William Makepeace Thackeray.

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her. What has she not seen, and what is she not ready
to tell ? All the fame and wit, all the rank and beauty,
of more than half a century, have passed through those
rooms where you have the honour of making your best


bow. She is as simple now as if she had never had any
flattery to dazzle her ; she is never tired of being pleased
and being kind. Can that have been anything but a
good life which, after more than eighty years of it are
spent, is so calm ? Could she look to the end of it so
cheerfully, if its long course had not been pure ?
Respect her, I say, for being so happy, now that she is
old. We do not know what goodness and charity, what
affections, what trials, may have gone to make that
charming sweetness of temper, and complete that perfect
manner. But if we do not admire and reverence such
an old age as that, and get good from contemplating it,
what are we to respect and admire ?

Or shall we walk through the shop (while N. is
recommending a tall copy to an amateur, or folding up
a twopennyworth of letter-paper, and bowing to a poor
customer in a jacket and apron with just as much
respectful gravity as he would show while waiting upon
a Duke), and see Mrs. N. playing with the child in the
back parlour until N. shall come in to tea ? They drink
tea at five o'clock ; and are actually as well-bred as those
gentlefolk who dine three hours later. Or will you
please to step into Mrs. J.'s lodgings, who is waiting,
and at work, until her husband comes home from
chambers ? She blushes and puts the work away on
hearing the knock, but when she sees who the visitor is,
she takes it with a smile from behind the sofa cushion,
and behold, it is one of J.'s waistcoats, on which she is
sewing buttons. She might have been a Countess
blazing in diamonds had Fate so willed it, and the
higher her station the more she would have adorned it.
But she looks as charming while plying her needle as
the great lady in the palace whose equal she is, in
beauty, in goodness, in high-bred grace and simplicity :
at least, I can't fancy her better, or any Peeress being
more than her peer.

And it is with this sort of people, my dear Bob, that I


recommend you to consort, if you can be so lucky as to
meet with their society nor do I think you are very
likely to find many such at the Casino ; or in the
dancing booths of Greenwich Fair on this present Easter


CHOICE of friends, my dear Robert, is a point upon
which every man about town should be instructed, as he
should be careful. And as example, they say, is some-
times better than precept, and at the risk even of appear-
ing somewhat ludicrous in your eyes, I will narrate to
you an adventure which happened to myself, which is at
once ridiculous and melancholy (at least to me), and
which will show you how a man, not imprudent or
incautious of his own nature, may be made to suffer by
the imprudent selection of a friend. Attend then,
my dear Bob, to 'the History of Rasselas, Prince of

Sir, in the year 1810, I was a jolly young Bachelor, as
you are now (indeed, it was three years before I married
your poor dear Aunt) ; I had a place in the Tape and
Sealing-Wax Office ; I had chambers in Pump Court, au
troisieme, and led a not uncomfortable life there. I was
a free and gay young fellow in those days (however
much, sir, you may doubt the assertion, and think that I
am changed), and not so particular in my choice of
friends as subsequent experience has led me to be.

There lived in the set of chambers opposite to mine, a
Suffolk gentleman, of good family, whom I shall call
Mr. Bludyer. Our boys or clerks first made acquaint-
ance, and did each other mutual kind offices : borrowing
for their respective masters' benefit, neither of whom


was too richly provided with the world's goods, coals,
blacking-brushes, crockery-ware, and the like ; and our
forks and spoons, if either of us had an entertainment in
chambers. As I learned presently that Mr. Bludyer had
been educated at Oxford, and heard that his elder brother
was a gentleman of good estate and reputation in his
county, I could have no objection to make his acquaint-
ance, and accepted finally his invitation to meet a large
game-pie, which he had brought with him from the
country, and I recollect I lent my own silver teapot,
which figured handsomely on the occasion. It is the
same one which I presented to you, when you took
possession of your present apartments.

