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The Romany Rye by George Borrow

Part 9 out of 9

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And, in fact, it would appear that the honest and friendly patriot
put his threat into execution. "I have spoken," said he, "more
than once to this and that individual in Parliament, and everybody
seems to think that the appointment should be given to you. Nay,
that you should be forced to accept it. I intend next to speak to
Lord A--- " And so he did, at least it would appear so. On the
writer calling upon him one evening, about a week afterwards, in
order to take leave of him, as the writer was about to take a long
journey for the sake of his health, his friend no sooner saw him
than he started up in a violent fit of agitation, and glancing
about the room, in which there were several people, amongst others
two Whig members of Parliament, said, "I am glad you are come, I
was just speaking about you. This," said he, addressing the two
members, "is so and so, the author of so and so, the well-known
philologist; as I was telling you, I spoke to Lord A--- this day
about him, and said that he ought forthwith to have the head
appointment in--and what did the fellow say? Why, that there was
no necessity for such an appointment at all, and if there were,
why--and then he hummed and ha'd. Yes," said he, looking at the
writer, "he did indeed. What a scandal! what an infamy! But I see
how it will be, it will be a job. The place will be given to some
son of a steward or to some quack, as I said before. Oh, these
Tories! Well, if this does not make one-- " Here he stopped
short, crunched his teeth, and looked the image of desperation.

Seeing the poor man in this distressed condition, the writer begged
him to be comforted, and not to take the matter so much to heart;
but the indignant Radical took the matter very much to heart, and
refused all comfort whatever, bouncing about the room, and, whilst
his spectacles flashed in the light of four spermaceti candles,
exclaiming, "It will be a job--a Tory job! I see it all, I see it
all, I see it all!"

And a job it proved, and a very pretty job, but no Tory job.
Shortly afterwards the Tories were out, and the Whigs were in.
From that time the writer heard not a word about the injustice done
to the country in not presenting him with the appointment to -; the
Radical, however, was busy enough to obtain the appointment, not
for the writer, but for himself, and eventually succeeded, partly
through Radical influence, and partly through that of a certain
Whig lord, for whom the Radical had done, on a particular occasion,
work of a particular kind. So, though the place was given to a
quack, and the whole affair a very pretty job, it was one in which
the Tories had certainly no hand.

In the meanwhile, however, the friendly Radical did not drop the
writer. Oh, no! On various occasions he obtained from the writer
all the information about the country in question, and was
particularly anxious to obtain from the writer, and eventually did
obtain, a copy of a work written in the court language of that
country, edited by the writer, a language exceedingly difficult,
which the writer, at the expense of a considerable portion of his
eyesight, had acquired, at least as far as by the eyesight it could
be acquired. What use the writer's friend made of the knowledge he
had gained from him, and what use he made of the book, the writer
can only guess; but he has little doubt that when the question of
sending a person to--was mooted in a Parliamentary Committee--which
it was at the instigation of the writer's friend--the Radical on
being examined about the country, gave the information which he had
obtained from the writer as his own, and flashed the book and its
singular characters in the eyes of the Committee; and then of
course his Radical friends would instantly say, "This is the man!
there is no one like him. See what information he possesses; and
see that book written by himself in the court language of Serendib.
This is the only man to send there. What a glory, what a triumph
it would be to Britain, to send out a man so deeply versed in the
mysterious lore of--as our illustrious countryman; a person who
with his knowledge could beat with their own weapons the wise men
of-- Is such an opportunity to be lost? Oh, no! surely not; if it
is, it will be an eternal disgrace to England, and the world will
see that Whigs are no better than Tories."

Let no one think the writer uncharitable in these suppositions.
The writer is only too well acquainted with the antecedents of the
individual, to entertain much doubt that he would shrink from any
such conduct, provided he thought that his temporal interest would
be forwarded by it. The writer is aware of more than one instance
in which he has passed off the literature of friendless young men
for his own, after making them a slight pecuniary compensation and
deforming what was originally excellent by interpolations of his
own. This was his especial practice with regard to translation, of
which he would fain be esteemed the king. This Radical literato is
slightly acquainted with four or five of the easier dialects of
Europe, on the strength of which knowledge be would fain pass for a
universal linguist, publishing translations of pieces originally
written in various difficult languages; which translations,
however, were either made by himself from literal renderings done
for him into French or German, or had been made from the originals
into English, by friendless young men, and then deformed by his
alterations.

