William Makepeace Thackeray.

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pinnacle of popular power ? Was there ever a day since
the beginning of history, where small men were so great,
and great ones so little ? What satirist could ever have
dared to invent such a story as that of the brave and
famous race of Orleans flying, with nobody at their
backs ; of wives and husbands separating, and the deuce
take the hindmost : of Ulysses shaving his whiskers off,
and flinging away even his wig ? It is the shamefullest
chapter in history a consummation too base for

One can't laugh at anything so miserably mean. All
the Courts in Europe ought to go into mourning, or
wear sackcloth. The catastrophe is too degrading. It
sullies the cause of all kings, as the misconduct of a
regiment does an army. It tarnishes all crowns. And
if it points no other moral, and indicates no future
consequences, why, Progress is a mere humbug : Rail-
roads lead to nothing, and Signs point nowhere : and
there is no To-morrow for the world.



YOUNG HENGIST having kindly offered to lend me a
pony, I went out for a ride with him this morning ; and
being now mercifully restored to my arm-chair at home,
I write down, with a rapid and faithful pen, the events
of the day.


Hengist lives in the Tyburn district, that great rival,
and sometime, as 'twas thought, conqueror of Belgravia,
where squares, cathedrals, terraces spring up in a night,
as it were : where, as you wandered yesterday, you saw
a green strip of meadow, with a washerwoman's cottage
and a tea-garden ; and to-day you look up, and lo ! you
see a portly row of whity-brown bow-windowed houses,
with plate-glass windows, through the clear panes of
which you may see bald-headed comfortable old fogies
reading the Morning Herald. Butlers loll at the doors
(by the way, the Tyburnian footmen are by no means
so large or so powdery as the Mayfair and Belgravian
gentry) the road is always freshly laid down with sharp
large flintstones. Missis's neat little brougham with
two bay horses, and the page by the coachman's side, is
creaking over the flints. The apothecary is driving
here and there in a gig ; the broad flagstones are dotted
about with a good number of tartan jackets and hats,
enclosing wholesome-looking little children. A brand-
new fishmonger's shop is just open, with great large
white-bellied turbots, looking very cool and helpless on
the marble slabs. A genteel stucco-faced public-house
is run up for the accommodation of the grooms, and the
domestics, and the hodmen of the neighbourhood ; and a
great bar is placed at the end of the street, beyond
which is a chaos of bricks, wheelbarrows, mounds of
chalk, with milky-looking pools beside them, scaffold-
ings and brown skeletons of houses, through which the
daylight shines, and you can see patches of green land
beyond, which are to be swallowed up presently by the
great devouring City.

This quarter, my dear friends, is what Baker Street
was in the days of our youth. I make no doubt that
some of the best and stupidest dinners in London are
given hereabouts; dinners where you meet a Baronet, a
Knight, and a snuffy little old General ; and where the
master of the house, the big bald man, leads Lady


Barbara Macraw downstairs, the Earl of Strathbungo's
daughter, and godmother to his seventh child. A little
more furniture would make the rooms look more com-
fortable ; but they are very handsome as it is. The
silver dish-covers are splendaceous. I wish the butler
would put a little more wine into the glasses, and come
round rather oftener. You are the only poor man in
the room. Those awful grave fellows give each other
dinners round. Their daughters come solemnly in the
evening. The young fellow of the house has been at
Oxford, and smokes cigars, but not in the house, and
dines a good deal out at his Club.

I don't wonder : I once dined with young Hengist,
at his father's, Major-General Sir Hercules Hengist,

K.C.B., and of all the But hospitality forbids me

to reveal the secrets of the mahogany.

Having partaken there of a slight refreshment of a
sponge-cake from a former dessert (and a more pre-
tentious, stuck-up, tasteless, seedy cake than a sponge-
cake I don't know), and a glass of wine, we mounted our
horses and rode out on a great exploring journey. We
had heard of Bethnal Green and Spitalfields ; we wished
to see those regions ; and we rode forth then like two
cavaliers out of Mr. James's novels the one was young,
with curly chestnut ringlets, and a blonde moustache
just shading his upper lip, &c. We rode forth out
of Tyburnia and down the long row of terraces to
which two Universities have given their names.

