Part 4 out of 4
"I'faith, I believe you're a pair," said Mr. Wood.
"Pray, sir, keep your tongue to yourself. Your opinion isn't asked
anyhow--no, nor your company wanted neither," cried Mrs. Catherine,
with proper spirit.
At which remark Mr. Wood only whistled.
"I have asked this here gentleman to pass this evening along with
me. We've been drinking together, ma'am."
"That we have", said Mr. Wood, looking at Mrs. Cat with the most
"I say, ma'am, that we've been a-drinking together; and when we've
been a-drinking together, I say that a man is my friend. Doctor
Wood is my friend, madam--the Reverend Doctor Wood. We've passed
the evening in company, talking about politics, madam--politics and
riddle-iddle-igion. We've not been flaunting in tea-gardens, and
ogling the men."
"It's a lie!" shrieked Mrs. Hayes. "I went with Tom--you know I
did: the boy wouldn't let me rest till I promised to go."
"Hang him, I hate him," said Mr. Hayes: "he's always in my way."
"He's the only friend I have in the world, and the only being I care
a pin for," said Catherine.
"He's an impudent idle good-for-nothing scoundrel, and I hope to see
him hanged!" shouted Mr. Hayes. "And pray, madam, whose carriage
was that as you came home in? I warrant you paid something for the
"Another lie!" screamed Cat, and clutched hold of a supper-knife.
"Say it again, John Hayes, and, by ------ I'll do for you."
"Do for me? Hang me," said Mr. Hayes, flourishing a stick, and
perfectly pot-valiant, "do you think I care for a bastard and a--?"
He did not finish the sentence, for the woman ran at him like a
savage, knife in hand. He bounded back, flinging his arms about
wildly, and struck her with his staff sharply across the forehead.
The woman went down instantly. A lucky blow was it for Hayes and
her: it saved him from death, perhaps, and her from murder.
All this scene--a very important one of our drama--might have been
described at much greater length; but, in truth, the author has a
natural horror of dwelling too long upon such hideous spectacles:
nor would the reader be much edified by a full and accurate
knowledge of what took place. The quarrel, however, though not more
violent than many that had previously taken place between Hayes and
his wife, was about to cause vast changes in the condition of this
Hayes was at the first moment of his victory very much alarmed; he
feared that he had killed the woman; and Wood started up rather
anxiously too, with the same fancy. But she soon began to recover.
Water was brought; her head was raised and bound up; and in a short
time Mrs. Catherine gave vent to a copious fit of tears, which
relieved her somewhat. These did not affect Hayes much--they rather
pleased him, for he saw he had got the better; and although Cat
fiercely turned upon him when he made some small attempt towards
reconciliation, he did not heed her anger, but smiled and winked in
a self-satisfied way at Wood. The coward was quite proud of his
victory; and finding Catherine asleep, or apparently so, when he
followed her to bed, speedily gave himself up to slumber too, and
had some pleasant dreams to his portion.
Mr. Wood also went sniggering and happy upstairs to his chamber.
The quarrel had been a real treat to him; it excited the old man-
-tickled him into good-humour; and he promised himself a rare
continuation of the fun when Tom should be made acquainted with the
circumstances of the dispute. As for his Excellency the Count, the
ride from Marylebone Gardens, and a tender squeeze of the hand,
which Catherine permitted to him on parting, had so inflamed the
passions of the nobleman, that, after sleeping for nine hours, and
taking his chocolate as usual the next morning, he actually delayed
to read the newspaper, and kept waiting a toy-shop lady from
Cornhill (with the sweetest bargain of Mechlin lace), in order to
discourse to his chaplain on the charms of Mrs. Hayes.
She, poor thing, never closed her lids, except when she would have
had Mr. Hayes imagine that she slumbered; but lay beside him,
tossing and tumbling, with hot eyes wide open and heart thumping,
and pulse of a hundred and ten, and heard the heavy hours tolling;
and at last the day came peering, haggard, through the
window-curtains, and found her still wakeful and wretched.
Mrs. Hayes had never been, as we have seen, especially fond of her
lord; but now, as the day made visible to her the sleeping figure
and countenance of that gentleman, she looked at him with a contempt
and loathing such as she had never felt even in all the years of her
wedded life. Mr. Hayes was snoring profoundly: by his bedside, on
his ledger, stood a large greasy tin candlestick, containing a lank
tallow-candle, turned down in the shaft; and in the lower part, his
keys, purse, and tobacco-pipe; his feet were huddled up in his
greasy threadbare clothes; his head and half his sallow face muffled
up in a red woollen nightcap; his beard was of several days' growth;
his mouth was wide open, and he was snoring profoundly: on a more
despicable little creature the sun never shone. And to this sordid
wretch was Catherine united for ever. What a pretty rascal history
might be read in yonder greasy day-book, which never left the
miser!--he never read in any other. Of what a treasure were yonder
keys and purse the keepers! not a shilling they guarded but was
picked from the pocket of necessity, plundered from needy
wantonness, or pitilessly squeezed from starvation. "A fool, a
miser, and a coward! Why was I bound to this wretch?" thought
Catherine: "I, who am high-spirited and beautiful (did not HE tell
me so?); I who, born a beggar, have raised myself to competence, and
might have mounted--who knows whither?--if cursed Fortune had not
As Mrs. Cat did not utter these sentiments, but only thought them,
we have a right to clothe her thoughts in the genteelest possible
language; and, to the best of our power, have done so. If the
reader examines Mrs. Hayes's train of reasoning, he will not, we
should think, fail to perceive how ingeniously she managed to fix
all the wrong upon her husband, and yet to twist out some
consolatory arguments for her own vanity. This perverse
argumentation we have all of us, no doubt, employed in our time.
How often have we,--we poets, politicians, philosophers,
family-men,--found charming excuses for our own rascalities in the
monstrous wickedness of the world about us; how loudly have we
abused the times and our neighbours! All this devil's logic did
Mrs. Catherine, lying wakeful in her bed on the night of the
Marylebone fete, exert in gloomy triumph.
It must, however, be confessed, that nothing could be more just than
Mrs. Hayes's sense of her husband's scoundrelism and meanness; for
if we have not proved these in the course of this history, we have
proved nothing. Mrs. Cat had a shrewd observing mind; and if she
wanted for proofs against Hayes, she had but to look before and
about her to find them. This amiable pair were lying in a large
walnut-bed, with faded silk furniture, which had been taken from
under a respectable old invalid widow, who had become security for a
prodigal son; the room was hung round with an antique tapestry
(representing Rebecca at the Well, Bathsheba Bathing, Judith and
Holofernes, and other subjects from Holy Writ), which had been many
score times sold for fifty pounds, and bought back by Mr. Hayes for
two, in those accommodating bargains which he made with young
gentlemen, who received fifty pounds of money and fifty of tapestry
in consideration of their hundred-pound bills. Against this
tapestry, and just cutting off Holofernes's head, stood an enormous
ominous black clock, the spoil of some other usurious transaction.
