Page images

the provincial countries, which are intricate, confined, or intersected with dingles, they often have an advantage over the horseman, especially when a fox does not run tolerably straight. There is a man named Dallow residing at Bridgenorth, who has been for many years an attendant upon the hounds which hunt that country, particularly that part which lies between the town in which he lives and Ludlow; where, from the numerous dingles and hills, together with the tenacious quality of the soil, he will frequently see more of a run than those who, mounted on horseback, do not possess an equal knowledge of the country which his long experience has made him perfect in. His ostensible occupation is that of a gardener; he is a light wirymade man, and very abstemious in his habits-a circumstance which no doubt contributes vastly to his pedestrian powers.

"The sweep what hunts with the Duke," is another instance in which the ruling passion is strongly portrayed, but he is one of the equestrian order; and although I have never had an opportunity of witnessing his performance, I have been given to understand he has been in the habit of keeping a tolerably fair place in a run, considering the quality and condition of the animal which he bestrides.

It is universally asserted that two callings of her Majesty's subjects have never as yet made any proficiency in the art of horsemanship, namely sailors and tailors. Of the first of these, however, the remark must apply to the profession generally, inasmuch as individually there are some to be found who are both first-rate horsemen and first-rate sportsmen; but of the genus tailor, I am not aware of one who has as yet arrived at any honourable distinction in the field. There is, nevertheless, an individual at Leamington, commonly designated "The Sporting Tailor," who appears to be emulous of rescuing his fraternity from the obloquy under which they labour; having likewise a most inordinate propensity for sueing such of his customers as may not be so prompt in their payments as his inclination, and possibly his necessities, may require, he appears determined to exemplify his unsatiable love of sport of all kinds. Should he eventually be able to attract the attention of her Majesty, and obtain the honour of knighthood, his ambition may probably be satisfied upon the mandate being given, "Arise, Sir Richard, son of a tailor!" A goose and a griffin would be very applicable as the supporters to the coat of arms of a knight of the thimble, with a cabbage for the crest.

Since steeple-chasing has been introduced, there is no doubt it has had an injurious tendency towards the legitimate sports of the British nation-hunting and racing; and it is difficult to assert which has suffered the most, but probably the latter. That its substitution, either as a national amusement or as a local benefit to the towns and neighbourhood where it has been established, can scarcely require an argument to prove the disadvantages of the exchange.

Cheltenham Races in a great measure owe their downfall to the introduction of the steeple-chase. Has the exchange proved beneficial to any parties? It is also well known to all persons acquainted with the circumstances, that a certain Right Reverend Divine, in his great zeal for the morals of his flock, has thought it incumbent upon his duties that he should denounce with the most sanctimonious aus

terity all amusements (especially racing) which are the means of relieving his fellow-creatures from the monotonous routine of their daily avocations. If our Creator had intended that man should devote the whole of his time to serious meditations, and the performance of laborious duties only, the various objects available for amusement and relaxation from toil with which we are surrounded would not have been provided.

The steeple-chases which have been established at Worcester have most certainly had a very great effect in diminishing the interest and prosperity of the races, and the same is also equally apparent at Hereford. With one of the very best country courses in England, and under the guidance of most judicious management, those races bid fair a year or two ago to rival, if not to become superior to, any provincial meeting we have, where only an equivalent attraction in the form of public money, the universal magnet, is offered. Judiciously disposed of, and punctually-paid money, is sure to command racing; and those meetings will ensure the greatest success where the funds are most ample, in conjunction with fair, honourable, and well-digested plans. In the principality of Wales, the number of race meetings is very considerably diminished; and those few which remain are lingering on, like the glimmering light of a lamp whose exhausted oil languishes for timely replenishment. Most of the counties in South Wales have got up steeple-chases, and the race meetings have given


