Anthony Trollope.

The Bertrams online

. (page 1 of 50)
Online LibraryAnthony TrollopeThe Bertrams → online text (page 1 of 50)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


E-text prepared by Delphine Lettau and Joseph E. Loewenstein, M.D.



THE BERTRAMS.

A Novel.

by

ANTHONY TROLLOPE

Author of "Barchester Towers," "Doctor Thorne," etc.

In Three Volumes

VOL. I.







London:
Chapman & Hall, 193 Piccadilly.
1859.

[The right of Translation is reserved.]

London: Printed by W. Clowes and Sons, Stamford Street.





CONTENTS OF VOL. I.

I. VÆ VICTIS!
II. BREAKFAST AND LUNCH.
III. THE NEW VICAR.
IV. OUR PRIMA DONNA.
V. THE CHOICE OF A PROFESSION.
VI. JERUSALEM.
VII. THE MOUNT OF OLIVES.
VIII. SIR LIONEL BERTRAM.
IX. MISS TODD'S PICNIC.
X. THE EFFECTS OF MISS TODD'S PICNIC.
XI. VALE VALETE.
XII. GEORGE BERTRAM DECIDES IN FAVOUR OF THE BAR.
XIII. LITTLEBATH.
XIV. WAYS AND MEANS.
XV. MR. HARCOURT'S VISIT TO LITTLEBATH.




THE BERTRAMS.


CHAPTER I.

VÆ VICTIS!


This is undoubtedly the age of humanity - as far, at least, as England
is concerned. A man who beats his wife is shocking to us, and a
colonel who cannot manage his soldiers without having them beaten is
nearly equally so. We are not very fond of hanging; and some of us
go so far as to recoil under any circumstances from taking the blood
of life. We perform our operations under chloroform; and it has even
been suggested that those schoolmasters who insist on adhering in
some sort to the doctrines of Solomon should perform their operations
in the same guarded manner. If the disgrace be absolutely necessary,
let it be inflicted; but not the bodily pain.

So far as regards the low externals of humanity, this is doubtless a
humane age. Let men, women, and children have bread; let them have if
possible no blows, or, at least, as few as may be; let them also be
decently clothed; and let the pestilence be kept out of their way.
In venturing to call these low, I have done so in no contemptuous
spirit; they are comparatively low if the body be lower than the
mind. The humanity of the age is doubtless suited to its material
wants, and such wants are those which demand the promptest remedy.
But in the inner feelings of men to men, and of one man's mind to
another man's mind, is it not an age of extremest cruelty?

There is sympathy for the hungry man; but there is no sympathy for
the unsuccessful man who is not hungry. If a fellow mortal be ragged,
humanity will subscribe to mend his clothes; but humanity will
subscribe nothing to mend his ragged hopes so long as his outside
coat shall be whole and decent.

To him that hath shall be given; and from him that hath not shall
be taken even that which he hath. This is the special text that we
delight to follow, and success is the god that we delight to worship.
"Ah! pity me. I have struggled and fallen - struggled so manfully, yet
fallen so utterly - help me up this time that I may yet push forward
once again!" Who listens to such a plea as this? "Fallen! do you want
bread?" "Not bread, but a kind heart and a kind hand." "My friend, I
cannot stay by you; I myself am in a hurry; there is that fiend of
a rival there even now gaining a step on me. I beg your pardon; but
I will put my foot on your shoulder - only for one moment. _Occupet
extremum scabies._"

Yes. Let the devil take the hindmost; the three or four hindmost if
you will; nay, all but those strong-running horses who can force
themselves into noticeable places under the judge's eye. This is the
noble shibboleth with which the English youth are now spurred on
to deeds of - what shall we say? - money-making activity. Let every
place in which a man can hold up his head be the reward of some
antagonistic struggle, of some grand competitive examination. Let us
get rid of the fault of past ages. With us, let the race be ever to
the swift; the victory always to the strong. And let us always be
racing, so that the swift and strong shall ever be known among us.
But what, then, for those who are not swift, not strong? _Væ victis!_
Let them go to the wall. They can hew wood probably; or, at any rate,
draw water.

