|MR. TILBURY, HIS HORSES AND HIS REPUTATION
A respectable businessman, a confirmed horseman
"The slave merchant displays to the gaze of the Mussulman the beauties of his commercial article, with the same eager anxiety that Mr. Tilbury trots out a first-rate Leicestershire hunter ..."
"... young and untried horses, of which the stock of the majority of the metropolitan dealers consists. There are, certainly, a few in the trade who keep on hand seasoned hunters, and who buy them at prices that would seem to defy all hope of resale at a profit. Such men are Elmore (who offered Sir James Martyn twelve hundred guineas for Seventy-four), Anderson, and Tilbury; but the bulk of those engaged in this business look only for shape, colour, attractive action, youth, and soundness (latter not a sine qua non)."
"... Let sportsmen beware of advertising horse-dealers; let them resort to men of character and known integrity, and if they pay twenty guineas more for a prad, be assured they lose nothing by such expenditure. For my part, I wonder such men as Tilbury, Elmore, Anderson, cum multis aliis, whose characters are unimpeachable, do not combine to put down a set of men reflecting such disgrace upon all who have anything to do with horse-flesh (for strangers will judge generally, and not individually), and make it safe for a gentleman to buy a horse. I have been told, but can hardly credit it, these fair dealers would rather a gentleman should get bitten once, that he may know ever after the good from the bad."
"It is not an unusual thing with these gentry to apply to some poor devil confined in the King's Bench, a ci-devant fashionable, to father one of their horses; which (so degraded does the mind become by poverty and a prison) too many are willing to do for the sake of a guinea! In such a case, when a man, known to have been once a gentleman, tells you everything that is satisfactory, who can doubt? It is not in human nature to be proof against such acts."
"It is the fashion to set down all horse-dealers as sharpers and tricksters, and many deserve those appellations; 'but why,' as Major Sturgeon asks, 'should all be condemned for the faults of a few?' From my own experience, I can aver that I have dealt with Milton, the Elmores, Harris, Anderson, and Tilbury; and in the purchase of some five-and-twenty horses, during the last thirty years, I never had a 'screw' palmed off upon me, or had the slightest difference with the seller."
If you do not wish to keep horses all the summer (although the certainty of condition will amply repay the extra expense), or would decline the risk of lameness in winter, then go to Tilbury, where you have a resource against strains, bangs, bruises, sickness, and all other calamities to which a hunter is subject; or, even if the animal dies, the loss is not on your shoulders, as Elmore said to me once, when I asked the question,
You kill him, MINE, sir.
But this hiring is expensive work, particularly if you intend hunting any distance from London. Tilbury's charge is twelve guineas a month for each horse, and, if you are pretty early in the season, you may go down to his farm, and take your choice out of 100 or 150; but suppose you hunt five months, at the end of that time there will be a dead loss against you of 120 guineas for hire alone! The power of changing your horse whenever you choose, is certainly a consolatory reflection, and gives a man the power of taking liberties with his cattle, which he could not otherwise attempt; but yet, it must be remembered, a lame horse cannot always travel, and that if you are unable to choose a substitute for yourself, some patched-up cripple may be sent, which will soon give you the same annoyance again. It is not likely that any dealer would send his best cattle to any customer who had already lamed one or two; and so you will go down the scale at every change, not to mention the risk of some runaway, rushing brute being handed over, to finish his education in your hands.
A friend of mine hired a horse from Tilbury some two years ago, a fine slapping animal, but a severe puller, and outrageously wild at his fences. He was so badly screwed on the second day he was taken out, that he not only could not be sent to town (a distance of 120 miles), but was placed under the care of a veterinary surgeon for six weeks. When he came round, two days more hunting were taken out of him, and he was dismissed; and thus, taking into consideration the vet's bill, the keep of the horse, the groom's expenses to and from London, with other little items, nearly £45 was paid for four days' hunting!!!
Tilbury will, in most cases, fix a price upon any horse which may be hired, and, if you can sell him for more, the difference is yours. An Indian friend of mine, coming home on leave, went on this principle; one of his horses was valued at £60, the other at £80; by handing them across country in proper style, he sold the first for £120, and the other for £90, thereby paying his expenses.
This was a stroke of luck which will not occur to every man, however good a workman he may be, for friend Tilbury generally puts a sufficient value on his cattle, and customers are not always to be found.
"There was the man, then, seated low in his saddle, apparently as unconcerned and as much at home as if he had been mounted on one of old Tilbury's park hacks, instead of a brute whose eye was as wicked as Waterton's carman ..."