Sport and Leisure

Since it would be considered unseemly for the aristocracy to work, they often had long and boring hours to fill every day. A great deal of attention was spent on cultivating sport and leisure activities, and filling the hours could often become an expensive goal. Hunting, riding, hobbies, societies, philanthropy, and arts and crafts were all standard entertainments for aristocrats.

Frontispiece entitled "Masquerade of Games" in Donald Walker's "Games and Sports". 1837. With permission of the University of Glasgow Library Special Collections. Shelfmark Sp Coll Bf69-l.24

Frontispiece entitled “Masquerade of Games” in Donald Walker’s “Games and Sports”. 1837.
With permission of the University of Glasgow Library Special Collections.
Shelfmark Sp Coll Bf69-l.24


  • “’And what sort of things . . . are Lady Wigly’s evening parties?’ ‘Delightful – delightful . . . There’s nothing else in London like them’ . . . ‘And what do you do there?’ . . . “Do? oh, a thousand things –walk about – talk – discuss – debate – criticize – experimentalize – inhale nitrous acid gas, and set potassium on fire with ice’” (Granby 2:50).
  • “her Ladyship . . . was a collector of autographs, [and possessed] the private letters of every man of genius that ever had been heard of” (Vivian Grey 1:142-143).
  • “I have heard that he was chiefly addicted to cock-fighting, in which humane diversion and all its concomitant pleasures of training, feeding, matching, weighing, and heeling, he took great delight” (Sayings and Doings, Second Series, Vol. II 287).
  • “her Grace had selected as a subject of conversation the science of craniology” (Sayings and Doings, or, Danvers 11).


  • “Sir Thomas Jermyn was not a sportsman . . . He thought, nevertheless, that the reputation of being somewhat versed in these pursuits was desirable in a country gentleman. He, therefore . . . attended the Higleston coursing meeting, and always made a point of taking out his gun on the first of September” (Granby 3:148).
  • “he had never in his life severely denounced any known sin, except shooting a fox; and ‘a man who did that,’ as he observed, ‘deserved to be hung, drawn, and quartered’” (Granby 3:153).
  • “How could a young man of fashion exist without a shooting-place in the country, with a train of keepers to preserve his game, and dogs to run it down, whatever may be the cost? A moor in the Highlands of Scotland, for grouse-shooting, it would be impossible to forego” (Victims of Society 165).
  • “’I detest fox-hunting in all its branches . . . those horrible hounds were the bane of my wedded happiness. I shall never forget poor dear Lord Launceston’s attack of pleurisy, after riding home twenty miles at a foot’s pace with a broken collar-bone, in a mizzling rain!” (Pin Money 1:31).
  • “shooting is a most barbarous amusement, only fit for majors in the army, and royal dukes, and that sort of people; the mere walking is bad enough, but embarrassing one’s arms moreover, with a gun, and one’s legs with turnip tops, exposing oneself to the mercy of bad shots and the atrocity of good, seems to me only a state of painful fatigue, enlivened by the probability of being killed” (Pelham 1:37).
  • “’these ruins have been the scene of some of my boyish exploits in rat-hunting; I used to think it capital sport, and if you will wait till I can collect the dogs, and one of our gamekeepers, who acts as rat-catcher-general to the establishment, I will show you a boyish English sport’” (Country Houses 1:86).
  • “’the most common shooting in India, is snakes, and that is excellent, the dogs hunt them out of the swamps, and the sportsmen shoot as they appear, but they are so wily and wary, they often shew a good deal of sport” (Country Houses 2:98).
  • “He persecuted poachers with almost more than the utmost rigour of the law, because he considered poaching, if not quite the most dangerous crime ever heard of in this country . . . as leading to those that were” (The School of Fashion 1:3).

Water Sports

  • “I am almost ashamed, at this time of day, to indulge in a rhapsody about yachting, – now, as vulgarized as coaching, to steeple-chasing, or any other pastime . . . But when I and George IV. first indulged in the delicious recreation, regattas were in their infancy” (Cecil 377).
  • “the Earl, the newspapers said, was enjoying the sport of fishing with a numerous party of fashionables” (Sayings and Doings, Second Series, Vol. III 179).

Gambling and Cards

  • “Saville was worse than a profligate – he was a gambler! . . . Gaming, in all countries, is the vice of an aristocracy” (Godolphin 1:55).
  • “A back-gammon board carelessly left on a smaller table indicated, not that any body was about to play that rural and clerical game, but that if any body had a desire for a little sequin hazard, there were such things as dice at hand” (Sayings and Doings, Second Series, Vol. II 8).
  • “’Mrs. Grey and I are going to have our little rubber, and so music would be a terrible bore. How is it possible to mind one’s cards with such a racket in the room?’” (Finesse 1:181).
  • “’I would preserve you from sinking into that most shameful – most execrable – of all characters, a female gambler’” (The Three Eras of Woman’s Life 2:295).

Clothing and Proper Attire

  • “Eschew violent sporting-dresses, such as one sees but too often in the parks and public places on the backs of misguided young men. There is no objection to an ostler wearing a particular costume, but it is a pity that a gentleman should imitate it” (Sketches and Travels in London 215).
  • “no one can hunt in any thing but a silk hat” (Hyde Nugent 3:33).
  • “’all those villainous chequed necklocths’ . . . nobody thought of hunting any thing but white now” (Hyde Nugent 3:33-34).





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