THE FITZ-BOODLE PAPERS.
By William Makepeace Thackeray
THE FITZ-BOODLE PAPERS.
GEORGE FITZ-BOODLE, ESQUIRE, TO OLIVER YORKE, ESQUIRE.
OMNIUM CLUB, May 20, 1842.
DEAR SIR,—I have always been considered the third-best whist-player in Europe, and (though never betting more than five pounds) have for many years past added considerably to my yearly income by my skill in the game, until the commencement of the present season, when a French gentleman, Monsieur Lalouette, was admitted to the club where I usually play. His skill and reputation were so great, that no men of the club were inclined to play against us two of a side; and the consequence has been, that we have been in a manner pitted against one another. By a strange turn of luck (for I cannot admit the idea of his superiority), Fortune, since the Frenchman's arrival, has been almost constantly against me, and I have lost two-and-thirty nights in the course of a couple of score of nights' play.
* The "Fitz-Boodle Papers" first appeared in Fraser's Magazine for the year 1842.
Everybody knows that I am a poor man; and so much has Lalouette's luck drained my finances, that only last week I was obliged to give him that famous gray cob on which you have seen me riding in the Park (I can't afford a thoroughbred, and hate a cocktail),—I was, I say, forced to give him up my cob in exchange for four ponies which I owed him. Thus, as I never walk, being a heavy man whom nobody cares to mount, my time hangs heavily on my hands; and, as I hate home, or that apology for it—a bachelor's lodgings—and as I have nothing earthly to do now until I can afford to purchase another horse, I spend my time in sauntering from one club to another, passing many rather listless hours in them before the men come in.
You will say, Why not take to backgammon, or ecarte, or amuse yourself with a book? Sir (putting out of the question the fact that I do not play upon credit), I make a point never to play before candles are lighted; and as for books, I must candidly confess to you I am not a reading man.
'Twas but the other day that some one recommended me to your Magazine after dinner, saying it contained an exceedingly witty article upon—I forget what. I give you my honor, sir, that I took up the work at six, meaning to amuse myself till seven, when Lord Trumpington's dinner was to come off, and egad! in two minutes I fell asleep, and never woke till midnight. Nobody ever thought of looking for me in the library, where nobody ever goes; and so ravenously hungry was I, that I was obliged to walk off to Crockford's for supper.
What is it that makes you literary persons so stupid? I have met various individuals in society who I was told were writers of books, and that sort of thing, and expecting rather to be amused by their conversation, have invariably found them dull to a degree, and as for information, without a particle of it. Sir, I actually asked one of these fellows, "What was the nick to seven?" and he stared in my face and said he didn't know. He was hugely over-dressed in satin, rings, chains and so forth; and at the beginning of dinner was disposed to be rather talkative and pert; but my little sally silenced HIM, I promise you, and got up a good laugh at his expense too. "Leave George alone," said little Lord Cinqbars, "I warrant he'll be a match for any of you literary fellows." Cinqbars is no great wiseacre; but, indeed, it requires no great wiseacre to know THAT.
What is the simple deduction to be drawn from this truth? Why, this—that a man to be amusing and well-informed, has no need of books at all, and had much better go to the world and to men for his knowledge. There was Ulysses, now, the Greek fellow engaged in the Trojan war, as I dare say you know; well, he was the cleverest man possible, and how? From having seen men and cities, their manners noted and their realms surveyed, to be sure. So have I. I have been in every capital, and can order a dinner in every language in Europe.
My notion, then, is this. I have a great deal of spare time on my hands, and as I am told you pay a handsome sum to persons writing for you, I will furnish you occasionally with some of my views upon men and things; occasional histories of my acquaintance, which I think may amuse you; personal narratives of my own; essays, and what not. I am told that I do not spell correctly. This of course I don't know; but you will remember that Richelieu and Marlborough could not spell, and egad! I am an honest man, and desire to be no better than they. I know that it is the matter, and not the manner, which is of importance. Have the goodness, then, to let one of your understrappers correct the spelling and the grammar of my papers; and you can give him a few shillings in my name for his trouble.
Begging you to accept the assurance of my high consideration, I am, sir,
Your obedient servant,
GEORGE SAVAGE FITZ-BOODLE.
P.S.—By the way, I have said in my letter that I found ALL literary persons vulgar and dull. Permit me to contradict this with regard to yourself. I met you once at Blackwall, I think it was, and really did not remark anything offensive in your accent or appearance.
Before commencing the series of moral disquisitions, &c. which I intend, the reader may as well know who I am, and what my past course of life has been. To say that I am a Fitz-Boodle is to say at once that I am a gentleman. Our family has held the estate of Boodle ever since the reign of Henry II.; and it is out of no ill will to my elder brother, or unnatural desire for his death, but only because the estate is a very good one, that I wish heartily it was mine: I would say as much of Chatsworth or Eaton Hall.
I am not, in the first place, what is called a ladies' man, having contracted an irrepressible habit of smoking after dinner, which has obliged me to give up a great deal of the dear creatures' society; nor can I go much to country-houses for the same reason. Say what they will, ladies do not like you to smoke in their bedrooms: their silly little noses scent out the odor upon the chintz, weeks after you have left them. Sir John has been caught coming to bed particularly merry and redolent of cigar-smoke; young George, from Eton, was absolutely found in the little green-house puffing an Havana; and when discovered they both lay the blame upon Fitz-Boodle. "It was Mr. Fitz-Boodle, mamma," says George, "who offered me the cigar, and I did not like to refuse him." "That rascal Fitz seduced us, my dear," says Sir John, "and kept us laughing until past midnight." Her ladyship instantly sets me down as a person to be avoided. "George," whispers she to her boy, "promise me on your honor, when you go to town, not to know that man." And when she enters the breakfast-room for prayers, the first greeting is a peculiar expression of countenance, and inhaling of breath, by which my lady indicates the presence of some exceedingly disagreeable odor in the room. She makes you the faintest of curtsies, and regards you, if not with a "flashing eye," as in the novels, at least with a "distended nostril." During the whole of the service, her heart is filled with the blackest gall towards you; and she is thinking about the best means of getting you out of the house.
What is this smoking that it should be considered a crime? I believe in my heart that women are jealous of it, as of a rival. They speak of it as of some secret, awful vice that seizes upon a man, and makes him a pariah from genteel society. I would lay a guinea that many a lady who has just been kind enough to rend the above lines lays down the book, after this confession of mine that I am a smoker, and says, "Oh, the vulgar wretch!" and passes on to something else.
The fact is, that the cigar IS a rival to the ladies, and their conqueror too. In the chief pipe-smoking nations they are kept in subjection. While the chief, Little White Belt, smokes, the women are silent in his wigwam; while Mahomet Ben Jawbrahim causes volumes of odorous incense of Latakia to play round his beard, the women of the harem do not disturb his meditations, but only add to the delight of them by tinkling on a dulcimer and dancing before him. When Professor Strumpff of Gottingen takes down No. 13 from the wall, with a picture of Beatrice Cenci upon it, and which holds a pound of canaster, the Frau Professorin knows that for two hours Hermann is engaged, and takes up her stockings and knits in quiet. The constitution of French society has been quite changed within the last twelve years: an ancient and respectable dynasty has been overthrown; an aristocracy which Napoleon could never master has disappeared: and from what cause? I do not hesitate to say,—FROM THE HABIT OF SMOKING. Ask any man whether, five years before the revolution of July, if you wanted a cigar at Paris, they did not bring you a roll of tobacco with a straw in it! Now, the whole city smokes; society is changed; and be sure of this, ladies, a similar combat is going on in this country at present between cigar-smoking and you. Do you suppose you will conquer? Look over the wide world, and see that your adversary has overcome it. Germany has been puffing for threescore years; France smokes to a man. Do you think you can keep the enemy out of England? Psha! look at his progress. Ask the clubhouses, Have they smoking-rooms or not? Are they not obliged to yield to the general want of the age, in spite of the resistance of the old women on the committees? I, for my part, do not despair to see a bishop lolling out of the "Athenaeum" with a cheroot in his mouth, or, at any rate, a pipe stuck in his shovel-hat.
