Oscar Wilde.

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

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Grosvenor once offered to match Mambrino to do it for a thou-
sand guineas." Now this writer does not say that Lord Gros-


Tenor really made such an offer, but only that he was "reported"
to have made it. This does not prove that the offer was formally
made, but it does prove that Mambrino had a very remarkable
trotting step or such a topic would not have been considered at
Tattersall's subscription rooms. As this writer seems to refer to
Mambrino and Infidel only as exceptional horses for their trot-
ting step among thoroughbreds, we may take it for granted that
Mambrino was considered exceptional, in his day. It is not
probable that he was ever trained an hour at the trot, and we
must conclude, therefore, that whatever speed he showed was his
natural and undeveloped gait. It will be observed that Mr.
Pick's paragraph Avas dated 1805, and the letter from the "sub-
scription rooms" 1814, so that they could not have been mere re-
flections of theories advanced on this side of the Atlantic in rela-
tion to Messenger being a great source of trotting speed. These
two facts were on record long before any "Messenger theories"
were in existence, and those "theories" were formulated long be-
fore these two facts were known. The conclusions reached on
both sides of the water are entirely harmonious, but they were
reached in complete independence of each other.

Messenger, son of Mambrino, was a grey horse about fifteen
hands two inches high, with strong, heavy bone and a generally
coarse appearance for a horse represented to be thoroughbred.
From the Eacing Calendar, and not from the Stud Book, we learn
that he was foaled 1780, and came out of a mare represented to
be by Turf, and she out of a mare by Eegulus, son of Godolphin
Arabian, etc., as represented by Mr. Weatherby in his Stud
Book. By looking back to the beginning of this chapter the
form in which the entry appears in the Stud Book will be fully
comprehended. , The identity, history, and breeding of the dam
of Messenger is the central point in this inquiry, and we must do
our work carefully and thoroughly. From the form of the entry
in the Stud Book, it will be understood that the breeder of each
animal is supposed to appear opposite the foals of his own breed-
ing, but this we have found in more than a thousand instances
to be wholly imaginary on the part of the compiler. If the
animal ran, the name of the party running him is far more apt
to appear than the name of the breeder. It will be observed,
also, that the Turf fillies of 1773 and 1774 appear without their
color being known. These fillies seem to be put in there to par-
tially fill the gap between 1771 and 1777. Mr. Pick says the dam


of Messenger was black, but he gives no account of her further
than that. Whether Mr. Pick was indebted to Mr. Weatherby,
or Weatherby to Pick, 1 cannot say, but they both give the
pedigree just as we have given it in this country. I am not
inquiring whether these authorities agree on this pedigree, but
whether they knew anything about it, and whether there is such
agreement in details between them as will support each other.

The first question that arises in every man's mind is, whether
there is any further trace of this Turf mare, the reputed dam of
Messenger, in the Stud Book, by Avhom was she bred and owned,
and by whom was Messenger bred? Pick says the Turf mare wa&
bred by Lord Bolingbroke, and Weatherby says she was bred by
Lord Grosvenor. To test the question whether either is right,
I have gone through the English Stud Book, page by page, and
pedigree by pedigree, wherever I found the name of Lord
Bolingbroke, or Lord Grosvenor, to see if any trace of the Turf
mare could be found. I found no shadow of trace. The
certificate of pedigree that came across the ocean with Messenger
represents him to have been bred by John Pratt, and Mr. Pick,
or rather his successor, Mr. Johnson, says he was bred and owned
by Mr. Bullock. These clear and explicit declarations gave
new hopes of finding sometliing of the Turf mare, and at it I
went again, and searched every pedigree that had the name of
Mr. Pratt or Mr. Bullock attached to it, with no better resulta
than before. Now, Lord Bolingbroke, Lord Grosvenor, Mr.
Pratt and Mr. Bullock were all breeders, and if any of them
ever owned the dam of Messenger and bred from her, none of
her produce was ever recorded or ever started in a race.