Some chairs, and a dismal old black cabinet, completed the furniture
of this apartment: it wanted but a ghost to render its gloom
Mrs. Hayes sat up in the bed sternly regarding her husband. There
is, be sure, a strong magnetic influence in wakeful eyes so
examining a sleeping person (do not you, as a boy, remember waking
of bright summer mornings and finding your mother looking over you?
had not the gaze of her tender eyes stolen into your senses long
before you woke, and cast over your slumbering spirit a sweet spell
of peace, and love, and fresh springing joy?) Some such influence
had Catherine's looks upon her husband: for, as he slept under
them, the man began to writhe about uneasily, and to burrow his head
in the pillow, and to utter quick, strange moans and cries, such as
have often jarred one's ear while watching at the bed of the
feverish sleeper. It was just upon six, and presently the clock
began to utter those dismal grinding sounds, which issue from clocks
at such periods, and which sound like the death-rattle of the
departing hour. Then the bell struck the knell of it; and with this
Mr. Hayes awoke, and looked up, and saw Catherine gazing at him.
Their eyes met for an instant, and Catherine turned away, burning
red, and looking as if she had been caught in the commission of a
A kind of blank terror seized upon old Hayes's soul: a horrible icy
fear, and presentiment of coming evil; and yet the woman had but
looked at him. He thought rapidly over the occurrences of the last
night, the quarrel, and the end of it. He had often struck her
before when angry, and heaped all kinds of bitter words upon her;
but, in the morning, she bore no malice, and the previous quarrel
was forgotten, or, at least, passed over. Why should the last
night's dispute not have the same end? Hayes calculated all this,
and tried to smile.
"I hope we're friends, Cat?" said he. "You know I was in liquor
last night, and sadly put out by the loss of that fifty pound.
They'll ruin me, dear--I know they will."
Mrs. Hayes did not answer.
"I should like to see the country again, dear," said he, in his most
wheedling way. "I've a mind, do you know, to call in all our money?
It's you who've made every farthing of it, that's sure; and it's a
matter of two thousand pound by this time. Suppose we go into
Warwickshire, Cat, and buy a farm, and live genteel. Shouldn't you
like to live a lady in your own county again? How they'd stare at
Birmingham! hey, Cat?"
And with this Mr. Hayes made a motion as if he would seize his
wife's hand, but she flung his back again.
"Coward!" said she, "you want liquor to give you courage, and then
you've only heart enough to strike women."
"It was only in self-defence, my dear," said Hayes, whose courage
had all gone. "You tried, you know, to--to--"
"To STAB you, and I wish I had!" said Mrs. Hayes, setting her teeth,
and glaring at him like a demon; and so saying she sprung out of
bed. There was a great stain of blood on her pillow. "Look at it,"
said she. "That blood's of your shedding!" and at this Hayes fairly
began to weep, so utterly downcast and frightened was the miserable
man. The wretch's tears only inspired his wife with a still greater
rage and loathing; she cared not so much for the blow, but she hated
the man: the man to whom she was tied for ever--for ever! The bar
between her and wealth, happiness, love, rank perhaps. "If I were
free," thought Mrs. Hayes (the thought had been sitting at her
pillow all night, and whispering ceaselessly into her ear)--,"If I
were free, Max would marry me; I know he would:--he said so
* * *
As if by a kind of intuition, old Wood seemed to read all this
woman's thoughts; for he said that day with a sneer, that he would
wager she was thinking how much better it would be to be a Count's
lady than a poor miser's wife. "And faith," said he, "a Count and a
chariot-and-six is better than an old skinflint with a cudgel." And
then he asked her if her head was better, and supposed that she was
used to beating; and cut sundry other jokes, which made the poor
wretch's wounds of mind and body feel a thousand times sorer.
Tom, too, was made acquainted with the dispute, and swore his
accustomed vengeance against his stepfather. Such feelings, Wood,
with a dexterous malice, would never let rest; it was his joy, at
first quite a disinterested one, to goad Catherine and to frighten
Hayes: though, in truth, that unfortunate creature had no occasion
for incitements from without to keep up the dreadful state of terror
and depression into which he had fallen.
For, from the morning after the quarrel, the horrible words and
looks of Catherine never left Hayes's memory; but a cold fear
followed him--a dreadful prescience. He strove to overcome this
fate as a coward would--to kneel to it for compassion--to coax and
wheedle it into forgiveness. He was slavishly gentle to Catherine,
and bore her fierce taunts with mean resignation. He trembled
before young Billings, who was now established in the house (his
mother said, to protect her against the violence of her husband),
and suffered his brutal language and conduct without venturing to
The young man and his mother lorded over the house: Hayes hardly
dared to speak in their presence; seldom sat with the family except
at meals; but slipped away to his chamber (he slept apart now from
his wife) or passed the evening at the public-house, where he was
constrained to drink--to spend some of his beloved sixpences for
And, of course, the neighbours began to say, "John Hayes neglects
his wife." "He tyrannises over her, and beats her." "Always at the
public-house, leaving an honest woman alone at home!"
The unfortunate wretch did NOT hate his wife. He was used to
her--fond of her as much as he could be fond--sighed to be friends
with her again--repeatedly would creep, whimpering, to Wood's room,
when the latter was alone, and begged him to bring about a
reconciliation. They WERE reconciled, as much as ever they could
be. The woman looked at him, thought what she might be but for him,
and scorned and loathed him with a feeling that almost amounted to
insanity. What nights she lay awake, weeping, and cursing herself
and him! His humility and beseeching looks only made him more
despicable and hateful to her.
If Hayes did not hate the mother, however, he hated the boy--hated
and feared him dreadfully. He would have poisoned him if he had had
the courage; but he dared not: he dared not even look at him as he
sat there, the master of the house, in insolent triumph. O God! how
the lad's brutal laughter rung in Hayes's ears; and how the stare of
his fierce bold black eyes pursued him! Of a truth, if Mr. Wood
loved mischief, as he did, honestly and purely for mischief's sake,
he had enough here. There was mean malice, and fierce scorn, and
black revenge, and sinful desire, boiling up in the hearts of these
wretched people, enough to content Mr. Wood's great master himself.
Hayes's business, as we have said, was nominally that of a
carpenter; but since, for the last few years, he had added to it
that of a lender of money, the carpenter's trade had been neglected
altogether for one so much more profitable. Mrs. Hayes had exerted
herself, with much benefit to her husband, in his usurious business.
She was a resolute, clear-sighted, keen woman, that did not love
money, but loved to be rich and push her way in the world. She
would have nothing to do with the trade now, however, and told her
husband to manage it himself. She felt that she was separated from
him for ever, and could no more be brought to consider her interests
as connected with his own.
The man was well fitted for the creeping and niggling of his
dastardly trade; and gathered his moneys, and busied himself with
his lawyer, and acted as his own bookkeeper and clerk, not without
satisfaction. His wife's speculations, when they worked in concert,
used often to frighten him. He never sent out his capital without a
pang, and only because he dared not question her superior judgment
and will. He began now to lend no more: he could not let the money
out of his sight. His sole pleasure was to creep up into his room,
and count and recount it. When Billings came into the house, Hayes
had taken a room next to that of Wood. It was a protection to him;
for Wood would often rebuke the lad for using Hayes ill: and both
Catherine and Tom treated the old man with deference.
