Oscar Wilde.

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

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agreement entered into, in March, 1804, between John P, Welch,
of California and Philip Swigert, of Kentucky, by which Welch
agreed to take certain blood horses to California and sell or breed
them on the shares, etc. This document possessed all the
paraphernalia of authenticity, with government stamp, witnesses
to the signatures of the contracting parties, etc. This docu-
ment (I don't know which "duplicate") was shown to me in
April, 1891, and at the first glance, and without reading a word
except the date, it astounded me. There was a paper purporting
to be twenty-seven years old, and it looked as bright and fresh as
though it had been written within twenty-seven hours. There
was no fading of the luster of the ink and there was no ageing in
the color of the paper. Having devoted a great deal of time to
the examination of writings, varying in age from one day to a
hundred years and more, and this experience extending through
many years, I ought to be a fairly competent judge of the eifects
of age on ink and paper. Here was a paper purporting to be
over a quarter of a century old with all the newness of yesterday,
and when Mr. J. C. Simpson showed it to me I was impressed
with the belief, on this one point of evidence alone, that it was
spurious, and that Mr. Simpson had been made a victim by some
rascally scrivener. With so much for the appearance of the paper,
on its face, we will now examine the contents and see whether
any evidence can there be found that will throw further light on
the question of its authenticity. Unfortunately I have not what


purports to be the original of this document before me, and I
must therefore depend upon my memory and upon what Judge
Hulsey, as attorney for Mr. Brodhead, has printed as the con-
tents. In giving the list of animals I will follow the order of the
"document" and place before each one, for convenience of refer-
ence, the number attached to that animal in Mr. Welch's original

15. One gray mare, by Grey Eagle, out of Mary Morris.

16. One sorrel mare, Hope, by Glencoe.

17. Sovereign filly, out of Grey Eagle mare, four years old.
8. Vandal filly, out of bay Grey Eagle mare, four years old.

18. One two-year-old filly, by Bob Johnson, out of bay Grey Eagle mare,

19. One two-year-old filly by Lexington.

20. One yearling colt, by Lexington, out of Grey Eagle mare.

21. One two-year-old filly, by Ringgold, out of Hope.

In looking over this list there are several j^oints suggested for
remark and they all have a bearing, more or less direct, on the
question at issue. The list seems to have been prepared, if -pre-
pared by Mr, Swigert, very hurriedly and without sufficient re-
gard to completeness or accuracy. He started oif, possibly to
make a careful list, as he gave the color of the tAvo-year-old iiiares
at the head and then dropped all purpose of completeness and
gave no colors nor descriptions to those that followed. He gives
No, 21 as a filly when it was a colt, and so appears in the inven-
tory, was sold as a colt with pedigree at San Jose, January, 1865,
and again, with the same pedigree, at The Willows, February,
1866, Under ordinary conditions the statement of the breeder
should be conclusive against all others, but in this case the evi-
dent hurry and absence of descriptions have destroyed the value
of the whole list, in great degree, as evidence that could be ac-
cepted with safety. We must, therefore, look for something
in the way of evidence more deliberative and descriptive in its
preparation, and this Ave find in the joint work of Mr, Swigert and
Mr, Welch, as embodied in the inventory. When the descrip-
tions of the animals were taken, both men were equally interested
in accuracy and completeness, both were present, and probably
the animals were before them. Hence my infinitely greater con-
fidence in the deliberative work of the two, as found in the in

The one point about which all this hubbub has been raised is
the so-called "Lexington filly," that appears as the sixth in the


