Part 5 out of 13
He had drawn up the rules of several clubs in high life. He founded
several resorts of fashionable society, of which one, the Lady Guinea,
was still in existence in Pall Mall in 1772. The Lady Guinea was a club
in which all the youth of the peerage congregated. They gamed there. The
lowest stake allowed was a rouleau of fifty guineas, and there was never
less than 20,000 guineas on the table. By the side of each player was a
little stand on which to place his cup of tea, and a gilt bowl in which
to put the rouleaux of guineas. The players, like servants when cleaning
knives, wore leather sleeves to save their lace, breastplates of leather
to protect their ruffles, shades on their brows to shelter their eyes
from the great glare of the lamps, and, to keep their curls in order,
broad-brimmed hats covered with flowers. They were masked to conceal
their excitement, especially when playing the game of _quinze_. All,
moreover, had their coats turned the wrong way, for luck. Lord David was
a member of the Beefsteak Club, the Surly Club, and of the Splitfarthing
Club, of the Cross Club, the Scratchpenny Club, of the Sealed Knot, a
Royalist Club, and of the Martinus Scribblerus, founded by Swift, to
take the place of the Rota, founded by Milton.
Though handsome, he belonged to the Ugly Club. This club was dedicated
to deformity. The members agreed to fight, not about a beautiful woman,
but about an ugly man. The hall of the club was adorned by hideous
portraits--Thersites, Triboulet, Duns, Hudibras, Scarron; over the
chimney was AEsop, between two men, each blind of an eye, Cocles and
Camoens (Cocles being blind of the left, Camoens of the right eye), so
arranged that the two profiles without eyes were turned to each other.
The day that the beautiful Mrs. Visart caught the small pox the Ugly
Club toasted her. This club was still in existence in the beginning of
the nineteenth century, and Mirabeau was elected an honorary member.
Since the restoration of Charles II. revolutionary clubs had been
abolished. The tavern in the little street by Moorfields, where the
Calf's Head Club was held, had been pulled down; it was so called
because on the 30th of January, the day on which the blood of Charles I.
flowed on the scaffold, the members had drunk red wine out of the skull
of a calf to the health of Cromwell. To the republican clubs had
succeeded monarchical clubs. In them people amused themselves with
* * * * *
There was the Hell-fire Club, where they played at being impious. It was
a joust of sacrilege. Hell was at auction there to the highest bidder in
There was the Butting Club, so called from its members butting folks
with their heads. They found some street porter with a wide chest and a
stupid countenance. They offered him, and compelled him, if necessary,
to accept a pot of porter, in return for which he was to allow them to
butt him with their heads four times in the chest, and on this they
betted. One day a man, a great brute of a Welshman named Gogangerdd,
expired at the third butt. This looked serious. An inquest was held, and
the jury returned the following verdict: "Died of an inflation of the
heart, caused by excessive drinking." Gogangerdd had certainly drunk the
contents of the pot of porter.
There was the Fun Club. _Fun_ is like _cant_, like _humour_, a word
which is untranslatable. Fun is to farce what pepper is to salt. To get
into a house and break a valuable mirror, slash the family portraits,
poison the dog, put the cat in the aviary, is called "cutting a bit of
fun." To give bad news which is untrue, whereby people put on mourning
by mistake, is fun. It was fun to cut a square hole in the Holbein at
Hampton Court. Fun would have been proud to have broken the arm of the
Venus of Milo. Under James II. a young millionaire lord who had during
the night set fire to a thatched cottage--a feat which made all London
burst with laughter--was proclaimed the King of Fun. The poor devils in
the cottage were saved in their night clothes. The members of the Fun
Club, all of the highest aristocracy, used to run about London during
the hours when the citizens were asleep, pulling the hinges from the
shutters, cutting off the pipes of pumps, filling up cisterns, digging
up cultivated plots of ground, putting out lamps, sawing through the
beams which supported houses, breaking the window panes, especially in
the poor quarters of the town. It was the rich who acted thus towards
the poor. For this reason no complaint was possible. That was the best
of the joke. Those manners have not altogether disappeared. In many
places in England and in English possessions--at Guernsey, for
instance--your house is now and then somewhat damaged during the night,
or a fence is broken, or the knocker twisted off your door. If it were
poor people who did these things, they would be sent to jail; but they
are done by pleasant young gentlemen.
The most fashionable of the clubs was presided over by an emperor, who
wore a crescent on his forehead, and was called the Grand Mohawk. The
Mohawk surpassed the Fun. Do evil for evil's sake was the programme. The
Mohawk Club had one great object--to injure. To fulfil this duty all
means were held good. In becoming a Mohawk the members took an oath to
be hurtful. To injure at any price, no matter when, no matter whom, no
matter where, was a matter of duty. Every member of the Mohawk Club was
bound to possess an accomplishment. One was "a dancing master;" that is
to say he made the rustics frisk about by pricking the calves of their
legs with the point of his sword. Others knew how to make a man sweat;
that is to say, a circle of gentlemen with drawn rapiers would surround
a poor wretch, so that it was impossible for him not to turn his back
upon some one. The gentleman behind him chastised him for this by a
prick of his sword, which made him spring round; another prick in the
back warned the fellow that one of noble blood was behind him, and so
on, each one wounding him in his turn. When the man, closed round by the
circle of swords and covered with blood, had turned and danced about
enough, they ordered their servants to beat him with sticks, to change
the course of his ideas. Others "hit the lion"--that is, they gaily
stopped a passenger, broke his nose with a blow of the fist, and then
shoved both thumbs into his eyes. If his eyes were gouged out, he was
paid for them.
Such were, towards the beginning of the eighteenth century, the pastimes
of the rich idlers of London. The idlers of Paris had theirs. M. de
Charolais was firing his gun at a citizen standing on his own threshold.
In all times youth has had its amusements.
Lord David Dirry-Moir brought into all these institutions his
magnificent and liberal spirit. Just like any one else, he would gaily
set fire to a cot of woodwork and thatch, and just scorch those within;
but he would rebuild their houses in stone. He insulted two ladies. One
was unmarried--he gave her a portion; the other was married--he had her
husband appointed chaplain.
Cockfighting owed him some praiseworthy improvements. It was marvellous
to see Lord David dress a cock for the pit. Cocks lay hold of each other
by the feathers, as men by the hair. Lord David, therefore, made his
cock as bald as possible. With a pair of scissors he cut off all the
feathers from the tail and from the head to the shoulders, and all those
on the neck. So much less for the enemy's beak, he used to say. Then he
extended the cock's wings, and cut each feather, one after another, to a
point, and thus the wings were furnished with darts. So much for the
enemy's eyes, he would say. Then he scraped its claws with a penknife,
sharpened its nails, fitted it with spurs of sharp steel, spat on its
head, spat on its neck, anointed it with spittle, as they used to rub
oil over athletes; then set it down in the pit, a redoubtable champion,
exclaiming, "That's how to make a cock an eagle, and a bird of the
poultry yard a bird of the mountain."
Lord David attended prize-fights, and was their living law. On occasions
of great performances it was he who had the stakes driven in and ropes
stretched, and who fixed the number of feet for the ring. When he was a
second, he followed his man step by step, a bottle in one hand, a sponge
in the other, crying out to him to _hit hard_, suggesting stratagems,
advising him as he fought, wiping away the blood, raising him when
overthrown, placing him on his knee, putting the mouth of the bottle
between his teeth, and from his own mouth, filled with water, blowing a
fine rain into his eyes and ears--a thing which reanimates even a dying
man. If he was referee, he saw that there was no foul play, prevented
any one, whosoever he might be, from assisting the combatants, excepting
the seconds, declare the man beaten who did not fairly face his
opponent, watched that the time between the rounds did not exceed half a
minute, prevented butting, and declared whoever resorted to it beaten,
and forbade a man's being hit when down. All this science, however, did
not render him a pedant, nor destroy his ease of manner in society.
When he was referee, rough, pimple-faced, unshorn friends of either
combatant never dared to come to the aid of their failing man, nor, in
order to upset the chances of the betting, jumped over the barrier,
entered the ring, broke the ropes, pulled down the stakes, and violently
interposed in the battle. Lord David was one of the few referees whom
they dared not thrash.
No one could train like him. The pugilist whose trainer he consented to
become was sure to win. Lord David would choose a Hercules--massive as a
rock, tall as a tower--and make him his child. The problem was to turn
that human rock from a defensive to an offensive state. In this he
excelled. Having once adopted the Cyclops, he never left him. He became
his nurse; he measured out his wine, weighed his meat, and counted his
hours of sleep. It was he who invented the athlete's admirable rules,
afterwards reproduced by Morley. In the mornings, a raw egg and a glass
of sherry; at twelve, some slices of a leg of mutton, almost raw, with
tea; at four, toast and tea; in the evening, pale ale and toast; after
which he undressed his man, rubbed him, and put him to bed. In the
street he never allowed him to leave his sight, keeping him out of every
danger--runaway horses, the wheels of carriages, drunken soldiers,
pretty girls. He watched over his virtue. This maternal solicitude
continually brought some new perfection into the pupil's education. He
taught him the blow with the fist which breaks the teeth, and the twist
of the thumb which gouges out the eye. What could be more touching?
Thus he was preparing himself for public life to which he was to be
called later on. It is no easy matter to become an accomplished
Lord David Dirry-Moir was passionately fond of open-air exhibitions, of
shows, of circuses with wild beasts, of the caravans of mountebanks, of
clowns, tumblers, merrymen, open-air farces, and the wonders of a fair.
The true noble is he who smacks of the people. Therefore it was that
Lord David frequented the taverns and low haunts of London and the
Cinque Ports. In order to be able at need, and without compromising his
rank in the white squadron, to be cheek-by-jowl with a topman or a
calker, he used to wear a sailor's jacket when he went into the slums.
For such disguise his not wearing a wig was convenient; for even under
Louis XIV. the people kept to their hair like the lion to his mane.
This gave him great freedom of action. The low people whom Lord David
used to meet in the stews, and with whom he mixed, held him in high
esteem, without ever dreaming that he was a lord. They called him
Tom-Jim-Jack. Under this name he was famous and very popular amongst the
dregs of the people. He played the blackguard in a masterly style: when
necessary, he used his fists. This phase of his fashionable life was
highly appreciated by Lady Josiana.
