Part 3 out of 9
not a local habitation or a name. They were whispered in conversation by a
few. A tutor would speak of them in an esoteric vein to a favourite pupil,
in whose abilities he had confidence, and whose future position in life
would afford him the opportunity of influencing opinion. Among others,
they fell upon the ear of Coningsby. They were addressed to a mind which
was prepared for such researches.
There is a Library at Eton formed by the boys and governed by the boys;
one of those free institutions which are the just pride of that noble
school, which shows the capacity of the boys for self-government, and
which has sprung from the large freedom that has been wisely conceded
them, the prudence of which confidence has been proved by their rarely
abusing it. This Library has been formed by subscriptions of the present
and still more by the gifts of old Etonians. Among the honoured names of
these donors may be remarked those of the Grenvilles and Lord Wellesley;
nor should we forget George IV., who enriched the collection with a
magnificent copy of the Delphin Classics. The Institution is governed by
six directors, the three first Collegers and the three first Oppidans for
the time being; and the subscribers are limited to the one hundred senior
members of the school.
It is only to be regretted that the collection is not so extensive at it
is interesting and choice. Perhaps its existence is not so generally known
as it deserves to be. One would think that every Eton man would be as
proud of his name being registered as a donor in the Catalogue of this
Library, as a Venetian of his name being inscribed in the Golden Book.
Indeed an old Etonian, who still remembers with tenderness the sacred
scene of youth, could scarcely do better than build a Gothic apartment for
the reception of the collection. It cannot be doubted that the Provost and
fellows would be gratified in granting a piece of ground for the purpose.
Great were the obligations of Coningsby to this Eton Library. It
introduced him to that historic lore, that accumulation of facts and
incidents illustrative of political conduct, for which he had imbibed an
early relish. His study was especially directed to the annals of his own
country, in which youth, and not youth alone, is frequently so deficient.
This collection could afford him Clarendon and Burnet, and the authentic
volumes of Coxe: these were rich materials for one anxious to be versed in
the great parliamentary story of his country. During the last year of his
stay at Eton, when he had completed his eighteenth year, Coningsby led a
more retired life than previously; he read much, and pondered with all the
pride of acquisition over his increasing knowledge.
And now the hour has come when this youth is to be launched into a world
more vast than that in which he has hitherto sojourned, yet for which this
microcosm has been no ill preparation. He will become more wise; will he
remain as generous? His ambition may be as great; will it be as noble?
What, indeed, is to be the future of this existence that is now to be sent
forth into the great aggregate of entities? Is it an ordinary organisation
that will jostle among the crowd, and be jostled? Is it a finer
temperament, susceptible of receiving the impressions and imbibing the
inspirations of superior yet sympathising spirits? Or is it a primordial
and creative mind; one that will say to his fellows, 'Behold, God has
given me thought; I have discovered truth, and you shall believe?'
The night before Coningsby left Eton, alone in his room, before he retired
to rest, he opened the lattice and looked for the last time upon the
landscape before him; the stately keep of Windsor, the bowery meads of
Eton, soft in the summer moon and still in the summer night. He gazed upon
them; his countenance had none of the exultation, that under such
circumstances might have distinguished a more careless glance, eager for
fancied emancipation and passionate for a novel existence. Its expression
was serious, even sad; and he covered his brow with his hand.
END OF BOOK II.
There are few things more full of delight and splendour, than to travel
during the heat of a refulgent summer in the green district of some
In one of our midland counties there is a region of this character, to
which, during a season of peculiar lustre, we would introduce the reader.
It was a fragment of one of those vast sylvan tracts wherein Norman kings
once hunted, and Saxon outlaws plundered; and although the plough had for
centuries successfully invaded brake and bower, the relics retained all
their original character of wildness and seclusion. Sometimes the green
earth was thickly studded with groves of huge and vigorous oaks,
intersected with those smooth and sunny glades, that seem as if they must
be cut for dames and knights to saunter on. Then again the undulating
ground spread on all sides, far as the eye could range, covered with copse
and fern of immense growth. Anon you found yourself in a turfy wilderness,
girt in apparently by dark woods. And when you had wound your way a little
through this gloomy belt, the landscape still strictly sylvan, would
beautifully expand with every combination and variety of woodland; while
in its centre, the wildfowl covered the waters of a lake, and the deer
basked on the knolls that abounded on its banks.
It was in the month of August, some six or seven years ago, that a
traveller on foot, touched, as he emerged from the dark wood, by the
beauty of this scene, threw himself under the shade of a spreading tree,
and stretched his limbs on the turf for enjoyment rather than repose. The
sky was deep-coloured and without a cloud, save here and there a minute,
sultry, burnished vapour, almost as glossy as the heavens. Everything was
still as it was bright; all seemed brooding and basking; the bee upon its
wing was the only stirring sight, and its song the only sound.
The traveller fell into a reverie. He was young, and therefore his musings
were of the future. He had felt the pride of learning, so ennobling to
youth; he was not a stranger to the stirring impulses of a high ambition,
though the world to him was as yet only a world of books, and all that he
knew of the schemes of statesmen and the passions of the people, were to
be found in their annals. Often had his fitful fancy dwelt with
fascination on visions of personal distinction, of future celebrity,
perhaps even of enduring fame. But his dreams were of another colour now.
The surrounding scene, so fair, so still, and sweet; so abstracted from
all the tumult of the world, its strife, its passions, and its cares: had
fallen on his heart with its soft and subduing spirit; had fallen on a
heart still pure and innocent, the heart of one who, notwithstanding all
his high resolves and daring thoughts, was blessed with that tenderness of
soul which is sometimes linked with an ardent imagination and a strong
will. The traveller was an orphan, more than that, a solitary orphan. The
sweet sedulousness of a mother's love, a sister's mystical affection, had
not cultivated his early susceptibility. No soft pathos of expression had
appealed to his childish ear. He was alone, among strangers calmly and
coldly kind. It must indeed have been a truly gentle disposition that
could have withstood such hard neglect. All that he knew of the power of
the softer passions might be found in the fanciful and romantic annals of
And those friends too, so fond, so sympathising, so devoted, where were
they now? Already they were dispersed; the first great separation of life
had been experienced; the former schoolboy had planted his foot on the
threshold of manhood. True, many of them might meet again; many of them
the University must again unite, but never with the same feelings. The
space of time, passed in the world before they again met, would be an age
of sensation, passion, experience to all of them. They would meet again
with altered mien, with different manners, different voices. Their eyes
would not shine with the same light; they would not speak the same words.
The favourite phrases of their intimacy, the mystic sounds that spoke only
to their initiated ear, they would be ashamed to use them. Yes, they might
meet again, but the gushing and secret tenderness was gone for ever.
Nor could our pensive youth conceal it from himself that it was affection,
and mainly affection, that had bound him to these dear companions. They
could not be to him what he had been to them. His had been the inspiring
mind that had guided their opinions, formed their tastes, directed the
bent and tenor of their lives and thoughts. Often, indeed, had he needed,
sometimes he had even sighed for, the companionship of an equal or
superior mind; one who, by the comprehension of his thought, and the
richness of his knowledge, and the advantage of his experience, might
strengthen and illuminate and guide his obscure or hesitating or
unpractised intelligence. He had scarcely been fortunate in this respect,
and he deeply regretted it; for he was one of those who was not content
with excelling in his own circle, if he thought there was one superior to
it. Absolute, not relative distinction, was his noble aim.
Alone, in a lonely scene, he doubly felt the solitude of his life and
mind. His heart and his intellect seemed both to need a companion. Books,
and action, and deep thought, might in time supply the want of that
intellectual guide; but for the heart, where was he to find solace?
Ah! if she would but come forth from that shining lake like a beautiful
Ondine! Ah, if she would but step out from the green shade of that secret
grove like a Dryad of sylvan Greece! O mystery of mysteries, when youth
dreams his first dream over some imaginary heroine!
Suddenly the brooding wildfowl rose from the bosom of the lake, soared in
the air, and, uttering mournful shrieks, whirled in agitated tumult. The
deer started from their knolls, no longer sunny, stared around, and rushed
into the woods. Coningsby raised his eyes from the turf on which they had
been long fixed in abstraction, and he observed that the azure sky had
vanished, a thin white film had suddenly spread itself over the heavens,
and the wind moaned with a sad and fitful gust.
He had some reason to believe that on the other side of the opposite wood
the forest was intersected by a public road, and that there were some
habitations. Immediately rising, he descended at a rapid pace into the
valley, passed the lake, and then struck into the ascending wood on the
bank opposite to that on which he had mused away some precious time.
The wind howled, the branches of the forest stirred, and sent forth sounds
like an incantation. Soon might be distinguished the various voices of the
mighty trees, as they expressed their terror or their agony. The oak
roared, the beech shrieked, the elm sent forth its deep and long-drawn
groan; while ever and anon, amid a momentary pause, the passion of the ash
was heard in moans of thrilling anguish.
Coningsby hurried on, the forest became less close. All that he aspired to
was to gain more open country. Now he was in a rough flat land, covered
only here and there with dwarf underwood; the horizon bounded at no great
distance by a barren hill of moderate elevation. He gained its height with
ease. He looked over a vast open country like a wild common; in the
extreme distance hills covered with woods; the plain intersected by two
good roads: the sky entirely clouded, but in the distance black as ebony.
A place of refuge was at hand: screened from his first glance by some elm-
trees, the ascending smoke now betrayed a roof, which Coningsby reached
before the tempest broke. The forest-inn was also a farmhouse. There was a
comfortable-enough looking kitchen; but the ingle nook was full of
smokers, and Coningsby was glad to avail himself of the only private room
for the simple meal which they offered him, only eggs and bacon; but very
welcome to a pedestrian, and a hungry one.
As he stood at the window of his little apartment, watching the large
drops that were the heralds of a coming hurricane, and waiting for his
repast, a flash of lightning illumined the whole country, and a horseman
at full speed, followed by his groom, galloped up to the door.
The remarkable beauty of the animal so attracted Coningsby's attention
that it prevented him catching even a glimpse of the rider, who rapidly
dismounted and entered the inn. The host shortly after came in and asked
Coningsby whether he had any objection to a gentleman, who was driven
there by the storm, sharing his room until it subsided. The consequence of
the immediate assent of Coningsby was, that the landlord retired and soon
returned, ushering in an individual, who, though perhaps ten years older
than Coningsby, was still, according to Hippocrates, in the period of
lusty youth. He was above the middle height, and of a distinguished air
and figure; pale, with an impressive brow, and dark eyes of great
'I am glad that we have both escaped the storm,' said the stranger; 'and I
am greatly indebted to you for your courtesy.' He slightly and graciously
bowed, as he spoke in a voice of remarkable clearness; and his manner,
though easy, was touched with a degree of dignity that was engaging.
'The inn is a common home,' replied Coningsby, returning his salute.
'And free from cares,' added the stranger. Then, looking through the
window, he said, 'A strange storm this. I was sauntering in the sunshine,
when suddenly I found I had to gallop for my life. 'Tis more like a white
squall in the Mediterranean than anything else.'
'I never was in the Mediterranean,' said Coningsby. 'There is nothing I
should like so much as to travel.'
