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» » Thackeray, W. M.: Some Roundabout Papers
Thackeray, W. M.: Some Roundabout Papers Library (библиотека) 

Some Roundabout Papers, by W. M. Thackeray


ON SOME CARP AT SANS SOUCI

We have lately made the acquaintance of an old lady of ninety,
who has passed the last twenty-five years of her old life in a
great metropolitan establishment, the workhouse, namely, of the
parish of Saint Lazarus. Stay -- twenty-three or four years ago,
she came out once, and thought to earn a little money by hop-
picking; but being overworked, and having to lie out at night,
she got a palsy which has incapacitated her from all further
labour, and has caused her poor old limbs to shake ever since.

An illustration of that dismal proverb which tells us how poverty
makes us acquainted with strange bed-fellows, this poor old
shaking body has to lay herself down every night in her workhouse
bed by the side of some other old woman with whom she may or may
not agree. She herself can't be a very pleasant bed-fellow, poor
thing! with her shaking old limbs and cold feet. She lies awake
a deal of the night, to be sure, not thinking of happy old times,
for hers never were happy; but sleepless with aches, and agues,
and rheumatism of old age. "The gentleman gave me brandy-and-
water," she said, her old voice shaking with rapture at the
thought. I never had a great love for Queen Charlotte, but I
like her better now from what this old lady told me. The Queen,
who loved snuff herself, has left a legacy of snuff to certain
poorhouses; and, in her watchful nights, this old woman takes a
pinch of Queen Charlotte's snuff, "and it do comfort me, sir,
that it do!" Pulveris exigui munus. Here is a forlorn aged
creature, shaking with palsy, with no soul among the great
struggling multitude of mankind to care for her, not quite
trampled out of life, but past and forgotten in the rush, made a
little happy, and soothed in her hours of unrest by this penny
legacy. Let me think as I write. (The next month's sermon,
thank goodness! is safe to press.) This discourse will appear at
the season when I have read that wassail-bowls make their
appearance; at the season of pantomime, turkey and sausages,
plum-puddings, jollifications for schoolboys; Christmas bills,
and reminiscences more or less sad and sweet for elders. If we
oldsters are not merry, we shall be having a semblance of
merriment. We shall see the young folks laughing round the
holly-bush. We shall pass the bottle round cosily as we sit by
the fire. That old thing will have a sort of festival too.
Beef, beer, and pudding will be served to her for that day also.
Christmas falls on a Thursday. Friday is the workhouse day for
coming out. Mary, remember that old Goody Twoshoes has her
invitation for Friday, 26th December! Ninety is she, poor old
soul? Ah! what a bonny face to catch under a mistletoe! "Yes,
ninety, sir," she says, "and my mother was a hundred, and my
grandmother was a hundred and two."

Herself ninety, her mother a hundred, her grandmother a hundred
and two? What a queer calculation!

Ninety! Very good, granny: you were born, then, in 1772.

Your mother, we will say, was twenty-seven when you were born,
and was born therefore in 1745.

Your grandmother was thirty-five when her daughter was born, and
was born therefore in 1710.

We will begin with the present granny first. My good old
creature, you can't of course remember, but that little gentleman
for whom you mother was laundress in the Temple was the ingenious
Mr Goldsmith, author of a "History of England," the "Vicar of
Wakefield," and many diverting pieces. You were brought almost
an infant to his chambers in Brick Court, and he gave you some
sugar-candy, for the doctor was always good to children. That
gentleman who well-nigh smothered you by sitting down on you as
you lay in a chair asleep was the learned Mr S. Johnson, whose
history of "Rasselas" you have never read, my pour soul; and
whose tragedy of "Irene" I don't believe any man in these
kingdoms ever perused. That tipsy Scotch gentleman who used to
come to the chambers sometimes, and at whom everybody laughed,
wrote a more amusing book than any of the scholars, your Mr Burke
and your Mr Johnson, and your Dr Goldsmith. Your father often
took him home in a chair to his lodgings; and has done as much
for Parson Sterne in Bond Street, the famous wit. Of course, my
good creature, you remember the Gordon Riots, and crying No
Popery before Mr Langdale's house, the Popish distiller's, and
that bonny fire of my Lord Mansfield's books in Bloomsbury
Square? Bless us, what a heap of illuminations you have seen!
For the glorious victory over the Americans at Breed's Hill; for
the peace in 1814, and the beautiful Chinese bridge in St James's
Park; for the coronation of his Majesty, whom you recollect as
Prince of Wales, Goody, don't you? Yes; and you went in a
procession of laundresses to pay your respects to his good lady,
the injured Queen of England, at Brandenburg House; and you
remember your mother told you how she was taken to see the Scotch
lords executed at the Tower. And as for your grandmother, she
was born five months after the battle of Malplaquet, she was;
where her poor father was killed, fighting like a bold Briton for
the Queen. With the help of a "Wade's Chronology," I can make
out ever so queer a history for you, my poor old body, and a
pedigree as authentic as many in the peerage-books.

Peerage-books and pedigrees? What does she know about them?
Battles and victories, treasons, kings, and beheadings, literary
gentlemen, and the like, what have they ever been to her?
Granny, did you ever hear of General Wolfe? Your mother may have
seen him embark, and your father may have carried a musket under
him. Your grandmother may have cried huzza for Marlborough; but
what is the Prince Duke to you, and did you ever so much as hear
tell of his name? How many hundred or thousand of years had that
toad lived who was in the coal at the defunct exhibition? -- and
yet he was not a bit better informed than toads seven or eight
hundred years younger.

"Don't talk to me your nonsense about Exhibitions, and Prince
Dukes, and toads in coals, or coals in toads, or what is it?"
says granny. "I know there was a good Queen Charlotte, for she
left me snuff; and it comforts me of a night when I lie awake."

