The Hambledon Men
A PAGE FROM THE SKETCH-BOOK OF GEORGE SHEPHERD, AT LORD'S, ABOUT 1790
(Reproduced by permission of the M.C.C.)
THE HAMBLEDON MEN
BEING A NEW EDITION OF JOHN NYREN'S 'YOUNG CRICKETER'S TUTOR,' TOGETHER WITH A COLLECTION OF OTHER MATTER DRAWN FROM VARIOUS SOURCES, ALL BEARING UPON THE GREAT BATSMEN AND BOWLERS BEFORE ROUND-ARM CAME IN.
'Last Munday youre Father was at Mr. Payn's and plaid at Cricket, and came home please anuf, for he struck the best ball in the game, and whishd he had not anny thing else to do he would play at Cricket all his Life.'
Extract from an old Sussex letter
OXFORD: HORACE HART
PRINTER TO THE UNIVERSITY
TO THE MISSES
MARY, ELISABETH, AND ALICE NYREN
GRAND-DAUGHTERS OF JOHN NYREN
IS RESPECTFULLY DEDICATED
BALLADE OF DEAD CRICKETERS
Ah, where be Beldham now, and Brett,
Barber, and Hogsflesh, where be they?
Brett, of all bowlers fleetest yet
That drove the bails in disarray?
And Small that would, like Orpheus, play
Till wild bulls followed his minstrelsy?
Booker, and Quiddington, and May?
Beneath the daisies, there they lie!
And where is Lambert, that would get
The stumps with balls that broke astray?
And Mann, whose balls would ricochet
In almost an unholy way
(So do baseballers 'pitch' to-day);
George Lear, that seldom let a bye,
And Richard Nyren, grave and gray?
Beneath the daisies, there they lie!
Tom Sueter, too, the ladies' pet,
Brown that would bravest hearts affray;
Walker, invincible when set,
(Tom, of the spider limbs and splay);
Think ye that we could match them, pray,
These heroes of Broad-halfpenny,
With Buck to hit, and Small to stay?
Beneath the daisies, there they lie!
Prince, canst thou moralize the lay?
How all things change below the sky!
Of Fry and Hirst shall mortals say,
'Beneath the daisies, there they lie!'
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
Page from George Shepherd's Sketch Book at Lord's, about 1790
Lord's in 1833
An Early Game
Mr. W. Ward
'Fill The Goblet Again,' John Nyren's setting to Byron's verses
An Early Match on a natural pitch
The Field for Single Wicket
A Cricket Match at Lord's
Lord Frederick Beauclerk
'The Bat And Ball,' Hambledon
William Beldham in old age
The Vine Ground, Sevenoaks
A Cricket Match at Lewes
Lord Frederick Beauclerk
An Old Cricketer
The Rev. Gilbert White of Selborne, writing to his nephew on August 1st, 1786, adds this postscript:—
'Little Tom Clement is visiting at Petersfield, where he plays much at cricket: Tom bats; his grandmother bowls; and his great-grandmother watches out!!'
Little Tom Clement (who was the son of the naturalist's niece Jane) stands here bat in hand, on the threshold of this Hambledon Book, with, I think, peculiar fitness—for he typifies the cricket enthusiasm which was just beginning to burn in the veins of young England, and has been burning with so noble a fire ever since. He came to Petersfield (which is an easy walk from Hambledon) from Alton, also in the enkindling area, at a time when the Hambledon Club was at its zenith. Although only five he had fallen already under the magic spell, and not only fallen himself, but was taking his grandmother and his great-grandmother with him.
