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  • 1844
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‘Why go, Redmond?’ said my wife. ‘I am happy here, as long as you are kind to me, as you are now. We can’t appear in London as we ought; the little money you will get will be spent, like all the rest has been. Let us turn shepherd and shepherdess, and look to our flocks and be content.’ And she took my hand and kissed it; while my mother only said, ‘Humph! I believe she’s at the bottom of it–the wicked SCHAMER!’

I told my wife she was a fool; bade Mrs. Barry not be uneasy, and was hot upon going: I would take no denial from either party. How I was to get the money to go was the question; but that was solved by my good mother, who was always ready to help me on a pinch, and who produced sixty guineas from a stocking. This was all the ready money that Barry Lyndon, of Castle Lyndon, and married to a fortune of forty thousand a year, could command: such had been the havoc made in this fine fortune by my own extravagance (as I must confess), but chiefly by my misplaced confidence and the rascality of others.

We did not start in state, you may be sure. We did not let the country know we were going, or leave notice of adieu with our neighbours. The famous Mr. Barry Lyndon and his noble wife travelled in a hack-chaise and pair to Waterford, under the name of Mr. and Mrs. Jones, and thence took shipping for Bristol, where we arrived quite without accident. When a man is going to the deuce, how easy and pleasant the journey is! The thought of the money quite put me in a good humour, and my wife, as she lay on my shoulder in the post-chaise going to London, said it was the happiest ride she had taken since our marriage.

One night we stayed at Reading, whence I despatched a note to my agent at Gray’s Inn, saying I would be with him during the day, and begging him to procure me a lodging, and to hasten the preparations for the loan. My Lady and I agreed that we would go to France, and wait there for better times; and that night, over our supper, formed a score of plans both for pleasure and retrenchment. You would have thought it was Darby and Joan together over their supper. O woman! woman! when I recollect Lady Lyndon’s smiles and blandishments–how happy she seemed to be on that night! what an air of innocent confidence appeared in her behaviour, and what affectionate names she called me!–I am lost in wonder at the depth of her hypocrisy. Who can be surprised that an unsuspecting person like myself should have been a victim to such a consummate deceiver!

We were in London at three o’clock, and half-an-hour before the time appointed our chaise drove to Gray’s Inn. I easily found out Mr. Tapewell’s apartments–a gloomy den it was, and in an unlucky hour I entered it! As we went up the dirty back-stair, lighted by a feeble lamp and the dim sky of a dismal London afternoon, my wife seemed agitated and faint.

‘Redmond,’ said she, as we got up to the door, ‘don’t go in: I am sure there is danger. There’s time yet; let us go back–to Ireland– anywhere!’ And she put herself before the door, in one of her theatrical attitudes, and took my hand.

I just pushed her away to one side. ‘Lady Lyndon,’ said I, ‘you are an old fool!’

‘Old fool!’ said she; and she jumped at the bell, which was quickly answered by a mouldy-looking gentleman in an unpowdered wig, to whom she cried, ‘Say Lady Lyndon is here;’ and stalked down the passage muttering ‘Old fool.’ It was ‘OLD’ which was the epithet that touched her. I might call her anything but that.

Mr. Tapewell was in his musty room, surrounded by his parchments and tin boxes. He advanced and bowed; begged her Ladyship to be seated; pointed towards a chair for me, which I took, rather wondering at his insolence; and then retreated to a side-door, saying he would be back in one moment.

And back he DID come in one moment, bringing with him–whom do you think? Another lawyer, six constables in red waistcoats with bludgeons and pistols, my Lord George Poynings, and his aunt Lady Jane Peckover.

When my Lady Lyndon saw her old flame, she flung herself into his arms in an hysterical passion. She called him her saviour, her preserver, her gallant knight; and then, turning round to me, poured out a flood of invective which quite astonished me.

‘Old fool as I am,’ said she, ‘I have outwitted the most crafty and treacherous monster under the sun. Yes, I WAS a fool when I married you, and gave up other and nobler hearts for your sake–yes, I was a fool when I forgot my name and lineage to unite myself with a base- born adventurer–a fool to bear, without repining, the most monstrous tyranny that ever woman suffered; to allow my property to be squandered; to see women, as base and low-born as yourself’–

‘For Heaven’s sake, be calm!’ cries the lawyer; and then bounded back behind the constables, seeing a threatening look in my eye which the rascal did not like. Indeed. I could have torn him to pieces, had he come near me. Meanwhile, my Lady continued in a strain of incoherent fury; screaming against me, and against my mother especially, upon whom she heaped abuse worthy of Billingsgate, and always beginning and ending the sentence with the word fool.

