Part 11 out of 13
uniform, covered with gold lace, and held in his hand a plumed hat with
loops and cockade. Gwynplaine sprang up erect as if moved by springs. He
recognized the man, and was, in turn, recognized by him. From their
astonished lips came, simultaneously, this double exclamation:--
The man with the plumed hat advanced towards Gwynplaine, who stood with
"What are you doing here, Gwynplaine?"
"And you, Tom-Jim-Jack, what are you doing here?"
"Oh! I understand. Josiana! a caprice. A mountebank and a monster! The
double attraction is too powerful to be resisted. You disguised yourself
in order to get here, Gwynplaine?"
"And you, too, Tom-Jim-Jack?"
"Gwynplaine, what does this gentleman's dress mean?"
"Tom-Jim-Jack, what does that officer's uniform mean?"
"Gwynplaine, I answer no questions."
"Neither do I, Tom-Jim-Jack."
"Gwynplaine, my name is not Tom-Jim-Jack."
"Tom-Jim-Jack, my name is not Gwynplaine."
"Gwynplaine, I am here in my own house."
"I am here in my own house, Tom-Jim-Jack."
"I will not have you echo my words. You are ironical; but I've got a
cane. An end to your jokes, you wretched fool."
Gwynplaine became ashy pale. "You are a fool yourself, and you shall
give me satisfaction for this insult."
"In your booth as much as you like, with fisticuffs."
"Here, and with swords?"
"My friend Gwynplaine, the sword is a weapon for gentlemen. With it I
can only fight my equals. At fisticuffs we are equal, but not so with
swords. At the Tadcaster Inn Tom-Jim-Jack could box with Gwynplaine; at
Windsor the case is altered. Understand this: I am a rear-admiral."
"And I am a peer of England."
The man whom Gwynplaine recognized as Tom-Jim-Jack burst out laughing.
"Why not a king? Indeed, you are right. An actor plays every part.
You'll tell me next that you are Theseus, Duke of Athens."
"I am a peer of England, and we are going to fight."
"Gwynplaine, this becomes tiresome. Don't play with one who can order
you to be flogged. I am Lord David Dirry-Moir."
"And I am Lord Clancharlie."
Again Lord David burst out laughing.
"Well said! Gwynplaine is Lord Clancharlie. That is indeed the name the
man must bear who is to win Josiana. Listen. I forgive you; and do you
know the reason? It's because we are both lovers of the same woman."
The curtain in the door was lifted, and a voice exclaimed, "You are the
two husbands, my lords."
"Barkilphedro!" cried Lord David.
It was indeed he; he bowed low to the two lords, with a smile on his
face. Some few paces behind him was a gentleman with a stern and
dignified countenance, who carried in his hand a black wand. This
gentleman advanced, and, bowing three times to Gwynplaine, said, "I am
the Usher of the Black Rod. I come to fetch your lordship, in obedience
to her Majesty's commands."
BOOK THE EIGHTH.
_THE CAPITOL AND THINGS AROUND IT._
ANALYSIS OF MAJESTIC MATTERS.
Irresistible Fate ever carrying him forward, which had now for so many
hours showered its surprises on Gwynplaine, and which had transported
him to Windsor, transferred him again to London. Visionary realities
succeeded each other without a moment's intermission. He could not
escape from their influence. Freed from one he met another. He had
scarcely time to breathe. Any one who has seen a juggler throwing and
catching balls can judge the nature of fate. Those rising and falling
projectiles are like men tossed in the hands of Destiny--projectiles and
On the evening of the same day, Gwynplaine was an actor in an
extraordinary scene. He was seated on a bench covered with
fleurs-de-lis; over his silken clothes he wore a robe of scarlet velvet,
lined with white silk, with a cape of ermine, and on his shoulders two
bands of ermine embroidered with gold. Around him were men of all ages,
young and old, seated like him on benches covered with fleurs-de-lis,
and dressed like him in ermine and purple. In front of him other men
were kneeling, clothed in black silk gowns. Some of them were writing;
opposite, and a short distance from him, he observed steps, a raised
platform, a dais, a large escutcheon glittering between a lion and a
unicorn, and at the top of the steps, on the platform under the dais,
resting against the escutcheon, was a gilded chair with a crown over
it. This was a throne--the throne of Great Britain.
Gwynplaine, himself a peer of England, was in the House of Lords. How
Gwynplaine's introduction to the House of Lords came about, we will now
explain. Throughout the day, from morning to night, from Windsor to
London, from Corleone Lodge to Westminster Hall, he had step by step
mounted higher in the social grade. At each step he grew giddier. He had
been conveyed from Windsor in a royal carriage with a peer's escort.
There is not much difference between a guard of honour and a prisoner's.
On that day, travellers on the London and Windsor road saw a galloping
cavalcade of gentlemen pensioners of her Majesty's household escorting
two carriages drawn at a rapid pace. In the first carriage sat the Usher
of the Black Rod, his wand in his hand. In the second was to be seen a
large hat with white plumes, throwing into shadow and hiding the face
underneath it. Who was it who was thus being hurried on--a prince, a
prisoner? It was Gwynplaine.
It looked as if they were conducting some one to the Tower, unless,
indeed, they were escorting him to the House of Lords. The queen had
done things well. As it was for her future brother-in-law, she had
provided an escort from her own household. The officer of the Usher of
the Black Rod rode on horseback at the head of the cavalcade. The Usher
of the Black Rod carried, on a cushion placed on a seat of the carriage,
a black portfolio stamped with the royal crown. At Brentford, the last
relay before London, the carriages and escort halted. A four-horse
carriage of tortoise-shell, with two postilions, a coachman in a wig,
and four footmen, was in waiting. The wheels, steps, springs, pole, and
all the fittings of this carriage were gilt. The horses' harness was of
silver. This state coach was of an ancient and extraordinary shape, and
would have been distinguished by its grandeur among the fifty-one
celebrated carriages of which Roubo has left us drawings.
The Usher of the Black Rod and his officer alighted. The latter, having
lifted the cushion, on which rested the royal portfolio, from the seat
in the postchaise, carried it on outstretched hands, and stood behind
the Usher. He first opened the door of the empty carriage, then the door
of that occupied by Gwynplaine, and, with downcast eyes, respectfully
invited him to descend. Gwynplaine left the chaise, and took his seat in
the carriage. The Usher carrying the rod, and the officer supporting the
cushion, followed, and took their places on the low front seat provided
for pages in old state coaches. The inside of the carriage was lined
with white satin trimmed with Binche silk, with tufts and tassels of
silver. The roof was painted with armorial bearings. The postilions of
the chaises they were leaving were dressed in the royal livery. The
attendants of the carriage they now entered wore a different but very
Gwynplaine, in spite of his bewildered state, in which he felt quite
overcome, remarked the gorgeously-attired footmen, and asked the Usher
of the Black Rod,--
"Whose livery is that?"
"Yours, my lord."
The House of Lords was to sit that evening. _Curia erat serena_, run the
old records. In England parliamentary work is by preference undertaken
at night. It once happened that Sheridan began a speech at midnight and
finished it at sunrise.
The two postchaises returned to Windsor. Gwynplaine's carriage set out
for London. This ornamented four-horse carriage proceeded at a walk from
Brentford to London, as befitted the dignity of the coachman.
Gwynplaine's servitude to ceremony was beginning in the shape of his
solemn-looking coachman. The delay was, moreover, apparently
prearranged; and we shall see presently its probable motive.
Night was falling, though it was not quite dark, when the carriage
stopped at the King's Gate, a large sunken door between two turrets
connecting Whitehall with Westminster. The escort of gentlemen
pensioners formed a circle around the carriage. A footman jumped down
from behind it and opened the door. The Usher of the Black Rod, followed
by the officer carrying the cushion, got out of the carriage, and
"My lord, be pleased to alight. I beg your lordship to keep your hat
Gwynplaine wore under his travelling cloak the suit of black silk, which
he had not changed since the previous evening. He had no sword. He left
his cloak in the carriage. Under the arched way of the King's Gate there
was a small side door raised some few steps above the road. In
ceremonial processions the greatest personage never walks first.
The Usher of the Black Rod, followed by his officer, walked first;
Gwynplaine followed. They ascended the steps, and entered by the side
door. Presently they were in a wide, circular room, with a pillar in the
centre, the lower part of a turret. The room, being on the ground floor,
was lighted by narrow windows in the pointed arches, which served but to
make darkness visible. Twilight often lends solemnity to a scene.
Obscurity is in itself majestic.
In this room, thirteen men, disposed in ranks, were standing--three in
the front row, six in the second row, and four behind. In the front row
one wore a crimson velvet gown; the other two, gowns of the same colour,
but of satin. All three had the arms of England embroidered on their
shoulders. The second rank wore tunics of white silk, each one having a
different coat of arms emblazoned in front. The last row were clad in
black silk, and were thus distinguished. The first wore a blue cape. The
second had a scarlet St. George embroidered in front. The third, two
embroidered crimson crosses, in front and behind. The fourth had a
collar of black sable fur. All were uncovered, wore wigs, and carried
swords. Their faces were scarcely visible in the dim light, neither
could they see Gwynplaine's face.
The Usher of the Black Rod, raising his wand, said,--
"My Lord Fermain Clancharlie, Baron Clancharlie and Hunkerville, I, the
Usher of the Black Rod, first officer of the presence chamber, hand your
lordship over to Garter King-at-Arms."
The person clothed in velvet, quitting his place in the ranks, bowed to
the ground before Gwynplaine, and said,--
"My Lord Fermain Clancharlie, I am Garter, Principal King-at-Arms of
England. I am the officer appointed and installed by his grace the Duke
of Norfolk, hereditary Earl Marshal. I have sworn obedience to the king,
peers, and knights of the garter. The day of my installation, when the
Earl Marshal of England anointed me by pouring a goblet of wine on my
head, I solemnly promised to be attentive to the nobility; to avoid bad
company; to excuse, rather than accuse, gentlefolks; and to assist
widows and virgins. It is I who have the charge of arranging the funeral
ceremonies of peers, and the supervision of their armorial bearings. I
place myself at the orders of your lordship."
The first of those wearing satin tunics, having bowed deeply, said,--
"My lord, I am Clarenceaux, Second King-at-Arms of England. I am the
officer who arranges the obsequies of nobles below the rank of peers. I
am at your lordship's disposal."
