Tom Brown's School Days (sometimes written Tom Brown's Schooldays, also published under the titles Tom Brown at Rugby, School Days at Rugby, and Tom Brown's School Days at Rugby) is an 1857 novel by Thomas Hughes. The story is set in the 1830s at Rugby School, a public school for boys. Hughes attended Rugby School from 1834 to 1842.
The novel was originally published as being "by an Old Boy of Rugby", and much of it is based on the author's experiences. Tom Brown is largely based on the author's brother George Hughes. George Arthur, another of the book's main characters, is generally believed to be based on Arthur Penrhyn Stanley. The fictional Tom's life also resembles the author's, in that the culminating event of his school career was a cricket match. The novel also features Dr Thomas Arnold (1795–1842), who was the actual headmaster of Rugby School from 1828 to 1841.
Tom Brown's School Days has been the source for several film and television adaptations. It also influenced the genre of British school novels, which began in the nineteenth century, and led to fictional depictions of schools such as Billy Bunter's Greyfriars School, Mr Chips' Brookfield, St. Trinian's, and Harry Potter's Hogwarts. A sequel, Tom Brown at Oxford, was published in 1861.
Tom Brown is energetic, stubborn, kind-hearted and athletic, rather than intellectual. He follows his feelings and the unwritten rules of the boys.
The early chapters of the novel deal with his childhood at his home in the Vale of White Horse. Much of the scene setting in the first chapter is deeply revealing of Victorian England's attitudes towards society and class, and contains a comparison of so-called Saxon and Norman influences on England. This part of the book, when young Tom wanders the valleys freely on his pony, serves as a contrast with the hellish experiences in his first years at school.
His first school year is at a local school. His second year starts at a private school, but due to an epidemic of fever in the area, all the school's boys are sent home, and Tom is transferred mid-term to Rugby School.
On his arrival, the eleven-year-old Tom Brown is looked after by a more experienced classmate, Harry "Scud" East. Tom's nemesis at Rugby is the bully Flashman. The intensity of the bullying increases, and, after refusing to hand over a sweepstake ticket for the favourite in a horse race, Tom is deliberately burned in front of a fire. Tom and East defeat Flashman with the help of Diggs, a kind, comical, older boy. In their triumph they become unruly.
In the second half of the book, Dr Thomas Arnold (1795–1842), the historical headmaster of the school at the time, gives Tom the care of George Arthur, a frail, pious, academically brilliant, gauche, and sensitive new boy. A fight that Tom gets into to protect Arthur, and Arthur's nearly dying of fever, are described in loving detail. Tom and Arthur help each other and their friends develop into young gentlemen who say their nightly prayers, do not cheat on homework, and play in a cricket match. An epilogue shows Tom's return to Rugby and its chapel when he hears of Arnold's death.
Although there were as many as 90 stories set in British boarding schools published between Sarah Fielding's The Governess, or The Little Female Academy in 1749 and 1857, Tom Brown's School Days was responsible for bringing the school story genre to much wider attention. Tom Brown's School Days' influence on the genre of British school novels includes the fictional schools of Billy Bunter's Greyfriars School, Mr Chips' Brookfield, and St. Trinian's. It also directly inspired J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series, set at the fictional boarding school Hogwarts. The series' first novel Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone has many direct parallels in structure and theme to Tom Brown's School Days.
The book contains an account of a game of rugby football, the variant of football played at Rugby School (with many differences from the modern forms). The book's popularity helped to spread the popularity of this sport beyond the school.
In Japan, Tom Brown's School Days was probably the most popular textbook of English origin for high-school students during the Meiji period (1868–1912). In 1899, an abridged version of the book (omitting chapter 9 of part 1, and chapters 5 and 7 of part 2) was published in Japanese translation. A subsequent, two-part, Japanese translation by Tsurumatsu Okamoto and Tomomasa Murayama appeared in 1903 and 1904, which, in addition to the previous omissions, also omitted the scene at the cricket match, due to the translators' stated ignorance of the game of cricket. In the preface to this version, the translators praised the English education system, citing the example of the friendship between Tom and Dr Arnold as an example of how to raise a great nation. Another partial translation, consisting only of part 1 of the book, was released in 1912 by schoolteacher Nagao Tachibana. A fourth translation, also abridged, by Sada Tokinoya arrived in 1925. Finally, a complete translation was released in 1947 that eventually ran to ten separate editions.