At last--it was after he had collected a good deal of his money--
Hayes began to reason with himself, "Why should I stay?--stay to be
insulted by that boy, or murdered by him? He is ready for any
crime." He determined to fly. He would send Catherine money every
year. No--she had the furniture; let her let lodgings--that would
support her. He would go, and live away, abroad in some cheap
place--away from that boy and his horrible threats. The idea of
freedom was agreeable to the poor wretch; and he began to wind up
his affairs as quickly as he could.
Hayes would now allow no one to make his bed or enter his room; and
Wood could hear him through the panels fidgeting perpetually to and
fro, opening and shutting of chests, and clinking of coin. At the
least sound he would start up, and would go to Billings's door and
listen. Wood used to hear him creeping through the passages, and
returning stealthily to his own chamber.
One day the woman and her son had been angrily taunting him in the
presence of a neighbour. The neighbour retired soon; and Hayes, who
had gone with him to the door, heard, on returning, the voice of
Wood in the parlour. The old man laughed in his usual saturnine
way, and said, "Have a care, Mrs. Cat; for if Hayes were to die
suddenly, by the laws, the neighbours would accuse thee of his
Hayes started as if he had been shot. "He too is in the plot,"
thought he. "They are all leagued against me: they WILL kill me:
they are only biding their time." Fear seized him, and he thought
of flying that instant and leaving all; and he stole into his room
and gathered his money together. But only a half of it was there:
in a few weeks all would have come in. He had not the heart to go.
But that night Wood heard Hayes pause at HIS door, before he went to
listen at Mrs. Catherine's. "What is the man thinking of?" said
Wood. "He is gathering his money together. Has he a hoard yonder
unknown to us all?"
Wood thought he would watch him. There was a closet between the two
rooms: Wood bored a hole in the panel, and peeped through. Hayes
had a brace of pistols, and four or five little bags before him on
the table. One of these he opened, and placed, one by one,
five-and-twenty guineas into it. Such a sum had been due that
day--Catherine spoke of it only in the morning; for the debtor's
name had by chance been mentioned in the conversation. Hayes
commonly kept but a few guineas in the house. For what was he
amassing all these? The next day, Wood asked for change for a
twenty-pound bill. Hayes said he had but three guineas. And, when
asked by Catherine where the money was that was paid the day before,
said that it was at the banker's. "The man is going to fly," said
Wood; "that is sure: if he does, I know him--he will leave his wife
without a shilling."
He watched him for several days regularly: two or three more bags
were added to the former number. "They are pretty things, guineas,"
thought Wood, "and tell no tales, like bank-bills." And he thought
over the days when he and Macshane used to ride abroad in search of
I don't know what thoughts entered into Mr. Wood's brain; but the
next day, after seeing young Billings, to whom he actually made a
present of a guinea, that young man, in conversing with his mother,
said, "Do you know, mother, that if you were free, and married the
Count, I should be a lord? It's the German law, Mr. Wood says; and
you know he was in them countries with Marlborough."
"Ay, that he would," said Mr. Wood, "in Germany: but Germany isn't
England; and it's no use talking of such things."
"Hush, child!" said Mrs. Hayes, quite eagerly: "how can _I_ marry
the Count? Besides, a'n't I married, and isn't he too great a lord
"Too great a lord?--not a whit, mother. If it wasn't for Hayes, I
might be a lord now. He gave me five guineas only last week; but
curse the skinflint who never will part with a shilling."
"It's not so bad as his striking your mother, Tom. I had my stick
up, and was ready to fell him t'other night," added Mr. Wood. And
herewith he smiled, and looked steadily in Mrs. Catherine's face.
She dared not look again; but she felt that the old man knew a
secret that she had been trying to hide from herself. Fool! he knew
it; and Hayes knew it dimly: and never, never, since that day of
the gala, had it left her, sleeping or waking. When Hayes, in his
fear, had proposed to sleep away from her, she started with joy:
she had been afraid that she might talk in her sleep, and so let
slip her horrible confession.
Old Wood knew all her history since the period of the Marylebone
fete. He had wormed it out of her, day by day; he had counselled
her how to act; warned her not to yield; to procure, at least, a
certain provision for her son, and a handsome settlement for
herself, if she determined on quitting her husband. The old man
looked on the business in a proper philosophical light, told her
bluntly that he saw she was bent upon going off with the Count, and
bade her take precautions: else she might be left as she had been
Catherine denied all these charges; but she saw the Count daily,
notwithstanding, and took all the measures which Wood had
recommended to her. They were very prudent ones. Galgenstein grew
hourly more in love: never had he felt such a flame; not in the
best days of his youth; not for the fairest princess, countess, or
actress, from Vienna to Paris.
At length--it was the night after he had seen Hayes counting his
money-bags--old Wood spoke to Mrs. Hayes very seriously. "That
husband of yours, Cat," said he, "meditates some treason; ay, and
fancies we are about such. He listens nightly at your door and at
mine: he is going to leave you, be sure on't; and if he leaves you,
he leaves you to starve."
"I can be rich elsewhere," said Mrs. Cat.
"What, with Max?"
"Ay, with Max: and why not?" said Mrs. Hayes.
"Why not, fool! Do you recollect Birmingham? Do you think that
Galgenstein, who is so tender now because he HASN'T won you, will be
faithful because he HAS? Psha, woman, men are not made so! Don't
go to him until you are sure: if you were a widow now, he would
marry you; but never leave yourself at his mercy: if you were to
leave your husband to go to him, he would desert you in a
She might have been a Countess! she knew she might, but for this
cursed barrier between her and her fortune. Wood knew what she was
thinking of, and smiled grimly.
"Besides," he continued, "remember Tom. As sure as you leave Hayes
without some security from Max, the boy's ruined: he who might be a
lord, if his mother had but--Psha! never mind: that boy will go on
the road, as sure as my name's Wood. He's a Turpin cock in his eye,
my dear,--a regular Tyburn look. He knows too many of that sort
already; and is too fond of a bottle and a girl to resist and be
honest when it comes to the pinch."
"It's all true," said Mrs. Hayes. "Tom's a high mettlesome fellow,
and would no more mind a ride on Hounslow Heath than he does a walk
now in the Mall."
"Do you want him hanged, my dear?" said Wood.
"It IS a pity, and that's sure," concluded Mr. Wood, knocking the
ashes out of his pipe, and closing this interesting conversation.
"It is a pity that that old skinflint should be in the way of both
your fortunes; and he about to fling you over, too!"
Mrs. Catherine retired musing, as Mr. Billings had previously done;
a sweet smile of contentment lighted up the venerable features of
Doctor Wood, and he walked abroad into the streets as happy a fellow
as any in London.
CHAPTER XII. TREATS OF LOVE, AND PREPARES FOR DEATH.
