Here is everyone's favorite Victorian Historian, Professor Patrick Allitt, discussing the tough schooling that boys received in Britain in the 1800s.
The two most famous [schools] and two of the most ancient were Eton and Harrow...The Duke of Wellington had claimed that the battle of Waterloo, back in 1815, had been won on the playing fields of Eaton. What he meant by that was that the tough schooling which the young gentlemen had been given there had prepared them for their roles as army officers and enabled them to prevail in the situation of the battle itself. Eaton, especially in the early 19th century, was a very hard school indeed. A merciless discipline was enforced by the master on the boys, but also by the older boys on the younger ones. They had a system called fagging which really amounted to a kind of slavery in which the younger boys were completely at the mercy of the older ones and could be bullied and beaten by them without any redress at all.
He describes how boys were stretched on whipping blocks and beaten in highly ritualized flogging ceremonies. Compare that to today, where young men in high school will tell their mom's on a teacher if the teacher raises his voice or sounds mean, or kids will call the police if a teacher gets too loud.
...Thomas Arnold became the new headmaster at Rugby School. It was widely thought that...flogging was partly justified as a way of beating the devil out of the boys...
But now Arnold starts to watch them more closely to try to make sure they're devoting their time...to dignified manly pursuits. That was one of his favorite words, manliness.
A great tribute to Arnold was written in the form of a novel, Tom Brown's School Days, which was published by Thomas Hughes in 1857. He himself had been to Rugby and the book was a thinly fictionalized version of his own school days. He himself thought that the school had been terrific and he admired very much the education and young manliness that he'd been provided there. As a young boy, when he first goes into the school, Tom Brown, the hero, is bullied by a student called Flashman, one of the older ones, who among other things, holds him against the fire to roast him - a form of hazing which was then very common. But Tom Brown stands up to the bullying and gradually as he becomes older he spreads his own benevolent influence and a kinder regime among the other boys.
In the final scene...
...he goes off to have a long chat with his teacher of Greek, and there's a feeling there that he's accomplished a respectable new manliness.
Another good source of 19th century manliness is, of course, Mark Twain. Consider his own life, he ran away as a teenager, worked in various printing offices or newspapers around the midwest for a few years. Still as a teenager he then bought a ticket on a riverboat in order to make his way to South America and explore the Amazon. He changed his mind and talked the riverboat pilot into training him, and spent the next several years as a riverboat pilot. In his mid twenties, he went out west and became a miner, had many wild adventures among the Native Americans, the outlaws, the miners, and the rough and seedy life between mining camps and the waterfront of San Francisco.
Here's Twain's first day in Carson City, Nevada, from Roughing It.
We were introduced to several citizens, at the stage-office and on the way up to the Governor's from the hotel—among others, to a Mr. Harris, who was on horseback; he began to say something, but interrupted himself with the remark:
"I'll have to get you to excuse me a minute; yonder is the witness that swore I helped to rob the California coach—a piece of impertinent intermeddling, sir, for I am not even acquainted with the man."
Then he rode over and began to rebuke the stranger with a six-shooter, and the stranger began to explain with another. When the pistols were emptied, the stranger resumed his work (mending a whip-lash), and Mr. Harris rode by with a polite nod, homeward bound, with a bullet through one of his lungs, and several in his hips; and from them issued little rivulets of blood that coursed down the horse's sides and made the animal look quite picturesque. I never saw Harris shoot a man after that but it recalled to mind that first day in Carson.
And here is Twain in The Innocents Abroad, while riding horseback through Syria in the middle east. He comes across a camp of dangerous Bedouins.
The inhabitants of this camp are particularly vicious, and stoned two parties of our pilgrims a day or two ago who brought about the difficulty by showing their revolvers when they did not intend to use them—a thing which is deemed bad judgment in the Far West, and ought certainly to be so considered any where. In the new Territories, when a man puts his hand on a weapon, he knows that he must use it; he must use it instantly or expect to be shot down where he stands.
Literature is full of examples of tough guys, good or bad, in times past.