Above this couple there was Anne, Queen of England. An ordinary woman
was Queen Anne. She was gay, kindly, august--to a certain extent. No
quality of hers attained to virtue, none to vice. Her stoutness was
bloated, her fun heavy, her good-nature stupid. She was stubborn and
weak. As a wife she was faithless and faithful, having favourites to
whom she gave up her heart, and a husband for whom she kept her bed. As
a Christian she was a heretic and a bigot. She had one beauty--the
well-developed neck of a Niobe. The rest of her person was indifferently
formed. She was a clumsy coquette and a chaste one. Her skin was white
and fine; she displayed a great deal of it. It was she who introduced
the fashion of necklaces of large pearls clasped round the throat. She
had a narrow forehead, sensual lips, fleshy cheeks, large eyes, short
sight. Her short sight extended to her mind. Beyond a burst of merriment
now and then, almost as ponderous as her anger, she lived in a sort of
taciturn grumble and a grumbling silence. Words escaped from her which
had to be guessed at. She was a mixture of a good woman and a
mischievous devil. She liked surprises, which is extremely woman-like.
Anne was a pattern--just sketched roughly--of the universal Eve. To that
sketch had fallen that chance, the throne. She drank. Her husband was a
Dane, thoroughbred. A Tory, she governed by the Whigs--like a woman,
like a mad woman. She had fits of rage. She was violent, a brawler.
Nobody more awkward than Anne in directing affairs of state. She allowed
events to fall about as they might chance. Her whole policy was
cracked. She excelled in bringing about great catastrophes from little
causes. When a whim of authority took hold of her, she called it giving
a stir with the poker. She would say with an air of profound thought,
"No peer may keep his hat on before the king except De Courcy, Baron
Kingsale, an Irish peer;" or, "It would be an injustice were my husband
not to be Lord High Admiral, since my father was." And she made George
of Denmark High Admiral of England and of all her Majesty's plantations.
She was perpetually perspiring bad humour; she did not explain her
thought, she exuded it. There was something of the Sphinx in this goose.
She rather liked fun, teasing, and practical jokes. Could she have made
Apollo a hunchback, it would have delighted her. But she would have left
him a god. Good-natured, her ideal was to allow none to despair, and to
worry all. She had often a rough word in her mouth; a little more, and
she would have sworn like Elizabeth. From time to time she would take
from a man's pocket, which she wore in her skirt, a little round box, of
chased silver, on which was her portrait, in profile, between the two
letters Q.A.; she would open this box, and take from it, on her finger,
a little pomade, with which she reddened her lips, and, having coloured
her mouth, would laugh. She was greedily fond of the flat Zealand
gingerbread cakes. She was proud of being fat.
More of a Puritan than anything else, she would, nevertheless, have
liked to devote herself to stage plays. She had an absurd academy of
music, copied after that of France. In 1700 a Frenchman, named
Foretroche, wanted to build a royal circus at Paris, at a cost of
400,000 francs, which scheme was opposed by D'Argenson. This Forteroche
passed into England, and proposed to Queen Anne, who was immediately
charmed by the idea, to build in London a theatre with machinery, with a
fourth under-stage finer than that of the King of France. Like Louis
XIV., she liked to be driven at a gallop. Her teams and relays would
sometimes do the distance between London and Windsor in less than an
hour and a quarter.
In Anne's time no meeting was allowed without the permission of two
justices of the peace. The assembly of twelve persons, were it only to
eat oysters and drink porter, was a felony. Under her reign, otherwise
relatively mild, pressing for the fleet was carried on with extreme
violence--a gloomy evidence that the Englishman is a subject rather than
a citizen. For centuries England suffered under that process of tyranny
which gave the lie to all the old charters of freedom, and out of which
France especially gathered a cause of triumph and indignation. What in
some degree diminishes the triumph is, that while sailors were pressed
in England, soldiers were pressed in France. In every great town of
France, any able-bodied man, going through the streets on his business,
was liable to be shoved by the crimps into a house called the oven.
There he was shut up with others in the same plight; those fit for
service were picked out, and the recruiters sold them to the officers.
In 1695 there were thirty of these ovens in Paris.
The laws against Ireland, emanating from Queen Anne, were atrocious.
Anne was born in 1664, two years before the great fire of London, on
which the astrologers (there were some left, and Louis XIV. was born
with the assistance of an astrologer, and swaddled in a horoscope)
predicted that, being the elder sister of fire, she would be queen. And
so she was, thanks to astrology and the revolution of 1688. She had the
humiliation of having only Gilbert, Archbishop of Canterbury, for
godfather. To be godchild of the Pope was no longer possible in England.
A mere primate is but a poor sort of godfather. Anne had to put up with
one, however. It was her own fault. Why was she a Protestant?
Denmark had paid for her virginity (_virginitas empta_, as the old
charters expressed it) by a dowry of L6,250 a year, secured on the
bailiwick of Wardinburg and the island of Fehmarn. Anne followed,
without conviction, and by routine, the traditions of William. The
English under that royalty born of a revolution possessed as much
liberty as they could lay hands on between the Tower of London, into
which they put orators, and the pillory, into which they put writers.
Anne spoke a little Danish in her private chats with her husband, and a
little French in her private chats with Bolingbroke. Wretched gibberish;
but the height of English fashion, especially at court, was to talk
French. There was never a _bon mot_ but in French. Anne paid a deal of
attention to her coins, especially to copper coins, which are the low
and popular ones; she wanted to cut a great figure on them. Six
farthings were struck during her reign. On the back of the first three
she had merely a throne struck, on the back of the fourth she ordered a
triumphal chariot, and on the back of the sixth a goddess holding a
sword in one hand and an olive branch in the other, with the scroll,
_Bello et pace_. Her father, James II., was candid and cruel; she was
At the same time she was mild at bottom. A contradiction which only
appears such. A fit of anger metamorphosed her. Heat sugar and it will
Anne was popular. England liked feminine rulers. Why? France excludes
them. There is a reason at once. Perhaps there is no other. With English
historians Elizabeth embodies grandeur, Anne good-nature. As they will.
Be it so. But there is nothing delicate in the reigns of these women.
The lines are heavy. It is gross grandeur and gross good-nature. As to
their immaculate virtue, England is tenacious of it, and we are not
going to oppose the idea. Elizabeth was a virgin tempered by Essex;
Anne, a wife complicated by Bolingbroke.
One idiotic habit of the people is to attribute to the king what they do
themselves. They fight. Whose the glory? The king's. They pay. Whose the
generosity? The king's. Then the people love him for being so rich. The
king receives a crown from the poor, and returns them a farthing. How
generous he is! The colossus which is the pedestal contemplates the
pigmy which is the statue. How great is this myrmidon! he is on my back.
A dwarf has an excellent way of being taller than a giant: it is to
perch himself on his shoulders. But that the giant should allow it,
there is the wonder; and that he should admire the height of the dwarf,
there is the folly. Simplicity of mankind! The equestrian statue,
reserved for kings alone, is an excellent figure of royalty: the horse
is the people. Only that the horse becomes transfigured by degrees. It
begins in an ass; it ends in a lion. Then it throws its rider, and you
have 1642 in England and 1789 in France; and sometimes it devours him,
and you have in England 1649, and in France 1793. That the lion should
relapse into the donkey is astonishing; but it is so. This was
occurring in England. It had resumed the pack-saddle, idolatry of the
crown. Queen Anne, as we have just observed, was popular. What was she
doing to be so? Nothing. Nothing!--that is all that is asked of the
sovereign of England. He receives for that nothing L1,250,000 a year. In
1705, England which had had but thirteen men of war under Elizabeth, and
thirty-six under James I., counted a hundred and fifty in her fleet. The
English had three armies, 5,000 men in Catalonia; 10,000 in Portugal;
50,000 in Flanders; and besides, was paying L1,666,666 a year to
monarchical and diplomatic Europe, a sort of prostitute the English
people has always had in keeping. Parliament having voted a patriotic
loan of thirty-four million francs of annuities, there had been a crush
at the Exchequer to subscribe it. England was sending a squadron to the
East Indies, and a squadron to the West of Spain under Admiral Leake,
without mentioning the reserve of four hundred sail, under Admiral Sir
Cloudesley Shovel. England had lately annexed Scotland. It was the
interval between Hochstadt and Ramillies, and the first of these
victories was foretelling the second. England, in its cast of the net at
Hochstadt, had made prisoners of twenty-seven battalions and four
regiments of dragoons, and deprived France of one hundred leagues of
country--France drawing back dismayed from the Danube to the Rhine.
England was stretching her hand out towards Sardinia and the Balearic
Islands. She was bringing into her ports in triumph ten Spanish
line-of-battle ships, and many a galleon laden with gold. Hudson Bay and
Straits were already half given over by Louis XIV. It was felt that he
was about to give up his hold over Acadia, St. Christopher, and
Newfoundland, and that he would be but too happy if England would only
tolerate the King of France fishing for cod at Cape Breton. England was
about to impose upon him the shame of demolishing himself the
fortifications of Dunkirk. Meanwhile, she had taken Gibraltar, and was
taking Barcelona. What great things accomplished! How was it possible to
refuse Anne admiration for taking the trouble of living at the period?
From a certain point of view, the reign of Anne appears a reflection of
the reign of Louis XIV. Anne, for a moment even with that king in the
race which is called history, bears to him the vague resemblance of a
reflection. Like him, she plays at a great reign; she has her
monuments, her arts, her victories, her captains, her men of letters,
her privy purse to pension celebrities, her gallery of chefs-d'oeuvre,
side by side with those of his Majesty. Her court, too, was a cortege,
with the features of a triumph, an order and a march. It was a miniature
copy of all the great men of Versailles, not giants themselves. In it
there is enough to deceive the eye; add God save the Queen, which might
have been taken from Lulli, and the ensemble becomes an illusion. Not a
personage is missing. Christopher Wren is a very passable Mansard;
Somers is as good as Lamoignon; Anne has a Racine in Dryden, a Boileau
in Pope, a Colbert in Godolphin, a Louvois in Pembroke, and a Turenne in
Marlborough. Heighten the wigs and lower the foreheads. The whole is
solemn and pompous, and the Windsor of the time has a faded resemblance
to Marly. Still the whole was effeminate, and Anne's Pere Tellier was
called Sarah Jennings. However, there is an outline of incipient irony,
which fifty years later was to turn to philosophy, in the literature of
the age, and the Protestant Tartuffe is unmasked by Swift just in the
same way as the Catholic Tartuffe is denounced by Moliere. Although the
England of the period quarrels and fights France, she imitates her and
draws enlightenment from her; and the light on the facade of England is
French light. It is a pity that Anne's reign lasted but twelve years, or
the English would not hesitate to call it the century of Anne, as we say
the century of Louis XIV. Anne appeared in 1702, as Louis XIV. declined.
