Copyright
William Makepeace Thackeray.

Complete works (Volume 22) online

. (page 5 of 31)
Online LibraryWilliam Makepeace ThackerayComplete works (Volume 22) → online text (page 5 of 31)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


used to look up at him from afar off, as at a godlike
being. He was one of the head boys of the school ; a
prodigious dandy in pigeon-hole trousers, ornamented
with what they called * tucks ' in front. He wore a
ring leaving the little finger on which he wore the
jewel out of his pocket, in which he carried the rest of
his hand. He had whiskers even then : and to this
day I cannot understand why he is not seven feet high.
When he shouted out * Under boy ! ' we small ones
trembled and came to him. I recollect he called me
once from a hundred yards off, and I came up in a
tremor. He pointed to the ground.

* Pick up my hockey-stick,' he said, pointing towards
it with the hand with the ring on. He had dropped
the stick. He was too great, wise, and good to stoop to
pick it up himself.

He got the silver medal for Latin Sapphics, in the
year Pogram was gold-medallist. When he went up to



A NIGHT'S PLEASURE 53

Oxford, the Head Master, the Rev. J. Flibber, compli-
mented him in a valedictory speech, made him a present
of books, and prophesied that he would do great things
at the University. He had got a scholarship, and won
a prize-poem, which the Doctor read out to the sixth
form with great emotion. It was on * The Recollec-
tions of Childhood,' and the last lines were

' Qualia prospiciens catulus ferit aethera risu,
Ipsaque trans lunae cornua vacca salit.'

I thought of these things rapidly, gazing on the
individual before me. The brilliant young fellow of 1 8 1 5
(by-the-bye, it was the Waterloo year, by which some
people may remember it better ; but at school we spoke
of years as * Pogram's year,' * Tokely's year,' &c.) there,
I say, sat before me the dashing young buck of 1815, a
fat, muzzy, red-faced old man, in a battered hat,
absorbing whisky-and-water, and half listening to the
singing.

A wild, long-haired, professional gentleman, with a
fluty voice and with his shirt-collar turned down, began
to sing as follows :

WHEN THE GLOOM IS ON THE GLEN

' When the moonlight's on* the mountain

And the gloom is on the glen,
At the cross beside the fountain

There is one will meet thee then.
At the cross beside the fountain ;

Yes, the cross beside the fountain,
There is one will meet thee then !

[Down goes half of Mr. Bardolph's No. 3 Whisky during this
refrain.]

' I have braved, since first we met, love,
Many a danger in my course ;



54 SKETCHES AND TRAVELS IN LONDON

But I never can forget, love,

That dear fountain, that old cross,

Where, her mantle shrouded o'er her,
For the winds were chilly then

First I met my Leonora,

When the gloom was on the glen,
Yes, I met my, &c.

[Another gulp, and almost total disappearance of Whisky Go
No. 3.]

' Many a climb I've ranged since then, love,

Many a land I've wandered o'er ;
But a valley like that glen, love,

Half so dear I never sor !
Ne'er saw maiden fairer, coyer,

Than wert thou, my true love, when
In the gloaming first I saw yer,

In the gloaming of the glen ! '

Bardolph, who had not shown the least symptom of
emotion as the gentleman with the fluty voice performed
this delectable composition, began to whack, whack,
whack on the mahogany with his pewter measure at the
conclusion of the song, wishing, perhaps, to show that
the noggin was empty ; in which manner James, the
waiter, interpreted the signal, for he brought Mr.
Bardolph another supply of liquor.

The song, words and music, composed and dedicated
to Charles Bivins, Esquire, by Frederic Snape, and
ornamented with a picture of a young lady, with large
eyes and short petticoats, leaning at a stone cross by a
fountain, was now handed about the room by a waiter,
and any gentleman was at liberty to purchase it for
half-a-crown. The man did not offer the song to
Bardolph ; he was too old a hand.

After a pause, the president of the musical gents cried
out for silence again, and then stated to the company
that Mr. Hoff would sing * The Red Flag,' which



A NIGHT'S PLEASURE 55

announcement was received by the Society with
immense applause, and Mr. Hoff, a gentleman whom I
remember to have seen exceedingly unwell on board
a Gravesend steamer, began the following terrific
ballad :

THE RED FLAG

' Where the quivering lightning flings

His arrows from out the clouds,
And the howling tempest sings,

And whistles among the shrouds,
'Tis pleasant, 'tis pleasant to ride

Along the foaming brine
Wilt be the Rover's bride ?

Wilt follow him, lady mine ?

