Charles James Lever.

The Bramleighs of Bishop's Folly online

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Produced by David Widger


By Charles James Lever

With Illustrations By W. Cubitt Cooke, And E. J. Wheeler.


Little, Brown, And Company.



My Dear Kinglake, - If you should ever turn over these pages, I have no
greater wish than that they might afford you a tithe of the pleasure I
have derived from your own writings. But I will not ask you to read me,
but to believe that I am, in all sincerity your devoted admirer, for
both your genius and your courage, and your attached friend,

CHARLES LEVER. Trieste, August 31, 1868.



Towards the close of the last century there was a very remarkable
man, Bishop of Down, in Ireland: a Liberal in politics, in an age
when Liberalism lay close on the confines of disloyalty; splendidly
hospitable, at a period when hospitality verged on utter recklessness;
he carried all his opinions to extremes. He had great taste, which had
been cultivated by foreign travel, and having an ample fortune, was able
to indulge in many whims and caprices, by which some were led to doubt
of his sanity; but others, who judged him better, ascribed them to
the self-indulgence of a man out of harmony with his time, and
comtemptuously indifferent to what the world might say of him.

He had passed many years in Italy, and had formed a great attachment to
that country. He liked the people and their mode of life; he liked the
old cities, so rich in art treasures and so teeming with associations
of a picturesque past; and he especially liked their villa architecture,
which seemed so essentially suited to a grand and costly style of
living. The great reception-rooms, spacious and lofty; the ample
antechambers, made for crowds of attendants; and the stairs wide enough
for even equipages to ascend them. No more striking illustration of
his capricious turn of mind need be given than the fact that it was
his pleasure to build one of these magnificent edifices in an Irish
county! - a costly whim, obliging him to bring over from Italy a whole
troop of stucco-men and painters, men skilled in fresco-work and
carving, - an extravagance on which he spent thousands. Nor did he live
to witness the completion of his splendid mansion.

After his death the building gradually fell into decay. His heirs, not
improbably, little caring for a project which had ingulfed so large
a share of their fortune, made no efforts to arrest the destroying
influences of time and climate, and "Bishop's Folly" - for such was the
name given to it by the country people - soon became a ruin. In some
places the roof had fallen in, the doors and windows had all been
carried away by the peasants, and in many a cabin or humble shealing in
the county around slabs of colored marble or fragments of costly carving
might be met with, over which the skill of a cunning workman had been
bestowed for days long. The mansion stood on the side of a mountain
which sloped gradually to the sea. The demesne, well wooded, but with
young timber, was beautifully varied in surface, one deep glen running,
as it were, from the very base of the house to the beach, and showing
glimpses, through the trees, of a bright and rapid river tumbling onward
to the sea. Seen in its dilapidation and decay, the aspect of the place
was dreary and depressing, and led many to wonder how the bishop could
ever have selected such a spot; for it was not only placed in the midst
of a wild mountain region, but many miles away from anything that could
be called a neighborhood. But the same haughty defiance he gave the
world in other things urged him here to show that he cared little
for the judgments which might be passed upon him, or even for the
circumstances which would have influenced other men. "When it is my
pleasure to receive company, I shall have my house full no matter where
I live," was his haughty speech, and certainly the whole character of
his life went to confirm his words.

Some question of disputed title, after the bishop's death, threw the
estate into Chancery, and so it remained till, by the operation of the
new law touching incumbered property, it became marketable, and was
purchased by a rich London banker, who had declared his intention of
coming to live upon it.

That any one rich enough to buy such a property, able to restore such
a costly house, and maintain a style of living proportionate to its
pretensions, should come to reside in the solitude and obscurity of
an Irish county, seemed all but impossible; and when the matter became
assured by the visit of a well-known architect, and afterwards by the
arrival of a troop of workmen, the puzzle then became to guess how it
chanced that the great head of a rich banking firm, the chairman of
this, the director of that, the promoter of Heaven, knows what scores of
industrial schemes for fortune, should withdraw from the great bustle of
life to accept an existence of complete oblivion.

