Part 2 out of 5
eminent bill-broking firm, not a thousand miles from Lombard
He does not sport a coronet and supporters upon his London plate
and carriages; but his country-house is emblazoned all over with
those heraldic decorations. He puts on an order when he goes
abroad, and is Count Bumpsher of the Roman States--which title he
purchased from the late Pope (through Prince Polonia the banker)
for a couple of thousand scudi.
It is as good as a coronation to see him and Mrs. Bumpsher go to
Court. I wonder the carriage can hold them both. On those days
Mrs. Bumpsher holds her own drawing-room before her Majesty's; and
we are invited to come and see her sitting in state, upon the
largest sofa in her rooms. She has need of a stout one, I promise
you. Her very feathers must weigh something considerable. The
diamonds on her stomacher would embroider a full-sized carpet-bag.
She has rubies, ribbons, cameos, emeralds, gold serpents, opals,
and Valenciennes lace, as if she were an immense sample out of
Howell and James's shop.
She took up with little Pinkney at Rome, where he made a charming
picture of her, representing her as about eighteen, with a cherub
in her lap, who has some liking to Bryanstone Bumpsher, her
enormous, vulgar son; now a cornet in the Blues, and anything but a
cherub, as those would say who saw him in his uniform jacket.
I remember Pinkney when he was painting the picture, Bryanstone
being then a youth in what they call a skeleton suit (as if such a
pig of a child could ever have been dressed in anything resembling
a skeleton)--I remember, I say, Mrs. B. sitting to Pinkney in a
sort of Egerian costume, her boy by her side, whose head the artist
turned round and directed it towards a piece of gingerbread, which
he was to have at the end of the sitting.
Pinkney, indeed, a painter!--a contemptible little humbug, a
parasite of the great! He has painted Mrs. Bumpsher younger every
year for these last ten years--and you see in the advertisements of
all her parties his odious little name stuck in at the end of the
list. I'm sure, for my part, I'd scorn to enter her doors, or be
the toady of any woman.
JOLLY NEWBOY, ESQ., M.P.
How different it is with the Newboys, now, where I have an entree
(having indeed had the honor in former days to give lessons to both
the ladies)--and where such a quack as Pinkney would never be
allowed to enter! A merrier house the whole quarter cannot
furnish. It is there you meet people of all ranks and degrees, not
only from our quarter, but from the rest of the town. It is there
that our great man, the Right Honorable Lord Comandine, came up and
spoke to me in so encouraging a manner that I hope to be invited to
one of his lordship's excellent dinners (of which I shall not fail
to give a very flattering description) before the season is over.
It is there you find yourself talking to statesmen, poets, and
artists--not sham poets like Bulbul, or quack artists like that
Pinkney--but to the best members of all society. It is there I
made this sketch, while Miss Chesterforth was singing a deep-toned
tragic ballad, and her mother scowling behind her. What a buzz and
clack and chatter there was in the room to be sure! When Miss
Chesterforth sings, everybody begins to talk. Hicks and old Fogy
were on Ireland: Bass was roaring into old Pump's ears (or into his
horn rather) about the Navigation Laws; I was engaged talking to
the charming Mrs. Short; while Charley Bonham (a mere prig, in whom
I am surprised that the women can see anything,) was pouring out
his fulsome rhapsodies in the ears of Diana White. Lovely, lovely
Diana White! were it not for three or four other engagements, I
know a heart that would suit you to a T.
Newboy's I pronounce to be the jolliest house in the street. He
has only of late had a rush of prosperity, and turned Parliament
man; for his distant cousin, of the ancient house of Newboy of
----shire, dying, Fred--then making believe to practise at the bar,
and living with the utmost modesty in Gray's Inn Road--found
himself master of a fortune, and a great house in the country; of
which getting tired, as in the course of nature he should, he came
up to London, and took that fine mansion in our Gardens. He
represents Mumborough in Parliament, a seat which has been time out
of mind occupied by a Newboy.
Though he does not speak, being a great deal too rich, sensible,
and lazy, he somehow occupies himself with reading blue-books, and
indeed talks a great deal too much good sense of late over his
dinner-table, where there is always a cover for the present writer.
He falls asleep pretty assiduously too after that meal--a practice
which I can well pardon in him--for, between ourselves, his wife,
Maria Newboy, and his sister, Clarissa, are the loveliest and
kindest of their sex, and I would rather hear their innocent
prattle, and lively talk about their neighbors, than the best
wisdom from the wisest man that ever wore a beard.
Like a wise and good man, he leaves the question of his household
entirely to the women. They like going to the play. They like
going to Greenwich. They like coming to a party at Bachelor's
hall. They are up to all sorts of fun, in a word; in which taste
the good-natured Newboy acquiesces, provided he is left to follow
It was only on the 17th of the month, that, having had the honor to
dine at the house, when, after dinner, which took place at eight,
we left Newboy to his blue-books, and went up stairs and sang a
little to the guitar afterwards--it was only on the 17th December,
the night of Lady Sowerby's party, that the following dialogue took
place in the boudoir, whither Newboy, blue-books in hand, had
He was curled up with his House of Commons boots on his wife's arm-
chair, reading his eternal blue-books, when Mrs. N. entered from
her apartment, dressed for the evening.
Mrs. N.--Frederick, won't you come?
Mrs. N.--To Lady Sowerby's.
Mr. N.--I'd rather go to the Black Hole in Calcutta. Besides, this
Sanitary Report is really the most interesting--[he begins to
Mrs. N.--(piqued)--Well, Mr. Titmarsh will go with us.
Mr. N.--Will he? I wish him joy.
At this juncture Miss Clarissa Newboy enters in a pink paletot,
trimmed with swansdown--looking like an angel--and we exchange
glances of--what shall I say?--of sympathy on both parts, and
consummate rapture on mine. But this is by-play.
Mrs. N.--Good night, Frederick. I think we shall be late.
Mr. N.--You won't wake me, I dare say; and you don't expect a
public man to sit up.
Mrs. N.--It's not you, it's the servants. Cocker sleeps very
heavily. The maids are best in bed, and are all ill with the
influenza. I say, Frederick dear, don't you think you had better
give me YOUR CHUBB KEY?
This astonishing proposal, which violates every recognized law of
society--this demand which alters all the existing state of things--
this fact of a woman asking for a door-key, struck me with a
terror which I cannot describe, and impressed me with the fact of
the vast progress of Our Street. The door-key! What would our
grandmothers, who dwelt in this place when it was a rustic suburb,
think of its condition now, when husbands stay at home, and wives
go abroad with the latchkey?
The evening at Lady Sowerby's was the most delicious we have spent
for long, long days.
Thus it will be seen that everybody of any consideration in Our
Street takes a line. Mrs. Minimy (34) takes the homoeopathic line,
and has soirees of doctors of that faith. Lady Pocklington takes
the capitalist line; and those stupid and splendid dinners of hers
are devoured by loan-contractors and railroad princes. Mrs.
Trimmer (38) comes out in the scientific line, and indulges us in
rational evenings, where history is the lightest subject admitted,
and geology and the sanitary condition of the metropolis form the
general themes of conversation. Mrs. Brumby plays finely on the
bassoon, and has evenings dedicated to Sebastian Bach, and
enlivened with Handel. At Mrs. Maskleyn's they are mad for
charades and theatricals.
They performed last Christmas in a French piece, by Alexandre
Dumas, I believe--"La Duchesse de Montefiasco," of which I forget
the plot, but everybody was in love with everybody else's wife,
except the hero, Don Alonzo, who was ardently attached to the
Duchess, who turned out to be his grandmother. The piece was
translated by Lord Fiddle-faddle, Tom Bulbul being the Don Alonzo;
and Mrs. Roland Calidore (who never misses an opportunity of acting
in a piece in which she can let down her hair) was the Duchess.
You know how well he loves you, and you wonder
To see Alonzo suffer, Cunegunda?--
Ask if the chamois suffer when they feel
Plunged in their panting sides the hunter's steel?
Or when the soaring heron or eagle proud,
Pierced by my shaft, comes tumbling from the cloud,
Ask if the royal birds no anguish know,
The victims of Alonzo's twanging bow?
Then ask him if he suffers--him who dies,
Pierced by the poisoned glance that glitters from your eyes!
[He staggers from the effect of the poison
Alonzo loves--Alonzo loves! and whom?
His grandmother! Oh, hide me, gracious tomb!
[Her Grace faints away.
Such acting as Tom Bulbul's I never saw. Tom lisps atrociously,
and uttered the passage, "You athk me if I thuffer," in the most
absurd way. Miss Clapperclaw says he acted pretty well, and that I
only joke about him because I am envious, and wanted to act a part
myself.--I envious indeed!
But of all the assemblies, feastings, junketings, dejeunes,
soirees, conversaziones, dinner-parties, in Our Street, I know of
none pleasanter than the banquets at Tom Fairfax's; one of which
this enormous provision-consumer gives seven times a week. He
lives in one of the little houses of the old Waddilove Street
quarter, built long before Pocklington Square and Pocklington
Gardens and the Pocklington family itself had made their appearance
in this world.
Tom, though he has a small income, and lives in a small house, yet
sits down one of a party of twelve to dinner every day of his life;
these twelve consisting of Mrs. Fairfax, the nine Misses Fairfax,
and Master Thomas Fairfax--the son and heir to twopence halfpenny a
It is awkward just now to go and beg pot-luck from such a family as
this; because, though a guest is always welcome, we are thirteen at
table--an unlucky number, it is said. This evil is only temporary,
and will be remedied presently, when the family will be thirteen
WITHOUT the occasional guest, to judge from all appearances.
Early in the morning Mrs. Fairfax rises, and cuts bread and butter
from six o'clock till eight; during which time the nursery
operations upon the nine little graces are going on. If his wife
has to rise early to cut the bread and butter, I warrant Fairfax
must be up betimes to earn it. He is a clerk in a Government
office; to which duty he trudges daily, refusing even twopenny
omnibuses. Every time he goes to the shoemaker's he has to order
eleven pairs of shoes, and so can't afford to spare his own. He
teaches the children Latin every morning, and is already thinking
when Tom shall be inducted into that language. He works in his
garden for an hour before breakfast. His work over by three
o'clock, he tramps home at four, and exchanges his dapper coat for
his dressing-gown--a ragged but honorable garment.
Which is the best, his old coat or Sir John's bran-new one? Which
is the most comfortable and becoming, Mrs. Fairfax's black velvet
gown (which she has worn at the Pocklington Square parties these
twelve years, and in which I protest she looks like a queen), or
that new robe which the milliner has just brought home to Mrs.
Bumpsher's, and into which she will squeeze herself on Christmas-
Miss Clapperclaw says that we are all so charmingly contented with
ourselves that not one of us would change with his neighbor; and
so, rich and poor, high and low, one person is about as happy as
another in Our Street.
