The Rowers of Vanity Fair/Brassey A

Brassey, AlbertEdit

“The Master of the Heythrop” (Spy), March 15, 1906Edit

Mr. Albert Brassey is Master of the celebrated Heythrop Pack, the servants of which Hunt still sport the Beaufort green plush in compliment to the days when Badminton and Heythrop were closely associated. It is a long reign which connects Mr. Brassey with the Heythrop Hounds -- commencing, indeed, in 1873 -- and public opinion has bestowed upon him the title of “Albert the Good” in recognition of a well-spent life and a strenuous nature, which enables him at the end of three score years both to work and play hard. A man of order, all things with him are orderly, and it may easily be supposed that his nature revolts against the haphazard modes of modern life.

He was educated at Eton and University College, Oxford, and rowed in the Eton eight in 1862. Later he joined the 14th Hussars, and while quartered at Cahir in 1870 hunted the Regimental Harriers. About this time he fell a victim to the most pleasing of all maladies that affect the heart, and married the eldest daughter of Lord Clanmorris.

Mr. Brassey is a member of the Four-in-Hand and Coaching Clubs, and his bays form a spanking team. He took a fair dose of Parliament, and held his seat in the Conservative interest for ten years. He never caught the Speaker’s eye, but was beloved by the Whips for his regular attendance. He has the right while in town to breakfast at the Oxford and Cambridge, lunch at the Army and Navy, have tea at the Naval and Military, dine at the Carlton, and sup at the Cavalry; and, if none of these suit his palate, he can retire to his own well-regulated establishment in Berkeley Square. That he is a sportsman none has ever gainsaid, and upon his own land and midst the lovely surroundings of his stately home at Heythrop he is recognised as a just and generous landlord, and a bountiful donor to philanthropic schemes.

He sees as much of a fox-hunt as most of them, and his good common sense and prudence usually find him well placed at the finish. The kindly manner in which the youthful Oxonian has ever been welcomed with the Heythrop still lives in the memory of a host of full-grown sportsmen who had their first experience of the gentle art of falling with his hounds. Rebuke when deserved is courteously administered, and is reasonably effective, despite the absence of that loud-tongued abuse in which some Masters so greatly delight.

Albert Brassey (1844-1918) rowed bow to C.B. Lawes’ stroke at Eton in the 1861 School Pulling and in the 1862 Eight. At Oxford, Brassey won the Grand and Ladies’ in 1863, the Visitors’ in 1864, and the Grand, Stewards’, and Visitors’ in 1866.

His portrait is representative of Vanity Fair’s fox hunters, most of whom appeared after Bowles sold the magazine in 1889.


Club uniform -- jerseys, jackets, ties, hats, scarves, etc. -- let an oarsman tell friend from foe at a glance, on and off the water. To wear unsanctioned colors creates social and aquatic chaos, for which W.B. Woodgate pulled no punches in his Henley commentary:

New College, Oxford, 1860

Vanity Fair (July 13, 1893):

One piece of bad form has, I am glad to see, almost wholly vanished during the last four years -- namely, the display of coloured flannel coats (called “blazers”), pertaining to no recognised aquatic Club, still less to any Club that competes at Henley. Lawn-tennis jackets of an abnormal medley of colours, village cricket Club coats, etc., were for a season or two recently flaunted on the Reach by land-lubbers. Now they are properly scouted, and those who do not belong to contending Clubs wear plain mufti flannel jackets.

N.B.-- The old term “blazer” was applied only to a few of the more gorgeous College boating coats -- e.g., Lady Margaret, Magdalene, Balliol, Exeter; more sober jackets like those of Jesus (Cambridge), Trinity Hall, Pembroke Oxon, Dublin, the U.B.C.’s, Black Prince, and University College, each and all time-honoured on the course, were not so styled. When lawn tennis begat “Joseph coats” in every village nook, then the term “blazer” was snapped up and extended to these monstrosities.

Vanity Fair (July 18, 1895):

Those vulgarisms of “dongola crews” in punts, four or more young women dressed en suite with as many non-rowing club squires in semi-acrobat, semi-matador costumes, which were in vogue a season or two back, have happily disappeared. I saw but one minor exhibition of this sort in the week.

Vanity Fair (July 22, 1897):

The lawn-tennis jackets of gaudy hues which bloomed so furiously about a decade ago on the course, and were laughed to shame off the water, did not appear this season; but there was one acme of bounderism in the shape of a youth in a scarlet golf-jacket. To make the picture complete another year, we ought to see some Hebrew road-rattler who patronises the Queen’s Buckhounds sporting his pink from the stern of a punt. Then there would be arcades ambo.