By John H. Daniels Fellow, Professor Mike Cronin, Boston College

As an historian of Ireland, I have been the lead researcher in the Irish government’s digital history offering for the period 1913-23, namely the decade of upheaval that led to the creation of an independent Irish state. The project, named Century Ireland, explores the day to day history of Ireland in real-time on the web and twitter. The period begins in 1913, when Ireland was in a state of turmoil. The Home Rule bill, that would potentially lead to Ireland’s independence was working its way through the British Parliament, but had met with a violent response from the unionists of Ireland (those people, mainly Protestants, who wished to remain part of Britain). There was a major general strike that was ongoing in Dublin, a housing crisis that was symbolised by the deaths of seven people in the collapse of a tenement building, and levels of poverty and illness that led Dublin to be unfavourably compared to the destitution of contemporary Calcutta. To many observers in the press there was a sense that Ireland was in utter crisis, and many writers and politicians argued that the country was heading towards civil war. This would be fought by those nationalists and Catholics who desired an Ireland independent of Britain, against the unionists and Protestants who wanted Ireland to remain part of Britain and Empire. The threat of civil war was not idly made, as both sides had spent much of 1912 and 1913 arming themselves and organising their men into private armies.

British politicians forced to forced to endure the stink of Campbell-Bannerman’s “cigar” of Irish Home Rule.  From Wikimedia Commons

In the event the threat of civil war in Ireland was side-lined by the outbreak of World War One. Some 210,000 Irishmen, both Catholics and Protestants fought against Germany and her allies, and some 35,000 of them would die. At the end of World War One, Ireland did not find peace. Between 1919 and 1921 a War of Independence was fought against the British. When this did not produce the complete freedom that many Irish had dreamt of, the nation drifted into civil war which would run from 1922 into 1923. The end result of this decade of upheaval was a tremendous loss of life, the destruction of much of the national infrastructure and a political settlement that created a truncated Irish independence. The southern twenty-six counties of Ireland were formed into a sovereign state, titled the Irish Free State, while the six northern counties, renamed Northern Ireland, remained part of Britain. The island was split by a border along ethno-sectarian lines. The Free State was predominantly Catholic, while in Northern Ireland a Protestant majority held sway. As a result of the fighting and upheaval many Protestants, around 60,000 people, could not see a future in the Irish Free State and left for Northern Ireland or a home elsewhere.

Harry Worcester Smith of Worcester, Massachusetts, U.S.A.  Master of the Westmeath Hunt, Ireland, 1912-1913, at the kennels.  From A Sporting Tour (1925), vol. 1, facing pg. 40.

So how is all this relevant to the collection at the National Sporting Library and Museum? I was fascinated to see, when I looked at the Library catalogue, that Harry Worcester Smith had visited Ireland and had written about his experiences. Travel writing is not unusual, but the date of Smith’s journey and the social world into which he entered were extraordinary. Ireland had been in a state of political and economic turmoil ever since the Great Famine of 1845-51. Indeed, as one writer noted in the pages of Baily’s Magazine of Sport and Pastimes in 1896, the upheavals in the country meant that ‘the fair land of Erin is even now almost a terra incognita to the great majority of travellers.’ The Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Lord Houghton, had even gone so far to give the country the name ‘unvisited Ireland’. That Smith chose to live in Ireland when he did is quite remarkable as it was not a country often embraced by outsiders.

Title page to Harry Worcester Smith’s A Sporting Tour (1925)

Smith took the job of Master of the Westmeath Hunt for a year, arriving in Dublin in August 1912 and departing for England, and a stop at Aintree’s famous Grand National, in March 1913, before his return to the United States. What Smith offers in his two volume A Sporting Tour Through Ireland, England, Wales and France (Columbia: State Company, 1925) is a unique insight into the lives of a hunting and racing fraternity in 1912 and 1913 which, due to the chaos of the revolutionary period in Ireland and the loss of life during World War One, had all but disappeared by the time the book was published.

Knockdrin Castle.  Westmeath Hounds, the Master Servants and American Horses. From A Sporting Tour (1925), vol. 1, facing pg. 16.

Against the backdrop of political upheaval and the gathering storm clouds of war, Smith enjoyed a full season of hunting in Ireland. He hunted across the island, in Westmeath where he was based, across to Galway and down to Cork and beyond. His book recounts not only the hunts themselves, but the hectic social life that accompanied the Irish hunt season. He wined and dined (and sometimes danced) with the elite of Anglo-Irish society. There were days at the Dublin Horse Show, masked balls at the Rotunda in Dublin, meetings with the British Vice Regent and dinners with the British military top brass stationed in Ireland. His book is a journey through the world of Irish Lords and Ladies, the landed elite whose presence in Ireland was so problematic to the nationalists who wanted independence for their nation. Smith, nor the Anglo-Irish elite he hunted and socialised with, would have realised it in 1912/13, but most of them were enjoying their last ever hunting season in Ireland.

On the lawn.  Harry Worcester Smith, M. F. H., the late Sir Richard Levinge, the now Sir Richard Levinge and lady Levinge.  From A Sporting Tour (1925), vol. 1, facing pg. 42.