At the end of Oxford Terrace, the Edgware Road
cuts rapidly in, and the genteel district is over. It
expires at that barrier of twopenny omnibuses : we are
nearly cut in two by one of those disgusting vehicles, as
we pass rapidly through the odious cordon.

We now behold a dreary district of mud, and houses
on either side, that have a decayed and slatternly look,
as if they had become insolvent, and subsequently taken
to drinking and evil courses in their old age. There is


a corner house not very far from the commencement of
the New Road, which is such a picture of broken-
windowed bankruptcy as is only to be seen when a
house is in Chancery or in Ireland. I think the very
ghosts must be mildewed that haunt that most desolate

As they rode on, the two cavaliers peeped over the
board of the tea-garden at the Yorkshire Stingo. The
pillars of the damp arbours and the legs of the tables
were reflected in the mud.

In sooth 'tis a dismal quarter. What are those whity-
brown small houses with black gardens fronting, and
cards of lodgings wafered into the rickety bow-windows ?
Would not the very idea that you have to pass over that
damp and reeking strip of ground prevent any man from
taking those hopeless apartments ? Look at the shabby
children paddling through the slush : and lo ! the red-
haired maid-of-all-work, coming out with yesterday's
paper and her mistress's beer-jug in her hand, through
the creaking little garden door, on which the name of
* Sulsh ' is written on a dirty brass plate.

Who is Sulsh ? Why do I want to know that he
lives there ? Ha ! there is the Lying-in Hospital,
which always looks so comfortable that we feel as if we
should like to be in an interesting fiddlestick ! Here
is Milksop Terrace. It looks like a dowager. It has
seen better days, but it holds its head up still, and has
nothing to do with Marylebone Workhouse, opposite,
that looks as cheerful as a cheese-paring.

We rise in respectability : we come upon tall brown
houses, and can look up long vistas of brick. Off with
your hat. That is Baker Street ; jolly little Upper
Baker Street stretches away Regent's Park-ward ; we
pass by Glum Street, Great Gaunt Street, Upper
Hatchment Street ; Tressel Place, and Pall Street
dark, tragic, and respectable abodes of worthy people.
Their names should be printed in a black book, instead


of a red book, however. I think they must have been
built by an architect and undertaker.

How the omnibuses cut through the mud City-wards,
and the rapid cabs with canvas-backed trunks on the
top, rush towards the Great Western Railway.
Yonder it lies, beyond the odious line of twopenny

See, we are at Park Crescent. Portland Place is
like a Pyramid, and has resisted time. It still looks as
if Aldermen lived there, and very beneficed clergymen
came to them to dine. The footmen are generally fat
in Portland Place, I have remarked ; fat and in red
plush breeches different from the Belgravian gents :
from the Tyburnian. Every quarter has it own
expression of plush, as flowers bloom differently in
different climates.

Chariots with lozenges on the panels, and elderly
ladies inside, are driving through the iron gates to take
the cheerful round of Regent's Park. When all
Nature smiles and the skies are intolerably bright and
blue, the Regency Park seems to me to have this
advantage, that a cooling and agreeable mist always
lies over it, and keeps off the glare.

Do people still continue to go to the Diorama ? It
is an entertainment congenial to the respectability of
the neighbourhood. I know nothing more charming
than to sit in a black room there, silent and frightened,
and with a dim sense that you are turning round ; and
then to see the view of the Church of Saint Rawhead
by moonlight, while a distant barrel-organ plays the
Dead March in 4 Saul' almost inaudibly.

Yoicks ! we have passed the long defile of Albany
Street ; we cross the road of Tottenham on either side
of us the cheerful factories with ready-made tombstones
and funereal urns ; or great zinc slipper-baths and
chimney-pots that look like the helmets of the Castle
of Otranto. Extremely small cigar-shops, and dentists j


one or two bug-destroyers, and coftce-shops that look
by no means inviting, are remarked by self and Hengist
as our rapid steeds gallop swiftly onwards onwards
through the Square of Euston onwards where the
towers of Pancridge rise before us rapidly, rapidly.

Ha ! he is down is he hurt ? He is up again it is
a cab-horse on ahead, not one of ours. It is the wood-
pavement. Let us turn aside and avoid the dangerous
path. SPEC.




SIR, As your publication finds its way to almost every
drawing-room table in this metropolis, and is read by the
young and old in every family, I beseech you to give
admission to the remonstrance of an unhappy parent, and
to endeavour to put a stop to a practice which appears to
me to be increasing daily, and is likely to operate most
injuriously upon the health, morals, and comfort of
society in general.

