William Makepeace Thackeray.

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ing in large Assemblies a most splendid gold or crimson
waistcoat. He seemed to consider himself in the light
of a walking bouquet of flowers, or a movable chandelier.
His waistcoat was a piece of furniture to decorate the
rooms : as for any personal pride he took in the adorn-
ment, he had none : for the matter of that, he would
have taken the garment off, and lent it to a waiter but
this Philosopher's maxim was, that dress should be hand-
some upon handsome occasions and I hope you will
exhibit your own taste upon such. You don't suppose
that people who entertain you so hospitably have four-
and-twenty lights in the dining-room, and still and dry
champagne every day ? or that my friend, Mrs. Perkins,
puts her drawing-room door under her bed every night,
when there is no ball ? A young fellow must dress him-
self, as the host and hostess dress themselves, in an extra
manner for extra nights. Enjoy, my boy, in honesty
and manliness, the goods of this life. I would no more
have you refuse to take your glass of wine, or to admire
(always in honesty) a pretty girl, than dislike the smell


of a rose, or turn away your eyes from a landscape.
* Neque tu choreas sperne, puer,' as the dear old Heathen
says : and, in order to dance, you must have proper
pumps willing to spring and whirl lightly, and a clean
pair of gloves, with which you can take your partner's
pretty little hand.

As for particularising your dress, that were a task
quite absurd and impertinent, considering that you are
to wear it, and not I, and remembering the variations of
fashion. When I was presented to H.R.H. the Prince
Regent, in the uniform of the Hammersmith Hussars,
viz., a yellow jacket, pink pantaloons, and silver lace,
green morocco boots, and a light blue pelisse lined with
ermine, the august Prince himself, the model of grace
and elegance in his time, wore a coat of which the
waist-buttons were placed between his Royal shoulder-
blades, and which, if worn by a man now, would cause
the boys to hoot him in Pall Mall, and be a uniform for
Bedlam. If buttons continue their present downward
progress, a man's waist may fall down to his heels
next year, or work upwards to the nape of his
neck after another revolution : who knows ? Be it
yours decently to conform to the custom, and leave
your buttons in the hands of a good tailor, who will
place them wherever fashion ordains. A few general
rules, however, may be gently hinted to a young
fellow who has perhaps a propensity to fall into certain

Eschew violent sporting-dresses, such as one sees but
too often in the parks and public places on the backs of
misguided young men. There is no objection to an
ostler wearing a particular costume, but it is a pity that
a gentleman should imitate it. I have seen in like
manner young fellows at Cowes attired like the pictures
we have of smugglers, buccaneers, and mariners in
Adelphi melodramas. I would like my Bob to
remember, that his business in life is neither to handle


a currycomb nor a marlinspike, and to fashion his habit

If your hair or clothes do not smell of tobacco, as they
sometimes, it must be confessed, do, you will not be less
popular among ladies. And as no man is worth a fig, or
can have real benevolence of character, or observe
mankind properly, who does not like the society of
modest and well-bred women, respect their prejudices in
this matter, and, if you must smoke, smoke in an old
coat, and away from the ladies.

Avoid dressing-gowns ; which argue dawdling, an
unshorn chin, a lax toilet, and a general lazy and
indolent habit at home. Begin your day with a clean


conscience in every way. Cleanliness is honesty.* A
man who shows but a clean face and hands is a rogue
and hypocrite in society, and takes credit for a virtue
which he does not possess. And of all the advances
towards civilisation which our nation has made, and of
most of which Mr. Macaulay treats so eloquently in his
lately published History, as in his lecture to the Glasgow
Students the other day, there is none which ought to
give a philanthropist more pleasure than to remark the
great and increasing demand for bath-tubs at the iron-
mongers' : Zinc-Institutions, of which our ancestors had
a lamentable ignorance.

And I hope that these institutions will be universal in
our country before long, and that every decent man in
England will be a Companion of the Most Honourable
Order of the Bath.