The description of the hunt balls in Volume 2, shortly before Smith leaves Ireland is most revealing. Drinks prior to the hunt ball of Smith’s own Westmeath hunt, for example, were hosted by Sir Richard and Lady Levinge at Knockdrin Castle, a 12,000-acre estate which had been in the family since the late seventeenth century. Sir Richard, the 10th Baronet of Knockdrin, like many of his social standing (including all four of his brothers), was among the first to sign up to fight in World War One. He was killed in the third month of the war, on 24 October 1914, by sniper fire in France. By the end of the war his younger brother had also been killed, and a further brother had lost his leg. In the wake of her husband’s death, Lady Levinge left Ireland for London and rented out Knockdrin. During World War Two it was commandeered by the Irish state to house troops, and finally, in 1946, the Levinge family sold the estate.

Ringside Dublin Horse Show, 1912.  From A Sporting Tour, vol. 1, facing pg. 18.

Equally telling, in Volume 1, just after Smith’s arrival in Ireland, is his attendance at the famed Dublin Horse Show. There he met Lord Castlemaine of Moydrum Castle, which sat in the east of County Westmeath. Castlemaine was a subscriber to the Westmeath Hunt, and he and Smith would meet often during the latter’s stay in Ireland. Moydrum Castle had been completed in 1814, and Lord Castlemaine was the fifth baron to occupy, overseeing an estate of some 11,000 acres. On 4 July 1921, at the height of the Irish War of Independence, Republican forces targeted Moydrum Castle, as a symbol of British rule in Ireland, and set fire to the building, which was completely destroyed. The family left Ireland for Britain, and the remaining estate was taken off them by the new Irish state in the 1920s, and sold on. Between 1919 and 1923, approximately 170 of the ‘big houses’, with which Smith would have been so familiar, and wrote about in depth, were destroyed by military action.

Smith enjoyed a life as a huntsman and, as is clear in the holdings of the Library and Museum in Middleburg, was a prodigious collector and recorder of the hunting he experienced. His two volumes recounting his Irish experience fit into the pattern of his life. What makes the books, and the associated notes and photographs in the archive, is that Smith was observing a way of life, a social elite at play in Ireland, that would cease to exist. Smith was not simply recording the hunting life of Ireland in 1912/13, but rather he was unknowingly recording a collection of hunts, social and sporting events, people and buildings that would be largely erased from history by World War One and the specific train of events in Ireland between 1916 and 1923. This is a work and a collection to be treasured for unwittingly capturing a key moment, a last bright blooming, of an Anglo-Irish way of life.

Mike Cronin


Michael Cronin is a professor at Boston College, teaching in Dublin, Ireland.  During his John H. Daniels fellowship at NSLM he worked on a project about the life of James Brendan Connolly, the first modern Olympic champion.  His research at NSLM served to set Connolly’s life within the broader sporting context during the period from 1890 to 1914.

1. Some NSLM Holdings

            As a quick search of the collection reveals, the National Sporting Library holds some 956 books on “fox-hunting,” ranging in date from J. Roberts, An Essay on Hunting (1733) to Alastair Jackson, Lady of the Chase: The Life and Hunting Diaries of Daphne Moore (2018). Anyone likely to be visiting this website will know all the familiar names, from the prolific Nimrod and Robert Smith Surtees, to the less widely published William Scarth Dixon and Willoughby de Broke, Richard Greville Verney, to writers primarily known for one seminal work: Anthony Trollope, Hunting Sketches (1865), or George Whyte-Melville, Riding Recollections (1878).

An Essay on Hunting by a Country Squire (1820). Gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

The Library’s holdings from the 20th century alone total an impressive 602 works. They also include many by familiar names, such as the “standards” J. Stanley Reeve and A. Henry Higginson or, more recently, Michael Clayton and Alexander Mackay-Smith, as well as a number of influential works by women writers, such as Lady Diana Shedden and Lady Apsley, “To Whom The Goddess . . .”—Hunting and Riding for Women (1932), Lida Fleitmann Bloodgood, Hoofs in the Distance (1953), and E.V.A. Christy, Cross-Saddle and Side-Saddle (1932), one of many books on equitation that include the demands of riding across country.


Many of the 20th century works, most of them held by NSLM, date to the interwar years. Citing 177 examples, Anne Grimshaw has estimated that books specifically on hunting published in England between 1919 and 1945 accounted for “25% of the total output of equestrian literature” (Grimshaw, 160). They include at least one title of signal literary merit: Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man, published by the distinguished poet Siegfried Sassoon in 1928 as the first volume of what would become a Great War trilogy, The Complete Memoirs of George Sherston (1937).


2. Sassoon and Sherston

Siegfried Loraine Sassoon (1886-1967), poet and novelist, platinum print, wearing military uniform with the collar badges of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers and hat, Beresford’s stamp and copyright line on verso, 6 x 4½ in (15.2 x 11.5 cm). Accessed via Wikimedia Commons, January 2019.

Though primarily known as a “Great War Poet,” Sassoon joins Robert Graves and Edmund Blunden as one of the most important British memoirists to have served on the Western Front.[1] In addition to three volumes of non-fictional memoirs, Sassoon published the three volumes of fictional memoirs that constitute the Sherston trilogy: the first two volumes form a clearly linked pair written only two years apart; the much shorter and less fully realized third volume, written four years later, brings the trilogy’s story to a coherent conclusion and provides the vantage from which Sherston narrates it.[2]

In outline, the story is simple. Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man tracks Sherston’s evolution as a young rural sportsman to his installation as a newly minted infantry officer in 1914. It concludes with his waking from an idyllic dream of hunt country to a grim view over no man’s land. Memoirs of an Infantry Officer recounts Sherston’s life at the front from 1915 to 1917, including the single-handed attack on a German trench that earns him a Military Cross, and the growing “anti-war bitterness” that issues in his public anti-war statement and the military’s retaliatory diagnosis of him as “shell-shocked.” Sherston’s Progress, finally, limns Sherston’s psychiatric therapy and plumbs the internal conflict that results in his return to action in 1918 and the wound that ended his military service.