Were we to ask Lord Derby, or Lord Palmerston, or to consult the
shade of Lord George Bentinck - or to go to those greater authorities
on the subject, Mr. Scott, for instance, and the family of the
Days - we should, I believe, be informed that the race-horse requires
a very peculiar condition. It is not to be obtained quickly, and,
when obtained, will fit the beast for no other than that one purpose
of running races. Crucifix was never good at going in a cab; Ilione
never took her noble owner down to the house of Parliament; nor has
Toxopholite been useful in Leicestershire.

But, nevertheless, let all our work be done by race-horses; all, at
least, that shall be considered honourable. Let us have strength and
speed. And how shall we know who are strong and swift if we do not
train our horses to run against each other? But this early racing
will hardly produce that humanity of spirit of which we now deplore
the want. "The devil take the hindmost" is the very essence of the
young man's book of proverbs. The devil assuredly will take all the
hindmost. None but the very foremost can enter the present heaven of
good things. Therefore, oh my brother, my friend, thou companion of
my youth! may the devil take thee; thee quickly, since it needs must
be thee or me.

_Væ victis_ - alas! for these hindmost ones; there are so many of
them! The skim-milk will always be so much more in quantity than the
cream. With us at present cream is required for everything; nothing
can be well done now unless it be done by cream of some sort. That
milk has been skimmed; the cream has been taken away. No matter; skim
it again. There shall be something yet which we will call cream.
Competitive examination will produce something that shall look to
be strong; that shall be swift, if it be only for a start of twenty
yards.

This is the experiment of the present day. Wise men say that when
nothing but cream is accepted, all mankind, all boykind rather, will
prepare itself for a skimming of some sort; and that the quantity of
cream produced will be immense. It is only done as an instigation to
education. Much may be said in opposition to this; but nothing shall
be said here. It is merely of the cruelty of spirit that is thus
engendered that we now speak. Success is the only test of merit.
Words have lost their old significance, and to deserve only is not
meritorious. _Væ victis!_ there are so many of them!

"Thompson," says Johnson, the young poet, when he has at last
succeeded in getting the bosomest of his friends alone into his
chamber with him, "have you happened to look at my Iphigenia yet?"

Thompson can't say that he has. He has been busy; has had so many
water-parties; and then, somehow, he doesn't think that he is very
partial to modern poetry on subjects of old mythology. Of course,
however, he means to read it - some of these days.

"I wish you would," says Johnson, tendering a copy of the thin
volume. "I really wish you would; and let me have your candid
opinion. The press certainly have not noticed it much, and what they
have said has been very luke-warm."

"I am sorry for that," says Thompson, looking grave.

"And I did my best with it too. You would hardly believe how hard
I worked at it. There is not a line that has not been weighed and
written, perhaps, three times over. I do not think I am conceited;
but I cannot but believe that there is something in it. The reviewers
are so jealous! if a man has not a name, they will give him credit
for nothing; and it is so hard to begin."

"I am sure it is," says Thompson.

"I don't expect fame; and as for money, of course I don't think of
that. But I should like to know that it had been read by one or two
persons who could understand it. I have given to it the best of
my time, the best of my labour. I cannot but think that there is
something in it." Thus pleads the unsuccessful one for mercy.

And thus answers to him the successful one, with no grain of mercy in
his composition: - "My dear Johnson, my maxim is this, that in this
world every man gets in the long run exactly what he deserves - "

"Did Milton get what he deserved?"

"These are not the days of Milton. I don't want to hurt your
feelings; but old friends as we are, I should not forgive myself if I
didn't tell you what I really think. Poetry is all very well; but you
can't create a taste for it if it doesn't exist. Nobody that I know
of cares a d - - for Iphigenia."

"You think I should change my subject, then?"

"To tell you the truth, I think you should change your trade. This is
the third attempt, you know. I dare say they are very good in their
way; but if the world liked them, the world would have found it out
by this time. '_Vox populi, vox Dei_' - that is my motto - I don't
trust my own judgment; I trust that of the public. If you will take
my advice, you will give up Iphigenia and the rest of them. You see
you are doing nothing whatever at the bar," &c., &c.

