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Thomas Arnold

Thomas Arnold, 1840
Born 13 June 1795(1795-06-13)
West Cowes, Isle of Wight, England
Died 12 June 1842 (aged 46)
Rugby, Warwickshire, England
Cause of death angina pectoris
Resting place Rugby School Chapel
Nationality British
Education Winchester School
Alma mater Corpus Christi College, Oxford
Occupation Educator and historian
Known for Reforms to Rugby School (immortalised in Tom Brown's Schooldays)
Title Regius Professor of Modern History
Term 1841-1842
Predecessor Edward Nares
Successor John Antony Cramer
Children Matthew Arnold, Tom Arnold, William Delafield Arnold

Thomas Arnold (13 June 1795 – 12 June 1842) was a British educator and historian. Arnold was an early supporter of the Broad Church Anglican movement. He was headmaster of Rugby School from 1828 to 1841, where he introduced a number of reforms.


Early life and education

Arnold was born on the Isle of Wight, the son of William Arnold, an inland revenue officer, and his wife Martha de la Field. He was educated at Winchester and Corpus Christi College, Oxford. There he excelled at Classics and was made a fellow of Oriel in 1815. He was headmaster of the school in Laleham before moving to Rugby.

Career as an educator


Rugby School

Arnold's appointment to the headship of the renowned Rugby School in 1828, after some years as a tutor, turned the school's fortunes around, and his force of character and religious zeal enabled him to turn it into a model followed by the other public schools, exercising an unprecedented influence on the educational system of the country. He is portrayed as a leading character in the novel, Tom Brown's Schooldays.

Oxford University

He was involved in many controversies, educational and religious. As a churchman he was a decided Erastian, and strongly opposed to the High Church party. In 1841, he was appointed Regius Professor of Modern History at Oxford. His 1833 Principles of Church Reform is associated with the beginnings of the Broad Church movement.[1] He was also one of the Eminent Victorians in Lytton Strachey's book of that name.


His chief literary works are his unfinished History of Rome (three volumes 1838-42), and his Lectures on Modern History. He died suddenly of a heart attack in the midst of his growing influence. His biography, Life of Arnold, by Arthur Penrhyn Stanley, one of Arnold's former pupils, is considered one of the best works of its class in the language.

Arnold bought the small estate of Fox How, near Ambleside in the Lake District in 1832, and spent many of his holidays there. He is buried at Rugby chapel.


He married Mary Penrose, daughter of the Rev. John Penrose of Penryn, Cornwall. They had three daughters and four sons, including the poet Matthew Arnold, the literary scholar Tom, and the author William Delafield Arnold. Their eldest daughter Jane Martha married William Edward Forster, and when William Arnold died in 1859, leaving four orphans, the Forsters adopted them as their own, adding their name to the children's surname. One of these children was Hugh Oakeley Arnold-Forster, a Liberal Unionist member of parliament, who eventually became a member of Balfour's cabinet.

Thomas the Younger's daughter Mary Augusta Arnold, became a famous novelist under her married name of Mrs Humphry Ward, whilst Tom's other daughter, Julia, married Leonard Huxley, the son of Thomas Huxley and their sons were Julian and Aldous Huxley. Julia Arnold also founded in 1902 Prior's Field School a still existing girl's school in Godalming, Surrey.

Arnold Family Tree (partial)
Thomas Arnold
Mary Penrose
Matthew Arnold
Tom Arnold
Julia Sorell
William Delafield Arnold
Jane Martha Arnold
William Edward Forster
Mary Augusta Ward
Julia Arnold
Leonard Huxley
Hugh Oakeley Arnold-Forster
Lucy Story-Maskelyne
Julian Huxley
Aldous Huxley
William Arnold-Forster
Mark Arnold-Forster


A more recent public school headmaster, Michael McCrum of Tonbridge School and Eton College in the 1960s through 1980s, and also a churchman and Oxbridge academic (Master of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge and Vice-Chancellor), wrote a biography and reappraisal of Arnold in 1991. McCrum was steeped in the significance of Rugby and of public schools; he too had briefly been a master at Rugby and was married to the daughter of another former headmaster.

More recently, a biography entitled Black Tom has been written by Terence Copley. Both McCrum and Copley have sought to restore some of the lustre to the Arnold legacy which has been heavily under attack since Strachey's sardonic appraisal.


  1. ^ Timothy Hands, Thomas Hardy: Distracted Preacher? London: Macmillan Press, 1989, p. 3.
  • This article incorporates public domain text from : Cousin, John William (1910). A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature. London, J. M. Dent & Sons; New York, E. P. Dutton.
  • Thomas Arnold, The Christian Duty of Granting the Claims of the Roman Catholics (pamphlet) Rugby, 1828.
  • Thomas Arnold, Sermons Preached in the Chapel of Rugby School, London: Fellowes, 1850 (original 1832).
  • Thomas Arnold (translator), The History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides, (3 vols.) London: Fellowes, 1845.
  • Thomas Arnold, Principles of Church Reform, Oxford: Fellowes,1833.
  • Thomas Arnold, History of Rome, London: Fellowes, 1838.
  • Thomas Arnold, Sermons: Christian Life, its Hopes, Fears and Close, London: Fellowes, 1842.
  • Thomas Arnold, Sermons: Christian Life, its Course, London: Fellowes, 1844.
  • Thomas Arnold, The Interpretation of Scripture, London: Fellowes, 1845.
  • Thomas Arnold, Introductory Lectures on Modern History, London: Longmans, Green & Co, 1842.
  • Arthur Penrhyn Stanley, The Life and Correspondence of Thomas Arnold, London: Fellowes, 1845 (original 1844).
  • Tom Hughes, Tom Brown's School Days, London: Penguin, 1994 (original 1857).
  • Lytton Strachey, Eminent Victorians, London, 1918.
  • Michael McCrum, Thomas Arnold, Headmaster, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989.
  • Terrence Copley, Black Tom: Arnold of Rugby: The Myth and the Man, New York: Continuum, 2002.

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Thomas Arnold (13 June 179512 June 1842) was a schoolmaster and historian, head of Rugby School from 1828 to 1841. His son was the poet Matthew Arnold; he was also an ancestor of Aldous Huxley.


  • My object will be, if possible, to form Christian men, for Christian boys I can scarcely hope to make.
    • Letter accepting appointment as headmaster of Rugby; in Concise Oxford Dictionary of Quotations
  • As of rioting, the old Roman way of dealing with that is always the right one; flog the rank and file, and fling the ring-leaders from the Tarpeian rock.
    • Quoted by Matthew Arnold, Cornhill Magazine, August 1868

External links

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