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THE HISTORY OF PENDENNIS

By William Makepeace Thackeray


TO DR. JOHN ELLIOTSON


My Dear Doctor,

Thirteen months ago, when it seemed likely that this story had come to
a close, a kind friend brought you to my bedside, whence, in
all probability, I never should have risen but for your constant
watchfulness and skill. I like to recall your great goodness and
kindness (as well as many acts of others, showing quite a surprising
friendship and sympathy) at that time, when kindness and friendship were
most needed and welcome.

And as you would take no other fee but thanks, let me record them here
in behalf of me and mine, and subscribe myself,

Yours most sincerely and gratefully,

W. M. THACKERAY.




PREFACE


If this kind of composition, of which the two years' product is now laid
before the public, fail in art, as it constantly does and must, it at
least has the advantage of a certain truth and honesty, which a work
more elaborate might lose. In his constant communication with the
reader, the writer is forced into frankness of expression, and to speak
out his own mind and feelings as they urge him. Many a slip of the pen
and the printer, many a word spoken in haste, he sees and would recall
as he looks over his volume. It is a sort of confidential talk between
writer and reader, which must often be dull, must often flag. In the
course of his volubility, the perpetual speaker must of necessity lay
bare his own weaknesses, vanities, peculiarities. And as we judge of a
man's character, after long frequenting his society, not by one speech,
or by one mood or opinion, or by one day's talk, but by the tenor of his
general bearing and conversation; so of a writer, who delivers himself
up to you perforce unreservedly, you say, Is he honest? Does he tell
the truth in the main? Does he seem actuated by a desire to find out and
speak it? Is he a quack, who shams sentiment, or mouths for effect? Does
he seek popularity by claptraps or other arts? I can no more ignore good
fortune than any other chance which has befallen me. I have found many
thousands more readers than I ever looked for. I have no right to say
to these, You shall not find fault with my art, or fall asleep over my
pages; but I ask you to believe that this person writing strives to tell
the truth. If there is not that, there is nothing.

Perhaps the lovers of 'excitement' may care to know, that this book
began with a very precise plan, which was entirely put aside. Ladies
and gentlemen, you were to have been treated, and the writer's and the
publisher's pocket benefited, by the recital of the most active horrors.
What more exciting than a ruffian (with many admirable virtues) in St.
Giles's, visited constantly by a young lady from Belgravia? What
more stirring than the contrasts of society? the mixture of slang and
fashionable language? the escapes, the battles, the murders? Nay, up to
nine o'clock this very morning, my poor friend, Colonel Altamont, was
doomed to execution, and the author only relented when his victim was
actually at the window.

The 'exciting' plan was laid aside (with a very honourable forbearance
on the part of the publishers), because, on attempting it, I found that
I failed from want of experience of my subject; and never having been
intimate with any convict in my life, and the manners of ruffians and
gaol-birds being quite unfamiliar to me, the idea of entering into
competition with M. Eugene Sue was abandoned. To describe a real rascal,
you must make him so horrible that he would be too hideous to show; and
unless the painter paints him fairly, I hold he has no right to show him
at all.

Even the gentlemen of our age - this is an attempt to describe one of
them, no better nor worse than most educated men - even these we cannot
show as they are, with the notorious foibles and selfishness of their
lives and their education. Since the author of Tom Jones was buried, no
writer of fiction among us has been permitted to depict to his utmost
power a MAN. We must drape him, and give him a certain conventional
simper. Society will not tolerate the Natural in our Art. Many ladies
have remonstrated and subscribers left me, because, in the course of the
story, I described a young man resisting and affected by temptation.

My object was to say, that he had the passions to feel, and the
manliness and generosity to overcome them. You will not hear - it is best
to know it - what moves in the real world, what passes in society, in the
clubs, colleges, mess-rooms, - what is the life and talk of your sons.
A little more frankness than is customary has been attempted in this
story; with no bad desire on the writer's part, it is hoped, and with no
ill consequence to any reader. If truth is not always pleasant, at
any rate truth is best, from whatever chair - from those whence graver
writers or thinkers argue, as from that at which the story-teller sits
as he concludes his labour, and bids his kind reader farewell.

Kensington, Nov. 26th, 1850.



