Oscar Wilde.

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

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Clay, owned for many years by General Wadsworth, of Genesee. There is
no mistake about this, as I have since learned from his neighbors that she was
a Clay colt. Philips further stated that the mother of the mare was got by a
horse called Highlander, a good horse, and owned in that section of country.


T have no doubt about tliis, as there was such a horse in that section about
that time. When I go to Buffalo, where Gilbert now lives, I may be able to
get at more facts in regard to your inquiry, and if I can get hold of anything
tliat will give more light on the subject before I am down in New York, I will
drop into your office to see you. Very truly yours, etc.

"J. S. Lewis."

The receipt of this letter, so straightforward and clean-cut in
its statements, developed a mystery that was incomprehensible
to me. Dates, names, places, circumstances, all stand out as evi-
dences of tlie truth of the representations, and also as evidences
that Mr. Lewis had fully investigated the matter, and given the
results of his investigations to his friends in this city; still, those
friends had never heard the facts, or had entirely forgotten them.
As there was a strong prejudice against Clay blood in certain
quarters, it occurred to me that possibly that cross had been left
in abeyance so long that it really had been forgotten. This did
not clear up the mystery, however, and I determined to have the
whole matter investigated from a different starting point. I
submitted the matter to Mr. John P. Kay, a very capable and
very honest man, and he kindly and without reward undertook
the investigation. The Philips family lived in the vicinity of
Bristol, and the first of the family met by Mr. Ray was Mr. E. V.
Philips, nephew and adopted son of Joshua Philips (not Josiah,
as Mr. Lewis had it), and he enumerated several head of Clays
that had been owned by his uncle Joshua, among them a mare
that was bred by Mr. Clark Philips, bought of him when a year-
ling by E. V. Philips, sold as a four-year-old to his uncle Joshua,
and by him the next year to "some man from the eastern part
of the country." He next met Mr. Clark Philips, who fully
confirmed E. V. Philips about the Clay filly already referred to
and said she was got when old Henry Clay was owned by Kent
and Bailey of Bristol, and that her dam was "Old Telegraph" by
Highlander, etc. In his original report to me of his investiga-
tion Mr. Ray uses the following language:

" When Henry Clay was being brou ht from the East to his home in West-
ern New York, he stopped one night at the hotel then kept in Bristol by Dr.
Durgan, deceased (the breeder of Castle Boy), and made a season at this place
the following year, when he became the property of Kent & Bailey. He was
kept in that town for several years, etc."

Now, as between the original and voluntary statement of Cap-
tain Lewis and the investigation carried through by Mr. Ray,


there is no conflict and all is smooth sailing, and upon the infor-
mation derived from these two sources the pedigree of George
Wilkes was decided as established by the Board of Censors. But
more recent discoveries made by Mr. Ray, in which I have no
doubt he is thoroughly conscientious and possibly thoroughly
right, have raised a conflict that is irrepressible, for dates are
involved and insisted upon that make the pedigree impossible.
In his original statement Mr. Ray says that Henry Clay made
the season of 1846 at Bristol, "when he became the property of
Kent & Bailey. He was kept in that town for some 'years."
Up to this point there is no contradiction and no impossibility;
Ray agrees with Lewis and Lewis agrees with Ray. But in the
past two or three years Mr. Ray believes he has secured addi-
tional information, and this places Captain Lewis in a very un-
enviable position. The whole point of Clark Philips' evidence is
that he bred his mare "Old Telegraph" to Henry Clay when that
horse was owned by Bailey Brothers, of Bristol, and I suppose
they were the successors of Kent & Bailey of an earlier date.
Now, as Mr. Ray told us in his first investigation that Henry Clay
passed into the hands of Kent & Bailey in 1847, and as he tells
us later that he did not pass into their hands till nine or ten
years after that date and then fails to fix the precise year, it must
be conceded by all that his information is not wholly satisfactory.
Recollections may be ever so honest, but they are of various
degrees of reliability. The best and final evidence is the service
book of the horse. My best judgment of the whole matter is
that Mr. Ray's later information is probably correct, but until
all doubt is removed by the production of some contemporaneous
record covering the case there must remain an element of uncer-
tainty attaching to the pedigree.