Thus, the more we search for the truth about Messenger and
his origin, the more dense becomes the mystery. When we find
an English authority that seems clear, we find another that con-
tradicts him, and probably neither of them knows anything
about it beyond uncertain tradition; AVhen we consider these
contradictions of authoi'ities in connection with the fact that
men were just as prone to lie and fix up a bogus pedigree a hun-
dred years ago as they are to-day, and that stud-book makers
were just as liable to be deceived then as now, we must conclude
that there is room for very serious doubts as to whether
Weatherby or Pick knew anything about the pedigree of Mes-
senger, or by Avhom he was bred.

In pushing our inquiries still further in search of this mare.


we must consider somewhat in detail Mr, Weatherby's methods
and the degree of responsibility he assumed for the accuracy of his
compilations. In 1791 he published what he called '"An Intro-
duction to a General Stud Book," containing, as he says, "a small
collection of pedigrees which he had extracted from racing cal-
endars and sale papers, and arranged on a new plan." In May,
1800, he issued a supplement to his "Inti-oduction" bringing
-down the produce of mares to 1799. In 1803 he issued what we
:suppose is the first edition of the first volume of Ine Stud Book.
The title-page reads, "The General Stud Book, containing pedi-
grees of race horses, etc., from the Restoration to the present
time." The imprint is, "Printed for James Weatherby, 7
Oxenden Street, etc., London, 1803." The volume contains
three hundred and eighty-four pages, while the edition of 1827
contains four hundred and forty-eight pages. There is no
"Volume I." on the title-page, nor is there any indication that
this is a continuation or revision of any preceding work. It
brings down the list of produce in many cases to and including
1803, but none later than that year, so there can be no mistake
.as to when it was issued.

I have been thus particular in identifying this first edition
■of the first volume of .the English Stud Book, for it gives us an
insight into the methods employed by Mr. Weatherby in the prog-
ress of his work. Upon a careful comparison of the editions of
1803 with 1827 extending through the letters A, B, and M, we
find that he has thrown out more than ten per cent, of the entire
families in the edition of 1803. By "entire families" I mean
brood mares, with their lists of jDroduce. In making these ex-
clusions he seems to have confined himself to what may be con-
sidered the historic period, at that day, and did not go back
further than about twenty years. Beyond that period everything
was traditional, and he appears to have shrunk from all responsi-
bility of attempting the exclusion of families. On and near the
border line between these periods he seems to have taken the re-
sponsibility of cutting off a great many individuals of doubtful
identity, even though the family was left to stand on its uncer-
tain basis of tradition. I cannot say positively that the dam
of Messenger and her sister were cut oft* with the multitude of
others, but I can say that neither of them ever appeared again
in the Stud Book. Other members of the family of the Eegulus
mare have places for their descendants in subsequent volumes.


from which I would infer that Mr. Weatherby considered her
breeding all right, but the two fillies, one of them the dam of
Messenger, have been treated as spurious and wholly omitted
from the records. These are the facts relating to these two
fillies claimed originally to be by Turf, and there can be no moral
doubt that they were omitted or excluded because Mr. Weatherby
deemed them unsustained and probably spurious.

In confirmation of the facts and circumstances already adduced,
going to show that Messenger was not thoroughbred, we are now
ready to consider one of the strongest arguments that can be
advanced in support of that conclusion. This argument is.
founded on the laws of nature and is not dependent upon the
mere writing down of uncertain traditions. Messenger pos-
sessed and transmitted qualities that no thoroughbred horse has
ever transmitted, from the period when the breed of race horses
was formed to the present day. It is practically conceded on all
hands that Messenger, by his own power and by his own right,
founded a family of trotting horses, and this fact will be fully
demonstrated in coming chapters. It is equally plain and, with
honest and intelligent people, it is accepted with equal readiness,
that no thoroughbred horse has ever done this. This declara-
tion has been much controverted, but always in a general way
and without specifying any particular thoroughbred horse that
had succeeded in establishing a family of trotters. In the prog-
ress of a discussion of this point with the late Charles J. Foster,
a very clear and able writer, he was directly challenged, in a-
manner that could not be dodged, to name the thoroughbred
horse outside of Messenger, that had accomplished this feat.
Greatly to my surprise, and I might say, gratification, he came^
back at me with two of Messenger' s sons — Hambletonian and
Mambrino. Thus he conceded the whole contention, for out of,
literally, thousands he had to come back to two sons of Messenger.