‘You don’t tell all, my Lady,’ says I bitterly; ‘I said OLD fool.’

‘I have no doubt you said and did, sir, everything that a blackguard could say or do,’ interposed little Poynings. ‘This lady is now safe under the protection of her relations and the law, and need fear your infamous persecutions no longer.’

‘But YOU are not safe,’ roared I; ‘and, as sure as I am a man of honour, and have tasted your blood once, I will have your heart’s blood now.’

‘Take down his words, constables: swear the peace against him!’ screamed the little lawyer, from behind his tipstaffs.

‘I would not sully my sword with the blood of such a ruffian,’ cried my Lord, relying on the same doughty protection. ‘If the scoundrel remains in London another day, he will be seized as a common swindler.’ And this threat indeed made me wince; for I knew that there were scores of writs out against me in town, and that once in prison my case was hopeless.

‘Where’s the man will seize me!’ shouted I, drawing my sword, and placing my back to the door. ‘Let the scoundrel come. You–you cowardly braggart, come first, if you have the soul of a man!’

‘We’re not going to seize you!’ said the lawyer; my Ladyship, her aunt, and a division of the bailiffs moving off as he spoke. ‘My dear sir, we don’t wish to seize you: we will give you a handsome sum to leave the country; only leave her Ladyship in peace!’

‘And the country will be well rid of such a villain!’ says my Lord, retreating too, and not sorry to get out of my reach: and the scoundrel of a lawyer followed him, leaving me in possession of the apartment, and in company of the bullies from the police-office, who were all armed to the teeth. I was no longer the man I was at twenty, when I should have charged the ruffians sword in hand, and have sent at least one of them to his account. I was broken in spirit; regularly caught in the toils: utterly baffled and beaten by that woman. Was she relenting at the door, when she paused and begged me turn back? Had she not a lingering love for me still? Her conduct showed it, as I came to reflect on it. It was my only chance now left in the world, so I put down my sword upon the lawyer’s desk.

‘Gentlemen,’ said I, ‘I shall use no violence; you may tell Mr. Tapewell I am quite ready to speak with him when he is at leisure!’ and I sat down and folded my arms quite peaceably. What a change from the Barry Lyndon of old days! but, as I have read in an old book about Hannibal the Carthaginian general, when he invaded the Romans, his troops, which were the most gallant in the world, and carried all before them, went into cantonments in some city where they were so sated with the luxuries and pleasures of life, that they were easily beaten in the next campaign. It was so with me now. My strength of mind and body were no longer those of the brave youth who shot his man at fifteen, and fought a score of battles within six years afterwards. Now, in the Fleet Prison, where I write this, there is a small man who is always jeering me and making game of me; who asks me to fight, and I haven’t the courage to touch him. But I am anticipating the gloomy and wretched events of my history of humiliation, and had better proceed in order.

I took a lodging in a coffee-house near Gray’s Inn; taking care to inform Mr. Tapewell of my whereabouts, and anxiously expecting a visit from him. He came and brought me the terms which Lady Lyndon’s friends proposed-a paltry annuity of L300 a year; to be paid on the condition of my remaining abroad out of the three kingdoms, and to be stopped on the instant of my return. He told me what I very well knew, that my stay in London would infallibly plunge me in gaol; that there were writs innumerable taken out against me here, and in the West of England; that my credit was so blown upon that I could not hope to raise a shilling; and he left me a night to consider of his proposal; saying that, if I refused it, the family would proceed: if I acceded, a quarter’s salary should be paid to me at any foreign port I should prefer.

What was the poor, lonely, and broken-hearted man to do? I took the annuity, and was declared outlaw in the course of next week. The rascal Quin had, I found, been, after all, the cause of my undoing. It was he devised the scheme for bringing me up to London; sealing the attorney’s letter with a seal which had been agreed upon between him and the Countess formerly: indeed he had always been for trying the plan, and had proposed it at first; but her Ladyship, with her inordinate love of romance, preferred the project of elopement. Of these points my mother wrote me word in my lonely exile, offering at the same time to come over and share it with me; which proposal I declined. She left Castle Lyndon a very short time after I had quitted it; and there was silence in that hall where, under my authority, had been exhibited so much hospitality and splendour. She thought she would never see me again, and bitterly reproached me for neglecting her; but she was mistaken in that, and in her estimate of me. She is very old, and is sitting by my side at this moment in the prison, working: she has a bedroom in Fleet Market over the way; and, with the fifty-pound annuity, which she has kept with a wise prudence, we manage to eke out a miserable existence, quite unworthy of the famous and fashionable Barry Lyndon.

