Neville Cardus

Neville Cardus
Cardus in old age

Sir John Frederick Neville Cardus CBE (3 April 1888 – 28 February 1975) was an English writer and critic, best known for his writing on music and cricket. For many years, he wrote for The Manchester Guardian. He was untrained in music, and his style of criticism was subjective, romantic and personal, in contrast with his critical contemporary Ernest Newman. Before becoming a cricket writer, he had been a cricket coach at a boys' school. His writing about the game was innovative, turning what had previously been in general a purely factual form into vivid description and criticism.



Early years

Cardus was born in Rusholme, Manchester.[1] His year of birth has been the subject of much conjecture. His biographer, Christopher Brookes, and Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians record the year as 1889,[2] and Cardus himself celebrated his 70th birthday with a luncheon for a large number of guests at the Royal Festival Hall in April 1959.[3] Both The Times[4] and the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography[5] give 1888 as the correct year. A "centenary collection" of his music writing was published in 1988.[6] Cardus wrote two volumes of autobiography and avoided mentioning the year of his birth in either. His birth was, in fact, registered in the June Quarter of 1888 in Chorlton District, Lancashire. His mother Ada (1870–1954) married John Frederick Newsham in the September Quarter of 1888 in Chorlton District. In the 1891 Census, Ada Newsham is shown living with her parents Robert and Ann Cardus and her son, "Frederick Newsham", aged 3 in Rusholme, Lancashire. Also living there is Beatrice (Ada's sister). In his autobiography Cardus mentions "Aunt Beatrice". He was illegitimate and never knew his father. He lived with his mother, who was described as a "genteel prostitute", and his maternal grandparents. His grandfather was an ex-policeman.[7]

After attending a local board school for five years, Cardus left at age 13 and took on various jobs before being employed as a clerk in a marine insurance firm in December 1904. In his spare time, he read widely and became self-taught in literature, philosophy, and the arts.[8] Admiring the critics who wrote about music and theatre for The Manchester Guardian, he consciously attempted to adopt their writing style.[7] From his earliest years, Cardus was drawn by the twin attractions of cricket and music. In 1912, he was appointed assistant cricket coach (to Walter Attewell and, later, Ted Wainwright) at Shrewsbury School in Shropshire.[9] There, he came under the influence of the headmaster, Cyril Alington, who appointed him as his secretary in 1914.

Cricket and music critic

When Alington moved to Eton in 1916, Cardus also moved on. Rejected for military service in World War I because of his short-sightedness, and otherwise unemployed, Cardus briefly wrote for the socialist paper The Daily Citizen.[10] He successfully applied for a junior post on the staff of The Manchester Guardian, now calling himself Neville (he had hitherto been known as "Fred").[5] His articles were attributed to "NC".[7] The editor, C. P. Scott, recognised Cardus's talent and rapidly promoted him to the post of second-string theatre critic, and in 1919 he became the paper's cricket correspondent. On 17 June 1921 at Chorlton, Manchester, Cardus married teacher Edith Honorine Walton King (1881–1968). Cardus recounted in his autobiography that he went to the opening overs of the Lancashire v Yorkshire cricket match, left the ground to go to his wedding ceremony, and returned in time to see the pre-lunch overs, to find that Lancashire had added 17 runs to their score in his absence.[11] Cardus described his wife as "a great spirit and character, born for sisterhood not marriage".[7]

In 1927, Cardus became the paper’s principal music critic, after Samuel Langford's death, and retained his cricket role. Cardus later said, "to be paid to watch cricket at Lord's in the afternoon and hear Lotte Lehmann as Strauss's Marschallin in the evening, was nothing less than an act of Providence".[12] He attracted a wide readership, writing as "Cricketer". John Arlott wrote: "Before him, cricket was reported ... with him it was for the first time appreciated, felt, and imaginatively described". His prose, rich with allusions to music and poetry, made folk heroes of the players. Similarly, his approach to music was intuitive and personal, rather than academic and technical.[7] He covered concerts in London, Vienna and Salzburg, and mixed socially with leading musicians and composers.


