Oscar Wilde.

Lady Windermere's fan, and The importance of being Earnest online

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ever they moved their armies. In relation to their horses, I will
make a few extracts from a work published about the beginning of
this century, by Mr. John Lawrence, a man of great research and in-
telligence, besides of a wide acquaintance with the practical affairs
of the horse, and, I may add, altogether the most reliable writer
of his period. He says:

" In forming the paces, if tbe colt was not naturally of a proud and lofty
action, like tbe Spanish or Persian horses, wooden rollers and weights were
I ound to their pastern joints, which gave them the habit of lifting up their
feet. This method, also, was practiced in teaching them the ambulatura, or
amble (pace), perhaps universally t e common traveling pace of the Romans.

"That natural and most excellent pace, tbe trot, seems to have been very
little prized or atte.ided to by the ancients, and was, indeed, by the Romans
held' in a kind of contempt, or aversion, as is demonstrated by the terms which
served to describe it. A trotting horse was called by them succussator, o:
shaker, and sometimes cruciator, or tormentor, which bad terms, it may be pre-


sullied, were applied specially to those wliicli in these days we dignify with
tbe expressive appellation of ' bone-setters.'"

The statuary of the early ages furnishes some excellent illustra-
tions of the gait of the horse at that period of the world's his-
tory. The four bronze horses on St. Mark's in Venice are known
throughout the world, and they are in the pacing attitude. The
forefoot that is advanced is possibly a little too much elevated
to strike the ground the same instant the hinder foot should
strike it, but the whole action indicated is undoubtedly the
lateral action. The date of these horses is lost in history, but it
is supposed they were cast in Rome, about the beginning of the
Christian era. Their capture in Rome and transfer to Constan-
tinople, then their capture by the V^enetians and transfer to
Venice, next their capture by Napoleon and transfer to Paris,
and then their restoration to Venice, are all matters of history.

William Stephanides, or Fitz Stephen, as he was called, a
monk of Canterbury, was born in London, lived in the reigns of
King Stephen, Henry II., and Richard I., and died 1191. He
wrote a description of London in Latin, Avhich was afterward
translated by John Strype, and printed, from which I take the
following extract:

" There is without one of the gates, immediately in the suburb, a certain
smooth field (Smithfield) in name and reality. There every Friday, unless it
be one of the more solemn festivals, is a noted show of well-bred horses ex-
posed for sale. 'J'he earls, barons and knights who are at the time resident in
the city, as we 1 as most of the citizens, flock thither either to look or to buy.
It is pleasant to see the nags icith their sleek and shining coats, smoothly ainhUng
{pacing) along, rainng and setting down, as it were, their feet on either side; in
one part {of the field) are horses better adapted to the esquires; those whose pore
is rougher, yet expeditious, lift up and set down, as it were, the two oppodte fore
and hind feet {trotting) together."

After locating and describing the pacers in one part of the field
and the trotters iu another, Fitz Stephen goes on to take a look
at the colts, then horses of burden, "strong and stout of limb,"
and then their chargers in their galloping action. He next gives
a very spirited description of the race, when the people raise a
shout and all the other horses, cattle, etc., are cleared away, that
the contestants may have an unobstructed field. It is a fact
worthy of note that every English writer on the race horse, for
the past century or two, has quoted a part of the above paragraph
from Fitz Stephen as the first known and recorded instance of


racing in England, but left one of the most important parts out.
Even Mr. Whyte, one of the most prominent of modern writers,
in his "'History of the British Turf," seems to have followed some
other writer, in the omission; or possibly, as he never had seen a
pacer in England, he concluded that Fitz Stephen had only imag-
ined that he saw, in one part of the field, horses moving at the
lateral gait. In the paragraph quoted above, I have italicised
that part of the description which English writers on turf sub-
jects have omitted with remarkable uniformity.

