Abbildungen der Seite

could ever be called wicked if any man or beast could be found to practise it, now or in past time. Dr. Watts tells us to leave barking and biting to dogs; Mr. Trollope reverses the moral, and tells us to take a lesson from the cat that hunts the mouse, the dog that hunts the fox; for well may man be envious of such pure sources of delight, and ill can he afford to drop them out of the list of his God-given pleasures ! A more ludicrous parody of a special Providence was never suggested, than that his scent was given to the fox expressly to give men and dogs the pleasure of hunting him. Or may it be said that a more mournful blasphemy could never shock the ears of a believer in a beneficent Creator.

Common sense, the philosophical doctrine of human progress, and the theological dogma of the regeneration of man's nature by God's grace, are all of one accord in refusing to accept the preposterous justification for fox-hunting (or for anything else) that it is natural, and not more mischievous than a thousand other natural things. It is useless to heap up a list of the horrors and enormities, moral and physical, that go on among men and animals in a state of nature, and ask us—is fox-hunting as bad as these ? Civilised man has left far behind him the code of morals of his own ancestors; and to appeal further back than even these, to the brute creation, for examples and for tests, is to stand self-condemned. In one instance, it is true, Mr. Trollope appeals to a higher example for justification, and cites the lady who crushes the wasp with her fan. Who is the lady who would do it? Not sweet Lily Dale surely. Perhaps the wives and daughters of fox-hunters may do such things; most other English women, rich or poor, would shudder with disgust at such a sight. In the society which is either above or below foxhunting and field-sports, the infliction of death is considered a painful and revolting sight; and if animals are not spared from death, human beings are spared the sight of its infliction whenever it is not a matter of duty to confront it; and the sense of duty, with the grave energy that accompanies it, is surely a fitter association for what should be felt to be the awful spectacle of the pain and death of any living creature, than the exhilarating sense of enjoyment that must accompany a pleasant day's hunting

Mr. Trollope says (and probably most of his readers will fully and heartily agree with him) that the pleasure of fox-hunting is in no way the pleasure of giving pain. And he asks whether the pleasure of giving pain has more to do with the pleasure of hunting than with the pleasure of wearing beautiful furs ? In this illustration, evidently given with the most perfect good faith by Mr. Trollope, may be observed a confusion of ideas, which is at the bottom of every defence of hunting usually put forth by otherwise good and kindly people. The pleasure a lady takes in her beautiful furs is not in


separably bound up, or even naturally connected, with the pain inflicted in procuring them. She might be (I do not say she ought to be) accused of heartlessness or thoughtlessness in taking pleasure in them in spite of the pain they cost the hunted animal, but she could not be accused of cruelty. The pleasure she takes in possessing or wearing them is of precisely the same kind as she feels in diamonds, lace, flowers, or other things, beautiful in themselves, ornamental to her, and associated with the pleasant ideas of wealth, rank, and beauty. It would make no difference in her enjoyment if the furs were made by hand, the diamonds got by hunting, the flowers found in mines, or the lace grown in hot-houses. The kind, the quantity, the sources of her enjoyment of each separate article, would be the same. She does not enjoy the sables, she would not enjoy the diamonds, because they were got by hunting. The excitement of the chase is as absolutely foreign to her enjoyment of her furs as to that of her flowers.

Now can the same thing be said of the pleasure of fox-hunting? In what consists the special fascination of fox-hunting? What is it that men are unwilling to relinquish in it? I admit that I sincerely believe it is not, unless in rare exceptional cases, the cruel manner of death. So far, I believe Mr. Trollope to be right, although it will be seen presently that I believe Mr. Freeman to be still more right when he says that to take pleasure in hunting is to take pleasure in the infliction of pain. I grant-not merely for the sake of argument, but as a substantial truth—that, as a general rule, fox-hunters do not enjoy the sport because they enjoy either the sight or the thought of the agony inflicted on the fox, be it great or little, long or short. What, then, do they enjoy ? “Society and conversation," answers Mr. Trollope.

"Men are thrown together who would not otherwise meet ... Perhaps of all the delights of the hunting-field conversation is the most general. Fresh air and exercise are gained by men who greatly need it. ... There is enterprise in riding to hounds, and skill. Ambition, courage, and persistency, are all brought into play. A community is formed in which equality prevails, and the man with small means and no rank holds his own against the lord or the millionaire as he can do nowhere else amidst the scenes of our life.”

Here four distinct sources of enjoyment are enumerated:41. Fresh air and exercise; 2. Conversation ; 3. The exercise of skill and courage; 4. Associating with and equalling in skill our superiors in rank. All these sources of pleasure may fairly be compared with the pleasure the lady takes in her furs; they may be enjoyed in spite of the suffering inflicted on the fox; they are not derived from the suffering itself. So far I go along with Mr. Trollope; and grant that, even if it be heartless and thoughtless to derive pleasure from what cannot be got without the infliction of pain, it is not necessarily cruel.

