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!

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.

Hard-Riding Dick

Rowland warburton smallThe author of this rather obscure poem was born in England in 1804. A landowner and nephew to the local baronet, he was known as the poet laureate of the Taporly Hunt, and indeed of the County of Cheshire. This hunting song, which coaxes the reader into a galloping rhythm, was selected by A. Henry Higginson, MFH, for inclusion in his 1930 collection, "As Hounds Ran." It’s a stirring hunting poem and a fine ode to a whipper-in. (My favorite stanza is Number IX.)

 

I
From the cradle his name has been ‘Hard-riding Dick,’
Since the time when cock-horse he bestraddled a stick;
Since the time when, un-breech’d, without saddle or rein,
He kick’d the old jackass along the green lane.

II
Dick, wasting no time o’er the classical page,
Spent his youth in the stable without any wage;
The life of poor Dick, when he enter’d his teens,
Was to sleep in the hayloft and breakfast on beans.

A Foxhunter’s Childhood Memories of WWII England

Book Review by Norman Fine

spirit.derek frenchSpirit: The Lighter Side of Life In Wartime Britain, Derek French, with watercolor illustrations by Shelagh Armstrong, paperback, 309 pages, $19.95, available at AmazonDerek French, ex-MFH of the Eglinton and Caledon Hounds (ON), was raised during World War II on his family farm just twenty miles south of London in Kent. He emigrated to Canada in the 1950s with his wife, Bobbie, and began foxhunting with Eglinton and Caledon in 1988. He was appointed Master in 2000, and, after a seven-year term, continued to serve the hunt as a road whip and still writes articles for the hunt’s Stirrup Cup magazine, several of which have been republished in Foxhunting Life.

In his recently published, highly readable, and often amusing account of his war years—Spirit: The Lighter Side of Life In Wartime Britain—Derek recounts his boyhood memories as the war unfolded in the skies above the farm and upon the village below. What follows is a brief introduction to Derek, then our review of this wartime memoir as experienced by a normal, active young boy. We recommend this book enthusiastically.