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little could be spared was spared cheerfully, and from making themselves acquainted with the necessities of their poorer neighbours, judiciously bestowed, and thankfully received by those whose blessings sprung as spontaneously from the heart, on receiving these minor proofs of interest in their fate, as on the larger gifts of those of greater means ; and each is equally blessed and beloved if it is seen each gives in accordance with his means. Not only callous, but worthless must be the heart of him who does not feel both pride and joy from the conviction of being the object of the grateful remembrance, respect, and attachment of his fellow-man.
How does the present system of rapid and cheap transit affect such a family as I have depicted ? Instead of the occasional visits, “ few and far between,” to the metropolis—a new opera, the presence of a foreign potentate or two, a wedding, or even a party (if of peculiar attraction) is held sufficient excuse or plea for a hundred miles' journey to London, Frequent intercourse with Town brings on Town acquaintance ; and a goût for London amusements is engendered in the young branches of a family that had hitherto not only been content with, but fully enjoyed, those pleasures and pursuits indigenous to their native place, and that had been for, perhaps, centuries the accustomed habits of the predeces. sors of their family. The aspect of all things they see in the country becomes changed in their eyes and estimation; the country is pronounced dull, its pleasures monotonous ; and acquaintance, friends, and companions, hitherto hailed with pleasure, are now held as veritable bores. The father of the family in vain uses argument and persuasion ; mamma has become infected with the London mania, and joins the general outcry in favour of a London life ; till breaking through all the habits of his life, leaving behind friends known as companions in boyhood, to avoid the persecution of the general clamour, the father gives a forced consent to quit all that he holds dear, and to inix in scenes in which he has no enjoyment.
As a counter to the new expenses incidental to a London life, the horses are sold ; the man who acted in the double capacity of a country footman and gardener, the groom, and two of the female servants are dismissed, and the house is (as the case may be) given up to the landlord, or, with its fifty acres of land, its gardens and offices, let for a sum that merely pays the rent of the bare walls of a less comfortable London house. Here, with the incongruity of a seven o'clock dinner, and petti. coats attending at table, a party or routmas par excellence the ladies of the family may term it-is given once or twice a year, to which, from want of such acquaintance as one assimilates with the idea of a large party like the noblemen in Scripture, they send into the highways that their rooms may be full; and verily many are called, but few are chosen.
Such ladies flatter themselves they are among the fashionable world. So they are ; and much gratification may such idea bring them. They are just this much among fashionable life-they see the carriages of those who are, drive by the door they never think of stopping at; and a large portion of income is spent to be in the neighbourhood of fine houses they never enter, and to the owners of which the family once so known and so respected are as unknown as if they lived in the Nubian desert. The fact is, they have come from where they were somebody, to where they sink into the comparative insignificence of nobody; at least they
are so among those to whom they considered a removal to London would give them the entrée. Such has been, now constantly is, and I fear much more frequently will be, the result of the facilitated intercourse between rural districts and the metropolis.
Supposing I am right as to the usual results to such a family by throwing aside all former ideas and habits; we will look to the head of it, who, with perhaps not a thousand a year, was still, in his former locality, the Squire.
During the winter months, when formerly the cheering horn and more cheering cry of hounds awaited him three days in the week, his gun a day or two more, and a hospitable dinner to his friends and one from them, kept up social intercourse between families, he now cons over the paper till a late hour in the day, to beguile time that for him wends its way with leaden wings, his only reminiscence of his former pursuits being brought about by a stroll into Tattersall's. He there sees faces for the most part new to him, hunters the like of which he knows he shall never more bestride, or a pack of fox-hounds on sale, the music of which will never again gladden his ears. A sigh for bygone days escapes him, and, as he slowly retraces the narrow entrance from Grosvenorplace he feels it indifferent whether he turns to right or left, neither offering the way to aught congenial to his taste or pleasures. Summer induces a stroll in the park. Here, as we know that feeble light only renders darkness visible, so to his eye, accustomed to see nature in its blooming garb, the sun-burnt aspect of what should be turf merely shows him nature in disgusting deformity. He returns to his London house, seeks his easy chair; and the robust veteran who, a year or two since, seemed by his looks to set time and age at defiance, soon, from want of his accustomed healthy pursuits, sinks into the enfeebled old man.
