All teeth and hair like a rat-catcher’s dog.

Prior to finding this book entitled ‘Snippets from Surtees’ I knew nothing about Robert Smith Surtees and so these aphorisms were out of context and well, just peculiar:

 There was a lot about ‘unting and ‘osses (hunting and horses I guessed)…

‘The man wot does much dancin’ will not do much ‘unting.’
‘Racing is only for rogues.’

But then what did these mean? …

‘Puss-‘untin’ is werry well for … those that keep donkeys.’
‘“Vot next?” as the frog said when his tail dropped off.’
‘All teeth and hair like a rat-catcher’s dog.’
‘This is not a good genuine home-brewed grievance frothin’ up at the bung’-ole of discontent, but a sort of seakaley, hothouse forced thing.’
‘Mischievous! Poopeys and buoys never good for nothin’ unless they are.’

 And of course some warnings:

 ‘No one knows how ungentlemanly he can look until he has seen himself in a shocking bad hat.’
‘It’s all very well at home to stuff and eat, but nothing disgusts men so much as a guzzling girl.’

For a little more context, these are the words of Robert Smith Surtees (1805-1864), an editor, novelist and general country gentleman type who was a great hunting enthusiast. In 1828 he began writing articles for the Sporting Magazine and then went on to found and edit its rival, the New Sporting Magazine (both held by the UL). He later moved on to fiction writing, though continued to publish these works in a serials format. He is best known for his comic character John Jorrock whose blunt words, high spirits and general misdemeanours featured in Handley Cross and Jorrock’s Jaunts & Jollities. His work was not greatly popular in his time and only really developed acclaim after his death. This is probably due to its being too specialist for those who didn’t hunt and too critical of those who did, for Surtees’ works often commented on how the once inclusive and community focused hunting scene was becoming an increasingly socially exclusive pursuit of the higher classes.

 For more information and illustrations by John Leech try Glasgow University Library.

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1 Response to All teeth and hair like a rat-catcher’s dog.

  1. JoshH says:

    He is related (the grandson?) to Robert Surtees, after whom the Surtees Society is named. They publish mostly County Durham area medieval account rolls and the like. I guess they had different interests…

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