網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

would have granted dispensation to his disciples-carte blanche to give expression to any amount of illustrated language towards those who spoiled their sport in that most villanous of all fashions

“ Cutting short their hopes of having any."

The abstract meaning of the word sporting is not to be found in Johnson's, or the dictionaries of any land or language. As applicable to the chase it is confined to this country ; but its spirit has a far more catholic dominion. During the Revolutionary war in France, when it was found expedient to obtain the assistance of the Tyrolese sharpshooters, the most celebrated marksmen in the world, it was only to be obtained by promising them as their reward the privilege of the chasse with impunity. The value of this boon is only to be estimated by those who know the passion of the Tyrolese for the chase ; a passion which Kotzebue describes as more violent than that of the gamester : neither threats nor punishment can deter them from the practice of it. Gain is clearly not their object, for the flesh and skin of a chamois do not produce above twelve florins; and yet a mountaineer, who had been many times caught in the fact of stalking this quarry of the wilderness, declared that if he knew the next tree would be his gallows, he would nevertheless hunt ! M. de Sausure records a striking anecdote of a chamois hunter whom he knew : he was a tall well-made man, and had just married a very beautiful woman. “My grandfather," he said, “ lost his life in the chase, so did my father ; and I am so well assured that one day or other I shall so lose my own, that this bag, which I always carry with me when I hunt, I call my winding-sheet,

for I certainly shall never have

any other ; nevertheless, Monsieur, if you were to offer me a fortune on the condition that I should relinquish the chase, I would not accept it.” De Sausure says that he made several excursions among the Alps with this man-his strength and agility were astonishing, but his courage, or rather his temerity, was still greater. A year or two after the period refered to, his foot slipped on the edge of a precipice, and he met the fate he had so calmly anticipated.

This instinct, however, strong as it is, yields to the pressure of civilization ; I don't mean to say it is the peculiar taste of savages, but it becomes a constantly depreciating quality among citizens, partly owing to their position, and partly on account of other occupation--perhaps better. We have, indeed, our Metropolitan hunting countries-coursing in Kew Gardens, and pheasant shooting everywhere ; but the true flavour of sport must be sought farther a field. Christopher North went up to the Highlands in search of it, and found it on Braemar. There is a fine and beautiful alliance, he says, between all pastimes pursued on flood, field, and fell : the principles in human nature, on which they depend, are in all the same ; but these principles are subject to infinite modification and varieties, according to the difference of individual and national character. All such pastimes, if followed merely as pastimes, or as professions, or as the immediate means of sustaining life, require sense, sagacity, and knowledge of nature and nature's laws ; nor less patience, perseverance, courage even, and bodily strength or activity ; while the spirit which animates and supports them is a spirit of anxiety, doubt, fear, hope, joy, exultation, and triumph—in the heart of the young, a fierce passion—in the heart of the old, a passion still, but subdued and tamed down without having been much dulled or deadened by various experience of all the mysteries of the calling, and by the gradual subsiding of all impetuous impulses in the frames of all mortal men, beyond, perhaps, three-score, when the blackest head will be becoming grey, the most nervous knee less firmly knit, the most steely-springed instep less elastic, the keenest eye less of a far seeker, and above all, the most boiling heart less like a cauldron or a crater ; yea, the whole man subject to some dimness or decay, and consequently the whole duty of man, like the new edition of a book, from which many passages that formed the chief story of the editio princeps have been expunged, the whole character of the style corrected without having been thereby improved. Just like the later editions of the “Pleasures of Imagination, which were written by Akenside when he was about twenty-one, and altered by him at forty, to the exclusion, or destruction, of many most splendid acitia; by which process the poem, in our humble opinion, was shorn of its brightest beams, and suffered disasters, twilight and eclipse. John Wilson is somewhat long winded: but when he comes to the point you find him always to the purpose, e. g. Now seeing that such pastimes are in number almost infinite, and infinite the varieties of human character, pray what is there at all surprising in your being madly fond of shooting--and your brother Tom just as foolish about fishing—and cousin Jack perfectly insane about fox-hunting ; while the old gentleman, your father, in spite of wind and weather, perennial gout, and annual apoplexy, goes a coursing of the white tipped hare, on the bleak Yorkshire wolds? And uncle Ben, as if just escaped from Bedlam or St. Luke's, with Dr. Haslam at his heels, or within a few hundred yards’ start of Dr. Warburton, is seen galloping, in a Welsh wig and strange apparel, in the rear of a pack of Lilliputian beagles, all barking as if they were as mad as their master, supposed to be in chase of an invisible animal, who keeps eternally doubling in field and forest, “ still hoped for, never seen.”