In the little village of Portshandon - which straggled along the beach,
and where, with a few exceptions, none but fishermen and their families
lived - this question was hotly debated; an old half-pay lieutenant, who
by courtesy was called Captain, being at the head of those who first
denied the possibility of the Bramleighs coming at all, and when that
matter was removed beyond a doubt, next taking his stand on the fact
that nothing short of some disaster in fortune, or some aspersion on
character, could ever have driven a man out of the great world to finish
his days in the exile of Ireland.

"I suppose you'll give in at last, Captain Craufurd," said Mrs. Bayley,
the postmistress of Portshandon, as she pointed to a pile of letters and
newspapers all addressed to "Castello," and which more than quadrupled
the other correspondence of the locality.

"I did n't pretend they were not coming, Mrs. Bayley," said he, in the
cracked and cantankerous tone he invariably spoke in. "I simply observed
that I 'd be thankful for any one telling me why they were coming.
That's the puzzle, - why they 're coming?"

"I suppose because they like it, and they can afford it," said she, with
a toss of her head.

"Like it!" cried he, in derision. "Like it! Look out of the window
there beside you, Mrs. Bayley, and say, is n't it a lovely prospect,
that beggarly village, and the old rotten boats, keel uppermost, with
the dead fish and the oyster-shells, and the torn nets, and the dirty
children? Is n't it an elegant sight after Hyde Park and the Queen's

"I never saw the Queen's palace nor the other place you talk of, but I
think there's worse towns to live in than Portshandon."

"And do they think they'll make it better by calling it Castello?"
said he, as with a contemptuous gesture he threw from him one of the
newspapers with this address. "If they want to think they 're in Italy
they ought to come down here in November with the Channel fogs sweeping
up through the mountains, and the wind beating the rain against the
windows. I hope they'll think they're in Naples. Why can't they call the
place by the name we all know it by? It was Bishop's Folly when I was a
boy, and it will be Bishop's Folly after I 'm dead."

"I suppose people can call their house whatever they like? Nobody
objects to your calling your place Craufurd's Lea."

"I'd like to see them object to it," cried he, fiercely. "It's
Craufurd's Lea in Digge's 'Survey of Down,' 1714. It's Craufurd's Lea
in the 'Anthologia Hibernica,' and it's down, too, in Joyce's 'Irish
Fisheries;' and we were Craufurds of Craufurd's Lea before one stone of
that big barrack up there was laid, and maybe we 'll be so after it's a
ruin again."

"I hope it's not going to be a ruin any more, Captain Craufurd, all
the same," said the postmistress, tartly, for she was not disposed to
undervalue the increased importance the neighborhood was about to derive
from the rich family coming to live in it.

"Well, there's one thing I can tell you, Mrs. Bayley," said he, with his
usual grin. "The devil a bit of Ireland they 'd ever come to, if they
could live in England. Mind my words, and see if they 'll not come true.
It's either the bank is in a bad way, or this or that company is going
to smash, or it's his wife has run away, or one of the daughters married
the footman; - something or other has happened, you 'll see, or we would
never have the honor of their distinguished company down here."

"It's a bad wind blows nobody good," said Mrs. Bayley. "It's luck for
us, anyhow."

"I don't perceive the luck of it either, ma'am," said the Captain, with
increased peevishness. "Chickens will be eighteenpence a couple, eggs a
halfpenny apiece. I 'd like to know what you'll pay for a codfish, such
as I bought yesterday for fourpence?"

"It's better for them that has to sell them."

"Ay, but I'm talking of them that has to buy them, ma'am, and I'm
thinking how a born gentleman with a fixed income is to compete with one
of these fellows that gets his gold from California at market price, and
makes more out of one morning's robbery on the Stock Exchange, than a
Lieutenant-General receives after thirty years' service."

A sharp tap at the window-pane interrupted the discussion at this
critical moment, and Mrs. Bayley perceived it was Mr. Dorose, Colonel
Bramleigh's valet, who had come for the letters for the great house.

"Only these, Mrs. Bayley?" said he, half contemptuously.

"Well, indeed, sir; it's a good-sized bundle after all. There's eleven
letters, and about fifteen papers and two books."

