Sidor som bilder

able to assign some of them to the dreadful and culpable practice of laying strychnine to the destruction of rooks or vermin; and which being taken by game or poultry, is eventually transferred to the stomach of an unfortunate fellow-being.

To divest racing, or any other vocation in which speculation bears a part, of every objectionable feature is an utter impossibility ; but the regulations which have been introduced in the code of racing laws during the present session are calculated to produce satisfactory results, and are typical of other very important restrictions. One of the chief impediments to turf reform consists in the difficulty of enforcing the rules and regulations of Newmarket at provincial meetings, and this has been for some time conspicuous with respect to selling stakes. The rule lately introduced for this purpose may go towards reforming the devices which have been unfortunately introduced to raise the funds and the popularity of country meetings, but whether they will be sufficiently restrictive to produce the intended effect must be determined by experience. If it is expedient to restrict the running of a horse for a handicap at Newmarket, or any other place within the jurisdiction of the stewards of the Jockey Club, the said horse having previously run at a country meeting for a selling stake, or any other stake, the conditions of which are not in conformity with the rules of Newmarket, it would be more effective if such horses were restricted from being entered or run for any race whatever at the last-named places. The resolution as to raising the weights in handicaps is another step in the right direction.

The most decided improvements in racing transactions would unquestionably result, providing the rules and regulations of provincial meetings were uniformly controlled by the rules of the Jockey Club. With a view to that purpose, it is declared that the stewards of the Jockey Club will not adjudicate upon any disputes which may arise at provincial meetings, unless it is expressed in the advertisements that the rules of Newmarket are in force; yet, in opposition to this, it is by no means unusual to find many stakes are so worded as to be completely at variance with the enactments at head-quarters. This is certainly an anomaly quite inconsistent with reason. In the event of a dispuie being referred to the stewards of the Jockey Club from any meeting where such irregularities occur, they might very rationally decline to interfere, and an example of that kind would in all probability afford a profitable lesson. Many country meetings have flourished vigorously where the conditions of selling stakes have been at variance with the established rule, and where the questionable attractions of the handicaps have been the ridiculously low scale of weights at wbich they have commenced.

The all-important race of the year, the Derby, has been singularly characterized throughout by events quite contrary to what the antecedents gave promise. Public running has been fallacious in the extreme. The performances of Coroner at two years old were calculated to have established him as first favourite throughout the winter, but that was not the case; while the public running of those which stood in the highest estimation was of that equivocal nature, that no one could accredit them in their respective positions from any other cause than the confidence of those connected with their stables. Thus there was Yellow Jack, Wentworth, Fly-by-Night, and Ellington contending against each other for pre-eminence at the “ Corner” till the month of April, when Wentworth coming with a rush took a decided lead, with Cannobie pressing hard upon him after his successful performance for the Burwell stake at Newmarket. Fazzoletto having won the 2,000gs. stake, rose gradually in favour, and at starting assumed the premiership. The defeat of Ellington by Bird-inHand, at Chester, sent him from 8 to 1 to the division ranging between 20 and 30 to 1, from which position he never rallied up to the moment of starting. A more open race than the Derby was, on the morning of the contest, has never been run; and yet the first four horses placed have in their turns held the attractive positions of first favourites.

