A Suitable Bachelor?

Among the many exciting rowing images in the archive of Life Magazine (see entry on 1 December), I have picked one where the main interest is some of the spectators, not the rowing race which is going on in the background. I do not know from which magazine or paper this drawing is taken, but two scribbles, one on the left, saying “March”, and one on the right, saying “1872”. It is showing a scene from the day of The Boat Race, or as the sub-title reads: “The Oxford and Cambridge Boat-Race: an ex-university oarsman looking on”.

If we were without the sub-title, we would still understand that it was an image of The Boat Race, as the scruffy-looking man in the lower right-hand corner is selling flowers with bands in the colours of the two crews. He has two bands around his hat saying ‘Cambridge’ and ‘Oxford’.

The key person in the picture is the “ex-university oarsman,” an ‘old Blue’, who is dressed in a black coat and top-hat. The white collar around his neck reveals that his is a clergyman. His eyes are staring out towards the activities on the river, and he seems unaware of the stir his good-looks are making among the women around him in the crowd. The ladies, all from the upper-classes, have totally lost interest in the boat race, instead almost ogling the young man’s noble face with a Roman nose, steady, clear eyes, a ‘Cary Grant’ chin, and side-whiskers; the latter a fashion of the day.

In an earlier entry, called “The Female Spectator”, posted on 28 September, I have brought up the interface between the young women as on-lookers and the young men rowing. In this case, with the image above, the ‘masculine ideals’ can be found in an ex-oarsman among the audience.

(The actual boat race was rowed on 23 March, 1872, and Cambridge won with three boat lengths!)

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