And to begin this chapter, we cannot do better than quote a part of
a letter from M. l'Abbe O'Flaherty to Madame la Comtesse de X-----
"MADAM,--The little Arouet de Voltaire, who hath come 'hither to
take a turn in England,' as I see by the Post of this morning, hath
brought me a charming pacquet from your Ladyship's hands, which
ought to render a reasonable man happy; but, alas! makes your slave
miserable. I think of dear Paris (and something more dear than all
Paris, of which, Madam, I may not venture to speak further)--I think
of dear Paris, and find myself in this dismal Vitehall, where, when
the fog clears up, I can catch a glimpse of muddy Thames, and of
that fatal palace which the kings of England have been obliged to
exchange for your noble castle of Saint Germains, that stands so
stately by silver Seine. Truly, no bad bargain. For my part, I
would give my grand ambassadorial saloons, hangings, gildings,
feasts, valets, ambassadors and all, for a bicoque in sight of the
Thuilleries' towers, or my little cell in the Irlandois.
"My last sheets have given you a pretty notion of our ambassador's
public doings; now for a pretty piece of private scandal respecting
that great man. Figure to yourself, Madam, his Excellency is in
love; actually in love, talking day and night about a certain fair
one whom he hath picked out of a gutter; who is well nigh forty
years old; who was his mistress when he was in England a captain of
dragoons, some sixty, seventy, or a hundred years since; who hath
had a son by him, moreover, a sprightly lad, apprentice to a tailor
of eminence that has the honour of making his Excellency's breeches.
"Since one fatal night when he met this fair creature at a certain
place of publique resort, called Marylebone Gardens, our Cyrus hath
been an altered creature. Love hath mastered this brainless
ambassador, and his antics afford me food for perpetual mirth. He
sits now opposite to me at a table inditing a letter to his
Catherine, and copying it from--what do you think?--from the 'Grand
Cyrus.' 'I swear, madam, that my happiness would be to offer you
this hand, as I have my heart long ago, and I beg you to bear in
mind this declaration.' I have just dictated to him the above
tender words; for our Envoy, I need not tell you, is not strong at
writing or thinking.
"The fair Catherine, I must tell you, is no less than a carpenter's
wife, a well-to-do bourgeois, living at the Tyburn, or Gallows Road.
She found out her ancient lover very soon after our arrival, and
hath a marvellous hankering to be a Count's lady. A pretty little
creature is this Madam Catherine. Billets, breakfasts, pretty
walks, presents of silks and satins, pass daily between the pair;
but, strange to say, the lady is as virtuous as Diana, and hath
resisted all my Count's cajoleries hitherto. The poor fellow told
me, with tears in his eyes, that he believed he should have carried
her by storm on the very first night of their meeting, but that her
son stepped into the way; and he or somebody else hath been in the
way ever since. Madam will never appear alone. I believe it is
this wondrous chastity of the lady that has elicited this wondrous
constancy of the gentleman. She is holding out for a settlement;
who knows if not for a marriage? Her husband, she says, is ailing;
her lover is fool enough, and she herself conducts her negotiations,
as I must honestly own, with a pretty notion of diplomacy."
* * *
This is the only part of the reverend gentleman's letter that
directly affects this history. The rest contains some scandal
concerning greater personages about the Court, a great share of
abuse of the Elector of Hanover, and a pretty description of a
boxing-match at Mr. Figg's amphitheatre in Oxford Road, where John
Wells, of Edmund Bury (as by the papers may be seen), master of the
noble science of self-defence, did engage with Edward Sutton, of
Gravesend, master of the said science; and the issue of the combat.
"N. B."--adds the Father, in a postscript--"Monsieur Figue gives a
hat to be cudgelled for before the Master mount; and the whole of
this fashionable information hath been given me by Monseigneur's
son, Monsieur Billings, garcon-tailleur, Chevalier de Galgenstein."
Mr. Billings was, in fact, a frequent visitor at the Ambassador's
house; to whose presence he, by a general order, was always
admitted. As for the connection between Mrs. Catherine and her
former admirer, the Abbe's history of it is perfectly correct; nor
can it be said that this wretched woman, whose tale now begins to
wear a darker hue, was, in anything but SOUL, faithless to her
husband. But she hated him, longed to leave him, and loved another:
the end was coming quickly, and every one of our unknowing actors
and actresses were to be implicated, more or less, in the
It will be seen that Mrs. Cat had followed pretty closely the
injunctions of Mr. Wood in regard to her dealings with the Count;
who grew more heart-stricken and tender daily, as the completion of
his wishes was delayed, and his desires goaded by contradiction.
The Abbe has quoted one portion of a letter written by him; here is
the entire performance, extracted, as the holy father said, chiefly
from the romance of the "Grand Cyrus".
"Unhappy Maximilian unto unjust Catherina.
"MADAM,--It must needs be that I love you better than any ever did,
since, notwithstanding your injustice in calling me perfidious, I
love you no less than I did before. On the contrary, my passion is
so violent, and your unjust accusation makes me so sensible of it,
that if you did but know the resentments of my soule, you would
confess your selfe the most cruell and unjust woman in the world.
You shall, ere long, Madam, see me at your feete; and as you were my
first passion, so you will be my last.
"On my knees I will tell you, at the first handsom opportunity, that
the grandure of my passion can only be equalled by your beauty; it
hath driven me to such a fatall necessity, as that I cannot hide the
misery which you have caused. Sure, the hostil goddes have, to
plague me, ordayned that fatal marridge, by which you are bound to
one so infinitly below you in degree. Were that bond of ill-omind
Hymen cut in twayn witch binds you, I swear, Madam, that my
happiniss woulde be to offer you this hande, as I have my harte long
agoe. And I praye you to beare in minde this declaracion, which I
here sign with my hande, and witch I pray you may one day be called
upon to prove the truth on. Beleave me, Madam, that there is none
in the World who doth more honor to your vertue than myselfe, nor
who wishes your happinesse with more zeal than--MAXIMILIAN.
"From my lodgings in Whitehall, this 25th of February.
"To the incomparable Catherina, these, with a scarlet satten
The Count had debated about the sentence promising marriage in event
of Hayes's death; but the honest Abbe cut these scruples very short,
by saying, justly, that, because he wrote in that manner, there was
no need for him to act so; that he had better not sign and address
the note in full; and that he presumed his Excellency was not quite
so timid as to fancy that the woman would follow him all the way to
Germany, when his diplomatic duties would be ended; as they would
The receipt of this billet caused such a flush of joy and exultation
to unhappy happy Mrs. Catherine, that Wood did not fail to remark
it, and speedily learned the contents of the letter. Wood had no
need to bid the poor wretch guard it very carefully: it never from
that day forth left her; it was her title of nobility,--her pass to
rank, wealth, happiness. She began to look down on her neighbours;
her manner to her husband grew more than ordinarily scornful; the
poor vain wretch longed to tell her secret, and to take her place
openly in the world. She a Countess, and Tom a Count's son! She
felt that she should royally become the title!
About this time--and Hayes was very much frightened at the
prevalence of the rumour--it suddenly began to be about in his
quarter that he was going to quit the country. The story was in
everybody's mouth; people used to sneer when he turned pale, and
wept, and passionately denied it.
