[May 28, 1864.
ONCE A WEEK.
particular share of his commendation, whilst “the ring on the downs,”—the site of the world-renowned race-course—is only mentioned as a spot from which is obtained the best panorama of the lovely landscape scattered throughout the neighbourhood. On these devoted downs—fancy it, ye trainers of pure blood, ye tender nurses of the sprigs of a stock whose ancient descent traces back to the wild life of the desert!—fancy it; on these devoted downs, in the barbarous days when Epsom salts was the divinity all the world came in pilgrimage to adore, a pig with a greasy tail was started daily for the recreation of the mob!
Before the existing arrangements, two important general meetings, one in the spring and one in the autumn, appear to have been regularly fixed; but neither foreshadowed the immense importance which at present attaches to the week succeeding Whitsuntide. The “Derby” dates from 1780, and the “Oaks” from 1779.
To say a word about the sums of money involved in this pastime would indeed open an unfathomable depth of investigation. The consumption of oats alone at Newmarket makes a pretty figure among the expenses of horse-racing. Between five and six hundred quarters disappear weekly. Neither should we relish the task of extenuating the mode of investing very much of our wealth which is in vogue with the frequenters of the Corner, every Thursday in the year. Those bill-discounters who deal with customers almost solely of this class find their safety in exorbitant charges, and upon these terms (denominated by the craft “pretty stiff,") do an amount of business which the uninitiated would never dream were possible. Some seventy or eighty thousand pounds has frequently to be provided by one only of their fraternity on the morning succeeding the Derby Day. This is to meet the expected demands of betting clients; and for the accommodation thus afforded—and they are right—these discounters do not scruple to charge some thirty per cent. Then the value of a race-horse is almost fabulous. The Imaum of Muscat, after ten years’ search for the best Oriental blood he could procure, presented a horse to George IV., which had cost him in bribes to obtain him and the price which would make him his own a good 10,000l.; whilst in more recent days—1838—the celebrated Harkaway was valued at six thousand guineas, down on the nail, and without any engagements; for at the time he was offered for sale his owner hunted him twice a week.
To conclude with a reflection. As much vice has doubtless been propagated by the abuses of the turf, it is satisfactory to think that on the other side the patronage of royalty, the vast amount of money, ingenuity, time and patience spent upon its legitimate promotion should have returned for such large investments results of great national importance. If we are asked to point these out, we turn to all which concerns the treatment and superiority of British horses. Unquestionably the cultivation of our racing blood has been the sole cause of the excellence we have reached in every style and description of this noble and useful animal.
Since you have asked, I needs most tell the history
Of how I gained yon pearly little glove:
Alas! it is the key to no soft mystery,
Nor gage of tourney in the lists of love.
’Twas thus I found it,—through the city’s bustle
I wandered one still autumn eve, alone:
A tall slight form brushed by with silken rustle,
And past into a carriage, and was gone.
One glance I had, in that I caught the gleaming
Of violet eyes, o’er which the ripp’ling tress
Glanced cold,—a face like those we see in dreaming,
As perfect in its shadowy loveliness.
And so she passed, a glorious light about her
Clothed, like a summer-dawn, in silver-gray,
And left the crowded street as dark without her
As winter skies whose moon has past away.
This little gauntlet which her hand was clasping,
Fell from her as she reached the carriage door,
And floated down, as flutters from the aspen
Some trembling leaflet whose brief day is o’er.
And I,—I found it on the pavement lying,
Pale as the marble Venus’ missing hand.
Or some small flake of foam which Ocean, flying,
Leaves in a furrow of the moistened sand.
She was so like some queen of the ideal—
With that bright brow, those soft eyes’ shadowy gleam—
I fain would keep this pledge to prove her real,
To mark her difference from an airy dream.
And though her glove has unto me been donor
Of much sweet thought, yet I can think it well
That she should know as little of its owner
As I of her from whose fair hand it fell.
Why should I drag her from her high position,
Her niche above this work-day world’s long reach?
Hardly a fact, nor wholly yet a vision,
She joins for me the better parts of each.