But as in all great causes and in promulgating new and illustrious theories, their first propounders and exponents are generally the victims of their enthusiasm, of course the first preachers of smoking have been martyrs, too; and George Fitz-Boodle is one. The first gas-man was ruined; the inventor of steam-engine printing became a pauper. I began to smoke in days when the task was one of some danger, and paid the penalty of my crime. I was flogged most fiercely for my first cigar; for, being asked to dine one Sunday evening with a half-pay colonel of dragoons (the gallant, simple, humorous Shortcut—heaven bless him!—I have had many a guinea from him who had so few), he insisted upon my smoking in his room at the "Salopian," and the consequence was, that I became so violently ill as to be reported intoxicated upon my return to Slaughter-House School, where I was a boarder, and I was whipped the next morning for my peccadillo. At Christ Church, one of our tutors was the celebrated lamented Otto Rose, who would have been a bishop under the present Government, had not an immoderate indulgence in water-gruel cut short his elegant and useful career. He was a good man, a pretty scholar and poet (the episode upon the discovery of eau-de-Cologne, in his prize-poem on "The Rhine," was considered a masterpiece of art, though I am not much of a judge myself upon such matters), and he was as remarkable for his fondness for a tuft as for his nervous antipathy to tobacco. As ill-luck would have it, my rooms (in Tom Quad) were exactly under his; and I was grown by this time to be a confirmed smoker. I was a baronet's son (we are of James the First's creation), and I do believe our tutor could have pardoned any crime in the world but this. He had seen me in a tandem, and at that moment was seized with a violent fit of sneezing—(sternutatory paroxysm he called it)—at the conclusion of which I was a mile down the Woodstock Road. He had seen me in pink, as we used to call it, swaggering in the open sunshine across a grass-plat in the court; but spied out opportunely a servitor, one Todhunter by name, who was going to morning chapel with his shoestring untied, and forthwith sprung towards that unfortunate person, to set him an imposition. Everything, in fact, but tobacco he could forgive. Why did cursed fortune bring him into the rooms over mine? The odor of the cigars made his gentle spirit quite furious; and one luckless morning, when I was standing before my "oak," and chanced to puff a great bouffee of Varinas into his face, he forgot his respect for my family altogether (I was the second son, and my brother a sickly creature THEN,—he is now sixteen stone in weight, and has a half-score of children); gave me a severe lecture, to which I replied rather hotly, as was my wont. And then came demand for an apology; refusal on my part; appeal to the dean; convocation; and rustication of George Savage Fitz-Boodle.
My father had taken a second wife (of the noble house of Flintskinner), and Lady Fitz-Boodle detested smoking, as a woman of her high principles should. She had an entire mastery over the worthy old gentleman, and thought I was a sort of demon of wickedness. The old man went to his grave with some similar notion,—heaven help him! and left me but the wretched twelve thousand pounds secured to me on my poor mother's property.
In the army, my luck was much the same. I joined the —th Lancers, Lieut.-Col. Lord Martingale, in the year 1817. I only did duty with the regiment for three months. We were quartered at Cork, where I found the Irish doodheen and tobacco the pleasantest smoking possible; and was found by his lordship, one day upon stable duty, smoking the shortest, dearest little dumpy clay-pipe in the world.
"Cornet Fitz-Boodle," said my lord in a towering passion, "from what blackguard did you get that pipe?"
I omit the oaths which garnished invariably his lordship's conversation.
"I got it, my lord," said I, "from one Terence Mullins, a jingle-driver, with a packet of his peculiar tobacco. You sometimes smoke Turkish, I believe; do try this. Isn't it good?" And in the simplest way in the world I puffed a volume into his face. "I see you like it," said I, so coolly, that the men—and I do believe the horses—burst out laughing.
He started back—choking almost, and recovered himself only to vent such a storm of oaths and curses that I was compelled to request Capt. Rawdon (the captain on duty) to take note of his lordship's words; and unluckily could not help adding a question which settled my business. "You were good enough," I said, "to ask me, my lord, from what blackguard I got my pipe; might I ask from what blackguard you learned your language?"
This was quite enough. Had I said, "from what GENTLEMAN did your lordship learn your language?" the point would have been quite as good, and my Lord Martingale would have suffered in my place: as it was, I was so strongly recommended to sell out by his Royal Highness the Commander-in-Chief, that, being of a good-natured disposition, never knowing how to refuse a friend, I at once threw up my hopes of military distinction and retired into civil life.
My lord was kind enough to meet me afterwards in a field in the Glanmire Road, where he put a ball into my leg. This I returned to him some years later with about twenty-three others—black ones—when he came to be balloted for at a club of which I have the honor to be a member.
Thus by the indulgence of a simple and harmless propensity,—of a propensity which can inflict an injury upon no person or thing except the coat and the person of him who indulges in it,—of a custom honored and observed in almost all the nations of the world,—of a custom which, far from leading a man into any wickedness or dissipation to which youth is subject, on the contrary, begets only benevolent silence, and thoughtful good-humored observation—I found at the age of twenty all my prospects in life destroyed. I cared not for woman in those days: the calm smoker has a sweet companion in his pipe. I did not drink immoderately of wine; for though a friend to trifling potations, to excessively strong drinks tobacco is abhorrent. I never thought of gambling, for the lover of the pipe has no need of such excitement; but I was considered a monster of dissipation in my family, and bade fair to come to ruin.
"Look at George," my mother-in-law said to the genteel and correct young Flintskinners. "He entered the world with every prospect in life, and see in what an abyss of degradation his fatal habits have plunged him! At school he was flogged and disgraced, he was disgraced and rusticated at the university, he was disgraced and expelled from the army! He might have had the living of Boodle" (her ladyship gave it to one of her nephews), "but he would not take his degree; his papa would have purchased him a troop—nay, a lieutenant-colonelcy some day, but for his fatal excesses. And now as long as my dear husband will listen to the voice of a wife who adores him—never, never shall he spend a shilling upon so worthless a young man. He has a small income from his mother (I cannot but think that the first Lady Fitz-Boodle was a weak and misguided person); let him live upon his mean pittance as he can, and I heartily pray we may not hear of him in gaol!"
My brother, after he came to the estate, married the ninth daughter of our neighbor, Sir John Spreadeagle; and Boodle Hall has seen a new little Fitz-Boodle with every succeeding spring. The dowager retired to Scotland with a large jointure and a wondrous heap of savings. Lady Fitz is a good creature, but she thinks me something diabolical, trembles when she sees me, and gathers all her children about her, rushes into the nursery whenever I pay that little seminary a visit, and actually slapped poor little Frank's ears one day when I was teaching him to ride upon the back of a Newfoundland dog.
"George," said my brother to me the last time I paid him a visit at the old hall, "don't be angry, my dear fellow, but Maria is in a—hum—in a delicate situation, expecting her—hum"—(the eleventh)—"and do you know you frighten her? It was but yesterday you met her in the rookery—you were smoking that enormous German pipe—and when she came in she had an hysterical seizure, and Drench says that in her situation it's dangerous. And I say, George, if you go to town you'll find a couple of hundred at your banker's." And with this the poor fellow shook me by the hand, and called for a fresh bottle of claret.
Afterwards he told me, with many hesitations, that my room at Boodle Hall had been made into a second nursery. I see my sister-in-law in London twice or thrice in the season, and the little people, who have almost forgotten to call me uncle George.
It's hard, too, for I am a lonely man after all, and my heart yearns to them. The other day I smuggled a couple of them into my chambers, and had a little feast of cream and strawberries to welcome them. But it had like to have cost the nursery-maid (a Swiss girl that Fitz-Boodle hired somewhere in his travels) her place. My step-mamma, who happened to be in town, came flying down in her chariot, pounced upon the poor thing and the children in the midst of the entertainment; and when I asked her, with rather a bad grace to be sure, to take a chair and a share of the feast—"Mr. Fitz-Boodle," said she, "I am not accustomed to sit down in a place that smells of tobacco like an ale-house—an ale-house inhabited by a SERPENT, sir! A SERPENT!—do you understand me?—who carries his poison into his brother's own house, and purshues his eenfamous designs before his brother's own children. Put on Miss Maria's bonnet this instant. Mamsell, ontondy-voo? Metty le bonny a mamsell. And I shall take care, Mamsell, that you return to Switzerland to-morrow. I've no doubt you are a relation of Courvoisier—oui! oui! courvoisier, vous comprenny—and you shall certainly be sent back to your friends."
With this speech, and with the children and their maid sobbing before her, my lady retired; but for once my sister-in-law was on my side, not liking the meddlement of the elder lady.
I know, then, that from indulging in that simple habit of smoking, I have gained among the ladies a dreadful reputation. I see that they look coolly upon me, and darkly at their husbands when they arrive at home in my company. Men, I observe, in consequence, ask me to dine much oftener at the club, or the "Star and Garter" at Richmond, or at "Lovegrove's," than in their own houses; and with this sort of arrangement I am fain to acquiesce; for, as I said before, I am of an easy temper, and can at any rate take my cigar-case out after dinner at Blackwall, when my lady or the duchess is not by. I know, of course, the best MEN in town; and as for ladies' society, not having it (for I will have none of your pseudo-ladies, such as sometimes honor bachelors' parties,—actresses, couturieres, opera-dancers, and so forth)—as for ladies' society, I say, I cry pish! 'tis not worth the trouble of the complimenting, and the bother of pumps and black silk stockings.
