The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XIV. The Victorian Age, Part Two.

VI. Caricature and the Literature of Sport

§ 16. Surtees

Before the death of Apperley, a new sporting writer, of a more humorous turn, had begun a brilliant career. Like “Nimrod,” Robert Smith Surtees was both sporting writer and sportsman. The second son (and, in his fortieth year, the successor) of a Yorkshire landowner, he contributed in youth to The Sporting Magazine, and, in 1831, started, with Rudolf Ackermann the younger, The New Sporting Magazine, which he edited till 1856. Here first appeared the comic papers, which, in 1838, were published in a book under the title of Jorrocks’ Jaunts and Jollities, with coloured plates by Alken. Lockhart shared the general admiration for these comic sketches of sporting life, and urged Surtees to write a book. Surtees made further use of the conception of Mr. Jorrocks, the grocer of sporting tastes, and produced Handley Cross, or the Spa Hunt, which was enlarged into Handley Cross, or Mr. Jorrocks’ Hunt, with pictures by John Leech. Then came Hawbuck Grange, illustrated by “Phiz” (Hablot Knight Browne); Ask Mamma, or The Richest Commoner in England; Mr. Sponge’s Sporting Tour, illustrated by Leech; and Mr. Facey Romford’s Hounds, illustrated by Leech and Browne, besides other novels. Surtees was also the author of the papers in Bell’s Life in London, some of which were issued, with illustrations by Alken, in a volume mentioned above, The Analysis of the Hunting Field. It is possible that the true worth of Surtees’s work has been a little obscured by the fame of the author of Pickwick, of which the original idea, a tale of cockney sporting life, was to some extent suggested by the adventures of Mr. Jorrocks. Surtees is a comic writer of a broad and hearty humour and a deft and subtle touch. In the invention of comic character and speech, he comes second only to Dickens. Mr. Jorrocks, “Facey” Romford, lord Scamperdale and his friend Jack Spraggon, Mr. Sponge, Mr. Jawleyford of Jawleyford court—these, with nearly every character that Surtees troubles to elaborate, are rich in humour; while the dialogue in these novels has a force and a flavour comparable only with that in Dickens, or in some piece of flourishing invective in Nashe or Greene. Surtees’s comedy is, doubtless, like that of Dickens, mainly a comedy of “humours” or personal oddities; and Surtees, it must be admitted, was careless about construction and about such necessary ingredients of a novel as did not interest him; but all the fun is rooted in human nature, and set out with abounding energy. Surtees was fortunate in the assistance of two young artists who were then carrying on the succession of Alken and George Cruikshank. Both John Leech and H. K. Browne were keen sportsmen and good artists; and, though Leech never learned to draw a horse, while Browne’s horses were as good as Alken’s, both men were comic draughtsmen of inventiveness and humour. Browne found good material in the novels of another sporting writer, Francis Edward Smedley, a cripple with a taste for sporting literature. Smedley, who was for three years editor of George Cruikshank’s Magazine, wrote three novels of high spirits and rapid comedy, Frank Fairleigh, Lewis Arundel and Harry Coverdale’s Courtship; of which the first is still, and deservedly, popular.