29th November 1919.
I think the Governors and parents and friends present, and the School, will forgive me if, on this occasion, I speak for a few minutes on quite broad lines as to what I believe may be said of the School as it is, and what I hope for its future history. First, I believe that, with few exceptions, there is a spirit of earnest work in the School, and a growing realisation as the girls reach the higher forms that school life must lead on to definite service in the larger life when school days are over. That larger life may have the family life as its centre. A good many girls, after school days, go back to live at home, but almost all of them desire to qualify themselves to live lives of definite usefulness when they get there, and there never was a time when both towns and villages cried out more loudly for all that a girl can bring with her of an alert and well-equipped mind and a good heart, and a capacity for organisation and an eagerness to give and take, to the common benefit of the community. Again, we cannot wish anything higher or better than a happy marriage, and that best of all things, a good home–the unit on which society is built. Again, the teaching pro¬fession is calling out for teachers with a voice that surely must find an eager response from many a girl educated in these schools of ours. You will not be surprised to hear an “old hand” say that she cannot imagine anything more exciting than to be eighteen years old with a heart full of hope that some share may be given to her in the great work of helping to train the bodies, minds and characters of boys and girls ; for the teaching profession has to do not only with brains. Or it may be that some now at school are hoping to be members of the medical or nursing professions.
I know there are some, and this great end being kept in view gives a zest to their studies now. But I need not make a list of all the many useful ways of service at home or abroad that are ready for the feet of those who choose to walk in one or other of them. What I want to say is just this. There is an carnest spirit of work in the School, and may it deepen as time goes on, and besides the delight in music, drawing or books that it brings with it, may there be a definite, eager stream of service flowing from it that shall add to the beauty and fruitfulness of the particular spot where each may find herself. Let me mention some other of the features of this, as of so rnany other schools. I am often told that Godolphin girls whilst at school, and when they have left it, have good manners. It would indeed be a sore trial to me if people told me the reverse of this, but I suppose that, as I am told this good thing of them so very often, they must, as a rule, show that consideration of others, that self-control, that quietness in appropriate places and at appropriate times that indicate a good heart and good taste. I naturally love the neat smartness, possible in the dress of a schoolgirl, and after they have left school I watch with an anxious eye to see how far their good taste will carry them in the more independent days which follow the school days. Are they going to prefer a certain measure of restraint, dignity, self-control, and simplicity, to extravagance in any direction ? Are they, perhaps, going to prefer beautiful things, in music and in dancing, to what seems singularly like a return to barbarism? Are they, above all, going to promote true hospitality and goodwill and good manners in whatever society they find themselves? I am hopeful that thousands of women and girls of England will cling to their best instincts and with no tinge of priggishness, will carry good sense and good taste into their intercourse, both with rnen and with other women.
I have spoken of two features which I believe the School as a whole possesses-a spirit of earnest work and good manners. There are one or two other all-important marks which I should like to think would become more and more characteristic of the School. I believe the best public schools for boys and girls have an atmosphere which cultivates a sense of proportion. The sense of proportion or the lack of it makes for or against the happiness and the fruitfulness of any life. In lessons and in games, in the formation of friendships, in the estimate of relative claims and relative duties, how many opportunities there are for exercising and for cultivating this sense of proportion? The recognition of what is great and the recognition of what is small clears the ground of many needless small miseries, and leads to a cheery, strong manner of life. I will mention two special ways of keeping alert a true sense of proportion in a school of this kind. One is connected only with the school itself. The School Houses must always put the whole School before the House. I delight in your loyalty to the House to which you belong. Every girl always says that hers is the very best House, and I include, of course, Sarum House, which deserves honour from all the other Houses for the way it holds together and keeps a high position amongst them, without having a House at all! But if once a narrow, self-absorbed spirit crept into the Houses, they would become a collection of little private schools, and all the rich life which now flows so strongly through all the Houses and from the Houses through all the Form rooms would be lost. Through games, through competitions, through hospitality, the school spirit can grow stronger and stronger by reason of magnanimity, of the delighting to honour good work and good play, in whichever House it is found, by a kind spirit that will leave nobody out in the cold, and by altogether rallying round the School to guard its honour and lift its standard always higher. Another way, ever ready to hand, of cultivating a sense of proportion in a school is by never letting it lose sight of the great events in the world outside, by making it feel itself a tiny, though important and necessary, part of the whole life of the nation, and of the race. Throughout five years we had driven in’ upon us all a lesson of this nature, and I feel confident that that lesson can never be forgotten, with its call to acknowledge what arc the great things that count in life and the obligation it lays upon all of us to sink smaller interests in a desire to serve gladly wherever duty calls us. But, above all, I believe the School does desire to strike the note of reverence, and may this note be ever more clearly sounded as the years go by. Nothing base, nothing mean, nothing vulgar, nothing insincere, nothing unkind can prosper where the spirit of reverence dwells. It is like a clear stream by whose banks whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honourable, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, grow and bloom and multiply. It is like a golden chain telling us of what is strong and eternal and binding together the beautiful permanent things of friendship and of work wherever the friends may be, and whatever their work may be. It is like the watchful star in the East, waiting for the Holy Child who came at Christmas to live the pattern-life for all God’s children. I feel that all my kind hearers will forgive me for saying just what it was in my mind to say to-day.