Collections and Recollections
George William Erskine Russell
Part 4 out of 7
or not, the same absolute confidence and loyalty.
As regards domestic life, we have been told by Mr. Gladstone that "even
among happy marriages her marriage was exceptional, so nearly did the
union of thought, heart, and action both fulfil the ideal and bring
duality near to the borders of identity."
And so twenty years went on, full of an ever-growing popularity, and a
purifying influence on the tone of society never fully realized till the
personal presence was withdrawn. And then came the blow which crushed
her life--"the sun going down at noon"--and total disappearance from all
festivity and parade and social splendour, but never from political
duty. In later years we have seen the gradual resumption of more public
offices; the occasional reappearances, so earnestly anticipated by her
subjects, and hedged with something of a divinity more than regal; the
incomparable majesty of personal bearing which has taught so many an
onlooker that dignity has nothing to do with height, or beauty or
splendour of raiment; and, mingled with that majesty and unspeakably
enhancing it, the human sympathy with suffering and sorrow, which has
made Queen Victoria, as none of her predecessors ever was or could be,
the Mother of her People.
And the response of the English people to that sympathy--the recognition
of that motherhood--is written, not only in the printed records of the
reign, but on the "fleshly tables" of English hearts. Let one homely
citation suffice as an illustration. It is taken from a letter of
condolence addressed to the Queen in 1892, on the death of Prince
"Eddie," Duke of Clarence:--
"_To our beloved Queen, Victoria_.
"Dear Lady,--We, the surviving widows and mothers of some of the men and
boys who lost their lives by the explosion which occurred in the Oaks
Colliery, near Barnsley, in December 1866, desire to tell your Majesty
how stunned we all feel by the cruel and unexpected blow which has taken
'Prince Eddie' from his dear Grandmother, his loving parents, his
beloved intended, and an admiring nation. The sad news affected us
deeply, we all believing that his youthful strength would carry him
through the danger. Dear Lady, we feel more than we can express. To tell
you that we sincerely condole with your Majesty and the Prince and
Princess of Wales in your and their sad bereavement and great distress
is not to tell you all we feel; but the widow of Albert the Good and the
parents of Prince Eddie will understand what we feel when we say that we
feel all that widows and mothers feel who have lost those who were dear
as life to them. Dear Lady, we remember with gratitude all that you did
for us Oaks widows in the time of our great trouble, and we cannot
forget you in yours. We have not forgotten that it was you, dear Queen,
who set the example, so promptly followed by all feeling people, of
forming a fund for the relief of our distress--a fund which kept us out
of the workhouse at the time and has kept us out ever since.... We wish
it were in our power, dear Lady, to dry up your tears and comfort you,
but that we cannot do. But what we can do, and will do, is to pray God,
in His mercy and goodness, to comfort and strengthen you in this your
time of great trouble.--Wishing your Majesty, the Prince and Princess of
Wales, and the Princess May all the strength, consolation, and comfort
which God alone can give, and which He never fails to give to all who
seek Him in truth and sincerity, we remain, beloved Queen, your loving
and grateful though sorrowing subjects,
"THE OAKS WIDOWS."
The historic associations, half gay, half sad, of the week on which we
are just entering tempt me to linger on this fascinating theme, and I
cannot illustrate it better than by quoting the concluding paragraphs
from a sermon, which now has something of the dignity of fulfilled
prophecy, and which was preached by Sydney Smith in St. Paul's Cathedral
on the Sunday after the Queen's accession.
The sermon is throughout a noble composition, grandly conceived and
admirably expressed. It begins with some grave reflections on the "folly
and nothingness of all things human" as exemplified by the death of a
king. It goes on to enforce on the young Queen the paramount duties of
educating her people, avoiding war, and cultivating personal religion.
It concludes with the following passage, which in its letter, or at
least in its spirit, might well find a place in some of to-morrow's
sermons:--"The Patriot Queen, whom I am painting, reverences the
National Church, frequents its worship, and regulates her faith by its
precepts; but she withstands the encroachments and keeps down the
ambition natural to Establishments, and, by rendering the privileges of
the Church compatible with the civil freedom of all sects, confers
strength upon and adds duration to that wise and magnificent
institution. And then this youthful Monarch, profoundly but wisely
religious, disdaining hypocrisy, and far above the childish follies of
false piety, casts herself upon God, and seeks from the Gospel of His
blessed Son a path for her steps and a comfort for her soul. Here is a
picture which warms every English heart, and would bring all this
congregation upon their bended knees to pray it may be realized. What
limits to the glory and happiness of the native land if the Creator
should in His mercy have placed in the heart of this royal woman the
rudiments of wisdom and mercy? And if, giving them time to expand, and
to bless our children's children with her goodness, He should grant to
her a long sojourning upon earth, and leave her to reign over us till
she is well stricken in years, what glory! what happiness! what joy!
what bounty of God! I of course can only expect to see the beginning of
such a splendid period; but when I do see it I shall exclaim with the
pious Simeon--'Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, for
mine eyes have seen Thy salvation.'"
