Tom Brown’s Schooldays, a window into a lost world when long lost ancient traditions and hints of wild freedom survived as real part of English school life. A cosy world, yet one where injustice vied with justice and humanity struggled against inhumanity. What a book! There are few that match it and it’s writer was a rare one too.
Thomas Hughs MP (1822-96) a natural humanitarian, an educationalist, a radical liberal, a supporter of the Cooperative Movement, a Christian Socialist and a trades union supporter in an age of cruel and rampant Capitalism. Born in Uffington which is now in Oxfordshire he was one of the eight children of the author John Hughes.
Educated at Rugby and Oxford he was a member of the upper-middle class who fitted into the establishment as a lawyer and politician, yet was concerned for the well being of all people. He was involved in the establishment of the Working Men’s College in Great Ormond Street, London and as an MP he worked to promote and protect the interests of trades unions and cooperatives.
He fought against the cruel and evil opium trade and even even set up a utopian minded community in Tennessee which he named Rugby after his school. The community was based on the philosophy of Christian Socialism and it was originally settled by sons of the English gentry who were left out by the inheritance system and were thus at risk of idleness and getting involved in social ills. Although the community didn’t take off in quite the way that Thomas Hughes had hoped it still survives and is valued as a place of historical interest.
Thomas Hughes left a legacy of several published works of fiction, history, biography and social thought, an Oxford scholarship and an influence upon Christian Socialism and the philosophy of Cooperativism. He is most remembered, however, for the adventures of young Tom Brown, who struggled against cruelty, injustice and corruption and won through his determination and the purity of his heart.
“Remember there’s always a voice saying the right thing to you somewhere if you’ll only listen for it.”
“Blessed are they who have the gift of making friends, for it is one of God’s best gifts. It involves many things, but above all, the power of going out of one’s self, and appreciating whatever is noble and loving in another.”