LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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Memoir of Francis Hodgson
Chapter XXII. 1840-47.

Vol. 1 Contents
Chapter I.
Chapter II. 1794-1807.
Chapter III. 1807-1808.
Chapter IV. 1808.
Chapter V. 1808-1809.
Chapter VI. 1810.
Chapter VII. 1811.
Chapter VIII. 1811.
Chapter IX. 1811.
Chapter X. 1811-12.
Chapter XI. 1812.
Chapter XII. 1812-13.
Chapter XIII. 1813-14.
Vol. 2 Contents
Chapter XIV. 1815-16.
Chapter XV. 1816-18.
Chapter XVI. 1815-22.
Chapter XVII. 1820.
Chapter XVIII. 1824-27.
Chapter XIX. 1827-1830
Chapter XX. 1830-36.
Chapter XXI. 1837-40.
‣ Chapter XXII. 1840-47.
Chapter XXIII. 1840-52.
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The high-minded and accomplished Head-master of Eton, Dr. Hawtrey, fully entered into the spirit of the Provost’s plans for improvement, and responded to his appeal for assistance in the following cordial letter:—

My dear Provost,—I am delighted to find that in almost every point which your letter touches upon we entirely agree. In many I have already anticipated your views, in some I have been restrained as yet from doing so, only by the veto of superior
authority. Whatever be done I know we have the same object, and I have no doubt of our discussing these interesting matters in a spirit which will lead to co-operative reform. Let me repeat that I am delighted to see you among us, and the more so, if possible, for the letter which I have just read.

The first result of this alliance was the introduction of the teaching of modern languages, and the acceptance of Prince Albert’s offer of annual prizes for French, German, and Italian. The Provost secured the presence of Dr. Praetorius,1 a distinguished German scholar, at the first examinations, and Professor Smythe wrote with a view to the institution of similar examinations and prizes at Cambridge.

The Marquis Wellesley’s example in sending his bust to the college was followed, at the suggestion of the Provost, by the Duke of Wellington and several other eminent Etonians, whose interest in the school was increased by the impetus now given to enlightened education, as well as to more material progress. The Eton dinner this year (1840) commemorated the 400th anniversary of the foundation, and was very largely attended, the chair being occupied by Lord Denman in place of the Marquis

1 Librarian at Windsor Castle.

Wellesley, who was prevented by illness from attending. The triennial festival of ‘montem’ was celebrated with the usual ceremonies, in which the
Queen and Prince took part, and were entertained at the lodge by the Provost and Mrs. Hodgson.

Among the manifold avocations and distractions of the new office, literary tastes were not forgotten, nor was private correspondence neglected. In April 1841 appeared the ‘Arundines Cami,’ a collection of translations from English Poems into Greek and Latin verse, the grave and gay thrown lightly together, to which copious contributions were made by the Provost of Eton, who had also a large share in the selection and arrangement. Among the other contributors were Lord Lyttelton, Dr. Hawtrey, Dr. Kennedy, John Herman Merivale, Henry Hallam, and Dr. Donaldson, and the editor was the Rev. Henry (afterwards Archdeacon) Drury, eldest son of the ‘Harry Drury’ so often mentioned in this book, and whose death in March of this year was deeply lamented by his old friend and fellow-collegian, the Provost, and by many other friends to whom his hearty and kindly nature had long endeared him. Hodgson visited him at Harrow more than once during his last illness and administered the Sacrament to him just before his death in the presence of
the Head-master,
Dr. Wordsworth, now Bishop of Lincoln.

In the spring of this year the Duke of Devonshire placed at the Provost’s disposal his house at Kemp Town, Brighton, of which he writes:—

I am in such good humour with my house at Kemp Town, because it suits you and Mrs. Hodgson, and does your health good.

