William Makepeace Thackeray
Part 7 out of 7
'Why go, Redmond?' said my wife. 'I am happy here, as long as you
are kind to me, as you are now. We can't appear in London as we
ought; the little money you will get will be spent, like all the
rest has been. Let us turn shepherd and shepherdess, and look to our
flocks and be content.' And she took my hand and kissed it; while my
mother only said, 'Humph! I believe she's at the bottom of it--the
I told my wife she was a fool; bade Mrs. Barry not be uneasy, and
was hot upon going: I would take no denial from either party. How I
was to get the money to go was the question; but that was solved by
my good mother, who was always ready to help me on a pinch, and who
produced sixty guineas from a stocking. This was all the ready money
that Barry Lyndon, of Castle Lyndon, and married to a fortune of
forty thousand a year, could command: such had been the havoc made
in this fine fortune by my own extravagance (as I must confess), but
chiefly by my misplaced confidence and the rascality of others.
We did not start in state, you may be sure. We did not let the
country know we were going, or leave notice of adieu with our
neighbours. The famous Mr. Barry Lyndon and his noble wife travelled
in a hack-chaise and pair to Waterford, under the name of Mr. and
Mrs. Jones, and thence took shipping for Bristol, where we arrived
quite without accident. When a man is going to the deuce, how easy
and pleasant the journey is! The thought of the money quite put me
in a good humour, and my wife, as she lay on my shoulder in the
post-chaise going to London, said it was the happiest ride she had
taken since our marriage.
One night we stayed at Reading, whence I despatched a note to my
agent at Gray's Inn, saying I would be with him during the day, and
begging him to procure me a lodging, and to hasten the preparations
for the loan. My Lady and I agreed that we would go to France, and
wait there for better times; and that night, over our supper, formed
a score of plans both for pleasure and retrenchment. You would have
thought it was Darby and Joan together over their supper. O woman!
woman! when I recollect Lady Lyndon's smiles and blandishments--how
happy she seemed to be on that night! what an air of innocent
confidence appeared in her behaviour, and what affectionate names
she called me!--I am lost in wonder at the depth of her hypocrisy.
Who can be surprised that an unsuspecting person like myself should
have been a victim to such a consummate deceiver!
We were in London at three o'clock, and half-an-hour before the time
appointed our chaise drove to Gray's Inn. I easily found out Mr.
Tapewell's apartments--a gloomy den it was, and in an unlucky hour I
entered it! As we went up the dirty back-stair, lighted by a feeble
lamp and the dim sky of a dismal London afternoon, my wife seemed
agitated and faint.
'Redmond,' said she, as we got up to the door, 'don't go in: I am
sure there is danger. There's time yet; let us go back--to Ireland--
anywhere!' And she put herself before the door, in one of her
theatrical attitudes, and took my hand.
I just pushed her away to one side. 'Lady Lyndon,' said I, 'you are
an old fool!'
'Old fool!' said she; and she jumped at the bell, which was quickly
answered by a mouldy-looking gentleman in an unpowdered wig, to whom
she cried, 'Say Lady Lyndon is here;' and stalked down the passage
muttering 'Old fool.' It was 'OLD' which was the epithet that
touched her. I might call her anything but that.
Mr. Tapewell was in his musty room, surrounded by his parchments and
tin boxes. He advanced and bowed; begged her Ladyship to be seated;
pointed towards a chair for me, which I took, rather wondering at
his insolence; and then retreated to a side-door, saying he would be
back in one moment.
And back he DID come in one moment, bringing with him--whom do you
think? Another lawyer, six constables in red waistcoats with
bludgeons and pistols, my Lord George Poynings, and his aunt Lady
When my Lady Lyndon saw her old flame, she flung herself into his
arms in an hysterical passion. She called him her saviour, her
preserver, her gallant knight; and then, turning round to me, poured
out a flood of invective which quite astonished me.
'Old fool as I am,' said she, 'I have outwitted the most crafty and
treacherous monster under the sun. Yes, I WAS a fool when I married
you, and gave up other and nobler hearts for your sake--yes, I was a
fool when I forgot my name and lineage to unite myself with a base-
born adventurer--a fool to bear, without repining, the most
monstrous tyranny that ever woman suffered; to allow my property to
be squandered; to see women, as base and low-born as yourself'--
'For Heaven's sake, be calm!' cries the lawyer; and then bounded
back behind the constables, seeing a threatening look in my eye
which the rascal did not like. Indeed. I could have torn him to
pieces, had he come near me. Meanwhile, my Lady continued in a
strain of incoherent fury; screaming against me, and against my
mother especially, upon whom she heaped abuse worthy of
Billingsgate, and always beginning and ending the sentence with the
'You don't tell all, my Lady,' says I bitterly; 'I said OLD fool.'
