Charles James Lever.

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FRQH AMONG THEBQDKSOF



IRENE ^ EDMUND

ANDREWS

GUI




COBNELIUS O'DOWD



CORNELIUS O'DOWD



MEN AND WOMEN



OTHEK THINGS IN GENERAL



I care not a flg

For Tory or Whig,

But sit in a bowl and kick round ma



THIRD SERIES



WILLIAM BLACKWOOD AND SONS

EDINBURGH AND LONDON

MDCCCLXV



2072149



ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN BLACKWOOD's MAGAZINE



TO



SIR JAMES EMERSON TMNENT, BART.



MY DEAR TENNENT,

WHEN i LATELY TOLD YOU IN LONDON i WOULD DEDI-
CATE MY NEXT VOLUME OF O'DOWDERIES TO YOU, YOU LOOKED
ABOUT AS MUCH ALARMED AS IF I HAD INVITED YOU TO DINNER
TO MEET THE HEAD CENTRE OF THE FENIANS. YOU WERE,
HOWEVER, TOO POLITE TO REFUSE WHAT WAS MEANT AT LEAST
AS A POLITENESS. Now COMES THE TEST OF YOUR COURAGE.
TO YOU, WITH ALL ITS INDISCRETIONS, I DEVOTE THIS BOOK,
ONLY SORRY THAT I HAVE NOTHING MORE WORTHY OF AN OLD
FRIEND'S ACCEPTANCE, AND, AT THE SAME TIME, WELL PLEASED
TO WRITE MY NAME ON THE SAME PAGE THAT BEARS YOUR OWN,
AND SIGN MYSELF,

YOURS IN ALL CORDIALITY,

CORNELIUS O'DOWD.

LAGO MAGGIORE, Dec. 1, 1865.



CONTENTS.



CHANGING HOUSE, ....... 1

THE "ROPE TRICK," . . . . . .13

RAIN RAIN MUCH RAIN, . . ... .22

A NEW CAREER, 29

AN IMMORAL CONSIDERATION, ..... 38

THE ENGLISH INQUISITION, ..... 48

THRIFT, ........ 55

A PERSONAL-PARLIAMENTARY, ..... 63

A DREAM, ........ 71

ON ELECTIONEERING, ...... 80

GLIMPSES OF BLISS, 87

ANONYMOUS AUTHORSHIP, 94

WHAT'S WHAT IN '65, 100

SWANLIKE GEESE, Ill

O'DOWD'S EXPERIENCES " EN VOYAGE." ACT I., . 121

O'DOWD'S EXPERIENCES "EN VOYAGE." ACT n., . 142



Vlll CONTENTS.

PAGE

THE ADAMS-RUSSELL CORRESPONDENCE, . . . 158

A NEW BENEFIT SOCIETY, . . . . .164

IN RETIREMENT, 172

THE COMING MEN, . 195

HOW OUR VILLAGE BECAME A CAPITAL AND NEVER

KNEW IT, . . . . . . . . 204

HERO-WORSHIP AND ITS DANGERS : A STORY, . .218

THE POLITICAL QUARANTINE, 245

THE PICTURESQUE IN MORALS, 254

SHALL BAGMEN DRINK WINE ? . . . . . 264

TWADDLING REMINISCENCES, ..... 274



CORNELIUS O'DOWD.



CHANGING HOUSE

ALMOST all of us know what it is to "change house"
to go off from our old haunts, the corners we have
loved so well, the time-worn ways of home, and
install ourselves in some new domicile, where every-
thing is new, strange, and unsettled. There are few
things in life so full of discomfort. The more a man
sees of the world, the more is he disposed to believe
that a certain routine a sort of quiet monotony
in the general tenor of life is one of the choicest
aids to happiness. In fact, until this same "dull
monotony," as some would call it, be established,
the real enjoyment of variety can never be experi-
enced. There can be no furlough where there is no
discipline.

The business of life, besides, requires that even
in. A



2 CHANGING HOUSE.

the idlest and most indolent of us should have a
certain method. There must be meal -times, and
these, let me observe, are in a great measure the
determining influences which render us active, ener-
getic, and useful, or dispose us to sloth, neglect, and
good-for-nothingness. Tell me when a man eats, and
I will tell you when he works.

