WHEN Horne Tooke was about fourteen or fifteen years old, at Eton, in construing a passage in a Latin author, the Master asked him why some ordinary construction, the rule of which was very familiar, obtained in the passage. The pupil replied he did not know, on which the Master, provoked by his ignorance or perverseness, caused him to be flogged, a punishment which he received with perfect sang froid and without a murmur. The Master then put the question to the next boy in the class, who readily gave the answer, whatever it was, as laid down among the common rules in the Eton Grammar. The Master said, `Take him down—a blockhead,' on which Horne burst into tears, which the Master observing as something not readily intelligible, exclaimed, `Why, what is the meaning of this?' Horne replied,
`I knew the rule as well as he did, but you asked me the Reason, which I did not know.'
—'My boy, I am afraid I have done you some wrong. I will make the best reparation I can,'
and, taking down a Virgil from his bookcase, he subscribed it as a presentation copy with his own name, and presented it to Tooke, at the same time taking him back to the class and restoring him the place he had apparently lost.
This anecdote Sharp received from the mouth of Horne Tooke himself, who showed the Virgil when he told the story. The boy was father to the man. The youthful logical precision of Eton was quite worthy of the author of the Diversions of Purley.
From Jerdan, Autobiography, iii. 296-297.
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