Friday 30 January 2015

Another Bryson Footnote

I've been dipping again in Bill Bryson's big brantub of miscellaneous knowledge, At Home: A Short[!] History of Private Life. Last night I found a splendid footnote relating to Edwin Chadwick, the Victorian social reformer who overhauled the Poor Laws and did much to improve public health by way of sanitation (as this note was appended to the chapter about bathrooms, it was unusually relevant). Chadwick's father James was something of a political revolutionary, an associate and supporter of Tom Paine. He also taught music and botany to the scientist-to-be John Dalton. His other son, Edwin's brother Henry, emigrated to America at the age of 12, went into sports writing and became the 'Father of Baseball', codifying the rules of the game and devising the box score (adapted from the cricket scorecard). Thus James Chadwick, an obscure figure in himself, was a living link between Tom Paine, modern atomic theory (via Dalton), modern sanitation, and the game of baseball. Bryson could actually have taken it back a generation to John Wesley, by way of James's father Andrew, a close friend of Wesley's. From Father of Methodism to Father of Baseball...


  1. HA! I can almost hear John Wesley turning to Henry Chadwick, up there in the country in the skies, and quoting Psmith (upon discovering that Lord Emsworth had won first prize for roses the year Psmith's father won the prize for tulips)..."It seems to draw us very close together."

  2. Thanks Esther! Wodehouse quotations are always welcome here, and that's a cracker...