Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

a

the meek reception of a kicking in the gutter by a gentleman, and the “ trim reckoning” of the “respectable shopkeeper,” who sells you sand for soft sugar, and weighs-in paper-bags bought at three farthings the stone, with his “ fine loaf,” that he retails first-cost price, at sixpence a pound. What's "getting an honest livelihood ?" transferring the

? osseous deposit of the churchyard to your breakfast-table, under the title of hot rolls ; and transmuting Barclay's XXX once more into its native element, and measuring it to the “thirsty soul ” at eleven quarts to the gallon. What is equity ? the civil process for keeping a man out of his own till a century or so after he has returned to the dust from which he came, without touching the “ dust ” to which he was heir in the flesh. What is law? two years on the tread-wheel for borrowing a “ wipe,” without first asking the proprietor's permission. Murder is cutting one throat : glory is cutting a hundred thousand pairs. The golden rule of practical divinity provides for the diocesan twenty thousand pounds a year, two palaces, and the privilege of preaching or letting it alone, as he may feel disposed ; for the oparative curate three score sovereigns and ten per annum (less rates and taxes), a wife, and a large small family, with a fourteen-miles' walk, summer and winter, backwards and forwards, to evening service. And last—but surely not least in this catalogue of our insular moral statistics—what is popular communion in this land at the eleventh hour ? a fierce struggle for right. And what, even a few days ago, was political communion ? a factious league to obstruct it. Europe, once autocrat of the world's politics, is so no longer. She has now but a voice in its senate ; and that, day by day, grows more faint. New states—unincumbered by the pressure of that social incubus, the perpetuity of public debt—with new policies, and popular principles, progress born, are planted all over the round earth, flourish apace, and promise rich fruit anon. The old world is the mother of the new ; but the child has been weaned, and now " the baby beats the nurse.” And, in the words of one whose philosophy was for all time

" And thus We ripe and ripe ; and thus we rot and rot :

And thereby bangs a tale." Truth is the logic of grace : stern, downright practical life is not grace ; ergo, the world we live in is not “fast and true.” Its ways are passages of " slippery turns.” Lucretius was a man of the world.....

Thus seasonably selecting the principle with which we are about to deal—"ab ovo"--we will follow it (no, Mr. Reader--not “ad malum) into the maturity of its turf career. Before we start, however, å word of gracious tribute to the fair taste of the time. The British Olympiad 1853 sees blotted from the list of our chivalrous recreations pugilism, and its accomplice the steeple-chase. If the other "Ring would follow suit, there were still more sterling cause for congratulation. A sample of the quality of racing is furnished by the entries for the great ancestral three-year-old Stakes, for their anniversaries in the approaching season. The Derby has 197 nominations; the Oaks 141; the St. Leger 99—the latter all forfeit. Of these, some 109 of the Derby lot saw the light at two years old : of the Oaks party 82 ; and the St. Leger mustered 60 juvenile exhibitors. No year within my experience ever caused, or, to save disquisition, ever witnessed or

[ocr errors]

brought forth such “in and in" running as that last passed. The dirtmaterial—was principally blamed for it ; whether dirt of any other sort was or was not mixed up with this anomalous running is an issue only to be surmised on circumstantial evidence, or that bill of pains and penalties which compels the juror with a remorseless “twist” to succumb to him of more reasonable digestion---vide the Queen against Kirwan—" TimesReports. The curtain drew up to a professional “ bit,” wherein “ The Reiver ” is discovered to be actually the rogue he is represented to be cognominally. But that which virtually constituted the villany was its being found out. How many horses in every dozen that started before Midsummer-day do you suppose

ran upon their merits "? There's a premium of 50 per cent. offered for “roping,” by every handicap in the Calendar. Coincident with and apropos of those doings, there was “steepling,” as the fast “gents," in Moses & Co.'s “ garments,” call it “ knowingly!” lucus a non” at every course that cultivated early produce. At some of these rendezvous the shifts the management was put to for the getting up were probably unparalleled since

“ Thespis first sold ballads in a cart.” And the demoniacal gladiators that exhibited in them! Grim pigmies (they handicap cross country racing down to the feather standard)-ghastly urchins are there to be beheld, in boots as big as themselves, and barbarous “ mounting” that would astonishi Monmouth-street. Moreover the mud---nothing in nature to be compared with it, except the morality... Did Robert Macaire ever “ assist” at a steeple chace?... First of the legitimate meetings was Northampton Spring. Among the incidents here, foremost was the appearance of the most remarkable three-year-old of his year. Weathergage-sold out of the most practical stable at Newmarket as rubbish--a weed of ill grace—was in a stake, the winner whereof was estimated at £30. For this he was beaten, and sold afterwards for an old song.

