His intellect is not replenished. He is an animal only
sensible in the duller parts. LOVE'S LABOUR LOST.
Is it because the Russians of the last cen-
tury, creators of the civilization of their
country, were so conscious of the instability
of their social position under the sceptre of a
despot, as to seize with indiscriminating haste
every mode and means of enjoyment, lest
their day should have no morrow, that the
present race, which they engendered, exhibits
such reckless ardour in their pursuits ?
No one will deny that the frozen North
PEERS AND PARVENUS.
sends forth the only enthusiasts who throng
the theatres, picture galleries, or masked
balls of enlightened Europe. And if the
imperturbable nature of the Spanish gran-
dees arose of old from the sense of irre-
vocable privilege and permanence of
rights and dignities, it is easy to conceive
that men perpetually on the eve of being
exiled to Siberia or knouted by the caprice
of a sovereign despotic with the double des-
potism of her sex and irresponsibility, lost
not a moment in extracting the greatest pos-
sible amount of enjoyment from the moments
and means at their disposal.
The habits of St Petersburg during the
present reign being incompatible with the
vivacity of these hereditary pleasure-seekers,
they are to be found, du jour au lende-
main, in every capital but their own ;
fox-hunting in England gambling in Paris
scattering like a whirlwind the chef-d'ceuvres
of Italy, or squandering their spirits and
56 PEERS AND PARVENUS.
gold amid the meretricious pleasures and
questionable society of the German baths.
Surrounded in childhood by foreign nurses
and professors, their proficiency as linguists
naturally incites them to travel. But con-
scious that at any moment they may be
recalled, and that an imperial whim would in-
validate their passport ere half their journey
be accomplished, their impetuosity outstrips
the wind. And who can blame the rapidity
of their movements, the vivacity of their
utterance, the irritability of their manner?
While an Englishman saunters over the
face of the globe, fancying himself every-
body's master because he is his own, and
listless in the examination of the objects
that present themselves, because, if he
choose, he can come and see them again
another time, the men with square faces,
deep -set eyes, sandy moustachios, and un-
pronounceable names, who sweep past us
on railroads, or snatch a glance, en passant,
PEERS AND PARVENUS. 57
at St Paul's or St Peter's, as if life were
not long enough for a second look, are
acting, whether at Glasgow or Cairo, under
the invisible, but omnipotent influence of the
greatest tyranny of modern times ; or, as
the Abbe* de Pradt called the diplomacy of
Napoleon, " la force, doubUe de ruse"
In the establishment of one who, bred under a
despotism, was of course a despot in his turn,
Jervis Cleve was startled by the abject and
machine-like subjection of every member of
the household. The will of Prince Lobanoif
was executed almost before it was ex-
pressed ; the service of the domestics being as
impetuous as the amateurship of his excel-
An involuntary comparison was created
in his mind between the man of the
steppes and the man of the prairies,
Cleveland, and the prince ; each, great
with the several greatness of his country,
strength of limb, and strength of pocket ;
58 PEERS AND PARVENUS.
and unanimous only in their sense of
superiority to the intellectual strength of
the poor English scholar. It would have
been difficult, perhaps, to decide which of
the two exceeded in insolence ; the one
conceiving himself a portion of the great-
ness of the empire at whose foot he lay
chained and grovelling ; the other fancying
that, because unsubmitted to a king, he
possessed no other superior.
But the insolence of Cleveland was more
brutal. Prince Lobanoff, like other Russians
of his class, was somewhere on a par with
the grand seigneur of the reign of Louis XV ;
who, if ignorant himself, maintained artists
and men of letters, as cowardly lords in
the time of the Stuarts used to maintain
bravos and bullies. But he had imbibed,
by contact with more enlightened persons,
a sufficient smattering of knowledge and
the jargon of dillettanteism, and by his
habits of courtiership at home and on his
PEERS AND PARVENUS. 59
travels, a degree of exterior polish, that
rendered him a pleasanter companion than
the American. If a rou, he was a roue
of a higher order.
Ample leisure was unluckily afforded to
Jervis, to study what, to a sober English-
man, appeared the eccentricities of the
prince. A sudden change of weather on the
very day of his instalment in his new
Palazzo in the Via Santa Lucia rendered it
impossible for the present to attempt the
projected excavations ; and the Muscovite lord
seemed to consider himself intitled to double
the amount of imprecations he was in the
habit of lavishing on his valet de chambre,
and the kicks he was accustomed to bestow
on Nikita his courier, in compensation for
this grievous disappointment.
