Oscar Wilde.

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

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commenced to increase soon after this time, it strikes me as
probable that this was tlie wise and guiding motive of the duke in
making his selections of the "Royal Mares."

When we come down a little nearer to our own times and step
across the border from the seventeenth to the eighteenth century,
we are still in the realm of traditions, and many of them very
preposterous. The deceptions practiced in nomenclature were so
common as to be well-nigh universal. Everybody who owned a
foreign horse must have "Arabian" attached to his name. To>
illustrate this evil and the misleading effects flowing from it, I
will give two instances of the most famous horses in all English
history. The Darley Arabian and the Godolphin Arabian stand
pre-eminent and before all others as progenitors of the English
race horse. The former of these two was purchased at Aleppo,
in Asia Minor, and brought]to England in 1711, by Mr. Darley of


Yorkshire who secured him through a brother in trade in that
region. He was the sire of Flying Childers and many others,
and his blood carried from generation to generation. Aleppo is
in Northern Syria and far distant from Arabia. At one time it
was embraced in Armenia Minor, the original home of the horse,
and adjoined Cappadocia and Cilicia, all famous for the excel-
lence of their horse stock more than two thousand years before
there was a single horse in Arabia. Upon the restoration of the
ancient Theban line of Pharaohs in Egypt, at the beginning of
the eighteenth dynasty, no time was lost by Thutmosis I. in lead-
ing a, great army into Northern Syria for no other purpose that is
apparent except to replenish and reinvigorate the horse stock of
Egypt, from the region of Aleppo and further east, for this is
the region from which they had secured their original stock.
His successors pursued the same course, year after year, and the
number of horses and chariots captured in battle, as well as the
number of mares sent as tribute by the frightened people, were
duly recorded in the annals of their achievements. If the
Darley Arabian, so called, bore any relationship whatever to the
Arabian horse, it can only be established by tracing him back to
some one of the animals in Cappadocia that the Emperor Con-
stantius sent to Arabia in the year a.d. 35G. A writer of the
seventeenth century. Dr. Alexander Bursell, in speaking of Aleppo,
says: "Formerly this part of the country was famous for line
horses; and though many good ones are still bred here, it may
be said they are much degenerated." This is the observation of
an intelligent man, written and published in 1750, about forty
years after Mr. Barley's horse was brought from there.

The other illustration is that of Godolphin Arabian. As a pro-
genitor of race horses this was the greatest horse of his century, or
indeed of any other century in the history of the English, race
horse. He died in 1753, and absolutely nothing is known of his
origin or his early history. The story is generally accepted, and
I suppose is true, that he was bought out of a cart in Paris, as an
act of humanity, by a Mr. Coke, taken to London, presented to
Mr. Williams, the keeper of a coffee-house, and passed from him
to Lord Godolphin, who kept him till he died. The story that
he was presented to Louis XV. by the Bey of Tunis in 1731 has
never been verified in any manner, and breaks down on the vital
point of date. Some intelligent Englishmen insist that he must
have been an Arabian, while others insist that he mtist have been a


Barb, while no man hnoivs whether he was either one or the
other. With the most prominent horses of the nation and of
their century thus used to mislead the public mind as to their
lineage, what are we to expect from the great ruck of the obscure
and less prominent? But, as a more elaborate and methodical
discussion of this topic will be found in the chapter On the Eng-
lish and American Eace Horse, we will now turn our attention to
the actual experiences with the Arabians in recent times.

