Page images
[graphic][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

upwards, won by Lord George Bentinck's Terrier-to say little or nothing of another Sweepstakes of the same character, won by another of his Lordship's team, Malvoisie. I am silent touching the rest, partly from want of space, and partly from fear of perpetrating too much of a good thing. The week produced fifty races ; many of them of a character uncommon even at Newmarket, but which could not, by any accident, have occurred elsewhere. The business, too, came off in unequalled form : the officials worked admirablyfrom lords to commons—from the Stewards to the telegraphs. If there be such a thing as drawing a proof from a conclusion, then is the popularity of the turf at these presents a great fact-and no mistake.



"If you plaze, sir," said the Irish attendant on a Boulogne steamer, to the commander-in-chief—"if you plaze, sir, can anything be lost at all, if you knows where it is ?"

“The deuce a bit, Paddy; how in the world could it be ?"

“Well, 'faith, it's glad am I to hear you say that; for sure, then, the new tay-kettle's right enough, though it's jist had the misfortune to go to the bottom."

On precisely this system of reasoning is there a very wide difference between a fox lost and a fox (like the one in our plate, to use Paddy's own phrase)" going to the bottom.” In the former of these two predicaments, the steward or huntsman puts himself and assistants to no end of toil and trouble, and suffers no little vexation of spirit, all “ free gratis for nothing." Lookerson, too, his patrons, friends, and the public at large, whose convenience or amusement is in any ways interrupted by the absence of so essential an item, are apt to be more ready than just in their observations touching the thick-headed knave” whose great business it is to find him again. The long-protracted hope, « fine by degrees and beautifully less," the doubtful delay-on which point

, by the hye, they generally follow the learned judge's directions in giving themselves the full benefit of the doubtwill too frequently, after a bit, sour the sweet spirit within, and smother all

proper consideration for the difficulties in the way of their most obedient, humble servant. As long as there be the slightest chance, the “ Hattering unction” will be cherished; but when the end of the voyage or the day's sport proclaims every'effort of hand and head unavailable, that foxy's blood or whisky-punch is not to be had Warm, the passengers or the sportsmen return home to their anxious friends, the better part dreadfully disappointed, the more unworthy genus horribly disgusted. Now, in the going to the bottom or the going to ground peradventure there is no uncertainty, and consequently very little dissatisfaction of this sort. Says the acting man,



“So far, ladies and gentlemen, we have brought you along all well enough, I believe; as long as there was a move to be made above ground or above water, it was tried on; but at this stage it remains with you to take the choice of three offers: Will you keep in with us till we find another ?—stop here and see if we can fish this old ’un up again ?-or, if you think we have all had enough to do us good for one day, make the best of your way home without any more." after this, a man will risk another experimental lesson in the law of chances, it is pretty evident he has no one to fall foul of but himself. If the said finding of another turns out a much better proposition than an actual performance, or if, when found, he proves of a very inferior quality, when compared with the last, why there is no possible plea for calling the officials to account on that head. Or if, again, he will stay loitering and lingering about to watch the preparations entered on for exhuming his first acquaintance, and so make out a brilliant opening with a dreary finish, his influenzas and out-of-tempers must be on his own head.

Running a fox to ground is, at almost any time, a tolerably good compromise for all parties concerned between killing or losing him outright. Huntsman and hounds leave off with a consciousness and a confidence of not only having really done their duty, but everything that could possibly be expected of them; while reynard has the pleasure of feeling he has shown some sport, heightened by the additional gratification that he may live to show more another day. There is, moreover, something in so sudden a stop particularly in character with the “decisive” nature of modern fox-hunting, that to our ideas it should only, under very rare circumstances, be disregarded, or the chase of the same animal renewed. We do not mean to say that, when a fox has taken to a shallow drain, or any small shelter of that description, which may be easily broken open, but that his majesty should quickly have the option of breaking away or being broken up without further grace. Providing this can be accomplished in a few moments or minutes, while the excitement is yet alive, and the glow of the thing on them, it is, perhaps, after all, like the short check, more of a blessing than anything else. But, on the other hand, laying regular siege to a deep old earth* -some half or three quarters of an hour's work on a December day, however fine fun for farm-labourers and rough terriers, is rather different in its enjoyments for hounds and horses, saying nothing of those for whose peculiar pleasures they are judged the mere instruments. The chief argument used in favour of such a practice is rather a want of blood than sport : indeed, as far as regards sport, digging a fox out seldom tends to increase it, for not one out of twenty-after the infernal fuss they have been making above him, the funk he has been in, and the cramped and chilled condition in which he is warned off again--can manage to make anything like the fight he might, had he only “kept pushing on and moving.” Indeed, we are rather induced to believe this decidedly unfair, if we must not venture to say unsportsman-like, mode of preceeding might be traced

* We may be told an old “Mother Earth” (so to speak) is held sacred; but having witnessed instances of the contrary, we plead a precedent.

