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Part III: The art and practice of archery
Part 6 of 6


A good bow is deserving of every attention. It requires nearly as much care as a fine violin, or any other delicate musical instrument. It should be rubbed well occasionally with flannel, or with fine woollen cloth and a little bees' wax, particularly after shooting, and kept in an oil cloth, lined with baize, in order to preserve it from damp, or from moist weather. The fashion of the day, among bow-yers, is to finish their bows, with a high Frenchr polish. It is unquestionably a very attractive one, but perhaps not very advantageous to the wood, as to preserve a bow in the best way, is by rubbing it well with " cold drawn" or raw linseed oil about once a year, at the termination of the shooting season—As there is no doubt of raw linseed oil proving; thus useful either to a backed or to a self bow, the benefit thereof, is at once denied by the superficial texture of the French polish, at the same time it may be observed, that there can be no objection to the French polish provided it be taken off the bow every year or two, to allow the instrument being rubbed with the linseed oil;—after which the French polish may be renewed with benefit. It should be remembered, that yew, which from its nature, is of so long duration, that it does not require oil in the same proportion that other bow woods do; and yew will absorb oil faster than any other bow wood that is known. Hence, the necessity of using oil on a bow of this description, but sparingly. Bows should be kept in a temperate room, but not against a stone wall as it attracts damp. The best method of keeping bows, is in a cupboard designed and kept solely for the purpose of containing all the implements of archery. Such a cupboard is called by archers, an "Ascham''[103] and has derived its name from the great advocate and writer on archery. The precaution of unbending a good bow during the time of shooting, is unnecessary, but the bow should always be unstrung after the shooting is over.

As it is natural for all wood to incline or follow the bending, which relative to bows, is termed "following the string," I have invented and adapted a "bow stock" after the following simple method, and which has been found highly serviceable. The bow stock, see fig. 2. plate 5. is a plain piece of deal about 6 feet. 3 inches long, 2¼ inches broad and 2 inches thick. Two small strap holes opposite each other are cut, about 3 feet from the bottom, and so far separated as to allow the handle of the bow to rest between them. Two other sets of strap holes are also cut at certain distances say at a foot, and at 18 in. from the centre, as at B, and C. for one half of the bow stock, and corresponding ones, for the other half. Instead of giving the bow a reversed sharp action after shooting, for the purpose of putting it in its wonted position, as is commonly the practice, place it on the bow-stock with the back upwards, or belly against the stock, brace it closely at the handle as at A, and moderately so at either of the other places for strapping as may be found necessary. Then the ends of the bow may be raised and fixed in a moderately reflexed position, by large pieces of cork, keeping the bow thus on the bow-stock for a few hours, will be found extremely serviceable, and be the safest method that can be adopted towards preserving its proper shape.


The tiller, (No. 1, in plate 4,) is an instrument used in bow making, for regulating the bending of the limbs of the bow.

In the constant care necessary for the preservation, or for the well keeping of the bow; the tiller may be found very useful. New bows, particularly self ones, generally demand some trifling scraping for the sake of relief to one or both the limbs, after having been shot in a few months. In plate 4, No. 2, a bow is represented placed in the tiller, and drawn as far as may be necessary to the first, second, third, or fourth notch, each notch made at the several distances of eighteen, twenty, twenty-four, and twenty-seven inches. Thus any irregularity in the bending of the bow, may be readily seen, and soon rectified ; and such an instrument may be nearly as serviceable to the archer, as to the bowyer. Without very great care, however, it might prove more advantageous to the latter than to the former, as a bow may be soon ruined by injudicious scraping!


The anecdotes of archery which have been given, in the preceding part of this work afford sufficient proof, that the bow in the hands of numbers, was a most effective and terrible weapon. It has long been laid aside as a weapon of war, therefore it cannot be expected, that such extraordinary feats as at one time supported its consequence, can be authenticated by occular proof in the display of our modern archery, as for many years past the bow has been used merely as an instrument of polite amusement.