Let any man remember what ladies' society was when he had an opportunity of seeing them among themselves, as What-d'ye-call'im does in the Thesmophoria—(I beg pardon, I was on the verge of a classical allusion, which I abominate)—I mean at that period of his life when the intellect is pretty acute, though the body is small—namely, when a young gentleman is about eleven years of age, dining at his father's table during the holidays, and is requested by his papa to quit the dinner-table when the ladies retire from it.
Corbleu! I recollect their whole talk as well as if it had been whispered but yesterday; and can see, after a long dinner, the yellow summer sun throwing long shadows over the lawn before the dining-room windows, and my poor mother and her company of ladies sailing away to the music-room in old Boodle Hall. The Countess Dawdley was the great lady in our county, a portly lady who used to love crimson satin in those days, and birds-of-paradise. She was flaxen-haired, and the Regent once said she resembled one of King Charles's beauties.
When Sir John Todcaster used to begin his famous story of the exciseman (I shall not tell it here, for very good reasons), my poor mother used to turn to Lady Dawdley, and give that mystic signal at which all females rise from their chairs. Tufthunt, the curate, would spring from his seat, and be sure to be the first to open the door for the retreating ladies; and my brother Tom and I, though remaining stoutly in our places, were speedily ejected from them by the governor's invariable remark, "Tom and George, if you have had QUITE enough of wine, you had better go and join your mamma." Yonder she marches, heaven bless her! through the old oak hall (how long the shadows of the antlers are on the wainscot, and the armor of Rollo Fitz-Boodle looks in the sunset as if it were emblazoned with rubies)—yonder she marches, stately and tall, in her invariable pearl-colored tabbinet, followed by Lady Dawdley, blazing like a flamingo; next comes Lady Emily Tufthunt (she was Lady Emily Flintskinner), who will not for all the world take precedence of rich, vulgar, kind, good-humored Mrs. COLONEL Grogwater, as she would be called, with a yellow little husband from Madras, who first taught me to drink sangaree. He was a new arrival in our county, but paid nobly to the hounds, and occupied hospitably a house which was always famous for its hospitality—Sievely Hall (poor Bob Cullender ran through seven thousand a year before he was thirty years old). Once when I was a lad, Colonel Grogwater gave me two gold mohurs out of his desk for whist-markers, and I'm sorry to say I ran up from Eton and sold them both for seventy-three shillings at a shop in Cornhill. But to return to the ladies, who are all this while kept waiting in the hall, and to their usual conversation after dinner.
Can any man forget how miserably flat it was? Five matrons sit on sofas, and talk in a subdued voice:—First Lady (mysteriously).—"My dear Lady Dawdley, do tell me about poor Susan Tuckett."
Second Lady.—"All three children are perfectly well, and I assure you as fine babies as I ever saw in my life. I made her give them Daffy's Elixir the first day; and it was the greatest mercy that I had some of Frederick's baby-clothes by me; for you know I had provided Susan with sets for one only, and really—"
Third Lady.—"Of course one couldn't; and for my part I think your ladyship is a great deal too kind to these people. A little gardener's boy dressed in Lord Dawdley's frocks indeed! I recollect that one at his christening had the sweetest lace in the world!"
Fourth Lady.—"What do you think of this, ma'am—Lady Emily, I mean? I have just had it from Howell and James:—guipure, they call it. Isn't it an odd name for lace! And they charge me, upon my conscience, four guineas a yard!"
Third Lady.—"My mother, when she came to Flintskinner, had lace upon her robe that cost sixty guineas a yard, ma'am! 'Twas sent from Malines direct by our relation, the Count d'Araignay."
Fourth Lady (aside).—"I thought she would not let the evening pass without talking of her Malines lace and her Count d'Araignay. Odious people! they don't spare their backs, but they pinch their—"
Here Tom upsets a coffee-cup over his white jean trousers, and another young gentleman bursts into a laugh, saying, "By Jove, that's a good 'un!"
"George, my dear," says mamma, "had not you and your young friend better go into the garden? But mind, no fruit, or Dr. Glauber must be called in again immediately!" And we all go, and in ten minutes I and my brother are fighting in the stables.
If, instead of listening to the matrons and their discourse, we had taken the opportunity of attending to the conversation of the Misses, we should have heard matter not a whit more interesting.
First Miss.—"They were all three in blue crape; you never saw anything so odious. And I know for a certainty that they wore those dresses at Muddlebury, at the archery-ball, and I dare say they had them in town."
Second Miss.—"Don't you think Jemima decidedly crooked? And those fair complexions, they freckle so, that really Miss Blanche ought to be called Miss Brown."
Third Miss.—"He, he, he!"
Fourth Miss.—"Don't you think Blanche is a pretty name?"
First Miss.—"La! do you think so, dear? Why, it's my second name!"
Second Miss.—"Then I'm sure Captain Travers thinks it a BEAUTIFUL name!"
Third Miss.—"He, he, he!"
Fourth Miss.—"What was he telling you at dinner that seemed to interest you so?"
First Miss.—"O law, nothing!—that is, yes! Charles—that is,—Captain Travers, is a sweet poet, and was reciting to me some lines that he had composed upon a faded violet:—
"'The odor from the flower is gone, That like thy—,
like thy something, I forget what it was; but his lines are sweet, and so original too! I wish that horrid Sir John Todcaster had not begun his story of the exciseman, for Lady Fitz-Boodle always quits the table when he begins."
Third Miss.—"Do you like those tufts that gentlemen wear sometimes on their chins?"
Second Miss.—"Nonsense, Mary!"
Third Miss.—"Well, I only asked, Jane. Frank thinks, you know, that he shall very soon have one, and puts bear's-grease on his chin every night."
Second Miss.—"Mary, nonsense!"
Third Miss.—"Well, only ask him. You know he came to our dressing-room last night and took the pomatum away; and he says that when boys go to Oxford they always—"
First Miss.—"O heavens! have you heard the news about the Lancers? Charles—that is, Captain Travers, told it me!"
Second Miss.—"Law! they won't go away before the ball, I hope!"
First Miss.—"No, but on the 15th they are to shave their moustaches! He says that Lord Tufto is in a perfect fury about it!"
Second Miss.—"And poor George Beardmore, too!" &c.
Here Tom upsets the coffee over his trousers, and the conversations end. I can recollect a dozen such, and ask any man of sense whether such talk amuses him?
Try again to speak to a young lady while you are dancing—what we call in this country—a quadrille. What nonsense do you invariably give and receive in return! No, I am a woman-scorner, and don't care to own it. I hate young ladies! Have I not been in love with several, and has any one of them ever treated me decently? I hate married women! Do they not hate me? and, simply because I smoke, try to draw their husbands away from my society? I hate dowagers! Have I not cause? Does not every dowager in London point to George Fitz-Boodle as to a dissolute wretch whom young and old should avoid?
And yet do not imagine that I have not loved. I have, and madly, many, many times! I am but eight-and-thirty,* not past the age of passion, and may very likely end by running off with an heiress—or a cook-maid (for who knows what strange freaks Love may choose to play in his own particular person? and I hold a man to be a mean creature who calculates about checking any such sacred impulse as lawful love)—I say, though despising the sex in general for their conduct to me, I know of particular persons belonging to it who are worthy of all respect and esteem, and as such I beg leave to point out the particular young lady who is perusing these lines. Do not, dear madam, then imagine that if I knew you I should be disposed to sneer at you. Ah, no! Fitz-Boodle's bosom has tenderer sentiments than from his way of life you would fancy, and stern by rule is only too soft by practice. Shall I whisper to you the story of one or two of my attachments? All terminating fatally (not in death, but in disappointment, which, as it occurred, I used to imagine a thousand times more bitter than death, but from which one recovers somehow more readily than from the other-named complaint)—all, I say, terminating wretchedly to myself, as if some fatality pursued my desire to become a domestic character.
* He is five-and-forty, if he is a day old.—O. Y.
My first love—no, let us pass THAT over. Sweet one! thy name shall profane no hireling page. Sweet, sweet memory! Ah, ladies, those delicate hearts of yours have, too, felt the throb. And between the last 'ob' in the word throb and the words now written, I have passed a delicious period of perhaps an hour, perhaps a minute, I know not how long, thinking of that holy first love and of her who inspired it. How clearly every single incident of the passion is remembered by me! and yet 'twas long, long since. I was but a child then—a child at school—and, if the truth must be told, L—ra R-ggl-s (I would not write her whole name to be made one of the Marquess of Hertford's executors) was a woman full thirteen years older than myself; at the period of which I write she must have been at least five-and-twenty. She and her mother used to sell tarts, hard-bake, lollipops, and other such simple comestibles, on Wednesdays and Saturdays (half-holidays), at a private school where I received the first rudiments of a classical education. I used to go and sit before her tray for hours, but I do not think the poor girl ever supposed any motive led me so constantly to her little stall beyond a vulgar longing for her tarts and her ginger-beer. Yes, even at that early period my actions were misrepresented, and the fatality which has oppressed my whole life began to show itself,—the purest passion was misinterpreted by her and my school-fellows, and they thought I was actuated by simple gluttony. They nicknamed me Alicompayne.