DOCTOR BIRCH AND HIS YOUNG FRIENDS
by MR. M. A. TITMARSH
THE DOCTOR AND HIS STAFF.
There is no need to say why I became assistant-master and professor
of the English and French languages, flower-painting, and the
German flute, in Doctor Birch's Academy, at Rodwell Regis. Good
folks may depend on this, that it was not for CHOICE that I left
lodgings near London, and a genteel society, for an under-master's
desk in that old school. I promise you the fare at the usher's
table, the getting up at five o'clock in the morning, the walking
out with little boys in the fields, (who used to play me tricks,
and never could be got to respect my awful and responsible
character as teacher in the school,) Miss Birch's vulgar insolence,
Jack Birch's glum condescension, and the poor old Doctor's
patronage, were not matters in themselves pleasurable: and that
that patronage and those dinners were sometimes cruel hard to
swallow. Never mind--my connection with the place is over now,
and I hope they have got a more efficient under-master.
Jack Birch (Rev. J. Birch, of St. Neot's Hall, Oxford,) is partner
with his father the Doctor, and takes some of the classes. About
his Greek I can't say much; but I will construe him in Latin any
day. A more supercilious little prig, (giving himself airs, too,
about his cousin, Miss Raby, who lives with the Doctor,) a more
empty, pompous little coxcomb I never saw. His white neck-cloth
looked as if it choked him. He used to try and look over that
starch upon me and Prince the assistant, as if he were a couple of
footmen. He didn't do much business in the school; but occupied
his time in writing sanctified letters to the boys' parents, and in
composing dreary sermons to preach to them.
The real master of the school is Prince; an Oxford man too: shy,
haughty, and learned; crammed with Greek and a quantity of useless
learning; uncommonly kind to the small boys; pitiless with the
fools and the braggarts; respected of all for his honesty, his
learning, his bravery, (for he hit out once in a boat-row in a way
which astonished the boys and the bargemen,) and for a latent power
about him, which all saw and confessed somehow. Jack Birch could
never look him in the face. Old Miss Z. dared not put off any of
HER airs upon him. Miss Rosa made him the lowest of curtsies.
Miss Raby said she was afraid of him. Good old Prince! we have sat
many a night smoking in the Doctor's harness-room, whither we
retired when our boys were gone to bed, and our cares and canes put
After Jack Birch had taken his degree at Oxford--a process which he
effected with great difficulty--this place, which used to be called
"Birch's," "Dr. Birch's Academy," and what not, became suddenly
"Archbishop Wigsby's College of Rodwell Regis." They took down the
old blue board with the gold letters, which has been used to mend
the pigsty since. Birch had a large school-room run up in the
Gothic taste, with statuettes, and a little belfry, and a bust of
Archbishop Wigsby in the middle of the school. He put the six
senior boys into caps and gowns, which had rather a good effect as
the lads sauntered down the street of the town, but which certainly
provoked the contempt and hostility of the bargemen; and so great
was his rage for academic costumes and ordinances, that he would
have put me myself into a lay gown, with red knots and fringes, but
that I flatly resisted, and said that a writing-master had no
business with such paraphernalia.
By the way, I have forgotten to mention the Doctor himself. And
what shall I say of him? Well, he has a very crisp gown and bands,
a solemn aspect, a tremendous loud voice, and a grand air with the
boys' parents; whom he receives in a study covered round with the
best-bound books, which imposes upon many--upon the women
especially--and makes them fancy that this is a Doctor indeed. But
law bless you! He never reads the books, or opens one of them;
except that in which he keeps his bands--a Dugdale's "Monasticon,"
which looks like a book, but is in reality a cupboard, where he has
his port, almond-cakes, and decanter of wine. He gets up his
classics with translations, or what the boys call cribs; they pass
wicked tricks upon him when he hears the forms. The elder wags go
to his study and ask him to help them in hard bits of Herodotus or
Thucydides: he says he will look over the passage, and flies for
refuge to Mr. Prince, or to the crib.
He keeps the flogging department in his own hands; finding that his
son was too savage. He has awful brows and a big voice. But his
roar frightens nobody. It is only a lion's skin; or, so to say, a
Little Mordant made a picture of him with large ears, like a well-
known domestic animal, and had his own justly boxed for the
caricature. The Doctor discovered him in the fact, and was in a
flaming rage, and threatened whipping at first; but in the course
of the day an opportune basket of game arriving from Mordant's
father, the Doctor became mollified, and has burnt the picture with
the ears. However, I have one wafered up in my desk by the hand of
the same little rascal.
THE COCK OF THE SCHOOL.
I am growing an old fellow, and have seen many great folks in the
course of my travels and time: Louis Philippe coming out of the
Tuileries; his Majesty the King of Prussia and the Reichsverweser
accolading each other at Cologne at my elbow; Admiral Sir Charles
Napier (in an omnibus once), the Duke of Wellington, the immortal
Goethe at Weimar, the late benevolent Pope Gregory XVI., and a
score more of the famous in this world--the whom whenever one looks
at, one has a mild shock of awe and tremor. I like this feeling
and decent fear and trembling with which a modest spirit salutes a
Well, I have seen generals capering on horseback at the head of
their crimson battalions; bishops sailing down cathedral aisles,
with downcast eyes, pressing their trencher caps to their hearts
with their fat white hands; college heads when her Majesty is on a
visit; the doctor in all his glory at the head of his school on
speech-day: a great sight and all great men these. I have never
met the late Mr. Thomas Cribb, but I have no doubt should have
regarded him with the same feeling of awe with which I look every
day at George Champion, the Cock of Dr. Birch's school.
When, I say, I reflect as I go up and set him a sum, that he could
whop me in two minutes, double up Prince and the other assistant,
and pitch the Doctor out of window, I can't but think how great,
how generous, how magnanimous a creature this is, that sits quite
quiet and good-natured, and works his equation, and ponders through
his Greek play. He might take the school-room pillars and pull the
house down if he liked. He might close the door, and demolish
every one of us, like Antar the lover or Ibla; but he lets us live.
He never thrashes anybody without a cause; when woe betide the
tyrant or the sneak!
I think that to be strong, and able to whop everybody--(not to do
it, mind you, but to feel that you were able to do it,)--would be
the greatest of all gifts. There is a serene good humor which
plays about George Champion's broad face, which shows the
consciousness of this power, and lights up his honest blue eyes
with a magnanimous calm.
He is invictus. Even when a cub there was no beating this lion.
Six years ago the undaunted little warrior actually stood up to
Frank Davison,--(the Indian officer now--poor little Charley's
brother, whom Miss Raby nursed so affectionately,)--then seventeen
years old, and the Cock of Birch's. They were obliged to drag off
the boy, and Frank, with admiration and regard for him, prophesied
the great things he would do. Legends of combats are preserved
fondly in schools; they have stories of such at Rodwell Regis,
performed in the old Doctor's time, forty years ago.
Champion's affair with the Young Tutbury Pet, who was down here in
training,--with Black the bargeman,--with the three head boys of
Doctor Wapshot's academy, whom he caught maltreating an outlying
day-boy of ours, &c.,--are known to all the Rodwell Regis men. He
was always victorious. He is modest and kind, like all great men.
He has a good, brave, honest understanding. He cannot make verses
like young Pinder, or read Greek like Wells the Prefect, who is a
perfect young abyss of learning, and knows enough, Prince says, to
furnish any six first-class men; but he does his work in a sound
downright way, and he is made to be the bravest of soldiers, the
best of country parsons, an honest English gentleman wherever he
Old Champion's chief friend and attendant is Young Jack Hall, whom
he saved, when drowning, out of the Miller's Pool. The attachment
of the two is curious to witness. The smaller lad gambolling,
playing tricks round the bigger one, and perpetually making fun of
his protector. They are never far apart, and of holidays you may
meet them miles away from the school,--George sauntering heavily
down the lanes with his big stick, and little Jack larking with the
pretty girls in the cottage-windows.
George has a boat on the river, in which, however, he commonly lies
smoking, whilst Jack sculls him. He does not play at cricket,
except when the school plays the county, or at Lord's in the
holidays. The boys can't stand his bowling, and when he hits, it
is like trying to catch a cannon-ball. I have seen him at tennis.
It is a splendid sight to behold the young fellow bounding over the
court with streaming yellow hair, like young Apollo in a flannel
The other head boys are Lawrence the captain, Bunce, famous chiefly
for his magnificent appetite, and Pitman, surnamed Roscius, for his
love of the drama. Add to these Swanky, called Macassar, from his
partiality to that condiment, and who has varnished boots, wears
white gloves on Sundays, and looks out for Miss Pinkerton's school
(transferred from Chiswick to Rodwell Regis, and conducted by the
nieces of the late Miss Barbara Pinkerton, the friend of our great
lexicographer, upon the principles approved by him, and practised
by that admirable woman,) as it passes into church.
Representations have been made concerning Mr. Horace Swanky's
behavior; rumors have been uttered about notes in verse, conveyed
in three-cornered puffs, by Mrs. Ruggles, who serves Miss
Pinkerton's young ladies on Fridays,--and how Miss Didow, to whom
the tart and enclosure were addressed, tried to make away with
herself by swallowing a ball of cotton. But I pass over these
absurd reports, as likely to affect the reputation of an admirable
seminary conducted by irreproachable females. As they go into
church Miss P. driving in her flock of lambkins with the crook of
her parasol, how can it be helped if her forces and ours sometimes
collide, as the boys are on their way up to the organ-loft? And I
don't believe a word about the three-cornered puff, but rather that
it was the invention of that jealous Miss Birch, who is jealous of
Miss Raby, jealous of everybody who is good and handsome, and who
has HER OWN ENDS in view, or I am very much in error.
THE DEAR BROTHERS.
A MELODRAMA IN SEVERAL ROUNDS.
MR. TIPPER, Uncle to the Masters Boxall.
BOXALL MAJOR, BOXALL MINOR, BROWN, JONES, SMITH, ROBINSON,
B. Go it, old Boxall!
J. Give it him, young Boxall!
R. Pitch into him, old Boxall!
S. Two to one on young Boxall!
[Enter TIFFIN MINIMUS, running.
Tiffin Minimus.--Boxalls! you're wanted.
(The Doctor to Mr. Tipper.)--Every boy in the school loves them, my
dear sir; your nephews are a credit to my establishment. They are
orderly, well-conducted, gentlemanlike boys. Let us enter and find
them at their studies.
[Enter The DOCTOR and Mr. TIPPER.
THE LITTLE SCHOOL-ROOM.
