Sports in Thomas Hughes’s Tom Brown’s Schooldays

This paper discusses sport as presented in Hughes’ novel, Tom Brown’s School Days, which was written in 1857, and is the story of young Tom Brown, a student at the public school called Rugby School.

This paper explains that the schoolboys at Rugby, as might be expected, play rugby football, which is quite different from American football. The author points out that competitive games are a large part of their schooling at Rugby, but they do not take the place of schooling; they are extra-curricular activities meant to tax the body as well as the mind and to keep the boys hale and healthy. The paper concludes that, today, sports in college are big business; whereas, in Tom Brown’s day, sports were about the pride of the school and learning lessons that could be used later in life, such as teamwork and leadership skills.
`The book was extremely popular when it was published in 1857. Hughes essentially recreated the life he knew playing Victorian sports at school, and readers identified with his writing especially young men. No one had ever written a story like this before, although several `university` novels followed `Tom Brown’s success. Hughes followed up his wildly successful book with another, Tom Brown at Oxford, which was not nearly as popular, since so many other authors had written similar novels by the time it came out in 1861.

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