Thursday, October 25, 2007


Lavengro, The Scholar, The Gypsy, The Priest By George Borrow - I

Lavengro, The Scholar, The Gypsy, The Priest By George Borrow.
IN the following pages I have endeavoured to describe a dream,
partly of study, partly of adventure, in which will be found
copious notices of books, and many descriptions of life and
manners, some in a very unusual form.
The scenes of action lie in the British Islands; - pray be not
displeased, gentle reader, if perchance thou hast imagined that I
was about to conduct thee to distant lands, and didst promise
thyself much instruction and entertainment from what I might tell
thee of them. I do assure thee that thou hast no reason to be
displeased, inasmuch as there are no countries in the world less
known by the British than these selfsame British Islands, or where
more strange things are every day occurring, whether in road or
street, house or dingle.
The time embraces nearly the first quarter of the present century:
this information again may, perhaps, be anything but agreeable to
thee; it is a long time to revert to, but fret not thyself, many
matters which at present much occupy the public mind originated in
some degree towards the latter end of that period, and some of them
will be treated of.
The principal actors in this dream, or drama, are, as you will have
gathered from the title-page, a Scholar, a Gypsy, and a Priest.
Should you imagine that these three form one, permit me to assure
you that you are very much mistaken. Should there be something of
the Gypsy manifest in the Scholar, there is certainly nothing of
the Priest. With respect to the Gypsy - decidedly the most
entertaining character of the three - there is certainly nothing of
the Scholar or the Priest in him; and as for the Priest, though
there may be something in him both of scholarship and gypsyism,
neither the Scholar nor the Gypsy would feel at all flattered by
being confounded with him.
Many characters which may be called subordinate will be found, and
it is probable that some of these characters will afford much more
interest to the reader than those styled the principal. The
favourites with the writer are a brave old soldier and his
helpmate, an ancient gentlewoman who sold apples, and a strange
kind of wandering man and his wife.
Amongst the many things attempted in this book is the encouragement
of charity, and free and genial manners, and the exposure of
humbug, of which there are various kinds, but of which the most
perfidious, the most debasing, and the most cruel, is the humbug of
the Priest.
Yet let no one think that irreligion is advocated in this book.
With respect to religious tenets I wish to observe that I am a
member of the Church of England, into whose communion I was
baptized, and to which my forefathers belonged. Its being the
religion in which I was baptized, and of my forefathers, would be a
strong inducement to me to cling to it; for I do not happen to be
one of those choice spirits 'who turn from their banner when the
battle bears strongly against it, and go over to the enemy,' and
who receive at first a hug and a 'viva,' and in the sequel contempt
and spittle in the face; but my chief reason for belonging to it
is, because, of all churches calling themselves Christian ones, I
believe there is none so good, so well founded upon Scripture, or
whose ministers are, upon the whole, so exemplary in their lives
and conversation, so well read in the book from which they preach,
or so versed in general learning, so useful in their immediate
neighbourhoods, or so unwilling to persecute people of other
denominations for matters of doctrine.
In the communion of this Church, and with the religious consolation
of its ministers, I wish and hope to live and die, and in its and
their defence will at all times be ready, if required, to speak,
though humbly, and to fight, though feebly, against enemies,
whether carnal or spiritual.
And is there no priestcraft in the Church of England? There is
certainly, or rather there was, a modicum of priestcraft in the
Church of England, but I have generally found that those who are
most vehement against the Church of England are chiefly
dissatisfied with her because there is only a modicum of that
article in her - were she stuffed to the very cupola with it, like
a certain other Church, they would have much less to say against
the Church of England.
By the other Church, I mean Rome. Its system was once prevalent in
England, and, during the period that it prevailed there, was more
prolific of debasement and crime than all other causes united. The
people and the government at last becoming enlightened by means of
the Scripture spurned it from the island with disgust and horror,
the land instantly after its disappearance becoming a fair field,
in which arts, sciences, and all the amiable virtues flourished,
instead of being a pestilent marsh where swine-like ignorance
wallowed, and artful hypocrites, like so many Wills-o'-the-wisp,
played antic gambols about, around, and above debased humanity.
But Popery still wished to play her old part, to regain her lost
dominion, to reconvert the smiling land into the pestilential
morass, where she could play again her old antics. From the period
of the Reformation in England up to the present time, she has kept
her emissaries here, individuals contemptible in intellect, it is
true, but cat-like and gliding, who, at her bidding, have
endeavoured, as much as in their power has lain, to damp and stifle
every genial, honest, loyal, and independent thought, and to reduce
minds to such a state of dotage as would enable their old Popish
mother to do what she pleased with them.
And in every country, however enlightened, there are always minds
inclined to grovelling superstition - minds fond of eating dust and
swallowing clay - minds never at rest, save when prostrate before
some fellow in a surplice; and these Popish emissaries found always
some weak enough to bow down before them, astounded by their
dreadful denunciations of eternal woe and damnation to any who
should refuse to believe their Romania; but they played a poor game
- the law protected the servants of Scripture, and the priest with
his beads seldom ventured to approach any but the remnant of those
of the eikonolatry - representatives of worm-eaten houses, their
debased dependants, and a few poor crazy creatures amongst the
middle classes - he played a poor game, and the labour was about to
prove almost entirely in vain, when the English legislature, in
compassion or contempt, or, yet more probably, influenced by that
spirit of toleration and kindness which is so mixed up with
Protestantism, removed almost entirely the disabilities under which
Popery laboured, and enabled it to raise its head and to speak out
almost without fear.
And it did raise its head, and, though it spoke with some little
fear at first, soon discarded every relic of it; went about the
land uttering its damnation cry, gathering around it - and for
doing so many thanks to it - the favourers of priestcraft who
lurked within the walls of the Church of England; frightening with
the loudness of its voice the weak, the timid, and the ailing;
perpetrating, whenever it had an opportunity, that species of crime
to which it has ever been most partial - DEATHBED ROBBERY; for as
it is cruel, so is it dastardly. Yes, it went on enlisting,
plundering, and uttering its terrible threats till - till it
became, as it always does when left to itself, a fool, a very fool.
Its plunderings might have been overlooked, and so might its
insolence, had it been common insolence, but it - , and then the
roar of indignation which arose from outraged England against the
viper, the frozen viper, which it had permitted to warm itself upon
its bosom.
But thanks, Popery, you have done all that the friends of
enlightenment and religious liberty could wish; but if ever there
were a set of foolish ones to be found under heaven, surely it is
the priestly rabble who came over from Rome to direct the grand
movement - so long in its getting up.
But now again the damnation cry is withdrawn, there is a subdued
meekness in your demeanour, you are now once more harmless as a
lamb. Well, we shall see how the trick - 'the old trick' - will
serve you.
Birth - My father - Tamerlane - Ben Brain - French Protestants -
East Anglia - Sorrow and troubles - True peace - A beautiful child
- Foreign grave - Mirrors - Alpine country - Emblems - Slow of
speech - The Jew - Strange gestures.
ON an evening of July, in the year 18-, at East D-, a beautiful
little town in a certain district of East Anglia, I first saw the
My father was a Cornish man, the youngest, as I have heard him say,
of seven brothers. He sprang from a family of gentlemen, or, as
some people would call them, gentillatres, for they were not very
wealthy; they had a coat of arms, however, and lived on their own
property at a place called Tredinnock, which being interpreted
means THE HOUSE ON THE HILL, which house and the neighbouring acres
had been from time immemorial in their possession. I mention these
particulars that the reader may see at once that I am not
altogether of low and plebeian origin; the present age is highly
aristocratic, and I am convinced that the public will read my pages
with more zest from being told that I am a gentillatre by birth
with Cornish blood in my veins, of a family who lived on their own
property at a place bearing a Celtic name, signifying the house on
the hill, or more strictly the house on the HILLOCK.
My father was what is generally termed a posthumous child - in
other words, the gentillatre who begot him never had the
satisfaction of invoking the blessing of the Father of All upon his
head; having departed this life some months before the birth of his
youngest son. The boy, therefore, never knew a father's care; he
was, however, well tended by his mother, whose favourite he was; so
much so, indeed, that his brethren, the youngest of whom was
considerably older than himself, were rather jealous of him. I
never heard, however, that they treated him with any marked
unkindness, and it will be as well to observe here that I am by no
means well acquainted with his early history, of which, indeed, as
I am not writing his life, it is not necessary to say much.
Shortly after his mother's death, which occurred when he was
eighteen, he adopted the profession of arms, which he followed
during the remainder of his life, and in which, had circumstances
permitted, he would probably have shone amongst the best. By
nature he was cool and collected, slow to anger, though perfectly
fearless, patient of control, of great strength; and, to crown all,
a proper man with his hands.
With far inferior qualifications many a man has become a fieldmarshal
or general; similar ones made Tamerlane, who was not a
gentillatre, but the son of a blacksmith, emperor of one-third of
the world; but the race is not always for the swift, nor the battle
for the strong, indeed I ought rather to say very seldom; certain
it is, that my father, with all his high military qualifications,
never became emperor, field-marshal, or even general: indeed, he
had never an opportunity of distinguishing himself save in one
battle, and that took place neither in Flanders, Egypt, nor on the
banks of the Indus or Oxus, but in Hyde Park.
Smile not, gentle reader, many a battle has been fought in Hyde
Park, in which as much skill, science, and bravery have been
displayed as ever achieved a victory in Flanders or by the Indus.
In such a combat as that to which I allude, I opine that even
Wellington or Napoleon would have been heartily glad to cry for
quarter ere the lapse of five minutes, and even the Blacksmith
Tartar would, perhaps, have shrunk from the opponent with whom,
after having had a dispute with him, my father engaged in single
combat for one hour, at the end of which time the champions shook
hands and retired, each having experienced quite enough of the
other's prowess. The name of my father's antagonist was Brain.
What! still a smile? did you never hear that name before? I cannot
help it! Honour to Brain, who four months after the event which I
have now narrated was champion of England, having conquered the
heroic Johnson. Honour to Brain, who, at the end of other four
months, worn out by the dreadful blows which he had received in his
manly combats, expired in the arms of my father, who read the Bible
to him in his latter moments - Big Ben Brain.
You no longer smile, even YOU have heard of Big Ben.
I have already hinted that my father never rose to any very exalted
rank in his profession, notwithstanding his prowess and other
qualifications. After serving for many years in the line, he at
last entered as captain in the militia regiment of the Earl of -,
at that period just raised, and to which he was sent by the Duke of
York to instruct the young levies in military manoeuvres and
discipline; and in this mission I believe he perfectly succeeded,
competent judges having assured me that the regiment in question
soon came by his means to be considered as one of the most
brilliant in the service, and inferior to no regiment of the line
in appearance or discipline.
As the headquarters of this corps were at D- the duties of my
father not unfrequently carried him to that place, and it was on
one of these occasions that he became acquainted with a young
person of the neighbourhood, for whom he formed an attachment,
which was returned; and this young person was my mother.
She was descended from a family of French Protestants, natives of
Caen, who were obliged to leave their native country when old
Louis, at the instigation of the Pope, thought fit to revoke the
Edict of Nantes: their name was Petrement, and I have reason for
believing that they were people of some consideration; that they
were noble hearts, and good Christians, they gave sufficient proof
in scorning to bow the knee to the tyranny of Rome. So they left
beautiful Normandy for their faith's sake, and with a few louis
d'ors in their purse, a Bible in the vulgar tongue, and a couple of
old swords, which, if report be true, had done service in the
Huguenot wars, they crossed the sea to the isle of civil peace and
religious liberty, and established themselves in East Anglia.
And many other Huguenot families bent their steps thither, and
devoted themselves to agriculture or the mechanical arts; and in
the venerable old city, the capital of the province, in the
northern shadow of the Castle of De Burgh, the exiles built for
themselves a church where they praised God in the French tongue,
and to which, at particular seasons of the year, they were in the
habit of flocking from country and from town to sing -
'Thou hast provided for us a goodly earth; thou waterest her
furrows, thou sendest rain into the little valleys thereof, thou
makest it soft with the drops of rain, and blessest the increase of
I have been told that in her younger days my mother was strikingly
handsome; this I can easily believe: I never knew her in her
youth, for though she was very young when she married my father
(who was her senior by many years), she had attained the middle age
before I was born, no children having been vouchsafed to my parents
in the early stages of their union. Yet even at the present day,
now that years threescore and ten have passed over her head,
attended with sorrow and troubles manifold, poorly chequered with
scanty joys, can I look on that countenance and doubt that at one
time beauty decked it as with a glorious garment? Hail to thee, my
parent! as thou sittest there, in thy widow's weeds, in the dusky
parlour in the house overgrown with the lustrous ivy of the sister
isle, the solitary house at the end of the retired court shaded by
lofty poplars. Hail to thee, dame of the oval face, olive
complexion, and Grecian forehead; by thy table seated with the
mighty volume of the good Bishop Hopkins spread out before thee;
there is peace in thy countenance, my mother; it is not worldly
peace, however, not the deceitful peace which lulls to bewitching
slumbers, and from which, let us pray, humbly pray, that every
sinner may be roused in time to implore mercy not in vain! Thine
is the peace of the righteous, my mother, of those to whom no sin
can be imputed, the score of whose misdeeds has been long since
washed away by the blood of atonement, which imputeth righteousness
to those who trust in it. It was not always thus, my mother; a
time was, when the cares, pomps, and vanities of this world
agitated thee too much; but that time is gone by, another and a
better has succeeded; there is peace now on thy countenance, the
true peace; peace around thee, too, in thy solitary dwelling,
sounds of peace, the cheerful hum of the kettle and the purring of
the immense angola, which stares up at thee from its settle with
its almost human eyes.
No more earthly cares and affections now, my mother! Yes, one.
Why dost thou suddenly raise thy dark and still brilliant eye from
the volume with a somewhat startled glance? What noise is that in
the distant street? Merely the noise of a hoof; a sound common
enough: it draws nearer, nearer, and now it stops before thy gate.
Singular! And now there is a pause, a long pause. Ha! thou
hearest something - a footstep; a swift but heavy footstep! thou
risest, thou tremblest, there is a hand on the pin of the outer
door, there is some one in the vestibule, and now the door of thy
apartment opens, there is a reflection on the mirror behind thee, a
travelling hat, a gray head and sunburnt face. My dearest Son! -
My darling Mother!
Yes, mother, thou didst recognise in the distant street the hooftramp
of the wanderer's horse.
I was not the only child of my parents; I had a brother some three
years older than myself. He was a beautiful child; one of those
occasionally seen in England, and in England alone; a rosy, angelic
face, blue eyes, and light chestnut hair; it was not exactly an
Anglo-Saxon countenance, in which, by the bye, there is generally a
cast of loutishness and stupidity; it partook, to a certain extent,
of the Celtic character, particularly in the fire and vivacity
which illumined it; his face was the mirror of his mind; perhaps no
disposition more amiable was ever found amongst the children of
Adam, united, however, with no inconsiderable portion of high and
dauntless spirit. So great was his beauty in infancy, that people,
especially those of the poorer classes, would follow the nurse who
carried him about in order to look at and bless his lovely face.
At the age of three months an attempt was made to snatch him from
his mother's arms in the streets of London, at the moment she was
about to enter a coach; indeed, his appearance seemed to operate so
powerfully upon every person who beheld him, that my parents were
under continual apprehension of losing him; his beauty, however,
was perhaps surpassed by the quickness of his parts. He mastered
his letters in a few hours, and in a day or two could decipher the
names of people on the doors of houses and over the shop-windows.
As he grew up, his personal appearance became less prepossessing,
his quickness and cleverness, however, rather increased; and I may
say of him, that with respect to everything which he took in hand
he did it better and more speedily than any other person. Perhaps
it will be asked here, what became of him? Alas! alas! his was an
early and a foreign grave. As I have said before, the race is not
always for the swift, nor the battle for the strong.
And now, doubtless, after the above portrait of my brother, painted
in the very best style of Rubens, the reader will conceive himself
justified in expecting a full-length one of myself, as a child, for
as to my present appearance, I suppose he will be tolerably content
with that flitting glimpse in the mirror. But he must excuse me; I
have no intention of drawing a portrait of myself in childhood;
indeed it would be difficult, for at that time I never looked into
mirrors. No attempts, however, were ever made to steal me in my
infancy, and I never heard that my parents entertained the
slightest apprehension of losing me by the hands of kidnappers,
though I remember perfectly well that people were in the habit of
standing still to look at me, ay, more than at my brother; from
which premisses the reader may form any conclusion with respect to
my appearance which seemeth good unto him and reasonable. Should
he, being a good-natured person, and always inclined to adopt the
charitable side in any doubtful point, be willing to suppose that
I, too, was eminently endowed by nature with personal graces, I
tell him frankly that I have no objection whatever to his
entertaining that idea; moreover, that I heartily thank him, and
shall at all times be disposed, under similar circumstances, to
exercise the same species of charity towards himself.
With respect to my mind and its qualities I shall be more explicit;
for, were I to maintain much reserve on this point, many things
which appear in these memoirs would be highly mysterious to the
reader, indeed incomprehensible. Perhaps no two individuals were
ever more unlike in mind and disposition than my brother and
myself: as light is opposed to darkness, so was that happy,
brilliant, cheerful child to the sad and melancholy being who
sprang from the same stock as himself, and was nurtured by the same
Once, when travelling in an Alpine country, I arrived at a
considerable elevation; I saw in the distance, far below, a
beautiful stream hastening to the ocean, its rapid waters here
sparkling in the sunshine, and there tumbling merrily in cascades.
On its banks were vineyards and cheerful villages; close to where I
stood, in a granite basin with steep and precipitous sides,
slumbered a deep, dark lagoon, shaded by black pines, cypresses,
and yews. It was a wild, savage spot, strange and singular; ravens
hovered above the pines, filling the air with their uncouth notes,
pies chattered, and I heard the cry of an eagle from a neighbouring
peak; there lay the lake, the dark, solitary, and almost
inaccessible lake; gloomy shadows were upon it, which, strangely
modified, as gusts of wind agitated the surface, occasionally
assumed the shape of monsters. So I stood on the Alpine elevation,
and looked now on the gay distant river, and now at the dark
granite-encircled lake close beside me in the lone solitude, and I
thought of my brother and myself. I am no moraliser; but the gay
and rapid river, and the dark and silent lake, were, of a verity,
no had emblems of us two.
So far from being quick and clever like my brother, and able to
rival the literary feat which I have recorded of him, many years
elapsed before I was able to understand the nature of letters, or
to connect them. A lover of nooks and retired corners, I was as a
child in the habit of fleeing from society, and of sitting for
hours together with my head on my breast. What I was thinking
about, it would be difficult to say at this distance of time; I
remember perfectly well, however, being ever conscious of a
peculiar heaviness within me, and at times of a strange sensation
of fear, which occasionally amounted to horror, and for which I
could assign no real cause whatever.
By nature slow of speech, I took no pleasure in conversation, nor
in hearing the voices of my fellow-creatures. When people
addressed me, I not unfrequently, especially if they were
strangers, turned away my head from them, and if they persisted in
their notice burst into tears, which singularity of behaviour by no
means tended to dispose people in my favour. I was as much
disliked as my brother was deservedly beloved and admired. My
parents, it is true, were always kind to me; and my brother, who
was good nature itself, was continually lavishing upon me every
mark of affection.
There was, however, one individual who, in the days of my
childhood, was disposed to form a favourable opinion of me. One
day, a Jew - I have quite forgotten the circumstance, but I was
long subsequently informed of it - one day a travelling Jew knocked
at the door of a farmhouse in which we had taken apartments; I was
near at hand sitting in the bright sunshine, drawing strange lines
on the dust with my fingers, an ape and dog were my companions; the
Jew looked at me and asked me some questions, to which, though I
was quite able to speak, I returned no answer. On the door being
opened, the Jew, after a few words, probably relating to pedlery,
demanded who the child was, sitting in the sun; the maid replied
that I was her mistress's youngest son, a child weak HERE, pointing
to her forehead. The Jew looked at me again, and then said: ''Pon
my conscience, my dear, I believe that you must be troubled there
yourself to tell me any such thing. It is not my habit to speak to
children, inasmuch as I hate them, because they often follow me and
fling stones after me; but I no sooner looked at that child than I
was forced to speak to it - his not answering me shows his sense,
for it has never been the custom of the wise to fling away their
words in indifferent talk and conversation; the child is a sweet
child, and has all the look of one of our people's children. Fool,
indeed! did I not see his eyes sparkle just now when the monkey
seized the dog by the ear? - they shone like my own diamonds - does
your good lady want any - real and fine? Were it not for what you
tell me, I should say it was a prophet's child. Fool, indeed! he
can write already, or I'll forfeit the box which I carry on my
back, and for which I should be loth to take two hundred pounds!'
He then leaned forward to inspect the lines which I had traced.
All of a sudden he started back, and grew white as a sheet; then,
taking off his hat, he made some strange gestures to me, cringing,
chattering, and showing his teeth, and shortly departed, muttering
something about 'holy letters,' and talking to himself in a strange
tongue. The words of the Jew were in due course of time reported
to my mother, who treasured them in her heart, and from that moment
began to entertain brighter hopes of her youngest born than she had
ever before ventured to foster.
Barracks and lodgings - A camp - The viper - A delicate child -
Blackberry time - MEUN and TUUM - Hythe - The Golgotha - Daneman's
skull - Superhuman stature - Stirring times - The sea-bord.
I HAVE been a wanderer the greater part of my life; indeed I
remember only two periods, and these by no means lengthy, when I
was, strictly speaking, stationary. I was a soldier's son, and as
the means of my father were by no means sufficient to support two
establishments, his family invariably attended him wherever he
went, so that from my infancy I was accustomed to travelling and
wandering, and looked upon a monthly change of scene and residence
as a matter of course. Sometimes we lived in barracks, sometimes
in lodgings, but generally in the former, always eschewing the
latter from motives of economy, save when the barracks were
inconvenient and uncomfortable; and they must have been highly so
indeed, to have discouraged us from entering them; for though we
were gentry (pray bear that in mind, gentle reader), gentry by
birth, and incontestably so by my father's bearing the commission
of good old George the Third, we were not FINE GENTRY, but people
who could put up with as much as any genteel Scotch family who find
it convenient to live on a third floor in London, or on a sixth at
Edinburgh or Glasgow. It was not a little that could discourage
us: we once lived within the canvas walls of a camp, at a place
called Pett, in Sussex; and I believe it was at this place that
occurred the first circumstance, or adventure, call it which you
will, that I can remember in connection with myself: it was a
strange one, and I will relate it.
It happened that my brother and myself were playing one evening in
a sandy lane, in the neighbourhood of this Pett camp; our mother
was at a slight distance. All of a sudden, a bright yellow, and,
to my infantine eye, beautiful and glorious, object made its
appearance at the top of the bank from between the thick quickset,
and, gliding down, began to move across the lane to the other side,
like a line of golden light. Uttering a cry of pleasure, I sprang
forward, and seized it nearly by the middle. A strange sensation
of numbing coldness seemed to pervade my whole arm, which surprised
me the more, as the object to the eye appeared so warm and sunlike.
I did not drop it, however, but, holding it up, looked at it
intently, as its head dangled about a foot from my hand. It made
no resistance; I felt not even the slightest struggle; but now my
brother began to scream and shriek like one possessed. 'O mother,
mother!' said he, 'the viper! - my brother has a viper in his
hand!' He then, like one frantic, made an effort to snatch the
creature away from me. The viper now hissed amain, and raised its
head, in which were eyes like hot coals, menacing, not myself, but
my brother. I dropped my captive, for I saw my mother running
towards me; and the reptile, after standing for a moment nearly
erect, and still hissing furiously, made off, and disappeared. The
whole scene is now before me, as vividly as if it occurred
yesterday - the gorgeous viper, my poor dear frantic brother, my
agitated parent, and a frightened hen clucking under the bushes -
and yet I was not three years old.
It is my firm belief that certain individuals possess an inherent
power, or fascination, over certain creatures, otherwise I should
be unable to account for many feats which I have witnessed, and,
indeed, borne a share in, connected with the taming of brutes and
reptiles. I have known a savage and vicious mare, whose stall it
was dangerous to approach, even when bearing provender, welcome,
nevertheless, with every appearance of pleasure, an uncouth, wiryheaded
man, with a frightfully seamed face, and an iron hook
supplying the place of his right hand, one whom the animal had
never seen before, playfully bite his hair, and cover his face with
gentle and endearing kisses; and I have already stated how a viper
would permit, without resentment, one child to take it up in his
hand, whilst it showed its dislike to the approach of another by
the fiercest hissings. Philosophy can explain many strange things,
but there are some which are a far pitch above her, and this is
I should scarcely relate another circumstance which occurred about
this time but for a singular effect which it produced upon my
constitution. Up to this period I had been rather a delicate
child; whereas, almost immediately after the occurrence to which I
allude, I became both hale and vigorous, to the great astonishment
of my parents, who naturally enough expected that it would produce
quite a contrary effect.
It happened that my brother and myself were disporting ourselves in
certain fields near the good town of Canterbury. A female servant
had attended us, in order to take care that we came to no mischief:
she, however, it seems, had matters of her own to attend to, and,
allowing us to go where we listed, remained in one corner of a
field, in earnest conversation with a red-coated dragoon. Now it
chanced to be blackberry time, and the two children wandered under
the hedges, peering anxiously among them in quest of that trash so
grateful to urchins of their degree. We did not find much of it,
however, and were soon separated in the pursuit. All at once I
stood still, and could scarcely believe my eyes. I had come to a
spot where, almost covering the hedge, hung clusters of what seemed
fruit - deliciously-tempting fruit - something resembling grapes of
various colours, green, red, and purple. Dear me, thought I, how
fortunate! yet have I a right to gather it? is it mine? for the
observance of the law of MEUM and TUUM had early been impressed
upon my mind, and I entertained, even at that tender age, the
utmost horror for theft; so I stood staring at the variegated
clusters, in doubt as to what I should do. I know not how I argued
the matter in my mind; the temptation, however, was at last too
strong for me, so I stretched forth my hand and ate. I remember,
perfectly well, that the taste of this strange fruit was by no
means so pleasant as the appearance; but the idea of eating fruit
was sufficient for a child, and, after all, the flavour was much
superior to that of sour apples, so I ate voraciously. How long I
continued eating I scarcely know. One thing is certain, that I
never left the field as I entered it, being carried home in the
arms of the dragoon in strong convulsions, in which I continued for
several hours. About midnight I awoke, as if from a troubled
sleep, and beheld my parents bending over my couch, whilst the
regimental surgeon, with a candle in his hand, stood nigh, the
light feebly reflected on the whitewashed walls of the barrackroom.
Another circumstance connected with my infancy, and I have done. I
need offer no apology for relating it, as it subsequently exercised
considerable influence over my pursuits. We were, if I remember
right, in the vicinity of a place called Hythe, in Kent. One sweet
evening, in the latter part of summer, our mother took her two
little boys by the hand, for a wander about the fields. In the
course of our stroll we came to the village church; an old, grayheaded
sexton stood in the porch, who, perceiving that we were
strangers, invited us to enter. We were presently in the interior,
wandering about the aisles, looking on the walls, and inspecting
the monuments of the notable dead. I can scarcely state what we
saw; how should I? I was a child not yet four years old, and yet I
think I remember the evening sun streaming in through a stained
window upon the dingy mahogany pulpit, and flinging a rich lustre
upon the faded tints of an ancient banner. And now once more we
were outside the building, where, against the wall, stood a loweaved
pent-house, into which we looked. It was half filled with
substances of some kind, which at first looked like large gray
stones. The greater part were lying in layers; some, however, were
seen in confused and mouldering heaps, and two or three, which had
perhaps rolled down from the rest, lay separately on the floor.
'Skulls, madam,' said the sexton; 'skulls of the old Danes! Long
ago they came pirating into these parts; and then there chanced a
mighty shipwreck, for God was angry with them, and He sunk them;
and their skulls, as they came ashore, were placed here as a
memorial. There were many more when I was young, but now they are
fast disappearing. Some of them must have belonged to strange
fellows, madam. Only see that one; why, the two young gentry can
scarcely lift it!' And, indeed, my brother and myself had entered
the Golgotha, and commenced handling these grim relics of
mortality. One enormous skull, lying in a corner, had fixed our
attention, and we had drawn it forth. Spirit of eld, what a skull
was yon!
I still seem to see it, the huge grim thing; many of the others
were large, strikingly so, and appeared fully to justify the old
man's conclusion that their owners must have been strange fellows;
but, compared with this mighty mass of bone, they looked small and
diminutive like those of pigmies; it must have belonged to a giant,
one of those red-haired warriors of whose strength and stature such
wondrous tales are told in the ancient chronicles of the north, and
whose grave-hills, when ransacked, occasionally reveal secrets
which fill the minds of puny moderns with astonishment and awe.
Reader, have you ever pored days and nights over the pages of
Snorro? - probably not, for he wrote in a language which few of the
present day understand, and few would be tempted to read him tamed
down by Latin dragomans. A brave old book is that of Snorro,
containing the histories and adventures of old northern kings and
champions, who seemed to have been quite different men, if we may
judge from the feats which they performed, from those of these
days; one of the best of his histories is that which describes the
life of Harald Haardraade, who, after manifold adventures by land
and sea, now a pirate, now a mercenary of the Greek emperor, became
king of Norway, and eventually perished at the battle of Stamford
Bridge, whilst engaged in a gallant onslaught upon England. Now, I
have often thought that the old Kemp, whose mouldering skull in the
Golgotha of Hythe my brother and myself could scarcely lift, must
have resembled in one respect at least this Harald, whom Snorro
describes as a great and wise ruler and a determined leader,
dangerous in battle, of fair presence and measuring in height just
FIVE ELLS, neither more nor less.
I never forgot the Daneman's skull; like the apparition of the
viper in the sandy lane, it dwelt in the mind of the boy, affording
copious food for the exercise of imagination. From that moment
with the name of Dane were associated strange ideas of strength,
daring, and superhuman stature; and an undefinable curiosity for
all that is connected with the Danish race began to pervade me; and
if, long after, when I became a student I devoted myself with
peculiar zest to Danish lore and the acquirement of the old Norse
tongue and its dialects, I can only explain the matter by the early
impression received at Hythe from the tale of the old sexton,
beneath the pent-house, and the sight of the Danish skull.
And thus we went on straying from place to place, at Hythe to-day,
and perhaps within a week looking out from our hostel-window upon
the streets of old Winchester, our motions ever in accordance with
the 'route' of the regiment, so habituated to change of scene that
it had become almost necessary to our existence. Pleasant were
these days of my early boyhood; and a melancholy pleasure steals
over me as I recall them. Those were stirring times of which I am
speaking, and there was much passing around me calculated to
captivate the imagination. The dreadful struggle which so long
convulsed Europe, and in which England bore so prominent a part,
was then at its hottest; we were at war, and determination and
enthusiasm shone in every face; man, woman, and child were eager to
fight the Frank, the hereditary, but, thank God, never dreaded
enemy of the Anglo-Saxon race. 'Love your country and beat the
French, and then never mind what happens,' was the cry of entire
England. Oh, those were days of power, gallant days, bustling
days, worth the bravest days of chivalry at least; tall battalions
of native warriors were marching through the land; there was the
glitter of the bayonet and the gleam of the sabre; the shrill
squeak of the fife and loud rattling of the drum were heard in the
streets of country towns, and the loyal shouts of the inhabitants
greeted the soldiery on their arrival, or cheered them at their
departure. And now let us leave the upland, and descend to the
sea-bord; there is a sight for you upon the billows! A dozen menof-
war are gliding majestically out of port, their long buntings
streaming from the top-gallant masts, calling on the skulking
Frenchman to come forth from his bights and bays; and what looms
upon us yonder from the fog-bank in the east? a gallant frigate
towing behind her the long low hull of a crippled privateer, which
but three short days ago had left Dieppe to skim the sea, and whose
crew of ferocious hearts are now cursing their imprudence in an
English hold. Stirring times those, which I love to recall, for
they were days of gallantry and enthusiasm, and were moreover the
days of my boyhood.
Pretty D- - The venerable church - The stricken heart - Dormant
energies - The small packet - Nerves - The books - A picture -
Mountain-like billows - The footprint - Spirit of De Foe -
Reasoning powers - Terrors of God - Heads of the dragons - High-
Church clerk - A journey - The drowned country.
AND when I was between six and seven years of age we were once more
at D-, the place of my birth, whither my father had been despatched
on the recruiting service. I have already said that it was a
beautiful little town - at least it was at the time of which I am
speaking - what it is at present I know not, for thirty years and
more have elapsed since I last trod its streets. It will scarcely
have improved, for how could it be better than it then was? I love
to think on thee, pretty quiet D-, thou pattern of an English
country town, with thy clean but narrow streets branching out from
thy modest market-place, with thine old-fashioned houses, with here
and there a roof of venerable thatch, with thy one halfaristocratic
mansion, where resided thy Lady Bountiful - she, the
generous and kind, who loved to visit the sick, leaning on her
gold-headed cane, whilst the sleek old footman walked at a
respectful distance behind. Pretty quiet D-, with thy venerable
church, in which moulder the mortal remains of England's sweetest
and most pious bard.
Yes, pretty D-, I could always love thee, were it but for the sake
of him who sleeps beneath the marble slab in yonder quiet chancel.
It was within thee that the long-oppressed bosom heaved its last
sigh, and the crushed and gentle spirit escaped from a world in
which it had known nought but sorrow. Sorrow! do I say? How faint
a word to express the misery of that bruised reed; misery so dark
that a blind worm like myself is occasionally tempted to exclaim,
Better had the world never been created than that one so kind, so
harmless, and so mild, should have undergone such intolerable woe!
But it is over now, for, as there is an end of joy, so has
affliction its termination. Doubtless the All-wise did not afflict
him without a cause: who knows but within that unhappy frame
lurked vicious seeds which the sunbeams of joy and prosperity might
have called into life and vigour? Perhaps the withering blasts of
misery nipped that which otherwise might have terminated in fruit
noxious and lamentable. But peace to the unhappy one, he is gone
to his rest; the death-like face is no longer occasionally seen
timidly and mournfully looking for a moment through the window-pane
upon thy market-place, quiet and pretty D-; the hind in thy
neighbourhood no longer at evening-fall views, and starts as he
views, the dark lathy figure moving beneath the hazels and alders
of shadowy lanes, or by the side of murmuring trout streams, and no
longer at early dawn does the sexton of the old church reverently
doff his hat, as, supported by some kind friend, the death-stricken
creature totters along the church-path to that mouldering edifice
with the low roof, inclosing a spring of sanatory waters, built and
devoted to some saint, if the legend over the door be true, by the
daughter of an East Anglian king.
But to return to my own history. I had now attained the age of
six: shall I state what intellectual progress I had been making up
to this period? Alas! upon this point I have little to say
calculated to afford either pleasure or edification; I had
increased rapidly in size and in strength: the growth of the mind,
however, had by no means corresponded with that of the body. It is
true, I had acquired my letters, and was by this time able to read
imperfectly; but this was all: and even this poor triumph over
absolute ignorance would never have been effected but for the
unremitting attention of my parents, who, sometimes by threats,
sometimes by entreaties, endeavoured to rouse the dormant energies
of my nature, and to bend my wishes to the acquisition of the
rudiments of knowledge; but in influencing the wish lay the
difficulty. Let but the will of a human being be turned to any
particular object, and it is ten to one that sooner or later he
achieves it. At this time I may safely say that I harboured
neither wishes nor hopes; I had as yet seen no object calculated to
call them forth, and yet I took pleasure in many things which
perhaps unfortunately were all within my sphere of enjoyment. I
loved to look upon the heavens, and to bask in the rays of the sun,
or to sit beneath hedgerows and listen to the chirping of the
birds, indulging the while in musing and meditation as far as my
very limited circle of ideas would permit; but, unlike my brother,
who was at this time at school, and whose rapid progress in every
branch of instruction astonished and delighted his preceptors, I
took no pleasure in books, whose use, indeed, I could scarcely
comprehend, and bade fair to be as arrant a dunce as ever brought
the blush of shame into the cheeks of anxious and affectionate
But the time was now at hand when the ice which had hitherto bound
the mind of the child with its benumbing power was to be thawed,
and a world of sensations and ideas awakened to which it had
hitherto been an entire stranger. One day a young lady, an
intimate acquaintance of our family, and godmother to my brother,
drove up to the house in which we dwelt; she stayed some time
conversing with my mother, and on rising to depart, she put down on
the table a small packet, exclaiming, 'I have brought a little
present for each of the boys: the one is a History of England,
which I intend for my godson when he returns from school, the other
is . . .' - and here she said something which escaped my ear, as I
sat at some distance, moping in a corner, - 'I intend it for the
youngster yonder,' pointing to myself; she then departed, and, my
mother going out shortly after, I was left alone.
I remember for some time sitting motionless in my corner, with my
eyes bent upon the ground; at last I lifted my head and looked upon
the packet as it lay on the table. All at once a strange sensation
came over me, such as I had never experienced before - a singular
blending of curiosity, awe, and pleasure, the remembrance of which,
even at this distance of time, produces a remarkable effect upon my
nervous system. What strange things are the nerves - I mean those
more secret and mysterious ones in which I have some notion that
the mind or soul, call it which you will, has its habitation; how
they occasionally tingle and vibrate before any coming event
closely connected with the future weal or woe of the human being.
Such a feeling was now within me, certainly independent of what the
eye had seen or the ear had heard. A book of some description had
been brought for me, a present by no means calculated to interest
me; what cared I for books? I had already many into which I never
looked but from compulsion; friends, moreover, had presented me
with similar things before, which I had entirely disregarded, and
what was there in this particular book, whose very title I did not
know, calculated to attract me more than the rest? yet something
within told me that my fate was connected with the book which had
been last brought; so, after looking on the packet from my corner
for a considerable time, I got up and went to the table.
The packet was lying where it had been left - I took it up; had the
envelope, which consisted of whitish brown paper, been secured by a
string or a seal, I should not have opened it, as I should have
considered such an act almost in the light of a crime; the books,
however, had been merely folded up, and I therefore considered that
there could be no possible harm in inspecting them, more especially
as I had received no injunction to the contrary. Perhaps there was
something unsound in this reasoning, something sophistical; but a
child is sometimes as ready as a grown-up person in finding excuses
for doing that which he is inclined to. But whether the action was
right or wrong, and I am afraid it was not altogether right, I
undid the packet: it contained three books; two from their
similarity seemed to be separate parts of one and the same work;
they were handsomely bound, and to them I first turned my
attention. I opened them successively, and endeavoured to make out
their meaning; their contents, however, as far as I was able to
understand them, were by no means interesting: whoever pleases may
read these books for me, and keep them, too, into the bargain, said
I to myself.
I now took up the third book: it did not resemble the others,
being longer and considerably thicker; the binding was of dingy
calf-skin. I opened it, and as I did so another strange thrill of
pleasure shot through my frame. The first object on which my eyes
rested was a picture; it was exceedingly well executed, at least
the scene which it represented made a vivid impression upon me,
which would hardly have been the case had the artist not been
faithful to nature. A wild scene it was - a heavy sea and rocky
shore, with mountains in the background, above which the moon was
peering. Not far from the shore, upon the water, was a boat with
two figures in it, one of which stood at the bow, pointing with
what I knew to be a gun at a dreadful shape in the water; fire was
flashing from the muzzle of the gun, and the monster appeared to be
transfixed. I almost thought I heard its cry. I remained
motionless, gazing upon the picture, scarcely daring to draw my
breath, lest the new and wondrous world should vanish of which I
had now obtained a glimpse. 'Who are those people, and what could
have brought them into that strange situation?' I asked of myself;
and now the seed of curiosity, which had so long lain dormant,
began to expand, and I vowed to myself to become speedily
acquainted with the whole history of the people in the boat. After
looking on the picture till every mark and line in it were familiar
to me, I turned over various leaves till I came to another
engraving; a new source of wonder - a low sandy beach on which the
furious sea was breaking in mountain-like billows; cloud and rack
deformed the firmament, which wore a dull and leaden-like hue;
gulls and other aquatic fowls were toppling upon the blast, or
skimming over the tops of the maddening waves - 'Mercy upon him! he
must be drowned!' I exclaimed, as my eyes fell upon a poor wretch
who appeared to be striving to reach the shore; he was upon his
legs, but was evidently half smothered with the brine; high above
his head curled a horrible billow, as if to engulf him for ever.
'He must be drowned! he must be drowned!' I almost shrieked, and
dropped the book. I soon snatched it up again, and now my eye
lighted on a third picture: again a shore, but what a sweet and
lovely one, and how I wished to be treading it; there were
beautiful shells lying on the smooth white sand, some were empty
like those I had occasionally seen on marble mantelpieces, but out
of others peered the heads and bodies of wondrous crayfish, a wood
of thick green trees skirted the beach and partly shaded it from
the rays of the sun, which shone hot above, while blue waves
slightly crested with foam were gently curling against it; there
was a human figure upon the beach, wild and uncouth, clad in the
skins of animals, with a huge cap on his head, a hatchet at his
girdle, and in his hand a gun; his feet and legs were bare; he
stood in an attitude of horror and surprise; his body was bent far
back, and his eyes, which seemed starting out of his head, were
fixed upon a mark on the sand - a large distinct mark - a human
footprint. . . .
Reader, is it necessary to name the book which now stood open in my
hand, and whose very prints, feeble expounders of its wondrous
lines, had produced within me emotions strange and novel? Scarcely
- for it was a book which has exerted over the minds of Englishmen
an influence certainly greater than any other of modern times -
which has been in most people's hands, and with the contents of
which even those who cannot read are to a certain extent acquainted
- a book from which the most luxuriant and fertile of our modern
prose writers have drunk inspiration - a book, moreover, to which,
from the hardy deeds which it narrates, and the spirit of strange
and romantic enterprise which it tends to awaken, England owes many
of her astonishing discoveries both by sea and land, and no
inconsiderable part of her naval glory.
Hail to thee, spirit of De Foe! What does not my own poor self owe
to thee? England has better bards than either Greece or Rome, yet
I could spare them easier far than De Foe, 'unabashed De Foe,' as
the hunchbacked rhymer styled him.
The true chord had now been touched; a raging curiosity with
respect to the contents of the volume, whose engravings had
fascinated my eye, burned within me, and I never rested until I had
fully satisfied it; weeks succeeded weeks, months followed months,
and the wondrous volume was my only study and principal source of
amusement. For hours together I would sit poring over a page till
I had become acquainted with the import of every line. My
progress, slow enough at first, became by degrees more rapid, till
at last, under 'a shoulder of mutton sail,' I found myself
cantering before a steady breeze over an ocean of enchantment, so
well pleased with my voyage that I cared not how long it might be
ere it reached its termination.
And it was in this manner that I first took to the paths of
About this time I began to be somewhat impressed with religious
feelings. My parents were, to a certain extent, religious people;
but, though they had done their best to afford me instruction on
religious points, I had either paid no attention to what they
endeavoured to communicate, or had listened with an ear far too
obtuse to derive any benefit. But my mind had now become awakened
from the drowsy torpor in which it had lain so long, and the
reasoning powers which I possessed were no longer inactive.
Hitherto I had entertained no conception whatever of the nature and
properties of God, and with the most perfect indifference had heard
the divine name proceeding from the mouths of people - frequently,
alas! on occasions when it ought not to be employed; but I now
never heard it without a tremor, for I now knew that God was an
awful and inscrutable Being, the Maker of all things; that we were
His children, and that we, by our sins, had justly offended Him;
that we were in very great peril from His anger, not so much in
this life as in another and far stranger state of being yet to
come; that we had a Saviour withal to whom it was necessary to look
for help: upon this point, however, I was yet very much in the
dark, as, indeed, were most of those with whom I was connected.
The power and terrors of God were uppermost in my thoughts; they
fascinated though they astounded me. Twice every Sunday I was
regularly taken to the church, where, from a corner of the large
spacious pew, lined with black leather, I would fix my eyes on the
dignified High-Church rector, and the dignified High-Church clerk,
and watch the movement of their lips, from which, as they read
their respective portions of the venerable liturgy, would roll many
a portentous word descriptive of the wondrous works of the Most
RECTOR. Thou didst divide the sea, through thy power: thou
brakest the heads of the dragons in the waters.
PHILOH. Thou smotest the heads of Leviathan in pieces: and gavest
him to be meat for the people in the wilderness.
RECTOR. Thou broughtest out fountains, and waters out of the hard
rocks: thou driedst up mighty waters.
PHILOH. The day is thine, and the night is thine: thou hast
prepared the light and the sun.
Peace to your memories, dignified rector, and yet more dignified
clerk! - by this time ye are probably gone to your long homes, and
your voices are no longer heard sounding down the aisles of the
venerable church - nay, doubtless, this has already long since been
the fate of him of the sonorous 'Amen!' - the one of the two who,
with all due respect to the rector, principally engrossed my boyish
admiration - he, at least, is scarcely now among the living!
Living! why, I have heard say that he blew a fife - for he was a
musical as well as a Christian professor - a bold fife, to cheer
the Guards and the brave Marines, as they marched with measured
step, obeying an insane command, up Bunker's height, whilst the
rifles of the sturdy Yankees were sending the leaden hail sharp and
thick amidst the red-coated ranks; for Philoh had not always been a
man of peace, nor an exhorter to turn the other cheek to the
smiter, but had even arrived at the dignity of a halberd in his
country's service before his six-foot form required rest, and the
gray-haired veteran retired, after a long peregrination, to his
native town, to enjoy ease and respectability on a pension of
'eighteenpence a day'; and well did his fellow-townsmen act, when,
to increase that ease and respectability, and with a thoughtful
regard for the dignity of the good church service, they made him
clerk and precentor - the man of the tall form and of the audible
voice, which sounded loud and clear as his own Bunker fife. Well,
peace to thee, thou fine old chap, despiser of dissenters, and
hater of papists, as became a dignified and High-Church clerk; if
thou art in thy grave, the better for thee; thou wert fitted to
adorn a bygone time, when loyalty was in vogue, and smiling content
lay like a sunbeam upon the land, but thou wouldst be sadly out of
place in these days of cold philosophic latitudinarian doctrine,
universal tolerism, and half-concealed rebellion - rare times, no
doubt, for papists and dissenters, but which would assuredly have
broken the heart of the loyal soldier of George the Third, and the
dignified High-Church clerk of pretty D-.
We passed many months at this place: nothing, however, occurred
requiring any particular notice, relating to myself, beyond what I
have already stated, and I am not writing the history of others.
At length my father was recalled to his regiment, which at that
time was stationed at a place called Norman Cross, in Lincolnshire,
or rather Huntingdonshire, at some distance from the old town of
Peterborough. For this place he departed, leaving my mother and
myself to follow in a few days. Our journey was a singular one.
On the second day we reached a marshy and fenny country, which,
owing to immense quantities of rain which had lately fallen, was
completely submerged. At a large town we got on board a kind of
passage-boat, crowded with people; it had neither sails nor oars,
and those were not the days of steam-vessels; it was a treckschuyt,
and was drawn by horses. Young as I was, there was much
connected with this journey which highly surprised me, and which
brought to my remembrance particular scenes described in the book
which I now generally carried in my bosom. The country was, as I
have already said, submerged - entirely drowned - no land was
visible; the trees were growing bolt upright in the flood, whilst
farmhouses and cottages were standing insulated; the horses which
drew us were up to the knees in water, and, on coming to blind
pools and 'greedy depths,' were not unfrequently swimming, in which
case, the boys or urchins who mounted them sometimes stood,
sometimes knelt, upon the saddle and pillions. No accident,
however, occurred either to the quadrupeds or bipeds, who appeared
respectively to be quite AU FAIT in their business, and extricated
themselves with the greatest ease from places in which Pharaoh and
all his host would have gone to the bottom. Nightfall brought us
to Peterborough, and from thence we were not slow in reaching the
place of our destination.
Norman Cross - Wide expanse - VIVE L'EMPEREUR - Unpruned woods -
Man with the bag - Froth and conceit - I beg your pardon - Growing
timid - About three o'clock - Taking one's ease - Cheek on the
ground - King of the vipers - French king - Frenchmen and water.
AND a strange place it was, this Norman Cross, and, at the time of
which I am speaking, a sad cross to many a Norman, being what was
then styled a French prison, that is, a receptacle for captives
made in the French war. It consisted, if I remember right, of some
five or six casernes, very long, and immensely high; each standing
isolated from the rest, upon a spot of ground which might average
ten acres, and which was fenced round with lofty palisades, the
whole being compassed about by a towering wall, beneath which, at
intervals, on both sides, sentinels were stationed, whilst outside,
upon the field, stood commodious wooden barracks, capable of
containing two regiments of infantry, intended to serve as guards
upon the captives. Such was the station or prison at Norman Cross,
where some six thousand French and other foreigners, followers of
the grand Corsican, were now immured.
What a strange appearance had those mighty casernes, with their
blank blind walls, without windows or grating, and their slanting
roofs, out of which, through orifices where the tiles had been
removed, would be protruded dozens of grim heads, feasting their
prison-sick eyes on the wide expanse of country unfolded from that
airy height. Ah! there was much misery in those casernes; and from
those roofs, doubtless, many a wistful look was turned in the
direction of lovely France. Much had the poor inmates to endure,
and much to complain of, to the disgrace of England be it said - of
England, in general so kind and bountiful. Rations of carrion
meat, and bread from which I have seen the very hounds occasionally
turn away, were unworthy entertainment even for the most ruffian
enemy, when helpless and a captive; and such, alas! was the fare in
those casernes. And then, those visits, or rather ruthless
inroads, called in the slang of the place 'strawplait-hunts,' when
in pursuit of a contraband article, which the prisoners, in order
to procure themselves a few of the necessaries and comforts of
existence, were in the habit of making, red-coated battalions were
marched into the prisons, who, with the bayonet's point, carried
havoc and ruin into every poor convenience which ingenious
wretchedness had been endeavouring to raise around it; and then the
triumphant exit with the miserable booty; and, worst of all, the
accursed bonfire, on the barrack parade, of the plait contraband,
beneath the view of the glaring eyeballs from those lofty roofs,
amidst the hurrahs of the troops, frequently drowned in the curses
poured down from above like a tempest-shower or in the terrific
warw-hoop of 'VIVE L'EMPEREUR!'
It was midsummer when we arrived at this place, and the weather,
which had for a long time been wet and gloomy, now became bright
and glorious; I was subjected to but little control, and passed my
time pleasantly enough, principally in wandering about the
neighbouring country. It was flat and somewhat fenny, a district
more of pasture than agriculture, and not very thickly inhabited.
I soon became well acquainted with it. At the distance of two
miles from the station was a large lake, styled in the dialect of
the country 'a mere,' about whose borders tall reeds were growing
in abundance, this was a frequent haunt of mine; but my favourite
place of resort was a wild sequestered spot at a somewhat greater
distance. Here, surrounded with woods and thick groves, was the
seat of some ancient family, deserted by the proprietor, and only
inhabited by a rustic servant or two. A place more solitary and
wild could scarcely be imagined; the garden and walks were
overgrown with weeds and briers, and the unpruned woods were so
tangled as to be almost impervious. About this domain I would
wander till overtaken by fatigue, and then I would sit down with my
back against some beech, elm, or stately alder tree, and, taking
out my book, would pass hours in a state of unmixed enjoyment, my
eyes now fixed on the wondrous pages, now glancing at the sylvan
scene around; and sometimes I would drop the book and listen to the
voice of the rooks and wild pigeons, and not unfrequently to the
croaking of multitudes of frogs from the neighbouring swamps and
In going to and from this place I frequently passed a tall elderly
individual, dressed in rather a quaint fashion, with a skin cap on
his head and stout gaiters on his legs; on his shoulders hung a
moderate sized leathern sack; he seemed fond of loitering near
sunny banks, and of groping amidst furze and low scrubby bramble
bushes, of which there were plenty in the neighbourhood of Norman
Cross. Once I saw him standing in the middle of a dusty road,
looking intently at a large mark which seemed to have been drawn
across it, as if by a walking stick. 'He must have been a large
one,' the old man muttered half to himself, 'or he would not have
left such a trail, I wonder if he is near; he seems to have moved
this way.' He then went behind some bushes which grew on the right
side of the road, and appeared to be in quest of something, moving
behind the bushes with his head downwards, and occasionally
striking their roots with his foot: at length he exclaimed, 'Here
he is!' and forthwith I saw him dart amongst the bushes. There was
a kind of scuffling noise, the rustling of branches, and the
crackling of dry sticks. 'I have him!' said the man at last; 'I
have got him!' and presently he made his appearance about twenty
yards down the road, holding a large viper in his hand. 'What do
you think of that, my boy?' said he, as I went up to him - 'what do
you think of catching such a thing as that with the naked hand?'
'What do I think?' said I. 'Why, that I could do as much myself.'
'You do,' said the man, 'do you? Lord! how the young people in
these days are given to conceit; it did not use to be so in my
time: when I was a child, childer knew how to behave themselves;
but the childer of these days are full of conceit, full of froth,
like the mouth of this viper'; and with his forefinger and thumb he
squeezed a considerable quantity of foam from the jaws of the viper
down upon the road. 'The childer of these days are a generation of
- God forgive me, what was I about to say?' said the old man; and
opening his bag he thrust the reptile into it, which appeared far
from empty. I passed on. As I was returning, towards the evening,
I overtook the old man, who was wending in the same direction.
'Good evening to you, sir,' said I, taking off a cap which I wore
on my head. 'Good evening,' said the old man; and then, looking at
me, 'How's this?' said he, 'you aren't, sure, the child I met in
the morning?' 'Yes,' said I, 'I am; what makes you doubt it?'
'Why, you were then all froth and conceit,' said the old man, 'and
now you take off your cap to me.' 'I beg your pardon,' said I, 'if
I was frothy and conceited; it ill becomes a child like me to be
so.' 'That's true, dear,' said the old man; 'well, as you have
begged my pardon, I truly forgive you.' 'Thank you,' said I; 'have
you caught any more of those things?' 'Only four or five,' said
the old man; 'they are getting scarce, though this used to be a
great neighbourhood for them.' 'And what do you do with them?'
said I; 'do you carry them home and play with them?' 'I sometimes
play with one or two that I tame,' said the old man; 'but I hunt
them mostly for the fat which they contain, out of which I make
unguents which are good for various sore troubles, especially for
the rheumatism.' 'And do you get your living by hunting these
creatures?' I demanded. 'Not altogether,' said the old man;
'besides being a viper-hunter, I am what they call a herbalist, one
who knows the virtue of particular herbs; I gather them at the
proper season, to make medicines with for the sick.' 'And do you
live in the neighbourhood?' I demanded. 'You seem very fond of
asking questions, child. No, I do not live in this neighbourhood
in particular, I travel about; I have not been in this
neighbourhood till lately for some years.'
From this time the old man and myself formed an acquaintance; I
often accompanied him in his wanderings about the neighbourhood,
and, on two or three occasions, assisted him in catching the
reptiles which he hunted. He generally carried a viper with him
which he had made quite tame, and from which he had extracted the
poisonous fangs; it would dance and perform various kinds of
tricks. He was fond of telling me anecdotes connected with his
adventures with the reptile species. 'But,' said he one day,
sighing, 'I must shortly give up this business, I am no longer the
man I was, I am become timid, and when a person is timid in viperhunting,
he had better leave off, as it is quite clear his virtue
is leaving him. I got a fright some years ago, which I am quite
sure I shall never get the better of; my hand has been shaky more
or less ever since.' 'What frightened you?' said I. 'I had better
not tell you,' said the old man, 'or you may be frightened too,
lose your virtue, and be no longer good for the business.' 'I
don't care,' said I; 'I don't intend to follow the business: I
daresay I shall be an officer, like my father.' 'Well,' said the
old man, 'I once saw the king of the vipers, and since then - '
'The king of the vipers!' said I, interrupting him; 'have the
vipers a king?' 'As sure as we have,' said the old man - 'as sure
as we have King George to rule over us, have these reptiles a king
to rule over them.' 'And where did you see him?' said I. 'I will
tell you,' said the old man, 'though I don't like talking about the
matter. It may be about seven years ago that I happened to be far
down yonder to the west, on the other side of England, nearly two
hundred miles from here, following my business. It was a very
sultry day, I remember, and I had been out several hours catching
creatures. It might be about three o'clock in the afternoon, when
I found myself on some heathy land near the sea, on the ridge of a
hill, the side of which, nearly as far down as the sea, was heath;
but on the top there was arable ground, which had been planted, and
from which the harvest had been gathered - oats or barley, I know
not which - but I remember that the ground was covered with
stubble. Well, about three o'clock, as I told you before, what
with the heat of the day and from having walked about for hours in
a lazy way, I felt very tired; so I determined to have a sleep, and
I laid myself down, my head just on the ridge of the hill, towards
the field, and my body over the side down amongst the heath; my
bag, which was nearly filled with creatures, lay at a little
distance from my face; the creatures were struggling in it, I
remember, and I thought to myself, how much more comfortably off I
was than they; I was taking my ease on the nice open hill, cooled
with the breezes, whilst they were in the nasty close bag, coiling
about one another, and breaking their very hearts, all to no
purpose: and I felt quite comfortable and happy in the thought,
and little by little closed my eyes, and fell into the sweetest
snooze that ever I was in in all my life; and there I lay over the
hill's side, with my head half in the field, I don't know how long,
all dead asleep. At last it seemed to me that I heard a noise in
my sleep, something like a thing moving, very faint, however, far
away; then it died, and then it came again upon my ear as I slept,
and now it appeared almost as if I heard crackle, crackle; then it
died again, or I became yet more dead asleep than before, I know
not which, but I certainly lay some time without hearing it. All
of a sudden I became awake, and there was I, on the ridge of the
hill, with my cheek on the ground towards the stubble, with a noise
in my ear like that of something moving towards me amongst the
stubble of the field; well, I lay a moment or two listening to the
noise, and then I became frightened, for I did not like the noise
at all, it sounded so odd; so I rolled myself on my belly, and
looked towards the stubble. Mercy upon us! there was a huge snake,
or rather a dreadful viper, for it was all yellow and gold, moving
towards me, bearing its head about a foot and a half above the
ground, the dry stubble crackling beneath its outrageous belly. It
might be about five yards off when I first saw it, making straight
towards me, child, as if it would devour me. I lay quite still,
for I was stupefied with horror, whilst the creature came still
nearer; and now it was nearly upon me, when it suddenly drew back a
little, and then - what do you think? - it lifted its head and
chest high in the air, and high over my face as I looked up,
flickering at me with its tongue as if it would fly at my face.
Child, what I felt at that moment I can scarcely say, but it was a
sufficient punishment for all the sins I ever committed; and there
we two were, I looking up at the viper, and the viper looking down
upon me, flickering at me with its tongue. It was only the
kindness of God that saved me: all at once there was a loud noise,
the report of a gun, for a fowler was shooting at a covey of birds,
a little way off in the stubble. Whereupon the viper sunk its
head, and immediately made off over the ridge of the hill, down in
the direction of the sea. As it passed by me, however - and it
passed close by me - it hesitated a moment, as if it was doubtful
whether it should not seize me; it did not, however, but made off
down the hill. It has often struck me that he was angry with me,
and came upon me unawares for presuming to meddle with his people,
as I have always been in the habit of doing.'
'But,' said I, 'how do you know that it was the king of the
'How do I know!' said the old man, 'who else should it be? There
was as much difference between it and other reptiles as between
King George and other people.'
'Is King George, then, different from other people?' I demanded.
'Of course,' said the old man; 'I have never seen him myself, but I
have heard people say that he is a ten times greater man than other
folks; indeed, it stands to reason that he must be different from
the rest, else people would not be so eager to see him. Do you
think, child, that people would be fools enough to run a matter of
twenty or thirty miles to see the king, provided King George - '
'Haven't the French a king?' I demanded.
'Yes,' said the old man, 'or something much the same, and a queer
one he is; not quite so big as King George, they say, but quite as
terrible a fellow. What of him?'
'Suppose he should come to Norman Cross!'
'What should he do at Norman Cross, child?'
'Why, you were talking about the vipers in your bag breaking their
hearts, and so on, and their king coming to help them. Now,
suppose the French king should hear of his people being in trouble
at Norman Cross, and - '
'He can't come, child,' said the old man, rubbing his hands, 'the
water lies between. The French don't like the water; neither
vipers nor Frenchmen take kindly to the water, child.'
When the old man left the country, which he did a few days after
the conversation which I have just related, he left me the reptile
which he had tamed and rendered quite harmless by removing the
fangs. I was in the habit of feeding it with milk, and frequently
carried it abroad with me in my walks.
The tent - Man and woman - Dark and swarthy - Manner of speaking -
Bad money - Transfixed - Faltering tone - Little basket - High
opinion - Plenty of good - Keeping guard - Tilted cart - Rubricals
- Jasper - The right sort - The horseman of the lane - John Newton
- The alarm - Gentle brothers.
ONE day it happened that, being on my rambles, I entered a green
lane which I had never seen before; at first it was rather narrow,
but as I advanced it became considerably wider; in the middle was a
driftway with deep ruts, but right and left was a space carpeted
with a sward of trefoil and clover; there was no lack of trees,
chiefly ancient oaks, which, flinging out their arms from either
side, nearly formed a canopy, and afforded a pleasing shelter from
the rays of the sun, which was burning fiercely above. Suddenly a
group of objects attracted my attention. Beneath one of the
largest of the trees, upon the grass, was a kind of low tent or
booth, from the top of which a thin smoke was curling; beside it
stood a couple of light carts, whilst two or three lean horses or
ponies were cropping the herbage which was growing nigh. Wondering
to whom this odd tent could belong, I advanced till I was close
before it, when I found that it consisted of two tilts, like those
of waggons, placed upon the ground and fronting each other,
connected behind by a sail or large piece of canvas which was but
partially drawn across the top; upon the ground, in the intervening
space, was a fire, over which, supported by a kind of iron crowbar,
hung a caldron; my advance had been so noiseless as not to alarm
the inmates, who consisted of a man and woman, who sat apart, one
on each side of the fire; they were both busily employed - the man
was carding plaited straw, whilst the woman seemed to be rubbing
something with a white powder, some of which lay on a plate beside
her; suddenly the man looked up, and, perceiving me, uttered a
strange kind of cry, and the next moment both the woman and himself
were on their feet and rushing out upon me.
I retreated a few steps, yet without turning to flee. I was not,
however, without apprehension, which, indeed, the appearance of
these two people was well calculated to inspire: the woman was a
stout figure, seemingly between thirty and forty; she wore no cap,
and her long hair fell on either side of her head like horse-tails
half-way down her waist; her skin was dark and swarthy, like that
of a toad, and the expression of her countenance was particularly
evil; her arms were bare, and her bosom was but half concealed by a
slight bodice, below which she wore a coarse petticoat, her only
other article of dress. The man was somewhat younger, but of a
figure equally wild; his frame was long and lathy, but his arms
were remarkably short, his neck was rather bent, he squinted
slightly, and his mouth was much awry; his complexion was dark,
but, unlike that of the woman, was more ruddy than livid; there was
a deep scar on his cheek, something like the impression of a
halfpenny. The dress was quite in keeping with the figure: in his
hat, which was slightly peaked, was stuck a peacock's feather; over
a waistcoat of hide, untanned and with the hair upon it, he wore a
rough jerkin of russet hue; smallclothes of leather, which had
probably once belonged to a soldier, but with which pipeclay did
not seem to have come in contact for many a year, protected his
lower man as far as the knee; his legs were cased in long stockings
of blue worsted, and on his shoes he wore immense old-fashioned
Such were the two beings who now came rushing upon me; the man was
rather in advance, brandishing a ladle in his hand.
'So I have caught you at last,' said he; 'I'll teach ye, you young
highwayman, to come skulking about my properties!'
Young as I was, I remarked that his manner of speaking was
different from that of any people with whom I had been in the habit
of associating. It was quite as strange as his appearance, and yet
it nothing resembled the foreign English which I had been in the
habit of hearing through the palisades of the prison; he could
scarcely be a foreigner.
'Your properties!' said I; 'I am in the King's Lane. Why did you
put them there, if you did not wish them to be seen?'
'On the spy,' said the woman, 'hey? I'll drown him in the sludge
in the toad-pond over the hedge.'
'So we will,' said the man, 'drown him anon in the mud!'
'Drown me, will you?' said I; 'I should like to see you! What's
all this about? Was it because I saw you with your hands full of
straw plait, and my mother there - '
'Yes,' said the woman; 'what was I about?'
MYSELF. How should I know? Making bad money, perhaps!
And it will be as well here to observe, that at this time there was
much bad money in circulation in the neighbourhood, generally
supposed to be fabricated by the prisoners, so that this false coin
and straw plait formed the standard subjects of conversation at
Norman Cross.
'I'll strangle thee,' said the beldame, dashing at me. 'Bad money,
is it?'
'Leave him to me, wifelkin,' said the man, interposing; 'you shall
now see how I'll baste him down the lane.'
MYSELF. I tell you what, my chap, you had better put down that
thing of yours; my father lies concealed within my tepid breast,
and if to me you offer any harm or wrong, I'll call him forth to
help me with his forked tongue.
MAN. What do you mean, ye Bengui's bantling? I never heard such
discourse in all my life: playman's speech or Frenchman's talk -
which, I wonder? Your father! Tell the mumping villain that if he
comes near my fire I'll serve him out as I will you. Take that -
Tiny Jesus! what have we got here? Oh, delicate Jesus! what is the
matter with the child?
I had made a motion which the viper understood; and now, partly
disengaging itself from my bosom, where it had lain perdu, it
raised its head to a level with my face, and stared upon my enemy
with its glittering eyes.
The man stood like one transfixed, and the ladle, with which he had
aimed a blow at me, now hung in the air like the hand which held
it; his mouth was extended, and his cheeks became of a pale yellow,
save alone that place which bore the mark which I have already
described, and this shone now portentously, like fire. He stood in
this manner for some time; at last the ladle fell from his hand,
and its falling appeared to rouse him from his stupor.
'I say, wifelkin,' said he, in a faltering tone, 'did you ever see
the like of this here?'
But the woman had retreated to the tent, from the entrance of which
her loathly face was now thrust, with an expression partly of
terror and partly of curiosity. After gazing some time longer at
the viper and myself, the man stooped down and took up the ladle;
then, as if somewhat more assured, he moved to the tent, where he
entered into conversation with the beldame in a low voice. Of
their discourse, though I could hear the greater part of it, I
understood not a single word; and I wondered what it could be, for
I knew by the sound that it was not French. At last the man, in a
somewhat louder tone, appeared to put a question to the woman, who
nodded her head affirmatively, and in a moment or two produced a
small stool, which she delivered to him. He placed it on the
ground, close by the door of the tent, first rubbing it with his
sleeve, as if for the purpose of polishing its surface.
MAN. Now, my precious little gentleman, do sit down here by the
poor people's tent; we wish to be civil in our slight way. Don't
be angry, and say no; but look kindly upon us, and satisfied, my
precious little God Almighty.
WOMAN. Yes, my gorgeous angel, sit down by the poor bodies' fire,
and eat a sweetmeat. We want to ask you a question or two; only
first put that serpent away.
MYSELF. I can sit down, and bid the serpent go to sleep, that's
easy enough; but as for eating a sweetmeat, how can I do that? I
have not got one, and where am I to get it?
WOMAN. Never fear, my tiny tawny, we can give you one, such as you
never ate, I daresay, however far you may have come from.
The serpent sank into its usual resting-place, and I sat down on
the stool. The woman opened a box, and took out a strange little
basket or hamper, not much larger than a man's fist, and formed of
a delicate kind of matting. It was sewed at the top; but, ripping
it open with a knife, she held it to me, and I saw, to my surprise,
that it contained candied fruits of a dark green hue, tempting
enough to one of my age. 'There, my tiny,' said she; 'taste, and
tell me how you like them.'
'Very much,' said I; 'where did you get them?'
The beldame leered upon me for a moment, then, nodding her head
thrice, with a knowing look, said, 'Who knows better than yourself,
my tawny?'
Now, I knew nothing about the matter; but I saw that these strange
people had conceived a very high opinion of the abilities of their
visitor, which I was nothing loth to encourage. I therefore
answered boldly, 'Ah! who indeed!'
'Certainly,' said the man; 'who should know better than yourself,
or so well? And now, my tiny one, let me ask you one thing - you
didn't come to do us any harm?'
'No,' said I, 'I had no dislike to you; though, if you were to
meddle with me - '
MAN. Of course, my gorgeous, of course you would; and quite right
too. Meddle with you! - what right have we? I should say, it
would not be quite safe. I see how it is; you are one of them
there; - and he bent his head towards his left shoulder.
MYSELF. Yes, I am one of them - for I thought he was alluding to
the soldiers, - you had best mind what you are about, I can tell
MAN. Don't doubt we will for our own sake; Lord bless you,
wifelkin, only think that we should see one of them there when we
least thought about it. Well, I have heard of such things, though
I never thought to see one; however, seeing is believing. Well!
now you are come, and are not going to do us any mischief, I hope
you will stay; you can do us plenty of good if you will.
MYSELF. What good could I do you?
MAN. What good? plenty! Would you not bring us luck? I have
heard say that one of them there always does, if it will but settle
down. Stay with us, you shall have a tilted cart all to yourself
if you like. We'll make you our little God Almighty, and say our
prayers to you every morning!
