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valet, you describe him as an old soldier, though he bears
not a single trait of the character which might have been
moulded by a long course of military service, but, on the
contrary, is marked by all the distinguishing features of a
bankrupt attorney, or a lame duck from the Stock Exchange.
Having to paint a cat, you endow her with the idiosyncrasies
of a dog."

At the end, the author intimates that he is ready to
treat with any liberal publisher for a series of works in
the same style, to be called " Tales of the Old Bailey,
or Komances of Tyburn Tree." The proposed series is
represented only by " Catherine," a longer and more
elaborate effort in the same direction. It is the
narrative of the misdeeds of Mrs. Catherine Hayes,
an allusion to whose criminality in after days brought
down upon the author of "Pendennis" an amusing
outpouring of fury from Irish patriotism, forgetting in
its excitement that the name was borne by a heroine
of the " Newgate Calendar " as well as by the accom-
plished singer whom we all regret. The purpose of



THACKERAY. 411

" Catherine " is the same as that of " Elizabeth
Brownrigge " to explode the lusus naturce school ;
but the plan adopted is slightly different. Things
had got worse than they were in 1832. The public
had called for coarse stimulants and had got them.
"Jack Sheppard" had been acquiring great popularity
in "Bentley's Miscellany;" and the true feeling and
pathos of many parts of " Oliver Twist " had been
marred by the unnatural sentimentalism of Nancy.
Mr. Ikey Solomon objected utterly to these mon-
strosities of literature, and thought the only cure was
a touch of realism ; an attempt to represent black-
guards in some measure as they actually are :

" In this," he says, " we have consulted nature and history
rather than the prevailing taste and the general manner of
authors. The amusing novel of 'Ernest Maltravers/ for
instance, opens with a seduction ; but then it is performed
by people of the strictest virtue on both sides ; and there is
so much religion and philosophy in the heart of the seducer,
so much tender innocence in the soul of the seduced,
that bless the little dears ! their very peccadilloes make
one interested in them ; and their naughtiness becomes
quite sacred, so deliciously is it described. Now, if we are
to be interested by rascally actions, let us have them with
plain faces, and let them be performed, not by virtuous
philosophers, but by rascals. Another clever class of
novelists adopt the contrary system, and create interest by
making their rascals perform virtuous actions/ Against
these popular plans we here solemnly appeal. We say, let
your rogues in novels act like rogues, and your honest men
like honest men ; don't let us have any juggling and thimble-
rigging with virtue and vice, so that, at the end of three
volumes, the bewildered reader shall not know which is
which ; don't let us find ourselves kindling at the generous
qualities of thieves and sympathising with the rascalities of
noble hearts. For our own part, we know what the public
likes, and have chosen rogues for our characters, and have
taken a story from the ' Newgate Calendar,' which we hope



412 THACKERAY.

to follow out to edification. Among the rogues at least, we
will have nothing that shall be mistaken for virtue. And if
the British public (after calling for three or four editions)
shall give up, not only our rascals, but the rascals of all
other authors, we shall be content. We shall apply to
Government for a pension, and think that our duty is
done."

Again, further on in the same story :
" The public will hear of nothing but rogues ; and the
only way in which poor authors, who must live, can act
honestly by the public and themselves, is to paint such
thieves as they are ; not dandy, poetical, rose-water thieves,
but real downright scoundrels, leading scoundrelly lives,
drunken, profligate, dissolute, low, as scoundrels will be. They
don't quote Plato like Eugene Aram, or live like gentlemen,
arid sing the pleasantest ballads in the world, like jolly Dick
Turpin ; or prate eternally about TO ica\ov, like that precious
canting Maltravers, whom we all of us have read about and
pitied; or die white -washed saints, like poor Biss Dadsy, in
' Oliver Twist.' No, my dear madam, you and your
daughters have no right to admire and sympathise with any
such persons, fictitious or real : you ought to be made
cordially to detest, scorn, loathe, abhor, and abominate all
people of this kidney. Men of genius, like those whose
works we have above alluded to, have no business to make
these characters interesting or agreeable, to be feeding your
morbid fancies, or indulging their own with such monstrous
food. For our parts, young ladies, we beg you to bottle up
your tears, and not waste a single drop of them on any one
of the heroes or heroines in this history ; they are all rascals
every soul of them, and behave * as sich.' Keep your
sympathy for those who deserve it ; don't carry it, for pre-
ference, to the Old Bailey, and grow maudlin over the
company assembled there."

