The Rowers of Vanity Fair/Print version

The Rowers of Vanity Fair

The current, editable version of this book is available in Wikibooks, the open-content textbooks collection, at

Permission is granted to copy, distribute, and/or modify this document under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License.


Introduction by Wiki Author Wat Bradford edit

William Dudley-Ward

The serene profile of William Dudley-Ward caught my eye in the fall of 1986. His Vanity Fair print was posted in a bookstore window near Trinity College, Cambridge, where he had been C.U.B.C. President in 1900. Finding the £40 asking price a bit steep for a student budget, I shrugged and walked on, later to reconsider and start sliding down the collector’s slippery slope. At first content with only a few, I soon bought more prints, then will power gave way and finding the rest became an obsession, and then it occurred to me that obtaining the full official list might not complete the collection.

The problem lay in the cataloguing. Over 2300 prints were published in Vanity Fair in its lifetime (1868 - 1914), roughly one a week. The editors never published a comprehensive list but did from time to time offer select groups for sale, such as this one August 5, 1908, the date rower R.B. Etherington-Smith appeared:

The following



Ampthill, Lord Fletcher, W.A. Nickalls, Guy
Bowen, Sir C.S. Fogg-Elliott, C.T. Pitman, C.M.
Chapman, W.H. Gold, H.G. Rowe, G.D.
Chitty, J.W. Grenfell, W.H. Smith, A.L.
Cotton, H.B. Jordan, G. Stuart, Douglas
Crossley, Sir S. Lehmann, R.C. Ward, Dudley
Crum, W. McLean, D.H.
De Havilland, R.S. Muttlebury, S.D.


The price of the above set of twenty-two Pictures is 15s.; or, well framed, from 1s. 9d. each extra. They will be sent, carriage paid, to any address (on receipt of remittance) by the Publisher, 33, Strand, London, W.C.


Unfortunately, the list is incomplete as it omits men such as J.J. Hornby, the Provost of Eton, who rowed for Oxford in 1849. It also omits accomplished oarsmen who happened not to row at “University,” i.e., Oxford or Cambridge. H.E. Searle, “Professional Champion Sculler of the World” in 1889, and B.J. Angle, who won the Grand Challenge Cup at Henley in 1878 with Thames R.C., come to mind. Moreover, the list stretches by including three men – Crossley, Bowen, and Jordan -- who may have rowed for their college but not their university.

Somewhat better are the lists later compiled by various dealers and collectors that classify the prints based on the appearance of the subject in Vanity Fair and the accompanying biographical notes. One of the more definitive lists, from Clive A. Burden, Inc., comprises sixty-eight categories. “Sports -- Rowing” lists twenty-two entries, consisting mainly of Oxford and Cambridge rowers and coaches from 1889 to 1912, plus Mr. Searle, the lone professional. But the Clive Burden list, and others like it, omits several men whose connection to rowing was at least as significant as those listed, but who were catalogued differently because they appeared in Vanity Fair for other reasons. J.W. Chitty, for instance, rowed for Oxford in three Boat Races and umpired the event from 1857-71 and 1873-80, but appeared in Vanity Fair as a chancery judge and thus is catalogued among the 200 or so “Legals.”

So who are the rowers of Vanity Fair? If one finds Vanity Fair’s list of “University Oarsmen” and the somewhat different Clive Burden list too limiting, the question becomes subjective. One might opt for every man who ever rowed at school, university, or in a club. That would inflate the headcount, due largely to the number of old Etonians who appeared in Vanity Fair at some point in their lives. Or one might raise the bar to admit only those who were genuinely successful on the river. That would cut back the number and improve average quality, but would still be subjective and would knock out one from Clive Burden, Rev. E.J.H. Smith of Pembroke College, Cambridge (Vanity Fair, January 28, 1888), whose greatest aquatic accomplishment was as a coach “animating the toils of the fifth boat.” I have taken a middle path, not without faults but at least clear and manageable: anyone who appeared in the magazine mainly in connection with rowing (Rev. Smith makes the cut) or who rowed at Henley or for Oxford or Cambridge Universities (the lesser Etonians do not). The result by my reckoning is fifty-eight. Other Wiki authors may of course choose more expansive criteria and add more here accordingly; on such basis Thomas Brock appears, a sculptor and member of the Kensingon Rowing Club.

Duncan Mackinnon, O.U.B.C. President for the 1910 Boat Race, by “Spy” (Leslie Ward), for The World, not for Vanity Fair

To be sure, the focus on rowing, and this particular way of focusing on rowing, makes for a strange history. We have great Boat Race and Henley rowers of the era, but not all of the best or only the best. We have most of the “Spy” prints of rowers, but not all as F.I. Pitman, E.G. Williams, and D. Mackinnon appeared in Vanity Fair rather than in The World in the early 1900s. Of the fifty-three, only three managed not to attend Eton, Oxford, or Cambridge, so the selection hardly represents a random sampling of British society. But “men are often known, remembered and immortalized -- especially abroad -- by some idiosyncrasy selected by the capriciousness of time,” observed Leslie Ward in 1915, recalling his long career as “Spy,” Vanity Fair's most prolific artist.[2] “Looking back to-day it is strange to read in light of great events these miniature biographies of politicians now forgotten, of others who left their party to go over, of statesmen, of judges who sat on important cases and are now only remembered in connection with a trivial poisoner, an impostor in a claim, of careers then unproved but now shining clearly in the light of fame, and of others whose light is extinguished -- all within so short a lapse of time.”[3]

This book presents the rowers in sequence of their rowing careers, from the last days of King William IV through the reign of Queen Victoria to the cusp of the 1914-18 war. As a nod to brevity only the individual portraits are reprinted, though six of the rowers appeared in Vanity Fair semiannual group “doubles”: “” by Théobald Chartran , July 5, 1881 (S.H. Northcote); “The Gladstone Cabinet” also by Chartran, November 27, 1883 (C.W. Dilke); “Tattersall’s, Newmarket” by Liberio Prosperi, December 6, 1887 (E. Boscawen); “In Vanity Fair,” an unsigned composite (November 29, 1890) (A.L. Smith); “Bench and Bar” by “Stuff,” December 5, 1891 (W.B. Brett and A.L. Smith); and “Cycling in Hyde Park” by Hal Hurst, June 11, 1896 (W.H. Grenfell). The chronology bears no relationship to the order in which their prints appeared in Vanity Fair, and thus makes it harder to see the evolution of the graphic and editorial styles, but does cluster contemporaries and facilitates the rowing story. As for the story, Vanity Fair and the rowers themselves tell nearly all of it. Starting with S.H. Northcote and ending with “Cygnet” Swann, the reader will find for each entry the signature lithograph or two from Vanity Fair, the biographical note that accompanied it (set off in italics), a supplemental biography to round out his story, and an excerpt from Vanity Fair or another source, either about the rower in question or a complimentary theme. The sequence is punctuated by the occasional chapter introduction to summarise rowing-related developments for the period mentioned. Photographs, illustrations, and other images out of copyright are sprinkled in.

Throughout all this, my own limited commentary as “an amiable and sympathetic foreigner” aims to “attain the impersonal perspective proper to the true historian,” as T.A. Cook put it.[4] There are three reasons for this approach. First, the magazine was blessed to have Walter Bradford Woodgate provide the rowing coverage in most of the years there was any to speak of. Second, Woodgate, the other Vanity Fair authors, and the rowers themselves provide an authentic period voice, limiting early twenty-first century nostalgia, or anti-nostalgia, from creeping into the mix. Finally, the original sources let one keep one’s head down, a good idea given how prickly rowers can be about their sport. As G.C. Bourne, father of the penultimate Vanity Fair rower R.C. Bourne, observed over sixty years ago during the religious debate over rowing styles: “There is good reason for this wariness, for the rowing fraternity is a close corporation, jealous of its reputation and inclined to be hypersensitive and hypercritical to a degree which would astonish those who do not belong to it.”[5]

Lastly, I would single out for thanks Tom Weil, one of the world's leading historians of rowing and collector of rowing memorabilia, for his encouragement and support, and would commend to anyone interested in rowing history beyond this slice from Vanity Fair the external links below through which, among other avenues, Tom has shared his knowledge and love for the sport; Paul Mainds, Michael Rowe, and their colleagues at the River & Rowing Museum in Henley-on-Thames, for their curatorship and promotion of rowing history, including a 2006 exhibition of the rowers of Vanity Fair; Chris Dodd, rowing historian extraordinaire, who in his capacity as editor of Rowing & Regatta, the magazine of the Amateur Rowing Association, brought the exhibition to the attention of a broader public; and John Bateman of Auriol Kensington R.C., a fellow compulsive, who politely pointed out six Vanity Fair rowers who had managed to slip through the initial net.

References edit

  1. ^ L. Ward, Forty Years of Spy, p. 109.
  2. ^ Ibid., pp. 103-04.
  3. ^ T.A. Cook, The Sunlit Hours, p. xiii.
  4. ^ G.C. Bourne, Memories of an Eton Wet Bob of the Seventies, p. 3.

External links edit

Some Editors Authors and Artists of Vanity Fair

Editors, Authors, and Artists of VANITY FAIR edit

Vanity Fair ran from 1868 to 1914, but by no means was the same magazine at the beginning, the middle, and the end. A succession of editors, authors, and artists, competition from imitators and other journals, changing tastes, advances in photography and publishing technology -- the whole sweep of a near half-century -- all left their stamp. As this general history has been well-written elsewhere,[6] a slimmer version will suffice here with special attention to those aspects specific to rowing. A sample issue -- July 20, 1889, when Guy Nickalls appeared -- is reproduced in full as an appendix.

"Tommy," Vanity Fair, October 19, 1905

Thomas Gibson Bowles (1842-1922) created, owned, and for the most part edited Vanity Fair for its first twenty years. The illegitimate child of a Liberal M.P., Bowles grew up in his father’s household witnessing a parade of literary and society figures at dinner parties and other functions. He attended neither a famous public school nor university but at nineteen got a minor position with the Board of Trade, of which his father was then President. From that perch he dabbled in journalism and amateur theater, wrote plays and contributed to satirical society magazines, and made friends with emerging journalists, lawyers, politicians, military officers, and actors. Eight years later, in 1868, Bowles chucked the Board of Trade to launch Vanity Fair as a weekly for the “hupper suckles” encoded with “the passwords of Society.”[7] To T.H.S. Escott, an historian of Fleet Street writing in 1911, Bowles “not only brought in the society journal as an institution: he invented its very name”; Vanity Fair became “the real parent of all subsequent growths in that department of journalism at a date when it seemed as fashionable to run a weekly sheet for one’s friends as to endow a theatre for one’s mistress.”[8] Leslie Ward, who contributed portraits to the magazine for nearly forty years, thought Bowles “the best editor the paper ever had. He had the gift of the right word in the right place; and it may be remarked that a dislike of Dickens prevented any quotations from that well-known author from entering the pages.”[9] Likewise novelist and playwright Max Pemberton, who began his career at Vanity Fair in 1885 after rowing at Caius, considered Bowles “a very martinet when a man’s style of writing was to be judged.”[10]

Among Bowles’ initial contributors and compatriots was Walter Bradford Woodgate (1840-1920). Woodgate went up to to Brasenose College, Oxford, in 1858 where he lingered well into the 1860s, mainly on the river. He won the University Pairs three times, the Sculls twice, rowed in the Boat Race twice (1862 and 1863, winning both), won the Grand Challenge Cup in 1865, the Stewards’ Challenge Cup in 1862, the Diamond Sculls in 1864, the Goblets in 1861-63, 1866, and 1868, and the Wingfield Sculls in 1862, 1864, and 1867. By entering for the Diamonds in 1866 under a false name, and for having his coxswain jump overboard at the start of the 1868 Stewards’ to lighten his Brasenose four, Woodgate caused the adoption of Henley Regatta rules specifically prohibiting such conduct. When coxswains were dropped from the Stewards’ in 1873, “he won his moral victory,” the Rowing Almanack later recalled. “Nothing but defeating a railway in an action at law could have given him so much pleasure.”[11]

W.B. Woodgate, Rowing Almanac, 1921

Woodgate’s major non-aquatic accomplishment at Oxford was the founding in 1863 of Vincent’s Club (named for the landlord who rented the rooms), in reaction against the Union Society. The Union at the time barred smoking and drinking and, in Woodgate’s view, “went through the farce of socially ‘vetting’ every candidate, and after all, passing all sorts and conditions of men as ‘sound,’ despite notorious antecedents.”[12] So he and his friends made Vincent’s selective (“a magic number -- 100 -- to give prestige”) and offered beer, tea, and coffee, all for free lest the proctors intervene were drinks “for sale.”[13] An immediate success, Vincent’s climbed straight to the top of the undergraduate social heap. Among its later presidents were Vanity Fair rowers Bankes, Nickalls, and Cotton.

A lifelong bachelor, Woodgate was called to the bar in 1872. He practiced for forty years but took neither the law nor anything else save rowing too seriously. He helped coach numerous Oxford crews and was president of Kingston R.C. He wrote Oars and Sculls, and How to Use Them (1874), Boating (1888, for the Badminton Library set), Reminiscences of an Old Sportsman (1909), plus a few non-rowing works. He contributed to The Field for half a century, frequently “produc[ing] the leading article in a curious but flexible English, which was quite unmistakable.”[14] Woodgate’s writing attests to his clerical family background, classical Greek and Latin schooling, years of lawyering, and an unsuppressable urge to storytell, laced with legalisms and couplets from Horace. He could, wrote T.A. Cook, who rowed for Oxford in 1889 with Vanity Fair’s Guy Nickalls, “write anything from a curate’s sermon to a leading article on the Torts of Landlords or a racy description of a prize fight and a sculling match.”[15] Take, for instance, his recollection of “screwing up” dons at University College, Oxford, in the 1860s:

I have referred to the comparatively good feeling that existed in my time between B.N.C. dons and undergraduates, as compared to the cat and dog situation in some colleges. At University Coll., for instance, “screwing up” was almost a terminal feature. The technical procedure there was to screw up the oak [door] of an unpopular don with coffin nails, and then to file off the heads (in the small hours). At chapel-time the next morning the victim (say, Lee Warner) would be heard yelling from his window for the porter, saying, “My door is fast. I cannot open it. What am I to do?” The porter would stolidly reply, from below: “Mr. Chavasse, sir, usually sends for X-----” (a local carpenter and coffin maker, who drove rather a lucrative trade in thus releasing from durance vile those dons on whom the undergraduate Vehmgericht had passed sentence). Lee Warner obtained common room inquiry on this outrage to himself, and announced, in terrorem, that he would resign his tutorship, if the malefactors did not give in their names. Old Dr. Plumptre, the Head, took him at his word, and clenched the resignation irrevocably so long as he lived. He ascribed college disorder to failure of tact in dons and tried to weed duffers.[16]

Woodgate contributed most and the best of the rowing articles to Vanity Fair from roughly 1870 to 1873 and from 1890 to 1907, using the pen name “Wat Bradford” in the ‘70s. (Hence the inspiration for the pen name of a Wiki contributor to this 21st century compilation of the rowers of Vanity Fair.) In the intervening years, from 1874 through 1889, rowing was either ignored in Vanity Fair, given passing reference as an honorable chapter in the biographies of eminent men, or, with respect to Henley, discussed for who was there and how splendid were the parties. As a weekly, Vanity Fair could not compete with the sports coverage in the daily papers and thus, in those lean years without Woodgate, hardly tried. In the 1886 Boat Race, for example, Cambridge was down by open water at Barnes Bridge but went on to win by two-thirds of a length, an unprecedented comeback. “Never in the whole history of the Boatrace has there been a contest more thrilling to watch or more sensational in its result,” judged the Boat Race 1929 Official Centenary History.[17] Yet Vanity Fair’s anonymous columnist simply reported (April 10, 1886): “As I anticipated, Cambridge won the Boat Race, after one of the finest races ever seen. But as everyone has had enough of the reporters’ gush, I will say no more about it.”

Carlo Pellegrini, by Edgar Degas

Vanity Fair owed its early and enduring success to its first caricaturist,Carlo Pellegrini (1839-89). A native of Capua, Pellegrini left Italy for England in 1864 and spent the remaining half of his life there. Cultivating a reputation as a bohemian bon vivant who claimed Medici lineage and to have fought with Garibaldi, Pellegrini established himself in London society as a pet and the caricaturist of the Prince of Wales’ set. On meeting Bowles at a dinner party, Pellegrini reportedly said: “Your paper is very bad: I shall draw pictures for you and make you rich.”[18] Whether the introduction was apocryphal or not, Bowles did engage Pellegrini to produce “some Pictorial Wares of an entirely novel character,”[19] starting with Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli in the January 30, 1869 issue. This famous thirteenth issue, which proved so popular that it went into three editions with the third selling for twice the price of the original, introduced caricature and chromolithography to the magazine as well as to the general London press. It inaugurated between editor and artist “the same successful conjunction that in opera bouffe was presented by the co-operation of W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan.”[20] From 1869 to until his death in 1889 Pellegrini contributed 332 more caricatures under the pen-name “Ape,” including the first two of our rowers, Stafford Henry Northcote (October 8, 1870) and William Baliol Brett (January 1, 1876).

What marked the work of Pellegrini, according to David Low, was his “the study of individual particularity, involving the mental as well as the ocular vision”; his caricatures “were maximum likenesses, that is to say they represented not only what he saw but also what he knew.”[21] In this respect Pellegrini followed the French portraits chargés of Daumier and Gill, but he replaced their satiric bite with the Neopolitan good humour of Delfico, who himself eventually supplied some caricatures to Vanity Fair. When the Daily News complained that Pellegrini’s early work lacked an essential “comic” element and tended to “phantasmagoric extravagance,” “grimness,” and “grotesqueness,” Bowles denied the charge, explaining that the “original and genuine purpose” of caricature was “to charge and exaggerate” reality: “There are grim faces made more grim, grotesque figures made more grotesque, and dull people made duller by the genius of our talented collaborator ‘Ape’; but there is nothing that has been treated with a set purpose to make it something that it was not already in a lesser degree.”[22] Pellegrini set the artistic trademark for Vanity Fair, and while most of his successors attempted to emulate it to varying degrees, none came close save perhaps for Max Beerbohm, who unfortunately drew no rowers.

Tissot, self-portrait, c 1865

Among the first to substitute for Pellegrini during one of his self-imposed sabbaticals was James Joseph Jacques Tissot (1836-1902). Raised in Nantes, Tissot moved to Paris at age nineteen where he became a successful painter, a friend of Degas and Manet. Bowles met Tissot there in the late 1860s and bought his series of European “Sovereigns” that Vanity Fair carried in late 1869 under the name “Coïdé.” They met again in 1870 while Bowles covered the siege of Paris for the Morning Post. With the collapse of the Paris Commune, Tissot fled in May 1871 to London where Bowles provided him with housing, an effective entree to London society, and some early commissions. Those included his single rower for Vanity Fair, a sinister rendering of the young Radical M.P. Charles Wentworth Dilke (November 25, 1871). With such aid and his own social and business acumen, deploying his versatile academic brush to suit demand, Tissot rejuvenated his career, at least with the purchasing public if not always with the critics. Three years after Tissot’s arrival in England, French critic Edmond de Goncourt recorded in his journal: “Today, Duplessis told me that Tissot, that plagiarist painter, has had the greatest success in England. Was it not his idea, this ingenious exploiter of English idiocy, to have a studio with a waiting room where, at all times, there is iced champagne at the disposal of visitors, and around the studio, a garden where, all day long, one can see a footman in silk stockings brushing and shining the shrubbery leaves?”[23] Tissot produced thirty-nine portraits for Vanity Fair from 1871 to 1873, ultimately sixty-two in total.

Leslie Ward (1851-1922), better known as “Spy,” contributed 1325 portraits to Vanity Fair from 1873 to 1911, amounting to over half the magazine’s total and including forty-one prints of forty rowers (doing H.L.B. McCalmont twice, once in 1889 and again in 1896). It might be thought a fitting career for a London-born Etonian whose parents were both accomplished painters, but in fact did not occur without a good dose of ambition and luck. His father, E.M. Ward, a member of the Royal Academy, opposed an artistic career and to deflect young Leslie’s talents to a more reliable livelihood, apprenticed him to a prominent architect, Sydney Smirke (responsible among other things for the neoclassical United Oxford and Cambridge Club on Pall Mall). Ward bore it for a year but Smirke then decided to retire and the ensuing need in 1871 to find some substitute gave Ward the chance to precipitate what he later called “a rousing scene”[24] with his father. With the mediation of some artist friends, drawing and painting won over architecture. Right away, Ward was keen to be published in Vanity Fair: “[W]hen I saw the first numbers of Vanity Fair I was greatly taken with Pellegrini’s caricatures, and, having a book of drawings of similar character, had thought that if only I could get one drawing in Vanity Fair I should die happy.”[25] The chance arose two years later when Pellegrini was off duty leaving Bowles with inadequate substitutes. John Millais, a friend of Bowles and Ward but who never contributed to Vanity Fair, selected a sketch from Ward’s portfolio and suggested that Ward redraw it to appropriate size, which he did and Bowles accepted. But it was unsigned, so Bowles referred Ward to a dictionary to find inspiration for a pen-name for future work. He opened it to “spy,” defined as “to observe secretly, or to discover at a distance or in concealment.” “Just the thing,” said Bowles, and Ward used it faithfully from that point onward.[26] Thus while Ward’s “orthodox art training . . . left him with a somewhat harder and less elastic equipment than his master [Pellegrini],”[27] his perseverance to become a society artist earned him Bowles’ confidence and eventually the majority of the available commissions.

Ward was neither a rower nor a close follower of the sport. “I am always interested in the chances of the rival [Boat Race] crews; still, my interest was nothing out of the common,” he recalled in his 1915 memoirs.[28] Yet “amongst my pleasantest recollections,” he added, “are those of the university-rowing men with whom I came in close contact, for in every way possible they extended their hospitality to me, and I shall always remember with pleasure my visits to Oxford and Cambridge especially during the rowing season.”[29] This hospitality may have included patiently posing, for although Ward did indeed “spy” many of his subjects, others, particularly in the post-Bowles years, were selected by mutual consent which facilitated the lengthy study Ward needed to be able to complete a sketch. Recalling an anonymous undergraduate in training for the Boat Race, Ward observed: “I have found men of this rowing calibre usually wonderful sitters, being perfectly fit; this particular young man was in excellent form, so much so that he completely outstood me and said when I, at last, begged him leave to have a rest: ‘Why I can go on standing all day without fatigue!’”[30]

Over time, Vanity Fair published the work of more than fifty other artists. Théobald Chartran (1849-1907), a graduate of the École des Beaux-Arts and winner of the grand prix de Rome, published sixty-eight portraits in Vanity Fair from 1878 to 1884, including rower W.H. Waddington. Belgian sculptor François Verheyden (1806-99) contributed six caricatures in 1883 in connection with the Belt v. Lawes libel case with which Vanity Fair was intimately linked, including that of defendant C.B. Lawes (May 12, 1883), the Cambridge stroke of 1865. Francis Carruthers Gould (1844-1925), better known for the highly inventive political cartoons that earned him a knighthood from the Liberals after the 1906 election, drew seven caricatures for Vanity Fair, among them that of B.J. Angle (April 5, 1890) who was, as Gould had been, a stockbroker. Henry Charles Sepping Wright (1850-1937), a barrister “stuff gownsman” who caught fellow lawyers and judges in court, published his works under the sobriquet “Stuff” and contributed Mr. Justice Denman (November 19, 1892). Other artists, known only by pseudonym, include “Ape Junior” (who drew R.C. Bourne, March 29, 1911), “ELF” (R.H. Forster, July 6, 1910), “Hay” (E.J.H. Smith, January 28, 1888), “Owl” (R. McKenna, April 23, 1913), “Ray” (Lord Cheylesmore, July 17, 1912), and “WH” (S.E. Swann, April 3, 1912, J. C. Carter, July 3, 1912, and F.V. Brooks, September 18, 1912).

No rowers featured as such in Vanity Fair during the twenty years Bowles owned and ran it, other than Reverend Smith of Pembroke College, Cambridge, who as mentioned above was known to coach the college fifth Lent boat. Bowles did depict a few non-rowing sportsmen (such as cricketer W.G. Grace and jockey Fred Archer) and eleven of our rowers in their then-current capacities as politician, judge, or what have you. To show rowers qua rowers fell to Bowles’ successors, starting with Arthur Evans and Arthur George Witherby as owner and editor respectively. Evans, the former City Editor for Bowles, reportedly used the perch mainly to manipulate the stocks in which he was interested.[31] Witherby, whom Ward described as “a good sort and keen sportsman,”[32] contributed eight drawings himself under the pen-name “W.A.G.,” including that of Montague Shearman (July 4, 1895), an ex-rower better known and featured as co-founder of the Amateur Athletic Association. On Witherby’s watch Vanity Fair began carrying one or two rowers per year, starting with Nickalls and Searle in 1889, and welcomed Woodgate back into the fold for annual commentary on the Boat Race and Henley. Cricketers, jockeys, golfers, polo and tennis players -- all manner of Victorian sportsmen -- also began appearing frequently, though whether this reflected Witherby’s personal taste or his readers’ is hard to say. It may also have been due to the arrival of Bertram Fletcher Robinson, a Cambridge rugby Blue who got his journalistic start covering the sport in the early 1890s for Rudy Lehmann’s Granta. Robinson eventually left Vanity Fair for The World and died in 1907, at thirty-six.[33]

As the increased rowing coverage coincided with Oxford’s 1890-98 run in the Boat Race, the featured rowers tended toward darker blue, which drew the following letter to the editor:

Adelphi Hotel, Liverpool, 20th March, 1894.

DEAR VANITY,-- Guess I’m just going to ask you a civil question. How the deuce is it that at Boat Race time you invariably show the full-length carcase of a Dark Blue oarsman? If the idea is to give a tip for the winner, well, it is excusable -- especially when it is considered that Oxford have won for the last few years consecutively. But, on the other hand, if your intention is merely to let the public see the outward and visible form on paper of one of the chief actors in the event -- well, hang it, surely the other side might have a show now and again. The Cantabs are surely just as “highly respectable” as their whilom opponents, and, to put it mildly, they are quite as popular. Now, Sir, I’m neither a Cantonian nor an Oxab -- nor a ‘Varsity man of any kind at all. But I do imagine that as there are two sides to every question so there are two crews in every University Boat Race.

Dear Vanity, do be Fair, and oblige yours amphibiously,


To which Vanity Fair replied:

[A] “civil question” demands a civil answer; wherefore I refer “Peregrine Pickle” to “Spy’s” cartoon to-day [of C.T. Fogg-Elliot of C.U.B.C.] I fancy that I was not much to blame for putting Mr. Cotton a week in front of Mr. Fogg-Elliot. As for other Cambridge oars, they have not been excluded from the Vanity Fair gallery. Mr. Muttlebury’s presentment was the last given, two or three years back. When Vanity Fair was a Saturday paper, it generally gave one President on the day of the race. As a Thursday paper it has for the first time this year given two Presidents; one on each side of the race. Wherefore my amphibious correspondent is, or should be, already “obliged.”

But, were he less amphibious, he might have seen that Mr. Fogg-Elliot’s picture was announced for this week in last week’s Vanity Fair.

By this time Vanity Fair had lost a good deal of its cachet, both relative to the growing competition and absolutely due to the departure of Bowles and his coterie. Evans and Witherby reacted by adding girth to the product and appealing, with a touch of indignation, to readers’ brand loyalty. “Here,” touted the June 28, 1890 issue, “for the first time in the history of this Journal, is a volume of Vanity Fair which contains more than 570 pages. The half-yearly volume, of which the present are the concluding pages, is, it may be noted, larger by some 200 pages than most of its predecessors have been.” The growth reflects “the increased support which has been accorded to it by its readers,” despite competition that generally “has grown more than ever keen, . . . so keenly so, indeed, that in many cases the competition of our rivals has developed into the most barefaced piracy and the most false originality.” Yet even though the magazine “has never lacked imitators, and of late years its distinctive features have been more or less generally copied by the whole of the daily Press,” Vanity Fair’s “‘little band of Pilgrims’ enjoyed from the outset “consistent triumph over the difficulties which they started to defy, and which they have ever since, it may be said without vanity, triumphantly overcome.”

Evans eventually sold out to Oliver Fry, “a journalist of the old school, a man of education,” who ultimately was unable to make a financial go of it. “There is no place for such weeklies nowadays, for there is no longer any governing class, only wandering bands of financiers,” Edgar Jepson, Fry’s successor as editor, recalled in 1936.[34] Fry in turn sold out in 1907 to Frank Harris, a colorful character in the twilight of his career who milked the franchise. Harris’ autobiography tells nothing of his views on rowing and rowers while he owned Vanity Fair, but does recall how he covered the Boat Race for the Evening News in the 1880s:

In my first year in the Evening News I learned and practiced nearly every journalistic trick. When the annual boat race between Oxford and Cambridge was about to be decided, I found out that the experts usually know which crew would win. Of course sometimes they are mistaken, but very rarely, and this year they all agreed it was a foregone conclusion for Oxford. Accordingly, on the great morning I had fifty thousand papers printed with ‘Oxford won’ in big letters under the latest preliminary reports of the training, etc. As soon as the telephone message came through that Oxford had won, I let the boys out and this start enabled me to sell all the fifty thousand papers. I did the same thing with race after race on the turf and soon it began to be known that the Evening News had the earliest news of the races.[35]

When Harris bought Vanity Fair he promptly ran off to New York to trade its influence on the British stock-buying public in exchange for Wall Street investment in the magazine. The Americans declined the offer, but Harris’ absence gave Jepson six months at the helm as interim editor. He made the most of it:

It is foolish to try to edit a paper without a fixed policy, and since it was the function of a club-land weekly to keep politics pure and politicians up to their work and deal faithfully with all kinds of rogues, I made it my policy to run as near to the law of libel as I possibly could all the time, and I stuck to it. About an open rogue there was no need to bother: I libelled him with exact truthfulness; he fired in a writ -- as a pledge of good faith I suppose; the matter ended. But to tell the truth about a less open rogue without landing the paper with a doubtful and expensive libel action was a very different matter.

But I had, in the office itself, an accomplished solicitor, a cousin of the Duchess of Manchester, who knew everything about the law of libel that was to be known, and he was very helpful. But sometimes, when I was dealing with astute roguery of jobbery, it would take me two hours to say in ten lines exactly what I wished to say about it, before the solicitor would warrant the paragraph not to produce a libel action, and I could safely do the rogue good. I learnt that you could say very nearly anything, if you said it carefully.

It was enjoyable, and it proved to be the right policy, for the circulation of the paper, which had been sinking for years, rose and went on rising: people do so enjoy observing others done good to.[36]

Curiously, neither Jepson nor Harris used Vanity Fair’s caricatures in support of this near-libelous editorial policy; the very point of caricature being, after all, to land that sort of truthful punch. “If the celebrities wrote their own biographies,” Jepson recalled, “well and good: I was saved trouble. If they did not, I lunched with them and listened to the histories of their lives, such simple lives, and wrote the biography myself.”[37]

Thomas Allinson, "Wholemeal Bread," Vanity Fair, October 4, 1911

Reading the March 13, 1907 biography of Duggie Stuart (“a great athlete . . . an oarsman of demoniac swiftness and skill”), one suspects it falls in the former category. But according to Jepson Harris went one better, auctioning the slots outright: “If you wished to be celebrated, you paid him fifty pounds for the drawing of your cartoon in Vanity Fair, and there you were -- certified famous.”[38] R.H. Forster (July 6, 1910) and R.C. Bourne (March 29, 1911) featured in this period. So did R.B. Etherington-Smith (August 5, 1908), but he appeared immediately after captaining Leander to victory at the London (Henley) Olympics, which lessens the chance his biography was self-selected.

Jepson complained that Harris “frittered away the circulation, and the paper died, deeply in debt,” adding that his “habit of bleeding the papers he had to do with, of any money that came in, paralyzed them, and exploitation was his metier.”[39] Maybe cheapness to authors explains the coincidence of Woodgate’s departure with Harris’ arrival. Vanity Fair was hardly a business when Harris sold out to its last owner, Dr. Thomas Allinson, in late 1911. Unlike Harris, Allinson was no newspaper man; his interests lay in nutrition and hygiene, publishing such works as “The Advantages of Wholemeal Bread.” Under his administration the writing in Vanity Fair suffered – witness every biography after 1911 – hardly the “light, epigrammatic, pungent, and excessively neat” stuff on which Bowles made the magazine’s reputation over forty years earlier.[40] In early 1914, Allinson folded the remnants into Hearth and Home, bringing the institution to a close.

References edit

  1. ^ For excellent general description of the origins, format, editors, and artists of Vanity Fair, see E. Harris & R. Ormond, Vanity Fair: An Exhibition of Original Cartoons (London: National Portrait Gallery 1976) and R. Matthews & P. Mellini, In ‘Vanity Fair (London: Scolar Press 1982), pp. 11-37. Matthews and Mellini also describe what happened to Vanity Fair’s unsold stock, the various types of prints, the marketplace for collectors (as of 1982), and location of major collections. See also Vanity Fair caricatures.
  2. ^ A Journalist, Bohemian Days in Fleet Street, p. 69.
  3. ^ T.H.S. Escott, Masters of English Journalism: A Study of Personal Forces, p. 263.
  4. ^ L. Ward, Forty Years of Spy, p. 103.
  5. ^ M. Pemberton, Sixty Years Ago and After, p. 103.
  6. ^ The Rowing Almanack, 1921, pp. 148-49.
  7. ^ W.B. Woodgate, Reminiscences of an Old Sportsman, p. 185.
  8. ^ W.B. Woodgate, p. 187.
  9. ^ The Rowing Almanack, 1921, p. 149.
  10. ^ T.A. Cook, The Sunlit Hours, pp. 275-76.
  11. ^ W.B. Woodgate, p. 123.
  12. ^ G.C. Drinkwater & T.R.B. Sanders, The University Boat Race: Official Centenary History, p. 88.
  13. ^ M. Pemberton, p. 104.
  14. ^ Vanity Fair, January 16, 1869.
  15. ^ T.H.S. Escott, p. 263.
  16. ^ D. Low, British Cartoonists, Caricaturists, and Comic Artists, p. 33.
  17. ^ Vanity Fair, September 11, 1869.
  18. ^ Edmond de Goncourt’s Journal (1874), reprinted in M. Wentworth, “James Tissot: ‘cet etre complexe,’” in James Jacques Joseph Tissot p. 14 (K. Matyjaszkiewicz ed. 1985).
  19. ^ L. Ward, p. 70.
  20. ^ Ibid., p. 93.
  21. ^ Ibid., pp. 93-94. Only once did Ward use a name other than “Spy” for Vanity Fair. It was for the drawing of Stephanus Johannes Paulus Kruger (March 8, 1900), made during the South African war while Ward was honeymooning in Monte Carlo. “[S]o anxious was the editor to publish a cartoon of Kruger that to test my powers of imagination, and with the addition of a description of his personal appearance from one who knew him, I made it and sent it in to the office,” signing it “Drawl” (for “L. Ward” in reverse). Ibid. p. 323.
  22. ^ D. Low, p. 33.
  23. ^ Ibid., p. 147.
  24. ^ Ibid., p. 231.
  25. ^ Ibid., p. 297.
  26. ^ M. Pemberton, p. 108.
  27. ^ Ibid., p. 330.
  28. ^ F. Rice, The Granta and Its Contributors, 1889-1914, p. 20.
  29. ^ E.A. Jepson, Memories of an Edwardian, p. 107.
  30. ^ F. Harris, My Life and Loves, p. 331.
  31. ^ E.A. Jepson, pp. 110-11.
  32. ^ Ibid., pp. 115-16.
  33. ^ Ibid., p. 117. T.W.H. Crosland, who worked for Harris’ Vanity Fair in 1907, “also said that for a sum of money paid in cash or notes to Mr. Harris practically any Tom, Dick or Harry could have his counterfeit presentment drawn by Mr. Leslie Ward and published in Vanity Fair. . . .” W.S. Brown, The Life and Genius of T.W.H. Crosland, p. 205.
  34. ^ E.A. Jepson, p. 112.
  35. ^ A Journalist, Bohemian Days in Fleet Street, p. 70.

1839-1854 New Traditions

1839 - 1854: New Traditions edit

By the yardstick of Boat Race or Henley Regatta participation, 1839 marks the earliest contest for the rowers of Vanity Fair for it was then that William Baliol Brett first rowed for the Cambridge in the Boat Race. (He rowed for the C.U.B.C. in 1837 and 1838 as well, but against Leander rather than Oxford as no university race took place those years.) To put him and the first few rowers of Vanity Fair in context, it helps to take a backward glance at “watermen” and “gentlemen.”

Thames waterman soliciting passers-by, c 1825

Water tradesmen carried people and goods in the days before motor vehicles and railways. They prospered in the Thames Valley and became so numerous that Henry VIII began regulating their fares in 1514 and Parliament incorporated their guild, the Company of Watermen and Lightermen, in 1555. Among the duties of the Company were, according to Guy Nickalls:

to draw up a scale of legal fares; to control in every manner the men who plied for hire on the river; to apprentice them; to see that they were capable of handling boats with safety to the passengers when they took up their freedom; to arm them, to ensure that their passengers were not murdered, assaulted or robbed; to issue licenses to lightermen; to renew licenses triennially to freemen; and generally to act the shepherd over a somewhat turbulent flock.[41]

Liddy, the Winner of Doggett's Coat and Badge, Illustrated London News, August 6, 1842

In short, watermen were the regulated taxi and lorry drivers of pre-industrial Britain, with certain tariff and police powers as well. It was among their ranks that the longest-running rowing event, Doggett’s Coat and Badge, was established in London. Named for the actor and the prize he bequeathed, the race first occurred on August 1, 1715, the anniversary of the accession of George I. (Handel’s Water Music dates to nearly the same time, composed at the request of George I for a concert on board barges rowed by watermen.)[42] Doggett’s Coat and Badge is still run annually from London Bridge to Chelsea, though the demise of professional watermen has necessitated some loosening of the entry criteria.[43]

Gentlemen employed watermen and owned most of the goods they carried. In eighteenth century London, the growth of commerce created new rich merchants and financiers and attracted some landed aristocracy to town from around the country. This broad class of wealthy gentlemen, who built the theatres, gardens, and clubs of Georgian society, loved to gamble and by sponsoring wager matches among local watermen both were entertained and had the opportunity for betting. Some took to the water themselves, rowing with watermen on a recreational basis and relying on them for boat rental, boat-building, accommodation, and instruction. Such recreational rowing gave rise to the first gentlemen’s boat clubs, the Monarch Boat Club founded at Eton College in 1793 and the Isis Club at Westminster School a few years later, both named for the boats involved. (The school clubs were not formed until 1816 and 1813, respectively.) At Westminster a succession of headmasters discouraged rowing as it had led to a number of drownings, and in 1788 the use of watermen in all schoolboy crews was ordered as a safeguard. By then, recreational rowing had taken hold at Oxford and Cambridge, particularly as six-oared picnic transport, introduced by Eton and Westminster alumni. But gentlemen did not race, with or without watermen, as it was thought manual and demeaning and, at Eton and Westminster, because of the close association of professional wager matches to gambling and drinking.[44]

In the early nineteenth century, gentlemen rowers began to distance themselves from watermen. The trend started at Eton, Westminster, and Oxbridge and spread gradually throughout the country. Eton dispensed with a waterman at coxswain starting in 1837; the Boat Race and Henley Regatta followed suit in 1839; and professional trainers and coaches were likewise marginalized over the next decade.[45] This weaning was not without occasional intellectual challenge: when Oxford bought a radically new boat for the 1857 Boat Race, designed and built by a professional, Matthew Taylor, the O.U.B.C. had him “steer[] us during our training, not to instruct Oxford in the art of rowing, but to show us the proper way to send his boat along as quickly as possible.”[46]

"Berkley's Black-Eyed Maid," 1827

Also in the early nineteenth century, gentlemen began to rethink their self-imposed ban on racing. At Oxbridge, picnickers returning from a day out began vying with one another to be first back to the boatyard, the competition eventually giving birth to the college “bumping” races at Oxford around 1815 and at Cambridge in 1827. Other gentlemen crews began competing in wager matches, such as the 1826 “Grand Amateur Rowing Match for 200 sovereigns, for gentlemen picked from the various crack clubs on the river” in London. This event encouraged the staging of the first “away” match by an Oxford crew, from Christ Church College, against a composite eight from the Leander and Arrow clubs for the same purse. The Londoners won, as they did in 1831 when an Oxford University crew challenged Leander, also for 200 sovereigns.[47]

Against this background Charles Wordsworth, nephew of the poet and son of the Master of Trinity College, Cambridge, orchestrated the first Boat Race in 1829. He later recalled it as only one of many “trifling and insignificant” sporting events he had helped organise at college. Living in Cambridge and studying at Oxford, he used his Harrow contacts to promote an inter-university cricket match in 1827, the success of which prompted him to suggest to his Cambridge friends the possibility of a boat race. They challenged and Oxford accepted, with Henley-on-Thames the agreed venue. Neither the Cam nor the Isis were wide or straight enough and the tidal Thames in London was considered too choppy to provide fair racing conditions. Henley offered a one mile straight course, wide enough to allow side-by-side racing with no blade clashes or fouling. Oxford won. There was no purse for the contestants but undoubtedly plenty of gambling.[48]

In 1830 Cambridge challenged again, but the plans were dropped due to a cholera epidemic. The second match ultimately went off in 1836, this time in London from Westminster to Putney for a purse of four hundred pounds that Cambridge took home. The event became more or less annualized from 1839 onwards, without a purse, and in 1842 became designated a “race” rather than a “match” to reinforce the shift away from watermen, purses, and fouling.[49]

A similar shift occurred at the Henley Regatta, founded in 1839. Initially it consisted of just two events: a Town Challenge Cup for watermen, with a £30 purse, and a Grand Challenge Cup for amateur gentlemen, no purse. Admission to the “Grand” was limited to eight-oared crews from “the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge, or London, the Schools of Eton and Westminster, the Officers of the two Brigades of Household Troops, or Members of a Club established at least one year previous to the time of entering” (i.e., Leander Club), with no watermen coxswains or fouling permitted. The regatta soon swelled with additional events for amateurs: the Stewards’ Challenge Cup for coxed fours (1841, it went coxless in 1873), the Diamond Challenge Sculls for single sculls (1844), the Silver Wherries for pair oars (1845, later renamed the Silver Goblets and Nickalls’ Challenge Cup), the Ladies’ Challenge Plate for eights (1845), the Visitors’ Challenge Cup for coxed fours (1847, it went coxless in 1874), the Wyfold Cup for coxed fours (1855, it too went coxless in 1874), and the Thames Challenge Cup for eights (1868). The regatta became Royal in 1851 under the patronage of Prince Albert. The one event for watermen, the Town Challenge Cup, was dropped in 1884.[50]

References edit

  1. ^ T.A. Cook & G. Nickalls, Thomas Doggett Deceased, p. 62.
  2. ^ C. Hogwood, Handel, pp. 71-72; R. Streatfeild, Handel, pp. 72-74. According to Friedrich Bonet, the Prussian Resident in London (quoted in C. Hogwood):
A few weeks ago the King expressed to Baron Kilmanseck His desire to have a concert on the river, by subscription, similar to the masquerades this winter which the King never failed to attend. . . . The necessary orders were given and the entertainment took place the day before yesterday [July 17, 1717]. About eight in the evening the King repaired to his barge, into which were admitted the Duchess of Bolton, Countess Godolphin, Mad. de Kilmanseck, Mrs. Were and the Earl of Orkney, the Gentleman of the Bedchamber in Waiting. Next to the King’s barge was that of the musicians, about 50 in number, who played on all kinds of instruments, to wit trumpets, horns, hautboys, bassoons, German flutes, French flutes, violins and basses; but there were no singers. The music had been composed specially by the famous Handel, a native of Halle, and His Majesty’s principal Court Composer. His Majesty approved of it so greatly that he caused it to be repeated three times in all, although each performance lasted an hour -- namely twice before and once after supper. The [weather in the] evening was all that could be desired for the festivity, the number of barges and above all of boats filled with people desirous of hearing was beyond counting. In order to make this entertainment the more exquisite, Mad. de Kilmanseck had arranged a choice supper in the late Lord Ranelagh’s villa at Chelsea on the river where the King went at one in the morning. He left at three o’clock and returned to St. James’ about half past four.
  1. ^ H. Cleaver, A History of Rowing, pp. 22-24; N. Wigglesworth, The Social History of English Rowing, p. 185.
  2. ^ N. Wigglesworth, pp. 42-43, 61-62, 92, 186.
  3. ^ N. Wigglesworth, pp. 62, 187.
  4. ^ O.U.B.C. record book, quoted in R.C. Lehmann, The Complete Oarsman, p. 16
  5. ^ G.C. Drinkwater & T.R.B. Sanders, The University Boat Race: Official Centenary History, pp. 8-9; N. Wigglesworth, pp. 44, 92; R. Burnell & G. Page, The Brilliants: A History of the Leander Club, pp. 23-25.
  6. ^ G.C. Drinkwater & T.R.B. Sanders, p. 9; N. Wigglesworth, pp. 46, 93.
  7. ^ N. Wigglesworth, p. 46; R. Burnell & G. Page, pp. 27-28.
  8. ^ C. Dodd, Henley Royal Regatta, p. 53; N. Wigglesworth, pp. 48, 121.

External links edit

Northcote SH

Northcote, Stafford Henry (Earl of Iddesleigh) edit

“He Does His Duty to His Party, and Is Fortunate if It Happens to Be Also His Duty to His Country” (Ape), October 8, 1870 edit


Sir Stafford Northcote is a somewhat colourless politician, of whom all that there is to be said is that he does his duty to his party, and is fortunate if it happens to be also his duty to his country. He is among the favoured ones who have been called to the blessed regions of the Ministry, and thereby has acquired a title to be taken into them again if ever these are again opened to the Conservative party, of whom he is a respectable and reputable member. Diligent especially, and not unsuccessful in the making of local speeches on abstruse subjects during the slack season of the year, he perseveringly keeps before the public the fact that there are still a collection of opinions capable of being called Conservative, and still statesmen capable of seriously adopting and recommending them.

Stafford Henry Northcote (1818-87) went up to Eton in 1831 where “he was somewhat idle, and, according to his tutor, ‘had a disposition too inclined to sacrifice itself to the solicitations of others,’ until a strong remonstrance produced steadiness of purpose.”[51] He rowed in the Adelaide (one of the Upper Boats) in 1834-35 and bow in the 1835 Eight. He then went up to Balliol College, Oxford, earning a first in classics in 1839 and rowing No. 2 for the Oxford Etonians the same year at the first Henley Regatta.

After qualifying as a barrister, Northcote became private secretary to W.E. Gladstone, the then Tory president of the Board of Trade. From Gladstone’s slipstream, Northcote moved up the party ranks, serving as secretary to the Great Exhibition of 1851, co-authoring a report on civil service reform, and ultimately building a leadership role as an M.P. for various constituencies more or less from 1855 onward. In 1859 Gladstone left the Conservatives to co-found the Liberal Party. Northcote remained Conservative. Thus when the 1880 election returned a Liberal majority and installed Gladstone as Prime Minister, Northcote became a leader of the opposition tasked with keeping his former mentor in check. This proved difficult, and he was unable to prevent some of his more strident colleagues from forming a de facto “Fourth Party.” VANITY FAIR bewailed their inability to unite, laying blame in the July 5, 1881 Summer Number double print, entitled “Birth, Behavior and Business,” with the Conservative front bench and with Northcote, Lord John Manners, and Sir Richard Cross in particular:

Her Majesty’s Opposition in the House of Commons fails only in two respects: in want of leaders and want of followers. There are leaders, but they scarcely lead; there are followers, but they barely follow; and this lamentable result ensues, that a revolutionary Government is left to work its wicked will without being contained or controlled, or even being adequately criticised, by those whose business it is to keep such a Government in order.

Yet on the front Opposition Bench there are men of mark. They are not however men of energy, and they disclose a marked want of appreciation of the new order of things, and a profound disinclination to adopt new methods of dealing with it. An overweening caution and an exaggerated respect for the rules of the game are their chief characteristics; and one of their chief troubles is the audacity of some of their followers below the gangway, who are so much more offensive to them than their opponents, that it will be one of their difficulties in returning to office to consider what will be done with Sir Drummond Wolf and Lord Randolph Churchill.

. . . .

Sir Stafford Northcote is a man of deportment. He is of good family and of good name -- eminently reputable and very diligent. But he had the misfortune to begin life as a permanent official, and his mind has remained permanent and official ever since. Moreover, he started in politics as Private Secretary to Mr. Gladstone when that gentleman was President of the Board of Trade in the Tory Government. This has been the great disturbing element of Sir Stafford’s life. He has never recovered from the personal awe he then contracted for Mr. Gladstone, or for the hierarchical respect for Ministers and heads of departments, and he has never yet been able to conceive that he himself is their equal. This, added to the inherent good nature which belongs to him, has always made him take an exaggerated view of the decorum which should mark the proceedings of the house of Commons. The result is, that he often offends his followers by official deference to the Government, and generally seems to direct his conduct rather to obtain the approbation of permanent officials than the hearty support of Conservative Members. Recently, indeed, he has roused himself to an intermittent sense of his position; but this awakening, having come late in life, is apt to show itself at the wrong times; so that he is often brisk when he should be quiet, and quiet when he should be brisk. Nevertheless he is a man of integrity, of sixty-three years of age, and of very considerable information. In the result he obtains cheers from his opponents, which seem to please him more than those of his own Party. He has a certain vigour and much dexterity. He is very well-read; but, though a fluent and easy speaker, he is not gifted with any oratorical power.

When Gladstone’s government collapsed in 1885 and were replaced by the Conservatives, Northcote became First Lord of the Treasury and was raised to the peerage as Earl of Iddesleigh and Viscount St. Cyres. He died in 1887, in the ante-room of the Prime Minister’s house in Downing Street. “He seemed,” recalled Gladstone, “to be a man incapable of resenting an injury: a man in whom it was the fixed habit of thought to put himself wholly out of view when he had before him the attainment of great public objects.”[52] But Viscount Wolseley (“the very model of a modern Major-General” to Gilbert & Sullivan), on reviewing Northcote’s posthumous biography, declared he “was so essentially my opposite (so much about him of the tomcat that cared neither to fight nor make love) that I never met him without thanking God, like the Pharisee, I was not as he was. He would have made an admirable chief clerk in a bank.”[53]

The 1836 Eton v. Westminster Boat Race edit

S.H. Northcote never rowed for Eton against Westminster. In his day, the races between the schools were few and far between, and 1835, when he rowed bow in the Eton eight, was an off year. Just as well for him perhaps, for the professional watermen who steered the crews took full advantage of the permissive rules on “fouling” to transform those early races, into no-holds naval battles. Here is an account of the 1836 contest:

Eton v. Westminster, Staines Bridge, May 12, 1836

This race took place at Staines on Thursday, May 12. The distance rowed was from Staines Bridge to Penton Hook and back -- about four miles altogether. Lord Orford and Captain Ackers, of the Blues, were appointed Umpires. About four o’clock the Etonians appeared in rowing trim in the Victory, a new boat built by Archer, of Bishop’s Walk, Lambeth. The young gentlemen of Westminster came to Staines in a new eight, called the Fairy Queen, built of fir, expressly for the occasion, by Noulton and Maynard, the well-known watermen, the former taking the lines for his patrons. It was evident, even at a cursory glance, that the Etonians had the decided superiority in weight and strength, and betting was in their favour. Westminster won the choice of station, and they took the south pier of Staines Bridge. Previous to starting, it was agreed upon that no fouling should take place until half a mile of the distance had been rowed. On going away from the bridge the Westminsters went in advance, which position they kept for about a quarter of a mile, Eton pressing them closely. Noulton had by this time steered the Fairy Queen over to the course the Etonians were pursuing, and he bored them so closely in shore that they were obliged either to foul the Westminsters or go into the bank. A foul consequently took place, which lasted five or six minutes, ending in the discomfiture of the Fairy Queen, who had her rudder struck off, an oar broken, and was turned completely around. The Etonians went away with a cheer, but the Umpires, considering that an infringement of the agreement had taken place, called them back to a fresh start, which they immediately complied with. At six o’clock they started from the bridge a second time, with an understanding that each boat should keep its own side of the water for half a mile. The Fairy Queen again took the lead, which she held for about three-quarters of a mile, when the Etonians came upon them, and some smart fouling was the result. Eton at length cleared, and showed the way down the stream. In rounding the distance boat they were close together, and immediately after doubling the station punt the Westminsters caught them on the starboard quarter, which nearly put the Victory into the bank stern up. The Etonians, however, shortly cleared themselves from this awkward situation, and once more went in advance; and notwithstanding they were occasionally bumped by the Fairy Queen in working up against the stream, they maintained the lead, ultimately winning by several boat’s lengths. The match proved a treat throughout, by the spirited and gallant manner in which it was contested by both parties.

References edit

  1. ^ Dictionary of National Biography.
  2. ^ W.E. Gladstone, quoted in Dictionary of National Biography.
  3. ^ Viscount Wolseley (Nov. 11, 1890, reviewing A. Lang, Life, Letters, and Diaries of Sir Stafford Northcote, First Earl of Iddesleigh (William Blackwood & Sons 1890)), quoted in G.E. Cokayne, The Complete Peerage (G.H. White ed. 1949).

Brett WB

Brett, William Baliol (Lord Esher) edit

“Popular Judgment” (Ape), January 1, 1876 edit


Eight and fifty years ago the Reverend Joseph Brett, of Chelsea, was blessed with a son, whom in due time he sent through Westminster and Oxford to Lincoln’s Inn. The young Barrister plodded with considerable success along the dustier ways of the Law. He did not make the reputation of a great light, neither did he display great powers of advocacy, but his opinion on matters relating to Maritime and Insurance Law was held to be worth having. If not marked as a rising man, he was accounted intelligent; moreover, he married and professed himself a Conservative; yet when, well over his fortieth year, he “took silk,” there seemed but little chance of great promotion for him. He addressed himself, however, to the political avenues, and twice failed to represent Rochdale, and that, of course, gave him a claim to the gratitude of his Party. In 1866, however, Helston returned him to Parliament, and although he achieved no great distinction there as a statesman, he attracted Mr. Disraeli’s attention, so that when eighteen months later much legal patronage fell in, and it became necessary to cast about for Conservative lawyers, he was made Solicitor-General. Six months after this he renounced the Parliamentary career by accepting a puisne judgeship, and he had barely settled himself in the seat of justice when from that serene haven he beheld the crushing defeat of his former Party at a general election.

As a Judge Sir William has shown himself strong, ready, and always able to take a firm grasp of any case before him in all of its aspects. He relies entirely upon himself, forms and adheres very strongly to his own opinion, and seeks always to be final, complete, and sufficient in the decision of the Court over which he presides. Yet he is not insensible to the spirit of the times, and his and the popular judgment of a case are often found to coincide. It will be remembered of him that he tried the gas stokers and sentenced Colonel Baker; but he is able, frank, urbane, good-natured, well with Society, and an intimate friend of the Chancellor; and under circumstances he may become Chief-Justice.

William Baliol Brett (1815-99) was indeed “sent through” Westminster and Lincoln’s Inn, but not Oxford. He was a Caius man, an accomplished boxer, known there as “Bella Brett” for his silk waistcoats. He rowed three years for the C.U.B.C: against Leander in 1837 and 1838, when that club was still based in London, and against Oxford in 1839 for the third Boat Race (the first for the newly-formed O.U.B.C.). He also won the Grand at Henley in 1841 as stroke for the “Cambridge Subscription Rooms,” a London-based private club for Cantabs.

Though Vanity Fair mistook Oxford for Cambridge in Brett’s background and omitted his rowing exploits entirely, it did fairly well project his later career. Within months of his 1876 appearance in Vanity Fair, Brett was elevated to the court of appeals (the Appellate Jurisdiction Act of 1876 having opened the slot at a convenient time) and in 1883 became Master of the Rolls. He became Baron Esher of Surrey in 1885 and on retirement in 1897 was made Viscount Esher, the highest dignity for judicial service since the time of Coke attained by any judge other than a chancellor. He died May 24, 1899, two months after his grandson and fellow rower of Vanity Fair, William Dudley-Ward, rowed No. 7 in the Cambridge crew that ended a nine-year run by Oxford in the Boat Race.

The 1838 Cambridge v. Leander Boat Race edit


Oxford won the first Boat Race, held at Henley in 1829. Cambridge won the second in 1836, from Westminster to Putney. In 1837, Oxford challenged designating Henley as the venue; Cambridge, with W.B. Brett in the crew, countered-offered London; but the parties were unable to agree and no race occurred. Cambridge then challenged Leander, at the time the leading London amateur club, to a Westminster to Putney race with “gentlemen” steerers and no fouling permitted. Leander accepted on condition they could use their favored waterman steerer, James Parish. Cambridge agreed and located a London waterman of their own, William Noulton, who had steered for Westminster in 1836. In the event Cambridge came from behind to win by seven seconds in a clean race. The next year, Leander challenged and the race went off on the same terms, but with much fouling on both sides and Leander first past the post. Bell's Life, the sporting paper, reported that “[t]he judgment displayed, more particularly by the Leander, in the art of fouling, and the science and tact show by both coxswains, were really beyond conception.” However, due to the fouling the umpire declared the race no contest, so Brett wrote on behalf of his crew to Leander requesting a re-row. Leander declined, stating they rejected the umpire’s decision and viewed themselves the winner. This launched a lively correspondence that led nowhere, other than that “this unfortunate result must have strengthened the University men in their determination to keep clear of professionals,” in R.C. Lehmann’s account.[54] Here is one of Brett’s entries, bringing his undergraduate legal acumen to bear:

Sir, -- In answer to your letter I can only state to you a few facts connected with the late race. Upon receipt of your challenge to “row the Cambridge crew upon as late a date as they could possibly name,” they appointed for that purpose the 14th June, which day was accepted by you. Upon their arrival in London, you stated that many of your crew wished to attend the Ascot races on that day; that you consequently could not row then, and would not row afterwards. They, considering this match not as one rowed for any large stakes, but merely entered into from a spirit of honorable competition, in which either party would rather give than accept an advantage, did, notwithstanding their great want of practice in London, yield in all things to your wishes.

Upon starting for the match we were at first, as in the former year, left behind; but on coming up to you at the Horseferry we most unexpectedly found ourselves against a barge on one side and your boat on the other, fully proving that Parish had closed upon us, and not left us room to proceed on our proper course. Noulton, upon this, was anxious to proceed also to waterman’s practice, and so endeavour to break the rudder of your boat. We, however, thinking that there might have been some accident in the case, insisted upon backing water, and yielding the Middlesex side of the river to you. This we did, gave you a considerable start, pulled up to you on the Surrey side, and were again crossed. We still insisted upon Noulton yielding to you; but at the Red House, finding all hope of being allowed to pass useless, and convinced that you were sanctioning your steerer’s conduct, we told him to run into you, and there broke your oar, etc. We now asked the Umpire whether the race was fair or foul, and upon his answering that it was foul we put up our oars to claim the match.

Our own boat was, at this time, half full of water; but seeing that you had procured a new oar, and had rowed away about 200 yards, we again started after you, and pulled up to you in less than half a mile. After Chelsea Bridge we again left you, and actually crossed and recrossed the river, to try whether or not you would allow us to pass. Being again crossed within ten yards of Wandsworth Meadows, the wrong side of the river, we gave you a last start, and ran into you as you passed through Putney Bridge.

Knowing all these circumstances in our own boat, and having felt the tremendous labour of starting a heavy eight-oared boat some seven or eight times in one day, which your crew had not to do, we cannot but feel greatly astonished at your claim to “have won the match,” or at your affecting to doubt which is the superior crew.

As far as the technical claim is concerned, we have never heard that an Umpire’s decision could be disputed; and knowing of no other authority to which two rival crews could refer their claims, we feel it, of course, perfectly useless to enter into any further correspondence.

