Copyright
William Makepeace Thackeray.

Complete works (Volume 22) online

. (page 17 of 31)
Online LibraryWilliam Makepeace ThackerayComplete works (Volume 22) → online text (page 17 of 31)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


down to Wimbledon Common till night and so we six
had a meeting.



ill SKETCHES AND TRAVELS IN LONDON

The door was opened to us by a maid, who looked us
hard in the face as we went upstairs, and who was no
other than little Fanny's nurse in former days, come like
us to visit her old mistress. We all knew her except
Woodward, the lawyer, and all shook hands with her
except him. Constant study had driven her out of the
lawyer's memory. I don't think he ever cared for Mrs.
Nightingale as much as the rest of us did, or indeed that
it is in the nature of that learned man to care for any
but one learned person.

And what do you think, sir, this dear and faithful
widow had done to make us welcome ? She remem-
bered the dishes that we used to like ever so long ago,
and she had every man's favourite dish for him.
Rodgers used to have a passion for herrings there they
were ; the lawyer, who has an enormous appetite, which
he gratifies at other people's expense, had a shoulder of
mutton and onion sauce, which the lean and hungry
man devoured almost entirely : mine did not come till
the second course it was baked plum-pudding I was
affected when I saw it, sir I choked almost when I ate
it. Piper made a beautiful little speech, and made an
ice compound, for which he was famous, and we drank
it just as we used to drink it in old times, and to the
health of the widow.

How should we have had this dinner, how could we
all have assembled together again, if everybody had not
been out of town, and everybody had not been dis-
engaged ? Just for one evening, the scattered members
of an old circle of friendship returned and met round the
old table again round this little green island we moor
for the night at least, to-morrow we part company,
and each man for himself sails over the ingens aquor.

Since I wrote the above, I find that everybody really
is gone away. The widow left town on Friday. I
have been on my round just now, and have been met at
every step by closed shutters and the faces of unfamiliar



OUT OF TOWN 213

charwomen. No. 9 is gone to Malvern. No. 37, 15,
25, 48, and 3&A are gone to Scotland. The solitude of
the Club begins to be unbearable, and I found Muggins
this morning preparing a mysterious apparatus of
travelling boot-trees, and dusting the portmanteaus.

If you are not getting on well with the Kickleburys
at Homburg, I recommend you to go to Spa. Mrs.
Nightingale is going thither, and will be at the Hotel
d'Orange ; where you may use my name and present
yourself to her ; and I may hint to you in confidence
that Miss Fanny will have a very pretty little fortune.



THE PROSER

ESSAYS AND DISCOURSES BY DR SOLOMON
PACIFICO

I

ON A LADY IN AN OPERA-BOX

GOING the other night to the Conservatoire at Paris,
where there was a magnificent assemblage of rank and
fashion gathered together to hear the delightful
performance of Madame Sontag, the friend who
conferred upon me the polite favour of a ticket to the
stalls, also pointed out to me who were the most
remarkable personages round about us. There were
ambassadors, politicians, and gentlemen, military and
literary ; there were beauties, French, Russian, and
English j there were old ladies who had been beauties
once, and who, by the help of a little distance and
politeness (and if you didn't use your opera-glass, which
is a cruel detector of paint and wrinkles), looked young
and handsome still : and plenty of old bucks in the
stalls and boxes, well wigged, well gloved, and
brilliantly waistcoated, very obsequious to the ladies,
and satisfied with themselves and the world.

Up in the second tier of boxes I saw a very stout,
jolly, good-humoured-looking lady, whose head-dress and
ringlets and general appurtenances were unmistakably
English and whom, were you to meet her at

214



ON A LADY IN AN OPERA BOX 215

Timbuctoo, or in the Seraglio of the Grand Sultan
amongst a bevy of beauties collected from all the
countries of the earth, one would instantly know to
be a British female. I do not mean to say that, were
I the Padishah, I would select that moon-faced houri out
of all the lovely society, and make her the Empress
or Grand Signora of my dominions ; but simply that
there is a character about our countrywomen which
leads one to know, recognise, and admire, and wonder
at them among all women of all tongues and countries.
We have our British Lion ; we have our Britannia
ruling the waves ; we have our British female the
most respectable, the most remarkable, of the women
of this world. And now we have come to the woman
who gives the subject, though she is not herself the
subject of these present remarks.