The restoration of peace afforded a suitable opportunity for the indulgence of a festive holiday. It is not necessary here to cavil at the conditions upon which the war was terminated ; they might have been more satisfactory and more advantageous—so think politicians ; but we must accept the boon as it is with the best grace we can. The day selected was a most appropriate one, the one on which the birth of our most gracious Queen is commemorated, and also the anniversary of the restoration of Charles II. During the period of the Commonwealth, holidays, the sports and amusements-in fact, all the public enjoyments of the people, were put down by civil enactments, the most innocent recreations were censured, and the May-pole and puppet-show were denounced as sinful spectacles. The restoration of ihe Merry Monarch was succeeded by the restoration of the people's amusements; and although during that reign they were carried to some excess, it is not too much to hope that the rejoicings on the late occasion may be ominous, and afford an impetus and encouragement of all diversions, amusements, sports, and pastimes, consistent with innocent and rational enjoyment. It cannot be denied that for several years past the sports of the people, especially of the rural classes, have been not only neglected, but discountenanced. The village May-pole has once more become a fanciful illusion, connected only with fairy dreams and elf-like phantasies. A morbid degree of sentimentality, a wouldbe righteous-over-much condition has prevailed, affecting country people more than those who congregate in towns. Excursion trains are constantly being provided for the benefit of the working classes of London and other populous places, and they are enabled to enjoy the fine invigorating breezes of the country, with change of scene, and other appetizing excitements conducive to their health, happiness, and prosperity. But those are gratifications to the townsman which would atford no pleasure or benefit to the countryman. A labourer of the county of Oxford would derive no benefit or amusement by a railway trip into Lincolnshire. The only holiday that can be provided for him is one that is congenial with his habits and pursuits, where the activity, skill, and strength of those classes may be put in competition, and inoffensive rivalry stimulate exertion. On ordinary occasions their diversions are confined to the annual fairs and wakes, where the lower orders are left to their own devices. There are persons who object to festive holidays, under the pretext that they are conducive to drunkenness and impropriety of conduct. In that they are mistaken. The country fair or wake does unquestionably offer inducements for drinking ; but it is very different when the assemblage is promoted and presided over by gentlemen of higher station. A good substantial dinner, many of which were provided throughout England on the 29th May, with a moderate quantity of ale, is not productive of intoxication; and the amusements which succeeded attracted the assembled multitude from the beer-shop more powerfully than any argument or authority could effect. Then, how many were busily and happily engaged in the preparation ! ladies' faces beaming with delight, as they were designing and constructing garlands, bouquets, rosettes, and other devices to draw forth admiration, each vying with the other which should be most popular and attractive. Somerville has supplied us with such an interesting introduction to the scene of a rural festival, that I cannot avoid extracting his words :

" See on the verdant lawn, the gathering crowd
Thicken amain ; the buxom nymphs advance
Ushered by jolly clowns; distinctions cease
Lost in the common joys, and the bold slave
Leans on his wealthy master, unreproved :
The sick no pains can feel, no wants the poor.
Round his fond mother's neck the smiling babe
Exulting clings; hard by, decrepit age
Propp'd on his staff with anxious thought revolves
His pleasures past, and casts his grave remarks
Among the heedless throng."

[ocr errors]

The preparation for the feast is not forgotten; the same author says:

“ Full to the brim, the brazen cauldrons smoke

Thro' all the busy camp the rising blaze
Attest their joy ; heroes and kings forego
Their state and pride, and at his elbow wait

The gladsome faces assembled at the repast are replete with happiness; every care and trouble is dispelled for the nonce. The old feel young again, and bonny youths pass furtive glances with their buxom partners.

“Nor does the jolly god
Deny his precious gifts ; here jocund swains,
In uncouth mirth delighted, sporting quaff
Their native bev'rage; in the brimming glass
The liquid amber smiles."

A no less interesting scene succeeds, when the “ future hopes” of the nation are marshalled in procession, each little child provided with its own cup, to partake of the less substantial, but to them acceptable, entertainment of cakes and tea. How their little eyes beam with extatic delight as their allotted cakes are presented to them! And then all move off to the spacious park, where the majestic oaks afford acceptable shelter from a resplendent sun; or else a spacious common, of less aristocratic pretensions, is chosen as the arena for the

games. A foot-race is the first event, and rustic youths draw up in line at the starting-post. If they have not undergone the mystic ordeals of training, they are in good healthy condition, and ambi


tious for the honour more than the value of the prize. Thus Somerville describes these contests :

“ Room for the master of the ring; ye swains !

Divide your crowded ranks. See! there on high
The glittering prize, on the tall standard borne,
Waving in air; before bim march in files
The uusal minstrelsy, the rattling drum
Of solemn sound, and the animating horn-
Each huntsman's joy; the tabor and the pipe-
Companion dear at feasts—whose cheerful notes
Give life and motion to th' unwieldy clown.
E'en age revives, and the pale puking maid
Feels ruddy health rekindling on her cheeks,
And with new vigour trips it o'er the plain.
Counting each careful step, he paces o'er
The allotted ground, and fixes at the goal
His standard; there himself majestic swells.
Stretched in a line, the panting rivals wait
The expected signal, with impatient eyes
Measure the space between, and in conceit
Already grasp the warm-contested prize.
Now all at once rush forward to the goal,
And step by step, and side by side, they ply
Their busy feet, and leave the crowd behivd.
Quick heares each breast, and quick they shoot along
Thro' the divided a'r, and bound it o'er the plain.
To this, 10 that, capricious Fortune deals
Short hope, short fears, and momentary joy.
The breathless throng with open hears pursue,
And broken accents shout impei fect praise.
Such noise confused is heard, such wil uproar,
When on the main the swelling surges rise,
Dash o'er the rocks, and hurrying through the food.