Mr. Barry Lyndon’s personal narrative finishes here, for the hand of death interrupted the ingenious author soon after the period at which the Memoir was compiled; after he had lived nineteen years an inmate of the Fleet Prison, where the prison records state he died of delirium tremens. His mother attained a prodigious old age, and the inhabitants of the place in her time can record with accuracy the daily disputes which used to take place between mother and son; until the latter, from habits of intoxication, falling into a state of almost imbecility, was tended by his tough old parent as a baby almost, and would cry if deprived of his necessary glass of brandy.

His life on the Continent we have not the means of following accurately; but he appears to have resumed his former profession of a gambler, without his former success.

He returned secretly to England, after some time, and made an abortive attempt to extort money from Lord George Poynings, under a threat of publishing his correspondence with Lady Lyndon, and so preventing his Lordship’s match with Miss Driver, a great heiress, of strict principles, and immense property in slaves in the West Indies. Barry narrowly escaped being taken prisoner by the bailiffs who were despatched after him by his lordship, who would have stopped his pension; but Lady Lyndon would never consent to that act of justice, and, indeed, broke with my Lord George the very moment he married the West India lady.

The fact is, the old Countess thought her charms were perennial, and was never out of love with her husband. She was living at Bath; her property being carefully nursed by her noble relatives the Tiptoffs, who were to succeed to it in default of direct heirs: and such was the address of Barry, and the sway he still held over the woman, that he actually had almost persuaded her to go and live with him again; when his plan and hers was interrupted by the appearance of a person who had been deemed dead for several years.

This was no other than Viscount Bullingdon, who started up to the surprise of all; and especially to that of his kinsman of the house of Tiptoff. This young nobleman made his appearance at Bath, with the letter from Barry to Lord George in his hand; in which the former threatened to expose his connection with Lady Lyndon–a connection, we need not state, which did not reflect the slightest dishonour upon either party, and only showed that her Ladyship was in the habit of writing exceedingly foolish letters; as many ladies, nay gentlemen, have done ere this. For calling the honour of his mother in question, Lord Bullingdon assaulted his stepfather (living at Bath under the name of Mr. Jones), and administered to him a tremendous castigation in the Pump-Room.

His Lordship’s history, since his departure, was a romantic one, which we do not feel bound to narrate. He had been wounded in the American War, reported dead, left prisoner, and escaped. The remittances which were promised him were never sent; the thought of the neglect almost broke the heart of the wild and romantic young man, and he determined to remain dead to the world at least, and to the mother who had denied him. It was in the woods of Canada, and three years after the event had occurred, that he saw the death of his half-brother chronicled in the Gentleman’s Magazine, under the title of ‘Fatal Accident to Lord Viscount Castle Lyndon;’ on which he determined to return to England: where, though he made himself known, it was with very great difficulty indeed that he satisfied Lord Tiptoff of the authenticity of his claim. He was about to pay a visit to his lady mother at Bath, when he recognised the well-known face of Mr. Barry Lyndon, in spite of the modest disguise which that gentleman wore, and revenged upon his person the insults of former days.

Lady Lyndon was furious when she heard of the rencounter; declined to see her son, and was for rushing at once to the arms of her adored Barry; but that gentleman had been carried off, meanwhile, from gaol to gaol, until he was lodged in the hands of Mr. Bendigo, of Chancery Lane, an assistant to the Sheriff of Middlesex; from whose house he went to the Fleet Prison. The Sheriff and his assistant, the prisoner, nay, the prison itself, are now no more.

As long as Lady Lyndon lived, Barry enjoyed his income, and was perhaps as happy in prison as at any period of his existence; when her Ladyship died, her successor sternly cut off the annuity, devoting the sum to charities: which, he said, would make a nobler use of it than the scoundrel who had enjoyed it hitherto. At his Lordship’s death, in the Spanish campaign, in the year 1811, his estate fell in to the family of the Tiptoffs, and his title merged in their superior rank; but it does not appear that the Marquis of Tiptoff (Lord George succeeded to the title on the demise of his brother) renewed either the pension of Mr. Barry or the charities which the late lord had endowed. The estate has vastly improved under his Lordship’s careful management. The trees in Hackton Park are all about forty years old, and the Irish property is rented in exceedingly small farms to the peasantry; who still entertain the stranger with stories of the daring and the devilry, and the wickedness and the fall of Barry Lyndon.