Tennis more violent than shooting

Moving into the second week of Wimbledon it seems timely to post the following comments on tennis from the Library’s copy of Sir Thomas Elyot’s The Boke Named the Governour, printed in London in 1544 and dedicated to Henry VIII.

‘Tenyse, selledome used, and for a lyttell space, is a good exercyse for yong menne, but it is more vyolente than shotyng [i.e. archery], by reason that two menne do play. Wherefore neyther of theym is at his owne lybertie to measure the exercyse. For yf the one stryke the balle harde, the other that intendeth to receyve hym, is than constrayned to use semblable vyolence, yf he wyll retourne the ball frome whens it came to hym.’

If not altogether in favour of baseline slogging, Elyot certainly preferred tennis to football, which he dismissed as ‘nothyng but beastely fury, and extreme violence’.


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