Charles James Lever.

Arthur O'Leary: his wanderings and ponderings in many lands online

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london, Haniy Colhurn. 1844.













ST. martin's lane.





Portrait of Arthur O'Leary


Crossing a Frontier


Lust und Rust

• •


A Theatrical Exit . . . .


A Night in the Forest of Arden

• •


A " Mariage sous la Chemin^e,"




• •


Puttiug an Extinguisher on Matrimony

• »


A new way to " reckon \vithout one's Host"



A Play by Command





When some years ago we took the liberty, in a volume of our
so-called " Confessions/' to introduce to our reader's acquaint'
ance the gentleman whose name figures in the title page, we
subjoined a brief notice, by himself, intimating the intention he
entertained of one day giving to the world a further insight into
his life and opinions, under the title of " Loiterings of Arthur

It is more than probable that the garbled statement and incor-
rect expression of which >ve ourselves were guilty respecting our
friend had piqued him into this declaration, which, on mature
consideration, he thought fit to abandon. For, from that hour to
the present one, nothing of the kind ever transpired, nor could
we ascertain, by the strictest inquiry, that such a proposition of
publication had ever been entertained in the West-end, or heard
of in the " Row."

The worthy traveller had wandered away to " pastures new,"
heaven knows where! and, notwithstanding repeated little para-
graphs in the second advertizing column of the "Times" news-
paper, assuring, "A. O'L. that if he would inform his friends
where a letter would reach, all would be forgiven," &c., the mys-
tery of his whereabouts remained unsolved, save by the chance
mention of a north-west-passage traveller, Avho speaks of a Mr.
O'Leary as having presided at a grand bottle-nosed whale dinner
in Behring's Straits, some time in the autumn of 1840; and an
allusion, in the second volume of the Chevalier de Bertonville's
Discoveries in Central Africa, to an " Irlandais bien original.




who acted as sponsor to the son and heir of King Bullanullaboo,
in the Chieckhow territory. That either, or, indeed, both, these
individuals resolved themselves into our respected friend, we
entertained no doubt whatever; nor did the information cause
us any surprise, far less, unquestionably, than had we heard of his
ordering his boots from Hoby, or his coat from Stultz.

Meanwhile time rolled on — and whether Mr. O^Leary had died
of the whale feast, or been eaten himself by his godson, no one
could conjecture, and his name had probably been lost amid the
rust of ages if certain booksellers, in remote districts, had not
chanced upon the announcement of his volume, and their " coun-
try orders" kept dropping in for these same " Loiterings," of
which the publishers were obliged to confess they knew nothing

Now, the season was a dull one; nothing stirring in the literary
world; people had turned from books to newspapers; a gloomy
depression reigned over the land. The India news was depress-
ing; the China worse; the French were more insolent than ever;
the prices were falling under the new tariff; pigs looked down, and
"Repealers" looked up. The only interesting news, was the
frauds in pork, which turned out to be pickled negroes and potted
squaws. What was to be done ? A literary speculation at such a
moment was preposterous; for although in an age of temperance,
nothing prospered but "Punch."

It occurred to us, "then pondering," as Lord Brougham
would say, that as these same "Loiterings" had been asked for
more than once, and an actual order for two copies had been seen
in the handwriting of a solvent individual, there was no reason
why we should not write them ourselves. There would be little
difficulty in imagining what a man like O'Leary would say, think,
or do, in any given situation. The peculiarities of his character
might, perhaps, give point to what dramatic people call "situa-
tions," but yet were not of such a nature as to make their
portraiture a matter of any difficulty.

We confess the thing savoured a good deal of book-making.
What of that ? We remember once in a row in Dublin, when the
military were called out, that a sentinel happened to have an
altercation with an old woman of that class, for which the Irish
metropolis used to have a patent, in all that regards street elo-
quence and repartee. The soldier, provoked beyond endurance,
declared at last with an oath, "that if she didn't go away, he'd
drive his bayonet through her.'^ " Oh, then, the devil thank you
for that same," responded the hag, ^'sure, isn't it your trade?"
Make the application, dear reader, and forgive us for our author-
ship to order.

