Tyger, Tyger

To pick up Tales of the Big Game Hunters is to suffer instant culture shock. The book plunges us into a world in which animals are slaughtered for the ivory, the skins, the racks, and the wonderful dangerous pleasure of the chase and kill. The British imperium is at its height, white supremacy unquestioned by white man, black, or yellow. Paternalism reigns. The white hunter rushes in to save a black village from marauding elephants or to kill a man-eating lion and tiger often at great personal peril. But he takes it as his due that the grateful natives will shower him with food and drink and that the tale of his heroic exploit will become a village legend passed on from father to son. All this tends to jolt late-20th-century sensibilities. But it is the world these people inherited, take it or leave it. I strongly recommend taking it.

Kenneth Kemp has selected 23 spine-tingling stories by a score of legendary great game hunters of the mid- and late 19th century, much of this material long since out of print. Here are such great figures as F.C. Selous, the South African scout who would die at the hand of a German sharpshooter in World War I, Sir Samuel Baker, whose work on the rifle is still acclaimed as seminal, great elephant hunters such as Arthur Henry Neumann and James Sutherland, and a dozen other larger-than-life luminaries from the hunting pantheon.

What is astonishing is how well so many of these men write....

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