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3 9090 014 531 962

Webster Family Library of Veterinary Medicine
Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at
Tufts University
200 Westboro Road
North Grafton ''' -^^"6








with thirty-six coloured illustrations
By henry ALKEN




My design and object in writing this work was not merely to depict
the life of a SporUman, in the general — perhaps with some persons,
unfavourable — acceptation of that term, but, taking higher ground, to
portray the character of an English gentleman attached to the sports
and pastimes of his country ; and, likewise, to give a sketch of a
country gentleman's family, in as close imitation as possible of those
of the best description, with which it has been my good fortune to
become acquainted. In fact, in many instances, the imitation or
resemblance is so close, as not to be doubtful to many as to who are
the original parties ; and they themselves cannot be displeased with
my selection, when they are intended to be displayed as exemplars
worthy of being followed by others.

The plan, or outline, of this half-true, half-fictitious story, is soon
told. It is, as has already been observed, descriptive of a country
gentleman, of large fortune and highly connected, having two sons
and two daughters. He himself is a sportsman, but only to a certain
extent ; that is to say, he does not aspire to fox-hunting, but keeps a
first-rate pack of harriers, and is also a good shot. His eldest son
has nothing sporting in his constitution, but has all the good qualities
that adorn and exalt our nature, and for which, of course, full credit
is given him. The hero of my tale is the younger son, who, differing
in tastes from his brother, enters into the sports of the field at a very
early age, and becomes a thorough sportsman, in the legitimate sense
of that, often wrongly applied, term. How far I have succeeded in
portraying him as such, my readers must be my judges ; I can only
say, I have made him follow, as nearly as I was able, in the footsteps
of those who, within my time and knowledge, have become the most
eminent sportsmen of their day, both by ' flood and field.'

It would be unfaithful to nature, and, therefore, unworthy of my
pen, were I to represent my young hero as totally guiltless of those
common failings to which inexperienced youth is, for the most part,
liable ; but I have taken especial care to keep him clear of all vicious
propensities which disgrace the gentleman and the Christian. In
furtherance of this purpose, then, I occasionally place him in a
dangerous position, the result of overweening confidence in others, so
natural to ingenuous youth ; but rescue him, in due time, partly by



his own proper principles, and also by the timely assistance of a faith-
ful and generous friend. These little aberrations are the result of his
q^uitting the noble and health-giving sports of the field for the
dangerous seductions of the race-course, which involve him in con-
siderable difliculties, by the expenses attendant on keeping race-horses
in the first instance, and by the treacherous conduct of his trainer,
in the second.

The situation in which I place my hero Avith his uncle is drawn
from real life, and with but few exaggerations or additions. No doubt
there are many such uncles, and many such nephews ; and the moral
to be drawn from the relative situations in which I place the two
in question, may be neither uninstructive nor useless. Indeed, it has
been my design, throughout the entire of the work, to impart to it a
moral tone, so that should those who may read it not rise the better
from the perusal, it will be their own fault, and not mine. At all
events, there is nothing in the sentiments expressed, or the examples
put forth, to make them anywise the worse.

In his character of a sportsman, I make my hero commence with
the lowest branches of the art, of which ratcatching is, I believe, the
type. He thence proceeds to the rabbit and the badger, progressing,
gradually, to the higher sports of the field, and finishes as a Leicester-
shire fox-hunter, and a horseman of the first class. I have also made
him a coachman — that is to say, an ardent amateur of the coach-box,
characteristic of the era in which I place him, which is, as nearly as
may be, my own. In truth, here I am myself, in some respects, his
exemplar. He commences with his pony in harness, as I myself did.
He then becomes a pupil of a celebrated coachman on his road, as was
my own case ; and, at length, he is not only considered safe — that is,
fit to be trusted with the ribbons — but possesses as much execution
on the coach-box as falls to the lot of most aspirants to the very
difficult art ; and, at length, I place him in a very trying position. By
the death of his elder brother, his uncle, and his father, he becomes
possessed of great wealth, and he does not abuse the boon. On the
contrary, he endeavours to follow his father's example in fulfilling the
duties of his station, and I leave him in the possession of the esteem
of his neighbours and friends, without which the riches of a Crcesus
aff"ord little real satisfaction to the possessor of them.

