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April 1836: 15 year old Samuel Waller writes home about School Life

Updated: Nov 19, 2020

Note: Samuel Waller junior (1820-1841) was born in Cuckfield and lived for several years at Leyton House (now Cuckfield House). He attended Guildford Royal Grammar School before beginning an apprenticeship as a solicitor with his father, Samuel Waller senior (1794-1857), who throughout his career was a prominent figure in the Cuckfield judiciary. However Samuel junior was keen to follow a 'more adventurous' life and in 1840 joined The East India Company as subaltern. He landed at Madras in December 1840 and was posted to Secunderabad where he died ten months later as a result of a bacterial infection.

April 4th 1836


My dearest mother

In due course the parcel arrived quite safe and everything it contained was, I assure you, as we could possibly wish it to be. How nicely everything was packed! What a good contrivance! (You know what I mean). We did not even find it out ourselves for some time; the children's letters, we were so pleased with them, and how kind it was of them to send some flowers; I put them in some water in my tooth mug immediately and I shall be very sorry when I shall be obliged to throw them away, they are so pretty. Let me see – violets (blue-and-white, dog and sweet), primroses, many others I don't know the names of. You must tell them how much obliged we offer their letters, as well as for the flowers.

Fred thanks Miss Syke for copying for him ‘the Mistletoe Bough’ (1) and also for her kind letter to him. Give our love to them over the way and tell Aunt Mary I am much obliged to her the seeds and that I will not add the postscript to her letter. I'm glad Papa is pleased with my new style of handwriting, tho’ I thought it was a little too stiff, but as he approves of it I shall still practice it. I answered Eliza’s letter very soon after I received it. I'm sorry to hear Aunt Best is in such delicate health. Now I think of it, tell the children we are much obliged to them for the “stock seeds for all” contained in the white pill box, we shall be sure to sow them. How gratifying the present which the Guardians made to Mr Trotter must be to his feelings, I'll answer for it, Mrs Trotter was as much pleased though.

During this unsettled weather we are very much confined to the schoolroom, so when there happens to be a fine day, we are all very anxious for a half holiday, which causes no little excitement among us; for instance, last Thursday was fine and two or three persons had asked for one, but however the bell rang as usual at 2:30 (which you must know would always ring, even if the rope were not called, thrust to come into school, it having such a kindly consideration for our welfare, rather more so than we always like) we had consoled ourselves by making sure of a half holiday, and of course did not learn our lessons (always giving ourselves in such delicate points the benefit of doubt) – knowing one had been asked for.

"I say," asks one "d'ye think he'll give us one?"

"No, he's too stingy by half, not he."

"Have you learned your lesson then?"

"No – I should think not, nor don't intend to for anybody"

"Nor have I, think he’ll give us one too, fine day, been sowel lately, and two or three people have asked…”


“Oh-Miss Bailey, Mr Wood, Mr Prosser…. Besides he promised Capt: Stringer one the first fine day”.

“Well, I don’t expect one, he’s much too stingy ______ “there (the bell rings)” I said so ___ what a shame!”

So in we go in no very pleasant humour certainly among noises of all kinds descriptive of our pleasure at going into School on a fine afternoon after having been confined to the house for the last 3 or 4 days, the masters then send up a forlorn hope but the answer to the….

“Please Sir, the masters compliments and would be obliged to you sir, if you would give us a holiday this afternoon sir, it’s very fine sir & Mr Davy says we behaved very well the last time you went out Sir”…


“My compliments to the masters and I can’t give you one today”, and as the law of the Medes & Persians (2) cannot be altered after a little more murmuring, order is restored and everything is as usual you must excuse me for writing on such a trivial subject, but it was the only thing I could think of to fill up the sheet. We have been here now nine weeks and we have got ten weeks longer to remain here. Fred and Sid are quite well and send their love to all. I could easily tell that Louisa’s letter was not her own composition; I would sooner it had been her own, I suppose it would have been after this sort. My dear Sam, I hope you are well, I am quite and so are we all, give my love to Fred and Sid. I shall be glad when the holidays come, I remain etc. I hope by next Christmas holidays I shall so drive you out in the chaise, I don’t think you will trust me next holidays. I really do not think I have anything more to say, so goodbye,

and believe me to remain my dear Mother

Your most affectionate son

Samuel Waller

The Radicals (3) of Guildford are in high glee – there is to be a radical dinner at Esher (a small village about 11 miles from Guildford) on Friday where O’Connell is expected to attend.

(1) Click link for the horror story in verse

(2) the law of the Medes and Persians. That which is inviolable or immutable. A reference to Daniel 6:8 in the Bible, saying "Now, O king, establish the decree, and sign the writing, that it be not changed, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not."

(3) Radicals

From 1836, working class Radicals unified around the Chartist cause of electoral reform expressed in the People's Charter drawn up by six members of Parliament and six from the London Working Men's Association (associated with Owenite Utopian socialism), which called for six points: universal suffrage, equal-sized electoral districts, secret ballot, an end to property qualification for Parliament, pay for Members of Parliament and Annual Parliaments. Chartists also expressed economic grievances, but their mass demonstrations and petitions to parliament were unsuccessful.

Despite initial disagreements, after their failure their cause was taken up by the middle class Anti-Corn Law League founded by Richard Cobden and John Bright in 1839 to oppose duties on imported grain which raised the price of food and so helped landowners at the expense of ordinary people.


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