Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/109

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III
89
"TOM BROWN'S SCHOOL DAYS"

October, 1856.

To Mary Harris.

Oh, about Tom Brown! No it is not by Arthur Hughes, the artist, but by Thos. Hughes, the barrister, the friend of Mr. Maurice, teacher of gymnastics at the College, co-worker with Mr. Furnivall in establishing social meetings, etc.; one of the brightest, best men in the world. I think the book one of the noblest works I have read, possessing the first element one looks for in n great book, namely progress—a book, too, opposed to the evil of the age, as I think, sadness. I know you may say, " Oh! that is the fault of the bit of the world you see as a worker, one who sees the poor, and who knows earnest people." There is a sorrow which I honour; and I believe Mr. Hughes would too; but I speak of that sorrow which eats into their warmest heart, and fights ever against their energy, urging them to hopelessness and despair, the selfish sadness that asks itself continually, "What have I of joy?" I speak of the sadness pervading all classes, which rushes with sickening force on the young lady who has danced most gaily at the ball, when she begins to unfasten her sash in her own room; which weighs heavily on the comfortable old lady as she sits in her drawing room, to receive guests; which makes the worker gaze in gloomy despondency on the long long wearying days of toil, and makes the poor man say, " Nothing but care and trouble, and hard work, and the workhouse at last,"—each and all saying, " What is the end and purpose of all this?"—I feel the book is a healthy blow at all this way of looking at things; and, as such, I hold it to possess the second element of a great book, namely fitness, for the age in which it is written. Then I feel that shadow of Dr. Arnold thro'out the book, the presence and