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We will now "hark back" a little, and see why it is necessary a huntsman should go through such initiatory probation to qualify him for his ostensible and really arduous situation; for I quite agree with my brother fox-hunters in their opinion that it is so; and having mostly found fox-hunters as straightforward fellows out of the field as in, I have no fear of their dodging about and attempting to qualify an opinion once given, because they might find that in a particular case or circumstance, they had got into something like "a hole," by having unequivocally stated it.
The huntsman should be introduced to the kennel as a boy, to give his mind a bias towards fox-hunting in a general way. Secondly, to thoroughly learn that most indispensable part of a huntsman's business, namely, the management of hounds in kennel; for unless well managed there, it is quite certain they will be unfit-nay, unable to perform their duties in the field. He should learn to consider the condition, breeding, and pedigree of a fox-hound to be of as much importance as an owner or trainer holds that of a race-horse; he should learn to consider a foxhound as the finest animal living, and to become a huntsman the most important aim of life. He should go out cub-hunting, to give him a love of hunting; but further to teach him the different conduct of young, untutored hounds, and that of the old hunting ones, who want no one to tell them their business. He will further, in cub-hunting, learn the different hunting terms and halloas, and the appropriate circumstances under which each is used; it will teach him to get himself and horse quickly through covers, and to get hounds also quickly through it to the huntsman's horn or halloa, when such duty may devolve upon him as whip; and finally, it will teach him to judge of what hounds are about when he cannot see them.
He should ride second horse for somebody, to make him a horseman, teach him to cross country at as little expenditure of the animal powers of his horse as possible; and as it will not be his present business to tie himself to the line of the pack, it will teach him the points foxes usually make for, under ordinary circumstances, in the country where he expects to hunt; and by learning the habits of his game in general, he will learn the most probable and ready way to recover hounds in any country, when particular circumstances may have caused them to slip him, or his duty as second-whip may have compelled him to remain behind the
Of his duties in the field as second-whip I need say nothing here; if he is of quick apprehension and anxious to learn, he will pretty well inform himself of these while riding second horse.
First-whip is, indeed, a most important post to hold, in a fox-hunting establishment-one extremely difficult to effectively fill. So much of the sport of each day depends on the quickness of act and thought in the first-whip, that he cannot take too much pains to make himself perfect in his most arduous duty. He should be perfectly capable of hunting the pack himself, but must practise the self-denial of never attempting to do so, unless from any particular circumstance the huntsman should happen to be so far behind as to render the waiting his coming up likely to mar the day's sport; the first-whip may then very properly take upon himself the temporary duty of huntsman, till his head and chief
The first-whip being the disciplinarian of the pack, if I kept hounds one of the chief qualities I should make a point that he possessed, would be good-temper. I would do so for humanity's sake, as regards the animals subject to his discipline; and I would do so from the conviction that an irritable savage as first whip would risk the spoiling any pack of fox-hounds in the kingdom; for where a man lets his bad temper blind his judgment, hounds will frequently get punished when they know not for what the punishment is inflicted, consequently will be as likely to be awed from doing right as wrong. The high blood and temper, and natural boldness of the fox-hound, must be kept in due bounds; but he must not be cowed, or his fine spirit broken; for destroy the dash of the fox-hound, and his great characteristic will be gone-he will become timid, morose, or sulky, and consequently worthless.
A man having gone through the ordeal I have in a summary way described, may fairly feel himself qualified to commence his career as a huntsman, in whose duties practice only will render him perfect.
I would not say it would be absolutely objectionable to make a man huntsman to the same pack to which he had acted as first-whip, but I would rather prefer a man who had not done so. It is true, he would have the recommendation of knowing the hounds, and the merits and demerits of each of them-no small advantage I admit; but against this the hounds know him, and will not readily forget the discipline they have experienced at his hands; they should, and mostly do, love their huntsman; they fear, and in many cases, hate the first-whip as a supposed enemy; and it will be long ere they gain sufficient confidence to dash up with alacrity to the halloa or cheer of a voice from which they have so often heard a rate, or readily trust to the encouragement of one under whose lash they have so often cowered. We may awe a hound from hunting wrong game, skirting, lagging in cover, or even heedlessly rushing on when not certain he is on the line of his game; but we cannot flog or rate a hound into hunting. We may force a horse into the water, or a hound into cover; but we cannot make the one drink or the other hunt-both are voluntary acts. Hounds, to hunt with alacrity and attention, should at the time feel their spirits buoyant, their actions free, and their labour cheered by a voice they are accustomed to listen to with pleasure and confidence.
