« PreviousContinue »
mination formerly to wake up High Street some day with a dark green chariot and posters ; when I envied some portly Don his impor. tance and preferment—but I never calculated upon the equality to which steam would reduce us. What are posters and preferment now? I sat opposite an old badger-pied dignitary in black trousers and a white choker, and though certainly fatter, he was not a bit more comfortable than myself
—whilst in another corner sat a regular unmistakeable Oxbridge man of 1850 or '51, who made himself more comfortable than either ; for his legs, coats, umbrella, and terrier, occupied the rest of the carriage. Majesty is said to be a jest without its externals-So is a professor, (that is the great word now). Our old professor looked quite mortal ; simply because we were so, and were with him. I begin to understand, now, for the first time, why certain elderly gentlemen, who lived near the regency, who are pulled in and puffed out, and who have lived on an eyeglass, a brown wig, and a thousand a year, in Baker street, will imagine that they belong to the aristocracy. By the time I got to Oxbridge, I felt a Don-circumstances had done it. If I was not raised to his level by juxta position, I had certainly reduced him to mine. Then as I neared the sacred spot in memory's waste” I called up visions brooks, fences, five-barred gates, (now always opened with a crop instead of a cropper), and a beautiful effect in railroad travelling, thought them smaller than formerly. A pleasant sensation is looking at an old face, through diminishing glasses.
The dinner you gave me at Muddlehead College was, I am bound to say, admirable ; the room was fine, the company hungry, and the grace very long, and in Latin ; certainly the gentlemen who said it, made as short work of it as they well could. The Saturnalia I perceive are also triennially repeated, and I think should never be taken away. Courting popularity by unfair means, or unjustifiable truckling, is one thing, but doing what men are obliged to consider their duty, in an ungentlemanly manner, is another. I know that it is a fault found by the older members of Oxbridge, that the present race of authorities is not sufficiently courteous, but savouring of the school-master; and a good public demonstration of dislike before " die Dame die Ich liebe," or the fear of it, may prove a salutary check.
Now my dear Boy, we must talk a little about sporting, or you will begin to think your old uncle in his dotage, Economy is the order of the day every where. Indeed the chanceller of the exchequer himself will not spend more money on anything than is necessary in these hard times, unless one excepts the matter of bread perhaps—but economy being the order of the day, I shall commend the purchase of your stud, for an eleven stone man, at something like £60 or 70 a piece. Some men say, that by this practice of economy, you throw away the advantage your weight gives you— I think not, for almost all horses require a strength to hold them proportionate to the weight they are able to carry. You must therefore have a light man, very strong upwards for his weight; or a powerful horse able to go very much within himself, and after the fashion of a pony : two things difficult to find. Ability to carry one stone more than they are ordinarily called upon to do is sufficient for most horses ; and price will always be regulated by this capability, rather than by any other. If I could in so short a visit advise you to look for what I think you require, in any particular stable, I should say, Charles Symonds, Seckham, and Tollit. I believe Oxbridge to be fine ground
for the selection of a light-weight stud ; though I should myself go further afield for the square-rumped, short-legged, weight-carrying hunters, to which your steady old uncle has been compelled to reduce himself.
I think I saw the Oxbridge Commissioners' report upon your table. Ignorance and prejudice are fellow travellers, in the same bosom generally-no man is truly ridiculous until he begins to talk about things of which he knows nothing ; in the same way that pretension is the truest vulgarity. This report, from the glimpse I had of it, like the busy Bee, touches upon every thing ; I hope you are not so bad as these Commissioners make out. Do you mean to say you will have patent leather boots, and neatly made clothes, and rings and watches, and hot suppers and breakfasts, and £40 worth of cigars, and £4 per diem of hunting? This is all very wrong of little boys, only twenty or twenty-one, and we know that in London, and in the army and navy, at that age, children are never allowed to go about without a nurse. I think we ought, as a duty, to prove to these old ladies that the hunting expenditure, at all events, and its consequences, are not so grievous and extravagant as they pre. sume. We all know the price of corn at this present time ; if not, come and live in an agricultural district for a short time. Oxbridge horses have no more appetite than any others, and with “Puffing Billy" for our hack to cover, the four guineas would require some awful turnpikes to make up. The train to cover has been of late years a great convenience in time and pocket, to you young gentlemen. Twenty-five miles--to Addlestrope gate for instance-on two hacks, to save chapel, was rather a teaser for the pocket. But even in those days exaggeration was the offspring of ignorance and report. Are you to have no more cakes and ale because these commissioners are not hungry? and do you imagine that the Dons themselves like these restrictions on the sports of the field ? Do they imagine that hunting leads to drinking and low company? No such thing--they know better. The quietest man in all Muddlehead or St. Boniface, is perhaps the most orthodox sportsman and hardest rider; and is snoring peaceably in bed, whilst young Highlows, the evangelical parson's only son, who knows no more of a horse than he does of a rhinoceros, is just throwing his supper plates out of window, preparatory to being assisted into bed by his Scout, and the marker of the Tennis court, partaker of his hospitality. Democritus would hardly have laughed at these follies-Heraclitus certainly must have cried.