But though a French medical student, who
formed part of his cortege, under the name of
travelling physician, had the honour of shar-
ing with them the ill-humour of his excellency,
60 PEERS AND PARVENUS.
Cleve, whom he presented to his household
and acquaintance as " Monsieur Gervais,
savant distingue" was at present an object of
consideration. The reluctance evinced by the
young man to enter his establishment, ren-
dered it a matter of pride that he should
have no cause for complaint.
The "barbaric gold and pearl," the rich
plate and vases of malachite, lavishly exposed
in the establishment of his excellency, did not,
however, so dazzle the eyes of the poor scholar
as to blind him to the utter want of refine-
ment in its details. In his own humble
lodging, there was more decency ; and in
English households of the third class, such
as those of the Grange or Bilston Park, a
thousand times more elegance and order.
Yet Lobanoff was under the especial
surveillance of the imperial police as one
of those lords of thousands of human beings,
and millions of roubles, whose disaffec-
tion might at any moment create a mine
PEERS AND PARVENUS. 61
of mischief, ramifying under the very founda-
tions of the throne!
u Why did you not come and see the opera
last night, Monsieur Gervais?" inquired the
prince, the day after presenting Jervis with a
key of his box at San Carlo, which amounts
in Italy to a general invitation.
"I was afraid of intruding," was a reply
highly unsatisfactory to one little accustomed
to find such invitations neglected.
" I relied, man cher monsieur, on the plea-
sure of your company," rejoined the prince, in
a tone implying some title to the attendance
of his inmate. "I hate to be alone!"
" I understood that Count Astrowicz, who
dined with us, was to have the honour of
accompanying your excellency?"
' ' Astrowicz ? Certainly ! What then ?
You don't call him company? A fellow who
talks as with a locked jaw, a word an
hour, and scarcely audible beyond his
62 PEERS AND PARVENUS.
" I admit that I did not find the count very
amusing. But, understanding him to be a
frequent guest at your excellency's table, I
" Conclude nothing from that ! " cried
Lobanoff, whose heart happened to be open,
(with champagne,) even to indiscretion.
" Make no inferences from the conduct of a
Russian towards a Russian, which is actu-
ated by a thousand motives we do not care to
explain. The liberty to visit foreign countries,
whether for the pleasure of losing sight of our
own or enlarging our perceptions, is dearly
purchased under such a government as ours.
Few escape without being charged with a
secret mission, of more or less importance.
We all know it. We all mistrust each other.
I have reason to believe that the chief occupa-
tion of Astrowicz is to surveiller my move-
ments ; and, knowing him to be in close
correspondence with the emperor's cabinet,
I take care that he shall know of my pro-
PEERS AND PARVENUS. 63
ceedings only what I choose to tell him.
Of the conversation that passes between us in
your presence, listen to as little as you can,
and believe nothing."
To avoid giving full utterance to his dis-
gust at such a system of things, Cleve re-
verted to San Carlo. " Was his excellency
satisfied with the new opera?"
" Charming, exquisite ! " cried Lobanoff,
with genuine enthusiasm. " Yet had you been
with us last night, you would have heard me
pronounce it execrable to Astrowicz, because
of too liberal a tendency to be represented
at St Petersburg. If he chose to back a re-
commendation of the piece by quoting my
opinion in its favour, I should receive a gentle
hint from L&m Potocki that my patriotism
was melting away in the sunshine of Naples,
and that my health would be the better for
the bracing air of the Neva."
His curiosity being excited by a drama
disqualified for representation in the Russian
64 PEERS AND PARVENUS.
empire, Cleve profited the following night by
the privilege conceded to him. But it struck
him that the prince looked less prepared for
his appearance than had he chosen to accom-
pany the party after the dinner given to
Count Astrowicz. A very beautiful woman
was his only companion.
He was about to commit the still further
indiscretion of retreating that he might not
disturb the tete-a-tete, when the lowering brow
of his host convinced him that a first mistake
is not atoned by a second. A sufficient
penalty was inflicted on him, however, by
hearing himself abruptly announced by the
prince as " Monsieur Gervais, attache a
Not a word of savant! His fair com-
panion was apparently one to whom that
name would convey no recommendation.
