Lionel Edwards (1878-1966) was a British painter and illustrator who focused primarily on scenes of sporting life (we have highlighted some of his work on our blog in the past). He was an avid huntsman and over the course of his life hunted with most of the packs in the United Kingdom. In his book, The Wiles of the Fox, Edwards gives us a series of anecdotes accompanied by sketches, which describe exploits he has witnessed foxes use to escape the hounds.

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The Wiles of the Fox: Some Notes and Sketches Sketches by Lionel Edwards. London: The Medici Society and The Sporting Gallery, 1932. National Sporting Library & Museum, gift of John H. Daniels, 1994.

The contest in a fox hunt is between the hounds’ ability to follow the fox’s scent, and the fox’s ability to elude them.  At first glance it seems an unfair battle, an entire pack of hounds versus a single fox.  But in the foreword of his book Edwards estimates that only one in five foxes discovered by hounds is caught.  He goes on to praise the fox’s skill saying…

“Granting that few foxes are killed in comparison to those found by hounds, there are other people besides my Todhunter who have difficulty in realizing that catching a fox is not as easy as it sounds.  A huntsman, from youth and inexperience, conceit or old age, or a hundred other causes, often contributes to his own defeat, and the fact remains that among the many partners of the chase, the only one who makes few errors is usually the fox!” (p.7-8)

The stories fall into several categories.  First are tricks that hide or confuse the fox’s scent trail.  Whether or not the fox realizes the effect of such maneuvers and engages in them intentionally is up for speculation.  These activities include things such as…

Running along the tops of walls:

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On the Top of the Wall

Escaping along roads:

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Fox Running the Road

Or rolling in manure:

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Manure

Sometimes foxes escape through outside assistance. This could make use of other animals to distract the hounds, or when a second fox’s scent confuses the hounds into losing track.

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Changing foxes

A final type of escape relies on the fox’s natural agility, which allows it to sometimes bolt through a pack of hounds unscathed or sail over them from the top of a bank.

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Flying Fox

If you would like to learn more about Edward’s life and work, NSLM holds many examples of his illustrations, as well as several biographies about him. Foxes are known for being crafty, and animals can often surprise us with their behavior. Leave us a comment below to share your surprising animal stories with us!


 

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Erica Libhart has served as the MarsLibrarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) since early 2016. The focus of her position is collection services, working to increase accessibility to NSLM’s collection of books, periodicals, and archival materials. The NSLM collections span over 350 years of the history of equestrian sport, as well as fly fishing, wing shooting, and other field sports. Have a question? Contact Erica by e-mail

Today’s highlight is a review (though more a tribute than a formal review) Edith Somerville (1858-1949) wrote of two of Gordon Grand’s books: The Silver Horn and Colonel Weatherford and His Friends. Grand wrote the stories while recovering from a hunting accident.

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Appreciation for Gordon Grand, Edith Somerville. National Sporting Library & Museum, John H. Daniels collection, housed in the F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room.

Somerville was a popular sporting author and illustrator, writing with her cousin, Violet Martin (who worked under the pen-name “Martin Ross”). Somerville was well-traveled and had a good education; riding, especially to hounds, was foremost among her interests and is often a theme in her writing.

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“I am reminded of a tale of an intelligent little girl, who was, for the first time, taken to a meet. She regarded the pack gravely, and remarked, ‘What a lot of dogs!’ She was corrected. ‘Those are HOUNDS, darling!’ She again studied the pack, and then said, controversially, ‘Well, they’re very LIKE dogs.'”

This is one of several pieces in the NSLM collection of manuscript writing by Somerville, who was a Master of Foxhounds for the West Carbery Foxhounds in the early years of the 20th Century. Having traveled in Europe and the United States, she had a very keen interest in the hunting in England, Ireland, and the United States.

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“The close kinship of England and the United States could not be more vividly demonstrated than it is by the tales in these books.”

Grand, a successful New York businessman who rode with the Millbrook Hunt, was widely praised for his literary accomplishments. Somerville’s autographed essay is a reflective commentary on Grand’s place in the pantheon of sporting authors. She places him in rarefied air, among Whyte-Melville and Surtees.

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Insertion. “[Whyte Melville] ‘dates’ too definitely. So, obviously, does Surtees, but Whyte Melville’s books are deficient in the very robust humour that has preserved Mr. Jorrocks, and has endeared him to so many generations of ingenuous readers.”
Despite how close-knit the sporting world is, it’s a bit unusual to find so direct a tribute of one sporting writer from another. Have you read Gordon Grand’s stories? Drop by the Library sometime to peruse them in our cozy reading alcoves!


Wedding Photography by Spiering Photography

John Connolly has served as the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) since early 2014. He is responsible for the care of the Library collections, including books, magazines, photographs, diaries, letters, and much more. The NSLM collections span over 350 years of the history of equestrian sport, as well as fly fishing, wing shooting, and other field sports. Have a question? Contact John by e-mail

One of the very best things about old books is the history each individual volume contains. After years of working with the NSLM collection, we haven’t even really scratched the surface. Just a few weeks ago, we were going over some copies of Markham’s Masterpiece and the Citizen and Countryman’s Experienced Farrier. We were surprised to find notes all over the end-papers.