Well, be it so. Laugh at early passion ye who will; a highborn boy madly in love with a lowly ginger-beer girl! She married afterwards, took the name of Latter, and now keeps with her old husband a turnpike, through which I often ride; but I can recollect her bright and rosy of a sunny summer afternoon, her red cheeks shaded by a battered straw bonnet, her tarts and ginger-beer upon a neat white cloth before her, mending blue worsted stockings until the young gentlemen should interrupt her by coming to buy.
Many persons will call this description low; I do not envy them their gentility, and have always observed through life (as, to be sure, every other GENTLEMAN has observed as well as myself) that it is your parvenu who stickles most for what he calls the genteel, and has the most squeamish abhorrence for what is frank and natural. Let us pass at once, however, as all the world must be pleased, to a recital of an affair which occurred in the very best circles of society, as they are called, viz, my next unfortunate attachment.
It did not occur for several years after that simple and platonic passion just described: for though they may talk of youth as the season of romance, it has always appeared to me that there are no beings in the world so entirely unromantic and selfish as certain young English gentlemen from the age of fifteen to twenty. The oldest Lovelace about town is scarcely more hard-hearted and scornful than they; they ape all sorts of selfishness and rouerie: they aim at excelling at cricket, at billiards, at rowing, and drinking, and set more store by a red coat and a neat pair of top-boots than by any other glory. A young fellow staggers into college chapel of a morning, and communicates to all his friends that he was "so CUT last night," with the greatest possible pride. He makes a joke of having sisters and a kind mother at home who loves him; and if he speaks of his father, it is with a knowing sneer to say that he has a tailor's and a horse-dealer's bill that will surprise "the old governor." He would be ashamed of being in love. I, in common with my kind, had these affectations, and my perpetual custom of smoking added not a little to my reputation as an accomplished roue. What came of this custom in the army and at college, the reader has already heard. Alas! in life it went no better with me, and many pretty chances I had went off in that accursed smoke.
After quitting the army in the abrupt manner stated, I passed some short time at home, and was tolerated by my mother-in-law, because I had formed an attachment to a young lady of good connections and with a considerable fortune, which was really very nearly becoming mine. Mary M'Alister was the only daughter of Colonel M'Alister, late of the Blues, and Lady Susan his wife. Her ladyship was no more; and, indeed, of no family compared to ours (which has refused a peerage any time these two hundred years); but being an earl's daughter and a Scotchwoman, Lady Emily Fitz-Boodle did not fail to consider her highly. Lady Susan was daughter of the late Admiral Earl of Marlingspike and Baron Plumduff. The Colonel, Miss M'Alister's father, had a good estate, of which his daughter was the heiress, and as I fished her out of the water upon a pleasure-party, and swam with her to shore, we became naturally intimate, and Colonel M'Alister forgot, on account of the service rendered to him, the dreadful reputation for profligacy which I enjoyed in the county.
Well, to cut a long story short, which is told here merely for the moral at the end of it, I should have been Fitz-Boodle M'Alister at this minute most probably, and master of four thousand a year, but for the fatal cigar-box. I bear Mary no malice in saying that she was a high-spirited little girl, loving, before all things, her own way; nay, perhaps I do not, from long habit and indulgence in tobacco-smoking, appreciate the delicacy of female organizations, which were oftentimes most painfully affected by it. She was a keen-sighted little person, and soon found that the world had belied poor George Fitz-Boodle; who, instead of being the cunning monster people supposed him to be, was a simple, reckless, good-humored, honest fellow, marvellously addicted to smoking, idleness, and telling the truth. She called me Orson, and I was happy enough on the 14th February, in the year 18— (it's of no consequence), to send her such a pretty little copy of verses about Orson and Valentine, in which the rude habits of the savage man were shown to be overcome by the polished graces of his kind and brilliant conqueror, that she was fairly overcome, and said to me, "George Fitz-Boodle, if you give up smoking for a year, I will marry you."
I swore I would, of course, and went home and flung four pounds of Hudson's cigars, two meerschaum pipes that had cost me ten guineas at the establishment of Mr. Gattie at Oxford, a tobacco-bag that Lady Fitz-Boodle had given me BEFORE her marriage with my father (it was the only present that I ever had from her or any member of the Flintskinner family), and some choice packets of Varinas and Syrian, into the lake in Boodle Park. The weapon amongst them all which I most regretted was—will it be believed?—the little black doodheen which had been the cause of the quarrel between Lord Martingale and me. However, it went along with the others. I would not allow my groom to have so much as a cigar, lest I should be tempted hereafter; and the consequence was that a few days after many fat carps and tenches in the lake (I must confess 'twas no bigger than a pond) nibbled at the tobacco, and came floating on their backs on the top of the water quite intoxicated. My conversion made some noise in the county, being emphasized as it were by this fact of the fish. I can't tell you with what pangs I kept my resolution; but keep it I did for some time.
With so much beauty and wealth, Mary M'Alister had of course many suitors, and among them was the young Lord Dawdley, whose mamma has previously been described in her gown of red satin. As I used to thrash Dawdley at school, I thrashed him in after-life in love; he put up with his disappointment pretty well, and came after a while and shook hands with me, telling me of the bets that there were in the county, where the whole story was known, for and against me. For the fact is, as I must own, that Mary M'Alister, the queerest, frankest of women, made no secret of the agreement, or the cause of it.
"I did not care a penny for Orson," she said, "but he would go on writing me such dear pretty verses that at last I couldn't help saying yes. But if he breaks his promise to me, I declare, upon my honor, I'll break mine, and nobody's heart will be broken either."
This was the perfect fact, as I must confess, and I declare that it was only because she amused me and delighted me, and provoked me, and made me laugh very much, and because, no doubt, she was very rich, that I had any attachment for her.
"For heaven's sake, George," my father said to me, as I quitted home to follow my beloved to London, "remember that you are a younger brother and have a lovely girl and four thousand a year within a year's reach of you. Smoke as much as you like, my boy, after marriage," added the old gentleman, knowingly (as if HE, honest soul, after his second marriage, dared drink an extra pint of wine without my lady's permission!) "but eschew the tobacco-shops till then."
I went to London resolving to act upon the paternal advice, and oh! how I longed for the day when I should be married, vowing in my secret soul that I would light a cigar as I walked out of St. George's, Hanover Square.
Well, I came to London, and so carefully avoided smoking that I would not even go into Hudson's shop to pay his bill, and as smoking was not the fashion then among young men as (thank heaven!) it is now, I had not many temptations from my friends' examples in my clubs or elsewhere; only little Dawdley began to smoke, as if to spite me. He had never done so before, but confessed—the rascal!—that he enjoyed a cigar now, if it were but to mortify me. But I took to other and more dangerous excitements, and upon the nights when not in attendance upon Mary M'Alister, might be found in very dangerous proximity to a polished mahogany table, round which claret-bottles circulated a great deal too often, or worse still, to a table covered with green cloth and ornamented with a couple of wax-candles and a couple of packs of cards, and four gentlemen playing the enticing game of whist. Likewise, I came to carry a snuff-box, and to consume in secret huge quantities of rappee.
For ladies' society I was even then disinclined, hating and despising small-talk, and dancing, and hot routs, and vulgar scrambles for suppers. I never could understand the pleasure of acting the part of lackey to a dowager, and standing behind her chair, or bustling through the crowd for her carriage. I always found an opera too long by two acts, and have repeatedly fallen asleep in the presence of Mary M'Alister herself, sitting at the back of the box shaded by the huge beret of her old aunt, Lady Betty Plumduff; and many a time has Dawdley, with Miss M'Alister on his arm, wakened me up at the close of the entertainment in time to offer my hand to Lady Betty, and lead the ladies to their carriage. If I attended her occasionally to any ball or party of pleasure, I went, it must be confessed, with clumsy, ill-disguised ill-humor. Good heavens! have I often and often thought in the midst of a song, or the very thick of a ball-room, can people prefer this to a book and a sofa, and a dear, dear cigar-box, from thy stores, O charming Mariana Woodville! Deprived of my favorite plant, I grew sick in mind and body, moody, sarcastic, and discontented.
Such a state of things could not long continue, nor could Miss M'Alister continue to have much attachment for such a sullen, ill-conditioned creature as I then was. She used to make me wild with her wit and her sarcasm, nor have I ever possessed the readiness to parry or reply to those fine points of woman's wit, and she treated me the more mercilessly as she saw that I could not resist her.