Talking of tears reminds me of my meeting with one of your oldest and most orthodox of Dons-his cyes were full of tears, and deep grief swallowed him up. “Ah,” said he, “Scribble, times are changed since you were here ; no mora soda water, no more headaches, no more hot breakfasts, no more cool claret and hot coppers, no more smokiny, no more (here was a violent burst of grief), no more hunting. The rest I could have borne, but this is too much-we are so good and so pious, that we have scarcely a gentleman left in the College.”
“ But surely,” said I, " this is the very thing you have been fighting for ; this appears to be the feeling of the University.”
“The feeling of a handful of young enthusiasts, who, because they only change their shirts twice a week, and their neckcloths thrice, imagino that a straight cut collar and highlows is the royal road to intelligence; and that though a gentleman may be clean, a moral man cannot. So they have insisted upon it that Oxbridge is meant for a large school, and that those who like hunting are too gentlemanly and too manly for so orthodox a finish to their education.”
When I was at Oxbridge the other day, this was the language with which I was met constantly ; not by your dapper, impertinent-looking, enthusiastic young fellows, but by the fine old orthodox Dons of the University. They added, what I was sorry to learn, that the pent-up effervescence of twenty years of age would break out somewhere : and as Oxbridge was too warm for it, it expended itself in London, in betting houses, and gambling ; and not to over-look so melancholy a falling off, I intend to give you a line, when time permits me, on the little bit of racing I happened (luckily or unluckily) to witness.
I believe I have said a word or two in this letter on the melancholy mistakes incidental to men who will handle subjects they do not understand. I wonder what the Court of Chancery would think of my decision on Snooks versus Snooks, or the bench of Bishops of Scribble on Gorham. By Jove, sir, I have just as much regard for these worthies' opinion on hunting in Oxbridge-for that's our main business—"ne sutor ultra Crepidam,” and they really think it not only induces a young gentleman to expend £4 per diem on amusement (and, if he had it, well he might on such an one) but it leads to low society and drinking, and other extravagances. Do they know the sportsman of the present day; or are not their ideas about as musty and fusty, as their rules? Low society ! drinking! save the mark. Here's a pretty thing for the Foresters, Wiltons, Jerseys, Chesterfields, Bentincks, Suttons, et hoc genus omne. Fancy these men, or any one of them, because they have been out hunting all day, thinking it necessary to pass the night in company with Noakes, Styles, the huntsman, brandy and water, and cigars ; until at carly dawn, they, as the gentlemen of the party, were escorted to bed by a battalion of stable-boys. Confound the impudence of the assumption-never let it be said of you, my boy, or your old uncle will “never call you Jack again.”
Candour is almost a failing with me, as you may have observed in our short correspondence. I admit that a century ago field sports sometimes laid the foundation for an evening campaign-men would fight their battles, or play their game (fox and goose) over again. Such a thing is never heard of now--we never talk of hunting after dinner, but we do it before some of us, where ardour is tempered with discretion. But there are two pictures the old masters and the new ; the old are not sold at any price -they are heard of, but we never see them—they are as follows.
He (the old) riseth at six ; he donneth a coat of no proportions-stout as he is his coat is stouter. He weareth cords, or perchance drabs ; his mahogany tops (oh that they ever should return!) he warmeth by the kitchen fire. Of beef he eateth, of ale he drinketh, “right early in the morning.” He calleth around him his hounds ; on his fat bottomed horse he rideth, but not to a halloa on any consideration. He jumpeth a style or gate ; he gallopeth not too fast, and loveth not water, save to wash in. He killeth his fox (which the new masters do not), after two hours and twenty minutes; he shonteth and sweareth, and returneth at two o'clock to dinner. Here he sitteth, and port he drinketh ; he ordereth in his favourite bitch, his huntsman, his stud-groom, his toady, the doctor of his village ; and his chaplain carrieth him to bed at early even.