It is one of the curiosities of history, that the rise of that pale
planet coincides with the setting of the planet of purple, and that at
the moment in which France had the king Sun, England should have had the
A detail to be noted. Louis XIV., although they made war with him, was
greatly admired in England. "He is the kind of king they want in
France," said the English. The love of the English for their own liberty
is mingled with a certain acceptance of servitude for others. That
favourable regard of the chains which bind their neighbours sometimes
attains to enthusiasm for the despot next door.
To sum up, Anne rendered her people _hureux_, as the French translator
of Beeverell's book repeats three times, with graceful reiteration at
the sixth and ninth page of his dedication and the third of his preface.
Queen Anne bore a little grudge to the Duchess Josiana, for two reasons.
Firstly, because she thought the Duchess Josiana handsome. Secondly,
because she thought the Duchess Josiana's betrothed handsome. Two
reasons for jealousy are sufficient for a woman. One is sufficient for a
queen. Let us add that she bore her a grudge for being her sister. Anne
did not like women to be pretty. She considered it against good morals.
As for herself, she was ugly. Not from choice, however. A part of her
religion she derived from that ugliness. Josiana, beautiful and
philosophical, was a cause of vexation to the queen. To an ugly queen, a
pretty duchess is not an agreeable sister.
There was another grievance, Josiana's "improper" birth. Anne was the
daughter of Anne Hyde, a simple gentlewoman, legitimately, but
vexatiously, married by James II. when Duke of York. Anne, having this
inferior blood in her veins, felt herself but half royal, and Josiana,
having come into the world quite irregularly, drew closer attention to
the incorrectness, less great, but really existing, in the birth of the
queen. The daughter of _mesalliance_ looked without love upon the
daughter of bastardy, so near her. It was an unpleasant resemblance.
Josiana had a right to say to Anne, "My mother was at least as good as
yours." At court no one said so, but they evidently thought it. This was
a bore for her royal Majesty. Why this Josiana? What had put it into her
head to be born? What good was a Josiana? Certain relationships are
detrimental. Nevertheless, Anne smiled on Josiana. Perhaps she might
even have liked her, had she not been her sister.
It is useful to know what people do, and a certain surveillance is wise.
Josiana had Lord David watched by a little creature of hers, in whom she
reposed confidence, and whose name was Barkilphedro.
Lord David had Josiana discreetly observed by a creature of his, of whom
he was sure, and whose name was Barkilphedro.
Queen Anne, on her part, kept herself secretly informed of the actions
and conduct of the Duchess Josiana, her bastard sister, and of Lord
David, her future brother-in-law by the left hand, by a creature of
hers, on whom she counted fully, and whose name was Barkilphedro.
This Barkilphedro had his fingers on that keyboard--Josiana, Lord David,
a queen. A man between two women. What modulations possible! What
amalgamation of souls!
Barkilphedro had not always held the magnificent position of whispering
into three ears.
He was an old servant of the Duke of York. He had tried to be a
churchman but had failed. The Duke of York, an English and a Roman
prince, compounded of royal Popery and legal Anglicanism, had his
Catholic house and his Protestant house, and might have pushed
Barkilphedro in one or the other hierarchy; but he did not judge him to
be Catholic enough to make him almoner, or Protestant enough to make him
chaplain. So that between two religions, Barkilphedro found himself with
his soul on the ground.
Not a bad posture, either, for certain reptile souls.
Certain ways are impracticable, except by crawling flat on the belly.
An obscure but fattening servitude had long made up Barkilphedro's whole
existence. Service is something; but he wanted power besides. He was,
perhaps, about to reach it when James II. fell. He had to begin all over
again. Nothing to do under William III., a sullen prince, and exercising
in his mode of reigning a prudery which he believed to be probity.
Barkilphedro, when his protector, James II., was dethroned, did not
lapse all at once into rags. There is a something which survives deposed
princes, and which feeds and sustains their parasites. The remains of
the exhaustible sap causes leaves to live on for two or three days on
the branches of the uprooted tree; then, all at once, the leaf yellows
and dries up: and thus it is with the courtier.
Thanks to that embalming which is called legitimacy, the prince himself,
although fallen and cast away, lasts and keeps preserved; it is not so
with the courtier, much more dead than the king. The king, beyond there,
is a mummy; the courtier, here, is a phantom. To be the shadow of a
shadow is leanness indeed. Hence Barkilphedro became famished. Then he
took up the character of a man of letters.
But he was thrust back even from the kitchens. Sometimes he knew not
where to sleep. "Who will give me shelter?" he would ask. He struggled
on. All that is interesting in patience in distress he possessed. He
had, besides, the talent of the termite--knowing how to bore a hole from
the bottom to the top. By dint of making use of the name of James II.,
of old memories, of fables of fidelity, of touching stories, he pierced
as far as the Duchess Josiana's heart.
Josiana took a liking to this man of poverty and wit, an interesting
combination. She presented him to Lord Dirry-Moir, gave him a shelter in
the servants' hall among her domestics, retained him in her household,
was kind to him, and sometimes even spoke to him. Barkilphedro felt
neither hunger nor cold again. Josiana addressed him in the second
person; it was the fashion for great ladies to do so to men of letters,
who allowed it. The Marquise de Mailly received Roy, whom she had never
seen before, in bed, and said to him, "C'est toi qui as fait l'Annee
galante! Bonjour." Later on, the men of letters returned the custom. The
day came when Fabre d'Eglantine said to the Duchesse de Rohan, "N'est-tu
pas la Chabot?"
For Barkilphedro to be "thee'd" and "thou'd" was a success; he was
overjoyed by it. He had aspired to this contemptuous familiarity. "Lady
Josiana thees-and-thous me," he would say to himself. And he would rub
his hands. He profited by this theeing-and-thouing to make further way.
He became a sort of constant attendant in Josiana's private rooms; in no
way troublesome; unperceived; the duchess would almost have changed her
shift before him. All this, however, was precarious. Barkilphedro was
aiming at a position. A duchess was half-way; an underground passage
which did not lead to the queen was having bored for nothing.
One day Barkilphedro said to Josiana,--
"Would your Grace like to make my fortune?".
"What dost thou want?"
"An appointment? for thee!"
"What an idea! _thou_ to ask for an appointment! thou, who art good for
"That's just the reason."
Josiana burst out laughing.
"Among the offices to which thou art unsuited, which dost thou desire?"
"That of cork drawer of the bottles of the ocean."
Josiana's laugh redoubled.
"What meanest thou? Thou art fooling."
"To amuse myself, I shall answer you seriously," said the duchess. "What
dost thou wish to be? Repeat it."
"Uncorker of the bottles of the ocean."
"Everything is possible at court. Is there an appointment of that kind?"
"This is news to me. Go on."
"There is such an appointment."
"Swear it on the soul which thou dost not possess."
"I swear it."
"I do not believe thee."
"Thank you, madam."
"Then thou wishest? Begin again."
"To uncork the bottles of the ocean."
"That is a situation which can give little trouble. It is like grooming
a bronze horse."
"Nothing to do. Well 'tis a situation to suit thee. Thou art good for
"You see I am good for something."
"Come! thou art talking nonsense. Is there such an appointment?"
Barkilphedro assumed an attitude of deferential gravity. "Madam, you had
an august father, James II., the king, and you have an illustrious
brother-in-law, George of Denmark, Duke of Cumberland; your father was,
and your brother is, Lord High Admiral of England--"
"Is what thou tellest me fresh news? I know all that as well as thou."
"But here is what your Grace does not know. In the sea there are three
kinds of things: those at the bottom, _lagan_; those which float,
_flotsam_; those which the sea throws up on the shore, _jetsam_."
"These three things--_lagan_, _flotsam_, and _jetsam_--belong to the
Lord High Admiral."
"Your Grace understands."
"All that is in the sea, all that sinks, all that floats, all that is
cast ashore--all belongs to the Admiral of England."
"Everything! Really? And then?"
"Except the sturgeon, which belongs to the king."
"I should have thought," said Josiana, "all that would have belonged to
"Neptune is a fool. He has given up everything. He has allowed the
English to take everything."
"Finish what thou wert saying."
"'Prizes of the sea' is the name given to such _treasure trove_."
"Be it so."
"It is boundless: there is always something floating, something being
cast up. It is the contribution of the sea--the tax which the ocean pays
"With all my heart. But pray conclude."
"Your Grace understands that in this way the ocean creates a
"At the Admiralty."
"The Sea Prize Department."
"The department is subdivided into three offices--Lagan, Flotsam, and
Jetsam--and in each there is an officer."
"A ship at sea writes to give notice on any subject to those on
land--that it is sailing in such a latitude; that it has met a sea
monster; that it is in sight of shore; that it is in distress; that it
is about to founder; that it is lost, etc. The captain takes a bottle,
puts into it a bit of paper on which he has written the information,
corks up the flask, and casts it into the sea. If the bottle goes to the
bottom, it is in the department of the lagan officer; if it floats, it
is in the department of the flotsam officer; if it be thrown upon shore,
it concerns the jetsam officer."
"And wouldst thou like to be the jetsam officer?"
"And that is what thou callest uncorking the bottles of the ocean?"
"Since there is such an appointment."
"Why dost thou wish for the last-named place in preference to both the
"Because it is vacant just now."
"In what does the appointment consist?"
"Madam, in 1598 a tarred bottle, picked up by a man, conger-fishing on
the strand of Epidium Promontorium, was brought to Queen Elizabeth; and
a parchment drawn out of it gave information to England that Holland had
taken, without saying anything about it, an unknown country, Nova
Zembla; that the capture had taken place in June, 1596; that in that
country people were eaten by bears; and that the manner of passing the
winter was described on a paper enclosed in a musket-case hanging in the
chimney of the wooden house built in the island, and left by the
Dutchmen, who were all dead: and that the chimney was built of a barrel
with the end knocked out, sunk into the roof."
"I don't understand much of thy rigmarole."
"Be it so. Elizabeth understood. A country the more for Holland was a
country the less for England. The bottle which had given the information
was held to be of importance; and thenceforward an order was issued that
anybody who should find a sealed bottle on the sea-shore should take it
to the Lord High Admiral of England, under pain of the gallows. The
admiral entrusts the opening of such bottles to an officer, who presents
the contents to the queen, if there be reason for so doing."
"Are many such bottles brought to the Admiralty?"
"But few. But it's all the same. The appointment exists. There is for
the office a room and lodgings at the Admiralty."
"And for that way of doing nothing, how is one paid?"
"One hundred guineas a year."
"And thou wouldst trouble me for that much?"
"It is enough to live upon."
"Like a beggar."
"As it becomes one of my sort."
"One hundred guineas! It's a bagatelle."
