1823 - Rhodes, Ebenezer - Peak Scenery (1)

From International Robin Hood Bibliography
Date 1823
Author Rhodes, Ebenezer
Title Peak Scenery, or Excursions in Derbyshire: Made chiefly for the Purpose of Picturesque Observation
Mentions Robin Hood; ballads; Loxley [Locksley]; Sherwood Forest; Nottingham: Ivanhoe; archery
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Chatsworth Park.
Chatsworth House, the seat of the Dukes of Devonshire, where the 'Archery Meeting' took place / Paul Collins, public domain, via Wikipedia.

By Henrik Thiil Nielsen, 2018-01-01. Revised by Henrik Thiil Nielsen, 2021-01-07.


[...] the Derbyshire Peak Archery Meeting has been held at Chatsworth, and numerously and brilliantly attended. This society of Bowmen originated with the Duke of Devonshire, who is its head and patron. This distinguished nobleman lives in a style of princely magnificence. Wherever he is—whether at his beautiful paladian villa, on the borders of the Thames at Chiswick—at Devonshire House, in Piccadilly—or at his Palace of the Peak, at Chatsworth—the gaieties and the elegancies of life are there also. [... p. 130: ...]

 From fifty to sixty ladies and gentlemen entered the lists as competitors for the prize, and a band of music intimated the commencement of the sports of the day. The Duke of Devonshire, who was attended by a page, had the honour of drawing the first bow-string, and he early placed an arrow on the outer verge of the target. But it was reserved for a lady to bear away the prize; with an aim as unerring as the “blind boy's but-shaft,” she hit the bull's-eye in the centre: her success was announced by a signal from the provost or superintendant of the target, and the pealing in of a loud strain of music communicated her triumph to the assembled multitude of spectators. Mrs. Jedediah Strutt was the fair victor on this occasion, and shortly after wards an arrow from Miss Bateman's bow, penetrated the inner circle of the target. At the termination of the contest, the two gold medals were adjudged to Mrs. J. Strutt and Col. Clowes. When this victory was decided, two sets of bows and arrows, in addition to the usual prizes, were given by Mrs. Mundy, the lady paramount of the field,—and Sir Charles Colville, the president. In the contest for these prizes Miss Bateman was again successful, and W. Mundy, Esq. won the gentlemen's bow and arrows: the ladies, indeed, were the best marks-MEN; they directed their shafts with greater certainty than the men, and more frequently hit the target.

 As the different candidates took their places in succession on the ground, I watched the fixing of the arrow on the string, saw the bow gradually drawn to its extreme tension,—heard the twang of the winged messenger as it departed,—tracked its progress through the air, and saw it strike or miss the target with an interest far beyond what I had imagined could have been excited by such an exhibition. Some of the arrows trembled and wavered in their progress; others, driven by a more determined and a firmer hand, passed steadily and swiftly to the mark: but the archers of the Peak are new to the [p. 131:] sport; and probably some years of practice will pass away before they will be sufficiently expert either to “notch” each others shafts when on the target, or split a willow wand at a hundred paces distant, with the skill and adroitness of Locksley, the brave bowman of Ivanhoe.

The scene altogether was novel and pictorial in effect; gratifying to the eye by its peculiar and characteristic beauty, and interesting to the mind from the associations it created: the ballad history of Robin Hood, which was the delight and wonder of my boyhood, and the achievements of his faithful associates, were once more revived and recollected. In advanced life, when the space between youth and age is a division of fearful length, our early impressions seen through the vista of departed years, become more powerfully interesting as they are farthest removed: we love to dwell upon scenes and circumstances which delighted us when life and all its enjoyments were new, and threw a charm over our earlier years. A pensive feeling that lingers about half-forgotten remembrances, was connected with the animated picture in Chatsworth Park: although far more refined, elegant, and imposing, than the archery of Nottingham and Sherwood Forest, it was still a scene of archery; and the females who were mingled with it, adorned it with beauty, and made it lovely to behold. When drawing the arrow to the head, they were graceful in figure as the statue of Diana; and the anxious feeling with which they marked its flight through the trackless air to its destination, gave additional lustre to the eye, and to the whole countenance a more animated and interesting expression. An artist was upon the grounds studying the scenery of Chatsworth, and storing his mind and his sketch-book with the brilliant picture which the park presented: but only a Turner could do justice to such a subject: he dips his pencil in light itself, and every thing it touches glows and sparkles with sunshine; his colours are as ethereal, as beautiful, and as transparent as the rainbow: he could impart to such a scene its peculiar splendour, people it with groups of living figures,—give grace to their motions and animation to their features; he could cloathe the hills and woods that surround this lovely spot with the majesty of nature, and the glittering play of the waters of the fountains amongst the branches of the trees would be but sport for his pencil. Turner, at Chatsworth, on this bright and busy day, might have produced a successful rival to his own celebrated picture of Richmond Hill.[1]

Source notes

IRHB's brackets. Italics and small-caps as in printed source. The text is the greater part of an appendix entitled "Peak Archery". It is reprinted without changes in the 1824 edition (see Sources below). The book Peak Scenery was first published in four part from 1818 to 1823, the appendices of course in the last part which was published in 1823.

IRHB comments

It is conceivable that this interesting and amusing account of an 'Archery Meeting' – which is well worth reading in full – provided the inspiration for the delightful passage on elegant ladies practising archery in John Fowles's French Lieutenant's Woman, see 1969 - Fowles, John - French Lieutenant's Woman. but of course archery was quite fashionable during the period in question, and there could be many similar accounts waiting to be rediscovered in 19th century newspapers and magazines.




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