William Makepeace Thackeray.

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eye is pretty sure to meet his, and the House listens to
him with the respect which is due to so much honesty
and talent. He is the equal of any man, however lofty


or wealthy. His social position is rather improved by
his poverty, and the world, which is a manly and
generous world in its impulses, however it may be in
its practice, contemplates with a sincere regard and
admiration Mr. Goldsworthy's manner of bearing his
lack of fortune. He is going to dine for a shilling : he
will have two mutton-chops (and the mutton-chop is a
thing unknown in domestic life and in the palaces of
epicures, where you may get cutlets dressed with all
sorts of French sauces, but not the admirable mutton-
chop), and with a due allowance of the Club bread and
beer, he will make a perfectly wholesome, and sufficient,
and excellent meal ; and go down to the House and fire
into Ministers this very night.

Now, I say, this man dining for a shilling is a pleasant
spectacle to behold. I respect Mr. Goldsworthy with
all my heart, without sharing those ultra-Conservative
political opinions which we all know he entertains, and
from which no interest, temptation, or hope of place will
cause him to swerve : and you see he is waited upon
with as much respect here as old Silenus, though he
order the most sumptuous banquet the cook can devise,
or bully the waiters ever so.

But ah, Bob ! what can we say of the conduct of
that poor little Mr. Nudgit? He has a bed-chamber in
some court unknown in the neighbourhood of the
'Polyanthus/ He makes a breakfast with the Club
bread and beer ; he lunches off the same supplies and
being of an Epicurean taste, look what he does he is
actually pouring a cruet of anchovy sauce over his bread
to give it a flavour ; and I have seen the unconscionable
little gourmand sidle off to the pickle-jars when he
thought nobody was observing, and pop a walnut or
half a dozen of pickled onions into his mouth, and
swallow them with a hideous furtive relish.

He disappears at dinner-time, and returns at half-past
seven or eight o'clock, and wanders round the tables


when the men are at their dessert and generous over
their wine. He has a number of little stories about the
fashionable world to tell, and is not unentertaining.
When you dine here, sometimes give Nudgit a glass or
two out of your decanter, Bob my boy, and comfort his poor
old soul. He was a gentleman once and had money, as
he will be sure to tell you. He is mean and feeble, but
not unkind a poor little parasite not to be unpitied.
Mr. Nudgit, allow me to introduce you to a new
member, my nephew, Mr. Robert Brown.

At this moment, old Silenus swaggers in, bearing his
great waistcoat before him, and walking up to the desk
where the coffee-room clerk sits and where the bills of
fare are displayed. As he passes, he has to undergo the
fire of Mr. Goldsworthy's eyes, which dart out at him
two flashes of the most killing scorn. He has passed by
the battery without sinking, and lays himself alongside
the desk. Nudgit watches him, and will presently go up
smirking humbly to join him.

4 Hunt,' he says, * I want a table, my table, you know,
at seven dinner for eight Lord Hobanob dines with
me send the butler What's in the bill of fare ? Let's
have clear soup and turtle I've sent it in from the City
dressed fish and turbot,' and with a swollen trembling
hand he writes down a pompous bill of fare.

As I said, Nudgit comes up simpering, with a news-
paper in his hand.

'Hullo, Nudg?' says Mr. Silenus, 'how's the beer?
Pickles good to-day ? '

Nudgit smiles in a gentle deprecatory manner.

* Smell out a good dinner, hey, Nudg ? ' says Dives.

1 If any man knows how to give one, you do,' answers
the poor beggar. * I wasn't a bad hand at ordering a
dinner myself once. What's the fish in the list to-day ? '
and with a weak smile he casts his eye over the bill of

' Lord Hobanob dines with me, and he knows what a


good dinner is, I can tell you,' says Mr. Silenus ; ' so
does Cramley.'

' Both well-known epicures,' says Nudgit.

'I am going to give Hobanob a return dinner to his at
the " Rhododendrum." He bet me that Batifol, the chef
at the " Rhododendrum," did better than our man can.
Hob's dinner was last Wednesday, and I don't say it
wasn't a good one ; or that taking Grosbois by surprise,
is giving him quite fair play but we'll see, Nudgit. /
know what Grosbois can do.'

