boys with bats

A wicket in the basket?  “If the French noblesse had been capable of playing cricket with their peasants, their chateaux would never have been burnt”.It is a bit self-righteous, but historian George Macaulay Trevelyan had a point that was bit tenuous, but valid nonetheless. At the time of the French Revolution, all over England, at the matches on Sunday afternoon, nobles and villages played as equals, and cricket became part of the English social narrative, mostly illusory, but equivalent to the imagery and symbolism to which baseball holds in the American psyche… …

‘The Boy With a Bat’ is actually the title of a painting in the west Dining Room of Breamore House near Salisbury, Wiltshire. It was painted by Thomas Hudson (1701-1779), and is the subject of a postcard I have.The painting was exhibited in Washington for The Treasure Houses of Britain Exhibition in 1985.
“The background shows the old castle church, houses and bridge at Newark. With a curved bat over his right shoulder and two stumps in his left hand the sitter is Walter Hawkesworth Fawkes of Farnley in Yorkshire. Painted in the middle of the eighteenth century when cricket was still a new game, this painting and another belonging to the M.C.C. are considered to be the earliest paintings of cricketers.” (Breamore House website).—Read More:

What exercise do you take?

John Mortimer: I’ve never taken exercise. It reminds me too much of school. We used to play cricket at Harrow, and every time the ball would fly over I would move further and further away from it until I eventually got to the long grass, where I could sit and read Ibsen. ( Guardian)

(see link at end)…David Underdown, a prominent historian of the political history of mid-seventeenth century England, has turned his formidable talents to a subject dear to his heart: cricket. According to Jacques Barzun, a long transplanted Frenchman in the United States, if someone wishes truly to know America, it is necessary for them to understand baseball. Underdown, an Englishman also long resident in the United States, would argue that a similar observation might just as well apply to England and cricket. Certainly anyone reading his new book Start of Play: Cricket and Culture in Eighteenth-Century England will agree that they understand much better the ground level effects of the vast social and economic changes that swept English society during the eighteenth century. … No one should view Start of Play as a study merely concerned with cricket. Rather it speaks eloquently to the impact of the agricultural revolution and the changes it brought to the eighteenth-century English social structure, popular culture, the rise of a leisure industry, and the rise of professional sports and its consequences….

—Gambling introduced the first patrons because some of the gamblers decided to strengthen their bets by forming their own teams and it is believed the first “county teams” were formed in the aftermath of the Restoration. The first game we know of in which the teams use county names is in 1709 but there can be little doubt that these sort of fixtures were being arranged long before that.
The most notable of the early patrons were a group of aristocrats and businessmen who were active from about 1725, which is the time that press coverage became more regular, perhaps as a result of the patrons’ influence. These men included Charles Lennox, 2nd Duke of Richmond, Sir William Gage, 7th Baronet, Alan Brodrick and Edward Stead. For the first time, the press tells us something about individual players like Thomas Waymark.—Read More: image:

…Most importantly Underdown shows quite clearly how all of those issues were inter-related. In this effort he joins the ranks of another great historian and cricket enthusiast C.L.R. James. The uninitiated (that is, most Americans) may still not clearly understand how cricket is played after reading Start of Play but they will definitely understand better the nature and the evolution of English culture and society in the eighteenth century. …Read More:

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(see link at end)…We don’t know if Ebenezer Scrooge was ever a cricket fan, or whether he found time to enjoy it once relieved from the shackles of the counting-house by the spectres who haunted him over a festive period in the mid-nineteenth century. However, there are numerous references to the sport in other Dickens narratives.

Most famous is the contest in his first novel, The Pickwick Papers, between All Muggelton and Dingley Dell. This match is supposedly based on a real fixture between the Cobham and Town Malling Clubs between 1830 and 1835. It is notable for its reference to “the art and mystery of the noble game,” with Dickens adding to cricket’s mystique.

The piece also highlights how the emerging bourgeoisie had taken to cricket and how they f

ented it as much for the purpose of social ceremony as for the enjoyment of competition.

The irascible Alfred Jingle claims to have played the game in the West Indies. The earliest reference of cricket in the Caribbean was made in the Barbados press of 1806, and so it must have been established to be included in The Pickwick Papers in 1837.

In addition to his first novel, cricket is mentioned in Barnaby Rudge, Great Expectations, and Martin Chuzzelwit. Memories are evoked of men and boys playing on the green and the smell of trodden grass. In The Old Curiosity Shop, a child dies with a bat beside his bed, whilst James Steerforth is described in David Copperfield as “the best cricketer you ever saw.”

As Dickens the journalist painted pictures of social life, the social campaigner highlighted some of the injustices of early industrial England. One of which was the high admission charges to Lord’s designed to keep the proletarian out.

Dickens complained, “the London masses do not care much for cricket, probably because they have little chance of exercising any taste they may have for the noble game; but if they did, the half-crown gate-money would effectively keep them out.” Read More:

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