網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

INTERCEPTED CORRESPONDENCE FROM NORTHAMPTONSHIRE.

5

and so, at the happy moment, left to the pulic, masters and men, his favourite sport relieved from nearly all its evils, and restored to that character it never should have lost.

In concluding our sketch, we have only to add, that we have purposely avoided any allusion to those topics on which Lord George Bentinck has of late so signally distinguished himself. As a sportsman—and we beg to repeat, it is as a sportsman that we have published his portrait-not one of our subscribers, we are sure, will object to a word of what has been said. On the other hand, the very warmest of admirers as a turfite might be the bitterest of enemies as a statesman, and so we refrain from what, under the most favourable circumstances, could only be out of place here. If we did give an opinion on the success with which Lord George Bentinck has broken fresh ground, it would only be to the advantage of those pursuits we have the honour to represent. Let no Mawworm henceforth despise the argument of a man because he who offers it happens also to be a sportsman; let no assembly be less willing to learn from him who has had the heart and spirit to enjoy as well as to work; and, if possible, let no populace in future be led away by the force of mere pretension. There never was a grander mistake than the supposition that a turn for rational recreation is incompatible with the achievement of greater things; and there never was a finer example of its fallacy than the career of Lord George Bentinck.

FROM

INTERCEPTED CORRESPONDENCE

NORTHAMPTONSHIRE.

BY SCRIBBLE.

MY DEAR

You are a foxhunter, but not a letter writer. I'm both; and, moreover, a man of my word. I promised to send you a short account of our doings down here, and you may look for it periodically. I don't much care if government does open my letters to you, for I really have so few faults to find with the Pytchley, and they're all is established for the benefit of trainers and jockeys, their widows and children, under the provisional management of the Dukes of Beaufort, Bedford, and Rutland, Earls of Chesterfield and Eglintoun, and the Hon. G. S. Byng, each of whom has subscribed £25 to the fund, in addition to an annual subscription of £10. The subscription of a trainer or rider is limited to two guineas annually; and those who have contributed to the fund, and their widows and children, will have a preferable claim to relief; the committee, however, having the power of rejecting the donations and subscriptions of those who, in their opinion, are not worthy to become members of the society, and also of striking off the list any trainer or rider who may misconduct himself after becoming a subscriber. No grant will be made until after the Newmarket First Spring Meeting, 1847. Forty-seven trainers and jockeys have already subscribed, the majority for two guineas each. The fines imposed at York and Newmarket races, amounting to £51, have been added to the capital.

such excellent fellows here, that I don't think they'd take it amiss if I picked a hole or two in a coat occasionally. They'd consider it, as it was meant, for their own good, and get it mended in all probability. The Pytchley men are gentlemen, as well as sportsmen ; and the two words are not synonymous, though lawyers' clerks with scarlet coats and leather breeches choose to think them so. Don't mistake me: we have an occasional gent, or a snob, and even a “leg” or two; but then they come from "nobody knows where," and they go back again to the same place after the day's sport. I have my eye now upon one of each sort: and very fortunate it is for

you;

for a series of descriptions of “gentlemen” only would be very unedifying. By the way, my dear fellow, pray burn these letters as you get

them; for posthumous publication is so common and, generally speaking, so injudiciously done, that if I outlive you, I shall be in constant terror of your executors; and suppose any of the “snobs” or “gents” should have become gentlemen (for West Indian uncles dying will make a difference, you know), why I shall never get an invitation to the new baronial ball which is to outdo Pawsley, Watford, Cottisbrook, Sulby, and all the respectable bricks or stones in the county. Therefore, destroy this ; and remember that respectable bit of Greek morality which says: “Butter your friends only to a certain degree, lest they some time or other become enemies, and snub “gents” only in such a manner that they can some time become your friends." You recollect the passage in the Ajax of Sophocles, when we were at Eton; more by token you may have been flogged for it :

