Victorian London - Publications - Social Investigation/Journalism - The Business of Pleasure, by Edmund Yates, 1879 - Chapter 9 - Tom Moody and Co.

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CHAPTER IX.

TOM MOODY AND CO.

WHAT Englishman, possessing any share of the national vanity, or any proper self-respect, would declare his ignorance respecting the manners and customs of the hunting-field, and the inner life of that grandest of British field-sports, fox hunting? We all knew Tom Moody, the whipper-in, well, of course. We know about bright Chanticleer proclaiming the morn, and old Towler joining the cry, and the southerly wind and the cloudy sky, and the
        Hey, ho, chivy
        Hark forward I hark forward! tanti-vy
with very quick enunciation and very high upper note, and all the rest of it. We know Fores's hunting-sketches, and those admirable woodcuts of Mr. John Leech's, where the "swells" are always flying their fences, and the "snobs" are always coming to grief; where the pretty girls, whom no one else has ever so charmingly portrayed, are rushing at bulfinches; while those glorious boys, whom no one else has ever attempted, are running their Shetlands at raspers. There is a popular style of literature now, the hero of which is always an athletic horsey man; and, notwithstanding his weight, making it a point to be up with the first flight throughout the run, generally winning the heiress and the Great Poldoody Steeple-chase at one and the same time; [-90-] or reproaching the young lady, who has jilted him for a richer suitor, by taking some terrific and horribly-dangerous leap in the very teeth of the pony she has driven in a low wicker-carriage to the meet. Thanks in some measure to the convenience of railways, there are probably but few of us with a sporting turn who have not been out with the Queen's stag-hounds, the Surrey fox-hounds ; or who have not, while staying at Brighton, enjoyed a day's sport under the generalship of that glorious specimen of the English yeoman who hunts the Brookside harriers. But notwithstanding all these experiences, I have an idea that very few persons, even those who take great interest in such matters, have any notion of the enormous expense and trouble consequent on the management of a pack of hounds; and it is for the benefit of those who are thus ignorant, and who may be glad of having the whole information in a handy shape, and in a small compass, without the trouble of reference to encyclopaedias or heavy statistical works, that these observations, derived first-hand from two of the first masters of hounds in England, and carefully compared with standard authorities, are written.
    And first, of the hounds. The number of couple in a pack of fox-hounds depends on how many days in a week the pack is hunted. If twice a week (or with an occasional extra day, called a "bye-day "), twenty-five couple will be sufficient; for three days a week, thirty-five couple; and for four days a week, forty-five couple will be required. The prices of hounds vary according to demand and supply. Draft-hounds, i.e. such as have been selected for steadiness and scenting powers, generally average three guineas a couple; but the safest plan for an intending master of hounds is to consult the advertising-columns of sporting journals, and see whether any well-known and established packs are for sale. At the present time of writing* (*1864) there is [-91-] but one pack in the market, and for them is asked thirteen guineas a couple. Three or four hundred guineas is a common price, and one is not likely to get anything very special for the money ; but a good pack has now and then gone cheap, and been picked up for five hundred pounds. No man with any sporting nous would refuse to give a thousand guineas for a pack of hounds with a thoroughly established reputation. Much larger prices are on record. From Mr. Blaine we learn that in 1826 Mr. Warde, a well- known sportsman, sold his pack for two thousand guineas; while in more recent times Mr. Foljambe's bounds, sold by auction in lots at Tattersall's, realised three thousand six hundred pounds - one lot of five couple fetching three hundred and eighty guineas, and another of four couple and a half, four hundred and eighty guineas. Here is your preliminary expense.
    Having provided your pack, you will, of course, have prepared your kennel for them, which will not be a small item in your outlay. As you can expend fifteen shillings or five hundred pounds on a dressing-case, according to the style of article you require, so will the cost of the erection of your kennel depend entirely on your taste and the contents of your purse. The Duke of Richmond's kennel cost ten thousand pounds. The Duke of Bedford's is four hundred and fifty feet in length. You will probably be satisfied with something less magnificent than either of these; but there are, nevertheless, certain necessaries which it is incumbent on a kennel-builder to provide. Among these are a boiling-house for the meat, lodging-rooms for the hounds, a grass or gravel court into which to turn the dogs while the lodging-rooms are being aired, a plentiful supply of good water, and a lodging-room for either your huntsman, whipper-in, or kennel-attendant, who must be so close to the hounds that, should any quarrelling take place, they can hear his voice, or the crack of his whip, or [-92-] the sound of a bell, which he could pull, and which should hang over where the dogs sleep. Hounds are very savage in kennel; and after a fight in which a dog has been killed, his body is sometimes devoured by the rest. Old sportsmen have an anecdote, too, of a whipper-in being torn to pieces on going into the kennel at night in his shirt, in which dress the hounds did not recognise him, and without first calling to them. The best food for hounds is oatmeal and horseflesh, boiled; vegetables, after hunting, boiled with the meat, greaves, mashed-potatoes, and skim-milk. Biscuits and greaves, also boiled, form excellent food in the summer or off-season. All food should be given cold, and it should be boiled into pudding one day, and given the next day. The cost of feeding hounds depends on the price of oatmeal; but about twelve pounds per annum per couple may be looked upon as an average, perhaps a low-average sum. Hounds are called by name, and, as it is termed, "drawn," to be fed in three, four, or five couples at a time. The door is wide open, and the meat-trough is in view of the hungry pack; but, until called out, not one attempts to stir. Says Mr. Prior:
        "Abra was ready ere he named her name;
        And when he called another, Abra came.
