In reviewing a period with regard to its value in a nation's history, it is a great mistake to leave out of the reckoning the recreations and pleasures of the people, for these have a considerable influence on the national character. And the larger share such things have in daily life and interests, the more important is it to take them into consideration. So in casting our eyes back upon Queen Victoria's reign we must not omit to notice the prevailing spirit of athleticism, which if it existed before has only of late years assumed a definite shape by crystallising, as it were, round the two great English games and round others in a less marked degree.
Foreigners who come to England are always surprised and impressed by the deep and widespread interest in games. A German friend of mine once said to me: "When I first came to England I was naturally on the look-out for such traits and characteristics as were different from those of my own countrymen. Nothing struck me as more peculiar in external English life than the extraordinary interest taken in games, and the exaggerated importance, as it seemed to me then, attached to them by the public. I could understand people liking football and cricket, but I could not understand how they could bring themselves to make these games integral and absorbing portions of their life. The way I first perceived what games mean to Englishmen was this. I was taken by a young Oxford graduate to see a cricket-match at Kennington Oval. To begin with, I was much astounded at the enormous seating area of the ground, and at the huge crowd that was assembled to watch eleven men from Nottingham play at bat and ball against eleven men of Surrey. But what seemed to me hardly credible was the extreme orderliness of the many thousands as they came and went through the turnstiles or stood in their places round the ring. And yet there were only four or five polic.emen on the ground. These, too, had nothing much to do. They seemed chiefly occupied in finding some spot to stand where they could see the match well without obscuring any one's view. I remarked on this to my friend, and told him that abroad it would require at least three hundred policemen to keep such a huge crowd in order. 'Ah!' he replied, 'but all these people come to see cricket, and when they get here pay no attention to anything but the game. So they sit still and don't interfere with one another.' Then I saw how deeply the English are interested in games." My German acquaintance's remarks are instructive. Something that keeps 25,000 people in order without external direction or suppression