Can You Forgive Her? by Anthony Trollope

published 1864/5   chapter 17 

Of all sights in the world there is, I think, none more beautiful than that of a pack of fox-hounds seated, on a winter morning, round the huntsman… The meet I speak of is arranged with a view to sport, but the accident of the locality may make it the prettiest thing in the world.

On the present occasion the little field was full of horsemen, moving about slowly, chatting together, smoking cigars, getting off from their hacks and mounting their hunters, giving orders to their servants, and preparing for the day…

One long-eared, long-legged fellow, in a hunting-cap and scarlet coat, hung listening by, anxious to catch something of the orders for the morning. "Who the devil's that fellow, that's all breeches and boots?" said Sir William aloud to some one near him, as the huntsman moved off with the hounds.

Then you might see men settling their hats on their heads, and feeling their feet in the stirrups. The moment for which they had so long waited had come…

observations: I love Trollope, and love this book, but the question is Can You Forgive Him? for spending quite so long describing the foxhunt. I’m with Nancy Mitford’s Lord Merlin in Pursuit of Love: ‘Hunt as much as you like, but never talk about it, it’s the most boring subject in the world.’

But the hunt here is a little bit endearing, because Trollope is obviously so enjoying writing it, reliving in his mind whichever real-life event inspired it – it doesn’t have a great deal to do with the rest of the book, and does not advance the plot.

When talking about the horses for the hunt, Trollope appends a weird footnote:
[* Ah, my friend, from whom I have borrowed this scion of the nobility! Had he been left with us he would have forgiven me my little theft, and now that he has gone I will not change the name.]
-- apparently attached to the name Cinquebars. Hard to tell if the dear friend is a horse or a person. These hunting types…

Later on, Mr Bott the hideous political fixer – he’s a 19th century spin doctor, and could be transferred quite easily to the 21st century – is clearly a bad lot, because he refuses to go hunting, although -
twice he went out shooting, but as on the first day he shot the keeper, and on the second very nearly shot the Duke, he gave that up.
Just the smoke-filled rooms for Mr Bott then, and spying on Lady Glencora, who calls him ‘that odious baboon with the red bristles’, to her husband’s horror.

The Master of the Hunt says "How the mischief am I to know where the foxes are?" – the same locution occurs in a recent entry from The Great Impersonation – I thought it was made up by E Philips Oppenheim as a euphemism, but apparently not.

More fox hunting here and mentioned here, and other kinds of hunting: rabbits and ducks. The Empress Helena shows a rather unlikely interest in hunting in Evelyn Waugh’s book on her, and Holden Caulfield wears a hunting hat. Grouse-shooting, tweed skirts and blood feature in a CSI: Bunter entry on Sayers’ Clouds of Witness.

The picture is a hunting print by Philip Reinagle. 

More entries on this book by clicking on the label below.


  1. Hmm, embargo remains safe.
    I'm sure I started reading The Warden 30 plus years ago and never finished it, do I need to get back to it? (Inspired by the TV series in 1982!

    1. The Warden is a lot shorter than most of his books! I think he's a bit of a retirement project - he's a very very good writer, and the stories are great, but they are long....

    2. Ok, I will defer it until I which time I will have forgotten we ever had this conversation.

  2. Moira - I have to admit to not liking a lot of detail about the hunt. Still, I know how fond you are of Trollope and this particular book. And those hunting costumes are priceless. It's so interesting too that we see the author's personal interest come through so clearly in this book. It's like a glimpse into the author's personality.

    1. Yes indeed - I surprised myself by how endearing I found it. Like you I could do without such an episode normally....

  3. That scene reminded me of the hunt scene in Gosford Park, probably not the same but still it did. I don't like the idea of hunting but don't mind reading about it. But I doubt if I will add Trollope to my list.

    1. Period dramas do like a hunt scene! It means very little to me (I'm a town girl) so I find them rather dull... and also very much all the same.


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