'I have no doubt you said and did, sir, everything that a blackguard
could say or do,' interposed little Poynings. 'This lady is now safe
under the protection of her relations and the law, and need fear
your infamous persecutions no longer.'
'But YOU are not safe,' roared I; 'and, as sure as I am a man of
honour, and have tasted your blood once, I will have your heart's
'Take down his words, constables: swear the peace against him!'
screamed the little lawyer, from behind his tipstaffs.
'I would not sully my sword with the blood of such a ruffian,' cried
my Lord, relying on the same doughty protection. 'If the scoundrel
remains in London another day, he will be seized as a common
swindler.' And this threat indeed made me wince; for I knew that
there were scores of writs out against me in town, and that once in
prison my case was hopeless.
'Where's the man will seize me!' shouted I, drawing my sword, and
placing my back to the door. 'Let the scoundrel come. You--you
cowardly braggart, come first, if you have the soul of a man!'
'We're not going to seize you!' said the lawyer; my Ladyship, her
aunt, and a division of the bailiffs moving off as he spoke. 'My
dear sir, we don't wish to seize you: we will give you a handsome
sum to leave the country; only leave her Ladyship in peace!'
'And the country will be well rid of such a villain!' says my Lord,
retreating too, and not sorry to get out of my reach: and the
scoundrel of a lawyer followed him, leaving me in possession of the
apartment, and in company of the bullies from the police-office, who
were all armed to the teeth. I was no longer the man I was at
twenty, when I should have charged the ruffians sword in hand, and
have sent at least one of them to his account. I was broken in
spirit; regularly caught in the toils: utterly baffled and beaten by
that woman. Was she relenting at the door, when she paused and
begged me turn back? Had she not a lingering love for me still? Her
conduct showed it, as I came to reflect on it. It was my only chance
now left in the world, so I put down my sword upon the lawyer's
'Gentlemen,' said I, 'I shall use no violence; you may tell Mr.
Tapewell I am quite ready to speak with him when he is at leisure!'
and I sat down and folded my arms quite peaceably. What a change
from the Barry Lyndon of old days! but, as I have read in an old
book about Hannibal the Carthaginian general, when he invaded the
Romans, his troops, which were the most gallant in the world, and
carried all before them, went into cantonments in some city where
they were so sated with the luxuries and pleasures of life, that
they were easily beaten in the next campaign. It was so with me now.
My strength of mind and body were no longer those of the brave youth
who shot his man at fifteen, and fought a score of battles within
six years afterwards. Now, in the Fleet Prison, where I write this,
there is a small man who is always jeering me and making game of me;
who asks me to fight, and I haven't the courage to touch him. But I
am anticipating the gloomy and wretched events of my history of
humiliation, and had better proceed in order.
I took a lodging in a coffee-house near Gray's Inn; taking care to
inform Mr. Tapewell of my whereabouts, and anxiously expecting a
visit from him. He came and brought me the terms which Lady Lyndon's
friends proposed-a paltry annuity of L300 a year; to be paid on the
condition of my remaining abroad out of the three kingdoms, and to
be stopped on the instant of my return. He told me what I very well
knew, that my stay in London would infallibly plunge me in gaol;
that there were writs innumerable taken out against me here, and in
the West of England; that my credit was so blown upon that I could
not hope to raise a shilling; and he left me a night to consider of
his proposal; saying that, if I refused it, the family would
proceed: if I acceded, a quarter's salary should be paid to me at
any foreign port I should prefer.
What was the poor, lonely, and broken-hearted man to do? I took the
annuity, and was declared outlaw in the course of next week. The
rascal Quin had, I found, been, after all, the cause of my undoing.
It was he devised the scheme for bringing me up to London; sealing
the attorney's letter with a seal which had been agreed upon between
him and the Countess formerly: indeed he had always been for trying
the plan, and had proposed it at first; but her Ladyship, with her
inordinate love of romance, preferred the project of elopement. Of
these points my mother wrote me word in my lonely exile, offering at
the same time to come over and share it with me; which proposal I
declined. She left Castle Lyndon a very short time after I had
quitted it; and there was silence in that hall where, under my
authority, had been exhibited so much hospitality and splendour. She
thought she would never see me again, and bitterly reproached me for
neglecting her; but she was mistaken in that, and in her estimate of
me. She is very old, and is sitting by my side at this moment in the
prison, working: she has a bedroom in Fleet Market over the way;
and, with the fifty-pound annuity, which she has kept with a wise
prudence, we manage to eke out a miserable existence, quite unworthy
of the famous and fashionable Barry Lyndon.
