Sporting inspiration from the Samuel Butler Collection


Look lively, ladies! In this charming pamphlet, published in 1903, The Hon. Mrs R.C. Grosvenor talks the reader through a range of exercises ‘with a view to improving the appearance as well as the health of women’. Books on physical exercise are not uncommon, Mrs Grosvenor explains, but they are all written for men and boys, ‘and most of the exercises are too jerky to be very safe for women’. The pamphlet describes and illustrates a selection of straightforward movements, positions and breathing routines designed to be suitable for females of any age and ‘useful for every class of women and girls’.

Thankfully, the title’s implication – that social class might dictate how a person could or should exercise – strikes the modern reader as ridiculous. But Mrs Grosvenor had a serious and (even by today’s standards) enlightened point to make, which applies not just to all women, but to all people:

Good health, which in its true sense is not merely freedom from discomfort, disease and pain, but the enjoyment of vigorous well-being, is the starting point of usefulness to others and of happiness in our own lives.

Samuel Butler befriended Jessie Grosvenor in 1890 after meeting her at one of his public lectures. He quickly came to admire her outspoken directness and later affectionately referred to her as 'a human Easter Monday or some other Bank Holiday'.

To find out more about the Samuel Butler Collection click here.


This Special Collections Spotlight article was contributed on 19 March 2013 by Rebecca Watts, Butler Project Associate.