"Send them all on to Brighton, Mrs. Bayley. We shall not come down
here till the end of the month. Just give me the 'Times,' however;" and
tearing open the cover, he turned to the City article. "I hope you've
nothing in Ecuadors, Mrs. Bayley; they look shaky. I'm 'hit,' too, in
my Turks. I see no dividend this half." Here he leaned forward, so as to
whisper in her ear, and said, "Whenever you want a snug thing, Mrs. B.,
you're always safe with Brazilians;" and with this he moved off, leaving
the postmistress in a flurry of shame and confusion as to what precise
character of transaction his counsel applied.

"Upon my conscience, we 're come to a pretty pass!" exclaimed the
Captain, as, buttoning his coat, he issued forth into the street; nor
was his temper much improved by finding the way blocked up by a string
of carts and drays, slowly proceeding towards the great house, all
loaded with furniture and kitchen utensils, and the other details of a
large household. A bystander remarked that four saddle-horses had passed
through at daybreak, and one of the grooms had said, "It was nothing to
what was coming in a few days."

Two days after this, and quite unexpectedly by all, the village awoke
to see a large flag waving from the flagstaff over the chief tower of
Castello; and the tidings were speedily circulated that the great
people had arrived. A few sceptics, determining to decide the point for
themselves, set out to go up to the house; but the lodge-gate was closed
and the gatekeeper answered them from behind it, saying that no visitors
were to be admitted; a small incident, in its way, but, after all, it is
by small incidents that men speculate on the tastes and tempers of a new


It will save some time, both to writer and reader, while it will also
serve to explain certain particulars about those we are interested
in, if I give in this place a letter which was written by Lady Augusta
Bramleigh, the Colonel's young wife, to a married sister at Rome. It ran

Hanover Square, Nov. 10, 18 - .

Dearest Dorothy, -

Here we are back in town, at a season, too, when we find ourselves
the only people left; and if I wanted to make a long story of how it
happens, there is the material; but it is precisely what I desire to
avoid, and at the risk of being barely intelligible, I will be brief. We
have left Earlshope, and, indeed, Herefordshire, for good. Our campaign
there was a social failure, but just such a failure as I predicted it
would and must be; and although, possibly, I might have liked to have
been spared some of the mortifications we met with, I am too much
pleased with the results to quarrel over the means.

You are already in possession of what we intended by the purchase of
Earlshope - how we meant to become county magnates, marry our sons and
daughters to neighboring magnates, and live as though we had been rooted
to the soil for centuries. I say "we," my dear, because I am too good
a wife to separate myself from Col. B. in all these projects; but I am
fain to own that as I only saw defeat in the plan, I opposed it from the
first. Here, in town, money will do anything; at least, anything that
one has any right to do. There may be a set or a clique to which it will
not give admission; but who wants them, who needs them?

There's always a wonderful Van Eyck or a Memling in a Dutch town, to
obtain the sight of which you have to petition the authorities, or
implore the Stadtholder; but I never knew any one admit that success
repaid the trouble; and the chances are that you come away from the
sight fully convinced that you have seen scores of old pictures exactly
like it, and that all that could be said was, it was as brown, and as
dusky, and as generally disappointing, as its fellows. So it is with
these small exclusive societies. It may be a great triumph of ingenuity
to pick the lock; but there 's nothing in the coffer to reward it. I
repeat, then, with money - and we had money - London was open to us. All
the more, too, that for some years back society has taken a speculative
turn; and it is nothing derogatory to find people "to go in," as it is
called, for a good thing, in "Turks" or "Brazilians," in patent fuel, or
a new loan to the children of Egypt. To these, and such like, your City
man and banker is esteemed a safe pilot; and you would be amused at the
amount of attention Col. B. was accustomed to meet with from men who
regarded themselves as immeasurably above him, and who, all question
of profit apart, would have hesitated at admitting him to their