As I looked at her with that fond curiosity and silent
pleasure and wonder which she (I mean the Great-
British Female) always inspires in my mind, watching
her smiles, her ways and motions, her allurements and
attractive gestures her head bobbing to this friend
whom she recognised in the stalls her jolly fat hand
wagging a welcome to that acquaintance in a neighbour-
ing box my friend and guide for the evening caught
her eye, and made her a respectful bow, and said to me,
with a look of much meaning, c That is Mrs Trotter-
Walker.' And from that minute I forgot Madame
Sontag, and thought only of Mrs. T.-W.

' So that,' said I, c is Mrs. Trotter- Walker ! You
have touched a chord in my heart. You have brought
back old times to my memory, and made me recall some
of the griefs and disappointments of my early days.'

' Hold your tongue, man ! ' says Tom, my friend.
* Listen to the Sontag ; how divinely she is singing !
how fresh her voice is still ! '

I looked up at Mrs. Walker all the time with unabated
interest. ' Madam,' thought I, * you look to be as kind



216 SKETCHES AND TRAVELS IN LONDON

and good-natured a person as eyes ever lighted upon.
The way in which you are smiling to that young dandy
with the double eyeglass, and the empressement with
which he returns the salute, show that your friends are
persons of rank and elegance, and that you are esteemed
by them giving them, as I am sure from your kind
appearance you do, good dinners and pleasant balls.
But I wonder what would you think if you knew that I
was looking at you ? I behold you for the first time :
there are a hundred pretty young girls in the house,
whom an amateur of mere beauty would examine with
much greater satisfaction than he would naturally
bestow upon a lady whose prime is past ; and yet the
sight of you interests me, and tickles me, so to speak,
and my eyeglass can't remove itself from the contem-
plation of your honest face.'

What is it that interests me so ? What do you
suppose interests a man the most in this life? Himself,
to be sure. It is at himself he is looking through his
opera-glass himself who is concerned, or he would not
be watching you so keenly. And now let me confess
why it is that the lady in the upper box excites me so,
and why I say, * That is Mrs. Trotter- Walker, is it ? '
with an air of such deep interest.

Well then. In the year eighteen hundred and thirty
odd, it happened that I went to pass the winter at Rome,
as we will call the city. Major-General and Mrs.
Trotter- Walker were also there; and until I heard of
them there, I had never heard that there were such
people in existence as the General and the lady the
lady yonder with the large fan in the upper boxes. Mrs.
Walker, as became her station in life, took, I dare say,
very comfortable lodgings, gave dinners and parties
to her friends, and had a night in the week for
receptions.

Much as I have travelled and lived abroad, these
evening reunions have never greatly fascinated me.



ON A LADY IN AN OPERA-BOX 217

Man cannot live upon lemonade, wax candles, and weak
tea. Gloves and white neckcloths cost money, and those
plaguy shiny boots are always so tight and hot. Am I
made of money, that I can hire a coach to go to one of
these soirtes on a rainy Roman night ; or can I come in
goloshes, and take them off in the ante-chamber ? I am
too poor for cabs, and too vain for goloshes. If it had
been to see the girl of my heart (I mean at the time
when there were girls, and I had a heart), I couldn't
have gone in goloshes. Well, not being in love, and
not liking weak tea and lemonade, I did not go to
evening-parties that year at Rome : nor, of later years,
at Paris, Vienna, Copenhagen, Islington, or wherever I
may have been.

What, then, were my feelings when my dear and
valued friend, Mrs. Coverlade (she is a daughter of that
venerable peer, the Right Honourable the Lord Com-
mandine), who was passing the winter too at Rome,
said to me, * My dear Doctor Pacifico, what have you
done to offend Mrs. Trotter- Walker ? '

c I know no person of that name,' I said. ' I knew
Walker of the Post Office, and poor Trotter who was a
captain in our regiment, and died under my hands at the
Bahamas. But with the Trotter- Walkers I haven't the
honour of an acquaintance.'

1 Well, it is not likely that you will have that honour,'
Mrs. Coverlade said. 'Mrs. Walker said last night that
she did not wish to make your acquaintance, and that
she did not intend to receive you.'

' I think she might have waited until I asked her,
madam,' I said. 'What have I done to her? I have
never seen or heard of her : how should I want to get
into her house ? or attend at her Tuesdays confound
her Tuesdays ! ' I am sorry to say I said, * Confound
Mrs. Walker's Tuesdays,' and the conversation took
another turn, and it so happened that I was called away
from Rome suddenly, and never set eyes upon Mrs.



