Endurance is a particular quality generally associated with rakes. If this brings to mind a certain activity, you may also be aware that one doesn’t have to read above one Regency romance a year to understand the significance of this attribute. However, in polite circles, a rake’s endurance is assessed by his performance in the, er, field.
Hunting field, that is.
In those days, various groups hunted all throughout England–many more than at present, I daresay. Hunts were organized around the leadership of a well-known figure in the district, or locality–usually a member of the gentry or aristocracy. The range of a hunt might cover hundreds (or more) acres and the terrain could be decidedly rugged. A gentleman’s consequence could be made or broken, given his performance in the field.
“Your father tells me, Miss Marlowe, that you are a notable horsewoman.”
“Does he?” she responded. “Well, he told us you showed him the way with the Heythrop.”
He glanced down quickly at her, but decided, after an instant, that this remark sprang from inanity. “I imagine that I need not tell you that I did no such thing!”
“Oh, no! I am very sure you did not.”
To show anyone the way with a celebrated hunt like the Heythrop (side note: this is the current Prime Minister’s hunt) was high praise indeed. Miss Marlowe in Sylvester, or, The Wicked Uncle, piqued the Duke of Salford when she averred over his ability of riding to hounds.
Heyer at her most clever.
Even as intrepid a heroine as Miss Marlowe would agree there was no more bruising rider than John Mytton. It was said his abilities were known in every county–particularly his endurance. Hunting was the sport that taxed a rider for jumping various obstacles and “often in weather not fit for man nor beast.” In addition to hunting with his own pack, he would hunt with other packs throughout Shropshire.
“During the period of Sir Bellingham Graham hunting Shropshire, (Mytton) performed several gallant feats in the field. Whilst suffering severely from the effects of a fall, and with his right arm in a sling, he rode his favourite hunter, Baronet, over the park paling of the late Lord Berwick..to the astonishment of the whole field–Sir Bellingham himself exclaiming, “Well done, Neck or Nothing; you are not a bad one to breed from.” — Life of Mytton, Nimrod
And now we come full circle.