Part 1 out of 11
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The English Comédie Humaine
THE EARL OF BEACONSFIELD
As a novelist, Benjamin Disraeli belongs to the early part of the
nineteenth century. "Vivian Grey" (1826-27) and "Sybil" (1845) mark the
beginning and the end of his truly creative period; for the two
productions of his latest years, "Lothair" (1870) and "Endymion" (1880),
add nothing to the characteristics of his earlier volumes except the
changes of feeling and power which accompany old age. His period, thus,
is that of Bulwer, Dickens, and Thackeray, and of the later years of Sir
Walter Scott--a fact which his prominence as a statesman during the last
decade of his life, as well as the vogue of "Lothair" and "Endymion,"
has tended to obscure. His style, his material, and his views of English
character and life all date from that earlier time. He was born in 1804
and died in 1881.
Disraeli was barely twenty-one when he published "Vivian Grey," his
first work of fiction; and the young author was at once hailed as a
master of his art by an almost unanimous press.
In this, as in his subsequent books, it was not so much Disraeli's
notable skill as a novelist but rather his portrayal of the social and
political life of the day that made him one of the most popular writers
of his generation, and earned for him a lasting fame as a man of
letters. In "Vivian Grey" is narrated the career of an ambitious young
man of rank; and in this story the brilliant author has preserved to us
the exact tone of the English drawing-room, as he so well knew it,
sketching with sure and rapid strokes a whole portrait gallery of
notables, disguised in name may be, but living characters nevertheless,
who charm us with their graceful manners and general air of being people
of consequence. "Vivian Grey," then, though not a great novel is beyond
question a marvelously true picture of the life and character of an
interesting period of English history and made notable because of
Disraeli's fine imagination and vivid descriptive powers.
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
Is there anything you want, sir?
He distinctly beheld Mrs. Felix Lorraine open a small silver box.
It was very slowly that the dark thought came over his mind.
We are not aware that the infancy of Vivian Grey was distinguished by
any extraordinary incident. The solicitude of the most affectionate of
mothers, and the care of the most attentive of nurses, did their best to
injure an excellent constitution. But Vivian was an only child, and
these exertions were therefore excusable. For the first five years of
his life, with his curly locks and his fancy dress, he was the pride of
his own and the envy of all neighbouring establishments; but, in process
of time, the spirit of boyism began to develop itself, and Vivian not
only would brush his hair straight and rebel against his nurse, but
actually insisted upon being--breeched! At this crisis it was discovered
that he had been spoiled, and it was determined that he should be sent
to school. Mr. Grey observed, also, that the child was nearly ten years
old, and did not know his alphabet, and Mrs. Grey remarked that he was
getting ugly. The fate of Vivian was decided.
"I am told, my dear," observed Mrs. Grey, one day after dinner to her
husband, "I am told, my dear, that Dr. Flummery's would do very well for
Vivian. Nothing can exceed the attention which is paid to the pupils.
There are sixteen young ladies, all the daughters of clergymen, merely
to attend to the morals and the linen; terms moderate: 100 guineas per
annum, for all under six years of age, and few extras, only for fencing,
pure milk, and the guitar. Mrs. Metcalfe has both her boys there, and
she says their progress is astonishing! Percy Metcalfe, she assures me,
was quite as backward as Vivian; indeed, backwarder; and so was Dudley,
who was taught at home on the new system, by a pictorial alphabet, and
who persisted to the last, notwithstanding all the exertions of Miss
Barrett, in spelling A-P-E, monkey, merely because over the word there
was a monster munching an apple."
"And quite right in the child, my dear. Pictorial alphabet! pictorial
"But what do you say to Flummery's, Horace?"
"My dear, do what you like. I never trouble myself, you know, about
these matters;" and Mr. Grey refreshed himself, after this domestic
attack, with a glass of claret.
Mr. Grey was a gentleman who had succeeded, when the heat of youth was
over, to the enjoyment of a life estate of some two thousand a year. He
was a man of lettered tastes, and had hailed with no slight pleasure his
succession to a fortune which, though limited in its duration, was still
a great thing for a young lounger about town, not only with no
profession, but with a mind unfitted for every species of business.
Grey, to the astonishment of his former friends, the wits, made an
excellent domestic match; and, leaving the whole management of his
household to his lady, felt himself as independent in his magnificent
library as if he had never ceased to be that true freeman, A MAN
The young Vivian had not, by the cares which fathers are always heirs
to, yet reminded his parent that children were anything else but
playthings. The intercourse between father and son was, of course,
extremely limited; for Vivian was, as yet, the mother's child; Mr.
Grey's parental duties being confined to giving his son a daily glass of
claret, pulling his ears with all the awkwardness of literary affection,
and trusting to God "that the urchin would never scribble."
"I won't go to school, mamma," bawled Vivian.
"But you must, my love," answered Mrs. Grey; "all good boys go to
school;" and in the plenitude of a mother's love she tried to make her
offspring's hair curl.
"I won't have my hair curl, mamma; the boys will laugh at me," rebawled
"Now who could have told the child that?" monologised mamma, with all a
"Charles Appleyard told me so; his hair curled, and the boys called him
girl. Papa! give me some more claret; I won't go to school."
Three or four years passed over, and the mind of Vivian Grey
astonishingly developed itself. He had long ceased to wear frills, had
broached the subject of boots three or four times, made a sad inroad
during the holidays in Mr. Grey's bottle of claret, and was reported as
having once sworn at the butler. The young gentleman began also to hint,
during every vacation, that the fellows at Flummery's were somewhat too
small for his companionship, and (first bud of puppyism!) the former
advocate of straight hair now expended a portion of his infant income in
the purchase of Macassar, and began to cultivate his curls. Mrs. Grey
could not entertain for a moment the idea of her son's associating with
children, the eldest of whom (to adopt his own account) was not above
eight years old; so Flummery, it was determined, he should leave. But
where to go? Mr. Grey was for Eton, but his lady was one of those women
whom nothing in the world can persuade that a public school is anything
else but a place where boys are roasted alive; and so with tears, and
taunts, and supplications, the point of private education was conceded.
At length it was resolved that the only hope should remain at home a
season, until some plan should be devised for the cultivation of his
promising understanding. During this year Vivian became a somewhat more
constant intruder into the library than heretofore; and living so much
among books, he was insensibly attracted to those silent companions,
that speak so eloquently.
How far the character of the parent may influence the character of the
child the metaphysician must decide. Certainly the character of Vivian
Grey underwent, at this period of his life, a sensible change.
Doubtless, constant communion with a mind highly refined, severely
cultivated, and much experienced, cannot but produce a beneficial
impression, even upon a mind formed and upon principles developed: how
infinitely more powerful must the influence of such communion be upon a
youthful heart, ardent, innocent, and unpractised! As Vivian was not to
figure in the microcosm of a public school, a place for which, from his
temper, he was almost better fitted than any young genius whom the
playing fields of Eton or the hills of Winton can remember, there was
some difficulty in fixing upon his future Academus. Mr. Grey's two
axioms were, first, that no one so young as his son should settle in the
metropolis, and that Vivian must consequently not have a private tutor;
and, secondly, that all private schools were quite worthless; and,
therefore, there was every probability of Vivian not receiving any
At length, an exception to axiom second started up in the establishment
of Mr. Dallas. This gentleman was a clergyman, a profound Grecian, and a
poor man. He had edited the Alcestis, and married his laundress; lost
money by his edition, and his fellowship by his match. In a few days the
hall of Mr. Grey's London mansion was filled with all sorts of
portmanteaus, trunks, and travelling cases, directed in a boy's
sprawling hand to "Vivian Grey, Esquire, at the Reverend Everard
Dallas, Burnsley Vicarage, Hants."
"God bless you, my boy! write to your mother soon, and remember your
The rumour of the arrival of "a new fellow" circulated with rapidity
through the inmates of Burnsley Vicarage, and about fifty young devils
were preparing to quiz the newcomer, when the school-room door opened,
and Mr. Dallas, accompanied by Vivian, entered.
"A dandy, by Jove!" whispered St. Leger Smith. "What a knowing set
out!" squeaked Johnson secundus. "Mammy-sick!" growled Barlow primus.
This last exclamation was, however, a scandalous libel, for certainly no
being ever stood in a pedagogue's presence with more perfect sang froid,
and with a bolder front, than did, at this moment, Vivian Grey.
One principle in Mr. Dallas's system was always to introduce a new-comer
in school-hours. He was thus carried immediately in medias res, and the
curiosity of his co-mates being in a great degree satisfied at the time
when that curiosity could not personally annoy him, the new-comer was,
of course, much better prepared to make his way when the absence of the
ruler became a signal for some oral communication with "the arrival."
However, in the present instance the young savages at Burnsley Vicarage
had caught a Tartar; and in a very few days Vivian Grey was decidedly
the most popular fellow in the school. He was "so dashing! so devilish
good-tempered! so completely up to everything!" The magnates of the land
were certainly rather jealous of his success, but their very sneers bore
witness to his popularity. "Cursed puppy," whispered St. Leger Smith.
"Thinks himself knowing," squeaked Johnson secundus. "Thinks himself
witty," growled Barlow primus.
Notwithstanding this cabal, days rolled on at Burnsley Vicarage only to
witness the increase of Vivian's popularity. Although more deficient
than most of his own age in accurate classical attainments, he found
himself, in talents and various acquirements, immeasurably their
superior. And singular is it that at school distinction in such points
is ten thousand times more admired by the multitude than the most
profound knowledge of Greek Metres, or the most accurate acquaintance
with the value of Roman coins. Vivian Grey's English verses and Vivian
Grey's English themes were the subject of universal commendation. Some
young lads made copies of these productions, to enrich, at the Christmas
holidays, their sisters' albums; while the whole school were scribbling
embryo prize-poems, epics of twenty lines on "the Ruins of Paestum" and
"the Temple of Minerva;" "Agrigentum," and "the Cascade of Terni."
Vivian's productions at this time would probably have been rejected by
the commonest twopenny publication about town, yet they turned the brain
of the whole school; while fellows who were writing Latin Dissertations
and Greek Odes, which might have made the fortune of the Classical
Journal, were looked on by the multitude as as great dunderheads as
themselves. Such is the advantage which, even in this artificial world,
everything that is genuine has over everything that is false and forced.
The dunderheads who wrote "good Latin" and "Attic Greek" did it by a
process by means of which the youngest fellow in the school was
conscious he could, if he chose, attain the same perfection. Vivian
Grey's verses were unlike anything which had yet appeared in the
literary Annals of Burnsley Vicarage, and that which was quite novel was
naturally thought quite excellent.
There is no place in the world where greater homage is paid to talent
than an English school. At a public school, indeed, if a youth of great
talents be blessed with an amiable and generous disposition, he ought
not to envy the Minister of England. If any captain of Eton or praefect
of Winchester be reading these pages, let him dispassionately consider
in what situation of life he can rationally expect that it will be in
his power to exercise such influence, to have such opportunities of
obliging others, and be so confident of an affectionate and grateful
return. Aye, there's the rub! Bitter thought! that gratitude should
cease the moment we become men.