CONSTANTLY, my dear Bob, I have told you how
refining is the influence of women upon society, and
how profound our respect ought to be for them. Living
in chambers as you do, my dear Nephew, and not of
course liable to be amused by the constant society of an
old uncle, who moreover might be deucedly bored with
your own conversation I beseech and implore you to
make a point of being intimate with one or two families
where you can see kind and well-bred English ladies. I
have seen women of all nations in the world, but I never

* Note to the beloved Reader. This hint, dear Sir, it of course not
intended to apply personally to you, who are scrupulously neat in your
person ; but when you look around you and see how many people neglect
the use of that admirable cosmetic, cold water, you will see that a few
words in its praise may be spoken with advantage.


saw the equals of English women (meaning of course to
include our cousins the MacWhirters of Glasgow, and
the O'Tooles of Cork) : and I pray sincerely, my boy,
that you may always have a woman for a friend.

Try, then, and make yourself the bienvenu in some
house where accomplished and amiable ladies are. Pass
as much of your time as you can with them. Lose no
opportunity of making yourself agreeable to them : run
their errands ; send them flowers and elegant little
tokens ; show a willingness to be pleased by their
attentions, and to aid their little charming schemes of
shopping or dancing, or this, or that. I say to you,
make yourself a lady's man as much as ever you can.

It is better for you to pass an evening once or twice a
week in a lady's drawing-room, even though the con-
versation is rather slow and you know the girls' songs by
heart, than in a club, tavern, or smoking-room, or a pit
of a theatre. All amusements of youth, to which
virtuous women are not admitted, are, rely on it,
deleterious in their nature. All men who avoid female
society have dull perceptions and are stupid, or have
gross tastes and revolt against what is pure. Your Club
swaggerers who are sucking the butts of billiard-cues all
night call female society insipid. Sir, poetry is insipid
to a yokel ; beauty has no charms for a blind man ;
music does not please an unfortunate brute who does not
know one tune from another ; and, as a true epicure
is hardly ever tired of water-souchy and brown bread-
and-butter, I protest I can sit for a whole night talking
to a well-regulated kindly woman about her girl coming
out, or her boy at Eton, and like the evening's entertain-

One of the great benefits a young man may derive
from women's society is, that he is bound to be respect-
ful to them. The habit is of great good to your moral
man, depend on it. Our education makes of us the
most eminently selfish men in the world. We fight for


ourselves, we push for ourselves ; we cut the best slices
out of the joint at club-dinners for ourselves; we yawn
for ourselves and light our pipes, and say we wont go
out : we prefer ourselves and our ease and the greatest
good that comes to a man from women's society is, that
he has to think of somebody besides himself somebody
to whom he is bound to be constantly attentive and
respectful. Certainly I don't want my dear Bob to
associate with those of the other sex whom he doesn't
and can't respect : that is worse than billiards : worse
than tavern brandy-and-water : worse than smoking
selfishness at home. But I vow I would rather see you
turning over the leaves of Miss Fiddlecombe's music-
book all night, than at billiards, or smoking, or brandy-
and-water, or all three.

Remember, if a house is pleasant, and you like to
remain in it, that to be well with the women of the
house is the great, the vital point. If it is a good house,
don't turn up your nose because you are only asked to
come in the evening while others are invited to dine.
Recollect the debts of dinners which an hospitable
family has to pay : who are you that you should always
be expecting to nestle under the mahogany ? Agreeable
acquaintances are made just as well in the drawing-room
as in the dining-room. Go to tea brisk and good-
humoured. Be determined to be pleased. Talk to a
dowager. Take a hand at whist. If you are musical,
and know a song, sing it like a man. Never sulk about
dancing, but off with you. You will find your acquaint-
ance enlarge. Mothers, pleased with your good-
humour, will probaby ask you to Pocklington Square,
to a little party. You will get on you will form
yourself a circle. You may marry a rich girl, or, at any
rate, get the chance of seeing a number of the kind and
the pretty.

Many young men, who are more remarkable for
their impudence and selfishness than their good sense,


are fond of boastfully announcing that they decline
going to evening-parties at all, unless, indeed, such
entertainments commence with a good dinner, and a
quantity of claret.

I never saw my beautiful-minded friend, Mrs. Y. Z.,
many times out of temper, but can quite pardon her
indignation when young Fred Noodle, to whom the
Y. Z.'s have been very kind, and who has appeared scores
of times at their elegant table in Up r B-k-r Street,
announced, in an unlucky moment of flippancy, that he
did not intend to go to evening-parties any more.