In reply to an article in Wallace's Monthly for December, 1887,
going to show that Messenger was not a thoroughbred horse, Mr.
Joseph Cairn Simpson, of California, an able man and a lifelong
advocate of more running blood in the trotter, wrote a review of
the article in question. After admitting the full force of the
demonstration that Messenger was not a thoroughbred horse,
there is one sentence to which Mr. Simpson cannot subscribe,
and he quotes it as follows: "Complete and conclusive as these
facts may be. there is still another fact equally complete and


still more convincing. Messenger possessed and transmitted
qualities that no throughbred horse, in the experience of man,
ever possessed and transmitted." This was a declaration of Messen-
ger as a progenitor against the whole world of thoroughbreds,
and Mr. Simpson felt that he could not let it pass unchallenged,
and after scratching about among the thousands of thorough-
breds without finding anything, like poor Mr. Foster, he
"acknowledges the corn," and comes back with Mambrino, the
son of Messenger, without, seemingly, once realizing that he was
proving my contention.

The theory that if any other English race horse had been in
Messenger's place and bred upon the same mares and had his
progeny developed as Messenger's were develoj)ed, he would have
produced the same results, has always been very popular with
the advocates of "more running blood in the trotter." No
doubt there are still some honest, but not well-informed people,
who hold to this view merely because they have never heard of
any other imported English horses that were contemporaneous
with Messenger, and hence have concluded there were none. If
Messenger had been all alone during the twenty years of his stud
services, as this theory assumes, there might be some reason to
doubt whether some other English race horses might not have
done just as well in establishing a line or tribe of trotters. But
was he alone? From the close of the Eevolutionary War to the
end of the last century was a period of great activity and enter-
prise in the way of importing running horses from Great Britain.
The blood of Herod and English Eclipse Avas in the highest esti-
mate, not only in the old but in the new world, and a great many
distinguished horses were brought over possessing those favorite
strains. During that period racing was carried on with just as
much spirit and eclat on Long Island and the river counties of
New York, New Jersey, and some of the eastern counties of
Pennsylvania as it was in Virginia and South Carolina. Horses
of the most fashionable lineage were sought after and patronized,
not by a few great breeding establishments, but by the farmers
generally, in all the region here designated. The following list
of imported English race horses is made up of animals that were
contemporaneous Avith Messenger, covering the same mares and
the offspring subjected to precisely the same treatment and con-
ditions. The list is limited to what may be called the trotting
latitudes, and embraces such animals only as were brought intO'


^ew Jersey, New York and Eastern Pennsylvania. We will not
only give their names, but the blood elements also, so that all
oan see that Messenger not only had competitors but competitors
of the highest grade of running blood.

Admiral, by Florizel, son of King Herod.

Ancient Pistol, hy Ancient Pistol, son of Snap.

Arrakoolcer, by Drone, son of King Herod.

Baronet, by Vertumnus, son of Eclipse.

Benjamin, by Ruler, son of Young Marske,

Creeper, by Tandem, son of Dainty Davy.

Deserter, by Lenox, son of Delpini, by Highflyer.

Dey <if Algiers, Araljian.

Dionied (Tate's), by Phenomenon, son of King Herod.

Driver, by Saltram, son of Eclipse.

Drone, by King Herod.

Dungannon (Young), by Dungannon.

Expedition, l>y Pegasus, son of Eclipse.

Express, by Postmaster, son of King Herod.

Exton, by Highflyer, son of King Herod.

Florizel, by Florizel, son of King Herod.

Grand Seignor, Arabian.

Highflyer (1782), by Highflyer.

Highflyer (1792), by Highflyer.

Highlander (Brown), by Paymaster.

Highlander (Gray), by Bordeaux.

Honest John, by Sir Peter Teazle.

Joseph, by Ormond, son of King Fergus.

King William, by King Herod.

King William, by Paymaster.

Light Infantry, by Eclipse.

Magnetic Needle, by Magnet.

Magnum Bonum, by Matchem.

Niuirod, by King Fergus.

North Star, by North Star, son of Matcbem.

Paymaster, by Paymaster.

Prince Frederick, by Fortunio.

Punch, by King Herod.

Revenge, by Achilles.

Rodney, by Paymaster.

