Taurus Centaurus

THE umbrella that I bought in Burlington Arcade came speedily to grief.1 Going to pay for it, I had taken it in my hand, not because it rained or that the sky was lowering, but because one always carries an umbrella in England, whether one uses it or not. Indeed, a Lancashire friend of mine, who was with me when I bought an umbrella on another occasion, said, as I was picking and choosing, “ Find a good stick ! An umbrella serves chiefly as a walking-stick. Get a good one for that, and you ’re all right.” As I walked away from the Arcade, at the very first crossing, — at Sackville Street, I believe, — I was suddenly conscious of a horse and a rushing of wheels. I had just time to draw back when a hansom cab dashed past me so close that I smelled the horse’s breath. The great wheel caught my umbrella, which was twisted out of my hand in a twinkling, like a foil from the hand of an unwary fencer, and thrown upon the ground, where the wheel passed over it. The cabman took not the slightest notice of me as he turned the corner and dashed down Piccadilly. I picked up my wounded umbrella, and returned with it to Burlington Arcade, where it was found that, although stick and ribs were uninjured, every gore of the silk was cut through in two or three places, and that never having been used it would yet have to be completely new covered. I could not but remark the plainly unaffected concern of the saleswoman from whom I had bought it. As she opened gore after gore and found them all destroyed, her countenance fell, and she looked ruefully in my face, as if she and not I had lost twenty-five shillings, and as if she, not I, would have to pay for a new cover. I remarked her manner, although it was undemonstrative and perfectly simple. It was one of many manifestations of like feeling from tradespeople toward their customers to which I was witness in England.

My adventure with the cab, happening on the second day after that of my arrival in London, gave me timely warning of a fact which I found to be both characteristic and important, — that in England the man on horseback is master of him that goes afoot. He who walks is expected to give place to him who rides and to him who drives. He is, for the moment at least, the inferior person, the subject of the mounted man, whose convenience or whose pleasure he is expected to consult at loss of his own pleasure, or of his own comfort, or of his property or his limbs, or, it would almost seem, of his life itself. A sign or token of this in London, and if I remember rightly in other cities, is the contrivance called a “ refuge,” which is placed at intervals more or less convenient in the road-way of the street. These refuges are formed of stout stone or iron posts about a yard high, which stand some two or three feet apart, halfway from curb to curb, making a sort of pen or pound, into which persons who are timid or not agile may flee as they cross the street, and where they may rest in safety until the way is clear for them to complete their crossing without the risk of broken bones. If it were not for this contrivance there are many women, and, I suspect, some men, in England who would never get quite across some of the thronged thoroughfares. The man who undertook to swim across a mill-pond, and who, having got half-way over, instead of going on turned round and swam back again, might, if he had found a place for a moment’s repose and reflection, have seen that it was as well to go forward as to turn back ; and thus the timid wayfarer in the streets of London is enabled to pause amid the clattering of hoofs and the whirl of wheels, and, taking courage from offered opportunity, complete his half-made transit. The refuge seemed to me a very characteristic thing. It is a sign of that thoughtfulness of the personal safety and comfort of the general public which is a much more constant and impelling force in England than it is in the United States; but it is also a sign of that deference to the horse and to his rider or driver which is one of the most striking of English traits.

