An 1830 critique of hunting: a book review from The Tatler.

I was listing an early nineteen century hunting book the other day and wondered if I might find out something more about it. I discovered the following review in The Tatler. It struck me that nothing has changed so much in attitudes towards hunting, both on the part of its supporters and detractors. The review is both entertaining and illuminating. Hope you enjoy it too. There is the occasional point as which I was not sure if I was transcribing this correctly. Corrections welcome.

VERITAS ET VARIETAS.

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 17, 1830.

NOTICES OF NEW BOOKS.

Field Sports of the North of Europe, comprised in a Personal Narrative of a Residence in Sweden and Norway, in the Years 1827-8. By L. Lloyd, Esq. Second Edition, with Additions. 2 vols. 8vo. (pp. 430—pp. 420.) Colburn and Bentley. 1830.

“Animated,” says the advertisement, “by the success of the First Edition, the Author has taken increased pains in the preparation of the present, and the reader will accordingly find a considerable portion of additional matter in the volumes before him, relating not only to the chase of the Bear, as well in skalls as in individual adventure; but to the natural history, scenery, and manners and customs of Sweden and Norway. Two new plates are also added.”

…We always feel strongly interested in works of this description, the authors of which, besides furnishing us with new information, have become native in a manner to the scenes they describe, by passing among them a familiar and domestic portion of their existence. We cannot find room for an account of the skulls, or chases on a large scale, which occupy a considerable portion of the first volume, and with which the public are probably best acquainted through the medium of other journals. We shall give a miscellaneous selection of other matter, equally entertaining to readers in general, if not to sportsmen,—a race of men whom we neither expect nor are desirous to gratify. If our author’s work were not calculated to gratify the public at large, we should not speak of it as we do. We regard sportsmen in general as a dullheaded race of men, who are merely in search of a sensation, because they cannot procure one by humaner or more intellectual means. They will disappear with the progress of education, as hares and partridges do from under their pursuit. We consider them dull-headed, not only because in ninety-nine instances out of a hundred, they are notoriously reckoned so among their neighbours, but because nothing in general but sheer want of reflection and imagination could induce them to confound the hunting of agonised and inoffensive animals, and the splintering of the legs and thighs of birds, with a ” manly sport.” Where an intelligent man sophisticates on the subject, he does it in the avowed teeth of his understanding, and upon principles which he would not allow to apply to his own case; and where a humane as well as intelligent man sophisticates, he only shews the marvellous effect of habit. Propose to him a new piece of cruelty, unconnected with his sport, though perpetrated for the sport of another, and he recoils from it. You often see this inconsistency in the pages of sportsmen. Among other arguments which we never knew hare-hunters, and fowlers, and anglers, to get over, is this:—that they permit themselves to treat animals as they do, not because the latter are unsusceptible of the feelings of pain and anguish, but simply because they cannot express them. If a hare or a stag could remonstrate in words, nay, if they went toiling their hearts out over hill and dale, with a continued doleful sound, or if tench and carp shrieked as they came out of the water, those creatures would never be killed for sport. The very reason, therefore, which furnishes an additional inducement to people in general to spare what is emphatically called a ‘poor dumb creature,’ becomes with these people an instinctive ground for tormenting them. If effeminacy be added to this cruelty, or a boasted love of ease, and superiority of intelligence, and if habit did not account for everything, there is no set of men whom we should hold in greater loathing and contempt than anglers: and yet there are unquestionably many amiable men among them, who, as the phrase is, would not ” hurt a fly,”—that is to say, on a window. At the end of a string, the case is altered. So marvellous are the effects of custom and education. Consoling thought, nevertheless! For if custom and education have been so marvellous in reconciling intelligent men to absurdities, and humane men to cruelty, what will they not effect, when they shall be on the side of justice; and when reason, humanity, and enjoyment, shall become the .three new graces of the civilized world. It has been said that absurdities are necessary to man; but nobody thinks so, who is not their victim. With occupation, leisure, and healthy amusement, all the world would be satisfied.

Little disposed, however, as we are, to regard sportsmen in general with respect, and in a country like England, we entertain different feelings towards those like Mr Lloyd, who can leave their snug homes and easy neighbourhoods, to grapple with the snow and ices of the north, and with bears in their dens. It is true, even he has not escaped the indiscriminate contagion of ” excitement.” He kills birds as well as bears, and condescends to fish. But he encounters danger: he endures cold, toil, and watching: and when he does kill his bear, he has probably delivered a community from a terrible neighbour. He is also far from thinking that hares are to be killed only for amusement, or by one set of people: and the Swedes, it appears, think with him. The following is his account of their game laws :—

‘Neither license nor certificate is required in Sweden to carry a gun, and no qualification is necessary; every person has the right to kill game on his own land, or on that of another by permission, and to dispose of thesame, at the period of the year prescribed by law.