Hurrah !
For the bonny bonny bride.

Amidst the storm and rack,

You shall see our galley pass
As a serpent, lithe and black,

Glides through the waving grass.
As the vulture swift and dark,

Down on the ringdove flies,
You shall see the Rover's bark

Swoop down upon his prize.

Hurrah !
For the bonny bonny prize.

Over her sides we dash,

We gallop across her deck
Ha ! there's a ghastly gash

On the merchant-captain's neck
Well shot, well shot, old Ned !

Well struck, well struck, black James !
Our arms are red and our foes are dead,

And we leave a ship in flames !

Hurrah !
For the bonny bonny flames ! '



56 SKETCHES AND TRAVELS IN LONDON

Frantic shouts of applause and encore hailed the
atrocious sentiments conveyed by Mr. Hoffin this ballad,
from everybody except Bardolph, who sat muzzy and
unmoved, and only winked to the waiter to bring him
some more whisky.



VI

WHEN the piratical ballad of Mr. Hoff was concluded, a
simple and quiet-looking young gentleman performed a
comic song, in a way which, I must confess, inspired me
with the utmost melancholy. Seated at the table with
the other professional gents, this young gentleman was
in nowise to be distinguished from any other young man
of fashion : he has a thin, handsome, and rather sad
countenance ; and appears to be a perfectly sober and
meritorious young man. But suddenly (and I daresay
every night of his life) he pulls a little flexible grey
countryman's hat out of his pocket, and the moment he
has put it on, his face assumes an expression of unutter-
able vacuity and folly, his eyes goggle round savage, and
his mouth stretches almost to his ears, and he begins to
sing a rustic song.

The battle-song and the sentimental ballad already
published are, I trust, sufficiently foolish, and fair
specimens of the class of poetry to which they belong ;
but the folly of the comic country song was so great and
matchless, that I am not going to compete for a moment
with the author, or to venture to attempt anything like
his style of composition. It was something about a man
going a-courting Molly, and 'feayther,' and * kyows,'
and ' peegs,' and other rustic produce. The idiotic
verse was interspersed with spoken passages, of corre-
sponding imbecility. For the time during which Mr.



A NIGHT'S PLEASURE 57

Grinsby performed this piece, he consented to abnegate
altogether his claim to be considered as a reasonable
being ; utterly to debase himself, in order to make the
company laugh ; and to forget the rank, dignity, and
privileges of a man.

His song made me so profoundly wretched that little
Grigg, remarking my depression, declared that I was as
slow as a parliamentary train. I was glad they didn't
have the song over again. When it was done, Mr.
Grinsby put his little grey hat in his pocket, the
maniacal grin subsided from his features, and he sat down
with his naturally sad and rather handsome young
countenance.

O Grinsby, thinks I, what a number of people and
things in this world do you represent ! Though we
weary listening to you, we may moralise over you ;
though you sing a foolish witless song, you poor young
melancholy jester, there is some good in it that may be
had for the seeking. Perhaps that lad has a family at
home dependent on his grinning : I may entertain a
reasonable hope that he has despair in his heart ; a
complete notion of the folly of the business in which he
is engaged ; a contempt ' for the fools laughing and
guffawing round about at his miserable jokes ; and a
perfect weariness of mind at their original dulness and
continued repetition. What a sinking of spirit must
come over that young man, quiet in his chamber or
family, orderly and sensible like other mortals, when the
thought of torn-fool hour comes across him, and that at
a certain time that night, whatever may be his health,
or distaste, or mood of mind or body, there he must be,
at a table at the ' Cave of Harmony,' uttering insane
ballads, with an idiotic grin on his face and hat on his
head.

To suppose that Grinsby has any personal pleasure in
that song, would be to have too low an opinion of
human nature ; to imagine that the applauses of the



58 SKETCHES AND TRAVELS IN LONDON

multitude of the frequenters of the Cave tickled his
vanity, or are bestowed upon him deservedly would be,
I say, to think too hardly of him. Look at him. He
sits there quite a quiet orderly young fellow. Mark
with what an abstracted sad air he joins in the chorus of
Mr. Snape's second song, 'The Minaret's bells o'er the
Bosphorus toll,' and having applauded his comrade at the
end of the song (as I have remarked these poor gentle-
men always do), moodily resumes the stump of his
cigar.

