The im­por­tance of be­ing Edgar

Old Bike Australasia - - CLUB DIRECTORY & MARKETPLAC­E - Edgar Jes­sop

Os­car Wilde was not to know it, but the plot for the play that both cli­maxed his lit­er­ary ca­reer and brought about his down­fall ex­actly mir­rored the fame, no­to­ri­ety and oc­ca­sional scan­dal en­dured by Edgar Jes­sop through much of his ado­les­cent and adult life.

Just as seem­ingly ev­ery­one wished to be known as Earnest in Wilde’s farce, so it be­came se­ri­ously fash­ion­able to name off­spring Edgar some decades later. It was a nat­u­ral enough phe­nom­e­non, for Jes­sop’s deeds of hero­ism, deer­ing-do and lib­er­tin­ism, his ca­pac­ity for fine food and al­co­hol and his mag­netic at­trac­tion to mem­bers of the op­po­site sex (in­deed, on oc­ca­sions, to both sexes) is the stuff of legend. Epit­o­mised in ev­ery­thing from chil­dren’s primers to fea­ture films, Edgar’s ev­ery move­ment was pub­lic prop­erty, fiendishly ex­ploited by jour­nal­ists, clan­des­tine pho­tog­ra­phers, per­verts, eaves­drop­pers, and the no­to­ri­ously pruri­ent mem­bers of Bri­tain’s up­per class and roy­alty. Fol­low­ing the fa­mous and well recorded in­ci­dent at the Isle of Man when Edgar was forced to start in the Se­nior TT wear­ing plim­solls* in­stead of leather boots, sales of the footwear rock­eted to such an ex­tent that a world-wide short­age of can­vas oc­curred. The shoe company Con­verse pur­chased a spe­cial li­cence to pro­duce a replica of Edgar’s plim­solls, which they wished to mar­ket un­der the name of Jesso-sneaker, but when this was re­fused, they called the shoe the All-Star – the largest sell­ing sin­gle style of footwear ever made. In their lat­ter lives, both Edgar Al­lan Poe and Edgar Rice Bur­roughs claimed to be re­lated to Edgar Jes­sop, and J. Edgar Hoover ceased us­ing his first name of John to closer as­so­ciate him­self with his hero. It was not un­com­mon for par­ents, ex­pect­ing a male off­spring but re­ceiv­ing a daugh­ter, to name the child Ed­wina, which sounds like Edgar if you say it quickly.

*a full re­count of the TT plim­solls in­ci­dent will ap­pear in next is­sue.

ABOVE Edgar’s hero­ism in the 1924 Grand Prix of Bur­gundy earned him the Cross du Bake­lite. LEFT The au­di­ence sits spell­bound as Edgar de­liv­ers a speech to the Satyr So­ci­ety.

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