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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 217 pages of information about Adventures Among Books.

While schools are reformed and Latin grammars of the utmost ingenuity and difficulty are published, boys on the whole change very little.  They remain the beings whom Thackeray understood better than any other writer:  Thackeray, who liked boys so much and was so little blind to their defects.  I think he exaggerates their habit of lying to masters, or, if they lied in his day, their character has altered in that respect, and they are more truthful than many men find it expedient to be.  And they have given up fighting; the old battles between Berry and Biggs, or Dobbin and Cuff (major) are things of the glorious past.  Big boys don’t fight, and there is a whisper that little boys kick each other’s shins when in wrath.  That practice can hardly be called an improvement, even if we do not care for fisticuffs.  Perhaps the gloves are the best peacemakers at school.  When all the boys, by practice in boxing, know pretty well whom they can in a friendly way lick, they are less tempted to more crucial experiments “without the gloves.”

But even the ascertainment of one’s relative merits with the gloves hurts a good deal, and one may thank heaven that the fountain of youth (as described by Pontus de Tyarde) is not a common beverage.  By drinking this liquid, says the old Frenchman, one is insensibly brought back from old to middle age, and to youth and boyhood.  But one would prefer to stop drinking of the fountain before actually being reduced to boy’s estate, and passing once more through the tumultuous experiences of that period.  And of these, not having enough to eat is by no means the least common.  The evidence as to execrable dinners is rather dispiriting, and one may end by saying that if there is a worse fellow than a bully, it is a master who does not see that his boys are supplied with plenty of wholesome food.  He, at least, could not venture, like a distinguished headmaster, to preach and publish sermons on “Boys’ Life:  its Fulness.”  A schoolmaster who has boarders is a hotel-keeper, and thereby makes his income, but he need not keep a hotel which would be dispraised in guide books.  Dinners are a branch of school economy which should not be left to the wives of schoolmasters. They have never been boys.

FOOTNOTES

{1} “Mauth” is Manx for dog, I am told.

{2} It is easy to bear the misfortunes of others.

{3} In the third volume of his essays.

{4} “I remember I went into the room where my father’s body lay, and my mother sat weeping alone by it.  I had my battledore in my hand, and fell a-beating the coffin and calling ‘Papa,’ for I know not how, I had some slight idea that he was locked up there.”—­STEELE, The Tatler, June 6, 1710.

{5} Longmans.

{6} I like to know what the author got.

{7} Salmon roe, I am sorry to say.

{8} “Why and Wherefore,” Aytoun.

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