Preface to the Sixth Edition

I received the following letter from an old friend soon after the last edition of this book was published, and resolved, if ever another edition were called for, to print it. For it is clear from this and other like comments, that something more should have been said expressly on the subject of bullying, and how it is to be met.

“My Dear—,

“I blame myself for not having earlier suggested whether you could not, in another edition of ‘Tom Brown’ or another story, denounce more decidedly the evils of bullying at schools. You have indeed done so, and in the best way, by making Flashman the bully the most contemptible character; but in that scene of the tossing, and similar passages, you hardly suggest that such things should be stopped—and do not suggest any means of putting an end to them.

“This subject has been on my mind for years. It fills me with grief and misery to think what weak and nervous children go through at school—how their health and character for life are destroyed by rough and brutal treatment.

“It was some comfort to be under the old delusion that fear and nervousness can be cured by violence, and that knocking about will turn a timid boy into a bold one. But now we know well enough that is not true. Gradually training a timid child to do bold acts would be most desirable; but frightening him and ill-treating him will not make him courageous. Every medical man knows the fatal effects of terror, or agitation, or excitement, to nerves that are over-sensitive. There are different kinds of courage, as you have shown in your character of Arthur.

“A boy may have moral courage, and a finely organized brain and nervous system. Such a boy is calculated, if judiciously educated, to be a great, wise, and useful man; but he may not possess animal courage; and one night’s tossing, or bullying, may produce such an injury to his brain and nerves that his usefulness is spoiled for life. I verily believe that hundreds of noble organizations are thus destroyed every year. Horse-jockeys have learnt to be wiser; they know that a highly nervous horse is utterly destroyed by harshness. A groom who tried to cure a shying horse by roughness and violence would be discharged as a brute and a fool. A man who would regulate his watch with a crowbar would be considered an ass. But the person who thinks a child of delicate and nervous organization can be made bold by bullying is no better.

“He can be made bold by healthy exercise and games and sports; but that is quite a different thing. And even these games and sports should bear some proportion to his strength and capacities.

“I very much doubt whether small children should play with big ones—the rush of a set of great fellows at football, or the speed of a cricket-ball sent by a strong hitter, must be very alarming to a mere child, to a child who might stand up boldly enough among children of his own size and height.

“Look at half a dozen small children playing cricket by themselves; how feeble are their blows, how slowly they bowl. You can measure in that way their capacity.

“Tom Brown and his eleven were bold enough in playing against an eleven of about their own calibre; but I suspect they would have been in a precious funk if they had played against eleven giants, whose bowling bore the same proportion to theirs that theirs does to the small children’s above.

“To return to the tossing. I must say I think some means might be devised to enable schoolboys to go to bed in quietness and peace—and that some means ought to be devised and enforced. No good, moral or physical, to those who bully or those who are bullied, can ensue from such scenes as take place in the dormitories of schools. I suspect that British wisdom and ingenuity are sufficient to discover a remedy for this evil, if directed in the right direction.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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