Readers of Victorian era sporting books will likely be familiar with the works of Augustus Grimble , whose books run the gamut of angling, stalking and shooting topics, including his works on the great salmon rivers of Scotland, Ireland, Wales and England, as well as deer stalking and wing shooting in the forests of Scotland, and Highland Sport. Grimble will possibly be best known to modern readers through his Salmon Rivers of Scotland.
Shooting and Salmon Fishing, Hints and Recollections is exactly that. Grimble shares suggestions for various field sports underpinned by anecdotes describing direct experiences during the latter half of the 19th century. The book is in some ways typical in prose style of sporting writers of the era, probably to no one’s surprise, but makes for an entertaining read on a winter’s evening beside a warm fire.
What drew me to posting this particular book on Snipe in Literature is the chapter titled “Snipe and Wildfowl”, which I think aptly recognizes the appreciation of snipe to Victorian (and later) era wing shooters. This first sentences of this chapter immediately reinforce this:
“Most sportsmen, if offered the choice between an opportunity of killing a hundred pheasants in a day or twenty couple of snipe, would unhesitatingly declare for the time on the marsh ; and many maintain there is a charm in the pursuit of this twisting, fast-flying little bird that place it in front of every other sport to be had with game rising to the gun”
From this evocative introduction, Grimble discusses pursuit and shooting hints, including where to find snipe in different terrains, what to wear in the bog, how to walk up snipe in soft ground and even a bit on the use of snipe secondary feathers used in fly tying:
“Under the wing of every snipe will be found several long feathers with black and white bars, which are useful for the wings of salmon flies. They can be used as they are or dyed, and make a nice edition to the long mixed wing tied on the large hooks so much used on many spring rivers.”
The latter half of this chapter roughly speaking are Mr. Grimble’s recollections of past outings, including the best locations and bags, such as “Kilmaronaig by Oban ; the Laggans by Campbelto[w]n (a hundred and fifty couple to one gun by the tenth of December), Carim by Blackford, Raehills by Moffatt”, and so forth. These accounts are retold in writing conversationally, as if he were present in the room and trading stories with old friends. I think this is part of the charm of Victorian era sporting books. It is noteworthy that, while descriptions of shooting grounds include duck species encountered, on the whole the chapter really highlights the delights of snipe over wildfowling. But in summary, this old volume has so much to offer: a glimpse into the field sports of another time, lifestyle anecdotes and hints that are as practical today as then, and thereby provide connection to a rich past.
I confess to being a bit of an armchair bibliophile, not in any way expert, but truly enjoy old leather bindings, marbled papers, and the musty smell of old paper. Over the holidays, I was given the beautiful first edition below by my wonderful wife, rebound in half dark green Morocco leather and matching Italian marbled paper boards. The binding is nicely done…it is a tome with some heft and a good feel in the hand. Most importantly the pages, including the tissue paper picture guards, are in remarkably good condition, with the leaves being of rough cut or “deckle edged” papers. I couldn’t have imagined a more apt gift to spend winter evenings with.
Many of the illustrations in this edition are by Scottish wildlife artist Archibald Thorburn (31 May 1860 – 9 October 1935), a name also undoubtedly recognized by vintage field sport enthusiasts. If you have sporting books from this era, you will have encountered his work. More can be read about Thorburn and his art here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archibald_Thorburn
Other books by Augustus Grimble can be found on the Internet Archive Open Library: https://openlibrary.org/authors/OL1512205A/Augustus_Grimble
Also, I make no apologies to those who may take offense at the bag numbers noted by Grimble, which come from a bygone era. My personal belief is that viewing the past through the lens of the present disregards the historical context of the times when this rich era of sporting literature was written.
Title: Shooting and Salmon Fishing: Hints and Recollections
Publisher: Chapman & Hall Ltd, London
Publication Date: 1892