'You are travelling,' rejoined his companion. 'Every moment is travel, if
'Ah! but the Mediterranean!' exclaimed Coningsby. 'What would I not give
to see Athens!'
'I have seen it,' said the stranger, slightly shrugging his shoulders;'
and more wonderful things. Phantoms and spectres! The Age of Ruins is
past. Have you seen Manchester?'
'I have seen nothing,' said Coningsby; 'this is my first wandering. I am
about to visit a friend who lives in this county, and I have sent on my
baggage as I could. For myself, I determined to trust to a less common-
'And seek adventures,' said the stranger, smiling, 'Well, according to
Cervantes, they should begin in an inn.'
'I fear that the age of adventures is past, as well as that of ruins,'
'Adventures are to the adventurous,' said the stranger.
At this moment a pretty serving-maid entered the room. She laid the dapper
cloth and arranged the table with a self-possession quite admirable. She
seemed unconscious that any being was in the chamber except herself, or
that there were any other duties to perform in life beyond filling a
saltcellar or folding a napkin.
'She does not even look at us,' said Coningsby, when she had quitted the
room; 'and I dare say is only a prude.'
'She is calm,' said the stranger, 'because she is mistress of her subject;
'tis the secret of self-possession. She is here as a duchess at court.'
They brought in Coningsby's meal, and he invited the stranger to join him.
The invitation was accepted with cheerfulness.
''Tis but simple fare,' said Coningsby, as the maiden uncovered the still
hissing bacon and the eggs, that looked like tufts of primroses.
'Nay, a national dish,' said the stranger, glancing quickly at the table,
'whose fame is a proverb. And what more should we expect under a simple
roof! How much better than an omelette or a greasy olla, that they would
give us in a posada! 'Tis a wonderful country this England! What a napkin!
How spotless! And so sweet; I declare 'tis a perfume. There is not a
princess throughout the South of Europe served with the cleanliness that
meets us in this cottage.'
'An inheritance from our Saxon fathers?' said Coningsby. 'I apprehend the
northern nations have a greater sense of cleanliness, of propriety, of
what we call comfort?'
'By no means,' said the stranger; 'the East is the land of the Bath. Moses
and Mahomet made cleanliness religion.'
'You will let me help you?' said Coningsby, offering him a plate which he
'I thank you,' said the stranger, 'but it is one of my bread days. With
your permission this shall be my dish;' and he cut from the large loaf a
supply of crusts.
''Tis but unsavoury fare after a gallop,' said Coningsby.
'Ah! you are proud of your bacon and your eggs,' said the stranger,
smiling, 'but I love corn and wine. They are our chief and our oldest
luxuries. Time has brought us substitutes, but how inferior! Man has
deified corn and wine! but not even the Chinese or the Irish have raised
temples to tea and potatoes.'
'But Ceres without Bacchus,' said Coningsby, 'how does that do? Think you,
under this roof, we could Invoke the god?'
'Let us swear by his body that we will try,' said the stranger.
Alas! the landlord was not a priest to Bacchus. But then these inquiries
led to the finest perry in the world. The young men agreed they had seldom
tasted anything more delicious; they sent for another bottle. Coningsby,
who was much interested by his new companion, enjoyed himself amazingly.
A cheese, such as Derby alone can produce, could not induce the stranger
to be even partially inconstant to his crusts. But his talk was as
vivacious as if the talker had been stimulated by the juices of the finest
banquet. Coningsby had never met or read of any one like this chance
companion. His sentences were so short, his language so racy, his voice
rang so clear, his elocution was so complete. On all subjects his mind
seemed to be instructed, and his opinions formed. He flung out a result in
a few words; he solved with a phrase some deep problem that men muse over
for years. He said many things that were strange, yet they immediately
appeared to be true. Then, without the slightest air of pretension or
parade, he seemed to know everybody as well as everything. Monarchs,
statesmen, authors, adventurers, of all descriptions and of all climes, if
their names occurred in the conversation, he described them in an
epigrammatic sentence, or revealed their precise position, character,
calibre, by a curt dramatic trait. All this, too, without any excitement
of manner; on the contrary, with repose amounting almost to nonchalance.
If his address had any fault in it, it was rather a deficiency of
earnestness. A slight spirit of mockery played over his speech even when
you deemed him most serious; you were startled by his sudden transitions
from profound thought to poignant sarcasm. A very singular freedom from
passion and prejudice on every topic on which they treated, might be some
compensation for this want of earnestness, perhaps was its consequence.
Certainly it was difficult to ascertain his precise opinions on many
subjects, though his manner was frank even to abandonment. And yet
throughout his whole conversation, not a stroke of egotism, not a word,
not a circumstance escaped him, by which you could judge of his position
or purposes in life. As little did he seem to care to discover those of
his companion. He did not by any means monopolise the conversation. Far
from it; he continually asked questions, and while he received answers, or
had engaged his fellow-traveller in any exposition of his opinion or
feelings, he listened with a serious and fixed attention, looking
Coningsby in the face with a steadfast glance.
'I perceive,' said Coningsby, pursuing a strain of thought which the other
had indicated, 'that you have great confidence in the influence of
individual character. I also have some confused persuasions of that kind.
But it is not the Spirit of the Age.'
'The age does not believe in great men, because it does not possess any,'
replied the stranger. 'The Spirit of the Age is the very thing that a
great man changes.'
'But does he not rather avail himself of it?' inquired Coningsby.
'Parvenus do,' rejoined his companion; 'but not prophets, great
legislators, great conquerors. They destroy and they create.'
'But are these times for great legislators and great conquerors?' urged
'When were they wanted more?' asked the stranger. 'From the throne to the
hovel all call for a guide. You give monarchs constitutions to teach them
sovereignty, and nations Sunday-schools to inspire them with faith.'
'But what is an individual,' exclaimed Coningsby, 'against a vast public
'Divine,' said the stranger. 'God made man in His own image; but the
Public is made by Newspapers, Members of Parliament, Excise Officers, Poor
Law Guardians. Would Philip have succeeded if Epaminondas had not been
slain? And if Philip had not succeeded? Would Prussia have existed had
Frederick not been born? And if Frederick had not been born? What would
have been the fate of the Stuarts if Prince Henry had not died, and
Charles I., as was intended, had been Archbishop of Canterbury?'
'But when men are young they want experience,' said Coningsby; 'and when
they have gained experience, they want energy.'
'Great men never want experience,' said the stranger.
'But everybody says that experience--'
'Is the best thing in the world, a treasure for you, for me, for millions.
But for a creative mind, less than nothing. Almost everything that is
great has been done by youth.'
'It is at least a creed flattering to our years,' said Coningsby, with a
'Nay,' said the stranger; 'for life in general there is but one decree.
Youth is a blunder; Manhood a struggle; Old Age a regret. Do not suppose,'
he added, smiling, 'that I hold that youth is genius; all that I say is,
that genius, when young, is divine. Why, the greatest captains of ancient
and modern times both conquered Italy at five-and-twenty! Youth, extreme
youth, overthrew the Persian Empire. Don John of Austria won Lepanto at
twenty-five, the greatest battle of modern time; had it not been for the
jealousy of Philip, the next year he would have been Emperor of
Mauritania. Gaston de Foix was only twenty-two when he stood a victor on
the plain of Ravenna. Every one remembers Conde and Rocroy at the same
age. Gustavus Adolphus died at thirty-eight. Look at his captains: that
wonderful Duke of Weimar, only thirty-six when he died. Banier himself,
after all his miracles, died at forty-five. Cortes was little more than
thirty when he gazed upon the golden cupolas of Mexico. When Maurice of
Saxony died at thirty-two, all Europe acknowledged the loss of the
greatest captain and the profoundest statesman of the age. Then there is
Nelson, Clive; but these are warriors, and perhaps you may think there are
greater things than war. I do not: I worship the Lord of Hosts. But take
the most illustrious achievements of civil prudence. Innocent III., the
greatest of the Popes, was the despot of Christendom at thirty-seven. John
de Medici was a Cardinal at fifteen, and according to Guicciardini,
baffled with his statecraft Ferdinand of Arragon himself. He was Pope as
Leo X. at thirty-seven. Luther robbed even him of his richest province at
thirty-five. Take Ignatius Loyola and John Wesley, they worked with young
brains. Ignatius was only thirty when he made his pilgrimage and wrote the
"Spiritual Exercises." Pascal wrote a great work at sixteen, and died at
thirty-seven, the greatest of Frenchmen.
'Ah! that fatal thirty-seven, which reminds me of Byron, greater even as a
man than a writer. Was it experience that guided the pencil of Raphael
when he painted the palaces of Rome? He, too, died at thirty-seven.
Richelieu was Secretary of State at thirty-one. Well then, there were
Bolingbroke and Pitt, both ministers before other men left off cricket.
Grotius was in great practice at seventeen, and Attorney-General at
twenty-four. And Acquaviva; Acquaviva was General of the Jesuits, ruled
every cabinet in Europe, and colonised America before he was thirty-seven.
What a career!' exclaimed the stranger; rising from his chair and walking
up and down the room; 'the secret sway of Europe! That was indeed a
position! But it is needless to multiply instances! The history of Heroes
is the history of Youth.'
'Ah!' said Coningsby, 'I should like to be a great man.'
The stranger threw at him a scrutinising glance. His countenance was
serious. He said in a voice of almost solemn melody:
'Nurture your mind with great thoughts. To believe in the heroic makes
'You seem to me a hero,' said Coningsby, in a tone of real feeling, which,
half ashamed of his emotion, he tried to turn into playfulness.
'I am and must ever be,' said the stranger, 'but a dreamer of dreams.'
Then going towards the window, and changing into a familiar tone as if to
divert the conversation, he added, 'What a delicious afternoon! I look
forward to my ride with delight. You rest here?'
'No; I go on to Nottingham, where I shall sleep.'
'And I in the opposite direction.' And he rang the bell, and ordered his
'I long to see your mare again,' said Coningsby. 'She seemed to me so
'She is not only of pure race,' said the stranger, 'but of the highest and
rarest breed in Arabia. Her name is "the Daughter of the Star." She is a
foal of that famous mare, which belonged to the Prince of the Wahabees;
and to possess which, I believe, was one of the principal causes of war
between that tribe and the Egyptians. The Pacha of Egypt gave her to me,
and I would not change her for her statue in pure gold, even carved by
Lysippus. Come round to the stable and see her.'
They went out together. It was a soft sunny afternoon; the air fresh from
the rain, but mild and exhilarating.
The groom brought forth the mare. 'The Daughter of the Star' stood before
Coningsby with her sinewy shape of matchless symmetry; her burnished skin,
black mane, legs like those of an antelope, her little ears, dark speaking
eye, and tail worthy of a Pacha. And who was her master, and whither was
she about to take him?
Coningsby was so naturally well-bred, that we may be sure it was not
curiosity; no, it was a finer feeling that made him hesitate and think a
little, and then say:
'I am sorry to part.'
'I also,' said the stranger. 'But life is constant separation.'
'I hope we may meet again,' said Coningsby.
'If our acquaintance be worth preserving,' said the stranger, 'you may be
sure it will not be lost.'
'But mine is not worth preserving,' said Coningsby, earnestly. 'It is
yours that is the treasure. You teach me things of which I have long
The stranger took the bridle of 'the Daughter of the Star,' and turning
round with a faint smile, extended his hand to his companion.
