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Among other preventive measures I should recommend the precaution which is, I believe, now almost universal in schools, that every boy should have a separate bed. This is, as regards the subject we are now treating of, most important, and should be made a sine quâ non in all schools. Evil practices are, I believe, most frequently commenced and practised in bed.
An additional advantage would perhaps be obtained if each boy in a school had not only a separate bed, but a separate compartment in which he might enjoy some sort of privacy.
A conscientious schoolmaster's task, nevertheless, does not end with providing for cleanliness, decency, and exercise among his boys. In spite of all his efforts, masturbation and other vices may spread widely through the school unless a careful supervision bę practised. Against these secret evils there is no better safeguard within his reach than a steady endeavour to raise the moral tone of the whole school by means of the upper forms, so that the older boys may of their own accord join in preventing, so far as possible, any ungentlemanly or disgraceful conduct. Without some such auxiliary, the best-intentioned master is almost powerless against the moral infection of such practices.
How diffused secret wickedness may become in schools appears every now and then in scandals so dreadful, that the natural tendency of all concerned is to hush up and forget them as speedily as may be. Indeed it is impossible not to sympathize with the feeling, that to be obliged seriously to doubt as to the manliness, and in a rough way, of the purity of our large schools, would be a great calamity. And in the main this confidence has been no doubt hitherto justified. Still, there are points on which I think all concerned may be a little too confident, not to say remiss. One in particular I wish to mention (I can hardly do more). It seems to be included clearly within the scope of these remarks.
I think a schoolmaster should be alive to the excessive danger of the platonic attachments that sometimes become fashionable in a school especially between boys of very different ages. I am not speaking of ordinary boyish friendship, than which there can hardly be a greater blessing, either during boyhood or after life. I would encourage such friendship in every way I could. Growing as it does with the growth of the boys, strengthening with their strength, and cemented by scrapes, fights, sports, sorrows, all increasing their mutual respect and interest, such a manly happy connection strikes its roots so deep as generally to survive most other ties. I am speaking of what schoolmasters cannot be ignorant of—the sentimental fancy taken by an elder boy to a younger, between whom there can be, in the regular course of the school, little natural companionship, and having about it a most unpleasant and dangerous resemblance to passion. I know that such attachments have led to most melancholy results. I have been made aware that some public-school men have declined masterships in their own school because they knew the custom prevailed—would not sanction it—but did not dare to attack it. I have been informed that it has been preached at, not obscurely, from school-pulpits.' And I could point to living men, with a wretched burden of recollection from it on their consciences which they would give the world to erase.
I am not suggesting that such modern imitations of ancient platonic attachments are universal, general, or even common in English schools, I only say that they do sometimes exist, and that to the remotest approach to the manners or the morals of the Phædrus the school-master should be sensitively alive.
No doubt it has often struck others as it has myself, how advisable it would be in schools, and, indeed, in all institutions where bodies of boys or young men are collected, to establish, if possible, a kind of public opinion as a rallying point for virtue. There is never any lack of fellowship and countenance for vice; the majority too often favor or support it more or less openly. To make virtue, propriety, self-restraint fashionable (so to speak) should be, it appears to me, one of the chief objects at which masters and tutors should aim. With admirable common sense and shrewdness the Rev. Sydney Smith recommends the enlistment of the dread of ridicule, even, on the same side :-"Put a hundred boys,” he says, “ together, and the fear of being laughed at will always be a strong influencing motive with every individual among them. If a master can turn this principle to his own use, and get boys to laugh at vice, instead of the old plan of laughing at virtue, is he not doing a very new, a very difficult, and a very laudable thing ?” It has frequently been done, and by the same means of frank sympathy, thorough earnestness, and spotless rectitude in the instructor, it can be done again. The help which such a tone of feeling would be to a wavering boy is incalculable. Supported by such a “public opinion,” a well-disposed boy need not blush when tempted or jeered at by the licentious. Innocence, or even ignorance of vice will no longer be a dishonor or a jest. The better disposed will reprove any immorality, and utterly discountenance all conduct inconsistent with the character of a Christian and a gentleman. No one can have read the life of the late Dr. Arnold without seeing that it was one of the chief objects of his life to establish some such feeling as this among his boys. That he was to a great extent successful those who have had the good fortune to become acquainted with any number of his pupils will be the first to acknowledge,
This manful meeting of temptation is not only, in my opinion, a far more courageous, but a far more successful way of disciplining the young to virtue than that sickly, hotbed training, that keeps them more often ignorant than innocent. Herbert Spencer, in speaking of moral education, has well remarked :“ Remember that the aim of your discipline should be to produce a self-governing being, not to produce a being to be governed by others. As your children are by and bye to be free men, with no one to control their daily conduct, you cannot too much accustom them to self-control while they are still under you eye. Aim, therefore, to diminish the parental government as fast as you can substitute for it in your child's mind that self-government arising from a foresight of results. All transitions are dangerous, and the most dangerous is the transition from the restraint of the family circle to the non-restraint of the world. Hence the policy of cultivating a boy's faculty of self-restraint by continually increasing the degree in which he is left to his selfconstraint, and by so bringing him step by step to a state of unaided self-restraint, obliterates the ordinary sudden and hazardous change from externally governed youth to internally governed maturity.”—Moral Education (p. 140).