CONTENTS

CHAPTER
I Shows how First Love may interrupt Breakfast
II A Pedigree and other Family Matters
III In which Pendennis appears as a very young Man indeed
IV Mrs. Haller
V Mrs. Haller at Home
VI Contains both Love and War
VII In which the Major makes his Appearance
VIII In which Pen is kept waiting at the Door, while the Reader
is informed who little Laura was
IX In which the Major opens the Campaign
X Facing the Enemy
XI Negotiation
XII In which a Shooting Match is proposed
XIII A Crisis
XIV In which Miss Fotheringay makes a new Engagement
XV The Happy Village
XVI More Storms in the Puddle
XVII Which concludes the First Part of this History
XVIII Alma Mater
XIX Pendennis of Boniface
XX Rake's Progress
XXI Flight after Defeat
XXII Prodigal's Return
XXIII New Faces
XXIV A Little Innocent
XXV Contains both Love and Jealousy
XXVI A House full of Visitors
XXVII Contains some Ball-practising
XXVIII Which is both Quarrelsome and Sentimental
XXIX Babylon
XXX The Knights of the Temple
XXXI Old and New Acquaintances
XXXII In which the Printer's Devil comes to the Door
XXXIII Which is passed in the Neighbourhood of Ludgate Hill
XXXIV In which the History still hovers about Fleet Street
XXXV Dinner in the Row
XXXVI The Pall Mall Gazette
XXXVII Where Pen appears in Town and Country
XXXVIII In which the Sylph reappears
XXXIX In which Colonel Altamont appears and disappears
XL Relates to Mr. Harry Foker's Affairs
XLI Carries the Reader both to Richmond and Greenwich
XLII Contains a Novel Incident
XLIII Alsatia
XLIV In which the Colonel narrates some of his Adventures
XLV A Chapter of Conversations
XLVI Miss Amory's Partners
XLVII Monseigneur s'amuse
XLVIII A Visit of Politeness
XLIX In Shepherd's Inn
L In or near the Temple Garden
LI The Happy Village again
LII Which had very nearly been the last of the Story
LIII A Critical Chapter
LIV Convalescence
LV Fanny's Occupation's gone
LVI In which Fanny engages a new Medical Man
LVII Foreign Ground
LVIII 'Fairoaks to let'
LIX Old Friends
LX Explanations
LXI Conversations
LXII The Way of the World
LXIII Which accounts perhaps for Chapter LXII
LXIV Phillis and Corydon
LXV Temptation
LXVI In which Pen begins his Canvass
LXVII In which Pen begins to doubt about his Election
LXVIII In which the Major is bidden to Stand and Deliver
LXIX In which the Major neither yields his Money nor his Life
LXX In which Pendennis counts his Eggs
LXXI Fiat Justitia
LXXII In which the Decks begin to clear
LXXIII Mr. and Mrs. Sam Huxter
LXXIV Shows how Arthur had better have taken a Return Ticket
LXXV A Chapter of Match-making
LXXVI Exeunt Omnes





PENDENNIS



CHAPTER I. Shows how First Love may interrupt Breakfast


One fine morning in the full London season, Major Arthur Pendennis
came over from his lodgings, according to his custom, to breakfast at a
certain Club in Pall Mall, of which he was a chief ornament. As he
was one of the finest judges of wine in England, and a man of active,
dominating, and inquiring spirit, he had been very properly chosen to
be a member of the Committee of this Club, and indeed was almost the
manager of the institution; and the stewards and waiters bowed before
him as reverentially as to a Duke or a Field-Marshal.

At a quarter past ten the Major invariably made his appearance in the
best blacked boots in all London, with a checked morning cravat that
never was rumpled until dinner time, a buff waistcoat which bore the
crown of his sovereign on the buttons, and linen so spotless that Mr.
Brummel himself asked the name of his laundress, and would probably have
employed her had not misfortunes compelled that great man to fly the
country. Pendennis's coat, his white gloves, his whiskers, his very
cane, were perfect of their kind as specimens of the costume of a
military man en retraite. At a distance, or seeing his back merely, you
would have taken him to be not more than thirty years old: it was only
by a nearer inspection that you saw the factitious nature of his rich
brown hair, and that there were a few crow's-feet round about the
somewhat faded eyes of his handsome mottled face. His nose was of the
Wellington pattern. His hands and wristbands were beautifully long and
white. On the latter he wore handsome gold buttons given to him by his
Royal Highness the Duke of York, and on the others more than one elegant
ring, the chief and largest of them being emblazoned with the famous
arms of Pendennis.