Effects, as a matter of course, are sequent upon causes, and it does not require much penetration to decide why the establishment of steeple-chasing must diminish the prosperity of racing. One great reason-perhaps the predominant one-may be explained by these facts. There are certain persons in all counties who patronize races by their subscriptions to funds and stakes: first of all, country gentlemen and landed proprietors, who are not owners of race-horses, but who do it from the two-fold motives of desiring to support an amusement which has led to the existence of a breed of horses superior to and more valuable than any other in the world, and of promoting the interest and pleasure of their tenants and their friends; another class is found in the hotel and innkeepers, and such tradesmen who are connected with occupations immediately affected by an influx of company, each feeling it to be his interest-for that, after all, is the leading feature in John Bull's composition. These parties subscribing their funds to steeple chases, withdraw their money from the racing subscriptions; consequently the amount is diminished, and the races lose their attraction. Owners of horses, being induced by the golden harvests to try their chances at Ascot, Liverpool, Goodwood, Doncaster, and such-like places, where success for one stake repays them better than winning half-a-dozen of trifling magnitude. To what circumstance is the success of Wolverhampton races attributable? The question is easily answered: to the affluence of the funds, and the punctuality with which all the payments of public money is attended. The course is not superior to many others, the town boasts of no attractions, and yet the racing is incomparably superior to Warwick, with the gay town of Leamington in the immediate vicinity,

a royal plate, and its establishment many years prior, to give the title of precedence; but with the exception of the Leamington Stakes there is seldom a race at Warwick that attracts much attention. There is no steeple-chase at Wolverhampton or in the neighbourhood, the racing authorities having invariably opposed the innovation. At Warwick, steeple-chasing has been in fashion for several years; but they have found that neither country gentlemen, innkeepers, or tradesmen will subscribe to both, and the funds being divided, each are injured. Without entering into the more minute consideration of the benefits or disadvantages of steeple-chasing, a review of the late Goodwood Meeting will shew to what a state of interest and excellence a race meeting may be raised by judicious arrangements and plenty of money.

The indefatigable exertions of Lord George Bentinck have indisputably placed Goodwood Races on a pinnacle of excellence which no other person could have brought to bear, because no other nobleman or gentleman possesses the happy combinations of ability, experience, unwearied attention, and power to execute, which his lordship does. The success attendant upon the last meeting must be highly satisfactory to all concerned. The resolutions adopted to enforce the payment of stakes and bets are highly important; but there is a great difficulty-apparently an insurmountable one-of restraining defaulters from running their horses or betting by proxy; in fact, without some legislative enactment to bring offending parties within the cognizance of the laws of perjury, it is certainly impracticable; and even then it would be very difficult to bring cases home. An individual who will lend his name, character, and services to a man who has publicly proclaimed his resignation to all claims on reputation, will not be very scrupulous in declaring a fact, the truth of which, however it may be doubted, cannot be brought to light by anything stronger than presumptive evidence.

When and how an effective prohibition can be opposed to the designs of betting-men, who are determined to victimize the credulous portions of the community, it is difficult to imagine; but it is a sad condition of affairs that a man should be able to bet to a great amount, which losing, he refuses to pay, although it is well known that he possesses the means of defraying the greater portion, if not the whole of his loss; and to carry his system of plunder still further, employs an agent or agents to bet for him during his exile from the ring, in the execution of which there are plenty willing enough to undertake the commission, so long as they are supplied with funds to meet the engagements. On the other hand, when a man confines his speculations within reasonable bounds, and is unable to meet his engagements in consequence of the defalcations of others, his case is excessively hard, and one in justice which requires attention. Since the members of the Jockey Club have come to the resolution not to adjudicate on the subject of disputed bets a great difficulty arises, and which, under the present regulation of ejecting persons from betting rooms and race courses, may very probably be productive of much inconvenience. Supposing two men having a dispute concerning a bet meet at a race, the one protests against the other being admitted within.

[ocr errors]

the precincts of the ring; unless the question in dispute be decided, how is the regulation to be enforced? It is generally admitted that the word of one man is as good as that of another until evidence is produced to decide the point, and it would be not only unfair, but quite at variance with the spirit of the regulations now exacted, to exclude the innocent man from the sphere of speculation.

