Author Topic: Michael Chapter from “Fifty Years of Eton”  (Read 1386 times)


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Michael Chapter from “Fifty Years of Eton”
« on: April 26, 2022, 07:10:40 PM »
The Chapter on Michael in Hugh Macnaghten’s 1924 book, “Fifty Years of Eton: In Prose and Verse”, pages 84-86:

                  MICHAEL DAVIES
In May 1913 Michael came to Eton "at first very full of anxieties, a boy of a tender heart and delightful feelings, full of promise." In 1914 he resolved to face every event with absolute self-possession, however much it cost him. At Christmas 1914 his Division Master wrote of him, "He may go very far if he finds an ideal…could be formidable in opposition with a will like adamant, but does not set himself in opposition." At any crisis he was glorious, self-controlled, and almost always controlling the result. In a Junior v. P. V. Broke's he came in last with a bandaged hand, which he could only trust for a single stroke: we had lost on the first innings and needed four runs to win, with only five more balls to make them
in. He smothered the first two balls, chose the third and drove it hard and low through the hedge into the Datchet Road for six, splitting his hand again; but he had done
what he had determined to do, and he alone showed no trace of emotion. Not without reason a good judge of character wrote six months later: Very anxious not to
give himself away or show any excitement about a game." But there was a deeper cause for this self-imposed law of
self-restraint: he judged it to be necessary for the training of his soul. It was in this Half that writing on "What makes a Gentlemen" he seemed to me to show a kinship in spirit to his guardian.
"I believe," he wrote, "I am right in saying that John Ball made use of the following couplet in his discourses:

‘When Adam delved and Eve span,
Who was then a gentleman?'

Doubtless Ball used the word gentleman in the more degrading sense, denoting one of the upper classes--I think he was wrong. Adam was no gentleman, not because he was not Lord Adam, but because he gave away his wife in the matter of the apple… Laurence Oates, a
very gallant gentleman, went out into the blizzard because he knew he could not live and wished to give his friends a
better chance. He was a gentleman because when he knew he was being brave he did not say 'I'm a hero and
I'm going to die for you,' but merely remarked he was going out for a bit, and left the rest to their imagination."
For the next year he was "strangely difficult. He never means to be rude, but he is too clever not to see the weak points in his Tutor and others," yet "his judgment is unerring: the cleverest boy I have had in my house." A boy of terrific power, though still "very anxious," he was marked out as inevitably Captain of the House: "there are no limits," said his predecessor, "to what he might do for good." In Michaelmas 1918 "he played long instead of short for the sake of the side: played quite gloriously and got us into the final." Of games he enjoyed fives most, but always unwilling to show any excitement he realized
just too late that native genius is not enough without laborious practice. He played against Harrow his last Summer Half, but did not distinguish himself: his disappointment that his friend Holland-Martin was not chosen in place of himself spoilt the match for him. This may
sound incredible, but it is true. It was a time of great strain: the war was still raging; his friend Roger Senhouse, who was half a year older, had left, and Michael was uncertain whether to stay on another Half. He was obviously unwell. In the final of the house match for once his judgment failed him and he ran out Holland-Martin at a crisis of the game: and yet he just managed to win against a stronger side. Subsequently he wrote in the quiet of the holidays asking if he might return. He was welcomed back, and the record of his last Half is "A wonderful Captain: he worries, but his judgment is
erring, and his actions swift as lightning: the most admirable boy who has ever been in the house.” At Oxford for a year and a half he was still very restless: more than once he made up his mind to leave. Last July he decided to go to the University of Paris, then at the last moment he changed his mind and, thanks to the kindness and wisdom of the authorities, he was allowed to return to Oxford. Henceforward there was no wavering: he worked loyally and tun increasing satisfaction in his work; he
was at Eton for a day at the end of March, full of quiet happiness.
He passed from us, in a moment of time, before he was twenty-one, but not before victory was aswured.
His own words shall be the last, a version of a poem from the Greek Anthology done without effort long ago:

‘This cheerless little stone needs must
Recall what friends of friends were we.
I miss you sore: and could you just
Try spill your Lethe's draught for me?’

For the full book, here’s the link:
« Last Edit: December 12, 2022, 07:41:50 PM by Dani1923 »