On September 19, the National Sporting Library and Museum in Middleburg, VA, hosted a presentation by Alasdair Jackson on his new biography, Lady of the Chase, The Life and Hunting Diaries of Daphne Moore. Jackson, former Director of the Masters of Foxhounds Association in the United Kingdom and past Master at several distinguished hunts, accompanied his commentary with dozens of vintage photographs and hand-painted illustrations from the book about one of Britain's most respected sporting journalists.
MFHA Executive Director David Twiggs, former UK MFHA Director Alasdair Jackson, and the Caroline Hunt Master Lt. Col. Robert N. Ferrar, Jr., outside the National Sporting Library and Museum. M. Drum photo.
The event was co-sponsored by the MFHA and the Virginia Foxhound Club. Jackson exchanged hunting tales with about thirty attendees while enjoying hors d'oeuvres before his talk, and signed many copies afterward - with proceeds going to the UK's Hunt Staff Benefit Society. It was this charitable arrangement that first interested him in writing the biography - he only knew Chase as a hunt reporter, and worried that her diaries might be uninteresting to someone who hadn't been out with her on a given day.
As he explained, he could not have been more mistaken. Raised in humble circumstances in council housing, the British equivalent of subsidized apartments, Chase was drawn to hounds from a very young age, and her enthusiasm and quick study earned her the support of many prominent members of sporting society. She never owned her own horse, but followed hounds in the saddle when others offered her a mount, or on foot, or on a bicycle.
Chase went on to establish herself as a well-regarded correspondent for Horse and Hound magazine, although writing never provided comfortable income. Jackson discovered that after racing behind the field on her bicycle and sending her report off for publication, Chase would return home and pen additional, sometimes humorous, reports on the day's activities in her own diaries. These personalized entries were illustrated with beautiful, whimsical pen and ink drawings, highlighted with watercolors.
As he spoke about her life, from before World War II into the final decades of the 20th century, Jackson shared photographs from the book of the hunts Chase followed. These include the Eton College Beagles, in 1936 under the youthful eye of Master and huntsman Ronnie Wallace, the Wye Valley Otterhounds, the Croome, Duke of Beaufort's, the Cotley Harriers, the New Forest Harriers under influential breeder Sir Newton Rycroft, and they Heythrop, among many others.
A sample of Chase's artwork decorates the title page.
Chase's personal diaries also feature clever references to people, places, and hounds, such as the alphabet she composed for the Croome. "S is for Slade, and also for Statter / T is for Tiger as mad as a hatter / U is for Unwin, who loves horse and hound / V is for Vic a good tenor to ground." As he described Chase's experiences, Jackson explained the country and the breeding goals of the many packs she visited, adding a historical perspective on the contemporaneous commentary from her diaries.
Published by Merlin Unwin books, Lady of the Chase, The Life and Hunting Diaries of Daphne Moore is generously illustrated both with Chase's entertaining sketches and with lovely archival photographs throughout. It is available in the United States from SCB Distributors in California, (800) 729-6423.