5. Sherston’s Progress by Siegfried Sassoon (1945). Gift of Alexander Mackay-Smith.

The events in Sassoon’s own life and memoirs match those in Sherston’s closely, with the crucial difference, as Sassoon puts it, that “Sherston was a simplified version of my ‘outdoor self.’ He was denied the complex advantage of being a soldier poet” (Siegfried’s Journey, 69). As Sherston puts it, Fox-Hunting Man depends “solely on my experiences as a sportsman,” primarily as horseman, but also as cricketer and golfer. The War, ironically, will fix his one shortcoming: “I had never shot at a bird or an animal in my life, though I’d often felt that my position as a sportsman would be stronger if I were ‘a good man with a gun.’”

3. Horseman and Infantryman

Fox-Hunting Man first appeared anonymously and independently and quickly enjoyed wide acclaim.[3] The reading public in 1928, like many readers in sporting circles today, celebrated it as one of the gently ironic memoirs of fox-hunting published in great numbers in England and America between the wars. Sassoon nominally proffered it as such, but its final chapters, and the subsequent publication of Infantry Officer, make clear that he also intended to draw out parallels between hunting in England and soldiering in France.

Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man by Siegfried Sassoon (1929).

The parallelism that Sassoon (and thus Sherston) develops is manifold, complex, nuanced, and ambivalent. It involves, among other things, landscape (rural hunt country and war-torn wasteland), organization (hunt hierarchy and military command), protocols  (hunt etiquette and military rules of procedure), horses (hunters and chargers), and, perhaps most important, the shared values of specialized knowledge and skill and of boldness and courage, and a shared recognition that some acts are irrevocable—Sherston’s facing a big hedge with the feeling “that I was ‘in for it’” foreshadows his feeling when “going over the top.”

At first look, Fox-Hunting Man and Infantry Officer set fox hunting and warfare in opposition. They contrast the freedom of fast and exhilarating movement on horseback over bright and broad fields dotted with woods, hedges, and fences with the confinement of cramped and terrified movement in dark and narrow trenches or on one’s belly through corpse strewn mud. At the same time, however, the books also place hunting and warfare in apposition. They call both hunting and warfare “inhumane” practices that enact ritual killing (albeit of different prey) and that entail attrition of men and horses (albeit incidental as opposed to intrinsic).

Fox-hunting comprises mounted humans following a canine pack chasing vulpine prey across a rural landscape. Sassoon links those essentials both literally and figuratively to corresponding aspects of the Great War. “Wire,” for example, shows up repeatedly in Fox-Hunting Man—in single strands hidden in hedges as “the most dangerous enemy of the hunting-man” and in tangled masses in no man’s land as fatal to wiring parties and wire-cutting patrols alike. The hunter Sherston unhorsed by hidden wire foreshadows the officer Sherston bereaved by a friend’s death on a wiring-party (fall from grace foreshadowing rise toward redemption).


4. Hunting and Warfare

If wire binds the parts of the trilogy, the parallelism of hunting and warfare provides its foundation—a parallel that Sassoon, clearly conflicted, both subverts with irony and enforces with nostalgia. Far from inventing this parallel, Sassoon is drawing on an idea prevalent in British military writing in the 17th through 19th centuries: fox-hunting as fit preparation for warfare and leadership in war.[4] While the idea retained vitality through the Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902, it became moribund as a serious proposition following the mass carnage of the Great War.[5]

For obvious reasons, writers applied the parallel primarily to cavalry, promoting the physical and mental demands of hunting as ideal preparation for the cavalry officer. That advocacy reached its high water mark in E.A.H. Alderson’s Pink and Scarlet, or Hunting as a School for Soldiering (1900), a work directly relevant to the Sherston trilogy since it treats hunting as preparation for “soldiering” in all arms. “The hunting man is already a more than half-made soldier,” Alderson contends, the beneficiary of the “things that hunting cannot help teaching, and the many, many things it may be made to teach if taken in the right way” (Alderson, vii, 13).

Pink and Scarlet or Hunting as a School for Soldiering by E. A. H. Alderson (1900) and Riding Recollections by G. J. Whyte-Melville (1878). Gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

Sassoon’s trilogy picks up the basic idea as a trope. Tracking Sherston from hunting on an idyllic English landscape to killing on a hellish Western Front, Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man strongly implies that hunting could have prepared no one for the uniquely modern horrors of the Great War. Yet Memoirs of an Infantry Officer intimates that hunting was precisely what equipped Sherston with the skill, boldness, and basic recklessness for his battlefield heroics, and Sherston’s Progress strongly implies that hunting also equipped him with the ethics, pluck, and moral courage that demanded and enabled his “progress” to antiwar activism.[6]

The Great War rendered mounted cavalry an anachronism, along with the idea of fox-hunting as preparation for cavalry (and for soldiering in general). A plethora of books published in the postwar moment, however, was reaffirming the fox-hunt as icon of a disappearing rural British culture and its traditional values. Ultimately more elegiac than ironic, Sassoon’s trilogy respected the icon and reflected and promoted the nostalgia. Sassoon, in short, revived a moribund British conflation of sports, notably field sports, and warfare; he buried that conflation under three volumes of irony; but, in the end, he resurrected it.

