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William Makepeace Thackeray.

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upon.

* He pays no visits, and, being a solitudinarian,
frequents not even a single club in London. He dresses
punctiliously for dinner every day. He is but a sorry
eater, and avoids all vegetable diet, as he thinks it dims
the animal spirits. Only when engaged on pathetic
subjects does he make a hearty meal ; for the body
macerated by long fasting, he says, cannot unaided
contribute the tears he would shed over what he writes.
Wine he abhors, as a true Mussulman. Mr. T.'s
favourite drink is gin and toast-and-water, or cider and
bitters, cream and cayenne.

'In religion a Parsee (he was born in Calcutta), in
morals a Stagyrite, in philosophy an Epicurean ; though
nothing in his conversation or manners would lead one
to surmise that he belonged to either or any of these
sects. In politics an unflinching Tory ; fond of the
Throne, admiring the Court, attached to the peerage,
proud of the army and navy ; a thick and thin upholder
of Church and State, he is for tithes and taxes as in
Pitt's time. He wears hair powdered to this day, from
his entire reliance on the wisdom of his forefathers.
Besides his novels, he is the author of the "Vestiges of
Creation," the "Errors of Numismatics," "Junius's
Letters," and "Ivanhoe." The sequel to this last he
published three or four years ago. He wrote all Louis
Napoleon's works, and Madame H.'s exquisite love
letters ; and whilst secretary to that prince in confine-
ment at Ham, assisted him in his escape, by knocking
down the sentry with a ruler with which he had been



THACKERAY IN THE UNITED STATES 409

ruling accounts. Mr. T. is very fond of boxing, and
used to have an occasional set-to with Ben Gaunt, the
Tipton Slasher, and young Sambo. He fences admirably,
and ran the celebrated Bertrand through the lungs twice
at an assaut d'armes in Paris. He is an exquisite dancer,
he founded Laurent's Casino (was a pupil of old Grimaldi,
surnamed Iron Legs\ and played Harlequin in " Mother
Goose " pantomime once, when Ella, the regular per-
former, was taken ill and unable to appear.

c He has no voice, ear, or fancy even, for music, and
the only instruments he cares to listen to are the Jew's-
harp, the bagpipes, and the " Indian drum."

* He is disputatious and loquacious to a degree in
company : and at a dinner at the Bishop of Oxford's,
the discussion with Mr. Macaulay respecting the death
of Mausolus, the husband of Zenobia, occupied the
disputants for thirteen hours ere either rose to retire.
Mr. Macaulay was found exhausted under the table.
He has no acquaintance with modern languages, and his
French, which he freely uses throughout his writings, is
furnished by the Parisian governess in the Baron de B.'s
establishment. In the classics he is superior to either
Professor Sedgwick or Blackie (vide his " Colloquies on
Strabo," and the " Curtian Earthquake "). He was
twice senior opt. at Magdalen College, and three times
running carried off Barnes's prize for Greek Theses and
Cantate,' x. r. X.

Happily these delicate attentions have not ruffled Mr.
Thackeray's good temper and genial appreciations of the
high position occupied by literary men in the United
States. Let me avow that this position not only reflects
credit on the country which awards it, but helps to shed
its lustre on the men of letters who become the guests
of its hospitality. Mr. Thackeray's last lecture of the
series, on the yth ult., gracefully conceded this in the
following tribute :



4 io VARIOUS ESSAYS, LETTERS, ETC.

* In England it was my custom, after the delivery of
these lectures, to point such a moral as seemed to befit
the country I lived in, and to protest against an outcry,
which some brother authors of mine most imprudently
and unjustly raise, when they say that our profession is
neglected and its professors held in light esteem.
Speaking in this country, I would say that such a com-
plaint could not only not be advanced, but could not be
even understood here, where your men of letters take
their manly share in public life ; whence Everett goes
as minister to Washington, and Irving and Bancroft to
represent the republic in the old country. And if to
English authors the English public is, as I believe, kind
and just in the main, can any of us say, will any who
visit your country not proudly and gratefully own, with
what a cordial and generous greeting you receive us ? I
look round on this great company. I think of my
gallant young patrons of the Mercantile Library
Association, as whose servant I appear before you, and
of the kind hands stretched out to welcome me by men
famous in letters, and honoured in our country as in
their own, and I thank you and them for a most kindly
greeting and a most generous hospitality. At home, and
amongst his own people, it scarce becomes an English
writer to speak of himself; his public estimation must
depend upon his works ; his private esteem on his
character and his life. But here, among friends newly
found, I ask leave to say that I am thankful ; and I think
with a grateful heart of those I leave behind me at home,
who will be proud of the welcome you hold out to me,
and will benefit, please God, when my days of work are
over, by the kindness which you show to their father.'

JOHN SMALL.

THE END



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