THE DOG-FIGHT AT HANLEY.
'present writer once ventured to say, in a room where it
was allowable to talk, and not merely to chatter, that the English required law to keep them civilised ; that their inst:ncts were of the barbarian kind, and that they needed only oppor- tunity to display all the ferocity of their remotest ancestors. "Fcir instance," he alleged, "it would take nothing except a suspen- sion of law to revive the Arena. Men enough would be found to fight to the death for gain ; the sight of a battle to the death sur- passes all others in its fierce excitement ; and in a week half London would be thronging to behold a spectacle which carried sated people out of themselves." The single difference between the Londoners and the Romans was that the former would not, by turning down their thumbs, order the slaughter of the defeated and unresisting, unless indeed they happened to be Blacks. The sentiment was cynical, the assertion a little too broad, and edu-
cated Englishmen being, when not in a fight, humane, the speaker was sat upon sufficiently. How nearly right he was, nevertheless, may be gathered from a story told in the Daily Telegraph of Monday, a story which, both from internal evidence and from the admis-
sion of the Home Secretary, we may accept as true, more especially as it is told without any of the verbal exaggeration in which
writers in the Telegraph are supposed to deal, but which the re- porter in this instance obviously felt to be entirely needless. No words could add to the weird brutality of a scene which the creator of Quasimodo could have invented, but which, if related to Victor Hugo as a fact, he would have rejected as too grotesque a fiction. A Special Correspondent of the Telegraph has recently
been reporting on the Black Country, and relates, not, we should imagine, from the spot itself, his latest experience in Hanley. He had been told that some miners and others were about to enjoy the spectacle of " a dog-fight, which was not all a dog-fight," and wishing to see and describe a scene so characteristic of the district, managed to be taken to the spot. He found in a bye- street, in a quiet house, about fifty individuals—some pit lads, some costermongers, some roughs—and about six of the country "fancy," dog-fighters and pugilists. They had all assembled, and all, we must presume, paid, either in cash or bets, to see " a dog-fight, that was not all a dog-fight,"—that is, in plain English, a -fight between a bull-dog and a man, a dwarf of extraordinary strength, who had undertaken to fight the bull-dog without weapons, on all-fours, without clothes save his trousers, and chained, like the bulldog, to the wall. He had already done this twice, winning once and being defeated once, and this was to be the final contest.
As we have said, each brute was chained, with straps of such a length that although he could reach his antagonist, he could also spring back out of the way, and victory was to belong to the one which bit or knocked the other " out of time," so that in sixty seconds he was not again ready for the fight. If the man was pinned so as to endanger life, he was to yield, and the dog was to be taken off ; if the dog was stunned, the man was to be declared the victor,—a result which, to judge from the betting, was deemed by the spectators most unlikely.
The man, we should add, was evidently without fear, had care- - fully provoked the dog from time to time by making faces at him, and had, as we judge from the whole story, something of that latent insanity about him which sometimes accompanies mal- formations of a severe kind, and to which Victor Hugo has given such ghastly prominence in Quasimodo. The fight the reporter must tell in his own words. We cannot rewrite a page out of Apuleius, though we have no hesitation in registering a =story which is too sickening to do mischief, and which will one day be quoted as a final proof of the utter barbarism, barbarism as of Old Rome or modern Coomassie, which lurked in the lower strata of the British community in a most humanitarian age :—
" There was no need to encourage the red-eyed 'Physic ' (the dog) ; ho was too eager for the fray. He did not bark, but he was frenzied with pas- then to that degree that tears trickled down his blunt nose, and his gasp- ings became each moment more shrill and hysterical. He needed no urging on for the first' round,' at all events. As soon as the umpire called Let go,' the dirty, glaring, furious brute sprang forward with an im- petuosity that caused the last link of its chain to click with a ringing sound against the staple which held it. The dwarf, however, was not to be stormed and defeated all in a moment. Once the ghastly fight began, there was a dire fascination in it ; and I now noted closely the combat. The man was on all-fours when the words Let go' were uttered, and making accurate allowance for the length of the dog's chain, he arched his back catvviee, so as just to escape its fangs, and fetched it a blow on the crown of its head that brought it almost to its knees. The dog's recovery, however, was instantaneous, and before the dwarf could draw back Physic' made a second dart forward, and this time its teeth grazed the biped's arm, causing a slight red trick- ling. He grinned scornfully, and sucked the place ; but there was tremendous excitement among the bull-dog's backers, who clapped their hands with delight, rejoicing in the honour of first blood. The hairy dwarf was still smiling, however, and while Dan'l held his dog, pre- paratory to letting it go for' Round 2,' he was actually provoking it as much as he could, hissing' at it, and presenting towards it the bleed- ing arm. The animal, flushed possibly with his first success, made for its opponent in a sudden leap, but the dwarf leapt forward too, and smote the bull-dog such a tremendous' blow under the ear as to roll it completely over, evidently bewildering it for a moment, and causing it to bleed freely, to the frantic joy of the friends of the man-beast. But they in turn were made to look serious, for with astonishing energy ' Physic' turned about, and with a dash was again at the dwarf, and this time contrived to fix its teeth in one of his hairy arms, a terrible gash appear- ing as the man snatched the limb out of his ravenous jaws. The bull-dog was licking his lips, and had fewer tears in his eyes as his master drew him back. As for the Dwarf, ho retired to his corner for a whet of brandy