Charles James Lever.

The adventures of Arthur O'Leary online

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irritable natures, cloyed with excess of enjoyment, and
palled with pleasure ; the imaginary sick man, or the
telf-created patient, who has dosed himself into artificial
malady ; all, of necessity, belonging to the higher, or
at least the wealthier classes of mankind, with whom
management goes farther than medicine, and tact is at
hundred times better than all the skill of Hippocrates.
He had need, then, be a clever man of the world ; he
may dispense with science, he cannot with savoir faire.
Not only must he be conversant with the broader traits
of national character, but he must be intimately ac-
quainted with the more delicate and subtle workings of
the heart in classes and gradations of mankind ; a keen
©bserver and a quick actor. In fact, to get on well, he
must possess in a high degree many of those elements,
any one of which would ensure success in a dozen other
walks in life.

And he must have all these virtues, as Swift saya,
*' for twenty pounds per annum," not literally, indeed,,
but for a very inadequate recompense. These watering-
place seasons are brief intervals, in which he must make
hay while the Eun shines. With the approach of winter
the tide turns, and the human wave retires faster than it
came. Silent streets, and deserted promenades, closed'
shutters and hermetically-sealed cafes, meet him at every
step, and then comes the long, dx-eary time of hyberna-
tion ; happy would it be for him if he could but imitate
the seal, and spend it in torpor ; for, if he be not a sports-
man, and in a country favourable to the pursuit, his life
is a sad one. Books ai'c generally diflicult to come at^


itlicre is little society, tliere is no companionsliip, and so
lie has to creep along the tedious time silent and sad,
counting over tlie months of his durance, and longing fol

Some there are who follow tlie stream, and retire each
winter to the cities where their strongest connection lies;
but this ])ractice I should deem rather dictated by plea-
sure than pi'oiit. Your Spa Doctor without a Spa is like
Liszt or Herz without a pianoforte. Give hira but his
instrument, and he will " discourse you sweet music,"
tbut deprive him of it and he is utterly helpless. The
■springs of Helicon did not suggest inspiration more cer-
tainly than do those of Nassau to their votaries ; but the
fount must run that the poet may rhyme. So your
physician must have the odour of sulphurets in his nose ;
iie must see the priestess ministering, glass in hand, to
the shivering shades around her; he must have the long
vista of the promenade, with its flitting forms in flannel
cased, ere he feel himself " every inch a doctor." Away
from these, and the piston of a steam-engine without a
boiler is not more helpless. The fountain is, to use Lord
Londonderry's phrase, the " fundamental feature on which
his argument hinges," and he could no more exist without
water than a fish.

Having said so much of the genus, let me be excused
if I do not dilate on the species, nor, indeed, had I dwelt
.so long on the subject, but in this age of stomach, when
•every one has dyspepsia, it is as well to mention those
who rule over our diets and destinies, and where so many
are w^orshippers at the Temple, a word about the Priest
•of the Mysteries may not be unseasonable.

And now, to change the theme, who is it that, at this,
early hour of the morning, seems taking his promenade,
"with no trace of the invalid in his look or dress ? He
comes along at a smart walk; his step has the assured
ti'amp of one who felt health, and knew the value of tho 1
•blessing. What! is it possible, can it be, indeed? Yef.i
it is Sir Harry Wycherley himself, with two lovely
■children, a boy and a girl, the eldest scarcely seven years
old, the boy a year or so younger. Never did I behold
anything more lovely.


The girl's eyes Avere dark, shaded witli loncf, deep
fringe, that added to their depth, and tempered into soft-
ness the glowing' sparkle of youth. Her features wera
of a pensive, but not melancholy character, and in her
walk and carriage " gentle blood " spoke out in accents
not to be mistaken. The boy, more strongly formed,
resembled his father more, and in his broad forehead,
and bold, dashing expression, looked like one who should
become one day a man of nerve and mettle. His dress,
too, gave a character to his appearance that well suited
him ; a broad hat, turned i;p at the side, and ornamented
with a dark blue feather, that hung drooping over his
shoulder ; a blue tunic, made so as to show his chest in
•^ts full breadth, and his arms naked the whole way ; a
Bcarlet scarf, knotted carelessly at his side, hung down,
with its deep fringe, beside his bare leg, tanned and
bronzed with sun and weather ; while even his shoes,
with their broad silver buckles, showed that care presided
over every part of his costume.