The other wearer of the satin tunic bowed and spoke thus,--
"My lord, I am Norroy, Third King-at-Arms of England. Command me."
The second row, erect and without bowing, advanced a pace. The
right-hand man said,--
"My lord, we are the six Dukes-at-Arms of England. I am York."
Then each of the heralds, or Dukes-at-Arms, speaking in turn, proclaimed
"I am Lancaster."
"I am Richmond."
"I am Chester."
"I am Somerset."
"I am Windsor."
The coats of arms embroidered on their breasts were those of the
counties and towns from which they took their names.
The third rank, dressed in black, remained silent. Garter King-at-Arms,
pointing them out to Gwynplaine, said,--
"My lord, these are the four Pursuivants-at-Arms. Blue Mantle."
The man with the blue cape bowed.
He with the St. George inclined his head.
He with the scarlet crosses saluted.
He with the sable fur collar made his obeisance.
On a sign from the King-at-Arms, the first of the pursuivants, Blue
Mantle, stepped forward and received from the officer of the Usher the
cushion of silver cloth and crown-emblazoned portfolio. And the
King-at-Arms said to the Usher of the Black Rod,--
"Proceed; I leave in your hands the introduction of his lordship!"
The observance of these customs, and also of others which will now be
described, were the old ceremonies in use prior to the time of Henry
VIII., and which Anne for some time attempted to revive. There is
nothing like it in existence now. Nevertheless, the House of Lords
thinks that it is unchangeable; and, if Conservatism exists anywhere, it
It changes, nevertheless. _E pur si muove_. For instance, what has
become of the may-pole, which the citizens of London erected on the 1st
of May, when the peers went down to the House? The last one was erected
in 1713. Since then the may-pole has disappeared. Disuse.
Outwardly, unchangeable; inwardly, mutable. Take, for example, the title
of Albemarle. It sounds eternal. Yet it has been through six different
families--Odo, Mandeville, Bethune, Plantagenet, Beauchamp, Monck. Under
the title of Leicester five different names have been merged--Beaumont,
Breose, Dudley, Sydney, Coke. Under Lincoln, six; under Pembroke, seven.
The families change, under unchanging titles. A superficial historian
believes in immutability. In reality it does not exist. Man can never be
more than a wave; humanity is the ocean.
Aristocracy is proud of what women consider a reproach--age! Yet both
cherish the same illusion, that they do not change. It is probable the
House of Lords will not recognize itself in the foregoing description,
nor yet in that which follows, thus resembling the once pretty woman,
who objects to having any wrinkles. The mirror is ever a scapegoat, yet
its truths cannot be contested. To portray exactly, constitutes the duty
of a historian. The King-at-Arms, turning to Gwynplaine, said,--
"Be pleased to follow me, my lord." And added, "You will be saluted.
Your lordship, in returning the salute, will be pleased merely to raise
the brim of your hat."
They moved off, in procession, towards a door at the far side of the
room. The Usher of the Black Rod walked in front; then Blue Mantle,
carrying the cushion; then the King-at-Arms; and after him came
Gwynplaine, wearing his hat. The rest, kings-at-arms, heralds, and
pursuivants, remained in the circular room. Gwynplaine, preceded by the
Usher of the Black Rod, and escorted by the King-at-Arms, passed from
room to room, in a direction which it would now be impossible to trace,
the old Houses of Parliament having been pulled down. Amongst others, he
crossed that Gothic state chamber in which took place the last meeting
of James II. and Monmouth, and whose walls witnessed the useless
debasement of the cowardly nephew at the feet of his vindictive uncle.
On the walls of this chamber hung, in chronological order, nine
fell-length portraits of former peers, with their dates--Lord
Nansladron, 1305; Lord Baliol, 1306; Lord Benestede, 1314; Lord
Cantilupe, 1356; Lord Montbegon, 1357; Lord Tibotot, 1373; Lord Zouch of
Codnor, 1615; Lord Bella-Aqua, with no date; Lord Harren and Surrey,
Count of Blois, also without date.
It being now dark, lamps were burning at intervals in the galleries.
Brass chandeliers, with wax candles, illuminated the rooms, lighting
them like the side aisles of a church. None but officials were present.
In one room, which the procession crossed, stood, with heads
respectfully lowered, the four clerks of the signet, and the Clerk of
the Council. In another room stood the distinguished Knight Banneret,
Philip Sydenham of Brympton in Somersetshire. The Knight Banneret is a
title conferred in time of war, under the unfurled royal standard. In
another room was the senior baronet of England, Sir Edmund Bacon of
Suffolk, heir of Sir Nicholas Bacon, styled, _Primus baronetorum
Anglicae_. Behind Sir Edmund was an armour-bearer with an arquebus, and
an esquire carrying the arms of Ulster, the baronets being the
hereditary defenders of the province of Ulster in Ireland. In another
room was the Chancellor of the Exchequer, with his four accountants, and
the two deputies of the Lord Chamberlain, _appointed to cleave the
At the entrance of a corridor covered with matting, which was the
communication between the Lower and the Upper House, Gwynplaine was
saluted by Sir Thomas Mansell of Margam, Comptroller of the Queen's
Household and Member for Glamorgan; and at the exit from the corridor by
a deputation of one for every two of the Barons of the Cinque Ports,
four on the right and four on the left, the Cinque Ports being eight in
number. William Hastings did obeisance for Hastings; Matthew Aylmor, for
Dover; Josias Burchett, for Sandwich; Sir Philip Boteler, for Hythe;
John Brewer, for New Rumney; Edward Southwell, for the town of Rye;
James Hayes, for Winchelsea; George Nailor, for Seaford. As Gwynplaine
was about to return the salute, the King-at-Arms reminded him in a low
voice of the etiquette, "Only the brim of your hat, my lord." Gwynplaine
did as directed. He now entered the so-called Painted Chamber, in which
there was no painting, except a few of saints, and amongst them St.
Edward, in the high arches of the long and deep-pointed windows, which
were divided by what formed the ceiling of Westminster Hall and the
floor of the Painted Chamber. On the far side of the wooden barrier
which divided the room from end to end, stood the three Secretaries of
State, men of mark. The functions of the first of these officials
comprised the supervision of all affairs relating to the south of
England, Ireland, the Colonies, France, Switzerland, Italy, Spain,
Portugal, and Turkey. The second had charge of the north of England, and
watched affairs in the Low Countries, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Poland,
and Russia. The third, a Scot, had charge of Scotland. The two
first-mentioned were English, one of them being the Honourable Robert
Harley, Member for the borough of New Radnor. A Scotch member, Mungo
Graham, Esquire, a relation of the Duke of Montrose, was present. All
bowed, without speaking, to Gwynplaine, who returned the salute by
touching his hat. The barrier-keeper lifted the wooden arm which,
pivoting on a hinge, formed the entrance to the far side of the Painted
Chamber, where stood the long table, covered with green cloth, reserved
for peers. A branch of lighted candles stood on the table. Gwynplaine,
preceded by the Usher of the Black Rod, Garter King-at-Arms, and Blue
Mantle, penetrated into this privileged compartment. The barrier-keeper
closed the opening immediately Gwynplaine had passed. The King-at-Arms,
having entered the precincts of the privileged compartment, halted. The
Painted Chamber was a spacious apartment. At the farther end, upright,
beneath the royal escutcheon which was placed between the two windows,
stood two old men, in red velvet robes, with two rows of ermine trimmed
with gold lace on their shoulders, and wearing wigs, and hats with
white plumes. Through the openings of their robes might be detected silk
garments and sword hilts. Motionless behind them stood a man dressed in
black silk, holding on high a great mace of gold surmounted by a crowned
lion. It was the Mace-bearer of the Peers of England. The lion is their
crest. _Et les Lions ce sont les Barons et li Per_, runs the manuscript
chronicle of Bertrand Duguesclin.
The King-at-Arms pointed out the two persons in velvet, and whispered to
"My lord, these are your equals. Be pleased to return their salute
exactly as they make it. These two peers are barons, and have been named
by the Lord Chancellor as your sponsors. They are very old, and almost
blind. They will, themselves, introduce you to the House of Lords. The
first is Charles Mildmay, Lord Fitzwalter, sixth on the roll of barons;
the second is Augustus Arundel, Lord Arundel of Trerice, thirty-eighth
on the roll of barons." The King-at-Arms having advanced a step towards
the two old men, proclaimed "Fermain Clancharlie, Baron Clancharlie,
Baron Hunkerville, Marquis of Corleone in Sicily, greets your
lordships!" The two peers raised their hats to the full extent of the
arm, and then replaced them. Gwynplaine did the same. The Usher of the
Black Rod stepped forward, followed by Blue Mantle and Garter King
at-Arms. The Mace-bearer took up his post in front of Gwynplaine, the
two peers at his side, Lord Fitzwalter on the right, and Lord Arundel of
Trerice on the left. Lord Arundel, the elder of the two, was very
feeble. He died the following year, bequeathing to his grandson John, a
minor, the title which became extinct in 1768. The procession, leaving
the Painted Chamber, entered a gallery in which were rows of pilasters,
and between the spaces were sentinels, alternately pike-men of England
and halberdiers of Scotland. The Scotch halberdiers were magnificent
kilted soldiers, worthy to encounter later on at Fontenoy the French
cavalry, and the royal cuirassiers, whom their colonel thus addressed:
"_Messieurs les maitres, assurez vos chapeaux. Nous allons avoir
l'honneur de charger._" The captain of these soldiers saluted
Gwynplaine, and the peers, his sponsors, with their swords. The men
saluted with their pikes and halberds.
At the end of the gallery shone a large door, so magnificent that its
two folds seemed to be masses of gold. On each side of the door there
stood, upright and motionless, men who were called doorkeepers. Just
before you came to this door, the gallery widened out into a circular
space. In this space was an armchair with an immense back, and on it,
judging by his wig and from the amplitude of his robes, was a
distinguished person. It was William Cowper, Lord Chancellor of England.
To be able to cap a royal infirmity with a similar one has its
advantages. William Cowper was short-sighted. Anne had also defective
sight, but in a lesser degree. The near-sightedness of William Cowper
found favour in the eyes of the short-sighted queen, and induced her to
appoint him Lord Chancellor, and Keeper of the Royal Conscience. William
Cowper's upper lip was thin, and his lower one thick--a sign of
This circular space was lighted by a lamp hung from the ceiling. The
Lord Chancellor was sitting gravely in his large armchair; at his right
was the Clerk of the Crown, and at his left the Clerk of the
Each of the clerks had before him an open register and an inkhorn.
