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Home > Books > A Treatise on Archery > Introduction
Introduction

IN offering this small work to the lovers of Archery, the Author attempts not to introduce any new idea to their notice; his sole motive for writing this short treatise, is, for the express purpose of instructing young Archers in the practical part of Archery; for although many books have been wrote upon this art, no author has yet condescended to employ his talents upon what is thought by the experienced Archer as trifling: if therefore this should ever fall under his eye, let him not treat it with contempt, but transfer it to one less experienced. An author is seldom so fortunate to be understood by his readers when expressing his ideas in writing, so well as when personally addressing himself to them, but every thing contained in these few pages, it is hoped will be found so explicit and clear, that if read with any degree of attention, need no further explanation.

The learner is requested when he takes up the Bow for the purpose of profiting from this work, to pause at the end of every sentence, remembering that each is in a manner a lesson of itself; every trifling particular is inserted, as the very least thing is to a learner worthy of notice.

There never was a mistaken notion more prevalent than that the Bow is too simple to require any study, but simple as it may appear, it will be found that without a theoretical knowledge, the practical part never can he obtained, and so many inconveniences arise to a person attempting one without having acquired the other, that he soon grows disgusted because not able to overcome it : it is these difficulties that the author wishes to remove, by pointing out to the learner a. proper method to pursue, for many thinking it top insignificant as not worthy a moments study, adopt, what their own ideas suggest, and by that, fall into such bad habits as to break Bow after Bow, till at last they get disheartened from pursuing the amusement any further, and lay it aside altogether as appearing to them trifling and childish, and in the end expensive. How any one could ever think the amusement of the long Bow as childish, can only be from the recollection that it was once his juvenile recreation, and supposing no greater feats can be performed by a manly weapon, than was done by a boyish plaything; but supposing his contempt of the Bow is founded upon that idea alone, it cannot justify him for the; slur he throws upon all the lovers of Archery, and those not a few; for travel into any part of the Globe and he will discover that it is, or has been the amusement of the nobles and sovereigns of every nation, and is the general amusement of many Eastern Countries to this day; but the long Bow need not travel out of this kingdom to obtain honours, for it has received sufficient to stamp its fame both as an instrument of war and amusement in its native soil; but at present it, must be confessed that the inhabitants of Turkey, Persia, India, and of various other countries far excel the best of English Archers, and the reason is obvious, "want of practice". A novice witnessing the performance of an unskilful Archer, wonders how a man can amuse himself with what he remembers was only looked upon at school as a toy ; but when he beholds the shooting of an expert Archer, and is shewn the strength and powers of the Bow, his wonder changes to the opposite side, and he admires with delight what he before treated with contempt.

As the use of arms is universally allowed to be an honorable profession, why should not the pursuit of an amusement, founded upon that warlike weapon, preceded by the present, be deemed likewise honorable; and when it is recollected that the deeds achieved by our fore-fathers, which secured to England its present independance was with the Bow; it cannot be denied but. that it is the noblest amusement, and in its admirers, seeming to draw forth a tribute of gratitude for past services: be this as it will, it was in former times thought of such importance as to become the object of the legislature's care; many acts of parliament having at various periods been framed in support of it, long after it was laid aside as a weapon of war, and which even went so far as to compel every man, except the clergy and the judges to practise shooting, and to have continually in his possession a Bow and at least three Arrows: the City of London was obliged by other acts to erect butts and keep them in repair.

Edward III. wrote to the sheriffs commanding them to see that the people laid aside the games they then practised, which he called dishonest and unprofitable, [1] and exercise themselves with Bows and Arrows; and in 1498 many gardens were levelled and made into one field, for the use of the London Archers, which is now the artillery ground. In 1514 the inhabitants of Islington, Hoxton, and Shoreditch, having enclosed the fields which had been appropriated for the exercise of Archery, into gardens, the citizens of London assembled in great numbers, and with spades and pick-axes levelled the banks and ditches, and restored the grounds to their former state. Henry VIII. was particularly fond of Archery, and commissioned Sir Christopher Morris, master of the ordinance, to revive the amusement of Archery, which at that time was rather drooping, by establishing a society of Archers, which was called, "The Fraternity of St. George," who obtained a charter from the king with many privileges, in which was this remarkable passage:—"That if any Archer killed a man he could not be sued or anyways molested, if he had before he shot, called out "Fast!" a word common at that time.' Archery was so much approved of as a bodily exercise by Bishop Latimer, that he even preached a sermon in favor of it before Edward VI.

In the reign of Queen Elizabeth, when Archery was again declining, the Bow-makers petitioned the Queen for authority to put the acts of Henry VIII. in force, by which they obliged every man who had not a Bow and three Arrows in his possession to provide himself accordingly: if the Bow-makers of the present age could again enforce the act, they might raise a sum that would go nigh to pay the debt of the nation.

In the time of James I. the inhabitants round London, again began to encroach upon the grounds belonging to the London Archers; and upon the citizens petitioning the King against such proceedings, he-granted a commission to a great many persons of quality, empowering them to enquire into the grievances complained of, and if true, to restore the grounds to the state they were in at the beginning of the reign of Henry VIII.

After the restoration, Archery became again the general amusement. Charles II. himself took such delight in it, that he even knighted a man for excelling an excellent shot, [2] whose portrait is in the possession of the Toxophilite Society. After the death of Charles it again declined, and was confined in practice to a few countries only, till about forty years ago, when it was revived with increased splendor throughout every part of England, as will appear by the number of societies that were instituted [3] many of which exist and continue their yearly and monthly meetings to this day.

As an amusement, Archery has these advantages over all others, which is not only approved of by our ablest physicians, but strongly recommended by them as being the most healthy exercise a man can pursue, strengthening and bracing the bodily frame, without that laborious exertion common to many games, every nerve and sinew being regularly brought into play without the danger of being exposed to those alternate heats and colds incident to many diversions, as in cricket, tennis, &c.

On Sir William Wood's Tomb Stone were these two lines:

"Long did he live the honor of the Bow,
And his long life to that alone did owe."

Archery is an amusement which steals (if it may be so expressed,) upon a man's affections, and often makes him perform more than he thinks is in his power, for many an Archer who would not undertake to walk five miles in a journey, has walked six at the targets ; for in shooting forty-eight times up to one target, and forty-eight times back again to the other, (the number of rounds the Toxophilite Society shoot on grand days,) besides walking to the Arrows shot beyond the targets, which upon a reasonable calculation, may be reckoned five yards each time, and that five back again, makes ninety-six times one hundred and ten yards, which is exactly six miles. Another advantage attending the amusement of Archery, is, that it is equally open to the fair sex, which has for these last forty years been the favorite recreation of a great part of our female nobility; the only field divertion they can enjoy, without incurring the censure of being thought masculine: it will be needless to enumerate the many advantages received in pursuing this amusement; those who have tried, do not require any further encomium in support of it, than what their own experience has already convinced them of.

It not being the author's intention to swell this pamphlet beyond what is absolutely necessary, he must refer them to a work lately published, entitled, "The English Bowman," in which he will not only meet with further instruction, but likewise derive great entertainment.

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