Duncan Hamilton has already been a multiple award-winning sports activities writer, but it is hard to imagine he will write a much better book than this superb, elegant family portrait of the sociable, feted, but unknowable ultimately, the man who invented modern sports writing. Neville Cardus was creating, illegitimate, into poverty in 1888. His real name was John Frederick Newsham, but he never knew his dad.

Both his mom and his aunt worked as prostitutes, and the young Fred Newsham was lightly educated to the age of ten. But he was a ferocious autodidact, insatiably curious, and a separate reader. Early on, he took a bewildering variety of jobs – in the grouped-family laundry, as a pavement artist, and selling everything from sweets and blooms to insurance.

This was the finish of the Great War and the first county fits since 1914 were soon being performed. From these beginnings, Neville Cardus became, at the elevation of his career, one of the best-known people in the English-speaking world and certainly one of the best-paid journalists ever sold. Born with a drawerful of silver spoons in his mouth! Share In the first Thirties, he was paid £1,a year 100, plus generous expenses equivalent to a bushy annual income for an ordinary couple. 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 for life, with its beauty and its own changing fortunes, its courage (and at times cowardice), its sportsmanship (and at times lack of . Most importantly, the sheer pleasure of their being. Single-handedly, the nature was changed by him of authoring sport, and what ‘Neville Cardus reports with this match’ scrawled on a billboard outside the ground guaranteed more sales for the Guardian.

nowadays of ceaseless sport, instant communication, frenzied rushes to common sense and simple cruelty often, you may think the leisurely wrought prose of Cardus could have room artfully. In fact, it illuminates cricket and cricketers, people and places, sport and society, in a genuine way that none of them however the very best can do.

His private life was eccentric. In 1921, Cardus wedded a trained teacher 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 wrote. Crucially, she tolerated his infatuations with what she called ‘his little girls’. He probably didn’t lose his virginity until his early 40s, with his true love, a woman called Barbe Ede, who was simply married to some other (like Cardus). ‘In my dying hour, The radiance shall be remembered by me which emanated from her,’ he said.