and a moment's comforting with the towel. He was ready and smiling again, however, for ' Round 3,' and this time it was a fight in earnest, the dog worrying the man, and the man dealing it terrific blows on the ribs and on the head with those sledge - hammer fists, till in the end both the man's arms were bleeding, and a horribly cheerful business was going on behind the ropes at 2 to 1 on Physic.' But let me make short work of the ensuing seven 'rounds,' which in some of their details were so shocking that more than once I would have left the place if I could. The com- pany generally, however, were made of far less sensitive stuff. The more furious the ghastly fight, the keener was their relish for it, and in their excitement they leant over each other's shoulders and over the rope, and mouthed and snarled and uttered guttural noises when a good hit or snap was made, just as the dog and the dwarf were doing. By the time Round 10 was concluded, the bull-dog's head was swelled much beyond its accustomed size ; it had lost two teeth, and one of its eyes was en- tirely shut up ; while as for the dwarf, his fists, as well as his arms, were reeking, and his hideous face was ghastly pale with rage and despair of victory. Fate was kind to him, however. In Round 11, the bull-dog came on fresh and foaming with awful persistence of fury, but with desperate strength the dwarf dealt him a tremendous blow under the chin, and with such effect that the dog was dashed against the wall, where, despite all its master could do for it, for the space of one minute it lay still, and the wretch who had so disgraced what aspect of humanity was in him was declared the victor. I shall have gone through that horrid spectacle to little purpose, if any such tournaments are, in future, waged at Hanley."
We do not share in the reporter's horror of the dog, which was but what man had bred him to be—nature producing no bull-dog, the only variety of dog which cannot, in the dark, recognise its own master—nor wholly in his virulence towards the deformed wretch who, as we said, was possibly irresponsible, and confine ourselves to the really evil, or at all events, most evil, characters in the drama,—the spectators who, in their fierce ex- citement and enjoyment, became brutes, and " mouthed and snarled " when a hit was made, as if the last relic of humanity had departed out of them, and they had sunk from the level of the articulate to that of some inarticulate order of mammalia. Rat-fights and dog-fights had palled their tastes, but here was a new excitement, a possibility that a man might be throttled or torn to pieces fighting ; the thirst for blood, human blood, had descended upon them as on the Romans, and they were as capable, if " Brummy " had shrunk with any sign of human fear, of ordering him to be killed as ever were the masters of the world. Nay, they had sunk to worse degradation still, and were capable not only of watching and slaying gladiators, but of raising the cry, " Christianos ad Leones 1" and flinging men for wild beasts to tear, without a chance either of flying or of fight. The shut doors, the secret signals, the precautions lest the man should be killed on the spot, were no tributes of shame to conscience, but were defences against the police, who else might have ventured to interfere. Abolish law, remove the police, and the same men would have watched the same scene with deeper gusto in the open street of Hanley. The wild devil which lies chained in all uncivilised men broke out in the absence of ex- ternal constraint, and the roughs of Hanley would no more have hesitated to enjoy their bestial sport in public, than Spaniards hesitate to enjoy a bull-fight, or the princes of India a match between an elephant and a tiger. Only education continued for generations can extinguish that thirst, even if that does it, a point we doubt very much ; and only law, strong law, the fear of imme- diate punishment, can chain it up till education has done its work. " Opinion," as we call it—that is, the opinion of the cultivated— has no more power over it than it has over vivisectionists, and Christianity of the popular type as little as civilisation. These lofty influences do not bite on such natures till conscience has been awakened by the dread of retribution, or by that vague reverence which, in England at least, a clear law always inspires. The existence of such a Law, a law visible in its officers and its penalties, is the preliminary to the self-restraint without which men are scarcely capable of weighing the meaning of their acts, and can no more absorb teaching than asphalt can absorb rain. This wakening of the perceptions is the first function of law, is the justification of all humanitarian legislation, and is the final argument against all those—and they are many—who believe government to be an evil, to be gradually superseded by good-nature and indifference.
The local papers are very angry with the police, and demand an investigation, but the law is weaker than they think. We suppose the proprietor of the bull-dog could be punished for setting a dog, well known to be ferocious—for it had previously bitten " Brummy "—on a human being, and the dwarf may be liable to a fine for cruelty to an animal; but the one could plead that the man's position was voluntary, and the other that he acted in self- defence ; while for the most guilty of all, the spectators, there is no law at all. The Legislature, in suppressing bull-baiting, dog-
. fighting, and cock-fighting, never contemplated such a scene as this ; and though an acute prosecutor and indignant magistrates might catch all the actors in the brutality as offenders against public morals, it would only be by a straining of the law which was made for smaller crimes, and which we are always reluctant to see strained. That point, however, should be tried, in order that the law, if defective, may be remedied, and meanwhile, we recommend the case to the study of all who believe that the wild beast has been civilised out of man. The Police reports of Lancashire and Staffordshire tell a very different tale, and so would those of the remainder of the kingdom, were the people equally packed, equally prosperous, and equally exempt from that habit of social deference which, as we shall all find one day to our cost, has acted so long as a substitute of law, or rather, for law made visible, that now, when it is dying, there is nothing ready to take its place.