I remain, Sir, your obedient servant (for the Cambridge crew), WM. BALIOL BRETT.[55]

In 1839, the newly-formed O.U.B.C. challenged the C.U.B.C. to a third University Boat Race. It was Westminster to Putney, in the Easter vacation, with gentleman steerers, no fouling permitted. “Cambridge still had the better organisation and more material from which to choose; besides, their style had been much improved during the past two years by their Leander matches, and by the coaching which they had in the meantime received from Noulton and other London watermen,” reported the 1929 Official Centenary History. “The race was as hollow as it well could be: from start to finish Oxford were never in it, and Cambridge won in a common canter by upwards of a minute and a half, in 31 min. 0 sec.”[56]

References edit

  1. ^ R.C. Lehmann, The Complete Oarsman, p. 13.
  2. ^ W.B. Brett, quoted in C.H. Dudley-Ward, A Romance of the Nineteenth Century, pp. 195-96.
  3. ^ G.C. Drinkwater & T.R.B. Sanders, The University Boat Race: Official Centenary History, p. 17.

Boscawen E

Boscawen, Evelyn (Viscount Falmouth) edit

“Never Bets” (Spy), September 1, 1877 edit


The Boscawens are a fine old Cornish family which has for centuries furnished to the State distinguished soldiers, sailors, and statesmen, and Lord Falmouth was born with the stuff in him to make him a credit to his ancestry, even had he been restricted to that commoner’s career to which he seemed born eight-and-fifty years ago. At Eton he was a noted “wet-bob” and won the “pulling sweeps,” and while at Christ Church he continued his rowing, and was chiefly instrumental in founding the Henley Regatta. He next read Law at the Middle Temple, married Lady Le Despencer, a maiden baroness in her own right, and turned his attention to his favourite pursuit of agriculture. In this he was very successful, and when, in 1852, he succeeded to the title, on the death of his cousin, he removed his breeding-stock to Tregothnan and still further increased his successes. His cattle and flocks became renowned throughout England, he has won prizes with them at almost every meeting in the country; and this very year his bull, “the only Jones,” swept the board at Bath as the best bull of any breed there.

Lord Falmouth is, however, even better known as a breeder and runner of racehorses, and in this also his energy and judgment have made him pre-eminent; while the fact that he has for nearly thirty years won races without losing a friend shows him to be possessed of some very rare qualities. When he first appeared on the Turf it was under the assumed name of “Mr. Valentine,” and as such he won the Thousand Guineas in 1862 with “Hurricane,” and the Oaks of the following year with “Queen Bertha,” an occasion on which he wagered and lost the only sixpence he has ever betted. Throwing off his alias, he now transferred his horses to Newmarket, to which he has ever since remained faithful. He won the Derby with “Kingcraft” in 1870, and again this year with “Silvio”; both these horses having, strangely enough, run third for the Two Thousand Guineas previous to the Derby, behind the horses whom they subsequently defeated. Many other victories than these he has achieved, but he eschews handicaps, avoids overworking his two-year-olds, and altogether declines to race on a Sunday, thereby depriving himself of all chance of winning any of the great French races.

Lord Falmouth is remarkable as being the one remaining representative of that original idea of horse-racing, which was to pit one man’s success against another’s in breeding horses; for all the racers which have carried his colours have been bred by himself. Moreover, he has kept his name as a gentleman should, but as few can upon the Turf, untarnished by so much as a whisper of suspicion; and he never bets.

With the qualities of patience, judgment, honesty, and perseverance which he has displayed in these pursuits, he might have made himself foremost and trusted as a leader of men in public affairs; and it is to be regretted that he has never taken an active part in politics, which cry aloud for men of his stamp. As a landlord, however, he has made himself to be loved and trusted, and it was and still is a wonder to the world why he was not, twenty years ago, made Lord Lieutenant of Cornwall.

Evelyn Boscawen (1819-89) rowed in the 1837 Eton eight that lost to Westminster. According to The Eton Boating Book, “It was the first time the Westminsters ever beat the Etonians. This was almost the last time the King [William IV] appeared in public, and the Eton boys believed that their defeat was the immediate cause of the King’s illness.”[57] At Oxford, Boscawen rowed No. 6 for the Oxford Etonians (with S.H. Northcote at No. 2) in the Grand Challenge Cup in 1839 and 1840. This apparently was the basis for Vanity Fair’s assertion of his being “chiefly instrumental in founding the Henley Regatta,” though in later years he was a steward as well.[58]

After Oxford, Boscawen became a non-practising barrister, a gentleman farmer, and a peer, who grossed more than £300,000 over his life from horse racing. From 1872 to 1883 he never won less than £10,000 per year, with £38,000 in 1878 the most ever won by a single owner. As for the sixpence: he bet his trainer’s wife that his mare Queen Bertha would not win the 1863 Oaks; on winning the race and losing the bet, then-Lord Falmouth made good by presenting the coin as a brooch set in diamonds. Besides the caricature featured here, Lord Falmouth also appeared in a group of turf and racing figures in Vanity Fair’s December 6, 1887 Winter Number, entitled “Tattersall’s, Newmarket.”

Gambling and Aquatic Nobbling edit

Like the turf, the Boat Race was a favorite for Victorian gambling. Vanity Fair (April 1, 1871):

Henley Regatta wagering poster, 1841

We have seen the last of the practice of the eights, and almost as soon as this number of the FAIR sees publicity we shall have seen also the race and its result. We never remember a greater excitement than on the present occasion, and never such an infusion of the gambling element as is now unfortunately introduced as a leading feature in the entertainment. City speculators plunge as greedily on light and dark blue as on cotton or indigo; and having never seen either crew in their lives, nor having even succeeded in feathering a scull, gravely tell you that it is a “real good thing” this way or that; that they know on the “very best authority” that A and B in the Oxford boat can’t stay, or C and D of the Cantabs are lamentably over-trained. As for the “ring,” they quote the odds as formally as prices for the Chester Cup and Derby, and only lament that there is no such luck as a possibility of “squaring” it -- judging charitably University probity by their own.

"Barely was the shell placed in the water, when, with a muffled report, a sudden geyser shot upward, drenching the boys. A ragged hole was torn in the bottom of the boat."

This gambling is a serious evil; without raising the abstract question of morality, it puts University men on thorns, lest unscrupulous speculators, finding that they cannot buy or square the crews, should attempt to “nobble” them as a last resource. We more than suspect that this sort of game has been planned, though futilely, before now. We remember how in ‘67, when Oxford were hot favourites, ugly rumours came to our ears from private sources as to whereabouts in the course a boat was provided to run into Oxford, should they be leading. Forewarned, the presidents were forearmed, and though at the expected place a suspicious-looking craft shot erratically into the track, both boats were wide off shore, Cambridge the nearer of the two, and mischief, if intended, was averted. This year Cambridge are public favourites, and the ring are “fielding” at the odds. If any attack is planned, it will be against the light blue, but we sincerely trust that the guard of police at the boat-houses, and in police boats during the race, will suffice to overawe any such villainy.

Forty years later, “Cambrioleur” told an apocryphal tale in Vanity Fair (March 27, 1912) of an inside job in one of the Cambridge college May races:

Centuries ago there was a misguided youth at St. Abbs Hall, the son of an American commission agent, who determined to turn an honest penny out of the boat -racing. Under the guidance of friends, who, I fear, judged his leg to be suitable for elongation, he opened a book on the Mays. As soon as the college was aware of this the entire eight, with their cox, came to him secretly by night, one at a time, and asked him what odds he would give against them staying head of the river. He started with cox at evens, but before he had got to bow he was giving three to one. They all invested half-a-crown against their boat. The thing seemed a dead cert. for him after that. When the rest of the college rolled up to back their boat he cheerfully gave them five to one. He booked nearly a hundred bets in sovereigns on those terms. Of course, the boat stayed head -- in fact, it did the course in record time, and the precocious layer found that he had to balance nine half-crowns against five hundred sovereigns.

References edit

  1. ^ L.S.R. Byrne ed., The Eton Boating Book, p. 30.
  2. ^ R. Burnell, Henley Royal Regatta: A Celebration of 150 Years, p. 97.

Denman G

Denman, George edit

“He Was an Ornament on the Bench” (Stuff), November 19, 1892 edit


The fourth son of that able defender of Queen Caroline of Brunswick, who (after the King’s death) was rewarded by a Peerage and a chance of illuminating the King’s Bench which he availed himself of for nearly twenty years as its Chief Justice, he has owed much of his success to his father and to his father’s name, and something of it to himself. Born three-and-seventy years ago, he grew into an intellectually and physically well-favoured boy, who at Repton Grammar School and at Trinity, Cambridge, made friends, cultivated his mind, and won pots so thoroughly that half a century back he had figured as a Senior Classic and as a Cambridge University oar. Then his College improved him into a Fellow; and, soon after he was called to the Bar, his grateful University retained him as one of her Counsel, though she refused to be represented by him in Parliament, preferring a Tory. Handsome, persuasive, painstaking, and not without tact, he presently became quite a proper person for the conduct of arbitration cases; and having now become well known in the way that successful barristers get themselves known, he was chosen to share with Lord Palmerston the divided honour of representing Tiverton in the House of Commons. There he tended legislatively to assimilate civil with criminal evidence, and helped to abolish religious belief as a qualification for witnesses; which thing he did almost silently, for he was no great speaker in the House. But he voted always -- except once -- with his Party, until at last, twenty years ago, being the son of a great lawyer, a docile Liberal, and a cautious man, he voted himself onto the Bench, on which he was for so long an ornament.

For he made a dignified and imposing Judge, besides being the best-looking man on the Bench. Moreover, he worked hard, scarcely ever lost his temper, and was generally full of grace. Yet, if he be judged by the records of the Court of Appeal, he will not be looked back to as one of the greatest of English lawyers; for he was quite free from subtlety, so that it often took a long time to get the facts of any complicated case into his head. He has also shown himself as weak a Judge as he was an amiable; as when he over-indulged Mrs. Weldon at the time that lady was active upon the law-path. But he was a good Judge with a jury, whom he was well able at once to enlighten and to keep in hand; neither flying over their heads nor losing their respect. He has now retired full of years and full of honour; and the whole Bar wishes him well in the private obscurity to which he has just descended from the Bench.

He is known as a very honourable, courteous, and kindly-mannered man, who was generally popular with the Bar, although he sometimes allowed arguments before him to wax over-long. He always dressed carefully and suitably, but he did not like to see sketches done in Court even by briefless barristers who had time to spare for such lightsome work; and though he never caught Mr. Lockwood in the flagrant crime, his vials of judicial wrath were once grievously poured out upon the head of a less careful stuff-gownsman whom he detected in the act of transferring a witness’s features to paper. He plays upon the violin; he has translated Gray’s “Elegy” into Greek, and he has attempted to convert a book of the Iliad into Latin elegiacs.

He looked a model Judge. But he was never quite so good a Judge as he looked.

George Denman (1819-96) rowed No. 7 for Cambridge in the Boat Races of 1841 and 1842. He won the Colquhoun Sculls in 1842, stroked his college boat to the head of the Cam, and rowed in the Grand from 1840 to 1843 for Trinity, the Cambridge Subscription Rooms, C.U.B.C., and Trinity again. His 1843 Trinity crew lost to the full O.U.B.C. eight that went on to win the event by two lengths with only seven oarsmen, their stroke having gone ill and no substitutions permitted. In an 1886 profile, Vanity Fair wrote: “Even now his Lordship regards with affection various trophies carried off in his more youthful days from Henley; and all this added much to his popularity, as such things always do.”[59]

Regarding Denman’s professional life: he dedicated his 1871 translation of Gray’s “Elegy” into Greek to Sir Alexander Cockburn, the Lord Chief Justice -- and in the following year was appointed to the court of common pleas. In 1873 Denman dedicated his translation of Pope’s “Iliad” into Latin to W.E. Gladstone, the Prime Minister -- and in 1875 became a justice of the common pleas division of the high court. In 1881 he provided an English translation of H. Kynaston’s Latin hexameters for the fiftieth anniversary of the Boat Race -- and the same year became a judge on the queen’s bench division.

The 1841 Boat Race edit

The 1841 Boat Race

Denman’s own account:

The Oxford and Cambridge Boatrace was to come off on Easter Tuesday, and during the whole of the Lent Term a crew, of which I was seven, was in practice. The race in 1840 had been a very close affair, won by Cambridge after an apparently losing race up to Battersea Reach. Several old oars remained in each boat. The new ones in ours were, W. Croker, Caius (9th Wrangler in 1839), my brother Lewis, Magdalene (two), Ritchie, Trinity (three), Cobbold, Peterhouse (five) and myself (seven); our steerer, too, was new, J. Croker, brother of our bow and 8th Wrangler in 1840. Vialls, our stroke, and Somers-Cocks of Brasenose, the Oxford stroke, both Westminster men, had each rowed stroke in 1840. The coxswains were new to the river and it seemed a very open affair. The race in those days was from Westminster Bridge to Putney Bridge, 5¾ miles; about half an hour’s work with an average tide. There were no police arrangements for keeping the course clear and it was often a ticklish work for the coxswains to decide whether to go ahead or astern of a train of barges catering across the river. There was no practising at Ely in those days, nor any coaching from the banks, but, before coming to Town, the crew used to row at its best pace from the town-lock to Baitsbite, coached by the steerer, and the time occupied was, on an average, from nineteen to twenty-one minutes, according to the wind and stream prevailing at the time.

When the time came for moving to London, our captain, C.M. Vialls, the old Westminster, determined to drive us up to London. He was a capital whip who often drove the mail. A good drag was hired, and we had a fine day and enjoyed the drive immensely. Arrived in London, the majority of the crew took up its quarters at Ginger’s Hotel (which stood about where the booking-office of the District Railway for the Westminster Bridge Station now stands), but I and my brother ‘trained’ at home at my father’s house in Portland Place. Our training was probably less rigid than that of the present day; but it was pretty strict, and our kind mother made no difficulty about it as far as diet was concerned. The Broad Walk, which runs across the Regent’s Park above Portland Place towards the Zoological Gardens, was then just being made, and a part of our training was to run to the end of that walk and back before breakfast. Then, in the course of the day, sooner or later, according to the tide, we walked to Searle’s boathouse (where St. Thomas’s Hospital now stands) and prepared to race to Putney against a crew of Cambridge Subscription Rooms (sometimes supplemented by a waterman or two), and this we did daily with two days’ exception until the day before the race, giving the other crew a long start of 200 or 300 yards and judging of our performance by the distance we had covered before we passed them, which generally occurred before half the course had been chased.

The race, as I have said, was to be rowed on Easter Tuesday (April 13). On the Good Friday the crew did not row together; but my brother Lewis and I took a wherry and paddled up the river with the intention of rowing to Richmond and back for exercise. About 300 yards below Kew Bridge I, rowing bow and steering, or rather directing the steering (for we had no rudder), saw a boat ahead with a man’s face toward me about 100 yards off. I took this to be a boat rowing in the same direction as we were; but in a few seconds I was undeceived by a tremendous blow on the shoulder, and the sight of a wherry’s sharp-pointed bow appearing close to my left ear. The wherry was full of rough holiday-makers who rowed on triumphantly as our boat filled with water and gradually sank to the bottom not far from the shore, so that my brother got hold of the painter and pulled me and boat to the towing-path, and after he had bestowed his benediction on the enemy and emptied the boat, we again embarked and I tried to row. It was in vain. The pain was too great, and I felt quite sick from the attempt. Happily at that moment we spied a four-oar, manned by some others of our crew, and it was arranged that I should go back as steerer of that boat and one of them take my place; and so I got back, in time, to Portland Place. But what was to be done? We did not dare to send for the doctor from fear that he might forbid me to row on Tuesday. It was necessary to keep my mother and sisters in the dark for the same reason. Happily the junior footman (George Pearman) was a man who seemed to know everything. So we took him into counsel. He had been a barber, and we had a notion that he might therefore possess some knowledge of surgery. After gravely considering the case and inspecting the bruised shoulder, he advised us to allow him to fetch just one leech, which he very skillfully applied. It was about the size of the two lower joints of a little finger when it began its meal, and nearly as large as a lemon when it rolled off satisfied. George’s prescription was a complete success; for, though I was obliged to abstain from rowing on the next day and could not have practised on the following day, even if it had not been Sunday, I took my oar again on Monday, when we practised starts and had a few short rows, and on the following day was in my place, and felt no inconvenience from the accident, and we won the race by the unusually long interval of 1 minute and 5 seconds (about 360 yards).

I may as well add that in the following year (1842) after a hard race and with a decidedly inferior stroke and three changes, all for the worse, in the crew, we were beaten by 13 seconds. So that my career was a fair sample of the general result of the University match (six of one and half a dozen of the other).[60]

References edit

  1. ^ Vanity Fair, Nov. 20, 1886, p. 291.
  2. ^ G. Denman, quoted in G.C. Drinkwater & T.R.B. Sanders, The University Boat Race: Official Centenary History, pp. 19-21.

Waddington WH

Waddington, William Henry edit

“France at the Congress” (T.), September 28, 1878 edit


Not very long ago an Englishman settled himself in France with a view to trade. M. Waddington is one of the descendants of this emigrant. He was educated in England, has English notions and an English aspect, but he entirely declines to be considered English, and glories in the name of Frenchman. Born two-and-fifty years ago, he has devoted a great part of his life and abilities to the study of old coins and of ancient history, for the sake of which he made a voyage into Greece and Asia Minor. He has also taken a considerable part in politics, and when a National Assembly was hastily called together in 1871 in order to raise the ransom and get rid of the Germans, he was elected for the Aisne. He adopted himself into the Right Centre, gained much confidence from many men, and at length, partly by merit and partly by accident, became the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the French Republic. He is an excellent man of business and a steady politician, and being somewhat tiresome and professorial in his utterances, he is held to be one of the few statesmen who are to be trusted. He represented France at the Congress of Berlin.

William Henry Waddington (1826-94) went to school at Dr. Arnold’s Rugby, and then to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he rowed for Second Trinity in the Grand, Ladies’, Stewards’, and Visitors’ in 1849. Waddington also rowed No. 6 in the first of the two 1849 Boat Races, the only year in which the race occurred twice, in a Cambridge crew consisting entirely of Trinity men.

After university Waddington returned to France to become a naturalized citizen like his father, spending the 1850s as an archaeologist specializing in Asia Minor. In the 1860s he turned to politics and, after two unsuccessful attempts for the chamber of deputies, was elected in 1871, then to the senate in 1876, and became Minister of Foreign Affairs in 1877. His performance from that last position, at the Congress of Berlin in 1878, was rewarded with the appearance in Vanity Fair.


In 1879, newly-elected President Jules Grévy chose Waddington to become Premier, not for his success at Berlin but because the alternative, Léon Gambetta, posed too much a political threat. Waddington took the job but retained his Foreign Affairs post, focusing his efforts on Egypt and the Balkans. He was forced to resign in December 1879 when Jules Ferry, a member of his cabinet, created sufficient controversy by introducing measures drastically to reduce the influence of the Catholic church on education. Waddington was ambassador to Great Britain from 1883 to 1893, and died in Paris on January 13, 1894, a week after losing his Senate seat in the election.

As a Rugby alumnus, Cambridge rowing blue, and senior French official, Waddington played a significant albeit indirect role in launching the modern Olympic games, first held in Athens in 1896. He knew Baron Pierre de Coubertin, who became the first President of the modern Olympics and is generally viewed as the father of the movement. Through him, Waddington encouraged French crews to enter the 1891 Henley Regatta.[61] Waddington may also have caused de Coubertin’s visit to Rugby, feeding the notion of international exchange through sport. Thus one senses Waddington’s handiwork in the Baron’s maiden speech on point, at the November 25, 1892 meeting of the Athletic Sports Union at the Sorbonne: “Let us export oarsmen, runners, fencers; there is the free trade of the future -- and on the day when it shall take its place among the customs of Europe, the cause of peace will have received a new and powerful support.”[62]

The Thames Conservancy edit

In the early days of the Boat Race, umpires did their duty from boats powered by watermen. With the advent of steamers, watermen were retired from service but river traffic multiplied, causing occasional interference. The Thames Conservancy, formed that year to address such problems as pollution, which by 1857 had made the metropolitan river “the largest navigable sewer in the world,” was given the further power in 1868 to clear the course for racing.[63] As with most regulation, this made the situation both better and worse: better, because the Conservancy prevented steamers from washing the crews as happened to A.L. Smith in 1859; worse, because it did not always act in complete harmony with the wishes of the university boat clubs. W.B. Woodgate laid out his views in Vanity Fair (April 2, 1870):

The Boat Race, 1870

Whatever may have been in previous years the good offices of the Thames Conservancy in securing a free course for University boat-races, their good deeds are now more than nullified by the officious dictation of which they have this year been guilty toward the Presidents of the two U.B.C.’s. Taking advantage of their autocracy upon the Thames, they have not only put a restriction upon the steamers that limits them to a lower number than has ever been known and sanctioned at any previous Oxford and Cambridge race, but they have gone the length of ordering steamers at the expense of the Universities, at the very time that they dictate who shall and who shall not be allowed on board the same.

Steamers can never be said to benefit the rowing of a University boat per se. An umpire could be carried in a twelve-oar, or in a small steam-launch, such as the Ariel, thus avoiding all possibility of draw and “suck” from the paddles of accompanying passenger steamers. But the Universities have never grudged to their own members, who have an interest in, and who supply the funds for, the race, the privilege of accompanying the crews at a respectful distance; nor have they debarred the public from a similar enjoyment within due limits. It is for them to say how many steamers they wish to follow the race; and, so long as these steamers are compatible with safety, the Conservancy have no moral right to deny them. In the Harvard race there were only two steamers, because Harvardians in England were few, and it might have been said that a preponderance of Oxonians in extra steamers was unfair, and inflicting a “suck” upon both boats, for the accommodation of the friends of one side only.

But, that race being past and gone, there is no reason why the limit of steamers should not be, as in former years, subject to the approval of the Universities. If they do not object, it can matter little to the Conservancy, unless the latter plead that steamboats are reckless, and may collide and cause a catastrophe. There is some slight ground for this argument, for, though last year all steamers but one behaved themselves, there was one evildoer, and that one the steamer which conveyed the magnates themselves of the Conservancy, and who, not content with jostling the umpire against Barnes Bridge, to the alarm of the umpire’s cargo, steamed ahead of him, and shut him out of all view of the finale of the race.

However, allowing that the Conservancy are autocratic to decide in the question of safety, and to assume that other steamers will very probably behave as badly as they themselves did last year, at least it would seem fair that if steamers are to incommode the race, they should do so for the benefit only of those concerned in the match, and not for mere outsiders, who have no part nor interest in it or its result. But though there are some forty captains of college boat-clubs, and some two dozen resident oarsmen who have been tried for the very race in question, and who may be said more than any others to represent the interests of the rest of the Universities, they are one and all summarily ejected from the steamers by the Conservancy, and their places assigned to the public -- i.e., to their representatives, the Press.

The race is strictly a private one; it is only the public who choose to make it one of public interest, and often to create a nuisance by the extent of their unsolicited zeal. But though none would be more willing than the Presidents to offer, as a piece of courtesy, a certain proportionate share of the accommodation at their disposal to the press, that is no reason why they should be compelled, without choice in the matter, to receive any audience which the Conservancy choose to thrust upon them, to the exclusion of their own friends and allies, who help to pay the piper, but are not suffered to call the tune.

Woodgate returned to the subject a week later (April 9, 1870), hoping to leverage widespread following of the Boat Race, with which he was never too comfortable, into a populist revolt against the Thames Conservancy:

The Universities are chartered and reputed “seats of learning,” yet during the current term their main association, in the eyes of the British public, has been simply that of muscular Christianity. The University intelligence which has found most favour in the eyes of the country cousins, parents, and guardians, has been not the councils of the “Hebdomadal,” or resolutions of Convocation, but training reports from the banks of the Cam or Isis; and for one enthusiastic and right-minded reader who can tell the names of the Senior Wrangler or Ireland Scholar of the term, there are hundreds with whom the names Goldie and Darbishire have been household words.

Like sheep to a gap, the British populace pours, in greater numbers year after year, to swelter on Hammersmith Bridge; to herd in masses on the tow path, regardless of the rising tide which threatens to infringe the rights of the Great Unwashed; or to pay ten shillings a-head for nose room and three minutes’ glimpse from a garret window at Chiswick or Barnes.

And what they go out into the desert for to see, the wisest of them can hardly tell. Personal interest they have none, unless they have bets upon the race; personal comfort, under the circumstances just described, the most sanguine would hardly hope to find; even the picnic, which is the redeeming point of a Derby-day saturnalia, cannot well exist between Putney and Mortlake, from sheer want of elbow-room. However, they come, and they go, and they seem to enjoy themselves; and trade of all sorts, of rail, of road, of haberdashers, carpenters, et hoc genus omne, undoubtedly reaps the benefit of a private sport that national eccentricity has usurped almost as a public property; and the lesson to be read, therefore, is that if the public wish to continue to reap this benefit, and enjoy this festival as heretofore, they must raise their vox populii to support the Universities in enjoying in their turns their due rights, and in resisting the dictatorial and impertinent encroachments of the Thames Conservancy.

Their conduct was fully dilated upon last week in our FAIR, and since it still remains in statu quo, or rather has now added the deed to previously announced will, there is no need to say more of them than that if they in their hypocrisy still profess goodwill towards University boat-racing, the University Boat Clubs may rightly pray to be saved from their friends.

References edit

  1. ^ H. Cleaver, A History of Rowing, p. 160.
  2. ^ Baron P. de Coubertin, Une Campagne de Vingt-et-Un-Ans, p. 90, quoted in B. Henry, An Approved History of the Olympic Games, p. 30.
  3. ^ H. Cleaver, p. 22; T. Cook, Rowing at Henley, p. 94; R. Burnell & G. Page, The Brilliants: A History of the Leander Club, p. 35. Credit for the sewer comparison goes to a Leander member, writing at a time when the club was still headquarted in London and had not established its base at Henley. Anon., The Oarsman’s Guide to the Thames and Other Rivers, p. 101.

De Rutzen A

De Rutzen, Albert edit

“A Model Magistrate” (WAG), August 16, 1900 edit


He is the third son of the late Charles, Baron de Rutzen of Slebeck Park, in Pembrokeshire; he was born sixty-nine years ago; he began life at Eton, and continued it at Trinity, Cambridge; and he became a Barrister of the Inner Temple at the age of six-and-twenty. His conduct of his own (and of other people's) affairs at the Bar is forgotten; for he took upon him the duties of a Magistrate more than thirty years ago -- as Stipendiary at Merthyr Tydfil. There he became a Justice of the Peace and Deputy-Chairman of Quarter Sessions for Glamorganshire, and did so well that he was summoned to a London Police Court in 1876. He sat successfully and successively at Marylebone, Westminster, and Marlborough Street; and last year he was "moved on" to Bow Street, where he is now dispensing equal Justice among sinners. He is a big-hearted Magistrate, full of cruel and sordid experiences which have not hardened his soul. On the contrary, Mr. De Rutzen is a very honest, painstaking, kindly mentor to those whose distress brings them before him; and, despite the tedious monotony of his Office, he never fails in any one of his virtues.

He is a model Magistrate.

Albert de Rutzen (1831-1913) rowed no. 3 for Cambridge in the two Boat Races of 1849. He appeared in Vanity Fair on becoming Chief Magistrate in London, a post he held until retirement in 1913.

Hornby JJ

Hornby, James John (Provost of Eton) edit

“The Head” (Spy), January 31, 1901 edit


Third son of Admiral Sir Phipps Hornby and brother of the late Admiral Sir Geoffrey Hornby, he was born at Winwick four-and-seventy years ago; and he is still vigourous testimony to the wholesomeness of the English Public School. So well did Dr. Hawtrey lay in the foundation of his knowledge at Eton that he is now its Provost: after a course of Balliol, which made him a First Class-man. He played cricket and rowed in the ‘Varsity Eight with the late Lord Justice Chitty and with Bishop Patterson; and he is still a member of the Alpine Club. Having been elected a Fellow of B.N.C., he went to Durham as Principal of Bishop Cosin’s Hall: yet returned to B.N.C. to lecture the Classics into younger athletes; and was made Senior Proctor. Then he went to Winchester as Second Master; whence he was chosen Head Master of our biggest Public School just three-and-thirty years ago. Since then he has been improved into a Queen’s Chaplain, a Doctor of Civil Law, and (in the nature of things) into the Provost of Eton and Chairman of its Governing Body: whose health is so good as to preclude any idea of his retiring. Yet he is really a very retiring man who keeps himself very much to himself, although he has courteous manners and a charming smile.

He was always athletic, and even now he is an excellent dancer and a very fine skater, whose bag of skates is almost as well known as himself. He can preach an admirable sermon, and he is almost unrivalled in the art of after-dinner speaking: his oratory being no less witty than it is eloquent. He can also tell a good story; and it is told of himself that he has not unsympathetically urged a boy who was to undergo punishment to bear it. As a schoolmaster he was fortunate; for during his term of Head Mastership Eton flourished as exceedingly as even the inventor of its motto could have wished: the standard of work being higher than it had ever been before. Altogether he is identified with Eton as a good fellow no less than as a wholesome gentleman.

He taught Eton the art of self-government.

John James Hornby (1826-1909), unlike most of the other thirty-one Etonian rowers of Vanity Fair, did not row at school; he was a cricketer. But he picked it up well on arrival at Balliol in 1845, for he rowed bow for Oxford in the second Boat Race of 1849 (which Oxford won on a foul by bumping Cambridge when Cambridge were in Oxford’s water), and was No. 3 in the O.U.B.C. crews that won the Grand in 1850 and 1851, there being no tideway Boat Race either year. In 1850, having become a Fellow of Brasenose, he won the University Pairs and Fours, and the Goblets (with J.W. Chitty) at Henley. In 1851 he rowed again for B.N.C. in the Ladies’, Stewards’, and Visitors’, and went Head of the River at Oxford in 1852.

Hornby might not have become headmaster of Eton in 1868, at age forty-one, but for the work of S.H. Northcote. In 1862, Northcote joined the royal commission on the administration of the public schools. On release of the commission report in 1864, Northcote argued that Parliament could deal not with studies or management, but with endowments, the constitution of governing bodies, and the removal of restrictions, among them the generations-old tradition that the Eton headmaster hale from King’s College, Cambridge. By 1868, that restriction was gone and the headmastership increased in independent authority, which Hornby was the first to exercise: hence he “taught Eton the art of self-government.” He kept a progressive rather than radical hand on the reins, but did not shirk from corporal punishment. Guy Nickalls, at Eton in the early 1880s, recalled: “In spite of the swishings I got, I liked the headmaster, Hornby, the perfectly mannered and sonorously-voiced old English gentleman. Handsome, alert, witty, a great athlete in his day, a good judge of wine, and the finest after-dinner speaker I ever listened to, with a charm of manner I have never forgotten.”[64]

Hornby retired to the dignified and less arduous post of provost in 1884, succeeded by the more famous Etonian and Balliol oarsman, Edmond Warre. It was a tip to Hornby’s former responsibilities that Vanity Fair capitioned his 1901 lithograph, “The Head.” He remained provost until his death in 1909, to be succeeded again by Warre.

The War of the Ribbons edit

As the first mass spectator sport, rowing became hard news.[65] By the 1860s newspapers followed the crews for weeks before the race, and the public showed its enthusiasm by thronging the banks to watch their favorite crew in practice and wear its color ribbon. In some places, such as the unnamed school Ralph Dundas attended, the light blue and dark mixed badly, oil and vinegar, as he recalled for Vanity Fair (March 24, 1910):


When I hear grown-up people discussing the University Boat Race I smile sadly and hold my peace. They may say what they like about the latest Oxford trial, or the average weight per man of the Cambridge crew, but deep in my heart there stays the conviction that they are making a ludicrous mistake in speaking about the Boat Race at all. Once I knew all about it, and even now I think I could put them right if I wished. But what is the use of arguing with persons who, under the absurd pretext of fairness, pretend to find praiseworthy features in both crews? Even the smallest boy knew better than that in the days when the Boat Race was really important. I will not say that there did not exist weaklings even then, who wobbled between Oxford and Cambridge in an endeavour to propitiate both factions. But they usually suffered the fate of wobblers by having to join one side or the other, while still incurring the scorn of both.

The Boat Race dawned upon us each year as a strange and bewildering element in our social relationships. We would part one night on normal terms, and the morrow would find us wearing strange favours, and regarding our friends of yesterday with open and passionate dislike. For the sake of a morsel of coloured ribbon old friendships would be shattered and brother would greet brother with ingenious expressions of contempt. There was no moderate course in the matter. A boy was either vehemently Cambridge or intolerably Oxford, and it would have been easier to account for the colour of his hair than to explain how he arrived at his choice of a University. Some blind instinct, some subtle influence felt, perhaps, in the dim far-off nursery days may have determined this weighty choice; but the whole problem was touched with the mystery that inspired the great classical and modern snowball fights, when little boys would pound each other almost into a state of unconsciousness for the sake of a theory of education. Our interest in the Boat Race as a boat race was small, and quite untroubled by any knowledge of the respective merits of the crews. But we wore their colours in our buttonholes, and the effect of these badges on our lives was anarchic. We saw blue.

It was my fate to drift, fatally and immutably Cambridge, into a school that had a crushing Oxford majority. In these circumstances, the light-blue ribbon became, for the small and devoted band that upheld the Cambridge tradition of valour, the cause of endless but never conclusive defeats, the symbol of a splendid martyrdom. Try as we might, we found ourselves always in a minority, and, to add to our bitterness, these years of luckless warfare coincided with a series of Cambridge defeats, and we knew ourselves the supporters of a forlorn and discredited cause. And yet, Fate having decreed that we should be Cambridge, we did not falter before our hopeless task of convincing the majority that it was made of baser stuff than we. We would arrive in the morning with our colours stitched to our coats, and when, overwhelmed by numbers, we lost our dear favours we would retire to a place apart, repair the loss from a secret store of ribbon, and dash once more into the fray. The others might be Oxford when they had a mind to, but we were Cambridge -- Cambridge all the time.

Our contests were always fierce, but only once so far as I remember did they become really venomous. Some ingenious Cambridge mind had hit on the idea of protecting his badge with a secret battery of pins, and there ensued a series of real and desperate fights that threatened our clan with physical extinction. The trouble passed as suddenly as it had arisen; a mysterious rumour went round the clans that pins were bad form; there was a lull while Cambridge treated their black eyes, and Oxford put sticking plaster on their torn fingers. Pleasanter to remember is the famous retort of L_____, an utterance so finely dramatic that even to-day I cannot recall it without a thrill. Caught apart from his comrades, he was surrounded by the Oxford rabble, and robbed of his colours. “You aren’t Cambridge now,” said one of his assailants, mockingly. “Ah, but the sky is Cambridge!” he replied, and indeed it was. We had our little victories to dull the edge of our defeats.

And yet, probably, we of Cambridge were not altogether sorry when the Boat Race was over, and the business might be forgotten for another eleven months, for we had but little rest while the war of the ribbons was in the air. If we sought to take quiet walk round the quad, the chance was that a boy, too small perhaps to keep a favour even for a minute, but with a light-blue heart, would run up with tidings of some comrade hardly beset in the cloisters, and the battle must be begun again. These contests were sometimes the cause of temporary friendships, for in the course of the tumult one would find oneself indebted to a year-long enemy for the timely discomfiture of one’s opponent, who in his turn might be, normally, one’s bosom companion. For no tie was sacred enough to overcome this vernal madness of the Blues. If a fellow was base enough to be Oxford his presence in the world was unnecessary, his society tabooed. And, as I have said, even brothers would bang each others’ heads for the beauty of the Idea.

Then came a day when age and responsibility changed our views on a good many things, and the Boat Race was not spared. Forgetful of the old triumphs and the old despairs, we preferred to treat ourselves and life in more sober terms, while smiling tolerantly at the little boys playing their rough games beneath our feet. Leaning forward with hands eager to clutch our manhood, we would not for worlds have compromised our new position by taking an interest in such childish trifles as coloured ribbons. So the game went on without us, and the measure of our loss is the measure of the loss of the earth when the spring melts into summer.

To-day I hear persons discussing the Boat Race in railway carriages, and in face of their dispassionate judgments I ask myself whether they can ever have sung for it and fought for it, and, let it be added, wept for it, as I have done. In truth, I suppose they have; for boys do not differ widely in these essential things. But these people do not fight; they do not even wear the ribbon! While it is open to a man to ignore the Boat Race altogether, I cannot understand his approaching the contest in so miserable a spirit.


References edit

  1. ^ G. Nickalls, Life’s a Pudding, p. 42.
  2. ^ N. Wigglesworth, Social History of English Rowing, p. 47.

Chitty JW

Chitty, Joseph William edit

“The Umpire” (Spy), March 28, 1885 edit


Ever since these isles were peopled, some Chitty or other has been always writing or editing books about English Law. The present Judge of this distinguished name is not the offspring of Chitty’s Statutes or of Chitty on Contracts, but of Chitty’s Archbold -- that is to say, he is second son of the late Mr. Thomas Chitty, who was a very eminent and popular Special Pleader in his day.

Born seven-and-fifty years ago, young Joseph William was sent to Eton to do sums and learn his Latin grammar; and then, having proceeded to Balliol College, Oxford, by the aid of diligence and good ability he took a First Class in Classics in 1851, afterwards being elected a Fellow of Exeter, and becoming Vinerian Scholar in 1852. Of course he next went in for Law; in 1856 was called to the Bar at Lincoln’s Inn (of which he was made a Bencher nineteen years later), took silk in 1874, grew to be the Leader in the Rolls Court, and carried on an enormous practice. Strange to say, he omitted to pose as a legal author. Presently he drifted into politics, and in 1880 he sat as a liberal M.P. for corrupt Oxford, in which posture he might possibly have remained, had he not, in September, 1881, been appointed a Judge of the Chancery Division in the room of Sir George Jessel, who was moved on to the Court of Appeal.

Like his father, Sir Joseph has always been a favourite with his fellow-men; and, being of a robust frame, he from time to time distinguished himself in various athletic exercises. He rowed for his University, he took much interest in the Inns of Court Volunteers (of which he was a Major), and for many years he officiated as the Umpire at the Oxford and Cambridge Boat-Race. When raised to the dignity of the Bench, however, he put away umpiring and lawn-tennis and similar childish things. In Court he is agreeable, although his voice is very penetrating; but business progresses rather slowly there -- they say because he wants to talk quite as much as the Counsel appearing before him; wherefore they irreverently call him “Mr. Justice Chatty.” The son of a lawyer, he married the daughter of a Judge.

Joseph William Chitty (1828-99) followed J.J. Hornby two years closely behind: a cricketer at Eton, then a rower (and cricketer) for Oxford at Balliol College. He won the University Pairs in 1849-50 and the University Fours in 1850, rowed in the Boat Race in 1849 (both times) and 1852 and for O.U.B.C. in the Grand in 1850-51, there being no Easter Boat Race those years. He also rowed for Balliol in the Goblets 1849-51 (with Hornby in 1850). He was president of the O.U.B.C. for six months before the 1852 Boat Race, and umpired the event for 1857-73 and 1875-81, chairing the 1881 Boat Race jubilee dinner.

On stroking Oxford to victory in 1852 he cemented the term “Chitty’s crew” as the acme of rowing perfection (at least for clinker-built boats, and perhaps for some time after as well), which W.B. Woodgate recalled in his memoirs:

I once saw, as a child, the great Joe Chitty row -- in a four (in practice for Henley, 1854). He used when racing to row a terrific pace of stroke; so did his contemporary and fellow blue, R. Greenall, stroke of Brasenose. Fifty-two to the minute was debited to them in the year of that date (1852)! I fancy that the oars of the brief period of keeled outrigged racing eights were shorter than those of the epochs preceding and succeeding -- of “tub” and “keelless” respectively. Those 66 feet long “parallelogram” eights had less “beam” than the Matt Taylor build which displaced them after 1856, and reduced in-board leverage tended to diminish proportions out-board. Hence the pace of strokes in those times.[66]

Chitty became a lord justice of appeal in 1897 but died of influenza February 15, 1899, a month before Cambridge ended Oxford’s nine-year run in the Boat Race. To him is credited the legal epigram: “Truth will sometimes leak out even through an affidavit.”

The Four Secrets of Chitty’s Success edit

In 1886, “Davus” surveyed twenty-two “Judges of England” for Vanity Fair, including three rowers: William Baliol Brett (then Baron Esher, Master of the Rolls), George Denman, and, reprinted here, Sir Joseph Chitty (July 10, 1886):

This Judge comes of a book-making family, but, deserting precedent, he has not given his own name to any legal work. Possibly this is well for his reputation, for the Honourable Sir Joseph is not a very great lawyer, and he often makes mistakes. The son of Mr. Thomas Chitty of the Inner Temple, he was, as a matter of course, sent to the Bar. There were no examinations in those days, for competition, in the modern sense, was almost unknown; and Master Joseph kept his terms, and was duly “called” in 1856, at the rather advanced age of twenty-eight. Since then he has got on well; but the fact that his much more able father, who was a very eminent lawyer and a very popular man, attained no higher position in his profession than that of a Special Pleader, while his less able son, in an age of infinitely keener competition, has been able to rise to the Bench, would seem to show that the latter has, to some extent, to thank friendly influence for the proud position he now occupies. Not that Mr. Justice Chitty is wanting in brains. His education at Eton and Balliol sufficed to get him a first class in classics at Oxford, which is quite equivalent to a second class in these later times, and which is a certificate of a fair amount of scholarship. But he has given little proof of the family intellect beyond this, though on the river and in the cricket-field he has shown himself a robust athlete.

A man who has rowed in four University races may be said to have given the highest proof of what the Americans call “co-ordinated musculature”; and were that a qualification for the seat of judgment, Mr. Justice Chitty would not be easily surpassed as a Judge. But that is not the case, and it may fairly be said that Sir Joseph is a better judge of a boat-race than of an intricate law case, just as he is far more highly appreciated in the first-named capacity than he is in the second.

But it would be unfair to attribute all Mr. Justice Chitty’s success in life to external pushing. A great deal of it is, no doubt; but not all. Four things combined to help Sir Joseph along the path to fame and the Bench, and one of these is not external to himself. Let us take this last first. Mr. Chitty entered upon his career with a name which in itself must have been an income to any owner who was not quite a stupid man. Such a name would probably always ensure a fair start. Every barrister knows that an honoured legal name is admired of solicitors. There is at the Bar a young man who has not yet (or till recently had not) opened his mouth in a Court of Law, except perhaps to say a few formal words. His professional income since his call -- only a very few years ago -- has averaged one thousand pounds. He is the son of a very eminent legal authority, and his name is his fortune. Probably Sir Joseph’s name was not worth so much as this to him, but it gave him a great advantage over his compeers.

Next, Sir Joseph had a legal birthright from his father, the Special Pleader, which was not to be despised. A barrister in good practice can put work in the way of another in hundred different ways. He generally does so if that other is his son.

Thirdly, Mr. Chitty married well. It is a great thing for a barrister to be a Judge’s son. The next best thing is to be a Judge’s son-in-law. Mr. Chitty became one in good time. Four years after his call to the Bar, just at the beginning of his career, he married a daughter of the late Lord Chief Baron Pollock, and he is probably one of that all too small number of men who after nearly thirty years of married life, have never regretted the step. It is of course impossible to estimate the exact influence exerted upon his life by any man’s marriage; but it should never be forgotten how much the late Lord Beaconsfield used to attribute to a woman’s work on behalf of the man in whose career she was interested.

Lastly, Mr. Chitty was ever aided by his powers of ingratiating himself. Three such guides to the Bench must of course be effective of much; and in the case of a man like Mr. Chitty, who always knew how to ingratiate himself, their assistance was probably even greater than might have been expected. Here is the great secret of Mr. Justice Chitty’s success. He has always known how to make himself popular. As an Eton “wet-bob” he was popular amongst his fellows; at Oxford, where athletic prominence is always more or less productive of hero-worship, he made many friends; and, later, in keeping up his connection with things athletic, he acted with wisdom. At the Bar he still retained his popularity, and he is now, as a man, thoroughly popular alike with the profession and the public. All his life, moreover, he has been eminently a social man. He knew how valuable was social influence, and, what is more, he knew how to excite the interest of others in himself.

Mr. Joseph Chitty did not take “silk” until after twenty years’ practice as a “stuff” gownsman. When he did take it, his already large practice increased. He became the leader in the Rolls Court presided over by the late Sir George Jessel, between whom and Mr. Chitty there existed a sincere friendship; and there every day he used to take his seat before a huge pile of briefs, which he proceeded to discuss with what outsiders called real ability, and really not without intelligence. He was a poor advocate. In a Common Law Court he would have been an inferior counsel; but he could state a case well enough, and little else was necessary in Sir George Jessel’s Court. That consummate Judge only wanted the points of a case to be laid before him. He would then pronounce an impromptu judgment as aptly worded as it was conclusive.

After five years of this work, Mr. Chitty went into Parliament. He chose Oxford for his constituency, where his name was remembered. In the Corn Exchange he was greeted with shouts of “Well rowed, Chitty.” He made a few second-rate harangues, and was returned. A year later he was made a Judge, his brief Parliamentary career being unrelieved by any attempt at oratorical or other brilliance. But he had served his Party.

As a Judge there is nothing brilliant about Mr. Justice Chitty. Irreverent juniors sometimes go so far as to speak of him as “an old woman.” They would not do this if he commanded all the respect that is due to a Judge of the High Court. Sir Joseph has the reputation of being a hard worker, and doubtless he has worked hard enough in his time. Now however, in his judicial capacity, all that is changed, and although he does not shirk work, and sits longer than some other Judges, yet his Court is not famous for the speed of its business. Sir Joseph is a good-humoured Judge, and on very friendly terms with some of his old colleagues who practise before him. So there is a great deal of unnecessary talking done in his Court, which is certainly not so much the fault of the eminent counsel referred to, whose time is money, as of the Judge, whose income is fixed. It has been said of Sir Joseph that he wants to do all the talking, and that counsel are a superfluity in his Court. But this is not so; for, being a weak Judge, he is always open to argument, and before no other Judge are plausible arguments so useful. Still, his nickname of “Mr. Justice Chatty” has been well earned. Hardly ever is a counsel allowed to speak before him for two minutes altogether uninterrupted by some question, which, however relevant it may be, puts the speaker out and is wasteful of time. A good counsel can always state his case better by himself, if allowed a fair hearing. With Messrs. Romer, Ince, and MacNaghten, Mr. Justice Chitty forms quite a little family party, and it is quite refreshing to hear one or more of this trio offering suggestions to the Judge as to how he should proceed in cases in which they are not retained at all. This is commonly done in Sir Joseph’s Court, and, however valuable to his Lordship such assistance may be, it does not add to his judicial dignity. It will be gathered that it is quite possible for a clever counsel to turn this Judge round to his way of thinking, even when he has mentally decided (rightly) to give judgment against him. So there are many appeals against Mr. Justice Chitty’s decisions. In his favour however it may be said that Sir Joseph has a powerful voice, which is by no means an unmixed curse. He can always be heard. Some Judges cannot.

I have said that Mr. Justice Chitty is very popular, and I have given reasons for the fact. But there is one strong reason as yet unnoticed. When a counsel wins a case, he often gets judgment without costs, these being in the discretion of the presiding Judge. But this particular Judge does not exercise this discretion. He always allows everybody the fullest possible costs. Counsel and solicitors like this. It does not add much sorrow to the defeat, but it does add great joy to the victory. Everyone likes to get his costs. This is rather cheaply earned popularity, but it is not clear that his Lordship is so mild in the matter of costs merely for the sake of gratifying litigants. He may have other reasons; but the fact remains as I have stated.

Quite recently, Mr. Justice Chitty has eclipsed the record in the matter of judicial jokes. Some plaster fell from the ceiling of the Court in which his Lordship was sitting, whereupon, without looking up, he remarked,Fiat Justitia, ruat caelum.” This was apt. It was a great opportunity, it is true, but credit is due his Lordship for his promptness in seizing it. A good judicial joke is pardonable; but there are so very few of them. Mr. Justice Chitty always wears two wigs in Court, which must be rather trying in the present hot weather. I have heard it stated that he was born without hair or teeth, as to the latter part of which statement I believe it may be relied upon. He certainly wears false hair and false teeth now, and has done so all the years I have known him. He is said never to have possessed any of his own on or in his head; but this is a secret.

If Mr. Justice Chitty’s decisions were a good deal sounder, and if they were arrived at with considerably more speed, Sir Joseph might be a good Judge. In other words, without committing any startling improprieties, he is commonplace in his rank. But his faults are negative faults. He is a very respectable man of moderate legal attainments. Davus

References edit

  1. ^ W.B. Woodgate, Reminiscences of an Old Sportsman, p. 369. Woodgate probably did not see Chitty in practice for the 1854 Henley regatta, but rather for some earlier year, as Chitty did not row there after 1853.

Peel AW

Peel, Arthur Wellesley (Viscount Peel) edit

“The Speaker” (Spy), July 2, 1887 edit


It is nearly eight[67] years since the celebrated Tory who emancipated the Roman Catholics, passed the Bank Charter Act, repealed the Corn Laws, and gave a name to a Party, first entered Parliament; and the name of Peel is still illustrious. For the celebrated statesman’s eldest son is Sir Robert Peel, and his youngest son is Speaker of the House of Commons.

Mr. Peel was born eight-and-fifty years ago, went to Eton and to Oxford, married and had many children, and, announcing himself, according to the amended family traditions of that time, as Liberal, he, at the age of four-and-thirty, stood for Coventry, where he was defeated. But at six-and-thirty he was returned for Warwick, for which he has since sat; and in February, 1884, he was elected Speaker of the House of Commons, an office which he still holds.

Although Mr. Speaker Peel cannot be considered so conspicuous a success as Lord Eversley or some others who have filled the Chair, he is a very good and, in some respects, a very admirable Speaker. He speaks himself perhaps too often, too readily, and too much at length; but he has a high sense of what is due to the House; and if his tone and manner are sometimes a shade too peremptory, and his weight too invariably thrown on the side of the Government of the day, of whatever Party that Government might be, it must be remembered that an entirely new position of dictatorship over the House and of protectorate over the Ministry has within the last few years been created for the Speaker; and that he who was once the Servant of the House has now been made its Master -- under the Ministerial Concert. Moreover, it is also to be remembered that the older and sounder traditions of the House of Commons were founded upon the assumption that it was an assembly of gentlemen, and that in these days the Speaker has to deal with men who are in no sense gentle, and that he often has to wrestle with vulgarity and defiance.

Mr. Speaker Peel is scrupulously, even nervously, impartial, even towards those Irish Members who regard and treat him as their natural enemy. He is very, very dignified; he has a most imposing and austere presence; and he possesses a sonorous voice and a Jove-like aspect. With the officials of the House he is popular, and in private life is a most amiable, high-minded, honourable gentleman, with all the sound tastes and honest learning of a highly-cultivated country squire.

His legs are beautiful; and it is suspected that he would, without serious displeasure, see Mr. Tim Healy hanged, drawn, and quartered.

Arthur Wellesley Peel (1829-1912) took the Eton and Balliol path of Northcote, Hornby, and Chitty, but his sole rowing accomplishment was to row for his college in the Visitors’ in 1851. His crew apparently would have rowed in the Stewards’ as well, but had to scratch because the Master of Balliol detained them too long to make the race. In this respect Peel was unfortunate to have preceded Edmond Warre at Balliol by half a dozen years, for Warre, who compiled a stunning record in both academics and rowing, cleared the path for future river aspirants by convincing Benjamin Jowett, the new Master, of the social and moral value of rowing in college life.[68]

Peel’s appearance in Vanity Fair followed three months’ performance of a delicate political balance rooted in the question of Irish home rule. Leslie Ward’s caricature captures the essence: gravity and power in the aquiline profile, the massive wig, and the long dark robe, upturned to suggest some unseen minion carrying the trailing edge, but with a daintiness of touch, the fine hands fingering white gloves and the slender feet tip-toeing as if on hot coals. In 1882 the House of Commons gave the Speaker the power to determine when closure should be applied, in response to the obstructionist tactics of the growing number of Irish members. In 1885 Peel became the first to use it. The power was adjusted in 1887 to provide a more even distribution between the speaker and members, but in practice Peel remained responsible for driving day to day business. On retiring in 1895, he was created Viscount Peel of Sandy, chaired a royal commission on liquor licensing (pro-temperance, but not teetotaling), and was a trustee of the National Portrait Gallery and British Museum, among other charitable work.

University Sports, Part I: Brutal Athletes and Effeminate Fops edit

“Sport is being made too much of with men rowing until there comes upon us a fear that they are killing themselves or they are nothing,” wrote Anthony Trollope in 1868.[69] Vanity Fair's opinion (October 18, 1873) may well have come from W.B. Woodgate, ever the sympathetic recruiter, but this cannot be confirmed:

At this season men returning to Oxford or Cambridge are thinking of the race which is to come off next Easter at Putney, and are electing the Presidents of their respective boat-clubs, on whom no small share of the responsibility for victory or defeat next Easter will fall. The ardent freshman is embarking upon his aquatic career in blissful ignorance of the pains that are before him, while Paterfamilias is chuckling at the thought of the honours young hopeful is to achieve in the Schools or Tripos. Of late years rowing has been made very much of both at the Universities and elsewhere. So violently has it been paraded before the eyes of Paterfamilias, who sends his sons to the University to develop their intellect and not their muscle, that he has begun to think that all this is too much of a good thing, and that young men are being taught to take the shadow for the reality. Hence arises much misunderstanding, and good men are lost to the University boat in consequence.

In the first place a word on the question of health. Dr. Skey says that constitutions are ruined by rowing. Some have been no doubt, but very few. Excessive rowing will doubtless strain the strongest frame; and there are many constitutions whose owners ought to know better than to strain them at all. But those who have personal experience are almost unanimous in saying that a man of fair average strength may row the hardest race and the longest course that has ever been rowed without the smallest injury to health or constitution. And in a book lately published by Dr. Morgan, himself a physician and an “oar,” it is proved to demonstration that a vast deal of actual good is done to men at Oxford and Cambridge by the rowing they do there. As things go at present boys at school row as hard and as much as men at college, and seem none the worse for it. Whether it is prudent to distress boys to the extreme limit appears to be doubtful. At all events it is a point on which those who have charge of boys ought to be quite decided.

Of all the amusements of University men rowing is the one most calculated to affect a man’s character. Not that sitting at the end of an oar is likely to do so, but the life and habits which are inseparable from rowing are worth considering. At the University the life of a rowing man is different to that of other men. Besides keeping different hours, eating different food, and such small matters, he is to some extent shut out from the society of his own choice, and tied down to that of eight men whom he may know or not, like or not, and who are chosen haphazard, at all events as to their social capacities. And to these men he is tied sometimes for weeks, and is continually with them. He can no more get away from them than a passenger on board an Australian clipper can get away from his fellow-passengers. It is in his relations with these compulsory messmates that his character may be improved or otherwise.

The undergraduates at Oxford have been said by high authority to consist of brutal athletes and effeminate fops -- a saying worthy of Mr. Disraeli; but surely it is not true. Is it supposed that mind and body cannot be developed at the same time -- that while the intellectual forcing process is going on the physical energies must be suppressed? It was Plato who started this theory; but training in his days was a very different matter to ours. After sitting there is a relief in standing, so after reading sharp physical exertion is refreshing.

Now there are rowing men and rowing men. There are some -- they are few -- who make rowing the sole end and aim of their University career: there are others, and they are many, to whom rowing is at once exercise and relaxation. Of those who row and do nothing else not much need be said: at all events we may be sure of this much, that if they did not row they would be at something worse.

The effeminate fop element is a much more dangerous one, and includes a vast number of those called “loafers.” Surely it were better to row than to loaf?

There is a process much associated with rowing called “going out of training,” and it is one which has done much to bring the rowing man’s life into disrepute. It seems to be supposed that a month or two’s training produces a violent thirst after dissipation, and that the moment of a boat’s passing the winning-post is the signal for a violent reaction from the constraint of training and a strange desire to do everything that training forbids. Now there is no connection in the nature of things between going out of training and making a beast of oneself. Nor is there any mysterious power in beefsteaks to demoralise a man or produce the effects popularly ascribed to them. On the contrary, “bump suppers” and the festivities consequent upon a race are celebrated chiefly by that numerous and festive community who never miss an opportunity for the consumption of vast quantities of bad champagne. At such times rowing men are not better and no worse than others -- the festive soul is festive and the sober man is sober then. As a rule the organised debauch which goes by the name of a bump supper is more of a bore to the rowing man than to anyone else, for the reason that his lungs and digestion are not yet acclimatised to an atmosphere of smoke and an alderman’s dinner. On such occasions he has even been known to sigh for his accustomed chop and glass of port.

. . . .

It is too well-known a fact to require more than a passing notice that many of the most distinguished oars of the present and past times are men who have taken the highest honours. Of such Warre of Balliol is perhaps the best known type; of the aquatic world he is now facile princeps.[70] It would be an endless and invidious task to count up all such men; in the Oxford crews alone of the last ten years about one-quarter are honour-men. Intellectual ability will always obtain its proper share of respect among men -- sometimes it is worshipped to an extravagant extent; but among boys the case is different. More reason why any occupation which throws Past and Class men together must be for the advantage of both. The benefit is mutual. The reading men would miss half the point of University life without rowing or some such common ground of interest and association with their fellows, and rowing would most assuredly suffer from the absence of the intellectual element in their crews, and that in more ways than one. The late successes of Oxford were to be directly traced to the times when she had men for presidents of her boat-club who were of the sort who take high honours in the schools. The presidencies of such men leave their mark and bear fruit for years.

Muscular Christianity may be cried down, and brutal athletes may be abused; but this much is certain, that it will be an evil day for the Universities and for the rowing men who go there when rowing is no more. Only let there be reason and moderation; keep out the penny-a-liners if possible, and don’t let us hear so much of “aquatic Derbies” and such claptrap. There is an unnatural, exaggerated tone about the Putney race which looks dangerous. The British public goes mad sometimes; unfortunately for the objects of its madness, they are always the first to suffer. Albert the Good, exhibitions, volunteers, the ring, and now it seems the turf, have all been victims. Let us take care that rowing keeps clear of the infection. “Sit modus in rebus,”[71] and don’t let us have our hobby overridden. The fuss that is made every year about the sixteen young men who row against each other at Putney is enough to turn their heads. There has been a vast deal more talk than necessary about University races of later years; you would think the very cab-drivers were Oxford or Cambridge men from the amount of blue ribbon they brandish about on the day of the race. What do the cabbies care about rowing? For the matter of that, what do the half-million people who line the river banks from Putney to Mortlake care about the race? They scarcely know one boat from the other, if they see them at all; many never do see them at all, and perhaps don’t care to. We had rather see a score or two of old University men cheering on their crews than half-a-million of the British public screaming at the boats. Well is it for rowing that the Putney race comes but once a-year. Once let the thing be overdone, a reaction will set in, public opinion will go round with a swing, and then good-bye to rowing and all the good it does.

References edit

  1. ^ Sic. Eighty.
  2. ^ C.R.L. Fletcher, Edmond Warre, p. 37.
  3. ^ A. Trollope, British Sports and Pastimes, quoted in N. Wigglesworth, A Social History of English Rowing, p. 111.
  4. ^ “Facile princeps”: easily the chief.
  5. ^ “Sit modus in rebus”: Let there be a limit. (From Horace.)

