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Writing the Prizefight

Pierce Egan’s "Boxiana" World

David Snowdon

This book won the Lord Aberdare Literary Prize for Sports History (2013)

This book focuses on the literary contribution made by the pugilistic writing of Pierce Egan (c. 1772-1849), identifying the elements that rendered Egan’s style distinctive and examining the ways his writing invigorated the sporting narrative. In particular, the author analyses Egan’s blend of inventive imagery and linguistic exuberance within the commentaries of the Boxiana series (1812-29). The book explores the metropolitan and sporting jargon used by the diverse range of characters that inhabited Egan’s ‘Pugilistic Hemisphere’ and looks at Egan’s exploitation of prizefighting’s theatricality. Another significant theme is the role of pugilistic reporting in perpetuating stereotypical notions relating to British national identity, military readiness and morality. Consideration of Egan’s metropolitan rambles is complemented by discussion of the heterogeneity, spectacle and social dynamics of the prize ring and its reportage. The book traces Egan’s impact during the nineteenth century and, importantly, evaluates his influence on the subsequent development of sporting journalism.


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List of Short Titles ix Chapter 1 The Rise in Popularity of Pugilism and its Reporting 1 In this Corner, Introducing Pierce Egan and the ‘Boxiana Style’ 15 Pugilistic Interest Peaks and Declines 26 Aspects of Egan to Consider 28 Chapter 2 Flash!: The Language of the Metropolis and the Prize Ring 35 Linguistic Factors: Authenticity and Illicitness 38 Fancy Connection: The Metropolitan Slang of Life in London 43 Early Boxiana Volumes 48 Sports Talk: Reported Speech 60 Egan’s Sporting Newspapers and New Series Boxiana 65 Post-Boxiana Series 68 Chapter 3 Sporting Theatre: Spectacle and Social Dynamics 71 Drama Boxiana: Accentuating Spectacle in Pugilistic Af fairs 75 Social Conf licts 85 Dif ferent Perspectives on the Performance 94 The Arts, and Further Classical Connections 103 Racial Neutrality: Boxiana’s Pugilistic Unity 110 The Human Equivalent of the Cockpit 115 Theatricality, and Re-packaging the Sport for Wider Appeal 118 vi Chapter 4 The Nation – Military and Moral 127 Transferring Sporting Attributes into Martial Combat 132 Native Enmities: Rivalry between Britons 153 Conciliation and Integrity v Revenge and Dissipation 162 Chapter 5 Enlivening Reality: The Egan Touch 179 The Boxiana Style in Political Satire and Parody 181 Boxiana Traces in Selected Nineteenth-Century Literature 192 A Watershed, and Eganesque Sports Reporting 208 Chapter 6 Post-Fight Observations 229 Appendix Glossary of Nineteenth-Century Flash and Sporting Terms 237 Bibliography 249 Index 255 Pierce Egan (1821) Artist: George Sharples. Engraving: Charles Turner. © National Portrait Gallery, London Egan alerted readers that prints of this portrait would be available...

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