That the mother of the Graces played her part in their cricket education we all knew: that is History; but little Tom Clement's grandmother bowling him of her best, and his great-grandmother watchful 'in the country'—these ladies were hitherto unknown to the world, and it is time that they had their fame. But my principal reason for quoting the passage, together with that on the title-page (from Mary Turner of East Hoathly in Sussex to her son at Brighthelmstone, some years earlier), was to show that cricket, even so long ago, was exercising its subtle spell and claiming its slaves just as it does to-day—and was not, as some may have thought, confined to the few illustrious players who in the pages of Nyren and Bentley and Lillywhite represent all the enterprise in the game that was shown for so long a period. Beneath the surface on which they glitteringly performed were depth on depth of that village-green enthusiasm which, for us, Mrs. Turner and little Tom Clement symbolize.
My object in the present book has been to bring together as many authentic praises of the early cricketers first celebrated by Nyren as I could find—together with a few new facts concerning Nyren himself: the whole to form rather a eulogy of the fathers of the noblest of games than a history of its rise or contribution to the literature of its theory. The reader will find few dates, but many traits and virtues; no well-ordered facts, but much enthusiasm.
I have made the introduction of round-arm bowling the end of what may be called the Hambledon period in cricket, for two reasons—one being that I had to fix upon some limit or I should have been tempted to go on for ever; and the other that Nyren himself so sturdily disapproved of it. Some of his strictures will be found on page 40, while in Cowden Clarke's words, written in 1840 after his old friend's death, we read:—
The prophecy did not come true; cricket was not ruined by the new bowling: but what Nyren would say of Cotter or Mr. Knox one can only wincingly conjecture. If injury has come to cricket it is not by way of round-arm or over-arm.
Some day the first round-arm period may in its turn call for a celebrant; meanwhile I am necessarily excluded from the praise of such great and, to the biographic mind, alluring figures as Lillywhite the Nonpareil, Fuller Pilch, Felix and, above all, Alfred Mynn. But an end must be made somewhere, especially with a subject so rich in seductive by-paths as cricket, and particularly ancient cricket, can be.
Not to begin with Nyren's own book would have been an injustice, if not an impossibility. To say that another edition of it was needed is perhaps too much, especially with Mr. Ashley-Cooper's most admirable reprint (in 1902) before me; but with such an accretion of supplementary and corroborative evidence and information as I have been able to bring together, I hope that its reappearance here is justified. For the pocket Mr. Ashley-Cooper's Nyren remains perfection. Since I have gone somewhat minutely into the story of John Nyren and his book in the little paper printed on p. 97 (which first appeared in C. B. Fry's Magazine), I say no more on that subject here.
Of Charles Cowden Clarke, who held the pen during the composition of this classic, a word should, however, be said. He was born in 1787, and lived almost as long as William Beldham, dying in 1877. He was at his father's school at Enfield, where Keats also was a scholar. It was through Leigh Hunt that he came to know the Novellos, and the Lambs, and John Nyren; and in 1828 he married Mary Victoria Novello, who survived him until 1898. Together they compiled the Shakespeare Concordance by which their name lives. Clarke himself became known all throughout England by his Shakespeare lectures and readings. He made friends all his life, and when he died these lines, from his own pen, were placed on his tomb, at Genoa, by his own wish:—
Let not a bell be toll'd, or tear be shed
When I am dead:—
Let no night-dog, with dreary howl,
Or ghastly shriek of boding owl
Make harsh a change so calm, so hallowed.—
Lay not my bed
'Mid yews, and never-blooming cypresses;
But under trees
Of simple flow'r and odorous breath,
The lime and dog-rose, and beneath
Let primrose-cups give up their honied lees
To sucking bees;
Who all the shining day, while labouring,
Shall drink and sing
A requiem o'er my peaceful grave.
For I would cheerful quiet have,
Or, no noise ruder than the linnet's wing
Or brook gurgling.
In harmony I've liv'd;—so let me die,
That while 'mid gentler sounds this shell doth lie,
The Spirit aloft may float in spheral harmony.
The Rev. John Mitford's review of Nyren's book, on p. 121, was printed in the Gentleman's Magazine for July and September, 1833. Mr. Mitford was then Rector of Benhall in Suffolk, and was 'Sylvanus Urban' too. He had peculiar opportunities of writing with knowledge of the early game, for he kept a Nestor on the premises, in the person of old Fennex, who had been an All England man for years.
