The English Humourists
The Four Georges
William Makepeace Thackeray
Edited, with an Introduction, by
With 15 Illustrations
Oxford University Press
London, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Copenhagen,
New York, Toronto, Melbourne, Cape Town,
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Introduction. The History Of Henry Esmond, Esq. Dedication. Preface. The Esmonds Of Virginia Book I. The Early Youth Of Henry Esmond, Up To The Time Of His Leaving Trinity College, In Cambridge Chapter I. An Account Of The Family Of Esmond Of Castlewood Hall Chapter II. Relates How Francis, Fourth Viscount, Arrives At Castlewood Chapter III. Whither In The Time Of Thomas, Third Viscount, I Had Preceded Him As Page To Isabella Chapter IV. I Am Placed Under A Popish Priest And Bred To That Religion.—Viscountess Castlewood Chapter V. My Superiors Are Engaged In Plots For The Restoration Of King James II Chapter VI. The Issue Of The Plots.—The Death Of Thomas, Third Viscount Of Castlewood; And The Imprisonment Of His Viscountess Chapter VII. I Am Left At Castlewood An Orphan, And Find Most Kind Protectors There Chapter VIII. After Good Fortune Comes Evil Chapter IX. I Have The Small-Pox, And Prepare To Leave Castlewood Chapter X. I Go To Cambridge, And Do But Little Good There Chapter XI. I Come Home For A Holiday To Castlewood, And Find A Skeleton In The House Chapter XII. My Lord Mohun Comes Among Us For No Good Chapter XIII. My Lord Leaves Us And His Evil Behind Him Chapter XIV. We Ride After Him To London Book II. Contains Mr. Esmond's Military Life, And Other Matters Appertaining To The Esmond Family Chapter I. I Am In Prison, And Visited, But Not Consoled There Chapter II. I Come To The End Of My Captivity, But Not Of My Trouble Chapter III. I Take The Queen's Pay In Quin's Regiment Chapter IV. Recapitulations Chapter V. I Go On The Vigo Bay Expedition, Taste Salt Water And Smell Powder Chapter VI. The 29th December Chapter VII. I Am Made Welcome At Walcote Chapter VIII. Family Talk Chapter IX. I Make The Campaign Of 1704 Chapter X. An Old Story About A Fool And A Woman Chapter XI. The Famous Mr. Joseph Addison Chapter XII. I Get A Company In The Campaign Of 1706 Chapter XIII. I Meet An Old Acquaintance In Flanders, And Find My Mother's Grave And My Own Cradle There Chapter XIV. The Campaign Of 1707, 1708 Chapter XV. General Webb Wins The Battle Of Wynendael Book III. Containing The End Of Mr. Esmond's Adventures In England Chapter I. I Come To An End Of My Battles And Bruises Chapter II. I Go Home, And Harp On The Old String Chapter III. A Paper Out Of The "Spectator" Chapter IV. Beatrix's New Suitor Chapter V. Mohun Appears For The Last Time In This History Chapter VI. Poor Beatrix Chapter VII. I Visit Castlewood Once More Chapter VIII. I Travel To France And Bring Home A Portrait Of Rigaud Chapter IX. The Original Of The Portrait Comes To England Chapter X. We Entertain A Very Distinguished Guest At Kensington Chapter XI. Our Guest Quits Us As Not Being Hospitable Enough Chapter XII. A Great Scheme, And Who Balked It Chapter XIII. August 1st, 1714 Appendix The English Humourists Of The Eighteenth Century Lecture The First. Swift Lecture The Second. Congreve And Addison Lecture The Third. Steele Lecture The Fourth. Prior, Gay, And Pope Lecture The Fifth. Hogarth, Smollett, And Fielding Lecture The Sixth. Sterne And Goldsmith The Georges The Poems Sketches Of Manners, Morals, Court And Town Life George The First George The Second George The Third George The Fourth Footnotes
Thackeray In His Study At Onslow Square. From a painting by E. M. Ward
We know exceedingly little of the genesis and progress of Esmond. "It did not seem to be a part of our lives as Pendennis was," says Lady Ritchie, though she wrote part of it to dictation. She "only heard Esmond spoken of very rarely". Perhaps its state was not the less gracious. The Milton girls found Paradise Lost a very considerable part of their lives—and were not the happier.
But its parallels are respectable. The greatest things have a way of coming "all so still" into the world. We wrangle—that is, those of us who are not content simply not to know—about the composition of Homer, the purpose of the Divina Commedia, the probable plan of the Canterbury Tales, the Ur-Hamlet. Nobody put preliminary advertisements in the papers, you see, about these things: there was a discreditable neglect of the first requirements of the public. So it is with Esmond. There is, I thought, a reference to it in the Brookfield letters; but in several searches I cannot find it. To his mother he speaks of the book as "grand and melancholy", and to Lady Stanley as of "cut-throat melancholy". It is said to have been sold for a thousand pounds—the same sum that Master Shallow lent Falstaff on probably inferior security. Those who knew thought well of it—which is not wholly surprising.
It is still, perhaps, in possession of a success rather of esteem than of affection. A company of young men and maidens to whom it was not long ago submitted pronounced it (with one or two exceptions) inferior as a work of humour. The hitting of little Harry in the eye with a potato was, they admitted, humorous, but hardly anything else. As representing another generation and another point of view, the faithful Dr. John Brown did not wholly like it—Esmond's marriage with Rachel, after his love for Beatrix, being apparently "the fly in the ointment" to him. Even the author could only plead "there's a deal of pains in it that goes for nothing", as he says in one of his rare published references to the subject: but he was wrong. Undoubtedly the mere taking of pains will not do; but that is when they are taken in not the right manner, by not the right person, on not the right subject. Here everything was right, and accordingly it "went for" everything. A greater novel than Esmond I do not know; and I do not know many greater books. It may be "melancholy", and none the worse for that: it is "grand".