4 1 wonder, my dear Grigg, how many men there are
in the city who follow a similar profession to Grinsby's ?
What a number of poor rogues, wits in their circle, or
bilious, or in debt, or henpecked, or otherwise miserable
in their private circumstances, come grinning out to
dinner of a night, and laugh and crack, and let off their
good stories like yonder professional funny fellow !
Why, I once went into the room of that famous dinner-
party conversationalist and wit, Horsely Collard ; and
whilst he was in his dressing-room arranging his wig,
just looked over the books on the table before his sofa.
There were " Burton's Anatomy " for the quotations,
three of which he let off that night ; "Spence's Literary
Anecdotes," of which he fortuitously introduced a
couple in the course of the evening ; " Baker's
Chronicle ; " the last new Novel, and a book of
Metaphysics, every one of which I heard him quote,
besides four stories out of his commonplace book, at
which I took a peep under the pillow. He was like
Grinsby.' Who isn't like Grinsby in life ? thought I
to myself, examining that young fellow.

' When Bawler goes down to the House of Commons
from a meeting with his creditors, and, having been a
bankrupt a month before, becomes a patriot all of a
sudden, and pours you out an intensely interesting
speech upon the West Indies, or the Window Tax, he is
no better than the poor gin-and-water practitioner yonder,



A NIGHT'S PLEASURE 59

and performs in his Cave as Grinsby in his under the
Piazza.

' When Sergeant Bluebag fires into a witness, or
performs a jocular or a pathetic speech to a jury, in what
is he better than Grinsby, except in so far as the amount
of gain goes ? than poor Grinsby rapping at the table
and cutting professional jokes, at half-a-pint-of- whisky
fee ?

* When Tightrope, the celebrated literary genius, sits
down to write and laugh with the children very likely
ill at home with a strong personal desire to write a
tragedy or a sermon, with his wife scolding him, his
head racking with pain, his mother-in-law making a
noise at his ears, and telling him that he is a heartless and
abandoned ruffian, his tailor in the passage, vowing that
he will not quit that place until his little bill is settled
when, I say, Tightrope writes off, under the most
miserable private circumstances, a brilliant funny article,
in how much is he morally superior to my friend
Grinsby ? When Lord Colchicum stands bowing and
smiling before his sovereign, with gout in his toes, and
grief in his heart; when parsons in the pulpit when
editors at their desks forget their natural griefs,
pleasures, opinions, to go through the business of life,
the masquerade of existence, in what are they better
than Grinsby yonder, who has similarly to perform
his buffooning ? '

As I was continuing in this moral and interrogatory
mood no doubt boring poor little Grigg, who came to
the Cave for pleasure, and not for philosophical discourse
Mr Bardolph opposite caught a sight of the present
writer through the fumes of the cigars, and came across
to our table, holding his fourth glass of toddy in his
hand. He held out the other to me : it was hot, and
gouty, and not particularly clean.

' Deuced queer place this, hey ? ' said he, pretending
to survey it with the air of a stranger. 'I come here



60 SKETCHES AND TRAVELS IN LONDON




every now and then, on my way home to Lincoln's Inn
from from parties at the other end of the town. It
is frequented by a parcel of queer people low shopboys
and attorneys' clerks ; but hang it, sir, they know a
gentleman when they see one, and not one of those
fellows would dare to speak to me no, not one of 'em,
by Jove if I didn't address him first, by Jove ! I don't
suppose there's a man in this room could construe a page
in the commonest Greek book. You heard that



A NIGHT'S PLEASURE 61

donkey singing about " Leonorar " and " before her " ?
How Flibber would have given it to us for such rhymes,
hey ? A parcel of ignoramuses ! but hang it, sir, they
do know a gentleman ! ' And here he winked at me
with a vinous bloodshot eye, as much as to intimate
that he was infinitely superior to every person in the
room.

Now this Bardolph, having the ill luck to get a fellow-
ship, and subsequently a small private fortune, has
done nothing since the year 1820 but get drunk and
read Greek. He despises every man that does not
know that language (so that you and I, my dear sir,
come in for a fair share of his contempt). He can
still put a slang song into Greek Iambics, or turn a
police report into the language of Tacitus or Herodotus ;
but it is difficult to see what accomplishment beyond
this the boozy old mortal possesses. He spends nearly
a third part of his life and income at his dinner, or on
his whisky at a tavern ; more than another third portion
is spent in bed. It is past noon before he gets up to
breakfast, and to spell over the Times, which business of
the day being completed, it is time for him to dress and
take his walk to the Club to dinner. He scorns a man
who puts his h's in the wrong place, and spits at a
human being who has not had a University education.
And yet I am sure that bustling waiter pushing about
with a bumper of cigars; that tallow-faced young comic
singer ; yonder harmless and happy Snobs, enjoying the
conviviality of the evening (and all the songs are
quite modest now, not like the ribald old ditties which
they used to sing in former days), are more useful,
more honourable, and more worthy men than that
whiskyfied old scholar who looks down upon them and
their like.

