Imagens das páginas

it may certainly be said, the age of sportsmen, but certainly not of riders; for I remember perfectly well, when as a boy nine years of age, and in my boyish second season's fox-hunting, being with my father on a visit to a relative in Northamptonshire, we were shewn the leap said to be the celebrated one taken by Dick Knight. My relative addressing ine, said "What do you think of that, young un?" "Why," said I, "I would ride the chesnut mare over it now if she was here." That hunters (I mean horses) were more accomplished (if I may use the term), or I will say, perfect fencers then, than we have them now, I verily believe; they had not the same energy in them as highly-bred horses have; they were allowed to take their fences more leisurely; and to find footing on a rotten or razor-backed bank, required no little judgment and practice in the animal. Could one of our forefathers have been put on the back of Moonraker, Grimaldi, Paulina, or Lottery, in one of their swings, the good man would have thought he never should alight on the earth again.

In such day, if a man kept a couple of hunters for his own riding, it was considered as many as he could possibly really require; the keeping of three was held as a little useless extravagance that affectation or a peculiar turn alone occasioned. Three feeds of corn a day, and, in their technical term, a "handful of beans," was a hunter's allowance. Hay, we may consider, was given nearly without stint; for in their groom's phrase, a horse having "something to kick against," or looking like carrying his dinner with him," was a high recommendation. I suppose they went upon the same principle as had done a horsekeeper I once took in my employ; I insisted that cach horse's rack should be cleared out three hours before he was put to the coach. "Lord, sir," says the fellow, "I always likes 'em to have something to start with; it carries over the stage.'


[ocr errors]


There ever was, and ever will be, first, second, and minor-rate grooms in all ages; first-rate ones when horses having a good bread-basket was in vogue, made it a point, when a horse with a coat like a Siberian goat or sheep came in, "never to leave him till he was as dry as a bone;" so a tired horse was thump-thumped by a succession of whisps by a man on each side, till his return home was made a penalty to him.


These were days when Bass's bitter ale was unknown, and would not have been liked if it had been. Malt and hops were then the leading ingredients in ale, and each farmer brewed and drank his own; the good wife made her cask of gooseberry or currant "wind." "All very well for the women," as her good man would deridingly but goodnaturedly remark. Farmers had not began a beverage that nobody knows how it's made in they foreign parts." The squire stuck to good old port, and would as soon have drunk the waters of Rhine as the wine that came from its country; "Rot-gut stuff; very well for a foreigner," forgetful that the wine he patronized was foreign also. He held his port to be as pure and unadulterated a liquor as his own October; little thought he of depôts between here and Spain, where Benecarlo is entered in, and a light tawny port, if desired from it, entered out.

Nothing stands still-though we sometimes fancy good-luck does, when we hear that it is coming, but do not see its arrival. At all events,

[ocr errors]

habits, manners, and fashion, do not: the latter, it is true, in some things "harks back to what was seen a century ago. Long waists, for instance, were coeval with powdered heads, a club or pigtail for the

gentlemen, and the hair raised as high as Mont Blanc for the ladies. But the saddest "hark back" of all, is the old sack-like cuff now revived : a most cruel, illiberal, and unfeeling change it is, whoever brought it in. Till lately, if a man wore a shirt for a fortnight by economically sleeping without one, he could, by wearing his tie groom-fashion, make the under article go on another week. He resolves the ensuing week shall exhibit a light-coloured shirt, which his last has not been these last fourteen days; but conceive his horror, when by chance raising his arm before the glass, he finds the state of his linen has been exposed to public view for a fortnight, from the wristband to the elbow! I have heard of people laughing in their sleeves; but such an unfortunate wight as he alluded to may well cry over his.


About the time I speak of, when leathers and boot-tops, both brown in colour, were in use. Seymour, the then greatest horse-painter of his day, had about closed his career. If, as we may suppose was the case, the portraits he left behind him were faithful likenesses, it shews our grandsires rode a pretty good sort of nag; and judging by their heads particularly, they could not have been very coarsely bred on the side of either parent; the tapering lower portion of the head, the fine prominent eye, wide jaw, and expanding nostril, shewed no cart" was in their blood. Where the large, strong, somewhat coach-like hunter was used, I should say it arose from our ancesters not properly appreciating the strength of the high-bred horse; so all men who were not light weight, conceived that great bulk of body and size of limbs were indispensable to carry weight, and possibly as what we call three parts, or perhaps three-fourths bred horses, were not much bred then among horses less highly bred, sheer strength may have been necessary. There did not then exist the gradations from the thorough-bred that exist now. Hunters' plates first called for such; the secret then came out, and it was found better breeding stood in good stead of greater apparent strength. Hounds being bred faster, rendered still higher breeding in the horses necessary. I have heard of a huntsman who wished he could have a balloon to carry him by the side of his hounds; such horses as Bright Phoebus, Advance, Clasher, and Clinker, had not then appeared; yet the mere sportsman was fast growing into the hunting men, and among the hunting men the still more modern term and style of "fast men sprung up. Such names as Warde, Lampton, Corbet, and many others, convey to us at once the true meaning of what were thorough sportsmen and fox-hunters; but it remained for such names as Forester, Gardiner, Germaine, Holyoake, Maher, White, Dearsley, &o., to shew us what "fast men meant-a leetle too fast we may conclude at times, judging from certain little ebullitions of anger and words that people have heard escape The Squire, when he expected the impetuosity of his field, would put his fox out of danger and his hounds into it.