For though there may not be much humour of the potato-throwing sort in Esmond, it will, perhaps, be found that in no book of Thackeray's, or of any one else's, is that deeper and higher humour which takes all life for its province—which is the humour of humanity—more absolutely pervading. And it may be found likewise, at least by some, that in no book is there to be found such a constant intertwist of the passion which, in all humanity's higher representatives, goes with humour hand in hand—a loving yet a mutually critical pair. Of the extraordinarily difficult form of autobiography I do not know such another masterly presentment; nor is it very difficult to recognize the means by which this mastery is attained, though Heaven knows it is not easy to understand the skill with which they are applied. The success is, in fact, the result of that curious "doubleness"—amounting, in fact, here to something like triplicity—which distinguishes Thackeray's attitude and handling. Thus Henry Esmond, who is on the whole, I should say, the most like him of all his characters (though of course "romanced" a little), is himself and "the other fellow", and also, as it were, human criticism of both. At times we have a tolerably unsophisticated account of his actions, or it may be even his thoughts; at another his thoughts and actions as they present themselves, or might present themselves, to another mind: and yet at other times a reasoned view of them, as it were that of an impartial historian. The mixed form of narrative and mono-drama lends itself to this as nothing else could: and so does the author's well-known, much discussed, and sometimes heartily abused habit of parabasis or soliloquy to the audience. Of this nothing has yet been directly said, and anything that is said would have to be repeated as to every novel: so that we may as well keep it for the last or a late example, The Virginians or Philip. But its efficacy in this peculiar kind of double or treble handling is almost indisputable, even by those who may dispute its legitimacy as a constantly applied method.
One result, however, it has, as regards the hero-spokesman, which is curious. I believe thoroughly in Henry Esmond—he is to me one of the most real of illustrious Henrys as well of Thackeray's characters—but his reality is of a rather different kind from that of most of his fellows. It is somewhat more abstract, more typical, more generalized than the reality of English heroes usually is. He is not in the least shadowy or allegoric: but still he is somehow "Esmondity" as well as Esmond—the melancholy rather than a melancholy, clearsighted, aloofminded man. His heart and his head act to each other as their governing powers, passion and humour, have been sketched as acting above. He is a man never likely to be very successful, famous, or fortunate in the world; not what is generally called a happy man; yet enjoying constant glows and glimmers of a cloudy happiness which he would hardly exchange for any other light. The late Professor Masson—himself no posture-monger or man of megrims, but one of genial temper and steady sense—described Thackeray as "a man apart"; and so is the Marquis of Esmond. Yet Thackeray was a very real man; and so is the Marquis too.
No. 36 Onslow Square, Brompton, Where Thackeray Lived From 1853 to 1862.
The element of abstraction disappears, or rather retires into the background, when we pass to Beatrix. She also has the Ewigweibliche in her—as much of it as any, or almost any, of Shakespeare's women, and therefore more than anybody else's. But she is very much more than a type—she is Beatrix Esmond in flesh and blood, and damask and diamond, born "for the destruction of mankind" and fortunately for the delight of them, or some of them, as well. Beatrix is beyond eulogy. "Cease! cease to sing her praise!" is really the only motto, though perhaps something more may be said when we come to the terrible pendant which only Thackeray has had the courage and the skill to draw, with truth and without a disgusting result. If she had died when Esmond closes I doubt whether, in the Wood of Fair Ladies, even Cleopatra would have dared to summon her to her side, lest the comparison should not be favourable enough to herself, and the throne have to be shared.
But, as usual with Thackeray, you must not look to the hero and heroine too exclusively, even when there is such a heroine as this. For is there not here another heroine—cause of the dubieties of the Doctor Fidelis as above cited? As to that it may perhaps be pointed out to the extreme sentimentalists that, after all, Harry had been in love with the mother, as well as with the daughter, all along. If they consider this an aggravation, it cannot be helped: but, except from the extreme point of view of Miss Marianne Dashwood in her earlier stage, it ought rather to be considered a palliative. And if they say further that the thing is made worse still by the fact that Harry was himself Rachel's second love, and that she did not exactly wait to be a widow before she fell in love with him—why, there is, again, nothing for it but to confess that it is very shocking—and excessively human. Indeed, the fact is that Rachel is as human as Beatrix, though in a different way. You may not only love her less, but—in a different sense of contrast from that of the Roman poet—like her a little less. But you cannot, if you have any knowledge of human nature, call her unnatural. And really I do not know that the third lady of the family, Isabel Marchioness of Esmond, though there is less written about her, is not as real and almost as wonderful as the other two. She is not so fairly treated, however, poor thing! for we have her Bernstein period without her Beatrix one.
As for my Lords Castlewood—Thomas, and Francis pere et fils—their creator has not taken so much trouble with them; but they are never "out". The least of a piece, I think, is Rachel's too fortunate or too unfortunate husband. The people who regard Ibsen's great triumph in the Doll's House as consisting in the conduct of the husband as to the incriminating documents, ought to admire Thackeray's management of the temporary loss of Rachel's beauty. They are certainly both touches of the baser side of human nature ingeniously worked in. But the question is, What, in this wonderful book, is not ingeniously worked in—character or incident, description or speech?
If the champions of "Unity" were wise, they would take Esmond as a battle-horse, for it is certain that, great as are its parts, the whole is greater than almost any one of them—which is certainly not the case with Pendennis. And it is further certain that, of these parts, the personages of the hero and the heroine stand out commandingly, which is certainly not the case with Pendennis, again. The unity, however, is of a peculiar kind: and differs from the ordinary non-classical "Unity of Interest" which Thackeray almost invariably exhibits. It is rather a Unity of Temper, which is also present (as the all-pervading motto Vanitas Vanitatum almost necessitates) in all the books, but here reaches a transcendence not elsewhere attained. The brooding spirit of Ecclesiastes here covers, as it were, with the shadow of one of its wings the joys and sorrows, the failures and successes of a private family and their friends, with the other the fates of England and Europe; the fortunes of Marlborough and of Swift on their way from dictatorship, in each case, to dotage and death; the big wars and the notable literary triumphs as well as the hopeless passions or acquiescent losses. It is thus an instance—and the greatest—of that revival of the historical novel which was taking place, and in which the novel of Scott(1)—simpler, though not so very simple as is sometimes thought—is being dashed with a far heavier dose of the novel-element as opposed to the romance, yet without abandonment of the romance-quality proper. Of these novel-romance scenes, as they may be called, the famous mock-duel at the end is of course the greatest. But that where the Duke of Hamilton has to acknowledge the Marquis of Esmond, and where Beatrix gives the kiss of Beatrix, is almost as great: and there are many others. It is possible that this very transcendence accounts to some extent for the somewhat lukewarm admiration which it has received. The usual devotee of the novel of analysis dislikes the historic, and has taught himself to consider it childish; the common lover of romance (not the better kind) feels himself hampered by the character-study, as Emile de Girardin's subscribers felt themselves hampered by Gautier's style. All the happier those who can make the best of both dispensations!
