‘With your bodies between your knees’

Eager to sample the recently unveiled Spectator archive, which is cheeringly welcoming to all (pro tem), not skulking behind the palings of some pay wall, I came across this chorus of Floreat Etona in an article published in the summer of 1875. Entitled Parliament and the Eton Boys, it speaks across the centuries, both for and against the present Eton cabal in the UK government.

The conscience of public school-boys is rarely dangerously sensitive. The public life, the out-door healthy amusements, the contempt for cowardice, the high repute of physical courage and strength, the habituation to ridicule, the sharp collisions of wills, all tend to make a public schoolboy earlier fit for public life than almost any other kind of boy in the middle or upper classes of England.”

One of the great advantages of our Public Schools is the manliness—we may say, in a good sense, the hardness—which they tend to produce. It may perhaps be admitted that Parliament and some of its leading members have been a trifle weak-minded.”

I particularly liked “the habituation to ridicule” bit. Nothing changes.

A massive huzzah to the Spectator for letting us in. Perhaps noblesse will oblige them not to “moneytise” the archive, despite blandishments from Wormtongue bean counters.

By the way, the title of this item, in case you did not recognise it, is not, as you might imagine, some breathy instruction in a second rate porno, but a line from the college’s unofficial school song.

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8 Responses to ‘With your bodies between your knees’

  1. They should have instituted an anti-bullying campaign to send the bullying undercover . . .


  2. Reblogged this on Nothing Gilded, Nothing Gained–Books & Writing at Middlemay Farm and commented:
    “The conscience of public school-boys is rarely dangerously sensitive”


    • actonbooks says:

      I loved this too, but seriously though. There is an artifical, media-stimulated debate here right now about the number of members of the UK government who went to Eton. But having worked for the French government for a time it astounded me how an elite there controls all aspects of power. The so called ‘grandes écoles’ are the only places that chief executives, prime ministers or presidents, from the left or the right, will have gone to college. Without that background there is no chance of getting the top job. Those schools are bastions of privilege like as if the revolution never happened, zut, alors.
      If you ever get to visit Eton, do check out the centuries of grafitti carved everywhere. In fact I’ve often seen it in parish churches too. It seems not to have been the sin it is today — and their calligraphy was better.


      • I believe graffiti is quite sinful. 🙂 I hate when it’s called art. I guess I’m a property rights kind of person. 🙂 I think if people want to do bad art then they should consider getting tattoos instead of ruining other people’s stuff. I probably feel this way because once my artwork was ruined by a graffiti artist at school. I will admit that my artwork was probably about as good as the graffiti artist’s but it hadn’t been graded yet–and get your own piece of paper, I say!

        My question is: how can privilege be avoided without punishing people who’ve earned it? It’s a sad fact that people all over the world are born with different talents and dispositions (not to mention the random horrible parents some people end up with). No matter how we try to change reality, some always rise to the top and their kids get lucky.


      • actonbooks says:

        Just Google ‘Eton graffiti’ and there’s a deal of difference between the toffs and the hood. The toffs had better penknifesmanship. The hoodniks like the smell of the paint too much and the adornments to the landscape which are the visual equivalent to cat spray.
        I hate the very idea of dynasties. Do you hear me, Jeb?


      • Not a fan of Jeb myself. Yet if I were to make tons of money, I’d want to decide how to spend it–even if that meant giving it to my dumb kids. 🙂


  3. cannasue says:

    Our local newspaper has an archive that is mouldering away in some back room, newspaper, photos.
    They even threw away thousands of negatives when they moved premises!


  4. actonbooks says:

    Tell me about it! When I lived in London I used to pull Victorian ledgers and other priceless relics from skips. I guess it was ever thus though. The Victorians threw out what the Georgian saved and they in turn burnt most of what the Elizabethans would treasure. History is always going to be a jigsaw with pieces missing.
    I loved your blog by the way with its juxtaposition of illustration and old photos.
    If you are ever in London you should try to make it to the Edward Linley Sambourne House in Kensington. http://www.rbkc.gov.uk/subsites/museums/18staffordterrace1.aspx He was one of theose masterful artists who could draw in reverse on beechwood blocks to produce that near photorealistic art..


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