To me there is something very touching in the notion of that
little pinch of comfort doled out to granny, and gratefully
inhaled by her in the darkness. Don't you remember what
traditions there used to be of chests of plate, bulses of
diamonds, laces of inestimable value, sent out of the country
privately by the old Queen, to enrich certain relatives in M-ckl-
nb-rg Str-l-tz? Not all the treasure went. Non omnis moritur.
A poor old palsied thing at midnight is made happy sometimes as
she lifts her shaking old hand to her nose. Gliding noiselessly
among the beds where lie the poor creatures huddled in their
cheerless dormitory, I fancy an old ghost with a snuff-box that
does not creak. "There, Goody, take of my rappee. You will not
sneeze, and I shall not say 'God bless you.' But you will think
kindly of old Queen Charlotte, won't you? Ah! I had a many
troubles, a many troubles. I was a prisoner almost so much as
you are. I had to eat boiled mutton every day: entre nous, I
abominated it. But I never complained. I swallowed it. I made
the best of a hard life. We have all our burdens to bear. But
hark! I hear the cock-crow, and snuff the morning air." And
with this the royal ghost vanishes up the chimney -- if there be
a chimney in that dismal harem, where poor old Twoshoes and her
companions pass their nights -- their dreary nights, their
restless nights, their cold long nights, shared in what glum
companionship, illumined by what a feeble taper!

"Did I understand you, my good Twoshoes, to say that your mother
was seven-and-twenty years old when you were born, and that she
married your esteemed father when she herself was twenty-five?
1745, then, was the date of your dear mother's birth. I daresay
her father was absent in the Low Countries, with his Royal
Highness the Duke of Cumberland, under whom he had the honour of
carrying a halberd at the famous engagement of Fontenoy -- or if
not there, he may have been at Preston Pans, under General Sir
John Cope, when the wild Highlanders broke through all the laws
of discipline and the English lines; and, being on the spot, did
he see the famous ghost which didn't appear to Colonel Gardner of
the Dragoons? My good creature, is it possible you don't
remember that Doctor Swift, Sir Robert Walpole (my Lord Orford,
as you justly say), old Sarah Marlborough, and little Mr Pope, of
Twitnam, died in the year of your birth? What a wretched memory
you have! What? haven't they a library, and the commonest books
of reference at the old convent of Saint Lazarus, where you
dwell?"

"Convent of Saint Lazarus, Prince William, Dr Swift, Atossa, and
Mr Pope, of Twitnam! What is the gentleman talking about?" says
old goody, with a "Ho! ho!" and a laugh like a old parrot -- you
know they live to be as old as Methuselah, parrots do, and a
parrot of a hundred is comparatively young (ho! ho! ho!). Yes,
and likewise carps live to an immense old age. Some which
Frederick the Great fed at Sans Souci are there now, with great
humps of blue mould on their old backs; and they could tell all
sorts of queer stories, if they chose to speak -- but they are
very silent, carps are -- of their nature peu communicatives.
Oh! what has been thy long life, old goody, but a dole of bread
and water and a perch on a cage; a dreary swim round and round a
Lethe of a pond? What are Rossbach or Jena to those mouldy ones,
and do they know it is a grandchild of England who brings bread
to feed them?

No! Those Sans Souci carps may live to be a thousand years old
and have nothing to tell but that one day is like another; and
the history of friend Goody Twoshoes has not much more variety
than theirs. Hard labour, hard fare, hard bed, numbing cold all
night, and gnawing hunger most days. That is her lot. Is it
lawful in my prayers to say, "Thank heaven, I am not as one of
these"? If I were eighty, would I like to feel the hunger always
gnawing, gnawing? to have to get up and make a bow when Mr Bumble
the beadle entered the common room? to have to listen to Miss
Prim, who came to give me her ideas of the next world? If I were
eighty, I own I should not like to have to sleep with another
gentleman of my own age, gouty, a bad sleeper, kicking in his old
dreams, and snoring; to march down my vale of years at word of
command, accommodating my tottering old steps to those of the
other prisoners in my dingy, hopeless old gang; to hold out a
trembling hand for a sickly pittance of gruel, and say, "Thank
you, ma'am," to Miss Prim, when she has done reading her sermon.
John! when Goody Twoshoes comes next Friday, I desire she may not
be disturbed by theological controversies. You have a fair
voice, and I heard you and the maids singing a hymn very sweetly
the other night, and was thankful that our humble household
should be in such harmony. Poor old Twoshoes is so old and
toothless and quaky, that she can't sing a bit; but don't be
giving yourself airs over her, because she can't sing and you
can. Make her comfortable at our kitchen hearth. Set that old
kettle to sing by our hob. Warm her old stomach with nut-brown
ale and a toast laid in the fire. Be kind to the poor old
school-girl of ninety, who has had leave to come out for a day of
Christmas holiday. Shall there be many more Christmases for
thee? Think of the ninety she has seen already; the fourscore
and ten cold, cheerless, nipping New Years!

If you were in her place, would you like to have a remembrance of
better early days, when you were young and happy, and loving,
perhaps; or would you prefer to have no past on which your mind
could rest? About the year 1788, Goody, were your cheeks rosy,
and your eyes bright, and did some young fellow in powder and a
pigtail look in them? We may grow old, but to us some stories
never are old. On a sudden they rise up, not dead, but living --
not forgotten, but freshly remembered. The eyes gleam on us as
they used to do. The dear voice thrills in our hearts. The
rapture of the meeting, the terrible, terrible parting, again and
again the tragedy is acted over. Yesterday, in the street, I saw
a pair of eyes so like two which used to brighten at my coming
once, that the whole past came back as I walked lonely, in the
rush of the Strand, and I was young again in the midst of joys
and sorrows, alike sweet and sad, alike sacred and fondly
remembered.

