Charles James Lever.

The Dodd Family Abroad, Vol. I online

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Produced by David Widger


By Charles James Lever

With Illustrations By Phiz And W. Cubitt Cooke.

In Two Volumes: Vol. I.

Boston: Little, Brown, And Company



My Dear Sir Edward, - While asking you to accept the dedication of this
volume, I feel it would be something very nigh akin to the Bathos
were _I_ to say one word of Eulogy of those powers which the world has
recognised in _you_.

Let me, however, be permitted, in common with thousands, to welcome the
higher development which your Genius is hourly attaining, to say God
speed to the Author of "The Caxtons" and "My Novel," and cry "Hear!" to
the Eloquent Orator whose words have awakened an enthusiasm that shows
Chivalry still lives amongst us.

Believe me, in all admiration and esteem,

Your faithful friend,


Casa Capponi, Florence, March, 1854.


Although the faulty judgment of authors on their own productions has
assumed something like the force of a proverb, I am ready to incur the
hazard of avowing that the present volume is, to my own thinking, better
than anything else I have done. I am not about to defend its numerous
shortcomings and great faults. I will not say one word in extenuation of
a plan which, to many readers, forms an insuperable objection, - that
of a story in letters. I wish simply to record the fact that the book
afforded me much pleasure in the writing, and that I felt an amount of
interest in the character of Kenny Dodd such as I have never before nor
since experienced for any personage of my own creation.

The reader who is at all acquainted with the incidents of foreign
travel, and the strange individuals to be met with on every European
highway, will readily acquit me of exaggeration either in describing the
mistaken impressions conceived of Continental life, or the difficulties
of forming anything like a correct estimate of national habits by those
whose own sphere of observation was so limited in their own country.
In Kenny Dodd, I attempted to portray a man naturally acute and
intelligent, sensible and well judging where his prejudices did not
pervert his reason, and singularly quick to appreciate the ridicule
of any absurd situation in which he did not figure himself. To all the
pretentious ambitions of his family, - to their exaggerated sense of
themselves and their station, - to their inordinate desire to figure in a
rank above their own, and appear to be something they had never hitherto
attempted, - I have made him keenly and sensitively alive. He sees Mrs.
Dodd's perils, - there is not a sunk rock nor a shoal before her that he
has not noted, and yet for the life of him he can't help booking himself
for the voyage. There is an Irishman's love of drollery, - that passion
for what gives him a hearty laugh, even though he come in for his share
of the ridicule, which repays him for every misadventure. If he is
momentarily elated by the high and distinguished company in which he
finds himself, so far from being shocked when he discovers them to be
swindlers and blacklegs, he chuckles over the blunders of Mrs. D. and
Mary Anne, and writes off to his friend Purcell a letter over which he
laughs till his eyes run.

Of those broad matters to which a man of good common-sense can apply
his faculties fairly, his opinions are usually just and true; he likes
truth, he wants to see things as they are. Of everything conventional he
is almost invariably in error; and it is this struggle that in a manner
reflects the light and shade of his nature, showing him at one moment
clear-headed and observant, and at the next absurdly mistaken and

It was in no spirit of sarcasm on my countrymen that I took an Irishman
to represent these incongruities; nay, more, I will say that in the very
liability to be so strongly impressed from without, lies much of that
unselfishness which forms that staple of the national character which so
greatly recommends them to strangers.

If I do not speak of the other characters of the book, it is because I
feel that whatever humble merit the volume may possess is ascribable to
the truthfulness of this principal personage. It is less the Dodd family
for which I would bespeak the reader's interest, than for the trials of
Kenny Dodd himself, his thoughts and opinions.

Finally, let me observe that this story has had the fortune to be better
liked by my friends, and less valued by the public, than any other of my

I wrote it, as I have said, with pleasure; well satisfied should I be
that any of my readers might peruse it with as much. It was planned and
executed in a quiet little cottage in the Gulf of Spezia, something more
than six years ago. I am again in the same happy spot; and, as I turn
over the pages, not altogether lost to some of the enjoyment they once
afforded me in the writing, and even more than before anxious that I
should not be alone in that sentiment.

