William Makepeace Thackeray.

The history of Henry Esmond online

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PREFACE , , J ,,

The Esmonds of Virginia

The estate of Castlewood, in Virginia, which was given to our ancestors
by King Charles the First, as some return for the sacrifices made in His
Majesty's cause by the Esmond family, hes in Westmoreland County,
between the rivers Potomac and Rappahannoc, and was once as great as
an English Principality, though in the early times its revenues were but
small. Indeed, for near eighty years after our forefathers possessed them,
our plantations were in the hands of factors, who enriched themselves
one after another, though a few scores of hogsheads of tobacco were all
the produce that, for long after the Restoration, our family received from
their Virginian estates.

My dear and honored father. Colonel Henry Esmond, whose history,
written by himself, is contained in the accompanying volumes, came to
Virginia in the year 1718, built his house of Castlewood, and here
permanently settled. After a long stormy life in England, he passed the
remainder of his many years in peace and honor in this country; how
beloved and respected by all his fellow-citizens, how inexpressibly dear
to his family, I need not say. His whole life was a benefit to all who were
connected with him. He gave the best example, the best advice, the most
bounteous hospitality to his friends; the tenderest care to his dependents;
and bestowed on those of his immediate family such a blessing of fatherly
love and protection as can never be thought of, by us, at least, without
veneration and thankfulness ; and my son's children, whether established
here in our Republic, or at home in the always beloved mother country,
from which our late quarrel hath separated us, may surely be proud to be
descended from one who in all ways was so truly noble.

My dear mother died in 1736, soon after our return from England,
whither my parents took me for my education; and where I made the
acquaintance of Mr. Warrington, whom my children never saw. When
it pleased Heaven, in the bloom of his youth, and after but a few months
of a most happy union, to remove him from me, I owed my recovery from


i n;n<^p.^i

the grief which that calamity caused me, mainly to my dearest father's
tenderness, and then to the blessing vouclisafed to me in the birth of my
two beloved boys. I know the fatal differences which separated them in
politics never disunited their hearts ; and as I can love them both, whether
wearing the King's colors or the Republic's, I am sure that they love me
and one another, and him above all, my father and theirs, the dearest
friend of their childhood, the noble gentleman who bred them from
their infancy in the practice and knowledge of Truth, and Love, and

My children will never forget the appearance and figure of their
revered grandfather; and I wish I possessed the art of drawing (which
my papa had in perfection), so that I could leave to our descendants a
portrait of one who was so good and so respected. My father was of a
dark complexion, with a very great forehead and dark hazel eyes, over-
hung by eyebrows which remained black long after his hair was white.
His nose was aquiline, his smile extraordinary sweet. How well I re-
member it, and how little any description I can write can recall his image !
He was of rather low stature, not being above five feet seven inches in
height; he used to laugh at my sons, whom he called his crutches, and say
they were grown too tall for him to lean upon. But small as he was, he
had a perfect grace and majesty of deportment, such as I have never seen
in this country, except perhaps in our friend Mr. Washington, and
commanded respect wherever he appeared.

In all bodily exercises he excelled, and showed an extraordinary
quickness and agility. Of fencing he was especially fond, and made my
two boys proficient in that art ; so much so that when the French came to
this country with Monsieur Rochambeau, not one of his officers was
superior to my Henry, and he was not the equal of my poor George, who
had taken the King's side in our lamentable but glorious War of Inde-

Neither my father nor my mother ever wore powder in their hair;
both their heads were as white as silver, as I can remember them. My
dear mother possessed to the last an extraordinary brightness and fresh-
ness of complexion; nor would people believe that she did not wear
rouge. At sixty years of age she still looked young, and was quite agile.
It was not until after that dreadful siege of our house by the Indians,
which left me a widow ere I was a mother, that my dear mother's health
broke. She never recovered from her terror and anxiety of those days,
which ended so fatally for me, then a bride scarce six months married,


and died in my father's arms ere my own year of widowhood was over.