This seems to have been the period in which the pacing horse
reached the highest point in official and popular appreciation, at
least since the days of the Koman occupation of Britain. In
speaking of this period, Mr. Lawrence says: "All descriptions of
saddle horses were taught to amble" (that did not amble natu-
rally), "and that most excellent and useful gait, the trot, was
almost entirely disused." In addition to the evidence of Fitz
Stephen, we have that furnished by the Great Seals of a succes-
sion of sovereigns commencing Avith Eichard I., and continuing
to Elizabeth. These seals represent a knight in armor, mounted
on a pacing horse in action, and perhaps the most conspicuous,
at least the clearest, impression that has come down to us is that
of King John, used at Runnymede, when he yielded to the de-
mands of his barons and granted the Magna Charta. This act
secured the liberties of the Anglo-Saxon race for all time and in
all climes.

Mr. Thomas Blundeville was, probably, the first writer on the
horse who undertook to publish a book in the English language
on that subject. This book, entitled "The Art of Eiding," was
merely a translation from the Italian, with some brief observa-
tions on English horses added to it. The first edition, it is said,
was published ill London, 1558)^theyear that Queen Elizabeth as-
cended the throne. The only edition which I have been able to
find in the British Museum is that of 1580, in old English black
letter. In quoting from the old authors of that period I will
seek to avoid confusion by using the modern orthography. In
speaking of the horses of his day he says:

" Some men would liave a breed of great trotting horses meet for the war
and to serve in the field. Some others again would have a breed of ambling
horses of a mean stature for to journey and travel by the way. Some, again,
would have a race of swift runners to run for wagers or to gallop the buck, or
to serve for such like exercise for pleasure. But the plain countryman would
have a breed only for draft or burthen.


" The Irisli Hobbie is a pretty fine borse, baving a good bead and a body in -
diflferently well proportioned, saving tbat many of tbeiu be slender and pin-
buttocked. Tbey are tender-moutbed, nimble, pleasant and apt to be taugbt,
and for tbe most part tbey be amblers and tbus very meet for tbe saddle and to-
travel by tbe way. Yea, and tbe Irisbmen, botb witb darts and ligbt speai'^,
do use to skirmisb witb tiiem in tbe field, and many of tbem do prove to tbiit
use very well, by means tbey be so ligbt and swift.

" Let tliose mares tbat sball be put to tbe stallion be of a bigb stature,
strongly made, large and fair, and bave a trotting pace as tbe mares of Flan-
ders and some of our own mares be. For it is not meet, for divers rea.sons,
tbat borses of [service stallions] sbould amble. But if any man seeks to bave-
a race of ambling borses, to travel by tbe way, tben I would wisb bis stallion
to be a fair jennet of Spain, or at least a bastard jennet, or else a fair Irisb
ambling Hobbie; and tbe mare to be also a bastard jennet, bred bere witbin
tbis realm, baving an ambling pace, or else some otber of our ambling mares,
so tbat tbe mare be well proportioned. And if any man desires to bave swift
runners let bim cboose a borse of Barbary or a Turk to be bis stallion, and let
tbe mare, wbicb sball be put unto bim, be like of stature and making unto
bim, so nigb as may be, for most commonly, sucb sire and dam sucb colt."

It is evident Mr. Blundeville Avas not much of a friend of the
pacer, but as an honest writer he considers things as he finds
them. Unfortunately he throws no light upon just what he
means by the term "Spanish Jennet," and a definition of that
term, as used in the sixteenth century, would throw much light
on passages from following writers in later periods. Everybody
knows he was a small Spanish saddle horse, but nobody knows
just what gait he took. To use Blundevilles own language,
"The pace of the jennet of Spain is neither trot nor amble, but a.
comely kind of going like the Turke."

Mr. Gervaise Markham published several revised and enlarged
editions of his work on the horse, the last of which I have been
able to examine being printed in London, 1607, the same year
the colony was planted at Jamestown, Virginia. In this edition
he devotes nine short chapters or paragraphs to the pacer. In
quoting from him I will again use the modern methods of spell-
ing. He says:

" First to speak of ambling in general. It is tbat smootb and easy pace
wbicb tbe labor and industry of an ingenious brain batb found out to relieve
tbe agpd, sick, impotent and diseased persons, to make women undertake
journeying and so by tbeir community to grace society; to make great men try
tbe ease of travel, more willing totbrust tbemselves into tbe offices of tbe com-
monwealtb, and to do tbe poor botb relief and service. It makes tbem wben
necessity, or as tbe proverb is, "wben tbe devil drives," not to be vexed witb
tbe two torments, a troubled mind and a tormented body. To conclude, am-


bling was found out for the general ease of tbe whole world, as long as there is
either pleasure, commerce or trade amongst the people. Now for the manner
of the motion and the difference betwixt it and trotting. It cannot be described
more plainly than I have set down in my former treatise; which is that it is the
taking up of both legs together upon one side and so carrying them smoothly
along to set them down upon the ground even together, and in that motion he
must lift and wind up his fore foot somewhat high from the ground, but his
binder foot he must no more than take from the ground, as it were, sweep it
close to the earth. Now, by taking up both his legs together on one side, I
mean he must take up his right fore foot and his right hinder foot. For, as in
the contrary pace, when a horse trots he takes up his feet crosswise, as the
left hinder foot and the right fore foot, etc."

Mr. Markham, in his edition of 1607, then goes on in six or
eight chapters acknowledging that many foals pace naturally,
and to show how the foal may be trained to pace. His methods
are very cruel, in many cases, and very crude throughout; but it
clearly demonstrates the fact that in the sixteenth century the
pace was a very general gait among English horses. In these
chapters we find the toe weight first introduced as well as the
trammels or hopples. The most striking fact brought out in
these chapters is the discovery that more than three hundred
years ago Englishmen were using the same devices to convert
trotters into pacers that we are now using to convert pacers into
trotters. He takes notice that Mr. Blundeville had advised those
who wished to breed amblers to select a Spanish jennet or an
Irish Hobbie, and objects to the former on the grounds that their
paces are weak and uncertain. From this I conclude that the
gait of the jennet, whatever it might have been, was not a habit
of action fixed in the breed, and that its transmission was doubt-

Mr. Markham then goes on further to explain the mechanism
of the trot and the pace and incidentally introduces the rack or
single-foot action, which, I think, is the first time I have found
it in any English writer. He says:

" The nearer a horse taketh his limbs from the ground, the opener and evener
and the shorter he treadeth, the better will be his pace, and the contrary
declares much imperfection. If you buy a horse for pleasure the amble is the
best, in which you observe that he moves both his legs on one side togethe"
neat with complete deliberation, for if he treads too short he is apt to stumble,
if too large to cut and if shuffling or rowling he does it slovenly, and besides
rids no ground. If your horse be designed for hunting, a racking pace is most
expedient, which little differs from the amble, only is more active and nimble,
whereby the horse observes due motion, but you must not force him too eagerly,


lest being in confusion he lose all knowledge of what jou design him to, and
so handle his legs confusedly. The gallop is requisite for race horses. . . .
If he gallop round and raise his fore legs he is then said to gallop strongly, but
not capable of much speed, and is fitter for the war than racing."

In 1607 the Duke of Newcastle published his famous work on
the horse under the title, "A New Method and Extraordinary
Invention to Dress Horses, and Work them According to Nature
and also To Perfect Nature by the 8ubtilty of Art which was
Never Found Out, but by the Thrice Noble, High, and Puissant
Prince, William Cavendish, Duke, Marquess, and Earl of New-
castle, etc., etc.," followed with twelve other titles and oflBces.
The book was dedicated to "His Most Sacred Majesty, Charles
the Second," and is pretentious and magniloquent in its letter
press and its make-up as it is in its title. In this work there is
a great deal of bad English, some sense, and much nonsense, all
mixed up with a strut of superiority that His Grace, no doubt,
felt justified in enjoying after his long years of beggary in Ant-
werp. In giving the natural gaits of the horse he places the
walk first, then the trot and next the amble, which he describes
very minutely as follows:

" For an amble he removes both his legs of a side, as, for example, take the
far side, he removes his fore leg and his hinder leg at one time, whilst the
other two legs of the near side stand still; and when those legs are on the
ground, which he first removed, at the same time they are upon the ground
the other side, which is the nearer side, removes fore* leg and hinder leg on
that side, and the other legs of the far side stand still. Thus an amble removes
both his legs of a side and every remove changes sides; two of a side in the
air and two upon the ground at the same time. And this is a perfect amble."

