The year before last, one of our books up for repair from our Book Adoption Program was written by John Henry Walsh (1810-1888), who wrote under the pseudonym “Stonehenge.” The book, called British Rural Sports, was adopted for restoration by John and Kelly Johnson.
British Rural Sports is an all-in-one volume on 19th Century country sport, showing off Walsh’s command of sporting topics with almost 1,000 pages of content on foxhunting, steeplechase, fly fishing, all variety of shooting and hunting, dog breeds, canine and equine anatomy, and more.
Walsh got his start as a surgeon but gravitated to sporting life. He had an interest in every imaginable field sport: angling, riding to hounds, wing shooting, yachting, and more. He was particularly attached to the breeding of dogs and to the development of sporting firearms. He quickly established himself as an expert sporting author, publishing a book on greyhound breeding in 1853 and becoming a regular contributor of articles to periodicals that covered field sports.
In 1857, Walsh became editor of The Field, a prominent sporting magazine. He continued his career as a noteworthy sporting author, penning volumes on stabling horses, caring for the health of dogs, and on sporting shotguns and rifles.
Walsh instigated a series of field trials for sporting firearms, testing the abilities of various gun designs and varieties of gunpowder. Walsh was also associated with the Kennel Club, working to organize and promote early dog shows. He rode to hounds, trained pointers and setters, and is also reported to have trained hawks. He died in 1888 at 77 years old.
John Connolly has served as the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Head 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
Occasionally the drama of horse racing spills over from the racetrack. In 1977 it splashed onto a mare called Fanfreluche, who was stolen from Claiborne Farm near Paris, Kentucky, and was missing without a trace for several months. This tale of intrigue was covered by many news outlets but for all things Thoroughbred, The Blood-Horse Weekly magazine is the ideal resource. Fortunately the Library holds nearly a complete run of this essential Thoroughbred horse periodical and I was able to get all the details of this odd incident.
Born in 1967, and owned by Jean-Louis Levesque, Fanfreluche had an excellent record on the track, earning $238,688 and being named 1970 Canadian Horse of the Year. An injury during her fourth year ended her racing career and she embarked on a new career as a broodmare in which she would prove equally successful. In 1977 she journeyed south to Claiborne Farm in Kentucky to be bred to Secretariat and was soon confirmed as in foal to the famous Triple Crown winner.
On June 26th Fanfreluche vanished from a grazing field she shared with several other broodmares. She was last seen late in the afternoon by farm staff. Later in the evening when the head count came up one short it was assumed that the missing mare was simply out of view. The next morning the stunning truth was revealed, Fanfreluche was missing.
The State police and the FBI were called in. Investigation of the area turned up two cut fences…
and a trail that led along a stone wall to a wooded area near the road, where the hoof prints stopped. Presumably the thief had a van waiting, loaded Fanfreluche into it, and made his get away.
The authorities, indeed everyone, expected a ransom call. Although she was valuable, due to strict registration rules Fanfreluche wouldn’t be worth much to the thief. In much the same way that a stolen artwork is difficult if not impossible to sell, a famous horse with registration lip tattoo would be impossible to pass off as another horse. Inexplicably no phone call came.
After a week or two the State Police released these photos to the public hoping that someone had seen the missing mare.
In an attempt to drum up leads, a false story was circulated that Fanfreluche required medication. Also a $25,000 reward was offered for information leading to a conviction. In July an arrest warrant was issued for William Michael McCandless. He voluntarily turned himself in and denied any connection with the crime. He was arraigned on July 29th, but there was still no sign of the missing horse.
It wasn’t until December 8th that a tip led investigators to the rural town of Tompkinsville, Kentucky. At the home of Larry McPherson a mare matching the description of Fanfreluche is discovered and her identity is confirmed from her lip tattoo. McPherson had been in possession of the horse since shortly after her kidnapping. One morning his neighbor had spotted a stray horse and assumed that it belonged to McPherson. They called to alert him and he went out expecting to find one of his horses.
Instead it was an unknown horse. He retrieved the horse and told the neighbor it wasn’t his and to pass the word around that there was a stray horse at his place. He expected the owner to turn up shortly to claim their animal. When no one did he reported it to the local police. No one made the connection to the race horse that had been stolen about 150 miles away. Eventually McPherson named the stray Brandy and occasionally used her for pleasure riding. He reported that she was very gentle but was difficult to catch, and that she never seemed to like the name he had given her and had never responded when he used it.
The McPhersons were cleared of any connection to the theft. Although Fanfreluche was in need of a brushing and having her hooves trimmed, she was none the worse for wear from her time as an ordinary horse. She returned to the luxury of Claiborne Farm and in February gave birth to a healthy colt named Sain Et Sauf, or Safe and Sound.
Fanfreluche had a long and productive life before passing away in 1999 at the age of 32. She is a member of the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame and also won the Sovereign Award for outstanding broodmare. She had 18 foals. 14 of them were winners, five were stakes winners, and three were champions.
William Michael McCandless was convicted of the theft and sentenced to four years in prison. It wasn’t his first run in the with law and it wouldn’t be his last.
