This chapter, ‘Offices,’ from Arnold Lunn’s, The Harrovians, was based on a careful diary kept by Lunn while he attended England’s second most prestigious public school from 1902 to 1906. The small, unattractive, unathletic boy in the book, called Peter O’Neil, is the author himself. Harrow was organized into ‘Houses,’ each of which consisted of a mix of boys of all ages. Each House had a name and its own internal organization and hierarchy, and they competed against one another in intramural sports called ‘games.’ Thanks to a good brain and a quick tongue, Lunn survived Harrow relatively unscathed, and, when he was able to make the system work for him, quite enjoyed himself. Not everyone was so lucky. The term ‘privs’ meant either the privileges to ‘fag’ (i.e. force younger boys to do chores and run errands) and ‘whop’ (i.e. cane or beat younger boys), or the possessors of those and other lesser privileges. The slang at Harrow also included ‘lip’ (a perceived lack of respect for a social superior in the school hierarchy); ‘side’ (insolence or pretentiousness); ‘a blood’ (someone good at sports and, on that account, treated as a school aristocrat or athletocrat); ‘footer’ (rugby); ‘degger’ (disgrace); ‘a mill’ (a fist fight); ‘flannels’ (a place on the school team along with the athletic apparel signifying this exalted status); ‘a fez’ (a cap awarded to boys of superior athletic ability, or its wearer); ‘swob’ (a lout or general term of abuse); ‘con’ (from ‘construe’ and meaning one’s translation from Latin or Greek). The chapter ends with the Latin phrase: Malo periculosam libertatem quam quietum servitium, which Thomas Jefferson quoted as ‘I prefer dangerous freedom over peaceful slavery.’ In this chapter, which has to do with school politics and privileges, the author shows Harrow’s methods of inculcated class consciousness and other qualities considered useful in a ruling class. He also shows the corrupting effect that such an environment had on character, beginning with his own. It’s not too surprising that the famous British traitors of the twentieth century were public school boys.
Chapter XI: Offices (Politics and privileges at Harrow)
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