"What keeps you for a minute, keeps us for a year. That's the advantage
of the poor."
"Thou shalt have the place."
A week afterwards, thanks to Josiana's exertions, thanks to the
influence of Lord David Dirry-Moir, Barkilphedro--safe thenceforward,
drawn out of his precarious existence, lodged, and boarded, with a
salary of a hundred guineas--was installed at the Admiralty.
BARKILPHEDRO GNAWS HIS WAY.
There is one thing the most pressing of all: to be ungrateful.
Barkilphedro was not wanting therein.
Having received so many benefits from Josiana, he had naturally but one
thought--to revenge himself on her. When we add that Josiana was
beautiful, great, young, rich, powerful, illustrious, while Barkilphedro
was ugly, little, old, poor, dependent, obscure, he must necessarily
revenge himself for all this as well.
When a man is made out of night, how is he to forgive so many beams of
Barkilphedro was an Irishman who had denied Ireland--a bad species.
Barkilphedro had but one thing in his favour--that he had a very big
belly. A big belly passes for a sign of kind-heartedness. But his belly
was but an addition to Barkilphedro's hypocrisy; for the man was full of
What was Barkilphedro's age? None. The age necessary for his project of
the moment. He was old in his wrinkles and gray hairs, young in the
activity of his mind. He was active and ponderous; a sort of
hippopotamus-monkey. A royalist, certainly; a republican--who knows? a
Catholic, perhaps; a Protestant, without doubt. For Stuart, probably;
for Brunswick, evidently. To be For is a power only on the condition of
being at the same time Against. Barkilphedro practised this wisdom.
The appointment of drawer of the bottles of the ocean was not as absurd
as Barkilphedro had appeared to make out. The complaints, which would in
these times be termed declamations, of Garcia Fernandez in his
"Chart-Book of the Sea," against the robbery of jetsam, called right of
wreck, and against the pillage of wreck by the inhabitants of the coast,
had created a sensation in England, and had obtained for the shipwrecked
this reform--that their goods, chattels, and property, instead of being
stolen by the country-people, were confiscated by the Lord High Admiral.
All the _debris_ of the sea cast upon the English shore--merchandise,
broken hulls of ships, bales, chests, etc.--belonged to the Lord High
Admiral; but--and here was revealed the importance of the place asked
for by Barkilphedro--the floating receptacles containing messages and
declarations awakened particularly the attention of the Admiralty.
Shipwrecks are one of England's gravest cares. Navigation being her
life, shipwreck is her anxiety. England is kept in perpetual care by the
sea. The little glass bottle thrown to the waves by the doomed ship,
contains final intelligence, precious from every point of view.
Intelligence concerning the ship, intelligence concerning the crew,
intelligence concerning the place, the time, the manner of loss,
intelligence concerning the winds which have broken up the vessel,
intelligence concerning the currents which bore the floating flask
ashore. The situation filled by Barkilphedro has been abolished more
than a century, but it had its real utility. The last holder was William
Hussey, of Doddington, in Lincolnshire. The man who held it was a sort
of guardian of the things of the sea. All the closed and sealed-up
vessels, bottles, flasks, jars, thrown upon the English coast by the
tide were brought to him. He alone had the right to open them; he was
first in the secrets of their contents; he put them in order, and
ticketed them with his signature. The expression "_loger un papier au
greffe_," still used in the Channel Islands, is thence derived. However,
one precaution was certainly taken. Not one of these bottles could be
unsealed except in the presence of two jurors of the Admiralty sworn to
secrecy, who signed, conjointly with the holder of the jetsam office,
the official report of the opening. But these jurors being held to
secrecy, there resulted for Barkilphedro a certain discretionary
latitude; it depended upon him, to a certain extent, to suppress a fact
or bring it to light.
These fragile floating messages were far from being what Barkilphedro
had told Josiana, rare and insignificant. Some times they reached land
with little delay; at others, after many years. That depended on the
winds and the currents. The fashion of casting bottles on the surface of
the sea has somewhat passed away, like that of vowing offerings, but in
those religious times, those who were about to die were glad thus to
send their last thought to God and to men, and at times these messages
from the sea were plentiful at the Admiralty. A parchment preserved in
the hall at Audlyene (ancient spelling), with notes by the Earl of
Suffolk, Grand Treasurer of England under James I., bears witness that
in the one year, 1615, fifty-two flasks, bladders, and tarred vessels,
containing mention of sinking ships, were brought and registered in the
records of the Lord High Admiral.
Court appointments are the drop of oil in the widow's cruse, they ever
increase. Thus it is that the porter has become chancellor, and the
groom, constable. The special officer charged with the appointment
desired and obtained by Barkilphedro was invariably a confidential man.
Elizabeth had wished that it should be so. At court, to speak of
confidence is to speak of intrigue, and to speak of intrigue is to speak
of advancement. This functionary had come to be a personage of some
consideration. He was a clerk, and ranked directly after the two grooms
of the almonry. He had the right of entrance into the palace, but we
must add, what was called the humble entrance--_humilis introitus_--and
even into the bed-chamber. For it was the custom that he should inform
the monarch, on occasions of sufficient importance, of the objects
found, which were often very curious: the wills of men in despair,
farewells cast to fatherland, revelations of falsified logs, bills of
lading, and crimes committed at sea, legacies to the crown, etc., that
he should maintain his records in communication with the court, and
should account, from time to time, to the king or queen, concerning the
opening of these ill-omened bottles. It was the black cabinet of the
Elizabeth, who was always glad of an opportunity of speaking Latin, used
to ask Tonfield, of Coley in Berkshire, jetsam officer of her day, when
he brought her one of these papers cast up by the sea, "Quid mihi
scribit Neptunus?" (What does Neptune write me?)
The way had been eaten, the insect had succeeded. Barkilphedro
approached the queen.
This was all he wanted.
To make his fortune?
To unmake that of others?
A greater happiness.
To hurt is to enjoy.
To have within one the desire of injuring, vague but implacable, and
never to lose sight of it, is not given to all.
Barkilphedro possessed that fixity of intention.
As the bulldog holds on with his jaws, so did his thought.
To feel himself inexorable gave him a depth of gloomy satisfaction. As
long as he had a prey under his teeth, or in his soul, a certainty of
evil-doing, he wanted nothing.
He was happy, shivering in the cold which his neighbour was suffering.
To be malignant is an opulence. Such a man is believed to be poor, and,
in truth, is so; but he has all his riches in malice, and prefers having
them so. Everything is in what contents one. To do a bad turn, which is
the same as a good turn, is better than money. Bad for him who endures,
good for him who does it. Catesby, the colleague of Guy Fawkes, in the
Popish powder plot, said: "To see Parliament blown upside down, I
wouldn't miss it for a million sterling."
What was Barkilphedro? That meanest and most terrible of things--an
Envy is a thing ever easily placed at court.
Courts abound in impertinent people, in idlers, in rich loungers
hungering for gossip, in those who seek for needles in trusses of hay,
in triflers, in banterers bantered, in witty ninnies, who cannot do
without converse with an envious man.
What a refreshing thing is the evil spoken to you of others.
Envy is good stuff to make a spy. There is a profound analogy between
that natural passion, envy, and that social function, espionage. The spy
hunts on others' account, like the dog. The envious man hunts on his
own, like the cat.
A fierce Myself, such is the envious man.
He had other qualities. Barkilphedro was discreet, secret, concrete. He
kept in everything and racked himself with his hate. Enormous baseness
implies enormous vanity. He was liked by those whom he amused, and hated
by all others; but he felt that he was disdained by those who hated
him, and despised by those who liked him. He restrained himself. All
his gall simmered noiselessly in his hostile resignation. He was
indignant, as if rogues had the right to be so. He was the furies'
silent prey. To swallow everything was his talent. There were deaf
wraths within him, frenzies of interior rage, black and brooding flames
unseen; he was a _smoke-consuming_ man of passion. The surface was
smiling. He was kind, prompt, easy, amiable, obliging. Never mind to
whom, never mind where, he bowed. For a breath of wind he inclined to
the earth. What a source of fortune to have a reed for a spine! Such
concealed and venomous beings are not so rare as is believed. We live
surrounded by ill-omened crawling things. Wherefore the malevolent? A
keen question! The dreamer constantly proposes it to himself, and the
thinker never resolves it. Hence the sad eye of the philosophers ever
fixed upon that mountain of darkness which is destiny, and from the top
of which the colossal spectre of evil casts handfuls of serpents over
Barkilphedro's body was obese and his face lean. A fat bust and a bony
countenance. His nails were channelled and short, his fingers knotted,
his thumbs flat, his hair coarse, his temples wide apart, and his
forehead a murderer's, broad and low. The littleness of his eye was
hidden under his bushy eyebrows. His nose, long, sharp, and flabby,
nearly met his mouth. Barkilphedro, properly attired, as an emperor,
would have somewhat resembled Domitian. His face of muddy yellow might
have been modelled in slimy paste--his immovable cheeks were like putty;
he had all kinds of ugly refractory wrinkles; the angle of his jaw was
massive, his chin heavy, his ear underbred. In repose, and seen in
profile, his upper lip was raised at an acute angle, showing two teeth.
Those teeth seemed to look at you. The teeth can look, just as the eye
Patience, temperance, continence, reserve, self-control, amenity,
deference, gentleness, politeness, sobriety, chastity, completed and
finished Barkilphedro. He culumniated those virtues by their possession.
In a short time Barkilphedro took a foothold at court.
There are two ways of making a footing at court. In the clouds, and you
are august; in the mud, and you are powerful.
In the first case, you belong to Olympus.
In the second case, you belong to the private closet.
He who belongs to Olympus has but the thunderbolt, he who is of the
private closet has the police.
The private closet contains all the instruments of government, and
sometimes, for it is a traitor, its chastisement. Heliogabalus goes
there to die. Then it is called the latrines.
Generally it is less tragic. It is there that Alberoni admires Vendome.
Royal personages willingly make it their place of audience. It takes the
place of the throne. Louis XIV. receives the Duchess of Burgundy there.
Philip V. is shoulder to shoulder there with the queen. The priest
penetrates into it. The private closet is sometimes a branch of the
confessional. Therefore it is that at court there are underground
fortunes--not always the least. If, under Louis XI., you would be great,
be Pierre de Rohan, Marshal of France; if you would be influential, be
Olivier le Daim, the barber; if you would, under Mary de Medicis, be
glorious, be Sillery, the Chancellor; if you would be a person of
consideration, be La Hannon, the maid; if you would, under Louis XV., be
illustrious, be Choiseul, the minister; if you would be formidable, be
Lebel, the valet. Given, Louis XIV., Bontemps, who makes his bed, is
more powerful than Louvois, who raises his armies, and Turenne, who
gains his victories. From Richelieu, take Pere Joseph, and you have
Richelieu nearly empty. There is the mystery the less. His Eminence in
scarlet is magnificent; his Eminence in gray is terrible. What power in
being a worm! All the Narvaez amalgamated with all the O'Donnells do
less work than one Sor Patrocinio.
