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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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Appendix Glossary of Nineteenth-Century Flash and Sporting Terms

Extract

ABROAD – Senses knocked astray, in distress, pugilistic (OED). ALIVE – Full of alacrity, 1709 (OED). BANG-UP – (adj.) Stylish, in the pink of fashion (OED). ‘A dashing fellow’ (Lexicon). [on the] BANKRUPTCY LIST – Completely knocked out, pugilistic c. 1820–60 (B/P). BELLOWS TO MEND –Winded, short of breath (OED). [Bellows – Lungs, Lexicon]. ‘Bellows to mend’ (Blackwood’s, 1822). Probably originating from street-cry (B/P). BELLY-GO-FIRSTER –Initial blow to body, C19 (OED). BENDER – ‘A sixpence’ (OED). An ironical word expressing incredulity, Egan’s Grose. BENJAMIN – Coat, from c. 1815 (B/P). BENJAMIN BOLUS – Apothecary, physician, late C18 (B/P). BIT – Money, C16–19 (B/P). BIT OF STUFF – Boxer, c. 1810–50 (B/P). BLACK STRAP – Pejorative term for thick, sweet port, late C18 (B/P). BLADE – A sharp fellow, c. 1750–1860 (B/P). BLINKER – Eye, 1816 (B/P). BLUE – (adj.) Gloomy, early C19 (B/P). Confounded, disappointed (Lexicon). BLUNT – Ready money (OED). BODIER – A blow on side of body; loosely, on breast or belly, c. 1815 (B/P). BONE – (verb) To take into custody, apprehend (OED). BONIFACE – Generic name of innkeepers, 1803 (OED). BOOKED – [e.g. ‘was booked as the winning man’, Boxiana II, p. 113] Meaning to be rated in the betting by the bookmakers (‘odds men’). Destined (B/P). BOTHERUMS – Convivial society, late C18 (B/P). Hence, ‘a noisy party’. BOTTOM – Physical resources, staying power, power of endurance; said esp. of pugilists, wrestlers, race-horses (OED). BOUNCE – (noun) Boaster, swaggerer, c. 1690 (B/P). (verb) To bully (Lexicon). BRADS – Money, copper coins, c. 1810 (B/P). BREAD-BASKET – Stomach, c. 1750 (B/P). 238 Appendix [well] BREECHED – To have...

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