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Sport is an interest, even an enthusiasm, which spans society. I have not set out here to give a detailed history of sport but rather to give researchers an idea of the resources available in the Monash University Library Rare Books Collection should they wish to study the social history of “sport.”
The items on display range in date from the early nineteenth to the late twentieth century. Although there is a predominance of Australian material, we have not limited the coverage to local sports, and much English, American, European material is included.
Rare Books Librarian
Monash University Library
1. British sports and sportsmen, past and present / Compiled and edited by The Sportsman. (London : British Sports & Sportsmen, [1908-1933?]) 13 v.
The set includes volumes on sporting identities, big-game hunting, fox-hunting, athletics, cricket and football, and horse racing. It was compiled and edited by the staff of "The Sportsman" and later “Sporting Life” magazines. Part of the intention in publishing the series was to legitimise sport history and to bring together much of the lore that surrounded the various sports and their “heroes”. Each volume has a history of the sport as well as details of the current state of play.
The volume on racing has as its frontispiece King Edward VII with his top hat, binoculars and cigar, presumably at Royal Ascot, and as the title-page vignette, a photograph of “Pintadeau; King George V’s first winner.” This emphasises racing as “the sport of Kings.”
The athletics volume has a vignette of one of the royal tennis courts at Queens Club. It includes a chapter on the Olympic Games and their revival. There is a volume on big-game hunting which has as the frontispiece a photograph of “His Majesty King George V with H. H. the Maharaja of Nepal. Shot before lunch.” They are mounted on elephants with the morning’s bag of four tigers and a deer laid out in front of the hunting party. There is a separate volume on fox hunting.
2. Cynegetica, or, Essays on sporting : consisting of observations on hare hunting ... : together with An account of the vizier's manner of hunting in the Mogul Empire / by William Blane ; to which is added, The chace : a poem / by William Somerville. (London : Printed for John Stockdale, 1788)
This eighteenth-century collection of essays on hunting begins with “An account of the hare hunting and coursing of the ancients from Xenophon to Arrian.”
The rationale put forward by the compiler in his “Introduction” reads in part,
I know the literary and speculative part of mankind are apt to consider these kind of country diversions in a contemptible light; and perhaps, they may be inclined to despise any person who shall devote his time to the writing, or even the reading, of a single page, on a subject which they may think only deserving the attention of Grooms, Country Squires, and Dog-boys. But this opinion is by no means founded on reason.
A healthy frame of body is to the full as necessary for our happiness as a sound disposition of mind. The Roman satirist [Juvenal] joins them together in his prayer, and, indeed, the latter is never perfectly attainable without the former. Now to gain this in a compleat manner, more exercise is certainly requisite than the tasked hour of walking or riding, which the Man of Literature or Business with difficulty persuades himself to snatch from his favourite employments. This may, indeed, just suffice to keep off the dreadful consequences which must inevitably attend an entirely sedentary life; but will never give that state of robust health, which no one who ever enjoyed will ever effect top despise. (p. 2-3)
The second paragraph harks forward to the present day emphasis on personal fitness, while the first could be applied to academics who see subjects such as the history of sport as being too frivolous for any serious consideration.
3. Colquhoun, John, 1805-1885.
The moor and the loch : containing practical hints on most of the highland sports, and notices of the habits of the different creatures of game and prey in the mountainous districts of Scotland ; with instructions in river, burn, and loch-fishing / by John Colquhoun. 2nd. ed. (London : John Murray, 1841)
4. Stretton, Charles.
Sport and sportsmen : a book of recollections / by Charles Stretton. (London : Hurst and Blackett, 1866)
5. Shirley, Evelyn Philip, 1812-1882.
Some account of English deer parks, with notes on the management of deer / by Evelyn Philip Shirley. (London : John Murray, 1867)
Before the rise in interest in team sports in the second half of the nineteenth century, “sport” usually meant hunting. The hunting of game, in particular, pheasant-shooting, deer-hunting, and of course, fox-hunting were the favourite sports of the nobility and gentry.
6. Foreign field sports, fisheries, sporting anecdotes, &c. &c. : from drawings by Messrs. Howitt, Atkinson, Clark, Manskirch, &c. : with a supplement of New South Wales (London : Edward Orme, [ca. 1819])
This colour-plate book is best known in Australia for its New South Wales supplement which shows illustrations of the Aborigines hunting, but there are about one hundred other hand-coloured plates showing sports from countries such as India and Africa. Hunting in one form or another is the general subject matter.
The book is open at the plate, “India hog hunting 4”. It shows the hunter on horse-back being attacked by a leopard. The accompanying letterpress begins:
Hog-hunting in India is at all times a very dangerous amusement; though, so great is the entertainment it affords, that the pursuit of it becomes an infatuation. (p. 75)
As the hunt takes place in long grass, it is not uncommon for the hunter to meet with other wild animals. The incident shown actually happened and the hunter died a few days later of “locked jaw”, i.e. tetanus.