The Duke adds with reference to Hodgson’s propensity for collecting pebbles on the sea-shore:—

You would go wild if you could see the pebbles polished which have coincidently arrived with your letter, picked up by me last summer near Havre. Now do call Wm. Baker.1 William, pray show the Dr.2 the polished pebble with a hole in it that is on one of the china trays in the library. That I picked up at Dieppe. The paintings are by Vigoreux, a Frenchman, and represent the presents made by the French King at the court of Japan. They are medallions of Japanese towns and princes. The presents were paintings mythological. I am intoxicated with the beauty of the country in spring, the

1 His servant.

2 The Duke always called the Provost Dr. Hodgson, though, as has been seen, he was B.D.

woods enamelled with flowers. White and his wife so happy in a beautiful cottage, and under the same roof almost an old lady of ninety-two, quite happy and well and intelligent. To-day we are going to Buxton; even Buxton would smile on a May day without cold or wind. Morpeth never spoke so well or was so much cheered as the other night, so I don’t care for the defeat; the poor Torie’s remark was that the ministers bear beating without resignation. I have not seen the Cliffords since they have been at Hardwicke. How quiet and soothing, I think, that old place must be for them in this glorious weather!

You are by no means to leave Kemp Town, when you say; you must stay as long as it is agreeable to you to remain by the sea-side. If I should take it into my head to want to go to Brighton I should like so much to find you there, and I should have my bedroom and library as usual, and you would not be in the least disturbed. But such a plan of pleasure is not likely to be my lot. I am very glad for you all and for Lord Denman for Captain Denman’s 1 success. I wish

1 Mrs. Hodgson’s brother, the Hon. Joseph Denman, R.N., distinguished for his eminent services in the suppression of the slave trade, for many years captain of the Queen’s yacht, and, as admiral, commander-in-chief of the Pacific Station.

you would send me a whiff of pure sea air in a letter. . . . On Monday I go to Woburn for the royal visit there. The
Queen boasted to me in London of having seen you, and told of your reception of her. Morpeth has got immense credit by his speech. I hope he will be firm in declining to come in to Parliament at present.’

Mrs. Robert Arkwright describes a tour on the Continent in a letter of which the Duke writes that it is the perfection of nature and truth. Mrs. A.’s, letter is dated Sutton, September 9.

My dear Mr. Hodgson,—Our tour was most charming, so charming that I can give you no idea of it. Much and often did I wish for you, who would have been so worthy of all that nature and art poured out to overflowing. I was more pleased with France than I expected. It is certainly a fine country, though its natural beauties are not interesting; but there are some things in the South well worth seeing. The Pont du Gard is most magnificent, and Nismes, with its beautiful amphitheatre and many other interesting remains. Arles, too, and Avignon, which has a peculiar charm of its own, though there is not much to see in the town; but the situation is beautiful. We went from
Chalons to Lyons by the Saône (the scenery is extremely pretty), then from Lyons to Avignon by the Rhône. I cannot say how beautiful the Rhône is; it far, far surpasses the Rhine, which is greatly over-rated. On leaving France we went from Nice to Genoa by the Cornice—lovely; imagine going close to the Mediterranean for 200 miles, on a ledge so overhanging it that you might drop a stone into it, and never leaving it but to wend for a short distance among rocks of variegated marble, and through groves of olives, palms, oleanders, oranges, giving out their sweetness to the sea-breeze: then the Mediterranean—there is nothing on this earth so lovely. Our sea is a fine, bluff fellow, and I love him dearly. But, my dear Mr. Hodgson, you can have no idea of the exquisite beauty and variety of colours of the Mediterranean. How I wished for you at Genoa, and Florence, and Venice, and in all the intermediate travelling. Venice is enchantment! and you must go directly, for they have almost finished a railroad through the sea from the main-land. In another year it will be done, and Venice no longer Venice. From Venice we went through great part of the Tyrol, with which I was delighted. The country and the people are most loveable, most attaching. Then
we went to Milan, and over the Simplon into Switzerland, with which I was disappointed. We came home by the Rhine to Brussels. This is a slight sketch of our tour, and here is how I love it. First of all Italy, really the garden of the world, its lakes, its mountains, its plains, all exquisite. Its works of art, palaces, pictures, statues, churches, all miracles of splendour. I had no conception of the treasures they contain; but alas! that so much treasure should have been expended to perpetuate error. I was disappointed in the Venus! She is beautiful in form, but her head is insignificant, and altogether she did not interest me. Of all the statues at Florence I most admired the Knife- grinder; that is wonderfully fine: and a figure of architecture which makes part of a group on the monument of
Michael Angelo in the Church of Santa Croce.

