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432 “TAKE ANY FORM BUT THIS.”
to him than if, in speaking of a virtuous woman, we were to say she did not walk the streets or the lobbies of Drury Lane Theatre. In some corroboration of this, I beg to mention an anecdote of a friend of mine. He was a man of good family, good education, and some talent. On going to reside for some time in a large provincial town in which he had no acquaintance, he mentioned this circumstance in the presence of a person I have named, in the course of what I have written, as holding a prominent situation in the sporting world as a man of business and high integrity; so his business-ideas led him to think that in a letter of introduction given to my friend he did his best in describing him as a very respectable man. The letter was open, so my friend of course saw the contents. Many persons would think he ought to have been gratified by such a recommendation; so far from being so he flew into a great rage, on reading the ill-fated, or, as he considered, ill-worded letter. “Respectable!” cried he several times over: “respectable and be d–d to him by G–, were he agentleman and styled me respectable, I would have him out. Did he suppose I wanted him to tell people I was not a thief?” I need not say the letter of introduction was never delivered. Respectable, so far as it regards tradesmen and yeomen, is as high a term of commendation as can be applied to them; and if they would be content with being respectable, without wishing to be thought (as they term it) genteel, or, in other words, gentlemen, their banker's account would, perhaps, often be better filled, and the bankrupt account in the Gazette be less so: but this craving for a something unpossessed ruins half the world, and is the means of rendering thou
“A MAN's A MAN FOR A' THAT.” 433
sands as much below respectability as my friend held himself above it.
This makes the gentleman-jock want to be a gentleman, and creates a wrangle if refused to ride as such. I think I need scarcely trouble my readers by a description of the yeoman: by the term yeoman we generally mean to imply that most respectable set of men called, in other terms, gentlemen-farmers. Here, again, the term is inappropriate, for it leads to misconstruction. Why, in the name of common sense, is the term Gentleman to be tacked on ? We never hear of a gentleman-merchant. If the term gentleman-farmer means to imply a man who farms his own land, or a part of it, then the owner of a twoacre field is a gentleman-farmer, and so is the Duke of Bedford: we might as well style him and others noblemen-farmers to describe them. They are noblemen who choose to farm their own land, but it would be ludicrous to style them noble or noblemen-farmers. The gentleman of large landed estates who keeps all or a portion in his own hands, is a gentleman who farms those lands; but we should not call the late Mr. Coke, of Norfolk, merely a gentleman-farmer; he is, or was, a gentleman—the farmer need not be added: nor to a common farmer, because he happens to own the land, or a part of the land, he cultivates, can we appropriately add the term gentleman: he is a farmer, and no more. Why can he not be content with so respectable a denomination, without aiming at a title to which he has no pretensions, and in doing which he most probably renders himself ridiculous, and challenges his own mortification ? The gentleman is a gentleman, whether he farms or not; the others are large or small farmers, and not gentlemen.
WOL. I. F F
434 COMING TO THE POINT.
When I have mentioned the term yeoman, I have done so because I know of no other one word that could so effectively describe a person as being neither of the lowest class, a professional jock, or a gentleman; but I trust I will put it in the power of any man of common sense to decide for himself whether he is entitled to ride in a gentleman's race or not. We will suppose a race to be ridden by gentlemen in Lord Wilton's park. Let a man wishing to ride in that ask himself this simple question: “Am I a man that the noble patron of the races could, without any dereliction of etiquette, invite to his table to meet his lady and friends?” If conscience and common sense say yes, he is fit to ride in such a race; if conscience says no, he has no greater right to feel either hurt or offended in not being allowed to ride as a gentleman, than if refused a seat at the dinner table. It may be said he might fancy himself fit for both situations: if a man is a fool, nobody can make him otherwise, and he must abide the consequences: if he is a sensible man, the criterion I have given whereby to estimate his pretensions will suffice. If, from too much or too little modesty, he is in doubt, let him consult a gentleman, and he will set him right. If he never rode for hire, he is certainly not professional; if he is not fit to dine at a nobleman's table, he is not (in every sense) a gentleman. What then is he a man in the middle ranks of society—a yeoman—till we find a better term to designate him by; and, consequently, if fond of riding races, may ride wherever he pleases, but not in races to be ridden by gentlemen only.
In noblemen or gentlemen's parks, races to be ridden by Corinthians are all very well, quite in character, and very appropriate amusements. They may also, of course, add races for farmers, and tenants, yeomanry
TRUE GREATNESS IS SHOWN IN CONDESCENSION. 435
cavalry races, and any races they please. Such meetings afford amusement to perhaps thousands, not merely on the day or days, but for months in prospectu, and also in recollection. They do a great deal of good; they show a wish on the part of an influential man to afford amusement to his tenants, neighbours, and dependents, as well as to his friends; and I glory in seeing a man mount a horse for one of such persons, and, as Lord Howth would, do his best to beat his own friends on farmer Such-a-one's nag. This produces a proper kindred feeling between superiors and their less affluent neighbours, who, if they are worth pleasing, will not presume on such condescension. But to institute races to be ridden by gentlemen on public race-courses, I must consider useless, if not worse; for I cannot see any good that can possibly result from them, but a great deal of bickering, jealousy, and frequently dispute, is all but the sure result. I have heard that the coal-shipping interest is supported so strongly on the consideration that it is a nursery for seamen, a kind of papboat institution for our jolly tars. This I doubt not is quite right and judicious; so would it be to have races for gentlemen, if we meant to make the occupation of a professional jock that of a gentleman; but till this is contemplated, I must consider that private race-courses are the places for races including private gentlemen only. Races excluding professional riders even on public courses are quite proper; it gives amusement, and gratifies the harmless vanity of many who may wish to be seen in silk, and cannot make this little display of emulation (for I will not call it ostentation) on private courses: but then let such races be open to any rider not professional. If a gentleman wishes to ride in these, he can 436 “BE THOU FAMILIAR, BUT BY NO MEANs vulgar.”
do so, and there can be no degradation in his doing it: 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