William Makepeace Thackeray.

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the Edward Joneses gave after their marriage, when
Natty disgracefully inebriated himself, caused no little
scandal amongst his friends, and much wrath on the part
of old Jones, who said, " That little scamp call my
daughters by their Christian names ! a little beggar
that is not fit to sit down in my hall. If ever he dares
to call at my house, I'll tell Jobbins to fling a pail of
water over him." And it is true that Natty called
many times in Pocklington Square, and complained to
Edward that he, Nat, could neither see his Mar nor
the Gurls, and that the old gent cut up uncommon

So you see Edward Jones has had his way, and got a
handsome wife, but at what expense ? He and his
family are separated. His wife brought him nothing
but good looks. Her stock of brains is small. She is
not easy in the new society into which she has been
brought, and sits quite mum both at the grand parties
which the old Joneses give in Pocklington Square,
and at the snug little entertainments which poor
Edward Jones tries on his own part. The women of
the Jones's set try her in every way, and can get no good
from her : Jones's male friends, who are civilised beings,
talk to her, and receive only monosyllables in reply.
His house is a stupid one ; his acquaintances drop off;


he has no circle at all at last, except, to he sure, that
increasing family circle which brings up old Mrs. Smith
from Swansea every year.

What is the lot of a man at the end of a dozen years
who has a wife like this ? She is handsome no longer,
and she never had any other merit. He can't read
novels to her all through his life, while she is working
slippers it is absurd. He can't be philandering in
Kensington Gardens with a lady who does not walk out
now except with two nursemaids and the twins in a go-
cart. He is a young man still, when she is an old woman.
Love is a mighty fine thing, dear Bob, but it is not the
life of a man. There are a thousand other things for
him to think of besides the red lips of Lucy, or the
bright eyes of Eliza. There is business, there is friend-
ship, there is society, there are taxes, there is ambition,
and the manly desire to exercise the talents which are
given us by Heaven, and reap the prize of our desert.
There are other books in a man's library besides
Ovid ; and after dawdling ever so long at a woman's
knee, one day he gets up and is free. We have
all been there : we have all had the fever : the
strongest and the smallest, from Samson, Hercules,
Rinaldo, downwards ; but it burns out, and you get

Ladies who read this, and who know what a love I
have for the whole sex, will not, I hope, cry out at the
above observations, or be angry because I state that the
ardour of love declines after a certain period. My dear
Mrs. Hopkins, you would not have Hopkins to carry on
the same absurd behaviour which he exhibited when he
was courting you ? or in place of going to bed and to
sleep comfortably, sitting up half the night to write to
you bad verses ? You would not have him racked with
jealousy if you danced or spoke with any one else at a
ball ; or neglect all his friends, his business, his interest
in life, in order to dangle at your feet ? No, you are a


sensible woman ; you know that he must go to his
counting-house, that he must receive and visit his
friends, and that he must attend to his and your interest
in life. You are no longer his goddess, his fairy, his
peerless paragon, whose name he shouted as Don
Quixote did that of Dulcinea. You are Jane Hopkins,
you are thirty years old, you have got a parcel of
children, and Hop loves you and them with all his heart.
He would be a helpless driveller and ninny were he to be
honeymooning still, whereas he is a good honest fellow,
respected on 'Change, liked by his friends, and famous
for his port-wine.

Yes, Bob, the fever goes, but the wife doesn't. Long
after your passion is over, Mrs. Brown will be at your
side, good soul, still : and it is for that, as I trust, long
subsequent period of my worthy Bob's life, that I am
anxious. How will she look when the fairy brilliancy
of the honeymoon has faded into the light of common

You are of a jovial and social turn, and like to see the
world, as why should you not ? It contains a great
number of kind and honest folks, from whom you may
hear a thousand things wise and pleasant. A man
ought to like his neighbours, to mix with his neighbours,
to be popular with his neighbours. It is a friendly
heart that has plenty of friends. You can't be talking to
Mrs. Brown for ever and ever : you will be a couple of
old geese if you do.

