Saturday, 4 December 2010

Pride and Prejudice

Jane Austen's Ashes legacy has not  previously been considered significant.  Trustees of the museum at her cottage in Chawton, Hampshire a few years ago banned the spreading of Ashes in the garden, although at that time the Ashes were in Australian hands and the grounds might not have been at risk.

But, Ashes aside, Fantasy Bob finds much to disturb him in the lack of wider appreciation that Jane Austen's work, in particular her masterpiece Pride and Prejudice, has cricket at its heart.  Scholars have recently been reviewing her manuscripts and suggesting that it was her editor who did much to get the classic texts into their known form.  Unfortunately Austen suffered from an editor with no sympathy or understanding of the place of cricket in the well ordered society of the day.   This is the original opening of Pride and Prejudice before its was cruelly butchered:

IT is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good Gray Nichols Nitro must be in want of a place in the top order.

However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding bowlers, that he is considered as their rightful rabbit.

``My dear Mr Bennet,'' said his lady to him one day, ``have you heard that Netherfield Park XI is playing this weekend?''

Mr Bennet replied that he was well aware of that fact since it was his own team Meryton CC that were the chosen opposition.

``Ah yes,'' returned she; ``and Mr Bingley has brought his friend Mr D’Arcy from London to strengthen the batting."

Mr Bennet made no answer.  As coach and skipper of the Meryton club his playing resources were stretched thin, and after much solitary contemplation in his study he had concluded that he faced no alternative but to field his four daughters in the coming match.  Having imparted this truth to his companion of twenty three years he expounded further, ‘They have none of them much to recommend them, they are all silly and ignorant like other girls and inclined to play across the line; but Lizzy has something more of quickness than her sisters.  Her high action generates quite a bit of pace off the wicket.''

``Mr Bennet, how can you abuse your own children in such way? You take delight in vexing me. You have no compassion on my poor nerves.''

Mrs Bennet’s nerves held in their state until Saturday and the day of the game.  At the breakfast table, she engaged her partner again.  ‘Mr Bennet.  Do you not think our Lizzy has a passing attraction to Mr D’Arcy?  A man with such a bat as he is quite the thing.’

“Ah, my dear one.  That may be so, but I fear that Lizzy finds him overfond of the cut off the back foot, a stroke he imparts with an arrogance that we will not see until Brian Lara enters the game two hundred years hence.”

Mrs Bennet cast her eyes down and felt the courage stir in her breast.  It was rare for her to challenge Mr Bennet.  “But surely, Mr Bennet, the answer is for Lizzy to pitch it up.  The slower one, then the in-swinging Yorker should do the trick.”

There was silence only disturbed by the slow tick of the mantle clock.  Mr Bennet carefully put his newspaper to the side.  He flexed his fingers one by one and removed his eye-glasses.  He looked at his spouse with that mixture of tender affection, impatience and reverence that had been his constant state those twenty three years.

Suddenly he got to his feet. “I’m d***** if you haven’t put your finger on it.’ he exclaimed to the astonishment of his spouse and made his haste to the nets where his daughters were engaged in earnest practice for the match ahead.

That night there was much rejoicing in the Bennet household as they scanned again and again the scorecard:

F D’Arcy - bowled Bennet (E) – 0

Lizzy about to bowl the slower one

…………………..And the rest, bar 400 pages of sublime English prose, is history.


  1. En excellent plot idea for Lagaan II...

  2. Golandaaz- excellent thought my friend. FB commended Lagaan in his posting Cricket in the movies.

  3. the only post on cricket that i ever forwarded to my wife. I own that Jane Austen movie in every format there is. Though I admit to having watched it (and enjoyed it) it is sorely missing the cricket angle..

  4. Golandaaz - FB says this is flattery indeed. It his mission to rediscover cricket where it has previously been ignored or suppressed. He suggests that Mrs Golandaaz might be interested in FB's posting on the Hundred Acre Wood CC.

  5. Brilliant work by Bob Bennet.

  6. Patricia - many thanks. FB is not aware that Jane Austen reported Mr Bennet's Christian name. But he agrees that Mr Bennet's coaching skills were first rate.