The awful spread of Juvenile Parties, sir, is the fact
to which I would draw your attention. There is no end
to those entertainments, and if the custom be not
speedily checked, people will be obliged to fly from
London at Christmas, and hide their children during the
holidays. I gave mine warning in a speech at breakfast

* Addressed to Mr. Punch.


this day, and said, with tears in my eyes, that if the
Juvenile Party system went on, I would take a house at
Margate next winter, for that, by heavens ! I could not
bear another Juvenile Season in London.

If they would but transfer Innocents' Day to the
summer holidays, and let the children have their
pleasures in May or June, we might get on. But now
in this most ruthless and cut-throat season of sleet, thaw,
frost, wind, snow, mud, and sore throats, it is quite a
tempting of fate to be going much abroad ; and this is the
time of all others that is selected for the amusement of
our little darlings.

As the first step towards the remedying of the evil of
which I complain, I am obliged to look Mr. Punch him-
self in his venerable beard, and say, * You, Sir, have, by
your agents, caused not a little of the mischief. I desire
that, during Christmas time at least, Mr. Leech should
be abolished, or sent to take a holiday. Judging from
his sketches, I should say that he must be endowed with
a perfectly monstrous organ of philoprogenitiveness : he
revels in the delineation of the dearest and most beauti-
ful little boys and girls in turn-down collars and broad
sashes, and produces in your Almanack a picture of a
child's costume ball, in which he has made the little
wretches in the dresses of every age, and looking so
happy, beautiful, and charming, that I have carefully
kept the picture from the sight of the women and
children of my own household, and I will not say
burned it, for I had not the heart to do that but
locked it away privately, lest they should conspire to
have a costume ball themselves, and little Polly should
insist upon appearing in the dress of Anne Boleyn,
or little Jacky upon turning out as an ancient

An odious, revolting, and disagreeable practice, sir, I
say, ought not to be described in a manner so
atrociously pleasing. The real satirist has no right to


lead the public astray about the Juvenile Fete nuisance,
and to describe a child's ball as if it was a sort of
Paradise, and the little imps engaged as happy and pretty
as so many cherubs. They should be drawn, one and
all, as hideous disagreeable distorted affected
jealous of each other dancing awkwardly with shoes
too tight for them overeating themselves at supper
very unwell (and deservedly so) the next morning, with
Mamma administering a mixture made after the Doctor's
prescription, and which should be painted awfully black,
in an immense large teacup, and (as might be shown by
the horrible expression on the little patient's face) of the
most disgusting flavour. Banish, I say, that Mr. Leech
during Christmas time, at least ; for, by a misplaced
kindness and absurd fondness for children, he is likely to
do them and their parents an incalculable quantity of

As every man, Sir, looks at the world out of his own
eyes or spectacles, or, in other words, speaks of it as he
finds it himself, I will lay before you my own case, being
perfectly sure that many another parent will sympathise
with me. My family, already inconveniently large, is
yet constantly on the increase, and it is out of the
question that Mrs. Spec should go to parties, as that
admirable woman has the best of occupations at home ;
where she is always nursing the baby. Hence it
becomes the father's duty to accompany his children
abroad, and to give them pleasure during the holidays.

Our own place of residence is in South Carolina Place,
Clapham Road North, in one of the most healthy of the
suburbs of this great City. But our relatives and
acquaintances are numerous ; and they are spread all
over the town and its outskirts. Mrs. S. has sisters
married, and dwelling respectively in Islington,
Haverstock Hill, Bedford Place, Upper Baker Street,
and Tyburn Gardens ; besides the children's grand-
mother, Kensington Gravel Pits, whose parties we are


all of course obliged to attend. A very great connection
of ours, and nearly related to a B-r-n-t and M.P.,
lives not a hundred miles from B-lg ve Square. I
could enumerate a dozen more places where our kins-
men or intimate friends are heads of families every one
of them, with their quivers more or less full of little

What is the consequence ? I herewith send it to you
in the shape of these eighteen enclosed notes, written in
various styles more or less correct and corrected, from
Miss Fanny's, aged seven, who hopes, in round hand,
that her dear cousins will come and drink tea with her
on New Year's Eve, her birthday, to that of the
Governess of the B-r-n-t in question, who requests the
pleasure of our company at a ball, a conjuror, and a
Christmas Tree. Mrs. Spec, for the valid reason above
stated, cannot frequent these meetings : I am the
deplorable chaperon of the young people. I am called
upon to conduct my family five miles to tea at six
o'clock. No count is taken of our personal habits,
hours of dinner, or intervals of rest. We are made the
victims of an infantile conspiracy, nor will the lady of
the house hear of any revolt or denial.

