Abbildungen der Seite

The legs should appear short, from the great depth of the chest, and well-proportioned substance of the body or middle-piece. Anyone possessing such an animal as we have described, may congratulate himself upon having the beau ideal of a perfect hunter.

Although it has been said that the "chase is the sport of British Kings," it certainly is not true as regards some other potentates, for Frederick the Great of Prussia thus writes: "The chase is one of the most sensual of pleasures, by which the powers of the body are strongly exerted, but those of the mind remain unemployed. It consists in a violent exertion of desire in the pursuit, and the indulgence of a cruel pleasure in the death of the game. It is an exercise which makes the limbs strong, active, and pliable, but leaves the head without improvement. I am convinced that man is more cruel and savage than any beast of prey; we exercise the dominion given over these our fellowcreatures in the most tyrannical manner.

"If we pretend to any superiority over the beasts, it ought certainly to consist in reason; but we commonly find that the most passionate lovers of the chase renounce this privilege, and converse only with their dogs, their horses, and other irrational animals. This renders them wild and unfeeling; and it is highly probable that they cannot be very merciful to the human species. For a man who can in cold blood torture a poor innocent animal, cannot feel much compassion for the distresses of his own species. And besides, can the chase be a proper employment for a thinking mind?

"A Sovereign may undoubtedly be allowed this pleasure, provided he indulges it with moderation, and for the purpose of relaxing his mind from the many serious and often disagreeable exertions he is necessarily engaged in. It would be unjust to deny a Prince every species of recreation. But can a Monarch enjoy a greater pleasure than that arising from a wise and benevolent Government, from the prosperity of his dominions, and from the encouragement and protection of every useful art and science? A Monarch who finds higher pleasures necessary to his happiness is much to be pitied."


Now we quite agree with the King as to the latter part of his remarks albeit we cannot endorse the former part. The charge of cruelty is mere cant or sheer ignorance; for nothing can be easier to prove that the pursuits of the field are perfectly consistent with humanity. They are natural to man. "By chase our long-lived fathers earned their food," and we, their sons, earn the health and manliness of character the chase bestows. Animal pursues animal throughout the creation: the stoat, for instance, pursues the rabbit for hours, and eventually runs into him; the pike, the tyrant of the water, destroys a large portion of the smaller finny tribe, and is not particular if a duckling falls in his way; foxes luxuriate upon poultry; hawks, in their fell swoop, pounce upon pigeons, or partridges; otters live upon fish; wild cats make sad havoc in a well-pressed covert; spiders get flies within their meshes; dogs kill rats; and the tamest of domestic "tabbies" cause the death of many a beautiful canary, cooing dove, melodious bullfinch, and devoted love bird. Why should man alone

then be debarred from hunting the fox, hare, or rabbit, shooting the gaudy pheasant, and nut-brown partridge, or fishing for the salmon, the pike, or the trout? If hunting, shooting, and fishing were done away with, neither the fox, the hare, the rabbit, game of all sorts, and the denizens of the rivers and streams would be better off than they now are. For the consequence of the abolition of hunting would be the annihilation of the vulpine race as predatory nuisances: the feathered tribe would equally be destroyed, as being the farmer's enemy. In short, were field sports put an end to, vulpicides would flourish, poaching would increase to an alarming extent, for indiscriminate slaughter could not fail to be the result.

There are many anecdotes on record illustrative of the instinctive cunning and sagacity of the fox. Mr. Jesse, in his "Gleanings," gives the following:

"The old Duke of Grafton had his hounds at Croydon, and occasionally had foxes taken in Whittlebury Forest, and sent up in the venison cart to London. The foxes thus brought were carried the next hunting morning in a hamper behind the Duke's carriage, and turned down before the hounds. In the course of this plan, a fox was taken from a coppice in the forest, and forwarded as usual. Sometime after, a fox was caught in the same coppice, whose size and appearance were so strikingly like the one taken at the same spot, that the keepers suspected it was the fox they had been in possession of before, and directed the man who took him to London to inquire whether the fox hunted on such a day had been killed or escaped; the latter having been the case, the suspicion of the keepers was strengthened. Some short time after, a fox was again caught in the same coppice, which those concerned in the taking were assured was the identical fox they had bagged twice before; to be, however, perfectly able to identify their old acquaintance, should another opportunity offer, previous to his third journey to town, he had one ear split, and some holes punched in the other. With these marks, he was despatched to London, was again hunted and escaped, and within a very few weeks was retaken in the same coppice, when his marks justified the keepers' conjectures, in spite of the seeming improbability of the fact. It is with some concern that the conclusion of this singular account is added, which terminates in the death of poor Reynard, who was killed after a very severe chase, bearing upon him the signals of his former escapes, and which ought to have entitled him to that lenity and privilege which was formerly granted to a stag who had beaten his royal pursuers."

