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June 20 , 2010

W. G. Grace: A Life


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.

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Researched in archives from Grimsby (where Grace once scored 400) to Australia, Simon Rae's new biography offers a radical analysis of Grace's career, and reviews the more controversial aspects of his conduct, including verbal and physical altercations, both on and off the field, and his kidnapping of an Australian cricketer from Lord's. But W. G. Grace: A Life provides more than a fresh look at the cricketer. It focuses on Grace's formative family background; his intensely competitive relations with his two famous brothers, 'E. M.' and Fred; his career as a doctor, and his ambitions and bereavements as a father. Drawing on little-known diaries and letters, and unique access to Grace's own library, Simon Rae builds up a convincing psychological portrait of the man behind the most famous beard in English history.

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