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Tuesday, 28 April 2015


Hunting scene, Alken.
The horse took fright with Fanny.
Horsemanship was an essential skill for gentlemen, as horses were the chief means of transport for social, military and sporting activities. 

Hunting was a dangerous sport; it was not unknown for men to break their necks when jumping horses over hedges and ditches, so Mansfield Park’s Fanny Price felt alarmed instead of obliged to Henry Crawford when he lent her sailor brother William a horse. 
She was ‘by no means convinced... that he was at all equal to the management of a high-fed hunter in an English fox-chase. When it was proved, however, to have done William no harm, she could allow it to be a kindness’. 

 Although some ladies went fox-hunting, writers like Thomas Gisborne felt that 'the cruel spectacles of field-sports, are wholly discordant, when contrasted with the delicacy, the refinement, and the sensibility of a woman' (Enquiries Into the Duties of the Female Sex, 1797). 

Fanny Price learns to ride.
The ride to Mansfield Common.
For ladies, riding was a good way to exercise (Fanny Price's health went downhill when Mary Crawford borrowed her pony for several days so that she could learn to ride, too). 

Boys and girls learnt to ride at home on a steady pony, or perhaps (if they lived in town) at a riding school or academy.

Places like Bath had 'extensive and commodious...riding-schools' where ladies and gentlemen could take equestrian exercise indoors when the weather was too inclement to go riding about the countryside. If you did not already know to ride, lessons were 5s 6d each, or 3 guineas for 16 lessons (Pierce Egan, Walks Through Bath, 1819).

And if you wanted to see some amazing feats of horsemanship, Astley's Amphitheatre was the place to go.

Hunting scene, Henry T. Alken, The Chace, The Turf and The Road (2nd edition), John Murray, 1843. ‘The horse took fright with Fanny’. Illustration for Fatherless Fanny, G. Virtue, c.1819.
Fanny Price learns to ride with Edmund and the old grey pony. The ride to Mansfield Common. Hugh Thomson illustrations for Mansfield Park.

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