It is very lucky that Abra was a lady and not a hound. A hound thrusting in or coming out of his turn, not when his name is called, is sent back with a flea in his ear. This is to make them know their own names, and is the only way of teaching them. The late Mr. Apperley (the celebrated "Nimrod") gives a remarkable instance of the discipline at feeding-time, which occurred at Sir Bellingham Graham's. "Vulcan, the crowning ornament of the pack, was standing near the door waiting for his name to be called. I happened to mention it, though in rather an undertone; then in he came and licked Sir Bellingham's hand; but though his [-93-] head was close to the trough, and the grateful viands smoking under his nose, he never attempted to eat ; but on his master saying to him: 'Go back, Vulcan; you have no business here,' he immediately retreated, and mixed with the hungry crowd." Hounds should be fed once a day, with delicate exceptions ; that is to say, a hound with a delicate constitution will require a few minutes longer at the trough, and may require to be fed twice in the course of the day. Before quitting this branch of the subject, let us give two important cautions. Build your kennel in a dry spot, thoroughly well drained, and so avoid rheumatism, kennel-lameness, and nine-tenths of the ills to which dogflesh is heir; and feed your hounds late at night, and so insure a comfortable rest for them, their keepers, and you and your guests, if the kennel be at all near the house.
    And now of the staff and the stud. Foremost and most important among the former is the huntsman, who should be in the prime of life, combining vigour and experience. Too young a man is apt to be fussy, self-opinionated, and wanting in judgment; too old a man to be slow and incapable of sufficient bodily exertion. Your huntsman should think of hunting, and nothing else; should be submissive to no cap-ribbon; no slave to drink, which would be fatal; no gadabout, taproom loiterer, pothouse frequenter. During the season his exercise will prevent any thing he takes doing him any harm; during the off-season he will find plenty to do in drilling his pack, and acquainting himself with their various peculiarities. He must ride well always, sometimes desperately; and he must be firm, yet courteous, with those terrific strangers who crop-up occasionally at all meets, and who will over-ride the hounds. Your cockney sportsman, and your over-excitable enthusiast, who - the one from ignorance, the other from irrepressible impulse - ride close upon hounds, are the good huntsman's direst foes. Hounds may be driven miles before the scent [-94-] by the pursuance of such a practice; and it is not to be wondered at if the huntsman sometimes loses his temper. He is a servant, however, and must moderate his language; but he may safely leave the unhappy transgressor to the remarks of his master, which are generally very full-flavoured. Sometimes the victim declines to bear such language.
    The breeding, rearing, and training of the young hounds is entirely to be done by the huntsman and in the field he is master of the situation, and directs every step in progress by his voice or his horn, in the blowing of which he must be really scientific. There will be one or two whippers-in, according to the size or status of the pack. If there be two, the first is but little inferior to the huntsman, and should be qualified to take his place in his absence. One of the whips should always remain with the pack, to prevent the younger dogs from running riot, and giving tongue heedlessly. The pad-groom is also an essential adjunct to a hunting-establishment, for it is his duty to follow to cover with the second horse; and he requires either a thorough knowledge of the country, or an innate appreciation of topography, to enable him to keep the hounds within view, to be able to skirt and cut across the country, and, withal, to meet his master at the proper place with a fresh and unblown animal. Of course the keep of such a staff is costly. The wages of huntsmen average from eighty to one hundred pounds a year, with a cottage and certain perquisites ; but there is a noble duke, an enthusiast in the sport, who gives his huntsman two hundred pounds per annum. This, however, is, of course, an utterly exceptional wage.
    The first whip will cost five-and-twenty shillings a week the second a guinea, the pad-groom a guinea, and the kennel-feeder, if there be one, another guinea a week.