Mr. Bludyer was a sporting man : it was the custom
in those days with many gentlemen to dress as much like
coachmen as possible : in top-boots, huge white coats
with capes, Belcher neckerchiefs, and the like adorn-
ments ; and at the tables of bachelors of the very first
fashion, you would meet with prize-fighters and jockeys,
and hear a great deal about the prize-ring, the cock-pit,
and the odds. I remember my Lord Tilbury was
present at this breakfast (who afterwards lamentably
broke his neck in a steeple-chase, by which the noble
family became extinct), and for some time I confounded
his Lordship with Dutch Sam, who was also of the party,
and, indeed, not unlike the noble Viscount in dress and

My acquaintance with Mr. Bludyer ripened into a sort
of friendship. He was perfectly good-natured, and not
ill-bred ; and his jovial spirits and roaring stories amused
a man who, though always of a peaceful turn, had no
dislike to cheerful companions. We used to dine
together at coffee-houses, for Clubs were scarcely
invented in those days, except for the aristocracy ; and,
in fine, were very intimate. Bludyer, a brave and
athletic man, would often give a loose to his spirits of an
evening, and mill a Charley or two, as the phrase then


was. The young bloods of those days thought it was no
harm to spend a night in the watch-house, and I assure
you it has accommodated a deal of good company.
Autres tempsy autres maeun. In our own days, my good
Hob, a station-house bench is not the bed for a gentle-

I was at this time (and deservedly so, for I had been
very kind to her, and my elder brother, your father,
neglected her considerably) the favourite nephew of your
grand-aunt, my aunt, Mrs. General MacWhirter, who
was left a very handsome fortune by the General, and to
whom I do not scruple to confess I paid every attention
to which her age, her sex, and her large income entitled
her. I used to take sweetmeats to her poodle. I went
and drank tea with her night after night. I accompanied
her Sunday after Sunday to hear the Reverend Rowland
Hill, at the Rotunda Chapel, over Blackfriars Bridge,
and I used to read many of the tracts with which she
liberally supplied me in fact, do everything to comfort
and console a lady of peculiar opinions and habits who
had a large jointure. Your father used to say I was a
sneak, but he was then a boisterous young squire ; and,
perhaps, we were not particularly good friends.

Well, sir, my dear aunt, Mrs. General MacWhirter,
made me her chief confidant. I regulated her money
matters for her, and acted with her bankers and lawyers ;
and as she always spoke of your father as a reprobate, I
had every reason to suppose I should inherit the property,
the main part of which passed to another branch of the
Browns. I do not grudge it, Bob : I do not grudge it.
Your family is large ; and I have enough from my
poor dear departed wife.

Now it so happened that in June 1811 I recollect
the Comet was blazing furiously at the time, and Mrs.
MacWhirter was of opinion that the world was at an
end Mr. Bludyer, who was having his chambers in
Pump Court painted, asked permission to occupy mine,


where he wished to give a lunch to some people whom
he was desirous to entertain. Thinking no harm, of
course I said yes ; and I went to my desk at the Tape
and Sealing - Wax Office at my usual hour, giving
instructions to my boy to make Mr. Bludyer's friends

As ill-luck would have it, on that accursed Friday,
Mrs. MacWhirter, who had never been up my staircase
before in her life (for your dear grand-aunt was large in
person, and the apoplexy which carried her off soon after
menaced her always), having some very particular
business with her solicitors in Middle Temple Lane, and
being anxious to consult me about a mortgage, actually
mounted my stairs, and opened the door on which she
saw written the name of Mr. Thomas Brown. She was
a peculiar woman, I have said, attached to glaring colours
in her dress, and from her long residence in India, seldom
without a set of costly Birds of Paradise in her bonnet,
and a splendid Cashmere shawl.

Fancy her astonishment then, on entering my apart-
ments at three o'clock in the afternoon, to be assailed in
the first place by a strong smell of tobacco-smoke which
pervaded the passage, and by a wild and ferocious bull-
dog which flew at her on entering my sitting-room.

This bull-dog, sir, doubtless attracted by the brilliant
colours of her costume, seized upon her, and pinned her
down, screaming so that her voice drowned that of
Bludyer himself, who was sitting on the table bellowing,
' A Southerly Wind and a Cloudy Sky proclaim it a
Hunting Morning' or some such ribald trash : and the
brutal owner of the dog (who was no other than the
famous Mulatto boxer, Norroy, called the 'Black
Prince ' in the odious language of the Fancy, and who
was inebriated doubtless at the moment), encouraged his
dog in the assault upon this defenceless lady, and laughed
at the agonies which she endured.

