Frederick Ashley-Cooper: The Bibliophile’s Historian

Rowland Bowen described Frederick Samuel Ashley-Cooper as the best cricket polymath – excluding all the time the precise practise and enjoying of the sport – who has ever lived. Statisticians have Ashley-Cooper to thank for the groundwork that he did in that discipline, and equally historians have trigger to be glad about the numerous discoveries that his diligent analysis made potential. His being an completed author who was effectively in a position to doc his work precisely was a terrific bonus. As well as over his lifetime Ashley-Cooper amassed a cricket library of upwards of 4,000 books and pamphlets. That may be a powerful quantity immediately. Again within the early 1930s, when solely a handful of mainstream titles appeared every year, it will need to have been a exceptional assortment.

Ashley-Cooper was born in Bermondsey in South East London in 1877. The household identify was Cooper, the Ashley, being added by Ashley-Cooper as quickly as he began venturing into print. His first contribution was a letter despatched to Cricket: A Weekly Report of the Sport in 1896. His topic was an inventory of the grounds on which WG Grace had scored his runs. So far as Bowen’s rider is worried there isn’t any document that Ashley-Cooper ever performed the sport one thing defined by his by no means having fun with strong well being. His afflictions included diabetes, nephritis and, in later life, alopecia.

Two generations earlier than Frederick’s delivery the Coopers appear to have been a farming household in Nottinghamshire, though clearly sooner or later Ashley-Cooper’s father moved south to London. He appears to be described as ‘gentleman’ when required to offer an occupation so while the household doesn’t appear to have been significantly prosperous that description and having one servant and a non-public earnings suggests a level of wealth.

The younger Ashley-Cooper would little doubt have frolicked on the Oval, and he undoubtedly knew the Surrey secretary, Charles Alcock, as a younger man. He met the historian HT Waghorn, who labored on the British Museum, and clearly spent a substantial amount of time there. In time Ashley-Cooper wrote extensively for Alcock who started Cricket: A Weekly Report of the Sport, and shortly afterwards he began working for Wisden the place, by dint of sheer arduous work, he turned the Cricket Data and Births and Deaths of Cricketers sections into the correct and complete sources that they grew to become.

Solely twice in his life did Ashley-Cooper transfer away from the work he liked. The primary event was in 1907 when, following Alcock’s demise, he took cost of Cricket: A Weekly Report of the Sport. There was no falling off within the high quality of his contributions, however he did nothing to vary the fortunes of a publication that was already previous the height of its recognition. 

After a conflict during which the absence of cricket and cricketing publications presumably made it harder for Ashley-Cooper to earn a residing he utilized for and was supplied the place of Nottinghamshire secretary and returned to his household’s roots to do this job. The day after day enterprise of operating a county cricket membership took Ashley-Cooper proper out of his consolation zone, and by September of 1920 the committee had been blissful to simply accept his resignation. In poor health well being was cited as an element and Ashley-Cooper and his spouse returned south to Milford in Surrey the place he went again to the analysis and writing that he liked a lot.

A whole assortment of Ashley-Cooper’s stand-alone publications would run to greater than 100 objects. A listing of these to which he had contributed however not been instantly credited on can be for much longer. In the principle his books, and his contributions to these written by others had been at their coronary heart historic or statistical. He contributed to some well-known publications as effectively, necessary histories of Kent, Middlesex, MCC, Surrey and Nottinghamshire amongst them. Ashley-Cooper was additionally closely concerned in ‘Plum’ Warner’s Imperial Cricket and, from Arthur Haygarth’s notes, he put collectively Quantity XV of Scores and Biographies, albeit that was a e book that contained no scores, merely biographies. 

There are two different books that I intend to say, one comparatively briefly, and the opposite, Cricket Highways and Byways, at a lot higher size. The latter is an enchanting assortment of writings which deserves a lot higher recognition than it receives immediately. Briefly it’s a traditional, and will have a spot within the assortment of each cricketing bibliophile.

The e book begins with a chapter entitled Three Nice Gamers, and this demonstrates that along with being a historian Ashley-Cooper may write as effectively. The three are the previous Notts batsman George Parr, and two Australians, Fred Spofforth and Victor Trumper. Ashley-Cooper described the latter as the beau ideally suited of a cricketer, alike in construct, temperament and ability. He possessed a captivating character, which brought about him to be essentially the most liked, as he was actually essentially the most gifted, of all Australian batsman.

The second chapter is an illustration of the lengths that Ashley-Cooper would go to in his researches, and in addition his fondness for the weird and the quirky. Winter Cricket does simply what the title suggests, and scours historical past for particulars of cricket matches performed within the depths of winter.

In An Outdated Cricketer’s Story Ashley-Cooper displays on conversations with a person who had died in 1907, aged 89, and over his lifetime had seen lots of the nice gamers first hand. After that he goes again to historian mode with A Girdle Around the Earth, a have a look at cricket because it had been performed outdoors its conventional heartlands.

From international historical past Ashley-Cooper then strikes on to fiction, and a have a look at cricket within the work of Charles Dickens. From there his reader is handled to Some Notes on Outdated Time Cricket. That is precisely what it guarantees to be with Ashley-Cooper lots of the curious tales from the sport’s previous that his researches had uncovered, and selecting essentially the most entertaining on which to dwell.