But to his great surprise, and still more so
to that of the great man who counted his
income in serfs instead of sovereigns, the
PEERS AND PAKVENUS. 65
cheeks of his lovely companion became suf-
fused with a vivid blush as she exclaimed
" Gervais ? Et puis ? "
Concluding that the interrogation regarded
the country and quality of her new acquaint-
ance, Prince Lobanoff repeated, but in a key
subsiding to a whisper, as if half ashamed
of his assumption, " Anglais, attache a mon
"In that case, I am unfortunately mis-
taken ! " replied she, with a courteous bend of
the head toward the handsome Englishman.
" I was almost in hopes of having at length
discovered a Monsieur Gervais, recommended
to me in the highest terms by my relation,
Maria Michelozzi ; who brought me letters
from Venice, but apparently thought me un-
worthy the honour of delivering them."
"Let me at least congratulate myself,
madam, that they reached your hands in
safety," replied Cleve. "Nothing but the
sense of my unworthiness of the favour designed
66 PEERS AND PARVENUS.
me by the countess, prevented my presenting
them in person."
" How ! " cried Prince LobanofF, reconciled
at once to the contretemps of Cleve's unlucky
intrusion, by the gratification of holding at
his disposal a person so celebrated, "is it
possible, man cher monsieur, that I see in
you the person whose departure I heard
so much deplored by the Contessa Mi-
chelozzi ? Surely that gentleman was tra-
velling in company with a party of English
noblemen ? "
" And not ' attached to their service ! ' '
replied Cleve with a significant smile ;
resuming his gravity while he added,
" I quitted the party to which your excel-
lency alludes, from finding its atmosphere
more agreeable than wholesome for a poor
scholar like myself, the business of whose
life is study rather than sport."
"Were I forced to believe you," inter-
posed the lady, " I should express some sur-
PEERS AND PARVENUS. 67
prise at meeting you at San Carlo, in the
box of Prince Lobanoff."
" Not surely, madam, after learning that I
am " but this time the prince was careful
to forestal his completion of the phrase, " at-
tached to his service."
"Enough that we are here," interrupted
he " to enjoy the charming melodies of Verdi,
and the sweet strains of Moltini. No matter
why or wherefore ! Perche is a word that
always introduces a host of tiresome explana-
Accepting this as a hint to leave the prince
to do the honours of his box to his charming
guest, Jervis retreated into the background.
But he was mistaken. He had made a
gigantic stride in the estimation of his patron ;
who, if incapable of appreciating genius, was
an adorer of celebrity. In new countries,
literary and scientific distinctions have a
double value ; and the man of sufficient
note to be passed from hand to hand like a
68 PEERS AND PARVENUS.
Voltaire or a Fontenelle, not alone by learned
priors, but the most charming women of the
day, was indeed a protege to be proud of.
Considering his summary mode of dealing
with Nikita, and execrating even contrarie-
ties of weather, Lobanoff took it mildly
when his fair companion, eager to profit by
the occasion to improve her acquaintance
with the interesting stranger, assigned him a
place by her side.
While Jervis was secretly marvelling which
of the noble dames to whom he had brought
letters was the one thus gracious and thus
graceful, and while the lovely stranger sat
luxuriating in the fragrance of a beautiful
bouquet of Parma violets which she held in
her hand, she proceeded to interrogate him
with the cool self-possession of high caste,
concerning the state of the dramatic art in his
"Can it be true," said she, "as I have
heard from the Chreptowitchs, Paul Lieven,
PEERS AND PARVENUS. 69
and others who have resided in England,
that, in the land of Shakspeare, the national
drama is extinct ? "
By collision with great lords and fine ladies,
Cleve had by this time imbibed sufficient tact
to know that an explanation of the circum-
stances which had limited his personal expe-
rience in such matters, was less to the purpose
than to cite received opinions.
"You have been but too correctly in-
formed, madam/' he replied. " The theatres
dedicated to the national drama are on the
verge of bankruptcy."
44 And has not your young Queen grace and
spirit enough to redeem the fallen cause ? "
rejoined his enthusiastic companion
44 The evil existed before her time, and is
now considered irremediable," replied Cleve.
"Nothing is irremediable ? But from what
deep-seated cause is the mischief supposed to
arise ? " demanded his fair companion.