    The wages of neither huntsmen nor whips are high when it is remembered what brutes they ride, and they are never expected to crane at anything, but to fly ox-fence, brook, [-95-] anything that may come in their way. Nimrod relates several anecdotes which he heard from whips of their falls: one complained that his horse was "a dunghill brute," because, "not content with tumbling, he lies on me for half-an-hour when he's down;" another, having had his horse fall on him, and roll him "as a cook would a pie-crust," got up, and limping off, said, "Well now I be hurt." Another acknowledged to having broken three ribs on one side and two on the other, both collar-bones, one thigh, and having had his scalp almost torn off him by a kick from a horse. Nor, if we may credit the same excellent authority, is there much thought given to these unfortunates. "Who is that under his horse in the brook?" Only Dick Christian" (a celebrated rough-rider), answers Lord Forester; "and it's nothing new to him!" "But he'll be drowned!" exclaims Lord Kinnaird. "I shouldn't wonder," observes Mr. William Coke; "but the pace is too good to inquire."
    In addition to huntsmen's whips, you will require two or three helpers in your stable, at wages of from twelve shillings to fifteen shillings a week, and an earth-stopper, who will get half a guinea a week. In this estimate I have said nothing of the saddler's nor of the farrier's bills, most important items.
    And now you have to provide horses for your staff and for yourself - dependent, of course, on the number of your servants and the number of dogs you hunt. A huntsman and two whips will require two horses each for two days a week, or eight horses for the three for three days; the pad- groom will require a horse, and there should be a couple of hacks for messages. The master may do with three, or may be able to afford more - I should say he will require four, barring accidents. The precise cost of hunters is entirely a matter of weight and fancy. A ten-stone master of hounds, with an eye for a horse, good judgment, and talent in bargaining, can, in the country, mount himself more than decently for fifty guineas; whereas in town the price would [-96-] be doubled. With increase in weight the price runs up frightfully, and an eighteen-stone man would give five hundred guineas for a horse, and think himself lucky, if the mount suited him in every respect. No amount of weight prevents a man from following, or even keeping hounds, if the passion be on him, and he can afford a proper mount; there are masters of hounds of seven-and-a-half stone weight, and there are one or two ranging between eighteen and twenty stone. To get themselves properly carried, men of the latter stamp must expend an enormous sum in horseflesh, requiring, as they do, the speed and jumping-power of the hunter, combined with the solid strength of the dray-horse. The horses for the huntsman and the whips are often good screws, or perhaps horses which, unless in constant work, are "rushers," or "pullers," or "rusty." When these animals are kept in perpetual motion, have a good deal of hard work, and can have any sudden freak of fancy taken out of them by a judiciously-administered "bucketing," they are generally useful mounts for servants. A horse with a bad mouth is often a good horse for a whip, or when an original delicate mouth is lost; for very few uneducated men have light hands.
    Horses a little worn are often bought for servants, or very young horses, if the men are good workmen, are bought and handed over to the servants to be made. Forty pounds may be taken as an average price for whips' horses, sixty pounds for huntsmen's mounts ; but there is a master in England who pays a couple of hundred guineas for his huntsmen's horses ; but then the huntsman stands six feet two. These horses are turned out from the 21st of April, and one man can look after and cut grass for six horses; but the average price of their keep throughout the year is twenty-five pounds each; a master of hounds may reckon that the keep of each of his own mounts is forty pounds a year.
    In summing-up the question of expense, it will be well to [-97-] bear in mind the axiom of a well-known sportsman of bygone days, that "a master of hounds will never have his hand out of his pocket, and must always have a guinea in it ;" but it may be laid down as a principle that the expense generally depends upon the prudence, experience, and interest possessed by the owner of the pack and the stud. Two men have worked different counties in a season, one at the fourth of the expense incurred by the other, and the difference in sport has been inappreciable. It may, however, be taken as a fact, that the expenses of a fox-hound pack for hunting twice a week, including cost of hounds, horses, huntsmen, and stable-attendants, will be about fifteen hundred; and for three times a week, two thousand pounds.
    Besides the packs of hounds kept by private gentlemen, there are many subscription packs. About a thousand a year is the average amount of a subscription pack's income, though some have larger revenue. Men of very large means will subscribe eighty or a hundred to the pack; but twenty-five pounds a year is regarded as a very decent subscription from a man whose income is moderate. The system of "capping," i.e. the huntsman's touting round with his cap, has fallen into disuse, and would be winked at but by very few masters; certainly no huntsman would be permitted to "cap" a stranger joining the meet, save in such a place as Brighton, where the hunt is attended by very many strangers, and where a "half-crown cap" is the regular thing.
    Such are some few particulars of the cost of the noblest of British field-sports; a pastime which lasts from youth to age, and, if we may believe the oft-quoted anecdote, becomes "the ruling passion strong in death;" for it is related that, on its being broken to two sporting-men who were out at sea that the vessel must infallibly sink and they perish, one was silent, while the other, looking at his friend regretfully, only said: "Ah, Bob! no more Uckerby Whin!" naming a celebrated covert where they were always sure of a find.