The Life of John Coleridge Patteson HTML version
Boyhood At Eton. 1838--1845.
After the Christmas holidays of 1837-8, when Coley Patteson was nearly eleven years
old, he was sent to Eton, that most beautifully situated of public schools, whose delightful
playing fields, noble trees, broad river, and exquisite view of Windsor Castle give it a
peculiar charm, joining the venerable grandeur of age to the freshness and life of youth,
so as to rivet the affections in no common degree.
It was during the head-mastership of Dr. Hawtrey that Patteson became, in schoolboy
phrase, an Eton fellow, being boarded in the house of his uncle, the Rev. Edward
Coleridge, one of the most popular and successful Eton masters. Several of his cousins
were also in this house, with other boys who became friends of his whole life, and he was
thoroughly happy there, although in these early days he still felt each departure from
home severely, and seldom failed to write a mournful letter after the holidays. There is
one, quite pathetic in its simplicity, telling his mother how he could not say his prayers
nor fall asleep on his first night till he had resolutely put away the handkerchief that
seemed for some reason a special link with home. It illustrates what all who remember
him say, how thoroughly a childlike being he still was, though a well-grown, manly,
high-spirited boy, quite able to take care of himself, keep his place, and hold his own.
He was placed in the lower remove of the fourth form, which was then 'up to' the Rev.
Charles Old Goodford, i.e. that was he who taught the division so called in school.
The boy was evidently well prepared, for he was often captain of his division, and his
letters frequently tell of successes of this kind, while they anticipate 'Montem.'
That of 1838 was a brilliant one, for Queen Victoria, then only nineteen, and her first
year of sovereignty not yet accomplished, came from the Castle to be driven in an open
carriage to Salt Hill and bestow her Royal contribution.
In the throng little Patteson was pressed up so close to the Royal carriage that he became
entangled in the wheel, and was on the point of being dragged under it, when the Queen,
with ready presence of mind, held out her hand: he grasped it, and was able to regain his
feet in safety, but did not recover his perceptions enough to make any sign of gratitude
before the carriage passed on. He had all a boy's shyness about the adventure; but perhaps
it served to quicken the personal loyalty which is an unfailing characteristic of 'Eton
The Royal custom of the Sunday afternoon parade on the terrace of Windsor Castle for
the benefit of the gazing public afforded a fine opportunity for cultivating this sentiment,
and Coley sends an amusingly minute description of her Majesty's dress, evidently
studied for his mother's benefit, even to the pink tips of her four long ostrich feathers, and
calling to mind Chalon's water-colours of the Queen in her early youth. He finishes the
description with a quaint little bit of moralising. 'It certainly is very beautiful with two
bands playing on a calm, blessed Sunday evening, with the Queen of England and all her