, Black Tom: Arnold of Rugby: The Myth and the Man, New York: Continuum, 2002.
- Peter Bayne, Men Worthy to Lead; Being Lives of John Howard, William Wilberforce, Thomas Chalmers, Thomas Arnold, Samuel Budgett, John Foster, London: Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent & Co. Ltd, 1890, Reprinted: Bibliolife, ISBN 1-152-41551-4.
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- Works by Thomas Arnold at Project Gutenberg
- Works by or about Thomas Arnold at Internet Archive
- Archival material relating to Thomas Arnold listed at the UK National Archives