From that day, until the last of his dear and honored life, it was my
delight and consolation to remain with him as his comforter and com-
panion; and from those little notes which my mother hath made here and
there in the volume in which my father describes his adventures in Europe,
I can well understand the extreme devotion with which she regarded him
— a devotion so passionate and exclusive as to prevent her, I think, from
loving any other person except with an inferior regard; her whole
thoughts being centered on this one object of affection and worship. I
know that, before her, my dear father did not show the love which he
had for her daughter ; and in her last and most sacred moments, this dear
and tender parent owned to me her repentance that she had not loved
me enough; her jealousy even that my father should give his affection to
any but herself; and in the most fond and beautiful words of affection
and admonition, she bade me never to leave him, and to supply the place
which she was quitting. With a clear conscience, and a heart inex-
pressibly thankful, I think I can say that I fulfilled those dying com-
mands, and that until his last hour my dearest father never had to
complain that his daughter's love and fidelity failed him.

And it is since I knew him entirely — for during my mother's life he
never quite opened himself to me — since I knew the value and splendor
of that affection which he bestowed upon me, that I have come to under-
stand and pardon what, I own, used to anger me in my mother's life-time,
her jealousy respecting her husband's love. 'Twas a gift so precious, that
no wonder she who had it was for keeping it all, and could part with
none of it, even to her daughter.

Though I never heard my father use a rough word, 'twas extraordinary
with how much awe his people regarded him; and the servants on our
plantation, both those assigned from England and the purchased negroes,
obeyed him with an eagerness such as the most severe taskmasters round
about us could never get from their people. He was never familiar, though
perfectly simple and natural ; he was the same with the meanest man as
with the greatest, and as courteous to a black slave-girl as to the governor's
wife. No one ever thought of taking a liberty with him (except once a
tipsy gentleman from York, and I am bound to own that my papa never
forgave him) : he set the humblest people at once on their ease with him,
and brought down the most arrogant by a grave satiric way, which made
persons exceedingly afraid of him. His courtesy was not put on like a
Sunday suit, and laid by when the company went away; it was always

the same; as he was always dressed the same, whether for a dinner by
ourselves or for a great entertainment. They say he liked to be the first
in his company ; but what company was there in which he would not be
first ? When I went to Europe for my education, and we passed a winter
at London with my half-brother, my Lord Castlewood and his second
lady, I saw at Her Majesty's Court some of the most famous gentlemen
of those days ; and I thought to myself none of these are better than my
papa; and the famous Lord Bolingbroke, who came to us from Dawley,
said as much, and that the men of that time were not like those of his
youth: "Were your father, madam," he said, "to go into the woods, the
Indians would elect him Sachem"; and his lordship was pleased to call
me Pocahontas.

I did not see our other relative. Bishop Tusher's lady, of whom so much
is said in my papa's Memoirs — although my mamma went to visit her in
the country. I have no pride (as I showed by complying with my
mother's request, and marrying a gentleman who was but the younger son
of a Suflfolk Baronet), yet I own to a decent respect for my name, and
wonder how one who ever bore it should change it for that of Mrs.
Thomas Tusher. I pass over as odious and unworthy of credit those
reports (which I heard in Europe, and was then too young to under-
stand), how this person, having left her fam/ly and fled to Paris, out
of jealousy of the Pretender betrayed his secrets to my Lord Stair, King
George's ambassador, and nearly caused the Prince's death there; how
she came to England and married this Mr. Tusher, and became a great
favorite of King George the Second, by whom Mr. Tusher was made a
dean, and then a bishop. I did not see the lady, who chose to remain at
her palace all the time we were in London; but after visiting her my
poor mamma said she had lost all her good looks, and warned me not to
set too much store by any such gifts which nature had bestowed upon me.
She grew exceedingly stout; and I remember my brother's wife, Lady
Castlewood, saying: "No wonder she became a favorite, for the King
likes them old and ugly, as his father did before him." On which papa
said: "All women were alike; that there was never one so beautiful as
that one; and that we could forgive her everything but her beauty." And
hereupon my mamma looked vexed, and my Lord Castlewood began to
laugh; and I, of course, being a young creature, could not understand
what was the subject of their conversation.