218 SKETCHES AND TRAVELS IN LONDON

Walker, or indeed thought about her from that day to
this.

Strange endurance of human vanity ! a million of
much more important conversations have escaped one
since then, most likely but the memory of this little
mortification (for such it is, after all) remains quite
fresh in the mind, and unforgotten, though it is a trifle,
and more than half a score of years old. We forgive
injuries, we survive even our remorse for great wrongs
that we ourselves commit ; but I doubt if we ever
forgive slights of this nature put upon us, or forget
circumstances in which our self-love had been made
to suffer.

Otherwise, why should the remembrance of Mrs.
Trotter- Walker have remained so lively in this bosom r
Why should her appearance have excited such a keen
interest in these eyes ? Had Venus or Helen (the
favourite beauty of Paris) been at the side of Mrs.
T.-W., I should have looked at the latter more than at
the Queen of Love herself. Had Mrs. Walker murdered
Mrs. Pacifico, or inflicted some mortal injury upon me,
I might forgive her but for a slight ? Never, Mrs.
Trotter- Walker ; never, by Nemesis, never !

And now, having allowed my personal wrath to
explode, let us calmly moralise for a minute or two upon
this little circumstance ; for there is no circumstance,
however little, that won't afford a text for a sermon.
Why was it that Mrs. General Trotter- Walker refused
to receive Doctor S. Pacifico at her parties ? She had
noticed me probably somewhere where I had not
remarked her; she did not like my aquiline countenance,
my manner of taking snuff, my Blucher-boots, or what
not ; or she had seen me walking with my friend Jack
Raggett, the painter, on the Pincio a fellow with a hat
and beard like a bandit, a shabby paletot, and a great
pipe between his teeth. I was not genteel enough for
her circle I assume that to be the reason ; indeed, Mrs.



ON A LADY IN AN OPERA-BOX 219

Coverlade, with a good-natured smile at my coat, which
I own was somewhat shabby, gave me to understand as
much.

You little know, my worthy kind lady, what a loss
you had that season at Rome, in turning up your
amiable nose at the present writer. I could have given
you appropriate anecdotes (with which my mind is
stored) of all the Courts of Europe (besides of Africa,
Asia, and St. Domingo), which I have visited. I could
have made the General die of laughing after dinner with
some of my funny stories, of which I keep a book,
without which I never travel. I am content with my
dinner : I can carve beautifully, and make jokes upon
almost any dish at table. I can talk about wine, cookery,
hotels all over the Continent : anything you will. I
have been familiar with Cardinals, Red Republicans,
Jesuits, German princes, and Carbonari ; and, what is
more, I can listen and hold my tongue to admiration.
Ah, madam ! what did you lose in refusing to make the
acquaintance of Solomon Pacifico, M.D. !

And why ? Because my coat was a trifle threadbare ;
because I dined at the * Lepre' with Raggett and some
of those other bandits of painters, and had not the money
to hire a coach and horses.

Gentility is the death and destruction of social
happiness amongst the middle classes in England. It
destroys naturalness (if I may coin such a word) and
kindly sympathies. The object of life, as I take it, is
to be friendly with everybody. As a rule, and to a
philosophical cosmopolite, every man ought to be
welcome. I do not mean to your intimacy or affection,
but to your society ; as there is, if we would or could
but discover it, something notable, something worthy of
observation, of sympathy, of wonder and amusement, in
every fellow-mortal. If I had been Mr. Pacifico,
travelling with a courier and a carriage, would Mrs.
Walker have made any objection to me ? I think not.



220 SKETCHES AND TRAVELS IN LONDON

It was the Blucher-boots and the worn hat and the
homely companion of the individual which were un-
welcome to this lady. If I had been the disguised Duke
of Pacifico, and not a retired army-surgeon, would she
have forgiven herself for slighting me ? What stores of
novels, what foison of plays, are composed upon this
theme the queer old character in the wig and cloak
throws off coat and spectacles, and appears suddenly
with a star and crown a Haroun Alraschid, or other
Merry Monarch. And straightway we clap our hands
and applaud what? the star and garter.

But disguised emperors are not common nowadays.
You don't turn away monarchs from your door, any
more than angels, unawares. Consider, though, how
many a good fellow you may shut out and sneer upon !
what an immense deal of pleasure, frankness, kindness,
good-fellowship, we forego for the sake of our con-
founded gentility, and respect for outward show !
Instead of placing our society upon an honest footing,
we make our aim almost avowedly sordid. Love is of
necessity banished from your society when you measure
all your guests by a money-standard.