MYSELF. That would be nice; and, if you were to give me plenty of
these things, I should have no objection. But what would my father
say? I think he would hardly let me.
MAN. Why not? he would be with you; and kindly would we treat him.
Indeed, without your father you would be nothing at all.
MYSELF. That's true; but I do not think he could be spared from
his regiment. I have heard him say that they could do nothing
without him.
MAN. His regiment! What are you talking about? - what does the
child mean?
MYSELF. What do I mean! - why, that my father is an officer-man at
the barracks yonder, keeping guard over the French prisoners.
MAN. Oh! then that sap is not your father?
MYSELF. What, the snake? Why, no! Did you think he was?
MAN. To be sure we did. Didn't you tell me so?
MYSELF. Why, yes; but who would have thought you would have
believed it? It is a tame one. I hunt vipers, and tame them.
MAN. O-h!
'O-h!' grunted the woman, 'that's it, is it?'
The man and woman, who during this conversation had resumed their
former positions within the tent, looked at each other with a queer
look of surprise, as if somewhat disconcerted at what they now
heard. They then entered into discourse with each other in the
same strange tongue which had already puzzled me. At length the
man looked me in the face, and said, somewhat hesitatingly, 'So you
are not one of them there after all?'
MYSELF. One of them there? I don't know what you mean.
MAN. Why, we have been thinking you were a goblin - a devilkin!
However, I see how it is: you are a sap-engro, a chap who catches
snakes, and plays tricks with them! Well, it comes very nearly to
the same thing; and if you please to list with us, and bear us
pleasant company, we shall be glad of you. I'd take my oath upon
it, that we might make a mort of money by you and that sap, and the
tricks it could do; and, as you seem fly to everything, I shouldn't
wonder if you would make a prime hand at telling fortunes.
'I shouldn't wonder,' said I.
MAN. Of course. And you might still be our God Almighty, or at
any rate our clergyman, so you should live in a tilted cart by
yourself, and say prayers to us night and morning - to wifelkin
here, and all our family; there's plenty of us when we are all
together: as I said before, you seem fly, I shouldn't wonder if
you could read?
'Oh yes!' said I, 'I can read'; and, eager to display my
accomplishments, I took my book out of my pocket, and, opening it
at random, proceeded to read how a certain man, whilst wandering
about a certain solitary island, entered a cave, the mouth of which
was overgrown with brushwood, and how he was nearly frightened to
death in that cave by something which he saw.
'That will do,' said the man; 'that's the kind of prayers for me
and my family, aren't they, wifelkin? I never heard more delicate
prayers in all my life! Why, they beat the rubricals hollow! - and
here comes my son Jasper. I say, Jasper, here's a young sap-engro
that can read, and is more fly than yourself. Shake hands with
him; I wish ye to be two brothers.'
With a swift but stealthy pace Jasper came towards us from the
farther part of the lane; on reaching the tent he stood still, and
looked fixedly upon me as I sat upon the stool; I looked fixedly
upon him. A queer look had Jasper; he was a lad of some twelve or
thirteen years, with long arms, unlike the singular being who
called himself his father; his complexion was ruddy, but his face
was seamed, though it did not bear the peculiar scar which
disfigured the countenance of the other; nor, though roguish
enough, a certain evil expression which that of the other bore, and
which the face of the woman possessed in a yet more remarkable
degree. For the rest, he wore drab breeches, with certain strings
at the knee, a rather gay waistcoat, and tolerably white shirt;
under his arm he bore a mighty whip of whalebone with a brass knob,
and upon his head was a hat without either top or brim.
'There, Jasper! shake hands with the sap-engro.'
'Can he box, father?' said Jasper, surveying me rather
contemptuously. 'I should think not, he looks so puny and small.'
'Hold your peace, fool!' said the man; 'he can do more than that -
I tell you he's fly: he carries a sap about, which would sting a
ninny like you to dead.'
'What, a sap-engro!' said the boy, with a singular whine, and,
stooping down, he leered curiously in my face, kindly, however, and
then patted me on the head. 'A sap-engro,' he ejaculated; 'lor!'
'Yes, and one of the right sort,' said the man; 'I am glad we have
met with him, he is going to list with us, and be our clergyman and
God Almighty, ain't you, my tawny?'
'I don't know,' said I; 'I must see what my father will say.'
'Your father; bah!' - but here he stopped, for a sound was heard
like the rapid galloping of a horse, not loud and distinct as on a
road, but dull and heavy as if upon a grass sward; nearer and
nearer it came, and the man, starting up, rushed out of the tent,
and looked around anxiously. I arose from the stool upon which I
had been seated, and just at that moment, amidst a crashing of
boughs and sticks, a man on horseback bounded over the hedge into
the lane at a few yards' distance from where we were: from the
impetus of the leap the horse was nearly down on his knees; the
rider, however, by dint of vigorous handling of the reins,
prevented him from falling, and then rode up to the tent. ''Tis
Nat,' said the man; 'what brings him here?' The newcomer was a
stout burly fellow, about the middle age; he had a savage
determined look, and his face was nearly covered over with
carbuncles; he wore a broad slouching hat, and was dressed in a
gray coat, cut in a fashion which I afterwards learnt to be the
genuine Newmarket cut, the skirts being exceedingly short; his
waistcoat was of red plush, and he wore broad corduroy breeches and
white top-boots. The steed which carried him was of iron gray,
spirited and powerful, but covered with sweat and foam. The fellow
glanced fiercely and suspiciously around, and said something to the
man of the tent in a harsh and rapid voice. A short and hurried
conversation ensued in the strange tongue. I could not take my
eyes off this new-comer. Oh, that half-jockey, half-bruiser
countenance, I never forgot it! More than fifteen years afterwards
I found myself amidst a crowd before Newgate; a gallows was
erected, and beneath it stood a criminal, a notorious malefactor.
I recognised him at once; the horseman of the lane is now beneath
the fatal tree, but nothing altered; still the same man; jerking
his head to the right and left with the same fierce and under
glance, just as if the affairs of this world had the same kind of
interest to the last; gray coat of Newmarket cut, plush waistcoat,
corduroys, and boots, nothing altered; but the head, alas! is bare,
and so is the neck. Oh, crime and virtue, virtue and crime! - it
was old John Newton, I think, who, when he saw a man going to be
hanged, said, 'There goes John Newton, but for the grace of God!'
But the lane, the lane, all was now in confusion in the lane; the
man and woman were employed in striking the tents and in making
hurried preparations for departure; the boy Jasper was putting the
harness upon the ponies and attaching them to the carts; and, to
increase the singularity of the scene, two or three wild-looking
women and girls, in red cloaks and immense black beaver bonnets,
came from I know not what direction, and, after exchanging a few
words with the others, commenced with fierce and agitated gestures
to assist them in their occupation. The rider meanwhile sat upon
his horse, but evidently in a state of great impatience; he
muttered curses between his teeth, spurred the animal furiously,
and then reined it in, causing it to rear itself up nearly
perpendicular. At last he said, 'Curse ye for Romans, how slow ye
are! well, it is no business of mine, stay here all day if you
like; I have given ye warning, I am off to the big north road.
However, before I go, you had better give me all you have of that.'
'Truly spoken, Nat, my pal,' said the man; 'give it him, mother.
There it is; now be off as soon as you please, and rid us of evil
The woman had handed him two bags formed of stocking, half full of
something heavy, which looked through them for all the world like
money of some kind. The fellow, on receiving them, thrust them
without ceremony into the pockets of his coat, and then, without a
word of farewell salutation, departed at a tremendous rate, the
hoofs of his horse thundering for a long time on the hard soil of
the neighbouring road, till the sound finally died away in the
distance. The strange people were not slow in completing their
preparations, and then, flogging their animals terrifically,
hurried away seemingly in the same direction.
The boy Jasper was last of the band. As he was following the rest,
he stopped suddenly, and looked on the ground appearing to muse;
then, turning round, he came up to me where I was standing, leered
in my face, and then, thrusting out his hand, he said, 'Good-bye,
Sap, I daresay we shall meet again, remember we are brothers; two
gentle brothers.'
Then whining forth, 'What a sap-engro, lor!' he gave me a parting
leer, and hastened away.
I remained standing in the lane gazing after the retreating
company. 'A strange set of people,' said I at last; 'wonder who
they can be?'
Three years - Lilly's grammar - Proficiency - Ignorant of figures -
The school bell - Order of succession - Persecution - What are we
to do? - Northward - A goodly scene - Haunted ground - Feats of
chivalry - Rivers - Over the brig.
YEARS passed on, even three years; during this period I had
increased considerably in stature and in strength, and, let us
hope, improved in mind; for I had entered on the study of the Latin
language. The very first person to whose care I was intrusted for
the acquisition of Latin was an old friend of my fathers, a
clergyman who kept a seminary at a town the very next we visited
after our departure from 'the Cross.' Under his instruction,
however, I continued only a few weeks, as we speedily left the
place. 'Captain,' said this divine, when my father came to take
leave of him on the eve of our departure, 'I have a friendship for
you, and therefore wish to give you a piece of advice concerning
this son of yours. You are now removing him from my care; you do
wrong, but we will let that pass. Listen to me: there is but one
good school-book in the world - the one I use in my seminary -
Lilly's Latin grammar, in which your son has already made some
progress. If you are anxious for the success of your son in life,
for the correctness of his conduct and the soundness of his
principles, keep him to Lilly's grammar. If you can by any means,
either fair or foul, induce him to get by heart Lilly's Latin
grammar, you may set your heart at rest with respect to him; I,
myself, will be his warrant. I never yet knew a boy that was
induced, either by fair means or foul, to learn Lilly's Latin
grammar by heart, who did not turn out a man, provided he lived
long enough.'
My father, who did not understand the classical languages, received
with respect the advice of his old friend, and from that moment
conceived the highest opinion of Lilly's Latin grammar. During
three years I studied Lilly's Latin grammar under the tuition of
various schoolmasters, for I travelled with the regiment, and in
every town in which we were stationary I was invariably (God bless
my father!) sent to the classical academy of the place. It
chanced, by good fortune, that in the generality of these schools
the grammar of Lilly was in use; when, however, that was not the
case, it made no difference in my educational course, my father
always stipulating with the masters that I should be daily examined
in Lilly. At the end of the three years I had the whole by heart;
you had only to repeat the first two or three words of any sentence
in any part of the book, and forthwith I would open cry, commencing
without blundering and hesitation, and continue till you were glad
to beg me to leave off, with many expressions of admiration at my
proficiency in the Latin language. Sometimes, however, to convince
you how well I merited these encomiums, I would follow you to the
bottom of the stair, and even into the street, repeating in a kind
of sing-song measure the sonorous lines of the golden schoolmaster.
If I am here asked whether I understood anything of what I had got
by heart, I reply - 'Never mind, I understand it all now, and
believe that no one ever yet got Lilly's Latin grammar by heart
when young, who repented of the feat at a mature age.'
And, when my father saw that I had accomplished my task, he opened
his mouth, and said, 'Truly, this is more than I expected. I did
not think that there had been so much in you, either of application
or capacity; you have now learnt all that is necessary, if my
friend Dr. B-'s opinion was sterling, as I have no doubt it was.
You are still a child, however, and must yet go to school, in order
that you may be kept out of evil company. Perhaps you may still
contrive, now you have exhausted the barn, to pick up a grain or
two in the barn-yard. You are still ignorant of figures, I
believe, not that I would mention figures in the same day with
Lilly's grammar.'
These words were uttered in a place called -, in the north, or in
the road to the north, to which, for some time past, our corps had
been slowly advancing. I was sent to the school of the place,
which chanced to be a day school. It was a somewhat extraordinary
one, and a somewhat extraordinary event occurred to me within its
It occupied part of the farther end of a small plain, or square, at
the outskirts of the town, close to some extensive bleaching
fields. It was a long low building of one room, with no upper
story; on the top was a kind of wooden box, or sconce, which I at
first mistook for a pigeon-house, but which in reality contained a
bell, to which was attached a rope, which, passing through the
ceiling, hung dangling in the middle of the school-room. I am the
more particular in mentioning this appurtenance, as I had soon
occasion to scrape acquaintance with it in a manner not very
agreeable to my feelings. The master was very proud of his bell,
if I might judge from the fact of his eyes being frequently turned
to that part of the ceiling from which the rope depended. Twice
every day, namely, after the morning and evening tasks had been
gone through, were the boys rung out of school by the monotonous
jingle of this bell. This ringing out was rather a lengthy affair,
for, as the master was a man of order and method, the boys were
only permitted to go out of the room one by one; and as they were
rather numerous, amounting, at least, to one hundred, and were
taught to move at a pace of suitable decorum, at least a quarter of
an hour elapsed from the commencement of the march before the last
boy could make his exit. The office of bell-ringer was performed
by every boy successively; and it so happened that, the very first
day of my attendance at the school, the turn to ring the bell had,
by order of succession, arrived at the place which had been
allotted to me; for the master, as I have already observed, was a
man of method and order, and every boy had a particular seat, to
which he became a fixture as long as he continued at the school.
So, upon this day, when the tasks were done and completed, and the
boys sat with their hats and caps in their hands, anxiously
expecting the moment of dismissal, it was suddenly notified to me,
by the urchins who sat nearest to me, that I must get up and ring
the bell. Now, as this was the first time that I had been at the
school, I was totally unacquainted with the process, which I had
never seen, and, indeed, had never heard of till that moment. I
therefore sat still, not imagining it possible that any such duty
could be required of me. But now, with not a little confusion, I
perceived that the eyes of all the boys in the school were fixed
upon me. Presently there were nods and winks in the direction of
the bell-rope; and, as these produced no effect, uncouth visages
were made, like those of monkeys when enraged; teeth were gnashed,
tongues thrust out, and even fists were bent at me. The master,
who stood at the end of the room, with a huge ferule under his arm,
bent full upon me a look of stern appeal; and the ushers, of whom
there were four, glared upon me, each from his own particular
corner, as I vainly turned, in one direction and another, in search
of one reassuring look.
But now, probably in obedience to a sign from the master, the boys
in my immediate neighbourhood began to maltreat me. Some pinched me
with their fingers, some buffeted me, whilst others pricked me with
pins, or the points of compasses. These arguments were not without
effect. I sprang from my seat, and endeavoured to escape along a
double line of benches, thronged with boys of all ages, from the
urchin of six or seven to the nondescript of sixteen or seventeen.
It was like running the gauntlet; every one, great or small,
pinching, kicking, or otherwise maltreating me, as I passed by.
Goaded on in this manner, I at length reached the middle of the
room, where dangled the bell-rope, the cause of all my sufferings.
I should have passed it - for my confusion was so great that I was
quite at a loss to comprehend what all this could mean, and almost
believed myself under the influence of an ugly dream - but now the
boys, who were seated in advance in the row, arose with one accord,
and barred my farther progress; and one, doubtless more sensible
than the rest, seizing the rope, thrust it into my hand. I now
began to perceive that the dismissal of the school, and my own
release from torment, depended upon this selfsame rope. I
therefore, in a fit of desperation, pulled it once or twice, and
then left off, naturally supposing that I had done quite enough.
The boys who sat next the door no sooner heard the bell, than,
rising from their seats, they moved out at the door. The bell,
however, had no sooner ceased to jingle, than they stopped short,
and, turning round, stared at the master, as much as to say, 'What
are we to do now?' This was too much for the patience of the man
of method, which my previous stupidity had already nearly
exhausted. Dashing forward into the middle of the room, he struck
me violently on the shoulders with his ferule, and, snatching the
rope out of my hand, exclaimed, with a stentorian voice, and
genuine Yorkshire accent, 'Prodigy of ignorance! dost not even know
how to ring a bell? Must I myself instruct thee?' He then
commenced pulling at the bell with such violence that long before
half the school was dismissed the rope broke, and the rest of the
boys had to depart without their accustomed music.
But I must not linger here, though I could say much about the
school and the pedagogue highly amusing and diverting, which,
however, I suppress, in order to make way for matters of yet
greater interest. On we went, northward, northward! and, as we
advanced, I saw that the country was becoming widely different from
those parts of merry England in which we had previously travelled.
It was wilder, and less cultivated, and more broken with hills and
hillocks. The people, too, of these regions appeared to partake of
something of the character of their country. They were coarsely
dressed; tall and sturdy of frame; their voices were deep and
guttural; and the half of the dialect which they spoke was
unintelligible to my ears.
I often wondered where we could be going, for I was at this time
about as ignorant of geography as I was of most other things.
However, I held my peace, asked no questions, and patiently awaited
the issue.
Northward, northward, still! And it came to pass that, one
morning, I found myself extended on the bank of a river. It was a
beautiful morning of early spring; small white clouds were floating
in the heaven, occasionally veiling the countenance of the sun,
whose light, as they retired, would again burst forth, coursing
like a race-horse over the scene - and a goodly scene it was!
Before me, across the water, on an eminence, stood a white old
city, surrounded with lofty walls, above which rose the tops of
tall houses, with here and there a church or steeple. To my right
hand was a long and massive bridge, with many arches, and of
antique architecture, which traversed the river. The river was a
noble one; the broadest that I had hitherto seen. Its waters, of a
greenish tinge, poured with impetuosity beneath the narrow arches
to meet the sea, close at hand, as the boom of the billows breaking
distinctly upon a beach declared. There were songs upon the river
from the fisher-barks; and occasionally a chorus, plaintive and
wild, such as I had never heard before, the words of which I did
not understand, but which, at the present time, down the long
avenue of years, seem in memory's ear to sound like 'Horam, coram,
dago.' Several robust fellows were near me, some knee-deep in
water, employed in hauling the seine upon the strand. Huge fish
were struggling amidst the meshes - princely salmon, - their
brilliant mail of blue and silver flashing in the morning beam; so
goodly and gay a scene, in truth, had never greeted my boyish eye.
And, as I gazed upon the prospect, my bosom began to heave, and my
tears to trickle. Was it the beauty of the scene which gave rise
to these emotions? Possibly; for though a poor ignorant child - a
half-wild creature - I was not insensible to the loveliness of
nature, and took pleasure in the happiness and handiworks of my
fellow-creatures. Yet, perhaps, in something more deep and
mysterious the feelings which then pervaded me might originate.
Who can lie down on Elvir Hill without experiencing something of
the sorcery of the place? Flee from Elvir Hill, young swain, or
the maids of Elle will have power over you, and you will go elfwild!
- so say the Danes. I had unconsciously laid myself down
upon haunted ground; and I am willing to imagine that what I then
experienced was rather connected with the world of spirits and
dreams than with what I actually saw and heard around me. Surely
the elves and genii of the place were conversing, by some
inscrutable means, with the principle of intelligence lurking
within the poor uncultivated clod! Perhaps to that ethereal
principle the wonders of the past, as connected with that stream,
the glories of the present, and even the history of the future,
were at that moment being revealed! Of how many feats of chivalry
had those old walls been witness, when hostile kings contended for
their possession! - how many an army from the south and from the
north had trod that old bridge! - what red and noble blood had
crimsoned those rushing waters!-what strains had been sung, ay,
were yet being sung, on its banks! - some soft as Doric reed; some
fierce and sharp as those of Norwegian Skaldaglam; some as replete
with wild and wizard force as Finland's runes, singing of
Kalevala's moors, and the deeds of Woinomoinen! Honour to thee,
thou island stream! Onward may thou ever roll, fresh and green,
rejoicing in thy bright past, thy glorious present, and in vivid
hope of a triumphant future! Flow on, beautiful one! - which of
the world's streams canst thou envy, with thy beauty and renown?
Stately is the Danube, rolling in its might through lands romantic
with the wild exploits of Turk, Polak, and Magyar! Lovely is the
Rhine! on its shelvy banks grows the racy grape; and strange old
keeps of robber-knights of yore are reflected in its waters, from
picturesque crags and airy headlands! - yet neither the stately
Danube nor the beauteous Rhine, with all their fame, though
abundant, needst thou envy, thou pure island stream! - and far less
yon turbid river of old, not modern renown, gurgling beneath the
walls of what was once proud Rome, towering Rome, Jupiter's town,
but now vile Rome, crumbling Rome, Batuscha's town, far less needst
thou envy the turbid Tiber of bygone fame, creeping sadly to the
sea, surcharged with the abominations of modern Rome - how unlike
to thee, thou pure island stream!
And, as I lay on the bank and wept, there drew nigh to me a man in
the habiliments of a fisher. He was bare-legged, of a weatherbeaten
countenance, and of stature approaching to the gigantic.
'What is the callant greeting for?' said he, as he stopped and
surveyed me. 'Has onybody wrought ye ony harm?'
'Not that I know of,' I replied, rather guessing at than
understanding his question; 'I was crying because I could not help
it! I say, old one, what is the name of this river?'
'Hout! I now see what you was greeting at - at your ain ignorance,
nae doubt - 'tis very great! Weel, I will na fash you with
reproaches, but even enlighten ye, since you seem a decent man's
bairn, and you speir a civil question. Yon river is called the
Tweed; and yonder, over the brig, is Scotland. Did ye never hear
of the Tweed, my bonny man?'
'No,' said I, as I rose from the grass, and proceeded to cross the
bridge to the town at which we had arrived the preceding night; 'I
never heard of it; but now I have seen it, I shall not soon forget
The Castle - A father's inquiries - Scotch language - A
determination - Bui hin Digri - Good Scotchman - Difference of
races - Ne'er a haggis - Pugnacious people - Wha are ye, man? - The
Nor Loch - Gestures wild - The bicker - New Town champion - Wildlooking
figure - Headlong.
IT was not long before we found ourselves at Edinburgh, or rather
in the Castle, into which the regiment marched with drums beating,
colours flying, and a long train of baggage-waggons behind. The
Castle was, as I suppose it is now, a garrison for soldiers. Two
other regiments were already there; the one an Irish, if I remember
right, the other a small Highland corps.
It is hardly necessary to say much about this Castle, which
everybody has seen; on which account, doubtless, nobody has ever
yet thought fit to describe it - at least that I am aware. Be this
as it may, I have no intention of describing it, and shall content
myself with observing that we took up our abode in that immense
building, or caserne, of modern erection, which occupies the entire
eastern side of the bold rock on which the Castle stands. A
gallant caserne it was - the best and roomiest that I had hitherto
seen - rather cold and windy, it is true, especially in the winter,
but commanding a noble prospect of a range of distant hills, which
I was told were 'the hieland hills,' and of a broad arm of the sea,
which I heard somebody say was the Firth of Forth.
My brother, who, for some years past, had been receiving his
education in a certain celebrated school in England, was now with
us; and it came to pass, that one day my father, as he sat at
table, looked steadfastly on my brother and myself, and then
addressed my mother: - 'During my journey down hither, I have lost
no opportunity of making inquiries about these people, the Scotch,
amongst whom we now are, and since I have been here I have observed
them attentively. From what I have heard and seen, I should say
that upon the whole they are a very decent set of people; they seem
acute and intelligent, and I am told that their system of education
is so excellent that every person is learned - more or less
acquainted with Greek and Latin. There is one thing, however,
connected with them, which is a great drawback - the horrid jargon
which they speak. However learned they may be in Greek and Latin,
their English is execrable; and yet I'm told it is not so bad as it
was. I was in company, the other day, with an Englishman who has
resided here many years. We were talking about the country and the
people. "I should like both very well," said I, "were it not for
the language. I wish sincerely our Parliament, which is passing so
many foolish acts every year, would pass one to force these Scotch
to speak English." "I wish so, too," said he. "The language is a
disgrace to the British Government; but, if you had heard it twenty
years ago, captain! - if you had heard it as it was spoken when I
first came to Edinburgh!"'
'Only custom,' said my mother. 'I daresay the language is now what
it was then.'
'I don't know,' said my father; 'though I daresay you are right; it
could never have been worse than it is at present. But now to the
point. Were it not for the language, which, if the boys were to
pick it up, might ruin their prospects in life, - were it not for
that, I should very much like to send them to a school there is in
this place, which everybody talks about - the High School I think
they call it. 'Tis said to be the best school in the whole island;
but the idea of one's children speaking Scotch - broad Scotch! I
must think the matter over.'
And he did think the matter over; and the result of his
deliberation was a determination to send us to the school. Let me
call thee up before my mind's eye, High School, to which, every
morning, the two English brothers took their way from the proud old
Castle through the lofty streets of the Old Town. High School! -
called so, I scarcely know why; neither lofty in thyself nor by
position, being situated in a flat bottom; oblong structure of
tawny stone, with many windows fenced with iron netting - with thy
long hall below, and thy five chambers above, for the reception of
the five classes, into which the eight hundred urchins who styled
thee instructress were divided. Thy learned rector and his four
subordinate dominies; thy strange old porter of the tall form and
grizzled hair, hight Boee, and doubtless of Norse ancestry, as his
name declares; perhaps of the blood of Bui hin Digri, the hero of
northern song - the Jomsborg Viking who clove Thorsteinn Midlangr
asunder in the dread sea battle of Horunga Vog, and who, when the
fight was lost and his own two hands smitten off, seized two chests
of gold with his bloody stumps, and, springing with them into the
sea, cried to the scanty relics of his crew, 'Overboard now, all
Bui's lads!' Yes, I remember all about thee, and how at eight of
every morn we were all gathered together with one accord in the
long hall, from which, after the litanies had been read (for so I
will call them, being an Episcopalian), the five classes from the
five sets of benches trotted off in long files, one boy after the
other, up the five spiral staircases of stone, each class to its
destination; and well do I remember how we of the third sat hushed
and still, watched by the eye of the dux, until the door opened,
and in walked that model of a good Scotchman, the shrewd,
intelligent, but warm-hearted and kind dominie, the respectable
And in this school I began to construe the Latin language, which I
had never done before, notwithstanding my long and diligent study
of Lilly, which illustrious grammar was not used at Edinburgh, nor
indeed known. Greek was only taught in the fifth or highest class,
in which my brother was; as for myself, I never got beyond the
third during the two years that I remained at this seminary. I
certainly acquired here a considerable insight in the Latin tongue;
and, to the scandal of my father and horror of my mother, a
thorough proficiency in the Scotch, which, in less than two months,
usurped the place of the English, and so obstinately maintained its
ground, that I still can occasionally detect its lingering remains.
I did not spend my time unpleasantly at this school, though, first
of all, I had to pass through an ordeal.
'Scotland is a better country than England,' said an ugly, bleareyed
lad, about a head and shoulders taller than myself, the leader
of a gang of varlets who surrounded me in the playground, on the
first day, as soon as the morning lesson was over. 'Scotland is a
far better country than England, in every respect.'
'Is it?' said I. 'Then you ought to be very thankful for not
having been born in England.'
'That's just what I am, ye loon; and every morning, when I say my
prayers, I thank God for not being an Englishman. The Scotch are a
much better and braver people than the English.'
'It may be so,' said I, 'for what I know - indeed, till I came
here, I never heard a word either about the Scotch or their
'Are ye making fun of us, ye English puppy?' said the blear-eyed
lad; 'take that!' and I was presently beaten black and blue. And
thus did I first become aware of the difference of races and their
antipathy to each other.
'Bow to the storm, and it shall pass over you.' I held my peace,
and silently submitted to the superiority of the Scotch - IN
NUMBERS. This was enough; from an object of persecution I soon
became one of patronage, especially amongst the champions of the
class. 'The English,' said the blear-eyed lad, 'though a wee bit
behind the Scotch in strength and fortitude, are nae to be sneezed
at, being far ahead of the Irish, to say nothing of the French, a
pack of cowardly scoundrels. And with regard to the English
country, it is na Scotland, it is true, but it has its gude
properties; and, though there is ne'er a haggis in a' the land,
there's an unco deal o' gowd and siller. I respect England, for I
have an auntie married there.'
The Scotch are certainly a most pugnacious people; their whole
history proves it. Witness their incessant wars with the English
in the olden time, and their internal feuds, highland and lowland,
clan with clan, family with family, Saxon with Gael. In my time,
the schoolboys, for want, perhaps, of English urchins to contend
with, were continually fighting with each other; every noon there
was at least one pugilistic encounter, and sometimes three. In one
month I witnessed more of these encounters than I had ever
previously seen under similar circumstances in England. After all,
there was not much harm done. Harm! what harm could result from
short chopping blows, a hug, and a tumble? I was witness to many a
sounding whack, some blood shed, 'a blue ee' now and then, but
nothing more. In England, on the contrary, where the lads were
comparatively mild, gentle, and pacific, I had been present at more
than one death caused by blows in boyish combats, in which the
oldest of the victors had scarcely reached thirteen years; but
these blows were in the jugular, given with the full force of the
arm shot out horizontally from the shoulder.
But the Scotch - though by no means proficients in boxing (and how
should they box, seeing that they have never had a teacher?) - are,
I repeat, a most pugnacious people; at least they were in my time.
Anything served them, that is, the urchins, as a pretence for a
fray, or, Dorically speaking, a BICKER; every street and close was
at feud with its neighbour; the lads of the school were at feud
with the young men of the college, whom they pelted in winter with
snow, and in summer with stones; and then the feud between the old
and new town!
One day I was standing on the ramparts of the Castle on the southwestern
side which overhangs the green brae, where it slopes down
into what was in those days the green swamp or morass, called by
the natives of Auld Reekie the Nor Loch; it was a dark gloomy day,
and a thin veil of mist was beginning to settle down upon the brae
and the morass. I could perceive, however, that there was a
skirmish taking place in the latter spot. I had an indistinct view
of two parties - apparently of urchins - and I heard whoops and
shrill cries: eager to know the cause of this disturbance, I left
the Castle, and descending the brae reached the borders of the
morass, where were a runnel of water and the remains of an old
wall, on the other side of which a narrow path led across the
swamp: upon this path at a little distance before me there was 'a
bicker.' I pushed forward, but had scarcely crossed the ruined
wall and runnel, when the party nearest to me gave way, and in
great confusion came running in my direction. As they drew nigh,
one of them shouted to me, 'Wha are ye, man? are ye o' the Auld
Toon?' I made no answer. 'Ha! ye are o' the New Toon; De'il tak
ye, we'll moorder ye'; and the next moment a huge stone sung past
my head. 'Let me be, ye fule bodies,' said I, 'I'm no of either of
ye, I live yonder aboon in the Castle.' 'Ah! ye live in the
Castle; then ye're an auld tooner; come gie us your help, man, and
dinna stand there staring like a dunnot, we want help sair eneugh.
Here are stanes.'
For my own part I wished for nothing better, and, rushing forward,
I placed myself at the head of my new associates, and commenced
flinging stones fast and desperately. The other party now gave way
in their turn, closely followed by ourselves; I was in the van, and
about to stretch out my hand to seize the hindermost boy of the
enemy, when, not being acquainted with the miry and difficult paths
of the Nor Loch, and in my eagerness taking no heed of my footing,
I plunged into a quagmire, into which I sank as far as my
shoulders. Our adversaries no sooner perceived this disaster,
than, setting up a shout, they wheeled round and attacked us most
vehemently. Had my comrades now deserted me, my life had not been
worth a straw's purchase, I should either have been smothered in
the quag, or, what is more probable, had my brains beaten out with
stones; but they behaved like true Scots, and fought stoutly around
their comrade, until I was extricated, whereupon both parties
retired, the night being near at hand.
'Ye are na a bad hand at flinging stanes,' said the lad who first
addressed me, as we now returned up the brae; 'your aim is right
dangerous, mon, I saw how ye skelpit them, ye maun help us agin
thae New Toon blackguards at our next bicker.'
So to the next bicker I went, and to many more, which speedily
followed as the summer advanced; the party to which I had given my
help on the first occasion consisted merely of outlyers, posted
about half-way up the hill, for the purpose of overlooking the
movements of the enemy.
Did the latter draw nigh in any considerable force, messengers were
forthwith despatched to the 'Auld Toon,' especially to the filthy
alleys and closes of the High Street, which forthwith would
disgorge swarms of bare-headed and bare-footed 'callants,' who,
with gestures wild and 'eldrich screech and hollo,' might
frequently be seen pouring down the sides of the hill. I have seen
upwards of a thousand engaged on either side in these frays, which
I have no doubt were full as desperate as the fights described in
the ILIAD, and which were certainly much more bloody than the
combats of modern Greece in the war of independence: the callants
not only employed their hands in hurling stones, but not
unfrequently slings; at the use of which they were very expert, and
which occasionally dislodged teeth, shattered jaws, or knocked out
an eye. Our opponents certainly laboured under considerable
disadvantage, being compelled not only to wade across a deceitful
bog, but likewise to clamber up part of a steep hill, before they
could attack us; nevertheless, their determination was such, and
such their impetuosity, that we had sometimes difficulty enough to
maintain our own. I shall never forget one bicker, the last indeed
which occurred at that time, as the authorities of the town,
alarmed by the desperation of its character, stationed forthwith a
body of police on the hill-side, to prevent, in future, any such
breaches of the peace.
It was a beautiful Sunday evening, the rays of the descending sun
were reflected redly from the gray walls of the Castle, and from
the black rocks on which it was founded. The bicker had long since
commenced, stones from sling and hand were flying; but the callants
of the New Town were now carrying everything before them.
A full-grown baker's apprentice was at their head; he was foaming
with rage, and had taken the field, as I was told, in order to
avenge his brother, whose eye had been knocked out in one of the
late bickers. He was no slinger or flinger, but brandished in his
right hand the spoke of a cart-wheel, like my countryman Tom
Hickathrift of old in his encounter with the giant of the
Lincolnshire fen. Protected by a piece of wicker-work attached to
his left arm, he rushed on to the fray, disregarding the stones
which were showered against him, and was ably seconded by his
followers. Our own party was chased half-way up the hill, where I
was struck to the ground by the baker, after having been foiled in
an attempt which I had made to fling a handful of earth into his
eyes. All now appeared lost, the Auld Toon was in full retreat. I
myself lay at the baker's feet, who had just raised his spoke,
probably to give me the COUP DE GRACE, - it was an awful moment.
Just then I heard a shout and a rushing sound; a wild-looking
figure is descending the hill with terrible bounds; it is a lad of
some fifteen years; he is bare-headed, and his red uncombed hair
stands on end like hedgehogs' bristles: his frame is lithy, like
that of an antelope, but he has prodigious breadth of chest; he
wears a military undress, that of the regiment, even of a drummer,
for it is wild Davy, whom a month before I had seen enlisted on
Leith Links to serve King George with drum and drumstick as long as
his services might be required, and who, ere a week had elapsed,
had smitten with his fist Drum-Major Elzigood, who, incensed at his
inaptitude, had threatened him with his cane; he has been in
confinement for weeks, this is the first day of his liberation, and
he is now descending the hill with horrid bounds and shoutings; he
is now about five yards distant, and the baker, who apprehends that
something dangerous is at hand, prepares himself for the encounter;
but what avails the strength of a baker, even full grown? - what
avails the defence of a wicker shield? - what avails the wheelspoke,
should there be an opportunity of using it, against the
impetus of an avalanche or a cannon-ball? - for to either of these
might that wild figure be compared, which, at the distance of five
yards, sprang at once with head, hands, feet and body, all
together, upon the champion of the New Town, tumbling him to the
earth amain. And now it was the turn of the Old Town to triumph.
Our late discomfited host, returning on its steps, overwhelmed the
fallen champion with blows of every kind, and then, led on by his
vanquisher, who had assumed his arms, namely, the wheel-spoke and
wicker shield, fairly cleared the brae of their adversaries, whom
they drove down headlong into the morass.
Expert climbers - The crags - Something red - The horrible edge -
David Haggart - Fine materials - The greatest victory -
Extraordinary robber - The ruling passion.
MEANWHILE I had become a daring cragsman, a character to which an
English lad has seldom opportunities of aspiring; for in England
there are neither crags nor mountains. Of these, however, as is
well known, there is no lack in Scotland, and the habits of
individuals are invariably in harmony with the country in which
they dwell. The Scotch are expert climbers, and I was now a Scot
in most things, particularly in language. The Castle in which I
dwelt stood upon a rock, a bold and craggy one, which, at first
sight, would seem to bid defiance to any feet save those of goats
and chamois; but patience and perseverance generally enable mankind
to overcome things which, at first sight, appear impossible.
Indeed, what is there above man's exertions? Unwearied
determination will enable him to run with the horse, to swim with
the fish, and assuredly to compete with the chamois and the goat in
agility and sureness of foot. To scale the rock was merely child's
play for the Edinbro' callants. It was my own favourite diversion.
I soon found that the rock contained all manner of strange crypts,
crannies, and recesses, where owls nestled, and the weasel brought
forth her young; here and there were small natural platforms,
overgrown with long grass and various kinds of plants, where the
climber, if so disposed, could stretch himself, and either give his
eyes to sleep or his mind to thought; for capital places were these
same platforms either for repose or meditation. The boldest
features of the rock are descried on the northern side, where,
after shelving down gently from the wall for some distance, it
terminates abruptly in a precipice, black and horrible, of some
three hundred feet at least, as if the axe of nature had been here
employed cutting sheer down, and leaving behind neither excrescence
nor spur - a dizzy precipice it is, assimilating much to those so
frequent in the flinty hills of Northern Africa, and exhibiting
some distant resemblance to that of Gibraltar, towering in its
horridness above the Neutral Ground.
It was now holiday time, and having nothing particular wherewith to
occupy myself, I not unfrequently passed the greater part of the
day upon the rocks. Once, after scaling the western crags, and
creeping round a sharp angle of the wall, overhung by a kind of
watch-tower, I found myself on the northern side. Still keeping
close to the wall, I was proceeding onward, for I was bent upon a
long excursion which should embrace half the circuit of the Castle,
when suddenly my eye was attracted by the appearance of something
red, far below me; I stopped short, and, looking fixedly upon it,
perceived that it was a human being in a kind of red jacket, seated
on the extreme verge of the precipice which I have already made a
faint attempt to describe. Wondering who it could be, I shouted;
but it took not the slightest notice, remaining as immovable as the
rock on which it sat. 'I should never have thought of going near
that edge,' said I to myself; 'however, as you have done it, why
should not I? And I should like to know who you are.' So I
commenced the descent of the rock, but with great care, for I had
as yet never been in a situation so dangerous; a slight moisture
exuded from the palms of my hands, my nerves were tingling, and my
brain was somewhat dizzy - and now I had arrived within a few yards
of the figure, and had recognised it: it was the wild drummer who
had turned the tide of battle in the bicker on the Castle Brae. A
small stone which I dislodged now rolled down the rock, and tumbled
into the abyss close beside him. He turned his head, and after
looking at me for a moment somewhat vacantly, he resumed his former
attitude. I drew yet nearer to the horrible edge not close,
however, for fear was on me.
'What are you thinking of, David?' said I, as I sat behind him and
trembled, for I repeat that I was afraid.
DAVID HAGGART. I was thinking of Willie Wallace.
MYSELF. You had better be thinking of yourself, man. A strange
place this to come to and think of William Wallace.
DAVID HAGGART. Why so? Is not his tower just beneath our feet?
MYSELF. You mean the auld ruin by the side of the Nor Loch - the
ugly stane bulk, from the foot of which flows the spring into the
dyke where the watercresses grow?
DAVID HAGGART. Just sae, Geordie.
MYSELF. And why were ye thinking of him? The English hanged him
long since, as I have heard say.
DAVID HAGGART. I was thinking that I should wish to be like him.
MYSELF. Do ye mean that ye would wish to be hanged?
DAVID HAGGART. I wadna flinch from that, Geordie, if I might be a
great man first.
MYSELF. And wha kens, Davie, how great you may be, even without
hanging? Are ye not in the high road of preferment? Are ye not a
bauld drummer already? Wha kens how high ye may rise? perhaps to
be general, or drum-major.
DAVID HAGGART. I hae nae wish to be drum-major; it were nae great
things to be like the doited carle, Else-than-gude, as they call
him; and, troth, he has nae his name for naething. But I should
have nae objection to be a general, and to fight the French and
Americans, and win myself a name and a fame like Willie Wallace,
and do brave deeds, such as I have been reading about in his story
MYSELF. Ye are a fule, Davie; the story book is full of lies.
Wallace, indeed! the wuddie rebel! I have heard my father say that
the Duke of Cumberland was worth twenty of Willie Wallace.
DAVID HAGGART. Ye had better sae naething agin Willie Wallace,
Geordie, for, if ye do, De'il hae me, if I dinna tumble ye doon the
Fine materials in that lad for a hero, you will say. Yes, indeed,
for a hero, or for what he afterwards became. In other times, and
under other circumstances, he might have made what is generally
termed a great man, a patriot, or a conqueror. As it was, the very
qualities which might then have pushed him on to fortune and renown
were the cause of his ruin. The war over, he fell into evil
courses; for his wild heart and ambitious spirit could not brook
the sober and quiet pursuits of honest industry.
'Can an Arabian steed submit to be a vile drudge?' I cries the
fatalist. Nonsense! A man is not an irrational creature, but a
reasoning being, and has something within him beyond mere brutal
instinct. The greatest victory which a man can achieve is over
himself, by which is meant those unruly passions which are not
convenient to the time and place. David did not do this; he gave
the reins to his wild heart, instead of curbing it, and became a
robber, and, alas! alas! he shed blood - under peculiar
circumstances, it is true, and without MALICE PREPENSE - and for
that blood he eventually died, and justly; for it was that of the
warden of a prison from which he was escaping, and whom he slew
with one blow of his stalwart arm.
Tamerlane and Haggart! Haggart and Tamerlane! Both these men were
robbers, and of low birth, yet one perished on an ignoble scaffold,
and the other died emperor of the world. Is this justice? The
ends of the two men were widely dissimilar - yet what is the
intrinsic difference between them? Very great indeed; the one
acted according to his lights and his country, not so the other.
Tamerlane was a heathen, and acted according to his lights; he was
a robber where all around were robbers, but he became the avenger
of God - God's scourge on unjust kings, on the cruel Bajazet, who
had plucked out his own brothers' eyes; he became to a certain
extent the purifier of the East, its regenerator; his equal never
was before, nor has it since been seen. Here the wild heart was
profitably employed, the wild strength, the teeming brain. Onward,
Lame one! Onward, Tamur - lank! Haggart . . . .
But peace to thee, poor David! why should a mortal worm be sitting
in judgment over thee? The Mighty and Just One has already judged
thee, and perhaps above thou hast received pardon for thy crimes,
which could not be pardoned here below; and now that thy feverish
existence has closed, and thy once active form become inanimate
dust, thy very memory all but forgotten, I will say a few words
about thee, a few words soon also to be forgotten. Thou wast the
most extraordinary robber that ever lived within the belt of
Britain; Scotland rang with thy exploits, and England, too, north
of the Humber; strange deeds also didst thou achieve when, fleeing
from justice, thou didst find thyself in the Sister Isle; busy wast
thou there in town and on curragh, at fair and race-course, and
also in the solitary place. Ireland thought thee her child, for
who spoke her brogue better than thyself? - she felt proud of thee,
and said, 'Sure, O'Hanlon is come again.' What might not have been
thy fate in the far west in America, whither thou hadst turned
thine eye, saying, 'I will go there, and become an honest man!'
But thou wast not to go there, David - the blood which thou hadst
shed in Scotland was to be required of thee; the avenger was at
hand, the avenger of blood. Seized, manacled, brought back to thy
native land, condemned to die, thou wast left in thy narrow cell,
and told to make the most of thy time, for it was short: and
there, in thy narrow cell, and thy time so short, thou didst put
the crowning stone to thy strange deeds, by that strange history of
thyself, penned by thy own hand in the robber tongue. Thou
mightest have been better employed, David! - but the ruling passion
was strong with thee, even in the jaws of death. Thou mightest
have been better employed! - but peace be with thee, I repeat, and
the Almighty's grace and pardon.
Napoleon - The storm - The cove - Up the country - The trembling
hand - Irish - Tough battle - Tipperary hills - Elegant lodgings -
A speech - Fair specimen - Orangemen.
ONWARD, onward! and after we had sojourned in Scotland nearly two
years, the long continental war had been brought to an end,
Napoleon was humbled for a time, and the Bourbons restored to a
land which could well have dispensed with them; we returned to
England, where the corps was disbanded, and my parents with their
family retired to private life. I shall pass over in silence the
events of a year, which offer little of interest as far as
connected with me and mine. Suddenly, however, the sound of war
was heard again, Napoleon had broken forth from Elba, and
everything was in confusion. Vast military preparations were again
made, our own corps was levied anew, and my brother became an
officer in it; but the danger was soon over, Napoleon was once more
quelled, and chained for ever, like Prometheus, to his rock. As
the corps, however, though so recently levied, had already become a
very fine one, thanks to my father's energetic drilling, the
Government very properly determined to turn it to some account,
and, as disturbances were apprehended in Ireland about this period,
it occurred to them that they could do no better than despatch it
to that country.
In the autumn of the year 1815 we set sail from a port in Essex; we
were some eight hundred strong, and were embarked in two ships,
very large, but old and crazy; a storm overtook us when off Beachy
Head, in which we had nearly foundered. I was awakened early in
the morning by the howling of the wind and the uproar on deck. I
kept myself close, however, as is still my constant practice on
similar occasions, and waited the result with that apathy and
indifference which violent sea-sickness is sure to produce. We
shipped several seas, and once the vessel missing stays - which, to
do it justice, it generally did at every third or fourth tack - we
escaped almost by a miracle from being dashed upon the foreland.
On the eighth day of our voyage we were in sight of Ireland. The
weather was now calm and serene, the sun shone brightly on the sea
and on certain green hills in the distance, on which I descried
what at first sight I believed to be two ladies gathering flowers,
which, however, on our nearer approach, proved to be two tall white
towers, doubtless built for some purpose or other, though I did not
learn for what.
We entered a kind of bay, or cove, by a narrow inlet; it was a
beautiful and romantic place this cove, very spacious, and, being
nearly land-locked, was sheltered from every wind. A small island,
every inch of which was covered with fortifications, appeared to
swim upon the waters, whose dark blue denoted their immense depth;
tall green hills, which ascended gradually from the shore, formed
the background to the west; they were carpeted to the top with turf
of the most vivid green, and studded here and there with woods,
seemingly of oak; there was a strange old castle half-way up the
ascent, a village on a crag - but the mists of morning were half
veiling the scene when I surveyed it, and the mists of time are now
hanging densely between it and my no longer youthful eye; I may not
describe it; - nor will I try.
Leaving the ship in the cove, we passed up a wide river in boats
till we came to a city, where we disembarked. It was a large city,
as large as Edinburgh to my eyes; there were plenty of fine houses,
but little neatness; the streets were full of impurities; handsome
equipages rolled along, but the greater part of the population were
in rags; beggars abounded; there was no lack of merriment, however;
boisterous shouts of laughter were heard on every side. It
appeared a city of contradictions. After a few days' rest we
marched from this place in two divisions. My father commanded the
second, I walked by his side.
Our route lay up the country; the country at first offered no very
remarkable feature, it was pretty, but tame. On the second day,
however, its appearance had altered, it had become more wild; a
range of distant mountains bounded the horizon. We passed through
several villages, as I suppose I may term them, of low huts, the
walls formed of rough stones without mortar, the roof of flags laid
over wattles and wicker-work; they seemed to be inhabited solely by
women and children; the latter were naked, the former, in general,
blear-eyed beldames, who sat beside the doors on low stools,
spinning. We saw, however, both men and women working at a
distance in the fields.
I was thirsty; and going up to an ancient crone, employed in the
manner which I have described, I asked her for water; she looked me
in the face, appeared to consider a moment, then tottering into her
hut, presently reappeared with a small pipkin of milk, which she
offered to me with a trembling hand. I drank the milk; it was
sour, but I found it highly refreshing. I then took out a penny
and offered it to her, whereupon she shook her head, smiled, and,
patting my face with her skinny hand, murmured some words in a
tongue which I had never heard before.
I walked on by my father's side, holding the stirrup-leather of his
horse; presently several low uncouth cars passed by, drawn by
starved cattle: the drivers were tall fellows, with dark features
and athletic frames - they wore long loose blue cloaks with
sleeves, which last, however, dangled unoccupied: these cloaks
appeared in tolerably good condition, not so their under garments.
On their heads were broad slouching hats: the generality of them
were bare-footed. As they passed, the soldiers jested with them in
the patois of East Anglia, whereupon the fellows laughed, and
appeared to jest with the soldiers; but what they said who knows,
it being in a rough guttural language, strange and wild. The
soldiers stared at each other, and were silent.
'A strange language that!' said a young officer to my father, 'I
don't understand a word of it; what can it be?'
'Irish!' said my father, with a loud voice, 'and a bad language it
is, I have known it of old, that is, I have often heard it spoken
when I was a guardsman in London. There's one part of London where
all the Irish live - at least all the worst of them - and there
they hatch their villainies and speak this tongue; it is that which
keeps them together and makes them dangerous: I was once sent
there to seize a couple of deserters - Irish - who had taken refuge
amongst their companions; we found them in what was in my time
called a ken, that is a house where only thieves and desperadoes
are to be found. Knowing on what kind of business I was bound, I
had taken with me a sergeant's party; it was well I did so. We
found the deserters in a large room, with at least thirty ruffians,
horrid-looking fellows, seated about a long table, drinking,
swearing, and talking Irish. Ah! we had a tough battle, I
remember; the two fellows did nothing, but sat still, thinking it
best to be quiet; but the rest, with an ubbubboo like the blowing
up of a powder-magazine, sprang up, brandishing their sticks; for
these fellows always carry sticks with them even to bed, and not
unfrequently spring up in their sleep, striking left and right.'
'And did you take the deserters?' said the officer.
'Yes,' said my father; 'for we formed at the end of the room, and
charged with fixed bayonets, which compelled the others to yield
notwithstanding their numbers; but the worst was when we got out
into the street; the whole district had become alarmed, and
hundreds came pouring down upon us - men, women, and children.
Women, did I say! - they looked fiends, half naked, with their hair
hanging down over their bosoms; they tore up the very pavement to
hurl at us, sticks rang about our ears, stones, and Irish - I liked
the Irish worst of all, it sounded so horrid, especially as I did
not understand it. It's a bad language.'
'A queer tongue,' said I; 'I wonder if I could learn it.'
'Learn it!' said my father; 'what should you learn it for? -
however, I am not afraid of that. It is not like Scotch, no person
can learn it, save those who are born to it, and even in Ireland
the respectable people do not speak it, only the wilder sort, like
those we have passed.'
Within a day or two we had reached a tall range of mountains
running north and south, which I was told were those of Tipperary;
along the skirts of these we proceeded till we came to a town, the
principal one of these regions. It was on the bank of a beautiful
river, which separated it from the mountains. It was rather an
ancient place, and might contain some ten thousand inhabitants - I
found that it was our destination; there were extensive barracks at
the farther end, in which the corps took up its quarters; with
respect to ourselves, we took lodgings in a house which stood in
the principal street.
'You never saw more elegant lodgings than these, captain,' said the
master of the house, a tall, handsome, and athletic man, who came
up whilst our little family were seated at dinner late in the
afternoon of the day of our arrival; 'they beat anything in this
town of Clonmel. I do not let them for the sake of interest, and
to none but gentlemen in the army, in order that myself and my
wife, who is from Londonderry, may have the advantage of pleasant
company, genteel company; ay, and Protestant company, captain. It
did my heart good when I saw your honour ride in at the head of all
those fine fellows, real Protestants, I'll engage, not a Papist
among them, they are too good-looking and honest-looking for that.
So I no sooner saw your honour at the head of your army, with that
handsome young gentleman holding by your stirrup, than I said to my
wife, Mistress Hyne, who is from Londonderry, "God bless me," said
I, "what a truly Protestant countenance, what a noble bearing, and
what a sweet young gentleman. By the silver hairs of his honour" -
and sure enough I never saw hairs more regally silver than those of
your honour - "by his honour's gray silver hairs, and by my own
soul, which is not worthy to be mentioned in the same day with one
of them - it would be no more than decent and civil to run out and
welcome such a father and son coming in at the head of such a
Protestant military." And then my wife, who is from Londonderry,
Mistress Hyne, looking me in the face like a fairy as she is, "You
may say that," says she. "It would be but decent and civil,
honey." And your honour knows how I ran out of my own door and
welcomed your honour riding in company with your son, who was
walking; how I welcomed ye both at the head of your royal regiment,
and how I shook your honour by the hand, saying, I am glad to see
your honour, and your honour's son, and your honour's royal
military Protestant regiment. And now I have you in the house, and
right proud I am to have ye one and all; one, two, three, four,
true Protestants every one, no Papists here; and I have made bold
to bring up a bottle of claret which is now waiting behind the
door; and, when your honour and your family have dined, I will make
bold too to bring up Mistress Hyne, from Londonderry, to introduce
to your honour's lady, and then we'll drink to the health of King
George, God bless him; to the "glorious and immortal" - to Boyne
water - to your honour's speedy promotion to be Lord Lieutenant,
and to the speedy downfall of the Pope and Saint Anthony of Padua.'
Such was the speech of the Irish Protestant addressed to my father
in the long lofty dining-room with three windows, looking upon the
high street of the good town of Clonmel, as he sat at meat with his
family, after saying grace like a true-hearted respectable soldier
as he was.
'A bigot and an Orangeman!' Oh yes! It is easier to apply
epithets of opprobrium to people than to make yourself acquainted
with their history and position. He was a specimen, and a fair
specimen, of a most remarkable body of men, who during two
centuries have fought a good fight in Ireland in the cause of
civilisation and religious truth; they were sent as colonists, few
in number, into a barbarous and unhappy country, where ever since,
though surrounded with difficulties of every kind, they have
maintained their ground; theirs has been no easy life, nor have
their lines fallen upon very pleasant places; amidst darkness they
have held up a lamp, and it would be well for Ireland were all her
children like these her adopted ones. 'But they are fierce and
sanguinary,' it is said. Ay, ay! they have not unfrequently
opposed the keen sword to the savage pike. 'But they are bigoted
and narrow-minded.' Ay, ay! they do not like idolatry, and will
not bow the knee before a stone! 'But their language is frequently
indecorous.' Go to, my dainty one, did ye ever listen to the voice
of Papist cursing?
The Irish Protestants have faults, numerous ones; but the greater
number of these may be traced to the peculiar circumstances of
their position: but they have virtues, numerous ones; and their
virtues are their own, their industry, their energy, and their
undaunted resolution are their own. They have been vilified and
traduced - but what would Ireland be without them? I repeat, that
it would be well for her were all her sons no worse than these
much-calumniated children of her adoption.
Protestant young gentlemen - The Greek letters - Open chimney -
Murtagh - Paris and Salamanca - Nothing to do - To whit, to whoo! -
The pack of cards - Before Christmas.
WE continued at this place for some months, during which time the
soldiers performed their duties, whatever they were; and I, having
no duties to perform, was sent to school. I had been to English
schools, and to the celebrated one of Edinburgh; but my education,
at the present day, would not be what it is - perfect, had I never
had the honour of being ALUMNUS in an Irish seminary.
'Captain,' said our kind host, 'you would, no doubt, wish that the
young gentleman should enjoy every advantage which the town may
afford towards helping him on in the path of genteel learning.
It's a great pity that he should waste his time in idleness - doing
nothing else than what he says he has been doing for the last
fortnight - fishing in the river for trouts which he never catches;
and wandering up the glen in the mountain, in search of the hips
that grow there. Now, we have a school here, where he can learn
the most elegant Latin, and get an insight into the Greek letters,
which is desirable; and where, moreover, he will have an
opportunity of making acquaintance with all the Protestant young
gentlemen of the place, the handsome well-dressed young persons
whom your honour sees in the church on the Sundays, when your
honour goes there in the morning, with the rest of the Protestant
military; for it is no Papist school, though there may be a Papist
or two there - a few poor farmers' sons from the country, with whom
there is no necessity for your honour's child to form any
acquaintance at all, at all!'
And to the school I went, where I read the Latin tongue and the
Greek letters, with a nice old clergyman, who sat behind a black
oaken desk, with a huge Elzevir Flaccus before him, in a long
gloomy kind of hall, with a broken stone floor, the roof festooned
with cobwebs, the walls considerably dilapidated, and covered over
with strange figures and hieroglyphics, evidently produced by the
application of burnt stick; and there I made acquaintance with the
Protestant young gentlemen of the place, who, with whatever ECLAT
they might appear at church on a Sunday, did assuredly not exhibit
to much advantage in the schoolroom on the week days, either with
respect to clothes or looks. And there I was in the habit of
sitting on a large stone, before the roaring fire in the huge open
chimney, and entertaining certain of the Protestant young gentlemen
of my own age, seated on similar stones, with extraordinary
accounts of my own adventures, and those of the corps, with an
occasional anecdote extracted from the story-books of Hickathrift
and Wight Wallace, pretending to be conning the lesson all the
And there I made acquaintance, notwithstanding the hint of the
landlord, with the Papist 'gossoons,' as they were called, the
farmers' sons from the country; and of these gossoons, of whom
there were three, two might be reckoned as nothing at all; in the
third, however, I soon discovered that there was something
He was about sixteen years old, and above six feet high, dressed in
a gray suit; the coat, from its size, appeared to have been made
for him some ten years before. He was remarkably narrow-chested
and round-shouldered, owing, perhaps as much to the tightness of
his garment as to the hand of nature. His face was long, and his
complexion swarthy, relieved, however, by certain freckles, with
which the skin was plentifully studded. He had strange wandering
eyes, gray, and somewhat unequal in size; they seldom rested on the
book, but were generally wandering about the room, from one object
to another. Sometimes he would fix them intently on the wall, and
then suddenly starting, as if from a reverie, he would commence
making certain mysterious movements with his thumbs and
forefingers, as if he were shuffling something from him.
One morning, as he sat by himself on a bench, engaged in this
manner, I went up to him, and said, 'Good-day, Murtagh; you do not
seem to have much to do?'
'Faith, you may say that, Shorsha dear! - it is seldom much to do
that I have.'
'And what are you doing with your hands?'
'Faith, then, if I must tell you, I was e'en dealing with the
'Do you play much at cards?'
'Sorra a game, Shorsha, have I played with the cards since my uncle
Phelim, the thief, stole away the ould pack, when he went to settle
in the county Waterford!'
'But you have other things to do?'
'Sorra anything else has Murtagh to do that he cares about and that
makes me dread so going home at nights.'
'I should like to know all about you; where do you live, joy?'
'Faith, then, ye shall know all about me, and where I live. It is
at a place called the Wilderness that I live, and they call it so,
because it is a fearful wild place, without any house near it but
my father's own; and that's where I live when at home.'
'And your father is a farmer, I suppose?'
'You may say that; and it is a farmer I should have been, like my
brother Denis, had not my uncle Phelim, the thief, tould my father
to send me to school, to learn Greek letters, that I might be made
a saggart of, and sent to Paris and Salamanca.'
'And you would rather be a farmer than a priest?'
'You may say that! - for, were I a farmer, like the rest, I should
have something to do, like the rest - something that I cared for -
and I should come home tired at night, and fall asleep, as the rest
do, before the fire; but when I comes home at night I am not tired,
for I have been doing nothing all day that I care for; and then I
sits down and stares about me, and at the fire, till I become
frighted; and then I shouts to my brother Denis, or to the
gossoons, "Get up, I say, and let's be doing something; tell us the
tale of Finn-ma-Coul, and how he lay down in the Shannon's bed, and
let the river flow down his jaws!" Arrah, Shorsha! I wish you
would come and stay with us, and tell us some o' your sweet stories
of your own self and the snake ye carried about wid ye. Faith,
Shorsha dear! that snake bates anything about Finn-ma-Coul or Brian
Boroo, the thieves two, bad luck to them!'
'And do they get up and tell you stories?'
'Sometimes they does, but oftenmost they curses me, and bids me be
quiet! But I can't be quiet, either before the fire or abed; so I
runs out of the house, and stares at the rocks, at the trees, and
sometimes at the clouds, as they run a race across the bright moon;
and, the more I stares, the more frighted I grows, till I screeches
and holloas. And last night I went into the barn, and hid my face
in the straw; and there, as I lay and shivered in the straw, I
heard a voice above my head singing out "To whit, to whoo!" and
then up I starts, and runs into the house, and falls over my
brother Denis, as he lies at the fire. "What's that for?" says he.
"Get up, you thief!" says I, "and be helping me. I have been out
into the barn, and an owl has crow'd at me!"'
'And what has this to do with playing cards?'
'Little enough, Shorsha dear! - If there were card-playing, I
should not be frighted.'
'And why do you not play at cards?'
'Did I not tell you that the thief, my uncle Phelim, stole away the
pack? If we had the pack, my brother Denis and the gossoons would
be ready enough to get up from their sleep before the fire, and
play cards with me for ha'pence, or eggs, or nothing at all; but
the pack is gone - bad luck to the thief who took it!'
'And why don't you buy another?'
'Is it of buying you are speaking? And where am I to get the
'Ah! that's another thing!'
'Faith it is, honey! - And now the Christmas holidays is coming,
when I shall be at home by day as well as night, and then what am I
to do? Since I have been a saggarting, I have been good for
nothing at all - neither for work nor Greek - only to play cards!
Faith, it's going mad I will be!'
'I say, Murtagh!'
'Yes, Shorsha dear!'
'I have a pack of cards.'
'You don't say so, Shorsha ma vourneen? - you don't say that you
have cards fifty-two?'
'I do, though; and they are quite new - never been once used.'
'And you'll be lending them to me, I warrant?'
'Don't think it! - But I'll sell them to you, joy, if you like.'
'Hanam mon Dioul! am I not after telling you that I have no money
at all!'
'But you have as good as money, to me, at least; and I'll take it
in exchange.'
'What's that, Shorsha dear?'
'Yes, you speak Irish; I heard you talking it the other day to the
cripple. You shall teach me Irish.'
'And is it a language-master you'd be making of me?'
'To be sure! - what better can you do? - it would help you to pass
your time at school. You can't learn Greek, so you must teach
Before Christmas, Murtagh was playing at cards with his brother
Denis, and I could speak a considerable quantity of broken Irish.
Templemore - Devil's Mountain - No companion - Force of
circumstance - Way of the world - Ruined castle - Grim and desolate
- The donjon - Old woman - My own house.
WHEN Christmas was over, and the new year commenced, we broke up
our quarters, and marched away to Templemore. This was a large
military station, situated in a wild and thinly inhabited country.
Extensive bogs were in the neighbourhood, connected with the huge
bog of Allen, the Palus Maeotis of Ireland. Here and there was
seen a ruined castle looming through the mists of winter; whilst,
at the distance of seven miles, rose a singular mountain,
exhibiting in its brow a chasm, or vacuum, just, for all the world,
as if a piece had been bitten out; a feat which, according to the
tradition of the country, had actually been performed by his
Satanic majesty, who, after flying for some leagues with the morsel
in his mouth, becoming weary, dropped it in the vicinity of Cashel,
where it may now be seen in the shape of a bold bluff hill, crowned
with the ruins of a stately edifice, probably built by some ancient
Irish king.
We had been here only a few days, when my brother, who, as I have
before observed, had become one of his Majesty's officers, was sent
on detachment to a village at about ten miles' distance. He was
not sixteen, and, though three years older than myself, scarcely my
equal in stature, for I had become tall and large-limbed for my
age; but there was a spirit in him which would not have disgraced a
general; and, nothing daunted at the considerable responsibility
which he was about to incur, he marched sturdily out of the
barrack-yard at the head of his party, consisting of twenty lightinfantry
men, and a tall grenadier sergeant, selected expressly by
my father, for the soldier-like qualities which he possessed, to
accompany his son on this his first expedition. So out of the
barrack-yard, with something of an air, marched my dear brother,
his single drum and fife playing the inspiring old melody,
Marlbrouk is gone to the wars,
He'll never return no more!
I soon missed my brother, for I was now alone, with no being, at
all assimilating in age, with whom I could exchange a word. Of
late years, from being almost constantly at school, I had cast
aside, in a great degree, my unsocial habits and natural reserve,
but in the desolate region in which we now were there was no
school; and I felt doubly the loss of my brother, whom, moreover, I
tenderly loved for his own sake. Books I had none, at least such
'as I cared about'; and with respect to the old volume, the wonders
of which had first beguiled me into common reading, I had so
frequently pored over its pages, that I had almost got its contents
by heart. I was therefore in danger of falling into the same
predicament as Murtagh, becoming 'frighted' from having nothing to
do! Nay, I had not even his resources; I cared not for cards, even
if I possessed them and could find people disposed to play with
them. However, I made the most of circumstances, and roamed about
the desolate fields and bogs in the neighbourhood, sometimes
entering the cabins of the peasantry, with a 'God's blessing upon
you, good people!' where I would take my seat on the 'stranger's
stone' at the corner of the hearth, and, looking them full in the
face, would listen to the carles and carlines talking Irish.
Ah, that Irish! How frequently do circumstances, at first sight
the most trivial and unimportant, exercise a mighty and permanent
influence on our habits and pursuits! - how frequently is a stream
turned aside from its natural course by some little rock or knoll,
causing it to make an abrupt turn! On a wild road in Ireland I had
heard Irish spoken for the first time; and I was seized with a
desire to learn Irish, the acquisition of which, in my case, became
the stepping-stone to other languages. I had previously learnt
Latin, or rather Lilly; but neither Latin nor Lilly made me a
philologist. I had frequently heard French and other languages,
but had felt little desire to become acquainted with them; and
what, it may be asked, was there connected with the Irish
calculated to recommend it to my attention?
First of all, and principally, I believe, the strangeness and
singularity of its tones; then there was something mysterious and
uncommon associated with its use. It was not a school language, to
acquire which was considered an imperative duty; no, no; nor was it
a drawing-room language, drawled out occasionally, in shreds and
patches, by the ladies of generals and other great dignitaries, to
the ineffable dismay of poor officers' wives. Nothing of the kind;
but a speech spoken in out-of-the-way desolate places, and in cutthroat
kens, where thirty ruffians, at the sight of the king's
minions, would spring up with brandished sticks and an 'ubbubboo
like the blowing up of a powder-magazine.' Such were the points
connected with the Irish, which first awakened in my mind the
desire of acquiring it; and by acquiring it I became, as I have
already said, enamoured of languages. Having learnt one by choice,
I speedily, as the reader will perceive, learnt others, some of
which were widely different from Irish.
Ah, that Irish! I am much indebted to it in more ways than one.
But I am afraid I have followed the way of the world, which is very
much wont to neglect original friends and benefactors. I
frequently find myself, at present, turning up my nose at Irish
when I hear it in the street; yet I have still a kind of regard for
it, the fine old language:
A labhair Padruic n'insefail nan riogh.
One of the most peculiar features of this part of Ireland is the
ruined castles, which are so thick and numerous that the face of
the country appears studded with them, it being difficult to choose
any situation from which one, at least, may not be descried. They
are of various ages and styles of architecture, some of great
antiquity, like the stately remains which crown the Crag of Cashel;
others built by the early English conquerors; others, and probably
the greater part, erections of the times of Elizabeth and Cromwell.
The whole speaking monuments of the troubled and insecure state of
the country, from the most remote periods to a comparatively modern
From the windows of the room where I slept I had a view of one of
these old places - an indistinct one, it is true, the distance
being too great to permit me to distinguish more than the general
outline. I had an anxious desire to explore it. It stood to the
south-east; in which direction, however, a black bog intervened,
which had more than once baffled all my attempts to cross it. One
morning, however, when the sun shone brightly upon the old
building, it appeared so near, that I felt ashamed at not being
able to accomplish a feat seemingly so easy; I determined,
therefore, upon another trial. I reached the bog, and was about to
venture upon its black surface, and to pick my way amongst its
innumerable holes, yawning horribly, and half filled with water
black as soot, when it suddenly occurred to me that there was a
road to the south, by following which I might find a more
convenient route to the object of my wishes. The event justified
my expectations, for, after following the road for some three
miles, seemingly in the direction of the Devil's Mountain, I
suddenly beheld the castle on my left.
I diverged from the road, and, crossing two or three fields, came
to a small grassy plain, in the midst of which stood the castle.
About a gun-shot to the south was a small village, which had,
probably, in ancient days, sprung up beneath its protection. A
kind of awe came over me as I approached the old building. The sun
no longer shone upon it, and it looked so grim, so desolate and
solitary; and here was I, in that wild country, alone with that
grim building before me. The village was within sight, it is true;
but it might be a village of the dead for what I knew; no sound
issued from it, no smoke was rising from its roofs, neither man nor
beast was visible, no life, no motion - it looked as desolate as
the castle itself. Yet I was bent on the adventure, and moved on
towards the castle across the green plain, occasionally casting a
startled glance around me; and now I was close to it.
It was surrounded by a quadrangular wall, about ten feet in height,
with a square tower at each corner. At first I could discover no
entrance; walking round, however, to the northern side, I found a
wide and lofty gateway with a tower above it, similar to those at
the angles of the wall; on this side the ground sloped gently down
towards the bog, which was here skirted by an abundant growth of
copse-wood and a few evergreen oaks. I passed through the gateway,
and found myself within a square inclosure of about two acres. On
one side rose a round and lofty keep, or donjon, with a conical
roof, part of which had fallen down, strewing the square with its
ruins. Close to the keep, on the other side, stood the remains of
an oblong house, built something in the modern style, with various
window-holes; nothing remained but the bare walls and a few
projecting stumps of beams, which seemed to have been half burnt.
The interior of the walls was blackened, as if by fire; fire also
appeared at one time to have raged out of the window-holes, for the
outside about them was black, portentously so. 'I wonder what has
been going on here?' I exclaimed.