Mr. Barry Lyndon's personal narrative finishes here, for the hand
of death interrupted the ingenious author soon after the period at
which the Memoir was compiled; after he had lived nineteen years an
inmate of the Fleet Prison, where the prison records state he died
of delirium tremens. His mother attained a prodigious old age, and
the inhabitants of the place in her time can record with accuracy
the daily disputes which used to take place between mother and son;
until the latter, from habits of intoxication, falling into a state
of almost imbecility, was tended by his tough old parent as a baby
almost, and would cry if deprived of his necessary glass of brandy.
His life on the Continent we have not the means of following
accurately; but he appears to have resumed his former profession of
a gambler, without his former success.
He returned secretly to England, after some time, and made an
abortive attempt to extort money from Lord George Poynings, under a
threat of publishing his correspondence with Lady Lyndon, and so
preventing his Lordship's match with Miss Driver, a great heiress,
of strict principles, and immense property in slaves in the West
Indies. Barry narrowly escaped being taken prisoner by the bailiffs
who were despatched after him by his lordship, who would have
stopped his pension; but Lady Lyndon would never consent to that act
of justice, and, indeed, broke with my Lord George the very moment
he married the West India lady.
The fact is, the old Countess thought her charms were perennial, and
was never out of love with her husband. She was living at Bath; her
property being carefully nursed by her noble relatives the Tiptoffs,
who were to succeed to it in default of direct heirs: and such was
the address of Barry, and the sway he still held over the woman,
that he actually had almost persuaded her to go and live with him
again; when his plan and hers was interrupted by the appearance of a
person who had been deemed dead for several years.
This was no other than Viscount Bullingdon, who started up to the
surprise of all; and especially to that of his kinsman of the house
of Tiptoff. This young nobleman made his appearance at Bath, with
the letter from Barry to Lord George in his hand; in which the
former threatened to expose his connection with Lady Lyndon--a
connection, we need not state, which did not reflect the slightest
dishonour upon either party, and only showed that her Ladyship was
in the habit of writing exceedingly foolish letters; as many ladies,
nay gentlemen, have done ere this. For calling the honour of his
mother in question, Lord Bullingdon assaulted his stepfather (living
at Bath under the name of Mr. Jones), and administered to him a
tremendous castigation in the Pump-Room.
His Lordship's history, since his departure, was a romantic one,
which we do not feel bound to narrate. He had been wounded in the
American War, reported dead, left prisoner, and escaped. The
remittances which were promised him were never sent; the thought of
the neglect almost broke the heart of the wild and romantic young
man, and he determined to remain dead to the world at least, and to
the mother who had denied him. It was in the woods of Canada, and
three years after the event had occurred, that he saw the death of
his half-brother chronicled in the Gentleman's Magazine, under the
title of 'Fatal Accident to Lord Viscount Castle Lyndon;' on which
he determined to return to England: where, though he made himself
known, it was with very great difficulty indeed that he satisfied
Lord Tiptoff of the authenticity of his claim. He was about to pay a
visit to his lady mother at Bath, when he recognised the well-known
face of Mr. Barry Lyndon, in spite of the modest disguise which that
gentleman wore, and revenged upon his person the insults of former
Lady Lyndon was furious when she heard of the rencounter; declined
to see her son, and was for rushing at once to the arms of her
adored Barry; but that gentleman had been carried off, meanwhile,
from gaol to gaol, until he was lodged in the hands of Mr. Bendigo,
of Chancery Lane, an assistant to the Sheriff of Middlesex; from
whose house he went to the Fleet Prison. The Sheriff and his
assistant, the prisoner, nay, the prison itself, are now no more.
As long as Lady Lyndon lived, Barry enjoyed his income, and was
perhaps as happy in prison as at any period of his existence; when
her Ladyship died, her successor sternly cut off the annuity,
devoting the sum to charities: which, he said, would make a nobler
use of it than the scoundrel who had enjoyed it hitherto. At his
Lordship's death, in the Spanish campaign, in the year 1811, his
estate fell in to the family of the Tiptoffs, and his title merged
in their superior rank; but it does not appear that the Marquis of
Tiptoff (Lord George succeeded to the title on the demise of his
brother) renewed either the pension of Mr. Barry or the charities
which the late lord had endowed. The estate has vastly improved
under his Lordship's careful management. The trees in Hackton Park
are all about forty years old, and the Irish property is rented in
exceedingly small farms to the peasantry; who still entertain the
stranger with stories of the daring and the devilry, and the
wickedness and the fall of Barry Lyndon.
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