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UNIVERSITY OF CALIFOKNIA, SAIf^lEGO
LA JOLLA, CALIFORNIA'
PR 4884 C45 1908
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, SAN DIEGO
3 1822 01164 8557
A SPIRITED CONTACT WITH A GHOST.
Charles O'Malleij, Vol. II. Page 57
THE IRISH DRAGOON.
By CHARLES LEVER.
WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY PHIZ.
COMPLETE IN ONE VOLUME.
A. L. BUKT, rUBUSHER,
The success of Harry Lorrequer was the reason for writing
Charles O'Malley. That I myself was in no wise prepared for
the favor the public bestowed on my first attempt is easily
enough understood. The ease with which I strung my stories
together â€” and in reality the Confessions of Harry Lorrequer
are little other than a note-book of absurd and laughable inci-
dents â€” led me to believe that I could draw on this vein of com-
position without any limit whatever. I felt, or thought I felt,
an inexhaustible store of fun and buoyancy within me, and I
began to have a misty, half confused impression that English-
men generally labored under a sad-colored temperament, took
depressing views of life, and were proportionately grateful to
any one who would rally them even passingly out of their de-
spondency, and give them a laugh without much trouble for
going in search of it.
When I set to work to write Charles O'Malley I was, as I
have ever been, very low with fortune, and the success of a
new venture was pretty much as eventful to me as the turn of
the right color at rouge et noir. At the same time I had then
an amount of spring in my temperament, and a power of em
joying life which I can honestly say 1 never found surpassed.
The world had for me all the interest of an admirable comedy,
in which the part alloted myself, if not a high or a foreground
one, was eminently suited to my taste, and brought me, besides,
sufficiently often on the stage to enable me to follow all the
fortunes of the piece. Brussels, where I was then living, was
adorned at the period by a most agreeable English society.
Some leaders of the fashionable world of London had come
there to refit and recruit, both in body and estate. There
were several pleasant and a great number of pretty people
among them ; and, so far as I could judge, the fashionable
dramas of Belgrave Square and its vicinity were being per-
formed in the Rue Royale and the Boulevard de Waterloo with
very considerable success. There were dinners, balls, dejeu-
ners and picnics in the Bois de Cambre, excursions to Water-
loo, and select little parties to Bois-fort, a charming little resort
in the forest, whose intense cockneyism became perfectly inof-
fensive as being in a foreign land, and remote from the inva-
sion of home-bred vulgarity. I mention all these things to
show the adjuncts by which I was aided, and the rattle of
gaiety by which I was, as it were, " accompanied," when I next
tried my voice.
The soldier element tinctured strongly our society, and I will
say most agreeably. Amongst those whom I remember best
were several old Peninsulars. Lord Combermere was of this
number, and another of our set was an officer who accom-
panied, if indeed he did not command, the first boat party who
crossed the Douro. It is needless to say how I cultivated a
society so full of all the storied details I was eager to obtain,
and how generously disposed were they to give me all the in-
formation I needed. On topography especially were they valu-
able to me, and with such good result that I have been more
than once complimented on the accuracy of my descriptions
of places which I have never seen and whose features I have
derived entirely from the narratives of my friends.
When, therefore, my publishers asked me could I write a
story in the Lorrequer vein, in which active service and mili-
tary adventure could figure more prominently than mere civil-
ian life, and where the achievements of a British army might
form the staple of the narrative ? When this question was pro-
pounded me, I was ready to reply â€” Not one, but fifty. Do
not mistake me, and suppose that any overweening confidence
in my literary powers would have emboldened me to make thi?
reply ; my whole strength lay in the fact that I could not rec-
ognize anything like literary effort in the matter. If the world
would only condescend to read that which I wrote precisely as
I was in the habit of talking, nothing could be easier than for
me to occupy them. Not alone was it very easy to me, but it
was intensely interesting and amusing to myself, to be so en-
The success of Harry Lorrequer had been freely wafted
across the German Ocean, but even in its mildest accents it
was very intoxicating incense to me ; and I set to work on my
second book with a thrill of hope as regards the world's favor
which â€” and it is no small thing to say it â€” I can yet recall.