It was said, too, that Mrs. Hayes was not his wife, but his
mistress--everybody had this story--his mistress, whom he treated
most cruelly, and was about to desert. The tale of the blow which
had felled her to the ground was known in all quarters. When he
declared that the woman tried to stab him, nobody believed him: the
women said he would have been served right if she had done so. How
had these stories gone abroad? "Three days more, and I WILL fly,"
thought Hayes; "and the world may say what it pleases."
Ay, fool, fly--away so swiftly that Fate cannot overtake thee: hide
so cunningly that Death shall not find thy place of refuge!
CHAPTER XIII. BEING A PREPARATION FOR THE END.
The reader, doubtless, doth now partly understand what dark acts of
conspiracy are beginning to gather around Mr. Hayes; and possibly
1. That if the rumour was universally credited which declared that
Mrs. Catherine was only Hayes's mistress, and not his wife,
She might, if she so inclined, marry another person; and thereby not
injure her fame and excite wonderment, but actually add to her
2. That if all the world did steadfastly believe that Mr. Hayes
intended to desert this woman, after having cruelly maltreated her,
The direction which his journey might take would be of no
consequence; and he might go to Highgate, to Edinburgh, to
Constantinople, nay, down a well, and no soul would care to ask
whither he had gone.
These points Mr. Hayes had not considered duly. The latter case had
been put to him, and annoyed him, as we have seen; the former had
actually been pressed upon him by Mrs. Hayes herself; who, in almost
the only communication she had had with him since their last
quarrel, had asked him, angrily, in the presence of Wood and her
son, whether he had dared to utter such lies, and how it came to
pass that the neighbours looked scornfully at her, and avoided her?
To this charge Mr. Hayes pleaded, very meekly, that he was not
guilty; and young Billings, taking him by the collar, and clinching
his fist in his face, swore a dreadful oath that he would have the
life of him if he dared abuse his mother. Mrs. Hayes then spoke of
the general report abroad, that he was going to desert her; which,
if he attempted to do, Mr. Billings vowed that he would follow him
to Jerusalem and have his blood. These threats, and the insolent
language of young Billings, rather calmed Hayes than agitated him:
he longed to be on his journey; but he began to hope that no
obstacle would be placed in the way of it. For the first time since
many days, he began to enjoy a feeling something akin to security,
and could look with tolerable confidence towards a comfortable
completion of his own schemes of treason.
These points being duly settled, we are now arrived, O public, at a
point for which the author's soul hath been yearning ever since this
history commenced. We are now come, O critic, to a stage of the
work when this tale begins to assume an appearance so interestingly
horrific, that you must have a heart of stone if you are not
interested by it. O candid and discerning reader, who art sick of
the hideous scenes of brutal bloodshed which have of late come forth
from pens of certain eminent wits,* if you turn away disgusted from
the book, remember that this passage hath not been written for you,
or such as you, who have taste to know and hate the style in which
it hath been composed; but for the public, which hath no such
taste:--for the public, which can patronise four different
representations of Jack Sheppard,--for the public whom its literary
providers have gorged with blood and foul Newgate garbage,--and to
whom we poor creatures, humbly following at the tail of our great
high-priests and prophets of the press, may, as in duty bound, offer
some small gift of our own: a little mite truly, but given with
good-will. Come up, then, fair Catherine and brave Count;--appear,
gallant Brock, and faultless Billings;--hasten hither, honest John
Hayes: the former chapters are but flowers in which we have been
decking you for the sacrifice. Ascend to the altar, ye innocent
lambs, and prepare for the final act: lo! the knife is sharpened,
and the sacrificer ready! Stretch your throats, sweet ones,--for
the public is thirsty, and must have blood!
* This was written in 1840.
CHAPTER THE LAST.
That Mr. Hayes had some notion of the attachment of Monsieur de
Galgenstein for his wife is very certain: the man could not but
perceive that she was more gaily dressed, and more frequently absent
than usual; and must have been quite aware that from the day of the
quarrel until the present period, Catherine had never asked him for
a shilling for the house expenses. He had not the heart to offer,
however; nor, in truth, did she seem to remember that money was due.
She received, in fact, many sums from the tender Count. Tom was
likewise liberally provided by the same personage; who was,
moreover, continually sending presents of various kinds to the
person on whom his affections were centred.
One of these gifts was a hamper of choice mountain-wine, which had
been some weeks in the house, and excited the longing of Mr. Hayes,
who loved wine very much. This liquor was generally drunk by Wood
and Billings, who applauded it greatly; and many times, in passing
through the back-parlour,--which he had to traverse in order to
reach the stair, Hayes had cast a tender eye towards the drink; of
which, had he dared, he would have partaken.
On the 1st of March, in the year 1726, Mr. Hayes had gathered
together almost the whole sum with which he intended to decamp; and
having on that very day recovered the amount of a bill which he
thought almost hopeless, he returned home in tolerable good-humour;
and feeling, so near was his period of departure, something like
security. Nobody had attempted the least violence on him: besides,
he was armed with pistols, had his money in bills in a belt about
his person, and really reasoned with himself that there was no
danger for him to apprehend.
He entered the house about dusk, at five o'clock. Mrs. Hayes was
absent with Mr. Billings; only Mr. Wood was smoking, according to
his wont, in the little back-parlour; and as Mr. Hayes passed, the
old gentleman addressed him in a friendly voice, and, wondering that
he had been such a stranger, invited him to sit and take a glass of
wine. There was a light and a foreman in the shop; Mr. Hayes gave
his injunctions to that person, and saw no objection to Mr. Wood's
The conversation, at first a little stiff between the two gentlemen,
began speedily to grow more easy and confidential: and so
particularly bland and good-humoured was Mr., or Doctor Wood, that
his companion was quite caught, and softened by the charm of his
manner; and the pair became as good friends as in the former days of
"I wish you would come down sometimes of evenings," quoth Doctor
Wood; "for, though no book-learned man, Mr. Hayes, look you, you are
a man of the world, and I can't abide the society of boys. There's
Tom, now, since this tiff with Mrs. Cat, the scoundrel plays the
Grank Turk here! The pair of 'em, betwixt them, have completely
gotten the upper hand of you. Confess that you are beaten, Master
Hayes, and don't like the boy?"
"No more I do," said Hayes; "and that's the truth on't. A man doth
not like to have his wife's sins flung in his face, nor to be
perpetually bullied in his own house by such a fiery sprig as that."
"Mischief, sir,--mischief only," said Wood: "'tis the fun of youth,
sir, and will go off as age comes to the lad. Bad as you may think
him--and he is as skittish and fierce, sure enough, as a young
colt---there is good stuff in him; and though he hath, or fancies he
hath, the right to abuse every one, by the Lord he will let none
others do so! Last week, now, didn't he tell Mrs. Cat that you
served her right in the last beating matter? and weren't they coming
to knives, just as in your case? By my faith, they were. Ay, and
at the "Braund's Head," when some fellow said that you were a bloody
Bluebeard, and would murder your wife, stab me if Tom wasn't up in
an instant and knocked the fellow down for abusing of you!"