I will quote another instance: "A fox which had been frequently hunted in Leicestershire, was always lost at a particular place where the hounds could never recover the scent. This circumstance having excited some curiosity, it was discovered that he jumped upon, and ran along a clipped hedge, at the end of which was an old pollard oak-tree, hollow in the middle; he crept into the hollow and lay concealed until the alarm was over. His retreat, however, being discovered, he was

driven from it and killed,"

Let me now turn to some writers of antiquity:

"Fortes creantur fortibus et bonis ;
Est in juvencis, est in equis patrum
Virtus, nec embellem feroces
Progenerant aquillæ columbam ;
Doctrina sed vim promovet insitam,
Rectique cultus pectora roborant.
Utcumque defecêre mores,

Dedecorant benè nata culpæ.”

The ancients possessed much philosophy, more perhaps than the present generation would award them. How admirably the above sentiments of Horace apply to the formation, breeding, or continuance, and discipline of a pack of fox-hounds! The deductions to be derived from them form most valuable hints. He tells us to expect in the progeny the merits of the sires; he could not however mean to oonfine that attribute to the male parent only, if so, his reasoning would have been too contracted. The allegory of the eagles and the dove, suggests to us that we are not to anticipate meekness and timidity from parents of a ferocious nature, or the reverse. Discipline, or teaching, must be resorted to, in order to render the creatures subservient to our wishes; and the two last lines can never be too scrupulously adhered to. If good behaviour, or in the more literal construction, good manners, be not inculcated, vice usurps the place, destroys every good quality we might hope to obtain,

In Xenophon's "Treatise on Hunting" we find the following: "And our ancestors, too, knew that from this cause, they prospered against their enemies, and they took on themselves a regard for the interests of the young men; for though originally they were scantily supplied with grain, still they made a rule of not impeding huntsmen, as they were not in quest of any of the things that grow on the ground; and besides, they made a rule not to pursue by night at a less distance than many furlongs from Athens, that they who possessed that art might not deprive them of the huntings. For they saw that this pleasure, and this alone of young men's pleasures, produces many good effects; for it renders them both temperate and just, and it excludes them from none of the other honourable pursuits, if they wish for any, as do the opposite pleasures, the mischievous ones. But some urge that it is not right to be fond of the chase, that they may not be regardless of their own affairs. Since, then, those who love the chase prepare themselves to be serviceable to their country in the most important points, they cannot be neglecting their private interests; for each man's own interests are upheld and are overthrown according as his country is, wherefore such are preserving the interests also of the others together with their own."

The above Athenian sporting writer, of whom it was said that "the Graces dictated his language," and that "the Goddess of Persuasion

dwelt on his lips," devoted a great portion of his latter days to the chase; his magnificent Temple to Diana at Scillus, in imitation of that of Ephesus, must have been the most perfect "hunting box" ever known. The veteran, general, historian, philosopher, and sportsman died in the 90th year of his age.

Pliny, who was born in the reign of Nero, about the eight hundred and fifteenth year of Rome, was a sportsman, as will be seen by the following letter addressed to Cornelius Tacitus :

"Certainly you will laugh (and laugh you may) when I tell you that your old acquaintance is turned sportsman, and has taken three noble boars. What! (methinks I hear you say with astonishment) Pliny! Even he. However, I indulged at the same time my beloved inactivity, and whilst I sat at my nets, you would have found me, not with my spear, but my pen by my side. I mused and wrote, being resolved if I returned with my hands empty, at least to come home with my papers full. Believe me, this manner of studying is not to be despised; you cannot conceive how greatly exercise contributes to enliven the imagination. There is, besides, something in the solemnity of the venerable woods with which one is surrounded, together with that awful silence which is observed on these occasions, that strongly inclines the mind to meditation. For the future, therefore, let me advise you, whenever you hunt, to take along with you your pen and paper as well as your basket and bottle; for be assured you will find Minerva as fond of traversing the hills as Diana."

