**** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE ****

Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!


The Master Of Hounds
by [?]

Of such masters as I am now describing there are two sorts, of which, however, the one is going rapidly and, I think, happily out of fashion. There is the master of hounds who takes a subscription, and the master who takes none. Of the latter class of sportsman, of the imperial head of a country who looks upon the coverts of all his neighbours as being almost his own property, there are, I believe, but few left. Nor is such imperialism fitted for the present age. In the days of old of which we read so often, the days of Squire Western, when fox-hunting was still young among us, this was the fashion in which all hunts were maintained. Any country gentleman who liked the sport kept a small pack of hounds, and rode over his own lands or the lands of such of his neighbours as had no similar establishments of their own. We never hear of Squire Western that he hunted the county, or that he went far afield to his meets. His tenants joined him, and by degrees men came to his hunt from greater distances around him. As the necessity for space increased, increasing from increase of hunting ambition, the richer and more ambitious squires began to undertake the management of wider areas, and so our hunting districts were formed. But with such extension of area there came, of course, necessity of extended expenditure, and so the fashion of subscription lists arose. There have remained some few great Nimrods who have chosen to be magnanimous and to pay for everything, despising the contributions of their followers. Such a one was the late Earl Fitzhardinge, and after such manner in, as I believe, the Berkeley hunt still conducted. But it need hardly be explained, that as hunting is now conducted in England, such a system is neither fair nor palatable. It is not fair that so great a cost for the amusement of other men should fall upon any one man’s pocket; nor is it palatable to others that such unlimited power should be placed in any one man’s hands. The ordinary master of subscription hounds is no doubt autocratic, but he is not autocratic with all the power of tyranny which belongs to the despot who rules without taxation. I doubt whether any master of a subscription pack would advertise his meets for eleven, with an understanding that the hounds were never to move till twelve, when he intended to be present in person. Such was the case with Lord Fitzhardinge, and I do not know that it was generally thought that he carried his power too far. And I think, too, that gentlemen feel that they ride with more pleasure when they themselves contribute to the cost of their own amusement.

Our master of hounds shall be a country gentleman who takes a subscription, and who therefore, on becoming autocratic, makes himself answerable to certain general rules for the management of his autocracy. He shall hunt not less, let us say, than three days a week; but though not less, it will be expected probably that he will hunt oftener. That is, he will advertise three days and throw a byeday in for the benefit of his own immediate neighbourhood; and these byedays, it must be known, are the cream of hunting, for there is no crowd, and the foxes break sooner and run straighter. And he will be punctual to his time, giving quarter to none and asking none himself. He will draw fairly through the day, and indulge no caprices as to coverts. The laws, indeed, are never written, but they exist and are understood; and when they be too recklessly disobeyed, the master of hounds falls from his high place and retires into private life, generally with a broken heart. In the hunting field, as in all other communities, republics, and governments, the power of the purse is everything. As long as that be retained, the despotism of the master is tempered and his rule will be beneficent.