And sure I am that Vivian Grey was loved as ardently and as faithfully
us you might expect from innocent young hearts. His slight
accomplishments were the standard of all perfection, his sayings were
the soul of all good fellowship, and his opinion the guide in any crisis
which occurred in the monotonous existence of the little commonwealth.
And time flew gaily on.
One winter evening, as Vivian, with some of his particular cronies, were
standing round the school-room fire, they began, as all schoolboys do
when it grows rather dark and they grow rather sentimental, to talk
"Twelve weeks more," said Augustus Etherege; "twelve weeks more, and we
are free! The glorious day should be celebrated."
"A feast, a feast!" exclaimed Poynings.
"A feast is but the work of a night," said Vivian Grey; "something more
stirring for me! What say you to private theatricals?"
The proposition was, of course, received with enthusiasm, and it was not
until they had unanimously agreed to act that they universally
remembered that acting was not allowed. And then they consulted whether
they should ask Dallas, and then they remembered that Dallas had been
asked fifty times, and then they "supposed they must give it up;" and
then Vivian Grey made a proposition which the rest were secretly sighing
for, but which they were afraid to make themselves; he proposed that
they should act without asking Dallas. "Well, then, we'll do it without
asking him," said Vivian; "nothing is allowed in this life, and
everything is done: in town there is a thing called the French play, and
that is not allowed, yet my aunt has got a private box there. Trust me
for acting, but what shall we perform?"
This question was, as usual, the fruitful source of jarring opinions.
One proposed Othello, chiefly because it would be so easy to black a
face with a burnt cork. Another was for Hamlet, solely because he wanted
to act the ghost, which he proposed doing in white shorts and a
night-cap. A third was for Julius Caesar, because the murder scene would
be such fun.
"No! no!" said Vivian, tired at these various and varying proposals,
"this will never do. Out upon Tragedies; let's have a Comedy!"
"A Comedy! a Comedy! oh! how delightful!"
After an immense number of propositions, and an equal number of
repetitions, Dr. Hoadley's bustling drama was fixed upon. Vivian was to
act Ranger, Augustus Etherege was to personate Clarinda, because he was
a fair boy and always blushing; and the rest of the characters found
able representatives. Every half-holiday was devoted to rehearsals, and
nothing could exceed the amusement and thorough fun which all the
preparations elicited. All went well; Vivian wrote a pathetic prologue
and a witty epilogue. Etherege got on capitally in the mask scene, and
Poynings was quite perfect in Jack Maggot. There was, of course, some
difficulty in keeping all things in order, but then Vivian Grey was such
an excellent manager! and then, with infinite tact, the said manager
conciliated the Classics, for he allowed St. Leger Smith to select a
Greek motto, from the Andromache, for the front of the theatre; and
Johnson secundus and Barlow primus were complimented by being allowed to
act the chairmen.
But alas! in the midst of all this sunshine, the seeds of discord and
dissension were fast flourishing. Mr. Dallas himself was always so
absorbed in some freshly-imported German commentator that it was a fixed
principle with him never to trouble himself with anything that concerned
his pupils "out of school hours." The consequence was, that certain
powers were necessarily delegated to a certain set of beings
The usherian rule had, however, always been comparatively light at
Burnsley Vicarage, for the good Dallas, never for a moment entrusting
the duties of tuition to a third person, engaged these deputies merely
as a sort of police, to regulate the bodies, rather than the minds, of
his youthful subjects. One of the first principles of the new theory
introduced into the establishment of Burnsley Vicarage by Mr. Vivian
Grey was, that the ushers were to be considered by the boys as a
species of upper servants; were to be treated with civility, certainly,
as all servants are by gentlemen; but that no further attention was to
be paid them, and that any fellow voluntarily conversing with an usher
was to be cut dead by the whole school. This pleasant arrangement was no
secret to those whom it most immediately concerned, and, of course,
rendered Vivian rather a favourite with them. These men had not the tact
to conciliate the boy, and were, notwithstanding, too much afraid of his
influence in the school to attack him openly; so they waited with that
patience which insulted beings can alone endure.
One of these creatures must not be forgotten; his name was Mallett; he
was a perfect specimen of the genuine usher. The monster wore a black
coat and waistcoat; the residue of his costume was of that mysterious
colour known by the name of pepper-and-salt. He was a pallid wretch with
a pug nose, white teeth, and marked with the small-pox: long, greasy,
black hair, and small black, beady eyes. This daemon watched the
progress of the theatrical company with eyes gloating with vengeance. No
attempt had been made to keep the fact of the rehearsal a secret from
the police; no objection, on their part, had as yet been made; the
twelve weeks diminished to six; Ranger had secretly ordered a dress from
town, and was to get a steel-handled sword from Fentum's for Jack
Maggot; and everything was proceeding with delightful success, when one
morning, as Mr. Dallas was apparently about to take his departure, with
a volume of Becker's Thucydides under his arm, the respected Dominie
stopped, and thus harangued: "I am informed that a great deal is going
on in this family with which it is intended that I shall be kept
unacquainted. It is not my intention to name anybody or anything at
present; but I must say that of late the temper of this family has sadly
changed. Whether there be any seditious stranger among you or not, I
shall not at present even endeavour to discover; but I will warn my old
friends of their new ones:" and so saying, the Dominie withdrew.
All eyes were immediately fixed on Vivian, and the faces of the Classics
were triumphant with smiles; those of the manager's particular friends,
the Romantics, we may call them, were clouded; but who shall describe
the countenance of Mallett? In a moment the school broke up with an
agitated and tumultuous uproar. "No stranger!" shouted St. Leger Smith;
"no stranger!" vociferated a prepared gang. Vivian's friends were
silent, for they hesitated to accept for their leader the insulting
title. Those who were neither Vivian's friends nor in the secret, weak
creatures who side always with the strongest, immediately swelled the
insulting chorus of Mr. St. Leger Smith. That worthy, emboldened by his
success and the smiles of Mallett, contained himself no longer: "Down
with the manager!" he cried. His satellites chorussed. But now Vivian
rushed forward. "Mr. Smith, I thank you for being so definite; take
that!" and he struck Smith with such force that the Cleon staggered and
fell; but Smith instantly recovered, and a ring was instantly formed. To
a common observer, the combatants were unequally matched; for Smith was
a burly, big-limbed animal, alike superior to Grey in years and
strength. But Vivian, though delicate in frame and more youthful, was
full his match in spirit, and, thanks to being a Cockney! ten times his
match in science. He had not built a white great coat or drunk blue ruin
at Ben Burn's for nothing!
Oh! how beautifully he fought! how admirably straight he hit! and his
stops quick as lightning! and his followings up confounding his
adversary with their painful celerity! Smith alike puzzled and punished,
yet proud in his strength, hit round, and wild, and false, and foamed
like a furious elephant. For ten successive rounds the result was
dubious; but in the eleventh the strength of Smith began to fail him,
and the men were more fairly matched. "Go it, Ranger! go it, Ranger!"
halloed the Greyites; "No stranger! no stranger!" eagerly bawled the
more numerous party. "Smith's floored, by Jove!" exclaimed Poynings, who
was Grey's second. "At it again! at it again!" exclaimed all. And now,
when Smith must certainly have given in, suddenly stepped forward Mr.
Mallett, accompanied by--Dallas!
"How, Mr. Grey! No answer, sir; I understand that you have always an
answer ready. I do not quote Scripture lightly, Mr. Grey; but 'Take heed
that you offend not, even with your tongue.' Now, sir, to your room."
When Vivian Grey again joined his companions, he found himself almost
universally shunned. Etherege and Poynings were the only individuals who
met him with their former frankness.
"A horrible row, Grey," said the latter. "After you went, the Doctor
harangued the whole school, and swears you have seduced and ruined us
all; everything was happiness until you came, &c. Mallett is of course
at the bottom of the whole business: but what can we do? Dallas says you
have the tongue of a serpent, and that he will not trust himself to hear
your defence. Infamous shame! I swear! And now every fellow has got a
story against you: some say you are a dandy, others want to know whether
the next piece performed at your theatre will be 'The Stranger;' as for
myself and Etherege, we shall leave in a few weeks, and it does not
signify to us; but what the devil you're to do next half, by Jove, I
can't say. If I were you, I would not return."
"Not return, eh! but that will I, though; and we shall see who, in
future, can complain of the sweetness of my voice! Ungrateful fools!"
The Vacation was over, and Vivian returned to Burnsley Vicarage. He
bowed cavalierly to Mr. Dallas on his arrival, and immediately sauntered
up into the school-room, where he found a tolerable quantity of wretches
looking as miserable as schoolboys who have left their pleasant homes
generally do for some four-and-twenty hours. "How d'ye do, Grey? How
d'ye do, Grey?" burst from a knot of unhappy fellows, who would have
felt quite delighted had their newly arrived co-mate condescended to
entertain them, as usual, with some capital good story fresh from town.
But they were disappointed.
"We can make room for you at the fire, Grey," said Theophilus
"I thank you, I am not cold."
"I suppose you know that Poynings and Etherege don't come back, Grey?"
"Everybody knew that last half:" and so he walked on.
"Grey, Grey!" halloed King, "don't go into the dining-room; Mallett is
there alone, and told us not to disturb him. By Jove, the fellow is
going in: there will be a greater row this half between Grey and Mallett
Days, the heavy first days of the half, rolled on, and all the citizens
of the little commonwealth had returned.
"What a dull half this will be!" said Eardley; "how one misses Grey's
set! After all, they kept the school alive: Poynings was a first-rate
fellow, and Etherege so deuced good-natured! I wonder whom Grey will
crony with this half; have you seen him and Dallas speak together yet?
He cut the Doctor quite dead at Greek to-day."
"Why, Eardley! Eardley! there is Grey walking round playing fields with
Mallett!" halloed a sawney who was killing the half-holiday by looking
out of the window.
"The devil! I say, Matthews, whose flute is that? It is a devilish
"It's Grey's! I clean it for him," squeaked a little boy. "He gives me
sixpence a week!"
"Oh, you sneak!" said one.
"Cut him over!"
"Roast him!" cried a third.
"To whom are you going to take the flute?" asked a fourth.
"To Mallett," squeaked the little fellow. "Grey lends his flute to
Mallett every day."
"Grey lends his flute to Mallett! The deuce he does! So Grey and Mallett
are going to crony!"
A wild exclamation burst forth from the little party; and away each of
them ran, to spread in all directions the astounding intelligence.