To pictures, with shame I confess it, I am quite insensible, except in three or four instances. The finest picture in the world is at Venice, and that I saw without the least emotion. The gallery at Bologna, too, I cared nothing about; in short, I have not that sense.

Italy, beautiful, beautiful Italy, I place first of all; then the Tyrol; then Switzerland, beautiful but
stern and hard—we should have seen it before we went to Italy and the Tyrol—then Germany; then France. Of the mountain-passes I place first the Stelvio, for wonder; the Ampezzo for beauty, oh, how beautiful! then the Fintermünz—all in the Tyrol; then the Simplon. Lakes—first, Maggiore, then Como, then Geneva. I saw no other Swiss lake; but we saw Chamouni, very fine.

I almost forgot to tell you that the book I send you is from the Island of San Lazaro at Venice, and was printed at the monastery there, which was a favourite spot of Lord Byron’s, and where he was instructed in the Armenian language by Father Paschal Ancher. I was sorry not to see him, but he was away for his health. Another brother showed us all over the convent and gardens, full of oleanders, large trees. The printing-offices are very large, and they appear to be very busy; the type, as you will see, is remarkably good. I know you will accept this poor offering as a sort of memento of Lord Byron, and as rather a curious book.

Have you read Horace Twiss’sLife of Lord Eldon?’ I think you would like it. It appears to me well written, interesting, and very amusing; and he has given private anecdotes and letters of
Lord Eldon, without compromising his dignity in the least. We are going to Chatsworth on the 20th for a few days, to meet Lady Granville. I shall call at Stoney, from there, of course. With kind love to Mrs. Hodgson and the children,

I am ever,
Most affectionately yours,
F. C. A.

Lord Wellesley’s affectionate interest in Eton was manifested in many different ways. In February, 1842, he writes:—

I am anxious that my willow-grove should be planted this season, and called Wellesley’s willows. I would plant not less than a dozen. In that neighbourhood most of my verses were composed.
Ne quis sit lucus quo plus se jactet Apollo .
I will endeavour to obtain cuttings of
Pope’s old willow, which Lady ——— was barbarous enough to cut down. Let me know when you are ready to plant, and I will send the plants. With your permission I will erect a seat or pyramid, or both, under the shade of my willows, and will give a premium for the best verses on the subject. I am most eager for all your improvements.


A few months later Lord Wellesley was buried in the college chapel.

Of nearly the same date is a letter from Henry Hallam, respecting the portrait of his son, Arthur, the subject of Mr. Tennyson’sIn Memoriam,’ which may be found interesting by those who value, as it deserves, that imperishable name.

My dear sir,—I have in my possession a picture of my late son, painted for Dr. Keate by Sir Martin Shee. It was returned to me by Dr. K. after the loss that I sustained, partly for the purpose of enabling Sir Francis Chantrey to execute a bust, which he did with great skill and success. The picture was not restored to Dr. Keate, he having expressed a wish that it should continue with me. As I cannot help thinking that the ultimate destination of such pictures, when they are persons worthy of the place, is the Provost’s lodge, already so rich in monuments of art, and so abundant in testimonies of Eton merit, I should be far more pleased that this picture of my son—who, if his life had been prolonged, might have displayed the mature fruits of talents which bore a very beautiful blossom, and excited the admiration, as well as conciliated the friendship, of some now among the most distinguished youth of England—should be
placed where it may be seen by those who remember him, and by others who are no strangers to his name. If therefore you will permit me to send it to the Lodge1, and can find a space for its reception, I shall be happy to send it down.

Ever, my dear sir,
Very faithfully yours,
Henry Hallam.

The poet Rogers paid a visit to the Lodge in December 1842. On his departure the Provost wrote to him with reference to a recent conversation:—

It is with something like fear and trembling that one even approaches such an argument as that which you suggested last night. But I could not prevent my thoughts from recurring to the defect in Milton’s answer to the supposed difficulty of creation without the choice of the created; and I would venture to ask whether a less unsatisfactory answer may not be found in some such reflections as the following. First, that the blessing was conferred upon such easy conditions as we cannot imagine any being endowed with reason to have refused, could they have been previously proposed to him; and, secondly, when the blessing was

1 This picture is now in the Lodge at Eton.

forfeited, there was the further unutterable mercy of the Son of God Himself coming into the world to remedy the evil, and to say to us again, ‘Take My yoke upon you, for My yoke is easy and My burden is light,’—thus proposing a choice which the necessity of the case precluded before; and, at the same time, promising us sufficient assistance to do whatever He enjoins. In a word, the whole must be viewed together to enable us to solve any part of the very first difficulty; nor is this surprising when we consider whose purposes they are which we are endeavouring to penetrate.