We are, in a word, far more slaves to ourselves
than we like to acknowledge ; but I am decidedly
inclined to believe that, on the whole, the servitude
works well. Now the house we live in for a number
of years cannot fail to exert a great influence over us.
The same places impress the same trains of thought,
till at last we give ourselves up to a ritual, in which
the drawing-room, the dining-room, and the study
are the masters, and certain inanimate objects, on
which we scarcely bestow a thought, become our
impulses and our directors.

With a change of house all this is revolutionised.
You have to plot out your home that is, your life
anew. You have to discuss aspects and views, the
points of the compass, and the prevailing winds to
balance with yourself the advantages of the rising
against the setting sun to think where you can
sleep most profoundly, and dine most snugly; and
above all, if a man of my own temperament, where
you can install yourself in a so-called study, a spot



CHANGING HOUSE. 3

religiously believed sacred to meditation and labour,
but in sober reality a little Sleepy Hollow of refuge,
dedicated to that noble pastime that is said to pave
a disreputable region a pastime which, in all its
vague unreality, I would not exchange for many a
practical tangible pleasure. With a change of house
all these devolve upon you. You cannot begin the
daily work of life till they be determined, nor can
you determine them without a constant reference
to the past. Your drawing-room may be larger and
loftier, your study may offer more space or more
accommodation ; but depend upon it there will
always be something, be it insignificant or small, to
regret something in which the bygone will contrast
favourably with the present. That this is a condition
of human thought, I am inclined to believe ; at least
all my friends who have been married a second time
have confidentially imparted to me something that
would go far to confirm it.

Dmnagement is a dreary process, however we
look at it. It is not alone that the old "properties"
are very generally ill suited to the new dwelling, but
that we never knew they were so old and timeworn
until we had turned them out of their vested locali-
ties, and exposed them ruthlessly to remark and
inspection. It is like reviewing a veteran battalion,
where the crutches outnumber the muskets.



4 CHANGING HOUSE.

How long is it, too, before you can reconcile
yourself to the new ways about you ! There is a
perpetual distraction in the sight of new objects, very
jarring and uncomfortable; things which had no
pretension to press themselves upon your notice
stand obtrusively forward and ask to be considered ;
and, last of all, nobody can find anything. It is
either locked up in the green packing-case or the
brown box, or it has been left behind, or perhaps
stolen. Scores of useless old trumperies are sure to
be transported things that could not possibly pay
for the carriage but which have an immense value
in your servants' eyes, if only that they guarantee
the immaculate integrity that remembered them.
These, like poor relations, will thrust themselves
reproachfully in your way at every moment, and it
will be weeks before the last of them shall be
consigned to its appropriate oubliette.

The change of domicile is always regarded as an
act of indemnity with regard to every domestic
shortcoming. The cook cannot manage the new
spit ; he has not yet learned the ways of the new
oven. The footman has not found out how to make
the dining-room fire without filling the house with
smoke. No matter how favourable may be the
circumstances of your new abode in comparison
with the late one, your household will find abundant



CHANGING HOUSE. 5

subject of disparaging contrast. How unjust to
accuse human nature of ingratitude! Only listen
to any man's account of his first wife's virtues.

It is clear, then, that whatever may be the com-
pensations eventually, the first moments of change
are neither ways of pleasantness nor paths of peace.
Indiscipline is master of the situation, and life is
carried on, like the American war, by substitutes a
process to the full as costly as it is uncomfortable.

Now, if these be very serious inconveniences to
the family, what, let me ask, will they be when
incurred by a whole nation, when it is not a mere
household of some fifteen or twenty people who
change their domicile, but a people? Such is the
case now with Italy ; and really it is one of the
most formidable pieces of internal convulsion a
State has ever been called on to encounter. I
speak not of a Court. A Court can comparatively
easily change its seat. The King who receives at
Caserta may without difficulty, on that day week,
hold his levee at the Pitti. Court furniture and
Court flunkeys are everywhere much alike, and for
the few commonplaces uttered by royalty all locali-
ties are pretty equally adapted. The difficulties in
the present case are not the transfer of a kingly
household, but the displacement of a legislature
the transport of a whole executive, with all its



6 CHANGING HOUSE.

various orders of people, from the Minister of State
in his cabinet to the porter at the gate the convey-
ance of these people and their belongings to another
city a couple of hundred miles off the disruption of
all the ties that bind them to home and friends, all
the little ways and habits by which they fashioned
their daily lives the sudden removal of some forty
or fifty thousand people to a country as much foreign
to them as though under another rule ; for, bear in
mind, the Piedmontese is only partly intelligible to
the rest of Italy, and is even less like the Tuscan in
his nature than in his tongue.

