Neville Cardus Rose To Become The Most Revered Cricket WriterOn by
Duncan Hamilton has already been a multiple award-winning sports writer, but it is hard to imagine he will write a much better book than this superb, elegant portrait of the sociable, feted, but unknowable ultimately, the man who virtually invented modern sports writing. Neville Cardus was creating, illegitimate, into poverty in 1888. His real name was John Frederick Newsham, but he knew his father never.
Both his mother and his aunt worked as prostitutes, and the young Fred Newsham was educated to the age of ten gently. But he was a ferocious autodidact, interested, and a passionate reader insatiably. Early on, he took a bewildering variety of jobs – in the grouped-family laundry, as a pavement artist, and selling from flowers and sweets to insurance.
This was the end of the fantastic War and the first state matches since 1914 were soon being played. From these beginnings, Neville Cardus became, at the elevation of his profession, one of the best-known people in the English-speaking world and one among the best-paid journalists in history. Born with a drawerful of silver spoons in his mouth! Share In the first Thirties, he was paid £1,100 a year, plus generous expenditures equivalent to a comfortable annual income for a typical few. You could buy a three-bedroom house in London for £350 then.
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It was Cardus who saw that cricket was more than only a scorecard: it was a metaphor forever, using its beauty and its changing fortunes, its courage (and at times cowardice), its sportsmanship (and at times lack of. Most importantly, the pure pleasure to be there. Single-handedly, he changed the type of writing about the sport, and the words ‘Neville Cardus reports with this match’ scrawled on the billboard outside the ground guaranteed more sales for the Guardian.
In nowadays of ceaseless sport, instant communication, frenzied rushes to judgment and simple cruelty often, it might seem the leisurely, artfully wrought prose of Cardus would have no place. In fact, it illuminates cricket and cricketers, places and people, sport and society, in a manner that none however the very best can do.
His private life was eccentric. In 1921, Cardus married an instructor called Edith King, a mannish-looking arts fan who installed into the Bohemian life of Twenties Manchester easily. Nonetheless it was a rum relationship: ‘We never shared sexual communication,’ Cardus later wrote. Crucially, she tolerated his infatuations using what she called ‘his little girls’. He probably didn’t lose his virginity until his early 40s, along with his true love, a female called Barbe Ede, who was simply married to another (like Cardus). ‘In my dying hour, The radiance shall be remembered by me personally which emanated from her,’ he said.