When we come down to the present century we get into the
era of newspapers that really begun to give the news, and thus
educate their readers, not very authentically, but circumstantially,
in what was passing in the world in every department of knowl-
edge and enterprise. Under these wide sources of information, a
few authentic experiences will serve to illustrate the true status
of the Arabian horse and his influence, or lack of influence, on
English and American horses. More than twenty years ago the
Prince of Wales made a royal progress through Her Majesty's
dominions in the East. The enthusiasm was unbounded and he
was loaded down with many valuable presents, among them
several elegant, high-caste Arabian horses. It appears that some
of these horses had already won reputation and money on the
turf, and were considered the very best that could be found in
the East. On their arrival they were greatly admired and praised,
especially by the sporting friends of the prince, who seemed to
have no doubt, nor did they conceal their opinions, that they
could beat any horses in all England. This was a conclusion
that a great many racing men, with longer memories, could not
accept, and after a good deal of diplomacy a match was finally
concluded between the prince's best horse and an old horse that
was third or fourth-class, in his prime, but was unsound and
liable to break down any time he was extended. The prince was
popular, had many supporters, and much money was pending.
The old horse was patched up as well as possible, the day came,
the race was started, and the old cripple was so much faster than
the Arab that his managers had the hardest work in the world to
prevent him from running clear away and disgracing the prince.
This account of the race I had from one of the most eminent and
successful tuainers that England has produced. He witnessed
the race and knew all the facts concerning it. Notwithstanding
the popularity of the prince and the universal feeling of loyalty
toward him, it was a long time before his Arabs ceased to be a
laughing-stock among horsemen.


Some sixteen or eighteen years ago, an English gentleman of
wealth and intelligence — Mr. Wilfrid S. Blunt — got it into his
head that the way to improve the English race horse was to se-
cure fresh infusions of pure Arabian blood. He was industrious
in propagating his fad, in an amateurish way, through the columns
of the English newspapers, evincing great zeal and a great lack of
knowledge of the hundreds of experiments in the same direction
and in the history of his own country that had proved disastrous.
But he had a will of his own and a bank account that enabled him
to carry out his views to their own realization. In the autumn of
1877 he made up a pleasant family party, consisting of his wife.
Lady Anne, and two of her lady friends and started for Arabia, with
the full determination to find the best and to buy nothing that
was not of the purest and best lineage that could be found in all
that country. Fortunately, Lady Anne carefully noted down
everything that transpired in their journeyings and after the re-
turn wrote a very pleasant and readable book, understood to have
been edited by her husband in some of its features. The title
of the book — "The Bedouin Tribes of the Euphrates" — did not
strike me pleasantly, for I never knew that any of the numerous
Bedouin tribes were to be found on the Euphrates. But my
purpose is not to criticise either the book or its title, but to fol-
low the party over its itinerary and discover just where Mr. Blunt
found the blood he was looking for, and upon what evidence he
accepted it as "the best blood." With this view I will carefully
give his own language, so far as it applies to the point in view.

His first purchase was at Aleppo, where he got a mare he
named Hagar, as he says, "for a very moderate sum." "She was
of the Kehilan-AJuz breed." "When purchased she was in very
poor condition, having just gone through the severe training of a
campaign." "She was bred by the Gommussa, the most able of
the horse-breedmg tribes, had passed from them to the Roala,
and had now been captured and ridd§n some two hundred miles,
in hot haste, for sale to Aleppo." "We never met anything in
our travels that could compete with her over a distance, and she
has often run down foxes and even hares, without assistance,
carrying thirteen stone on her back." This was the first experi-
ence of the English "tenderfoot" among Syrian horsethieves.
According to his own showing, he bought her from the fellow
who had stolen her and had ridden her two hundred miles to
escape, and he accepted what the thief told about the breeding of


the mare as true. The thief knew just what Mr. Blunt wanted
and he shaped the pedigree and tracing to suit the purchaser.
Mr. Blunt had no knowledge of this mare's breeding, nor where
she 'came from; still, her blood was to become one of the great
influences in renovating the English race horse. This incident is
of no importance, in itself, except as it illustrates the universal
conditions under which amateurs buy horses in the Orient.

Upon leaving Aleppo, the party traveled eastward till they
struck the Euphrates and then down the right bank of that river.
The first town of any importance was Deyr, on the river, and just
across was ancient Mesopotamia. They were still in the border
land between the productive north and the desert south, with
the Syrian desert between them and the Arabian desert. All
this region is occupied with a mixture of races, employed in
varied pursuits, with but a feeble trace of tribal authority, as all
are under the direct government of the Sultan of Turkey.