From the experience which an archer of the present day acquires, after a practice of one or two years, a tolerable accurate judgment may be formed, upon the truth of the recorded facts of our ancient archery j and while it may readily be owned, that the common range of the long war-bow was, in the hands of strong athletic men, from eighteen to twenty score yards, at which distances, showers of arrows were often poured down in succession upon the enemy's ranks with dreadful effect, yet it is impossible for experience to allow credulity to carry us away so far, as to credit those marvellous feats mentioned in the ballads of Robin Hood and other ancient stories, such as shooting an arrow from the long-bow to the distance of a mile and sometimes farther! !

Stuart, in his Antiquities of Athens, vol. 1, p. 10, mentions a shot, from a Turkish bow made by Hassan Aga in the year 1753, to have been five hundred and eighty four yards and one foot, English measure—Cantimir, in his History of the Ottoman Empire, speaking of the Emperor Murad IV, says, "In the art of shooting with the bow, he had not his equal in the whole Turkish nation, except the famous champion Tozcoparan. There are now two marble pillars standing fifteen hundred cubits asunder, over which he is said to have shot an arrow."

Roberts, in his work on archery, records that in the year 1795, Mamhood Effendij, secretary to the Turkish ambassador, a man possessing very great muscular power, shot an arrow from a Turkish bow, four hundred and eighty-two yards, in the presence of three gentlemen, of the Toxophilite society, now living, who measured the distance, and to whom he observed, that his emperor, Sultan Selim, could shoot further than any one of his subjects. In the year 1798 the Sultan exhibited a proof of his strength and skill in archery, by shooting, in the presence of Sir Robert Ainslie, late ambassador to the Ottoman Porte, an arrow, fourteen hundred pikes Turkish measure, or, nine hundred and seventy-two yards, two inches and three quarters, English measure, and which distance was measured in the presence of Sir Robert Ainslie.—Mr. Roberts adds, that the arrows used by the Turks, for very long shots, do not exceed twenty six inches in length, but they are drawn several inches within the bow, in a grooved horn, used for the occasion: they arc tapered from the nock to the pile,[104] which is exceedingly small, and weigh about three shillings and two pence English arrow weight.

It appears also from Roberts, that a Mr. James Rawson, who died about the year 1794, "the best archer of his day," shot an arrow eighteen score yards. And in 1798, Mr. Troward, a member " of the Toxophilite society, shot on Mousley Hurst, seventeen score yards," and it is well recorded that this was not an accidental shot made by Mr. Troward, but that he repeatedly shot that distance during the same day, in the presence of many other members of the society; and further, that as his shots were made during a contest for a prize, each was measured with the greatest possible accuracy; and the field was marked or staked out in scores, and half scores. Mr. Troward shot with a self bow, of sixty-three pounds power ; his arrows, were twenty-nine inches in length, and about four shillings weight.—The bow with which Mr. Rawson shot, was a backed one."

All the appearance of undoubted veracity is certainly stamped on the above records of these feats of modern archery. I have often seen arrows from bows of about sixty and sixty-three or four pounds power, pierce through the deal legs of a large target-stand, which were full one inch and a quarter thick, at one hundred yards distance : and I have myself frequently pierced a large target quite through, and the pile of the arrow which was an inch long, has often nearly buried itself in the stand behind the target, shooting the distance of one hundred yards. From twelve to fifteen score yards, may be esteemed a good modern flight for an arrow, twenty-eight inches long including the pile, and about 4s. weight, shot from a bow of sixty or sixty-two pounds power. Early and constant use will give great power to the muscles of the body. This fact is so well and generally known, that there needs no evidence for the support of it. When therefore we read of armour being pierced through and through, and that the stoutest and best tempered steel that could be procured, and worn in the field, proved but a weak defence against the execution of the ancient English arrows, and that by the great force of them, helmets, lances, and swords, were literally battered, and split in pieces, what an amazing idea it immediately creates, of the muscular strength that must have been acquired in the constant exercise of the long-bow. It conveys notions of power not to be found, but through mechanical means. A little reflection however on the effect of habit, and training the body from early youth to all sorts of fatigue, will induce us to extend our conception of muscular strength, to a much greater degree, than might at first appear reasonable.