'Why,' says she, with the spirit which becomes a
woman and mother, 'you go to your man's parties
eagerly enough : what an unnatural wretch you must
be to grudge your children their pleasures ! ' She looks
round, sweeps all six of them into her arms, whilst the
baby on her lap begins to bawl, and you are assailed by
seven pairs of imploring eyes, against which there is no
appeal. You must go. If you are dying of lumbago,
if you are engaged to the best of dinners, if you are
longing to stop at home and read Macaulay, you must
give up all and go.

And it is not to one party or two, but to almost all.
You must go to the Gravel Pits, otherwise the grand-
mother will cut the children out of her will, and leave


her property to her other grandchildren. If you refuse
Islington and accept Tyburn Gardens, you sneer at a
poor relation, and acknowledge a rich one readily
enough. If you decline Tyburn Gardens, you fling
away the chances of the poor dear children in life, and
the hopes of the cadetship for little Jacky. If you go to
Hampstead, having declined Bedford Place, it is because
you never refuse an invitation to Hampstead, where
they make much of you, and Miss Maria is pretty (as
you think, though your wife doesn't), and do not care
for the Doctor in Bedford Place. And if you accept
Bedford Place, you dare not refuse Upper Baker Street,
because there is a coolness between the two families, and
you must on no account seem to take part with one or
the other.

In this way many a man besides myself, I dare say,
finds himself miserably tied down, and a helpless
prisoner, like Gulliver in the hands of the Lilliputians.
Let us just enumerate a few of the miseries of the
pitiable parental slave.

In the first place, examine the question in a pecuniary
point of view. The expenses of children's toilets at
this present time are perfectly frightful.

My eldest boy, Gustavus, at home from Dr. Birch's
Academy, Rodwell Regis, wears turquoise studs, fine
linen shirts, white waistcoats, and shiny boots : and,
when I proposed that he should go to a party in Berlin
gloves, asked me if I wished that he should be mistaken
for a footman ! My second, Augustus, grumbles about
getting his elder brother's clothes, nor could he be
brought to accommodate himself to Gustavus's waist-
coats at all, had not his mother coaxed him by the loan
of her chain and watch, which latter the child broke
after many desperate attempts to wind it up. As for
the little fellow, Adolphus, his mother has him attired
in a costume partly Scotch, partly Hungarian, mostly
buttons, and with a Louis Quatorze hat and scarlet


feather, and she curls this child's hair with her own
blessed tongs every night.

I wish she would do as much for the girls, though :
but no, Monsieur Floridor must do that : and accord-
ingly, every day this season, that abominable little
Frenchman, who is, I have no doubt, a Red Republican,
and smells of cigars and hair-oil, comes over, and, at
a cost of eighteenpence par tete y figs out my little
creatures' heads with fixature, bandoline, crinoline the
deuce knows what.

The bill for silk stockings, sashes, white frocks, is so
enormous, that I have not been able to pay my own
tailor these three years.

The bill for flys to 'Amstid and back, to Hizzlington
and take up, &c., is fearful. The drivers, in this extra
weather, must be paid extra, and they drink extra.
Having to go to Hackney in the snow, on the night of
the I5th of January, our man was so hopelessly
inebriated, that I was compelled to get out and drive
myself; and I am now, on what is called Twelfth Day
(with, of course, another child's party before me for
the evening), writing this from my bed, Sir, with a
severe cold, a violent toothache, and a most acute

As I hear the knock of our medical man, whom an
anxious wife has called in, I close this letter ; asking
leave, however, if I survive, to return to this painful
subject next week. And, wishing you a merry ! New
Year, I have the honour to be, dear Mr. Punch,