" According to popular opinion, from the
70 PEERS AND PARVENUS.
lateness of hours now prevalent in England,"
replied Cleve. " But I suspect that, were we
to return to those prevalent in London
when Sheridan's 4 School for Scandal' was
produced on the stage, five-act tragedies or
comedies would not attract better audiences
" And why, pray ? "
" We see them better acted off the stage !
In an incomplete order of society, the dramas
that represent mankind as they ought to be,
or have been in ages more refined, command
attention, at once as a lesson and diversion.
But the moment a country becomes conscious
of its superiority, the stage forfeits half its
charm. In America, in Russia, an actor is
still secure of the eyes and ears of his audience.
But, unusual indeed must be the performance
which, in London, withdraws from themselves
the attention of the spectators."
" But surely the opera is still frequented ?"
pleaded the prince. " The matchless Taglioni
PEERS AND PARVENUS. 71
was cruel enough to desert St Petersburg for
" Operas and ballets, as supernatural
pictures of nature, remain acceptable, how-
ever high the civilization of a country,"
resumed Cleve. "It is only the fac-simile of
its own manners which it disdains. High life
is high comedy on the widest scale ; and how
can we expect people to desert their brilliant
saloons, to see them less advantageously repre-
sented on the stage ? "
" Still," remonstrated the lady, " I am un-
willing to believe that the progress of civili-
zation deprives us of a taste for what is
natural. The fine arts do not suffer from the
extension of social refinement."
" Because incorporated with it as an in-
tegral portion; an enhancement of the lux-
urious domestic life, renounced by those
who frequent the theatres. To see a play,
a family is forced to derange its hours and
habits, to encounter a vile atmosphere and
72 PEERS AND PARVENUS.
personal inconvenience; and as an in-
ducement for such exertions, prodigious
scenic effects are provided. Whereas a
choice picture, or fine statue, decorates their
pleasant home, and is enjoyed from their
easy chair ! "
"Alas! poor Shakspeare!" said the lady,
shrugging her shoulders. "I had hoped
that, in the visit I purpose making to Eng-
land next spring, I should enjoy the tri-
umph of seeing him still more classically
represented than at Vienna."
The animated expression which had be-
gun to intellectualize the fine features of
Jervis Cleve, subsided to a blank at this
intimation. The air, tone, and dress of his
companion satisfied him that she belonged
to an order of society, in which, on her
arrival in London, her inquiries after
" Monsieur Gervais, savant distingue, "
would be answered by the opprobrious word
" aventurier ! "
PEERS AND PARVENUS. 73
With such prospects, why improve his in-
timacy with one who would consider all
explanation of his condition as irrelevant
and importunate, yet probably resent the
misconception arising from his silence?
He had to choose between offending as a
bore, or as an impostor.
The beautiful opening of the second act
of ' Ernani' luckily put an end to his perplex-
ities; but not before they had provoked a
sigh so profound, as to startle the attention
of the fair incognita. Handsome women
are apt to attribute indiscreet demonstra-
tions of this description to the irresisti-
bility of their own attractions; and consi-
dering that when she turned her full-orbed
eyes inquiringly upon the young Englishman,
she found his own riveted upon herself, there
was some pretext for the prince's evident
displeasure at the attentions bestowed upon
" I have doubly to thank you," said she,
VOL. II. E
74 PEERS AND PARVENUS.
when the harmonious close of the first aria
released the house from the attitude of at-
tention bestowed in Italy only on the favou-
rite portions of an opera, " I have doubly
to thank you, cher prince, for having
endeavoured to convince me that your box
is a better one for hearing than my own;
since it has not only enabled me to appreciate
the new piece, but secured me an acquaint-
ance of which I have been long ambitious."
Unable to imagine, beyond a single
sullen moment, that Cleve was regarded by
the great lady otherwise than by himself,
namely, as a piece of furniture dedicated
to his use, Lobanoff bowed low, as though
the compliment were intended for himself.
But either because displacement from her
box prevented her numerous friends from
offering their homage, or vexed by the obsti-
nate silence of Mons. Gervais, the lady soon
lapsed into listlessness ; and after a scarcely
repressed yawn, requested the prince to ask
PEERS AND PARVENUS. 75
for her shawl; a sad dilemma for Cleve, who
felt that he ought to offer his services, yet
knew not how to intimate his ignorance of the
name of one whom not to know seemed
a matter of high treason.
