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92 MOURNING COACIHES.
gentlemen and respectable persons to travel by them. This probably gave the first fillip to coach-proprietors, who soon saw it would be their interest to do their work better, and they did so. I should say that Kirby's Chichester coach was perhaps the first (or nearly so) really well appointed coach on the road. As coaches improved, so did coachmen, and consequently the class of persons who travelled by them. Then came the four-in-hand rage. These amateurs, whenever they saw a superior man as a coachman, noticed him, this produced further reformation in the manners of coachmen. Gentlemen then began to secure the box-seat; and then came on observations on the merits or demerits of the team, the harness, &c. All this was carried by the coachman to the coach-owner, who consequently began to feel a laudable pride in his turns-out, got superior men on all his coaches; and when such men as Lord Sefton, Sir H. Peyton, Mr. Agar, Mr. Ward, cum multis aliis, condescended to notice a coachman or patronise his coach, the fame of that coachman and coach was established. It was in fact to the encouragement such men gave where they saw encouragement was deserved, that the public are (I am sorry to add I must now say were) indebted for the speed, comfort, and safety with which they were enabled to travel by public conveyances. Then, when this business had arrived as near perfection as perhaps it could be brought, came that curse or blessing, as the future will show, to mankind—steam; and here for the present, so far as coaching is concerned, ends the drama. We must now mention the private gentleman's coachman; and here is another class of men, who,
NOBLEMEN MARING SHIFTS. 93
if things continue to regress as they are now doing, will, in a very few years, become very scarce indeed. Economy has, doubtless from necessity, become so much the order of the day, that numberless families who were accustomed to keep their chariot and coachman, with a groom for their saddle-horses, have now put down chariot and coachman, got a Brougham, Clarence, or some other description of vehicle that goes with one horse, which the groom drives in addition to his former business. Those men who moved in a certain rank of life kept a coachman for their lady's use, and one for their own chariot: this latter functionary is now, in a vast number of cases, dispensed with, and a cab and tiger stand in the stead, or the Brougham and groom again. Body-coachmen will always probably be indispensable to the establish. ments of noblemen: but in many of them now he occasionally drives his master's chariot—a thing he was in former days never expected to do, unless on such an occasion as going to Court. The first coachman to a woman of high fashion requires much more knowledge of his business than people generally suppose. Here every jolt must be broken ; no chucking of his carriage over the crossings in the street; no sudden pulls up, or hitting horses with so little judgment as to cause a sudden backward jerk to the carriage; no stopping at doors so as to leave it swaying backwards and forwards to the full extent of the check-braces, and the discomfiture of its delicate and fastidious inmates: the carriage must start, go on its way, and stop as smoothly as it went off. Let the accustomed perfect coachman of such a lady be exchanged without her knowing it, and a merely moderately good one put in his place,
94 A COURT DAY.
I will answer for it, that before he had driven her a quarter of a mile the check-string would be pulled, and inquiry made whether he was ill, mad, or in liquor 2 Merely passing safely between other vehicles would not be sufficient to satisfy one accustomed to be driven by such an artist as a first-rate body-coachman. To any amateur of driving, it is really a treat to see such men handling their horses on such occasions as a Court-day. They may be seen threading the mazes of a dense crowd, their carriages gliding about like so many gondolas on the Grand Canal at Venice; no fuss, no pulling and hauling; a turn of the wrist is sufficient for horses accustomed to be driven by such coachmen. All seems easy to the by-standers, no difficulty appearing; but this apparent ease shows the masterly hand that is at work. There is a kind of free-masonry among such men, that enables them to detect the perfect coachman at a glance. A cast of the eye at the hands of each other on meeting is sufficient to show to each what the other intends doing: they know they will each do what they intend, though only two inches of spare room is between them: with confidence in their mutual skill, they fearlessly pursue their course with as much precision and certainty as if the wheels of their carriages were confined in the track of a railroad. Mishaps, or even mistakes, on such an occasion hardly ever occur; and for this reason, they are all or nearly all perfect artists. But go to the theatres, the scene is widely different: here is to be heard swearing, whipping, smashing of panels, plunging of horses, vociferations of coachmen, cads, and constables—the whole place a perfect pandemonium. This contrast arises from, in the latter case, numberless men being em
ployed to drive carriages that have little pretensions to the name of coachmen. These clumsy workmen often fall to the lot of single ladies, and nearly always to tradesmen who keep a carriage, the owners of which, not being competent judges of driving, take a coachman from the recommendation of others, who probably know as little of the matter as themselves. Here let me strongly recommend ladies never to take a coachman on mere recommendation, unless they well know the person giving the recommendation is a perfect judge of the requisite qualities of one. If they consider a man to be such an one as they want to engage, before finally doing so let them get some one of their acquaintance who thoroughly understands such matters to sit b
his side on a box for half an hour: he will then either be at once disapproved of, or if the contrary, they will be certain of having a servant who understands his business. Ten pounds a year more in wages will be amply made up by avoiding coachmakers' bills for repairs, or those of veterinary surgeons for accidents to horses. They will also have their carriage-horses and harness neatly turned out, and properly and safely driven by a man who looks like a coachman, instead of getting one who does not know how to do either, and who will probably be asked by some knowing fellow, “Pray, Sir, who feeds the hogs when you are out 7” or, “I say, neighbour, how much extra does your governor give you for milking 2" or, should both footman and coachman be slovenly, loutishlooking fellows, the former will probably be addressed in something like thefollowing refined phraseology:— “I say, lick-plate, when you'd done the knives, why didn't you clean that spoon on the box there?” An
96 DONE TO A TURN.
untaught, stupid house-servant plagues and mortifies one by his awkwardness; but a similar sort of coachman should never be trusted at large without a string and collar about his neck to keep him off coach-boxes. If this won't do, d-n him, put a ring in his nose and fasten him up. I have only, in the foregoing page or two, paid a just tribute to the merits of the coachmen of noblemen or men of large fortunes, but I must at the same time remark, that I never yet saw a gentleman's coachman who could drive four horses that he had been unaccustomed to: they make the worst stage-coachmen of any men who have been in the habit of driving at all; they have been so used to horses all matched in step and temper that they are absolutely lost with any others. I would put any one of the best London coachmen, who drives four-in-hand occasionally, behind some teams over a thirteen-mile stage: here he would not only fail in keeping his time to perhaps half an hour, but would very likely, if with something like three tons and a half behind him, not get them home at all, or at all events would bring them to that enviable state where three stand still, while (as Matthews used to say) he whops the fourth. Coachmanship is therefore to be shown in various ways, as well as the want of it, and is exhibited under as various circumstances. Show me the man who would, as Mr. Agar did (I believe it was Mr. Agar), bring his four-in-hand out of Grosvenor Place, down Messrs. Tattersall's passage into the yard, round the cupola there, and back again into Grosvenor Place; the whole done each horse all the time in a trot—a feat unprecedented in the annals of coachmanship, and one never before, or I believe since,