" Deyr is well-known," Mr Blunt says, " as a horse market, and is, perhaps,
the only town north of the Jebel Shamuiar where the inhabitants have any
general knowledge of the blood and breeding of the beasts they possess. The
townsmen, indeed, are but a single step removed from the Bedouins, their un-
doubted ancestors. They usually purchase t eir colts as yearlings either from
the Gomussa, or some of the Sabaa tribes, and having broken them thoroughly,
sell tbem at three years old to the Aleppo merchants. They occasionally, too,
have mares left with them, in partnership, by the Anazah, and from these they
breed according to the strictest desert rules. It is, therefore, for a stranger,
by far the best market for thoroughbreds in Asia, and you may get some of
the best blood at Deyr that can be found anywhere, besides having a
guarantee of its authenticity, impossible, under ordinary circumstances, to get
at Damascus or Aleppo. There are, I may say, no horses at Deyr but thorough-
breds "

He made some purchases at Deyr and then they pursued their
journey down the river, and at the most convenient point he
crossed over to Bagdad, on the Tigris. Here he inspected the stud
of the Turkish pasha, but the prices were high and he seemed to
lack confidence in the purity of their breeding. Whatever the
cause, he made no purchases, and soon started on his journey
up the Tigris. Upon reaching Sherghat on the Tigris, he turned
westward, and crossing ancient Mesopotamia, he was again at
Deyr, where he seems to have made more purchases, and then
started, in a southwesterly direction, with eighteen mares and two
stallions for Damascus and the coast. This closed the search of
Arabia for Arabian horses of the highest caste and purest blood.


without really being in Arabia, and this is all that can be said of
"The Bedouin Tribes of the Euphrates" — without having seen a
real Bedouin.

No doubt Mr, Blunt thinks he is right in his high appreciation
of the town of Deyr as a horse market; that it is "the best
market for thoroughbreds in Asia;" and that "there are no
horses in Deyr but thoroughbreds/' or he would not have bought
his horses there. Dealing in horses seems to be the principal
business of the people, they are all well informed on the best and
purest strains of blood, according to Mr. Blunt, and all their own
horses are thoroughbred. Truly an ideal market, an ideal people,
and ideal horses, just suited to the needs of enthusiastic amateurs
like Mr. Blunt. This remarkable horse town is located on the
border between the rich grain fields and luxuriant meadows on the
north, and the comparatively barren deserts of the south. On
the north the country has been famous for thousands of years for
the great numbers and excellence of the horses produced, and
they are still produced of excellent form and quality, and are sold
at very low prices. On the south is the land of the camel, and
but few horses and those few held at high prices, and the simple
term "Arabian horse" always brings them purchasers. Here,
then, we find that Deyr is the very paradise of horse traders — a
tribe, wherever we find them on the face of the earth, distin-
guished for elasticity of conscience. The north furnishes the
horses and the south furnishes the pedigrees, and no wonder the
Deyrites had nothing but "thoroughbreds" when Mr. Blunt came
along. In the I'ne of their business and from their southern
neighbors, they had picked up enough "Arabian horse talk" to
satisfy all inexperienced buyers that they knew all about the value
of the different strains of Arabian blood, and could supply them
from their own studs, ac very reasonable prices. And thus Mr.
Blunt brought home to England eighteen "Arabian" mares and
two stallions, without any satisfactory evidence that they ever
had seen Arabia. In this enthusiastic venture, resulting in utter
failure, there is one alleviating fact that Mr. Blunt can call to
mind, and that is that his horses were just as good for the pur-
pose of improving the English race horse as any others that
have been brought from the Orient in the past hundred years.
Whatever their blood, whether genuine or counterfeit Arabians,
they have all alike been failures, and all alike good for nothing.