My horseless English friend who told me that a gentleman in England was a man that had horses and green-houses was nearly right in his jocose definition. But the first half of it is the more significant. The importance of the horse in England, and the importance which he gives to his possessor, even his temporary possessor, is not easily overrated. The feeling from which this springs is traditional, and comes down from the time when, in peace as well as in war, nobles,gentlemen, and men-at-arms were mounted men and rode over the common people. When coaches came in they were for a long time, of necessity, an appanage of the great and the wealthy ; and indeed they were such a sign of high social position that even among inferior persons many of those who could well afford them did without them, lest they should subject themselves to the charge of presumption. It is amusing to read Pepys’s debates with himself on this point; his doubts being not whether he could afford a coach, but whether his position was such as warranted him in appearing before the public with his wife in his own vehicle. It need hardly be said that a private carriage is everywhere an evidence of a certain degree of wealth in the owner ; but although the grandson of the man who first set up a carriage in New York is yet living, the possession of such a “ leathern conveniency ” (as this staid old gentleman styled his private carriage) conveys to the public mind nothing of that feeling which still lingers in England in regard to the man who (for pleasure, not for business) has a “ stable,” great or small. Mrs. Gilpin, on her only holiday in twenty years (how cruel she was to poor John in saying “ these twice ten tedious years” !), did not have even her hired chaise and pair brought to the house, but had it stayed three doors off, lest folk “ should say that she was proud.”

It is partly because of a great liking for horses, but partly also because of the survival of this feeling, although in a much modified form, that the first desire of an Englishman when prosperity begins to come to him is to be the possessor of a horse. Chiefly, his desire is to ride; and if he is a weak-minded, pretentious creature, he tries to seem to have ridden or to be about to ride. In England the stirrup is the first step to gentry. The phrase “ in the saddle,” as an expression of readiness for work, is a peculiarly English phrase. We use it because we are of English blood and speech; still it has not with us the full pertinence and significance which it has in England. An English “gentleman ” who cannot ride reasonably well, and who does not ride, is an exceptional sufferer from some hapless disability, physical, moral, or pecuniary. Englishwomen not only walk more than their American cousins do, but they ride very much more. Ten to one of them, compared with women here, are accustomed to the saddle. Girls as well as boys begin to ride early ; indeed, before they begin to learn to dance.

I was walking one morning in the weald of Sussex, with a friend, to call at the house of a kinswoman of his. And, apropos of my subject, this gentleman, although he had a stable on such a scale that, seeing it first by chance in the twilight, I thought that it was another country house, and although he was a grandfather, proposed as a matter of course that we should walk the three miles between the two houses. Notwithstanding it was a warm September day, I was very glad that he did so, and that I did not lose one smiling moment of the bright beauty of that morning, or one of the evervarying phases of the view across the weald to those grandly reposing downs, that couch like headless sphinxes before the sea. We had walked about two miles, when we saw, a few hundred yards off, what might at first have been taken for a great doll mounted upon a great dog coming rapidly toward us. It was a little girl riding a shaggy-maned pony, whose back was not nearly so high as a donkey’s. Little miss, although she certainly could not have been more than eight years old, came tearing along at a pace that turned back her short skirts in a flutter, and made her long curls stream out in the air behind her. “ Oh, uncle,” she broke out, as she pulled her pony up to a sudden jog-jog-jog, which I thought must pitch her out of the saddle, but which did not, — “ oh, uncle, what an awfully nice pony this is ! He goes like lightning. Papa says he thinks there is n’t a match for him in all the weald,” — pronouncing the last word, by the way, quite perceptibly as two syllables, yet with the suggestion that this was only the effect of a full and rich enunciation of the letter l. Her eyes were dancing, her cheek glowed ; and after a kiss and a few more hurried words from her fresh little mouth, off she dashed again, at the same headlong pace. Soon we met the maid who was out in attendance upon her, and to whom, as I found, it was her wont to ride back, after she had gone about a quarter of a mile, and take a fresh start. Although she had a pony and a maid, her dress was as simple and as uncostly as it could possibly be consistently with cleanliness and comfort. Nor was her father at all a man of wealth. My host, who was his landlord, told me that the rent of the pretty house and grounds, at which we soon arrived, and which looked much like a villa at Brookline or Dorchester Heights, was but two hundred and forty pounds a year, and the furniture and upholstering was far less gorgeous than that which is found in the houses of thousands of New York men whose daughters never saw a pony, and who could no more keep a seat upon such a tempestuous little beast as that than they could ride a whirlwind. But per contra, as their fathers might say, their toilettes would, in their splendor, altogether eclipse the homely garb of this unmistakable little gentlewoman. Ponies like this one of course we all know; but I saw more of them during my short visit to England than I had seen in New England and in New York in all my life.

