Across the rolling countryside of Regency England sound the call of the horn and the chorus of hounds, as huntsmen, hounds, and horses tear across fields and leap fencerows in ardent pursuit of Reynard.
In a field outside London, two brawny men strip to the waist and prepare to batter each other to a pulp for the pleasure of the Fancy—the hundreds of boxing fans who have ridden from all over England to see and bet on the illegal match.
And through the streets of a country town, the lads rough-and-tumble in a wildly joyous game of football, while the populace cheers and the shopkeepers board up their windows.
Such were the sights and sounds of the sporting life of England a hundred and fifty years ago. This sparkling collection of articles from the Sporting Magazine, dating from 1792 to 1836, attests to the vigor and variety of English sports in that era. The equestrian sports of fox and stag hunting, thoroughbred racing, and coaching were largely the passion of the landed classes, while all ranks of the populace relished bloody contests that set man against man or animal against animal—boxing, cock fighting, bull baiting, rat killing. Throughout the land, team sports such as football and cricket, along with such individual activities as pedestrianism, shooting, archery, and skating, allowed men and women of all walks of life to test their muscles, their endurance, and their nerve.
All these people and events filled the pages of the Sporting Magazine, the first periodical devoted exclusively to sports. Carl Cone provides a historical framework for these lively accounts by the first sport journalists. In addition, more than fifty engravings from the heyday of sporting art illustrate the exuberance of the time.
Carl B. Cone is professor of history at the University of Kentucky and the author of numerous books and articles on English social and political history.