[1] Blunden’s Undertones of War (1928), Graves’s Goodbye to All That (1929), and Sassoon’s Complete Memoirs of George Sherston exemplify the genre. Their stature is no small matter, given the hundreds of Great War memoirs written by eminent British literary and military figures and by veterans and observers of lesser or no renown. For the latter, see Lengel, World War 1 Memories, and Donovan, In Memoriam. Vera Brittain’s Testament of Youth (1933) exemplifies Great War memoirs not set at the Front.

[2] Sassoon’s non-fictional memoirs comprise The Old Century and Seven More Years (1938), The Weald of Youth (1942), and Siegfried’s Journey (1946). All six memoirs, those of Sassoon and those of Sherston, were based on extensive diaries kept by Sassoon during the war and its aftermath and posthumously published as Diaries, 1915-1918 (1983), Diaries, 1920-1922 (1981), and Diaries, 1923-1925 (1985).

[3] By 1928, Sassoon was an established and celebrated poet whose work often incorporated fox-hunting, such as the title poem of his first collection, The Old Huntsman and Other Poems (1917).

[4] To cite just two examples, Lewis Edward Nolan writes in Cavalry: History and Tactics (1853) that “the Englishman beats the world in a ride after the hounds and a run across country,” in what he calls “this manly sport—the best of all to form bold riders” (61), and Sir Evelyn Wood adds in Achievements of Cavalry (1897): “We have one incalculable advantage which no other nation possesses, in that our officers are able to hunt” (39).

[5] In the prewar Our Cavalry (1912), for example, M.F. Rimington assesses the right officer material: “We particularly want the hunting breed of man, because he goes into danger for the love of it” (159). And in Modern Cavalry (1922), Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson, perhaps the most eloquent of the remaining postwar apologists for the idea, echoes Rimington: “The man who rides into danger for the love of it, the man who keenly enjoys cross-country going and polo, contains in his disposition the germs of success as a cavalry officer” (49).

[6] Sassoon writes in Siegfred’s Journey that his anti-war statement was “a moral equivalent of ‘going over the top,’” both actions “requiring moral courage” (52, 57).



Alderson, E.A.H. Pink and Scarlet, or Hunting as a School for Soldiering. London: Heinemann, 1900.

Donovan, Tom. In Memoriam: A Bibliography of the Personal Memorial Volumes of the Great War, 1914–1918. Brighton: Tom Donovan Editions, 2015.

Grimshaw, Anne. The Horse: A Bibliography of British Books 1851-1976. London: The Library Association, 1982.

Lengel, Edward. World War 1 Memories: An Annotated Bibliography of Personal Accounts Published in English since 1919. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2004.

Nolan, Louis Edward. Cavalry: History and Tactics. 1853. Yardley, PA: Westholme, 2007.

Rimington, M.F. Our Cavalry. London: Macmillan, 1912.

Sassoon, Siegfried. Siegfried’s Journey. London: Faber & Faber, 1945.

Sassoon, Siegfried. The Complete Memoirs of George Sherston. London: Faber & Faber, 1937.

Wheeler-Nicholson, Malcolm. Modern Cavalry. New York: Macmillan, 1922.

Wood, Sir Evelyn. Achievements of Cavalry. London: George Bell & Sons, 1897.

caramelloCharles Caramello is John H. Daniels Fellow at the National Sporting Library & Museum and Professor of English at University of Maryland. He is working on a book called Horsemen, Horse Soldiers, and Grand Illusions.

A Brief Context

Mounted warfare played a critical role in European affairs of state from the 16th through the 19th centuries. Essentially all English works on horsemanship in that period applied directly or indirectly to the military, particularly the many works focused on the British light cavalry, or “light horse,” prominent in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Henry Herbert, Earl of Pembroke, by Joshua Reynolds. Accessed via Wikimedia Commons.

These works included broad treatises on the discipline, such as Robert Hinde’s The Discipline of the Light-Horse (1778) and Captain L. Neville’s A Treatise on the Discipline of Light Cavalry (1796), as well as narrower works on equitation, such as the Earl of Pembroke’s A Method of Breaking Horses, and Teaching Soldiers to Ride (1761, with subsequent editions) and William Tyndale’s A Treatise on Military Equitation (1797).

Pembroke’s Military Equitation

Henry Herbert, 10th Earl of Pembroke (1734-94), entered cavalry service in 1752, rose to the rank of general in 1782, and saw his influential treatise through four editions: A Method of Breaking Horses, and Teaching Soldiers to Ride (1761 and 1762), revised and retitled, Military Equitation; or, A Method of Breaking Horses, and Teaching Soldiers to Ride (1778 and 1793). It addressed “the wretched system of Horsemanship, that at present prevails in the ARMY,” a system that leaves men and horses unprepared “for want of proper instructions and intelligence in this Art.”

The full-leather cover of Military Equitation by the Earl of Pembroke, 1778. National Sporting Library & Museum, Ludwig von Hunersdorf collection.

Military Equitation outlines a program, including lessons, for training the military horse and rider, emphasizing both theory and practice. Unsparing in his criticism of current military horsemanship—after Xenophon, “horsemanship was buried for ages, or rather brutalised, which is still too much the case”—and of inept riding-masters, farriers, and grooms, he spares soldiers and remounts (military equines): their ignorance results from poor training and is therefore correctable. Reason and moderation, patience and gentleness, and simplicity of means are the proper tools for educating horses and soldiers alike.