Behind the Lord Chancellor was his mace-bearer, holding the mace with
the crown on the top, besides the train-bearer and purse-bearer, in
All these officers are still in existence. On a little stand, near the
woolsack, was a sword, with a gold hilt and sheath, and belt of crimson
Behind the Clerk of the Crown was an officer holding in his hands the
Behind the Clerk of the Parliaments another officer held a second robe,
which was that of a peer.
The robes, both of scarlet velvet, lined with white silk, and having
bands of ermine trimmed with gold lace over the shoulders, were similar,
except that the ermine band was wider on the coronation robe.
The third officer, who was the librarian, carried on a square of
Flanders leather the red book, a little volume, bound in red morocco,
containing a list of the peers and commons, besides a few blank leaves
and a pencil, which it was the custom to present to each new member on
his entering the House.
Gwynplaine, between the two peers, his sponsors, brought up the
procession, which stopped before the woolsack.
The two peers, who introduced him, uncovered their heads, and Gwynplaine
The King-at-Arms received from the hands of Blue Mantle the cushion of
silver cloth, knelt down, and presented the black portfolio on the
cushion to the Lord Chancellor.
The Lord Chancellor took the black portfolio, and handed it to the Clerk
of the Parliament.
The Clerk received it ceremoniously, and then sat down.
The Clerk of the Parliament opened the portfolio, and arose.
The portfolio contained the two usual messages--the royal patent
addressed to the House of Lords, and the writ of summons.
The Clerk read aloud these two messages, with respectful deliberation,
The writ of summons, addressed to Fermain Lord Clancharlie, concluded
with the accustomed formalities,--
"We strictly enjoin you, on the faith and allegiance that you owe, to
come and take your place in person among the prelates and peers sitting
in our Parliament at Westminster, for the purpose of giving your advice,
in all honour and conscience, on the business of the kingdom and of the
The reading of the messages being concluded, the Lord Chancellor raised
"The message of the Crown has been read. Lord Clancharlie, does your
lordship renounce transubstantiation, adoration of saints, and the
"The test has been administered," said the Lord Chancellor.
And the Clerk of the Parliament resumed,--
"His lordship has taken the test."
The Lord Chancellor added,--
"My Lord Clancharlie, you can take your seat."
"So be it," said the two sponsors.
The King-at-Arms rose, took the sword from the stand, and buckled it
round Gwynplaine's waist.
"Ce faict," says the old Norman charter, "le pair prend son espee, et
monte aux hauts sieges, et assiste a l'audience."
Gwynplaine heard a voice behind him which said,--
"I array your lordship in a peer's robe."
At the same time, the officer who spoke to him, who was holding the
robe, placed it on him, and tied the black strings of the ermine cape
round his neck.
Gwynplaine, the scarlet robe on his shoulders, and the golden sword by
his side, was attired like the peers on his right and left.
The librarian presented to him the red book, and put it in the pocket of
The King-at-Arms murmured in his ear,--
"My lord, on entering, will bow to the royal chair."
The royal chair is the throne.
Meanwhile the two clerks were writing, each at his table--one on the
register of the Crown, the other on the register of the House.
Then both--the Clerk of the Crown preceding the other--brought their
books to the Lord Chancellor, who signed them. Having signed the two
registers, the Lord Chancellor rose.
"Fermain Lord Clancharlie, Baron Clancharlie, Baron Hunkerville, Marquis
of Corleone in Sicily, be you welcome among your peers, the lords
spiritual and temporal of Great Britain."
Gwynplaine's sponsors touched his shoulder.
He turned round.
The folds of the great gilded door at the end of the gallery opened.
It was the door of the House of Lords.
Thirty-six hours only had elapsed since Gwynplaine, surrounded by a
different procession, had entered the iron door of Southwark Jail.
What shadowy chimeras had passed, with terrible rapidity through his
brain--chimeras which were hard facts; rapidity, which was a capture by
The creation of an equality with the king, called Peerage, was, in
barbarous epochs, a useful fiction. This rudimentary political expedient
produced in France and England different results. In France, the peer
was a mock king; in England, a real prince--less grand than in France,
but more genuine: we might say less, but worse.
Peerage was born in France; the date is uncertain--under Charlemagne,
says the legend; under Robert le Sage, says history, and history is not
more to be relied on than legend. Favin writes: "The King of France
wished to attach to himself the great of his kingdom, by the magnificent
title of peers, as if they were his equals."
Peerage soon thrust forth branches, and from France passed over to
The English peerage has been a great fact, and almost a mighty
institution. It had for precedent the Saxon wittenagemote. The Danish
thane and the Norman vavassour commingled in the baron. Baron is the
same as vir, which is translated into Spanish by _varon_, and which
signifies, _par excellence_, "Man." As early as 1075, the barons made
themselves felt by the king--and by what a king! By William the
Conqueror. In 1086 they laid the foundation of feudality, and its basis
was the "Doomsday Book." Under John Lackland came conflict. The French
peerage took the high hand with Great Britain, and demanded that the
king of England should appear at their bar. Great was the indignation of
the English barons. At the coronation of Philip Augustus, the King of
England, as Duke of Normandy, carried the first square banner, and the
Duke of Guyenne the second. Against this king, a vassal of the
foreigner, the War of the Barons burst forth. The barons imposed on the
weak-minded King John Magna Charta, from which sprang the House of
Lords. The pope took part with the king, and excommunicated the lords.
The date was 1215, and the pope was Innocent III., who wrote the "Veni,
Sancte Spiritus," and who sent to John Lackland the four cardinal
virtues in the shape of four gold rings. The Lords persisted. The duel
continued through many generations. Pembroke struggled. 1248 was the
year of "the provisions of Oxford." Twenty-four barons limited the
king's powers, discussed him, and called a knight from each county to
take part in the widened breach. Here was the dawn of the Commons. Later
on, the Lords added two citizens from each city, and two burgesses from
each borough. It arose from this, that up to the time of Elizabeth the
peers were judges of the validity of elections to the House of Commons.
From their jurisdiction sprang the proverb that the members returned
ought to be without the three P's--_sine Prece, sine Pretio, sine
Poculo_. This did not obviate rotten boroughs. In 1293, the Court of
Peers in France had still the King of England under their jurisdiction;
and Philippe le Bel cited Edward I. to appear before him. Edward I. was
the king who ordered his son to boil him down after death, and to carry
his bones to the wars. Under the follies of their kings the Lords felt
the necessity of fortifying Parliament. They divided it into two
chambers, the upper and the lower. The Lords arrogantly kept the
supremacy. "If it happens that any member of the Commons should be so
bold as to speak to the prejudice of the House of Lords, he is called to
the bar of the House to be reprimanded, and, occasionally, to be sent to
the Tower." There is the same distinction in voting. In the House of
Lords they vote one by one, beginning with the junior, called the puisne
baron. Each peer answers "_Content_," or "_Non-content_." In the Commons
they vote together, by "Aye," or "No," in a crowd. The Commons accuse,
the peers judge. The peers, in their disdain of figures, delegated to
the Commons, who were to profit by it, the superintendence of the
Exchequer--thus named, according to some, after the table-cover, which
was like a chess-board; and according to others, from the drawers of the
old safe, where was kept, behind an iron grating, the treasure of the
kings of England. The "Year-Book" dates from the end of the thirteenth
century. In the War of the Roses the weight of the Lords was thrown, now
on the side of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, now on the side of
Edmund, Duke of York. Wat Tyler, the Lollards, Warwick the King-maker,
all that anarchy from which freedom is to spring, had for foundation,
avowed or secret, the English feudal system. The Lords were usefully
jealous of the Crown; for to be jealous is to be watchful. They
circumscribed the royal initiative, diminished the category of cases of
high treason, raised up pretended Richards against Henry IV., appointed
themselves arbitrators, judged the question of the three crowns between
the Duke of York and Margaret of Anjou, and at need levied armies, and
fought their battles of Shrewsbury, Tewkesbury, and St. Albans,
sometimes winning, sometimes losing. Before this, in the thirteenth
century, they had gained the battle of Lewes, and had driven from the
kingdom the four brothers of the king, bastards of Queen Isabella by
the Count de la Marche; all four usurers, who extorted money from
Christians by means of the Jews; half princes, half sharpers--a thing
common enough in more recent times, but not held in good odour in those
days. Up to the fifteenth century the Norman Duke peeped out in the King
of England, and the acts of Parliament were written in French. From the
reign of Henry VII., by the will of the Lords, these were written in
English. England, British under Uther Pendragon; Roman under Caesar;
Saxon under the Heptarchy; Danish under Harold; Norman after William;
then became, thanks to the Lords, English. After that she became
Anglican. To have one's religion at home is a great power. A foreign
pope drags down the national life. A Mecca is an octopus, and devours
it. In 1534, London bowed out Rome. The peerage adopted the reformed
religion, and the Lords accepted Luther. Here we have the answer to the
excommunication of 1215. It was agreeable to Henry VIII.; but, in other
respects, the Lords were a trouble to him. As a bulldog to a bear, so
was the House of Lords to Henry VIII. When Wolsey robbed the nation of
Whitehall, and when Henry robbed Wolsey of it, who complained? Four
lords--Darcie, of Chichester; Saint John of Bletsho; and (two Norman
names) Mountjoie and Mounteagle. The king usurped. The peerage
encroached. There is something in hereditary power which is
incorruptible. Hence the insubordination of the Lords. Even in
Elizabeth's reign the barons were restless. From this resulted the
tortures at Durham. Elizabeth was as a farthingale over an executioner's
block. Elizabeth assembled Parliament as seldom as possible, and reduced
the House of Lords to sixty-five members, amongst whom there was but one
marquis (Winchester), and not a single duke. In France the kings felt
the same jealousy and carried out the same elimination. Under Henry III.