There were echoes among the walls as I walked about the court. I
entered the keep by a low and frowning doorway: the lower floor
consisted of a large dungeon-like room, with a vaulted roof; on the
left hand was a winding staircase in the thickness of the wall; it
looked anything but inviting; yet I stole softly up, my heart
beating. On the top of the first flight of stairs was an arched
doorway, to the left was a dark passage, to the right, stairs
leading still higher. I stepped under the arch and found myself in
an apartment somewhat similar to the one below, but higher. There
was an object at the farther end.
An old woman, at least eighty, was seated on a stone, cowering over
a few sticks burning feebly on what had once been a right noble and
cheerful hearth; her side-glance was towards the doorway as I
entered, for she had heard my foot-steps. I stood suddenly still,
and her haggard glance rested on my face.
'Is this your house, mother?' I at length demanded, in the language
which I thought she would best understand.
'Yes, my house, my own house; the house of the broken-hearted.'
'Any other person's house?' I demanded.
'My own house, the beggar's house - the accursed house of
A visit - Figure of a man - The dog of peace - The raw wound - The
guardroom - Boy soldier - Person in authority - Never solitary -
Clergyman and family - Still-hunting - Fairy man - Near sunset -
Bagg - Left-handed hitter - Irish and supernatural - At Swanton
ONE morning I set out, designing to pay a visit to my brother at
the place where he was detached; the distance was rather
considerable, yet I hoped to be back by evening fall, for I was now
a shrewd walker, thanks to constant practice. I set out early,
and, directing my course towards the north, I had in less than two
hours accomplished considerably more than half of the journey. The
weather had at first been propitious: a slight frost had rendered
the ground firm to the tread, and the skies were clear; but now a
change came over the scene, the skies darkened, and a heavy
snowstorm came on; the road then lay straight through a bog, and
was bounded by a deep trench on both sides; I was making the best
of my way, keeping as nearly as I could in the middle of the road,
lest, blinded by the snow which was frequently borne into my eyes
by the wind, I might fall into the dyke, when all at once I heard a
shout to windward, and turning my eyes I saw the figure of a man,
and what appeared to be an animal of some kind, coming across the
bog with great speed, in the direction of myself; the nature of the
ground seemed to offer but little impediment to these beings, both
clearing the holes and abysses which lay in their way with
surprising agility; the animal was, however, some slight way in
advance, and, bounding over the dyke, appeared on the road just
before me. It was a dog, of what species I cannot tell, never
having seen the like before or since; the head was large and round;
the ears so tiny as scarcely to be discernible; the eyes of a fiery
red: in size it was rather small than large; and the coat, which
was remarkably smooth, as white as the falling flakes. It placed
itself directly in my path, and showing its teeth, and bristling
its coat, appeared determined to prevent my progress. I had an
ashen stick in my hand, with which I threatened it; this, however,
only served to increase its fury; it rushed upon me, and I had the
utmost difficulty to preserve myself from its fangs.
'What are you doing with the dog, the fairy dog?' said a man, who
at this time likewise cleared the dyke at a bound.
He was a very tall man, rather well dressed as it should seem; his
garments, however, were, like my own, so covered with snow that I
could scarcely discern their quality.
'What are ye doing with the dog of peace?'
'I wish he would show himself one,' said I; 'I said nothing to him,
but he placed himself in my road, and would not let me pass.'
'Of course he would not be letting you till he knew where ye were
'He's not much of a fairy,' said I, 'or he would know that without
asking; tell him that I am going to see my brother.'
'And who is your brother, little Sas?'
'What my father is, a royal soldier.'
'Oh, ye are going then to the detachment at - ; by my shoul, I have
a good mind to be spoiling your journey.'
'You are doing that already,' said I, 'keeping me here talking
about dogs and fairies; you had better go home and get some salve
to cure that place over your eye; it's catching cold you'll be, in
so much snow.'
On one side of the man's forehead there was a raw and staring
wound, as if from a recent and terrible blow.
'Faith, then I'll be going, but it's taking you wid me I will be.'
'And where will you take me?'
'Why, then, to Ryan's Castle, little Sas.'
'You do not speak the language very correctly,' said I; 'it is not
Sas you should call me - 'tis Sassannach,' and forthwith I
accompanied the word with a speech full of flowers of Irish
The man looked upon me for a moment, fixedly, then, bending his
head towards his breast, he appeared to be undergoing a kind of
convulsion, which was accompanied by a sound something resembling
laughter; presently he looked at me, and there was a broad grin on
his features.
'By my shoul, it's a thing of peace I'm thinking ye.'
But now with a whisking sound came running down the road a hare; it
was nearly upon us before it perceived us; suddenly stopping short,
however, it sprang into the bog on the right-hand side; after it
amain bounded the dog of peace, followed by the man, but not until
he had nodded to me a farewell salutation. In a few moments I lost
sight of him amidst the snowflakes.
The weather was again clear and fine before I reached the place of
detachment. It was a little wooden barrack, surrounded by a wall
of the same material; a sentinel stood at the gate, I passed by
him, and, entering the building, found myself in a rude kind of
guardroom; several soldiers were lying asleep on a wooden couch at
one end, others lounged on benches by the side of a turf fire. The
tall sergeant stood before the fire, holding a cooking utensil in
his left hand; on seeing me, he made the military salutation.
'Is my brother here?' said I, rather timidly, dreading to hear that
he was out, perhaps for the day.
'The ensign is in his room, sir,' said Bagg, 'I am now preparing
his meal, which will presently be ready; you will find the ensign
above stairs,' and he pointed to a broken ladder which led to some
place above.
And there I found him - the boy soldier - in a kind of upper loft,
so low that I could touch with my hands the sooty rafters; the
floor was of rough boards, through the joints of which you could
see the gleam of the soldiers' fire, and occasionally discern their
figures as they moved about; in one corner was a camp bedstead, by
the side of which hung the child's sword, gorget, and sash; a deal
table stood in the proximity of the rusty grate, where smoked and
smouldered a pile of black turf from the bog, - a deal table
without a piece of baize to cover it, yet fraught with things not
devoid of interest: a Bible, given by a mother; the ODYSSEY, the
Greek ODYSSEY; a flute, with broad silver keys; crayons, moreover,
and water-colours; and a sketch of a wild prospect near, which,
though but half finished, afforded ample proof of the excellence
and skill of the boyish hand now occupied upon it.
Ah! he was a sweet being, that boy soldier, a plant of early
promise, bidding fair to become in after time all that is great,
good, and admirable. I have read of a remarkable Welshman, of whom
it was said, when the grave closed over him, that he could frame a
harp, and play it; build a ship, and sail it; compose an ode, and
set it to music. A brave fellow that son of Wales - but I had once
a brother who could do more and better than this, but the grave has
closed over him, as over the gallant Welshman of yore; there are
now but two that remember him - the one who bore him, and the being
who was nurtured at the same breast. He was taken, and I was left!
- Truly, the ways of Providence are inscrutable.
'You seem to be very comfortable, John,' said I, looking around the
room and at the various objects which I have described above: 'you
have a good roof over your head, and have all your things about
'Yes, I am very comfortable, George, in many respects; I am,
moreover, independent, and feel myself a man for the first time in
my life - independent did I say? - that's not the word, I am
something much higher than that; here am I, not sixteen yet, a
person in authority, like the centurion in the book there, with
twenty Englishmen under me, worth a whole legion of his men, and
that fine fellow Bagg to wait upon me, and take my orders. Oh!
these last six weeks have passed like hours of heaven.'
'But your time must frequently hang heavy on your hands; this is a
strange wild place, and you must be very solitary?'
'I am never solitary; I have, as you see, all my things about me,
and there is plenty of company below stairs. Not that I mix with
the soldiers; if I did, good-bye to my authority; but when I am
alone I can hear all their discourse through the planks, and I
often laugh to myself at the funny things they say.'
'And have you any acquaintance here?'
'The very best; much better than the Colonel and the rest, at their
grand Templemore; I had never so many in my whole life before. One
has just left me, a gentleman who lives at a distance across the
bog; he comes to talk with me about Greek, and the ODYSSEY, for he
is a very learned man, and understands the old Irish, and various
other strange languages. He has had a dispute with Bagg. On
hearing his name, he called him to him, and, after looking at him
for some time with great curiosity, said that he was sure he was a
Dane. Bagg, however, took the compliment in dudgeon, and said that
he was no more a Dane than himself, but a true-born Englishman, and
a sergeant of six years' standing.'
'And what other acquaintance have you?'
'All kinds; the whole neighbourhood can't make enough of me.
Amongst others there's the clergyman of the parish and his family;
such a venerable old man, such fine sons and daughters! I am
treated by them like a son and a brother - I might be always with
them if I pleased; there's one drawback, however, in going to see
them; there's a horrible creature in the house, a kind of tutor,
whom they keep more from charity than anything else; he is a Papist
and, they say, a priest; you should see him scowl sometimes at my
red coat, for he hates the king, and not unfrequently, when the
king's health is drunk, curses him between his teeth. I once got
up to strike him; but the youngest of the sisters, who is the
handsomest, caught my arm and pointed to her forehead.'
'And what does your duty consist of? Have you nothing else to do
than pay visits and receive them?'
'We do what is required of us, we guard this edifice, perform our
evolutions, and help the excise; I am frequently called up in the
dead of night to go to some wild place or other in quest of an
illicit still; this last part of our duty is poor mean work, I
don't like it, nor more does Bagg; though without it we should not
see much active service, for the neighbourhood is quiet; save the
poor creatures with their stills, not a soul is stirring. 'Tis
true there's Jerry Grant.'
'And who is Jerry Grant?'
'Did you never hear of him? that's strange, the whole country is
talking about him; he is a kind of outlaw, rebel, or robber, all
three I daresay; there's a hundred pounds offered for his head.'
'And where does he live?'
'His proper home, they say, is in the Queen's County, where he has
a band, but he is a strange fellow, fond of wandering about by
himself amidst the bogs and mountains, and living in the old
castles; occasionally he quarters himself in the peasants' houses,
who let him do just what he pleases; he is free of his money, and
often does them good turns, and can be good-humoured enough, so
they don't dislike him. Then he is what they call a fairy man, a
person in league with fairies and spirits, and able to work much
harm by supernatural means, on which account they hold him in great
awe; he is, moreover, a mighty strong and tall fellow. Bagg has
seen him.'
'Has he?'
'Yes! and felt him; he too is a strange one. A few days ago he was
told that Grant had been seen hovering about an old castle some two
miles off in the bog; so one afternoon what does he do but, without
saying a word to me - for which, by the bye, I ought to put him
under arrest, though what I should do without Bagg I have no idea
whatever - what does he do but walk off to the castle, intending,
as I suppose, to pay a visit to Jerry. He had some difficulty in
getting there on account of the turf-holes in the bog, which he was
not accustomed to; however, thither at last he got and went in. It
was a strange lonesome place, he says, and he did not much like the
look of it; however, in he went, and searched about from the bottom
to the top and down again, but could find no one; he shouted and
hallooed, but nobody answered, save the rooks and choughs, which
started up in great numbers. "I have lost my trouble," said Bagg,
and left the castle. It was now late in the afternoon, near
sunset, when about half-way over the bog he met a man - '
'And that man was - '
'Jerry Grant! there's no doubt of it. Bagg says it was the most
sudden thing in the world. He was moving along, making the best of
his way, thinking of nothing at all save a public-house at Swanton
Morley, which he intends to take when he gets home, and the
regiment is disbanded - though I hope that will not be for some
time yet: he had just leaped a turf-hole, and was moving on, when,
at the distance of about six yards before him, he saw a fellow
coming straight towards him. Bagg says that he stopped short, as
suddenly as if he had heard the word halt, when marching at double
quick time. It was quite a surprise, he says, and he can't imagine
how the fellow was so close upon him before he was aware. He was
an immense tall fellow - Bagg thinks at least two inches taller
than himself - very well dressed in a blue coat and buff breeches,
for all the world like a squire when going out hunting. Bagg,
however, saw at once that he had a roguish air, and he was on his
guard in a moment. "Good-evening to ye, sodger," says the fellow,
stepping close up to Bagg, and staring him in the face. "Goodevening
to you, sir! I hope you are well," says Bagg. "You are
looking after some one?" says the fellow. "Just so, sir," says
Bagg, and forthwith seized him by the collar; the man laughed, Bagg
says it was such a strange awkward laugh. "Do you know whom you
have got hold of, sodger?" said he. "I believe I do, sir," said
Bagg, "and in that belief will hold you fast in the name of King
George and the quarter sessions"; the next moment he was sprawling
with his heels in the air. Bagg says there was nothing remarkable
in that; he was only flung by a kind of wrestling trick, which he
could easily have baffled had he been aware of it. "You will not
do that again, sir," said he, as he got up and put himself on his
guard. The fellow laughed again more strangely and awkwardly than
before; then, bending his body and moving his head from one side to
the other as a cat does before she springs, and crying out, "Here's
for ye, sodger!" he made a dart at Bagg, rushing in with his head
foremost. "That will do, sir," says Bagg, and, drawing himself
back, he put in a left-handed blow with all the force of his body
and arm, just over the fellow's right eye - Bagg is a left-handed
hitter, you must know - and it was a blow of that kind which won
him his famous battle at Edinburgh with the big Highland sergeant.
Bagg says that he was quite satisfied with the blow, more
especially when he saw the fellow reel, fling out his arms, and
fall to the ground. "And now, sir," said he, "I'll make bold to
hand you over to the quarter sessions, and, if there is a hundred
pounds for taking you, who has more right to it than myself?" So
he went forward, but ere he could lay hold of his man the other was
again on his legs, and was prepared to renew the combat. They
grappled each other - Bagg says he had not much fear of the result,
as he now felt himself the best man, the other seeming half-stunned
with the blow - but just then there came on a blast, a horrible
roaring wind bearing night upon its wings, snow, and sleet, and
hail. Bagg says he had the fellow by the throat quite fast, as he
thought, but suddenly he became bewildered, and knew not where he
was; and the man seemed to melt away from his grasp, and the wind
howled more and more, and the night poured down darker and darker;
the snow and the sleet thicker and more blinding. "Lord have mercy
upon us!" said Bagg.'
MYSELF. A strange adventure that; it is well that Bagg got home
JOHN. He says that the fight was a fair fight, and that the fling
he got was a fair fling, the result of a common enough wrestling
trick. But with respect to the storm, which rose up just in time
to save the fellow, he is of opinion that it was not fair, but
something Irish and supernatural.
MYSELF. I daresay he's right. I have read of witchcraft in the
JOHN. He wishes much to have one more encounter with the fellow;
he says that on fair ground, and in fine weather, he has no doubt
that he could master him, and hand him over to the quarter
sessions. He says that a hundred pounds would be no bad thing to
be disbanded upon; for he wishes to take an inn at Swanton Morley,
keep a cock-pit, and live respectably.
MYSELF. He is quite right; and now kiss me, my darling brother,
for I must go back through the bog to Templemore.
Groom and cob - Strength and symmetry - Where's the saddle? - The
first ride - No more fatigue - Love for horses - Pursuit of words -
Philologist and Pegasus - The smith - What more, agrah? -
Sassannach tenpence.
AND it came to pass that, as I was standing by the door of the
barrack stable, one of the grooms came out to me, saying, 'I say,
young gentleman, I wish you would give the cob a breathing this
fine morning.'
'Why do you wish me to mount him?' said I; 'you know he is
dangerous. I saw him fling you off his back only a few days ago.'
'Why, that's the very thing, master. I'd rather see anybody on his
back than myself; he does not like me; but, to them he does, he can
be as gentle as a lamb.'
'But suppose,' said I, 'that he should not like me?'
'We shall soon see that, master,' said the groom; 'and, if so be he
shows temper, I will be the first to tell you to get down. But
there's no fear of that; you have never angered or insulted him,
and to such as you, I say again, he'll be as gentle as a lamb.'
'And how came you to insult him,' said I, 'knowing his temper as
you do?'
'Merely through forgetfulness, master: I was riding him about a
month ago, and having a stick in my hand, I struck him, thinking I
was on another horse, or rather thinking of nothing at all. He has
never forgiven me, though before that time he was the only friend I
had in the world; I should like to see you on him, master.'
'I should soon be off him; I can't ride.'
'Then you are all right, master; there's no fear. Trust him for
not hurting a young gentleman, an officer's son, who can't ride.
If you were a blackguard dragoon, indeed, with long spurs, 'twere
another thing; as it is, he'll treat you as if he were the elder
brother that loves you. Ride! He'll soon teach you to ride if you
leave the matter with him. He's the best riding-master in all
Ireland, and the gentlest.'
The cob was led forth; what a tremendous creature! I had
frequently seen him before, and wondered at him; he was barely
fifteen hands, but he had the girth of a metropolitan dray-horse;
his head was small in comparison with his immense neck, which
curved down nobly to his wide back: his chest was broad and fine,
and his shoulders models of symmetry and strength; he stood well
and powerfully upon his legs, which were somewhat short. In a
word, he was a gallant specimen of the genuine Irish cob, a species
at one time not uncommon, but at the present day nearly extinct.
'There!' said the groom, as he looked at him, half admiringly, half
sorrowfully, 'with sixteen stone on his back, he'll trot fourteen
miles in one hour, with your nine stone, some two and a half more
ay, and clear a six-foot wall at the end of it.'
'I'm half afraid,' said I; 'I had rather you would ride him.'
'I'd rather so, too, if he would let me; but he remembers the blow.
Now, don't be afraid, young master, he's longing to go out himself.
He's been trampling with his feet these three days, and I know what
that means; he'll let anybody ride him but myself, and thank them;
but to me he says, "No! you struck me."'
'But,' said I, 'where's the saddle?'
'Never mind the saddle; if you are ever to be a frank rider, you
must begin without a saddle; besides, if he felt a saddle, he would
think you don't trust him, and leave you to yourself. Now, before
you mount, make his acquaintance - see there, how he kisses you and
licks your face, and see how he lifts his foot, that's to shake
hands. You may trust him - now you are on his back at last; mind
how you hold the bridle - gently, gently! It's not four pair of
hands like yours can hold him if he wishes to be off. Mind what I
tell you - leave it all to him.'
Off went the cob at a slow and gentle trot, too fast and rough,
however, for so inexperienced a rider. I soon felt myself sliding
off, the animal perceived it too, and instantly stood stone still
till I had righted myself; and now the groom came up: 'When you
feel yourself going,' said he, 'don't lay hold of the mane, that's
no use; mane never yet saved man from falling, no more than straw
from drowning; it's his sides you must cling to with your calves
and feet, till you learn to balance yourself. That's it, now
abroad with you; I'll bet my comrade a pot of beer that you'll be a
regular rough-rider by the time you come back.'
And so it proved; I followed the directions of the groom, and the
cob gave me every assistance. How easy is riding, after the first
timidity is got over, to supple and youthful limbs; and there is no
second fear. The creature soon found that the nerves of his rider
were in proper tone. Turning his head half round, he made a kind
of whining noise, flung out a little foam, and set off.
In less than two hours I had made the circuit of the Devil's
Mountain, and was returning along the road, bathed with
perspiration, but screaming with delight; the cob laughing in his
equine way, scattering foam and pebbles to the left and right, and
trotting at the rate of sixteen miles an hour.
Oh, that ride! that first ride! - most truly it was an epoch in my
existence; and I still look back to it with feelings of longing and
regret. People may talk of first love - it is a very agreeable
event, I daresay - but give me the flush, and triumph, and glorious
sweat of a first ride, like mine on the mighty cob! My whole frame
was shaken, it is true; and during one long week I could hardly
move foot or hand; but what of that? By that one trial I had
become free, as I may say, of the whole equine species. No more
fatigue, no more stiffness of joints, after that first ride round
the Devil's Hill on the cob.
Oh, that cob! that Irish cob! - may the sod lie lightly over the
bones of the strongest, speediest, and most gallant of its kind!
Oh! the days when, issuing from the barrack-gate of Templemore, we
commenced our hurry-skurry just as inclination led - now across the
fields - direct over stone walls and running brooks - mere pastime
for the cob! - sometimes along the road to Thurles and Holy Cross,
even to distant Cahir! - what was distance to the cob?
It was thus that the passion for the equine race was first awakened
within me - a passion which, up to the present time, has been
rather on the increase than diminishing. It is no blind passion;
the horse being a noble and generous creature, intended by the All-
Wise to be the helper and friend of man, to whom he stands next in
the order of creation. On many occasions of my life I have been
much indebted to the horse, and have found in him a friend and
coadjutor, when human help and sympathy were not to be obtained.
It is therefore natural enough that I should love the horse; but
the love which I entertain for him has always been blended with
respect; for I soon perceived that, though disposed to be the
friend and helper of man, he is by no means inclined to be his
slave; in which respect he differs from the dog, who will crouch
when beaten; whereas the horse spurns, for he is aware of his own
worth and that he carries death within the horn of his heel. If,
therefore, I found it easy to love the horse, I found it equally
natural to respect him.
I much question whether philology, or the passion for languages,
requires so little of an apology as the love for horses. It has
been said, I believe, that the more languages a man speaks, the
more a man is he; which is very true, provided he acquires
languages as a medium for becoming acquainted with the thoughts and
feelings of the various sections into which the human race is
divided; but, in that case, he should rather be termed a
philosopher than a philologist - between which two the difference
is wide indeed! An individual may speak and read a dozen
languages, and yet be an exceedingly poor creature, scarcely half a
man; and the pursuit of tongues for their own sake, and the mere
satisfaction of acquiring them, surely argues an intellect of a
very low order; a mind disposed to be satisfied with mean and
grovelling things; taking more pleasure in the trumpery casket than
in the precious treasure which it contains; in the pursuit of
words, than in the acquisition of ideas.
I cannot help thinking that it was fortunate for myself, who am, to
a certain extent, a philologist, that with me the pursuit of
languages has been always modified by the love of horses; for
scarcely had I turned my mind to the former, when I also mounted
the wild cob, and hurried forth in the direction of the Devil's
Hill, scattering dust and flint-stones on every side; that ride,
amongst other things, taught me that a lad with thews and sinews
was intended by nature for something better than mere word-culling;
and if I have accomplished anything in after life worthy of
mentioning, I believe it may partly be attributed to the ideas
which that ride, by setting my blood in a glow, infused into my
brain. I might, otherwise, have become a mere philologist; one of
those beings who toil night and day in culling useless words for
some OPUS MAGNUM which Murray will never publish, and nobody ever
read; beings without enthusiasm, who, having never mounted a
generous steed, cannot detect a good point in Pegasus himself; like
a certain philologist, who, though acquainted with the exact value
of every word in the Greek and Latin languages, could observe no
particular beauty in one of the most glorious of Homer's
rhapsodies. What knew he of Pegasus? he had never mounted a
generous steed; the merest jockey, had the strain been interpreted
to him, would have called it a brave song! - I return to the brave
On a certain day I had been out on an excursion. In a cross-road,
at some distance from the Satanic hill, the animal which I rode
cast a shoe. By good luck a small village was at hand, at the
entrance of which was a large shed, from which proceeded a most
furious noise of hammering. Leading the cob by the bridle, I
entered boldly. 'Shoe this horse, and do it quickly, a gough,'
said I to a wild grimy figure of a man, whom I found alone,
fashioning a piece of iron.
'Arrigod yuit?' said the fellow, desisting from his work, and
staring at me.
'Oh yes, I have money,' said I, 'and of the best'; and I pulled out
an English shilling.
'Tabhair chugam?' said the smith, stretching out his grimy hand.
'No, I shan't,' said I; 'some people are glad to get their money
when their work is done.'
The fellow hammered a little longer, and then proceeded to shoe the
cob, after having first surveyed it with attention. He performed
his job rather roughly, and more than once appeared to give the
animal unnecessary pain, frequently making use of loud and
boisterous words. By the time the work was done, the creature was
in a state of high excitement, and plunged and tore. The smith
stood at a short distance, seeming to enjoy the irritation of the
animal, and showing, in a remarkable manner, a huge fang, which
projected from the under jaw of a very wry mouth.
'You deserve better handling,' said I, as I went up to the cob and
fondled it; whereupon it whinnied, and attempted to touch my face
with its nose.
'Are ye not afraid of that beast?' said the smith, showing his
fang. 'Arrah, it's vicious that he looks!'
'It's at you, then! - I don't fear him'; and thereupon I passed
under the horse, between its hind legs.
'And is that all you can do, agrah?' said the smith.
'No,' said I, 'I can ride him.'
'Ye can ride him, and what else, agrah?'
'I can leap him over a six-foot wall,' said I.
'Over a wall, and what more, agrah?'
'Nothing more,' said I; 'what more would you have?'
'Can you do this, agrah?' said the smith; and he uttered a word
which I had never heard before, in a sharp pungent tone. The
effect upon myself was somewhat extraordinary, a strange thrill ran
through me; but with regard to the cob it was terrible; the animal
forthwith became like one mad, and reared and kicked with the
utmost desperation.
'Can you do that, agrah?' said the smith.
'What is it?' said I, retreating, 'I never saw the horse so
'Go between his legs, agrah,' said the smith, 'his hinder legs';
and he again showed his fang.
'I dare not,' said I, 'he would kill me.'
'He would kill ye! and how do ye know that, agrah?'
'I feel he would,' said I, 'something tells me so.'
'And it tells ye truth, agrah; but it's a fine beast, and it's a
pity to see him in such a state: Is agam an't leigeas' - and here
he uttered another word in a voice singularly modified, but sweet
and almost plaintive; the effect of it was as instantaneous as that
of the other, but how different! - the animal lost all its fury,
and became at once calm and gentle. The smith went up to it,
coaxed and patted it, making use of various sounds of equine
endearment; then turning to me, and holding out once more the grimy
hand, he said, 'And now ye will be giving me the Sassannach
tenpence, agrah?'
A fine old city - Norman master-work - Lollards' Hole - Good blood
- The Spaniard's sword - Old retired officer - Writing to a duke -
God help the child - Nothing like Jacob - Irish brigades - Old
Sergeant Meredith - I have been young - Idleness - Only course open
- The bookstall - A portrait - A banished priest.
FROM the wild scenes which I have attempted to describe in the
latter pages I must now transport the reader to others of a widely
different character. He must suppose himself no longer in Ireland,
but in the eastern corner of merry England. Bogs, ruins, and
mountains have disappeared amidst the vapours of the west: I have
nothing more to say of them; the region in which we are now is not
famous for objects of that kind: perhaps it flatters itself that
it can produce fairer and better things, of some of which let me
speak; there is a fine old city before us, and first of that let me
A fine old city, truly, is that, view it from whatever side you
will; but it shows best from the east, where the ground, bold and
elevated, overlooks the fair and fertile valley in which it stands.
Gazing from those heights, the eye beholds a scene which cannot
fail to awaken, even in the least sensitive bosom, feelings of
pleasure and admiration. At the foot of the heights flows a narrow
and deep river, with an antique bridge communicating with a long
and narrow suburb, flanked on either side by rich meadows of the
brightest green, beyond which spreads the city; the fine old city,
perhaps the most curious specimen at present extant of the genuine
old English town. Yes, there it spreads from north to south, with
its venerable houses, its numerous gardens, its thrice twelve
churches, its mighty mound, which, if tradition speaks true, was
raised by human hands to serve as the grave-heap of an old heathen
king, who sits deep within it, with his sword in his hand, and his
gold and silver treasures about him. There is a gray old castle
upon the top of that mighty mound; and yonder, rising three hundred
feet above the soil, from among those noble forest trees, behold
that old Norman master-work, that cloud-encircled cathedral spire,
around which a garrulous army of rooks and choughs continually
wheel their flight. Now, who can wonder that the children of that
fine old city are proud of her, and offer up prayers for her
prosperity? I, myself, who was not born within her walls, offer up
prayers for her prosperity, that want may never visit her cottages,
vice her palaces, and that the abomination of idolatry may never
pollute her temples. Ha, idolatry! the reign of idolatry has been
over there for many a long year, never more, let us hope, to
return; brave hearts in that old town have borne witness against
it, and sealed their testimony with their hearts' blood - most
precious to the Lord is the blood of His saints! we are not far
from hallowed ground. Observe ye not yon chalky precipice, to the
right of the Norman bridge? On this side of the stream, upon its
brow, is a piece of ruined wall, the last relic of what was of old
a stately pile, whilst at its foot is a place called the Lollards'
Hole; and with good reason, for many a saint of God has breathed
his last beneath that white precipice, bearing witness against
popish idolatry, midst flame and pitch; many a grisly procession
has advanced along that suburb, across the old bridge, towards the
Lollards' Hole: furious priests in front, a calm pale martyr in
the midst, a pitying multitude behind. It has had its martyrs, the
venerable old town!
Ah! there is good blood in that old city, and in the whole
circumjacent region of which it is the capital. The Angles
possessed the land at an early period, which, however, they were
eventually compelled to share with hordes of Danes and Northmen,
who flocked thither across the sea to found hearthsteads on its
fertile soil. The present race, a mixture of Angles and Danes,
still preserve much which speaks strongly of their northern
ancestry; amongst them ye will find the light-brown hair of the
north, the strong and burly forms of the north, many a wild
superstition, ay, and many a wild name connected with the ancient
history of the north and its sublime mythology; the warm heart and
the strong heart of the old Danes and Saxons still beats in those
regions, and there ye will find, if anywhere, old northern
hospitality and kindness of manner, united with energy,
perseverance, and dauntless intrepidity; better soldiers or
mariners never bled in their country's battles than those nurtured
in those regions, and within those old walls. It was yonder, to
the west, that the great naval hero of Britain first saw the light;
he who annihilated the sea pride of Spain, and dragged the humbled
banner of France in triumph at his stem. He was born yonder,
towards the west, and of him there is a glorious relic in that old
town; in its dark flint guildhouse, the roof of which you can just
descry rising above that maze of buildings, in the upper hall of
justice, is a species of glass shrine, in which the relic is to be
seen; a sword of curious workmanship, the blade is of keen Toledan
steel, the heft of ivory and mother-of-pearl. 'Tis the sword of
Cordova, won in bloodiest fray off Saint Vincent's promontory, and
presented by Nelson to the old capital of the much-loved land of
his birth. Yes, the proud Spaniard's sword is to be seen in yonder
guildhouse, in the glass case affixed to the wall: many other
relics has the good old town, but none prouder than the Spaniard's
Such was the place to which, when the war was over, my father
retired: it was here that the old tired soldier set himself down
with his little family. He had passed the greater part of his life
in meritorious exertion, in the service of his country, and his
chief wish now was to spend the remainder of his days in quiet and
respectability; his means, it is true, were not very ample;
fortunate it was that his desires corresponded with them; with a
small fortune of his own, and with his half-pay as a royal soldier,
he had no fears for himself or for his faithful partner and
helpmate; but then his children! how was he to provide for them?
how launch them upon the wide ocean of the world? This was,
perhaps, the only thought which gave him uneasiness, and I believe
that many an old retired officer at that time, and under similar
circumstances, experienced similar anxiety; had the war continued,
their children would have been, of course, provided for in the
army, but peace now reigned, and the military career was closed to
all save the scions of the aristocracy, or those who were in some
degree connected with that privileged order, an advantage which few
of these old officers could boast of; they had slight influence
with the great, who gave themselves very little trouble either
about them or their families.
'I have been writing to the Duke,' said my father one day to my
excellent mother, after we had been at home somewhat better than a
year. 'I have been writing to the Duke of York about a commission
for that eldest boy of ours. He, however, affords me no hopes; he
says that his list is crammed with names, and that the greater
number of the candidates have better claims than my son.'
'I do not see how that can be,' said my mother.
'Nor do I,' replied my father. 'I see the sons of bankers and
merchants gazetted every month, and I do not see what claims they
have to urge, unless they be golden ones. However, I have not
served my king fifty years to turn grumbler at this time of life.
I suppose that the people at the head of affairs know what is most
proper and convenient; perhaps when the lad sees how difficult,
nay, how impossible it is that he should enter the army, he will
turn his mind to some other profession; I wish he may!'
'I think he has already,' said my mother; 'you see how fond he is
of the arts, of drawing and painting, and, as far as I can judge,
what he has already done is very respectable; his mind seems quite
turned that way, and I heard him say the other day that he would
sooner be a Michael Angelo than a general officer. But you are
always talking of him; what do you think of doing with the other
'What, indeed!' said my father; 'that is a consideration which
gives me no little uneasiness. I am afraid it will be much more
difficult to settle him in life than his brother. What is he
fitted for, even were it in my power to provide for him? God help
the child! I bear him no ill will, on the contrary, all love and
affection; but I cannot shut my eyes; there is something so strange
about him! How he behaved in Ireland! I sent him to school to
learn Greek, and he picked up Irish!'
'And Greek as well,' said my mother. 'I heard him say the other
day that he could read St. John in the original tongue.'
'You will find excuses for him, I know,' said my father. 'You tell
me I am always talking of my first-born; I might retort by saying
you are always thinking of the other: but it is the way of women
always to side with the second-born. There's what's her name in
the Bible, by whose wiles the old blind man was induced to give to
his second son the blessing which was the birthright of the other.
I wish I had been in his place! I should not have been so easily
deceived! no disguise would ever have caused me to mistake an
impostor for my first-born. Though I must say for this boy that he
is nothing like Jacob; he is neither smooth nor sleek, and, though
my second-born, is already taller and larger than his brother.'
'Just so,' said my mother; 'his brother would make a far better
Jacob than he.'
'I will hear nothing against my first-born,' said my father, 'even
in the way of insinuation: he is my joy and pride; the very image
of myself in my youthful days, long before I fought Big Ben; though
perhaps not quite so tall or strong built. As for the other, God
bless the child! I love him, I'm sure; but I must be blind not to
see the difference between him and his brother. Why, he has
neither my hair nor my eyes; and then his countenance! why, 'tis
absolutely swarthy, God forgive me! I had almost said like that of
a gypsy, but I have nothing to say against that; the boy is not to
be blamed for the colour of his face, nor for his hair and eyes;
but, then, his ways and manners! - I confess I do not like them,
and that they give me no little uneasiness - I know that he kept
very strange company when he was in Ireland; people of evil report,
of whom terrible things were said - horse-witches and the like. I
questioned him once or twice upon the matter, and even threatened
him, but it was of no use; he put on a look as if he did not
understand me, a regular Irish look, just such a one as those
rascals assume when they wish to appear all innocence and
simplicity, and they full of malice and deceit all the time. I
don't like them; they are no friends to old England, or its old
king, God bless him! They are not good subjects, and never were;
always in league with foreign enemies. When I was in the
Coldstream, long before the Revolution, I used to hear enough about
the Irish brigades kept by the French kings, to be a thorn in the
side of the English whenever opportunity served. Old Sergeant
Meredith once told me that in the time of the Pretender there were
always, in London alone, a dozen of fellows connected with these
brigades, with the view of seducing the king's soldiers from their
allegiance, and persuading them to desert to France to join the
honest Irish, as they were called. One of these traitors once
accosted him and proposed the matter to him, offering handfuls of
gold if he could induce any of his comrades to go over. Meredith
appeared to consent, but secretly gave information to his colonel;
the fellow was seized, and certain traitorous papers found upon
him; he was hanged before Newgate, and died exulting in his
treason. His name was Michael Nowlan. That ever son of mine
should have been intimate with the Papist Irish, and have learnt
their language!'
'But he thinks of other things now,' said my mother.
'Other languages, you mean,' said my father. 'It is strange that
he has conceived such a zest for the study of languages; no sooner
did he come home than he persuaded me to send him to that old
priest to learn French and Italian, and, if I remember right, you
abetted him; but, as I said before, it is in the nature of women
invariably to take the part of the second-born. Well, there is no
harm in learning French and Italian, perhaps much good in his case,
as they may drive the other tongue out of his head. Irish! why, he
might go to the university but for that; but how would he look
when, on being examined with respect to his attainments, it was
discovered that he understood Irish? How did you learn it? they
would ask him; how did you become acquainted with the language of
Papists and rebels? The boy would be sent away in disgrace.'
'Be under no apprehension, I have no doubt that he has long since
forgotten it.'
'I am glad to hear it,' said my father; 'for, between ourselves, I
love the poor child; ay, quite as well as my first-born. I trust
they will do well, and that God will be their shield and guide; I
have no doubt He will, for I have read something in the Bible to
that effect. What is that text about the young ravens being fed?'
'I know a better than that,' said my mother; 'one of David's own
words, "I have been young and now am grown old, yet never have I
seen the righteous man forsaken, or his seed begging their bread."'
I have heard talk of the pleasures of idleness, yet it is my own
firm belief that no one ever yet took pleasure in it. Mere
idleness is the most disagreeable state of existence, and both mind
and body are continually making efforts to escape from it. It has
been said that idleness is the parent of mischief, which is very
true; but mischief itself is merely an attempt to escape from the
dreary vacuum of idleness. There are many tasks and occupations
which a man is unwilling to perform, but let no one think that he
is therefore in love with idleness; he turns to something which is
more agreeable to his inclination, and doubtless more suited to his
nature; but he is not in love with idleness. A boy may play the
truant from school because he dislikes books and study; but, depend
upon it, he intends doing something the while - to go fishing, or
perhaps to take a walk; and who knows but that from such excursions
both his mind and body may derive more benefit than from books and
school? Many people go to sleep to escape from idleness; the
Spaniards do; and, according to the French account, John Bull, the
'squire, hangs himself in the month of November; but the French,
who are a very sensible people, attribute the action A UNE GRANDE
ENVIE DE SE DESENNUYER; he wishes to be doing something, say they,
and having nothing better to do, he has recourse to the cord.
It was for want of something better to do that, shortly after my
return home, I applied myself to the study of languages. By the
acquisition of Irish, with the first elements of which I had become
acquainted under the tuition of Murtagh, I had contracted a certain
zest and inclination for the pursuit. Yet it is probable that had
I been launched about this time into some agreeable career, that of
arms for example, for which, being the son of a soldier, I had, as
was natural, a sort of penchant, I might have thought nothing more
of the acquisition of tongues of any kind; but, having nothing to
do, I followed the only course suited to my genius which appeared
open to me.
So it came to pass that one day, whilst wandering listlessly about
the streets of the old town, I came to a small book-stall, and
stopping, commenced turning over the books; I took up at least a
dozen, and almost instantly flung them down. What were they to me?
At last, coming to a thick volume, I opened it, and after
inspecting its contents for a few minutes, I paid for it what was
demanded, and forthwith carried it home.
It was a tessaraglot grammar; a strange old book, printed somewhere
in Holland, which pretended to be an easy guide to the acquirement
of the French, Italian, Low Dutch, and English tongues, by means of
which any one conversant in any one of these languages could make
himself master of the other three. I turned my attention to the
French and Italian. The old book was not of much value; I derived
some benefit from it, however, and, conning it intensely, at the
end of a few weeks obtained some insight into the structure of
these two languages. At length I had learnt all that the book was
capable of informing me, yet was still far from the goal to which
it had promised to conduct me. 'I wish I had a master!' I
exclaimed; and the master was at hand. In an old court of the old
town lived a certain elderly personage, perhaps sixty, or
thereabouts; he was rather tall, and something of a robust make,
with a countenance in which bluffness was singularly blended with
vivacity and grimace; and with a complexion which would have been
ruddy, but for a yellow hue which rather predominated. His dress
consisted of a snuff-coloured coat and drab pantaloons, the former
evidently seldom subjected to the annoyance of a brush, and the
latter exhibiting here and there spots of something which, if not
grease, bore a strong resemblance to it; add to these articles an
immense frill, seldom of the purest white, but invariably of the
finest French cambric, and you have some idea of his dress. He had
rather a remarkable stoop, but his step was rapid and vigorous, and
as he hurried along the streets, he would glance to the right and
left with a pair of big eyes like plums, and on recognising any one
would exalt a pair of grizzled eyebrows, and slightly kiss a tawny
and ungloved hand. At certain hours of the day be might be seen
entering the doors of female boarding-schools, generally with a
book in his hand, and perhaps another just peering from the orifice
of a capacious back pocket; and at a certain season of the year he
might be seen, dressed in white, before the altar of a certain
small popish chapel, chanting from the breviary in very
intelligible Latin, or perhaps reading from the desk in utterly
unintelligible English. Such was my preceptor in the French and
Italian tongues. 'Exul sacerdos; vone banished priest. I came
into England twenty-five year ago, "my dear."'
Monsieur Dante - Condemned musket - Sporting - Sweet rivulet - The
Earl's Home - The pool - The sonorous voice - What dost thou read?
- Man of peace - Zohar and Mishna - Money-changers.
So I studied French and Italian under the tuition of the banished
priest, to whose house I went regularly every evening to receive
instruction. I made considerable progress in the acquisition of
the two languages. I found the French by far the most difficult,
chiefly on account of the accent, which my master himself possessed
in no great purity, being a Norman by birth. The Italian was my
'Vous serez un jour un grand philologue, mon cher,' said the old
man, on our arriving at the conclusion of Dante's Hell.
'I hope I shall be something better,' said I, 'before I die, or I
shall have lived to little purpose.'
'That's true, my dear! philologist - one small poor dog. What
would you wish to be?'
'Many things sooner than that; for example, I would rather be like
him who wrote this book.'
'Quoi, Monsieur Dante? He was a vagabond, my dear, forced to fly
from his country. No, my dear, if you would be like one poet, be
like Monsieur Boileau; he is the poet.'
'I don't think so.'
'How, not think so? He wrote very respectable verses; lived and
died much respected by everybody. T'other, one bad dog, forced to
fly from his country - died with not enough to pay his undertaker.'
'Were you not forced to flee from your country?'
'That very true; but there is much difference between me and this
Dante. He fled from country because he had one bad tongue which he
shook at his betters. I fly because benefice gone, and head going;
not on account of the badness of my tongue.'
'Well,' said I, 'you can return now; the Bourbons are restored.'
'I find myself very well here; not bad country. Il est vrai que la
France sera toujours la France; but all are dead there who knew me.
I find myself very well here. Preach in popish chapel, teach
schismatic, that is Protestant, child tongues and literature. I
find myself very well; and why? Because I know how to govern my
tongue; never call people hard names. Ma foi, il y a beaucoup de
difference entre moi et ce sacre de Dante.'
Under this old man, who was well versed in the southern languages,
besides studying French and Italian, I acquired some knowledge of
Spanish. But I did not devote my time entirely to philology; I had
other pursuits. I had not forgotten the roving life I had led in
former days, nor its delights; neither was I formed by Nature to be
a pallid indoor student. No, no! I was fond of other and, I say
it boldly, better things than study. I had an attachment to the
angle, ay, and to the gun likewise. In our house was a condemned
musket, bearing somewhere on its lock, in rather antique
characters, 'Tower, 1746'; with this weapon I had already, in
Ireland, performed some execution among the rooks and choughs, and
it was now again destined to be a source of solace and amusement to
me, in the winter season, especially on occasions of severe frost
when birds abounded. Sallying forth with it at these times, far
into the country, I seldom returned at night without a string of
bullfinches, blackbirds, and linnets hanging in triumph round my
neck. When I reflect on the immense quantity of powder and shot
which I crammed down the muzzle of my uncouth fowling-piece, I am
less surprised at the number of birds which I slaughtered than that
I never blew my hands, face, and old honeycombed gun, it one and
the same time, to pieces.
But the winter, alas! (I speak as a fowler) seldom lasts in England
more than three or four months; so, during the rest of the year,
when not occupied with my philological studies, I had to seek for
other diversions. I have already given a hint that I was also
addicted to the angle. Of course there is no comparison between
the two pursuits, the rod and line seeming but very poor trumpery
to one who has had the honour of carrying a noble firelock. There
is a time, however, for all things; and we return to any favourite
amusement with the greater zest, from being compelled to relinquish
it for a season. So, if I shot birds in winter with my firelock, I
caught fish in summer, or attempted so to do, with my angle. I was
not quite so successful, it is true, with the latter as with the
former; possibly because it afforded me less pleasure. It was,
indeed, too much of a listless pastime to inspire me with any great
interest. I not unfrequently fell into a doze, whilst sitting on
the bank, and more than once let my rod drop from my hands into the
At some distance from the city, behind a range of hilly ground
which rises towards the south-west, is a small river, the waters of
which, after many meanderings, eventually enter the principal river
of the district, and assist to swell the tide which it rolls down
to the ocean. It is a sweet rivulet, and pleasant is it to trace
its course from its spring-head, high up in the remote regions of
Eastern Anglia, till it arrives in the valley behind yon rising
ground; and pleasant is that valley, truly a goodly spot, but most
lovely where yonder bridge crosses the little stream. Beneath its
arch the waters rush garrulously into a blue pool, and are there
stilled, for a time, for the pool is deep, and they appear to have
sunk to sleep. Farther on, however, you hear their voice again,
where they ripple gaily over yon gravelly shallow. On the left,
the hill slopes gently down to the margin of the stream. On the
right is a green level, a smiling meadow, grass of the richest
decks the side of the slope; mighty trees also adorn it, giant
elms, the nearest of which, when the sun is nigh its meridian,
fling a broad shadow upon the face of the pool; through yon vista
you catch a glimpse of the ancient brick of an old English hall.
It has a stately look, that old building, indistinctly seen, as it
is, among those umbrageous trees; you might almost suppose it an
earl's home; and such it was, or rather upon its site stood an
earl's home, in days of old, for there some old Kemp, some Sigurd
or Thorkild, roaming in quest of a hearthstead, settled down in the
gray old time, when Thor and Freya were yet gods, and Odin was a
portentous name. Yon old hall is still called the Earl's Home,
though the hearth of Sigurd is now no more, and the bones of the
old Kemp, and of Sigrith his dame, have been mouldering for a
thousand years in some neighbouring knoll; perhaps yonder, where
those tall Norwegian pines shoot up so boldly into the air. It is
said that the old earl's galley was once moored where is now that
blue pool, for the waters of that valley were not always sweet; yon
valley was once an arm of the sea, a salt lagoon, to which the warbarks
of 'Sigurd, in search of a home,' found their way.
I was in the habit of spending many an hour on the banks of that
rivulet, with my rod in my hand, and, when tired with angling,
would stretch myself on the grass, and gaze upon the waters as they
glided past, and not unfrequently, divesting myself of my dress, I
would plunge into the deep pool which I have already mentioned, for
I had long since learned to swim. And it came to pass that on one
hot summer's day, after bathing in the pool, I passed along the
meadow till I came to a shallow part, and, wading over to the
opposite side, I adjusted my dress, and commenced fishing in
another pool, beside which was a small clump of hazels.
And there I sat upon the bank, at the bottom of the hill which
slopes down from 'the Earl's home'; my float was on the waters, and
my back was towards the old hall. I drew up many fish, small and
great, which I took from off the hook mechanically, and flung upon
the bank, for I was almost unconscious of what I was about, for my
mind was not with my fish. I was thinking of my earlier years - of
the Scottish crags and the heaths of Ireland - and sometimes my
mind would dwell on my studies - on the sonorous stanzas of Dante,
rising and falling like the waves of the sea - or would strive to
remember a couplet or two of poor Monsieur Boileau.
'Canst thou answer to thy conscience for pulling all those fish out
of the water, and leaving them to gasp in the sun?' said a voice,
clear and sonorous as a bell.
I started, and looked round. Close behind me stood the tall figure
of a man, dressed in raiment of quaint and singular fashion, but of
goodly materials. He was in the prime and vigour of manhood; his
features handsome and noble, but full of calmness and benevolence;
at least I thought so, though they were somewhat shaded by a hat of
finest beaver, with broad drooping eaves.
'Surely that is a very cruel diversion in which thou indulgest, my
young friend?' he continued.
'I am sorry for it, if it be, sir,' said I, rising; 'but I do not
think it cruel to fish.'
'What are thy reasons for not thinking so?'
'Fishing is mentioned frequently in Scripture. Simon Peter was a
'True; and Andrew and his brother. But thou forgettest: they did
not follow fishing as a diversion, as I fear thou doest. - Thou
readest the Scriptures?'
'Sometimes? - not daily? - that is to be regretted. What
profession dost thou make? - I mean to what religious denomination
dost thou belong, my young friend.'
'It is a very good profession - there is much of Scripture
contained in its liturgy. Dost thou read aught besides the
'What dost thou read besides?'
'Greek, and Dante.'
'Indeed! then thou hast the advantage over myself; I can only read
the former. Well, I am rejoiced to find that thou hast other
pursuits beside thy fishing. Dost thou know Hebrew?'
'Thou shouldst study it. Why dost thou not undertake the study?'
'I have no books.'
'I will lend thee books, if thou wish to undertake the study. I
live yonder at the hall, as perhaps thou knowest. I have a library
there, in which are many curious books, both in Greek and Hebrew,
which I will show to thee, whenever thou mayest find it convenient
to come and see me. Farewell! I am glad to find that thou hast
pursuits more satisfactory than thy cruel fishing.'
And the man of peace departed, and left me on the bank of the
stream. Whether from the effect of his words, or from want of
inclination to the sport, I know not, but from that day I became
less and less a practitioner of that 'cruel fishing.' I rarely
flung line and angle into the water, but I not unfrequently
wandered by the banks of the pleasant rivulet. It seems singular
to me, on reflection, that I never availed myself of his kind
invitation. I say singular, for the extraordinary, under whatever
form, had long had no slight interest for me; and I had discernment
enough to perceive that yon was no common man. Yet I went not near
him, certainly not from bashfulness or timidity, feelings to which
I had long been an entire stranger. Am I to regret this? perhaps,
for I might have learned both wisdom and righteousness from those
calm, quiet lips, and my after-course might have been widely
different. As it was, I fell in with other guess companions, from
whom I received widely different impressions than those I might
have derived from him. When many years had rolled on, long after I
had attained manhood, and had seen and suffered much, and when our
first interview had long since been effaced from the mind of the
man of peace, I visited him in his venerable hall, and partook of
the hospitality of his hearth. And there I saw his gentle partner
and his fair children, and on the morrow he showed me the books of
which he had spoken years before by the side of the stream. In the
low quiet chamber, whose one window, shaded by a gigantic elm,
looks down the slope towards the pleasant stream, he took from the
shelf his learned books, Zohar and Mishna, Toldoth Jesu and
Abarbenel. 'I am fond of these studies,' said he, 'which, perhaps,
is not to be wondered at, seeing that our people have been
compared to the Jews. In one respect I confess we are similar to
them; we are fond of getting money. I do not like this last
author, this Abarbenel, the worse for having been a money-changer.
I am a banker myself, as thou knowest.'
And would there were many like him, amidst the money-changers of
princes! The hall of many an earl lacks the bounty, the palace of
many a prelate the piety and learning, which adorn the quiet
quaker's home!
Fair of horses - Looks of respect - The fast trotter - Pair of eyes
- Strange men - Jasper, your pal - Force of blood - Young lady with
diamonds - Not quite so beautiful.
I WAS standing on the castle hill in the midst of a fair of horses.
I have already had occasion to mention this castle. It is the
remains of what was once a Norman stronghold, and is perched upon a
round mound or monticle, in the midst of the old city. Steep is
this mound and scarped, evidently by the hand of man; a deep gorge
over which is flung a bridge, separates it, on the south, from a
broad swell of open ground called 'the hill'; of old the scene of
many a tournament and feat of Norman chivalry, but now much used as
a show-place for cattle, where those who buy and sell beeves and
other beasts resort at stated periods.
So it came to pass that I stood upon this hill, observing a fair of
The reader is already aware that I had long since conceived a
passion for the equine race; a passion in which circumstances had
of late not permitted me to indulge. I had no horses to ride, but
I took pleasure in looking at them; and I had already attended more
than one of these fairs: the present was lively enough, indeed
horse fairs are seldom dull. There was shouting and whooping,
neighing and braying; there was galloping and trotting; fellows
with highlows and white stockings, and with many a string dangling
from the knees of their tight breeches, were running desperately,
holding horses by the halter, and in some cases dragging them
along; there were long-tailed steeds and dock-tailed steeds of
every degree and breed; there were droves of wild ponies, and long
rows of sober cart horses; there were donkeys, and even mules: the
last rare things to be seen in damp, misty England, for the mule
pines in mud and rain, and thrives best with a hot sun above and a
burning sand below. There were - oh, the gallant creatures! I
hear their neigh upon the wind; there were - goodliest sight of all
- certain enormous quadrupeds only seen to perfection in our native
isle, led about by dapper grooms, their manes ribanded and their
tails curiously clubbed and balled. Ha! ha! - how distinctly do
they say, ha! ha!
An old man draws nigh, he is mounted on a lean pony, and he leads
by the bridle one of these animals; nothing very remarkable about
that creature, unless in being smaller than the rest and gentle,
which they are not; he is not of the sightliest look; he is almost
dun, and over one eye a thick film has gathered. But stay! there
IS something remarkable about that horse, there is something in his
action in which he differs from all the rest: as he advances, the
clamour is hushed! all eyes are turned upon him - what looks of
interest - of respect - and, what is this? people are taking off
their hats - surely not to that steed! Yes, verily! men,
especially old men, are taking off their hats to that one-eyed
steed, and I hear more than one deep-drawn ah!
'What horse is that?' said I to a very old fellow, the counterpart
of the old man on the pony, save that the last wore a faded suit of
velveteen, and this one was dressed in a white frock.
'The best in mother England,' said the very old man, taking a
knobbed stick from his mouth, and looking me in the face, at first
carelessly, but presently with something like interest; 'he is old
like myself, but can still trot his twenty miles an hour. You
won't live long, my swain; tall and over-grown ones like thee never
does; yet, if you should chance to reach my years, you may boast to
thy great-grand-boys thou hast seen Marshland Shales.'
Amain I did for the horse what I would neither do for earl nor
baron, doffed my hat; yes! I doffed my hat to the wondrous horse,
the fast trotter, the best in mother England; and I too drew a deep
ah! and repeated the words of the old fellows around. 'Such a
horse as this we shall never see again; a pity that he is so old.'
Now during all this time I had a kind of consciousness that I had
been the object of some person's observation; that eyes were
fastened upon me from somewhere in the crowd. Sometimes I thought
myself watched from before, sometimes from behind; and occasionally
methought that, if I just turned my head to the right or left, I
should meet a peering and inquiring glance; and indeed once or
twice I did turn, expecting to see somebody whom I knew, yet always
without success; though it appeared to me that I was but a moment
too late, and that some one had just slipped away from the
direction to which I turned, like the figure in a magic lanthorn.
Once I was quite sure that there were a pair of eyes glaring over
my right shoulder; my attention, however, was so fully occupied
with the objects which I have attempted to describe, that I thought
very little of this coming and going, this flitting and dodging of
I knew not whom or what. It was, after all, a matter of sheer
indifference to me who was looking at me. I could only wish
whomsoever it might be to be more profitably employed; so I
continued enjoying what I saw; and now there was a change in the
scene, the wondrous old horse departed with his aged guardian;
other objects of interest are at hand; two or three men on
horseback are hurrying through the crowd, they are widely different
in their appearance from the other people of the fair; not so much
in dress, for they are clad something after the fashion of rustic
jockeys, but in their look - no light-brown hair have they, no
ruddy cheeks, no blue quiet glances belong to them; their features
are dark, their locks long, black, and shining, and their eyes are
wild; they are admirable horsemen, but they do not sit the saddle
in the manner of common jockeys, they seem to float or hover upon
it, like gulls upon the waves; two of them are mere striplings, but
the third is a very tall man with a countenance heroically
beautiful, but wild, wild, wild. As they rush along, the crowd
give way on all sides, and now a kind of ring or circus is formed,
within which the strange men exhibit their horsemanship, rushing
past each other, in and out, after the manner of a reel, the tall
man occasionally balancing himself upon the saddle, and standing
erect on one foot. He had just regained his seat after the latter
feat, and was about to push his horse to a gallop, when a figure
started forward close from beside me, and laying his hand on his
neck, and pulling him gently downward, appeared to whisper
something into his ear; presently the tall man raised his head,
and, scanning the crowd for a moment in the direction in which I
was standing, fixed his eyes full upon me, and anon the countenance
of the whisperer was turned, but only in part, and the side-glance
of another pair of wild eyes was directed towards my face, but the
entire visage of the big black man, half stooping as he was, was
turned full upon mine.
But now, with a nod to the figure who had stopped him, and with
another inquiring glance at myself, the big man once more put his
steed into motion, and, after riding round the ring a few more
times, darted through a lane in the crowd, and followed by his two
companions disappeared, whereupon the figure who had whispered to
him, and had subsequently remained in the middle of the space, came
towards me, and, cracking a whip which he held in his hand so
loudly that the report was nearly equal to that of a pocket pistol,
he cried in a strange tone:
'What! the sap-engro? Lor! the sap-engro upon the hill!'
'I remember that word,' said I, 'and I almost think I remember you.
You can't be - '
'Jasper, your pal! Truth, and no lie, brother.'
'It is strange that you should have known me,' said I. 'I am
certain, but for the word you used, I should never have recognised
'Not so strange as you may think, brother; there is something in
your face which would prevent people from forgetting you, even
though they might wish it; and your face is not much altered since
the time you wot of, though you are so much grown. I thought it
was you, but to make sure I dodged about, inspecting you. I
believe you felt me, though I never touched you; a sign, brother,
that we are akin, that we are dui palor - two relations. Your
blood beat when mine was near, as mine always does at the coming of
a brother; and we became brothers in that lane.'
'And where are you staying?' said I; 'in this town?'
'Not in the town; the like of us don't find it exactly wholesome to
stay in towns, we keep abroad. But I have little to do here - come
with me, and I'll show you where we stay.'
We descended the hill in the direction of the north, and passing
along the suburb reached the old Norman bridge, which we crossed;
the chalk precipice, with the ruin on its top, was now before us;
but turning to the left we walked swiftly along, and presently came
to some rising ground, which ascending, we found ourselves upon a
wild moor or heath.
'You are one of them,' said I, 'whom people call - '
'Just so,' said Jasper; 'but never mind what people call us.'
'And that tall handsome man on the hill, whom you whispered? I
suppose he's one of ye. What is his name?'
'Tawno Chikno,' said Jasper, 'which means the small one; we call
him such because he is the biggest man of all our nation. You say
he is handsome, that is not the word, brother; he's the beauty of
the world. Women run wild at the sight of Tawno. An earl's
daughter, near London - a fine young lady with diamonds round her
neck - fell in love with Tawno. I have seen that lass on a heath,
as this may be, kneel down to Tawno, clasp his feet, begging to be
his wife - or anything else - if she might go with him. But Tawno
would have nothing to do with her: "I have a wife of my own," said
he, "a lawful rommany wife, whom I love better than the whole
world, jealous though she sometimes be."'
'And is she very beautiful?' said I.
'Why, you know, brother, beauty is frequently a matter of taste;
however, as you ask my opinion, I should say not quite so beautiful
as himself.'
We had now arrived at a small valley between two hills, or downs,
the sides of which were covered with furze; in the midst of this
valley were various carts and low tents forming a rude kind of
encampment; several dark children were playing about, who took no
manner of notice of us. As we passed one of the tents, however, a
canvas screen was lifted up, and a woman supported upon a crutch
hobbled out. She was about the middle age, and, besides being
lame, was bitterly ugly; she was very slovenly dressed, and on her
swarthy features ill nature was most visibly stamped. She did not
deign me a look, but, addressing Jasper in a tongue which I did not
understand, appeared to put some eager questions to him.
'He's coming,' said Jasper, and passed on. 'Poor fellow,' said he
to me, 'he has scarcely been gone an hour, and she's jealous
already. Well,' he continued, 'what do you think of her? you have
seen her now, and can judge for yourself - that 'ere woman is Tawno
Chikno's wife!'
The tent - Pleasant discourse - I am Pharaoh - Shifting for one's
self - Horse-shoes - This is wonderful - Bless your wisdom - A
pretty manoeuvre - Ill day to the Romans - My name is Herne -
Singular people - An original speech - Word-master - Speaking
WE went to the farthest of the tents, which stood at a slight
distance from the rest, and which exactly resembled the one which I
have described on a former occasion; we went in and sat down one on
each side of a small fire, which was smouldering on the ground,
there was no one else in the tent but a tall tawny woman of middle
age, who was busily knitting. 'Brother,' said Jasper, 'I wish to
hold some pleasant discourse with you.'
'As much as you please,' said I, 'provided you can find anything
pleasant to talk about.'
'Never fear,' said Jasper; 'and first of all we will talk of
yourself. Where have you been all this long time?'
'Here and there,' said I, 'and far and near, going about with the
soldiers; but there is no soldiering now, so we have sat down,
father and family, in the town there.'
'And do you still hunt snakes?' said Jasper.
'No,' said I, 'I have given up that long ago; I do better now:
read books and learn languages.'
'Well, I am sorry you have given up your snake-hunting, many's the
strange talk I have had with our people about your snake and
yourself, and how you frightened my father and mother in the lane.'
'And where are your father and mother?'
'Where I shall never see them, brother; at least, I hope so.'
'Not dead?'
'No, not dead; they are bitchadey pawdel.'
'What's that?'
'Sent across - banished.'
'Ah! I understand; I am sorry for them. And so you are here
'Not quite alone, brother.'
'No, not alone; but with the rest - Tawno Chikno takes care of
'Takes care of me, brother!'
'Yes, stands to you in the place of a father - keeps you out of
harm's way.'
'What do you take me for, brother?'
'For about three years older than myself.'
'Perhaps; but you are of the Gorgios, and I am a Rommany Chal.
Tawno Chikno take care of Jasper Petulengro!'
'Is that your name?'
'Don't you like it?'
'Very much, I never heard a sweeter; it is something like what you
call me.'
'The horse-shoe master and the snake-fellow, I am the first.'
'Who gave you that name?'
'Ask Pharaoh.'
'I would, if he were here, but I do not see him.'
'I am Pharaoh.'
'Then you are a king.'
'Chachipen Pal.'
'I do not understand you.'
'Where are your languages? You want two things, brother: mother
sense, and gentle Rommany.'
'What makes you think that I want sense?'
'That, being so old, you can't yet guide yourself!'
'I can read Dante, Jasper.'
'Anan, brother.'
'I can charm snakes, Jasper.'
'I know you can, brother.'
'Yes, and horses too; bring me the most vicious in the land, if I
whisper he'll be tame.'
'Then the more shame for you - a snake-fellow - a horse-witch - and
a lil-reader - yet you can't shift for yourself. I laugh at you,
'Then you can shift for yourself?'
'For myself and for others, brother.'
'And what does Chikno?'
'Sells me horses, when I bid him. Those horses on the chong were
'And has he none of his own?'
'Sometimes he has; but he is not so well off as myself. When my
father and mother were bitchadey pawdel, which, to tell you the
truth, they were for chiving wafodo dloovu, they left me all they
had, which was not a little, and I became the head of our family,
which was not a small one. I was not older than you when that
happened; yet our people said they had never a better krallis to
contrive and plan for them, and to keep them in order. And this is
so well known that many Rommany Chals, not of our family, come and
join themselves to us, living with us for a time, in order to
better themselves, more especially those of the poorer sort, who
have little of their own. Tawno is one of these.'
'Is that fine fellow poor?'
'One of the poorest, brother. Handsome as he is, he has not a
horse of his own to ride on. Perhaps we may put it down to his
wife, who cannot move about, being a cripple, as you saw.'
'And you are what is called a Gypsy King?'
'Ay, ay; a Rommany Kral.'
'Are there other kings?'
'Those who call themselves so; but the true Pharaoh is Petulengro.'
'Did Pharaoh make horse-shoes?'
'The first who ever did, brother.'
'Pharaoh lived in Egypt.'
'So did we once, brother.'
'And you left it?'
'My fathers did, brother.'
'And why did they come here?'
'They had their reasons, brother.'
'And you are not English?'
'We are not gorgios.'
'And you have a language of your own?'
'This is wonderful.'
'Ha, ha!' cried the woman, who had hitherto sat knitting, at the
farther end of the tent, without saying a word, though not
inattentive to our conversation, as I could perceive by certain
glances which she occasionally cast upon us both. 'Ha, ha!' she
screamed, fixing upon me two eyes, which shone like burning coals,
and which were filled with an expression both of scorn and
malignity, 'It is wonderful, is it, that we should have a language
of our own? What, you grudge the poor people the speech they talk
among themselves? That's just like you gorgios; you would have
everybody stupid, single-tongued idiots, like yourselves. We are
taken before the Poknees of the gav, myself and sister, to give an
account of ourselves. So I says to my sister's little boy,
speaking Rommany, I says to the little boy who is with us, Run to
my son Jasper, and the rest, and tell them to be off, there are
hawks abroad. So the Poknees questions us, and lets us go, not
being able to make anything of us; but, as we are going, he calls
us back. "Good woman," says the Poknees, "what was that I heard
you say just now to the little boy?" "I was telling him, your
worship, to go and see the time of day, and to save trouble, I said
it in our language." "Where did you get that language?" says the
Poknees. "'Tis our own language, sir," I tells him, "we did not
steal it." "Shall I tell you what it is, my good woman?" says the
Poknees. "I would thank you, sir," says I, "for 'tis often we are
asked about it." "Well, then," says the Poknees, "it is no
language at all, merely a made-up gibberish." "Oh, bless your
wisdom," says I, with a curtsey, "you can tell us what our language
is, without understanding it!" Another time we meet a parson.
"Good woman," says he, "what's that you are talking? Is it broken
language?" "Of course, your reverence," says I, "we are broken
people; give a shilling, your reverence, to the poor broken woman."
Oh, these gorgios! they grudge us our very language!'
'She called you her son, Jasper?'
'I am her son, brother.'
'I thought you said your parents were - '
'Bitchadey pawdel; you thought right, brother. This is my wife's
'Then you are married, Jasper?'
'Ay, truly; I am husband and father. You will see wife and chabo
'Where are they now?'
'In the gav, penning dukkerin.'
'We were talking of language, Jasper?'
'True, brother.'
'Yours must be a rum one?'
''Tis called Rommany.'
'I would gladly know it.'
'You need it sorely.'
'Would you teach it me?'
'None sooner.'
'Suppose we begin now?'
'Suppose we do, brother.'
'Not whilst I am here,' said the woman, flinging her knitting down,
and starting upon her feet; 'not whilst I am here shall this gorgio
learn Rommany. A pretty manoeuvre, truly; and what would be the
end of it? I goes to the farming ker with my sister, to tell a
fortune, and earn a few sixpences for the chabes. I sees a jolly
pig in the yard, and I says to my sister, speaking Rommany, "Do so
and so," says I; which the farming man hearing, asks what we are
talking about. "Nothing at all, master," says I; "something about
the weather"; when who should start up from behind a pale, where he
has been listening, but this ugly gorgio, crying out, "They are
after poisoning your pigs, neighbour!" so that we are glad to run,
I and my sister, with perhaps the farm-engro shouting after us.
Says my sister to me, when we have got fairly off, "How came that
ugly one to know what you said to me?" Whereupon I answers, "It
all comes of my son Jasper, who brings the gorgio to our fire, and
must needs be teaching him." "Who was fool there?" says my sister.
"Who, indeed, but my son Jasper," I answers. And here should I be
a greater fool to sit still and suffer it; which I will not do. I
do not like the look of him; he looks over-gorgeous. An ill day to
the Romans when he masters Rommany; and, when I says that, I pens a
true dukkerin.'
'What do you call God, Jasper?'
'You had better be jawing,' said the woman, raising her voice to a
terrible scream; 'you had better be moving off, my gorgio; hang you
for a keen one, sitting there by the fire, and stealing my language
before my face. Do you know whom you have to deal with? Do you
know that I am dangerous? My name is Herne, and I comes of the
hairy ones!'
And a hairy one she looked! She wore her hair clubbed upon her
head, fastened with many strings and ligatures; but now, tearing
these off, her locks, originally jet black, but now partially
grizzled with age, fell down on every side of her, covering her
face and back as far down as her knees. No she-bear of Lapland
ever looked more fierce and hairy than did that woman, as standing
in the open part of the tent, with her head bent down, and her
shoulders drawn up, seemingly about to precipitate herself upon me,
she repeated, again and again, -
'My name is Herne, and I comes of the hairy ones! - '
'I call God Duvel, brother.'
'It sounds very like Devil.'
'It doth, brother, it doth.'
'And what do you call divine, I mean godly?'
'Oh! I call that duvelskoe.'
'I am thinking of something, Jasper.'
'What are you thinking of, brother?'
'Would it not be a rum thing if divine and devilish were originally
one and the same word?'
'It would, brother, it would - '
. . .
From this time I had frequent interviews with Jasper, sometimes in
his tent, sometimes on the heath, about which we would roam for
hours, discoursing on various matters. Sometimes, mounted on one
of his horses, of which he had several, I would accompany him to
various fairs and markets in the neighbourhood, to which he went on
his own affairs, or those of his tribe. I soon found that I had
become acquainted with a most singular people, whose habits and
pursuits awakened within me the highest interest. Of all connected
with them, however, their language was doubtless that which
exercised the greatest influence over my imagination. I had at
first some suspicion that it would prove a mere made-up gibberish;
but I was soon undeceived. Broken, corrupted, and half in ruins as
it was, it was not long before I found that it was an original
speech, far more so, indeed, than one or two others of high name
and celebrity, which, up to that time, I had been in the habit of
regarding with respect and veneration. Indeed many obscure points
connected with the vocabulary of these languages, and to which
neither classic nor modern lore afforded any clue, I thought I
could now clear up by means of this strange broken tongue, spoken
by people who dwelt amongst thickets and furze bushes, in tents as
tawny as their faces, and whom the generality of mankind
designated, and with much semblance of justice, as thieves and
vagabonds. But where did this speech come from, and who were they
who spoke it? These were questions which I could not solve, and
which Jasper himself, when pressed, confessed his inability to
answer. 'But, whoever we be, brother,' said he, 'we are an old
people, and not what folks in general imagine, broken gorgios; and,
if we are not Egyptians, we are at any rate Rommany Chals!'