'Your mind at least is nurtured with great thoughts,' said Coningsby;
'your actions should be heroic.'
'Action is not for me,' said the stranger; 'I am of that faith that the
Apostles professed before they followed their master.'
He vaulted into his saddle, 'the Daughter of the Star' bounded away as if
she scented the air of the Desert from which she and her rider had alike
sprung, and Coningsby remained in profound meditation.
The day after his adventure at the Forest Inn, Coningsby arrived at
Beaumanoir. It was several years since he had visited the family of his
friend, who were indeed also his kin; and in his boyish days had often
proved that they were not unmindful of the affinity. This was a visit that
had been long counted on, long promised, and which a variety of
circumstances had hitherto prevented. It was to have been made by the
schoolboy; it was to be fulfilled by the man. For no less a character
could Coningsby under any circumstances now consent to claim, since he was
closely verging to the completion of his nineteenth year; and it appeared
manifest that if it were his destiny to do anything great, he had but few
years to wait before the full development of his power. Visions of Gastons
de Foix and Maurices of Saxony, statesmen giving up cricket to govern
nations, beardless Jesuits plunged in profound abstraction in omnipotent
cabinets, haunted his fancy from the moment he had separated from his
mysterious and deeply interesting companion. To nurture his mind with
great thoughts had ever been Coningsby's inspiring habit. Was it also
destined that he should achieve the heroic?
There are some books, when we close them; one or two in the course of our
life, difficult as it may be to analyse or ascertain the cause; our minds
seem to have made a great leap. A thousand obscure things receive light; a
multitude of indefinite feelings are determined. Our intellect grasps and
grapples with all subjects with a capacity, a flexibility, and a vigour,
before unknown to us. It masters questions hitherto perplexing, which are
not even touched or referred to in the volume just closed. What is this
magic? It is the spirit of the supreme author, by a magentic influence
blending with our sympathising intelligence, that directs and inspires it.
By that mysterious sensibility we extend to questions which he has not
treated, the same intellectual force which he has exercised over those
which he has expounded. His genius for a time remains in us. 'Tis the same
with human beings as with books. All of us encounter, at least once in our
life, some individual who utters words that make us think for ever.
There are men whose phrases are oracles; who condense in a sentence the
secrets of life; who blurt out an aphorism that forms a character or
illustrates an existence. A great thing is a great book; but greater than
all is the talk of a great man.
And what is a great man? Is it a Minister of State? Is it a victorious
General? A gentleman in the Windsor uniform? A Field Marshal covered with
stars? Is it a Prelate, or a Prince? A King, even an Emperor? It may be
all these; yet these, as we must all daily feel, are not necessarily great
men. A great man is one who affects the mind of his generation: whether he
be a monk in his cloister agitating Christendom, or a monarch crossing the
Granicus, and giving a new character to the Pagan World.
Our young Coningsby reached Beaumanoir in a state of meditation. He also
desired to be great. Not from the restless vanity that sometimes impels
youth to momentary exertion, by which they sometimes obtain a distinction
as evanescent as their energy. The ambition of our hero was altogether of
a different character. It was, indeed, at present not a little vague,
indefinite, hesitating, inquiring, sometimes desponding. What were his
powers? what should be his aim? were often to him, as to all young
aspirants, questions infinitely perplexing and full of pain. But, on the
whole, there ran through his character, notwithstanding his many dazzling
qualities and accomplishments, and his juvenile celebrity, which has
spoiled so much promise, a vein of grave simplicity that was the
consequence of an earnest temper, and of an intellect that would be
content with nothing short of the profound.
His was a mind that loved to pursue every question to the centre. But it
was not a spirit of scepticism that impelled this habit; on the contrary,
it was the spirit of faith. Coningsby found that he was born in an age of
infidelity in all things, and his heart assured him that a want of faith
was a want of nature. But his vigorous intellect could not take refuge in
that maudlin substitute for belief which consists in a patronage of
fantastic theories. He needed that deep and enduring conviction that the
heart and the intellect, feeling and reason united, can alone supply. He
asked himself why governments were hated, and religions despised? Why
loyalty was dead, and reverence only a galvanised corpse?
These were indeed questions that had as yet presented themselves to his
thought in a crude and imperfect form; but their very occurrence showed
the strong predisposition of his mind. It was because he had not found
guides among his elders, that his thoughts had been turned to the
generation that he himself represented. The sentiment of veneration was so
developed in his nature, that he was exactly the youth that would have
hung with enthusiastic humility on the accents of some sage of old in the
groves of Academus, or the porch of Zeno. But as yet he had found age only
perplexed and desponding; manhood only callous and desperate. Some thought
that systems would last their time; others, that something would turn up.
His deep and pious spirit recoiled with disgust and horror from such lax,
chance-medley maxims, that would, in their consequences, reduce man to the
level of the brutes. Notwithstanding a prejudice which had haunted him
from his childhood, he had, when the occasion offered, applied to Mr.
Rigby for instruction, as one distinguished in the republic of letters, as
well as the realm of politics; who assumed the guidance of the public
mind, and, as the phrase runs, was looked up to. Mr. Rigby listened at
first to the inquiries of Coningsby, urged, as they ever were, with a
modesty and deference which do not always characterise juvenile
investigations, as if Coningsby were speaking to him of the unknown
tongues. But Mr. Rigby was not a man who ever confessed himself at fault.
He caught up something of the subject as our young friend proceeded, and
was perfectly prepared, long before he had finished, to take the whole
conversation into his own hands.
Mr. Rigby began by ascribing everything to the Reform Bill, and then
referred to several of his own speeches on Schedule A. Then he told
Coningsby that want of religious Faith was solely occasioned by want of
churches; and want of Loyalty, by George IV. having shut himself up too
much at the cottage in Windsor Park, entirely against the advice of Mr.
Rigby. He assured Coningsby that the Church Commission was operating
wonders, and that with private benevolence, he had himself subscribed
1,000_l._, for Lord Monmouth, we should soon have churches enough. The
great question now was their architecture. Had George IV. lived all would
have been right. They would have been built on the model of the Budhist
pagoda. As for Loyalty, if the present King went regularly to Ascot races,
he had no doubt all would go right. Finally, Mr. Rigby impressed on
Coningsby to read the Quarterly Review with great attention; and to make
himself master of Mr. Wordy's History of the late War, in twenty volumes,
a capital work, which proves that Providence was on the side of the
Coningsby did not reply to Mr. Rigby again; but worked on with his own
mind, coming often enough to sufficiently crude conclusions, and often
much perplexed and harassed. He tried occasionally his inferences on his
companions, who were intelligent and full of fervour. Millbank was more
than this. He was of a thoughtful mood; had also caught up from a new
school some principles, which were materials for discussion. One way or
other, however, before he quitted Eton there prevailed among this circle
of friends, the initial idea doubtless emanating from Coningsby, an
earnest, though a rather vague, conviction that the present state of
feeling in matters both civil and religious was not healthy; that there
must be substituted for this latitudinarianism something sound and deep,
fervent and well defined, and that the priests of this new faith must be
found among the New Generation; so that when the bright-minded rider of
'the Daughter of the Star' descanted on the influence of individual
character, of great thoughts and heroic actions, and the divine power of
youth and genius, he touched a string that was the very heart-chord of his
companion, who listened with fascinated enthusiasm as he introduced him to
his gallery of inspiring models.
Coningsby arrived at Beaumanoir at a season when men can neither hunt nor
shoot. Great internal resources should be found in a country family under
such circumstances. The Duke and Duchess had returned from London only a
few days with their daughter, who had been presented this year. They were
all glad to find themselves again in the country, which they loved and
which loved them. One of their sons-in-law and his wife, and Henry Sydney,
completed the party.
There are few conjunctures in life of a more startling interest, than to
meet the pretty little girl that we have gambolled with in our boyhood,
and to find her changed in the lapse of a very few years, which in some
instances may not have brought a corresponding alteration in our own
appearance, into a beautiful woman. Something of this flitted over
Coningsby's mind, as he bowed, a little agitated from his surprise, to
Lady Theresa Sydney. All that he remembered had prepared him for beauty;
but not for the degree or character of beauty that he met. It was a rich,
sweet face, with blue eyes and dark lashes, and a nose that we have no
epithet in English to describe, but which charmed in Roxalana. Her brown
hair fell over her white and well turned shoulders in long and luxuriant
tresses. One has met something as brilliant and dainty in a medallion of
old Sevres, or amid the terraces and gardens of Watteau.
Perhaps Lady Theresa, too, might have welcomed him with more freedom had
his appearance also more accorded with the image which he had left behind.
Coningsby was a boy then, as we described him in our first chapter. Though
only nineteen now, he had attained his full stature, which was above the
middle height, and time had fulfilled that promise of symmetry in his
figure, and grace in his mien, then so largely intimated. Time, too, which
had not yet robbed his countenance of any of its physical beauty, had
strongly developed the intellectual charm by which it had ever been
distinguished. As he bowed lowly before the Duchess and her daughter, it
would have been difficult to imagine a youth of a mien more prepossessing
and a manner more finished.
A manner that was spontaneous; nature's pure gift, the reflex of his
feeling. No artifice prompted that profound and polished homage. Not one
of those influences, the aggregate of whose sway produces, as they tell
us, the finished gentleman, had ever exercised its beneficent power on our
orphan, and not rarely forlorn, Coningsby. No clever and refined woman,
with her quick perception, and nice criticism that never offends our self-
love, had ever given him that education that is more precious than
Universities. The mild suggestions of a sister, the gentle raillery of
some laughing cousin, are also advantages not always appreciated at the
time, but which boys, when they have become men, often think over with
gratitude, and a little remorse at the ungracious spirit in which they
were received. Not even the dancing-master had afforded his mechanical aid
to Coningsby, who, like all Eton boys of his generation, viewed that
professor of accomplishments with frank repugnance. But even in the
boisterous life of school, Coningsby, though his style was free and
flowing, was always well-bred. His spirit recoiled from that gross
familiarity that is the characteristic of modern manners, and which would
destroy all forms and ceremonies merely because they curb and control
their own coarse convenience and ill-disguised selfishness. To women,
however, Coningsby instinctively bowed, as to beings set apart for
reverence and delicate treatment. Little as his experience was of them,
his spirit had been fed with chivalrous fancies, and he entertained for
them all the ideal devotion of a Surrey or a Sydney. Instructed, if not
learned, as books and thought had already made him in men, he could not
conceive that there were any other women in the world than fair Geraldines
and Countesses of Pembroke.
There was not a country-house in England that had so completely the air of
habitual residence as Beaumanoir. It is a charming trait, and very rare.
In many great mansions everything is as stiff, formal, and tedious, as if
your host were a Spanish grandee in the days of the Inquisition. No ease,
no resources; the passing life seems a solemn spectacle in which you play
a part. How delightful was the morning room at Beaumanoir; from which
gentlemen were not excluded with that assumed suspicion that they can
never enter it but for felonious purposes. Such a profusion of flowers!