Neither of these tales, though it is very curious to
look back at them now, can be considered quite suc-
cessful. And the reason of this is not hard to find.
It was impossible that they could be attractive as
stories ; while, on the other hand, the humour was not



THACKERAY. 413

broad enough to command attention for itself. They
were neither sufficiently interesting, nor sufficiently
amusing. They are caricatures without the element
of caricature. In " Elizabeth," we have little but the
story of a crime committed by a criminal actuated by
motives and overflowing with sentiments of the Eugene
Aram type. " Catherine " is more ambitious. In it
an attempt is made to construct a story to delineate
character. The rival loves of Mr. Bullock and Mr.
Hayes, and the adventures of the latter on his marriage-
day, show to some extent the future novelist ; while
in the pictures of the manners of the times, slight
though they are, in the characters of Corporal Brock
and Cornet Galgenstein, and M. TAbbe* O'Flaherty,
we can trace or at least we now fancy we can trace
the author of " Barry Lyndon " and " Henry Esmond."
Catherine herself, in her gradual progress from the
village jilt to a murderess, is the most striking thing
in the story, and is a sketch of remarkable power.
But nothing could make a story interesting which
consists of little more than the seduction of a girl, the
intrigues of a mistress, the discontent of a wife grow-
ing into hatred and ending in murder. At the close,
indeed, the writer resorts to the true way of making
such a jeu d' esprit attractive burlesque. He con-
cludes, though too late altogether to save the piece,
in a blaze of theatrical blue-fire ; and it was this idea
of burlesque or extravagant caricature which led to
the perfected successes of George de Barnwell and
Codlingsby. In a literary point of view, it is well
worth while to go back upon those early efforts ; and
we have dwelt upon them the more willingly, that
their purpose and the literary doctrine they contend
for would be well remembered at this very time. We
have given up writing about discovered criminals, only
to write more about criminals not yet found out ; the

2 E



4U THACKEJRAY.

lusus naturce school has given place to the sensational ;
the literature of the " Newgate Calendar " has been
supplanted by the literature of the detective officer
a style rather the worse and decidedly the more stupid
of the two. The re-publication of " Catherine " might
be a useful, and would be a not unpleasing specific in
the present diseased state of literary taste. We have
said that the hand of the master is traceable in the
characters of this tale. We have also a good example
of what was always a marked peculiarity, both in his
narrative writing, and in his representations of com-
posite natures, what some one has called his "sudden
pathos," an effect of natural and unexpected contrast
always deeply poetical in feeling, such as the love of
Barry Lyndon for his son, the association of a murderess
eyeing her victim, with images of beauty and happi-
ness and peace. We quote the passage, although, as
is always the case with the best things of the best
writers, it suffers greatly by separation from the
context, the force of the contrast being almost entirely
lost :-

" Mrs. Hayes sat up in the bed sternly regarding her
husband. There is, be sure, a strong magnetic influence in
wakeful eyes so examining a sleeping person ; do not you,
as a boy, remember waking of bright summer mornings and
finding your mother looking over you ? had not the gaze of
her tender eyes stolen into your senses long before you woke,
and cast over your slumbering spirit a sweet spell of peace,
and love, and fresh-springing joy ? "

In 1840, the " Shabby Genteel Story" appeared in
" Eraser," which broke off sorrowfully enough, as we
are told, " at a sad period of the writer's own life," to
be afterwards taken up in " The Adventures of Philip."
The story is not a pleasant one, nor can we read it
without pain, although we know that the after fortunes
of the Little Sister are not altogether unhappy. But