What they call the little school-room is a small room at the other
end of the great school; through which you go to the Doctor's
private house, and where Miss Raby sits with her pupils. She has a
half-dozen very small ones over whom she presides and teaches them
in her simple way, until they are big or learned enough to face the
great school-room. Many of them are in a hurry for promotion, the
graceless little simpletons, and know no more than their elders
when they are well off.
She keeps the accounts, writes out the bills, superintends the
linen, and sews on the general shirt-buttons. Think of having such
a woman at home to sew on one's shirt-buttons! But peace, peace,
thou foolish heart!
Miss Raby is the Doctor's niece. Her mother was a beauty (quite
unlike old Zoe therefore); and she married a pupil in the old
Doctor's time who was killed afterwards, a captain in the East
India service, at the siege of Bhurtpore. Hence a number of Indian
children come to the Doctor's; for Raby was very much liked, and
the uncle's kind reception of the orphan has been a good
speculation for the school-keeper.
It is wonderful how brightly and gayly that little quick creature
does her duty. She is the first to rise, and the last to sleep, if
any business is to be done. She sees the other two women go off to
parties in the town without even so much as wishing to join them.
It is Cinderella, only contented to stay at home--content to bear
Zoe's scorn and to admit Rosa's superior charms,--and to do her
utmost to repay her uncle for his great kindness in housing her.
So you see she works as much as three maid-servants for the wages
of one. She is as thankful when the Doctor gives her a new gown,
as if he had presented her with a fortune; laughs at his stories
most good-humoredly, listens to Zoe's scolding most meekly, admires
Rosa with all her heart, and only goes out of the way when Jack
Birch shows his sallow face: for she can't bear him, and always
finds work when he comes near.
How different she is when some folks approach her! I won't be
presumptuous; but I think, I think, I have made a not unfavorable
impression in some quarters. However, let us be mum on this
subject. I like to see her, because she always looks good-humored;
because she is always kind, because she is always modest, because
she is fond of those poor little brats,--orphans some of them--
because she is rather pretty, I dare say, or because I think so,
which comes to the same thing.
Though she is kind to all, it must be owned she shows the most
gross favoritism towards the amiable children. She brings them
cakes from dessert, and regales them with Zoe's preserves; spends
many of her little shillings in presents for her favorites, and
will tell them stories by the hour. She has one very sad story
about a little boy, who died long ago: the younger children are
never weary of hearing about him; and Miss Raby has shown to one of
them a lock of the little chap's hair, which she keeps in her work-
box to this day.
A HOPELESS CASE.
Let us, people who are so uncommonly clever and learned, have a
great tenderness and pity for the poor folks who are not endowed
with the prodigious talents which we have. I have always had a
regard for dunces;--those of my own school-days were amongst the
pleasantest of the fellows, and have turned out by no means the
dullest in life; whereas many a youth who could turn off Latin
hexameters by the yard, and construe Greek quite glibly, is no
better than a feeble prig now, with not a pennyworth more brains
than were in his head before his beard grew.
Those poor dunces! Talk of being the last man, ah! what a pang it
must be to be the last boy--huge, misshapen, fourteen years of age,
and "taken up" by a chap who is but six years old, and can't speak
quite plain yet!
Master Hulker is in that condition at Birch's. He is the most
honest, kind, active, plucky, generous creature. He can do many
things better than most boys. He can go up a tree, pump, play at
cricket, dive and swim perfectly--he can eat twice as much as
almost any lady (as Miss Birch well knows), he has a pretty talent
at carving figures with his hack-knife, he makes and paints little
coaches, he can take a watch to pieces and put it together again.
He can do everything but learn his lesson; and then he sticks at
the bottom of the school hopeless. As the little boys are drafted
in from Miss Raby's class, (it is true she is one of the best
instructresses in the world,) they enter and hop over poor Hulker.
He would be handed over to the governess, only he is too big.
Sometimes, I used to think that this desperate stupidity was a
stratagem of the poor rascal's, and that he shammed dulness, so
that he might be degraded into Miss Raby's class--if she would
teach ME, I know, before George, I would put on a pinafore and a
little jacket--but no, it is a natural incapacity for the Latin
If you could see his grammar, it is a perfect curiosity of dog's
ears. The leaves and cover are all curled and ragged. Many of the
pages are worn away with the rubbing of his elbows as he sits
poring over the hopeless volume, with the blows of his fists as he
thumps it madly, or with the poor fellow's tears. You see him
wiping them away with the back of his hand, as he tries and tries,
and can't do it.
When I think of that Latin Grammar, and that infernal As in
praesenti, and of other things which I was made to learn in my
youth; upon my conscience, I am surprised that we ever survived it.
When one thinks of the boys who have been caned because they could
not master that intolerable jargon! Good Lord, what a pitiful
chorus these poor little creatures send up! Be gentle with them,
ye schoolmasters, and only whop those who WON'T learn.
The Doctor has operated upon Hulker (between ourselves), but the
boy was so little affected you would have thought he had taken
chloroform. Birch is weary of whipping now, and leaves the boy to
go his own gait. Prince, when he hears the lesson, and who cannot
help making fun of a fool, adopts the sarcastic manner with Master
Hulker, and says, "Mr. Hulker, may I take the liberty to inquire if
your brilliant intellect has enabled you to perceive the difference
between those words which grammarians have defined as substantive
and adjective nouns?--if not, perhaps Mr. Ferdinand Timmins will
instruct you." And Timmins hops over Hulker's head.
I wish Prince would leave off girding at the poor lad. He is a
boy, and his mother is a widow woman, who loves him with all her
might. There is a famous sneer about the suckling of fools and the
chronicling of small beer; but remember it was a rascal who uttered
A WORD ABOUT MISS BIRCH.
"The gentlemen, and especially the younger and more tender of these
pupils, will have the advantage of the constant superintendence and
affectionate care of Miss Zoe Birch, sister of the principal: whose
clearest aim will be to supply (as far as may be) the absent
maternal friend."--Prospectus of Rodwell Regis School.
This is all very well in the Doctor's prospectus, and Miss Zoe
Birch--(a pretty blossom it is, fifty-five years old, during two
score of which she has dosed herself with pills; with a nose as red
and a face as sour as a crab-apple)--this is all mighty well in a
prospectus. But I should like to know who would take Miss Zoe for
a mother, or would have her for one?
The only persons in the house who are not afraid of her are Miss
Rosa and I--no, I am afraid of her, though I DO know the story
about the French usher in 1830--but all the rest tremble before the
woman, from the Doctor down to poor Francis the knife-boy, whom she
bullies into his miserable blacking-hole.
The Doctor is a pompous and outwardly severe man--but inwardly weak
and easy; loving a joke and a glass of port-wine. I get on with
him, therefore, much better than Mr. Prince, who scorns him for an
ass, and under whose keen eyes the worthy Doctor writhes like a
convicted impostor; and many a sunshiny afternoon would he have
said, "Mr. T., sir, shall we try another glass of that yellow
sealed wine which you seem to like?" (and which he likes even
better than I do,) had not the old harridan of a Zoe been down upon
us, and insisted on turning me out with her abominable weak coffee.
She a mother indeed! A sour-milk generation she would have nursed.
She is always croaking, scolding, bullying--yowling at the
housemaids, snarling at Miss Raby, bowwowing after the little boys,
barking after the big ones. She knows how much every boy eats to
an ounce; and her delight is to ply with fat the little ones who
can't bear it, and with raw meat those who hate underdone. It was
she who caused the Doctor to be eaten out three times; and nearly
created a rebellion in the school because she insisted on his
flogging Goliath Longman.
The only time that woman is happy is when she comes in of a morning
to the little boys' dormitories with a cup of hot Epsom salts, and
a sippet of bread. Boo!--the very notion makes me quiver. She
stands over them. I saw her do it to young Byles only a few days
since; and her presence makes the abomination doubly abominable.
As for attending them in real illness, do you suppose that she
would watch a single night for any one of them? Not she. When
poor little Charley Davison (that child a lock of whose soft hair I
have said how Miss Raby still keeps) lay ill of scarlet fever in
the holidays--for the Colonel, the father of these boys, was in
India--it was Anne Raby who tended the child, who watched him all
through the fever, who never left him while it lasted, or until she
had closed the little eyes that were never to brighten or moisten
more. Anny watched and deplored him; but it was Miss Birch who
wrote the letter announcing his demise, and got the gold chain and
locket which the Colonel ordered as a memento of his gratitude. It
was through a row with Miss Birch that Frank Davison ran away. I
promise you that after he joined his regiment in India, the
Ahmednuggur Irregulars, which his gallant father commands, there
came over no more annual shawls and presents to Dr. and Miss Birch;
and that if she fancied the Colonel was coming home to marry her
(on account of her tenderness to his motherless children, which he
was always writing about), THAT notion was very soon given up. But
these affairs are of early date, seven years back, and I only heard
of them in a very confused manner from Miss Raby, who was a girl,
and had just come to Rodwell Regis. She is always very much moved
when she speaks about those boys; which is but seldom. I take it
the death of the little one still grieves her tender heart.
Yes, it is Miss Birch, who has turned away seventeen ushers and
second-masters in eleven years, and half as many French masters, I
suppose, since the departure of her FAVORITE, M. Grinche, with her
gold watch, &c.; but this is only surmise--that is, from hearsay,
and from Miss Rosa taunting her aunt, as she does sometimes, in her
graceful way: but besides this, I have another way of keeping her
Whenever she is particularly odious or insolent to Miss Raby, I
have but to introduce raspberry jam into the conversation, and the
woman holds her tongue. She will understand me. I need not say
NOTE, 12th December. I MAY speak now. I have left the place and
don't mind. I say then at once, and without caring twopence for
the consequences, that I saw this woman, this MOTHER of the boys,
EATING JAM WITH A SPOON OUT OF MASTER WIGGINS'S TRUNK IN THE BOX-
ROOM: and of this I am ready to take an affidavit any day.
THE DRAMA OUGHT TO BE REPRESENTED IN ABOUT SIX ACTS.
[The school is hushed. LAWRENCE the Prefect, and Custos of the
rods, is marching after the DOCTOR into the operating-room. MASTER
BACKHOUSE is about to follow.]
Master Backhouse.--It's all very well, but you see if I don't pay
you out after school--you sneak you!
Master Lurcher.--If you do I'll tell again.
[The rod is heard from the adjoining apartment. Hwish--hwish--
BRIGGS IN LUCK.
Enter the Knife-boy.--Hamper for Briggses!
Master Brown.--Hurray, Tom Briggs! I'll lend you my knife.
If this story does not carry its own moral, what fable does, I
wonder? Before the arrival of that hamper, Master Briggs was in no
better repute than any other young gentleman of the lower school;
and in fact I had occasion myself, only lately, to correct Master
Brown for kicking his friend's shins during the writing-lesson.