Of course the condition of this power is littleness. If you would remain
powerful, remain petty. Be Nothingness. The serpent in repose, twisted
into a circle, is a figure at the same time of the infinite and of
One of these viper-like fortunes had fallen to Barkilphedro.
He had crawled where he wanted.
Flat beasts can get in everywhere. Louis XIV. had bugs in his bed and
Jesuits in his policy.
The incompatibility is nil.
In this world everything is a clock. To gravitate is to oscillate. One
pole is attracted to the other. Francis I. is attracted by Triboulet;
Louis XIV. is attracted by Lebel. There exists a deep affinity between
extreme elevation and extreme debasement.
It is abasement which directs. Nothing is easier of comprehension. It is
he who is below who pulls the strings. No position more convenient. He
is the eye, and has the ear. He is the eye of the government; he has the
ear of the king. To have the eye of the king is to draw and shut, at
one's whim, the bolt of the royal conscience, and to throw into that
conscience whatever one wishes. The mind of the king is his cupboard; if
he be a rag-picker, it is his basket. The ears of kings belong not to
kings, and therefore it is that, on the whole, the poor devils are not
altogether responsible for their actions. He who does not possess his
own thought does not possess his own deed. A king obeys--what? Any evil
spirit buzzing from outside in his ear; a noisome fly of the abyss.
This buzzing commands. A reign is a dictation.
The loud voice is the sovereign; the low voice, sovereignty. Those who
know how to distinguish, in a reign, this low voice, and to hear what it
whispers to the loud, are the real historians.
HATE IS AS STRONG AS LOVE.
Queen Anne had several of these low voices about her. Barkilphedro was
Besides the queen, he secretly worked, influenced, and plotted upon Lady
Josiana and Lord David. As we have said, he whispered in three ears, one
more than Dangeau. Dangeau whispered in but two, in the days when,
thrusting himself between Louis XIV., in love with Henrietta, his
sister-in-law, and Henrietta, in love with Louis XIV., her
brother-in-law, he being Louis's secretary, without the knowledge of
Henrietta, and Henrietta's without the knowledge of Louis, he wrote the
questions and answers of both the love-making marionettes.
Barkilphedro was so cheerful, so accepting, so incapable of taking up
the defence of anybody, possessing so little devotion at bottom, so
ugly, so mischievous, that it was quite natural that a regal personage
should come to be unable to do without him. Once Anne had tasted
Barkilphedro she would have no other flatterer. He flattered her as they
flattered Louis the Great, by stinging her neighbours. "The king being
ignorant," says Madame de Montchevreuil, "one is obliged to mock at the
To poison the sting, from time to time, is the acme of art. Nero loves
to see Locusta at work.
Royal palaces are very easily entered; these madrepores have a way in
soon guessed at, contrived, examined, and scooped out at need by the
gnawing thing which is called the courtier. A pretext to enter is
sufficient. Barkilphedro, having found this pretext, his position with
the queen soon became the same as that with the Duchess Josiana--that of
an indispensable domestic animal. A witticism risked one day by him
immediately led to his perfect understanding of the queen and how to
estimate exactly her kindness of heart. The queen was greatly attached
to her Lord Steward, William Cavendish, Duke of Devonshire, who was a
great fool. This lord, who had obtained every Oxford degree and did not
know how to spell, one fine morning committed the folly of dying. To die
is a very imprudent thing at court, for there is then no further
restraint in speaking of you. The queen, in the presence of
Barkilphedro, lamented the event, finally exclaiming, with a sigh,--
"It is a pity that so many virtues should have been borne and served by
so poor an intellect."
"Dieu veuille avoir son ane!" whispered Barkilphedro, in a low voice,
and in French.
The queen smiled. Barkilphedro noted the smile. His conclusion was that
biting pleased. Free licence had been given to his spite. From that day
he thrust his curiosity everywhere, and his malignity with it. He was
given his way, so much was he feared. He who can make the king laugh
makes the others tremble. He was a powerful buffoon. Every day he worked
his way forward--underground. Barkilphedro became a necessity. Many
great people honoured him with their confidence, to the extent of
charging him, when they required him, with their disgraceful
There are wheels within wheels at court. Barkilphedro became the motive
power. Have you remarked, in certain mechanisms, the smallness of the
Josiana, in particular, who, as we have explained, made use of
Barkilphedro's talents as a spy, reposed such confidence in him that she
had not hesitated to entrust him with one of the master-keys of her
apartments, by means of which he was able to enter them at any hour.
This excessive licence of insight into private life was in fashion in
the seventeenth century. It was called "giving the key." Josiana had
given two of these confidential keys--Lord David had one, Barkilphedro
the other. However, to enter straight into a bedchamber was, in the old
code of manners, a thing not in the least out of the way. Thence
resulted incidents. La Ferte, suddenly drawing back the bed curtains of
Mademoiselle Lafont, found inside Sainson, the black musketeer, etc.,
Barkilphedro excelled in making the cunning discoveries which place the
great in the power of the little. His walk in the dark was winding,
soft, clever. Like every perfect spy, he was composed of the inclemency
of the executioner and the patience of a micograph. He was a born
courtier. Every courtier is a noctambulist. The courtier prowls in the
night, which is called power. He carries a dark lantern in his hand. He
lights up the spot he wishes, and remains in darkness himself. What he
seeks with his lantern is not a man, it is a fool. What he finds is the
Kings do not like to see those about them pretend to greatness. Irony
aimed at any one except themselves has a charm for them. The talent of
Barkilphedro consisted in a perpetual dwarfing of the peers and princes
to the advantage of her Majesty's stature, thus increased in proportion.
The master-key held by Barkilphedro was made with two sets of wards, one
at each end, so as to open the inner apartments in both Josiana's
favourite residences--Hunkerville House in London, Corleone Lodge at
Windsor. These two houses were part of the Clancharlie inheritance.
Hunkerville House was close to Oldgate. Oldgate was a gate of London,
which was entered by the Harwich road, and on which was displayed a
statue of Charles II., with a painted angel on his head, and beneath his
feet a carved lion and unicorn. From Hunkerville House, in an easterly
wind, you heard the peals of St. Marylebone. Corleone Lodge was a
Florentine palace of brick and stone, with a marble colonnade, built on
pilework, at Windsor, at the head of the wooden bridge, and having one
of the finest courts in England.
In the latter palace, near Windsor Castle, Josiana was within the
queen's reach. Nevertheless, Josiana liked it.
Scarcely anything in appearance, everything in the root, such was the
influence of Barkilphedro over the queen. There is nothing more
difficult than to drag up these bad grasses of the court--they take a
deep root, and offer no hold above the surface. To root out a
Roquelaure, a Triboulet, or a Brummel, is almost impossible.
From day to day, and more and more, did the queen take Barkilphedro into
her good graces. Sarah Jennings is famous; Barkilphedro is unknown. His
existence remains ignored. The name of Barkilphedro has not reached as
far as history. All the moles are not caught by the mole-trapper.
Barkilphedro, once a candidate for orders, had studied a little of
everything. Skimming all things leaves naught for result. One may be
victim of the _omnis res scibilis_. Having the vessel of the Danaides in
one's head is the misfortune of a whole race of learned men, who may be
termed the sterile. What Barkilphedro had put into his brain had left it
The mind, like nature, abhors vacuum. Into emptiness nature puts love;
the mind often puts hate. Hate occupies.
Hate for hate's sake exists. Art for art's sake exists in nature more
than is believed. A man hates--he must do something. Gratuitous
hate--formidable word! It means hate which is itself its own payment.
The bear lives by licking his claws. Not indefinitely, of course. The
claws must be revictualled--something must be put under them.
Hate indistinct is sweet, and suffices for a time; but one must end by
having an object. An animosity diffused over creation is exhausting,
like every solitary pleasure. Hate without an object is like a
shooting-match without a target. What lends interest to the game is a
heart to be pierced. One cannot hate solely for honour; some seasoning
is necessary--a man, a woman, somebody, to destroy. This service of
making the game interesting; of offering an end; of throwing passion
into hate by fixing it on an object; of of amusing the hunter by the
sight of his living prey; giving the watcher the hope of the smoking and
boiling blood about to flow; of amusing the bird-catcher by the
credulity of the uselessly-winged lark; of being a victim, unknowingly
reared for murder by a master-mind--all this exquisite and horrible
service, of which the person rendering it is unconscious, Josiana
Thought is a projectile. Barkilphedro had, from the first day, begun to
aim at Josiana the evil intentions which were in his mind. An intention
and a carbine are alike. Barkilphedro aimed at Josiana, directing
against the duchess all his secret malice. That astonishes you! What has
the bird done at which you fire? You want to eat it, you say. And so it
was with Barkilphedro.
Josiana could not be struck in the heart--the spot where the enigma lies
is hard to wound; but she could be struck in the head--that is, in her
pride. It was there that she thought herself strong, and that she was
Barkilphedro had found it out. If Josiana had been able to see clearly
through the night of Barkilphedro, if she had been able to distinguish
what lay in ambush behind his smile, that proud woman, so highly
situated, would have trembled. Fortunately for the tranquillity of her
sleep, she was in complete ignorance of what was in the man.
The unexpected spreads, one knows not whence. The profound depths of
life are dangerous. There is no small hate. Hate is always enormous. It
preserves its stature in the smallest being, and remains a monster. An
elephant hated by a worm is in danger.
Even before he struck, Barkilphedro felt, with joy, the foretaste of the
evil action which he was about to commit. He did not as yet know what he
was going to do to Josiana; but he had made up his mind to do something.
To have come to this decision was a great step taken. To crush Josiana
utterly would have been too great a triumph. He did not hope for so
much; but to humiliate her, lessen her, bring her grief, redden her
proud eyes with tears of rage--what a success! He counted on it.
Tenacious, diligent, faithful to the torment of his neighbour, not to
be torn from his purpose, nature had not formed him for nothing. He well
understood how to find the flaw in Josiana's golden armour, and how to
make the blood of that Olympian flow.
What benefit, we ask again, would accrue to him in so doing? An immense
benefit--doing evil to one who had done good to him. What is an envious
man? An ungrateful one. He hates the light which lights and warms him.