What induced Fred Noodle to utter this bravado I
know not ; whether it was that he has been puffed up
by attentions from several Aldermen's families, with
whom he has of late become acquainted, and among
whom he gives himself the airs of a prodigious 'swell ; '
but having made this speech one Sunday after church,
when he condescended to call in B-k-r Street, and show
off his new gloves and waistcoat, and talked in a
sufficiently dandified air about the Opera (the wretched
creature fancies that an eight-and-sixpenny pit ticket
gives him the privileges of a man of fashion) Noodle
made his bow to the ladies, and strutted off to show his
new yellow kids elsewhere.

' Matilda my love, bring the Address Book,' Mrs. Y. Z.
said to her lovely eldest daughter, as soon as Noodle
was gone, and the banging hall-door had closed upon the
absurd youth. That graceful and obedient girl rose,
went to the back drawing-room, on a table in which
apartment the volume lay, and brought the book to her

Mrs. Y. Z. turned to the letter N ; and under that
initial discovered the name of the young fellow who had
just gone out. Noodle, F., 250 Jermyn Street, St.
James's. She took a pen from the table before her, and
with it deliberately crossed the name of Mr. Noodle out
of her book. Matilda looked at Eliza, who stood by in


silent awe. The sweet eldest girl, who has a kind feeling
towards every soul alive, then looked towards her
mother with expostulating eyes, and said, c Oh,
mamma ! ' Dear dear Eliza ! I love all pitiful hearts
like thine.

But Mrs. Y. Z. was in no mood to be merciful, and
gave way to a natural indignation and feeling of out-
raged justice.

* What business has that young man to tell me,' she
exclaimed, * that he declines going to evening-parties,
when he knows that after Easter we have one or two ?
Has he not met with constant hospitality here since
Mr. Y. Z. brought him home from the Club ? Has he
such beaux yeux? or, has he so much wit ? or, is he a
man of so much note, that his company at a dinner-
table becomes indispensable ? He is nobody ; he is not
handsome ; he is not clever ; he never opens his mouth
except to drink your papa's claret ; and he declines
evening-parties forsooth ! Mind, children, he is never
invited into this house again.'

When Y. Z. now meets young Noodle at the Club,
that kind but feeble-minded old gentleman covers up his
face with the newspaper, so as not to be seen by
Noodle ; or sidles away with his face to the bookcases,
and lurks off by the door. The other day they met on
the steps when the wretched Noodle, driven aux abois,
actually had the meanness to ask how Mrs. Y. Z. was ?
The Colonel (for such he is, and of the Bombay
service, too) said, ' My wife ? Oh ! hum ! I'm
sorry to say Mrs. Y. Z. has been very poorly indeed,
lately, very poorly ; and confined to her room. God
bless my soul ! I've an appointment at the India House,
and it's past two o'clock ' and he fled.

I had the malicious satisfaction of describing to
Noodle the most sumptuous dinner which Y. Z. had
given the day before, at which there was a Lord present,
a Foreign Minister with his Orders, two Generals with


Stars, and every luxury of the season ; but at the end of
our conversation, seeing the effect it had upon the poor
youth, and how miserably he was cast down, I told him
the truth, viz., that the above story was a hoax, and that
if he wanted to get into Mrs. Y. Z.'s good graces again,
his best plan was to go to Lady Flack's party, where I
knew the Miss Y. Z.'s would be, and dance with them
all night.

Yes, my dear Bob, you boys must pay with your
persons, however lazy you may be however much
inclined to smoke at the Club, or to lie there and read
the last delicious new novel ; or averse to going home
to a dreadful black set of Chambers, where there is no
fire ; and at ten o'clock at night creeping shuddering
into your ball suit, in order to go forth to an evening-

The dressing, the clean gloves, and cab-hire are
nuisances, I grant you. The idea of a party itself is a
bore ; but you must go. When you are at the party, it
is not so stupid ; there is always something pleasant for
the eye and attention of an observant man. There is a
bustling Dowager wheedling and manoeuvring to get
proper partners for her girls ; there is a pretty girl
enjoying herself with all her heart, and in all the pride
of her beauty, than which I know no more charming
object ; there is poor Miss Meggot, lonely up against
the wall, whom nobody asks to dance, and with whom
it is your bounden duty to waltz. There is always
something to see or do, when you are there ; and to
evening-parties, I say, you must go.