there were no more than eight dukedoms in the peerage, and it was to the
great vexation of the king that the Baron de Mantes, the Baron de
Courcy, the Baron de Coulommiers, the Baron de Chateauneuf-en-Thimerais,
the Baron de la Fere-en-Lardenois, the Baron de Mortagne, and some
others besides, maintained themselves as barons--peers of France. In
England the crown saw the peerage diminish with pleasure. Under Anne, to
quote but one example, the peerages become extinct since the twelfth
century amounted to five hundred and sixty-five. The War of the Roses
had begun the extermination of dukes, which the axe of Mary Tudor
completed. This was, indeed, the decapitation of the nobility. To prune
away the dukes was to cut off its head. Good policy, perhaps; but it is
better to corrupt than to decapitate. James I. was of this opinion. He
restored dukedoms. He made a duke of his favourite Villiers, who had
made him a pig; a transformation from the duke feudal to the duke
courtier. This sowing was to bring forth a rank harvest: Charles II. was
to make two of his mistresses duchesses--Barbara of Southampton, and
Louise de la Querouel of Portsmouth. Under Anne there were to be
twenty-five dukes, of whom three were to be foreigners, Cumberland,
Cambridge, and Schomberg. Did this court policy, invented by James I.,
succeed? No. The House of Peers was irritated by the effort to shackle
it by intrigue. It was irritated against James I., it was irritated
against Charles I., who, we may observe, may have had something to do
with the death of his father, just as Marie de Medicis may have had
something to do with the death of her husband. There was a rupture
between Charles I. and the peerage. The lords who, under James I., had
tried at their bar extortion, in the person of Bacon, under Charles I.
tried treason, in the person of Stratford. They had condemned Bacon;
they condemned Stratford. One had lost his honour, the other lost his
life. Charles I. was first beheaded in the person of Stratford. The
Lords lent their aid to the Commons. The king convokes Parliament to
Oxford; the revolution convokes it to London. Forty-four peers side with
the King, twenty-two with the Republic. From this combination of the
people with the Lords arose the Bill of Rights--a sketch of the French
_Droits de l'homme_, a vague shadow flung back from the depths of
futurity by the revolution of France on the revolution of England.
Such were the services of the peerage. Involuntary ones, we admit, and
dearly purchased, because the said peerage is a huge parasite. But
considerable services, nevertheless.
The despotic work of Louis XI., of Richelieu, and of Louis XIV., the
creation of a sultan, levelling taken for true equality, the bastinado
given by the sceptre, the common abasement of the people, all these
Turkish tricks in France the peers prevented in England. The aristocracy
was a wall, banking up the king on one side, sheltering the people on
the other. They redeemed their arrogance towards the people by their
insolence towards the king. Simon, Earl of Leicester, said to Henry
III., "_King, thou hast lied_!" The Lords curbed the crown, and grated
against their kings in the tenderest point, that of venery. Every lord,
passing through a royal park, had the right to kill a deer: in the house
of the king the peer was at home; in the Tower of London the scale of
allowance for the king was no more than that for a peer--namely, twelve
pounds sterling per week. This was the House of Lords' doing.
Yet more. We owe to it the deposition of kings. The Lords ousted John
Lackland, degraded Edward II., deposed Richard II., broke the power of
Henry VI., and made Cromwell a possibility. What a Louis XIV. there was
in Charles I.! Thanks to Cromwell, it remained latent. By-the-bye, we
may here observe that Cromwell himself, though no historian seems to
have noticed the fact, aspired to the peerage. This was why he married
Elizabeth Bouchier, descendant and heiress of a Cromwell, Lord Bouchier,
whose peerage became extinct in 1471, and of a Bouchier, Lord Robesart,
another peerage extinct in 1429. Carried on with the formidable increase
of important events, he found the suppression of a king a shorter way to
power than the recovery of a peerage. A ceremonial of the Lords, at
times ominous, could reach even to the king. Two men-at-arms from the
Tower, with their axes on their shoulders, between whom an accused peer
stood at the bar of the house, might have been there in like attendance
on the king as on any other nobleman. For five centuries the House of
Lords acted on a system, and carried it out with determination. They had
their days of idleness and weakness, as, for instance, that strange time
when they allowed themselves to be seduced by the vessels loaded with
cheeses, hams, and Greek wines sent them by Julius II. The English
aristocracy was restless, haughty, ungovernable, watchful, and
patriotically mistrustful. It was that aristocracy which, at the end of
the seventeenth century, by act the tenth of the year 1694, deprived the
borough of Stockbridge, in Hampshire, of the right of sending members to
Parliament, and forced the Commons to declare null the election for
that borough, stained by papistical fraud. It imposed the test on James,
Duke of York, and, on his refusal to take it, excluded him from the
throne. He reigned, notwithstanding; but the Lords wound up by calling
him to account and banishing him. That aristocracy has had, in its long
duration, some instinct of progress. It has always given out a certain
quantity of appreciable light, except now towards its end, which is at
hand. Under James II. it maintained in the Lower House the proportion of
three hundred and forty-six burgesses against ninety-two knights. The
sixteen barons, by courtesy, of the Cinque Ports were more than
counterbalanced by the fifty citizens of the twenty-five cities. Though
corrupt and egotistic, that aristocracy was, in some instances,
singularly impartial. It is harshly judged. History keeps all its
compliments for the Commons. The justice of this is doubtful. We
consider the part played by the Lords a very great one. Oligarchy is the
independence of a barbarous state, but it is an independence. Take
Poland, for instance, nominally a kingdom, really a republic. The peers
of England held the throne in suspicion and guardianship. Time after
time they have made their power more felt than that of the Commons. They
gave check to the king. Thus, in that remarkable year, 1694, the
Triennial Parliament Bill, rejected by the Commons, in consequence of
the objections of William III., was passed by the Lords. William III.,
in his irritation, deprived the Earl of Bath of the governorship of
Pendennis Castle, and Viscount Mordaunt of all his offices. The House of
Lords was the republic of Venice in the heart of the royalty of England.
To reduce the king to a doge was its object; and in proportion as it
decreased the power of the crown it increased that of the people.
Royalty knew this, and hated the peerage. Each endeavoured to lessen the
other. What was thus lost by each was proportionate profit to the
people. Those two blind powers, monarchy and oligarchy, could not see
that they were working for the benefit of a third, which was democracy.
What a delight it was to the crown, in the last century, to be able to
hang a peer, Lord Ferrers!
However, they hung him with a silken rope. How polite!
"They would not have hung a peer of France," the Duke of Richelieu
haughtily remarked. Granted. They would have beheaded him. Still more
Montmorency Tancarville signed himself _peer of France and England_;
thus throwing the English peerage into the second rank. The peers of
France were higher and less powerful, holding to rank more than to
authority, and to precedence more than to domination. There was between
them and the Lords that shade of difference which separates vanity from
pride. With the peers of France, to take precedence of foreign princes,
of Spanish grandees, of Venetian patricians; to see seated on the lower
benches the Marshals of France, the Constable and the Admiral of France,
were he even Comte de Toulouse and son of Louis XIV.; to draw a
distinction between duchies in the male and female line; to maintain the
proper distance between a simple _comte_, like Armagnac or Albret, and a
_comte pairie_, like Evreux; to wear by right, at five-and-twenty, the
blue ribbon of the Golden Fleece; to counterbalance the Duke de la
Tremoille, the most ancient peer of the court, with the Duke Uzes, the
most ancient peer of the Parliament; to claim as many pages and horses
to their carriages as an elector; to be called _monseigneur_ by the
first President; to discuss whether the Duke de Maine dates his peerage
as the Comte d'Eu, from 1458; to cross the grand chamber diagonally, or
by the side--such things were grave matters. Grave matters with the
Lords were the Navigation Act, the Test Act, the enrolment of Europe in
the service of England, the command of the sea, the expulsion of the
Stuarts, war with France. On one side, etiquette above all; on the
other, empire above all. The peers of England had the substance, the
peers of France the shadow.
To conclude, the House of Lords was a starting-point; towards
civilization this is an immense thing. It had the honour to found a
nation. It was the first incarnation of the unity of the people: English
resistance, that obscure but all-powerful force, was born in the House
of Lords. The barons, by a series of acts of violence against royalty,
have paved the way for its eventual downfall. The House of Lords at the
present day is somewhat sad and astonished at what it has unwillingly
and unintentionally done, all the more that it is irrevocable.
What are concessions? Restitutions;--and nations know it.
"I grant," says the king.
"I get back my own," says the people.
The House of Lords believed that it was creating the privileges of the
peerage, and it has produced the rights of the citizen. That vulture,
aristocracy, has hatched the eagle's egg of liberty.
And now the egg is broken, the eagle is soaring, the vulture dying.
Aristocracy is at its last gasp; England is growing up.
Still, let us be just towards the aristocracy. It entered the scale
against royalty, and was its counterpoise. It was an obstacle to
despotism. It was a barrier. Let us thank and bury it.
THE OLD HALL.
Near Westminster Abbey was an old Norman palace which was burnt in the
time of Henry VIII. Its wings were spared. In one of them Edward VI.
placed the House of Lords, in the other the House of Commons. Neither
the two wings nor the two chambers are now in existence. The whole has
We have already said, and we must repeat, that there is no resemblance
between the House of Lords of the present day and that of the past. In
demolishing the ancient palace they somewhat demolished its ancient
usages. The strokes of the pickaxe on the monument produce their
counter-strokes on customs and charters. An old stone cannot fall
without dragging down with it an old law. Place in a round room a
parliament which has been hitherto held in a square room, and it will no
longer be the same thing. A change in the shape of the shell changes the
shape of the fish inside.
If you wish to preserve an old thing, human or divine, a code or a
dogma, a nobility or a priesthood, never repair anything about it
thoroughly, even its outside cover. Patch it up, nothing more. For
instance, Jesuitism is a piece added to Catholicism. Treat edifices as
you would treat institutions. Shadows should dwell in ruins. Worn-out
powers are uneasy in chambers freshly decorated. Ruined palaces accord
best with institutions in rags. To attempt to describe the House of
Lords of other days would be to attempt to describe the unknown. History
is night. In history there is no second tier. That which is no longer
on the stage immediately fades into obscurity. The scene is shifted, and
all is at once forgotten. The past has a synonym, the unknown.
The peers of England sat as a court of justice in Westminster Hall, and
as the higher legislative chamber in a chamber specially reserved for
the purpose, called _The House of Lords_.
Besides the house of peers of England, which did not assemble as a court
unless convoked by the crown, two great English tribunals, inferior to
the house of peers, but superior to all other jurisdiction, sat in
Westminster Hall. At the end of that hall they occupied adjoining
compartments. The first was the Court of King's Bench, in which the king
was supposed to preside; the second, the Court of Chancery, in which the
Chancellor presided. The one was a court of justice, the other a court
of mercy. It was the Chancellor who counselled the king to pardon; only
These two courts, which are still in existence, interpreted legislation,
and reconstructed it somewhat, for the art of the judge is to carve the
code into jurisprudence; a task from which equity results as it best
may. Legislation was worked up and applied in the severity of the great
hall of Westminster, the rafters of which were of chestnut wood, over
which spiders could not spread their webs. There are enough of them in
all conscience in the laws.