The number of ladies that one constantly sees in England on horseback, in the parks, public and private, and on the rural roads, is a distinguishing feature of the country. They ride in parties, with gentlemen, of course, and often alone with a groom in attendance, but oftenest, it seemed to me, in pairs, with the inevitable tidy groom just out of ear-shot behind them. There is not a more characteristic representation of English life, nor one more pleasing to man’s eye, than the sight of two fair, healthy English girls, well mounted, their blue riding-habits full of health and their faces full of good-nature, cantering easily through a wooded park. I remember meeting such a pair on a visit to — Hall, in Lancashire. I had chosen to walk, as I often did, and I met these young ladies in the park, about three quarters of a mile from the house. They were walking their horses, and I had opportunity to make good view of them. Their faces were beaming with the delight of life ; the indefinable charm of the spring-tide of existence seemed to radiate from them, and to take me within its influence; they sat their horses with an ease and grace which Englishwomen do not always show on foot; and their dark blue habits on the bright bay coats of their blackmaned, black - hocked horses, sharply shown against the rich, green sward, made a combination of color which was grateful to my eye. It was a sight worth seeing for itself, and the most English thing that could be seen in England. I saw that they were the daughters of the house, or at least that one of them was, and raised my hat as I passed them, and got a pretty blush and half a bow in return. After I had walked on a while, I thought that I might venture to turn and look again at such an attractive spectacle ; when to my surprise I found that they had anticipated me in my exhibition of inquisitiveness, in which their groom stolidly took no share. I could not see them blush again, but I could see their white teeth as they smiled at this mutual detection of our common curiosity. I am sure that should they chance to see this page they, who added so much to the pleasure of my visit to—Hall, will pardon this reminiscence of our meeting.

The Egyptians mummied all sorts of sacred brutes, including bulls, cats, and crocodiles. If Englishmen should ever take to embalming beasts, I am sure that, notwithstanding the national name and the place which roast-beef holds in English song and story, they would pass by the bull, and swathe the defunct horse in muslin and spices. For if the horse be not a god in England, at least the cult of the horse is a sort of religion. There are tens of thousands of English gentlemen who have horse on their minds during the greater part of their waking hours. The condition of the animals ; their grooming ; the cut of their tails and manes ; the way in which they stand, or step, or stride; the fashion of their harness; the build, the look, the dress, of coachman and groom, — these are matters to them of deep concern, of uneasy anxiety. And this is so not once a year, or once a quarter, or once a month, but every day, and two or three times a day ; every time, indeed, that they ride or drive. Nor do I mean only those who are called “ horsey ” men, gentlemen drivers of mail-coaches and the like, who are grooms in everything except taking wages, and some of whom, I was told, will carry their coachmanship so far as to take a “ tip.” Apart from these, there is a very large class to whom the perfection in the minutest point of their equestrian “ turnout” is a question of the major morals. When one of this class feels sure that his horse, his “ trap,” and his groom will bear the criticism of his friends and rivals, the ineffable air of solemn selfsufficiency with which he sits the saddle or the box is at once amusing and pitiable. These men criticise each other’s equipages as women criticise each other’s dress, as pedants criticise each other’s scholarship. Indeed, in England there is a pedantry of the stable.