I can recall, too, and I am afraid more vividly still, some of
the difficulties of my task when I endeavored to form anything
like an accurate or precise idea of some campaigning incident,
or some passage of arms from the narratives of two distinct
and separate "eye-witnesses." What mistrust I conceived for
all eye-witnesses from my own brief experience of their testi-
monies ! What an impulse did it lend me to study the nature
and the temperament of the narrator, as indicative of the pe-
culiar coloring he might lend his narrative ; and how it taught
me to know the force of the French epigram that has declared
how it was entirely the alternating popularity of Marshal Soult
that decided whether he won or lost the battle of Toulouse !
While, however, I was sifting these evidences, and separat-
ing, as well as I might, the wheat from the chaff, I was in a
measure training myself for what, without my then knowing it,
was to become my career in life. This was not therefore alto-
gether without a certain degree of labor, but so light and pleas-
ant withal, so full of picturesque peeps at character, and
humorous views of human nature, that it would be the very
rankest ingratitude of me if I did not own that I gained all my
earlier experiences of the world in very pleasant company â€”
highly enjoyable at the time, and with matter for charming
souvenirs long after.
That certain traits of my acquaintances found themselves
embodied in some of the characters of this story 1 do not seek
to deny. The principle of natural selection adapts itself to
novels as to nature, and it would have demanded an effort
above my strength to have disabused myself at the desk of
all the impressions of the dinner table, and to have forgotten
features which interested or amused me.
One of the personages of my tale I drew, however, with very
little aid from fancy. I would go so far as to say that I took
him from the life, if my memory did not confront me with the
lamentable inferiority of my picture to the great original it
was meant to portray.
With the exception of the quality of courage, I never met a
man who contained within himself so many of the traits of
Falstaff, as the individual who furnished me with Major Mon-
soon. But the Major â€” I must call him so, though that rank was
far beneath his own â€” was a man of unquestionable bravery.
His powers as a story-teller were to my thinking unrivalled, the
peculiar reflections on life which he would passingly introduce â€”
the wise apothegms â€” were after a morality essentially of his own
invention, that he would indulge in the unsparing exhibition of
himself in situations such as other men would never have
confessed to, all blended up with a racy enjoyment of life,
dashed occasionally with sorrow that our tenure of it was
short of patriarchal. All these accompanied by a face redol-
ent of intense humor, and a voice whose modulations were
managed with the skill of a consummate artist, all these I
say were above me to convey, nor indeed as I re-read any of
the adventures in which he figures, am I other than ashamed
at the weakness of my drawing and the poverty of my coloring.
That I had a better claim to personify him than is always
the lot of a novelist â€” that I possessed, so to say, a vested
interest in his life and adventures, I will relate a little in-
cident in proof ; and my accuracy, if necessary, can be attested
by another actor in the scene who yet survives.
I was living a bachelor life at Brussels, my family being
at Ostend for the bathing during the summer of 1840. The
city was comparatively empty ; all the so-called society being
absent at the various spas or baths of Germany. One member
of the British Legation, who remained at his post to represent
the mission, and myself making common cause of our desola-
tion and ennui, spent much of our time together, and dined
iite-d-tite every day.
It chanced that one evening, as we were hastening through
the park on our way to dinner, we espied the Major â€” for as
Major I must speak of him â€” lounging along with that half care-
less, half observant air we had both of us remarked as indicat-
ing a desire to be somebody's, anybody's guest, rather than
surrender himself to the homeliness of domestic fare.
" There's that confounded old Monsoon," cried my diplo-
matic friend. " It's all up if he sees us, and I can't endure him,"
Now I must remark that my friend, though very far from
insensible to the humoristic side of the Major's character, was
not always in the vein to enjoy it, and when so indisposed he
could invest the object of his dislike with something little short
of antipathy. " Promise me," said he, as Monsoon came to-
wards us, "promise me, you'll not ask him to dinner." Before
I could make any reply, the Major was shaking a hand of either
of us, and rapturously expatiating over his good luck at meeting
us. " Mrs. M.," said he, " has got a dreary party of old
ladies to dine with her, and I have come out here to find some
pleasant fellow to join me, and take our mutton chop together."