Nothing, however, has yet been said of one of the most salient characteristics of Esmond—one, perhaps, which has had as much to do with the love of its lovers and the qualified esteem of those who do not quite love it, as anything else. This is, of course, the attempt, certainly a very audacious one, at once to give the very form and pressure of the time of the story—sometimes in actual diction—and yet to suffuse it with a modern thought and colour which most certainly were not of the time. The boldness and the peril of this attempt are both quite indisputable; and the peril itself is, in a way, double. There is the malcontent who will say "This may be all very fine: but I don't like it. It bothers and teases me. I do not want to be talked to in the language of Addison and Steele". And there will be the possibly less ingenuous but more obtrusive malcontent who will say that it ought never to have been done, or that it is not, as it is, done well. With the first, who probably exists "in squadrons and gross bands", argument is, of course, impossible. He may be taught better if he is caught young, but that is all: and certainly the last thing that any honest lover of literature would wish would be to make him say that he likes a thing when he does not. That may be left to those who preach and follow the fashions of the moment. Nor, perhaps, is there very much to do with those who say that the double attempt is not successful—except to disable their judgement. But as for the doctrine that this attempt deserves to fail, and must fail—that it is wrong in itself—there one may take up the cudgels with some confidence.
So far from there being anything illegitimate in this attempt to bring one period before the eyes of another in its habit as it lived, and speaking as it spoke, but to allow those eyes themselves to move as they move and see as they see—it is merely the triumph and the justification of the whole method of prose fiction in general, and of the historical novel in particular. For that historical novel is itself the result of the growth of the historic sense acting upon the demand for fiction. So long as people made no attempt to understand things and thoughts different from those around and within them; so long as, like the men of the Middle Ages, they blandly threw everything into their own image, or, like those of the Renaissance to some extent and the Augustan period still more, regarded other ages at worst with contempt, and at best with indulgence as childish—the historical novel could not come into being, and did not. It only became possible when history began to be seriously studied as something more than a chronicle of external events. When it had thus been made possible, it was a perfectly legitimate experiment to carry the process still further; not merely to discuss or moralize, but to represent the period as it was, without forfeiting the privilege of regarding it from a point of view which it had not itself reached. The process of Thackeray is really only an unfolding, and carrying further into application, of the method of Shakespeare. Partly his date, partly his genius, partly his dramatic necessities, obliged Shakespeare to combine his treatment—to make his godlike Romans at once Roman and Elizabethan, and men of all time, and men of no time at all. Thackeray, with the conveniences of the novel and the demands of his audience, dichotomizes the presentation while observing a certain unity in the fictitious person, now of Henry Esmond, now of William Makepeace Thackeray himself. If anybody does not like the result, there is nothing to be said. But there are those who regard it as one of the furthest explorations that we yet possess of human genius—one of the most extraordinary achievements of that higher imagination which Coleridge liked to call esenoplastic.(2) That a man should have the faculty of reproducing contemporary or general life is wonderful; that he should have the faculty of reproducing past life is wonderful still more. But that he should thus revive the past and preserve the present—command and provide at once theatre and company, audience and performance—this is the highest wizardry of all. And this, as it seems to me, is what Thackeray had attempted, and more, what he has done, in the History of Henry Esmond.(3)
He could not have done it without the "pains" to which he refers in the saying quoted above; but these pains, as usual, bore fruit more than once. It has been thought desirable to include in the present volume the two main after-crops,(4) The English Humourists and The Four Georges. Exactly how early Thackeray's attention was drawn to the eighteenth century it would, in the necessarily incomplete state of our biographical information about him, be very difficult to say. We have pointed out that the connexion was pretty well established as early as Catherine. But it was evidently founded upon that peculiar congeniality, freshened and enlivened with a proper dose of difference, which is the most certain source and the purest maintainer of love in life and literature.
At the same time, the two sets of lectures are differentiated from the novel not so much by their form—for Thackeray as a lecturer had very little that smacked of the platform, and as a novelist he had a great deal that smacked of the satiric conversation-scene—as by their purport. Esmond, though partly critical, is mainly and in far the greater part creative. The Lectures, though partly creative—resurrective, at any rate—are professedly and substantially critical. Now, a good deal has been said already of Thackeray's qualities and defects as a critic: and it has been pointed out that, in consequence of his peculiar impulsiveness, his strong likes and dislikes, his satiric-romantic temperament, and perhaps certain deficiencies in all-round literary and historical learning, his critical light was apt to be rather uncertain, and his critical deductions by no means things from which there should be no appeal. But The English Humourists is by far the most important "place" for this criticism in the literary department; and The Four Georges (with The Book of Snobs to some extent supplementing it) is the chief place for his criticism of society, personality, and the like. Moreover, both have been, and are, violently attacked by those who do not like him. So that, for more reasons than one or two, both works deserve faithful critical handling themselves.
It is always best to disperse Maleger and his myrmidons before exploring the beauties of the House of Alma: so we may take the objections to the Humourists first. They are chiefly concerned with the handling of Swift and (in a less degree) of Sterne. Now, it is quite certain that we have here, in the first case at any rate, to confess, though by no means to avoid. It is an instance of that excessive "taking sides" with or against his characters which has been noticed, and will be noticed, again and again. Nor is the reason of this in the least difficult to perceive. It is very doubtful whether Thackeray's own estimate of average humanity was much higher than Swift's: nor is it quite certain that the affection which Swift professed and (from more than one instance) seems to have really felt for Dick, Tom, and Harry, in particular, as opposed to mankind at large, was very much less sincere than Thackeray's own for individuals. But the temperament of the one deepened and aggravated his general understanding of mankind into a furious misanthropy; while the temperament of the other softened his into a general pardon. In the same way, Swift's very love and friendship were dangerous and harsh-faced, while Thackeray's were sunny and caressing. But there can be very little doubt that Thackeray himself, when the "Shadow of Vanity" was heaviest on him, felt the danger of actual misanthropy, and thus revolted from its victim with a kind of terror; while his nature could not help feeling a similar revulsion from Swift's harsh ways. That to all this revulsion he gives undue force of expression need not be denied: but then, it must be remembered that he does not allow it to affect his literary judgement. I do not believe that any one now living has a greater admiration for Swift than I have: and all that I can say is that I know no estimate of his genius anywhere more adequate than Thackeray's. As for Sterne, I do not intend to say much. If you will thrust your personality into your literature, as Sterne constantly does, you must take the chances of your personality as well as of your literature. You practically expose both to the judgement of the public. And if anybody chooses to take up the cudgels for Sterne's personality I shall hand them over to him and take no part on one side or another in that bout. To his genius, once more, I do not think Thackeray at all unjust.
