|House sparrow - from Wikipedia|
He had a tender heart, too; for, when he had a good commission to provide three or four score sparrows for a shooting-match, he would observe, in a compassionate tone, how singular it was that sparrows should have been made expressly for such purposes. The question whether men were made to shoot them, never entered into Poll’s philosophy.
Charles Dickens – Martin Chuzzlewit.
This Dickens quote from Martin Chuzzlewit seems to be a casual reference to a Victorian sport of shooting sparrows. The speaker is Poll Sweedlepipe, a dealer in cage birds. It’s not something I’ve come across before, yet the tone of the quote suggests Dickens’ readers would all be familiar with shooting sparrows for sport, even if they did not do it themselves.
About fifty years ago, a great uncle of mine spoke of eating sparrows as a child because his family were so poor. The time would be round about 1900 I suppose - decades after Dickens of course, but I sometimes wonder if there is a connection. Sparrow-shooting doesn’t sound like a rich person’s sport does it?