There was. something intensely touching iu the sight;
of this man of the world — for such I well knew he was —
thus enjoying the innocence and fresh buoyancy of his
children, turning from the complex web of men's schemes
and plottings, their tortuous paths and deep designings,
to relax in the careless gaiety of infant minds ; now pur-
suing them along the walk, now starting from behind
some tree where he lay in ambush, he gives them chase,
and as he gains on them tliey turn short round, and spring-
into his arms, and clasp him round the neck. Arthur,
thou hast had a life of more than man's share of pleasure ;
thou hast tasted much happiness, and known but few
sorrows; but would not a moment like this outnumber
them all? Where is love so full, so generous, so con-
fiding? What affection comes so pure and unalloyed, not
chilled by jealous doubts or fears, but warm and gushing j
the incense of a happy heart, the outpourings of a guile-
less nature. Nothing can be more beautiful than tho
picture of maternal fondness, the gi-acefulness of v»-omau
thrown like a garment around her children ; her look of
love etherealized by the holiest sentiment of tenderness j
her loveliness exalted above tiie earth by the contempla^


tion of those, her own dear ones, who are but a "little

lower than the angels," is a sij^ht to make the eyes gush

tears of happiness, and the heart swell with thankfulness

to Heaven. Second alone to this is the mibcnding of

man's stern nature before the charms of childhood, when,

casting away the pride of manhood and the cold spirit of

worldly ambition, he becomes like one among his children,

the participator in their joys and sorrows, the companion

of their games, the confidant of their little secrets. How

insensibly does each moment thus passed draw him farther

from the world and its cares ; how soon does he forget

disappointments, or learn to think of them less poignantly,

and how by nature's own magnetism does the sinless

spirit of the child mix with the subtle workings of the

man, and lift him above the petty jarrings and discords

of life ! And thus, while he teaches them precepts of

truth and virtue, they pour into his heart lessons of

humility and forbearance. If he point out the future to

them, with equal force they show the past to him, and a

blessing rests on both. The " populus me sibilat" of the

miser is a miserable philosophy compared to his who can

retire from the rancorous assaults of enemies, and the

dark treachery of false friends, to the bosom of a happy

home, and feel his hearth a sanctuary where come no

forms of malice to assail him !

Such were my musings as I saw the father pass on with

his children, and never before did my loneliness seem so

devoid of happiness.


Would that I could stop here. Would that I might
leave my reader to ponder over these things, and fashion
them to his mind's liking ; but I may not. I have but one
object in these notes of my loiterings ; it is to present to
those younger in the world, and fresher to its Aviles than
myself, some of the dangers as well as some of the enjoy-
ments of foreign travel ; and having surveyed the coast
with much care and caution, I would fix a wreck-buoy
hei'e and there along the channel as a warning and a guide.
And now to begin.

Let me take the character before me, one, of whom
I hesitate not to say that only the name is derived from


invention. Some may have already identified him ; many
more may surmise the individual meant : it is enough
that I say he still lives, and the correctness of the portrait
may easily be tested by any traveller Rhine-wards, but I
' prefer giving him a chapter to himself.

^ (^



Sir Hakrt "Wyciieklet was of an old Hampshire family,
who, entering the army when a mere boy, contrived,
before he came of age, so completely to encumber a very
large estate that his majority only enabled him to finish
the ruin he had so actively begun, and leave him penniless
at seven-and-twenty. Before the wreck of his property
became matter of notoriety, he married an Earl's daughter
with a vast fortune, a portion of which was settled on any
children that might be born to their union. She, poor
girl, scarcely nineteen when she married, (for it was a
love match,) died of a broken heart at three-and-twenty,
leaving Sir Harry, with two infant children, all but irre-
trievably ruined, nearly everything he possessed mort-
gaged beyond its value, and not even a house to shelter
him. By the advice of his lawyer he left England
secretly, and came over to Paris, Avhence he travelled
through Germany down to Italy, wheie he resided some
time. The interest of the fortune settled on the children
sufficed to maintain him in good style, and enabled him to
associate with men of his own rank, provided he incurred
no habits of extravagance. A few years of such prudence
would, he was told, enable him to return with a moderate
tcome ; and he submitted.