If the rule of the ushers had hitherto been light at Burnsley Vicarage,
its character was materially changed during this half-year. The
vexatious and tyrannical influence of Mallett was now experienced in all
directions, meeting and interfering with the comforts of the boys in
every possible manner. His malice was accompanied, too, by a tact which
could not have been expected from his vulgar mind, and which, at the
same time, could not have been produced by the experience of one in his
situation. It was quite evident to the whole community that his conduct
was dictated by another mind, and that that mind was one versed in all
the secrets of a school-boy's life, and acquainted with all the workings
of a school-boy's mind: a species of knowledge which no pedagogue in the
world ever yet attained. There was no difficulty in discovering whose
was the power behind the throne. Vivian Grey was the perpetual companion
of Mallett in his walks, and even in the school; he shunned also the
converse of every one of the boys, and did not affect to conceal that
his quarrel was universal. Superior power, exercised by a superior mind,
was for a long time more than a match even for the united exertions of
the whole school. If any one complained, Mallett's written answer (and
such Dallas always required) was immediately ready, explaining
everything in the most satisfactory manner, and refuting every complaint
with the most triumphant spirit. Dallas, of course, supported his
deputy, and was soon equally detested. This tyranny had continued
through a great part of the long half-year, and the spirit of the school
was almost broken, when a fresh outrage occurred, of such a nature that
the nearly enslaved multitude conspired.
The plot was admirably formed. On the first bell ringing for school, the
door was to be immediately barred, to prevent the entrance of Dallas.
Instant vengeance was then to be taken on Mallett and his companion--the
sneak! the spy! the traitor! The bell rang: the door was barred: four
stout fellows seized on Mallett, four rushed to Vivian Grey: but stop:
he sprang upon his desk, and, placing his back against the wall, held a
pistol at the foremost: "Not an inch nearer, Smith, or I fire. Let me
not, however, baulk your vengeance on yonder hound: if I could suggest
any refinements in torture, they would be at your service." Vivian Grey
smiled, while the horrid cries of Mallett indicated that the boys were
"roasting" him. He then walked to the door and admitted the barred-out
Dominie. Silence was restored. There was an explanation and no defence;
and Vivian Grey was expelled.
Vivian was now seventeen; and the system of private education having so
decidedly failed, it was resolved that he should spend the years
antecedent to his going to Oxford at home. Nothing could be a greater
failure than the first weeks of his "course of study." He was
perpetually violating the sanctity of the drawing-room by the presence
of Scapulas and Hederics, and outraging the propriety of morning
visitors by bursting into his mother's boudoir with lexicons
"Vivian, my dear," said his father to him one day, "this will never do;
you must adopt some system for your studies, and some locality for your
reading. Have a room to yourself; set apart certain hours in the day
for your books, and allow no consideration on earth to influence you to
violate their sacredness; and above all, my dear boy, keep your papers
in order. I find a dissertation on 'The Commerce of Carthage' stuck in
my large paper copy of 'Dibdin's Decameron,' and an 'Essay on the
Metaphysics of Music' (pray, my dear fellow, beware of magazine
scribbling) cracking the back of Montfaucon's 'Monarchie.'"
Vivian apologised, promised, protested, and finally sat down "TO READ."
He had laid the foundations of accurate classical knowledge under the
tuition of the learned Dallas; and twelve hours a day and
self-banishment from society overcame, in twelve months, the ill effects
of his imperfect education. The result of this extraordinary exertion
may be conceived. At the end of twelve months, Vivian, like many other
young enthusiasts, had discovered that all the wit and wisdom of the
world were concentrated in some fifty antique volumes, and he treated
the unlucky moderns with the most sublime spirit of hauteur imaginable.
A chorus in the Medea, that painted the radiant sky of Attica, disgusted
him with the foggy atmosphere of Great Britain; and while Mrs. Grey was
meditating a visit to Brighton, her son was dreaming of the gulf of
Salamis. The spectre in the Persae was his only model for a ghost, and
the furies in the Orestes were his perfection of tragical machinery.
Most ingenious and educated youths have fallen into the same error, but
few have ever carried such feelings to the excess that Vivian Grey did;
for while his mind was daily becoming more enervated under the beautiful
but baneful influence of Classic Reverie, the youth lighted upon PLATO.
Wonderful is it that while the whole soul of Vivian Grey seemed
concentrated and wrapped in the glorious pages of the Athenian; while,
with keen and almost inspired curiosity, he searched, and followed up,
and meditated upon, the definite mystery, the indefinite development;
while his spirit alternately bowed in trembling and in admiration, as he
seemed to be listening to the secrets of the Universe revealed in the
glorious melodies of an immortal voice; wonderful is it, I say, that the
writer, the study of whose works appeared to the young scholar, in the
revelling of his enthusiasm, to be the sole object for which man was
born and had his being, was the cause by which Vivian Grey was saved
from being all his life a dreaming scholar.
Determined to spare no exertions, and to neglect no means, by which he
might enter into the very penetralia of his mighty master's meaning,
Vivian determined to attack the latter Platonists. These were a race of
men, of whose existence he knew merely by the references to their
productions which were sprinkled in the commentaries of his "best
editions." In the pride of boyish learning, Vivian had limited his
library to Classics, and the proud leaders of the later schools did not
consequently grace his diminutive bookcase. In this dilemma he flew to
his father, and confessed by his request that his favourites were not
"Father! I wish to make myself master of the latter Platonists. I want
Plotinus, and Porphyry, and Iamblichus, and Syrirnus, and Maximus
Tyrius, and Proclus, and Hierocles, and Sallustius, and Damascius."
Mr. Grey stared at his son, and laughed.
"My dear Vivian! are you quite convinced that the authors you ask for
are all pure Platonists? or have not some of them placed the great end
rather in practical than theoretic virtue, and thereby violated the
first principles of your master? which would be shocking. Are you sure,
too, that these gentlemen have actually 'withdrawn the sacred veil,
which covers from profane eyes the luminous spectacles?' Are you quite
convinced that every one of these worthies lived at least five hundred
years after the great master? for I need not tell so profound a
Platonist as yourself that it was not till that period that even
glimpses of the great master's meaning were discovered. Strange! that
TIME should alike favour the philosophy of theory and the philosophy of
facts. Mr. Vivian Grey, benefiting, I presume, by the lapse of further
centuries, is about to complete the great work which Proclus and
"My dear sir! you are pleased to be amusing this morning."
"My dear boy! I smile, but not with joy. Sit down, and let us have a
little conversation together. Father and son, and father and son on such
terms as we are, should really communicate oftener together than we do.
It has been, perhaps, my fault; it shall not be so again."
"My dear sir!"
"Nay, nay, it shall be my fault now. Whose it shall be in future,
Vivian, time will show. My dear Vivian, you have now spent upwards of a
year under this roof, and your conduct has been as correct as the most
rigid parent might require. I have not wished to interfere with the
progress of your mind, and I regret it. I have been negligent, but not
wilfully so. I do regret it; because, whatever may be your powers,
Vivian, I at least have the advantage of experience. I see you smile at
a word which I so often use. Well, well, were I to talk to you for ever,
you would not understand what I mean by that single word. The time will
come when you will deem that single word everything. Ardent youths in
their closets, Vivian, too often fancy that they are peculiar beings;
and I have no reason to believe that you are an exception to the general
rule. In passing one whole year of your life, as you have done, you
doubtless imagine that you have been spending your hours in a manner
which no others have done before. Trust me, my boy, thousands have done
the same; and, what is of still more importance, thousands are doing,
and will do, the same. Take the advice of one who has committed as many,
ay more, follies than yourself; but who would bless the hour that he had
been a fool if his experience might be of benefit to his beloved son."
"Nay, don't agitate yourself; we are consulting together. Let us see
what is to be done. Try to ascertain, when you are alone, what may be
the chief objects of your existence in this world. I want you to take no
theological dogmas for granted, nor to satisfy your doubts by ceasing to
think; but, whether we are in this world in a state of probation for
another, or whether we cease altogether when we cease to breathe, human
feelings tell me that we have some duties to perform; to our fellow
creatures, to our friends, to ourselves. Pray tell me, my dear boy, what
possible good your perusal of the latter Platonists can produce to
either of these three interests? I trust that my child is not one of
those who look with a glazed eye on the welfare of their fellow-men, and
who would dream away an useless life by idle puzzles of the brain;
creatures who consider their existence as an unprofitable mystery, and
yet are afraid to die. You will find Plotinus in the fourth shelf of the
next room, Vivian."
In England, personal distinction is the only passport to the society of
the great. Whether this distinction arise from fortune, family, or
talent, is immaterial; but certain it is, to enter into high society, a
man must either have blood, a million, or a genius.
The reputation of Mr. Grey had always made him an honoured guest among
the powerful and the great. It was for this reason that he had always
been anxious that his son should be at home as little as possible; for
he feared for a youth the fascination of London society. Although busied
with his studies, and professing "not to visit," Vivian could not avoid
occasionally finding himself in company in which boys should never be
seen; and, what was still worse, from a certain social spirit, an
indefinable tact with which Nature had endowed him, this boy of nineteen
began to think this society delightful. Most persons of his age would
have passed through the ordeal with perfect safety; they would have
entered certain rooms, at certain hours, with stiff cravats, and Nugee
coats, and black velvet waistcoats; and after having annoyed all those
who condescended to know of their existence, with their red hands and
their white gloves, they would have retired to a corner of the room, and
conversationised with any stray four-year-older not yet sent to bed.
But Vivian Grey was a graceful, lively lad, with just enough of dandyism
to preserve him from committing gaucheries, and with a devil of a
tongue. All men will agree with me that the only rival to be feared by a
man of spirit is a clever boy. What makes them so popular with women it
is difficult to explain; however, Lady Julia Knighton, and Mrs. Frank
Delmington, and half a score of dames of fashion, were always
patronising our hero, who found an evening spent in their society not
altogether dull, for there is no fascination so irresistible to a boy as
the smile of a married woman. Vivian had passed such a recluse life for
the last two years and a half, that he had quite forgotten that he was
once considered an agreeable fellow; and so, determined to discover what
right he ever had to such a reputation, he dashed into all these
amourettes in beautiful style.
But Vivian Grey was a young and tender plant in a moral hothouse. His
character was developing itself too soon. Although his evenings were now
generally passed in the manner we have alluded to, this boy was, during
the rest of the day, a hard and indefatigable student; and having now
got through an immense series of historical reading, he had stumbled
upon a branch of study certainly the most delightful in the world; but,
for a boy, as certainly the most perilous, THE STUDY OF POLITICS.
And now everything was solved! the inexplicable longings of his soul,
which had so often perplexed him, were at length explained. The want,
the indefinable want, which he had so constantly experienced, was at
last supplied; the grand object on which to bring the powers of his mind
to bear and work was at last provided. He paced his chamber in an
agitated spirit, and panted for the Senate.
It may be asked, what was the evil of all this? and the reader will,
perhaps, murmur something about an honourable spirit and youthful
ambition. The evil was great. The time drew nigh for Vivian to leave his
home for Oxford, that is, for him to commence his long preparation for
entering on his career in life. And now this person, who was about to be
a pupil, this stripling, who was going to begin his education, had all
the desires of a matured mind, of an experienced man, but without
maturity and without experience. He was already a cunning reader of
human hearts; and felt conscious that his was a tongue which was born to
guide human beings. The idea of Oxford to such an individual was
We must endeavour to trace, if possible, more accurately the workings of
Vivian Grey's mind at this period of his existence. In the plenitude of
his ambition, he stopped one day to enquire in what manner he could
obtain his magnificent ends.