I have once or twice heard the complaints of an
English official on being sent to Dublin or Edinburgh,
and heard how piteously he bewailed for his family
the hardship of such a banishment, though in his
case there were not really any of those elements
which impart the sense of a strange country. Let
us imagine, then, what a heavy grievance this change
of capital must be to all the servants of the State.
These are all now to be drafted off like settlers to
a new colony they and their wives and children,
their man-servants and their maid-servants, and all
that is theirs. And, as though to make the illusion
more perfect, a contract for wooden houses to hut the
new settlers has been entered into, so that on their
arrival on the savannahs of Tuscany they may feel



CHANGING HOUSE. 7

themselves like squatters in the bush, only needing
a few Calabrian brigands to complete the tableau,
and realise all the horrors and cruelties of a cannibal
neighbourhood. It is said that Cipriano la Gala and
his ruffian associates, whose murders and assassina-
tions have been the terror-themes of southern Italy,
have had their sentence of death commuted to per-
petual imprisonment through the direct interference
of the Emperor Napoleon ! Is it too rash a guess to
surmise, that when that great disposer of Italian
destiny decreed the change of capital he also intended
to liberate these wretches, so that when the poor
Piedmontese found himself in the new laud of his
destitution he might be able to realise in his own
experiences the horrors of brigandage without the
expense of a journey to the Neapolitan provinces ?
We are told that the change of capital is a popular
measure throughout central and southern Italy, arid
that even Lombardy looks on it without displeasure.
I can readily believe this. There is no more beauti-
ful spectacle than the equanimity of our friends at
our misfortunes. Piedmont was not liked ; she had
not any of the graceful gifts which conciliate and
win regard. I am not very certain that, even if she
had possessed them, she would have deployed them
to cultivate the goodwill of the Neapolitans. But
this is an aspect of the question I decline to regard.



8 CHANGING HOUSE.

It is the material difficulties of the situation alone 1
desire to consider, and I return to them.

Florence is about to receive the population which
will be withdrawn from Turin, and she prepares for
the task in a most suitable spirit by doubling the
price of everything. It is not, then, merely that the
Turinese has to quit his home and his friends, but he
has to take up his abode in a city rendered doubly
costly by the very news of his coming. This, of
course, must be submitted to. Political economy has
its maxims about supply and demand, and there is
no help for the hardship. But there is, besides this,
another, and, I think, a most unfair grievance. The
Florentines are not content with the immense boon
that has befallen them, but go about complaining
loudly of the hardship of the invasion that awaits
them, how life will be rendered dear, and, above all,
what competition they will have to encounter with
the Turinese traders and shopkeepers, who are certain
to open houses in Florence, and contest with them
the traffic of their own city. Already such com-
plaints are rife, and even in ranks of the community
where one might have thought a more liberal and
just spirit would have prevailed. The very bankers
of Florence are in arms at the thought that Turinese
capital should seek employment in the new metropo-
lis, and Piedmontese enterprise demand a sphere for



CHANGING HOUSE. 9

its exercise beyond the walls of their now deserted
city.

It is not merely, then, that you have to change
house, remove your properties and penates, desert the
pleasant familiar places you had grown to ; but you
have to remove to a land where you are not loved,
and will not be welcomed. This makes the task
much harder. The change is a charming thing for
your neighbours : they will make fortunes by it
become richer, and greater, and more influential than
ever they dreamed of being and yet your presence
amongst them detracts terribly from the enjoyment.
They want the offices you filled not you who filled
them. They want that rich population of foreign
Ministers and their followings; they want that Court
you were so proud of, and the King you loved so
well; and they are quite ready to tell you that their
claim to them all lies in their superior civilisation,
and in the higher culture of " gentle Tuscany." Of
all the daily difficulties, the hourly embarrassments,
the plan is to entail, it is needless to speak. Let any
one imagine the condition of an ordinary family, with
half its baggage at its late residence, and one-third of
the other half on the road, with all the losses and
damage of the way, with the discomforts of a new
abode, and the not over-civil disposition of the new
neighbourhood ; let him magnify this to the size of



10 CHANGING HOUSE.

a nation, and he will have to own that these are not
slight nor fanciful grievances.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs has to refer to a
despatch, and he is told it is with the archives
waiting to be shipped at Genoa. His colleague of
Home Affairs is in the midst of a correspondence
with the prefects, and finds, for want of the early
part, that he has been contradicting himself most
flatly. He of Grace and Justice is unable to remem-
ber without his notes, that are not to be found,
whether a certain brigand was protected or not by
the French at Eome, and is consequently in doubt
whether he should be shot or pensioned. All is
confusion, disorder, and chaos. Nobody can answer
any question, and, what is worse, none can be called
to account for his insufficiency. It is a bill of
indemnity with regard to every official's shortcom-
ing ; and just as you would be slow to arraign the
cook for the burnt sirloin, or the butler for the dingy
look of the silver, on the first days of your demenage-
ment, so must Ministers bear with patience every
indiscipline around them, on the plea that every-
thing has to be done for " the best," which, in plain
English, means in the very worst of all imaginable
ways.