'Rommany Chals! I should not wonder after all,' said I, 'that
these people had something to do with the founding of Rome. Rome,
it is said, was built by vagabonds, who knows but that some tribe
of the kind settled down thereabouts, and called the town which
they built after their name; but whence did they come originally?
ah! there is the difficulty.'
But abandoning these questions, which at that time were far too
profound for me, I went on studying the language, and at the same
time the characters and manners of these strange people. My rapid
progress in the former astonished, while it delighted, Jasper.
'We'll no longer call you Sap-engro, brother,' said he; but rather
Lav-engro, which in the language of the gorgios meaneth Wordmaster.'
'Nay, brother,' said Tawno Chikno, with whom I had become
very intimate, 'you had better call him Cooro-mengro, I have put on
THE GLOVES with him, and find him a pure fist-master; I like him
for that, for I am a Cooro-mengro myself, and was born at
'I likes him for his modesty,' said Mrs. Chikno; 'I never hears any
ill words come from his mouth, but, on the contrary, much sweet
language. His talk is golden, and he has taught my eldest to say
his prayers in Rommany, which my rover had never the grace to do.'
'He is the pal of my rom,' said Mrs. Petulengro, who was a very
handsome woman, 'and therefore I likes him, and not the less for
his being a rye; folks calls me high-minded, and perhaps I have
reason to be so; before I married Pharaoh I had an offer from a
lord - I likes the young rye, and, if he chooses to follow us, he
shall have my sister. What say you, mother? should not the young
rye have my sister Ursula?'
'I am going to my people,' said Mrs. Herne, placing a bundle upon a
donkey, which was her own peculiar property; 'I am going to
Yorkshire, for I can stand this no longer. You say you like him:
in that we differs; I hates the gorgio, and would like, speaking
Romanly, to mix a little poison with his waters. And now go to
Lundra, my children, I goes to Yorkshire. Take my blessing with
ye, and a little bit of a gillie to cheer your hearts with when ye
are weary. In all kinds of weather have we lived together; but now
we are parted. I goes broken-hearted - I can't keep you company;
ye are no longer Rommany. To gain a bad brother, ye have lost a
good mother.'
What profession? - Not fitted for a Churchman - Erratic course -
The bitter draught - Principle of woe - Thou wouldst be joyous -
What ails you? - Poor child of clay.
SO the gypsies departed; Mrs. Herne to Yorkshire, and the rest to
London: as for myself, I continued in the house of my parents,
passing my time in much the same manner as I have already
described, principally in philological pursuits; but I was now
sixteen, and it was highly necessary that I should adopt some
profession, unless I intended to fritter away my existence, and to
be a useless burden to those who had given me birth; but what
profession was I to choose? there being none in the wide world
perhaps for which I was suited; nor was there any one for which I
felt any decided inclination, though perhaps there existed within
me a lurking penchant for the profession of arms, which was natural
enough, as, from my earliest infancy, I had been accustomed to
military sights and sounds; but this profession was then closed, as
I have already hinted, and, as I believe, it has since continued,
to those who, like myself, had no better claims to urge than the
services of a father.
My father, who, for certain reasons of his own, had no very high
opinion of the advantages resulting from this career, would have
gladly seen me enter the Church. His desire was, however,
considerably abated by one or two passages of my life, which
occurred to his recollection. He particularly dwelt on the
unheard-of manner in which I had picked up the Irish language, and
drew from thence the conclusion that I was not fitted by nature to
cut a respectable figure at an English university. 'He will fly
off in a tangent,' said he, 'and, when called upon to exhibit his
skill in Greek, will be found proficient in Irish; I have observed
the poor lad attentively, and really do not know what to make of
him; but I am afraid he will never make a churchman!' And I have
no doubt that my excellent father was right, both in his premisses
and the conclusion at which he arrived. I had undoubtedly, at one
period of my life, forsaken Greek for Irish, and the instructions
of a learned Protestant divine for those of a Papist gossoon, the
card-fancying Murtagh; and of late, though I kept it a strict
secret, I had abandoned in a great measure the study of the
beautiful Italian, and the recitation of the sonorous terzets of
the Divine Comedy, in which at one time I took the greatest
delight, in order to become acquainted with the broken speech, and
yet more broken songs, of certain houseless wanderers whom I had
met at a horse fair. Such an erratic course was certainly by no
means in consonance with the sober and unvarying routine of college
study. And my father, who was a man of excellent common sense,
displayed it in not pressing me to adopt a profession which
required qualities of mind which he saw I did not possess.
Other professions were talked of, amongst which the law; but now an
event occurred which had nearly stopped my career, and merged all
minor points of solicitude in anxiety for my life. My strength and
appetite suddenly deserted me, and I began to pine and droop. Some
said that I had overgrown myself, and that these were the symptoms
of a rapid decline; I grew worse and worse, and was soon stretched
upon my bed, from which it seemed scarcely probable that I should
ever more rise, the physicians themselves giving but slight hopes
of my recovery: as for myself, I made up my mind to die, and felt
quite resigned. I was sadly ignorant at that time, and, when I
thought of death, it appeared to me little else than a pleasant
sleep, and I wished for sleep, of which I got but little. It was
well that I did not die that time, for I repeat that I was sadly
ignorant of many important things. I did not die, for somebody
coming gave me a strange, bitter draught; a decoction, I believe,
of a bitter root which grows on commons and desolate places: and
the person who gave it me was an ancient female, a kind of
doctress, who had been my nurse in my infancy, and who, hearing of
my state, had come to see me; so I drank the draught, and became a
little better, and I continued taking draughts made from the bitter
root till I manifested symptoms of convalescence.
But how much more quickly does strength desert the human frame than
return to it! I had become convalescent, it is true, but my state
of feebleness was truly pitiable. I believe it is in that state
that the most remarkable feature of human physiology frequently
exhibits itself. Oh, how dare I mention the dark feeling of
mysterious dread which comes over the mind, and which the lamp of
reason, though burning bright the while, is unable to dispel! Art
thou, as leeches say, the concomitant of disease - the result of
shattered nerves? Nay, rather the principle of woe itself, the
fountain-head of all sorrow coexistent with man, whose influence he
feels when yet unborn, and whose workings he testifies with his
earliest cries, when, 'drowned in tears,' he first beholds the
light; for, as the sparks fly upward, so is man born to trouble,
and woe doth he bring with him into the world, even thyself, dark
one, terrible one, causeless, unbegotten, without a father. Oh,
how unfrequently dost thou break down the barriers which divide
thee from the poor soul of man, and overcast its sunshine with thy
gloomy shadow. In the brightest days of prosperity - in the midst
of health and wealth - how sentient is the poor human creature of
thy neighbourhood! how instinctively aware that the flood-gates of
horror may be cast open, and the dark stream engulf him for ever
and ever! Then is it not lawful for man to exclaim, 'Better that I
had never been born!' Fool, for thyself thou wast not born, but to
fulfil the inscrutable decrees of thy Creator; and how dost thou
know that this dark principle is not, after all, thy best friend;
that it is not that which tempers the whole mass of thy corruption?
It may be, for what thou knowest, the mother of wisdom, and of
great works: it is the dread of the horror of the night that makes
the pilgrim hasten on his way. When thou feelest it nigh, let thy
safety word be 'Onward'; if thou tarry, thou art overwhelmed.
Courage! build great works - 'tis urging thee - it is ever nearest
the favourites of God - the fool knows little of it. Thou wouldst
be joyous, wouldst thou? then be a fool. What great work was ever
the result of joy, the puny one? Who have been the wise ones, the
mighty ones, the conquering ones of this earth? the joyous? I
believe not. The fool is happy, or comparatively so - certainly
the least sorrowful, but he is still a fool: and whose notes are
sweetest, those of the nightingale, or of the silly lark?
'What ails you, my child?' said a mother to her son, as he lay on a
couch under the influence of the dreadful one; 'what ails you? you
seem afraid!'
BOY. And so I am; a dreadful fear is upon me.
MOTHER. But of what? There is no one can harm you; of what are
you apprehensive?
BOY. Of nothing that I can express; I know not what I am afraid
of, but afraid I am.
MOTHER. Perhaps you see sights and visions; I knew a lady once who
was continually thinking that she saw an armed man threaten her,
but it was only an imagination, a phantom of the brain.
BOY. No armed man threatens me; and 'tis not a thing like that
would cause me any fear. Did an armed man threaten me, I would get
up and fight him; weak as I am, I would wish for nothing better,
for then, perhaps, I should lose this fear; mine is a dread of I
know not what, and there the horror lies.
MOTHER. Your forehead is cool, and your speech collected. Do you
know where you are?
BOY. I know where I am, and I see things just as they are; you are
beside me, and upon the table there is a book which was written by
a Florentine; all this I see, and that there is no ground for being
afraid. I am, moreover, quite cool, and feel no pain - but, but -
And then there was a burst of 'gemiti, sospiri ed alti guai.'
Alas, alas, poor child of clay! as the sparks fly upward, so wast
thou born to sorrow - Onward!
Agreeable delusions - Youth - A profession - Ab Gwilym - Glorious
English law - There they pass - My dear old master - The deal desk
- Language of the tents - Where is Morfydd? - Go to - only once.
IT has been said by this or that writer, I scarcely know by whom,
that, in proportion as we grow old, and our time becomes short, the
swifter does it pass, until at last, as we approach the borders of
the grave, it assumes all the speed and impetuosity of a river
about to precipitate itself into an abyss; this is doubtless the
case, provided we can carry to the grave those pleasant thoughts
and delusions, which alone render life agreeable, and to which even
to the very last we would gladly cling; but what becomes of the
swiftness of time, when the mind sees the vanity of human pursuits?
which is sure to be the case when its fondest, dearest hopes have
been blighted at the very moment when the harvest was deemed
secure. What becomes from that moment, I repeat, of the shortness
of time? I put not the question to those who have never known that
trial, they are satisfied with themselves and all around them, with
what they have done, and yet hope to do; some carry their delusions
with them to the borders of the grave, ay, to the very moment when
they fall into it; a beautiful golden cloud surrounds them to the
last, and such talk of the shortness of time: through the medium
of that cloud the world has ever been a pleasant world to them;
their only regret is that they are so soon to quit it; but oh, ye
dear deluded hearts, it is not every one who is so fortunate!
To the generality of mankind there is no period like youth. The
generality are far from fortunate; but the period of youth, even to
the least so, offers moments of considerable happiness, for they
are not only disposed but able to enjoy most things within their
reach. With what trifles at that period are we content; the things
from which in after-life we should turn away in disdain please us
then, for we are in the midst of a golden cloud, and everything
seems decked with a golden hue. Never during any portion of my
life did time flow on more speedily than during the two or three
years immediately succeeding the period to which we arrived in the
preceding chapter: since then it has flagged often enough;
sometimes it has seemed to stand entirely still; and the reader may
easily judge how it fares at the present, from the circumstance of
my taking pen in hand, and endeavouring to write down the passages
of my life - a last resource with most people. But at the period
to which I allude I was just, as I may say, entering upon life; I
had adopted a profession, and, to keep up my character,
simultaneously with that profession - the study of a new language.
I speedily became a proficient in the one, but ever remained a
novice in the other: a novice in the law, but a perfect master in
the Welsh tongue.
Yes; very pleasant times were those, when within the womb of a
lofty deal desk, behind which I sat for some eight hours every day,
transcribing (when I imagined eyes were upon me) documents of every
description in every possible hand, Blackstone kept company with Ab
Gwilym - the polished English lawyer of the last century, who wrote
long and prosy chapters on the rights of things - with a certain
wild Welshman, who some four hundred years before that time indited
immortal cowydds and odes to the wives of Cambrian chieftains -
more particularly to one Morfydd, the wife of a certain hunchbacked
dignitary called by the poet facetiously Bwa Bach - generally
terminating with the modest request of a little private parlance
beneath the greenwood bough, with no other witness than the eos, or
nightingale, a request which, if the poet himself may be believed,
rather a doubtful point, was seldom, very seldom, denied. And by
what strange chance had Ab Gwilym and Blackstone, two personages so
exceedingly different, been thus brought together? From what the
reader already knows of me, he may be quite prepared to find me
reading the former; but what could have induced me to take up
Blackstone, or rather the law?
I have ever loved to be as explicit as possible; on which account,
perhaps, I never attained to any proficiency in the law, the
essence of which is said to be ambiguity; most questions may be
answered in a few words, and this among the rest, though connected
with the law. My parents deemed it necessary that I should adopt
some profession, they named the law; the law was as agreeable to me
as any other profession within my reach, so I adopted the law, and
the consequence was, that Blackstone, probably for the first time,
found himself in company with Ab Gwilym. By adopting the law I had
not ceased to be Lavengro.
So I sat behind a desk many hours in the day, ostensibly engaged in
transcribing documents of various kinds; the scene of my labours
was a strange old house, occupying one side of a long and narrow
court, into which, however, the greater number of the windows
looked not, but into an extensive garden, filled with fruit trees,
in the rear of a large, handsome house, belonging to a highly
respectable gentleman, who, moyennant un douceur considerable, had
consented to instruct my father's youngest son in the mysteries of
glorious English law. Ah! would that I could describe the good
gentleman in the manner which he deserves; he has long since sunk
to his place in a respectable vault, in the aisle of a very
respectable church, whilst an exceedingly respectable marble slab
against the neighbouring wall tells on a Sunday some eye wandering
from its prayer-book that his dust lies below; to secure such
respectabilities in death, he passed a most respectable life. Let
no one sneer, he accomplished much; his life was peaceful, so was
his death. Are these trifles? I wish I could describe him, for I
loved the man, and with reason, for he was ever kind to me, to whom
kindness has not always been shown; and he was, moreover, a choice
specimen of a class which no longer exists - a gentleman lawyer of
the old school. I would fain describe him, but figures with which
he has nought to do press forward and keep him from my mind's eye;
there they pass, Spaniard and Moor, Gypsy, Turk, and livid Jew.
But who is that? what that thick pursy man in the loose, snuffcoloured
greatcoat, with the white stockings, drab breeches, and
silver buckles on his shoes; that man with the bull neck, and
singular head, immense in the lower part, especially about the
jaws, but tapering upward like a pear; the man with the bushy
brows, small gray eyes replete with catlike expression, whose
grizzled hair is cut close, and whose ear-lobes are pierced with
small golden rings? Oh! that is not my dear old master, but a
widely different personage. Bon jour, Monsieur Vidocq! expressions
de ma part a Monsieur Le Baron Taylor. But here he comes at last,
my veritable old master!
A more respectable-looking individual was never seen; he really
looked what he was, a gentleman of the law - there was nothing of
the pettifogger about him: somewhat under the middle size, and
somewhat rotund in person, he was always dressed in a full suit of
black, never worn long enough to become threadbare. His face was
rubicund, and not without keenness; but the most remarkable thing
about him was the crown of his head, which was bald, and shone like
polished ivory, nothing more white, smooth, and lustrous. Some
people have said that he wore false calves, probably because his
black silk stockings never exhibited a wrinkle; they might just as
well have said that he waddled, because his shoes creaked; for
these last, which were always without a speck, and polished as his
crown, though of a different hue, did creak, as he walked rather
slowly. I cannot say that I ever saw him walk fast.
He had a handsome practice, and might have died a very rich man,
much richer than he did, had he not been in the habit of giving
rather expensive dinners to certain great people, who gave him
nothing in return except their company; I could never discover his
reasons for doing so, as he always appeared to me a remarkably
quiet man, by nature averse to noise and bustle; but in all
dispositions there are anomalies: I have already said that he
lived in a handsome house, and I may as well here add that he had a
very handsome wife, who both dressed and talked exceedingly well.
So I sat behind the deal desk, engaged in copying documents of
various kinds; and in the apartment in which I sat, and in the
adjoining ones, there were others, some of whom likewise copied
documents, while some were engaged in the yet more difficult task
of drawing them up; and some of these, sons of nobody, were paid
for the work they did, whilst others, like myself, sons of
somebody, paid for being permitted to work, which, as our principal
observed, was but reasonable, forasmuch as we not unfrequently
utterly spoiled the greater part of the work intrusted to our
There was one part of the day when I generally found myself quite
alone, I mean at the hour when the rest went home to their
principal meal; I, being the youngest, was left to take care of the
premises, to answer the bell, and so forth, till relieved, which
was seldom before the expiration of an hour and a half, when I
myself went home; this period, however, was anything but
disagreeable to me, for it was then that I did what best pleased
me, and, leaving off copying the documents, I sometimes indulged in
a fit of musing, my chin resting on both my hands, and my elbows
planted on the desk; or, opening the desk aforesaid, I would take
out one of the books contained within it, and the book which I took
out was almost invariably, not Blackstone, but Ab Gwilym.
Ah, that Ab Gwilym! I am much indebted to him, and it were
ungrateful on my part not to devote a few lines to him and his
songs in this my history. Start not, reader, I am not going to
trouble you with a poetical dissertation; no, no; I know my duty
too well to introduce anything of the kind; but I, who imagine I
know several things, and amongst others the workings of your mind
at this moment, have an idea that you are anxious to learn a
little, a very little, more about Ab Gwilym than I have hitherto
told you, the two or three words that I have dropped having
awakened within you a languid kind of curiosity. I have no
hesitation in saying that he makes one of the some half-dozen
really great poets whose verses, in whatever language they wrote,
exist at the present day, and are more or less known. It matters
little how I first became acquainted with the writings of this man,
and how the short thick volume, stuffed full with his immortal
imaginings, first came into my hands. I was studying Welsh, and I
fell in with Ab Gwilym by no very strange chance. But, before I
say more about Ab Gwilym, I must be permitted - I really must - to
say a word or two about the language in which he wrote, that same
'Sweet Welsh.' If I remember right, I found the language a
difficult one; in mastering it, however, I derived unexpected
assistance from what of Irish remained in my head, and I soon found
that they were cognate dialects, springing from some old tongue
which itself, perhaps, had sprung from one much older. And here I
cannot help observing cursorily that I every now and then, whilst
studying this Welsh, generally supposed to be the original tongue
of Britain, encountered words which, according to the
lexicographers, were venerable words highly expressive, showing the
wonderful power and originality of the Welsh, in which, however,
they were no longer used in common discourse, but were relics,
precious relics, of the first speech of Britain, perhaps of the
world; with which words, however, I was already well acquainted,
and which I had picked up, not in learned books, classic books, and
in tongues of old renown, but whilst listening to Mr. Petulengro
and Tawno Chikno talking over their everyday affairs in the
language of the tents; which circumstance did not fail to give rise
to deep reflection in those moments when, planting my elbows on the
deal desk, I rested my chin upon my hands. But it is probable that
I should have abandoned the pursuit of the Welsh language, after
obtaining a very superficial acquaintance with it, had it not been
for Ab Gwilym.
A strange songster was that who, pretending to be captivated by
every woman he saw, was, in reality, in love with nature alone -
wild, beautiful, solitary nature - her mountains and cascades, her
forests and streams, her birds, fishes, and wild animals. Go to,
Ab Gwilym, with thy pseudo-amatory odes, to Morfydd, or this or
that other lady, fair or ugly; little didst thou care for any of
them, Dame Nature was thy love, however thou mayest seek to
disguise the truth. Yes, yes, send thy love-message to Morfydd,
the fair wanton. By whom dost thou send it, I would know? by the
salmon forsooth, which haunts the rushing stream! the glorious
salmon which bounds and gambols in the flashing water, and whose
ways and circumstances thou so well describest - see, there he
hurries upwards through the flashing water. Halloo! what a glimpse
of glory - but where is Morfydd the while? What, another message
to the wife of Bwa Bach? Ay, truly; and by whom? - the wind! the
swift wind, the rider of the world, whose course is not to be
stayed; who gallops o'er the mountain, and, when he comes to
broadest river, asks neither for boat nor ferry; who has described
the wind so well - his speed and power? But where is Morfydd? And
now thou art awaiting Morfydd, the wanton, the wife of the Bwa
Bach; thou art awaiting her beneath the tall trees, amidst the
underwood; but she comes not; no Morfydd is there. Quite right, Ab
Gwilym; what wantest thou with Morfydd? But another form is nigh at
hand, that of red Reynard, who, seated upon his chine at the mouth
of his cave, looks very composedly at thee; thou startest, bendest
thy bow, thy cross-bow, intending to hit Reynard with the bolt just
about the jaw; but the bow breaks, Reynard barks and disappears
into his cave, which by thine own account reaches hell - and then
thou ravest at the misfortune of thy bow, and the non-appearance of
Morfydd, and abusest Reynard. Go to, thou carest neither for thy
bow nor for Morfydd, thou merely seekest an opportunity to speak of
Reynard; and who has described him like thee? the brute with the
sharp shrill cry, the black reverse of melody, whose face sometimes
wears a smile like the devil's in the Evangile. But now thou art
actually with Morfydd; yes, she has stolen from the dwelling of the
Bwa Bach and has met thee beneath those rocks - she is actually
with thee, Ab Gwilym; but she is not long with thee, for a storm
comes on, and thunder shatters the rocks - Morfydd flees! Quite
right, Ab Gwilym; thou hadst no need of her, a better theme for
song is the voice of the Lord - the rock-shatterer - than the frail
wife of the Bwa Bach. Go to, Ab Gwilym, thou wast a wiser and a
better man than thou wouldst fain have had people believe.
But enough of thee and thy songs! Those times passed rapidly; with
Ab Gwilym in my hand, I was in the midst of enchanted ground, in
which I experienced sensations akin to those I had felt of yore
whilst spelling my way through the wonderful book - the delight of
my childhood. I say akin, for perhaps only once in our lives do we
experience unmixed wonder and delight; and these I had already
Silver gray - Good word for everybody - A remarkable youth -
Clients - Grades in society - The archdeacon - Reading the Bible.
'I AM afraid that I have not acted very wisely in putting this boy
of ours to the law,' said my father to my mother, as they sat
together one summer evening in their little garden, beneath the
shade of some tall poplars.
Yes, there sat my father in the garden chair which leaned against
the wall of his quiet home, the haven in which he had sought rest,
and, praise be to God, found it, after many a year of poorlyrequited
toil; there he sat, with locks of silver gray which set
off so nobly his fine bold but benevolent face, his faithful
consort at his side, and his trusty dog at his feet - an eccentric
animal of the genuine regimental breed, who, born amongst red
coats, had not yet become reconciled to those of any other hue,
barking and tearing at them when they drew near the door, but
testifying his fond reminiscence of the former by hospitable
waggings of the tail whenever a uniform made its appearance - at
present a very unfrequent occurrence.
'I am afraid I have not done right in putting him to the law,' said
my father, resting his chin upon his gold-headed bamboo cane.
'Why, what makes you think so?' said my mother.
'I have been taking my usual evening walk up the road, with the
animal here,' said my father; 'and, as I walked along, I overtook
the boy's master, Mr. S-. We shook hands, and, after walking a
little way farther, we turned back together, talking about this and
that; the state of the country, the weather, and the dog, which he
greatly admired; for he is a good-natured man, and has a good word
for everybody, though the dog all but bit him when he attempted to
coax his head; after the dog, we began talking about the boy; it
was myself who introduced that subject: I thought it was a good
opportunity to learn how he was getting on, so I asked what he
thought of my son; he hesitated at first, seeming scarcely to know
what to say; at length he came out with "Oh, a very extraordinary
youth, a most remarkable youth indeed, captain!" "Indeed," said I,
"I am glad to hear it, but I hope you find him steady?" "Steady,
steady," said he, "why, yes, he's steady, I cannot say that he is
not steady." "Come, come," said I, beginning to be rather uneasy,
"I see plainly that you are not altogether satisfied with him; I
was afraid you would not be, for, though he is my own son, I am
anything but blind to his imperfections; but do tell me what
particular fault you have to find with him; and I will do my best
to make him alter his conduct." "No fault to find with him,
captain, I assure you, no fault whatever; the youth is a remarkable
youth, an extraordinary youth, only - " As I told you before, Mr.
S- is the best-natured man in the world, and it was only with the
greatest difficulty that I could get him to say a single word to
the disadvantage of the boy, for whom he seems to entertain a very
great regard. At last I forced the truth from him, and grieved I
was to hear it; though I must confess that I was somewhat prepared
for it. It appears that the lad has a total want of
'I don't understand you,' said my mother.
'You can understand nothing that would seem for a moment to impugn
the conduct of that child. I am not, however, so blind; want of
discrimination was the word, and it both sounds well, and is
expressive. It appears that, since he has been placed where is, he
has been guilty of the grossest blunders; only the other day, Mr.
S- told me, as he was engaged in close conversation with one of his
principal clients, the boy came to tell him that a person wanted
particularly to speak with him; and, on going out, he found a
lamentable figure with one eye, who came to ask for charity; whom,
nevertheless, the lad had ushered into a private room, and
installed in an arm-chair, like a justice of the peace, instead of
telling him to go about his business - now what did that show, but
a total want of discrimination?'
'I wish we may never have anything worse to reproach him with,'
said my mother.
'I don't know what worse we could reproach him with,' said my
father; 'I mean of course as far as his profession is concerned;
discrimination is the very keystone; if he treated all people
alike, he would soon become a beggar himself; there are grades in
society as well as in the army; and according to those grades we
should fashion our behaviour, else there would instantly be an end
of all order and discipline. I am afraid that the child is too
condescending to his inferiors, whilst to his superiors he is apt
to be unbending enough; I don't believe that would do in the world;
I am sure it would not in the army. He told me another anecdote
with respect to his behaviour, which shocked me more than the other
had done. It appears that his wife, who by the bye, is a very fine
woman, and highly fashionable, gave him permission to ask the boy
to tea one evening, for she is herself rather partial to the lad;
there had been a great dinner party there that day, and there were
a great many fashionable people, so the boy went and behaved very
well and modestly for some time, and was rather noticed, till,
unluckily, a very great gentleman, an archdeacon I think, put some
questions to him, and, finding that he understood the languages,
began talking to him about the classics. What do you think? the
boy had the impertinence to say that the classics were much
overvalued, and amongst other things that some horrid fellow or
other, some Welshman I think (thank God it was not an Irishman),
was a better poet than Ovid; the company were of course horrified;
the archdeacon, who is seventy years of age, and has seven thousand
a year, took snuff and turned away. Mrs. S- turned up her eyes,
Mr. S-, however, told me with his usual good-nature (I suppose to
spare my feelings) that he rather enjoyed the thing, and thought it
a capital joke.'
'I think so too,' said my mother.
'I do not,' said my father; 'that a boy of his years should
entertain an opinion of his own - I mean one which militates
against all established authority - is astounding; as well might a
raw recruit pretend to offer an unfavourable opinion on the manual
and platoon exercise; the idea is preposterous; the lad is too
independent by half. I never yet knew one of an independent spirit
get on in the army, the secret of success in the army is the spirit
of subordination.'
'Which is a poor spirit after all,' said my mother; 'but the child
is not in the army.'
'And it is well for him that he is not,' said my father; 'but you
do not talk wisely, the world is a field of battle, and he who
leaves the ranks, what can he expect but to be cut down? I call
his present behaviour leaving the ranks, and going vapouring about
without orders; his only chance lies in falling in again as quick
as possible; does he think he can carry the day by himself? an
opinion of his own at these years - I confess I am exceedingly
uneasy about the lad.'
'You make me uneasy too,' said my mother; 'but I really think you
are too hard upon the child; he is not a bad child, after all,
though not, perhaps, all you could wish him; he is always ready to
read the Bible. Let us go in; he is in the room above us; at least
he was two hours ago, I left him there bending over his books; I
wonder what he has been doing all this time, it is now getting
late; let us go in, and he shall read to us.'
'I am getting old,' said my father; 'and I love to hear the Bible
read to me, for my own sight is something dim; yet I do not wish
the child to read to me this night, I cannot so soon forget what I
have heard; but I hear my eldest son's voice, he is now entering
the gate; he shall read the Bible to us this night. What say you?'
The eldest son - Saying of wild Finland - The critical time -
Vaunting polls - One thing wanted - A father's blessing - Miracle
of art - The Pope's house - Young enthusiast - Pictures of England
- Persist and wrestle - The little dark man.
THE eldest son! The regard and affection which my father
entertained for his first-born were natural enough, and appeared to
none more so than myself, who cherished the same feelings towards
him. What he was as a boy the reader already knows, for the reader
has seen him as a boy; fain would I describe him at the time of
which I am now speaking, when he had attained the verge of manhood,
but the pen fails me, and I attempt not the task; and yet it ought
to be an easy one, for how frequently does his form visit my mind's
eye in slumber and in wakefulness, in the light of day and in the
night watches; but last night I saw him in his beauty and his
strength; he was about to speak, and my ear was on the stretch,
when at once I awoke, and there was I alone, and the night storm
was howling amidst the branches of the pines which surround my
lonely dwelling: 'Listen to the moaning of the pine, at whose root
thy hut is fastened,' - a saying that, of wild Finland, in which
there is wisdom; I listened and thought of life and death. . . . Of
all human beings that I have ever known, that elder brother was the
most frank and generous, ay, and the quickest and readiest, and the
best adapted to do a great thing needful at the critical time, when
the delay of a moment would be fatal. I have known him dash from a
steep bank into a stream in his full dress, and pull out a man who
was drowning; yet there were twenty others bathing in the water,
who might have saved him by putting out a hand, without
inconvenience to themselves, which, however, they did not do, but
stared with stupid surprise at the drowning one's struggles. Yes,
whilst some shouted from the bank to those in the water to save the
drowning one, and those in the water did nothing, my brother
neither shouted nor stood still, but dashed from the bank and did
the one thing needful, which, under such circumstances, not one man
in a million would have done. Now, who can wonder that a brave old
man should love a son like this, and prefer him to any other?
'My boy, my own boy, you are the very image of myself, the day I
took off my coat in the park to fight Big Ben,' said my father, on
meeting his son wet and dripping, immediately after his bold feat.
And who cannot excuse the honest pride of the old man - the stout
old man?
Ay, old man, that son was worthy of thee, and thou wast worthy of
such a son; a noble specimen wast thou of those strong singleminded
Englishmen, who, without making a parade either of religion
or loyalty, feared God and honoured their king, and were not
particularly friendly to the French, whose vaunting polls they
occasionally broke, as at Minden and at Malplaquet, to the
confusion vast of the eternal foes of the English land. I, who was
so little like thee that thou understoodst me not, and in whom with
justice thou didst feel so little pride, had yet perception enough
to see all thy worth, and to feel it an honour to be able to call
myself thy son; and if at some no distant time, when the foreign
enemy ventures to insult our shore, I be permitted to break some
vaunting poll, it will be a triumph to me to think that, if thou
hadst lived, thou wouldst have hailed the deed, and mightest yet
discover some distant resemblance to thyself, the day when thou
didst all but vanquish the mighty Brain.
I have already spoken of my brother's taste for painting, and the
progress he had made in that beautiful art. It is probable that,
if circumstances had not eventually diverted his mind from the
pursuit, he would have attained excellence, and left behind him
some enduring monument of his powers, for he had an imagination to
conceive, and that yet rarer endowment, a hand capable of giving
life, body, and reality to the conceptions of his mind; perhaps he
wanted one thing, the want of which is but too often fatal to the
sons of genius, and without which genius is little more than a
splendid toy in the hands of the possessor - perseverance, dogged
perseverance, in his proper calling; otherwise, though the grave
had closed over him, he might still be living in the admiration of
his fellow-creatures. O ye gifted ones, follow your calling, for,
however various your talents may be, ye can have but one calling
capable of leading ye to eminence and renown; follow resolutely the
one straight path before you, it is that of your good angel, let
neither obstacles nor temptations induce ye to leave it; bound
along if you can; if not, on hands and knees follow it, perish in
it, if needful; but ye need not fear that; no one ever yet died in
the true path of his calling before he had attained the pinnacle.
Turn into other paths, and for a momentary advantage or
gratification ye have sold your inheritance, your immortality. Ye
will never be heard of after death.
'My father has given me a hundred and fifty pounds,' said my
brother to me one morning, 'and something which is better - his
blessing. I am going to leave you.'
'And where are you going?'
'Where? to the great city; to London, to be sure.'
'I should like to go with you.'
'Pooh,' said my brother, 'what should you do there? But don't be
discouraged, I daresay a time will come when you too will go to
And, sure enough, so it did, and all but too soon.
'And what do you purpose doing there?' I demanded.
'Oh, I go to improve myself in art, to place myself under some
master of high name, at least I hope to do so eventually. I have,
however, a plan in my head, which I should wish first to execute;
indeed, I do not think I can rest till I have done so; every one
talks so much about Italy, and the wondrous artists which it has
produced, and the wondrous pictures which are to be found there;
now I wish to see Italy, or rather Rome, the great city, for I am
told that in a certain room there is contained the grand miracle of
'And what do you call it?'
'The Transfiguration, painted by one Rafael, and it is said to be
the greatest work of the greatest painter whom the world has ever
known. I suppose it is because everybody says so, that I have such
a strange desire to see it. I have already made myself well
acquainted with its locality, and think that I could almost find my
way to it blindfold. When I have crossed the Tiber, which, as you
are aware, runs through Rome, I must presently turn to the right,
up a rather shabby street, which communicates with a large square,
the farther end of which is entirely occupied by the front of an
immense church, with a dome which ascends almost to the clouds, and
this church they call St. Peter's.'
'Ay, ay,' said I, 'I have read about that in Keysler's Travels.'
'Before the church, in the square, are two fountains, one on either
side, casting up water in showers; between them, in the midst, is
an obelisk, brought from Egypt, and covered with mysterious
writing; on your right rises an edifice, not beautiful nor grand,
but huge and bulky, where lives a strange kind of priest whom men
call the Pope, a very horrible old individual, who would fain keep
Christ in leading strings, calls the Virgin Mary the Queen of
Heaven, and himself God's Lieutenant-General upon earth.'
'Ay, ay,' said I, 'I have read of him in Foxe's BOOK OF MARTYRS.'
'Well, I do not go straight forward up the flight of steps
conducting into the church, but I turn to the right, and, passing
under the piazza, find myself in a court of the huge bulky house;
and then ascend various staircases, and pass along various
corridors and galleries, all of which I could describe to you,
though I have never seen them; at last a door is unlocked, and we
enter a room rather high, but not particularly large, communicating
with another room, into which, however, I do not go, though there
are noble things in that second room - immortal things, by immortal
artists; amongst others, a grand piece of Correggio; I do not enter
it, for the grand picture of the world is not there; but I stand
still immediately on entering the first room, and I look straight
before me, neither to the right nor left, though there are noble
things both on the right and left, for immediately before me at the
farther end, hanging against the wall, is a picture which arrests
me, and I can see nothing else, for that picture at the farther end
hanging against the wall is the picture of the world. . . .'
Yes, go thy way, young enthusiast, and, whether to London town or
to old Rome, may success attend thee; yet strange fears assail me
and misgivings on thy account. Thou canst not rest, thou say'st,
till thou hast seen the picture in the chamber at old Rome hanging
over against the wall; ay, and thus thou dust exemplify thy
weakness - thy strength too, it may be - for the one idea,
fantastic yet lovely, which now possesses thee, could only have
originated in a genial and fervent brain. Well, go, if thou must
go; yet it perhaps were better for thee to bide in thy native land,
and there, with fear and trembling, with groanings, with straining
eyeballs, toil, drudge, slave, till thou hast made excellence thine
own; thou wilt scarcely acquire it by staring at the picture over
against the door in the high chamber of old Rome. Seekest thou
inspiration? thou needest it not, thou hast it already; and it was
never yet found by crossing the sea. What hast thou to do with old
Rome, and thou an Englishman? 'Did thy blood never glow at the
mention of thy native land?' as an artist merely? Yes, I trow, and
with reason, for thy native land need not grudge old Rome her
'pictures of the world'; she has pictures of her own, 'pictures of
England'; and is it a new thing to toss up caps and shout - England
against the world? Yes, against the world in all, in all; in
science and in arms, in minstrel strain, and not less in the art
'which enables the hand to deceive the intoxicated soul by means of
pictures.' Seek'st models? to Gainsborough and Hogarth turn, not
names of the world, maybe, but English names - and England against
the world! A living master? why, there he comes! thou hast had him
long, he has long guided thy young hand towards the excellence
which is yet far from thee, but which thou canst attain if thou
shouldst persist and wrestle, even as he has done, 'midst gloom and
despondency - ay, and even contempt; he who now comes up the
creaking stair to thy little studio in the second floor to inspect
thy last effort before thou departest, the little stout man whose
face is very dark, and whose eye is vivacious; that man has
attained excellence, destined some day to be acknowledged, though
not till he is cold, and his mortal part returned to its kindred
clay. He has painted, not pictures of the world, but English
pictures, such as Gainsborough himself might have done; beautiful
rural pieces, with trees which might well tempt the wild birds to
perch upon them, thou needest not run to Rome, brother, where lives
the old Mariolater, after pictures of the world, whilst at home
there are pictures of England; nor needest thou even go to London,
the big city, in search of a master, for thou hast one at home in
the old East Anglian town who can instruct thee whilst thou needest
instruction: better stay at home, brother, at least for a season,
and toil and strive 'midst groanings and despondency till thou hast
attained excellence even as he has done - the little dark man with
the brown coat and the top-boots, whose name will one day be
considered the chief ornament of the old town, and whose works will
at no distant period rank amongst the proudest pictures of England
- and England against the world! - thy master, my brother, thy, at
present, all too little considered master - Crome.
Desire for novelty - Lives of the lawless - Countenances - Old
yeoman and dame - We live near the sea - Uncouth-looking volume -
The other condition - Draoitheac - A dilemma - The Antinomian -
Lodowick Muggleton - Almost blind - Anders Vedel.
BUT to proceed with my own story: I now ceased all at once to take
much pleasure in the pursuits which formerly interested me, I
yawned over Ab Gwilym, even as I now in my mind's eye perceive the
reader yawning over the present pages. What was the cause of this?
Constitutional lassitude, or a desire for novelty? Both it is
probable had some influence in the matter, but I rather think that
the latter feeling was predominant. The parting words of my
brother had sunk into my mind. He had talked of travelling in
strange regions and seeing strange and wonderful objects, and my
imagination fell to work, and drew pictures of adventures wild and
fantastic, and I thought what a fine thing it must be to travel,
and I wished that my father would give me his blessing, and the
same sum that he had given my brother, and bid me go forth into the
world; always forgetting that I had neither talents nor energies at
this period which would enable me to make any successful figure on
its stage.
And then I again sought up the book which had so captivated me in
my infancy, and I read it through; and I sought up others of a
similar character, and in seeking for them I met books also of
adventure, but by no means of a harmless description, lives of
wicked and lawless men, Murray and Latroon - books of singular
power, but of coarse and prurient imagination - books at one time
highly in vogue; now deservedly forgotten, and most difficult to be
And when I had gone through these books, what was my state of mind?
I had derived entertainment from their perusal, but they left me
more listless and unsettled than before, and really knew not what
to do to pass my time. My philological studies had become
distasteful, and I had never taken any pleasure in the duties of my
profession. I sat behind my desk in a state of torpor, my mind
almost as blank as the paper before me, on which I rarely traced a
line. It was always a relief to hear the bell ring, as it afforded
me an opportunity of doing something which I was yet capable of
doing, to rise and open the door and stare in the countenances of
the visitors. All of a sudden I fell to studying countenances, and
soon flattered myself that I had made considerable progress in the
'There is no faith in countenances,' said some Roman of old; 'trust
anything but a person's countenance.' 'Not trust a man's
countenance?' say some moderns, 'why, it is the only thing in many
people that we can trust; on which account they keep it most
assiduously out of the way. Trust not a man's words if you please,
or you may come to very erroneous conclusions; but at all times
place implicit confidence in a man's countenance, in which there is
no deceit; and of necessity there can be none. If people would but
look each other more in the face, we should have less cause to
complain of the deception of the world; nothing so easy as
physiognomy nor so useful.' Somewhat in this latter strain I
thought at the time of which I am speaking. I am now older, and,
let us hope, less presumptuous. It is true that in the course of
my life I have scarcely ever had occasion to repent placing
confidence in individuals whose countenances have prepossessed me
in their favour; though to how many I may have been unjust, from
whose countenances I may have drawn unfavourable conclusions, is
another matter.
But it had been decreed by that Fate which governs our every action
that I was soon to return to my old pursuits. It was written that
I should not yet cease to be Lav-engro, though I had become, in my
own opinion, a kind of Lavater. It is singular enough that my
renewed ardour for philology seems to have been brought about
indirectly by my physiognomical researches, in which had I not
indulged, the event which I am about to relate, as far as connected
with myself, might never have occurred. Amongst the various
countenances which I admitted during the period of my answering the
bell, there were two which particularly pleased me, and which
belonged to an elderly yeoman and his wife, whom some little
business had brought to our law sanctuary. I believe they
experienced from me some kindness and attention, which won the old
people's hearts. So, one day, when their little business had been
brought to a conclusion, and they chanced to be alone with me, who
was seated as usual behind the deal desk in the outer room, the old
man with some confusion began to tell me how grateful himself and
dame felt for the many attentions I had shown them, and how
desirous they were to make me some remuneration. 'Of course,' said
the old man, 'we must be cautious what we offer to so fine a young
gentleman as yourself; we have, however, something we think will
just suit the occasion, a strange kind of thing which people say is
a book, though no one that my dame or myself have shown it to can
make anything out of it; so as we are told that you are a fine
young gentleman, who can read all the tongues of the earth and
stars, as the Bible says, we thought, I and my dame, that it would
be just the thing you would like and my dame has it now at the
bottom of her basket.'
'A book!' said I, 'how did you come by it?'
'We live near the sea,' said the old man; 'so near that sometimes
our thatch is wet with the spray; and it may now be a year ago that
there was a fearful storm, and a ship was driven ashore during the
night, and ere the morn was a complete wreck. When we got up at
daylight, there were the poor shivering crew at our door; they were
foreigners, red-haired men, whose speech we did not understand; but
we took them in, and warmed them, and they remained with us three
days; and when they went away they left behind them this thing,
here it is, part of the contents of a box which was washed ashore.'
'And did you learn who they were?'
'Why, yes; they made us understand that they were Danes.'
Danes! thought I, Danes! and instantaneously, huge and grisly,
appeared to rise up before my vision the skull of the old pirate
Dane, even as I had seen it of yore in the pent-house of the
ancient church to which, with my mother and my brother, I had
wandered on the memorable summer eve.
And now the old man handed me the book; a strange and uncouthlooking
volume enough. It was not very large, but instead of the
usual covering was bound in wood, and was compressed with strong
iron clasps. It was a printed book, but the pages were not of
paper, but vellum, and the characters were black, and resembled
those generally termed Gothic.
'It is certainly a curious book,' said I; 'and I should like to
have it, but I can't think of taking it as a gift, I must give you
an equivalent, I never take presents from anybody.'
The old man whispered with his dame and chuckled, and then turned
his face to me, and said, with another chuckle, 'Well, we have
agreed about the price, but, maybe, you will not consent.'
'I don't know,' said I; 'what do you demand?'
'Why, that you shake me by the hand, and hold out your cheek to my
old dame, she has taken an affection to you.'
'I shall be very glad to shake you by the hand,' said I, 'but as
for the other condition, it requires consideration.'
'No consideration at all,' said the old man, with something like a
sigh; 'she thinks you like her son, our only child, that was lost
twenty years ago in the waves of the North Sea.'
'Oh, that alters the case altogether,' said I, 'and of course I can
have no objection.'
And now at once I shook off my listlessness, to enable me to do
which nothing could have happened more opportune than the above
event. The Danes, the Danes! And was I at last to become
acquainted, and in so singular a manner, with the speech of a
people which had as far back as I could remember exercised the
strongest influence over my imagination, as how should they not! -
in infancy there was the summer-eve adventure, to which I often
looked back, and always with a kind of strange interest with
respect to those to whom such gigantic and wondrous bones could
belong as I had seen on that occasion; and, more than this, I had
been in Ireland, and there, under peculiar circumstances, this same
interest was increased tenfold. I had mingled much whilst there
with the genuine Irish - a wild but kind-hearted race, whose
conversation was deeply imbued with traditionary lore, connected
with the early history of their own romantic land, and from them I
heard enough of the Danes, but nothing commonplace, for they never
mentioned them but in terms which tallied well with my own
preconceived ideas. For at an early period the Danes had invaded
Ireland, and had subdued it, and, though eventually driven out, had
left behind them an enduring remembrance in the minds of the
people, who loved to speak of their strength and their stature, in
evidence of which they would point to the ancient raths or mounds
where the old Danes were buried, and where bones of extraordinary
size were occasionally exhumed. And as the Danes surpassed other
people in strength, so, according to my narrators, they also
excelled all others in wisdom, or rather in Draoitheac, or magic,
for they were powerful sorcerers, they said, compared with whom the
fairy men of the present day knew nothing at all, at all; and,
amongst other wonderful things, they knew how to make strong beer
from the heather that grows upon the bogs. Little wonder if the
interest, the mysterious interest, which I had early felt about the
Danes, was increased tenfold by my sojourn in Ireland.
And now I had in my possession a Danish book, which, from its
appearance, might be supposed to have belonged to the very old
Danes indeed; but how was I to turn it to any account? I had the
book, it is true, but I did not understand the language, and how
was I to overcome that difficulty? hardly by poring over the book;
yet I did pore over the book, daily and nightly, till my eyes were
dim, and it appeared to me that every now and then I encountered
words which I understood - English words, though strangely
disguised; and I said to myself, Courage! English and Danish are
cognate dialects, a time will come when I shall understand this
Danish; and then I pored over the book again, but with all my
poring I could not understand it; and then I became angry, and I
bit my lips till the blood came; and I occasionally tore a handful
from my hair, and flung it upon the floor, but that did not mend
the matter, for still I did not understand the book, which,
however, I began to see was written in rhyme - a circumstance
rather difficult to discover at first, the arrangement of the lines
not differing from that which is employed in prose; and its being
written in rhyme made me only the more eager to understand it.
But I toiled in vain, for I had neither grammar nor dictionary of
the language; and when I sought for them could procure neither; and
I was much dispirited, till suddenly a bright thought came into my
head, and I said, although I cannot obtain a dictionary or grammar,
I can perhaps obtain a Bible in this language, and if I can procure
a Bible, I can learn the language, for the Bible in every tongue
contains the same thing, and I have only to compare the words of
the Danish Bible with those of the English, and, if I persevere, I
shall in time acquire the language of the Danes; and I was pleased
with the thought, which I considered to be a bright one, and I no
longer bit my lips, or tore my hair, but I took my hat, and, going
forth, I flung my hat into the air.
And when my hat came down, I put it on my head and commenced
running, directing my course to the house of the Antinomian
preacher, who sold books, and whom I knew to have Bibles in various
tongues amongst the number, and I arrived out of breath, and I
found the Antinomian in his little library, dusting his books; and
the Antinomian clergyman was a tall man of about seventy, who wore
a hat with a broad brim and a shallow crown, and whose manner of
speaking was exceedingly nasal; and when I saw him, I cried, out of
breath, 'Have you a Danish Bible?' and he replied, 'What do you
want it for, friend?' and I answered, 'To learn Danish by'; 'And
maybe to learn thy duty,' replied the Antinomian preacher. 'Truly,
I have it not, but, as you are a customer of mine, I will endeavour
to procure you one, and I will write to that laudable society which
men call the Bible Society, an unworthy member of which I am, and I
hope by next week to procure what you desire.'
And when I heard these words of the old man, I was very glad, and
my heart yearned towards him, and I would fain enter into
conversation with him; and I said, 'Why are you an Antinomian? For
my part I would rather be a dog than belong to such a religion.'
'Nay, friend,' said the Antinomian, 'thou forejudgest us; know that
those who call us Antinomians call us so despitefully, we do not
acknowledge the designation.' 'Then you do not set all law at
nought?' said I. 'Far be it from us,' said the old man, 'we only
hope that, being sanctified by the Spirit from above, we have no
need of the law to keep us in order. Did you ever hear tell of
Lodowick Muggleton?' 'Not I.' 'That is strange; know then that he
was the founder of our poor society, and after him we are
frequently, though opprobriously, termed Muggletonians, for we are
Christians. Here is his book, which, perhaps, you can do no better
than purchase, you are fond of rare books, and this is both curious
and rare; I will sell it cheap. Thank you, and now be gone, I will
do all I can to procure the Bible.'
And in this manner I procured the Danish Bible, and I commenced my
task; first of all, however, I locked up in a closet the volume
which had excited my curiosity, saying, 'Out of this closet thou
comest not till I deem myself competent to read thee,' and then I
sat down in right earnest, comparing every line in the one version
with the corresponding one in the other; and I passed entire nights
in this manner, till I was almost blind, and the task was tedious
enough at first, but I quailed not, and soon began to make
progress: and at first I had a misgiving that the old book might
not prove a Danish book, but was soon reassured by reading many
words in the Bible which I remembered to have seen in the book; and
then I went on right merrily, and I found that the language which I
was studying was by no means a difficult one, and in less than a
month I deemed myself able to read the book.
Anon, I took the book from the closet, and proceeded to make myself
master of its contents; I had some difficulty, for the language of
the book, though in the main the same as the language of the Bible,
differed from it in some points, being apparently a more ancient
dialect; by degrees, however, I overcame this difficulty, and I
understood the contents of the book, and well did they correspond
with all those ideas in which I had indulged connected with the
Danes. For the book was a book of ballads, about the deeds of
knights and champions, and men of huge stature; ballads which from
time immemorial had been sung in the North, and which some two
centuries before the time of which I am speaking had been collected
by one Anders Vedel, who lived with a certain Tycho Brahe, and
assisted him in making observations upon the heavenly bodies, at a
place called Uranias Castle, on the little island of Hveen, in the
The two individuals - The long pipe - The Germans - Werther - The
female Quaker - Suicide - Gibbon - Jesus of Bethlehem - Fill your
glass - Shakespeare - English at Minden - Melancholy Swayne Vonved
- The fifth dinner - Strange doctrines - Are you happy? - Improve
yourself in German.
IT might be some six months after the events last recorded, that
two individuals were seated together in a certain room, in a
certain street of the old town which I have so frequently had
occasion to mention in the preceding pages; one of them was an
elderly, and the other a very young man, and they sat on either
side of a fireplace, beside a table on which were fruit and wine;
the room was a small one, and in its furniture exhibited nothing
remarkable. Over the mantelpiece, however, hung a small picture
with naked figures in the foreground, and with much foliage behind.
It might not have struck every beholder, for it looked old and
smoke-dried; but a connoisseur, on inspecting it closely, would
have pronounced it to be a judgment of Paris, and a masterpiece of
the Flemish school.
The forehead of the elder individual was high, and perhaps appeared
more so than it really was, from the hair being carefully brushed
back, as if for the purpose of displaying to the best advantage
that part of the cranium; his eyes were large and full, and of a
light brown, and might have been called heavy and dull, had they
not been occasionally lighted up by a sudden gleam - not so
brilliant however as that which at every inhalation shone from the
bowl of the long clay pipe which he was smoking, but which, from a
certain sucking sound which about this time began to be heard from
the bottom, appeared to be giving notice that it would soon require
replenishment from a certain canister, which, together with a
lighted taper, stood upon the table beside him.
'You do not smoke?' said he, at length, laying down his pipe, and
directing his glance to his companion.
Now there was at least one thing singular connected with this last,
namely, the colour of his hair, which, notwithstanding his extreme
youth, appeared to be rapidly becoming gray. He had very long
limbs, and was apparently tall of stature, in which he differed
from his elderly companion, who must have been somewhat below the
usual height.
'No, I can't smoke,' said the youth, in reply to the observation of
the other; 'I have often tried, but could never succeed to my
'Is it possible to become a good German without smoking?' said the
senior, half speaking to himself.
'I daresay not,' said the youth; 'but I shan't break my heart on
that account.'
'As for breaking your heart, of course you would never think of
such a thing; he is a fool who breaks his heart on any account; but
it is good to be a German, the Germans are the most philosophic
people in the world, and the greatest smokers: now I trace their
philosophy to their smoking.'
'I have heard say their philosophy is all smoke - is that your
'Why, no; but smoking has a sedative effect upon the nerves, and
enables a man to bear the sorrows of this life (of which every one
has his share) not only decently, but dignifiedly. Suicide is not
a national habit in Germany as it is in England.'
'But that poor creature, Werther, who committed suicide, was a
'Werther is a fictitious character, and by no means a felicitous
one; I am no admirer either of Werther or his author. But I should
say that, if there ever was a Werther in Germany, he did not smoke.
Werther, as you very justly observe, was a poor creature.'
'And a very sinful one; I have heard my parents say that suicide is
a great crime.'
'Broadly, and without qualification, to say that suicide is a
crime, is speaking somewhat unphilosophically. No doubt suicide,
under many circumstances, is a crime, a very heinous one. When the
father of a family, for example, to escape from certain
difficulties, commits suicide, he commits a crime; there are those
around him who look to him for support, by the law of nature, and
he has no right to withdraw himself from those who have a claim
upon his exertions; he is a person who decamps with other people's
goods as well as his own. Indeed, there can be no crime which is
not founded upon the depriving others of something which belongs to
them. A man is hanged for setting fire to his house in a crowded
city, for he burns at the same time or damages those of other
people; but if a man who has a house on a heath sets fire to it, he
is not hanged, for he has not damaged or endangered any other
individual's property, and the principle of revenge, upon which all
punishment is founded, has not been aroused. Similar to such a
case is that of the man who, without any family ties, commits
suicide; for example, were I to do the thing this evening, who
would have a right to call me to account? I am alone in the world,
have no family to support, and, so far from damaging any one,
should even benefit my heir by my accelerated death. However, I am
no advocate for suicide under any circumstances; there is something
undignified in it, unheroic, un-Germanic. But if you must commit
suicide - and there is no knowing to what people may be brought -
always contrive to do it as decorously as possible; the decencies,
whether of life or of death, should never be lost sight of. I
remember a female Quaker who committed suicide by cutting her
throat, but she did it decorously and decently: kneeling down over
a pail, so that not one drop fell upon the floor; thus exhibiting
in her last act that nice sense of neatness for which Quakers are
distinguished. I have always had a respect for that woman's
And here, filling his pipe from the canister, and lighting it at
the taper, he recommenced smoking calmly and sedately.
'But is not suicide forbidden in the Bible?' the youth demanded.
'Why, no; but what though it were! - the Bible is a respectable
book, but I should hardly call it one whose philosophy is of the
soundest. I have said that it is a respectable book; I mean
respectable from its antiquity, and from containing, as Herder
says, "the earliest records of the human race," though those
records are far from being dispassionately written, on which
account they are of less value than they otherwise might have been.
There is too much passion in the Bible, too much violence; now, to
come to all truth, especially historic truth, requires cool
dispassionate investigation, for which the Jews do not appear to
have ever been famous. We are ourselves not famous for it, for we
are a passionate people; the Germans are not - they are not a
passionate people - a people celebrated for their oaths; we are.
The Germans have many excellent historic writers, we . . . 'tis
true we have Gibbon . . . You have been reading Gibbon - what do
you think of him?'
'I think him a very wonderful writer.'
'He is a wonderful writer - one SUI GENERIS - uniting the
perspicuity of the English - for we are perspicuous - with the cool
dispassionate reasoning of the Germans. Gibbon sought after the
truth, found it, and made it clear.'
'Then you think Gibbon a truthful writer?'
'Why, yes; who shall convict Gibbon of falsehood? Many people have
endeavoured to convict Gibbon of falsehood; they have followed him
in his researches, and have never found him once tripping. Oh, he
is a wonderful writer! his power of condensation is admirable; the
lore of the whole world is to be found in his pages. Sometimes in
a single note he has given us the result of the study of years; or,
to speak metaphorically, "he has ransacked a thousand Gulistans,
and has condensed all his fragrant booty into a single drop of
'But was not Gibbon an enemy to the Christian faith?'
'Why, no; he was rather an enemy to priestcraft, so am I; and when
I say the philosophy of the Bible is in many respects unsound, I
always wish to make an exception in favour of that part of it which
contains the life and sayings of Jesus of Bethlehem, to which I
must always concede my unqualified admiration - of Jesus, mind you;
for with his followers and their dogmas I have nothing to do. Of
all historic characters Jesus is the most beautiful and the most
heroic. I have always been a friend to hero-worship, it is the
only rational one, and has always been in use amongst civilised
people - the worship of spirits is synonymous with barbarism - it
is mere fetish; the savages of West Africa are all spiritworshippers.
But there is something philosophic in the worship of
the heroes of the human race, and the true hero is the benefactor.
Brahma, Jupiter, Bacchus, were all benefactors, and, therefore,
entitled to the worship of their respective peoples. The Celts
worshipped Hesus, who taught them to plough, a highly useful art.
We, who have attained a much higher state of civilisation than the
Celts ever did, worship Jesus, the first who endeavoured to teach
men to behave decently and decorously under all circumstances; who
was the foe of vengeance, in which there is something highly
indecorous; who had first the courage to lift his voice against
that violent dogma, "an eye for an eye"; who shouted conquer, but
conquer with kindness; who said put up the sword, a violent
unphilosophic weapon; and who finally died calmly and decorously in
defence of his philosophy. He must be a savage who denies worship
to the hero of Golgotha.'
'But he was something more than a hero; he was the Son of God,
wasn't he?'
The elderly individual made no immediate answer; but, after a few
more whiffs from his pipe, exclaimed, 'Come, fill your glass! How
do you advance with your translation of TELL'?
'It is nearly finished; but I do not think I shall proceed with it;
I begin to think the original somewhat dull.'
'There you are wrong; it is the masterpiece of Schiller, the first
of German poets.'
'It may be so,' said the youth. 'But, pray excuse me, I do not
think very highly of German poetry. I have lately been reading
Shakespeare; and, when I turn from him to the Germans - even the
best of them - they appear mere pigmies. You will pardon the
liberty I perhaps take in saying so.'
'I like that every one should have an opinion of his own,' said the
elderly individual; 'and, what is more, declare it. Nothing
displeases me more than to see people assenting to everything that
they hear said; I at once come to the conclusion that they are
either hypocrites, or there is nothing in them. But, with respect
to Shakespeare, whom I have not read for thirty years, is he not
rather given to bombast, "crackling bombast," as I think I have
said in one of my essays?'
'I daresay he is,' said the youth; 'but I can't help thinking him
the greatest of all poets, not even excepting Homer. I would
sooner have written that series of plays, founded on the fortunes
of the House of Lancaster, than the ILIAD itself. The events
described are as lofty as those sung by Homer in his great work,
and the characters brought upon the stage still more interesting.
I think Hotspur as much of a hero as Hector, and young Henry more
of a man than Achilles; and then there is the fat knight, the
quintessence of fun, wit, and rascality. Falstaff is a creation
beyond the genius even of Homer.'
'You almost tempt me to read Shakespeare again - but the Germans?'
'I don't admire the Germans,' said the youth, somewhat excited. 'I
don't admire them in any point of view. I have heard my father say
that, though good sharpshooters, they can't be much depended upon
as soldiers; and that old Sergeant Meredith told him that Minden
would never have been won but for the two English regiments, who
charged the French with fixed bayonets, and sent them to the rightabout
in double-quick time. With respect to poetry, setting
Shakespeare and the English altogether aside, I think there is
another Gothic nation, at least, entitled to dispute with them the
palm. Indeed, to my mind, there is more genuine poetry contained
in the old Danish book which I came so strangely by, than has been
produced in Germany from the period of the Niebelungen lay to the
'Ah, the Koempe Viser?' said the elderly individual, breathing
forth an immense volume of smoke, which he had been collecting
during the declamation of his young companion. 'There are singular
things in that book, I must confess; and I thank you for showing it
to me, or rather your attempt at translation. I was struck with
that ballad of Orm Ungarswayne, who goes by night to the grave-hill
of his father to seek for counsel. And then, again, that strange
melancholy Swayne Vonved, who roams about the world propounding
people riddles; slaying those who cannot answer, and rewarding
those who can with golden bracelets. Were it not for the violence,
I should say that ballad has a philosophic tendency. I thank you
for making me acquainted with the book, and I thank the Jew Mousha
for making me acquainted with you.'
'That Mousha was a strange customer,' said the youth, collecting
'He WAS a strange customer,' said the elder individual, breathing
forth a gentle cloud. 'I love to exercise hospitality to wandering
strangers, especially foreigners; and when he came to this place,
pretending to teach German and Hebrew, I asked him to dinner.
After the first dinner, he asked me to lend him five pounds; I DID
lend him five pounds. After the fifth dinner, he asked me to lend
him fifty pounds; I did NOT lend him the fifty pounds.'
'He was as ignorant of German as of Hebrew,' said the youth; 'on
which account he was soon glad, I suppose, to transfer his pupil to
some one else.'
'He told me,' said the elder individual, 'that he intended to leave
a town where he did not find sufficient encouragement; and, at the
same time, expressed regret at being obliged to abandon a certain
extraordinary pupil, for whom he had a particular regard. Now I,
who have taught many people German from the love which I bear to
it, and the desire which I feel that it should be generally
diffused, instantly said that I should be happy to take his pupil
off his hands, and afford him what instruction I could in German,
for, as to Hebrew, I have never taken much interest in it. Such
was the origin of our acquaintance. You have been an apt scholar.
Of late, however, I have seen little of you - what is the reason?'
The youth made no answer.
'You think, probably, that you have learned all I can teach you?
Well, perhaps you are right.'
'Not so, not so,' said the young man eagerly; 'before I knew you I
knew nothing, and am still very ignorant; but of late my father's
health has been very much broken, and he requires attention; his
spirits also have become low, which, to tell you the truth, he
attributes to my misconduct. He says that I have imbibed all kinds
of strange notions and doctrines, which will, in all probability,
prove my ruin, both here and hereafter; which - which - '
'Ah! I understand,' said the elder, with another calm whiff. 'I
have always had a kind of respect for your father, for there is
something remarkable in his appearance, something heroic, and I
would fain have cultivated his acquaintance; the feeling, however,
has not been reciprocated. I met him, the other day, up the road,
with his cane and dog, and saluted him; he did not return my
'He has certain opinions of his own,' said the youth, 'which are
widely different from those which he has heard that you profess.'
'I respect a man for entertaining an opinion of his own,' said the
elderly individual. 'I hold certain opinions; but I should not
respect an individual the more for adopting them. All I wish for
is tolerance, which I myself endeavour to practise. I have always
loved the truth, and sought it; if I have not found it, the greater
my misfortune.'
'Are you happy?' said the young man.
'Why, no! And, between ourselves, it is that which induces me to
doubt sometimes the truth of my opinions. My life, upon the whole,
I consider a failure; on which account, I would not counsel you, or
any one, to follow my example too closely. It is getting late, and
you had better be going, especially as your father, you say, is
anxious about you. But, as we may never meet again, I think there
are three things which I may safely venture to press upon you. The
first is, that the decencies and gentlenesses should never be lost
sight of, as the practice of the decencies and gentlenesses is at
all times compatible with independence of thought and action. The
second thing which I would wish to impress upon you is, that there
is always some eye upon us; and that it is impossible to keep
anything we do from the world, as it will assuredly be divulged by
somebody as soon as it is his interest to do so. The third thing
which I would wish to press upon you - '
'Yes,' said the youth, eagerly bending forward.
'Is - ' and here the elderly individual laid down his pipe upon the
table - 'that it will be as well to go on improving yourself in
The alehouse-keeper - Compassion for the rich - Old English
gentleman - How is this? - Madeira - The Greek Parr - Twenty
languages - Whiter's health - About the fight - A sporting
gentleman - The flattened nose - Lend us that pightle - The surly
'HOLLOA, master! can you tell us where the fight is likely to be?'
Such were the words shouted out to me by a short thick fellow, in
brown top-boots, and bareheaded, who stood, with his hands in his
pockets, at the door of a country alehouse as I was passing by.
Now, as I knew nothing about the fight, and as the appearance of
the man did not tempt me greatly to enter into conversation with
him, I merely answered in the negative, and continued my way.
It was a fine lovely morning in May, the sun shone bright above,
and the birds were carolling in the hedgerows. I was wont to be
cheerful at such seasons, for, from my earliest recollection,
sunshine and the song of birds have been dear to me; yet, about
that period, I was not cheerful, my mind was not at rest; I was
debating within myself, and the debate was dreary and
unsatisfactory enough. I sighed, and turning my eyes upward, I
ejaculated, 'What is truth?'
But suddenly, by a violent effort breaking away from my
meditations, I hastened forward; one mile, two miles, three miles
were speedily left behind; and now I came to a grove of birch and
other trees, and opening a gate I passed up a kind of avenue, and
soon arriving before a large brick house, of rather antique
appearance, knocked at the door.
In this house there lived a gentleman with whom I had business. He
was said to be a genuine old English gentleman, and a man of
considerable property; at this time, however, he wanted a thousand
pounds, as gentlemen of considerable property every now and then
do. I had brought him a thousand pounds in my pocket, for it is
astonishing how many eager helpers the rich find, and with what
compassion people look upon their distresses. He was said to have
good wine in his cellar.
'Is your master at home?' said I, to a servant who appeared at the
'His worship is at home, young man,' said the servant, as he looked
at my shoes, which bore evidence that I had come walking. 'I beg
your pardon, sir,' he added, as he looked me in the face.
'Ay, ay, servants,' thought I, as I followed the man into the
house, 'always look people in the face when you open the door, and
do so before you look at their shoes, or you may mistake the heir
of a Prime Minister for a shopkeeper's son.'
I found his worship a jolly, red-faced gentleman, of about fiftyfive;
he was dressed in a green coat, white corduroy breeches, and
drab gaiters, and sat on an old-fashioned leather sofa, with two
small, thoroughbred, black English terriers, one on each side of
him. He had all the appearance of a genuine old English gentleman
who kept good wine in his cellar.
'Sir,' said I, 'I have brought you a thousand pounds'; and I said
this after the servant had retired, and the two terriers had ceased
the barking which is natural to all such dogs at the sight of a
And when the magistrate had received the money, and signed and
returned a certain paper which I handed to him, he rubbed his
hands, and looking very benignantly at me, exclaimed -
'And now, young gentleman, that our business is over, perhaps you
can tell me where the fight is to take place?'
'I am sorry, sir,' said I, 'that I can't inform you, but everybody
seems to be anxious about it'; and then I told him what had
occurred to me on the road with the alehouse-keeper.
'I know him,' said his worship; 'he's a tenant of mine, and a good
fellow, somewhat too much in my debt though. But how is this,
young gentleman, you look as if you had been walking; you did not
come on foot?'
'Yes, sir, I came on foot.'
'On foot! why it is sixteen miles.'
'I shan't be tired when I have walked back.'
'You can't ride, I suppose?'
'Better than I can walk.'
'Then why do you walk?'
'I have frequently to make journeys connected with my profession;
sometimes I walk, sometimes I ride, just as the whim takes me.'
'Will you take a glass of wine?'
'That's right; what shall it be?'
The magistrate gave a violent slap on his knee; 'I like your
taste,' said he, 'I am fond of a glass of Madeira myself, and can
give you such a one as you will not drink every day; sit down,
young gentleman, you shall have a glass of Madeira, and the best I
Thereupon he got up, and, followed by his two terriers, walked
slowly out of the room.
I looked round the room, and, seeing nothing which promised me much
amusement, I sat down, and fell again into my former train of
thought. 'What is truth?' said I.
'Here it is,' said the magistrate, returning at the end of a
quarter of an hour, followed by the servant with a tray; 'here's
the true thing, or I am no judge, far less a justice. It has been
thirty years in my cellar last Christmas. There,' said he to the
servant, 'put it down, and leave my young friend and me to
ourselves. Now, what do you think of it?'
'It is very good,' said I.
'Did you ever taste better Madeira?'
'I never before tasted Madeira.'
'Then you ask for a wine without knowing what it is?'
'I ask for it, sir, that I may know what it is.'
'Well, there is logic in that, as Parr would say; you have heard of
'Old Parr?'
'Yes, old Parr, but not that Parr; you mean the English, I the
Greek Parr, as people call him.'
'I don't know him.'
'Perhaps not - rather too young for that, but were you of my age,
you might have cause to know him, coming from where you do. He
kept school there, I was his first scholar; he flogged Greek into
me till I loved him - and he loved me: he came to see me last
year, and sat in that chair; I honour Parr - he knows much, and is
a sound man.'
'Does he know the truth?'
'Know the truth! he knows what's good, from an oyster to an ostrich
- he's not only sound, but round.'
'Suppose we drink his health?'
'Thank you, boy: here's Parr's health, and Whiter's.'
'Who is Whiter?'
'Don't you know Whiter? I thought everybody knew Reverend Whiter
the philologist, though I suppose you scarcely know what that
means. A man fond of tongues and languages, quite out of your way
- he understands some twenty; what do you say to that?'