If I tell a tale out of school, will any harm come to my old
school-girl? Once, a lady gave her a half-sovereign, which was a
source of great pain and anxiety to Goody Twoshoes. She sewed it
away in her old stays somewhere, thinking here at least was a
safe investment -- (vestis -- a vest -- an investment, -- pardon
me, thou poor old thing, but I cannot help the pleasantry). And
what do you think? Another pensionnaire of the establishment cut
the coin out of Goody's stays -- an old woman who went upon two
crutches! Faugh, the old witch! What? Violence amongst these
toothless, tottering, trembling, feeble ones? Robbery amongst
the penniless? Dogs coming and snatching Lazarus's crumbs out of
his lap? Ah, how indignant Goody was as she told the story! To
that pond at Potsdam where the carps live for hundreds of
hundreds of years, with hunches of blue mould on their back, I
daresay the little Prince and Princess of Preussen-Britannien
come sometimes with crumbs and cakes to feed the mouldy ones.
Those eyes may have goggled from beneath the weeds at Napoleon's
jack-boots: they have seen Frederick's lean shanks reflected in
their pool; and perhaps Monsieur de Voltaire has fed them, and
now for a crumb of biscuit they will fight, push, hustle, rob,
squabble, gobble, relapsing into their tranquillity when the
ignoble struggle is over. Sans souci, indeed! It is mighty well
writing "Sans souci" over the gate; but where is the gate
through which Care has not slipped? She perches on the shoulders
of the sentry in the sentry-box: she whispers the porter
sleeping in his arm-chair: she glides up the staircase, and lies
down between the king and queen in their bed-royal: this very
night I daresay she will perch upon poor old Goody Twoshoes'
meagre bolster, and whisper, "Will the gentleman and those ladies
ask me again! No, no; they will forget poor old Twoshoes."
Goody! For shame of yourself! Do not be cynical. Do not
mistrust your fellow-creatures. What? Has the Christmas morning
dawned upon thee ninety times? For four-score and ten years has
it been thy lot to totter on this earth, hungry and obscure?
Peace and goodwill to thee, let us say at this Christmas season.
Come, drink, eat, rest awhile at our hearth, thou poor old
pilgrim! And of the bread which God's bounty gives us, I pray,
brother reader, we may not forget to set aside a part for those
noble and silent poor, from whose innocent hands war has torn the
means of labour. Enough! As I hope for beef at Christmas, I vow
a note shall be sent to Saint Lazarus Union House, in which Mr
Roundabout requests the honour of Mrs Twoshoes' company on
Friday, 26th December.



DE JUVENTUTE



We who lived before railways, and survive out of the ancient
world, are like Father Noah and his family out of the Ark. The
children will gather round and say to us patriarchs, "Tell us,
grandpapa, about the old world." And we shall mumble our old
stories; and we shall drop off one by one; and there will be
fewer and fewer of us, and these very old and feeble. There will
be but ten prae-railroadites left: then three -- then two --
then one -- then 0! If the hippopotamus had the least
sensibility (of which I cannot trace any signs either in his hide
or his face), I think he would go down to the bottom of his tank,
and never come up again. Does he not see that he belongs to
bygone ages, and that his great hulking barrel of a body is out
of place in these times? What has he in common with the brisk
young life surrounding him? In the watches of the night, when
the keepers are asleep, when the birds are on one leg, when even
the little armadillo is quiet, and the monkeys have ceased their
chatter, he -- I mean the hippopotamus -- and the elephant, and
the long-necked giraffe, perhaps may lay their heads together and
have a colloquy about the great silent antediluvian world which
they remember, where mighty monsters floundered through the ooze,
crocodiles basked on the banks, and dragons darted out of the
caves and waters before men were made to slay them. We who lived
before railways are antediluvians -- we must pass away. We are
growing scarcer every day; and old -- old -- very old relicts of
the times when George was still fighting the Dragon.

Not long since, a company of horseriders paid a visit to our
watering-place. We went to see them, and I bethought me that
young Walter Juvenis, who was in the place, might like also to
witness the performance. A pantomime is not always amusing to
persons who have attained a certain age; but a boy at a
pantomime is always amused and amusing, and to see his pleasure
is good for most hypochondriacs.

We sent to Walter's mother, requesting that he might join us, and
the kind lady replied that the boy had already been at the
morning performance of the equestrians, but was most eager to go
in the evening likewise. And go he did; and laughed at all Mr
Merryman's remarks, though he remembered them with remarkable
accuracy, and insisted upon waiting to the very end of the fun,
and was only induced to retire just before its conclusion by
representations that the ladies of the party would be incommoded
if they were to wait and undergo the rush and trample of the
crowd round about. When this fact was pointed out to him, he
yielded at once, though with a heavy heart, his eyes looking
longingly towards the ring as we retreated out of the booth. We
were scarcely clear of the place, when we heard "God save the
Queen," played by the equestrian band, the signal that all was
over. Our companion entertained us with scraps of the dialogue
on our way home -- precious crumbs of wit which he had brought
away from that feast. He laughed over them again as he walked
under the stars. He has them now, and takes them out of the
pocket of his memory, and crunches a bit, and relishes it with a
sentimental tenderness, too, for he is, no doubt, back at school
by this time; the holidays are over; and Doctor Birch's young
friends have reassembled.

Queer jokes, which caused a thousand simple mouths to grin! As
the jaded Merryman uttered them to the old gentleman with the
whip, some of the old folks in the audience, I daresay, indulged
in reflections of their own. There was one joke -- I utterly
forget it -- but it began with Merryman saying what he had for
dinner. He had mutton for dinner, at one o'clock, after which
"he had to come to business." And then came the point. Walter
Juvenis, Esq., Rev. Doctor Birch's, Market Rodborough, if you
read this, will you please send me a line, and let me know what
was the joke Mr Merryman made about having his dinner? You
remember well enough. But do I want to know? Suppose a boy
takes a favourite, long-cherished lump of cake out of his pocket,
and offers you a bit? Merci! The fact is, I don't care much
about knowing that joke of Mr Merryman's.

