The pleasures and advantages of archery
From: The New Sporting Magazine
Vol. I, No. 1, pp. 30-32. June 1831.
Part 1 of 2
Some lore the glories of the chase, and some
To haunt the peopled stream:—
But me the meed of the green Archer charms.
IN a publication of the nature of the New Sporting Magazine, intended for the support and encouragement of the Rural Sports of this country, I know none more worthy of honourable mention than that of archery. The bow—long the national weapon of defence—may now be considered almost an object of national amusement, whose increasing popularity is sufficiently attested by the numerous societies of Archers that have been for some time established, and are yearly extending themselves through various parts of the kingdom. And, indeed, considering the many advantages it offers as a healthful and agreeable pastime, to the weak as well as the strong, but more especially to the fair sex, it is only surprising that Archery should ever have fallen into neglect, or have remained so long unnoticed.
The history of Archery as an amusement may be briefly stated. After the invention of gunpowder it soon ceased to be cultivated as a military art, but continued to be held in high repute as a manly and noble diversion. In the reign of Henry VIII. and those of his immediate successors—themselves no mean proficients in the art—it was much practised by all classes of persons, and several statutes were passed for its regulation and encouragement; so important an exercise was it deemed too for the youth of that period, that we find an enactment (the 33d. Henry VIII.) commanding " all fathers and governors of persons under age to teach them shooting, and provide for them a bow and two shafts"
Even in Elizabeth's time, when the bow was fast falling into neglect as a weapon of war, Archery was declared by statute to be " a wholesome exercise for the health and strength of man." And among the orders and rules of Harrow school, framed in the 33d. year of her reign, is one, that every person who sent a boy to the school, should allow him at all times a bow, three shafts, bow-strings, and a bracer, to exercise shooting. And that it was not regarded at this period as a mere childish amusement, or unworthy the attention of the grave and learned, we may infer from a sermon of Bishop Latimer's, preached before the king, wherein he describes it as "a goodlye arte, a holesome kynde of exercise, and much commended in physik as wrastiyng agaynste manye kyndes of diseases."
Archery was a favourite diversion with the unfortunate Charles the First, and maintained its popularity during the unsettled reigns of the Stuarts. But on the accession of William of Orange, by whom not only rural sports, but every other species of amusement unconnected with "the great game of war," were despised and neglected, it appears to have fallen into disrepute ; and in this state it remained until the close of the last century, when an attempt was made to revive if in the southern counties, by the formation of numerous companies and societies of archers. Patronised by the Prince of Wales and many other distinguished individuals, it bid fair to become a fashionable and. favourite amusement ; but war once more arrested its progress, and on the theatened invasion of this country the bow was quickly exchanged for the musquet, and the " green archer" transformed into a green rifleman. Since the peace, however, it has been again revived, and, as I before stated, is every year becoming more generally practised.
Archery has been truly characterised as a healthful, manly, and elegant recreation, giving strength to the body and cheerfulness to the mind. The celebrated Ascham relates of himself, that being valetudinary and weak of body; he thought it necessary to spend many hours in such exercises as might best relieve him after the fatigue of study, and that his favourite amusement was archery. And in his well known treatise on this subject, he observes, that for the weak and unhealthy this exercise is of all others the best "dot only because it in-creaseth strength and preserveth health most, but because it is not vehement but moderate, not overlayinge any one parte with weariness, but softlye exercising everye parte with equalnesse."