Bedtime Stories: R. S. Surtees

An occasional series in which we wish our readers a happy good night, courtesy of hunting literature. Sweet dreams!

FOX-HUNTING SWAINS

WHILE nibbling our pen, we have been casting about to see if we could recollect any instance, among our numerous acquaintance, of a bad fox-hunter husband, and we are happy to say we have drawn the covert blank. We have, to be sure, fallen in with fellows in red coats who have been anything but what they ought, but can conscientiously say we have never know any man worthy of the name of a sportsman who was not a good fellow. Indeed, were we a young lady, we would pick a fox-hunter for preference. Their coats may not be quite so glittering as the laced jacket of a soldier, nor may they be quite such good hands at dancing the polka, but, for the real steady comfort and enjoyment of life they beat them by chalks. Besides, war’s alarms are trying, soldiers are very apt to shut up shop when they get married; and, if they don’t, why even a child tires of looking at the same dressed doll. .. Even in sweeethearting a fox-hunter is worth a dozen such fellows as Fribbleton Brown–fellows who hang about a drawing-room all the morning, fumbling in women’s handbags, stealing their thimbles, and stopping their worsted work. Women like to have men ‘in tow,’ no doubt, but they don’t like to have fellows lying ‘at them’ all day, like terriers at foxearths. The fox-hunter goes out to ‘fresh fields and pastures new,’ hears all the news, the fun, the nonsense, the gossip of the world. His mind’s enlarged, his spirits raised, his body refreshed, and he comes back full of life and animation. If he has had a good run and been carried to his liking, his harvest-moon heart loves all the world.”

— from The Hunting Field by R. S. Surtees (1846)

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