Cardus visited Australia to report on England's cricket tour of 1936–1937, later writing a book on the series titled Australian Summer. He visited the country again in 1938. At the onset of World War II, he feared losing his job so he accepted an offer from Sir Keith Murdoch to cover a tour of Australia by Sir Thomas Beecham, arriving in February 1940. Employed by Melbourne's The Herald, Cardus found that he could not review concerts for an evening paper, so he moved to Sydney to work for the Sydney Morning Herald. He helped to lift the standard of musical criticism in Australia.[7]

On Australian Broadcasting Corporation Radio, he hosted an hour-long programme, "The enjoyment of music", which enlarged the audience for classical music across the country. He also gave a weekly, ten-minute talk on music, illustrated by records, for the children's Argonauts Club programme and regularly wrote on music and cricket for the ABC Weekly.[7] Early in 1942, Cardus rented a small flat at Kings Cross, New South Wales where he was joined by his wife. There he wrote Ten Composers (1945), an autobiography (1947), and Second Innings (1950).

Later years

Cardus left Sydney in 1949 and returned to London. There being no job for him at The Manchester Guardian he wrote for The Sunday Times, covering the 1948 Ashes series and was encouraged to believe that the paper's long-standing chief music critic, Ernest Newman, who was 80, would soon be retiring, leaving a vacancy for Cardus.[13] Newman did not retire, however, and Cardus moved to the Evening Standard, where he was soon unhappy at the shortage of space allocated to his music reviews.[14] He rejoined The Manchester Guardian in 1951 as its London music critic and occasional cricket writer.[15] He toured Australia to cover England's cricket tours of 1950–1951 and 1954–1955.

He continued to write for The Guardian for the rest of his life and also wrote some articles for The Sunday Times after Newman's death. He died peacefully in his sleep shortly before his 87th birthday.[5]

Reputation, honours and legacy

"Slight, lean and bespectacled, with a gnome-like appearance in his last years, Cardus was a familiar sight at Lord's or the Garrick Club, pipe in mouth and book under arm". Roger Covell called him "a marvellous raconteur and monologuist with his all-weather overcoat".[7] Cardus was never an "establishment" figure. Rupert Hart-Davis and G. W. Lyttelton encountered strong resistance when they sought to get him elected as a member of the Marylebone Cricket Club,[16] and Cardus himself came to feel like an outsider at The Guardian.[17] However, he was always highly regarded by professional cricketers (like Donald Bradman)[18] and by the greatest musicians: he managed to maintain close friendships with Sir Thomas Beecham[19] and Sir John Barbirolli,[20] though the two conductors cordially disliked one another.[21]

Cardus was awarded the Wagner Medal of the City of Bayreuth in 1963. He was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1964, knighted in 1967, became an honorary member of the Royal Manchester College of Music in 1968 and an honorary member of the Royal Academy of Music in 1972. His most personally valued honour was the presidency (1971–1972) of the Lancashire County Cricket Club.[5]

Cardus's books include: A Cricketer’s Book, 1921; Days in the Sun, 1924; ed. Musical Criticisms of Samuel Langford, 1929; The Summer Game, 1929; Cricket, 1930; Good Days, 1934; Australian Summer 1937; Music for Pleasure, 1942; English Cricket, 1945; Ten Composers, 1945 (translated into Swedish, 1947, and Japanese, 1964); Autobiography, 1947; The Essential Neville Cardus, ed. Rupert Hart-Davis, 1949, revised edition published as Cardus on Cricket: A Selection from the Cricket Writings of Sir Neville Cardus, ed. and introduced by Hart-Davis, 1977; Second Innings: More Autobiography, 1950; Cricket All the Year, 1952; ed. Kathleen Ferrier Memorial Book, 1954; Close of Play, 1956; Talking of Music, 1957; A Composer’s XI, 1958 (German trans. 1961); Sir Thomas Beecham: A Memoir, 1961; The Playfair Cardus, 1963; Gustav Mahler: His Mind and his Music, Vol. I, 1965; The Delights of Music: A Critic's Choice, 1966; Full Score, 1970; What Is Music?, ed. Margaret Hughes, 1977; Cardus in the Covers, 1978; Play Resumed with Cardus, 1979; A Fourth Innings with Cardus, 1981; The Roses Matches (1919-1939), 1982; Cardus on Music: A Centenary Collection, 1988.