While he stood irresolute, Lobanoff opened
the door of the box to receive a cloak
lined with sable from the hands of a gorge-
ously dressed chasseur in attendance, who
instantly disappeared. An announcement
was immediately echoed from mouth to
mouth that the carriage of the Austrian
ambassadress stopped the way.
The Austrian ambassadress ! The Countess
von Adlerberg ! a woman distinguished
alike by birth and accomplishments, to whom
he had indeed despatched by a servant
the letter he wanted courage to deliver in
person! A respectful bow as she quitted
the box was now his only mode of demon-
strating his deep sense of her condescension.
" Our acquaintance once made," said she,
76 PEERS AND PARVENUS.
pausing graciously on the prince's arm to
acknowledge his salutation, " you must enable
me to improve it. You will find me a con-
stant attendant here. But my husband^
Count von Adlerberg, will be eager to prove
to you in our own house, the value we both
assign to a recommendation from my cousin
PEERS AND PARVENUS. 77
Pourquoi, sur ces flots oil s'elance
Ne voit-on que le souvenir
fair affliction, cease !
CON No, no, I will not, having breath to speak !
O that my tongue were in the thunder's mouth,
Then with my passion would I shake the world.
THE close of a London season affords to
the contemplative a fertile subject for medita-
tion; and the amount of disappointed ambi-
tions and frustrated pretensions whirled off
from the metropolis by every successive rail-
way train, towards the close of July, would
supply matter for a thousand homilies.
78 PEERS AND PARVENUS.
But of all the capital town mansions where
the last day of the season engenders angry
emotions, either on the part of senators who,
after anticipating the applauses of the ' Times/
have figured only in ' Punch/ or beauties who,
after trusting to become the belles of a royal
masque, have been forced to content them-
selves with a fancy ball at the Hanover-square
Rooms, nowhere is the vexation so poignant
as when the bill of " To be let furnished"
removed from the dining-room windows in
April, is to resume its place on the morrow
of the family's departure.
Such houses are generally the domicile of
speculators of some kind or other; families
with sons or daughters to dispose of, in the
unholy matrimony of barter and bargain;
or money to invest in railroads, or insignifi-
cance to invest in fashion, or eloquence to
invest in parliament, and through parliament
in a place. For one that succeeds in such
projects, ninety and nine are they who, at the
PEERS AND PARVENUS. 79
close of the season, are taught to measure by
a house-agent' s exorbitant demands for damage
and breakage, the wildness of their schemes
as well as the amount of their disappoint-
No one better understood than Lady Hill-
ingdon the mortification of finding, at the
eleventh hour, her two daughters still unpro-
posed for, except by those of whom, in the
intoxication of her hopes concerning Lord
John Howard and his cousin, she had sanc-
tioned the rejection. But lest she should fall
under any mistake as to her disappointment,
Lady Ursula Wainwright took care that due
condolence should enlighten her mind.
" I really feel for you," my dear, said
she ; " though I told you from the first, if you
remember, that it was certain to end so. I
warned you that it was a foolish venture ! "
"What was a foolish venture?" retorted
her ladyship. "Acceding to the desire of
my son that he should have a home in
80 PEERS AND PARVENUS.
London, instead of being left to the costly
discomfort of an hotel?"
"With every desire to see things as you
wish me to see them," rejoined Lady Ursula,
" I cannot suppose that you have been giving
Greenwich dinners and Richmond parties,
only to afford Mr Joddrell a home in which
he does not spend half a dozen hours in the
twenty -four! No one, my dear Lady Hill-
ingdon, who has witnessed your solicitude to
get your daughters invited here, there, and
everywhere, and secure them the partners
whom all the chaperons in London are dis-
puting, could doubt that."
" I will not give you the trouble to doubt
or dispute about the matter," interrupted Lady
Hillingdon. " We have spent a very pleasant
season, and there is an end of it."
" Ay, if that were the end of it ! " rejoined
her friend, with a significant waive of the
head. "But your expenses, my dear, must
have been frightful. Till Christmas, you
PEERS AND PARVENUS. 81
will not half surmise all you have brought
on yourself. And in the interval, what will
you do with those poor girls at Brighton,
with which London society has thoroughly
put them out of conceit?"
"I have no thoughts of returning to
Brighton," said Lady Hillingdon, drily.
" Why you have told me, a hundred times,
that there is not so much as a chair or table
left at Hillingdon Hall!"
Lady Hillingdon remained as dumb as
though she had been deaf. Her son had
strictly cautioned her against being too com-