Then I had another object in my view. The most careless observer
of the course of worldly afi"airs must be aware that — as has been the
case in all ages — in proportion as a country has arrived at the highest
pitch of wealth and refinement, the taste for the humble, but nearly
unalloyed pleasures of a country life, has more or less declined.

A tendency to this decline has been, to a certain extent, observable



in our own land, and fears have been expressed, lest the noblest of all
our country sports — fox-hunting — may yield to this chilling, if not
demoralising influence. For my own part, I do not think it will.
I entertain that opinion of the force of the almost natural passion for
hunting, and other manly diversions which has ever distinguished
Englishmen from all other nations under the sun, that induces me to
believe that it will continue to uphold fox-hunting as the pride and
boast of all our national pastimes. We, however, do occasionally hear
unpleasant forebodings to the contrary. ' Railroads,' says one
croaker on the subject, 'spoil all hunting countries through which
they pass, and one is about to traverse the cream of the Leicestershire
hunts.' 'In a few years,' cries another, 'Paris and Brussels will be
accessible in a few hours, as our fashionable watering-places already
are.' ' Melton Mowbray falls oft",' exclaims a third, ' no new settlers
in the town, and the old ones will soon be giving up.' ' Young men
leave off hunting after about their third season,' says a fourth.
' When many of the present masters of foxhounds shall be taken from
us, none will be found masters in their stead, beyond a third or fourth
season,' cries a fifth. ' Game preserves, and the accursed system of
steeple-racing, is destructive of the sportsmanlike manner of riding to
hounds, to the great discomfort of their owners,' says a sixth.

I am aware there is truth in some of these remarks, consequently
cause for alarm ; and it is on this account that I have, in these pages,
striven to the utmost to give a high colour to a country life, and to
represent the real modern sportsman, such as I find him to be — a
character not excelled in ingenuous feelings, in liberal conduct, in
extreme hospitality, in sincerity of friendship and all other social
virtues, by any class in which it has been my lot to move. Where,
indeed, was there a fairer or better specimen to be found than in the
late Mr. Warde, fifty-seven years a master of foxhounds, and, there-
fore, called — 'The Father of the Field'? Who ever heard him utter
an ill-natured word respecting any one, either living or dead ? Where
was there a kinder friend, or a better neighbour ? and, above all things,
where was his equal as a companion ? Neither can I stop here in my
panegyric on this fine specimen of the old English country gentleman
and sportsman. Rough as was his exterior, Mr. Warde was accom-
plished and well informed, and capable of adapting his conversation to
any society into which he might be thrown. In short, it is a matter
of doubt whether there has existed a man, whose name has not been
long before the public, either in the capacity of a senator, a soldier, a
sailor, or an author, so universally known as Mr. Warde of Squerries,
in Kent, Avas to Englishmen, in all quarters of the globe. Let me,
however, not be understood to exhibit him as a pattern, in all respects,



for young men of the present day to imitate. Although, doubtless,
the somewhat rough exterior which he adopted, was, in great part,
adopted for the sake of effect to the tout ensemble of his character, still
a more polished one than his was, may now be required, in conformity
to the increased refinement of the age.

In the following pages, there may be something to amuse if not to
instruct the female mind. At all events, there is a little love-making,
and its results ; and there is one instance of a narrow escape by my
young hero, of the almost inevitable consequences of an unlawful
attachment. Upon the whole, however, the bright side of human
nature is displayed, and the cultivation of cheerfulness and good-
humour earnestly recommended as the sovereign antidote to those
mental disorders — peevishness and discontent — which distract the
mind, and increase the evils of life, without even the chance of either
removing or lightening them. Cheerfulness and good-humour are the
harbingers of virtue, and produce that serenity which disposes the
mind to friendship, love, gratitude, and every other social affection.
They make us contented with ourselves, our friends, and our situation,
and expand the heart to all the interests of humanity. It is in this
spirit, then, that I have written, as others more worthy of the task
have done before me — in that of Lucretius, indeed, when he penned
the following lines :

' Sed veluti pueris absintliia tetra iiiedentes
Ciim dare conantur, priiis oras pocula circum
Contingunt mellis dulci flavoque liquore.'