But whilst he was talking about his dinner, and his mutton, and
his landlord, and his business, I felt a great interest about Mr
M. in private life -- about his wife, lodgings, earnings, and
general history, and I daresay was forming a picture of those in
my mind: -- wife cooking the mutton; children waiting for it;
Merryman in his plain clothes, and so forth; during which
contemplation the joke was uttered and laughed at, and Mr M.,
resuming his professional duties, was tumbling over head and
heels. Do not suppose I am going, sicut est mos, to indulge in
moralities about buffoons, paint, motley, and mountebanking.
Nay, Prime Ministers rehearse their jokes; Opposition leaders
prepare and polish them: Tabernacle preachers must arrange them
in their minds before they utter them. All I mean is, that I
would like to know any one of these performers thoroughly, and
out of his uniform: that preacher, and why in his travels this
and that point struck him; wherein lies his power of pathos,
humour, eloquence; -- that Minister of State, and what moves
him, and how his private heart is working; -- I would only say
that, at a certain time of life certain things cease to interest:
but about some things when we cease to care, what will be the use
of life, sight, hearing? Poems are written, and we cease to
admire. Lady Jones invites us, and we yawn; she ceases to
invite us, and we are resigned. The last time I saw a ballet at
the opera -- oh! it is many years ago -- I fell asleep in the
stalls, wagging my head in insane dreams, and I hope affording
amusement to the company, while the feet of five hundred nymphs
were cutting flicflacs on the stage at a few paces distant. Ah,
I remember a different state of things! Credite posteri. To see
these nymphs -- gracious powers, how beautiful they were! That
leering, painted, shrivelled, thin-armed, thick-ankled old thing,
cutting dreary capers, coming thumping down on her board out of
time -- that an opera-dancer? Pooh! My dear Walter, the great
difference between my time and yours, who will enter life some
two or three years hence, is that, now, the dancing women and
singing women are ludicrously old, out of time, and out of tune;
the paint is so visible, and the dinge and wrinkles of their
wretched old cotton stockings, that I am surprised how anybody
can like to look at them. And as for laughing at me for falling
asleep, I can't understand a man of sense doing otherwise. In my
time, a la bonne heure. In the reign of George IV., I give you
my honour, all the dancers at the opera were as beautiful as
Houris. Even in William IV.'s time, when I think of Duvernay
prancing in as the Bayadere, -- I say it was a vision of
loveliness such as mortal eyes can't see nowadays. How well I
remember the tune to which she used to appear! Kaled used to say
to the Sultan, "My lord, a troop of those dancing and singing
gurls called Bayaderes approaches," and, to the clash of cymbals,
and the thumping of my heart, in she used to dance! There has
never been anything like it -- never. There never will be -- I
laugh to scorn old people who tell me about your Noblet, your
Montessu, your Vistris, your Parisot -- pshaw, the senile
twaddlers! And the impudence of the young men, with their music
and their dancers of to-day! I tell you the women are dreary old
creatures. I tell you one air in an opera is just like another,
and they send all rational creatures to sleep. Ah, Ronzi de
Begnis, thou lovely one! Ah, Caradori, thou smiling angel! Ah,
Malibran! Nay, I will come to modern times, and acknowledge that
Lablache was a very good singer thirty years ago (though Porto
was the boy for me): and they we had Ambrogetti, and Curioni,
and Donzelli, a rising young singer.

But what is most certain and lamentable is the decay of stage
beauty since the days of George IV. Think of Sontag! I remember
her in Otello and the Donna del Lago in `28. I remember being
behind the scenes at the opera (where numbers of us young fellows
of fashion used to go), and seeing Sontag let her hair fall down
over her shoulders previous to her murder by Donzelli. Young
fellows have never seen beauty like that, heard such a voice,
seen such hair, such eyes. Don't tell me! A man who has been
about town since the reign of George IV., ought he not to know
better than you young lads who have seen nothing? The
deterioration of women is lamentable; and the conceit of the
young fellows more lamentable still, that they won't see this
fact, but persist in thinking their time as good as ours.

Bless me! when I was a lad, the stage was covered with angels,
who sang, acted, and danced. When I remember the Adelphi, and
the actresses there: when I think of Miss Chester, and Miss
Love, and Mrs Serle at Sadler's Wells, and her forty glorious
pupils -- of the Opera and Noblet, and the exquisite young
Taglioni, and Pauline Leroux, and a host more! One much-admired
being of those days I confess I never cared for, and that was the
chief male dancer -- a very important personage then, with a bare
neck, bare arms, a tunic, and a hat and feathers, who used to
divide the applause with the ladies, and who has now sunk down a
trap-door for ever. And this frank admission ought to show that
I am not your mere twaddling laudator temporis acti -- your old
fogey who can see no good except in his own time.

They say that claret is better nowadays, and cookery much
improved since the days of my monarch -- of George IV. Pastry
Cookery is certainly not so good. I have often eaten half-a-
crown's worth (including, I trust, ginger-beer) at our school
pastrycook's, and that is a proof that the pastry must have been
very good, for could I do as much now? I passed by the
pastrycook's shop lately, having occasion to visit my old school.
It looked a very dingy old baker's; misfortunes may have come
over him -- those penny tarts certainly did not look so nice as I
remember them: but he may have grown careless as he has grown
old (I should judge him to be now about ninety-six years of age),
and his hand may have lost its cunning.

Not that we were not great epicures. I remember how we
constantly grumbled at the quantity of the food in our master's
house -- which on my conscience I believe was excellent and
plentiful -- and how we tried once or twice to eat him out of
house and home. At the pastrycook's we may have over-eaten
ourselves (I have admitted half-a-crown's worth for my own part,
but I don't like to mention the real figure for fear of
perverting the present generation of boys by my monstrous
confession) -- we may have eaten too much, I say. We did; but
what then? The school apothecary was sent for: a couple of
small globules at night, a trifling preparation of senna in the
morning, and we had not to go to school, so that the draught was
an actual pleasure.