* I should think you did, indeed, Silenus,' says the

'I see your mouth's watering. I'd ask vou, only I
know you're engaged. You're always engaged, Nudgit
not to-day ? Well then, you may ; and I say
Mr. Nudgit, we'll have a wet evening, sir, mind you

Mr. Bowls, the butler, here coming in, Mr. Silenus
falls into conversation with him about wines and icing.
I am glad poor Nudgit has got his dinner. He will go
and walk in the Park to get up an appetite. And now,
Mr. Bob, having shown you over your new house, I too
will bid you for the present farewell.


WHEN my good friend, Mr. Punchy some time since,
asked me to compile a series of conversations for young
men in the dancing world, so that they might be agree-
able to their partners, and advance their own success in
life, I consented with a willing heart to my venerable
friend's request, for I desire nothing better than to
promote the amusement and happiness of all young
people ; and nothing, I thought, would be easier than to


touch off a few light, airy, graceful little sets of phrases,
which young fellows might adopt or expand, according
to their own ingenuity and leisure.

Well, sir, I imagined myself, just for an instant, to be
young again, and that I had a neat waist instead of that
bow-window with which Time and Nature have orna-
mented the castle of my body, and brown locks instead
of a bald pate (there was a time, sir, when my hair was
not considered the worst part of me, and I recollect
when I was a young man in the Militia, and when pig-
tails finally went out in our corps, who it was that
longed to have my queue it was found in her desk at her
death, and my poor dear wife was always jealous of her)
I just chose, I say, to fancy myself a young man, and
that I would go up in imagination and ask a girl to
dance with me. So I chose Maria a man might go
farther and fare worse than choose Maria, Mr. Bob.

' My dear Miss E.,' says I, * may I have the honour
of dancing the next set with you ?

* The next what? ' says Miss E., smiling, and turning
to Mrs. E., as if to ask what a set meant.

' I forgot,' says I ; * the next quadrille, I would say.'
4 It is rather slow dancing quadrilles,' says Miss E. ;

* but if I must, I must.'

4 Well, then, a waltz, will that do ? I know nothing

prettier than a waltz played not too quick.'

* What ! ' says she, ' do you want a horrid old three-
timed waltz like that which the little figures dance upon
the barrel-organs ? You silly old creature : you are
good-natured, but you are in your dotage. All these
dances are passed away. You might as well ask me to
wear a gown with a waist up to my shoulders, like that
in which Mamma was married ; or a hoop and high
heels, like Grandmamma in the picture ; or to dance a
gavotte or a minuet. Things are changed, old gentle-
man the fashions of your time are gone, and and the
bucks of your time will go too, Mr. Brown. If I want


to dance, here is Captain Whiskerfield, who is ready ;
or young Studdington, who is a delightful partner. He
brings a little animation into our balls ; and when he is
not in society, dances every night at Vauxhall and the

I pictured to myself Maria giving some such reply to
my equally imaginative demand for of course I never
made the request, any more than she did the answer
and in fact, dear Bob, after turning over the matter of
ballroom conversations in my mind, and sitting with
pen and ink before me for a couple of hours, I found
that I had nothing at all to say on the subject, and have
no more right to teach a youth what he is to say in the
present day to his partner, than I should have had in my
own boyhood to instruct my own grandmother in the
art of sucking eggs. We should pay as much reverence
to youth as we should to age ; there are points in which
you young folks are altogether our superiors : and I
can't help constantly crying out to persons of my own
years, when busied about their young people Leave
them alone ; don't be always meddling with their affairs,
which they can manage for themselves ; don't be always
insisting upon managing their boats, and putting your
oars in the water with theirs.

So I have the modesty to think that Mr. Punch and I
were a couple of conceited old fogies, in devising the
above plan of composing conversation for the benefit of
youth, and that young folks can manage to talk of what
interests them, without any prompting on our part.
To say the truth, I have hardly been to a ball these
three years. I saw the head of the stair at H.E.'s the

T Ambassador in Br ne Square, the other

night, but retired without even getting a sight of, or
making my bow to, Her Excellency ; thinking wisely
that man lait de poule et man bonnet de nuit much better
became me at that hour of midnight than the draught in a
crowded passage, and the sight of ever so many beauties.