As I am in no way attempting a treatise on hunting, I have said enough for my purpose, if I have, as I trust is the case, shewn the numerous qualities required in a huntsman, and consequently the time it must occupy to learn his manifold duties and qualifications.
Now comes the consideration of the prudence of a man taking on himself the character of Amateur Huntsman.
That every man has a perfect right to follow the bent of his inclinations, where they are neither criminal nor absolutely wrong, no one would attempt to deny. We then come to the question as to how far the thus following them is to his credit or not; and, in deciding such question, we must not be guided, or even influenced by the particular opinion of a particular clique, but by the opinions of men in general, of good sense and good taste; for it is the suffrages of such we presume a man would wish to gain. As regards, then, our question in hand, namely, "how far, under ordinary circumstances, it is in a general way judicious in a gentleman to act the part of huntsman," we will not ask the
opinion of professional huntsmen, for we are quite sure what that opinion would be; we will not seek that of one who occasionally eschews the streets of London for a gallop with fox-hounds, for his opinion for or against would not be worth having. We will not ask that of a man who does not hunt at all, so knows nothing of hunting or hounds; nor of one who knows all about both, but knows nothing or little else; but we will zealously seek, and would with confidence be guided by the opinion of him whom we could recognise as a man of sense, a thorough sportsman, and at the same time a man of education and a perfect gentleman; I can but fancy he would say, that "take it on the broad scale, the gentleman would be the least likely to subject himself to unpleasantry and animadversion, who abstained from taking upon himself the office of amateur huntsman to a pack of fox-hounds."
A gentleman hunting his harriers is quite a different affair; he keeps them for his own amusement and that of his friends and acquaintance; his field is not usually numerous. If he is not extremely self-sufficient, he will probably leave his hounds a good deal to themselves, in which case, he will most likely get fair average sport. If he commits an error that a professional huntsman would not have done, no one in the shape of a gentleman would be rude enough to attempt to ridicule, or make offensive remarks on the circumstance; he is virtually a gentleman, taking his morning ride with the pleasing accompaniment of his pack of hounds, instead of doing the same thing without them. No one can condemn his taste.
If of more enthusiastic temperament, without pretending to keep an established pack, a man's taste induces him to exchange his twenty couple of harriers for a moderate pack of fox-hounds, and with a couple or three hunters for himself, and two good screws for his single whip, he hunts fox twice a week; he does not place himself in any objectionably ostensible situation in hunting his little scratch pack, and in proportion to the number of days he hunts during the season, may probably enough shew a very sporting number of noses at the end of it. He is nearly in the same position as a gentleman hunting his harriers; the chief difference being, the one hunts hare, the other fox.
We now come to the amateur taking upon himself the management and the hunting an established pack of fox-hounds, hunting three or four days a week, his fixtures made public, so as to ensure a large field-an arduous and truly hazardous undertaking for any one; how far more so then for a gentleman! Nor let him flatter himself that in so ostensible a situation, his being held as a gentleman will shield him from ridicule, and even rudeness, if he performs his office inefficiently; on the contrary, his self-estimation will be met with sarcasm by the higher class of his field, and the gentleman huntsman will be certain to challenge obloquy, rudeness, and probably impertinence, on the part of the lower.
I might be asked, why I consider it by no means objectionable, the gentleman acting the part of amateur jockey, yet so injudicious his performing or attempting to perform that of amateur huntsman? I judge on these premises: We may reasonably suppose no man would contemplate riding a race who had not from practice become a good general horseman, and (unless the business of a huntsman is over-rated in point of difficulty) one-twentieth part of the time requisite to qualify a
man to hunt a pack of foxhounds, would make a man already a horseman a quite sufficiently good jockey to ride an amateur race well; even if he does not, he mars the sport of no one, consequently calls forth no disappointed expectations from any one; whereas the errors of the huntsman call forth remark, and also anathemas, often both loud and deep, from a whole field-from which Gods of the Chase deliver us.