Early in the history of our own government it became not an


unusual thing for the Sultan of Turkey, the Emperor of Morocco,
or some other potentate of the Saracenic races, to present to the
President two horses, and as they were presents from royalty to
what they esteemed royalty, they were necessarily of the highest
caste and of the greatest value of any. horses in all their domin-
ions. It is probable that Mr. Jefferson was the first president to
receive these royal gifts, and under the requirements of the con-
stitution and without any disrespect to the donor, he ordered
them to be sold to the highest bidder, and turned the money into
the treasury. Several of the presidents received these presents
of horses, and without knowing the fact, I will presume disposed
of them the same way. In the case of President Lincoln, Mr.
Seward seemed to be more highly favored and the sultan sent^
the horses to him. Through the State Agricultural Society, Mr.
Seward presented his royal presents to the State of New York.
My recollection is not very distinct, but my impression is that
Mr. Van Buren had disposed of his in the same way. When
General Grant received his, he was not in public office and hence
they became bis personal property. A number of the first of
these importations, together with some others that were brought
from Arabia, individually and by private persons, were, in the
early part of the century, carried into the South, which was then
the "race-horse region," but the breeders there very soon dis-
covered that in breeding from them they were taking a backward
instead of a forward step. Their progeny could neither run nor
trot, and as they were too small for the ordinary uses of the
farmer and planter, they were almost unanimously rejected, with
nothing left but the ignorant "fad" that was embodied in the^
name "Arabian."

The most notable example of the folly of attempting to re-
generate the American race horse by the introduction of the
"blood of the desert" is furnished in the sad experience of the
late A. Keene Eichards, of Kentucky. He inherited a large
estate, and when he came into possession he proved himself an
intelligent and successful breeder, and ran the colts of his own
breeding, with a full share of winnings. He was not a spendthrift
nor a gambler, but he was not content with mediocrity in shar-
ing triumphs with his neighbors, for he was ambitious to beat
them all. He soon had his head full of such horses as the Darley
Arabian and the Godolphin Arabian, and he argued if that blood
founded the English race horse, he would go to Arabia and get it


and it could not fail to regenerate the American race horse. He
did not stop to inquire whether either of his great ideals might
have had a drop of Arabian blood in his veins, but he started for
Arabia at once. He brought home a few stallions and felt sure
he was on the eve of the greatest triumph of his life. When the
half- Arab produce of his strong and elegantly bred race mares
were old enough to run the jockey club allowed the half-breeds
seven pounds the advantage in weight and they were beaten.
The club then allowed them fourteen pounds and they were
again beaten; and finally the allowance was raised to twenty-one
pounds, and they were still in the rear rank. Under these hu-
miliating defeats a careful man would have hesitated before he
went further, but he at once jumped to the conclusion that his
defeat was not in the fact that Arab blood could not run fast
enough to win, but in the fact, as he supposed, that the rascally
Arabs had sold him blood that was not Arab blood. In a short
time he was off for Arabia again, taking with him as companion
and adviser the distinguished animal painter, Troye, who had a
long and successful experience as a delineator of race horses and
knew all about the anatomy of the horse. They spent several
months among the dilferent tribes, and in order to get "inside of
the ring," as it were, they ate with the Arabs, slept with the
Arabs, and worshiped with the Arabs, as Mr. Eichards told me
himself. They came home full of the highest expectations, bring-
ing several mares as well as stallions Avith them, and fully assured
that every one was of the highest caste and the best form for rac-
ing that could be found on all the plains of the desert. After
the foals of this importation were old enough to start in the
stakes, they were given the same advantages in weight as before,
and they proved no better than the first lot. Poor Mr. Eichards
was crushed in spirits, not only by the vanishing of his air castles,
but by the importunacy of his creditors. In his heroic, but mis-
guided, efforts to improve the American race horse by infusions
of pure Arabian blood, he involved his once handsome estate,
and he died hopelessly insolvent. He had bred a number of pure
Arabs of several generations, but the abundant feed and luxuriant
blue grass of Kentucky did not increase their size, for when they
came under the auctioneer's hammer they were but little
"tackeys," and they brought only the price of little "tackeys."

