« 上一页继续 »
would be a better word) I am not prepared to say; but however effected, it must have been the result of much time and trouble. It's a pity it was not impossible. ... Mr. Gurney, the great banker of Norwich, was a great man in those days with the Pytchley. He rode nineteen stone-one would have thought he might as well have ridden nineteen tons, for the matter of fox hunting. But then he had money at discretion-gold, which makes the mare go, as well as all else physical, moral, and immoral, at the rate of a Great Western Railway Express. This celebrated friend of the chase was one of the most agreeable frequenters of the cover side, as well as one of the most tremendous riders that ever thundered after a pack of hounds. “Take him for all in all” perhaps he was the most extraordinary man ever seen in the hunting field. Apropos of the big ones, a word anent Mr. Capel Rose, who about this period rode in Northamptonshire the tallest horse ever seen with hounds in England. This Brobdignag nag came, of course, from the metropolis, where all the miracles go, and where they are scattered over the rural districts. He was a bright chesnut, of very commendable symmetry, thoroughbred, or thereabouts, and stood seventeen hands high-high and no mistake! The Rev. Mr. Isham was one of their ultra fast ones : when the church takes to the chase, it makes uncommon running, and that's the fact. There were not long since, in the Cheshire hunt, three brothers, of whom the following posy was current:
" If my life should depend on the wager,
I know not which brother I'd back;
The purple, the pink, or the black.” But the clergyman was the member of the triumvirate that I should have chosen to stand upon, or to have taken against the field.” Mr. Elwes, before alluded to, rode blood horses, and rode them well: what gentleman should ever mount himself on a cocktail, the very emphatic for a quadruped snob? Mr. Nethercoat has already been seen among the first flight of that day; and there was one of his neighbours, Mr. Hanbury, of Maidwell, another of the very right sort. Mr. Otway Cave was then full of the spirit of fox-hunting, and the gathering at Northampton, of course, was made up of sportsmen, or what business had they there ? Among the cream of these was a Mr. Mowbray, who always had a stable-full of first-rate horses, and was an out-and-out disciple of Diana. He hunted every day in the week, and went like a professor of the craft. Mr. Gully, so renowned in sporting circles of several sorts, made Northampton his head quarters about this period, with a very level stud of hunters— nags set at long prices, should anybody fall in love with them. Mr. Gully was not a crack rider, but he was quite in earnest in the field, you may be sure. Colonel Alix, of the Guards, was a bruiser, always on great slashing horses, the ideal of a pioneer across country. Colonel Pack, also in the Guards, was a very finished specimen of a fox-hunter. Then there was Mr. Davy, one of the most accomplished horsemen that ever took a mouth in hand. All his hunters were "refined" performers, very perfect, gentle steeds. Mr. Bouverie was one of their Nestors; but the sage of Delapre, though no longer in his larking days, was well horsed and well disposed to go. Of the Northampton lot, too, there was a Mr. Doddington, who rode magnificent thorough-breds, and went well. He was distinguished by wearing always in the field a light grey frock coat. I'm not sure that these items of relief to a mob of gentlemen in pink are in evil taste or bad keeping.
Such, or something like it, was the Pytchley of the golden age of the chase. Aye, the golden age of hunting, believe me, though we still have, and shall continue to possess during our run, the sport of racing after deer and foxes. T'he hour and the man (time is now discovered to be money, and man its alchymist) have swept before them many of the pastimes of merry England, in her fond but foolish days. Where is May, with its Morris-dancers ?--Autumn, with its harvest home revels? Peradventure we are more wise if less merry; but not for that reason should we be unmindful of those, who in fitting season furnished the appliances and means of woodcraft, wbile yet it was a popular pleasure.
In the annals of the Pytchley, foremost as a sportsman will be read, as it is written, the name of George Osbaldeston, that “ Squire” par excellence, who shall descend to posterity as the sporting Crichton. He hunted Northamptonshire when the noble science had touched the point of perfection, and just paused before the turn. There may have been more professed kennel artists, more scientific field huntsmen, more gentle and aristocratic masters ; but take him for all in all, I doubt whether we shall ever look upon his like again, in the general character of M. F. H. They will tell you he was too fond of “ blowing up." We don't anywhere hear that the family of Osbaldeston is derived in a direct line from Job, and as the Squire never professed to be a philosopher in the circumstances that continually surrounded him, what wonder that now and then he did “blaspheme and make wry faces.” Of all the soultempting situations to which human nature, with a natural dash of the devil in it, can be exposed, is that of master of foxhounds burning to show sport, on which a brigade of mischief-mongers is showering cold water. Few can conceive the skill, labour, and expense, lavished to bring a crack pack to the cover side ; nonc, but those who have endured it, can imagine the agony of heart, the desperation of spirit with which its discomfiture is contemplated-with which the master-mind that brought it there sees it ridden over, trampled upon, bedevilled, and driven into mutiny. Oh! the unspeakable trial to witness, "all your pretty ones at one fell swoop " driven from their propriety, and a couple of parishes beyond the scent, by a charge of cruel Cockney cavalry. And what's the adjective Cockney, I should be glad to know, if over riding and over driving hounds be not the superlative of it? It's all very well for my Lord Mayor, or the parish beadle -
"To view this business with a sense as cold
As is a dead man's nose ;
but if Stoicism had been born of British chivalry, bred up in the horror of a blank day, and trained reteris Bacchi pinguisque ferina, Zeno
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 avitia; 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 food 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 “ gone-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
Long as to him who works for debt the day:
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 uuder 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, we 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 Harry 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