David Parlett will speak on Joseph Strutt's Sports and Pastimes of the People of England.
Everyone’s mental list of the great Hoyle precursors and followers will include John Cotgrave, Charles Cotton, Thomas Hyde, Francis Willughby, and Richard Seymour, but in the same context few will bring to mind Joseph Strutt, author of The Sports and Pastimes of the People of England (1801). There are perhaps two reasons for his. One lies in his breadth of subject matter. Under Strutt’s pen, “sports and pastimes” includes all forms of mental and physical recreation, from archery to bell-ringing, football to apple-bobbing, opera to dancing round the maypole. The other lies in his approach. Not for him the legal niceties of a Hoyle or a “Cavendish”, nor the technical analysis of a Hyde or a Willughby. Strutt’s primary interest lies less in the rules of games than in the lives of their players. Not for nothing has he been called the first English social historian, as indicated by such earlier works as Manners, Customs, Arms, Habits etc. of the People of England and Dresses and Habits of the English People. He is interested in all manner of men and women, from the highest to the lowest, and children too (in this respect a 100-year precursor of Alice Gomme). His sources, drawn chiefly from voluminous reading in his beloved British Museum Library, include ancient historians, royal enactments, legal documents, myths, folklore, anecdotes, and public announcements. The result is neither a sustained chronological survey of his subject nor a closely reasoned argument – rather, it amounts to a vast concatenation of snippets, constantly illuminating, beautifully written, and a delight to read.
The seminar will take place in the Waterfront Building, W309, at 4.30 pm.