Such a multitude of books! Such a various prodigality of writing
materials! So many easy chairs too, of so many shapes; each in itself a
comfortable home; yet nothing crowded. Woman alone can organise a drawing-
room; man succeeds sometimes in a library. And the ladies' work! How
graceful they look bending over their embroidery frames, consulting over
the arrangement of a group, or the colour of a flower. The panniers and
fanciful baskets, overflowing with variegated worsted, are gay and full of
pleasure to the eye, and give an air of elegant business that is
vivifying. Even the sight of employment interests.
Then the morning costume of English women is itself a beautiful work of
art. At this period of the day they can find no rivals in other climes.
The brilliant complexions of the daughters of the north dazzle in
daylight; the illumined saloon levels all distinctions. One should see
them in their well-fashioned muslin dresses. What matrons, and what
maidens! Full of graceful dignity, fresher than the morn! And the married
beauty in her little lace cap. Ah, she is a coquette! A charming character
at all times; in a country-house an invaluable one.
A coquette is a being who wishes to please. Amiable being! If you do not
like her, you will have no difficulty in finding a female companion of a
different mood. Alas! coquettes are but too rare. 'Tis a career that
requires great abilities, infinite pains, a gay and airy spirit. 'Tis the
coquette that provides all amusement; suggests the riding party, plans the
picnic, gives and guesses charades, acts them. She is the stirring element
amid the heavy congeries of social atoms; the soul of the house, the salt
of the banquet. Let any one pass a very agreeable week, or it may be ten
days, under any roof, and analyse the cause of his satisfaction, and one
might safely make a gentle wager that his solution would present him with
the frolic phantom of a coquette.
'It is impossible that Mr. Coningsby can remember me!' said a clear voice;
and he looked round, and was greeted by a pair of sparkling eyes and the
gayest smile in the world.
It was Lady Everingham, the Duke's married daughter.
'And you walked here!' said Lady Everingham to Coningsby, when the stir of
arranging themselves at dinner had subsided. 'Only think, papa, Mr.
Coningsby walked here! I also am a great walker.'
'I had heard much of the forest,' said Coningsby.
'Which I am sure did not disappoint you,' said the Duke.
'But forests without adventures!' said Lady Everingham, a little shrugging
her pretty shoulders.
'But I had an adventure,' said Coningsby.
'Oh! tell it us by all means!' said the Lady, with great animation.
'Adventures are my weakness. I have had more adventures than any one. Have
I not had, Augustus?' she added, addressing her husband.
'But you make everything out to be an adventure, Isabel,' said Lord
Everingham. I dare say that Mr. Coningsby's was more substantial.' And
looking at our young friend, he invited him to inform them.
'I met a most extraordinary man,' said Coningsby.
'It should have been a heroine,' exclaimed Lady Everingham.
'Do you know anybody in this neighbourhood who rides the finest Arab in
the world?' asked Coningsby. 'She is called "the Daughter of the Star,"
and was given to her rider by the Pacha of Egypt.'
'This is really an adventure,' said Lady Everingham, interested.
'The Daughter of the Star!' said Lady Theresa. 'What a pretty name! Percy
has a horse called "Sunbeam."'
'A fine Arab, the finest in the world!' said the Duke, who was fond of
horse. 'Who can it be?'
'Can you throw any light on this, Mr. Lyle?' asked the Duchess of a young
man who sat next her.
He was a neighbour who had joined their dinner-party, Eustace Lyle, a
Roman Catholic, and the richest commoner in the county; for he had
succeeded to a great estate early in his minority, which had only this
'I certainly do not know the horse,' said Mr. Lyle; 'but if Mr. Coningsby
would describe the rider, perhaps--'
'He is a man something under thirty,' said Coningsby, 'pale, with dark
hair. We met in a sort of forest-inn during a storm. A most singular man!
Indeed, I never met any one who seemed to me so clever, or to say such
'He must have been the spirit of the storm,' said Lady Everingham.
'Charles Verney has a great deal of dark hair,' said Lady Theresa. 'But
then he is anything but pale, and his eyes are blue.'
'And certainly he keeps his wonderful things for your ear, Theresa,' said
'I wish that Mr. Coningsby would tell us some of the wonderful things he
said,' said the Duchess, smiling.
'Take a glass of wine first with my mother, Coningsby,' said Henry Sydney,
who had just finished helping them all to fish.
Coningsby had too much tact to be entrapped into a long story. He already
regretted that he had been betrayed into any allusion to the stranger. He
had a wild, fanciful notion, that their meeting ought to have been
preserved as a sacred secret. But he had been impelled to refer to it in
the first instance by the chance observation of Lady Everingham; and he
had pursued his remark from the hope that the conversation might have led
to the discovery of the unknown. When he found that his inquiry in this
respect was unsuccessful, he was willing to turn the conversation. In
reply to the Duchess, then, he generally described the talk of the
stranger as full of lively anecdote and epigrammatic views of life; and
gave them, for example, a saying of an illustrious foreign Prince, which
was quite new and pointed, and which Coningsby told well. This led to a
new train of discourse. The Duke also knew this illustrious foreign
Prince, and told another story of him; and Lord Everingham had played
whist with this illustrious foreign Prince often at the Travellers', and
this led to a third story; none of them too long. Then Lady Everingham
came in again, and sparkled agreeably. She, indeed, sustained throughout
dinner the principal weight of the conversation; but, as she asked
questions of everybody, all seemed to contribute. Even the voice of Mr.
Lyle, who was rather bashful, was occasionally heard in reply. Coningsby,
who had at first unintentionally taken a more leading part than he aspired
to, would have retired into the background for the rest of the dinner, but
Lady Everingham continually signalled him out for her questions, and as
she sat opposite to him, he seemed the person to whom they were
At length the ladies rose to retire. A very great personage in a foreign,
but not remote country, once mentioned to the writer of these pages, that
he ascribed the superiority of the English in political life, in their
conduct of public business and practical views of affairs, in a great
measure to 'that little half-hour' that separates, after dinner, the dark
from the fair sex. The writer humbly submitted, that if the period of
disjunction were strictly limited to a 'little half-hour,' its salutary
consequences for both sexes need not be disputed, but that in England the
'little half-hour' was too apt to swell into a term of far more awful
character and duration. Lady Everingham was a disciple of the 'very little
half-hour' school; for, as she gaily followed her mother, she said to
Coningsby, whose gracious lot it was to usher them from the apartment:
'Pray do not be too long at the Board of Guardians to-day.'
These were prophetic words; for no sooner were they all again seated, than
the Duke, filling his glass and pushing the claret to Coningsby, observed,
'I suppose Lord Monmouth does not trouble himself much about the New Poor
'Hardly,' said Coningsby. 'My grandfather's frequent absence from England,
which his health, I believe, renders quite necessary, deprives him of the
advantage of personal observation on a subject, than which I can myself
conceive none more deeply interesting.'
'I am glad to hear you say so,' said the Duke, 'and it does you great
credit, and Henry too, whose attention, I observe, is directed very much
to these subjects. In my time, the young men did not think so much of such
things, and we suffer consequently. By the bye, Everingham, you, who are a
Chairman of a Board of Guardians, can give me some information. Supposing
a case of out-door relief--'
'I could not suppose anything so absurd,' said the son-in-law.
'Well,' rejoined the Duke, 'I know your views on that subject, and it
certainly is a question on which there is a good deal to be said. But
would you under any circumstances give relief out of the Union, even if
the parish were to save a considerable sum?'
'I wish I knew the Union where such a system was followed,' said Lord
Everingham; and his Grace seemed to tremble under his son-in-law's glance.
The Duke had a good heart, and not a bad head. If he had not made in his
youth so many Latin and English verses, he might have acquired
considerable information, for he had a natural love of letters, though his
pack were the pride of England, his barrel seldom missed, and his fortune
on the turf, where he never betted, was a proverb. He was good, and he
wished to do good; but his views were confused from want of knowledge, and
his conduct often inconsistent because a sense of duty made him
immediately active; and he often acquired in the consequent experience a
conviction exactly contrary to that which had prompted his activity.
His Grace had been a great patron and a zealous administrator of the New
Poor Law. He had been persuaded that it would elevate the condition of the
labouring class. His son-in-law, Lord Everingham, who was a Whig, and a
clearheaded, cold-blooded man, looked upon the New Poor Law as another
Magna Charta. Lord Everingham was completely master of the subject. He was
himself the Chairman of one of the most considerable Unions of the
kingdom. The Duke, if he ever had a misgiving, had no chance in argument
with his son-in-law. Lord Everingham overwhelmed him with quotations from
Commissioners' rules and Sub-commissioners' reports, statistical tables,
and references to dietaries. Sometimes with a strong case, the Duke
struggled to make a fight; but Lord Everingham, when he was at fault for a
reply, which was very rare, upbraided his father-in-law with the abuses of
the old system, and frightened him with visions of rates exceeding
Of late, however, a considerable change had taken place in the Duke's
feelings on this great question. His son Henry entertained strong opinions
upon it, and had combated his father with all the fervour of a young
votary. A victory over his Grace, indeed, was not very difficult. His
natural impulse would have enlisted him on the side, if not of opposition
to the new system, at least of critical suspicion of its spirit and
provisions. It was only the statistics and sharp acuteness of his son-in-
law that had, indeed, ever kept him to his colours. Lord Henry would not
listen to statistics, dietary tables, Commissioners' rides, Sub-
commissioners' reports. He went far higher than his father; far deeper
than his brother-in-law. He represented to the Duke that the order of the
peasantry was as ancient, legal, and recognised an order as the order of
the nobility; that it had distinct rights and privileges, though for
centuries they had been invaded and violated, and permitted to fall into
desuetude. He impressed upon the Duke that the parochial constitution of
this country was more important than its political constitution; that it
was more ancient, more universal in its influence; and that this parochial
constitution had already been shaken to its centre by the New Poor Law. He
assured his father that it would never be well for England until this
order of the peasantry was restored to its pristine condition; not merely
in physical comfort, for that must vary according to the economical
circumstances of the time, like that of every class; but to its condition
in all those moral attributes which make a recognised rank in a nation;
and which, in a great degree, are independent of economics, manners,
customs, ceremonies, rights, and privileges.
'Henry thinks,' said Lord Everingham, 'that the people are to be fed by
dancing round a May-pole.'
'But will the people be more fed because they do not dance round a May-
pole?' urged Lord Henry.
'Obsolete customs!' said Lord Everingham.
'And why should dancing round a May-pole be more obsolete than holding a
Chapter of the Garter?' asked Lord Henry.
The Duke, who was a blue ribbon, felt this a home thrust. 'I must say,'
said his Grace, 'that I for one deeply regret that our popular customs
have been permitted to fall so into desuetude.'
'The Spirit of the Age is against such things,' said Lord Everingham.
'And what is the Spirit of the Age?' asked Coningsby.
'The Spirit of Utility,' said Lord Everingham.
'And you think then that ceremony is not useful?' urged Coningsby, mildly.
'It depends upon circumstances,' said Lord Everingham. 'There are some
ceremonies, no doubt, that are very proper, and of course very useful. But
the best thing we can do for the labouring classes is to provide them with
'But what do you mean by the labouring classes, Everingham?' asked Lord
Henry. 'Lawyers are a labouring class, for instance, and by the bye
sufficiently provided with work. But would you approve of Westminster Hall
being denuded of all its ceremonies?'
'And the long vacation being abolished?' added Coningsby.