to another custom, which at present being nearly altogether abolished, promises well for the disuse of its companion, even now gradually on the decline. In the olden time, a death was a mighty fine thing in a great many more ways than one; there was the brush and the pads for the field (in far greater estimation, be it remembered, with ancients than moderns), the blood and bones for the pack, and, above all, the half-crowns for the huntsman. In those barbarian dynasties, then, the account stood thus: if the hounds showed a good sporting run, but didn't wind up with a who-whoop, the gentlemen got their day's diversion gratis, and the hounds went home with empty bellies, the huntsman in sweet sympathy with empty pockets. For the reverse, let a poor devil be mobbed or bullied to death how he would, so long as he had been hustled over three or four inclosures, and it was a death and not a chop, then, of course, came a grand finale, with a blowing of trumpets and a long-continued howling and gnashof teeth—the end of it all being, as it always is with the wild man in the wonderful peep-shows, that Tom, Jack, or Will, the huntsman, was "allowed to go round and make a small collection." Running a fox to earth, and then digging away at him, must naturally have been among the best of these games going; and leaving them open and driving him into them about the surest, we wouldn't insinuate the commonest, ways of making money. And, in defiance to this cruel cry, how many a gallant fellow has been coldly murdered in sight of his very Penates, without even a ghost of a chance, because, as whisper went, the hounds wanted blood; though, according to neighbour Sly, 'twas more the huntsman wanted browns.

The picture, from which our present plan of “ going to ground” is derived, occupied a deserved place in the last exhibition of paintings at the Royal Academy. As a work of art, we think the majority of our friends will readily acknowledge its merit, though at the same time we expect that many an old sportsman may declare his utter inexperience of any such adventure as here depicted. It was, in fact, more from its very singularity than anything else that we decided on engraving it; and we may accordingly at once give due notice to all young gentlemen and old ladies, that

they may pursue the break-neck amusement known as fox-hunting for years, without ever coming to so sudden a stop as the man on the grey, or “ going to ground” in the fashion of (as John Corbet would have said) “ the best hound in the pack.” Still, in some of the ragged one-sided hunting-countries on the coast, such as parts of Devonshire, Dorsetshire, Yorkshire, and North Wales, where foxes, when pressed, are very apt to make for the cliffs, our artist might alight on the original of his sublime subject; while, for our own part, one of the greatest facts we have been able to assist him to in the way of corroboration is found in the following anecdote.--Time, 1810.-Scene, Ireland.-When, in the course of a run with the Boyne hounds,“ reynard being severely pressed, mounted the high and craggy rocks which overhung the ocean, and gallantly plunged into the waves beneath, the hounds, having caught a view, rushed after him. The sportsmen now approached, enveloped in smoke, and their horses covered with foam. Never was there seen more determined and desperate riding; they moved like a whirlwind; the enthusiasm of hunting had reached its highest pitch ; and a noble struggle for precedency commenced, to save the fox. Lynch the huntsman, who first arrived, dashed from the precipice into the sea. Like an electric shock, the impulse seized the hunters as they came up; quick, quick, they follow his example. In the end the fox was rescued, and every sportsman safely gained the shore." We tell the story as it was told to us in the pure prose

of its Hibernian historian; there is something, indeed, particularly Irish about the whole of it: running a fox, as it is stated, for eighteen miles, and then risking their own lives to save his. He was rescued too; most likely, we imagine, to die a more gentlemanly death, on the rule that “ a fox that is born to be worried will never be drowned." The determined and desperate riding of Lynch and Co. though, we must confess, would be hard to beat, even with the powers of poor Nimrod - of whose used-up anecdotes, by the way, some of our friends just now are making strong use : Godfrey Graham and his cat-footed mare ; Jack Shirley, open-knife, ant-hills, groggy legs, and all; Captain Brydges and the Devil's Dyke; or Mr. Assheton Smith and his many wonderful exploits ; certainly do not any of them surpass this feat of the wild Irishmen. In one particular, however, on reading it over, we find this example can scarcely chime in with our plate; the precipice and so forth is all apt enough, but then their fox went to water, whereas ours is “

gone to ground. Still, as it brings us home again to “ going to the bottom" either way, and the tay-kettle query with which we commenced, we may as weil leave it where it is.

[ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]

There is an ancient axiom, that," to view our social life arigbt, in is true national character, you must be permitted to see and mingle with the circle of a country mansion well filled ;" and there can be no doubt, that only in a country house, or in the midst of his park, his farms, his woods and plantations, an Englishman breaks from his habits of reserve, and gives vent to his natural feelings. Many a man, who passes in London for a mere frivolous lord of the creation, comes forth in the country in a manner that would astonish those who have formed an estimate of his character in the circles of Almack's, at the bow-window of White's, or at the recherché supper of Crockford's “ in the olden time.” These reflections came over my mind during my late visit to Cheshire, as will appear in the course of my narrative.—But to proceed with my excursion.

It was about the middle of October that a kind of invitation was

« PreviousContinue »