A VIEW OF EPSOM DOWNES
The following account was originally written by Percival Leigh in the style of the 17th century diarist Samual Pepys and was first published in Punch with illustrations by Richard Doyle. It was subsequently reproduced in the Manners and Customs of ye Englyshe (1849). This text uses paragraphs and mainly modern spellings.
Mr. PIPS HIS DIARY.
A VIEW OF EPSOM DOWNES ON YE DERBYE DAYE.
[Wednesday, May 23, 1849. - DERBY DAY.]
A drawing by Richard Doyle entitled the Manners and Customs of ye Englyshe (1849)
Click image to enlarge
To Epsom Downs to the Great Derby Race. In a Barouche, with a party, over Vauxhall Bridge, and by Clapham, and very merry we were, carrying hampers with store of every thing needful for a brave lunch. The windows and house fronts crowded, and schoolboys mounted on walls and gates, and they and the urchins in the street shouting as though we were going to the races for their amusement. But lack! to see the pretty smart damsels come out to gaze at us, or peeping behind blinds and curtains, all in high glee, as if glad that we were taking our pleasure and good humour do wonderfully heighten beauty, as I do ten my wife. The Road through Trees and Orchards, and the Sun shining through the young leaves and on the horse-chestnut blossoms, and the flowers looking bright like the Lasses.
So we on, with mirth and pleasant discourse, till into the ruck which is the jam of carriages caused by the stoppage at the turnpike: and did banter each other and them about us. Across the course to the hill, the admission cost us £1. Good Luck! what a crowd of People collected to fee which out of six-and-twenty horses should run the fastest, and what a medley of vans, omnibuses, and taxed carts on either side of the course with the people in front of them, and the Grand Stand crowded with heads, plenty as blackberries, and seeming like a huge mass of them. A throng of carriages about us, whereon young handsome rakish-looking gallants with moustaches and cigars. Here and there, in open coaches, ladies in lilac and blue dresses, and pink bonnets, and gay ribbons, all manner of colours, looking, with the party-coloured flags over the booths, mighty lively. Presently a bell rung and the course cleared, but then to fee an unlucky dog running to get out, and the mob yelling at him, and the poor dog in his fright running straight on like mad! Then the horses with the motley jockeys on them prancing up and down before the Grand Stand, to show their paces to the folks in the betting ring. At last, they taken to the post, and so started with much cheering, and came easy, round Tattenham Corner; but presently away in good earnest, like shot! The chief struggle between the Flying Dutchman and Hotspur, but Yellow-Cap did win by half a length. The winner declared by his number, hung out in front of the Grand Stand, and to see the flock of carrier pigeons sent up to bear away the news; but Mr. Wagstaffe do say they were nothing to the pigeons left behind. The race run in three minutes, but to think of the money lost and won in that little time!
My Lord Eglinton and the public, as I hear, do gain much, and the ring and rogues do lose, which I am glad of. After the race, to a brave lunch; but the gipsy children and women did come and beg morsels out of our plates, as well as money, and got plenty of both, but in the midst of all the luxury it was a sorry sight. Then about the course to see the company and the flinging at snuff-boxes, and the thimble-rig, but of the last I saw none, only some playing at roulette and hazard, but the Police did seize and break several of the tables, and take away the stakes. Great sport returning home, with the shouting for the winner, and trumpeting on horns, and tossing of snuff-boxes and toys to the pretty lasses at the windows, and bandying jokes, but all in mighty good humour. Seeing all sorts and conditions of persons, great and small, joining in sport and frolic, made me compare bur own country with foreign nations that do prate of their fraternity, but can none of them show such a sample of it as the Derby.