To sit as a court and to sit as a chamber are two distinct things. This
double function constitutes supreme power. The Long Parliament, which
began in November 1640, felt the revolutionary necessity for this
two-edged sword. So it declared that, as House of Lords, it possessed
judicial as well as legislative power.
This double power has been, from time immemorial, vested in the House of
Peers. We have just mentioned that as judges they occupied Westminster
Hall; as legislators, they had another chamber. This other chamber,
properly called the House of Lords, was oblong and narrow. All the light
in it came from four windows in deep embrasures, which received their
light through the roof, and a bull's-eye, composed of six panes with
curtains, over the throne. At night there was no other light than twelve
half candelabra, fastened to the wall. The chamber of Venice was darker
still. A certain obscurity is pleasing to those owls of supreme power.
A high ceiling adorned with many-faced relievos and gilded cornices,
circled over the chamber where the Lords assembled. The Commons had but
a flat ceiling. There is a meaning in all monarchical buildings. At one
end of the long chamber of the Lords was the door; at the other,
opposite to it, the throne. A few paces from the door, the bar, a
transverse barrier, and a sort of frontier, marked the spot where the
people ended and the peerage began. To the right of the throne was a
fireplace with emblazoned pinnacles, and two bas-reliefs of marble,
representing, one, the victory of Cuthwolf over the Britons, in 572; the
other, the geometrical plan of the borough of Dunstable, which had four
streets, parallel to the four quarters of the world. The throne was
approached by three steps. It was called the royal chair. On the two
walls, opposite each other, were displayed in successive pictures, on a
huge piece of tapestry given to the Lords by Elizabeth, the adventures
of the Armada, from the time of its leaving Spain until it was wrecked
on the coasts of Great Britain. The great hulls of the ships were
embroidered with threads of gold and silver, which had become blackened
by time. Against this tapestry, cut at intervals by the candelabra
fastened in the wall, were placed, to the right of the throne, three
rows of benches for the bishops, and to the left three rows of benches
for the dukes, marquises, and earls, in tiers, and separated by
gangways. On the three benches of the first section sat the dukes; on
those of the second, the marquises; on those of the third, the earls.
The viscounts' bench was placed across, opposite the throne, and behind,
between the viscounts and the bar, were two benches for the barons.
On the highest bench to the right of the throne sat the two archbishops
of Canterbury and York; on the middle bench three bishops, London,
Durham, and Winchester, and the other bishops on the lowest bench. There
is between the Archbishop of Canterbury and the other bishops this
considerable difference, that he is bishop "by divine providence,"
whilst the others are only so "by divine permission." On the right of
the throne was a chair for the Prince of Wales, and on the left, folding
chairs for the royal dukes, and behind the latter, a raised seat for
minor peers, who had not the privilege of voting. Plenty of
fleurs-de-lis everywhere, and the great escutcheon of England over the
four walls, above the peers, as well as above the king.
The sons of peers and the heirs to peerages assisted at the debates,
standing behind the throne, between the dais and the wall. A large
square space was left vacant between the tiers of benches placed along
three sides of the chamber and the throne. In this space, which was
covered with the state carpet, interwoven with the arms of Great
Britain, were four woolsacks--one in front of the throne, on which sat
the Lord Chancellor, between the mace and the seal; one in front of the
bishops, on which sat the judges, counsellors of state, who had the
right to vote, but not to speak; one in front of the dukes, marquises,
and earls, on which sat the Secretaries of State; and one in front of
the viscounts and barons, on which sat the Clerk of the Crown and the
Clerk of the Parliament, and on which the two under-clerks wrote,
In the middle of the space was a large covered table, heaped with
bundles of papers, registers, and summonses, with magnificent inkstands
of chased silver, and with high candlesticks at the four corners.
The peers took their seats in chronological order, each according to the
date of the creation of his peerage. They ranked according to their
titles, and within their grade of nobility according to seniority. At
the bar stood the Usher of the Black Rod, his wand in his hand. Inside
the door was the Deputy-Usher; and outside, the Crier of the Black Rod,
whose duty it was to open the sittings of the Courts of Justice with the
cry, "Oyez!" in French, uttered thrice, with a solemn accent upon the
first syllable. Near the Crier stood the Serjeant Mace-Bearer of the
In royal ceremonies the temporal peers wore coronets on their heads, and
the spiritual peers, mitres. The archbishops wore mitres, with a ducal
coronet; and the bishops, who rank after viscounts, mitres, with a
It is to be remarked, as a coincidence at once strange and instructive,
that this square formed by the throne, the bishops, and the barons, with
kneeling magistrates within it, was in form similar to the ancient
parliament in France under the two first dynasties. The aspect of
authority was the same in France as in England. Hincmar, in his
treatise, "De Ordinatione Sacri Palatii," described in 853 the sittings
of the House of Lords at Westminster in the eighteenth century. Strange,
indeed! a description given nine hundred years before the existence of
the thing described.
But what is history? An echo of the past in the future; a reflex from
the future on the past.
The assembly of Parliament was obligatory only once in every seven
The Lords deliberated in secret, with closed doors. The debates of the
Commons were public. Publicity entails diminution of dignity.
The number of the Lords was unlimited. To create Lords was the menace of
royalty; a means of government.
At the beginning of the eighteenth century the House of Lords already
contained a very large number of members. It has increased still further
since that period. To dilute the aristocracy is politic. Elizabeth most
probably erred in condensing the peerage into sixty-five lords. The less
numerous, the more intense is a peerage. In assemblies, the more
numerous the members, the fewer the heads. James II. understood this
when he increased the Upper House to a hundred and eighty-eight lords; a
hundred and eighty-six if we subtract from the peerages the two duchies
of royal favourites, Portsmouth and Cleveland. Under Anne the total
number of the lords, including bishops, was two hundred and seven. Not
counting the Duke of Cumberland, husband of the queen, there were
twenty-five dukes, of whom the premier, Norfolk, did not take his seat,
being a Catholic; and of whom the junior, Cambridge, the Elector of
Hanover, did, although a foreigner. Winchester, termed first and sole
marquis of England, as Astorga was termed sole Marquis of Spain, was
absent, being a Jacobite; so that there were only five marquises, of
whom the premier was Lindsay, and the junior Lothian; seventy-nine
earls, of whom Derby was premier and Islay junior; nine viscounts, of
whom Hereford was premier and Lonsdale junior; and sixty-two barons, of
whom Abergavenny was premier and Hervey junior. Lord Hervey, the junior
baron, was what was called the "Puisne of the House." Derby, of whom
Oxford, Shrewsbury, and Kent took precedence, and who was therefore but
the fourth under James II., became (under Anne) premier earl. Two
chancellors' names had disappeared from the list of barons--Verulam,
under which designation history finds us Bacon; and Wem, under which it
finds us Jeffreys. Bacon and Jeffreys! both names overshadowed, though
by different crimes. In 1705, the twenty-six bishops were reduced to
twenty-five, the see of Chester being vacant. Amongst the bishops some
were peers of high rank, such as William Talbot, Bishop of Oxford, who
was head of the Protestant branch of that family. Others were eminent
Doctors, like John Sharp, Archbishop of York, formerly Dean of Norwich;
the poet, Thomas Spratt, Bishop of Rochester, an apoplectic old man; and
that Bishop of Lincoln, who was to die Archbishop of Canterbury, Wake,
the adversary of Bossuet. On important occasions, and when a message
from the Crown to the House was expected, the whole of this august
assembly--in robes, in wigs, in mitres, or plumes--formed out, and
displayed their rows of heads, in tiers, along the walls of the House,
where the storm was vaguely to be seen exterminating the Armada--almost
as much as to say, "The storm is at the orders of England."
THE OLD CHAMBER.
The whole ceremony of the investiture of Gwynplaine, from his entry
under the King's Gate to his taking the test under the nave window, was
enacted in a sort of twilight.
Lord William Cowper had not permitted that he, as Lord Chancellor of
England, should receive too many details of circumstances connected with
the disfigurement of the young Lord Fermain Clancharlie, considering it
below his dignity to know that a peer was not handsome; and feeling that
his dignity would suffer if an inferior should venture to intrude on him
information of such a nature. We know that a common fellow will take
pleasure in saying, "That prince is humpbacked;" therefore, it is
abusive to say that a lord is deformed. To the few words dropped on the
subject by the queen the Lord Chancellor had contented himself with
replying, "The face of a peer is in his peerage!"
Ultimately, however, the affidavits he had read and certified
enlightened him. Hence the precautions which he took. The face of the
new lord, on his entrance into the House, might cause some sensation.
This it was necessary to prevent; and the Lord Chancellor took his
measures for the purpose. It is a fixed idea, and a rule of conduct in
grave personages, to allow as little disturbance as possible. Dislike of
incident is a part of their gravity. He felt the necessity of so
ordering matters that the admission of Gwynplaine should take place
without any hitch, and like that of any other successor to the peerage.
It was for this reason that the Lord Chancellor directed that the
reception of Lord Fermain Clancharlie should take place at the evening
sitting. The Chancellor being the doorkeeper--"_Quodammodo ostiarus_,"
says the Norman charter; "_Januarum cancellorumque_," says
Tertullian--he can officiate outside the room on the threshold; and Lord
William Cowper had used his right by carrying out under the nave the
formalities of the investiture of Lord Fermain Clancharlie. Moreover, he
had brought forward the hour for the ceremonies; so that the new peer
actually made his entrance into the House before the House had
For the investiture of a peer on the threshold, and not in the chamber
itself, there were precedents. The first hereditary baron, John de
Beauchamp, of Holt Castle, created by patent by Richard II., in 1387,
Baron Kidderminster, was thus installed. In renewing this precedent the
Lord Chancellor was creating for himself a future cause for
embarrassment, of which he felt the inconvenience less than two years
afterwards on the entrance of Viscount Newhaven into the House of Lords.
Short-sighted as we have already stated him to be, Lord William Cowper
scarcely perceived the deformity of Gwynplaine; while the two sponsors,
being old and nearly blind, did not perceive it at all.
The Lord Chancellor had chosen them for that very reason.