And thus Johnson is left, without a scrap of comfort, a word of
consolation, a spark of sympathy; and yet he had given to that
Iphigenia of his the best that was in him to give. Had his publisher
sold ten thousand copies of it, how Thompson would have admired it!
how he would have pressed the poet in his arms, and have given him
champagne up at Richmond! But who now has sympathy for failure? To
fail is to be disgraced. _Væ victis!_

There is something very painful in these races, which we English are
always running, to one who has tenderness enough to think of the nine
beaten horses instead of the one who has conquered. Look at that
list which has just come out after our grand national struggle at
Cambridge. How many wranglers are there? Thirty, shall we say? and
it is always glorious to be a wrangler. Out of that thirty there is
probably but one who has not failed, who is not called on to submit
to the inward grief of having been beaten. The youth who is second,
who has thus shown himself to be possessed of a mass of erudition
sufficient to crush an ordinary mind to the earth, is ready to eat
his heart with true bitterness of spirit. After all his labour, his
midnight oil, his many sleepless nights, his deserted pleasures, his
racking headaches, Amaryllis abandoned, and Neæra seen in the arms of
another - ! After all this, to be beaten by Jones! Had it been Green
or Smith he could have borne it. Would it not have been better to do
as others had done? he could have been contented to have gone out in
the crowd; but there is nothing so base as to be second - and then
second to Jones!

Out of the whole lot, Jones alone is contented; and he is told by
his physician that he must spend his next two winters at Cairo. The
intensity of his application has put his lungs into very serious
jeopardy.

It was at Oxford, in the year 184 - , that a young man sat in
his college-rooms at Balliol a wretched victim to unsuccessful
competition. It had been everything to him to come out as a first in
classics, and he had dared to dream even of a double-first. But he
had failed in both. The lists had just appeared, and he was only a
second-class man. Now, a second-class man is not much thought of at
Balliol, and he had lost his chance of an immediate fellowship.

But this was perhaps hardly the worst of it. Arthur Wilkinson, for
such was this gentleman's name, had hitherto run his race in life
alongside a friend and rival named George Bertram; and in almost
every phase of life had hitherto been beaten. The same moment that
had told Wilkinson of his failure had told him also that Bertram
had obtained the place he had so desired. Bertram was the only
double-first man of his year.

As these two young men will play the foremost parts in the following
pages, I will endeavour to explain, in as few words as possible, who
each of them was. As Bertram seems to have been the favourite with
fortune, I will begin with him.

His father at the time alluded to was still alive, but his son George
had seen but little of him. Sir Lionel Bertram had been a soldier
of fortune, which generally, I believe, means a soldier without a
fortune, and in that capacity he was still in some sort fighting his
country's battles. At the present moment he held a quasi-military
position in Persia, where he had been for the last five years, and
previously to that he had served in Canada, India, the Cape of Good
Hope, and on some special mission at Monte Video. He had, therefore,
seen a good deal of the world; but very little of his only child.
Mrs. Bertram, George's mother, had died early in life, and Mr.
(afterwards Sir Lionel) Bertram had roamed the world free from all
encumbrances.

The Rev. Arthur Wilkinson, vicar of Hurst Staple, on the borders
of Hampshire and Berkshire, had married a first-cousin of Mrs.
Bertram's; and when young George Bertram, at the age of nine, was
tossing about the world rather in want of a fixed home, Mr. Wilkinson
undertook to give him that home, and to educate him with his own
eldest child till they should both be sent to some school. For
three years George Bertram lived at Hurst Staple, and was educated
accordingly. During these years he used to go annually for one month
to the house of an uncle, who in due time will also be introduced to
the reader; and therefore, not unnaturally, this month was regarded
by the boy as his holidays.

Now, it may as well be explained in this place that Sir Lionel
Bertram, though a very gallant man, and peculiarly well adapted to
do business with outlandish people, had never succumbed to a habit
of punctuality in pecuniary matters. An arrangement had been perhaps
rather named than made, that one hundred and thirty pounds per annum
should be paid for young Bertram's needs; and as this was to include
pocket-money, clothing, and washing, as well as such trifles as the
boy's maintenance and education, perhaps the bargain was not a very
hard one as regarded Sir Lionel. The first seventy-five pounds were
paid; but after that, up to the end of the second year, Mr. Wilkinson
had received no more. As he was a poor man, with six children of his
own, and little besides his living, he then thought it better to
mention the matter to Sir Lionel's brother in London. The balance
was instantly paid, and Mr. Wilkinson had no further trouble on that
head. Nor had he much trouble on any other head as regarded young
Bertram. The lad was perhaps not fit to be sainted, and gave Mrs.
Wilkinson the usual amount of trouble as regarded his jackets and
pantaloons; but, on the whole, he was a good boy, free and generous
in his temper, quick in his parts, affectionate in disposition, and
full of humour. Those who examined him most closely (among whom,
perhaps, Mr. Wilkinson was not included) might have observed that
he was hardly as steady as he might have been in his likings and
dislikings; that he made too little of the tasks which he learnt
without trouble; and that, in fact, he was not sufficiently
solicitous about anything. He was, however, undoubtedly a lad of
great promise, and one of whom any father might have been proud.