‘In principle, therefore, the Swedish game laws are equitable, and, in my opinion, just what laws ought to be. They form, however, a striking and favourable contrast to those which exist in England upon the subject: ours, indeed, are only intended for the benefit of one class of society ; and are, as I believe it is now generally admitted, no little disgrace to our Statute Book.

‘The sentiments of many of the first men of Sweden on the subject of the game laws differ very materially from those usually entertained on the like subject by our aristocracy. This may be inferred from the following speech made by Baron Springporten, a nobleman holding the first office under the crown, in regard to the woods and forests, as president of a society recently established in that kingdom for the encouragement of the science of Natural History, as well as the better protection of the birds and beasts of the forest. He says—” Our object cannot be to assist in the revival of the ancient game laws, which are hostile to the spirit of the age, and which, by a system of exclusion, rendered sporting a monopoly in the hands of the higher classes of society.” It is a pity that our aristocrats do not follow, and succumb with a good grace to what will otherwise be inevitably wrested from them at no very distant day. These are not times to trifle with the feelings of the people.’ —Vol. I, p. 86.

Bears occupy the chief portion of Mr Lloyd’s book, but he treats also of wolves, lynxes, and indeed of every species of game to be found in Sweden, great and small. He pauses much of his time in the woods, with a native attendant, and has sometimes perilous work of it with the bears, but comes off with equal success and gallantry. We have heard it objected, that he speaks too complacently of his exploits, and his courage. It might have been as well if, in speaking of encountering bears single-handed, he did not say that he ” never went on these expeditions, without experiencing something of what the lawyers call ‘ bodily fear.’ ” He might as well also call a chasse, a chase. But he does not conceal that he did feel the fear; and upon the whole, the manner in which he has related his achievements, affords evidence of his natural candour, as well as undeniable proofs of great and habitual courage. We cannot, nevertheless, sometimes repress a smile at his love of excitement, and the grim circumstances with which it is invested. The bear is sometimes shot in Sweden by a sportsman who has planted himself on a “gall,” or stand among the trees. On one occasion, an immense bear had killed a cow, not far from the place where Mr Lloyd resided. Our author erected a gall near the carcase, consisting of interwoven branches of pines, at about twenty feet from the ground:—

‘I was always quite alone, and generally armed only with one gun; but I did not, I apprehend, incur much risk, as I never heard of a bear making an attack upon any man under similar circumstances. On the contrary, indeed, the beast is always said to run, if he be able, the moment a shot be fired from the gall.

‘I was in the habit of taking post in my gall, which was situated in the wilds of the forests, and at a considerable distance from any habitation, as the shades of evening were setting in. At that time, I used to proceed with all imaginable silence and caution towards the carcase, which was shrouded in a densely thick brake, in the hopes that the bear might be feasting upon his victim, and that I might then be enabled to steal upon him. Had I come in contact with the fellow at these times, I should have had my own battle to fight; I trusted, however, to John Manton to get me out of the scrape.

‘There was something interesting in being perched up in my gall. The gloomy solitude of the forest in the night season—the melancholy hootings of the great horned owl, which were to be heard every now and then in the distance—the slaughtered cow lying in a small brake before me, mungled in a dreadful manner by the fangs of the bear; and lastly, the excitement kept up by momentarily expecting the rugged monster himself to make his appearance.’—p. 122.

‘Bears in attempting to carry away horses, are sometimes themselves carried along to a little distance. ” I have heard it asserted,” says Mr Lloyd, ” that the bear, when thus carried along by the horse, and when in his attempts to retard the progress of the poor animal, by grasping with one of his paws at the surrounding trees and bushes, not uncommonly tears them up by the roots. Should the bear succeed, however, in catching hold of a tree that is firmly embedded in the soil; it is then all over with his victim, for, owing to his enormous muscular strength, the career of the horse is at once stopped and he is quickly brought to the ground.

‘ It seems rather extraordinary that so clumsy and ill-shaped a looking brute as a bear should be able to run down a horse; but such, whether owing to the fears of the animal, is beyond doubt of every day occurrence. Until he has brought his victim down, it is said, the bear seldom makes use of his teeth, but strikes his prey on the back and sides with his terrible paws, as if with a sledge hammer. Sometimes, I take it, the horse by flinging out behind, makes his escape; for it is not an uncommon circumstance for a bear to be killed, wanting an eye or a fang, which the peasants suppose, and with some reason, has been caused by the heels of the horse.’—Vol. 11, p. 28.