τ' εχθρός ημίν ες τοσόνδ' εχθαρτέος,
ώς και φιλήσων αυθις: ές τε τον φίλον
τοσαυ 9' υπουργών ωφελέιν βουλή σομαι,

us aièv óv jevõ voa' What a pleasant thing it is, in November, to take up one's quarters in such a hunting country as this, with half-a-dozen good horses ! Not that I mean you to suppose that such is my case. This is a mere abstract proposition which “nobody can deny.” No, my dear fellow, we can't afford that: nevertheless, we took an early opportunity, with our small stud, of meeting the worthy master, George Payne, Esq., at Nobottle Wood. It was nearly his first public day. He had been at North Kilworth before, and had a very nice thing from Misterton Gorse, through Shawell, to Coton-4 miles, in about 17 minutes. At Nobottle we did very little but a ring, with a kill : much as usual-Nobottle, Althorp; Althorp, Nobottle; with Blackthorn Spinny and Harpole Hill for side dishes for those who can't dine off heavy meats. However, there were the hounds to look at; and really a great treat. Magnificent condition ! hand at describing hounds. I shall take shelter in the shady intelligence of an acquaintance of mine, who says that they are larger than some he has seen, and not so large as others. safe ; it can't offend anybody. Jorrocks, too, gives some excellent advice to young sportsmen who know nothing about it: “ If they're fat, say they're wery even in condition; if lean, say they look like going a bust; if jest nothink in partickler, you can say you never saw a nicer lot.”

But, joking apart, I never did see a “ nicer lot,” and

a

This is very

whoever has the management of them deserves especial thanks from the county: is it Payne from the Oakley? But beyond their excellence of condition, they appear to be under excellent command. We used to be rather remarkable here for a rattling burst of ten minutes, a check, and — another draw; not so now-quite different. Don't you recollect the post-boy from Slough, when I mildly asked permission to ride and put him inside, as we were going home from Eton ?—“Quite different, Sir, quite different!" He was a man of few but impressive words--so am I. Not long back, in a dry cold easterly wind, no rain for a fortnight before, they ran a fox, on the coldest possible scent, from the osier-bed at Welton to the village of Staverton, within a quarter of a mile of one of Lord Southampton's covers—five miles, as the crow flies, and about eight as we had come. It's no " butter” to say that they are a very first-rate pack of hounds, and I shouldn't mind if George Payne saw this himself. I know a nobleman in this county, who was asked by a Warwickshire man “whether the Pytchley were improved this year:" with a most laudable patriotism he declined understanding the question. When pressed by something still more definite, if possible, he rejoined: “Oh! I see, my dear fellow, why I didn't think it possible for hounds to be better even last year than ours were.” And if sport is to be the test, he answered rightly. Whether it is so or not is another question; I feel morally certain that they can't be better than they are now.

Lord Southampton is at Preston Capes to-day; but as it is raining like bricks, and I've got the rheumatism in the back of the neck, I'm staying at home to write to you. I trust you feel grateful. Why don't you come down for a season ? there are some excellent quarters vacant at W—-n: Mr. B-ll is a most admirable landlord; brews very good beer, and is the honestest horse-dealer in the world. I dare say there are plenty of the same trade would be glad to question this laiter assertion; but he's just sold me a horse worth all the money, so I speak well of the bridge that carries me over. Besides all this, I know your love of worldly “contingencies,” and when I tell you that the quarters have lately been occupied by a

" Ladie of high degree,

Beautiful exceedinglie,” I think they will not be the less welcome on account of their aristocratic associations. You know something of the country too. Isn't that sufficient to tempt you? Large grass fields, carrying a burning scent-half a mile gallop at a stretch. “ Yes, that horrid ridge and furrow, and an awful bullfinch that hasn't been lopped away for this twenty years.". Ridge and furrow are nothing when you're used to them, and the farming is fast improving. The country is truly here and there rayther strongly enclosed ; but in many places the hedges are plashed, and the ditches conveniently cleaned out, for lying in; add to which there are more gates in Northamptonshire than any two counties of the same size, and as many people make use of them. Short legs, a long purse, and an eye for a bridle-gate, are useful things here, I assure you. And I will say this for a Pytchley field: they are the very best disposed, most amiable creatures in a gateway : with every natural anxiety to get through before you, they invariably give you fair play. I can't say as much for our neighbours. Your civility in opening a gate is generally rewarded by being pushed over it; and a friend of mine, to whom it has twice happened, finds the fencing far less dangerous.

You know our master? if not, he's the beau ideal of a fashionable sportsman--good-looking, cheerful, well-dressed, without an atom of dandyism, and sufficiently zealous without forgetting the “gentleman;' he hunts' his own hounds without displaying the apathetic indifference too common amongst sportsmen of the present day, or the six o'clock-rising, beef-and-beer-eating boisterousness of the old school. There's one little change in his appearance this year, and it seems to have been commented upon by a very elegant and distinguished writer to the

NH- I am sure you will appreciate the extract:-“There were a good sprinkling of gentlemen to meet the worthy master, George Payne, Esq., who is too well known to require comment, except sporting a new cap, which is far preferable to a tile when hunting ; but I must say that gentleman looks best in a castor, at least, appeared so to me.” What a fortunate man George Payne is to have some public character to tell him how to dress, and in such good English too! How like it sounds to “Which it are, in courge, accordinge!" of Mrs. Gamp. He's changed his hat and his stud : the latter change is not remarked upon; so I suppose Mr. Payne forgot to consult the county upon his change of " castor," and the gentleman feels aggrieved. The change of stud is, I believe, for the better, though one excellent horse, John Bull, is gone out of it, not to return. His place is supplied by the Merry Shepherd, Oscar, Wandering Jew, and others, to whom I wish a long season and a merry one.