In a lower condition of life there is of course less expense and less display, but not a whit less of the hankering after horses. On the roads in the suburbs of London, a frequent sight in the afternoon, when it does not rain, is a sort of light cart or buggy with a smallish horse driven furiously by a coarse man, who sometimes has a coarse companion, male or female. I rarely took an afternoon’s walk within five or ten miles of London without meeting a dozen of these Jehus. They tear along the road at a mad pace, and evidently expect everybody and everything not bigger or stronger than they are to make way for them. I remarked upon this one day to a friend who was walking with me, and who lived in a little suburban town, and he told me that they were mostly small tradesmen or farmers of “ horsey ” propensities, who used in this way at every opportunity the horses which in the mornings were used in their business. This cart or buggy takes the place in England of our hideous contrivance, the trotting wagon; and I must confess that it seemed to me much the pleasanter vehicle. Certainly, the drivers appeared to enjoy themselves much more than our trotting men do. They do not sit in stolid silence, pulling at the reins with gloomy determination. They give the horse his head, and drive with a free rein and an easy hand, and chat and laugh as they bowl along the smooth, wellpacked road. Indeed, these fellows appeared to me really to have more pleasure in their horse exercise than their superiors did. They were without the conscious, anxious look of the others, and did not seem to sit in fear of criticism. And yet I have no doubt that they did criticise each other as they met or passed, and made remarks upon each other’s “tits,” or harness, or driving. For when an occupation or an amusement becomes a cult this is inevitable. But I never saw them race. If they were overtaken or passed by one of their own sort, they kept their pace, and seemed to enjoy their drive for the drive’s sake, without running the risk of taking off each other’s wheels, and without anxiety upon the important question whether they “ did ” the last mile in 2.40 or 2.39, 30.

English riding did not, however, awaken in me all the admiration which I had expected. The horses and their riders were indeed in all respects admirable ; nor did the boldness and self-possession of the latter in the saddle, and their calm mastery of the situation, leave anything to be desired, at least so long as the pace was not very rapid. But the English seat did not seem to me graceful, or easy, or even quite safe; although it must be so. And yet to see men rising to the horse, as they commonly do, and alternately sitting in the saddle and standing in the stirrups, awakened in me a feeling of anxiety and distress, which, superfluous as it must have been, I found not infrequently reflected in the countenances of the riders. Accustomed to see men who were accounted good horsemen sit in the saddle or on bareback as if they sat in a chair, although the horse was at full career, it did not please me to see riders bobbing up and down so that a good artilleryman could send a round shot between pig-skin and buck-skin at every stride. In this feeling, however, I must have been wrong. English riding is far beyond such criticism as I could bring to bear upon it. The matter must be one of mere habit and fashion.

I had not the good fortune to see a hunting field, — only some cub-hunting ; but even that was made a pretty sight by the horses, and the light crimson coats of the riders, and the action of the hounds. But I did not mourn my loss greatly in this respect; for I shall not hesitate to sink myself very low in the estimation of some of my Yorkshire friends by confessing that the only interest that a fox-hunt would have for rue would be the show, and that, fond as I am of riding, I should enjoy it in any way better than in risking my neck in the chase of a little red beast with a bushy tail. The excitement and the pleasure of hunting tigers, or bears, or wolves, or boars, I can not only understand, but sympathize with heartily; but that twenty or thirty grown men on horseback should follow a pack of hounds in chase of a little creature about as big as a cat seems to me a proceeding so essentially absurd and preposterous that I cannot think of it with patience. Still worse, and with the addition of most inhuman (I wish that I could say unmanly) cruelty, seems the coursing of the hare. That men should go out with hounds to find pleasure in the flight, in mortal terror, of the most timid and harmless of dumb creatures is to me quite inexplicable. Shooting hares is one thing, coursing them quite another. I know that there are no wild beasts left in England but hares and foxes, and that field sports are delightful and invigorating. If country gentlemen must have field sports, and there are only foxes and hares left for them to hunt, I suppose that foxes and hares must be hunted. But it would seem that men might get open-air exercise and excitement in a more humane and reasonable way.