This career of quiet, unobtrusive character was gradually
becoming more and more insupportable to him. At first
lie cliange from a life beset by duns and bailiffs — by daily


interviews with Jews, and consultations with scheming
lawyers — was happiness itself; the freedom he enjoyed
from pressing difiiculties o.nd contingencies which arose
with every hour, was a pleasure he never knew before,
and he felt like a schoolboy escaped from the drudgery of
the desk. But by degrees, as he mixed more with tliose
his former associates and companions — many of them
■exiles on the same plea as himself — the old taste for past
pleasures revived; their conversation brought back London
•with all its brilliant gaiety before him. Its clubs and
coteries — the luxurious display of the dinners at the
•Clarendon, or the I'eckless extravagance of the nights at
■Crockford's — the ti'iumphs of the Derby, and the glories
of Ascot — passed all in review before him, heightened by
the recollection of the high spirits of his youth. He began
once more to hanker after the world he believed he had
quitted without regret ; and a morbid anxiety to learn
what was doing and going forward in the circles he used
to move in, took possession of his mind. All the gossip
of Tattersall's, all the chit-chat of the Carlton, or the
scandal of Graham's, became at once indispensable to his
existence. Who was going it " fastest " among the I'ising
spii'its of the day, and which was the favourite of " Scott's
iot," were points of vital interest to him; while he felt
the deepest anxiety about tlie fortunes of those who were
tottering on the brink of ruin, and spent many a sleepless
night in conjectures as to how they were to get through
this difficulty or that, and whether they could ever "come
round" again.

Not one of the actors in that busy scene — into whose
wild chaos fate mixes up all that is highest and every-
thing the most depraved of human nature — ever took
the same interest in it as he did. He lived henceforth in
an ideal world, ignorant and careless of what was passing
around him ; his faculties strained to regard events at a
distance, he became abstracted and silent. A year passed
over thus ; twelve weary months, in which his mind dwelt
on home and country with all the ardour of a banished
man. At last glad tidings reached him that a compromise
had been eil'ected with his principal creditors ; his most
pressing debts had been discharged ; time obtained to


meet others of less moment ; and no obstacle any longer
existed to his returning to England.

"NVhat a glorious thing it was to come back again once
more to the old haunts and scenes of pleasure ; to revisit
the places of which his days and nights were filled with
the very memory; to be once again the distinguished
among that crowd who ruled supreme at the table and on
the turf, and whose fiat was decisive, from the Italian
Opera to Doncaster ! Alas, and alas ! the resumption of
old tastes and habits will not bring back the youth and
buoyancy which gave them all their bi-ight colouring.
There is no standing still in life ; there is no resting-placo
whence we can survey the panorama, and not move along
with it. Our course continues, and as changes follow
each other in succession without, so, within in our own
natures, are we conforming to the rule, and becoming
difl'erent from what we had been.

The dream of home, the ever-present thought to the
exile's mind, suffers the rude shock when comes the hour
of testing its reality ; happy for him if he die in tho
delusion. Early remembrances are hallowed by a light
that age and experience dissipate for ever, and as the
highland " tarn " we used to think grand in its wild
desolation iu the hours of our boyhood, becomes to our
manhood's eye but a mere pond among the mountains, so
do we look with changed feelings on all about us, and
I'cel disappointment where we expected pleasure.

In all great cities these changes succeed with fearful
rapidity. Expensive tastes and extravagant habits are
hourly ruining hundreds who pass off the scene where
they shone and are heard of no more. The "lion" of
the season, whose plate was a matter of royal curiosity,
whose equipage gave the tone to the time, whose dinner
•invitations were regarded as the climax of fashionable
distinction, awakes some morning to discover that an
expenditure of four times a man's income, continued for
several years, niay originate embarrassment in his affairs.
He finds out that tailors can be uncivil, and coachmakers
rude ; and, horror of horrors, he sees within the precincts of
his dressing-room the plebeian visage of a sheriff's officer,
or the calculating countenance of a West-end auctioneer.