'Mr. Mitford,' wrote Mr. Pycroft in his Oxford Memories, 1886, 'related to me his first introduction to William Fennex as follows:—One evening we had been practising so much to our own satisfaction that one of our number, doing what he pleased with the bowling, fancied that for the time, with eye well in, he could keep up his wicket at that moment against Lillywhite himself. Just then it happened that I observed a hale and hearty man of between fifty and sixty years of age, leaning on his stick, with a critical expression of countenance which induced me to say, "I think from the interest you take in our game that you have been a player in your day." This led to a few observations about a defect in my friend's play, and eventually Fennex, for he it was, offered to bowl a few balls. Much to our surprise he rattled about our stumps in a way that showed us that in the art of cricket there was, after all, a great deal more "than was dreamt of in our philosophy".
'Fennex had a very high underhand delivery, rather after the style of David Harris, as described by John Nyren, who seemed to force the ball forward from under his arm, pitching with great spin and very near the bat, with a very abrupt rise, and defying forward play. That evening I had much talk with Fennex about the old game and the new. He said, "You can see, sir, my bowling would be queer if I were a younger man; and some of our old bowlers, much as it is the fashion to despise the fair underhand bowling, would rip up your present players in no time at all. Indeed, people have no notion of what the best of the old under-hand bowlers could do".
'This observation was confirmed by Mr. Ward, who said that the round-arm bowling was rendered necessary rather because the old under-hand bowlers were used up, and that there were many difficult bowlers he met in the counties who were not brought forward, and the old style ceased to have its fair chance. In confirmation of this view of the case, I must cite the case of William Clarke.
'The result of this meeting was that Fennex was hospitably appointed by Mr. Mitford to a sinecure office, created expressly in his honour, in the beautiful gardens of Benhall; and Pilch and Box, and Bayley, and all his old acquaintance, will not be surprised to hear that the old man would carefully water and roll his little cricket-ground on summer mornings, and on wet and wintry days would sit in the chimney-corner, dealing over and over again by the hour, to an imaginary partner, a very dark and dingy pack of cards, and would then sally forth to teach a longremembered lesson to some hob-nailed frequenter of the village ale-house.'
Mr. Mitford's name does not occur in Lillywhite's Cricket Scores and Biographies, and I have no record of his proficiency in the field. But he could write of cricket with gusto, and he reverenced the past. He died in 1859, aged seventy-eight.
To pass from the Rev. John Mitford to the Rev. James Pycroft and The Cricket Field is a very easy transition, for it was upon the MS. volume (where is it now?) of Fennex's reminiscences, which the older enthusiast sent to the younger in 1836, that the historical part of that book was founded. The Cricket Field, from the second edition of which (1854) I quote the two chapters on the Hambledon men (together with other matters elsewhere in these pages), remains, after Nyren, the best book on the game. It has that blend of simplicity and enthusiasm which is essential to the good writer on cricket and cricketers. Mr. Pycroft does not seem to have known Nyren personally, but he had the inestimable advantage of conversing with William Beldham, and these conversations, together with the Fennex MS. and correspondence with Mr. Budd (with whom he had also played), put him in a stronger position than any historian of the game can ever occupy again. The Cricket Field is now in its tenth edition, and will, I hope, reach many more.
In 1836 James Pycroft was twenty-three years of age, and had just become a B.A. of Oxford, and in that same year he immortalized his memory by reviving, with Bishop Ryle, the Oxford and Cambridge match. Four years later, in 1840, he took orders, and, subsequently settling at Bath, played for the Lansdown Club, and spent most of his leisure in preparing The Cricket Field, 1851; The Cricket Tutor, 1862; Cricketana, 1865, and other books, including a novel or two. I should also remark that as early as 1835 he had put forth a pamphlet on The Principles of Scientific Batting. His last book was Oxford Memories, 1886, a work in which the author doubtless meant to be faithful to his theme, but in which the bat beats the University again and again and at length drives it from the field altogether.