Zoilus hated that benefit to man, Homer. To inflict on Josiana what
would nowadays be called vivisection--to place her, all convulsed, on
his anatomical table; to dissect her alive, at his leisure, in some
surgery; to cut her up, as an amateur, while she should scream--this
dream delighted Barkilphedro!
To arrive at this result it was necessary to suffer somewhat himself; he
did so willingly. We may pinch ourselves with our own pincers. The knife
as it shuts cuts our fingers. What does it matter? That he should
partake of Josiana's torture was a matter of little moment. The
executioner handling the red-hot iron, when about to brand a prisoner,
takes no heed of a little burn. Because another suffers much, he suffers
nothing. To see the victim's writhings takes all pain from the
Do harm, whatever happens.
To plan evil for others is mingled with an acceptance of some hazy
responsibility. We risk ourselves in the danger which we impel towards
another, because the chain of events sometimes, of course, brings
unexpected accidents. This does not stop the man who is truly malicious.
He feels as much joy as the patient suffers agony. He is tickled by the
laceration of the victim. The malicious man blooms in hideous joy. Pain
reflects itself on him in a sense of welfare. The Duke of Alva used to
warm his hands at the stake. The pile was torture, the reflection of it
pleasure. That such transpositions should be possible makes one shudder.
Our dark side is unfathomable. _Supplice exquis_ (exquisite
torture)--the expression is in Bodin--has perhaps this terrible
triple sense: search for the torture; suffering of the tortured; delight
of the torturer.
Ambition, appetite--all such words signify some one sacrificed to some
one satiated. It is sad that hope should be wicked. Is it that the
outpourings of our wishes flow naturally to the direction to which we
most incline--that of evil? One of the hardest labours of the just man
is to expunge from his soul a malevolence which it is difficult to
efface. Almost all our desires, when examined, contain what we dare not
In the completely wicked man this exists in hideous perfection. So much
the worse for others, signifies so much the better for himself. The
shadows of the caverns of man's mind.
Josiana, in a plenitude of security the fruit of ignorant pride, had a
contempt for all danger. The feminine faculty of disdain is
extraordinary. Josiana's disdain, unreasoning, involuntary, and
confident. Barkilphedro was to her so contemptible that she would have
been astonished had any one remarked to her that such a creature
existed. She went, and came, and laughed before this man who was looking
at her with evil eyes. Thoughtful, he bided his time.
In proportion as he waited, his determination to cast a despair into
this woman's life augmented. Inexorable high tide of malice.
In the meantime he gave himself excellent reasons for his determination.
It must not be thought that scoundrels are deficient in self-esteem.
They enter into details with themselves in their lofty monologues, and
they take matters with a high hand. How? This Josiana had bestowed
charity on him! She had thrown some crumbs of her enormous wealth to
him, as to a beggar. She had nailed and riveted him to an office which
was unworthy him. Yes; that he, Barkilphedro, almost a clergyman, of
varied and profound talent, a learned man, with the material in him for
a bishop, should have for employ the registration of nasty
patience-trying shards, that he should have to pass his life in the
garret of a register-office, gravely uncorking stupid bottles, incrusted
with all the nastiness of the sea, deciphering musty parchments, like
filthy conjuring-books, dirty wills, and other illegible stuff of the
kind, was the fault of this Josiana. Worst of all, this creature
"thee'd" and "thou'd" him! And he should not revenge himself--he should
not punish such conduct! Well, in that case there would no longer be
justice on earth!
THE FLAME WHICH WOULD BE SEEN IF MAN WERE TRANSPARENT.
What! this woman, this extravagant thing, this libidinous dreamer, a
virgin until the opportunity occurred, this bit of flesh as yet unfreed,
this bold creature under a princess's coronet; this Diana by pride, as
yet untaken by the first comer, just because chance had so willed it;
this bastard of a low-lived king who had not the intellect to keep his
place; this duchess by a lucky hit, who, being a fine lady, played the
goddess, and who, had she been poor, would have been a prostitute; this
lady, more or less, this robber of a proscribed man's goods, this
overbearing strumpet, because one day he, Barkilphedro, had not money
enough to buy his dinner, and to get a lodging--she had had the
impudence to seat him in her house at the corner of a table, and to put
him up in some hole in her intolerable palace. Where? never mind where.
Perhaps in the barn, perhaps in the cellar; what does it matter? A
little better than her valets, a little worse than her horses. She had
abused his distress--his, Barkilphedro's--in hastening to do him
treacherous good; a thing which the rich do in order to humiliate the
poor, and to tie them, like curs led by a string. Besides, what did the
service she rendered him cost her? A service is worth what it costs. She
had spare rooms in her house. She came to Barkilphedro's aid! A great
thing, indeed. Had she eaten a spoonful the less of turtle soup for it?
had she deprived herself of anything in the hateful overflowing of her
superfluous luxuries? No. She had added to it a vanity, a luxury, a good
action like a ring on her finger, the relief of a man of wit, the
patronization of a clergyman. She could give herself airs: say, "I
lavish kindness; I fill the mouths of men of letters; I am his
benefactress. How lucky the wretch was to find me out! What a patroness
of the arts I am!" All for having set up a truckle bed in a wretched
garret in the roof. As for the place in the Admiralty, Barkilphedro owed
it to Josiana; by Jove, a pretty appointment! Josiana had made
Barkilphedro what he was. She had created him. Be it so. Yes, created
nothing--less than nothing. For in his absurd situation he felt borne
down, tongue-tied, disfigured. What did he owe Josiana? The thanks due
from a hunchback to the mother who bore him deformed. Behold your
privileged ones, your folks overwhelmed with fortune, your parvenus,
your favourites of that horrid stepmother Fortune! And that man of
talent, Barkilphedro, was obliged to stand on staircases, to bow to
footmen, to climb to the top of the house at night, to be courteous,
assiduous, pleasant, respectful, and to have ever on his muzzle a
respectful grimace! Was not it enough to make him gnash his teeth with
rage! And all the while she was putting pearls round her neck, and
making amorous poses to her fool, Lord David Dirry-Moir; the hussy!
Never let any one do you a service. They will abuse the advantage it
gives them. Never allow yourself to be taken in the act of inanition.
They would relieve you. Because he was starving, this woman had found it
a sufficient pretext to give him bread. From that moment he was her
servant; a craving of the stomach, and there is a chain for life! To be
obliged is to be sold. The happy, the powerful, make use of the moment
you stretch out your hand to place a penny in it, and at the crisis of
your weakness make you a slave, and a slave of the worst kind, the slave
of an act of charity--a slave forced to love the enslaver. What infamy!
what want of delicacy! what an assault on your self-respect! Then all is
over. You are sentenced for life to consider this man good, that woman
beautiful; to remain in the back rows; to approve, to applaud, to
admire, to worship, to prostrate yourself, to blister your knees by long
genuflections, to sugar your words when you are gnawing your lips with
anger, when you are biting down your cries of fury, and when you have
within you more savage turbulence and more bitter foam than the ocean!
It is thus that the rich make prisoners of the poor.
This slime of a good action performed towards you bedaubs and bespatters
you with mud for ever.
An alms is irremediable. Gratitude is paralysis. A benefit is a sticky
and repugnant adherence which deprives you of free movement. Those
odious, opulent, and spoiled creatures whose pity has thus injured you
are well aware of this. It is done--you are their creature. They have
bought you--and how? By a bone taken from their dog and cast to you.
They have flung that bone at your head. You have been stoned as much as
benefited. It is all one. Have you gnawed the bone--yes or no? You have
had your place in the dog-kennel as well. Then be thankful--be ever
thankful. Adore your masters. Kneel on indefinitely. A benefit implies
an understood inferiority accepted by you. It means that you feel them
to be gods and yourself a poor devil. Your diminution augments them.
Your bent form makes theirs more upright. In the tones of their voices
there is an impertinent inflexion. Their family matters--their
marriages, their baptisms, their child-bearings, their progeny--all
concern you. A wolf cub is born to them. Well, you have to compose a
sonnet. You are a poet because you are low. Isn't it enough to make the
stars fall! A little more, and they would make you wear their old shoes.
"Who have you got there, my dear? How ugly he is! Who is that man?"
"I do not know. A sort of scholar, whom I feed."
Thus converse these idiots, without even lowering their voice. You hear,
and remain mechanically amiable. If you are ill, your masters will send
for the doctor--not their own. Occasionally they may even inquire after
you. Being of a different species from you, and at an inaccessible
height above you, they are affable. Their height makes them easy. They
know that equality is impossible. By force of disdain they are polite.
At table they give you a little nod. Sometimes they absolutely know how
your name is spelt! They only show that they are your protectors by
walking unconsciously over all the delicacy and susceptibility you
possess. They treat you with good-nature. Is all this to be borne?
No doubt he was eager to punish Josiana. He must teach her with whom she
had to deal!
O my rich gentry, because you cannot eat up everything, because opulence
produces indigestion seeing that your stomachs are no bigger than ours,
because it is, after all, better to distribute the remainder than to
throw it away, you exalt a morsel flung to the poor into an act of
magnificence. Oh, you give us bread, you give us shelter, you give us
clothes, you give us employment, and you push audacity, folly, cruelty,
stupidity, and absurdity to the pitch of believing that we are grateful!
The bread is the bread of servitude, the shelter is a footman's bedroom,
the clothes are a livery, the employment is ridiculous, paid for, it is
true, but brutalizing.
Oh, you believe in the right to humiliate us with lodging and
nourishment, and you imagine that we are your debtors, and you count on
our gratitude! Very well; we will eat up your substance, we will devour
you alive and gnaw your heart-strings with our teeth.
This Josiana! Was it not absurd? What merit had she? She had
accomplished the wonderful work of coming into the world as a testimony
of the folly of her father and the shame of her mother. She had done us
the favour to exist, and for her kindness in becoming a public scandal
they paid her millions; she had estates and castles, warrens, parks,
lakes, forests, and I know not what besides, and with all that she was
making a fool of herself, and verses were addressed to her! And
Barkilphedro, who had studied and laboured and taken pains, and stuffed
his eyes and his brain with great books, who had grown mouldy in old
works and in science, who was full of wit, who could command armies, who
could, if he would, write tragedies like Otway and Dryden, who was made
to be an emperor--Barkilphedro had been reduced to permit this nobody to
prevent him from dying of hunger. Could the usurpation of the rich, the
hateful elect of chance, go further? They put on the semblance of being
generous to us, of protecting us, and of smiling on us, and we would
drink their blood and lick our lips after it! That this low woman of the
court should have the odious power of being a benefactress, and that a
man so superior should be condemned to pick up such bribes falling from
such a hand, what a frightful iniquity! And what social system is this
which has for its base disproportion and injustice? Would it not be best
to take it by the four corners, and to throw pell-mell to the ceiling
the damask tablecloth, and the festival, and the orgies, and the
tippling and drunkenness, and the guests, and those with their elbows on
the table, and those with their paws under it, and the insolent who give
and the idiots who accept, and to spit it all back again in the face of
Providence, and fling all the earth to the heavens? In the meantime let
us stick our claws into Josiana.