I am aware of the imperfect development of all this, but thought it less unbecoming than entire silence; and if I am mistaken in that opinion, still I am convinced you will not regard it as presumptuous. . . . . By the words ‘imperfect development,’ I mean that the difficulty of the permission of evil is not touched upon, nor the usual solution of that difficulty, namely, that you cannot even conceive the probation of a moral and intellectual being without such a permission, and upon the notion of a trial or probation the whole history of man, as given in the Bible, is founded; a notion corroborated by every day’s experience, and by the consciousness of every reasonable being.


On the occasion of this visit the poet left his walking-stick behind him, and thus acknowledged its restoration:—

I am sorry to have encumbered you with any of my property. Dr. Franklin left his cane to Washington. ‘If it were a sceptre,’ says he, ‘he would have merited it, and would become it.’ I would not leave you mine, for it would be unworthy of your acceptance; and, were it a sceptre, I know you would not accept it. . . . . What can I say in answer to such a letter as yours? I can only thank you from my heart, and say God bless you and yours now and for ever.

Such visits as these must have added materially to the pleasure of residence at the Lodge, itself a beautiful and most interesting old house, its walls covered with pictures of distinguished Etonians. His ‘Hours of Idleness’ there, which were not really more frequent than Byron’s, are thus described by the Provost himself:—

There would he walk, not lonely tho’ alone,
Call back the shadows of his pleasures flown,
While oft their portraits to his pensive eye
Reviv’d the memory of his friends gone by.

In the study was a bust of Byron by Thorwaldsen,
the gift of a former pupil, which subsequently found its way to the sculpture-gallery at Chatsworth, where, among other friends of the late
Duke of Devonshire, there was also a picture1 of the Provost, by Sir Francis Grant, taken at the particular request of the Duke, who thus alludes to it:—

Do you remember a picture you disapproved of in an ante-room downstairs here? It is gone; but why I mention it is that the frame, a beautiful one, was preserved, and, being divided, surrounds no less dear a man than the Provost of Eton.

Hodgson’s bust of Byron by Thorwaldsen, was taken at Rome at the same time as the celebrated statue, at present in Trinity College, Cambridge. This statue was now on view in London—a fact of which Mrs. Leigh apprised the Provost in the following letter:—

Dear Mr. Hodgson,—I have reproached myself for not telling you, what perhaps by this time you have otherwise heard, that the statue, Thorwaldsen’s, is now to be seen at 14, South Audley Street, at Sir R. Westmacott’s, who is making a pedestal preparatory to its being placed in Trinity College,

1 This picture is now at Hardwicke.

Cambridge. As it is not to go into the Abbey, perhaps this is as good a place as could have been substituted, and will interest you, who were present at his reception in that college. I think perchance you and
Mrs. H., or somebody you know, might like to see the statue, en attendant, as your railroad facilitates such flights I hope you are all well, and with kindest regards to Mrs. H. and best wishes

I am yours ever affectionately and truly,
Augusta Leigh.

P.S. I forgot to say, I have seen the statue and have seen nothing so satisfactory as to resemblance since I saw the original. The fact is, one sees the head and face in every point of view. . . . . I do become very superannuating, and always think of poor B.’s horror of ‘withering at top first,’ not from the same superabundance of brains, but wear and tear of the few that I possess. . . . . But you do and always will sympathise in my troubles for the sake of him, who is gone.

Augusta Leigh.

The insertion here of some fragmentary remarks by Lord Byron on the subject of sculpture may not be considered inappropriate. ‘Sculpture, the noblest of the arts, because the noblest imitation of man’s
own nature with a view to perfection, being a higher resemblance of man so approaching in its ideal to God, who distinctly made him in His own image, that the Jehovah of the Jews forbade the worship of images, because He was a “jealous God,” that is, jealous of man’s embodied conceptions ot deity.’