Royal George, by Jupiter, son of Eclipse.

Roy <i list, by Saltram.

Slender, by King Herod.

Sour Crout, by Highflyer.

Venetian, by Doge.

Yorkshire, by Jupiter, son of Eclipse.

Here we have forty-one imported English stallions, contem-


poraneous with Messenger, occupying the same territory and
covering the same mares that he covered. With the exceptions
of two or three they were all ranked as not only thoroughbred,
but they possessed the most fashionable and successful -blood
that England had then produced. A few of them were taken
southward after a time, but the great body of them lived out
their days here.

To this great array of imported English running horses we
might add hundreds of their sons, and yet not find one that claimed
to be thoroughbred that ever became a trotting progenitor or
founded a family of trotters. Mr. Foster and Mr. Simpson, by far
the two ablest writers on the wrong side of the question that this
country has produced, with this list of forty English stallions
before them from which to select their proof that Messenger was
not the only progenitor of trotters, were at last compelled to
take two of Messengers sons, as trotting progenitors, to prove
that their sire was not a trotting progenitor. If the intellectual
powers of these two gentlemen had enabled them to scratch ever
so little beneath the glittering surface of the word '"thorough-
bred," they would have saved themselves from this humiliating
exhibition of absurdity.

What was true of ^ Messenger's contemporaries is equally true
of all the strictly thoroughbred stallions that have lived on the
earth from his day to the present. No one of them has ever
founded a trotting family and no one of them has ever got a trotter
out of a mare of his own kind. Out of the half-dozen instances
on record where a thoroughbred horse has got a trotter there is
no one instance in which the dam did not have a strong pacing
or trotting inheritance. If we accept the known and recorded
experiences of the past seventy years, in the trotting world, we
find two great facts on every page of the record. First, Mes-
senger left a family of trotters; second, no other thoroughbred
horse did that. It follows, then, that if Messenger transmitted
capacities different from those transmitted by thoroughbred
horses, he must have had a different inheritance from thorough-
bred horses, and if different, then that inheritance could not have
been thoroughbred. From the facts we have developed in the
history of his English ancestors ; from the ten thousand demonstra-
tions of his American descendants, and from the great laws
which govern the transmission of special capacities, Ave are forced,
to the conclusion that Messenger was not a thoroughbred horse.



Messenger's racing in England — His breeder unknown — Popular uncertainty
about the circumstances and date of liis importation — The matter settled
by bis first advertisement — Uncertainty as to liis importer — Description of
Messenger by David \V. Jones, of Long Island — Careful consensus of de-
scriptions by many wbo bad seen Messenger — His great and lasting popu-
larity as a stock borse — Places and prices of bis services for twenty years
— Death and burial.

Messenger made his first appearance on the turf in October,
1783, then three years old, and ran twice, successfully, that year.
He continued on the turf till November, 1785, winning eight
races, losing six and receiving forfeits in two. Most of his races
were practically matches, and all were single dashes but one, in
which he was beaten. Two of his winnings were less than a
mile, five at the distance of a mile and a quarter, and one at two
miles. These distances are approximate. He was beaten at two
and a quarter miles, three, and three and a half miles. He
never appeared in any great racing event, but seemed to be
managed with a special view to picking up small prizes at short
distances. His owner and manager, Mr. Bullock, was a very
shrewd "professional" at Newmarket, he had quite a number of
horses in the same stable with Messenger and some of them seem
to have been selected always to run for the more valuable prizes.
Considering the short distances he was able to run and the unim-
portant character of the contests in which he was engaged, we
must conclude that Messenger was a very ordinary race horse.

It is not known by whom Messenger was bred. In his first
advertisement in this country it is stated that he was bred by
John Pratt, of Newmarket, but in the fourth volume of Pick's
■'Turf Register," continued by Johnson, it is stated explicitly that
he "was bred by and the property of Mr. Bullock, of Newmarket."
Mr. John Pratt was a breeder as well as a racing man of some
prominence, in his day, and the certificate of pedigree from him
rud purporting to have been issued by him was probably a fraud.


as he died May 8, 1785. This was while Messenger was still on
the turf, and owned and controlled by Mr. Bullock for two years
previous to this, still no mention is made of the fact, and Mr.
Pratt is made to say that he sold him to the Prince of Wales,
while all the evidence, which must necessarily be of a negative
character, goes to show that the Prince of "Wales never owned
him. Mr. Pratt Avas a Yorkshire man, of Askrigg, in the North
Riding, and although he died at Newmarket we have no trace
of any of the family from which the dam of Messenger was said
to have descended ever being in his possession. Besides this, it
is not likely that the importer of Messenger got a certificate from
him two years after his death.