I think of all this a harmless man seeing a good-
natured-looking jolly woman in the boxes yonder, who
thought herself once too great a person to associate with
the likes of me. If I give myself airs to my neighbour,
may I think of this too, and be a little more humble !
And you, honest friend, who read this have you ever
pooh-poohed a man as good as you ? If you fall into the
society of people whom you are pleased to call your
inferiors, did you ever sneer ? If so, change I into U,
and the fable is narrated for your own benefit, by your
obedient servant,

SOLOMON PACIFICO.



II

ON THE PLEASURES OF BEING A FOGY

WHILST I was riding the other day by the beautiful
Serpentine River upon my excellent friend Heaviside's
grey cob, and in company of the gallant and agreeable
Augustus Toplady, a carriage passed from which looked
out a face of such remarkable beauty, that Augustus and
myself quickened our pace to follow the vehicle, and to
keep for awhile those charming features in view. My
beloved and unknown young friend who peruses these
lines, it was very likely your face which attracted your
humble servant ; recollect whether you were not in the
Park upon the day I allude to, and if you were, whom
else could I mean but you ? I don't know your name ;
I have forgotten the arms on the carriage, or whether
there were any ; and as for women's dresses, who can
remember them ? but your dear kind countenance was
so pretty and good-humoured and pleasant to look at,
that it remains to this day faithfully engraven on my
heart, and I feel sure that you are as good as you are
handsome. Almost all handsome women are good :
they cannot choose but be good and gentle with those
sweet features and that charming graceful figure. A
day in which one sees a very pretty woman should always
be noted as a holyday with a man, and marked with a
white stone. In this way, and at this season in London,
to be sure, such a day comes seven times in the week,
and our calendar, like that of the Roman Catholics, is
all Saints' days.

Toplady, then, on his chestnut horse, with his glass
in his eye, and the tips of his shiny boots just touching
the stirrup, and your slave, the present writer, rode after
your carriage, and looked at you with such notes of
admiration expressed in their eyes, that you remember
P 221



222 SKETCHES AND TRAVELS IN LONDON

you blushed, you smiled, and then began to talk to that
very nice-looking elderly lady in the front seat, who of
course was your mamma. You turned out of the ride
it was time to go home and dress for dinner, you were
gone. Good luck go with you, and with all fair things
which thus come and pass away !

Top caused his horse to cut all sorts of absurd capers
and caracoles by the side of your carriage. He made it
dance upon two legs, then upon other two, then as if
would jump over the railings and crush the admiring
nursery-maids and the rest of the infantry. I should
think he got his animal from Batty 's, and that, at a crack
of Widdicomb's whip, he could dance a quadrille. He
ogled, he smiled, he took off his hat to a Countess's
carriage that happened to be passing in the other line,
and so showed his hair ; he grinned, he kissed his little
finger-tips and flung them about as if he would shake
them oft ; whereas the other party on the grey cob
the old gentleman pounded along at a resolute trot,
and never once took his respectful eyes off you while you
continued in the ring.

When you were gone (you see by the way in which I
linger about you still, that I am unwilling to part with
you) Toplady turned round upon me with a killing
triumphant air, and stroked that impudent little tuft he
has on his chin, and said * I say, old boy, it was the chest-
nut she was looking at, and not the gway.' And I make
no doubt he thinks you are in love with him to this
minute.

* You silly young jackanapes,' said I, 'what do I care
whether she was looking at the grey or the chestnut ?
I was thinking about the girl ; you were thinking about
yourself, and be hanged to your vanity ! ' And with
this thrust in his little chest, I flatter myself I upset
young Toplady, that triumphant careering rider.

It was natural that he should wish to please ; that
is, that he should wish other people to admire him.



THE PLEASURES OF BEING A FOGY 223

Augustus Toplady is young (still) and lovely. It is not
until a late period of life that a genteel young fellow,
with a Grecian nose and a suitable waist and whiskers,
begins to admire other people besides himself.

That, however, is the great advantage which a man
possesses whose morning of life is over, whose reason is
not taken prisoner by any kind of blandishments, and
who knows and feels that he is a FOGY. As an old
buck is an odious sight, absurd, and ridiculous before gods
and men ; cruelly, but deservedly, quizzed by you young
people, who are not in the least duped by his youthful
airs or toilette artifices, so an honest, good-natured,
straightforward, middle-aged, easily pleased Fogy is a
worthy and amiable member of society, and a man who
gets both respect and liking.

