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First book written by a lady

Monday, 7th August 2017, about midday.

Hello everyone,

my wife said to me that after the exertions of getting my book published, I should spend three months sitting in the sunshine.  But hey, I’m a card player, I just can’t do that, and there ain’t much sunshine at the moment down here on the South Coast.  So I shall begin a series of posts, until you, my fellow card players, say enough is enough. You can find me as Fluxions on BBO most nights.

But before I do that, could I thank Philippe for his wonderful posts - they establish him as the world authority on early Bridge and I for one am very grateful.

So I thought I'd address issues post by post and the first is on Eleanor A. Tennant.

i. About the book.  It's a cheap production on hard paper and Tim would say (I think) he’s seen loads over the years.  They sell for about £15 per copy.  I have so far not been able to discover who the Misses Hardcastle were in the dedication though - "DEDICATED TO THE MISSES HARDCASTLE, In the hope that they may find in it something they do not already know about a game which will, I trust, be to them a lasting pleasure, and not a “ ‘Bridge Of Sighs”".

ii Henry J. Drane, the publisher, specialised in cheap books with a huge print run - these sold at 1/- each.  For all that, Drane books are surprisingly resilient.

iii. She must have been grieved at her royalties because for the 5th edition she switched to another publisher, Hutchinson, and the price went up to 2/- each.  The Hutchinson copies are more scarce.  By the way, although this is the 5th edition, it contains a section on “Bridge Tournaments”, the first that I’ve noted

iv. To this day nobody anywhere, it seems, knows who Eleanor A. Tennant was - there are lots of possibilities.  Anyone who’s done a bit of family research will realise how hard it can be to really identify someone when you don’t know their dates or places they lived in.

v. For many months I was led astray by an article (1906) by Mr. Basil Tozer, M.P., who wanted to know whether an aptitude for card playing denoted general intelligence.  He solicited several responses, which he gave in the new number of the “Monthly Review”.  One was from Miss Eleanor Tennant, who said she - "relied on the combination of a high degree of intelligence and what she called “card mind”, which is really the rapidity of communication between eye and brain that gives the facility for card playing".  That’s a very interesting idea that deserves more study.  It’s highly significant that he refers to “Miss”.

vi. Then I remembered something that the eminent authority Mr. William Dalton had said in a later edition of his “Saturday Book, page 34 - 35” - "About the same time, or possibly a little earlier, an excellent elementary book for beginners was written by Mrs. J. R. Tennant, entitled, “The A B C of Bridge”.  This little book also had, as it well deserved, a large sale, and many were the players whom it initiated into the mysteries of the game".  This is the vital clue sent to us down the ages - I jumped for joy - Eureka.  That’s the old fashioned way of referring to a lady by her husband’s initials.  From there the rest was easy.  The 1911 census reveals a Mr. J. R. Tennant, a director of public companies, living at “5 Onslow Gardens, S.W.” in London, whose wife was Mrs. Eleanor A. Tennant.  She was 56 years old, and born in Nottingham as Eleanor Anne Rolleston.  I believe this information is now made known for the first time in over 100 years, other than to those who have already bought my book.

But the story doesn’t end there.

vii. At the same time as Mrs. Tennant’s book was published, Mrs. Horton published her’s - [1901], Mrs. J. B. Horton, How To Play Bridge, Table-Tennis And Other Indoor Games, etc., Gaskill, Jones & Co. Ltd., London, 9.5x15 cm, 32 pages.

This is a book of the utmost rarity, so it’s easily missed by researchers.  Besides my copy, I've located just one copy, in the Bodleian Library.  She was born in 1855 in Burton-on-Trent and there’s a biography - “The Life Story Of Mrs. J. Bellamy Horton : The Well-known Evangelist, 1929” by Kate Drew.  It does seem unlikely that an Evangelist would write a book on playing cards though, so I’ve yet to be convinced this is she.

vii. I would like to make it clear, I'm not saying Mrs. Horton deserves precedence.  Everywhere on the internet it says the Eleanor A. Tennant has that.  For me , the jury is out, and both ladies deserve equal recognition - I hope you all agree.

viii. The book was entered at Stationers Hall, as was Mr. Collinson’s pamphlet on Biritch.  My own book has been published but you won’t find it yet registered in any national catalogue.  So I don’t think registration thus can necessarily be the publication date.

That’s enough.  I hope you have enjoyed reading this and I shall tell by your response whether you want me to talk about the first known Bridge marker, I think produced in America in 1890, or how the term Bridge Whist came about.

Best wishes to my fellow card players,


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