The control of leisure was a serious matter. Not everyone would have followed Bishop Fraser in adjudging it ‘the great question of the day’, but the debate it generated, if not the actual support it won, testified to a general acknowledgment of its importance to social reform in Victorian England. Traditionally, a nation’s recreations were taken as a test of its people’s character: ‘when we follow men into their retirements’, pronounced Joseph Strutt in 1801, ‘we are most likely to see them in their true state, and may judge of their natural dispositions.’ (1) Most observers who applied this test in the 1830s and 1840s found the recreations of the working people in a general state of physical and moral degeneracy. This state of affairs reflected poorly not only on the natural dispositions of working people, but on the general ability of the nation to match its astonishing material advances with commensurate social improvements. In repairing popular recreations, therefore, reformers were engaged in the responsible tasks of servicing national self-respect and demonstrating the efficacy of human agency in broadening and accelerating progress.