By the way, it's an odd thing that while Ranjitsinhji's batting owes its attractiveness to the "curves" of the batsman, an equally graceful player—to wit, the lengthy William Gunn—is built on uncompromisingly straight lines. Somebody said that if Gunn were to model his style on Ranji's the result would be a sea-serpent—six and a half feet of curves.
Briggs has so many attitudes and antics of his own that he can't be said to have any characteristic pose. In everything he does he's "Johnny." Briggs may be said to have just missed greatness by a lack of seriousness. According to George Giffen, if he had only taken batting more seriously Briggs would have been, after W. G. Grace, the second best all-round cricketer in England. There's a deadly earnestness about his bowling and fielding, but as a batsman he always seems more anxious to amuse the spectators than to improve his average. Like other famous men, Johnny Briggs may be often misunderstood, but at any rate this is the impression he creates. About six years ago, in the middle of the cricket season, Briggs appeared to have suddenly gone "stale," and the Lancashire Committee suggested to him that he should take a week's holiday. Briggs selected a remote village in Wiltshire; but, as luck would have it, the villagers were particularly keen cricketers, and when the news got about that the great Briggs was in their midst, the captain of the local team at once waited on him to ask what would be his terms for playing in a match against a neighbouring town.
"I asked," says Briggs, "what I thought were absolutely prohibitive terms, namely, L10; but the terms were accepted, so of course I had to play. My side lost the toss, and I had to begin the bowling. My first ball was hit out of the ground for six, and in a short time 100 went up with no wicket down. I suggested to the captain that he had better let someone else bowl, but he said that if he took me off, the spectators who kept pouring into the ground would want their money back, and would see that they got it, too. Finally, I had two wickets for about 120 runs. The crowd looked a trifle nasty, but what finished them was when I went in to bat and was bowled second ball.
"As I left the ground I heard, 'That's him. 'E's no blooming Briggs, 'e's a blooming fraud. Let's give him a jolly hiding.' Only the railway station and a couple of stalwart policemen saved me from the jolly good hiding, and I have never tried village cricket since."
A. G. Steel declares that the secret of Dr. Grace's phenomenal success against young batsmen is the terror inspired by the sight of his beard. Batsmen meeting the champion for the first time see an enormous man, with a great black beard waving in the breeze, rushing up to the wickets. They expect something quite different from the gently lobbed-up ball which this black-bearded giant delivers; before they can recover from the shock of surprise they find themselves clean bowled.
But W. G.'s beard does something more than frighten young cricketers. As Maurice Read says, "it talks to you." Other human beings wag their heads; Grace wags his beard when things are going wrong. It is even said that, with a team that knows him, he can indicate to the fieldsmen to change their positions by merely moving his beard.
There are dozens of persons all over the country who pose as cricket authorities on the strength of having once watched the champion practising at the nets. At a cricket match in a small Welsh town one of these gentlemen was acting as umpire, and could not agree with his fellow umpire as to whether a certain batsman was run out.
The argument waxed very fierce, until the umpire of the visiting team called out—
"What do you know about cricket? You 'aven't shook 'ands with Lord Hawke, 'ave yer?"
"Well, I 'ave," triumphantly declared the other, as the crowd dispersed.
And the batsman was declared out.
FAMOUS LONDON DOOR-KNOCKERS
What souvenir of a great man can compete with the knocker of his door? A door-knocker is to a man's house what a sign is to a shop or tavern; but it is also something more. Take, for instance, the knocker on the door of the official residence of the Prime Minister, No. 10, Downing Street. No less a person than Lord Beaconsfield once described to a friend this particular knocker as having a marked resemblance to the features of his political opponent, Mr. Gladstone. There is no knocker in existence, we may fairly state, that has been handled by so many distinguished people as this one. If only the friends of Mr. Gladstone were enumerated, they would make up a long list of illustrious names, and many Prime Ministers have resided at the unpretentious, old-fashioned mansion so conveniently situated for the Houses of Parliament.
The knocker on the door of Carlyle's house, Cheyne Row, Chelsea, a house which was occupied by him for half a century, is another very interesting specimen. Scarcely was the young ex-schoolmaster and author of "Sartor Resartus" well settled in his new abode than he began to receive callers, who, if not very famous then, have since achieved considerable renown.