By the circumstance of silence above-mentioned, as well as by the whole tone of the letter, it is plain the hunting here recommended was of a very different kind from what is practised amongst us at the present time. It is probable that the wild boars were allured into their nets by some kind of prey with which they were baited, while the sportsman watched at a distance in silence and concealment. Something at least of this manner is here plainly implied, and it is necessary to be pointed out to the reader, in order that he may conceive the propriety of Pliny's sentiment, which otherwise must seem absurd. This perhaps was their usual mode of hunting in summer; as driving these animals into toils by the assistance of hounds, is mentioned by Horace as a winter exercise:

[blocks in formation]

Pliny, too, seems to have been fond of the "gentle craft," for he thus alludes to it in a letter to Caninius: "How is my friend employed? Is it in the pleasures of study, or in those of the field? does he unite both together, as he well may, on the banks of our favourite Larius?" Larius, it may be remarked, is now called Lago di Como, in the Milanese, and Comum, the place where Pliny was born,

near to which Caninius had a country-house, was situated upon the border of this lake. To resume. "The fish of that noble lake will supply you with sport of that kind; as the woods that surround it will afford you game; while the solemnity of that sequestered scene will at the same time dispose our mind to contemplation. Whether you are entertained with all, or any of these agreeable amusements, far be it that I should say I envy you; but I must confess I greatly regret that I cannot partake of them too; a happiness I as earnestly long for, as a man in a fever does for drink to allay his thirst, or baths and fountains to essuage his heat." Pliny seems to have attended to the old axiom (immortalized by Sam Weller, in "Pickwick"), "Business first and pleasure afterwards," as will be seen by his conclusion to the above letter: "Shall I never break loose (if I may not disentangle myself) from these ties that thus closely withhold me? I doubt, indeed, never; for new affairs are daily increasing, while yet the former remain unfinished; such an endless train of business rises upon me, and rivets my chains still faster. Farewell."

Wild-fowl shooting may now be had to perfection, and the exciting nature of this sport on a large lake, if well frequented by these birds, can hardly be conceived by a stranger. It is, in fact, a species of deerstalking so much so, that a man who is an adapt at the one will scarcely fail, with a little practice, to be equally so at the other. In order to get within shot of these birds, it is often necessary to crawl like a serpent, and the "gunner" must be perfectly reckless of trouble and discomfort. No one ought to engage in wildfowl shooting who is not of an athletic frame and hardy habits; he must not mind getting thoroughly wet, nor think of rheumatism while standing or sitting in clothes well-soaked, perhaps for hours. A gun suitable for this sport is indispensable; its length of barrel, calibre, &c. must be left to the fancy of the man who uses it. About three ounces of No 4 shot is the usual charge; but Lang, or any other first-rate gun-maker, will furnish a proper weapon. The common clicker's boots, well greased, or a pair of strong waterproof boots, over a pair of strong worsted stockings, are the best preservatives for the feet and legs; while a jacket and waistcoat of light-brown, lined with flannel, and a pair of strong corduroy trousers will furnish the rest of the suit. Vast flocks of wild-fowl frequent our English shores during the winter, particularly if hard weather happens to commence early and become very severe. But there are other parts of Great Britain where they predominate-I allude to the Highlands of Scotland. In the Firth of Dornock, in Ross-shire, on the coast of Caithness, immense number of wild-fowl may be met with. The rocks of the Isle of Man are also the resort of these migratory birds, and excellent sport may be had from a boat under the cliffs. The haunts of the fowl are generally known, and the stations are taken accordingly. Punts and boats, of course, are requisite in river or pool shooting: many, however, prefer shore shooting.

Wild-fowl are extremely shy and very suspicious, and therefore the principal difficulty in wild-fowl shooting is to get within distance. They fly and feed at the dawn of day and at the dusk of

« ZurückWeiter »