Thus dreamed Barkilphedro. Such were the ragings of his soul. It is the
habit of the envious man to absolve himself, amalgamating with his
personal grievance the public wrongs.
All the wild forms of hateful passions went and came in the intellect
of this ferocious being. At the corners of old maps of the world of the
fifteenth century are great vague spaces without shape or name, on which
are written these three words, _Hic sunt leones_. Such a dark corner is
there also in man. Passions grow and growl somewhere within us, and we
may say of an obscure portion of our souls, "There are lions here."
Is this scaffolding of wild reasoning absolutely absurd? does it lack a
certain justice? We must confess it does not.
It is fearful to think that judgment within us is not justice. Judgment
is the relative, justice is the absolute. Think of the difference
between a judge and a just man.
Wicked men lead conscience astray with authority. There are gymnastics
of untruth. A sophist is a forger, and this forger sometimes brutalizes
A certain logic, very supple, very implacable, and very agile, is at the
service of evil, and excels in stabbing truth in the dark. These are
blows struck by the devil at Providence.
The worst of it was that Barkilphedro had a presentiment. He was
undertaking a heavy task, and he was afraid that after all the evil
achieved might not be proportionate to the work.
To be corrosive as he was, to have within himself a will of steel, a
hate of diamond, a burning curiosity for the catastrophe, and to burn
nothing, to decapitate nothing, to exterminate nothing; to be what he
was, a force of devastation, a voracious animosity, a devourer of the
happiness of others, to have been created (for there is a creator,
whether God or devil), to have been created Barkilphedro all over, and
to inflict perhaps after all but a fillip of the finger--could this be
possible? could it be that Barkilphedro should miss his aim? To be a
lever powerful enough to heave great masses of rock, and when sprung to
the utmost power to succeed only in giving an affected woman a bump in
the forehead--to be a catapult dealing ruin on a pole-kitten! To
accomplish the task of Sisyphus, to crush an ant; to sweat all over with
hate, and for nothing at all. Would not this be humiliating, when he
felt himself a mechanism of hostility capable of reducing the world to
powder! To put into movement all the wheels within wheels, to work in
the darkness all the mechanism of a Marly machine, and to succeed
perhaps in pinching the end of a little rosy finger! He was to turn over
and over blocks of marble, perchance with the result of ruffling a
little the smooth surface of the court! Providence has a way of thus
expending forces grandly. The movement of a mountain often only
displaces a molehill.
Besides this, when the court is the dangerous arena, nothing is more
dangerous than to aim at your enemy and miss him. In the first place, it
unmasks you and irritates him; but besides and above all, it displeases
the master. Kings do not like the unskilful. Let us have no contusions,
no ugly gashes. Kill anybody, but give no one a bloody nose. He who
kills is clever, he who wounds awkward. Kings do not like to see their
servants lamed. They are displeased if you chip a porcelain jar on their
chimney-piece or a courtier in their cortege. The court must be kept
neat. Break and replace; that does not matter. Besides, all this agrees
perfectly with the taste of princes for scandal. Speak evil, do none; or
if you do, let it be in grand style.
Stab, do not scratch, unless the pin be poisoned. This would be an
extenuating circumstance, and was, we may remember, the case with
Every malicious pigmy is a phial in which is enclosed the dragon of
Solomon. The phial is microscopic, the dragon immense. A formidable
condensation, awaiting the gigantic hour of dilation! Ennui consoled by
the premeditation of explosion! The prisoner is larger than the prison.
A latent giant! how wonderful! A minnow in which is contained a hydra.
To be this fearful magical box, to contain within him a leviathan, is to
the dwarf both a torture and a delight.
Nor would anything have caused Barkilphedro to let go his hold. He
awaited his time. Was it to come? What mattered that? He watched for it.
Self-love is mixed up in the malice of the very wicked man. To make
holes and gaps in a court fortune higher than your own, to undermine it
at all risks and perils, while encased and concealed yourself, is, we
repeat, exceedingly interesting. The player at such a game becomes
eager, even to passion. He throws himself into the work as if he were
composing an epic. To be very mean, and to attack that which is great,
is in itself a brilliant action. It is a fine thing to be a flea on a
The noble beast feels the bite, and expends his mighty anger against
the atom. An encounter with a tiger would weary him less; see how the
actors exchange their parts. The lion, humiliated, feels the sting of
the insect; and the flea can say, "I have in my veins the blood of a
However, these reflections but half appeased the cravings of
Barkilphedro's pride. Consolations, palliations at most. To vex is one
thing; to torment would be infinitely better. Barkilphedro had a thought
which returned to him without ceasing: his success might not go beyond
just irritating the epidermis of Josiana. What could he hope for
more--he so obscure against her so radiant? A scratch is worth but
little to him who longs to see the crimson blood of his flayed victim,
and to hear her cries as she lies before him more than naked, without
even that garment the skin! With such a craving, how sad to be
Alas, there is nothing perfect!
However, he resigned himself. Not being able to do better, he only
dreamed half his dream. To play a treacherous trick is an object after
What a man is he who revenges himself for a benefit received!
Barkilphedro was a giant among such men. Usually, ingratitude is
forgetfulness. With this man, patented in wickedness, it was fury. The
vulgar ingrate is full of ashes; what was within Barkilphedro? A
furnace--furnace walled round by hate, silence, and rancour, awaiting
Josiana for fuel. Never had a man abhorred a woman to such a point
without reason. How terrible! She was his dream, his preoccupation, his
ennui, his rage.
Perhaps he was a little in love with her.
BARKILPHEDRO IN AMBUSCADE.
To find the vulnerable spot in Josiana, and to strike her there, was,
for all the causes we have just mentioned, the imperturbable
determination of Barkilphedro. The wish is sufficient; the power is
required. How was he to set about it? There was the question.
Vulgar vagabonds set the scene of any wickedness they intend to commit
with care. They do not feel themselves strong enough to seize the
opportunity as it passes, to take possession of it by fair means or
foul, and to constrain it to serve them. Deep scoundrels disdain
preliminary combinations. They start from their villainies alone, merely
arming themselves all round, prepared to avail themselves of various
chances which may occur, and then, like Barkilphedro, await the
opportunity. They know that a ready-made scheme runs the risk of fitting
ill into the event which may present itself. It is not thus that a man
makes himself master of possibilities and guides them as one pleases.
You can come to no previous arrangement with destiny. To-morrow will not
obey you. There is a certain want of discipline in chance.
Therefore they watch for it, and summon it suddenly, authoritatively, on
the spot. No plan, no sketch, no rough model; no ready-made shoe
ill-fitting the unexpected. They plunge headlong into the dark. To turn
to immediate and rapid profit any circumstance that can aid him is the
quality which distinguishes the able scoundrel, and elevates the villain
into the demon. To strike suddenly at fortune, _that_ is true genius.
The true scoundrel strikes you from a sling with the first stone he can
pick up. Clever malefactors count on the unexpected, that senseless
accomplice of so many crimes. They grasp the incident and leap on it;
there is no better _Ars Poetica_ for this species of talent. Meanwhile
be sure with whom you have to deal. Survey the ground.
With Barkilphedro the ground was Queen Anne. Barkilphedro approached the
queen, and so close that sometimes he fancied he heard the monologues of
her Majesty. Sometimes he was present unheeded at conversations between
the sisters. Neither did they forbid his sliding in a word. He profited
by this to lessen himself--a way of inspiring confidence. Thus one day
in the garden at Hampton Court, being behind the duchess, who was behind
the queen, he heard Anne, following the fashion, awkwardly enunciating
"Animals are happy," said the queen. "They run no risk of going to
"They are there already," replied Josiana.
This answer, which bluntly substituted philosophy for religion,
displeased the queen. If, perchance, there was depth in the observation,
Anne felt shocked.
"My dear," said she to Josiana, "we talk of hell like a couple of
fools. Ask Barkilphedro all about it. He ought to know such things."
"As a devil?" said Josiana.
"As a beast," replied Barkilphedro, with a bow.
"Madam," said the queen to Josiana, "he is cleverer than we."
For a man like Barkilphedro to approach the queen was to obtain a hold
on her. He could say, "I hold her." Now, he wanted a means of taking
advantage of his power for his own benefit. He had his foothold in the
court. To be settled there was a fine thing. No chance could now escape
him. More than once he had made the queen smile maliciously. This was
having a licence to shoot. But was there any preserved game? Did this
licence to shoot permit him to break the wing or the leg of one like the
sister of her Majesty? The first point to make clear was, did the queen
love her sister? One false step would lose all. Barkilphedro watched.
Before he plays the player looks at the cards. What trumps has he?
Barkilphedro began by examining the age of the two women. Josiana,
twenty-three; Anne, forty-one. So far so good. He held trumps. The
moment that a woman ceases to count by springs, and begins to count by
winters, she becomes cross. A dull rancour possesses her against the
time of which she carries the proofs. Fresh-blown beauties, perfumes for
others, are to such a one but thorns. Of the roses she feels but the
prick. It seems as if all the freshness is stolen from her, and that
beauty decreases in her because it increases in others.
To profit by this secret ill-humour, to dive into the wrinkle on the
face of this woman of forty, who was a queen, seemed a good game for
Envy excels in exciting jealousy, as a rat draws the crocodile from its
Barkilphedro fixed his wise gaze on Anne. He saw into the queen as one
sees into a stagnant pool. The marsh has its transparency. In dirty
water we see vices, in muddy water we see stupidity; Anne was muddy
Embryos of sentiments and larvae of ideas moved in her thick brain. They
were not distinct; they had scarcely any outline. But they were
realities, however shapeless. The queen thought this; the queen desired
that. To decide what was the difficulty. The confused transformations
which work in stagnant water are difficult to study. The queen,
habitually obscure, sometimes made sudden and stupid revelations. It was
on these that it was necessary to seize. He must take advantage of them
on the moment. How did the queen feel towards the Duchess Josiana? Did
she wish her good or evil?
Here was the problem. Barkilphedro set himself to solve it. This problem
solved, he might go further.
Divers chances served Barkilphedro--his tenacity at the watch above all.