He always took possession of the same table in the same corner of the
room, from which nobody ever now thought of ousting him. One or two
mad wags and wild fellows had in former days, and in freak or bravado,
endeavoured twice or thrice to deprive him of this place; but there was
a quiet dignity in the Major's manner as he took his seat at the next
table, and surveyed the interlopers, which rendered it impossible for
any man to sit and breakfast under his eye; and that table - by the fire,
and yet near the window - became his own. His letters were laid out there
in expectation of his arrival, and many was the young fellow about town
who looked with wonder at the number of those notes, and at the seals
and franks which they bore. If there was any question about etiquette,
society, who was married to whom, of what age such and such a duke was,
Pendennis was the man to whom every one appealed. Marchionesses used to
drive up to the Club, and leave notes for him, or fetch him out. He was
perfectly affable. The young men liked to walk with him in the Park or
down Pall Mall; for he touched his hat to everybody, and every other man
he met was a lord.

The Major sate down at his accustomed table then, and while the waiters
went to bring him his toast and his hot newspaper, he surveyed his
letters through his gold double eye-glass. He carried it so gaily, you
would hardly have known it was spectacles in disguise, and examined one
pretty note after another, and laid them by in order. There were large
solemn dinner cards, suggestive of three courses and heavy conversation;
there were neat little confidential notes, conveying female entreaties;
there was a note on thick official paper from the Marquis of Steyne,
telling him to come to Richmond to a little party at the Star and
Garter, and speak French, which language the Major possessed very
perfectly; and another from the Bishop of Ealing and Mrs. Trail,
requesting the honour of Major Pendennis's company at Ealing House,
all of which letters Pendennis read gracefully, and with the more
satisfaction, because Glowry, the Scotch surgeon, breakfasting opposite
to him, was looking on, and hating him for having so many invitations,
which nobody ever sent to Glowry.

These perused, the Major took out his pocket-book to see on what days he
was disengaged, and which of these many hospitable calls he could afford
to accept or decline.

He threw over Cutler, the East India Director, in Baker Street, in order
to dine with Lord Steyne and the little French party at the Star and
Garter - the Bishop he accepted, because, though the dinner was slow, he
liked to dine with bishops - and so went through his list and disposed of
them according to his fancy or interest. Then he took his breakfast
and looked over the paper, the gazette, the births and deaths, and the
fashionable intelligence, to see that his name was down among the guests
at my Lord So-and-so's fete, and in the intervals of these occupations
carried on cheerful conversation with his acquaintances about the room.

Among the letters which formed Major Pendennis's budget for that morning
there was only one unread, and which lay solitary and apart from all the
fashionable London letters, with a country postmark and a homely seal.
The superscription was in a pretty delicate female hand, and though
marked 'Immediate' by the fair writer, with a strong dash of anxiety
under the word, yet the Major had, for reasons of his own, neglected up
to the present moment his humble rural petitioner, who to be sure could
hardly hope to get a hearing among so many grand folks who attended
his levee. The fact was, this was a letter from a female relative of
Pendennis, and while the grandees of her brother's acquaintance were
received and got their interview, and drove off, as it were, the patient
country letter remained for a long time waiting for an audience in the
ante-chamber under the slop-bason.

At last it came to be this letter's turn, and the Major broke a seal
with 'Fairoaks' engraved upon it, and 'Clavering St. Mary's' for a
postmark. It was a double letter, and the Major commenced perusing the
envelope before he attacked the inner epistle.

"Is it a letter from another Jook," growled Mr. Glowry, inwardly,
"Pendennis would not be leaving that to the last, I'm thinking."

"My dear Major Pendennis," the letter ran, "I beg and implore you to
come to me immediately " - very likely, thought Pendennis, and Steyne's
dinner to-day - "I am in the very greatest grief and perplexity. My
dearest boy, who has been hitherto everything the fondest mother could
wish, is grieving me dreadfully. He has formed - I can hardly write it - a
passion, an infatuation," - the Major grinned - "for an actress who
has been performing here. She is at least twelve years older than
Arthur - who will not be eighteen till next February - and the wretched
boy insists upon marrying her."