Macnaghten E

Macnaghten, Edward edit

“He Succeeded Lord Blackburn” (Spy), October 31, 1895 edit


He is Edward Macnaghten of Runkerry, in County Antrim; and he traces back his lineage to one of the three clans that were descended from the old Maomors of Moray, who were Sovereigns among the Picts. In the twelfth century these Macnaghtens became the Thanes of Loch Tay; and in the sixteenth century, one of them, “Shane Dhu,” having gone to Ireland as Secretary of the first Earl of Antrim, they settled there. This particular Macnaghten (who is brother of Sir Francis Macnaghten, Bart.) was born five-and-sixty years ago; and, preferring Trinity, Cambridge, before Trinity, Dublin, came to England and was made a graduate and a Fellow of that foundation; since which time he has found life in England profitable. He got called to the Bar, and married the daughter of the late Baron Martin; took silk and went into Parliament for his own County (Antrim); changed his seat on redistribution for North Antrim; and sat for that Division until eight years ago, when he succeeded Lord Blackburn as a life Peer and a Lord of Appeal in Ordinary.

He is one of those happy men who have never had to work hard; and his face shows it. At Cambridge he rowed in the Eight; and as a silk he practised before Mr. Justice Chitty, who had rowed in the Oxford Eight. He has always been well off, and he became the husband of the Judge’s daughter. Nevertheless he is a sound lawyer who has been heard to attribute his success at the Bar to the glassy eye of the old frequenter of the Court, which fixed itself upon him when he first rose, and put him on his mettle. Though he had a perfectly safe seat, it seemed ridiculous that he should be created a Law Lord when he had never been on the Bench, upon which was sitting such a man as the late Lord Bowen, who ought to have gone up before him; nevertheless his elevation was no job, but quite an unexceptionable appointment; and he has not discredited his high office.

He is a good, cheerful fellow, an excellent host, and a kindly-hearted man.

Edward Macnaghten (1830-1913) arrived at Trinity College, Cambridge in 1850 from three years at Trinity College, Dublin, and promptly made his mark in both rowing and sculling. He won the Colquhoun Sculls, University Pairs, and Visitors’ Challenge Cup in 1851, the Diamonds in 1852, the Ladies’ in 1853-54, and the Grand in 1854, all under the colors of First Trinity or the C.U.B.C. “[T]he ovation which he received from Oxford and Cambridge alike” for winning the Diamonds “was said to be sui generis.”[72] A lightweight, he stroked Cambridge at 10 stone 6 lbs. against Oxford in the 1853 Grand, there being no Easter Boat Race that year. The Henley course then in use had a bend, and Cambridge on the outside were unable to push their lead at the Point enough to take Oxford’s water, who at the corner pushed back to win by eighteen inches. Macnaghten’s rowing contemporaries said he “was the most tearing and staying man of his weight, and that a crew of twelve-stone Macnaghtens could have ‘licked creation.’”[73] He later coached Cambridge on several occasions.

Macnaghten reportedly “[took] to the law rather because he could find nothing else to do than for any other reason,” but became an engaged and gifted practitioner.[74] In the House of Commons he focused on legal and Irish subjects, although it does not appear he was among the Irish members who especially vexed Speaker Peel. His 1886 speech on the pending home rule bill “long and excellent, abounding in happy quotations and equally happy sarcasms.”[75] Still, given his Irish antecedents and sympathies on the one hand, and his demonstrated legal talent on the other, perhaps his elevation to the bench was the prudent course for the Government. In any case the appointment proved no mistake, for

he possessed in happy combination the gifts of listening with patience and deciding without doubt, after bringing to bear his great range of unobtruded learning and a clear practical appreciation of business and character. Others in his time were as erudite and his equals in acumen, but it was remarkable that both bench and bar fell into the way of citing a sentence or two of Macnaghten and accepting it without discussion as an authoritative statement of the law.[76]

He chaired the Council of Legal Education from 1895 until his death in 1913.

Sporting Judges edit

As an ex-Blue and accomplished jurist, perhaps Macnaghten was the sort of “luminary imbued with sporting principles” that Woodgate found in one Judge McConnell, K.C., chairman of the North London Sessions:

Once I was instructed in some petty prosecution before him. It seemed likely to come on that day. An inspector of police, who knew that I had been guilty of the river in my youth, approached me and sounded me whether it would be possible to let the case stand over to the morrow; because a young policeman engaged in it was stroking a police four, and the police regatta was going on that day at Hammersmith. I at once entered McConnell’s Court, and made application for adjournment, boldly telling the true reason for the request. McConnell at once said: “Any application from you on an aquatic matter has every claim on the Bench” -- and at once made the order.

Off went the young stroke, as happy as a sandboy. Next day, when I attended for the trial we heard that he had won two races, thanks to McConnell’s sporting good-fellowship.

Another time, on the morning of a Tuesday of a Henley regatta, I put in an appearance in McConnell’s Court, hoping to finish what I had in hand before lunch, and to catch a train to the river. To save time in changing clothes I had donned a Leander Club dark serge coat and waistcoat, with the club gilt buttons, thinking it would pass muster sufficiently under the folds of a gown.

McConnell divined the costume and situation as he nodded to me from the Bench. He dropped a pencil line by an usher: “Dear W., your attire is more aquatic than forensic: you had better catch the first train for Henley. I will see that your interests are duly looked after here!”[77]

References edit

  1. ^ The Rowing Almanack, 1914, p. 222.
  2. ^ Ibid.
  3. ^ Dictionary of National Biography.
  4. ^ Ibid.
  5. ^ Ibid.
  6. ^ W.B. Woodgate, Reminiscences of an Old Sportsman, p. 257.

1855-1871 Dr Warre and Fixed Seat Orthodoxy

1855 - 1871: Dr. Warre and Fixed-Seat Orthodoxy edit

In 1855, the Royal Chester Rowing Club won the Wyfolds and Stewards’ in a “carvel” four – that is, a “shell” boat with a perfectly smooth hull and an interior keel, as opposed to a “clinker-built” of overlapping planks on an exterior keel. To put to rest any lingering doubts about the superiority of the new design, the next year they returned in a carvel eight to win the Grand and Ladies’. Carvel boats immediately became the standard for gentlemen amateurs, and a Balliol undergraduate named Edmond Warre became their archbishop in the new religion of how to row them. “Rowing” itself became an accepted term for the new “scientific oarsmanship,” having formerly been associated with “rowdy” but now used to distinguish racing from recreational branch of “aquatics,” which now went under the banner “boating.”[78]

The Royal Chester boat had roots in the modified fishing cobles or “gigs” in which Cornish pilots raced out to incoming ships. Though clinker-built, to withstand the surf and stony beaches, these gigs were relatively light with a high bow and low gunwales and stern. Exeter College, Oxford brought one from Plymouth for the 1824 university bumping races, and the Cornish influence spread to boatyards in London, Oxford, and Cambridge. Having no outrigger, an oarsman sat flush against the gunwale opposite his oar for maximum leverage, on a fixed seat, and used long “fish-tail” sweep oars with narrow blades. With this design, speed went to the crew with the strongest groin, back and arm muscles, who could best strike a rhythm of steep forward and backward “swing” from the waist to “catch” the greatest arc of water.

Scullers with outriggers, no sliding seats, 1851

These southern clinker-built boats of the early nineteenth century, while considerably heavier than modern shells, had a significant weight advantage over their northern counterparts that remained basically designed for trade. The northerners compensated by innovating with outriggers, oars, and eventually boat design as well. While the concept of outriggers – moving the fulcrum away from the gunwale to increase leverage -- had been known for years, it was not until 1828 that relatively sophisticated wooden ones were first fitted to a boat and, somewhat later, that an iron version was introduced, both by Tyneside boatbuilders. Since an outrigged boat provided better leverage than the off-set positions of an unrigged “cutter,” the northerners redesigned the boat itself to put the crew in line and thereby narrow and lighten it, adding length to provide the necessary “state room” for body swing and arm pull. Chitty’s crew rowed in this new “parallelogram” design in the early 1850s. In addition, Harry Clasper of Newcastle, the most famous of the Tyneside builders, developed the first modern oars with a shorter loom and wider blade than the fish-tail style, to provide a better grip on the water. With outrigged boats and “Clasper’s sculls,” crews so equipped adapted their technique to row a stroke “peculiar to themselves.”

Matt Taylor with the Royal Chester IV, 1855

Such was the southern judgment on the style of Clasper’s own crew at the 1844 Thames Regatta, an event that brought north and south together from 1843 to 1850. Losing in 1844 to Robert Coombes’ London crew which had the benefit of the Cornish tradition of lighter construction, Clasper returned to Newcastle determined to make his own boats ligher and faster yet. He ended up replacing the heavy, overlapping planking of clinker-built boats with lighter planks set side by side, moving the keel inside to make the hull perfectly smooth, and reducing the width from three and a half feet to two. With this new “carvel” design he returned to the Thames Regatta in 1845 and won convincingly. The Boat Race crews adopted outriggers the next year, and carvel-built boats became popular, though it was another nine years before the Royal Chester victories at Henley fully swayed the gentlemen amateur establishment. Royal Chester got their boat from Matthew Taylor, a professional shipwright from Ouseburn on Tyne. In 1857 Taylor supplied Oxford with a winning boat, twelve feet shorter and with the beam farther forward than a keeled parallelogram design. Edmond Warre, who rowed No. 6 for Oxford in 1857, was so impressed that a few years later he retained Taylor as boatbuilder for Eton. In 1901 Warre sought to emulate Taylor’s 1857 design in a boat he commissioned for the winning Oxford crew in which his son, F.W. Warre, was president.[79]

Great Western Railway schedule for the Henley Regatta, July 5, 1893

Apart from the advent of carvel boats, outriggers, and Clasper sculls, railways were another technical development that marked the rowing landscape from roughly 1850 onward, though with more subtle effect. Before railways, a club could compete against any of its neighbors within rowing distance but had hardly any contact with oarsmen elsewhere. As rail systems expanded throughout the country, starting in the 1840s and virtually complete thirty years later, oarsmen and spectators could travel farther afield. The Great Western Railway linked Paddington to Twyford in 1843 and added a branch line to Henley in 1857. The size and number of regattas increased noticeably during the 1870s. The Prince of Wales began to attend the Henley Regatta, drawing a whole social set along from London; in 1906, the G.W.R. carried 31,000 to the regatta. In addition, as railways fostered suburban development, they indirectly gave rise to new clubs that emerged to service the new communities, such as London R.C. at Putney (1856), Kingston R.C. (1858), Twickenham R.C. (1860), Molesey R.C. (1866), and Staines R.C. (1866).[80]

References edit

  1. ^ N. Wigglesworth, The Social History of English Rowing, p. 111.
  2. ^ N. Wigglesworth, pp. 69-70, 83, 85-86; C.R.L. Fletcher, Edmond Warre, pp. 293-95; H. Cleaver, A History of Rowing, pp. 96-97; T. Cook, Rowing at Henley, pp. 83-84.; C. Dodd, The Story of World Rowing, pp. 71-75.
  3. ^ R. Burnell, Henley Royal Regatta: A Celebration of 150 Years, pp. 40, 114; R. Burnell & G. Page, The Brilliants: A History of the Leander Club, p. 55; N. Wigglesworth, pp. 49, 52, 153-54.

Warre E

Warre, Edmond edit

“The Head” (Spy), June 20, 1885 edit


The Warres are an old Somersetshire family, and Edmond Warre was born eight-and-forty years ago. He was educated at Eton, where he distinguished himself by availing himself of the opportunities which that place affords for instruction. He then went to Balliol College, where he further distinguished himself, and finally became a Fellow of All Souls. At twenty-three he returned to Eton as an Assistant-Master of that Seminary.

Dr. Warre was known in his youth as a lover of athletic excercises. He rowed in the University Eight in the years 1857 and 1858. He became the President of the Oxford University Boat Club in 1859, and he took a principal share in the raising of the Oxford University Corps of Volunteers, of which he was the first Captain. On his return to Eton he also took an active part in raising the Eton Corps of Volunteers, in which he became first Captain, then a Major, and of which he was finally made Honorary Colonel.

Dr. Warre is a very able and a very energetic man; and from his advent to the position of “Head” Eton may expect many reforms. He is not deterred by the labour of entering into details. He is firm in his intention to make Eton a place for teaching knowledge as well as manners, and he has set his face against the extravagance which has too long distinguished the School. He has also contrived to render birching so odious that it has become rare and discreditable, instead of being frequent and honourable; and he has a determination and energy and a love for and devotion to Eton which should bear good fruit.

Edmond Warre (1837-1920) achieved greater combined academic and athletic success at Eton and Balliol College than his Vanity Fair predecessors at those places -- S.H. Northcote, J.J. Hornby, J.W. Chitty, and A.W. Peel. At Eton he won the School Pulling for coxed pairs. At Oxford, he went Head of the River with Balliol in 1855 and 1859, won the University Sculls and Pairs in 1855-56, the University Fours in 1856 and 1858, and was O.U.B.C. president in 1858 (not 1859). He rowed for Balliol or the O.U.B.C. in various combinations of the Diamonds, Goblets, Ladies’, and Grand from 1855 through 1859, as well as the tideway Boat Races of 1857-58. In 1856 he declined to row in the University eight because of his academic demands, and finished his course with firsts in both classics and moderations and in 1859 became a fellow of All Souls’. He founded the Oxford volunteer rifle corps and later co-founded the National Rifle Association.

Edmond Warre, c. 1855

Warre’s career began by accident. He had been leaning toward the bar or army, but returned to Eton at the request of his former tutor who had fallen ill. Accepting a mastership in 1861, Warre gave up his Oxford post, married, and, writing to his sister that “I feel education is my work in life and the one in which I shall show God’s work to this generation,” did just that for the next forty-odd years, all at Eton. From the start his ability, care, and Oxford reputation drew talented students. One of the first, Sir William Anson, recalled: “We all thought it creditable to work, a new idea to most of us.” Of the twenty-one he sent to university in 1864 three became fellows of colleges, and in the 1890s all three of the Indian governors and two governors-general were Warre graduates. Warre became a deacon and priest in 1867, the year J.J. Hornby became headmaster, and loyally supported him for the next seventeen years.

In 1884, on Hornby’s ascent to semi-retirement as provost, Warre advanced to headmaster and brought his energy and academic standards to bear on the whole Eton student body. Guy Nickalls was a near-casualty: “I cannot think the teaching was good [under Hornby]. If you got through ‘Trials’ at the end of term you moved up automatically; thus it was that I attained the First Hundred, and rose to be ‘up to’ Ainger in the second division. Unluckily for me, Warre’s ideas of competitive scholarship were different from Hornby’s, and my chances of getting into the sixth form quickly vanished. Under the new régime I began to descend again very quickly, and it was only my timely transfer to Oxford in 1886 that prevented me from becoming a Lower boy again.”[81] By the mid-1890s Warre began to decline physically. He resigned in 1905, was recalled to the provostship in 1909, retired again in 1918, and died two years later.

As coach Warre was the oracle of “orthodox” fixed-seat rowing, imprinting the Etonian style on generations of disciples, including fourteen Vanity Fair rowers, who carried it with them to Oxbridge and beyond.[82] S.D. Muttlebury recalled practicing in a stationary gig without footstraps, with Warre laying his hand on Muttle’s foot during the recovery and saying: “Your feet look right, but you are still trying to pull up with your great toe.” “I thought it a fad then,” wrote Muttlebury, “but I am convinced that it is one of the most important points in rowing.”[83] From 1860 to 1884, when Warre became headmaster and passed the coaching baton to S.A. Donaldson (Eton ‘72 and later Master of Magdalene, Cambridge), Warre “was practically alone on the towpath”[84] and turned out a succession of eights for Henley starting in 1861, all trained more or less identically, all more or less successful.[85] At Henley in 1866, of the twenty-eight medals awarded for fours and eights, twenty-seven went to nineteen Etonians, seventeen of whom had been or were then students of Warre.[86]

The advent of sliding seats in Oxbridge rowing after 1872 and resulting changes in the physics of rowing -- of style -- caused a religious schism. Detractors such as Guy Nickalls said Warre never fully adapted: “Warre was nothing if not a stickler for form, the arched back (inwards) and the slide held until the swing was almost completed, alone appealed to him. . . . [He] never liked my rowing -- I think merely because I understood the use of a slide (and he did not).”[87] Defenders, such as G.C. Bourne, said Warre did understand:

[I]t has been suggested of late years that Dr. Warre cared only for straight backs and neat form. That is a travesty of the truth. He preferred, and rightly preferred, polished oarsmanship, because, in his experience, it was more commonly than not associated with a sharp catch of the water at the beginning of the stroke. But he was much too good a judge of rowing to prefer a formal straight-backed oarsman without any catch to a rougher one who had a catch. What he cared for more than anything else was the catch at the beginning. Given that, he would overlook many defects in style. It has been said that he never appreciated or understood the use of the slide. The truth is, I believe, that he understood it a great deal better than either the Metropolitan or University oarsmen of the period of which I am writing [c. 1878-81]. He disliked the Metropolitan style because it involved too exclusive use of the legs. The remarkable Canadian sculler, Edward Hanlan, had only recently arrived in England, and the secret of his pace, the perfect combination of slide and body work, was not yet fully understood. The Metropolitan oarsmen were already using 16-in. slides, and even the best of them “shot” their slides. This Dr. Warre would not tolerate, but he avoided falling into the opposite extreme of “holding the slide”. His maxim, often repeated, was “work comes from the stretcher”, and he clearly perceived that, if the sharp catch at the beginning of the stroke is truly taken from the stretcher, the slide must move back to a certain extent. But he insisted on a sharp lift of the body contemporaneously with the movement of the slide, and therefore in practice taught what is the accepted rule to-day, that at the beginning of the stroke slide and swing go back together, but the swing goes much faster than the slide. He never taught us to hold our slides, of that I am positive, and the proof is that every Eton oarsman of those days, when he arrived at Oxford, was told that he was sliding too soon and only too often lost all true stretcher work in his attempt to conform to the prevailing fashion of holding the slide.[88]

On the Grammar of Rowing edit

At the encouragement of H.G. Gold, Warre returned to the O.U.B.C. in 1907 and 1909 to deliver three lectures on rowing, fifty years after his racing career there ended. His return coincided, and not coincidentally, with a stale patch in Oxford rowing and an assault on Oxford Etonian hegemony, from both Cambridge (in the so-called “sculling” style of Duggie Stuart) and abroad (notably in the Belgians’ 1906 and 1907 victories in the Grand, the first foreign wins in that event). Accordingly, Warre directed his first two lectures to the “Accidence” of rowing, starting in 1907 with the fundamentals of fixed-seat rowing. “If [a novice] learns correctly the art of rowing on the fixed seat there is nothing he will have to unlearn, though he may have some more things to learn, in order to row correctly on a slide.” In 1909, with Oxford since having lost two more Boat Races to Duggie Stuart and looking like it would soon lose another, Warre addressed “Accidence, Part II, The Slide,” conceding its mechanical advantages but subordinating them to fixed-seat fundamentals. He warned his fellow Oxonians: “[I]f you sanction the continuance of coaching based upon false conceptions, if the cult of the slide is allowed to obscure the ideal of first-class oarsmanship, then defeat after defeat will be ensued and deserved, even if victory sometimes occur owing to the inferiority of a rival crew.” Two months later, Oxford had won on orthodox lines with R.C. Bourne at stroke and Warre returned to the University Barge in better spirits to deliver his final lecture, on coaching (“Syntax”). Despite the changes in boats, fittings, and oars, he concluded “the art of rowing is still the same, full of manly endeavour, full of self-sacrifice, full of delight, and if in any way, by these Lectures, I shall have contributed to its flourishing here and elsewhere, it will be a pleasure to me to think that I have been able, through your kindness, to repay in some small degree the debt that I owe to it as a pastime in the days gone by.” The published lectures, collectively entitled “On the Grammar of Rowing,” included as an appendix the following “Notes on the Stroke”:

Fixed-seats, no outriggers

The moment the oar touches the body, drop the hands smartly straight down, then turn the wrists sharply and at once shoot out the hands in a straight line to the front, inclining the body forward from the thigh joints and simultaneously bring up the slide, regulating the time by the swing forward of the body according to the stroke. Let the chest and stomach come well forward, the shoulders be kept back; the inside arm be straightened, the inside wrist a little raised, the oar grasped in the hands, but not pressed upon more than is necessary to maintain the blade in its proper straight line as it goes back and without constricting the muscles of the arms as they go forward; the head kept up, the eyes fixed on the outside shoulder of the man before you. As the body and arms come forward to their full extent, the wrists having been quickly turned, the hands must be raised sharply, and the blade of the oar brought to its full depth at once. At that moment, without the loss of a thousandth part of a second, the whole weight of the body must be thrown on to the oar and the stretcher, by the body springing back, so that the oar may catch hold of the water sharply, and be driven through it by a force unwavering and uniform. As soon as the oar has got hold of the water, and the beginning of the stroke has been effected as described, continuing the movement of the body and the simultaneous use of the muscles of the legs, keep up the pressure of the beginning, uniform through the backward motion of the body. At the beginning of the stroke let the arms be straight. The elbows should not then be bent. When the body reaches the perpendicular, let the elbows be bent and dropped close past the sides to the rear -- the shoulders dropping and disclosing the chest to the front; the back, if anything, curved inwards rather than outwards but not strained in any way. The body, in fact, should assume natural upright sitting posture, with the shoulders well thrown back. In this position the oar should come to it and the feather commence.

N.B.-- It is important to remember that the body should never stop still. In its motion backwards and forwards it should imitate the pendulum of a clock. When it has ceased to go forward it has begun to go back.

There are, it will appear, from consideration of the above directions, about 27 distinct points, articuli as it were of the stroke. No one should attempt to coach a crew without striving to obtain a practical insight into their nature and order of succession.

Let the Coach also remember that, in teaching men to row, his object should be to economize their strength by using properly their weight. Their weight is always in the boat along with them; their strength, if misapplied, very soon evaporates.

References edit

  1. ^ G. Nickalls, Life’s a Pudding, p. 44. “As I have said, I was only a duffer at lessons. For the really bright, well-grounded boy Eton instruction was all right, but for the dull boy the teaching was hopeless. Before we could write decent English we had to compose Latin verse in pentameters and hexameters, and Greek verse in iambics. Euclid I could learn by rote. I never understood algebra, nor was it ever properly explained to me. Sunday Questions were easier, but the only way I could learn Greek was the method employed by most boys of using a crib or word ‘Key to the Classics.’” Ibid. pp. 48-49.
  2. ^ Warre began coaching in 1860 and stopped on becoming headmaster in 1885, so the Vanity Fair rowers he coached at Eton were C.B. Lawes, A. Brassey, F.C. Rasch, H.F. Eaton, J.E. Bankes, A.F. Compton, E. Vincent, H.L.B. McCalmont, R. S. de Havilland, D.H. McLean, S.D. Muttlebury, G. Nickalls, W.F.D. Smith, and Lord Ampthill.
  3. ^ C.R.L. Fletcher, Edmond Warre, p. 276 n.1.
  4. ^ Eton Boating Book, p. ix.
  5. ^ G.C. Bourne, Memories of an Eton Wet-Bob of the Seventies, p. 66.
  6. ^ R. Burnell, Henley Royal Regatta: A Celebration of 150 Years, p. 102 (attributing The Field).
  7. ^ G. Nickalls, pp. 51, 192.
  8. ^ G.C. Bourne, pp. 104-05.

Smith AL

Smith, Archibald Levin edit

“3rd Commissioner” (Spy), November 3, 1888 edit


He is the son of the late Francis Smith, Esq., J.P., of Salt Hill, Chichester, whose wife was a Miss Levin of the same place; and he perpetuates the names of both his parents. Born in 1836, educated at Eton and Trinity, Cambridge, he was called to the Bar eight-and-twenty years ago, when he commenced the successful career which has lately culminated in his appointment as Third Commissioner to inquire into journalistic Charges and Allegations the truth of which is now being so tediously investigated in Probate Court I of the Royal Courts of Justice. His education failed to make either a prig or a great scholar of him; but his legal experience and sound common sense have since combined to make him a Judge who has no superior amongst his puisne brethren. His rise has been as rapid as it was deserved; for he showed enough practical sense in his conduct of such cases as fell into his hands early in his career to impress Lord Justice Bowen, then Attorney-General’s “devil,” with his quality, and, as a consequence, he became himself an imp of less degree, being appointed the devil’s devil. That was all that was necessary to make the man, and when his master soared up to the Bench, Mr. Smith became a full-blown devil, in which capacity he counselled the Treasury so wisely that five years ago he was rewarded by being promoted to the position which he now occupies over the heads of all the Queen’s Counsel of the day.

He is not a very brilliant man, but his mental grasp is most comprehensive. He drinks in a new Act of Parliament while other men skim its first section, and intricate accounts in a big commercial case are a delightful exercise to his well-trained mind. He is very lucid, very popular, very good-natured, and very free from serious fault. He never acts, never wastes time, and never sermonises even to criminals when they are found guilty before him. He does not respect persons, he does not advertise, nor does he shirk the most unpleasant work. All which is high praise, but merited both by what he does and what he does not. Not having the gift of tongue in any marked degree, his charges to juries are choppy, and occasionally monotonous; but, being brief, clear, and always to the point, they are none the worse for that. There is only one more youthful Judge on the Bench; but there is also, take him for all in all, only one better. Being wealthy, he works rather for the good of others than himself; and having never been corrupted by Parliament, or by any other form of politics, he is extremely well adapted for the temporary office which he now occupies. He is always courteous even to the more foolish, and consequently more irritating, among juniors. He has much high spirit and much muscular strength; and his shoulders are types of the tremendous, with which he did stout service in the Cambridge Eight. He still loves exercise and the fresh air of Sussex. He is a jolly good fellow, who looks more like a sturdy English Squire than like the good Judge that he is. He is well favoured in all senses; and he wears a pair of pince-nez at the end of his nose.

Archibald Levin Smith (1836-1901) rowed for Cambridge from 1857 through 1859 and won all the Henley events he entered in the only year he rowed there (1858): the Grand with the C.U.B.C. and the Visitors’ and Wyfolds with First Trinity. In later years he regularly bet a new hat on the Boat Race with W.B. Woodgate, “on principle and from patriotism to his flag, even when public favour and market odds might seem to be dead against the hopes of his own club.”[89]

Smith featured in Vanity Fair three times in four years. First as shown here, when he joined Sir James Hannen and Mr. Justice Day to inquire into the “journalistic Charges and Allegations” by the Times affecting C.S. Parnell and other Irish nationalists. (In one occasion in that tribunal, Hannen denied thinking or saying something; Smith said “Nor I” and Day “made an inarticulate sound of concurrence”; but those reportedly were the only remarks of the two junior judges in the entire proceeding.)[90] This 1888 print is rare, since it and the other nine “red robed judges” of Vanity Fair have long been among the most collected “legals.” Smith’s second appearance was in the 1890 winter double number entitled “In Vanity Fair” (November 29, 1890), an unsigned composite reproducing the 1888 image. The third was in the following winter number, “Bench and Bar” (December 5, 1891) by “Stuff,” for which Vanity Fair wrote: “Of Puisne Judges here, best of all Common Law dispensers is Mr. Justice Smith, his common sense as English as his name; who when he notes joy and surprise on the face of the old offended whom he has sentenced to six months’ imprisonment, says bluffly, in vain attempt to hide his mercy, ‘Jones, remember it’s “hard!”’”

Smith joined the Court of Appeal in 1892. He became Master of the Rolls in 1900 following the death of W.B. Brett (Viscount Esher) in 1899 and the interregnum of Lord Alverstone, and died a year later.

The 1859 Boat Race: Cambridge Sinks, Smith Too edit

The morning of Friday, April 15, 1859 “was ushered in with heavy hail-charged clouds and half a gale of wind from the northward and westward,” Bell's Life reported. “Notwithstanding these drawbacks no less than fourteen steamboats assembled to witness the race, all crowded with spectators, and the number along the shore, both pedestrian and equestrian, was very great. Small boats there were few or none, as no one seemed to be so hardy as the crews. . . . [A]lthough the betting was 3 to 1 on Cambridge, good judges felt sure that the Cambridge boat would never live through the surf which was rolling.” Good judges were right:

[The start] took place at exactly one o’clock. A complete sea was on at the time, although it had just previously lulled, leading the spectators to hope the crews would yet start in smooth water, but as they got to their stations a furious squall of snow and wind speedily dispelled the hope. Oxford were on the Middlesex side, and Cambridge one buttress removed from them. The start was level, and it was a splendid neck and neck race for 100 yards. Here Oxford drew about a yard in advance and the water began to rush in torrents into the extremely frail bark which carried the Cantabs. This, as may be supposed, did not help them in their pace, and they were stern by about half their boat opposite Searle’s [boatyard]. Oxford continued to gain slightly, and were one clear length ahead at Rose Cottage. Here there was such a sea on that Mr. Hall [the Cambridge stroke] had his oar completely washed from his hand, but recovering it again in a moment, the race was continued with as much courage as before, the Cantabs pulling after their opponents in the most plucky manner, but losing ground at almost every stroke, till they reached Hammersmith Bridge, where there were nearly three lengths astern. Citizen J had several times come very near Cambridge, although repeatedly cautioned, and the screw Jackal again and again gave the Cantabs their wash. The Oxonians reached the bridge in ten minutes, and directly after Cambridge had gone through, Citizen J (chartered by Searle), in a most reprehensible manner, went right ahead of them, and much discomposed them. At the Waterworks there was nearly five lengths between the boats, both crews taking about thirty-eight strokes per minute, but although Cambridge was by this time almost full of water, they rapidly decreased the gap towards the end of Corney Reach, where the rowing of the whole crew was most beautiful and finished, while Oxford was keeping on in the same steady, workmanlike stroke. At Barnes they were only two lengths in advance, and the time from starting was 20 minutes 50 seconds. At this point the steamers that misbehaved themselves were the Jackal, Citizen L, a private boat, Citizen J, the Jupiter, chartered by Mr. Searle, and Citizen K, by Salter and Kelly, all of which were several times ahead of the Cantabs, who were still rowing very well, but it was all over. The bow-oar had been frequently covered with water, and opposite the White Hart at Barnes three waves washed completely over the boat: at the first warning the gallant crew, knowing what was coming, took their feet out of the stretcher straps and prepared for swimming, all except Mr. Smith, who had not learnt the art. At the fourth wave the boat sank completely under them, and it was almost a miracle they were not drowned, for the umpire’s boat, the Lady of the Lake, was close on their stern at the time; but the captain, in a very clever manner, immediately stopped his vessel, and life buoys and ropes were immediately thrown out. Mr. Darroch [No. 4] swam on shore, and all the others were fortunately picked up by various boats. The Oxonians were about three lengths ahead at the time, and probably accomplished the distance in 24 minutes 30 seconds, although they were so far ahead at the finish that the time could not be accurately taken.

The minute book of Smith’s college club, First Trinity, recorded: “In going up to the Starting Post the Cambridge Boat had nearly filled with water, and at the start it was known by her crew that she could not live through the race, and so perhaps the finest crew that ever left the University was beaten by a comparatively very inferior one owing to rowing in too low a boat on a rough day.”

References edit

  1. ^ W.B. Woodgate, Reminiscences of an Old Sportsman, p. 255.
  2. ^ Dictionary of National Biography.

Channell AM

Channell, Arthur Moseley edit

“An Amiable Judge” (Spy), February 17, 1898 edit


The Honourable Sir Arthur Moseley Channell, now one of the puisne Judges in the Queen’s Bench Division, began life precisely sixty years ago as son of the late Sir William Fry Channell, Baron of the Exchequer: so that he is of quite legal parentage. From the nursery he went to Harrow; then to Trinity, Cambridge (where he first became known as a Wrangler); and thence to the Bar, by way of the Inner Temple. He practised as a Junior for two-and-twenty years, and as a Leader for twelve. He has been Recorder for Rochester, and Vice-Chairman of the General Council of the Bar. He has also been twice married, and now he is a Knight.

As a Junior, his practice was very general; as a “silk,” he chiefly conducted cases without juries, and very frequently argued points of Local Government Law before the Court in banc. He has, indeed, made himself an authority on such small matters as pertain to vestries, boards, sewers, waterworks, and new streets. He was never a great lawyer, nor an eloquent advocate; but he is well known as a good “workman,” with considerable knowledge of the Law and its Practice; and though never expected to be brilliant, he could always be trusted to make no mistakes. It may be said of him that during all his four-and-thirty years of practice he never made an enemy among his brethren, his clients, or his opponents; and it is certain that he never received anything but friendly attention from the Bench. He is a quiet, kindly, considerate gentleman, wholly free from conceit; in whose keeping the wholesome traditions of the English Bench for good sense in civil matters and for humanity in criminal will be quite safe.

He will not make a great Judge; but he is a very worthy sitter in the high place which he has honourably attained by long service to the Law.

Arthur Moseley Channell (1838-1928) won the Colquhoun Sculls at Cambridge in 1860 and the University Pairs in 1861. With First Trinity he won the Grand and Ladies’ at Henley in 1861 with J.C. Carter at cox. He also rowed in the Wyfolds and Pairs, losing to Woodgate’s Brasenose crews.

Vanity Fair featured Channell at his trial court commencement. He served sixteen years, retiring in 1914 in time to take up an appellate career in prize cases arising from the 1914-18 war. In this latter position he was assisted by forty years’ experience as an amateur yachtsman.

How to Choose an Oarsman edit

John Arkell, who succeeded Edmond Warre as O.U.B.C. President, introduced Trial Eights at Oxford in the fall of 1858. The C.U.B.C. followed suit three years later. The new approach to selecting the university crews increased the talent pool and intramural competition, but still left considerable discretion to the U.B.C president on whom to select for trialing, how to run the trials, and how to pick the final crew. Although this approach has survived the years largely intact, one “E.B.M.” put a case in Vanity Fair (April 22, 1897) for a challenge system based on a form of seat racing:

Coaching the Eights, Oxford, c. 1897

Dear Vanity, -- In a former letter I ventured to submit that the choice of a winning oarsman de visu was not very much more satisfactory than an awarding of the Derby Stakes to that three-year-old which the experts most admired. None of your readers having thus far disputed this assertion, I am tempted to go on a step further and suggest a mode whereby the places in the University boat might be filled with less risk of public dissatisfaction than at present. What is the chief qualification for a seat in the boat? Not strength in its crude form; still less weight, but that sort of strength which enables a man to exert the greatest pressure in forcing the blade of his oar through the water; in other words, to row the hardest. How are you to discover which of any two men row the hardest? Here the mystery is supposed to come in. I do not admit that there is any mystery about it. I say that it is as easy to tell which of two men rows the hardest as it is to tell which horse in a pair does the most work. Given any number of competitors for the places in any boat, and I believe that it is possible, by pairing them against one another, to ascertain without any real risk of mistake which are the strongest oars. Why not apply such a test? It may be said that to a large extent the test is now applied. But if it is -- and possibly of late more has been done in this way -- still, it is not used as a conclusive and positive criterion of merit. And it is not used extensively enough. Why not allow any man -- Freshman or otherwise, with or without the sanction of the captain of his College boat club -- to challenge any other man, Old Blue or not, to a trial of strength -- i.e., of the kind of strength above specified? Ought not the mere fact that such a pretender had beaten the man challenged give the former an a priori right to oust the latter from the crew? He might, no doubt, prove inferior in other respects. He might not be able to go the four-mile course. He might break down in training. But these are hypotheses. So might the other man. At any rate, in preferring Paul of Emmanuel to Peter of Trinity, a President, if asked the question why he did so, would be able to say, not “because I thought him a better man,” but “because he proved himself the better man.”

How could he prove that? Probably in several ways; but certainly in one. Let us not discuss the most obvious method -- that of putting one man in one boat and one in another, starting them, and seeing which comes in first. That would involve a resort to the art of sculling, which is supposed to involve other qualifications than those necessary for an oarsman pure and simple. That there is any such difference -- except in the matter of steering, which can be obviated by adding coxswains of equal weight -- I am not prepared to admit. If you took the winners of eight sculling races and put them in one boat, I should like to lay long odds on them against the eight losers rowing in another boat. But let us not offend rooted prejudices. Take another test, against which it is difficult to urge a common-sense objection. Take out any two men for two rows of a quarter of a mile, out and home. On the first trip let A row stroke and B row bow, and on the second trip reverse the positions. Now, barring tricks -- which an expert will easily detect -- the man who on the two journeys has the rudder most against him will be the stronger oar. This is not a matter of opinion; it is a mechanical truth. A President who selected a man in preference to another because he had “rowed him around,” as the saying is, would be safe against all criticism. To Therasites, who challenged his decision, he would be able to say, “If you don’t agree with me, get into the pair-oar, and try for yourself which is the stronger man.” The President, maybe, does not care a jot what Therasites thinks. But Therasites is a prevalent being in these days, and occasionally even a troublesome. And if you can have conclusive argument ready for use, why resort to one that is inconclusive, either against him or any other critic?

Is, therefore, every Johnny who covets a seat in the University boat to be allowed to challenge any other who has already a good chance of rowing therein? Non sequitur. The aspirant might be compelled to show that he was the strongest oar in his own College -- barring Old Blues -- before having the right to “send in his name” to the P.U.B.C. And he would show this, of course, by practical victories in the same sort of trials as those above referred to. Captains and Committees of College Boat Clubs would not object to the trouble therein involved. For it is their interest, as well as the University’s, that an unknown rowing genius should not blush unseen within the College walls. Rowing “trials,” not of the inconclusive Trial Eight type, might become fashionable as well as useful. If not, the institution, having been proved a failure, would die out. Hitherto it cannot be said to have had a fair chance of success. The Harrow or Winchester boy, however strong, and however likely to prove a first-rate oarsman, feels naturally shy about challenging competition with the Freshman who has come up from Eton with all the honours of the Ladies’ Cup at Henley thick upon him. The odds are, doubtless, that the latter is really the better man for the University boat. But in that minority of cases where the reverse occurs the newcomer from the non-rowing school has no fair start. He has practically no chance -- or very little -- of showing that if given a place in the boat he will do better than the other. That chance he ought to have; and he might have it if, without undue presumption, he were allowed to “send in” his own name.

Carter JC

Carter, John Corrie edit

“Steered Three Winning Crews” (WH), July 3, 1912 edit


Were you at Henley fifty years ago? Did you notice the cox of First Trinity, Cambridge? Of course you did.

He was Johnny Carter, who steered three winning crews in the biggest races of that year.

This record has never been broken, I believe.

When he left the ‘Varsity he was called to the Bar by the Inner Temple, and “went” the Midland Circuit, still keeping up his habit of winning.

Briefs came to the young lawyer, but he could have handled more. He did not pine, however, for other duties came his way.

When the Midland Railway wanted a new member on its board about fifteen years ago, he gave up practice entirely and devoted himself to “directing” what many think is our most perfect railway.

His service in this capacity has been as significant as his earlier successes.

To him must be attributed the present wholesome policy of enabling the employees of the company to purchase small allotments of stock. The result is that up to the limit of his holding each man feels he owns the railway -- which means that he will not lightly strike against his own interests.

This is a notable work, and the entire country owes Mr. Carter a debt for this initiative.

Mr. Carter has been for many years Recorder of Stamford and Chairman of the Quarter Sessions for Radnorshire.

Henley train station during the regatta, 1894

He has edited three editions of the well-known law-book, “Rogers on Elections”; also a piscatorial classic, “Ronald’s Fly-Fisher’s Entomology,” which was written by his uncle seventy-six years ago. This book is still used by the best fly-tiers.

A good sportsman and a useful citizen, his friends say he desires only to do well what comes to hand.

He has no taste for politics, but favours liberal principles in government as he understands them.

Mr. Carter loves his books, his rod, and his gun. On the wall of his library hangs the old Trinity rudder, which has been for half a century so pleasant a reminder of happy days on the River.

What he likes most of all is “non-competitive golf.” You see he cannot bear to lose a game.

John Corrie Carter (1840-1927), the only coxswain ever featured in Vanity Fair, steered not three but four winning crews at Henley (Grand, Ladies’, Stewards’, and Visitors’), and it was not 50 years before his appearance in the magazine, but 51 (Henley1861). The rest of the account is accurate, though also a sad example of T.R. Allinson’s editorship in Vanity Fair’s waning two years. The Stewards’ was made a coxless event in 1873 and the Visitors’ in 1874.

On Carter’s role in the Grand (at 8 st. 10 lb.), Bell’s Life in 1861 reported: “The Cambridge steering was very good in this race, and indeed much credit is due to the coxswains generally at this regatta, for the way in which they managed the starts in a strong wind, and also for keeping clear in those heats where three boats started abreast.”

“My garments expansion require” edit

“What more pathetic sight is there than a coxswain who starts his career with not ill-founded hopes of winning distinction, and then begins to increase in bulk, his prospects sinking as his weight rises,” wrote R.H. Forster,” till the vision of a ‘blue’ fades first to the less artistic white of a Trial Cap, and then sets altogether?” As told in his 1894 verse:

I once was a light little cox,

The smartest that ever was seen;

For I stood but five three in my socks,

And weighed barely seven thirteen:

The figures I give you are true,

And I coxed in a club Trial Eight;

And they said I was sure of my blue,

And I was -- till I went up in weight.

The change was begun in the Vac.,

For I spared not the well-fatted calf;

And I found myself, when I came back,

Increased by a stone and a half.

Still they set me to cox a Lent crew,

But docked my allowance of grog,

Threw doubts on my chance of a blue,

And said I was fat as a hog.

Yet still there comes increase of weight,

My garments expansion require,

I project o’er each side of the eight,

And my buttons are fastened with wire.

They make me take runs in the Backs,

(Now my running is marvellous poor):

And their pointed allusions to “stacks”

Are very ill-natured, I’m sure.

O ‘Varsity President, you

Are in need of an oarsman of weight:

Then give me, O give me my blue!

Next year, ‘twill I fear, be too late.

For if in this way I enlarge,

Next year, I would have you to note,

Nought less than the bulkiest barge

Will be able to hold me and float![91]

References edit

  1. ^ R.H. Forster, “Camus et Camilli,” The Eagle, June 1894, pp. 262-63.

Lawes CB

Lawes, Charles Bennett edit

“Athlete and Sculptor” (Verheyden), May 12, 1883 edit


The heir to a good old name, to an honourable new baronetcy, and to a very large fortune, Mr. Lawes was early moved by the ambition, not at all to enjoy the gifts of fortune, but to become and to deserve something in his own proper person. At Eton and at Cambridge he distinguished himself by winning, in athletic contests, every prize that could be won as an oarsman and as a pedestrian; but on leaving the University he became smitten with a love of art, and especially of the art of sculpture, to which he has since devoted himself with the thoroughness and tenacity which characterise all his undertakings. Looking neither to the right nor to the left, and foregoing not only all society, but all other things that might interfere with what he regards as his mission, he passes the whole of his days in his studio; and, if natural predilection and earnest application count for anything, should someday produce some fine work. That in sculpture as in athletics he will one day achieve fame he is persuaded; and meanwhile he holds the sculptor’s art to be one which none but those with a mission should essay, and which it is his privilege as well as his duty to protect against all assaults on the part of those who may not have such a mission.

Charles Bennett Lawes (1843-1911) did indeed collect pots for rowing and running, before taking a 3rd in the 1865 natural sciences tripos. At Eton he won the tub sculling (1858), school pulling (1859), sculling (1860), and rowed in the Eight three years (1860-62), each time beating Westminster, and on the track won the 100 yards, hurdles, quarter-mile, and mile, as well as the steeplechase. On leaving school, he gave a Challenge Cup for the mile race, stipulating that anyone who won it and the other four, as he had done, could keep it. When one E. Lee did so in 1891, Lawes donated a second cup under the same conditions, but added that the sculling, pulling, and tub sculling must also be won, as he had done, to retire the cup. No one has claimed it yet.[92]

For Third Trinity, Cambridge, Lawes won the Colquhoun Sculls in 1862 and went Head of the River in 1863 and 1865, and at Henley he rowed in the Grand, Ladies’, and Diamonds, winning the Diamonds in 1863 and the Ladies’ in 1865. In 1865 he won the Wingfield Sculls and stroked the losing Boat Race crew. He won the half-mile, the mile (1864), and the two miles (1865) at the university sports; the mile (1864 and 1865) at the inter-university athletics, and the one mile amateur championship at the Amateur Athletic Club in 1865. In 1898, at age fifty-five, he took up speed cycling and the next year gained the amateur record for twenty-five miles, covering it in 51:15.8.

After Cambridge, Lawes devoted himself to sculpting. He studied in London under J.H. Foley, R.A. and in 1869 under Professor Hagen in Berlin. From 1872 to 1908 he exhibited twelve works at the Royal Academy. “His figures and portraits showed real ability, though his success was not quite equal to his ambition.”[93] In 1900, Lawes succeeded to the baronetcy, came into the family fortune, and inherited the Rothamsted Experimental Station that his father, a famous horticulturist, had established. Lawes took the additional surname “Wittwronge” in 1902 after an eighteenth century kinsman from whom the family had derived the Rothamsted estate, and died in 1911 after an operation for appendicitis.

Belt v. Lawes edit

Why did Vanity Fair feature Lawes in 1883, an ex-athlete with modest artistic success? Because he had lost a major libel case, which had been brought based on statements made two years earlier in Vanity Fair concerning one Richard Claude Belt. Bowles himself laid the groundwork for Belt v. Lawes with the following carefully-hedged broadside August 20, 1881:

Statue of Lord Byron (1880), Hyde Park Corner, London

Mr. Belt is undoubtedly the fashionable sculptor of the day. Private busts, public monuments, and indeed all the pick of the work of sculpture, have lately been entrusted to him. He is in favour at Court, he is known in the gilded saloons -- in short, he is the sculptor of renown. And to judge of his talents by the works that bear his name, his reputation is well deserved. Those works have met in these columns the praise we hold to be their due. The bust of the late Mr. Eliot Yorke is admirably good, that of Lord Beaconsfield is excellent, so are the busts of Charles Kingsley and of Canon Conway, and though the Byron Statue is far from being equal to these, there can be no doubt of the general excellence of the work that bears Mr. Belt’s name, or of the claim of its author to a very considerable reputation.

But is Mr. Belt really the author of the works that bear his name?

Three weeks ago we drew attention to the fact that two of these works -- the busts, namely, of Baron Lionel de Rothschild and of the Prince Imperial -- claimed by Mr. Belt as his, and attributed to him in the catalogues of the Royal Academy and the Grosvenor Gallery, had been alleged in a paragraph in the Morning Post to be the work not of Mr. Belt, but of a Mr. Verhyden. Thereupon our contemporary Truth published a statement that in fact all the productions ascribed to Mr. Belt were in fact the work of a Mr. Vanhyden, and ought to be ascribed to him.

The matter is one of no small importance not merely for Mr. Belt, but also for the world at large. If Mr. Belt has really designed and executed the works that pass under his name, a cruel wrong has been done him. If, on the contrary, not he but some other person or persons did indeed design and execute them, then Mr. Belt is the wearer of borrowed plumes which he ought not to be allowed to retain.

Feeling that this was a matter of much public interest, we caused inquiries of an extensive and detailed character to be made in the quarters where information was most likely to be obtained; and we now lay the result of those inquiries before our readers.

Belt signature on the Byron statue

First, then, we find that among artists -- by which we mean especially but not exclusively sculptors -- there is an agreement of opinion, very openly and very plainly expressed, that Mr. Belt has not any claim to be considered as a sculptor, and that he is, in fact, only an ingenious and successful sculpture-broker, who presents to the public, as his own, work that has invariably been designed and executed by other hands than his. This opinion appeared to warrant further investigation which, being pursued resulted in the following being communicated to us as Mr. Belt’s history in the arts.

Mr. Belt, in 1870, when about the age of nineteen, obtained employment in the studio of Mr. Foley, the sculptor. Here he remained, as a monumental mason, for ten months, when Mr. Foley intimated to him that he had no further need of his services. Mr. Belt accordingly left Mr. Foley with whom this was his only connection.

In the spring of 1871 however he applied to Mr. Lawes (a former pupil of Mr. Foley’s) for a situation in his studio. This he obtained, and he remained with Mr. Lawes in the capacity of general attendant for four years. Mr. Lawes states that during that period Mr. Belt neither executed, nor was able to execute, any artistic work whatever.

After leaving Mr. Lawes’s studio in 1875, Mr. Belt began to do business on his own account. He published as his own work a statuette of Dean Stanley, of which a good deal has been lately heard. This statuette however was worked up for him by Mr. Brock, as Mr. Brock himself declares. In like manner, the memorial busts of Charles Kingsley and of Canon Conway which also pass as the work of Mr. Belt, were in fact invested by Mr. Brock -- as Mr. Brock himself declares -- with whatever artistic merit they possess. Mr. Brock, equally with Mr. Lawes, declared that Mr. Belt was himself incapable of doing anything in the shape of artistic work.

In 1876 Mr. Belt took into partnership Mr. Verhyden. Mr. Verhyden states that the drawings which procured for Mr. Belt the Conway monument (the bust of which was, as already stated, worked up by Mr. Brock) were his, and not Mr. Belt’s at all. Mr. Verhyden further declared that he (Mr. Verhyden) and not Mr. Belt entirely modelled the sketch which enabled Mr. Belt to gain the victory over all the artists of the day in the Byron competition; and that he (Mr. Verhyden) also entirely modelled the Byron statue itself.

In short, we are assured that all Mr. Belt’s works from the year 1876, when he began business on his own account, up to the year 1881, were executed by Mr. Brock and Mr. Verhyden.

Mr. Verhyden states, equally with Mr. Lawes and Mr. Brock, that Mr. Belt was quite incapable of doing any artistic work whatever.

The names we have cited are those of only some among a number of men of the highest position in the artistic world, among whom our inquiries have been made. And we feel bound to say that in the face of the detailed statements made to us, the bare outlines of which we have here set down, we find it difficult to believe that Mr. Belt has any good claim to the authorship of the works given to the public as his, or to any other title than that of a purveyor of other men’s work, an editor of other men’s designs, a broker of other men’s sculpture. If he declared himself to be this there would be no harm in it. But the point is that, if our information is correct, he has systematically and falsely claimed to be the author of the works for which he was only the broker, that he presents himself as a sculptor and an artist when in reality he is but a statue-jobber and a tradesman.

If, then, the statements made to us are true -- and we frankly avow that at present we fully believe them to be perfectly true -- Mr. Belt has been guilty of a very scandalous imposture, and those who have admired and patronised him as a heaven-born genius are the victims of a monstrous deception.

Why this deception -- if it be one -- should have been allowed so long to exist is a matter which does not concern us -- though we must say that it does very greatly concern those artists and others who were aware of it. But we, having got hint of it, and having upon this hint made very full investigation, should not be doing our duty were we to withhold from the public the result of that investigation. Accordingly, we have set down the information we have obtained, and with it the conviction which that information has produced upon us, that Mr. Belt is not the author of the works that have made him to be believed to be a sculptor of genius. Every paper in London announced on Thursday morning the fact that Mr. Belt had received from the Queen a commission to execute another statue of Lord Beaconsfield. We shall be glad to know that Her Majesty’s choice of an artist is really warranted.

Over the next month, these allegations in Vanity Fair of professional incompetence and palming-off spiralled, as Belt kept quiet. Lawes weighed in September 24:

Sir, -- I am sure that I am expressing the feeling of the whole profession of sculptors when I say that we are extremely obliged to you for finding out and publishing the true history of Mr. Belt’s career. We have always known him to be nothing but an “artistic” impostor, and, by giving us an opportunity of expressing ourselves publicly on the matter, we have been enabled, I think, to remove the imputation of “professional jealousy” upon which he so successfully traded.

There is one thing more that we should like to do, and that is to meet Mr. Belt and his “influential friends” in a court of justice, and satisfy the latter of the truth of the assertions we have lately made in your paper.

We are very sorry to see people in the highest social position pledged to a discreditable affair of this sort; but the reasons that have led them into their position are briefly these --

Firstly. That anybody can do a bad bust.

Secondly. That they have seen Mr. Belt at work.

Thirdly. That they have never been introduced to a “ghost” -- that is to say, a person employed by incompetent artists secretly to do up their work and make it artistic.

These “ghosts” are naturally rarely seen and difficult to catch, but, once in a court of law, it is wonderful what funny stories could be got out of them.

This is not the first attempt that has been made to bring Mr. Belt’s doings into the light of day; for at the time that he signed the drawings for the “Conway Monument,” and passed them off as his own, an attempt was made to do what we are doing now; but it was “bungled,” I believe; the “ghost” was scared and got away, and the affair had to be dropped.

In conclusion I must say that the way in which the work turned out by Belt, Verheyden, and Co. has been extolled in the newspaper is most ridiculous and contemptible, were it not injurious; and Mr. Verheyden himself would, I am sure, be the first to laugh at it; for he is, I believe, a genuine artist, though not a professed sculptor.

Now that the partnership is dissolved, there is, I hear, a great falling off in the quality of work (and it has been described to me as “wretched stuff” by people that understand it). Either Mr. Belt’s present “ghost” is a bad “ghost,” or -- who knows? -- he might be doing the work himself, for, as I said before, “anybody can do a bad bust,” as the quantities exhibited every year bear ample testimony. Finally, if the representatives of newspapers, instead of taking up and puffing the first artist they come across, were to make it their duty to visit the studios of the various sculptors, both high and humble, and make themselves acquainted with the position and workings of the profession, “Belts” would no longer be possible, and statues like the Byron would cease to be produced. --

Yours truly, CHARLES LAWES.

Three weeks later, Belt sued both Lawes and Vanity Fair, but proceeded only against Lawes due perhaps to his deeper pockets and more aggressive, less legally-artful accusations. The case went to trial in mid-June 1882 and immediately became a society and media event (although Vanity Fair remained understandably silent). For one, the judge and key lawyers all appeared in Vanity Fair either before or as a result of the case: Baron J.W. Huddleston (Feb. 28, 1874), the judge; Sir Hardinge Giffard (June 28, 1878) and Montagu Williams (Nov. 1, 1879) (both for Belt); and Charles Russell (May 5, 1883, Mar. 29, 1890, and Dec. 5, 1891) and Richard Webster (May 26, 1883, Nov. 25, 1897, and Jan. 15, 1913) (for Lawes). For another, Belt’s witnesses necessarily included an array of society figures who had sat for Belt or seen him working, while Lawes’ witnesses came largely from the sculptoral elite of the Royal Academy. Belt v. Lawes thus pit the art establishment against some of its society patrons. The trial ran forty-three sittings in the old Westminster law courts.

Just after Christmas 1882, the jury found for Belt and awarded him an unprecedented £5000. Bowles promptly spent a page and a half in Vanity Fair reprinting other papers’ criticisms of Baron Huddleston’s handling of the case. From the Spectator: “[The] charge can be compared only to another and much shorter one, which is said to have been delivered in these words, ‘Gentlemen of the jury, the prisoner at the bar stole the boots. You will find a verdict in accordance with your opinion of the evidence.’” To such remarks Bowles added his own voice, starting with the judge’s favoritism towards Belt’s society witnesses (Vanity Fair, January 6, 1883):

In the first place, he ordered a considerable number of witnesses for the Plaintiff to be examined -- not in the customary manner in the witness-box -- but from seats on the Bench beside himself; and, what was a still greater error, allowed many of these witnesses -- including Mr. Alex Yorke (the principal witness for the Plaintiff) and others of the Plaintiff’s warmest and most undisguised partisans -- to remain seated on the bench day after day subsequent to their having given their evidence, while his own wife, Lady Diana Huddleston, was seated by his and by their side, and engaged with them in conversation and in the exchange of papers. This was an error very apt to lead the jury to form an erroneous estimate of the value of their evidence of these witnesses as compared with those on the other side.

Five months later, in May 1883, Vanity Fair featured Lawes and his lawyers Russell and Webster, offering them praise and encouragement as they moved for a new trial and began to appeal. (Verheyden did all three portraits, the Napoleonic rendering of Lawes imbuing him with a calm but righteous firmness.) Eventually, under prodding from the appellate court that included two Cambridge Blues (Denman and Brett), Belt agreed to a reduction in damages to £500, but Lawes chose to go for broke. Unfortunately for him, that’s exactly what he was forced to do, for in March 1884 the court affirmed the original award (which had by then swelled to £10,000 in damages and costs) and to stave off the ignominy of having to pay Belt anything, Lawes promptly filed for bankruptcy. The fact that one of Belt's leading witnesses, a certain Mr. Schotz, came forward in January 1885 and confessed his testimony was perjured, did not alter the situation.[94] Lawes spent the next sixteen years poor, before inheriting from his father.

References edit

  1. ^ A. Littleton, A. Page, & E. Noel, eds., Fifty Years of Sport: Eton, Harrow and Winchester, p. 99.
  2. ^ Dictionary of National Biography.
  3. ^ New York Times, Jan. 16, 1885, p. 2.

Dilke CW

Dilke, Charles Wentworth edit

“A Far Advanced Radical” (Coïdé), November 25, 1871 edit


Sir Charles Dilke is a far advanced Radical, a skirmisher who is ever ready to throw himself out far away from support, and to engage single-handed with the most portentous questions, which he attacks with a jaunty agility that leaves no doubt as to the contempt he feels for them. As a man not yet thirty, he believes in “dear races,” in women, in the English language, and in Greater Britain, the destinies of which he has disposed of airily in a work wherein he has published all that he heard and thought in a rapid voyage around the world. In the House of Commons he has displayed a marked want of reverence for age and prescription; and he is but too well known to whips as the founder and secretary of that compact body of kindred male and female politicians, the Radical Club -- the birth-place of all subversive ideas, and the cradle of all projects for forcing the unwilling Government to carry them into effect.

It was to be hoped that age and greater tactical experience would have made Sir Charles at least an endurable Radical, but his last exploit shows that any such hopes are not likely to be realised. Himself the first inheritor of a title which was conferred through the personal friendship of a Royal Personage, he has, with a singular want of taste, attacked Royalty in a singularly wanton and unjust manner. Sir Charles Dilke is unhappy when dealing with facts. He asserts that the Queen’s pages do not pass examination when they enter the army; whereas they do pass examination. He asserts that the Queen pays no income-tax upon her income; whereas She does pay it. He asserts that the appropriation of savings out of the sums voted by Parliament for the Civil List to the Privy Purse is “directly in the teeth of the Act of Parliament”; whereas the Act expressly authorises such an appropriation. Nevertheless, upon such assertions as these he has founded a suggestion so presented that it almost amounts to a charge of a conspiracy between Her Majesty and the Treasury to form a large private Royal fortune in an unlawful manner. Seldom has so unwarrantable an attack been made, or one so ill-calculated for its purpose. It has found an echo throughout the country which has unexpectedly proved the attachment of the English people to Royal Institutions, and above all to the Lady in whom they are personified; and Sir Charles Dilke in endeavoring to promote a Republic has but disclosed the strength of the Monarchy.

Unlike his Cambridge contemporary C.B. Lawes, Charles Wentworth Dilke (1843-1911) had no rowing experience on going up to Trinity Hall in 1862 but found, according to one of his biographers, that “it offered exactly the sort of purposive, vigorous, comparatively non-time-wasting athleticism which he wanted.”[95] In this effort Dilke found a perfect role model in Leslie Stephen, his academic tutor and rowing coach, who founded the Dictionary of National Biography and had coached Hall crews while running alongside them on the towpath.[96] By the end of the first year Dilke was No. 4 in the Hall crew that entered the 1863 Grand and Ladies’. The next year he was secretary of the club and rowed at No. 3 in the crew that again entered the Grand and Ladies’ and went head of the river (“the ever-memorable May 12th, 1864,” he wrote his father). The boat was later cut up and Dilke kept his section on the wall of his Sloane Street study for the rest of his life. In 1865, Dilke’s crew got bumped the second night by Third Trinity with Lawes and four other university oars. Dilke had a chance to row at No. 7 in the 1865 and 1866 university boats, but “declined on the score of constitution,” he later wrote. “I was strong, but afraid of the rowing in training over the long course, although perfectly able to stand up to the short course work of Cambridge or of Henley. . . . I believe that I was unduly frightened by my doctor, and that I might have rowed.”[97] None of this came at the expense of academic success, as Dilke was Senior Legalist in his third year, the highest honor open to him, and twice served as both vice-president and president of the Union Society. His “methodical bee-like industry,”[98] and ability to read in quantity and remember most of it served him well both at Cambridge and after.