The first of these stories was quite true; the second was only a
charitable invention of Mr. Wood, and employed, doubtless, for the
amiable purpose of bringing the old and young men together. The
scheme partially succeeded; for, though Hayes was not so far
mollified towards Tom as to entertain any affection for a young man
whom he had cordially detested ever since he knew him, yet he felt
more at ease and cheerful regarding himself: and surely not without
reason. While indulging in these benevolent sentiments, Mrs.
Catherine and her son arrived, and found, somewhat to their
astonishment, Mr. Hayes seated in the back-parlour, as in former
times; and they were invited by Mr. Wood to sit down and drink.
We have said that certain bottles of mountain-wine were presented by
the Count to Mrs. Catherine: these were, at Mr. Wood's suggestion,
produced; and Hayes, who had long been coveting them, was charmed to
have an opportunity to drink his fill. He forthwith began bragging
of his great powers as a drinker, and vowed that he could manage
eight bottles without becoming intoxicated.
Mr. Wood grinned strangely, and looked in a peculiar way at Tom
Billings, who grinned too. Mrs. Cat's eyes were turned towards the
ground: but her face was deadly pale.
The party began drinking. Hayes kept up his reputation as a toper,
and swallowed one, two, three bottles without wincing. He grew
talkative and merry, and began to sing songs and to cut jokes; at
which Wood laughed hugely, and Billings after him. Mrs. Cat could
not laugh; but sat silent.
What ailed her? Was she thinking of the Count? She had been with
Max that day, and had promised him, for the next night at ten, an
interview near his lodgings at Whitehall. It was the first time
that she would see him alone. They were to meet (not a very
cheerful place for a love-tryst) at St. Margaret's churchyard, near
Westminster Abbey. Of this, no doubt, Cat was thinking; but what
could she mean by whispering to Wood, "No, no! for God's sake, not
"She means we are to have no more liquor," said Wood to Mr. Hayes;
who heard this sentence, and seemed rather alarmed.
"That's it,--no more liquor," said Catherine eagerly; "you have had
enough to-night. Go to bed, and lock your door, and sleep, Mr.
"But I say I've NOT had enough drink!" screamed Hayes; "I'm good for
five bottles more, and wager I will drink them too."
"Done, for a guinea!" said Wood.
"Done, and done!" said Billings.
"Be YOU quiet!" growled Hayes, scowling at the lad. "I will drink
what I please, and ask no counsel of yours." And he muttered some
more curses against young Billings, which showed what his feelings
were towards his wife's son; and which the latter, for a wonder,
only received with a scornful smile, and a knowing look at Wood.
Well! the five extra bottles were brought, and drunk by Mr. Hayes;
and seasoned by many songs from the recueil of Mr. Thomas d'Urfey
and others. The chief part of the talk and merriment was on Hayes's
part; as, indeed, was natural,--for, while he drank bottle after
bottle of wine, the other two gentlemen confined themselves to small
beer,--both pleading illness as an excuse for their sobriety.
And now might we depict, with much accuracy, the course of Mr.
Hayes's intoxication, as it rose from the merriment of the
three-bottle point to the madness of the four--from the uproarious
quarrelsomeness of the sixth bottle to the sickly stupidity of the
seventh; but we are desirous of bringing this tale to a conclusion,
and must pretermit all consideration of a subject so curious, so
instructive, and so delightful. Suffice it to say, as a matter of
history, that Mr. Hayes did actually drink seven bottles of
mountain-wine; and that Mr. Thomas Billings went to the "Braund's
Head," in Bond Street, and purchased another, which Hayes likewise
"That'll do," said Mr. Wood to young Billings; and they led Hayes up
to bed, whither, in truth, he was unable to walk himself.
* * *
Mrs. Springatt, the lodger, came down to ask what the noise was.
"'Tis only Tom Billings making merry with some friends from the
country," answered Mrs. Hayes; whereupon Springatt retired, and the
house was quiet.
* * *
Some scuffling and stamping was heard about eleven o'clock.
* * *
After they had seen Mr. Hayes to bed, Billings remembered that he
had a parcel to carry to some person in the neighbourhood of the
Strand; and, as the night was remarkably fine, he and Mr. Wood
agreed to walk together, and set forth accordingly.
(Here follows a description of the THAMES AT MIDNIGHT, in a fine
historical style; with an account of Lambeth, Westminster, the
Savoy, Baynard's Castle, Arundel House, the Temple; of Old London
Bridge, with its twenty arches, "on which be houses builded, so that
it seemeth rather a continuall street than a bridge;"--of Bankside,
and the "Globe" and the "Fortune" Theatres; of the ferries across
the river, and of the pirates who infest the same--namely,
tinklermen, petermen, hebbermen, trawlermen; of the fleet of barges
that lay at the Savoy steps; and of the long lines of slim wherries
sleeping on the river banks and basking and shining in the
moonbeams. A combat on the river is described, that takes place
between the crews of a tinklerman's boat and the water-bailiffs.
Shouting his war-cry, "St. Mary Overy a la rescousse!" the
water-bailiff sprung at the throat of the tinklerman captain. The
crews of both vessels, as if aware that the struggle of their chiefs
would decide the contest, ceased hostilities, and awaited on their
respective poops the issue of the death-shock. It was not long
coming. "Yield, dog!" said the water-bailiff. The tinklerman could
not answer--for his throat was grasped too tight in the iron clench
of the city champion; but drawing his snickersnee, he plunged it
seven times in the bailiff's chest: still the latter fell not. The
death-rattle gurgled in the throat of his opponent; his arms fell
heavily to his side. Foot to foot, each standing at the side of his
boat, stood the brave men--THEY WERE BOTH DEAD! "In the name of St.
Clement Danes," said the master, "give way, my men!" and, thrusting
forward his halberd (seven feet long, richly decorated with velvet
and brass nails, and having the city arms, argent, a cross gules,
and in the first quarter a dagger displayed of the second), he
thrust the tinklerman's boat away from his own; and at once the
bodies of the captains plunged down, down, down, down in the
After this follows another episode. Two masked ladies quarrel at
the door of a tavern overlooking the Thames: they turn out to be
Stella and Vanessa, who have followed Swift thither; who is in the
act of reading "Gulliver's Travels" to Gay, Arbuthnot, Bolingbroke,
and Pope. Two fellows are sitting shuddering under a doorway; to
one of them Tom Billings flung a sixpence. He little knew that the
names of those two young men were--Samuel Johnson and Richard
ANOTHER LAST CHAPTER.
Mr. Hayes did not join the family the next day; and it appears that
the previous night's reconciliation was not very durable; for when
Mrs. Springatt asked Wood for Hayes, Mr. Wood stated that Hayes had
gone away without saying whither he was bound, or how long he might
be absent. He only said, in rather a sulky tone, that he should
probably pass the night at a friend's house. "For my part, I know
of no friend he hath," added Mr. Wood; "and pray Heaven that he may
not think of deserting his poor wife, whom he hath beaten and
ill-used so already!" In this prayer Mrs. Springatt joined; and so
these two worthy people parted.