After the circumstances narrated in the third book of these Memoirs,
my father and mother both went abroad, being advised by their friends


to leave the country in consequence of the transactions which are recounted
at the close of the volume of the Memoirs. But my brother, hearing how
the juture bishop's lady had quitted Castlewood and joined the Pretender
at Paris, pursued him, and would have killed him. Prince as he was, had
not the Prince managed to make his escape. On his expedition to Scotland
directly after, Castlewood was so enraged against him that he asked leave
to serve as a volunteer, and join the Duke of Argyle's army in Scotland,
which the Pretender never had the courage to face; and thenceforth my
lord was quite reconciled to the present reigning family, from whom he
hath even received promotion.

Mrs. Tusher was by this time as angry against the Pretender as any of
her relations could be, and used to boast, as I have heard, that she not
only brought back my lord to the Church of England, but procured the
English peerage for him, which the junior branch of our family at present
enjoys. She was a great friend of Sir Robert Walpole, and would not rest
until her husband slept at Lambeth, my papa used laughing to say.
However, the bishop died of apoplexy suddenly, and his wife erected a
great monument over him ; and the pair sleep under that stone, with a
canopy of marble clouds and angels above them — the first Mrs. Tusher
lying sixty miles off at Castlewood.

But my papa's genius and education are both greater than any a woman
can be expected to have, and his adventures in Europe far more exciting
than his life in this country, which was passed in the tranquil offices of
love and duty; and I shall say no more by way of introduction to his
Memoirs, nor keep my children from the perusal of a story which is much
more interesting than that of their affectionate old mother.

Rachel Esmond Warrington.
Castlewood, Virginia,

November 3, 1778.


Book I


The History of Henry Esmond

The actors in the old tragedies, as we read, piped their iambics to a
tune, speaking from under a mask, and wearing stilts and a great head-
dress. 'Twas thought the dignity of the Tragic Muse required these
appurtenances, and that she was not to move except to a measure and
cadence. So Queen Medea slew her children to a slow music: and King
Agamemnon perished in a dying fall (to use Mr. Dryden's words) : the
Chorus standing by in a set attitude, and rhythmically and decorously
bewailing the fates of those great crowned persons. The Muse of History
has encumbered herself with ceremony as well as her Sister of the
Theater. She too wears the mask and the cothurnus, and speaks to
measure. She too, in our age, busies herself with the affairs only of kings ;
waiting on them obsequiously and stately, as if she were but a mistress of
court ceremonies, and had nothing to do with the registering of the
affairs of the common people. I have seen in his very old age and decrepi-
tude the old French King Louis the Fourteenth, the type and model of
kinghood — who never moved but to measure, who lived and died accord-
ing to the laws of his Court-marshal, persisting in enacting through life
the part of Hero; and, divested of poetry, this was but a little wrinkled
old man, pock-marked, and with a great periwig and red heels to make
him look tall — a hero for a book if you like, or for a brass statue or a
painted ceiling, a god in a Roman shape, but what more than a man for
Madame Maintenon, or the barber who shaved him, or Monsieur Fagon,
his surgeon ? I wonder shall History ever pull off her periwig and cease
to be court-ridden ? Shall we see something of France and England be-
sides Versailles and Windsor? I saw Queen Anne at the latter place
tearing down the Park slopes, after her stag-hounds, and driving her one-
horse chaise — a hot, red-faced woman, not in the least resembling that
statue of her which turns its stone back upon St. Paul's and faces the
coaches struggling up Ludgate Hill. She was neither better bred nor
wiser than you and me, though we knelt to hand her a letter or a wash-


hand basin. Why shall History go on kneeling to the end of time ? I am
for having her rise up off her knees, and take a natural posture: not to be
forever performing cringes and congees like a court-chamberlain, and
shuffling backwards out of doors in the presence of the sovereign. In a
word, I would have history familiar rather than heroic: and think that
Mr. Hogarth and Mr. Fielding will give our children a much better idea
of the manners of the present age in England, than the Court Gazette and
the newspapers which we get thence.

