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The past year closed with what is called a good old-fashioned frost, and that upon which we entered with the calends of January opened like boon old Flavius's ode to Augustus Cæsar. The woodland echo slumbered, and silent was the horn of chase. The time was meet for meditation: the occasion fruitful in pleasant themes. Present were grateful hopes and gracious anticipations both of the dulcia oblivia as well as the more weighty issues of life. " A Scotchman,” says the author of Waverley, “is always thinking of rent day; or, if easy on that head, of hell in the next world.” 'I do not think that such is our mission or the design of man's pilgrimage, in which, though there be evil, there is a good to set against it a thousand-fold. Some one lately favoured the English reader with the “ shadows” which his muse was pleased to “cast before.” He placed a New Zealander upon one of the ruined arches of London Bridge, and put into his mouth a comparison between England in decay and the lost nations of Rome and Greece and Assyria. The fate of Lot's wife is emblematic of the bitterness which comes of looking back. subjoin an anecdote from Colonel Napier's “Excursions in Southern Africa," with far more of the true Christian spirit in it than marks the philosophy of those who do wholesale business in the unmitigated-grief line.. “During one of my wanderings I stumbled on a small thatched
a cottage, or rather hut, in a remote and secluded dell. Hot, thirsty, and fatigued, I gladly accepted the proffered hospitality of the aged man who owned this humble abode. He regaled me with all he had to offer-a draught of milk with some coarse bread and fruit; whilst partaking of which, I learned from him the story of his life, and what had brought him to such a distant, unfrequented spot. Mine host, apparently between seventy and eighty years of age-an Englishman by birth, and brought up to a seafaring
course of life--was one of the few survivors belonging to the crew of a ship which nearly half a century ago was wrecked upon this stormy coast. After wandering about for some time, he at last took to himself a native wife, and settled down in this retired spot, where
• The world forgetting by the world forgot,' he has happily and contentedly spent so large a portion of his life, and hopes, as he said, at last quietly to end his days. Here,' said the philosophic old mariner, in half English, half Dutch idiom of his own, but to the following purport—here I am happy, and want for nothing. Whenever I feel at all out of sorts, I walk up to yonder cliff, or headland; I look at the boisterous waves buffeting some 1
unfortunate bark-such, say I to myself, was my former position in life. I then turn round, and look at my humble cottage in this quiet and sheltered kloof-on my sons working in the field or garden -on my daughter, with her little ones prattling around-on my two cows and my flock of goats. «Mutinous lubber!' I then invariably exclaim, 'what more dost thou want?' And, not being able to answer this question, I always return happy and contented to my pipe and sunny seat here on the steep.''
The yarn of this ancient mariner may help wiser men how to draw from the old year a moral that shall profit and cheer the new.
I think it is Cowper who says that England is a fit residence for a gentleman only six months of the year. The poet had never known the extasy that is born of " a southerly wind and a cloudy sky.” He had read, haply, of the dews of Castaly, but had no experience of that celestial drizzle (like a Scotch mist tepified) which sheds what gods call ambrosial odour, and men call scent, upon the Ides of November. Helicon is not Six Hills," neither is the Whissendine “ the Pierian Spring.” From Michaelmas to Easter—from Lady Day to “ the morrow of All Souls"--Great Britain is the sole spot upon the round earth where “ sporting” finds “ local habitation and a name;" the term even is without an equivalent in any tongue or language save our own. As it is not in courtly companies or the saloons of nobles that the character and tastes of a people are to be sought, so neither is it at Newmarket or Melton that our national passion for “ sporting" is to be canvassed and understood. The studs of Goodwood and Burghley-of Quorndon Hall and Brixworth-gorgeous appliances of the “ pomp and circumstance" of the turf and the chase though they be-do not bespeak the popular
sponteneity" for racing and woodcraft with half such miraculous organ as the local rendezvous of some rural passage of sport or feat of friendly strife. This fact is not quoted as a trait of national superiority. It is simply put forth as a touchstone of our idiosyncracy—as a corroborative instance, showing that England is a fit residence for her sons the whole year round. I would establish the bias of our insular instinct. I would identify this intense propensity for manly pastimes and exercises. To this end I take leave to state a case or two, the very burlesque of which will plead like a mathematical demonstration for the truth of my hypothesis.