June 24th, 1842.



I.— Introductory— The hero presented— Items of his birth, parentage,
and education; together with traits of his idiosyncrasy, Avhereby
'comingeventscast their shadows before' 1

II.— The lirst great step in the Life of our ' Sportsman ' : he is entered
at hare.— The chapter concludes with many choice aphorisms
concerning the noble science, and sundry anecdotes, Avorthy of
being recorded in letters of gold 22

III. —Devoted to rural scenes and characters, and combining matter of
amusement and instruction, with maxims of sound theory, and
examples well worthy of imitation 54

IV.— The hero enters upon the stage of life, and also on another stage,
which, with various incidents narrated in this chapter, will be
found corroborative of the adage, that— 'as the twig is bent,
the tree's inclined ' 65

v.— Christmas at the seat of 'a line old English gentleman,' with its
appropriate accompaniments— good company, good cheer, and
good sport ........... 79

VI.— College life, with some sketches of men and manners at Oxford,
in the latter part of the eighteenth century— Bibury ]\leeting
in its palmy days


VII.— A trip to Ascot Races, succeeded by an inquiry into the systems
and methods of travelling, from the earliest ages to the golden
age of the road in England 110

VIII.— Rural life in hall and field; a ball and a wound (consequences

alike common in love and war) 139

IX. — Two events occur, of great influence upon the career of the hero :
he takes his degree at Oxford, and loses his brother, whereby
he becomes heir to the goodly domains of Amstead . . . 154

X. Our sportsman has now entered in earnest upon his life. He

refuses a seat in Parliament, and studies his craft with
enthusiasm, opening his lirst regular hunting campaign with
the Warwickshire, under the celebrated Mr. Corbet, and the

Pytchley, under the great John Warde 168




XI.— Tlie debut in Leicestershire— Frank Raby hunts with the Quorn
under Lord Sefton, with Lord Lonsdale's, and with the Duke
of Rutland's hounds 185

XII.— A sample of a young sportsman's life in London.— A near thing
for the Oaks at Epsom, and a close shave for the Oaks at
Amstead 203

XIII.— A season with Sir Thomas Mostyn, in the Bicester country, with
anecdotes of some of the leading sportsmen in the provinces at
that day, and a glance at ' home, sweet home ' . . . 223

XIV.— A few words on summering hunters. Mr. Corbet's country and

men, and the finish of the season with the Atherstone . . 249

XV.— The death of Mr. Beaumont Raby, and the installation of the
hero into a regular sporting establishment, the details of which
are given at some length 268

XVI.— The B.D.C. and B.C.M. Our sportsman makes a tour, in whicli
he visits many of the most celebrated fox-hunting establish-
ments in England 315

XVII.— Frank Raby becomes a regular Meltonian ; loses liis father, and
finally settles down as a Master of foxliounds, tlie point of
honour in the Life of a Sportsman 361


1. Ainstead Abbey ......

2. Emblematic Title — ' The Life of a Sportsman

3. ' Yoick.s ! Tally-ho ! Look out for the pastry '

4. ' Never mind 'em — they won't hurt ! '

5. ' He'll leather two such chaps as that '

6. Bagging the badger .....

7. ' You are worth double what I gave for you ! '

8. ' He's heart of oak ! ' .

9. Portrait of Dick Knight, after B. INLarshall
10. ' His reverence swims like a cork ! ' .
IL ' Who-whoop ! I've done it'

12. Hunting the marten cat ....

13. The otter hunt

14. ' AVhat's the price of the young nag, miller ?'

15. The shalloAvs below the mill

16. The Prince of Wales — Birmingham coach

17. ' H. for Windsor ; go along, Bob ! ' .

18. Bibury meeting in its palmy days

19. ' All Captain A skham's, sir '

20. ' He is among the dead ' . . . .

21. Flapper-shooting on the great lake in the Park

22. ' Mr. Ridgeways' good health — noiv' .

23. 'Soho!'

24. ' Follow my leader ' .....