"The Bar: pooh! law and bad jokes till we are forty; and then, with the
most brilliant success, the prospect of gout and a coronet. Besides, to
succeed as an advocate, I must be a great lawyer; and, to be a great
lawyer, I must give up my chance of being a great man. The Services in
war time are fit only for desperadoes (and that truly am I); but, in
peace, are fit only for fools. The Church is more rational. Let me see:
I should certainly like to act Wolsey; but the thousand and one chances
against me! And truly I feel my destiny should not be on a chance. Were
I the son of a millionaire, or a noble, I might have all. Curse on my
lot! that the want of a few rascal counters, and the possession of a
little rascal blood, should mar my fortunes!"
Such was the general tenor of Vivian's thoughts, until, musing himself
almost into madness, he at last made, as he conceived, the Grand
Discovery. Riches are Power, says the Economist; and is not Intellect?
asks the Philosopher. And yet, while the influence of the millionaire is
instantly felt in all classes of society, how is it that "Noble Mind" so
often leaves us unknown and unhonoured? Why have there been statesmen
who have never ruled, and heroes who have never conquered? Why have
glorious philosophers died in a garret? and why have there been poets
whose only admirer has been Nature in her echoes? It must be that these
beings have thought only of themselves, and, constant and elaborate
students of their own glorious natures, have forgotten or disdained the
study of all others. Yes! we must mix with the herd; we must enter into
their feelings; we must humour their weaknesses; we must sympathise with
the sorrows that we do not feel; and share the merriment of fools. Oh,
yes! to rule men, we must be men; to prove that we are strong, we must
be weak; to prove that we are giants, we must be dwarfs; even as the
Eastern Genie was hid in the charmed bottle. Our wisdom must be
concealed under folly, and our constancy under caprice.
"I have been often struck by the ancient tales of Jupiter's visits to
the earth. In these fanciful adventures, the god bore no indication of
the Thunderer's glory; but was a man of low estate, a herdsman, a hind,
often even an animal. A mighty spirit has in Tradition, Time's great
moralist, perused 'the wisdom of the ancients.' Even in the same spirit,
I would explain Jove's terrestrial visitings. For, to govern man, even
the god appeared to feel as a man; and sometimes as a beast, was
apparently influenced by their vilest passions. Mankind, then, is my
"At this moment, how many a powerful noble wants only wit to be a
Minister; and what wants Vivian Grey to attain the same end? That
noble's influence. When two persons can so materially assist each
other, why are they not brought together? Shall I, because my birth
baulks my fancy, shall I pass my life a moping misanthrope in an old
château? Supposing I am in contact with this magnifico, am I prepared?
Now, let me probe my very soul. Does my cheek blanch? I have the mind
for the conception; and I can perform right skilfully upon the most
splendid of musical instruments, the human voice, to make those
conceptions beloved by others. There wants but one thing more: courage,
pure, perfect courage; and does Vivian Grey know fear?" He laughed an
answer of bitterest derision.
Is it surprising that Vivian Grey, with a mind teeming with such
feelings, should view the approach of the season for his departure to
Oxford with sentiments of disgust? After hours of bitter meditation, he
sought his father; he made him acquainted with his feelings, but
concealed from him his actual views, and dwelt on the misery of being
thrown back in life, at a period when society seemed instinct with a
spirit peculiarly active, and when so many openings were daily offered
to the adventurous and the bold.
"Vivian," said Mr. Grey, "beware of endeavouring to become a great man
in a hurry. One such attempt in ten thousand may succeed: these are
fearful odds. Admirer as you are of Lord Bacon, you may perhaps remember
a certain parable of his, called 'Memnon, or a youth too forward.' I
hope you are not going to be one of those sons of Aurora, 'who, puffed
up with the glittering show of vanity and ostentation, attempt actions
above their strength.'
"You talk to me about the peculiarly active spirit of society; if the
spirit of society be so peculiarly active, Mr. Vivian Grey should beware
lest it outstrip him. Is neglecting to mature your mind, my boy, exactly
the way to win the race? This is an age of unsettled opinions and
contested principles; in the very measures of our administration, the
speculative spirit of the present day is, to say the least, not
impalpable. Nay, don't start, my dear fellow, and look the very
Prosopopeia of Political Economy! I know exactly what you are going to
say; but, if you please, we will leave Turgot and Galileo to Mr.
Canning and the House of Commons, or your Cousin Hargrave and his
Debating Society. However, jesting apart, get your hat, and walk with me
as far as Evans's, where I have promised to look in, to see the Mazarin
Bible, and we will talk this affair over as we go along.
"I am no bigot, you know, Vivian. I am not one of those who wish to
oppose the application of refined philosophy to the common business of
life. We are, I hope, an improving race; there is room, I am sure, for
great improvement, and the perfectibility of man is certainly a pretty
dream. (How well that Union Club House comes out now, since they have
made the opening), but, although we may have steam kitchens, human
nature is, I imagine, much the same this moment that we are walking in
Pall Mall East, as it was some thousand years ago, when as wise men were
walking on the banks of the Ilyssus. When our moral powers increase in
proportion to our physical ones, then huzza, for the perfectibility of
man! and respectable, idle loungers like you and I, Vivian, may then
have a chance of walking in the streets of London without having their
heels trodden upon, a ceremony which I have this moment undergone. In
the present day we are all studying science, and none of us are studying
ourselves. This is not exactly the Socratic process; and as for the
[Greek: gnothi seauton] of the more ancient Athenian, that principle is
quite out of fashion in the nineteenth century (I believe that's the
phrase). Self is the only person whom we know nothing about.
"But, my dear Vivian, as to the immediate point of our consideration. In
my library, uninfluenced and uncontrolled by passion or by party, I
cannot but see that it is utterly impossible that all that we are
wishing and striving for can take place, without some, without much
evil. In ten years' time, perhaps, or less, the fever will have
subsided, and in ten years' time, or less, your intellect will be
matured. Mow, my good sir, instead of talking about the active spirit of
the age, and the opportunities offered to the adventurous and the bold,
ought you not rather to congratulate yourself that a great change is
effecting at a period of your life when you need not, individually, be
subjected to the possibility of being injured by its operation; and when
you are preparing your mind to take advantage of the system, when that
system is matured and organised?
"As to your request, it assuredly is one of the most modest, and the
most rational, that I have lately been favoured with. Although I would
much rather that any influence which I may exercise over your mind,
should be the effect of my advice as your friend than of my authority as
your father; still I really feel it my duty, parentally, to protest
against this crude proposition of yours. However, if you choose to lose
a term or two, do. Don't blame me, you know, if afterwards you
Here dashed by the gorgeous equipage of Mrs. Ormolu, the wife of a man
who was working all the gold and silver mines in Christendom. "Ah! my
dear Vivian," said Mr. Grey, "it is this which has turned all your
brains. In this age every one is striving to make an immense fortune,
and what is most terrific, at the same time a speedy one. This thirst
for sudden wealth it is which engenders the extravagant conceptions, and
fosters that wild spirit of speculation which is now stalking abroad;
and which, like the Daemon in Frankenstein, not only fearfully wanders
over the whole wide face of nature, but grins in the imagined solitude
of our secret chambers. Oh! my son, it is for the young men of the
present day that I tremble; seduced by the temporary success of a few
children of fortune, I observe that their minds recoil from the
prospects which are held forth by the ordinary, and, mark me, by the
only modes of acquiring property, fair trade, and honourable
professions. It is for you and your companions that I fear. God grant
that there may not be a moral as well as a political disorganisation!
God grant that our youth, the hope of our state, may not be lost to us!
For, oh! my son, the wisest has said, 'He that maketh haste to be rich
shall not be innocent.' Let us step into Clarke's and take an ice."
The Marquess of Carabas started in life as the cadet of a noble family.
The earl, his father, like the woodman in the fairy tale, was blessed
with three sons: the first was an idiot, and was destined for the
Coronet; the second was a man of business, and was educated for the
Commons; the third was a Roué, and was shipped to the Colonies.
The present Marquess, then the Honourable Sidney Lorraine, prospered in
his political career. He was servile, and pompous, and indefatigable,
and loquacious, so whispered the world: his friends hailed him as, at
once, a courtier and a sage, a man of business and an orator. After
revelling in his fair proportion of commissionerships, and
under-secretaryships, and the rest of the milk and honey of the
political Canaan, the apex of the pyramid of his ambition was at length
visible, for Sidney Lorraine became President of a Board, and wriggled
into the adytum of the cabinet.
At this moment his idiot brother died. To compensate for his loss of
office, and to secure his votes, the Earl of Carabas was promoted in the
peerage, and was presented with some magnificent office, meaning
nothing; swelling with dignity, and void of duties. As years rolled on,
various changes took place in the administration, of which his Lordship
was once a component part; and the ministry, to their surprise, getting
popular, found that the command of the Carabas interest was not of such
vital importance to them as heretofore, and so his Lordship was voted a
bore, and got shelved. Not that his Lordship was bereaved of his
splendid office, or that anything occurred, indeed, by which the
uninitiated might have been led to suppose that the beams of his
Lordship's consequence were shorn; but the Marquess's secret
applications at the Treasury were no longer listened to, and pert
under-secretaries settled their cravats, and whispered "that the Carabas
interest was gone by."
The noble Marquess was not insensible to his situation, for he was what
the world calls ambitious; but the vigour of his faculties had vanished
beneath the united influence of years and indolence and ill-humour; for
his Lordship, to avoid ennui, had quarrelled with his son, and then,
having lost his only friend, had quarrelled with himself.
Such was the distinguished individual who graced, one day at the latter
end of the season of 18--, the classic board of Horace Grey, Esquire.
The reader will, perhaps, be astonished, that such a man as his Lordship
should be the guest of such a man as our hero's father; but the truth
is, the Marquess of Carabas had just been disappointed in an attempt on
the chair of the President of the Royal Society, which, for want of
something better to do, he was ambitious of filling, and this was a
conciliatory visit to one of the most distinguished members of that
body, and one who had voted against him with particular enthusiasm. The
Marquess, still a politician, was now, as he imagined, securing his
host's vote for a future St. Andrew's day.
The cuisine of Mr. Grey was superb; for although an enthusiastic
advocate for the cultivation of the mind, he was an equally ardent
supporter of the cultivation of the body. Indeed, the necessary
dependence of the sanity of the one on the good keeping of the other,
was one of his favourite theories, and one which, this day, he was
supporting with pleasant and facetious reasoning. His Lordship was
delighted with his new friend, and still more delighted with his new
friend's theory. The Marquess himself was, indeed, quite of the same
opinion as Mr. Grey; for he never made a speech without previously
taking a sandwich, and would have sunk under the estimates a thousand
times, had it not been for the juicy friendship of the fruit
The guests were not numerous. A regius professor of Greek; an officer
just escaped from Sockatoo; a man of science, and two M.P.'s with his
Lordship; the host, and Mr. Vivian Grey, constituted the party. Oh, no!
there were two others. There was a Mr. John Brown, a fashionable poet,
and who, ashamed of his own name, published his melodies under the more
euphonious and romantic title of "Clarence Devonshire," and there was a
Mr. Thomas Smith, a fashionable novelist; that is to say, a person who
occasionally publishes three volumes, one half of which contain the
adventures of a young gentleman in the country, and the other volume and
a half the adventures of the same young gentleman in the metropolis; a
sort of writer, whose constant tattle about beer and billiards, and
eating soup, and the horribility of "committing" puns, give truly an
admirable and accurate idea of the conversation of the refined society
of the refined metropolis of Great Britain. These two last gentlemen
were "pets" of Mrs. Grey.