More than this, the Lord Chancellor, having only seen the presence and
stature of Gwynplaine, thought him a fine-looking man. When the
door-keeper opened the folding doors to Gwynplaine there were but few
peers in the house; and these few were nearly all old men. In assemblies
the old members are the most punctual, just as towards women they are
the most assiduous.
On the dukes' benches there were but two, one white-headed, the other
gray--Thomas Osborne, Duke of Leeds, and Schomberg, son of that
Schomberg, German by birth, French by his marshal's baton, and English
by his peerage, who was banished by the edict of Nantes, and who, having
fought against England as a Frenchman, fought against France as an
Englishman. On the benches of the lords spiritual there sat only the
Archbishopof Canterbury, Primate of England, above; and below, Dr. Simon
Patrick, Bishop of Ely, in conversation with Evelyn Pierrepoint, Marquis
of Dorchester, who was explaining to him the difference between a gabion
considered singly and when used in the parapet of a field work, and
between palisades and fraises; the former being a row of posts driven
info the ground in front of the tents, for the purpose of protecting the
camp; the latter sharp-pointed stakes set up under the wall of a
fortress, to prevent the escalade of the besiegers and the desertion of
the besieged; and the marquis was explaining further the method of
placing fraises in the ditches of redoubts, half of each stake being
buried and half exposed. Thomas Thynne, Viscount Weymouth, having
approached the light of a chandelier, was examining a plan of his
architect's for laying out his gardens at Longleat, in Wiltshire, in the
Italian style--as a lawn, broken up into plots, with squares of turf
alternating with squares of red and yellow sand, of river shells, and of
fine coal dust. On the viscounts' benches was a group of old peers,
Essex, Ossulstone, Peregrine, Osborne, William Zulestein, Earl of
Rochford, and amongst them, a few more youthful ones, of the faction
which did not wear wigs, gathered round Prince Devereux, Viscount
Hereford, and discussing the question whether an infusion of apalaca
holly was tea. "Very nearly," said Osborne. "Quite," said Essex. This
discussion was attentively listened to by Paulet St. John, a cousin of
Bolingbroke, of whom Voltaire was, later on, in some degree the pupil;
for Voltaire's education, commenced by Pere Poree, was finished by
Bolingbroke. On the marquises' benches, Thomas de Grey, Marquis of Kent,
Lord Chamberlain to the Queen, was informing Robert Bertie, Marquis of
Lindsay, Lord Chamberlain of England, that the first prize in the great
English lottery of 1694 had been won by two French refugees, Monsieur Le
Coq, formerly councillor in the parliament of Paris, and Monsieur
Ravenel, a gentleman of Brittany. The Earl of Wemyss was reading a book,
entitled "Pratique Curieuse des Oracles des Sybilles." John Campbell,
Earl of Greenwich, famous for his long chin, his gaiety, and his
eighty-seven years, was writing to his mistress. Lord Chandos was
trimming his nails.
The sitting which was about to take place, being a royal one, where the
crown was to be represented by commissioners, two assistant door-keepers
were placing in front of the throne a bench covered with purple velvet.
On the second woolsack sat the Master of the Rolls, _sacrorum scriniorum
magister_, who had then for his residence the house formerly belonging
to the converted Jews. Two under-clerks were kneeling, and turning over
the leaves of the registers which lay on the fourth woolsack. In the
meantime the Lord Chancellor took his place on the first woolsack. The
members of the chamber took theirs, some sitting, others standing; when
the Archbishop of Canterbury rose and read the prayer, and the sitting
of the house began.
Gwynplaine had already been there for some time without attracting any
notice. The second bench of barons, on which was his place, was close to
the bar, so that he had had to take but a few steps to reach it. The two
peers, his sponsors, sat, one on his right, the other on his left, thus
almost concealing the presence of the new-comer.
No one having been furnished with any previous information, the Clerk of
the Parliament had read in a low voice, and as it were, mumbled through
the different documents concerning the new peer, and the Lord Chancellor
had proclaimed his admission in the midst of what is called, in the
reports, "general inattention." Every one was talking. There buzzed
through the House that cheerful hum of voices during which assemblies
pass things which will not bear the light, and at which they wonder when
they find out what they have done, too late.
Gwynplaine was seated in silence, with his head uncovered, between the
two old peers, Lord Fitzwalter and Lord Arundel. On entering, according
to the instructions of the King-at-Arms--afterwards renewed by his
sponsors--he had bowed to the throne.
Thus all was over. He was a peer. That pinnacle, under the glory of
which he had, all his life, seen his master, Ursus, bow himself down in
fear--that prodigious pinnacle was under his feet. He was in that place,
so dark and yet so dazzling in England. Old peak of the feudal mountain,
looked up to for six centuries by Europe and by history! Terrible
nimbus of a world of shadow! He had entered into the brightness of its
glory, and his entrance was irrevocable.
He was there in his own sphere, seated on his throne, like the king on
his. He was there and nothing in the future could obliterate the fact.
The royal crown, which he saw under the dais, was brother to his
coronet. He was a peer of that throne. In the face of majesty he was
peerage; less, but like. Yesterday, what was he? A player. To-day, what
was he? A prince.
Yesterday, nothing; to-day, everything.
It was a sudden confrontation of misery and power, meeting face to face,
and resolving themselves at once into the two halves of a conscience.
Two spectres, Adversity and Prosperity, were taking possession of the
same soul, and each drawing that soul towards itself.
Oh, pathetic division of an intellect, of a will, of a brain, between
two brothers who are enemies! the Phantom of Poverty and the Phantom of
Wealth! Abel and Cain in the same man!
By degrees the seats of the House filled as the Lords arrived. The
question was the vote for augmenting, by a hundred thousand pounds
sterling, the annual income of George of Denmark, Duke of Cumberland,
the queen's husband. Besides this, it was announced that several bills
assented to by her Majesty were to be brought back to the House by the
Commissioners of the Crown empowered and charged to sanction them. This
raised the sitting to a royal one. The peers all wore their robes over
their usual court or ordinary dress. These robes, similar to that which
had been thrown over Gwynplaine, were alike for all, excepting that the
dukes had five bands of ermine, trimmed with gold; marquises, four;
earls and viscounts, three; and barons, two. Most of the lords entered
in groups. They had met in the corridors, and were continuing the
conversations there begun. A few came in alone. The costumes of all were
solemn; but neither their attitudes nor their words corresponded with
them. On entering, each one bowed to the throne.
The peers flowed in. The series of great names marched past with scant
ceremonial, the public not being present. Leicester entered, and shook
Lichfield's hand; then came Charles Mordaunt, Earl of Peterborough and
Monmouth, the friend of Locke, under whose advice he had proposed the
recoinage of money; then Charles Campbell, Earl of Loudoun, listening to
Fulke Greville, Lord Brooke; then Dorme, Earl of Carnarvon; then Robert
Sutton, Baron Lexington, son of that Lexington who recommended Charles
II. to banish Gregorio Leti, the historiographer, who was so ill-advised
as to try to become a historian; then Thomas Bellasys, Viscount
Falconberg, a handsome old man; and the three cousins, Howard, Earl of
Bindon, Bowes Howard, Earl of Berkshire, and Stafford Howard, Earl of
Stafford--all together; then John Lovelace, Baron Lovelace, which
peerage became extinct in 1736, so that Richardson was enabled to
introduce Lovelace in his book, and to create a type under the name. All
these personages--celebrated each in his own way, either in politics or
in war, and of whom many were an honour to England--were laughing and
It was history, as it were, seen in undress.
In less than half an hour the House was nearly full. This was to be
expected, as the sitting was a royal one. What was more unusual was the
eagerness of the conversations. The House, so sleepy not long before,
now hummed like a hive of bees.
The arrival of the peers who had come in late had wakened them up. These
lords had brought news. It was strange that the peers who had been there
at the opening of the sitting knew nothing of what had occurred, while
those who had not been there knew all about it. Several lords had come
For some hours past the adventures of Gwynplaine had been the subject of
conversation. A secret is a net; let one mesh drop, and the whole goes
to pieces. In the morning, in consequence of the incidents related
above, the whole story of a peer found on the stage, and of a mountebank
become a lord, had burst forth at Windsor in Royal places. The princes
had talked about it, and then the lackeys. From the Court the news soon
reached the town. Events have a weight, and the mathematical rule of
velocity, increasing in proportion to the squares of the distance,
applies to them. They fall upon the public, and work themselves through
it with the most astounding rapidity. At seven o'clock no one in London
had caught wind of the story; by eight Gwynplaine was the talk of the
town. Only the lords who had been so punctual that they were present
before the assembling of the House were ignorant of the circumstances,
not having been in the town when the matter was talked of by every one,
and having been in the House, where nothing had been perceived. Seated
quietly on their benches, they were addressed by the eager newcomers.
"Well!" said Francis Brown, Viscount Montacute, to the Marquis of
"Is it possible?"
"The Laughing Man!"
"Who is the Laughing Man?"
"Don't you know the Laughing Man?"
"He is a clown, a fellow performing at fairs. He has an extraordinary
face, which people gave a penny to look at. A mountebank."
"Well, what then?"
"You have just installed him as a peer of England."
"You are the laughing man, my Lord Montacute!"
"I am not laughing, my Lord Dorchester."
Lord Montacute made a sign to the Clerk of the Parliament, who rose from
his woolsack, and confirmed to their lordships the fact of the admission
of the new peer. Besides, he detailed the circumstances.
"How wonderful!" said Lord Dorchester. "I was talking to the Bishop of
Ely all the while."
The young Earl of Annesley addressed old Lord Eure, who had but two
years more to live, as he died in 1707.
"My Lord Eure."
"My Lord Annesley."
"Did you know Lord Linnaeus Clancharlie?"
"A man of bygone days. Yes I did."
"He died in Switzerland?"
"Yes; we were relations."
"He was a republican under Cromwell, and remained a republican under
"A republican? Not at all! He was sulking. He had a personal quarrel
with the king. I know from good authority that Lord Clancharlie would
have returned to his allegiance, if they had given him the office of
Chancellor, which Lord Hyde held."
"You astonish me, Lord Eure. I had heard that Lord Clancharlie was an
"An honest politician! does such a thing exist? Young man, there is no
"Oh, you believe in Cato, do you?"
"They did well to exile him."
"And Thomas More?"
"They did well to cut off his head."
"And in your opinion Lord Clancharlie was a man as you describe. As for
a man remaining in exile, why, it is simply ridiculous."