‘ Mr Nilson, a native professor, relates, that ” a bear has been seen walking on his hinder feet along a small tree (stock) that stretched across a river, bearing a dead horse in his fore paws.’ ‘

It is a pity the name of the gallant subject of the following anecdotes is not known:—p.4

‘Whilst a man was working in the forest a few miles from Gefle, he was attacked and desperately wounded by several wolves. His companion, who was at some little distance, on hearing his cries, immediately ran to his assistance, and with his axe fortunately succeeded in beating off the ferocious animals. He then took the wounded man on his back, and was conveying him to a place of safety; but after awhile fatigue obliged him to set down his burden. This he had hardly done when the wolves came on again more furiously than before; and it was not until he had cut down several of them that he succeeded in driving away the remainder. He then once more took up his wounded companion, whose life he had twice saved by his gallantry, and fortunately succeeded in conveying hiin to a place of safety. Though the poor man was terribly mauled by the wolves, he finally recovered from his wounds.’—p. 86.

The approach of the wolf, in the following story, is detailed in a very striking manner.

‘Wolves are very fond of swine, and generally attack those animals if they be at large during the winter. Lieutenant Oldenburg once witnessed a circumstance of this nature.

‘He was standing near to the margin of a large lake, which at the time was frozen over. At some little distance from the land a small aperture had been made in the ice for the purpose of procuring water: at this hole a pig was drinking. Whilst looking towards the horizon, Lieutenant Oldenburg saw a mere speck ; or ball, as it were, moving rapidly along’ the ice: presently, however, this increased considerably in size, and he then discovered it to be a wolf making for the pig at top speed.

‘Lieutenant Oldenburg now seized his gun, which was immediately at hand, when he ran to the assistance of the pig; but before he got up to the spot, the wolf had closed with the poor animal, which, though of a large size he tumbled over and over in a trice; the wolf, however, was so agreeably occupied with his prize, that he allowed Lieutenant Oldenburg to approach within a few paces of him; that gentleman then fired, and so desperately wounded the beast in the body, that, though he went off for the moment, he was presently enabled to come up with him a second time, and dispatch him.

‘The pig was still alive, though the wolf had torn a piece of flesh as large as a man’s foot (I use his own words) out of its hind quarters ; but the poor creature was so terribly frightened, that it followed him home like a dog, and would not leave his heels for a moment.’—p. 87

At page 89 we have an account of a poor fellow who perished by wolves in consequence of a singular mischance, which could only happen in a frozen region:—

‘Whilst a poor soldier was one day crossing a large lake, called Stor-sjon, it then being the depth of winter, he was attacked by a drove of wolves. He was armed only with a sword, but defended himself so gallantly, that he not only either killed or wounded several of his assailants, but he succeeded in driving off the remainder. Some short time afterwards, however, the same drove of wolves again beset him; but he was now unable to extricate himself from his perilous situation in the same manner as before; for when he laid his hand upon his sabre, and attempted to draw it, he found it firmly frozen into the scabbard. This was in consequence of his having neglected to wipe the blood from the blade after the desperate conflict in which he had been engaged. It is almost needless to add, that as he was then defenceless, the ferocious beasts quickly killed and devoured him.’

Mr Lloyd has given a story of an atrocious criminal, which may be added to the numerous proofs of the unfeelingness connected with mere ” good looks” and the proportion of features. This handsome bad face, standing blind and dead in the wilderness, for the contemplation of the traveller, presents a truly appalling spectacle.

‘ In the course of my fishing excursions, (says Mr Lloyd) I not unfrequently directed my steps past the place devoted to the execution of criminals for the surrounding district. This, which was situated at two or three miles to the northward of Stjern formed an open area of some little extent, the trees having been cleared from that part of the forest for the purpose.

‘ Here, a few years previously, two men had been decapitated, the usual manner of putting criminals to death in Sweden; and their carcasses were subsequently left a prey to the birds and beasts of the field.

‘The remains of each culprit were nailed to the stumps of three several trees of about’seven feet in height. The head was fastened to the first; the body after being placed over a wheel, to the second: and the right hand which had been chopped off at the same time as the head, to the third. Beneath, lay the blocks on which they had been decapitated, as well as the ladder that had subsequently been made use of in affixing their dissevered members to the trees.

‘In this situation (of which the author has given a sketch) their remains were then bleaching in the wind. The criminals bore, when alive, the relative situations to each other of master and servant. Both were quite young men; and they were executed for one of the most cold-blooded crimes I ever remember to have heard of.