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Notes on the end-papers of Markham’s Masterpiece by Gervase Markham, eighth edition, 1656. Can you make out the words?

Though they are written in English, some of the notes are difficult to decipher. The end-papers on Markham’s Masterpiece are covered with medical recipes similar to those printed in the book. We’re reviewing the volume to see if these are copied from the text (making the end-papers a sort of early “favorites” selection) or if they are new recipes not included in print (implying that they are addenda or improvements on Markham’s work).

The dramatic notes, however, can be found in the Citizen and Countryman’s Experienced Farrier, a similar veterinary compendium printed in the American colonies. It drew heavily on Markham but included many new recipes and cures.

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End-paper signature: “Henry Willy, Richmond, Virginia, 21st Sept. 1784” Citizen and Countryman’s Experienced Farrier, 1764

This copy of the Experienced Farrier was printed by James Adams of Wilmington, Delaware in 1764. Adams was reputedly the first to open a printing shop in Delaware. Henry Willy owned this copy. What’s truly extraordinary, though, is the facing page:

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“Memorandum for Mr. James Rowan.”

The water damage to the page makes it a difficult read online. Here is a transcript of the message:

Memorandum for Mr. James Rowan — to enquire in Chamerstown of Mr. J. Campbell — where Michael Fallon Lives — & to inform him that Mr. Willy — took the liberty of opening a letter directed to Michl. Fallon directed to Mr. Willys care & it asserts that Mr. F’s Father wishes his return to Ireland — & also, since which Mr. Willy has heard that M. Fallon’s father was dead.

The limitations of 18th Century communications are on full display. The memo is instructions for James Rowan, and the receipt of weeks-old news from across the ocean appears to have prompted the revision of the message struck through. As a modern reader, it’s a bit painful to know how long it took to relay the message to Fallon; the limitations on speed of travel ensured little chance of a return to Ireland before the death of his father.

It appears that this book was used to carry the message with Mr. Rowan from Richmond to Chamberstown (later re-named Chambersburg) a journey of 200 miles. How long the book was away from Mr. Willy is unknown, but he re-wrote his name on the back end-papers three years later:

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“Henry Willy, his book, March 24, 1787.”

Let us know if you have found something written in old books, either in the margins or on the end-papers! If you have an eagle eye for 17th-Century handwriting, leave a comment below if you’d like to try transcribing the notes from the 1656 Markham’s Masterpiece.


Wedding Photography by Spiering Photography

John Connolly has served as the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) since early 2014. He is responsible for the care of the Library collections, including books, magazines, photographs, diaries, letters, and much more. The NSLM collections span over 350 years of the history of equestrian sport, as well as fly fishing, wing shooting, and other field sports. Have a question? Contact John by e-mail

 

 

 

Have you ever seen an incredibly large painting and wondered how the artist knew what they would be painting before taking on such a large project? Artists often begin with a series of studies, sometimes called sketches, which allow them to practice before committing to a larger work.

The NSLM collection includes a series of nine portraits of hounds by German/American artist Gustav Muss-Arnolt (1858 – 1927) done in preparation for a larger piece The Meadow Brook Hounds Meet at the Old Westbury Pond (c. 1885), commissioned by August Belmont, Jr. (1853 – 1924), acting Master of Foxhounds for the Meadow Brook Hunt during the 1884 – 1885 season and builder of New York’s famous Belmont Park racetrack.

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Gustave Muss-Arnolt, Matchless, c. 1885, oil on canvas, 10 1/4 x 13 1/4 inches, Gift of Harry T. Peters, Jr., 1973
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Chanticleer
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Baronet

Muss-Arnolt was a talented painter of dogs – and definitely what we would call a “dog person.” He was a noted dog show judge and an important part of the American Kennel Club and many other early American dog clubs.

The paintings were recently put back on view in the Museum’s Vine Hill Galleries and have fabulous names like “Matchless,” “Chanticleer,” and “Baronet.” These pieces were donated to the NSLM in 1973 by Mr. Harry T. Peters, Jr. whose father, Harry T. Peters, Sr., was MFH of the Meadow Brook Hunt from 1926 – 1946.

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Gustave Muss-Arnolt, Portraits of the Meadow Brook Hounds, c. 1885, oil on canvas, 10 1/4 x 13 1/4 inches each, Gift of Harry T. Peters, Jr., 1973

The paintings are interesting because they not only show the artistic process used by Muss-Arnolt, but because of several connections they share with pieces in our book collection. In the main reading room of our library is a book entitled The Story of American Foxhunting vol. II by J.B. Van Urk.

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Frontispiece of The Story of American Foxhunting, Vol. II, by J. Blan Van Urk (New York: The Derrydale Press, 1941).

 

Van Urk’s book includes both an illustration of the hound pieces, as well as an image of the final version of The Meadow Brook Hounds Meet at the Old Westbury Pond. Can you spot which hounds from the studies are in the larger piece?

Connections like these abound in our collections, and we continue to have fun discovering them!


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Frances Monroe is the Membership & Visitor Engagement Coordinator at the National Sporting Library & Museum. She helps visitors engage more fully with the Library and Museum collections through participation in events, programs, and tours. She also coordinates the NSLM’s volunteer program.