"Hay! What's making Pendennis swear now?" - Mr. Glowry asked of himself,
for rage and wonder were concentrated in the Major's open mouth, as he
read this astounding announcement.

"Do, my dear friend," the grief-stricken lady went on, "come to me
instantly on the receipt of this; and, as Arthur's guardian, entreat,
command, the wretched child to give up this most deplorable resolution."
And, after more entreaties to the above effect, the writer concluded
by signing herself the Major's 'unhappy affectionate sister, Helen
Pendennis.'

"Fairoaks, Tuesday" - the Major concluded, reading the last words of the
letter - "A d - -d pretty business at Fairoaks, Tuesday; now let us
see what the boy has to say;" and he took the other letter, which was
written in a great floundering boy's hand, and sealed with the large
signet of the Pendennises, even larger than the Major's own, and with
supplementary wax sputtered all round the seal, in token of the writer's
tremulousness and agitation.

The epistle ran thus:

"Fairoaks, Monday, Midnight.

"My Dear Uncle, - In informing you of my engagement with Miss Costigan,
daughter of J. Chesterfield Costigan, Esq., of Costiganstown, but,
perhaps, better known to you under her professional name of Miss
Fotheringay, of the Theatres Royal Drury Lane and Crow Street, and of
the Norwich and Welsh Circuit, I am aware that I make an announcement
which cannot, according to the present prejudices of society at least,
be welcome to my family. My dearest mother, on whom, God knows, I would
wish to inflict no needless pain, is deeply moved and grieved, I am
sorry to say, by the intelligence which I have this night conveyed to
her. I beseech you, my dear Sir, to come down and reason with her
and console her. Although obliged by poverty to earn an honourable
maintenance by the exercise of her splendid talents, Miss Costigan's
family is as ancient and noble as our own. When our ancestor, Ralph
Pendennis, landed with Richard II. in Ireland, my Emily's forefathers
were kings of that country. I have the information from Mr. Costigan,
who, like yourself, is a military man.

"It is in vain I have attempted to argue with my dear mother, and
prove to her that a young lady of irreproachable character and lineage,
endowed with the most splendid gifts of beauty and genius, who devotes
herself to the exercise of one of the noblest professions, for the
sacred purpose of maintaining her family, is a being whom we should all
love and reverence, rather than avoid; - my poor mother has prejudices
which it is impossible for my logic to overcome, and refuses to welcome
to her arms one who is disposed to be her most affectionate daughter
through life.

"Although Miss Costigan is some years older than myself, that
circumstance does not operate as a barrier to my affection, and I am
sure will not influence its duration. A love like mine, Sir, I feel, is
contracted once and for ever. As I never had dreamed of love until I saw
her - I feel now that I shall die without ever knowing another passion.
It is the fate of my life. It was Miss C.'s own delicacy which suggested
that the difference of age, which I never felt, might operate as a bar
to our union. But having loved once, I should despise myself, and
be unworthy of my name as a gentleman, if I hesitated to abide by my
passion: if I did not give all where I felt all, and endow the woman who
loves me fondly with my whole heart and my whole fortune.

"I press for a speedy marriage with my Emily - for why, in truth,
should it be delayed? A delay implies a doubt, which I cast from me
as unworthy. It is impossible that my sentiments can change towards
Emily - that at any age she can be anything but the sole object of my
love. Why, then, wait? I entreat you, my dear Uncle, to come down and
reconcile my dear mother to our union, and I address you as a man of the
world, qui mores hominum multorum vidit et urbes, who will not feel any
of the weak scruples and fears which agitate a lady who has scarcely
ever left her village.

"Pray, come down to us immediately. I am quite confident that - apart
from considerations of fortune - you will admire and approve of my
Emily. - Your affectionate Nephew, Arthur Pendennis, Jr."

When the Major had concluded the perusal of this letter, his countenance
assumed an expression of such rage and horror that Glowry, the
surgeon-official, felt in his pocket for his lancet, which he always
carried in his card-case, and thought his respected friend was going
into a fit. The intelligence was indeed sufficient to agitate Pendennis.
The head of the Pendennises going to marry an actress ten years his
senior, - a headstrong boy going to plunge into matrimony. "The mother
has spoiled the young rascal," groaned the Major inwardly, "with her
cursed sentimentality and romantic rubbish. My nephew marry a tragedy
queen! Gracious mercy, people will laugh at me so that I shall not dare
show my head!" And he thought with an inexpressible pang that he must
give up Lord Steyne's dinner at Richmond, and must lose his rest and
pass the night in an abominable tight mail-coach, instead of taking
pleasure, as he had promised himself, in some of the most agreeable and
select society in England.

