Ward's Book of Days.

Pages of interesting anniversaries.

What happened on this day in history.


On this day in history in 1822, was born Thomas Hughes.

Hughes was a lawyer and a social reformer whose novel, Tom Brown's Schooldays, created the an image of public school life that radically transformed the shape of British education.

Hughes was born on October 20th 1822 at Uffington, in the Vale of the White Horse, the son of John Hughes, a publishing editor. In 1834, he went to Rugby School, then under the famous headmaster, Dr Thomas Arnold, an academic who had transformed Rugby School from a place where the indolent sons of gentlefolk were kept away from their parents, for the duration of their youth, to a scholastic institution where the Classics and sports flourished. Arnold had done away with Rugby’s hunting and carousing tradition, and ushered in a new era of learning, which would prove a model for the public school system. Hughes was devoted to Arnold and, in his novel Tom Brown's Schooldays, idealised him as the paradigm of a headmaster.

In 1842, Hughes went up to Oriel College, Oxford, where he read law, graduating in 1845. He was called to the bar in 1848, became Queen's Counsel in 1869 and a County Court judge in 1882. In 1857, Hughes produced his celebrated work, Tom Brown's Schooldays, with its sketches of boyish high spirits, games and camaraderie. The book popularised the public school image of strength, youth and character, a standard that became known as ‘muscular Christianity’. The novel ran 50 editions but a sequel Tom Brown at Oxford was a failure, possibly because Hughes could not recreate, at university, the enduring ethos of high moral principle that had made the former work such a success.

Hughes joined the Christian Socialists, was a founder member of the Working Men’s College, and was instrumental in the formation of a number of trade unions. In 1880, Hughes founded a settlement in Rugby, Tennessee, an experiment in utopian living for the sons of gentlefolk, set in a city of gothic architecture. This project proved to be a disaster, although many of the buildings survive.

Hughes died on 22nd March 1896, at Brighton when on route to Europe for a rest cure, and was buried in Woodvale Cemetery. [Woodvale Cemetery, Lewes Road, Brighton, East Sussex, BN2 3QB]

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