There was a German officer of Webb's with whom we used to joke,
and of whom a story (whereof I myself was the author) was believed in
the army, that he was eldest son of the hereditarj^ Grand Bootjack of the
Empire, and the heir to that honor of which his ancestors had been very
proud, having been kicked for twenty generations by one imperial foot,
as they drew the boot from the other. I have heard that the old Lord
Castlewood, of part of whose family these present volumes are a chronicle,
though he came of quite as good blood as the Stuarts whom he served
(and who as regards mere lineage are no better than a dozen English and
Scottish houses I could name), was prouder of his post about the court
than of his ancestral honors, and valued his dignity (as Warden of the
Butteries and Groom of the King's Posset) so highly, that he cheerfully
ruined himself for the thankless and thriftless race who bestowed it. He
pawned his plate for King Charles the First, mortgaged his property for
the same cause, and lost the greater part of it by fines and sequestration :
stood a siege of his castle by Ireton, where his brother Thomas capitulated
(afterward making terms with the Commonwealth, for which the elder
brother never forgave him), and where his second brother Edward, who
had embraced the ecclesiastical profession, was slain on Castlewood
Tower, being engaged there both as preacher and artilleryman. This reso-
lute old loyalist, who was with the King while his house was thus being
battered down, escaped abroad with his only son, then a boy, to return and
take a part in Worcester fight. On that fatal field Eustace Esmond was
killed, and Castlewood fled from it once more into exile, and hence-
forward, and after the Restoration, never was away from the Court of the
monarch (for whose return we offer thanks in the Prayer-Book) who sold
his country and who took bribes of the French king.

What spectacle is more august than that of a great king in exile? Who
is more worthy of respect than a brave man in misfortune.^ Mr. Addison
has painted such a figure in his noble piece of "Cato." But suppose fugi-
tive Cato fuddling himself at a tavern with a wench on each knee, a dozen


faithful and tipsy companions of defeat, and a landlord calling out for his
bill; and the dignity of misfortune is straightway lost. The Historical
Muse turns away shamefaced from the vulgar scene, and closes the door
— on which the exile's unpaid drink is scored up — upon him and his
pots and his pipes, and the tavern-chorus which he and his friends are
singing. Such a man as Charles should have had an Ostade or Mieris
to paint him. Your Knellers and Le Bruns only deal in clumsy and im-
possible allegories: and it has always seemed to me blasphemy to claim
Olympus for such a wine-drabbled divinity as that.

About the king's follower, the Viscount Castlewood, orphaned of his
son, ruined by his fidelity, bearing many wounds and marks of bravery,
old and in exile — his kinsmen I suppose should be silent; nor if this
patriarch fell down in his cups, call fie upon him, and fetch passers-by
to laugh at his red face and white hairs. What ! does a stream rush out
of a mountain free and pure, to roll through fair pastures, to feed and
throw out bright tributaries, and to end in a village gutter? Lives that
have noble commencements have often no better endings ; it is not with-
out a kind of awe and reverence that an observer should speculate upon
such careers as he traces the course of them. I have seen too much of
success in life to take off my hat and huzza to it as it passes in its gilt
coach ; and would do my little part with my neighbors on foot, that they
should not gape with too much wonder, nor applaud too loudly. Is it the
Lord Mayor going in state to mince-pies and the Mansion House.? Is it
poor Jack of Newgate's procession, with the sheriff and javelin-men, con-
ducting him on his last journey to Tyburn ? I look into my heart and think
that I am as good as my Lord Mayor, and know I am as bad as
Tyburn Jack. Give me a chain and red gown and a pudding before me,
and I could play the part of Alderman very well, and sentence Jack after
dinner. Starve me, keep me from books and honest people, educate me
to love dice, gin, and pleasure, and put me on Hounslow Heath, with a
purse before me, and I will take it. "And I shall be deservedly hanged,"
say you, wishing to put an end to this prosing. I don't say No. I can't
but accept the world as I find it, including a rope's end, as long as it
is in fashion.