The conversation may be conceived. Each person was of course prepared
with a certain quota of information, without which no man in London is
morally entitled to dine out; and when the quota was expended, the
amiable host took the burthen upon his own shoulders, and endeavoured,
as the phrase goes, to draw out his guests.
O London dinners! empty artificial nothings! and that beings can be
found, and those too the flower of the land, who, day after day, can
act the same parts in the same dull, dreary farce! The officer had
discoursed sufficiently about "his intimate friend, the Soudan," and
about the chain armour of the Sockatoo cuirassiers; and one of the
M.P.'s, who was in the Guards, had been defeated in a ridiculous attempt
to prove that the breast-plates of the household troops of Great Britain
were superior to those of the household troops of Timtomtoo. Mrs. Grey,
to whose opinion both parties deferred, gave it in favour of the Soudan.
And the man of science had lectured about a machine which might destroy
fifteen square feet of human beings in a second, and yet be carried in
the waistcoat pocket. And the classic, who, for a professor, was quite a
man of the world, had the latest news of the new Herculaneum process,
and was of opinion that, if they could but succeed in unrolling a
certain suspicious-looking scroll, we might be so fortunate as to
possess a minute treatise on &c., &c., &c. In short, all had said their
say. There was a dead pause, and Mrs. Grey looked at her husband,
How singular it is, that when this move takes place every one appears to
be relieved, and yet every one of any experience must be quite aware
that the dead bore work is only about to commence. Howbeit, all filled
their glasses, and the peer, at the top of the table, began to talk
politics. I am sure I cannot tell what the weighty subject was that was
broached by the ex-minister; for I did not dine with Grey that day, and
had I done so, I should have been equally ignorant, for I am a dull man,
and always sleep at dinner. However, the subject was political, the
claret flew round, and a stormy argument commenced. The Marquess was
decidedly wrong, and was sadly badgered by the civil M.P. and the
professor. The host, who was of no party, supported his guest as long as
possible, and then left him to his fate. The military M.P. fled to the
drawing-room to philander with Mrs. Grey; and the man of science and the
African had already retired to the intellectual idiocy of a May Fair "At
Home." The novelist was silent, for he was studying a scene; and the
poet was absent, for he was musing a sonnet.
The Marquess refuted, had recourse to contradiction, and was too acute a
man to be insensible to the forlornness of his situation; when, at this
moment, a voice proceeded from the end of the table, from a young
gentleman, who had hitherto preserved a profound silence, but whose
silence, if the company were to have judged from the tones of his
voice, and the matter of his communication, did not altogether proceed
from a want of confidence in his own abilities. "In my opinion," said
Mr. Vivian Grey, as he sat lounging in his father's vacated seat, "in my
opinion his Lordship has been misunderstood; and it is, as is generally
the case, from a slight verbal misconception in the commencement of this
argument, that the whole of this difference arises."
The eyes of the Marquess sparkled, and the mouth of the Marquess was
closed. His Lordship was delighted that his reputation might yet be
saved; but as he was not perfectly acquainted in what manner that
salvation was to be effected, he prudently left the battle to his
Mr. Vivian Grey proceeded with the utmost sang froid; he commented upon
expressions, split and subtilised words, insinuated opinions, and
finally quoted a whole passage of Bolingbroke to prove that the opinion
of the most noble the Marquess of Carabas was one of the soundest,
wisest, and most convincing of opinions that ever was promulgated by
mortal man. The tables were turned, the guests looked astounded, the
Marquess settled his ruffles, and perpetually exclaimed, "Exactly what I
meant!" and his opponents, full of wine and quite puzzled, gave in.
It was a rule with Vivian Grey never to advance any opinion as his own.
He had been too deep a student of human nature, not to be aware that the
opinions of a boy of twenty, however sound, and however correct, stand
but a poor chance of being adopted by his elder, though feebler,
fellow-creatures. In attaining any end, it was therefore his system
always to advance his opinion as that of some eminent and considered
personage; and when, under the sanction of this name, the opinion or
advice was entertained and listened to, Vivian Grey had no fear that he
could prove its correctness and its expediency. He possessed also the
singular faculty of being able to improvise quotations, that is, he
could unpremeditatedly clothe his conceptions in language characteristic
of the style of any particular author; and Vivian Grey was reputed in
the world as having the most astonishing memory that ever existed; for
there was scarcely a subject of discussion in which he did not gain the
victory, by the great names he enlisted on his side of the argument. His
father was aware of the existence of this dangerous faculty, and had
often remonstrated with his son on the use of it. On the present
occasion, when the buzz had somewhat subsided, Mr. Grey looked smiling
to his son, and said, "Vivian, my dear, can you tell me in what work of
Bolingbroke I can find the eloquent passage you have just quoted?"
"Ask Mr. Hargrave, sir," replied the son, with perfect coolness; then,
turning to the member, "You know, Mr. Hargrave, you are reputed the most
profound political student in the House, and more intimately acquainted
than any other person with the works of Bolingbroke."
Mr. Hargrave knew no such thing; but he was a weak man, and, seduced by
the compliment, he was afraid to prove himself unworthy of it by
confessing his ignorance of the passage.
Coffee was announced.
Vivian did not let the peer escape him in the drawing-room. He soon
managed to enter into conversation with him; and certainly the Marquess
of Carabas never found a more entertaining companion. Vivian discoursed
on a new Venetian liqueur, and taught the Marquess how to mull Moselle,
an operation of which the Marquess had never heard (as who has?); and
then the flood of anecdotes, and little innocent personalities, and the
compliments so exquisitely introduced, that they scarcely appeared to be
compliments; and the voice so pleasant, and conciliating, and the
quotation from the Marquess's own speech; and the wonderful art of which
the Marquess was not aware, by which, during all this time, the lively,
chattering, amusing, elegant conversationist, so full of scandal,
politics, and cookery, did not so much appear to be Mr. Vivian Grey as
the Marquess of Carabas himself.
"Well, I must be gone," said the fascinated noble; "I really have not
felt in such spirits for some time; I almost fear I have been vulgar
enough to be amusing, eh! eh! eh! but you young men are sad fellows, eh!
eh! eh! Don't forget to call on me; good evening! and Mr. Vivian Grey!
Mr. Vivian Grey!" said his lordship, returning, "you will not forget the
receipt you promised me for making tomahawk punch."
"Certainly not, my Lord," said the young man; "only it must be invented
first," thought Vivian, as he took up his light to retire. "But never
mind, never mind;
Chapeau bas! chapeau bas!
Glorie au Marquis de Carabas!!"
A few days after the dinner at Mr. Grey's, as the Marquess of Carabas
was sitting in his library, and sighing, in the fulness of his ennui, as
he looked on his large library table, once triply covered with official
communications, now thinly besprinkled with a stray parliamentary paper
or two, his steward's accounts, and a few letters from some grumbling
tenants, Mr. Vivian Grey was announced.
"I fear I am intruding on your Lordship, but I really could not refrain
from bringing you the receipt I promised."
"Most happy to see ye, most happy to see ye."
"This is exactly the correct receipt, my Lord. TO EVERY TWO BOTTLES OF
STILL CHAMPAGNE, ONE PINT OF CURAÇOA." The Peer's eyes glistened, and
his companion proceeded; "ONE PINT OF CURAÇOA; CATCH THE AROMA OF A
POUND OF GREEN TEA, AND DASH THE WHOLE WITH GLENLIVET."
"Splendid!" ejaculated the Marquess.
"The nice point, however, which it is impossible to define in a receipt,
is catching the aroma. What sort of a genius is your Lordship's chêf?"
"First-rate! Laporte _is_ a genius."
"Well, my Lord! I shall be most happy to superintend the first
concoction for you; and remember particularly," said Vivian, rising,
"remember it must be iced."
"Certainly, my dear fellow; but pray don't think of going yet."
"I am very sorry, my Lord; but such a pressure of engagements; your
Lordship's kindness is so great, and, really, I fear, that at this
moment especially, your Lordship can scarcely be in a humour for my
"Why this moment especially, Mr. Vivian Grey?"
"Oh, my Lord! I am perfectly aware of your Lordship's talents for
business; but still I had conceived, that the delicate situation in
which your Lordship is now placed, requiring such anxious
"Delicate situation! anxious attention! why man! you speak riddles. I
certainly have a great deal of business to transact: people are so
obstinate, or so foolish, they will consult me, certainly; and certainly
I feel it my duty, Mr. Vivian Grey; I feel it the duty, sir of every
Peer in this happy country (here his Lordship got parliamentary): yes,
sir, I feel it due to my character, to my family, to, to, to assist with
my advice all those who think fit to consult me." Splendid peroration!
"Oh, my Lord!" carelessly remarked Vivian, "I thought it was a mere on
"Thought what, my dear sir? you really quite perplex me."
"I mean to say, my Lord; I, I thought it was impossible the overtures
had been made."
"Overtures, Mr. Vivian Grey?"
"Yes, my Lord! Overtures; has not your Lordship seen the _Post_. But I
knew it was impossible; I said so, I--"
"Said what, Mr. Vivian Grey?"
"Said that the whole paragraph was unfounded."
"Paragraph! what paragraph?" and his Lordship rose, and rang the library
bell with vehemence: "Sadler, bring me the _Morning Post_."
The servant entered with the paper. Mr. Vivian Grey seized it from his
hands before it reached the Marquess, and glancing his eye over it with
the rapidity of lightning, doubled up the sheet in a convenient readable
form, and pushing it into his Lordship's hands, exclaimed, "There, my
Lord! there, that will explain all."
His Lordship read:
"We are informed that some alteration in the composition of the present
administration is in contemplation; Lord Past Century, it is said, will
retire; Mr. Liberal Principles will have the--; and Mr. Charlatan Gas
the--. A noble Peer, whose practised talents have already benefited the
nation, and who, on vacating his seat in the Cabinet, was elevated in
the Peerage, is reported as having had certain overtures made him, the
nature of which may be conceived, but which, under present
circumstances, it would be indelicate in us to hint at."
It would have been impossible for a hawk to watch its quarry with eyes
of more fixed and anxious earnestness than did Vivian Grey the Marquess
of Carabas, as his Lordship's eyes wandered over the paragraph. Vivian
drew his chair close to the table opposite to the Marquess, and when the
paragraph was read, their eyes met.
"Utterly untrue," whispered the Peer, with an agitated voice, and with
a countenance which, for a moment, seemed intellectual.
"But why Mr. Vivian Grey should deem the fact of such overtures having
been made 'impossible,' I confess, astonishes me."