On leaving Cambridge, Dilke toured the world. His Greater Britain: A Record of Travel in English-Speaking Countries During 1866 and 1867, published in 1869 to popular and critical acclaim, included a moment with the 1866 Harvard crew. Dilke measured them, like others whose paths he crossed en tour, with Darwin’s new yardstick of natural selection:

They were in strict training for their University race with Yale, which was to come off in a week; and as Cambridge had been beaten twice running, and this year had a better crew, they were wishful for criticisms on their style. Such an opinion as a stranger could offer was soon given; they were dashing, fast, long in their stroke; strong, considering their light weights, but terribly overworked. They have taken for a rule the old English notions as to training which have long since disappeared at home, and, looked upon as fanatics by their friends and tutors, they have all the fanatic’s excess of zeal.

Rowing and other athletics, with the exceptions of skating and base-ball, are both neglected and despised in America. When the smallest sign of a reaction appears in the New England colleges, there comes at once a cry from Boston that brains are being postponed to brawn. If New Englanders would look about them, they would see that their climate has of itself developed brains at the expense of brawn, and that, if national degeneracy is to be long prevented, brawn must in some way be fostered. The high shoulder, head-voice, and pallor of the Boston men are not incompatible with the possession of the most powerful brain, the keenest wit; but it is not probable that energy and talent will be continued in the future generations sprung from the worn-out men and women of to-day.[99]

Vanity Fair featured Dilke in 1871 just before the less spectacular of the two great crashes in his political life. Elected three years earlier (at age twenty-five) as a Liberal M.P. for Chelsea, he came to see Gladstone’s government as unduly conservative, and in 1870 organized the Radical Club of like-minded members to press for more aggressive reforms in such areas as voting rights and education. At the same time, republican sentiment was on the rise, due in part to the declaration of the French Republic and, at home, an economic slump and working class disillusionment with the Reform Act of 1867. In the summer of 1871, an anonymous pamphlet entitled What Does She Do With It? appeared questioning the Queen’s disposition of her budget, the Civil List. Dilke responded, likely influenced both positively by his grandfather (who had been a mentor and lifelong republican) and negatively by his father (who received a baronetcy for service as a royal commissioner for the 1862 exhibition). In a speech at Newcastle, Dilke called for a parliamentary audit of the Civil List, relying on the pamphlet and an 1855 report by the Financial Reform Association, and concluding: “If you can show me a fair chance that a Republic here will be free from the political corruption that hangs about the Monarchy, I say, for my part -- and I believe the middle classes in general, will say -- let it come.” From an M.P. who shared the podium with working-class leaders at a time of industrial unrest, his remarks were considered beyond the pale. But rather than retreat in the face of such critiques as Vanity Fair’s, Dilke continued to speak on royal finance (with appropriate factual corrections) for the next several months. Tissot’s caricature for Vanity Fair captured the penetrating eyes and aggressive posture of a man on a mission. In March 1872, Dilke formally moved Parliament for an inquiry into the Civil List. Gladstone, a fellow Liberal, cheered on from the Conservative bench, “went ‘smashing’ into him as if he were Chelsea china.”[100] In the end Dilke lost 276 to 2, thereby not only killing parliamentary republicanism but also strengthening the constitutional monarchy, Gladstone’s goal all along.

It took Dilke the better part of a decade to recover. By 1880, his relative moderation on domestic issues and unsurpassed competence in foreign, military, and colonial affairs earned him the Under-Secretaryship at the Foreign Office in the second Gladstone administration. He excelled. Disraeli not only described Dilke as “the rising man on the other side,”[101] but used him as the fictional hero of Endymion (1881): a novel about an under-secretary of state for foreign affairs who becomes premier. In 1882 Dilke entered the Cabinet as head of the Local Government Board, from which post he appeared in Vanity Fair’s 1883 Winter Number, “The Gladstone Cabinet” by Chartran. By 1885, he and Joseph Chamberlain were the recognized co-leaders of the radical wing of the Liberal party, bent on the further democratization of central and local government. In June Dilke drew this barb from Vanity Fair after he and the rest of the Gladstone cabinet resigned, having lost a Parliamentary vote of confidence:

Let any conscientious man Dear Charles, pray take no further pains:
Think of our words, and leave our acts, You’ve reasoned, ranted, thundered, wailed,
Weigh the perfection of our plan, And yet the solid fact remains
And never mind the stupid facts. That everything you’ve tried has failed.
I fancy that he will be driven If nations could be ruled by tongue,
To own that such a set of sages Then your success would be most splendid;
Never before by heaven were given But now we’re glad your knell has rung,
To draw our happy country’s wages. Glad that your plague of words has ended.
Peace and goodwill we’ve always preached, Fly to some realm where earthly rules
We have gone in for arbitration; Are dead. Go off (with Weg) to Saturn.
Our manly eloquence has reached There you may find some simple fools
The heart of every righteous nation. Who pine for statesmen of your pattern.
The wicked ways of despot kings But we down here have had enough,
We have denounced with noble candour, We find your sentiments a bore;
And, in our zeal for holy things, So, Charles, pray talk no further stuff,
We even raised Prince Bismarck’s dander. Take yourself off, and come no more.
Read through our miles and miles of jaw,
Choose any speech for your selection,
I challenge you to pick one flaw
That mars our round of sheer perfection.

Weeks later, before Dilke could regroup from this modest political setback, disaster struck: one Donald Crawford filed for divorce on the grounds of adultery, naming Dilke as the co-respondent. Mrs. Crawford was Dilke’s sister-in-law, quite young, and among the allegations was that Dilke taught her “every French vice” and orchestrated a ménage-à-trois with one of her servants. To make matters worse, Dilke had in fact twice had an affair with her mother: for a time before he married, and again after he was widowed. The revelation of the details, through the course of two proceedings, made for “the most sensational trial that has taken place [in the New Law Courts],” Vanity Fair declared afterward, “a trial that will be mentioned years hence in the same breath with the Tichborne case, the Mordaunt case, the Belt case, and other causes célèbres associated with Westminster Hall.”[102] (Vanity Fair’s coverage is excerpted below.)

This time Dilke never fully recovered. He lost his Chelsea seat at the July 1886 general election, though defeat had less to do with the then-pending Crawford case than with more purely political matters. For several years following the scandal he avoided office but turned to his pen, especially in foreign and military affairs. That he might be content as a bystander to history was “a misfortune,” wrote Vanity Fair (January 7, 1888). “There was no clearer head than his in the whole House of Commons, and his grasp of details was phenomenal. ‘Literary and historical work,’ which he has mapped out for himself for some years to come, are useful pursuits in their way, but Nature did not intend the author of ‘Greater Britain’ for a bookworm. He is essentially a man of action, and in his present sphere his powers are to a great extent frittered away.”

Dilke’s self-enforced absence from public life did free up time to row. In 1883 he bought property at Dockett Eddy, an island in the Thames near Shepperton. At his bungalow there, completed just before the lawsuit, Dilke enjoyed a structured regimen of rowing, riding, and fencing, all of which he had continued in true Leslie Stephen fashion since Cambridge days. Among his guests were oarsmen from Trinity Hall (such as Reginald McKenna) and a handful of other Oxbridge colleges (such as S.D. Muttlebury from Trinity, Cambridge). One guest, Charles Boyd, recalled one of these “happiest and healthiest of week-ends or more extended summer holidays,” where “the black and white blazer of his old college carried a certain prescriptive right to share in every belonging of the most famous of old Hall men”:

C.W. Dilke and Bill East, c.1904

Less a country-house, indeed, than a camp of exercise. You did as you pleased, but under Sir Charles’s guidance you were pleased to be strenuous. He called everybody to bathe at 7 a.m., and where was ever better -- fresh-water -- bathing-place than the floating raft below the boat-house at Dockett? Etiquette required you to dive in and go straight across to the other bank, touch, and return; when, like as not, Sir Charles, in shorts and sweater, might be seen very precisely preparing tea on the landing-stage for the deserving valiant. His little kindnesses had an added and affecting quality from his reserve and sternness. A rare figure of an athlete he was, and a rare athlete’s day his was in that retreat. For hours before he called and turned out the morning guard he had been up busy gardening, or reading, or writing. At a quarter to nine he breakfasted. Very shortly after breakfast an ex-champion sculler, the admirable Bill East, would arrive from Richmond, and he and Sir Charles would row in a racing skiff a measured mile or more of the river. One summer at least he changed from the rowing kit to boots and breaches after his rowing, and rode till luncheon. At four o’clock there would be a second bout with East, and thereafter, having changed from his rowing kit into flannels and his Hall cap, he would take Lady Dilke in her dinghy, which nobody else has ever used or will use.[103]

Dilke returned to Parliament in 1892 as Liberal M.P. for the Forest of Dean, where he pursued an independent blend of social radicalism in domestic policy and power politics in foreign affairs until his death in 1911. A recent comprehensive biography credits him with a great deal during this final stage, which historians formerly overlooked due to the denigration he suffered by his contemporaries at the time of and well after the Crawford divorce. Indeed, even the centenary history of the Trinity Hall Boat Club, published in 1930, virtually omits Dilke while showering notice on every other alumnus who made rank in the judiciary, clergy, or politics. For his own unpublished memoir, Dilke chose an epigram from Ibsen that Leslie Stephen could have penned: “We are all of us run over, sometime or other in life. The thing is to jump up again, and let no one see you are hurt.”[104]

Crawford v. Crawford edit

On the success of Greville’s Memoirs, Dilke remarked that it made one think that “the art of biography consists solely in the reviving of forgotten scandals.”[105] About himself the record has been mixed: his literary executrix who was also his niece did her level best to skip the Crawford case entirely in her 1917 biography, Roy Jenkins did the opposite in 1958, and David Nicholls took a middle path in 1995. The first mention of the case in Vanity Fair (August 1, 1885) reported on Dilke’s withdrawal from public life, his immediate reaction to the refusals of Crawford to agree to a private investigation and of Mrs. Crawford to a retraction:

The very sudden and very unexpected withdrawal of Sir Charles Dilke from all his engagements, from his place in the House of Commons, and from all political activity whatever, is a very serious blow to the Radical section of the Liberal Party. It involves the loss of action in Parliament for which Sir Charles had been counted upon, and will probably involve also the abandonment of that campaign in Ireland from which so much had been expected. It is in every sense a remarkable phenomenon and a portentous one, for Sir Charles Dilke has justly been regarded as the most possible and practicable of all the Radicals. He has governed himself with great judgment and caution, his deliverances have been entirely free from that offensive character which has made so many of his late colleagues to be personally hated, and he has shown much statesmanlike ability in the elaboration and the conduct through Parliament of some of the most important practical measures that have been passed in our time.

It is inevitable that the sudden self-effacement of so important a politician should give rise to gossip and to rumours, and accordingly the town is full of stories affecting to be precise and circumstantial, accounting for it on special personal grounds. It would be however extremely unfair to accept, much less to adopt, any such stories. When a public man retires from public life, either temporarily or permanently, the only reasons for the course he takes which can fairly be entertained or canvassed are those which he publicly assigns for it himself; and in this case the reason assigned is the very probable, natural, and sufficient one of ill-health arising from overwork. It is a reason which must therefore be freely accepted, and which it is equally unfair and ungenerous to question or to override by the adventurous whispering of irresponsible gossip.

Within two weeks, the Crawford case and the allegations concerning Dilke had become public, and Vanity Fair (August 15, 1885) offered its legal and political prediction:

The “Dilke Scandal” seems already to have become a permanent department of news with some of the papers, and the Tories appear to expect that it will be the end of Sir Charles Dilke’s career, and to expect this with all the greater confidence since the publication of Sir Charles’s own letter on the subject.

I do not share these anticipations. My expectation, on the contrary, is that the affair will either be settled out of Court altogether, or else that, if it comes into Court, it will be so conducted as to cause the least possible scandal. My reasons are these:-- This is in every sense a family quarrel. The principal parties to it are all connected by ties of relationship, and all the parties belong to the Liberal ranks. Sir Henry James, the counsel for Sir Charles, is a Liberal who has achieved a high position; Mr. Inderwick, the counsel for Mr. Crawford, is a Liberal who has three times fought constituencies in the Liberal interest, and who is ambitious to achieve a high position; Mr. Crawford is a Liberal who was to have contested East Lanarkshire in the Liberal interest; and Mr. Eustace Smith is the Liberal Member for Tynemouth. Now Sir Charles Dilke is held by all Liberals to be of absolute necessity to their Party. It is certain, therefore, that superhuman efforts will be made to avoid anything that would fatally discredit him and cause the Liberal Party to lose the service of his undoubted talents. It is equally certain that the greatest pressure will be brought to bear upon everybody here concerned to do anything that can possibly be done to arrange the affair either without scandal at all or with as little scandal as possible; and, finally it is no less certain that everybody concerned will only be too anxious to do anything humanly possible to bring about this result. From the chiefs of the Party downwards all will use their best exertions and even Mr. Crawford himself may be expected to be ready to adopt any action in this direction which will at once save his honour and avoid for his Party what would be regarded as a fatal disaster.

Later in the same issue Vanity Fair reviewed the main allegations, declining to take a position on them (due perhaps less to Bowles’ innate editorial restraint than fear of another libel case), but taking a stand on the eternal question of the link between private conduct and public office:

We dismiss therefore wholly any consideration of the truth or untruth of these charges; but what is worthy of attention is the general question of how far charges against the private conduct of a public man should be allowed to weigh in dealing with his public career. It is far too often assumed that the two should be kept entirely separate; that the public man is one entity, and the private man another; and that the one ought to be considered and dealt with wholly apart from the other. Nothing can be more false or more absurd. A man is not two beings; he is one; and if it be proved that he is false, dishonest, cowardly, disloyal, and base in his private capacity, it would be nonsensical to suppose that he could be true, honest, brave, loyal, and noble in his public capacity. All that part therefore of a man’s private doings which comes to public knowledge, fairly may be, and most properly should be, taken into account, so far as it discloses the real character of the man himself, and consequently his fitness or unfitness for the public service. He who is clearly shown to have betrayed private trust may reasonably be held likely to betray also a public trust; he who is clearly shown to be corrupt in private matters will probably also be corrupt in public matters; and if it be that such proof of private misdeeds comes before the public as warrants an evil opinion of the character of a public man, it is not wrong and unnecessary, but eminently right and necessary, that the knowledge thus acquired should be brought to bear upon the claim of the man to public confidence. But if, on the other hand, the facts established only go to show that the man in question is moved by ordinary venial human weaknesses, or has been guilty of ordinary venial indiscretions, then it would be eminently unfair to visit upon him a public penalty for private faults of such a character. The whole question turns upon the character of the acts established. If they be such as affect his character for honesty, honour, and trustworthiness, they are necessary elements in estimating his fitness for public affairs; if they merely affect his discretion or his strength of mind, they are rather to be generously disregarded. A bank manager would be wrong in refusing to take into account proofs that one of his cashiers had cheated a friend; he would be right in refusing to take into account proofs that he had eaten himself into an attack of jaundice.

Thus it may well be that a case of the kind alleged against Sir Charles Dilke may prove to be of such a character as may, upon a right judgment, be regarded as irrelevant to his public position, and unnecessary to be taken into account; or, on the other hand, it may prove highly relevant to it, and very necessary to be taken into account. It all depends upon the complexion of the case, and the degree to which it is established, if at all. It is right to bear these considerations in mind, and especially to bear them in mind now, because the matter is now sub judice, and because in all probability it cannot possibly be brought to a decision until after the General Election takes place. Sir Charles is therefore entitled to the benefit of the doubt that hangs over every undecided case, and of his own denial of the charge.

Mr. Justice Butt heard the case on February 12, 1886. It consisted solely of Crawford’s account of his wife’s confession and the testimony of two witnesses that she had spent certain nights away from home. Mrs. Crawford was not present; Dilke was, but on his lawyers’ advice did not testify. Under the rules of evidence Mrs. Crawford’s confession helped prove Crawford’s case for a divorce, but could not be used against Dilke himself. In addition, Dilke’s lawyers feared that his reputation would suffer more from questions into his private life were he to take the stand (even if overruled as objectionable and thus not requiring an answer), than it would if none were asked. Sir Charles Russell, Dilke’s chief counsel who had also been C.B. Lawes’ in the Belt case, said so to the court, gratuitously noting that “in the life of any man there may be found to have been some indiscretions.” In the end, Justice Butt found the record sufficient to prove Mrs. Crawford’s adultery (Crawford got his divorce) but not to prove Dilke’s (so he was dismissed from the case and awarded his legal costs). To the newspapers, including Vanity Fair (February 20, 1886), this outcome was ridiculous, and proved Mrs. Crawford a fallen but honest and courageous woman, Justice Butt a Liberal patsy who ought to be impeached, and Sir Charles Dilke either dishonest, not a gentleman, or both:


This is what Society says:--

Society is far from being censorious or over-severe in cases of what Mr. Attorney-General Charles Russell very prettily calls “indiscretions.” It is, on the contrary, most long-suffering and indulgent with regard to them, as many a man and woman now in Society, who otherwise would not be there, can testify. Neither is Society at all disinclined to allow a man -- so long as he “behaves like a gentleman” -- to escape on a flaw in the indictment. There was, not so long ago, a general rejoicing in Society over a case in which it was held that a certain person had “rushed old Hannen,” and avoided, together with the lady, punishment for an offence which all Society nevertheless thought most likely to have been committed.

But Society draws the line nevertheless somewhere, even in cases of this description. Nobody in Society can be found to defend the conduct of a man who debauches a child of eighteen to whom he has access by virtue of his kinship and of his intimate relations with her parents. Society condemns that as being beyond the limits of the fair “indiscretion” at which it may fairly wink. And it condemns such conduct still more uncompromisingly if the man has added to the offence by debasing the child’s mind and by initiating her into the obscene practices of French refinement. All this however, and no less, is what is charged against Sir Charles Dilke by Mrs. Crawford’s confession. The Judge believed that confession and Society believes it too, and (whether rightly or wrongly) treats the matter as though there were no doubt remaining whatever about any part of the confession.

How the confession arose Society holds that it knows exactly. And the belief in Society is this: That Mrs. Crawford, having given up her “indiscretion” with Sir Charles Dilke -- having, in fact, been abandoned by him -- for eleven months, was living, and intending to live, as many another has done, happy ever afterwards with her husband in domestic felicity and forgetfulness. But when that last fatal anonymous letter arrived, she saw it and reflected. She saw that she was pursued by a pitiless, unrelenting enemy, whom she believed to be no other than her mother. She felt that if, after so long as a whole year of good conduct and desire to atone for the past, she was not left alone by her enemy, she never would be left alone. She might indeed destroy this letter before her husband saw it -- but others would reach him (as others had) at his Club or his office. It was clear that there was no peace or truce for her. What should she do? She would do this. She would make a clean breast of it, and would thus at once bring to an end the strain she could no longer bear, and at the same time be avenged both on the man who had debauched and deserted her, and also upon her mother who was so evidently determined to hunt her to despair and ruin. And so it was that she told her story -- and told it, not merely in bare outline, but with all the horrible details which take it outside any common story of debauchery and desertion.

And now, with regard to Sir Charles Dilke, what Society blames is, not his “indiscretion,” nor even so much the fact that this indiscretion was so great and exceptional as to take it beyond the time of all possible toleration; but rather that, when he was brought to book, his conduct was not what Society holds it should have been, but quite otherwise. “Voyou tant que tu voudras -- mauvais genre jamais”[106] is the principle that Society lays down, and it holds that, under the most trying circumstances, a man must behave “like a gentleman.” And Society holds that Sir Charles Dilke has behaved like one who has taken and acted upon the advice of a sharp attorney with an eye to virtuous dissenters; there is nothing about his conduct either of the magnificent impudence or of the generous assumption of blame which in these matters Society expects a gentleman to show.

Suppose the charge to be false -- the mere false invention of an hysterical woman. In that case Sir Charles’s duty, as a gentleman, was to go into the box and deny it all, to prove that the lady was hysterical and deluded, and thus to save her as well as himself -- but her above all. As a gentleman it was his duty to do this -- his duty for his own sake; his duty for her sake; his duty for the sake of her mother, whose name had been so terribly handled in the affair.

Or, again, suppose the charge to be true. Suppose it to be so thoroughly and completely true that Sir Charles could not dare to go into the witness-box to deny it and to expose himself to having brought against him the proofs which in that case would have been easily accessible. Here would be a situation in which his testimony could not avail either to save the lady or to save himself, and in which therefore he could not go into the witness-box at all. But in that case the only course for a gentleman to take was to stand wholly aside; neither to enter an appearance nor to make a defence, but to let the case go by default, and to suffer in silence any penalty that the Court might impose upon him.

But Sir Charles did none of all this. What he did was to deny, and yet not to make his denial in the only effective, the only useful way. And what is worst of all is that his friends, whom Society believes to be prompted by himself, go, and have gone, industriously about to declare that he is an injured innocent; that he is as pure as the driven snow; that the whole charge has originated in no indiscretion of his, but only in the utterly unfounded imaginings of an hysterical woman; that Sir Charles is a maligned man, and Mrs. Crawford a malignant, mad woman -- that all the faults are hers, and none of them his. Society would be quite ready to believe this if Sir Charles had brought any evidence of it, or if he had successfully sworn it; but to ask Society to believe it in the absence of all evidence whatever, and to persevere in asking it, is to act in a way in which Society holds that no gentleman should act.

Moreover, Society does not view with favor any man who, under any circumstances, puts the fault in a case of this kind wholly upon the woman, and refuses to bear any part of it himself. It holds that men and women are alike liable to “indiscretion”; but that if ever such indiscretions are discovered, or alleged, the stronger should shield the weaker vessel, and the man should take upon himself a fair share, and even the major share of the blame. In connection wherewith it remembers the case of Valentine Baker, who, as it holds, did behave like a gentleman.

Under all these circumstances, Society distinctly holds that Sir Charles Dilke has not come up to the necessary standard, and it reprobates him severely.

The case could have ended there but for Dilke’s decision to instigate a second proceeding in a desperate attempt to reclaim his reputation. The legal vehicle was to have the Queen’s Proctor, who represented the Crown in divorce and probate matters, intervene to attempt to show that Mrs. Crawford had not committed adultery with Dilke. The ensuing trial ran from July 16 to July 23 before Mr. Justice Hannen, Dilke testifying “with a complexion not unlke Mrs. Crawford’s dress -- light olive-green” (Vanity Fair (July 24, 1886)):


The original suit of “Crawford versus Crawford and Dilke,” heard last February before Mr. Justice Butt, had a good deal to recommend it to the evening newspapers; but, compared with the present week’s sensation of “Crawford versus Crawford, the Queen’s Proctor showing cause,” it was tame, inconclusive, shadowy, and unsatisfactory. Dramatically, the first trial was deficient. The principal characters -- good, bad, and indifferent -- were not seen; they did not strut the stage or mount the witness-box. They were merely talked about. That, of course, was a grave fault, but it has been set right in the later proceedings, which have kept all London, and indeed all England, on the alert for a full week. Mrs. Crawford has now told her story in open Court. Sir Charles Dilke has been examined and cross-examined. The redoubtable “Sarah” has shown herself to be possessed of a treacherous memory. We have seen the much-talked-of Mrs. Rogerson in the flesh, and heard about her very, very hospitable house. “Fanny,” it is true, has made another of her mysterious disappearances; but her photograph has been handed round from juryman to juryman, the Junior Bar meanwhile craning their necks to get a glimpse of the scrap of cardboard upon which the lineaments of the interesting absentee were imprinted. That “Fanny’s” presence in Court would have given the finishing touch to a very thorough-going sensation is unquestionable; but it is perhaps captious to complain when the whole wretched story has been so fully and nauseously narrated.

It took the jury of propertied London men fifteen minutes to reject the Proctor’s (and Dilke’s) case and affirm the first decision. Again, Vanity Fair (July 24, 1886):

The daily newspapers have, during the whole of this week, held a daily orgy of filth and foulness in their reports of the Crawford case, and, as usual, these prints, who are always so extremely virtuous and proper in their leading articles, have been as disgusting as the case would allow them to be throughout the rest of their columns. And now the case has been ended by the inevitable verdict which stamps Mrs. Crawford as the witness of truth and so gravely discredits Sir Charles Dilke, these same daily papers will be lifting up their pious eyes and hands at the wickedness out of which they have been coining money every morning and evening by sending it into every household in the land.

It is however too much to suppose that the case is ended with the verdict which merely affirms that Mr. Crawford was rightfully entitled to and shall have his divorce, under circumstances which dismissed Sir Charles Dilke from the case. There are already rumours abroad of prosecutions for perjury, which however I expect will come to nothing. But there will certainly be very strong comments made upon the matter, and it will be a long time, which will probably be marked by startling events, before the excitement is abated.

“Historians who have studied the divorce case in any depth have concluded that Dilke was in all probability innocent of any adulterous relationship with Mrs. Crawford,” David Nicholls concluded in his 1995 biography. Evidence assembled after the second case “leaves no doubt that the divorce court had been misled and had based its verdict upon false information. That Mrs. Crawford wove a net of fabrications in which Dilke became inextricably enmeshed is beyond dispute. . . . [Historians] have therefore been left wondering why she chose him as her victim. Their accounts at this point inevitably enter the realm of speculation.”[107]

References edit

  1. ^ R. Jenkins, Sir Charles Dilke: A Victorian Tragedy, p. 27.
  2. ^ H. Bond, A History of the Trinity Hall Boat Club, p. 24.
  3. ^ C.W. Dilke, quoted in S. Gwynn & G. Tuckwell, Life of Rt. Hon. Sir Charles W. Dilke, Vol. I, p. 44.
  4. ^ Master of Trinity Hall, quoted in S. Gwynn & G. Tuckwell, Vol. I, p. 28.
  5. ^ C.W. Dilke, Greater Britain: A Record of Travel in English-Speaking Countries During 1866 and 1867, Vol. I, p. 54. Harvard went on to beat Yale that year, 18:43.5 to 19:10, over three miles at Worcester.
  6. ^ Punch, March 30, 1872, quoted in D. Nicholls, The Lost Prime Minister: A Life of Sir Charles Dilke, p. 55.
  7. ^ Barrington letter to Dilke, Dec. 25, 1882 (attributing W.E. Gladstone), quoted in D. Nicholls, p. 105.
  8. ^ Vanity Fair, July 24, 1886, p. 47.
  9. ^ Charles Boyd, quoted in S. Gwynn & G. Tuckwell, Vol. II, pp. 319-20. About riverside cottages in general and Dilke’s in particular, Theodore Hook reportedly quipped that its advantage is that “in the summer you had the river at the bottom of your garden, and that in the winter you had the garden at the bottom of your river.” A Journalist, Bohemian Days in Fleet Street, p. 288.
  10. ^ H. Ibsen, John Gabriel Borkman, quoted in D. Nicholls, p. 312.
  11. ^ C.W. Dilke, quoted in D. Nicholls, p. xi.
  12. ^ Roughly, “Slum as much as you like -- but never in bad form.”
  13. ^ D. Nicholls, pp. 193, 195.

Brassey A

Brassey, Albert edit

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


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.

Blazers edit

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.

Rasch FC

Rasch, Frederic Carne edit

“South-East Essex” (Spy), April 2, 1896 edit


The late Frederic Carne Rasch, J.P., D.L., of Woodhill, became his father nine-and-forty years ago; and sent him to Eton and to Trinity, Cambridge, where he showed himself healthy in body and mind. That qualified him to be a Lieutenant in the 6th Dragoon Guards (the Carabineers); with whom he served for ten years. After that he naturally became Captain and Honorary Major of the 4th Battalion of the Essex Regiment; which he still is. He is also a Justice of the Peace, a Deputy-Lieutenant, and County Alderman for Essex; besides which, having unsuccessfully contested the Elland Division of the North-West Riding eleven years ago, he has been the chosen representative in Parliament of South-East Essex for ten. He is an Essex man and wholesome, bluff, genial fellow of strong opinions; who calls himself a Democratic Tory.

He is a man of blood who has smelled powder. He also helps to direct a couple of breweries, and it is believed that he does it well. Though he is not a pushing man he is a valuable subject of his Queen and a very useful Member of Parliament; in whom is much common sense, much sense of honour, and a keen sense of the difference between right and wrong. Yet is he a modest fellow with an undue sense of his own merit. The Carabineers owe him their silver kettle drums, which he gave them when he left the Service. He is a quick-spoken, ready man of military precision, who says very straitly what he means to say.

He has athletic propensities; and he has run, ridden, and rowed more races than most men.

Frederic Carne Rasch (1847-1914) rowed for Third Trinity, Cambridge in the 1867 Diamonds.

“He was an advocate of short speeches, and he opposed extreme temperence legislation on the ground that he objected to making drunken people sober by keeping sober people dry” -- a reasonable view for a politician who directed a couple of breweries on the side. Rasch was made a baronet in 1903, resigned from Parliament in 1908 for ill health, and died a month after the 1914-18 war broke out.

The 1869 Oxford vs. Harvard Boat Race edit


In the first Anglo-American university match, Oxford beat Harvard by four lengths in coxed fours from Putney to Mortlake on August 27, 1869. The Oxford crew included J.C. Tinné, an uncle of VANITY FAIR rower W.E. Crum. Edmond Warre called them “the best four that ever sat in a boat.” The race report by “Barkins” for Vanity Fair (Sept. 4, 1869):

A Boat-Race between Oxford and Harvard, though technically a match between two amateur boat-clubs, is in the eyes of the public a race between England and America. That the Harvard men altogether repudiated the idea of being the champions of American amateur rowing, we know from their own courteous and modest refusal to row the London Rowing Club, who wrongly interpreted the challenge sent to Oxford as one to England in general. Whether the Harvard crew is the best America can send or not we do not know, but judging from their prestige and their performances in the States, we can be sure they are no unworthy representatives of American amateurs. Their success in America has been almost as marked and as continuous as that of Oxford has been in England for the last few years. They have beaten their rivals of Yale University, and they have beaten a celebrated crew known as the Ward Brothers. At any rate the crowd on the banks of the Thames on Friday afternoon chose to consider the race as one between two nations rather than one between two universities.

That Oxford was worthily represented as far as the personnel of her crew goes, no one who saw the men can doubt. Indeed, it is not every year that Oxford could provide four men of such experience and capacity as Darbishire, Tinné, Yarborough, and Willan -- a twice victorious stroke, a present and a past president, and one who has repeatedly been chosen (if it were not invidious to choose where all are good) as the best of the crew -- four such men are not to be found every day, even in Oxford. But four good men do not necessarily make a successful crew; and disregarding (to use the language of their own University) the final and material causes of the success of the Oxford crew, the efficient cause is to be found in Messrs. Warre and Morrison, without whose able and consistent coaching the four would most assuredly have never been what it was; while the last, or formal cause, we may assume to be that very style or idea which our American rivals came to make trial of, and which exists in the minds of all duly qualified coaches, pre-eminently in those of Warre and Morrison. It was in the possession and zealous assistance of such coaches that Oxford was peculiarly happy. Never did a crew begin to train under fairer auspices than did the Oxford four, or rather five, for they kept an extra man in training last July. We may fairly say that, had this crew been beaten, Oxford would have been in sore distress indeed. Her case would have been far worse than that of Cambridge ever was, for she would not have known to whom she could turn.

"The International Boat Race Galop Dedicated to the Gallant Harvard Crew"

However, all is now over, and Oxford has won once more; and whether it was by half a length or half a mile, she little cares. The sharp drive of the blade through the water, the quick rebound of the hands off the chest, and the pendulum-like swing of the body have won the day again, and we shall still be able to instill the old principles into the ready ears of a rising generation without a qualm of doubt in our inmost souls of the efficacy and truth of those precepts on which we pin our aquatic faith. An account of the actual race is now superfluous; suffice it so say, that Oxford beat Cambridge in America in very much the same way in which she beat Cambridge in England; that a lead to Hammersmith did not ruffle the equanimity of her stroke, that she plodded on behind as usual to Chiswick, and lead as usual in Corney Reach. The race was decided in the old place, abreast of the reservoirs, the only difference being that the Americans kept their rivals harder at work than they have been in some of the ‘Varsity races. . . .

. . . .

. . . No one can pretend that the Oxford men had any cause to be disappointed in their rivals; they proved themselves to be at least their equals in endurance, and made them row hard from start to finish. The race has showed this, among other things, that men trained on milk and vegetables can work as hard and as long as those trained on beef, tea, and beer. Hear and reflect on this, O ye captains, coaches, and trainers.

Smith EJH

Smith, Ernest John Heriz edit

“Pembroke” (Hay), January 28, 1888 edit


Pembroke College, Cambridge, was born some five-and-forty years ago under the name of Smith. In 1873 Smith took a Second Class in the Classical Tripos and a First Class in the Theological; and being a double honourman, was naturally elected a Fellow of Pembroke. Subsequently he achieved the Dean, had the Proctor thrust upon him, and developed into Pembroke College of which he is the soul. Sincere in his work, generous in his friendship, and the leading spirit among the undergraduates, both in the schools and on the river, he has combined, with a success hitherto unequalled, the characters of Dean, Proctor, and Mr. Smith, each one of which is more popular than the other two.

It is on the River that Mr. Smith has achieved his greatest glory. There is no figure better known between Jesus Lock and Baitsbite than that of the Dean in his light and dark blue blazer, animating the toils of the fifth boat. He teaches rowing also in his rooms, and has been known to encourage the oar men from the pulpit. He believes in Mesmerism. He is much admired by the fair Girtonites. He is a scholar, a Christian, and a gentleman.

Rev. Ernest John Heriz Smith (1851-1911) never rowed in the Boat Race or at Henley and thus appears here only on the strength of his Vanity Fair biography, the first in which rowing predominated. Through men like Smith “[t]he Christian ethic became very deeply imbued in the sport of rowing at the club level throughout the country,” wrote historian Neil Wigglesworth, “being disseminated and consolidated by seemingly endless supplies of ordained oarsmen coming down from Oxford and Cambridge colleges, settling into their new parishes and preaching a combination of rowing technique and religious virtue.”[108]

The son of a Fellow of Caius, Smith became “a Pembroke man to the backbone, and the friend and counsellor of all Pembroke men,”[109] retiring in 1896 to hold the college benefice at Tarrant Hinton in Dorset. At Pembroke he started a semi-religious society called the Companions of St. John, whose members wore a belt of sash under their clothes and thus were popularly known as “the belly-banders.” For this and his vocal support of the Church of England, the inaugural issue of The Pem in 1893 offered these “Reminiscences”:

Amidst his followers you see
The valiant leader stand:
The Smith, a mighty man is he,
With eager, restless hand,
Striving to find on every arm
The social leather band!

Each Sunday night, for two long hours,
You can hear the music flow;
You can hear him lead the frequent hymns
With solemn voice and slow,
Like a sexton tolling the funeral knell,
When his spirits are very low!

And men that on his staircase keep
Shout through the open door;
They loathe to see the gathering throng,
To hear the maddening roar:
And those below the ceiling thump,
And those above, the floor!

He leans against the doorpost, and
The singing he enjoys;
He hears the strains of hymn 18;
He hears his own sweet voice
Ring loudly o’er the others, and
It makes his heart rejoice.

The members of his social throng
Are with him hand and glove,
From willing feet, and willing hands,
To willing throat above!
Bound with the band of fellowship,
Bound with the ties of love!

Singing, -- reciting, -- chanting,
Onward through life he goes:
One day he poses as a coach,
Another day he rows.
With all his College work besides,
He earns his night’s repose. [110]

Sporting Heads of Colleges edit

Victorian Oxbridge did not “recruit” athletes. Still, certain “sporting heads” of colleges were not indifferent to matriculating talented oarsmen. The Etonian flow to Oxford in the 1890s and to Cambridge in the following decade helped swing the Boat Race results those years. W.B. Woodgate opined in Vanity Fair (April 9, 1903), that “[i]t does a College more good socially to produce a Blue with a pass than to shelve him to make room for some obscure substitute who in the Long scraps through with a Third Class, and meantime is a necessity in all College athletic arenas.” His illustrations:

Dr. Warren, [President of Magdalen College, Oxford,] was offered in 1901 the services of the then Captain of Boats at Eton -- John Edwards-Moss (junior). He insisted on the youth passing Responsions before he would admit him. To do this would have entailed cramming all Long Vac., abandoning all sport at the sire’s Scottish shooting-box; and possible failure after all. So the boy elected, with paternal assent, to cast in his lot at Third Trinity, Cambridge, with other Eton aquatic pals who were simultaneously leaving. Result, a high-class oar lost to Oxford and gained for Cambridge; and undeniably a very important factor in the Putney to Mortlake defeats that befell Oxford in the years immediately following. But, I am glad to record, there still survive such commodities as sporting heads of Oxford colleges. In July 1905, I chanced to be in the waiting-room of Worcester G.W.R. station. A Right Rev. accosted me, and asked if I would mount guard over his chattels, while he went to get some food. On his return I ventured to ask him what his diocese was; he replied, “None. He was Bishop Michison, Master of Pembroke College.” Then I bethought me that an old Radley friend of mine was at the moment contemplating sending a son of his to that college, not so much for the sake of degree, as to give him chance of earning his blue on the river; and that he was somewhat apprehensive as to the boy’s classical attainments sufficing to pass him for matriculation. I volunteered to shove in my own oar at this juncture, and said: “There is a son of an old friend of mine, good oar, good character, but unfortunately not likely ever to set the Thames on fire with his classics. His father wants to send him to Pembroke. . . .” The Bishop cut me short. “Oh, I know whom you mean; young Illingworth. I know all about him; you need not be afraid that I shall let him slip; I hear he can row; I shall matriculate him whether he can spell or not.” (I wish we had had a few more Michisons at Alma Mater.)[111]

Charles Hunter Illingworth of Pembroke College, Oxford got his blue at No. 2 in the 1906 Boat Race, though Cambridge with Duggie Stuart won.

References edit

  1. ^ N. Wigglesworth, The Social History of English Rowing, p. 101.
  2. ^ The Pem, December 2, 1895.
  3. ^ The Pem, May 10, 1893.
  4. ^ W.B. Woodgate, Reminiscences of an Old Sportsman, pp. 131-32.

1872-1889 Sliding Seats

1872 - 1889: Sliding Seats edit

The invention of sliding seats is generally credited to John C. Babcock of the Nassau Boat Club in New York, who used them on a single in 1857 and on a six-oar in 1870.[112] Neil Wigglesworth traces their emergence in the U.K. to Tynesiders, whose professional scullers used them as least as early as 1865. The John O’Gaunt four from Lancaster used them in the Stewards’ in 1870, Bell’s Life commenting that the crew moved like “a piston and a pair of scissors.”[113] In Babcock’s version, a ten-inch-square wooden seat covered in leather rested atop grooved brass tracks greased with lard to permit about twelve inches of slide, though only about six were used. Even this modest amount converted into an extra foot of drive in the water that improved the efficiency of the stroke. Edward Hanlan of Toronto, who held the world professional sculling title in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, introduced the eighteen-inch slide, which converted into about sixteen inches for sweep rowing and became the standard.[114] In addition, new designs and materials were introduced to reduce friction and improve wear; clean shorts replaced oil-stained trousers. In the evolution, some slide types proved defective, as W. Sweetman learned in the 1888 Diamonds. “Shortly after the start, about half-way up the island,” Guy Nickalls recalled, “I heard a bang, and a shower of shrapnel fell around me; the balls from his bearings. I offered to start again and he paddled back to the raft and got another slide fixed.”[115]

It took longer for sliding seats than for outriggers or carvel boats to gain acceptance. To be sure, London R.C. made believers of the gentlemen amateurs by winning the 1872 Stewards’ and Grand with sliding seats, much as Royal Chester had done for carvel boats with its Henley victories in 1855-56. Oxford and Cambridge promptly adopted them for the 1873 Boat Race, knocking half a minute off the record. Yet the transition to long modern slides and the adjustment of style took time, especially at Eton and Oxford where Dr. Warre’s fixed-seat orthodoxy had deepest roots -- perhaps, in the words of a contemporary dark blue, because the Oxford mind was comparatively “of a more doubting and conservative, and less mathematical and radical type.”[116] The longer the slide, the greater the “piston and pair of scissors” effect and the greater the anxiety that it would destroy the rhythm and smoothness that the fixed-seat orthodox felt necessary for efficient boat propulsion. Cambridge, under the thoroughly un-Warreian influence of Australian undergraduate Steve Fairbairn, adapted to longer slides in the mid-1880s, which helped them and their three-time President, S.D. Muttlebury, win four Boat Races in a row. Oxford caught up a few years later when three of its blues -- D.H. McLean, Guy Nickalls, and W.F.C. Holland -- rowed behind Muttlebury in the 1888 Leander eight and brought their experience back to the Isis.[117] The styles debate went into remission during Oxford’s golden years in the 1890s, but flared up again after the turn of the century when the Belgians and other foreign crews started winning at Henley, and continued after the 1914-18 war on into the 1930s.[118]

In the late Victorian years the technical arguments took on a social and religious cast, with fixed-seat gentlemen amateurs preaching a hard “catch” at the water using shoulders and body swing, against the professional style that stressed a fast entry in the water and strong leg extension. “Professional” here meant oarsmen who raced for money, since by this time the tradesman class of watermen were almost non-existent, casualty to steamers, railways, and better roads and bridges. London had some 3,000 watermen in the 1820s but only half that twenty years later; by 1901, R.H. Forster concluded in Down by the River that “the oar plays a humble part in the heart of London, a battered skiff or sturdy police boat is all that remains.”[119]

References edit

  1. ^ C. Dodd, Henley Royal Regatta, pp. 63-64; C. Dodd, The Story of World Rowing, pp. 75-77; T. Cook, Rowing at Henley, pp. 63-64, 95.
  2. ^ N. Wigglesworth, The Social History of English Rowing, p. 86.
  3. ^ R.S. de Havilland, in Fifty Years of Sport: Eton, Harrow and Winchester, p. 28.
  4. ^ G. Nickalls, Life’s a Pudding, p. 70.
  5. ^ G.C. Drinkwater, “Rowing,” in Fifty Years of Sport: Oxford and Cambridge, p. 206.
  6. ^ G.C. Drinkwater & T.R.B. Sanders, The University Boat Race: Official Centenary History, p. 167.
  7. ^ N. Wigglesworth, p. 88.
  8. ^ R.H. Forster, quoted in N. Wigglesworth, p. 136.

Brock T

Brock, Thomas edit

“The Queen's Memorial” (Spy), September 25, 1905 edit


Mr. Thomas Brock is a bluff, businesslike Englishman who learnt his art in the land that now honours him as a sculptor. He is a man who loves his home, practises the simple life, works hard, dresses like a mere inartistic individual, and has a conscientious objection to posturing before the public.

He was born near Worcester in the year 1847. His father had some skill in decoration. He was educated at the Government School of Design in that City, and showing unusual ability was forwarded to London. His success in the greater city was evidence by his winning the silver and gold medals at the Royal Academy schools. Thereafter he became an assistant in Mr. J.H. Foley’s studio, and when that sculptor died young Brock completed the works that he had in hand, including the O’Connell monument which patriotic Dublin desired to erect. He became an Associate in 1883 and an Academician in 1891. Portrait statues of Sir Rowland Hill, Sir Richard Temple, Sir Erasmus Wilson, Lord Derby, and Lord Bowen, and the Westminster Memorial to Longfellow have been among his most noticeable achievements.

To crown his reputation came his selection as the sculptor of the Queen’s Memorial which will stand in front of Buckingham Palace. He is now at work upon it, and will be thus engaged for several years to come. At present, therefore, Mr. Brock is displaying agility upon ladders and platforms, varying his performance by studying the effect of his labours through the larger end of an opera glass.


He has no love for Society and is a most indifferent courtier. He pulled a good oar in the Kensington Rowing Club, and when Captain in the Artists’ had some reputation as a shot. He is a man of method and order, adding thereto an inartistic faculty for finance. You can criticise his work without making him an enemy for life. He admires Rodin, but despises the imitators of the great Frenchman. For an opinionated man he is tactful.

Thomas Brock (1847-1922) did not row in the Boat Race or at Henley Regatta or get legally entangled with R.C. Belt, in each of those respects unlike fellow sculptor and rower of Vanity Fair C.B. Lawes.

The 1872 London v. Atalanta Boat Race edit

Vanity Fair (June 15, 1872) carried this anonymous account of the “Anglo-American Boat-Race,” in which London R.C. beat Atalanta B.C. of New York from Mortlake to Putney -- the Boat Race course in reverse. Both crews used sliding seats.

Atlanta launching from Biffen Boatbuilders 'Anchor' Boathouse (now Auriol Kensington R.C.)

That the interest taken in the International Boat-race was very great amongst a certain set of the population of London no one could doubt who chanced to be in the neighbourhood of the Thames last Monday. Along every road leading to the scene of the coming struggle poured a motley crowd, with the usual accompaniments of nigger-singers, knock-’em-down men, fortune-tellers, &c., without whom the British public never go to see a race, whether on land or water. Arrived at Putney and on board one’s steamer, there was ample time to contemplate the black living mass that thronged both banks of the river. Every window and every roof from which a view could be got was fully occupied, the very branches of the trees being made into temporary grand-stands by the more active of the eager multitude. Time enough, too, to admire the gorgeous splendor of the steamer chartered by the Atalanta Boat Club, with its draper of crimson cloth and many flags, Guards’ band, and gaily-dressed ladies.

As time wore on many anxious inquiries were made and many contending rumours afloat -- some fearing that as a slight breeze was blowing the Americans would claim the power reserved to them in the preliminary agreement of declining to row on the day fixed if the water should be rough. However, all doubts as to whether the race would come off were set at rest a little before six, when both crews appeared, and were seen to go on board the umpire’s steamer with their oars. Information soon spread that the Americans had asked that the race might be rowed with the wind, and not against it, as would be the case if the previously-arranged course -- Putney to Mortlake -- was adhered to. This having been conceded, “Go a-head!” was the order, and the four privileged steamers started on their way to Mortlake. As we steamed along the same sight met our eyes on both banks -- every available position being crammed with expectant thousands; Hammersmith Bridge one mass of eager faces gazing on the river -- all wondering what the change of programme was. As we approached Mortlake we found the sides of the river swarming with steamers and boats of all sizes and shapes all having as they fondly hoped secured good places to see the finish. Very aggrieved they doubtless thought themselves when they heard the course was reversed. As it turned out, however, they saw the only interesting part of the race, which was virtually over in the first mile. “Here are our fellows!” from a bystander drew my attention then to the London four paddling away from shore to the starting-boat -- wonderfully fit and workmanlike they looked, and all over like going. Just then the flash of something scarlet on the umpire’s boat caused all heads to be turned in that direction. Very strange, indeed, to English eyes did the Atalanta four’s dress appear -- the scarlet body and bare and, by comparison, white arms, and scarlet handkerchief bound round the temples, at first rather causing one to expect a voice at one’s elbow shouting, “Names and colours of the riders, gentlemen!” They were soon, however, in their gig and proceeding towards their racing-boat, on reaching which they performed the rather hazardous acrobatic performance of getting into her from the gig as both boats floated down steam. However, having accomplished this without accident they soon were also at the starting-post. Now the anxious and long-expected moment had arrived, and the differences of opinion were to be decided. Was the American or the English system of rowing right? For so entirely different were the two styles that everyone felt it was more a trial of speed between styles of rowing than between two crews. The report of a pistol, a suppressed shout “They’re off!” a dig in the back from an eager man behind me, the collision of my field-glass and the nape of the neck of someone in front -- such was my personal experience of the start. The number of strokes per minute, the length, the catch, &c., has it not all been written by many ere this? Well, I dare say they are right. Perhaps I, too, might have indulged you with some figures, but beyond the exact angle of the brim of a hat a little in advance of me I cannot give any information -- for that hat would get in my line of sight no matter what I did.

Cheerful shouts soon were heard as London steadily drew ahead, increasing their lead every stroke, and rowing well within themselves, and all soon felt that barring accident the English crew must win. Alas! however, the race was not destined to be rowed through without some contretemps. Like the proverbial Derby dog, the river generally produces some creature to try and do harm. So on Monday appeared a horrid man in a horrid boat, who cleverly managed to get in the way of the American crew, thereby losing them some distance. That it in any way affected the result of the race no one could for a moment imagine. Loud and long were the shouts of contempt and vehement the torrents of abuse that fell on his devoted head from the steamers as they passed this lumber in his boat, and very sincere were the expressions of regret on all sides that this mishap should have happened to the Atalanta crew. Some hearty cheers for Gulston and his crew as they paddled back to their boat-house, and another cheer for their opponents as they came in, for the plucky way in which they persevered right through when it was evident that all chance of their winning the race was gone; and so ended the Anglo-American Boat-race.

External links edit

Brooks FV

Brooks, Frederick Vincent edit

“A Master Craftsman” (WH), September 18, 1912 edit


Born, some sixty years ago, to a sturdy Radical whose father was a Chartist, Mr. Brooks was in due course sent to the High School, Bishop’s Stortford, then under Dr. Godfrey Goodman, where he became head boy of the school, when Cecil Rhodes and Dr. E.A. Beck (present Principal of Trinity Hall, Cambridge) were there. He is still, like Father O’Flynn, “learned in Divinity, also Latinity.”

A more serious part of his life has been spent in hardy exercises, which may account for his present outrageous health. He rowed, and was for many years captain of the old West London Rowing Club, for which he helped to win the Thames Cup at Henley in 1876. He also won sculling races until he grew well known on the river as “Daddy.”

He has swum with success, and has run without it; has taken much part in amateur theatricals; and his Sir Peter Teazle, played to Miss Compton’s Lady Teazle, is still remembered.

In 1868 Mr. Thomas Gibson Bowles invented this Journal -- the first of its kind -- and a month or two later its first cartoon appeared, that of Mr. Benjamin Disraeli. Mr. Brooks has been connected with Vanity Fair ever since, and is still, as a lithographer, producing its counterfeit presentments of eminent men.

Is given to literary effort; has often contributed to the columns of VANITY FAIR and other journals; has been entrusted with the articles on lithography and sun-copying in the new edition of the “Encyclopaedia Britainnica,” and having considerable arbitration experience, he might with advantage have been included in the National Arbitration Committee on Trade Disputes.

He is not only a master-craftsman and a good speaker, but is a man altogether full of information, whose word is always believed, for he is as “straight” as he is modest.

A fair raconteur, a listener of quality, as Charles Lamb says of his father in his “Essays of Elia,” he is just such a companion as Mr. Isaac Walton would have chosen to go a-fishing with.

Frederick Vincent Brooks (1848-1921) rowed for the West London R.C. in the Diamonds in 1874 and the Thames Challenge Cup in 1874-76.

Vincent Brooks, his father, was a pioneering lithographer on whose expertise Bowles built Vanity Fair. In 1856, Brooks began reproducing old master paintings for the Arundel Society, an effort described as “the most important non-commercial application of chromolithography” in the country at the time.[120] Eleven years later his firm acquired Day & Son, lithographers to the Queen, who had just brought chromolithography to the periodical press by publishing the Chromolithography Journal. Yet as of the founding of Vanity Fair in late 1868, the new technique had not been used with portrait caricature in England, since the well-established Punch used only wood engravings. Thus in announcing Vanity Fair’s forthcoming “Pictorial Wares of an entirely novel character” in January 1869, Bowles could as well have been describing the work of Vincent Brooks, Day & Son, the best and most expensive lithographers available, as the new portraits chargés of Carlo Pellegrini. By “exploiting the process of chromolithography and wedding it to a new kind of visual humour,” concluded art critic Bernard Denvir, Vanity Fair “helped to bring about a revolution in taste, preparing the way for the acceptance of less strictly representational art forms and breaching the fortifications of academic realism” with “a new kind of accessible imagery; coloured, vivacious, topical, cheap.”[121]

Frederick Vincent Brooks was nineteen or twenty when Vanity Fair carried its first caricature, Pellegrini’s rendering of Benjamin Disraeli for the January 30, 1869 issue. If Brooks was working for his father at the time, as Vanity Fair’s 1912 biography says, then he had a longer running connection with the magazine than did anyone else (including “Spy,” Leslie Ward, who first came to work in 1873 and left in 1911). His connection might well have been shorter, had the owners and editors not clung to the weekly lithograph and eschewed other forms of illustration, well after photography had become widespread in the popular press.

Rowing Pictures edit

This aquatint of "The Merton Eight, 1839" was one of several similar images produced in the 1830s of Oxford college boats, some of which may have varied only in how the crews were colored[1]

Artists who recorded nineteenth-century rowing sometimes strayed from photographic fidelity, presumably because they either knew no better (not being oarsmen themselves) or enjoyed artistic license (say, to show crews close together just to fit them in the frame or to make the race seem more exciting than it was). Woodgate complained some had originally been drawn as they lay unmanned, and therefore were shown two planks too high out of the water when oarsmen were painted in after the fact.[122] Unlike the Illustrated London News, the Graphic, or other Victorian journals, Vanity Fair never published any etchings or other renderings of rowing, though it did carry a photograph in 1908 of Leander beating the Belgians in the London Olympics. Nevertheless, under Woodgate’s pen, Vanity Fair gave no quarter to the inaccuracies in other journals’ pictures:

Vanity Fair(July 16, 1896)

The river cripple, who abounds at Henley, may generally be known by his attire: a starched shirt, a high collar, tie in a bow -- worn while rowing -- flannels, and a belt. The latter seems de rigeur with these creatures, and is their trade-mark. Needless to mention, no Rowing Club man uses a belt, and, moreover, when seated at oars or sculls, loosens his waistband or buttons to allow free swing to his body. A picture in The Daily Graphic depicting the “Grand” final is very true to life as regards Henley bounders, starched and belted. It is apparently taken from a photo of some scene on the course, and the racing crews afterwards inserted by hand. The eights are impossible, and never were in a photo; but the men in small boats and ashore are perfect samples of Henley louts. There is just one Rowing Club man in the distance, in workmanlike costume; all the rest look as if just off the shop-board.

Vanity Fair (July 11, 1906)

Talking of Henley, I trust I am not supercritical if I reason gently with Mr. Matania, whose picture appeared last week in the Sphere. He represents two “fours” with coxswains. Four-oar boats at Henley are steered by the foot of one of the crew, and not by coxswains. There was an exception this year in a sporting military match, Sappers v. Gunners; but this was in Thursday, and Mr. Matania depicts Tuesday.

Again, the launch following the crews is represented as a crowded pleasure steamer with a cabin. The long, low racing launch, on which the umpire and one or two friends stand, is not thus fitted. A punt with large fixed wooden rowlocks is an unusual innovation. That there were no pleasure craft whatever on the towpath side when the race took place is strange; and where are the posts and booms?

References edit

  1. ^ R. Burch, Colour Printing and Colour Printers, p. 211, reprinted in E. Harris & R. Ormond, Vanity Fair: An Exhibition of Original Cartoons, p. 7.
  2. ^ B. Denvir, “The Loaded Image,” Art & Artists (Sept. 1976), pp. 36-37.
  3. ^ Beauty and the Boats: Art & Artistry in Early British Rowing - illustrated from the Thomas E. Weil Collection (2005), pp. 46-47.
  4. ^ W.B. Woodgate, “Aquatic Recollections,” in British Sports and Sportsmen: Yachting and Rowing p. 340. See also G. Winter, “Rowing Prints for the Collector,” Apollo (April 1937), pp. 187-88.

Barnard Lord

Lord Barnard (Henry de Vere Vane) edit

“Raby Castle” (GAF), December 15, 1898 edit


Henry de Vere Vane, ninth Baron Barnard, of Barnard Castle in the Bishopric of Durham, B.A., Barrister, Deputy-Lieutenant of County Durham, Justice of the Peace, and a County Councillor, is forty-five years old, the husband of the third Marquis of Exeter's third daughter, and the father of three sons. He succeeded to the Barony seven years ago, on the death of his kinsman, the fourth Duke of Cleveland and Baron Barnard: when all the Duke's other styles and honours became extinct. His family is of Welsh extraction and quite ancient; for, according to history, one Sir Henry Vane was knighted for his valiant achievements at the Battle of Poictiers [sic]. He lives in the historic Raby Castle; which was formerly the seat of the great Nevill family, Earls of Westmorland; and the rest of the doings and achievements of his house may be discovered by the diligent in four columns of Burke.

He was an Eton boy (in "Badger" Hale's House), a Wet Bob, and a B.N.C. man; he has been a Militiaman and Private Secretary to the Chief Commissioner in Charity, and he now interests himself in Politics, Education, Freemasonry, and Sport. His amateurish hobbies include books, pictures, antiquities, and genealogies. He has been outside a horse; but he is more at home on foot with a gun. He is an unaffected person who regards himself as an average Englishman; but he is generally liked, over a big agricultural property which extends into several counties, as a man of great kindness.

He sometimes attends the House of Lords when he is in town.

Henry de Vere Vane (1854-1918) rowed bow for Brasenose College, Oxford in the 1874 Visitors’, losing to University College with J.E. Bankes.

Bankes JE

Bankes, John Eldon edit

“Good Form” (Spy), March 29, 1906 edit


Mr. John Eldon Bankes is, like Mr. Roosevelt, an advocate of the strenuous life. For an Eton boy he was singularly unassuming; and, when the aquatic honour of rowing for his school in the Henley of ‘72 was bestowed upon him, Johnny still preserved his modesty of demeanor. The same year found him at “Univ.,” and in 1875 he was given a place in the Oxford crew that rowed a winning race against their rival University. He was secretary to the O.U.B.C. and president of the Eton Club and Vincents.

His paternal great-grandfather having been a Lord Chancellor, and his maternal grandfather a Lord Chief Justice, he was forced by heredity into the law. Entering the Inner Temple, he was a pupil of the present Lord Chief Justice. His legal career has been smooth and triumphant. He took silk with a diffidence that was not appropriate to the occasion. His practice is very large, and he has not an enemy to grudge him his good fortune. His recent appointment to be a Fellow of Eton College gave equal pleasure to his old schoolfellows and to himself.

Had the women and children of the Flintshire boroughs been voters, Mr. Bankes would now have enjoyed the questionable honour -- in this Parliament, at least -- of writing M.P. after his name. But the effervescence of his opponent overbore the logic of his speeches. He married in ‘82, and has been blessed with a quiverful. He is loved as a landlord, and his pheasants are as lofty as any in Wales. He conducts his cases like a courteous gentleman, and is a standard of legal good form. His charming manners and handsome face will adorn the Bench no less admirably than they have ornamented the Bar.

Aside from the Eton and Boat Race rowing mentioned above, John Eldon Bankes (1854-1946) won the Visitors’ at Henley for University College, Oxford in 1875 and 1876, and rowed in the Stewards’ (1875, for University College) and the Grand (1876, for the “Oxford Mixture” of Brasenose and University). At Oxford, he was head of the river in 1874 and 1875, and won the University Fours in 1873 and 1875.

After his unsuccessful run for Parliament in 1905, Bankes practised law another five years before being appointed to the High Court in 1910 where, according to his Times obituary, he proved “patient, unprejudiced, and, moreover, knew the rules of the game.” He moved to the Court of Appeal in 1915, retiring in 1927. “There have been more learned Judges, but few, if any, have won such universal admiration and respect.”[123]

Henley Society and House Boats edit

From the early 1870s through the late 1880s, Vanity Fair reported virtually no rowing. Woodgate was off the case. Only Henley attracted notice, and then purely for its social appeal, which had risen steadily and made the place the late-June destination for luxurious house-boats that would moor alongside the course during regatta week. “At first the house-boat was a floating structure of small proportions and humble pretensions -- the home of some artist or some devoted lover of the Thames who had become tired of camping out,” recalled an anonymous journalist. “But the possibilities of the thing were soon gauged by those to whom money was not very much of an object.”[124]

Vanity Fair, July 12, 1884:

Henley Regatta, c. 1895

Henley Regatta was a great success this year. Seldom has there been finer weather for this most important gathering of oarsmen, and the crowds that came up from all parts were unprecedented. The limpid stream was simply alive with craft of every kind and description, and the blaze of colours all adown the silver reach was dazzling. House-boats, barges, steamers, and little launches lay moored in happy mixture along the Bucks shore, rivalling in their brilliancy the gay panorama that stretched away on the Berkshire meadows opposite. The Isthmian Club was enormously patronised, and certainly presented a most inviting appearance. Here lunch went on all day; and cosy little parties wandered about the enclosure, listening to the beautiful strains of the Hungarian Band, or resting themselves under the shady trees of Phyllis Court, whence a splendid view of the racing could be obtained. Coaches thronged the bridge far up the reach, and the scene was altogether beautiful.