Well, the polite reader must remember a great fete that was given at B—— House, some years back, in honor of his Highness the Hereditary Prince of Kalbsbraten-Pumpernickel, who was then in London on a visit to his illustrious relatives. It was a fancy ball, and the poems of Scott being at that time all the fashion, Mary was to appear in the character of the "Lady of the Lake," old M'Alister making a very tall and severe-looking harper; Dawdley, a most insignificant Fitzjames; and your humble servant a stalwart manly Roderick Dhu. We were to meet at B—— House at twelve o'clock, and as I had no fancy to drive through the town in my cab dressed in a kilt and philibeg, I agreed to take a seat in Dawdley's carriage, and to dress at his house in May Fair. At eleven I left a very pleasant bachelors' party, growling to quit them and the honest, jovial claret-bottle, in order to scrape and cut capers like a harlequin from the theatre. When I arrived at Dawdley's, I mounted to a dressing-room, and began to array myself in my cursed costume.
The art of costuming was by no means so well understood in those days as it has been since, and mine was out of all correctness. I was made to sport an enormous plume of black ostrich-feathers, such as never was worn by any Highland chief, and had a huge tiger-skin sporran to dangle like an apron before innumerable yards of plaid petticoat. The tartan cloak was outrageously hot and voluminous; it was the dog-days, and all these things I was condemned to wear in the midst of a crowd of a thousand people!
Dawdley sent up word, as I was dressing, that his dress had not arrived, and he took my cab and drove off in a rage to his tailor.
There was no hurry, I thought, to make a fool of myself; so having put on a pair of plaid trews, and very neat pumps with shoe-buckles, my courage failed me as to the rest of the dress, and taking down one of his dressing-gowns, I went down stairs to the study, to wait until he should arrive.
The windows of the pretty room were open, and a snug sofa, with innumerable cushions, drawn towards one of them. A great tranquil moon was staring into the chamber, in which stood, amidst books and all sorts of bachelor's lumber, a silver tray with a couple of tall Venice glasses, and a bottle of Maraschino bound with straw. I can see now the twinkle of the liquor in the moonshine, as I poured it into the glass; and I swallowed two or three little cups of it, for my spirits were downcast. Close to the tray of Maraschino stood—must I say it?—a box, a mere box of cedar, bound rudely together with pink paper, branded with the name of "Hudson" on the side, and bearing on the cover the arms of Spain. I thought I would just take up the box and look in it.
Ah heaven! there they were—a hundred and fifty of them, in calm, comfortable rows: lovingly side by side they lay, with the great moon shining down upon them—thin at the tip, full in the waist, elegantly round and full, a little spot here and there shining upon them—beauty-spots upon the cheek of Sylvia. The house was quite quiet. Dawdley always smoked in his room—I had not smoked for four months and eleven days.
When Lord Dawdley came into the study, he did not make any remarks; and oh, how easy my heart felt! He was dressed in his green and boots, after Westall's picture, correctly.
"It's time to be off, George," said he; "they told me you were dressed long ago. Come up, my man, and get ready."
I rushed up into the dressing-room, and madly dashed my head and arms into a pool of eau-de-Cologne. I drank, I believe, a tumberful of it. I called for my clothes, and, strange to say, they were gone. My servant brought them, however, saying that he had put them away—making some stupid excuse. I put them on, not heeding them much, for I was half tipsy with the excitement of the ci— of the smo— of what had taken place in Dawdley's study, and with the Maraschino and the eau-de-Cologue I had drunk.
"What a fine odor of lavender-water!" said Dawdley, as we rode in the carriage.
I put my head out of the window and shrieked out a laugh; but made no other reply.
"What's the joke, George?" said Dawdley. "Did I say anything witty?"
"No," cried I, yelling still more wildly; "nothing more witty than usual."
"Don't be severe, George," said he, with a mortified air; and we drove on to B—— House.
There must have been something strange and wild in my appearance, and those awful black plumes, as I passed through the crowd; for I observed people looking and making a strange nasal noise (it is called sniffing, and I have no other more delicate term for it), and making way as I pushed on. But I moved forward very fiercely, for the wine, the Maraschino, the eau-de-Cologne, and the—the excitement had rendered me almost wild; and at length I arrived at the place where my lovely Lady of the Lake and her Harper stood. How beautiful she looked,—all eyes were upon her as she stood blushing. When she saw me, however; her countenance assumed an appearance of alarm. "Good heavens, George!" she said, stretching her hand to me, "what makes you look so wild and pale?" I advanced, and was going to take her hand, when she dropped it with a scream.
"Ah—ah—ah!" she said. "Mr. Fitz-Boodle, you've been smoking!"
There was an immense laugh from four hundred people round about us, and the scoundrelly Dawdley joined in the yell. I rushed furiously out, and, as I passed, hurtled over the fat Hereditary Prince of Kalbsbraten-Pumpernickel.
"Es riecht hier ungeheuer stark von Tabak!" I heard his Highness say, as I madly flung myself through the aides-de-camp.
The next day Mary M'Alister, in a note full of the most odious good sense and sarcasm, reminded me of our agreement; said that she was quite convinced that we were not by any means fitted for one another, and begged me to consider myself henceforth quite free. The little wretch had the impertinence to send me a dozen boxes of cigars, which, she said, would console me for my lost love; as she was perfectly certain that I was not mercenary, and that I loved tobacco better than any woman in the world.
I believe she was right, though I have never to this day been able to pardon the scoundrelly stratagem by which Dawdley robbed me of a wife and won one himself. As I was lying on his sofa, looking at the moon and lost in a thousand happy contemplations, Lord Dawdley, returning from the tailor's, saw me smoking at my leisure. On entering his dressing-room, a horrible treacherous thought struck him. "I must not betray my friend," said he; "but in love all is fair, and he shall betray himself." There were my tartans, my cursed feathers, my tiger-skin sporran, upon the sofa.
He called up my groom; he made the rascal put on all my clothes, and, giving him a guinea and four cigars, bade him lock himself into the little pantry and smoke them WITHOUT TAKING THE CLOTHES OFF. John did so, and was very ill in consequence, and so when I came to B—— House, my clothes were redolent of tobacco, and I lost lovely Mary M'Alister.
I am godfather to one of Lady Dawdley's boys, and hers is the only house where I am allowed to smoke unmolested; but I have never been able to admire Dawdley, a sly, sournois, spiritless, lily-livered fellow, that took his name off all his clubs the year he married.
Beyond sparring and cricket, I do not recollect I learned anything useful at Slaughter-House School, where I was educated (according to an old family tradition, which sends particular generations of gentlemen to particular schools in the kingdom; and such is the force of habit, that though I hate the place, I shall send my own son thither too, should I marry any day). I say I learned little that was useful at Slaughter House, and nothing that was ornamental. I would as soon have thought of learning to dance as of learning to climb chimneys. Up to the age of seventeen, as I have shown, I had a great contempt for the female race, and when age brought with it warmer and juster sentiments, where was I?—I could no more dance nor prattle to a young girl than a young bear could. I have seen the ugliest little low-bred wretches carrying off young and lovely creatures, twirling with them in waltzes, whispering between their glossy curls in quadrilles, simpering with perfect equanimity, and cutting pas in that abominable "cavalier seul," until my soul grew sick with fury. In a word, I determined to learn to dance.
But such things are hard to be acquired late in life, when the bones and the habits of a man are formed. Look at a man in a hunting-field who has not been taught to ride as a boy. All the pluck and courage in the world will not make the man of him that I am, or as any man who has had the advantages of early education in the field.
In the same way with dancing. Though I went to work with immense energy, both in Brewer Street, Golden Square (with an advertising fellow), and afterwards with old Coulon at Paris, I never was able to be EASY in dancing; and though little Coulon instructed me in a smile, it was a cursed forced one, that looked like the grin of a person in extreme agony. I once caught sight of it in a glass, and have hardly ever smiled since.
Most young men about London have gone through that strange secret ordeal of the dancing-school. I am given to understand that young snobs from attorneys' offices, banks, shops, and the like, make not the least mystery of their proceedings in the saltatory line, but trip gayly, with pumps in hand, to some dancing-place about Soho, waltz and quadrille it with Miss Greengrocer or Miss Butcher, and fancy they have had rather a pleasant evening. There is one house in Dover Street, where, behind a dirty curtain, such figures may be seen hopping every night, to a perpetual fiddling; and I have stood sometimes wondering in the street, with about six blackguard boys wondering too, at the strange contortions of the figures jumping up and down to the mysterious squeaking of the kit. Have they no shame ces gens? are such degrading initiations to be held in public? No, the snob may, but the man of refined mind never can submit to show himself in public laboring at the apprenticeship of this most absurd art. It is owing, perhaps, to this modesty, and the fact that I had no sisters at home, that I have never thoroughly been able to dance; for though I always arrive at the end of a quadrille (and thank heaven for it too!) and though, I believe, I make no mistake in particular, yet I solemnly confess I have never been able thoroughly to comprehend the mysteries of it, or what I have been about from the beginning to the end of the dance. I always look at the lady opposite, and do as she does: if SHE did not know how to dance, par hasard, it would be all up. But if they can't do anything else, women can dance: let us give them that praise at least.