He who was booked for Ascot now huvries away to
Antwerp. An ambiguous pai-aLjrai)h in an evening paper
informs Lontlon that one among the ranl<s of extravagance
has fallen ; a notice of " public competition " by the hand
of George Robins comes next; a criticism, and generally
a sharp one, on the taste of his furniture and the value of
his pictures follows ; the broad pages of the Morninq Fost
become the winding-sheet of his memory, and the knock
of the auctioneer's hammer is his requiem ! The ink is
not dried on his passport, ere he is forgotten. Fashionable
circles have other occupations than liegrets and condo-
lences ; so that the exile may be a proud man if he retain
a single correspd^ident in that great world which yester-
day found nothing better than to chronicle his doings.

When Sir Harry Wycherley then came back to London
he was only remembered — nothing more. The great
majority of his contemporaries had, like himself, passed off
the boards during the interval; such of them as remained
were either like vessels too crippled in action to seek
safety in flight, or, adopting the philosophy of the devil
when sick, had resolved on prudence when there was no
more liking for dissipation. He was almost a stranger in
his club; the very waiters at Mivart's asked his name;
while the last new peer's son, just emerging into life, had
never even heard of him before. So is it decreed —
dynasties shall fall and others succeed them — Charles le
Dix gives place to Louis Philippe, and Nugee occupies
the throne of Stultz.

Few thinsrs men bear worse than this ob'ivion in the
very places where once their sway was absolute. It is
' very hard to believe that the world has grown wiser and
better, more cultivated in taste and more correct in its
judgments than when we knew it of eld; and a man is
very likely to tax with ingratitude those who, superseding
him in the world's favour, seem to be forgetful of claims
which in reality they never knew of.

Sir Harry Wycherley was not long in England ere he
felt these truths in all their bitterness, and saw that an
absence of a few j-ears teaches one's friends to do without
them so completely that they are absolutely unwilling
to open a new want of acquaintance, as though it were


an expensive luxuiy they Lad learned to dispense with.
Besides, Wycherley was decidedly "rococo" in all his
tastes and predilections. Men did not dine now where
tliey used in his day — Doncaster was going out — Good-
wood was coming in — people spoke of Grisi, not Pasta —
Mario more than Eubiiii. Instead of the old absolute
monarchy of fashion, where cue dictated to all the rest,
a new school sprung up, a species of democracy, who
thought Long Wellesley and D'Orsay were unclean idols,
and would not worsliip anything save themselves,

Xow of all the marks of progress which distinguish
men in the higher circles, there is none in these latter
days at all comparable with the signs of — to give it a mild
name — increased " sharpness," distinguishable amongst
them. The traveller by the heavy Falmouth mail whisked
along forty miles per hour in the Grand Junction would
see far less to astonish and amaze him than your shrewd
man about town of some forty years back, could he be let
down any evening among the youth at Tattersall's, or
introduced among the rising generation just graduating
at Graham's.

Tlie spirit of the age is unquestionably to be " up and
doing." A good book on the Oaks has a far higher pre-
eminence, not to say profit, than one published in " the
How;" the "honours" of the crown are scarcely on a
par with those scored at whist ; and to predict the first
horse in at Ascot would be a far higher step in the intel-
lectual scale than to prophesy the appearance of a comet
or an eclipse ; the leader in the House can only divide
public applause with tlie winner of the Leger, and even
the versatile gyrations of Lord Brougham himself must
yield to the more fascinating pirouettes of Fanny Ellsler.
Young men leave Eton and Sandhurst now with more
tact and worldly wit than their fathers had at forty, or
their grandfathers ever possessed at all.

Short as Sir Harry Wycherley's absence had been, the
march of mind had done much in all these respects. The
babes and sucklings of fashion were more than his equals
in craft and subtlety ; none like them to ascertain what
was wrong with the favourite, or why the " mare" would
not start ; few could comijete with them in those difficult


walks of finance "which consist in obtaining credit from
coachmakers, and cash from Jews. In fact, to that
generation who spent profusely to live luxuriously, had
succeeded a race who reversed the position, and lived
extravagantly in order to have the means of spending.
Wiser than their fathers, they substituted paper for cash
payments, and saw no necessity to cry " stop" while there
was a stamp in England.

