Friday, November 18, 2011

The Question of What Is Sport and Some General Bits of Advice

In today’s post on the subject of fowling I’m going to rely on the same authors whose ideas and opinions I referenced and used in my previous one.

I’m going to start with Robert Blakely, the author of “Shooting: A Manual of Practical Information On This Branch Of British Field Sports”, who in his book on the subject gives what he believes is the most accurate definition of sport (which I find fascinating) and shares his opinion on what sport is not.

The birds are in many cases collected together in considerable quantities, which go under the name of batteaux, where they serve for gala days of sport to the nobility and gentry. We have ourselves always looked upon these exhibitions with pain, and we conceive them totally opposed in principle to the real spirit of English sports. We never could comprehend a man’s feelings in killing a quantity of game under such circumstances. Sport it certainly is not.

To enjoy and obtain this there must be a given portion of uncertainty and trouble connected with its persecution. If a man could kill all the game of an extensive and well-stocked preserve in an hour, there would be no sport in the case, in the true sense of the word. It would be one of the dullest and most uninteresting acts of life.

But where he has to seek, and to find, and to ramble for miles through a thickly-wooded or moorish country, there is pleasurable excitement produced, and this is the creative and sustaining principle of pure sport, and the true source of all enjoyments which the pursuit of wild animals can confer on man.

It is to wander about; the hopes entertained here, and the fears there; the disappointments met with on the eve of realized advantages, that constitute the current of exhilarating feeling and lively sentiment, which we connect with the healthy and natural indulgence in field sport generally.

It is a bad spirit for a real sportsman to cherish to be always craving for great success, and to be perpetually out of humour both with himself and every one about him, if he does not get his bag sooner and better fitted than all his neighbours and competitors.

There is an exclusive and selfish bitterness lying at the roof of all such trains of thought and the habits they engender; and the best receipt for eradicating this pernicious principle is, to look lightly and carelessly on the sport, and to make it a means, and not an end.

To continue with some general bits of advice on the sport of fowling, I’d like to enlist the assistance of Marmaduke Markwell, Esq., the author of “Advice to Sportsmen, Rural or Metropolitan, Noviciates Or Grown Persons; With Anecdotes Of The Most Renowned Shots Of The Day: Exemplified From Life, etc.” who has a lot to say on the subject, however, he does it with an indecent amount of humour, which makes me think that he is rather making a sport of sportsmen himself and I would not wish to trust his opinion completely. But he does entertain me so!

If you are desirous of becoming noticed, and wish to introduce a description of your kennel, or a particular breed, do it if possible in the language of a gentleman; or should you be at a loss, recollect we have abundance of authors who might furnish you with quotations.

An implicit attention from young sportsmen, to the relation of any field sport by an old shot is absolutely necessary; besides, when it may become your own turn to relate a day’s pastime, you will have an opportunity of running a parallel, and who will dare to doubt it?

Long stories, long shots, and a little of the wonderful are to be expected. In fact, the marvelous is absolutely as necessary for a sportsman as his fowling-piece, else how tedious must many narrations appear, particularly after a dull heavy day’s sport, with indifferent success.

As for the dogs, I would advise to purchase handsome and creditable looking pointers and setters, for appearances are a great recommendation among gentlemen, such being generally noticed by all ranks, however faulty they may be in other respects.

Dogs purchased at the various menageries in and about the metropolis, will be found a doubtful speculation; beside the mortification of having them claimed by some passenger, just as you may be stepping into your chaise or dog-cart for a shooting excursion.

It were as well also for sportsmen to find an easy and a ready way of procuring a few head of game for their friends before they leave town, least the county they happen to sport in should fall short; or by accident they should shoot rather in a hurry, and have little success.

I would recommend Mr-----; he can relieve all their wants, and that at a very moderate rate. Of hares, pheasants, or partridges, he has always an abundant stock, so that gentlemen may anticipate how many head of game they intend to kill for each friend, without the danger of disappointment.

Should you determine on a thorough week’s amusement, you will do well to keep a register of your exploits; books of this description are now universal among good shots, and to be had of any bookseller in town or country.

Should game be scanty where you shoot, you may easily supply appearances, by filling the pockets with mushrooms, sucking pigs, geese, or Dutch pheasants; at any rate make up a load to walk home with, it will look sportsman like.

If you should shoot a head of game by any accident, put it into the net-bag that hangs by your side, it will appear you have had a dashing day’s sport, not having room in your jacket for the last bird you have killed.

Knocking birds down with the butt end of your piece, after having failed in your aim, is a very unsportsman-like act, and not often attended with success. The usual practice of shutting both eyes, for fear of the flash in the pan, is very much against taking a good aim.

To make up a day’s diversion, should a flock of pigeons pass over your head, it will be the extreme of negligence to omit firing into them; gentlemen may shut their eyes on this occasion, and yet be sure of loading themselves.

It will be equally an easy shot if they should fall in with the samebirds, quietly roosting in the thatch of a barn or farm house, there is no occasion to the proprietor or farmer, though he may be looking on; should the wadding set fire to the thatch, you will have an opportunity of running away by the light.

Until next time!

Farida Mestek is the author of “Margaret's Rematch” and “A Secret Arrangement” - romantic stories set against the backdrop of Regency England. You can learn more about her books at her blog Regency Sketches.


  1. I enjoyed the piece on shooting and the hilarious Marmaduke writing on how to appear as a good sportsman.

    Thanks for posting, Farida!

  2. Thank you, Sophia Rose! I love his advice :D

  3. I must say I prefer Marmaduke Markwell's tongue-in-cheekery to the chilling predatory advice of Mr. Blakely. I made myself unwelcome in a local country church here by daring to reply to the minister's "I know you're all eager to to be ready for hunting season," with "Isn't taking pleasure in stalking, maiming and killing a fellow creature unchristian?"
    A timely piece, Farida, as hunting season opens again -- and I go hide. Yes, I do write hunting scenes -- my characters like hunting, they're living in the 13th century. But I don't.

  4. Katherine, I know exactly what you mean! On one hand I detest the whole thing, because I think that it's just barbaric, but on the other hand I find myself oddly fascinated by this gentlemanly pursuit of pleasure. And Marmaduke is very entertaining - I simply couldn't leave him out of this piece :D

  5. Farida Mestek is the author of “Margaret's Rematch” and “A Secret Arrangement” - romantic stories set against the backdrop of Regency England. Thanks for sharing this information on English sport.


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