The different rej)resentations that have been made about Mes-
senger's importation would fill a much larger space than would
be profitable. About no horse has there been so much written,
and about no horse has there been so little really known. His
character and memory have never suffered defamation, for every
writer was a eulogist of the most enthusiastic type, whether he
knew anything of his hero or not. As a specimen of the admira-
tion which he excited, it has been told a hundred times that
Avhen the horse came cavorting down the gangplank from the
ship, with a groom hanging on to each side of his head, literally
carrying them for some distance before he could be checked, an
enthusiastic horseman shouted out, ''There, in that horse a mil-
lion dollars strikes American soil." This story has been told so
often, even in England, that no doubt many people believe the
startling prophecy was really uttered. Indeed we have heard the
name of the prophet, but as he Avas a distinguished New Yorker
and as debarkation took place at Philadelphia, we never have
been able to fully reconcile the actor with the occasion. The
reputed prophecy, like the reputed pedigree, seems to have been
an afterthought, but unlike the pedigree it proved true, whether
uttered or not. Some said he was imported 1785, while others
dribbled along through the intermediate years till 1800 was fixed
upon with great positiveness as the precise year. One of these
gentlemen, we remember very well, was entirely confident he
returned to England and was brought back again after a number
of years. Less than tAventy years ago the breeding world Avas
favored with scores upon scores of this kind of teachers, not one
of whom knew AA^hat he was talking about. The most surprising
example of this kind of writing, hoAvever, is furnished by Mr. 0.


AV. Van Eanst, himself, who was part owner of the horse a num-
ber of years. In a communication published in Skinner's "Turf
Register," 1831, he says Messenger was imported into New York
in 1792, and in the same publication for 1834 he says he was im-
ported into New York 1791. As the sequel will show, Mr. Van
Eanst, although his owner, had no definite knowledge of the
early history of the horse.

From some slight investigations I became satisfied, years be-
fore, that Messenger made his first appearance in this country at
Philadelphia, and that he was imported into that city instead of
New York. In that view all the writers of the whole country
were opposed to me; but, as it became more and more evident
that those writers were merely copying from one another and
that none of them had ever made an honest search for the truth,
I resolved to follow my own convictions and to commence
there an investigation that would settle the matter one way or
the other. In a few hours after reaching that city I found a
file of the old Pennsylvania Packet, and in the number dated May
27, 1788, an advertisement of which the following is a true copy:

Just Imported

The capital, strong, full blooded, English stallion,


To cover mares this season at Alexander Clay's, at the sign of the Black
Horse, i.j Market Street, Philadelphia, at the very low price of three guineas
each mare, and one dollar to the groom.

Messenger was bred by John Pratt, Esq., of Newmarket, who certifies the
following pedigree. The grey horse Messenger was bred by me and sold to the
Prince of Wales; he was got. by Mambrino (who covered at twenty-five guineas
a leap). His dam by Turf, his grandam by Regulus; this Regulus mare was
sister to Figerant and was the dam of Leviathan. John Pratt.

The performance of Messenger has been so very great that there need only
be a reference to the racing calendar of the years 1783, 1784 and 1785.

Any mare missing this season shall be served the next gratis, provided:
they continue the same properties, on paying the groom's fees.

This is a literal copy of the first printed announcement of Mes-
senger in this country, and there are two very striking features
connected with it, namely, its bad grammar and the absence of
the name of the importer and owner. The former we may
attribute to the times, but to the latter I have been disposed to
attach no trifling significance. It is a fact that till this day we
have no direct information as to v;ho imported this horse. The'
name "Benger" was developed indirectly as the man, but not;

Online LibraryOscar WildeLady Windermere's fan, and The importance of being Earnest → online text (page 24 of 61)