Besides, had we not before us the example of Alexandre
Dumas, in France, whose practice it is to amuse the world by
certain " Souvenirs de Voyage," which he has never made, not


even in imagination, but which are only the dressed-up skeletons
of other men's rambles, and whicli he buys, exactly as the Jews
do old uniforms and court suits, for exportation to the colonies.
And thus, while thousands of his readers are sympathizing with
the suffering of the aforesaid Alexandre, in his perilous passage of
the great desert, or his fearful encounter with Norwegian wolves,
little know they that their hero is snugly established in his "entre-
sol" of the " Rue d' Alger," lying full length on a spring-cushioned
sofa, with a Manilla weed on his lip, and George Sand's last
bulletin of wickedness, half cut before him. These " Souvenirs
de Voyage" being nothing more than the adventures and incidents
of Messrs. John Doe and Richard Doe, paragraphed, witticized,
and spiced for public taste, by Alexandre Dumas, pretty much as
cheap taverns give " gravy" and "ox-tail" — the smallest modicum
of meat, to the most high-seasoned and hot-flavoured condiments.

If, then, we had scruples, here was a precedent to relieve our
minds — here a case perfectly in point, at least so far as the
legitimacy of the practice demanded. But, unhappily, it ended
there : for although it may be, and indeed is, very practicable for
Monsieur Dumas, by the perfection of his "cuisine" to make the
meat itself a secondary part of the matter ; yet do we grievously
fear that a tureen full of " O'Leary," might not be an acceptable
dish, because there was a bone of "Harry Lorrequer*^ in the

With all these pros and cons, our vain-glorious boast to write
the work in question stared us suddenly in the face ; and, really,
we felt as much shame as can reasonably be supposed to visit
a man, whose countenance has been hawked about the streets, and
sold in shilling numbers. What was to be done ? There was the
public, too ; but, like Tony Lumpkin, we felt we might disappoint
the company at the Three Jolly Pigeons — but could we disaj)point
ourselves ?

Alas ! there were some excellent reasons against such a con-
summation. So, respected reader, whatever liberties we might
take with you, we had to look nearer home, and bethink us of
ourselves. After all — and what a glorious charge to the jury of
one's conscience is your "after all !" — what a plenary indulgence
against all your sins of commission and omission ! — what a make-
peace to self-accusation, and what a salve to heartfelt repinings ! —
after all, we did know a great deal about O'Leary: his life and
opinions, his habits and haunts, his prejudices, pleasures, and pre-
dilections : and although we never performed Boz to his Johnson,
still had we ample knowledge of him for all purposes of book-
writing; and there M^as no reason why we should not assume his
mantle, or rather his Macintosh, if the weather required it.

Having in some sort allayed our scruples in this fashion, and
having satisfied our conscience by the resolve, that if we were not
about to record the actual res yestcn of Mr. O'Leary, neither would

B 2


we set down anything which might not have been one of his
adventures, nor put into his mouth any imaginary conversations
which he might not have sustained ; so that, in short, should the
volume ever come under the eyes of the respected gentleman
himself, considerable mystification would exist, as to whether he
did not say, do, and think, exactly as we made him, and much
doubt lie on his mind that he was not the author himself.

We wish particularly to lay stress on the honesty of these our
intentions — the more, as subsequent events have interfered with
their accomplishment ; and we can only assure the world of what
we would have done, had we been permitted. And here let us
observe, en passant, that if other literary characters had been
actuated by similarly honourable views, we should have been
spared those very absurd speeches which Sallust attributes to his
characters in the Catiline conspiracy ; and another historian, with
still greater daring, assumes the Prince of Orange ought to have
spoken, at various epochs in the late Belgian revolution.

With such prospective hopes, then, did we engage in the
mystery of these same ^' Loiterings," and with a pleasure such as
only men of the pen can appreciate, did we watch the bulky pile
of MS. that was growing up before us, while the interest of the
work had already taken hold of us ; and whether we moved our
puppets to the slow figure of a minuet, or rattled them along at
the slap-dash, hurry-scurry, devil-may-care pace, for which our
critics habitually give us credit, we felt that our foot beat time
responsively to the measure, and that we actually began to enjoy
the performance.