But how this basket, directed by his mother's housekeeper and
marked "Glass with care," (whence I conclude that it contains some
jam and some bottles of wine, probably, as well as the usual cake
and game-pie, and half a sovereign for the elder Master B., and
five new shillings for Master Decimus Briggs)--how, I say, the
arrival of this basket alters all Master Briggs's circumstances in
life, and the estimation in which many persons regard him!
If he is a good-hearted boy, as I have reason to think, the very
first thing he will do, before inspecting the contents of the
hamper, or cutting into them with the knife which Master Brown has
so considerately lent him, will be to read over the letter from
home which lies on the top of the parcel. He does so, as I remark
to Miss Raby (for whom I happened to be mending pens when the
little circumstance arose), with a flushed face and winking eyes.
Look how the other boys are peering into the basket as he reads.--I
say to her, "Isn't it a pretty picture?" Part of the letter is in
a very large hand. This is from his little sister. And I would
wager that she netted the little purse which he has just taken out
of it, and which Master Lynx is eying.
"You are a droll man, and remark all sorts of queer things," Miss
Raby says, smiling, and plying her swift needle and fingers as
quick as possible.
"I am glad we are both on the spot, and that the little fellow lies
under our guns as it were, and so is protected from some such
brutal school-pirate as young Duval for instance, who would rob
him, probably, of some of those good things; good in themselves,
and better because fresh from home. See, there is a pie as I said,
and which I dare say is better than those which are served at our
table (but you never take any notice of such kind of things, Miss
Raby), a cake of course, a bottle of currant-wine, jam-pots, and no
end of pears in the straw. With their money little Briggs will be
able to pay the tick which that imprudent child has run up with
Mrs. Ruggles; and I shall let Briggs Major pay for the pencil-case
which Bullock sold to him.--It will be a lesson to the young
prodigal for the future. But, I say, what a change there will be
in his life for some time to come, and at least until his present
wealth is spent! The boys who bully him will mollify towards him,
and accept his pie and sweetmeats. They will have feasts in the
bedroom; and that wine will taste more delicious to them than the
best out of the Doctor's cellar. The cronies will be invited.
Young Master Wagg will tell his most dreadful story and sing his
best song for a slice of that pie. What a jolly night they will
have! When we go the rounds at night, Mr. Prince and I will take
care to make a noise before we come to Briggs's room, so that the
boys may have time to put the light out, to push the things away,
and to scud into bed. Doctor Spry may be put in requisition the
"Nonsense! you absurd creature," cries out Miss Raby, laughing; and
I lay down the twelfth pen very nicely mended.
"Yes; after luxury comes the doctor, I say; after extravagance a
hole in the breeches pocket. To judge from his disposition, Briggs
Major will not be much better off a couple of days hence than he is
now; and, if I am not mistaken, will end life a poor man. Brown
will be kicking his shins before a week is over, depend upon it.
There are boys and men of all sorts, Miss R.--There are selfish
sneaks who hoard until the store they daren't use grows mouldy--
there are spendthrifts who fling away, parasites who flatter and
lick its shoes, and snarling curs who hate and envy, good fortune."
I put down the last of the pens, brushing away with it the quill-
chips from her desk first, and she looked at me with a kind,
wondering face. I brushed them away, clicked the penknife into my
pocket, made her a bow, and walked off--for the bell was ringing
A YOUNG FELLOW WHO IS PRETTY SURE TO SUCCEED.
If Master Briggs is destined in all probability to be a poor man,
the chances are that Mr. Bullock will have a very different lot, he
is a son of a partner of the eminent banking firm of Bullock and
Hulker, Lombard street, and very high in the upper school--quite
out of my jurisdiction, consequently.
He writes the most beautiful current-hand ever seen; and the way in
which he mastered arithmetic (going away into recondite and
wonderful rules in the Tutor's Assistant, which some masters even
dare not approach,) is described by the Doctor in terms of
admiration. He is Mr. Prince's best algebra pupil; and a very fair
classic, too; doing everything well for which he has a mind.
He does not busy himself with the sports of his comrades, and holds
a cricket-bat no better than Miss Raby would. He employs the play-
hours in improving his mind, and reading the newspaper; he is a
profound politician, and, it must be owned, on the liberal side.
The elder boys despise him rather; and when champion Major passes,
he turns his head, and looks down. I don't like the expression of
Bullock's narrow green eyes, as they follow the elder Champion, who
does not seem to know or care how much the other hates him.
No. Mr. Bullock, though perhaps the cleverest and most
accomplished boy in the school, associates with the quite little
boys when he is minded for society. To these he is quite affable,
courteous, and winning. He never fagged or thrashed one of them.
He has done the verses and corrected the exercises of many, and
many is the little lad to whom he has lent a little money.
It is true he charges at the rate of a penny a week for every
sixpence lent out; but many a fellow to whom tarts are a present
necessity is happy to pay this interest for the loan. These
transactions are kept secret. Mr. Bullock, in rather a whining
tone, when he takes Master Green aside and does the requisite
business for him, says, "You know you'll go and talk about it
everywhere. I don't want to lend you the money, I want to buy
something with it. It's only to oblige you; and yet I am sure you
will go and make fun of me." Whereon, of course, Green, eager for
the money, vows solemnly that the transaction shall be confidential,
and only speaks when the payment of the interest becomes oppressive.
Thus it is that Mr. Bullock's practices are at all known. At a
very early period, indeed, his commercial genius manifested itself:
and by happy speculations in toffey; by composing a sweet drink
made of stick-liquorice and brown sugar, and selling it at a profit
to the younger children; by purchasing a series of novels, which he
let out at an adequate remuneration; by doing boys' exercises for a
penny, and other processes, he showed the bent of his mind. At the
end of the half-year he always went home richer than when he
arrived at school, with his purse full of money.
Nobody knows how much he brought: but the accounts are fabulous.
Twenty, thirty, fifty--it is impossible to say how many sovereigns.
When joked about his money, he turns pale and swears he has not a
shilling: whereas he has had a banker's account ever since he was
At the present moment he is employed in negotiating the sale of a
knife with Master Green, and is pointing out to the latter the
beauty of the six blades, and that he need not pay until after the
Champion Major has sworn that he will break every bone in his skin
the next time that he cheats a little boy, and is bearing down upon
him. Let us come away. It is frightful to see that big peaceful
clever coward moaning under well-deserved blows and whining for
DUVAL THE PIRATE.
JONES MINIMUS passes, laden with tarts.
Duval.--Hullo! you small boy with the tarts! Come here, sir.
Jones Minimus.--Please, Duval, they ain't mine.
Duval.--Oh, you abominable young story-teller.
[He confiscates the goods.
I think I like young Duval's mode of levying contributions better
than Bullock's. The former's, at least, has the merit of more
candor. Duval is the pirate of Birch's, and lies in wait for small
boys laden with money or provender. He scents plunder from afar
off: and pounces out on it. Woe betide the little fellow when
Duval boards him!
There was a youth here whose money I used to keep, as he was of an
extravagant and weak taste; and I doled it out to him in weekly
shillings, sufficient for the purchase of the necessary tarts.
This boy came to me one day for half a sovereign, for a very
particular purpose, he said. I afterwards found he wanted to lend
the money to Duval.
The young ogre burst out laughing, when in a great wrath and fury I
ordered him to refund to the little boy: and proposed a bill of
exchange at three months. It is true Duval's father does not pay
the Doctor, and the lad never has a shilling, save that which he
levies; and though he is always bragging about the splendor of
Freenystown, Co. Cork, and the fox-hounds his father keeps, and the
claret they drink there--there comes no remittance from Castle
Freeny in these bad times to the honest Doctor; who is a kindly man
enough, and never yet turned an insolvent boy out of doors.
MASTER HEWLETT AND MASTER NIGHTINGALE
(Rather a cold winter night.)
Hewlett (flinging a shoe at Master Nightingale's bed, with which he
hits that young gentleman).--Hullo, you! Get up and bring me that
Nightingale.--Yes, Hewlett. (He gets up.)
Hewlett.--Don't drop it, and be very careful of it, sir.
Hewlett.--Silence in the dormitory! Any boy who opens his mouth,
I'll murder him. Now, sir, are not you the boy what can sing?
Hewlett.--Chant, then, till I go to sleep, and if I wake when you
stop, you'll have this at your head.
[Master HEWLETT lays his Bluchers on the bed, ready to shy at
Master Nightingale's head in the case contemplated.]
Nightingale (timidly).--Please, Hewlett?
Nightingale.--May I put on my trousers, please?
Hewlett.--No, sir. Go on, or I'll--
"Through pleasures and palaces
Though we may roam,
Be it ever so humble
There's no place like home."
A CAPTURE AND A RESCUE.
My young friend, Patrick Champion, George's younger brother, is a
late arrival among us; has much of the family quality and good
nature; is not in the least a tyrant to the small boys, but is as
eager as Amadis to fight. He is boxing his way up the school,
emulating his great brother. He fixes his eye on a boy above him
in strength or size, and you hear somehow that a difference has
arisen between them at football, and they have their coats off
presently. He has thrashed himself over the heads of many youths
in this manner: for instance, if Champion can lick Dobson, who can
thrash Hobson, how much more, then, can he thrash Hobson? Thus he
works up and establishes his position in the school. Nor does Mr.
Prince think it advisable that we ushers should walk much in the
way when these little differences are being settled, unless there
is some gross disparity, or danger is apprehended.
For instance, I own to having seen this row as I was shaving at my
bedroom window. I did not hasten down to prevent its consequences.
Fogle had confiscated a top, the property of Snivins; the which, as
the little wretch was always pegging it at my toes, I did not
regret. Snivins whimpered; and young Champion came up, lusting for
battle. Directly he made out Fogle, he steered for him, pulling up
his coat-sleeves, and clearing for action.
"Who spoke to YOU, young Champion?" Fogle said, and he flung down
the top to Master Snivins. I knew there would be no fight; and
perhaps Champion, too, was disappointed,
WHERE THE PARLOR-BOARDERS GO.
Noblemen have been rather scarce at Birch's--but the heir of a
great Prince has been living with the Doctor for some years.--He is
Lord George Gaunt's eldest son, the noble Plantagenet Gaunt Gaunt,
and nephew of the Most Honorable the Marquis of Steyne.
They are very proud of him at the Doctor's--and the two Misses and
Papa, whenever a stranger comes down whom they want to dazzle, are
pretty sure to bring Lord Steyne into the conversation, mention the
last party at Gaunt House, and cursorily to remark that they have
with them a young friend who will be, in all human probability,
Marquis of Steyne and Earl of Gaunt, &c.
