William Makepeace Thackeray.

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I say, instruct our boy, on going to a party at the
Baronet's, by no means to neglect his cousin Adeliza,
but to dance with her as soon as ever he can engage her
what can I say, Sir, but that the world of men and
boys is the same that society is poisoned at its source
and that our little chubby-cheeked cherubim are
instructed to be artful and egotistical, when you would
think by their faces they were just fresh from heaven.

Among the very little children, I confess I get a con-
solation as I watch them, in seeing the artless little girls
walking after the boys to whom they incline, and court-
ing them by a hundred innocent little wiles and caresses,
putting out their little hands and inviting them to
dances, seeking them out to pull crackers with them,
and begging them to read the mottoes, and so forth
this is as it should be this is natural and kindly. The
women, by rights, ought to court the men ; and they
would if we but left them alone.*

* On our friend's manuscript there it written, in a female handwriting,
' Vulgar, immodest. E. S.'


And, absurd as the games are, I own I like to see some
thirty or forty of the creatures on the floor in a ring,
playing at petits jeuxy of all ages and sexes, from the most
insubordinate infanthood of Master Jacky, who will
crawl out of the circle, and talks louder than anybody
in it, though he can't speak, to blushing Miss Lily, who
is just conscious that she is sixteen I own, I say, that I
can't look at such a circlet or chaplet of children, as it
were, in a hundred different colours, laughing and happy,
without a sort of pleasure. How they laugh, how they
twine together, how they wave about, as if the wind
was passing over the flowers ! Poor little buds, shall
you bloom long ? (I then say to myself, by way of
keeping up a proper frame of mind) shall frosts nip you,
or tempests scatter you, drought wither you, or rain
beat you down ? And oppressed with my feelings, I go
below and get some of the weak negus with which
Children's Parties are refreshed.

At those houses where the magic lantern is practised,
I still sometimes get a degree of pleasure, by hearing the
voices of the children in the dark, and the absurd
remarks which they make as the various scenes are pre-
sented as, in the dissolving views, Cornhill changes
into Grand Cairo ; as Cupid comes down with a wreath,
and pops it on to the head of the Duke of Wellington j
as Saint Peter's at Rome suddenly becomes illuminated,
and fireworks, not the least like real fireworks, begin to
go off from Fort St. Angelo it is certainly not
unpleasant to hear the * o-o-o's ' of the audience, and the
little children chattering in the darkness. But I think
I used to like the * Pull devil, pull baker,' and the
Doctor Syntax of our youth, much better than all your
new-fangled dissolving views and pyrotechnic imita-

As for the conjuror, I am sick of him. There is one
conjuror I have met so often during this year and the
last, that the man looks quite guilty when the folding


doors arc opened, and he sees my party of children, and
myself amongst the seniors in the back rows. He
forgets his jokes when he beholds me ; his wretched
claptraps and waggeries fail him : he trembles, falters,
and turns pale.

I on my side too feel reciprocally uneasy. What
right have we to be staring that creature out of his silly
countenance ? Very likely he has a wife and family
dependent for their bread upon his antics. I should be
glad to admire them if I could : but how do so ? When
I see him squeeze an orange or a cannon-ball right away
into nothing, as it were, or multiply either into three
cannon-balls or oranges, I know the others are in his
pocket somewhere. I know that he doesn't put out his
eye when he sticks the penknife into it : or that after
swallowing (as the miserable humbug pretends to do) a
pocket-handkerchief, he cannot by any possibility con-
vert it into a quantity of coloured wood-shavings.
These flimsy articles may amuse children, but not us.
I think I shall go and sit down below amongst the
servants whilst this wretched man pursues his idiotic
delusions before the children.

And the supper, sir, of which our darlings are made to
partake. Have they dined ? I ask. Do they have a
supper at home, and why do not they ? Because it is
unwholesome. If it is unwholesome, why do they have
supper at all ? I have mentioned the wretched quality
of the negus. How they can administer such stuff to
children I can't think. Though only last week I heard
a little boy, Master Swilby, at Miss Waters's, say that
he had drunk nine glasses of it, and eaten I don't know
how many tasteless sandwiches and insipid cakes ; after
which feats he proposed to fight my youngest son.