‘The master, who was a peasant, owed another person in the same rank of life with himself, thirty rix-dollars, or as many shillings : not having the wherewithal, or perhaps the inclination, to repay it, he one evening, after it was dark, took his servant along with him, and proceeded to the house of his creditor, with the deliberate intention of committing both murder and arson. On entering the house, he exclaimed, ” Here are your thirty rix-dollars,” and at the same instant he fell upon the poor man, who was in bed, and quickly despatched him.

‘The wife, who was in the same bed, succeeded, in the confusion that naturally took place, in making her escape from the house. But it was only for a few moments that she was enabled to elude the blood-thirsty pursuers, for they quickly came up with her and cut her down with their axes.

‘A well-grown boy also slept in the same room with the poor peasant and his wife: during the commencement of the butchery, however, he managed to slip out of his bed unperceived, and crept under it; and when the murderers were in pursuit of the woman, he took advantage of their absence and made his escape from the house. This was well, as, had he remained, he would doubtless have shared the dreadful fate of the others, for on the villains returning to the room, and knowing he ought to be there, they searched, as they subsequently confessed, every hole and corner, in hopes of finding him ; but their endeavours proving ineffectual, they robbed the house of whatever valuables it contained, and then set it on fire; and as it was composed of combustible materials, it was soon burnt to the ground.

‘Though for a time their crime escaped detection, suspicion soon fell upon them. This was in consequence of the expression the master had made use of when entering the house. ” Here are your thirty rix-dollars!” which the boy hail fortunately overheard: they were then token up, tried, condemned, and executed.

‘This horrible crime took place in the parish of Oustaf Adolf, situated at a few miles from the north east of Stjein, where also the murderers resided.

‘ When I first saw the remains of these criminals, the features were in a most perfect state of preservation, the skin having dried upon them in much the same manner as on a mummy. The countenance of the master was one of the very handsomest I had ever seen in my life; but it resembled that of a woman rather than of a man. It was a perfect Grecian face; and the long hair such as the peasants usually wear in Sweden, flowing over it in the wind, rendered it still more interesting. Though there was an innocent and pleasing expression depicted in the face of this man, he appears to have been as hardened a villain as ever lived; for, if report said truly, he confessed to the clergyman who attended him in his last moments, that he had, on different occasions, robbed and murdered several other persons besides those for whom he suffered.

‘To show still farther his hardened character, the very day after he committed the murders for which he was committed, he actually stood godfather in a church to a neighbour’s child. His servant indeed, seems to have been as bad as himself; for he officiated as fiddler at a dance that was given the same evening, on occasion of that ceremony taking place.—P. 260.

‘ We are sorry we have not room to say more about the bears. The figure they make in this book, would form an interesting volume of itself, though there is plenty of entertainment besides. It is natural in the author, who has witnessed the bear’s ravages, and felt the peril of his approach, to call him a ferocious animal, and gift him at times with other epithets of objection: but we who sit in our closets, far removed from the danger, may be allowed to vindicate the character of the bear, and to think that Bruin who is only labouring in his vocation, and is not more ferocious than hunger and necessity make him, might with at least equal reason, have advanced some objections against his invader. He might have said, if he possessed an Aesopean knowledge of mankind, ” Here now is a fellow coining to kill me, for getting my dinner, who eats slaughtered sheep and lobsters boiled alive; who, with the word ferocity in his mouth, puts a ball into my poor head, just as the highwayman vindicates himself by accusing the man he shoots; and who then writes an account of his humane achievement with a quill plucked from the body of a bleeding and screaming goose.” Or knowing nothing of mankind, he might say, ” Here comes that horrid strange animal to murder us, who sometimes has one sort of head and sometimes another (hat and cap), and who carries another terrible animal in his paw, a kind of stiff snake, which sends out thunder and lightning; and so he points his snake at us, and in an instant we are filled with terrible burning wounds, and die in agonies of horror and desperation.”

We cannot help thinking there is much resemblance to humanity in the bear. We do not wish to make invidious comparisons; but travellers as well as poets, have given us beautiful accounts of the maternal affections of the bear: and furthermore the animal resembles many respectable gentlemen whom we could name. When he wishes to attack anybody, he rises on his hind legs, as men do in the House of Commons. He dances, as aldermen do, with great solemnity and weight: and his general appearance, when you see him walking about the streets with his keeper, is surely like that of many a gentleman in a great coat, whose enormity of appetite and the recklessness with which he indulges it, entitle him to have one also.

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