*' We're behind our time, Major," said my friend, " sorry to
leave you so abruptly, but must push on. Eh, Lorrequer ? "
added he, to evoke corroboration on my part.
" Harry says nothing of the kind," replied Monsoon, " he
says, or he's going to say, ' Major, I have a nice bit of dinner
waiting for me at home, enough for two, will feed three, or if
there be a shortcoming, nothing easier than to eke out the
deficiency by another bottle of Multon ; come along with us
then, Monsoon, and we shall be all the merrier for your com-
Repeating his last words, "come along. Monsoon," etc., I
passed my arm within his, and away we went. For a moment
my friend tried to get free and leave me, but I held him fast
and carried him along in spite of himself. He was, however,
so chagrined and provoked that till the moment we reached
my door he never uttered a word, nor paid the slightest atten-
tion to Monsoon, who talked away in a vein that occasionally
made gravity all but impossible.
Our dinner proceeded drearily enough, the diplomatist's stiff-
ness never relaxed for a moment, and my own awkwardness
damped all my attempts at conversation. Not so, however,
Monsoon, he ate heartily, approved of everything, and pro-
nounced my wine to be exquisite. He gave us a perfect dis-
course on sherry, and Spanish wines in general, told us the
secret of the Amontillado flavor, and explained that process of
browning by boiling down wine, which some are so fond of in
England. At last, seeing perhaps that the protection had
little charm for us, with his accustomed tact, he diverged into
anecdote. " I was once fortunate enough," said he, " to fall
upon some of that choice sherry from the St. Lucas Luentas,
which is always reserved for royalty. It was a pale wine, de-
licious in the drinking, and leaving no more flavor in the mouth
than a faint dryness that seemed to say â€” another glass. Shall
I tell you how I came by it ? " And scarcely pausing for reply
he told the story of having robbed his own convoy, and stolen
the wine he was in charge of for safe conveyance.
I wish I could give anyâ€” even the weakest idea of how he
narrated that incident, the struggle that he portrayed between
duty and temptation, and the apologetic tone of his voice in
which he explained that the frame of mind that succeeds to
any yielding to seductive influences, is often in the main more
profitable to a man than is the vainglorious sense of having
resisted a temptation. " Meekness is the mother of all the
virtues," said he, "and there is no being meek without frailty."
The story, told as he told it, was too much for the diploma-
tist's gravity, he resisted all signs of attention as long as he
was able, and at last fairly roared out with laughter.
As soon as I myself recovered from the effects of his drol-
lery, I said, " Major, I have a proposition to make you. Let
me tell the story in print, and I'll give you five naps."
" Are you serious, Harry ? " asked he. " Is this on honor ? "
" On honor, assuredly," I replied.
" Let me have the money down, on the nail, and I'll give
you leave to have me and my whole life, every adventure that
ever befell me, aye, and, if you like, every moral reflection that
my experiences have suggested."
" Done ! " cried I, " I agree."
" Not so fast," cried the diplomatist, " we must make a proto-
col of this, the high contracting parties must know what they
give and what they receive. I'll draw out the treaty."
He did so at full-length on a sheet of that solemn blue tinted
paper, so dedicated to despatch purposes â€” he duly set forth
the concession and the consideration. We each signed the
document, he witnessed and sealed it, and Monsoon pocketed
my five napoleons, filling a bumper to any success the bargain
might bring me, and of which I have never had reason to ex-
press deep disappointment.