In The Development of Modern Riding (1962), Vladimir Littauer noted that “Pembroke’s is a very small and unimportant book,” particularly when compared to the 18th century masterworks of dressage. Rather than dismissing Pembroke, however, Littauer was praising him as “a follower of the French school [of dressage who] was practical enough to suggest its considerable simplification for the army,” who successfully repurposed dressage for the military work at hand. What Pembroke did for the French school, William Tyndale did for Pembroke: he further simplified the simplifier.

Plate from Military Equitation, Third Edition, by the Earl of Pembroke, 1778. National Sporting Library & Museum, the gift of John H. and Martha Daniels, 1999.

Tyndale’s Treatise on Military Equitation

William Tyndale (17??-1830) was a landowner who performed regimental service in the late 18th century, notably as major and lieutenant-colonel in the 1st Life Guards. Tyndale’s first tract, Instructions for Young Dragoon Officers (second edition, 1796), was followed by A Treatise on Military Equitation (1797), published in one edition only. The latter was intended for “regimental riding masters” who may know horsemanship through experience but who cannot teach it effectively because they lack knowledge of its underlying principles.

Tyndale invokes Pembroke’s Military Equitation as “the best work of the kind in our language.” Like Pembroke, he believes that “the present system, which is much the same throughout the cavalry, is contrary to every principle of true horsemanship,” and that successful instruction of young men and horses demands reason, patience, and simplicity of means. Regarding Pembroke’s work, however, as “beyond the comprehension of those whom it is my wish to teach and reform,” Tyndale focuses on the practical application of principles of “true” horsemanship.

A fold-out plate from A Treatise on Military Equitation, by William Tyndale, 1797, illustrating Tyndale’s plan for a military saddle of his “own invention.” National Sporting Library & Museum.

Tyndale also argues that the British predilection for hunting had caused the military to neglect formal dressageInstructors failed to retrain young recruits in “the method of riding which is necessarily adopted in regiments of cavalry, and which must be adopted by every individual” to prevent confusion—even chaos—in tight formation. Whether Tyndale was right or not, British writers in the next century would press the contrary case for hunting as ideal preparation for cavalry.

National Sporting Library & Museum Holdings

What will 21st century equestrian readers gain from these two treatises on military equitation? They will gain historical knowledge of an important moment in the evolution of horsemanship, and they will find principles and lessons applicable to their own riding. All readers, equestrian or not, will gain the opportunity to converse with two quick and practical 18th century minds and to school with two seasoned trainers of horses and men.

Title page of the Earl of Pembroke’s book, 1752 edition, with a pasted plate on the facing page depicting the horse Sportsman.

NSLM holds eight copies of Pembroke’s treatise: two copies of the 1st edition, three of the 2nd edition, two of the 3rd edition, and one of the 4th edition. The 3rd and 4th editions call for seventeen plates, and NSLM’s copy of the 4th edition and one of its copies of the 3rd edition each contain the complete set. NSLM also holds a copy of the single edition of the rare Tyndale treatise, complete with its five called-for plates. The copies are clean and clear, and solidly and impressively bound.

The 1752 edition of the Earl of Pembroke’s book, with the bookplate of the Earl of Lonsdale on the facing page.

A reader with access to NSLM holdings, in short, can experience these two works in their original forms—an experience providing not only textual authority and aesthetic pleasure, but also historical immediacy. Each copy carries its provenance in previous owner bookplates and signatures, auction and donor entries, and marginal notations. Travelers through time, these books carry the physical traces of their histories with them.

caramelloCharles Caramello is John H. Daniels Fellow at the National Sporting Library & Museum and Professor of English at University of Maryland. He is working on a book called Horsemen, Horse Soldiers, and Grand Illusions. This blog is adapted from the Introduction to a dual edition of Pembroke’s Military Equitation and Tyndale’s Treatise on Military Equitation, completed at NSLM and forthcoming from Xenophon Press.


This is the final post in a series of four guest posts by 2016 Daniels Fellow Martha Wolfe. Martha’s 2016 Fellowship focused on studying The Life of an American Sportsman: Being Reminiscences by Harry Worcerster Smith, an unpublished autobiography. 

Undeterred by his spills the spring and summer of 1900, and against everyone’s advice, Harry entered The Cad in the $10,000, 3 ½ mile Champion Steeplechase at Morris Park, Saturday, October 6, 1900. Ollie Ames met him at the clubhouse that Saturday morning.

“You are not going to run The Cad are you?” Harry recalls Ollie saying. “He’ll break your neck!” Next, Mr. B. F. Clyde of Philadelphia admonished him, “Now, look here, Harry Smith, I have seen you ride a great many times around New York, Philadelphia and Saratoga; I have the greatest admiration for you as a sportsman, in fact I am very fond of you. Now, Please don’t take your life in your hands and ride The Cad today against all those professionals.” It seems Mr. Clyde had his money on another horse; Harry thanked the man and walked away. “Then, about noon,” Harry writes, “a Western Union boy came up and handed me a telegram. It was from Mrs. Smith: ‘Don’t ride, get best professional possible. Signed, ‘Mildred.’”

Harry Worcester Smith in hunting cap. Image ca. 1910, in the Harry Worcester Smith Archive (MC0041), National Sporting Library & Museum.