She ought then to be able to make your house pleasant
to your friends. She ought to attract them to it by her
grace, her good-breeding, her good-humour. Let it be
said of her, * What an uncommonly nice woman Mrs.
Brown is ! ' Let her be, if not a clever woman, an
appreciator of cleverness in others, which, perhaps, clever
folks like better. Above all, let her have a sense of
humour, my dear Bob, for a woman without a laugh in
her (like the late excellent Mrs. Brown) is the greatest


bore in existence. Life without laughing is a dreary
blank. A woman who cannot laugh is a wet blanket
on the kindly nuptial couch. A good laugh is sunshine
in a house. A quick intelligence, a brightening eye, a
kind smile, a cheerful spirit, these, I hope, Mrs. Bob
will bring to you in her trousseau^ to be used afterwards
for daily wear. Before all things, my dear Nephew, try
and have a cheerful wife.

What, indeed, does not that word 'cheerfulness'
imply ? It means a contented spirit ; it means a pure
heart ; it means a kind and loving disposition ; it means
humility and charity ; it means a generous appreciation
of others, and a modest opinion of self. Stupid people,
people who do not know how to laugh, are always
pompous and self-conceited : that is, bigoted ; that is,
cruel ; that is, ungentle, uncharitable, unchristian.
Have a good, jolly, laughing, kind woman, then, for
your partner, you who are yourself a kind and jolly
fellow ; and when you go to sleep, and when you wake,
I pray there may be a smile under each of your honest



I HAVE little news, my dear Bob, wherewith to entertain
thee from this city, from which almost everybody has
fled within the last week, and which lies in a state of
torpor. I wonder what the newspapers find to talk
about day after day, and how they come out every
morning. But for a little distant noise of cannonading
from the Danube and the Theiss, the whole world is
silent, and London seems to have hauled down her flag,


as Her Majesty has done at Pimlico, and the Queen of
Cities has gone out of town.

You, in pursuit of Miss Kicklebury, are probably by
this time at Spa or Homburg. Watch her well, Bob,
and see what her temper is like. See whether she flirts
with the foreigners much, examine how she looks of
a morning (you will have a hundred opportunities of
familiarity, and can drop in and out of a friend's apart-
ments at a German watering-place as you never can
hope to do here), examine her conduct with her little
sisters, if they are of the party, whether she is good and
playful with them, see whether she is cheerful and
obedient to old Lady Kick (I acknowledge a hard task)
in fine, try her manners and temper, and see whether
she wears them all day, or only puts on her smiles with
her fresh bonnet, to come out on the parade at music
time. I, meanwhile, remain behind, alone in our airy
and great Babylon.

As an old soldier when he gets to his ground begins
straightway a se caser, as the French say, makes the
most of his circumstances, and himself as comfortable as
he can, an old London man, if obliged to pass the dull
season in town, accommodates himself to the time, and
forages here and there in the deserted city, and manages
to make his own tent snug. A thousand means of
comfort and amusement spring up, whereof a man has no
idea of the existence, in the midst of the din and racket
of the London season. I, for my part, am grown to
that age, sir, when I like the quiet time the best : the
gaiety of the great London season is too strong and
noisy for me ; I like to talk to my beloved metropolis
when she has done dancing at crowded balls, and
squeezing at concerts, and chattering at conversaziones,
and gorging at great dinners when she is calm, con-
templative, confidential, and at leisure.

Colonel Padmore of our Club being out of town, and
too wise a man to send his favourite old cob to grass,



I mounted him yesterday, and took a ride in Rotten
Row, and in various parts of the city, where but ten
days back all sorts of life, hilarity, and hospitality were
going on. What a change it is now in the Park, from
that scene which the modern Pepys, and that ingenious
youth who signs his immortal drawings with a D sur-
mounted by a dickey-bird, depicted only a few weeks
ago ! Where are the thousands of carriages that crawled
along the Serpentine shore, and which give an observant
man a happy and wholesome sense of his own in-
significance for you shall be a man long upon the


