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TOM BROWN'S SCHOOL LIFE.
BY AN OLD BOY.
" I'm the Poet of White Horse Vale, sir,
The Browns have become illustrious by the pen of Thackeray and the pencil of Doyle, within the memory, of the young gentlemen who are now matriculating at the Universities. Notwithstanding the well-merited but late fame which has now fallen upon them, any one at all acquainted with the family must feel, that much has yet to be written and said before the British nation will be properly sensible of how much of its greatness it owes to the Browns. For centuries, in their quiet, dogged, homespun way, they have been subduing the earth in most English counties,
THE BROWN FAMILY.
and leaving their mark in American forests and . Australian uplands. Wherever the fleets and armies of England have won renown, there stalwart sons of the Browns have done yeomen's work. With the yew-bow and cloth-yard shaft at Cressy and Agincourt, with the brown bill and pike under the brave Lord Willoughby, with culverin and demi-culverin against Spaniards and Dutchmen, with hand-grenade and sabre, and musket and bayonet, under Rodney and St. Vincent, Wolfe and Moore, Nelson and Wellington, they have carried their lives in their hands; getting hard knocks and hard work in plenty, which was on the whole what they looked for, and the best thing for them, and little praise or pudding, which indeed they, and most of us, are better without. Talbots and Stanleys, St. Maurs, and such like folk, have led armies and made laws, time out of mind; but those noble families would be somewhat astounded, if the accounts ever came to be fairly taken, to find how small their work for England
has been by the side of that of the Browns. w! These latter, indeed, have until the present genera
tion rarely been sung by poet, or chronicled by sage. They have wanted their “sacer vates," having been too solid to rise to the top by themselves, and not having been largely gifted with the talent of catching hold of, and holding on tight to, whatever good things happened to be going,—the foundation of the fortunes of so many noble families. But the world goes on its way, and the wheel turns, and the
THE BROWN CHARACTER.
wrongs of the Browns, like other wrongs, seem in a fair way to get righted. And this present writer having for many years of his life been a devout Brownworshipper, and moreover having the honour of being nearly connected with an eminently respectable branch of the great Brown family, is anxious, so far as in him lies, to help the wheel over, and throw his stone on the pile.
However, gentle reader, or simple reader, whichever you may be, lest you should be led to waste your precious time upon these pages, I make so bold as at once to tell you the sort of folk you'll have to meet and put up with; if you and I are to jog on comfortably together. You shall hear at once what sort of folk the Browns are, at least my branch of them; and then if you don't like the sort, why cut the concern at once, and let you and me cry quits before either of us can grumble at the other.
In the first place, the Browns are a fighting family. One may question their wisdom, or wit, or beauty, but about their fight there can be no question. Wherever hard knocks of any kind, visible or invisible, are going, there the Brown who is nearest must shove in his carcass. And these carcasses for the most part answer very well to the characteristic propensity; they are a square-headed and snake-necked generation, broad in the shoulder, deep in the chest, and thin in the flank, carrying no lumber. Then for clanship, they are as bad as Highlanders ; it is amazing the belief they have in one another. With them there is nothing like the Browns, to the third and
THE BROWN FAMILY CHARACTERISTICS.
fourth generation. “ Blood is thicker than water," is one of their pet sayings. They can't be happy unless they are always meeting one another. Never were such people for family gatherings, which, were you a stranger or sensitive, you might think had better not have been gathered together. For during the whole time of their being together they luxuriate in telling one another their minds on whatever sub
ject turns up, and their minds are wonderfully an|_tagonist, and all their opinions are downright beliefs.
Till you've been among them some time and understand them, you can't think but that, they are quarrelling. Not a bit of it; they love and respect one another ten times the more after a good set family arguing bout, and go back, one to his curacy, another to his chambers, and another to his regiment, freshened for work, and more than ever convinced that the Browns are the height of company.
This family training too, combined with their turn for combativeness, makes them eminently quixotic. They can't let any thing alone which they think going wrong. They must speak their mind about it, annoying all easy-going folk; and spend their time and money in having a tinker at it, however hopeless the job. It is an impossibility to a Brown to leave the most disreputable lame dog on the other side of a stile. Most other folk get tired of such work. The old Browns, with red faces, white whiskers, and bald heads, go on believing and fighting to a green old age. They have always a crotchet going, till the old man with the scythe reaps and garners them away,
TOM BROWN'S BIRTHPLACE.
for troublesome old boys as they are. And the most provoking thing is, that no failures knock them up, or make them hold their hands, or think you, or me,
or other sane people in the right. I Failures slide off them like July rain off a duck's back feathers. Jem and his whole family turn out bad, and cheat them one week, and the next they are doing the same things for Jack; and when he goes to the tread-mill, and his wife and children to
the workhouse, they will be on the look-out for Bill i to take his place.
However, it is time for us to get from the general to the particular; so leaving the great army of Browns, who are scattered over the whole empire on which the sun never sets, and whose general diffusion [ take to be the chief cause of that empire's stability; let us at once fix our attention upon the small nest of Browns in which our hero was hatched, and which dwelt in that portion of the royal county of Berks which is called the Vale of White Horse.
Most of you have probably travelled down the Great Western Railway as far as Swindon. Those of you who did so with their eyes open, have been ‘aware, soon after leaving the Didcot station, of a fine range of chalk hills running parallel with the railway on the left-hand side as you go down, and distant some two or three miles, more or less, from the line. The highest point in the range is the White Horse Hill, which you come in front of just before you stop at the Shrivenham station. If you love English scenery and have a few hours to spare,