Harry went to the stable where he found The Cad “munching a light feed of oats, his lovely mane and foretop shining like black seaweed, his coat smooth as satin, his skin so loose you could pick up a handful of it anywhere, every leg as cold as ice, cords and tendons standing out, muscles hard and tucked up just enough to show that he was ready to go the distance… I never thought of not riding.”

Odds were twenty to one against Harry on The Cad. Silas Veitch was the favorite on “Plato.” “There’s an old Arab saying,” Harry writes, “‘The grave of the horseman is always open’ … I am frank to say, that while I don’t worry, I appreciate the chances.” Harry was an amateur running against a field of six professionals. When it came right down to it, who in his right mind would bet on him?

“As there were only seven horses it took only a moment or two to get us in line, and down went the flag!” From start to finish “right at my left was Veitch with Plato.” The course started and ended on a track, but the jumps were on a left-handed circle up and around a water tower on a hilltop. There was a sod-topped stone wall measuring 4’9”, a wide water jump, a Liverpool with a ditch and several 4’6” hedges.

“The Cad was full of running,” Harry writes. “My mind was running apace as to how I could best win and when to make my run.” Halfway through the race, The Cad “sailed” at the water jump “and landed fully two lengths the best of Plato,” but The Cad took the bit and ran straight instead of rounding the next corner, putting Plato four lengths in front. The Cad caught up at the Liverpool and then, at the sod-covered stone wall Harry “saw Plato change his feet and knew instantly he was tired.” Another horse had earlier crashed through one of the hedges, making a hole, and Harry aimed The Cad straight at the hole.

Harry Worcester Smith and The Cad winning the Champion Steeplechase at Morris Park in 1900.

William C. Whitney later said to Harry, “Why, I never saw anything like it! You were running at top speed neck and neck and suddenly like a skyrocket The Cad went to the front and you had six lengths going to that hole in the next jump!” Next jump, he “took off at the edge of the wing and must have cleared twenty feet.” Around the track and the last time over the Liverpool: “All my life I shall remember that jump,” Harry writes. “Knowing that I was going to let him go at it at full speed The Cad seemed to spurn the ground and so perfectly did he time his takeoff that he glided over the far side hedge and seemed to only touch the ground lightly as he landed and went on all in perfect rhythm.” Now it’s a horse race.

Harry was determined not to take any chances over the last three jumps. The Cad was “going like a steam engine, not one sign of tire, so going down at the last jump I steadied [him], shortened his stride and really bucked him over the jump.” Just as he landed, “a wide scarlet nostril flashed close to my knee,” and Veitch was beside him again, then nosed in front. Harry wasn’t worried: “I knew the gameness of my gallant bay, grandson of Lexington.” As they reached the edge of the grandstand for the home stretch on the track, the crowd was going wild, and “I pulled up even with Veitch and The Cad went on to win by three-quarters of a length.”

There was a victory dinner that night at The Waldorf. “I insisted on Wheeler coming,” Harry writes, “even though he was colored.” Harry drank in his success. “As I walked down ‘Peacock Alley’ I could see people nudging each other and hear them saying, ‘There is the gentleman rider who won the big race.’”

The Cad
The Cad

Though he never raced again due to a bowed tendon, The Cad spent the rest of his life as Harry’s favorite hunt horse. “He was one of the most intelligent horses I have ever known,” Harry writes. “I used to wear a blue sapphire scarf pin, and when I stood beside his box he would reach over and pick the pin out of my tie in his teeth…the glint of the stone seemed to magnetize him, but oh, he was so careful about it, he opened his lips away back and would not soil my tie, and then he would hold it in his mouth until I took it away. He was clever as a monkey in undoing the latch of his box and time and time again we would find him loose in the morning, and alas! One morning he stole his way out of the box, then it being warm the door of the kennels was open and out he went, and as he was a hearty feeder, just filled up with apples, and a dose of colic, which we were unable to fight off, carried him away.”

The Cad was one of Harry’s mounts in The Great Hound Match of 1905, the contest between Smith’s American-bred foxhounds and Alexander Henry Higginson’s English hounds in November of that year. But that’s another story.

Martha_webMartha Wolfe is an independent scholar, author, and three-time John H. Daniels Fellow at the National Sporting Library & Museum. Her most recent book is The Great Hound Match of 1905, chronicling the hunting competition between A. Henry Higginson and Harry Worcester Smith. Read more about Martha and her research at

This is the third in a series of four guest posts by 2016 Daniels Fellow Martha Wolfe. Martha’s 2016 Fellowship focused on studying The Life of an American Sportsman: Being Reminiscences by Harry Worcerster Smith, an unpublished autobiography. 

I’m not sure that many people would have characterized Harry Worcester Smith as a good-for-nothing “cad;” on the other hand, neither might they have called him a gentleman. He was highly opinionated and he had a temper; he had a wicked sense of humor and he suffered no fool. He was a scalawag, a bit of a braggart, maybe a knave, possibly a scoundrel. It’s perhaps divine providence or poetic justice that his favorite horse, his horse-of-a-lifetime, was named “The Cad.”

Harry Worcester Smith at his writing desk. Possibly in Aiken, SC or Grafton, MA.