above list. She has no number attached to lier name, and this
means that she was not in the inventory, and it means more than
this; for it is, in a manner, the dying testimony of an honest man
that he took no Lexington lilly to California, and fortunately
this testimony has been preserved. The methods introduced to
prove that Welch did take her are the methods of the imbecile.
Let us admit, for the moment, that Swigert had a Lexington
filly and that she was in a contract with Welch to be taken to
California; does that prove that Welch took her, when he says
he did not? There are hundreds and hundreds of people every
year who buy steamship tickets to go to Europe who fail to go.
The records of Mr. Swigert's ticket office show that the ticket
was bought, but they fail to show that the purchaser went aboard
the ship. You must go to Purser Welch and get a list of passen-
gers actually on board in order to determine who did and who
did not go. Accidents, sickness and death are all factors in the
movements of horses just as they are in the movements of human
beings. It is the observation of a long lifetime that horsemen
are never so near their best as fools as when they attempt to
establish a fraudulent pedigree by evidence that utterly fails to
cover the case. They claim to have found a ticket that would
carry Waxy to California, and Avhether genuine or counterfeit
they rely wholly on this ticket as evidence that she went. The
master of the vessel affirms she was not aboard his vessel, and in
support of this he shows a complete list and description of the
passengers numbered from one to twenty-six inclusive. This is
the whole thing in a nutshell. The proof is clear and conclusive
that Mr. Welch did not take any daughter of Lexington to Cali-
fornia. Now, will the prominent and active supporters of Waxy's
pedigree, as a daughter of Lexington, come forward and in a
manly way answer this question of five words? " WJio took Waxy
to California?" If Welch, prove it. If anybody .else, prove it.
We may be able to catch a few gulls with chaff, the first attempt,
but we can't repeat it. If the question can be answered, it is
well, and if not, honest people will form their own conclusions
that it is not sustained and is no more worthy of belief than the
"Grey Eagle mare" form of the same pedigree, which is now
universally conceded to be a fiction.

American Eclipse, — It is not my purpose to frighten people
by overthrowing landmarks that have stood for years, but it is
"my purpose to tell the truth and expose falsehood in pedigrees


wherever I meet it. As a satisfaction and guide to breeders in
the future it is important to know just how the early stock were
bred, although they may have belonged to past generations. A
breeder never can know too much of the lines in which he is
operating. This great horse was a good chestnut, with a star
and left hind foot white. He was stout, with heavy limbs, and
somewhat coarse, and not of the best quality, but possibly better
than the average of the Durocs. He was a fraction of au inch
below fifteen two. He was foaled 1814, got by Duroc, son of im-
ported Diomed; dam Miller's Damsel, by imported Messenger;
grandam a mare by Pot8os, imported by Mr. Constable along
Avith the horse Baronet, in 1795. This is just as far as we can go
with any certainty, and this leaves the greatest race horse of his
clay far short of being thoroughbred. When Mr. Constable
bought the PotSos mare in England he got no certificate of
pedigree, but he was told there she was out of a mare by Gim-
€rack. Mr. Cadwallader R. Colden was the best-informed man
of his day on the history, blood, and performances of the blood-
horse, was a very intimate and warm friend of Mr. Constable, and
he did everything that could be done to straighten out and ex-
tend this pedigree, but he utterly failed. He thought it proba-
ble that the mare was thoroughbred, but he believed the Gim-
€rack cross was a fiction. Some eighteen or twenty years ago,
when in London, Mr. Tattersall suggested to me that if Lord
Grosvenor bred a filly by PotSos in 1792 that was thoroughbred,
there could hardly be a doubt that she Avas entered in some of
the stakes for three-year-olds. Then and there we searched the
old records, but nothing could be found to support the supposed
pedigree. It was not till 1832 that any special effort Avas made
to establish the pedigree through the press, and in January of
that year the famous Patrick Nesbit Edgar, of North Carolina,
wrote as follows to Mr. Skinner, editor of the American lurf
Register :

"The authority I bad for sending the remote pedigree of American Elipse
for publication was that it was furnished me lately by a gentleman in Eng-
land, who put himself to uncommon pains to procure it. He resides near
Bath, in that country. All the authority requisite I have at this time in my
possession. The PotSos mare was got by Pottos; her dam, foaled in 1778, by
Gimcrack, out of Snap-Dragon, sister to Angelica by Snap. (See Engli-sh Stud

Mr. Edgar Avrote more on the same subject, after he was


pressed to it by Mr. Golden, but he failed to produce any evi-
dence whatever that he was telling the truth. According to his
representations his correspondence on the subject had been very
extensive, and he complained that he had paid out forty shillings
in postage.