In the same direction we find the weighty testimony of the Rev. Sydney Smith :-“Very few :—“Very few young men,” he says,
" have the power of negation in any great degree at first. Every young man must be exposed to temptation; he cannot learn the ways of men without being witness to their vices. If you attempt to preserve him from danger by keeping him out of the way of it, you render him quite unfit for any style of life in which he may be placed. The great point is not to turn him out too soon, and to give him a pilot.”
There are many parents who, when reports of police courts or divorce cases appear in the newspapers, at once burn the papers lest their sons should read the details. There are others who regret that the usual channels of public information should publish such cases : they dread (as they the parents express it) that the morals of their sons should be corrupted.
My answer to these anxious parents is that in spite of all remonstrances these details will continue to be published; but I believe, as I have stated recently (July 16th, 1870) in a letter to the “British Medical Journal,” that “as a set-off to this publicity and inquiry which so many of my friends are now deploring, we have the compensation of noticing that, if the youth of the nineteenth century becomes now necessarily familiarized early with the details of vice, the knowledge is accompanied with the practical lesson that illicit pleasure is invariably attended with much physical pain. The veriest trifler who read his penny paper cannot become acquainted with the offensive details there to be found, without listening to the attendant moral; and thus the antidote follows the poison. It is in this way that men of my mode of thinking view the distinction between the modern newspaper details and the prurient literature which has been generally known as Holywell Street. In this last-named literary garbage, illicit pleasure was depicted in all its most attractive and meretricious forms; but the anonymous author, like the translators of the Greek and Latin loves of the heathen gods and goddesses, omitted to allude to the frightful consequences that illicit love or bestial propensities produce on all those who directly or indirectly indulge their animal propensities.”
My ideas on this subject are strongly corroborated by some remarks published by the late Rev. Mr. Robertson, of Brighton, and as they have a practical bearing on the question, I reproduce them here:-“I would far rather that there was much less of censorship of opinion. I know that millions of books, infidel and bad books, swarm out of the press, and yet I would not wish to see them stopped by force, except, of course, such as are shocking to public decency. Great as are the evils of unchecked license in publishing and reading, the evil of permitting any persons to restrict either authoritatively would be immeasurably greater. It is a part of our moral discipline. I would not have that exotic virtue which is kept from the chill blast, hidden from evil, without any permission to be exposed to temptation. That alone is virtue which has good placed before it and evil seeing the evil, chooses the good” (p. 73, “Addresses”).
I cannot close this sketch of what the sexual condition of early youth should be-of what dangers and disturbances even in infancy it is liable to—and of the best methods of meeting and guarding against those dangers and disturbances—better than by inserting two letters with which I have been favored on the subject, corroborating, as they strongly do, my own views.
Rectory, Feb., 184 Dear Mr. Acton,—It is indeed a difficult subject to treat wisely and usefully, but I fully believe you are right in saying that it ought to be faced; and though it is very questionable how far any publication should be placed in the hands of youth, yet good service is done if you supply parents and instructors with such information as shall enable them to speak to individual boys according to their discretion with a confident knowledge of those physical facts on which their admonitions are based.
You are not far wrong, I am afraid, in your facts if I may judge from my experience of three great public schools and several private ones. And if I hesitate to adopt your opinion, it is on the à priori grounds that it is hardly conceivable that the wise and merciful Creator should annex so fearful a penalty to indulgences which the multitude are sure to fall into-indulgences which (unlike the luxuries introduced by art) are supplied—if that is not using too strong a word, for I will not believe they are suggested—by nature