The fact is, however, that as is usual with persons of genius, but even more than as usual, the defects and the qualities are so intimately connected that you cannot have one without the other—you must pay the price of the other for the one. All I can say is that such another live piece of English criticism of English literature as this I do not know anywhere. What is alive is very seldom perfect: to get perfection you must go to epitaphs. But, once more, though I could pick plenty of small holes in the details of the actual critical dicta, I know no picture of the division of literature here concerned from which a fairly intelligent person will derive a better impression of the facts than from this. Addison may be a little depressed, and Steele a little exalted: but it is necessary to remember that by Macaulay, whose estimate then practically held the field, Steele had been most unduly depressed and Addison rather unduly exalted. You may go about among our critics on the brightest day with the largest lantern and find nothing more brilliant itself than the "Congreve" article, where the spice of injustice will, again, deceive nobody but a fool. The vividness of the "Addison and Steele" presentation is miraculous. He redresses Johnson on Prior as he had redressed Macaulay on Steele; and he is not unjust, as we might have feared that he would be, to Pope. "Hogarth, Smollett, and Fielding" is another miracle of appreciation: and I should like to ask the objectors to "sentimentality" by what other means than an intense sympathy (from which it is impossible to exclude something that may be called sentimental) such a study as that of Goldsmith could have been produced? Now Goldsmith is one of the most difficult persons in the whole range of literature to treat, from the motley of his merits and his weaknesses. Yet Thackeray has achieved the adventure here. In short, throughout the book, he is invaluable as a critic, if not impeccable in criticism. His faults, and the causes of them, are obvious, separable, negligible: his merits (the chief of them, as usual, the constant shower of happy and illuminative phrase) as rare in quality as they are abundant in quantity.
The lectures on The English Humourists must have been composed very much pari passu with Esmond; they were being delivered while it was being finished, and it was published just as the author was setting off to re-deliver them in America. The Four Georges were not regularly taken in hand till some years later, when The Newcomes was finished or finishing, and when fresh material was wanted for the second American trip. But there exists a very remarkable scenario of them—as it may be almost called—a full decade older, in the shape of a satura of verse and prose contributed to Punch on October 11, 1845; which has accordingly been kept back from its original associates to be inserted here. All things considered, it gives the lines which are followed in the later lectures with remarkable precision: and it is not at all improbable that Thackeray actually, though not of necessity consciously, took it for head-notes.
No book of his has been so violently attacked both at the time of its appearance and since. Nor—for, as the reader must have seen long ago, the present writer, though proud to be called a Thackerayan stalwart, is not a Thackerayan "know-nothing", a "Thackeray-right-or-wrong" man—is there any that exposes itself more to attack. From the strictly literary side, indeed, it has the advantage of The Book of Snobs: for it is nowhere unequal, and exhibits its author's unmatched power of historical-artistic imagination or reconstruction in almost the highest degree possible. But in other respects it certainly does show the omission "to erect a sconce on Drumsnab". There was (it has already been hinted at in connexion with the Eastern Journey) a curious innocence about Thackeray. It may be that, like the Hind,
He feared no danger for he knew no sin;
but the absence of fear with him implied an apparent ignoring of danger, which is a danger in itself. Nobody who has even passed Responsions in the study of his literary and moral character will suspect him for one moment of having pandered to American prejudice by prating to it, as a tit-bit and primeur, scandal about this or that King George. But it was quite evident from the first, and ought to have been evident to the author long beforehand, that the enemy might think, and would say so. In fact, putting considerations of mere expediency aside, I think myself that he had much better not have done it. As for the justice of the general verdict, it is no doubt affected throughout by Thackeray's political incapacity, whatever side he might have taken, and by that quaint theoretical republicanism, with a good deal of pure Toryism mixed, which he attributes to some of his characters, and no doubt, in a kind of rather confused speculative way, held himself. He certainly puts George III's ability too low, and as certainly he indulges in the case of George IV in one of these curious outbursts—a Hetze of unreasoning, frantic, "stop-thief!" and "mad-dog!" persecution—to which he was liable. "Gorgius" may not have been a hero or a proper moral man: he was certainly "a most expensive Herr", and by no means a pattern husband. But recent and by no means Pharisaical expositions have exhibited his wife as almost infinitely not better than she should be; the allegations of treachery to private friends are, on the whole, Not Proven: if he deserted the Whigs, it was no more than some of these very Whigs very shortly afterwards did to their country: he played the difficult part of Regent and the not very easy one of King by no means ill; he was, by common and even reluctant consent, an extremely pleasant host and companion; and he liked Jane Austen's novels. There have been a good many princes—and a good many demagogues too—of whom as much good could not be said.
Admitting excess in these details, and "inconvenience" in the circumstances of the original representation, there remains, as it seems to me, a more than sufficient balance to credit. That social-historic sense, accompanied with literary power of bodying forth its results, which we noticed as early as the opening of Catherine has, in the seventeen years' interval, fully and marvellously matured itself. The picture is not a mere mob of details: it is an orderly pageant of artistically composed material. It is possible; it is life-like; the only question (and that is rather a minor one) is, "Is it true?"
Minor, I say, because the artistic value would remain if the historical were impaired. But I do not think it is. I shall bow to the authority of persons better acquainted with the eighteenth century than I am: but if some decades of familiarity with essayists and novelists and diarists and letter-writers may give one a scanty locus standi, I shall certainly give my testimony in favour of "Thackeray's Extract". The true essence of the life that exhibits itself in fiction from Pamela and Joseph Andrews down to Pompey the Little and the Spiritual Quixote; in essay from the Tatler to the Mirror; in Lord Chesterfield and Lady Mary and Horace Walpole; in Pope and Young and Green and Churchill and Cowper, in Boswell and Wraxall, in Mrs. Delany and Madame d'Arblay, seems to me to deserve warrant of excise and guarantee of analysis as it lies in these four little flaskets.
And, as has been done before, let me finish with an almost silent indication of the wonderful variety of this volume also. In one sense the subject of its constituents is the same. Yet in another it is treated with the widest and most infinite difference. Any one of the three treatments would be a masterpiece of single achievement; while the first of the three is, as it seems to me, the masterpiece of its entire class.(5)
THE MS. OF "ESMOND"
The MS. is contained in two volumes and was presented to Trinity College, Cambridge, by the author's daughter; it is now deposited in the College Library. Sir Leslie Stephen, in writing to the Librarian about it on June 11, 1889, says:—
"There are three separate handwritings. Thackeray's own small upright handwriting; that of his daughter, now Mrs. Richmond Ritchie, a rather large round handwriting; and that of an amanuensis whose name I do not know. The interest is mainly this, that it shows that Thackeray dictated a considerable part of the book; and, as Mrs. Ritchie tells me, he dictated it without having previously written anything. The copy was sent straight to press as it stands, with, as you will see, remarkably little alteration. As Esmond is generally considered to be his most perfect work in point of style, I think that this is a remarkable fact and adds considerably to the interest of the MS."