June 30, 1888:

Renoir, "The Luncheon of the Boating Party," 1881

I am glad to see that Henley Regatta will once more spread over the three days. From the number of house-boats that are daily being towed up river, I should imagine that the fixture will be a very brilliant one. All the crews in training will be located in the town by Monday, when the usual pretty spectacle will begin. From my own point of view, I always think that the two days preceding the Regatta are more enjoyable than the actual festivities. There is then a spirit of laissez-faire amongst those who do not contend for the medals, and the quaint old town, made gay with a hundred pretty flags and a hundred bright coats, has an indescribably soothing charm. In the evening, too, one may float down steam in a canoe or punt, watching the many coloured lamps darting and glinting upon the lapping wavelets, and listening to the subdued music from the house-boats. The whole thing is original, and contrasts well with the noisy bellowings of blackened rascals and the ceaseless echo of the cork which mark the Regatta itself.

. . . .

Some of the house-boats this year are singularly gorgeous. The Dolce-far-niente is a bank of flowers, and the Happy Land a bower of roses. Life on these boats has its advantages in capitals during the Regatta Week.

The Leander Club is again quartered upon Temple Island, and the Isthmians will repeat all their games in the meadow to the music of the Red Hungarian.

In addition to the special day trains to be run from Paddington each morning of the Regatta, the G.W.R. have made arrangements for the issue of special Regatta tickets, available for the three days, as well as the day tickets available for both Henley and Marlow Regattas. Marlow Regatta, as usual, follows Henley, being dated for the 7th, 8th, and 9th July.

References edit

  1. ^ The Times, Jan. 2, 1947, p. 6d.
  2. ^ A Journalist, Bohemian Days in Fleet Street, p. 289.

Eaton HF

Eaton, Herbert Francis edit

“Brown” (Spy), October 31, 1891 edit


Henry William Eaton, who made money in the silk trade, helped to manage Insurance Companies and to legislate at the bidding of Coventry, and dabbled in Geography and Horticulture, became the first Lord Cheylesmore in the fiftieth year of his Queen’s reign. He also had three sons, of whom the third, born nearly four-and-forty years ago, and named Herbert Francis, went to Eton to be re-named “Cheeky Eaton.” At twenty he joined the Grenadiers, and, going to Dublin, was by his brother officers called “Brown” -- a name by which he has been known ever since. Being a good soldier, an industrious fellow, and quite enthusiastic in all that he does, he attained his Colonelcy and became a Peer’s son in the same year; and he is now in command of that 2nd Battalion of the Grenadier Guards which he has just brought back from a well-deserved, if enforced, holiday in Bermuda.

He is a good all-round sportsman who drives his father’s team well; but though a fair shot, he is sometimes a little too eager to get birds. He has thrown himself heart and soul into most things connected with the Brigade; and the Boat Club and Racing Club would miss him as much as he would be missed from an Ascot luncheon. He has commanded the N.R.A. camp at Wimbledon and Bisley for seven years; yet withal he has found time to start and successfully edit The Brigade of Guards Magazine. He is a very good and very popular Colonel.

He had a narrow escape from degenerating into a politician four years ago, when he was only saved from becoming a Tory Member of Parliament by sixteen gallant Coventry voters.

“Arms and Sport” (Ray), July 17, 1912 edit


Born some sixty years ago, he has spent more than half of his life soldiering. Did most of it in the “Grannies,” and was made major-general in 1899.

Always a rare man in the Army to “organise and organise and organise,” and left his mark on the Tournament when things were none too bright in that quarter.

Since retiring has found “employment on return to civil life” -- fine old official phrase that! -- in helping along all sorts of deserving institutions, among others the L.C.C., of which he is now chairman.

Does it all just as easily as he handles the ribbons when driving his team of bays at a meet of the Four-in-Hand Club.

Collects medals -- well-won war ones -- and has about the finest “aggregate” ever put in cases.

Also boats -- these he does not collect -- but uses to row in.

Shoots anything -- has done so since he had a pop for Eton in the Ashburton in 1866.

Has shot for the House of Lords since 1906, and would have shot for the Commons if he had not scored an “outer” at Coventry election in 1887.

E.B. Gibson's Grand Challenge Cup medal, 1856

Known to his intimates as “Brown,” he is never happier than when the boys have their week at Bisley, and he can devote a portion of his well-earned holidays to “teaching the young idea to shoot.”

Loves rifle shooting as much as marksmen like him -- which is indeed saying a very great deal.

Has done more to advance the “nation of marksmen” ideal than any other nobleman in the country.

Makes a very neat and nippy after-dinner speech -- always keeping his “few words” well on the target.

A man of infinite capacity and charming personality, whose sterling qualities of head and heart have made him many friends and never an enemy.

Herbert Francis Eaton (1848-1925) won the Eton House Fours in 1866 at bow for Mr. Warre’s house, and rowed for the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards in the 1877 Grand.

He first appeared in Vanity Fair as commander of the 2nd Battalion, which he had “just brought back from a well-deserved, if enforced, holiday in Bermuda.” As some curious punishment, the entire battalion had been sent to that terrible place for a year following “an act of insubordination.”

Following his 1912 appearance, Eaton (who had by then inherited the baronetcy from his brother) returned to the military during the 1914-18 war to preside over courts martial in espionage and other cases. He died in 1925 of injuries received in a motor accident, the first Vanity Fair rower to meet his end in that modern fashion.

Oarsmen at War edit

Of the fifty-nine rowers of Vanity Fair, seventeen served in the armed forces in wartime: two in the Sudan (Compton and Grenfell (as a journalist)), four in the South African war (Chapman, Compton, McLean, and Fletcher), and fourteen in the 1914-18 war (Lord Ampthill, Bourne, Chapman, Crum, Dudley-Ward, Eaton, Fletcher, Fogg-Elliot, Gold, Guinness, Nickalls, W.F.D. Smith, Stuart, and Swann). In his autobiography, The Sunlit Hours, T.A. Cook recalled W.A.L. Fletcher in South Africa:

When the South African War broke out, at a period when many of us at home were without sufficient information to understand the many surrenders which were taking place, we were all suddenly cheered up by news of Lieutenant Fletcher at Hamelfontein. On December 17 he was in command of twenty men of the 32nd Company Imperial Yeomanry (Lancashire Hussars), two of Nesbitt’s Horse, and nine Grenadier Guardsmen, a miscellaneous force responsible for the safety of a valuable depot of rations about twenty miles from Colesberg. The patrol he sent out very early in the morning never came back. At half-past ten the Boers made a strong attack, when Fletcher was half a mile away from camp. He ran back, rushed the men to their stations, sent off reinforcements to an outlying picket, and galloped off to them himself some hundred yards under fire. Luckily he never got there, for when his horse had been shot under him he reached a small kopje in time to see them smothered by the enemy’s advance and a man captured who had run to their assistance. One of the men he had left was wounded, but Fletcher disposed his twenty-three rifles to repel the attack. Another named Stevenson volunteered to run the gauntlet and get help. He raced pluckily through the zone of fire only to ride straight into the Boer reinforcements, which now began to come up and close in upon every commanding kopje round the little camp.

1927 monument by Luytens, Victoria Embankment Gardens, London WC2

By slow degrees Fletcher and his twenty-two men, reduced gradually to only sixteen, were driven back from their outlying kopjes to the sluits, and from the sluits to the irrigation ditches. The enemy had gradually increased to between 200 and 250, and twice they sent in to demand surrender, mentioning something about cannon the second time. Fletcher refused; and all his men stood by him though the foe had got to within 15 yd., and a rush was momentarily expected. But it never came. For eleven and a half hours the fight went on. At last each man took a room to himself, barricaded every door, and waited at the window with fixed bayonets. A desperate and heavy rowing-man at a window with a bayonet is not a pleasant thing to face, and the enemy preferred the cover of the sluits and bushes. At last the Boers sent in to ask if a couple of their wounded would be admitted. Fletcher took them in, but their hurts were mortal. By the morning the discouraged enemy had disappeared, carrying off the rest of their wounded and leaving two dead upon the field.

“They could not last the course,” he wrote home to Sir John Edwards-Moss in England.

References edit

  1. ^ Dictionary of National Biography.
  2. ^ T.A. Cook, The Sunlit Hours, pp. __.

Fuller-Acland-Hood A

Fuller-Acland-Hood, Alexander (Baron St. Audries) edit

“First Conservative Whip” (Spy), November 26, 1903 edit


Born at St. Andrews in 1853, he succeeded his father as fourth Baronet ten years ago, after having gone through Eton, Balliol, and Sandhurst with credit, having served with the Grenadier Guards in Egypt, and having been A.D.C. to the Governor of Victoria. As a Baronet he retired from the Army, became M.P. for West Somerset, and Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury; for he is the head of a good old Somersetshire family whose father and grandfather represented the country before him. He is also Vice-Chamberlain to His Majesty and First Whip of the Conservative Party.

He can speak to the point, he is a very cheerful, good fellow, and he believes in the future of the Conservative Party.

Alexander Fuller-Acland-Hood (1853-1917) rowed No. 6 for the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards in the Grand in 1877 with H.F. Eaton and Alwyne Frederick Compton.

Compton AF

Compton, Alwyne Frederick edit

“North Bedfordshire” (Spy), April 3, 1902 edit


Born in the year of the Crimean War, he is naturally warlike; as he has shown in the Bedfordshire Yeomanry (of which he is Major) and in the House of Commons (to which he was returned by the Biggleswadians of Bedfordshire some years ago). For he has served with Compton’s Horse in South Africa, and has earned Mention in Despatches in spite of the fact that he is the third son of the fourth Marquess of Northampton. Naturally, of course, he joined the Foot Guards when he left Eton; and thence he migrated to the 10th Hussars and served in the Soudan Campaign of 1884-5 (when he got a Medal and a Star). As a wholesome Unionist, he began his political life by turning out the great G.W.R. (author of “Chestnuts”) from the representation of the Biggleswade onions [sic]; but between whiles he turned his sword into a Stock Exchange Year-Book, and still pervades Capel Court when not legislating for Bedfordshire. It is true that he does not often address Mr. Speaker, but, being goaded into action by the Leader of the House on the Vote of Censure, he lately read an edifying speech to the alleged Leader of the Opposition. He occasionally attends the Service Members’ Committee, though he is not always in time for Prayers; he cultivates a malmaison in his buttonhole, and he is the husband of a sportsman’s daughter.

Alwyne Frederick Compton (1855-1911) rowed in the Trial Eights at Eton with J.E. Bankes in 1872. In 1877, he rowed No. 3 for the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards in the Grand with H.F. Eaton and Alexander Fuller-Acland-Hood.

He lost his Parliamentary seat in 1906 but was returned in 1910 for the Brentford Division of Middlesex, only to resign a short time later for ill health.

Vincent E

Vincent, Edgar (Viscount D’Abernon) edit

“Eastern Finance” (Spy), April 20, 1899 edit


A parson and the eleventh Baronet of his family became his father two-and-forty years ago: and when he had done those things which he ought (or ought not) to have done at Eton -- among others passing head as a Student Dragoman and not taking up the appointment -- he joined the Coldstream Guards. After five years of service he became Secretary to Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice, Queen’s Commissioner on the East Roumelian Question; and so began his real acquaintance with the East. He got on; and after being a Commissioner for the Evacuation of Thessaly, President of the Council of the Ottoman Public Debt and Financial Adviser to the Egyptian Government, he was made Governor of the Imperial Ottoman Bank. He holds various Turkish Orders; he has been guilty of “A Grammar of Modern Greek” which now plagues the members of the Athenian University; he likes yachting; he cycles, and he can play billiards. He left Eton with the manuscript of his Greek Grammar; and consequently he left the Service with the name of “Sophos”: which still sticks to him. Nevertheless, he escaped through the roof of the Ottoman Bank during the great massacre. He has a unique tennis court of his own at Esher.

He is the husband of one of the most beautiful women yet born.

Edgar Vincent (1857-1941) rowed no. 5 for Eton in the 1874 Grand and Ladies’.

Lord Kinross, historian of the Ottoman empire, recounted the escape through the roof of the bank as follows, in the context of rising Turkish-Armenian tensions:

In August 1896, the succession of Armenian massacres culminated in Istanbul itself. Once again, as in the previous year, the Turkish authorities were presented with a pretext for action by an Armenian revolutionary group. A small body of Dashnaks was so bold as to enter the Ottoman Bank, the stronghold of European capitalist enterprise, during the lunch hour, for the ostensible purpose of changing money. Porters accompanying them carried sacks which contained, so they pretended, gold and silver coinage. Then at the blast of a whistle twenty-five armed men followed them into the bank, firing their guns and revealing that the sacks in fact were filled with bombs, ammunition, and dynamite. They declared that they wee not bank robbers but Armenian patriots, and that the motive of their action was to bring their grievances, which they specified in two documents, to the attention of the six European embassies, putting forward demands for political reform and declaring that, in the absence of foreign intervention within forty-eight hours, they would "shrink from no sacrifice" and blow up the bank.

Meanwhile, its chief director, Sir Edgar Vincent, had prudently escaped through a skylight into an adjoining building. While his colleagues were held as hostages, he thence proceeded to the Sublime Porte [i.e. the Turkish authorities]. Here he ensured that no police attack should be made on the Dashnaks while they remained in the bank. Thus he secured for them permission to negotiate. The negotiator was the First Dragoman of the Russian embassy, who after gaining fro them a free pardon from the Sultan and permission to leave the contry, addressed them at length and with some eloquence. Finally, with assurances of talks to come, he persuaded them to leave the bank. Retaining their arms but relinquishing their bombs, they proceeded quietly on board Sir Edgar Vincent's yacht, later to be conveyed into exile in France.[125]

Shortly after his appearance in Vanity Fair, Vincent went to Parliament as a Conservative. He was defeated in 1906 and again in 1910, ending an electoral career “for which indeed he was not well fitted for his rapidity of perception made him see every side of a question and stood in the way of a wholehearted accpetance of general principles.”[126] From 1912-17 he served as chairman of the Royal Commission on imperial trade, and during the war as chairman of the Central Control Board, where he imposed heavy taxation on alcohol. In 1920 Lloyd George appointed him ambassador to Germany in recognition, in Lord Curzon’s words, that the post at that delicate time required “a close familiarity with economic and financial subjects and wide experience in dealing on friendly terms with various classes of men.” During six stressful years in Berlin, Baron D’Abernon -- he was made a peer in 1914 -- dealt with reparations, disarmament, occupation of German territory, French security, and the attempted formation of a new European order, culminating in the 1926 Treaty of Locarno that admitted Germany to the League of Nations. On return to England, he was made Viscount and spent several years as head or director of varied agencies, organizations, and philanthropies such as the National and Tate Galleries, the Lawn Tennis Association, the Race Course Betting Control Board, the Medical Research Council, the National Institute of Industrial Psychology, and the Royal Mint Advisory Committee.

The “most beautiful woman yet born”? It was Lady Helen Venetia Duncombe, his wife for fifty-one years, daughter of the first Earl of Feversham.

To a Henley Minstrel edit

The banjo “was quite tolerable when heard across the water,” recalled Max Pemberton of 1880s Henley, though by 1936 when he published his autobiography “[t]he gramophone has squashed the itinerant musician and the casual ballad-monger has dust in his mouth.” But such uninvited songsters were still thriving in 1904, when Vanity Fair (July 14, 1904) offered these anonymous lines:

"Henley Aquatic Carnival," Punch, July 6, 1889 (minstrel at center bottom)
(After Swinburne.)
Black bawler of blithering ballads,
Swart (soi-disant) son of the States,
Why poison our lobsters and salads,
Turn the strawberry sour on our plates?
Why make heavenly Henley the target
Of the song (save the mark!) that you shout?
Why on earth don’t you go down to Margate?
Get out!

When we’re prone in a punt on the river
Or coiled in a cosy canoe,
The sweet summer stillness you shiver,
You cork-burning criminal, you!
If my bank-balance bulged to a billion,
Not one small, single sou would I give
For the songs which you steal from Pavilion
And Tiv.

Dark dealer in drivelling ditties,
Devoid both of tune and of sense,
In which not a shadow of wit is,
Think well ere you plague me for pence:
I’m not one who sticks at a trifle;
I know neither pity nor fear,
And to Henley I’m taking my rifle
Next year.

References edit

  1. ^ Lord Kinross, The Ottoman Centuries: The Rise and Fall of the Turkish Empire, p. 561.
  2. ^ Dictionary of National Biography.

Angle BJ

Angle, Bernard Jack edit

“Jack in the Box” (F.C.G.), April 5, 1890 edit


It is only five-and-thirty years -- not five-and-forty, as most people believe -- since he was born at Hendon, where he rapidly developed much muscle and waxed exceedingly. Before he was eighteen years old he became quite well known in the athletic world. He rowed his first race on the River Lea eighteen years ago, and he has since won the Thames Cup and the Grand Challenge for the Thames Rowing Club; he devoted a space to running, and won pots at the London Athletic Club and at other meetings; and he became, and for long remained, a force among Rugby Unionists, and, playing for the Wasps’ Football team, used to throw opposing footballers about as a child throws tin soldiers. But having now become a popular member of the Stock Exchange and altogether a big man, he has put away childish things and has grown grey and staid. Yet he is still identified with every branch of athletic exercise, and much honoured in the observance thereof.

He has boxed many people with vigour, and is still quite a hard man to mark. And though he is now more bulky and less easily moved than he was, yet, being an honourable man, he is everywhere accepted as the fairest and best possible judge of other people’s performances with their fists. Consequently he is generally wanted when there is any sparring to be done. A practised swordsman, he is otherwise extremely well able to take care of himself, as frequenters of Angelo’s -- where he is often seen to illustrate the uses of both the small sword and the sabre -- well know. He is something of a seaman, for he holds a Board of Trade certificate of competency; and he has been a prominent member of the Corinthian Yacht Club. He has been seen with a gun; but he does not always hold it straight when it goes off.

Everyone likes “Jack,” in the box or out of it.

Bernard Jack Angle (1855-1932) rowed for the Thames R.C. at Henley from 1874 to 1878, winning the Thames Challenge Cup 1874 and the Grand in 1878. The 1878 crew was “one of the lightest and worst crews (as regards rowing form) that ever rowed for the Grand,” recalled “Piggy” Eyre, one of its members. “Angle was enormously strong, but muscle-bound, and inclined to pull with his arms at the finish, and too stiff altogether. He, however, really came on wonderfully during the Henley week, and, I do not doubt, was most effective in the race.”[127]

By the time Angle appeared in Vanity Fair, he had set down his oars and become a well-known boxing referee at the National Sporting Club, a sport for which the Thames R.C. and F.V. Brooks’ West London R.C. were known in their day. Angle and two non-rowing lights of the N.S.C. “were men of dress and address -- what used to be called ‘swells,’ in fact.”[128] For the transition from oarsman to referee, Angle owed something to Bill East, who won Doggett’s Coat and Badge in 1887 and the professional championship of England in 1891, rowed with C.W. Dilke and Rupert Guinness, and became the Thames R.C. boatman. East shared in Angle’s first fight under Prize Ring rules. “It was between two cabmen for a small stake,” Angle wrote, “and took place by moonlight on the Half Moon Ground, Putney. It was really good until a sudden interruption by the police caused a hurried retreat over a fence, which landed me in a pigsty, necessitating a plunge into the river, all standing.” A co-founder in 1881 of the Amateur Boxing Association, Angle by his own account refereed “the majority of the big fistic encounters decided in this country during a period of nearly forty years,”[129] as well as the 106-round Paris match between Jem Smith and Jake Kilrain on December 19, 1887, without ever entering the ring to control a fight. Not surprisingly then, Angle’s autobiography (“the story of fifty-five years of active association with manly games”) devotes almost 200 of its 250 pages to the sweet science: “There is nothing that men of British blood love and admire so much as hard, straight, clean hitting above the belt. It was by this means we taught the world to respect us.... [W]e punch and punish just as lustily and just as heartily as ever we did. That is one of the many revelations made by the War that we ought to be thankful for.”^

Gardeners and clerics take note: Francis Carruthers Gould, Vanity Fair’s artist, could hardly resist the visual puns of adorning Mr. Angle’s lapel with Arisaema triphyllum -- Jack in the Pulpit, with the man himself at the center of the flower -- and of having him stand at a religious lectern.

Henley 1878: Thames R.C. in the Grand edit

In the 1878 final for the Grand, Thames faced off against a Jesus crew averaging a stone heavier and loaded with past and future Blues. “The general opinion among the cognoscenti,“ Angle recalled, was that “Thames, despite their splendid condition, had not the weight or power necessary to give them any chance of victory.”^ From B.J.’s angle, the race went thus:

Henley Regatta by Tissot, 1877

At the word “Go!” both crews got off on level terms, Jesus starting forty-two to our forty-four, but the great strength of the Cantabs soon began to tell its tale, and they gradually drew away from the lighter Thames crew. By the time Fawley was reached they had a lead of nearly a length, Thames still rowing forty-four, but directly Prest dropped his rate of stroke Thames began to come up, and he again had to quicken. His crew, however, were now plainly to feel the effects of the rapid stroke, and at the White House Thames came up, and before Poplar Point was reached had drawn ahead, and were leaving their opponents at every stroke. We continued to gain all round the bend, and were a quarter of a length clear when coming into the straight for home.

Prest now called on his men for a final effort, and a grand one it was. It really looked as if we might be beaten after all, but again our condition told its tale, and Hastie, still keeping his length without reducing his rate of stroke, stalled off the Jesus spurt, and amid a tornado of tideway cheers, drew clear away from the plucky Cantabs, to win by a good two lengths.

It is needless to say both crews finished in rather ragged form, Thames being the worse in this respect. As we passed under Henley Bridge an enthusiastic Thames man, who had only just arrived and was running over the bridge, caught a glimpse of us as we passed under, rowing in anything but good form. He took it for granted that we had been beaten. On rushing down to the landing-stage to utter words of sympathy and comfort, it is painful to relate that Hastie cut his commiseration short by telling him not to be such a past participled fool as not to know a winning crew from a losing one.^

References edit

  1. ^ “Piggy” Eyre, quoted in R.C. Lehmann, The Complete Oarsman, p. 198.
  2. ^ A Journalist, Bohemian Days in Fleet Street, p. 282.
  3. ^ B.J. Angle, My Sporting Memories, p. 11.
  4. ^ Ibid., pp. 11-12.
  5. ^ Ibid., p. 217.
  6. ^ Ibid., pp. 220-21.

Grenfell WH

Grenfell, William Henry (Lord Desborough) edit

“Taplow Court” (Spy), December 20, 1890 edit


Born five-and-thirty years ago of a family of traditional Liberals, he soon showed himself the sturdy child who has since developed into the record-breaking athlete in whom matter has not, as usual, triumphed over mind. His life has been a compendium of athleticism varied with classical learning and political fighting. He began as proxime accessit for the entrance Scholarship at Harrow, where he won the Mile, and played twice in the Eleven against Eton. As a Balliol man, he ran three miles against Cambridge; helped to row a dead heat against Cambridge when only a broken oar saved the Light Blue crew from that beating which he easily helped to give them in the following year; and was made President of the University Athletic Club, and of the University Boat Club. He also hunted the Draghounds. Yet in spite of all this hard work he contrived to take a second-class in Moderations, which is an Honour Examination devoted to Classical Scholarship, and only failed to score more honour in “Greats” because he was temporarily disabled by illness. He has moreover thrice climbed the Matterhorn among many other mountains; he has twice swum Niagara; he has rowed across the English Channel in a clinker-built eight; he has sculled from Oxford to London in a day; he has made a couple of expeditions to the Rocky Mountains; and he has thrice been declared Punting Champion of the Thames.

Yet he has found time for other pursuits. He has been Private Secretary to a Chancellor of the Exchequer; he has been twice elected Member for Salisbury; and five years ago he saw fighting as special correspondent for the Daily Telegraph at Suakin. But three years back he settled down as the husband of a charming lady, and he now seems more or less contented in the hunting of the Harriers which originally belonged to the Prince Consort.

He is a Justice of the Peace for two counties, and Deputy-Lieutenant for the Tower Hamlets. He has two boys who promise to be worthy sons of their father. He is a good, strong fellow off whom no one is known to have scored save certain unknown burglars at Taplow Court; whom he has never been able to meet.

Grenfell in a racing punt, c. 1895

William Henry Grenfell (1855-1945) rowed for Oxford in the 1877 and 1878 Boat Races and in 1881, while a Liberal M.P. for Salisbury, rowed for Leander in the Grand. When Vanity Fair featured him in 1890 in riding garb, his competitive rowing years were over but he continued to fence, hunt, fish, and ride, altogether “show[ing] a versatility unmatched by any of his contemporaries.”[130] He had a cameo in Vanity Fair’s 1896 summer number by Hal Hurst, “Cycling in Hyde Park.” In 1906 (at age forty-three) Grenfell was a member of the English épée team at the Athens Intercalated Games, and by age sixty-four had bagged about 850 stags, a good number on behalf of “the Venison Committee” during the 1914-18 war. Before the war he coached a number of Oxford crews and hosted them at his house near Henley, Taplow Court.

Grenfell’s dual presidency of the O.U.B.C. and O.U.A.C. foreshadowed a lifetime of such stints at the head of sporting organizations, including the Amateur Fencing Association, Henley Regatta (steward), Lawn Tennis Association, the Marylebone Cricket Club, and the 1908 London Olympics. He rose to the top outside of sport as well, serving as president or chairman at various times of the London Chamber of Commerce, the Royal Agricultural Society, and the Thames Conservancy (of which he was chairman for thirty-two years), as well as various local government posts and any number of ad hoc committees from local to international. His obituarist concluded: “With his union of social gifts, personal charm, and administrative ability, he was known as a man who could get things done, and at one time he was actually serving on 115 committees. The multiplicity of his interests was indeed only matched by his industry and sense of duty.”[131]

Grenfell was made Baron Desborough in 1905 but the peerage became extinct in 1926 on the death of his third son in a motor accident, the older two having been killed in action in 1915.

The 1877 Boat Race: The Dead Heat edit

In 1877 Oxford led after Barnes Bridge but stalled when their bow cracked his oar and foundered. Cambridge caught up and the finish judge, who had no posts to mark the line, declared the result a dead heat, the only one on record. Vanity Fair did not report on the Boat Race that year but R.C. Lehmann recalled it as follows:

The 1877 Boat Race at the finish

[Cambridge] had great trouble with regard to their boat. The craft that Swaddell and Winship built for them was too small, and was, moreover, so heavily cambered that she failed to maintain her course in a beam wind. On the morning of the race they attached a false keel to the stern half of their boat, but failed to add a corresponding piece to her rudder. Notwithstanding this device, their boat began, as soon as they got into the rough water above Hammersmith Bridge in the race, to pay off into the wind. While the Oxford boat was keeping a straight course, I saw Davis, the Cambridge coxswain, continually using his right hand rudder line, while his boat moved sideways as a St. Bernard dog does when he is running. At Barnes Bridge, Oxford had cleared their rivals and seemed certain of victory. Just beyond Barnes there was heavy swell caused by a tug or a launch that had just passed up the course. Suddenly we, who were on the steamer behind, perceived that Cowles, the Oxford bowman, was in trouble; he had apparently caught a crab, and his oar seemed to be damaged, for he did not use it for several strokes, and then, instead of rowing properly, he appeared to flap it about in the water and only occasionally attempted to row a stroke with it. Cambridge were rowing the Surrey station, that is on the outside of the last bend. They spurted with extraordinary pluck and determination at this point and began to gain rapidly on the leaders. Up and up they came, and at the end of the race it was impossible for any one behind to say which crew had won. The judge of the finish was an old waterman named John Phelps, “Honest” John Phelps, as he was always called. He was stationed in a moored boat at the finish, but there were then no posts on either bank by which he could take his line. He had to judge this as best he could. In the following year, the two Presidents had finishing posts fixed and there they remain to this day. After the race was over nobody know which crew had won. The Umpire, Mr. Justice Chitty, was waiting on the Umpire’s steamer, but as Phelps did not come aboard he had to hurry back to his duties in London, leaving word, that Phelps was to come and see him later on in his Court. When Phelps arrived there, he was immediately questioned as to the result of the race. For answer he placed the two palms of his hands together, and, moving them slightly backwards and forwards, said, “They were going like this, sir; I couldn’t separate them.” The result of the race, therefore, was given as a dead heat. Mr. Justice Chitty, himself, told me this part of the story some years afterwards.[132]

Phelps was in Robert Coombes’ four that beat Harry Clasper in the 1845 Thames Regatta. The 1877 race was his last to judge, and no waterman was ever permitted to do it again. Finish posts were installed for all future races.[133]

References edit

  1. ^ The Times, Jan. 10, 1945, p. 6e.
  2. ^ Ibid.
  3. ^ R.C. Lehmann, The Complete Oarsman, pp. 224-25.
  4. ^ T. Cook, Rowing at Henley, p. 93; N. Wigglesworth, The Social History of English Rowing, p. 122.

Lehmann RC

Lehmann, Rudolf Chambers edit

“Rudy” (Spy), January 17, 1895 edit


He got his second name through his mother, the daughter of Robert Chambers, eight-and-thirty years ago; and as both his father and his mother knew Dickens, George Eliot, Browning, and a host of other such famous writers, it is natural that he should himself be an author. But he is more. From school he went to Cambridge; and having been athletically inclined since he first ran laps round the nursery table, he became First Boat Captain of First Trinity. Having just missed his “Blue,” he left Cambridge and was presently converted into an excellent coach; than whom none is better known on the towpath to this day. He has coached half-a-dozen ‘Varsity Eights, being in as much request with Oxford as with Cambridge, and always ready to do his best for either. He was last year Captain of Leander; he is Secretary of the Amateur Rowing Association; and he is only less well-known at Henley than he is at Bourne End, where he has built for himself and his friends a comfortable house, which he calls Fieldhead. He has also won trophies with his legs, with his wrists, and with his fists. At an athletic meeting of the Middlesex Yeomanry he won the hundred yards, the quarter-mile, the hurdles, and the cricket ball throw right off; he has gained a prize for regimental swordsmanship; and he was middle and heavy weight boxing champion at Cambridge. He also owns and edits The Granta, wherewith he has succeeded in showing that a University paper may be made to pay; and besides all these athletic attainments he is a good shot who has taught much in his “Conversational Hints to Young Shooters.” Half-a-dozen years back he was asked to join the staff of Punch, and did so; in spite of which he is a merry fellow who can really write funny stuff in the way of bright parody and clever burlesque.

He is an all-round sportsman whose house is full of prizes, trophies, medals, presents, and mementoes: in all of which he takes a proper pride. Politically, he is a wicked, ambitious Liberal, who once dared to stand for Cambridge University when he might have been returned for East Hull; but this may be only another sign of the keen sense of humour that is in him. He is a Justice of the Peace for Bucks; a wholesome, sound, fellow whom everyone likes; and an excellent host, who is always ready to help a friend.

He loves dogs.

Rudolf Chambers Lehmann (1856-1929) fared worse at Henley than any other rower of Vanity Fair who competed there: he finished last in every heat he entered, from the 1877 Visitors’ to the 1888 Wyfolds. Yet it is not for this record that he is best remembered in rowing, but as coach and author. From 1891 to 1903 he focused on Oxford and Cambridge, generally as a finishing coach for one or the other but in 1892 for both. He also coached at various times Leander, Harvard, Trinity College Dublin, and the Berlin Rowing Club. “It was characteristic of him that he gave his valued services to two countries, three universities, and several colleges besides his own; he was not only a fine coach but a great oarsman, and his high ideals in both respects has had lasting influence on the standard and spirit of international, as well as intercollegiate, rowing.”[134] As an author, Lehmann became the “Poet Laureate of rowing”[135] with verse and reminiscences that appeared most often in Granta and Punch. His prose included Rowing (1897, for the Isthmian Library) and The Complete Oarsman (1908).

Outside of rowing, Lehmann kept to the broad trajectory outlined in Vanity Fair’s 1895 biography. He came into Parliament with the Liberals from 1906 to 1910 as a member for the Harborough Division of Leicestershire. During the war he volunteered in various ways on the home front and his health ebbed. The balance of his professional energy went to literary and local political affairs around Bourne End, where he died in 1929 of pneumonia, age 73. “‘Rudie’ Lehmann was a man of many talents, many interests in life, and, above all, very many friends,” wrote The Times. “As humorist, journalist, oarsman and rowing coach, man of letters, barrister, and politician, he was continually adding to their number, and all of them, especially those whom he first knew and helped in their early manhood, will look back with affectionate gratitude to his ever-ready sympathy and kindly encouragement.”[136] To son John, writing of his own boyhood at Bourne End, the sweep oars stacked in the Fieldhead boathouse, where Lehmann had hosted the light and dark Blues, “called out of a legendary past for me my father’s rowing fame and a picture far more human and vital than the ‘Spy’ cartoon that hung in the bedroom corridor, of a man supple, athletic, radiant in the confidence of his strength and the love that all who knew him bore towards him.”[137]

The Perfect Oar edit

By R.C. Lehmann:

Once on a dim and dream-like shore
Half seen, half recollected,
I thought I met a human oar
Ideally perfected.

To me at least he seemed a man
Like any of our neighbours,
Formed on the self-same sort of plan
For high aquatic labours.
His simple raiment took my eyes:
No fancy duds he sported,
He had his rather lengthy thighs
Exiguously “shorted.”

A scarf about his neck he threw;
A zephyr hid his torso;
He looked as much a man as you --
Perhaps a trifle more so.
And yet I fancy you’ll agree,
When his description’s ended,
No merely mortal thing could be
So faultlessly commended.

I noted down with eager hand
The points that mark his glory;
So grant me your attention, and
I’ll set them out before ye.

His hands are ever light to catch;
Their swiftness is astounding:
No billiard ball could pass or match
The pace of their rebounding.

Then, joyfully released and gay,
And graceful as Apollo’s,
With what a fine columnar sway
His balanced body follows!

He keeps his sturdy legs applied
Just where he has been taught to,
And always moves his happy slide
Precisely as he ought to.

He owns a wealth of symmetry
Which nothing can diminish,
And strong men shout for joy to see
His wonder working finish.

He never rows his stroke in dabs --
A fatal form of sinning --
And never either catches crabs
Or misses the beginning.

Against his ship the storm winds blow,
And every lipper frets her:
He hears the cox cry, “Let her go!”
And swings and drives and lets her.

Besides, he has about his knees,
His feet, his wrists, his shoulders,
Some points which make him work with ease
And fascinate beholders.

He is, in short, impeccable,
And -- this perhaps is oddest
In one who rows and looks so well --
He is supremely modest.

He always keeps his language cool,
Nor stimulates its vigour
In face of some restrictive rule
Of dietary rigour.

And when the other men annoy
With trivial reproaches,
He is the Captain’s constant joy,
The comfort of his coaches.

When grumblers call the rowing vile,
Or growl about the weather,
Our Phoenix smiles a cheerful smile
And keeps his crew together.

No “hump” is his -- when everything
Looks black his zeal grows stronger,
And makes his temper, like his swing,
Proportionately longer.

One aim is his through weeks of stress: --
By each stroke rowed to aid work.
No facile sugared prettiness
Impairs his swirling blade-work.

And, oh, it makes the pulses go
A thousand to the minute
To see the man sit down and row
A ding-dong race and win it!

Such was, and is, the perfect oar,
A sort of river Prince, Sirs;
I never met the man before,
And never saw him since, Sirs.

Yet still, I think, he moves his blade,
As grand in style, or grander,
As Captain of some Happy-Shade
Elysian Leander.^

References edit

  1. ^ The Times, Jan. 23, 1929, p. 18b.
  2. ^ T. Cook, The Sunlit Hours, p. 156.
  3. ^ The Times, Jan. 23, 1929, p. 18b.
  4. ^ J. Lehmann, Whispering Gallery, p. 27.
  5. ^ R.C. Lehmann, The Complete Oarsman, pp. 94-96.

Rowe GD

Rowe, George Duncan edit

“A Celebrated Oarsman who prefers cricket to rowing and golf to both” (Spy), July 4, 1906 edit


Mr. George Duncan Rowe was born forty-nine years ago in a South American Republic. He came to England and commenced to educate himself at Marlborough College. He played in the Cricket Eleven of that school; if he missed a catch or made a blob he always handed in his resignation (which was never accepted) to Plumpton Wilson, the captain. From Marlborough he went to University, Oxford, and found his way into the Eight. In 1879 he was in the beaten crew, but in 1880 was President, and won. He helped to take his college boat to the head of the River, and to keep it there.

He is a veteran member of the Leander Committee, and has been Honorary Secretary and Captain of the Club. To his efforts is mainly due the erection of the fine Club-house at Henley, and he has always taken a hand in schemes that make for the Club’s prosperity and reputation. He is a steward of Henley Regatta, and represents O.U.B.C. to the Committee of the Amateur Rowing Association.

He is a partner in the firm of Rowe and Pitman, stockbrokers, and is very prosperous. He sings, and was a member of the Magpies; but retired because there was too much Brahms for his taste. He also plays croquet and the piano. At Univ. he was such a model of propriety that he was one of the few undergraduates who were not sent down after certain regrettable incidents. His character has not degenerated with the effuxion of time.

He is believed to prefer cricket to rowing, and golf to cricket; but he rowed better than he played cricket, and is a better cricketer than golfer.

Leander Club, Henley-on-Thames, c. 1898

George Duncan Rowe (1857-1934) went head of the river at Oxford with University College in 1877 and 1878, and rowed in the Boat Race in 1879 and 1880. He was president of the O.U.B.C. the latter year, succeeding W.H. Grenfell. He co-captained Leander in 1883. As secretary (1887-97), he helped secure Temple Island for a Leander enclosure when the club was still based at Putney and orchestrated the construction of the Henley boathouse a decade later. It “is a great institution for that Club,” wrote Vanity Fair (July 22, 1897), “with a site on the bank close to the bridge, coffee and reading rooms, twenty bedrooms, ladies’ coffee-room, and a verandah balcony round two sides of the building. For luxury no modern rowing club house can come near it, and the architecture makes it a thing of beauty, and in full keeping with the weeping willow villa which it adjoins.” In 1900, he made the White House Meadow, where the Remenham Club and Regatta enclosure now stand, available as an enclosure for Leander members in lieu of Temple Island. Club president from 1919 to his death in 1934, Rowe would offer up his resignation at the annual dinner, to find it ignored and be “unanimously and uproariously reelected for another year.”[138]

Of the Vanity Fair rowing prints, none but Rowe’s mentions golf. Although the sport originated centuries ago in Scotland as every pilgrim to St. Andrews knows, it did not become popular in England until the very end of the nineteenth century, as part of the broader surge in Victorian recreational sport. It then came in “with an almost comical rattle,” recalled W.B. Woodgate. “When I left Oxford [in 1867] not one Southron in five hundred could have explained the meaning of a ‘tee’ or a ‘caddy,’ and would have deemed the interrogator to be punning as to the ‘cup which cheers, but not inebriates.’ In the sixties, seventies and eighties, when I now and then played in North Britain, it was looked upon by every nine out of ten of my Scottish friends as a mere stop-gap to kill time on a non-sporting day, and not a subject for life’s devotion any more than billiards.”[139]

Toilettes for Henley Week edit

In its early and middle years Vanity Fair limited its remarks on rowing fashion to such items as Woodgate’s occasional slash at unsanctioned “blazers.” En route to the 1914 absorption into the women’s magazine Hearth and Home, Vanity Fair started carrying such articles as Mary Howarth’s “Toilettes for Henley Week: Fashions the River Gods Approve,”appearing in the same issue as Mr. Rowe:


The liquid tones of the river gods beguile us to Henley this week, where there are fascinations, material as well as aquatic, though I write a little too soon to be able to state whether the elements will be favourable to so sylvan a fête as the Regatta. I only know that there have been some very pretty and dainty dresses and also some charming specimens of millinery prepared for the event. Specially have I approved the white handkerchief lawn gowns, with their wealth of plumetis embroidery, and the blanche linen skirts, quaintly made en corselet, with short pleated jackets to match, worn with a pair of blue or mahogany brown suède gloves to match, and white hat with soft blue or brown ribbon on it to match.


Last week’s heavy downpour has freshened the country most delightfully. How green is the wheat now, already heavy in the ear, and how scarlet are the poppies; how the wild roses gem the verdant hedgerow. Everything is essentially juvenile, and so must the Henley toilette be (I refer to its newness or freshness), or perish the hope of its success.

It would be ungrateful to the dressmakers to forget to mention the practical little toilettes they are presenting in checked zephyr; simplest and least pretentious of fabrics, but most effective for a river fête. The chance of introducing a touch of daring colour is possible when a black and white zephyr is chosen that permits a little cherry coloured silk to figure as an outline to the soft white mousseline vest, and about the high collar of the same fabric. That most useful adjunct, the sunshade, may be requisitioned to intensify the brightness of the cherry shade, and thus to throw up the cool black and white check of the gown.

The simpler the muslin frock the better for Henley week. White haircord and coloured dimities may prove the most successful of frocks. Then for older wearers it would be foolish to forget the very soft glossy foulards that are so useful, and Tokio silk that makes so graceful a dress for a club lawn.

References edit

  1. ^ The Times, Feb. 8, 1934, p. 16b.
  2. ^ W.B. Woodgate, Reminiscences of an Old Sportsman, pp. 478-79.

Shearman M

Shearman, Montague edit

“A.A.A.” (WAG), July 4, 1895 edit


Though he looks older, he was born only eight-and-thirty years ago to an athletic solicitor of the Adelphi; who once helped to win the Steward’s Cup at Henley. At Merchant Taylor’s School he won prizes for Hebrew and most other subjects; but being a fat, overgrown boy he showed no athletic prowess -- beyond captaining the school football team -- until he got to Oxford: which he did with a scholarship that entitled him to run for something else. Accordingly he was well beaten in the Freshmen’s Sports; after which he suddenly developed into a sprinter, and in his second term beat all Cambridge comers in the Hundred Yards and won the English Amateur Championship over that distance. Then he got his Rugby football Blue; and proceeded to represent Oxford against Cambridge in three different events at one meeting -- namely, the Hundred Yards, the Quarter Mile, and the Putting of the Weight: which is a record performance for any single man. After this he ran second to his brother, John Shearman, in the Championship Quarter Mile; notwithstanding which brotherly love continued, and a year later he won that event also. In the meantime he had, for variety’s sake, rowed in the St. John’s Eight, played La Crosse for England against Scotland, and, by way of relief, scored two First Classes in the schools -- one in Classical Moderations, the second in Greats; so that he may be fairly regarded as a mental and physical athlete of degree. Having thus done a good deal to improve sport by example, he began precept and became one of that triumvirate who founded the Amateur Athletic Association which holds its sixteenth Championship Meeting at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, when he will for the twelfth revolving year act as referee. His, indeed, is the chief credit for the building up of this Association; of which he has been Honorary Secretary or Vice-President all its life.

Having just avoided being sent down from Oxford (for too much noise made at an old-fashioned Commemoration), he got called to the Bar fourteen years ago; and though he now enjoys a good and substantial Common Law practice, he has not yet taken silk, nor has he stood for Parliament, nor achieved any other extra-legal performance save writing the Badminton book on Athletics. Yet is he commonly alleged to be a very reliable advocate, a most conscientious man, and shrewd person who never gives an opinion without knowledge. Those who know him vow that he is also a good friend and a safe man; and withal he is so modest that it is believed that his only enemies are the jealous. He is a sedate fellow with a sense of humour; who is respected even by bookmakers. He once took great part in a Town and Gown row: whence he carries the impression of a brickbat on his forehead to this day.

He is a man of much virtue; and he is cleverer than he looks. He is known to his friends as “Tont.”

Montague Shearman (1857-1930) rowed in the 1882 Thames Cup for the Thames Rowing Club. Like fellow rower and O.U.A.C. President W.H. Grenfell, Shearman once swam Niagara below the falls. He became president of the Amateur Athletic Association in 1915, succeeding Lord Alverstone (who as Richard Webster, Q.C., had defended fellow Cambridge athletics star C.B. Lawes in the Belt case).

Professionally, Shearman became a King’s Counsel in 1903. It was prescient of VANITY FAIR to have depicted him as a finish line judge at the tape, for he was elevated to the King’s Bench in 1914 to fill one of several vacant judgeships, one made so by the retirement of Mr. Justice Channell. In that role Shearman presided over some of the famous murder cases of the day. “Although he never pretended to be a profound jurist, he was not afraid of grappling with legal problems or of making up his mind.”[1] Yet, despite all these favourable comments, reality was very different. Shearman’s mind was preset, overriding even his judicial duties, as became most obvious in the Thompson-Bywaters trial in 1922 (described in detail in Criminal Justice by René Weis and other accounts). His shameless abuse of authority in support of the prosecution case provoked a sense of outrage, the Observer noted. Shearman even called on the jurors, shrewdly but unmistakedly, to share his prejudice against the prisoners: “I think you will feel disgust .. but your feelings of disgust will not run away with you” the New York Times quoted him reminding the jury just before their verdict. How could a judge ever make such an implying statement at this decisive moment of a trial, one must ask, if not to make the jurors aware that they are, and if not, better be disgusted. So advised by Justice Shearman, aged 65 at the time and an impressive figure, the jury had no choice other than the verdicts of guilty, also on Edith Thompson whose hand had never been involved in the crime. For the tragic hanging of the innocent young woman Shearman bears the full blame, he committed this judicial murder in cold blood. “The Court is not a theatre” he once said, but what he did himself was far worse: he made the Court a deadly playground for his very personal moral beliefs. He should have been put on trial for it himself, and hanged rather than knighted, many felt. - A 1927 operation arising from an old rugby injury impaired his speech, and he retired in 1929.

The 1878 Boat Race: Oxford Sliding edit

Oxford won the 1878 Boat Race by about 300 yards, or forty seconds. W.B. Woodgate, recalling in 1909 the Boat Race eights he’d observed for over half a century, chose this Oxford crew and the Cambridge crews of 1899 and 1900 as his favorites. “There have been divers other smart crews, as also sundry feeble ones; but I think that the three which I have named are entitled to preference; and if again one of the trio is to be selected, I incline to the 1878 crew, if only in view of the undeniable quality of the team which they ran clear away from.” Vanity Fair (April 20, 1878) was likewise impressed:

The experts in rowing who went to see the contest of 1878, if they did not see a good race, saw some remarkably good rowing. The winning boat was a good one, and the like of the two after “oars” in it are not often to be seen. The Cambridge men were overmatched both in strength and style. There was a noticeable difference between their manner of getting their oars through the water and that of the Oxford crew. Apart from the question of strength, the Oxford style was better and more effective than that of their opponents. It is not fair to criticise a losing boat, for a losing crew never row their best; but Cambridge rowed a better stern chase than some University crews we have seen.

Woodgate recalled the 1877 and 1878 Oxford crews in his comments on the 1897 Boat Race for Vanity Fair (April 8, 1896):

Oxford, though on paper very much the same crew as last year, were some lengths faster than their 1896 crew. Improved sliding was the main cause of this. There was a similar instance in the 1877 and 1878 Oxford crews. The material in the latter was rather weaker than in the former (the dead-heat crew); but the 1878 crew was some hundred yards faster through improvement in sliding since the preceding year.

R.C. Lehmann, who never rowed a Boat Race but coached many crews for both sides, noted in his Complete Oarsman (1908), that Oxford won the 1878 race almost entirely with body swing, hardly using their legs. It took S.D. Muttlebury coming along several years later to drive out that old orthodoxy (fixed-seat body swing) and bring in the new (leg drive and swing):

The fault of using nearly the whole of the body-swing without the help of leg-power is never inculcated now, for there is universal agreement in regard to the principles of the matter. It has, however, in times past, had its advocates and exponents, chiefly, I think, at Oxford. The late Mr. D.H. McLean, in his luminous and concise article on Rowing in the Encyclopedia of Sport, refers to the Oxford crew of 1878. The crew was composed of first-rate material, and gave a splendid exhibition of power, body-form, uniformity and pace, but its sliding was, according to our existing ideas, absolutely unorthodox. Mr. McLean may have seen the crew as a small boy at Eton, for they practised there occasionally if my memory serves me. I saw them during their practice at Putney, and I remember being particularly struck by one feature of their rowing. Though they used their bodies at the beginning with immense dash and gusto, they used their legs scarcely at all. As they finished their stroke their knees were bent, and in this position they showed above the sax-boards of the boat. This meant that they relied practically entirely on their bodies, and treated the slide as a mere incident of the stroke, and an unimportant one at that. As they started from this as a principle, they were doubtless wise in not attempting to use their legs to any great extent. Had they done so they would inevitably have split their waterwork up into two separate parts, and their uniformity would have suffered. Some little time after this, as a result of four successive defeats at the hands of Cambridge, Oxford men recognised the true doctrine, and have ever since been among its most brilliant exponents.

References edit

  1. ^ Dictionary of National Biography.

Baring J

Baring, John (Lord Revelstoke) edit

“Barings” (Spy), August 11, 1898 edit


[Vanity Fair biography TBD]

John Baring (1863-1929) coxed Eton in the Ladies' in 1880, at 8 stone 0 lbs. The next year, at 9 stone 7 lbs., he stroked the boat in the Ladies' and Grand with D.H. McLean.

External Links edit

McCalmont HLB

McCalmont, Harry Leslie Blundell edit

“Mr. H.L.B. McCalmont” (Spy), October 5, 1889 edit


Born seven-and-twenty years ago, under circumstances which rendered his education at Eton a matter of course, he developed into a big and robust young fellow, who, at the age of nineteen, was chosen to stroke the Eton Eight at Henley. He also lent weight to his side in the Field Game. At a later period he gravitated into a Lieutenancy of the 6th Royal Warwickshire Regiment, whence he has since transferred to the Scots Guards.

He is a big, cheerful, rosy-faced young man, very popular and quite unaffected. He is fond of horses, and he has perpetuated the colours of the Eton Field Game in those under which he races. Before Hugh McCalmont -- well known, among other things, as a very rich Ulster landlord -- died two years ago, he made “Harry” McCalmont, who was the eldest of his grand-nephews, his heir, so that he is rich; and though he has not yet fully come into his own, his fortune having been left in trust for his benefit for seven years, he has recently bought an estate in Herefordshire. He is a thoroughly good fellow and a very eligible young man.

“Giralda” (Spy), January 9, 1896 edit


Within the span of his four-and-thirty years he has made himself one of the best-known men of his age in the country. Beginning at Eton as a slim athlete who presently developed weight that made him quite useful as stroke of the Eton Eight and in the Field Game, he went into the Warwickshire Militia and thence into the Scots Guards. With the late Captain Lawrence, of the Rifle Brigade, he founded the Army Football Association, and he has consistently shown himself a sportsman of the best class. He took to coaching, which he has long given up; he grew fond of horses, and with the famous Isinglass came, saw, conquered, and made his popularity as an owner general; so much so that he has been modestly heard to say that he is better known in many quarters as the “owner of Isinglass” than by his own name. But his chief sport is yachting; to which he is devoted. He was partner with Lord Dunraven in Valkyrie III.; and he now owns the fastest and finest steam yacht afloat in the Giralda, which can do two-and-twenty knots. He also holds the International Cup for steam yachts. His devotion to sea-sport has developed in him keen naval tendencies, and these made him fight the Newmarket Division at the General Election; which fight resulted in a triumph for himself and Conservatism. Though he has not yet been heard in the House, there can be no doubt that Imperialism will profit by his vote and voice when he is. He is very rich and quite generous; yet being a shrewd fellow, he is not to be taken in; and it is much to say for him that no word has ever been said against him in any branch of sport.

He is a thoroughly straightforward, cheery, hearty fellow, full of common sense. He is very fond of horses, and he owns, in Cheverly Park, a nice place at Newmarket. But he is rarely seen on horseback.

He has grown a beard.

Harry Leslie Blundell McCalmont (1862-1902) stroked Eton in the 1880 Ladies’ Plate and rowed for Kingston R.C. in the Wyfolds and the Grand in 1881.

His great-uncle died unmarried, leaving him the entire estate in trust. From 1887 to 1894, McCalmont received £2000 per year, enough to fund his initial forays into the turf. One proved remarkably successful: his colt Isinglass won an unprecedented £57,455. In 1894, McCalmont received the balance of the estate plus interest amounting to £4 million and went into yachting, the other sport for which he featured in Vanity Fair. In 1895 McCalmont was elected to Parliament as a Conservative, was reelected in 1900, and was decorated 1902 for his services in the South African war as colonel of the Sixth Battalion of the Royal Warwickshire regiment. He died of sudden heart failure at age forty, married without children, leaving the bulk of the estate much as he came to it: to a distant relation, the son of his father’s first cousin.

Henley 1880: Eton in the Ladies’ edit

Dr. Warre coached the 1880 Eton eight, which included H.L.B. McCalmont, D.H. McLean, and G.C. Bourne, for the Ladies’ Challenge Plate. They beat Caius on the first day but on the second, overexposed to the heat and sun during the fifteen mile carriage ride from Eton to the regatta, the crew wilted and lost to Trinity Hall, as Bourne recalled:

Four-in-hand to Henley Regatta, c. 1852

For some time past the weather had been very hot and some of the leading members of the school, among them Puxley, had excited the wrath of Dr. Warre by walking about with Japanese umbrellas over their heads. On the second day of the Regatta we left Eton in close and sultry weather. After we had driven some three or four miles the sun broke through the clouds and shone down with great violence on our heads protected only by our white caps. As ill luck would have it Puxley was the first to put up an umbrella as protection against the heat. “Put it down; none of that,” said Warre, patiens pulveris atque solis,[140] and we had to drive on without proper head-cover in almost tropical heat. Mindful of my recent rupture with Dr. Warre [over an ill-fated boat design] I dared not protest, and we arrived at Henley in a state of exhaustion. The heavy-weights suffered the most from the heat, and McCalmont and one or two others had splitting headaches. We were a beaten crew as we paddled down to the post, and when we were half-way down the course McCalmont turned to me and said, “I am no use to-day, old fellow. There seem to be two Henley churches and I don’t know which side of the river they are on.” He had a slight sunstroke and was quite unfit to race.

We led our opponents at first, but our rowing was lifeless and got worse as we went on. Our plight was worse because the stroke-side oars, having suffered more from the sun than the bow-side, were pulled round over the whole course. There was a following breeze which helped the light but lively Trinity Hall crew: they caught us before the corner and won rather easily. Thus the heaviest and most powerful crew that had ever been sent out from Eton -- I do not think that a heavier has been sent out since -- terminated its career ingloriously. The story is not complete without the addition that Dr. Warre himself was ill for ten days afterwards from the effect of that long drive in the baking sun, and when he recovered, made me a very handsome apology. The next year, when the weather was again hot, he was solicitous that we should provide ourselves with wide-brimmed hats and protect ourselves against the heat of the sun by any means that we thought fit.[141]

References edit

  1. ^ “Patiens pulveris atque solis”: enduring dust as well as sun (in the imperative).
  2. ^ G.C. Bourne, Memories of an Eton Wet-Bob of the Seventies, pp. 99-100.

deHavilland RS

de Havilland, Reginald Saumarez edit

“Havvy” (Spy), July 4, 1901 edit


When a boy at Eton he so successfully concealed his skill as an oar behind many eccentricities of style that he found no place in the Eton Eight; but at Oxford he suddenly developed, or else his hidden merits were quickly discovered by a perspicacious coach: for he twice rowed in the Dark Blue Eight before he was chosen President of the O.U.B.C. Then he went to Wellington for a schoolmaster: whence he migrated to Eton eleven years ago. At Eton he turns out good oars and employs his leisure moments in teaching the young idea to shoot. Since he began to coach the Eton Eight they have carried off the Ladies’ Plate at Henley for seven successive years; and although they were disgracefully beaten last year, he hopes this week to begin a new series of Etonian victories. He is a young man in the forties, who although he has been a pedagogue for fifteen years, is neither narrow-minded nor pedantic; but being one of the cheeriest and most unconventional of “beaks” he is quite popular with all good fellows, including both his contemporaries and the more difficult tribe of boys. He is a good all-round sportsman who can shoot and ride, while his military aspect is the envy of the other Officers of the Eton Volunteers. He is an admirable coach who has turned out many brilliant oars; there is no more welcomed or more nervous man at Henley; he is a bold and almost reckless tow-path horseman; and he is known to all Etonians, past and present, as “Havvy.”

Reginald Saumarez de Havilland (1861-1921) rowed with D.H. McLean at Eton, winning the Trial and Upper Eights in 1880. At Oxford he won the University Pairs for Corpus Christi and was in the Boat Race crews of 1882 and 1883, despite a lifelong affliction with asthma. “He was said to have had the roundest back and the strongest blade of all men of his day; his muscles were like iron, and were laid on his shoulders and back in great slabs, which caused the apparent roundness.”[142] He was president of the O.U.B.C. in 1884, succeeded by D.H. McLean.

After a stint at Wellington, de Havilland returned to Eton in 1889 as a House Master and, according to the Eton Boating Book, “was almost at once invited to coach the Trial Eights.”[143] He took over the Eight in 1893 from S.A. Donaldson, who found “[h]is method of dealing with the boys differ[ent] from the Warre tradition in the fact that he trains them as if they were men, and is not content with a marked beginning and a lively recovery, and the ‘swing, swing together’ of the Eton Boating Song.”[144] “Havvy” preserved Warre’s fixed-seat orthodoxy while increasing the slides to fifteen inches and layering on Muttlebury’s style for rowing on them.[145] “The principles of both [fixed and sliding seats] are the same,” he wrote in a 1913 pamphlet for Eton junior coaches. “The slide is merely an artifice for lengthening the stroke.”[146] Although de Havilland never himself competed at Henley, he coached Eton to eleven victories in the Ladies’ Plate over a twenty-six year career, including a seven-year run starting in 1893 with H.G. Gold at stroke. “Apart from his technical skill in shaping an oarsman and welding together the crew,” recalled The Times, “in which he carried on the torch of Edmond Warre, he had an unrivalled power of keeping them cheerful and dispelling the young oarsmen’s nervousness by his fatherly care of them during the trying ordeal of Henley Week. This must have won many races, besides laying the foundation of lifelong friendships.”[147] He retired in 1920 and died the following year of heart failure.

The 1884 Torpids edit

Nearly all Vanity Fair rowing coverage concerned the Boat Race or, in lesser proportion, Henley Regatta. Yet occasionally the odd article about the Oxford or Cambridge college races would slip in, such as this one (March 1, 1884) on the Torpids featuring a Corpus crew coached by de Havilland:

Oxford Eights week, c. 1900

The Torpids came to an end at Oxford on Wednesday, after the usual six days’ racing. The Corpus boat kept the headship with unexpected ease. They are a strong, rough lot of hard workers, and, “form” being more necessary in the Torpids -- rowed as they are in clinker boats against a rapid stream -- than in any other races, their strength told. University fell every night, and finished in the disgraceful position of nineteenth boat. Wadham won five places, making two bumps on the last day. But the event of the races was the success of the despised Jesus men. Ever since the memorable year when the Jesus coach was heard to scream in despair from the tow-path to his College eight, “You’re all rowing very bad but five: and five is rowing d____d bad,” the Welshmen have consistently remained at the “bottom of the river;” but at last their pluck is rewarded. They have risen three places, and amongst their victims is St. John’s; and they would have bumped University had the races lasted two days longer.

