Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Watts on the Bat

As just now my weekday life consists almost entirely of working flat out and reading snatches of William Gaunt's Victorian Olympus (between intervals of sleep and stupor), I make no apologies for returning again to that fascinating volume. Yesterday I learned that one of G.F. Watts's first commissions was to illustrate a cricket book with a series of drawings showing the various positions adopted by the batsman. Yes, that G.F. Watts. It's an improbably down-to-earth start for a high-minded artist who seemed interested only in Abstractions and the Ideal, but so it was. Watts owed the commission to an early patron, a remarkable man called Nicholas Wanostrocht, who inherited the running of a school at the age of just 19 when his father died, but whose main interest was cricket. Fearing that his pupils' parents might take a dim view of his cricketing activities, he played under the name of Nicholas Felix, and became a stalwart of the great Kentish side of the mid-19th century (along with the gloriously named Fuller Pilch). His batting manual, Felix on the Bat, was published in 1845, with Watts's illustrations. Credited with the invention of the Catapulta bowling machine and India-rubber batting gloves, Felix was also a classicist, musician, linguist, writer, artist, you name it - another of those Victorian all-rounders. As he was at cricket, batting left-handed and bowling (underarm) slow left-arm orthodox. Oddly he ended up buried in Wimborne cemetery just yards from Montague Druitt, another cricketer and, posthumously, a Jack the Ripper suspect. Small world.

1 comment:

  1. I also learn that Watts was a member of the Anti Tight-Lacing Society, which campaigned against the excesses of Victorian corsetry.