Oscar Wilde.

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

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The surprise of the Englishman at finding no pacers in South
America seems to have been as great as that of the Italian at
finding so many of them in England, one hundred years earlier.
These horses were strictly Spanish, and probably were descended
from those brought from Palos in 1493 by Columbus, the first
horses that ever crossed the Atlantic. The ''one little fiddling
nag" that showed some kind of a pacing gait may have been of
English blood and captured from some English expedition, sev-
eral of which were unfortunate; or his failure to trot may have
been the result of an injury. It should not be forgotten that in
that period every sea captain was out for what he could capture,
and this was especially the case as between the English and the
Spanish. These are the outlines of the principal points of evi-
dence that the pacing habit of action came from the North and
not from the South. That there Avere pacers in both Greece and
Rome before the Christian era, and perhaps later, there can be no
doubt, for they were both overrun and devastated again and
again by the hordes of Northern Barbarians, bringing their flocks


and their herds and their families, as well as their horses, with

This question naturally suggests itself here: "If the English
pacer had been the pojiular favorite of the English people for so
many centuries, how did it come that he and his habit of action
had been so completely wiped out in one century, the seven-
teenth?" This question might be answered in very few words,
by saying the people thought they were getting something bet-
ter to put in his place. In reaching this conclusion I will not
pretend to say the judgment of the people was not right, that is,
if they exercised any judgment in the case. "Jamie the Scots-
man" when on the throne set the fashion in the direction of
foreign blood by paying the enormous price of iBve hundred
pounds for the Markham Arabian. The Duke of Newcastle,
when he was young, had personally seen this horse, and while he
thought he was a true Arabian, he described him as a very ordi-
nary horse in his size and form, and an entire failure as a race
horse. It seems that any average native pacer could outrun him,
but he carried the badge of royalty, and that was sufficient to
make him fashionable, as he was not only the king's horse, but
was himself a royal Arabian. The weak place in the character
of James I., in addition to his intolerable pedantry, was his in-
ordinate ambition to be considered the wisest sovereign who ever
sat upon a throne since the days of Solomon. His courtiers,
nobility, and all who approached him understood his weakness,
and a little quiet praise of the great superiority of the Arabian
blood in the horse, over all other breeds and varieties, was always
grateful to the monarch, for he was the original discoverer and
patentee of that blood. Then and there, in order to praise the
wisdom of a foolish king, a foolish fashion grew into a foolish
notion that has afflicted all England from that day to this. No
humbug of either ancient or modern times has had so long a run
and so wide a range as the miserable fallacy "that all excellence
in the horse comes from the Arabian." Notwithstanding the
thousand tests that have been made and the thousand failures
that have invariably followed, from the time of King James to
the present day, there are still men writing books and magazine
articles on the assumption that "all excellence in the horse comes
from the Arabian," without ever having devoted an honest hour
to the study of the question as to whether this is a truth or a fal-
lacy. This craze for Arabian blood was the primary cause of the


extinction of the pacer, and this craze was so strong in its in-
fluence that when a foreign horse was brought in, no difference
from what country, if he were of the lighter type he was called
an Arabian and so advertised in order to secure the patronage of
breeders. Horses brought from the African coast were invaria-
bly classed as Arabians, notwithstanding they and their ancestors
were in Africa more than a thousand years before there were any
horses in Arabia; and the same may be said of Spain. But as this
line of inquiry has already been considered in another chapter,
I will get back to the immediate topic.