A gentleman hunting his harriers or private pack of fox-hounds is about on a footing with another who drives his four-in-hand. Hunting an established pack is, as it were, making himself body coachman. The question therefore merges into this, "Is it worth a gentleman's while to devote half a life to qualify himself to do that which, probably after all, a servant would do quite as well, or better?" If a man is content with the praises of a few boon companions, or a number of uneducated bruising yeoman riders, let him learn the duties of a huntsman to the neglect of higher attainments, and much good may his taste do him! But if he wishes to be admired by those whose admiration is worth having, let him keep his fox-hounds by all means; but let his huntsman hunt them. There is no reason then why he should not shine in the drawing-room at night as an accomplished man, as much as he did as a fine sportsman and fine horseman in the morning. But I much fear, yet say it with diffidence, that if a man has devoted enough of his time to the kennel and management of hounds to be held as a perfect huntsman, he runs no small risk of being estimated by men of education, fashion, and taste, as but a somewhat imperfect gentleman.
WILD RED-DEER HUNTING ON EXMOOR FOREST.
There are very many good people, who eat, drink, sleep, hunt, shoot, and fish, and amuse themselves in various pleasant ways, as will or occasion prompts them, having the wherewithal, health and inclination, who are nevertheless always ready to find fault with what is, and to refer with admiration to what has been. For my own part, I am quite ready to believe that what is termed "the good old times were good old times for those who then lived and hunted. Nevertheless, having compared them from report and some reading, which is all we can do, with the days we live in, I for one am perfectly satisfied with the present, and I trust I may be enabled to convince many a true-hearted sportsman that I am not far wrong.
For the last month, notwithstanding the brightest of suns, and, with a single check for forty days, the hottest of weather, our sportsmen in the west have been up and doing; leathers and tops, which elsewhere would have been looked on as absurd excentricities, are seen as a matter of course on the forest; and happily, most happily, those who really
have had practical evidence of a glorious run over the moor, and those who are not too bigoted to believe in such sport, having never tried it, have once more, notwithstanding the fears that there would be no staghunting this season, been gladdened by the sound of the huntsman's horn, on the heather-bedecked forest of Exmoor; have listened to the cheerful cheers of the huntsmen, and witnessed the death of many a noble hart and hind.
For several years it has been a pleasant task, to me, to chronicle in the pages of Maga the practical events of the deer-hunting season on Exmoor. My object has been two-fold-the one, that many a good sportsman who now from age or infirmity has ceased to mount the pigskin, or who is far away fighting for his country, and yet looks back to the period he has enjoyed on the bright moors, may read and follow the chase, in memory of other days, as, indeed, for all who love good sport and good fellowship in all their varied pleasures; the other, with the hope that hundreds who neither visit Scotland for grouse shooting, nor fish or yacht, yet have the means for all, and do hunt when the fox-hunting season opens, may be induced to wend their way to the beautiful little town of Lynmouth, in North Devon, or Porlock, or Dulverton, about the middle of August, remaining about two months, and assured am I they will never regret it. At the commencement of the season, either Lynmouth or Porlock is within reach of the hounds; but Lynmouth is decidedly for choice-there are the hounds kennelled, and there will be found scenery as beautiful, if not more beautiful, than any our Merrie England can boast of, combined with all that can make life agreeable. A sportsman, supposing him to be a Benedick, who, in addition to the happiness of possessing a charming wife, has also a lovely family-the natural consequences-and who desires, as of course he should do, that they should share in his pleasures, cannot do better than start, bag and baggage, leathers, wife, horses, and children, and take up his abode for a month at Lynmouth, in the deerhunting season; and assured am I, he will thank me for suggesting a period of enjoyment that he will never forget. The accommodation at Lynmouth is admirable, both for man and beast ; and throughout England, though it be strong language, I know of no hotel which surpasses the Lyndale Hotel, at Lynmouth; all the conveniences, nay, luxuries of life, may there be had on very moderate terms. The owners are most civil and attentive; the bed-rooms are airy, and command charming views; and the stable is not only good, but the ostler, who has lived thirteen years in the same place-a strong recommendation-really feeds the horses submitted to his care, and has a thorough knowledge of, and love for the animal, to whom he devotes the labours of his life. I fancy I have already said enough to convince any reasonable man that Lynmouth is not a bad quarter for a sportsman to sojourn at. Let me add a few words more-a clear and sparkling stream, which rushes over rock and stone, through the richly wooded valley of the Lyn, empties itself into the Bristol channel, at the little port of Lynmouth. At this stream, beautiful beyond conception, the alternate days, when the huntsman's horn is silent in the forest, may be well employed in fishing. Or, if your pleasure be not to follow in the footsteps of Izaak Walton, and that perchance your stud admit not of rides over the Moor, or to the charming spots which on all sides surround you, plenty of those clever