[In the following passage from the author's reminiscences of Eton, Stone — possibly tongue in cheek, probably more serious than not — provides a glance of Eton life that explains why some Old Etonians looked upon their school days as the best time of their lives. GPL].

We have lost a great many pretty ceremonies and customs, the splendour of Montem, the jovalities of the Christopher, the joys of the fairs; but we have gained in colour — blazers, scarves, caps, dazzle the eye — and we have gained in the organisation of our games. All honour to athleticism! It has given the death-blow to work. Who cares for verses torn over, yellow tickets and tardy book, when he can win back his tutor's smile by a century at cricket, or a goal in a house match? The old-fashioned masters still talk doggedly and moodily about work; and a few enthusiasts agitate for reforms by which boys may be attracted to learning — work shall rival play on its own ground forsooth. But we all know that work is drudgery; it may be got through sullenly, or scamped, or shirked ; anyhow it doesn't matter; all that matters is the coveted cap or the coveted cup, the triumph on Agar's Plough, or at the Brocas, or in the Field. Athleticism rampant on a field vert, with the Battle of Waterloo in the background.

Elsewhere I gave a list of games played in the middle of the eighteenth century; but they were mostly pastimes, like marbles and hoops, and sliding down the kitchen stair-rails; not real serious occupations like cricket and football, as at present organised. The rise of games into their position as the most important part of life, dates from the beginning of the last century, or rather from Victoria's accession to the throne. Suave Provost Goodall said: "Happy boys, they have their games of all sorts. They have their playing-fields for their cricket and football; they have their walls for fives; they play at hockey, and — I have heard — they go out in boats; and, in the intervals, they learn some lessons." ["Out of School," 84-86]

Related Material

References

Stone, Christopher. Eton. London: A. C. Black, 1909.


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Last modified 30 July 2006