Round Nine - Audience APPEAL

The pugilistic writers made sporadic attempts to depict pugilism as palatable for a refined audience, but discussion of concerns over declining masculinity, increasing ‘effeminacy’, national identity, and martial readiness suggest that these idealistic calls to extend the sport’s appeal lacked conviction. Possibly, such pieces expressed unrealistic pretensions to attract a diverse audience. The degree of flash content confuses issues of audience accessibility.
Egan may be viewed as a historically specific figure, and debateable concerns over his target audience being, notwithstanding occasional pleas to the contrary, confined to the Fancy (or at least those with more than a passing interest in sporting matters) suggest these works were also culturally specific.
Boxiana commentaries were couched in flamboyant, jargon-filled language that risked alienating the non-Fancy reader.

Pierce Egan indicated a prevailing fascination, for persons unacquainted with the intricacies of sporting circles, ‘to take a peep at the resort of the Fancy’ in order to observe ‘heroes of the ring; and the persons considered “public characters” connected with the turf’. (Book of Sports)

The essayist G A Sala (1828-95) offers an appraisal of a typical prizefight gathering at which he perceives ‘all peculiar and distinct varieties of the genus sporting man’ amongst a ‘locust crowd’: ‘There are several horsemen, hovering on the skirts of the ring, well-mounted gentlemen in garb, and apparently half interested and delighted with the prospect of the sport, and half ashamed to be seen in such company’. ('The Sporting World', 1859)

The ambivalent feelings coincide with the indeterminacy of a pugilistic scene incorporating conflicting senses; deplorable yet enticing, degrading yet honourable.

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