Thus is the prepossession, and eke the pursuit still “remote from cities ;” but as the arts of peace march, before them flee the boon pastimes of flood and field, for woodcraft is in some sort the type of war. Yet it is not completely routed, and leaving to posterity the care of its own cares, and the cultivation of its proper pleasures, let us, as behoves men, in every interpretation of the term, enjoy the good within our reach. It is our duty to use all precaution for the preservation and promotion of health, and not only is it a more agreeable way to“ hunt in fields” for it but a more probable prospect of a find, than may be expected from feeing the doctor; and not only is the hope cure alone" sufficient to repay the search, but the great whet to enjoyment. By ’re Lady, it is right goodly that the season is so close at hand. I have written myself into an appetite for a burst, that will not brook long waiting. Turn then a whole wilderness of foxes afoot

“My great desire Had stomach for them all !”

All hail, November ! long wished for, a hundred times welcome, new thou art come. Let the winds blow, and crack their cheeks, what cares

the fox-hunter, so long as he hears that tocsin of the soul, the horn, which heralds “ gono-away" from twenty acres of woodland for twenty miles of open, with a preponderance of grass? Praise to the goddess of the Ephesians, the summer of our discontent is over : what long days there are between Easter and Michaelmas !

Ut nox longa quibus mentitur amica diesque
Longa videtur opus debentibus, ut piger annus
Pupillis quos dura premit custodia matrum :
Sic mihi tarda fluunt ingrataque tempora.

Long as to him who works for debt the day :
Long as the night to her whose love's away :
Long as the year's dull circle seems to run,
When the brisk minor pants for twenty-one :
So slow th' unprofitable moments roll
That lock up all the pleasures of my soul.

In such a frame of spirit, with a sound heart in corpore sano, only conceive yourself in the Crick country, with the Pytchley snugly laid under your lee, a holding scent, and a nag under you that knows not what it is to compound, whatever the pace.

Foxhunting is becoming a very expensive amusement. We do not hesitate to say that some countries pay more for preserving foxes and earth-stopping than kept our forefathers a good useful “cry of dogs” all the year round. Leicestershire cover rent, w have heard stated, at from a thousand to twelve hundred a-year. This may or may not be the case ; though if it be, we can only say, the sooner half the covers are stubbed the better. If Sir Ilarry Goodricke spent six thousand a-year, and Sir Bellingham Graham had, as reported, a subscription of four thousand a-year when he hunted it about twenty years ago, we might even put down a larger sum than twelve hundred pounds for cover rent: and if so, we can only say that land in Leicestershire must be very valuable.

We have it, however, in black and white, in the authority of Mr. Delmè Radcliffe, who hunted the country, that in the metropolitan county of Herts some three hundred a-year is paid for what may be called the mere good-will of the keepers towards foxes. This is all artificial ; and the more artificial things become, the more expensive they grow. Indeed, if population and agricultural improvement keep pace during the next half century with the increase and improvement of the last half century, hunting will be mere matter of history in half the counties in England. Leicestershire is now no more like what Leicestershire was in Mr. Meynell's time than is Salisbury Plain like the Vale of Blackmoor at the present day. The richer land becomes, either by drainage or other artificial means, and the larger crops it grows, the likelier it is to be subdivided ; and there is little doubt that many of the large fields we still see, parts of common land enclosed within the present century, will gradually become smaller and smaller as the land becomes richer and more valuable, until hunting will be a sort of “ hopping in and out” thing all day.

When Mr. Wilkins left, Mr. Payne, of Sulby, came to the rescue, and he continued at the head of the establishment till 1837-8. A

more proper master of foxhounds for the county of Northampton could not be. Mr. Payne is in every sense of the term a sportsman, and in his social capacity certainly as generally popular as any man of his time. He combines every quality for a M. F. II.-birth, condition, great local influence, and large local possessions. Jack Stevens still remained ; but he died soon after Mr. Payne's resignation, in the service of Lord Chesterfield, then master of the Pytchley. Will Derry, thereupon, became huntsman, and with Webb and Ball as whips, the noble lord of Bretby took the field in this crack country in fitting array. The mise en scene was magnificent : his stud was perfect, and almost without a limit, and it was no uncommon thing to see five-hundred men at a favourite meet. At this time Nimrod wrote, on a flying visit to Northampton :-" I had no opportunity of seeing the entire stud of Lord Chesterfield, but I heard from good judges that I should have seen about forty hunters, very superior to those generally found in any one man's stables.” This nobleman reigned for two brilliant seasons at the head of the Pytchley, and once more the country went a-begging.

