A Privileged Existence

Garton Orme by J. Richardson, 1750.

George Moneybags has the best of everything and his education is no exception. He attends Eton, one of the most elite public institutions in England. Here, he will form friendships with other aristocratic young men who may be useful to him in the future.

Education was not held in high esteem amoung the upper class. However, it was agreed upon that young gentlemen needed some instruction to competenly carry on business affairs. Upper-class families often hired tutors to educate their sons. Much of the aristocracy believe that schools "were sinks of iniquity, where boys learned nothing but a smattering of Horace and very gross, unpolished manners." 8 Thus, it was generally thought preferable to have a young man educated in the home until he was ready to attend a university. Tutors were either parish incumbents or young men leaving college. They were paid well and treated with respect. Tutors taught reading, writing, Greek and math. They also assisted the family in teaching the young gentlemen manners, social graces, and proper decorum with servants.

If a young upper-class gentleman did go to school, he usually went to either Eaton or Westminster. The curiculum at these institutions often included: classical studies, writing, arithmetic, Euclid, Greek history, Pope, and antiquities. Westminster commenced instruction at six o'clock in the morning, whereas Eton began at the later hour of eight o'clock in the morning. They studied until eight in the evening with plenty of breaks for meals and recreation. Although one could receieve a very comprehensive education at these institutions, there were problems. For example, bullying was a big problem. Boys would beat each other up and throw rocks at each other. In sone extreme cases, boys set fire to one other. The boys did not just commit violent acts against each other. Wrath was also directed at school officials in the form of large rebellions. One notable rebellion happened at Eton after the headmaster attempted to flog a student. "A hundred and sixty boys threw their school books into the Thames and set out to march to Maidenhead. There, they consumed fifty-five pounds worth of food and drink and finally went back to school again." 9These displinary problems discouraged many parents from sending their young sons to the elite public schools. However, weather at school or at home, upper-class boys receieved the best education in eighteenth century England.

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