References edit

  1. ^ The Times, Dec. 5, 1921, p. 12e.
  2. ^ Eton Boating Book, p. ix; G.C. Drinkwater, “Rowing,” in Fifty Years of Sport: Oxford and Cambridge, p. 229.
  3. ^ S. Donaldson, quoted in Fifty Years of Sport: Eton, Harrow and Winchester, p. 21.
  4. ^ G.C. Drinkwater & T.R.B. Sanders, The University Boat Race: Official Centenary History, p. 167.
  5. ^ R.S. de Havilland, Elements of Rowing, p. 11.
  6. ^ The Times, Dec. 5, 1921, p. 12e.

McLean DH

McLean, Douglas Hamilton edit

“Ducker” (Spy), April 8, 1897 edit


A few years after his birth -- which happened some seven-and-thirty years ago in Australia -- he came to England to learn; but being an insubordinate little fellow he disagreed with seven or eight Head Masters before he was disciplined by the strong right arm of the Lower Master at Eton. So soon as he could swim he took to the river and studied the theory of rowing with a strength and solemn industry that presently made him so proficient on it that he rowed in three Eton eights. Then he went to New College, and continued to row so well on the higher reaches of the Thames that he was sent to Putney to row against Cambridge. This happened five times; and he is said to have once lost the race by breaking his oar at a critical moment. Since then, as coach, he has made many other oars; and it is not too much to say that the last five Dark Blue victories are more or less due to his knowledge of the art of rowing and his facile readiness to impart that knowledge to others.

His chief occupation is coaching: but when he is otherwise employed he lives in Somersetshire; where it is hard to communicate with him because he is remarkably averse from opening his letters. He has, however, played cricket for his county, and he has shown himself a smart wicket-keeper. He is also a fair shot, a very painstaking billiard-player, and a dignified person, who is equally imperturbable whether he is sitting as a Justice of the Peace or watching a close boat race.

He has been seen smoking a cigarette.

Douglas Hamilton McLean (1863-1901) rowed for Eton, New College, Oxford, Oxford Etonians, and Leander over a ten-year career before becoming a highly-regarded coach. (For Vanity Fair to tease that coaching was “his chief occupation” suggests its familiarity with the ARA’s restrictive definition of amateur, which excluded anyone “employed in or about boats.”) McLean’s success was not a foregone conclusion, for although he “had shown considerable promise in Lower Fours and Lower Eights [and] sat up well in a boat,” recalled G.C. Bourne of his Eton days, McLean “was astonishingly clumsy in wrist and shoulder action. For a long time I thought that he never would make an oarsman . . . .”[148] By the end of the 1882 season, McLean had won the Trial Eights once (at 12 stone 8, with R.S. de Havilland exactly two stone lighter), the House Fours and School Pulling twice, the Upper Eights three times, and was second Captain of Boats.

Cigar box with rowing motifs, c. 1890

At Oxford McLean won the University Pairs for New College in 1885 and 1886, the same years he was O.U.B.C. President, and went head of the river in 1887. He was Captain of Leander in 1888. He rowed in five Boat Races, winning in 1883 and 1885. Although Cambridge won in 1884 by three lengths, Vanity Fair (April 12, 1884) found McLean “by far the best oar of the sixteen engaged, and is the best that has rowed in this race -- always excepting West -- for three years.” Yet McLean never had much success at Henley. He won the Ladies’ in 1882 with Eton and the Goblets in 1885 with his brother, Hector, but came up emptyhanded for the Grand despite six attempts. T.A. Cook recalled one moment of off-the-water drama involving McLean at Oxford in 1885:

Benson had brought one of his companies down, at that time, to act Othello in the old theatre; and Miss Featherston-haugh as Desdemona was so ravishingly beautiful that when she was smothered in her night-gown an audible shudder went through all the spectators, and a tall man in front of me stood up and suddenly fainted. It was D.H. McLean, then President of the O.U.B.C., as I recognised when he was being taken out in the fresh air and a small undergraduate followed the procession carrying his gold spectacles. I hope the curtain had by then descended, for I am sure nobody looked at anything except “Dukker.”[149]

Following his appearance in Vanity Fair , McLean went over to Cambridge at the request of W. Dudley-Ward to help turn around their program in 1898 and 1899. In the South African war he commanded the 69th Sussex Company Imperial Yeomanry, and died of colitis in Johannesburg on February 8, 1901, becoming the only rower of Vanity Fair to die in that conflict.

The 1887 Boat Race: McLean’s Broken Oar edit

McLean was in India during the early Oxford trials. On returning he, “god-like, severed the nodus Dei vindice dignus[150] by ousting Williams from No. 7 almost at the eleventh hour,” reported Vanity Fair (March 19, 1887), predicting an Oxford victory. “[He] is a born oar, and seems to row as well after his voyage from India as though he had been in the boat from the beginning.” In the event, Oxford lost because McLean cracked his oar, which led to Ayling’s invention of the patented brass button to reduce strain on the shaft.[151] Vanity Fair’s account (April 2, 1887):

Until the accident to Maclean’s oar crippled the Oxford Eight just after Barnes Bridge, we thought that our forecast of the Boat Race was going to be precisely fulfilled: and had it not been for that cruel mishap, we firmly believe that Oxford would have reached the Ship before Cambridge. So we believed from the start. It seems a little ungracious thus to detract from the glory of the Light Blue victory but it is only justice to the vanquished. Look at the race. The Cantabs started off at two strokes to the minute more than Oxford; they had the better station; they had, as the event well showed, the better coxswain. Of course they took the lead. But they did so to a great extent on sufferance, and certainly we have never seen a long stern race rowed with fewer symptoms of raggedness or flurry than this one was rowed by the Oxford crew. For a quarter of an hour the leaders kept their lead, rowing the faster stroke all the time. Then the pace began to tell, the boat travelled more slowly, and the oar-blades began to strike irregularly. All this time their rivals were rowing steadily through the worst of the weather, and at Thorneycroft’s they were naturally two clear lengths to the bad. Then Titherington quickened slightly, and his men keeping well together, the gap began to decrease, until at Barnes Bridge there were not five yards of daylight between the two boats. Now came the favouring bend of the river, and Oxford gained faster. Just as their nose levelled with the other boat’s rudder came the crack. Maclean’s (No. 7’s) oar floated away in two pieces, and the race was over. Had it not been for this, Oxford must, we think, have passed their opponents, had not the latter been able to spurt strongly; and this we do not believe they could have done. As it was, they did their best, and were quite unable to finish strongly, gaining only a length and a-half in the last 500 yards from their crippled rivals.

Now, the Oxford stroke meant to make this effort after Barnes Bridge. Oxford knew that they would then have the bend in their favour, as well as comparative shelter from the wind; and they knew they had the advantages of weight and better condition. The last five minutes of the race must have been a grand spectacle, at any rate; and the Oxford Eight, “fresh as daisies,” were rowing so well, with such uniform swing and time, that no oarsman could have thought them beaten, when an unkind fate suddenly extinguished their chance. There was, in fact, every chance of their rivalling the Cambridge win of last year, when the victors were led through Barnes Bridge to overhaul their leaders in the last quarter of a mile, if only Titherington had spurted. Why did he not do so before? Had he really quickened at any time after Hammersmith, Cambridge must have been beaten. Neither of the crews were first-rate in quality; but Oxford were an average crew with a headless stroke, and he lost the race. To ourselves it seemed that Maclean’s temper got the better of him because stroke would not quicken, and that a vicious tug at his oar caused its collapse; and there was good excuse for temper in a fresh crew, trying to row their rivals down, but kept from doing so by the slow stroke of the man upon whom they could not quicken. This is not the first time an “accident” of this kind has happened to an Oxford Eight. In 1877 the Dark Blues were winning easily, when, just at the same spot, Cowles’s oar snapped. The result then was the famous dead-heat. On each occasion Oxford has lost a victory by the breaking of an oar. But on this occasion Oxford would have led, if their stroke had quickened, long before Barnes Bridge.

"Casting aside the broken oar, Frank plunged overboard to lighten the Yale boat."

Hint to the respective Presidents of the University Boat Clubs: -- Don’t in the future row with new oars, which have only been tried during the last two days of practice, when no hard work is done. Better an old and well-tried blade than a good-looking new one. Oar-blades and sword-blades alike need strong tests before they can be relied upon, as recent events have more than proved of both.

Guy Nickalls’ account from No. 2 in the Oxford crew:

There was no doubt over the whole course that we were the faster crew, but Frank Wethered damned the whole outfit. An hour before the race we rowed two minutes at 40 from the start. Dissatisfied with the row, which was certainly scrambled, we were taken back to the start and made to row as hard as we could back to the Mile Post. When we started the race an hour later I was dead to the world and stale, as were all the new blues. Cambridge led us a length under Barnes Bridge and Titherington was holding his spurt. We were on Middlesex shore, and, out of the corner of my eye, I could see the Cambridge cox bobbing back to us at every stroke. Titherington began his spurt; back they came to us. I was opposite their stroke; we knew the race must be ours and Holland yelled: “It’s all right, we’ve got ‘em!” Then, “Ducker” McLean broke his oar off short at the button. With the station in our favour and him out of the boat we could have won even then, but “Ducker” funked the oncoming penny steamers and, instead of jumping overboard as he should have done, we had to lug his now useless body along, to lose the finish. That was disappointing. Titherington was a fine stroke.[152]

References edit

  1. ^ G.C. Bourne, Memories of an Eton Wet-Bob of the Seventies, pp. 87-88.
  2. ^ T. A. Cook, The Sunlit Hours, p. 44.
  3. ^ “Severed the nodus Dei vindice dignus”: severed the knot of God worthy for a champion.
  4. ^ G.C. Drinkwater, “Rowing,” in Fifty Years of Sport: Oxford and Cambridge, pp. 222-23.
  5. ^ G. Nickalls, Life’s a Pudding, pp. 60-61.

McKenna R

McKenna, Reginald edit

“In the Winning Crew” (Spy), October 31, 1906 edit


Mr. Reginald McKenna is a man who takes himself and his politics with becoming gravity. He was educated in the first place privately, in the second at King’s College, London, and in the third at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, where he developed views on the science of oarsmanship, and was promoted to a seat in the Cambridge Eight of 1887. He was, moreover, in the crews that won the Grand and Stewards’ Cups at Henley. On leaving the University he was called to the Bar, but abandoned that profession on his election to Parliament.

As Honorary Secretary of the Free Trade Union it has been the peculiar pride of Mr. McKenna to keep an eye upon Mr. Chamberlain. When in 1904 Mr. Austin Chamberlain proposed a tax that might have assisted the tobacco-stripping industry, Mr. McKenna was earnest in his efforts to aid foreign labour as against British workers, and finally forced Mr. Chamberlain to yield a rebate. This notable achievement met its reward in his subsequent appointment as Financial Secretary to the Treasury.

He was, and in some manner still is, a disciple of Sir Charles Dilke. He is popular with his own side, and behind his air of aggression is earnest and sensitive. He has now an opportunity to tackle reforms in the Customs, a department where justifiable discontent exists in the subordinate ranks. It has yet to be seen whether he is equal to the task.

“The Universal Puzzle Is: Find Mr. McKenna” (Owl), April 23, 1913 edit


Mr. M’Kenna is not famous, we regret to say. He has held some public offices. True. He has made failures therein. Also true. Too true. Always. Everywhere.

I do not wish to be personal in these notes. Yet I cannot help feeling that if Mr. M’Kenna is famous (as some say) let the rest of us be infamous.

Mr. M’Kenna is entitled to be addressed as right hon. My laundress is both right and hon. But she cannot control votes. So I think she would not figure largely as the head of the Board of Education, or as First Lord of the Admiralty, as [sic] as Secretary of the Home Office. Neither did Mr. M’Kenna. Let us pass all that, however.

Mr. M’Kenna was born, and yet the place and date escape me. He bowed the Cambridge Eight in 1887. Good work. On the strength of this it was publicly stated that Mr. M’Kenna was qualified for the Admiralty. More than this or that is needed to qualify Mr. M’Kenna.

However, Mr. M’Kenna has been kept in the public eye -- very much as a cinder might be -- irritatingly and intrusively.

Mr. M’Kenna suffers most from his friends. His enemies would soon forget him. It is a great pity that Mr. M’Kenna should have greatness thrust upon him, for he was not born great, nor has he achieved it.

Too bad.

Really, it is all too bad.

In outline, Reginald McKenna (1863-1943) shadows C.W. Dilke, his mentor -- Trinity Hall scholar and athlete in the Leslie Stephen mold, oarsman, barrister, Liberal M.P., Cabinet Minister, statesman. The outline differs mainly in Dilke’s bent toward literary and foreign affairs, versus McKenna’s in finance, an interest rooted in a youth of near-poverty due to his father having lost most of the family money in the “Overend Gurney” bank failure of the 1860s.

Born days after Dilke’s first appearance at Henley, McKenna went up to Trinity Hall when Steve Fairbairn was keeping Jesus College head of the Cam and C.W. Dilke was in the Foreign Office. McKenna had the good sense to learn from both in turn. Graduating in 1885 as the Senior Optime of the mathematical tripos, he stayed on to take an unofficial degree in rowing. Fairbairn tutored McKenna on the river and in his rooms which featured a slide, a rigger, and a portion of an oar to practice endless chain movements. “I was in Trinity Hall at 6 a.m. every morning with Bristowe and McKenna, teaching these turns in 1886,” Fairbairn recalled.[153] That year McKenna rowed in the Hall eight that wrested the headship from Jesus and won the Grand. In 1887 he rowed in the Cambridge crew that pulled away from Oxford when McLean’s oar broke, and at Henley he won the Stewards’, the Hall having its annus mirabilis by taking the Grand, Ladies’, Thames, and Visitors’ as well. (Hoping for the club to repeat, which of course it did not, Dilke gave £100 to their Henley fund in April 1888 and earned a vote of thanks that carried by acclamation.)[154] In securing the 1887 victories, the club history credits McKenna with teaching the crews to use long slides, as de Havilland would do at Eton several years later:

[McKenna] thought out the whole theory of rowing afresh for himself, being helped not a little by his knowledge of physics. Sooner than anyone at the Hall he realised that the Jesus crews were on the right lines in adopting the long 15-inch slide, and he convinced Bristowe and Propert of this; but though the Jesus crew, the only crew rowing on long slides, kept Head in ‘84 with the greatest ease, the official style at the Hall, with a succession of Etonian captains, was still the Etonian short slide with the emphasis on “beginning” and body swing, and it was not till ‘86 that the long slide won its way into general use.[155]

Trinity Hall's annus mirabilis at Henley Regatta, 1887; McKenna seated second from right

During the late 1880s McKenna was a rowing guest at Dockett Eddy of Dilke, who was then in political exile following the Crawford case. McKenna failed in his first run for Parliament in 1892, when Dilke reentered for the Forest of Dean, but won in 1895 despite being a Liberal and represented North Monmouthshire thereafter to 1918. Shortly after the 1895 election Dilke went on record to say, in paraphrase, that “any man of ordinary parts who stuck to his task day after day and night after night for ten years would find himself on the Treasury Bench at the end.”[156] McKenna took the advice and proved it right, becoming Financial Secretary to the Treasury in 1905. Indeed, by 1905 McKenna could look back on a decade of close political association with Dilke to “say without qualification that he owed more to Charles Dilke than to any other six men dead or living,” in the words of McKenna’s biographer.

McKenna and Dilke, Punch, c. 1900

Exact knowledge, unremitting industry, lucid expression: these were lessons that he might indeed have learnt for himself, but it was at the house in Sloane Street that he had received his introduction to Liberal society and it was by Dilke that he had been taught -- perhaps for better, perhaps for worse -- to prefer logic and hard facts to rhetoric and emotion . . . [and] the paramount importance of businesslike administration.[157]

McKenna became President of the Board of Education in 1907 (shortly after his first appearance in Vanity Fair) and First Lord of the Admiralty in 1908, from which position as “a staunch disciple of Dilke’s naval policy”[158] he promoted the buildup of the British fleet, which proved prescient for the 1914-18 war. In 1911 he moved to Asquith’s Home Office where in 1913 he had to decide whether to force-feed imprisoned women suffragists or let them starve to death, a Hobson’s choice he attempted to resolve by seeking and obtaining passage of the “Prisoners (Temporary Discharge for Ill-Health) Act, 1913.” Generally known as the “Cat and Mouse Act,” the law gave McKenna discretion to “license out” prisoners who were close to starvation (so that any continuation of their hunger strike was on their own heads), but also to revoke parole promptly for any new offense. It pleased hardly anyody: neither the suffragists, for it did not give them the right to vote and weakened the political impact of their in-prison hunger strikes; nor did it please their opponents, who viewed early release on these grounds as an affront to law and order.[159] McKenna’s second appearance in Vanity Fair dates to that episode, in which the magazine, by then under Allinson’s uninspired hand and destined for absorption into Hearth and Home, came down vitriolically for the suffragists.

During the war McKenna began to shift out of politics to spend the remaining third of his life in finance. As Chancellor of the Exchequer, he financed Britain in the war and at home, following the rule laid out in his 1916 budget speech: “We never borrow a pound without making provision in advance by new taxation sufficient to cover both interest and a liberal sinking fund.” After the war he chaired the committee appointed to locate German capital held abroad and retrieve it for reparations. Shut out of the coalition government formed in late 1916, McKenna soon joined the Midland Bank, becoming its chairman in 1919 and holding that post until his death in 1943. “[H]is annual expositions on banking problems at the Midland Bank’s general meetings came to be regarded as one of the events of the banking year,” wrote the Times. “But he had many critics. Though in fact a kindly and genial being, his manner, as the House of Commons had noted an an earlier date, was apt to be donnish.” Lord Beaverbrook wrote that McKenna “likes to assert his view, and if you run against some projecting bump in his opinions you must merely nurse a bruise,” while an unnamed M.P. reportedly quipped that McKenna’s chosen epitaph would be: “I WAS RIGHT.”[160]

Early Fairbairnism edit

When Steve Fairbairn of Melbourne, Australia came up to Jesus College, Cambridge in 1881, he had already formed definite views on rowing. His eldest brother had also been up to Jesus and, coming back in 1877, stroked the Melbourne Rowing Club and the first winning Inter-State crew. When asked, “Why don’t you row in the Varsity style?” he said: “Because others can’t, and you will find [the Melbourne] style is better when you get into it.” Steve Fairbairn thus came to Cambridge, “prepared to find the Varsity style not to perfection,” and indeed found as a freshman in the Blue boat “the coaching for style very bad.” In reaction, at Jesus he not only rowed in but coached the May boat (which went head of the river 1875-85), telling the man who nominally had the job: “Do you mind not speaking to the crew; your talking is upsetting their rowing.” He rowed in the Boat Race 1882, 1883, 1886, and 1887, on the last occasion with Reginald McKenna. While Fairbairn’s major mark on English rowing came after his return from Australia to Jesus in 1904, where his coaching became progressively revered, it seems fair to infer that he taught McKenna in 1886 much of what he shared a half century later with the rest of the world in Chats on Rowing (1934):

Rowing like everything else is a religion, and I fancy oarsmen at times have been in the same frame of mind as the Scotch Meenister who after playing a bad round of golf said to his partner, “I must give it up.” “What! gi’e oop the gawf?” “Na, na, gi’e oop the meenistry.” Oarsmen and coaches are very apt to coach for too much length, for showy body form, thereby breaking the rhythm, or worshipping the golden calf. The rhythmical movements of the good oarsman are not showy; they are all smooth and easy and machine-like. The better the oarsman the longer and harder he rows, but the less do his movements show. Trying to row too long breaks the rhythm and ruins the oarsman.

. . . .

[The oarsman] must go in for no showy movement. He must not try for any exaggerations. He must meet his stretcher fair and square. In fact, rowing is summed up in the saying: AS YOU MEET YOUR STRETCHER SO YOU MEET YOUR GOD. And this applies to every walk in life. If an oarsman sees that he does his best to propel the boat the next stroke, he will be doing his best to propel far more than the boat.

. . . .

Teaching to shoot the slide or to bend the back or to go for any point would be fatal, and there is a tendency to do this now, especially to shoot the slide. Coaches must stick to concentrating the oarsman on working the oar to move the boat, and so get an endless chain movement.

. . . .

Probably every oarsman, when starting, thinks the stroke is a lot of separate movements; first a direct backward movement, a stop with the weight sitting on the seat, while the oar is taken out of the water, then the hands away, and then swing forward. No doubt this was the thought of the old text-books, with their “drop the hands down, bring the oar out and then feather,” having by the way rowed the oar in, to touch the chest. All hopelessly wrong; a collection of stops, and angular movements, instead of an endless chain, rounded, spinning movement, running one stroke into the next with no check.

. . . .

The best way to coach is to have two crews, and let the second crew keep in front of the first boat. The best coach in the world is the bows of a faster boat moving behind a crew; it keeps them concentrated.

. . . .

Also the first rule in coaching is: keep your mouth shut. Have patience and get the crew keen, and improvement will come from the daily row conditioning the muscles, through the unconscious action of the Subjective Mind which has free play with the keen but silent coach. Telepathy will pass his thought to the crew.

. . . .

As I frequently say, a man is a better oarsman after ten years than after five, the reason is that these movements that I am advising take a very long time to become a stereotyped part of the oarsman’s movements, owing to his not understanding, and consequently not practising, them. Mileage makes champions, because the whole muscular system has to be conditioned. One must not think that by learning watermanship through these exercises that nothing more is needed. He will still require plenty of honest, long, hard work.

. . . .

The straight path to peace and contentment in rowing is to be got by eliminating all rush, worry, anxiety, and fear, and this is done by unscrewing the tension nut. When the machines for shearing sheep came into use in Australia there was a tension nut, and when anything went wrong the shearers would screw up the tension nut, and so I suppose put more effort into the machine, and so when anything goes wrong in a boat the oarsman stiffens himself and increases the tension, and so spoils his rowing.

. . . .

There is an old saying that one should always practise the three C’s, “Keep Quite Cool,” and if every oarsman did that always, each would be doing his best, there would be no tension, and the faces would all be quite placid, and then they would be able to keep quite calm, cool, and collected (the five K’s).

References edit

  1. ^ S. Fairbairn, Chats on Rowing, p. 60.
  2. ^ Trinity Hall Boat Club minutes (Apr. 26, 1888).
  3. ^ H. Bond, A History of the Trinity Hall Boat Club, p. 85.
  4. ^ S. McKenna, Reginald McKenna, 1863-1943, p. 12 (paraphrasing C.W. Dilke).
  5. ^ Ibid., p. 35.
  6. ^ D. Nicholls, The Lost Prime Minister: A Life of Sir Charles Dilke, pp. 282, 296.
  7. ^ S. McKenna, pp. 151-60.
  8. ^ Ibid., pp. 2, 161.

Pemberton M

Pemberton, Max edit

A Puritan’s Wife” (Spy), February 4, 1897 edit


Though he is but three-and-thirty years of age, he is an old Merchant Taylor; who took a Mathematical Scholarship, broke his arm, resigned the Honour, and went up to Caius. He might by this time have been a dull Mathematician, with a glorious record put by in the secret places of Cambridge; but he had too much in him to become the slave of an exact science. So he rowed and trifled alternately, till “Jelly” Churchill asked him to take the seventh oar in the Light Blue Eight: which he declined to do, but took his degree and came to town. One day he passed the office of Vanity Fair, and a bright idea struck him. He walked in, and was shown a speaking-tube. Through that channel he boisterously offered a contribution, which became the first of many. That was ten years ago; and that bright idea made him. He quickly developed literary tastes, and when he had done much fugitive work another idea struck him. The House of Cassell felt it too; and the combination resulted in the boys’ paper which is called Chums. That led to “The Iron Pirate”; which earned for its author the style of the “Jules Verne of England.” But there are other pirates; and the Americans (according to one of their own papers) bought seven hundred thousands stolen copies of his: which has made him very careful in the matter of transatlantic copyright. Since then the story has been translated into four languages -- besides American and Russian. A year later he published “Sea Wolves”; and last year he wrote “The Impregnable City.” Then he began to edit Cassell’s new “Pocket Library,” and contributed to it “The Little Huguenot.” He has since published “A Puritan’s Wife”; and his “Christine of the Hills” is expected “in a few days.” Besides all this he contributes light literature to a dozen journals and magazines; he reviews books for The Daily Chronicle; he has furnished several theatres with curtain-raisers; he has produced an Opera in New York; he has edited an important volume on Football; he runs Cassell's Magazine; and fills up the odd corners of his time with telling and writing stories -- more or less vain.

He is a very cheery, busy, active, volatile, nervous man, who has a pretty wit, an admirable wife, and a fund of excitable imagination. He is restless, full of energy, and the owner of a ringing voice which has been used to advantage on the towpath. Yet he wears a very decided chin under his good looks, and professes to be a judge of champagne. He was once ready to write for ordinary rates; but now he commands high prices. He has many friends; he is fond of all sport, owns an array of “pots” for each of which he has run, likes riding, and plays the host well.

He can sing a comic song with a voice which no pianoforte can drown.

Max Pemberton (1863-1950) rowed for Caius in the 1884 Ladies’ and Visitors’, losing to Muttlebury’s Eton eight in a heat of the former. “The Caius first boat did fairly well during the two years I rowed in it,” Pemberton recalled, “and the excursion to Henley was a merry business even though we brought back no medals”:

Our luck certainly was not good, but our spirits were high. We might have won the Visitors’ had not the umpire’s launch stopped suddenly on the way to the post and mangled the bows of our four horribly. In the Ladies’ we ran up against one of the heaviest Eton Eights that ever rowed at Henley. While we averaged a little more than ten stone a man, they must have made nearly twelve, and they beat us handsomely. Well do I remember an old Irish woman who stood on the Bridge as we passed under, humiliated by defeat, and who cried down to us: “Arrah, and aren’t yez ashamed yerselves to be baten by the little boys.” We certainly were not, all things considered.[161]

In 1886, Pemberton’s last year on the Cam, his crew held their place on the river but lost their heads at the bump supper (“which we persisted in holding at Caius whether we were among the bumpers or the bumped”):

In the May term nobody did any work and all the rowing men were exceedingly intoxicated after the bump supper. In my last year, our own First boat merely kept its place and there was little excuse for a riot. But Leverton Harris’s rich papa asked the Eight to dinner at the Bull, and by each man’s plate he caused a magnum of champagne to be set. The effect was a little unfortunate, as we had in the College at that time an obstinate and mistaken fellow who had refused to stand up in chapel when God Save the Queen had been sung upon an occasion of rejoicing. As one man the Eight rose after dinner and made a bee line for the offender’s rooms . . . collecting other Eights as they went and singing the National Anthem with vigour. Fortunately for the rebel, he had been warned that something of the kind might happen and his oak was both barred and bolted. So the mob could merely stand upon his staircase, howling and singing in stentorian tones and wholly defying the poor little Dean, who begged them to be good.

Far from being good, they did, I fear, but deride that admirable Doctor of Divinity. In my mind’s eye, there is a picture of the stroke of a lower boat, standing on the landing above and endeavouring to drop soda-water bottles on the head of the learned ecclesiastic below. And every time he let the bottle go he cried: “God save the b____y Dean”; a prayer of doubtful meaning, all the circumstances being considered.[162]

When Vanity Fair featured Pemberton in 1897, he was ten years into a career of journalism and light literature. He edited Cassell's Magazine until 1908, publishing about a novel a year on the side. He then turned to farcical comedy that was then in demand and became well-known in theatre and knighted in 1928. “At the Garrick he always had people around him, for he was well liked and welcome at any table,” wrote a friend to the Times. “He was full of reminiscences and had a tremendous memory for faces, having something interesting to say about almost everybody.”

Punts Amuck edit

When the Henley Stewards revised the course in 1886 they installed piles to mark it, but nothing to keep the growing armada of spectators at bay, who grew so thick in the days before motorcars that one could practically walk shore to shore on one pleasure boat to another. “The press of craft led to many cheerful scenes,” Pemberton wrote in his autobiography, “ladies even deigning to hit other ladies with paddles and boathooks and men to personal combat of a violent kind.”[163] From time to time this melée left the official oarsmen with no room to row, despite the efforts of watermen employed to keep the course clear, as happened to Guy Nickalls in the 1887 Diamonds:

Henley course between races, 1914

In the final I met J.C. Gardner. This was the first Jubilee year, and the Royal Party sat in launches on the Berkshire side of the river about a hundred yards below the winning-post. When I was about one and a half lengths down on Gardner the crowd of boats swarming round the royal launches left room only for the man on the Bucks shore to get through. I was allowed to crash into the Royal Party and smashed my scull and boat and left Gardner to finish alone. The Princess of Wales, through Mrs. W.H. Smith (afterwards Lady Hambleden), sent me a kind, sympathetic note of condolence and trusted I was not hurt, but the Henley Committee never gave me a chance to re-scull the race.[164]

As the problem of punts grew with the popularity of the regatta, it became a regular subject of Woodgate’s annual Henley commentary for Vanity Fair in the 1890s. “There were, if possible, more small craft than ever, and worse handled than ever, running amuck and quite devoid of watermanship. . . . It is intolerable that any cripple of a Cockney should be let loose for the day to do more damage that he is worth by incompetency to handle a common tub.” (1892) “There will always be congestion on the course and difficulties in clearing so long as the Conservancy are supine in enforcing their veto against pleasure boats mooring to piles in the course. . . . . [Most] are largely made up of bounders and counter-jumpers on the spree. These creatures coolly tie up and loll in their boats, blocking the passage and enjoying the nuisance which their lubberly conduct produces.” (1896) But his finest, longest salvo was July 18, 1895:

The incompetence, and in many instances truculence, of non-rowing club cripples in the crowds on the reach becomes more marked each year. It would not be a bad idea for the Thames Conservancy to place some limit upon the presence of these adventurers: for example, in the case of persons not members of some recognised Club that competes, regularly or periodically, at Henley, to require a fee for a “license” to row or paddle on the reach during Regatta hours. It would thin the mob, and have a tendency to man boats with competent hands. “Keel to the current” is a maxim with all habitués when moving or halting; but duffers think nothing of sprawling broadside to the stream, blocking passage, and thus tangling a dozen or more passers-by in one knot of confusion. Then, again, many of these loafers are devoid of good taste, as well as of watermanship. Thus a brace of pariahs deliberately moored their punt, with ryepecked poles, in the middle of the Berks side-channel, just below the point -- (forming an “island” obstacle); and then lay down and amused themselves with watching the confusion which their obstruction occasioned. Unfortunately, there was no specific by-law to meet and punish this act of rowdyism this year. No one anticipated such gross misconduct; but next year, no doubt, Mr. Gough, the energetic Secretary of the Conservancy, will propound a rule and penalty to check such outrage.

Henley course with piles and booms, 2004

One of the freaks of the normal Cockney on the spree at Henley is to lie in the bow of a progressing boat armed with a boat-hook, and to prod off with the spike all approaching craft, enjoying the fun of spearing timbers and ripping up carvels. There were at least half-a-dozen such mischief-makers on the course this year.

“Punt paddling” should be stopped during Regatta hours. A laden punt, thus propelled, cannot be “held” up sharply -- especially by the class of cripples who indulge in the trick -- when collision is imminent (unlike a row boat); it runs on like a battering-ram, and its iron-shod shelving prow sweeps destructively over gunwales and rowlocks of legitimate craft. It is a form of navigation painfully on the increase, because it commends itself to the unskilfulness of the tyro, and can be learned in minutes, while it takes weeks to learn to punt and months to row decently.

The Stewards cleared the course in 1899 by adding floating booms between the piles.

References edit

  1. ^ M. Pemberton, Sixty Years Ago and After, pp. 90-91.
  2. ^ Ibid., pp. 89, 97-98. Among the Caius’ bump supper songs was this one (p. 90) on the college’s founding, a “ditty that went to a rollicking tune”:
Oh, gentlemen please, let me sing you of Caius
And a doctor far famed for his knowledge--
Who, the devil to please, or his conscience to ease
Said: “I’m damned if I don’t found a college.”
Such a right little, tight little college,
In the ‘Varsity round, there is not to be found
Such a right little, tight little college.
  1. ^ Ibid., p. 92.
  2. ^ G. Nickalls, Life’s a Pudding, pp. 62-63.

Searle HE


Searle, Henry Ernest edit

“H. Searle/ Professional Champion Sculler of the World” (Spy), September 7, 1889 edit


When Beach, who was perhaps the finest sculler ever seen, had beaten Hanlan often enough to satisfy his ambition, he retired, and the Professional Sculling Championship of the World was claimed by Kemp, who in his turn twice defeated the once unbeaten Hanlan. Then there arose a new sculler, a young Australian named Searle, and he having beaten Kemp, the World gained yet another Champion, whose Championship, together with some money, is staked upon the race which he will row with a Canadian named O’Connor on Monday.

Searle has a fine chest, but he sculls with a round back. His form is not good, but his pace is remarkable. He is a very decent young fellow of three-and-twenty years.

English professional rowing grew out of wager matches sponsored by amateur gentlemen in the 1830s. Though professionals both rowed and sculled, the greater prize money, and therefore fame, went to individual scullers whose past performance and present form were easier to handicap for gambling. The necessary mix of money, talent, and interest was particularly strong in London, where the success of ad hoc wager matches and Doggett’s Coat and Badge led to the creation of a Championship of England sculling race in 1831, a year after the Wingfield Sculls were founded there for amateurs. For many years only Londoners contested the Championship, its winners being taken into the service of the Royal Barge, but eventually it attracted local champions from Australia and North America and was renamed the Championship of the World. Indeed, Australians held the title for twenty-two of the thirty-one years ending in 1907, starting with Edward Trickett in 1876. Professional sculling peaked in England in the 1870s, while the young Thomas Eakins was painting the local champions of his native Philadelphia, but was still popular in 1889 when Vanity Fair featured Henry Ernest Searle (1866-89).

As a professional and Australian, Searle stands apart from the other Vanity Fair rowers, to a man all Oxbridge or London amateurs. Growing up on Esk Island in the Clarence River in New South Wales, the young Searle learned to row of necessity. In addition to semiannual three-day journeys with his father to Grafton for supplies, Searle rowed seven miles a day to take himself, his brother, and sister to school -- early training a biographer later celebrated in verse:


:Years rolled over all too placid,

When in boyhood calm and shy
To the village schoolhouse lowly
Passed each morning wet or dry.

Not as we have passed that journey,
Lagging every foot the way,
But with feathered oar advancing
Back and forward twice a day.[165]

“[N]o doubt that laid the foundation for his pre-eminent position in the rowing world,” countryman Steve Fairbairn wrote to illustrate his axiom “Mileage makes champions.”[166] While Muttlebury and Nickalls were racing for Eton in 1884-85, Searle, who was a few months younger than “Muttle” and a few older than Guy, was taking on all comers on the Clarence.

By 1888, the time had come to try Sydney, which offered the best money, competition, and coaching in the land. Backed by John and Thomas Spencer, Sydney brothers who a decade earlier had backed Ned Trickett, Searle began his Parramatta campaign in a match against one Julius Woolf:

Woolf had been defeated by Stanbury a fortnight earlier, so he was not much in favour with the betting public, and it looked as if Searle’s backers would have to be content with the bare prize-money. John Spencer refrained from betting at all before the start of the race, and instructed Searle to hang back and “feel” Woolf in the early stages, and, as soon as he was sure of his man, to shake his head from side to side, but not to go in front until he got a sign from Spencer, who was in a boat following the race.

The race had barely started when Searle’s head was seen to wobble violently. This caused loud laughter among those who had never seen Searle race before. They chaffed Spencer so unmercifully that he assumed a deliberately anxious look. Meanwhile, his commissioners were snapping up every bet offered, with Woolf still leading and going great guns. Suddenly Spencer waved a red handkerchief and in a hundred yards Searle was a length ahead, and the issue beyond doubt.[167]

In October the same year, Searle beat Peter Kemp, the then-reigning world champion, who the preceding month had defended the title against a former holder, the renowned Edward Hanlan of Canada. Searle’s victory set him up to visit England in 1889 to face off against William O’Connor of Toronto, the North American champion, for the unprecedented purse of £1000.

Nickalls, en route to his third victory in the amateur Wingfield Sculls, met and trained with Searle that summer. “We had many a long scull together on the tideway,” Nickalls recalled. “An extremely nice man he was, too. Powerful and rather on the heavy side, as he would be at that period of his practice, for it was two months before his race. I . . . admired his sculling immensely, quite a different thing from the showing made by our other English professionals at that date.”[168] The chasm between amateur and professional perhaps fostered friendlier relations than they might have had, had there been any prospect of their competing in the same race.

Searle beat O’Connor handily but died less than three months later, having contracted typhoid fever on the ship returning to Melbourne. “It was suspected that the heavy wagering on the race -- about £80,000 is said to have changed hands -- caused him to become the victim of foul play.”[169] When his remains arrived in Sydney the whole city went into mourning, the crowd estimated at between one and two hundred thousand.[170] The local Sunday Times, in six long and dense columns describing the scene, declared that when “the white-winged spirit of the Champion floated upward towards the golden gates of the Jasper City,” the community felt that “a national loss had been sustained and that a calamity had overtaken our country.”[171] A column in Searle’s memory erected in 1891 stands at the finish of the Parramatta course.


Professional Sculling edit

English professional sculling began to ebb in the 1870s, due partly to the greater prize money available in Australia and North America, but largely to its own “bad odor,” as decried in Vanity Fair (Feb. 18, 1888):

Wallace Ross, 1884

Though Monday last was an unpleasant day for the river, a huge crowd turned out to see the great Championship Professional Sculling race between Wallace Ross and Bubear. Thousands, in their simplicity, expected to see a fine race. The Englishman was said to be “fitter” than ever he had been before, and long odds were laid on him for the event, until just before the start, when the betting veered around to 5 to 4 on Ross. For myself, I hoped against hope to see a race, but my prophetic soul told me I should not. My prophetic soul was, as usual, right. I saw a fiasco, as people who go nowadays to see races of this kind so often do.

Ross rowed right away from Bubear. He started at forty to the minute. When he had got a lead, he dropped into a paddle of twenty-six. Bubear may have tried; but, if so, his trying is not worth much. He was never in it after the first few yards, and Ross paddled home on a good tide, in shockingly bad time, as easy a winner as one could wish to see in any duffer’s race.

The disappointed public were very angry, and said many nasty things. Journalists are, for particular reasons, less free-spoken; but though they may not say much, they think a good deal. English professional sculling received a great blow on Monday last, from which it will not easily recover. It has been in bad odour from some time past; and it will now be hard to re-excite interest in what is almost a ruined branch of sport; and I for one am not sorry for it. I am sick of professional sculling; and it is certain that no one will be one whit the worse for its extinction, if it is to continue in its present circumstances.

Just over a year later, with the prospect of Searle and O’Connor facing off in a “square” match, Vanity Fair (Sept. 7, 1889) took hope for professional sculling:

Searle and O’Connor are to race over the tideway course on Monday, and all the sporting world will go out to see them. The match is a remarkable one, if only by reason of the wonderful records that the competitors bring to these shores with them, Searle being the admitted successor to the once great Beach, and O’Connor having beaten every man of note in America. It is also remarkable for its apparent genuineness. Rightly or wrongly, every waterman and every follower of aquatics believes that the match will be “square,” and this is in itself enough to account for the large share of public interest that has centred upon the meeting. To speak of the respective chances of the scullers is a little difficult, as we know so little of them when actually racing; and many a man who practises well has not the head or the heart to carry him through a big race. In style -- and especially for a short distance -- O’Connor has the advantage; being a most pretty workman, save for the bad fault of letting his shoulders stand out at the finish. The present champion, Searle, has a long, dragging stroke, holding his slide well with his legs, and maintaining the power well past the rowlock -- a style which is most telling over a long course. Besides, he is a better built, and, I should say, a stronger, man than his opponent. While, then, it must not be forgotten that O’Connor is a tremendous spurter, and is possessed of some amount of staying power, I am inclined to think that Searle will win, if the water be at all rough. But it should be a close and exciting race.

Professional sculling did continue into the twentieth century but had almost disappeared by the 1914-18 war.

References edit

  1. ^ S. Bennett, The Clarence Comet: The Career of Henry Searle, 1866-89, p. 18.
  2. ^ S. Fairbairn, Chats on Rowing, p. 24.
  3. ^ K. Webb, quoted in H. Cleaver, A History of Rowing, pp. 43-44.
  4. ^ G. Nickalls, Life’s a Pudding, pp. 206-07.
  5. ^ V. Mansell, “Professional Oarsmanship,” in British Sports and Sportsmen: Yachting and Rowing p. 427.
  6. ^ S. Bennett, p. 13.
  7. ^ The Sunday Times (Sydney), Dec. 15, 1889, quoted in the Australian Encyclopedia, p. 58 (3d ed. rev. 1979).

Douglas-Scott-Montagu JWE

Douglas-Scott-Montagu, John Walter Edward (2nd Baron Montagu of Beaulieu) edit

“A Southern Scott” (Spy), October 8, 1896 edit


He became the first son of his father (now Lord Montagu of Beaulieu) and grandson of the fifth Duke of Buccleuch thirty years ago; and he has never been still since. So full of energy is he that when he went to Eton he rowed, and shot for his school at Wimbledon; when he went to Oxford he helped the New College boat to the Head of the River; and, after having shown himself something of a scholar as well as a good actor, he worked for a year in the sheds of the London and South-Western Railway Company, and so was made into a practical engineer. Then we went round the world with his cousin, the late Lord Ancrum, and his friend, Lord Ennismore; and when his father was made a Peer, he followed him into Parliament, getting himself returned as the wholesome Tory Member for the New Forest Division of Hampshire: from all which it is clear that he is a versatile young fellow of considerable parts.

He is a good-looking all-round sportsman, a capital shot, a wonderful hand at wild fowling, and almost the only gentleman in England who can scull a gunning-punt. Popular with all classes, he recalls to those who knew it the hearty simplicity of his grandfather. He owns a ranch in America; he has twice been to South Africa (where he is supposed to have studied the railway question); he has acted as correspondent of The Times, and he has interviewed Oom Paul. Consequently he is on the Board of several South African Companies; and, having written a Prize Essay on finance at Oxford, he is as great an authority on money matters as he is on railway difficulties. Yet he yachts partially, cycles with ease, writes fluently for magazines, throws flies quite irresistibly, and talks well with nervous energy. He often steered the Sciola (built by Admiral Victor Montagu) to victory, and he is both a Justice of the Peace and a Captain of Volunteers.

He owns a beautiful collection of shooting coats; some of which are very well worn.

J.W.E. Douglas-Scott-Montagu (1866-1929) rowed for the Oxford Etonians in the 1887 Grand with Guy Nickalls and D.H. McLean. He is remembered as a pioneer of motoring, commemorated by his son in 1950 with the establishment of the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu, the family estate in the New Forest, Hampshire. Douglas-Scott-Montagu was responsible for the iconic Rolls Royce hood ornament, in that the design he commissioned in 1910 from Charles Sykes became the Spirit of Ecstasy that the company eventually adopted as a standard feature.

Muttlebury SD

Muttlebury, Stanley Duff edit

“One of the Presidents” (Spy), March 22, 1890 edit


Born three-and-twenty years ago he became a “new boy” at Eton in the Easter Term of 1880; where, although he only took “Lower Middle,” he determined to make himself conspicuous. So, being a big boy for his age, he donned “tails” and “shiny buttons,” and presently showed much promise as a “wet bob”; which he has since redeemed. For, having successively won the Lower Boys Sculls and Pairs, he proceeded to develop into a rowing machine; and in that capacity he has since worked with fair regularity, breaking down much less often than the machinery of any of Her Majesty’s ships has been known to break down in any equal space of time. He won the School Sculls at his second attempt, and he helped to win the Ladies’ Plate in 1885; after which he was reasonably welcomed to Cambridge, where rowing men were smarting under pretty frequent defeat on the tideway; and where he is now worshipped for four successive victories which he has helped achieve over Oxford. He has won the Cambridge Pairs thrice, the Fours and the Sculls once, and last year he rowed in the Head Boat; while at Henley he has won the Goblets thrice and the Visitors’ once. He still lives in hope of winning the “Grand,” as well as a fifth victory over the Isis men. Yet he is not so good an oar as he was two years ago.

Like most machines he is adapted for one purpose only, and consequently he is not a brilliant scholar; yet he has a head which, it is currently reported, can stand more than that of any other man. He is a fine swimmer, who has scored nearly as many pots in the water as he has on it; and he has upon occasion run at a good rate and played football with fitting violence. He always likes to get a good start in a race, and rows better when he does so; yet he has never started before the word “Go” has been uttered. He takes delight in tearing either side off a boat, for he can row on stroke or bow side. He is a brilliant conversationalist, for in himself he has a never failing subject of conversation in which he is well posted; and he is the strongest man on earth (in a boat) as well as the most ugly.

He knows more of life in London than most men of double his age know, and he weighs fifteen stone when untrained. He can tell stories, and he is supposed to be the most successful pot-hunter in England.

He personifies the triumph of matter over mind.

“[U]ndoubtedly the greatest oar ever produced by Cambridge” and the first Cantab to win the Boat Race four times, Stanley Duff Muttlebury (1866-1933) appeared in Vanity Fair at the end of his third year as C.U.B.C. President and at the apex of his career, having captained Leander in 1889. (He was the only VANITY FAIR rower to be shown in a boat -- with fixed pins, as swivels had not yet been accepted -- which he facilitated by letting Leslie Ward watch him practice rowing on the floor of his college room.)[172] Muttlebury’s success came in part, as R.C. Lehmann wrote, from sheer strength: “His blade sweeps through the water, as he swings his 13.10 / And pulls it all, and more than all, that brawny king of men.” But success also came from effective use of a long slide, a refinement Muttlebury developed in the mid-1880s at Trinity College while Reginald McKenna was doing the same next door at Trinity Hall, both with the help of Steve Fairbairn. In the resulting debate between “orthodoxy” and “Fairbairnism,” which flared again fifty years later in The Times, R.P.P. Rowe, the younger brother of Vanity Fair’s G.D. Rowe, pointed to “Muttle” as the exemplar of both styles:

Muttlebury had a natural aptitude which amounted to genius for rowing, and, as he was not only massively large and full of courage but herculean in muscular strength, it was inevitable that he should be an outstanding exponent of oarsmanship. Added to this, he came to his prime when rowing was in a transitional stage, when the old methods of the straight back and the body catch, suited to the fixed seat and the short slide, had necessarily to be superseded by methods required by the long slide. I consider that long-slide rowing sprang suddenly to perfection in Muttlebury, that on him this new (or partially new) art was built, and that if he could be rowing at his best today there would be an end of any conflict of styles. At any rate, every one would agree “this is how to row, if one can somehow learn it”; the only question left would be how best to learn it. Personally I claim his rowing to have been orthodoxy at its best; I have never in the last 40 years thought of orthodoxy in any other sense.[173]

To Muttlebury’s strength and style might be added his sang froid, which one of his Third Trinity teammates recalled from the 1888 University Fours:

In the University Fours in November, 1888, Third Trinity was drawn with Emmanuel. Both crews had done fast times in practice, and in the race they were level at Ditton. Here, rounding the corner, the Third Trinity boat gave a lurch, and Muttlebury, who rowed three and steered, found to his consternation that his sliding seat was jammed and was absolutely immovable. Quick as thought he tucked the loom of his oar under his left arm, turned half round, and after two attempts wrenched the seat off the slides and threw it overboard. The other three oars, not knowing exactly what was wrong, continued to paddle on briskly. “Muttle,” now seated low down on the slideway, started to row again, but at the second stroke, owing to the strain caused when he pulled out the seat, the steering lacing gave way at his foot. Calling out “Paddle on, you chaps,” he calmly stopped rowing, leant forward, and carefully secured the steering lace. Then, after dipping his right hand in the water overside, he cried out, “Now come on,” and, to the encouraging sound of great cheering from the banks, started to pick up the stroke, Bevan, who rowed stroke, having to keep time as best he could by watching three’s blade out of the corner of his eye.

Emmanuel, who were in second station, had been coming up fast, and were now only about 50 yards off. By common consent the race was practically over. Not so to “Muttle.” It was said that the water washed out of the Cam by “Muttle’s” blade rolled in huge waves to the tow path. At the Railway Bridge the crews were level again, but it seemed to most people that Third could not continue with their heavy 13st. 10lb. man bumping about on the metal slide-way and the three light men trying to keep time with him at over 40. However, “Muttle” called out for a “thick ‘un,” and on they went. From the Railway Bridge he put in a number of these “thick ‘uns” of his, until Third, rowing 44, and steered a perfect course by “Muttle,” got their gun and won the race by a second amid great excitement. There was a vast to-do among the timekeepers in comparing watches when it was discovered that the time was 10min. 26sec. -- 21sec. faster than the previous year’s record for the course.[174]

In 1890 Oxford won the first of its nine successive Boat Races and Muttlebury’s and Cambridge’s reign ended. He finished at university that year and went to London where he became a stockbroker and joined the Thames R.C., winning the Stewards’ in 1894 but never the Grand. For many years he helped coach Cambridge and was a steward of the Henley Regatta.

The 1890 Boat Race, Part I: “A Poorer Lot than Usual” edit

In the correspondence between the University Boat Club Presidents to set the details for the 1890 race, the date became a sticking point, flashing over when Guy Nickalls wrote that Cambridge wanted to get the best of everything because they were “a poorer lot than usual.” Less than tactful stuff from a club that had lost four in a row. To celebrate this “Inter-University Incident,” Rudy Lehmann, who at various times coached both Nickalls and Muttlebury, penned thirty-two stanzas for Granta, the year-old Cambridge magazine that Lehmann edited and co-founded. (Muttle wrote its initial “Rowing Notes.”) First, for the February 1 issue, “The Quarrel: ‘A Poorer Lot than Usual’”:

Strew your heads with dust and ashes, O ye
sons of sedgy Cam;
Let your speech be meek and humble as the
baa of bleating lamb;
Let your bloods go robed in sackcloth and be
careless of their boots,--
You’re “a poorer lot than usual, – rather
lower than the brutes.
Fiery Nickalls wrote the latter, -- fiery
Nickalls, fine and large,--
And his frenzied eye flashed fury as he sat
within his barge.
Long enough have we submitted; now the time
has come to strike;
Shall “a poorer lot than usual” settle all
things as they like?

“I, the winner of the Wingfields, of the
Diamonds winner too,
Who at stroke, or six, or seven am the
mainstay of the crew;
I, whom friends call Guy or Luney,” -- it was
thus the chieftain spoke, --
“Of ‘a poorer lot than usual’ will not tamely
bear the yoke.

“Nay, my brothers of the Isis, let us write to
them and say
They shall trample us no longer in the old
familiar way;
And the banner of our Boat Club, as it flutters
in its pride,
By ‘a poorer lot than usual’ shall no longer be

So he wrote it, and he signed it in the
Presidential chair,
And he folded and addressed it, and he posted
it with care;
And the heedless postman bore it, little recking
of the frown
Of “a poorer lot than usual” who reside in
Cambridge town.
. . . .

And they [the Cambridge boat club captains]
sat in solemn conclave, there within the
panelled hall,
Where the golden names of oarsmen gleam
and glitter on the wall;
Mighty Muttle read the letter, lord and master
of the crew,
In “a poorer lot than usual” of socks and
shorts and shoes.

Then they looked at one another as they heard
it with dismay,
And one said, “This is awful,” and another,
“Let us pray”;
Till at last one rose and murmured, and his
fingers, as he rose,
Were -- “a poorer lot than usual” – extended
from his nose.

“Thus,” he said, “I answer Nickalls of the
boast so loud and big;
Let him mount, and, if he likes it, ride to
Putney on a pig.
Let him go to Bath or blazes, go to Jericho and
Or -- “a poorer lot than usual” -- place his
head within a sack.

“But when next he writes to Cambridge let him
try another plan;
Manners cost no more than twopence, and ‘tis
manners makyth man.
And, O Muttle! if you meet him, tell him
plainly face to face
That ‘a poorer lot than usual’ mean to beat
him in the race.”

Then, for the February 15 issue,”The Reconciliation: Oxford in Cambridge,” as Nickalls and R.P.P. Rowe had come to Cambridge to make peace, cemented at a banquet in their honor:

Oh! sadly flows the Isis, full sadly go the
And the Blue-aspiring oarsmen all have
yielded to the blues,
Through hall and quad and college sweeps the
universal moan,--
“Give Guy and Reggie back to us; we cannot
row alone.”
Muttlebury coaching Cambridge, 1892
To Iffley drift the “toggers,” as slow as any
For while the men forget their form the coach
forgets to curse;
And bow, who screws most painfully, forgets to
murmur “Blank,”
As the cox forgets his rudder-strings and runs
into the bank.
. . . .
But Guy has hastened Camward; he leaves
them to their sighs,
And Reggie Rowe goes with him, curly Reggie
of the eyes--
Reggie the slim and supple, the pride of all the
Who never left his bed too soon, and never yet
rowed late.

See how our Muttle greets them; his childlike
smile is bland,
That heathen Cantab, Muttle, -- as he shakes
them by the hand:
“Now, welcome both to Cambridge; first lunch
and then away
To watch ‘the poorer-----’ Hem! I mean the
crew at work to-day.”
. . . .
Muttle at six is “stylish,” so at least the Field
No man has ever worn, I trow, so short a pair
of shorts.
His blade sweeps through the water, as he
swings his 13.10,
And pulls it all, and more than all, that brawny
king of men.
. . . .
And, now the work is over, the rival chieftains
And talk of friendly nothings in their
armchairs at the Pitt;
And yet methought I marked a shade of
sadness on the face
Of Nickalls, as he thought upon the coming
Putney race.

But oh! that merry evening -- the clash of
knives and forks,
The sparkle of the wineglass, and the popping
of the corks;
And the walls and rafters echoed and re-
echoed to our cry,
As we drained our brimming bumpers to
Reggie and to Guy.

So here’s a health to Oxford men; there came
a storm of late,
But our sturdy friendship weathered it, nor
foundered on a date;
And, when the furious race is past, again we’ll
meet and dine,
And drink a cup of kindness yet for days of
auld lang syne.[175]

References edit

  1. ^ L. Ward, Forty Years of Spy, p. 232.
  2. ^ The Times, May 6, 1933, p. 14d.
  3. ^ H. Warington Smyth, quoted in The Times, May 10, 1933, p. 10d.
  4. ^ R.C. Lehmann, “An Inter-University Incident,” Granta, Feb. 1 and 15, 1890, reprinted in F. Rice, The Granta and Its Contributors, 1889-1914, pp. 162-66.

Nickalls G

Nickalls, Guy edit

“Wingfield Sculls” (Spy), July 20, 1889 edit


'Only a few years ago there was at Eton a young wet-bob whose vigorous energy led him to dare so much, and to display such recklessness of consequence in daring, that he came to be known amongst his fellows as “Luni.” But however well earned the style may have been, he has ever since persistently shown that he has method in what he does. While still at Eton, he played football with success, and when not engaged in athletically breaking his bones or risking his neck, he feathered an oar with skill enough to attract the notice of the galley slave-drivers of the time, who quickly placed him upon a thwart in the Eton Eight, in which he greatly helped seven other boys to carry off the Ladies’ Challenge Plate at Henley. After this, his success as a boat propeller was assured. He went to Magdalen College, Oxford, and was found ready to row down all comers. He took a seat in the Oxford Eight as of right, and has kept it for three years. He rowed once with Lord Ampthill, and again with a son of the Leader of the House of Commons in the University Pairs; and he has rowed in various Eights and Pairs at Henley with a great deal more success than most men have any right to expect.

As a Sculler, Mr. Nickalls is even more famous. When he had once won the Oxford Sculls he feared to contest them again because all other possible competitors feared to scull against him. He rowed with such vigour against Gardner at Henley that he broke a scull and was beaten -- which he could well afford to be for once. He holds the records over the Amateur Championship course; and he has now thrice won the Wingfield Sculls, no one having the stomach to contest them with him on the last occasion. He always finishes a hard race as strongly as he begins it, and it is now confidently asserted that we have never yet seen his like in a skiff.

In spite of his youth -- he is but twenty-two years old -- and of his great achievements, Mr. Nickalls is not puffed up but is the owner of a very genial and hearty manner, which upon occasion becomes so boisterous as to show justification for the schoolboy estimate of his ways as summed up at Eton. He has much capacity for exercise, and his excessive biceps is only surpassed in quantity by the size of his forearm. His favourite sport is hunting, but he can catch fish and shoot birds. He is also good at presiding over others, for while still President of the O.U.B.C., he presides over the Eton Club and over the Junior Common Room of his College, and he will presently be President of Vincent’s. He is the best of friends, a man with whom, for other reasons, no one would care to quarrel. But he is not fond of rowing, and is likely soon to retire upon his laurels.

“But he is not fond of rowing, and is likely soon to retire upon his laurels.” Unless tongue in cheek, this was Vanity Fair’s single worst rowing prediction, for Guy Nickalls (1866-1935) went on to accumulate a record to which none “can compare even remotely,” judged the Times obituarist. It is thus fitting that he was the first rower to be featured as such in Vanity Fair, all predecessors having appeared in some other capacity (and Rev. E.J.H. Smith having been a coaching fluke).

Tom Nickalls, a founding member of the London Rowing Club, did not want his sons to become oarsmen, telling Guy, “Cricket, my boy, will take you round the world, and rowing, up and down the Thames. I used to row for London, and I always wished I could play cricket.”[176] But Guy became a “wet bob” almost immediately on arrival at Eton in 1880 and kept rowing for the next twenty-eight years, with a hiatus from 1898 to 1904 to attend to family and finances. In his autobiography, he demurred: “I do not wish for a moment to take any credit to myself. . . . Nature has endowed me with a fairly strong body, a constitution of iron, and a will power or stubbornness above the average. These I have tried my best not to abuse, and any man so built and constituted, given my opportunities, could no doubt have done the same.”[177] Maybe so. But few could win three events at a Henley regatta; or enter and win in their forties (and train by dragging a horse-roller around the lawn);[178] or shrug off a surgical divot in the leg to win the Grand and jump in a scratch pair for the Goblets:

Somewhere about April [1892] I was breaking in some Arab polo ponies which my eldest brother had sent home from Cairo, and, in opening a gate, the one I was riding, a grey, suddenly plunged and swerved; consequence, a badly torn tailor’s muscle. It put me hors de combat for a day or two, and, as there were no outward and visible signs of injury, I continued riding every morning. At the end of April I could feel a hard lump as big as a goose’s egg deep on my inner left thigh. I went up to see Wharton Hood, who told me that I had a bad suffusion of blood, and that when it ripened, so to speak, it would come more to the surface, in about six weeks’ time, and that then I should have to have it opened up. . . .

The exercise at Oxford and the dancing at Commem., for which I had a big party, including my wife to be, brought my bad leg to a head. I had arranged to drive my party over to Henley with two of old Richard’s team, but before starting I went to see “Pego” Symonds, who vetted all the Varsity crews in those days. He laid me out, proceeded to hone a knife, and then, with a “Hold tight,” he made two enormous deep gashes in my thigh, bound my leg up, and told me not to take it off for twenty-four hours. When I did so, at Henley, I had a hole in my thigh that I could get my fist into. The local saw-bones, Baines, fixed me up with two tubes, and, as there was no chance of walking for three weeks, I took to a bath-chair, in which Robeson, the ninth man [for the Leander eight], was kind enough to trundle me about. I could row all right, but missed my usual running exercise badly. The only means by which I could persuade Robeson to come as ninth man was a promise that I would go in for the Goblets with him. The extra exercise certainly helped me to get fit, but we could never make a good pair.[179]

At Eton Nickalls won the Junior Sculling (1884), the School Pulling (1885-86), and School Sculling (1885). At Oxford he won the University Sculls (1887), the University Pairs (1888-90, with W.F.D. Smith once, then twice with Lord Ampthill), and the University Fours (1886 and 1889), went head of the river in 1888 with Magdalene, and rowed in five Boat Races (1887-91), winning twice and being O.U.B.C. President in 1890. He was Captain of Leander in 1892 and 1897. He won the Wingfield Sculls four times (1887-89 and 1891), and at Henley won the Grand four times (1891-92 and 1896-97), the Ladies’ once (1885, with Eton), the Stewards’ seven times (1893, 1895-97, 1905-07), the Goblets six (1890-91 and 1894-97), and the Diamonds five (1888-90 and 1893-94). All told, Nickalls won twenty-three events at Henley over twenty-two years, losing only thirteen of eighty-one races, a record that may never be equalled.[180] Had he “ever made a spécialité of sculling, and got his hands and their work approximately accurate, no doubt that he would have been better than all,” wrote W.B. Woodgate; “as it was, now and then when he won Diamonds after grinding in other races at the same regatta, he showed evidence of pace which few amateurs could ever equal.”[181] Nickalls capped and completed his career by winning the 1908 London Olympic Eight with Leander a few months short of his forty-second birthday (see below).