I tell you all these very commonplace truths, my dear Dorothy, because
they may not, indeed cannot, be such truisms to you - you, who live in
a grand old city, with noble traditions, and the refinements that come
transmitted from centuries of high habits; and I feel, as I write, how
puzzled you will often be to follow me. London was, as I have twice
said, our home; but for that very reason we could not be content with
it. Earlshope, by ill luck, was for sale, and we bought it. I am afraid
to tell you the height of our castle-building; but, as we were all
engaged, the work went on briskly, every day adding at least a story
to the edifice. We were to start as high sheriff, then represent the
county. I am not quite clear, I think we never settled the point as to
the lord-lieutenancy; but I know the exact way, and the very time, in
which we demanded our peerage. How we threatened to sulk, and did sulk;
how we actually sat a whole night on the back benches; and how we made
our eldest son dance twice with a daughter of the "Opposition," - menaces
that no intelligent Cabinet or conscientious "Whip" could for a moment
misunderstand. And oh! my dear Dora, as I write these things, how
forcibly I feel the prudence of that step which once we all were so
ready to condemn you for having taken. You were indeed right to marry
a foreigner. That an English girl should address herself to the married
life of England, the first condition is she should never have left
England, not even for that holiday-trip to Paris and Switzerland, which
people now do, as once they were wont to "do Margate." The whole game of
existence is such a scramble with us: we scramble for social rank, for
place, for influence, for Court favor, for patronage; and all these call
for so much intrigue and plotting, that I vow to you I 'd as soon be
a Carbonara or a Sanfedista as the wife of an aspiring middle-class

But to return. The county would not have us - we were rich, and we were
City folk, and they deemed it an unpardonable pretension in us to come
down amongst them. They refused our invitations, and sent us none of
their own. We split with them, contested the election against them, and
got beaten. We spent unheard-of moneys, and bribed everybody that had
not a vote for ten miles round. With universal suffrage, which I believe
we promised them, we should have been at the head of the poll; but the
freeholders were to a man opposed to us.

I am told that our opponents behaved ungenerously and unjustly - perhaps
they did; at all events, the end of the contest left us without a single
acquaintance, and we stood alone in our glory of beaten candidateship,
after three months of unheard-of fatigue, and more meanness than I
care to mention. The end of all was, to shake the dust off our feet at
Herefordshire, and advertise Earlshope for sale. Meanwhile we returned
to town; just as shipwrecked men clamber up the first rock in sight, not
feeling in their danger what desolation is before them. I take it that
the generals of a beaten army talk very little over their late defeat.
At all events we observed a most scrupulous reserve, and I don't think
that a word was dropped amongst us for a month that could have led a
stranger to believe that we had just been beaten in an election, and
hunted out of the county.

I was just beginning to feel that our lesson, a severe one, it is true,
might redound to our future benefit, when our eldest-born - I call them
all mine, Dora, though not one of them will say mamma to me - discovered
that there was an Irish estate to be sold, with a fine house and fine
grounds, and that if we could n't be great folk in the grander kingdom,
there was no saying what we might not be in the smaller one. This was
too much for me. I accepted the Herefordshire expedition because it
smacked of active service. I knew well we should be defeated, and I knew
there would be a battle, but I could not consent to banishment. What had
I done, I asked myself over and over, that I should be sent to live in

