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Punch, or the London Charivari, Volume 99, August 16, 1890   By:

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VOL. 99.

August 16, 1890.




There is in sport, as in Society, a class of men who aspire perpetually towards something as perpetually elusive, which appears to them, rightly or wrongly, to be higher and nobler than their actual selves. But whereas a man may be of and in Society, without effort, by the mere accident of birth or wealth, in sport, properly understood, achievement of some kind is necessary before admission can be had to the sacred circle of the elect. What the snob is to Society, the Spurious Sportsman is to sport; and thus where the former seeks to persuade the world that he is familiar with the manners, and accustomed to the intimate friendship of the great and highly placed, the latter will hold himself out as one who, in every branch of sport has achieved many notable feats on innumerable occasions.

Such a man, of course, is not without knowledge on the matters of which he speaks. He has probably hunted several times without pleasure, or fished or shot here and there without success. But upon these slender foundations he could not rear the stupendous fabric of his deeds unless he had read much, and listened carefully to the narrations of others. By the aid of a lively and unscrupulous imagination, he gradually transmutes their experiences into his own. What he has read becomes, in the end, what he has done, and thus, in time, the Spurious Sportsman is sent forth into the world equipped in a dazzling armour of sporting mendacity. And yet mendacity is, perhaps, too harsh a word; for it is of the essence of true falsehood that it should hope to be believed, in order that it may deceive. But, in the Spurious Sportsman's ventures into the marvellous, there is generally something that gives ground for the exercise of charity, and the appalled listener may hope that even the narrator is not so thoroughly convinced of the reality of his exploits as he would, apparently, desire others to be. And there is this also to be said in excuse, that sport, which calls for the exercise of some of the noblest attributes of man's nature, not infrequently leads him into mean traps and pitfalls. For there are few men who can aver, with perfect accuracy, that they have never added a foot or two to their longest shot, or to the highest jump of their favourite horse, and have never, in short, exaggerated a difficulty in order to increase the triumph of overcoming it. But the modesty that confines most men within reasonable limits of untruthfulness has no restraining power over the Spurious Sportsman, to whom somewhat, therefore, may be forgiven for the sake of the warning he affords.

He is, as a rule, a dweller in London, for it is there that he finds the largest stock of credulity and tolerance. To walk with him in the streets, or to travel with him in a train, is to receive for nothing a liberal education in sport. No man has ever shot a greater number of rocketing pheasants with a more unerring accuracy than he has in Pall Mall, St. James's Street, or Piccadilly. He will point out to you the exact spot where he would post himself if the birds were being driven from St. James's Square over the Junior Carlton Club. He will then expatiate learnedly on angle, and swing, and line of flight, and having raised his stick suddenly to his shoulder, by way of an example, will knock off the hat of an inoffensive passer by. This incident will remind him of an adventure he had while shooting with Lord X. "A deuced good chap at bottom; a bit stiff at first, but the best fellow going when you really know him" through the well known coverts of his lordship's estate. When travelling safely in a railway carriage, he is the boldest cross country rider in existence. He will indicate to you a fence full of dangers, and having taught you how it may best be cleared, will add, that it is nothing to one that he jumped last season with the Quytchley... Continue reading book >>

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