Tuesday, 29 November 2011


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?


James Higham said...

It doesn't and where do pigeons fit into all this?

A K Haart said...

Pigeon pie sounds fine, but sparrow pie?

Demetrius said...

You would need to be a very good shot to hit a sparrow at any distance, no wonder they needed so few, the first to hit wins. BTW try Guy Mitchell "Sparrow In The Treetop" on Youtube, barmy but very much in period.

Sam Vega said...

Alas, passer domesticus is in decline in this country. I never appreciated them so much when they were more plentiful, but what handsome and appealing little creatures they are.

A K Haart said...

D - I can't imagine what they used to shoot them.

SV - we have loads in our privet hedge. Haven't seen so many for years.