It was a sad thing for one who believed his education
finished to become a schoolboy once more, but there was
nothing else for it. Sir Harry had to begin at the bottom
of the class ; he was an apt scholar it is true, but before
lie had completed his studies he was ruined. High play
and high interest — Jews and jockeys — dinners and
danseuses — with large retinues of servants, will help a
man considerably to get rid of his spare cash ; and how-
ever he may — which in most cases he must— acquire
some wisdom en route, his road is not less certain to lead
to ruin. In two years from the time of his return, another
paragraph and another auction proclaimed that " Wycher-
ley was cleaned out," and that he had made his "posi-
tively last appearance " in England.

The Continent was now to be his home for life. Ho
had lost his " means," but he had learned " ways " of
living, and from pigeon he became rook.

There is a class, possibly the most dangerous that exists,
of men, who without having gone so far as to forfeit
pretension to the society and acquaintance of gentlemen,
have yet involved their name and reputation in circum-
stances which are more than suspicious. Living expen-
sively, without any obvious source of income; enjoying
every luxuiy, and indulging every taste that costs dearly,
without any difficulty in the payment, their intimacy with
known gamblers and blacklegs exposes them at once to the
inevitable charge of confederacy. Rarely or never play-
ing themselves, however, they reply to such calumnies by
referring to their habits ; their daily life would indeed
seem little liable to reproval. If married, they are the
most exemplary of husbands. If they have children,
they are models for fathers. Where can you see such
little ones — so well-mannered — so well-dressed — with such


beautifully curled hair, and such perfectly good breeding
— or, to use the proper phrase, " so admirably taken care
of." They are liberal to all public charities — they are
occasionally intimate with the chaplain (tf the Embassy
too, — of whom, a word hereafter, — and, in fact, it would
be difficult to find fault with any circumstance in their
bearing before the world. Their connection by family
with persons of rank and condition, is a kind of life-
buoy of which no shipwreck of fortune deprives them,
and long after less well-known people have sunk to the
bottom, they are to be found floating on the surface of
society. In this way they form a kind of " Pont de
Diable" between persons of character and persons of
none — they are the narrow isthmus, connecting the main
land with the low reef of rocks beyond it.

These men are the tame elephants of the swindling
world, who provide the game, though they never seem to
care for the sport. Too cautious of reputation to become
active agents in these transactions, they introduce the
unsuspecting traveller into those haunts and among those
where ruin is rife ; and as the sheriff consigns the crimi-
nal to the attentions of the hangman, so these worthies
halt at the " drop," and would scorn, with indignation,
the idea of exercising the last office of the law.

Far from this, they are eloquent in their denunciat'ons
of play. Such sound morality as theirs cannot be pur-
chased at any })rice; the dangers that beset young men
coming abroad — the risk of chance acquaintance — the
folly of associating with persons not known — form the
staple of their converse — which, lest it should seem too
cynical in its attack on pleasure, is relieved by that
admirable statement so popular in certain circles. " You
know a man of the world must see every thing for himself,
so that though I say don't gamble, 1 never said, don't
frequent the Curfaal — though I bade you avoid play, I
did not say, shun blacklegs." It is pretty much like
desiring a man not to take the yellow fever, but to bo
sure to pass an autumn on the coast of Africa!

Such, then, was the character of him who would once
have rejected with horror the acquaintance of one like
himself. A sleeping partner in swindling, he received his


eharo of the profits, although his name did not appear in
the firm. His former acquaintances continued to know
him, his family connections were large and influential, and
thou<;h some may have divined his practices, he was one
of those men that are never " cut." Some pitied him;
some atfected to disbelieve all the stories against him ;
some told tales of his generosity and kindness, but scarcely
any one condemned him — " Aiusi va le moude?"

Once more I ask forgiveness, if I have been too prolix
in all this ; rather would I have you linger in pleasanter
scenes, and with better company, but — there must always

Online LibraryCharles James LeverThe adventures of Arthur O'Leary → online text (page 31 of 40)