Nobody was desirous of volunteering to be my Lord Chesterfield's foil ; and as no one could hope to be his rival, or even to smell at the same nosegay, matters were in a desperate condition when Mr. Smith, of the Craven, at the last moment undertook to form an administration. He certainly put his best leg foremost, and under every disadvantage he opened the campaign. It was a hazardous experiment-if not quite a forlorn hope. It was all very well for Cato to affect the victa causa, but it was an affair that might have given better men pause that entering at such fearful odds on the Pytchley woodcraft. However, with a spirit full of confidence in his own resources, this did the ex-master of the Craven, resolved to make up in out-and-out persevering sport for any want of eclàt in the materiel of his establishment. With every difficulty to contend with ; in the face of abated style and depreciated appearance, Mr. Smith went to work with a will that soon found its way to many a whoo-whoop. He proved himself in Northamptonshire quite as relentless a foe to the fox as in Berkshire, and breasting the storm he continued at the head of the Pytchley for two seasons. then beaten, and so would the country have been but for the sinews of war most liberally furnished by Lord Cardigan. That nobleman, it was understood, proposed to give to the country one of the most accomplished sportsmen that had ever shone in it or over it ; but for some local reasons the plan fell to the ground, and for a space Sir Francis Holyoake became master of the Pytchley. Peradventure it has at length chanced upon happier fortunes. Mr. Paync, of Sulby, again was -elected chief, and that his reign might be as long as it was destined to be profitable, was the universal hope of all who have the best interests of the country at heart. While he continues to minister to its prosperity the Pytchley shall surely rank, as it does, as the crack rural country of English fox-hunting.

He was

HIGHLAND SPORTS, AND SPORTING QUARTERS.

BY LINTON.

(Continued.) When the day had nearly closed, we found ourselves again on the grassy park immediately fronting the castle; and as the fast receding ligi fan autumnal evening left us but little time for consideration, we determined at once to settle our affairs with the gentleman in the basket, whom we had removed from his stony hiding-place. Among the canine race then enjoying a séjour in the Meggernie kennels were two well bred greyhound pups. These had hitherto scarcely ever seen a hare; certainly they had never tasted the excitement of an actual chace. We determined therefore on forth with granting them this pleasing amusement, with the true spirit of “doing to others, &c.," and we certainly had had our quantum of sport : ergo, the aspirants for future fame at Altcar were produced and secured in slips, and a graceful pair of puppies indeed were they. On the cover of the basket being lifted, away went puss, without hesitation, doubtless nothing loath-like what shall we say?-like the diable ?no! but like an uncommon strong and speedy hare, who had been well frightened, but not injured or disheartened by a few hours' imprisonment. The slips were loosed : Nature taught the rest, and away flew the puppies, proving well their good breeding by stamina and fleetness. Twice had the snow-white hare been turned, when again she stretched before her eager pursuers, immediately in front of the castle where we stood, as if determined to swim for life across the river, rather than die by such young foes, when lo! a new enemy appeared on the field of action, who soon decided the question. The scene was truly one of amusement: we had at the moment entirely forgotten that, previous to leaving the castle in the morning, a favourite and first-rate greyhound bitch, then heavy with pup, had been left in one of the rooms fronting the park, where the chace was then proceeding. The window of this room had unfortunately been left open, inasmuch as being from eighteen to twenty feet from the ground, it was never imagined that an animal in her state would endeavour to escape therefrom: nevertheless, we were deceived ; she managed, on hearing the halloos which sounded through the glen as encouragement to the young dogs, to raise herself on her hind legs and look out. The scene which presented itself was doubtless most satisfactory to her mind, for not a moment did she hesitate. Out from the window she sprung, heavy as she was, and alighted without injury on her feet: a few strides she made across the park straight for the hare, which was running at right angles to her. They met, and in an instant it was flung high in the air. Breathless with astonishment, the pups stopped their

rapid career, and gazed on the life

« 上一頁繼續 »