In this position stood matters, when one early morning in
December the post brought us an ominous-looking epistle, which,
even as we glanced our eye on the outside, conveyed an impression
of fear and misgiving to our minds. If there are men in whose
countenances, as Pitt remarked, '' villany is so impressed, it were
impiety not to believe it," so are there certain letters whose very
shape and colour, fold, seal, and superscription have something
gloomy and threatening — something of menace and mischief about
them. This was one of these: the paper was a greenish sickly
white, a kind of dyspeptic foolscap ; the very mill that fabricated
it might have had the shaking ague. The seal was of bottle-wax,
the impression, a heavy thumb. The address ran, "To H. L."
The writing, a species of rustic paling, curiously interwoven and
gnarled, to which the thickness of the ink lent a needless obscurity,
giving to the whole the appearance of something like a child's
effort to draw a series of beetles and cockroaches with a blunt
stick; but what most of all struck terror to our souls, was an
abortive effort at the words "Arthur O'Leary" scrawled in the

What ! had he really then escaped the perils of blubber and
black men ? Was he alive, and had he come back to catch us, in


delicto — in the very fact of editing him, of raising our exhausted
exchequer at his cost, and replenishing our empty coffers under
his credit? Our suspicions were but too true. We broke the
seal and spelled as follows —

"Sir — A lately-arrived traveller in these parts brings me
intelligence, that a work is announced for publication by you,
under the title of ' The Loiterings of Arthur O'Leary,^ containing
his opinions, notions, dreamings, and doings dviring several years
of his life, and in various countries. Now this must mean me,
and I should like to know what are a man's own, if his adventures
are not ? His ongoings, his ' begebenheiten,' as the Germans call
them, are they not as much his, as his — what shall I say ; his
flannel waistcoat or his tobacco-pipe ?

" If I have spent many years, and many pounds (of tobacco) in
my explorings of other lands, is it for you to reap the benefit ? If
I have walked, smoked, laughed, and fattened from Trolhatten to
Tehran, was it that you should have the profit ? Was I to exhibit
in ludicrous situations and extravagant incidents, with 'illus-
trations by Phiz,^ because I happened to be fat, and fond of ramb-
ling ? Or was it my name only that you pirated, so that Arthur
O'Leary should be a type of something ludicrous, wherever he
appeared in company ? Or worse still, was it an attempt to extort
money from me, as I understand you once before tried, by assuming
for one of your heroes the name of a most respectable gentleman
in private life ? To which of these counts do you plead guilty ?

"Whatever is your plan, here is mine: I have given instruc-
tions to my man of law to obtain an injunction from the Chancellor,
restraining you or any other from publishing these ' Loiterings.'
Yes ; an order of the court will soon put an end to this most
unwarrantable invasion of private rights. Let us see then if you'll
dare to persist in this nefarious scheme.

" The Swan-river for you, and the stocks for your publisher,
may, perhaps, moderate your literary and publishing ardour — eh!
Master Harry? Or do you contemplate adding your own adven-
tures beyond seas to the volume, and then make something of
your 'Confessions of a Convict.' I must conclude at once: in my
indignation this half hour, I have been swallowing all the smoke
of my meerschaum, and I feel myself turning round and round
like a smoke-jack. Once for all — stop ! recall your announcement,
burn your MS., and prostrate yourself in abject humility at my
feet, and with many sighs, and two pounds of shag (to be had at
No. 8, Francis-street, two doors from the lane), you may haply
be forgiven by yours, in wrath^

"Arthur O'Leary.

" Address a line, if in penitence, to me here, where the lovely
scenery, and the society remind me much of Siberia —

"Edenderry, 'The Pig and Pot-hooks.'"



Having carefully read and re-read this letter, and having laid
it before those whose interests, like our own, were deeply involved,
we really for a time became thoroughly nonplussed. To disclaim
any or all of the intentions attributed to us in Mr. O'Leary^s
letter, would have been perfectly useless, so long as we held to
our project of publishing any thing under his name. Of no avail
to assure him that our "Loiterings of Arthur O'Leary" were not
his — that our hero was not himself. To little purpose should we
adduce that our Alter Ego was the hero of a book by the Prebend
of Lichfield, and " Charles Lever'^ given to the world as a socialist.
He cared for nothing of all this ; tenax propositi, he would listen
to no explanation — unconditional, absolute, Chinese submission
were his only terms, and with these we were obliged to comply.
And yet how very ridiculous was the power he assumed. Was
any thing more common in practice than to write the lives of
distinguished men, even before their death, and who ever heard of
the individual seeking legal redress against his biographer, except
for libel? "Come, come, Arthur," said we to ourselves, "this
threat affrights us not. Here we begin Chap. XIV. — "