As respects the avoidance of war, the event has hardly accorded with the
aspiration. It is melancholy to recall the idealist enthusiasms which
preceded the Exhibition of 1851, and to contrast them with the realities
of the present hour. Then the arts of industry and the competitions of
peace were to supplant for ever the science of bloodshed. Nations were
to beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into
pruning-hooks, and men were not to learn war any more. And this was on
the eve of the Crimea--the most ruinous, the most cruel, and the least
justifiable of all campaigns. In one corner of the world or another, the
war-drum has throbbed almost without intermission from that day to this.
But when we turn to other aspirations the retrospect is more cheerful.
Slavery has been entirely abolished, and, with all due respect to Mr.
George Curzon, is not going to be re-established under the British flag.
The punishment of death, rendered infinitely more impressive, and
therefore more deterrent, by its withdrawal from the public gaze, is
reserved for offences which even Romilly would not have condoned. The
diminution of crime is an acknowledged fact. Better laws and improved
institutions--judicial, political, social, sanitary--we flatter
ourselves that we may claim. National Education dates from 1870, and its
operation during a quarter of a century has changed the face of the
industrial world. Queen Victoria in her later years reigns over an
Of the most important theme of all--our national advance in religion,
morality, and the principles of humane living--I have spoken in previous
chapters, and this is not the occasion for anything but the briefest
recapitulation. "Where is boasting? It is excluded." There is much to be
thankful for, much to encourage: something to cause anxiety, and nothing
to justify bombast. No one believes more profoundly than I do in the
providential mission of the English race, and the very intensity of my
faith in that mission makes me even painfully anxious that we should
interpret it aright. Men who were undergraduates at Oxford in the
'seventies learned the interpretation, in words of unsurpassable beauty,
from John Ruskin:--
"There is a destiny now possible to us--the highest ever set before a
nation, to be accepted or refused. We are still undegenerate in race; a
race mingled of the best northern blood. We are not yet dissolute in
temper, but still have the firmness to govern and the grace to obey. We
have been taught a religion of pure mercy, which we must either now
finally betray or learn to defend by fulfilling. And we are rich in an
inheritance of honour, bequeathed to us through a thousand years of
noble history, which it should be our daily thirst to increase with
splendid avarice, so that Englishmen, if it be a sin to covet honour,
should be the most offending souls alive.
"Within the last few years we have had the laws of natural science
opened to us with a rapidity which has been blinded by its brightness,
and means of transit and communication given to us which have made but
one kingdom of the habitable globe. One kingdom--but who is to be its
King? Is there to be no King in it, think you, and every man to do that
which is right in his own eyes? Or only kings of terror, and the obscene
Empires of Mammon and Belial? Or will you, youths of England, make your
country again a royal throne of Kings, a sceptred isle, for all the
world a source of light, a centre of peace; mistress of learning and of
the arts; faithful guardian of great memories in the midst of irreverent
and ephemeral visions; faithful servant of time-tried principles, under
temptation from fond experiments and licentious desires; and amidst the
cruel and clamorous jealousies of the nations, worshipped in her strange
valour of good will towards men?"
 Sunday, June 20, 1897.
"PRINCEDOMS, VIRTUES, POWERS."
The celebrations of the past week have set us all upon a royal tack.
Diary-keepers have turned back to their earliest volumes for stories of
the girl-queen; there has been an unprecedented run on the _Annual
Register_ for 1837; and every rusty print of Princess Victoria in the
costume of Kate Nickleby has been paraded as a pearl of price. As I
always pride myself on following what Mr. Matthew Arnold used to call
"the great mundane movement," I have been careful to obey the impulse of
the hour. I have cudgelled my memory for Collections and Recollections
suitable to this season of retrospective enthusiasm. Last week I
endeavoured to touch some of the more serious aspects of the Jubilee,
but now that the great day has come and gone--"Bedtime, Hal, and all
well"--a lighter handling of the majestic theme may not be esteemed
Those of my fellow-chroniclers who have blacked themselves all over for
the part have acted on the principle that no human life can be properly
understood without an exhaustive knowledge of its grandfathers and
grandmothers. They have resuscitated George III. and called Queen
Charlotte from her long home. With a less heroic insistence on the
historic method, I leave grandparents out of sight, and begin my gossip
with the Queen's uncles. Of George IV. it is less necessary that I
should speak, for has not his character been drawn by Thackeray in his
_Lectures on the Four Georges?_
"The dandy of sixty, who bows with a grace,
And has taste in wigs, collars, cuirasses, and lace;
Who to tricksters and fools leaves the State and its treasure,
And, while Britain's in tears, sails about at his pleasure,"
was styled, as we all know, "the First Gentleman in Europe." I forget if
I have previously narrated the following instance of gentlemanlike
conduct. If I have, it will bear repetition. The late Lord Charles
Russell (1807-1894), when a youth of eighteen, had just received a
commission in the Blues, and was commanded, with the rest of his
regiment, to a full-dress ball at Carlton House, where the King then
held his Court. Unluckily for his peace of mind, the young subaltern
dressed at his father's house, and, not being used to the splendid
paraphernalia of the Blues' uniform, he omitted to put on his
aiguillette. Arrived at Carlton House the company, before they could
enter the ball-room, had to advance in single file along a corridor in
which the old King, bewigged and bestarred, was seated on a sofa. When
the hapless youth who lacked the aiguillette approached the presence, he
heard a very high voice exclaim, "Who is this d--d fellow?" Retreat was
impossible, and there was nothing for it but to shuffle on and try to
pass the King without further rebuke. Not a bit of it. As he neared the
sofa the King exclaimed, "Good evening, sir. I suppose you are the
regimental doctor?" and the imperfectly-accoutred youth, covered with
confusion as with a cloak, fled blushing into the ball-room, and hid
himself from further observation. And yet the narrator of this painful
story always declared that George IV. could be very gracious when the
fancy took him; that he was uniformly kind to children; and that on
public occasions his manner was the perfection of kingly courtesy. His
gorgeous habits and profuse expenditure made him strangely popular. The
people, though they detested his conduct, thought him "every inch a
King." Lord Shaftesbury, noting in his diary for the 19th of May 1849
the attempt of Hamilton upon the Queen's life, writes:--"The profligate
George IV. passed through a life of selfishness and sin without a single
proved attempt to take it. This mild and virtuous young woman has four
times already been exposed to imminent peril."