He was not a handsome boy, nor did he become a handsome man. His face
was too solid, his cheeks too square, and his forehead too heavy; but
his eyes, though small, were bright, and his mouth was wonderfully
marked by intelligence. When he grew to be a man, he wore no beard,
not even the slightest apology for a whisker, and this perhaps
added to the apparent heaviness of his face; but he probably best
understood his own appearance, for in those days no face bore on it
more legible marks of an acute mind.

At the age of twelve, he was sent to Winchester, and as his holidays
were still passed with his uncle, he then ceased to regard Hurst
Staple as his home. Twice a year, as he went up to town, he stayed
there for a couple of days; but he was soon looked on as a visitor,
and the little Wilkinsons no longer regarded him as half a brother in
reality and quite a brother in love.

Arthur Wilkinson was very nearly of the same age. He was just older
than young Bertram - by three months or so; just sufficiently to
give to Wilkinson a feeling of seniority when they first met, and
a consciousness that as he was the senior in age, he should be the
senior in scholastic lore. But this consciousness Wilkinson was not
able to attain; and during all the early years of his life, he was
making a vain struggle to be as good a man as his cousin; that is,
as good in scholarship, as good in fighting, as good in play, and as
good in spirit.

In looks, at any rate, Arthur was superior to George; and much
consolation did his mother receive from this conviction. Young
Wilkinson was a very handsome lad, and grew up to be a handsome man;
but his beauty was of that regular sort which is more pleasing in a
boy than in a man. He also was an excellent lad, and no parent could
be so thankless as to be other than proud of him. All men said all
good things of him, so that Mr. Wilkinson could not but be contented.
Nevertheless, one would always wish to see one's own son not less
bright than one's friend's son.

Arthur Wilkinson was also sent to Winchester. Perhaps it would have
been better for the cousins that they should have gone to different
schools. The matter, however, had been left to Mr. Wilkinson, and
as he thought Winchester good for his own son, he naturally thought
the same school good for Sir Lionel's son. But Bertram was entered
as a commoner, whereas Wilkinson was in the college. Those who know
Winchester will understand, that though, as regarded school business
and school hours, they were at the same establishment, they were not
together at the much more important hours of eating, sleeping, and
playing. They did not cease to be friends, but they did cease to
live together as friends generally do live when educated at the same
school.

At Winchester they both did fairly well; but Bertram did much the
best. He got the prizes, whereas his cousin did but nearly get them.
He went up from class to class above the other, and when the last
tussle for pride of place came on at the close of their boyish
career, Bertram was the victor. He stood forth to spout out Latin
hexameters, and to receive the golden medal, while Wilkinson had no
other privilege but to sit still and listen to them.

I believe masters but seldom recognize the agony of spirit with which
boys endure being beaten in these contests. Boys on such subjects
are very reticent; they hardly understand their own feelings enough
to speak of them, and are too much accustomed both to ridicule and
censure to look anywhere for sympathy. A favourite sister may perhaps
be told of the hard struggle and the bitter failure, but not a word
is said to any one else. His father, so thinks the boy, is angry at
his failure; and even his mother's kisses will hardly be warmed by
such a subject. We are too apt to think that if our children eat
pudding and make a noise they require no sympathy. A boy may fail at
school, and afterwards eat much pudding, and make much noise; but,
ah! how his young heart may sigh for some one to grieve with him over
his failures!