'Theresa brings me terrible accounts of the sufferings of the poor about
us,' said the Duke, shaking his head.
'Women think everything to be suffering!' said Lord Everingham.
'How do you find them about you, Mr. Lyle?' continued the Duke.
'I have revived the monastic customs at St. Genevieve,' said the young
man, blushing. 'There is an almsgiving twice a-week.'
'I am sure I wish I could see the labouring classes happy,' said the Duke.
'Oh! pray do not use, my dear father, that phrase, the labouring classes!'
said Lord Henry. 'What do you think, Coningsby, the other day we had a
meeting in this neighbourhood to vote an agricultural petition that was to
comprise all classes. I went with my father, and I was made chairman of
the committee to draw up the petition. Of course, I described it as the
petition of the nobility, clergy, gentry, yeomanry, and peasantry of the
county of ----; and, could you believe it, they struck out _peasantry_ as
a word no longer used, and inserted _labourers_.'
'What can it signify,' said Lord Everingham, 'whether a man be called a
labourer or a peasant?'
'And what can it signify,' said his brother-in-law, 'whether a man be
called Mr. Howard or Lord Everingham?'
They were the most affectionate family under this roof of Beaumanoir, and
of all members of it, Lord Henry the sweetest tempered, and yet it was
astonishing what sharp skirmishes every day arose between him and his
brother-in-law, during that 'little half-hour' that forms so happily the
political character of the nation. The Duke, who from experience felt that
a guerilla movement was impending, asked his guests whether they would
take any more claret; and on their signifying their dissent, moved an
adjournment to the ladies.
They joined the ladies in the music-room. Coningsby, not experienced in
feminine society, and who found a little difficulty from want of practice
in maintaining conversation, though he was desirous of succeeding, was
delighted with Lady Everingham, who, instead of requiring to be amused,
amused him; and suggested so many subjects, and glanced at so many topics,
that there never was that cold, awkward pause, so common with sullen
spirits and barren brains. Lady Everingham thoroughly understood the art
of conversation, which, indeed, consists of the exercise of two fine
qualities. You must originate, and you must sympathise; you must possess
at the same time the habit of communicating and the habit of listening.
The union is rather rare, but irresistible.
Lady Everingham was not a celebrated beauty, but she was something
infinitely more delightful, a captivating woman. There were combined, in
her, qualities not commonly met together, great vivacity of mind with
great grace of manner. Her words sparkled and her movements charmed. There
was, indeed, in all she said and did, that congruity that indicates a
complete and harmonious organisation. It was the same just proportion
which characterised her form: a shape slight and undulating with grace;
the most beautifully shaped ear; a small, soft hand; a foot that would
have fitted the glass slipper; and which, by the bye, she lost no
opportunity of displaying; and she was right, for it was a model.
Then there was music. Lady Theresa sang like a seraph: a rich voice, a
grand style. And her sister could support her with grace and sweetness.
And they did not sing too much. The Duke took up a review, and looked at
Rigby's last slashing article. The country seemed ruined, but it appeared
that the Whigs were still worse off than the Tories. The assassins had
committed suicide. This poetical justice is pleasing. Lord Everingham,
lounging in an easy chair, perused with great satisfaction his _Morning
Chronicle_, which contained a cutting reply to Mr. Rigby's article, not
quite so 'slashing' as the Right Honourable scribe's manifesto, but with
some searching mockery, that became the subject and the subject-monger.
Mr. Lyle seated himself by the Duchess, and encouraged by her amenity, and
speaking in whispers, became animated and agreeable, occasionally patting
the lap-dog. Coningsby stood by the singers, or talked with them when the
music had ceased: and Henry Sydney looked over a volume of Strutt's
_Sports and Pastimes_, occasionally, without taking his eyes off the
volume, calling the attention of his friends to his discoveries.
Mr. Lyle rose to depart, for he had some miles to return; he came forward
with some hesitation, to hope that Coningsby would visit his bloodhounds,
which Lord Henry had told him Coningsby had expressed a wish to do. Lady
Everingham remarked that she had not been at St. Genevieve since she was a
girl, and it appeared Lady Theresa had never visited it. Lady Everingham
proposed that they should all ride over on the morrow, and she appealed to
her husband for his approbation, instantly given, for though she loved
admiration, and he apparently was an iceberg, they were really devoted to
each other. Then there was a consultation as to their arrangements. The
Duchess would drive over in her pony chair with Theresa. The Duke, as
usual, had affairs that would occupy him. The rest were to ride. It was a
happy suggestion, all anticipated pleasure; and the evening terminated
with the prospect of what Lady Everingham called an adventure.
The ladies themselves soon withdrew; the gentlemen lingered for a while;
the Duke took up his candle, and bid his guests good night; Lord
Everingham drank a glass of Seltzer water, nodded, and vanished. Lord
Henry and his friend sat up talking over the past. They were too young to
call them old times; and yet what a life seemed to have elapsed since they
had quitted Eton, dear old Eton! Their boyish feelings, and still latent
boyish character, developed with their reminiscences.
'Do you remember Bucknall? Which Bucknall? The eldest: I saw him the other
day at Nottingham; he is in the Rifles. Do you remember that day at Sirly
Hall, that Paulet had that row with Dickinson? Did you like Dickinson?
Hum! Paulet was a good fellow. I tell you who was a good fellow, Paulet's
little cousin. What! Augustus Le Grange? Oh! I liked Augustus Le Grange. I
wonder where Buckhurst is? I had a letter from him the other day. He has
gone with his uncle to Paris. We shall find him at Cambridge in October. I
suppose you know Millbank has gone to Oriel. Has he, though! I wonder who
will have our room at Cookesley's? Cookesley was a good fellow! Oh,
capital! How well he behaved when there was that row about our going out
with the hounds? Do you remember Vere's face? It makes me laugh now when I
think of it. I tell you who was a good fellow, Kangaroo Gray; I liked him.
I don't know any fellow who sang a better song!'
'By the bye,' said Coningsby, 'what sort of fellow is Eustace Lyle? I
rather liked his look.'
'Oh! I will tell you all about him,' said Lord Henry. 'He is a great ally
of mine, and I think you will like him very much. It is a Roman Catholic
family, about the oldest we have in the county, and the wealthiest. You
see, Lyle's father was the most violent ultra Whig, and so were all
Eustace's guardians; but the moment he came of age, he announced that he
should not mix himself up with either of the parties in the county, and
that his tenantry might act exactly as they thought fit. My father thinks,
of course, that Lyle is a Conservative, and that he only waits the
occasion to come forward; but he is quite wrong. I know Lyle well, and he
speaks to me without disguise. You see 'tis an old Cavalier family, and
Lyle has all the opinions and feelings of his race. He will not ally
himself with anti-monarchists, and democrats, and infidels, and
sectarians; at the same time, why should he support a party who pretend to
oppose these, but who never lose an opportunity of insulting his religion,
and would deprive him, if possible, of the advantages of the very
institutions which his family assisted in establishing?'
'Why, indeed? I am glad to have made his acquaintance,' said Coningsby.
'Is he clever?'
'I think so,' said Lord Henry. 'He is the most shy fellow, especially
among women, that I ever knew, but he is very popular in the county. He
does an amazing deal of good, and is one of the best riders we have. My
father says, the very best; bold, but so very certain.'
'He is older than we are?'
'My senior by a year: he is just of age.'
'Oh, ah! twenty-one. A year younger than Gaston de Foix when he won
Ravenna, and four years younger than John of Austria when he won Lepanto,'
observed Coningsby, musingly. 'I vote we go to bed, old fellow!'
In a valley, not far from the margin of a beautiful river, raised on a
lofty and artificial terrace at the base of a range of wooded heights, was
a pile of modern building in the finest style of Christian architecture.
It was of great extent and richly decorated. Built of a white and
glittering stone, it sparkled with its pinnacles in the sunshine as it
rose in strong relief against its verdant background. The winding valley,
which was studded, but not too closely studded, with clumps of old trees,
formed for a great extent on either side of the mansion a grassy demesne,
which was called the Lower Park; but it was a region bearing the name of
the Upper Park, that was the peculiar and most picturesque feature of this
splendid residence. The wooded heights that formed the valley were not, as
they appeared, a range of hills. Their crest was only the abrupt
termination of a vast and enclosed tableland, abounding in all the
qualities of the ancient chase: turf and trees, a wilderness of underwood,
and a vast spread of gorse and fern. The deer, that abounded, lived here
in a world as savage as themselves: trooping down in the evening to the
river. Some of them, indeed, were ever in sight of those who were in the
valley, and you might often observe various groups clustered on the green
heights above the mansion, the effect of which was most inspiriting and
graceful. Sometimes in the twilight, a solitary form, magnified by the
illusive hour, might be seen standing on the brink of the steep, large and
black against the clear sky.
We have endeavoured slightly to sketch St. Genevieve as it appeared to our
friends from Beaumanoir, winding into the valley the day after Mr. Lyle
had dined with them. The valley opened for about half-a-mile opposite the
mansion, which gave to the dwellers in it a view over an extensive and
richly-cultivated country. It was through this district that the party
from Beaumanoir had pursued their way. The first glance at the building,
its striking situation, its beautiful form, its brilliant colour, its
great extent, a gathering as it seemed of galleries, halls, and chapels,
mullioned windows, portals of clustered columns, and groups of airy
pinnacles and fretwork spires, called forth a general cry of wonder and of
The ride from Beaumanoir had been delightful; the breath of summer in
every breeze, the light of summer on every tree. The gay laugh of Lady
Everingham rang frequently in the air; often were her sunny eyes directed
to Coningsby, as she called his attention to some fair object or some
pretty effect. She played the hostess of Nature, and introduced him to all
Mr. Lyle had recognised them. He cantered forward with greetings on a fat
little fawn-coloured pony, with a long white mane and white flowing tail,
and the wickedest eye in the world. He rode by the side of the Duchess,
and indicated their gently-descending route.
They arrived, and the peacocks, who were sunning themselves on the
turrets, expanded their plumage to welcome them.
'I can remember the old house,' said the Duchess, as she took Mr. Lyle's
arm; 'and I am happy to see the new one. The Duke had prepared me for much
beauty, but the reality exceeds his report.'
They entered by a short corridor into a large hall. They would have
stopped to admire its rich roof, its gallery and screen; but their host
suggested that they should refresh themselves after their ride, and they
followed him through several apartments into a spacious chamber, its oaken
panels covered with a series of interesting pictures, representing the
siege of St. Genevieve by the Parliament forces in 1643: the various
assaults and sallies, and the final discomfiture of the rebels. In all
these figured a brave and graceful Sir Eustace Lyle, in cuirass and buff
jerkin, with gleaming sword and flowing plume. The sight of these pictures
was ever a source of great excitement to Henry Sydney, who always lamented
his ill-luck in not living in such days; nay, would insist that all others
must equally deplore their evil destiny.
'See, Coningsby, this battery on the Upper Park,' said Lord Henry. 'This
did the business: how it rakes up the valley; Sir Eustace works it
himself. Mother, what a pity Beaumanoir was not besieged!'
'It may be,' said Coningsby.
'I always fancy a siege must be so interesting,' said Lady Everingham. 'It
must be so exciting.'