Very few of the strictest moralists go so far as to deny that mankind do not require the enjoyment of occasional amusement. The mind of man when excluded from society and the participation of social pleasures, loses its buoyancy, its flexibility, and its energy; constantly confined to one train of ideas, it becomes warped, illiberal, and incapable of expansion. Upon the choice of pleasures much of the conduct of individuals depends; and consequently to such as come under the denomination of national amusements will national character in an equal degree be influenced. Effeminate, luxurious, and enervating pursuits weaken the mind and the body. Brutal and ferocious pursuits lead to passions tending to crafty cowardice or savage insensibility. It is, therefore, highly incumbent on all desirous of promoting the good character of their fellow countrymen, the harmony and social propensity of individuals, to encourage such sports and amusements as possess the most desirable emblems for imitation. These remarks will be acknowledged to their utmost extent by all who can bear in remembrance the determination with which the lower orders adhered to the cruel, debasing sport of bull-baiting, in the neighbourhood of Darlaston, Bilston, Wednesfield, and Wolverhampton, prior to the establishment of races at the latter place; persuasion, influence, even legal authority, were insufficient to divert them from their purpose, until the races attracted their attention, for which neither eloquence nor authority was requisite to induce them to the participation of an amusement in which they now appear to be highly interested.


BY T. C. B.

"Marry, sir,

Th' aquatic had the best."-OLD PLAY.

When members wax scant in the two houses, and legislation folds her parchment wings for the season, permitting even those of the lawcraft to take recreation, then is our wont to sail with the stream unto a neighbouring coast, and with a fortnight's dose of the briny expurgate from our immediate recollections, visions of printing-houses and presses, founts, forms and pica, books and book-learning, with all the tripartite lumber of literary manufacture," useful, moral, and enter

taining." Here we take no half measures-" it's no a pint-stoup wi' us"-but a whole cruize. We are no amphibii—

"One foot on land, and one on sea

To one thing constant never."

No morning sail or day's excursion sufficeth for our health; we revolutionize our whole system, and become ipse facto a sailor. We are either "out and away" to the "Bay of Biscay, O," where the waves toss and tumble overboard our head-spleen, after the violent fashion of cure of Dr. Sangrado; or we take our ease on fair Medina's waters, and coast Jersey, Guernsey, Havre, and Dieppe, vouchsafing a passing visit to all; thus, by the cold water cure (taken to be sure with salt), obliterating our inky heart-ache for a happy space, wherein air and ocean seem scarcely so free or so expansive as ourselves. All that is base and trivial, all that is of " the earth, earthy," and that furrows the brow and the temper with distaste of the human dust of which we are made, and with whom we commingle, fades into its real insignificance. The mind becomes its own again, and something better

[ocr errors][merged small]

We read in the tablets of the sky, in the unequal mirror of the ocean, that which reduces human life (that small part of our endless being) to its proper level; while the beauty and variety, the grandeur and the majesty, of the universe around us unstiffen the heart and re-awaken the comprehension to the eternal language of Nature. The buoyant keel drives on, the full-bosomed sail is set, everything is alive above, beneath, around, and yet all is order, cleanliness, and decorum. There is not a line of that delicate tracery displaced, nor a spot on that polished plank; true it is a grateful odour of mingled spices and carnal viands recreate our avid appetites with anticipative satisfaction; even in the midst of our most ethereal investigations, come when it may, meal time is ever welcome in a yacht.

During a week of halcyon calm we adventured ashore, for we love not the lazy spell-bound craft. The Regatta of the Wight fell stillborn at the very period of our sojourn at Cowes, and though trials of skill were forbidden by the nature of the weather, we had the good fortune to examine half the yachts of the squadron then afloat in its roadstead. Seldom had the annals of the rural sea-village numbered together so large a fleet! Never did its populace recollect the assemblage of so courtly a throng to witness its annual fête! The Royal Yacht Club was instituted in the year 1812-royalty its patron, and the most wealthy classes in the world (the aristocracy and gentry of England) its members, the establishment was certain of success. This most expensive, but truly national, sport of yachting has gradually progressed in popular favour; by birthright we should be sailors-by education made so, if we are not; therefore, is this seacraft nursery a right-worthy toy of the titled.

Cowes Harbour, the head quarters of the club-now hight the squadron-is commodious and beautiful, and the safest port in Great Britain. Here, on the first Tuesday in August, took place the first match of the Regatta, open to all class yachts of the squadron, when

« PreviousContinue »