In London, then, for a considerable time, I used to get up at eight o'clock in the morning, and pass an hour alone with Mr. Wilkinson, of the Theatres Royal, in Golden Square;—an hour alone. It was "one, two, three; one, two, three—now jump—right foot more out, Mr. Smith; and if you COULD try and look a little more cheerful; your partner, sir, would like you hall the better." Wilkinson called me Smith, for the fact is, I did not tell him my real name, nor (thank heaven!) does he know it to this day.
I never breathed a word of my doings to any soul among my friends; once a pack of them met me in the strange neighborhood, when, I am ashamed to say, I muttered something about a "little French milliner," and walked off, looking as knowing as I could.
In Paris, two Cambridge-men and myself, who happened to be staying at a boarding-house together, agreed to go to Coulon, a little creature of four feet high with a pigtail. His room was hung round with glasses. He made us take off our coats, and dance each before a mirror. Once he was standing before us playing on his kit the sight of the little master and the pupil was so supremely ridiculous, that I burst into a yell of laughter, which so offended the old man that he walked away abruptly, and begged me not to repeat my visits. Nor did I. I was just getting into waltzing then, but determined to drop waltzing, and content myself with quadrilling for the rest of my days.
This was all very well in France and England; but in Germany what was I to do? What did Hercules do when Omphale captivated him? What did Rinaldo do when Armida fixed upon him her twinkling eyes? Nay, to cut all historical instances short, by going at once to the earliest, what did Adam do when Eve tempted him? He yielded and became her slave; and so I do heartily trust every honest man will yield until the end of the world—he has no heart who will not. When I was in Germany, I say, I began to learn to WALTZ. The reader from this will no doubt expect that some new love-adventures befell me—nor will his gentle heart be disappointed. Two deep and tremendous incidents occurred which shall be notified on the present occasion.
The reader, perhaps, remembers the brief appearance of his Highness the Duke of Kalbsbraten-Pumpernickel at B—— House, in the first part of my Memoirs, at that unlucky period of my life when the Duke was led to remark the odor about my clothes, which lost me the hand of Mary M'Alister. I somehow found myself in his Highness's territories, of which anybody may read a description in the Almanach de Gotha. His Highness's father, as is well known, married Emilia Kunegunda Thomasina Charleria Emanuela Louisa Georgina, Princess of Saxe-Pumpernickel, and a cousin of his Highness the Duke. Thus the two principalities were united under one happy sovereign in the person of Philibert Sigismund Emanuel Maria, the reigning Duke, who has received from his country (on account of the celebrated pump which he erected in the marketplace of Kalbsbraten) the well-merited appellation of the Magnificent. The allegory which the statues round about the pump represent, is of a very mysterious and complicated sort. Minerva is observed leading up Ceres to a river-god, who has his arms round the neck of Pomona; while Mars (in a full-bottomed wig) is driven away by Peace, under whose mantle two lovely children, representing the Duke's two provinces, repose. The celebrated Speck is, as need scarcely be said, the author of this piece; and of other magnificent edifices in the Residenz, such as the guard-room, the skittle-hall Grossherzoglich Kalbsbratenpumpernickelisch Schkittelspielsaal, &c., and the superb sentry-boxes before the Grand-Ducal Palace. He is Knight Grand Cross of the Ancient Kartoffel Order, as, indeed, is almost every one else in his Highness's dominions.
The town of Kalbsbraten contains a population of two thousand inhabitants, and a palace which would accommodate about six times that number. The principality sends three and a half men to the German Confederation, who are commanded by a General (Excellency), two Major-Generals, and sixty-four officers of lower grades; all noble, all knights of the Order, and almost all chamberlains to his Highness the Grand Duke. An excellent band of eighty performers is the admiration of the surrounding country, and leads the Grand-Ducal troops to battle in time of war. Only three of the contingent of soldiers returned from the Battle of Waterloo, where they won much honor; the remainder was cut to pieces on that glorious day.
There is a chamber of representatives (which, however, nothing can induce to sit), home and foreign ministers, residents from neighboring courts, law presidents, town councils, &c., all the adjuncts of a big or little government. The court has its chamberlains and marshals, the Grand Duchess her noble ladies in waiting, and blushing maids of honor. Thou wert one, Dorothea! Dost remember the poor young Englander? We parted in anger; but I think—I think thou hast not forgotten him.
The way in which I have Dorothea von Speck present to my mind is this: not as I first saw her in the garden—for her hair was in bandeaux then, and a large Leghorn hat with a deep ribbon covered half her fair face,—not in a morning-dress, which, by the way, was none of the newest nor the best made—but as I saw her afterwards at a ball at the pleasant splendid little court, where she moved the most beautiful of the beauties of Kalbsbraten. The grand saloon of the palace is lighted—the Grand Duke and his officers, the Duchess and her ladies, have passed through. I, in my uniform, of the —th, and a number of young fellows (who are evidently admiring my legs and envying my distingue appearance), are waiting round the entrance-door, where a huge Heyduke is standing, and announcing the titles of the guests as they arrive.
"HERR OBERHOF- UND BAU-INSPEKTOR VON SPECK!" shouts the Heyduke; and the little Inspector comes in. His lady is on his arm huge, in towering plumes, and her favorite costume of light blue. Fair women always dress in light blue or light green; and Frau von Speck is very fair and stout.
But who comes behind her? Lieber Himmel! It is Dorothea! Did earth, among all the flowers which have sprung from its bosom, produce ever one more beautiful? She was none of your heavenly beauties, I tell you. She had nothing ethereal about her. No, sir; she was of the earth earthy, and must have weighed ten stone four or five, if she weighed an ounce. She had none of your Chinese feet, nor waspy, unhealthy waists, which those may admire who will. No: Dora's foot was a good stout one; you could see her ankle (if her robe was short enough) without the aid of a microscope; and that envious little, sour, skinny Amalia von Mangelwurzel used to hold up her four fingers and say (the two girls were most intimate friends of course), "Dear Dorothea's vaist is so much dicker as dis." And so I have no doubt it was.
But what then? Goethe sings in one of his divine epigrams:—
"Epicures vaunting their taste, entitle me vulgar and savage, Give them their Brussels-sprouts, but I am contented with cabbage."
I hate your little women—that is, when I am in love with a tall one; and who would not have loved Dorothea?
Fancy her, then, if you please, about five feet four inches high—fancy her in the family color of light blue, a little scarf covering the most brilliant shoulders in the world; and a pair of gloves clinging close round an arm that may, perhaps, be somewhat too large now, but that Juno might have envied then. After the fashion of young ladies on the continent, she wears no jewels or gimcracks: her only ornament is a wreath of vine-leaves in her hair, with little clusters of artificial grapes. Down on her shoulders falls the brown hair, in rich liberal clusters; all that health, and good-humor, and beauty can do for her face, kind nature has done for hers. Her eyes are frank, sparkling, and kind. As for her cheeks, what paint-box or dictionary contains pigments or words to describe their red? They say she opens her mouth and smiles always to show the dimples in her cheeks. Psha! she smiles because she is happy, and kind, and good-humored, and not because her teeth are little pearls.
All the young fellows crowd up to ask her to dance, and, taking from her waist a little mother-of-pearl remembrancer, she notes them down. Old Schnabel for the polonaise; Klingenspohr, first waltz; Haarbart, second waltz; Count Hornpieper (the Danish envoy), third; and so on. I have said why I could not ask her to waltz, and I turned away with a pang, and played ecarte with Colonel Trumpenpack all night.
In thus introducing this lovely creature in her ball-costume, I have been somewhat premature, and had best go back to the beginning of the history of my acquaintance with her.
Dorothea, then, was the daughter of the celebrated Speck before mentioned. It is one of the oldest names in Germany, where her father's and mother's houses, those of Speck and Eyer, are loved wherever they are known. Unlike his warlike progenitor, Lorenzo von Speck, Dorothea's father, had early shown himself a passionate admirer of art; had quitted home to study architecture in Italy, and had become celebrated throughout Europe, and been appointed Oberhofarchitect and Kunst- und Bau-inspektor of the united principalities. They are but four miles wide, and his genius has consequently but little room to play. What art can do, however, he does. The palace is frequently whitewashed under his eyes; the theatre painted occasionally; the noble public buildings erected, of which I have already made mention.
