Handley Cross "The Bonded Warehouse Of My Knowledge"

Robert Smith Surtees

"The Bonded Warehouse Of My Knowledge"

Context: Robert Surtees, as editor of The New Sporting Magazine, established a place in literature for himself with a long series of humorous sketches which he contributed to its pages. The principal character which he developed as humorist and chronicler of the hunting field is that of John Jorrocks, a wholesale grocer in London whose greatest ambition is to become a Master of Foxhounds. These sketches were first collected in book form in Jorrocks' Jaunts and Jollities (1838); another collection entitled Handley Cross was published in 1843. A second edition of Handley Cross, greatly enlarged with additional characters and episodes, appeared in 1854. The sleepy little village of Handley Cross, located in the Vale of Sheepwash, has experienced a sudden burst of prosperity and become a flourishing community. Now approaching urban status, it desires more formality in its social institutions. The hunt is one of these. Jorrocks has become widely known by this time because of his frequent country excursions, during which he combines business with pleasure by taking orders for groceries while riding with the huntsmen. This is the reason the Committee of Management, seeking a likely candidate for Master of the Handley Cross Hunt, sends its invitation to Jorrocks. His dreams come true, Jorrocks arrives in a state of great agitation; he delivers an impassioned acceptance speech to the townspeople and nearly breaks down in the middle of it. He describes the ideal M.F.H., and assures his listeners he is prepared to meet those qualifications; furthermore, he intends to deliver a series of "lectors" on various matters pertaining to the hunt. It is soon evident that whenever Jorrocks allows himself to dwell upon the joys of the chase, his emotions get the best of him. In his first lecture, he instructs novices in the art of acquiring a horse; in the second, he takes up another important matter:

"Frinds and fellow-countrymen! Lend me your ears. That's to say, listen to wot I'm a goin' to say to you. This night I shall enlighten you on the all-important ceremony of takin' the field." (Loud applause.)
"TAKIN' THE FIELD!" repeated he, throwing out his arms, and casting his eyes up at the elegant looping of his canopy. "TAKIN' THE FIELD! glorious sound! wot words can convey anything 'alf so delightful?
"In my mind's eye I see the 'ounds in all their glossy pride a trottin' around Arterxerxes, who stamps and whinnies with delight at their company. There's old Pristess with her speckled sides, lookin' as wise as a Christian, and Trusty, and Tuneable, and Warrior, and Wagrant, and Workman, and Wengence, and all the glorious comrades o' the chase.
"But to the pint. Ingenious youth, having got his 'oss, and learned to tackle him, let me now, from the bonded warehouse of my knowledge, prepare him for the all-glorious ceremony of the 'unt.
"How warious are the motives," continued Mr. Jorrocks, looking thoughtfully, "that draw men to the kiver side. Some come to see, others to be seen; some for the ride out, others for the ride 'ome; some for happetites, some for 'ealth, some to get away from their wives, and a few to 'unt. Ah! give me the few. . . ."