'Is he a sound man?'
'Why, as to that, I scarcely know what to say: he has got queer
notions in his head - wrote a book to prove that all words came
originally from the earth - who knows? Words have roots, and roots
live in the earth; but, upon the whole, I should not call him
altogether a sound man, though he can talk Greek nearly as fast as
'Is he a round man?'
'Ay, boy, rounder than Parr; I'll sing you a song, if you like,
which will let you into his character:-
'Give me the haunch of a buck to eat, and to drink Madeira old,
And a gentle wife to rest with, and in my arms to fold,
An Arabic book to study, a Norfolk cob to ride,
And a house to live in shaded with trees, and near to a river side;
With such good things around me, and blessed with good health
Though I should live for a hundred years, for death I would not
Here's to Whiter's health - so you know nothing about the fight?'
'No, sir; the truth is, that of late I have been very much occupied
with various matters, otherwise I should, perhaps, have been able
to afford you some information - boxing is a noble art.'
'Can you box?'
'A little.'
'I tell you what, my boy; I honour you, and provided your education
had been a little less limited, I should have been glad to see you
here in company with Parr and Whiter; both can box. Boxing is, as
you say, a noble art - a truly English art; may I never see the day
when Englishmen shall feel ashamed of it, or blacklegs and
blackguards bring it into disgrace. I am a magistrate, and, of
course, cannot patronise the thing very openly, yet I sometimes see
a prize fight: I saw the Game Chicken beat Gulley.'
'Did you ever see Big Ben?'
'No; why do you ask?' But here we heard a noise, like that of a
gig driving up to the door, which was immediately succeeded by a
violent knocking and ringing, and after a little time the servant
who had admitted me made his appearance in the room. 'Sir,' said
he, with a certain eagerness of manner, 'here are two gentlemen
waiting to speak to you.'
'Gentlemen waiting to speak to me! who are they?'
'I don't know, sir,' said the servant; 'but they look like sporting
gentlemen, and - and' - here he hesitated; 'from a word or two they
dropped, I almost think that they come about the fight.'
'About the fight!' said the magistrate. 'No; that can hardly be;
however, you had better show them in.'
Heavy steps were now heard ascending the stairs, and the servant
ushered two men into the apartment. Again there was a barking, but
louder than that which had been directed against myself, for here
were two intruders; both of them were remarkable-looking men, but
to the foremost of them the most particular notice may well be
accorded: he was a man somewhat under thirty, and nearly six feet
in height. He was dressed in a blue coat, white corduroy breeches,
fastened below the knee with small golden buttons; on his legs he
wore white lamb's-wool stockings, and on his feet shoes reaching to
the ankles; round his neck was a handkerchief of the blue and
bird's eye pattern; he wore neither whiskers nor moustaches, and
appeared not to delight in hair, that of his head, which was of a
light brown, being closely cropped; the forehead was rather high,
but somewhat narrow; the face neither broad nor sharp, perhaps
rather sharp than broad; the nose was almost delicate; the eyes
were gray, with an expression in which there was sternness blended
with something approaching to feline; his complexion was
exceedingly pale, relieved, however, by certain pock-marks, which
here and there studded his countenance; his form was athletic, but
lean; his arms long. In the whole appearance of the man there was
a blending of the bluff and the sharp. You might have supposed him
a bruiser; his dress was that of one in all its minutiae; something
was wanting, however, in his manner - the quietness of the
professional man; he rather looked like one performing the part -
well - very well - but still performing a part. His companion! -
there, indeed, was the bruiser - no mistake about him: a tall
massive man, with a broad countenance and a flattened nose; dressed
like a bruiser, but not like a bruiser going into the ring; he wore
white-topped boots, and a loose brown jockey coat.
As the first advanced towards the table, behind which the
magistrate sat, he doffed a white castor from his head, and made
rather a genteel bow; looking at me, who sat somewhat on one side,
he gave a kind of nod of recognition.
'May I request to know who you are, gentlemen?' said the
'Sir,' said the man in a deep, but not unpleasant voice, 'allow me
to introduce to you my friend, Mr. -, the celebrated pugilist'; and
he motioned with his hand towards the massive man with the
flattened nose.
'And your own name, sir?' said the magistrate.
'My name is no matter,' said the man; 'were I to mention it to you,
it would awaken within you no feeling of interest. It is neither
Kean nor Belcher, and I have as yet done nothing to distinguish
myself like either of those individuals, or even like my friend
here. However, a time may come - we are not yet buried; and
whensoever my hour arrives, I hope I shall prove myself equal to my
destiny, however high -
'Like bird that's bred amongst the Helicons.'
And here a smile half theatrical passed over his features.
'In what can I oblige you, sir?' said the magistrate.
'Well, sir; the soul of wit is brevity; we want a place for an
approaching combat between my friend here and a brave from town.
Passing by your broad acres this fine morning we saw a pightle,
which we deemed would suit. Lend us that pightle, and receive our
thanks; 'twould be a favour, though not much to grant: we neither
ask for Stonehenge nor for Tempe.'
My friend looked somewhat perplexed; after a moment, however, he
said, with a firm but gentlemanly air, 'Sir, I am sorry that I
cannot comply with your request.'
'Not comply!' said the man, his brow becoming dark as midnight; and
with a hoarse and savage tone, 'Not comply! why not?'
'It is impossible, sir; utterly impossible!'
'Why so?'
'I am not compelled to give my reasons to you, sir, nor to any
'Let me beg of you to alter your decision,' said the man, in a tone
of profound respect.
'Utterly impossible, sir; I am a magistrate.'
'Magistrate! then fare ye well, for a green-coated buffer and a
'Sir!' said the magistrate, springing up with a face fiery with
But, with a surly nod to me, the man left the apartment; and in a
moment more the heavy footsteps of himself and his companion were
heard descending the staircase.
'Who is that man?' said my friend, turning towards me.
'A sporting gentleman, well known in the place from which I come.'
'He appeared to know you.'
'I have occasionally put on the gloves with him.'
'What is his name?'
Doubts - Wise king of Jerusalem - Let me see - A thousand years -
Nothing new - The crowd - The hymn - Faith - Charles Wesley - There
he stood - Farewell, brother - Death - Sun, moon, and stars - Wind
on the heath.
THERE was one question which I was continually asking myself at
this period, and which has more than once met the eyes of the
reader who has followed me through the last chapter: 'What is
truth?' I had involved myself imperceptibly in a dreary labyrinth
of doubt, and, whichever way I turned, no reasonable prospect of
extricating myself appeared. The means by which I had brought
myself into this situation may be very briefly told; I had inquired
into many matters, in order that I might become wise, and I had
read and pondered over the words of the wise, so called, till I had
made myself master of the sum of human wisdom; namely, that
everything is enigmatical and that man is an enigma to himself;
thence the cry of 'What is truth?' I had ceased to believe in the
truth of that in which I had hitherto trusted, and yet could find
nothing in which I could put any fixed or deliberate belief - I
was, indeed, in a labyrinth! In what did I not doubt? With
respect to crime and virtue I was in doubt; I doubted that the one
was blamable and the other praiseworthy. Are not all things
subjected to the law of necessity? Assuredly time and chance
govern all things: Yet how can this be? alas!
Then there was myself; for what was I born? Are not all things
born to be forgotten? That's incomprehensible: yet is it not so?
Those butterflies fall and are forgotten. In what is man better
than a butterfly? All then is born to be forgotten. Ah! that was
a pang indeed; 'tis at such a moment that a man wishes to die. The
wise king of Jerusalem, who sat in his shady arbours beside his
sunny fish-pools, saying so many fine things, wished to die, when
he saw that not only all was vanity, but that he himself was
vanity. Will a time come when all will be forgotten that now is
beneath the sun? If so, of what profit is life?
In truth it was a sore vexation of spirit to me when I saw, as the
wise man saw of old, that whatever I could hope to perform must
necessarily be of very temporary duration; and if so, why do it? I
said to myself, whatever name I can acquire, will it endure for
eternity? scarcely so. A thousand years? Let me see! what have I
done already? I have learnt Welsh, and have translated the songs
of Ab Gwilym, some ten thousand lines, into English rhyme; I have
also learnt Danish, and have rendered the old book of ballads cast
by the tempest upon the beach into corresponding English metre.
Good! have I done enough already to secure myself a reputation of a
thousand years? No, no! certainly not; I have not the slightest
ground for hoping that my translations from the Welsh and Danish
will be read at the end of a thousand years. Well, but I am only
eighteen, and I have not stated all that I have done; I have learnt
many other tongues, and have acquired some knowledge even of Hebrew
and Arabic. Should I go on in this way till I am forty, I must
then be very learned; and perhaps, among other things, may have
translated the Talmud, and some of the great works of the Arabians.
Pooh! all this is mere learning and translation, and such will
never secure immortality. Translation is at best an echo, and it
must be a wonderful echo to be heard after the lapse of a thousand
years. No! all I have already done, and all I may yet do in the
same way, I may reckon as nothing - mere pastime; something else
must be done. I must either write some grand original work, or
conquer an empire; the one just as easy as the other. But am I
competent to do either? Yes, I think I am, under favourable
circumstances. Yes, I think I may promise myself a reputation of a
thousand years, if I do but give myself the necessary trouble.
Well! but what's a thousand years after all, or twice a thousand
years? Woe is me! I may just as well sit still.
'Would I had never been born!' I said to myself; and a thought
would occasionally intrude: But was I ever born? Is not all that
I see a lie - a deceitful phantom? Is there a world, and earth,
and sky? Berkeley's doctrine - Spinoza's doctrine! Dear reader, I
had at that time never read either Berkeley or Spinoza. I have
still never read them; who are they, men of yesterday? 'All is a
lie - all a deceitful phantom,' are old cries; they come naturally
from the mouths of those who, casting aside that choicest shield
against madness, simplicity, would fain be wise as God, and can
only know that they are naked. This doubting in the 'universal
all' is almost coeval with the human race: wisdom, so called, was
early sought after. All is a lie - a deceitful phantom - was said
when the world was yet young; its surface, save a scanty portion,
yet untrodden by human foot, and when the great tortoise yet
crawled about. All is a lie, was the doctrine of Buddh; and Buddh
lived thirty centuries before the wise king of Jerusalem, who sat
in his arbours, beside his sunny fish-pools, saying many fine
things, and, amongst others, 'There is nothing new under the sun!'
One day, whilst I bent my way to the heath of which I have spoken
on a former occasion, at the foot of the hills which formed it I
came to a place where a wagon was standing, but without horses, the
shafts resting on the ground; there was a crowd about it, which
extended half-way up the side of the neighbouring hill. The wagon
was occupied by some half a dozen men; some sitting, others
standing - they were dressed in sober-coloured habiliments of black
or brown, cut in a plain and rather uncouth fashion, and partially
white with dust; their hair was short, and seemed to have been
smoothed down by the application of the hand; all were bareheaded -
sitting or standing, all were bareheaded. One of them, a tall man,
was speaking as I arrived; ere, however, I could distinguish what
he was saying, he left off, and then there was a cry for a hymn 'to
the glory of God' - that was the word. It was a strange-sounding
hymn, as well it might be, for everybody joined in it: there were
voices of all kinds, of men, of women, and of children - of those
who could sing and of those who could not - a thousand voices all
joined, and all joined heartily; no voice of all the multitude was
silent save mine. The crowd consisted entirely of the lower
classes, labourers and mechanics, and their wives and children -
dusty people, unwashed people, people of no account whatever, and
yet they did not look a mob. And when that hymn was over - and
here let me observe that, strange as it sounded, I have recalled
that hymn to mind, and it has seemed to tingle in my ears on
occasions when all that pomp and art could do to enhance religious
solemnity was being done - in the Sistine Chapel, what time the
papal band was in full play, and the choicest choristers of Italy
poured forth their mellowest tones in presence of Batuschca and his
cardinals - on the ice of the Neva, what time the long train of
stately priests, with their noble beards and their flowing robes of
crimson and gold, with their ebony and ivory staves, stalked along,
chanting their Sclavonian litanies in advance of the mighty Emperor
of the North and his Priberjensky guard of giants, towards the
orifice through which the river, running below in its swiftness, is
to receive the baptismal lymph: - when the hymn was over, another
man in the wagon proceeded to address the people; he was a much
younger man than the last speaker; somewhat square built and about
the middle height; his face was rather broad, but expressive of
much intelligence, and with a peculiar calm and serious look; the
accent in which he spoke indicated that he was not of these parts,
but from some distant district. The subject of his address was
faith, and how it could remove mountains. It was a plain address,
without any attempt at ornament, and delivered in a tone which was
neither loud nor vehement. The speaker was evidently not a
practised one - once or twice he hesitated as if for words to
express his meaning, but still he held on, talking of faith, and
how it could remove mountains: 'It is the only thing we want,
brethren, in this world; if we have that, we are indeed rich, as it
will enable us to do our duty under all circumstances, and to bear
our lot, however hard it may be - and the lot of all mankind is
hard - the lot of the poor is hard, brethren - and who knows more
of the poor than I? - a poor man myself, and the son of a poor man:
but are the rich better off? not so, brethren, for God is just.
The rich have their trials too: I am not rich myself, but I have
seen the rich with careworn countenances; I have also seen them in
madhouses; from which you may learn, brethren, that the lot of all
mankind is hard; that is, till we lay hold of faith, which makes us
comfortable under all circumstances; whether we ride in gilded
chariots or walk barefooted in quest of bread; whether we be
ignorant, whether we be wise - for riches and poverty, ignorance
and wisdom, brethren, each brings with it its peculiar temptations.
Well, under all these troubles, the thing which I would recommend
you to seek is one and the same - faith; faith in our Lord Jesus
Christ, who made us and allotted to each his station. Each has
something to do, brethren. Do it, therefore, but always in faith;
without faith we shall find ourselves sometimes at fault; but with
faith never - for faith can remove the difficulty. It will teach
us to love life, brethren, when life is becoming bitter, and to
prize the blessings around us; for as every man has his cares,
brethren, so has each man his blessings. It will likewise teach us
not to love life over much, seeing that we must one day part with
it. It will teach us to face death with resignation, and will
preserve us from sinking amidst the swelling of the river Jordan.'
And when he had concluded his address, he said, 'Let us sing a
hymn, one composed by Master Charles Wesley - he was my countryman,
'Jesus, I cast my soul on Thee,
Mighty and merciful to save;
Thou shalt to death go down with me,
And lay me gently in the grave.
This body then shall rest in hope,
This body which the worms destroy;
For Thou shalt surely raise me up
To glorious life and endless joy.'
Farewell, preacher with the plain coat and the calm serious look!
I saw thee once again, and that was lately - only the other day.
It was near a fishing hamlet, by the sea-side, that I saw the
preacher again. He stood on the top of a steep monticle, used by
pilots as a look-out for vessels approaching that coast, a
dangerous one, abounding in rocks and quick-sands. There he stood
on the monticle, preaching to weather-worn fishermen and mariners
gathered below upon the sand. 'Who is he?' said I to an old
fisherman who stood beside me with a book of hymns in his hand; but
the old man put his hand to his lips, and that was the only answer
I received. Not a sound was heard but the voice of the preacher
and the roaring of the waves; but the voice was heard loud above
the roaring of the sea, for the preacher now spoke with power, and
his voice was not that of one who hesitates. There he stood - no
longer a young man, for his black locks were become gray, even like
my own; but there was the intelligent face, and the calm serious
look which had struck me of yore. There stood the preacher, one of
those men - and, thank God, their number is not few - who, animated
by the spirit of Christ, amidst much poverty, and, alas! much
contempt, persist in carrying the light of the Gospel amidst the
dark parishes of what, but for their instrumentality, would
scarcely be Christian England. I would have waited till he had
concluded, in order that I might speak to him, and endeavour to
bring back the ancient scene to his recollection, but suddenly a
man came hurrying towards the monticle, mounted on a speedy horse,
and holding by the bridle one yet more speedy, and he whispered to
me, 'Why loiterest thou here? - knowest thou not all that is to be
done before midnight?' and he flung me the bridle; and I mounted on
the horse of great speed, and I followed the other, who had already
galloped off. And as I departed, I waved my hand to him on the
monticle, and I shouted, 'Farewell, brother! the seed came up at
last, after a long period!' and then I gave the speedy horse his
way, and leaning over the shoulder of the galloping horse, I said,
'Would that my life had been like his - even like that man's!'
I now wandered along the heath, till I came to a place where,
beside a thick furze, sat a man, his eyes fixed intently on the red
ball of the setting sun.
'That's not you, Jasper?'
'Indeed, brother!'
'I've not seen you for years.'
'How should you, brother?'
'What brings you here?'
'The fight, brother.'
'Where are the tents?'
'On the old spot, brother.'
'Any news since we parted?'
'Two deaths, brother.'
'Who are dead, Jasper?'
'Father and mother, brother.'
'Where did they die?'
'Where they were sent, brother.'
'And Mrs. Herne?'
'She's alive, brother.'
'Where is she now?'
'In Yorkshire, brother.'
'What is your opinion of death, Mr. Petulengro?' said I, as I sat
down beside him.
'My opinion of death, brother, is much the same as that in the old
song of Pharaoh, which I have heard my grandam sing -
Cana marel o manus chivios ande puv,
Ta rovel pa leste o chavo ta romi.
When a man dies, he is cast into the earth, and his wife and child
sorrow over him. If he has neither wife nor child, then his father
and mother, I suppose; and if he is quite alone in the world, why,
then, he is cast into the earth, and there is an end of the
'And do you think that is the end of a man?'
'There's an end of him, brother, more's the pity.'
'Why do you say so?'
'Life is sweet, brother.'
'Do you think so?'
'Think so! - There's night and day, brother, both sweet things;
sun, moon, and stars, brother, all sweet things; there's likewise a
wind on the heath. Life is very sweet, brother; who would wish to
'I would wish to die - '
'You talk like a gorgio - which is the same as talking like a fool
- were you a Rommany Chal you would talk wiser. Wish to die,
indeed! - A Rommany Chal would wish to live for ever!'
'In sickness, Jasper?'
'There's the sun and stars, brother.'
'In blindness, Jasper?'
'There's the wind on the heath, brother; if I could only feel that,
I would gladly live for ever. Dosta, we'll now go to the tents and
put on the gloves; and I'll try to make you feel what a sweet thing
it is to be alive, brother!'
The flower of the grass - Days of pugilism - The rendezvous - Jews
- Bruisers of England - Winter, spring - Well-earned bays - The
fight - Huge black cloud - Frame of adamant - The storm -
Dukkeripens - The barouche - The rain-gushes.
HOW for everything there is a time and a season, and then how does
the glory of a thing pass from it, even like the flower of the
grass. This is a truism, but it is one of those which are
continually forcing themselves upon the mind. Many years have not
passed over my head, yet, during those which I can recall to
remembrance, how many things have I seen flourish, pass away, and
become forgotten, except by myself, who, in spite of all my
endeavours, never can forget anything. I have known the time when
a pugilistic encounter between two noted champions was almost
considered in the light of a national affair; when tens of
thousands of individuals, high and low, meditated and brooded upon
it, the first thing in the morning and the last at night, until the
great event was decided. But the time is past, and many people
will say, thank God that it is; all I have to say is, that the
French still live on the other side of the water, and are still
casting their eyes hitherward - and that in the days of pugilism it
was no vain blast to say that one Englishman was a match for two of
t'other race; at present it would be a vain boast to say so, for
these are not the days of pugilism.
But those to which the course of my narrative has carried me were
the days of pugilism; it was then at its height, and consequently
near its decline, for corruption had crept into the ring; and how
many things, states and sects among the rest, owe their decline to
this cause! But what a bold and vigorous aspect pugilism wore at
that time! and the great battle was just then coming off: the day
had been decided upon, and the spot - a convenient distance from
the old town; and to the old town were now flocking the bruisers of
England, men of tremendous renown. Let no one sneer at the
bruisers of England - what were the gladiators of Rome, or the
bull-fighters of Spain, in its palmiest days, compared to England's
bruisers? Pity that ever corruption should have crept in amongst
them - but of that I wish not to talk; let us still hope that a
spark of the old religion, of which they were the priests, still
lingers in the breasts of Englishmen. There they come, the
bruisers, from far London, or from wherever else they might chance
to be at the time, to the great rendezvous in the old city; some
came one way, some another: some of tip-top reputation came with
peers in their chariots, for glory and fame are such fair things
that even peers are proud to have those invested therewith by their
sides; others came in their own gigs, driving their own bits of
blood, and I heard one say: 'I have driven through at a heat the
whole hundred and eleven miles, and only stopped to bait twice.'
Oh, the blood-horses of old England! but they, too, have had their
day - for everything beneath the sun there is a season and a time.
But the greater number come just as they can contrive; on the tops
of coaches, for example; and amongst these there are fellows with
dark sallow faces and sharp shining eyes; and it is these that have
planted rottenness in the core of pugilism, for they are Jews, and,
true to their kind, have only base lucre in view.
It was fierce old Cobbett, I think, who first said that the Jews
first introduced bad faith amongst pugilists. He did not always
speak the truth, but at any rate he spoke it when he made that
observation. Strange people the Jews - endowed with every gift but
one, and that the highest, genius divine - genius which can alone
make of men demigods, and elevate them above earth and what is
earthy and grovelling; without which a clever nation - and, who
more clever than the Jews? - may have Rambams in plenty, but never
a Fielding nor a Shakespeare. A Rothschild and a Mendoza, yes -
but never a Kean nor a Belcher.
So the bruisers of England are come to be present at the grand
fight speedily coming off; there they are met in the precincts of
the old town, near the field of the chapel, planted with tender
saplings at the restoration of sporting Charles, which are now
become venerable elms, as high as many a steeple; there they are
met at a fitting rendezvous, where a retired coachman, with one
leg, keeps an hotel and a bowling-green. I think I now see them
upon the bowling-green, the men of renown, amidst hundreds of
people with no renown at all, who gaze upon them with timid wonder.
Fame, after all, is a glorious thing, though it lasts only for a
day. There's Cribb, the champion of England, and perhaps the best
man in England; there he is, with his huge massive figure, and face
wonderfully like that of a lion. There is Belcher, the younger,
not the mighty one, who is gone to his place, but the Teucer
Belcher, the most scientific pugilist that ever entered a ring,
only wanting strength to be, I won't say what. He appears to walk
before me now, as he did that evening, with his white hat, white
greatcoat, thin genteel figure, springy step, and keen, determined
eye. Crosses him, what a contrast! grim, savage Shelton, who has a
civil word for nobody, and a hard blow for anybody - hard! one
blow, given with the proper play of his athletic arm, will unsense
a giant. Yonder individual, who strolls about with his hands
behind him, supporting his brown coat lappets, under-sized, and who
looks anything but what he is, is the king of the light weights, so
called - Randall! the terrible Randall, who has Irish blood in his
veins; not the better for that, nor the worse; and not far from him
is his last antagonist, Ned Turner, who, though beaten by him,
still thinks himself as good a man, in which he is, perhaps, right,
for it was a near thing; and 'a better shentleman,' in which he is
quite right, for he is a Welshman. But how shall I name them all?
they were there by dozens, and all tremendous in their way. There
was Bulldog Hudson, and fearless Scroggins, who beat the conqueror
of Sam the Jew. There was Black Richmond - no, he was not there,
but I knew him well; he was the most dangerous of blacks, even with
a broken thigh. There was Purcell, who could never conquer till
all seemed over with him. There was - what! shall I name thee
last? ay, why not? I believe that thou art the last of all that
strong family still above the sod, where mayst thou long continue -
true piece of English stuff, Tom of Bedford - sharp as Winter, kind
as Spring.
Hail to thee, Tom of Bedford, or by whatever name it may please
thee to be called, Spring or Winter. Hail to thee, six-foot
Englishman of the brown eye, worthy to have carried a six-foot bow
at Flodden, where England's yeomen triumphed over Scotland's king,
his clans and chivalry. Hail to thee, last of England's bruisers,
after all the many victories which thou hast achieved - true
English victories, unbought by yellow gold; need I recount them?
nay, nay! they are already well known to fame - sufficient to say
that Bristol's Bull and Ireland's Champion were vanquished by thee,
and one mightier still, gold itself, thou didst overcome; for gold
itself strove in vain to deaden the power of thy arm; and thus thou
didst proceed till men left off challenging thee, the
unvanquishable, the incorruptible. 'Tis a treat to see thee, Tom
of Bedford, in thy 'public' in Holborn way, whither thou hast
retired with thy well-earned bays. 'Tis Friday night, and nine by
Holborn clock. There sits the yeoman at the end of his long room,
surrounded by his friends; glasses are filled, and a song is the
cry, and a song is sung well suited to the place; it finds an echo
in every heart - fists are clenched, arms are waved, and the
portraits of the mighty fighting men of yore, Broughton, and Slack,
and Ben, which adorn the walls, appear to smile grim approbation,
whilst many a manly voice joins in the bold chorus:
Here's a health to old honest John Bull,
When he's gone we shan't find such another,
And with hearts and with glasses brim full,
We will drink to old England, his mother.
But the fight! with respect to the fight, what shall I say? Little
can be said about it - it was soon over; some said that the brave
from town, who was reputed the best man of the two, and whose form
was a perfect model of athletic beauty, allowed himself, for lucre
vile, to be vanquished by the massive champion with the flattened
nose. One thing is certain, that the former was suddenly seen to
sink to the earth before a blow of by no means extraordinary power.
Time, time! was called; but there he lay upon the ground apparently
senseless, and from thence he did not lift his head till several
seconds after the umpires had declared his adversary victor.
There were shouts; indeed there's never a lack of shouts to
celebrate a victory, however acquired; but there was also much
grinding of teeth, especially amongst the fighting men from town.
'Tom has sold us,' said they, 'sold us to the yokels; who would
have thought it?' Then there was fresh grinding of teeth, and
scowling brows were turned to the heaven; but what is this? is it
possible, does the heaven scowl too? why, only a quarter of an hour
ago . . . but what may not happen in a quarter of an hour? For
many weeks the weather had been of the most glorious description,
the eventful day, too, had dawned gloriously, and so it had
continued till some two hours after noon; the fight was then over;
and about that time I looked up - what a glorious sky of deep blue,
and what a big fierce sun swimming high above in the midst of that
blue; not a cloud - there had not been one for weeks - not a cloud
to be seen, only in the far west, just on the horizon, something
like the extremity of a black wing; that was only a quarter of an
hour ago, and now the whole northern side of the heaven is occupied
by a huge black cloud, and the sun is only occasionally seen amidst
masses of driving vapour; what a change! but another fight is at
hand, and the pugilists are clearing the outer ring; - how their
huge whips come crashing upon the heads of the yokels; blood flows,
more blood than in the fight; those blows are given with right
good-will, those are not sham blows, whether of whip or fist; it is
with fist that grim Shelton strikes down the big yokel; he is
always dangerous, grim Shelton, but now particularly so, for he has
lost ten pounds betted on the brave who sold himself to the yokels;
but the outer ring is cleared: and now the second fight commences;
it is between two champions of less renown than the others, but is
perhaps not the worse on that account. A tall thin boy is fighting
in the ring with a man somewhat under the middle size, with a frame
of adamant; that's a gallant boy! he's a yokel, but he comes from
Brummagem, and he does credit to his extraction; but his adversary
has a frame of adamant: in what a strange light they fight, but
who can wonder, on looking at that frightful cloud usurping now
one-half of heaven, and at the sun struggling with sulphurous
vapour; the face of the boy, which is turned towards me, looks
horrible in that light, but he is a brave boy, he strikes his foe
on the forehead, and the report of the blow is like the sound of a
hammer against a rock; but there is a rush and a roar overhead, a
wild commotion, the tempest is beginning to break loose; there's
wind and dust, a crash, rain and hail; is it possible to fight
amidst such a commotion? yes! the fight goes on; again the boy
strikes the man full on the brow, but it is of no use striking that
man, his frame is of adamant. 'Boy, thy strength is beginning to
give way, and thou art becoming confused'; the man now goes to
work, amidst rain and hail. 'Boy, thou wilt not hold out ten
minutes longer against rain, hail, and the blows of such an
And now the storm was at its height; the black thunder-cloud had
broken into many, which assumed the wildest shapes and the
strangest colours, some of them unspeakably glorious; the rain
poured in a deluge, and more than one waterspout was seen at no
great distance: an immense rabble is hurrying in one direction; a
multitude of men of all ranks, peers and yokels, prize-fighters and
Jews, and the last came to plunder, and are now plundering amidst
that wild confusion of hail and rain, men and horses, carts and
carriages. But all hurry in one direction, through mud and mire;
there's a town only three miles distant, which is soon reached, and
soon filled, it will not contain one-third of that mighty rabble;
but there's another town farther on - the good old city is farther
on, only twelve miles; what's that! who will stay here? onward to
the old town.
Hurry-skurry, a mixed multitude of men and horses, carts and
carriages, all in the direction of the old town; and, in the midst
of all that mad throng, at a moment when the rain-gushes were
coming down with particular fury, and the artillery of the sky was
pealing as I had never heard it peal before, I felt some one seize
me by the arm - I turned round, and beheld Mr. Petulengro.
'I can't hear you, Mr. Petulengro,' said I; for the thunder drowned
the words which he appeared to be uttering.
'Dearginni,' I heard Mr. Petulengro say, 'it thundreth. I was
asking, brother, whether you believe in dukkeripens?'
'I do not, Mr. Petulengro; but this is strange weather to be asking
me whether I believe in fortunes.'
'Grondinni,' said Mr. Petulengro, 'it haileth. I believe in
dukkeripens, brother.'
'And who has more right,' said I; 'seeing that you live by them?
But this tempest is truly horrible.'
'Dearginni, grondinni ta villaminni! It thundreth, it haileth, and
also flameth,' said Mr. Petulengro. 'Look up there, brother!'
I looked up. Connected with this tempest there was one feature to
which I have already alluded - the wonderful colours of the clouds.
Some were of vivid green; others of the brightest orange; others as
black as pitch. The gypsy's finger was pointed to a particular
part of the sky.
'What do you see there, brother?'
'A strange kind of cloud.'
'What does it look like, brother?'
'Something like a stream of blood.'
'That cloud foreshoweth a bloody dukkeripen.'
'A bloody fortune!' said I. 'And whom may it betide?'
'Who knows!' said the gypsy.
Down the way, dashing and splashing, and scattering man, horse, and
cart to the left and right, came an open barouche, drawn by four
smoking steeds, with postilions in scarlet jackets and leather
skull-caps. Two forms were conspicuous in it; that of the
successful bruiser, and of his friend and backer, the sporting
gentleman of my acquaintance.
'His!' said the gypsy, pointing to the latter, whose stern features
wore a smile of triumph, as, probably recognising me in the crowd,
he nodded in the direction of where I stood, as the barouche
hurried by.
There went the barouche, dashing through the rain-gushes, and in it
one whose boast it was that he was equal to 'either fortune.' Many
have heard of that man - many may be desirous of knowing yet more
of him. I have nothing to do with that man's after life - he
fulfilled his dukkeripen. 'A bad, violent man!' Softly, friend;
when thou wouldst speak harshly of the dead, remember that thou
hast not yet fulfilled thy own dukkeripen!
My father - Premature decay - The easy-chair - A few questions - So
you told me - A difficult language - They can it Haik - Misused
opportunities - Saul - Want of candour - Don't weep - Heaven
forgive me - Dated from Paris - I wish he were here - A father's
reminiscences - Farewell to vanities.
MY father, as I have already informed the reader, had been endowed
by nature with great corporeal strength; indeed, I have been
assured that, at the period of his prime, his figure had denoted
the possession of almost Herculean powers. The strongest forms,
however, do not always endure the longest, the very excess of the
noble and generous juices which they contain being the cause of
their premature decay. But, be that as it may, the health of my
father, some few years after his retirement from the service to the
quiet of domestic life, underwent a considerable change; his
constitution appeared to be breaking up; and he was subject to
severe attacks from various disorders, with which, till then, he
had been utterly unacquainted. He was, however, wont to rally,
more or less, after his illnesses, and might still occasionally be
seen taking his walk, with his cane in his hand, and accompanied by
his dog, who sympathised entirely with him, pining as he pined,
improving as he improved, and never leaving the house save in his
company; and in this manner matters went on for a considerable
time, no very great apprehension with respect to my father's state
being raised either in my mother's breast or my own. But, about
six months after the period at which I have arrived in my last
chapter, it came to pass that my father experienced a severer
attack than on any previous occasion.
He had the best medical advice; but it was easy to see, from the
looks of his doctors, that they entertained but slight hopes of his
recovery. His sufferings were great, yet he invariably bore them
with unshaken fortitude. There was one thing remarkable connected
with his illness; notwithstanding its severity, it never confined
him to his bed. He was wont to sit in his little parlour, in his
easy-chair, dressed in a faded regimental coat, his dog at his
feet, who would occasionally lift his head from the hearth-rug on
which he lay, and look his master wistfully in the face. And thus
my father spent the greater part of his time, sometimes in prayer,
sometimes in meditation, and sometimes in reading the Scriptures.
I frequently sat with him, though, as I entertained a great awe for
my father, I used to feel rather ill at ease, when, as sometimes
happened, I found myself alone with him.
'I wish to ask you a few questions,' said he to me one day, after
my mother had left the room.
'I will answer anything you may please to ask me, my dear father.'
'What have you been about lately?'
'I have been occupied as usual, attending at the office at the
appointed hours.'
'And what do you there?'
'Whatever I am ordered.'
'And nothing else?'
'Oh yes! sometimes I read a book.'
'Connected with your profession?'
'Not always; I have been lately reading Armenian - '
'What's that?'
'The language of a people whose country is a region on the other
side of Asia Minor.'
'A region abounding with mountains.'
'Amongst which is Mount Ararat.'
'Upon which, as the Bible informs us, the ark rested.'
'It is the language of the people of those regions - '
'So you told me.'
'And I have been reading the Bible in their language.'
'Or rather, I should say, in the ancient language of these people;
from which I am told the modem Armenian differs considerably.'
'As much as the Italian from the Latin.'
'So I have been reading the Bible in ancient Armenian.'
'You told me so before.'
'I found it a highly difficult language.'
'Differing widely from the languages in general with which I am
'Exhibiting, however, some features in common with them.'
'And sometimes agreeing remarkably in words with a certain strange
wild speech with which I became acquainted - '
'No, father, not Irish - with which I became acquainted by the
greatest chance in the world.'
'But of which I need say nothing farther at present, and which I
should not have mentioned but for that fact.'
'Which I consider remarkable.'
'The Armenian is copious.'
'Is it?'
'With an alphabet of thirty-nine letters, but it is harsh and
'Like the language of most mountainous people - the Armenians call
it Haik.'
'Do they?'
'And themselves, Haik, also; they are a remarkable people, and,
though their original habitation is the Mountain of Ararat, they
are to be found, like the Jews, all over the world.'
'Well, father, that's all I can tell you about the Haiks, or
'And what does it all amount to?'
'Very little, father; indeed, there is very little known about the
Armenians; their early history, in particular, is involved in
considerable mystery.'
'And, if you knew all that it was possible to know about them, to
what would it amount? to what earthly purpose could you turn it?
have you acquired any knowledge of your profession?'
'Very little, father.'
'Very little! Have you acquired all in your power?'
'I can't say that I have, father.'
'And yet it was your duty to have done so. But I see how it is,
you have shamefully misused your opportunities; you are like one
who, sent into the field to labour, passes his time in flinging
stones at the birds of heaven.'
'I would scorn to fling a stone at a bird, father.'
'You know what I mean, and all too well, and this attempt to evade
deserved reproof by feigned simplicity is quite in character with
your general behaviour. I have ever observed about you a want of
frankness, which has distressed me; you never speak of what you are
about, your hopes, or your projects, but cover yourself with
mystery. I never knew till the present moment that you were
acquainted with Armenian.'
'Because you never asked me, father; there's nothing to conceal in
the matter - I will tell you in a moment how I came to learn
Armenian. A lady whom I met at one of Mrs. -'s parties took a
fancy to me, and has done me the honour to allow me to go and see
her sometimes. She is the widow of a rich clergyman, and on her
husband's death came to this place to live, bringing her husband's
library with her: I soon found my way to it, and examined every
book. Her husband must have been a learned man, for amongst much
Greek and Hebrew I found several volumes in Armenian, or relating
to the language.'
'And why did you not tell me of this before?'
'Because you never questioned me; but, I repeat, there is nothing
to conceal in the matter. The lady took a fancy to me, and, being
fond of the arts, drew my portrait; she said the expression of my
countenance put her in mind of Alfieri's Saul.'
'And do you still visit her?'
'No, she soon grew tired of me, and told people that she found me
very stupid; she gave me the Armenian books, however.'
'Saul,' said my father, musingly, 'Saul. I am afraid she was only
too right there; he disobeyed the commands of his master, and
brought down on his head the vengeance of Heaven - he became a
maniac, prophesied, and flung weapons about him.'
'He was, indeed, an awful character - I hope I shan't turn out like
'God forbid!' said my father, solemnly; 'but in many respects you
are headstrong and disobedient like him. I placed you in a
profession, and besought you to make yourself master of it by
giving it your undivided attention. This, however, you did not do,
you know nothing of it, but tell me that you are acquainted with
Armenian; but what I dislike most is your want of candour - you are
my son, but I know little of your real history, you may know fifty
things for what I am aware: you may know how to shoe a horse for
what I am aware.'
'Not only to shoe a horse, father, but to make horse-shoes.'
'Perhaps so,' said my father; 'and it only serves to prove what I
was just saying, that I know little about you.'
'But you easily may, my dear father; I will tell you anything that
you may wish to know - shall I inform you how I learnt to make
'No,' said my father; 'as you kept it a secret so long, it may as
well continue so still. Had you been a frank, open-hearted boy,
like one I could name, you would have told me all about it of your
own accord. But I now wish to ask you a serious question - what do
you propose to do?'
'To do, father?'
'Yes! the time for which you were articled to your profession will
soon be expired, and I shall be no more.'
'Do not talk so, my dear father; I have no doubt that you will soon
be better.'
'Do not flatter yourself; I feel that my days are numbered, I am
soon going to my rest, and I have need of rest, for I am weary.
There, there, don't weep! Tears will help me as little as they
will you; you have not yet answered my question. Tell me what you
intend to do?'
'I really do not know what I shall do.'
'The military pension which I enjoy will cease with my life. The
property which I shall leave behind me will be barely sufficient
for the maintenance of your mother respectably. I again ask you
what you intend to do. Do you think you can support yourself by
your Armenian or your other acquirements?'
'Alas! I think little at all about it; but I suppose I must push
into the world, and make a good fight, as becomes the son of him
who fought Big Ben; if I can't succeed, and am driven to the worst,
it is but dying - '
'What do you mean by dying?'
'Leaving the world; my loss would scarcely be felt. I have never
held life in much value, and every one has a right to dispose as he
thinks best of that which is his own.'
'Ah! now I understand you; and well I know how and where you
imbibed that horrible doctrine, and many similar ones which I have
heard from your mouth; but I wish not to reproach you - I view in
your conduct a punishment for my own sins, and I bow to the will of
God. Few and evil have been my days upon the earth; little have I
done to which I can look back with satisfaction. It is true I have
served my king fifty years, and I have fought with - Heaven forgive
me, what was I about to say! - but you mentioned the man's name,
and our minds willingly recall our ancient follies. Few and evil
have been my days upon earth, I may say with Jacob of old, though I
do not mean to say that my case is so hard as his; he had many
undutiful children, whilst I have only -; but I will not reproach
you. I have also like him a son to whom I can look with hope, who
may yet preserve my name when I am gone, so let me be thankful;
perhaps, after all, I have not lived in vain. Boy, when I am gone,
look up to your brother, and may God bless you both! There, don't
weep; but take the Bible, and read me something about the old man
and his children.'
My brother had now been absent for the space of three years. At
first his letters had been frequent, and from them it appeared that
he was following his profession in London with industry; they then
became rather rare, and my father did not always communicate their
contents. His last letter, however, had filled him and our whole
little family with joy; it was dated from Paris, and the writer was
evidently in high spirits. After describing in eloquent terms the
beauties and gaieties of the French capital, he informed us how he
had plenty of money, having copied a celebrated picture of one of
the Italian masters for a Hungarian nobleman, for which he had
received a large sum. 'He wishes me to go with him to Italy,'
added he, 'but I am fond of independence; and, if ever I visit old
Rome, I will have no patrons near me to distract my attention.'
But six months had now elapsed from the date of this letter, and we
had heard no further intelligence of my brother. My father's
complaint increased; the gout, his principal enemy, occasionally
mounted high up in his system, and we had considerable difficulty
in keeping it from the stomach, where it generally proves fatal. I
now devoted almost the whole of my time to my father, on whom his
faithful partner also lavished every attention and care. I read
the Bible to him, which was his chief delight; and also
occasionally such other books as I thought might prove entertaining
to him. His spirits were generally rather depressed. The absence
of my brother appeared to prey upon his mind. 'I wish he were
here,' he would frequently exclaim; 'I can't imagine what can have
become of him; I trust, however, he will arrive in time.' He still
sometimes rallied, and I took advantage of those moments of
comparative ease to question him upon the events of his early life.
My attentions to him had not passed unnoticed, and he was kind,
fatherly, and unreserved. I had never known my father so
entertaining as at these moments, when his life was but too
evidently drawing to a close. I had no idea that he knew and had
seen so much; my respect for him increased, and I looked upon him
almost with admiration. His anecdotes were in general highly
curious; some of them related to people in the highest stations,
and to men whose names were closely connected with some of the
brightest glories of our native land. He had frequently conversed
- almost on terms of familiarity - with good old George. He had
known the conqueror of Tippoo Saib; and was the friend of
Townshend, who, when Wolfe fell, led the British grenadiers against
the shrinking regiments of Montcalm. 'Pity,' he added, 'that when
old - old as I am now - he should have driven his own son mad by
robbing him of his plighted bride; but so it was; he married his
son's bride. I saw him lead her to the altar; if ever there was an
angelic countenance, it was that girl's; she was almost too fair to
be one of the daughters of women. Is there anything, boy, that you
would wish to ask me? now is the time.'
'Yes, father; there is one about whom I would fain question you.'
'Who is it? shall I tell you about Elliot?'
'No, father, not about Elliot; but pray don't be angry; I should
like to know something about Big Ben.'
'You are a strange lad,' said my father; 'and, though of late I
have begun to entertain a more favourable opinion than heretofore,
there is still much about you that I do not understand. Why do you
bring up that name? Don't you know that it is one of my
temptations: you wish to know something about him. Well! I will
oblige you this once, and then farewell to such vanities -
something about him. I will tell you - his - skin when he flung
off his clothes - and he had a particular knack in doing so - his
skin, when he bared his mighty chest and back for combat; and when
he fought he stood, so . . . . if I remember right - his skin, I
say, was brown and dusky as that of a toad. Oh me! I wish my
elder son was here.'
My brother's arrival - The interview - Night - A dying father -
AT last my brother arrived; he looked pale and unwell; I met him at
the door. 'You have been long absent,' said I.
'Yes,' said he, 'perhaps too long; but how is my father?'
'Very poorly,' said I, 'he has had a fresh attack; but where have
you been of late?'
'Far and wide,' said my brother; 'but I can't tell you anything
now, I must go to my father. It was only by chance that I heard of
his illness.'
'Stay a moment,' said I. 'Is the world such a fine place as you
supposed it to be before you went away?'
'Not quite,' said my brother, 'not quite; indeed I wish - but ask
me no questions now, I must hasten to my father.' There was
another question on my tongue, but I forbore; for the eyes of the
young man were full of tears. I pointed with my finger, and the
young man hastened past me to the arms of his father.
I forbore to ask my brother whether he had been to old Rome.
What passed between my father and brother I do not know; the
interview, no doubt, was tender enough, for they tenderly loved
each other; but my brother's arrival did not produce the beneficial
effect upon my father which I at first hoped it would; it did not
even appear to have raised his spirits. He was composed enough,
however: 'I ought to be grateful,' said he; 'I wished to see my
son, and God has granted me my wish; what more have I to do now
than to bless my little family and go?'
My father's end was evidently at hand.
And did I shed no tears? did I breathe no sighs? did I never wring
my hands at this period? the reader will perhaps be asking.
Whatever I did and thought is best known to God and myself; but it
will be as well to observe, that it is possible to feel deeply, and
yet make no outward sign.
And now for the closing scene.
At the dead hour of night, it might be about two, I was awakened
from sleep by a cry which sounded from the room immediately below
that in which I slept. I knew the cry, it was the cry of my
mother; and I also knew its import, yet I made no effort to rise,
for I was for the moment paralysed. Again the cry sounded, yet
still I lay motionless - the stupidity of horror was upon me. A
third time, and it was then that, by a violent effort, bursting the
spell which appeared to bind me, I sprang from the bed and rushed
downstairs. My mother was running wildly about the room; she had
awoke, and found my father senseless in the bed by her side. I
essayed to raise him, and after a few efforts supported him in the
bed in a sitting posture. My brother now rushed in, and, snatching
up a light that was burning, he held it to my father's face. 'The
surgeon, the surgeon!' he cried; then, dropping the light, he ran
out of the room followed by my mother; I remained alone, supporting
the senseless form of my father; the light had been extinguished by
the fall, and an almost total darkness reigned in the room. The
form pressed heavily against my bosom - at last methought it moved.
Yes, I was right, there was a heaving of the breast, and then a
gasping. Were those words which I heard? Yes, they were words,
low and indistinct at first, and then audible. The mind of the
dying man was reverting to former scenes. I heard him mention
names which I had often heard him mention before. It was an awful
moment; I felt stupefied, but I still contrived to support my dying
father. There was a pause, again my father spoke: I heard him
speak of Minden, and of Meredith, the old Minden sergeant, and then
he uttered another name, which at one period of his life was much
in his lips, the name of . . . but this is a solemn moment! There
was a deep gasp: I shook, and thought all was over; but I was
mistaken - my father moved, and revived for a moment; he supported
himself in bed without my assistance. I make no doubt that for a
moment he was perfectly sensible, and it was then that, clasping
his hands, he uttered another name clearly, distinctly - it was the
name of Christ. With that name upon his lips, the brave old
soldier sank back upon my bosom, and, with his hands still clasped,
yielded up his soul.
The greeting - Queer figure - Cheer up - The cheerful fire - It
will do - The sally forth - Trepidation - Let him come in.
'ONE-AND-NINEPENCE, sir, or the things which you have brought with
you will be taken away from you!'
Such were the first words which greeted my ears, one damp misty
morning in March, as I dismounted from the top of a coach in the
yard of a London inn.
I turned round, for I felt that the words were addressed to myself.
Plenty of people were in the yard - porters, passengers, coachmen,
hostlers, and others, who appeared to be intent on anything but
myself, with the exception of one individual, whose business
appeared to lie with me, and who now confronted me at the distance
of about two yards.
I looked hard at the man - and a queer kind of individual he was to
look at - a rakish figure, about thirty, and of the middle size,
dressed in a coat smartly cut, but threadbare, very tight
pantaloons of blue stuff, tied at the ankles, dirty white stockings
and thin shoes, like those of a dancing-master; his features were
not ugly, but rather haggard, and he appeared to owe his complexion
less to nature than carmine; in fact, in every respect, a very
queer figure.
'One-and-ninepence, sir, or your things will be taken away from
you!' he said, in a kind of lisping tone, coming yet nearer to me.
I still remained staring fixedly at him, but never a word answered.
Our eyes met; whereupon he suddenly lost the easy impudent air
which he before wore. He glanced, for a moment, at my fist, which
I had by this time clenched, and his features became yet more
haggard; he faltered; a fresh 'one-and-ninepence,' which he was
about to utter, died on his lips; he shrank back, disappeared
behind a coach, and I saw no more of him.
'One-and-ninepence, or my things will be taken away from me!' said
I to myself, musingly, as I followed the porter to whom I had
delivered my scanty baggage; 'am I to expect many of these
greetings in the big world? Well, never mind! I think I know the
counter-sign!' And I clenched my fist yet harder than before.
So I followed the porter, through the streets of London, to a
lodging which had been prepared for me by an acquaintance. The
morning, as I have before said, was gloomy, and the streets through
which I passed were dank and filthy; the people, also, looked dank
and filthy; and so, probably, did I, for the night had been rainy,
and I had come upwards of a hundred miles on the top of a coach; my
heart had sunk within me, by the time we reached a dark narrow
street, in which was the lodging.
'Cheer up, young man,' said the porter, 'we shall have a fine
And presently I found myself in the lodging which had been prepared
for me. It consisted of a small room, up two pair of stairs, in
which I was to sit, and another still smaller above it, in which I
was to sleep. I remember that I sat down, and looked disconsolate
about me - everything seemed so cold and dingy. Yet how little is
required to make a situation - however cheerless at first sight -
cheerful and comfortable. The people of the house, who looked
kindly upon me, lighted a fire in the dingy grate; and, then, what
a change! - the dingy room seemed dingy no more! Oh the luxury of
a cheerful fire after a chill night's journey! I drew near to the
blazing grate, rubbed my hands, and felt glad.
And, when I had warmed myself, I turned to the table, on which, by
this time, the people of the house had placed my breakfast; and I
ate and I drank; and, as I ate and drank, I mused within myself,
and my eyes were frequently directed to a small green box, which
constituted part of my luggage, and which, with the rest of my
things, stood in one corner of the room, till at last, leaving my
breakfast unfinished, I rose, and, going to the box, unlocked it,
and took out two or three bundles of papers tied with red tape,
and, placing them on the table, I resumed my seat and my breakfast,
my eyes intently fixed upon the bundles of papers all the time.
And when I had drained the last cup of tea out of a dingy teapot,
and ate the last slice of the dingy loaf, I untied one of the
bundles, and proceeded to look over the papers, which were closely
written over in a singular hand, and I read for some time, till at
last I said to myself, 'It will do.' And then I looked at the
other bundle for some time without untying it; and at last I said,
'It will do also.' And then I turned to the fire, and, putting my
feet against the sides of the grate, I leaned back on my chair,
and, with my eyes upon the fire, fell into deep thought.
And there I continued in thought before the fire, until my eyes
closed, and I fell asleep; which was not to be wondered at, after
the fatigue and cold which I had lately undergone on the coach-top;
and, in my sleep, I imagined myself still there, amidst darkness
and rain, hurrying now over wild heaths, and now along roads
overhung with thick and umbrageous trees, and sometimes methought I
heard the horn of the guard, and sometimes the voice of the
coachman, now chiding, now encouraging his horses, as they toiled
through the deep and miry ways. At length a tremendous crack of a
whip saluted the tympanum of my ear, and I started up broad awake,
nearly oversetting the chair on which I reclined - and lo! I was in
the dingy room before the fire, which was by this time half
extinguished. In my dream I had confounded the noise of the street
with those of my night journey; the crack which had aroused me I
soon found proceeded from the whip of a carter, who, with many
oaths, was flogging his team below the window.
Looking at a clock which stood upon the mantelpiece, I perceived
that it was past eleven; whereupon I said to myself, 'I am wasting
my time foolishly and unprofitably, forgetting that I am now in the
big world, without anything to depend upon save my own exertions';
and then I adjusted my dress, and, locking up the bundle of papers
which I had not read, I tied up the other, and, taking it under my
arm, I went downstairs; and, after asking a question or two of the
people of the house, I sallied forth into the street with a
determined look, though at heart I felt somewhat timorous at the
idea of venturing out alone into the mazes of the mighty city, of
which I had heard much, but of which, of my own knowledge, I knew
I had, however, no great cause for anxiety in the present instance;
I easily found my way to the place which I was in quest of - one of
the many new squares on the northern side of the metropolis, and
which was scarcely ten minutes' walk from the street in which I had
taken up my abode. Arriving before the door of a tolerably large
house which bore a certain number, I stood still for a moment in a
kind of trepidation, looking anxiously at the door; I then slowly
passed on till I came to the end of the square, where I stood
still, and pondered for a while. Suddenly, however, like one who
has formed a resolution, I clenched my right hand, flinging my hat
somewhat on one side, and, turning back with haste to the door
before which I had stopped, I sprang up the steps, and gave a loud
rap, ringing at the same time the bell of the area. After the
lapse of a minute the door was opened by a maid-servant of no very
cleanly or prepossessing appearance, of whom I demanded, in a tone
of some hauteur, whether the master of the house was at home.
Glancing for a moment at the white paper bundle beneath my arm, the
handmaid made no reply in words, but, with a kind of toss of her
head, flung the door open, standing on one side as if to let me
enter. I did enter; and the hand-maid, having opened another door
on the right hand, went in, and said something which I could not
hear: after a considerable pause, however, I heard the voice of a
man say, 'Let him come in'; whereupon the handmaid, coming out,
motioned me to enter, and, on my obeying, instantly closed the door
behind me.
The sinister glance - Excellent correspondent - Quite original - My
system - A losing trade - Merit - Starting a Review - What have you
got? - Stop! - DAIRYMAN'S DAUGHTER - Oxford principles - More
conversation - How is this?
THERE were two individuals in the room in which I now found myself;
it was a small study, surrounded with bookcases, the window looking
out upon the square. Of these individuals he who appeared to be
the principal stood with his back to the fireplace. He was a tall
stout man, about sixty, dressed in a loose morning gown. The
expression of his countenance would have been bluff but for a
certain sinister glance, and his complexion might have been called
rubicund but for a considerable tinge of bilious yellow. He eyed
me askance as I entered. The other, a pale, shrivelled-looking
person, sat at a table apparently engaged with an account-book; he
took no manner of notice of me, never once lifting his eyes from
the page before him.
'Well, sir, what is your pleasure?' said the big man, in a rough
tone, as I stood there, looking at him wistfully - as well I might
- for upon that man, at the time of which I am speaking, my
principal, I may say my only, hopes rested.
'Sir,' said I, 'my name is so-and-so, and I am the bearer of a
letter to you from Mr. so-and-so, an old friend and correspondent
of yours.'
The countenance of the big man instantly lost the suspicious and
lowering expression which it had hitherto exhibited; he strode
forward, and, seizing me by the hand, gave me a violent squeeze.
'My dear sir,' said he, 'I am rejoiced to see you in London. I
have been long anxious for the pleasure - we are old friends,
though we have never before met. Taggart,' said he to the man who
sat at the desk, 'this is our excellent correspondent, the friend
and pupil of our other excellent correspondent.'
The pale, shrivelled-looking man slowly and deliberately raised his
head from the account-book, and surveyed me for a moment or two;
not the slightest emotion was observable in his countenance. It
appeared to me, however, that I could detect a droll twinkle in his
eye: his curiosity, if he had any, was soon gratified; he made me
a kind of bow, pulled out a snuff-box, took a pinch of snuff, and
again bent his head over the page.
'And now, my dear sir,' said the big man, 'pray sit down, and tell
me the cause of your visit. I hope you intend to remain here a day
or two.'
'More than that,' said I, 'I am come to take up my abode in
'Glad to hear it; and what have you been about of late? got
anything which will suit me? Sir, I admire your style of writing,
and your manner of thinking; and I am much obliged to my good
friend and correspondent for sending me some of your productions.
I inserted them all, and wished there had been more of them - quite
original, sir, quite: took with the public, especially the essay
about the non-existence of anything. I don't exactly agree with
you though; I have my own peculiar ideas about matter - as you
know, of course, from the book I have published. Nevertheless, a
very pretty piece of speculative philosophy - no such thing as
matter - impossible that there should be - EX NIHILO - what is the
Greek? I have forgot - very pretty indeed; very original.'
'I am afraid, sir, it was very wrong to write such trash, and yet
more to allow it to be published.'
'Trash! not at all; a very pretty piece of speculative philosophy;
of course you were wrong in saying there is no world. The world
must exist, to have the shape of a pear; and that the world is
shaped like a pear, and not like an apple, as the fools of Oxford
say, I have satisfactorily proved in my book. Now, if there were
no world, what would become of my system? But what do you propose
to do in London?'
'Here is the letter, sir,' said I, 'of our good friend, which I
have not yet given to you; I believe it will explain to you the
circumstances under which I come.'
He took the letter, and perused it with attention. 'Hem!' said he,
with a somewhat altered manner, 'my friend tells me that you are
come up to London with the view of turning your literary talents to
account, and desires me to assist you in my capacity of publisher
in bringing forth two or three works which you have prepared. My
good friend is perhaps not aware that for some time past I have
given up publishing - was obliged to do so - had many severe losses
- do nothing at present in that line, save sending out the Magazine
once a month; and, between ourselves, am thinking of disposing of
that - wish to retire - high time at my age - so you see - '
'I am very sorry, sir, to hear that you cannot assist me' (and I
remember that I felt very nervous); 'I had hoped - '
'A losing trade, I assure you, sir; literature is a drug. Taggart,
what o'clock is?'
'Well, sir!' said I, rising, 'as you cannot assist me, I will now
take my leave; I thank you sincerely for your kind reception, and
will trouble you no longer.'
'Oh, don't go. I wish to have some further conversation with you;
and perhaps I may hit upon some plan to benefit you. I honour
merit, and always make a point to encourage it when I can; but -
Taggart, go to the bank, and tell them to dishonour the bill twelve
months after date for thirty pounds which becomes due to-morrow. I
am dissatisfied with that fellow who wrote the fairy tales, and
intend to give him all the trouble in my power. Make haste.'
Taggart did not appear to be in any particular haste. First of
all, he took a pinch of snuff, then, rising from his chair, slowly
and deliberately drew his wig, for he wore a wig of a brown colour,
rather more over his forehead than it had previously been, buttoned
his coat, and, taking his hat, and an umbrella which stood in a
corner, made me a low bow, and quitted the room.
'Well, sir, where were we? Oh, I remember, we were talking about
merit. Sir, I always wish to encourage merit, especially when it
comes so highly recommended as in the present instance. Sir, my
good friend and correspondent speaks of you in the highest terms.
Sir, I honour my good friend, and have the highest respect for his
opinion in all matters connected with literature - rather eccentric
though. Sir, my good friend has done my periodical more good and
more harm than all the rest of my correspondents. Sir, I shall
never forget the sensation caused by the appearance of his article
about a certain personage whom he proved - and I think
satisfactorily - to have been a legionary soldier - rather
startling, was it not? The S- of the world a common soldier, in a
marching regiment - original, but startling; sir, I honour my good
'So you have renounced publishing, sir,' said I, 'with the
exception of the Magazine?'
'Why, yes; except now and then, under the rose; the old coachman,
you know, likes to hear the whip. Indeed, at the present moment, I
am thinking of starting a Review on an entirely new and original
principle; and it just struck me that you might be of high utility
in the undertaking - what do you think of the matter?'
'I should be happy, sir, to render you any assistance, but I am
afraid the employment you propose requires other qualifications
than I possess; however, I can make the essay. My chief intention
in coming to London was to lay before the world what I had
prepared; and I had hoped by your assistance - '
'Ah! I see, ambition! Ambition is a very pretty thing; but, sir,
we must walk before we run, according to the old saying - what is
that you have got under your arm?'
'One of the works to which I was alluding; the one, indeed, which I
am most anxious to lay before the world, as I hope to derive from
it both profit and reputation.'
'Indeed! what do you call it?'
'Ancient songs of Denmark, heroic and romantic, translated by
myself; with notes philological, critical, and historical.'
'Then, sir, I assure you that your time and labour have been
entirely flung away; nobody would read your ballads, if you were to
give them to the world to-morrow.'
'I am sure, sir, that you would say otherwise if you would permit
me to read one to you'; and, without waiting for the answer of the
big man, nor indeed so much as looking at him, to see whether he
was inclined or not to hear me, I undid my manuscript, and, with a
voice trembling with eagerness, I read to the following effect: -
Buckshank bold and Elfinstone,
And more than I can mention here,
They caused to be built so stout a ship,
And unto Iceland they would steer.
They launched the ship upon the main,
Which bellowed like a wrathful bear;
Down to the bottom the vessel sank,
A laidly Trold has dragged it there.
Down to the bottom sank young Roland,
And round about he groped awhile;
Until he found the path which led
Unto the bower of Ellenlyle.
'Stop!' said the publisher; 'very pretty indeed, and very original;
beats Scott hollow, and Percy too: but, sir, the day for these
things is gone by; nobody at present cares for Percy, nor for Scott
either, save as a novelist; sorry to discourage merit, sir, but
what can I do! What else have you got?'
'The songs of Ab Gwilym, the Welsh bard, also translated by myself,
with notes critical, philological, and historical.'
'Pass on - what else?'
'Nothing else,' said I, folding up my manuscript with a sigh,
'unless it be a romance in the German style; on which, I confess, I
set very little value.'
'Yes, sir, very wild.'
'Like the Miller of the Black Valley?'
'Yes, sir, very much like the Miller of the Black Valley.'
'Well, that's better,' said the publisher; 'and yet, I don't know,
I question whether any one at present cares for the miller himself.
No, sir, the time for those things is also gone by; German, at
present, is a drug; and, between ourselves, nobody has contributed
to make it so more than my good friend and correspondent; - but,
sir, I see you are a young gentleman of infinite merit, and I
always wish to encourage merit. Don't you think you could write a
series of evangelical tales?'
'Evangelical tales, sir?'
'Yes, sir, evangelical novels.'
'Something in the style of Herder?'
'Herder is a drug, sir; nobody cares for Herder - thanks to my good
friend. Sir, I have in yon drawer a hundred pages about Herder,
which I dare not insert in my periodical; it would sink it, sir.
No, sir, something in the style of the DAIRYMAN'S DAUGHTER.'
'I never heard of the work till the present moment.'
'Then, sir, procure it by all means. Sir, I could afford as much
as ten pounds for a well-written tale in the style of the
DAIRYMAN'S DAUGHTER; that is the kind of literature, sir, that
sells at the present day! It is not the Miller of the Black Valley
- no, sir, nor Herder either, that will suit the present taste; the
evangelical body is becoming very strong, sir; the canting
scoundrels - '
'But, sir, surely you would not pander to a scoundrelly taste?'
'Then, sir, I must give up business altogether. Sir, I have a
great respect for the goddess Reason - an infinite respect, sir;
indeed, in my time, I have made a great many sacrifices for her;
but, sir, I cannot altogether ruin myself for the goddess Reason.
Sir, I am a friend to Liberty, as is well known; but I must also be
a friend to my own family. It is with the view of providing for a
son of mine that I am about to start the Review of which I was
speaking. He has taken into his head to marry, sir, and I must do
something for him, for he can do but little for himself. Well,
sir, I am a friend to Liberty, as I said before, and likewise a
friend to Reason; but I tell you frankly that the Review which I
intend to get up under the rose, and present him with when it is
established, will be conducted on Oxford principles.'
'Orthodox principles, I suppose you mean, sir?'
'I do, sir; I am no linguist, but I believe the words are
Much more conversation passed between us, and it was agreed that I
should become a contributor to the Oxford Review. I stipulated,
however, that, as I knew little of politics, and cared less, no
other articles should be required from me than such as were
connected with belles-lettres and philology; to this the big man
readily assented. 'Nothing will be required from you,' said he,
'but what you mention; and now and then, perhaps, a paper on
metaphysics. You understand German, and perhaps it would be
desirable that you should review Kant; and in a review of Kant,
sir, you could introduce to advantage your peculiar notions about
EX NIHILO.' He then reverted to the subject of the DAIRYMAN'S
DAUGHTER, which I promised to take into consideration. As I was
going away, he invited me to dine with him on the ensuing Sunday.
'That's a strange man!' said I to myself, after I had left the
house; 'he is evidently very clever; but I cannot say that I like
him much, with his Oxford Reviews and Dairyman's Daughters. But
what can I do? I am almost without a friend in the world. I wish
I could find some one who would publish my ballads, or my songs of
Ab Gwilym. In spite of what the big man says, I am convinced that,
once published, they would bring me much fame and profit. But how
is this? - what a beautiful sun! - the porter was right in saying
that the day would clear up - I will now go to my dingy lodging,
lock up my manuscripts, and then take a stroll about the big city.'
The walk - London's Cheape - Street of the Lombards - Strange
bridge - Main arch - The roaring gulf - The boat - Cly-faking - A
comfort - The book - The blessed woman - No trap.
SO I set out on my walk to see the wonders of the big city, and, as
chance would have it, I directed my course to the east. The day,
as I have already said, had become very fine, so that I saw the
great city to advantage, and the wonders thereof: and much I
admired all I saw; and, amongst other things, the huge cathedral,
standing so proudly on the most commanding ground in the big city;
and I looked up to the mighty dome, surmounted by a golden cross,
and I said within myself, 'That dome must needs be the finest in
the world'; and I gazed upon it till my eyes reeled, and my brain
became dizzy, and I thought that the dome would fall and crush me;
and I shrank within myself, and struck yet deeper into the heart of
the big city.
'O Cheapside! Cheapside!' said I, as I advanced up that mighty
thoroughfare, 'truly thou art a wonderful place for hurry, noise,
and riches! Men talk of the bazaars of the East - I have never
seen them - but I daresay that, compared with thee, they are poor
places, silent places, abounding with empty boxes, O thou pride of
London's east! - mighty mart of old renown! - for thou art not a
place of yesterday:- long before the Roses red and white battled in
fair England, thou didst exist - a place of throng and bustle -
place of gold and silver, perfumes and fine linen. Centuries ago
thou couldst extort the praises even of the fiercest foes of
England. Fierce bards of Wales, sworn foes of England, sang thy
praises centuries ago; and even the fiercest of them all, Red
Julius himself, wild Glendower's bard, had a word of praise for
London's 'Cheape,' for so the bards of Wales styled thee in their
flowing odes. Then, if those who were not English, and hated
England, and all connected therewith, had yet much to say in thy
praise, when thou wast far inferior to what thou art now, why
should true-born Englishmen, or those who call themselves so, turn
up their noses at thee, and scoff thee at the present day, as I
believe they do? But, let others do as they will, I, at least, who
am not only an Englishman, but an East Englishman, will not turn up
my nose at thee, but will praise and extol thee, calling thee mart
of the world - a place of wonder and astonishment! - and, were it
right and fitting to wish that anything should endure for ever, I
would say prosperity to Cheapside, throughout all ages - may it be
the world's resort for merchandise, world without end.
And when I had passed through the Cheape I entered another street,
which led up a kind of ascent, and which proved to be the street of
the Lombards, called so from the name of its first founders; and I
walked rapidly up the street of the Lombards, neither looking to
the right nor left, for it had no interest for me, though I had a
kind of consciousness that mighty things were being transacted
behind its walls: but it wanted the throng, bustle, and outward
magnificence of the Cheape, and it had never been spoken of by
'ruddy bards'! And, when I had got to the end of the street of the
Lombards, I stood still for some time, deliberating within myself
whether I should turn to the right or the left, or go straight
forward, and at last I turned to the right, down a street of rapid
descent, and presently found myself upon a bridge which traversed
the river which runs by the big city.
A strange kind of bridge it was; huge and massive, and seemingly of
great antiquity. It had an arched back, like that of a hog, a high
balustrade, and at either side, at intervals, were stone bowers
bulking over the river, but open on the other side, and furnished
with a semicircular bench. Though the bridge was wide - very wide
- it was all too narrow for the concourse upon it. Thousands of
human beings were pouring over the bridge. But what chiefly struck
my attention was a double row of carts and wagons, the generality
drawn by horses as large as elephants, each row striving hard in a
different direction, and not unfrequently brought to a stand-still.
Oh the cracking of whips, the shouts and oaths of the carters, and
the grating of wheels upon the enormous stones that formed the
pavement! In fact, there was a wild burly-burly upon the bridge,
which nearly deafened me. But, if upon the bridge there was a
confusion, below it there was a confusion ten times confounded.
The tide, which was fast ebbing, obstructed by the immense piers of
the old bridge, poured beneath the arches with a fall of several
feet, forming in the river below as many whirlpools as there were
arches. Truly tremendous was the roar of the descending waters,
and the bellow of the tremendous gulfs, which swallowed them for a
time, and then cast them forth, foaming and frothing from their
horrid wombs. Slowly advancing along the bridge, I came to the
highest point, and there I stood still, close beside one of the
stone bowers, in which, beside a fruit-stall, sat an old woman,
with a pan of charcoal at her feet, and a book in her hand, in
which she appeared to be reading intently. There I stood, just
above the principal arch, looking through the balustrade at the
scene that presented itself - and such a scene! Towards the left
bank of the river, a forest of masts, thick and close, as far as
the eye could reach; spacious wharfs, surmounted with gigantic
edifices; and, far away, Caesar's Castle, with its White Tower. To
the right, another forest of masts, and a maze of buildings, from
which, here and there, shot up to the sky chimneys taller than
Cleopatra's Needle, vomiting forth huge wreaths of that black smoke
which forms the canopy - occasionally a gorgeous one - of the more
than Babel city. Stretching before me, the troubled breast of the
mighty river, and, immediately below, the main whirlpool of the
Thames - the Maelstrom of the bulwarks of the middle arch - a
grisly pool, which, with its superabundance of horror, fascinated
me. Who knows but I should have leapt into its depths? - I have
heard of such things - but for a rather startling occurrence which
broke the spell. As I stood upon the bridge, gazing into the jaws
of the pool, a small boat shot suddenly through the arch beneath my
feet. There were three persons in it; an oarsman in the middle,
whilst a man and woman sat at the stern. I shall never forget the
thrill of horror which went through me at this sudden apparition.