The Library has a large collection of periodicals dating from the late 1700’s to the present day. Only our active subscriptions are available without an appointment in the Main Reading Room. The bulk of the collection is in the Lower Level Reading Room which requires an appointment to visit. I am currently working on cataloging the periodicals collection so in the near future it will be easy to see what we have available by using our online catalog.
Erica Libhart has served as the Mars Technical Services Librarian 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.
For those of us who have never attempted to ride in a sidesaddle, the idea might conjure images of a subdued and dainty rider unchallenged by her environment. For those knowledgeable about the physical ability needed to pursue hunting, however, sidesaddle riding evokes admiration and even awe for the skilled athlete who makes it appear effortless. Sporting artworks beginning with early depictions of women’s forays into the hunting field riding aside (as opposed to astride) on horseback reveal them to be highly trained equestrians fully capable of jumping and galloping alongside men, and sometimes besting them. The artwork spanning over three-hundred years in Sidesaddle, 1690-1935, on view through March 24, 2019, highlights these indomitable women.
The earliest painting in the exhibition is Jan Wyck’s Hare Hunting, c. 1690. Wyck, a Dutch painter, moved to England in the 1660s and became one of the first generation of sporting artists working in the emerging genre. In the painting, the hounds are in full cry on the line of a hare; two gentlemen and a lady follow at a gallop. She is shown relaxed and confident and in full control of her mount.
How to Twist Your Neck, 1809, by Thomas Rowlandson is another great example. The caricature painted in watercolors is a humorous scene showing a lady at a full gallop following a hound. She is bent at the waist having just cleared a low branch. Behind her, her “pursuer” has not ducked and in shocked surprise is about to be dramatically unseated, having run neck-first into the limb.
The painting aptly titled, A Confident Approach, by Henry Thomas Alken, shows an elegant lady foxhunter in a black riding habit and top hat about to take a fence, while the rest of the hunt field goes around, avoiding the jump. She is the only female in the scene, and her muddy skirt is a silent testimony to where she has already been.
The theme continues with Thomas Derville Rowlandon’s set of twelve Foxhunting Scenes. Going to the Meet, The Meet, A Good Start, Going Strong, A Momentary Check, Well Over, A Loose Horse, Hark Away, A Friendly Gate, From Scent to View, With the Leaders, and The Kill follows a lady’s successful day foxhunting on a gray. In Well Over, she jumps a stream with ease while a male hunter has barely cleared the jump and the horse of another has refused. In the next work in the sequence, the second male rider emerges from the stream while another having been unseated, runs after his horse. Each successive composition emphasizes the lady’s skill, often exceeding that of some of her male counterparts, over the course of the day.
In The Meynell – Away from Sutton Cross Roads, after 1920, by Frank Elgernon Stewart, the lady rider is a focal point of the composition in which the huntsman blows his horn and the hounds are in full cry. She is among the leaders of the hunt field following the esteemed hound pack, and she is shown keeping pace with ease, having just cleared a fence.
Each exhilarating work elevates sidesaddle equestrians as they overcame obstacles with skill and panache, riding aside over open country while in skirts. These ladies’ tenacity and grit continue to be celebrated in art to this day.
Sidesaddle, 1690-1930 was co-curated by Claudia Pfeiffer and Dr. Ulrike Elisabeth Weiss, Lecturer at University of St. Andrews in Scotland and NSLM John H. Daniels Fellow. Pfeiffer has been the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Curator of Art at the National Sporting Library & Museum since the position was underwritten by the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Foundation in 2012. Her primary focus is the research, design, interpretation, writing, and installation of exhibitions. E-mail Claudia at firstname.lastname@example.org
With winter weather closing in and the holiday season nearly upon us, one might find oneself stuck inside with visiting family and searching for an activity to fill the time. If the allure of the television has waned, and you’d like to do something that gets everyone actively involved, I suggest going old school. How about a card or dicing game? If you’re rusty on the rules or want to try a new game, reaching for a copy of one Edmond Hoyle’s books would be a good place to start.
Beginning in 1742, Edmond Hoyle (1672-1769) wrote several treatises on a variety of card games and backgammon. In 1748 his publisher, Thomas Osborne, began to sell a compilation of Hoyle’s earlier works. As a result of these publications Hoyle eventually became the acknowledged expert on the rules for many games, especially Whist. The phrase, “according to Hoyle” has become idiomatic in English, meaning according to the rules, or according to the highest authority.
Although today Hoyle is the most well known name in table game rule books, he was not the first to publish such works. The Library holds two volumes of an earlier title, The Compleat Gamester. The first edition of this book was published anonymously in 1674. It covered numerous card games, games from the backgammon genre, and several outdoor sports. Its full title was, The Compleat Gamester: Or, Instructions How to Play at Billiards, Trucks, Bowls, and Chess. Together with all manner of usual and most Gentile Games either on Cards or Dice. To which is added, The Arts and Mysteries of Riding, Racing, Archery, and Cock-Fighting.”