Like his great predecessor John Nyren, Mr. Pycroft was a left-hander. During his latter years he lived at Brighton, and I remember well his tall, erect, clerical figure, clad always in black, with a cape and a silk hat, his pure white hair and a fringe of white whisker, his pink cheeks and bright eyes. He disliked to sit formally in the Pavilion; but would walk round and round the ground, pausing, or I might say, hovering, every few steps, to watch the play more closely.
He died in 1895, aged eighty-two sharing some of the longevity of his friends, Mr. Budd, who was ninety, and Beldham, ninety-eight.
Old Clarke's letter I take from William Bolland's Cricket Notes, 1851. William Bolland was Perpetual President of the I Zingari and a great friend of the Ponsonbys, with whom and Tom Taylor and others he founded the Old Stagers' Dramatic Club in 1842. His other claim to memory (could there be a better?) is that he was a friend of Thackeray and the original of Fred Bayham in The Newcomes William Bolland was the son of Judge Bolland, for whom he acted as marshal, but he took his legal duties very lightly. He was a better actor than cricketer, and a better companion than either. Old Clarke, in point of years, is well outside the limits of this book, since, although a great performer at Nottingham from 1816 onwards, he did not play at Lord's in the first-class game (as we say) until 1836, when he was thirty-seven, and was not considered good enough for the Players against the Gentlemen until ten years later. But in all respects save the date he belonged to the old traditions, bowling under-hand till the end. Caffyn, who was a member of his team, says of him, in his excellent book Seventy, Not Out:—
Better counsel on cricket than Old Clarke's, in this Letter, I never read. It is so wise and so racy too. He thought of everything, and, one feels, by innuendo paid off several old scores on the way. The reference to the funny man, for example, on p. 170 one imagines a distinct offender in the old man's eye.
The conversation with the Sixth Earl of Bessborough I have extracted by the kind permission of the author from a little gossiping and entertaining History of Kennington, which Bishop Montgomery, himself a cricketer, wrote in 1889, with a very interesting account of Old Cricket and Surrey Cricket at the end of it. Against the score of the Eton and Harrow match of 1864, Mr. Haygarth writes in Lilly white's book:—
Lord Bessborough is better known to cricketers as the Hon. Frederick Ponsonby, perhaps the best judge of the game in his day. He was born in 1815, played his first match at Lord's for Harrow against Eton in 1832, founded the I Zingari in 1845, succeeded to the peerage in 1880, and died in 1895. He comes within the scope of this book only by virtue of what he had heard of Lambert and Lord Frederick Beauclerk and his recollections of Old Clarke; and it was to him, it will be noticed, that Old Clarke's letter is dedicated. Ponsonby and his life-long friend Bob Grimston, whose life the late Frederick Gale wrote with such spirit and affection, were the patron saints of Harrow cricket. Lord Charles Russell's very rare little pamphlet of cricket recollections was dedicated, in 1879, to these old friends, 'once champions of cricket, now guardians of that game', with this stanza beneath:—
Old Damon and old Pythias
Were always found together:
I never saw those chums apart
In smooth or stormy weather.
But Ponsonby and Grimston
With that somewhat sentimental
Superannuated pair.—Harrow Classic.
I should like to say much more of Ponsonby and Grimston, but, if at all, it must be in another book. They belong to the great round-arm period—from Lillywhite to Southerton, say,—of which there is as much to write as of the Hambledon men, with better chance of getting first-hand recollections too.
