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“ WHO'S UP FOR THE RESCUE?"
ENGRAVED BY E. HACKER, FROM A PAINTING BY R. B. DAVIS.
“One material difference," says the venerable Mr. Taplin, “ is known to exist between stag-hunting and every other kind of sport: the utmost fortitude and indefatigable exertions are here made to save; in all the rest, the summit of happiness, the sole gratification of local ambition, is to Kill: so that, at any rate, stag-hunting has the plea of humanity in its favour. In proof of which, the hounds are never known to run from chase to view, but every individual feeling is alive to the danger of the deer, who has so largely and laboriously contributed to the completion of the general happiness of the day. A secret inspiration operates upon every latent spring of human sensibility, and no difficulty, at the moment, seems too great to surmount for the preservation of a life in which every spectator feels himself most impressively concerned.”
Our plate, then, by such authority, displays the very time and place for “this material difference” being carried out a difference, by the way, that the tone of our author goes to assure us must be a proportionate advantage. Here, he appears to argue, you have all the excitement and ardour of sport, without any of its cruelties or blood-shedding drawbacks. The deer that's picked to run to-day shall live to run another day; while the field, who devote themselves to so harmless and innocent a pastime, can return home proof against the most fastidious of feelings and specious of pleadings. The great point, indeed—the finishing touch to the good run-is, that a death should not conclude the scene, just as, in fox-hunting, the summum bonum is that it should. Humanity, therefore, is its strong-hold; and, as a recreation approved of and increasing, we have to place it on record with this great virtue as the great agent of its success. By Mr. Taplin's reasoning, we perhaps ought; by our own, we the more certainly cannot.
The grand secret of modern stag-hunting is its convenience. Some might say, its splendour and clap-trap turn-out; or others, its speed and sail-away character; but, for our own part, we maintain the convenient to be its steadiest friend. Only look at the master or managing committee, for instance; and estimate the toil and trouble of one variety, compared with the other. Hounds, horses, and servants are, or ought to be, easy of management, either way. If it's a hound goes wrong, you draft him; a horse, you sell him; and a servant, you “sack” him : but the country, the foxes—the indispensable, without which there will be no fox-hunting--how does it run with those items? If you don't rattle and rout out the heavy, never-ending woodlands every other day, Sir Stephen Selfsafe swears he'll setto and kill the foxes, because you won't come and do so for him. If you “worry" the cream of your country, the stock in it becomes endangered, and you have to submit to the “Finance" the propriety of
building gorse nurseries, and employing an agent to rob the next county but one to furnish them. If you voted the wrong way, back the compliment's sent in death to the Duke's foxes ; if you looked the wrong way, and cut the soap-maker's missis, out they take it in traps and guns on the Latherington property; and, in short, if you would go armed against a blank day, you shake hands with, and almost "hail-fellow" every fellow that has or holds an acre of land in the land you live and hunt in.
And now turn the pen-and-ink sketch over, and take a look at the master of stag-hounds on the other side. Here are his hounds, his horses, and his men, like his brother F.H. has them; and there, a little further on, are his foxes, or that he is well satisfied to take in place of them. These are his preserves, within two hundred yards of the stable and four of the kennel; and, thus provided, what cares he for neighbours and friends, or- just as likely-neighbours and enemies? Talk of the freedom of the fox-hunter! what can that be, compared to the independence of the stag-hunter? See, out he sallies, like a travelling tradesman, or another Noah, with all the necessaries of life packed up to accompany him! Saucy keepers he fees not, hen-roost robberies he fears not, and swaggering natives he knows not. Yet stay! just at the last moment Grazier Greensward thinks the comitatus a leetle too large, and so must decline the honour of the monarch of the chase being bade “Good speed !" on his premises. And what's to be done then? What now becomes of the independence of onr self-providing and self-relying friends? One fool makes many; and if the grazier who had given his word sees reason to withdraw it, we may find it difficult to find a volunteer at so short a notice. Nonsense! for here's our host of the Garter, with a ten-acre close at the back of his yard that stretches right away for the Greensward preserve; or, again, not a quarter of a mile off, Crabtree Common, with a site and space equal to Ascot Heath.