7. Baden-Powell of Gilwell, Robert Stephenson Smyth Baden-Powell, Baron,1857-1941.
Pigsticking ; or, Hoghunting: a complete account for sportsmen, and others / R. S. S. Baden-Powell. Illustrated by the author. (London : Harrison,1889)
8. Baker, Samuel W. (Samuel White), 1821-1893.
The rifle and the hound in Ceylon / by S.W. Baker. (London : Longmans, Brown, Green, and Longmans, 1854)
9. Inglis, James, 1845-1908.
Tent life in Tigerland ; with which is incorporated, Sport and work on the Nepaul frontier : being twelve years' sporting reminiscences of a pioneer planter in an Indian frontier district / by James Inglis ("Maori") (Sydney : Hutchison, 1888)
For those stationed in India and Africa, hunting was the favourite sport. We hold many books on Africa, but these will be used in a special exhibition on that continent at a future date. On display are some of the books about hunting on the sub-continent. Baden-Powell’s Pigsticking has a gilt design on its cloth cover showing a man who has succeeded in sticking his pig, only to find that his horse has stumbled and pitched him off. Samuel Baker’s book on hunting in Ceylon has much on elephant hunting. The coloured frontispiece shows an elephant which is being restrained by ropes around two of his feet while the hunter tries to lasso the beast.
10. Nimrod, 1778-1843.
Nimrod's hunting reminiscences, comprising memoirs of masters of hounds, notices of the crack riders and characteristics of the hunting countries of England / with an introduction by W. Shaw Sparrow and fifty-one illustrations. New ed. (London : John Lane, the Bodley Head, 1926)
11. Surtees, R. S. (Robert Smith), 1805-1864.
Mr. Facey Romford's hounds / by the author of "Handley Cross", "Mr. Sponge's sporting tour", "Ask Mamma", etc., etc. ; with illustrations by John Leech and Hablot K. Browne. (London : Bradbury and Evans, 1865)
12. Whyte-Melville, G. J. (George John), 1821-1878.
Market Harborough, or, How Mr. Sawyer went to the shires ; Inside the bar, or, sketches at Soakington / by G.J. Whyte-Melville. 14th ed. (London : Chapman and Hall, )
13. Trollope, Anthony, 1815-1882.
Victoria and Tasmania / by Anthony Trollope. New ed. Australia and New Zealand. Selections (London : Chapman and Hall, 1875)
Fox-hunting generated the greatest interest among nineteenth century sports. There was a thriving literature attached to it. The sporting papers included articles describing the runs of the various hunts after foxes, and many Victorian novels included hunting scenes.
“Nimrod”, Charles James Apperley, is often cited as the best of the sporting writers of the period. He was an experienced hunter who wrote for the Sporting Magazine, and later the Sporting Review. His three famous papers on “Melton Mowbray”, “the Road” and “The Turf”, appeared in the Quarterly Review and were reprinted in book form as, The chace, the turf and the road. (1837)
Surtees was an immensely popular sporting novelist who devised the character of John Jorrocks, a Cockney grocer who takes up hunting. Jorrocks first appeared in the New Sporting Magazine in July 1831. The stories were published in book form as Jorrock’s jaunts and jollities in 1838. The original illustrations were by Phiz, but later editions were illustrated by Henry Alken, who specialised in scenes of the hunting field. The success of Jorrocks jaunts
led Chapman and Hall to commission Dickens to write Pickwick papers.
John Leech was also employed to illustrate Surtees works, often in colour. Hunting prints were very popular among Victorians, and were commonly seen in clubs, libraries and smoking rooms.
George Whyte-Melville was also a popular sporting novelist, best-remembered now for the unfortunate fact that he met his death in a fall from his horse on the hunting field.
Anthony Trollope was perhaps the best nineteenth century writer on fox-hunting. He was an enthusiastic rider after hounds and managed to work hunting scenes into many of his novels. He visited Australia in 1871 and wrote an account of it, in a series of despatches to the London Daily Telegraph, the articles being published in book form as, Australia and New Zealand (1873). The parts which describe the Australian colonies were re-published in three yellow-backs, each including his impressions of two of the colonies, in 1875. While in Victoria he hunted with local sportsmen; their quarry being kangaroos and dingoes.
14. Baden-Powell of Gilwell, Robert Stephenson Smyth Baden-Powell, 1857-1941.
Sport in war / by Major-General R. S. S. Baden-Powell ; with nineteen illustrations by the author. (London : William Heinemann, 1900)
Baden-Powell is best-known as the founder of the Boy Scouts. He served in South Africa, before and during the Boer War and distinguished himself with his abilities as a forward scout, being able to reconnoitre the enemy positions. After the war he returned to England and devoted himself to establishing the Boy Scout movement, publishing the famous manual, Scouting for Boys in 1908.
His philosophy drew on his African experiences, not only in war but also on the hunting field. Sport in War sets out specifically to show how skills learned while hunting can assist in fighting.
15. Dixie, Florence, 1857-1905.
The horrors of sport / by Lady Florence Dixie. Rev. ed. (London : A.C. Fifield, 1905)
It is now a commonplace that hunting is abhorrent and inhumane. We find agitators protesting against fox-hunting in Britain and, here in Victoria, against duck-shooting.
But we do not expect to find such views expressed in the nineteenth and early twentieth-centuries, especially not from a woman who was an experienced hunter herself.
Lady Florence Dixie was the daughter of the seventh Marquis of Queensberry. Lady Dixie travelled widely, to Africa, Arabia, Patagonia and the United States. She was a fine horse-woman, and a crack shot, and was one of the first women to take up big-game hunting. However, by 1891, when the first edition of her Horrors of Sport was published, she had become an advocate of banning the hunt.
It is a remnant of barbarism in man’s nature that he should take pleasure in displaying his skill on living animals. Deer-stalking is no doubt a healthy and exhilarating exercise, requiring endurance, stamina, a clear sight, and a steady hand. Yet the last act in a successful stalk is, if we come to think about it, disgusting and horrible. (p. 6)
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