It is in vain, however, for an author to bespeak favor for that which
comes not recommended by merits of its own; and if Kenny Dodd finds no
acceptance with you on his own account, it is hopeless to expect that he
will be served by the introduction of so partial a friend as

Your devoted servant,


Marola, Gulf of Spezia,

October 1,1859.


The Editor of the Dodd Correspondence may possibly be expected to give
the Public some information as to the manner by which these Letters
came into his possession, and the reasons which led him to publish them.
Happily he can do both without any breach of honorable confidence. The
circumstances were these: -

Mr. Dodd, on his returning to Ireland, passed through the little
watering-place of Spezzia, where the Editor was then sojourning. They
met accidentally, formed acquaintanceship, and then intimacy. Amongst
the many topics of conversation between them, the Continent and its
habits occupied a very wide space. Mr. D. had lived little abroad; the
Editor had passed half of a life there. Their views and judgment were,
as might be surmised, not always alike; and if novelty had occasionally
misled one, time and habit had not less powerfully blunted the
perceptions of the other. The old resident discovered, to his
astonishment, that the very opinions which he smiled at from his
friend, had been once his own; that he had himself incurred some of the
mistakes, and fallen into many of the blunders, which he now ridiculed,
and that, so far from the Dodd Family being the exception, they were
in reality no very unfair samples of a large class of our travelling
countrymen. They had come abroad with crude and absurd notions of what
awaited them on the Continent. They dreamed of economy, refinement,
universal politeness, and a profound esteem for England from all
foreigners. They fancied that the advantages of foreign travel were
to be obtained without cost or labor; that locomotion could educate,
sight-seeing cultivate them; that in the capacity of British subjects
every society should be open to them, and that, in fact, it was enough
to emerge from home obscurity to become at once recognized in the
fashionable circles of any Continental city.

They not only entertained all these notions, but they held them in
defiance of most contradictory elements. They practised the most rigid
economy when professing immense wealth; they affected to despise the
foreigner while shunning their own countrymen; they assumed to be
votaries of art when merely running over galleries; and lastly, while
laying claim, and just claim, for their own country to the highest moral
standard of Europe, they not unfrequently outraged all the proprieties
of foreign life by an open and shameless profligacy. It is difficult to
understand how a mere change of locality can affect a man's notions of
right and wrong, and how Cis-Alpine evil may be Trans-Alpine good. It
is very hard to believe that a few parallels of latitude can affect the
moral thermometer; but so it is, and so Mr. Dodd honestly confessed he
found it. He not only avowed that he could do abroad what he could
not dare to do at home, but that, worse still, the infraction cost
no sacrifice of self-esteem, no self-reproach. It was not that these
derelictions were part of the habits of foreign life, or at least of
such of it as met the eye; it was, in reality, because he had come
abroad with his own preconceived ideas of a certain latitude in morals,
and was resolved to have the benefit of it. Such inconsistency in
theory led, naturally, to absurdity in action, and John Bull became, in
consequence, a mark for every trait of eccentricity that satirists could
describe, or caricaturists paint.

The gradations of rank so rigidly defined in England are less accurately
marked out abroad. Society, like the face of the soil, is not enclosed
by boundaries and fenced by hedgerows, but stretches away in boundless
undulations of unlimited extent. The Englishman fancies there are no
boundaries, because he does not see the landmarks. Since all seems open,
he imagines there can be no trespass. This is a serious mistake! Not
less a one is, to connect title with rank. He fancies that nobility
represents abroad the same pretensions which it maintains in England,
and indignantly revenges his own blunder by calumniating in common every
foreigner of rank.

