It is astonishing that 40 years after his death, the character Lord Archer describes as “Britain’s greatest all-rounder” should only have been the subject of a single blinkered biography and an often fanciful autobiography. Iain Wilton puts the record straight with this unhurried, lovingly researched account of the life–indeed the many lives–of C.B. Fry.

It would be impossible today for someone to lead such an extraordinary existence as Fry did at the turn of the last century. Just as unfeasible would be a drab account of a man who, by the end of his second year at Oxford University, had appeared in county cricket, secured two successive triple Blues, won an England cap at football and equalled the world long jump record and he was barely 21 years of age.

And yet there was much, much more to C.B. Fry. There was the intellectual, the successful journalist, the would-be politician who failed in his bid to become a Liberal MP and the frustrated Hollywood movie star.

It is in its account of his failings that Wilton sheds new light on Fry. There are the bouts of “mental illness” which surfaced many times his life and the many queries over the legality of his bowling action–neither of which had previously been the subject of genuine critical examination. Many a recollection in Fry’s autobiography–including facts which all sports writers had assumed to be genuine–are revealed to be gross exaggerations.

Of greatest interest is the description of his colourful life outside sport. On a tour of South Africa, Fry recalls a dynamite blast in Johannesburg in which “one native was killed by the head of a donkey which was blown two hundred yards”. Then there was the meeting with Hitler and Fry’s more than passing flirtation with fascism and the straining of his friendship with Ranjitsinhji due to his growing antipathy towards Indians, a symptom of his mental illness. The best, though, is the truth behind his relationship with his wife, a battle-axe of a women called Beatrice. –Thrasy Petropolous

C B Fry: An English Hero



1 Comment

  1. Anonymous says:

    C.B. Fry is the archetypal Edwardian English hero – brilliant, a sporting genius, plays in the FA cup Final and then scores a century for his county – yet where Wilton’s book scores in uncovering the detail of the man. It is here that the tragic truth of C.B.’s life is gradually revealed – the electro-convulsive treatment for his mental illness, the unhappy marriage, the despair as he realised he was never going to fulfill his abundant early potential. Elegant, precise, compassionate and a great read, this is quite simply one of the best cricketing autobiographies ever written.
    Rating: 5 / 5

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