Plantagenet does not care much about these future honors: provided
he can get some brown sugar on his bread-and-butter, or sit with
three chairs and play at coach-and-horses quite quietly by himself,
he is tolerably happy. He saunters in and out of school when he
likes, and looks at the masters and other boys with a listless
grin. He used to be taken to church, but he laughed and talked in
odd places, so they are forced to leave him at home now. He will
sit with a bit of string and play cat's-cradle for many hours. He
likes to go and join the very small children at their games. Some
are frightened at him; but they soon cease to fear, and order him
about. I have seen him go and fetch tarts from Mrs. Ruggles for a
boy of eight years old; and cry bitterly if he did not get a piece.
He cannot speak quite plain, but very nearly; and is not more, I
suppose, than three-and-twenty.
Of course at home they know his age, though they never come and see
him. But they forget that Miss Rosa Birch is no longer a young
chit as she was ten years ago, when Gaunt was brought to the
school. On the contrary, she has had no small experience in the
tender passion, and is at this moment smitten with a disinterested
affection for Plantagenet Gaunt.
Next to a little doll with a burnt nose, which he hides away in
cunning places, Mr. Gaunt is very fond of Miss Rosa too. What a
pretty match it would make! and how pleased they would be at Gaunt
House, if the grandson and heir of the great Marquis of Steyne, the
descendant of a hundred Gaunts and Tudors, should marry Miss Birch,
thc schoolmaster's daughter! It is true she has the sense on her
side, and poor Plantagenet is only an idiot: but there he is, a
zany, with such expectations and such a pedigree!
If Miss Rosa would run away with Mr. Gaunt, she would leave off
bullying her cousin, Miss Anny Raby. Shall I put her up to the
notion, and offer to lend her the money to run away? Mr. Gaunt is
not allowed money. He had some once, but Bullock took him into a
corner, and got it from him. He has a moderate tick opened at a
tart-woman's. He stops at Rodwell Regis through the year: school-
time and holiday-time, it is all the same to him. Nobody asks
about him, or thinks about him, save twice a year, when the Doctor
goes to Gaunt House, and gets the amount of his bills, and a glass
of wine in the steward's room.
And yet you see somehow that he is a gentleman. His manner is
different to that of the owners of that coarse table and parlor at
which he is a boarder (I do not speak of Miss R. of course, for HER
manners are as good as those of a duchess). When he caught Miss
Rosa boxing little Fiddes's ears, his face grew red, and he broke
into a fierce inarticulate rage. After that, and for some days, he
used to shrink from her; but they are reconciled now. I saw them
this afternoon in the garden where only the parlor-boarders walk.
He was playful, and touched her with his stick. She raised her
handsome eyes in surprise, and smiled on him very kindly.
The thing was so clear, that I thought it my duty to speak to old
Zoe about it. The wicked old catamaran told me she wished that
some people would mind their own business, and hold their tongues--
that some persons were paid to teach writing, and not to tell tales
and make mischief: and I have since been thinking whether I ought
to communicate with the Doctor.
THE OLD PUPIL.
As I came into the playgrounds this morning, I saw a dashing young
fellow, with a tanned face and a blond moustache, who was walking
up and down the green arm-in-arm with Champion Major, and followed
by a little crowd of boys.
They were talking of old times evidently. "What had become of
Irvine and Smith?"--"Where was Bill Harris and Jones: not Squinny
Jones, but Cocky Jones?"--and so forth. The gentleman was no
stranger; he was an old pupil evidently, come to see if any of his
old comrades remained, and revisit the cari luoghi of his youth.
Champion was evidently proud of his arm-fellow, he espied his
brother, young Champion, and introduced him. "Come here, sir," he
called. "The young 'un wasn't here in your time, Davison." "Pat,
sir," said he, "this is Captain Davison, one of Birch's boys. Ask
him who was among the first in the lines at Sobraon?"
Pat's face kindled up as he looked Davison full in the face, and
held out his hand. Old Champion and Davison both blushed. The
infantry set up a "Hurray, hurray, hurray," Champion leading, and
waving his wide-awake. I protest that the scene did one good to
witness. Here was the hero and cock of the school come back to see
his old haunts and cronies. He had always remembered them. Since
he had seen them last, he had faced death and achieved honor. But
for my dignity I would have shied up my hat too.
With a resolute step, and his arm still linked in Champion's,
Captain Davison now advanced, followed by a wake of little boys, to
that corner of the green where Mrs. Ruggles has her tart stand.
"Hullo, Mother Ruggles! don't you remember me?" he said, and shook
her by the hand.
"Lor, if it ain't Davison Major!" she said. "Well, Davison Major,
you owe me fourpence for two sausage-rolls from when you went
Davison laughed, and all the little crew of boys set up a similar
"I buy the whole shop," he said. "Now, young 'uns--eat away!"
Then there was such a "Hurray! hurray!" as surpassed the former
cheer in loudness. Everybody engaged in it except Piggy Duff, who
made an instant dash at the three-cornered puffs, but was stopped
by Champion, who said there should be a fair distribution. And so
there was, and no one lacked, neither of raspberry, open tarts, nor
of mellifluous bulls'-eyes, nor of polonies, beautiful to the sight
The hurraying brought out the old Doctor himself, who put his hand
up to his spectacles and started when he saw the old pupil. Each
blushed when he recognized the other; for seven years ago they had
parted not good friends.
"What--Davison?" the Doctor said, with a tremulous voice. "God
bless you, my dear fellow!"--and they shook hands. "A half
holiday, of course, boys," he added, and there was another hurray:
there was to be no end to the cheering that day.
"How's--how's the family, sir?" Captain Davison asked.
"Come in and see. Rosa's grown quite a lady. Dine with us, of
course. Champion Major, come to dinner at five. Mr. Titmarsh, the
pleasure of your company?" The Doctor swung open the garden gate:
the old master and pupil entered the house reconciled.
I thought I would first peep into Miss Raby's room, and tell her
of this event. She was working away at her linen there, as usual
quiet and cheerful.
"You should put up," I said with a smile; "the Doctor has given us
"I never have holidays," Miss Raby replied.
Then I told her of the scene I had just witnessed, of the arrival
of the old pupil, the purchase of the tarts, the proclamation of
the holiday, and the shouts of the boys of "Hurray, Davison!"
"WHO is it?" cried out Miss Raby, starting and turning as white as
I told her it was Captain Davison from India; and described the
appearance and behavior of the Captain. When I had finished
speaking, she asked me to go and get her a glass of water; she felt
unwell. But she was gone when I came back with the water.
I know all now. After sitting for a quarter of an hour with the
Doctor, who attributed his guest's uneasiness no doubt to his
desire to see Miss Rosa Birch, Davison started up and said he
wanted to see Miss Raby. "You remember, sir, how kind she was to
my little brother, sir?" he said. Whereupon the Doctor, with a
look of surprise, that anybody should want to see Miss Raby, said
she was in the little school-room; whither the Captain went,
knowing the way from old times.
A few minutes afterwards, Miss B. and Miss Z. returned from a drive
with Plantagenet Gaunt in their one-horse fly, and being informed
of Davison's arrival, and that he was closeted with Miss Raby in
the little school-room, of course made for that apartment at once.
I was coming into it from the other door. I wanted to know whether
she had drunk the water.
This is what both parties saw. The two were in this very attitude.
"Well, upon my word!" cries out Miss Zoe; but Davison did not let
go his hold; and Miss Raby's head only sank down on his hand.
"You must get another governess, sir, for the little boys," Frank
Davison said to the Doctor. "Anny Raby has promised to come with
You may suppose I shut to the door on my side. And when I returned
to the little school-room, it was black and empty. Everybody was
gone. I could hear the boys shouting at play in the green outside.
The glass of water was on the table where I had placed it. I took
it and drank it myself, to the health of Anny Raby and her husband.
It was rather a choker.
But of course I wasn't going to stop on at Birch's. When his young
friends reassemble on the 1st of February next, they will have two
new masters. Prince resigned too, and is at present living with me
at my old lodgings at Mrs. Cammysole's. If any nobleman or
gentleman wants a private tutor for his son, a note to the Rev. F.
Prince will find him there.
Miss Clapperclaw says we are both a couple of old fools; and that
she knew when I set off last year to Rodwell Regis, after meeting
the two young ladies at a party at General Champion's house in our
street, that I was going on a goose's errand. I shall dine there
on Christmas-day; and so I wish a merry Christmas to all young and
The play is done; the curtain drops,
Slow falling, to the prompter's bell:
A moment yet the actor stops,
And looks around, to say farewell.
It is an irksome word and task;
And when he's laughed and said his say,
He shows, as he removes the mask,
A face that's anything but gay.
One word, ere yet the evening ends,
Let's close it with a parting rhyme,
And pledge a hand to all young friends,
As fits the merry Christmas time.
On life's wide scene you, too, have parts,
That Fate ere long shall bid you play;
Good night! with honest gentle hearts
A kindly greeting go alway!
Good night! I'd say the griefs, the joys,
Just hinted in this mimic page,
The triumphs and defeats of boys,
Are but repeated in our age.
I'd say, your woes were not less keen,
Your hopes more vain, than those of men,
Your pangs or pleasures of fifteen,
At forty-five played o'er again.
I'd say, we suffer and we strive
Not less nor more as men than boys;
With grizzled beards at forty-five,
As erst at twelve, in corduroys.
And if, in time of sacred youth,
We learned at home to love and pray,
Pray heaven, that early love and truth
May never wholly pass away.
And in the world, as in the school,
I'd say, how fate may change and shift;
The prize be sometimes with the fool,
The race not always to the swift.
The strong may yield, the good may fall,
The great man be a vulgar clown,
The knave be lifted over all,
The kind cast pitilessly down.
Who knows the inscrutable design?
Blessed be He who took and gave:
Why should your mother, Charles, not mine,
Be weeping at her darling's grave?*
We bow to heaven that will'd it so,
That darkly rules the fate of all,
That sends the respite or the blow,
That's free to give or to recall.
This crowns his feast with wine and wit:
Who brought him to that mirth and state?
His betters, see, below him sit,
Or hunger hopeless at the gate.
Who bade the mud from Dives' Wheel
To spurn the rags of Lazarus?
Come, brother, in that dust we'll kneel,
Confessing heaven that ruled it thus.
So each shall mourn in life's advance,
Dear hopes, dear friends, untimely killed;
Shall grieve for many a forfeit chance,
A longing passion unfulfilled.
Amen: whatever Fate be sent,--
Pray God the heart may kindly glow,
Although the head with cares be bent,
And whitened with the winter snow.
Come wealth or want, come good or ill,
Let young and old accept their part,
And bow before the Awful Will,
And bear it with an honest heart.
Who misses, or who wins the prize?
Go, lose or conquer as you can.
But if you fail, or if you rise,
Be each, pray God, a gentleman,
A gentleman, or old or young:
(Bear kindly with my humble lays,)
The sacred chorus first was sung
Upon the first of Christmas days.