How Florence is suddenly to dilate itself to the
proportions the exigency calls for how the Post is



CHANGING HOUSE. 11

to receive and transmit the increased correspondence
how Government officials are to know at once how
to find each other how all that work of executive
rule, which requires both exactitude and despatch, is
to go on in a new place, as though it were a mere
clock which had been transferred from one town to
another is not easy to see.

Let a man take his own case. How soon, after
the turmoil and disturbance of a change of abode,
does he resume the ordinary business of his daily
life ? Can he continue with the unbroken thread of
any occupation he has been engaged in ? Is he able,
in the midst of the disturbing elements of a new
home, to sit down calmly to any work that demands
deep thought and consideration ?

Think, then, what these difficulties become where
the labour is not only vast but complicated where
each department has to depend on some other,
and co-operation is all-essential where the delay of
an answer or the want of clearness in an order might
be the cause of great disaster; and then imagine
what are the difficulties which await the Italian
executive, at a moment, too, when it is called on to
confront the perils of an embarrassed exchequer and
a dissatisfied population.

They say Florence is but the first stage on the way
to Eome. My impression is that the present experi-



12 CHANGING HOUSE.

ence will suffice for them, and that, when they have
counted the cost of the ctemdnagement, they will be
satisfied to stay quietly where they are, believing in
the truth of the proverb, that " two removes are as
bad as a fire."



THE "ROPE TRICE."



WE must surely have fallen on dull times there
must be a very remarkable dearth of subjects to
interest or amuse, or we should not have given so
much of our attention to the proceedings of the
Davenport Brothers, and have our newspapers daily
occupied with the attack or defence of these " Circu-
lating mediums." It is hard to say whether credulity
or incredulity comes best out of the controversy, or
whether a calm bystander would incline to the side
of those who see in these performances the dawn of
a new era of discovery, or hastily put these men into
the category of common conjurors.

For my own part, I think they deserve full credit
for the way in which they have baffled discovery and
evaded exposure. Just as some one said that the
Great Duke had " a little more common sense than
all the rest of the world," so have these men one



14 THE "ROPE TRICK.

trick more than all mankind. The Hindoo and
the Professed Juggler could do some, but neither
of them could do all of the Davenport rogueries ;
and though this be a small bill with which to draw
on Fame, let us not dishonour it.

The Eope trick, as it is called, would appear to
be familiar to a large number of persons ; at least
there is scarcely a lecture-room in a provincial town,
scarcely a mechanics' institute, which has not seen
one or two amateur performers perfect adepts in this
exploit. In this feat, after all, originated the great
celebrity of these men. It was the fact that, being
bound by persons thoroughly conversant with all the
mysteries of knots, tied with the practised skill of
sailor hands, their bonds crossed, recrossed, and
interwoven with every device of subtlety, yet, as the
newspapers say, " in an incredibly short space of
time they were found to have released themselves,
greatly astonishing a crowded audience, who cheered
lustily."

Nor is this all. The lights being once more ex-
tinguished, and in a space equally brief, they were
discovered to be once again involved in all the
intricacies of their bonds, every knot and every
crossing being exactly as at first, so that the most
minute examination could not detect the slightest
variation. To a man like myself, to whom a moder-



