Our Jane and Baseball…??

This cannot wait for the weekly round-up!  See this article in today’s  CNN.com edition :

According to author Julian Norridge baseball originated in Britain, and part of his proof comes from a reference in Jane Austen’s novel “Northanger Abbey.”

Norridge, whose book “Can we Have our Balls Back, Please?” focuses on Britain’s role in writing the rulebooks for a long list of sports, says Austen mentioned baseball in the opening pages of “Northanger Abbey,” which was written in 1797-98.

Norridge says that Austen referenced the sport while introducing her tomboy heroine Catherine Morland, writing: “It was not very wonderful that Catherine, who had nothing heroic about her, should prefer cricket, baseball, riding on horseback, and running about the country at the age of 14, to books.”

He argues in his book that the reference indicates British people were familiar with the sport prior to its supposed invention much later in the United States.

Can I have read this book so many times without that word jumping off the page??  Baseball is spelled “base ball” in my text …. but as a die-hard Yankees fan [OMG, what an admission!], I should have certainly at least noticed this! …. so I put this out to you, Kind Readers, and ask for your thoughts … and has anyone written about this before??



Further reading: 

7 thoughts on “Our Jane and Baseball…??

  1. I love the notion of Jane Austen getting credit for a sports related event! Maybe base ball was another sport in 1798-98? I can not imagine that it has taken 100 + years for experts to realize the reference. Isn’t Abner Doubleday credited for inventing baseball?

    Cheers, Laurel Ann


  2. David Selwyn, Editor of the Jane Austen Society Newsletter makes reference to it in his book, Jane Austen and Leisure (Hambledon Press). I am sure I have read of it elsewhere, but can’t remember the references.

    I imagine that Baseball as Jane described was similar to what we call Rounders in England today – it is like Baseball but with simpler rules and generally played by children at Primary school. The rounders bat is shorter than a baseball bat – here’s a link you might find interesting: http://www.nra-rounders.co.uk/


  3. Straight from OED:


    a. The national field-game of the United States, a more elaborate variety of the English ‘rounders,’ played by two sides of nine each; so called from the ‘bases’ or bounds (usually four in number) which mark the circuit to be taken by each player of the in-side after striking the ball. Also, the ball used in the game.

    c1815 JANE AUSTEN Northang. Abb. i. (1848) 3 It was not very wonderful that Catherine..should prefer cricket, base ball..to books. 1870 EMERSON Soc. & Solit. x. 209 Amiable boys, who had never encountered any rougher play than a base-ball match. 1883 Harper’s Mag. Dec. 106/2 An oval ball..a little larger than a base-ball.

    So they DO credit Austen with an early example of using the word!


  4. Hello Laurel Ann, Jane & Kelly… thanks for all your comments on Jane and baseball. Nice to know that even the OED gives her a nod! I append a letter that appeared in the telegraph.co.uk today from a gentleman who clarifies it even further:

    “Baseball was an English sport in the 18th century

    Sir – Jane Austen’s 1798 reference to baseball in an English context (report, November 6) prompted me to check through my archives. A chain of letters on the subject in The Daily Telegraph Letters page in 1977 revealed that the Rev Thomas Wilson, a Puritan divine from Maidstone, wrote of “baseball” (which had traditionally been regarded as a cousin to the ancient games of stoolball and rounders) as long ago as 1700. It was not until 1845 that firm and formal rules were drawn up in America for baseball.

    A follow-up letter, which suggested that Jane Austen might have regarded “baseball” and “rounders” as interchangeable, recalled the definition (of either or both) as having been “in the USA a game for men, in England for schoolgirls”. [David Frith, Guildford, Surrey]”

    I just love the idea that Jane herself likely played “base-ball” and put a bit of herself in Catherine!

    Thanks again for all your information! (Jane, I will add your link to the post)


  5. Pingback: Austen & Baseball Redux! « Jane Austen in Vermont

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