Early trotting and pacing races — Strains of blood in tbe first known trotters
— The lesson of Maud S. — Tbe genesis of trottlng-borse literature — Tbe
simple study of inheritance — Tbe different forms of heredity — The famous
quagga story not sustained — Illustrations in dogs — Heredity of acquired
characters and instincts — Development of successive generations necessary
— Unequaled collections of statistics — Acquired injuries and unsoundnesil

As preparatory to taking up the consideration of the breeding
problem, it may be well to look back a little and see what had
transpired in the trotting-horse world, leading up to the serious
consideration of how he was bred. It has been generally ac-
cepted as true that there were no trotting contests in this coun-
try till about the second decade of the present century, but this
impression has grown out of the fact that the newspapers, down
to that period, failed to report such contests. It is historically
true that pacing races were a common amusement among the
people of different portions of the colonies nearly two hundred
years ago. This is established by the legislative action of some
of the colonies, in the first half of the last century, in suppress-
ing all "pacing and trotting races." It is well to note, in pass-
ing, that pacers and trotters of that early period were commin-
gled, just as they are to-day, with the former the more prominent,
and the more highly prized. Of that hundred years of silence
we have no details and but few historical references that were
contemporaneous with the events. Hence we are practically de-
pendent upon the legislative action of the colonies to establish
the truth beyond question.

When we reach the period when the newspapers began to re-
port some of the more conspicuous and important trotting events
about Philadelphia and New York, we find a condition of things
for which we are hardly prepared. The pacer has lost his prom-
inence and is but little in evidence, and all the best trotters seem


to be descended from the imported horse Messenger. The best
performers of that period were as follows:

Topgallant Betsy Baker - Washington

Paul Pry Sir Peter Sally Miller

Dutcliman Screwdriver Greenwich Maid

Jersey Fagdown Chancellor Charlotte Temple

Commander (Bull) Whalebone Confidence

.Gipsy Lady Suffolk Rattler

Bull Calf Andrew Jackson Lady Salisbury

Lady Warrenton Fanny Pullen Modesty

These were all descended from Messenger, and with the excep-
tion of Edwin Forrest and one or two others, believed to be de-
scended from pacing blood, they were the leading performers of
their day. All of the above animals Avere not equally strong in
Messenger blood as three of them were by sons and out of
daughters of Messenger, five were by sons of Messenger, and all
the others had more or less of his blood. More than eighty years
ago the descendants of Messenger, wherever known, were recog-
nized as a family of trotters and this broad fact became a kind of
universal belief among horsemen. This belief, being founded on
a truth, was all right, but a plausible deduction from it, which
was not a truth, inflicted a terrible penalty upon the pockets of
otherwise intelligent men for a period of more than fifty years
before they discovered their error. The postulate was in this
form: ''Messenger was a thoroughbred horse and founded a
great family of trotters, hence, any other thoroughbred horse,
under the same conditions, would have accomplished the same
results." This "stock" form of the argument was plausible and it
was in everybody's mouth from one end of the land to the other.
Every stable boy, every breeder, every editor believed the deduc-
tion was sound, and, I may as well own it, I believed it myself
until I had gathered together all the accessible trotting statistics
of this country and reduced them to order and method, so that
they might be studied and their true teachings be drawn from
them. As an illustration of the ignorant intolerance and dis
honesty with which certain editors and their followers main-
tained, less than twenty years ago, that all that was of any value
in the trotter was inherited from the runner, take the following:
In the autumn of 1878 the famous Maud S., then four years
old, came out and trotted a mile in 3:17^, which was then a
world's wonder. She was a pacer of the plastic type, but she


had to wear toe-weights through all her brilliant career to keep
her on her gait as a trotter. Everybody was astounded at this
phenomenal performance and went wild over it as something
that had never been done before, by a four-year-old, and proba-
bly never would be done again. On this performance I simply
remarked, in the Mordhly:

"Her trotting inheritance is very strong and well defined on both sides of
the house, and she has a right to trot, and trot fast, and her 2:17| shows that
she trots instinctively, and without much training; and in this she is phenome-
nal. She is simply a little in advance of her time; for no truth is more fully
sustained by analogy and reason than that, in a few generation of judicious
selections, such mares will not be phenomenal."