But though I don't go myself to these assemblies, 1
have intelligence amongst people who go : and hear
from the girls and their mammas what they do, and how
they enjoy themselves. I must own that some of the
new arrangements please me very much, as being
natural and simple, and, in so far, superior to the old

In my time, for instance, a ball-room used to be more
than half-filled with old male and female fogies, whose
persons took up a great deal of valuable room, who did
not in the least ornament the walls against which they
stood, and who would have been much better at home in
bed. In a great country-house, where you have a hall
fireplace in which an ox might be roasted conveniently,
the presence of a few score more or less of stout old
folks can make no difference : there is room for them at
the card-tables, and round the supper-board, and the
sight of their honest red faces and white waistcoats
lining the wall cheers and illuminates the Assembly

But it is a very different case when you have a small
house in Mayfair, or in the pleasant district of Pimlico
and Tyburn ; and accordingly I am happy to hear that
the custom is rapidly spreading of asking none but
dancing people to balls. It was only this morning that
I was arguing the point with our cousin Mrs. Crowder,
who was greatly irate because her daughter Fanny had
received an invitation to go with her aunt, Mrs.
Timmins, to Lady Tutbury's ball, whereas poor Mrs.
Crowder had been told that she could on no account get
a card.

Now Blanche Crowder is a very large woman
naturally, and with the present fashion of flounces in
dress, this balloon of a creature would occupy the best
part of a little back drawing-room ; whereas Rosa
Timmins is a little bit of a thing, who takes up no space
at all, and furnishes the side of a room as prettily as a


> fifftfe

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Sketches and Travels in London Page 164.


bank of flowers could. I tried to convince our cousin
upon this point, this embonpoint, I may say, and of course
being too polite to make remarks personal to Mrs.
Crowder, I playfully directed them elsewhere.

' Dear Blanche,' said I, ' don't you see how greatly
Lady Tutbury would have to extend her premises if all
the relatives of all her dancers were to be invited ? She
has already flung out a marquee over the leads, and
actually included the cistern what can she do more ?
If all the girls were to have chaperons, where could the
elders sit ? Tutbury himself will not be present. He is
a large and roomy man, like your humble servant, and
Lady Tut has sent him off to Greenwich, or the
" Star and Garter " for the night, where, I have no
doubt, he and some other stout fellows will make them-
selves comfortable. At a ball amongst persons of
moderate means and large acquaintance in London, room
is much more precious than almost anybody's company,
except that of the beauties and the dancers. Look at
Lord Trampleton, that enormous hulking monster (who
nevertheless dances beautifully, as all big men do), when
he takes out his favourite partner, Miss Wirledge, to
polk, his arm, as he whisks her round and round, forms
radii of a circle of very considerable diameter. He
almost wants a room to himself. Young men and
women now, when they dance, dance really ; it is no
lazy sauntering, as of old, but downright hard work
after which they want air and refreshment. How can
they get the one, when the rooms are filled with elderly
folks; or the other, when we are squeezing round the
supper-tables, and drinking up all the available champagne
and seltzer-water ? No, no ; the present plan, which I
hear is becoming general, is admirable for London.
Let there be half-a-dozen of good, active, bright-eyed
chaperons and duennas little women, who are more
active, and keep a better look-out than your languishing
voluptuous beauties ' ( I said this, casting at the same

time a look of peculiar tenderness towards Blanche
Crowder) ; Met them keep watch and see that all is
right that the young men don't dance too often with
the same girl, or disappear on to the balcony, and that
sort of thing ; let them have good large roomy family
coaches to carry the young women home to their
mammas. In a word, at a ball let there be for the
future no admittance except upon business. In all the
affairs of London life, that is the rule, depend upon it.'

* And pray who told you, Mr. Brown, that I didn't
wish to dance myself?' says Blanche, surveying her
great person in the looking-glass (which could scarcely
contain it) and flouncing out of the room ; and I actually
believe that the unconscionable creature, at her age and
size, is still thinking that she is a fairy, and that the
young fellows would like to dance round the room with
her. Ah, Bob ! I remember that grotesque woman a
slim and graceful girl. I remember others tender and
beautiful, whose bright eyes glitter, and whose sweet
voices whisper no more. So they pass away youth and
beauty, love and innocence, pass away and perish. I
think of one now, whom I remember the fairest and the
gayest, the kindest and the purest ; her laughter was
music I can hear it still, though it will never echo any
more. Far away, the silent tomb closes over her.
Other roses than those of our prime grow up and bloom,
and have their day. Honest youth, generous youth, may
yours be as pure and as fair !