From 1913 through 1916 Nickalls coached Yale, enticed to New Haven by Averell Harriman and a sufficient stipend to help see his two sons through Eton. (Nickalls tried to join the army in 1914 on the outbreak of war, but was turned down on account of age. By late 1917 the army had a change of heart, sending him to France, then age fifty, as a Captain in the 23rd Lancashire Fusiliers in charge of physical and bayonet training.) Though his Yale crews won two of the three years he was there, Nickalls found the environment stressful and foreign. He was partly to blame, by spouting opinions better left unsaid or if said, certainly not within earshot of the attentive rowing press. Yet such remarks -- “Their paddling is bad, their rowing, worse” (about the Yale 1916 crew)[182] -- were wholly in line with his personality: as O.U.B.C. President, he nearly scotched the 1890 Boat Race by calling the Cambridge crew “probably a poorer lot than usual” in an official letter to his counterpart, S.D. Muttlebury.[183] Son Gully later recalled:

So far as he was concerned there were rarely two sides to any question. He was right. His opponents were not only wrong, but deliberately and wickedly wrong. So strong were his opinions that in argument he became so fierce, vehement and aggressive that a change of subject came as a welcome relief. . . .

His tact was atrocious. My mother went through agonies of apprehension. Always she knew by the trend of the conversation when he was about to drop some particularly heavy brick, and, with frantic winks and nods and desperate endeavours to turn the conversation into other channels, gallantly she would strive to steer him clear of immediate trouble. The difficulty was that he could never modify his point of view for the benefit of any one of the company. Nor could he be prevented from saying exactly what he thought. In private my mother would reproach him: “‘You’re not sane. You say such silly things. No wonder you’re so unpopular.” My father would reply: “Of course I’m not popular. Few people with any character are.” He would then try to laugh off the matter and pretend that the whole thing was a grand joke. Sometimes, if it was known that he was going to meet certain people, we would endeavour to warn him beforehand of all the possible pitfalls. We were not particularly successful. The conversation would take some unexpected turn and we were sunk. Constant tutoring, combined with a certain mellowing natural to age, tended to improve his tact during his last few years, though he was never absolutely reliable.[184]

The unbounded energy Nickalls brought to rowing carried through his later years, though lack of tact and impatience with detail kept him from ever converting much of it into commercial success as a stockbroker (1892-1922) or advertising agent (1922-35). (Gully fared better, forty years the partner of Alfred Pemberton, son of Max, in their own advertising firm.)[185] A relentless gardener and tennis player, Guy “could garden for two hours before breakfast, cut and mark out two tennis courts before lunch, and start tennis at 2.30 and play till 8.30 if he could find anyone to oppose him.”{[186] Among Nickalls’ habits that must have maddened his opponents, recalled Gully, “was his way, when he or his partner were serving, of keeping only one score when leading in any game. Thus, thirty, fifteen, was ‘Thirty here’; forty-fifteen, or forty-thirty, were both ‘Forty here’. The other side had to keep their own score.”[187] He also “had the greatest attraction and fascination to children, and he was never so happy as when surrounded by them, leading some expedition to bathe in the river, to ferret, to dig a badger, or to go beagling.”[188] “He had a wholehearted zest for life and all that it offered,” wrote Gully. A friend recalled: “Every minute of his time was occupied. I don’t think he ever knew what it was to be dull or lonely. He loved to be surrounded by people, preferably the young. And for this reason he never really grew old. With a more helpful bank balance he would have made an admirable host on the grand scale.”[189]

On July 6, 1935 Zürich Rowing Club won the Stewards’. “Thank God I have been spared to see what I believe to be the finest four of all time,” Guy told Gully. The next morning, Guy was in an auto accident en route to Scotland to fish, and died the following evening.

The 1908 London Olympics: Nickalls’ Finale edit


Due to bad weather, there was no rowing at the first modern Olympic Games in Athens in 1896. There was at Paris in 1900 and St. Louis in 1904, but the U.K. sent only a sculler to Paris, St. George Ashe, who apparently had no ARA or other official backing, and sent no one at all to Athens or St. Louis.[190] The isolation ended when London agreed to host the 1908 Games. The organizing committee assigned the rowing events to the ARA, whose Oxbridge leaders chose Henley as the venue and applied the ARA’s restrictive “amateur” definition to potential entrants, which effectively excluded the United States, France, Holland, Switzerland, and all but the Italian sculler from competition. The Belgians made the cut and since they had won the Grand Challenge Cup in 1906 and 1907, as well as the European Championships for ten of the previous eleven years, the ARA were determined to field strong crews for Britain. They selected two for the eights event: a composite crew of old and new Leander men in the orthodox mold, and Duggie Stuart’s C.U.B.C., which won the 1908 Boat Race but whose “sculling” style the Leander veterans thought incorrigible. At the Olympics, the Belgians beat Cambridge to advance to the final against Leander, and the stage was set for orthodoxy’s test. Nickalls’ account:

The actual racing was really too easy to be exciting. We drew Hungary in the first heat, and paddled after the top of the Island. In the next heat Canada made a better show. They started at 43, and never got much below 40 at any point of the course. We started at 41, and, continuing at a level 36, we were from a length to a length and three-quarters ahead all the way up the course. After the Henley Regatta three-quarter mark, we let the stroke down to 34, and paddled in firmly, easy winners. In the final we met the redoubtable Belgian crew, the terror of the then modern English oarsmen, the crew who had beaten the famous Cambridge crowd more easily than even we veterans had expected. We were known to one and all as “the old crocks”. I may say our style was admitted to be of the best, but would-be-wiseacres shook their heads knowingly. Wait till the Belgians press them. Well, I had never been beaten by either a colonial or foreigner, and I certainly wasn’t going to be in my old age, and this my absolutely last race.

The start was beautifully level; they did 43 and we a long crisp 42. I had never felt the like of it, and never in my life had I felt like galloping at full tilt the whole distance. We had a quarter of a length lead at the end of a minute, and, letting the stroke drop to 38, led half a length at the end of two minutes. At the second signal box we led by three-quarters of a length, rowing 37. Cockie [Maclagan] had warned us that unless absolutely necessary he was not going to ask for more than one “ten”, and that we were to let ourselves go and give it good and strong. The psychological moment had arrived. Cockie’s clear voice rang out immediately after the Belgians’ great spurt at Remenham Farm had subsided.

“Now then, Leander, we’ll have our ten strokes and let them know it! One-----”

The boat fairly leapt out of the water, up to 38 again. We fairly sang along, cleared them at once and began sailing away. Bucknall dropped to 36 again. The race was over. We had them beat. Don growled and broke into a paddle. I was all for rowing in at 40, but Cockie looked back.

“Take it easy and keep together, Leander,” shouted he, and we swung over the line easy winners, by more than two lengths, in record time. I had finished. Thanks entirely to the unselfish and patriotic action of the “old crocks” turning out again to show the younger generation how to row properly, I remained unbeaten by any colonial or foreigner. The victory of the orthodox in 1908 not only restored England’s prestige as the greatest rowing nation in the world, but straightened out the prevailing ideas on style and form which W.A.L. Fletcher and others had begun to decry.[191]

“Having just witnessed Olympic regatta while winding up these pages,” wrote W.B. Woodgate in his memoirs, “I venture to criticize the form there. It was below the average of ordinary Henley regattas between ‘90 and ‘02. The Leander eight was good, but not superlative: the Grand winners of ‘93 and 1902 would have beaten it, and others have tied it. Fours, pairs, and sculls were all below Henley average. Belgians, weaker than us, teach us valuable lessons in (1) uniform slide, (2) clean feather, (3) lively arm recovery. If they adopted our longer trunk swing they would be deadly. (Fas est et ab hoste doceri.) It is discredit to modern Oxford coaching that good men like Kirby and Southwell should be spoilt, and Leander be driven to fall back on veteran welters.”[192]

References edit

  1. ^ G. Nickalls, Life’s a Pudding, pp. 37-38.
  2. ^ Ibid., p. 205.
  3. ^ G.O. Nickalls, in G. Nickalls, p. 301: “At certain times of the year between 1905 and 1908 an enormous horse-roller would suddenly make its appearance in the garden. Harnessing himself between the shafts, Guy would proceed to drag it up and down the lawn. Questioning our nurse as to what was happening, we received the reply that ‘Daddy was getting ready to row at Henley.’ To our childish minds, there did not seem any very obvious connection.”
  4. ^ |Ibid., pp. 109-11.
  5. ^ G. Page, Hear the Boat Sing: The History of the Thames Rowing Club, p. 26 (Nickalls’ “twenty-three wins [at Henley] in the course of a long career may never be equalled”).
  6. ^ W.B. Woodgate, Reminiscences of an Old Sportsman, p. 373.
  7. ^ G. Nickalls, quoted in T. Mendenhall, The Harvard-Yale Race and the Coming of Sport to the American College, p. 298.
  8. ^ G. Nickalls, quoted in Windsor Magazine, p. 109 (July 1896).
  9. ^ G.O. Nickalls, in G. Nickalls, pp. 299-300, 315.
  10. ^ G.O. Nickalls, A Rainbow in the Sky, p. 118.
  11. {^ “L.A.J.,” quoted in Times, July 10, 1935 p. 16e.
  12. ^ G.O. Nickalls, in G. Nickalls, p. 304.
  13. ^ “L.A.J.,” quoted in Times, July 10, 1935 p. 16e.
  14. ^ G.O. Nickalls, in G. Nickalls, pp. 298-99.
  15. ^ H. Cleaver, A History of Rowing, pp. 160-61.
  16. ^ G. Nickalls, pp. 203-04.
  17. ^ W.B. Woodgate, p. 387.

Smith WFD

Smith, William Frederick Danvers (Viscount Hambleden) edit

“Head of the greatest publishing house in Christendom” (Spy), December 8, 1904 edit


Many years ago, when newspapers were few, when advertisements were taxed, and when the telegraph carried no daily tale of diplomacy or horror from the outside world, a newsman set up in business in Duke Street, off Grosvenor Square. His name was Smith. The little shop grew and prospered so fast that a branch office was opened in the Strand. Also he married; and from that union was born a Cabinet Minister.

He was not always a Cabinet Minister, though he was never a newsboy, as his enemies loved to have it. But he grew in stature, wealth and wisdom until he became a very John Bull in person, with an organising imagination such as was even rarer in those days than now. He obtained control of the railway bookstalls. He learnt the tastes of the counties -- that Yorkshire does not buy poetry nor Manchester expensive books. As education increased subscribers so did his business swell. Lending libraries, railway advertising contracts -- in such new branches did he expand himself. Finally he died, leaving something over two millions and the name of a shrewd and honest politician who had deserved well of his country. His widow was granted the title of Viscountess Hambleden.

He left one son, the Honourable William Frederick Danvers Smith, who inherited much of his father’s wealth, and is heir to his mother’s title. Freddie Smith was a pleasant-mannered Etonian, who found a place in his school eight, but was not allowed by the Oxford doctors to win the blue that would have otherwise been his. However, he rowed at Henley for Leander in 1888, when D.H. McLean was captain, and Muttlebury was another member of the crew. Through an effort to row about fifty to the minute they were beaten by Thames. He also stroked the New College boat in 1889 when they hunted B.N.C. for the Headship of the river.

He learnt the details of his business, but since he became a Member of Parliament has practically given up any active participation therein. But the work is in good hands.

The masses of high-piled literature on every bookstall at this festive season brings home the realisation that the firm of which he is titular head is, without doubt, the greatest publishing house in Christendom. It stands between the British public and the British Press like a conduit, silently and evenly supplying its rivers of information. In spite of all temptations and some abuse, it has held to cleanliness in print and picture, with one exception in a licensed jester that blushes to hear itself named.

Freddie Smith hunts a little and shoots a great deal. He married a daughter of the Earl of Arran. Lady Esther is a wise and charming hostess. Her week-end parties at Greenlands by Henley, and her dinners, whether political or purely social, in London have a pleasant reputation.

Freddie is a quiet fellow, with a pleasant manner and a kind heart. His conduct has never given gossip or criticism a chance.

“The paper duty is gone. For the full results of its removal men must wait until we of the nineteenth century are no more,” Gladstone wrote in 1861 on the repeal of the last of the “taxes on knowledge,” a measure sponsored by T.G. Bowles’ father, Milner Gibson.[193] Wentworth Dilke, grandfather of the eponymous rower of Vanity Fair and proprietor of the Atheneum literary magazine, had also opposed the paper duty and by helping end it fostered the expansion of the popular press. This proved a mixed blessing for his grandson, who used it to propogate his political views in the 1870s and early 1880s but was pilloried in print during and after the 1885-86 Crawford divorce case. But another rower of Vanity Fair, William Frederick Danvers Smith (1868-1928), could view the removal of the paper duty as having perhaps secured his future, for his grandfather and father, William and William Henry Smith, who had previously had the foresight and good luck to obtain long-term contracts for bookselling and advertising at a large number of railway stations, created a publishing empire that funded his entrée to Eton and Oxford.

At school and university, Freddie went went winless in four Henley appearances: with Guy Nickalls and Lord Ampthill for Eton in the 1886 Ladies’, for Leander in the 1888 Grand (as Vanity Fair noted), and for New College in the Grand in 1889 and 1890. But on leaving Oxford with a third class in modern history, Smith became a popular host to generations of university oarsmen at Greenlands, his expansive home just below the start of the Henley course. His 1890 coming of age party set the tone. “I never kept a game book nor jotted down anything in the nature of a shooting diary,” Nickalls recalled, “but our five days must have accounted for 2,000 pheasants and a number of partridges and hares. All very pleasant.”[194]

In 1891 Smith inherited from his father not only Greenlands but also the family firm and a Conservative seat in the House of Commons, although the latter required ratification by the electorate at the October general election. Smith kept his seat until resigning in 1910, and joined the Lords in 1913 when his mother died and he became Viscount Hambleden. In neither place “did he make much figure as a politician,”[195] unlike his father who held cabinet posts in the Disraeli and Salisbury governments. But like his father, the younger Smith was a lifelong churchman and philanthropist, especially benefitting various London hospitals. During the 1914-18 war, Smith served in Gallipoli and Egypt as Lieutenant Colonel of the Royal First Devon Yeomanry. Vanity Fair featured him a year before his company lost two key contracts for railway bookstalls, which precipitated in 1906 the launching of 200 new bookstores, the predecessors of today’s ubiquitous WHSmith shops.

Problems in Pairs edit

En route to winning the 1888 University Pairs, Nickalls and Smith had a hiccough in training. “Three days before the trial heat Freddie and I were rowing a course, and at the finish got too far over towards the Oxford bank,” Nickalls wrote. “Fred’s oar caught a boat and it lifted him clean overboard. We stopped dead. I looked round to see what damage had been done, and saw Fred swimming towards the Brasenose raft, and I got ashore on the Varsity raft without upsetting.”[196] R.H. Forster celebrated such problems in pairs in this 1893 verse:

Stroke --

Why did I row in a pair?
Why wasn’t I sooner beheaded?
Why is Bow’s oar in the air,
While mine in the mud is embedded?
Why is his language so rank?
Bargees might hear it and quiver.
Why must he make for the bank?
Why can’t he stick to the river?

Bow --

Difficult ‘tis to discern
Why o’er the stretcher Stroke lingers.
Why does he bury the stern,
And bark on the gunwale my fingers?
Why made that coach such a row? --
His cox at the game isn’t handy:
Why am I now at the “Plough,”
Drinking hot water and brandy?

The Impartial Observer --

Here’s an infallible tip
For all who would go a-light-pairing:--
Smartness and watermanship
Move a boat faster than swearing.
Whether at stroke or at bow,
Drop all that snapping and sneering;
And don’t think your mate such a cow,
Because you mismanage the steering.^

References edit

  1. ^ W.E. Gladstone, quoted in T.H.S. Escott, Masters of English Journalism: A Study of Personal Forces, p. 266; B. Denvir, “The Loaded Image,” Art & Artists (Sept. 1976), pp. 36-37.
  2. ^ G. Nickalls, Life’s a Pudding, pp. 217-18.
  3. ^ Dictionary of National Biography.
  4. ^ G. Nickalls, pp. 67-68.
  5. ^ R.H. Forster, “Camus et Camenae,” The Eagle, December 1893.

Forster RH

Forster, Robert Henry edit

“Bill” (ELF), July 6, 1910 edit


Although Mr. Forster is best known in connection with rowing matters, his interests range over a large field, as a reference to “Who’s Who” will verify. He is the author of many volumes of both prose and verse, is an archaeologist of repute, and is a barrister-at-law. Nor does this complete the list of his acquirements and activities.

He was born at Backworth forty-three years ago, the son of a Newcastle mining engineer, and in due time went to Aysgarth School, Harrow, to make his preliminary essays in learning. His introduction to books and book-learning seemed to be to his liking, for he quickly started on the business of education in grim earnest. The mere list of his successes is formidable, and calls for no comment: -- Entrance Scholarship, Harrow, 1881; Leaf Scholarship, 1885; Minor Scholarship, St. John’s, 1884; Foundation Scholarship, 1887; M’Mahon Law Student, 1891; 1st Class (3rd Division) Classical Tripos, 1888, and 1st Class (Senior) Law Tripos, 1889. Although he is not in practice, he was called to the Bar in 1892, and, had he chosen, might have made a name for himself in the law.

But circumstances and tastes led him elsewhere. He had for many years been fond of scribbling, and in 1898 published his first book, “The Hand of the Spoiler.” This was quickly followed by other volumes -- “The Amateur Antiquary,” “Down by the River,” “A Tynedale Comedy,” “The Last Foray,” “In Steel and Leather,” “Strained Allegiance,” “The Arrow of the North,” “The Mistress of Aydon,” and several volumes of verse. Of the prose work it is to be said that one could not expect better, while his verses are better than one could expect.

He has never essayed a wife, but, judging by his books, he is not a stranger to the sex. He has been for many years captain of the Thames Rowing Club, and as a coach has the respect which success imposes. On the river bank he has to perfection that mild, hesitating timidity of speech characteristic of successful coaches, and he has never been under any delusion as to the uses of a megaphone.

George Baker Forster was First Captain of Lady Margaret Boat Club, won the Cambridge University Fours, rowed for C.U.B.C. against Oxford in the 1853 Grand (losing by a foot and a half to Chitty’s crew), and then retired from the sport. His son, Robert Henry Forster (1867-1923), was a less successful oarsman but became an accomplished coach. In 1888 at his first Henley Regatta, young Bill won the Ladies’ and the Thames with L.M.B.C. coached by his Trinity neighbor and future Thames R.C. compatriot, S.D. Muttlebury. From 1892 to 1903, having become a barrister, he unsuccessfully vied for the Grand, Thames, and Wyfolds with the Thames R.C., was its Captain most years from 1896 to 1907, and later became vice president. At the first part of the century the club’s fortunes “were at a very low ebb, owing to a paucity of good material,” recalled B.J. Angle, “and had it not been for Foster [sic] it is more than probable that the club would have permanently lost the position it had previously held in the rowing world. From 1897 to 1903 Thames won practically nothing, but in 1904 Foster’s untiring efforts at last met with reward, and since that date the club has gone steadily forward, until now it has quite gained its former position.”[197] In 1910 he and Steve Fairbairn founded the Forster-Fairbairn Trial Pairs at Cambridge.

For writing on rowing, W.B. Woodgate and R.C. Lehmann take the gold among Vanity Fair contestants for prose and poetry respectively, but Forster contends for the combined event. He wrote the first volume of the L.M.B.C. history and the lyrics for two club songs (“Si Je Puis” and “Carmen Aquaticum”), and several short stories on rowing (from which are excerpted “My garments expansion require” and “Problems in pairs”). He also wrote “Notes on the Early History of Rowing” for the St. Johns’ College magazine, reflecting his deep interest in archaeology and ancient civilization. There he conjectures that “rowing was [first] practiced on the Nile at least as early as the reign of Khufu (3733 B.C.),” because tombs of the fourth dynasty (3766 to 3566 B.C.) depict “boats and oars of a type which altered but little during the subsequent course of Egyptian history.”[198]

Bill once defined rowing as “seeking fame at the end of an eight-foot spruce.”

A Boat Race Fantasy edit

“[P]erhaps some day Mr. Forster will see his way to give us a real river story,” wrote The World (July 5, 1904), a knock-off of Vanity Fair, for “there are few good accounts of boat-racing in fiction -- the Ouidaeque oarsman who strokes ‘crack’ eights untrained being the favourite rowing hero of fiction.” After Oxford’s 1909-12 run in the Boat Race, Vanity Fair published just such a tale (April 3, 1912), though its author, “Cambriouleur,” was probably not Forster but B. Fletcher Robinson. Chastening the C.U.B.C. to “carry a reserve crew ready to step at a moment’s notice into the places of those who sink or expire” and otherwise to draw on all the resources of the University to gain victory, he launched into it:

At this point you must allow me to relate the story of the great race of 18__, in which I played so conspicuous a part. The true story of that thrilling contest has never yet been told in print. In fact, only my grandchildren know it as it should be told. Every year on Boat-race night I gather the little ones round my knee and relate the story.

"Just at that moment who should be passing but the President of the C.U.B.C. on his ancient white charger!"

I was training for the Lents. I was a humble member of the Fifth Lent Boat, but one afternoon in early February our coach had been pleased to commend my oarsmanship. “Well rowed, bow!” he cried. Just at that moment who should be passing but the President of the C.U.B.C. on his ancient white charger! He heard the encomium and he looked in my direction. Without turning my ear I could feel his eye upon me. I rowed better than ever.

After Hall in the evening -- and I had dutifully passed my plate for a third helping of roast beef -- I was sitting in my armchair before the fire gazing pensively at my disused pipe, when there came a knock at the door. I was scarcely surprised to see that my visitor was the President himself. Instead of falling on the ground and worshipping, as I should have done in calmer moments, I asked him to be seated. He informed me that he had just looked in to ask me whether I should care to occupy the vacant bow thwart in the University boat. He said that bow had been giving a lot of trouble lately and had got to clear out.

“I was rather bothered,” he continued, “to know where to look for a thoroughly competent bow. But I happened to be on the towpath this afternoon and I noticed the magnificent work you were doing. I hope you won’t mind helping us out, old man.”

“Not a bit, old chap,” I answered.

“Spoken like a brick,” he replied. “By the way, we have put forward the boat-race on account of your engagement in the Lents. It is to be rowed to-morrow morning at ten o’clock. We have just time to catch the train. So come along.”

“Right,” I answered. “Have I time to change?”

“You can change at Putney,” he said. “I felt sure you wouldn’t refuse, so I have brought your blue along with me.” He exhibited a complete rig-out of light blue which he had brought with him in a brown-paper parcel.

At the gate he suddenly remarked, looking at his watch: “By Jove! I’m not sure that we shall do it in time, even if we do catch the train. Luckily, my horse is here. If you don’t mind getting up behind me we shall be at Putney by half-past nine easily.”

I mounted the white charger behind the President, and clasping him firmly round the waist, we set out at a hard gallop along the Trumpington Road. At Bishop’s Stortford the President looked at his watch. I heard him swear.

“Only half-an-hour before the gun goes,” he exclaimed. “You must change at once.”

So, while the white charger fled onward through Tottenham and Hempstead, I changed my clothes and donned the blazer and cap, the sweater and zephyr and shorts, casting my ordinary garments away as we rode. It was hard work getting into the armholes, but it was for my University, my Alma Mater, and I did it.

We were only just in time. The gunner stood with his lighted match at the porthole as we crossed Putney Bridge, and the vast concourse of spectators set up a thunderous shout of applause as we clattered down the towing-path. It was the work of a moment to fling off our outer clothes and leap into our seats -- the President at stroke and I at bow -- just as the gun went off with a deafening crash.

I noticed the Oxford cox scowl and frown when he saw me take my seat. I noticed the Oxford stroke set his teeth tighter. We were off!

Heavens, how I pulled! I was putting in two strokes to every one of the rest of the crew’s.

“Well rowed, bow!” roared the cox through his megaphone.

“Well rowed, bow!” roared the crowd on the banks. I could see ladies waving their handkerchiefs and children shouting on the house-tops. Faster and faster I rowed. The Oxford crew were biting their nails with vexation as they slipped further and further astern. The Oxford cox was cursing audibly. The Oxford stroke was pale with vexation. Faster and faster I rowed.

Suddenly the sky grew as black as pitch. “A storm, by Heaven!” shouted our cox through his megaphone. “Well rowed, bow!”

At that moment the black sky cracked open and a huge sheet of flame descended hissing upon the river. As soon as my dazed eyes could take in the spectacle I saw that the Oxford stroke had been struck by lightning and was gone. With magnificent sportsmanship our own stroke determined to equalise matters and leapt into the stream.

Faster and faster I rowed. Great angry billows rolled in upon our frail vessel as we shot through the gloomy arches of Hammersmith Bridge. Surely no boat could live in such a sea!

Ah! A huge green-backed monster descended upon our deck, carrying havoc as it came. Seven, six, and five were swept overboard into the boiling flood. Not to be outdone in generosity, the three corresponding Oxford oars dived overboard and swam for the bank.

Undermanned, waterlogged, and now at the mercy of wind and waves, we four survivors fought our way towards Barnes. Another flash of lightning carried off four and three in each boat. Faster and faster I rowed, and the stout ashen oar bent almost double in my hands, while the waves rose higher and higher. Suddenly there was a shriek from cox.

“The rudder is broken. I can steer no longer. I am only a burden to you. Farewell! Well rowed, bow!”

I saw him plunge into the torrent, and two turned for a moment to grasp my hand.

“Barnes Bridge,” I shouted, “we’ll conquer yet!”

Then, hurrah! the goal was close at hand, if I could only reach it.

There arose a great shout from the banks -- “Cambridge has won.”

“And in record time, too, by Gad!” I heard the umpire remark.

I looked at the clock on the chimney-piece, and it said half-past ten.

That was the only time I ever rowed in the University Boat Race.

References edit

  1. ^ B.J. Angle, My Sporting Memories, p. 238.
  2. ^ R.H. Forster, “Notes on the Early History of Rowing,” The Eagle vol. 17, pp. 614-15 (1893).

Ampthill Lord

Lord Ampthill (Oliver Arthur Villiers Russell) edit

“O.U.B.C.” (Spy), March 21, 1891 edit


Oliver Arthur Villiers Russell, the second Baron Ampthill, whose father was that eminent diplomatist who will always be remembered by the name Lord Odo Russell, was born in Rome two-and-twenty years ago. Naturally he went to Eton, where he became Captain of the Boats, President of “Pop,” and President of the Literary Society. He was also second Oppidan in the School, but failed to rise above mediocrity in any physical line save rowing. From Eton he went to New College, and to-day he will row his third University Boat Race; having been once beaten by Cambridge and having once succeeded in defeating them by a few yards after the best race on record since the Dead Heat of 1877. He has often been beaten at Henley; but last year, in the stout companionship of Mr. Guy Nickalls, he won the Silver Goblets; and he has occasionally won other races. At Oxford he has begun his school career over again, having been chosen President of the University Boat Club and of the Union Society; for which last office he beat an Archbishop’s son by six votes.

He is a very tall, very agreeable, and good-looking young man, with a long, strong back, which is worth much in a boat. He is a Freemason and a Liberal Unionist, though he has not yet become famous in the House of Lords. He intends to devote himself to the management of Foreign Affairs. He can shoot.

He has many friends who call him “Dick.”

Like Freddie Smith and most anyone else, Lord Ampthill (1869-1935) usually won when Guy Nickalls was in the boat and fared worse when he was not. Wins with Nickalls were the 1888-89 University Pairs, the 1890-91 Boat Races and Goblets, and the 1891 Grand; losses without him were the 1887-88 Ladies’ and the 1889-90 Grand. Three rare losses with Nickalls were the 1886 Ladies’, the 1889 Boat Race, and the 1889 Goblets, and two wins without him were the 1888 and 1890 University Fours. So much for statistics.

Guy and Lord Ampthill were lifelong friends. Their travails in the Silver Goblets give some indication why, as recounted by Nickalls:


[1889:] Ampthill and I . . . met a very hot pair, Muttlebury and Gardner, in the final, which was one of the most severe races in which I was ever engaged. Up to Fawley we changed places about four times, but neither of us ever got more than a few feet advantage. We rowed level from there to the finish, stroke for stroke, side by side. In the last ten yards I thought we had the race but alas, Muttle scrambled over the line two feet ahead in 8 minutes 25 seconds; all four of us at the last gasp.[199]

[1890:] In the pairs our only opponents were a very hot pair, Francklyn and Muttlebury, but in the actual race Muttle was too powerful for his bow. They led us half a length at Remenham wall, where, not wanting to foul them, I called out to Muttle to get back in his water as I wanted to pass him. Muttle was very apologetic, eased up and let Francklyn pull the boat straight again. As we went by I was fouled by Francklyn’s oar, but naturally never claimed the foul, and, leading at Fawley by a quarter of a length, I could see we were quite safe, since every time Muttle tried to come up he had to put on the rudder against himself. We paddled ahead, had over a length at the mile, and won easily.[200]

[1891:] Dick and I had some excellent racing for the Goblets. In the first heat Frank Clarke and Hutchison led us by over two lengths at the half-mile, but I never believe or have believed that it is good for a big pair to start fast. We were level at the three-quarter mile and had nearly a length the best of it at the mile, and, easing up slightly, beat them by half a length. In the next heat the Thorn brothers led us by two lengths at Remenham. We were level at Fawley and, going away, won ridiculously easily in a slow paddle. The final against Wilkinson and Fletcher was another snorting race. In 1890 at Oxford we had beaten them by four feet. They got quite fast off the mark and led us by two lengths at Remenham, two and a half at Fawley, from which point I began, without quickening, to try and row them down, but gained nothing and tried spurting. By the White House we had recovered a length and a half, but they were still clear of us; however, another desperate spurt reduced their lead to half a length at the Isthmian Enclosure, where I went mad and called on Ampthill and all his gods for one last spurt. We wound it up and up, got level, and rowed for thirty yards or so, and our three last strokes lifted our boat over the line, winners by twelve inches.[201]


At Oxford, Lord Ampthill was “a remarkably handsome, tall young man of splendid physique and great personal charm,” while in maturity he “was stout, and his strong, resonant voice and dignified manner made him a ‘master of assemblies.’”[202] With these qualities plus a “simple, straightforward character and unassuming friendliness”[203] he collected presidencies, both athletic and non, to a degree rivalled only by W.H. Grenfell among the rowers of Vanity Fair: Captain of Boats and President of the Eton Society (1887-88), President of the O.U.B.C. (1891, succeeding Nickalls), President of the Union Society (1891), President of the London R.C. (1893-1935), and Pro Grand Master (1908-35, the number two spot in English Freemasonry). Guy Nickalls made him godfather to son Gully, who recalled that Lord Ampthill “noticed that one of his chores was to take me to hear sermons. I am somewhat relieved to think that he never carried this into effect, though through the years he showed me a great many acts of kindness and affection.”[204]

Professionally, Lord Ampthill did indeed devote himself to the management of Foreign Affairs. He became Assistant Private Secretary to Joseph Chamberlain in the Colonial Office in 1895, Private Secretary in 1897, and Governor of Madras in 1900 at age thirty-one, and pro tem Viceroy in 1904 on the retirement of Lord Curzon, who said that in matters of administration Lord Ampthill had an old head on young shoulders. That last position never became permanent, as he found himself increasingly allied with Indian nationals both in South and East Africa as well as their native country, and at odds with the British Government. During the 1914-18 war, Lord Ampthill commanded a battalion of the Leicestershire Regiment and two of the Bedfordshire Regiment in France.

Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon

He died of pneumonia July 7, 1935, a day before Nickalls, prompting the following anonymous epigram among the various tributes in the Times:

Oarsmen they lived, and silver goblets mark
The well-timed prowess of their trusty blades:
In death their rhythm kept, they now embark
To row their long last course among the Shades.[205]

The 1890 Boat Race, Part II: Tom Nickalls’ Insider Trading edit

Tom Nickalls, Guy’s father, co-founded the London Rowing Club in 1856. In 1895, he presented the Nickalls’ Challenge Cup to go with the Silver Goblets, in honor of one or the other of his sons (Guy and Vivian) having won the event from 1890 to 1894. A wealthy stockbroker, Tom knew the value of a hot tip and, as the father of the 1890 O.U.B.C. President, put that paternal access to good use before the Boat Race. Guy’s version:

[W]e did an enormous amount of long hard rowing and the crew were undoubtedly very fit, but about a week before the race, which was rowed on a Wednesday, we began to show signs of staleness. On the Thursday my father came down to see us row, and it was quite palpable that we were off colour. My father said:

“Why don’t you take the crew away for a change?”

I said: “The O.U.B.C. have no money and cannot afford it.”

My father, I may say, had taken the odds of 7-2 on Cambridge very heavily. He stood to take £7,000 off Paxton alone.

He telegraphed to the Grand Hotel at Brighton, booked rooms for us, and stood the crew a treat for a very long week-end, and away we went next day. On Saturday morning, for a joke, we ordered eight bath-chairs and were pulled up and down the front. Word was immediately telegraphed to London that all the crew were invalids, and it looked as if the race would not take place. The weather was lovely, and we stayed at Brighton until Tuesday morning and went for a short paddle and a minute’s row in the afternoon. A preliminary next morning, and then the race. . . .

[After Oxford won:] My father came to the quarters with George Rowe and a host of others to join in the festivities, and slipped a cheque for a hundred pounds into my hand.[206]

Vanity Fair’s post-mortem (March 29, 1890):

The sudden revulsion at the last in the betting, which installed Cambridge as hot favourites vice Oxford, arose thus. Cambridge did a “record” time on the 20th which read A.1 on paper, -- though we discounted it somewhat in our comments last week. Following this Cantab feat, Oxford went weak and amiss on Friday and Saturday; and if the race had been rowed on the last-named day, Cambridge must have won. Even outsiders could see that Oxford were to pieces on Saturday. So there was on Wednesday morning a reaction and a hurried “getting out” on the part of many early backers of Oxford. Then the public rushed in, like sheep to a gap, and forced the odds up still more on Cambridge. Meantime, a Sunday at Brighton had set the Oxonians up again, and on Monday they were as good as ever they had been. Nothing could have been better than their form in surf that day; but only a few followed and watched them in the rain that afternoon. So they never regained public favour, and started at a considerable discount.

References edit

  1. ^ G. Nickalls, Life’s a Pudding, pp. 74-75.
  2. ^ |Ibid., pp. 82-83.
  3. ^ Ibid., pp. __-__.
  4. ^ The Times, July 8, 1935, p. 16b.
  5. ^ Ibid.
  6. ^ G.O. Nickalls, A Rainbow in the Sky, p. 144.
  7. ^ The Times, July 17, 1935, p. 16d.
  8. ^ G. Nickalls, pp. 79-81.

Fletcher WAL

Fletcher, William Alfred Littledale edit

“Flea” (Spy), March 18, 1893 edit


The eldest son of Mr. Alfred Fletcher, J.P., D.L., and Director of the London and North-Western Railway Company, he was born at Allerton, near Liverpool, four-and-twenty years ago. Having learned the rudiments of education at Cheam, he proceeded to Eton to amplify his knowledge, where he first became an inmate of Mr. (now Dr.) Warre’s House, and afterwards sojourned with Mr. Wintle. But the river had more attraction for him than the Muses; and, although he had not been much of a boy in his early youth, he soon helped to win the Trial Eights, and went to Henley as No. 3 in the Eton Eight full five years back. When he was not pulling an oar he played football, and was 12th man at Oppidan Wall. At twenty he went up to the “House” at Oxford, and rowed on so well that he helped to win the Ladies’ Plate and the Thames Cup at Henley in 1889. A year later he stroked the Oxford Eight at Putney vigorously enough to break a Cambridge run of four victories. He was promoted to No. 7 next year, when Oxford, with one of the biggest and longest crews ever seen in a racing eight, reached “the Ship” a bare half-length in front of Cambridge. Last year he went up one more, and at No. 6 again saw the Light Blue crew follow him home: and in the same place he means to repeat the performance next Wednesday, having in the meantime been made President of the Oxford University Boat Club. He has twice rowed in winning Leander crews at Henley; with Vivian Nickalls he has won the Silver Goblets; and both the Pairs and the Fours at Oxford have added to his reputation until he has come to be regarded as one of the finest galley-slaves that have yet been seen.

There are six feet and three inches of him, and he weighs within a few pounds of fourteen stone. His chest, back, and stomach are all muscle; yet his shoulders are inferior and his arms comparatively inferior. He has a ruddy face, which is even ruddier after a hard race when other men look pale. He is so ready for a “rag” that he is always ruffling somebody’s hair; and less frequently he gets his own ruffled. Yet is he not so ferocious a person as he pretends to be, for a child has been seen to play with him. He takes a very large size in boots, and he is so fond of dogs that he shares his Oxford lodgings, in Alfred Street, with several of them, as well as with bow and No. 5 of his Eight. He has just managed to struggle through the School of Political Economy, and he hopes by getting through two more easy Schools to achieve the degree which was, of course, his object when he went up to Oxford.

His College has presented him with a handsome salver as the benefactor of the Christ Church Boat Club. He was a member of the Oxford Water Polo team; he has been President of the Oxford Etonian Club; and he is on the Committee of Vincent’s. He is a capital shot, a staunch friend, and a really good fellow, full of British pluck.

His activity (perhaps) has earned for him the name of “Flea.”

The Boat Race career of William Alfred Littledale Fletcher (1869-1919) illustrates H.G. Gold’s comment that “[t]he choosing of a crew must always present a matter of very great difficulty to the coach, and, when chosen, the fitting of each man into his proper place, where he will be of the greatest value, is still harder.”# [207] Late in life Guy Nickalls called Fletcher an “absolute classic” for No. 6, but as O.U.B.C. President Nickalls boated him at stroke for the 1890 Boat Race.[208] He was “hardly ideal” there, opined the Official Centenary History, “for although his beginning was marked like lightning, his finish was deceptive and it was not until late in practice that the crew began to come to him.”[209] In Oxford’s one-length win “the doggedness, rather than the brilliance, of Fletcher was the outstanding feature.”[210] The next year Lord Ampthill did no better, putting himself at No. 6 and Fletcher at No. 7. They won by half a length but “never developed the pace which they should have done,” muttered the Centenary History. Lord Ampthill “had at his command eight men who were, individually, perhaps the best that have ever been seen in residence together; yet, of the greatest of these, only one, [Stroke] C.W. Kent, rowed in his right place.”[211] Finally, in 1892, President R.P.P. Rowe, the younger brother of Vanity Fair’s G.D. Rowe, put Fletcher at No. 6 and Oxford won in record time. The next year Fletcher kept himself there and became the first Oxford rower of Vanity Fair to win four Boat Races, again in a new course record (18.45). He ended his competitive career that season by winning the Grand with Leander and the Silver Goblets with Vivian Nickalls, a pair the Times later called “probably the fastest that ever rowed at Henley.”[212]

OUBC 1891: Lord Ampthill and Guy Nickalls, center seated; W.A.L. Fletcher standing second from right

Fletcher coached the Oxford crews of 1894, 1897, and 1902-06, and the Cambridge crews of 1898-1900. For his services on the Cam helping the light blue end Oxford’s string of Boat Race victories, the C.U.B.C. gave him a silver salver, a gold stop-watch, and two silver candelabra.[213] He then lost his touch, to judge from the record: of his five pre-1901 crews, only one lost (Cambridge 1898); of his five post-1901 crews, only one won (Oxford 1905). To the authors of the 1929 Official Centenary History, the fault lay largely and unforgivably in his abandoning the Oxford orthodox style:

W.A.L. Fletcher was the next great coach [after R.S. de Havilland]. One of the greatest oarsmen himself, he learned the secret at Oxford and taught it to Cambridge in 1898 and 1899 -- a combination of swing and slide, together with a lightning entry -- and this was the foundation on which was built the magnificent Cambridge crew of 1900. At that period Fletcher reached the zenith of his fame as a coach; afterwards he coached many Oxford crews, but having poor material he turned his mind to the rig of his men blaming himself for their want of success. He forgot the physical side of oarsmanship, of which he had been so incomparable an authority, and remembered only the mechanical side. Under his coaching, Christ Church went head of the river at Oxford and won the Grand Challenge Cup in 1908, though it is but fair to state that there was little opposition in the Grand on that occasion, in consequence of the Olympic Regatta which took place immediately after Henley; but the style taught by Fletcher, which was so successful in these Christ Church crews, did not blend with the attempts at orthodoxy in which other colleges persevered, and the effect on Oxford rowing was deplorable.[214]

Apart from rowing and coaching, Fletcher was a big game hunter, explorer, and soldier. Hunting and exploring took him to Siberia, Kenya, and Tibet. Soldiering took him to South Africa and France. He missed coaching for the 1901 Boat Race to face off against the Boers, described earlier under “Oarsmen at War” and earning a D.S.O. “He spoke little, but meant all he said, and if he had once told a man to do something he could not imagine the possibility of its not being done -- either in rowing or anything else.”[215] In the 1914-18 war, Fletcher served as Captain of the 2/6th Rifle Battalion of the Liverpool Regiment. His troops suffered the second mustard gas attack of the war, at Armentières in July 1917, which wiped out two companies and incapacitated 440 men, including Fletcher himself. He was released from hospital two months later and resumed command, but was never the same and chose to give it up in July 1918. “Few beyond his intimate friends know what it cost him to ask to be relieved, not from any sense of personal pride,” wrote a fellow captain, “but from his intense love for his battalion.”[216]

In January 1919, two months after the armistice, the governors of British amateur rowing -- such as remained of it -- met in London to discuss how to revive the sport. Attendees included Fletcher, acting chairman of the Henley Regatta; C.M. Pitman, acting secretary of the Amateur Rowing Association; G.D. Rowe, chairman of Leander; S.E. Swann, who due to the hiatus caused by the war was still President of the C.U.B.C.; and H.G. Gold. Fletcher’s motion to hold a scaled-down Henley Regatta the next summer carried unanimously. That event did come off, but Fletcher never saw it to fruition for he died on February 14, 1919 of broncho-pneumonia in the great influenza epidemic then sweeping the nation, which caught hold in his gas-weakened lungs. A bronze by G.D. Drinkwater stands in his memory in the O.U.B.C. boathouse, dedicated “by rowing men of both universities.”

University Sports, Part II: “The Serious Side” edit

By “Cambrioleur,” in Vanity Fair (March 27, 1912), covering the same ground as Woodgate had in 1873:

Rags, bedders, dons, missions, tutors, lectures -- these are among the diversions of Cambridge life. Our real business is the playing of games of every sort. Nobody goes into training for a Tripos or a C.I.C.C.U. meeting, but for a Junior College Trial on the river a man will cheerfully forego his new accomplishment of smoking, rise at seven every day, and eat red beef-steaks without a murmur. As we get up about nine o’clock and go to bed about eleven, it is clear that the hours from two to seven or eight which we spend on our games are the most important part of the day. Real sportsmen, of course, begin their games before noon. I remember how surprised a new lecturer was when he was compelled to change the hour of his lectures from twelve to eleven, because, as one of his pupils quite seriously explained to him, “You know, sir, you clash with the beagles.” He had been trained in Germany, you see, and that was why he was surprised. His dictionary informed him that a beagle was a species of dog, a Spürhund, and in Germany no professor ever clashed with a Spürhund. It caused considerable comment a few years ago when Easter clashed with the Boat Race and the authorities refused to postpone Easter. As I have already explained, every afternoon is a half-holiday at Cambridge. The afternoon begins at two o’clock and ends at two o’clock on the following day. The justification for this system -- if it needs any justification -- is that athletics at Cambridge occupy the years which are elsewhere devoted to the acquisition of bad habits, and that during his three or four years at Cambridge the undergraduate learns to throw his whole energies into something which has no monetary value -- that is, no immediate money value. As a matter of fact, a Blue is worth about £120 per annum for life in the educational profession. There is always a demand for Blues to instil the same earnest ideals into the rising generation of boys. In my college everybody plays some game every afternoon -- everybody but that ass Hetherington Johnstone -- and he plays lacrosse.

Thus it will be seen that I have now reached the most important chapter of my theme. I have had to sit back and take a deep breath before grappling with it. It is frightfully momentous, this task of writing about Cambridge sport.

Had I the pen of “Camisis” and his almost unique knowledge of the Christian names of Cambridge athletes (the ones they don’t use and try to conceal from their best friends), had I the style of Mr. Sewell or Mr. F.B. Wilson, I might essay the task, even if I had -- as I have -- nothing whatever to say. How is one to say anything new about the Boat Race, for example? I observe that Mr. Guy Nickalls is rather keen on Cambridge this year, so I suppose we shall lose, as usual. I feel convinced that the rival strokes will get their men smartly off the mark punctually to the tick of time by Putney Church clock and arrive at Mortlake about twenty minutes later. Four or Five in one of the boats will show visible signs of distress, and Swann will spurt gamely more than once. It will be a ding-dong struggle past the Doves, and daylight will be showing between the rival eights at Chiswick Eyot. Of that much I feel confident. But who will reach Mortlake first and by how much, and who will be defeated, but not disgraced, and what the dickens it matters if they do -- these things are hidden from my eyes. I know that when Saturday comes I shall rush for a halfpenny paper like the rest of the world and feel seriously depressed for half-an-hour if we are beaten. Thousands of staid parsons and their doctors and solicitors will do just the same; and nobody will know why.

When the sun has been harnessed to drive our mills, and when we have captured the energy of the tides, some philosopher will arise and seek to turn this immense output of power from the brains and muscles of two or three thousand young men, the pick of the country, into some useful and productive channel. I believe they could drive a torpedo boat if they were properly geared. Centuries ago there was a misguided youth at St. Abbs Hall, the son of an American commission agent, who determined to turn an honest penny out of the boat-racing. Under the guidance of friends, who, I fear, judged his leg to be suitable for elongation, he opened a book on the Mays. As soon as the college was aware of this the entire eight, with their cox, came to him secretly by night, one at a time, and asked him what odds he would give against them staying head of the river. He started with cox at evens, but before he had got to bow he was giving three to one. They all invested half-a-crown against their boat. The thing seemed a dead cert. for him after that. When the rest of the college rolled up to back their boat he cheerfully gave them five to one. He booked nearly a hundred bets in sovereigns on those terms. Of course, the boat stayed head -- in fact, it did the course in record time, and the precocious layer found that he had to balance nine half-crowns against five hundred sovereigns.

This prodigious industry of athletics is mainly a growth of the last twenty years, though the Boat Race and the cricket match have been in existence for over seventy. Thirty years ago the average man was content to exercise himself on the Trumpington Grind, a solemn pedestrian excursion of five or six miles with conversational accompaniments. Now there are about twenty-five different games of sufficient rank to provoke inter-University contest. Of Blues and Half-Blues there must be nearly 200, all heroes. We speak of them with bated breath. Yesterday morning I heard two freshmen under my window.

“Did you notice that chap in the corner?”

“Yes; he seemed a harmless sort of person.”

“Harmless! That was Spinks, the hockey Blue.”

“Good Lord! And I talked to him as if he’d been just anybody!”

References edit

  1. ^ H.G. Gold, The Common Sense of Coaching, p. 12.
  2. ^ G. Nickalls, Life’s a Pudding, p. 211.
  3. ^ G.C. Drinkwater & T.R.B. Sanders, The University Boat Race: Official Centenary History, pp. 93-94.
  4. ^ Ibid., p. 94.
  5. ^ Ibid., p. 96.
  6. ^ The Times, Feb. 15, 1919, p. 11d.
  7. ^ H. Cleaver, A History of Rowing, p. 103.
  8. ^ G.C. Drinkwater & T.R.B. Sanders, p. 167.
  9. ^ T.A. Cook, The Sunlit Hours, p. 73.
  10. ^ Capt. C.E. Wurtzburg, The History of the 2/6th (Rifle) Battalion “The King’s” (Liverpool Regiment), p. 199.

Cotton HB

Cotton, Hugh Benjamin edit

“Benjie” (Spy), March 15, 1894 edit


The youngest son of the late Lord Justice Cotton, he was born two-and-twenty years ago, went to “Badger” Hale’s House at Eton, and began his aquatic career by steering an Eton Trial Eight to victory. Then he got promoted to an oar, and rowed in a winning Trial; yet did not row in the Eton Eight. Three and a-half years ago he went to Magdalen, Oxford; and being an Eton boy who was found able to pull a lively oar, he became bow of the Dark Blue Eight two years ago. He kept that place last year, and he will again fill it on Saturday; having in the meantime been improved into the smallest President of a University Boat Club on record. For his College he has twice rowed Head of the River. He has also won the University Fours and the University Pairs; while at Henley he has helped a Leander crew to win the Grand Challenge, and his College to win the Stewards’ Cup.

He is a very muscular, good-looking little fellow of five and a-half feet in height, whose proper weight is ten stone. He is a rather retiring, yet quite independent, amiable boy who can say nasty things when he likes with effect; and he is strong in his antipathies. He is reading law for his Final School, and he reads it at odd times; yet he loves his Shakespeare and is a hardened theatre-goer. He is President of Vincent’s.

They call him “Ben” and “Benjie”; and they say that he confidently expects to show Cambridge the way to Mortlake on Saturday.

For a five-and-half footer to become a winning oarsman is unusual; to win the Boat Race four times and the Grand twice, remarkable. Hugh Benjamin Cotton (1872-95) did so, albeit with help from crews that outweighed him at least two stone a man (other than the cox, of course). Another of Nickall’s “absolute classics”[217] -- at bow, where he always rowed -- Cotton was the only man in the winning 1895 Oxford boat not to get influenza during race week. But soon thereafter a “severe attack of inflammation of the lungs” kept him out of Henley and the Oxford summer races, and that fall he succumbed to consumption from a chill caught at Oxford while coaching in the floods, and passed away on October 22. In response to his death and those of two other Oxford oarsmen a year and a half later, their coach, Rudie Lehmann, mustered the evidence to show that rowing per se was not the culprit. More sympathetically and for Cotton alone, Lehmann also penned an elegy, “Frater Ave Atque Vale,” concluding:

“The Oxford and Cambridge Boat-Race: Practising on the Isis during the Floods,” Illustrated London News, 1872
Though lost and dead, you die not here;
And, wheresoever men may range
Who once at Oxford held you dear
And called you friend, you know no change:
Still shall we see you stride along,
Smiling and resolute and strong.

We shall grow old, but you abide
In all our hearts as staunch and true
And young as when on Thames’s tide
You gripped your oar and won your Blue --
But hush! I hear the passing bell,
Oh dearest friend, farewell, farewell[218]

The 1893 Boat Race: Oxford’s Health edit

For the 1893 Boat Race, O.U.B.C. President W.A.L. Fletcher needed a No. 7. He gave one man a long trial, only to find him physically unfit and forbidden to row by the doctors. When he filled the hole with C.M. Pitman, his preferred stroke, new medical problems sprouted: Vivian Nickalls went ill and Fletcher himself got a strain. Training suffered, which showed in the race as W.B. Woodgate noted in Vanity Fair (March 25, 1893):

Oxford in the floods, c. 1900

The rowing of Oxford was very good in style. The men did not seem to last so well as their style would presuppose. Some of them had been seedy, and work had been shut off; no long rows for fourteen days. The effect of this was that some of them, especially those who had not been invalids, were decidedly gross and overweight, making them short of wind. Nos. 3 and 4, for instance, had put on flesh like prize cattle, and seemed to be blowing badly. No blame to them; healthy men naturally put on flesh when work is light, and in an eight some often get too little work, while others get too much.

References edit

  1. ^ G. Nickalls, Life’s a Pudding, p. 211.
  2. ^ R.C. Lehmann, “Frater Ave Atque Vale,” in Anni Fugaces: A Book of Verse with Cambridge Interludes, p. 20. The elegy’s title -- “Brother Hail and Farewell” -- comes from the final lines of poem 101 of Catullus, to his dead brother.

External links edit

Magdalen Boat Club, Oxford oil painting of H.B. Cotton

Fogg-Elliot CT

Fogg-Elliot, Charles Thurston edit

“Fogg” (Spy), March 22, 1894 edit


Unlike most ‘Varsity oars he does not come from Eton, but reflects credit on Durham School, where he first learned to pull under the winged words of Mr. R.H. Poole; who had himself gone through the mill at Oxford before he rowed bow of the Dark Blue Eight fourteen years ago. From Durham he went to Trinity Hall in the October term of 1890, got into the Cambridge Eight at No. 7 in the year following; sat on the same thwart for two years, was “promoted” to No. 3 last year, and rowed at No. 6 on Saturday: whence it is clear that he can row on either side of a boat. On the Cam he has won the University Fours and Pairs, and he has also rowed at the Head of the River; though last year, as Captain of the Hall Boat Club, he rowed in the second boat and suffered bumps. At Henley, too, he has had his successes, having helped to win the Visitors’ for his College, and rowing No. 3 in the high class Leander Eight which carried off the Grand Challenge last year. Having achieved so much he was very properly chosen President of the Cambridge University Boat Club, when Mr. G.C. Kerr, of Trinity (also, oddly enough, a Durham man), left that pinnacle of aquatic fame vacant last summer. For he is generally held to be both a good oar and a good fellow.

He is a very strong young man, whose hair and moustachios are as white as his face is sometimes red; and, like most of our strong young barbarians, he is quite a good-tempered fellow. He is known as “Fogg,” and he is a puzzle; for it is impossible to tell where his forehead ends and his nose begins. Yet is he quite a popular boy, who is not nearly so fierce as he often looks. He was only beaten last Saturday because the Oxford crew were better than his own.

He has occasional flashes of dry humour; and he thinks that he can wrestle.

After this appearance in Vanity Fair, Charles Thurston Fogg-Elliot (1870-1955) completed his rowing career by racing for Trinity Hall in the 1896 Grand. After university, he became secretary to Lords Barnard and Curzon, Curzon noting that Fogg-Elliot’s taciturnity and flowing yellow mustache made him seem “like of forlorn Viking.” In the 1914-18 war he was Captain in the Fourth Battalion of the Durham Light Infantry.

Henley 1893: A Woodgate Sampler edit


From about 1890 to 1906, W.B. Woodgate previewed and dissected the Boat Race and Henley Regatta for Vanity Fair. Here is one of his full Henley reports, from July 13, 1893:

A very thirsty Henley! Seldom, if ever, have more fluids been consumed on the course. On the third day even Leander were run out of mineral waters soon after 5 p.m. Houseboats were rather fewer. The very proper concession of Oxon frontages to some of the London Clubs has reduced the space available for houseboat moorings. In my opinion, every houseboat or owner thereof that advertised “to be let for the regatta,” after having obtained the favour of an anchorage, should be rigidly refused any entrée to the course in future. These moorings are dispensed to enable certain subscribers to the regatta to enjoy their holiday and to entertain, if they desire to do so. They are not given that they may be turned into cash by sub-letting. I hope the Conservancy will see to stopping this abuse in the future.

The throng on the river was great just before and after lunch each day and mostly so on Friday. I deprecate the current fashion of punt paddling when carried to any pace in excess of one and a-half miles in the hour. A punt holds a good deal of momentum, especially when laden with three or four damsels and their swains lounging on cushions in her. She is not under control like a boat handled with sculls: paddles cannot back water nor hold her sharply when collision is imminent. At the same time, the resource of paddling from the stern of punts or skiffs has great charms for the tyro. It looks easier, and is easier, to a beginner, than the manipulation of sculls in a crowd. Hence the superabundance of this mode of propulsion on regatta days. All sorts and conditions of land-lubbers loaf on the river at a modern Henley Regatta. Thirty years ago, when there was not one-sixth of the present fleet of pleasure craft, it was considered bad form to figure in a boat unless fully competent and up to racing class (at the regatta).

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, Magdalen, 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.

The rowing was a very good standard in every entry. Leander were far ahead of all the Eights. They won the final heat of the “Grand” only half extended by London. London had beaten Thames with some ease, and Thames had disposed of the French crew. Black Prince was not in it, and Dublin, after a fast and gallant start, were equally left behind in their heat against Leander. Many had thought that a Cantab No. 7 might row “scissors” to an Oxford stroke; but Kerrison suited Kent well, and behind these two the rest of the men settled down to a mighty sweeping swing that carried all before it. The crew never once really galloped after halfway; had they done so, probably records would have been cut. As it was to win in 6 min. 56 sec. at a paddle from the head boat of Oxford (Magdalene) was a large order; and Magdalene had in their crew six “Blues,” two of them re-inlistments since the College races. The change of stroke, putting Guy Nickalls there, improved the Magdalene Eight in the last week; but they had not the all-round strength of Leander, nor were some of the men so long in the reach and swing, but untidy in finish, which hampered them. They improved much after they left their own storm-tossed tideway and reached smooth water. Another ten days, if they could have remained in England, would have made them very formidable for the Metropolitan Regatta.

London were second best; a good long reach forward, no bucket, and a ‘Varsity swing. Their fault was the feather under water; had they rowed as clean as Leander they might almost have won, for they were in better condition. One or two Leander men needed another fortnight’s training. Thames had some weak spots among their new hands, and though the general style was good, they had to lose their heat against their old rivals, London.

The "New Course" (1886 - 1922) from the 1893 program)

The Stewards’ Fours were a good lot -- either Thames or Chester good enough to win in many a season; but Magdalene were too good for all of them. The outcry against Thames for boring the Frenchmen in their heat was only excusable under the impulse of chivalry to visitors. No sane man who has seen Thames R.C.’s performances year after year ought to have dreamed of supposing that a bit of bad steering inferred foul play. The T.R.C. are too thorough sportsmen for any such game. Anyone may make an error in the heat of a race. The sportsman who shoots behind a hare or under a rocketer, and tailors his game for the nonce, might as reasonably be accused of blundering on purpose. Besides, with a competent umpire, lynx-eyed, in his wake, it would always be insanity for even an evil-disposed pilot to go out of his way to foul. If the race had been between two British crews, no one would have heard another word of the affair. The French style was quite British, and rather Oxonian; the French eight was about the stamp of a College crew halfway up the Oxford river. The men were weaker all round than most of their opponents, and not fully together. They would have made a good bid for the Thames Cup, and should about have won it; but as a matter of sport it was more correct and more plucky for them to fly at the highest game. Their four was better class than their eight; better together, cleaner, and speedier of its sort. The Frenchmen show that they appreciate the right principles of rowing. Some day, if they get stronger men and better together, they may turn the tables on us. Their boats are very well built, and fast.

Eton were a very hot crew, better than many of the Grand crews. Radley rowed exceedingly well, but had not the strength and age of the Etonians. It was a big order for the two boy crews to beat the various College crews, including the head of the Cam, in the way that they did. The pick of these two boy eights are going to Oxford, so it is said; which ought to make it rosy hereafter for the O.U.B.C. at Putney.