What! - a boat - a small boat - passing beneath that arch into
yonder roaring gulf! Yes, yes, down through that awful water-way,
with more than the swiftness of an arrow, shot the boat, or skiff,
right into the jaws of the pool. A monstrous breaker curls over
the prow - there is no hope; the boat is swamped, and all drowned
in that strangling vortex. No! the boat, which appeared to have
the buoyancy of a feather, skipped over the threatening horror,
and, the next moment, was out of danger, the boatman - a true
boatman of Cockaigne that - elevating one of his sculls in sign of
triumph, the man hallooing, and the woman, a true Englishwoman that
- of a certain class - waving her shawl. Whether any one observed
them save myself, or whether the feat was a common one, I know not;
but nobody appeared to take any notice of them. As for myself, I
was so excited that I strove to clamber up the balustrade of the
bridge, in order to obtain a better view of the daring adventurers.
Before I could accomplish my design, however, I felt myself seized
by the body, and, turning my head, perceived the old fruit-woman,
who was clinging to me.
'Nay, dear! don't - don't!' said she. 'Don't fling yourself over -
perhaps you may have better luck next time!'
'I was not going to fling myself over,' said I, dropping from the
balustrade; 'how came you to think of such a thing?'
'Why, seeing you clamber up so fiercely, I thought you might have
had ill luck, and that you wished to make away with yourself.'
'Ill luck,' said I, going into the stone bower, and sitting down.
'What do you mean? ill luck in what?'
'Why, no great harm, dear! cly-faking perhaps.'
'Are you coming over me with dialects,' said I, 'speaking unto me
in fashions I wot nothing of?'
'Nay, dear! don't look so strange with those eyes of your'n, nor
talk so strangely; I don't understand you.'
'Nor I you; what do you mean by cly-faking?'
'Lor, dear! no harm; only taking a handkerchief now and then.'
'Do you take me for a thief?
'Nay, dear! don't make use of bad language; we never calls them
thieves here, but prigs and fakers: to tell you the truth, dear,
seeing you spring at that railing put me in mind of my own dear
son, who is now at Bot'ny: when he had bad luck, he always used to
talk of flinging himself over the bridge; and, sure enough, when
the traps were after him, he did fling himself into the river, but
that was off the bank; nevertheless, the traps pulled him out, and
he is now suffering his sentence; so you see you may speak out, if
you have done anything in the harmless line, for I am my son's own
mother, I assure you.'
'So you think there's no harm in stealing?'
'No harm in the world, dear! Do you think my own child would have
been transported for it, if there had been any harm in it? and,
what's more, would the blessed woman in the book here have written
her life as she has done, and given it to the world, if there had
been any harm in faking? She, too, was what they call a thief and
a cut-purse; ay, and was transported for it, like my dear son; and
do you think she would have told the world so, if there had been
any harm in the thing? Oh, it is a comfort to me that the blessed
woman was transported, and came back - for come back she did, and
rich too - for it is an assurance to me that my dear son, who was
transported too, will come back like her.'
'What was her name?'
'Her name, blessed Mary Flanders.'
'Will you let me look at the book?'
'Yes, dear, that I will, if you promise me not to run away with
I took the book from her hand; a short thick volume, at least a
century old, bound with greasy black leather. I turned the yellow
and dog's-eared pages, reading here and there a sentence. Yes, and
no mistake! HIS pen, his style, his spirit might be observed in
every line of the uncouth-looking old volume - the air, the style,
the spirit of the writer of the book which first taught me to read.
I covered my face with my hand, and thought of my childhood. . . .
'This is a singular book,' said I at last; 'but it does not appear
to have been written to prove that thieving is no harm, but rather
to show the terrible consequences of crime: it contains a deep
'A deep what, dear?'
'A - but no matter, I will give you a crown for this volume.'
'No, dear, I will not sell the volume for a crown.'
'I am poor,' said I; 'but I will give you two silver crowns for
your volume.'
'No, dear, I will not sell my volume for two silver crowns; no, nor
for the golden one in the king's tower down there; without my book
I should mope and pine, and perhaps fling myself into the river;
but I am glad you like it, which shows that I was right about you,
after all; you are one of our party, and you have a flash about
that eye of yours which puts me just in mind of my dear son. No,
dear, I won't sell you my book; but, if you like, you may have a
peep into it whenever you come this way. I shall be glad to see
you; you are one of the right sort, for, if you had been a common
one, you would have run away with the thing; but you scorn such
behaviour, and, as you are so flash of your money, though you say
you are poor, you may give me a tanner to buy a little baccy with;
I love baccy, dear, more by token that it comes from the
plantations to which the blessed woman was sent.'
'What's a tanner?' said I.
'Lor! don't you know, dear? Why, a tanner is sixpence; and, as you
were talking just now about crowns, it will be as well to tell you
that those of our trade never calls them crowns, but bulls; but I
am talking nonsense, just as if you did not know all that already,
as well as myself; you are only shamming - I'm no trap, dear, nor
more was the blessed woman in the book. Thank you, dear - thank
you for the tanner; if I don't spend it, I'll keep it in
remembrance of your sweet face. What, you are going? - well, first
let me whisper a word to you. If you have any clies to sell at any
time, I'll buy them of you; all safe with me; I never peach, and
scores a trap; so now, dear, God bless you! and give you good luck.
Thank you for your pleasant company, and thank you for the tanner.'
The tanner - The hotel - Drinking claret - London journal - New
field - Commonplaceness - The three individuals - Botheration -
Frank and ardent.
'TANNER!' said I musingly, as I left the bridge; 'Tanner! what can
the man who cures raw skins by means of a preparation of oak bark
and other materials have to do with the name which these fakers, as
they call themselves, bestow on the smallest silver coin in these
dominions? Tanner! I can't trace the connection between the man
of bark and the silver coin, unless journeymen tanners are in the
habit of working for sixpence a day. But I have it,' I continued,
flourishing my hat over my head, 'tanner, in this instance, is not
an English word.' Is it not surprising that the language of Mr.
Petulengro and of Tawno Chikno is continually coming to my
assistance whenever I appear to be at a nonplus with respect to the
derivation of crabbed words? I have made out crabbed words in
AEschylus by means of the speech of Chikno and Petulengro, and even
in my Biblical researches I have derived no slight assistance from
it. It appears to be a kind of picklock, an open sesame, Tanner -
Tawno! the one is but a modification of the other; they were
originally identical, and have still much the same signification.
Tanner, in the language of the apple-woman, meaneth the smallest of
English silver coins; and Tawno, in the language of the
Petulengres, though bestowed upon the biggest of the Romans,
according to strict interpretation signifieth a little child.
So I left the bridge, retracing my steps for a considerable way, as
I thought I had seen enough in the direction in which I had
hitherto been wandering; I should say that I scarcely walked less
than thirty miles about the big city on the day of my first
arrival. Night came on, but still I was walking about, my eyes
wide open, and admiring everything that presented itself to them.
Everything was new to me, for everything is different in London
from what it is elsewhere - the people, their language, the horses,
the TOUT ENSEMBLE - even the stones of London are different from
others - at least it appeared to me that I had never walked with
the same case and facility on the flagstones of a country town as
on those of London; so I continued roving about till night came on,
and then the splendour of some of the shops particularly struck me.
'A regular Arabian Nights entertainment!' said I, as I looked into
one on Cornhill, gorgeous with precious merchandise, and lighted up
with lustres, the rays of which were reflected from a hundred
But, notwithstanding the excellence of the London pavement, I began
about nine o'clock to feel myself thoroughly tired; painfully and
slowly did I drag my feet along. I also felt very much in want of
some refreshment, and I remembered that since breakfast I had taken
nothing. I was now in the Strand, and, glancing about, I perceived
that I was close by an hotel, which bore over the door the somewhat
remarkable name of Holy Lands. Without a moment's hesitation I
entered a well-lighted passage, and, turning to the left, I found
myself in a well-lighted coffee-room, with a well-dressed and
frizzled waiter before me, 'Bring me some claret,' said I, for I
was rather faint than hungry, and I felt ashamed to give a humbler
order to so well-dressed an individual. The waiter looked at me
for a moment; then, making a low bow, he bustled off, and I sat
myself down in the box nearest to the window. Presently the waiter
returned, bearing beneath his left arm a long bottle, and between
the fingers of his right hand two large purple glasses; placing the
latter on the table, he produced a corkscrew, drew the cork in a
twinkling, set the bottle down before me with a bang, and then,
standing still, appeared to watch my movements. You think I don't
know how to drink a glass of claret, thought I to myself. I'll
soon show you how we drink claret where I come from; and, filling
one of the glasses to the brim, I flickered it for a moment between
my eyes and the lustre, and then held it to my nose; having given
that organ full time to test the bouquet of the wine, I applied the
glass to my lips, taking a large mouthful of the wine, which I
swallowed slowly and by degrees, that the palate might likewise
have an opportunity of performing its functions. A second mouthful
I disposed of more summarily; then, placing the empty glass upon
the table, I fixed my eyes upon the bottle, and said - nothing;
whereupon the waiter, who had been observing the whole process with
considerable attention, made me a bow yet more low than before,
and, turning on his heel, retired with a smart chuck of his head,
as much as to say, It is all right: the young man is used to
And when the waiter had retired I took a second glass of the wine,
which I found excellent; and, observing a newspaper lying near me,
I took it up and began perusing it. It has been observed somewhere
that people who are in the habit of reading newspapers every day
are not unfrequently struck with the excellence of style and
general talent which they display. Now, if that be the case, how
must I have been surprised, who was reading a newspaper for the
first time, and that one of the best of the London journals! Yes,
strange as it may seem, it was nevertheless true that, up to the
moment of which I am speaking, I had never read a newspaper of any
description. I of course had frequently seen journals, and even
handled them; but, as for reading them, what were they to me? I
cared not for news. But here I was now with my claret before me,
perusing, perhaps, the best of all the London journals; it was not
the -, and I was astonished: an entirely new field of literature
appeared to be opened to my view. It was a discovery, but I
confess rather an unpleasant one; for I said to myself, If literary
talent is so very common in London, that the journals, things
which, as their very name denotes, are ephemeral, are written in a
style like the article I have been perusing, how can I hope to
distinguish myself in this big town, when, for the life of me, I
don't think I could write anything half so clever as what I have
been reading? And then I laid down the paper, and fell into deep
musing; rousing myself from which, I took a glass of wine, and,
pouring out another, began musing again. What I have been reading,
thought I, is certainly very clever and very talented; but talent
and cleverness I think I have heard some one say are very
commonplace things, only fitted for everyday occasions. I question
whether the man who wrote the book I saw this day on the bridge was
a clever man; but, after all, was he not something much better? I
don't think he could have written this article, but then he wrote
the book which I saw on the bridge. Then, if he could not have
written the article on which I now hold my forefinger - and I do
not believe he could - why should I feel discouraged at the
consciousness that I, too, could not write it? I certainly could
no more have written the article than he could; but then, like him,
though I would not compare myself to the man who wrote the book I
saw upon the bridge, I think I could - and here I emptied the glass
of claret - write something better.
Thereupon I resumed the newspaper; and, as I was before struck with
the fluency of style and the general talent which it displayed, I
was now equally so with its commonplaceness and want of originality
on every subject; and it was evident to me that, whatever advantage
these newspaper-writers might have over me in some points, they had
never studied the Welsh bards, translated Kaempe Viser, or been
under the pupilage of Mr. Petulengro and Tawno Chikno.
And as I sat conning the newspaper three individuals entered the
room, and seated themselves in the box at the farther end of which
I was. They were all three very well dressed; two of them elderly
gentlemen, the third a young man about my own age, or perhaps a
year or two older: they called for coffee; and, after two or three
observations, the two eldest commenced a conversation in French,
which, however, though they spoke it fluently enough, I perceived
at once was not their native language; the young man, however, took
no part in their conversation, and when they addressed a portion to
him, which indeed was but rarely, merely replied by a monosyllable.
I have never been a listener, and I paid but little heed to their
discourse, nor indeed to themselves; as I occasionally looked up,
however, I could perceive that the features of the young man, who
chanced to be seated exactly opposite to me, wore an air of
constraint and vexation. This circumstance caused me to observe
him more particularly than I otherwise should have done: his
features were handsome and prepossessing; he had dark brown hair
and a high-arched forehead. After the lapse of half an hour, the
two elder individuals, having finished their coffee, called for the
waiter, and then rose as if to depart, the young man, however,
still remaining seated in the box. The others, having reached the
door, turned round, and, finding that the youth did not follow
them, one of them called to him with a tone of some authority;
whereupon the young man rose, and, pronouncing half audibly the
word 'botheration,' rose and followed them. I now observed that he
was remarkably tall. All three left the house. In about ten
minutes, finding nothing more worth reading in the newspaper, I
laid it down, and though the claret was not yet exhausted, I was
thinking of betaking myself to my lodgings, and was about to call
the waiter, when I heard a step in the passage, and in another
moment the tall young man entered the room, advanced to the same
box, and, sitting down nearly opposite to me, again pronounced to
himself, but more audibly than before, the same word.
'A troublesome world this, sir,' said I, looking at him.
'Yes,' said the young man, looking fixedly at me; 'but I am afraid
we bring most of our troubles on our own heads - at least I can say
so of myself,' he added, laughing. Then, after a pause, 'I beg
pardon,' he said, 'but am I not addressing one of my own country?'
'Of what country are you?' said I.
'I am not of your country, sir; but I have an infinite veneration
for your country, as Strap said to the French soldier. Will you
take a glass of wine?'
'Ah, de tout mon coeur, as the parasite said to Gil Blas,' cried
the young man, laughing. 'Here's to our better acquaintance!'
And better acquainted we soon became; and I found that, in making
the acquaintance of the young man, I had indeed made a valuable
acquisition; he was accomplished, highly connected, and bore the
name of Francis Ardry. Frank and ardent he was, and in a very
little time had told me much that related to himself, and in return
I communicated a general outline of my own history; he listened
with profound attention, but laughed heartily when I told him some
particulars of my visit in the morning to the publisher, whom he
had frequently heard of.
We left the house together.
'We shall soon see each other again,' said he, as we separated at
the door of my lodging.
Dine with the publisher - Religions - No animal food - Unprofitable
discussions - Principles of criticism - The book market - Newgate
lives - Goethe a drug - German acquirements - Moral dignity.
ON the Sunday I was punctual to my appointment to dine with the
publisher. As I hurried along the square in which his house stood,
my thoughts were fixed so intently on the great man, that I passed
by him without seeing him. He had observed me, however, and joined
me just as I was about to knock at the door. 'Let us take a turn
in the square,' said he, 'we shall not dine for half an hour.'
'Well,' said he, as we were walking in the square, 'what have you
been doing since I last saw you?'
'I have been looking about London,' said I, 'and I have bought the
'Pray put it up,' said the publisher; 'I don't want to look at such
trash. Well, do you think you could write anything like it?'
'I do not,' said I.
'How is that?' said the publisher, looking at me.
'Because,' said I, 'the man who wrote it seems to be perfectly well
acquainted with his subject; and, moreover, to write from the
'By the subject you mean - '
'And ain't you acquainted with religion?'
'Very little.'
'I am sorry for that,' said the publisher seriously, 'for he who
sets up for an author ought to be acquainted not only with
religion, but religions, and indeed with all subjects, like my good
friend in the country. It is well that I have changed my mind
about the DAIRYMAN'S DAUGHTER, or I really don't know whom I could
apply to on the subject at the present moment, unless to himself;
and after all I question whether his style is exactly suited for an
evangelical novel.'
'Then you do not wish for an imitation of the DAIRYMAN'S DAUGHTER?'
'I do not, sir; I have changed my mind, as I told you before; I
wish to employ you in another line, but will communicate to you my
intentions after dinner.'
At dinner, beside the publisher and myself, were present his wife
and son with his newly-married bride; the wife appeared a quiet
respectable woman, and the young people looked very happy and goodnatured;
not so the publisher, who occasionally eyed both with
contempt and dislike. Connected with this dinner there was one
thing remarkable; the publisher took no animal food, but contented
himself with feeding voraciously on rice and vegetables prepared in
various ways.
'You eat no animal food, sir?' said I.
'I do not, sir,' said he; 'I have forsworn it upwards of twenty
years. In one respect, sir, I am a Brahmin. I abhor taking away
life - the brutes have as much right to live as ourselves.'
'But,' said I, 'if the brutes were not killed, there would be such
a superabundance of them, that the land would be overrun with
'I do not think so, sir; few are killed in India, and yet there is
plenty of room.'
'But,' said I, 'Nature intended that they should be destroyed, and
the brutes themselves prey upon one another, and it is well for
themselves and the world that they do so. What would be the state
of things if every insect, bird, and worm were left to perish of
old age?'
'We will change the subject,' said the publisher; 'I have never
been a friend of unprofitable discussions.'
I looked at the publisher with some surprise, I had not been
accustomed to be spoken to so magisterially; his countenance was
dressed in a portentous frown, and his eye looked more sinister
than ever; at that moment he put me in mind of some of those
despots of whom I had read in the history of Morocco, whose word
was law. He merely wants power, thought I to myself, to be a
regular Muley Mehemet; and then I sighed, for I remembered how very
much I was in the power of that man.
The dinner over, the publisher nodded to his wife, who departed,
followed by her daughter-in-law. The son looked as if he would
willingly have attended them; he, however, remained seated; and, a
small decanter of wine being placed on the table, the publisher
filled two glasses, one of which he handed to myself, and the other
to his son; saying, 'Suppose you two drink to the success of the
Review. I would join you,' said he, addressing himself to me, 'but
I drink no wine; if I am a Brahmin with respect to meat, I am a
Mahometan with respect to wine.'
So the son and I drank success to the Review, and then the young
man asked me various questions; for example - How I liked London? -
Whether I did not think it a very fine place? - Whether I was at
the play the night before? - and whether I was in the park that
afternoon? He seemed preparing to ask me some more questions; but,
receiving a furious look from his father, he became silent, filled
himself a glass of wine, drank it off, looked at the table for
about a minute, then got up, pushed back his chair, made me a bow,
and left the room.
'Is that young gentleman, sir,' said I, 'well versed in the
principles of criticism?'
'He is not, sir,' said the publisher; 'and, if I place him at the
head of the Review ostensibly, I do it merely in the hope of
procuring him a maintenance; of the principle of a thing he knows
nothing, except that the principle of bread is wheat, and that the
principle of that wine is grape. Will you take another glass?'
I looked at the decanter; but, not feeling altogether so sure as
the publisher's son with respect to the principle of what it
contained, I declined taking any more.
'No, sir,' said the publisher, adjusting himself in his chair, 'he
knows nothing about criticism, and will have nothing more to do
with the reviewals than carrying about the books to those who have
to review them; the real conductor of the Review will be a widely
different person, to whom I will, when convenient, introduce you.
And now we will talk of the matter which we touched upon before
dinner: I told you then that I had changed my mind with respect to
you; I have been considering the state of the market, sir, the book
market, and I have come to the conclusion that, though you might be
profitably employed upon evangelical novels, you could earn more
money for me, sir, and consequently for yourself, by a compilation
of Newgate lives and trials.'
'Newgate lives and trials!'
'Yes, sir,' said the publisher, 'Newgate lives and trials; and now,
sir, I will briefly state to you the services which I expect you to
perform, and the terms which I am willing to grant. I expect you,
sir, to compile six volumes of Newgate lives and trials, each
volume to contain by no manner of means less than one thousand
pages; the remuneration which you will receive when the work is
completed will be fifty pounds, which is likewise intended to cover
any expenses you may incur in procuring books, papers, and
manuscripts necessary for the compilation. Such will be one of
your employments, sir, - such the terms. In the second place, you
will be expected to make yourself useful in the Review - generally
useful, sir - doing whatever is required of you; for it is not
customary, at least with me, to permit writers, especially young
writers, to choose their subjects. In these two departments, sir,
namely compilation and reviewing, I had yesterday, after due
consideration, determined upon employing you. I had intended to
employ you no farther, sir - at least for the present; but, sir,
this morning I received a letter from my valued friend in the
country, in which he speaks in terms of strong admiration (I don't
overstate) of your German acquirements. Sir, he says that it would
be a thousand pities if your knowledge of the German language
should be lost to the world, or even permitted to sleep, and he
entreats me to think of some plan by which it may be turned to
account. Sir, I am at all times willing, if possible, to oblige my
worthy friend, and likewise to encourage merit and talent; I have,
therefore, determined to employ you in German.'
'Sir,' said I, rubbing my hands, 'you are very kind, and so is our
mutual friend; I shall be happy to make myself useful in German;
and if you think a good translation from Goethe - his SORROWS for
example, or more particularly his FAUST - '
'Sir,' said the publisher, 'Goethe is a drug; his SORROWS are a
drug, so is his FAUSTUS, more especially the last, since that fool
- rendered him into English. No, sir, I do not want you to
translate Goethe or anything belonging to him; nor do I want you to
translate anything from the German; what I want you to do, is to
translate into German. I am willing to encourage merit, sir; and,
as my good friend in his last letter has spoken very highly of your
German acquirements, I have determined that you shall translate my
book of philosophy into German.'
'Your book of philosophy into German, sir?'
'Yes, sir; my book of philosophy into German. I am not a drug,
sir, in Germany as Goethe is here, no more is my book. I intend to
print the translation at Leipzig, sir; and if it turns out a
profitable speculation, as I make no doubt it will, provided the
translation be well executed, I will make you some remuneration.
Sir, your remuneration will be determined by the success of your
'But, sir - '
'Sir,' said the publisher, interrupting me, 'you have heard my
intentions; I consider that you ought to feel yourself highly
gratified by my intentions towards you; it is not frequently that I
deal with a writer, especially a young writer, as I have done with
you. And now, sir, permit me to inform you that I wish to be
alone. This is Sunday afternoon, sir; I never go to church, but I
am in the habit of spending part of every Sunday afternoon alone -
profitably I hope, sir - in musing on the magnificence of nature
and the moral dignity of man.'
The two volumes - A young author - Intended editor - Quintilian -
Loose money.
'WHAT can't be cured must be endured,' and 'it is hard to kick
against the pricks.'
At the period to which I have brought my history, I bethought me of
the proverbs with which I have headed this chapter, and determined
to act up to their spirit. I determined not to fly in the face of
the publisher, and to bear - what I could not cure - his arrogance
and vanity. At present, at the conclusion of nearly a quarter of a
century, I am glad that I came to that determination, which I did
my best to carry into effect.
Two or three days after our last interview, the publisher made his
appearance in my apartment; he bore two tattered volumes under his
arm, which he placed on the table. 'I have brought you two volumes
of lives, sir,' said he, 'which I yesterday found in my garret; you
will find them of service for your compilation. As I always wish
to behave liberally and encourage talent, especially youthful
talent, I shall make no charge for them, though I should be
justified in so doing, as you are aware that, by our agreement, you
are to provide any books and materials which may be necessary.
Have you been in quest of any?'
'No,' said I, 'not yet.'
'Then, sir, I would advise you to lose no time in doing so; you
must visit all the bookstalls, sir, especially those in the bystreets
and blind alleys. It is in such places that you will find
the description of literature you are in want of. You must be up
and doing, sir; it will not do for an author, especially a young
author, to be idle in this town. To-night you will receive my book
of philosophy, and likewise books for the Review. And, by the bye,
sir, it will be as well for you to review my book of philosophy for
the Review; the other reviews not having noticed it. Sir, before
translating it, I wish you to review my book of philosophy for the
'I shall be happy to do my best, sir.'
'Very good, sir; I should be unreasonable to expect anything beyond
a person's best. And now, sir, if you please, I will conduct you
to the future editor of the Review. As you are to co-operate, sir,
I deem it right to make you acquainted.'
The intended editor was a little old man, who sat in a kind of
wooden pavilion in a small garden behind a house in one of the
purlieus of the city, composing tunes upon a piano. The walls of
the pavilion were covered with fiddles of various sizes and
appearances, and a considerable portion of the floor occupied by a
pile of books all of one size. The publisher introduced him to me
as a gentleman scarcely less eminent in literature than in music,
and me to him as an aspirant critic - a young gentleman scarcely
less eminent in philosophy than in philology. The conversation
consisted entirely of compliments till just before we separated,
when the future editor inquired of me whether I had ever read
Quintilian; and, on my replying in the negative, expressed his
surprise that any gentleman should aspire to become a critic who
had never read Quintilian, with the comfortable information,
however, that he could supply me with a Quintilian at half-price,
that is, a translation made by himself some years previously, of
which he had, pointing to the heap on the floor, still a few copies
remaining unsold. For some reason or other, perhaps a poor one, I
did not purchase the editor's translation of Quintilian.
'Sir,' said the publisher, as we were returning from our visit to
the editor, 'you did right in not purchasing a drug. I am not
prepared, sir, to say that Quintilian is a drug, never having seen
him; but I am prepared to say that man's translation is a drug,
judging from the heap of rubbish on the floor; besides, sir, you
will want any loose money you may have to purchase the description
of literature which is required for your compilation.'
The publisher presently paused before the entrance of a very
forlorn-looking street. 'Sir,' said he, after looking down it with
attention, 'I should not wonder if in that street you find works
connected with the description of literature which is required for
your compilation. It is in streets of this description, sir, and
blind alleys, where such works are to be found. You had better
search that street, sir, whilst I continue my way.'
I searched the street to which the publisher had pointed, and, in
the course of the three succeeding days, many others of a similar
kind. I did not find the description of literature alluded to by
the publisher to be a drug, but, on the contrary, both scarce and
dear. I had expended much more than my loose money long before I
could procure materials even for the first volume of my
Francis Ardry - Certain sharpers - Brave and eloquent - Opposites -
Flinging the bones - Strange places - Dog-fighting - Learning and
letters - Batch of dogs - Redoubled application.
ONE evening I was visited by the tall young gentleman, Francis
Ardry, whose acquaintance I had formed at the coffee-house. As it
is necessary that the reader should know something more about this
young man, who will frequently appear in the course of these pages,
I will state in a few words who and what he was. He was born of an
ancient Roman Catholic family in Ireland; his parents, whose only
child he was, had long been dead. His father, who had survived his
mother several years, had been a spendthrift, and at his death had
left the family property considerably embarrassed. Happily,
however, the son and the estate fell into the hands of careful
guardians, near relations of the family, by whom the property was
managed to the best advantage, and every means taken to educate the
young man in a manner suitable to his expectations. At the age of
sixteen he was taken from a celebrated school in England at which
he had been placed, and sent to a small French university, in order
that he might form an intimate and accurate acquaintance with the
grand language of the continent. There he continued three years,
at the end of which he went under the care of a French abbe to
Germany and Italy. It was in this latter country that he first
began to cause his guardians serious uneasiness. He was in the
heyday of youth when he visited Italy, and he entered wildly into
the various delights of that fascinating region, and, what was
worse, falling into the hands of certain sharpers, not Italian, but
English, he was fleeced of considerable sums of money. The abbe,
who, it seems, was an excellent individual of the old French
school, remonstrated with his pupil on his dissipation and
extravagance; but, finding his remonstrances vain, very properly
informed the guardians of the manner of life of his charge. They
were not slow in commanding Francis Ardry home; and, as he was
entirely in their power, he was forced to comply. He had been
about three months in London when I met him in the coffee-room, and
the two elderly gentlemen in his company were his guardians. At
this time they were very solicitous that he should choose for
himself a profession, offering to his choice either the army or law
- he was calculated to shine in either of these professions - for,
like many others of his countrymen, he was brave and eloquent; but
he did not wish to shackle himself with a profession. As, however,
his minority did not terminate till he was three-and-twenty, of
which age he wanted nearly two years, during which he would be
entirely dependent on his guardians, he deemed it expedient to
conceal, to a certain degree, his sentiments, temporising with the
old gentlemen, with whom, notwithstanding his many irregularities,
he was a great favourite, and at whose death he expected to come
into a yet greater property than that which he inherited from his
Such is a brief account of Francis Ardry - of my friend Francis
Ardry; for the acquaintance, commenced in the singular manner with
which the reader is acquainted, speedily ripened into a friendship
which endured through many long years of separation, and which
still endures certainly on my part, and on his - if he lives; but
it is many years since I have heard from Francis Ardry.
And yet many people would have thought it impossible for our
friendship to have lasted a week - for in many respects no two
people could be more dissimilar. He was an Irishman - I, an
Englishman; - he, fiery, enthusiastic, and open-hearted; I, neither
fiery, enthusiastic, nor open-hearted; - he, fond of pleasure and
dissipation; I, of study and reflection. Yet it is of such
dissimilar elements that the most lasting friendships are formed:
we do not like counterparts of ourselves. 'Two great talkers will
not travel far together,' is a Spanish saying; I will add, 'Nor two
silent people'; we naturally love our opposites.
So Francis Ardry came to see me, and right glad I was to see him,
for I had just flung my books and papers aside, and was wishing for
a little social converse; and when we had conversed for some little
time together, Francis Ardry proposed that we should go to the play
to see Kean; so we went to the play, and saw - not Kean, who at
that time was ashamed to show himself, but - a man who was not
ashamed to show himself, and who people said was a much better man
than Kean - as I have no doubt he was - though whether he was a
better actor I cannot say, for I never saw Kean.
Two or three evenings after Francis Ardry came to see me again, and
again we went out together, and Francis Ardry took me to - shall I
say? - why not? - a gaming-house, where I saw people playing, and
where I saw Francis Ardry play and lose five guineas, and where I
lost nothing, because I did not play, though I felt somewhat
inclined; for a man with a white hat and a sparkling eye held up a
box which contained something which rattled, and asked me to fling
the bones. 'There is nothing like flinging the bones!' said he,
and then I thought I should like to know what kind of thing
flinging the bones was; I, however, restrained myself. 'There is
nothing like flinging the bones!' shouted the man, as my friend and
myself left the room.
Long life and prosperity to Francis Ardry! but for him I should not
have obtained knowledge which I did of the strange and eccentric
places of London. Some of the places to which he took me were very
strange places indeed; but, however strange the places were, I
observed that the inhabitants thought there were no places like
their several places, and no occupations like their several
occupations; and among other strange places to which Francis Ardry
conducted me was a place not far from the abbey church of
Before we entered this place our ears were greeted by a confused
hubbub of human voices, squealing of rats, barking of dogs, and the
cries of various other animals. Here we beheld a kind of cock-pit,
around which a great many people, seeming of all ranks, but chiefly
of the lower, were gathered, and in it we saw a dog destroy a great
many rats in a very small period; and when the dog had destroyed
the rats, we saw a fight between a dog and a bear, then a fight
between two dogs, then . . . .
After the diversions of the day were over, my friend introduced me
to the genius of the place, a small man of about five feet high,
with a very sharp countenance, and dressed in a brown jockey coat
and top boots. 'Joey,' said he, 'this is a friend of mine.' Joey
nodded to me with a patronising air. 'Glad to see you, sir! - want
a dog?'
'No,' said I.
'You have got one, then - want to match him?'
'We have a dog at home,' said I, 'in the country; but I can't say I
should like to match him. Indeed, I do not like dog-fighting.'
'Not like dog-fighting!' said the man, staring.
'The truth is, Joe, that he is just come to town.'
'So I should think; he looks rather green - not like dog-fighting!'
'Nothing like it, is there, Joey?'
'I should think not; what is like it? A time will come, and that
speedily, when folks will give up everything else, and follow dogfighting.'
'Do you think so?' said I.
'Think so? Let me ask what there is that a man wouldn't give up
for it?'
'Why,' said I, modestly, 'there's religion.'
'Religion! How you talk. Why, there's myself bred and born an
Independent, and intended to be a preacher, didn't I give up
religion for dog-fighting? Religion, indeed! If it were not for
the rascally law, my pit would fill better on Sundays than any
other time. Who would go to church when they could come to my pit?
Religion! why, the parsons themselves come to my pit; and I have
now a letter in my pocket from one of them, asking me to send him a
'Well, then, politics,' said I.
'Politics! Why, the gemmen in the House would leave Pitt himself,
if he were alive, to come to my pit. There were three of the best
of them here to-night, all great horators. - Get on with you, what
comes next?'
'Why, there's learning and letters.'
'Pretty things, truly, to keep people from dog-fighting. Why,
there's the young gentlemen from the Abbey School comes here in
shoals, leaving books, and letters, and masters too. To tell you
the truth, I rather wish they would mind their letters, for a more
precious set of young blackguards I never seed. It was only the
other day I was thinking of calling in a constable for my own
protection, for I thought my pit would have been torn down by
Scarcely knowing what to say, I made an observation at random.
'You show, by your own conduct,' said I, 'that there are other
things worth following besides dog-fighting. You practise ratcatching
and badger-baiting as well.'
The dog-fancier eyed me with supreme contempt.
'Your friend here,' said he, 'might well call you a new one. When
I talks of dog-fighting, I of course means rat-catching, and
badger-baiting, ay, and bull-baiting too, just as when I speaks
religiously, when I says one I means not one but three. And
talking of religion puts me in mind that I have something else to
do besides chaffing here, having a batch of dogs to send off by
this night's packet to the Pope of Rome.'
But at last I had seen enough of what London had to show, whether
strange or commonplace, so at least I thought, and I ceased to
accompany my friend in his rambles about town, and to partake of
his adventures. Our friendship, however, still continued unabated,
though I saw, in consequence, less of him. I reflected that time
was passing on - that the little money I had brought to town was
fast consuming, and that I had nothing to depend upon but my own
exertions for a fresh supply; and I returned with redoubled
application to my pursuits.
Occupations - Traduttore traditore - Ode to the Mist - Apple and
pear - Reviewing - Current literature - Oxford-like manner - A
plain story - Ill-regulated mind - Unsnuffed candle - Strange
I COMPILED the Chronicles of Newgate; I reviewed books for the
Review established on an entirely new principle; and I occasionally
tried my best to translate into German portions of the publisher's
philosophy. In this last task I experienced more than one
difficulty. I was a tolerable German scholar, it is true, and I
had long been able to translate from German into English with
considerable facility; but to translate from a foreign language
into your own is a widely different thing from translating from
your own into a foreign language; and, in my first attempt to
render the publisher into German, I was conscious of making
miserable failures, from pure ignorance of German grammar; however,
by the assistance of grammars and dictionaries, and by extreme
perseverance, I at length overcame all the difficulties connected
with the German language. But, alas! another difficulty remained,
far greater than any connected with German - a difficulty connected
with the language of the publisher - the language which the great
man employed in his writings was very hard to understand; I say in
his writings - for his colloquial English was plain enough. Though
not professing to be a scholar, he was much addicted, when writing,
to the use of Greek and Latin terms, not as other people used them,
but in a manner of his own, which set the authority of dictionaries
at defiance; the consequence was that I was sometimes utterly at a
loss to understand the meaning of the publisher. Many a quarter of
an hour did I pass at this period, staring at periods of the
publisher, and wondering what he could mean, but in vain, till at
last, with a shake of the head, I would snatch up the pen, and
render the publisher literally into German. Sometimes I was almost
tempted to substitute something of my own for what the publisher
had written, but my conscience interposed; the awful words,
Traduttore traditore, commenced ringing in my ears, and I asked
myself whether I should be acting honourably towards the publisher,
who had committed to me the delicate task of translating him into
German; should I be acting honourably towards him, in making him
speak in German in a manner different from that in which he
expressed himself in English? No, I could not reconcile such
conduct with any principle of honour; by substituting something of
my own in lieu of these mysterious passages of the publisher, I
might be giving a fatal blow to his whole system of philosophy.
Besides, when translating into English, had I treated foreign
authors in this manner? Had I treated the minstrels of the Kaempe
Viser in this manner? - No. Had I treated Ab Gwilym in this
manner? Even when translating his Ode to the Mist, in which he is
misty enough, had I attempted to make Ab Gwilym less misty? No; on
referring to my translation, I found that Ab Gwilym in my hands was
quite as misty as in his own. Then, seeing that I had not ventured
to take liberties with people who had never put themselves into my
hands for the purpose of being rendered, how could I venture to
substitute my own thoughts and ideas for the publisher's, who had
put himself into my hands for that purpose? Forbid it every proper
feeling! - so I told the Germans, in the publisher's own way, the
publisher's tale of an apple and a pear.
I at first felt much inclined to be of the publisher's opinion with
respect to the theory of the pear. After all, why should the earth
be shaped like an apple, and not like a pear? - it would certainly
gain in appearance by being shaped like a pear. A pear being a
handsomer fruit than an apple, the publisher is probably right,
thought I, and I will say that he is right on this point in the
notice which I am about to write of his publication for the Review.
And yet I don't know - said I, after a long fit of musing - I don't
know but what there is more to be said for the Oxford theory. The
world may be shaped like a pear, but I don't know that it is; but
one thing I know, which is, that it does not taste like a pear; I
have always liked pears, but I don't like the world. The world to
me tastes much more like an apple, and I have never liked apples.
I will uphold the Oxford theory - besides, I am writing in an
Oxford Review, and am in duty bound to uphold the Oxford theory.
So in my notice I asserted that the world was round; I quoted
Scripture, and endeavoured to prove that the world was typified by
the apple in Scripture, both as to shape and properties. 'An apple
is round,' said I, 'and the world is round - the apple is a sour,
disagreeable fruit; and who has tasted much of the world without
having his teeth set on edge?' I, however, treated the publisher,
upon the whole, in the most urbane and Oxford-like manner;
complimenting him upon his style, acknowledging the general
soundness of his views, and only differing with him in the affair
of the apple and pear.
I did not like reviewing at all - it was not to my taste; it was
not in my way; I liked it far less than translating the publisher's
philosophy, for that was something in the line of one whom a
competent judge had surnamed Lavengro. I never could understand
why reviews were instituted; works of merit do not require to be
reviewed, they can speak for themselves, and require no praising;
works of no merit at all will die of themselves, they require no
killing. The Review to which I was attached was, as has been
already intimated, established on an entirely new plan; it
professed to review all new publications, which certainly no Review
had ever professed to do before, other Reviews never pretending to
review more than one-tenth of the current literature of the day.
When I say it professed to review all new publications, I should
add, which should be sent to it; for, of course, the Review would
not acknowledge the existence of publications, the authors of which
did not acknowledge the existence of the Review. I don't think,
however, that the Review had much cause to complain of being
neglected; I have reason to believe that at least nine-tenths of
the publications of the day were sent to the Review, and in due
time reviewed. I had good opportunity of judging - I was connected
with several departments of the Review, though more particularly
with the poetical and philosophic ones. An English translation of
Kant's philosophy made its appearance on my table the day before
its publication. In my notice of this work I said that the English
shortly hoped to give the Germans a QUID PRO QUO. I believe at
that time authors were much in the habit of publishing at their own
expense. All the poetry which I reviewed appeared to be published
at the expense of the authors. If I am asked how I comported
myself, under all circumstances, as a reviewer - I answer, - I did
not forget that I was connected with a Review established on Oxford
principles, the editor of which had translated Quintilian. All the
publications which fell under my notice I treated in a gentlemanly
and Oxford-like manner, no personalities - no vituperation - no
shabby insinuations; decorum, decorum was the order of the day.
Occasionally a word of admonition, but gently expressed, as an
Oxford undergraduate might have expressed it, or master of arts.
How the authors whose publications were consigned to my colleagues
were treated by them I know not; I suppose they were treated in an
urbane and Oxford-like manner, but I cannot say; I did not read the
reviewals of my colleagues, I did not read my own after they were
printed. I did not like reviewing.
Of all my occupations at this period I am free to confess I liked
that of compiling the NEWGATE LIVES AND TRIALS the best; that is,
after I had surmounted a kind of prejudice which I originally
entertained. The trials were entertaining enough; but the lives -
how full were they of wild and racy adventures, and in what racy,
genuine language were they told! What struck me most with respect
to these lives was the art which the writers, whoever they were,
possessed of telling a plain story. It is no easy thing to tell a
story plainly and distinctly by mouth; but to tell one on paper is
difficult indeed, so many snares lie in the way. People are afraid
to put down what is common on paper, they seek to embellish their
narratives, as they think, by philosophic speculations and
reflections; they are anxious to shine, and people who are anxious
to shine can never tell a plain story. 'So I went with them to a
music booth, where they made me almost drunk with gin, and began to
talk their flash language, which I did not understand,' says, or is
made to say, Henry Simms, executed at Tyburn some seventy years
before the time of which I am speaking. I have always looked upon
this sentence as a masterpiece of the narrative style, it is so
concise and yet so very clear. As I gazed on passages like this,
and there were many nearly as good in the Newgate lives, I often
sighed that it was not my fortune to have to render these lives
into German rather than the publisher's philosophy - his tale of an
apple and pear.
Mine was an ill-regulated mind at this period. As I read over the
lives of these robbers and pickpockets, strange doubts began to
arise in my mind about virtue and crime. Years before, when quite
a boy, as in one of the early chapters I have hinted, I had been a
necessitarian; I had even written an essay on crime (I have it now
before me, penned in a round boyish hand), in which I attempted to
prove that there is no such thing as crime or virtue, all our
actions being the result of circumstances or necessity. These
doubts were now again reviving in my mind; I could not, for the
life of me, imagine how, taking all circumstances into
consideration, these highwaymen, these pickpockets, should have
been anything else than highwaymen and pickpockets; any more than
how, taking all circumstances into consideration, Bishop Latimer
(the reader is aware that I had read Foxe's BOOK OF MARTYRS) should
have been anything else than Bishop Latimer. I had a very illregulated
mind at that period.
My own peculiar ideas with respect to everything being a lying
dream began also to revive. Sometimes at midnight, after having
toiled for hours at my occupations, I would fling myself back on my
chair, look about the poor apartment, dimly lighted by an unsnuffed
candle, or upon the heaps of books and papers before me, and
exclaim, - 'Do I exist? Do these things, which I think I see about
me, exist, or do they not? Is not everything a dream - a deceitful
dream? Is not this apartment a dream - the furniture a dream? The
publisher a dream - his philosophy a dream? Am I not myself a
dream - dreaming about translating a dream? I can't see why all
should not be a dream; what's the use of the reality?' And then I
would pinch myself, and snuff the burdened smoky light. 'I can't
see, for the life of me, the use of all this; therefore why should
I think that it exists? If there was a chance, a probability, of
all this tending to anything, I might believe; but - ' and then I
would stare and think, and after some time shake my head and return
again to my occupations for an hour or two; and then I would
perhaps shake, and shiver, and yawn, and look wistfully in the
direction of my sleeping apartment; and then, but not wistfully, at
the papers and books before me; and sometimes I would return to my
papers and books; but oftener I would arise, and, after another
yawn and shiver, take my light, and proceed to my sleeping chamber.
They say that light fare begets light dreams; my fare at that time
was light enough; but I had anything but light dreams, for at that
period I had all kind of strange and extravagant dreams, and
amongst other things I dreamt that the whole world had taken to
dog-fighting; and that I, myself, had taken to dog-fighting, and
that in a vast circus I backed an English bulldog against the
bloodhound of the Pope of Rome.
My brother - Fits of crying - Mayor-elect - The committee - The
Norman arch - A word of Greek - Church and State - At my own
expense - If you please.
ONE morning I arose somewhat later than usual, having been occupied
during the greater part of the night with my literary toil. On
descending from my chamber into the sitting-room I found a person
seated by the fire, whose glance was directed sideways to the
table, on which were the usual preparations for my morning's meal.
Forthwith I gave a cry, and sprang forward to embrace the person;
for the person by the fire, whose glance was directed to the table,
was no one else than my brother.
'And how are things going on at home?' said I to my brother, after
we had kissed and embraced. 'How is my mother, and how is the
'My mother, thank God, is tolerably well,' said my brother, 'but
very much given to fits of crying. As for the dog, he is not so
well; but we will talk more of these matters anon,' said my
brother, again glancing at the breakfast things: 'I am very
hungry, as you may suppose, after having travelled all night.'
Thereupon I exerted myself to the best of my ability to perform the
duties of hospitality, and I made my brother welcome - I may say
more than welcome; and, when the rage of my brother's hunger was
somewhat abated, we recommenced talking about the matters of our
little family, and my brother told me much about my mother; he
spoke of her fits of crying, but said that of late the said fits of
crying had much diminished, and she appeared to be taking comfort;
and, if I am not much mistaken, my brother told me that my mother
had of late the Prayer-book frequently in her hand, and yet oftener
the Bible.
We were silent for a time - at last I opened my mouth and mentioned
the dog.
'The dog,' said my brother, 'is, I am afraid, in a very poor way;
ever since the death he has done nothing but pine and take on. A
few months ago, you remember, he was as plump and fine as any dog
in the town; but at present he is little more than skin and bone.
Once we lost him for two days, and never expected to see him again,
imagining that some mischance had befallen him; at length I found
him - where do you think? Chancing to pass by the churchyard, I
found him seated on the grave!'
'Very strange,' said I; 'but let us talk of something else. It was
very kind of you to come and see me.'
'Oh, as for that matter, I did not come up to see you, though of
course I am very glad to see you, having been rather anxious about
you, like my mother, who has received only one letter from you
since your departure. No, I did not come up on purpose to see you;
but on quite a different account. You must know that the
corporation of our town have lately elected a new mayor, a person
of many qualifications - big and portly, with a voice like
Boanerges; a religious man, the possessor of an immense pew; loyal,
so much so that I once heard him say that he would at any time go
three miles to hear any one sing "God save the King"; moreover, a
giver of excellent dinners. Such is our present mayor; who, owing
to his loyalty, his religion, and a little, perhaps, to his
dinners, is a mighty favourite; so much so that the town is anxious
to have his portrait painted in a superior style, so that remote
posterity may know what kind of man he was, the colour of his hair,
his air and gait. So a committee was formed some time ago, which
is still sitting; that is, they dine with the mayor every day to
talk over the subject. A few days since, to my great surprise,
they made their appearance in my poor studio, and desired to be
favoured with a sight of some of my paintings; well, I showed them
some, and, after looking at them with great attention, they went
aside and whispered. "He'll do," I heard one say; "Yes, he'll do,"
said another; and then they came to me, and one of them, a little
man with a hump on his back, who is a watchmaker, assumed the
office of spokesman, and made a long speech - (the old town has
been always celebrated for orators) - in which he told me how much
they had been pleased with my productions - (the old town has been
always celebrated for its artistic taste) - and, what do you think?
offered me the painting of the mayor's portrait, and a hundred
pounds for my trouble. Well, of course I was much surprised, and
for a minute or two could scarcely speak; recovering myself,
however, I made a speech, not so eloquent as that of the watchmaker
of course, being not so accustomed to speaking; but not so bad
either, taking everything into consideration, telling them how
flattered I felt by the honour which they had conferred in
proposing to me such an undertaking; expressing, however, my fears
that I was not competent to the task, and concluding by saying what
a pity it was that Crome was dead. "Crome," said the little man,
"Crome; yes, he was a clever man, a very clever man in his way; he
was good at painting landscapes and farm-houses, but he would not
do in the present instance were he alive. He had no conception of
the heroic, sir. We want some person capable of representing our
mayor striding under the Norman arch out of the cathedral." At the
mention of the heroic an idea came at once into my head. "Oh,"
said I, "if you are in quest of the heroic, I am glad that you came
to me; don't mistake me," I continued, "I do not mean to say that I
could do justice to your subject, though I am fond of the heroic;
but I can introduce you to a great master of the heroic, fully
competent to do justice to your mayor. Not to me, therefore, be
the painting of the picture given, but to a friend of mine, the
great master of the heroic, to the best, the strongest, [greek text
which cannot be reproduced]" I added, for, being amongst orators, I
thought a word of Greek would tell.'
'Well,' said I, 'and what did the orators say?'
'They gazed dubiously at me and at one another,' said my brother;
'at last the watchmaker asked me who this Mr. Christo was; adding,
that he had never heard of such a person; that, from my
recommendation of him, he had no doubt that he was a very clever
man; but that they should like to know something more about him
before giving the commission to him. That he had heard of Christie
the great auctioneer, who was considered to be an excellent judge
of pictures; but he supposed that I scarcely - Whereupon,
interrupting the watchmaker, I told him that I alluded neither to
Christo nor to Christie; but to the painter of Lazarus rising from
the grave, a painter under whom I had myself studied during some
months that I had spent in London, and to whom I was indebted for
much connected with the heroic.
'"I have heard of him," said the watchmaker, "and his paintings
too; but I am afraid that he is not exactly the gentleman by whom
our mayor would wish to be painted. I have heard say that he is
not a very good friend to Church and State. Come, young man," he
added, "it appears to me that you are too modest; I like your style
of painting, so do we all, and - why should I mince the matter? -
the money is to be collected in the town, why should it go into a
stranger's pocket, and be spent in London?"
'Thereupon I made them a speech, in which I said that art had
nothing to do with Church and State, at least with English Church
and State, which had never encouraged it; and that, though Church
and State were doubtless very fine things, a man might be a very
good artist who cared not a straw for either. I then made use of
some more Greek words, and told them how painting was one of the
Nine Muses, and one of the most independent creatures alive,
inspiring whom she pleased, and asking leave of nobody; that I
should be quite unworthy of the favours of the Muse if, on the
present occasion, I did not recommend them a man whom I considered
to be a much greater master of the heroic than myself; and that,
with regard to the money being spent in the city, I had no doubt
that they would not weigh for a moment such a consideration against
the chance of getting a true heroic picture for the city. I never
talked so well in my life, and said so many flattering things to
the hunchback and his friends, that at last they said that I should
have my own way; and that if I pleased to go up to London, and
bring down the painter of Lazarus to paint the mayor, I might; so
they then bade me farewell, and I have come up to London.'
'To put a hundred pounds into the hands of - '
'A better man than myself,' said my brother, 'of course.'
'And have you come up at your own expense?'
'Yes,' said my brother, 'I have come up at my own expense.'
I made no answer, but looked in my brother's face. We then
returned to the former subjects of conversation, talking of the
dead, my mother, and the dog.
After some time my brother said, 'I will now go to the painter, and
communicate to him the business which has brought me to town; and,
if you please, I will take you with me and introduce you to him.'
Having expressed my willingness, we descended into the street.
Painter of the heroic - I'll go! - A modest peep - Who is this? - A
capital Pharaoh - Disproportionably short - Imaginary picture -
English figures.
THE painter of the heroic resided a great way off, at the western
end of the town. We had some difficulty in obtaining admission to
him; a maid-servant, who opened the door, eyeing us somewhat
suspiciously: it was not until my brother had said that he was a
friend of the painter that we were permitted to pass the threshold.
At length we were shown into the studio, where we found the
painter, with an easel and brush, standing before a huge piece of
canvas, on which he had lately commenced painting a heroic picture.
The painter might be about thirty-five years old; he had a clever,
intelligent countenance, with a sharp gray eye - his hair was dark
brown, and cut a-la-Rafael, as I was subsequently told, that is,
there was little before and much behind - he did not wear a neckcloth;
but, in its stead, a black riband, so that his neck, which
was rather fine, was somewhat exposed - he had a broad, muscular
breast, and I make no doubt that he would have been a very fine
figure, but unfortunately his legs and thighs were somewhat short.
He recognised my brother, and appeared glad to see him.
'What brings you to London?' said he.
Whereupon my brother gave him a brief account of his commission.
At the mention of the hundred pounds, I observed the eyes of the
painter glisten. 'Really,' said he, when my brother had concluded,
'it was very kind to think of me. I am not very fond of painting
portraits; but a mayor is a mayor, and there is something grand in
that idea of the Norman arch. I'll go; moreover, I am just at this
moment confoundedly in need of money, and when you knocked at the
door, I don't mind telling you, I thought it was some dun. I don't
know how it is, but in the capital they have no taste for the
heroic, they will scarce look at a heroic picture; I am glad to
hear that they have better taste in the provinces. I'll go; when
shall we set off?'
Thereupon it was arranged between the painter and my brother that
they should depart the next day but one; they then began to talk of
art. 'I'll stick to the heroic,' said the painter; 'I now and then
dabble in the comic, but what I do gives me no pleasure, the comic
is so low; there is nothing like the heroic. I am engaged here on
a heroic picture,' said he, pointing to the canvas; 'the subject is
"Pharaoh dismissing Moses from Egypt," after the last plague - the
death of the first-born; it is not far advanced - that finished
figure is Moses': they both looked at the canvas, and I, standing
behind, took a modest peep. The picture, as the painter said, was
not far advanced, the Pharaoh was merely in outline; my eye was, of
course, attracted by the finished figure, or rather what the
painter had called the finished figure; but, as I gazed upon it, it
appeared to me that there was something defective - something
unsatisfactory in the figure. I concluded, however, that the
painter, notwithstanding what he had said, had omitted to give it
the finishing touch. 'I intend this to be my best picture,' said
the painter; 'what I want now is a face for Pharaoh; I have long
been meditating on a face for Pharaoh.' Here, chancing to cast his
eye upon my countenance, of whom he had scarcely taken any manner
of notice, he remained with his mouth open for some time. 'Who is
this?' said he at last. 'Oh, this is my brother, I forgot to
introduce him.' . . .
We presently afterwards departed; my brother talked much about the
painter. 'He is a noble fellow,' said my brother; 'but, like many
other noble fellows, has a great many enemies; he is hated by his
brethren of the brush - all the land and water scape painters hate
him - but, above all, the race of portrait-painters, who are ten
times more numerous than the other two sorts, detest him for his
heroic tendencies. It will be a kind of triumph to the last, I
fear, when they hear he has condescended to paint a portrait;
however, that Norman arch will enable him to escape from their
malice - that is a capital idea of the watchmaker, that Norman
I spent a happy day with my brother. On the morrow he went again
to the painter, with whom he dined; I did not go with him. On his
return he said, 'The painter has been asking a great many questions
about you, and expressed a wish that you would sit to him as
Pharaoh; he thinks you would make a capital Pharaoh.' 'I have no
wish to appear on canvas,' said I; 'moreover he can find much
better Pharaohs than myself; and, if he wants a real Pharaoh, there
is a certain Mr. Petulengro.' 'Petulengro?' said my brother; 'a
strange kind of fellow came up to me some time ago in our town, and
asked me about you; when I inquired his name, he told me
Petulengro. No, he will not do, he is too short; by the bye, do
you not think that figure of Moses is somewhat short?' And then it
appeared to me that I had thought the figure of Moses somewhat
short, and I told my brother so. 'Ah!' said my brother.
On the morrow my brother departed with the painter for the old
town, and there the painter painted the mayor. I did not see the
picture for a great many years, when, chancing to be at the old
town, I beheld it.
The original mayor was a mighty, portly man, with a bull's head,
black hair, body like that of a dray horse, and legs and thighs
corresponding; a man six foot high at the least. To his bull's
head, black hair, and body the painter had done justice; there was
one point, however, in which the portrait did not correspond with
the original - the legs were disproportionably short, the painter
having substituted his own legs for those of the mayor, which when
I perceived I rejoiced that I had not consented to be painted as
Pharaoh, for, if I had, the chances are that he would have served
me in exactly a similar way as he had served Moses and the mayor.
Short legs in a heroic picture will never do; and, upon the whole,
I think the painter's attempt at the heroic in painting the mayor
of the old town a decided failure. If I am now asked whether the
picture would have been a heroic one provided the painter had not
substituted his own legs for those of the mayor - I must say, I am
afraid not. I have no idea of making heroic pictures out of
English mayors, even with the assistance of Norman arches; yet I am
sure that capital pictures might be made out of English mayors, not
issuing from Norman arches, but rather from the door of the
'Checquers' or the 'Brewers Three.' The painter in question had
great comic power, which he scarcely ever cultivated; he would fain
be a Rafael, which he never could be, when he might have been
something quite as good - another Hogarth; the only comic piece
which he ever presented to the world being something little
inferior to the best of that illustrious master. I have often
thought what a capital picture might have been made by my brother's
friend, if, instead of making the mayor issue out of the Norman
arch, he had painted him moving under the sign of the 'Checquers,'
or the 'Three Brewers,' with mace - yes, with mace, - the mace
appears in the picture issuing out of the Norman arch behind the
mayor, - but likewise with Snap, and with whiffler, quart pot, and
frying-pan, Billy Blind and Owlenglass, Mr. Petulengro and
Pakomovna; - then, had he clapped his own legs upon the mayor, or
any one else in the concourse, what matter? But I repeat that I
have no hope of making heroic pictures out of English mayors, or,
indeed, out of English figures in general. England may be a land
of heroic hearts, but it is not, properly, a land of heroic
figures, or heroic posture-making. Italy . . . what was I going to
say about Italy?
No authority whatever - Interference - Wondrous farrago - Brandt
and Struensee - What a life! - The hearse - Mortal relics - Great
poet - Fashion and fame - What a difference - Oh, beautiful - Good
for nothing.
AND now once more to my pursuits, to my Lives and Trials. However
partial at first I might be to these lives and trials, it was not
long before they became regular trials to me, owing to the whims
and caprices of the publisher. I had not been long connected with
him before I discovered that he was wonderfully fond of interfering
with other people's business - at least with the business of those
who were under his control. What a life did his unfortunate
authors lead! He had many in his employ toiling at all kinds of
subjects - I call them authors because there is something
respectable in the term author, though they had little authorship
in, and no authority whatever over, the works on which they were
engaged. It is true the publisher interfered with some colour of
reason, the plan of all and every of the works alluded to having
originated with himself; and, be it observed, many of his plans
were highly clever and promising, for, as I have already had
occasion to say, the publisher in many points was a highly clever
and sagacious person; but he ought to have been contented with
planning the works originally, and have left to other people the
task of executing them, instead of which he marred everything by
his rage for interference. If a book of fairy tales was being
compiled, he was sure to introduce some of his philosophy,
explaining the fairy tale by some theory of his own. Was a book of
anecdotes on hand, it was sure to be half filled with sayings and
doings of himself during the time that he was common councilman of
the City of London. Now, however fond the public might be of fairy
tales, it by no means relished them in conjunction with the
publisher's philosophy; and however fond of anecdotes in general,
or even of the publisher in particular - for indeed there were a
great many anecdotes in circulation about him which the public both
read and listened to very readily - it took no pleasure in such
anecdotes as he was disposed to relate about himself. In the
compilation of my Lives and Trials I was exposed to incredible
mortification, and ceaseless trouble, from this same rage for
interference. It is true he could not introduce his philosophy
into the work, nor was it possible for him to introduce anecdotes
of himself, having never had the good or evil fortune to be tried
at the bar; but he was continually introducing - what, under a less
apathetic government than the one then being, would have infallibly
subjected him, and perhaps myself, to a trial, - his politics; not
his Oxford or pseudo politics, but the politics which he really
entertained, and which were of the most republican and violent
kind. But this was not all; when about a moiety of the first
volume had been printed, he materially altered the plan of the
work; it was no longer to be a collection of mere Newgate lives and
trials, but of lives and trials of criminals in general, foreign as
well as domestic. In a little time the work became a wondrous
farrago, in which Konigsmark the robber figured by the side of Sam
Lynn, and the Marchioness de Brinvilliers was placed in contact
with a Chinese outlaw. What gave me the most trouble and annoyance
was the publisher's remembering some life or trial, foreign or
domestic, which he wished to be inserted, and which I was forthwith
to go in quest of and purchase at my own expense: some of those
lives and trials were by no means easy to find. 'Where is Brandt
and Struensee?' cries the publisher; 'I am sure I don't know,' I
replied; whereupon the publisher falls to squealing like one of
Joey's rats. 'Find me up Brandt and Struensee by next morning, or
- ' 'Have you found Brandt and Struensee?' cried the publisher, on
my appearing before him next morning. 'No,' I reply, 'I can hear
nothing about them'; whereupon the publisher falls to bellowing
like Joey's bull. By dint of incredible diligence, I at length
discover the dingy volume containing the lives and trials of the
celebrated two who had brooded treason dangerous to the state of
Denmark. I purchase the dingy volume, and bring it in triumph to
the publisher, the perspiration running down my brow. The
publisher takes the dingy volume in his hand, he examines it
attentively, then puts it down; his countenance is calm for a
moment, almost benign. Another moment and there is a gleam in the
publisher's sinister eye; he snatches up the paper containing the
names of the worthies which I have intended shall figure in the
forthcoming volumes - he glances rapidly over it, and his
countenance once more assumes a terrific expression. 'How is
this?' he exclaims; 'I can scarcely believe my eyes - the most
important life and trial omitted to be found in the whole criminal
record - what gross, what utter negligence! Where's the life of
Farmer Patch? where's the trial of Yeoman Patch?'
'What a life! what a dog's life!' I would frequently exclaim, after
escaping from the presence of the publisher.
One day, after a scene with the publisher similar to that which I
have described above, I found myself about noon at the bottom of
Oxford Street, where it forms a right angle with the road which
leads or did lead to Tottenham Court. Happening to cast my eyes
around, it suddenly occurred to me that something uncommon was
expected; people were standing in groups on the pavement - the
upstair windows of the houses were thronged with faces, especially
those of women, and many of the shops were partly, and not a few
entirely, closed. What could be the reason of all this? All at
once I bethought me that this street of Oxford was no other than
the far-famed Tyburn way. Oh, oh, thought I, an execution; some
handsome young robber is about to be executed at the farther end;
just so, see how earnestly the women are peering; perhaps another
Harry Simms - Gentleman Harry as they called him - is about to be
carted along this street to Tyburn tree; but then I remembered that
Tyburn tree had long since been cut down, and that criminals,
whether young or old, good-looking or ugly, were executed before
the big stone gaol, which I had looked at with a kind of shudder
during my short rambles in the City. What could be the matter?
just then I heard various voices cry, 'There it comes!' and all
heads were turned up Oxford Street, down which a hearse was slowly
coming: nearer and nearer it drew; presently it was just opposite
the place where I was standing, when, turning to the left, it
proceeded slowly along Tottenham Road; immediately behind the
hearse were three or four mourning coaches, full of people, some of
whom, from the partial glimpse which I caught of them, appeared to
be foreigners; behind these came a very long train of splendid
carriages, all of which, without one exception, were empty.
'Whose body is in that hearse?' said I to a dapper-looking
individual, seemingly a shopkeeper, who stood beside me on the
pavement, looking at the procession.
'The mortal relics of Lord Byron,' said the dapper-looking
individual, mouthing his words and smirking - 'the illustrious
poet, which have been just brought from Greece, and are being
conveyed to the family vault in -shire.'
'An illustrious poet, was he?' said I.
'Beyond all criticism,' said the dapper man; 'all we of the rising
generation are under incalculable obligation to Byron; I myself, in
particular, have reason to say so; in all my correspondence my
style is formed on the Byronic model.'
I looked at the individual for a moment, who smiled and smirked to
himself applause, and then I turned my eyes upon the hearse
proceeding slowly up the almost endless street. This man, this
Byron, had for many years past been the demigod of England, and his
verses the daily food of those who read, from the peer to the
draper's assistant; all were admirers, or rather worshippers, of
Byron, and all doated on his verses; and then I thought of those
who, with genius as high as his, or higher, had lived and died
neglected. I thought of Milton abandoned to poverty and blindness;
of witty and ingenious Butler consigned to the tender mercies of
bailiffs; and starving Otway: they had lived neglected and
despised, and, when they died, a few poor mourners only had
followed them to the grave; but this Byron had been made a half god
of when living, and now that he was dead he was followed by
worshipping crowds, and the very sun seemed to come out on purpose
to grace his funeral. And, indeed, the sun, which for many days
past had hidden its face in clouds, shone out that morn with
wonderful brilliancy, flaming upon the black hearse and its tall
ostrich plumes, the mourning coaches, and the long train of
aristocratic carriages which followed behind.
'Great poet, sir,' said the dapper-looking man, 'great poet, but
Unhappy? yes, I had heard that he had been unhappy; that he had
roamed about a fevered, distempered man, taking pleasure in nothing
- that I had heard; but was it true? was he really unhappy? was not
this unhappiness assumed, with the view of increasing the interest
which the world took in him? and yet who could say? He might be
unhappy, and with reason. Was he a real poet after all? might he
not doubt himself? might he not have a lurking consciousness that
he was undeserving of the homage which he was receiving? that it
could not last? that he was rather at the top of fashion than of
fame? He was a lordling, a glittering, gorgeous lordling: and he
might have had a consciousness that he owed much of his celebrity
to being so; he might have felt that he was rather at the top of
fashion than of fame. Fashion soon changes, thought I, eagerly to
myself - a time will come, and that speedily, when he will be no
longer in the fashion; when this idiotic admirer of his, who is
still grinning at my side, shall have ceased to mould his style on
Byron's; and this aristocracy, squirearchy, and what not, who now
send their empty carriages to pay respect to the fashionable
corpse, shall have transferred their empty worship to some other
animate or inanimate thing. Well, perhaps after all it was better
to have been mighty Milton in his poverty and blindness - witty and
ingenious Butler consigned to the tender mercies of bailiffs, and
starving Otway; they might enjoy more real pleasure than this
lordling; they must have been aware that the world would one day do
them justice - fame after death is better than the top of fashion
in life. They have left a fame behind them which shall never die,
whilst this lordling - a time will come when he will be out of
fashion and forgotten. And yet I don't know; didn't he write
Childe Harold and that ode? Yes, he wrote Childe Harold and that
ode. Then a time will scarcely come when he will be forgotten.
Lords, squires, and cockneys may pass away, but a time will
scarcely come when Childe Harold and that ode will be forgotten.
He was a poet, after all, and he must have known it; a real poet,
equal to - to - what a destiny! Rank, beauty, fashion,
immortality, - he could not be unhappy; what a difference in the
fate of men - I wish I could think he was unhappy . . . .
I turned away.
'Great poet, sir,' said the dapper man, turning away too, 'but
unhappy - fate of genius, sir; I, too, am frequently unhappy.'
Hurrying down a street to the right, I encountered Francis Ardry.
'What means the multitude yonder?' he demanded.
'They are looking after the hearse which is carrying the remains of
Byron up Tottenham Road.'
'I have seen the man,' said my friend, as he turned back the way he
had come, 'so I can dispense with seeing the hearse - I saw the
living man at Venice - ah, a great poet.'
'Yes,' said I, 'a great poet, it must be so, everybody says so -
what a destiny! What a difference in the fate of men; but 'tis
said he was unhappy; you have seen him, how did he look?'
'Oh, beautiful!'
'But did he look happy?'
'Why, I can't say he looked very unhappy; I saw him with two . . .
very fair ladies; but what is it to you whether the man was unhappy
or not? Come, where shall we go - to Joey's? His hugest bear - '
'Oh, I have had enough of bears, I have just been worried by one.'
'The publisher?'
'Then come to Joey's, three dogs are to be launched at his bear:
as they pin him, imagine him to be the publisher.'
'No,' said I, 'I am good for nothing; I think I shall stroll to
London Bridge.'
'That's too far for me - farewell.'
London Bridge - Why not? - Every heart has its bitters - Wicked
boys - Give me my book - Such a fright - Honour bright.
SO I went to London Bridge, and again took my station on the spot
by the booth where I had stood on the former occasion. The booth,
however, was empty; neither the apple-woman nor her stall was to be
seen. I looked over the balustrade upon the river; the tide was
now, as before, rolling beneath the arch with frightful
impetuosity. As I gazed upon the eddies of the whirlpool, I
thought within myself how soon human life would become extinct
there; a plunge, a convulsive flounder, and all would be over.
When I last stood over that abyss I had felt a kind of impulse - a
fascination; I had resisted it - I did not plunge into it. At
present I felt a kind of impulse to plunge; but the impulse was of
a different kind; it proceeded from a loathing of life, I looked
wistfully at the eddies - what had I to live for? - what, indeed!
I thought of Brandt and Struensee, and Yeoman Patch - should I
yield to the impulse - why not? My eyes were fixed on the eddies.
All of a sudden I shuddered; I thought I saw heads in the pool;
human bodies wallowing confusedly; eyes turned up to heaven with
hopeless horror; was that water or - ? Where was the impulse now?
I raised my eyes from the pool, I looked no more upon it - I looked
forward, far down the stream in the far distance. 'Ha! what is
that? I thought I saw a kind of Fata Morgana, green meadows,
waving groves, a rustic home; but in the far distance - I stared -
I stared - a Fata Morgana - it was gone. . . ."
I left the balustrade and walked to the farther end of the bridge,
where I stood for some time contemplating the crowd; I then passed
over to the other side with an intention of returning home; just
half-way over the bridge, in a booth immediately opposite to the
one in which I had formerly beheld her, sat my friend, the old
apple-woman, huddled up behind her stall.
'Well, mother,' said I, 'how are you?' The old woman lifted her
head with a startled look.
'Don't you know me?' said I.
'Yes, I think I do. Ah, yes,' said she, as her features beamed
with recollection, 'I know you, dear; you are the young lad that
gave me the tanner. Well, child, got anything to sell?'
'Nothing at all,' said I.
'Bad luck?'
'Yes,' said I, 'bad enough, and ill usage.'
'Ah, I suppose they caught ye; well, child, never mind, better luck
next time; I am glad to see you.'
'Thank you,' said I, sitting down on the stone bench; 'I thought
you had left the bridge - why have you changed your side?'
The old woman shook.
'What is the matter with you,' said I; 'are you ill?'
'No, child, no; only - '
'Only what? Any bad news of your son?'
'No, child, no; nothing about my son. Only low, child - every
heart has its bitters.'
'That's true,' said I; 'well, I don't want to know your sorrows;
come, where's the book?'
