« PreviousContinue »
“ Well, but,” said Mrs. Blunt, after a long pause, during which she endeavoured to recal and connect the events of the morning—" well, but we should be goin' home. The colonel ’ill be expectin' us back."
“ Can't go without Angelena,” replied Jug, taking another venture at the bottles, and, getting hold of claret instead of sherry, he rose, and proceeded on a cruise round the room in search of the bell to ring for candles. Having at length hit it off in one of those out-of-the-way places that modern usage assigns to those most useful and constantlywanted articles, he gave it a pull that sounded very like taking his revenge for the trouble he had had.
Doiley was in the middle of a game at billiards with “my lord's gentleman,” and Jug had to repeat the summons ere Doiley took any notice of it.
66 That's that old divil in the dinin’-room,” said he to his companion, putting on his coat; “just leave the balls as they are till I come back.” So saying he lit a candle by the billiard-table lamp, and proceeded leisurely to answer the summons. “ Did you ring, mum?” asked he, in a sort of tone of astonishment, speaking at the heap of fur that alone was distinguishable in the gloom.
“ Yes—no-yes—that's to say, Colonel Blunt--I mean Captain Jug did,” replied she, not yet fairly recovered from her sleep.
“What might you please to want, sir?" asked Doiley, addressing himself more respectfully to the cornet, who he knew was the grandson of a lord—though only a Baron one, as he told the earl's gentleman.
"W-a-a-nt,” drawled Jug_"w-a-a-nt,” repeated he, stretching himself out all fours. "Why, I should say, in the first place, we w-a-a-nt candles."
“ Certainly, sir, certainly,” replied Doiley, retiring to bring them.
When he returned, followed by a footman bearing the requisite illumination, he asked, in an off-hand sort of way, as he began gathering up the napkins, if they would be dining there.
“ Dinin'—why, haven't we dined ?" asked Mrs. Blunt, staring wildly about, like an owl suddenly exposed to the sunshine.
“No, mum, no; it was luncheon you took,” replied Doiley, contemptuously, thinking what a snob she must be to dine at two o'clock.
“Luncheon was it ?” said she. 6. Well, I'm sure I thought it was dinner.”
“Oh-yes—we'll dine, I s’pose," drawled Jug, who had been cogitating the matter over; “may as well dine,” added he.
“ Then I'll tell monsieur you dine ?” observed Doiley, interrogatively. “ You may,” responded Jūg, firmly.
“Pr’aps you'd like to go into the music-room, or the drawing-room," suggested Doiley, thinking he might as well be getting the table
laid. .' “No, we'll do very well where we are," replied Mrs. Blunt, yawning. “ Is his lordship there ?” asked she.
“No, mum, no-his lordship's out, I think not come in yet.”
“ Well, but where's my daughter—where's Angelena ?" demanded she, again returning to the charge.
“Oh, Angelena's safe enough,” replied Jug.
old gentlemen better than the cornet. Then she began to think of all the colonel had said, and all she had heard about Lord Heartycheer's doings, which were not of a character to inspire much confidence in his discretion. However, she relied upon Angelena's prudence, and proceeded to recal all the conquests Angelena had made, and all the delicate positions she had been in.
Ere she had got half through the list, and just as Jug was dropping asleep again, Mr. Doiley reappeared, and intimated, in the most respectful manner, that his lordship wished to speak to Captain Jug. Accordingly the sucking captain rose, and shaking himself awake, proceeded to follow the servant along well-lighted corridors and passages, with scarlet cloth-covered outer doors, betokening the luxury within. Having reached one, at which another gentleman in full evening-dress stood sentry, Mr. Doiley's jurisdiction ended, and with a respectful bow he transferred Jug to this second groom of the chamber, or whatever he was designated in the tax returns, who forthwith opened the doors, and ushered Jug into a sumptuously furnished room, where, amidst a splashing of water, a mournful voice was heard groaning,
" Come in, my dear Jug-come in.”
It was his lordship getting parboiled after his soaking; and in the midst of his turnings and splashings he proceeeded to broach his misfortunes, talking as if he had been suffering martyrdom on account of the cornet.
