Samuel Harvey Reynolds was the son of Samuel Reynolds, FRCS, a surgeon practising in Stoke Newington. He was born in 1832, so was aged 15/16 when he entered the school in 1847, considerably older than his two classmates who were aged respectively 11 and 10. This age difference meant that Reynolds was seen very much as the responsible, senior member of the school during its earliest years, frequently being chastised for faults in the younger boys. However, his reminiscences are affectionate, and tempered with a sense of humour and proportion:
The Radley system, then and afterwards, I must describe as well as I can. I think that any boy, coming to Radley from another school, as many of us did, must have felt at once the much greater individual care which he received. Radley boys, as Mr Sewell more than once told us, were to be brought up to be gentlemen, scholars and Christians; and this design the Warden and the rest of the staff spared no pains to carry out. Conduct and character were closely watched; faults were observed and checked, not only as offences against College rules, but as inconsistent with the high standard to which we were expected to confirm. Nothing, however trivial, was suffered to pass without notice. Our dress, our behaviour at meals, and during play-hours, and at all times, were under constant scrutiny and control. That all this was done with the best object I am sure, but I am not so sure that it was done wisely and well. Possibly it was a little over-done. Radley, under the then Warden, was in the nature of a hot-house. Life at the place was, for many of us, a cramped and artificial life. It would have been better, perhaps, if we had been left a little more to ourselves, and had not been forced to feel at every turn that we were living under a perpetual restraint. I speak of Radley as I knew it. Things have been managed with more judgement since. They would have been managed with more judgement then, if the Warden himself had ever been at a public school, or had known more than he did about public school life.1
Reynolds left Radley in 1850 to attend Exeter College, Oxford. He had a distinguished career as an undergraduate, winning prizes for the Newdigate Prize Poem2 and the Chancellor’s English Essay Prize, and graduating with 1st Class Honours. He became a Fellow, Tutor and Bursar of Brasenose College, and served from 1871-93 as Vicar of East Ham. He became highly regarded as a writer, working on the staff of The Times newspaper and published extensively on Classics and Belles-lettres. He died at Biarritz in 1897.
See entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
1: Quoted in TD Raikes. Sicut Columbae. Oxford, 1897
2: Four Old Radleians have won the Newdigate Prize for Poetry at the University of Oxford. These are: Samuel Reynolds, 1853: The Ruins of Egyptian Thebes; Robert Crutwell, 1907: Luis de Camoens; Peter Way, 1948: Caesarion; Andrew Motion, 1975: The tides.