For our amusements, besides the games in vogue, which were pretty
much in old times as they are now (except cricket par exemple --
and I wish the present youth joy of their bowling, and suppose
Armstrong and Whitworth will bowl at them with light field-pieces
next), there were novels -- ah! I trouble you to find such novels
in the present day! O Scottish Chiefs, didn't we weep over you!
O Mysteries of Udolpho, didn't I and Briggs Minor draw pictures
out of you, as I have said? Efforts, feeble indeed, but still
giving pleasure to us and our friends. "I say, old boy, draw us
Vivaldi tortured in the Inquisition," or, "Draw us Don Quixote
and the windmills, you know," amateurs would say, to boys who had
a love of drawing. "Peregrine Pickle" we liked, our fathers
admiring it, and telling us (the sly old boys) it was capital
fun; but I think I was rather bewildered by it, though "Roderick
Random" was and remains delightful. I don't remember having
Sterne in the school library, no doubt because the works of that
divine were not considered decent for young people. Ah! not
against thy genius, O father of Uncle Toby and Trim, would I say
a word in disrespect. But I am thankful to live in times when
men no longer have the temptation to write so as to call blushes
on women's cheeks, and would shame to whisper wicked allusions to
honest boys. Then, above all, we had Walter Scott, the kindly,
the generous, the pure -- the companion of what countless
delightful hours; the purveyor of how much happiness; the
friend whom we recall as the constant benefactor of our youth!
How well I remember the type and the brownish paper of the old
duodecimo "Tales of My Landlord!" I have never dared to read the
"Pirate," and the "Bride of Lammermoor," or "Kenilworth," from
that day to this, because the finale is unhappy, and people die,
and are murdered at the end. But "Ivanhoe," and "Quentin
Durward"! Oh! for a half-holiday, and a quiet corner, and one of
those books again! Those books, and perhaps those eyes with
which we read them; and, it may be, the brains behind the eyes!
It may be the tart was good; but how fresh the appetite was! If
the gods would give me the desire of my heart, I should be able
to write a story which boys would relish for the next few dozen
of centuries. The boy-critic loves the story: grown up, he
loves the author who wrote the story. Hence the kindly tie is
established between writer and reader, and lasts pretty nearly
for life. I meet people now who don't care of Walter Scott, or
the "Arabian Nights"; I am sorry for them, unless they in their
time have found their romancer -- their charming Scheherazade.
By the way, Walter, when you are writing, tell me who is the
favourite novelist in the fourth form now? Have you got anything
so good and kindly as dear Miss Edgeworth's Frank? It used to
belong to a fellow's sisters generally; but though he pretended
to despise it, and said, "Oh, stuff for girls!" he read it; and
I think there were one or two passages which would try my eyes
now, were I to meet with the little book.

As for Thomas and Jeremiah (it is only my witty way of calling
Tom and Jerry), I went to the British Museum the other day on
purpose to get it; but somehow, if you will press the question
so closely, on reperusal, Tom and Jerry is not so brilliant as I
had supposed it to be. The pictures are just as fine as ever;
and I shook hands with broad-backed Jerry Hawthorn and Corinthian
Tom with delight, after many year's absence. But the style of
the writing, I own, was not pleasing to me; I even thought it a
little vulgar -- well! well! other writers have been considered
vulgar -- and as a description of the sports and amusements of
London in the ancient times, more curious than amusing.

But the pictures! -- oh! the pictures are noble still! First,
there is Jerry arriving from the country, in a green coat and
leather gaiters, and being measured for a fashionable suit at
Corinthian House, by Corinthian Tom's tailor. Then away for the
career of pleasure and fashion. The park! delicious excitement!
The theatre! the saloon!! the green-room!!! Rapturous bliss --
the opera itself! and then perhaps to Temple Bar, to knock down a
Charley there! There are Jerry and Tom, with their tights and
little cocked hats, coming from the opera -- very much as
gentlemen in waiting on royalty are habited now. There they are
at Almack's itself, amidst a crowd of high-bred personages, with
the Duke of Clarence himself looking at them dancing. Now,
strange change, they are in Tom Cribb's parlour, where they don't
seem to be a whit less at home than in fashion's gilded halls;
and now they are at Newgate, seeing the irons knocked off the
malefactors' legs previous to execution. What hardened ferocity
in the countenance of the desperado in yellow breeches! What
compunction in the face of the gentleman in black (who, I
suppose, has been forging), and who clasps his hands, and listens
to the chaplain! Now we haste away to merrier scenes: to
Tattersall's (ah gracious powers! what a funny fellow that actor
was who performed Dicky Green in that scene in the play!); and
now we are at a private party, at which Corinthian Tom is
waltzing (and very gracefully too, as you must confess) with
Corinthian Kate, whilst Bob Logic, the Oxonian, is playing on the
piano!

"After," the text says, "the Oxonian had played several pieces of
lively music, he requested as a favour that Kate and his friend
Tom would perform a waltz. Kate without any hesitation
immediately stood up. Tom offered his hand to his fascinating
partner, and the dance took place. The plate conveys a correct
representation of the `gay scene' at that precise moment. The
anxiety of the Oxonian to witness the attitudes of the elegant
pair had nearly put a stop to their movements. On turning round
from the pianoforte and presenting his comical mug, Kate could
scarcely suppress a laugh."

And no wonder; just look at it now (as I have copied it to the
best of my humble ability), and compare Master Logic's
countenance and attitude with the splendid elegance of Tom! Now
every London man is weary and blase. There is an enjoyment of
life in these young bucks of 1823 which contrasts strangely with
our feelings of 1860. Here, for instance, is a specimen of their
talk and walk, "`If,' says LOGIC -- `if enjoyment is your motto,
you may make the most of an evening at Vauxhall, more than at any
other place in the metropolis. It is all free and easy. Stay as
long as you like, and depart when you think proper.' -- `Your
description is so flattering,' replied JERRY, `that I do not care
how soon the time arrives for us to start.' LOGIC proposed a
`bit of a stroll' in order to get rid of an hour or two, which
was immediately accepted by Tom and Jerry. A turn or two in Bond
Street, a stroll through Piccadilly, a look in at TATTERSALL's, a
ramble through Pall Mall, and a strut on the Corinthian path,
fully occupied the time of our heroes until the hour for dinner
arrived, when a few glasses of TOM's rich wines soon put them on
the qui vive. VAUXHALL was then the object in view, and the TRIO
started, bent upon enjoying the pleasures which this place so
amply affords."

How nobly those inverted commas, those italics, those capitals,
bring out the writer's wit and relieve the eye! They are as good
as jokes, though you mayn't quite preceive the point. Mark the
varieties of lounge in which the young men indulge -- now a
stroll, then a look in, then a ramble, and presently a strut.
When George, Prince of Wales, was twenty, I have read in an old
Magazine, "the Prince's lounge" was a peculiar manner of walking
which the young bucks imitated. At Windsor George III. had a
cat's path -- a sly early walk which the good old king took in
the grey morning before his household was astir. What was the
Corinthian path here recorded? Does any antiquary know? And
what were the rich wines which our friends took, and which enable
them to enjoy Vauxhall? Vauxhall is gone, but the wines which
could occasion such a delightful perversion of the intellect as
to enable it to enjoy ample pleasures there, what were they?