But it is time to revert to the more official occupations of the Provost of Eton. Very soon after his accession to office, Provost Hodgson revived an old custom, which had long lapsed into disuse, of making periodical visitations or progresses, as they were termed in the Eton Statutes, for the purpose of inspecting the various properties of the college in different parts of the country, of duly estimating the increasing value of estates, of providing for the proper repair of churches, and the fitting administration of ecclesiastical functions in all Eton parishes. The advantages of recommencing such a salutary practice are too obvious to need comment.

At Eton itself no time was lost in bringing to a successful issue those plans of improvement and addition to the college buildings, to which allusion has already been made. Under the chairmanship of the late Lord Lyttelton, and through the indefatigable exertions of Mr. J. L. Dampier, as secretary, the Committee of Improvement were soon in a position
to report progress, and on June 20th, 1844, the first stone of the new buildings was laid by
H.R.H. Prince Albert, in presence of the whole college and school of Eton, after an appropriate and solemn prayer had been offered by the Provost.

A few weeks before this ceremony Eton had been honoured, on the occasion of Montem, by the Queen and the Prince Consort, who again visited Eton in October of this year, accompanied by Louis Philippe. The frequency of these Royal visits made it necessary to establish a regular scale by which the granting of holidays on such occasions should be determined, and it was arranged that foreigners of distinction should be entitled to ask for a day’s holiday, except in the case of a sovereign, who might ask for a week.

Amidst these purely collegiate matters wider interests were not disregarded. In 1845 an immense benefit was conferred upon the whole community at Eton by the establishment of a thoroughly efficient system of drainage, at a cost of about £4,000. The engineer who was employed to report upon the efficiency of these works concludes his statement by a just tribute to the liberal and comprehensive spirit which had actuated the Provost in his design. ‘Looking at the consequences in a more extended view,’ says the engineer, ‘it is certain that your example will
have an immense moral effect, and you will be found to be among the leaders of that mighty current of public opinion, which is absolutely necessary to enable the Legislature to carry out those measures of relief, which the deplorable state of the drainage of most places in these kingdoms requires.’

About the same time a sanatorium was built for cases of infectious illness; and when the rival railways, the Great Western and the South Western, proposed to lay down lines to Windsor, great care was taken to prevent too close proximity to the sanatorium, or any other such encroachment upon college property as was likely to prove injurious.

The restoration of the collegiate church was another reform effected by Provost Hodgson at Eton. This was begun by the removal of the grotesque and unsightly wooden reredos, which defaced the east end. A proposal by an advanced churchman of the new Oxford school for the elaborate decoration of this wall was negatived by the Provost, who was of opinion that any such (at that time unprecedented) innovation would excite too much contentious controversy as to counteract any benefit which might indirectly arise from the contemplation of a gorgeous ornamentation. It is probable that he also disapproved of the proposed design from a purely aesthetic
point of view. The great east window was filled with stained glass by a voluntary subscription among the boys, and the west window was similarly improved by the
Rev. Edward Coleridge. The substitution of low oak seats for the old high pews provided accommodation for upwards of 300 additional boys. By the removal of the panelling from the walls of the choir, traces of mural paintings were revealed. They were left exposed to view for upwards of seven months for the benefit of artists and antiquarians, and several copies were taken. Finally the Provost allowed them to be covered by the series of stalls which formed part of the architect’s design of restoration. Several of the canopies of these stalls were erected to the memory of eminent Etonians. The Provost’s extreme reluctance to put out of sight paintings of considerable antiquarian interest was lessened by the fact that they all represented legendary miracles, attributed to the Virgin Mary, to whom the collegiate church is dedicated.

On the best method of warming the chapel the Provost profited by the experienced advice of Sir Joseph Paxton, the talented originator of the great conservatories at Chatsworth, on the model of which the Crystal Palace was constructed. A cemetery and chapel were established in the immediate neighbour-
hood of Eton, and the old Chapel of Ease in the town was superseded by the building of St. John’s Church, of which the corner stone was laid by the
Prince Consort at the Provost’s request, and which is now the parish church.

The addition to the college buildings was completed in 1846, and proved of the greatest permanent benefit to the whole school.

Without dwelling in detail upon the previous discomforts and abuses which disgraced the foundation, it is sufficient to point out that in one year there were only forty boys in college where the founder had intended provision to be made for seventy; and that as soon as the nomination system had been abolished, the entrance, intermediate, and final examinations made realities, and the material improvements made known, there were sixty candidates for one vacancy.