The duke seems to have been somewhat profuse in the use of
words, and not very happy in his use of them, but after all we
know just what he means. The description of the movement is
that of the clean-cut pace, and our object in introducing it here
is not only to show that the pace was then a well-known and
natural gait in England, but also to show that the pace and the
amhle are one. In itself, the word "amble" is a better word than
"pace," for the latter is often used in referring to a rate of speed
without regard to the particular gait taken by the horse, but in
this country it is now universally understood to apply to the
lateral motion, and it would not be wise at this day to attempt to
change it. There is an undefined supposition in the mind oi
some people that the amble is something diiferent from the pace,


that it is a slower and less pronounced gait, and hence we are
often told a given horse did not pace, but "he ambled off." In
all that we have found in the writings of the past, and in all that
I have seen with my own eyes, I have not been able to discover
that there is any distinction between the amble and the pace.
The only distinction is not in the gait itself, but in the fact that
our ancestors, four hundred years ago, used the word "amble"
to express precisely the same thing that their descendants now
express by the word "pace." The only sense in which the word
"amble" is used among the horsemen of this country is to de-
scribe a kind of slow, incipient pace that many horses, both run-
ners and trotters, show when recalled for a fresh start in scoring
for a race. This probably indicates, whether in the case of a
runner or a trotter, that somewhere, not very far removed, there
is a pacing inheritance, and this incipient amble, as it is some-
times called, comes from that inheritance. It is also possible
that it may arise from the excitement of the start and the confu-
sion consequent upon the contest.

At the close of Queen Elizabeth's reign, about the beginning
of the seventeenth century, the pacing horse of England was at
the highest point of his utility and fame. He was the horse for
the race course, he was the horse for the hunting field, and he was
the horse for the saddle. He was able to beat King James'
Arabian, and with the few Barbs that had then been brought in,
the historian informs us, he was able to hold his own. There
were two tribes of his congeners, the Galloway and the Irish
Hobbie, the former from Southwestern Scotland and the north of
England, and the latter from Ireland. These tribes were chiefly
pacers, and not a few of them were distinguished as running
horses. The Bald Galloway, as he was called, was a grand repre-
sentative of his tribe. He was simply a native pony with a bald
face, and he was a capital runner for his day, and a number of
his get were distinguished runners. True, he is tricked out in
the Stud Book with a pedigree, wholly fictitious, and that no-
body ever heard of for a hundred years after he was foaled, but
that did not prevent his daughter Roxana, when bred to Godol-
phin Arabian, from producing two of his greatest sons. Lath and
Cade. This topic, hoAvever, has already been considered in the
chapter on the English Eace Horse. The Galloways were very
famous as pacers in their day, and it seems they were about the
last remnants of the pacing tribes to be found in England. It


seems, also, that long after they had ceased to be known on the
other side their descendants were still known by the same desig-
nation in Virginia. From the history of the times, it appears
that a wealthy Irish gentleman invested quite largely in shipping
live stock to Virginia, and there can hardly be a doubt that his
shipments included some of the Irish Hobbies.

While the opening of the seventeenth century witnessed the
supremacy of the English pacer, in the uses and enjoyments of
the lives of the people, during the whole course of its succeeding
years he was battling for his existence, and at its close he was
nearly extinct. At the close of Queen Anne's reign there were
still a few Galloways left, but in the early Georges there were no
longer any survivors, and Great Britain was without a pacer in
the whole realm. The extinction of a race of horses that had
been the delight of the kings, queens, nobility, and gentry of a
great nation for many centuries is, perhaps, without a precedent
in the history of any civilized people, and the causes which pro-
duced this wonderful result are well worthy of careful study. In
looking into these causes we must consider the facts as we find

