« PreviousContinue »
there always will be-innocents for the Pharaohs of cards, and dice, and other engines of capital punishment. It is only when mischievous speculations assume a general character that a government--whose office it is to guard and watch over the public welfare-is called upon to interfere in an especial manner. The ruin brought upon communities, families, and individuals by the railway epidemic of '45 would furnish a startling commentary on the influence of public example, could it be calculated. But histories of the kind consist of episodes. Had a body of subscribers, undone by any particular line, blown itself up en masse, or, joining hands, walked into a watery grave in the Serpentine during the hour of promenade in the height of the season, or, ordering a whitebait dinner at Blackwall, finished by washing it down with prussic acid, or leaped with one accord from the balcony of the Monument, it would have produced an effect. But a few broken beaux at Boulogne, a widow in a workhouse, a broker in the bench, or a committee sent to Coventry, goes for nothing. In its account current with the public the law has a heavy debtor account. Such items as Chancery, Doctors' Commons, Masters Offices, Palace Courts, and the like, leave a large balance against it. It is not unreasonable now and then to expect a small instalment. If the Attorney-General can snatch a sucking tailor or a man-milliner occasionally out of the toils of Beelzebub, it is better than nothing. The gin of the licensed victuallers will in future be confined to Cream of the Valley and Old Tom; but others, nevertheless, will continue to deal in the compounds of Old Nick. Boniface called the spirit, and Bigwig must lay it. As the game laws are still sub judice, perhaps a clause might be introduced assigning a penalty to poaching for souls. I throw out the hint in a spirit of fair play. It's bad enough to be bound for the devil under any circumstances, but to be going there with 20 to 1 against you is a reproach to a Christian country.
The year 1849 promises better than its predecessor ; it can't perform worse. The yellow fever of speculation having in some sort subsided, a more healthy habit may be calculated on. Even the ring pugilistic is looking up: a couple of cavaliers recently demeaned themselves upon Woking Common in a style that would have astonished St. George and the Dragon : they fought for five mortal hours, hammer and anvil, and were only prevented continuing the amusement by the shades of night. This was knocking one another into the next day, as nearly as circumstances would permit. To say nothing about body and bones, what bellows they must have had ! It is the “puff” that does it
“When the wind blows, then the mill goes." The book Calendar which made its appearance towards the close of last month gave a list of upwards of thirteen hundred race-horses that ran in this kingdom in 1848. When to these are added the steeplechase teams, the lot will be found a formidable one. The sport of racing across country-for steeple-chasing it no longer is, the courses being as well defined as those on Newmarket heath-is fast escaping from its hunting chrysalis, and become a twin sister of the turf. The Times gives its quotations of odds as regularly as the price of consols : men and legs make books upon its issues, and its handicaps are investigated as artistically as the Chester Cup or the Goodwood Stakes. Either as cause or consequence, the popularity both of racing and turf chasing is in the ascendant. I do not make my estimate from the premises which the betting passion of the million furnishes, but from the disposition so generally manifested by the inhabitants of the districts in which they occur to render them their aid and countenance.
One of the effects that these turf chases are likely to bring about is the extinction of amateur jockeyship. I allude to gentlemen's exhibitions at such meetings as Croxton Fark, and indeed at any regular race meetings at all. There will not be much to regret in that. There can be no objection to a “ baron or squire, or knight of the shire," assisting at a polka at a county ball, or at his own or a neighbour's house; but it would be a different affair if the scene of action were her Majesty's Theatre or the stage of Drury-lane. Coming after equestrian acts in which the most eminent of our public performers have appeared, they are little better than burlesques. I am speaking without any purpose of offence, but that on which I know many better calculated than I am to give an opinion, I set down “naught in malice." The probability is, that the chivalry of the rising age will betake itself-should the piping times of peace extend themselves over the rest of the century—to racing chases, when ambitious of witching the world with noble horsemanship. It would better harmonise with the social classification which I am "aristocrat” enough to desire should continue a parcel of our sporting arrangements, as well as of matters of graver account.