Having thus disposed of a family under such change, in a way not the child of imagination, but drawn from life, and of late occurrence, the question may arise as to how far the absence of a man of small fortune may affect the country, and (its chief feature in the shape of amusement, namely) the sports of the field. There can be no doubt but the absence of one such man can affect the country at large but little ; but let it be remembered, the absence of a large number of such would affect it in a very serious degree. We will suppose a man of about eight hundred a-year, keeps a couple of hunters, a horse for the family carriage, and a hack for everything, with a groom and one other man servant for general purposes, and all this may be done with good management on such an income ; about seven such families put together keep up an establishment of servants and horses that in point of number equal that of a nobleman. We are quite aware how sensibly the continued absence of a nobleman is felt by tenants, neighbours, and the country around ; now I conceive that the absence of seven such families as I describe would be much more sensibly felt, for it must be borne in mind that the man of a thousand a-year is, or ought to be, as much a gentleman as the noble; and it is seeing the habits, and occasionally being brought in contact with the gentleman, that tends to soften the rudeness of the boor : feeling himself surrounded by his superiors, and dependent on them for many of his comforts, teaches a proper deference towards them, and induces him to shape his general conduct so as to challenge their approbation, or at all events to escape their censure. Now from different avocations and engagements, it is quite certain that where the noble has occasion to speak to one peasant, or farmer, the man of smaller means speaks to fifty—the noble may not enter a cottager's home in a-year, they are continually entered by some part of the family of the country gentleman : this teaches the peasant he is “not all forsaken on the main,” and occasional relief when necessary gives him the cheering conviction that when necessity obliges him to put in his claim, he has “ those claims allowed." The loss of a few nobles materially injures the well-doing of a neighbourhood—the loss of a large number of gentlemen's families desolates it. Should this be carried to a great extent the peasantry would return to barbarism. It may be said they were in this state in the feudal times, when their lords were resident at their castles. Granted; and this shows that it is the middle class of country gentlemen who tend so much to promote the comfort and civilization of the peasant, for in remote ages the inhabitants of this country were mostly composed of lords and serfs.
Let us now see what it is that in a general way keeps the gentry resident in our provinces. I infer it to be the not having the wish for London amusements, and consequently enthusiastically enjoying those the country affords. The denizen of the metropolis may say, What good does a country gentleman's hunting do? A vast deal, and much more than meets the eye, or idea, of such a querist. We will not here enter into the enumeration of the many benefits that various classes of persons enjoy from the additional number of horses kept that hunting occasions ; but beyond that, hunting and field sports bring on a kind of good understanding between the gentry, the farmer, and the peasant. The gentleman is civil to the farmer because he allows him to ride over his land ; the farmer is civil in return, because he supplies the gentleman with hay, oats, and straw ; but much more so because the farmer occasionally joining in the chase (or if not), by preserving foxes, abstaining from improper destruction of game, and permitting his cover to be drawn, he feels he has the power to oblige, and thus has a right to expect as his due a proper courtesy from his more aristocratic neighbour, or even his lordly one. It gives him a justifiable feeling of independence, and in moving his hat to his superior he does it to show his sense of their different grades, and feels certain of the compliment being properly acknowledged : it is not the servile and forced obedience of the serf or slave, but the voluntary act of a man who knows he is liked and respected- he feels he is a yeoman, my Lord a peer, and his neighbour a gentleman; this he readily and cheerfully allows, as the different grades that appertain to each individual-yet knows his superiors feel, and allow that on the score of bare respectability as members of the world they are unlike, unless the conduct of either destroys this equality.
The master of fox-hounds would feel very averse to showing any unseemly disregard to a respectacle yeoman ; first, we will hope, from a proper and gentlemanly feeling ; secondly, because he feels that the yeoman in his way does all he can to oblige lim and the gentlemen of the hunt; and beyond this, in most cases the farmer or yeoman has the indisputable right to warn any man from riding over the land he holds. The old idea that a man has a right to follow a fox where he pleases, on the score of destroying vermin, I believe has long since been refuted.
That an action for damages might not succeed against a man for doing a justifiable act, might probably be the case; but a notice not to repeat the act would be a poser, and, if done, an action for trespass must settle the business. All this is avoided by the little mutual obligations that hunting produces ; and what tends to promote kindly feeling between man and man, let either be who he may, is a great promoter of the good order of society : this unquestionably hunting does.
I mean no offence to any class of men, but in some corroboration of my opinion that the country produces more reciprocal courtesy between superiors and inferiors than does a London life, we will suppose the carriage of the noble or gentleman to come alongside the gig or taxed cart of the farmer, or his good wife-" How d'ye do, farmer ?" or mister, or plain Foxfriend, is pretty sure to be the result; or if the good woman is there, as sure as her “eggs are eggs," a nod from my Lady is awarded ; the good woman has stopped Dobbin out of respect to my Lady, and standing up in her cart, she drops her best bob, and goes home determined that if half her cocks and hens are carried off by Pug, not a fox shall be killed with her consent while my Lord is so “mortal a man for hunting them.”