[ocr errors]

Among the fast ones, though of different grade, we must not forget two never-to-be-forgotten-Jack Stevens the Whip, and Dick Christian the "anything that was wanted:" colt-breaker, horse breaker, he constantly was; d-1 breaker he would have been, if asked and had a chance; steeple-chase rider when wanted, agent to buy or sell at any time. I believe he could wind a clever hunter for sale a hundred miles off. The last time I saw him, he came to buy a horse of mine, about a dozen years since, to carry, as he said, Lord Wraneliffe. Of the

two, it may be said the first could ride anywhere, the latter anything.

Be a man a plain good general sportsman, a hunting man, which indicates a stud in his stable, or be he a veritable fast one, he must always speak of Leicestershire as the finest scenting and fastest-going country in such part of the world as we are acquainted with; but we must not infer from this, that having ridden across it qualifies him to ride anywhere; it may, so far as pace and big fences go; but it really requires far more judgment and knowledge of hunting to ride well to hounds in many other countries. Great judgment of pace, and what and where

liberties may or may not be taken with a horse, as in riding a race, are indispensable, if a man means to he carried to the finish in such a clipping country as Leicestershire. But far more knowledge of fox-hounds and hunting is required, to see the finish in many others. A horse having been hunted a season in Leicestershire, is certainly a feather in his cap, if he went well; go, jump, and last, it proves he can; but other qualities, more useful if not so brilliant, are wanted in other countries.

Some months since, a friend who hunts in Essex told me he had bought a horse at a very high figure. "Then of course," said I, "he is a clever one." "I don't know," said my friend, looking not quite pleased, "much about his mere cleverness; but this I can tell you, he has been hunted two seasons in Leicestershire," and looking a little more complacently, "I want your advice as to what is best to do with him till the season comes on." " Sell him," said I. "Sell him!" literally roared my friend. "You asked my advice," I said, "and you have it. Sell him; he'll break your neck in Essex.' Such catastrophe luckily did not happen; but he came head-over-heels the second time he was out, and broke one of his knees most comfortably, so a letter informed me.

[ocr errors]

Personally I never could ride a sticky jumper; they always made me nervous; I could not give them credit for intending to jump. I never could ride, or did, except occasionally in a sticky pottering country. I say this from no affectation, for I candidly allow such horses and such countries frightened me to death. I once bought a horse solely on the character given of him by the stud-groom, which was-" He jumps like a cat, and has always a leg to spare." This was quite true, but I could not ride him put him at a fence as freely as you would, he always would take it comparatively in a stand, and would make one-two of a leap that any good free-going galloway would clear at one. I sold him to an Essex farmer, of whom Lord Petre bought him solely from his handiness in fencing. There can be no doubt but the most brilliant and determined jumpers are quite useless in a blind country. A man therefore in such a country has but the choice of three measures-to learn to ride what I call pottering jumpers; get a roll or two every day he goes out on other sorts; or leave the country. As regards myself, I should say, in betting phrase, "the latter for choice."

With studs as had such men as Lords Plymouth and Wilton, and many others with their fortunes, and if I could ride as well as them, I should perhaps prefer Leicestershire to any other country; but if a man can keep but (say) four hunters, he has no business there, except for a week or two occasionally, to see how the thing is done at head-quarters. How men "go" now, who are domesticating at Melton, Leicester, and thereabouts, I only know from hear-say; most probably quite as well in Life-Guardsman's boots as with white tops, though the former, to my

prejudiced eye, do savour a little more of La Chasse and Le Forêt than the Market Harbro' country.

However the field may go at home, it seems we are likely to have a field for operations of quite a different kind elsewhere, a pretty extensive country to cross, where the would-be masters are not likely to carry on their differences quite as courteously as do M.F.H's. usually settle their misunderstandings as to disputed countries. Doubtless the same good old strain of blood still exists that was always ready to "fly to a halloo" when game is afoot, enterprize to be undertaken, and glory to be achieved. The old hardy sort are mostly gone: their hunting days are over. Let us hope the young entries will not, from our change of habit in the more luxurious mode of treating them "at walks," prove softer than was the old Bruisers, Boxers, Dangerous, Dauntless, Termagants, and Terribles of old.

