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The good old boys of Rugby School; Rugby School has produced some of literature's greatest novelists, as well as one of its best-known novels. Caroline Foulkes takes a look at the literary links of some of its old boys.

Byline: Caroline Foulkes

1. Thomas Hughes Described as one of the best books ever written about school life, Hughes' Tom Brown's School Days is a testa-ment to his years at Rugby and the changes wrought during this period by Dr Thomas Arnold, head of the school at the time.

Although Hughes claimed that the character of Tom was an amalgam of around 20 fellow pupils, the opening chapters portray a village very much like Uffington, Berkshire, where he grew up. He left for Rugby in 1834 and remained at the school until 1841.

The time he spent there clearly had a great impact upon him. Years later, as part of his Christian Socialist beliefs, he helped to found a colony in Tennessee, USA, to give the younger sons of upper class families who could not find openings in socially-acceptable professions like law, medicine and the clergy an opportunity to work on the land. He named it Rugby.

'What a power Rugby has been in my life,' he once said.

'The years from ten to 18 are the most important in a boy's life and I passed all those years under the spell of this place and Arnold, and have never ceased to thank God for it.'

2. Thomas Arnold While not a renowned author Arnold, Rugby's celebrated headmaster, did mix with elements of literati. His family had a holiday home near Grasmere inthe Lake District to which Wordsworth was a frequent visitor. The family were also friends with Coleridge's nephew, while the eldest son, Matthew, was tutored for a while by the son-in-law of Robert Southey, the Poet Laureate.

Arnold's own writings mainly consist of his diaries, letters and sermons, the majority of which were addressed to his pupils. He also wrote articles on educational and theological matters, and was particularly interested in historical writing, which he used as a way of escaping the pressures of school.

3. Matthew Arnold Unlike his father, Matthew Arnold was a bit of a high-spirited dandy. Yet he took the academic life seriously during his time at Rugby, winning school prizes for essays and verse in both Latin and English.

While at Oxford he won the Newdigate Prize for poetry, and went on to write many famous poems, including The Scholar Gypsy, Dover Beach and Rugby Chapel.

Yet despite his poetic nature he also took and interest in educational issues - for 35 years he held a post as an Inspector of Schools.

4. Arthur Hugh Clough A close friend of Matthew Arnold, Clough, whose parents had emigrated to America, often found himself spending holidays with his friend's family.

Yet although he was one of DrArnold's star pupils, he failed to live up to his early promise when he went on to Oxford.

His most celebrated poem, The Bothie of Tober-na-Vuolich, tells the story of a reading party in the Highlands and an undergraduate's love affair with a shepherd's daughter.

He died of a stroke in Italy in 1861 after his health collapsed under the strain of working for Florence Nightingale, his wife's cousin.

Arnold later wroteThyrsis as an elegy to his friend.

5. Walter Savage Landor Two decades before Dr Arnold rose to the position of headmaster, Landor, who rose to notoriety because of his bad temper, attended the school.

Landor's major prose work, Imaginary Conversations, is a collection of fictitious dialogues between historic characters. He was although the authorof a considerable amount of poetry, which, although fashionable with the Victorians, has since fallen out of favour.

6. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson Few pupils can have disliked Rugby as much as the boy who went on to become Lewis Carroll.

He made no secret of his loathing for the school and the lifestyle beloved by both Thomas Hughes and Tom Brown and must have dreamed of attending a school like that of his character the Mock Turtle in Alice through the Looking Glass, where the lessons lessened from day to day.

7. Rupert Brooke Brooke's father was one of the Rugby housemasters, and like Matthew Arnold before him Brooke wasone of the school's high achievers. He began writing poetry while at the school, but it was the terrible experiences of fighting in World War One that shaped his poetry.

His best known work is The Soldier'If I should die, think only this of me: That there's some corner of a foreignfield That is for ever England'8. Arthur Ransome Bad academically and worse at games due to poor eyesight, Ransome was not really a good advert for the hearty lifestyle of Rugby. Yet despite being a failure at school, he went on to achieve success as a journalist and was dispatched to cover the Bolshevik Revolution in 1913, being one of the few reporters able to speak Russian.

He later went on to write children's books, the most notable being Swallows and Amazons.9. Salman Rushdie. Rushdie, like Carroll before him, doesn't remember Rugby with particular fondness.

The Bombay-born author experienced what he describes as 'minor persecutions and racist attacks, which felt major at the time'.

Although his first novel, Grimus, did not meet with particular success, he went on to win the Booker Prize for Midnight's Children. Following the publication of The Satanic Verses in 1988 Rushdie was forced to go into hiding when Iran's Ayatollah Khomeneini issued a fatwa against him, condemning the book as a blasphemous attack on Islam.

Copies of the book and effigies of Rushdie were burned in Bradford at the height of the affair, although in recent years there has been a softening in attitudes towards him.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jan 13, 2003
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