Mr. Dodd fell into some of these errors; from others he escaped. Most,
indeed, of his mistakes were those inseparable from a false position;
and from the acuteness of his remarks in conversation, it is clear that
he possessed fair powers of observation, and a mind well disposed to
receive and retain the truth. One quality certainly his observations
possessed, - they were "his own." They were neither worked out from the
Guide-book, nor borrowed from his _Laquais de Place_. They were the
honest convictions of a good ordinary capacity, sharpened by the habits
of an active life. It was with sincere pleasure the Editor received from
him the following note, which reached him about three weeks after they
parted: -


"My dear Harry Lorrequer, - I have fished up all the Correspondence of
the Dodd Family during our _Annus Mirabilis_ abroad, and send it to you
with this. You have done some queer pranks at Editorship before now, so
what would you say to standing Sponsor to us all, foundlings as we are
in the world of letters? I have a notion in my head that we were n't a
bit more ridiculous than nine-tenths of our travelling countrymen, and
that, maybe, our mistakes and misconceptions might serve to warn such
as may come after us over the same road. At all events, use your own
discretion on the matter, but say nothing about it when you write to me,
as Mrs. D. reads all my letters, and if she knew we were going to print
her, the consequences would be awful!

"You 'll be glad to hear that we got safe back here, - Tuesday was a
week, - found everything much as usual, - farming stock looking up, pigs
better than ever I knew them. I have managed to get James into the
Police, and his foreign airs and graces are bringing him into the
tip-top society of the country. Purcell tells me that we 'll be driven
to sell Dodsborough in the Estates Court, and I suppose it 's the best
thing after all, for we can buy it in, and clear off the mortgages that
was the ruin of us.

"When everything is settled, I have an idea of taking a run through the
United States, to have a peep at Jonathan. If so, you shall hear from

"Meanwhile, I am yours, very faithfully,

"Kenny I. Dodd.

"Do you know any Yankees, or could you get me a few letters to some of
their noticeable men? for I 'd like to have an opportunity of talk with

The Editor at once set about the inspection of the documents forwarded
to him, and carefully perused the entire correspondence; nor was it
until after a mature consideration that he determined on accepting the
responsible post which Mr. Dodd had assigned to him.

He who edits a Correspondence, to a certain extent is assumed to be a
concurring party, if not to the statements contained in it, at least to
its general tone and direction. It is in vain for him to try and hide
his own shadow behind the foreground figure of the picture, or merge
his responsibility in that of his principal. The reader will hold him
chargeable for opinions that he has made public, and for sentiments
which, but for his intervention, had slept within the drawer of a
cabinet. This is more particularly the case where the sentiments
recorded are not those of any great thinker or high authority amongst
men whose _dicta_ may be supposed capable of standing the test of
a controversy, on the mere strength of him who uttered them. Now,
unhappily, the Dodd Family have not as yet produced one of these gifted
individuals. Their views of the world, as they saw it in a foreign tour,
are those of persons of very moderate capacity, with very few special
opportunities for observation. They wrote in all the frankness of close
friendship to those with whom they were most intimately allied. They
uttered candidly what they felt acutely. They chronicled their
sorrows, their successes, their triumphs, and their shame. And although
experience did teach them something as they went, their errors tracked
them to the last. It cannot be expected, then, that the Editor is
prepared to back their opinions and uphold their notions, nor is he
blamable for the judgments they have pronounced on many points. It is
true, it was open to him to have retrenched this and suppressed that. He
might have cancelled a confession here, or blotted out an avowal there;
but had he done so in one Letter, the allusion contained in some other
might have been pointless, - the distinctive character of the writer
lost; and what is of more moment than either, a new difficulty
engendered, viz., what to retain where there was so much to retrench.
Besides this, Mrs. D. is occasionally wrong where K. I. is right, and it
is only by contrasting the impressions that the value of the judgments
can be appreciated.

It is not in our present age of high civilization that an Editor need
fear the charge of having divulged family secrets, or made the private
history of domestic life a subject for public commentary. Happily, we
live in a period of enlightenment that can defy such petty slanders.
Very high and titled individuals have shown themselves superior to
similar accusations, and if the "Dodds" can in any wise contribute
to the amusement or instruction of the world, they may well feel
recompensed for an exposure to which others have been subjected before

As in all cases of this kind, the Editor's share has been of the very
lightest. It would not have become him to have added anything either
of explanation or apology to the contents of these Letters. Even when a
word or two might have served to correct a mistaken impression, he
has preferred to leave the obvious task to the reader's judgment to
obtrusively making himself the means of interpretation. In fact, he has
had little to do beyond opening the door and announcing the company, and
his functions cease when this duty is accomplished. It would be alike
ungracious and ungrateful in him, however, were he to retire without
again thanking those kind and indulgent friends who have so long and so
warmly welcomed him.