We find this animal in the course of the season carrying off--after picking up a £50 at Lewes and a £70 at Bath--the Goodwood Stakes, the Wolverhampton Stakes, and the Chatsworth Stakes, a £50 at Derby, the Cesarewitch and the Audley End Stakes. Added to these a few other profitable items, and he wasn't a bad investment. They say “ industry must prosper”-of a verity his owner has not been idle in his vocation. Amateur Croxton Park must not be quoted among the regulars. At Epsom vernal tryst duly began the battle of the books. All manner of beasts had been backed for the Metropolitan Stakes, and dire were the doings at the diggins-whereby may politely be typified such a “putting in the hole. The taste of the Stilton, however, helped to flavour the Cup anon to be discussed by the pleasant Dee. Thus prefaced, the book opens for the Craven week --once a palmy occasion on the heath of heaths. But a change has come o'er its spirit. Newmarket-woe is me!-is no longer Newmarket-it is old style with England surnamed " Young"_" caviare to the million.” It had its handicap, that philanthropic panacea whereby coursers that can't run are made to run ; but withal it was melancholyand not gentlemanlike. The feature of the racing was the disappearance of one of the Derby fancies from popular favour. Lapidist in the Column proved himself no comer stone of the building Stockwell was beaten

a

of “

by Alcoran—a beating, apparently, has the same effect upon the speed of some racehorses that it has upon schoolboys uniformly-it makes them smart. The spirit, as usual, was willing in the North ; and canny York came out with four days' sport-amalgamated with Malton—bcfitting your Tyke's antecedents. Looking southward again, the First Spring at head-quarters was the observed of those whose behoof it is to keep their eyes open. Now begins the real business of our drama. Would that one sorry scene in it had been spared! I allude to the accident to James Robinson-thereby for ever removed from a profession of which he was the grace and pride, and in which it will be long before we “ look upon his like again.” For the Two Thousand, Stockwell, having been soundly thrashed, proved that the principle has the same effect--as aforesaid-on man and beast : it had made him smart; and O'Rourke, whose destiny was in store, toiled after him in vain. This was the first fruits of Lord Exeter's “ rum ’un to look at and good 'un to go”—his harvest altogether being a net sum of £9,990. The same, however, cannot be booked to the credit of the winner of the One Thousand. This was Kate's solitary achievement, in as moderate a field as, I take it, that Stake has mustered for many a year.

Some people insist that “roping” was very prevalent during the week. I dare say; for honour and the “prisca fides” seem to be going by express trains to the dogs-generally as the rule, not the exception. Poor Jack now far removed from such vanities, used to narrate an incident apropos sarve him right,” whose moral may be quoted in season of these presents. Being fresh—his custom of an afternoonand straying adown the Strand, he made his way into one of the minors --and that portion of it casiest of access under the circumstances. Thc entertainment over, offering his arm gallantly to a young lady who sat adjacent, they repaired to a neighbouring restaurant. While discussing their oysters, the cavalier discovered that the maiden was minus a handle to her face, and straightway commenced a course of remonstrance more emphatic than courteous. The nymph's rejoinder was quaint, but of most admirable logic..." What sort of a nose,” said she, “ do you expect in the pit of the Adelphi ?"...... Thus, on the turf, it wont do to be too fastidious about morals or manners. But when language passes current in Parliament, which, when George the Third was king, would have drawn blood in Billingsgate ; when gentlemen kick each other in the gutters of the streets, and then arrange it in the most satisfactory manner; when Right Honourables in aristocratic clubs are recommended by gallant members thereof to be thrown out of window—as one tosses dead kittens--what does it all portend? Has men's blood turned to “snow-broth”? Are we to “ bow” to free-trade in “punches” o'the mazzard, and applications of the toe to places not to be more minutely alluded to in the hearing of ears polite ? Methinks they manage these things better in France, and the Peace Society to the contrary notwithstanding—that I were better pleased to rest where Cournet* and

“ The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep,” than suffer 65

every puny whipster” to “ spit on me, and call me horse.”.......

The name of a French officer, lately shot in a duel, ncar Egybam, with onc of his countrytuen.

A mighty mass of the million surged over the Roodee what time merry May disclosed her “icy brow,” whereon