Wilkinson was unfortunate at school. It was a great object with his
father that he should get a scholarship at New College, to which, as
all the world knows, his path lay through the college of Winchester.
When his time came, he was all but successful - but he was not
successful. The vacancies in his year were few in number, only three,
and of these two were preoccupied, according to the then rule of the
place, by those heaven-born Wykamists, called founder's kin He was
only the second best on the list, and lost the prize.

Bertram, having been a commoner, had had no right to think of New
College; but at the time when he was to be removed to Oxford, his
uncle gave him to understand that money was a great object to him.
His father's mind was still too fully absorbed in the affairs of his
country to enable him to think much of his son's expenditure, and his
uncle at this period took a fit of disgust on the subject.

"Very well," said George, "I will give up Oxford if I cannot do
something for myself."

He went up, however, to Trinity, and became a candidate for a
scholarship there. This he obtained to the great surprise of all the
Wilkinsons and of himself. In those days, a lad of eighteen who could
get a scholarship at Trinity was considered to be nearly safe in his
career. I do not know how far this may be altered now. The uncle,
when he heard of his nephew's success, immediately allowed him what
would have been amply sufficient for him had he been in possession of
no income from his scholarship. Bertram, therefore, had been almost a
rich man during his residence at Oxford.

Young Wilkinson, though he lost New College, received a small
scholarship from Winchester, and he also was sent by his father to
Oxford. To enable him to do this, Mr. Wilkinson was forced to make a
great struggle. He had five other children - four daughters, and one
younger son, and it was with difficulty that he could make up the
necessary allowance to carry Arthur through the University. But he
did do so, and the disappointed Wykamist went up to Balliol with an
income amounting to about half that which his cousin enjoyed.

We need not follow them very accurately through their college
careers. They both became prizemen - one by force of intellect, and
the other by force of industry. They both went through their little
goes and other goes with sufficient zeal, up to that important day
on which the great go of all was to be undergone. They both belonged
to the same debating society at Oxford, and though they thought very
differently on most important subjects, they remained, with some few
temporary interruptions, fast friends through their four years of
Oxford residence.

There were periods when the Balliol man was considered by his friends
to run a better chance of academical success than his brighter cousin
at Trinity. Wilkinson worked hard during his three first years, and
Bertram did not. The style of mind, too, of the former was the more
adapted to win friends at Oxford. In those days the Tracts were new,
and read by everybody, and what has since been called Puseyism was in
its robust infancy. Wilkinson proclaimed himself, while yet little
more than a boy, to be an admirer of poor Froude and a follower of
Newman. Bertram, on the other hand, was unsparing in his ridicule
of the "Remains," set himself in full opposition to the Sewells,
and came out as a poet - successfully, as far as the Newdegate was
concerned - in direct opposition to Keble and Faber.

For three years Wilkinson worked hard and regularly; but the _éclat_
attending on his success somewhat injured him. In his fourth year,
or, at any rate, in the earlier part of it, he talked more than he
read, and gave way too much to the delights of society - too much, at
least, for one who was so poor, and to whom work was so necessary. He
could not keep his position by dint of genius, as Bertram might do;
consequently, though he was held to have taken honours in taking his
degree, he missed the high position at which he had aimed; and on the
day which enabled him to write himself bachelor of arts, he was in
debt to the amount of a couple of hundred pounds, a sum which it was
of course utterly out of his power to pay, and nearly as far out of
the power of his father.

It had always been Bertram's delight to study in such a manner that
men should think he did not study. There was an affectation in this,
perhaps not uncommon to men of genius, but which was deleterious to
his character - as all affectations are. It was, however, the fact,
that during the last year before his examination, he did study hard.
There was a set round him at his college among whom he was esteemed
as a great man - a little sect of worshippers, who looked for their
idol to do great things; and it was a point of honour with them to
assist this pretence of his. They gloried in Bertram's idleness; told
stories, not quite veracious, of his doings at wine-parties; and
proved, to the satisfaction of admiring freshmen, that he thought of
nothing but his horse and his boating. He could do without study more
than any other man could do with it; and as for that plodding Balliol
hero, he might look to be beaten out of the field without an effort.

The Balliol men had been very confident in their hero up to the last
half-year; but then they began to doubt. Poor Wilkinson was beaten by
his rival out of the field, though, probably, not without an effort.



Online LibraryAnthony TrollopeThe Bertrams → online text (page 1 of 50)