With no higher ambition in life than to be the servant of that same
Public, nor any more ardent desire than to merit well at their hands, he
writes himself, as he has so often had occasion to do before, but at no
time more sincerely than now,

Their very devoted and faithful servant,




Hôtel Des Bains, Ostend.

Dear Tom, - Here we are at last, - as tired and seasick a party as
ever landed on the same shore! Twenty-eight hours of it, from the St.
Katharine Docks, six of them bobbing opposite Margate in a fog, - ringing
a big bell all the time, and firing minute-guns, lest some thumping
India-man or a homeward-bound Peninsular should run into us, - and five
more sailing up and down before Ostend, till it was safe to cross the
bar, and enter the blackguard little harbor. The "Phoenix" - that was our
boat - started the night before the "Paul Jones" mail-packet, and we
only beat her by a neck, after all! And this was a piece of Mrs. Dodd's
economy: the "Phoenix" only charges "ten-and-six" for the first cabin;
but, what with the board for a day and night, boats to fetch you out,
and boats to fetch you in, brandy-and-water against the sickness, - much
good it was! - soda-water, stewards, and the devil knows what of broken
crockery, - James fell into the "cuddy," I think they call it,
and smashed two dozen and three wine-glasses, the most of a blue
tea-service, and a big tureen, - the economy turned out a "delusion and a
snare," as they say in the House. It 's over now, thank God! and, except
some bruises against the bulkheads and a touch of a jaundice, I 'm
nothing the worse. We landed at night, and were marched off in a gang to
the Custom House. Such a time I never spent before! for when they upset
all our things on the floor, there was no getting them into the trunks
again; and so we made our way through the streets, with shawls and muffs
and silk dresses all round us, like a set of play-actors. As for me, I
carried a turban in one hand, and a tray of artificial flowers in the
other, with a toque on my head and a bird-of-paradise feather in my
mouth. James fell, crossing the plank, with three bran-new frocks and a
bonnet of the girls', and a thing Mrs. D. calls a "visite," - egad,
they made a visite of it, sure enough, and are likely to stay some time
there, for they are under some five feet of black mud, that has lain
there since before the memory of man. This was n't the worst of it;
for Mrs. D., not seeing very well in the dark, gave one of the passport
people a box on the ear that she meant for poor Paddy, and we were
hauled up before the police, and made pay thirty francs for "insulting
the authorities," with something written on our passport, besides,
describing my wife as a dangerous kind of woman, that ought to be looked
after. Poor Mathews had a funny song, that ran, -

"If ever you travel, it must n't seem queer
That you sometimes get rubs that you never get here."

But, faith, it appears to me that we have fallen in with a most uncommon
allowance of friction. Perhaps it's all for the best; and by a little
roughing at first, we'll the sooner accustom ourselves to our new

You know that I never thought much of this notion of coming abroad,
but Mrs. D. was full of it, and gave me neither peace nor ease till I
consented. To be sure, if it only realizes the half of what she says,
it's a good speculation, - great economy, tip-top education for Tom and
the girls, elegant society without expense, fine climate, and wine for
the price of the bottles. I 'm sorry to leave Dodsborough.

I got into a way of living there that suited me; and even in the few
days I spent in London I was missing my morning's walk round the big
turnip-field, and my little gossip with Joe Moone. Poor Joe! don't let
him want while I 'm away, and be sure to give him his turf off our own
bog. We won't be able to drain the Lough meadows this year, for we 'll
want every sixpence we can lay our hands on for the start. Mrs. D. says,
"'T is the way you begin abroad decides everything;" and, faith, our
opening, up to this, has not been too prosperous.