As for that Christmas Tree, which we have from the
Germans anybody who knows what has happened to
them may judge what will befall us from following their
absurd customs. Are we to put up pine-trees in our


parlours, with wax-candles and bonbons^ after the manner

of the ancient Druids ? Are we

. . . My dear Sir, my manuscript must here abruptly
terminate. Mrs. S. has just come into my study, and
my daughter enters grinning behind her, with twenty-
five little notes, announcing that Master and Miss Spec
request the pleasure of Miss Brown, Miss F. Brown, and
M. A. Brown's company on the 25th instant. There is
to be a conjuror in the back drawing-room, a magic
lantern in my study, a Christmas Tree in the dining-
room, dancing in the drawing-room 'And, my dear,
we can have whist in our bedroom,' my wife says.
* You know we must be civil to those who have been so
kind to our darling children.' SPEC.


WE are amongst a number of people waiting for the
Blackwall train at the Fenchurch Street Station. Some
of us are going a little farther than Blackwall as far as
Gravesend some of us are going even farther than
Gravesend to Port Phillip in Australia, leaving behind
the patrite fines and the pleasant fields of Old England. It
is rather a queer sensation to be in the same boat and
station with a party that is going upon so prodigious a
journey. One speculates about them with more than
an ordinary interest, thinking of the difference between
your fate and theirs, and that we shall never behold these
faces again.

Some eight-and-thirty women are sitting in the large
Hall of the station, with bundles, baskets, and light
baggage, waiting for the steamer, and the orders to
embark. A few friends are taking leave of them,
bonnets are laid together, and whispering going on. A


little crying is taken place ; only a very little crying,
and among those who remain, as it seems to me, not
those who are going away. They leave behind them
little to weep for : they are going from bitter cold and
hunger, constant want and unavailing labour. Why
should they be sorry to quit a mother who has been so
hard to them as our country has been ? How many of
these women will ever see the shore again, upon the
brink of which they stand, and from which they will
depart in a few minutes more ? It makes one sad and
ashamed too, that they should not be more sorry. But
how are you to expect love where you have given such
scanty kindness ? If you saw your children glad at the
thoughts of leaving you, and for ever : would you blame
yourselves or them ? It is not that the children are un-
grateful, but the home was unhappy, and the parents
indifferent or unkind. You are in the wrong, under
whose government they only had neglect and wretched-
ness ; not they, who can't be called upon to love such an
unlovely thing as misery, or to make any other return
for neglect but indifference and aversion.

You and I, let us suppose again, are civilised persons.
We have been decently educated : and live decently
every day, and wear tolerable clothes, and practise
cleanliness : and love the arts and graces of life. As we
walk down this rank of eight-and-thirty female emi-
grants, let us fancy that we are at Melbourne, and not
in London, and that we have come down from our
sheep-walks, or clearings, having heard of the arrival of
forty honest well-recommended young women, and
having a natural longing to take a wife home to the bush
which of these would you like ? If you were an
Australian Sultan, to which of these would you throw
the handkerchief? I am afraid not one of them. I
fear, in our present mood of mind, we should mount
horse and return to the country, preferring a solitude,
and to be a bachelor, than to put up with one of these


for a companion. There is no girl here to tempt you by
her looks (and, world-wiseacre as you are, it is by these
you are principally moved) there is no pretty, modest,
red-cheeked rustic, no neat trim little grisette, such as
what we call a gentleman might cast his eyes upon
without too much derogating, and might find favour in
the eyes of a man about town. No ; it is a homely bevy
of women with scarcely any beauty amongst them
their clothes are decent, but not the least picturesque
their faces are pale and careworn for the most part
how, indeed, should it be otherwise, seeing that they
have known care and want all their days ? there they
sit upon bare benches, with dingy bundles, and great
cotton umbrellas and the truth is you are not a hardy
colonist, a feeder of sheep, feller of trees, a hunter of
kangaroos but a London man, and my Lord the
Sultan's cambric handkerchief is scented with Bond
Street perfumery you put it in your pocket, and
couldn't give it to any one of these women.