Drive o'er each other's backs, and crowd the strand. Three fleet and slender youths approach the goal nearly abreast; they have singled themselves out from their competitors, who are struggling hopelessly across the plain ; but it is a capital contest between the three, and the judge's fiat is given in racing parlance-by a nose.

The bumorous vagaries of ihe Jerusalem pony are amusingly developed. A course is cleared for their especial service, and the jocks parade their pets amid the jocund crowd with becoming dignity. In perfece keeping with the occasion appears young Snowball, the caminarian professor, attired in full May-day costume, in accordance with his ancient order, and “high waving the bush,” already congratutates himselt as the victor. Young Crocky, the itinerant purveyor of delf, is the next to show, gaily caparisoned in the reduced cast-off attire of a peripatetic clown, bartered from one of those facetious performers at a neighbouring fair for the valuable cousideration of a drinking cup, representing an eccentric human mug-an appropriate study for the purchaser. Lilly-vite-sand-0, to be quite in keeping, has begged the blue calico lining of an antique bed-curtain from an old maid with whom he traded, under the pretence that it would “serve his mother's babby for a fruck.” So much for the most distinguished characters; the others, with the exception of Gipsey Tom, come to the post in their shirt sleeves ; but the latier hero sports an ancient bunting-cap, with red-and-yellow decorations on his high-lows. The course is cleared, and they are assembled at the starting-post. Indignant at restraint, one of the



high-mettled coursers bolts off in a contrary direction ; another, defy. ing all the efforts of his rider, and the persuasion of his partizans on foot, persists in running out of the course. Young Crocky takes the lead, till, reaching the first turn, his flyer obstinately persists in his onward course; he eventually stops his Balaam, when a convulsive kick precipitates him on his back. Snowball pegs away might and main; but all at once his steed stops short, and off comes the jock, sprawling on his mother earth with all the composure of a prac ised siceple-chaser. The struggle is now between Lilly-vite-sand-O and Gipsey Tom ; and the latter having come at his own slow


without inpediments, is bailed the winner.

Aspiring youths, emulous of distinction, essay to rise in the world by the assistance of an unciuous pole. Many are the vain attempts to gain the summit; and with what expressions of despair depicted on their visages the unsuccessful competitors descend, like other ambitious mortals, the slippery column of fame! Gipsey Tom ascends the highest, and is rewarded for his exertions with a grand smock-frock.

Jumping in sacks may be classed among the sciences in which all are not professors, though many profess their readiness to exbibit their powers.' Grinning through horse-collars produces more broad grins on the visages of the spectators than proceed from the grotesque features of the performers. The serious portion of the community may denounce such diversions as not sufficiently intellectual for the age we live in; but they are productive of merriment free from vicions tendencies; and surely it is far more consistent with the best feelings of the heart to encourage innocent mirth rather than melancholy sadness. When we look calmly around us, through the circle of our own immediate friends, or, taking a wider circuit, include the afflictions which our fellow-creatures have to suffer, that heart must be cold indeed that will not cheerfully respond to every call which is likely to pour balm into their wounds, or by relieving the mind from anxiety increase their happiness. Those who have through this chequered life of vicissitudes undergone the greatest cares, and experienced the greatest disappointments, are almost invariably the readiest to sympaibise with grief. The oppressive, unrelenting hand of affiction attunes their hearts. The specious perfidy, the deceptive promises of designing hypocrisy teach men lessons which may be turned to the best purposes. It guards them against repetitions, and it awakens them in behalf of those who are the victims of similar misfortunes. That man is the best friend to bis fellow-beings who will exert himself on all seasonable opportunities to supply the cup of pleasure with innocent draughts of social happiness.

The summer is, without question, the most suitable season for all kinds of rural enjoyments ; but the customs introduced of late years have operated very materially to reduce the opportunities. I can remember the time when sheep-shearing afforded an opportunity for some rejoicing ; but the usages and humours of olden times are mostly banished from the farmer's homestead. Hay-harvest succeeding, another treat was offered to all hands engaged; the remuneration is now confined to the circulating medium. The feast of the year was reserved till the harvest supper ; but that, like the other events, has become a matter of history; it is, therefore, I feel assured, highly desirable that due attention be devoted to "the sports of the people."

« FöregåendeFortsätt »