William Bromley, son of an artist and grandson of a prominent engraver, exhibited widely throughout his long career at the Society of British Artists (Suffolk Street), the Royal Academy and the British Institution. Several of his favourite subjects included pictures of children at play: a comparable composition is illustrated in Christopher Wood, Paradise Lost, pl. 145.
Games of marbles were a popular pastime amongst Victorian children of all classes. Agates ('aggies'), or 'swirlies' and 'clearies' were hoarded by the more fortunate, while most village children, as in this picture, played with marbles of plain clay. It is unclear whether the Victorians, and the seventeenth century Dutch before them, found any didactic message in depictions of this game of skill. It is certainly interesting to reflect how to 'knuckle down', as the boy to the right of this picture is doing, survives into the working culture of the twenty-first century as a phrase denoting the need to concentrate.