They are not like you, indeed. They have not your
tastes and feelings : your education and refinements.
They would not understand a hundred things which
seem perfectly simple to you. They would shock you
a hundred times a day by as many deficiencies of polite-
ness, or by outrages upon the Queen's English by
practices entirely harmless, and yet in your eyes actually
worse than crimes they have large hard hands and
clumsy feet. The woman you love must have pretty
soft fingers that you may hold in yours : must speak her
language properly, and at least when you offer her your
heart, must return hers with its h in the right place, as
she whispers that it is yours, or you will have none of it.
If she says, ' O Hedward, I ham so unappy to think I
shall never beold you agin,' though her emotion on
leaving you might be perfectly tender and genuine,
you would be obliged to laugh. If she said, * Hedward,
my art is yours for hever and hever' (and anybody heard


her), she might as well stabvou, you couldn't accept
the most faithful affection offered in such terms you
are a town-bred man, I say, and your handkerchief
smells of Bond Street musk and millifleur. A sunburnt
settler out of the Bush won't feel any of these exquisite
tortures : or understand this kind of laughter : or object
to Molly because her hands are coarse and her ankles
thick : but he will take her back to his farm, where
she will nurse his children, bake his dough, milk his
cows, and cook his kangaroo for him.

But between you, an educated Londoner, and that
woman, is not the union absurd and impossible r
Would it not be unbearable for either ? Solitude would
be incomparably pleasanter than such a companion.
You might take her with a handsome fortune, perhaps,
were you starving ; but then it is because you want a
house and carriage, let us say (your necessaries of life),
and must have them even if you purchase them with
your precious person. You do as much, or your sister
does as much, every day. That, however, is not the
point: I am not talking about the meanness to which
your worship may be possibly obliged to stoop, in order,
as you say, 'to keep up your rank in society' only
stating that this immense social difference does exist.
You don't like to own it : or don't choose to talk about
it, and such things had much better not be spoken
about at all. I hear your worship say, there must be
differences in rank, and so forth ! Well ! out with it at
once : you don't think Molly is your equal nor indeed
is she in the possession of many artificial acquirements.
She can't make Latin verses, for example, as you used
to do at school ; she can't speak French and Italian, as
your wife very likely can, &c. and in so far she is your
inferior, and your amiable lady's.

But what I note, what I marvel at, what I acknow-
ledge, what I am ashamed of, what is contrary to
Christian morals, manly modesty and honesty, and to


the national well-being, is that there should be that
immense social distinction between the well-dressed
classes (as, if you will permit me, we will call ourselves),
and our brethren and sisters in the fustian jackets and
pattens. If you deny it for your part, I say that you
are mistaken, and deceive yourself woefully. I say that
you have been educated to it through Gothic ages, and
have had it handed down to you from your fathers (not
that they were anybody in particular, but respectable
well-dressed progenitors, let us say for a generation or
two) from your well-dressed fathers before you. How
long ago is it, that our preachers were teaching the
poor ' to know their station ' ? that it was the peculiar
boast of Englishmen, that any man, the humblest
among us, could, by talent, industry, and good luck,
hope to take his place in the aristocracy of his country,
and that we pointed with pride to Lord This, who was
the grandson of a barber ; and to Earl That, whose
father was an apothecary ? What a multitude of most
respectable folks pride themselves on these things still !
The gulf is not impassable, because one man in a million
swims over it, and we hail him for his strength and
success. He has landed on the happy island. He is
one of the aristocracy. Let us clap hands and applaud.
There's no country like ours for rational freedom.

If you go up and speak to one of these women, as you
do (and very good-naturedly, and you can't help that
confounded condescension), she curtseys and holds
down her head meekly, and replies with modesty, as
becomes her station, to your honour with the clean shirt
and the well-made coat. 'And so she should,' is what
hundreds of thousands of us, rich and poor, say still.
Both believe this to be bounden duty ; and that a poor
person should naturally bob her head to a rich one
physically and morally.