Tom Brown's Schooldays is a 2005 television film adaptation of the Thomas Hughes novel of the same name. It was released on 1 January 2005 and released on DVD 9 days later.
Tom Brown (Alex Pettyfer) is energetic, stubborn, kind-hearted, and athletic more than intellectual. He acts according to his feelings and the unwritten rules of the boys around him more than adults' rules.
The film deals with his years at the elite public school for boys Rugby School. His year starts when he goes to Rugby School, where he becomes acquainted with the adults and boys who live at the school and in its environs.
On his arrival, the 13-year-old Tom Brown is looked after by a more experienced classmate, Harry "Scud" East (Harry Michell). Soon after, Tom and East become the targets of a bully named Flashman (Joseph Beattie). The intensity of the bullying increases, and, after refusing to hand over a sweepstake ticket for the favorite in a horse race, Tom is deliberately burned in front of a fire. Tom and Scud stop Flashman's bullying when Flashman is expelled after a fight with Tom in which he used brass knuckles.
For scenes shot on location, all pupil roles that were not leads were played by real Rugby School students. The school all but ground to a halt for a fortnight as a large portion of the school grounds were used for shooting and the majority of male pupils were involved in taking part as extras.
Extensive cosmetic remodelling took place in some parts of the school so as to render the set historically accurate. For example, a convincing artificial well was constructed in the Old Quad where one had previously been but had since been demolished and bricked over. This particular prop remained at the school for nearly a year afterwards, as the film crew did not take it with them when they left.
The Old Gym, one of the longest standing school buildings, was sequestered as a base for costumes for the extras.
Stephen Fry interacted enthusiastically with the school during his time on set. He gave an almost universally attended talk to the entire school one evening, in which he, among other things, told the story of his expulsion from Uppingham School. Approximately ten select extras (pupils) were invited to talk to him at length in the Headmaster's study on another occasion.
Some occasions of tension on set were noted between some of the child stars playing lead roles, and both their director and the students playing as extras. These took the form of conflicts of attitude, as both the pupils and the director found some of the young actors to be aloof and stroppy at times. Although, in one instance the mother of a child actor was cited as more of an impediment to the director than the child himself.
Tom Brown's School Days has had several screen adaptations, including:
Tom Brown's Schooldays (1916 film) (silent)
Tom Brown's School Days (1940 film)
Tom Brown's Schooldays (1951 film)
Tom Brown's Schooldays (1971 TV miniseries)
Tom Brown's Schooldays (2005 TV film)
In the 1940 U.S. film, the role of Dr Thomas Arnold as a reform-minded educator was given greater prominence than in the novel. In it, Arnold was portrayed by Cedric Hardwicke, Tom Brown was played by Jimmy Lydon, and Freddie Bartholomew played East. In the 1951 British film, Robert Newton portrayed Thomas Arnold, and John Howard Davies portrayed Tom Brown.
The 1971 five-part television miniseries was by the BBC, and starred Anthony Murphy as Tom Brown and Iain Cuthbertson as Dr. Arnold. It was later shown on PBS's Masterpiece Theatre in the U.S., and both the programme and Murphy's lead performance won Emmy Awards.
The two-hour 2005 TV film was by ITV. It starred Alex Pettyfer as Tom and Stephen Fry as Dr Arnold.
A musical version with music by Chris Andrews and book and lyrics by Jack and Joan Maitland was presented at the Cambridge Theatre in London's West End in 1971. The production starred Keith Chegwin, Roy Dotrice, Simon Le Bon, and Tony Sympson.