“Oh, my dear. fellow!” bubbled he, with his mouth and nose only above water—"oh, my dear fellow ! you've let me in for such a mess! you've let me in for such a mess ! —bol-lol-lol-lol,” as the water here came into his mouth. Having spluttered it out, he then proceeded with
-“ Never was so regularly taken in in my life-bol-Iol-lol-lol," as he again got a mouthful of water. He then raised his old white head up a little, and proceeded to recount how that, to oblige the young lady, he had let Dicky draw for a fox; and how that the unreasonable animal had led them such a dance as never was seen ; how wet he had got ; how he dreaded such an imperious, domineering cold as he had the winter before last ; how he would have to go to bed as soon as he was enough boiled; and how he should not get up till the next morning, if, indeed, he ever got up again ; and how he hoped Jug would make himself and the ladies quite at home, order whatever they liked, and stay all night if they liked; all of which Jug promised faithfully to do, and retired to carry out the intention.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Blunt had been summoned to her dripping, draggletailed daughter; and as she helped to take off each spoiled, saturated garment, she felt an inward conviction that the sport of the day had not contributed: at all to her "chance.” Angelena was then boiled and put to bed; and we are sure it will be satisfactory to our readers to learn that, on the morrow, this pattern old peer stole away by the back of the castle to hunt just as Mrs. Blunt and her party drove away from the front.
AND SOME OTHER NOVELS. WHEN a writer so popular as Mr. Thackeray breaks ground in a new direction, the curiosity of the public is naturally turned that way, to see if the mine which he explores contain gold enough to repay the cost of the venture.
It was a hazardous experiment for one who, like Mr. Thackeray, had identified himself, after his peculiar fashion, as the castigator of the follies and vices of his own time, to turn the acuteness of his observation and the causticity of his satire to a period so remote as the days of Queen Anne; and, while the promised work was eagerly looked for, people could scarcely refrain from putting the question, “ A quoi bon tout cela?" For what, they thought, have we, who live in the middle of the nineteenth century, to do with the manners of those who “ flourished” a hundred and fifty years ago? We can learn very little more of the leading personages of the reign of Queen Anne than we know already, especially since Mr. Thackeray has already been himself our instructor, in that amusing series of lectures which he has devoted to the illustration of the Augustan era of English literature. Have not the wits of that day sufficiently illustrated themselves and each other? Have Swift, or Addison, or Steele, or Gay, or Arbuthnot, or Pope, been silent? Are we not familiar with all the court intrigues, the public scandals, even the intimités de la vie privée of that much-be-written age? Do we want, in a word, to know anything more about them ? And the general answer which each returned to himself was in the negative. Hence it was regretted that an author whose originality is so striking as that of Mr. Thackeray should have addressed himself to a subject in which the greatest fame he seemed likely to achieve was that of being a successful imitator. It was feared, moreover, that the laurels which he had so worthily won might be endangered—now that the historical novel has gone so completely out of date—by the bold attempt to endow the past. with as much vital interest as he had taught us to feel in the present.
What has been the result of this attempt?
As far as it was possible to carry the happiest adaptation of style, the most felicitous expression of language, the closest observance of the habits of the period, and a perfect acquaintance with its events, Mr. Thackeray has triumphed. He has done more: in spite of a meagre plot with an unsatisfactory éclaircissement-not an unexpected one, however, to any one who reads the introductory chapter with attention he has contrived to interest us in his story. Mr. Thackeray possesses in so high a degree the art of writing well, that even in the absence of stirring incidents to mark his hero's career we are wearied by no longueurs, annoyed by no common-place; and our curiosity, awakened in the outset, abates not till the end.
Nor must our praise be confined between these limits. Besides the graces of his style, the vivid truth of his sketches of society, the easy flow of his narrative, and the natural development of its incidents, Mr. Thackeray has infused into “ Esmond" a sweetness of sentiment and earnestness of thought which, if sustained throughout, would have left us—in regard to the fictitious personages of his story-little room for anything but admiration.
* The History of Henry Esmond, Esq., a Colonel in the Service of Her Majesty Queen Anne. Written by Himself.' 3 vols. London: Smith, Elder, and Co. 1852.
But every tapestry has its reverse ; and although the beauties of Mr. Thackeray's work are sufficiently manifest, not less palpable and striking are the blemishes which disfigure it. In the depth of his own heart there lies a well of tender feeling which sympathises with the weakness of our common nature, and prompts to a kindly consideration of the faults of humanity; but it is too frequently unvisited. Mr. Thackeray has wielded the pen of the satirist so long and so effectively that he appears never wholly satisfied until he has marred the beauty of his own bright pictures by laying bare the canvas on which they are painted, and showing the tricks and artifices by which it is daubed. There is but one writer of modern fiction who possesses in a higher degree than Mr. Thackeray the power of drawing 66 a soul of good out of things evil;" but, unfortunately, the author of “ Vanity Fair” will not permit himself to follow this better course; he seems reluctant to yield to the impulses of his nature, preferring rather to show how much of evil lies below the surface. Like Hamlet, he discovers that “the world is out of joint," but he shows none of Hamlet's unwillingness “ to set it right;" and that by no hesitating nor uncertain process. Mr. Thackeray's instruments are sharp, his hand is skilful, but he probes the wound too deeply; the blood flows, and he leaves to others the task of stanching it.