The process of breeding out the pacer did not commence in
real earnest until the middle of the seventeenth century, when
the Stuarts regained the sovereignty of Great Britain in the per-
son of Charles II. Released from the restraints of Puritan rule,
the Restoration brought with it a carnival of immorality and vice,
for the court and the courtiers set the fashion and the people fol-
lowed. As the breeding interest of the period of which we now
speak has already been considered in the chapter on the English
Race Horse, I will not further enlarge upon it. The light, or
running and hunting, horses of England of that day were not all
pacers, but they were all of the same type and the same blood,
hence when I speak of the pacers I include their congeners.
They were small — less than fourteen hands high — and not gener-
ally handsome and attractive. In general utility they Avere ahead
of the importations, and doubtless many of them could run as
fast and as far as the foreign horses, but the foreigners had the
advantage in size, especially the Turks and the Neapolitans; be-
sides this, they were more uniformly handsome and attractive in
their form and carriage. It is also probable that the outcross
from the strangers to invigorate the stock was needed and re-
sulted in the increase of the size of the progeny. This latter
suggestion is inferential and has been sustained by many similar
experiences, but without this as a start it would be exceedingly
difficult to account for the rapid increase in the height of the
English race horse. It is certainly true that the chief aim of the
English breeder of that day was to increase the size, without los-
ing symmetry and style, and if he found that foreign upon native
blood gave him a start in that direction, he was wise in the com-
mingling. Another consideration, growing out of the rural econ-
omy of the people, doubtless had a very wide influence in the
direction of wiping out the pacer, in this period of transition.


Long journeys in the saddle became less frequent, good roads
began to appear and vehicles on wheels took the jilace of the saddler
and the pack horse. To get greater weight and strength for this
service, recourse was had to crosses with the larger and courser
breeds, and through these channels have come the giants and the
pigmies of the modern race course. Under the changed condi-
tions of travel and transportation it is not remarkable that the
people should have been willing to see their long-time favorites
disappear, for it is known to every man of experience that the
pace is not a desirable gait for harness work. No doubt the pacer
is as strong as the trotter of the same size and make-up, but in
his smooth, gliding motion there is a suggestion of weakness com-
municated to his driver that is never suggested by the bold,
bounding trotter. The antagonism between the pacers and the
new horses of Saracenic origin was irreconcilable and one or the
other had to yield. As the management of the contest was in
the hands of the master the result could be easily foreseen, for if
one cross failed, another followed and then another, till the Sara-
cenic blood was completely dominant in eliminating the lateral
and implanting the diagonal action in its stead.

As no home-bred pacer, of any type or breed, has been seen in
England for nearly two hundred years, it is not remarkable that
Englishmen of good average intelligence, for the past two or three
generations, have lived and died supposing they knew all about
horses, and yet did not know there had ever been such a thing in
England as a breed of pacing horses. When, some eighteen or
twenty years ago, I called the attention of Mr. H. F. Euren,
compiler of the Hackney Stud Book, to the early English pacers
as a most inviting field in which to look for the origin of the
"Norfolk Trotters," he was surprised to learn that such horses
had existed in England, but he went to work and gathered up
many important facts that appear in the first volume of the
Hackney compilation. Many of these facts, but in less detail,
had already appeared, from time to time, in Wallace^ s Monthly,
but Mr. Euren's vvas the first modern English publication to
place them before English readers. From this prompting, Mr.
Euren did well, but we must go back a little to see how this sub-
ject was treated by English writers of horse books, who wrote
without any promptings from this side.

Mr. William Youatt was a voluminous writer on domestic
animals, and at one time was looked upon as the highest author-


ity on the horse, both in England and in this country. He seems
to have been a practitioner of veterinary surgery, and from the
number of volumes which he published successfully, he must
have been a man of ability and education. There can be no
question that he knew a great deal — quite too much to know any-
thing well. The first edition of his work on the horse was pub-
lished in 1831,- and soon after its appearance several publishing
houses in this country seized upon it as very valuable, and each
one of them soon had an edition of it before the public. It pur-
ports to have been written at the instance of *'The Society for
the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge." This declaration was a
good thing, in a commercial view, and no doubt it did much in
extending the circulation of the book. Without tarrying to note
several minor historical blunders, I will go direct to one relating
to the gait of the horse, which is noAv under consideration. In
his fourth edition, page 535, he incidentally discusses the mech-
anism of the pace, and after speaking of the Elgin Marbles, to
which I have referred at the beginning of this chapter, and after
conceding that two of the four horses are not galloping but pac-
ing, he says:

" Wbetber tliis was then tlie mode of trotting or not, it is certain that it is
never seen to occur in nature in the present day; and, indeed, it appears quite
inconsistent witli the necessary balancing of the body, and was, therefore, more
probably an error of tbe artist."