The apple-woman shook more violently than before, bent herself
down, and drew her cloak more closely about her than before.
'Book, child, what book?'
'Why, blessed Mary, to be sure.'
'Oh, that; I ha'n't got it, child - I have lost it, have left it at
'Lost it,' said I; 'left it at home - what do you mean? Come, let
me have it.'
'I ha'n't got it, child.'
'I believe you have got it under your cloak.'
'Don't tell any one, dear; don't - don't,' and the apple-woman
burst into tears.
'What's the matter with you?' said I, staring at her.
'You want to take my book from me?'
'Not I, I care nothing about it; keep it, if you like, only tell me
what's the matter?'
'Why, all about that book.'
'The book?'
'Yes, they wanted to take it from me.'
'Who did?'
'Why, some wicked boys. I'll tell you all about it. Eight or ten
days ago, I sat behind my stall, reading my book; all of a sudden I
felt it snatched from my hand, up I started, and see three rascals
of boys grinning at me; one of them held the book in his hand.
"What book is this?" said he, grinning at it. "What do you want
with my book?" said I, clutching at it over my stall; "give me my
book." "What do you want a book for?" said he, holding it back; "I
have a good mind to fling it into the Thames." "Give me my book,"
I shrieked; and, snatching at it, I fell over my stall, and all my
fruit was scattered about. Off ran the boys - off ran the rascal
with my book. Oh dear, I thought I should have died; up I got,
however, and ran after them as well as I could; I thought of my
fruit, but I thought more of my book. I left my fruit and ran
after my book. "My book! my book!" I shrieked, "murder! theft!
robbery!" I was near being crushed under the wheels of a cart; but
I didn't care - I followed the rascals. "Stop them! stop them!" I
ran nearly as fast as they - they couldn't run very fast on account
of the crowd. At last some one stopped the rascal, whereupon he
turned round, and flinging the book at me, it fell into the mud;
well, I picked it up and kissed it, all muddy as it was. "Has he
robbed you?" said the man. "Robbed me, indeed; why he had got my
book." "Oh, your book," said the man, and laughed, and let the
rascal go. Ah, he might laugh, but - '
'Well, go on.'
'My heart beats so. Well, I went back to my booth and picked up my
stall and my fruits, what I could find of them. I couldn't keep my
stall for two days I got such a fright, and when I got round I
couldn't bide the booth where the thing had happened, so I came
over to the other side. Oh, the rascals, if I could but see them
'For what?'
'Why, for stealing my book.'
'I thought you didn't dislike stealing, - that you were ready to
buy things - there was your son, you know - '
'Yes, to be sure.'
'He took things.'
'To be sure he did.'
'But you don't like a thing of yours to be taken.'
'No, that's quite a different thing; what's stealing handkerchiefs,
and that kind of thing, to do with taking my book? there's a wide
difference - don't you see?'
'Yes, I see.'
'Do you, dear? well, bless your heart, I'm glad you do. Would you
like to look at the book?'
'Well, I think I should.'
'Honour bright?' said the apple-woman, looking me in the eyes.
'Honour bright,' said I, looking the apple-woman in the eyes.
'Well then, dear, here it is,' said she, taking it from under her
cloak; 'read it as long as you like, only get a little farther into
the booth - Don't sit so near the edge - you might - '
I went deep into the booth, and the apple-woman, bringing her chair
round, almost confronted me. I commenced reading the book, and was
soon engrossed by it; hours passed away, once or twice I lifted up
my eyes, the apple-woman was still confronting me: at last my eyes
began to ache, whereupon I returned the book to the apple-woman,
and, giving her another tanner, walked away.
Decease of the Review - Homer himself - Bread and cheese - Finger
and thumb - Impossible to find - Something grand - Universal
mixture - Some other publisher.
TIME passed away, and with it the Review, which, contrary to the
publisher's expectation, did not prove a successful speculation.
About four months after the period of its birth it expired, as all
Reviews must for which there is no demand. Authors had ceased to
send their publications to it, and, consequently, to purchase it;
for I have already hinted that it was almost entirely supported by
authors of a particular class, who expected to see their
publications foredoomed to immortality in its pages. The behaviour
of these authors towards this unfortunate publication I can
attribute to no other cause than to a report which was
industriously circulated, namely, that the Review was low, and that
to be reviewed in it was an infallible sign that one was a low
person, who could be reviewed nowhere else. So authors took
fright; and no wonder, for it will never do for an author to be
considered low. Homer himself has never yet entirely recovered
from the injury he received by Lord Chesterfield's remark that the
speeches of his heroes were frequently exceedingly low.
So the Review ceased, and the reviewing corps no longer existed as
such; they forthwith returned to their proper avocations - the
editor to compose tunes on his piano, and to the task of disposing
of the remaining copies of his Quintilian - the inferior members to
working for the publisher, being to a man dependants of his; one,
to composing fairy tales; another, to collecting miracles of Popish
saints; and a third, Newgate lives and trials. Owing to the bad
success of the Review, the publisher became more furious than ever.
My money was growing short, and I one day asked him to pay me for
my labours in the deceased publication.
'Sir,' said the publisher, 'what do you want the money for?'
'Merely to live on,' I replied; 'it is very difficult to live in
this town without money.'
'How much money did you bring with you to town?' demanded the
'Some twenty or thirty pounds,' I replied.
'And you have spent it already?'
'No,' said I, 'not entirely; but it is fast disappearing.'
'Sir,' said the publisher, 'I believe you to be extravagant; yes,
sir, extravagant!'
'On what grounds do you suppose me to be so?'
'Sir,' said the publisher, 'you eat meat.'
'Yes,' said I, 'I eat meat sometimes; what should I eat?'
'Bread, sir,' said the publisher; 'bread and cheese.'
'So I do, sir, when I am disposed to indulge; but I cannot often
afford it - it is very expensive to dine on bread and cheese,
especially when one is fond of cheese, as I am. My last bread and
cheese dinner cost me fourteenpence. There is drink, sir; with
bread and cheese one must drink porter, sir.'
'Then, sir, eat bread - bread alone. As good men as yourself have
eaten bread alone; they have been glad to get it, sir. If with
bread and cheese you must drink porter, sir, with bread alone you
can, perhaps, drink water, sir.'
However, I got paid at last for my writings in the Review, not, it
is true, in the current coin of the realm, but in certain bills;
there were two of them, one payable at twelve, and the other at
eighteen months after date. It was a long time before I could turn
these bills to any account; at last I found a person who, at a
discount of only thirty per cent, consented to cash them; not,
however, without sundry grimaces, and, what was still more galling,
holding, more than once, the unfortunate papers high in air between
his forefinger and thumb. So ill, indeed, did I like this last
action, that I felt much inclined to snatch them away. I
restrained myself, however, for I remembered that it was very
difficult to live without money, and that, if the present person
did not discount the bills, I should probably find no one else that
But if the treatment which I had experienced from the publisher,
previous to making this demand upon him, was difficult to bear,
that which I subsequently underwent was far more so: his great
delight seemed to consist in causing me misery and mortification;
if, on former occasions, he was continually sending me in quest of
lives and trials difficult to find, he now was continually
demanding lives and trials which it was impossible to find; the
personages whom he mentioned never having lived, nor consequently
been tried. Moreover, some of my best lives and trials which I had
corrected and edited with particular care, and on which I prided
myself no little, he caused to be cancelled after they had passed
through the press. Amongst these was the life of 'Gentleman
Harry.' 'They are drugs, sir,' said the publisher, 'drugs; that
life of Harry Simms has long been the greatest drug in the calendar
- has it not, Taggart?'
Taggart made no answer save by taking a pinch of snuff. The
reader, has, I hope, not forgotten Taggart, whom I mentioned whilst
giving an account of my first morning's visit to the publisher. I
beg Taggart's pardon for having been so long silent about him; but
he was a very silent man - yet there was much in Taggart - and
Taggart had always been civil and kind to me in his peculiar way.
'Well, young gentleman,' said Taggart to me one morning, when we
chanced to be alone a few days after the affair of the cancelling,
'how do you like authorship?'
'I scarcely call authorship the drudgery I am engaged in,' said I.
'What do you call authorship?' said Taggart.
'I scarcely know,' said I; 'that is, I can scarcely express what I
think it.'
'Shall I help you out?' said Taggart, turning round his chair, and
looking at me.
'If you like,' said I.
'To write something grand,' said Taggart, taking snuff; 'to be
stared at - lifted on people's shoulders - '
'Well,' said I, 'that is something like it.'
Taggart took snuff. 'Well,' said he, 'why don't you write
something grand?'
'I have,' said I.
'What?' said Taggart.
'Why,' said I, 'there are those ballads.'
Taggart took snuff.
'And those wonderful versions from Ab Gwilym.'
Taggart took snuff again.
'You seem to be very fond of snuff,' said I, looking at him
Taggart tapped his box.
'Have you taken it long?'
'Three-and-twenty years.'
'What snuff do you take?'
'Universal mixture.'
'And you find it of use?
Taggart tapped his box.
'In what respect?' said I.
'In many - there is nothing like it to get a man through; but for
snuff I should scarcely be where I am now.'
'Have you been long here?'
'Three-and-twenty years.'
'Dear me,' said I; 'and snuff brought you through? Give me a pinch
- pah, I don't like it,' and I sneezed.
'Take another pinch,' said Taggart.
'No,' said I, 'I don't like snuff.'
'Then you will never do for authorship; at least for this kind.'
'So I begin to think - what shall I do?'
Taggart took snuff.
'You were talking of a great work - what shall it be?'
Taggart took snuff.
'Do you think I could write one?'
Taggart uplifted his two forefingers as if to tap, he did not
'It would require time,' said I, with a half sigh.
Taggart tapped his box.
'A great deal of time; I really think that my ballads - '
Taggart took snuff.
'If published, would do me credit. I'll make an effort, and offer
them to some other publisher.'
Taggart took a double quantity of snuff.
Francis Ardry - That won't do, sir - Observe my gestures - I think
you improve - Better than politics - Delightful young Frenchwoman -
A burning shame - Magnificent impudence - Paunch - Voltaire - Lump
of sugar.
OCCASIONALLY I called on Francis Ardry. This young gentleman
resided in handsome apartments in the neighbourhood of a
fashionable square, kept a livery servant, and, upon the whole,
lived in very good style. Going to see him one day, between one
and two, I was informed by the servant that his master was engaged
for the moment, but that, if I pleased to wait a few minutes, I
should find him at liberty. Having told the man that I had no
objection, he conducted me into a small apartment which served as
antechamber to a drawing-room; the door of this last being half
open, I could see Francis Ardry at the farther end, speechifying
and gesticulating in a very impressive manner. The servant, in
some confusion, was hastening to close the door; but, ere he could
effect his purpose, Francis Ardry, who had caught a glimpse of me,
exclaimed, 'Come in - come in by all means'; and then proceeded, as
before, speechifying and gesticulating. Filled with some surprise,
I obeyed his summons.
On entering the room I perceived another individual, to whom
Francis Ardry appeared to be addressing himself; this other was a
short spare man of about sixty; his hair was of badger gray, and
his face was covered with wrinkles - without vouchsafing me a look,
he kept his eye, which was black and lustrous, fixed full on
Francis Ardry, as if paying the deepest attention to his discourse.
All of a sudden, however, he cried with a sharp, cracked voice,
'That won't do, sir; that won't do - more vehemence - your argument
is at present particularly weak; therefore, more vehemence - you
must confuse them, stun them, stultify them, sir'; and, at each of
these injunctions, he struck the back of his right hand sharply
against the palm of the left. 'Good, sir - good!' he occasionally
uttered, in the same sharp, cracked tone, as the voice of Francis
Ardry became more and more vehement. 'Infinitely good!' he
exclaimed, as Francis Ardry raised his voice to the highest pitch;
'and now, sir, abate; let the tempest of vehemence decline -
gradually, sir; not too fast. Good, sir - very good!' as the voice
of Francis Ardry declined gradually in vehemence. 'And now a
little pathos, sir - try them with a little pathos. That won't do,
sir - that won't do,' - as Francis Ardry made an attempt to become
pathetic, - 'that will never pass for pathos - with tones and
gesture of that description you will never redress the wrongs of
your country. Now, sir, observe my gestures, and pay attention to
the tone of my voice, sir.'
Thereupon, making use of nearly the same terms which Francis Ardry
had employed, the individual in black uttered several sentences in
tones and with gestures which were intended to express a
considerable degree of pathos, though it is possible that some
people would have thought both the one and the other highly
ludicrous. After a pause, Francis Ardry recommenced imitating the
tones and the gestures of his monitor in the most admirable manner.
Before he had proceeded far, however, he burst into a fit of
laughter, in which I should, perhaps, have joined, provided it were
ever my wont to laugh. 'Ha, ha!' said the other, good-humouredly,
'you are laughing at me. Well, well, I merely wished to give you a
hint; but you saw very well what I meant; upon the whole I think
you improve. But I must now go, having two other pupils to visit
before four.'
Then taking from the table a kind of three-cornered hat, and a cane
headed with amber, he shook Francis Ardry by the hand; and, after
glancing at me for a moment, made me a half bow, attended with a
strange grimace, and departed.
'Who is that gentleman?' said I to Francis Ardry, as soon as were
'Oh, that is - ' said Frank, smiling, 'the gentleman who gives me
lessons in elocution.'
'And what need have you of elocution?'
'Oh, I merely obey the commands of my guardians,' said Francis,
'who insist that I should, with the assistance of -, qualify myself
for Parliament; for which they do me the honour to suppose that I
have some natural talent. I dare not disobey them; for, at the
present moment, I have particular reasons for wishing to keep on
good terms with them.'
'But,' said I, 'you are a Roman Catholic; and I thought that
persons of your religion were excluded from Parliament?'
'Why, upon that very thing the whole matter hinges; people of our
religion are determined to be no longer excluded from Parliament,
but to have a share in the government of the nation. Not that I
care anything about the matter; I merely obey the will of my
guardians; my thoughts are fixed on something better than
'I understand you,' said I; 'dog-fighting - well, I can easily
conceive that to some minds dog-fighting - '
'I was not thinking of dog-fighting,' said Francis Ardry,
interrupting me.
'Not thinking of dog-fighting!' I ejaculated.
'No,' said Francis Ardry, 'something higher and much more rational
than dog-fighting at present occupies my thoughts.'
'Dear me,' said I, 'I thought I had heard you say that there was
nothing like it!'
'Like what?' said Francis Ardry.
'Dog-fighting, to be sure,' said I.
'Pooh,' said Francis Ardry; 'who but the gross and unrefined care
anything for dog-fighting? That which at present engages my waking
and sleeping thoughts is love - divine love - there is nothing like
THAT. Listen to me, I have a secret to confide to you.'
And then Francis Ardry proceeded to make me his confidant. It
appeared that he had had the good fortune to make the acquaintance
of the most delightful young Frenchwoman imaginable, Annette La
Noire by name, who had just arrived from her native country with
the intention of obtaining the situation of governess in some
English family; a position which, on account of her many
accomplishments, she was eminently qualified to fill. Francis
Ardry had, however, persuaded her to relinquish her intention for
the present, on the ground that, until she had become acclimated in
England, her health would probably suffer from the confinement
inseparable from the occupation in which she was desirous of
engaging; he had, moreover - for it appeared that she was the most
frank and confiding creature in the world - succeeded in persuading
her to permit him to hire for her a very handsome first floor in
his own neighbourhood, and to accept a few inconsiderable presents
in money and jewellery. 'I am looking out for a handsome gig and
horse,' said Francis Ardry, at the conclusion of his narration; 'it
were a burning shame that so divine a creature should have to go
about a place like London on foot, or in a paltry hackney coach.'
'But,' said I, 'will not the pursuit of politics prevent your
devoting much time to this fair lady?'
'It will prevent me devoting all my time,' said Francis Ardry, 'as
I gladly would; but what can I do? My guardians wish me to qualify
myself for a political orator, and I dare not offend them by a
refusal. If I offend my guardians, I should find it impossible -
unless I have recourse to Jews and money-lenders - to support
Annette; present her with articles of dress and jewellery, and
purchase a horse and cabriolet worthy of conveying her angelic
person through the streets of London.'
After a pause, in which Francis Ardry appeared lost in thought, his
mind being probably occupied with the subject of Annette, I broke
silence by observing, 'So your fellow-religionists are really going
to make a serious attempt to procure their emancipation?'
'Yes,' said Francis Ardry, starting from his reverie; 'everything
has been arranged; even a leader has been chosen, at least for us
of Ireland, upon the whole the most suitable man in the world for
the occasion - a barrister of considerable talent, mighty voice,
and magnificent impudence. With emancipation, liberty, and redress
for the wrongs of Ireland in his mouth, he is to force his way into
the British House of Commons, dragging myself and others behind him
- he will succeed, and when he is in he will cut a figure; I have
heard - himself, who has heard him speak, say that he will cut a
'And is - competent to judge?' I demanded.
'Who but he?' said Francis Ardry; 'no one questions his judgment
concerning what relates to elocution. His fame on that point is so
well established, that the greatest orators do not disdain
occasionally to consult him; C- himself, as I have been told, when
anxious to produce any particular effect in the House, is in the
habit of calling in - for a consultation.'
'As to matter, or manner?' said I.
'Chiefly the latter,' said Francis Ardry, 'though he is competent
to give advice as to both, for he has been an orator in his day,
and a leader of the people; though he confessed to me that he was
not exactly qualified to play the latter part - "I want paunch,"
said he.'
'It is not always indispensable,' said I; 'there is an orator in my
town, a hunchback and watchmaker, without it, who not only leads
the people, but the mayor too; perhaps he has a succedaneum in his
hunch: but, tell me, is the leader of your movement in possession
of that which - wants?'
'No more deficient in it than in brass,' said Francis Ardry.
'Well,' said I, 'whatever his qualifications may be, I wish him
success in the cause which he has taken up - I love religious
'We shall succeed,' said Francis Ardry; 'John Bull upon the whole
is rather indifferent on the subject, and then we are sure to be
backed by the Radical party, who, to gratify their political
prejudices, would join with Satan himself.'
'There is one thing,' said I, 'connected with this matter which
surprises me - your own lukewarmness. Yes, making every allowance
for your natural predilection for dog-fighting, and your present
enamoured state of mind, your apathy at the commencement of such a
movement is to me unaccountable.'
'You would not have cause to complain of my indifference,' said
Frank, 'provided I thought my country would be benefited by this
movement; but I happen to know the origin of it. The priests are
the originators, 'and what country was ever benefited by a movement
which owed its origin to them?' so says Voltaire, a page of whom I
occasionally read. By the present move they hope to increase their
influence, and to further certain designs which they entertain both
with regard to this country and Ireland. I do not speak rashly or
unadvisedly. A strange fellow - a half-Italian, half-English
priest, - who was recommended to me by my guardians, partly as a
spiritual, partly as a temporal guide, has let me into a secret or
two; he is fond of a glass of gin and water - and over a glass of
gin and water cold, with a lump of sugar in it, he has been more
communicative, perhaps, than was altogether prudent. Were I my own
master, I would kick him, politics, and religious movements, to a
considerable distance. And now, if you are going away, do so
quickly; I have an appointment with Annette, and must make myself
fit to appear before her.'
Progress - Glorious John - Utterly unintelligible - What a
BY the month of October I had, in spite of all difficulties and
obstacles, accomplished about two-thirds of the principal task
which I had undertaken, the compiling of the Newgate lives; I had
also made some progress in translating the publisher's philosophy
into German. But about this time I began to see very clearly that
it was impossible that our connection should prove of long
duration; yet, in the event of my leaving the big man, what other
resource had I - another publisher? But what had I to offer?
There were my ballads, my Ab Gwilym, but then I thought of Taggart
and his snuff, his pinch of snuff. However, I determined to see
what could be done, so I took my ballads under my arm, and went to
various publishers; some took snuff, others did not, but none took
my ballads or Ab Gwilym, they would not even look at them. One
asked me if I had anything else - he was a snuff-taker - I said
yes; and going home, returned with my translation of the German
novel, to which I have before alluded. After keeping it for a
fortnight, he returned it to me on my visiting him, and, taking a
pinch of snuff, told me it would not do. There were marks of snuff
on the outside of the manuscript, which was a roll of paper bound
with red tape, but there were no marks of snuff on the interior of
the manuscript, from which I concluded that he had never opened it.
I had often heard of one Glorious John, who lived at the western
end of the town; on consulting Taggart, he told me that it was
possible that Glorious John would publish my ballads and Ab Gwilym,
that is, said he, taking a pinch of snuff, provided you can see
him; so I went to the house where Glorious John resided, and a
glorious house it was, but I could not see Glorious John - I called
a dozen times, but I never could see Glorious John. Twenty years
after, by the greatest chance in the world, I saw Glorious John,
and sure enough Glorious John published my books, but they were
different books from the first; I never offered my ballads or Ab
Gwilym to Glorious John. Glorious John was no snuff-taker. He
asked me to dinner, and treated me with superb Rhenish wine.
Glorious John is now gone to his rest, but I - what was I going to
say? - the world will never forget Glorious John.
So I returned to my last resource for the time then being - to the
publisher, persevering doggedly in my labour. One day, on visiting
the publisher, I found him stamping with fury upon certain
fragments of paper. 'Sir,' said he, 'you know nothing of German; I
have shown your translation of the first chapter of my Philosophy
to several Germans: it is utterly unintelligible to them.' 'Did
they see the Philosophy?' I replied. 'They did, sir, but they did
not profess to understand English.' 'No more do I,' I replied,
'if that Philosophy be English.'
The publisher was furious - I was silent. For want of a pinch of
snuff, I had recourse to something which is no bad substitute for a
pinch of snuff, to those who can't take it, silent contempt; at
first it made the publisher more furious, as perhaps a pinch of
snuff would; it, however, eventually calmed him, and he ordered me
back to my occupations, in other words, the compilation. To be
brief, the compilation was completed, I got paid in the usual
manner, and forthwith left him.
He was a clever man, but what a difference in clever men!
The old spot - A long history - Thou shalt not steal - No harm -
Education - Necessity - Foam on your lip - Apples and pears - What
will you read? - Metaphor - The fur cap - I don't know him.
IT was past midwinter, and I sat on London Bridge, in company with
the old apple-woman: she had just returned to the other side of
the bridge, to her place in the booth where I had originally found
her. This she had done after frequent conversations with me; 'she
liked the old place best,' she said, which she would never have
left but for the terror which she experienced when the boys ran
away with her book. So I sat with her at the old spot, one
afternoon past midwinter, reading the book, of which I had by this
time come to the last pages. I had observed that the old woman for
some time past had shown much less anxiety about the book than she
had been in the habit of doing. I was, however, not quite prepared
for her offering to make me a present of it, which she did that
afternoon; when, having finished it, I returned it to her, with
many thanks for the pleasure and instruction I had derived from its
perusal. 'You may keep it, dear,' said the old woman, with a sigh;
'you may carry it to your lodging, and keep it for your own.'
Looking at the old woman with surprise, I exclaimed, 'Is it
possible that you are willing to part with the book which has been
your source of comfort so long?'
Whereupon the old woman entered into a long history, from which I
gathered that the book had become distasteful to her; she hardly
ever opened it of late, she said, or if she did, it was only to
shut it again; also, that other things which she had been fond of,
though of a widely different kind, were now distasteful to her.
Porter and beef-steaks were no longer grateful to her palate, her
present diet chiefly consisting of tea, and bread and butter.
'Ah,' said I, 'you have been ill, and when people are ill, they
seldom like the things which give them pleasure when they are in
health.' I learned, moreover, that she slept little at night, and
had all kinds of strange thoughts; that as she lay awake many
things connected with her youth, which she had quite forgotten,
came into her mind. There were certain words that came into her
mind the night before the last, which were continually humming in
her ears: I found that the words were, 'Thou shalt not steal.'
On inquiring where she had first heard these words, I learned that
she had read them at school, in a book called the primer; to this
school she had been sent by her mother, who was a poor widow, and
followed the trade of apple-selling in the very spot where her
daughter followed it now. It seems that the mother was a very good
kind of woman, but quite ignorant of letters, the benefit of which
she was willing to procure for her child; and at the school the
daughter learned to read, and subsequently experienced the pleasure
and benefit of letters, in being able to read the book which she
found in an obscure closet of her mother's house, and which had
been her principal companion and comfort for many years of her
But, as I have said before, she was now dissatisfied with the book,
and with most other things in which she had taken pleasure; she
dwelt much on the words, 'Thou shalt not steal'; she had never
stolen things herself, but then she had bought things which other
people had stolen, and which she knew had been stolen; and her dear
son had been a thief, which he perhaps would not have been but for
the example which she set him in buying things from characters, as
she called them, who associated with her.
On inquiring how she had become acquainted with these characters, I
learned that times had gone hard with her; that she had married,
but her husband had died after a long sickness, which had reduced
them to great distress; that her fruit trade was not a profitable
one, and that she had bought and sold things which had been stolen
to support herself and her son. That for a long time she supposed
there was no harm in doing so, as her book was full of entertaining
tales of stealing; but she now thought that the book was a bad
book, and that learning to read was a bad thing; her mother had
never been able to read, but had died in peace, though poor.
So here was a woman who attributed the vices and follies of her
life to being able to read; her mother, she said, who could not
read, lived respectably, and died in peace; and what was the
essential difference between the mother and daughter, save that the
latter could read? But for her literature she might in all
probability have lived respectably and honestly, like her mother,
and might eventually have died in peace, which at present she could
scarcely hope to do. Education had failed to produce any good in
this poor woman; on the contrary, there could be little doubt that
she had been injured by it. Then was education a bad thing?
Rousseau was of opinion that it was; but Rousseau was a Frenchman,
at least wrote in French, and I cared not the snap of my fingers
for Rousseau. But education has certainly been of benefit in some
instances; well, what did that prove, but that partiality existed
in the management of the affairs of the world - if education was a
benefit to some, why was it not a benefit to others? Could some
avoid abusing it, any more than others could avoid turning it to a
profitable account? I did not see how they could; this poor simple
woman found a book in her mother's closet; a book, which was a
capital book for those who could turn it to the account for which
it was intended; a book, from the perusal of which I felt myself
wiser and better, but which was by no means suited to the intellect
of this poor simple woman, who thought that it was written in
praise of thieving; yet she found it, she read it, and - and - I
felt myself getting into a maze; what is right, thought I? what is
wrong? Do I exist? Does the world exist? if it does, every action
is bound up with necessity.
'Necessity!' I exclaimed, and cracked my finger-joints.
'Ah, it is a bad thing,' said the old woman.
'What is a bad thing?' said I.
'Why to be poor, dear.'
'You talk like a fool,' said I, 'riches and poverty are only
different forms of necessity.'
'You should not call me a fool, dear; you should not call your own
mother a fool.'
'You are not my mother,' said I.
'Not your mother, dear? - no, no more I am; but your calling me
fool put me in mind of my dear son, who often used to call me fool
- and you just now looked as he sometimes did, with a blob of foam
on your lip.'
'After all, I don't know that you are not my mother.'
'Don't you, dear? I'm glad of it; I wish you would make it out.'
'How should I make it out? who can speak from his own knowledge as
to the circumstances of his birth? Besides, before attempting to
establish our relationship, it would be necessary to prove that
such people exist.'
'What people, dear?'
'You and I.'
'Lord, child, you are mad; that book has made you so.'
'Don't abuse it,' said I; 'the book is an excellent one, that is,
provided it exists.'
'I wish it did not,' said the old woman; 'but it shan't long; I'll
burn it, or fling it into the river - the voices at night tell me
to do so.'
'Tell the voices,' said I, 'that they talk nonsense; the book, if
it exists, is a good book, it contains a deep moral; have you read
it all?'
'All the funny parts, dear; all about taking things, and the manner
it was done; as for the rest, I could not exactly make it out.'
'Then the book is not to blame; I repeat that the book is a good
book, and contains deep morality, always supposing that there is
such a thing as morality, which is the same thing as supposing that
there is anything at all.'
'Anything at all! Why ain't we here on this bridge, in my booth,
with my stall and my - '
'Apples and pears, baked hot, you would say - I don't know; all is
a mystery, a deep question. It is a question, and probably always
will be, whether there is a world, and consequently apples and
pears; and, provided there be a world, whether that world be like
an apple or a pear.'
'Don't talk so, dear.'
'I won't; we will suppose that we all exist - world, ourselves,
apples, and pears: so you wish to get rid of the book?'
'Yes, dear, I wish you would take it.'
'I have read it, and have no farther use for it; I do not need
books: in a little time, perhaps, I shall not have a place wherein
to deposit myself, far less books.'
'Then I will fling it into the river.'
'Don't do that; here, give it me. Now what shall I do with it? you
were so fond of it.'
'I am so no longer.'
'But how will you pass your time; what will you read?'
'I wish I had never learned to read, or, if I had, that I had only
read the books I saw at school: the primer or the other.'
'What was the other?'
'I think they called it the Bible: all about God, and Job, and
'Ah, I know it.'
'You have read it; is it a nice book - all true?'
'True, true - I don't know what to say; but if the world be true,
and not all a lie, a fiction, I don't see why the Bible, as they
call it, should not be true. By the bye, what do you call Bible in
your tongue, or, indeed, book of any kind? as Bible merely means a
'What do I call the Bible in my language, dear?'
'Yes, the language of those who bring you things.'
'The language of those who DID, dear; they bring them now no
longer. They call me fool, as you did, dear, just now; they call
kissing the Bible, which means taking a false oath, smacking calfskin.'
'That's metaphor,' said I; 'English, but metaphorical; what an odd
language! So you would like to have a Bible, - shall I buy you
'I am poor, dear - no money since I left off the other trade.'
'Well, then, I'll buy you one.'
'No, dear, no; you are poor, and may soon want the money; but if
you can take me one conveniently on the sly, you know - I think you
may, for, as it is a good book, I suppose there can be no harm in
taking it.'
'That will never do,' said I, 'more especially as I should be sure
to be caught, not having made taking of things my trade; but I'll
tell you what I'll do - try and exchange this book of yours for a
Bible; who knows for what great things this same book of yours may
'Well, dear,' said the old woman, 'do as you please; I should like
to see the - what do you call it? - Bible, and to read it, as you
seem to think it true.'
'Yes,' said I, 'seem; that is the way to express yourself in this
maze of doubt - I seem to think - these apples and pears seem to be
- and here seems to be a gentleman who wants to purchase either one
or the other.'
A person had stopped before the apple-woman's stall, and was
glancing now at the fruit, now at the old woman and myself; he wore
a blue mantle, and had a kind of fur cap on his head; he was
somewhat above the middle stature; his features were keen, but
rather hard; there was a slight obliquity in his vision. Selecting
a small apple, he gave the old woman a penny; then, after looking
at me scrutinisingly for a moment, he moved from the booth in the
direction of Southwark.
'Do you know who that man is?' said I to the old woman.
'No,' said she, 'except that he is one of my best customers: he
frequently stops, takes an apple, and gives me a penny; his is the
only piece of money I have taken this blessed day. I don't know
him, but he has once or twice sat down in the booth with two
strange-looking men - Mulattos, or Lascars, I think they call
Bought and exchanged - Quite empty - A new firm - Bibles -
Countenance of a lion - Clap of thunder - A truce with this - I
have lost it - Clearly a right - Goddess of the Mint.
IN pursuance of my promise to the old woman, I set about procuring
her a Bible with all convenient speed, placing the book which she
had intrusted to me for the purpose of exchange in my pocket. I
went to several shops, and asked if Bibles were to be had: I found
that there were plenty. When, however, I informed the people that
I came to barter, they looked blank, and declined treating with me;
saying that they did not do business in that way. At last I went
into a shop over the window of which I saw written, 'Books bought
and exchanged': there was a smartish young fellow in the shop,
with black hair and whiskers; 'You exchange?' said I. 'Yes,' said
he, 'sometimes, but we prefer selling; what book do you want?' 'A
Bible,' said I. 'Ah,' said he, 'there's a great demand for Bibles
just now; all kinds of people are become very pious of late,' he
added, grinning at me; 'I am afraid I can't do business with you,
more especially as the master is not at home. What book have you
brought?' Taking the book out of my pocket, I placed it on the
counter: the young fellow opened the book, and inspecting the
title-page, burst into a loud laugh. 'What do you laugh for?' said
I, angrily, and half clenching my fist. 'Laugh!' said the young
fellow; 'laugh! who could help laughing?' 'I could,' said I; 'I
see nothing to laugh at; I want to exchange this book for a Bible.'
'You do?' said the young fellow; 'well, I daresay there are plenty
who would be willing to exchange, that is, if they dared. I wish
master were at home; but that would never do, either. Master's a
family man, the Bibles are not mine, and master being a family man,
is sharp, and knows all his stock; I'd buy it of you, but, to tell
you the truth, I am quite empty here,' said he, pointing to his
pocket, 'so I am afraid we can't deal.'
Whereupon, looking anxiously at the young man, 'What am I to do?'
said I; 'I really want a Bible.'
'Can't you buy one?' said the young man; 'have you no money?'
'Yes,' said I, 'I have some, but I am merely the agent of another;
I came to exchange, not to buy; what am I to do?'
'I don't know,' said the young man, thoughtfully laying down the
book on the counter; 'I don't know what you can do; I think you
will find some difficulty in this bartering job, the trade are
rather precise.' All at once he laughed louder than before;
suddenly stopping, however, he put on a very grave look. 'Take my
advice,' said he; 'there is a firm established in this
neighbourhood which scarcely sells any books but Bibles; they are
very rich, and pride themselves on selling their books at the
lowest possible price; apply to them, who knows but what they will
exchange with you?'
Thereupon I demanded with some eagerness of the young man the
direction to the place where he thought it possible that I might
effect the exchange - which direction the young fellow cheerfully
gave me, and, as I turned away, had the civility to wish me
I had no difficulty in finding the house to which the young fellow
directed me; it was a very large house, situated in a square; and
upon the side of the house was written in large letters, 'Bibles,
and other religious books.'
At the door of the house were two or three tumbrils, in the act of
being loaded with chests, very much resembling tea-chests; one of
the chests falling down, burst, and out flew, not tea, but various
books, in a neat, small size, and in neat leather covers; Bibles,
said I, - Bibles, doubtless. I was not quite right, nor quite
wrong; picking up one of the books, I looked at it for a moment,
and found it to be the New Testament. 'Come, young lad,' said a
man who stood by, in the dress of a porter, 'put that book down, it
is none of yours; if you want a book, go in and deal for one.'
Deal, thought I, deal, - the man seems to know what I am coming
about, - and going in, I presently found myself in a very large
room. Behind a counter two men stood with their backs to a
splendid fire, warming themselves, for the weather was cold.
Of these men one was dressed in brown, and the other was dressed in
black; both were tall men - he who was dressed in brown was thin,
and had a particularly ill-natured countenance; the man dressed in
black was bulky, his features were noble, but they were those of a
'What is your business, young man?' said the precise personage, as
I stood staring at him and his companion.
'I want a Bible,' said I.
'What price, what size?' said the precise-looking man.
'As to size,' said I, 'I should like to have a large one - that is,
if you can afford me one - I do not come to buy.'
'Oh, friend,' said the precise-looking man, 'if you come here
expecting to have a Bible for nothing, you are mistaken - we - '
'I would scorn to have a Bible for nothing,' said I, 'or anything
else; I came not to beg, but to barter; there is no shame in that,
especially in a country like this, where all folks barter.'
'Oh, we don't barter,' said the precise man, 'at least Bibles; you
had better depart.'
'Stay, brother,' said the man with the countenance of a lion, 'let
us ask a few questions; this may be a very important case; perhaps
the young man has had convictions.'
'Not I,' I exclaimed, 'I am convinced of nothing, and with regard
to the Bible - I don't believe - '
'Hey!' said the man with the lion countenance, and there he
stopped. But with that 'Hey' the walls of the house seemed to
shake, the windows rattled, and the porter whom I had seen in front
of the house came running up the steps, and looked into the
apartment through the glass of the door.
There was silence for about a minute - the same kind of silence
which succeeds a clap of thunder.
At last the man with the lion countenance, who had kept his eyes
fixed upon me, said calmly, 'Were you about to say that you don't
believe in the Bible, young man?'
'No more than in anything else,' said I; 'you were talking of
convictions - I have no convictions. It is not easy to believe in
the Bible till one is convinced that there is a Bible.'
'He seems to be insane,' said the prim-looking man; 'we had better
order the porter to turn him out.'
'I am by no means certain,' said I, 'that the porter could turn me
out; always provided there is a porter, and this system of ours be
not a lie, and a dream.'
'Come,' said the lion-looking man, impatiently, 'a truce with this
nonsense. If the porter cannot turn you out, perhaps some other
person can; but to the point - you want a Bible?'
'I do,' said I, 'but not for myself; I was sent by another person
to offer something in exchange for one.'
'And who is that person?'
'A poor old woman, who has had what you call convictions, - heard
voices, or thought she heard them - I forgot to ask her whether
they were loud ones.'
'What has she sent to offer in exchange?' said the man, without
taking any notice of the concluding part of my speech.
'A book,' said I.
'Let me see it.'
'Nay, brother,' said the precise man, 'this will never do; if we
once adopt the system of barter, we shall have all the holders of
useless rubbish in the town applying to us.'
'I wish to see what he has brought,' said the other; 'perhaps
Baxter, or Jewell's APOLOGY, either of which would make a valuable
addition to our collection. Well, young man, what's the matter
with you?'
I stood like one petrified; I had put my hand into my pocket - the
book was gone.
'What's the matter?' repeated the man with the lion countenance, in
a voice very much resembling thunder.
'I have it not - I have lost it!'
'A pretty story, truly,' said the precise-looking man, 'lost it!
You had better retire,' said the other.
'How shall I appear before the party who intrusted me with the
book? She will certainly think that I have purloined it,
notwithstanding all I can say; nor, indeed, can I blame her, -
appearances are certainly against me.'
'They are so - you had better retire.'
I moved towards the door. 'Stay, young man, one word more; there
is only one way of proceeding which would induce me to believe that
you are sincere.'
'What is that?' said I, stopping and looking at him anxiously.
'The purchase of a Bible.'
'Purchase!' said I, 'purchase! I came not to purchase, but to
barter; such was my instruction, and how can I barter if I have
lost the book?'
The other made no answer, and turning away I made for the door; all
of a sudden I started, and turning round, 'Dear me,' said I, 'it
has just come into my head, that if the book was lost by my
negligence, as it must have been, I have clearly a right to make it
No answer.
'Yes,' I repeated, 'I have clearly a right to make it good; how
glad I am! see the effect of a little reflection. I will purchase
a Bible instantly, that is, if I have not lost - ' and with
considerable agitation I felt in my pocket.
The prim-looking man smiled: 'I suppose,' said he, 'that he has
lost his money as well as book.'
'No,' said I, 'I have not'; and pulling out my hand I displayed no
less a sum than three half-crowns.
'Oh, noble goddess of the Mint!' as Dame Charlotta Nordenflycht,
the Swede, said a hundred and fifty years ago, 'great is thy power;
how energetically the possession of thee speaks in favour of man's
'Only half-a-crown for this Bible?' said I, putting down the money,
'it is worth three'; and bowing to the man of the noble features, I
departed with my purchase.
'Queer customer,' said the prim-looking man, as I was about to
close the door - 'don't like him.'
'Why, as to that, I scarcely know what to say,' said he of the
countenance of a lion.
The pickpocket - Strange rencounter - Drag him along - A great
service - Things of importance - Philological matters - Mother of
languages - Zhats!
A FEW days after the occurrence of what is recorded in the last
chapter, as I was wandering in the City, chance directed my
footsteps to an alley leading from one narrow street to another in
the neighbourhood of Cheapside. Just before I reached the mouth of
the alley, a man in a greatcoat, closely followed by another,
passed it; and, at the moment in which they were passing, I
observed the man behind snatch something from the pocket of the
other; whereupon, darting into the street, I seized the hindermost
man by the collar, crying at the same time to the other, 'My good
friend, this person has just picked your pocket.'
The individual whom I addressed, turning round with a start,
glanced at me, and then at the person whom I held. London is the
place for strange rencounters. It appeared to me that I recognised
both individuals - the man whose pocket had been picked and the
other; the latter now began to struggle violently; 'I have picked
no one's pocket,' said he. 'Rascal,' said the other, 'you have got
my pocket-book in your bosom.' 'No, I have not,' said the other;
and, struggling more violently than before, the pocket-book dropped
from his bosom upon the ground.
The other was now about to lay hands upon the fellow, who was still
struggling. 'You had better take up your book,' said I; 'I can
hold him.' He followed my advice; and, taking up his pocket-book,
surveyed my prisoner with a ferocious look, occasionally glaring at
me. Yes, I had seen him before - it was the stranger whom I had
observed on London Bridge, by the stall of the old apple-woman,
with the cap and cloak; but, instead of these, he now wore a hat
and greatcoat. 'Well,' said I, at last, 'what am I to do with this
gentleman of ours?' nodding to the prisoner, who had now left off
struggling. 'Shall I let him go?'
'Go!' said the other; 'go! The knave - the rascal; let him go,
indeed! Not so, he shall go before the Lord Mayor. Bring him
'Oh, let me go,' said the other: 'let me go; this is the first
offence, I assure ye - the first time I ever thought to do anything
'Hold your tongue,' said I, 'or I shall be angry with you. If I am
not very much mistaken, you once attempted to cheat me.'
'I never saw you before in all my life,' said the fellow, though
his countenance seemed to belie his words.
'That is not true,' said I; 'you are the man who attempted to cheat
me of one-and-ninepence in the coach-yard, on the first morning of
my arrival in London.'
'I don't doubt it,' said the other; 'a confirmed thief'; and here
his tones became peculiarly sharp; 'I would fain see him hanged -
crucified. Drag him along.'
'I am no constable,' said I; 'you have got your pocket-book, - I
would rather you would bid me let him go.'
'Bid you let him go!' said the other almost furiously, 'I command -
stay, what was I going to say? I was forgetting myself,' he
observed more gently; 'but he stole my pocket-book; - if you did
but know what it contained.'
'Well,' said I, 'if it contains anything valuable, be the more
thankful that you have recovered it; as for the man, I will help
you to take him where you please; but I wish you would let him go.'
The stranger hesitated, and there was an extraordinary play of
emotion in his features: he looked ferociously at the pickpocket,
and, more than once, somewhat suspiciously at myself; at last his
countenance cleared, and, with a good grace, he said, 'Well, you
have done me a great service, and you have my consent to let him
go; but the rascal shall not escape with impunity,' he exclaimed
suddenly, as I let the man go, and starting forward, before the
fellow could escape, he struck him a violent blow on the face. The
man staggered, and had nearly fallen; recovering himself, however,
he said, 'I tell you what, my fellow; if I ever meet you in this
street in a dark night, and I have a knife about me, it shall be
the worse for you; as for you, young man,' said he to me; but,
observing that the other was making towards him, he left whatever
he was about to say unfinished, and, taking to his heels, was out
of sight in a moment.
The stranger and myself walked in the direction of Cheapside, the
way in which he had been originally proceeding; he was silent for a
few moments, at length he said, 'You have really done me a great
service, and I should be ungrateful not to acknowledge it. I am a
merchant; and a merchant's pocket-book, as you perhaps know,
contains many things of importance; but, young man,' he exclaimed,
'I think I have seen you before; I thought so at first, but where I
cannot exactly say: where was it?' I mentioned London Bridge and
the old apple-woman. 'Oh,' said he, and smiled, and there was
something peculiar in his smile, 'I remember now. Do you
frequently sit on London Bridge?' 'Occasionally,' said I; 'that
old woman is an old friend of mine.' 'Friend?' said the stranger,
'I am glad of it, for I shall know where to find you. At present I
am going to 'Change; time, you know, is precious to a merchant.'
We were by this time close to Cheapside. 'Farewell,' said he, 'I
shall not forget this service. I trust we shall soon meet again.'
He then shook me by the hand and went his way.
The next day, as I was seated beside the old woman in the booth,
the stranger again made his appearance, and, after a word or two,
sat down beside me; the old woman was sometimes reading the Bible,
which she had already had two or three days in her possession, and
sometimes discoursing with me. Our discourse rolled chiefly on
philological matters.
'What do you call bread in your language?' said I.
'You mean the language of those who bring me things to buy, or who
did; for, as I told you before, I shan't buy any more; it's no
language of mine, dear - they call bread pannam in their language.'
'Pannam!' said I, 'pannam! evidently connected with, if not derived
from, the Latin panis; even as the word tanner, which signifieth a
sixpence, is connected with, if not derived from, the Latin tener,
which is itself connected with, if not derived from, tawno or
tawner, which, in the language of Mr. Petulengro, signifieth a
sucking child. Let me see, what is the term for bread in the
language of Mr. Petulengro? Morro, or manro, as I have sometimes
heard it called; is there not some connection between these words
and panis? Yes, I think there is; and I should not wonder if
morro, manro, and panis were connected, perhaps derived from, the
same root; but what is that root? I don't know - I wish I did;
though, perhaps, I should not be the happier. Morro - manro! I
rather think morro is the oldest form; it is easier to say morro
than manro. Morro! Irish, aran; Welsh, bara; English, bread. I
can see a resemblance between all the words, and pannam too; and I
rather think that the Petulengrian word is the elder. How odd it
would be if the language of Mr. Petulengro should eventually turn
out to be the mother of all the languages in the world; yet it is
certain that there are some languages in which the terms for bread
have no connection with the word used by Mr. Petulengro,
notwithstanding that those languages, in many other points, exhibit
a close affinity to the language of the horse-shoe master: for
example, bread, in Hebrew, is Laham, which assuredly exhibits
little similitude to the word used by the aforesaid Petulengro. In
Armenian it is- '
'Zhats!' said the stranger, starting up. 'By the Patriarch and the
Three Holy Churches, this is wonderful! How came you to know aught
of Armenian?'
New acquaintance - Wired cases - Bread and wine - Armenian colonies
- Learning without money - What a language - The tide - Your foible
- Learning of the Haiks - Old proverb - Pressing invitation.
JUST as I was about to reply to the interrogation of my new-formed
acquaintance, a man with a dusky countenance, probably one of the
Lascars, or Mulattos, of whom the old woman had spoken, came up and
whispered to him, and with this man he presently departed, not
however before he had told me the place of his abode, and requested
me to visit him.
After the lapse of a few days, I called at the house which he had
indicated. It was situated in a dark and narrow street, in the
heart of the City, at no great distance from the Bank. I entered a
counting-room, in which a solitary clerk, with a foreign look, was
writing. The stranger was not at home; returning the next day,
however, I met him at the door as he was about to enter; he shook
me warmly by the hand. 'I am glad to see you,' said he, 'follow
me, I was just thinking of you.' He led me through the countingroom,
to an apartment up a flight of stairs; before ascending,
however, he looked into the book in which the foreign-visaged clerk
was writing, and, seemingly not satisfied with the manner in which
he was executing his task, he gave him two or three cuffs, telling
him at the same time that he deserved crucifixion.
The apartment above stairs, to which he led me, was large, with
three windows, which opened upon the street. The walls were hung
with wired cases, apparently containing books. There was a table
and two or three chairs; but the principal article of furniture was
a long sofa, extending from the door by which we entered to the
farther end of the apartment. Seating himself upon the sofa, my
new acquaintance motioned to me to sit beside him, and then,
looking me full in the face, repeated his former inquiry. 'In the
name of all that is wonderful, how came you to know aught of my
'There is nothing wonderful in that,' said I; 'we are at the
commencement of a philological age, every one studies languages;
that is, every one who is fit for nothing else; philology being the
last resource of dulness and ennui, I have got a little in advance
of the throng, by mastering the Armenian alphabet; but I foresee
the time when every unmarriageable miss, and desperate blockhead,
will likewise have acquired the letters of Mesroub, and will know
the term for bread, in Armenian, and perhaps that for wine.'
'Kini,' said my companion; and that and the other word put me in
mind of the duties of hospitality. 'Will you eat bread and drink
wine with me?'
'Willingly,' said I. Whereupon my companion, unlocking a closet,
produced, on a silver salver, a loaf of bread, with a silverhandled
knife, and wine in a silver flask, with cups of the same
metal. ' I hope you like my fare,' said he, after we had both
eaten and drunk.
'I like your bread,' said I, 'for it is stale; I like not your
wine, it is sweet, and I hate sweet wine.'
'It is wine of Cyprus,' said my entertainer; and, when I found that
it was wine of Cyprus, I tasted it again, and the second taste
pleased me much better than the first, notwithstanding that I still
thought it somewhat sweet. 'So,' said I, after a pause, looking at
my companion, 'you are an Armenian.'
'Yes,' said he, 'an Armenian born in London, but not less an
Armenian on that account. My father was a native of Ispahan, one
of the celebrated Armenian colony which was established there
shortly after the time of the dreadful hunger, which drove the
children of Haik in swarms from their original country, and
scattered them over most parts of the eastern and western world.
In Ispahan he passed the greater portion of his life, following
mercantile pursuits with considerable success. Certain enemies,
however, having accused him to the despot of the place, of using
seditious language, he was compelled to flee, leaving most of his
property behind. Travelling in the direction of the west, he came
at last to London, where he established himself, and where he
eventually died, leaving behind a large property and myself, his
only child, the fruit of a marriage with an Armenian Englishwoman,
who did not survive my birth more than three months.'
The Armenian then proceeded to tell me that he had carried on the
business of his father, which seemed to embrace most matters, from
buying silks of Lascars, to speculating in the funds, and that he
had considerably increased the property which his father had left
him. He candidly confessed that he was wonderfully fond of gold,
and said there was nothing like it for giving a person
respectability and consideration in the world: to which assertion
I made no answer, being not exactly prepared to contradict it.
And, when he had related to me his history, he expressed a desire
to know something more of myself, whereupon I gave him the outline
of my history, concluding with saying, 'I am now a poor author, or
rather philologist, upon the streets of London, possessed of many
tongues, which I find of no use in the world.'
'Learning without money is anything but desirable,' said the
Armenian, 'as it unfits a man for humble occupations. It is true
that it may occasionally beget him friends; I confess to you that
your understanding something of my language weighs more with me
than the service you rendered me in rescuing my pocket-book the
other day from the claws of that scoundrel whom I yet hope to see
hanged, if not crucified, notwithstanding there were in that
pocket-book papers and documents of considerable value. Yes, that
circumstance makes my heart warm towards you, for I am proud of my
language - as I indeed well may be - what a language, noble and
energetic! quite original, differing from all others both in words
and structure.'
'You are mistaken,' said I; 'many languages resemble the Armenian
both in structure and words.'
'For example?' said the Armenian.
'For example,' said I, 'the English.'
'The English!' said the Armenian; 'show me one word in which the
English resembles the Armenian.'
'You walk on London Bridge,' said I.
'Yes,' said the Armenian.
'I saw you look over the balustrade the other morning.'
'True,' said the Armenian.
'Well, what did you see rushing up through the arches with noise
and foam?'
'What was it?' said the Armenian. 'What was it? - you don't mean
the TIDE?'
'Do I not?' said I.
'Well, what has the tide to do with the matter?'
'Much,' said I; 'what is the tide?'
'The ebb and flow of the sea,' said the Armenian.
'The sea itself; what is the Haik word for sea?'
The Armenian gave a strong gasp; then, nodding his head thrice,
'You are right,' said he, 'the English word tide is the Armenian
for sea; and now I begin to perceive that there are many English
words which are Armenian; there is - and -; and there again in
French, there is - and - derived from the Armenian. How strange,
how singular - I thank you. It is a proud thing to see that the
language of my race has had so much influence over the languages of
the world.'
I saw that all that related to his race was the weak point of the
Armenian. I did not flatter the Armenian with respect to his race
or language. 'An inconsiderable people,' said I, 'shrewd and
industrious, but still an inconsiderable people. A language bold
and expressive, and of some antiquity, derived, though perhaps not
immediately, from some much older tongue. I do not think that the
Armenian has had any influence over the formation of the languages
of the world, I am not much indebted to the Armenian for the
solution of any doubts; whereas to the language of Mr. Petulengro -
'I have heard you mention that name before,' said the Armenian;
'who is Mr. Petulengro?'
And then I told the Armenian who Mr. Petulengro was. The Armenian
spoke contemptuously of Mr. Petulengro and his race. 'Don't speak
contemptuously of Mr. Petulengro,' said I, 'nor of anything
belonging to him. He is a dark mysterious personage; all connected
with him is a mystery, especially his language; but I believe that
his language is doomed to solve a great philological problem - Mr.
Petulengo - '
'You appear agitated,' said the Armenian; 'take another glass of
wine; you possess a great deal of philological knowledge, but it
appears to me that the language of this Petulengro is your foible:
but let us change the subject; I feel much interested in you, and
would fain be of service to you. Can you cast accounts?'
I shook my head.
'Keep books?'
'I have an idea that I could write books,' said I; 'but, as to
keeping them - ' and here again I shook my head.
The Armenian was silent some time; all at once, glancing at one of
the wire cases, with which, as I have already said, the walls of
the room were hung, he asked me if I was well acquainted with the
learning of the Haiks. 'The books in these cases,' said he,
'contain the masterpieces of Haik learning.'
'No,' said I; 'all I know of the learning of the Haiks is their
translation of the Bible.'
'You have never read Z-?'
'No,' said I, 'I have never read Z-.'
'I have a plan,' said the Armenian; 'I think I can employ you
agreeably and profitably; I should like to see Z- in an English
dress; you shall translate Z- If you can read the Scriptures in
Armenian, you can translate Z-. He is our Esop, the most acute and
clever of all our moral writers - his philosophy - '
'I will have nothing to do with him,' said I.
'Wherefore?' said the Armenian.
'There is an old proverb,' said I, '"that a burnt child avoids the
fire." I have burnt my hands sufficiently with attempting to
translate philosophy, to make me cautious of venturing upon it
again'; and then I told the Armenian how I had been persuaded by
the publisher to translate his philosophy into German, and what
sorry thanks I had received; 'And who knows,' said I, 'but the
attempt to translate Armenian philosophy into English might he
attended with yet more disagreeable consequences?'
The Armenian smiled. 'You would find me very different from the
'In many points I have no doubt I should,' I replied; 'but at the
present moment I feel like a bird which has escaped from a cage,
and, though hungry, feels no disposition to return. Of what nation
is the dark man below stairs, whom I saw writing at the desk?'
'He is a Moldave,' said the Armenian; 'the dog (and here his eyes
sparkled) deserves to be crucified, he is continually making
The Armenian again renewed his proposition about Z-, which I again
refused, as I felt but little inclination to place myself beneath
the jurisdiction of a person who was in the habit of cuffing those
whom he employed, when they made mistakes. I presently took my
departure; not, however, before I had received from the Armenian a
pressing invitation to call upon him whenever I should feel
What to do - Strong enough - Fame and profit - Alliterative euphony
- Excellent fellow - Listen to me - A plan - Bagnigge Wells.
ANXIOUS thoughts frequently disturbed me at this time with respect
to what I was to do, and how support myself in the Great City. My
future prospects were gloomy enough, and I looked forward and
feared; sometimes I felt half disposed to accept the offer of the
Armenian, and to commence forthwith, under his superintendence, the
translation of the Haik Esop; but the remembrance of the cuffs
which I had seen him bestow upon the Moldavian, when glancing over
his shoulder into the ledger or whatever it was on which he was
employed, immediately drove the inclination from my mind. I could
not support the idea of the possibility of his staring over my
shoulder upon my translation of the Haik Esop, and, dissatisfied
with my attempts, treating me as he had treated the Moldavian
clerk; placing myself in a position which exposed me to such
treatment would indeed be plunging into the fire after escaping
from the frying-pan. The publisher, insolent and overbearing as he
was, whatever he might have wished or thought, had never lifted his
hand against me, or told me that I merited crucifixion.
What was I to do? turn porter? I was strong; but there was
something besides strength required to ply the trade of a porter -
a mind of a particularly phlegmatic temperament, which I did not
possess. What should I do? enlist as a soldier? I was tall enough;
but something besides height is required to make a man play with
credit the part of soldier, I mean a private one - a spirit, if
spirit it can be called, which will not only enable a man to submit
with patience to insolence and abuse, and even to cuffs and kicks,
but occasionally to the lash. I felt that I was not qualified to
be a soldier, at least a private one; far better be a drudge to the
most ferocious of publishers, editing Newgate lives, and writing in
eighteenpenny reviews - better to translate the Haik Esop, under
the superintendence of ten Armenians, than be a private soldier in
the English service; I did not decide rashly - I knew something of
soldiering. What should I do? I thought that I would make a last
and desperate attempt to dispose of the ballads and of Ab Gwilym.
I had still an idea that, provided I could persuade any spirited
publisher to give these translations to the world, I should acquire
both considerable fame and profit; not, perhaps, a world-embracing
fame such as Byron's; but a fame not to be sneered at, which would
last me a considerable time, and would keep my heart from breaking;
- profit, not equal to that which Scott had made by his wondrous
novels, but which would prevent me from starving, and enable me to
achieve some other literary enterprise. I read and re-read my
ballads, and the more I read them the more I was convinced that the
public, in the event of their being published, would freely
purchase, and hail them with the merited applause. Were not the
deeds and adventures wonderful and heart-stirring - from which it
is true I could claim no merit, being but the translator; but had I
not rendered them into English, with all their original fire? Yes,
I was confident I had; and I had no doubt that the public would say
so. And then, with respect to Ab Gwilym, had I not done as much
justice to him as to the Danish ballads; not only rendering
faithfully his thoughts, imagery, and phraseology, but even
preserving in my translation the alliterative euphony which
constitutes one of the most remarkable features of Welsh prosody?
Yes, I had accomplished all this; and I doubted not that the public
would receive my translations from Ab Gwilym with quite as much
eagerness as my version of the Danish ballads. But I found the
publishers as intractable as ever, and to this day the public has
never had an opportunity of doing justice to the glowing fire of my
ballad versification, and the alliterative euphony of my imitations
of Ab Gwilym.
I had not seen Francis Ardry since the day I had seen him taking
lessons in elocution. One afternoon as I was seated at my table,
my head resting on my hands, he entered my apartment; sitting down,
he inquired of me why I had not been to see him.
'I might ask the same question of you,' I replied. 'Wherefore have
you not been to see me?' Whereupon Francis Ardry told me that he
had been much engaged in his oratorical exercises, also in
escorting the young Frenchwoman about to places of public
amusement; he then again questioned me as to the reason of my not
having been to see him.
I returned an evasive answer. The truth was, that for some time
past my appearance, owing to the state of my finances, had been
rather shabby; and I did not wish to expose a fashionable young man
like Francis Ardry, who lived in a fashionable neighbourhood, to
the imputation of having a shabby acquaintance. I was aware that
Francis Ardry was an excellent fellow; but, on that very account, I
felt, under existing circumstances, a delicacy in visiting him.
It is very possible that he had an inkling of how matters stood, as
he presently began to talk of my affairs and prospects. I told him
of my late ill success with the booksellers, and inveighed against
their blindness to their own interest in refusing to publish my
translations. 'The last that I addressed myself to,' said I, 'told
me not to trouble him again unless I could bring him a decent novel
or a tale.'
'Well,' said Frank, 'and why did you not carry him a decent novel
or a tale?'
'Because I have neither,' said I; 'and to write them is, I believe,
above my capacity. At present I feel divested of all energy -
heartless, and almost hopeless.'
'I see how it is,' said Francis Ardry, 'you have overworked
yourself, and, worst of all, to no purpose. Take my advice; cast
all care aside, and only think of diverting yourself for a month at
'Divert myself!' said I; 'and where am I to find the means?'
'Be that care on my shoulders,' said Francis Ardry. 'Listen to me
- my uncles have been so delighted with the favourable accounts
which they have lately received from T- of my progress in oratory,
that, in the warmth of their hearts, they made me a present
yesterday of two hundred pounds. This is more money than I want,
at least for the present; do me the favour to take half of it as a
loan - hear me,' said he, observing that I was about to interrupt
him; 'I have a plan in my head - one of the prettiest in the world.
The sister of my charmer is just arrived from France; she cannot
speak a word of English; and, as Annette and myself are much
engaged in our own matters, we cannot pay her the attention which
we should wish, and which she deserves, for she is a truly
fascinating creature, although somewhat differing from my charmer,
having blue eyes and flaxen hair; whilst, Annette, on the contrary
- But I hope you will shortly see Annette. Now, my plan is this -
Take the money, dress yourself fashionably, and conduct Annette's
sister to Bagnigge Wells.'
'And what should we do at Bagnigge Wells?'
'Do!' said Francis Ardry. 'Dance!'
'But,' said I, 'I scarcely know anything of dancing.'
'Then here's an excellent opportunity of improving yourself. Like
most Frenchwomen, she dances divinely; however, if you object to
Bagnigge Wells and dancing, go to Brighton, and remain there a
month or two, at the end of which time you can return with your
mind refreshed and invigorated, and materials, perhaps, for a tale
or novel.'
'I never heard a more foolish, plan,' said I, 'or one less likely
to terminate profitably or satisfactorily. I thank you, however,
for your offer, which is, I daresay, well meant. If I am to escape
from my cares and troubles, and find my mind refreshed and
invigorated, I must adopt other means than conducting a French
demoiselle to Brighton or Bagnigge Wells, defraying the expense by
borrowing from a friend.'
Singular personage - A large sum - Papa of Rome - We are Christians
- Degenerate Armenians - Roots of Ararat - Regular features.
THE Armenian! I frequently saw this individual, availing myself of
the permission which he had given me to call upon him. A truly
singular personage was he, with his love of amassing money, and his
nationality so strong as to be akin to poetry. Many an Armenian I
have subsequently known fond of money-getting, and not destitute of
national spirit; but never another, who, in the midst of his
schemes of lucre, was at all times willing to enter into a
conversation on the structure of the Haik language, or who ever
offered me money to render into English the fables of Z- in the
hope of astonishing the stock-jobbers of the Exchange with the
wisdom of the Haik Esop.
But he was fond of money, very fond. Within a little time I had
won his confidence to such a degree that he informed me that the
grand wish of his heart was to be possessed of two hundred thousand
'I think you might satisfy yourself with the half,' said I. 'One
hundred thousand pounds is a large sum.'
'You are mistaken,' said the Armenian, 'a hundred thousand pounds
is nothing. My father left me that or more at his death. No, I
shall never be satisfied with less than two.'
'And what will you do with your riches,' said I, 'when you have
obtained them? Will you sit down and muse upon them, or will you
deposit them in a cellar, and go down once a day to stare at them?
I have heard say that the fulfilment of one's wishes is invariably
the precursor of extreme misery, and forsooth I can scarcely
conceive a more horrible state of existence than to be without a
hope or wish.'
'It is bad enough, I daresay,' said the Armenian; 'it will,
however, be time enough to think of disposing of the money when I
have procured it. I still fall short by a vast sum of the two
hundred thousand pounds.'
I had occasionally much conversation with him on the state and
prospects of his nation, especially of that part of it which still
continued in the original country of the Haiks - Ararat and its
confines, which, it appeared, he had frequently visited. He
informed me that since the death of the last Haik monarch, which
occurred in the eleventh century, Armenia had been governed both
temporally and spiritually by certain personages called patriarchs;
their temporal authority, however, was much circumscribed by the
Persian and Turk, especially the former, of whom the Armenian spoke
with much hatred, whilst their spiritual authority had at various
times been considerably undermined by the emissaries of the Papa of
Rome, as the Armenian called him.
'The Papa of Rome sent his emissaries at an early period amongst
us,' said the Armenian, 'seducing the minds of weak-headed people,
persuading them that the hillocks of Rome are higher than the
ridges of Ararat; that the Roman Papa has more to say in heaven
than the Armenian patriarch, and that puny Latin is a better
language than nervous and sonorous Haik.'
'They are both dialects,' said I, 'of the language of Mr.
Petulengro, one of whose race I believe to have been the original
founder of Rome; but, with respect to religion, what are the chief
points of your faith? you are Christians, I believe.'
'Yes,' said the Armenian, 'we are Christians in our way; we believe
in God, the Holy Spirit, and Saviour, though we are not prepared to
admit that the last personage is not only himself, but the other
two. We believe . . .' and then the Armenian told me of several
things which the Haiks believed or disbelieved. 'But what we find
most hard of all to believe,' said he, 'is that the man of the
mole-hills is entitled to our allegiance, he not being a Haik, or
understanding the Haik language.'
'But, by your own confession,' said I, 'he has introduced a schism
in your nation, and has amongst you many that believe in him.'
'It is true,' said the Armenian, I that even on the confines of
Ararat there are a great number who consider that mountain to be
lower than the hillocks of Rome; but the greater number of
degenerate Armenians are to be found amongst those who have
wandered to the west; most of the Haik churches of the west
consider Rome to be higher than Ararat - most of the Armenians of
this place hold that dogma; I, however, have always stood firm in
the contrary opinion.
'Ha! ha!' - here the Armenian laughed in his peculiar manner -
'talking of this matter puts me in mind of an adventure which
lately befell me, with one of the emissaries of the Papa of Rome,
for the Papa of Rome has at present many emissaries in this
country, in order to seduce the people from their own quiet
religion to the savage heresy of Rome; this fellow came to me
partly in the hope of converting me, but principally to extort
money for the purpose of furthering the designs of Rome in this
country. I humoured the fellow at first, keeping him in play for
nearly a month, deceiving and laughing at him. At last he
discovered that he could make nothing of me, and departed with the
scowl of Caiaphas, whilst I cried after him, 'The roots of Ararat
are DEEPER than those of Rome.'
The Armenian had occasionally reverted to the subject of the
translation of the Haik Esop, which he had still a lurking desire
that I should execute; but I had invariably declined the
undertaking, without, however, stating my reasons. On one
occasion, when we had been conversing on the subject, the Armenian,
who had been observing my countenance for some time with much
attention, remarked, 'Perhaps, after all, you are right, and you
might employ your time to better advantage. Literature is a fine
thing, especially Haik literature, but neither that nor any other
would be likely to serve as a foundation to a man's fortune: and
to make a fortune should be the principal aim of every one's life;
therefore listen to me. Accept a seat at the desk opposite to my
Moldavian clerk, and receive the rudiments of a merchant's
education. You shall be instructed in the Armenian way of doing
business - I think you would make an excellent merchant.'
'Why do you think so?'
'Because you have something of the Armenian look.'
'I understand you,' said I; 'you mean to say that I squint!'
'Not exactly,' said the Armenian, 'but there is certainly a kind of
irregularity in your features. One eye appears to me larger than
the other - never mind, but rather rejoice; in that irregularity
consists your strength. All people with regular features are
fools; it is very hard for them, you'll say, but there is no help:
all we can do, who are not in such a predicament, is to pity those
who are. Well! will you accept my offer? No! you are a singular
individual; but I must not forget my own concerns. I must now go
forth, having an appointment by which I hope to make money.'
Wish fulfilled - Extraordinary figure - Bueno - Noah - The two
faces - I don't blame him - Too fond of money - Were I an Armenian.
THE fulfilment of the Armenian's grand wish was nearer at hand than
either he or I had anticipated. Partly owing to the success of a
bold speculation, in which he had some time previously engaged, and
partly owing to the bequest of a large sum of money by one of his
nation who died at this period in Paris, he found himself in the
possession of a fortune somewhat exceeding two hundred thousand
pounds; this fact he communicated to me one evening about an hour
after the close of 'Change; the hour at which I generally called,
and at which I mostly found him at home.
'Well,' said I, 'and what do you intend to do next?'
'I scarcely know,' said the Armenian. 'I was thinking of that when
you came in. I don't see anything that I can do, save going on in
my former course. After all, I was perhaps too moderate in making
the possession of two hundred thousand pounds the summit of my
ambition; there are many individuals in this town who possess three
times that sum, and are not yet satisfied. No, I think I can do no
better than pursue the old career; who knows but I may make the two
hundred thousand three or four? - there is already a surplus, which
is an encouragement; however, we will consider the matter over a
goblet of wine; I have observed of late that you have become
partial to my Cyprus.'
And it came to pass that, as we were seated over the Cyprus wine,
we heard a knock at the door. 'Adelante!' cried the Armenian;
whereupon the door opened, and in walked a somewhat extraordinary
figure - a man in a long loose tunic of a stuff striped with black
and yellow; breeches of plush velvet, silk stockings, and shoes
with silver buckles. On his head he wore a high-peaked hat; he was
tall, had a hooked nose, and in age was about fifty.
'Welcome, Rabbi Manasseh,' said the Armenian. 'I know your knock -
you are welcome; sit down.'
'I am welcome,' said Manasseh, sitting down; 'he - he - he! you
know my knock - I bring you money - BUENO!'
There was something very peculiar in the sound of that bueno - I
never forgot it.
Thereupon a conversation ensued between Rabbi Manasseh and the
Armenian, in a language which I knew to be Spanish, though a
peculiar dialect. It related to a mercantile transaction. The
Rabbi sighed heavily as he delivered to the other a considerable
sum of money.
'It is right,' said the Armenian, handing a receipt. 'It is right;
and I am quite satisfied.'
'You are satisfied - you have taken money. BUENO, I have nothing
to say against your being satisfied.'
'Come, Rabbi,' said the Armenian, 'do not despond; it may be your
turn next to take money; in the meantime, can't you be persuaded to
taste my Cyprus?'