The Cad’s given name was The Cid, “but on account of a misspelling in the Stud book entry,” Harry writes in the “Steeplechasing” chapter of his unpublished autobiography, “the gamest thoroughbred I ever threw a leg over went through life carrying the name which means good-for-nothing.” The Cad’s breeding certainly wasn’t good-for-nothing. His equine ancestors included shining stars in America’s Thoroughbred foundation stock: his sire, Uncas, was descended from Lexington, Glencoe, and Tranby. His dam, Parasol, was descended from Mortimer, Virginia, and Nottingham. The extraordinary Tranby is the horse that carried Squire Osbaldeston in early November, 1831, in his outrageous wager to complete a two-hundred mile ride around England’s Newmarket race course in under ten hours. Osbaldeston was allowed an unlimited number of horses to do the job: he brought twenty. Changing mounts fifty times during the Squire’s race against the clock, Tranby was the only horse to complete four of the four-mile laps at racing speed. It’s clear that The Cad’s ancestors had “staying power.”

“The Cad was very high-mettled,” Harry writes of his favorite’s temperament. “When they were trying to break him at the track to start from the barrier, like a gentleman he resisted the whip in the jockey’s hands, the spur on his heels and the bull-whip with which the assistant starter cut him, and it did not take more than two or three mornings for him to get so bad that they decided that they could do nothing with him; so he was shipped back to Genesee and stabled with ‘Jim Sam’s’ string down near the horse show grounds.” Jim Sam was a Wadsworth, of the well-known hunting family in upstate New York’s Genesee Valley where Harry hunted regularly behind Colonel Wadsworth’s hounds. Here, in the broadly gorged valley, is where Harry first laid eyes on The Cad.

The Cad
The Cad

“He was perfectly balanced, with an intelligent head and eyes that spoke and followed you as he looked through the upper door as you walked around…I was so taken with him that when at the end of the hunting season I had a chance to buy him at $150 I jumped at the opportunity.”

Along with his trusted trainer Dolph Wheeler, Harry rode and trained his own string of steeplechasers: “King T.,” “Sacket,” “George Keene” and “The Cad.” “Living in snowy, frost-bound New England,” he writes, “there was only now and then a day through the winter when one could school his hunters or steeplechasers over the walls about Grafton…Many is the day I would push through business, telephone to Wheeler and, if the going was soft, out we’d go no matter how deep the snow was, and so my horses got their schooling.”

“Upon the turf and beneath the turf all men are equal.” This drawing is found in a sample collection of illustrations for Smith’s unpublished autobiography. Smith’s lavender and white silks are depicted in the center.

Harry had his eye on the Championship Meadow Brook Cup Hunter’s race at Brookline in the spring of 1900. His confidence got a big boost while training over the course’s water jump. The Cad was four strides out when his hoof beats startled two workmen who had been cementing the basin on the far side of the jump. The men stood, “and as the jump was quite shallow they were fully three feet higher than the hedge itself, but this was nothing to The Cad. He stood off, cleared the hedge, sailed over the top of one man and landed way into the grass far beyond the edge of the cement.” Later, Harry went back with a measuring tape and found that The Cad had cleared twenty-eight feet.

The race itself started well, but ended badly for Harry. At the fourth hedge The Cad “took the bit in his teeth and literally tore at the next jump. I knew he was going too fast but there was no chance to take a pull and in a second he was too close to the jump and so caught it under his knees,” resulting in a bad fall.

Harry hovered “between life and death” for nearly a week. “The concussion was so bad,” he writes, “that [a few months later] a spot two or three inches square” on the crown of his head turned white. “In addition, on both sides, the tops of my back teeth were cracked off.” His convalescence was long and shook his confidence, but The Cad was uninjured and Wheeler kept him fit through the summer and fall. The upside of his accident was that Boston’s provocative socialite Isabella Stewart Gardner “sent me flowers every day.”

That August Harry entered the Hunter’s Steeplechase at Saratoga. Through no fault of The Cad’s or Harry’s, he fell again and the horse’s reputation grew rank.

Martha_webMartha Wolfe is an independent scholar, author, and three-time John H. Daniels Fellow at the National Sporting Library & Museum. Her most recent book is The Great Hound Match of 1905, chronicling the hunting competition between A. Henry Higginson and Harry Worcester Smith. Read more about Martha and her research at

This is the second in a series of four guest posts by 2016 Daniels Fellow Martha Wolfe. Martha’s 2016 Fellowship focused on studying The Life of an American Sportsman: Being Reminiscences by Harry Worcerster Smith, an unpublished autobiography. Many fascinating things came out of NSLM’s extensive archive collection of Smith’s papers, including today’s highlight, The Grafton Long Jump.

Harry Worcester Smith was an inventor. He held dozens of patents associated with the cotton weaving industry where he worked as a mill owner and patent expert until he retired in his forties to foxhunt and live the life of a sportsman. But his retirement from industry didn’t mean that he retired his brain from invention. Take, for instance, “The Grafton Long Jump.”

“Grafton Long Jump,” a pamphlet in the Harry Worcester Smith Archive Collection (MC0041), National Sporting Library & Museum.

“For many years at Lordvale,” he writes, referring to his country estate in Grafton, Massachusetts, just outside Worcester, “I had been trying to work out a method to teach my steeplechasers and hunters to jump over a distance of ground so that when they met a ditch, brook or water jump, they would cover it.”

Well, anyone who has approached a ditch or a brook or a strange (to a young horse) looking gap in the ground can understand Harry’s inclination toward a better training method.  “A shallow water jump proved useless as they [his horses] soon paid no attention to it; a deep one was difficult to arrange and dangerous, and an open ditch of depth enough to be of service proved still more dangerous.”

Enter the common cardboard box.