As to fox-hunting, however, with all that we read about it in English novels and other books, we have hardly a just appreciation of its importance as an English “institution.” It also is a religion. It comes next to the British constitution and the Church of England. Hunting men talk of it with an earnestness and a solemnity which is infinitely amusing to an “ outsider.” To hunt well, or, as the phrase there is, to ride well to hounds, is an accomplishment, like the mastery of an art or of a science, or like distinction in literature. I do not believe that there are ten men in any thousand in England, whatever their success or their distinction in other respects, who would not prize, if they could attain, the added distinction of being good fox-hunters. Hunting has even a moral significance. Years ago an English lady, a Yorkshire woman, writing to me of Louis Napoleon, after telling me this and that of him in terms of admiration, added, “ And he rode well to hounds; and somehow if a man rides well to hounds he is pretty sure to be a good fellow.” I could not see the sequitur. But perhaps if I had been born and bred in Yorkshire I could have discovered the connection between good-fellowship and a good seat in the saddle,—between a sound heart and bold and wary riding.

To hunt something seems to be a sort of necessity with the “average” Englishman, with whom it is a creed, an article of faith, that certain animals are created by a benign Providence to be hunted and killed in a certain way. For the way in which it is done is all important. A man who would shoot a fox is little better than a heathen ; far worse than a publican and a sinner. And the feeling pervades all classes. In Joseph Andrews, as the hero, his sweetheart, and Parson Adams are on the road near Squire Booby’s, a hare, pursued by hounds and huntsmen, interrupts a passage of love between the two younger folks, and Fanny exclaims, “with tears in her eyes, against the barbarity of worrying a poor innocent, defenseless animal out of its life, and putting it to the extremest torture for diversion.” Fanny would have protected the hare, but he fled from her. The end is told in the following paragraph : —

“ The hounds were now very little behind their poor, reeling, and staggering prey, which, fainting almost at every step, crawled through the wood, and had almost got round to the place where Fanny stood, when it was overtaken by its enemies, and being driven out of the covert was caught, and instantly tore to pieces before Fanny’s face, who was unable to assist it with any aid more powerful than pity; nor could she prevail on Joseph, who had been himself a sportsman in his youth, to attempt anything contrary to the laws of hunting in favor of the hare, which he said was killed fairly.”

This passage is remarkable, first, because it shows that although Fielding was the son of an English squire and soldier, his good sense saw and his tender heart felt the cruelty of the sport which he describes; although, with an eye to the prejudices of his fox and hare hunting readers, he puts his own thoughts into the breast of a young woman and expresses them by her lips. Next, we see that this careful delineator of contemporary manners makes Joseph something of a sportsman in his youth, although he had been brought up in the humblest condition of life. Finally, the hero, whom Fielding sets before us as a model of all that is good and kind and gentle, refuses to protect the hare even to stop the tears of his sweetheart, but lets it be torn to pieces before her eyes, because, according to the laws of hunting, it was killed fairly. This establishment of laws, which it is unsportsman-like if not ungentlemanly to violate, but according to which a poor dumb, timid creature may be driven wild with terror and to death’s door with fatigue during a very appreciable part of its little life, and at last torn to pieces for the amusement of those who make the law, may not be peculiar to England, for the laws of venery have prevailed in all lands; but it is safe to say that in none are they so religiously observed as they are in England, and that their application there to hares is a peculiarity due probably to the lack of larger game. The combination of a strict regard for the laws of hunting with an utter disregard of the sufferings of the hare, resulting in a kind of implication that the poor beast itself should be quite satisfied if it were chased and worried and torn to pieces “fairly,” is an exquisitely perfect manifestation of a feeling, not confined to field sports, that pervades society in England. This feeling is embodied in the phrase, so common there that it has become cant, “ May the best man win.” It would seem that it is in the spirit of this phrase that John Bull looks upon any strife. He says not, May the right man win; not, May the right put down the wrong; but, Right or wrong, may the best man win, — “ best ” meaning strongest and boldest. The very sympathy which he shows sometimes for the weaker, and on which he prides himself, is but another manifestation of this feeling. If the little fellow can go in and win, and kill his antagonist, or beat him, “fairly,” let him do it; may he do it! “ Hooray for the little ’un ! ” But the little one, for all that he is little, may be utterly in the wrong ; he may be so foully and so aggressively in the wrong that he ought to be trodden out of existence, like a venomous creature. But let him show “ pluck ” (favorite word in England, but hideous, as Professor Newman has said), and he is sure of John Bull’s cheer, if he were as wicked as Satan and as venomous as a viper.