The Memoirs of the Old Cricketers which come next are brought together here from the first volume of Lillywhite's Cricket Scores and Biographies, to which they were contributed by the late Mr. Arthur Haygarth, after years of patient toil. It would be impossible to praise too highly his efforts towards commemorating the early players of the great game It was his life-work in the fullest sense of that term. Mr. Haygarth was born at Hastings on August 4th, 1825, and was educated at Harrow. From the account of him, probably by Fred Lillywhite, in Vol. iii of the Scores and Biographies, against a match in 1842 between Harrow and Harrow Town, I take this passage:—
Mr. Haygarth brought to a close the Scores and Biographies in 1895, with volume xiv. Of himself and his great task, it is there written:—
'As a batsman, his defence during the twenty years he appeared at Lord's, on the rough, bumpy, and often dangerous wickets, as used in his time, was considered to have been equal to any other cricketer of his day, especially against fast bowling, though his hitting was poor, entirely through lack of physical strength. From the age of eight to twelve (1833—1837) he was at Temple Grove School, East Sheen, Surrey, being part of that time under the care of Doctor Pinkney, who was succeeded by Mr. Thompson as head master. He went to Harrow School in September, 1839, and having formed one of the Eleven in 1842 and 1843, which contended victoriously at Lord's v. Winchester and Eton, he left that "nursery of amateur cricketers" in July, 1843, and it may be added that during the twenty years he played at Lord's he was never once late.
'He also claims for the Scores and Biographies that every line is a fact, and that no learned and verbose dissertations, or arguments, or tedious and minute theories, or penny a-line writing or averages, have a place in any part of the work of fourteen volumes. He has written several thousand letters for the necessary materials, his chivalry always was cricket, and in his day there were "no paid amateurs". Discrepancies, in the different published versions of all matches, combined with illegible writing in many accounts of scores obtained, have been the cause of great additional trouble to him during the lengthened compilation. He also collected and arranged, entirely and gratuitously, for the late F. Lillywhite, the full scores of the matches played between Harrow and Winchester, Eton and Harrow, and Winchester and Eton, they being first published in 1857, and there were subsequently several editions of that small manual. He has also inserted in Bell's Life and other papers many dozens of letters and paragraphs and suggestions, which can be found under the signature of "An Old Harrovian", or "H. E. W." His cricket writings from the first have always been "a labour of love", which remark will apply to few other compilers. He rejoices that in his old age (69) he can affirm with truth that he has saved from oblivion an immense number of interesting facts connected with our national sport; and though he has received kindness from many cricketers, in the shape of materials asked for and contributed, he has also, from a far larger number, experienced much ingratitude, opposition and neglect. He intends, however, now (1894) being in his seventieth year, to follow the same plan, method, and arrangement as he did in 1842, when at the age of sixteen he commenced his arduous task of compilation; and he will continue to work on as long as he can hold a pen or see a line of writing. Vol. xiv is now, after a cruel delay of fifteen years, presented to the cricketing world, and it will be followed as soon as possible by others, if due support is accorded.
'Tis not in mortals to command success,
But we'll do more deserve it;
The first volume of Lillywhite's Cricket Scores and Biographies came out in 1862; the last, xiv, in 1895. The scores went down only to 1878, but to this volume (published under the auspices of the M.C.C.) was added a biographical appendix carrying the record to 1894. My set belonged to Bob Thoms the umpire. Mr. Haygarth died in 1903 at the age of seventy-seven.
The paper on Mr. Budd and his friends which follows I have put together from various writers. Mr. Budd, who was playing at Lord's in 1802, died as recently as 1875. To know him must have been a liberal education in sport and manliness. I am surprised to find so few records of him. The M.C.C. have no portrait.
I have to thank Mr. Andrew Lang and Mr. Alfred Cochrane for making it possible to round off this book with poetry. Both have written classical ballads on the game: it was Mr. Lang who first called cricket 'the end of every man's desire', and Mr. Cochrane who fittingly stigmatized the wretch 'who snicketh the length-ball'. Mr. Lang's introduction to Daft's Kings of Cricket contains, in my opinion, the best writing that we have on the fascination of the game.