Mr. Bludyer, the black man, and one or two more,


were arranging a fight on Moulsey Hurst, when my
poor aunt made her appearance among these vulgar
wretches. Although it was but three o'clock, they had
sent to a neighbouring tavern for gin-and-water,and the
glasses sparkled on the board, to use a verse from a
Bacchanalian song which I well remember Mr. Bludyer
used to yell forth when I myself arrived from my office
at my usual hour, half-past three. The black fellow and
young Captain Cavendish of the Guards were the
smokers ; and it appears that at first all the gentlemen
screamed with laughter ; some of them called my aunt an
'old girl ;' and it was not until she had nearly fainted
that the filthy Mulatto called the dog off from the
flounce of her yellow gown of which he had hold.

When this poor victim of vulgarity asked with a
scream Where was her nephew ? new roars of laughter
broke out from the coarse gin-drinkers. 'It's the old
woman whom he goes to meeting with,' cried out
Bludyer. * Come away, boys ! ' And he led his
brutalised crew out of my chambers into his own, where
they finished, no doubt, their arrangements about the

Sir, when I came home at my usual hour of half-past
three, I found Mrs. MacWhirter in hysterics upon my
sofa the pipes were lying about the tin dish covers
the cold kidneys the tavern cruet-stands, and wretched
remnants of the orgie were in disorder on the table-cloth,
stained with beer. Seeing her fainting, I wildly bade
my boy to open the window, and seizing a glass of water
which was on the table, I presented it to her lips. It
was gin-and-water, which I proffered to that poor lady.

She started up with a scream, which terrified me so I
upset the glass : and with empurpled features, and a
voice quivering and choking with anger, she vowed she
would never forgive me. In vain I pleaded that I was
ignorant of the whole of these disgraceful transactions.
I went down on my knees to her, and begged her to be

him L<t*.r w/

fo rry //inocnc<-


pacified ; I called my boy, and bade him bear witness to
my innocence : the impudent young fiend burst out
laughing in my face, and I kicked him downstairs as soon
as she was gone : for go she did directly to her carriage,
which was m waiting in Middle Temple Lane, and to
which I followed her with tears in my eyes, amidst a
crowd of jeering barristers' boys and Temple porters.
But she pulled up the window in my face, and would
no more come back to me than Eurydice would to

If I grow pathetic over this story, my dear Bob, have
I not reason ? Your great-aunt left thirty thousand
pounds to your family, and the remainder to the
missionaries, and it is a curious proof of the inconsistency
of women, that she, a serious person, said on her death-
bed that she would have left her money to me, if I had
called out Mr. Bludyer, who insulted her, and with
whom I certainly would have exchanged shots, had I
thought that Mrs. MacWhirter would have encouraged
any such murder.

My wishes, dear Bob, are moderate. Your aunt left
me a handsome competency and, I repeat, I do not
grudge my brother George the money. Nor is it
probable that such a calamity can happen again to any
one of our family that would be too great a misfortune.
But I tell you the tale, because at least it shows you
how important good company is, and that a young man
about town should beware of his friends as well as of his

The other day I saw you walking by the Serpentine
with young Lord Foozle, of the Windsor Heavies, who
nodded to all sorts of suspicious broughams on the ride,
while you looked about (you know you did, you young
rascal) for acquaintances as much as to say 4 See!
here am I, Bob Brown, of Pump Court, walking with a


My dear Bob, I own that to walk with a lord, and to
be seen with him, is a pleasant thing. Every man of
the middle class likes to know persons of rank. If he
says he don't don't believe him. And I would
certainly wish that you should associate with your
superiors rather than your inferiors. There is no more
dangerous or stupefying position for a man in life than
to be a cock of small society. It prevents his ideas from
growing ; it renders him intolerably conceited. A
twopenny-halfpenny Csesar, a Brummagem dandy, a
coterie philosopher or wit, is pretty sure to be an ass ;
and, in fine, I set it down as a maxim that it is good for
a man to live where he can meet his betters, intellectual
and social.

But if you fancy that getting into Lord Foozle's set
will do you good or advance your prospects in life, my
dear Bob, you are woefully mistaken. The Windsor
Heavies are a most gentlemanlike, well made, and useful
set of men. The conversation of such of them as I
have had the good fortune to meet, has not certainly
inspired me with a respect for their intellectual qualities,
nor is their life commonly of that kind which rigid
ascetics would pronounce blameless. Some of the
young men amongst them talk to the broughams,
frequent the private boxes, dance at the Casinos ; few
read many talk about horseflesh and the odds after
dinner, or relax with a little lansquenet or a little
billiards at Pratt's.