There's another class of persons here who are very fond of the master-the farmers, the yeomen of Northamptonshire: no inconsiderable body. They're all of them theoretical sportsmen, many of them practical: not one that does not feel disappointed at his gorse being drawn blank; many that love to see reynard killed; a few that make him more than an occasional present from their poultryyard. One of them sung me a song the other day, and I made interest with a sporting tradesman to get me a copy: here it is:

“ A tumbler of punch to the health of George Payne!

Come drink, my brave yeomen, the toast :
We prefer it to Burgundy, claret, champagne,

For the man that's a whole county's boast.
Here's a glass for the high, and a 'go' for the low,

Rich and poor will both bid him.God speed !'
But we'll drink it in punch, for we very well know,

Who's the foxhunter's friend at his need.

“There's no brook that's too wide, and no bullfinch too high,

When he settles himself in his seat,
As he cheers on his hounds on a scent in full cry ;

And for pace, sir, he cannot be beat.
When his musical notes through old Vanderplank ring,

And Lillburne resounds to his voice,
I care not what rivals all England may bring ;

George Payne is the winner .for choice.'

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

to

.

" In a country all grass, and where foxes abound,

And with farmers so fond of the sport,
'Twould be sad not to hear the blythe cry of a hound,

Or forget one of such a good sort.'
So we'll drink to the health of the men of first flight,

And the first in the flight is George Payne
For when wanting a sportsman to do the thing right,

We shall know where to find him again."
The gentleman who wrote that has been kissing the Blarney Stone
to some purpose; but the fact is, that he deserves everything that can
be said of him, for the country was actually begging, and would have
gone begging some time longer but for Mr. Payne's liberality.
May he be well supported, for he richly deserves it.
I

suppose you want to know something of the sport this month : well, first of all, it is only the end of the first month; and secondly, nothing can be so horrid as the description of a run, unless well told; what must the description of a whole month's runs be? Every now and then a penny-a-liner treats “Bell's Life,” or the “Eraanother day with the Pytchley,” or “the Pytchley again,” in which he mistakes the names of all the covers, and describes some worthy who dropt upon the hounds from no one knows where, in crossing a turnpike road, as having led through the run. Lord Orford must have been surprised, if not gratified, to find the other day that "the Honourable F. Villiers went, like a pigeon, up to this point, and that his lordship then took up the running with his usual good judgment and perseverance.” Lord Alford, for whom it was intended, modestly enough declines standing godfather, not having been first at any time in a run which nobody saw. It was a most wonderfully fine thing, and certainly as little seen as any run upon record, excepting one I heard of in Leicestershire (true or false, I know not), when Lord Gardner caught sight of the hounds twice in half an hour, and the rest of the field “ nowhere.” The meet was Kelmarsh, the seat of Lord Bateman--not he so celebrated in song," whó shipped his self all aboard of a ship”—but a gentleman who prefers "shipping his self all aboard of a saddle.” From Kelmarsh gorse a fox went away to Naseby, twenty minutes too fast for anything but good men and good horses. Having run him to ground, Waterloo cover afforded another fox, and a good one; this is almost the finest country in England. From there to Bray brooke, and on to Marston Wood, is no joke with a scent breast high. Mr. Payne foand it matter of great difficulty to get through it: Lords Henley and Alford picked their way at no inconsiderable distance from the pack: accident assisted the Honourable F. Villiers to the end of the run. Mr. Bevan was obliged occasionally to look for a light place in the fences; and his horse's hind legs stuck so very ominously in the bank of the brook which he came at first, that it gave po great encouragement to Lord Henley and about two others who were behind him, though his lordship really got over very well. Every description of difficult fence presents itself in this formidable country; and at almost the beginning of the run an awful rail very nearly settled the business. Mr. Bevan, however, got over it, and Mr. Villiers hit it so hard as to loosen it. This gladdened the hearts of his successors; though I believe I've told you every one who saw the run at all, and they only at a distance.

« 上一頁繼續 »