This is convenience number one; the convenience of independence, when a man affords health, happiness, and sport to a whole country without feeling that heavy debt of gratitude the fox-hunter should, for being allowed to do so. Convenience number two, applies more to the field, and becomes associated very much with a certainty. The honourable Captain Rattletit, of the Guards, wants, what his man says two or three of his stud do, a little work, and accordingly rigs himself out for “a hunting morning." Sir John Cope meets one side of him, her Majesty on the other: and the Captain, as we have jast stated, wanting a gallop, comes in this way to a decision. Sir John, perhaps, won't find, or if he does find perhaps Sir John's fox won't break; contra, “the royals" must find, and break too, and so Captain Rattletit appears in the Post” as one of the fashionables who shone at the meet and showed at the take on Monday last. In an equal degree the convenience of certainty has its weight with Mr. Cent-or-scent, the City-broker, Squire Whole-hog, the Piccadilly dealer, or his friend Jack Evans, the tailor, from Bond-street. Here old Cent-or-scent, who is bonâ fide a bit of a sportsman, snatches a moment or two of ecstasy; here the swell dealer is sure of a fine show-off for his last long-priced one, and the tailor of as fine a display for himself. Mark the method too with which it is all done, and the decision with which our metropolitan customers can arrange. Down by train, so long; with hounds, so long ; back by train, so long; and then to breeches-building, book-squaring, flat-catching, or evening parties, as the Fates may determine. We have only just one little amendment to press on this point, and which we are induced to believe would make the rule and regulation of modern stag-hunting complete, viz., that to the published meets of her Majesty's, Baron Rothschild's, and the Surrey staggers, there should be appended a notice, more MELPOMENE: “Doors (of the deer-cart) open at eleven o'clock, and performances commence at ten minutes past precisely.” With the Surrey especially, where the free-list is entirely suspended, we think that a British audience is fully entitled 10 such a courtesy on the part of the management.
In the item of convenience, then, both to master and man, we have tended to show how superior stag-hunting is to fox-hunting, and how this said convenience, rather than Mr. Taplin's humanity, is the chief reason of the numerous fields we find with hounds whose orders are to save and not to slay. On one head, however, this very readiness and opportunity for a run has told against its votaries. The quickness of the start, the provision made for a gallop, and the too-artificial character of the whole thing, has rendered its supporters more or less careless about the genuine hunting and sport. It was lately affirmed in this magazine, by an undoubted authority, Harry Hie-over to wit, that hare-hunters were generally less affected, but yet better sportsmen than fox-hunters. In the very same words, we are sure we may continue, that fox-hunters are less affected, and show much less of the pomps and vanities, but are still far better sportsmen than staghunters.
It sounds a little out of order for one to write down his own theme, but we have been all against the “national” sport so far, and this is a “whole truth” that justice herself must admit.
The scene, so ably depicted by Mr. Davis, is one calculated to test to the utmost the powers of all concerned in it. Deer have frequently been known to run for miles together in view, and when without a favourable opportunity of taking soil, a great distance with hounds right on them. At such a time the pace even for stag-hunting becomes terribly severe; and was the pursued to run till he was fairly pulled down or dropped before his enemies, few horses could live to the finish. It fortunately happens, however, that the good stag generally compromises the take by a bit of a parley until the horsemen can come to his assistance. Otherwise with every hound at him, and a fine line of country before him, the plain fact would but authenticate the ideas of our artist, which lucus a non lucendo, show by not showing all the field beaten clean out of sight. Our print, it should be added, is intended more especially to represent a day with the Royal Hounds,* so that our subscribers may be left to imagine the somewhat incongruous company, “lords, hawkers, and jockeys," dragons, black-legs, and cockneys, who are cramming and nicking to answer our query of “Who's up at the rescue ?"
* The deer is sketched from Rob Roy, an importation from Scotland during the days of Lord Kinnaird, and celebrated ever since as a clipper.