'I hope the next siege may be at Beaumanoir, instead of St. Genevieve,'
said Lyle, laughing; 'as Henry Sydney has such a military predisposition.
Duchess, you said the other day that you liked Malvoisie, and here is
'Now broach me a cask of Malvoisie,
Bring pasty from the doe;'
said the Duchess. 'That has been my luncheon.'
'A poetic repast,' said Lady Theresa.
'Their breeds of sheep must have been very inferior in old days,' said
Lord Everingham, 'as they made such a noise about their venison. For my
part I consider it a thing as much gone by as tilts and tournaments.'
'I am sorry that they have gone by,' said Lady Theresa.
'Everything has gone by that is beautiful,' said Lord Henry.
'Life is much easier,' said Lord Everingham.
'Life easy!' said Lord Henry. 'Life appears to me to be a fierce
'Manners are easy,' said Coningsby, 'and life is hard.'
'And I wish to see things exactly the reverse,' said Lord Henry. 'The
means and modes of subsistence less difficult; the conduct of life more
'Civilisation has no time for ceremony,' said Lord Everingham.
'How very sententious you all are!' said his wife. 'I want to see the hall
and many other things.' And they all rose.
There were indeed many other things to see: a long gallery, rich in
ancestral portraits, specimens of art and costume from Holbein to
Lawrence; courtiers of the Tudors, and cavaliers of the Stuarts,
terminating in red-coated squires fresh from the field, and gentlemen
buttoned up in black coats, and sitting in library chairs, with their
backs to a crimson curtain. Woman, however, is always charming; and the
present generation may view their mothers painted by Lawrence, as if they
were patronesses of Almack's; or their grandmothers by Reynolds, as
Robinettas caressing birds, with as much delight as they gaze on the dewy-
eyed matrons of Lely, and the proud bearing of the heroines of Vandyke.
But what interested them more than the gallery, or the rich saloons, or
even the baronial hall, was the chapel, in which art had exhausted all its
invention, and wealth offered all its resources. The walls and vaulted
roofs entirely painted in encaustic by the first artists of Germany, and
representing the principal events of the second Testament, the splendour
of the mosaic pavement, the richness of the painted windows, the
sumptuousness of the altar, crowned by a masterpiece of Carlo Dolce and
surrounded by a silver rail, the tone of rich and solemn light that
pervaded all, and blended all the various sources of beauty into one
absorbing and harmonious whole: all combined to produce an effect which
stilled them into a silence that lasted for some minutes, until the ladies
breathed their feelings in an almost inarticulate murmur of reverence and
admiration; while a tear stole to the eye of the enthusiastic Henry
Leaving the chapel, they sauntered through the gardens, until, arriving at
their limit, they were met by the prettiest sight in the world; a group of
little pony chairs, each drawn by a little fat fawn-coloured pony, like
the one that Mr. Lyle had been riding. Lord Henry drove his mother; Lord
Everingham, Lady Theresa; Lady Everingham was attended by Coningsby. Their
host cantered by the Duchess's side, and along winding roads of easy
ascent, leading through beautiful woods, and offering charming landscapes,
they reached in due time the Upper Park.
'One sees our host to great advantage in his own house,' said Lady
Everingham. 'He is scarcely the same person. I have not observed him once
blush. He speaks and moves with ease. It is a pity that he is not more
graceful. Above all things I like a graceful man.'
'That chapel,' said Coningsby, 'was a fine thing.'
'Very!' said Lady Everingham. 'Did you observe the picture over the altar,
the Virgin with blue eyes? I never observed blue eyes before in such a
picture. What is your favourite colour for eyes?'
Coningsby felt embarrassed: he said something rather pointless about
admiring everything that was beautiful.
'But every one has a favourite style; I want to know yours. Regular
features, do you like regular features? Or is it expression that pleases
'Expression; I think I like expression. Expression must be always
'Do you dance?'
'No; I am no great dancer. I fear I have few accomplishments. I am fond of
'I don't fence,' said Lady Everingham, with a smile. 'But I think you are
right not to dance. It is not in your way. You are ambitious, I believe?'
'I was not aware of it; everybody is ambitious.'
'You see I know something of your character. Henry has spoken of you to me
a great deal; long before we met,--met again, I should say, for we are old
friends, remember. Do you know your career much interests me? I like
There is something fascinating in the first idea that your career
interests a charming woman. Coningsby felt that he was perhaps driving a
Madame de Longueville. A woman who likes ambitious men must be no ordinary
character; clearly a sort of heroine. At this moment they reached the
Upper Park, and the novel landscape changed the current of their remarks.
Far as the eye could reach there spread before them a savage sylvan scene.
It wanted, perhaps, undulation of surface, but that deficiency was greatly
compensated for by the multitude and prodigious size of the trees; they
were the largest, indeed, that could well be met with in England; and
there is no part of Europe where the timber is so huge. The broad
interminable glades, the vast avenues, the quantity of deer browsing or
bounding in all directions, the thickets of yellow gorse and green fern,
and the breeze that even in the stillness of summer was ever playing over
this table-land, all produced an animated and renovating scene. It was
like suddenly visiting another country, living among other manners, and
breathing another air. They stopped for a few minutes at a pavilion built
for the purposes of the chase, and then returned, all gratified by this
visit to what appeared to be the higher regions of the earth.
As they approached the brow of the hill that hung over St. Genevieve, they
heard the great bell sound.
'What is that?' asked the Duchess.
'It is almsgiving day,' replied Mr. Lyle, looking a little embarrassed,
and for the first time blushing. 'The people of the parishes with which I
am connected come to St. Genevieve twice a-week at this hour.'
'And what is your system?' inquired Lord Everingham, who had stopped,
interested by the scene. 'What check have you?'
'The rectors of the different parishes grant certificates to those who in
their belief merit bounty according to the rules which I have established.
These are again visited by my almoner, who countersigns the certificate,
and then they present it at the postern-gate. The certificate explains the
nature of their necessities, and my steward acts on his discretion.
'Mamma, I see them!' exclaimed Lady Theresa.
'Perhaps your Grace may think that they might be relieved without all this
ceremony,' said Mr. Lyle, extremely confused. 'But I agree with Henry and
Mr. Coningsby, that Ceremony is not, as too commonly supposed, an idle
form. I wish the people constantly and visibly to comprehend that Property
is their protector and their friend.'
'My reason is with you, Mr. Lyle,' said the Duchess, 'as well as my
They came along the valley, a procession of Nature, whose groups an artist
might have studied. The old man, who loved the pilgrimage too much to
avail himself of the privilege of a substitute accorded to his grey hairs,
came in person with his grandchild and his staff. There also came the
widow with her child at the breast, and others clinging to her form; some
sorrowful faces, and some pale; many a serious one, and now and then a
frolic glance; many a dame in her red cloak, and many a maiden with her
light basket; curly-headed urchins with demure looks, and sometimes a
stalwart form baffled for a time of the labour which he desired. But not a
heart there that did not bless the bell that sounded from the tower of St.
'My fathers perilled their blood and fortunes for the cause of the
Sovereignty and Church of England,' said Lyle to Coningsby, as they were
lying stretched out on the sunny turf in the park of Beaumanoir,' and I
inherit their passionate convictions. They were Catholics, as their
descendant. No doubt they would have been glad to see their ancient faith
predominant in their ancient land; but they bowed, as I bow, to an adverse
and apparently irrevocable decree. But if we could not have the Church of
our fathers, we honoured and respected the Church of their children. It
was at least a Church; a 'Catholic and Apostolic Church,' as it daily
declares itself. Besides, it was our friend. When we were persecuted by
Puritanic Parliaments, it was the Sovereign and the Church of England that
interposed, with the certainty of creating against themselves odium and
mistrust, to shield us from the dark and relentless bigotry of Calvinism.'
'I believe,' said Coningsby, 'that if Charles I. had hanged all the
Catholic priests that Parliament petitioned him to execute, he would never
have lost his crown.'
'You were mentioning my father,' continued Lyle. 'He certainly was a Whig.
Galled by political exclusion, he connected himself with that party in the
State which began to intimate emancipation. After all, they did not
emancipate us. It was the fall of the Papacy in England that founded the
Whig aristocracy; a fact that must always lie at the bottom of their
hearts, as, I assure you, it does of mine.
'I gathered at an early age,' continued Lyle, 'that I was expected to
inherit my father's political connections with the family estates. Under
ordinary circumstances this would probably have occurred. In times that
did not force one to ponder, it is not likely I should have recoiled from
uniting myself with a party formed of the best families in England, and
ever famous for accomplished men and charming women. But I enter life in
the midst of a convulsion in which the very principles of our political
and social systems are called in question. I cannot unite myself with the
party of destruction. It is an operative cause alien to my being. What,
then, offers itself? The Duke talks to me of Conservative principles; but
he does not inform me what they are. I observe indeed a party in the State
whose rule it is to consent to no change, until it is clamorously called
for, and then instantly to yield; but those are Concessionary, not
Conservative principles. This party treats institutions as we do our
pheasants, they preserve only to destroy them. But is there a statesman
among these Conservatives who offers us a dogma for a guide, or defines
any great political truth which we should aspire to establish? It seems to
me a, barren thing, this Conservatism, an unhappy cross-breed; the mule of
politics that engenders nothing. What do you think of all this, Coningsby?
I assure you I feel confused, perplexed, harassed. I know I have public
duties to perform; I am, in fact, every day of my life solicited by all
parties to throw the weight of my influence in one scale or another; but I
am paralysed. I often wish I had no position in the country. The sense of
its responsibility depresses me; makes me miserable. I speak to you
without reserve; with a frankness which our short acquaintance scarcely
authorises; but Henry Sydney has so often talked to me of you, and I have
so long wished to know you, that I open my heart without restraint.'
'My dear fellow,' said Coningsby, 'you have but described my feelings when
you depicted your own. My mind on these subjects has long been a chaos. I
float in a sea of troubles, and should long ago have been wrecked had I
not been sustained by a profound, however vague, conviction, that there
are still great truths, if we could but work them out; that Government,
for instance, should be loved and not hated, and that Religion should be a
faith and not a form.'
The moral influence of residence furnishes some of the most interesting
traits of our national manners. The presence of this power was very
apparent throughout the district that surrounded Beaumanoir. The ladies of
that house were deeply sensible of the responsibility of their position;
thoroughly comprehending their duties, they fulfilled them without
affectation, with earnestness, and with that effect which springs from a
knowledge of the subject. The consequences were visible in the tone of the
peasantry being superior to that which we too often witness. The ancient
feudal feeling that lingers in these sequestered haunts is an instrument
which, when skilfully wielded, may be productive of vast social benefit.