This document, along with my University degree, my com-
mission in a Militia regiment, and a vast amount of letters
very interesting to me, were seized by the Austrian authorities,
on the way from Como to Florence in the August of 1847, be-
ing deemed part of a treasonable correspondence â€” probably
purposely allegorical in form â€” and never restored to me. I
fairly own that I'd give all the rest willingly to repossess my-
self of the Monsoon treaty, not a little for the sake of that
quaint old autograph, faintly shaken by the quiet laugh with
which he wrote it.
That I did not entirely fail in giving my Major some faint
resemblance to the great original from whom I copied him, 1
may mention that he was speedily recognized in print by the
Marquis of Londonderry, the well-known Sir Charles Stuart of
the Peninsular campaign. '* I know that fellow well," said he,
" he once sent me a challenge, and I had to make him a very
humble apology. The occasion was this : I had been out
with a single aide-de-camp, to make a reconnaissance in front
of Victor's division ; and to avoid attracting any notice, we
covered over our uniform with two common gray overcoats
which reached to the feet, and effectually concealed our rank
as officers. Scarcely, however, had we topped a hill which
commanded the view of the French, than a shower of shells
flew over and around us. Amazed to think how we could
have been so quickly noticed, I looked around me, and dis-
covered, quite close in my rear, your friend Monsoon, with
what he called his staff, a popinjay set of rascals, dressed out
in green and gold, and with more plumes and feathers than
the general staff ever boasted. Carried away by momentary
passion at the failure of my reconnaissance, I burst out with
some insolent allusion to the harlequin assembly which had
drawn the French fire upon us. Monsoon saluted me respect-
fully, and retired without a word ; but I had scarcely reached
my quarters when a ' friend ' of his waited on me with a mes-
sage, a very categorical message it was, too, ' it must be a
meeting or an ample apology.' I made the apology, a most
full one, for the Major was right, and I had not a fraction of
reason to sustain me in my conduct, and we have been the
best of friends ever since."
I myself had heard the incident before this from Monsoon,
but told amongst other adventures whose exact veracity I was
rather disposed to question, and did not therefore accord it
all the faith that was its due; and I admit that the accidental
corroboration of this one event very often served to puzzle me
afterwards, when I listened to stories in which the Major
seemed a second Munchausen, but might, like in this of the
duel, have been amongst the truest and most matter-of-fact of
historians. May the reader be not less embarrassed than my-
self, is my sincere, if not very courteous, prayer.
I have no doubt myself, that often in recounting some strange
incident, a personal experience it always was, he was himself
more amused by the credulity of the hearers, and the amount
of interest he could excite in them, than were they by the story.
He possessed the true narrative gusto, and there was a mar-
vellous instinct in the way in which he would vary a tale to
suit the tastes of an audience ; while his moralizings were al-
most certain to take the tone of a humoristic quiz on the com-
Though fully aware that I was availing myself of the con-
tract that delivered him into my hands, and dining with me
two or three days a week, he never lapsed into any allusion
to his appearance in print, and the story had been already some
weeks published before he asked me to lend him " that last
thing â€” he forgot the name of it â€” I was writing."
Of Frank Webber I have said, in a former notice, that he
was one of my earliest friends, my chum in college, and in the
very chambers where I have located Charles O'Malley, in Old
Trinity. He was a man of the highest order of abilities, and
with a memory that never forgot, but ruined and run to seed
by the idleness that came of a discursive, uncertain tempera-
ment. Capable of anything, he spent his youth in follies and
eccentricities ; every one of which, however, gave indications
of a mind inexhaustible in resources, and abounding in devices
and contrivances that none other but himself would have
thought of. Poor fellow, he died young ; and perhaps it is
better it should have been so. Had he lived to a later day,
he would most probably have been found a foremost leader of
Fenianism, and from what I knew of him, I can say he would
have been a more dangerous enemy to English rule than any
of those dealers in the petty larceny of rebellion we have lately
Â§een amongst us.