The historian1 of Eton, already mentioned, thus enumerates some of the advantages now obtained by the college, but which, before Provost Hodgson’s tenure of office, were conspicuous by their absence:—

A proper staff of servants was engaged to do all the menial work, under the eye of the matron; the

1 Mr. Maxwell Lyte.

building was warmed and supplied with water; and other conveniences such as studies, lavatories, and a sick room were added. Breakfast and tea, like those of the Oppidans, were furnished to the Collegers, who from thenceforth ceased to hire rooms in the town and to pay the dames for the right of being received into their houses when ill. More important still was the decision that a master should sleep under the same roof as the Collegers, and maintain discipline among them. Nor was it the Collegers only who benefited by the erection of the new buildings, for a spacious library was built for the use of all boys in and above Middle Division.
Dr. Thackeray, Provost of King’s, gave some cases of stuffed birds, and other donors added artistic and interesting objects, making the room a kind of museum. The Boys’ Library has been justly praised as ‘the sanctuary of learning and the refuge of quiet to many a boy for whom a public school would else afford small opportunity of satisfying a desire for knowledge beyond the mere routine of school life.’

Eton scholarship received a renewed impetus by the employment at this period of distinguished examiners, such, for instance, as Mr. Creasy and Mr.
Goldwin Smith, and the general system of education was further benefited by the introduction of Mathematics as an integral part of school work—a branch of learning hitherto entirely ignored. One other reform, which was of the utmost importance to the general discipline of the school, remains to be recorded—the abolition of Montem.

The origin of Eton Montem is lost in obscurity. It was probably a religious procession to some shrine of the Virgin or other saint in the vicinity of Eton. The character of the boy bishop, well known to those conversant with popular antiquities, formed at one period a part of the ceremony; and continued to a comparatively late era to be remembered in the mock representation of the parson and his clerk. This was very properly abolished at the special request of Queen Charlotte. But enough egregious folly was still inseparably connected with the festival to provoke the indignant condemnation of all sensible men. Besides the absurd procession of the school in grotesque costumes of the most motley description, besides the authorised begging of alms by some of the Collegers in the character of highwaymen, there was also to be deplored the extravagant expenditure of money thus rapidly accumulated, which was squandered in reckless dissipation. Habits of debt
and self-indulgence were too often formed, and a fruitful harvest was provided for money-lenders and swindlers, whose numbers were now increased tenfold by the introduction of the railways. These more serious consequences were well described by the Provost, whose thoughts on this, as on most other subjects, found an easy expression in verse.

Then, Fancy, fill thy dream
With harpies hovering round the rich to seize
Whate’er Imprudence yields to hours like these:
While tradesmen, tavern-keepers, watchful wait,
And credit-giving knaves prepare their bait
With proffer’d luxuries, that a youthful life
May toil to pay for with laborious strife,
While thoughtless of the wrongs she works below,
Wild Folly claps her hands above the show;
Shouts, as her mimic soldiers pace their way,
And waves her flag on Punch’s holiday.

Having long entertained an opinion that these evils were irremediable by any measures short of the total abolition of the custom, it was with great satisfaction that the Provost received in October, 1846, an appeal from the Head and Lower-master, supported by a majority of the assistants, in favour of its immediate discontinuance. For being assured that the popularity of Montem was so general and enthusiastic that any premature exercise of authority in the
matter would only defeat its own object, and occasion widespread dissatisfaction among a large number of Etonians, and being also fully alive to the advantages of the triennial Eton meeting, the Provost determined to wait until he could confidently depend upon the moral support of the authorities of the school and college. By the statutes as they then existed, this was a matter which depended entirely upon his own decision after consultation with the Head-master. But
Provost Hodgson had always been most anxious to act as far as possible in concurrence with the Fellows of Eton, even in matters which did not fall immediately within their jurisdiction; and although this was a question which directly concerned the discipline and management of the school, independently of the college, and did not therefore require for its decision a formal vote of the college, yet, in a matter of such general interest to Etonians, the Provost was unwilling to take any decisive step without the counsel and advice of those who, from their position as Fellows, were so closely connected with Eton, and who would naturally take a warm interest in the discussion of such a thoroughly Etonian subject. The Provost accordingly consulted the Fellows, clearly explaining to them that he was only asking for their opinions and not for their votes.
Three agreed with him, four differed from him. But the Visitor, the Provost of King’s, the Head and Lower-master, and a majority of the Assistants were with him, and the Provost, upon consideration, decided that the majority at Eton was for the abolition, and at once resolved to carry his decision into effect.

