On Every Side a Jabbering

Clare Bucknell

  • Memoirs on the Life and Travels of Thomas Hammond, 1748-75 edited by George E. Boulukos
    Virginia, 303 pp, £47.95, June 2017, ISBN 978 0 8139 3967 4

‘Never come till you have been called three or four times; for none but dogs will come at the first whistle,’ Swift instructs an imaginary audience of dull maids and lazy footmen in Directions to Servants. ‘Never submit to stir a finger in any business, but that for which you were particularly hired. For example, if the groom be drunk or absent, and the butler be ordered to shut the stable door, the answer is ready: “An please your honour, I don’t understand horses.”’ If he had met the young groom Thomas Hammond he might have found even worse things to say about the conduct of the serving classes. ‘Never take a rebuke from your master for stealing without telling him to go to hell’; ‘If you are hired as a companion to a travelling horseback performer, attempt several times to sleep with his wife and then complain about your wages.’ Hammond was an original, a poor farm boy with no parents who took every chance he was offered (along with quite a few he wasn’t) and rose to become a celebrated performing rider in the bullrings of Spain. He kept a journal assiduously as he went, and wrote up his Memoirs in four volumes with hand-drawn illustrations, tables of contents and footnote glosses for those without his linguistic abilities (‘sans ceremonie: Without ceremony. – TH’). He wrote about sights and places few aristocrats would encounter on their Continental tours. He was chancy, observant, self-assured, kind to horses and rude to people.

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