I had come to Kalbsbraten, scarce knowing whither I went; and having, in about ten minutes, seen the curiosities of the place (I did not care to see the King's palace, for chairs and tables have no great charm for me), I had ordered horses, and wanted to get on I cared not whither, when Fate threw Dorothea in my way. I was yawning back to the hotel through the palace-garden, a valet-de-place at my side, when I saw a young lady seated under a tree reading a novel, her mamma on the same bench (a fat woman in light blue) knitting a stocking, and two officers, choked in their stays, with various orders on their spinach-colored coats, standing by in first attitudes: the one was caressing the fat-lady-in-blue's little dog; the other was twirling his own moustache, which was already as nearly as possible curled into his own eye.
I don't know how it is, but I hate to see men evidently intimate with nice-looking women, and on good terms with themselves. There's something annoying in their cursed complacency—their evident sunshiny happiness. I've no woman to make sunshine for ME; and yet my heart tells me that not one, but several such suns, would do good to my system.
"Who are those pert-looking officers," says I, peevishly, to the guide, "who are talking to those vulgar-looking women?"
"The big one, with the epaulets, is Major von Schnabel; the little one, with the pale face, is Stiefel von Klingenspohr."
"And the big blue woman?"
"The Grand-Ducal Pumpernickelian-court-architectress and Upper-Palace-and-building-inspectress Von Speck, born V. Eyer," replied the guide. "Your well-born honor has seen the pump in the market-place; that is the work of the great Von Speck."
"And yonder young person?"
"Mr. Court-architect's daughter; the Fraulein Dorothea."
Dorothea looked up from her novel here, and turned her face towards the stranger who was passing, and then blushing turned it down again. Schnabel looked at me with a scowl, Klingenspohr with a simper, the dog with a yelp, the fat lady in blue just gave one glance, and seemed, I thought, rather well pleased. "Silence, Lischen!" said she to the dog. "Go on, darling Dorothea," she added, to her daughter, who continued her novel.
Her voice was a little tremulous, but very low and rich. For some reason or other, on getting back to the inn, I countermanded the horses, and said I would stay for the night.
I not only stayed that night, but many, many afterwards; and as for the manner in which I became acquainted with the Speck family, why it was a good joke against me at the time, and I did not like then to have it known; but now it may as well come out at once. Speck, as everybody knows, lives in the market-place, opposite his grand work of art, the town pump, or fountain. I bought a large sheet of paper, and having a knack at drawing, sat down, with the greatest gravity, before the pump, and sketched it for several hours. I knew it would bring out old Speck to see. At first he contented himself by flattening his nose against the window-glasses of his study, and looking what the Englander was about. Then he put on his gray cap with the huge green shade, and sauntered to the door: then he walked round me, and formed one of a band of street-idlers who were looking on: then at last he could restrain himself no more, but, pulling off his cap, with a low bow, began to discourse upon arts, and architecture in particular.
"It is curious," says he, "that you have taken the same view of which a print has been engraved."
"That IS extraordinary," says I (though it wasn't, for I had traced my drawing at a window off the very print in question). I added that I was, like all the world, immensely struck with the beauty of the edifice; heard of it at Rome, where it was considered to be superior to any of the celebrated fountains of that capital of the fine arts; finally, that unless perhaps the celebrated fountain of Aldgate in London might compare with it, Kalbsbraten building, EXCEPT in that case, was incomparable.
This speech I addressed in French, of which the worthy Hofarchitect understood somewhat, and continuing to reply in German, our conversation grew pretty close. It is singular that I can talk to a man and pay him compliments with the utmost gravity, whereas, to a woman, I at once lose all self-possession, and have never said a pretty thing in my life.
My operations on old Speck were so conducted, that in a quarter of an hour I had elicited from him an invitation to go over the town with him, and see its architectural beauties. So we walked through the huge half-furnished chambers of the palace, we panted up the copper pinnacle of the church-tower, we went to see the Museum and Gymnasium, and coming back into the market-place again, what could the Hofarchitect do but offer me a glass of wine and a seat in his house? He introduced me to his Gattinn, his Leocadia (the fat woman in blue), "as a young world-observer, and worthy art-friend, a young scion of British Adel, who had come to refresh himself at the Urquellen of his race, and see his brethren of the great family of Hermann."
I saw instantly that the old fellow was of a romantic turn, from this rodomontade to his lady; nor was she a whit less so; nor was Dorothea less sentimental than her mamma. She knew everything regarding the literature of Albion, as she was pleased to call it; and asked me news of all the famous writers there. I told her that Miss Edgeworth was one of the loveliest young beauties at our court; I described to her Lady Morgan, herself as beautiful as the wild Irish girl she drew; I promised to give her a signature of Mrs. Hemans (which I wrote for her that very evening); and described a fox-hunt, at which I had seen Thomas Moore and Samuel Rogers, Esquires; and a boxing-match, in which the athletic author of "Pelham" was pitched against the hardy mountain bard, Wordsworth. You see my education was not neglected, for though I have never read the works of the above-named ladies and gentlemen, yet I knew their names well enough.
Time passed away. I, perhaps, was never so brilliant in conversation as when excited by the Asmanshauser and the brilliant eyes of Dorothea that day. She and her parents had dined at their usual heathen hour; but I was, I don't care to own it, so smitten, that for the first time in my life I did not even miss the meal, and talked on until six o'clock, when tea was served. Madame Speck said they always drank it; and so placing a teaspoonful of bohea in a cauldron of water, she placidly handed out this decoction, which we took with cakes and tartines. I leave you to imagine how disgusted Klingenspohr and Schnabel looked when they stepped in as usual that evening to make their party of whist with the Speck family! Down they were obliged to sit; and the lovely Dorothea, for that night, declined to play altogether, and—sat on the sofa by me.
What we talked about, who shall tell? I would not, for my part, break the secret of one of those delicious conversations, of which I and every man in his time have held so many. You begin, very probably, about the weather—'tis a common subject, but what sentiments the genius of Love can fling into it! I have often, for my part, said to the girl of my heart for the time being, "It's a fine day," or "It's a rainy morning!" in a way that has brought tears to her eyes. Something beats in your heart, and twangle! a corresponding string thrills and echoes in hers. You offer her anything—her knitting-needles, a slice of bread-and-butter—what causes the grateful blush with which she accepts the one or the other? Why, she sees your heart handed over to her upon the needles, and the bread-and-butter is to her a sandwich with love inside it. If you say to your grandmother, "Ma'am, it's a fine day," or what not, she would find in the words no other meaning than their outward and visible one; but say so to the girl you love, and she understands a thousand mystic meanings in them. Thus, in a word, though Dorothea and I did not, probably, on the first night of our meeting, talk of anything more than the weather, or trumps, or some subjects which to such listeners as Schnabel and Klingenspohr and others might appear quite ordinary, yet to US they had a different signification, of which Love alone held the key.
Without further ado then, after the occurrences of that evening, I determined on staying at Kalbsbraten, and presenting my card the next day to the Hof-Marshal, requesting to have the honor of being presented to his Highness the Prince, at one of whose court-balls my Dorothea appeared as I have described her.
It was summer when I first arrived at Kalbsbraten. The little court was removed to Siegmundslust, his Highness's country-seat: no balls were taking place, and, in consequence, I held my own with Dorothea pretty well. I treated her admirer, Lieutenant Klingenspohr, with perfect scorn, had a manifest advantage over Major Schnabel, and used somehow to meet the fair one every day, walking in company with her mamma in the palace garden, or sitting under the acacias, with Belotte in her mother's lap, and the favorite romance beside her. Dear, dear Dorothea! what a number of novels she must have read in her time! She confesses to me that she had been in love with Uncas, with Saint Preux, with Ivanhoe, and with hosts of German heroes of romance; and when I asked her if she, whose heart was so tender towards imaginary youths, had never had a preference for any one of her living adorers, she only looked, and blushed, and sighed, and said nothing.
You see I had got on as well as man could do, until the confounded court season and the balls began, and then—why, then came my usual luck.
Waltzing is a part of a German girl's life. With the best will in the world—which, I doubt not, she entertains for me, for I never put the matter of marriage directly to her—Dorothea could not go to balls and not waltz. It was madness to me to see her whirling round the room with officers, attaches, prim little chamberlains with gold keys and embroidered coats, her hair floating in the wind, her hand reposing upon the abominable little dancer's epaulet, her good-humored face lighted up with still greater satisfaction. I saw that I must learn to waltz too, and took my measures accordingly.
The leader of the ballet at the Kalbsbraten theatre in my time was Springbock, from Vienna. He had been a regular zephyr once, 'twas said, in his younger days; and though he is now fifteen stone weight, I can, helas! recommend him conscientiously as a master; and I determined to take some lessons from him in the art which I had neglected so foolishly in early life.
