Tom Brown's School Days. By an Old Boy.[HUGHES, Thomas]
Cambridge: Macmillan and Co.. 1857.
Second edition. 8vo. (195x135mm). pp. [vi], 420. Original blue cloth, lettered in gilt to spine. Wear to corners and rubbing and scuffing to boards and spine with some loss to gilt lettering. Rebacked with the original spine laid down. Original pale yellow endpapers. Internally very good with only modest marking and a closed tear to the top edge of K8, not affecting the text. Front pastedown has the bookplate of Alexander Macmillan, the publisher of Tom Brown. The plate has the address, The Elms, Streatham Lane, Upper Tooting. This is the house that Macmillan bought in 1863 when he moved to London from Cambridge. The title page is inscribed in pencil "Macmillan and Co" in the handwriting of Alexander Macmillan.
With the success of Westward Ho!, the Macmillans had overcome their early aversion to publishing novels, but, as had been the case with Kingsley’s book, they were keen to publish fiction that served a moral purpose. Tom Brown School Days fitted this ideal perfectly. Indeed Kingsley himself was an early enthusiast for Hughes’ tale of life in a Victorian public school life. Writing to Daniel Macmillan he said: “It will be a very great hit. It is an extra-ordinary book. Take it all in all, you won't see such smart writing, such knowledge of slang and all manner of odds and ends, combined with the actual knowledge of boys, and with the really lofty tone of religion and the broad humanity, in any living writer”. Hughes himself stressed that he intended the novel to be an exercise in “preaching” rather than an amusing entertainment. Although one tends to remember the cricket matches, the bullying, Tom and Arthur’s touching friendship and the general atmosphere of life at Rugby, it was the muscular Christianity and ethical probity that appealed to the Macmillans. Alexander Macmillan’s own education as the son of a highland crofter would have been far removed from Thomas Arnold’s grand, high-toned idealism and one can imagine that this copy of Tom Brown was one of the most popular books in his collection at The Elms.