My boy, it is not with the eye of a moralist that your
venerable old uncle examines these youths, but rather of
a natural philosopher, who inspects them as he would
any other phenomenon, or queer bird, or odd fish, or fine
flower. These fellows are like the flowers, and neither
toil nor spin, but are decked out in magnificent apparel :
and for some wise and useful purpose no doubt. It is
good that there should be honest, handsome, hard-living,
hard-riding, stupid young Windsor Heavies as that


there should be polite young gentlemen in the Temple,
or any other variety of our genus.

And it is good that you should go from time to time
to the Heavies' mess, if they ask you ; and know that
worthy set of gentlemen. But beware, O Bob, how
you live with them. Remember that your lot in life is
to toil, and spin too and calculate how much time it
takes a Heavy or a man of that condition to do nothing.
Say, he dines at eight o'clock, and spends seven hours
after dinner in pleasure. Well, if he goes to bed at
three in the morning that precious youth must have
nine hours' sleep, which bring him to twelve o'clock
next day, when he will have a headache probably, so
that he can hardly be expected to dress, rally, have
devilled chicken and pale ale, and get out before three.
Friendship the Club the visits which he is compelled
to pay, occupy him till five or six, and what time is
there left for exercise and a ride in the Park, and for a
second toilette preparatory to dinner, &c. ? He goes on
his routine of pleasure, this young Heavy, as you on
yours of duty one man in London is pretty nearly as
busy as another. The company of young c Swells,' then,
if you will permit me the word, is not for you. You
must consider that you should not spend more than a
certain sum for your dinner they need not. You
wear a black coat, and they a shining cuirass and
monstrous epaulets. Yours is the useful part in life and
theirs the splendid though why speak further on this
subject ? Since the days of the Frog and the Bull, a
desire to cope with Bulls has been known to be fatal to

And to know young noblemen, and brilliant and
notorious town bucks and leaders of fashion, has this
great disadvantage that if you talk about them or are
seen with them much, you offend all your friends of
middle life. It makes men angry to see their acquaint-
ances better off than they themselves are. If you live



much with great people, others will be sure to say that
you are a sneak. I have known Jack Jolliff, whose fun and
spirits made him adored by the dandies (for they are just
such folks as you and I, only with not quite such good
brains, and perhaps better manners simple folks who
want to be amused I have known Jack Jolliff, I say,
offend a whole roomful of men by telling us that he had
been dining with a Duke. IV e hadn't been to dine with
a Duke. We were not courted by grandees and we
disliked the man who was, and said he was a parasite,
because men of fashion courted him. I don't know
any means by which men hurt themselves more in the
estimation of their equals than this of talking of great
folks. A man may mean no harm by it he speaks of
the grandees with whom he lives, as you and I do of
Jack and Tom who give us dinners. But his old
acquaintances do not forgive him his superiority, and set
the Tufthunted down as the Tufthunter.

I remember laughing at the jocular complaint made
by one of this sort, a friend, whom I shall call Main.
After Main published his ' Travels in the Libyan Desert '
four years ago, he became a literary lion, and roared in
many of the metropolitan salons. He is a good-natured
fellow, never in the least puffed up by his literary
success ; and always said that it would not last. His
greatest leonine quality, however, is his appetite ; and
to behold him engaged on a Club joint, or to see him
make away with pounds of turbot, and plate after plate
of entries, roasts, and sweets, is indeed a remarkable sight,
and refreshing to those who like to watch animals feeding.
But since Main has gone out of, and other authors have
come into, fashion the poor fellow comically grumbles.
* That year of lionisation has ruined me. The people
who used to ask me before, don't ask me any more.
They are afraid to invite me to Bloomsbury because they
fancy I am accustomed to Mayfair, and Mayfair has long
since taken up with a new roarer so that I am quite


alone ! ' And thus he dines at the Club almost every
day at his own charges now, and attacks the joint. I
do not envy the man who comes after him to the haunch
of mutton.

If Fate, then, my dear Bob, should bring you in con-
tact with a lord or two, eat their dinners, enjoy their
company, but be mum about them when you go away.