“The boxes being white, when the horses are first shown them over the other side of the hedge they take good notice, and when they are put at them they invariably jump cleanly out to 10 or 12 feet.” If your horse happens to be “badly ridden or not taking off just right,” not to worry, he will land amidst the harmless boxes, “which scares them as much as jumping into a melon frame, as the expression of their faces clearly shows, and their wild desire to rid themselves of the boxes, which often times hang about their legs for a few yards.”

Harry Worcester Smith demonstrating his “Grafton Long Jump,” training method.

It’s easy to picture a horse with a couple of white cardboard boxes up around his fetlocks, trying to get free of the horrible things; the boxes would soon be shredded and come off safely.  “In using the long jump [training method] for five years,” Harry assures his readers, “no hunter has ever been hurt.”

Harry had such great success with his long-jump invention that he published a white paper and sent it to his sporting friends “around the world, believing that perhaps it will be a benefit not only to many who wish to train their horses to jump a distance but also as a clean-cut sporting contest at Exhibitions and Hippiques.”

Crompton Smith Sr., father of the famous jockey, “Tommy” Smith, jumps Nattie Bumppo over cardboard boxes to demonstrate the long jump.

Never satisfied with simplicity, Harry took his show on the road. June, 1914, in front of twenty thousand people at the Fall River Horse Show, “we had a cracking Long Jump contest” with Peter Roche winning, jumping twenty-four feet. At the Barre [MA] fair in 1912, Harry and friends took his “crack” hunters Success, Sir Ritchie and The Cad over the same span three abreast. (Ok, that’s about as long as my living room!)

Of course this is no big deal for you eventers and show jumpers out there. It’s the method in the madness that piqued Harry’s imagination and made his Grafton Long Jump a good bet “For the Sake of Sport in America.”

Martha_webMartha Wolfe is an independent scholar, author, and three-time John H. Daniels Fellow at the National Sporting Library & Museum. Her most recent book is The Great Hound Match of 1905, chronicling the hunting competition between A. Henry Higginson and Harry Worcester Smith. Read more about Martha and her research at

This is the first in a series of four guest posts by 2016 Daniels Fellow Martha Wolfe. Martha’s 2016 Fellowship focused on studying The Life of an American Sportsman: Being Reminiscences by Harry Worcerster Smith, an unpublished autobiography. This first post focuses on a bound rough draft volume in the F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room.

Within Harry Worcester Smith’s archives at the National Sporting Library & Museum is an undated note written in Harry’s shaky hand on the front of an envelope: “Who will continue my accumulation of thought, feeling and art?” It’s as though he’s about to send his question out to the world at large, minus postage. When did he transcribe his fear that all he had done, contemplated, worked for and completed would go unnoticed, or worse, forgotten?

A draft title page for Harry Worcester Smith’s unpublished autobiography. Smith worked on the project for years but it was never brought to publication.

What was Harry Worcester Smith’s work? Besides the industry of cotton—patents, mergers and acquisitions—there were horses, hounds, flat and steeplechase racing, dog and horse show judging and the politics of each. He considered his work not just the doing of these things, but the fairness of each act—the transparency, the egalitarian and pragmatic roots of every endeavor.

The title page of The Life of an American Sportsman: Being Reminiscences by Harry Worcerster Smith. The volume a bound book outlining the autobiography project and collecting illustrations. The title page was closely inspired by A Sporting Tour of France by Col. Thomas Thornton.

When Harry asked the world at large, “Who will carry on?” he meant who will see what needs to be done and do it, which compelled him to tell his life’s story in first person. His archival papers include an unpublished autobiography—nine typewritten chapters edited by an unknown editor. He worked on his book between 1924 and 1943, but he never saw its publication. The closest he came is what amounts to a scrapbook: a twelve-page buckram-bound volume titled The Life of an American Sportsman: Being Reminiscences by Harry Worcester Smith, privately printed in 1932 when Harry was sixty-eight years old. As evidenced by the long title page written in the Old English style, he intended his final product to be in two volumes fashioned after A Sporting Tour of France by Col. Thomas Thorton. To find these and other titles held at the NSLM, click here.

A watermark portrait of Smith in The Life of an American Sportsman. The draft volume included images intended for inclusion as illustrations in the final work.

It’s a mystery as to whether Harry Worcester Smith is the publisher of this slender volume. The pages are numbered in his own hand and some are annotated likewise, but the printer is not listed and the only identifying mark on the book as to its origins is a small sticker inside the back cover: “Sydney R. Smith Sporting Books, Canaan, New York 12029,” a publisher and bookseller in New York from 1938 to 1961.

A typed draft of the long-form title page. Smith was inspired by long-form English titles for the project, and drafted several varying titles for the work.

Harry clearly envisioned his autobiography as a lesson to the young, a word to the not-yet wise, a glimpse of his past and, yes, a platform for some bragging rights. “Of what use,” he writes in the Preface, “are great achievements to the maker unless he is alive to look back on them with pride, learn their worth to mankind and see their value realized by others.” Reading his stories about the places he went, the meals he enjoyed, the horses he bought and sold, loved and even killed, the hounds he bred and hunted, the fights he fought “For the Sake of Sport in America,” there emerges a portrait of a pragmatist, a patriot, a naturalist, an industrialist. He was serious about each, but he was very, very serious about fun.

Martha_webMartha Wolfe is an independent scholar, author, and three-time John H. Daniels Fellow at the National Sporting Library & Museum. Her most recent book is The Great Hound Match of 1905, chronicling the hunting competition between A. Henry Higginson and Harry Worcester Smith. Read more about Martha and her research at