He (the new master) riseth at nine-he donneth a gentleman's garment and unexceptionable leathers-he taketh his tea, or his coffee, if not too late for cover ; and converseth amicably with his wife, if he hath one. A thoroughbred hack carrieth him to cover by eleven o'clock, when a lengthy wellconditioned hunter of great price awaiteth his arrival, under the neatest of grooms. He talketh to ladies in carriages, vieweth the wily animal, halloeth not, but slippeth away with the leading hounds, leaving the rest of the field to discover his whereabout-he rideth well for twenty minutes, and declineth altogether when it becometh slow. Real hunting he careth not for ; but will jump anything when hounds are flying, and a friend is trying to cut him down. He sweareth not, he shouteth not, but reserveth his powers of conversation for his evening guests ; he returneth, dresseth, dineth at seven o'clock ; drinketh a few glasses of sherry and claret; is quiet, though hospitable, gentlemanly though hard ; and would as soon think of going to bed drunk, or sending for his huntsman to drink his health, as you would of shooting your grandmother. In fact he is not only a man and a sportsman, but a gentleman ; of which you might as well try to persuade one of these nerly illuminated authorities or their supporters, as that a clean shirt and a clean conscience may be found on the same breast.
Now, my boy, I know all this ; and I should like you to stick to the new sect, in most articles of its creed. But they tell me that as you young Oxbridge gentlemen cannot have the hunting as we used to have it with the old Duke (not F. M. the Duke) you have taken to steeplechasing and racing—and in that racing, alas, ! to nobbling. I do not suspect a Scribble of this latter-one of that name never did good to earn a shilling ; he would scarcely do evil. But if you must go down to Silsley, and gallop over the flat, mind, amongst you it must all be on the square. If not, it will soon be blown.
What! a society of gentlemen, young gentlemen, rob one another! shameful-ask the jockey club. Horses bonâ fide property are not, or ought not, to be bought for a nomination, to be returned at a couple of guineas loss for the day's use, or a stand in, if a winner. I hoped to have seen the horses on which you have been waking up the echoes of Bullingdon, Port Meadow, and Cowley Marsh, during the summer, as we used to do, not a pack of strangers-lame, halt, blind, fifteen pounders, with nothing but their condition, and blood, to recommend them.
But a word to the wise. I know there are some good ones amongst you across country, with heads screwed on the right way, and hearts not much out of place either; so leave all that nobbling to the man with tight drabs, and single buttoned straps, and flat brimmed hat, and slang coat, (not a Camford man, but looking like a swell huntsman on a summer tour), and never be guilty of a thing you would blush to own before the whole world ; let alone Pennsylvania and the betting-list houses. If you must run a horse amongst your Oxbridge acquaintances for a pony or two, make him as good as you can get him, but stick to the spirit of the Oxbridge regulations, as understood amongst gentlemen ; and not to the letter, as understood amongst the touts.
Ever your affectionate Uncle,
SCRIBBLE. PS. I mean to teach you how to buy a hack, if you should want one. · July 1852.
A WORD ON GYMNASTICS.
"A station like the herald Mercury,
• When the famous Wyndham-a statesman even in those days of world-shaking measures and illustrious men, when England gathered confidence from such names as Pitt, Fox, Burke, and others of like calibre-an orator distinguished for the flow of his eloquence as for the majestic grace of his delivery, and a gentleman so true-hearted and high-spirited as to have earned from the immortal lips of Burke himself, the epithet of “the chivalrous Wyndham ”'_when this gallant politician was one evening walking homeward along Parliament-street, from the triumph of an oration and the victory of a division, his attention was arrested by the shameful manner in which a gigantic coal-heaver was belabouring a fine dray-horse committed to his charge. In vain Wyndham warned him to desist: the aggressor, confident in his towering size and brute strength, menaced the well-dressed gentleman who expostulated, with the same treatment. The oath, with which he gave effect to his threat, was hardly out of his mouth ere he measured his length upon the pavement, only to rise that he might once more fall, before the lightning-like delivery of his opponent's arm. Well-made, sinewy, and active, Mr. Wyndham never attacked, parried, and returned more effectively in the intellectual warfare of the ministerial and opposition benches, than he now did in his physical contest with the man of brawn and beer: nor probably was such a ring ever formed between two such antagonists-nobles, statesmen, and diplomatists, mingled with Westminster's lowest rabble, crowded round to witness the scientific display of the gentleman, the speedy defeat of the black guard. The coal-heaver was knocked out of time in five minutes, and Mr. Wyndham, assuming his laced coat and adjusting his knee-buckles, walked coolly home to dinner as if nothing had happened. It was the triumph of skill, activity, and cordition, over mere corporeal size and weight. And the fact that a man gifted with Mr. Wyndham's endowments, and holding his dignified position, should not despise the cultivation of those exercises which give agility to the limbs and strength to the frame (for he was celebrated as one of the best fencers, boxers, and dancers of his day, all of which accomplishments demand no small share of application and perseverance), brings me to the consideration of a subject which is only now beginning to be systematically studied, and thoroughly understood by its professors ; but which, day by day, is awaking a greater share of public attention and public approval- I mean the art of attaining health, strength, and activity, more compionly known by the term “ gymnastic