The shepherds heard it overhead--
The joyful angels raised it then:
Glory to heaven on high, it said,
And peace on earth to gentle men.
My song, save this, is little worth;
I lay the weary pen aside,
And wish you health, and love, and mirth,
As fits the solemn Christmas tide.
As fits the holy Christmas birth,
Be this, good friends, our carol still--
Be peace on earth, be peace on earth,
To men of gentle will.
* C. B., ob. Dec. 1843, aet. 42.
THE KICKLEBURYS ON THE RHINE.
BY MR. M. A. TITMARSH
PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION:
BEING AN ESSAY ON THUNDER AND SMALL BEER.
Any reader who may have a fancy to purchase a copy of this present
edition of the "History of the Kickleburys Abroad," had best be
warned in time, that the Times newspaper does not approve of the
work, and has but a bad opinion both of the author and his readers.
Nothing can be fairer than this statement: if you happen to take up
the poor little volume at a railroad station, and read this
sentence, lay the book down, and buy something else. You are
warned. What more can the author say? If after this you WILL
buy,--amen! pay your money, take your book, and fall to. Between
ourselves, honest reader, it is no very strong potation which the
present purveyor offers to you. It will not trouble your head much
in the drinking. It was intended for that sort of negus which is
offered at Christmas parties and of which ladies and children may
partake with refreshment and cheerfulness. Last year I tried a
brew which was old, bitter, and strong; and scarce any one would
drink it. This year we send round a milder tap, and it is liked by
customers: though the critics (who like strong ale, the rogues!)
turn up their noses. In heaven's name, Mr. Smith, serve round the
liquor to the gentle-folks. Pray, dear madam, another glass; it is
Christmas time, it will do you no harm. It is not intended to keep
long, this sort of drink. (Come, froth up, Mr. Publisher, and pass
quickly round!) And as for the professional gentlemen, we must get
a stronger sort for THEM some day.
The Times' gentleman (a very difficult gent to please) is the
loudest and noisiest of all, and has made more hideous faces over
the refreshment offered to him than any other critic. There is no
use shirking this statement! when a man has been abused in the
Times, he can't hide it, any more than he could hide the knowledge
of his having been committed to prison by Mr. Henry, or publicly
caned in Pall Mall. You see it in your friends' eyes when they
meet you. They know it. They have chuckled over it to a man.
They whisper about it at the club, and look over the paper at you.
My next-door neighbor came to see me this morning, and I saw by his
face that he had the whole story pat. "Hem!" says he, "well, I
HAVE heard of it; and the fact is, they were talking about you at
dinner last night, and mentioning that the Times had--ahem!--
'walked into you.'"
"My good M----" I say--and M---- will corroborate, if need be, the
statement I make here--"here is the Times' article, dated January
4th, which states so and so, and here is a letter from the
publisher, likewise dated January 4th, and which says:--
"MY DEAR Sir,--Having this day sold the last copy of the first
edition (of x thousand) of the 'Kickleburys Abroad,' and having
orders for more, had we not better proceed to a second edition? and
will you permit me to enclose an order on," &c. &c.?
Singular coincidence! And if every author who was so abused by a
critic had a similar note from a publisher, good Lord! how easily
would we take the critic's censure!
"Yes, yes," you say; "it is all very well for a writer to affect to
be indifferent to a critique from the Times. You bear it as a boy
bears a flogging at school, without crying out; but don't swagger
and brag as if you liked it."
Let us have truth before all. I would rather have a good word than
a bad one from any person: but if a critic abuses me from a high
place, and it is worth my while, I will appeal. If I can show that
the judge who is delivering sentence against me, and laying down
the law and making a pretence of learning, has no learning and no
law, and is neither more nor less than a pompous noodle, who ought
not to be heard in any respectable court, I will do so; and then,
dear friends, perhaps you will have something to laugh at in this
"THE KICKLEBURYS ABROAD.
"It has been customary, of late years, for the purveyors of amusing
literature--the popular authors of the day--to put forth certain
opuscules, denominated 'Christmas Books,' with the ostensible
intention of swelling the tide of exhilaration, or other expansive
emotions, incident upon the exodus of the old and the inauguration
of the new year. We have said that their ostensible intention was
such, because there is another motive for these productions, locked
up (as the popular author deems) in his own breast, but which
betrays itself, in the quality of the work, as his principal
incentive. Oh! that any muse should be set upon a high stool to
cast up accounts and balance a ledger! Yet so it is; and the
popular author finds it convenient to fill up the declared deficit,
and place himself in a position the more effectually to encounter
those liabilities which sternly assert themselves contemporaneously
and in contrast with the careless and free-handed tendencies of the
season by the emission of Christmas books--a kind of literary
assignats, representing to the emitter expunged debts, to the
receiver an investment of enigmatical value. For the most part
bearing the stamp of their origin in the vacuity of the writer's
exchequer rather than in the fulness of his genius, they suggest by
their feeble flavor the rinsings of a void brain after the more
important concoctions of the expired year. Indeed, we should as
little think of taking these compositions as examples of the merits
of their authors as we should think of measuring the valuable
services of Mr. Walker, the postman, or Mr. Bell, the dust-
collector, by the copy of verses they leave at our doors as a
provocative of the expected annual gratuity--effusions with which
they may fairly be classed for their intrinsic worth no less than
their ultimate purport.
"In the Christmas book presently under notice, the author appears
(under the thin disguise of Mr. Michael Angelo Titmarsh) in
'propria persona' as the popular author, the contributor to Punch,
the remorseless pursuer of unconscious vulgarity and feeble-
mindedness, launched upon a tour of relaxation to the Rhine. But
though exercising, as is the wont of popular authors in their
moments of leisure, a plentiful reserve of those higher qualities
to which they are indebted for their fame, his professional
instincts are not altogether in abeyance. From the moment his eye
lights upon a luckless family group embarked on the same steamer
with himself, the sight of his accustomed quarry--vulgarity,
imbecility, and affectation--reanimates his relaxed sinews, and,
playfully fastening his satiric fangs upon the familiar prey, he
dallies with it in mimic ferocity like a satiated mouser.
"Though faintly and carelessly indicated, the characters are those
with which the author loves to surround himself. A tuft-hunting
county baronet's widow, an inane captain of dragoons, a graceless
young baronet, a lady with groundless pretensions to feeble health
and poesy, an obsequious nonentity her husband, and a flimsy and
artificial young lady, are the personages in whom we are expected
to find amusement. Two individuals alone form an exception to the
above category, and are offered to the respectful admiration of the
reader,--the one, a shadowy serjeant-at-law, Mr. Titmarsh's
travelling companion, who escapes with a few side puffs of
flattery, which the author struggles not to render ironical, and a
mysterious countess, spoken of in a tone of religious reverence,
and apparently introduced that we may learn by what delicate
discriminations our adoration of rank should be regulated.
"To those who love to hug themselves in a sense of superiority by
admeasurement with the most worthless of their species, in their
most worthless aspects, the Kickleburys on the Rhine will afford an
agreeable treat, especially as the purveyor of the feast offers his
own moments of human weakness as a modest entree in this banquet of
erring mortality. To our own, perhaps unphilosophical, taste the
aspirations towards sentimental perfection of another popular
author are infinitely preferable to these sardonic divings after
the pearl of truth, whose lustre is eclipsed in the display of the
diseased oyster. Much, in the present instance, perhaps all, the
disagreeable effect of his subject is no doubt attributable to the
absence of Mr. Thackeray's usual brilliancy of style. A few
flashes, however, occur, such as the description of M. Lenoir's
gaming establishment, with the momentous crisis to which it was
subjected, and the quaint and imaginative sallies evoked by the
whole town of Rougetnoirbourg and its lawful prince. These, with
the illustrations, which are spirited enough, redeem the book from
an absolute ban. Mr. Thackeray's pencil is more congenial than his
pen. He cannot draw his men and women with their skins off, and,
therefore, the effigies of his characters are pleasanter to
contemplate than the flayed anatomies of the letter-press."
There is the whole article. And the reader will see (in the
paragraph preceding that memorable one which winds up with the
diseased oyster) that he must be a worthless creature for daring to
like the book, as he could only do so from a desire to hug himself
in a sense of superiority by admeasurement with the most worthless
of his fellow-creatures!
The reader is worthless for liking a book of which all the
characters are worthless, except two, which are offered to his
respectful admiration; and of these two the author does not respect
one, but struggles not to laugh in his face; whilst he apparently
speaks of another in a tone of religious reverence, because the
lady is a countess, and because he (the author) is a sneak. So
reader, author, characters, are rogues all. Be there any honest
men left, Hal? About Printing-house Square, mayhap you may light
on an honest man, a squeamish man, a proper moral man, a man that
shall talk you Latin by the half-column if you will but hear him.
And what a style it is, that great man's! What hoighth of foine
language entoirely! How he can discoorse you in English for all
the world as if it was Latin! For instance, suppose you and I had
to announce the important news that some writers published what are
called Christmas books; that Christmas books are so called because
they are published at Christmas: and that the purpose of the
authors is to try and amuse people. Suppose, I say, we had, by the
sheer force of intellect, or by other means of observation or
information, discovered these great truths, we should have
announced them in so many words. And there it is that the
difference lies between a great writer and a poor one; and we may
see how an inferior man may fling a chance away. How does my
friend of the Times put these propositions? "It has been
customary," says he, "of late years for the purveyors of amusing
literature to put forth certain opuscules, denominated Christmas
books, with the ostensible intention of swelling the tide of
exhilaration, or other expansive emotions, incident upon the exodus
of the old or the inauguration of the new year." That is something
like a sentence; not a word scarcely but's in Latin, and the
longest and handsomest out of the whole dictionary. That is proper
economy--as you see a buck from Holywell Street put every pinchbeck
pin, ring, and chain which he possesses about his shirt, hands, and
waistcoat, and then go and cut a dash in the Park, or swagger with
his order to the theatre. It costs him no more to wear all his
ornaments about his distinguished person than to leave them at
home. If you can be a swell at a cheap rate, why not? And I
protest, for my part, I had no idea what I was really about in
writing and submitting my little book for sale, until my friend the
critic, looking at the article, and examining it with the eyes of a
connoisseur, pronounced that what I had fancied simply to be a book
was in fact "an opuscule denominated so-and-so, and ostensibly
intended to swell the tide of expansive emotion incident upon the
inauguration of the new year." I can hardly believe as much even
now--so little do we know what we really are after, until men of
genius come and interpret.
And besides the ostensible intention, the reader will perceive that
my judge has discovered another latent motive, which I had "locked
up in my own breast." The sly rogue! (if we may so speak of the
court.) There is no keeping anything from him; and this truth,
like the rest, has come out, and is all over England by this time.