The four facsimiles which follow, and which appear here by the very kind permission of Lady Ritchie and of the authorities of the College, have been slightly reduced to fit the pages.
THE HISTORY OF HENRY ESMOND, ESQ.
THE HISTORY OF
HENRY ESMOND, ESQ.
A COLONEL IN THE SERVICE OF HER MAJESTY QUEEN ANNE
WRITTEN BY HIMSELF
Servetur ad imum Qualis ab incepto processerit, et sibi constet
[First edition in three volumes, 1852. Revised edition, 1858]
TO THE RIGHT HONOURABLE
WILLIAM BINGHAM, LORD ASHBURTON
MY DEAR LORD,
The writer of a book which copies the manners and language of Queen Anne's time, must not omit the Dedication to the Patron; and I ask leave to inscribe this volume to your lordship, for the sake of the great kindness and friendship which I owe to you and yours.
My volume will reach you when the Author is on his voyage to a country where your name is as well known as here. Wherever I am, I shall gratefully regard you; and shall not be the less welcomed in America because I am
Your obliged friend and servant,
W. M. THACKERAY.
LONDON, October 18, 1852.
Preface. 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, lies 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 honoured father, Colonel Henry Esmond, whose history, written by himself, is contained in the accompanying volume, 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 honour 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 dependants; 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 Republick, 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 the grief which that calamity caused me, mainly to my dearest father's tenderness, and then to the blessing vouchsafed 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 colours or the Republick'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 Honour.
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, overhung by eyebrows which remained black long after his hair was white. His nose was aquiline, his smile extraordinary sweet. How well I remember 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 Independence.
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 freshness 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 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 honoured life, it was my delight and consolation to remain with him as his comforter and companion; 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 centred 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 his 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 inexpressibly thankful, I think I can say that I fulfilled those dying commands, 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 splendour of that affection which he bestowed upon me, that I have come to understand and pardon what, I own, used to anger me in my mother's lifetime, 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 Suffolk 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 understand), how this person, having left her family 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 favourite 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 favourite, 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 future 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 past 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 Early Youth Of Henry Esmond, Up To The Time Of His Leaving Trinity College, In Cambridge
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 hath encumbered herself with ceremony as well as her Sister of the Theatre. 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 decrepitude the old French King Lewis the Fourteenth, the type and model of kinghood—who never moved but to measure, who lived and died according 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 besides Versailles and Windsor? I saw Queen Anne at the latter place tearing down the Park slopes after her staghounds, 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 washhand-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 for ever 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 got to be believed in the army, that he was eldest son of the Hereditary Grand Bootjack of the Empire, and heir to that honour 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 honours and valued his dignity (as Lord 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 (afterwards 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 resolute old loyalist, who was with the king whilst 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 henceforward, 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 fugitive 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 impossible allegories: and it hath always seemed to me blasphemy to claim Olympus for such a wine-drabbled divinity as that.
About the king's follower the Viscount Castlewood—orphan 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 without 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 neighbours 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, conducting 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.
Chapter I. An Account Of The Family Of Esmond Of Castlewood Hall
When Francis, fourth Viscount Castlewood, came to his title, and presently 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 occupant 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 person 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 appeared 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. Worksop 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 coat.
Her heart melted I suppose (indeed she hath 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 gentleman 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, having 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 knee; 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, il n'a que nous," says the lady, looking to her lord; and the boy, who understood her, though doubtless she thought otherwise, 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 this diminutive, looked at Henry Esmond solemnly, with a pair of large eyes, and then a smile shone over her face, which was as beautiful as that of a cherub, and she came up and put out a little hand to him. A keen and delightful pang of gratitude, happiness, affection, filled the orphan child's heart, as he received from the protectors, whom Heaven had sent to him, these touching words, and tokens of friendliness and kindness. But an hour since he had felt quite alone in the world: when he heard the great peal of bells from Castlewood church ringing that morning to welcome the arrival of the new lord and lady, it had rung only terror and anxiety to him, for he knew not how the new owner would deal with him; and those to whom he formerly looked for protection were forgotten or dead. Pride and doubt too had kept him within doors: when the vicar and the people of the village, and the servants of the house, had gone out to welcome my Lord Castlewood—for Henry Esmond was no servant, though a dependant; no relative, though he bore the name and inherited the blood of the house; and in the midst of the noise and acclamations attending the arrival of the new lord (for whom you may be sure a feast was got ready, and guns were fired, and tenants and domestics huzzaed when his carriage approached and rolled into the courtyard of the hall), no one ever took any notice of young Henry Esmond, who sat unobserved and alone in the book-room, until the afternoon of that day, when his new friends found him.
When my lord and lady were going away thence, the little girl, still holding her kinsman by the hand, bade him to come too. "Thou wilt always forsake an old friend for a new one, Trix," says her father to her good-naturedly; and went into the gallery, giving an arm to his lady. They passed thence through the music-gallery, long since dismantled, and Queen Elizabeth's rooms, in the clock-tower, and out into the terrace, where was a fine prospect of sunset, and the great darkling woods with a cloud of rooks returning; and the plain and river with Castlewood village beyond, and purple hills beautiful to look at—and the little heir of Castlewood, a child of two years old, was already here on the terrace in his nurse's arms, from whom he ran across the grass instantly he perceived his mother, and came to her.
"If thou canst not be happy here," says my lord, looking round at the scene, "thou art hard to please, Rachel."
"I am happy where you are," she said, "but we were happiest of all at Walcote Forest." Then my lord began to describe what was before them to his wife, and what indeed little Harry knew better than he—viz., the history of the house: how by yonder gate the page ran away with the heiress of Castlewood, by which the estate came into the present family, how the Roundheads attacked the clock-tower, which my lord's father was slain in defending. "I was but two years old then," says he, "but take forty-six from ninety, and how old shall I be, kinsman Harry?"
"Thirty," says his wife, with a laugh.
"A great deal too old for you, Rachel," answers my lord, looking fondly down at her. Indeed she seemed to be a girl; and was at that time scarce twenty years old.
"You know, Frank, I will do anything to please you," says she, "and I promise you I will grow older every day."
"You mustn't call papa Frank; you must call papa my lord, now," says Miss Beatrix, with a toss of her little head; at which the mother smiled, and the good-natured father laughed, and the little, trotting boy laughed, not knowing why—but because he was happy no doubt—as every one seemed to be there. How those trivial incidents and words, the landscape and sunshine, and the group of people smiling and talking, remain fixed on the memory!
As the sun was setting, the little heir was sent in the arms of his nurse to bed, whither he went howling; but little Trix was promised to sit to supper that night—"and you will come too, kinsman, won't you?" she said.