From this four-year-old record of 2:171 in 1878, we pass on to
the two-year-old record of 2:10| in 1891. A four-year-old now
trotting in 2:17^ is only commonplace. It was not a gift of
"prophecy" nor an overwrought enthusiasm, therefore, that
enabled me to determine that 2:17^ for a four-year-old would
become commonplace, but a study of the laws of breeding in the
light of all past trotting experiences. When this performance
was made the late B. G. Bruce, of Lexington, Kentucky, then
editor of a sporting paper, went into ecstasies over it and was at
once able to show, to his own mind, that it was all owing to the
running blood in Maud S. that enabled her to show phenomenal
speed. He figured this all out and showed that she possessed
eleven-sixteenths of what he called "pure blood," to five-six-
teenths of what he called "cold blood." In winding up his
article, he says:

"In conclusion we deem it evident from her form and action that the great
power of Maud S. comes from her pure blood; that her breeding back on the
form and action, courage and endurance of the blood horse is the very reason
why she is so superior to all four-year-olds that have ever appeared. And an-
other point is obvious: the pure blood matures so much earlier than the cold
blood that years are gained in development over the cold-blooded trotter."

Now instead of Maud S. possessing eleven-sixteenths of "pure
blood," as claimed by Mr. Bruce, it has never been shown and
never can be shown that she possessed one single drop of "pure
blood." When Sally Russell, the grandam of Maud S., was sold
to Mr. R. A. Alexander, she was sold under a fraudulent pedi-
gree, and when Pilot Jr. was sold to Mr. Alexander an utterly
impossible pedigree was manufactured for him. In both cases
he was the victim of sharpers, for in his life and character he


stood away above all suspicion. The pedigrees of Pilot Jr. and
Sally Russell have been fully considered in Chapter XXIX. of this

After publishing "The American Stud Book" in 1867, and the
first volume of the "Trotting Register" in 1871, and having care-
fully compiled all past trotting races and trotting experiences,
up to the close of 1872, it began to dawn upon me that possi-
bly I had been handling a great many fictions and thereby given
them an indorsement to the world as truths. This "gave me
pause," as well as many a sleepless night and anxious day. The
old adage, "What everybody says must be true," gave me no com-
fort, for I had just found that Mr. "Everybody" was a great liar.
Then a higher and purer maxim suggested itself to my mind,
"One, with the truth on his side, is a majority," and under this
banner I enlisted for the war which I knew was coming. Having
compiled the pedigrees of all running horses and all trotting
horses, so far as known, up to 1870, and more especially having
gathered up all past trotting experiences and statistics, I felt
that I was equipped to enter the lists with everybody against me.
I knew I was liable to meet antagonists on every side, and some
of them of great ability, but at the same time I knew they had
neither the armor of truth nor the weapons of facts at their com-
mand. Mere prejudices and the limping opinions that spring
from them have no force in an earnest combat. The platfoi*m
upon which I stood was aggressive, but simple and easily compre-
hended, viz., "The English horse Messenger, in his own right
and by his own power, founded a family of trotters — something
which no other English horse had ever been able to take the first
step toward accomplishing." This was the central point around
which the battle raged, and to it I added the pacer as a subsidiary
or minor source of speed, equally certain in fact, but not equally
well defined in lines of descent, nor equally important in num-
bers and value. From these major and minor sources it is liter-
ally true that all our trotters have descended. In confirmation
of this, a very capable and careful writer in the New York Sun,
within the past few months, has said: "Hambletonian is the pro-
genitor of ninety per cent, of tlie fast trotters now on the turf."
When we start with Hambletonian, the triple great-grandson of
Messenger, we are safely within the period of records of both
blood and performances, and we are relieved from some possible
uncertainties in the earlier period of Messenger himself, hence


the writer quoted above is at bed-rock in the sources of his in-
formation. This makes my major proposition so j)l^in and so
triumphantly sustained that it is doubtful whether there is now
living an intelligent horseman who would even think of disput-
ing it.