'He - he - he! senor, you know I do not love wine. I love Noah
when he is himself; but, as Janus, I love him not. But you are
merry; BUENO, you have a right to be so.'
'Excuse me,' said I; 'but does Noah ever appear as Janus?'
'He - he - he!' said the Rabbi, 'he only appeared as Janus once -
una vez quando estuvo borracho; which means - '
'I understand,' said I; 'when he was . . .' and I drew the side of
my right hand sharply across my left wrist.
'Are you one of our people?' said the Rabbi.
'No,' said I, 'I am one of the Goyim; but I am only half
enlightened. Why should Noah be Janus when he was in that state?'
'He - he - he! you must know that in Lasan akhades wine is janin.'
'In Armenian, kini,' said I; 'in Welsh, gwin; Latin, vinum; but do
you think that Janus and janin are one?'
'Do I think? Don't the commentators say so? Does not Master Leo
Abarbenel say so in his DIALOGUES OF DIVINE LOVE'?
'But,' said I, 'I always thought that Janus was a god of the
ancient Romans, who stood in a temple open in time of war, and shut
in time of peace; he was represented with two faces, which - which
- '
'He - he - he!' said the Rabbi, rising from his seat; 'he had two
faces, had he? And what did those two faces typify? You do not
know; no, nor did the Romans who carved him with two faces know why
they did so; for they were only half enlightened, like you and the
rest of the Goyim. Yet they were right in carving him with two
faces looking from each other - they were right, though they knew
not why; there was a tradition among them that the Janinoso had two
faces, but they knew not that one was for the world which was gone
and the other for the world before him - for the drowned world and
for the present, as Master Leo Abarbenel says in his DIALOGUES OF
DIVINE LOVE. He - he - he!' continued the Rabbi, who had by this
time advanced to the door, and, turning round, waved the two
forefingers of his right hand in our faces; 'the Goyims and
Epicouraiyim are clever men, they know how to make money better
than we of Israel. My good friend there is a clever man, I bring
him money, he never brought me any; BUENO, I do not blame him, he
knows much, very much; but one thing there is my friend does not
know, nor any of the Epicureans, he does not know the sacred thing
- he has never received the gift of interpretation which God alone
gives to the seed - he has his gift, I have mine - he is satisfied,
I don't blame him, BUENO.'
And, with this last word in his mouth, he departed.
'Is that man a native of Spain?' I demanded.
'Not a native of Spain,' said the Armenian, 'though he is one of
those who call themselves Spanish Jews, and who are to be found
scattered throughout Europe, speaking the Spanish language
transmitted to them by their ancestors, who were expelled from
Spain in the time of Ferdinand and Isabella.'
'The Jews are a singular people,' said I.
'A race of cowards and dastards,' said the Armenian, 'without a
home or country; servants to servants; persecuted and despised by
'And what are the Haiks?' I demanded.
'Very different from the Jews,' replied the Armenian; 'the Haiks
have a home - a country, and can occasionally use a good sword;
though it is true they are not what they might be.'
'Then it is a shame that they do not become so,' said I; 'but they
are too fond of money. There is yourself, with two hundred
thousand pounds in your pocket, craving for more, whilst you might
be turning your wealth to the service of your country.'
'In what manner?' said the Armenian.
'I have heard you say that the grand oppressor of your country is
the Persian; why not attempt to free your country from his
oppression - you have two hundred thousand pounds, and money is the
sinew of war?'
'Would you, then, have me attack the Persian?'
'I scarcely know what to say; fighting is a rough trade, and I am
by no means certain that you are calculated for the scratch. It is
not every one who has been brought up in the school of Mr.
Petulengro and Tawno Chikno. All I can say is, that if I were an
Armenian, and had two hundred thousand pounds to back me, I would
attack the Persian.'
'Hem!' said the Armenian.
The one half-crown - Merit in patience - Cementer of friendship -
Dreadful perplexity - The usual guttural - Armenian letters - Much
indebted to you - Pure helplessness - Dumb people.
ONE morning on getting up I discovered that my whole worldly wealth
was reduced to one half-crown - throughout that day I walked about
in considerable distress of mind; it was now requisite that I
should come to a speedy decision with respect to what I was to do;
I had not many alternatives, and, before I had retired to rest on
the night of the day in question, I had determined that I could do
no better than accept the first proposal of the Armenian, and
translate under his superintendence the Haik Esop into English.
I reflected, for I made a virtue of necessity, that, after all,
such an employment would be an honest and honourable one; honest,
inasmuch as by engaging in it I should do harm to nobody;
honourable, inasmuch as it was a literary task, which not every one
was capable of executing. it was not every one of the booksellers'
writers of London who was competent to translate the Haik Esop. I
determined to accept the offer of the Armenian.
Once or twice the thought of what I might have to undergo in the
translation from certain peculiarities of the Armenian's temper
almost unsettled me; but a mechanical diving of my hand into my
pocket, and the feeling of the solitary half-crown, confirmed me;
after all, this was a life of trial and tribulation, and I had read
somewhere or other that there was much merit in patience, so I
determined to hold fast in my resolution of accepting the offer of
the Armenian.
But all of a sudden I remembered that the Armenian appeared to have
altered his intentions towards me: he appeared no longer desirous
that I should render the Haik Esop into English for the benefit of
the stock-jobbers on Exchange, but rather that I should acquire the
rudiments of doing business in the Armenian fashion, and accumulate
a fortune, which would enable me to make a figure upon 'Change with
the best of the stock-jobbers. 'Well,' thought I, withdrawing my
hand from my pocket, whither it had again mechanically dived,
'after all, what would the world, what would this city, be without
commerce? I believe the world, and particularly this city, would
cut a very poor figure without commerce; and then there is
something poetical in the idea of doing business after the Armenian
fashion, dealing with dark-faced Lascars and Rabbins of the
Sephardim. Yes, should the Armenian insist upon it, I will accept
a seat at the desk, opposite the Moldavian clerk. I do not like
the idea of cuffs similar to those the Armenian bestowed upon the
Moldavian clerk; whatever merit there may be in patience, I do not
think that my estimation of the merit of patience would be
sufficient to induce me to remain quietly sitting under the
infliction of cuffs. I think I should, in the event of his cuffing
me, knock the Armenian down. Well, I think I have heard it said
somewhere, that a knock-down blow is a great cementer of
friendship; I think I have heard of two people being better friends
than ever after the one had received from the other a knock-down
That night I dreamed I had acquired a colossal fortune, some four
hundred thousand pounds, by the Armenian way of doing business, but
suddenly awoke in dreadful perplexity as to how I should dispose of
About nine o'clock next morning I set off to the house of the
Armenian; I had never called upon him so early before, and
certainly never with a heart beating with so much eagerness; but
the situation of my affairs had become very critical, and I thought
that I ought to lose no time in informing the Armenian that I was
at length perfectly willing either to translate the Haik Esop under
his superintendence, or to accept a seat at the desk opposite to
the Moldavian clerk, and acquire the secrets of Armenian commerce.
With a quick step I entered the counting-room, where,
notwithstanding the earliness of the hour, I found the clerk,
busied as usual at his desk.
He had always appeared to me a singular being, this same Moldavian
clerk. A person of fewer words could scarcely be conceived:
provided his master were at home, he would, on my inquiring, nod
his head; and, provided he were not, he would invariably reply with
the monosyllable No, delivered in a strange guttural tone. On the
present occasion, being full of eagerness and impatience, I was
about to pass by him to the apartment above, without my usual
inquiry, when he lifted his head from the ledger in which he was
writing, and, laying down his pen, motioned to me with his
forefinger, as if to arrest my progress; whereupon I stopped, and,
with a palpitating heart, demanded whether the master of the house
was at home. The Moldavian clerk replied with his usual guttural,
and, opening his desk, ensconced his head therein.
'It does not much matter,' said I; 'I suppose I shall find him at
home after 'Change; it does not much matter, I can return.'
I was turning away with the intention of leaving the room; at this
moment, however, the head of the Moldavian clerk became visible,
and I observed a letter in his hand, which he had inserted in the
desk at the same time with his head; this he extended towards me,
making at the same time a sidelong motion with his head, as much as
to say that it contained something which interested me.
I took the letter, and the Moldavian clerk forthwith resumed his
occupation. The back of the letter bore my name, written in
Armenian characters; with a trembling hand I broke the seal, and,
unfolding the letter, I beheld several lines also written in the
letters of Mesroub, the Cadmus of the Armenians.
I stared at the lines, and at first could not make out a syllable
of their meaning; at last, however, by continued staring, I
discovered that, though the letters were Armenian, the words were
English; in about ten minutes I had contrived to decipher the sense
of the letter; it ran somewhat in this style:-
'MY DEAR FRIEND - The words which you uttered in our last
conversation have made a profound impression upon me; I have
thought them over day and night, and have come to the conclusion
that it is my bounden duty to attack the Persians. When these
lines are delivered to you, I shall be on the route to Ararat. A
mercantile speculation will be to the world the ostensible motive
of my journey, and it is singular enough that one which offers
considerable prospect of advantage has just presented itself on the
confines of Persia. Think not, however, that motives of lucre
would have been sufficiently powerful to tempt me to the East at
the present moment. I may speculate, it is true, but I should
scarcely have undertaken the journey but for your pungent words
inciting me to attack the Persians. Doubt not that I will attack
them on the first opportunity. I thank you heartily for putting me
in mind of my duty. I have hitherto, to use your own words, been
too fond of money-getting, like all my countrymen. I am much
indebted to you; farewell! and may every prosperity await you.'
For some time after I had deciphered the epistle, I stood as if
rooted to the floor. I felt stunned - my last hope was gone;
presently a feeling arose in my mind - a feeling of self-reproach.
Whom had I to blame but myself for the departure of the Armenian?
Would he have ever thought of attacking the Persians had I not put
the idea into his head? he had told me in his epistle that he was
indebted to me for the idea. But for that, he might at the present
moment have been in London, increasing his fortune by his usual
methods, and I might be commencing under his auspices the
translation of the Haik Esop, with the promise, no doubt, of a
considerable remuneration for my trouble; or I might be taking a
seat opposite the Moldavian clerk, and imbibing the first rudiments
of doing business after the Armenian fashion, with the comfortable
hope of realising, in a short time, a fortune of three or four
hundred thousand pounds; but the Armenian was now gone, and
farewell to the fine hopes I had founded upon him the day before.
What was I to do? I looked wildly around, till my eyes rested on
the Moldavian clerk, who was writing away in his ledger with
particular vehemence. Not knowing well what to do or to say, I
thought I might as well ask the Moldavian clerk when the Armenian
had departed, and when he thought that he would return. It is true
it mattered little to me when he departed, seeing that he was gone,
and it was evident that he would not be back soon; but I knew not
what to do, and in pure helplessness thought I might as well ask;
so I went up to the Moldavian clerk, and asked him when the
Armenian had departed, and whether he had been gone two days or
three. Whereupon the Moldavian clerk, looking up from his ledger,
made certain signs, which I could by no means understand. I stood
astonished, but, presently recovering myself, inquired when he
considered it probable that the master would return, and whether he
thought it would be two months or - my tongue faltered - two years;
whereupon the Moldavian clerk made more signs than before, and yet
more unintelligible; as I persisted, however, he flung down his
pen, and, putting his thumb into his mouth, moved it rapidly,
causing the nail to sound against the lower jaw; whereupon I saw
that he was dumb, and hurried away, for I had always entertained a
horror of dumb people, having once heard my another say, when I was
a child, that dumb people were half demoniacs, or little better.
Kind of stupor - Peace of God - Divine hand - Farewell, child - The
fair - Massive edifice - Battered tars - Lost! lost! - Good-day,
LEAVING the house of the Armenian, I strolled about for some time;
almost mechanically my feet conducted me to London Bridge, to the
booth in which stood the stall of the old apple-woman; the sound of
her voice aroused me, as I sat in a kind of stupor on the stone
bench beside her; she was inquiring what was the matter with me.
At first, I believe, I answered her very incoherently, for I
observed alarm beginning to depict itself upon her countenance.
Rousing myself, however, I in my turn put a few questions to her
upon her present condition and prospects. The old woman's
countenance cleared up instantly; she informed me that she had
never been more comfortable in her life; that her trade, her HONEST
trade - laying an emphasis on the word honest - had increased of
late wonderfully; that her health was better, and, above all, that
she felt no fear and horror 'here,' laying her hand on her breast.
On my asking her whether she still heard voices in the night, she
told me that she frequently did; but that the present were mild
voices, sweet voices, encouraging voices, very different from the
former ones; that a voice, only the night previous, had cried out
about 'the peace of God,' in particularly sweet accents; a sentence
which she remembered to have read in her early youth in the primer,
but which she had clean forgotten till the voice the night before
brought it to her recollection.
After a pause, the old woman said to me, 'I believe, dear, that it
is the blessed book you brought me which has wrought this goodly
change. How glad I am now that I can read; but oh what a
difference between the book you brought to me and the one you took
away! I believe the one you brought is written by the finger of
God, and the other by - '
'Don't abuse the book,' said I, 'it is an excellent book for those
who can understand it; it was not exactly suited to you, and
perhaps it had been better that you had never read it - and yet,
who knows? Peradventure, if you had not read that book, you would
not have been fitted for the perusal of the one which you say is
written by the finger of God'; and, pressing my hand to my head, I
fell into a deep fit of musing. 'What, after all,' thought I, 'if
there should be more order and system in the working of the moral
world than I have thought? Does there not seem in the present
instance to be something like the working of a Divine hand? I
could not conceive why this woman, better educated than her mother,
should have been, as she certainly was, a worse character than her
mother. Yet perhaps this woman may be better and happier than her
mother ever was; perhaps she is so already - perhaps this world is
not a wild, lying dream, as I have occasionally supposed it to be.'
But the thought of my own situation did not permit me to abandon
myself much longer to these musings. I started up. 'Where are you
going, child?' said the woman, anxiously. 'I scarcely know,' said
I; 'anywhere.' 'Then stay here, child,' said she; 'I have much to
say to you.' 'No,' said I, 'I shall be better moving about'; and I
was moving away, when it suddenly occurred to me that I might never
see this woman again; and turning round I offered her my hand, and
bade her good-bye. 'Farewell, child,' said the old woman, 'and God
bless you!' I then moved along the bridge until I reached the
Southwark side, and, still holding on my course, my mind again
became quickly abstracted from all surrounding objects.
At length I found myself in a street or road, with terraces on
either side, and seemingly of interminable length, leading, as it
would appear, to the south-east. I was walking at a great rate -
there were likewise a great number of people, also walking at a
great rate; also carts and carriages driving at a great rate; and
all - men, carts, and carriages - going in the selfsame direction,
namely to the south-east. I stopped for a moment and deliberated
whether or not I should proceed. What business had I in that
direction? I could not say that I had any particular business in
that direction, but what could I do were I to turn back? only walk
about well-known streets; and, if I must walk, why not continue in
the direction in which I was to see whither the road and its
terraces led? I was ere in a TERRA INCOGNITA, and an unknown place
had always some interest for me; moreover, I had a desire to know
whither all this crowd was going, and for what purpose. I thought
they could not be going far, as crowds seldom go far, especially at
such a rate; so I walked on more lustily than before, passing group
after group of the crowd, and almost vying in speed with some of
the carriages, especially the hackney-coaches; and, by dint of
walking at this rate, the terraces and houses becoming somewhat
less frequent as I advanced, I reached in about three-quarters of
an hour a kind of low dingy town, in the neighbourhood of the
river; the streets were swarming with people, and I concluded, from
the number of wild-beast shows, caravans, gingerbread stalls, and
the like, that a fair was being held. Now, as I had always been
partial to fairs, I felt glad that I had fallen in with the crowd
which had conducted me to the present one, and, casting away as
much as I was able all gloomy thoughts, I did my best to enter into
the diversions of the fair; staring at the wonderful
representations of animals on canvas hung up before the shows of
wild beasts, which, by the bye, are frequently found much more
worthy of admiration than the real beasts themselves; listening to
the jokes of the merry-andrews from the platforms in front of the
temporary theatres, or admiring the splendid tinsel dresses of the
performers who thronged the stages in the intervals of the
entertainments; and in this manner, occasionally gazing and
occasionally listening, I passed through the town till I came in
front of a large edifice looking full upon the majestic bosom of
the Thames.
It was a massive stone edifice, built in an antique style, and
black with age, with a broad esplanade between it and the river, on
which, mixed with a few people from the fair, I observed moving
about a great many individuals in quaint dresses of blue, with
strange three-cornered hats on their heads; most of them were
mutilated; this had a wooden leg - this wanted an arm; some had but
one eye; and as I gazed upon the edifice, and the singular-looking
individuals who moved before it, I guessed where I was. 'I am at -
' said I; 'these individuals are battered tars of Old England, and
this edifice, once the favourite abode of Glorious Elizabeth, is
the refuge which a grateful country has allotted to them. Here
they can rest their weary bodies; at their ease talk over the
actions in which they have been injured; and, with the tear of
enthusiasm flowing from their eyes, boast how they have trod the
deck of fame with Rodney, or Nelson, or others whose names stand
emblazoned in the naval annals of their country.'
Turning to the right, I entered a park or wood consisting of
enormous trees, occupying the foot, sides, and top of a hill which
rose behind the town; there were multitudes of people among the
trees, diverting themselves in various ways. Coming to the top of
the hill, I was present' y stopped by a lofty wall, along which I
walked, till, coming to a small gate, I passed through, and found
myself on an extensive green plain, on one side bounded in part by
the wall of the park, and on the others, in the distance, by
extensive ranges of houses; to the south-east was a lofty eminence,
partially clothed with wood. The plain exhibited an animated
scene, a kind of continuation of the fair below; there were
multitudes of people upon it, many tents, and shows; there was also
horse-racing, and much noise and shouting, the sun shining brightly
overhead. After gazing at the horse-racing for a little time,
feeling myself somewhat tired, I went up to one of the tents, and
laid myself down on the grass. There was much noise in the tent.
'Who will stand me?' said a voice with a slight tendency to lisp.
'Will you, my lord?' 'Yes,' said another voice. Then there was a
sound as of a piece of money banging on a table. 'Lost! lost!
lost!' cried several voices; and then the banging down of the
money, and the 'lost! lost! lost!' were frequently repeated; at
last the second voice exclaimed, 'I will try no more; you have
cheated me.' 'Never cheated any one in my life, my lord - all fair
- all chance. Them that finds, wins - them that can't finds,
loses. Anyone else try? Who'll try? Will you, my lord?' and then
it appeared that some other lord tried, for I heard more money
flung down. Then again the cry of 'lost! lost!' - then again the
sound of money, and so on. Once or twice, but not more, I heard
'Won! won!' but the predominant cry was 'Lost! lost!' At last
there was a considerable hubbub, and the words 'Cheat!' 'Rogue!'
and 'You filched away the pea!' were used freely by more voices
than one, to which the voice with the tendency to lisp replied,
'Never filched a pea in my life; would scorn it. Always glad when
folks wins; but, as those here don't appear to be civil, not to
wish to play any more, I shall take myself off with my table; so,
good-day, gentlemen.'
Singular table - No money - Out of employ - My bonnet - We of the
thimble - Good wages - Wisely resolved - Strangest way in the world
- Fat gentleman - Not such another - First edition - Not very easy
- Won't close - Avella gorgio - Alarmed look.
PRESENTLY a man emerged from the tent, bearing before him a rather
singular table; it appeared to be of white deal, was exceedingly
small at the top, and with very long legs. At a few yards from the
entrance he paused, and looked round, as if to decide on the
direction which he should take; presently, his eye glancing on me
as I lay upon the ground, he started, and appeared for a moment
inclined to make off as quick as possible, table and all. In a
moment, however, he seemed to recover assurance, and, coming up to
the place where I was, the long legs of the table projecting before
him, he cried, 'Glad to see you here, my lord.'
'Thank you,' said I, 'it's a fine day.'
'Very fine, my lord; will your lordship play? Them that finds,
wins - them that don't finds, loses.'
'Play at what?' said I.
'Only at the thimble and pea, my lord.'
'I never heard of such a game.'
'Didn't you? Well, I'll soon teach you,' said he, placing the
table down. 'All you have to do is to put a sovereign down on my
table, and to find the pea, which I put under one of my thimbles.
If you find it, - and it is easy enough to find it, - I give you a
sovereign besides your own: for them that finds, wins.'
'And them that don't finds, loses,' said I; 'no, I don't wish to
'Why not, my lord?'
'Why, in the first place, I have no money.'
'Oh, you have no money, that of course alters the case. If you
have no money, you can't play. Well, I suppose I must be seeing
after my customers,' said he, glancing over the plain.
'Good-day,' said I.
'Good-day,' said the man slowly, but without moving, and as if in
reflection. After a moment or two, looking at me inquiringly, he
added, 'Out of employ?'
'Yes,' said I, 'out of employ.'
The man measured me with his eye as I lay on the ground. At length
he said, 'May I speak a word or two to you, my lord?'
'As many as you please,' said I.
'Then just come a little out of hearing, a little farther on the
grass, if you please, my lord.'
'Why do you call me my lord?' said I, as I arose and followed him.
'We of the thimble always calls our customers lords,' said the man;
'but I won't call you such a foolish name any more; come along.'
The man walked along the plain till he came to the side of a dry
pit, when, looking round to see that no one was nigh, he laid his
table on the grass, and, sitting down with his legs over the side
of the pit, he motioned me to do the same. 'So you are in want of
employ?' said he, after I had sat down beside him.
'Yes,' said I, 'I am very much in want of employ.'
'I think I can find you some.'
'What kind?' said I.
'Why,' said the man, 'I think you would do to be my bonnet.'
'Bonnet!' said I, 'what is that?'
'Don't you know? However, no wonder, as you had never heard of the
thimble and pea game, but I will tell you. We of the game are very
much exposed; folks when they have lost their money, as those who
play with us mostly do, sometimes uses rough language, calls us
cheats, and sometimes knocks our hats over our eyes; and what's
more, with a kick under our table, cause the top deals to fly off;
this is the third table I have used this day, the other two being
broken by uncivil customers: so we of the game generally like to
have gentlemen go about with us to take our part, and encourage us,
though pretending to know nothing about us; for example, when the
customer says, "I'm cheated," the bonnet must say, "No, you ain't,
it is all right"; or, when my hat is knocked over my eyes, the
bonnet must square, and say, "I never saw the man before in all my
life, but I won't see him ill-used"; and so, when they kicks at the
table, the bonnet must say, "I won't see the table ill-used, such a
nice table, too; besides, I want to play myself"; and then I would
say to the bonnet, "Thank you, my lord, them that finds, wins"; and
then the bonnet plays, and I lets the bonnet win.'
'In a word,' said I, 'the bonnet means the man who covers you, even
as the real bonnet covers the head.'
'I just so,' said the man; 'I see you are awake, and would soon
make a first-rate bonnet.'
'Bonnet,' said I, musingly; 'bonnet; it is metaphorical.'
'Is it?' said the man.
'Yes,' said I, 'like the cant words - '
'Bonnet is cant,' said the man; 'we of the thimble, as well as all
cly-fakers and the like, understand cant, as, of course, must every
bonnet; so, if you are employed by me, you had better learn it as
soon as you can, that we may discourse together without being
understood by every one. Besides covering his principal, a bonnet
must have his eyes about him, for the trade of the pea, though a
strictly honest one, is not altogether lawful; so it is the duty of
the bonnet, if he sees the constable coming, to say, The gorgio's
'That is not cant,' said I, 'that is the language of the Rommany
'Do you know those people?' said the man.
'Perfectly,' said I, 'and their language too.'
'I wish I did,' said the man; 'I would give ten pounds and more to
know the language of the Rommany Chals. There's some of it in the
language of the pea and thimble; how it came there I don't know,
but so it is. I wish I knew it, but it is difficult. You'll make
a capital bonnet; shall we close?'
'What would the wages be?' I demanded.
'Why, to a first-rate bonnet, as I think you would prove, I could
afford to give from forty to fifty shillings a week.'
'Is it possible?' said I.
'Good wages, ain't they?' said the man.
'First-rate,' said I; 'bonneting is more profitable than
'Anan?' said the man.
'Or translating; I don't think the Armenian would have paid me at
that rate for translating his Esop.'
'Who is he?' said the man.
'No, I know what that is, Esop's cant for a hunchback; but
'You should know,' said I.
'Never saw the man in all my life.'
'Yes, you have,' said I, 'and felt him too; don't you remember the
individual from whom you took the pocket-book?'
'Oh, that was he; well, the less said about that matter the better;
I have left off that trade, and taken to this, which is a much
better. Between ourselves, I am not sorry that I did not carry off
that pocket-book; if I had, it might have encouraged me in the
trade, in which had I remained, I might have been lagged, sent
abroad, as I had been already imprisoned; so I determined to leave
it off at all hazards, though I was hard up, not having a penny in
the world.'
'And wisely resolved,' said I; 'it was a bad and dangerous trade, I
wonder you should ever have embraced it.'
'It is all very well talking,' said the man, 'but there is a reason
for everything; I am the son of a Jewess, by a military officer' -
and then the man told me his story. I shall not repeat the man's
story, it was a poor one, a vile one; at last he observed, 'So that
affair which you know of determined me to leave the filching trade,
and take up with a more honest and safe one; so at last I thought
of the pea and thimble, but I wanted funds, especially to pay for
lessons at the hands of a master, for I knew little about it.'
'Well,' said I, 'how did you get over that difficulty?'
'Why,' said the man, 'I thought I should never have got over it.
What funds could I raise? I had nothing to sell; the few clothes I
had I wanted, for we of the thimble must always appear decent, or
nobody would come near us. I was at my wits' ends; at last I got
over my difficulty in the strangest way in the world.'
'What was that?'
'By an old thing which I had picked up some time before - a book.'
'A book?' said I.
'Yes, which I had taken out of your lordship's pocket one day as
you were walking the streets in a great hurry. I thought it was a
pocket-book at first, full of bank-notes, perhaps,' continued he,
laughing. 'It was well for me, however, that it was not, for I
should have soon spent the notes; as it was, I had flung the old
thing down with an oath, as soon as I brought it home. When I was
so hard up, however, after the affair with that friend of yours, I
took it up one day, and thought I might make something by it to
support myself a day with. Chance or something else led me into a
grand shop; there was a man there who seemed to be the master,
talking to a jolly, portly old gentleman, who seemed to be a
country squire. Well, I went up to the first, and offered it for
sale; he took the book, opened it at the title-page, and then all
of a sudden his eyes glistened, and he showed it to the fat, jolly
gentleman, and his eyes glistened too, and I heard him say "How
singular!" and then the two talked together in a speech I didn't
understand - I rather thought it was French, at any rate it wasn't
cant; and presently the first asked me what I would take for the
book. Now I am not altogether a fool, nor am I blind, and I had
narrowly marked all that passed, and it came into my head that now
was the time for making a man of myself, at any rate I could lose
nothing by a little confidence; so I looked the man boldly in the
face, and said, "I will have five guineas for that book, there
ain't such another in the whole world." "Nonsense," said the first
man, "there are plenty of them, there have been nearly fifty
editions, to my knowledge; I will give you five shillings." "No,"
said I, "I'll not take it, for I don't like to be cheated, so give
me my book again"; and I attempted to take it away from the fat
gentleman's hand. "Stop," said the younger man; "are you sure that
you won't take less?" "Not a farthing," said I; which was not
altogether true, but I said so. "Well," said the fat gentleman, "I
will give you what you ask"; and sure enough he presently gave me
the money; so I made a bow, and was leaving the shop, when it came
into my head that there was something odd in all this, and, as I
had the money in my pocket, I turned back, and, making another bow,
said, "May I be so bold as to ask why you gave me all this money
for that 'ere dirty book? When I came into the shop, I should have
been glad to get a shilling for it; but I saw you wanted it, and
asked five guineas." Then they looked at one another, and smiled,
and shrugged up their shoulders. Then the first man, looking at
me, said, "Friend, you have been a little too sharp for us;
however, we can afford to forgive you, as my friend here has long
been in quest of this particular book; there are plenty of
editions, as I told you, and a common copy is not worth five
shillings; but this is a first edition, and a copy of the first
edition is worth its weight in gold."'
'So, after all, they outwitted you,' I observed.
'Clearly,' said the man; 'I might have got double the price, had I
known the value; but I don't care, much good may it do them, it has
done me plenty. By means of it I have got into an honest,
respectable trade, in which there's little danger and plenty of
profit, and got out of one which would have got me lagged, sooner
or later.'
'But,' said I, 'you ought to remember that the thing was not yours;
you took it from me, who had been requested by a poor old applewoman
to exchange it for a Bible.'
'Well,' said the man, 'did she ever get her Bible?'
'Yes,' said I, 'she got her Bible.'
'Then she has no cause to complain; and, as for you, chance or
something else has sent you to me, that I may make you reasonable
amends for any loss you may have had. Here am I ready to make you
my bonnet, with forty or fifty shillings a week, which you say
yourself are capital wages.'
'I find no fault with the wages,' said I, 'but I don't like the
'Not like bonneting,' said the man; 'ah, I see, you would like to
be principal; well, a time may come - those long white fingers of
yours would just serve for the business.'
'Is it a difficult one?' I demanded.
'Why, it is not very easy: two things are needful - natural
talent, and constant practice; but I'll show you a point or two
connected with the game'; and, placing his table between his knees
as he sat over the side of the pit, he produced three thimbles, and
a small brown pellet, something resembling a pea. He moved the
thimble and pellet about, now placing it to all appearance under
one, and now under another; 'Under which is it now?' he said at
last. 'Under that,' said I, pointing to the lowermost of the
thimbles, which, as they stood, formed a kind of triangle. 'No,'
said he, 'it is not, but lift it up'; and, when I lifted up the
thimble, the pellet, in truth, was not under it. 'It was under
none of them,' said he, 'it was pressed by my little finger against
my palm'; and then he showed me how he did the trick, and asked me
if the game was not a funny one; and, on my answering in the
affirmative, he said, 'I am glad you like it; come along and let us
win some money.'
Thereupon, getting up, he placed the table before him, and was
moving away; observing, however, that I did not stir, he asked me
what I was staying for. 'Merely for my own pleasure,' said I; 'I
like sitting here very well.' 'Then you won't close?' said the
man. 'By no means,' I replied; 'your proposal does not suit me.'
'You may be principal in time,' said the man. 'That makes no
difference,' said I; and, sitting with my legs over the pit, I
forthwith began to decline an Armenian noun. 'That ain't cant,'
said the man; 'no, nor gypsy either. Well, if you won't close,
another will, I can't lose any more time,' and forthwith he
And after I had declined four Armenian nouns, of different
declensions, I rose from the side of the pit, and wandered about
amongst the various groups of people scattered over the green.
Presently I came to where the man of the thimbles was standing,
with the table before him, and many people about him. 'Them who
finds, wins, and them who can't find, loses,' he cried. Various
individuals tried to find the pellet, but all were unsuccessful,
till at last considerable dissatisfaction was expressed, and the
terms rogue and cheat were lavished upon him. 'Never cheated
anybody in all my life,' he cried; and, observing me at hand,
'didn't I play fair, my lord?' he inquired. But I made no answer.
Presently some more played, and he permitted one or two to win, and
the eagerness to play with him became greater. After I had looked
on for some time, I was moving away: just then I perceived a
short, thick personage, with a staff in his hand, advancing in a
great hurry; whereupon, with a sudden impulse, I exclaimed -
Shoon thimble-engro;
Avella gorgio.
The man, who was in the midst of his pea-and-thimble process, no
sooner heard the last word of the distich than he turned an alarmed
look in the direction of where I stood; then, glancing around, and
perceiving the constable, he slipped forthwith his pellet and
thimbles into his pocket, and, lifting up his table, he cried to
the people about him, 'Make way!' and with a motion with his head
to me, as if to follow him, he darted off with a swiftness which
the short, pursy constable could by no means rival; and whither he
went, or what became of him, I know not, inasmuch as I turned away
in another direction.
Mr. Petulengro - Rommany Rye - Lil-writers - One's own horn -
Lawfully-earnt money - The wooded hill - A great favourite - The
shop window - Much wanted.
AND, as I wandered along the green, I drew near to a place where
several men, with a cask beside them, sat carousing in the
neighbourhood of a small tent. 'Here he comes,' said one of them,
as I advanced, and standing up he raised his voice and sang:-
'Here the Gypsy gemman see,
With his Roman jib and his rome and dree -
Rome and dree, rum and dry
Rally round the Rommany Rye.'
It was Mr. Petulengro, who was here diverting himself with several
of his comrades; they all received me with considerable frankness.
'Sit down, brother,' said Mr. Petulengro, 'and take a cup of good
I sat down. 'Your health, gentlemen,' said I, as I took the cup
which Mr. Petulengro handed to me.
'Aukko tu pios adrey Rommanis. Here is your health in Rommany,
brother,' said Mr. Petulengro; who, having refilled the cup, now
emptied it at a draught.
'Your health in Rommany, brother,' said Tawno Chikno, to whom the
cup came next.
'The Rommany Rye,' said a third.
'The Gypsy gentleman,' exclaimed a fourth, drinking.
And then they all sang in chorus:-
'Here the Gypsy gemman see,
With his Roman jib and his rome and dree -
Rome and dree, rum and dry
Rally round the Rommany Rye.'
'And now, brother,' said Mr. Petulengro, 'seeing that you have
drunk and been drunken, you will perhaps tell us where you have
been, and what about?'
'I have been in the Big City,' said I, 'writing lils.'
'How much money have you got in your pocket, brother?' said Mr.
'Eighteenpence,' said I; 'all I have in the world.'
'I have been in the Big City, too,' said Mr. Petulengro; 'but I
have not written lils - I have fought in the ring - I have fifty
pounds in my pocket - I have much more in the world. Brother,
there is considerable difference between us.
'I would rather be the lil-writer, after all,' said the tall,
handsome, black man; 'indeed, I would wish for nothing better.'
'Why so?' said Mr. Petulengro.
'Because they have so much to say for themselves,' said the black
man, 'even when dead and gone. When they are laid in the
churchyard, it is their own fault if people ain't talking of them.
Who will know, after I am dead, or bitchadey pawdel, that I was
once the beauty of the world, or that you Jasper were - '
'The best man in England of my inches. That's true, Tawno -
however, here's our brother will perhaps let the world know
something about us.'
'Not he,' said the other, with a sigh; 'he'll have quite enough to
do in writing his own lils, and telling the world how handsome and
clever he was; and who can blame him? Not I. If I could write
lils, every word should be about myself and my own tacho Rommanis -
my own lawful wedded wife, which is the same thing. I tell you
what, brother, I once heard a wise man say in Brummagem, that
"there is nothing like blowing one's own horn," which I conceive to
be much the same thing as writing one's own lil.'
After a little more conversation, Mr. Petulengro arose, and
motioned me to follow him. 'Only eighteenpence in the world,
brother?' said he, as we walked together.
'Nothing more, I assure you. How came you to ask me how much money
I had?'
'Because there was something in your look, brother, something very
much resembling that which a person showeth who does not carry much
money in his pocket. I was looking at my own face this morning in
my wife's looking-glass - I did not look as you do, brother.'
'I believe your sole motive for inquiring,' said I, 'was to have an
opportunity of venting a foolish boast, and to let me know that you
were in possession of fifty pounds.'
'What is the use of having money unless you let people know you
have it?' said Mr. Petulengro. 'It is not every one can read
faces, brother; and, unless you knew I had money, how could you ask
me to lend you any?'
'I am not going to ask you to lend me any.'
'Then you may have it without asking; as I said before, I have
fifty pounds, all lawfully-earnt money, got by fighting in the ring
- I will lend you that, brother.'
'You are very kind,' said I; 'but I will not take it.'
'Then the half of it?'
'Nor the half of it; but it is getting towards evening, I must go
back to the Great City.'
'And what will you do in the Boro Foros?'
'I know not,' said I.
'Earn money?
'If I can.'
'And if you can't?'
'You look ill, brother,' said Mr. Petulengro.
'I do not feel well; the Great City does not agree with me. Should
I be so fortunate as to earn some money, I would leave the Big
City, and take to the woods and fields.'
'You may do that, brother,' said Mr. Petulengro, 'whether you have
money or not. Our tents and horses are on the other side of yonder
wooded hill, come and stay with us; we shall all be glad of your
company, but more especially myself and my wife Pakomovna.'
'What hill is that?' I demanded.
And then Mr. Petulengro told me the name of the hill. 'We shall
stay on t'other side of the hill a fortnight,' he continued; 'and,
as you are fond of lil-writing, you may employ yourself profitably
whilst there. You can write the lil of him whose dock gallops down
that hill every night, even as the living man was wont to do long
'Who was he?' I demanded.
'Jemmy Abershaw,' said Mr. Petulengro; 'one of those whom we call
Boro drom engroes, and the gorgios highway-men. I once heard a rye
say that the life of that man would fetch much money; so come to
the other side of the hill, and write the lil in the tent of Jasper
and his wife Pakomovna.'
At first I felt inclined to accept the invitation of Mr.
Petulengro; a little consideration, however, determined me to
decline it. I had always been on excellent terms with Mr.
Petulengro, but I reflected that people might be excellent friends
when they met occasionally in the street, or on the heath, or in
the wood; but that these very people when living together in a
house, to say nothing of a tent, might quarrel. I reflected,
moreover, that Mr. Petulengro had a wife. I had always, it is
true, been a great favourite with Mrs. Petulengro, who had
frequently been loud in her commendation of the young rye, as she
called me, and his turn of conversation; but this was at a time
when I stood in need of nothing, lived under my parents' roof, and
only visited at the tents to divert and to be diverted. The times
were altered, and I was by no means certain that Mrs. Petulengro,
when she should discover that I was in need both of shelter and
subsistence, might not alter her opinion both with respect to the
individual and what he said - stigmatising my conversation as saucy
discourse, and myself as a scurvy companion; and that she might
bring over her husband to her own way of thinking, provided,
indeed, he should need any conducting. I therefore, though without
declaring my reasons, declined the offer of Mr. Petulengro, and
presently, after shaking him by the hand, bent again my course
towards the Great City.
I crossed the river at a bridge considerably above that hight of
London; for, not being acquainted with the way, I missed the
turning which should have brought me to the latter. Suddenly I
found myself in a street of which I had some recollection, and
mechanically stopped before the window of a shop at which various
publications were exposed; it was that of the bookseller to whom I
had last applied in the hope of selling my ballads or Ab Gwilym,
and who had given me hopes that, in the event of my writing a
decent novel, or a tale, he would prove a purchaser. As I stood
listlessly looking at the window, and the publications which it
contained, I observed a paper affixed to the glass by wafers with
something written upon it. I drew yet nearer for the purpose of
inspecting it; the writing was in a fair round hand - 'A Novel or
Tale is much wanted,' was what was written.
Bread and water - Pair play - Fashion - Colonel B- - Joseph Sell -
The kindly glow - Easiest manner imaginable.
'I MUST do something,' said I, as I sat that night in my lonely
apartment, with some bread and a pitcher of water before me.
Thereupon taking some of the bread, and eating it, I considered
what I was to do. 'I have no idea what I am to do,' said I, as I
stretched my hand towards the pitcher, 'unless (and here I took a
considerable draught) I write a tale or a novel - That bookseller,'
I continued, speaking to myself, 'is certainly much in need of a
tale or a novel, otherwise he would not advertise for one. Suppose
I write one, I appear to have no other chance of extricating myself
from my present difficulties; surely it was Fate that conducted me
to his window.
'I will do it,' said I, as I struck my hand against the table; 'I
will do it.' Suddenly a heavy cloud of despondency came over me.
Could I do it? Had I the imagination requisite to write a tale or
a novel? 'Yes, yes,' said I, as I struck my hand again against the
table, 'I can manage it; give me fair play, and I can accomplish
But should I have fair play? I must have something to maintain
myself with whilst I wrote my tale, and I had but eighteenpence in
the world. Would that maintain me whilst I wrote my tale? Yes, I
thought it would, provided I ate bread, which did not cost much,
and drank water, which cost nothing; it was poor diet, it was true,
but better men than myself had written on bread and water; had not
the big man told me so? or something to that effect, months before?
It was true there was my lodging to pay for; but up to the present
time I owed nothing, and perhaps, by the time that the people of
the house asked me for money, I should have written a tale or a
novel, which would bring me in money; I had paper, pens, and ink,
and, let me not forget them, I had candles in my closet, all paid
for, to light me during my night work. Enough, I would go doggedly
to work upon my tale or novel.
But what was the tale or novel to be about? Was it to be a tale of
fashionable life, about Sir Harry Somebody, and the Countess
something? But I knew nothing about fashionable people, and cared
less; therefore how should I attempt to describe fashionable life?
What should the tale consist of? The life and adventures of some
one. Good - but of whom? Did not Mr. Petulengro mention one Jemmy
Abershaw? Yes. Did he not tell me that the life and adventures of
Jemmy Abershaw would bring in much money to the writer? Yes, but I
knew nothing of that worthy. I heard, it is true, from Mr.
Petulengro, that when alive he committed robberies on the hill, on
the side of which Mr. Petulengro had pitched his tents, and that
his ghost still haunted the hill at midnight; but those were scant
materials out of which to write the man's life. It is probable
indeed, that Mr. Petulengro would be able to supply me with further
materials if I should apply to him, but I was in a hurry, and could
not afford the time which it would be necessary to spend in passing
to and from Mr. Petulengro, and consulting him. Moreover, my pride
revolted at the idea of being beholden to Mr. Petulengro for the
materials of the history. No, I would not write the history of
Abershaw. Whose then - Harry Simms? Alas, the life of Harry Simms
had been already much better written by himself than I could hope
to do it; and, after all, Harry Simms, like Jemmy Abershaw, was
merely a robber. Both, though bold and extraordinary men, were
merely highwaymen. I questioned whether I could compose a tale
likely to excite any particular interest out of the exploits of a
mere robber. I want a character for my hero, thought I, something
higher than a mere robber; some one like - like Colonel B-. By the
way, why should I not write the life and adventures of Colonel B-,
of Londonderry in Ireland?
A truly singular man was this same Colonel B-, of Londonderry in
Ireland; a personage of most strange and incredible feats and
daring, who had been a partizan soldier, a bravo - who, assisted by
certain discontented troopers, nearly succeeded in stealing the
crown and regalia from the Tower of London; who attempted to hang
the Duke of Ormond at Tyburn; and whose strange, eventful career
did not terminate even with his life, his dead body, on the
circulation of an unfounded report that he did not come to his
death by fair means, having been exhumed by the mob of his native
place, where he had retired to die, and carried in the coffin
through the streets.
Of his life I had inserted an account in the NEWGATE LIVES AND
TRIALS; it was bare and meagre, and written in the stiff, awkward
style of the seventeenth century; it had, however, strongly
captivated my imagination, and I now thought that out of it
something better could be made; that, if I added to the adventures,
and purified the style, I might fashion out of it a very decent
tale or novel. On a sudden, however, the proverb of mending old
garments with new cloth occurred to me. 'I am afraid,' said I,
'any new adventures which I can invent will not fadge well with the
old tale; one will but spoil the other.' I had better have nothing
to do with Colonel B-, thought I, but boldly and independently sit
down and write the life of Joseph Sell.
This Joseph Sell, dear reader, was a fictitious personage who had
just come into my head. I had never even heard of the name, but
just at that moment it happened to come into my head; I would write
an entirely fictitious narrative, called the LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF
JOSEPH SELL, the great traveller.
I had better begin at once, thought I; and removing the bread and
the jug, which latter was now empty, I seized pen and paper, and
forthwith essayed to write the life of Joseph Sell, but soon
discovered that it is much easier to resolve upon a thing than to
achieve it, or even to commence it; for the life of me I did not
know how to begin, and, after trying in vain to write a line, I
thought it would be as well to go to bed, and defer my projected
undertaking till the morrow.
So I went to bed, but not to sleep. During the greater part of the
night I lay awake, musing upon the work which I had determined to
execute. For a long time my brain was dry and unproductive; I
could form no plan which appeared feasible. At length I felt
within my brain a kindly glow; it was the commencement of
inspiration; in a few minutes I had formed my plan; I then began to
imagine the scenes and the incidents. Scenes and incidents flitted
before my mind's eye so plentifully, that I knew not how to dispose
of them; I was in a regular embarrassment. At length I got out of
the difficulty in the easiest manner imaginable, namely, by
consigning to the depths of oblivion all the feebler and less
stimulant scenes and incidents, and retaining the better and more
impressive ones. Before morning I had sketched the whole work on
the tablets of my mind, and then resigned myself to sleep in the
pleasing conviction that the most difficult part of my undertaking
was achieved.
Considerably sobered - Power of writing - The tempter - Hungry
talent - Work concluded.
RATHER late in the morning I awoke; for a few minutes I lay still,
perfectly still; my imagination was considerably sobered; the
scenes and situations which had pleased me so much over night
appeared to me in a far less captivating guise that morning. I
felt languid and almost hopeless - the thought, however, of my
situation soon roused me - I must make an effort to improve the
posture of my affairs; there was no time to be lost; so I sprang
out of bed, breakfasted on bread and water, and then sat down
doggedly to write the life of Joseph Sell.
It was a great thing to have formed my plan, and to have arranged
the scenes in my head, as I had done on the preceding night. The
chief thing requisite at present was the mere mechanical act of
committing them to paper. This I did not find at first so easy as
I could wish - I wanted mechanical skill; but I persevered, and
before evening I had written ten pages. I partook of some bread
and water; and before I went to bed that night, I had completed
fifteen pages of my life of Joseph Sell.
The next day I resumed my task - I found my power of writing
considerably increased; my pen hurried rapidly over the paper - my
brain was in a wonderfully teeming state; many scenes and visions
which I had not thought of before were evolved, and, as fast as
evolved, written down; they seemed to be more pat to my purpose,
and more natural to my history, than many others which I had
imagined before, and which I made now give place to these newer
creations: by about midnight I had added thirty fresh pages to my
The third day arose - it was dark and dreary out of doors, and I
passed it drearily enough within; my brain appeared to have lost
much of its former glow, and my pen much of its power; I, however,
toiled on, but at midnight had only added seven pages to my history
of Joseph Sell.
On the fourth day the sun shone brightly - I arose, and, having
breakfasted as usual, I fell to work. My brain was this day
wonderfully prolific, and my pen never before or since glided so
rapidly over the paper; towards night I began to feel strangely
about the back part of my head, and my whole system was
extraordinarily affected. I likewise occasionally saw double - a
tempter now seemed to be at work within me.
'You had better leave off now for a short space,' said the tempter,
'and go out and drink a pint of beer; you have still one shilling
left - if you go on at this rate, you will go mad - go out and
spend sixpence, you can afford it, more than half your work is
done.' I was about to obey the suggestion of the tempter, when the
idea struck me that, if I did not complete the work whilst the fit
was on me, I should never complete it; so I held on. I am almost
afraid to state how many pages I wrote that day of the life of
Joseph Sell.
From this time I proceeded in a somewhat more leisurely manner;
but, as I drew nearer and nearer to the completion of my task,
dreadful fears and despondencies came over me. - It will be too
late, thought I; by the time I have finished the work, the
bookseller will have been supplied with a tale or a novel. Is it
probable that, in a town like this, where talent is so abundant -
hungry talent too - a bookseller can advertise for a tale or a
novel, without being supplied with half a dozen in twenty-four
hours? I may as well fling down my pen - I am writing to no
purpose. And these thoughts came over my mind so often, that at
last, in utter despair, I flung down the pen. Whereupon the
tempter within me said - 'And, now you have flung down the pen, you
may as well fling yourself out of the window; what remains for you
to do?' Why, to take it up again, thought I to myself, for I did
not like the latter suggestion at all - and then forthwith I
resumed the pen, and wrote with greater vigour than before, from
about six o'clock in the evening until I could hardly see, when I
rested for a while, when the tempter within me again said, or
appeared to say - 'All you have been writing is stuff, it will
never do - a drug - a mere drug'; and methought these last words
were uttered in the gruff tones of the big publisher. 'A thing
merely to be sneezed at,' a voice like that of Taggart added; and
then I seemed to hear a sternutation, - as I probably did, for,
recovering from a kind of swoon, I found myself shivering with
cold. The next day I brought my work to a conclusion.
But the task of revision still remained; for an hour or two I
shrank from it, and remained gazing stupidly at the pile of paper
which I had written over. I was all but exhausted, and I dreaded,
on inspecting the sheets, to find them full of absurdities which I
had paid no regard to in the furor of composition. But the task,
however trying to my nerves, must be got over; at last, in a kind
of desperation, I entered upon it. It was far from an easy one;
there were, however, fewer errors and absurdities than I had
anticipated. About twelve o'clock at night I had got over the task
of revision. 'To-morrow for the bookseller,' said I, as my head
sank on the pillow. 'Oh me!'
Nervous look - The bookseller's wife - The last stake - Terms - God
forbid! - Will you come to tea? - A light heart.
ON arriving at the bookseller's shop, I cast a nervous look at the
window, for the purpose of observing whether the paper had been
removed or not. To my great delight the paper was in its place;
with a beating heart I entered, there was nobody in the shop; as I
stood at the counter, however, deliberating whether or not I should
call out, the door of what seemed to be a back-parlour opened, and
out came a well-dressed lady-like female, of about thirty, with a
good-looking and intelligent countenance. 'What is your business,
young man?' said she to me, after I had made her a polite bow. 'I
wish to speak to the gentleman of the house,' said I. 'My husband
is not within at present,' she replied; 'what is your business?'
'I have merely brought something to show him,' said I, 'but I will
call again.' 'If you are the young gentleman who has been here
before,' said the lady, 'with poems and ballads, as, indeed, I know
you are,' she added, smiling, 'for I have seen you through the
glass door, I am afraid it will be useless; that is,' she added
with another smile, 'if you bring us nothing else.' 'I have not
brought you poems and ballads now,' said I, 'but something widely
different; I saw your advertisement for a tale or a novel, and have
written something which I think will suit; and here it is,' I
added, showing the roll of paper which I held in my hand. 'Well,'
said the bookseller's wife, 'you may leave it, though I cannot
promise you much chance of its being accepted. My husband has
already had several offered to him; however, you may leave it; give
it me. Are you afraid to intrust it to me?' she demanded somewhat
hastily, observing that I hesitated. 'Excuse me,' said I, 'but it
is all I have to depend upon in the world; I am chiefly
apprehensive that it will not be read.' 'On that point I can
reassure you,' said the good lady, smiling, and there was now
something sweet in her smile. 'I give you my word that it shall be
read; come again to-morrow morning at eleven, when, if not
approved, it shall be returned to you.'
I returned to my lodging, and forthwith betook myself to bed,
notwithstanding the earliness of the hour. I felt tolerably
tranquil; I had now cast my last stake, and was prepared to abide
by the result. Whatever that result might be, I could have nothing
to reproach myself with; I had strained all the energies which
nature had given me in order to rescue myself from the difficulties
which surrounded me. I presently sank into a sleep, which endured
during the remainder of the day, and the whole of the succeeding
night. I awoke about nine on the morrow, and spent my last
threepence on a breakfast somewhat more luxurious than the
immediately preceding ones, for one penny of the sum was expended
on the purchase of milk.
At the appointed hour I repaired to the house of the bookseller;
the bookseller was in his shop. 'Ah,' said he, as soon as I
entered, 'I am glad to see you.' There was an unwonted heartiness
in the bookseller's tones, an unwonted benignity in his face.
'So,' said he, after a pause, 'you have taken my advice, written a
book of adventure; nothing like taking the advice, young man, of
your superiors in age. Well, I think your book will do, and so
does my wife, for whose judgment I have a great regard; as well I
may, as she is the daughter of a first-rate novelist, deceased. I
think I shall venture on sending your book to the press.' 'But,'
said I, 'we have not yet agreed upon terms.' 'Terms, terms,' said
the bookseller; 'ahem! well, there is nothing like coming to terms
at once. I will print the book, and give you half the profit when
the edition is sold.' 'That will not do,' said I; 'I intend
shortly to leave London: I must have something at once.' 'Ah, I
see,' said the bookseller, 'in distress; frequently the case with
authors, especially young ones. Well, I don't care if I purchase
it of you, but you must be moderate; the public are very
fastidious, and the speculation may prove a losing one after all.
Let me see, will five - hem - ' he stopped. I looked the
bookseller in the face; there was something peculiar in it.
Suddenly it appeared to me as if the voice of him of the thimble
sounded in my ear, 'Now is your time, ask enough, never such
another chance of establishing yourself; respectable trade, pea and
thimble.' 'Well,' said I at last, 'I have no objection to take the
offer which you were about to make, though I really think five-andtwenty
guineas to be scarcely enough, everything considered.'
'Five-and-twenty guineas!' said the bookseller; 'are you - what was
I going to say - I never meant to offer half as much - I mean a
quarter; I was going to say five guineas - I mean pounds; I will,
however, make it up guineas.' 'That will not do,' said I; 'but, as
I find we shall not deal, return me my manuscript, that I may carry
it to some one else.' The bookseller looked blank. 'Dear me,'
said he, 'I should never have supposed that you would have made any
objection to such an offer; I am quite sure that you would have
been glad to take five pounds for either of the two huge
manuscripts of songs and ballads that you brought me on a former
occasion.' 'Well,' said I, 'if you will engage to publish either
of those two manuscripts, you shall have the present one for five
pounds.' 'God forbid that I should make any such bargain!' said
the bookseller; 'I would publish neither on any account; but, with
respect to this last book, I have really an inclination to print
it, both for your sake and mine; suppose we say ten pounds.' 'No,'
said I, 'ten pounds will not do; pray restore me my manuscript.'
'Stay,' said the bookseller, 'my wife is in the next room, I will
go and consult her.' Thereupon he went into his back room, where I
heard him conversing with his wife in a low tone; in about ten
minutes he returned. 'Young gentleman,' said he, 'perhaps you will
take tea with us this evening, when we will talk further over the
That evening I went and took tea with the bookseller and his wife,
both of whom, particularly the latter, overwhelmed me with
civility. It was not long before I learned that the work had been
already sent to the press, and was intended to stand at the head of
a series of entertaining narratives, from which my friends promised
themselves considerable profit. The subject of terms was again
brought forward. I stood firm to my first demand for a long time;
when, however, the bookseller's wife complimented me on my
production in the highest terms, and said that she discovered
therein the germs of genius, which she made no doubt would some day
prove ornamental to my native land, I consented to drop my demand
to twenty pounds, stipulating, however, that I should not be
troubled with the correction of the work.
Before I departed, I received the twenty pounds, and departed with
a light heart to my lodgings.
Reader, amidst the difficulties and dangers of this life, should
you ever be tempted to despair, call to mind these latter chapters
of the life of Lavengro. There are few positions, however
difficult, from which dogged resolution and perseverance may not
liberate you.
Indisposition - A resolution - Poor equivalents - The piece of gold
- Flashing eyes - How beautiful - Bon jour, Monsieur.
I HAD long ago determined to leave London as soon as the means
should be in my power, and, now that they were, I determined to
leave the Great City; yet I felt some reluctance to go. I would
fain have pursued the career of original authorship which had just
opened itself to me, and have written other tales of adventure.
The bookseller had given me encouragement enough to do so; he had
assured me that he should be always happy to deal with me for an
article (that was the word) similar to the one I had brought him,
provided my terms were moderate; and the bookseller's wife, by her
complimentary language, had given me yet more encouragement. But
for some months past I had been far from well, and my original
indisposition, brought on partly by the peculiar atmosphere of the
Big City, partly by anxiety of mind, had been much increased by the
exertions which I had been compelled to make during the last few
days. I felt that, were I to remain where I was, I should die, or
become a confirmed valetudinarian. I would go forth into the
country, travelling on foot, and, by exercise and inhaling pure
air, endeavour to recover my health, leaving my subsequent
movements to be determined by Providence.
But whither should I bend my course? Once or twice I thought of
walking home to the old town, stay some time with my mother and my
brother, and enjoy the pleasant walks in the neighbourhood; but,
though I wished very much to see my mother and my brother, and felt
much disposed to enjoy the said pleasant walks, the old town was
not exactly the place to which I wished to go at this present
juncture. I was afraid that people would ask, Where are your
Northern Ballads? Where are your alliterative translations from Ab
Gwilym - of which you were always talking, and with which you
promised to astonish the world? Now, in the event of such
interrogations, what could I answer? It is true I had compiled
NEWGATE LIVES AND TRIALS, and had written the life of Joseph Sell,
but I was afraid that the people of the old town would scarcely
consider these as equivalents for the Northern Ballads and the
songs of Ab Gwilym. I would go forth and wander in any direction
but that of the old town.
But how one's sensibility on any particular point diminishes with
time; at present I enter the old town perfectly indifferent as to
what the people may be thinking on the subject of the songs and
ballads. With respect to the people themselves, whether, like my
sensibility, their curiosity has altogether evaporated, whether,
which is at least equally probable, they never entertained any, one
thing is certain, that never in a single instance have they
troubled me with any remarks on the subject of the songs and
As it was my intention to travel on foot, with a bundle and a
stick, I despatched my trunk containing some few clothes and books
to the old town. My preparations were soon made; in about three
days I was in readiness to start.
Before departing, however, I bethought me of my old friend the
apple-woman of London Bridge. Apprehensive that she might be
labouring under the difficulties of poverty, I sent her a piece of
gold by the hands of a young maiden in the house in which I lived.
The latter punctually executed her commission, but brought me back
the piece of gold. The old woman would not take it; she did not
want it, she said. 'Tell the poor thin lad,' she added, 'to keep
it for himself, he wants it more than I.'
Rather late one afternoon I departed from my lodging, with my stick
in one hand and a small bundle in the other, shaping my course to
the south-west: when I first arrived, somewhat more than a year
before, I had entered the city by the north-east. As I was not
going home, I determined to take my departure in the direction the
very opposite to home.
Just as I was about to cross the street called the Haymarket, at
the lower part, a cabriolet, drawn by a magnificent animal, came
dashing along at a furious rate; it stopped close by the curb-stone
where I was, a sudden pull of the reins nearly bringing the
spirited animal upon its haunches. The Jehu who had accomplished
this feat was Francis Ardry. A small beautiful female, with
flashing eyes, dressed in the extremity of fashion, sat beside him.
'Holloa, friend,' said Francis Ardry, 'whither bound?'
'I do not know,' said I; 'all I can say is, that I am about to
leave London.'
'And the means?' said Francis Ardry.
'I have them,' said I, with a cheerful smile.
'Qui est celui-ci?' demanded the small female, impatiently.
'C'est - mon ami le plus intime; so you were about to leave London,
without telling me a word,' said Francis Ardry, somewhat angrily.
'I intended to have written to you,' said I: 'what a splendid mare
that is.'
'Is she not?' said Francis Ardry, who was holding in the mare with
difficulty; 'she cost a hundred guineas.'
'Qu'est ce qu'il dit?' demanded his companion.
'Il dit que le jument est bien beau.'
'Allons, mon ami, il est tard,' said the beauty, with a scornful
toss of her head; 'allons!'
'Encore un moment,' said Francis Ardry; 'and when shall I see you
'I scarcely know,' I replied: 'I never saw a more splendid turn
'Qu'est ce qu'il dit?' I said the lady again.
'Il dit que tout l'equipage est en assez bon gout.'
'Allons, c'est un ours,' said the lady; 'le cheval meme en a peur,'
added she, as the mare reared up on high.
'Can you find nothing else to admire but the mare and the
equipage?' said Francis Ardry, reproachfully, after he had with
some difficulty brought the mare to order.
Lifting my hand, in which I held my stick, I took off my hat. 'How
beautiful!' said I, looking the lady full in the face.
'Comment?' said the lady, inquiringly.
'Il dit que vous etes belle comme un ange,' said Francis Ardry,
'Mais, a la bonne heure! arretez, mon ami,' said the lady to
Francis Ardry, who was about to drive off; 'je voudrais bien causer
un moment avec lui; arretez, il est delicieux. - Est-ce bien ainsi
que vous traitez vos amis?' said she passionately, as Francis Ardry
lifted up his whip. 'Bon jour, Monsieur, bon jour,' said she,
thrusting her head from the side and looking back, as Francis Ardry
drove off at the rate of thirteen miles an hour.
The milestone - The meditation - Want to get up? - The off-hand
leader - Sixteen shillings - The near-hand wheeler - All right.
IN about two hours I had cleared the Great City, and got beyond the
suburban villages, or rather towns, in the direction in which I was
travelling; I was in a broad and excellent road, leading I knew not
whither. I now slackened my pace, which had hitherto been great.
Presently, coming to a milestone on which was graven nine miles, I
rested against it, and looking round towards the vast city, which
had long ceased to be visible, I fell into a train of meditation.
I thought of all my ways and doings since the day of my first
arrival in that vast city - I had worked and toiled, and, though I
had accomplished nothing at all commensurate with the hopes which I
had entertained previous to my arrival, I had achieved my own
living, preserved my independence, and become indebted to no one.
I was now quitting it, poor in purse, it is true, but not wholly
empty; rather ailing it may be, but not broken in health; and, with
hope within my bosom, had I not cause upon the whole to be
thankful? Perhaps there were some who, arriving at the same time
under not more favourable circumstances, had accomplished much
more, and whose future was far more hopeful - Good! But there
might be others who, in spite of all their efforts, had been either
trodden down in the press, never more to be heard of, or were
quitting that mighty town broken in purse, broken in health, and,
oh! with not one dear hope to cheer them. Had I not, upon the
whole, abundant cause to be grateful? Truly, yes!
My meditation over, I left the milestone and proceeded on my way in
the same direction as before until the night began to close in. I
had always been a good pedestrian; but now, whether owing to
indisposition or to not having for some time past been much in the
habit of taking such lengthy walks, I began to feel not a little
weary. Just as I was thinking of putting up for the night at the
next inn or public-house I should arrive at, I heard what sounded
like a coach coming up rapidly behind me. Induced, perhaps, by the
weariness which I felt, I stopped and looked wistfully in the
direction of the sound; presently up came a coach, seemingly a
mail, drawn by four bounding horses - there was no one upon it but
the coachman and the guard; when nearly parallel with me it
stopped. 'Want to get up?' sounded a voice, in the true coachmanlike
tone - half querulous, half authoritative. I hesitated; I was
tired, it is true, but I had left London bound on a pedestrian
excursion, and I did not much like the idea of having recourse to a
coach after accomplishing so very inconsiderable a distance.
'Come, we can't be staying here all night,' said the voice, more
sharply than before. 'I can ride a little way, and get down
whenever I like,' thought I; and springing forward I clambered up
the coach, and was going to sit down upon the box, next the
coachman. 'No, no,' said the coachman, who was a man about thirty,
with a hooked nose and red face, dressed in a fashionably-cut
greatcoat, with a fashionable black castor on his head. 'No, no,
keep behind -the box ain't for the like of you,' said he, as he
drove off; 'the box is for lords, or gentlemen at least.' I made
no answer. 'D- that off-hand leader,' said the coachman, as the
right-hand front horse made a desperate start at something he saw
in the road; and, half rising, he with great dexterity hit with his
long whip the off-hand leader a cut on the off cheek. 'These seem
to be fine horses,' said I. The coachman made no answer. 'Nearly
thoroughbred,' I continued; the coachman drew his breath, with a
kind of hissing sound, through his teeth. 'Come, young fellow,
none of your chaff. Don't you think, because you ride on my mail,
I'm going to talk to you about 'orses. I talk to nobody about
'orses except lords.' 'Well,' said I, 'I have been called a lord
in my time.' 'It must have been by a thimble-rigger, then,' said
the coachman, bending back, and half turning his face round with a
broad leer. 'You have hit the mark wonderfully,' said I. 'You
coachmen, whatever else you may be, are certainly no fools.' 'We
ain't, ain't we?' said the coachman. 'There you are right; and, to
show you that you are, I'll now trouble you for your fare. If you
have been amongst the thimble-riggers you must be tolerably well
cleared out. Where are you going? - to - ? I think I have seen
you there. The fare is sixteen shillings. Come, tip us the blunt;
them that has no money can't ride on my mail.'
Sixteen shillings was a large sum, and to pay it would make a
considerable inroad on my slender finances; I thought, at first,
that I would say I did not want to go so far; but then the fellow
would ask at once where I wanted to go, and I was ashamed to
acknowledge my utter ignorance of the road. I determined,
therefore, to pay the fare, with a tacit determination not to mount
a coach in future without knowing whither I was going. So I paid
the man the money, who, turning round, shouted to the guard - 'All
right, Jem; got fare to - '; and forthwith whipped on his horses,
especially the off hand leader, for whom he seemed to entertain a
particular spite, to greater speed than before - the horses flew.
A young moon gave a feeble light, partially illuminating a line of
road which, appearing by no means interesting, I the less regretted
having paid my money for the privilege of being hurried along it in
the flying vehicle. We frequently changed horses; and at last my
friend the coachman was replaced by another, the very image of
himself - hawk nose, red face, with narrow-rimmed hat and
fashionable benjamin. After he had driven about fifty yards, the
new coachman fell to whipping one of the horses. 'D- this nearhand
wheeler,' said he, 'the brute has got a corn.' 'Whipping him
won't cure him of his corn,' said I. 'Who told you to speak?' said
the driver, with an oath; 'mind your own business; 'tisn't from the
like of you I am to learn to drive 'orses.' Presently I fell into
a broken kind of slumber. In an hour or two I was aroused by a
rough voice - 'Got to -, young man; get down if you please.' I
opened my eyes - there was a dim and indistinct light, like that
which precedes dawn; the coach was standing still in something like
a street; just below me stood the guard. 'Do you mean to get
down,' said he, 'or will you keep us here till morning? other fares
want to get up.' Scarcely knowing what I did, I took my bundle and
stick and descended, whilst two people mounted. 'All right, John,'
said the guard to the coachman, springing up behind; whereupon off
whisked the coach, one or two individuals who were standing by
disappeared, and I was left alone.
The still hour - A thrill - The wondrous circle - The shepherd -
Heaps and barrows - What do you mean? - Milk of the plains -
Hengist spared it - No presents.
AFTER standing still a minute or two, considering what I should do,
I moved down what appeared to be the street of a small straggling
town; presently I passed by a church, which rose indistinctly on my
right hand; anon there was the rustling of foliage and the rushing
of waters. I reached a bridge, beneath which a small stream was
running in the direction of the south. I stopped and leaned over
the parapet, for I have always loved to look upon streams,
especially at the still hours. 'What stream is this, I wonder?'
said I, as I looked down from the parapet into the water, which
whirled and gurgled below.
Leaving the bridge, I ascended a gentle acclivity, and presently
reached what appeared to be a tract of moory undulating ground. It
was now tolerably light, but there was a mist or haze abroad which
prevented my seeing objects with much precision. I felt chill in
the damp air of the early morn, and walked rapidly forward. In
about half an hour I arrived where the road divided into two, at an
angle or tongue of dark green sward. 'To the right or the left?'
said I, and forthwith took, without knowing why, the left-hand
road, along which I proceeded about a hundred yards, when, in the
midst of the tongue of sward formed by the two roads, collaterally
with myself, I perceived what I at first conceived to be a small
grove of blighted trunks of oaks, barked and gray. I stood still
for a moment, and then, turning off the road, advanced slowly
towards it over the sward; as I drew nearer, I perceived that the
objects which had attracted my curiosity, and which formed a kind
of circle, were not trees, but immense upright stones. A thrill
pervaded my system; just before me were two, the mightiest of the
whole, tall as the stems of proud oaks, supporting on their tops a
huge transverse stone, and forming a wonderful doorway. I knew now
where I was, and, laying down my stick and bundle, and taking off
my hat, I advanced slowly, and cast myself - it was folly, perhaps,
but I could not help what I did - cast myself, with my face on the
dewy earth, in the middle of the portal of giants, beneath the
transverse stone.
The spirit of Stonehenge was strong upon me!
And after I had remained with my face on the ground for some time,
I arose, placed my hat on my head, and, taking up my stick and
bundle, wandered round the wondrous circle, examining each
individual stone, from the greatest to the least; and then,
entering by the great door, seated myself upon an immense broad
stone, one side of which was supported by several small ones, and
the other slanted upon the earth; and there, in deep meditation, I
sat for an hour or two, till the sun shone in my face above the
tall stones of the eastern side.
And as I still sat there, I heard the noise of bells, and presently
a large number of sheep came browsing past the circle of stones;
two or three entered, and grazed upon what they could find, and
soon a man also entered the circle at the northern side.
'Early here, sir,' said the man, who was tall, and dressed in a
dark green slop, and had all the appearance of a shepherd; 'a
traveller, I suppose?'
'Yes,' said I, 'I am a traveller; are these sheep yours?'
'They are, sir; that is, they are my master's. A strange place
this, sir,' said he, looking at the stones; 'ever here before?'
'Never in body, frequently in mind.'
'Heard of the stones, I suppose; no wonder - all the people of the
plain talk of them.'
'What do the people of the plain say of them?'
'Why, they say - How did they ever come here?'
'Do they not suppose them to have been brought?'
'Who should have brought them?'
'I have read that they were brought by many thousand men.'
'Where from?'
'How did they bring them?'
'I don't know.'
'And what did they bring them for?'
'To form a temple, perhaps.'
'What is that?'
'A place to worship God in.'
'A strange place to worship God in.'
'It has no roof.'
'Yes, it has.'
'Where?' said the man, looking up.

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