THE "ROPE TRICK." 15

ately tight coat is a strait- waistcoat, and who regards
the commonest impediment to freedom as little short
of a convict's fetter, this performance does indeed
appear miraculous. I am consoled, however, for my
own ineptness, by remembering what a number of
specialities this world has room for, and that there
are a variety of other tricks which I could not per-
form, and very probably never shall be called on to
attempt. At first, therefore, my sympathies were in
favour of these nimble fellows, and it was with a
sort of impatience I read those letters to the ' Times '
and the ' Post,' of people offering to perform the rope
trick for the benefit of this or that charitable insti-
tution. I suppose drowsiness stole over me as I sat.
I am naturally indignant at any imputation of being
asleep, so that it could not have gone to the extent
of slumber ; but I certainly had reached the hazy
stage, when sounds are murmurs and sights mere
dissolving views in a foggy atmosphere. 1 fancied a
friend was discoursing with me on these Davenport
people, and that his arguments were a mere, resume
of all these furious letters I had been reading. " It
was an old trick one of the stalest tricks ; a trick
that no conjuror of credit would have deemed it
worth while to exhibit. The tying might be more
expertly done in one case than another, and a few
seconds more consequently employed in the act of



16 THE "HOPE TRICK"

liberation ; in the end, however, the conjuror was
certain to succeed, with no other inconvenience than
a certain flushed look and a slightly accelerated
pulse. What I cannot comprehend," said he, " is your
astonishment ! Are you really amazed, Cornelius
O'Dowd?" asked he ; "or is this a got-up astonish-
ment one of those traits of youthful trustfulness I
have seen you more than once perform before a too
confiding public ? Come, old fellow, none of these
penny-a-liner affectations with me. You know well
ay, sir, you know well that you have, as our
neighbours say, ' assisted ' at exhibitions of this kind
scores of times."

For a moment I felt as if passion would suffocate
me. My head, I believe, had got jammed into the
corner of the chair, and I breathed with difficulty.

" If that grunt means dissent, sir," continued he,
" unsay it at once. I will stand no dissimulation."
I felt choking, but he went on. " You claim to be
a sort of 'own correspondent to all humanity ;' you
presume to say that you are eternally on the watch
to report whatever goes on of new, strange, and re-
markable in this world of ours ; and here you stand
with pretended astonishment at a feat of which even
the last dozen years have offered us fully as many
instances ay, instances which called forth ample



THE "ROPE TEICK." 17

discussion and noise enough to addle the whole king-
dom. The first time I ever witnessed the trick my-
self," he went on, " it was done by Lord John Bus-
sell." I started with amazement, but he resumed.
"The tying had been done by Cobden and John
Bright, but very clumsily and very ineffectually.
Whether it was their enormous self-confidence, or
that they underrated the performer on account of his
size, I cannot say; but the prevalent opinion was,
none of the knots were drawn tight enough, nor was
there sufficient cord employed. At all events, when
the lights were produced, he was found seated with
his bonds at his feet a little flurried, as was natural,
and with a heightened colour. The lights being
extinguished the ' House up ' after a very brief
interval, we found him tied up exactly as before,
every knot fastened just as Cobden and. Bright had
left it. The company 'cheered lustily/ some fully
convinced there was more in it than our philosophy
had yet fathomed ; others, manifestly out of envy,
alleging it was the simplest of all the rogueries in
a conjuror's wallet. The discussion grew positively
angry, and Mr Disraeli stepped forward and said
that there was really nothing in the trick at all, that
he had done it scores of times to amuse a family
circle, and was quite ready to exhibit now, if it could
in. B



18 THE "ROPE TRICK."

amuse the public. Loud applause followed, all the
louder that the performer professed he was quite
willing that Lord John himself should assist in the
tying. Nothing could be fairer than this ; all seemed
charmed by the magnanimity. I wish I could say
that the result was as favourable as the opening
promised. Unfortunately, however, when the lights
came, there he sat with the cords around him, some-
what deranged and disordered indeed, but still suffi-
ciently tied to show he was perfectly powerless, and
so exhausted by his efforts besides, that it was neces-
sary to cut the ropes and get him out into the fresh
air to recover !

"His friends were much discomfited; his own self-
confidence had seized them, and they went about
saying, ' Don't be afraid, he's sure to do it ; he has
watched John closely; he knows the trick thorough-
ly,' and so on. And now they were driven to all
sorts of devices to explain the failure. They even
went so far as to say that in John's case the tyers
were accomplices, and the whole thing a 'sell;'
others declared that Dizzy would have done it if the
lights had not come so soon ; that he was not fully
ready : but a very shrewd friend of my own told me
that it was a knot of his own making a bit of vain-
glorious display he had insisted on exhibiting that



THE "ROPE TEICK. 19

really bound him, and but for this he would have
done the trick just as well as the other.

" Of course this brought John back enthusiastically
into public favour, and all went about saying he has


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Online LibraryCharles James LeverCornelius O'Dowd upon men and women and other things in general (Volume 3) → online text (page 1 of 15)