Well, the Radical got the appointment, and the writer certainly did
not grudge it him. He, of course, was aware that his friend had
behaved in a very base manner towards him, but he bore him no ill-
will, and invariably when he heard him spoken against, which was
frequently the case, took his part when no other person would;
indeed, he could well afford to bear him no ill-will. He had never
sought for the appointment, nor wished for it, nor, indeed, ever
believed himself to be qualified for it. He was conscious, it is
true, that he was not altogether unacquainted with the language and
literature of the country with which the appointment was connected.
He was likewise aware that he was not altogether deficient in
courage and in propriety of behaviour. He knew that his appearance
was not particularly against him; his face not being like that of a
convicted pickpocket, nor his gait resembling that of a fox who has
lost his tail; yet he never believed himself adapted for the
appointment, being aware that he had no aptitude for the doing of
dirty work, if called to do it, nor pliancy which would enable him
to submit to scurvy treatment, whether he did dirty work or not--
requisites, at the time of which he is speaking, indispensable in
every British official; requisites, by the bye, which his friend
the Radical possessed in a high degree; but though he bore no ill-
will towards his friend, his friend bore anything but good-will
towards him; for from the moment that he had obtained the
appointment for himself, his mind was filled with the most bitter
malignity against the writer, and naturally enough; for no one ever
yet behaved in a base manner towards another, without forthwith
conceiving a mortal hatred against him. You wrong another, know
yourself to have acted basely, and are enraged, not against
yourself--for no one hates himself--but against the innocent cause
of your baseness; reasoning very plausibly, "But for that fellow, I
should never have been base; for had he not existed I could not
have been so, at any rate against him;" and this hatred is all the
more bitter, when you reflect that you have been needlessly base.

Whilst the Tories are in power the writer's friend, of his own
accord, raves against the Tories because they do not give the
writer a certain appointment, and makes, or says he makes,
desperate exertions to make them do so; but no sooner are the
Tories out, with whom he has no influence, and the Whigs in, with
whom he, or rather his party, has influence, than he gets the place
for himself, though, according to his own expressed opinion--an
opinion with which the writer does not, and never did, concur--the
writer was the only person competent to hold it. Now had he,
without saying a word to the writer, or about the writer with
respect to the employment, got the place for himself when he had an
opportunity, knowing, as he very well knew, himself to be utterly
unqualified for it, the transaction, though a piece of jobbery,
would not have merited the title of a base transaction; as the
matter stands, however, who can avoid calling the whole affair not
only a piece of--come, come, out with the word--scoundrelism on the
part of the writer's friend, but a most curious piece of uncalled-
for scoundrelism? and who, with any knowledge of fallen human
nature, can wonder at the writer's friend entertaining towards him
a considerable portion of gall and malignity?

This feeling on the part of the writer's friend was wonderfully
increased by the appearance of Lavengro, many passages of which the
Radical in his foreign appointment applied to himself and family--
one or two of his children having gone over to Popery, the rest
become members of Mr. Platitude's chapel, and the minds of all
being filled with ultra notions of gentility.

The writer, hearing that his old friend had returned to England, to
apply, he believes, for an increase of salary, and for a title,
called upon him, unwillingly, it is true, for he had no wish to see
a person for whom, though he bore him no ill-will, he could not
avoid feeling a considerable portion of contempt; the truth is,
that his sole object in calling was to endeavour to get back a
piece of literary property which his friend had obtained from him
many years previously, and which, though he had frequently applied
for it, he never could get back. Well, the writer called; he did
not get his property, which, indeed, he had scarcely time to press
for, being almost instantly attacked by his good friend and his
wife--yes, it was then that the author was set upon by an old
Radical and his wife--the wife, who looked the very image of shame
and malignity, did not say much, it is true, but encouraged her
husband in all he said. Both of their own accord introduced the
subject of Lavengro. The Radical called the writer a grumbler,
just as if there had ever been a greater grumbler than himself
until, by the means above described, he had obtained a place: he
said that the book contained a melancholy view of human nature--
just as if anybody could look in his face without having a
melancholy view of human nature. On the writer quietly observing
that the book contained an exposition of his principles, the
pseudo-Radical replied, that he cared nothing for his principles--
which was probably true, it not being likely that he would care for
another person's principles after having shown so thorough a
disregard for his own. The writer said that the book, of course,
would give offence to humbugs; the Radical then demanded whether he
thought him a humbug?--the wretched wife was the Radical's
protection, even as he knew she would be; it was on her account
that the writer did not kick his good friend; as it was, he looked
at him in the face and thought to himself, "How is it possible I
should think you a humbug, when only last night I was taking your
part in a company in which everybody called you a humbug?"

The Radical, probably observing something in the writer's eye which
he did not like, became all on a sudden abjectly submissive, and,
professing the highest admiration for the writer, begged him to
visit him in his government; this the writer promised faithfully to
do, and he takes the present opportunity of performing his promise.

