“When we cheer for an Eton crew”*

*line from Eton Boating Song, best known of the school songs associated with Eton College.

From: Rosebery – Statesman in Turmoil (2005), by Leo McKinstry:

After a final flourish, Archie left Eton in August 1865. He could hardly bear the moment of departure, as he confessed in his diary on 4 August. ‘God grant that I never have such a wrench again. I cannot take in that I am no longer an Etonian. It must have taken place at some time. Why not now?’ Yet in a sense he never left Eton, for he remained devoted to the school for the rest of his life. He sent both his sons there, and was delighted when he was appointed to the school’s Governing Body, one of the few offices he ever accepted without hesitation. In his old age he wrote to the Provost to explain that, because he had become so decrepit, he could not attend a ceremony at the school; nevertheless, ‘Whether I am there or not, my heart is always at Eton.’ In terms of politics, he always had reason to be grateful to the school. It is a tribute either to the effectiveness of Eton’s teaching methods or to the narrowness of the Victorian political class that for a quarter of a century, from 1880 to 1905, each one of Britain’s four prime ministers – Gladstone, Salisbury, Rosebery and Balfour – was educated there.

…In an interesting postscript to the Johnson saga at Eton, Rosebery had to deal with a similar problem at the school more than twenty years later, when he became Prime Minister…Rosebery said it was not for him to intervene. But he added these lines, which may reflect some doubts about his own experiences of the 1860s: ‘It is not easy in a letter or even in a day to discuss the whole system of a great public school. The evils necessarily inherent in that system are so great that I am often doubtful as to whether it is well to send a boy there. There are evils of indolence, ignorance and contamination. A genius like Arnold obviates many of these, though among a much smaller number of boys. Eton has become so vast that more seems to me to depend on the tutors than on the Head Master.’…”

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