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A HEAVY INDICTMENT., Issue 7932, 13 June 1889
A HEAVY INDICTMENT.
THE KTHICS OF THE TURF. [Jamesßunciman in the 'Contemporary.'] When Lord Beaeuimfield called the turf a vast engine of national demoralisation, he uttered a broad general truth ; but, uufortunately he did not go into particulars, and his vague grandiloquence has inspired a largo number of ferocious imitators, who know as little about the essentials of the matter as Lord ISeaconsficld did. TheßC imitators abuse the wrong things and the wrong peoplo ; thoy mix up causes and effects ; they are acrid where they should be tolerant; they know nothing about the l'eal evils ; and they do no good, for tho simple reason that racing blackguards never read anything, whilo cultured gentlemen who happen to go racing smile quietly at tho blundering of amateur moralists. Sir Wilfrid Lawson is a good man and a clever man ; but to see tho kind of display he makes when he gets up to talk about the turf is very saddening. He can give you an accurate statement concerning the evils of drink, but as soon a 8 he touches racing his innocence becomes wofully apparent, and the biggest scmndrcl that ever entered tho ring can adore! to make game of the harmless, well-meaning critic. The subject <s an intricate one, and you cannot settle it right oil by talking of " pampered nobles who pander to tho worst vices of the multitude," and you go equally wrong if you begin to shriek whenever the inevitable larcenous shopboy whimpers in the dock about the temptations of betting. We are poisoned by generalities : our reformers, who use Press and platform to enlighten U3, resemble a doutor who should stop by a patient's bedside and deliver an oration on bad health in the abstract when he ought to be finding out his man's particular ailment. Let us clear the ground a little bit until *ve can see something definite. I am going to talk plainly about things that I know, and I want to pull all sentimental rubbish out of the road. A PORE "TURJ-'" DEFENDED. In the firat place, then, horse racing in itself is neither degrading nor anything else that is bad; a race is a beautiful and exhilarating spectacle, and quiet men, who never bet, aro taken out of themsolves in a delightful fashion when the exquisite thoroughbreds thunder past. No sensible man supposes for a moment that owners and trainers have any deliberate intention of improving the breed of horses ; but, nevertheless, these splendid tests of speed and endurance undoubtedly tend indirectly to produce a fine breed, and that is worth taking into aocount. The survival of the fittest is the law that governs racing studs; the thought and observation of clever men are constantly exercised with a view to preserving excellence and eliminating defects, so that, little by little, we have contrived, in the course of a century, to approach equine perfection. If a twelvestone man were put up on Bendigo, that magnificentanimaloouldgive half amilo start to any Arab steed that ever was foaled, and run away from the Arab at the finish of a four-mile course. Weight need not be considered, for if tho Eastern-bred horse only carried a postage-stamp the result would be much about the same. Minting conld carry 14st across a country ; while, if we come to mere speed, there is really no knowing what horses like Ormonde, Energy, Prince (Jharlio, and others might have done had they been pressed. If the Emir of Hail were to bring over fifty of his best mares, the Newmarket trainers could pick out fifty fillies from among their sccond-rato animals, and the worst of the fllliea could distance tho best of the Arabs on any terms; whilo, if fifty heats were run off, over auy courses from half a mile to four miles, tho English horses would not lose one. Tho champion Arab of the world was matched against one of the worst thoroughbreds in training. The English "plater" carried about sst more than the pride of the East, and won by a quarter of a mile.
Unconsciously, the breeders of racers have been evolving for us the swiftest, strongest, and moat courageous horse known to tho world, and we cannot afford to neglect that consideration, for people will not strive after perfection unless perfection brings profit. And now I have tried to clear tho ground on one hand a little, and my last and uttermost good word has been said for the tuff. With sorrow I say that, after all excuses are made, the cool observer must own that it ia indeed
A VAST ENGINE OK NATIONAL DEMOIIALI SATION,
and the subtle venom which it injects into the veins of tho nation creeps along through channels of which Lord Beaconsficld never dreamed. I might call the turf a canker, but a canker is only a local ailment, whereas the evils of betting have now become constitutional so far as tho State is concorned. If we cut out the whole tribe of bookmakers and betting agents, and applied such cautery as would prevent any similar growth from arising in tho place whercfrom we excised them, we should do very little good ; for the life-blood of Britain is tainted, and no superficial remedy can cure her now. I shut my eyes on the'bookmakers, and I only spare attention for the myriads who make tho bookmakers' existence possible—who would evolve new bookmakers from their midst if we exterminated the present tribe to-morrow. It is not tho professional bettors who cause the existence of fools; it is tho insensate fools who cause tho existence of professional bettors. GAMBLING A KAGING DIKEASK.
