As often happens, while looking for something else, I made an unexpected discovery. Since I’m not a sports aficionado, I’d never expected to find early 19th century sporting magazines terribly useful or interesting, and certainly not entertaining. I was wrong. Yes, they’re filled with reports of sporting events (races are covered at length and in detail), as you’d expect. But the writing tends to be crisp and direct, and they offer funny little stories, dumb jokes, gossip, and wonderful insights into the male world of the era.
EXTRAORDINARY MATCH, TO RIDE AGAINST TIME.
CAPTAIN Newland, of the Sussex Militia, having betted a considerable sum that he would ride one hundred and forty miles in twelve successive hours, he started on Long-down Hill, on Thursday morning, April the 2d, and handsomely performed the distance in seven hours and thirty-four minutes, (principally on hack-horses from the Swan at Chichester) to the astonishment of a very great assemblage of sporting Gentlemen.
The 1st hour he rode 21-1/3 Miles.
2d - 18
3d - 20
4th - 18
5th - 20
6th - 16-1/2
7th - 17-1/2
34 minutes - 8-1/2
N. B. He rode the hundred miles in five hours and five minutes, in which he met with a fall, was once obliged to change his horse, as he became restive, and was once run away with a considerable distance out of the course.—The posts were placed on the admeasured line of the two miles, and he went very considerably without them, so that he certainly went a much greater distance than one hundred and forty miles; which is looked on as a most extraordinary performance.
—The Sporting Magazine, Volume 18, 1801
Illustration: Horses & Riders, from Henry Alken scrapbook, 1821, courtesy Ancestry Images.
There’s a big difference in how we use history. But we’re equally nuts about it. To us, the everyday details of life in the past are things to talk about, ponder, make fun of -- much in the way normal people talk about their favorite reality show.
We talk about who’s wearing what and who’s sleeping with whom. We try to sort out rumor or myth from fact. We thought there must be at least three other people out there who think history’s fascinating and fun, too. This blog is for them.