What business Billings was about cannot be said; but he was this
night bound towards Marylebone Fields, as he was the night before
for the Strand and Westminster; and, although the night was very
stormy and rainy, as the previous evening had been fine, old Wood
good-naturedly resolved upon accompanying him; and forth they
Mrs. Catherine, too, had HER business, as we have seen; but this was
of a very delicate nature. At nine o'clock, she had an appointment
with the Count; and faithfully, by that hour, had found her way to
Saint Margaret's churchyard, near Westminster Abbey, where she
awaited Monsieur de Galgenstein.
The spot was convenient, being very lonely, and at the same time
close to the Count's lodgings at Whitehall. His Excellency came,
but somewhat after the hour; for, to say the truth, being a
freethinker, he had the most firm belief in ghosts and demons, and
did not care to pace a churchyard alone. He was comforted,
therefore, when he saw a woman muffled in a cloak, who held out her
hand to him at the gate, and said, "Is that you?" He took her
hand,--it was very clammy and cold; and at her desire he bade his
confidential footman, who had attended him with a torch, to retire,
and leave him to himself.
The torch-bearer retired, and left them quite in darkness; and the
pair entered the little cemetery, cautiously threading their way
among the tombs. They sat down on one, underneath a tree it seemed
to be; the wind was very cold, and its piteous howling was the only
noise that broke the silence of the place. Catherine's teeth were
chattering, for all her wraps; and when Max drew her close to him,
and encircled her waist with one arm, and pressed her hand, she did
not repulse him, but rather came close to him, and with her own damp
fingers feebly returned his pressure.
The poor thing was very wretched and weeping. She confided to Max
the cause of her grief. She was alone in the world,--alone and
penniless. Her husband had left her; she had that very day received
a letter from him which confirmed all that she had suspected so
long. He had left her, carried away all his property, and would not
If we say that a selfish joy filled the breast of Monsieur de
Galgenstein, the reader will not be astonished. A heartless
libertine, he felt glad at the prospect of Catherine's ruin; for he
hoped that necessity would make her his own. He clasped the poor
thing to his heart, and vowed that he would replace the husband she
had lost, and that his fortune should be hers.
"Will you replace him?" said she.
"Yes, truly, in everything but the name, dear Catherine; and when he
dies, I swear you shall be Countess of Galgenstein."
"Will you swear?" she cried, eagerly.
"By everything that is most sacred: were you free now, I would"
(and here he swore a terrific oath) "at once make you mine."
We have seen before that it cost Monsieur de Galgenstein nothing to
make these vows. Hayes was likely, too, to live as long as
Catherine--as long, at least, as the Count's connection with her;
but he was caught in his own snare.
She took his hand and kissed it repeatedly, and bathed it in her
tears, and pressed it to her bosom. "Max," she said, "I AM FREE!
Be mine, and I will love you as I have done for years and years."
Max started back. "What, is he dead?" he said.
"No, no, not dead: but he never was my husband."
He let go her hand, and, interrupting her, said sharply, "Indeed,
madam, if this carpenter never was your husband, I see no cause why
_I_ should be. If a lady, who hath been for twenty years the
mistress of a miserable country boor, cannot find it in her heart to
put up with the protection of a nobleman--a sovereign's
representative--she may seek a husband elsewhere!"
"I was no man's mistress except yours," sobbed Catherine, wringing
her hands and sobbing wildly; "but, O Heaven! I deserved this.
Because I was a child, and you saw, and ruined, and left
me--because, in my sorrow and repentance, I wished to repair my
crime, and was touched by that man's love, and married him--because
he too deceives and leaves me--because, after loving you--madly
loving you for twenty years--I will not now forfeit your respect,
and degrade myself by yielding to your will, you too must scorn me!
It is too much--too much--O Heaven!" And the wretched woman fell
back almost fainting.
Max was almost frightened by this burst of sorrow on her part, and
was coming forward to support her; but she motioned him away, and,
taking from her bosom a letter, said, "If it were light, you could
see, Max, how cruelly I have been betrayed by that man who called
himself my husband. Long before he married me, he was married to
another. This woman is still living, he says; and he says he leaves
me for ever."
At this moment the moon, which had been hidden behind Westminster
Abbey, rose above the vast black mass of that edifice, and poured a
flood of silver light upon the little church of St. Margaret's, and
the spot where the lovers stood. Max was at a little distance from
Catherine, pacing gloomily up and down the flags. She remained at
her old position at the tombstone under the tree, or pillar, as it
seemed to be, as the moon got up. She was leaning against the
pillar, and holding out to Max, with an arm beautifully white and
rounded, the letter she had received from her husband: "Read it,
Max," she said: "I asked for light, and here is Heaven's own, by
which you may read."
But Max did not come forward to receive it. On a sudden his face
assumed a look of the most dreadful surprise and agony. He stood
still, and stared with wild eyes starting from their sockets; he
stared upwards, at a point seemingly above Catherine's head. At
last he raised up his finger slowly and said, "Look, Cat--THE
HEAD--THE HEAD!" Then uttering a horrible laugh, he fell down
grovelling among the stones, gibbering and writhing in a fit of
Catherine started forward and looked up. She had been standing
against a post, not a tree--the moon was shining full on it now; and
on the summit strangely distinct, and smiling ghastly, was a livid
The wretched woman fled--she dared look no more. And some hours
afterwards, when, alarmed by the Count's continued absence, his
confidential servant came back to seek for him in the churchyard, he
was found sitting on the flags, staring full at the head, and
laughing, and talking to it wildly, and nodding at it. He was taken
up a hopeless idiot, and so lived for years and years; clanking the
chain, and moaning under the lash, and howling through long nights
when the moon peered through the bars of his solitary cell, and he
buried his face in the straw.
* * *
There--the murder is out! And having indulged himself in a chapter
of the very finest writing, the author begs the attention of the
British public towards it; humbly conceiving that it possesses some
of those peculiar merits which have rendered the fine writing in
other chapters of the works of other authors so famous.
Without bragging at all, let us just point out the chief claims of
the above pleasing piece of composition. In the first place, it is
perfectly stilted and unnatural; the dialogue and the sentiments
being artfully arranged, so as to be as strong and majestic as
possible. Our dear Cat is but a poor illiterate country wench, who
has come from cutting her husband's throat; and yet, see! she talks
and looks like a tragedy princess, who is suffering in the most
virtuous blank verse. This is the proper end of fiction, and one of
the greatest triumphs that a novelist can achieve: for to make
people sympathise with virtue is a vulgar trick that any common
fellow can do; but it is not everybody who can take a scoundrel, and
cause us to weep and whimper over him as though he were a very
saint. Give a young lady of five years old a skein of silk and a
brace of netting-needles, and she will in a short time turn you out
a decent silk purse--anybody can; but try her with a sow's ear, and
see whether she can make a silk purse out of THAT. That is the work
for your real great artist; and pleasant it is to see how many have
succeeded in these latter days.
The subject is strictly historical, as anyone may see by referring
to the Daily Post of March 3, 1726, which contains the following
"Yesterday morning, early, a man's head, that by the freshness of it
seemed to have been newly cut off from the body, having its own hair
on, was found by the river's side, near Millbank, Westminster, and
was afterwards exposed to public view in St. Margaret's churchyard,
where thousands of people have seen it; but none could tell who the
unhappy person was, much less who committed such a horrid and
barbarous action. There are various conjectures relating to the
deceased; but there being nothing certain, we omit them. The head
was much hacked and mangled in the cutting off."