town, and pass five hundred equipages without knowing
the owners of one of them ? Where are the myriads
of horsemen who trampled the Row ? the splendid
dandies whose boots were shiny, whose chins were tufted,
whose shirts were astounding, whose manners were
frank and manly, whose brains were somewhat small ?
Where are the stout old capitalists and bishops on their
cobs (the Bench, by the way, cuts an uncommonly good
figure on horseback)? Where are the dear rideresses,
above all ? Where is she the gleaming of whose red
neck-ribbon in the distance made your venerable uncle's
heart beat, Bob ? He sees her now prancing by, severe
and beautiful a young Diana, with pure bright eyes !
Where is Fanny, who wore the pretty grey hat and
feather, and rode the pretty grey mare r Fanny
changed her name last week, without ever so much as
sending me a piece of cake. The gay squadrons have
disappeared : the ground no longer thrills with the
thump of their countless hoofs. Watteau-like groups
in shot silks no longer compose themselves under the
green boughs of Kensington Gardens : the scarlet
trumpeters have blown themselves away thence ; you
don't behold a score of horsemen in the course of an
hour's ride ; and Mrs. Catherine Highflyer, whom a
fortnight since you never saw unaccompanied by some
superb young Earl and rou'e of the fashion, had yesterday
so little to do with her beautiful eyes, that she absolutely
tried to kill your humble servant with them as she
cantered by me in at the barriers of the Row, and
looked round firing Parthian shots behind her. But
Padmore's cob did not trot, nor did my blood run, any
the quicker, Mr. Bob ; man and beast are grown too old
and steady to be put out of our pace by any Mrs.
Highflyer of them all ; and though I hope, if I live to
be a hundred, never to be unmoved by the sight of a
pretty girl, it is not thy kind of beauty, O ogling and
vain Delilah, that can set me cantering after thee.


By the way, one of the benefits I find in the dull
season is at my own lodgings. When I ring the bell now,
that uncommonly pretty young woman, the landlady's
daughter, condescends to come in and superintend my
comfort, and whisk about amongst the books and tea-
things, and wait upon me in general : whereas in the
full season, when young Lord Claude Lollypop is here
attending to his arduous duties in Parliament, and
occupying his accustomed lodgings on the second-floor,
the deuce a bit will Miss Flora ever deign to bring a
message or a letter to old Mr. Brown on the first, but
sends me in Muggins, my old servant, whose ugly
face I have known any time these thirty years, or
the blowsy maid-of-all-work with her sandy hair in

Again, at the Club, how many privileges does a man
lingering in London enjoy, from which he is precluded
in the full season ? Every man in every Club has three
or four special aversions men who somehow annoy
him, as I have no doubt but that you and I, Bob, are
hated by some particular man, and for that excellent
reason for which the poet disliked Dr. Fell the appear-
ance of old Banquo, in the same place, in the same arm-
chair, reading the newspaper day after day and evening
after evening ; of Mr. Plodder threading among the
coffee-room tables and taking note of every man's
dinner ; of old General Hawkshaw, who makes that
constant noise in the Club, sneezing, coughing, and
blowing his nose all these men, by their various defects
or qualities, have driven me half mad at times, and I
have thought to myself, Oh that I could go to the Club
without seeing. Banquo Oh that Plodder would not
come and inspect my mutton chop Oh that fate would
remove Hawkshaw and his pocket-handkerchief for ever
out of my sight and hearing ! Well, August arrives,
and one's three men of the sea are off one's shoulders.
Mr. and Mrs. Banquo are at Leamington, the paper


says ; Mr. Plodder is gone to Paris to inspect the dinners
at the * Trois Freres ; ' and Hawkshaw is coughing
away at Brighton, where the sad sea waves murmur
before him. The Club is your own. How pleasant it
is ! You can get the Globe and Standard now without a
struggle ; you may see all the Sunday papers ; when
you dine it is not like dining in a street dinned by the
tramp of waiters perpetually passing with clanking
dishes of various odours, and jostled by young men who
look scowlingly down upon your dinner as they pass
with creaking boots. They are all gone you sit in a
vast and agreeable apartment with twenty large servants
at your orders if you were a Duke with a thousand
pounds a day you couldn't be better served or lodged.
Those men, having nothing else to do, are anxious to
prevent your desires and make you happy the butler
bustles about with your pint of wine if you order a
dish, the chef himself will probably cook it : what
mortal can ask more ?

