by Henry S. Salt
To-day all fashionable London is assembled at Lord’s Cricket Ground to witness the annual match between Eton and Harrow. It is the great gala day of the West End, a day of festivities and sumptuous luncheons, and champagne-cup and general deification of the youthful heroes of our two great aristocratic and plutocratic schools. To-day every fashionable person will undoubtedly wear a light-blue or a dark-blue rosette. It is really astonishing how much artificial excitement can be got up about a colour. We read that during the latter centuries of the Roman Empire the several factions of the Circus, the Whites, the Reds, the Blues, the Greens, became the one absorbing topic of interest in many of the chief cities; and this rivalry grew to such a pitch, that riots and bloodshed were often the consequence. Equally childish, though happily less serious in its results, is the flutter of excitement caused by the Eton and Harrow cricket-match, the contest between the Light Blues and the Dark. It is natural enough that the school-boys themselves, and their immediate friends and relations, should be inclined to regard these contests as very important events; for a rage for athleticism is now-a-days the chief feature of public school education; but it is really surprising that some ten or twelve thousand persons, besides those directly interested in the two schools, should range themselves as partisans on one side or the other. Can it be that the denizens of the West End find time hang rather heavy on their hands?
However that may be, it is certain that at John’s Wood will present what the newspapers call “an animated appearance” this afternoon. A splendid company will assemble to witness the match; the nobility will be largely represented; possibly royalty itself will be there. It is, nevertheless, greatly to be regretted at the circle of on-lookers cannot be enlarged by the presence of a few thousand inhabitants of the East End as well as that of the West. If the working-men of London could be shown that gay assembly which will to-day be eating, drinking and merry-making on Lord’s cricket-ground; and if they could realize how all that gorgeous pageant of carriages, horses, picnics, luncheons, wine, fair dresses, tents, pavilions, and wealth incalculable, is supported by their labour. And wrung out of their hardly-won earnings,—if they could realize this, they would demand the redress of a great social robbery in tones which would render impossible any further subterfuge of delay.
Meanwhile another struggle is going on, none the less real because it is not fashionable cricket and not reported in West End newspapers. This is no three day contest, but one which has been waged for at least three centuries. It is the match of Rich v. Poor. Hitherto is must be admitted that the rich have had far the best of the game, having had a long innings, run up a fine score, and kept their opponents fagging out during the heat and toil of many a weary day and week, and month and year. Their bowling too, though distinctly of the kind know as “underhand,” has been quite as effective as their batting; in a word they had it all their own way for a very long time and have made a thoroughly good thing out of it, or, in cricketing phraseology, “amassed a large total.” But now it is said that a return match will shortly be played in which the Rich will find themselves disposed of for a pretty score in a very summary fashion, being caught, stumped, clean-bowled, and run out, in a manner which will be entirely gratifying to everyone who has the least sympathy with the cause of Justice and Right, though undoubtedly somewhat distasteful to those who have long held a selfish monopoly of wealth and enjoyment.
Published: Justice, No. 78 - July 11, 1885