"He died there."
"An ambitious man disappointed?"
"You ask if I knew him? I should think so indeed. I was his dearest
"Do you know, Lord Eure, that he married when in Switzerland?"
"I am pretty sure of it."
"And that he had a lawful heir by that marriage?"
"Yes; who is dead."
"Who is living."
"It is a fact--proved, authenticated, confirmed, registered."
"Then that son will inherit the Clancharlie peerage?"
"He is not going to inherit it."
"Because he has inherited it. It is done."
"Turn your head, Lord Eure; he is sitting behind you, on the barons'
Lord Eure turned, but Gwynplaine's face was concealed under his forest
"So," said the old man, who could see nothing but his hair, "he has
already adopted the new fashion. He does not wear a wig."
Grantham accosted Colepepper.
"Some one is finely sold."
"Who is that?"
"How is that?"
"He is no longer a peer."
"How can that be?"
And Henry Auverquerque, Earl of Grantham, told John Baron Colepepper the
whole anecdote--how the waif-flask had been carried to the Admiralty,
about the parchment of the Comprachicos, the _jussu regis_,
countersigned _Jeffreys_, and the confrontation in the torture-cell at
Southwark, the proof of all the facts acknowledged by the Lord
Chancellor and by the Queen; the taking the test under the nave, and
finally the admission of Lord Fermain Clancharlie at the commencement of
the sitting. Both the lords endeavoured to distinguish his face as he
sat between Lord Fitzwalter and Lord Arundel, but with no better success
than Lord Eure and Lord Annesley.
Gwynplaine, either by chance or by the arrangement of his sponsors,
forewarned by the Lord Chancellor, was so placed in shadow as to escape
"Who is it? Where is he?"
Such was the exclamation of all the new-comers, but no one succeeded in
making him out distinctly. Some, who had seen Gwynplaine in the Green
Box, were exceedingly curious, but lost their labour: as it sometimes
happens that a young lady is entrenched within a troop of dowagers,
Gwynplaine was, as it were, enveloped in several layers of lords, old,
infirm, and indifferent. Good livers, with the gout, are marvellously
indifferent to stories about their neighbours.
There passed from hand to hand copies of a letter three lines in length,
written, it was said, by the Duchess Josiana to the queen, her sister,
in answer to the injunction made by her Majesty, that she should espouse
the new peer, the lawful heir of the Clancharlies, Lord Fermain. This
letter was couched in the following terms:--
"MADAM,--The arrangement will suit me just as well. I can have Lord
David for my lover.--(Signed) JOSIANA."
This note, whether a true copy or a forgery, was received by all with
the greatest enthusiasm. A young lord, Charles Okehampton, Baron Mohun,
who belonged to the wigless faction, read and re-read it with delight.
Lewis de Duras, Earl of Faversham, an Englishman with a Frenchman's wit,
looked at Mohun and smiled.
"That is a woman I should like to marry!" exclaimed Lord Mohun.
The lords around them overheard the following dialogue between Duras and
"Marry the Duchess Josiana, Lord Mohun!"
"Plague take it."
"She would make one very happy."
"She would make many very happy."
"But is it not always a question of many?"
"Lord Mohun, you are right. With regard to women, we have always the
leavings of others. Has any one ever had a beginning?"
"My dear lord," concluded Lewis de Duras, "Adam only lent his name. Poor
dupe! He endorsed the human race. Man was begotten on the woman by the
Hugh Cholmondeley, Earl of Cholmondeley, strong in points of law, was
asked from the bishops' benches by Nathaniel Crew, who was doubly a
peer, being a temporal peer, as Baron Crew, and a spiritual peer, as
Bishop of Durham.
"Is it possible?" said Crew.
"Is it regular?" said Cholmondeley.
"The investiture of this peer was made outside the House," replied the
bishop; "but it is stated that there are precedents for it."
"Yes. Lord Beauchamp, under Richard II.; Lord Chenay, under Elizabeth:
and Lord Broghill, under Cromwell."
"Cromwell goes for nothing."
"What do you think of it all?"
"Many different things."
"My Lord Cholmondeley, what will be the rank of this young Lord
Clancharlie in the House?"
"My Lord Bishop, the interruption of the Republic having displaced
ancient rights of precedence, Clancharlie now ranks in the peerage
between Barnard and Somers, so that should each be called upon to speak
in turn, Lord Clancharlie would be the eighth in rotation."
"Really! he--a mountebank from a public show!"
"The act, _per se_, does not astonish me, my Lord Bishop. We meet with
such things. Still more wonderful circumstances occur. Was not the War
of the Roses predicted by the sudden drying up of the river Ouse, in
Bedfordshire, on January 1st, 1399. Now, if a river dries up, a peer
may, quite as naturally, fall into a servile condition. Ulysses, King of
Ithaca, played all kinds of different parts. Fermain Clancharlie
remained a lord under his player's garb. Sordid garments touch not the
soul's nobility. But taking the test and the investiture outside the
sitting, though strictly legal, might give rise to objections. I am of
opinion that it will be necessary to look into the matter, to see if
there be any ground to question the Lord Chancellor in Privy Council
later on. We shall see in a week or two what is best to be done."
And the Bishop added,--
"All the same. It is an adventure such as has not occurred since Earl
Gwynplaine, the Laughing Man; the Tadcaster Inn; the Green Box; "Chaos
Vanquished;" Switzerland; Chillon; the Comprachicos; exile; mutilation;
the Republic; Jeffreys; James II.; the _jussu regis_; the bottle opened
at the Admiralty; the father, Lord Linnaeus; the legitimate son, Lord
Fermain; the bastard son, Lord David; the probable lawsuits; the Duchess
Josiana; the Lord Chancellor; the Queen;--all these subjects of
conversation ran from bench to bench.
Whispering is like a train of gunpowder.
They seized on every incident. All the details of the occurrence caused
an immense murmur through the House. Gwynplaine, wandering in the depths
of his reverie, heard the buzzing, without knowing that he was the cause
of it. He was strangely attentive to the depths, not to the surface.
Excess of attention becomes isolation.
The buzz of conversation in the House impedes its usual business no more
than the dust raised by a troop impedes its march. The judges--who in
the Upper House were mere assistants, without the privilege of
speaking, except when questioned--had taken their places on the second
woolsack; and the three Secretaries of State theirs on the third.
The heirs to peerages flowed into their compartment, at once without and
within the House, at the back of the throne.
The peers in their minority were on their own benches. In 1705 the
number of these little lords amounted to no less than a
dozen--Huntingdon, Lincoln, Dorset, Warwick, Bath, Barlington,
Derwentwater--destined to a tragical death--Longueville, Lonsdale,
Dudley, Ward, and Carteret: a troop of brats made up of eight earls, two
viscounts, and two barons.
In the centre, on the three stages of benches, each lord had taken his
seat. Almost all the bishops were there. The dukes mustered strong,
beginning with Charles Seymour, Duke of Somerset; and ending with George
Augustus, Elector of Hanover, and Duke of Cambridge, junior in date of
creation, and consequently junior in rank. All were in order, according
to right of precedence: Cavendish, Duke of Devonshire, whose grandfather
had sheltered Hobbes, at Hardwicke, when he was ninety-two; Lennox, Duke
of Richmond; the three Fitzroys, the Duke of Southampton, the Duke of
Grafton, and the Duke of Northumberland; Butler, Duke of Ormond;
Somerset, Duke of Beaufort; Beauclerk, Duke of St. Albans; Paulet, Duke
of Bolton; Osborne, Duke of Leeds; Wrottesley Russell, Duke of Bedford,
whose motto and device was _Che sara sara_, which expresses a
determination to take things as they come; Sheffield, Duke of
Buckingham; Manners, Duke of Rutland; and others. Neither Howard, Duke
of Norfolk, nor Talbot, Duke of Shrewsbury, was present, being
Catholics; nor Churchill, Duke of Marlborough, the French Malbrouck, who
was at that time fighting the French and beating them. There were no
Scotch dukes then--Queensberry, Montrose, and Roxburgh not being
admitted till 1707.
THE HIGH AND THE LOW.
All at once a bright light broke upon the House. Four doorkeepers
brought and placed on each side of the throne four high candelabra
filled with wax-lights. The throne, thus illuminated, shone in a kind
of purple light. It was empty but august. The presence of the queen
herself could not have added much majesty to it.
The Usher of the Black Rod entered with his wand and announced,--
"The Lords Commissioners of her Majesty."
The hum of conversation immediately subsided.
A clerk, in a wig and gown, appeared at the great door, holding a
cushion worked with _fleurs de lis_, on which lay parchment documents.
These documents were bills. From each hung the _bille_, or _bulle_, by a
silken string, from which laws are called bills in England and bulls at
Rome. Behind the clerk walked three men in peers' robes, and wearing
These were the Royal Commissioners. The first was the Lord High
Treasurer of England, Godolphin; the second, the Lord President of the
Council, Pembroke; the third, the Lord of the Privy Seal, Newcastle.
They walked one by one, according to precedence, not of their rank, but
of their commission--Godolphin first, Newcastle last, although a duke.
They reached the bench in front of the throne, to which they bowed, took
off and replaced their hats, and sat down on the bench.
The Lord Chancellor turned towards the Usher of the Black Rod, and
"Order the Commons to the bar of the House."
The Usher of the Black Rod retired.
The clerk, who was one of the clerks of the House of Lords, placed on
the table, between the four woolsacks, the cushion on which lay the
Then there came an interruption, which continued for some minutes.
Two doorkeepers placed before the bar a stool with three steps.
This stool was covered with crimson velvet, on which _fleurs de lis_
were designed in gilt nails.
The great door, which had been closed, was reopened; and a voice
"The faithful Commons of England."
It was the Usher of the Black Rod announcing the other half of
The lords put on their hats.
The members of the House of Commons entered, preceded by their Speaker,
all with uncovered heads.
They stopped at the bar. They were in their ordinary garb; for the most
part dressed in black, and wearing swords. The Speaker, the Right
Honourable John Smith, an esquire, member for the borough of Andover,
got up on the stool which was at the centre of the bar. The Speaker of
the Commons wore a robe of black satin, with large hanging sleeves,
embroidered before and behind with brandenburgs of gold, and a wig
smaller than that of the Lord Chancellor. He was majestic, but inferior.
The Commons, both Speaker and members, stood waiting with uncovered
heads, before the peers, who were seated, with their hats on.