It will be observed how cleverly Mr. Edgar conceals the sources
of his information while he pretends to give them, and that has
been the favorite "dodge" of all rascally "pedigree makers"
from that day till the present. Mr. Constable always insisted
that the mare was bred by Lord Grosvenor, and that she was by
PotSos, but he did not insist that she was out of a mare by Gim-
crack. As Lord Grosvenor was one of the most prominent of
all breeders of race horses in his day, and as he evidently kept
the records of his stud with more care than most of his contem-
poraries, we might reasonably expect to find some trace of this
mare if she was thoroughbred. After a careful and diligent
search of all the records of that period, it is found that Lord
Grosvenor never bred a Gimcrack filly to PotSos. This disposes
of Mr. Edgar's humbug story, and when we state the pedigree of
American Eclipse we can simply say he was got by Duroc; dam
Miller's Damsel by Messenger, and grandam the imported PotSos
mare, and there we must stop.

For years past I have observed that the less a man knows about
horse history and horse achievements, the more importance he
attaches to the word "thoroughbred ;" and of all the millions
and millions of lies that have been told about pedigrees
nine-tenths have been concocted and circulated for the one
purpose of enhancing the supposed value of the animal by claim-
ing "thoroughbred" blood. The "instinct" to lie about pedi-
grees, so common among certain classes of horsemen, seems to
be "the sum of inherited habits" that has come down from gen-
eration to generation. If you ask one of these mendacious gen-
tlemen whether American Eclipse was a thoroughbred he will
answer, with a strong marked expression of contempt and pity
for your ignorance on his countenance, "Certainly he was thor-
oughbred." If you then ask him about his pedigree he will answer,
"I don't know anything about his pedigree." Then you ven-
ture to ask how he knows he was thoroughbred if he does not
know anything about his pedigree, and he will squelch you com-
pletely by saying, "No horse not thoroughbred could ever have
done what American Eclipse did." Here we get at the real basis


of the universal mendacity on this subject. The preacher wrote
a great book called "The Perfect Horse" in which he maintained
that the Morgan Horse was thoroughbred. The lawyer wrote
another great book on "The American Roadster" in which he
maintained that Dexter was a thoroughbred. With two gentle-
men of intelligence and education writing such miserable stuff,
what are we to expect from the masses?

Now here is the horse American Eclipse, the greatest horse of
his day in his racing achievements, that in his blood is very far
from being "thoroughbred," under any rule that has ever been
suggested or devised. Now, with this taint on his escutcheon,
it follows that no one of his descendants for at least five genera-
tions can be classed as thoroughbred. As a progenitor, Eclipse
cannot be considered a great horse, either in his immediate or
more remote descendants. Medoc was about his best, and he was
better than his sire. Another son, called Monmouth Eclipse, was
grandly bred on the side of his dam, was sold, it was said, for
fifteen thousand dollars for stock purposes, and proved a most
lamentable failure, never having got a colt that was worth fifteen
dollars as a race horse. The great fame of American Eclipse,
therefore, rested upon what were then designated as "his migiity
achievements upon the turf." A reasonably complete history of
this horse may be found in Wallace's Monthly for March, 1877,
p. 100. His great race against Henry, in Avhich he represented
the North as against the South, was doubtless the most memora-
ble turf event that ever took place on this continent, and a very
brilliant description of it will be found at the reference given
above. This race of four-mile heats took place on the Union
Course, Long Island, May, 1823, for twenty thousand dollars a
side, and it was, in effect, Eclipse against the world. Eclipse,
fit or not fit, must start, while his opponents had several prepared
to start against him and all they had to determine was to select
the fastest and best of the whole party. At the last hour Henry
was chosen as the champion of the South, and he won the first
heat by about a length in 7:37^. A change was made in the
rider of Eclipse and he won the second heat by about two lengths
in 7:49. In the third heat the instructions to the rider of Henry
were not to hurry the gait, but to trail to near the finish and
then pull out and win in a rush. The rider of Eclipse under-
stood the tactics of the enemy and he hurried the pace every step
of the way, in order to tire out his younger opponent. When


near the finish Henry made his dash and covered Eclipse's
quarter with his head, but he could get no further and abandoned
the contest. Eclipse had been punished unmercifully from start
to finish, and the time of the heat was 8:24, This shows an
average rate of speed in the third heat of two minutes and six
seconds to the mile, a rate which half a dozen trotters and a
round dozen of pacers have beaten for a single mile. It shows
also the cruelty, to say nothing of the absurdity, of heat racing
at the distance of four miles. Still American Eclipse was the
greatest running horse of his generation.