Harry Esmond blushed: "I—I have supper with Mrs. Worksop," says he.
"D—n it," says my lord, "thou shalt sup with us, Harry, to-night! Shan't refuse a lady, shall he, Trix?"—and they all wondered at Harry's performance as a trencherman, in which character the poor boy acquitted himself very remarkably; for the truth is he had no dinner, nobody thinking of him in the bustle which the house was in, during the preparations antecedent to the new lord's arrival.
"No dinner! poor dear child!" says my lady, heaping up his plate with meat, and my lord filling a bumper for him, bade him call a health; on which Master Harry, crying "The King", tossed off the wine. My lord was ready to drink that, and most other toasts: indeed, only too ready. He would not hear of Doctor Tusher (the Vicar of Castlewood, who came to supper) going away when the sweetmeats were brought: he had not had a chaplain long enough, he said, to be tired of him: so his reverence kept my lord company for some hours over a pipe and a punchbowl; and went away home with rather a reeling gait, and declaring a dozen of times, that his lordship's affability surpassed every kindness he had ever had from his lordship's gracious family.
As for young Esmond, when he got to his little chamber, it was with a heart full of surprise and gratitude towards the new friends whom this happy day had brought him. He was up and watching long before the house was astir, longing to see that fair lady and her children—that kind protector and patron; and only fearful lest their welcome of the past night should in any way be withdrawn or altered. But presently little Beatrix came out into the garden, and her mother followed, who greeted Harry as kindly as before. He told her at greater length the histories of the house (which he had been taught in the old lord's time), and to which she listened with great interest; and then he told her, with respect to the night before, that he understood French, and thanked her for her protection.
"Do you?" says she, with a blush; "then, sir, you shall teach me and Beatrix." And she asked him many more questions regarding himself, which had best be told more fully and explicitly, than in those brief replies which the lad made to his mistress's questions.
Chapter II. Relates How Francis, Fourth Viscount, Arrives At Castlewood
'Tis known that the name of Esmond and the estate of Castlewood, com. Hants, came into possession of the present family through Dorothea, daughter and heiress of Edward, Earl and Marquis of Esmond, and Lord of Castlewood, which lady married, 23 Eliz., Henry Poyns, gent.; the said Henry being then a page in the household of her father. Francis, son and heir of the above Henry and Dorothea, who took the maternal name which the family hath borne subsequently, was made knight and baronet by King James the First; and, being of a military disposition, remained long in Germany with the Elector-Palatine, in whose service Sir Francis incurred both expense and danger, lending large sums of money to that unfortunate prince; and receiving many wounds in the battles against the Imperialists, in which Sir Francis engaged.
On his return home Sir Francis was rewarded for his services and many sacrifices, by his late Majesty James the First, who graciously conferred upon this tried servant the post of Warden of the Butteries and Groom of the King's Posset, which high and confidential office he filled in that king's, and his unhappy successor's, reign.
His age, and many wounds and infirmities, obliged Sir Francis to perform much of his duty by deputy; and his son, Sir George Esmond, knight and banneret, first as his father's lieutenant, and afterwards as inheritor of his father's title and dignity, performed this office during almost the whole of the reign of King Charles the First, and his two sons who succeeded him.
Sir George Esmond married rather beneath the rank that a person of his name and honour might aspire to, the daughter of Thos. Topham, of the city of London, alderman and goldsmith, who, taking the Parliamentary side in the troubles then commencing, disappointed Sir George of the property which he expected at the demise of his father-in-law, who devised his money to his second daughter, Barbara, a spinster.
Sir George Esmond, on his part, was conspicuous for his attachment and loyalty to the royal cause and person, and the king being at Oxford in 1642, Sir George, with the consent of his father, then very aged and infirm, and residing at his house of Castlewood, melted the whole of the family plate for his Majesty's service.
For this, and other sacrifices and merits, his Majesty, by patent under the Privy Seal, dated Oxford, Jan., 1643, was pleased to advance Sir Francis Esmond to the dignity of Viscount Castlewood, of Shandon, in Ireland: and the viscount's estate being much impoverished by loans to the king, which in those troublesome times his Majesty could not repay, a grant of land in the plantations of Virginia was given to the lord viscount; part of which land is in possession of descendants of his family to the present day.
The first Viscount Castlewood died full of years, and within a few months after he had been advanced to his honours. He was succeeded by his eldest son, the before-named George; and left issue besides, Thomas, a colonel in the king's army, that afterwards joined the Usurper's government; and Francis, in holy orders, who was slain whilst defending the house of Castlewood against the Parliament, anno 1647.
George, Lord Castlewood (the second viscount) of King Charles the First's time, had no male issue save his one son Eustace Esmond, who was killed, with half of the Castlewood men beside him, at Worcester fight. The lands about Castlewood were sold and apportioned to the Commonwealth men; Castlewood being concerned in almost all of the plots against the Protector, after the death of the king, and up to King Charles the Second's restoration. My lord followed that king's Court about in its exile, having ruined himself in its service. He had but one daughter, who was of no great comfort to her father; for misfortune had not taught those exiles sobriety of life; and it is said that the Duke of York and his brother the king both quarrelled about Isabel Esmond. She was maid of honour to the Queen Henrietta Maria; she early joined the Roman Church; her father, a weak man, following her not long after at Breda.
On the death of Eustace Esmond at Worcester, Thomas Esmond, nephew to my Lord Castlewood, and then a stripling, became heir to the title. His father had taken the Parliament side in the quarrels, and so had been estranged from the chief of his house; and my Lord Castlewood was at first so much enraged to think that his title (albeit little more than an empty one now) should pass to a rascally Roundhead, that he would have married again, and indeed proposed to do so to a vintner's daughter at Bruges, to whom his lordship owed a score for lodging when the king was there, but for fear of the laughter of the Court, and the anger of his daughter, of whom he stood in awe; for she was in temper as imperious and violent as my lord, who was much enfeebled by wounds and drinking, was weak.
Lord Castlewood would have had a match between his daughter Isabel and her cousin, the son of that Francis Esmond who was killed at Castlewood siege. And the lady, it was said, took a fancy to the young man, who was her junior by several years (which circumstance she did not consider to be a fault in him); but having paid his court, and being admitted to the intimacy of the house, he suddenly flung up his suit, when it seemed to be pretty prosperous, without giving a pretext for his behaviour. His friends rallied him at what they laughingly chose to call his infidelity. Jack Churchill, Frank Esmond's lieutenant in the royal regiment of foot guards, getting the company which Esmond vacated, when he left the Court and went to Tangier in a rage at discovering that his promotion depended on the complaisance of his elderly affianced bride. He and Churchill, who had been condiscipuli at St. Paul's School, had words about this matter; and Frank Esmond said to him with an oath, "Jack, your sister may be so-and-so, but by Jove, my wife shan't!" and swords were drawn, and blood drawn, too, until friends separated them on this quarrel. Few men were so jealous about the point of honour in those days; and gentlemen of good birth and lineage thought a royal blot was an ornament to their family coat. Frank Esmond retired in the sulks, first to Tangier, whence he returned after two years' service, settling on a small property he had of his mother, near to Winchester, and became a country gentleman, and kept a pack of beagles, and never came to Court again in King Charles's time. But his uncle Castlewood was never reconciled to him; nor, for some time afterwards, his cousin whom he had refused.