The illustrations, which might easily have been multiplied by ten, have been drawn from various sources. To Miss Nyren I am indebted for the portrait of her grandfather and the score of Byron's convivial song. Mr. Lacey, on behalf of the M.C.C., kindly allows me to reproduce certain pictures at Lord's; and the rest of the plates are from the collection of Mr. Gaston. Of the Lord's pictures three require special mention. First is the sheet of sketches of cricketers made from life by George Shepherd (1770?-1842) which I give, both in full as the frontispiece, and in detail, opposite pages 68, 76, 136, and 154. This picture is extremely interesting and valuable. It was acquired by the M.C.C. quite recently, and has never been reproduced before; and but for it we should have no pictorial record whatever of David Harris bowling, or Beldham at the wicket. Whether or not Shepherd has quite carried out Nyren's description of either is unimportant; the important thing is that here are sketches from life. Shepherd was himself a cricketer and played for Surrey: his is the figure beneath Harris's. Of the others represented here, Tom Lord was the Middlesex player who preserved the old ground in Dorset Square when these sketches were made. Later, he opened a ground at North Bank, Regent's Park, where the Paddington Canal now runs; and in 1813 or 1814 he opened the present historic ground that bears his name, carrying at each remove his turf with him. He came from Yorkshire and, like Nyren, was a Roman Catholic. He fielded well at the point of the bat, and was a good slow bowler. In 1830 he left London and became a farmer at Westmeon in Hampshire, where he died and was buried in 1832, aged seventy-four. The two Tuftons were the Hon. John who died in 1799, aged only twenty-six, and the Hon. Henry, afterwards Earl of Thanet, who lived till 1849—a good amateur wicket-keeper and batsman. He does not seem to have played after 1801. The Hon. Col. Charles Lennox was also a wicket-keeper and an all-round sportsman; but he is even better known for fighting a duel with the Duke of York in 1789, with the Earl of Winchelsea as his second. He became Duke of Richmond in 1806, and died from the bite of a fox, or dog, in Canada, of which he was Governor-General, in 1819. He was a fine cricketer and a very genial man. Of Captain Cumberland I know little. It is he who stands between Harris and Lord. He was a regular performer at Lord's in his day, and was playing in the match illustrated in the picture opposite p. 144. The other figure needing mention here (for we come to Harris and Beldham and Tom Walker and Lord Frederick in due course) is Captain (afterwards General) the Hon. Edward Bligh, great-uncle of the present Earl of Darnley, who is better known to modern cricketers as the Hon. Ivo Bligh.
The next picture to which I would draw attention is the match opposite p. 58. The curious thing about this plate is the handkerchief worn by the player who at the moment is bowling he whose ordinary position in the field is, on the evidence of this same handkerchief, known to be that of long-stop. The long-stop is supposed to have worn it in order to fasten up the trouser of his left leg (as navvies use string), thus to enable him to drop more easily, and without strain, on that knee to stop the ball. As cricketers' trousers were made wider the handkerchief went; and now long-stop has gone too; and it looks almost as if point is to follow him.
The last picture of special note is that opposite p. 238—the odd old gentleman, bat in hand, on the lawn of his house. Who this is, and who painted it, I have no notion; but there is so pleasant an old-fashioned air about it, and the scene is so obviously Hampshire or Sussex (with the smooth grass down rising behind), that it seems to me to consort with peculiar appropriateness with this old-fashioned Hampshire book, dealing with a time when cricket had so little of fever about it that gentlemen could continue to play in matches when well past middle age. The conjecture of the M.C.C. catalogue is that the picture, which is on wood, was once the sign-board of a Sussex inn. So much the better.
VIEW OF THE MARY-LE-BONE CLUB'S CRICKET GROUND
(From the frontispiece to Nyren's Young Cricketer's Tutor, 1833)
- Fennex claimed to have taught Fuller Pilch to bat.