Let us prove what we have said by a few extracts, in which the better nature of the author is at issue with “ the worser part." Here is one, as full of truth as of beauty:
Gracious God! who was he, weak and friendless creature, that such a love should be poured out on him? Not in vain, not in vain has he lived-hard and thankless should he be to think so—that has such a treasure given him. What is ambition compared to that?—but selfish vanity. To be rich-to be famous ? What do these profit a year hence, when other names sound louder than yours; wlien you lie hidden away under ground, along with the idle titles engraven on your coffin ? But only true love lives after you, follows your memory with secret blessing, or precedes you, and intercedes for you. Non omnis moriar-if dying, I yet live in a tender heart or two; nor am lost and hopeless living, if a sainted departed soul still loves and prays for me.
And again :
Who, in the course of his life, hath not been so bewitched, and worshipped some idol or another? Years after this passion hath been dead and buried, along with a thousand other cares and ambitions, he who felt it can recal it out of its grave, and admire, almost as fondly as he did in his youth, that lovely, queenly creature. I invoke that beautiful spirit from the shades, and love her still; or rather, I should say, such a past is always present to a man; such a passion once felt forms a part of his whole being, and cannot be separated from it; it becomes a portion of the man of to-day, just as any great faith or conviction-the discovery of poetry, the awakening of religion, ever afterwards influence him ; just as the wound that I had at Blenheim, and of which I wear the scar, hath become a part of my frame, and influences my whole body, nay, spirit subsequently, though 'twas got and healed forty years ago. Parting and forgetting! What faithful heart can do these ? Our great thoughts, our great affections, the truths of our lives never leave us.
Surely they cannot separate from our consciousness; shall follow it whithersoever that shall go; and are of their nature divine and immortal.
Contrast the tenderness of these passages with the cynical spirit in which the following are written:
What is the meaning of fidelity in love, and whence the birth of it ? 'Tis a state of mind that men fall into, and depending on the man rather than the woman. We love being in love, that's the truth on't. If we had not met Joan, we should have met Kate, and adored her. We know our mistresses are no better than many other woinen, nor no prettier, nor no wiser, nor no wittier. 'Tis not for these reasons we love a woman, or for any special quality or charm I know of; we might as well demand that a lady should be the tallest woman in the world, like the Shropshire giantess, as that she should be a paragon in any other character, before we began to love her.
And having settled, more suo, the reason why we fall in love, Mr. Thackeray thus describes what he believes to be the inevitable consequences of permitting “true love” to take its “course :"
Who does not know of eyes, lighted by love once, where the flame shines no more?-of lamps extinguished, once properly trimmed and tended ? Every man has such in his house. Such mementos make our splendidest chambers look blank and sad; such faces seen in a day cast a gloom upon our sunshine. So oaths mutually sworn, and invocations of heaven, and priestly ceremonies, and fond belief, and love, so fond and faithful that it never doubted but that it should live for ever, are all of no avail towards making love eternal : it dies, in spite of the banns and the priest; and I have often thought there should be a visitation of the sick for it; and a funeral service, and an extreme unction, and an abi in pace. It has its course, like all mortal things—its beginning, progress, and decay. It buds, and it blooms out into sunshine, and it withers and ends. Strephon and Chloe languish apart--join in a rapture ; and presently you hear that Chloe is crying, and Strephon has broken his crook across her back. Can you mend it so as to show no marks of rupture ? Not all the priests of Hymen, not all the incantations to the gods can make it whole!
The natural deduction from these opposed sentiments-if we are to look for a logical conclusion by which to test the writer's real meaningis, that “ love" must be considered an abstract good, and “marriage" a concrete evil.
Mr. Thackeray never tires of illustrating this latter position. Here is another instance, very faintly qualified. He is speaking of a married woman who has lost her beauty:
Can any one, who has passed through the world and watched the nature of men and women there, doubt what hath befallen her? I have seen, to be sure, some people carry down with them into old age the actual bloom of their youthful love, and I know that Mr. Thomas Parr lived to be a hundred and sixty years old. But, for all that, threescore and ten is the age of men, and few get beyond it; and 'tis certain that a man who marries for mere bcaut yeux, as my lord did, considers his part of the contract at an end when the woman ceases to fulfil hers, and his love does not survive her beauty. I know 'tis often otherwise, I say ; and can think (as most men in their own experience may) of many a house, where, lighted in early years, the sainted lamp of love hath never been extinguished; but so, there is Mr. Parr, and so there is the great giant at the fair that is eight feet high-exceptions to men-and that poor lamp whereof I speak that lights at first the nuptial chamber is extinguished by a hundred winds and draughts down the chimney, or sputters out for want of feeding. And then and then it is Chloe, in the dark, stark awake, and Strephon snoring unheeded; or vice versa, 'tis poor Strephon that