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“BE THOU FAMILIAR, BUT BY NO MEANS VULGAR.” 437
if there was, he must not ride with hounds; for whether a man rides over a country side by side with his inferiors, or whether he rides over a course with them, cannot make any difference as to putting them on an equality after the chase or race is over, nor need either produce any intimacy during their continuance; on the contrary, the bringing the noble or man of birth and fortune in temporary contact with the plebeian must produce a beneficial effect if the conduct and manners of the former are consistent with their station in society, for the latter will then see a superiority, and, at the same time, an urbanity of manner, in his superior, that will challenge his respect and goodwill; at least, so it ought to do. I am quite one to deprecate the “toe of the tradesman treading on the heel of the courtier;" but that gentleman must possess little of the tact of one if he suffers the mere riding a race with his inferiors to bring on any improper familiarity. There is among gentlemen an extreme politeness that they know how to bring into play (when wanted), that keeps the inferior in his proper place, without his being able to account for his feeling flattered and kept at a distance by the same conduct: so any fear of the clashing of different classes of society by gentlemen occasionally riding in races with their inferiors, I cannot conceive as likely to occur.
I am willing to allow, and have before said, that I consider we have A FEW gentlemen who can ride a race nearly as well as our best professional jocks, and much better than some of the professionals; but the number of such gentlemen (from want of practice ONLY) must be very small. In a race among gentlemen I have often seen one or two ride beautifully ; but I must say I cannot challenge my memory with
438 “ROMEO, ROMEO, WHEREFORE ART THOU ROMEO ?”
ever having seen seven or eight gentlemen ride together where on the whole the race was even tolerably ridden. It is something like a provincial theatrical company, where two or three are equal to better things, the others not equal to anything. Where I knew every gentleman going to ride, and every horse, I should certainly feel great interest in the race; and, though I should not tell them so, perhaps a great part of that interest would be the seeing how some of them would ride. I think I can give my reader a little hint if he ever contemplates a bet where gentlemen ride “ never mind the horse; back the man” — unless the race was between Alice Hawthorn and The Duenna at equal weights: even then, I think, put Lord Howth on The Duenna, I could mention some gentlemen who would get Alice Hawthorn beat; and yet I have seen such men ride their own horses, and when they could, those of their neighbours. As to any gratification in seeing such a man as the latter ride, it must only be similar to that of seeing Romeo Coates perform for the amusement of the public. By having races for gentlemen on public courses, we only substitute a bad race for a good one, without producing the end intended, if anything good was intended by them, namely, affording amusement to those who could not get it elsewhere. I must, therefore, consider that at such places the only different classification of riders required is professional and non-professional. We have no fox-hounds for gentlemen only: why then races ? The nobleman and gentleman ride when with hounds with horse-dealers, tradesmen, farmers, butchers, and even a chimney-sweep, and no harm arises from it: if, therefore, they wish to ride on public courses, no more harm or familiarity could arise
CONDESCEND, BUT NEVER DESCEND.
from riding with the same persons in a race. In either situation they do not ride as companions of such persons: we might as well wish to have one side of the public street set apart for gentlemen. If in riding a race a gentleman preserves the manners and conduct of one, he need fear no contamination : if he does not so conduct himself, the contamination might be feared by the other party, if they do. A gentleman would be no better four-in-hand man from learning the low slang or adopting the manners of a stage-coachman, nor would he be the better rider for adopting the manners of some jockeys. A gentleman, avoiding the common and most mistaken idea of some, that it behoves them to be all in all — the coachman or the common jockey, might ride by the side of either all his life, and would find them touch their hat to him as respectfully afterwards as if he had not done so. If a gentleman never farther derogates from his character than by merely riding (if he would venture to do so) in the same race with professional jockeys, he will do well enough: if he thinks not, then (and perhaps he does wiser) let him ride with his equals only, and only in places where his equals do ride.
Public race-courses are places for the amusement of the public at large: that public all in some way do a something that supports the races, for they all cause a circulation of money there, consequently have a right to be amused. Now I imagine gentlemen in riding there do not contemplate amusing that public by making Tommy Noodles of themselves; and if they fancy they gratify the public by their fine riding, I will venture to say nine out ten fail in the latter way, however successful they may be in the former; and I must say I should strongly advise friends (and I
have no right to advise any other persons) not to ride on a public race-course unless they are good enough to ride with public jockeys; otherwise they are only about as welcome an interruption as it would be to have introduced between the acts of Hamlet, where Kemble and Mrs. Siddons were playing, an interlude for amateur actors. I never saw those great actors ; but I conceive they would have been good enough for one evening's gratification without the other interesting addition. An amateur performance in a nobleman's house is an intellectual and sometimes a gratifying exhibition; but do not treat us with it at Drury Lane, where we expect to see Macready, Kean, and such performers. A gentleman's race is a very pretty thing in its place : it teaches men to ride; and when they can ride, as some men can do, they would gratify the public by showing themselves; but do not pray inflict on us an exhibition of those who cannot, and whose riding would be a laughing matter to everyone but their horses.
If, therefore, in any public race the only distinction between the jocks was professional or non-professional, none of the wrangles as to gentlemen-jocks would arise, and this is all the distinction the public wants or sporting requires: at least, submitting with deference to the opinions of others, I conceive it to be so. I am sure of one thing; it would prevent a great deal of ill-feeling among the sporting world, and to promote so desirable a result (or, I should rather say, to induce some more influential person to do so), has been my chief aim in writing the foregoing pages. I in no shape presume so far as to consider myself of importance enough to effect this. If I ever get so much credit as to be considered one of the wheels that set
the machinery in motion, my utmost hope will have been realised. The gist, therefore, of what I have written I conceive amounts to this — that races to be ridden by gentlemen are quite proper in their proper place; races to be ridden by any one but a professional jock, equally useful and proper in theirs ; and of course (so long as sporting exists) races to be ridden by professional jocks quite necessary to the sporting world: but for the sake of that sporting world, let these several races be defined. If I have not shown that they may be so defined, my time has been thrown away, and the patience of my reader taxed to no purpose. I have pointed out what I conceive to be injudicious (it requires no great ability to do this): let me hope an abler pen will have influence enough to produce a remedy. I point out the disease, suggest to the best of my abilities what I consider an anodyne, but I submit to the physician: if he prescribes well, few of his brethren will better merit their guinea.
We now come to that most strange, most monstrous anomaly, the gentleman's gentleman, a kind of gentleman I should never have mentioned but from the fear, that, unless some check-rein is put on them, they will not be confined to the dressing-room, but we shall be getting a spurious sort of them in our stables. We shall have riding boys wanting Mareschino before they go out to early exercise if the morning happens to be cold; and a Whip sporting his best Havanna and flask of Curaçoa by the covert side: so we shall then have gentlemen-whips: a pretty mess we shall then be in. Let us have gentlemen, jockeys, and servants, but for God's sake no gentlemen-jocks or gentlemen's-gentlemen. The term certainly never was applied to ser