Dictionary of National Biography, 1901 supplement/Apperley, Charles James

APPERLEY, CHARLES JAMES (1779–1843), sporting writer, known as ‘Nimrod,’ second son of Thomas Apperley, of an old Herefordshire family, was born at Plasgronow, Denbighshire, in 1778. In 1790 he was entered at Rugby, then under the mastership of Dr. James, and the home, according to ‘Nimrod,’ of much indiscipline and hard drinking. In 1798, on leaving Rugby, he was gazetted a cornet in Sir Watkin Wynn’s ancient light British dragoons, a regiment of fencible cavalry, with which he served in the suppression of the Irish rebellion. Returning to England in 1801, when the Denbighshire yeomanry was disbanded, he married Winifred, daughter of William Wynn of Peniarth in Merionethshire, and settled at Hinkley in Leicestershire. In 1804 he moved to Bilton Hall, near Rugby, once the property of Joseph Addison. There he hunted with the Quorn, the Pytchley, and the Warwickshire hounds. Unlike many sporting writers, he himself was a splendid rider, a good judge of horse-flesh and hounds, and indeed a good all-round sportsman. From Bilton he moved in 1809 to Bitterly Court in Shropshire, and accepted a commission as captain in the Nottinghamshire militia, known as the Sherwood Foresters. Subsequently he moved to Brewood in Staffordshire, and then to Beaurepaire House in Hampshire, where experiments in farming ran away with his capital. Meantime he had found a source of revenue in the publication of his varied sporting reminiscences, especially in the hunting field. On the ground that no ‘gentleman’ ever wrote for a sporting paper, he first planned a book on hunting, but he was eventually persuaded to offer his services to Pittman, the editor of the ‘Sporting Magazine,’ in which his first paper on ‘Foxhunting in Leicestershire’ appeared in January 1822. The paper provided him with a liberal salary and a stud of hunters, in return for which he soon trebled the circulation. Unhappily in 1830 the ‘Sporting Magazine’ got into difficulties (consequent upon the death of its able editor), and, his private finances having become involved, Apperley had to retire to Calais. During his stay in

France he became a regular member of the staff of the ‘Sporting Review.’ He began a series of volumes of sporting memoirs and reminiscences, and in 1835, at the earnest request of Lockhart, he published in the ‘Quarterly Review’ his three famous articles (which were at first attributed to Lord Alvanley) on ‘Melton Mowbray,’ ‘The Road,’ and ‘The Turf.’ A sportsman, who was also a wit and something of a scholar, ‘Nimrod’ had well-nigh a virgin field. As regards the archæology of his subject, his volumes rank with those of Pierce Egan and the ‘Druid’ [see Dixon, Henry Hall, Suppl.], while, owing to the excellence of the plates by Aiken, they are highly esteemed by collectors of choice books. ‘Nimrod’ returned to England in 1842, and died in Upper Belgrave Place, Pimlico, on 19 May 1843.

He was on friendly and, as a sportsman, on equal terms with many distinguished racing men and Meltonians. He was intimate with Henry Aiken and with George Tattersall (‘Wildrake’), and helped to introduce the work of Surtees to popular appreciation. An excellent outline sketch of Nimrod was included in Maclise’s ‘Portrait Gallery.’

Of Apperley’s numerous children the second son, William Wynne Apperley, was entered as a cornet of Bengal cavalry in 1823, became superintendent of the central division of the stud department in Bengal, was promoted major in the 3rd European light cavalry in 1854, was remount agent at the Cape of Good Hope 1857–60, and died at Morben, near Machynlleth, Montgomeryshire, on 25 April 1872, aged 62. Nearly all ‘Nimrod’s’ children and grandchildren are stated to have inherited his strong sporting proclivities.

The following are ‘Nimrod’s’ publications:

  1. ‘Remarks on the Condition of Hunters, the Choice of Horses, and their Management,’ London, 1831, 8vo; reprinted from ‘Sporting Magazine; 4th ed. 1855.
  2. ‘Nimrod’s Hunting Tours, interspersed with Characteristic Anecdotes, Sayings, and Doings of Sporting Men … to which are added Nimrod’s Letters on Riding to Hounds,’ London, 1835, 8vo (the original appeared as ‘Letters on Hunting’ in the ‘Sporting Magazine’).
  3. ‘The Chace, the Turf, and the Road. By Nimrod,’ London, 1837, 8vo, with portrait by Maclise, and thirteen full plates (uncoloured) by H. Aiken (a reissue in a slightly altered form of the three ‘Quarterly’ articles mentioned above); reissued 1843, 1852, 1870, and 1898.
  4. ‘Memoirs of the Life of the late John Mytton, Esq., of Halston, Shropshire,’ 1837, 8vo, with eighteen coloured plates by Aiken and Rawlins; reissued 1837, 1869, 1851, 1892.
  5. ‘Sporting … illustrative of British Field Sports (with engravings and vignettes after Gainsborough, Landseer, and other artists) … edited by Nimrod,’ 1838, 4to.
  6. ‘Nimrod’s Northern Tour, descriptive of the principal Hunts in Scotland and the North of England,’ 1838, 8vo (a sequel to No. 2).
  7. ‘Nimrod Abroad,’ London, 1842, 2 vols. 8vo.
  8. ‘The Horse and the Hound: their various Uses and Treatment,’ Edinburgh, 1842, 8vo; reissued 1858.
  9. ‘The Life of a Sportsman,’ 1842, 8vo, with thirty-six coloured plates by Aiken; a reissue appeared in 1874 with the plates; the original edition is scarce.
  10. ‘Hunting Reminiscences; comprising Memoirs of Masters of Hounds, Notices of the Crack Riders,’ London, 1843, 8vo, with thirty-two plates by ‘Wildrake,’ Aiken, and Henderson.

    [Gent. Mag. 1843, ii. 103; Sporting Times, 5 Sept. 1885; Baily’s Magazine, 1870, i. 253; Fraser’s Magazine, 1843, vol. ii.; Maclise’s Portrait Gallery, ed. Bates; Malet’s Annals of the Road, 1876, pp. 177 sq.; Thormanby’s Kings of the Hunting Field; Lawley’s Life of The Druid [H. H. Dixon]; Slater’s Early Editions, 1894, p. 214; Halkett and Laing’s Dict. of Anon, and Pseudon. Lit.]

    T. S.