So the game of life proceeds, until Jerry Hawthorn, the rustic,
is fairly knocked up by all this excitement and is forced to go
home, and the last picture represents him getting into the coach
at the "White Horse Cellar," he being one of six inside; whilst
his friends shake him by the hand; whilst the sailor mounts on
the roof; whilst the Jews hang round with oranges, knives, and
sealing-wax: whilst the guard is closing the door. Where are
they now, those sealing-wax vendors? where are the guards? where
are the jolly teams? where are the coaches? and where the youth
that climbed inside and out of them; that heard the merry horn
which sounds no more; that saw the sun rise over Stonehenge;
that rubbed away the bitter tears at night after parting as the
coach sped on the journey to school and London; that looked out
with beating heart as the milestones flew by, for the welcome
corner where began home and holidays.

It is night now: and here is home. Gathered under the quiet
roof elders and children lie alike at rest. In the midst of a
great peace and calm, the stars look out from the heavens. The
silence is peopled with the past; sorrowful remorses for sins
and shortcomings -- memories of passionate joys and griefs rise
out of their graves, both now alike calm and sad. Eyes, as I
shut mine, look at me, that have long ceased to shine. The town
and the fair landscape sleep under the starlight, wreathed in the
autumn mists. Twinkling among the houses a light keeps watch
here and there, in what may be a sick chamber or two. The clock
tolls sweetly in the silent air. Here is night and rest. An
awful sense of thanks makes the heart swell, and the head bow, as
I pass to my room through the sleeping house, and feel as though
a hushed blessing were upon it.



ROUND ABOUT THE CHRISTMAS TREE



The kindly Christmas tree, from which I trust every gentle reader
has pulled out a bonbon or two, is yet all aflame whilst I am
writing, and sparkles with the sweet fruits of its season. You
young ladies, may you have plucked pretty giftlings from it; and
out of the cracker sugar-plum which you have split with the
captain or the sweet young curate may you have read one of those
delicious conundrums which the confectioners introduce into the
sweetmeats, and which apply to the cunning passion of love.
Those riddles are to be read at your age, when I daresay they are
amusing. As for Dolly, Merry, and Bell, who are standing at the
tree, they don't care about the love-riddle part, but understand
the sweet-almoned portion very well. They are four, five, six
years old. Patience, little people! A dozen merry Christmases
more, and you will be reading those wonderful love-conundrums,
too. As for us elderly folks, we watch the babies at their
sport, and the young people pulling at the branches: and instead
of finding bonbons or sweeties in the packets which we pluck off
the boughs, we find enclosed Mr Carnifex's review of the
quarter's meat; Mr Sartor's compliments, and little statement
for self and the young gentlemen; and Madame de Sainte-
Crinoline's respects to the young ladies, who encloses her
account, and will sent on Saturday, please; or we stretch our
hand out to the educational branch of the Christmas tree, and
there find a lively and amusing article from the Rev. Henry
Holyshade, containing our dear Tommy's exceedingly moderate
account for the last term's school expenses.

The tree yet sparkles, I say. I am writing on the day before
Twelfth Day, if you must know; but already ever so many of the
fruits have been pulled, and the Christmas lights have gone out.
Bobby Miseltow, who has been staying with us for a week (and who
has been sleeping mysteriously in the bath-room), comes to say he
is going away to spend the rest of the holidays with his
grandmother -- and I brush away the manly tear of regret as I
part with the dear child. "Well, Bob, good-bye, since you will
go. Compliments to grandmamma. Thank her for the turkey.
Here's ----" (A slight pecuniary transaction takes place at this
juncture, and Bob nods and winks, and puts his hand in his
waistcoat pocket.) "You have had a pleasant week?"

Bob. -- "Haven't I!" (And exit, anxious to know the amount of the
coin which has just changed hands.)

He is gone, and as the dear boy vanishes through the door (behind
which I see him perfectly), I too cast up a little account of our
past Christmas week. When Bob's holidays are over, and the
printer has sent me back this manuscript, I know Christmas will
be an old story. All the fruit will be off the Christmas tree
then; the crackers will have cracked off; the almonds will have
been crunched; and the sweet-bitter riddles will have been read;
the lights will have perished off the dark green boughs; the
toys growing on them will have been distributed, fought for,
cherished, neglected, broken. Ferdinand and Fidelia will each
keep out of it (be still, my gushing heart!) the remembrance of a
riddle read together, of a double almond munched together, and of
the moiety of an exploded cracker.... The maids, I say, will have
taken down all that holly stuff and nonsense about the clocks,
lamps, and looking-glasses, the dear boys will be back at school,
fondly thinking of the pantomime fairies whom they have seen;
whose gaudy gossamer wings are battered by this time; and whose
pink cotton (or silk is it?) lower extremities are all dingy and
dusty. Yet but a few days, Bob, and flakes of paint will have
cracked off the fairy flower-bowers, and the revolving temples of
adamantine lustre will be as shabby as the city of Pekin. When
you read this, will Clown still be going on lolling his tongue
out of his mouth, and saying, "How are you to-morrow?" To-
morrow, indeed! He must be almost ashamed of himself (if that
cheek is still capable of the blush of shame) for asking the
absurd question. To-morrow, indeed! To-morrow the diffugient
snows will give place to spring; the snowdrops will lift their
heads; Ladyday may be expected, and the pecuniary duties
peculiar to that feast; in place of bonbons, trees will have an
eruption of light green knobs; the whitebait season will
bloom ... as if one need go on describing these vernal phenomena,
when Christmas is still here, though ending, and the subject of
my discourse!

We have all admired the illustrated papers, and noted how
boisterously jolly they become at Christmas time. What wassail-
bowls, robin-redbreasts, waits, snow landscapes, bursts of
Christmas song! And then to think that these festivities are
prepared months before -- that these Christmas pieces are
prophetic! How kind of artists and poets to devise the
festivities beforehand, and serve them pat at the proper time!
We ought to be grateful to them, as to the cook who gets up at
midnight and sets the pudding a-boiling, which is to feast us at
six o'clock. I often think with gratitude of the famous Mr
Nelson Lee -- the author of I don't know how many hundred
glorious pantomimes -- walking by the summer wave at Margate, or
Brighton perhaps, revolving in his mind the idea of some new
gorgeous spectacle of faery, which the winter shall see complete.
He is like cook at midnight (si parva licet). He watches and
thinks. He pounds the sparkling sugar of benevolence, the plums
of fancy, the sweetmeats of fun, the figs of -- well, the figs of
fairy fiction, let us say, and pops the whole in the seething
cauldron of imagination, and at due season serves up the
Pantomime.