The head which caused such an impression upon Monsieur de
Galgenstein was, indeed, once on the shoulders of Mr. John Hayes,
who lost it under the following circumstances. We have seen how Mr.
Hayes was induced to drink. Mr. Hayes having been encouraged in
drinking the wine, and growing very merry therewith, he sang and
danced about the room; but his wife, fearing the quantity he had
drunk would not have the wished-for effect on him, she sent away for
another bottle, of which he drank also. This effectually answered
their expectations; and Mr. Hayes became thereby intoxicated, and
deprived of his understanding.
He, however, made shift to get into the other room, and, throwing
himself upon the bed, fell asleep; upon which Mrs. Hayes reminded
them of the affair in hand, and told them that was the most proper
juncture to finish the business. *
* * *
* The description of the murder and the execution of the culprits,
which here follows in the original, was taken from the newspapers of
the day. Coming from such a source they have, as may be imagined,
no literary merit whatever. The details of the crime are simply
horrible, without one touch of even that sort of romance which
sometimes gives a little dignity to murder. As such they precisely
suited Mr. Thackeray's purpose at the time--which was to show the
real manners and customs of the Sheppards and Turpins who were then
the popular heroes of fiction. But nowadays there is no such
purpose to serve, and therefore these too literal details are
* * *
Ring, ding, ding! the gloomy green curtain drops, the dramatis
personae are duly disposed of, the nimble candle snuffers put out
the lights, and the audience goeth pondering home. If the critic
take the pains to ask why the author, who hath been so diffuse in
describing the early and fabulous acts of Mrs. Catherine's
existence, should so hurry off the catastrophe where a deal of the
very finest writing might have been employed, Solomons replies that
the "ordinary" narrative is far more emphatic than any composition
of his own could be, with all the rhetorical graces which he might
employ. Mr. Aram's trial, as taken by the penny-a-liners of those
days, had always interested him more than the lengthened and
poetical report which an eminent novelist has given of the same.
Mr. Turpin's adventures are more instructive and agreeable to him in
the account of the Newgate Plutarch, than in the learned Ainsworth's
Biographical Dictionary. And as he believes that the professional
gentlemen who are employed to invest such heroes with the rewards
that their great actions merit, will go through the ceremony of the
grand cordon with much more accuracy and despatch than can be shown
by the most distinguished amateur; in like manner he thinks that the
history of such investitures should be written by people directly
concerned, and not by admiring persons without, who must be ignorant
of many of the secrets of Ketchcraft. We very much doubt if Milton
himself could make a description of an execution half so horrible as
the simple lines in the Daily Post of a hundred and ten years since,
that now lies before us--"herrlich wie am ersten Tag,"--as bright
and clean as on the day of publication. Think of it! it has been
read by Belinda at her toilet, scanned at "Button's" and "Will's,"
sneered at by wits, talked of in palaces and cottages, by a busy
race in wigs, red heels, hoops, patches, and rags of all variety--a
busy race that hath long since plunged and vanished in the
unfathomable gulf towards which we march so briskly.
Where are they? "Afflavit Deus"--and they are gone! Hark! is not
the same wind roaring still that shall sweep us down? and yonder
stands the compositor at his types who shall put up a pretty
paragraph some day to say how, "Yesterday, at his house in Grosvenor
Square," or "At Botany Bay, universally regretted," died So-and-So.
Into what profound moralities is the paragraph concerning Mrs.
Catherine's burning leading us!
Ay, truly, and to that very point have we wished to come; for,
having finished our delectable meal, it behoves us to say a word or
two by way of grace at its conclusion, and be heartily thankful that
it is over. It has been the writer's object carefully to exclude
from his drama (except in two very insignificant instances--mere
walking-gentlemen parts), any characters but those of scoundrels of
the very highest degree. That he has not altogether failed in the
object he had in view, is evident from some newspaper critiques
which he has had the good fortune to see; and which abuse the tale
of "Catherine" as one of the dullest, most vulgar, and immoral works
extant. It is highly gratifying to the author to find that such
opinions are abroad, as they convince him that the taste for Newgate
literature is on the wane, and that when the public critic has right
down undisguised immorality set before him, the honest creature is
shocked at it, as he should be, and can declare his indignation in
good round terms of abuse. The characters of the tale ARE immoral,
and no doubt of it; but the writer humbly hopes the end is not so.
The public was, in our notion, dosed and poisoned by the prevailing
style of literary practice, and it was necessary to administer some
medicine that would produce a wholesome nausea, and afterwards bring
about a more healthy habit.
And, thank Heaven, this effect HAS been produced in very many
instances, and that the "Catherine" cathartic has acted most
efficaciously. The author has been pleased at the disgust which his
work has excited, and has watched with benevolent carefulness the
wry faces that have been made by many of the patients who have
swallowed the dose. Solomons remembers, at the establishment in
Birchin Lane where he had the honour of receiving his education,
there used to be administered to the boys a certain cough-medicine,
which was so excessively agreeable that all the lads longed to have
colds in order to partake of the remedy. Some of our popular
novelists have compounded their drugs in a similar way, and made
them so palatable that a public, once healthy and honest, has been
well-nigh poisoned by their wares. Solomons defies anyone to say
the like of himself--that his doses have been as pleasant as
champagne, and his pills as sweet as barley-sugar;--it has been his
attempt to make vice to appear entirely vicious; and in those
instances where he hath occasionally introduced something like
virtue, to make the sham as evident as possible, and not allow the
meanest capacity a single chance to mistake it.
And what has been the consequence? That wholesome nausea which it
has been his good fortune to create wherever he has been allowed to
practise in his humble circle.
Has anyone thrown away a halfpennyworth of sympathy upon any person
mentioned in this history? Surely no. But abler and more famous
men than Solomons have taken a different plan; and it becomes every
man in his vocation to cry out against such, and expose their errors
as best he may.
Labouring under such ideas, Mr. Isaac Solomons, junior, produced the
romance of Mrs. Cat, and confesses himself completely happy to have
brought it to a conclusion. His poem may be dull--ay, and probably
is. The great Blackmore, the great Dennis, the great Sprat, the
great Pomfret, not to mention great men of our own time--have they
not also been dull, and had pretty reputations too? Be it granted
Solomons IS dull; but don't attack his morality; he humbly submits
that, in his poem, no man shall mistake virtue for vice, no man
shall allow a single sentiment of pity or admiration to enter his
bosom for any character of the piece: it being, from beginning to
end, a scene of unmixed rascality performed by persons who never
deviate into good feeling. And although he doth not pretend to
equal the great modern authors, whom he hath mentioned, in wit or
descriptive power; yet, in the point of moral, he meekly believes
that he has been their superior; feeling the greatest disgust for
the characters he describes, and using his humble endeavour to cause
the public also to hate them.
Horsemonger Lane: January 1840.