"Impossible, my Lord!"
"Ay, Mr. Grey, impossible, that was your word."
"Oh, my Lord! what should I know about these matters?"
"Nay, nay, Mr. Grey, something must have been floating in your mind: why
impossible, why impossible? Did your father think so?"
"My father! Oh! no, he never thinks about these matters; ours is not a
political family; I am not sure that he ever looks at a newspaper."
"But, my dear Mr. Grey, you would not have used the word without some
meaning. Why did you think it impossible? impossible is such a peculiar
word." And here the Marquess looked up with great earnestness to a
portrait of himself, which hung over the fire-place. It was one of Sir
Thomas's happiest efforts; but it was not the happiness of the likeness,
or the beauty of the painting, which now attracted his Lordship's
attention; he thought only of the costume in which he appeared in that
portrait: the court dress of a Cabinet Minister. "Impossible, Mr. Grey,
you must confess, is a very peculiar word," reiterated his Lordship.
"I said impossible, my Lord, because I did conceive, that had your
Lordship been of a disposition to which such overtures might have been
made with any probability of success, the Marquess of Carabas would have
been in a situation which would have precluded the possibility of those
overtures being made at all."
"Hah!" and the Marquess nearly started from his seat.
"Yes, my Lord, I am a young, an inexperienced young man, ignorant of the
world's ways; doubtless I was wrong, but I have much to learn," and his
voice faltered; "but I did conceive, that having power at his command,
the Marquess of Carabas did not exercise it, merely because he despised
it: but what should I know of such matters, my Lord?"
"Is power a thing so easily to be despised, young man?" asked the
Marquess. His eye rested on a vote of thanks from the "Merchants and
Bankers of London to the Right Honourable Sydney Lorraine, President,
&c., &c., &c.," which, splendidly emblazoned, and gilt, and framed, and
glazed, was suspended opposite the President's portrait.
"Oh, no! my Lord, you mistake me," eagerly burst forth Vivian. "I am no
cold-blooded philosopher that would despise that, for which, in my
opinion, men, real men, should alone exist. Power! Oh! what sleepless
nights, what days of hot anxiety! what exertions of mind and body! what
travel! what hatred! what fierce encounters! what dangers of all
possible kinds, would I not endure with a joyous spirit to gain it! But
such, my Lord, I thought were feelings peculiar to inexperienced young
men: and seeing you, my Lord, so situated, that you might command all
and everything, and yet living as you do, I was naturally led to believe
that the object of my adoration was a vain glittering bauble, of which
those who could possess it, knew the utter worthlessness."
The Peer sat in a musing mood, playing the Devil's tattoo on the library
table; at last he raised his eyes, and said in a low whisper, "Are you
so certain that I can command all and everything?"
"All and everything! did I say all and everything? Really, my Lord, you
scan my expressions so critically! but I see your Lordship is smiling at
my boyish nonsense! and really I feel that I have already wasted too
much of your Lordship's valuable time, and displayed too much of my own
"My dear sir! I am not aware that I was smiling."
"Oh! your Lordship is so very kind."
"But, my dear sir! you are really labouring under a great mistake. I am
desirous, I am particularly desirous, of having your opinion upon
"My opinion, my Lord! what should my opinion be, but an echo of the
circle in which I live, but a faithful representation of the feelings of
"And, Mr. Grey, I should be glad to know what can possibly be more
interesting to me than a faithful representation of the feelings of
general society on this subject?"
"The many, my Lord, are not always right."
"Mr. Grey, the many are not often wrong. Come, my dear sir, do me the
favour of being frank, and let me know why the public is of opinion that
all and everything are in my power, for such, after all, were
"If I did use them, my Lord, it was because I was thinking, as I often
do, what, after all, in this country is public life? Is it not a race
in which the swiftest must surely win the prize; and is not that prize
power? Has not your Lordship treasure? There is your moral steam which
can work the world. Has not your Lordship's treasure most splendid
consequence, pure blood and aristocratic influence? The Millionaire has
in his possession the seeds of everything, but he must wait for half a
century till his descendant finds himself in your Lordship's state; till
he is yclept noble, and then he starts fair in the grand course. All
these advantages your Lordship has apparently at hand, with the
additional advantage (and one, oh! how great!) of having already proved
to your country that you know how to rule."
There was a dead silence, which at length the Marquess broke. "There is
much in what you say; but I cannot conceal it from myself, I have no
wish to conceal it from you; I am not what I was." O, ambition! art thou
the parent of truth?
"Ah! my Lord!" eagerly rejoined Vivian, "here is the terrible error into
which you great statesmen have always fallen. Think you not, that
intellect is as much a purchasable article as fine parks and fair
castles? With your Lordship's tried and splendid talents, everything
might be done; but, in my opinion, if, instead of a practised, an
experienced, and wary Statesman, I was now addressing an idiot Earl, I
should not see that the great end might not equally be consummated."
"Say you so, my merry man, and how?"
"Why, my Lord: but, but, I feel that I am trespassing on your Lordship's
time, otherwise I think I could show why society is of opinion that your
Lordship can do all and everything; how, indeed, your Lordship might, in
a very short time, be Prime Minister."
"No, Mr. Grey; this conversation must be finished. I will just give
orders that we may not be disturbed, and then we shall proceed
immediately. Come, now! your manner takes me, and we shall converse in
the spirit of the most perfect confidence."
Here, as the Marquess settled at the same time his chair and his
countenance, and looked as anxious as if Majesty itself were consulting
him on the formation of a ministry, in burst the Marchioness,
notwithstanding all the remonstrances, entreaties, threats, and
supplications of Mr. Sadler.
Her Ladyship had been what they style a splendid woman; that was now
past, although, with the aid of cashmeres, diamonds, and turbans, her
general appearance was still striking. Her Ladyship was not remarkable
for anything save a correct taste for poodles, parrots, and bijouterie,
and a proper admiration of Theodore Hook and John Bull.
"Oh! Marquess," exclaimed her Ladyship, and a favourite green parrot,
which came flying in after its accustomed perch, her Ladyship's left
shoulder, shrieked at the same time in concert, "Oh! Marquess, my poor
Julie! You know we have noticed how nervous she has been for some days
past, and I had just given her a saucer of arrow-root and milk, and she
seemed a little easier, and I said to Miss Graves. 'I really do think
she is a leetle better' and Miss Graves said, 'Yes, my Lady, I hope she
is; 'when just as we flattered ourselves that the dear little creature
was enjoying a quiet sleep, Miss Graves called out, 'Oh, my Lady! my
Lady! Julie's in a fit!' and when I turned round she was lying on her
back, kicking, with her eyes shut.' And here the Marchioness detected
Mr. Grey, and gave him as sublime a stare as might be expected from a
lady patroness of Almack's.
"The Marchioness, Mr. Vivian Grey, my love, I assure you we are engaged
in a most important, a most--"
"Oh! I would not disturb you for the world, only if you will just tell
me what you think ought to be done; leeches, or a warm bath; or shall I
send for Doctor Blue Pill?"
The Marquess looked a little annoyed, as if he wished her Ladyship in
her own room again. He was almost meditating a gentle reprimand, vexed
that his grave young friend should have witnessed this frivolous
intrusion, when that accomplished stripling, to the astonishment of the
future minister, immediately recommended "the warm bath," and then
lectured, with equal rapidity and erudition, on dogs, and their diseases
The Marchioness retired, "easier in her mind about Julie than she had
been for some days," as Vivian assured her "that it was not apoplexy,
but only the first symptom of an epidemic." And as she retired, she
murmured her gratitude gracefully to Julie's young physician.
"Now, Mr. Grey," said his Lordship, endeavouring to recover his dignity,
"we were discussing the public sentiments you know on a certain point,
when this unfortunate interruption--"
Vivian had not much difficulty in collecting his ideas, and he
proceeded, not as displeased as his Lordship with the domestic scene.
"I need not remind your Lordship that the two great parties into which
this State is divided are apparently very unequally proportioned. Your
Lordship well knows how the party to which your Lordship is said to
belong: your Lordship knows, I imagine, how that is constituted. We have
nothing to do with the other. My Lord, I must speak out. No thinking
man, and such, I trust, Vivian Grey is, no thinking man can for a moment
suppose, that your Lordship's heart is very warm in the cause of a
party, which, for I will not mince my words, has betrayed you. How is
it, it is asked by thinking men, how is it that the Marquess of Carabas
is the tool of a faction?"
The Marquess breathed aloud, "They say so, do they?"
"Why, my Lord, listen even to your servants in your own hall, need I say
more? How, then! is this opinion true? Let us look to your conduct to
the party to which you are said to belong. Your votes are theirs, your
influence is theirs; and for all this, what return, my Lord Marquess,
what return? My Lord, I am not rash enough to suppose, that your
Lordship, alone and unsupported, can make yourself the arbiter of this
country's destinies. It would be ridiculous to entertain such an idea
for a second. The existence of such a man would not be endured by the
nation for a second. But, my Lord, union is strength. Nay, my Lord,
start not; I am not going to advise you to throw yourself into the arms
of opposition; leave such advice for greenhorns. I am not going to adopt
a line of conduct, which would, for a moment, compromise the consistency
of your high character; leave such advice for fools. My Lord, it is to
preserve your consistency, it is to vindicate your high character, it is
to make the Marquess of Carabas perform the duties which society
requires from him, that I, Vivian Grey, a member of that society, and an
humble friend of your Lordship, speak so boldly."
"My friend," said the agitated Peer, "you cannot speak too boldly. My
mind opens to you. I have felt, I have long felt, that I was not what I
ought to be, that I was not what society requires me to be; but where is
your remedy? what is the line of conduct that I should pursue?"
"The remedy, my Lord! I never conceived, for a moment, that there was
any doubt of the existence of means to attain all and everything. I
think that was your Lordship's phrase. I only hesitated as to the
existence of the inclination on the part of your Lordship."
"You cannot doubt it now," said the Peer, in a low voice; and then his
Lordship looked anxiously round the room, as if he feared that there had
been some mysterious witness to his whisper.
"My Lord," said Vivian, and he drew his chair close to the Marquess,
"the plan is shortly this. There are others in a similar situation with
yourself. All thinking men know, your Lordship knows still better, that
there are others equally influential, equally ill-treated. How is it
that I see no concert, among these individuals? How is it that, jealous
of each other, or each trusting that he may ultimately prove an
exception to the system of which he is a victim; how is it, I say, that
you look with cold hearts on each other's situation? My Lord Marquess,
it is at the head of these that I would place you, it is these that I
would have act with you; and this is the union which is strength."
"You are right, you are right; there is Courtown, but we do not speak;
there is Beaconsfield, but we are not intimate: but much might be done."
"My Lord, you must not be daunted at a few difficulties, or at a little
exertion. But as for Courtown, or Beaconsfield, or fifty other offended
men, if it can be shown to them that their interest is to be your
Lordship's friend, trust me, that ere six months are over, they will
have pledged their troth. Leave all this to me, give me your Lordship's
name," said Vivian, whispering most earnestly in the Marquess's ear, and
laying his hand upon his Lordship's arm; "give me your Lordship's name,
and your Lordship's influence, and I will take upon myself the whole
organisation of the Carabas party."
