Felix on Cricket

Published: 2021
Pages: 47
Author: Packham, Roger
Publisher: Private
Rating: 3.5 stars

Known throughout the game as Felix, Nicholas Wanostrocht was a leading batsman in the 1830s and 1840s. For those who know only a few names from cricketing pre-history Felix played in the same powerful Kent side as the likes of Alfred Mynn and Fuller Pilch.

There was however much more to Felix than a cricketer his talents extending to, quoting from Packham’s introduction, schoolmaster, French scholar, lively writer and speaker, gifted amateur painter and musician, ventriloquist and burlesque dancer and inventor.

We know a good deal about Felix. He wrote a famous instructional book, Felix on the Bat, that first appeared in 1845. He later became a source of enormous interest to a similarly multi-dimensional character, Gerald Brodribb, who republished Felix on the Bat in 1962 accompanied by a 144 page memoir. In later years Brodribb produced two more books on the subject of Felix, concentrating primarily on his art.

In Felix’s day cricketers did not write autobiographies, something that in his case is a cause of particular regret. As Brodribb demonstrated in his books, and Packham confirms here in his introduction (supplemented by a splendid foreword from John Goulstone) there was much of interest in Felix’s life well beyond the cricket field.

The reason why Felix on Cricket has appeared is because, excellent researcher that Packham is, whilst burrowing away in Brighton newspapers from the 1860s he happened upon some articles written by Felix which form the basis of the booklet.

By this time Felix, who had suffered a stroke in 1857 and never fully recovered his health, was living in Sussex. Two of the articles, rich in personal memories, amount to a detailed look at the first two volumes of what were then being published as Lillywhite’s Scores and Biographies, the results of a lifetime’s research by Arthur Haygarth. Thanks to Roger Heavens Haygarth’s work is still being published today, and in 2021 reached volume 22.

The other subject covered is that of two long forgotten tours to Dieppe in Northern France which took place in 1864, and whilst uncredited were clearly written by someone who accompanied the tourists and Packham is certainly confident that whatever health troubles Felix had at the time he is the man responsible.

Clearly Felix on Cricket is not going to have wide appeal, and that is doubtless why it has been produced in a signed and numbered limited edition of just 100 copies. If however the subject of Felix does appeal it is an important and well presented book, adding much to the knowledge gathered in the past by Gerald Brodribb and others.

Copies can be obtained directly from the author, roger.packham@hotmail.co.uk

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