Very few men in the course of nature can expect to see all the
pantomimes in one season, but I hope to the end of my life I
shall never forego reading about them in that delicious sheet of
The Times which appears on the morning after Boxing-day. Perhaps
reading is even better than seeing. The best way, I think, is to
say you are ill, lie in bed, and have the paper for two hours,
reading all the way down from Drury Lane to the Britannia at
Hoxton. Bob and I went to two pantomimes. One was at the
Theatre of Fancy, and the other at the Fairy Opera, and I don't
know which we liked the best.

At the Fancy, we saw "Harlequin Hamlet, or Daddy's Ghost and
Nunky's Pison," which is all very well -- but, gentlemen, if you
don't respect Shakspeare, to whom will you be civil? The palace
and ramparts of Elsinore by moon and snowlight is one of
Loutherbourg's finest efforts. The banqueting hall of the palace
is illuminated: the peaks and gables glitter with the snow: the
sentinels march blowing their fingers with the cold -- the
freezing of the nose of one of them is very neatly and
dexterously arranged: the snow storm rises: the winds howl
awfully along the battlements: the waves come curling, leaping,
foaming to shore. Hamlet's umbrella is whirled away in the
storm. He and his two friends stamp on each other's toes to keep
them warm. The storm-spirits rise in the air, and are whirled
howling round the palace and the rocks. My eyes! what tiles and
chimney-pots fly hurtling through the air! As the storm reaches
its height (here the wind instruments come in with prodigious
effect, and I compliment Mr Brumby and the violoncellos) -- as
the snow storm rises (queek, queek, queek, go the fiddles, and
then thrumpty thrump comes a pizzicato movement in Bob Major,
which sends a shiver into your very boot-soles), the thunder-
clouds deepen (bong, bong, bong, from the violoncellos). The
forked lightning quivers through the clouds in a zig-zag scream
of violins -- and look, look, look! as the frothing, roaring
waves come rushing up the battlements, and over the reeling
parapet, each hissing wave becomes a ghost, sends the gun-
carriages rolling over the platform, and plunges into the water
again.

Hamlet's mother comes on to the battlements to look for her son.
The storm whips her umbrella out of her hands, and she retires
screaming in pattens.

The cabs on the stand in the great market-place at Elsinore are
seen to drive off, and several people are drowned. The gas-lamps
along the street are wrenched from their foundations, and shoot
through the troubled air. Whist, rush, hish! how the rain roars
and pours! The darkness becomes awful, always deepened by the
power of the music -- and see -- in the midst of a rush, and
whirl, and scream of spirits of air and wave -- what is that
ghastly figure moving hither? It becomes bigger, bigger, as it
advances down the platform -- more ghastly, more horrible,
enormous! It is as tall as the whole stage. It seems to be
advancing on the stalls and pit, and the whole house screams with
terror, as the Ghost of the Late Hamlet comes in, and begins to
speak. Several people faint, and the light-fingered gentry pick
pockets furiously in the darkness.

In the pitchy darkness, this awful figure throwing his eyes
about, the gas in the boxes shuddering out of sight, and the
wind-instruments bugling the most horrible wails, the boldest
spectator must have felt frightened. But hark! what is that
silver shimmer of the fiddles? Is it -- can it be -- the grey
dawn peeping in the stormy east? The ghost's eyes look blankly
towards it, and roll a ghastly agony. Quicker, quicker ply the
violins of Phoebus Apollo. Redder, redder grow the orient
clouds. Cockadoodledoo! crows that great cock which has just
come out on the roof of the palace. And now the round sun
himself pops up from behind the waves of night. Where is the
ghost? He is gone! Purple shadows of morn "slant o'er the snowy
sward," the city wakes up in life and sunshine, and we confess we
are very much relieved at the disappearance of the ghost. We
don't like those dark scenes in pantomimes.

After the usual business, that Ophelia should be turned into
Columbine was to be expected; but I confess I was a little
shocked when Hamlet's mother became Pantaloon, and was instantly
knocked down by Clown Claudius. Grimaldi is getting a little old
now, but for real humour there are few clowns like him. Mr
Shuter, as the gravedigger, was chaste and comic, as he always
is, and the scene-painters surpassed themselves.

"Harlequin Conqueror and the Field of Hastings," at the other
house, is very pleasant too. The irascible William is acted with
great vigour by Snoxall, and the battle of Hastings is a good
piece of burlesque. Some trifling liberties are taken with
history, but what liberties will not the merry genius of
pantomime permit himself? At the battle of Hastings, William is
on the point of being defeated by the Sussex volunteers, very
elegantly led by the always pretty Miss Waddy (as Haco
Sharpshooter), when a shot from the Normans kills Harold. The
Fairy Edith hereupon comes forward, and finds his body, which
straightway leaps up a live harlequin, whilst the Conqueror makes
an excellent clown, and the Archbishop of Bayeux a diverting
pantaloon, &c. &c. &c.

Perhaps these are not the pantomimes we really saw; but one
description will do as well as another. The plots, you see, are
a little intricate and difficult to understand in pantomimes;
and I may have mixed up one with another. That I was at the
theatre on Boxing-night is certain -- but the pit was so full
that I could only see fairy legs glittering in the distance, as I
stood at the door. And if I was badly off, I think there was a
young gentleman behind me worse off still. I own that he has
good reason (though others have not) to speak ill of me behind my
back, and hereby beg his pardon.

Likewise to the gentleman who picked up a party in Piccadilly,
who had slipped and fallen in the snow, and was there on his
back, uttering energetic expressions: that party begs to offer
thanks, and compliments of the season.

