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THOMAS HUGHES (1822-1896)

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Originally appearing in Volume V13, Page 861 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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THOMAS HUGHES (1822-1896), English lawyer and author, second son of John Hughes of Donnington Priory, editor of The Boscobel Tracts (1830), was born at Uffington, Berks, on the loth of October 1822. In February 1834 he went to Rugby School, to be under Dr Arnold, a contemporary of his father at Oriel. He rose steadily to the sixth form, where he came into contact with the headmaster whom he afterwards idealized; but he excelled rather in sports than in scholarship, and his school career culminated in a cricket match at Lord's. In 1842 he proceeded to Oriel, Oxford, and graduated B.A. in 1845. He was called to the bar in 1848, became Q.C. in 1869, a bencher in 1870, and was appointed to a county court judgeship in the Chester district in July 1882. While at Lincoln's Inn he came under the dominating influence of his life, that of Frederick Denison Maurice. In 1848 he joined the Christian Socialists, under Maurice's banner, among his closest allies being Charles Kingsley. In January 18J4 he was one of the original promoters of the Working Men's College in Great Ormond Street, and whether he was speaking on sanitation, sparring or singing his favourite ditty of " Little Billee," his work there continued one of his chief interests to the end of his life. After Maurice's death he held the principalship of the college. His Manliness of Christ (1879) grew out of a Bible class which he held there. Hughes had been influenced mentally by Arnold, Carlyle, Thackeray, Lowell and Maurice, and had developed into a liberal churchman, extremely religious,with strong socialistic leanings; but the substratum was still and ever the manly country squire of old-fashioned, sport-loving England. In Parliament, where he sat for Lambeth (1865-1868), and for Frome (1868-1874), he reproduced some of the traits of Colonel Newcome. Hughes was an energetic supporter of the claims of the working classes, and introduced a trades union Bill which, however, only reached its second reading. Of Mr Gladstone's home rule policy he was an uncompromising opponent. Thrice he visited America and received a warm welcome, less as a propagandist of social reform than as a friend of Lowell and of the North, and an author. In 1879, in a sanguine humour worthy of Mark Tapley, he planned a co-operative settlement, " Rugby," in Tennessee, over which he lost money. In 1848 Hughes had married Frances, niece of Richard Ford, of Spanish Handbook fame. They settled in 1853 at Wimbledon, and there was written his famous story, Tom Brown's School-Days, " by an Old Boy" (dedicated to Mrs Arnold of Fox Howe), which came out in April 1857. It is probably impossible to depict the schoolboy in his natural state and in a realistic manner; it is extremely difficult to portray him at all in such a way as to interest the adult. Yet this last has certainly been achieved twice in English literature—by Dickens in Nicholas Nickleby, and by Hughes in Tom Brown. In both cases interest is concentrated upon the master, in the first a demon, in the second a demigod. Tom Brown did a great deal to fix the English concept of what a public school should be. Hughes also wrote The Scouring of the White Horse (1859), Tom Brown at Oxford (1861), Religio laici (1868), Life of Alfred the Great (1869) and the Memoir of a Brother. The brother was George Hughes, who was in the main the original " Tom Brown," just as Dean Stanley was in the main the original of " Arthur." Hughes died at Brighton, on 22nd March 1896. He was English of the English, a typical broad-churchman, full of " muscular Christianity," straightforward and unsuspicious to a fault, yet attaching a somewhat exorbitant value to " earnestness "—a favourite expression of Doctor Arnold. (T. SE.)
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