Even in the lovely sex, who has not remarked how
painful is that period of a woman's life when she is
passing out of her bloom, and thinking about giving
up her position as a beauty? What sad injustice and
stratagems she has to perpetrate during the struggle !
She hides away her daughters in the schoolroom, she
makes them wear cruel pinafores, and dresses herself in
the garb which they ought to assume. She is obliged to
distort the calendar, and to resort to all sort of schemes
and arts to hide, in her own person, the august and
respectable marks of time. Ah ! what is this revolt
against nature but impotent blasphemy ? Is not Autumn
beautiful in its appointed season, that we are to be
ashamed of her and paint her yellowing leaves pea-
green ? Let us, I say, take the fall of the year as it
was made, serenely and sweetly, and await the time when
Winter comes and the nights shut in. I know, for my
part, many ladies who are far more agreeable and more
beautiful too, now that they are no longer beauties ; and,
by converse, I have no doubt that Toplady, about whom
we were speaking just now, will be a far pleasanter
person when he has given up the practice, or desire, of



224 SKETCHES AND TRAVELS IN LONDON

killing the other sex, and has sunk into a mellow repose
as an old bachelor or a married man.

The great and delightful advantage that a man enjoys
in the world, after he has abdicated all pretensions as a
conqueror and enslaver of females, and both formally,
and of his heart, acknowledges himself to be a Fogy, is
that he now comes for the first time to enjoy and
appreciate duly the society of women. For a young
man about town, there is only one woman in the whole
city (at least very few indeed of the young Turks, let
us hope, dare to have two or three strings to their
wicked bows) he goes to ball after ball in pursuit of
that one person ; he sees no other eyes but hers ; hears
no other voice ; cares for no other petticoat but that in
which his charmer dances ; he pursues her is refused
is accepted and jilted ; breaks his heart, mends it of
course, and goes on again after some other beloved being,
until in the order of fate and nature he marries and
settles, or remains unmarried, free, and a Fogy. Until
then we know nothing of women the kindness and
refinement and wit of the elders ; the artless prattle
and dear little chatter of the young ones ; all these are
hidden from us until we take the Fogy's degree : nay,
even perhaps from married men, whose age and gravity
entitle them to rank amongst Fogies ; for every woman,
who is worth anything, will be jealous of her husband
up to seventy or eighty, and always prevent his inter-
course with other ladies. But an old bachelor, or better
still, an old widower, has this delightful entrte into the
female world : he is free to come ; to go ; to listen ; to
joke ; to sympathise ; to talk with Mamma about her
plans and troubles ; to pump from Miss the little secrets
that gush so easily from her pure little well of a heart ;
the ladies do not gener themselves before him, and he is
admitted to their mysteries like the Doctor, the Con-
fessor, or the Kislar Aga.

What man, who can enjoy this pleasure and privilege,







Sketches and Travels in London Page 224.



THE PLEASURES OF BEING A FOGY 225

ought to be indifferent to it ? If the society of one
woman is delightful, as the young fellows think, and
justly, how much more delightful is the society of a
thousand ! One woman, for instance, has brown eyes,
and a geological or musical turn ; another has sweet
blue eyes, and takes, let us say, the Gorham side of the
controversy at present pending ; a third darling, with
long fringed lashes hiding eyes of hazel, lifts them up
ceiling-wards in behalf of Miss Sellon, thinks the Lord
Chief Justice has hit the poor young lady very hard in
publishing her letters, and proposes to quit the Church
next Tuesday or Wednesday, or whenever Mr. Oriel is
ready and, of course, a man may be in love with one
or the other of these. But it is manifest that brown
eyes will remain brown eyes to the end, and that,
having no other interest but music or geology, her
conversation on those points may grow more than
sufficient. Sapphira, again, when she has said her say
with regard to the Gorham affair, and proved that the
other party are but Romanists in disguise, and who is
interested on no other subject, may possibly tire you so
may Hazelia, who is working altar-cloths all day, and
would desire no better martyrdom than to walk bare-
foot in a night procession up Sloane Street and home by
Wilton Place, time enough to get her poor meurtris
little feet into white satin slippers for the night's ball I
say, if a man can be wrought up to rapture, and enjoy
bliss in the company of any one of these young ladies, or
any other individuals in the infinite variety of Miss-kind
how much real sympathy, benevolent pleasure, and



Online LibraryWilliam Makepeace ThackerayComplete works (Volume 22) → online text (page 17 of 31)