The Duke understood this well; and his family had imbibed all his views,
and seconded them. Lady Everingham, once more in the scene of her past
life, resumed the exercise of gentle offices, as if she had never ceased
to be a daughter of the house, and as if another domain had not its claims
upon her solicitude. Coningsby was often the companion of herself and her
sister in their pilgrimages of charity and kindness. He admired the
graceful energy, and thorough acquaintance with details, with which Lady
Everingham superintended schools, organised societies of relief, and the
discrimination which she brought to bear upon individual cases of
suffering or misfortune. He was deeply interested as he watched the magic
of her manner, as she melted the obdurate, inspired the slothful, consoled
the afflicted, and animated with her smiles and ready phrase the energetic
and the dutiful. Nor on these occasions was Lady Theresa seen under less
favourable auspices. Without the vivacity of her sister, there was in her
demeanour a sweet seriousness of purpose that was most winning; and
sometimes a burst of energy, a trait of decision, which strikingly
contrasted with the somewhat over-controlled character of her life in
In the society of these engaging companions, time for Coningsby glided
away in a course which he sometimes wished nothing might disturb. Apart
from them, he frequently felt himself pensive and vaguely disquieted. Even
the society of Henry Sydney or Eustace Lyle, much as under ordinary
circumstances they would have been adapted to his mood, did not compensate
for the absence of that indefinite, that novel, that strange, yet sweet
excitement, which he felt, he knew not exactly how or why, stealing over
his senses. Sometimes the countenance of Theresa Sydney flitted over his
musing vision; sometimes the merry voice of Lady Everingham haunted his
ear. But to be their companion in ride or ramble; to avoid any arrangement
which for many hours should deprive him of their presence; was every day
with Coningsby a principal object.
One day he had been out shooting rabbits with Lyle and Henry Sydney, and
returned with them late to Beaumanoir to dinner. He had not enjoyed his
sport, and he had not shot at all well. He had been dreamy, silent, had
deeply felt the want of Lady Everingham's conversation, that was ever so
poignant and so interestingly personal to himself; one of the secrets of
her sway, though Coningsby was not then quite conscious of it. Talk to a
man about himself, and he is generally captivated. That is the real way to
win him. The only difference between men and women in this respect is,
that most women are vain, and some men are not. There are some men who
have no self-love; but if they have, female vanity is but a trifling and
airy passion compared with the vast voracity of appetite which in the
sterner sex can swallow anything, and always crave for more.
When Coningsby entered the drawing-room, there seemed a somewhat unusual
bustle in the room, but as the twilight had descended, it was at first
rather difficult to distinguish who was present. He soon perceived that
there were strangers. A gentleman of pleasing appearance was near a sofa
on which the Duchess and Lady Everingham were seated, and discoursing with
some volubility. His phrases seemed to command attention; his audience had
an animated glance, eyes sparkling with intelligence and interest; not a
word was disregarded. Coningsby did not advance as was his custom; he had
a sort of instinct, that the stranger was discoursing of matters of which
he knew nothing. He turned to a table, he took up a book, which he began
to read upside downwards. A hand was lightly placed on his shoulder. He
looked round, it was another stranger; who said, however, in a tone of
'How do you do, Coningsby?'
It was a young man about four-and-twenty years of age, tall, good-looking.
Old recollections, his intimate greeting, a strong family likeness, helped
Coningsby to conjecture correctly who was the person who addressed him. It
was, indeed, the eldest son of the Duke, the Marquis of Beaumanoir, who
had arrived at his father's unexpectedly with his friend, Mr. Melton, on
their way to the north.
Mr. Melton was a gentleman of the highest fashion, and a great favourite
in society. He was about thirty, good-looking, with an air that commanded
attention, and manners, though facile, sufficiently finished. He was
communicative, though calm, and without being witty, had at his service a
turn of phrase, acquired by practice and success, which was, or which
always seemed to be, poignant. The ladies seemed especially to be
delighted at his arrival. He knew everything of everybody they cared
about; and Coningsby listened in silence to names which for the first time
reached his ears, but which seemed to excite great interest. Mr. Melton
frequently addressed his most lively observations and his most sparkling
anecdotes to Lady Everingham, who evidently relished all that he said, and
returned him in kind.
Throughout the dinner Lady Everingham and Mr. Melton maintained what
appeared a most entertaining conversation, principally about things and
persons which did not in any way interest our hero; who, however, had the
satisfaction of hearing Lady Everingham, in the drawing-room, say in a
careless tone to the Duchess.
'I am so glad, mamma, that Mr. Melton has come; we wanted some amusement.'
What a confession! What a revelation to Coningsby of his infinite
insignificance! Coningsby entertained a great aversion for Mr. Melton, but
felt his spirit unequal to the social contest. The genius of the
untutored, inexperienced youth quailed before that of the long-practised,
skilful man of the world. What was the magic of this man? What was the
secret of this ease, that nothing could disturb, and yet was not deficient
in deference and good taste? And then his dress, it seemed fashioned by
some unearthly artist; yet it was impossible to detect the unobtrusive
causes of the general effect that was irresistible. Coningsby's coat was
made by Stultz; almost every fellow in the sixth form had his coats made
by Stultz; yet Coningsby fancied that his own garment looked as if it had
been furnished by some rustic slopseller. He began to wonder where Mr.
Melton got his boots from, and glanced at his own, which, though made in
St. James's Street, seemed to him to have a cloddish air.
Lady Everingham was determined that Mr. Melton should see Beaumanoir to
the greatest advantage. Mr. Melton had never been there before, except at
Christmas, with the house full of visitors and factitious gaiety. Now he
was to see the country. Accordingly, there were long rides every day,
which Lady Everingham called expeditions, and which generally produced
some slight incident which she styled an adventure. She was kind to
Coningsby, but had no time to indulge in the lengthened conversations
which he had previously found so magical. Mr. Melton was always on the
scene, the monopolising hero, it would seem, of every thought, and phrase,
and plan. Coningsby began to think that Beaumanoir was not so delightful a
place as he had imagined. He began to think that he had stayed there
perhaps too long. He had received a letter from Mr. Rigby, to inform him
that he was expected at Coningsby Castle at the beginning of September, to
meet Lord Monmouth, who had returned to England, and for grave and special
reasons was about to reside at his chief seat, which he had not visited
for many years. Coningsby had intended to have remained at Beaumanoir
until that time; but suddenly it occurred to him, that the Age of Ruins
was past, and that he ought to seize the opportunity of visiting
Manchester, which was in the same county as the castle of his grandfather.
So difficult is it to speculate upon events! Muse as we may, we are the
creatures of circumstances; and the unexpected arrival of a London dandy
at the country-seat of an English nobleman sent this representative of the
New Generation, fresh from Eton, nursed in prejudices, yet with a mind
predisposed to inquiry and prone to meditation, to a scene apt to
stimulate both intellectual processes; which demanded investigation and
induced thought, the great METROPOLIS OF LABOUR.
END OF BOOK III.
A great city, whose image dwells in the memory of man, is the type of some
great idea. Rome represents conquest; Faith hovers over the towers of
Jerusalem; and Athens embodies the pre-eminent quality of the antique
In modern ages, Commerce has created London; while Manners, in the most
comprehensive sense of the word, have long found a supreme capital in the
airy and bright-minded city of the Seine.
What Art was to the ancient world, Science is to the modern: the
distinctive faculty. In the minds of men the useful has succeeded to the
beautiful. Instead of the city of the Violet Crown, a Lancashire village
has expanded into a mighty region of factories and warehouses. Yet,
rightly understood, Manchester is as great a human exploit as Athens.
The inhabitants, indeed, are not so impressed with their idiosyncrasy as
the countrymen of Pericles and Phidias. They do not fully comprehend the
position which they occupy. It is the philosopher alone who can conceive
the grandeur of Manchester, and the immensity of its future. There are yet
great truths to tell, if we had either the courage to announce or the
temper to receive them.
A feeling of melancholy, even of uneasiness, attends our first entrance
into a great town, especially at night. Is it that the sense of all this
vast existence with which we have no connexion, where we are utterly
unknown, oppresses us with our insignificance? Is it that it is terrible
to feel friendless where all have friends?
Yet reverse the picture. Behold a community where you are unknown, but
where you will be known, perhaps honoured. A place where you have no
friends, but where, also, you have no enemies. A spot that has hitherto
been a blank in your thoughts, as you have been a cipher in its
sensations, and yet a spot, perhaps, pregnant with your destiny!
There is, perhaps, no act of memory so profoundly interesting as to recall
the careless mood and moment in which we have entered a town, a house, a
chamber, on the eve of an acquaintance or an event that has given colour
and an impulse to our future life.
What is this Fatality that men worship? Is it a Goddess?
Unquestionably it is a power that acts mainly by female agents. Women are
the Priestesses of Predestination.
Man conceives Fortune, but Woman conducts it.
It is the Spirit of Man that says, 'I will be great;' but it is the
Sympathy of Woman that usually makes him so.
It was not the comely and courteous hostess of the Adelphi Hotel,
Manchester, that gave occasion to these remarks, though she may deserve
them, and though she was most kind to our Coningsby as he came in late at
night very tired, and not in very good humour.
He had travelled the whole day through the great district of labour, his
mind excited by strange sights, and at length wearied by their
multiplication. He had passed over the plains where iron and coal
supersede turf and corn, dingy as the entrance of Hades, and flaming with
furnaces; and now he was among illumined factories with more windows than
Italian palaces, and smoking chimneys taller than Egyptian obelisks. Alone
in the great metropolis of machinery itself, sitting down in a solitary
coffee-room glaring with gas, with no appetite, a whirling head, and not a
plan or purpose for the morrow, why was he there? Because a being, whose
name even was unknown to him, had met him in a hedge alehouse during a
thunderstorm, and told him that the Age of Ruins was past.
Remarkable instance of the influence of an individual; some evidence of
the extreme susceptibility of our hero.
Even his bedroom was lit by gas. Wonderful city! That, however, could be
got rid of. He opened the window. The summer air was sweet, even in this
land of smoke and toil. He feels a sensation such as in Lisbon or Lima
precedes an earthquake. The house appears to quiver. It is a sympathetic
affection occasioned by a steam-engine in a neighbouring factory.
Notwithstanding, however, all these novel incidents, Coningsby slept the
deep sleep of youth and health, of a brain which, however occasionally
perplexed by thought, had never been harassed by anxiety. He rose early,
freshened, and in fine spirits. And by the time the deviled chicken and
the buttered toast, that mysterious and incomparable luxury, which can
only be obtained at an inn, had disappeared, he felt all the delightful
excitement of travel.
And now for action! Not a letter had Coningsby; not an individual in that
vast city was known to him. He went to consult his kind hostess, who
smiled confidence. He was to mention her name at one place, his own at
another. All would be right; she seemed to have reliance in the destiny of
such a nice young man.
He saw all; they were kind and hospitable to the young stranger, whose
thought, and earnestness, and gentle manners attracted them. One
recommended him to another; all tried to aid and assist him. He entered
chambers vaster than are told of in Arabian fable, and peopled with
habitants more wondrous than Afrite or Peri. For there he beheld, in long-
continued ranks, those mysterious forms full of existence without life,
that perform with facility, and in an instant, what man can fulfil only
with difficulty and in days. A machine is a slave that neither brings nor
bears degradation; it is a being endowed with the greatest degree of
energy, and acting under the greatest degree of excitement, yet free at
the same time from all passion and emotion. It is, therefore, not only a
slave, but a supernatural slave. And why should one say that the machine
does not live? It breathes, for its breath forms the atmosphere of some
towns. It moves with more regularity than man. And has it not a voice?
Does not the spindle sing like a merry girl at her work, and the steam-
engine roar in jolly chorus, like a strong artisan handling his lusty
tools, and gaining a fair day's wages for a fair day's toil?