The Fine or Polite Arts, considered in their full scope, may be said to comprise all arts and sciences that tend to ameliorate the conditions of social life, and to increase social happiness; and in contemplating this fact, it appears that the art or, as it has been called, the pastime of archery stands eminent, which by a mute, yet unoffending influence, peculiar to itself, powerfully tends to rational pleasure, and therefore may be allowed to keep pace with other means of general improvement. Whatever informs and refines the intellect of man, or whatever assists or strengthens the inclination after any object, or the improvement of any pursuit, by way of recreation, must, in the same proportion, diminish his grosser conceptions.—All arts and recreative pastimes innocent in themselves, contribute to impress happy and lively impressions on the soul, which become a security against the rankness of error and of vice, and may soon convert the wilderness mind into a wholesome garden, in whose soil, virtue makes her strongest shoots, and politeness blossoms into humanity!

The pursuit of archery, as an object of recreation and amusement, tends, in conjunction with other resources, to produce, and to increase the invaluable blessing of health. If the body be healthy and vigorous, it is a great point gained towards the improvement of a genuine cheerfulness of heart, and a lively cheerfulness of heart is the sunshine of life, for it imparts its felicity to all around. Even an indifferent temper may be improved, by exercise in the field with an object in view, and with that content of spirit which naturally springs from a well regulated intercourse with friends in the mutual enjoyment of such exercise. This life was never intended by our benevolent Creator, to be one of gloom, and desert existence, but on the contrary : by mutual good-will and friendly feeling to one another, that it should always prove an effectual source of cheerfulness and contentment.—In this great commercial country, a cold reserve and selfish spirit, the parent of every meanness, too frequently usurps the throne of the heart, to the destruction of higher and more noble sentiments. The better the society the more enlightened and liberal should be the sentiments of its members;— Affectation of greatness, assumption of consequence, and singularity of notions, which would oppose frequent meetings of both sexes on the target ground, are not known in true gentility.

We naturally look to the society of ladies, for every thing that can endear the common scenes of life; they enhance the pleasures of general association: there is necessarily a blank without their enlivening presence, they are our homes, and who could debar them from the recreative pastime of archery, or encourage the absurd idea, perchance entertained by a few curiously minded persons that this elegant amusement savours too much of masculineness? Whenever it may be agreeable to ladies to join in the exercise. of shooting in the bow, surely it should be esteemed by the archers, as an opportunity of doubling the pleasures attendant on the pursuit.

It is a pity that amidst the rigidity of business, or professional avocations, various recreations, in the shape of accomplishments, are not more frequently cultivated, if only for the purpose of relieving the burdened mind! Those persons who have resources within themselves, know full well their respective blessings, and surely they would be the last to exclude the Fair from any amusements, consistent with the sex; for the natural wish that attends the possessor, while in the enjoyment of any accomplished pursuit is, that every one might taste of the same fruit. Business, then could hardly be a dreary toil, but would be metamorphosed, as it were, into another pleasant resource, and the "utile cum dulci" be established ; and as accomplishments are highly valuable, it appears reasonable to conclude, that those recreations which require attendance in the open air, must above all others be particularly desirable.

The arts of drawing and of painting are inestimable, and sketching and painting from nature, afford two of the richest treats that can be imagined or enjoyed.

The art of archery, that delightful energetic exercise, which, as has been observed, is never necessarily laborious, is in its particular pursuit, calculated to inspire benevolence towards each other, as it is never attended with petty jealousies, or a thirst of honorably robbing from another's purse; and it is in its own peculiarity, too open to admit a meanness. Archery furthers all good associations, and true hearty fellowship.

Let therefore a wish be cherished in the breasts of those who have it in their power, to promote both friendship, and happy pastimes as have been just alluded to: I shall now conclude with Hargrove, in his anecdotes on archery, respecting the alteration of the ancient dreadful long bow as a weapon of destruction, to an implement of peaceful recreation, and hope, that every instument invented for the destruction of man, may share the same fate, and that those happy days may soon arrive, which are thus so well described.

"No more shall nation against nation rise,
Nor ardent warriors meet with hateful eyes;
Nor fields with gleaming steel be cover'd o'er,
The brazen trumpets kindle rage no more;
But useless lances into scythes shall bend,
And the broad falchion in a plow share end."