Oh, that all England, which has bought the judge's charge, would
purchase the prisoner's plea in mitigation! "Oh, that any muse
should be set on a high stool," says the bench, "to cast up
accounts and balance a ledger! Yet so it is; and the popular
author finds it convenient to fill up the declared deficit by the
emission of Christmas books--a kind of assignats that bear the
stamp of their origin in the vacuity of the writer's exchequer."
There is a trope for you! You rascal, you wrote because you wanted
money! His lordship has found out what you were at, and that there
is a deficit in your till. But he goes on to say that we poor
devils are to be pitied in our necessity; and that these compositions
are no more to be taken as examples of our merits than the verses
which the dustman leaves at his lordship's door, "as a provocative
of the expected annual gratuity," are to be considered as measuring
his, the scavenger's, valuable services--nevertheless the author's
and the scavenger's "effusions may fairly be classed, for their
intrinsic worth, no less than their ultimate purport."
Heaven bless his lordship on the bench--What a gentle manlike
badinage he has, and what a charming and playful wit always at
hand! What a sense he has for a simile, or what Mrs. Malaprop
calls an odorous comparison, and how gracefully he conducts it to
"its ultimate purport." A gentleman writing a poor little book is
a scavenger asking for a Christmas-box!
As I try this small beer which has called down such a deal of
thunder, I can't help thinking that it is not Jove who has interfered
(the case was scarce worthy of his divine vindictiveness); but the
Thunderer's man, Jupiter Jeames, taking his master's place, adopting
his manner, and trying to dazzle and roar like his awful employer.
That figure of the dustman has hardly been flung from heaven: that
"ultimate purport" is a subject which the Immortal would hardly
handle. Well, well; let us allow that the book is not worthy of
such a polite critic--that the beer is not strong enough for a
gentleman who has taste and experience in beer.
That opinion no man can ask his honor to alter; but (the beer being
the question), why make unpleasant allusions to the Gazette, and
hint at the probable bankruptcy of the brewer? Why twit me with my
poverty; and what can the Times' critic know about the vacuity of
my exchequer? Did he ever lend me any money? Does he not himself
write for money? (and who would grudge it to such a polite and
generous and learned author?) If he finds no disgrace in being
paid, why should I? If he has ever been poor, why should he joke
at my empty exchequer? Of course such a genius is paid for his
work: with such neat logic, such a pure style, such a charming
poetical turn of phrase, of course a critic gets money. Why, a man
who can say of a Christmas book that "it is an opuscule denominated
so-and-so, and ostensibly intended to swell the tide of expansive
emotion incident upon the exodus of the old year," must evidently
have had immense sums and care expended on his early education, and
deserves a splendid return. You can't go into the market, and get
scholarship like THAT, without paying for it: even the flogging
that such a writer must have had in early youth (if he was at a
public school where the rods were paid for), must have cost his
parents a good sum. Where would you find any but an accomplished
classical scholar to compare the books of the present (or indeed
any other) writer to "sardonic divings after the pearl of truth,
whose lustre is eclipsed in the display of the diseased oyster;"
mere Billingsgate doesn't turn out oysters like these; they are of
the Lucrine lake:--this satirist has pickled his rods in Latin
brine. Fancy, not merely a diver, but a sardonic diver: and the
expression of his confounded countenance on discovering not only a
pearl, but an eclipsed pearl, which was in a diseased oyster! I
say it is only by an uncommon and happy combination of taste,
genius, and industry, that a man can arrive at uttering such
sentiments in such fine language,--that such a man ought to be well
paid, as I have no doubt he is, and that he is worthily employed to
write literary articles, in large type, in the leading journal of
Europe. Don't we want men of eminence and polite learning to sit
on the literary bench, and to direct the public opinion?
But when this profound scholar compares me to a scavenger who
leaves a copy of verses at his door and begs for a Christmas-box, I
must again cry out and say, "My dear sir, it is true your simile is
offensive, but can you make it out? Are you not hasty in your
figures and illusions?" If I might give a hint to so consummate a
rhetorician, you should be more careful in making your figures
figures, and your similes like: for instance, when you talk of a
book "swelling the tide of exhilaration incident to the inauguration
of the new year," or of a book "bearing the stamp of its origin in
vacuity," &c.,--or of a man diving sardonically; or of a pearl
eclipsed in the display of a diseased oyster--there are some people
who will not apprehend your meaning: some will doubt whether you had
a meaning: some even will question your great powers, and say, "Is
this man to be a critic in a newspaper, which knows what English,
and Latin too, and what sense and scholarship, are?" I don't
quarrel with you--I take for granted your wit and learning, your
modesty and benevolence--but why scavenger--Jupiter Jeames--why
scavenger? A gentleman, whose biography the Examiner was fond of
quoting before it took its present serious and orthodox turn, was
pursued by an outraged wife to the very last stage of his existence
with an appeal almost as pathetic--Ah, sir, why scavenger?
How can I be like a dustman that rings for a Christmas-box at your
hall-door? I never was there in my life. I never left at your
door a copy of verses provocative of an annual gratuity, as your
noble honor styles it. Who are you? If you are the man I take you
to be, it must have been you who asked the publisher for my book,
and not I who sent it in, and begged a gratuity of your worship.
You abused me out of the Times' window; but if ever your noble
honor sent me a gratuity out of your own door, may I never drive
another dust-cart. "Provocative of a gratuity!" O splendid swell!
How much was it your worship sent out to me by the footman? Every
farthing you have paid I will restore to your lordship, and I swear
I shall not be a halfpenny the poorer.
As before, and on similar seasons and occasions, I have compared
myself to a person following a not dissimilar calling: let me
suppose now, for a minute, that I am a writer of a Christmas farce,
who sits in the pit, and sees the performance of his own piece.
There comes applause, hissing, yawning, laughter, as may be: but
the loudest critic of all is our friend the cheap buck, who sits
yonder and makes his remarks, so that all the audience may hear.
"THIS a farce!" says Beau Tibbs: "demmy! it's the work of a poor
devil who writes for money,--confound his vulgarity! This a farce!
Why isn't it a tragedy, or a comedy, or an epic poem, stap my
vitals? This a farce indeed! It's a feller as sends round his 'at,
and appeals to charity. Let's 'ave our money back again, I say."
And he swaggers off;--and you find the fellow came with an author's
But if, in spite of Tibbs, our "kyind friends," &c. &c. &c.--if the
little farce, which was meant to amuse Christmas (or what my
classical friend calls Exodus), is asked for, even up to Twelfth
Night,--shall the publisher stop because Tibbs is dissatisfied?
Whenever that capitalist calls to get his money back, he may see
the letter from the respected publisher, informing the author that
all the copies are sold, and that there are demands for a new
edition. Up with the curtain, then! Vivat Regina! and no money
returned, except the Times "gratuity!"
M. A. TITMARSH.
January 5, 1851.
THE KICKLEBURYS ON THE RHINE.
The cabman, when he brought us to the wharf, and made his usual
charge of six times his legal fare, before the settlement of which
he pretended to refuse the privilege of an exeat regno to our
luggage, glared like a disappointed fiend when Lankin, calling up
the faithful Hutchison, his clerk, who was in attendance, said to
him, "Hutchison, you will pay this man. My name is Serjeant
Lankin, my chambers are in Pump Court. My clerk will settle with
you, sir." The cabman trembled; we stepped on board; our lightsome
luggage was speedily whisked away by the crew; our berths had been
secured by the previous agency of Hutchison; and a couple of
tickets, on which were written, "Mr. Serjeant Lankin," "Mr.
Titmarsh," (Lankin's, by the way, incomparably the best and
comfortablest sleeping place,) were pinned on to two of the
curtains of the beds in a side cabin when we descended.
Who was on board? There were Jews, with Sunday papers and fruit;
there were couriers and servants straggling about; there were those
bearded foreign visitors of England, who always seem to decline to
shave or wash themselves on the day of a voyage, and, on the eve of
quitting our country, appear inclined to carry away as much as
possible of its soil on their hands and linen: there were parties
already cozily established on deck under the awning; and steady-
going travellers for'ard, smoking already the pleasant morning
cigar, and watching the phenomena of departure.
The bell rings: they leave off bawling, "Anybody else for the
shore?" The last grape and Bell's Life merchant has scuffled over
the plank: the Johns of the departing nobility and gentry line the
brink of the quay, and touch their hats: Hutchison touches his hat
to me--to ME, heaven bless him! I turn round inexpressibly
affected and delighted, and whom do I see but Captain Hicks!
"Hallo! YOU here?" says Hicks, in a tone which seems to mean,
"Confound you, you are everywhere."
Hicks is one of those young men who seem to be everywhere a great
deal too often.
How are they always getting leave from their regiments? If they
are not wanted in this country, (as wanted they cannot be, for you
see them sprawling over the railing in Rotten Row all day, and
shaking their heels at every ball in town,)--if they are not wanted
in this country, I say, why the deuce are they not sent off to
India, or to Demerara, or to Sierra Leone, by Jove?--the farther
the better; and I should wish a good unwholesome climate to try
'em, and make 'em hardy. Here is this Hicks, then--Captain
Launcelot Hicks, if you please--whose life is nothing but
breakfast, smoking, riding-school, billiards, mess, polking,
billiards, and smoking again, and da capo--pulling down his
moustaches, and going to take a tour after the immense labors of
"How do you do, Captain Hicks?" I say. "Where are you going?"
"Oh, I am going to the Whine," says Hicks; "evewybody goes to the
Whine." The WHINE indeed! I dare say he can no more spell
properly than he can speak.
"Who is on board--anybody?" I ask, with the air of a man of
fashion. "To whom does that immense pile of luggage belong--under
charge of the lady's-maid, the courier, and the British footman? A
large white K is painted on all the boxes."
"How the deuce should I know?" says Hicks, looking, as I fancy,
both red and angry, and strutting off with his great cavalry lurch
and swagger: whilst my friend the Serjeant looks at him lost in
admiration, and surveys his shining little boots, his chains and
breloques, his whiskers and ambrosial moustaches, his gloves and
other dandifications, with a pleased wonder; as the ladies of the
Sultan's harem surveyed the great Lady from Park Lane who paid them
a visit; or the simple subjects of Montezuma looked at one of
Cortes's heavy dragoons.
"That must be a marquis at least," whispers Lankin, who consults me
on points of society, and is pleased to have a great opinion of my
I burst out in a scornful laugh. "THAT!" I say; "he is a captain
of dragoons, and his father an attorney in Bedford Row. The
whiskers of a roturier, my good Lankin, grow as long as the beard
of a Plantagenet. It don't require much noble blood to learn the
polka. If you were younger, Lankin, we might go for a shilling a
night, and dance every evening at M. Laurent's Casino, and skip
about in a little time as well as that fellow. Only we despise the
kind of thing you know,--only we're too grave, and too steady."
