WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Knight of the Whip

Whoever doubts the importance of a Coachman’s calling, admits that he has not much looked into books. There is none more classical; few have been considered more honourable; in fact, we should write our inkstand dry were we to enumerate a tithe of the honours paid to those who have distinguished themselves in the management of the reins of the whip.

Knight of the Whip (noun)

A coachman.

Neither is there anything like “small potatoes” in the character and demeanour of the modern Coachman. He is not only, next to his Master, the greatest man in the inn yard, but there are times when his word of command is quite as absolute as that of Wellington at Waterloo. For example: –who dares to disobey the summons of “Now, gentlemen, if you please,” given as he walks out of a small road-side house, on a winter’s night, into which himself and passengers have just stepped to wet their whistles, whilst the horses are being changed?

Tilleman Hodgkinson Bobart: The Classical Alamater Coachman Oxford, by and published by Robert Dighton, January 1808.

Tilleman Hodgkinson Bobart: The Classical Alamater Coachman Oxford, by and published by Robert Dighton, January 1808.

Then see him enter a country town–“the swell dragsman;” or what Prior calls: –“the youthful, handsome charioteer, Firm in his seat and running his career”–why, every young woman’s eyes are directed towards him; and not a few of the old ones as well. But can we wonder at it? How neatly, how appropriately to his calling, is he generally attired! How healthy he looks! What an expressive smile he bestows upon some prettier lass than common; partly on his own account, and partly that his passengers may perceive he is thus favoured by the fair sex. But in truth, road Coachman are general favourites with womankind. It may be, perhaps, that in the tenderness of their nature, they consider their occupation to be a dangerous one, and on the long-established principle, that “none but the brave deserve the fair,” they come next to the soldier in female estimation, amongst a certain class.

The London Coachman, Published by Carington Bowles, 1769, British Museum.

The London Coachman, Published by Carington Bowles, 1769, British Museum.

But how manifold are the associations connected with a road Coachman’s calling? The general source and principal of human happiness, in a worldly sense, is novelty; and who can indulge in this equally with the traveller….In fact, the benefits of travelling are innumerable: it liberalises the mind, and enlarges the sphere of observation by comparison; dispels local prejudices, short-sightedness, and caprice; and has always been considered essential to the character of an accomplished gentleman. How delightful is it, then, to live in a country in which, as in England, travelling is so perfect, and can be occasionally indulged in with comfort, by all classes of the community. We are denied a passage through the air; but who can wish for anything of this nature beyond being conveyed at the rate of ten miles per hour, on a road nearly as hard and as smooth as a barn floor, and by horses that appear to be but playing with their work?

Stage Coachman, by George Cruikshank and published by Joseph Robins, February 1817, and reprinted in Gentleman's Pocket magazine, 1827.

Stage Coachman, by George Cruikshank and published by Joseph Robins, February 1817, and reprinted in Gentleman’s Pocket magazine, 1827.

Methinks it might well be assumed that the author of the aforementioned quotes, one Nimrod, was somehow beholden to the profession about which he wrote. Either that, or it’s a brazen case of “he who toots not his own horn, that same horn shall not be tooted.” I recommend following the link below to read the author’s transcription of an entertaining and illuminating conversation betwixt a noble Coachman and his inquisitive Passenger.

 

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