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I find as I read David Waller’s biography of strongman Eugen Sandow that its relevance a century on is profound: it touches on fame, fortune and celebrity, advertising, entrepreneurship, showmanship, self-publicity, branding and networking, as well as British Empire and our relations with Europe, The US and the ‘colonies’.
No doubt Sandow would have done movies (and appears in a pre-1900clip). He is part Arnold Schwarzenegger, part Simon Cowell or Rod Hull and Emu both Michael Ballentine and Richard Branson. It’s a read not merely for those who operate leisure centres and gyms, but also successful athletes and their agents, franchisees, and soft drinks companies, ad and PR agents and events companies. You’ve got to exploit what you’ve got while you have your admirers.
It should even interest body builders, sports coaches and anyone whose lifestyle includes fitness. And add in the British Army for good measure.
Homosexuality, parenting, the state of the nation’s health and what today would be called ‘wellness’. With Waller there is always the sense of a well read mind and a well exercised pen. I happen to have read HGWell’s Tono-Bungay, but this to me suggests that David is as much an historian as an English scholar, as he does in EH Carr’s words ‘read on a period until you can hear its people speak’. The context of profound ante-German sentiment leading up to The Great War is touched upon and handled well. Indeed, there are occasional phrases or words than give the sense that the author is sitting in his study in his Edwardian smoking Jacket smoking a cigar.
This and I’ve added half a dozen new words to my vocabulary.