Third Trinity were a good College four, and well earned the Visitors’ Cup. Medway made a good début and a bold bid for the Wyfold. Their stroke’s recovery and finish might well be copied by many of the crack crews. Molesey just beat them; but the two crews were well ahead in merit of the rest of their field. In the Pairs, Fletcher and Vivian Nickalls were facile principes much the stronger; for style nothing was better than the Ford and Holland pair. Guy Nickalls had an easy win in the Sculls. Everyone appreciated the sportsmanlike manner in which he pulled up for a restart with Boyd, the Dublin sculler, when the latter had jammed his slide and stopped for repairs. Boyd and Kennedy, each in his turn, spread-eagled good opponents, but could make no headway against the resurrectionised ex-Oxford sculler, who seems to be as good an oar as ever -- may be even better.

There has been in certain journals a grumble against Leander and the composition of their crews, based upon the assumption that they monopolise all the talent, and so leave to other Clubs no material wherewith to win a Grand Challenge. Now, of last year’s winning Leander (Grand) crew, three of the best men were this year rowing for Magdalene, and another for New College, while Leander men were to be found in every crew of note. Each and all of these rowed for their College (or other) Clubs in priority to Leander; and the latter Club had to make up its team from what resources were left to it. That those remaining resources were strong is due to the prestige of the Club, which secures such a pick of membership.

Leander is not a “nursery” Club. It does not profess to educate oarsmen. Herein it differs essentially from University and from tideway Clubs, which teach the tyro ab ovo. Whereas the first rule of Leander is that the qualifications for admission to its pale are “good fellowship and proficiency in oarsmanship.”

Until an oarsman has graduated and has well earned his spurs, he is not even eligible for the Club. It is this principle which secures so much competition for admission to the Leander fold. The uniform is of itself a “diploma” in oarsmanship.

Pitman CM

Pitman, Charles Murray edit

“O.U.B.C.” (Spy), March 28, 1895 edit


At Eton, once upon a time, a crew of eight Pitmans beat an eight of Mr. Cornish’s House in a boat race. Charles Murray is the seventh of eight brothers; who included F.I. Pitman, the famous Light Blue stroke of 1884, 1885, and 1886, and T.T. Pitman, of the Eton Eight, who won the Half Mile Championship. Born in Edinburgh three-and-twenty years ago, he began to acquire book-learning at Temple Grove, East Sheen; whence he went to Eton, rowed and became Captain of the Boats, sculled, played the Wall game, learned a little more, and did other wholesome things; after which he went to New College and stroked a first-rate Oxford eight in his first year. A year later he rowed No. 7, and last year he stroked another eight: an office that he is to repeat on Saturday, when he hopes to watch eight Cambridge galley-slaves toiling in his wake for most of the distance between Putney and Mortlake. His other rowing achievements include the Grand and the Visitors’ at Henley, and the Oxford University Sculls, Pairs and Fours. He is the newest President of the Oxford University Boat Club, and a typical young barbarian of the better sort.

He is a cheerful, wholesome boy, full of pluck. He is also stroke of much judgment and an oar who always pulls his weight. He therefore proposes presently to get called to the Bar. He can tell a good story with pleasing inaccuracy, and he is often accused of unpunctuality; yet no one dislikes him. He is inclined to be lazy outside a boat; he can shoot, and he has been seen trying to play golf.

He is the ruddy Secretary of Vincent’s; who is happily called “Cherry.”

Like H.B. Cotton, his predecessor as O.U.B.C. President, Charles Murray Pitman (1872-1948) won four successive Boat Races. In addition to the races listed in Vanity Fair, he rowed for New College in the Grand (1895-96), the Stewards’ (1895), and the Silver Goblets (1895-96) but took home no hardware on those occasions.

After taking his third class in law and history, Pitman became a barrister of the Inner Temple practising on the London and Southeast Circuit. During the 1914-18 war he served as assistant to the Judge Advocate of the Fleet, became Judge Advocate in 1924, and from 1933-45 was Official Referee of the Supreme Court. But he made time to co-author Rowing (with R.P.P. Rowe, 1898) and the Record of the University Boat Race (1909, and coach various crews on orthodox lines, including the 1920 Olympic eight. He was Captain of Leander in 1896, Secretary from 1905 to 1920, and President from 1942 to 1946.

By the way, “young barbarian,” a phrase Vanity Fair used with both Pitman and C.T. Fogg-Elliot, hales from Culture and Anarchy, an influential 1869 tract by Matthew Arnold of political and social criticism. Arnold segmented British society into the aristocracy, middle, and working classes in a chapter entitled “Barbarians, Philistines, Populace,” comparing Victorian aristocrats to the ancient Barbarians “to whom we all owe so much, and who reinvigorated and renewed our worn-out Europe”:

The Barbarians . . . had the passion for field-sports; and they have handed it on to our aristocratic class, who of this passion too, as of the passion for asserting one’s personal liberty, are the great natural stronghold. The care of the Barbarians for the body, and for all manly exercises; the vigour, good looks, and fine complexion which they acquired and perpetuated in their families by these means, -- all this may be observed still in our aristocratic class.[219]

The Silvery Thames edit

Pitman entertained rowing friends from around the world at Remenham Lodge, his “White House” overlooking the Henley course. Here is Vanity Fair’s nostalgic and Imperialist paean to the river (July 3, 1912), alluding to the Henley Regatta visit by King George V and Queen Mary, the first by a reigning monarch:

The presence of Henley Week, which this year will indeed be Royal in more senses than one, is but one more needed reminder that the River Thames does not, in fact, never has received the homage which it deserves. The lines of Sir Walter Raleigh cannot be equalled for a poetic epitome of the glories of the most famous of the world’s rivers: --

“There are two things scarce matched in the universe -- the sun in heaven and the Thames on earth.”

When one considers that the first University, the most famous of our public schools, to say nothing of the metropolis of the Empire, it is no matter of wonderment that the Imperialist is as proud of the Thames as any Oxonian or the Etonian who is privileged to claim that masterpiece of Henry of Wykeham as his Alma Mater. To the historian the places mentioned are but mere passing references to shrines of historic fact, to which must necessarily be added Windsor and Hampton Court. But it is to the lover of the beautiful that the Thames reveals its manifold charms. There may perhaps be more majestic charms in the grandeur of the Rhine or the St. Lawrence, or even in the wooded slopes of the Meuse or the Moselle, but to the lover of a silver stream set in a long, river valley, rich in English, beautiful, interchanging meadowland and forest, it is certain that the glorious Thames, to the artist, has charms that a brush delights to paint such vistas as the view of Windsor Castle from the river, or the quietude of a summer’s evening at Mapledurham Mill.

It is indeed a pity that society has hitherto despised the Thames, and neither would it be just to attribute such neglect to the much detracted English climate, for some of the best summers we have had have seen this curious cold shoulder turned on the river; and it is to be feared, with the exception of the Brigade of Guards Regatta and Henley, the Thames is a dead letter, and consequently has become deplorably bourgeois. The only saving feature of the situation is the steady, consistent lovers of the river, to whom its old abbeys, churches, and bridges with a storied past alternate with riverside houses, gardens, and houseboats. Here a stretch of dark, still water; there the splashing murmur of a tossing weir, and then a quiet, ancient village, which is so typical of the rural life which has been so characteristic of English country peace for so many centuries.

It is easy to understand how the River Thames has been identified so closely with English life and runs like a silver thread through the main events of our history. Its very situation has made it the natural centre of all the great events that have occurred in its vicinity. Not a century since the occupation by the Romans of London has the Thames valley been without the addition of some fresh monument of an historical character, and hardly a space has not some cherished memory. Oxford, Abingdon, Reading, Runnymede are but links in that chain of events that has made the reading of English history a delight of all literary students. It was my full intention, being Henley Week, to have devoted a large amount of space to the Thames I love so well, but I hope to return to the charge next week.

References edit

  1. ^ M. Arnold, Culture and Anarchy, p. 100.

Crum WE

Crum, Walter Erskine edit

“Crumbo” (Spy), March 19, 1896 edit


Mr. Walter Eskine Crum, who is always called “Crumbo,” was born nearly two-and-twenty years ago: and he is now quite a fine specimen of young English manhood. Having learned to play cricket at Castlemount, Dover, he went to Mr. Durnford’s at Eton; where he took to the water so naturally that four years ago he was rowing for Eton at Henley. After this he was made Captain of the Boats; and, when he went up to New College in October, 1893, he got his Blue while yet a freshman. He has twice won the University Fours; and twice, with Pitman, has he beaten all other ‘Varsity Pairs. He has also helped to win the Grand and the Visitors’ at Henley; and next week he hopes, for the third time, to see eight Cambridge men toiling behind his boat from Hammersmith to Mortlake.

His chief peculiarities are a beautiful complexion, an almost girlish look, a very frequent blush (which is the outcome of much modesty), a temper that will bear much chaff, and a chin that in times of depression looks as though it would fall off and explode on the floor. Nevertheless, he is so generally liked that he gets their best work out of his men, and consequently he makes an excellent Dark Blue President. His rowing is so exceedingly graceful, easy, and effective, that he is probably one of the best No 7’s that ever sat in a boat; wherefore his uncle, Mr. J. C. Tinné -- that magnificent Dark Blue heavy-weight of the late sixties -- shows an amount of pride in the boy that is quite refreshing to witness. Beyond this he is a sportsman who can shoot high pheasants very well; while he has played football and taken a third class in Mathematical Moderations, and means to do something scientific in his Finals. He is a very well-built young fellow of much symmetry and proportion, except as to his arms; which are long. He is full of youth, and he delights in a bonfire. Nevertheless, he is a very good fellow, and a cheerful, staunch friend who displays much ignorance of our standard novelists.

He wears large boots.

Walter Eskine Crum (1874-1923) won four Boat Races (1894-97), as well as the Ladies’ (1893 for Eton), Visitors’ (1894 for New College), and Grand (1894 and 1897 for New College). To the Times “he ranked among the best No. 7’s Oxford has ever known; for grace and ease of style he was, indeed, the ideal oarsman.”[220] It is thus all the more amazing that he and C.M. Pitman, who together won the 1895 University Pairs, were unable to hold off Guy and Vivian Nickalls in that year’s Goblets, as Guy described:

In the afternoon, in the Pairs, “V.” and I met Crum and Pitman in the heat for the Goblets. Fifty yards above the top of the Island I steered into a pile, a fearful crack which split the boat. Luckily, we were rowing with swivels, and it didn’t take long to clear ourselves and get going again, but in the interlude, Pitman and Crum spurted and had taken several lengths off us. With a very leaky boat and a bent rowlock we started out to chase them. It looked hopeless, but by dint of great efforts and a high stroke, we caught them at the half-mile mark. We led at Fawley by half a length, getting slower and slower as the water rose over our heel traps. By superhuman efforts we had a length and a half at the mile, with the water over my insteps. The water continued to rise, and we were not clear of them when we passed over the line.[221]

Professionally, Crum spent his short life in India, where he became President of the Bengal Chamber of Commerce, a member of the Imperial Legislative Council, and was knighted in 1920. During the 1914-18 war he was a major in the Calcutta Light Horse. He died of heart failure in 1923 while in New York on business.

The 1896 Boat Race edit

W.B. Woodgate’s account for Vanity Fair (April 2, 1896):

A better race was never seen between two eights from Putney to Mortlake; also a better average of joint style and merit, in most adverse circumstances of weather, would be hard to find. The wind and water were enough to knock most crews out of form in half a mile; and yet, in these two crews, style was maintained to the end -- no going to pieces, no rowing short. In the last minute Cambridge were twice buried in spray from rollers which struck the after stroke side rowlocks, and which smothered the looms of the oars on that side to an extent to check recovery for the instant. Except for this, the losers, as well as winners, might have been paddling on parade from the start, so far as level action was concerned.

Rough water above Barnes bridge

The merits of strategy and generalship, which snatched the race out of the fire for Oxford, are self-apparent. The Metropolitan Course is, all round, a fair one -- on smooth water. That is, the trends and bends on one side are sooner or later practically counterpoised by similar concessions to the opposite station. Surrey side is voted modern times the best, generally speaking, under the “revised” rules of boat-racing which forbid taking of water save at peril. The reason for the choice is that the main advantage accrues in the first twelve to thirteen minutes of the race, and is enough, geometrically, to enable the crew on that side, if otherwise equal in pace with its rival, to obtain a clear length’s lead at Thorneycroft’s, and so cross clear, and enjoy the benefit of the bend to the right for the rest of the course: the rival, by hypothesis, being no better, and therefore unable to overtake and to claim evacuation of the stolen water. It was in 1870 that Oxford set fashion at defiance by choosing this side after winning the toss. It was only this that enabled them to make so good a fight as they did on that occasion. Since then the merits of the Surrey side have been more appreciated; and it has usually, though not always, been selected since that date. In a nor’-easter, off the Fulham shore, the old favourite side, Middlesex, remains the best. The Surrey station had extra advantage this year up to Chiswick, because of the beam wind which blew in Putney Reach, in which wind Oxford were to leeward. That Oxford should have been only their own length behind at Thorneycroft’s with all this handicap is evidence that up to that point they must have been virtually travelling the faster of the two. Accordingly, when at last the vantage of station became theirs, it was but a sequitur that they should begin to overhaul the leaders; and the only question was whether they had time to complete their task before the drop of the judge’s flag.

It is curious to note how the sporting Press plumped for Cambridge, and how they after the event attempted to make excuses for their miscalculation of relative merits. The critics pinned their faith on the short-distance spins of Cambridge against sundry scratch eights, in which great speed was shown. They overlooked the relative want of staying power shown by Cambridge when they last rowed a full course on the ebb. Also, by a sort of blind consent, Oxford’s stroke was voted and published as “short” compared to that of Cambridge. Yet, in the race, this so-called “shorter” stroke held its own from the outside station in the worst of the wind; doing some one and a-half (average of) strokes per minute fewer than the Cambridge men did during the first two-thirds of the course. This fact shows that eyesight was at fault when it measured the Oxford reach as the shorter of the two -- not that Cambridge were short: far from it. Why the Oxford stroke had more propelling power, stroke for stroke, than that of Cambridge seems to be this: Oxford had rather more grip of the “beginning”; Cambridge rather “felt” the water before they threw their full force on to the oar. On the other hand, Oxford had more of a “drive” at the instant of catching the water, and so got well hold of the boat before she began to slip away. If a light boat is not caught sharp at the beginning of the stroke, much of her resistance is distributed, thereby lessening the effect of the stroke. Slow burning powders are well enough for heavy missiles; for pellets a quick propulsion is needed.

Two more powerful crews have seldom, if ever, opposed each other. Differing from the sporting Press, I estimate these crews as being both of them faster than the average, and better over the course than last year’s winners. Some of the men were extra good; all were up to par, and worthy of being “Blues” -- and this cannot be said every year -- still less of the whole list of ordinary losing crews. Even winners often contain a man or two who only gets his seat because, though he is bad, other candidates are worse; and he is admittedly many degrees below the standard of his colleagues. Nothing of this sort can be said of any of the sixteen this season. It is hard lines that so good a stroke as Fernie, and so good a crew as that behind him, should be unable to score a win by reason of clashing with an extra good crew.

Jack Clasper, the builder, deserves commendation for his handiwork, both as to power of holding way after the stroke, and also for buoyancy in rough water. The manner in which both ships rode through the waters was admirable.

The accounts of the relative positions of the boats during the race, as shown on diagrams and in text, are conflicting, and in many cases, I think, erroneous. The greatest lead which Cambridge had was just when the boats straightened for Corney Reach, below Chiswick Eyot. There were 35 feet to 40 feet of daylight then. It is erroneous, not to say uncomplimentary to both strokes, to depict them, as some reports do, spurting suddenly in the middle of the course at from 30 a minute to 34 or more, and then dropping back again to slower stroke. That is not the way in which high-class strokes race. Nor were the two strokes guilty of such mistakes. Save at a pinch, to save a cross or to reach a winning-post a few lengths off, strokes do not suddenly quicken nor whimsically vary their rate. They try to settle down to the rate which does them and their men best justice, with regard to water, wind, and position in the course. If they quicken, they do so gradually, not to risk dislocation of swing. It reads graphically in a report to speak of violent “spurts” in the middle of a long course; but these spurts exist only in the imagination of the non-aquatic reporters.

References edit

  1. ^ The Times, Oct. 12, 1923, p. 15f.
  2. ^ G. Nickalls, Life’s a Pudding, p. 118.

Guinness RECL

Guinness, Rupert Edward Cecil Lee (Lord Iveagh) edit

“Rupert” (Spy), November 9, 1905 edit


Rupert Edward Cecil Lee Guinness, the heir to Viscount Iveagh and appropriate millions, is a plump, square, well-complexioned young man, who looks out upon a friendly world with a shrewd good nature.

At Eton he set himself to the oar with the best will in the world. He won the School Sculling in ‘92, and rowed in the fine Eton eight which won the Ladies’ Plate at Henley in ‘93. He looked sweet in his blue coat, as was then universally admitted. Arriving in due course at Cambridge, he was welcomed by “Third Trinity” as a valuable rowing asset. He won the Diamonds at Henley in ‘95 and the Diamonds and Wingfield Sculls in ‘96. But he had the bad luck to develop a weakness of heart, which kept him from his place in the Cambridge eight. Since his University days he has served in Africa with the Irish hospital, and become a politician, a Director of the London and North-Western, a member of the L.C.C., and the commander of the London Division of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, whose saucey fleet lies proudly at anchor off Blackfriars Bridge. He is contesting Haggerston, and his supporters in that constituency are confident of his success, as is ever the custom of their kind.

He used to hunt before he motored. He is quite a good shot. He is a strong Tariff Reformer. His popularity in Haggerston is not diminished by his generosity and the interest he takes in the Workmen’s Rowing Club on the Lee. He is not a great orator, but has a breezy, direct style of speaking which scores his points and tells on political platforms. He is a member of the Royal Yacht Squadron, but is rarely ill at sea. He has a taste for old furniture, and has of late been adorning his new house in St. James’s Square. He is most fortunately and happily married. He never gambles; but he has had adventures.


Rupert Edward Cecil Guinness (1874-1967) joined Thames R.C. while a Cambridge undergraduate to have a London base to train with Bill East, the 1891 English professional sculling champion. “[A]lthough not what any one would term a born sculler,” Guy Nickalls recalled, “[Guinness] confined himself to sculling and obtained useful proficiency by dint of long and careful practice with East.”[222] This “useful proficiency” included beating Guy or his brother Vivian or both to win the Diamonds and the Wingfield Sculls in 1895 and 1896, a hard thing to do those years. Many years later Guinness, then head of the family firm, rewarded East by setting him up as landlord of the Three Pigeons pub in Richmond.[223] Until being moved to the Henley River and Rowing Museum, the boat that carried Guinness’ thirteen-stone hung in the balcony of the Thames R.C., of which he was president from 1911 until his death fifty-six years later. He was also president of the National Amateur Rowing Association.

Vanity Fair featured Guinness before his unsuccessful 1906 run for Parliament. He won the Haggerston seat two years later, lost it in 1910, and was reelected in 1912 for southeast Essex -- the seat F.C. Rasch, another Eton and Third Trinity oarsman, had held from 1886 to 1908. Guinness kept it until 1927, when on the death of his father he became the Earl of Iveagh and chairman of Arthur Guinness, Son & Co., Ltd. Despite the responsibilities of running a major brewing company he spent considerable time and money throughout his life on science and philanthropy, in recognition for which he became chancellor of Trinity College, Dublin and of the University of Reading and a fellow of the Royal Society. He was a governor of the Lister Institute of Preventive Medicine endowed by his father, and founded the Wright-Fleming Institute of Microbiology. Guinness also funded research at the Rothamsted Institute (formerly owned by yet another Eton and Third Trinity oarsman, C.B. Lawes), and advanced dairy farming through bottling and sterilization methods to reduce the incidence of bovine tuberculosis, among other measures. By the end of his life, Elveden, his Suffolk estate, became the largest dairy farm in England, producing over a half a million gallons of milk per year. Like his rowing career -- fueled by a vision, will power, and resources -- “[t]he experiment succeeded largely because of Lord Iveagh’s driving persistence and determinination to carry it through and because he had the means to experiment on so large a scale, and the resources to be able to accept losses on the farm in the early years before the enterprise could become fully efficient and eventually profitable.”^

Henley 1895 and 1896: The Diamond Sculls edit

Vivian Nickalls, Guy’s younger brother, beat Rupert Guinness in the 1894 Diamonds by three-quarters of a length. The following year Guinness returned the favor on Guy, who at the time had already raced for (and won) the Pairs, the Stewards’, and the Wyfolds, the second being in his opinion “a really magnificent race, ding-dong the whole damned way over the course” against a “very hot Thames R.C. four” that included S.D. Muttlebury. Guinness, by contrast, “confined his efforts to sculling” and thus had only had “two nice gentle pipe-openers and no race out of him that day.”^ W.B. Woodgate, who in his day likewise raced several events at one regatta, enjoyed Guinness’ performance but sympathized with the tired Nickalls in Vanity Fair (July 18, 1895):

It was temporary insanity of Guy Nickalls, glutton for work and stayer though he is, to tackle a vastly improved sculler like young Guinness in the final “Diamonds” heat after the severe prior races and on the leeward station, while Guinness was fresh. Guy Nickalls struggled grandly all the way, but could never get on level terms with his man. Only those who have gone to the post a second and third time in a day, after punishing races, can realise the actual pain of warming up stiff and tired muscles in the first half of the race, and the limp feeling of weariness towards the close, when depleted muscle can no longer strain to its normal power. Guinness has now got his hands beautifully level, both on entry and on feather; his sliding also has much improved; he might still nurse his slide a trifle later after the first catch, and emulate Hanlan’s actions; but anyhow he is already high-class, and will become a clinker.

Guy Nickalls had pulled a bicep at Henley but three weeks later met Guinness again, in the Wingfield Sculls, which he recounted thus:

I was a fool to go for the Wingfield’s, three weeks later, as I should have known that if an arm once gives on the tideway it nearly always goes again, and that is exactly what happened. When I was leading comfortably at the Doves my arm suddenly went again, and as he passed me, I told Rupert he need not hurry as my arm had given out. Opposite Thorneycroft’s he hit a log, and knocked a slice off the blade of his scull, which made his work all lop-sided. Above Barnes my pilot kept shouting to me to go on, but I shook my head. It was impossible with my arm to make any effort when, suddenly, I found myself catching him and at last level, and, only twenty yards to go, I made a despairing effort, got ahead, and then the gate of my swivel burst open. Out came my scull and overboard I went, and we both literally floated together over the winning post, but, as he was in his boat and I was not, he naturally won, and my only salve came some two days later when my brother Vivian beat him in the final and won his third [Metropolitan] Championship.

The next year, in 1896, Guinness met and beat Vivian Nickalls in the Diamonds. Woodgate’s verdict for Vanity Fair (July 16, 1896):

The sculling was of a higher class than I can remember. I have seen better scullers than Guinness, the winner -- e.g., Guy Nickalls -- when at his best, the late T.C. Edwardes-Moss and (young) Frank Playford; but I never saw so many rivals each of whom was better than many a man whose name stands on the silver plates of the Diamonds box -- V. Nickalls, Swann, and Beaumont as instances. To have been the best in such a field is of itself a record in the annals of the prize. V. Nickalls was handicapped by handling an oar in two other crews, while his opponents could stick solely to sculling. My estimate of the detraction of oars upon sculling practice is this: If A and B are dead-level scullers on the 1st of April, then A goes to work with an oar, and grinds regularly and hard in a crew (in order to keep that crew going, and to get it into condition), and only sculls in spare moments up to the 1st of July, while B meantime devotes himself solely to sculling, B will be some four lengths better in a nine minutes’ race than A by the 1st of July; and it will take A another two or three months exclusive sculling after that to get back to level terms with B.

The reason is that the main speed in sculling depends on level actions of hands -- into the water and out of it. If one hand gets one-twentieth of a second start or a fraction of an inch more stretch, or one blade varies one degree of an angle in the water, the boat turns to the pressure: then the advantage stolen by the one hand has to be abandoned and eased off before the end of the same stroke, in order to bring the keel straight. All this is waste of powder and loss of speed. Now, an oar does not work a man all through in one plane; hence it tends to produce some irregularity in sculling action when the oarsman presently uses the same muscles from a sculling seat. Still more, the time spent at the oar is lost to sculling practice.

References edit

  1. ^ G. Nickalls, Life’s a Pudding, p. 208.
  2. ^ G. Page, Hear the Boat Sing: The History of the Thames Rowing Club, p. 5.
  3. ^ Dictionary of National Biography.
  4. ^ G. Nickalls, pp. 118-19.

Gold HG

Gold, Harcourt Gilbey edit

“Tarka” (Spy), March 23, 1899 edit


The President of the Oxford University Boat Club, who hopes to stroke his fourth ‘Varsity Eight to victory on Saturday, became the fourth (and last) son of Mr. Henry Gold, of Hedsor, in Bucks, three-and-twenty years ago. Having acquired the name of “Tarka” in the nursery when his own name was too big for him, he went to Eton; where he is still remembered in “Hoppy’s” House. He took to the oar so well that for three successive years he stroked the Eton Eight to victory in the Race for the Ladies’ Plate at Henley; and his memory is so strong that Eton has gone on winning that Plate ever since. So he was made Captain of the Boats -- after he had got his Field Colours for football; and, accordingly, like so many good Eton oars, went to Oxford, to provide Magdalene College with a credit to the Isis. He was made stroke of the ‘Varsity Eight right off; and in his first race he cut Cambridge down almost on the post, winning after a desperate struggle. In 1897 he stroked one of the best Oxford Eights ever sent out, and won again; and last year he was able to watch Cambridge rowing after him to the Ship. Besides this, he stroked Leander at Henley in 1896, when he won the Grand Challenge and defeated Yale; and, though New College just beat him the year after, he won the same race at last year’s Regatta; while in two of three years he also stroked the Leander Four to victory in the race for the Stewards’ Cup. Yet with all these and other triumphs he has never won a race at Eton or Oxford with the single exception of the ‘Varsity Pairs in 1897!

He is a sturdily-built young fellow, with extraordinary powers of endurance; who can probably get as much out of seven other men in a boat as any stroke living. He is a good fellow and an all-round sportsman; who, while he can ride well and shoot with promise, hates walking. Nevertheless, in pious imitation of his father (who thinks nothing of playing sixty holes a day on the Hedsor links), he has lately taken to golf. He has a dry humour that is quite his own; he can play the host; he can tell a story; but, unlike the rest of his family, he does not sing -- much. He has met the examiners on several occasions; and, though sometimes defeated, he has managed in the end to score.

He has wonderful knees; and his legs are always loudly appreciated by the crowd at Putney.

“The best stroke I have ever rowed behind was Harcourt [Gilbey] Gold” (1876-1952), wrote Guy Nickalls, who rowed No. 6 in Gold’s 1895 and 1896 Leander crews for the Grand (and later married his older sister).[224] Save for an 1897 appearance in the Goblets at bow, stroke was the only seat Gold ever rowed at Henley or in the Boat Race, winning ten of fourteen such events. The 1899 Boat Race was not among the victories, however, as Cambridge won by over three lengths to end Oxford’s nine-year run and keep Gold from becoming the first stroke to win four. He returned the favor a decade later, by coaching Bob Bourne’s Oxford crew to the first of his four straight wins and thereby holding Duggie Stuart of Cambridge to three. Gold coached eighteen Oxford crews in all, as well as Nickalls’ Leander VIII that won the 1908 Olympic regatta at Henley.

Gold was Captain of Leander from 1898 through 1900. He became a steward of the Henley Regatta in 1909 and joined its management committee in 1919, that year causing the creation of the stewards’ enclosure to give the regatta the financial sustenance of a regular subscriber base. (Woodgate opposed the move: he thought it would foster elitism.) Gold published The Common Sense of Coaching in 1920 for Oxford college coaches with little experience, encouraging “unlimited patience and good temper” and cautioning “[i]t is probable as many crews have been marred as have been made from the bank.”[225] In 1945, he succeeded C.M. Pitman, his fellow Etonian and immediate predecessor as Oxford’s stroke, as chairman of the regatta. In 1948 Gold became chairman of the Amateur Rowing Association, on which for many years he had represented the O.U.B.C., and the following year received the first knighthood for services to rowing. In the 1914-18 war, Gold joined the Royal Flying Corps and was discharged a Lieutenant Colonel. Professionally, like another Oxford Etonian G.D. Rowe, Gold had his own stockbrokerage, Harcourt Gold & Co.

Romance and Rowing edit

Guy Nickalls married H.G. Gold’s elder sister, and Nickalls’ son Gully married Gold’s daughter. Gold himself married a sister of G.S. Maclagan, who coxed his 1899 Oxford crew and the 1908 Leander Olympic eight that Gold coached and in which Nickalls rowed. The connection between romance and rowing drew the attention of Vanity Fair in an article by “A Bachelor” (June 28, 1873), who apparently had not himself so benefitted:

"Rowing man: 'Charming girl, your cousin, such Eton eyes; such Leander cheeks'"

The attendance at the Oxford and Cambridge match and at the Henley Regatta seems to show that athletics are not on the decline as an art for wooing Englishwomen. We recollect rowing in a public school crew at Henley and hearing two girls fairer than sunlight exclaim as we got into our boat and were adjusting the stretchers, “Oh, the darlings!” They were wearing our light blue colours, and it is a certainty that the blood of the whole eight of us tingled to our finger-tips, and that we rowed like desperation on the strength of being darlings. But a Trinity Cambridge crew pulled the Ladies’ Plate from us, and as we stepped out of the boat with our tongues lolling and our faces red as bricks these same water-nymphs cried indignantly in our hearing -- “Oh, the muffs!” The fact is they had bet gloves on our success, and the defeat we had suffered -- it was not an ignominious one, only half a boat’s length -- was too much for their nerves. They trampled our colours with scorn under their pretty boots, and would unquestionably have voted for our being pitched into the river had it been the custom to make an end of vanquished oarsmen as of worsted gladiators at Rome. It is a question whether in England it does not occasionally pay better to be a victorious athlete than a good scholar. . . . Cricketers, and oarsmen, too, play havoc in society as Detrimentals, and have a knack of carrying off heiresses in the teeth of circumstances and of richer gnashing suitors. At worst they win girls who have connections instead of money, and the connections, after growling a bit for the form of the thing, locate the man of muscle in some snug post of emolument provided for out of the Consolidated Fund. This comes of the difficulty of browbeating or despising a man who has his chambers full of prize-cups or presentation bats won by flood and field. . . .

At times the direct route to matrimony lay through the father of the bride, as recounted in Vanity Fair (March 27, 1875) following that year’s Boat Race:

A propos of the University boat-race, the Paris Figaro tells a story of a “Mr. James Oxen,” who made his fortune by steering the Oxford crew. It seems that fifteen years ago Mr. Oxen’s boat being behind that of Cambridge, a voice from the bank suddenly roared, “James, my boy, if you cut Cambridge in two my daughter is yours.” By “a vigorous pull at his rudder,” Mr. Oxen showed himself equal to the occasion. He did not strike Cambridge amidships, but he landed his own boat winner by half a length, and shortly afterwards married the heiress of a grateful parent “who had won a colossal sum in bets.”

References edit

  1. ^ G. Nickalls, Life’s a Pudding, p. 210.
  2. ^ H.G. Gold, The Common Sense of Coaching, p. 12.

1899 - 1914 Fairbairnism and Foreigners

1899 - 1914: Fairbairnism and Foreigners edit

In 1899 Cambridge won the Boat Race for the first time since Muttlebury’s crew in 1890. Cambridge won seven of the next nine, the last three with Duggie Stuart and his so-called “sculling style.” In 1901 Oxford coach D.H. McLean died in the South African war. In 1904 Steve Fairbairn returned from Australia to his alma mater, Jesus College, Cambridge, where he produced successful, distinctly unorthodox crews for the next thirty years (save of course for the 1914-19 hiatus). Result: Oxford’s orthodox went into a spell of doubt and self-criticism , which ended only with the Leander Olympic victory in 1908, Edmond Warre’s lectures “On the Grammar of Rowing” in 1907 and 1909, and Bob Bourne’s four-year run in the Boat Race starting in 1909, all played out in the pages of Vanity Fair.

At the same time, the numbers and quality of foreign entries at Henley Regatta were increasing, setting off stress fractures throughout the community of gentlemen amateurs who were already straining under the largely domestic problem of defining what it meant to be an “amateur.” Vanity Fair had plenty to say about these subjects as well.

Figaro Illustre, 1890

While “Fairbairnism” and “foreigners” challenged the old order, “females” by and large did not. The suffragist movement that McKenna confronted before the 1914-18 war and which included Dilke’s Women’s Property Act of 1870 and the Matrimonial Causes Act of 1878 among its roots, had no serious counterpart in rowing, though women did take up the sport in numbers as part of the late Victorian fashion for boating. Somerville and Lady Margaret Hall, new Oxford colleges for women, both established boat clubs in 1884 and some twenty years later a university boat club for women was formed, but the O.U.W.B.C. rules of 1906 made clear the subordinate status of women’s rowing at the time:

Rule 1: Young ladies shall take their outings at such times that they do not encounter gentlemen’s crews.
Rule 2: They shall have a draw string in their skirt hems so that no ankle is exposed.
Rule 3: If coaching by a gentleman is desired leave must be obtained from their moral tutors and a gentleman cox must act as a chaperone.[226]

In similar vein, the Amateur Rowing Association decided in 1907 that it “did not legislate for ladies and therefore could not affiliate clubs containing ladies,” thus effectively blackballing them from ARA clubs in the same manner as manual laborers and “professionals.”[227]

Since the rowing coverage in Vanity Fair was almost exclusively dedicated to the Boat Race and Henley Regatta, the magazine paid no note to these developments, its sole reference to women in rowing being the appearance of a guest woman coxswain for the 1885 Oxford crew:

The Oxford University Boat Club, with its old gallantry, is about to acknowledge the very useful steering of the eight by a lady, at Bourne End, during the absence of the coxswain, Mr. Humphreys. The fair lady is the most graceful gondolier either in England or on the Continent, and has already distinguished herself at the oar under the able tuition and in the company of her husband.[228]

References edit

  1. ^ Wigglesworth, The Social History of English Rowing, p. 107.
  2. ^ N. Wigglesworth, p. 111.
  3. ^ Vanity Fair, March 21, 1885, p. 168.

Dudley-Ward W

Dudley-Ward, William edit

“C.U.B.C” (Spy), March 29th, 1900 edit


William Dudley Ward is only twenty-three years old, but his grandfather, on his mother’s side, was the late Lord Esher; who, before he was Master of the Rolls, was No. 7 in a winning Cambridge Eight. So there was rowing blood in him when he went to Mr. Ainger’s House at Eton; and he fostered it by rowing in the Eton Eights of 1895 and 1896: winning the Ladies’ Plate on both occasions. At School he was Captain of the Boats, and a member of “Pop”; while he got his football colours at the wall game. Then he became a freshman at Trinity, Cambridge, and rowed No. 7 in the Eight which lost the race of ‘97. So he was made President of the C.U.B.C.; and fetched Fletcher of Oxford to coach his ‘98 crew: in which he rowed in spite of the doctors. He survived, and last year (the doctors having removed their embargo) he helped to beat Oxford for the first time in ten years. Now he again presides over the Light Blues, and again rows at No. 7 in an Eight which, according to the experts, have Saturday’s race at their mercy. Yet he has won nothing at Henley since he left Eton, nor has he rowed Head of the River, nor has he won the Fours at Cambridge: though he has won the Pairs twice. His hair is red, his complexion is pink, and he is smooth and plump and pleasing. His views on punctuality are not ascetic; as a correspondent he is not hasty, and as a keeper of engagements he is casual. Nevertheless, he hopes to take his degree in the summer.

He has been called “Duddie,” “The Terra Cotta Baby,” and “The Cheaper”; but he is generally known as “Dudley.”

When William Dudley-Ward (1877-1946) went up to Cambridge in 1896, the university had lost the Boat Race six times running. They lost again in 1897 at the hands of “the finest Oxford crew that has ever rowed,” in the judgment of the Official Centenary History, which “won as they liked” by two and a half lengths.”[229] “At this dark hour the C.U.B.C. elected as President its No. 7, freshman Dudley-Ward, another of Nickalls’ “absolute classics.”[230] It was an unprecedented promotion designed to give him “the maximum of time in which to pull Cambridge rowing together and unite or silence the warring factions,” a college captain later recalled.[231] That autumn Dudley-Ward brought over W.A.L. Fletcher to coach, proceeded to remove one or two old Blues, and

then called a meeting of college boat captains in the Goldie Boathouse under the chairmanship of R.C. Lehmann, who had been brought down to see fair play. It was certainly a dramatic occasion. Dudley Ward straightly accused certain persons of deliberately obstructing his efforts to select the most representative and best possible crew. The opposition could only bluster, and Dudley Ward won a complete victory, and in due course Cambridge won the boat race for the first time in 10 years.[232]

“Due course” meant two years later (1899), for in 1898 illness kept Dudley-Ward out of the race (VANITY FAIR was wrong about his participation) and, more significantly, a gale flooded the Cambridge boat, which would have sunk but for bladders stowed beneath the seats, allowing Oxford to ease home by about a quarter-mile. With better weather in 1899, Cambridge won by three and a quarter lengths and in 1900, with Dudley-Ward again President and Gold gone from Oxford, by twenty. “[The Cambridge 1900] crew and the Oxford one of 1897 stand in a class by themselves,” judged the Official Centenary History, so “it was unfortunate that Oxford brought to Putney one of the poorest that ever came from the Isis.”[233] So do fortunes change.

Dudley-Ward took his degree in 1903, having won the Goblets once (1902), the Grand twice (1902-03), and the Stewards’ three times (1901-03). He reportedly “had a liking for the fleshpots and was known, on occasions, to turn up for training still dressed in white tie and tails.”[234] From 1906 to 1922 he was Liberal M.P. for Southhampton, Treasurer for His Majesty’s household from 1909 to 1912, and Vice-Chamberlain from 1917 to 1922. During the 1914-18 war he was a Lieutenant Commander in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve. On retirement from politics he divided his time between England and Canada, dying in Calgary in 1946 after an operation.

The 1899 Boat Race edit

Woodgate’s account in VANITY FAIR (March 30, 1899):

Cambridge practicing

The winning crew of Saturday’s Inter-’Varsity Boat Race will be shrined among crews such as Goldie’s 1870 crew, the Oxonians of 1875 and 1878, and other cracks, as being much above the average for speed and style. The merit of their style is due to the coaching which they received, and especially to that of Mr. Fletcher, the Oxonian, on whom fell the brunt of the tuition from the hour when Trial Eight preparation commenced in the autumn. They had undeniably the best of the stations, being to windward and on the inside of the river’s curve for the first two and a-half miles of the course. The wind blew stiffly, and made the leeward station a great drawback. If the stations had been reversed the handicap would have produced a pretty race; but on their form as displayed Cambridge should in the end have pulled through the disadvantage.

The best man in the two boats was Etherington-Smith, the Cantab President, whose father was in “Jack” Forster’s winning Grand Challenge crew of 1863. The Cantab No. 6, another very fine oar, is son of the No. 3 of Cambridge at Putney in 1862. The father of C.J.D. Goldie was even more celebrated in aquatic history, as most readers know; and the father of Gibbon, the Cantab stroke, a “dry bob” at Oxford, was notorious for showing season after season the most heart-breaking defence at cricket that ever tried the patience and temper of bowlers, and taking all the edge off their deliveries by the time that freer hitters came in. Such repetition of athletic merit to the several generations in fifty per cent. of a crew is an interesting statistic. It reminds one of Horace (Odes IV., 4):

Fortes creantur fortibus ac bovis,
Est in juvencis, est in equis patrum

The Oxford crew did by no means disgrace themselves against such high-class adversaries: they kept together and in stroke all through a hard, stern chase in stormy water. If all of them had copied the body action of their stroke, and had swung back and rowed it well out as he and No. 6 did, they would have been many lengths faster. Their salient failing was want of length of swing-back in the middle of the boat.

The steering of both coxswains was much above the average; both are Etonians, and by no means novices at rudder-lines, which explains their mutual merit on the first occasion that either has performed in a Putney race.

The boats used were two good ones. Oxford cannot have much excuse on this score, good though the Cantab ship was. A resumé of the speech Lord Justice Smith (in the chair at the dinner on the 25th) has appeared in sundry dailies, and has rather misrepresented his remarks on boat-building. What he said in effect was this: “It is well known that if a builder does his utmost to produce two or three actually alike boats, nevertheless one will generally be much the faster. Hence, never trust too much to obtaining an exact replica of any favourite vessel. I hear that Cambridge had a prima donna of a boat this year. If so, I would advise keeping her in lavender at Putney for another race, and spare her the concussion of being carted to Cambridge and back for next year, and of meantime being strained round the sharp corners of the Cam course.” This advice of the Lord Justice will be endorsed by every oarsman who has experience in the vicissitudes of boat-building.

The Lord Justice also preached from the chair a friendly, paternal, and hard-hitting homily against the recent cabals in Cantab aquatic circles, which disorganised the C.U.B.C. of late, until Fletcher arrived as dictator to reorganise. Fortunately those cabals have now been quenched, and it is to be hoped that after this latest brilliant example of what a united C.U.B.C. can achieve, we shall hear no more of them. Fletcher will now lay down his bâton at Cambridge and place his services and nerve at the disposal of his own University.

References edit

  1. ^ G.C. Drinkwater & T.R.B. Sanders, The University Boat Race: Official Centenary History, pp. 103-04.
  2. ^ G. Nickalls, Life’s a Pudding, p. 211.
  3. ^ Major-General J.H. Beith, quoted in The Times, Nov. 14, 1946.
  4. ^ Ibid.
  5. ^ G.C. Drinkwater & T.R.B. Sanders, The University Boat Race: Official Centenary History, p. 107.
  6. ^ R. Burnell & G. Page, The Brilliants: A History of the Leander Club, p. 82.
  7. ^ Either Woodgate or VANITY FAIR erred; “ac bovis” should be “et bonis”: “Fortes creantur fortibus et bonis / Est in juvencis, est in equis patrum / Virtus”: ‘Tis only from the sturdy and the good that sturdy youths are born.’ Homer’s fourth poem in the fourth book of Odes, written in 13 B.C. at the request of Caesar Augustus, celebrates the Claudian house and particularly Drusus, Augustus’ step-son, who had defeated marauders on the Roman frontier two years earlier. C. Bennett, Horace: Odes and Epodes, pp. 137, 371.

Hemmerde EG

Hemmerde, Edward G. edit

“The New Recorder” (Spy), May 19, 1909 edit


Although Mr. Hemmerde is only thirty-eight years of age he already has a reputation of which an older man might boast. Needless to say, his popular success has not been along the lines he would have chosen. Most people think of him as a brilliant K.C., whereas his heart's desire is to shine as a politician. Mr. Hemmerde is a philosopher, however, and has learnt that we usually break a toe against substantial success while chasing a butterfly.

He was born in London and educated at Winchester and University College, Oxford. At Winchester he won twenty or thirty prizes for running, jumping, and hammer-throwing, and at Oxford represented his college in Association football and at Rugby in cricket [sic]. Rowing, however, was his favourite recreation. He rowed in the University Trial Eights for three years, and captained the University College Boat Club for two years. Later, in 1900, he won the Diamond Sculls at Henley, defeating Howell, who had won in the two previous years.

Devotation to sport did not prevent his appliction to study. He won a college scholarship in 1890, a first-class in Classical Mods. in 1892, graduated with honours in Classics in 1894, took honours Jurisprudence in 1895, and the degree of B.C.L. in 1896.

In 1906 he was elected Member of Parliament for East Denbighshire, and in August, 1907, went to Jamaica, and, after being called to the Bar there, won the caes against the insurance companies arising out of the famous earthquake fire. He also successfully contended the Appeal Case in Privy Council, as a result of which the companies paid about £700,000 in claims and £75,000 in costs.

In 1908 he was returned and took silk at the same time as F.E. Smith, with whom he is persistently associated by the public, presumably because they differ on every point of opinion. He is now Recorder of Liverpool, while about fifteen years younger than any previous holder of the post, and his friends confidently prophesy that he will break other records.

He is an advocate of the democratic cause, a decided Free Trader, and a popular orator, who will no doubt quickly enhance his reputation when his party goes into Opposition. He has insight and decision, is a precise and logical speaker, and will not fail for lack of self-assurance. He is tall and broad -- and deep.

Edward Hemmerde (1871-1948) rowed for University College, Oxford in the Visitors and Wyfolds in 1894. He did not return to the Henley regatta until 1899, when he entered the Diamonds and advanced to the final against Howell, who won by a verdict of easily. In 1900 they faced off again in the Diamonds final, which the regatta records reported as follows:

This was a desperate race from start to finish. Mr. Howell led for the first half of the race, and was half a length ahead at Fawley Court Boathouse, but at the three-quarter mile mark Mr. Hammerde was a trifle in front, led by a half length at the White House, was clear at the lower end of Phyllis Court, and led by two lengths opposite the Grand Stand. Mr. Howell, however, making a desperate finish, only lost by three-quarters of a length. Time 8m. 42s. Mr. Howell fell out of his boat on stopping. He had a bad attack of malaria in the early part of the week, which caused the weakness from which he suffered.

Romance and Rowing, Part II: “In Which a Hero of Henley Suffers Adversity” edit

B. Fletcher Robinson, who had rowed for Jesus College, Cambridge in the '90s, edited Vanity Fair from 1905 to 1907. In the July 4, 1906 issue he contributed the following as a companion to the debate on foreign entries that appeared in the same issue and offering a different perspective on romance and rowing than had appeared previously:

Henry Denton Marshall, commonly called "Bunker" Marshall, for reasons which I have never determined, was a fine oar. Had I the pen of a lady novelist, one of those brilliant idealists who, when they discourse on Cambridge life go yet further astray in their enthusiasm than when they analyse London society, I should translate "Bunker" Marshall, who was a well proportioned lad with a cheerful face and a cherubic complexion, into a god-like youth, the joy of dons, the darling of a mythical University society, and the object of a slavish adoration by the entire undergraduate fraternity. There are, hower, as many sets in Cambridge as in Mayfair. "Bunker" was a member of the "Pit;" but did not wear the pink and white of the Athenaeum. He had not the prestige of an old Etonianism. The son of a respected Yorkshire manufacturer who suffered permanently from a cut-throat competition, he had neither the money nor the birth to become an object of admiration amongst the young gentlemen who play indifferent polo, fall in gallant fashion over impossible fences with the Drag, are not unknown at the Savoy and the Carlton, and generally labour to prove themselves men of the world and very terrible fellows.

Yet "Bunker" Marshall had sniffed the incense of hero worship. He had been a rowing Blue for two years, and winning years at that. Both his dean and tutor, who had seen him raise the college boat five places on the river in that period, were his firm friends. Freshmen, when he was pointed out to them by their seniors, glanced at him humbly; and the undergraduates of his own college of -- let us say -- Boniface (which was not Trinity, but might have been the Hall, Jesus, or Caius) regarded him as their natural leader. He was not unaffected by this admiration. He was no fool, but he knew that he was a person of some importance, and bore himself accordingly.

He had met Miss Dereham at his college ball. She was the daughter of General Sir Hugh Dereham, G.C.B., C.M.G., &c., &c., and her brother, a freshman from Radley, had rowed bow in the Boniface Eight. She was a tall girl, graceful, brown-eyed, and brown-haired, and two-and-twenty years of age. Dick Dereham was very proud of his sister; also he worshipped "Bunker" Marshall. That the two had become friends pleased him; that "Bunker" had fallen desperately in love he failed to perceive; which is the way of brothers.

At the conclusion of the May races the Boniface boat had been left second on the river. They would have gone head, in the general opinion, if there had been another night of racing, being an uncommonly good crew, big and strong, though still capable of further improvement. To Henley they migrated as a matter of course. Things went so well with them that their chances for the Grand Challenge began to be seriously considered by the experts who sit after dinner on a first-floor veranda of the Leander Club. The Press, however, excited by the freaks of training practiced by a visiting American Eight, neglected them altogether.

"Bunker" Marshall saw much of Miss Dereham, for the General had taken a house in the Fair Mile for the regatta. It was, moreover, plain that Miss Dereham took a personal interest in "Bunker." She was frequently to be seen upon the tow-path watching the practice of the Eight. On Sundays they laughed and chatted away the afternoon in the General's garden, while Dick sneered over the sporting papers in the shade of the big yew, or they went up-stream in a launch which the General hired. The position of affairs was accepted by the crew, though not without apprehension. For a man to fall in love while training was a dangerous experiment. The weight of their captain was carefully noted. One week when he fell away by four ounces Miss Dereham became quite unpopular. The only two excepted from and entirely unaware of their secret consultations were Dick Dereham and "Bunker" himself.

It was nine o'clock in the evening, and the Saturday before the Regatta. "Bunker" had been interviewed and photographed several times during the week, and the crew had been pulling his leg during dinner over the efforts of various weekly papers. As the Canadian canoe which he shared with Dereham drifted past the Phyllis Court wall "Bunker" referred to the matter.

"Of course it's all nonsense, Dereham," he said. "Yet it's fame of a sort. I can see my sisters snipping out the pictures -- they keep a book of cuttings about me. Women like a man to be talked about, don't you think?"

"Rather," said Dereham. "But what a rotter that chap on Field Sports must be, making you say that a swivel rollock was--"

"I suppose it will be a long time before I am as famous again," sighed "Bunker," careless of the interruption.

"Did you see what The River said about you?" urged Dick.

"I don't care what they say. When a man is a sort of public character he's fair game. Look at the way they slang Chamberlain."

"Anyhow, it's a beastly cheek," said Dick, accepting the parallel as reasonable.

"They'll talk about you just the same someday."

"Do you really mean it, 'Bunker'? Do you think I--"

"If you continue to improve as you have in the past fortnight you'll get your blue all right."

"By Jove! but the governor would be pleased. And Ida -- she thinks a blue is the end of all things."

"Does she really?" said Marshall, sitting up suddenly.


"Bunker" Marshall hesitated, settled himself amongst the cushions, gave a lazy stroke or two with the paddle, sat up again, and finally spoke.

"Look here, Dereham," he said, "I really don't quite know how to put it, but the fact is -- perhaps you may have -- well, I love your sister very much."

Dick whistled and stared.

"Do you think I've any chance?"

"Chance? Why of course you have. My dear fellow, a man like you, President of the 'Varsity, one of the best Sevens that ever rowed -- I'm deuced glad. It's splendid, really splendid."

"It's awfully good of you, Dereham," said "Bunker."

"You're such a modest chap. You don't know how famous you are. The boatmen and townees point you out to trippers. 'That's Marshall. He was President last year. Finest oar Cambridge has had for years.' You'd hear them yourself if you listened."

"If I have a chance," said "Bunker," modestly, "and if you back me up, Dereham -- well, that's something."

"Don't you worry, 'Bunker.'"

"You won't say a word to anyone, Dereham. Promise now."

"Of course not."

* * *

Now, as the Fates ordained, the Boniface Eight was promoted on the following Tuesday afternoon into an object of International interest. The sporting sections of the two peoples, which are separated by the Atlantic, fixed their eyes on Mr. Marshall and his crew. For Leander was beaten by the Tuxedo crew in the first heat of the Grand Challenge, and the Boniface Eight paddled home a length in front of St. Benedicts, the head of the river at Oxford. Plainly if the Cup were not to follow other articles of silver plate across the Atlantic Boniface would be the cause of its retention on English soil.

On Wednesday both crews won their heats with ease. On Thursday came the final.

It would have caused surprise, and perhaps some indignation to the group of enthusiasts who watched the Boniface Eight push off from the landing-stage if they had known the state of mind in which the stroke -- for it was at that thwart that "Bunker" sat -- then found himself. For so healthy a young man he was pale -- not very pale, but far from red. It was remarked on the bank that "Bunker" had a pretty bad needle which, being translated, means an attack of nerves usual to oarsmen in such circumstances. As a matter of fact "Bunker's" head was buzzing with a few words snatched from a wildly enthusiastic young lady who had pressed his hand as he carried his oar down to the boat. "Dear 'Bunker,'" she had said; "you'll beat them, I know you will." "Dear 'Bunker'" what did she mean? Could it be -- "Forward," cried the cox -- did she really -- "Are you ready?" -- she must have -- "Paddle." And so they swept down the course towards the starting-place.

"Bunker's" amatory speculations were still unfinished -- was ever a stroke in so cruel a situation? -- while he passed his sweater to the boatman, undid two buttons at the waist, wriggled himself in his sliding seat, and regarded the straps that confined his toes. Yet for a moment Diana conquered Venus. "Now you men," he addressed the boat, "Don't get flurried. We're all right; but for Heaven's sake pick it up when I quicken." "Are you ready, Marshall?" called the Starter. "Yes," he answered, regarding the trim lines of the Umpire's launch moving slowing upon them. A similar question to the Americans alongside, a sliding forward, a moment of tense, vicious excitement little less acute to some members of the crew than that which the condemned man suffers when the hangman lays his hand on the lever of the drop, a voice, a pistol, the swish of oars, a short second stroke, the thud of a cannon from somewhere on the bank -- and the great race had begun.

And "Bunker" kept his head, like the good man he was. The Americans were gaining on him; he could see nothing but their rudder now as he took a swift glance from the tail of his eye. But he knew their style of rowing, those short and rapid strokes that drive a boat so fast and tire a crew so quickly. They were both clear of the island now, and the white launch was flying after them with a curl of foam at the bows. They had reached the farm. He looked at the cox. "Three-quarters of a length." It contented his soul. The boat was going well; the men rowing cleanly together. He was not afraid -- if they stuck to it.

"Two, you're late," cried the cox. He cursed two in his heart; the shout interrupted his thoughts. He must keep his head clear. Fawley -- they were near the half-way post. "Close on a length," said the cox. He nodded his head. "Pick it up," cried the cox, and the crew took the spurt finely.

They were amongst the thick of the pleasure craft now. A great dull roar filled the air, a mass of inarticulate cries. Once he saw an American flag waving over the boom that guarded the course, and heard a shrill ordered war-cry from a score of Tuxedo supporters somewhere on his left. Beyond that he could not remember to have heard or seen anything from the island to the half-way post beyond the cox's face and the white curl on the launch's forefoot, and the dull rumbling of people shouting it might have been miles away. "Under half a length," cried the cox. They were going up, then? They were close on Phyllis Court now. Again he spurted. A glance from the tail of his eye; there was the enemy's rudder coming back to him. And now it was their cox, with an odd megaphone attachment on his head that made him look so funny. Curse that cox, what a fool he looked! Another spurt -- they were passing the wall. What a noise there was. There could be little in it. Come on, you men! Row, row, row! For the honour of English muscle and English skill -- row, row, row! There was the Yankee stroke. He was falling back; he was behind them. Row, row! He could not see very clearly now. Perhaps it was all right. Row, row! A gun. "Easy all," cried the cox. "Half a length, 'Bunker,' half a length to the good, by God."

And yet the cox was a pious little man.

* * *

Oh, what a hero was "Bunker"! How they shouted as he stepped from his boat! How old veterans came running up to slap him on the back! How the college boatman clasped his hand, shouting, with tears in his eyes, "Gawd, it was wonderful! Gawd, it was wonderful; and I've won two quid." Oh, "Bunker" Marshall, you will never be so famous again, so worshipped by friends, so admired by even your beaten enemies; not even if you become Prime Minister of England and reduce the income-tax!

It was next morning, under the yew tree in the General's garden, that he came upon Ida Dereham. She was alone. To be truthful, Dick was still in bed suffering from what he accurately described as a sick headache. There was little of the hero about "Bunker." Indeed, he spoke to her with a hanging head.

"I have something to say," he began. "It's this. I love you very much. Will you marry me?"

"My dear boy!" she said.

"Is there no hope, then?"

"You'll soon get over it," she said, cheerfully. "And now tell me some more about the race. You're a hero, you know."

* * *

"And you refused him, Ida?" cried Dick, in vast indignation some two hours later.

"My dear Dick. Please let me manage my own affairs."

"Oh, but I say--"

"Why you should wish me to marry a boy that has just left school I can't imagine. Besides, who are his people? What can he do but become a schoolmaster or something on half commission in the City? Don't be so absurd."

"But everybody knows "Bunker" Marshall. He is as famous--"

"As a professional cricketer, perhaps. But would you ask me to marry a professional cricketer?"

"Oh, I say!" said Dick Dereham.

External links edit

Chapman WH

Chapman, Wilfrid Hubert edit

“C.U.B.C.” (Spy), April 2, 1903 edit


Born on the 13th of December, 1879, he is known amongst his friends as “Teddy” for the sufficient reason that his brother’s name is Edward. At fourteen he went to Eton, and there learned to row so well that he won the Ladies’ Plate in ‘97 and ‘98 as bow of the Eton crew. He also ran so well that he won the School Mile, Steeplechase, and Half-Mile. Of course he was in “Pop,” and was popular at Eton, though on one occasion his tutor is said to have dissented from the general opinion when a misadventure, while testing a rope fire-escape one Sunday afternoon in May, landed him among the Fourth of June geraniums above his tutor’s porch. Trinity College, Cambridge, having been chosen to put the final polish on him, he determined that Oxford should not win a tenth successive Boat Race; so he was placed bow in the famous Cambridge crew of ‘99, and “Tabslogging” went out of fashion. Owing to the unfortunate arrangement which still fixes the Boat Race and the Sports within a few days of each other, he decided to confine his energies to the muddy Cam, preferring the tideway to Queen’s Club. Comparatively light and slightly built, he is an extraordinarily hard worker who never shirks his duties. He is quaint and original, not particular about dress, and a good friend, who is much liked by all who know him and by many who do not.

In February, 1900, Second Lieutenant W.H. Chapman, of the Yorks Militia, might have been seen at Southampton struggling to get his men on board a transport for South Africa. Still, he was not slow in gaining knowledge of the drill-book on active service; and the Boers showed their instinctive wiliness by keeping out of his reach. Nevertheless, Captain Chapman was invalided home with fever in March of 1901; so he coached the Third Trinity May Boat to the Head of the River, and again showed his powers when Third Trinity won the University Fours. Last year saw him on his old thwart in the winning Cambridge crew, and he made up at Henley for the previous year’s enforced idleness by helping to win the Grand Challenge and the Stewards’ Fours for Third Trinity.

He has a vivid imagination, but he is probably the best bow on the Thames.

Wilfrid Hubert Chapman (1879-1915), “though light, was probably the most dashing bow who ever rowed in that place,” according to the Boat Race Official Centenary History, “and it was always difficult to find a two who could hold him.”[236] Vanity Fair featured him on the eve of his third and final Boat Race, which went off as follows:

At the start Mr. F.I. Pitman, who was officiating as umpire for the first time, had some difficulty with the pistol, an antiquated affair which from time immemorial had been handed to the starter by old Tom Tims. The pistol stuck at half-cock, and refused to go off for several seconds. At the words “Are you ready?” Cambridge had squared their blades and the man in the stakeboat was unable to hold them against the drag of the tide. Oxford were held more firmly, and so it was that Cambridge got a flying start of about a third of a length which the umpire, who was too taken up with the pistol in his hands, failed to notice. This was most unfortunate, for the Oxford crew were dismayed at having been slipped, so easily it seemed, and rowed like a beaten crew from the first stroke. The Cambridge crew also were upset by the incident and never really got together until quite near the finish of the race. However, it made no difference to the result, for Oxford were quite outclassed. Cambridge gained steadily and were two and three-quarters lengths ahead at Hammersmith (7 min. 15 sec.), four and a half lengths ahead at Barnes (16 min. 16 sec.), and won without exerting themselves by six lengths in 19 min. 33 sec.[237]

Chapman went on to win the Stewards’ that year and the next with Third Trinity, and the 1904 Grand with Leander in his only race for that club.

When the 1914-18 war broke out, Chapman was working for the Bombay Company in Karachi. He asked for leave to enlist but was refused, so quit to rejoin the Sixth Yorkshire Regiment, commanded by his cousin. Both of them were among the first killed in the August 7, 1915 landing at Suvla Bay in the Dardanelles, an operation that eventually took 40,000 British and Anzac lives.