I tried to get up a party against the project, and failed. Augustus
Bramleigh - our heir - was in its favor, indeed its chief promoter.
Temple, the second son, who is a secretary of embassy, and the most
insufferable of puppies, thought it a "nice place for us," and certain
to save us money; and John, - Jack they call him, - who is in the navy,
thinks land to be land, besides that, he was once stationed at Cork, and
thought it a paradise. If I could do little with the young men, I did
less with the girls. Marion, the eldest, who deems her papa a sort
of divine-right head of a family, would not discuss the scheme; and
Eleanor, who goes in for nature and spontaneous feeling, replied that
she was overjoyed at the thought of Ireland, and even half gave me to
understand that she was only sorry it was not Africa. I was thus driven
to a last resource. I sent for our old friend, Doctor Bartlet, and told
him frankly that he must order me abroad to a dry warm climate, where
there were few changes of temperature, and nothing depressing in the
air. He did the thing to perfection; he called in Forbes to consult with
him. The case was very serious, he said. The lung was not yet attacked,
but the bronchial tubes were affected. Oh, how grateful I felt to
my dear bronchial tubes, for they have sent me to Italy! Yes, Dolly
dearest, I am off on Wednesday, and hope within a week after this
reaches you to be at your side, pouring out all my sorrows, and asking
for that consolation you never yet refused me. And now, to be eminently
practical, can you obtain for me that beautiful little villa that
overlooked the Borghese Gardens? - it was called the Villino Altieri. The
old Prince Giuseppe Altieri, who used to be an adorer of mine, if he
be alive may like to resume his ancient passion, and accept me for a
tenant; all the more that I can afford to be liberal. Col. B. behaves
well always where money enters. I shall want servants, as I only mean
to take from this, Rose and my groom. You know the sort of creatures
I like; but, for my sake, be particular about the cook, - I can't eat
"Romanesque," - and if there be a stray Frenchman wandering about, secure
him. Do you remember dear old Paoletti, Dolly, who used to serve
up those delicious little macaroni suppers long ago in our own
room? - cheating us into gourmandism by the trick of deceit! Oh, what
would I give to be as young again I To be soaring up to heaven, as
I listened with closed eyes to the chant in the Sistine Chapel, or
ascending to another elysium of delight, as I gazed at the "noble guard"
of the Pope, who, while his black charger was caracoling, and he was
holding on by the mane, yet managed to dart towards me such a look of
love and devotion I and you remember, Dolly, we lived "secondo piano,"
at the time, and it was plucky of the man, considering how badly he
rode. I yearn to go back there. I yearn for those sunsets from the
Pincian, and those long rambling rides over the Campagna, leading to
nothing but an everlasting dreaminess, and an intense desire that one
could go on day after day in the same delicious life of unreality; for
it is so, Dolly. Your Roman existence is as much a trance as anything
ever was - not a sight nor sound to shock it. The swell of the organ and
the odor of the incense follow you even to your pleasures, and, just as
the light streams in through the painted windows with its radiance of
gold and amber and rose, so does the Church tinge with its mellow lustre
all that goes on within its shadow. And how sweet and soothing it all
is! I don't know, I cannot know, if it lead to heaven, but it certainly
goes in that direction, so far as peace of mind is concerned. What has
become of Carlo Lambruschini? is he married? How good-looking he was,
and how he sung! I never heard Mario without thinking of him. How is it
that our people never have that velvety softness in their tenor voices;
there is no richness, no latent depth of tone, and consequently no power
of expression? Will his Eminence of the Palazzo Antinori know me
again? I was only a child when he saw me last, and used to give me his
"benedizione." Be sure you bespeak for me the same condescending favor
again, heretic though I be. Don't be shocked, dearest Dora, but I mean
to be half converted, that is to have a sort of serious flirtation with
the Church; something that is to touch my affections, and yet not wound
my principles; something that will surround me with all the fervor of
the faith, and yet not ask me to sign the ordinances. I hope I can do
this. I eagerly hope it, for it will supply a void in my heart which
certainly neither the money article, nor the share list, nor even the
details of a county contest, have sufficed to fill. Where is poor little
Santa Rosa and his guitar? I want them, Dolly - I want them both. His
little tinkling barcarolles were as pleasant as the drip of a fountain
on a sultry night; and am I not a highly imaginative creature, who
can write of a sultry night in this land of fog, east wind, gust, and
gaslight? How my heart bounds to think how soon I shall leave it! How
I could travesty the refrain, and cry, "Rendez-moi mon passeport, ou
laissez-moi mourir." And now, Dolly darling, I have done. Secure me the
villa, engage my people. Tanti saluti to the dear cardinal, - as
many loves to all who are kind enough to remember me. Send me a
lascia-passare for my luggage - it is voluminous - to the care of the
consul at Civita Vecchia, and tell him to look out for me by the arrival
of the French boat, somewhere about the 20th or 21st; he can be useful
with the custom-house creatures, and obtain me a carriage all to myself
in the train.

It is always more "carino" to talk of a husband at the last line of
a letter, and so I say, give dear Tino all my loves, quite apart and
distinct from my other legacies of the like nature. Tell him, I am more
tolerant than I used to be, - he will know my meaning, - that I make paper
cigarettes just as well, and occasionally, when in high good-humor, even
condescend to smoke one too. Say also, that I have a little chestnut
cob, quiet enough for his riding, which shall be always at his orders;
that he may dine with me every Sunday, and have one dish - I know
well what it will be, I smell the garlic of it even now - of his own
dictating; and if these be not enough, add that he may make love to me

Online LibraryCharles James LeverThe Bramleighs of Bishop's Folly → online text (page 1 of 45)