I once read in a book purporting to give descriptions
of London, and life and manners, an account of a family
in the lower ranks of genteel life, who shut up the front
windows of their house, and lived in the back rooms,
from which they only issued for fresh air surreptitiously
at midnight, so that their friends might suppose that
they were out of town. I suppose that there is some
foundation for this legend. I suppose that some people
are actually afraid to be seen in London, when the
persons who form their society have quitted the metro-
polis : and that Mr. and Mrs. Higgs being left at home
at Islington, when Mr. and Mrs. Biggs, their next-door
neighbours, have departed for Margate or Gravesend,
feel pangs of shame at their own poverty, and envy at
their friends' better fortune. I have seen many men
and cities, my dear Bob, and noted their manners : and
for servility I will back a free-born Englishman of the
respectable classes against any man of any nation in the


world. In the competition for social rank between
Higgs and Biggs, think what a strange standard of
superiority is set up ! a shilling steamer to Gravesend,
and a few shrimps more or less on one part or the other
settle the claim. Perhaps in what is called high life,
there are disputes as paltry, aims as mean, and distinctions
as absurd : but my business is with this present folly of
being ashamed to be in London. Ashamed, Sir ! I
like being in London at this time, and have so much
to say regarding the pleasures of the place in the dead
season, that I hope to write you another letter regarding
it next week.


CAREERING during the season from one party to another,
from one great dinner of twenty covers to another of
eighteen guests ; from Lady Hustlebury's rout to Mrs.
Packington's soiree friendship, to a man about town,
becomes impossible from February to August : it is only
his acquaintances he can cultivate during those six
months of turmoil.

In the last fortnight, one has had leisure to recur to
more tender emotions ! in other words, as nobody has
asked me to dinner, I have been about seeking dinners
from my old friends. And very glad are they to see
you : very kindly and hospitable are they disposed to be,
very pleasant are those little calm reunions in the quiet
summer evenings, when the beloved friend of your youth
and you sip a bottle of claret together leisurely without
candles, and ascend to the drawing-room where the
friend of your youth's wife sits blandly presiding over
the teapot. What matters that it is the metal teapot,
the silver utensils being packed off to the banker's ?


What matters that the hangings are down, and the
lustre in a brown-holland bag? Intimacy increases by
this artless confidence you are admitted to a family en
dishabille. In an honest man's house, the wine is never
sent to the banker's ; he can always go to the cellar for
that. And so we drink and prattle in quiet about the
past season, about our sons at College, and what not !
We become intimate again, because Fate, which has
long separated us, throws us once more together. I say
the dull season is a kind season : gentle and amiable,
friendly and full of quiet enjoyment.

Among these pleasant little meetings, for which the
present season has given time and opportunity, I shall
mention one, sir, which took place last Wednesday, and
which during the very dinner itself I vowed I would
describe, if the venerable Mr. Punch would grant me
leave and space, in the columns of a journal which
has for its object the promotion of mirth and good-

In the year eighteen hundred and something, sir, there
lived at a villa, at a short distance from London, a certain
gentleman and lady who had many acquaintances and
friends, among whom was your humble servant. For to
become acquainted with this young woman was to be
her friend, so friendly was she, so kind, so gentle, so full
of natural genius, and graceful feminine accomplishment.
Whatever she did, she did charmingly ; her life was
decorated with a hundred pretty gifts, with which, as
one would fancy, kind fairies had endowed her cradle ;
music and pictures seemed to flow naturally out of her
hand, as she laid it on the piano or the drawing-board.
She sang exquisitely, and with a full heart, and as if she
couldn't help it any more than a bird. I have an image
of this fair creature before me now, a calm sunshiny
evening, a green lawn flaring with roses and geraniums,
and a half-dozen gentlemen sauntering thereon in a state
of great contentment, or gathered under the verandah,


by the open French window : near by she sits singing at
the piano. She is in a pink dress : she has gigot sleeves ;
a little child in a prodigious sash is playing about at her
mother's knee. She sings song after song ; the sun goes
down behind the black fir-trees that belt the lawn, and
Missy in the blue sash vanishes to the nursery : the
room darkens in the twilight ; the stars appear in the
heaven and the tips of the cigars glow in the balcony :
she sings song after song, in accents soft and low, tender
and melodious we are never tired of hearing her.
Indeed, Bob, I can hear her still the stars of those calm
nights still shine in my memory, and I have been
humming one of her tunes with my pen in my mouth, to
the surprise of Mr. Dodder, who is writing at the
opposite side of the table, and wondering at the
lackadaisical expression which pervades my venerable