He said he would have a sixth glass if we would stop :
but we didn't ; and he took his sixth glass without us.
My melancholy young friend had begun another comic



62 SKETCHES AND TRAVELS IN LONDON

song, and I could bear it no more. The market carts
were rattling into Covent Garden ; and the illuminated
clock marked all sorts of small hours as we concluded
this night's pleasure.



A CLUB IN AN UPROAR

THE appearance of a London Club at a time of great
excitement is well worthy the remark of a traveller in
this city. The Megatherium has been in a monstrous
state of frenzy during the past days. What a queer
book it would be which should chronicle all the stories
which have been told, or all the opinions which have
been uttered there.

As a Revolution brings out into light of day, and into
the streets of the convulsed capital, swarms of people
who are invisible but in such times of agitation, and
retreat into their obscurity as soon as the earthquake is
over, so you may remark in Clubs, that the stirring of
any great news brings forth the most wonderful and
hitherto unheard-of members, of whose faces not the
habitues, not even the hall-porters, have any knowledge.
The excitement over, they vanish, and are seen no
more until the next turmoil calls them forth.

During the past week, our beloved Megatherium has
been as crowded as they say Her Majesty's Palace of
Pimlico at present is, where distressed foreigners,
fugitives, and other Coburgs are crowded two or three
in a room ; and where it has been reported during the
whole of the past week that Louis Philippe himself, in
disguise, was quartered in the famous garden pavilion,
and plates of dinner sent out to him from Her Majesty's
table. I had the story from Bowyer of the Megatherium,
who had seen and recognised the ex-King as he was



A CLUB IN AN UPROAR 63

looking into the palace garden from a house in
Grosvenor Place opposite. We have had other
wonderful stories too, whereof it is our present purpose
to say a word or two.

The Club, in fact, has been in a state of perfect
uproar, to the disgust of the coffee-room habitues^ of the
quiet library arm-chair occupiers, and of the newspaper-
room students, who could not get their accustomed
broad-sheets. Old Doctor Pokey (who is in the habit
of secreting newspapers about his person, and going off
to peruse them in recondite corners of the building) has
been wandering about, in vain endeavouring to seize
hold of a few. They say that a Morning Chronicle was
actually pulled from under his arm during the last
week's excitement. The rush for second editions and
evening papers is terrific. Members pounce on the
newsboys and rob them. Decorum is overcome.

All the decencies of society are forgotten during this
excitement. Men speak to each other without being
introduced. I saw a man in ill-made trousers and with
strong red whiskers and a strong northern accent, go up
to Colonel the Honourable Otto Dillwater of the
Guards, and make some dreadful remark about Louis
Feelip, which caused the Colonel to turn pale with
anger. I saw a Bishop, an Under-Secretary of State,
and General de Boots listening with the utmost gravity
and eagerness to little Bob Noddy, who pretended to
have brought some news from the City, where they say
he is a clerk in a Fire Office.

I saw all sorts of portents and wonders. On the
great Saturday night (the 26th ult.), when the news was
rifest, and messenger after messenger came rushing in
with wild rumours, men were seen up at midnight who
were always known to go to bed at ten. A man dined
in the Club who is married, and who has never been
allowed to eat there for eighteen years. On Sunday,
old Mr. Pugh himself, who moved that the house should



64 SKETCHES AND TRAVELS IN LONDON

be shut, no papers taken in, and the waiters marched to
church under the inspection of the steward, actually
came down and was seen reading the Observer, so eager
was the curiosity which the great events excited.

In the smoking-room of the establishment, where you
ordinarily meet a very small and silent party, there was
hardly any seeing for the smoke, any sitting for the
crowd, or any hearing in consequence of the prodigious
bawling and disputing. The men uttered the most
furious contradictory statements there. Young Biffin
was praying that the rascally mob might be cut down to
a man ; while Gullet was bellowing out that the safety
of France required the re-establishment of the guillotine,
and that four heads must be had, or that the Revolution
was not complete.

In the card-room, on the great night in question, there
was only one whist-table, and at that even they were
obliged to have a dummy. Captain Trumpington could
not be brought to play that night ; and Pamm himself
trumped his partner's lead, and the best heart ; such was
the agitation which the great European events excited.
When Dicky Cuff came in, from His Excellency Lord
Pilgrimstone's evening party, a rush was made upon him
for news, as if he had come from battle. Even the
waiters appeared to be interested, and seemed to try to
overhear the conversation.