Your constant reader,



CONCEIVE, Sir, that in spite of my warning and
entreaty, we were invited to no less than three Child's
Parties last Tuesday ; to two of which a lady in this


house, who shall be nameless, desired that her children
should be taken. On Wednesday we had Dr. Lens's
microscope ; and on Thursday you were good enough
to send me your box for the Haymarlcet Theatre ; and
of course Mrs. S. and the children are extremely obliged
to you for the attention. I did not mind the theatre so
much. I sat in the back of the box, and fell asleep. I
wish there was a room with easy-chairs and silence
enjoined, whither parents might retire, in the houses
where Children's Parties are given. But no it would
be of no use : the fiddling and pianoforte-playing and
scuffling and laughing of the children would keep you

I am looking out in the papers for some eligible
schools where there shall be no vacations I can't bear
these festivities much longer. I begin to hate children
in their evening dresses : when children are attired in
those absurd best clothes, what can you expect from
them but affectation and airs of fashion ? One day last
year, Sir, having to conduct the two young ladies who
then frequented juvenile parties, I found them, upon
entering the fly, into which they had preceded me under
convoy of their maid I found them in what a
condition, think you ? Why, with the skirts of their
stiff muslin frocks actually thrown over their heads, so
that they should not crumple in the carriage ! A child
who cannot go into society but with a muslin frock in
this position, I say, had best stay in the nursery in her
pinafore. If you are not able to enter the world with
your dress in its proper place, I say stay at home. I
blushed, Sir, to see that Mrs. S. didrft blush when I
informed her of this incident, but only laughed in a
strange indecorous manner, and said that the girls must
keep their dresses neat. Neatness as much as you please ;
but I should have thought Neatness would wear her
frock in the natural way.

And look at the children when they arrive at their


place of destination : what processes of coquetry they
are made to go through ! They are first carried into a
room where there are pins, combs, looking-glasses, and
lady's-maids, who shake the children's ringlets out,
spread abroad their great immense sashes and ribbons,
and finally send them full sail into the dancing-room.
With what a monstrous precocity they ogle their own
faces in the looking-glasses ; I have seen my boys, Gus-
tavus and Adolphus, grin into the glass, and arrange
their curls or the ties of their neckcloths with as much
eagerness as any grown-up man could show, who was
going to pay a visit to the lady of his heart. With what
an abominable complacency they get out their little
gloves, and examine their silk stockings ! How can
they be natural or unaffected when they are so preposter-
ously conceited about their fine clothes ? The other day
we met one of Gus's schoolfellows, Master Chaffers, at a
party, who entered the room with a little gibus hat under
his arm, and to be sure made his bow with the aplomb of
a dancing-master of sixty ; and my boys, who I suspect
envied their comrade the gibus hat, began to giggle and
sneer at him ; and, further to disconcert him, Gus goes
up to him and says, * Why, Chaffers, you consider your-
self a deuced fine fellow, but there's a straw on your
trousers.' Why shouldn't there be ? And why should
that poor little boy be called upon to blush because he
came to a party in a hack-cab ? I, for my part, ordered
the children to walk home on that night, in order to punish
them for their pride. It rained. Gus wet and spoiled
his shiny boots, Dol got a cold, and my wife scolded me
for cruelty.

As to the airs which the wretches give themselves
about dancing, I need not enlarge upon them here, for
the dangerous artist of the ' Rising Generation ' has
already taken them in hand. Not that his satire does
the children the least good : they don't see anything
absurd in courting pretty girls, or in asserting the



superiority of their own sex over the female. A few
nights since, I saw Master Sultan at a juvenile ball, stand-
ing at the door of the dancing-room egregiously displaying
his muslin pocket-handkerchief, and waving it about as
if he was in doubt to which of the young beauties he
should cast it. * Why don't you dance, Master Sultan ? '
says I. * My good sir,' he answered, * just look round
at those girls and say if I can dance ?' Blase and selfish
now, what will that boy be, sir, when his whiskers grow ?

And when you think how Mrs. Mainchance seeks out
rich partners for her little boys how my own admirable
Eliza has warned her children * My dears, I would
rather you should dance with your Brown cousins than
your Jones cousins,' who are a little rough in their
manners (the fact being, that our sister Maria Jones
lives at Islington, while Fanny Brown is an Upper
Baker Street lady) ; when I have heard my dear wife,

Online LibraryWilliam Makepeace ThackerayComplete works (Volume 22) → online text (page 6 of 31)