And, though it is a hard and cruel thing to say, I
would urge you, my dear Bob, specially to beware of
taking pleasant fellows for your friends. Choose a good
disagreeable friend, if you be wise a surly, steady,
economical, rigid fellow. All jolly fellows, all delights
of Club smoking-rooms and billiard-rooms, and fellows
who sing a capital song, and the like, are sure to be poor.
As they are free with their own money, so will they be
with yours ; and their very generosity and goodness of
disposition will prevent them from having the means of
paying you back. They lend their money to some other
jolly fellows. They accommodate each other by putting
their jolly names to the backs of jolly bills. Gentlemen
in Cursitor Street are on the look-out for them. Their
tradesmen ask for them, and find them not. Ah ! Bob,
it's hard times with a gentleman, when he has to walk
round a street for fear of meeting a creditor there, and
for a man of courage, when he can't look a tailor in the

Eschew jolly fellows then, my boy, as the most
dangerous and costly of company ; and & propos of bills
if I ever hear of your putting your name to stamped
paper I will disown you, and cut you off with a pro-
tested shilling.

I know many men who say (whereby I have my
private opinion of their own probity) that all poor
people are dishonest : this is a hard word, though more
generally true than some folks suppose but I fear that
all people much in debt are not honest. A man who
has to wheedle a tradesman is not going through a very


honourable business in life a man with a bill becoming
due to-morrow morning, and putting a good face on it
in the Club, is perforce a hypocrite whilst he is talking
to you a man who has to do any meanness about money
I fear me is so nearly like a rogue, that it's not much use
calculating where the difference lies. Let us be very
gentle with our neighbours' failings, and forgive our
friends their debts, as we hope ourselves to be forgiven.
But the best thing of all to do with your debts is to pay
them. Make none ; and don't live with people who do.
Why, if I dine with a man who is notoriously living be-
yond his means, I am a hypocrite certainly myself, and I
fear a bit of a rogue too. I try to make my host believe
that I believe him an honest fellow. I look his sham
splendour in the face without saying, * You are an
impostor.' Alas, Robert, I have partaken of feasts where
it seemed to me that the plate, the viands, the wine, the
servants, and butlers were all sham, like Cinderella's
coach and footmen, and would turn into rats and mice,
and an old shoe or a cabbage-stalk, as soon as we were
out of the house and the clock struck twelve.



PRESUMING that my dear Bobby would scarcely consider
himself to be an accomplished man about town, until
he had obtained an entrance into a respectable Club, I
am happy to inform you that you are this day elected
a Member of the * Polyanthus,' having been proposed
by my friend, Lord Viscount Colchicum, and seconded
by your affectionate uncle. I have settled with Mr.
Stiff, the worthy Secretary, the preliminary pecuniary


arrangements regarding the entrance fee and the first
annual subscription the ensuing payments I shall
leave to my worthy nephew.

You were elected, sir, with but two black balls ; and
every other man who was put up for ballot had four,
with the exception of Tom Harico, who had more
black beans than white. Do not, however, be puffed
up by this victory, and fancy yourself more popular than
other men. Indeed I don't mind telling you (but, of
course, I do not wish it to go any further), that Captain
Slyboots and I, having suspicions of the meeting, popped
a couple of adverse balls into the other candidates'
boxes ; so that, at least, you should, in case of mishap,
not be unaccompanied in ill fortune.

Now, then, that you are a member of the
' Polyanthus,' I trust you will comport yourself with
propriety in the place ; and permit me to offer you a
few hints with regard to your bearing.

We are not so stiff at the ' Polyanthus ' as at some
Clubs I could name and a good deal of decent intimacy
takes place amongst us. Do not therefore enter the
Club, as I have seen men do at the c Chokers' (of which
I am also a member), with your eyes scowling under
your hat at your neighbour, and with an expression of
countenance which seems to say, * Hang your im-
pudence, sir. How dare you stare at me?' Banish
that absurd dignity and swagger, which do not at all
become your youthful countenance, my dear Bob,
and let us walk up the steps and into the place. See,
old Noseworthy is in the bow-window reading the
paper he is always in the bow-window reading the

Online LibraryWilliam Makepeace ThackerayComplete works (Volume 22) → online text (page 11 of 31)