Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Wanostrocht, Nicholas

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WANOSTROCHT, NICHOLAS (1804–1876), author of ‘Felix on the Bat,’ eldest son of Vincent Wanostrocht, was born at Camberwell on 5 Oct. 1804. His great-uncle (his father's uncle), Nicolas Wanostrocht (1745–1812), who is believed to have been of Belgian origin, came over to England, after some residence in France, about 1780, and was appointed French tutor in the family of Henry Bathurst, second earl Bathurst [q. v.] A few years after his arrival he founded a school known as the Alfred House Academy near Camberwell Green, ‘a spot very convenient on account of the coaches going to and from London every hour’ (see his flowery prospectus in the British Museum Library, dated 1795). Among his numerous compilations the most noteworthy are ‘A Practical Grammar of the French Language’ (London, 1780, 12mo; 19th edit. revised by Tarver, 1839); ‘Classical Vocabulary, French and English. … to which is added a Collection of Letters, Familiar and Commercial’ (1783, 12mo); ‘Recueil choisi de traits historiques et de contes moraux’ (1785, 12mo; 5th edit. 1797); ‘Petite Encyclopédie des jeunes gens,’ dedicated to Lady Charlotte Cavendish Bentinck (1788, 12mo, numerous editions); and ‘La Liturgie Anglicane’ (1794, 12mo). Dr. Wanostrocht, who printed the letters LL.D. after his name, died at Camberwell, aged 63, on 19 Nov. 1812. His widow Sarah, who with the aid of her husband had issued ‘Le Livre des Enfans, ou Syllabaire Français’ (4th edit. 1808), died at Camberwell on 18 Oct. 1820 (Gent. Mag. 1812 ii. 593, 1820 ii. 380). The school at Alfred House was continued by the doctor's nephew and assistant, Vincent Wanostrocht (the father of the writer on cricket), who, besides revising his uncle's editions of Marmontel, Florian, Barthélemy, and other French classics, published ‘The British Constitution, or an Epitome of Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of England’ (London, 1823). He died at Alfred House, aged 43, on 25 Jan. 1824 (Gent. Mag. 1824, i. 188), leaving issue, besides Nicholas, Vincent (1813–1888), who displayed great talent as an inventor, but was unfortunate in his experiments; Sally, who married, in 1820, George Warden of Glasgow; and Mary, who married, in December 1822, Nathaniel Chater of Fleet Street.

After Vincent's death the school was carried on by his eldest son, Nicholas, whose devotion to cricket is said to have been somewhat detrimental to the more strictly academic portion of the curriculum. He studied cricket at Camberwell under Harry Hampton, who had a ground there, and gradually developed into a very brilliant left-handed bat, his cut to the off from the shoulder being specially commended. His slow ‘lobs’ were also described as very fatal. He first appeared at Lord's as ‘N. Felix’ (a name which he always assumed at cricket, in deference, it is supposed, to the feelings of parents) on 23 Aug. 1828; but it was not until 1831 (24 July) that he first played for the gentlemen against the players, his scores being 0 bowled Pilch and bowled Lillywhite 1. He played again in this match in 1833, 1837, 1840, and, with a few exceptions, right down to 1851. In 1846 a match was played at Lord's ‘in his honour’ (1–3 June), at which the prince consort put in an appearance, but Felix's side was badly beaten by Pilch's eleven. On 18 June in the same year he was beaten by Alfred Mynn [q. v.] in a single-wicket match which attracted a large crowd of spectators; nor was he successful in the return match with Mynn at Bromley on 29 and 30 Sept. of the same year. In 1845 Felix published, in a thin quarto, his ‘Felix on the Bat; being a scientific Enquiry into the use of the Cricket Bat, together with the History and Use of the Catapulta’ (London, 2nd edit. 1850, and 3rd edit. 1855), which forms one of the classics of cricket, together with the ‘Cricketer's Guide’ of John Nyren [q. v.], and Denison's ‘Sketches of the Players.’ Each of the six chapters is adorned with a quaint coloured plate and a humorous tailpiece; both these and the emblematic frontispiece were engraved after the author's own drawings. The recommendations as to costume, ‘paddings’ (in view of ‘the uncertainty and irregularity of the present system of throwing bowling’), and other accessories are diverting, as is also the description of an engine, ‘the catapulta,’ which he devised as a substitute for a professional bowler.

About 1830 he moved the school from Camberwell to Blackheath, where he was long a familiar figure from the zeal with which he instructed his pupils in the rudiments of the national game. He gave up his school about 1858, when a subscription was raised for him among cricketers and a considerable sum collected. In addition to the ‘catapulta,’ which soon fell into disuse, he invented the tubular indiarubber batting gloves, the patent for which he sold to Robert Dark of Lord's. He retired to Brighton, where he painted portraits and animals, and he died at Montpelier Road, Brighton, in 1876.

[Lillywhite's Cricket Scores and Biographies, vols. ii. iii. and iv. passim, esp. ii. 61; Lit. Memoirs of Living Authors, 1798; Reuss's Regist. of Authors, 1791, p. 421; Brit. Mus. Cat.; private information.]

T. S.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.275
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

Page Col. Line  
291 i 41 Wanostrocht, Nicholas: after 1876. insert His widow died in 1901.
43 after esp. ii. 61; insert Caffyn's Seventy-one Not Out;