I thought we 'd have got plenty of letters of recommendation for the
Continent while we were in London; but it is downright impossible to
see people there. Vickars, our member, was never at home, and Lord
Pummistone - I might besiege Downing Street from morning till night, and
never get a sight of him! I wrote as many as twenty letters, and it was
only when I bethought me of saying that the Whigs never did anything
except for people of the Grey, Elliott, or Dundas family, that he sent
me five lines, with a kind of introduction to any of the envoys or
plenipotentiaries I might meet abroad, - a roving commission after a
dinner, - sorrow more or less! I believe, however, that this is of no
consequence; at least, a most agreeable man, one Krauth, the sub-consul
at Moelendrach, somewhere in Holland, and who came over in the same
packet with us, tells me that people of condition, like us, find
their place in the genteel society abroad as naturally as a man with
moustaches goes to Leicester Square. That seems a comfort; for, between
me and you, the fighting and scrambling that goes on at home about
_who_ we 'll have, and who 'll have us, makes life little better than
an election shindy! K. is a mighty nice man, and full of information. He
appears to be rich, too, for Tom saw as many as thirteen gold watches
in his room; and he has chains and pins and brooches without end. He was
trying to persuade us to spend the winter at Moelendrach, where, besides
a heavenly climate, there are such beautiful walks on the dikes, and
elegant society! Mrs. D. does n't like it, however, for, though we 've
been looking all the morning, we can't find the place on the map;
but that does n't signify much, since even our post town of
Kellynnaignabacklish is put down in the "Gazetteer" "a small village on
the road to Bruff," and no mention whatever of the police-station, nor
Hannagin's school, nor the Pound. That's the way the blackguards make
books nowadays!

Mary Anne is all for Brussels, and, afterwards, Germany and the
Rhine; but we can fix upon nothing yet Send me the letter of credit on
Brussels, in any case, for we 'll stay there, to look about us, a
few weeks. If the two townlands cannot be kept out of the "Encumbered
Estates," there 's no help for it; but sure any of our friends would
bid a trifle, and not see them knocked down at seven or eight years'
purchase. If Tullylicknaslatterley was drained, and the stones off it,
and a good top dressing of lime for two years, you 'd see as fine a crop
of oats there as ever you 'd wish; and there hasn't been an "outrage,"
as they call it, on the same land since they shot M'Shea, last
September; and when you consider the times, and the way winter set in
early, this year, 't is saying a good deal. I wish Prince Albert would
take some of these farms, as they said he would. Never mind enclosing
the town parks, we can't afford it just now; but mind that you look
after the preserves. If there 's a cock shot in the boundary-wood, I 'll
turn out every mother's son of the barony.

I was going to tell you about Nick Mahon's holding, but it's gone clean
out of my head, for I was called away to the police-office to bail out
Paddy Byrne, the dirty little spalpeen; I wish I never took him from
home. He saw a man running off with a yellow valise, - this is his
story, - and thinking it was mine, he gave him chase; he doubled and
turned, - now under an omnibus, now through a dark passage, - till Paddy
overtook him at last, and gave him a clippeen on the left ear, and
a neat touch of the foot that sent him sprawling. This done, Paddy
shouldered the spoil, and made for the inn; but what d' ye think? It
turned out to be another man's trunk, and Paddy was taken up for the
robbery; and what with the swearing of the police, Pat's yells, and
Mrs. D.'s French, I have passed such a half-hour as I hope never to
see again. Two "Naps." settled it all, however, and five francs to the
Brigadier, as well-dressed a chap as the Commander of the Forces at
home; but foreigners, it seems, are the devil for bribery. When I told
Pat I 'd stop it out of his wages, he was for rushing out, and taking
what he called the worth of his money out of the blackguard; so that I
had to lock him into my room, and there he is now, crying and screeching
like mad. This will be my excuse for anything I may make in way of
mistakes; for, to say truth, my head is fairly moidered! As it is,
we 've lost a trunk; and when Mrs. D. discovers that it was the one
containing all her new silk dresses, and a famous red velvet that was to
take the shine out of the Tuileries, we'll have the devil to pay! She's
in a blessed humor, besides, for she says she saw the Brigadier wink
at Mary Anne, and that it was a good kicking he deserved, instead of
a live-franc piece; and now she's turning on me in the vernacular,
in which, I regret to say, her fluency has no impediment. I must now
conclude, my dear Tom, for it 's quite beyond me to remember more than

Online LibraryCharles James LeverThe Dodd Family Abroad, Vol. I → online text (page 1 of 42)