Nor should the weaving-room be forgotten, where a thousand or fifteen
hundred girls may be observed in their coral necklaces, working like
Penelope in the daytime; some pretty, some pert, some graceful and jocund,
some absorbed in their occupation; a little serious some, few sad. And the
cotton you have observed in its rude state, that you have seen the silent
spinner change into thread, and the bustling weaver convert into cloth,
you may now watch as in a moment it is tinted with beautiful colours, or
printed with fanciful patterns. And yet the mystery of mysteries is to
view machines making machines; a spectacle that fills the mind with
curious, and even awful, speculation.
From early morn to the late twilight, our Coningsby for several days
devoted himself to the comprehension of Manchester. It was to him a new
world, pregnant with new ideas, and suggestive of new trains of thought
and feeling. In this unprecedented partnership between capital and
science, working on a spot which Nature had indicated as the fitting
theatre of their exploits, he beheld a great source of the wealth of
nations which had been reserved for these times, and he perceived that
this wealth was rapidly developing classes whose power was imperfectly
recognised in the constitutional scheme, and whose duties in the social
system seemed altogether omitted. Young as he was, the bent of his mind,
and the inquisitive spirit of the times, had sufficiently prepared him,
not indeed to grapple with these questions, but to be sensible of their
existence, and to ponder.
One evening, in the coffee-room of the hotel, having just finished his
well-earned dinner, and relaxing his mind for the moment in a fresh
research into the Manchester Guide, an individual, who had also been
dining in the same apartment, rose from his table, and, after lolling over
the empty fireplace, reading the framed announcements, looking at the
directions of several letters waiting there for their owners, picking his
teeth, turned round to Coningsby, and, with an air of uneasy familiarity,
'First visit to Manchester, sir?'
'Gentleman traveller, I presume?'
'I am a traveller.' said Coningsby.
'Hem! From south?'
'From the south.'
'And pray, sir, how did you find business as you came along? Brisk, I dare
say. And yet there is a something, a sort of a something; didn't it strike
you, sir, there was a something? A deal of queer paper about, sir!'
'I fear you are speaking on a subject of which I know nothing,' said
Coningsby, smiling;' I do not understand business at all; though I am not
surprised that, being at Manchester, you should suppose so.'
'Ah! not in business. Hem! Professional?'
'No,' said Coningsby, 'I am nothing.'
'Ah! an independent gent; hem! and a very pleasant thing, too. Pleased
with Manchester, I dare say?' continued the stranger.
'And astonished,' said Coningsby; 'I think, in the whole course of my
life, I never saw so much to admire.'
'Seen all the lions, have no doubt?'
'I think I have seen everything,' said Coningsby, rather eager and with
'Very well, very well,' exclaimed the stranger, in a patronising tone.
'Seen Mr. Birley's weaving-room, I dare say?'
'Oh! isn't it wonderful?' said Coningsby.
'A great many people.' said the stranger, with a rather supercilious
'But after all,' said Coningsby, with animation, 'it is the machinery
without any interposition of manual power that overwhelms me. It haunts me
in my dreams,' continued Coningsby; 'I see cities peopled with machines.
Certainly Manchester is the most wonderful city of modern times!'
The stranger stared a little at the enthusiasm of his companion, and then
picked his teeth.
'Of all the remarkable things here,' said Coningsby, 'what on the whole,
sir, do you look upon as the most so?'
'In the way of machinery?' asked the stranger.
'In the way of machinery.'
'Why, in the way of machinery, you know,' said the stranger, very quietly,
'Manchester is a dead letter.'
'A dead letter!' said Coningsby.
'Dead and buried,' said the stranger, accompanying his words with that
peculiar application of his thumb to his nose that signifies so eloquently
that all is up.
'You astonish me!' said Coningsby.
'It's a booked place though,' said the stranger, 'and no mistake. We have
all of us a very great respect for Manchester, of course; look upon her as
a sort of mother, and all that sort of thing. But she is behind the times,
sir, and that won't do in this age. The long and short of it is,
Manchester is gone by.'
'I thought her only fault might be she was too much in advance of the rest
of the country,' said Coningsby, innocently.
'If you want to see life,' said the stranger, 'go to Staleybridge or
Bolton. There's high pressure.'
'But the population of Manchester is increasing,' said Coningsby.
'Why, yes; not a doubt. You see we have all of us a great respect for the
town. It is a sort of metropolis of this district, and there is a good
deal of capital in the place. And it has some firstrate institutions.
There's the Manchester Bank. That's a noble institution, full of
commercial enterprise; understands the age, sir; high-pressure to the
backbone. I came up to town to see the manager to-day. I am building a new
mill now myself at Staleybridge, and mean to open it by January, and when
I do, I'll give you leave to pay another visit to Mr. Birley's weaving-
room, with my compliments.'
'I am very sorry,' said Coningsby, 'that I have only another day left; but
pray tell me, what would you recommend me most to see within a reasonable
distance of Manchester?'
'My mill is not finished,' said the stranger musingly, 'and though there
is still a great deal worth seeing at Staleybridge, still you had better
wait to see my new mill. And Bolton, let me see; Bolton, there is nothing
at Bolton that can hold up its head for a moment against my new mill; but
then it is not finished. Well, well, let us see. What a pity this is not
the 1st of January, and then my new mill would be at work! I should like
to see Mr. Birley's face, or even Mr. Ashworth's, that day. And the Oxford
Road Works, where they are always making a little change, bit by bit
reform, eh! not a very particular fine appetite, I suspect, for dinner, at
the Oxford Road Works, the day they hear of my new mill being at work.
But you want to see something tip-top. Well, there's Millbank; that's
regular slap-up, quite a sight, regular lion; if I were you I would see
'Millbank!' said Coningsby; 'what Millbank?'
'Millbank of Millbank, made the place, made it himself. About three miles
from Bolton; train to-morrow morning at 7.25, get a fly at the station,
and you will be at Millbank by 8.40.'
'Unfortunately I am engaged to-morrow morning,' said Coningsby, 'and yet I
am most anxious, particularly anxious, to see Millbank.'
'Well, there's a late train,' said the stranger, '3.15; you will be there
'I think I could manage that,' said Coningsby.
'Do,' said the stranger; 'and if you ever find yourself at Staleybridge, I
shall be very happy to be of service. I must be off now. My train goes at
9.15.' And he presented Coningsby with his card as he wished him good
MR. G. O. A. HEAD,
In a green valley of Lancaster, contiguous to that district of factories
on which we have already touched, a clear and powerful stream flows
through a broad meadow land. Upon its margin, adorned, rather than
shadowed, by some old elm-trees, for they are too distant to serve except
for ornament, rises a vast deep red brick pile, which though formal and
monotonous in its general character, is not without a certain beauty of
proportion and an artist-like finish in its occasional masonry. The front,
which is of great extent, and covered with many tiers of small windows, is
flanked by two projecting wings in the same style, which form a large
court, completed by a dwarf wall crowned with a light, and rather elegant
railing; in the centre, the principal entrance, a lofty portal of bold and
beautiful design, surmounted by a statue of Commerce.
This building, not without a degree of dignity, is what is technically,
and not very felicitously, called a mill; always translated by the French
in their accounts of our manufacturing riots, 'moulin;' and which really
was the principal factory of Oswald Millbank, the father of that youth
whom, we trust, our readers have not quite forgotten.
At some little distance, and rather withdrawn from the principal stream,
were two other smaller structures of the same style. About a quarter of a
mile further on, appeared a village of not inconsiderable size, and
remarkable from the neatness and even picturesque character of its
architecture, and the gay gardens that surrounded it. On a sunny knoll in
the background rose a church, in the best style of Christian architecture,
and near it was a clerical residence and a school-house of similar design.
The village, too, could boast of another public building; an Institute
where there were a library and a lecture-room; and a reading-hall, which
any one might frequent at certain hours, and under reasonable regulations.
On the other side of the principal factory, but more remote, about half-a-
mile up the valley, surrounded by beautiful meadows, and built on an
agreeable and well-wooded elevation, was the mansion of the mill-owner;
apparently a commodious and not inconsiderable dwelling-house, built in
what is called a villa style, with a variety of gardens and
conservatories. The atmosphere of this somewhat striking settlement was
not disturbed and polluted by the dark vapour, which, to the shame of
Manchester, still infests that great town, for Mr. Millbank, who liked
nothing so much as an invention, unless it were an experiment, took care
to consume his own smoke.
The sun was declining when Coningsby arrived at Millbank, and the
gratification which he experienced on first beholding it, was not a little
diminished, when, on enquiring at the village, he was informed that the
hour was past for seeing the works. Determined not to relinquish his
purpose without a struggle, he repaired to the principal mill, and entered
the counting-house, which was situated in one of the wings of the
'Your pleasure, sir?' said one of three individuals sitting on high stools
behind a high desk.
'I wish, if possible, to see the works.'
'Quite impossible, sir;' and the clerk, withdrawing his glance, continued
his writing. 'No admission without an order, and no admission with an
order after two o'clock.'
'I am very unfortunate,' said Coningsby.
'Sorry for it, sir. Give me ledger K. X., will you, Mr. Benson?'
'I think Mr. Millbank would grant me permission,' said Coningsby.
'Very likely, sir; to-morrow. Mr. Millbank is there, sir, but very much
engaged.' He pointed to an inner counting-house, and the glass doors
permitted Coningsby to observe several individuals in close converse.
'Perhaps his son, Mr. Oswald Millbank, is here?' inquired Coningsby.
'Mr. Oswald is in Belgium,' said the clerk.
'Would you give a message to Mr. Millbank, and say a friend of his son's
at Eton is here, and here only for a day, and wishes very much to see his
'Can't possibly disturb Mr. Millbank now, sir; but, if you like to sit
down, you can wait and see him yourself.'
Coningsby was content to sit down, though he grew very impatient at the
end of a quarter of an hour. The ticking of the clock, the scratching of
the pens of the three silent clerks, irritated him. At length, voices were
heard, doors opened, and the clerk said, 'Mr. Millbank is coming, sir,'
but nobody came; voices became hushed, doors were shut; again nothing was
heard, save the ticking of the clock and the scratching of the pen.
At length there was a general stir, and they all did come forth, Mr.
Millbank among them, a well-proportioned, comely man, with a fair face
inclining to ruddiness, a quick, glancing, hazel eye, the whitest teeth,
and short, curly, chestnut hair, here and there slightly tinged with grey.
It was a visage of energy and decision.
He was about to pass through the counting-house with his companions, with
whom his affairs were not concluded, when he observed Coningsby, who had
'This gentleman wishes to see me?' he inquired of his clerk, who bowed
'I shall be at your service, sir, the moment I have finished with these
'The gentleman wishes to see the works, sir,' said the clerk.
'He can see the works at proper times,' said Mr. Millbank, somewhat
pettishly; 'tell him the regulations;' and he was about to go.
'I beg your pardon, sir,' said Coningsby, coming forward, and with an air
of earnestness and grace that arrested the step of the manufacturer. 'I am
aware of the regulations, but would beg to be permitted to infringe them.'
'It cannot be, sir,' said Mr. Millbank, moving.
'I thought, sir, being here only for a day, and as a friend of your son--'
Mr. Millbank stopped and said,