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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Thomas Hughes (1822–1896)
Critical and Biographical Introduction
 
THE EARLY life of Thomas Hughes was that of the typical English school lad; and luckily he had the genius to express in literature the daily incidents of that life, with a freshness of sympathy, a vigorous manliness, and a moral insight that make his stories a revelation of boy nature. He was the son of the vicar of Uffington in Berkshire, where he was born in 1822; and in this first home he learned to love the English country, and to understand village and rustic nature. At seven he was sent away to school, and was only ten when he went to Rugby. He has disclaimed identity with his hero, but ‘Tom Brown’ is certainly a product of his personal impressions; and to his stay at Rugby we owe the vivid presentation of Dr. Arnold’s noble figure, and the loving portrayal of his influence in the great public school. From Rugby Thomas Hughes went to Oxford, and later he studied law at Lincoln’s Inn. He was called to the Bar of the Inner Temple in 1848, and began practice at once.  1
  Throughout his long public career, as advanced Liberal in Parliament, as founder with Frederick Maurice of the Christian Socialists, as creator of Rugby, a socialistic community in the mountains of Tennessee, he tried most earnestly to exercise a helpful influence upon English working-people. To him right living, which he sought to inculcate, was the object of life; and the stimulus most needed, an appeal to moral courage.  2
  He was a man of strong convictions on one side or the other of a question. At the outbreak of our Civil War, his bold advocacy of the abolition of slavery riveted a lasting friendship with James Russell Lowell.  3
  In his early manhood Thomas Hughes essayed journalism. He wrote many sketches for the London Spectator,—chiefly accounts of traveling experiences,—and he thus defrayed the cost of many little Continental jaunts. These sketches served as his apprenticeship in writing, and long afterward they were collected in book form with the title ‘Vacation Rambles.’ But authorship was a secondary interest until it occurred to him to write a story for his sons and nephews; and ‘Tom Brown’s School Days,’ first appearing in 1857, made him famous. Two years later ‘The Scouring of the White Horse,’ a spirited account of a vacation trip, had a respectful although less cordial reception. The great success of the first story led Mr. Hughes to continue his hero’s career with ‘Tom Brown at Oxford,’ which was first published as a serial in Macmillan’s Magazine. This second volume, which is much the longer, although often fine and spirited sometimes waxes prolix, and has never been so popular as the earlier story.  4
  Judge Hughes’s other writings include several memoirs and biographies, notably the ‘Memoir of a Brother,’ and that of Kingsley; books of religious import, like ‘The Manliness of Christ’; a sketch of ‘Rugby, Tennessee,’ and various miscellanies. But the bulk of his literary work sinks into insignificance when set beside the peerless boy’s-book which brought him fame.  5
  “I hate the idea of being presented in any guise to any public,” he once wrote. His best work was not written for fame, but in the earnest desire to offer helpful advice as strongly and straightforwardly as possible. That his purpose was avowedly didactic did not lessen his popularity; for the preaching is so wise and kindly that, as he himself desired, it seemed to come from a big boy’s impulse to help the less experienced.  6
 
 
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