This feeling has its spring in a quality of the John Bull nature (by which, be it remembered, I do not mean the best or even the characteristic English nature 2) to which I am extremely loath to apply the only word that will describe it, —brutality. And in brutality I imply nothing of the wild-beast nature, nothing of cruelty. I mean an admiration of brute force, a deference to it, a contented recognition of it as the rightful title to the possession of all things. Strength must indeed be the ultima ratio ; and civilization means that strength is on the side of society. But between the first reason and the last reason there is a long series of stages in which brute force may at least be kept out of sight. In England, however, it is kept constantly before men’s eyes, and they are taught to worship it from very children. The little boy goes to school to run the errands, pick up the balls, and black the shoes of the big boy; to be tyrannized over by him; to have his ears boxed by him ; to be flogged by him, — not merely to be “ licked ” in a boyish fight, but to be solemnly flogged, whipped with a rod, or “ tunded ” with staves as punishment. " I had the honor,” writes Thackeray, “ of being at school with Bardolph before he went to Brasenose ; the under boys used to look up at him from afar off as at a god-like being. . . . When he shouted out, ‘ Under boy ! ’ we small ones trembled and came to him. I recollect he once called me from a hundred yards off, and I came up in a tremor. He pointed to the ground. ‘ Pick up my hockey stick!’ he said, pointing towards it with the hand with the ring on. he had dropped the stick. He was too great, wise, and good to stoop to pick it up himself.” A small boy may free himself from tyrauny by beating his tyrant “ fairly ” in a fight. But this is only another manifestation of the worship of brute force. He is free not because it is right that he should be free and strength is on the side of right in his little society, but simply because he has bad the pluck and the luck to beat his tyrant.

It is commonly sought to dignify this feeling by showing that it is no respecter of persons. But what a story is that of the boy who, on his first appearance at an English public school, was asked by the bully head-boy, “ Who are you ? ” and on his answering, “ I am Lord—, son of the Marquess of—,” was greeted with the reply, both in words and in action, “ Well, there’s one kick for the lord and two for the marquess! ” I have heard this story told by men of rank as well as by middle-class men, with an expression of delight in it as a manifestation of English manliness. “ Did the boy good, sir, — took the nonsense out of him.” But what sort of nature must that be which needs, and takes kindly to, one kick for itself and two for its father, by way of taking the nonsense out of it! And what a school of manners is that which thus welcomes a stranger, young, weak, friendless, ignorant yet of his surroundings ! I for one refuse to believe that the English nature requires this brutal discipline to bring it to that manliness and dignity and that solicitous consideration for others which it exhibits in its highest perfection. I believe that this worship of brute force is merely a traditional cult preserved in a spirit of Philistinism, and that without it more Englishmen would attain a full development of all the highest English virtues and graces than now do so with it. Were it otherwise, in discriminating between the two peoples I should be obliged to say that brutality was one of the things which Yankees left behind them in the old home.

