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THE FOX from Charles Waterton's Essays.

Charles Waterton ........

I now wish my readers to consider [the fox] in the shape of a Janus-bifrons, that is, an animal with two faces - one of which will be in perpetual menace to put farmers and henwives on their guard, whilst the other will exhibit smiles and animation, to assure our lovers of the chase that he will always be ready, during the proper season, to afford them facilities for horsemanship, and many a long run of manly and healthy exercise, - not to be found with so much splendour, and so many advantages, in any other portion of the globe.

Thus may Great Britain boast, that for many good and weighty reasons she cherishes an apparently insignificant little quadruped, which, at the same time that it will worry all her unprotected poultry, from the majestic swan to the little bantam, can afford exercise and amusement to all ranks of people - aye, even to ladies of high degree and eminent endowments.
I well remember the day when half a dozen ladies, all dressed in scarlet habits and mounted on prancing steeds, would join the hunt, and show what female courage could effect. More than once, in the day's run, have I myself dismounted, and torn away the opposing hedge-stake from before them, to save mishap.

In this last character of affording amusement, Reynard is absolutely invaluable to those who duly estimate a warlike breed of horses, and resolute riders, who, in the field of Nimrod, commence a career which forms them for after deeds of intrepidity and patriotism in the warlike ranks of Mars. Moreover, the chase of Reynard restores health to convalescents, gives pastime to the gentry, and exercise to the multitude in every direction.

It is generally allowed that two armies, drawn up in battle array, present a splendid and grand appearance. But when we reflect that they are assembled on the plains of death - ready, at a moment's warning, to commence the work of mutual slaughter - oh! then it is that sorrow fills the pitying breast; and there is no charm left in gorgeous uniforms, and floating banners, as the hostile forces move along to battle.
But, in a British fox-hunt, sorrow never shews its face.


..... Behold to the left - a whipper-in is bogged, up to the middle in a quagmire! - whilst the young squire, by one desperate leap, has barely escaped a similar predicament. And farther onwards, on yon rising slope, his reverence the Vicar has left behind him a portion of his coat in the hawthorn hedge, and has just this moment come to the ground, head over heels, from the neck of his plunging horse. But, luckily, he is up again on his unorthodox legs, none the worse for his tumble. The horse has galloped away! No matter - some of the company will stop it, and restore it to the undaunted rider. Oh, what a noble sport.

[Bipeds worse than foxes]
..... Farmers and henwives have always an opportunity of protecting their roosts, and of securing their poultry from Reynard's grasp, at a trifling expense. But now-a-days they have to guard against certain bipeds, far more destructive than the fox and all its family put together. Not a fowl-roost or goose-house in all the west Riding of Yorkshire can escape the plundering attacks of these midnight villains. Too idle to work, they resort to the alehouse, whence they emerge and shape their course to the different farmyards. .....the thieves themselves are rarely brought to justice.
..... Nobody can be more convinced than I am of the fox's worthlessness, when contemplated as a skulking, pilfering, and rapacious animal - the farmer's detestation and the henwife's bane. But when, on the other hand, I behold him in full powers to afford amusement and exercise to all ranks of people, 'tis then that the little fellow becomes dear to me, and shall always command my protection and my good word.

Extract from The Fox - Essays on Natural History by Charles Waterton, edited by Norman Moore, London, Frederick Warne & Co., 1871.

An encounter with an inquisitive fox in the woods.
An encounter with an inquisitive fox in the woods.
After a short while, the fox sauntered on its way.

Click to enlarge.
The unspeakable?

The End of the Tail (ILN)  by T Blinks
The End of the Tail, T. Blinks, The Illustrated London News

Click to enlarge. Lord Darlington and his foxhounds.

Gone to Ground by GB Goddard (ILN)
Gone to Ground, GB Goddard,
Illustrated London News.

The Fox, Menston
... and, of course, The Fox and The Fox & Hounds are popular choices of names for pubs. This particular pub is the The Fox at Menston, Yorkshire.

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