25. A meet with His Grace the Duke of Rutland

26. A night scene with Sir Thomas Mostyn

27. ' Not Handel's sweet music more pleases the ear,

Than that of tlie hounds in full cry '

28. ' The check ' — ' For a moment a sheep-foil now baffles the scent'

29. The four-in-hand ....

30. The three teams .....

31. The race for the Welter Stakes .

32. ' Fox-hunting for ever ! ' .

33. The tandem

34. Mr. jNIusters hunted by his hounds

35. Our hero's first run with his own hounds

36. ' The Master of the Raby Hunt — one cheer


To face ditto

To face page 13






























Introductory — The hero presented — Items of his birth, parentage, and educa-
tion, together with traits of his idiosyncrasy, whereby 'coming events
cast their shadows before.'

In the latter part of the last century, in one of the finest of
the midland counties of England, lived Andrew Raby, a
commoner, of large possessions, and of very old English
blood. When, however, I use the term ' large possessions,' I
do not desire to convey the idea of his having an income
sufficient to keep up a degree of pomp and dignity equal to
that of his titled superiors, but such as enabled him fully to
support the respectable and honourable station of an English
country gentleman, and to indulge in all those pursuits which
Avere congenial to his own taste, and, likewise, to exercise
almost unbounded hospitality towards his friends. In fact, his
rental was a little above ten thousand pounds per annum ;
which, when the usual drawbacks of agencies, repairs, and
other heavy outgoings attendant on landed property, in
addition to an annuity he paid to a sister, were deducted, left
him — for he had no interest of money to pay to morto-ao-ees
(indeed it was his boast, that no lawyer held as much parch-
ment security of his as would cover a crown piece) — a clear
annual income of seven thousand pounds ; at least he reckoned
not on more, on a fair average of years. With tliis compara-
tively limited income, he inhabited a house suitable for a man
of twice his means. It covered three sides of a quadrangular
court; displaying a sumptuous character in its architectural



ornaments without, and containing elegant and spacious apart-
ments within. Planned after the fashion of the Elizabethan
age, Amstead Abbey stood on an island, formed by a deep moat,
and within the palings of an extensive and finely timbered
park, containing a herd of deer sufficiently ample for the use
of a private gentleman ; the gardens, too, were large, no less
than three hundred yards of ' glass ' — as forcing-houses are
technically denominated — being visible in them, exclusive of
hot walls. A farm of three hundred acres of the best staple
land of the county was in occupation, under the eye of a Scotch
bailiff'; and, having been conducted on improved principles,
it greatly outstripped its neighbours in its produce, and turned
to a very profitable account : the surrounding country was also
of the richest and most valuable description.

Mr. Raby's establishment consisted, indoors, of a butler
and two footmen, with all the requisite females, and was only
deficient in one respect — it wanted the onnn cook to aid the
English kitchen-maid ; but against this there was a prejudice
which time has since removed. At the period to which I
allude, there was an objection against these cliefs of the kitchen,
on the score of wasteful extravagance in their operations ;
experience, how^ever, has since shown that their art is practised
to advantage in all large establishments. By the almost
magical power of the rechaufoir, the remains of yesterday's
dinner instead of being looked lightly upon, if not in great
part cast to the dogs, are sent smoking and savoury into the
servants' hall, and so disguised as to leave the inmates of it
in doubt wdiether the dishes are rechaujfes or not. His woman
cook, however, was as good as high wages could procure, and
his guests had no cause for complaint. But the style of living-
was truly English, and, as such, the assistance of Monsieur
was less necessary ; the consumption of animals was prodigious
from the numbers of comers and goers, in addition to the family
itself; and did a sirloin of beef make its appearance on a
Sunday, and a round on the Monday, they might be looked for
in vain on the Tuesday.

There was one species of luxury — refinement, indeed, it
may be termed, in reference to tliose times — in which Mr.
Raby indulged ; and this was the selection of his footmen and
postillions. The first were London-bred ; he declared that he
never saw a country-bred footman who could bring a message



into a room, or an under-butler of the same genus, who could
clean a service of plate ; and no man's table in the country
was better set out than Mr. Raby's. Of his coach-horses he
was justly proud, and he liked to see them ridden and driven
to his mind. His postillions — for in those days gentlemen's
carriages in the country were not driven from the box — were
always Hounslow-bred ones ; that is to say, sons of Hounslow
post-boys, having had their education on the road. His turn-
out, in this respect, was perfect.

