A R C H E R Y;
I T S
T H E O R Y A N D P R A C T I C E.
But little apology is, I think, needed, for presenting to the lovers of the long bow the present Work upon the Theory and Practice of Archery. The rapidly increasing taste for this elegant and manly amusement (requiring, as it does, both physical powers and mental study for its successful practice), and the eager desire of many to excel in this their favourite pursuit, seem to call for some more practical and scientific Treatise upon the Art, than at present exists. No disparagement is here intended to the clever and amusing Works upon the same subject already before the public; but it is an undeniable fact—and the opinion of almost every experienced Archer can be adduced to bear me out in asserting it— that all those Works, without exception, fail to touch upon or develop any fixed theoretic principle of shooting, and totally ignore those more abstruse and delicate points connected with its practice, upon which accurate and scientific Archery mainly depends. This may appear a somewhat bold and presumptuous assertion to make, but that it is a fact, few, who have endeavoured to find written instruction to guide them in the pursuit, will be tempted to deny; and the principal reason for its being so would appear to be, that, at the time these publications appeared, the knowledge of the Art and the powers of the bow had either been partially lost, or had not reached such a state of development as is the case at the present day—consequently, much less being known about it, much less could be taught. Just one example shall be mentioned in corroboration of this view of the matter. Mr. Roberts, in his very talented Treatise on Archery, published in 1801 (perhaps the best at present extant), records the following performance, as being one of what was considered in his time the great feats of the day, namely, that in one hundred arrows, shot at the distance of one hundred yards, fifty-two actually struck the target! Wonderful, indeed! Is there any third-rate Archer of the present day who has not done as much, and a great deal more, over and over again? The name of many a brother Archer occurs to me at this moment, who would be exceedingly disappointed, indeed, at having, in any morning's practice, only achieved such a performance as this! but
Tempora mutantur, nos cet mutamur in illis.
Archery of 1856 is not the Archery of half a century, or even of twenty years ago. Scores that would then have been deemed impossible and visionary, are now of every-day occurrence; and the Robin Hoods and Little Johns of those days, could they but be pitted against the present living magnates of the bow, would occupy but a sorry position indeed.
Another reason to account for the undoubted omission in these Works of practical and scientific instruction, may be here further adduced; namely, that their authors were, with but few exceptions, themselves Archers of no note even in their own days, and therefore, not the best qualified for its exposition, even up to the standard of knowledge at that time attained.
Having thus far demonstrated that the want exists of a practical Work on Archery by a practical Archer, and being well convinced of it by my own experience, and supported in that conviction by the almost unanimous opinion of my brother Toxophilites, I am emboldened to lay before the public the following Treatise, containing the results of considerable experience and much hard study; as likely, it, is hoped, in some measure to supply the deficiency complained of, and to prove, of practical utility not to the youthful aspirant only, but to Archers of more advanced experience also.
In the course of these pages, whilst giving utterance to my own settled convictions, some things must of necessity be said, some positions advanced and rules advocated, that will, it is feared, jar considerably with the preconceived opinions and time-honored prejudices of many of the lovers of the bow. Even some of the revered dogmas of good old Roger Ascham, and of a period antecedent to him, hitherto received as absolute, and the mere doubting of which will appear to many the very height of presumption and little short of rank heresy, cannot be wholly subscribed to. The doctrine of the necessary superiority of old ideas over new ones, though supported by no reasoning, no argument whatever, and resting on the bare assumption only that, as our forefathers did so, therefore ex necessitate rei we their descendants should do so likewise, will still find advocates, even in these our times of progress and knowledge. To such, then, I would merely remark that, inasmuch as very great success has in my own case, and in that of other leading Archers of the day, followed the adoption of the theories and system hereafter laid down, so these may fairly be presumed to possess peculiar claims to careful attention, and to deserve something better than a hasty rejection on account of an apparent antagonism to preconceived notions.
It has generally been the custom to commence a Treatise on Archery with an elaborate defence of its practice; and into such contempt, until of late years, had it, indeed, fallen amongst the non-shooting members of society, as being in their opinions a mere childish amusement, that this was both called for and unavoidable on the part of any author, desirous of disabusing the public mind of a groundless and ridiculous prejudice.
At the present day, however, such a defence can hardly be considered necessary; for since the establishment of the Grand National Archery Society, some fourteen years back, the knowledge of the real powers of the bow, and the qualities required for their cultivation, having become more universally known and better appreciated, this prejudice may be said to have died away; and, in addition to this, were such a defence, indeed, required, it has been already ably and successfully supplied by several of my predecessors. A few points may, however, be additionally touched upon, and to these, previous to the conclusion of these pages, I shall more particularly address myself.
Before closing this introductory chapter, let me address a few words of advice and encouragement to the beginner. First of all, make up your mind to succeed, for that is one of the best elements of success in everything; and, secondly, expect plenty of difficulties and discouragements, for you will be sure to meet with them. It is not easy to become great in any thing, and Archery forms no exception to the rule. Do not go hunting about for a royal road to the bull's eye—none such exists—you must work hard and practise regularly, before even moderate success will reward your efforts. Use your brains as well as your muscles—study as well as practice. Brute force alone will never make an Archer. Above all, do not fancy yourself a first-rate shot, when you are only a muff—nothing will so much tend to keep you one all your days as this. A mistaken vanity is the very banc of all improvement. Having once passed the pons asinorum of Archery, you will begin at once to taste its pleasures. There is no exercise more healthy or more rational, or which returns more true and genuine gratification to the man who practises it. A well shot arrow lodged in the right place not only pleases the spectator, but is a source of unmingled gratification to the shooter also. May the study of these pages assist you in attaining, as often as possible, this most desirable end.