Four pupils of a private tutor have adventures, grow up, and meet various fates.
Frank Smedley (1818-1864), a journalist and editor, wrote only four novels before succumbing to ill health in middle age. This, his first (serialized 1846-48) features amusing (if flat) characters, a pleasant style, and an often silly but usually entertaining plot. (The novel, by the way, is partly set in Cambridge, not Oxford—but I like this painting.)
The characters “are nicely and unaffectedly marked. They...get into scrapes in a manner sufficiently easy and natural.” The author’s “style is clear of trick and vulgarity” and “his scenes are alive.” Athenaeum, April 27, 1850
A “humorous and right-minded” novel “full of Pickwickian fun.” The plot “contains sufficient of adventure to carry it on with due interest,” and the characters “are well contrasted and developed.” It will suit “the merry and wise of the old school of English readers.” New Monthly Magazine, June, 1850
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