Bob's behaviour on New Year's day, I can assure Dr Holyshade, was
highly creditable to the boy. He had expressed a determination
to partake of every dish which was put on the table; but after
soup, fish, roast-beef, and roast-goose, he retired from active
business until the pudding and mince-pies made their appearance,
of which he partook liberally, but not too freely. And he
greatly advanced in my good opinion by praising the punch, which
was of my own manufacture, and which some gentlemen present (Mr
O'M--g--n, amongst others) pronounced to be too weak. Too weak!
A bottle of rum, a bottle of Madeira, half a bottle of brandy,
and two bottles and a half of water -- can this mixture be said
to be too weak for any mortal? Our young friend amused the
company during the evening, by exhibiting a two-shilling magic-
lantern, which he had purchased, and likewise by singing "Sally,
come up!" a quaint, but rather monotonous melody, which I am told
is sung by the poor negro on the banks of the broad Mississippi.

What other enjoyments did we proffer for the child's amusement
during the Christmas week? A great philosopher was giving a
lecture to young folks at the British Institution. But when this
diversion was proposed to our young friend Bob, he said,
"Lecture? No, thank you. Not as I knows on," and made sarcastic
signals on his nose. Perhaps he is of Dr Johnson's opinion about
lectures: "Lectures, sir! what man would go to hear that
imperfectly at a lecture, which he can read at leisure in a
book?" I never went, of my own choice, to a lecture; that I can
vow. As for sermons, they are different; I delight in them, and
they cannot, of course, be too long.

Well, we partook of yet other Christmas delights besides
pantomime, pudding, and pie. One glorious, one delightful, one
most unlucky and pleasant day, we drove in a brougham, with a
famous horse, which carried us more quickly and briskly than any
of your vulgar railways, over Battersea Bridge, on which the
horse's hoofs rung as if it had been iron; through suburban
villages, plum-caked with snow; under a leaden sky, in which the
sun hung like a red-hot warming-pan; by pond after pond, where
not only men and boys, but scores after scores of women and
girls, were sliding, and roaring, and clapping their lean old
sides with laughter, as they tumbled down, and their hobnailed
shoes flew up in the air; the air frosty with a lilac haze,
through which villas, and commons, and churches, and plantations
glimmered. We drive up the hill, Bob and I; we make the last
two miles in eleven minutes; we pass that poor, armless man who
sits there in the cold, following you with his eyes. I don't
give anything, and Bob looks disappointed. We are set down
neatly at the gate, and a horse-holder opens the brougham door.
I don't give anything; again disappointment on Bob's part. I
pay a shilling apiece, and we enter into the glorious building,
which is decorated for Christmas, and straightway forgetfulness
on Bob's part of everything but that magnificent scene. The
enormous edifice is all decorated for Bob and Christmas. The
stalls, the columns, the fountains, courts, statues, splendours,
are all crowned for Christmas. The delicious negro is singing
his Alabama choruses for Christmas and Bob. He has scarcely
done, when, Tootarootatoo! Mr Punch is performing his surprising
actions, and hanging the beadle. The stalls are decorated. The
refreshment-tables are piled with good things; at many fountains
"Mulled Claret" is written up in appetizing capitals. "Mulled
Claret -- oh, jolly! How cold it is!" says Bob; I pass on.
"It's only three o'clock," says Bob. "No, only three," I say
meekly. "We dine at seven," sighs Bob, "and it's so-o-o coo-
old." I still would take no hints. No claret, no refreshment,
no sandwiches, no sausage-rolls for Bob. At last I am obliged to
tell him all. Just before we left home, a little Christmas bill
popped in at the door and emptied my purse at the threshold. I
forgot all about the transaction, and had to borrow half-a-crown
from John Coachman to pay for our entrance into the palace of
delight. Now you see, Bob, why I could not treat you on that
second of January when we drove to the palace together; when the
girls and boys were sliding on the ponds at Dulwich; when the
darkling river was full of floating ice, and the sun was like a
warming-pan in the leaden sky.

One more Christmas sight we had, of course; and that sight I
think I like as well as Bob himself at Christmas, and at all
seasons. We went to a certain garden of delight, where, whatever
your cares are, I think you can manage to forget some of them,
and muse, and be not unhappy; to a garden beginning with a Z,
which is as lively as Noah's ark; where the fox has brought his
brush, and the cock has brought his comb, and the elephant has
brought his trunk, and the kangaroo has brought his bag, and the
condor his old white wig and black satin hood. On this day it
was so cold that the white bears winked their pink eyes, as they
plapped up and down by their pool, and seemed to say, "Aha, this
weather reminds us of dear home!" "Cold! bah! I have got such a
warm coat," says brother Bruin, "I don't mind"; and he laughs on
his pole, and clucks down a bun. The squealing hyaenas gnashed
their teeth and laughed at us quite refreshingly at their window;
and, cold as it was, Tiger, Tiger, burning bright, glared at us
red-hot through his bars, and snorted blasts of hell. The woolly
camel leered at us quite kindly as he paced round his ring on his
silent pads. We went to our favourite places. Our dear wambat
came up, and had himself scratched very affably. Our fellow-
creatures in the monkey room held out their little black hands,
and piteously asked us for Christmas alms. Those darling
alligators on their rock winked at us in the most friendly way.
The solemn eagles sat alone, and scowled at us from their peaks;
whilst little Tom Ratel tumbled over head and heels for us in his
usual diverting manner. If I have cares in my mind, I come to
the Zoo, and fancy they don't pass the gate. I recognise my
friends, my enemies, in countless cages. I entertained the
eagle, the vulture, the old billy-goat, and the black-pated,
crimson-necked, blear-eyed, baggy, hook-beaked old marabou stork
yesterday at dinner; and when Bob's aunt came to tea in the
evening, and asked him what he had seen, he stepped up to her
gravely, and said --

"First I saw the white bear, then I saw the black,
Then I saw the camel with a hump upon his back.

Chorus of Children

Then I saw the camel with a HUMP upon his back!

Then I saw the grey wolf, with mutton in his maw;
Then I saw the wambat waddle in the straw;
Then I saw the elephant with his waving trunk,
Then I saw the monkeys -- mercy, how unpleasantly they -- smelt!"

There. No one can beat that piece of wit, can he Bob? And so it
is over; but we had a jolly time, whilst you were with us,
hadn't we? Present my respects to the doctor; and I hope, my
boy, we may spend another merry Christmas next year.

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