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Hunting Sketches Anthony Trollope

The Hunting Parson

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There are three modes in which a hunting parson may dress himself for hunting, the variations having reference solely to the nether man. As regards the upper man there can never be a difference. A chimney-pot hat, a white neckerchief, somewhat broad in its folds and strong with plentiful starch, a stout black coat, cut rather shorter than is common with clergymen, and a modest, darksome waistcoat that shall attract no attention, these are all matters of course. But the observer, if he will allow his eye to descend below these upper garments, will perceive that the clergyman may be comfortable and bold in breeches, or he may be uncomfortable and semi-decorous in black trowsers. And there is another mode of dress open to him, which I can assure my readers is not an unknown costume, a tertium quid, by which semi-decorum and comfort are combined. The hunting breeches are put on first, and the black trowsers are drawn over them.

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But in whatever garb the hunting parson may ride, he almost invariably rides well, and always enjoys the sport. If he did not, what would tempt him to run counter, as he does, to his bishop and the old ladies ? And though, when the hounds are first dashing out of covert, and when the sputtering is beginning and the eager impetuosity of the young is driving men three at a time into the same gap, when that wild excitement of a fox just away is at its height, and ordinary sportsmen are rushing for places, though at these moments the hunting parson may be able to restrain himself, and to declare by his momentary tranquillity that he is only there to see the hounds, he will ever be found, seeing the hounds also, when many of that eager crowd have lagged behind, altogether out of sight of the last tail of them. He will drop into the running, as it were out of the clouds, when the select few have settled down steadily to their steady work; and the select few will never look upon him as one who, after that, is likely to fall out of their number. He goes on certainly to the kill, and then retires a little out of the circle, as though he had trotted in at that spot from his ordinary parochial occupations, just to see the hounds.

For myself I own that I like the hunting parson. I generally find him to be about the pleasantest man in the field, with the most to say for himself, whether the talk be of hunting, of politics, of literature, or of the country. He is never a hunting man unalloyed, unadulterated, and unmixed, a class of man which is perhaps of all classes the most tedious and heavy in hand. The tallow-chandler who can talk only of candles, or the barrister who can talk only of his briefs, is very bad; but the hunting man who can talk only of his runs, is, I think, worse even than the unadulterated tallow-chandler, or the barrister unmixed. Let me pause for a moment here to beg young sportsmen not to fall into this terrible mistake. Such bores in the field are, alas, too common; but the hunting parson never sins after that fashion. Though a keen sportsman, he is something else besides a sportsman, and for that reason, if for no other, is always a welcome addition to the crowd.

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Hunting Sketches
Anthony Trollope

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