"And too fat," whispers Lankin, with a laugh.
"Speak for yourself, you maypole," says I. "If you can't dance
yourself, people can dance round you--put a wreath of flowers upon
your old poll, stick you up in a village green, and so make use of
"I should gladly be turned into anything so pleasant," Lankin
answers; "and so, at least, get a chance of seeing a pretty girl
now and then. They don't show in Pump Court, or at the University
Club, where I dine. You are a lucky fellow, Titmarsh, and go about
in the world. As for me, I never--"
"And the judges' wives, you rogue?" I say. "Well, no man is
satisfied; and the only reason I have to be angry with the captain
yonder is, that, the other night, at Mrs. Perkins's, being in
conversation with a charming young creature--who knows all my
favorite passages in Tennyson, and takes a most delightful little
line of opposition in the Church controversy--just as we were in
the very closest, dearest, pleasantest part of the talk, comes up
young Hotspur yonder, and whisks her away in a polka. What have
you and I to do with polkas, Lankin? He took her down to supper--
what have you and I to do with suppers?"
"Our duty is to leave them alone," said the philosophical Serjeant.
"And now about breakfast--shall we have some?" And as he spoke, a
savory little procession of stewards and stewards' boys, with drab
tin dish-covers, passed from the caboose, and descended the stairs
to the cabin. The vessel had passed Greenwich by this time, and
had worked its way out of the mast-forest which guards the
approaches of our city.
The owners of those innumerable boxes, bags, oil-skins, guitar-
cases, whereon the letter K was engraven, appeared to be three
ladies, with a slim gentleman of two or three and thirty, who was
probably the husband of one of them. He had numberless shawls
under his arm and guardianship. He had a strap full of Murray's
Handbooks and Continental Guides in his keeping; and a little
collection of parasols and umbrellas, bound together, and to be
carried in state before the chief of the party, like the lictor's
fasces before the consul.
The chief of the party was evidently the stout lady. One parasol
being left free, she waved it about, and commanded the luggage and
the menials to and fro. "Horace, we will sit there," she
exclaimed, pointing to a comfortable place on the deck. Horace
went and placed the shawls and the Guidebooks. "Hirsch, avy vou
conty les bagages? tront sett morso ong too?" The German courier
said, "Oui, miladi," and bowed a rather sulky assent. "Bowman, you
will see that Finch is comfortable, and send her to me." The
gigantic Bowman, a gentleman in an undress uniform, with very large
and splendid armorial buttons, and with traces of the powder of the
season still lingering in his hair, bows, and speeds upon my lady's
I recognize Hirsch, a well-known face upon the European high-road,
where he has travelled with many acquaintances. With whom is he
making the tour now?--Mr. Hirsch is acting as courier to Mr. and
Mrs. Horace Milliken. They have not been married many months, and
they are travelling, Hirsch says, with a contraction of his bushy
eyebrows, with miladi, Mrs. Milliken's mamma. "And who is her
ladyship?" Hirsch's brow contracts into deeper furrows. "It is
Miladi Gigglebury," he says, "Mr. Didmarsh. Berhabs you know her."
He scowls round at her, as she calls out loudly, "Hirsch, Hirsch!"
and obeys that summons.
It is the great Lady Kicklebury of Pocklington Square, about whom I
remember Mrs. Perkins made so much ado at her last ball; and whom
old Perkins conducted to supper. When Sir Thomas Kicklebury died
(he was one of the first tenants of the Square), who does not
remember the scutcheon with the coronet with two balls, that flamed
over No. 36? Her son was at Eton then, and has subsequently taken
an honorary degree at Oxford, and been an ornament of Platt's and
the "Oswestry Club." He fled into St. James's from the great house
in Pocklington Square, and from St. James's to Italy and the
Mediterranean, where he has been for some time in a wholesome
exile. Her eldest daughter's marriage with Lord Roughhead was
talked about last year; but Lord Roughhead, it is known, married
Miss Brent; and Horace Milliken, very much to his surprise, found
himself the affianced husband of Miss Lavinia Kicklebury, after an
agitating evening at Lady Polkimore's, when Miss Lavinia, feeling
herself faint, went out on to the leads (the terrace, Lady
Polkimore WILL call it), on the arm of Mr. Milliken. They were
married in January: it's not a bad match for Miss K. Lady
Kicklebury goes and stops for six months of the year at Pigeoncot
with her daughter and son-in-law; and now that they are come
abroad, she comes too. She must be with Lavinia, under the present
When I am arm-in-arm, I tell this story glibly off to Lankin, who
is astonished at my knowledge of the world, and says, "Why,
Titmarsh, you know everything."
"I DO know a few things, Lankin my boy," is my answer. "A man
don't live in society, and PRETTY GOOD society, let me tell you,
The fact is, that all the above details are known to almost any man
in our neighborhood. Lady Kicklebury does not meet with US much,
and has greater folks than we can pretend to be at her parties.
But we know about THEM. She'll condescend to come to Perkins's,
WITH WHOSE FIRM SHE BANKS; and she MAY overdraw HER ACCOUNT: but of
that, of course, I know nothing.
When Lankin and I go down stairs to breakfast, we find, if not the
best, at least the most conspicuous places in occupation of Lady
Kicklebury's party, and the hulking London footman making a
darkness in the cabin, as he stoops through it bearing cups and
plates to his employers.
[Why do they always put mud into coffee on board steamers? Why
does the tea generally taste of boiled boots? Why is the milk
scarce and thin? And why do they have those bleeding legs of
boiled mutton for dinner? I ask why? In the steamers of other
nations you are well fed. Is it impossible that Britannia, who
confessedly rules the waves, should attend to the victuals a
little, and that meat should be well cooked under a Union Jack? I
just put in this question, this most interesting question, in a
momentous parenthesis, and resume the tale.]
When Lankin and I descend to the cabin, then, the tables are full
of gobbling people; and, though there DO seem to be a couple of
places near Lady Kicklebury, immediately she sees our eyes directed
to the inviting gap, she slides out, and with her ample robe covers
even more than that large space to which by art and nature she is
entitled, and calling out, "Horace, Horace!" and nodding, and
winking, and pointing, she causes her son-in-law to extend the wing
on his side. We are cut of THAT chance of a breakfast. We shall
have the tea at its third water, and those two damp black mutton-
chops, which nobody else will take, will fall to our cold share.
At this minute a voice, clear and sweet, from a tall lady in a
black veil, says, "Mr. Titmarsh," and I start and murmur an
ejaculation of respectful surprise, as I recognize no less a person
than the Right Honorable the Countess of Knightsbridge, taking her
tea, breaking up little bits of toast with her slim fingers, and
sitting between a Belgian horse-dealer and a German violoncello-
player who has a conge after the opera--like any other mortal.
I whisper her ladyship's name to Lankin. The Serjeant looks
towards her with curiosity and awe. Even he, in his Pump Court
solitudes, has heard of that star of fashion--that admired amongst
men, and even women--that Diana severe yet simple, the accomplished
Aurelia of Knightsbridge. Her husband has but a small share of HER
qualities. How should he? The turf and the fox-chase are his
delights--the smoking-room at the "Travellers'"--nay, shall we say
it?--the illuminated arcades of "Vauxhall," and the gambols of the
dishevelled Terpsichore. Knightsbridge has his faults--ah! even
the peerage of England is not exempt from them. With Diana for his
wife, he flies the halls where she sits severe and serene, and is
to be found (shrouded in smoke, 'tis true,) in those caves where
the contrite chimney-sweep sings his terrible death chant, or the
Bacchanalian judge administers a satiric law. Lord Knightsbridge
has his faults, then; but he has the gout at Rougetnoirbourg, near
the Rhine, and thither his wife is hastening to minister to him.
"I have done," says Lady Knightsbridge, with a gentle bow, as she
rises; "you may have this place, Mr. Titmarsh; and I am sorry my
breakfast is over: I should have prolonged it had I thought that
YOU were coming to sit by me. Thank you--my glove." (Such an
absurd little glove, by the way). "We shall meet on the deck when
you have done."
And she moves away with an august curtsy. I can't tell how it is,
or what it is, in that lady; but she says, "How do you do?" as
nobody else knows how to say it. In all her actions, motions,
thoughts, I would wager there is the same calm grace and harmony.
She is not very handsome, being very thin, and rather sad-looking.
She is not very witty, being only up to the conversation, whatever
it may be; and yet, if she were in black serge, I think one could
not help seeing that she was a Princess, and Serene Highness; and
if she were a hundred years old, she could not be but beautiful. I
saw her performing her devotions in Antwerp Cathedral, and forgot
to look at anything else there;--so calm and pure, such a sainted
figure hers seemed.
When this great lady did the present writer the honor to shake his
hand (I had the honor to teach writing and the rudiments of Latin
to the young and intelligent Lord Viscount Pimlico), there seemed
to be a commotion in the Kicklebury party--heads were nodded
together, and turned towards Lady Knightsbridge: in whose honor,
when Lady Kicklebury had sufficiently reconnoitred her with her
eye-glass, the baronet's lady rose and swept a reverential curtsy,
backing until she fell up against the cushions at the stern of the
boat. Lady Knightsbridge did not see this salute, for she did not
acknowledge it, but walked away slimly (she seems to glide in and
out of the room), and disappeared up the stair to the deck.
Lankin and I took our places, the horse-dealer making room for us;
and I could not help looking, with a little air of triumph, over to
the Kicklebury faction, as much as to say, "You fine folks, with
your large footman and supercilious airs, see what WE can do."
As I looked--smiling, and nodding, and laughing at me, in a knowing,
pretty way, and then leaning to mamma as if in explanation, what
face should I see but that of the young lady at Mrs. Perkins's, with
whom I had had that pleasant conversation which had been interrupted
by the demand of Captain Hicks for a dance? So, then, that was Miss
Kicklebury, about whom Miss Perkins, my young friend, has so often
spoken to me: the young ladies were in conversation when I had the
happiness of joining them; and Miss P. went away presently, to look
to her guests)--that is Miss Fanny Kicklebury.
A sudden pang shot athwart my bosom--Lankin might have perceived
it, but the honest Serjeant was so awe-stricken by his late
interview with the Countess of Knightsbridge, that his mind was
unfit to grapple with other subjects--a pang of feeling (which I
concealed under the grin and graceful bow wherewith Miss Fanny's
salutations were acknowledged) tore my heart-strings--as I thought
of--I need not say--of HICKS.
He had danced with her, he had supped with her--he was here, on
board the boat. Where was that dragoon? I looked round for him.
In quite a far corner,--but so that he could command the Kicklebury
party, I thought,--he was eating his breakfast, the great healthy
oaf, and consuming one broiled egg after another.
In the course of the afternoon, all parties, as it may be supposed,