Let us get her last curtsey from her as she stands here
upon the English shore. When she gets into the


Australian woods her back won't bend except to her
labour ; or if it do, from old habit and the reminiscence
of the old country, do you suppose her children will be
like that timid creature before you ? They will know
nothing of that Gothic society, with its ranks and
hierarchies, its cumbrous ceremonies, its glittering
antique paraphernalia, in which we have been educated ;
in which rich and poor still acquiesce, and which
multitudes of both still admire : far removed from these
old-world traditions, they will be bred up in the midst
of plenty, freedom, manly brotherhood. Do you think
if your worship's grandson goes into the Australian
woods, or meets the grandchild of one of yonder women
by the banks of the Warrawarra, the Australian will
take a hat off or bob a curtsey to the new-comer ? He
will hold out his hand, and say, ' Stranger, come into my
house and take a shakedown, and have a share of our
supper. You come out of the old country, do you ?
There was some people were kind to my grandmother
there, and sent her out to Melbourne. Times arc
changed since then come in and welcome ! *

What a confession it is that we have almost all of us
been obliged to make ! A clever and earnest-minded
writer gets a commission from the Morning Chronicle
newspaper, and reports upon the state of our poor in
London ; he goes amongst labouring people and poor of
all kinds and brings back what ? A picture of human
life so wonderful, so awful, so piteous and pathetic, so
exciting and terrible, that readers of romances own they
never read anything like to it ; and that the griefs,
struggles, strange adventures here depicted, exceed
anything that any of us could imagine. Yes ; and these
wonders and terrors have been lying by your door and
mine ever since we had a door of our own. We had
but to go a hundred yards off and see for ourselves, but
we never did. Don't we pay poor-rates, and are they
not heavy enough in the name of patience ? Very


true ; and we have our own private pensioners, and give
away some of our superfluity, very likely. You are not
unkind ; not ungenerous. But of such wondrous and
complicated misery as this you confess you had no idea.
No. How should you ? you and I we are of the
upper classes; we have had hitherto no community with
the poor. We never speak a word to the servant who
waits on us for twenty years ; we condescend to employ
a tradesman, keeping him at a proper distance, mind, of
course, at a proper distance we laugh at his young
men, if they dance, jig, and amuse themselves like their
betters, and call them counter-jumpers, snobs, and what
not ; of his workmen we know nothing, how piteously
they are ground down, how they live and die, here close
by us, at the backs of our houses until some poet
like Hood wakes and sings that dreadful * Song of the
Shirt ; ' some prophet like Carlyle rises up and denounces
woe ; some clear-sighted energetic man like the writer
of the Chronicle travels into the poor man's country for
us, and comes back with his tale of terror and wonder.

Awful awful poor man's country ! The bell rings,
and these eight-and-thirty women bid adieu to it,
rescued from it (as a few thousands more will be) by
some kind people who are interested in their behalf. In
two hours more, the steamer lies alongside the ship
* Culloden,' which will bear them to their new home.
Here are the berths aft for the unmarried women, the
married couples are in the midships, the bachelors in the
fore-part of the ship. Above and below decks it swarms
and echoes with the bustle of departure. The Emigra-
tion Commissioner comes and calls over their names :
there are old and young, large families, numbers of
children already accustomed to the ship, and looking
about with amused unconsciousness. One was born but
just now on board ; he will not know how to speak
English till he is fifteen thousand miles away from
home. Some of these kind people whose bounty and


benevolence organised the Female Emigration Scheme,
are here to give a last word and shake of the hand to
their prottgtts. They hang sadly and gratefully round
their patrons. One of them, a clergyman, who has
devoted himself to this good work, says a few words to
them at parting. It is a solemn minute indeed for
those who (with the few thousands who will follow
them) are leaving the country and escaping from the
question between rich and poor : and what for those
who remain ? But, at least, those who go will re-
member that in their misery here they found gentle
hearts to love and pity them, and generous hands to give
them succour, and will plant in the new country this
grateful tradition of the old. May Heaven's good
mercy speed them !

JULY 1840

X , who had voted with Mr. Ewart for the

abolition of the punishment of death, was anxious to see
the effect on the public mind of an execution, and
asked me to accompany him to see Courvoisier killed.
We had not the advantage of a sheriff's order, like the
'six hundred nobleman and gentlemen' who were ad-
mitted within the walls of the prison ; but determined
to mingle with the crowd at the foot of the scaffold, and
take up our positions at a very early hour.