THACKERAY. 115

it shows clear indications of growing power and range ;
Brandon, Tufthunt, the Gann family, and Lord
Cinqbars, can fairly claim the dignity of ancestors.
The "Great Hoggarty Diamond" came in 1841.
This tale was always, we are informed in the preface
to a separate edition in 1849, a great favourite with
the author a judgment, however, in which at first he
stood almost alone. It was refused by one magazine
before it found a place in " Fraser ; " and when it did
appear it was little esteemed, or, indeed, noticed in
any way. The late Mr. John Sterling took a different
view, and wrote Mr. Thackeray a letter which "at
that time gave me great comfort and pleasure." Few
will now venture to express doubts of Mr. Sterling's
discernment. But in reality we suspect that this
story is not very popular. It is said to want humour
and power ; but, on the other hand, in its beauty of
pathos and tenderness of feeling, quite indescribable,
it reaches a higher point of art than any of the minor
tales ; and these qualities have gained for it admirers
very enthusiastic if not numerous. "Fraser " for June
of the same year has a most enjoyable paper called
" Memorials of Gormandizing," in which occurs the
well-known adaptation of the " Persicos Odi " " Dear
Lucy, you know what my wish is ;" a paper better
than anything in the " Original," better because
simpler than Hay ward's " Art of Dining," and which
should certainly be restored to a dinner- eating world.
To say nothing of its quiet humour and comical
earnestness, it has a real practical value. It would
be invaluable to all the hungry Britons in Paris who
lower our national character, and, what is a far greater
calamity, demoralise even French cooks, by their well-
meant but ignorant endeavours to dine. There is a
description of a dinner at the Cafe* Foy altogether
inimitable ; so graphic that the reader almost fancies



416 THACKERAY.

himself in the actual enjoyment of the felicity depicted.
Several of the Fitz-Boodle papers, which appeared in
1842-43, are omitted in the Miscellanies. But in
spite of the judgment of the author himself we
venture to think that Mr. Fitz-Boodle's love experi-
ences as recorded in "Miss Lowe" (October 1842),
" Dorothea " (January 1 843), and " Ottilia " (February
1843), are not unworthy of a place beside the
" Ravens wing," and should be preserved as a warning
to all fervent young men. And during these hard-
working years we have also a paper on " Dickens in
France," containing an amazing description of Nicholas
Nickleby as translated and adapted (bless thee, Bottom,
thou art translated indeed !) to the Parisian stage,
followed by a hearty defence of Boz against the
criticism of Jules Janin ; and " Bluebeard's Ghost,"
in its idea that of carrying on a well-known story
beyond its proper end the forerunner of Rebecca and
Rowena. " Little Travels " is the title of two papers,
in May and- October 1844, sketches from Belgium,
closely resembling, certainly not inferior to the round-
about paper called a "Week's Holiday;" and our
enumeration of his contributions to "Fraser" closes
with the incomparable " Barry Lyndon." " The
Hoggarty Diamond " is better and purer, and must
therefore rank higher ; but " Barry Lyndon " in its
own line stands, we think, unrivalled ; immeasurably
superior, if we must have comparative criticism, to
"Count Fathom;" superior even to the history of
"Jonathan Wild." It seems to us to equal the
sarcasm and remorseless irony of Fielding's masterpiece,
with a wider range and a more lively interest.

Mr. Thackeray's connection with " Punch " began
very early in the history of that periodical, and he
continued a constant contributor at least up to 1850.
The acquisition was an invaluable one to " Mr. Punch."



THACKERAY. 417

Without undue disparagement of that august dignitary
it may now be said that at first he was too exclusively
metropolitan in his tone, too much devoted to
" natural histories " of medical students and London
idlers in fact somewhat Cockney. Mr. Thackeray at
once stamped it with a different tone ; made its satire
universal, adapted its fun to the appreciation of
cultivated men. On the other hand, the connection
with " Punch " must have been of the utmost value to
Mr. Thackeray. He had the widest range, could
write without restraint, and without the finish and
completeness necessary in more formal publications.
The unrestrained practice in " Punch," besides the
improvement in style and in modes of thought which
practice always gives, probably had no small share in
teaching him wherein his real strength lay. For it is
worthy of notice in Mr. Thackeray's literary career
that this knowledge did not come easily or soon, but
only after hard work and much experience. His early
writings both in " Fraser " and " Punch " were as if
groping. In these periodicals his happier efforts come
last, and after many preludes some of them broken
off abruptly. " Catherine " is lost in " George de
Barnwell;" " Yellowplush " and " Fitz-Boodle " are
the preambles to "Barry Lyndon" and "The Hoggarty
Diamond;" "Punch's Continental Tour" and the
" Wanderings of the Fat Contributor " close untimely,
and are succeeded by the " Snob Papers " and the
kindly wisdom of the elder Brown. Fame, indeed,
was not now far off ; but ere it could be reached there
remained yet repeated effort and frequent disappoint-
ment. With peculiar pleasure we now recall the fact
that these weary days of struggle and comparative
obscurity were cheered in no inconsiderable degree by
the citizens of Edinburgh.