It came to pass that I was set down for a while in a district more remarkable for the spirit with which the natives cultivated field sports than a natural aptitude for the pursuitma locality, in short, which stood within the threshold of what is known as a scratch country.” It could boast its pack of foxhounds all ship-shape, huntsman and whips in pink, fixtures in Bell's Life, and a subscription by no means to be sneezed at, in the provincial bank. This is one side of the medal—the reverse is emblematic of “ the slows." Runs were rare-kills “ few and far between :” as wide apart, perhaps, as the festival of Guy Fawkes and Shrovetide; and the fields for the most part consisted of the shopocracy of the county town. The farmers didn't hunt: either because they had no calling that way, or because they were of the same kidney as the
“ Agricolæ prisci, fortes, parvoque beati," spoken of by Horace, or because they couldn't afford it. The gentry
hunted very little. In the first place, tuc supply was short ; secondiy, bon ton pronounced in favour of
“ Mirth and iurocence --and milk and water;" and thirdly, there might be some sympathy between landlords and tenants. For these causes the “ meets" were as miscellaneous associations as modern society is in the habit of getting together. It was not a sporting neighbourhood in the classic reading of the expression ; nevertheless it was not without its notability in that line-an exception declaring trumpet-tongued that the ruling passion is strong, even on its last legs..........“ In the centre of the hunt,” his own expression when describing his whereabouts, there dwelt a little fellow whose career was a kaleidoscope of " dodges.”
“ He had a face the colour of mabogany,” and the prevailing tint of his toilet was ochre ; so a friend that used to “ drop” in about 1 P.M., when the hounds were in the vicinity, bestowed upon him the sobriquet of “ The Yellow Dwarf.” This “small Jack Horner” began the battle of life as “ a fast man,” but there was not the stuff in him which “ runs at head,” so he went to the dogs, that the moral might be fulfilled which says : " From him who hath nothing shall be taken even that which he hath.” It is but justice, however, to our homuncle to state that he took a deal of ruining. Adopting the advice of the poet, when things were no longer “ pleasant" -as Mr. Hudson expresses it—" in the East,” he would
“ Put on his wings and be off to the west." At length he settled upon the spot aforesaid, and there his way of life served as an illustration in the flesh of that dainty conceit of Thomas Moore touching
“ The vase in which roses have once been distill'd"-
But the scent of the stable will cling to bim still." “ The Yellow Dwarf,” debarred the fact of sporting, devotes himself to equestrian philanthropy. In a spirit that would put to the blush the love of the Arab for his steed—with a refinement upon stoicisin, such as never entered into the philosophy of Zeno, being no longer able to keep a horse that can carry him, his stall is always occupied by one that cannot. If you meet him at cover side on a saddle, be sure he gets there by grace of some stroke of policy, or by some “ turn of luck.” When in company with his own animal, he is either leading it soft” by the side of the road, or following, while “ a feather” rides it to the nearest bit of exercise marsh. Brought up to the turf, he is inexorable in restricting his horses to it also. He turns pale at an allusion to“ Macadam”-it might be as much as his life were worth to name “ the stones.” Thus from day to day, from month to month, from year to year, he goes on his way, the Howard of “ bokickers”.
“ PBIDDIPIPES (asleep) : You are wrong, Philor.
STREPSIADES (listening): Thcre 'tis.
PHIDDIPIPES (still aslcep): flow many heats?"!
There was not a more complete hunting establishment in England, five-and-thirty years ago, than that which occupied the kennels and stables at Shrewsbury Castle. A first-rate pack of foxhounds, a bril
a liant stud, and a vast staff of servants and followers, selected with care and without reference to cost, bespoke no ordinary devotion of appliances and means to the noble science. The master of this gorgeous sporting array, its institutor and sole maintainer, was the late Mr. Cressett Pelham. Eccentric as he was, probably the only thing that he could not tolerate at all was the sight of this princely set-out. I have seen him use as many artifices to escape from it as the wily animal to whose pursuit it was devoted. If he caught sound or view of it he would double down the first lane or bye road that offered, and in default of such outlet I have seen him fairly bolt through a hedge, and scamper off as fast as his hack could carry him. It is scarcely necessary to add that he didn't keep company with it in the field. But, the better to convey an idea of the whole affair—or rather to confound all conception of it-it may be stated that he had no political or social ends whatever to promote in catering so lavishly for a popular pastime, in which he not only took no part, but from which he flew as from a pestilence.
