Magazine article The Spectator

'Foxes Unearthed: A Story of Love and Loathing in Modern Britain', by Lucy Jones - Review

Magazine article The Spectator

'Foxes Unearthed: A Story of Love and Loathing in Modern Britain', by Lucy Jones - Review

Article excerpt

Have you ever considered tying a fox's penis to your head? Well no, nor have I, but if you suffer from migraines, perhaps you might give it a shot. The fox, in fact, was thought to be a cure for any number of maladies in the 1600s. Fox ashes dunked in wine were recommended as a cure for asthma, their brains were thought to be useful in treating epilepsy, and making a necklace of fox testicles for a child was billed as a surefire cure for toothache. It sounds like quite the fashion statement.

This book -- Lucy Jones's first -- is a fascinating discussion of the history of our attitude to the fox, and if you want to know more about the red creature that wakes you at 3 a.m. with its baby-like screaming, then this volume is sure to keep you occupied for a while at least. It's certainly interesting to learn how our attitude to the animal has altered. The author thanks Roald Dahl and his Fantastic Mr Fox for changing our perception of the fox from crafty trickster to hero. After all, if you look at 19th- and 20th-century literary depictions of foxes -- or even back to Aesop and the Bible -- they are almost always seen as dangerous, crafty and clever. Consider the way we use phrases such as 'cunning as a fox' or 'you sly fox'. Even now our language depicts them as being intelligent but untrustworthy.

But while Jones highlights the fact that foxes have always been respected for their craftiness, the entertaining ways in which they were used in the 1600s didn't exactly demonstrate that respect. Fox-tossing was a popular pastime in which a fox (or another animal -- wildcats, badgers and hares were also popular props) was bounced high into the air off a tight piece of material. Twenty-four feet was considered a jolly good attempt; not many of the animals survived. One festive dinnertime entertainment between courses in the Inner Temple involved releasing a cat and a fox and setting hounds after them.

Unsurprisingly, as well as recounting the history of the British people's relationship with foxes, Jones also covers the more recent politics of the hunting debate. For the majority of people, this is the one aspect of the fox that they know the most about -- so perhaps it didn't need as much attention as Jones gives it. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.