"The Carabas party! Ah! we must think more of this."
The Marquess's eyes smiled with triumph, as he shook Vivian cordially by
the hand, and begged him to call upon him on the morrow.
The intercourse between the Marquess and Vivian after this interview was
constant. No dinner-party was thought perfect at Carabas House without
the presence of the young gentleman; and as the Marchioness was
delighted with the perpetual presence of an individual whom she could
always consult about Julie, there was apparently no domestic obstacle to
Vivian's remaining in high favour.
The Earl of Eglamour, the only child in whom were concentrated all the
hopes of the illustrious House of Lorraine, was in Italy. The only
remaining member of the domestic circle who was wanting was the
Honourable Mrs. Felix Lorraine, the wife of the Marquess's younger
brother. This lady, exhausted by the gaiety of the season, had left town
somewhat earlier than she usually did, and was inhaling fresh air, and
studying botany, at the magnificent seat of the Carabas family, Château
Desir, at which splendid place Vivian was to pass the summer.
In the meantime all was sunshine with Vivian Grey. His noble friend and
himself were in perpetual converse, and constantly engaged in deep
consultation. As yet, the world knew nothing, except that, according to
the Marquess of Carabas, "Vivian Grey was the most astonishingly clever
and prodigiously accomplished fellow that ever breathed;" and, as the
Marquess always added, "resembled himself very much when he was young."
But it must not be supposed that Vivian was to all the world the
fascinating creature that he was to the Marquess of Carabas. Many
complained that he was reserved, silent, satirical, and haughty. But the
truth was, Vivian Grey often asked himself, "Who is to be my enemy
to-morrow?" He was too cunning a master of the human mind, not to be
aware of the quicksands upon which all greenhorns strike; he knew too
well the danger of unnecessary intimacy. A smile for a friend, and a
sneer for the world, is the way to govern mankind, and such was the
motto of Vivian Grey.
How shall we describe Château Desir, that place fit for all princes? In
the midst of a park of great extent, and eminent for scenery, as varied
as might please nature's most capricious lover; in the midst of green
lawns and deep winding glens, and cooling streams, and wild forest, and
soft woodland, there was gradually formed an elevation, on which was
situate a mansion of great size, and of that bastard, but picturesque
style of architecture, called the Italian Gothic. The date of its
erection was about the middle of the sixteenth century. You entered by a
noble gateway, in which the pointed style still predominated; but in
various parts of which, the Ionic column, and the prominent keystone,
and other creations of Roman architecture, intermingled with the
expiring Gothic, into a large quadrangle, to which the square casement
windows, and the triangular pediments or gable ends supplying the place
of battlements, gave a varied and Italian feature. In the centre of the
court, from a vast marble basin, the rim of which was enriched by a
splendidly sculptured lotus border, rose a marble group representing
Amphitrite with her marine attendants, whose sounding shells and coral
sceptres sent forth their subject element in sparkling showers. This
work, the chef d'oeuvre celebrated artist of Vicenza, had been purchased
by Valerian, first Lord Carabas, who having spent the greater part of
his life as the representative of his monarch at the Ducal Court of
Venice, at length returned to his native country; and in the creation of
Château Desir endeavoured to find some consolation for the loss of his
beautiful villa on the banks of the Adige.
Over the gateway there rose a turreted tower, the small square window of
which, notwithstanding its stout stanchions, illumined the muniment room
of the House of Carabas. In the spandrils of the gateway and in many
other parts of the building might be seen the arms of the family; while
the tall twisted stacks of chimneys, which appeared to spring from all
parts of the roof, were carved and built in such curious and quaint
devices that they were rather an ornament than an excrescence. When you
entered the quadrangle, you found one side solely occupied by the old
hall, the huge carved rafters of whose oak roof rested on corbels of the
family supporters against the walls. These walls were of stone, but
covered half-way from the ground with a panelling of curiously-carved
oak; whence were suspended, in massy frames, the family portraits,
painted by Dutch and Italian artists. Near the dais, or upper part of
the hall, there projected an oriel window, which, as you beheld, you
scarcely knew what most to admire, the radiancy of its painted panes or
the fantastic richness of Gothic ornament, which was profusely lavished
in every part of its masonry. Here too the Gothic pendent and the Gothic
fan-work were intermingled with the Italian arabesques, which, at the
time of the building of the Château, had been recently introduced into
England by Hans Holbein and John of Padua.
How wild and fanciful are those ancient arabesques! Here at Château
Desir, in the panelling of the old hall, might you see fantastic
scrolls, separated by bodies ending in termini, and whose heads
supported the Ionic volute, while the arch, which appeared to spring
from these capitals, had, for a keystone, heads more monstrous than
those of the fabled animals of Ctesias; or so ludicrous, that you forgot
the classic griffin in the grotesque conception of the Italian artist.
Here was a gibbering monkey, there a grinning pulcinello; now you viewed
a chattering devil, which might have figured in the "Temptation of St.
Anthony;" and now a mournful, mystic, bearded countenance, which might
have flitted in the back scene of a "Witches' Sabbath."
A long gallery wound through the upper story of two other sides of the
quadrangle, and beneath were the show suite of apartments with a sight
of which the admiring eyes of curious tourists were occasionally
The grey stone walls of this antique edifice were, in many places,
thickly covered with ivy and other parasitical plants, the deep green of
whose verdure beautifully contrasted with the scarlet glories of the
pyrus japonica, which gracefully clustered round the windows of the
lower chambers. The mansion itself was immediately surrounded by
numerous ancient forest trees. There was the elm with its rich branches
bending down like clustering grapes; there was the wide-spreading oak
with its roots fantastically gnarled; there was the ash, with its smooth
bark and elegant leaf; and the silver beech, and the gracile birch; and
the dark fir, affording with its rough foliage a contrast to the trunks
of its more beautiful companions, or shooting far above their branches,
with the spirit of freedom worthy of a rough child of the mountains.
Around the Castle were extensive pleasure-grounds, which realised the
romance of the "Gardens of Verulam." And truly, as you wandered through
their enchanting paths there seemed no end to their various beauties,
and no exhaustion of their perpetual novelty. Green retreats succeeded
to winding walks; from the shady berçeau you vaulted on the noble
terrace; and if, for an instant, you felt wearied by treading the velvet
lawn, you might rest in a mossy cell, while your mind was soothed by the
soft music of falling waters. Now your curious eyes were greeted by
Oriental animals, basking in a sunny paddock; and when you turned from
the white-footed antelope and the dark-eyed gazelle, you viewed an
aviary of such extent, that within its trellised walls the imprisoned,
songsters could build, in the free branches of a tree, their
"O fair scene!" thought Vivian Grey, as he approached, on a fine
summer's afternoon, the splendid Château, "O fair scene! doubly fair to
those who quit for thee the thronged and agitated city. And can it be,
that those who exist within this enchanted domain, can think of anything
but sweet air, and do aught but revel in the breath of perfumed
flowers?" And here he gained the garden-gate: so he stopped his
soliloquy, and gave his horse to his groom.
The Marquess had preceded Vivian in his arrival about three or four
days, and of course, to use the common phrase, the establishment "was
quite settled." It was, indeed, to avoid the possibility of witnessing
the domestic arrangements of a nobleman in any other point of view save
that of perfection, that Vivian had declined accompanying his noble
friend to the Château. Mr. Grey, junior, was an epicurean, and all
epicureans will quite agree with me, that his conduct on this head was
extremely wise. I am not very nice myself about these matters; but there
are, we all know, a thousand little things that go wrong on the arrivals
of even the best regulated families; and to mention no others, for any
rational being voluntarily to encounter the awful gaping of an English
family, who have travelled one hundred miles in ten successive hours,
appears to me to be little short of madness.
"Grey, my boy, quite happy to see ye! later than I expected; first bell
rings in five minutes. Sadler will show you your room. Your father, I
hope, quite well?"
Such was the salutation of the Marquess; and Vivian accordingly retired
to arrange his toilet.
The first bell rang, and the second bell rang, and Vivian was seated at
the dinner-table. He bowed to the Marchioness, and asked after her
poodle, and gazed with some little curiosity at the vacant chair
"Mrs. Felix Lorraine, Mr. Vivian Grey," said the Marquess, as a lady
entered the room.
Now, although we are of those historians who are of opinion that the
nature of the personages they celebrate should be developed rather by a
recital of their conduct than by a set character on their introduction,
it is, nevertheless, incumbent upon us to devote a few lines to the lady
who has just entered, which the reader will be so good as to get
through, while she is accepting an offer of some white soup; by this
means he will lose none of the conversation.
The Honourable Felix Lorraine we have before described as a roué. After
having passed through a career with tolerable credit, which would have
blasted the character of any vulgar personage, Felix Lorraine ended by
pigeoning a young nobleman, whom, for that purpose, he had made his
intimate friend. The affair got wind; after due examination, was
proclaimed "too bad," and the guilty personage was visited with the
heaviest vengeance of modern society; he was expelled his club. By this
unfortunate exposure, Mr. Felix Lorraine was obliged to give in a match,
which was on the tapis, with the celebrated Miss Mexico, on whose
million he had determined to set up a character and a chariot, and at
the same time pension his mistress, and subscribe to the Society for the
Suppression of Vice. Felix left England for the Continent, and in due
time was made drum-major at Barbadoes, or fiscal at Ceylon, or something
of that kind. While he loitered in Europe, he made a conquest of the
heart of the daughter of some German baron, and after six weeks passed
in the most affectionate manner, the happy couple performing their
respective duties with perfect propriety, Felix left Germany for his
colonial appointment, and also left his lady behind him.
Mr. Lorraine had duly and dutifully informed his family of his marriage;
and they, as amiably and affectionately, had never answered his letters,
which he never expected they would. Profiting by their example, he never
answered his wife's, who, in due time, to the horror of the Marquess,
landed in England, and claimed the protection of her "beloved husband's
family." The Marquess vowed he would never see her; the lady, however,
one morning gained admittance, and from that moment she had never
quitted her brother-in-law's roof, and not only had never quitted it,
but now made the greatest favour of her staying.
The extraordinary influence which Mrs. Felix Lorraine possessed was
certainly not owing to her beauty, for the lady opposite Vivian Grey
had apparently no claims to admiration, on the score of her personal
qualifications. Her complexion was bad, and her features were
indifferent, and these characteristics were not rendered less
uninterestingly conspicuous by, what makes an otherwise ugly woman quite
the reverse, namely, a pair of expressive eyes; for certainly this
epithet could not be applied to those of Mrs. Felix Lorraine, which
gazed in all the vacancy of German listlessness.
The lady did bow to Mr. Grey, and that was all; and then she negligently
spooned her soup, and then, after much parade, sent it away untouched.