By places, pensions, bounties from France, and gifts from the king, whilst his daughter was in favour, Lord Castlewood, who had spent in the royal service his youth and fortune, did not retrieve the latter quite, and never cared to visit Castlewood, or repair it, since the death of his son, but managed to keep a good house, and figure at Court, and to save a considerable sum of ready money.
And now, his heir and nephew, Thomas Esmond, began to bid for his uncle's favour. Thomas had served with the emperor, and with the Dutch, when King Charles was compelled to lend troops to the States, and against them, when his Majesty made an alliance with the French king. In these campaigns Thomas Esmond was more remarked for duelling, brawling, vice, and play, than for any conspicuous gallantry in the field, and came back to England, like many another English gentleman who has travelled, with a character by no means improved by his foreign experience. He had dissipated his small paternal inheritance of a younger brother's portion, and, as truth must be told, was no better than a hanger-on of ordinaries, and a brawler about Alsatia and the Friars, when he bethought him of a means of mending his fortune.
His cousin was now of more than middle age, and had nobody's word but her own for the beauty which she said she once possessed. She was lean, and yellow, and long in the tooth; all the red and white in all the toy-shops in London could not make a beauty of her—Mr. Killigrew called her the Sibyl, the death's-head put up at the king's feast as a memento mori, &c.—in fine, a woman who might be easy of conquest, but whom only a very bold man would think of conquering. This bold man was Thomas Esmond. He had a fancy to my Lord Castlewood's savings, the amount of which rumour had very much exaggerated. Madam Isabel was said to have royal jewels of great value; whereas poor Tom Esmond's last coat but one was in pawn.
My lord had at this time a fine house in Lincoln's Inn Fields, nigh to the Duke's Theatre and the Portugal ambassador's chapel. Tom Esmond, who had frequented the one as long as he had money to spend among the actresses, now came to the church as assiduously. He looked so lean and shabby, that he passed without difficulty for a repentant sinner; and so, becoming converted, you may be sure took his uncle's priest for a director.
This charitable father reconciled him with the old lord his uncle, who a short time before would not speak to him, as Tom passed under my lord's coach window, his lordship going in state to his place at Court, while his nephew slunk by with his battered hat and feather, and the point of his rapier sticking out of the scabbard—to his twopenny ordinary in Bell Yard.
Thomas Esmond, after this reconciliation with his uncle, very soon began to grow sleek, and to show signs of the benefits of good living and clean linen. He fasted rigorously twice a week to be sure; but he made amends on the other days: and, to show how great his appetite was, Mr. Wycherley said, he ended by swallowing that fly-blown rank old morsel his cousin. There were endless jokes and lampoons about this marriage at Court: but Tom rode thither in his uncle's coach now, called him father, and having won could afford to laugh. This marriage took place very shortly before King Charles died: whom the Viscount of Castlewood speedily followed.
The issue of this marriage was one son, whom the parents watched with an intense eagerness and care; but who, in spite of nurses and physicians, had only a brief existence. His tainted blood did not run very long in his poor feeble little body. Symptoms of evil broke out early on him; and, part from flattery, part superstition, nothing would satisfy my lord and lady, especially the latter, but having the poor little cripple touched by his Majesty at his church. They were ready to cry out miracle at first (the doctors and quack-salvers being constantly in attendance on the child, and experimenting on his poor little body with every conceivable nostrum)—but though there seemed from some reason a notable amelioration in the infant's health after his Majesty touched him, in a few weeks afterward the poor thing died—causing the lampooners of the Court to say, that the king in expelling evil out of the infant of Tom Esmond and Isabella his wife, expelled the life out of it, which was nothing but corruption.
The mother's natural pang at losing this poor little child must have been increased when she thought of her rival Frank Esmond's wife, who was a favourite of the whole Court, where my poor Lady Castlewood was neglected, and who had one child, a daughter, flourishing and beautiful, and was about to become a mother once more.
The Court, as I have heard, only laughed the more because the poor lady, who had pretty well passed the age when ladies are accustomed to have children, nevertheless determined not to give hope up, and even when she came to live at Castlewood, was constantly sending over to Hexton for the doctor, and announcing to her friends the arrival of an heir. This absurdity of hers was one amongst many others which the wags used to play upon. Indeed, to the last days of her life, my lady viscountess had the comfort of fancying herself beautiful, and persisted in blooming up to the very midst of winter, painting roses on her cheeks long after their natural season, and attiring herself like summer though her head was covered with snow.
Gentlemen who were about the Court of King Charles and King James, have told the present writer a number of stories about this queer old lady, with which it's not necessary that posterity should be entertained. She is said to have had great powers of invective; and, if she fought with all her rivals in King James's favour, 'tis certain she must have had a vast number of quarrels on her hands. She was a woman of an intrepid spirit, and it appears pursued and rather fatigued his Majesty with her rights and her wrongs. Some say that the cause of her leaving Court was jealousy of Frank Esmond's wife: others, that she was forced to retreat after a great battle which took place at Whitehall, between her ladyship and Lady Dorchester, Tom Killigrew's daughter, whom the king delighted to honour, and in which that ill-favoured Esther got the better of our elderly Vashti. But her ladyship for her part always averred that it was her husband's quarrel, and not her own, which occasioned the banishment of the two into the country; and the cruel ingratitude of the sovereign in giving away, out of the family, that place of Warden of the Butteries and Groom of the King's Posset, which the two last Lords Castlewood had held so honourably, and which was now conferred upon a fellow of yesterday, and a hanger-on of that odious Dorchester creature, my Lord Bergamot(6); "I never," said my lady, "could have come to see his Majesty's posset carried by any other hand than an Esmond. I should have dashed the salver out of Lord Bergamot's hand, had I met him." And those who knew her ladyship are aware that she was a person quite capable of performing this feat, had she not wisely kept out of the way.