I wish I might thus close my theories of the steeple-chase; but in the faith of an honest journalist, I am compelled to offer less flattering views of the probable effects of this new ally of the turf. It is obviously the design of the ring to make it as complete an instrument of professional betting as racing. All the events of that description of any account are now prominently in the market-I do not mean merely at Tattersall's, but through the medium of lotteries. If any one should object that those contrivances “ appropinque an end," to such an one I answer“ Lay no such unction to thy soul.” So far from it, the most vigorous efforts are being made to extend the system beyond even the dreams of the most sanguine of the earlier adventurers. There is not a town in the kingdom without its agents. Consignments of tickets are issued “ upon sale or return' to waiters at hotels and taverns, where tradesmen resort to smoke their evening pipes ; to secretaries of convivial and benefit societies ; in fact, to all who are likely to fall in with the human prey when leisure leaves it exposed to temptation—with a premium of so much per cent. upon all that they dispose of. In quarters that some few months ago breathed fire and brimstone-defying the authorities to dare any interference--you now hear the “ suppression of the sweeps" spoken of as a fait accompli. The object of this insidious inference is as palpable as the spirit in which it is contrived is fraught with danger. These subtle moves show the importance of the stake played for, and the tenacity with which those who have won adhere to the après by which they can win again. The Lord Mayor and aldermen in the city, the Attorney-General and the parish authorities in the west end, with one cry of unison denounce Derby sweeps as devices of the devil -as inimical to good order—as contrary to law ; and yet there's not a public-house that anybody ever looks at en passant without a label, half as big as the area of Lincoln's-inn-fields (and that's as large as the basement of the Great Pyramid), stuck in the windows announcing any amount of speculation that the visitor may choose to call for to be had at the bar..“ Waiter !-a bottom of brandy; and a pound's-worth of Chester Cups."
It's a pleasant thing to draw the writing-table towards the fire, when the frost is freezing as hard as it can, and speculate upon the sportsman's hopes when the winter of his discontent shall have passed away. There can be no objection to cock-shooting (to say nothing of its consequences upon toast)-neither against skating and such like contrivances wherewith to circumvent the enemy. But they are not matters to write themes on, while the turf, like the game of whist, is an affair of “ infinite variety.”..... Racing is the moral of the maxim which declares that “ everybody's business is nobody's business." It literally is “ everybody's business"-men, women, and children, are engaged in its lotteries public or private, with twenty-thousand pound books at Tattersall’s, or packets of Isidore's French gloves, or “ tucks-out” of sausages and rum-and-milk at Mr. Ticklem's, of Turnham Green. Nine-tenths of the family of Bull—including domestic servants—are at this moment suspended as to their anticipations on the Derby, or the Chester Cup, or the Two Thousand or some or 'many of the issues of the approaching spring; but it's " nobody's business" to alleviate the agony of him or her that" doubts, yet hopes." Those who are of mature age among the males pick up now and then crumbs for themselves, and take care none of them shall fall to the share of their fellow-sinners; it's all one to the feminine gender-win or lose, the gentleman is expected to supply the “ kid;” and the rising generation, by dint of gin-andwater, seek to soften the hearts of such adjacent ostlers as enjoy a reputation for being “ awake.” It is not, indeed, to be supposed that the mysteries, or even the social details, of a training stable are to be at the disposal of mankind, upon the principle of the liberal air ; neither, on the other hand, is it reasonable to expect that the race of two-legged animals without feathers should be as indifferent to information as the aduer that refuseth to hear. Your turf Rosicrusian professes an art, whereof the motto is “ Everyone for himself”—the second moiety of the “saw” does not apply to the “ modern instance.” Racing secrets—if of any intrinsic value at all—must be worth more than they fetch, because in the ratio that they cease to be private they part with their consideration. It is said, indeed, that the mere public is not entitled to know anything about the policy or proceedings of owners of race-horses, but to that we write non-content. Therefore this paragraph set out with saying it was a pleasant duty for one professing the responsibility to lucubrate under fostering auspices upon the hidden things of the stud and the course, and turn such musings into type for the benefit of all whom they may concern.
It is a standing subject for grumbling among sporting readers that as regards the curiosities of horse-racing, the murder rarely sees the light of publication. Petty larceny lots, they say, abound; when “ Snob" cuts his stick, it is in next morning's gazette ; but if “ Nob” is “scarce," every respect is shown to his retirement.....
o Thus commentators each dark passage shun,
And hold their farthing candle to the sun." But this is a hasty, if not an unfair conclusion. Slight reports only reach short distances ; but when a sixty-four pounder goes off, it is heard from Dover to Calais. When an extreme outsider breaks down, it is probably not known to a dozen of those who regularly keep the market; but let the "crack" be “ off,” or “ queer,' and all Rumour's tongues are talking of it everywhere at the same time. The old stagecoach, which used to take you where you were going for nothing, and give you a guinea for your custom at the end of the journey, was utterly slow in the opposition line, compared with a modern “tout.” “ Aut Cæsar aut nullus” is his maxim ; so if he can't forestall his brethren, he takes care their venture shall be worth as little to them as possible. If Leary Cove “electrics” the “office” by the Brummagem wires, Hookey Walker is down on him with the Trent Valley line. “Mum” is the shibboleth of the fraternity ; but the instant one opens his mouth, the whole society howls out in chorus. Silence is the science all-sufficing for the M.A. of the ring. He listens while his quarry betray themselves by their sound. Fair sporting is no part of his system-indeed, it would be superfluous, seeing that the world is a preserve that furnishes a never-failing supply of his game.........
