His life and books
“It is a mistake to force a lad or young man to adopt a profession or business he has no inclination for. Why waste life – it is all too short – on uncongenial occupations, when work can be found which brings joy in the doing? Money is not everything” (1).
When he wrote those words, Nat Gould was looking back as a successful author, but that success had only been made possible by others who supported him in tasks they might themselves have found uncongenial. Nat’s philosophy was never altogether free from ambiguity. It was all very well to talk of doing what a man wanted, with little thought of earning good money, when he himself had always been cushioned from the hard economic facts of life as he flitted from job to job.
However, for a time, all proved well. Nat settled down to journalism, studied shorthand, and began a career as a reporter. He diligently attended council meetings, police courts, political hustings, inquests, theatres, markets, agricultural shows, ploughing matches, and even a royal visit.
But old distractions still beckoned. “There was plenty of sport in and around Newark and the town was in the midst of a splendid hunting country.” As he did repeatedly throughout his autobiographical writing, Nat Gould was here broadening the meaning of the word “sport” to signify far more than games and athletics. The book he named The Magic of Sport could more accurately have been called “The Lure of Adventure”. His life-long love of horses led him into gambling. “There were sundry bookmakers, amateur and otherwise, and just before any big race there was no difficulty in getting a small bet on.” He even tried bookmaking himself, but with disastrous losses.
After six years at Newark, he began to give up on his day job. “The restless spirit seized me. I could not stick to my work. I began to roam about, to neglect things.” Brown remonstrated with him, but to no avail. Finally he said that Newark was too small for him, that he needed to see the world (2). Nat gives no hint of understanding his employer’s exasperation. He merely reports that the idea took his fancy. His mother must have been no less despairing, and she suggested he took a trip to Australia. He relished the idea, but now realised how painful it would be for her when they parted. But the separation need not be for long, he thought, and soon all was settled.
Cornelius Brown wrote him letters of introduction and a splendid testimonial, and saw him safely off at the railway station. In 1884 Nat Gould left Newark. Now he would have to rely entirely on himself to make his way in a new and unfamiliar world (3).