And he must not only give up this but all other engagements for some
time to come. Who knows how long the business might detain him. He
quitted his breakfast table for the adjoining writing-room, and there
ruefully wrote off refusals to the Marquis, the Earl, the Bishop, and
all his entertainers; and he ordered his servant to take places in
the mail-coach for that evening, of course charging the sum which
he disbursed for the seats to the account of the widow and the young
scapegrace of whom he was guardian.




CHAPTER II. A Pedigree and other Family Matters


Early in the Regency of George the Magnificent, there lived in a small
town in the west of England, called Clavering, a gentleman whose name
was Pendennis. There were those alive who remembered having seen his
name painted on a board, which was surmounted by a gilt pestle and
mortar over the door of a very humble little shop in the city of Bath,
where Mr. Pendennis exercised the profession of apothecary and surgeon;
and where he not only attended gentlemen in their sick-rooms, and ladies
at the most interesting periods of their lives, but would condescend to
sell a brown-paper plaster to a farmer's wife across the counter, - or to
vend tooth-brushes, hair-powder, and London perfumery. For these facts
a few folks at Clavering could vouch, where people's memories were more
tenacious, perhaps, than they are in a great bustling metropolis.

And yet that little apothecary who sold a stray customer a pennyworth of
salts, or a more fragrant cake of Windsor soap, was a gentleman of
good education, and of as old a family as any in the whole county of
Somerset. He had a Cornish pedigree which carried the Pendennises up to
the time of the Druids, and who knows how much farther back? They had
intermarried with the Normans at a very late period of their family
existence, and they were related to all the great families of Wales and
Brittany. Pendennis had had a piece of University education too, and
might have pursued that career with great honour, but that in his second
year at Cambridge his father died insolvent, and poor Pen was obliged
to betake himself to the pestle and apron. He always detested the trade,
and it was only necessity, and the offer of his mother's brother, a
London apothecary of low family, into which Pendennis's father had
demeaned himself by marrying, that forced John Pendennis into so odious
a calling.

He quickly after his apprenticeship parted from the coarse-minded
practitioner his relative, and set up for himself at Bath with his
modest medical ensign. He had for some time a hard struggle with
poverty; and it was all he could do to keep the shop and its gilt
ornaments in decent repair, and his bed-ridden mother in comfort: but
Lady Ribstone happening to be passing to the Rooms with an intoxicated
Irish chairman who bumped her ladyship up against Pen's very door-post,
and drove his chair-pole through the handsomest pink bottle in
the surgeon's window, alighted screaming from her vehicle, and was
accommodated with a chair in Mr. Pendennis's shop, where she was brought
round with cinnamon and sal-volatile.

Mr. Pendennis's manners were so uncommonly gentlemanlike and soothing,
that her ladyship, the wife of Sir Pepin Ribstone, of Codlingbury, in
the county of Somerset, Bart., appointed her preserver, as she called
him, apothecary to her person and family, which was very large. Master
Ribstone coming home for the Christmas holidays from Eton, over-ate
himself and had a fever, in which Mr. Pendennis treated him with the
greatest skill and tenderness. In a word, he got the good graces of the
Codlingbury family, and from that day began to prosper. The good company
of Bath patronised him, and amongst the ladies especially he was beloved
and admired. First his humble little shop became a smart one: then he
discarded the selling of tooth-brushes and perfumery, as unworthy of a
gentleman of an ancient lineage: then he shut up the shop altogether,
and only had a little surgery attended by a genteel young man: then he
had a gig with a man to drive him; and, before her exit from this world,
his poor old mother had the happiness of seeing from her bedroom window
to which her chair was rolled, her beloved John step into a close
carriage of his own, a one-horse carriage it is true, but with the arms
of the family of Pendennis handsomely emblazoned on the panels.
"What would Arthur say now?" she asked, speaking of a younger son of



Online LibraryWilliam Makepeace ThackerayThe History of Pendennis → online text (page 1 of 81)