Context: Robert Surtees, as editor of The New Sporting Magazine, earned a special place in literature as chronicler and humorist of the sporting field–that is, the fox hunt. In a series of humorous sketches which he contributed regularly to the magazine, he developed the character of John Jorrocks, a London wholesale grocer with a passion for hunting. A volume of these sketches entitled Jorrocks' Jaunts and Jollities was published in 1838 and proved quite popular; a second collection, Handley Cross, appeared in 1843. A new edition of the latter title, enlarged with additional characters and episodes, was issued in 1854. A sudden burst of prosperity has transformed the little village of Handley Cross, located in the Vale of Sheepwash, from a sleepy hamlet into a flourishing community. There is a need for urban sophistication; social affairs, including the Hunt, must be conducted more formally. Jorrocks has become well known because of his habit of making country excursions, in which he takes orders for groceries while riding with the huntsmen. The Committee of Management therefore sends him an invitation, offering him the post of Master of Foxhounds, Handley Cross Hunt. Thus, Jorrocks' lifelong ambition, to become a Master of Hounds, is realized. Deeply honored and greatly exhilarated, he is almost hysterical when he arrives in Handley Cross. He delivers a spirited address to the townspeople, in which he outlines the attributes of an ideal M.F.H., and promises to live up to that ideal. He also promises to offer a series of lectures on hunting and related matters; and when he speaks of hunting, his emotions nearly give way. The first of these "lectors" is given a few days later. In the introductory remarks Jorrocks again discourses upon the joys of hunting, and again he is nearly betrayed by his emotions. He quickly moves on to his topic of the evening:
"The 'oss loves the 'ound, and I loves both; and it is that love wot brings me to these parts, to follow the all-glorious callin' of the chase, and to enlighten all men capable of illumination. Tonight I shall instruct you with a lecture on dealin'." 'Oh who shall counsel a man in the choice of a wife or an 'oss?' asked that inspired writer, the renowned Johnny Lawrence. 'The buyer has need of a hundred eyes, the seller of but one,' says another equestrian conjuror. Who can take up an 'oss book and read 'bout splints, and spavins, and stringalts, and corns, and cuttin', and farcy, and dropsy, and fever, and thrushes, and grease, and gripes, and mallenders, and sallenders, and ring-bones, and roarin', etcetera, etceterorem, without a shudder lest such a complication of evils should fall to his lot? Who can expect a perfect 'oss, when he sees what an infinity of hills they are heirs to? I hopes I haven't come to 'Andley Cross to inform none on you what an 'oss is, nor to explain that its component parts are four legs, a back-bone, an 'ead, a neck, a tail, and other etceteras, too numerous to insert in an 'and-bill, as old Georgy Robins used to say." 'Eavens, wot a lot of rubbish has been written about 'osses!" continued the worthy lecturer, casting up his eyes.