Perhaps I speak with the ease of an old fellow who is
out of the business, and beholds you from afar off. My
dear boy, they don't want us at evening-parties. A
stout bald-headed man dancing is a melancholy object to
himself in the looking-glass, opposite, and there are
duties and pleasures of all ages. Once, Heaven help us,
and only once, upon my honour, and I say so as a gentle-


man, some boys seized upon me and carried me to the
Casino, where, forthwith, they found acquaintances and
partners, and went whirling away in the double-timed
waltz (it is an abominable dance to me I am an old
fogy) along with hundreds more. I caught sight of a
face in the crowd the most blank, melancholy, and
dreary old visage it was my own face in the glass
there was no use in my being there. Canities adest morosa
no, not morosa but, in fine, I had no business in the
place, and so came away.

I saw enough of that Casino, however, to show me

that But my paper is full, and on the subject of

women I have more things to say, which might fill many
hundred more pages.


SUFFER me to continue, my dear Bob, my remarks about
women, and their influence over you young fellows an
influence so vast, for good or for evil.

I have, as you pretty well know, an immense sum of
money in the Three per Cents, the possession of which
does not, I think, decrease your respect for my character,
and of which, at my demise, you will possibly have your
share. But if I ever hear of you as a Casino-haunter,
as a frequenter of Races and Greenwich Fairs, and such
amusements, in questionable company, I give you my
honour you shall benefit by no legacy of mine, and I
will divide the portion that was, and is, I hope, to be
yours, amongst your sisters.

Think, sir, of what they are, and of your mother at
home, spotless and pious, loving and pure, and shape
your own course so as to be worthy of them. Would
you do anything to give them pain ? Would you say


anything that should bring a blush to their fair cheeks,
or shock their gentle natures ? At the Royal Academy
Exhibition last year, when that great stupid dandified
donkey, Captain Grigg, in company with the other
vulgar oaf, Mr. Gowker, ventured to stare, in rather an
insolent manner, at your pretty little sister Fanny, who
had come blushing from Miss Pinkerton's Academy, I
saw how your honest face flushed up with indignation,
as you caught a sight of the hideous grins and ogles of
those two ruffians in varnished boots; and your eyes
flashed out at them glances of defiance and warning so
savage and terrible, that the discomfited wretches
turned wisely upon their heels, and did not care to face
such a resolute young champion as Bob Brown. What
is it that makes all your blood tingle, and fills all your
heart with a vague and fierce desire to thrash somebody,
when the idea of the possibility of an insult to that fair
creature enters your mind ? You can't bear to think
that injury should be done to a being so sacred, so
innocent, and so defenceless. You would do battle with
a Goliath in her cause. Your sword would leap from its
scabbard (that is, if you gentlemen from Pump Court
wore swords and scabbards at the present period of time)
to avenge or defend her.

Respect all beauty, all innocence, my dear Bob ;
defend all defencelessness in your sister, as in the sisters
of other men. We have all heard the story of the
Gentleman of the last century, who, when a crowd of
young bucks and bloods in the Crush-room of the Opera
were laughing and elbowing an old lady there an old
lady, lonely, ugly, and unprotected went up to her
respectfully and offered her his arm, took her down to
his own carriage which was in waiting, and walked
home himself in the rain, and twenty years afterwards
had ten thousand a year left him by this very old lady, as
a reward for that one act of politeness. We have all
heard that story ; nor do I think it is probable that you


will have ten thousand a year left to you for being polite
to a woman : but I say, be polite, at any rate. Be
respectful to every woman. A manly and generous
heart can be no otherwise ; as a man would be gentle
with a child, or take off his hat in a church.