After his death, Alan Gibson summed up Cardus's impact on cricket, writing:

"All cricket writers of the last half century have been influenced by Cardus, whether they admit it or not, whether they have wished to be or not, whether they have tried to copy him or tried to avoid copying him. He was not a model, any more than Macaulay, say, was a model for the aspiring historian. But just as Macaulay changed the course of the writing of history, Cardus changed the course of the writing of cricket. He showed what could be done. He dignified and illuminated the craft".[22]

As a music critic, Cardus was the opposite of Ernest Newman's objective school of musical criticism. Cardus's romantic, instinctive response to music was in contrast with Newman's intellectual, analytical approach. A fellow critic wrote that Newman "probed into Music's vitals, put her head under deep X-ray and analysed cell-tissue. Cardus laid his head against her bosom and listened to the beating of her heart."[23] Despite their different approaches, the two writers held each other in considerable regard.[23] Yehudi Menuhin wrote that Cardus "reminds us that there is an understanding of the heart as well as of the mind... in Neville Cardus, the artist has an ally".[24]

The best of Cardus's cricket pieces were published in several volumes by Rupert Hart-Davis, but much of his writing on music – which he himself regarded as his more important work – has not been reprinted in book form. One attempt to fill this gap was Cardus on Music: A Centenary Collection edited by Donald Wright, published by Hamish Hamilton in 1988. When Cardus died on 28 February 1975, his obituary article in The Guardian was written by no fewer than three eminent writers: J. B. Priestley, Hugo Cole, and John Arlott.[25] More than 720 people attended his memorial service at St Paul's, Covent Garden.[22]


  1. ^ Brookes, p. 35
  2. ^ Brookes, p. 17
  3. ^ Hart-Davis, letters of 29 March and 5 April 1959
  4. ^ Barnes, Simon. "Double Score", The Times, 5 December 1987: "3 April 1988 is the centenary of the birth of the late Sir Neville Cardus, something that would have surprised him. He always thought he was born on 2 April 1889, but his birth certificate says not. To mark the occasion, Sir Yehudi Menuhin and John Arlott want to raise money to buy two copies of a bronze head of Cardus."
  5. ^ a b c d Howat, Gerald M. D. "Cardus, Sir (John Frederick) Neville (1888–1975)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, September 2004; online edition, January 2009, accessed 11 June 2009
  6. ^ Cardus on Music: A Centenary Collection, edited by Donald Wright, published by Hamish Hamilton (1888)
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h "Cardus, Sir John Frederick Neville (1888–1975)", Australian Dictionary of Biography, accessed 10 June 2009
  8. ^ "Neville Cardus: Thousands more enjoying the game through his writing", Wisden Cricketers' Almanack, 1965 edition, accessed 10 June 2009
  9. ^ Cardus himself referred to William Attewell, but according to Walter Attewell's obituary in Wisden Cricketers' Almanack he was mistaken: Supplementary Obituaries, 1994 edition
  10. ^ The Guardian, Obituary, 1 March 1975, p. 6
  11. ^ Brookes, pp. 100-01. Research by a cricket historian later proved that this was an example of Cardus's penchant for decorating the truth.
  12. ^ Brookes, p. 3
  13. ^ Brookes, 190-91
  14. ^ Brookes, 192
  15. ^ Brookes, p. 202
  16. ^ Brookes, pp. 200-01
  17. ^ Brookes, p. 246
  18. ^ Brookes, pp. 127-30
  19. ^ Brookes, pp. 146-47
  20. ^ Brookes, pp. 221, 251 and 253
  21. ^ Lucas, pp. 308-10
  22. ^ a b Wisden, 1976 edition: Sir Neville Cardus — a tribute.
  23. ^ a b Brookes, p. 137
  24. ^ Daily Telegraph Review supplement, 8 August 2009, "Knighted for services to cricket and music", p. R21.
  25. ^ The Guardian, 1 March 1975, p. 8


  • Brookes, Christopher (1985). His Own Man — the Life of Neville Cardus, Methuen.
  • Cardus, Neville (1947). Autobiography, Collins.
  • Cardus, Neville (1950). Second Innings, Collins.
  • Hart-Davis, Rupert (ed) (1986). Lyttelton/Hart-Davis Letters, Volume 4, ISBN 0-7195-4318-5
  • Lucas, John (2008). Thomas Beecham: An Obsession with Music, Boydell. ISBN 9781843834021
  • Daniels, Robin (2009). Cardus, Celebrant of Beauty: a Memoir, Palatine.

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