Just then we turned our eyes mechanically towards the pile
of manuscript at our elbow, and could not help admiring the
philosophy with which he spoke of condemning to the flames the
fruit of our labour. Still it was evident, that Mr. O'Leary's was
no brutem fulnien, but very respectable and downright thunder ;
and that in fact we should soon be, where, however interesting it
may make a young lady, it by no means suits an elderly gentleman
to be, viz. — in Chancery,

*' What's to be done?" was the question, which like a tennis-
ball we pitched at each other. "We have it," said we. "We'll
start at once for Edenderry, and bring this with us," pointing to
our manuscript. "We'll show O'Leary how near immortality he
was, and may still be, if not loaded with obstinacy: We'll read
him a bit of our droll, and some snatches of our pathetic pas-
sages. We'll show him how the ^ Immortal George' intends
to represent him. In a word, we'll enchant him with the
fascinating position to which we mean to exalt him; and
before the evening ends, obtain his special permission to deal
with him, as before now we have done with his betters, and —
print him."

Our mind made up, no time was to be lost. We took our
place in the Grand Canal passage-boat for Edenderry; and, wrap-
ping ourselves up in our virtue, and another thin garment they
call a Zephyr, began our journey.

We should have liked well, had our object permitted it, to
have made some brief notes of our own "Loiterings." But the
goal of our wanderings, as well as of our thoughts, was ever before
us, and we spent the day imagining to. ourselves the various modes
by which we should make our advances to the enemy, with most


hope of success. Whether the company themselves did not afford
any thing very remarkahle, or our own preoccupation prevented
our noticing it, certes, we jogged on, without any consciousness
that we were not perfectly alone, and this for some twenty miles
of the way. At last, however, the cabin became intolerably hot.
Something like twenty-four souls were imprisoned in a space ten
feet by three, which the humanity of the company of directors
kindly limits to forty-eight, a number which no human ingenuity
could pack into it, if living. The majority of the passengers were
what by courtesy are called " small farmers," namely, individuals
weighing from eighteen to six-and-tw^enty stone; priests, with
backs like the gable of a chapel ; and a sprinkling of elderly ladies
from the bog towns along the bank, who actually resembled turf
clamps in their proportions. We made an effort to reach the
door, and having at length succeeded, found to our sorrow that
the rain was falling heavily. Notwithstanding this, we remained
without, as long as we could venture, the oppressive heat within
being far more intolerable than even the rain. At length, how-
ever, w^et through and cold, we squeezed ourselves into a small
corner near the door, and sat down. But what a change had our
unpropitious presence evoked. We left our fellow-travellers, a
noisy, jolly, semi-riotous party, disputing over the markets, cen-
suring Sir Robert, abusing the poor-rates, and discussing various
matters of foreign and domestic policy, from Shah Shoojah to
subsoil ploughs. A dirty pack of cards, and even punch, were
adding their fascinations to while away the tedious hours; but now
the^ company sat in solemn silence. The ladies looked straight
before them, without a muscle of their faces moving; the farmers
had lifted the collars of their frieze coats, and concealed their
hands within their sleeves, so as to be perfectly invisible; and
the reverend fathers, putting on dark and dangerous looks, spoke
only in monosyllables, no longer sipped their liquor in comfort,
but rang the bell from time to time, and ordered " another bever-
age," a curious smoking compound, that to our un-Mathewed
senses, savoured suspiciously of whiskey.

It was a dark night when we reached the " Pig and Pot-hooks,"
the hostelry whence Mr. O^Leary had addressed us; and although
not yet eight o'clock, no appearance of light, nor any stir, an-
nounced that the family were about. After some little delay, our
summons was answered by a bare-legged handmaiden, who, to our
question if Mr. O'Leary stopped there, without further hesitation
opened a small door to the left, and introduced us bodily into his
august presence.