Over the next 50 years the popular book was reissued and reprinted frequently. Several new editions with additional material and various subtitles appeared. NSLM holds an edition from 1710 called, The Compleat Gamester: or instructions how to play at all manner of usual, and most gentile games, either on cards, dice, billiards, trucks, bowls, or chess; also the arts and misteries of riding, racing, archery and cock-fighting. To which is added, the game Basset; with a discourse of gaming in general. The description of a gaming ordinary, and the character of a gamester. With a song on the game at Piquet. Despite this title, much of the material in the book does not concern how to play games but rather how to spot a cheater. In this excerpt from the Epistle to the Reader that precedes the text, the author’s opinion of “gamesters” is made quite clear,
Mistake me not, it is not my intention to make Gamesters by this collection, but to inform all in part how to avoid being cheated by them: If I am imperfect in my discoveries, impute it to my being no profest Gamester, and the hatred I bear that hellish society; by whom I know I shall be laught at, and with whom if I should converse, I might sooner by my study come to be Nature’s Secretary, and unriddle all her Arcanas than collect from them any new unpractised secret by which they bubble ignorant credulity, and purchase money and good apparel with everlasting shame and infamy.
To conclude, let me advise you, if you play (when your business will permit) let not a covetous desire of winning another’s money engage you to the losing your own, which will not only disturb your mind, but by the disreputation of being a Gamester, if you lose not your estate, you will certainly lose your credit and good name, than which there is nothing more valuable (Compleat Gamester, 1710).
The author’s anonymity and the vehemence of his opinion of “gamesters” makes me wonder if he wasn’t expertly fleeced himself. Perhaps this book is his revenge on the culprit.
Individual games are given basic descriptions but generally there is not much information on actual game play or strategy. Instead the author offers clear descriptions of some techniques used by “gamesters” to cheat other players. For example, he describes Piping, where the gamester’s accomplice, on the pretense of leisurely smoking a pipe, adopts a position in which he is able to view the cards of the gamester’s opponent. The accomplice is then able to signal the contents of the dupe’s hand to the gamester. The signals consist of various finger placements on the pipe, which the gamester can see and decipher. Ironically given the author’s clear disapproval of cheating, the detailed descriptions he provides of it serve not only as a warning to would-be marks, but also as instructions for would be gamesters.
In addition to practical gaming advice, the author also offers commentary that is sometimes comical or clever. I love this line about bowling, “A Bowling-Green, or Bowling-Ally is a place where three things are thrown away besides the Bowls, viz. Time, Money and Curses, at the last ten for one” (Compleat Gamester (1710), p. 35).
In 1719 in a bid to capitalize on the popularity of The Compleat Gamester, notorious bookseller Edmund Curll hired Richard Seymour to write The Court Gamester. The volume dealt with Ombre, Piquet, and Chess. Apparently Curll’s gambit of offering a book on a similar topic with a similar name to the popular Compleat Gamester paid off as there were four more editions published by 1732. In 1734 the two titles were published together as, The Compleat Gamester in Three Parts. The Library holds a 1739 edition of this combined title.
The work includes instructions and rules for card games (ombre, quadrille, quintile, piquet, basset, faro, whist, all-fours, cribbage, put, lue, brag, &c.), chess, English and French billiards, riding, horse racing, archery, cock fighting and bowling.
In addition to updating the rules of game playing, the preface of this book identifies the author of the original 1674 Compleat Gamester: “The second and third parts of this treatise were originally written by Charles Cotton Esq; some years since, but are now rectified according to the present standard of play” (page viii). Charles Cotton is best known today as the author of portions of Isaac Walton’s The Compleat Angler. He died insolvent in 1687, 13 years after the publication of The Compleat Gamester, but I could not find anything indicating that he had gambled away his money or been swindled by a nefarious gamester. His motivation for penning the book remains a mystery.
Although The Compleat Gamester retained its popularity for three quarters of a century, eventually Edmond Hoyle’s publications eclipsed it.* The final edition of Gamester appeared in 1754.
Rule books featuring the name Hoyle are still in production today. Over time new editions featured rules for new games and eliminated those for games that fell out of favor. If you plan ahead a bit and lay in a couple decks of cards and some dice, along with a copy of Hoyle’s or even one of the editions of The Compleat Gamester, you’ll have an activity for snowbound evenings. Maybe you’ll learn how to play Whist and can show off that knowledge the next time Jane Austen’s stories come up.
* David Levy’s blog, Edmond Hoyle, Gent. provided a great deal of the publication history contained in this post. It is also chock full of interesting information on gaming, recreation, and book selling and publication in the 18th Century. I encourage our readers to visit his blog and do a little exploring.
Erica Libhart has served as the Mars Technical Services Librarian 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
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“Drawing Covert,” refers to the practice in foxhunting of putting hounds in a covert (pronounced like “cover”), a thicket or wooded brush area, to find the fox.
This blog is about the exhibitions, tours, research, programs, and events, at NSLM on its unique collection of books, archives, paintings, sculpture and much more.