Among them was young Mr. Charles Dickens, then the blushing "Boz," who, with Mrs. Dickens, stepped out of a gorgeous green hackney coach to administer a knock on the door, having driven all the way from Doughty Street, Brunswick Square, to pay a call. Forster, Serjeant Talfourd, Maclise, Macready, Landor, Leigh Hunt, and Thackeray were frequent knockers during the first decade.
It is not difficult to imagine some youthful admirer of Carlyle giving a timid knock at the door, and then wishing that he had the courage to run away from the house before being ushered into the presence of the irascible Philosopher. Mr. Alma Tadema's knocker is forbidding enough in appearance, and holds out but little promise of the beauties of that wonderful house where the artist resides in St. John's Wood. No doubt it is, like everything else about his home, from a design by the great painter himself.
The most beautiful knocker in this collection, if not the most beautiful in London, is that of the Duke of Devonshire, at No. 80, Piccadilly. It represents a head of classic contour set in a circular disc, chiselled with an exquisite border. Not a few among the Duke's guests have so far expressed their admiration of this work of art as to desire duplicates for themselves, but it is not known if any exist, it having been done by the Duke's own command from his own designs.
It is to be wished that the Duke would follow up his artistic success in this particular by designing a wall for Devonshire House to replace the existing hideous structure.
Dickens' door-knocker recalls the residence of the happy couple who removed to Doughty Street from Furnival's Inn shortly after their marriage. It was here that Charles Dickens the younger was born, and where the author of "Pickwick" first became on terms of friendship with many of the brilliant men of letters of his day. The knocker is held in its place by a fleur-de-lis of the same metal, and it was Serjeant Talfourd who humorously rallied Dickens on his supposed predilection for the French, who at that time were in the midst of preparing that series of more or less revolutionary movements which preceded the downfall of Louis Philippe and the ascendency of the third Napoleon.
But an older and more characteristic door-knocker may be found well within a mile of Doughty Street, still on the door of a house once inhabited by the great sage Dr. Samuel Johnson himself. Surely if any knocker is characteristic of its owner this one is. It represents a sturdy fist clenching a baton from which depends a bulky wreath of laurel fastened in the middle by a lion's head. The worthy doctor, as we are told by Boswell, carried no key, nor did he permit any member of his oddly-selected household to possess one. At all times and seasons the house in Bolt Court was inhabited, and unquestionably the burly knocker resounded in the ears of the inhabitants of the court often enough, and at unseemly hours, for the sage was not at all scrupulous as to what hours he kept, and many a time would talk irregularly on at the club until some of his neighbours had serious thoughts of rising.
The contemporaries of the great caricaturist George Cruikshank during a fruitful period of his life will gaze not without feelings of emotion on the accompanying representation of the familiar knocker on his house in the Hampstead Road.
It was Clarkson Stanfield who, calling upon his friend Cruikshank one day, had much ado in making the artist's aged servant aware that a visitor awaited at the portals; again and again he knocked, but in vain; the servant's deafness was proof against the onslaughts of a vigorous if not wholly artistic door implement. At last, losing all patience, he picked up the foot-scraper and was about to impetuously hammer away at the panels, when the caricaturist, hastily throwing up an upper window sash, recognised and appeased his indignant visitor.
"You should," remarked Stanfield, "get a younger servant, or a heavier knocker, or else build your house in Turkish fashion—that is, without doors."
In every article which deals with the curiosities of London, the name of Dickens must figure very largely. The last knocker of our collection is the most remarkable one of all, inasmuch as Dickens derived his idea of Scrooge in "A Christmas Carol" from its hideous lineaments. Look at our photograph and then read Dickens' own description of the unamiable Scrooge:
"Oh! but he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge; a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old Sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster. The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, shrivelled his cheek, stiffened his gait.... He carried his own low temperature always about with him; he iced his office in the dog-days; and didn't thaw it one degree at Christmas."
OUR MONTHLY GALLERY OF BEAUTIFUL AND INTERESTING PAINTINGS.