I have said that of Mickey Free I had not one, but one
thousand â€” types. Indeed I am not quite sure that in my last
visit to Dublin, I did not chance on a Uving specimen of the
" Free " family, much readier in repartee, quicker with an apro-
pos, and droller in illustration than my own Mickey. This
fellow was " boots " at a great hotel in Sackville Street ; and I
owe him more amusement and some heartier laughs than it has
been always my fortune to enjoy in a party of wits. His criti-
cisms on my sketches of Irish character were about the shrewdest
and the best I ever listened to ; and that I am not bribed to
this by any flatter/, I may remark that they were more often
severe than compUmentary, and that he hit every blunder of
image, every mistake in figure, of my peasant characters, with
an acuteness and correctness, which made me very grateful to
know that his daily occupations were limited to blacking boots,
and not polishing off authors.
I believe I have now done with my confessions, except I
should like to own that this story was the means of according
me a more heartfelt glow of satisfaction, a more gratifying sense
of pride, than anything I ever have or ever shall write, and in
this wise. My brother, at that tiilie the rector of an Irish parish,
once forwarded to me a letter from a lady unknown to him,
but who had heard he waL; the brother of '' Harry Lorrequer,"
and who addressed him, not knowing where a letter might be
directed to myself. The letter was the grateful expression of
a mother, who said : " I am the widow of a field officer, and
with an only son, for whom I obtained a presentation to Wool-
wich ; but seeing in my boy's nature certain traits of nervous-
ness and timidity, which induced me to hesitate on embarking
him in the career of a soldier, I became very unhappy and
uncertain which course to decide on.
" While in this state of uncertainty, I chanced to make him
a birthday present of ' Charles O'Malley,' the reading of which
seemed to act like a charm on his whole character, inspiring him
-with a passion for movement and adventure, and spiriting him
to an eager desire for military life. Seeing that this was no
passing enthusiasm, but a decided and determined bent, I ac-
cepted the cadetship for him, and his career has been not alone
distinguished as a student, but one which has marked him out
for an almost hare-brained courage, and for a dash and heroism
that give high promise for his future.
" Thank your brother for me," wrote she, " a mother's
thanks for the welfare of an only son, and say how I wish that
my best wishes for him and his could recompense him for what
I owe him."
I humbly hope that it may not be imputed to me as unpardon-
able vanity â€” the recording of this incident. It gave me an
intense pleasure when I heard it ; and now, as I look back on
it, it invests this story for myself with an interest which noth-
ing else that I have written can afford me.
I have now but to repeat what I have declared in former
editions, my sincere gratitude for the favor the public still con-
tinues to bestow on me â€” a favor which probably associates the
memory of this book with whatever I have since done success-
fully, and compels me to remember that to the popularity of
" Charles O'Malley " 1 am indebted for a great share of that
kindliness in criticism, and that geniality in judgment, which
â€” for more than a quarter of a century â€” my countrymen have
graciously bestowed on their faithful friend and servant,
THE IRISH DRAGOON.
Daly's club house.
The rain was dashing in torrents against the window-panes,
and the wind sweeping in heavy and fitful gusts along the
dreary and deserted streets, as a party of three persons sat over
their wine, in that stately old pile which once formed the resort
of the Irish Members, in College Green, Dublin, and went by
the name of Daly's Club House. The clatter of falling tiles
and chimney-pots â€” the jarring of the window-frames and howl-
ing of the storm without, seemed little to affect the spirits of
those within, as they drew closer to a blazing fire, before which
stood a small table covered with the remains of a dessert, and
an abundant supply of bottles, whose characteristic length of
neck indicated the rarest wines of France and Germany; while
the portly magnum of claret â€” the wine par excellence of every
Irish gentleman of the day â€” passed rapidly from hand to hand,
the conversation did not languish, and many a deep and hearty
laugh followed the stories which every now and then were told,
as some reminiscence of early days was recalled, or some trait
of a former companion remembered.
One of the party, however, was apparently engrossed by other
thoughts than those of the mirth and merriment around ; for, in
1 6 CHARLES O'M ALLEY,
the midst of all, he would turn suddenly from the others, and
devote himself to a number of scattered sheets of paper, upon
which he had written some lines, but whose crossed and blotted
sentences attested how little success had waited upon his lit-