Vivian was not under the necessity of paying any immediate courtesy to
his opposite neighbour, whose silence, he perceived, was for the nonce,
and consequently for him. But the day was hot, and Vivian had been
fatigued by his ride, and the Marquess' champagne was excellent; and so,
at last, the floodgates of his speech burst, and talk he did. He
complimented her Ladyship's poodle, quoted German to Mrs. Felix
Lorraine, and taught the Marquess to eat cabinet pudding with Curaçoâ
sauce (a custom which, by-the-bye, I recommend to all); and then his
stories, his scandal, and his sentiment; stories for the Marquess,
scandal for the Marchioness, and sentiment for the Marquess' sister!
That lady, who began to find out her man, had no mind to be longer
silent, and although a perfect mistress of the English language, began
to articulate a horrible patois, that she might not be mistaken for an
Englishwoman, an occurrence which she particularly dreaded. But now came
her punishment, for Vivian saw the effect which he had produced on Mrs.
Felix Lorraine, and that Mrs. Felix Lorraine now wished to produce a
corresponding effect upon him, and this he was determined she should not
do; so new stories followed, and new compliments ensued, and finally he
anticipated her sentences, and sometimes her thoughts. The lady sat
silent and admiring! At last the important meal was finished, and the
time came when good dull English dames retire; but of this habit Mrs.
Felix Lorraine did not approve, and although she had not yet prevailed
upon Lady Carabas to adopt her ideas on field-days, still, when alone,
the good-natured Marchioness had given in, and to save herself from
hearing the din of male voices at a time at which during her whole life
she had been unaccustomed to them, the Marchioness of Carabas dozed. Her
worthy spouse, who was prevented, by the presence of Mrs. Felix
Lorraine, from talking politics with Vivian, passed the bottle pretty
briskly, and then, conjecturing that "from the sunset we should have a
fine day to-morrow," fell back in his easy-chair, and snored.
Mrs. Felix Lorraine looked at her noble relatives, and shrugged up her
shoulders with an air which baffleth all description. "Mr. Grey, I
congratulate you on this hospitable reception; you see we treat you
quite en famille. Come! 'tis a fine evening; you have seen as yet but
little of Château Desir: we may as well enjoy the fine air on
"You must know, Mr. Grey, that this is my favourite walk, and I
therefore expect that it will be yours."
"It cannot indeed fail to be such, the favourite as it alike is of
nature and Mrs. Felix Lorraine."
"On my word, a very pretty sentence! And who taught you, young sir, to
bandy words so fairly?"
"I never can open my mouth, except in the presence of a woman," observed
Vivian, with impudent mendacity; and he looked interesting and innocent.
"Indeed! And what do you know about such wicked work as talking to
women?" and here Mrs. Felix Lorraine imitated Vivian's sentimental
voice. "Do you know," she continued, "I feel quite happy that you have
come down here; I begin to think that we shall be great friends."
"Nothing appears to me more evident," said Vivian.
"How delicious is friendship!" exclaimed Mrs. Felix Lorraine;
"delightful sentiment, that prevents life from being a curse! Have you a
friend, Mr. Vivian Grey?"
"Before I answer that question, I should like to know what meaning Mrs.
Felix Lorraine attaches to that important monosyllable, friend."
"Oh, you want a definition. I hate definitions; and of all the
definitions in the world, the one I have been most unfortunate in has
been a definition of friendship; I might say" (and here her voice sunk),
"I might say of all the sentiments in the world, friendship is the one
which has been must fatal to me; but I must not inoculate you with my
bad spirits, bad spirits are not for young blood like yours, leave them
to old persons like myself."
"Old!" said Vivian, in a proper tone of surprise.
"Old! ay old; how old do you think I am?"
"You may have seen twenty summers," gallantly conjectured Vivian.
The lady looked pleased, and almost insinuated that she had seen one or
"A clever woman," thought Vivian, "but vain; I hardly know what to think
"Mr. Grey, I fear you find me in bad spirits to-day; but alas! I--I have
cause. Although we see each other to-day for the first time, yet there
is something in your manner, something in the expression of your eyes,
that make me believe my happiness is not altogether a matter of
indifference to you." These words, uttered in one of the sweetest voices
by which ever human being was fascinated, were slowly and deliberately
spoken, as if it were intended that they should rest on the ear of the
object to whom they were addressed.
"My dearest madam! it is impossible that I can have but one sentiment
with regard to you, that of--"
"Of what, Mr. Grey?"
"Of solicitude for your welfare."
The lady gently took the arm of the young man, and then with an agitated
voice, and a troubled spirit, dwelt upon the unhappiness of her lot, and
the cruelty of her fortunes. Her husband's indifference was the
sorrowful theme of her lamentations; and she ended by asking Mr. Vivian
Grey's advice, as to the line of conduct which she should pursue with
regard to him; first duly informing Vivian that this was the only time
and he the only person to whom this subject had been ever mentioned.
"And why should I mention it here, and to whom? The Marquess is the best
of men, but--" and here she looked up in Vivian's face, and spoke
volumes; "and the Marchioness is the most amiable of women: at least, I
suppose her lap-dog thinks so."
The advice of Vivian was concise. He sent the husband to the devil in
two seconds, and insisted upon the wife's not thinking of him for
another moment; and then the lady dried her eyes, and promised to do
"And now," said Mrs. Felix Lorraine, "I must talk about your own
affairs. I think your plan excellent."
"Yes, plan, sir! the Marquess has told me all. I have no head for
politics, Mr. Grey; but if I cannot assist you in managing the nation, I
perhaps may in managing the family, and my services are at your command.
Believe me, you will have enough to do: there, I pledge you my troth. Do
you think it a pretty hand?"
Vivian did think it a very pretty hand, and he performed due courtesies
in a becoming style.
"And now, good even to you," said the lady; "this little gate leads to
my apartments. You will have no difficulty in finding your way back." So
saying, she disappeared.
The first week at Château Desir passed pleasantly enough. Vivian's
morning was amply occupied in maturing with the Marquess the grand
principles of the new political system: in weighing interests, in
balancing connections, and settling "what side was to be taken on the
great questions?" O politics, thou splendid juggle! The whole business,
although so magnificent in its result, appeared very easy to the two
counsellors, for it was one of the first principles of Mr. Vivian Grey,
that everything was possible. Men did fail in life to be sure, and after
all, very little was done by the generality; but still all these
failures, and all this inefficiency, might be traced to a want of
physical and mental courage. Some men were bold in their conceptions,
and splendid heads at a grand system, but then, when the day of battle
came, they turned out very cowards; while others, who had nerve enough
to stand the brunt of the hottest fire, were utterly ignorant of
military tactics, and fell before the destroyer, like the brave
untutored Indians before the civilised European. Now Vivian Grey was
conscious that there was at least one person in the world who was no
craven either in body or in mind, and so he had long come to the
comfortable conclusion, that it was impossible that his career could be
anything but the most brilliant. And truly, employed as he now was, with
a peer of the realm, in a solemn consultation on that realm's most
important interests, at a time when creatures of his age were moping in
Halls and Colleges, is it to be wondered at that he began to imagine
that his theory was borne out by experience and by fact? Not that it
must be supposed, even for a moment, that Vivian Grey was what the world
calls conceited. Oh no! he knew the measure of his own mind, and had
fathomed the depth of his powers with equal skill and impartiality; but
in the process he could not but feel that he could conceive much, and
dare do more.
We said the first week at Château Desir passed pleasantly enough; and so
it did, for Vivian's soul revelled in the morning councils on his future
fortunes, with as much eager joy as a young courser tries the turf,
preliminary to running for the plate. And then, in the evening, were
moonlit walks with Mrs. Felix Lorraine! And then the lady abused England
so prettily, and initiated her companion, in all the secrets of German
Courts, and sang beautiful French songs, and told the legends of her
native land in such, an interesting, semi-serious tone, that Vivian
almost imagined, that she believed them; and then she would take him
beside the luminous lake in the park, and now it looked just like the
dark blue Rhine! and then she remembered Germany, and grew sad, and
abused her husband; and then she taught Vivian the guitar, and some
other fooleries besides.
The second week of Vivian's visit had come round, and the flag waved
proudly on the proud tower of Château Desir, indicating to the admiring
county, that the most noble Sidney, Marquess of Carabas, held public
days twice a week at his grand castle. And now came the neighbouring
peer, full of grace and gravity, and the mellow baronet, with his hearty
laugh, and the jolly country squire, and the middling gentry, and the
jobbing country attorney, and the flourishing country surveyor; some
honouring by their presence, some who felt the obligation equal, and
others bending before the noble host, as if paying him adoration was
almost an equal pleasure with that of guzzling his venison pasties and
quaffing his bright wines.
Independently of all these periodical visitors, the house was full of
permanent ones. There were the Viscount and Viscountess Courtown and
their three daughters, and Lord and Lady Beaconsfield and their three
sons, and Sir Berdmore and Lady Scrope, and Colonel Delmington of the
Guards, and Lady Louisa Manvers and her daughter Julia. Lady Louisa was
the only sister of the Marquess, a widow, proud and penniless.
To all these distinguished personages Vivian was introduced by the
Marquess as "a monstrous clever young man, and his Lordship's most
particular friend," and then the noble Carabas left the game in his
young friend's hands.
And right well Vivian did his duty. In a week's time it would have been
hard to decide with whom of the family of the Courtowns Vivian was the
greatest favourite. He rode with the Viscount, who was a good horseman,
and was driven by his Lady, who was a good whip; and when he had
sufficiently admired the tout ensemble of her Ladyship's pony phaeton,
he entrusted her, "in confidence," with some ideas of his own about
martingales, a subject which he assured her Ladyship "had been the
object of his mature consideration." The three honourable Misses were
the most difficult part of the business; but he talked sentiment with
the first, sketched with the second, and romped with the third.
Ere the Beaconsfields could be jealous of the influence of the
Courtowns, Mr. Vivian Grey had promised his Lordship, who was a
collector of medals, an unique which had never yet been heard of; and
her Ladyship, who was a collector of autographs, the private letters of
every man of genius that ever had been heard of. In this division of the
Carabas guests he was not bored with a family; for sons he always made
it a rule to cut dead; they are the members of a family who, on an
average, are generally very uninfluential, for, on an average, they are
fools enough to think it very knowing to be very disagreeable. So the
wise man but little loves them, but woe to the fool who neglects the
Sir Berdmore Scrope Vivian found a more unmanageable personage; for the
baronet was confoundedly shrewd, and without a particle of sentiment in
his composition. It was a great thing, however, to gain him; for Sir
Berdmore was a leading country gentleman, and having quarrelled with
Ministers about the corn laws, had been counted disaffected ever since.
The baronet, however, although a bold man to the world, was luckily
henpecked; so Vivian made love to the wife and secured the husband.
I think that Julia Manvers was really the most beautiful creature that
ever smiled in this fair world. Such a symmetrically formed shape, such
perfect features, such a radiant complexion, such luxuriant auburn hair,
and such blue eyes, lit up by a smile of such mind and meaning, have
seldom blessed the gaze of admiring man! Vivian Grey, fresh as he was,
was not exactly the creature to lose his heart very speedily. He looked
upon marriage as a comedy in which, sooner or later, he was, as a
well-paid actor, to play his part; and could it have advanced his views