Letter from Arthur to his sister Margaret, 17 July 1906
[No original available]
Egerton House, Berkhamsted.
July 17, 1906.
You will see from the enclosed letter of the Provost of Eton that George is very far from getting a scholarship, and that there is no real hope for next year. I tell him that unless his masters here report great progress it will be useless to go in. He enjoyed his visit to Eton immensely, staying with Brinton since Hugh Mcnaghten was ill, and became very eager indeed to go to school there. I am not at all sure that it will not be best for him in the long run to stay here.
Leonard Hobhouse’s comments on my indisposition, though kind, indicate a feeble disposition. No one else has talked such nonsense, to my knowledge, except one actor. I am afraid there is a similar want of backbone in the conduct of the “Tribune”.
The dentist has completed the plate for my mouth, and intends to put it in tomorrow. He says that I shall require practice in talking, and that at first some sounds will be better, others worse. I shall be unable to bite on the injured side – permanently. I think he’s going to set to work now on the apparatus for the eye, the result of which I imagine to be a little uncertain. At all events nothing can be done to check the tear-flow, since the tear-duct is gone, except perhaps the insertion of a tiny silver tube, which is a matter for the oculist. I am in very good health, and enjoying the beautiful summer weather. Crompton was here on Sunday, and Barrie last night. Perhaps Aunt Emily is coming one day this week, and we are looking forward to seeing Father on Monday. Friday week is the school breaking-up and prize-giving, and on Saturday we go to Cudlow House, Rustington.
No doubt the Provost’s disclosure as to George’s inadequate standard of scholarship was a blow, lightly as Arthur seems to take it in this letter. I believe he would very likely have been successful if he had stayed on at Wilkinson’s. It is rather difficult to make out, in view of the last sentence of the first paragraph, whether Arthur was in fact abandoning the notion of sending George to Eton, or merely supposing that that was what it would come to unless George got a scholarship the following year, when I think he would in any case have been too old.
I expect we are all agreed that it would have done none of us any harm to stay on at Berkhamsted School – if Arthur and Sylvia had lived.
And I guess – it is no more than a guess – that within a very short time after the date of this letter, both Hugh Macnaghten and J.M.B. came forward with offers to help towards George’s expenses as an Oppidan.
The Hobhouse allusion must remain obscure. I suppose he edited “The Tribune”. Was the “one actor“ Gerald du M., I wonder? Something had been said to irritate Arthur pretty strongly, and this, together with George’s failure and the horrors of the plate and the general blackness of the outlook combined, as I think, to make this a slightly disgruntled letter: or at least one that comes nearer to complaint than any others. He never complains.
Curious, by the way, that neither A. himself, nor Maurice, nor Crompton, seem to have contemplated sending their sons to Marlborough, where they could very likely have got reduced fees. Perhaps they had had too long a spell of it themselves; or the school may have been going through a bad phase.
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