chapter  3
17 Pages

Charles Hamilton Sorley

Two people are running down the road. One may be training for the London Marathon; the other may be running away from a crime she has just committed. Consider the words of Yi-Fu Tuan: ‘If we observe only the behaviour, nothing perhaps distinguishes the one from the other.’ They both make the same bodily movements ‘though the worlds in their heads are radically different’.2 W. H. Auden said it differently:

The camera’s eye Does not lie, But it cannot show The life within, The life of a runner, [...]3

Several varieties of running exist, each resulting from and contributing to what goes on inside different runners’ heads. In late nineteenth-and early twentiethcentury Britain the ubiquitous body-culture of running existed in many forms. There has never been an ‘essentialised’ running and it is ‘irreducibly multiple and complex’.4 However, I will suggest that there are at least three ideal types. These are running as punishment (or welfare), running as achievement and running as a sensory experience. These categories are not mutually exclusive but serve as an organising framework upon which this chapter is built. The first two forms of running are relatively well known and documented in histories of sport and education.5 The third is less well known and less represented in late nineteenth-and early twentieth-century writing. In this chapter I briefly review the punishment and achievement configurations but concentrate on the work of the early twentieth-century Scottish poet Charles Hamilton Sorley (1895-1915), whose

humanistic writing not only critiqued serious sport but also paid attention to sports’ sensory aspects, notably in relation to running.