Page images
PDF
EPUB
[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

COURSING MEETINGS IN JANUARY,
Ashton Open (Nantwich) ..... .... 1

Ridgway ...............

15 & 16

......... Lytham .....

7 & 8

Southminster ...... ... 27 & 23
Rokeby (Greta Bridge)....

...... 8

Ashdown Open Champion. 27 to 31
Altcar Club .....

.... 29 & yo
Belsay, first week in; Huvingham, Brough, and Wolverhampton, not fixed.

Heweli.....

STEEPLE CUASES IN JANUARY.
Michelstown (Cork) ............. 1 l Oundle ..

Slough not fixed.

THE RACING SEASON OF 1851.

BY CRAVEN.

“It is the very error of the moon :

She comes more nearer earth than she was wont,
And makes men mad."

SHAKSPEARE.

We have bidden farewell to a memorable year—an anniversary marked by social phenomena for which the annals of the world furnish no parallel. The analysis must be the work of time : the expositors must reckon on being regarded rather as visionaries filching their materials from fable, than as sober historians who garner the harvest of fact. It will be their office to chronicle the encounter in which the lion of Albion hob-nobbed with the eagle of France, in the palace of the Elysée : that Botany Bay turned out to be the El Dorado of which voyagers write and readers doubted ; and that the Sub-marine Telegraph is the apotheosis of Sir Boyle Roche's bird. Essayists must say something of the Great Exhibition : they will find matter to their hand in the works already indited concerning it, whereof a slight epitome might, perhaps, be squeezed into fifty volumes, folio.

And for such as occupy their business in Pindarics, what an embarras de richesse is laid open! Newgate's the matter, and thieves are thunderstruck! No longer is the course a substitute for the highway-the heath of Newmarket by noon for the heath of Hounslow by night. Debts of honour take the shape of indictments in the Queen's Bench; and equivocal “ kites " resolve themselves into “ true bills ”-at the Old Bailey. Progress, of whose principle the past year was so emphatic an exponent, asserts its immutable conditions even in the characteristics of social plunder. To say nothing of the Baron Bold, of yore, or

"the good old planThat they may take, who have the way,

And they may keep-who can," we may trace its degrees-albeit, less chivalrous—through modern in. stances. Turpin - the Macheath of the Newgate Calendar-was the antecedent of Barrington—the pickpocket de lege ; he is succeeded by the turf " levanter”-the pickpocket de facto--but not de jury. The cut-purse cried “Stand and deliver !” and set his life upon the hazard of the challenge : the “ prig” puts his hand into your pocket literally, and takes your money—or the fortune of a failure : the “leg ” draws you figuratively, by means of a bet, first having made it “ safe”-a comprehensive phrase, intimating his certainty of success, and impunity from legal consequences. The Ring is his sanctuary, a practical amalgam of those antagonistic elements of political economy-free-trade and protection. There he ruffles and rifles, living upon fat venison and old wine, after the fashion of Robin Hood; but, withal, more pleasantly, for he is no outlaw. He is a prescriptive freebooter, to whom men of their will and pleasure resort to be cozened ; and these are not confined to the geese with golden eggs, that have slipp'd their lady-mothers' leading-strings, but muster among them burly “bulls" and "bears,” from their cages in the city. Thus comes it to pass that the wise in their generation, albeit born with wooden spoons in their mouths, dwell in palaces, and dilute their cheese with port at two guineas the bottle ; that is to say if they content themselves with such simple house-keeping, and regard the privilege of doing odds customers as verge enough. If they desire to win their ten thousand on a Derby, they need only lay so much more than that amount against half-a-dozen of the nominations as shall allow a “ margin ” to pay for the cost of “ bucketing " them ; but if they insist upon winning the race with a six-year-old, imported from the continent, they run a risk-that is considered to be cheating, within the meaning of the act.

Thus it fares with the trading member of the ring at these presents, but his prospects for the future certainly do not look so well. The cases of Messrs. Coyle, Alleynes, and D'Arcy, are likely to be drawn into precedents; and criminal sessions and indictments in Westminster Hall are not encouraging incidents. Coyle, indeed, does not come into court with clean hands : unless my memory misleads me, in the course of the Running Rein case, Baron Alderson expressed a desire for an interview with him, then and there, having some reference to giving him a passage gratis, beyond the sea. The affair of the brothers Alleyne and their confederate was of a milder character. They had procured a certain American mare, renowned as a trotter, and with a view to practise upon one Robert Blair Kennedy, they travestied the nomenclature, calling her, with professional tact— Pigeon : thus they cleared their pigeon out of some seven thousand pounds. In addressing the jury for the defendants, Sir Frederick Thesiger is reported, by The Times, to have said —“As to the change of name, that was a practice common on the turf, in order to conceal the pedigree.And as nobody said him nay, such appears to be looked upon as part of the policy of horse-racing, by gentlemen learned in the law. The logic is somewhat akin to that of a farmer, who being remonstrated with by his landlord for keeping a greyhound, replied

“ Please, your worship, I'll cut off his tail, and make 'un a mastiff.”

Now the connexion between these discursive details and the principle at issue is the influence small things have upon great. The “ Golden Farmer' was treated at the hostels he visited in the pursuit of his business as well, if not better than your common-place wayfarer, But those days have gone by : it is no longer the custom to hang gentlemen with nosegays in their button-holes. In short, crime has grown vulgar: and even “ an affair of honour” - recently a fashionable, or rather, an obligatory system of homicide-has lost caste, and will soon become obsolete. The late introduction of the turf at court will anon-in due course of time-improve its social position. It was, after all, against reason to hope that its open despoiling could endure, or be endured, for ever. True, thousands of instances of its profligacy and utter rascality had occurred, and were notorious long before the petty larceny of the Alleynes saw the light ; but occasion was not as yet ripe for dealing with them. The ice is now broken, and people, almost in their own despite, are given to understand that the law will concede them redress when they are pilfered by racing rogues ; and assuredly they will avail themselves of the privilege.

I am aware that these commentaries on the shadows of coming events

« PreviousContinue »