To drop figurative representation, it is no doubt very luxurious never to be exposed to the so-styled "rude elements." The complexion becomes more delicate-" Oh! great desideratum in a man." We undergo no fatigue-very proper, we must allow, for a young, old, or any lady. We sit on luxurious soft cushions as we travel, instead of the strawstuffed ones of a mail or stage coach; so even the part we sit on becomes soft and delicate. There can be no possible objection to this, when our present youth seldom get into a saddle. An omnibus is far more comfortable than used to be the Stanhope in a wintry day. It is so, and warmer. Let us hope that those thinking so may not feel a little chilly should any of them find themselves enjoying their caviare on the banks of the Dnieper or Dniester. Won't they?



"A hound and a hawk no longer

Shall be symptoms of disaffection;

A cock-fight shall cease to be breach of the peace,
And a horse-race an insurrection."


"I am a friend, Sir, to public amusements; for they keep people from vice."DR. JOHNSON TO SIR ADAM FERGUSON,

"The first place where Ready-money Jack attracted my attention was in the church-yard on Sunday, where he sat on a tombstone after the service, with his hat a little on one side, holding forth to a small circle of auditors, and, as I presumed, expounding the law and the prophets; until, on drawing a little nearer, I found he was only expatiating on the merits of a brown horse."-BRACEBridge Hall.

All my pleasant ideas of Doncaster are got from Southey's "Dr. Daniel Dove." I have no wish to make crab-like running to the times when Robin Hood roamed with his merry gang of outlaws

[ocr errors]

through the dells of Barnsdale, and looked in at Roche Abbey to taste the Hatfield eels with the jolly abbot; nor peep, in fancy, under the cowls of the Cistercian friars, as they stealthily move down Baxter-gate. I simply like to think of those grave old card-parties, which the Doctor loved one hundred years ago of the merrie old bells which seemed to ring in his ear, " Daniel Dove brings Deborah home," when he drew on his small clothes on his wedding morningof the grand organ "whosh pipes" (as its foreign maker observed) "were made for to speak" by one of our great English composers, and which was apostrophized in the curate's sermon on its opening Sunday, as thou divine box of sounds!"—and of the old corporation, going down to Potteric Carr about the time when Flying Childers was nearly drowned there, to see races between galloways from 12 to 2, and then returning to the tankards and platters of the Mansion House, for a most fearful soak and sit till 2 the next morning. Those grand old times, succeeded as they were by others when the equipages of the Fitzwilliams, the Clevelands, the Wharncliffes, the Westminsters, and the Gascoignes, &c., thronged the High-street, have all gone; but I doubt not they have left better behind, and three persons, thanks to special trains, can bear a hand now at the St. Leger, where but one could come before. It has been my wont to go on a Saturday, and have a good ramble out into the country on Monday; but this year I did not alight at Doncaster till the afternoon of the latter day was far spent, and by the time I was well settled at dinner, the list-men came tearing up the street, in full cry. A noble broad-sheet it was too, thanks to Mr. Johnson and his ever-green namesake, The Corporation Knight of St. George, who, it will be remembered, founded the spring meeting, and waves the Field Marshal's baton in the civic engagements, on the subject of the race grant, new stands, &c. The streets were very quiet as night drew on, and it was impossible not to be struck with the enormous lack of military moustaches, which used to be seen there in picturesque clusters, and lending animation and ton to the crowd in the enclosures.

The gallops in the morning were dull and flat. Lord Derby was out with ten of Scott's string, but they only walked once round. It was said on the ground, that his lordship had told Lord Glasgow at York, that he could run first, second, and third. Job Marson was just getting off Calamus as I arrived, and Autocrat and The Trapper were taking a quantity of feeble gallops. Mr. Payne never took his eyes off the latter, but how any once else could have eyes for him quite baffled me. But, as I have often said, I would not take the opinion of two out of 100 regular ring-men about the commonest points of a horse. The ground was like granite. Watering it was out of the question; as, in the first place, the river was so low, there was hardly water for the streets, and a deluge would hardly have penetrated it. Before going home to breakfast, I had a look at the young things, parading near the pond. Twenty Yorkshire pets were there, but none of them stole my heart, and some of them were as fat as butter. Diego, if I remember rightly, rather attracted me as I met him caracolling near Bennetthorpe. I have no intention to go so systematically into the racing as I did at York. In fact, when I am at Doncaster, I don't ❝ make a (note) book" at all; but true to the

« AnteriorContinuar »