MR. BROMLEY-DAVENPORT'S " SPORT."*
THE merits of this book, and what we cannot but consider its defects, all that it shows us of its author as a genial, accomplished sportsman, and high-minded, honourable gentleman, and all that it reveals to us of his prejudices and narrownesses, combine to increase our regret at the melancholy circumstances of his death. We should like to have been able to think as we read that the writer was still following his favourite sport in the cover, by the river-side, on the moor ; and we should have been eager to argue with him some of the points on which be delivers with no little vehemence opinions adverse to those which we have been accustomed to maintain. Mr. Davenport seems to have been one of those who hold the theory—tempered, it is true, in his case by much geniality and good-feeling—that the earth is made for a few of its inhabitants. Mr. Bryce's "Access to Mountains " Billmoves him to nothing less than fury. He does not attempt to argue the matter, or to urge what is no doubt a consideration of weight, that all such legislation is an interference with property. He sees nothing but sheer spite and envy in it ; "it has no pretence or outward visible sign of benefit to anybody.' It is "simply an undisguised attempt to injure Highland proprietors." The tourist becomes in his eyes a vulgar, drunken " 'Arry." Nothing can be too bad for the wretch who presumes to invade the solitudes sacred to the deer, and the aristocrats or plutocrats who worship it. There was "spite" in the GroundGame Act, legislation "which was known before it passed, and has proved since its passing, to be of no real benefit whatever to tenant-farmers," though it is conceded that it had also a political motive. Benefit, indeed ! why, it encourages him to amuse himself, "to neglect the real work of his farm, and to loaf about with a gun," a privilege which should be reserved for his betters. But enough of this. Let us turn to pleasanter topics. Four kinds of " sport " are dealt with in this volume, and each is dealt with in a separate essay. Of the four essays, that on " Covert-shooting " is the least agreeable, because the writer is less concerned with describing the sport than in attacking its enemies. Still it contains some good stories. There is a graphic account, for instance, of a battue in which every man shot as it seemed best in his own eyes ; but as the writer gratefully puts it, "Though death with levelled dart stalked beside us all day, no one fell." And there is an excellent story, that most people could easily fit on to someone of their acquaintances, among the irritable host who combine a "highly religious temperament with an uncontrollable temper." Something had gone wrong, and the man in question was furious with his keeper, and expressed himself accordingly. "A minute or two afterwards, having cooled down again, he called the man up to him, and asked in subdued and penitent accents, What did I call you just now, Smith ?' Well, Sir,' Smith replied, not without a tone of pardonable soreness,' Yon called me a d--d infernal fool.' 'Did I, Smith, did I really P I'm very sorry. Oh! to think that one Christian man should use such language as that to another ! Heaven forgive me! Bat,' he shouted in stentorian tones, as his rage suddenly returned, it's God's truth all the same.'" In "Salmon-fishing," the personal adventures are, perhaps, more exciting than in any other of the four. The writer transports us to fishing quarters at the head of the Romsdal Fjord, and takes us with him while he catches a big fish and loses another much bigger, as is the way of anglers, thanks probably to that "nature of things" which Porson once so feelingly "confounded." Both are most spirited stories, and deserve, the former especially, to take rank among the loci dassiei of angling literature. Unfortunately, it is impossible to give any notion of them by extracts. "Deerstalking," again, contains two capitally told adventures. The scene of the first is laid in Norway. In this a splendid stag is • Sport. By W. Bromiey-Davenpott. Illustrated by Lieutenant-General Henry Hope Crealocke. London : Chapman and Hall. 1885,
shot with a "rook-rifle," after a long stalk, which involved a night spent out upon the moor. In the second the writer is on a Scottish moor, and succeeds, but more, as he frankly owns, owing to the stalker's skill than to his own, in killing a "hart of grease," a certain "Clubfoot," "an historical stag of unknown age, of whom tradition alternately reported that he was both supernatural and invulnerable," and who may fitly be ranked with the" Mackie Hart of Benmore," whose chase and capture Mr. Colquohoun so graphically describes. Entertaining in a different way is the story of a ducal host, which we cannot resist the temptation to give. A young guest had been invited to the ducal castle, and was to go out the next day in the forest, a delight of which he had dreamed for years, and which was now, he thought, to be realised. But on the morning of the day he chanced to hear this dialogue between his Grace and the head forester :—
" The Duke. 'Donald, young Lord -[himself] will go on the bill to.day.'—Donald. 'Yes, your grace.'—The Duke. 'Where will you take him r—Donald. 'Well, your grace, is he to kill a stag, or have a shot, or only see deer, or just go for a wa-a-lk 2'—Long and terrible was the pause, and painfully excited the interest of the listener, before, in grave, measured tones, the evidently well-weighed and thoughtout decision reached his ear,—' Well, Donald, you may just take him for a walk !' "
Fox-hunting" is good from beginning to end. It is, indeed, a more fertile subject than any of the others. One day's covertshooting is very like another ; and even runs with a salmon or stalking a deer do not admit of much variety in description, though they have variety enough in practice. But the hunting-field affords almost endless scope for the exercise of the literary gift. Who does not remember with what success Whyte Melville and Anthony Trollope have dealt with this sport!' Not only is it the run itself that has to be described, but the various humours of the field. These, indeed, constitute the larger part of the subject, for, after all, of those who go to the meet, it is but a small fraction, comparatively, that have much to do with the run. It is of these that Mr. Bromley-Davenport tells some of his best anecdotes. Of one of those gentlemen who care nothing for the hunting, but only for jumping a certain number of big fences, he tells this story :— " The late Lord Alvanley, seeing one of these gentlemen riding furiously at a fence not in the direction of the hounds, shouted to him, ' Hi ! Hi !' and when the surprised and somewhat indignant sportsman stopped his horse, and turned to know what was the matter, pointed to another part of the fence and added calmly,— ' There's a much bigger place here !' " Here is a story from which some who do care about hunting may learn something. It is told of the late Sir Richard Sutton :— " He was overheard, when arriving at the meet, putting the following questions to his second huntsman,—' Many people out ?'—' A great many, Sir Richard.'—' Ugh ! Is Colonel F. out P'—' Yes, Sir Richard.'—' Ugh, ugh ! is Mr. B. out?'—' Yes, Sir Richard.'—' Ugh, ugh, ugh ! Then couple up " Valiant " and "Dauntless," and send them both home in the brougham.'" We must not forget to say a word of hearty praise of the spirited. drawings with which General H. H. Crealocke has adorned the volume. They are all good. But, we venture to ask, has a fox all his legs off the ground at once when he runs P We ought to get instantaneous photographs of a "fox galloping."