Boston was a chestnut horse, foaled 1833, and bred by Mr. Jolni
Wickham, the very eminent jurist, of Richmond, Virginia. He
succeeded to the great fame of American Eclipse, and although
about two generations, in a racing sense, after him there was no
horse between them that was the equal of either of them. He
was a terror to all competitors Avhether of the North or the South.
But it is only my purpose here to put on record the real facts
about his pedigree and to expose a glaring fraud that has been
propagated concerning his breeding for many years. Mr. Wick-
ham, the breeder of Boston, bought a mare by imported Alder-
man (1802 or 1803) from John Randolph, of Tuckahoe (not
"Roanoke" as sometimes stated). This mare was out of a mare
by imported Clockfast, and here, to sum it up and give Mr.
Wickham's exact language, as he wrote in 1827: "This mare, a
dark bay, foaled about 1799, was got by Alderman, her dam by
Clockfast, out of a mare said to be full-blooded, of the Wildair
blood." This Alderman mare he bred to Florizel, and she pro-
duced the race horse Tuckahoe, and a filly that was bred to
Timoleon and produced Boston. Then Boston's pedigree stands;
Got by Timoleon; dam by Florizel; grandam by imported Alder-
man; great-grandam by imported Clockfast; great-great-grandam
"said to be of the Wildair blood." This is down to "hard pan,"
and there is no authority in the wide world to add anything to it.
If we admit the Wildair mare to be genuine and authentic we
are still one degree short of the thoroughbred standard. The
six additional crosses that have been added to this pedigree are
entirely fictitious. They were copied from the advertisement of
a stallion descended from this maternal line, that had neither
indorsement nor name attached to it. This was seized upon by
the late Benjamin Bruce, and boasted of as a "discovery" of the
extension of Boston's pedigree. After the appearance of this


•advertisement Mr. Wickham prepared and published a full list of
his stock, with their pedigrees, from the first of his breeding oper-
ations, and Avhen he reached the Wildair mare he stopped, just as
I have stopped at that point. Here we have the two authorities
— Mr. John Wickham, distinguished for his eminent character as
a man and a jurist; or a nameless stallion advertisement without
any shadow of truth or responsibility.

Timoleon, the sire of Boston, was one of the most distinguished
sons of the great Sir Archy, his dam was by imported Saltram, and
hisgrandam by Wildair, but beyond that the pedigree is a hopeless
muddle, embracing some features that are absolutely impossible.

Tom Bowling and Aaron Pennington. — The first of these
horses was by Lexington, the second was by Tipperary, son of
Einggold, and they were both out of Lucy Fowler, by imported
Albion, grandam by imported Leviathan, great-grandam by Top
Gallant, great-great-grandam Eli Odom's saddle mare, which
means, in that country, she was a pacer. Tom Bowling was
probably the best race horse of his year, and Pennington may be
classed as mediocre, but as the latter is credited with some pacers
or trotters that have come within the 2:30 list, his pedigree be-
comes of interest on this account. I will, therefore, give the
facts in some detail, which go to show the truth about what the
pedigree contains and what it does not contain.

In 1869 the late William R. EUiston, of Nashville, Tennessee,
furnished me the following facts, which he obtained personally
from Mr. Eli Odom. It was very fortunate that Mr. Elliston ob-
tained these facts when he did, for Mr. Odom was advanced in years
and died not long afterward. He was a brother-in-law of the
once very famous breeder and race horse man. Colonel Elliott, of
Tennessee, and in early life had charge of his establishment and
knew more about Colonel Elliott's stock than he did himself.
He lived to old age, highly respected by all who knew him, and
was a man of truth. He kept for his own use a pacing saddle
mare whose blood he knew notlring about, and he bred her to Top
Gallant, son of Gallatin, and the produce was a filly. This filly
he bred to imported Leviathan, and in due time there came an-
other filly which he bred to imported Albion, and the next filly
was Lucy Fowler. This filly passed through the hands of a Mr.
Fowler and perhaps one or two others, and at last became the
property of Price McGrath, of Lexington, Kentucky, and was the
dam of Tom Bowling, Aaron Pennington and others. Starting


