WG Grace: A Life

The best biography of W.G. ever produced

Christopher Martin-Jenkins

W. G. Grace burst onto the cricket scene in the 1860s with spectacular force. He dominated the game until the end of the century, and influences it to this day. He was the world’s first sporting superstar, rivalled as a public figure only by Gladstone and Queen Victoria herself. His staggering achievements as both batsman and bowler made him the greatest draw cricket had ever known. Though often depicted as an overgrown schoolboy, W. G. was extremely shrewd and ruthlessly exploited the power his immense popularity gave him. A notorious ‘shamateur’, he amassed great wealth through cricket, while remaining the standard-bearer for the Gentlemen against the Players for forty years.

I was fortunate to be commissioned to write the great man’s biography, which took me from archives in Grimsby (where Grace made his highest score of 400) to Australia, where he toured twice.  On both occasions he shocked his hosts with his sharp practice, intransigence, trickery and downright bullying, leaving scandal in his wake.  His piratical approach to the game generated similar opprobrium at home, but his super-human feats with bat and ball guaranteed his popularity throughout his lengthy career.

Future Biographies:

After W.G.Grace: A Life was published in 1998, I was sometimes asked, ‘Who are you going to do next?’ To begin with I was too exhausted to contemplate a similar undertaking and then over subsequent years focused on poetry and fiction, but more recently there are a couple of projects which I have become very interested in. And of course, as a ghostwriter, I am always open to suggestions…

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