« FöregåendeFortsätt »
other counties, which he used to turn loose about the country by night, that he might the better signalize himself in their destruction the next day. His hunt. ing-horses were the finest and best managed in all these parts. His tenants are still full of the praises of a grey stone-horse that unhappily staked himself several years since, and was buried with great solemnity in the orchard.
Sir Roger, being at present too old for fox-hunting, to keep himself in action, has disposed of his beagies, and got a pack of stop hounds. What these want in speed, he endeavours to make amends for by the deepness of their mouths and the variety of their notes, which are suited in such manner to each other, that the whole cry makes up a complete concert. He is so nice in this particular, that a gentleman having made him a present of a very fine hound the other day, the
Knight returned it by the servant with a great many E expressions of civility; but desired him to ted his
master, that the dog he had sent was indeed a most excellent bass, but that at present he only wanted a counter tenor. Could I believe my friend had ever read Shakspeare, I should certainly conclude he had taken the hint from Theseus in the Midsummer Night's Dream.
“ My hounds are bred out of the Spartan kind,
Sir Roger is so keen after this sport, that he has been out almost every day since I came down; and upon the chaplaiv's offering to lend me his easy pad, I was prevailed on yesterday morning to make one of the company. I was extremely pleased, as we rid along, to observe the general benevolence of all the neigh
bourhood towards my friend. The farmers' sony thought themselves happy if they could open a gate for the good old Knight as he passed by; which he generally requited with a nod or a smile, and a kind inquiry after their fathers or uncles.
After we had rode about a mile from home, we came upon a large heath, and the sportsmen began to beat. They had done so for some time, when, as I was at a little distance from the rest of the company, I saw a bare pop out from a small furze-brake almost under my horse's feet. I marked the way she took, which I endeavoured to make the company sensible of by extending my arm: but to no purpose, till Sì Roger, who knows that none of my extraordinary motions are insignificant, rode up to me, and asked me, “ If priss was gone that way?” Upon my an. swering Yes, he immediately called in the dogs, and put them upon the scent. As they were going off, I heará one of the country-fellows muttering to his com. panion, “ That 'twas a wonder they had vot lost all their sport, for want of the silent gentleman's crying, Stole away.”
This, with my aversion to leaping hedges, made me withdraw to a rising ground, from whence I could have the pleasure of the whole chase, without the fatigue of keeping in with the hounds. The hare im. mediately threw thein above a mile behind her; but I was pleased to find, that instead of running straight forwards, or, in hunter's language, flying the country, as I was afraid she might have done, she wheeled about, and described a sort of a circle round the hill where I had taken my station, in such a manner as gave me a very distinct view of the sport. I could see her first pass by, and the dogs some time afterwards unravelling the whole track she had made, and following her through all her doubles. I was at the same time delighted in observing that deference which the rest of the pack paid to each particular hound, according to the character he had acquired among them. If they were at a fault, and an old hound of reputation opened but once, he was immediately followed by the whole cry; while a raw dog, or one who was a noted fiar, might bave yelped his heart out, without being taken notice of.
The hare now, after having squatted two or three times, and been put up again as often, came still nearer to the place where she was at first started. The dogs pursued her, and these were followed by the jolly Knight, who rode upon a white gelding, encompassed by bis terrants and servants, and cheering his hounds with all the gaiety of five-and-twenty. One of the sportsmen rode up to me, and told me, that he was sure the chase was almost at an end, because the old dogs, which had hitherto lain behind, now headed the pack, The fellow was in the right. Our bare took a large field just under us, followed by the full cry, in view. I must confess the brightness of the weather, the cheerfulness of every thing around me, the chiding of the hounds, which was returned upon us in a double echo from two neighbouring hills, with the halloo. ing of the sportsmen, and the sounding of the horn, lifted my spirits into a most lively pleasure, which I freely indulged because I was sure it was innocent. If I was under any concern, it was on the account of the poor hare, that was now quite spent, and almost within the reach of her enemies; when the huntsman getting forward, threw down his pole before the dogs. They were now within eight yards of that game which they had been pursuing for almost as many hours; yet on the signal before mentioned they all made a sudden stand, and though they continued opening as much as before, durst not once attempt to pass beyond the pole. At the same time Sir Roger rode forward, and alight. ing, took up the hare in his arms; which he soon after delivered up to one of his servants, with an order, if
she could be kept alive, to let her go in bis great Borchard; where it seems he has several of these pris isoners of war, who live together in a very comfortable
captivity. I was highly pleased to see the discipline of the pack, and the good-nature of the Knight, wbo could not find in bis heart to murder a creature that had given him so much diversion.
As we were returning home, I remembered that Monsieur Paschal, in his most excellent discourse on the Misery of Man, tells us, That “ all our endeavours after greatness, proceed from nothing but a desire of being surrounded by a multitude of persons and affairs that may hinder us froin looking into ourselves, which is a view we cannot bear.” He afterwards goes on to show that our love of sports comes from the same reason, and is particularly severe upon hunting.
“What,” says he, “ unless it be to drown thought, can make men throw away so much time and pains upon a silly animal, which they might buy cheaper in the market?" The foregoing reflection is certainly just, when a man suffers his whole mind to be drawu into his sports, and altogether loses himself in the woods; but does not affect those who propose a far more laudable end from this exercise, I mean, “ the preservation of health, and keeping all the organs of the soul in a condition to execute her orders.” Had that incomparable person, whom I last qnoted, been a little more indulgent to himself in this point, the world might probably have enjoyed him much longer; whereas, through too great an application to his studies in his youth, he contracted that ill habit of body, which, after a tedious sickness, carried him off, in the fortieth year of his age; and the whole history we have of his life till that time, is but one continued account of the behaviour of a noble soul, struggling under innumerable pains and distempers.
For my own part, I intend to hunt twice a week during my stay with Sir Roger; and shall prescribe the moderate use of this exercise to all my country friends, as the best kind of physic for mending a bad constitution, and preserving a good one.
I cannot do this better, than in the following lines out of Mr. Dryden*.
“ The first physicians by debauch were made;
Ride si sapis
HOBBS, in his discourse of Human Nature,
which, in my humble opinion, is much the best of all his works, after some very curious observations upon Laughter, concludes thus : “ The passion of Laughter is nothing else but sudden glory, arising from some sudden conception of some eminency in ourselves, by comparison with the infirmity of others, or with our own formerly: for men laugh at the follies of themselves past, when they come suddenly to remembrance, except they bring with them any present dishonour.”
According to this author, therefore, when we hear a man laugh excessively, instead of saying he is very
* A former annotator observes, that Mr. Budgell could be no sportsman, by making his hunting party in the month of July.
See Dennis's Original Letters, p. 147, 2 vols. 8vo. 1721.