in with the pacing mare, Mr, Odom bred all that followed until
we reach Lucy Fowler, and there we find she had seven parts of
running blood and one part of jjacing blood. While an animal
bred in this way is certainly not "thoroughbred," nobody can
deny that he is "running-bred," for there are hundreds of in-
stances on record where animals of even shorter pedigrees than
Tom Bowling have been noted race horses. But there is an-
other fact connected with this family that is very interesting.
When the running qualities of Pennington were exhausted,
McGrath presented him to a kinsman of his, somewhere in Western
Missouri. After awhile I began to hear of an occasional trotter
from this horse and I wrote his owner (whose name I cannot now
recall), and he replied that "he went all the saddle gaits and was
a pacer." Here was a tidbit that I thought well worth looking
after, and I wrote the owner again for specific information of the
character of his pace and whether it was a clean and pronounced
side action, but for some reason or other I never was able to get
a reply to my questions. There can be no mistake about his
going the "saddle gaits," but whether this was the result of
training or whether he took to them naturally as inherited from
Mr. Odom's old pacing mare, is a point about which I have never
been fully satisfied.

Grey Eagle (Chenery's). — When Mr. Winthrop W. Chenery,
of Boston, bought this horse, about 1866, he got with him the
following pedigree,

" Got by Grey Eagle; dam by imp. Trustee; g.d. by Columbus; g.g.d. by
Stockholder; gggd. by Pacolet. Bred in Kentucky, and passed through
many vicissitudes, both as a runner and a trotter, beating his competitors at
both gaits; owned for a time in Ohio, now the property of Winthrop W.
Chenery & Co., Boston."

This was a correct type of the pedigrees of that time, lacking
date, location, breeder and all other things necessary to trace and
determine its value. The horse had certainly trotted in 2:31,
and he had trotted two miles to wagon in 5:09^, and to this evi-
dence of his trotting ability it was claimed that he had run and won
many races at all distances. This was such a combination of abil-
ities as I never had heard of before, and in attempting to solve the
riddle I became deeply interested. The search then instituted
has been kept up over since, and I must say that after all these
years I know absolutely nothing about the breeding of this
horse. His first known owner was a petty gambler and general


outlaw in the neighborhood of Portsmouth, Ohio, and the story
he told will be found in Wallace's Monthly, Vol. I., p. 53, and Vol.
VII., p. 597, besides other references. The search has been so
barren that I have not even the shadow of a theory as to what
his blood may have been. He got two or three trotters and one
or two pacers, I think, and here we have to leave him as the most
completely unknown horse in all my experience.

George Wilkes. — It is a grievous misfortune that the pedi-
gree of this great progenitor should be in doubt. The misfor-
tune is not in the fact that his descendants lose the supposed
Clay cross in his dam, for that was not of very great value, but
in the fact that we should not know just what belongs in its place.
In December, 1877, I had the good fortune to meet with Mr.
Harry Felter and Mr. William L. Simmons at a breeders' banquet,
and it was not long until we were in conversation about the blood
of the dam of George Wilkes. I knew that the breeding of that
horse had never been established, but I was greatly surprised
that these two gentlemen — one the breeder and the other the
owner of Wilkes — had never made any effort to trace and estab-
lish so important a fact. Mr. Felter stated that he had bought
the mare from Mr. W. A. Delevan, and that Mr. Delevan had
bought her from Mr. Joseph S. Lewis, of Geneva, New York.
Thereupon I wrote to Mr. Lewis and the following is his re-

"Soiue twenty-six years since I bought a brown mare from a gentleman by
the name of James Gilbert, then living in the town of Phelps, in this county,
for a friend, and very soon after sold her to W. A. Delevan, of New York.
She was then about five years old, a fine roadster, and could speed in about
3:30. He took her to New York, and after driving her some time sold her to
my esteemed friend, Harry Felter. I think she passed into the hands of his
father, and met with an accident. She was put to breeding, and had a colt by
Kysdyk's Hambletonian, that grew up to be the famous George Wilkes. For
the benefit of many persons in New York I lost no time in looking about to
learn the pedigree of the mare and of the horse that got her. On seeing Gil-
bert I learned that he got the mare of an old man who is now dead, by the
name of Josiah Philips, of Bristol, in this county. I lost no time in sending
a man, who lived with us at the time, by the name of John S. Dey, to Bristol,
to get all the facts in t'.ie mare's pedigree that he could get hold of. He learned
through Philips that the father of this mare was the old Wadsworth Henry

Online LibraryOscar WildeLady Windermere's fan, and The importance of being Earnest → online text (page 47 of 61)