It may be said, without vanity, that I was an apt pupil, and in the course of half a dozen lessons I had arrived at very considerable agility in the waltzing line, and could twirl round the room with him at such a pace as made the old gentleman pant again, and hardly left him breath enough to puff out a compliment to his pupil. I may say, that in a single week I became an expert waltzer; but as I wished, when I came out publicly in that character, to be quite sure of myself, and as I had hitherto practised not with a lady, but with a very fat old man, it was agreed that he should bring a lady of his acquaintance to perfect me, and accordingly, at my eighth lesson, Madame Springbock herself came to the dancing-room, and the old zephyr performed on the violin.
If any man ventures the least sneer with regard to this lady, or dares to insinuate anything disrespectful to her or myself, I say at once that he is an impudent calumniator. Madame Springbock is old enough to be my grandmother, and as ugly a woman as I ever saw; but, though old, she was passionnee pour la danse, and not having (on account, doubtless, of her age and unprepossessing appearance) many opportunities of indulging in her favorite pastime, made up for lost time by immense activity whenever she could get a partner. In vain, at the end of the hour, would Springbock exclaim, "Amalia, my soul's blessing, the time is up!" "Play on, dear Alphonso!" would the old lady exclaim, whisking me round: and though I had not the least pleasure in such a homely partner, yet for the sake of perfecting myself I waltzed and waltzed with her, until we were both half dead with fatigue.
At the end of three weeks I could waltz as well as any man in Germany.
At the end of four weeks there was a grand ball at court in honor of H. H. the Prince of Dummerland and his Princess, and THEN I determined I would come out in public. I dressed myself with unusual care and splendor. My hair was curled and my moustache dyed to a nicety; and of the four hundred gentlemen present, if the girls of Kalbsbraten DID select one who wore an English hussar uniform, why should I disguise the fact? In spite of my silence, the news had somehow got abroad, as news will in such small towns,—Herr von Fitz-Boodle was coming out in a waltz that evening. His Highness the Duke even made an allusion to the circumstance. When on this eventful night, I went, as usual, and made him my bow in the presentation, "Vous, monsieur," said he—"vous qui etes si jeune, devez aimer la danse." I blushed as red as my trousers, and bowing, went away.
I stepped up to Dorothea. Heavens! how beautiful she looked! and how archly she smiled as, with a thumping heart, I asked her hand for a WALTZ! She took out her little mother-of-pearl dancing-book, she wrote down my name with her pencil: we were engaged for the fourth waltz, and till then I left her to other partners.
Who says that his first waltz is not a nervous moment? I vow I was more excited than by any duel I ever fought. I would not dance any contre-danse or galop. I repeatedly went to the buffet and got glasses of punch (dear simple Germany! 'tis with rum-punch and egg-flip thy children strengthen themselves for the dance!) I went into the ball-room and looked—the couples bounded before me, the music clashed and rung in my ears—all was fiery, feverish, indistinct. The gleaming white columns, the polished oaken floors in which the innumerable tapers were reflected—all together swam before my eyes, and I was in a pitch of madness almost when the fourth waltz at length came. "WILL YOU DANCE WITH YOUR SWORD ON?" said the sweetest voice in the world. I blushed, and stammered, and trembled, as I laid down that weapon and my cap, and hark! the music began!
Oh, how my hand trembled as I placed it round the waist of Dorothea! With my left hand I took her right—did she squeeze it? I think she did—to this day I think she did. Away we went! we tripped over the polished oak floor like two young fairies. "Courage, monsieur," said she, with her sweet smile. Then it was "Tres bien, monsieur." Then I heard the voices humming and buzzing about. "Il danse bien, l'Anglais." "Ma foi, oui," says another. On we went, twirling and twisting, and turning and whirling; couple after couple dropped panting off. Little Klingenspohr himself was obliged to give in. All eyes were upon us—we were going round ALONE. Dorothea was almost exhausted, when
* * * * *
I have been sitting for two hours since I marked the asterisks, thinking—thinking. I have committed crimes in my life—who hasn't? But talk of remorse, what remorse is there like THAT which rushes up in a flood to my brain sometimes when I am alone, and causes me to blush when I'm a-bed in the dark?
I fell, sir, on that infernal slippery floor. Down we came like shot; we rolled over and over in the midst of the ballroom, the music going ten miles an hour, 800 pairs of eyes fixed upon us, a cursed shriek of laughter bursting out from all sides. Heavens! how clear I heard it, as we went on rolling and rolling! "My child! my Dorothea!" shrieked out Madame Speck, rushing forward, and as soon as she had breath to do so, Dorothea of course screamed too; then she fainted, then she was disentangled from out my spurs, and borne off by a bevy of tittering women. "Clumsy brute!" said Madame Speck, turning her fat back upon me. I remained upon my seant, wild, ghastly, looking about. It was all up with me—I knew it was. I wished I could have died there, and I wish so still.
Klingenspohr married her, that is the long and short; but before that event I placed a sabre-cut across the young scoundrel's nose, which destroyed HIS beauty for ever.
O Dorothea! you can't forgive me—you oughtn't to forgive me; but I love you madly still.
My next flame was Ottilia: but let us keep her for another number; my feelings overpower me at present.
THE ALBUM—THE MEDITERRANEAN HEATH.
Travelling some little time back in a wild part of Connemara, where I had been for fishing and seal-shooting, I had the good luck to get admission to the chateau of a hospitable Irish gentleman, and to procure some news of my once dear Ottilia.
Yes, of no other than Ottilia v. Schlippenschlopp, the Muse of Kalbsbraten-Pumpernickel, the friendly little town far away in Sachsenland,—where old Speck built the town pump, where Klingenspohr was slashed across the nose,—where Dorothea rolled over and over in that horrible waltz with Fitz-Boo—Psha!—away with the recollection; but wasn't it strange to get news of Ottilia in the wildest corner of Ireland, where I never should have thought to hear her gentle name? Walking on that very Urrisbeg Mountain under whose shadow I heard Ottilia's name, Mackay, the learned author of the "Flora Patlandica," discovered the Mediterranean heath,—such a flower as I have often plucked on the sides of Vesuvius, and as Proserpine, no doubt, amused herself in gathering as she strayed in the fields of Enna. Here it is—the self-same flower, peering out at the Atlantic from Roundstone Bay; here, too, in this wild lonely place, nestles the fragrant memory of my Ottilia!
In a word, after a day on Ballylynch Lake (where, with a brown fly and a single hair, I killed fourteen salmon, the smallest twenty-nine pounds weight, the largest somewhere about five stone ten), my young friend Blake Bodkin Lynch Browne (a fine lad who has made his continental tour) and I adjourned, after dinner, to the young gentleman's private room, for the purpose of smoking a certain cigar; which is never more pleasant than after a hard day's sport, or a day spent in-doors, or after a good dinner, or a bad one, or at night when you are tired, or in the morning when you are fresh, or of a cold winter's day, or of a scorching summer's afternoon, or at any other moment you choose to fix upon.
What should I see in Blake's room but a rack of pipes, such as are to be found in almost all the bachelors' rooms in Germany, and amongst them was a porcelain pipe-head bearing the image of the Kalbsbraten pump! There it was: the old spout, the old familiar allegory of Mars, Bacchus, Apollo virorum, and the rest, that I had so often looked at from Hofarchitect Speck's window, as I sat there, by the side of Dorothea. The old gentleman had given me one of these very pipes; for he had hundreds of them painted, wherewith he used to gratify almost every stranger who came into his native town.
Any old place with which I have once been familiar (as, perhaps, I have before stated in these "Confessions"—but never mind that) is in some sort dear to me: and were I Lord Shootingcastle or Colonel Popland, I think after a residence of six months there I should love the Fleet Prison. As I saw the old familiar pipe, I took it down, and crammed it with Cavendish tobacco, and lay down on a sofa, and puffed away for an hour wellnigh, thinking of old, old times.
"You're very entertaining to-night, Fitz," says young Blake, who had made several tumblers of punch for me, which I had gulped down without saying a word. "Don't ye think ye'd be more easy in bed than snorting and sighing there on my sofa, and groaning fit to make me go hang myself?"
"I am thinking, Blake," says I, "about Pumpernickel, where old Speck gave you this pipe."
"'Deed he did," replies the young man; "and did ye know the old Bar'n?"
"I did," said I. "My friend, I have been by the banks of the Bendemeer. Tell me, are the nightingales still singing there, and do the roses still bloom?"
"The HWHAT?" cries Blake. "What the divvle, Fitz, are you growling about? Bendemeer Lake's in Westmoreland, as I preshume; and as for roses and nightingales, I give ye my word it's Greek ye're talking to me." And Greek it very possibly was, for my young friend, though as good across country as any man in his county, has not the fine feeling and tender perception of beauty which may be found elsewhere, dear madam.