As I was to rise at three in the morning, I went to
bed at ten, thinking that five hours' sleep would be
amply sufficient to brace me against the fatigues of the
coming day. But, as might have been expected, the
event of the morrow was perpetually before my eyes
through the night, and kept them wide open. I heard


all the clocks in the neighbourhood chime the hours in
succession ; a dog from some court hard by kept up a
pitiful howling ; at one o'clock, a cock set up a feeble
melancholy crowing ; shortly after two the daylight
came peeping grey through the window-shutters ; and

by the time that X arrived, in fulfilment of his

promise, I had been asleep about half-an-hour. He,
more wise, had not gone to rest at all, but had remained
up all night at the Club along with Dash and two or
three more. Dash is one of the most eminent wits in
London, and had kept the company merry all night with
appropriate jokes about the coming event. It is curious
that a murder is a great inspirer of jokes. We all like
to laugh and have our fling about it ; there is a certain
grim pleasure in the circumstance a perpetual jingling
antithesis between life and death, that is sure of its effect.
In mansion or garret, on down or straw, surrounded
by weeping friends and solemn oily doctors, or tossing
unheeded upon scanty hospital beds, there were many
people in this great city to whom that Sunday night
was to be the last of any that they should pass on earth
here. In the course of half-a-dozen dark wakeful hours,
one had leisure to think of these (and a little, too, of
that certain supreme night, that shall come at one time
or other, when he who writes shall be stretched upon the
last bed, prostrate in the last struggle, taking the last
look of dear faces that have cheered us here, and linger-
ing one moment more ere we part for the tremend-
ous journey) ; but, chiefly, I could not help thinking, as
each clock sounded, what is he doing now ? has he heard
it in his little room in Newgate yonder ? Eleven
o'clock. He has been writing until now. The gaoler
says he is a pleasant man enough to be with ; but he can
hold out no longer, and is very weary. * Wake me at
four,' says he, ' for I have still much to put down.'
From eleven to twelve the gaoler hears how he is grind-
ing his teeth in his sleep. At twelve he is up in his


bed and asks, t Is it the time ? ' He has plenty more
time yet for sleep ; and he sleeps, and the bell goes on
tolling. Seven hours more five hours more. Many a
carriage is clattering through the streets, bringing
ladies away from evening parties ; many bachelors are
reeling home after a jolly night ; Covent Garden is
alive ; and the light coming through the cell-window
turns the gaoler s candle pale. Four hours more !
' Courvoisier,' says the gaoler, shaking him, 'it's four
o'clock now, and I've woke you as you told me ; but
there's no call for you to get up yet.' The poor wretch
leaves his bed, however, and makes his last toilet; and
then falls to writing, to tell the world how he did the
crime for which he has suffered. This time he will tell
the truth and the whole truth. They bring him his
breakfast * from the coffee-shop opposite tea, coffee,
and thin bread and butter.' He will take nothing,
however, but goes on writing. He has to write to his
mother the pious mother far away in his own country
who reared him and loved him ; and even now has
sent him her forgiveness and her blessing. He finishes
his memorials and letters, and makes his will, disposing
of his little miserable property of books and tracts that
pious people have furnished him with. ' Ce 6 Juillet,
1840. Fran9ois Benjamin Courvoisier vous donne ceci,
mon ami, pour souvenir.' He has a token for his dear
friend the gaoler ; another for his dear friend the under-
sheriff. As the day of the convict's death draws nigh,
it is painful to see how he fastens upon everybody who
approaches him, how pitifully he clings to them and
loves them.

While these things are going on within the prison
(with which we are made accurately acquainted by the
copious chronicles of such events which are published

subsequently), X 's carriage has driven up to the

door of my lodgings, and we have partaken of an elegant
dtjeuner that has been prepared for the occasion. A cup


of coffee at half-past three in the morning is uncommonly

pleasant : and X enlivens us with the repetition of

the jokes that Dash has just been making. Admirable,
certainly they must have had a merry night of it, that's
clear ; and we stoutly debate whether, when one has to

Online LibraryWilliam Makepeace ThackerayComplete works (Volume 22) → online text (page 7 of 31)