You will naturally argue from the above pathetic
passage, that I was greatly smitten by Mrs. Nightingale
(as we will call this lady, if you will permit me). You
are right, sir. For what is an amiable woman made, but
that we should fall in love with her ? I do not mean to
say that you are to lose your sleep, or give up your
dinner, or make yourself unhappy in her absence; but
when the sun shines (and it is not too hot) I like to bask
in it : when the bird sings, to listen : and to admire that
which is admirable with an honest and hearty enjoyment.
There were a half-dozen men at the period of which I
speak who wore Mrs. Nightingale's colours, and we used
to be invited down from London of a Saturday and
Sunday, to Thornwood, by the hospitable host and
hostess there, and it seemed like going back to school,
when we came away by the coach of a Monday
morning : we talked of her all the way back to London,
to separate upon our various callings when we got into
the smoky city. Salvator Rodgers, the painter, went to
his easel ; Woodward, the barrister, to his chambers j


Piper, the doctor, to his patient (for he then had only
one), and so forth. Fate called us each to his business,
and has sent us upon many a distant errand since that
day. But from that day to this, whenever we meet, the
remembrance of the holidays at Thornwood has been
always a bond of union between us : and we have always
had Mrs. Nightingale's colours put away amongst the
cherished relics of old times.

N. was a West India merchant, and his property went
to the bad. He died at Jamaica. Thornwood was let
to other people, who knew us not. The widow with a
small jointure retired, and educated her daughter abroad.
We had not heard of her for years and years, nor until
she came to town about a legacy a few weeks since.

In those years and years what changes have taken
place ! Sir Salvator Rodgers is a Member of the Royal
Academy ; Woodward, the barrister, has made a fortune
at the Bar ; and in seeing Doctor Piper in his barouche,
as he rolls about Belgravia and Mayfair, you at once
know what a man of importance he has become.

On last Monday week, sir, I received a letter in a
delicate female handwriting, with which I was not
acquainted, and which Miss Flora, the landlady's
daughter, condescended to bring me, saying that it had
been left at the door by two ladies in a brougham.

* Why did you not let them come upstairs ? ' said
I in a rage, after reading the note.

1 We don't know what sort of people goes about in
broughams,' said Miss Flora, with a toss of her head ;
* we don't want no ladies in our house.' And she flung
her impertinence out of the room.

The note was signed Frances Nightingale, whereas
our Nightingale's name was Louisa. But this Frances
was no other than the little thing in the large blue sash,
whom we remembered at Thornwood ever so many
years ago. The writer declared that she recollected me
quite well, that her mamma was most anxious to see an


old friend, and that they had apartments at No. 166
Clarges Street, Piccadilly, whither I hastened off to pay
my respects to Mrs. Nightingale.

When I entered the room, a tall and beautiful young
woman with blue eyes, and a serene and majestic air,
came up to shake hands with me : and I beheld in her,
without in the least recognising, the little Fanny of the
blue sash. Mamma came out of the adjoining apartment
presently. We had not met since since all sorts of
events had occurred her voice was not a little agitated.
Here was that fair creature whom we had admired so.
Sir, I shall not say whether she was altered or not. The
tones of her voice were as sweet and kind as ever : and
we talked about Miss Fanny as a subject in common
between us, and I admired the growth and beauty of the
young lady, though I did not mind telling her to her
face (at which to be sure the girl was delighted) that she
never in my eyes would be half so pretty as her mother.

Well, sir, upon this day arrangements were made for
the dinner which took place on Wednesday last, and to
the remembrance of which I determined so consecrate
this present page.

It so happened that everybody was in town of the old
set of whom I have made mention, and everybody was
disengaged. SirSalvator Rodgers(who has become such
a swell since he was knighted and got the cordon of the
Order of the George and Blue Boar of Russia, that we
like to laugh at him a little) made his appearance at
eight o'clock, and was perfectly natural and affable.
Woodward, the lawyer, forgot his abominable law and
his money about which he is always thinking : and
finally, Doctor Piper, of whom we despaired because his
wife is mortally jealous of every lady whom he attends,
and will hardly let him dine out of her sight, had pleaded
Lady Rackstraw's situation as a reason for not going

Online LibraryWilliam Makepeace ThackerayComplete works (Volume 22) → online text (page 16 of 31)