An odorous chaplet of sweet summer buds

Seems as in mockery set.” The Cup-with a bumper field of forty-three-Joe Miller drained of its rich sack. The usual distraction—in one direction or another--consequent on the issue of all the great handicaps, waited of course on this anniversary of the haul —so killing for the fishers of men. The start was a scramble, as how should it be otherwise ?-forty-three men and boys, and as many horses and mares and fillies (all crazy with the Cecropian ardour), crammed, rammed, and jammed into a thoroughfare no wider than St. Martin's-lane! They say the best won : probably such was the case at the weight. Give me, however, the racehorse that, like Mountain Deer in the Cheshire Stakes (handicap), can give another racehorse (like the Black Doctor) 18lbs., and beat him. Newmarket Second Spring is surely in extremis. Two races a day, and one over, won't pay for the Eastern Counties outgoings-to say nothing of bread and cheese. That's the matter-of-fact criterion : nobody regards racing now in any aspect save as the means of winning money-or rather of losing it. If I were Napoleon the Third, and London were Paris for twenty-four hours, it would go hard with my Lord Mayor. The butcher-boys of Leadenhall-market are spoiling their masters of thousands “ to gamble in turf transactions”-see the policeoffice reports, daily ; and, amid the crash of Governments upon the policy of public-house morality, he suffers one of the guardians of decent dram-drinking to make his victualler's license the machinery for moving one of the most gigantic betting-dens in the metropolis. Let the civic custos morum ask any of the Cheapside division where this pandemonium of the odds is situate, and he will be informed that it lies within a hundred yards of the Royal Exchange.

All over the land the turf was cultivated with restless efforts as the fate of the champion of the winter campaign drew nearer and nearer solution. Fine, beyond all precedents in finesse, had been the management of that matchless courser—the fiery-footed steed, that had set the pencils of the talents to gallop apace, and now was causing their hearts to follow in a concatenation accordingly. My opinion of the last summer meeting at Epsom is, that it was a shadow of coming events in reference to the social status of that once noble national scene. Not that the democratic deluge announced by certain political seers, even should it swamp the aristocratic order, would therefore annihilate all taste for chivalrous essay in whilom merry England; but because you could not look upon the character of the class with which the Grand Stand—the resort of the fair, the gentle, and the graceful-swarmed, without feeling that racing, as a popular carnival, had fallen already upon evil days. Vagabonds of all sorts and conditions, and your sporting Israelite, the concentration of every scoundrelism under the sun, the stars, or the jet of the hazard-table--were jostling, aye, and making “hail ! fellows well met” with those that elsewhere would have avoided such association as they would the yellow fever.

Anomalies like these experience and analogy have proved to be foredoomed. Where is “the led-captain ?” once an appendage of the fashionable dinner-table, as essential to its éclot as good cheer. Has not the club been substituted for the coffee-house which flourished exceedingly contemporary with Sir Roger de Coverley? We have broken the barriers of ancient traditions ; and the movement has already begun which shall effect such a social classification for mankind as naturalists have developed for the orders of the lower animals. Quality--the conditions of courage, sagacity, power-these will be awarded their place in the scale of communities. Man has but to be true to himself, and the door of the house of classbondage is opened, never more to imprison the souls and bodies of the serfs of ignorance and oppression.

The weather- utterly unseasonable as regards the conventional understanding of spring and summer-in 1852 from excessive drought changed to its opposite just before the great meeting of the capital. For this reason, any deductions from its results, having reference to future events, would be inconvenient. The pick of the two-year-old lot was Orestes ; but his form could only have been second-rate at best. That Daniel O'Rourke, on the day, was a very dangerous customer for the Derby--on the merits of his shape and adaptation to run on in dirtthere can be no question. His characteristics were those of the animals we all have had experience of in the hunting field : little ones, almost mean to the eye, but with something about them expressed by the terni “not to be denied,” and that always prove their claim to such impressions. There are no words wherewith you can describe the data upon which

you

found your assurance of the thorough-bred horse from another --I don't mean from a cart-horse, but from the well-bred cocktail. So it is with the wiry, short, lever-hocked, snake-actioned Galloway, that you know will enact prodigies through deep ground, and that licks you with sixteen hands and five hundred pounds worth of horsefiesh between your ancles and waist. After the race, when the losers called Daniel to judgment, they swore that he was run on the + for the Two Thousand, and all manner of discourteous things. Precedents were quoted, and libels spouted, which shall not be here revived. An uncommon game

little nag, superbly ridden, “went and did it ;' and showed them subsequently that mud was his forie. The issue of the Oaks resulted from the same premises as those which influenced the Derby catastrophe. I never saw a more clever galloper through water and slough, worked into the consistence of the commodity which constitutes the cargo of a scavenger's cart, than Songstress. Thus she beat everything over Epsom for the Oaks, and through the Ascot course for the Triennial ; and, thereafter, verily she had her reward, that the law of compensation might be conserved in the quadruped, even as it prevails in all which appertains to its master--man. Manchester took temporary precedence of the royal racing at Ascot Heath. The first was a rollicking affair, with wagering as if it was the last chance that remained to the “roughs” ere the final trump should summon them to their settlement. Franticmone of Mr. Greville's Alarm family-carried off the Union Ilandicap, and the Cup fell to the prowess of the Black Doctor. Word of omen for the fortunes--that is to say, the mis-fortunes—of full many of the pleasure-seekers at Imperial Ascot ! Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday were bad in its three comparatives ; the latter-gauged by superficial aggregate in the vicinity of her Majesty's Pavilion-was, in so far as my experience goes, “ of itself its own parallel.” It was over

« AnteriorContinuar »