A Yuletide Article - Horses in Prose
Horses in Prose In Britain the Christmas period is a national holiday interlude, where not much happens but eating, drinking, sport and attending end of year sales in shopping malls. I usually play with my horse or read. Alongside me is an old book of quotations - one or two have caught my eye since they are relevant to both horse and rider. It seems that little is new in the knowledge of horses but attitudes have changed - it is now a female dominated sport when once ladies, if they rode at all, rode side saddle, which perhaps shows in the wording of these extracts: Shakespeare:
Round hoof’d, short jointed, fetlocks shag and long
Broad breast, full eye, small head and nostril wide,
High crest, short ears, straight legs and passing strong
Thin mane, thick tail, broad buttock and tender hide
Look, what a horse should have he did not lack
Save a proud rider on so proud a back.
A horse! a horse!, my kingdom for a horse!
He doth nothing but talk of his horse
A little neglect may breed mischief;
For want of a nail, the shoe was lost;
For want of a shoe the horse was lost;
And for want of a horse the rider was lost
At twenty years of age, the will reigns;
At thirty, the wit;
and at forty, the judgement.
Dost thou love life?
Then do not squander time,
For that’s the stuff life is made of.
Men are generally more careful of the breed of their horses and dogs than of their children
Augustus William Hare:
Half the failures in life arise from pulling in one’s horse as he is leaping
But then I discovered Surtees - the creator of Jorrocks. Here are just a few examples
Robert Smith Surtees (1803-1864):
Three things I never lends - my(h)oss, my wife and my name
There is no secret so close as that between a rider and his horse
Women never look so well as when one comes in wet and dirty from hunting
Did that great man …say that there was no young man wot would not rather have an himputation(slur) on his morality than on his (h)‘ossmanship.
(H)‘unting is all that’s worth living for - all time is lost wot is not spent in (h)unting - it is like the hair we breathe- if we have it not we die - it is the sport of kings, the image of war without its guilt and only five and twenty percent of its danger
“Unting fills my day and many a good run I have in my sleep. Many a dig in the ribs I gives Mrs J when I think they are running into the warmint. No man is fit to be called a sportsman wot doesn‘t kick his wife out of bed on a haverage once in three weeks
Unless a man has a good many servants, he had better have them cleaning his ‘oss than cleaning his breeches.
Partly because I can see that the extracts are not socially acceptable in modern life I attach a brief resume of Surtee’s life:
Surtees was articled in 1822 to a solicitor in Newcastle upon Tyne. He left for London in 1825, intending to practise law in the capital, but had difficulty and launched out on his own with the New Sporting Magazine in 1831, contributing the comic papers which appeared as Jorrocks' Jaunts and Jollities in 1838. Jorrocks, the sporting cockney grocer, with his vulgarity and good-natured artfulness, was a great success with the public. Surtees died in Brighton in 1864
Surtees is still very readable today. Thackeray envied him his powers of observation, while William Morris considered him 'a master of life' and ranked him with Dickens. The novels are engaging and vigorous, and abound with sharp social observation, with a keener eye than Dickens for the natural world. A descendant was Field Marshal Lord Gort, commander of the BEF in France in 1940.
Happy New Year