Next to the horse in England is the gun. Accustomed as we are to see Englishmen who have crossed the Atlantic to visit America, and whose idea of that tour of observation seems to be to go two thousand miles further to the Western plains to shoot, we yet have no adequate appreciation of the importance which shooting as one of the occupations of life has in the minds of tens of thousands of Englishmen. Hunting and shooting in England are not mere recreations, forms of casual pleasure, to be enjoyed now and then, leisure and weather serving. In the hunting season hunting men are not content, as I found on talking with some of them, to go out with the hounds once or twice a week. They hunt three or four times a week, and even every day, except Sunday, if possible. I wonder that they except Sunday. For if a man in the country may work in his garden, and a woman in London may cry water-cresses on Sunday, out of church hours, I can see no reason why these gentlemen should refrain on that day from laboring in their vocation. Their vocation and calling it surely is. It is the business of their lives; and to hear them talk about it one would imagine that it had the importance of an affair of state. Shooting is hardly less thought of, and is more general because it is less costly. The pheasant, the partridge, and the woodcock are sacred birds provided for solemn sacrifice. “ Does he preserve ? ” is a question that I have heard asked by one country gentleman about another with as much interest and seriousness as if the inquiry were whether he had a seat in Parliament. An engagement to shoot is paramount to all others ; an invitation to shoot, like an invitation from the President at Washington, sets aside all others. Englishmen will go from one end of the country to another for a few days’ shooting ; and shooting means, nowadays at least, not a morning’s walk with dog and gun in a fine country and the bringing home of a few well-earned birds and rabbits, but mere gun-practice in a park at birds as flying marks. It has lost its connection with the enjoyment of nature and invigorating exercise. The “ sportsmen ” take their stands, and the birds are roused from the gorse by the gamekeepers’ helpers, and are shot down, or missed, as they come within range.

As I was in England during the shooting season, I had some invitations to take my chance at the pheasants. But I accepted none. I could use the little time I had to spend there in other ways, more to my advantage, and also to my pleasure. As to shooting birds in that business-like fashion, I would as soon take trout out of a tub. And that, I suppose, will be the way soon provided for the practice of the contemplative man’s recreation. The next thing to it seems to be the going to a fishing-hotel and angling from a boat in a mill-pond. Why not fish and shoot by telegraph as well as in this way ? The charm of field sport is the field, — the early start, the sharp, clear morning air, the sunrise, the walk over hill and through meadow, the country through which the game leads the seeker, the mid-day rest and luncheon with a companion or two by a clear, sheltered spring, whose cool water is tempered by the contents of flasks which counteract the unmitigated effect of that dangerous fluid, the renewal of the search for game by wood-side or brook-side, and the pensive walk home to a hearty dinner, a pleasant evening’s languid chat, and a well-earned dreamless sleep. Compared with this, what are preserve - shooting and pond - fishing ?

“ Does your ladyship hunt? ” Sir Harcourt Courtly asks of Lady Gay Spanker, in the most brilliant comedy of English life that has been produced in the last thirty years and more. “ Does my ladyship hunt? ” ironically replies that wily she-centaur; and then comes that description of the hunting field, which, given with spirit by a pretty woman, always brings down the house. Lady Gay has always seemed to me one of the most forbidding, because she is one of the most unfeminine, female characters upon the modern stage, and her hunting speech a mere clap-trap deliberately set for what it always catches. Here, however, I remark upon her and it only in the way of the illustration of my subject. It need hardly be said that the number of hunting women in England is comparatively small; but it must be positively great. Now while so many women hunt in England, it seems somewhat strange that English men and English women should find occasion of criticism in a tendency which they discover in their American sisters to usurp the places and the occupations of men. Riding itself is not the most feminine of accomplishments. A horse’s back is not exactly the place for which nature has fitted woman. Neither in body nor in soul is she peculiarly suited to the saddle. But of all occupations hunting belongs, on every consideration, peculiarly to man. Now American women don’t hunt. I never even heard of one who hunted,— except for that wild beast of whom every woman hopes to capture and tame one in the course of her life. While this distinction in the sex obtains in the two countries, it seems at least perilous for the countrymen of the hunting ladies to be censorious on the point of womanliness. And these criticisms back and forth are neither pleasant nor profitable. The customs of both countries are such as have been imposed upon peoples of the same race by the conditions of life in which they respectively live. Either transplanted to the other’s soil becomes in a few years as if he were “ native and to the manner born.” I have no doubt that with practice John Bull might learn to sit still in his saddle, and thus become truly Taurus Centaurus.

Richard Grant White.

  1. Atlantic, February, 1879, where by mistake I wrote Regent Street.
  2. See The Atlantic, August, 1878.