But for many years Montem had been honoured by the presence of Royalty, and, as a matter of courtesy, the Provost thought it right to intimate to Her Majesty that, finding the evils attendant upon Montem to be irremediable, he had decided to abolish it, and was anxious to hear that such a step would not meet with the disapproval of the Queen and the Prince Consort. This communication was made through Mr. Anson, the Prince’s secretary, who, on November 12th, wrote that he had laid before the Queen all the reasons which the Provost had adduced for the abolition of Montem, that there existed in the Queen’s mind a very strong reluctance to giving her assent to it, but that she should like to see its abuses removed without its entire suppression.

The Provost answered as follows:—

With every grateful and loyal feeling, and more especially with a deep sense of the interest shown in the welfare of Eton, I am so thoroughly convinced by
my own observation, and from the statements of those who are best able to judge from experience, that there is much evil inseparably connected with Montem, that I cannot help, I hope without impropriety, making one other effort to obtain the Royal Sanction for the abolition of that custom.

He then proceeded to explain the strongly expressed views of the Head and Lower-master on the subject, and concluded by saying:—

I have anxiously weighed all the difficulties of the case, and am far from insensible to the reasons which have been so graciously adduced with reference to old Eton associations, for the preservation of the custom. But the conviction that many of its abuses are incurable, overpowers the strongest motive that I could have for ceasing to advocate its abolition.

The answer to this was that although the Royal feeling in favour of this ancient custom remained the same, yet that the Queen would not interfere with those best able to judge of the influence of Montem upon the school in that which they considered to be the conscientious discharge of their duty. The
Provost immediately made known to Etonians that Montem was abolished.

Beyond the walls of Eton various opinions were expressed; many, whose names commanded respect, wrote to thank the Provost personally for his decision; of others, who did not speak or write, it was aptly remarked, ‘quum tacent clamant.’ The Press, also, made its remarks, and many were very erroneous from the impossibility of any one, except those who were in authority at Eton, knowing the exact circumstances of the case. In March, 1847, the year in which, in the ordinary course, Montem would have been celebrated, a meeting of its supporters was held in London, and an attempt was made to overthrow the decision, and to interfere with the authority of the Provost. Many assertions were made at this meeting which untruly represented the real state of the case, and it was altogether of a character more calculated to damage than promote any cause whatever. A proposal was made to address the Crown, but this was not carried into effect; Montem was finally abolished on June 6, 1847, and an old Etonian wrote to the Provost, remarking that—

The Titans of Cockspur Street might as well attempt to pull down Windsor Castle as to raise up another Montem.


Another writes:—

I cannot but admire your manliness in resisting an external pressure to defeat your sensible decision, which, I am sure, has obtained the approbation of a large portion of Etonians.

A neighbouring magistrate bore testimony to the improvement likely to be effected by the abolition in the morality, peace, and good order of the neighbourhood. Bishop Wilberforce, the Diocesan, wrote:—

The consciousness of high motive and, I doubt not, the issue of your Montem struggle, will far more, I am sure, than repay you for a little contumelious usage.

Lord Denman:—

You must incur some unpopularity by every reform, but the abolition of Montem is a great and real one.

The improvements thus effected during the twelve years of Hodgson’s Provostship received due recognition from the Public School Commissioners in 1864, and were not confined to the sphere of their more immediate operation. The example set by Eton
could not fail to have a salutary influence upon other institutions of a similar character; and, having regard to the many obstacles which he overcame (into a full consideration of which it has, for obvious reasons, been impossible to enter), to the mingled firmness and courtesy with which he withstood prejudice and conciliated opposition, and to the magnitude of the results, directly and indirectly attained, it is not more than a just recognition of Provost Hodgson’s services to say that no man, in so short a time, ever conferred more lasting benefits upon the cause of enlightened education in this country.