fering So fat Jess a

But which of these pleasures necessarily requires that a fox should be hunted in order to its attainment? Not one. Men of different ranks and occupations can meet together out of doors for games of skill and exercise, without hunting a fox. One of two things is clear: either that men might enjoy all the pleasures of fox-hunting without hunting foxes, or that the pleasure of fox-hunting is in the excitement of the chase. Either hunting the fox is merely an accidental way in which men have got accustomed to associate together to obtain the pleasures of society and conversation in the open air, of exercise, and of rivalry in skill and courage pleasures which they might just as well obtain without inflicting pain on anything; or else the real pleasure of fox-hunting consists in the excitement of chasing something that is urged to try to escape from you by the strongest inducements of fear that nature is capable of feeling. Either fox-hunting is immoral, because an unnecessarily cruel way of procuring enjoyments which men might contrive to obtain in a more innocent form; or else it is in its essence cruel—that is to say, it is pleasure derived from the fact that pain is inflicted. We must distinguish here between pleasure in the very fact of inflicting pain, or in the sight of blood and torture (which it has been already admitted that probably few fox-hunters feel), and pleasure derived from the excitement which only the infliction of pain can produce; which excitement, the true essence of the pleasure of the chase, is again quite a distinct thing from the pleasure in conversation, fresh air, exercise, &c., accidentally associated with the hunt. It is this pleasure of the chase which I believe to be the real attraction of fox-hunting, and to be demonstrably cruel in its own nature, and degrading in its effect on human character.

The love of the chase belongs to the lower, because the more selfish part of our nature. The desire to overcome, to exercise power, to domineer, to destroy, may all be turned to good purpose; and there are few enjoyments more keen than when we permit full play to the lower instincts of our nature under the guidance of our reason and conscience. War and the chase may call forth in one common purpose the various powers of our nature, the higher and the lower, but the lower must be under the guidance of the higher, to constitute these pursuits legitimate sources of pleasure. Artificial war and unnecessary hunting can only be carried on for the mere indulgence of the instinctive passions. The Romans kept enemies alive to enjoy the sight of artificial warfare in their amphitheatres, just as we keep foxes alive for an artificial chase. That the foxes would never have lived if we had not wanted to hunt them, makes no difference in the nature of the pleasure taken in hunting them—a pleasure derived from the fierce excitement of chasing a living creature under the terror of death. If we ask

partisans of hunting whether a good gallop across country, in large parties assembled for the purpose, would not do as well, they say it would not be the same thing. And truly I believe it would not be the same; and it is because it would not be the same that fox-hunting is cruel. It is the stress of the excitement produced in the fox and the dogs by the flying for dear life and pursuing to the uttermost, that communicates the excitement to the men too; the fox may sometimes escape with life, but if he or the dogs expected it, the hunt would lose its charm. That keen spur, that stimulus, would be wanting, which the lower animal natures only derive from the great coarse primitive motives, such as hunger, terror, and the enjoyment of pursuit.

It is the peculiarity of man, as far as we know, and one of our justifications in assuming authority over the lower animals, that he can derive a keen enjoyment from the æsthetic, the moral, and the intellectual portions of his nature. It is plainly degrading to men in the stage of civilisation to which they have attained in our own age and country, to seek their amusements in cultivating their crueller instincts. I do not see how we can escape from Mr. Freeman's conclusion that fox-hunting is cruel, unless we are ready to admit that it is unnecessary. If an amusement might be contrived that would combine all of pleasure that is to be found in fox-hunting without subjecting any living creature to the torture of the chase, or arousing either in men or any other animals the fierce and cruel delight of pursuit, fox-hunting is open to the objection that it inflicts useless pain. If its enjoyment consists in the excitement of the chase, then the enjoyment is in a cruel animal passion, however disguised and decorated by pleasant and innocent accessories.



The study of Shakspeare and his contemporaries is the study of one family consisting of many members, all of whom have the same lifeblood in their veins, all of whom are recognisable by accent and bearing, and acquired habits, and various unconscious self-revealments as kinsmen, while each possesses a character of his own, and traits of mind and manners and expression which distinguish him from the rest. The interest of the study is chiefly in the gradual apprehension, now on this side, now on that, of the common nature of this great family of writers, until we are in complete intellectual possession of it, and in tracing out the characteristics peculiar to each of its individuals. There is, perhaps, no other body of literature towards which we are attracted by so much of unity, and at the same time by so much of variety. If the school of Rubens had been composed of greater men than it was, we should have had an illustrious parallel in the history of painting to the group of Shakspeare and his contemporaries in the history of poetry.

The “school of Rubens” we say; we could hardly speak with accuracy of the “school of Shakspeare." Yet there can be little doubt that he was in a considerable degree the master of the inferior and younger artists who surrounded him. It is the independence of Ben Jonson's work and its thorough individuality, rather than comparative greatness or beauty of poetical achievement, which has given him a kind of acknowledged right to the second place amongst the Elizabethan dramatists, a title to vice-president's chair in the session of the poets. His aims were different from those of the others, and at a time when plays and playwrights were little esteemed, he had almost a nineteenth-century sense of the dignity of art, and of his own art in particular :

“And he told them plainly he deserved the bays,

For his were called Works, where others were but Plays." But Ford, and Webster, and Massinger, and Beaumont and Fletcher, and the rest (who were content, like Shakspeare, to write “plays," and did not aspire to “works") are really followers of the greatest of all dramatic writers, and very different handiwork they would probably have turned out had they wrought in their craft without the teaching of his practice and example. Shakspeare's immediate predecessors were men of no mean powers; but they are separated by a great gulf from his contemporaries and immediate successors. That tragedy is proportioned to something else than the number of slaughtered bodies piled upon the stage at the end of

particularia them plovorks, wb

« ZurückWeiter »