There happened to be placed in the window of an



418 THACKERAY.

Edinburgh jeweller a silver statuette of "Mr. Punch,"
with his dress en rigueur, his comfortable and tidy
paunch, with all its buttons ; his hunch ; his knee-
breeches, with their ties ; his compact little legs, one
foot a little forward ; and the intrepid and honest,
kindly little fellow firmly set on his pins, with his
customary look of up to and good for anything. In
his hand was his weapon, a pen ; his skull was an
inkhorn, and his cap its lid. A passer-by who had
long been grateful to our author, as to a dear unknown
and enriching friend, for his writings in " Fraser " and
in "Punch," and had longed for some way of reaching
him, and telling him how his work was relished and
valued bethought himself of sending this inkstand
to Mr. Thackeray. He went in, and asked its price.
"Ten guineas, sir." He said to himself, "There are
many who feel as I do ; why shouldn't we send him
up to him 1 I '11 get eighty several half-crowns, and
that will do it ;" (he had ascertained that there would
be discount for ready money). With the help of a
friend, who says he awoke to Thackeray, and divined
his great future, when he came, one evening, in
"Fraser" for May 1844, on the word "kinopium" 1

1 Here is the passage. It is from " Little Travels and Roadside
Sketches." Why are they not republished ? We must have his " Opera
Omnia." He is on the top of the Richmond omnibus. "If I were a
great prince, and rode outside of coaches (as I should if I were a great
prince), I would, whether I smoked or not, have a case of the best
Havannahs in my pocket, not for my own smoking, but to give them to
the snobs on the coach, who smoke the vilest cheroots. They poison the
air with the odour of their filthy weeds. A man at all easy in circum-
stances would spare himself much annoyance by taking the above simple
precaution.

" A gentleman sitting behind me tapped me on the back, and asked for
a light. He was a footman or rather valet. He had no livery, but the
three friends who accompanied him were tall men in pepper-and-salt
undress jackets, with a duke's coronet on their buttons.

" After tapping me on the back, and when he had finished his cheroot,
the gentleman produced another wind instrument, which he called a
'kinopium,' a sort of trumpet, on which he showed a great inclination to



THACKERAY. 419

the half-crowns were soon forthcoming, and it is
pleasant to remember, that in the " octogint " are the
names of Lord Jeffrey and Sir William Hamilton, who
gave their half-crowns with the heartiest good- will.
A short note was written telling the story. The little
man in silver was duly packed, and sent with the
following inscription round the base :

GULIELMO MAKEPEACE THACKERAY.

ARMA VIRUMQUE
GRATI NECNON GRATJE ED1NENSES

LXXX.
D. D. D.

To this the following reply was made :

"13 YOUNG STREET, KENSINGTON SQUARE,
May 11, 1848.

" MY DEAR SIR, The arms and the man arrived in safety
yesterday, and I am glad to know the names of two of the
eighty Edinburgh friends who have taken such a kind
method of showing their good-will towards me. If you are
grati I am gratior. Such tokens of regard & sympathy are
very precious to a writer like myself, who have some diffi-
culty still in making people understand what you have been
good enough to find out in Edinburgh that under the mask
satirical there walks about a sentimental gentleman who
means not unkindly to any mortal person. I can see ex-
actly the same expression under the vizard of my little
friend in silver, and hope some day to shake the whole
octogint by the hand gratos & gratas, and thank them for
their friendliness and regard. I think I had best say no
more on the subject lest I should be tempted into some
enthusiastic writing of w h I am afraid. I assure you these
tokens of what I can't help acknowledging as popularity

play. He began puffing out of the kinopium an abominable air, which he
said was the ' Duke's March.' It was played by the particular request of
the pepper-and-salt gentry.

"The noise was so abominable, that even the coachman objected, and
said it was not allowed to play on his bus. 'Very well,' said the valet,
* we 're only of the Duke of E 's establishment, THAT 'S ALL.' "



420 THACKERAY.

make me humble as well as grateful and make me feel an
almost awful sense of the responsibility w h falls upon a
man in such a station. Is it deserved or undeserved ? Who
is this that sets up to preach to mankind, and to laugh at
many things w h men reverence ? I hope I may be able to
tell the truth always, & to see it aright, according to the
eyes w h God Almighty gives me. And if, in the exercise of
my calling I get friends, and find encouragement and sym-
pathy, I need not tell you how much I feel and am thankful
for this support. Indeed I can't reply lightly upon this sub-
ject or feel otherwise than very grave when people begin to
praise me as you do. Wishing you and my Edinburgh
friends all health and happiness believe me my dear Sir
most faithfully yours W. M. THACKERAY."

