Historical Social Research

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Neil Washbourne: W.G. Grace: Sporting Superstar, Cultural Celebrity, and Hero (to Oscar Wilde’s Villain) of the Great Public Drama of 1895[Abstract]

This article explores the sporting superstardom and cultural celebrity of the Victorian English cricketer Dr. W.G. Grace, who played first-class cricket from 1865-1908. The great attention capital and significant masculine social status associated with his fame were deployed by him and the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) to side line the then dominant professional cricket teams and ensure that the aristocratic amateur-led MCC controlled the game from the early 1870s. It focuses on the social and cultural organisation of fame and a close analysis of Grace’s recognition to explore how Grace’s three-decade (1865-1895) superstardom and celebrity allied to a resurgence in his cricket form made Grace the masculine robust hero of 1895 to Oscar Wilde’s scandalous villain. It explores how that comparison played out as a public drama involving other celebrities. Wilde was reported as systematically removed from masculine social status and Grace approvingly confirmed in its secure embodiment and possession.

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