I did not think when I began to write it, that the last
sentence would have finished so ; but life is not
altogether jocular, Mr. Bob, and one comes upon serious
thoughts suddenly as upon a funeral in the street. Let
us go back to the business we are upon, namely, balls,
whereof it, perhaps, has struck you that your uncle has
very little to say.

I saw one announced in the morning fashionable print
to-day, with a fine list of some of the greatest folks in


London, and had previously heard from various quarters
how eager many persons were to attend it, and how
splendid an entertainment it was to be. And so the
morning paper announced that Mrs. Hornby Madox
threw open her house in So-and-so Street, and was
assisted in receiving her guests by Lady Fugleman.

Now this is a sort of entertainment and arrangement
than which I confess I can conceive nothing more queer,
though I believe it is by no means uncommon in English
society. Mrs. Hornby Madox comes into her fortune of
ten thousand a year wishes to be presented in the
London world, having lived in the country previously
spares no expense to make her house and festival as
handsome as may be, and gets Lady Fugleman to ask
the company for her not the honest Hornbys, not the
family Madoxes, not the jolly old squires and friends and
relatives of her family, and from her county ; but the
London dandies and the London society : whose names
you see chronicled at every party, and who, being Lady
Fugleman's friends, are invited by her Ladyship to Mrs.
Hornby's house.

What a strange notion of society does this give of
friendship, of fashion, of what people will do to be in the
fashion ! Poor Mrs Hornby comes into her fortune, and
says to her old friends and family, l My good people, I
am going to cut every one of you. You were very well
as long as we were in the country, where I might have
my natural likings and affections. But, henceforth, I
am going to let Lady Fugleman choose my friends for
me. I know nothing about you any more. I have no
objection to you, but if you want to know me you must
ask Lady Fugleman : if she says yes, I shall be delighted :
if no, Bon jour .'

This strange business goes on daily in London.
Honest people do it, and think not the least harm.
The proudest and noblest do not think they demean
themselves by crowding to Mrs. Goldcalf's parties, and


strike quite openly a union between her wealth and
their titles, to determine as soon as the former ceases.
There is not the least hypocrisy about this at any rate
the terms of the bargain are quite understood on every

But oh, Bob ! see what an awful thing it is to confess,
and would not even hypocrisy be better than this daring
cynicism, this open heartlessness Godlessness I had
almost called it ? Do you mean to say, you great folks,
that your object in society is not love, is not friendship,
is not family union and affection is not truth and kind-
ness ; is not generous sympathy and union of Christian
(pardon me the word, but I can indicate my meaning by
no other) of Christian men and women, parents and
children, but that you assemble and meet together, not
caring or trying to care for one another, without a
pretext of goodwill with a daring selfishness openly
avowed ? I am sure I wish Mrs. Goldcalf or the other
lady no harm, and have never spoken to, or set eyes on
either of them, and I do not mean to say, Mr. Robert,
that you and I are a whit better than they are, and
doubt whether they have made the calculation for them-
selves of the consequences of what they are doing.
But as sure as two and two make four, a person giving
up of his own accord his natural friends and relatives,
for the sake of the fashion, seems to me to say, I acknow-
ledge myself to be heartless : I turn my back on my
friends, I disown my relatives, and I dishonour my father
and mother.


ENGLISH Society, my beloved Bob, has this eminent
advantage over all other that is, if there be any society
left in the wretched distracted old European continent


that it is above all others a dinner-giving society. A
people like the Germans, that dines habitually, and with
what vast appetite I need not say, at one o'clock in the
afternoon like the Italians, that spends its evenings in
opera-boxes like the French, that amuses itself of
nights with eau sucree and intrigue cannot, believe me,
understand Society rightly. I love and admire my
nation for its good sense, its manliness, its friendliness,
its morality in the main and these, I take it, are all
expressed in that noble institution, the dinner.