Anne was, on her husband's side, slightly related to the new Queen of
Prussia, wife of the king with the hundred chamberlains. She had her
portrait painted on enamel, after the process of Turquet of Mayerne.
This Queen of Prussia had also a younger illegitimate sister, the
One day, in the presence of Barkilphedro, Anne asked the Russian
ambassador some question about this Drika.
"They say she is rich?"
"She has palaces?"
"More magnificent than those of her sister, the queen."
"Whom will she marry?"
"A great lord, the Count Gormo."
"Is she young?"
"As beautiful as the queen?"
The ambassador lowered his voice, and replied,--
"That is insolent," murmured Barkilphedro.
The queen was silent; then she exclaimed,--
Barkilphedro noticed the plural.
Another time, when the queen was leaving the chapel, Barkilphedro kept
pretty close to her Majesty, behind the two grooms of the almonry. Lord
David Dirry-Moir, crossing the ranks of women, made a sensation by his
handsome appearance. As he passed there was an explosion of feminine
"How elegant! How gallant! What a noble air! How handsome!"
"How disagreeable!" grumbled the queen.
Barkilphedro overheard this; it decided him.
He could hurt the duchess without displeasing the queen. The first
problem was solved; but now the second presented itself.
What could he do to harm the duchess? What means did his wretched
appointment offer to attain so difficult an object?
SCOTLAND, IRELAND, AND ENGLAND.
Let us note a circumstance. Josiana had _le tour_.
This is easy to understand when we reflect that she was, although
illegitimate, the queen's sister--that is to say, a princely personage.
To have _le tour_--what does it mean?
Viscount St. John, otherwise Bolingbroke, wrote as follows to Thomas
Lennard, Earl of Sussex:--
"Two things mark the great--in England, they have _le tour;_ in France,
When the King of France travelled, the courier of the court stopped at
the halting-place in the evening, and assigned lodgings to his Majesty's
Amongst the gentlemen some had an immense privilege. "They have _le
pour_" says the _Journal Historique_ for the year 1694, page 6; "which
means that the courier who marks the billets puts '_pour_' before their
names--as, '_Pour_ M. le Prince de Soubise;' instead of which, when he
marks the lodging of one who is not royal, he does not put _pour_, but
simply the name--as, 'Le Duc de Gesvres, le Duc de Mazarin.'" This
_pour_ on a door indicated a prince or a favourite. A favourite is worse
than a prince. The king granted _le pour_, like a blue ribbon or a
_Avoir le tour_ in England was less glorious but more real. It was a
sign of intimate communication with the sovereign. Whoever might be, by
birth or favour, in a position to receive direct communications from
majesty, had in the wall of their bedchamber a shaft in which was
adjusted a bell. The bell sounded, the shaft opened, a royal missive
appeared on a gold plate or on a cushion of velvet, and the shaft
closed. This was intimate and solemn, the mysterious in the familiar.
The shaft was used for no other purpose. The sound of the bell announced
a royal message. No one saw who brought it. It was of course merely the
page of the king or the queen. Leicester _avait le tour_ under
Elizabeth; Buckingham under James I. Josiana had it under Anne, though
not much in favour. Never was a privilege more envied.
This privilege entailed additional servility. The recipient was more of
a servant. At court that which elevates, degrades. _Avoir le tour_ was
said in French; this circumstance of English etiquette having, probably,
been borrowed from some old French folly.
Lady Josiana, a virgin peeress as Elizabeth had been a virgin queen,
led--sometimes in the City, and sometimes in the country, according to
the season--an almost princely life, and kept nearly a court, at which
Lord David was courtier, with many others.
Not being married, Lord David and Lady Josiana could show themselves
together in public without exciting ridicule, and they did so
frequently. They often went to plays and racecourses in the same
carriage, and sat together in the same box. They were chilled by the
impending marriage, which was not only permitted to them, but imposed
upon them; but they felt an attraction for each other's society. The
privacy permitted to the engaged has a frontier easily passed. From this
they abstained; that which is easy is in bad taste.
The best pugilistic encounters then took place at Lambeth, a parish in
which the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury has a palace though the air
there is unhealthy, and a rich library open at certain hours to decent
One evening in winter there was in a meadow there, the gates of which
were locked, a fight, at which Josiana, escorted by Lord David, was
present. She had asked,--
"Are women admitted?"
And David had responded,--
"_Sunt faeminae magnates!_"
Liberal translation, "Not shopkeepers." Literal translation, "Great
ladies exist. A duchess goes everywhere!"
This is why Lady Josiana saw a boxing match.
Lady Josiana made only this concession to propriety--she dressed as a
man, a very common custom at that period. Women seldom travelled
otherwise. Out of every six persons who travelled by the coach from
Windsor, it was rare that there were not one or two amongst them who
were women in male attire; a certain sign of high birth.
Lord David, being in company with a woman, could not take any part in
the match himself, and merely assisted as one of the audience.
Lady Josiana betrayed her quality in one way; she had an opera-glass,
then used by gentlemen only.
This encounter in the noble science was presided over by Lord Germaine,
great-grandfather, or grand-uncle, of that Lord Germaine who, towards
the end of the eighteenth century, was colonel, ran away in a battle,
was afterwards made Minister of War, and only escaped from the bolts of
the enemy, to fall by a worse fate, shot through and through by the
sarcasm of Sheridan.
Many gentlemen were betting. Harry Bellew, of Carleton, who had claims
to the extinct peerage of Bella-aqua, with Henry, Lord Hyde, member of
Parliament for the borough of Dunhivid, which is also called Launceston;
the Honourable Peregrine Bertie, member for the borough of Truro, with
Sir Thomas Colpepper, member for Maidstone; the Laird of Lamyrbau, which
is on the borders of Lothian, with Samuel Trefusis, of the borough of
Penryn; Sir Bartholomew Gracedieu, of the borough of Saint Ives, with
the Honourable Charles Bodville, who was called Lord Robartes, and who
was Custos Rotulorum of the county of Cornwall; besides many others.
Of the two combatants, one was an Irishman, named after his native
mountain in Tipperary, Phelem-ghe-Madone, and the other a Scot, named
They represented the national pride of each country. Ireland and
Scotland were about to set to; Erin was going to fisticuff Gajothel. So
that the bets amounted to over forty thousand guineas, besides the
The two champions were naked, excepting short breeches buckled over the
hips, and spiked boots laced as high as the ankles.
Helmsgail, the Scot, was a youth scarcely nineteen, but he had already
had his forehead sewn up, for which reason they laid 2 1/3 to 1 on him.
The month before he had broken the ribs and gouged out the eyes of a
pugilist named Sixmileswater. This explained the enthusiasm he created.
He had won his backers twelve thousand pounds. Besides having his
forehead sewn up Helmsgail's jaw had been broken. He was neatly made and
active. He was about the height of a small woman, upright, thick-set,
and of a stature low and threatening. And nothing had been lost of the
advantages given him by nature; not a muscle which was not trained to
its object, pugilism. His firm chest was compact, and brown and shining
like brass. He smiled, and three teeth which he had lost added to his
His adversary was tall and overgrown--that is to say, weak.
He was a man of forty years of age, six feet high, with the chest of a
hippopotamus, and a mild expression of face. The blow of his fist would
break in the deck of a vessel, but he did not know how to use it.
The Irishman, Phelem-ghe-Madone, was all surface, and seemed to have
entered the ring to receive rather than to give blows. Only it was felt
that he would take a deal of punishment. Like underdone beef, tough to
chew, and impossible to swallow. He was what was termed, in local slang,
raw meat. He squinted. He seemed resigned.
The two men had passed the preceding night in the same bed, and had
slept together. They had each drunk port wine from the same glass, to
the three-inch mark.
Each had his group of seconds--men of savage expression, threatening the
umpires when it suited their side. Amongst Helmsgail's supporters was to
be seen John Gromane, celebrated for having carried an ox on his back;
and one called John Bray, who had once carried on his back ten bushels
of flour, at fifteen pecks to the bushel, besides the miller himself,
and had walked over two hundred paces under the weight. On the side of
Phelem-ghe-Madone, Lord Hyde had brought from Launceston a certain
Kilter, who lived at Green Castle, and could throw a stone weighing
twenty pounds to a greater height than the highest tower of the castle.
These three men, Kilter, Bray, and Gromane, were Cornishmen by birth,
and did honour to their county.
The other seconds were brutal fellows, with broad backs, bowed legs,
knotted fists, dull faces; ragged, fearing nothing, nearly all
Many of them understood admirably how to make the police drunk. Each
profession should have its peculiar talents.
The field chosen was farther off than the bear garden, where they
formerly baited bears, bulls, and dogs; it was beyond the line of the
farthest houses, by the side of the ruins of the Priory of Saint Mary
Overy, dismantled by Henry VIII. The wind was northerly, and biting; a
small rain fell, which was instantly frozen into ice. Some gentlemen
present were evidently fathers of families, recognized as such by their
putting up their umbrellas.
On the side of Phelem-ghe-Madone was Colonel Moncreif, as umpire; and
Kilter, as second, to support him on his knee.
On the side of Helmsgail, the Honourable Pughe Beaumaris was umpire,
with Lord Desertum, from Kilcarry, as bottle-holder, to support him on
The two combatants stood for a few seconds motionless in the ring,
whilst the watches were being compared. They then approached each other
and shook hands.
Phelem-ghe-Madone said to Helmsgail,--
"I should prefer going home."
Helmsgail answered, handsomely,--
"The gentlemen must not be disappointed, on any account."
Naked as they were, they felt the cold. Phelem-ghe-Madone shook. His
Dr. Eleanor Sharpe, nephew of the Archbishop of York, cried out to
"Set to, boys; it will warm you."
Those friendly words thawed them.
They set to.
But neither one nor the other was angry. There were three ineffectual
rounds. The Rev. Doctor Gumdraith, one of the forty Fellows of All
Souls' College, cried,--
"Spirit them up with gin."
But the two umpires and the two seconds adhered to the rule. Yet it was
First blood was claimed.
They were again set face to face.
They looked at each other, approached, stretched their arms, touched
each other's fists, and then drew back.
All at once, Helmsgail, the little man, sprang forward. The real fight
Phelem-ghe-Madone was struck in the face, between the Ryes. His whole
face streamed with blood. The crowd cried,--
"Helmsgail has tapped his claret!"
There was applause. Phelem-ghe-Madone, turning his arms like the sails
of a windmill, struck out at random.
The Honourable Peregrine Bertie said, "Blinded;" but he was not blind
Then Helmsgail heard on all sides these encouraging words,--
"Bung up his peepers!"