"Then.carpe diem,' Juan, 'carpe, carpe,'
To-morrow sees another race as gay,
• Life's a poor player'-50 play out the play,
Much less on what you do than what you say.
Not what you seem, but always what you see.” The episodes of racing policy will ever constitute a sea of speculation, whereon enterprize shall find its spirit amply employed, albeit the discoveries may not remunerate the adventurer. No local charts are to be had. He must keep the lead going, while a beacon here and there points out the locality of some more obvious risk.
Foremost among the hazards that threaten those who, in the present year, shall invest their money in racing speculations, is the monopoly with which they will have to contend. As a clique of monster capitalists lead or drive the money market at their will or caprice, so, as coming events cast their shadows before, it must be in the ring. The middle of the nineteenth century is the cycle of marvels. Would any man have believed you, had you said on the first of January, 1848, that before the anniversary of another new year a Napoleon Bonaparte would occupy the palace of the Elyseé Bourbon, and govern the French people ? What odds would have been laid you, had you offered to bet, three months ago, that before St. Peter's should celebrate another high mass for the festival of Christmas, the Pope should set off for a tour, in moustaches and a cocked hat? And when a recent addition to the sporting architecture of Newmarket was in process, if one of the workmen employed upon it had been pointed out to you as destined in a few brief years to become “the head stone of the Corner" (not to speak it profanely), how would you have received the intimation ? Nevertheless, thus it is, as the proverb runs—"miracles shall never cease."
“But these are few, and in the end they make
Some devilish escapade or stir, which shows
Their way through virtue's primrose paths of snows :
To Balaam, and from tongue to ear o'erflows
A few years ago a nobleman, whose premature loss drew forth an ex. pression of sympathy as honourable to his memory as to those by whom it was offered, tried the experiment of a racing stud upon a scalo not previously attempted. His nominations for stakes appeared as if they were made upon the principle of securing all the prizes in a lottery by buying all the tickets. It is rarely the promoter of a scheme that profits by it: the gainers are those who succeed-in both senses of the word. Lord George Bentinck's representative in the Derby for the present year is Mr. Mostyn : I speak by the Book-Calendar. He has the largest lot for those stakes. Next in number—indeed only one less in amount—are Mr. Benjamin Green's nominations. The former, now the property of Lord Clifden, represents the ancien regime of racing ; the latter its commercial, or modern interests. I do not contend for the legitimacy of one more than another ; the principle is against the public. Power, in the doctrine of chances, exercises compound effects ; it commands both direct and indirect influence. A force of horses on the turf, ably maneuvred, may win more fields by diplomacy than conquest. “ Caw me, caw thee,” is the alchemy of moral philosophy. A score of nominations in a great public race, the betting conditions of which are
play or pay," is the nearest approach to the discovery of the philosopher's stone that has been made as yet. One of the German sublimities says, “ Philosophy begins where common sense ends”-probably the limits between honour and honesty bear similar relations; the former being the soul, and the latter the body of justice. Every man, however, is not a professor of logic ; so mistakes occur, and money rikes the balance. The future career of those who launch
therefore, " craves wary walking.”
Let us turn from horses to books. Among the novelties of literature is the practice of comprising that which formerly was a library in a single volume. This system is being extended to the ring. Instead of hundreds of little morocco duodecimos that used to be exposed “ all of a row" in the subscription rooms appropriate to the race meetings and at Hyde Park Corner-and elsewhere-one gigantic ledger does the business. That which the Governor and Company of the Bank of England is to the east, Mr. Davis is to the west-equally extensive in his operations, and, to his credit be it added, equally punctual in bis engagements. But there is no satisfying the human heart : merchants call for an extension of the manufacture of money, as a means for facilitating the supply ; and there are those who insist that if the odds were got up in several houses, in lieu of one, there would be a greater variety in the article, and prices would be easier.
“ Non cuivis homini contingit adire Corinthum :" it isn't everybody that can go for comestibles to Fortnum and Mason's. Mr. Davis is an exemplary man, but he is not an archangel, any more than is the director of a railway company. When the world in a phrenzy of philanthropy offered the means of locomotion at rates lower than travellers could walk, the great trunk lines announced their fares cheaper than people could stay at home. So philanthropy gave up the contest in despair, and travellers were left to contemplate the result in the same way. If Mr. Davis, with his " Seizer's Commentaries” puts an extinguisher on the “ essays” of humbler writers, he will be the bull in that china-shoj), the ring; while the leg in the background will present a