The out-of-doors establishment was still more numerous.
Tliere was a pack of harriers in the kennel, six able coach-
horses in one stable, ten hunters in another, besides a hack
or two to go to post, or to carry ' how do ye do's ' about the
country — no sinecure in those days : a capital team of spaniels
for cock-shooting, pointers and setting dogs for partridges and
hares, under the care of an experienced gamekeeper, and a
small kennel of greyhounds to contend for prizes at the
neighbouring coursing meetings. One appendage to the
present establishment of an English gentleman, however, was
wanting ; I mean a band of night- watchers to protect the game
from poachers, an operation beyond the power of any single
keeper. And yet it is not to be supposed that there were no
poachers of game in those days, as, in that case, Fielding's
Black George would have been an anachronism ; but the
battue system was unknown. Still, of pheasants, there was a
sprinkling in the woods of this estate ; and the delight which
the Squire and his friends experienced when they saw Juno on
the foot of a pheasant, and the bird shot dead to her point,
more than equalled that afforded by a battue of three hundred
head in one day, the game being put up by stable-boys, without
the use of dogs, the Newfoundland retriever excepted.

But the reader may well ask how all this was done on an
income of seven thousand pounds. — By management, in the
first place ; and, in the next, by only occasionally visiting
London for the season, Mr. Raby having little inclination for
the bustle and hurry of a town life ; and Lady Charlotte (he
had married an Earl's daughter) had likewise the good sense
to be satisfied with what she had seen of it, in its best form,
during her residence with her father in Grosvenor Square,
But the ' management ! ' that calls forth some remarks.

As procrastination is the thief of time, payment delayed is a



thief of another description. It is not, per se, a robber, but it
opens the door to robbery of every description ; and gentlemen
who require long credit, pay twenty per cent, at least for it.
Mr. Raby, however, went on quite another tack in the conduct
of his expenditure. In lieu of paying a bonus, that is, what
is called the ' put-on-price ' for long credit, he received a
discount by paying ready money for everything purchased in
London, or other distant places ; and, in his own immediate
neighbourhood, on the first Monday in every month, all his
small bills were discharged. He had a list of them on his
dressing-table, when he came down from his chamber in the
morning, and, having examined the items, and found them
correct, wrote a cheque on his banker for the amount. He
reckoned that by tliis arrangement he saved five hundred
pounds per annum, which about paid his wine-merchant's bill.
It is scarcely necessary to add that, exclusive of any other
consideration, this punctuality in the disbursement of a large
income rendered Mr. Eaby very popular in his neighbourhood ;
and know^ing, from experience of the world, that

When the means are gone that buy this praise,
The l)reath is gone whereof this praise is made,

he never deviated from the practice to the last year of his life.
In fact, so much esteemed was he, as a gentleman and a land-
lord, that he might have represented his county in Parliament,
had he been disposed so to have done ; but either from a
disinclination to take the onus of such a responsible situation
upon himself, or, it might have been, from a mistrust of his
ability to do justice to it, it devolved upon a neiglibouring
baronet. Still, let it not be supposed that Mr. Raby was a
man of mere animal life, given to decry the value of literary
attainments, averse to the fashionable refinements of that
polished age, much less insensible to the common feelings of
our nature. Far from it, no man indulged more in those
sympathies which unite landlord and tenant, master and
servant, in a bond of reciprocal kindness and good offices,
nor more strictly performed the higher duties of his station.
But his chief purpose was this : — he wished to be considered,
as nearly as his nature would admit, a perfect specimen of the
English country gentleman, whose head modern philosophy
had not yet enliglitened, at the expense of the best feelings of



the heart ; unsdpliisticated by foreign I'opperie.s ; a man whose
character could face the world, and whose spirit would not fear
it. Again, this maxim was often in his mouth : ' Wealth,'
he would say, ' is not his who possesses it, but his who enjoys
it ' ; and he acted up to the moral of it. ' Lcatiis aliis, sapiens

Online Library1778-1843 NimrodThe life of a sportsman → online text (page 1 of 39)