The dinner is the happy end of the Briton's day.
We work harder than the other nations of the earth.
We do more, we live more in our time, than Frenchmen
or Germans. Every great man amongst us likes his
dinner, and takes to it kindly. I could mention the
most august names of poets, statesmen, philosophers,
historians, judges, and divines, who are great at the
dinner-table as in the field, the closet, the senate, or the
bench. Gibbon mentions that he wrote the first two
volumes of his history whilst a placeman in London,
lodging in St. James's, going to the House of Commons,
to the Club, and to dinner every day. The man
flourishes under that generous and robust regimen ; the
healthy energies of society are kept up by it ; our
friendly intercourse is maintained ; our intellect ripens
with the good cheer, and throws off surprising crops, like
the fields about Edinburgh, under the influence of that
admirable liquid, Claret. The best wines are sent to this
country therefore ; for no other deserves them as ours does.

I am a diner-out, and live in London. I protest, as I
look back at the men and dinners I have seen in the last
week, my mind is filled with manly respect and pleasure.
How good they have been ! how admirable the enter-
tainments ! how worthy the men !

Let me, without divulging names, and with a cordial
gratitude, mention a few of those whom I have met and
who have all done their duty.


Sir, I have sat at table with a great, a world-renowned
statesman. I watched him during the progress of the
banquet I am at liberty to say that he enjoyed it like a

On another day, it was a celebrated literary character.
It was beautiful to see him at his dinner : cordial and
generous, jovial and kindly, the great author enjoyed
himself as the great statesman may he long give us
good books and good dinners !

Yet another day, and I sat opposite to a Right
Reverend Bishop. My Lord, I was pleased to see good
thing after good thing disappear before you ; and think
no man ever better became that rounded episcopal apron.
How amiable he was ; how kind ! He put water into
his wine. Let us respect the moderation of the Church.

And then the men learned in the law : how they
dine ! what hospitality, what splendour, what comfort,
what wine ! As we walked away very gently in the

moonlight, only three days since, from the 's, a friend

of my youth and myself, we could hardly speak for
gratitude: 'Dear Sir,' we breathed fervently, c ask us
soon again.' One never has too much at those perfect
banquets no hideous headaches ensue, or horrid resolu-
tions about adopting Revalenta Arabica for the future
but contentment with all the world, light slumbering,
joyful waking to grapple with the morrow's work. Ah,
dear Bob, those lawyers have great merits. There is a
dear old judge at whose family table if I could see you
seated, my desire in life would be pretty nearly fulfilled.
If you make yourself agreeable there, you will be in a
fair way to get on in the world. But you are a youth
still. Youths go to balls : men go to dinners.

Doctors, again, notoriously eat well ; when my
excellent friend Sangrado takes a bumper, and saying,
with a shrug and a twinkle of his eye, ' Video meliora
proboque, deteriora sequor,' tosses off the wine, I always
ask the butler for a glass of that bottle.



tSe.lf-irr\Borf*ricf. t,nd good-humour

The inferior clergy, likewise, dine very much and
well. I don't know when I have been better entertained,
as far as creature comforts go, than by men of very Low
Church principles ; and one of the very best repasts that
ever I saw in my life was at Darlington, given by a

Some of the best wine in London is given to his
friends by a poet of my acquaintance. All artists are
notoriously fond of dinners, and invite you, but not so


profusely. Newspaper editors delight in dinners on
Saturdays, and give them, thanks to the present position
of Literature, very often and good. Dear Bob, I have
seen the mahoganies of many men.

Every evening between seven and eight o'clock, I like
to look at the men dressed for dinner, perambulating the
western districts of our city. I like to see the smile on
their countenances, lighted up with an indescribable self-
importance and good-humour ; the askance glances
which they cast at the little street-boys and foot-
passengers who eye their shiny boots; the dainty
manner in which they trip over the pavement on those
boots, eschewing the mud-pools and dirty crossings; the
refreshing whiteness of their linen; the coaxing twiddle
which they give to the ties of their white chokers the
caress of a fond parent to an innocent child.

I like walking myself; those who go in cabs or
broughams, I have remarked, have not the same radiant
expression which the pedestrian exhibits. A man in his

Online LibraryWilliam Makepeace ThackerayComplete works (Volume 22) → online text (page 13 of 31)