Our travelled friend was seated, "more suo" with his legs sup-
ported on two chairs, while he himself in chief occupied a third,
his wig being on the arm of that one on which he reposed ;
a very imposing tankard, with a floating toast, smoked on the
table, and a large collection of pipes of every grade, from the


haughty hubble bubble, to the humble dudeen, hung around on
the walls.

" Ha !" said he, as we closed the door behind us, and advanced
into the room, " and so you are penitent. Well, Hal, I forgive
you. It was a scurvy trick, though; but I remember it no longer.
Here, take a pull at the pewter, and tell us all the Dublin news."

It is not our intention, dear reader, to indulge in the same
mystification with you, that we practised on our friend Mr.
O'Leary — or, in other words, to invent for your edification, as
we confess to have done for his, all the events and circumstances
which might have, but did not take place in Dublin for the pre-
ceding month. It is enough to say that about eleven o'clock
Mr. O'Leary was in the seventh heaven of conversational con-
tentment, and in the ninth flagon of purl.

^' Open it — let me see it. Come, Hal, divulge at once," said
he, kicking the carpet-bag that contained our manuscript. We
undid the lock, and emptied our papers before him. His eyes
sparkled as the heavy folds fell over each other on the table, his
mouth twitched with a movement of convulsive pleasure. " Ring
the bell, my lad," said he ; " the string is beside you. Send the
master, Mary," continued he, as the maiden entered.

Peter Mahoon soon made his appearance, rather startled at
being sunnnoned from his bed, and evidencing in his toilette
somewhat more of zeal than dandyism.

" Is the house insured, Peter ?" said Mr. O'Leary.

'' No, sir," rejoined he, with a searching look around the room,
and a sniff" of his nose, to discover if he could detect the smell of

" What's the premises worth, Peter ?"

*' Sorrow one of me knows right, sir. Maybe a hundred and
fifty, or it might bring two hundred pounds."

" All right," said O'Leary briskly, as seizing my manuscript
with both hands he hurled it on the blazing turf fire ; and then
grasping the poker, stood guard over it, exclaiming as he did so,
— " Touch it, and by the beard of the Prophet I'll brain you.
Now, there it goes, blazing up the chimney. Look how it floats
up there ! I never expected to travel like that anyhow. Eh, Hal ?
Your work is a brilliant affair, isn't it ? — and as well puffed as if
you entertained every newspaper editor in the kingdom ? And
see," cried he, as he stamped his foot upon the blaze, " the whole
edition is exhausted already — not a copy to be had for any

We threw ourselves back in our chair, and covered our face
with our hands. The toil of many a long night, of many a bright
hour of sun and wind, was lost to us for ever, and we may be
pardoned if our grief was heavy.

" Cheer up, old fellow," said he, as the last flicker of the
burning paper expired. "You know the thing was bad: it


couldn't be other. That d d fly-away harum-scarum style of

yours is no more adapted to a work of real merit, than a Will-o'-
the-wisp would be for a lighthouse. Another jug, Peter — bring
two. The truth is, Hal, I was not so averse to the publication of
my life as to the infernal mess you'd have made of it. You have
no pathos, no tenderness — damn the bit."

" Come, come," said we: "it is enough to burn our manuscript;
but, really, as to playing the critic in this fashion "

" Then," continued he, " all that confounded folly you deal in,
laughing at the priests — Lord bless you, man ! they have more
fun, those fellows, than you, and a score like you. There's one
Father Dolan here would tell two stories for your one; ay, better
than ever you told."

" We really have no ambition to enter the lists with your

" So much the better — you'd get the worst of it; and as to
knowledge of character, see now, Peter Mahoon there would
teach you human nature; and if I liked myself to appear in
print "

" Well," said we, bursting out into a fit of laughter, " that
"would certainly be amusing."

"And so it would, whether you jest or no. There's in that
drawer there, the materials of as fine a work as ever appeared since
Sir John Carr's Travels; and the style is a happy union of Gold-
smith and Jean Paul — simple yet aphoristic — profound and plea-
sing — sparkling like the can before me, l)ut pungent and racy in
its bitterness. Hand me that oak box, Hal. Which is the key?
At this hour one's sight becomes always defective. Ah, here it is

Online LibraryCharles James LeverArthur O'Leary: his wanderings and ponderings in many lands → online text (page 1 of 43)