In the spring of 1872 I wrote a series of articles under the
caption of "How shall we breed the Trotting Horse?" which was
publislied in the Spirit of the Tijiies in February and March
of that year. These papers were revised and enlarged and pub-
lished, as an introductory treatise on breeding the trotter, in the
second volume of the "American Trotting Register." This
treatise is the genesis of all discussions in which the laws govern-
ing the breeding of the trotter are considered. Up to that period
contributions to the press on breeding subjects were generally
transient and confined to the writer's own experience. If he was
trying to breed trotters a comparison of his material always
corresponded with his arguments, and the only thing he demon-
strated was his own inability to see over the fence surrounding
his own paddocks. I love a man who loves his horse, and, as a
man, I cannot dislike him because he thinks his horse is the very
acme of all equine perfection, although he may be a worthless
brute; but when a man spends a whole lifetime in trying to breed
trotters from blood that cannot trot, I lose all respect for his men-
tal operations. The man who cannot widen out and take profit
from the demonstrated experiences of the whole trotting world,
had better turn his attention to some business suited to his
capacity. Not a single thought advanced nor a position taken
in the article referred to has ever been successfully controverted,
although they excited much opposition. An attempt was made
to laugh the phrase "trotting instinct" out of court, but that
little phrase not only held the fortress, but became, as it were,
the basis of the whole system of thought represented in the
treatise. It had a meaning and a fitness in what it meant that
put it in everybody's mouth, and there it stays for all time. In-
stinct is "the sum of inherited habits;" and these five words ex-
press the best practical definition of its meaning that I have ever
met with.

The Laws that Govern. — In all animal life the resemblance
of the offspring to the parents is the universal law. The law is
not only true in the physical conformation of the offspring, but
it is also true in the mentality and instinctivity of the offsprings


In former years it was very aptly termed the law of inheritance,
but the more general usage is now the law of heredity. In
xjasting about for a definition of this newly coined word, I have
not been able to find anything more comprehensive and express-
ive than that given, by Ribot, in the opening sentence of his work
on this subject. He says:

"Heredity is that biological law by wliicb all beings endowed with life tend
"to repeat themselves in their descendants; it is for tbe species what personal
identity is for tbe individual. By it a groundwork remains unchanged amid
incessant variation; by it Nature ever copies and imitates herself."

This has been the law ever since the command went forth,
"Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind,
<cattle and creeping thing and beast of the earth after his kind."
Hence sprang the varieties, species, genera and orders into which
naturalists have sought to classify the animal kingdom. In gen-
erations long past our ancestors used such phrases as "Like
father, like son," "Trot father, trot mother, trot colt," "Like
begets like," etc., meaning just what we mean to-day by the
word "heredity." While heredity is a universal law of animal
life, it must be remembered that its results cannot be pre-deter-
mined by any rule of arithmetic. Every colt has a sire and a
dam, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, and then
sixteen, and next thirty-two progenitors. Here we have five
generations embracing sixty-two different animals, and the ex-
periences of many years have gone to show that if these sixty-two
animals are all purely bred in the breed which you are seeking to
secure there is a re'^sonable certainty that your prospective colt
will be a good representative of that breed. By this I mean that
with this number of generations there is but little danger of your
colt following some undesirable type outside of and beyond these
five generations. The only way to study this problem intelli-
gently and with satisfaction is to tabulate the pedigrees of the
two animals you propose to couple and then study each individual
of the different generations and see what each one has done in
the direction you are breeding. If you are breeding for a Derby
winner you want every one of the sixty-two to have proved himself
or herself a first-class runner, and you don't want a single drop of
outside blood in any of them. If you are breeding for the two-
minute trotter, you don't want any blood but the fastest trotting
blood. If you are breeding for the two-minute pacer you want