Chapters on The Cricket Bat and Umpires and Umpiring comply with and, on web page 159, there may be proof optimistic that anybody could make a mistake, even Ashley-Cooper, the place in error he refers to Essex when he really meant Sussex. Such gremlins, and that’s certainly all it was, creep into most non-fiction books. There’s nothing improper with e book reviewers choosing up on errors of their critiques, and positively when these are quite a few and simply averted criticism is warranted, nevertheless it does irritate me when some appear to take enjoyment of dwelling at size on minor slips.

Cricket and the Church revisits the topic of considered one of Ashley-Cooper’s wanted restricted editions, and from there he goes again to his quest for the obscure with a chapter on Gradual Scoring within the Olden Occasions.

Probably the most fascinating chapters within the e book, dealing as they do with topics that in these days weren’t continuously written about, are Cricket as a Pastime, which seems on the ardour that so many who fail to excel on the sphere have for the sport’s memorabilia, and Books and Writers, which requires no additional elaboration. They’re two chapters I’ve learn a number of instances, every time wistfully noting the worth in 1926 of a set of Wisden, mentioned to be between £100 and £150.

The e book’s penultimate chapter is one coping with extra curious episodes, Some Reminiscences of Minor Cricket, earlier than it closes with a group of fascinating items of correspondence. My private favorite of those is one from one Australian membership secretary to a different in 1899 with the intention to cancel a forthcoming match with the reason; I’m sorry to have to tell you that it’s inconceivable for us to fulfill your membership on Saturday. Our floor is located on a gold discipline reserve and a rush befell on it final week. Our floor was pegged out, and is being sunk upon, in order that it’s completely unfit for play.

The opposite e book that deserves a paragraph of its personal is the one full size biography that Ashley-Cooper wrote and which appeared in 1916, 5 years after its topic’s demise. The title is Edward Mills Grace, Cricketer, and it’s a totally researched story of the lifetime of a person who could all the time have been within the shadow of his youthful sibling, however stays a most fascinating character in his personal proper. The measure of the standard of Ashey-Cooper’s work is, maybe, that regardless of the passage of greater than a century since his e book was printed no different author has felt it crucial to aim to deal with the topic once more.

Ashley-Cooper lastly misplaced his battle along with his well being issues in January of 1932 when he died at his residence in Milford on the age of simply 54. A two-page obituary in Wisden was testomony to how extremely regarded he was in his discipline, and within the early 1960s his reminiscence was revived as he grew to become the topic of a spat between two of the harder cricketing males of letters, Bowen and Rosenwater. 

Tasked with writing an article about Ashley-Cooper for Bowen’s then fledgling Cricket Quarterly Rosenwater produced FS Ashley-Cooper: The Herodotus of Cricket, an editorial that’s finest described as a gushing tribute, and that from a person who was by no means sluggish to criticise when he felt criticism was due.

Sadly Bowen didn’t like what he acquired from Rosenwater. While Bowen additionally held Ashley-Cooper in excessive regard he was not eager on his faults being glossed over in the best way they had been in Rosenwater’s effort. Specifically Rosenwater had hooked up no significance to the failed time on the helm of Cricket: A Weekly Report of the Sport, nor to the unlucky 12 months spent as Notts secretary. As well as Bowen felt that Ashley-Cooper did make errors, and that every so often he was not ready to recognise them. 

As I famous earlier there can’t be anybody who has written concerning the historical past of cricket or its statistics who has not made the occasional error, and as I’ve illustrated Ashley-Cooper was no totally different so, in that respect, Bowen had a degree. That mentioned, actually within the view of Notts’ present historian Peter Wynne-Thomas, who was accountable in 2003 for a superb and simply obtainable booklet about Ashley-Cooper that was printed by the ACS, Bowen did moderately overplay his hand on that one.

The upshot of all this was that Bowen didn’t publish Rosenwater’s article, and went on to publish his personal. Rosenwater’s piece as a substitute appeared within the Journal of the Cricket Society and quickly afterwards in one of many extra fascinating of Rosenwater’s privately printed restricted editions. Bowen and Rosenwater remained at odds for the rest of Bowen’s life and, partly for that purpose, stay the 2 most fascinating historians of their period and, actually partially based mostly on their disagreement, Ashley-Cooper stays a ‘particular person of curiosity’ for anybody with a severe curiosity in cricket historical past.

And what of the momentous memorabilia assortment? In the long run it was bought in its entirety by Sir Julien Cahn, then a terrific patron of the sport. When Cahn died, in 1944, among the assortment went to the MCC however the bulk of it was scattered to the 4 winds following an public sale that was poorly marketed and the place many treasures had been offered for nothing like what they had been price.

The principle purpose why Ashley-Cooper’s identify is revered immediately amongst bibliophiles is how uncommon and collectable a few of his work is. His books are fascinating objects and while not low cost are frequent sufficient and could be picked up with out an excessive amount of problem. His tour and county guides are a lot the identical however the true rarities, among the restricted version offprints and significantly these whose contents didn’t seem elsewhere, can and do obtain promoting costs of effectively over £1,000.

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