This is one of the pseudo-Radical calumniators of Lavengro and its
author; were the writer on his deathbed he would lay his hand on
his heart and say, that he does not believe that there is one trait
of exaggeration in the portrait which he has drawn. This is one of
the pseudo-Radical calumniators of Lavengro and its author; and
this is one of the genus, who, after having railed against jobbery
for perhaps a quarter of a century, at present batten on large
official salaries which they do not earn. England is a great
country, and her interests require that she should have many a
well-paid official both at home and abroad; but will England long
continue a great country if the care of her interests, both at home
and abroad, is in many instances intrusted to beings like him
described above, whose only recommendation for an official
appointment was that he was deeply versed in the secrets of his
party and of the Whigs?

Before he concludes, the writer will take the liberty of saying of
Lavengro that it is a book written for the express purpose of
inculcating virtue, love of country, learning, manly pursuits, and
genuine religion, for example, that of the Church of England, and
for awakening a contempt for nonsense of every kind, and a hatred
for priestcraft, more especially that of Rome.

And in conclusion, with respect to many passages of his book in
which he has expressed himself in terms neither measured nor mealy,
he will beg leave to observe, in the words of a great poet, who
lived a profligate life, it is true, but who died a sincere
penitent--thanks, after God, to good Bishop Burnet -

"All this with indignation I have hurl'd
At the pretending part of this proud world,
Who, swollen with selfish vanity, devise
False freedoms, formal cheats, and holy lies,
Over their fellow fools to tyrannize."
ROCHESTER.

Footnotes

{1} Tipperary.

{2} An obscene oath.

{3} See "Muses' Library," pp. 86, 87. London, 1738.

{4} Genteel with them seems to be synonymous with Gentile and
Gentoo; if so, the manner in which it has been applied for ages
ceases to surprise, for genteel is heathenish. Ideas of barbaric
pearl and gold, glittering armour, plumes, tortures, blood-
shedding, and lust, should always be connected with it. Wace, in
his grand Norman poem, calls the Baron genteel:-

"La furent li gentil Baron," etc.

And he certainly could not have applied the word better than to the
strong Norman thief, armed cap-a-pie, without one particle of truth
or generosity; for a person to be a pink of gentility, that is
heathenism, should have no such feelings; and, indeed, the admirers
of gentility seldom or never associate any such feelings with it.
It was from the Norman, the worst of all robbers and miscreants,
who built strong castles, garrisoned them with devils, and tore out
poor wretches' eyes, as the Saxon Chronicle says, that the English
got their detestable word genteel. What could ever have made the
English such admirers of gentility, it would be difficult to say;
for, during three hundred years, they suffered enough by it. Their
genteel Norman landlords were their scourgers, their torturers, the
plunderers of their homes, the dishonourers of their wives, and the
deflourers of their daughters. Perhaps, after all, fear is at the
root of the English veneration for gentility.

{5} Gentle and gentlemanly may be derived from the same root as
genteel; but nothing can be more distinct from the mere genteel,
than the ideas which enlightened minds associate with these words.
Gentle and gentlemanly mean something kind and genial; genteel,
that which is glittering or gaudy. A person can be a gentleman in
rags, but nobody can be genteel.

{6} The writer has been checked in print by the Scotch with being
a Norfolk man. Surely, surely, these latter times have not been
exactly the ones in which it was expedient for Scotchmen to check
the children of any county in England with the place of their
birth, more especially those who have had the honour of being born
in Norfolk--times in which British fleets, commanded by Scotchmen,
have returned laden with anything but laurels from foreign shores.
It would have been well for Britain had she had the old Norfolk man
to dispatch to the Baltic or the Black sea, lately, instead of
Scotch admirals.

{7} As the present work will come out in the midst of a vehement
political contest, people may be led to suppose that the above was
written expressly for the time. The writer therefore begs to state
that it was written in the year 1854. He cannot help adding that
he is neither Whig, Tory, nor Radical, and cares not a straw what
party governs England, provided it is governed well. But he has no
hopes of good government from the Whigs. It is true that amongst
them there is one very great man, Lord Palmerston, who is indeed
the sword and buckler, the chariots and the horses of the party;
but it is impossible for his lordship to govern well with such
colleagues as he has--colleagues which have been forced upon him by
family influence, and who are continually pestering him into
measures anything but conducive to the country's honour and
interest. If Palmerston would govern well, he must get rid of
them; but from that step, with all his courage and all his
greatness, he will shrink. Yet how proper and easy a step it would
be! He could easily get better, but scarcely worse, associates.
They appear to have one object in view, and only one--jobbery. It
was chiefly owing to a most flagitious piece of jobbery, which one
of his lordship's principal colleagues sanctioned and promoted,
that his lordship experienced his late parliamentary disasters.

{8} A fact.

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