Amongst the members of Commons might have been remarked the
Chief Justice of Chester, Joseph Jekyll; the Queen's three
Serjeants-at-Law--Hooper, Powys, and Parker; James Montagu,
Solicitor-General; and the Attorney-General, Simon Harcourt. With
the exception of a few baronets and knights, and nine lords by
courtesy--Hartington, Windsor, Woodstock, Mordaunt, Granby, Scudamore,
Fitzharding, Hyde, and Berkeley--sons of peers and heirs to
peerages--all were of the people, a sort of gloomy and silent crowd.
When the noise made by the trampling of feet had ceased, the Crier of
the Black Rod, standing by the door, exclaimed:--
The Clerk of the Crown arose. He took, unfolded, and read the first of
the documents on the cushion. It was a message from the Queen, naming
three commissioners to represent her in Parliament, with power to
sanction the bills.
Here the Clerk raised his voice.
"Sidney Earl Godolphin."
The Clerk bowed to Lord Godolphin. Lord Godolphin raised his hat.
The Clerk continued,--
"Thomas Herbert, Earl of Pembroke and Montgomery."
The Clerk bowed to Lord Pembroke. Lord Pembroke touched his hat.
The Clerk resumed,--
"John Holles, Duke of Newcastle."
The Duke of Newcastle nodded.
The Clerk of the Crown resumed his seat.
The Clerk of the Parliaments arose. His under-clerk, who had been on his
knees behind him, got up also. Both turned their faces to the throne,
and their backs to the Commons.
There were five bills on the cushion. These five bills, voted by the
Commons and agreed to by the Lords, awaited the royal sanction.
The Clerk of the Parliaments read the first bill.
It was a bill passed by the Commons, charging the country with the costs
of the improvements made by the Queen to her residence at Hampton Court,
amounting to a million sterling.
The reading over, the Clerk bowed low to the throne. The under-clerk
bowed lower still; then, half turning his head towards the Commons, he
"The Queen accepts your bounty--_et ainsi le veut_."
The Clerk read the second bill.
It was a law condemning to imprisonment and fine whosoever withdrew
himself from the service of the trainbands. The trainbands were a
militia, recruited from the middle and lower classes, serving gratis,
which in Elizabeth's reign furnished, on the approach of the Armada, one
hundred and eighty-five thousand foot-soldiers and forty thousand horse.
The two clerks made a fresh bow to the throne, after which the
under-clerk, again half turning his face to the Commons, said,--
"_La Reine le veut_."
The third bill was for increasing the tithes and prebends of the
Bishopric of Lichfield and Coventry, which was one of the richest in
England; for making an increased yearly allowance to the cathedral, for
augmenting the number of its canons, and for increasing its deaneries
and benefices, "to the benefit of our holy religion," as the preamble
set forth. The fourth bill added to the budget fresh taxes--one on
marbled paper; one on hackney coaches, fixed at the number of eight
hundred in London, and taxed at a sum equal to fifty-two francs yearly
each; one on barristers, attorneys, and solicitors, at forty-eight
francs a year a head; one on tanned skins, notwithstanding, said the
preamble, the complaints of the workers in leather; one on soap,
notwithstanding the petitions of the City of Exeter and of the whole of
Devonshire, where great quantities of cloth and serge were manufactured;
one on wine at four shillings; one on flour; one on barley and hops; and
one renewing for four years "the necessities of the State," said the
preamble, "requiring to be attended to before the remonstrances of
commerce"--tonnage-dues, varying from six francs per ton, for ships
coming from the westward, to eighteen francs on those coming from the
eastward. Finally, the bill, declaring the sums already levied for the
current year insufficient, concluded by decreeing a poll-tax on each
subject throughout the kingdom of four shillings per head, adding that a
double tax would be levied on every one who did not take the fresh oath
to Government. The fifth bill forbade the admission into the hospital of
any sick person who on entering did not deposit a pound sterling to pay
for his funeral, in case of death. These last three bills, like the
first two, were one after the other sanctioned and made law by a bow to
the throne, and the four words pronounced by the under-clerk, "_la Reine
le veut_," spoken over his shoulder to the Commons. Then the under-clerk
knelt down again before the fourth woolsack, and the Lord Chancellor
"_Soit fait comme il est desire_."
This terminated the royal sitting. The Speaker, bent double before the
Chancellor, descended from the stool, backwards, lifting up his robe
behind him; the members of the House of Commons bowed to the ground, and
as the Upper House resumed the business of the day, heedless of all
these marks of respect, the Commons departed.
STORMS OF MEN ARE WORSE THAN STORMS OF OCEANS.
The doors were closed again, the Usher of the Black Rod re-entered; the
Lords Commissioners left the bench of State, took their places at the
top of the dukes' benches, by right of their commission, and the Lord
Chancellor addressed the House:--
"My Lords, the House having deliberated for several days on the Bill
which proposes to augment by L100,000 sterling the annual provision for
his Royal Highness the Prince, her Majesty's Consort, and the debate
having been exhausted and closed, the House will proceed to vote; the
votes will be taken according to custom, beginning with the puisne
Baron. Each Lord, on his name being called, will rise and answer
_content_, or _non-content_, and will be at liberty to explain the
motives of his vote, if he thinks fit to do so.--Clerk, take the vote."
The Clerk of the House, standing up, opened a large folio, and spread it
open on a gilded desk. This book was the list of the Peerage.
The puisne of the House of Lords at that time was John Hervey, created
Baron and Peer in 1703, from whom is descended the Marquis of Bristol.
The clerk called,--
"My Lord John, Baron Hervey."
An old man in a fair wig rose, and said, "Content."
Then he sat down.
The Clerk registered his vote.
The Clerk continued,--
"My Lord Francis Seymour, Baron Conway, of Killultagh."
"Content," murmured, half rising, an elegant young man, with a face like
a page, who little thought that he was to be ancestor to the Marquises
"My Lord John Leveson, Baron Gower," continued the Clerk.
This Baron, from whom were to spring the Dukes of Sutherland, rose, and,
as he reseated himself, said "Content."
The Clerk went on.
"My Lord Heneage Finch, Baron Guernsey."
The ancestor of the Earls of Aylesford, neither older nor less elegant
than the ancestor of the Marquises of Hertford, justified his device,
_Aperto vivere voto_, by the proud tone in which he exclaimed,
Whilst he was resuming his seat, the Clerk called the fifth Baron,--
"My Lord John, Baron Granville."
Rising and resuming his seat quickly, "Content," exclaimed Lord
Granville, of Potheridge, whose peerage was to become extinct in 1709.
The Clerk passed to the sixth.
"My Lord Charles Montague, Baron Halifax."
"Content," said Lord Halifax, the bearer of a title which had become
extinct in the Saville family, and was destined to become extinct again
in that of Montague. Montague is distinct from Montagu and Montacute.
And Lord Halifax added, "Prince George has an allowance as Her Majesty's
Consort; he has another as Prince of Denmark; another as Duke of
Cumberland; another as Lord High Admiral of England and Ireland; but he
has not one as Commander-in-Chief. This is an injustice and a wrong
which must be set right, in the interest of the English people."
Then Lord Halifax passed a eulogium on the Christian religion, abused
popery, and voted the subsidy.
Lord Halifax sat down, and the Clerk resumed,--
"My Lord Christopher, Baron Barnard."
Lord Barnard, from whom were to descend the Dukes of Cleveland, rose to
answer to his name.
He took some time in reseating himself, for he wore a lace band which
was worth showing. For all that, Lord Barnard was a worthy gentleman and
a brave officer.
While Lord Barnard was resuming his seat, the Clerk, who read by
routine, hesitated for an instant; he readjusted his spectacles, and
leaned over the register with renewed attention; then, lifting up his
head, he said,--
"My Lord Fermain Clancharlie, Baron Clancharlie and Hunkerville."
"Non-content," said he.
Every face was turned towards him. Gwynplaine remained standing. The
branches of candles, placed on each side of the throne, lighted up his
features, and marked them against the darkness of the august chamber in
the relief with which a mask might show against a background of smoke.
Gwynplaine had made that effort over himself which, it may be
remembered, was possible to him in extremity. By a concentration of will
equal to that which would be needed to cow a tiger, he had succeeded in
obliterating for a moment the fatal grin upon his face. For an instant
he no longer laughed. This effort could not last long. Rebellion against
that which is our law or our fatality must be short-lived; at times the
waters of the sea resist the power of gravitation, swell into a
waterspout and become a mountain, but only on the condition of falling
Such a struggle was Gwynplaine's. For an instant, which he felt to be a
solemn one, by a prodigious intensity of will, but for not much longer
than a flash of lightning lasts, he had thrown over his brow the dark
veil of his soul--he held in suspense his incurable laugh. From that
face upon which it had been carved he had withdrawn the joy. Now it was
nothing but terrible.
"Who is this man?" exclaimed all.
That forest of hair, those dark hollows under the brows, the deep gaze
of eyes which they could not see, that head, on the wild outlines of
which light and darkness mingled weirdly, were a wonder indeed. It was
beyond all understanding; much as they had heard of him, the sight of
Gwynplaine was a terror. Even those who expected much found their
expectations surpassed. It was as though on the mountain reserved for
the gods, during the banquet on a serene evening, the whole of the
all-powerful body being gathered together, the face of Prometheus,
mangled by the vulture's beak, should have suddenly appeared before
them, like a blood-coloured moon on the horizon. Olympus looking on
Caucasus! What a vision! Old and young, open-mouthed with surprise,
fixed their eyes upon Gwynplaine.
An old man, respected by the whole House, who had seen many men and many
things, and who was intended for a dukedom--Thomas, Earl of
Wharton--rose in terror.
"What does all this mean?" he cried. "Who has brought this man into the
House? Let him be put out."
And addressing Gwynplaine haughtily,--
"Who are you? Whence do you come?"
"Out of the depths."
And folding his arms, he looked at the lords.
"Who am I? I am wretchedness. My lords, I have a word to say to you."
A shudder ran through the House. Then all was silence. Gwynplaine
"My lords, you are highly placed. It is well. We must believe that God
has His reasons that it should be so. You have power, opulence,
pleasure, the sun ever shining in your zenith; authority unbounded,
enjoyment without a sting, and a total forgetfulness of others. So be
it. But there is something below you--above you, it may be. My lords, I
bring you news--news of the existence of mankind."
Assemblies are like children. A strange occurrence is as a