I. THE SWELL AND THE SURREY
What true-bred city sportsman has not in his day put off the most urgent business—perhaps his marriage, or even the interment of his rib—that he might “brave the morn” with that renowned pack, the Surrey subscription foxhounds? Lives there, we would ask, a thoroughbred, prime, bang-up, slap-dash, break-neck, out-and-out artist, within three miles of the Monument, who has not occasionally “gone a good ’un” with this celebrated pack? And shall we, the bard of Eastcheap, born all deeds of daring to record, shall we, who so oft have witnessed—nay, shared—the hardy exploits of our fellow-cits, shall we sit still, and never cease the eternal twirl of our dexter around our sinister thumb, while other scribes hand down to future ages the paltry feats of beardless Meltonians, and try to shame old Father Thames himself with muddy Whissendine’s foul stream? Away! thou vampire, Indolence, that suckest the marrow of imagination, and fattenest on the cream of idea ere yet it float on the milk of reflection. Hence! slug-begotten hag, thy power is gone—the murky veil thou’st drawn o’er memory’s sweetest page is rent!
Harp of Eastcheap, awake!
Our thoughts hark back to the cover-side, and our heart o’erflows with recollections of the past, when life rode the pace through our veins, and the bark of the veriest mongrel, or the bray of the sorriest costermonger’s sorriest “Jerusalem,” were far more musical sounds than Paganini’s pizzicatos or Catalani’s clamorous caterwaulings.
And, thou, Goddess of the Silver Bow—chaste Diana—deign to become the leading star of our lucubrations; come perch upon our grey goose quill; shout in our ear the maddening Tally-ho! and ever and anon give a salutary “refresher” to our memory with thy heaven-wrought spurs—those spurs old Vulcan forged when in his maddest mood—whilst we relate such feats of town-born youths and city squires, as shall “harrow up the souls” of milk-sop Melton’s choicest sons, and “fright their grass-galloping garrons from their propriety.” But gently, Pegasus!—Here again, boys, and “let’s to business,” as they say on ’Change.
’Twere almost needless to inform our readers, that such portion of a county as is hunted by any one pack of hounds is technically denominated their country; and of all countries under the sun, that of the Surrey subscription foxhounds undoubtedly bears the bell. This superiority arises from the peculiar nature of the soil—wretched starvation stuff most profusely studded with huge sharp flints—the abundance of large woods, particularly on the Kent side, and the range of mountainous hills that run directly through the centre, which afford accommodation to the timid, and are unknown in most counties and unequalled in any.