Surtees wrote a number of excellent novels taking a slantendicular look at the habits of the English through the prism of fox hunting. Given that large numbers of the wealthy had nothing much to do most of the time it is hardly surprising they met via sport (Foxbook rather than Facebook). The novel, however, concerns not one of the wealthy but a chancer whose aim is not just to hunt the fox but the heiress. Mr Sponge seeks to make a few guineas selling horses, save a few guineas by lodging with the wealthy as their guest, and to hunt for the heiress with a lot of guineas. This rather parasitic existence arising from the fact that for many men lacking a trade but having the elements of good breeding one either had inherited wealth or a choice of the legitimate lines of industry which are (as Facey Romford notes) "poaching, betting, boxing, horse-dealing, cards and quoits". In short the refusal to allow young middle and upper-class women to pursue a career or profession was echoed for their male counterparts (especially younger brothers) - the Church and the Army being valuable sources of employment.
As Mr Sponge (the names of characters are indicative of their nature) rolls round an unnamed English county we meet a wide range of the locals (toffs and grooms). Surtees has an excellent turn of phrase and a keen eye together with being very amusing. The New Years Day hunt where the local youth turn out at Sir Harry Scattercash's being particularly good. It might seem all very distant but it did remind me of conversation with one set of grandparents who met over the hunting field.
Those of you who are hunt saboteurs will note that the principle of the "bag-fox" (a fox released to be hunted) was well-established back then. Indeed there is much that does not seem to have changed for good or ill.