Perhaps these two cases may serve to rebut Cowper's charge against the land we live in.
Pelham, at all events, was a gentleman. Have we too much of the leaven of Saxon blood in our natures ? Painting the progress of a country-house party, Byron says
“ The gentlemen got up betimes to shoot,
Or hunt ; the young-because they liked the sport
The middle-aged to make the day more short.
Though nameless in our language: we retort
The awful yawn which sleep cannot abate.” There is a word in our language, the meaning whereof, according to Johnson, is “insolently nice”-the word is “ fastidious.” Out of the principle which it represents grew the taste for that social, or rather that anti-social, tone which was called by a happy godfather of folly “the melancholy and gentleman-like.” It is by no means as fashionable as it was, but still it cannot be denied that one of our prominent characteristics is an affectation of never being gratified. In turning circumstances to account, a great deal depends upon the way in which it is set about. The most courtly and the most cosmopolite of sages long since taught thus
“ Vivendi rectè qui prorogat horam Rusticus expectat dum deflua amnis: at ille
Labitur, et labetur in omnc volubilis ævum."
“ Begin, be bold, and venture to be wise.
Which runs, and as it runs, for ever shall run on." Without drawing too liberally on imagination, to this “ nice insolence" might be ascribed that dooming to indiscriminate death all the fere nature which in many instances has been substituted for intolerant
game-preserving. Is it beneath the dignity of “free warren" or manorial rights to be merry and wise ? Because opinion has pronounced against a plague of partridges and pheasants, is it necessary
" To fright the animals, and kill them np
In their assigned and native dwelling-place ?" The game laws were enacted in 1496, more than half a century before the introduction of gunpowder, which was first manufactured in England in 1561, "for the better service of falconry." Hawking was a popular sport, in which many could participate though few were engaged. It is not so with shooting, which is rather a passage of skill and adroitness than an exhilarating association. Game-preserving is a class appliance, whose principle is privilege. Sporting, in its present tense -or, at least, its present tendency—is the antithesis of this. Yachting is as free as air. No man, however enthusiastic a disciple of the doctrine of “ doing what he likes with his own,” has ventured upon the experiment of keeping a pack of “exclusive' foxhounds. During the races the park gates at Goodwood, Gorhambury, or Heaton Parks were never shut. Coursing is a public sport : the aristocracy play cricket in public with “ the people." Men go a-shooting “fastidiously”—that is, accompanied only by friends and keepers—perhaps this accounts for its party prestège. Sir Water Scott, in one of his letters to his son, writes thus“ A celebrated politician used to say he would willingly bring in a bill to make poaching felony, another to encourage the breed of foxes, and a third to revive the decayed amusements of cock-fighting and bullbaiting—that he would make, in short, any sacrifice to the humours and prejudices of the country gentlemen, provided only he could prevail upon them to dwell in their own houses, be the patrons of their own tenantry, and the fathers of their own children.”
We are told “there is a tide in the affairs of men,” and just now it is running like a sluice against “the agricultural interest.” The corn laws are gone, and the game laws are said to be on their last legs. For some time cheap literature has been working the sensibility rig, and poaching is running stride for stride in the race for public sympathy with shirt-making by “ slop.” Whole columns of the Times are devoted to the policy and impolicy of game-preserving. According to one authority in the leading journal, “repealing the game laws would not have the effect of putting down poaching. Another puts the position in this wise_" Say the game laws were repealed, and game destroyed, the country gentlemen would then be deprived of their amusements, for of course" (?) “ hunting would follow in the wake of shooting ; and what would prevent them, in this age of quick travelling, from taking shooting-boxes in Norway and Sweden? and then the curse of absenteen ism would be added to the hard lot of the farmer.” the poacher be regarded in the same light as the robber of a hen-roost" (I am for felony), “ and not as a martyr ; we shall then no more hear of brutal affrays with parties of armed ruffians : and let us strike at the root of the evil, and prosecute the dealer, the receiver of stolen goods, whenever we can clearly prove a case of his receiving game from a poacher.” It is odd no one has suggested that the Lord Chamberlain should prohibit the appearance upon the stage of persons in velveteen jackets and leather leggings, for the purpose of singing a certain inflammatory song, beginning
“ When I was bound apprentice in vamous Zummersetshire.”