The number of horses brought to this country, whether as
gifts to statesmen or as private ventures, and called "Arabians,"


is not very large, and it is safe to say that not one in ten of them
ever saw Arabia. They came from Turkey or some of the Bar-
bary States. But in the case of Mr. Eichards there can be no
doubt that he made his selections in Arabia itself. Those selec-
tions having been made personally and with care and skill^,^ we are
bound to accept them as genuine Arabians. When we find,
therefore, that having been tested they are no better than the
horses brought from Turkey or from Africa, we must conclude
that the whole scheme is mere moonshine, and that Arabian
blood as a means of improvement has failed to develop the value
that enthusiasts and dreamers have claimed for it since "'time
whereof the memory of man runneth not to the contrary."
Practical and thinking men always judge of the value of a breed
of horses from what the representatives of that breed can do or what
they fail to do. The emotional and unpractical are always look-
ing for an ideal horse, and the poets and story writers are always
furnishing them one. "Where a horse figures in a story he is
uniformly endowed with an almost supernatural intelligence and
sense. To finish up the ideal horse, he always traces back to the
''Courser of the Desert." If his triumph is in a flight of speed,
he distances all competitors because he is a pure Arabian. The
story of "Ben Hur," written by General Lew Wallace, furnishes a
fitting illustration of this tendency of the public mind. The story
of the chariot race at Antioch is a masterpiece of most exciting
ingenuity, and one of the finest specimens of word painting in
the English language. The irascible old sheik is quite over-
drawn, but the judgment and skill of Ben Hur cannot be sur-
passed. As a matter of course, the team of black Arabians was
bound to Avin. Every bright schoolboy in the country has read
the story, and he has joined in the triumph of the black Arabians.
The wide interest in the chariot race seemed to demand its pic-
torial delineation, and soon the public was gratified with a large
and elegant etching, which hangs before me as I write. The only
trouble about this excellent work of the imagination and the
team of black Arabians is that there were no horses in Arabia till
about three hundred and fifty years after the date of this sup-
posed scene. We must let the poets sing and the novelists work
out their plots, but it is well to pay some attention to the facts
and experiences of history.



The real origin of the English race horse in confusion — Full list of the
"foundation stock" as given by Mr. Weatherby one hundred j'ears ago —
The list complete and embraces all of any note — Admiral Rous' extrava-
ganza — Godolphin Arabian's origin whollj' unknown — His history —
Successful search for his true portrait — Stubbs' picture a caricature — The
true portrait alone supplies all that is known of his origin and blood.

The English Race Horse is the great central figure of all the
horse literature of the past two hundred years. Much has been
claimed for him and much has been written about him, in a hap-
hazard way, by people who know but little of the subject. A tew
men of independent and real thought have written on this sub-
ject, .but they have devoted their attention to the comparing of
family with family or individual with individual. Of the books
tliat have been written by brainless people on the English horse
there is no end, and they are generally mere repetitions, without
giving credit, of what somebody has said before. Among all the
books that have been written on this subject I have never yet
found one that even pretended to make a serious attempt at dis-
covering the real origin of the English Eace Horse. They all seem
to agree with Admiral Eous that he is purely descended from the
Arabian horse, and without one drop of the blood of the indig-
■enous English horse. The average writer for the two past cen-
turies has been content with just this much knowledge, and he
wants nothing more. Occasionally it is modestly suggested in
some magazine article that this exclusively Arabian origin may
not be true, and I am glad to note that these suggestions are be-
coming more frequent of late years. It has been claimed tliat
the pure Arabian origin of the race horse "is as solid as a
pyramid," all of which may be accepted — but, unfortunately for
the claimant, the "pyramid" is standing on its apex, and when
the facts breathe upon it, as gently as a zephyr, it will topple
over. The most convenient and the most authoritative collec-


tion of facts relating to the earliest exotic horses that were
brought in is to be found in the English Stud Book itself, and
as but few of my readers have access to this work, I will copy
that portion of it entire, as it appears in the first volume, and
the edition of 1803. In the edition of 1808 the list was reprinted
with four additional animals and some verbal changes, which^
when important, will be noted.


1. The Helmsley Turk was an old Duke of Buckingham's and got Bus-
tler, etc.

2. Place's White Turk was the property of Mr. Place, studmaster to Oliver

Online LibraryOscar WildeLady Windermere's fan, and The importance of being Earnest → online text (page 8 of 61)