The Family of Castle wood Hall

When Francis, fourth Viscount Castlewood, came to his title, and pres-
ently after to take possession of his house of Castlewood, county Hants,
in the year 1691, almost the only tenant of the place besides the domestics
was a lad of twelve years of age, of whom no one seemed to take any
note until my lady viscountess lighted upon him, going over the house
with the housekeeper on the day of her arrival. The boy was in the room
known as the Book-room, or Yellow Gallery, where the portraits of the
family used to hang, that fine piece among others of Sir Antonio Van
Dyck of George, second viscount, and that by Mr. Dobson of my Lord
the third viscount, just deceased, which it seems his lady and widow did
not think fit to carry away, when she sent for and carried off to her house
at Chelsey, near to London, the picture of herself by Sir Peter Lely, in
which her ladyship was represented as a huntress of Diana's court.

The new and fair lady of Castlewood found the sad, lonely little oc-
cupant of this gallery busy over his great book, which he laid down when
he was aware that a stranger was at hand. And, knowing who that per-
son must be, the lad stood up and bowed before her, performing a shy
obeisance to the mistress of his house.

She stretched out her hand — indeed when was it that that hand would
not stretch out to do an act of kindness, or to protect grief and ill-fortune?
"And this is our kinsman," she said ; "and what is your name, kinsman?"

"My name is Henry Esmond," said the lad, looking up at her in a sort
of delight and wonder, for she had come upon him as a Dea certe, and ap-
peared the most charming object he had ever looked on. Her golden hair
was shining in the gold of the sun; her complexion was of a dazzling
bloom; her lips smiling, and her eyes beaming with a kindness which
made Harry Esmond's heart to beat with surprise.

"His name is Henry Esmond, sure enough, my lady," says Mrs. Work-
sop, the housekeeper (an old tyrant whom Henry Esmond plagued more
than he hated), and the old gentlewoman looked significantly towards


the late lord's picture as it now is in the family, noble and severe-looking,
with his hand on his sword, and his order on his cloak, which he had
from the Emperor during the war on the Danube against the Turk.

Seeing the great and undeniable likeness between this portrait and
the lad, the new viscountess, who had still hold of the boy's hand as she
looked at the picture, blushed and dropped the hand quickly, and walked
down the gallery, followed by Mrs. Worksop.

When the lady came back, Harry Esmond stood exactly in the same
spot, and with his hand as it had fallen when he dropped it on his black

Her heart melted, I suppose (indeed, she has since owned as much), at
the notion that she should do anything unkind to any mortal, great or
small ; for, when she returned, she had sent away the housekeeper upon
an errand by the door at the farther end of the gallery; and, coming back
to the lad, with a look of infinite pity and tenderness in her eyes, she
took his hand again, placing her other fair hand on his head, and saying
some words to him, which were so kind, and said in a voice so sweet,
that the boy, who had never looked upon so much beauty before, felt as
if the touch of a superior being or angel smote him down to the ground,
and kissed the fair protecting hand as he knelt on one knee. To the very
last hour of his life, Esmond remembered the lady as she then spoke and
looked, the rings on her fair hands, the very scent of her robe, the beam
of her eyes lighting up with surprise and kindness, her lips blooming in
a smile, the sun making a golden halo round her hair.

As the boy was yet in this attitude of humility, enters behind him a
portly gentleman, with a little girl of four years old in his hand. The gen-
tleman burst into a great laugh at the lady and her adorer, with his little
queer figure, his sallow face, and long black hair. The lady blushed, and
seemed to deprecate his ridicule by a look of appeal to her husband, for
it was my lord viscount who now arrived, and whom the lad knew, hav-
ing once before seen him in the late lord's lifetime.

"So this is the little priest!" says my lord, looking down at the lad.
"Welcome, kinsman!"

"He is saying his prayers to mamma," says the little girl, who came up
to her papa's knees: and my lord burst out into another great laugh at this,
and kinsman Henry looked very silly. He invented a half-dozen of speeches
in reply, but 'twas months afterwards when he thought of this adventure:
as it was, he had never a word in answer.

"Le pauvre enfant, H n'a que nous," says the lady, looking to her lord ;


and the boy, who understood her, though doubtless she thought other-
wise, thanked her with all his heart for her kind speech.

"And he shan't want for friends here," says my lord, in a kind voice,
"shall he, little Trix?"

The little girl, whose name was Beatrix, and whom her papa called by

Online LibraryWilliam Makepeace ThackerayThe history of Henry Esmond → online text (page 1 of 43)