This remark is simply amazing in an author who pretentiously
undertakes to instruct his countrymen in the history of the horse
when he knows nothing about that history. If he had gone back
only twenty-two years, "Old John Lawrence," in his splendid
quarto, would have told him about the pacer. If he had gone
back one hundred and sixty years, the Duke of Newcastle would
have explained to him the complete and perfect mechanism of
the pacing gait. If he had gone still further back and examined
Gervaise Markham, Blundeville, Polydore Virgil, and Fitz
Stephen the Monk, of the twelfth century, any and all of them
would have explained to him the pacing habit of action and shown
him that for many successive centuries the pacing horse was the
popular and fashionable horse of the realm. If Mr. Youatt had
lived to see John E. Gentry pace a mile in 2:00^; Eobert J. in
2:01|, and dozens of others in less than 2:10, he might have
changed his mind and concluded that it was possible, after all, for


3, horse to travel at the lateral gait without topj)ling over. From
Mr. Youatt and a few other modern English authors, most of our
American writers on the horse have derived what little mental
pabulum they thought they needed, and thus an error at the
fountain has been carried into all the ramifications of our horse
literature. Only two or three years ago a very intelligent gentle-
man, Avho had attained great eminence as a veterinary surgeon,
especially for his knowledge and treatment of the horse's foot,
seriously and in good faith stoutly maintained that the pacing
habit of action was merely the result of an abnormal condition of
the foot, and that all pacers would trot just as soon as their feet
were put in the right shape. We must not laugh at this wild
notion, for it is really no worse than Mr. Youatt's doubting
whether it was possible for a horse to balance himself at the
lateral motion. Neither gentleman seemed to know anything
about the fact that it was a matter of inheritance, and that the
lateral habit of action had come down by transmission through
all the generations for a period of more than two thousand years.
It is hardly necessary to say that the gentleman who was so con-
fident that the pace was merely the result of the abnormal condi-
tion of the feet brought his notions about the pacer from across
the water. He was an Anglo-American, and could make a pacer
into a trotter in a JifEy, by using the paring-knife. He was an
intelligent man and a skillful veterinarian, but there were no
pacers in England and there should be none here. Toward the
close of the chapter on The Colonial Horses of Virginia, will bo
found the observations of an English tourist in 1795-96 who is
very certain that there is some mistake about the pacer, and will
not be convinced there are any, unless they are artificially created.
Having now completed what I had to say about the old English
pacer, it is next in order to consider his descendants in this
country and the relations they bear to the American trotter.




Regulations against stallions at large — American pacers taken to tbe West
Indies — Narragansett pacers; uianj' foolisli and groundless theories about
tbeir origin — Dr. McSparran on tbe speed of tbe pacer — Mr. Updike's
testimony — Mr. Hazard and Mr. Enoch Lewis — Exchanging meetings
with Virginia — Watson's Annals — Matlack and Acrelius — Rip Van Dam's
horse — Cooper's evidence — Cause of disappearance — Banished to the fron-
tier — First intimation that the pace and tbe trot were essentially one gait
— How it was received — Analysis of the two gaits — Pelbam, Highland
Maid, Jay-Eye-See, Blue Bull — The pacer forces himself into publicity —
Higher rate of speed — Pacing races very early — Quietly and easily devel-
oped — Comes to his speed quickly — His present eminence not permanent —
Tbe gamblers carried him there — Will he return to bis former obscurity ?

