Fox Hunting Life with Horse and Hound

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Here you will find reviews of, selections from, and commentaries concerning books, many of which don't even appear on Amazon's radar. But what goldmines for the literate foxhunter!

The Fox Meditates

rudyard kiplingIt’s been eye-opening to discover the many celebrated authors of classical literarature—like Rudyard Kipling—who have produced foxhunting poetry. In addition to those poets known for their sporting literature and published in these pages, Foxhunting Life readers have enjoyed the foxhunting poems of Sir Arthur Conant Doyle, William Shakespeare, Dylan Thomas, and William Butler Yeats.

What follows is a brief history of foxhunting in seven stanzas, written in the fox’s voice by Rudyard Kipling.

 

 When Samson set my brush afire
To spoil the Timnites barley,
I made my point for Leicestershire
And left Philistia early.
Through Gath and Rankesborough Gorse I fled,
And took the Coplow Road, sir!
And was a Gentleman in Red
When all the Quorn wore woad, sir!

When Rome lay massed on Hadrian's Wall,
And nothing much was doing,
Her bored Centurions heard my call
O' nights when I went wooing.
They raised a pack-they ran it well
(For I was there to run 'em)
From Aesica to Carter Fell,
And down North Tyne to Hunnum.

The Thaw

the thaw1.lionel edwards"By the road where the ditches are ready to run!"  /   Lionel Edwards illustrationHark to the avalanche snow from the roofs
   O’er eaves where the icicles melt in the sun!
Hark to the musical suck of the hoofs
   By the road where the ditches are ready to run!
On the slope of the hill is a patchwork of green
    And the fallows are spotted with spaces of brown,
While woodlands and copses and hedges between
    Have lost the white burden that weighted them down.

Siegfried Sassoon, Foxhunting, and the Great War

Siegfried SassoonSiegfried Loraine Sassoon (1886-1967), poet and novelist, platinum print, wearing military uniform with the collar badges of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers and hat, Beresford’s stamp and copyright line on verso, 6 x 4½ in (15.2 x 11.5 cm). Accessed via Wikimedia Commons, January 2019.The National Sporting Library in Middleburg, Virginia, holds some 956 books on “foxhunting,” ranging in date from J. Roberts, An Essay on Hunting (1733) to Alastair Jackson, Lady of the Chase: The Life and Hunting Diaries of Daphne Moore (2018). Anyone likely to be visiting this website will know all the familiar names, from the prolific Nimrod and Robert Smith Surtees, to the less widely published William Scarth Dixon and Willoughby de Broke (Richard Greville Verney), to writers primarily known for one seminal work: Anthony Trollope, Hunting Sketches (1865), or George Whyte-Melville, Riding Recollections (1878). 

The Library’s holdings from the twentieth century alone total an impressive 602 works. They also include many by familiar names, such as the “standards” J. Stanley Reeve and A. Henry Higginson or, more recently, Michael Clayton and Alexander Mackay-Smith, as well as a number of influential works by women writers, such as Lady Diana Shedden and Lady Apsley, “To Whom The Goddess . . .”—Hunting and Riding for Women (1932), Lida Fleitmann Bloodgood, Hoofs in the Distance (1953), and E.V.A. Christy, Cross-Saddle and Side-Saddle (1932), one of many books on equitation that include the demands of riding across country.

Many of the 20th century works, most of them held by NSLM, date to the interwar years. Citing 177 examples, Anne Grimshaw (see list of Works Cited below) has estimated that books specifically on hunting published in England between 1919 and 1945 accounted for “25% of the total output of equestrian literature” (Grimshaw, 160). Included in this group is at least one title of signal literary merit: Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man, published by the distinguished poet Siegfried Sassoon in 1928 as the first volume of what would become a Great War trilogy, The Complete Memoirs of George Sherston (1937).

’Ware Holes

ware holesA sportin’ death! My word, it was!
An’ taken in a sportin’ way.
Mind you, I wasn’t there to see;
I only tell you what they say.

They found that day at Shillinglee,
An' ran 'im down to Chillinghurst;
The fox was goin' straight an' free
For ninety minutes at a burst.

They 'ad a check at Ebernoe
An' made a cast across the Down,
Until they got a view 'ullo
An' chased 'im up to Kirdford town.