Hints on Driving
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It has been said, and not, perhaps, without reason, that a man who is conscious that he possesses some practical knowledge of a science, and yet refrains from giving the public the benefit of his information, is open to the imputation of selfishness. To avoid that charge, as far as lies in my power, I purpose, in the course of the following pages, to give my readers the benefit of my tolerably long experience in the art of driving four horses—an art which I acquired under the following circumstances.—
My father was a coach proprietor as well as a coachman, and, I am proud to say, one of the best whips of his day. He gave me many opportunities of driving a team. I will not, however, enter into all the details of my youthful career, but proceed to state, that at the early age of seventeen I was sent nightly with the Norwich and Ipswich Mail as far as Colchester, a distance of fifty-two miles. Never having previously travelled beyond Whitechapel Church, on that line of road, the change was rather trying for a beginner. But Fortune favoured me; and I drove His Majesty’s Mail for nearly five years without an accident. I was then promoted to the “Quicksilver,” Devonport Mail, the fastest at that time out of London. It must be admitted that I undertook this task under difficult circumstances—involving as it did, sixty miles a night—since many had tried it ineffectually, or at all events were unable to accomplish the duty satisfactorily. It is gratifying to me to reflect, that I drove this coach more than seven years without a single mishap.
Getting at length rather tired of such incessant and monotonous nightly work, I applied for a change to my employer, the well-known and much-respected Mr. Chaplin, who at that time had seventeen hundred horses employed in coaching. His reply was characteristic. “I cannot find you all day coaches,” said he; “besides, who am I to get to drive your Mail?” I must say, I thought this rather severe at the time, but, good and kind-hearted man as he was, he did not forget me.
Not long after this interview, the Brighton Day Mail being about to start, he made me the offer, to drive the whole distance and horse the coach a stage, with the option of driving it without horsing. Like most young men I was rather ambitious, and closed with the former conditions. The speculation, however, did not turn out a very profitable one, and, the railway making great progress, I sold my horses to Mr. Richard Cooper, who was to succeed me on the box. I was then offered the far-famed Exeter “Telegraph,” one of the fastest and best-appointed coaches in England. My fondness for coaching still continuing, and not feeling disposed to settle to any business, I drove this coach from Exeter to Ilminster and back, a distance of sixty-six miles, early in the morning and late at night. After driving it three years, the railway opened to Bridgewater; this closed the career of the once-celebrated “Telegraph.” But those who had so long shared its success, were not inclined to knock under. My brother coachman and myself, together with the two guards, accordingly started a “Telegraph” from Devonport to London, a distance of ninety-five miles by road, joining the rail at Bridgewater, thus making the whole journey two hundred and fifty miles in one day. At that time there was a coach called the “Nonpareil,” running from Devonport to Bristol.
The proprietors of this vehicle, thinking that our’s would take off some of their trade, made their’s a London coach also, and started at the same time as we did....