In the several chapters devoted to "Colonial Horse History"
will be found all the leading facts that I have been able to glean
from the early sources of information. With the exceptions of
the horses brought from Utrecht in Holland to New Amsterdam
(New York), two shiploads that sailed out of the Zuider Zee and
landed at Salem, Massachusetts, and those brought from Sweden
by the colonists that settled on the Delaware, all the early im-
portations came from England. As much the larger number of
those from England and Sweden were pacers, the breeds and
habits of action were soon mixed up, as those who had no pacers
wanted pacers for the saddle, and those who wanted more size,
regardless of the gait, were always ready to supply their want by
an exchange of their saddle horses for more size. The Dutch
horses were certainly something over fourteen hands and the Eng-
lish and Swedish horses were perhaps nearer thirteen than fourteen
hands. The colonists from the first, and from one end of the
land to the other, seem to have appreciated the importance of in-
creasing the size and strength of their horse stock, and this was
very hard to do under the conditions then prevailing of allowing
their horses to roam at large. Hence, stringent regulations were


adopted in all the colonies against permitting immature entire
colts and stallions under size to wander where they pleased. It
is doubtful whether these regulations were any more effective
than those of Henry VIII. , for while there was some increase, it-
was hardly perceptible until after the close of the colonial days.
The real increase did not commence till the farmers had provided
themselves with facilities for keeping their breeding stock at

It is very evident from the statistics of size and gait, as given
in the chapters referred to above, that our forefathers wisely
selected the most compact, strong and hardy animals they could
find in England as the type best adapted to fight their way
against the hardships of a life in the wilderness of the new world.
There have been some attempts, wholly fanciful and baseless, to
trace importations from other countries, outside of those men-
tioned above, but all such attempts have proven wholly imaginary
and worse than futile. In less than twenty years after the New
England colonies received their first supply they commenced
shipping horses by the cargo to Barbadoes and other West India
Islands. This trade was cultivated, extended to all the islands,
and continued during the remainder of the seventeenth and
practically the whole of the eighteenth century. The pacers of
the American colonies were exceedingly popular and sought after
by the Spanish as well as the Dutch and English islands. In-
deed, the planters of Cuba alone carried away at high prices
nearly all the pacers that New England could produce. They
knew nothing about pacers for the saddle until they had tried
them and then they would have nothing else. These continuous
raids of the Spaniards of the West Indies upon the pacers of
New England, and Rhode Island especially, has been assigned,
by the local historians of that State as one of the principal
causes of the decadence and practically final disappearance of the
Narragansett pacer from the seat of his triumphs and his fame.
It is Just to remark here, in passing, that if there had been pacers
among the horses of Spain, the Spanish dependencies would have
secured their supplies from the mother country and not have
come to Khode Island and paid fabulous prices for them.

As all the pacing traditions of this country to-day point to
the horses of Narragansett Bay as the source from which our
modern pacers have derived their speed, we must give some at-
tention to the various theories that have been advanced as to the


origin of the Narragansett horse. In time past, and extending
back to a period "whereof the memory of man runneth not to the
contrary," the horse world has been cursed with a class of men
who have always been ready to invent and put in circulation the
most marvelous and incredible stories, about the origin of every
remarkable horse that has appeared. Some of these wiseacres
have maintained that the original Narragansett pacer was caught
wild in the woods by the first settlers on Narragansett Bay, while
others (and this seems to be of Canadian origin) have insisted
that when being brought to this country a storm struck the ship
and the horse was thrown overboard, and after nine days he was
found off the coast of Newfoundland quietly eating rushes on a
sand bar, where he was rescued and brought into Narragansett
Bay. This story of the marine horse probably had its origin in
the experiences of Rip Van Dam, which will be narrated further
on. Another representation, coming this time from a very
reputable source, has been made as to the origin of the Narragan-
sett horse, and as many, no doubt, have accepted it as true, I
must give it such consideration as its prominence demands. Mr.
I. T. Hazard, a representative of the very old and prominent
Hazard family of Rhode Island, in a letter to the Rev. Mr. Up-
dike, makes the following statement:

" My grandfather, Governor Robinson, introduced the famous saddle horse,
the Narragansett pacer, known in the last century over all the civilized parts
of North America and the West Indies, from whence they have lately been
introduced into England, as a ladies' saddle horse, under the name of the
Spanish Jennet. Governor Robinson imported the original from Andalusia, in
Spain, and the raising of them for the West India market was one of the ob-
jects of the early planters of this country. My grandfather, Robert Hazard,
raised about a hundred of them annually, and often loaded two vessels a year
with them, and other products of his farm, which sailed direct from the South
Ferry to the West Indies, where they were in great demand."

This theory of the origin of the Narragansett came down to
Mr. Hazard as a tradition, no doubt, but like a thousand other
traditions it has nothing to sustain it. Opposed to it there are
two clearly ascertained facts, either one of which is wholly fatal
to it. In the first place, there were no pacers in Andalusia or
any other part of Spain, and in the second place, these horses,
according to official data, were the leading item of export from
Rhode Island in 1680, and Governor Robinson was not born till
about 1693. As impossibilities admit of no argument, I will not


add another word to this ^'Andalusian" origin tradition, except
to say that a hundred years later, when the pacing dam of Sher-
man Morgan was taken from Cranston, Rhode Ishind, uji into
Vermont, she was called a "Spanish mare," because Mr. Hazard
had said the original Narragansett had come from Spain. The
story of the descendants of the Narragausetts ha'/ing been car-
ried from the West Indies to England, and there introduced
under the name of the Spanish Jennet as a lady's saddle horse, is
wholly imaginative. The Spanish Jennet, whatever its gait may
have been, was well known in England many years before the
first horse was brought to any of the x\merican colonies. (See
extracts from Blundeville and Markham in Chapter XII.)

After several years of fruitless search for some trace of the
early importations of horses into the colony of Rhode Island, I
have reached the conclusion that probably no such importations
were ever made. The colony of Massachusetts Bay commenced
importing horses and other live stock from England in 1629, and
continued to do so for several years and until they were fully
supplied, as stated above. In 1640 a shipload of horses were ex-
ported to the Barbadoes, and it was about this time that Rhode
Island began to assume an organized existence. Her people were
largely made up of refugees from the religious intolerance of the
other New England colonies, and they brought their families and
effects, including their horses, with them. The blood of the
Narragansett pacer, therefore, was not different from the blood
of the pacers of the other colonies, but the development of his
speed by the establishment of a pacing course and the offering of
valuable prizes, naturally brought the best and the fastest horses
to this colony and from the best and fastest they built up a breed
that became famous throughout all the inhabited portions of the
Western Hemisphere. The race track, with the valuable prizes
it offered and the emulation it aroused, Avas what did it. As the
question of origin is thus settled in accordance with what is
known of history and the natural order of things, and as the Nar-
ragansett is the great tribe representing the lateral action then
and since, we must consider such details of history as have come
down to us.

The Rev. James McSparran, D.D,, was sent out by the Lon-
don Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, to
take charge of an Episcopal church that had been planted some
years before in Rhode Island. He arrived in 1721, and lived till


1759. He was an Irishman, and appears to have been somewhat
haughty and irascible in his temperament, and was disposed to
find fault with the climate, the currency, the people, and pretty
much everything he came in contact with. He was a man of ob-
servation, and during the thirty-eight years he spent in minister-
ing to the spiritual wants of his flock, he was not unmindful of
what was passing around him, and made many notes and reflec-
tions on the various phases of life as they presented themselves
to his mind, and especially on the products and industries of the
colony. These notes and observations he wrote out, and they were
published in Dublin in 1753, under the title of "America Dis-

His writings do not discover that he was a man of very ardent
piety, but he was honored as a good man while he lived, and was
buried under the altar he had served so long. His duties some-

Online LibraryOscar WildeLady Windermere's fan, and The importance of being Earnest → online text (page 19 of 61)