As we have no guide, either historic, linguistic or ethnographic,
by which we can certainly determine the blood of the original
inhabitants of the British Isles, it is not remarkable that we
should be in profound ignorance as to the blood of their horses.
They were, doubtless, like their masters, of mixed origin, and
through all the centuries their appearance would indicate that
they have been bred and reared in a nomadic or semi-wild state,
in which only the toughest and fleetest had survived. A good
many years ago I met with a theory, advanced by somebody, that
the original horse stock of Britain came from the North, but
there were no reasons given to support it. I have no hesitation
in accepting this theory, as far as it distinguishes between the
North and the South, for some Northern countries produce vast
numbers of natural pacers, as Kussia, for instance, but I have
never learned that any Southern country produced pacers. Cer-
tainly the shaft horse of the Russian drosky has been a flying
pacer for generations, and great numbers of them are produced
in Eussia, especially in the eastern part of the empire. As these
pacers are produced in a natural and semi-wild state, it must be
conceded that habits of action have been inherited from their
ancestors in the remote past. Historically, we know that the


Phoenicians, when they ruled the trade of the world, supplied the
whole of the northern coast of Africa, from Egypt to Algiers, and
the southern coast of Spain, with horses, about a thousand years
before the Christian era. Now, the horses of those regions are
the descendants of the original stock carried there by the Phoeni-
cians, and we know their habit of action is not that of the pacer.
Hence the conclusion that the English pacer came from the
North and not from the South. In speaking of the difference in
the gaits of Northern and Southern horses, Mr. John Lawrence
specifies the horses of Norway, Sweden, Denmark, etc., and says:
"They are round made, but with clean heads and limbs; their
best pace is the trot (or pace), which indeed is the characteristic
pace of the Northern, as the gallop is of the Southern horse."
Other writers speak of the trot (or pace) as common to Northern
horses, but as not common to Southern horses. Now, as all
Southern horses do trot, and as these writers could not fail to
know that they trotted, at some rate of speed, we must construe
their terms so as to be consistent with plain, common sense.
There was something in the ''trot" of the Northern horse alto-
gether different, from the "trot" of the Southern horse that ren-
dered his habit of action more consi^icuous, probably by his higher
rate of speed, but still more probably by the peculiar mechanism
of his lateral action. If we insert the word "pace" instead of
the word "trot," the meaning of these old writers becomes very
plain and in harmony with other known facts. Neither does it
militate against the theory that the inhabitants of Britain may have
secured their original horse stock from the Phoenician merchants;
but if they did, it seems quite evident that at a later date they
supplemented their supply from the pacing element from the

At the close of the fifteenth century Polydore Virgil, an
Italian ecclesiastic, came to England and wrote a descriptive his-
tory of the British Islands in Latin, which was published about
1509. Part of this history was very clumsily translated about
the time the English language began to assume its present form
in literature and learning. In speaking of the horses of the
country, he seems to have been greatly surprised with the pacers,
and treats them as a curiosity. He says: "A great company of
their horses do not trot, but amble, and yet neither trotters nor
amblers are strongest, as strength is not always incident to that
which is most gentle or less courageous." It will be observed


that these observations were made nearly four hundred years ago,
and that ohe surprise of the Italian was not at merely seeing a
few pacers which he had never seen in his own oountry, but that
"the great company" of English horses were pacers. As I have
here given an instance showing the surprise of an Italian at find-
ing pacers, I will follow it with another showing tTie surprise of
an Englishman at not finding any pacers. The chajDlain of the
Earl of Cumberland, on his several voyages of discovery in South
America and the AVest India Islands, about 1596, made elaborate
note of what he saw and learned of the new countries which the
English then visited for the first time. These notes passed into the
hands of that wonderfully prolific writer, or rather compiler,
Samuel Purchas, from whose fourth volume, page 1171, the fol-
lowing paragraph is taken:

" And I wot not bow that kind of beast [speaking of cattle] batb specially
a liking to these Southerly parts of the world above their horses, none of which
I have seen by much so tall and goodly as ordinarily they are in England; they
were well made and well mettled, and good store there are of them, but me-
thinks there are many things wanting in them which are ordinary in our Eng-
lish light horses. They are all trotters, nor do I remember that I have seen
above one ambler, and that was a little fiddling nag. But it may be if there
were better breeders they would have better and more useful increase, yet they
are good enough for hackneys, to which use only almost they are employed."

Online LibraryOscar WildeLady Windermere's fan, and The importance of being Earnest → online text (page 18 of 61)