Whether you choose to believe it or not, the Scottish football season has just begun, and the English season officially begins this weekend with the Charity Shield. So much for the summer (and so much for the Ashes, but there’s a different story for you).
So when I stumbled across Joseph Strutt’s Sports and Pastimes of the People of England (first published 1801), which naturally covers everything from dice to mummery via cricket on horseback, I immediately looked up what he’d put together on the people’s sport:
Sir Thomas Elyot, in his charming little work entitled The Boke named the Governour, first published in 1531, says of football that it “is nothyng but beastely fury and extreme violence, whereof procedeth hurte, and consequently rancour and malice do remayne with thym that be wounded, wherfore it is to be put in perpetuall silence”.
What can Elyot have been thinking?
I have a marginal connection with Strutt. At my school, in Strutt’s home town, by way of aping public school traditions the boys were divided into four houses for the purposes of inspiring an insipid version of manly Victorian competition, more than a century too late to prepare us for the Boer War. My house was named for Strutt, which I had neglected to remember until now.
Before we leave, please also note Elyot’s nicely Carollian book title. The Boke named the Gouvernour is a contradiction in terms, as it is not named the Gouvernour. More confusing than one of Shane Warne’s flippers, if you ask me.