Gambling used to be mainly contined to the upper classes ; it is now a raging disease among that lower middle class which used to form the main element of our national strength, and the tradesman whose cart comes to your area in the morning gambles with all the reckless abandonment that used to bo shown by tho Hon. A. Deucease or Lady Betty when George the Third was King. Your clerk, shopman, butcher, baker, barber—especially the barber—ask their companions " What have you done on the Lincoln?" or " Flow do you stand for the Two Thousand ?" just as ordinary folks ask after each other's health. Tradesmen step out of their shops in the morning and telegraph to their bookmaker just aa they might to one of their wholesale houses; there is not a town in broad England which has not its flourishing betting men, and some very small towns can maintain two or three. Tho bookmakers are usually publicans, barbers, or tobacconists ; but whatever they are they invariably drive a capital trade. In the corner of a smoking room you may see a quiet, impassive man sitting daily in a contemplative manner ; ho docs not drink much ; ho smokes little, and he appears to have nothing in particular to worry him. If he knows you well, he will scarcely mind your presence; men (and boys) greet him, and little, gentle colloquies take place from time to time ; tho smartest man could detect nothing, and yet the noiseless, placid gentleman of the smoking room registers thirty or forty bets in a day. That is one type which I have watched for hours, days, months. Tlicro are dozens of other types, but I need not attempt to sketch them ; it is sufficient to say that the poison has taken hard hold on us, and that I see every symptom of a national decadence. Cupidity, mean anxieties, unwholesome excitements, gradually sap tho morality of really sturdy fellows—tho last shred of manliness is torn away, and the ordinary human intelligence is replaced by repulsive vulpine cunning. If you can look at a little group of the atay-at-homea while they are discussing the prospects of a race, you will see something that Hogarth would have enjoyed in his large, lusty fashion. The fair human soul no longer shines through those shifty, deceitful eyes ; the men have, somehow, sunk from the level of their race, and they make you think that Swift may have been right after all. From long experience I am certain that if a cultured gentleman, accustomed to high thinking, were suddenly compelled to live among those dismal beings, he would be attacked by a species of intellectual paralysis. The affairs of tho country are nothing to them ; poetry, art, and all beautiful things are contemptible in their eyes ; they dwell in an obscure twilight of the mind, and their relaxation, when the serious business of betting is put asido for a while, mostly lies in the direction of sheer bawdry and abomination. It ia curious to Bee the oblique effect which general degradation has upon the vocabulary of these people; quiet wards, or words that
expresa a plain meaning, are repugnant to them ; even the old-fashioned, fall-mouthed oaths of our fathers are tame to their fancy, fee they must have something strongly spiced, and thiu they have by degrees fitted themselves up with a loathly dialect of their own, which transcends the comparatively harrnles3 efforts of the Black Country potter. Foul is not the word for this ultra-filthy mode of talk—it passes into depths below foulness, I may digress for a little to emphasise this point. The latterday hanger-on of the turf has introduced a new horror to existence. Go into the Silver King at a suburban meeting and listen while two or three of the fellows work themselves into'an ecstacy of vile excitement ; then you will hear something which cannot be described or defined in any terms known to humanity. Why it should bo so I cauDot tell, but the portentous symptom of putridity is always in evidence. As is the man of the ring, so are the stay-at-homes. The disease of their minds is made manifest by their manner of speech ; they throw out verbal pustules which tell of the rank corruption which has oveitaken their nature, and you need some seasoning before you can remain coolly among them without symptoms of nausea. There is one peer of this realm—a hereditary legislator and a patron of many church livings—who is famous for his skill in the use of certain kinds of vocables. This man is a living exemplar of the mysterious effect which low dodging and low distractions have on the eouC In five minutes he can make you feel as if you had tumbled into one of Swedenborg's loathsome hells; he can make the most eloquent turf thieves feel envious, and ho can make you awe-stricken ars you see how far and long God bears with man. The disease from which this pleasing pillar of the State sudors has spread, with more or less virulence, to the furthermost recesses of the towns, and you mußt know the fringe of the turf world before you can so much as guess what the symptoms are like.
(To be continued.)
A HEAVY INDICTMENT., Issue 7932, 13 June 1889
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