W. S. Vosburghs Book---an Appreciation: Salvator, Daily Racing Form, 1922-11-22


view raw text

I W. S. VOSBURGHS BOOK--AN APPRECIATION BT SALVATOR. Repeatedly in recent years I have lamented the fact that there was no book on the American thoroughbred that was not either out of date or hopelessly inadequate. And in doing so I repeatedly expressed the hope that Mr. W. S. Vosburgh could or would be prevailed upon to supply this "great desideratum." It was, I think, about two years ago in Daily Racing Ronn that I suggested how "altogether fitting and proper" it would be were he to sit down to the composition of such a work and the Jockey Club, one of whose officials he so long has been, to sponsor it When I voiced these sentiments it was with little or no hope that my wishes would ever reach realization. I was merely expressing an ardent personal desire, based upon my long-cherished admiration for Mr. Vosburghs unrivaled .stores of information and admirable literary faculty and my con-jstant sense of the void in our turf literature has been, to sponsor it. UNEXPECTED BUT AGREEABLE. And now at last what I had hoped for and dreamed of has occurred. Mr. Vosburgh jhas written just such a book and the Jockey Club has sponsored its publication ! All of which goes to show that when the unex-J pected happens it need not be always a I disagreeable surprise. I had no warning of what was to occur j until but a few weeks ago ; and then, shortly after, the volume itself, through the courtesy Jof the Jockey Club, Avas laid one morning on I my desk. As it has been privately printed in a limited edition it cannot be obtained at book stores in the ordinary way. This is its only drawback, but one necessitated by the form in which it has been published. "Racing in America, 1866-1921" so Mr. Vosburgh has modestly chosen to call his work as the Jockey Club has issued it from the Scribner press, is a magnificent, a sumptuous volume. It is the most dignified, the most tasteful and artistic specimen of the "art preservative of all arts" that the American turf has ever inspired, or that of any other country, in so far as my experience enables me to judge. A THING OF "HIGH DEGREE." Like the animal it celebrates, it is a thing of "high degree," upon which every resource has been lavished that might enhance its elegance and beauty. The quietude of its luxury is one of its fine features, and this leaves the voice of criticism silent. There is only one respect in which the most captious censor could wish it different. The illustrations are profuse and cover a wide range, but few of them lack distinction. This, however, is due to the fact that it is practically impossible to obtain satisfactory portraits of many of Americas greatest racers for purposes of reproduction. What a misfortune it is that this country has not and never has had a Rouch or a Hailey ! In a brief notice of the work which has already appeared in Daily Racing Form an outline of its contents has been given, so that need not here be repeated. Mr. Vosburgh has confined himself to the period a lengthy one with which he has been personally familiar. He has not essayed the task of writing "history," so-called, but has offered us something still more valuable : his immediate, first-hand impressions and recollections of the great race horses and race tracks, the owners, trainers, jockeys and other personalities which have adorned or made memorable the era which began with the revival of racing at the close of the Civil War and comes down to this present year. While the volume is a large one, it is of course manifest that Mr. Vosburgh has had to, as it were, sort out his memories, sift his stories of information and experiences, and present only the clarified and concentrated residuum. This he has accomplished in a most felicitous manner. While compressing the mateiials for pages into paragraphs, chapters into pages and what would make a whole library into a single volume, he has at the same time, by his admirable ! selective judgment and literary skill, ac-1 quitted himself of the task without sacri-1 ficing anything of importance. His narrative flows as smoothly, as gracefully, as enthrall-ingly, as if it had been written spontaneously and "everything been told." To one aware of the long perspective and the crowded vistas through which his way has been made the happy ease, the fluidity and finish of his story appear astonishing. He has exercised the "art that conceals art" and by that Ave have profited who turn his pages. They combine many details, assembled in a warm and glowing picture, or, rather, panorama, which has the verisimili tude of life. Apparently his hand has never shaken, his memory hesftated, his interest flagged or his faculty of presentation failed him. On page after page he sketches with a few deft and telling strokes what he desires to portray. Now the lines are as beautifully "bitten in" as those of an etching, again they are as if tinted with exquisite halftones, or disclose the breadth of treatment of a painters brush. DISAGREEMENT AND RESPECT. Of course individual preferences may permit various readers to differ, at times, in judgment of various horses or events ; something that applies to all books of the kind. But if one may here and there disagree, one must always respect Mr. Vosburghs verdicts and pause tand consider if, after all, they may not be more correct and valid than ones own? It is almost impossible for any man to write of race horses or horse racing without betraying prejudice on the one hand or undue extravagance of praise on the other. Our likes and dislikes for and against certain horses or families of horses, certain breeders, owners or other horsemen, are constantly waylaying us and, as the turfite is above all things human, leading us astray. But there is almost no evidence of such weakness in Mr. Vosburghs volume. He has, in a remarkable degree, divested himself thereof, and eliminated them from his equations. At the same time he has not remained remote or frigid. While never losing his poise, he has refrained consistently from any of the attitudes of the "superior person," the ex-cathedra censor or arbiter of reputations. Vou feel throughout the justness of his standards and the impartiality with which he has applied them. A PERMANENT RECORD. "Racing in America" is something whose possession, to the lover of racing, is at once a privilege and a pleasure. The eager reader will find it difficult not to devour it forthwith, heedless of the fiight of time or the calls of duty as page after page is turned with increasing fascination. He will find it ! rlso something in the nature of a permanent j record and register to which he will return again and again. J One knows not which to be most grateful J to for it Mr. Vosburgh for having written it or the Jockey Club for having had it bodied forth so superbly. John Milton, that stern old Puritan, to whom, doubtless, all forms of sport were anathema, has nevertheless given us an oft-quoted definition which I cannot refrain from quoting yet again : "A good book," said he, "is the precious life-blood of a master-spirit, embalmed and treasured up to a life beyond life." For is it not the truth that the writers very life-blood has gone to the composition of this volume, and that long after we of the present shall have passed from the scenes of which he writes it will be treasured as their enduring monument?

Persistent Link: https://drf.uky.edu/catalog/1920s/drf1922112201/drf1922112201_8_8
Local Identifier: drf1922112201_8_8
Library of Congress Record: https://lccn.loc.gov/unk82075800