Holding the purse-strings in her own control, to which, indeed, she liked to bring most persons who came near her, Lady Castlewood could command her husband's obedience, and so broke up her establishment at London; she had removed from Lincoln's Inn Fields to Chelsey, to a pretty new house she bought there; and brought her establishment, her maids, lap-dogs, and gentlewomen, her priest, and his lordship, her husband, to Castlewood Hall, that she had never seen since she quitted it as a child with her father during the troubles of King Charles the First's reign. The walls were still open in the old house as they had been left by the shot of the Commonwealth men. A part of the mansion was restored and furnished up with the plate, hangings, and furniture, brought from the house in London. My lady meant to have a triumphal entry into Castlewood village, and expected the people to cheer as she drove over the Green in her great coach, my lord beside her, her gentlewomen, lap-dogs, and cockatoos on the opposite seat, six horses to her carriage, and servants armed and mounted, following it and preceding it. But 'twas in the height of the No-Popery cry; the folks in the village and the neighbouring town were scared by the sight of her ladyship's painted face and eyelids, as she bobbed her head out of the coach window, meaning no doubt to be very gracious; and one old woman said, "Lady Isabel! lord-a-mercy, it's Lady Jezebel!" a name by which the enemies of the right honourable viscountess were afterwards in the habit of designating her. The country was then in a great No-Popery fervour, her ladyship's known conversion, and her husband's, the priest in her train, and the service performed at the chapel of Castlewood (though the chapel had been built for that worship before any other was heard of in the country, and though the service was performed in the most quiet manner), got her no favour at first in the county or village. By far the greater part of the estate of Castlewood had been confiscated, and been parcelled out to Commonwealth men. One or two of these old Cromwellian soldiers were still alive in the village, and looked grimly at first upon my lady viscountess, when she came to dwell there.
She appeared at the Hexton Assembly, bringing her lord after her, scaring the country folks with the splendour of her diamonds, which she always wore in public. They said she wore them in private, too, and slept with them round her neck; though the writer can pledge his word that this was a calumny. "If she were to take them off," my Lady Sark said, "Tom Esmond, her husband, would run away with them and pawn them." 'Twas another calumny. My Lady Sark was also an exile from Court, and there had been war between the two ladies before.
The village people began to be reconciled presently to their lady, who was generous and kind, though fantastic and haughty, in her ways; and whose praises Dr. Tusher, the vicar, sounded loudly amongst his flock. As for my lord, he gave no great trouble, being considered scarce more than an appendage to my lady, who as daughter of the old lords of Castlewood, and possessor of vast wealth, as the country folks said (though indeed nine-tenths of it existed but in rumour), was looked upon as the real queen of the Castle, and mistress of all it contained.
Chapter III. Whither In The Time Of Thomas, Third Viscount, I Had Preceded Him As Page To Isabella
Coming up to London again some short time after this retreat, the Lord Castlewood dispatched a retainer of his to a little cottage in the village of Ealing, near to London, where for some time had dwelt an old French refugee, by name Mr. Pastoureau, one of those whom the persecution of the Huguenots by the French king had brought over to this country. With this old man lived a little lad, who went by the name of Henry Thomas. He remembered to have lived in another place a short time before, near to London, too, amongst looms and spinning-wheels, and a great deal of psalm-singing and church-going, and a whole colony of Frenchmen.
There he had a dear, dear friend, who died and whom he called aunt. She used to visit him in his dreams sometimes; and her face, though it was homely, was a thousand times dearer to him than that of Mrs. Pastoureau, Bon Papa Pastoureau's new wife, who came to live with him after aunt went away. And there, at Spittlefields, as it used to be called, lived Uncle George, who was a weaver too, but used to tell Harry that he was a little gentleman, and that his father was a captain, and his mother an angel.
When he said so, Bon Papa used to look up from the loom, where he was embroidering beautiful silk flowers, and say, "Angel! she belongs to the Babylonish Scarlet Woman." Bon Papa was always talking of the Scarlet Woman. He had a little room where he always used to preach and sing hymns out of his great old nose. Little Harry did not like the preaching; he liked better the fine stories which aunt used to tell him. Bon Papa's wife never told him pretty stories; she quarrelled with Uncle George, and he went away.
After this Harry's Bon Papa, and his wife and two children of her own that she brought with her, came to live at Ealing. The new wife gave her children the best of everything, and Harry many a whipping, he knew not why. Besides blows, he got ill names from her, which need not be set down here, for the sake of old Mr. Pastoureau, who was still kind sometimes. The unhappiness of those days is long forgiven, though they cast a shade of melancholy over the child's youth, which will accompany him, no doubt, to the end of his days: as those tender twigs are bent the trees grow afterward; and he, at least, who has suffered as a child, and is not quite perverted in that early school of unhappiness, learns to be gentle and long-suffering with little children.
Harry was very glad when a gentleman dressed in black, on horseback, with a mounted servant behind him, came to fetch him away from Ealing. The noverca, or unjust stepmother, who had neglected him for her own two children, gave him supper enough the night before he went away, and plenty in the morning. She did not beat him once, and told the children to keep their hands off him. One was a girl, and Harry never could bear to strike a girl; and the other was a boy, whom he could easily have beat, but he always cried out, when Mrs. Pastoureau came sailing to the rescue with arms like a flail. She only washed Harry's face the day he went away; nor ever so much as once boxed his ears. She whimpered rather when the gentleman in black came for the boy; and old Mr. Pastoureau, as he gave the child his blessing, scowled over his shoulder at the strange gentleman, and grumbled out something about Babylon and the scarlet lady. He was grown quite old, like a child almost. Mrs. Pastoureau used to wipe his nose as she did to the children. She was a great, big, handsome young woman; but, though she pretended to cry, Harry thought 'twas only a sham, and sprung quite delighted upon the horse upon which the lackey helped him.
He was a Frenchman; his name was Blaise. The child could talk to him in his own language perfectly well: he knew it better than English indeed: having lived hitherto chiefly among French people: and being called the little Frenchman by other boys on Ealing Green. He soon learnt to speak English perfectly, and to forget some of his French: children forget easily. Some earlier and fainter recollections the child had, of a different country; and a town with tall white houses; and a ship. But these were quite indistinct in the boy's mind, as indeed the memory of Ealing soon became, at least of much that he suffered there.
The lackey before whom he rode was very lively and voluble, and informed the boy that the gentleman riding before him was my lord's chaplain, Father Holt—that he was now to be called Master Harry Esmond—that my Lord Viscount Castlewood was his parrain—that he was to live at the great house of Castlewood, in the province of ——shire, where he would see madame the viscountess, who was a grand lady. And so, seated on a cloth before Blaise's saddle, Harry Esmond was brought to London, and to a fine square called Covent Garden, near to which his patron lodged.