I would have you apply this principle universally
towards women from the finest lady of your acquaint-
ance down to the laundress who sets your Chambers in
order. It may safely be asserted that the persons who
joke with servants or barmaids at lodgings are not men
of a high intellectual or moral capacity. To chuck a
still-room maid under the chin, or to send off Molly the
cook grinning, are not, to say the least of them, dignified
acts in any gentleman. The butcher-boy who brings
the leg of mutton to Molly, may converse with her over
the area-railings ; or the youthful grocer may exchange
a few jocular remarks with Betty at the door as he
hands in to her the tea and sugar : but not you. We
must live according to our degree. I hint this to you,
sir, by the way, and because the other night, as I was
standing on the drawing-room landing-place, taking
leave of our friends Mr. and Mrs. Fairfax, after a very
agreeable dinner, I heard a giggling in the hall, where
you were putting on your coat, and where that un-
commonly good-looking parlour-maid was opening the
door. And here, whilst on this subject, and whilst Mrs.
Betty is helping you on with your coat, I would say,
respecting your commerce with friends' servants and
your own, be thankful to them, and they will be grateful
to you in return, depend upon it. Let the young fellow
who lives in lodgings respect the poor little maid who
does the wondrous work of the house, and not send her
on too many errands, or ply his bell needlessly : if you
visit any of your comrades in such circumstances, be
you, too, respectful and kind in your tone to the poor
little Abigail. If you frequent houses, as I hope you
will, where are many good fellows and amiable ladies


who cannot afford to have their doors opened or their
tables attended by men, pray be particularly courteous
(though by no means so marked in your attentions as on
the occasion of the dinner at Mr. Fairfax's to which I
have just alluded) to the women-servants. Thank them
when they serve you. Give them a half-crown now
and then nay, as often as your means will permit.
Those small gratuities make but a small sum in your
year's expenses, and it may be said that the practice of
giving them never impoverished a man yet : and, on the
other hand, they give a deal of innocent happiness to a
very worthy, active, kind set of folks.

But let us hasten from the hall-door to the drawing-
room, where Fortune has cast your lot in life : I want
to explain to you why I am so anxious that you should
devote yourself to that amiable lady who sits in it. Sir,
I do not mean to tell you that there are no women
in the world vulgar and ill-humoured, rancorous and
narrow-minded, mean schemers, son-in-law hunters,
slaves of fashion, hypocrites ; but I do respect, admire,
and almost worship good women ; and I think there is a
very fair number of such to be found in this world, and,
I have no doubt, in every educated Englishman's circle
of society, whether he finds that circle in palaces in
Belgravia and Mayfair, in snug little suburban villas, in
ancient comfortable old Bloomsbury, or in back parlours
behind the shop. It has been my fortune to meet with
excellent English ladies in every one of these places
wives graceful and affectionate, matrons tender and
good, daughters happy and pure-minded, and I urge the
society of such on you, because I defy you to think evil
in their company. Walk into the drawing-room of
Lady Z., that great lady : look at her charming face,
and hear her voice. You know that she can't but be
good, with such a face and such a voice. She is one of
those fortunate beings on whom it has pleased Heaven
to bestow all sorts of its most precious gifts and richest


worldly favours. With what grace she receives you ;
with what a frank kindness and natural sweetness and
dignity ! Her looks, her motions, her words, her
thoughts, all seem to be beautiful and harmonious quite.
See her with her children, what woman can be more
simple and loving ? After you have talked to her for a
while, you very likely find that she is ten times as well
read as you are : she has a hundred accomplishments
which she is not in the least anxious to show off, and
makes no more account of them than of her diamonds,
or of the splendour round about her to all of which she
is born, and has a happy admirable claim of nature and
possession admirable and happy for her and for us too ;
for is it not a happiness for us to admire her ? Does
anybody grudge her excellence to that paragon ? Sir,
we may be thankful to be admitted to contemplate such
consummate goodness and beauty : and as in looking at
a fine landscape or a fine work of art, every generous
heart must be delighted and improved, and ought to feel
grateful afterwards, so one may feel charmed and thank-
ful for having the opportunity of knowing an almost
perfect woman. Madam, if the gout and the custom of
the world permitted, I would kneel down and kiss the
hem of your Ladyship's robe. To see your gracious
face is a comfort to see you walk to your carriage is
a holiday. Drive her faithfully, O thou silver-wigged
coachman ! drive to all sorts of splendours and honours
and Royal festivals. And for us, let us be glad that we
should have the privilege to admire her.

Now transport yourself in spirit, my good Bob, into
another drawing-room. There sits an old lady of more
than fourscore years, serene and kind, and as beautiful
in her age now as in her youth, when History toasted

Online LibraryWilliam Makepeace ThackerayComplete works (Volume 22) → online text (page 10 of 31)