How like the man is this gentle and serious letter,
written these long years ago ! He tells us frankly his
" calling : " he is a preacher to mankind. He " laughs,"
he does not sneer. He asks home questions at him-
self as well as the world : " Who is this ? " Then his
feeling " not otherwise than very grave " when people
begin to praise, is true Conscientiousness. This ser-
vant of his Master hoped to be able " to tell the truth
always, and to see it aright, according to the eyes
which God Almighty gives me." His picture by
himself will be received as correct now, " a senti-
mental gentleman, meaning not unkindly to any
mortal person" sentimental in its good old sense,
and a gentleman in heart and speech. And that little
touch about enthusiastic writing, proving all the more
that the enthusiasm itself was there.

Of his work in " Punch," the " Ballads of Pleace-
man X," the " Snob Papers," " Jeames' Diary," the
" Travels and Sketches in London," a " Little Dinner
at Timmins'," are now familiar to most readers. But
besides these he wrote much which has found no place
in the " Miscellanies." M. de la Pluche discoursed
touching many matters other than his own rise and



THACKERAY. 421

fall. " Our Fat Contributor " wandered over the face
of the earth gaining and imparting much wisdom and
experience, if little information ; Dr. Solomon Pacifico
" prosed " on various things besides the " pleasures of
being a Fogy ; " and even two of the " Novels by
Eminent Hands," " Crinoline" and " Stars and Stripes,"
have been left to forgetfulness. " Mrs. Tickletoby's
Lectures on the History of England " in vol. iii. are
especially good reading. Had they been completed,
they would have formed a valuable contribution to
the philosophy of history. His contributions to
"Punch" became less frequent about 1850, but the
connection was not entirely broken off till much later ;
we remember, in 1854, the " Letters from the Seat of
War, by our own Bashi-Bazouk," who was, in fact,
Major Gahagan again, always foremost in his country's
cause. To the last, as "Mr. Punch" has himself
informed us, he continued to be an adviser and warm
friend, and was a constant guest at the weekly symposia.
In addition to all this work for periodicals, Mr.
Thackeray had ventured on various independent
publications. We have already alluded to " Flore et
Zephyr," his first attempt. In 1840, he again tried
fortune with " The Paris Sketch-Book," which is at
least remarkable for a dedication possessing the quite
peculiar merit of expressing real feeling. It is ad-
dressed to M. Aretz, Tailor, 27 Kue Eichelieu, Paris;
and we quote it the more readily that, owing to the
failure of these volumes to attract public attention,
the rare virtues of that gentleman have been less
widely celebrated than they deserve :

gjj^ It becomes every man in his station to acknow-
ledge and praise virtue wheresoever he may find it, and to
point it out for the admiration and example of his fellow -
men.

" Some months since, when you presented to the writer of



422 THACKERAY.

these pages a small account for coats and pantaloons manu-
factured by you, and when you were met by a statement
from your debtor that an immediate settlement of your bill
would be extremely inconvenient to him, your reply was,
* Mon dieu, Sir, let not that annoy you ; if you want money,
as a gentleman often does in a strange country, I have a
thousand- franc note at my house, which is quite at your
service.' History or experience, Sir, makes us acquainted
with so few actions that can be compared to yours an offer
like this from a stranger and a tailor seems to me so aston-
ishing, that you must pardon me for making your virtue
public, and acquainting the English nation with your merit
and your name. Let me add, Sir, that you live on the first
floor ; that your cloths and fit are excellent, and your charges
moderate and just; and, as a humble tribute of my admira-
tion, permit me to lay these volumes at your feet. Your
obliged faithful servant, M. A. TITMARSH."

Some of the papers in these two volumes were re-
prints, as " Little Poinsinet " and " Cartouche " from
"Fraser" for 1839 ; "Mary Ancel" from " The New
Monthly 7 ' for 1839 ; others appeared then for the first
time. They are, it must be confessed, of unequal
merit. " A Caution to Travellers " is a swindling
business, afterwards narrated in " Pendennis " by
Amory or Altamont as among his own respectable
adventures ; " Mary Ancel," and " The Painter's Bar-
gain " are amusing stories ; while a " Gambler's Death"
is a tale quite awful in the everyday reality of its
horror. There is much forcible criticism on the
French school of painting and of novel- writing, and



Online LibraryHenry H LancasterEssays and reviews → online text (page 33 of 38)