Every man had his story, and his private information ;
and several of these tales I took down.

' Saturday^ five o'clock. Jawkins has just come from
the City. The French Rothschild has arrived. He
escaped in a water-butt as far as Amiens, whence he
went on in a coffin. A fourgon containing two hundred
and twenty-two thousand two hundred sovereigns, and
nine-and-fourpence in silver, was upset in the Rue
Saint-Denis. The coin was picked up, and the whole
sum, with the exception of the fourpenny piece, was
paid over to the Commissioners at the Hotel de Ville.



A CLUB IN AN UPROAR 65

'Some say it was a quarter-franc. It was found
sticking, afterwards, to the sabot of an Auvergnat, and
brought in safety to the Provisional Government.

4 Blankley comes in. He made his fortune last year
by the railroads, has realised, and is in a frantic state of
terror. " The miscreants ! " he says. " The whole
population is in arms. They are pouring down to the
English coast ; the Sam-culottes will be upon us to-
morrow, and we shall have them upon upon my estate
in Sussex, by Jove ! Cobden was in a league with the
Revolutionary Government when he said there would be
no war laying a trap to lull us into security, and so
give free ingress to the infernal revolutionary villains.
There are not a thousand men in the country to resist
them, and we shall all be butchered before a week is out
butchered, and our property confiscated. Cobden
ought to be impeached and hanged. Lord John Russell
ought to be impeached and hanged. Hope Guizot will
be guillotined for not having used cannon, and slaughtered
the ruffians before the Revolution came to a head."
N.B. Blankley was a Liberal before he made
his money, and had a picture of Tom Paine in his
study.

4 Towzer arrives. A messenger has just come to the
Foreign Office wounded in three . places, and in the
disguise of a fish- woman. Paris is in flames in twenty-
four quarters the mob and pikemen raging through it.
Lamartine has been beheaded. The forts have declared
for the King and are bombarding the town. All the
English have been massacred.

* Captain Shindy says, u Nonsense ! no such thing."
A messenger has come to the French Embassy. The
King and Family are at Versailles. The two chambers
have followed them thither, and Marshal Bugeaud has
rallied a hundred and twenty thousand men. The
Parisians have three days' warning : and if at the end of
that time they do not yield, seven hundred guns will



66 SKETCHES AND TRAVELS IN LONDON

open on the dogs, and the whole canaille will be hurled
to perdition.

* Pipkinson arrives. The English in Paris are con-
gregated in the Protestant churches ; a guard is placed
over them. It is with the greatest difficulty that the
rabble are prevented from massacring them. Lady
Lunchington only escaped by writing " Veuve
d'O'Connell " on her door. It is perfectly certain that
Guizot is killed. Lamartine and the rest of the Pro-
visional Government have but a few days to live ; the
Communists will destroy them infallibly ; and universal
blood, terror, and anarchy will prevail over France, over
Europe, over the world.

* Bouncer on the best authority. Thirty thousand
French entered Brussels under Lamoriciere. No harm
has been done to Leopold. The united French and
Belgian army march on the Rhine on Monday. Rhenish
Prussia is declared to form a part of the Republic. A
division under General Bedeau will enter Savoy, and
penetrate into Lombardy. The Pope abdicates his
temporal authority. The Russians will cross the
Prussian frontier with four hundred thousand men.

* Bowyer has just come from Mivart's, and says that
rooms are taken there for the Pope, who has fled from
his dominions, for the Countess of Landsfeld, for the
King of Bavaria, who is sure to follow immediately, and
for all the French Princes, and their suite and families.'

It was in this way that Rumour was chattering last
week, while the great events were pending. But oh,
my friends ! wild and strange as these stories were, were
they so wonderful as the truth ? as an army of a
hundred thousand men subdued by a rising of bare-
handed mechanics : as a great monarch, a Minister
notorious for wisdom, and a great monarchy blown into
annihilation by a blast of national breath ; as a magnifi-
cent dynasty slinking out of existence in a cab ; as a



A ROUNDABOUT RIDE 67

gallant prince, with an army at his back, never so much
as drawing a sword, but at a summons from a citizen of
the National Guard turning tail and sneaking away ; as
a poet braving the pikes which had scared away a family
of kings and princes, and standing forward, wise, brave,
sensible, and merciful, undismayed on the tottering



Online LibraryWilliam Makepeace ThackerayComplete works (Volume 22) → online text (page 5 of 31)