Farmer Someone sends word to the squire or Mr. —- that a brace of hares are constantly in such a place on his farm : the squire brings his beagles or greyhounds, one or both of the hares are sent to the farmer's wife with the squire's compliments or remembrances ; he perhaps takes a crust of the farmer's bread and cheese, and a glass of what he calls “ fairish tackle,” in the shape of ale: here is kindly feeling on both sides, yet no unseemly familiarity. The farmer always knows where a covey of birds lie, or a snipe or woodcock is to be flushed ; while a cheap set of “golden gilt real Chany tea-things," binds the wife of the farmer to the wife of the squire in indissoluble ties. This is country practice, and capital practice it is ; but I fear it is practice on the wane ; but if, as I also fear is likely to be the case, country pleasures are left for London amusements, such practice must eventually die a natural death, froin the absence of those who once so numerously, and now in a lesser degree, still keep it up.
I have said that the noble in his carriage passing the farmer in his taxed cart notices him ; but-why, I say not-the noble passing in his carriage would not notice his tailor in his gig in London streets ; nor would my lady nod to his wife. In the first place, in all human probability my lady never saw, wished to see, or ever would see, the wife of her lord's tailor ; but if she had, it would make no difference in point of recognition. The tailor's wife may flatter herself that the immeasureable distance between the peeress and the wife of the farmer, precluding all possible attempt at familiarity, admits of freedom of recognition ; while in her case, approaching nearer to the woman of distinction, a distance of manner is held necessary by the latter. If the good woman can find any solace in such an idea, long may she entertain it ; but, in truth, the tailor's wife is about as much nearer the peeress than is the farmer's, as is the man on the first step of a street-door nearer to heaven than the man on the pavement.
We will again turn to country gentlemen ; they almost to a man know each other and hunting produces this. We will say the fixture of a pack of foxhounds is near the centre of their country, the members of
the hunt, and often those of other hunts, come to this fixture, east, west, north, and south, distances varying from half-a-mile to ten, twelve, or fourteen miles. This case, or similar ones, take place many times during a season ; mutual recognition takes place, and men become known to each other though residing thirty miles apart. A kind of freemasonry actuates hunting men. In provincial hunts, a man well mounted and spoken to by a M. F. H., is virtually introduced to the hunt, even if a stranger ; and though it is quite different at a Leicestershire fixture, in the generality of hunts no one stops to enquire, or cares to know, whether a man keeps three hunters or thirteen; he is a hunting man, his look and bearing are those of a gentleman, and, as a stranger, every man, at least every gentleman, is willing to show him a civility. This keeps up a kind of liaison between a large class of men more or less intimately acquainted-all knowing where to find each other, all ready to do so, and to join heart and hand should they be required on any occasion to promote or defend the welfare of the country—the scene of their chiefest joys, and endeared by ties dear to their hearts.
Let us now see the state the country would be in if the country gentry left it-I mean as regards the conduct of the peasantry. It is true the strong arm of the law, police, and soldiery, might, and most probably would, prevent the frequent occurrence of great crime or capital offences. But police or soldiery cannot be everywhere or anywhere at all times ; and as well might one whip attempt to watch twenty-five couples of hounds in cover if each hound was determined on riot, as could a country of peasants be watched if each man was bent on different crimes. Having no country gentry to please, or to hope assistance from, they would naturally become regardless of character ; and being so, would as a consequence become dissolute from habit and desperate from despair. True, there would remain the workhouse for him ; but make it as comfortable as you will, the workhouse is hurtful to the independent feelings of an Englishman ; and if as one of the poor he is left to the tender mercies of churchwarden and overseer, God help him. He would perhaps have the noble at his castle or hall for a portion of the yearone whom he never or seldom sees—one who, not from want of kindness or benevolence, but from want of opportunity, has never noticed him, or is aware such a man exists. The gentry absent, he is left like the fox or crow to live as he can ; and like them, if driven by want to commit depredation, like them he suffers if detected in the act. The intervening link between him and the great being lost, he feels himself an outcast of society.
Does hunting, then, do no good by keeping those in the country who by their presence keeps every man in his place in society? In truth it does. It is not of course the mere act of riding over fields or fences that produces any benefit to any one, excepting health to him who does it ; but he must do this to hunt ; and we have only to do away with the spirit of hunting if we wish to rob the country of one of its greatest inducements to live in it. This done, it would soon be deserted by all but peers and peasantry.
Our continental neighbours, particularly the French, may say, “We do not hunt,” and may affect to despise our doing so. We all recollect the old anecdote of Charles of Sweden, who somewhat sneeringly remarked to an Englishman, “Votre Roi chasse toujours," “ Oni, Sire,"