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"Baseball" Found in Several Works by Mary Russell Mitford

Salience Noteworthy
Tags Famous, Females, Fiction

Submitted by Hugh MacDougall, Cooperstown NY, 12/6/2006:

"Everyone knows of Jane Austen's use of the term baseball in her novel Northanger Abbey (see item #1798.1). I recently came across, online, an 1841 anthology of works by the English essayist Mary Russell Mitford (1787-1865). A search revealed five uses of the work "baseball." What is intriguing is that every reference seems to assume that "baseball" whatever it is is a familiar rough and tumble game played by girls (and apparently girls only) between the ages of 6 and 10 or so.."

The "baseball" usages:

[] "The Tenants of Beechgrove:" "But better than playing with her doll, better even than baseball, or sliding and romping, does she like to creep of an evening to her father's knee:

[] "Jack Hatch" see item #1828.9 above for two references.

[] "Our Village [introduction]": " . . . Master Andrew's four fair-haired girls who are scrambling and squabbling at baseball on the other." (See item #1824.3 above.)

[] Belford Regis: "What can be prettier than this, unless it be the fellow-group of girls . . . who are laughing and screaming round the great oak; then darting to and fro, in a game compounded of hide-and-seek and baseball. Now tossing the ball high, high amidst the branches; now flinging it low along the common, bowling as it were, almost within reach of the cricketers; now pursuing, now retreating, jumping shouting, bawling almost shrieking with ecstasy; whilst one sunburnt black-eyed gipsy throws forth her laughing face from behind the trunk of an old oak, and then flings a newer and gayer ball fortunate purchase of some hoarded sixpence among her happy playmates.


David Block's forthcoming 2019 book may address the rules of English Base-Ball in this period.

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MacDougall asks: "Mary Mitford seems to have a pretty good idea of what the girls are playing, when they play at 'baseball' but it seems to have little or nothing to do with the sport we now call by that name. Does anyone know what it was?"

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