nothing but the fastest pacing blood. But, possibly you may be
breeding for size, style, and beauty, and in that case you must be
particularly careful to have your tabulation full of animals pos-
sessing these qualifications. In times past many breeders have
been led to their own hurt in making ill-considered attempts at
improvement by mating animals of antagonistic instincts. The
fast runner and the fast trotter have nothing in common between
them in the way of gait. In physical structure there may be no
antagonism that we can see, but in mental or psychical structure
there is nothing but what is inharmonious. Each animal and
each line of blood must be considered as it stands separate from
the other, and the question must be not only asked but answered:
"What has this line of blood done in its own right and by its own

In studying these tabulations it certainly is not necessary tO'
remind any thinking man of the comparative value of near and
remote individuals. The first and second generations are the
important factors in the character and value of the proposed colt,
and, as a rule, the four grandparents are not given that weight
in making up a sound judgment to which they are entitled. A
tabulated pedigree may show a general equality or average good-
ness all over, in the direction we are looking; although it may
embrace but few stars it is not a pedigree that should be hastily
rejected. The student should never lose sight of the truth that
bad qualities are just as certain to be transmitted as good ones.
Bad feet, bad limbs, bad eyes and bad respiration should be
sufficient cause for prompt rejection. Derangement or unhealthi-
ness of the internal viscera or any of them is just as likely to be
transmitted as an external malformation or disease.

In some instances the qualities sought seem to emanate
entirely from the sire or the dam, and this prepotency seems to
appear more frequently as the work of the sire than of the dam,
perhaps because the opportunities are greater in the number of
services. Thousands of stallions have failed to get trotters out
of running-bred mares, but as many as you could count on the
fingers of one hand, probably, have succeeded in a few instances.
Of these Pilot Jr., Almont and Electioneer occur to me at this
time as the most prominent. These horses, so far as we know
the lines of their blood, were strictly trotting and pacing bred,
with no tincture of running blood in their veins. On a certain
occasion Senator Stanford wished to demonstrate to the writer


that Electioneer could get trotters out of running-bred mares,
and after showing the step of the famous Palo Alto, he remarked:
"None of my other stallions can do that. Electioneer alone has
the power to get trotters out of some thoroughbred mares, but
not all." This ability to get a trotter out of a running mare is
the highest test to which the prepotency of a trotting sire csm be
put, as is shown by the very small number that have ever

Direct Heredity. — While it is true that all inheritance must
come through the parents, it is also true that phenomena of form,
character and quality are not infrequently presented that the
parents do not seem to possess, and upon looking further we find
those phenomena in some of the more remote ancestors. When
we find the character of the offspring a practical reproduction of
one or both the parents, we designate this as a case of "direct
heredity" merely for the convenience of description and elucida-
tion. Ideal or perfect heredity never has been reached and never
will be. There are two sources to the life of the new being, and
each of these sources is made up of never-ending variations.
There may seem to be a very complete coalescence of the elements
of the sire and dam in the foal, but it is not like either of them
and yet it may resemble both. A mere physical resemblance to
a great sire is no evidence that the colt will be equally great. I
have seen many of the sons of the great Hambletonian, and among
them all the one that bore the strongest physical resemblance to
him was of the least value, either as a performer or a progenitor.
Hambletonian left many great sons behind him, some of them
even greater than himself, and while they all possessed certain
family characteristics, I cannot recall a single one that strikingly
resembled him in his physical conformation. From this inci-
dent, as well as a thousand other similar ones, we cannot avoid
the conclusion that heredity controls the whole animal, man or
beast, in his mental as well as in his physical constitution.

Cross Heredity is one of the forms of direct heredity, and
is not very well exemplified in trotting experiences, nor very
valuable in the lessons it is supposed to teach. In its first form
it embraces instances where the character of the sire is trans-

Online LibraryOscar WildeLady Windermere's fan, and The importance of being Earnest → online text (page 48 of 61)