The careers of the King's younger brothers and sisters would fill a
volume of "queer stories." Of the Duke of York Mr. Goldwin Smith
genially remarks that "the only meritorious action of his life was that
he once risked it in a duel." The Duke of Clarence--Burns's "Young royal
Tarry Breeks"--lived in disreputable seclusion till he ascended the
throne, and then was so excited by his elevation that people thought he
was going mad. The Duke of Cumberland was the object of a popular
detestation of which the grounds can be discovered in the _Annual
Register_ for 1810. The Duke of Sussex made two marriages in defiance of
the Royal Marriage Act, and took a political part as active on the
Liberal side as that of the Duke of Cumberland among the Tories. The
Duke of Cambridge is chiefly remembered by his grotesque habit
(recorded, by the way, in _Happy Thoughts_) of making loud responses of
his own invention to the service in church. "Let us pray," said the
clergyman: "By all means," said the Duke. The clergyman begins the
prayer for rain: the Duke exclaims, "No good as long as the wind is in
_Clergyman_: "'Zacchaeus stood forth and said, Behold, Lord, the half of
my goods I give to the poor.'"
_Duke_: "Too much, too much; don't mind tithes, but can't stand that."
To two of the Commandments, which I decline to discriminate, the Duke's
responses were--"Quite right, quite right, but very difficult
sometimes;'" and "No, no! It was my brother Ernest did that."
Those who care to pursue these curious byways of not very ancient
history are referred to the unfailing Greville; to Lady Anne Hamilton's
_Secret History of the Court of England;_ and to the _Recollections of a
Lady of Quality_, commonly ascribed to Lady Charlotte Bury. The closer
our acquaintance with the manners and habits of the last age, even in
what are called "the highest circles," the more wonderful will appear
the social transformation which dates from her Majesty's accession.
Thackeray spoke the words of truth and soberness when, after describing
the virtues and the limitations of George III., he said: "I think we
acknowledge in the inheritrix of his sceptre a wiser rule and a life as
honourable and pure; and I am sure that the future painter of our
manners will pay a willing allegiance to that good life, and be loyal to
the memory of that unsullied virtue."
For the earlier years of the Queen's reign Greville continues to be a
fairly safe guide, though his footing at the palace was by no means so
intimate as it had been in the roistering days of George IV. and William
IV. Of course, her Majesty's own volumes and Sir Theodore Martin's _Life
of the Prince Consort_ are of primary authority. Interesting glimpses
are to be caught in the first volume of Bishop Wilberforce's Life, ere
yet his tergiversation in the matter of Bishop Hampden had forfeited the
Royal favour; and the historian of the future will probably make great
use of the Letters of Sarah Lady Lyttelton--Governess, to the Queen's
children--which, being printed for private circulation, are unluckily
withheld from the present generation.
A pleasing instance of the ultra-German etiquette fomented by Prince
Albert was told me by an eye-witness of the scene. The Prime Minister
and his wife were dining at Buckingham Palace very shortly after they
had received an addition to their family. When the ladies retired to the
drawing-room after dinner, the Queen said most kindly to the Premier's
wife, "I know you are not very strong yet, Lady----; so I beg you will
sit down. And, when the Prince comes in, Lady D---- shall stand in front
of you." This device of screening a breach of etiquette by hiding it
behind the portly figure of a British Matron always struck me as
Courtly etiquette, with the conditions out of which it springs and its
effect upon the character of those who are subjected to it, has, of
course, been a favourite theme of satirists time out of mind, and there
can scarcely be a more fruitful one. There are no heights to which it
does not rise, nor depths to which it does not sink. In the service for
the Queen's Accession the Christological psalms are boldly transferred
to the Sovereign by the calm substitution of "her" for "Him." A few
years back--I do not know if it is so now--I noticed that in the
prayer-books in St. George's Chapel at Windsor all the pronouns which
referred to the Holy Trinity were spelt with small letters, and those
which referred to the Queen with capitals. So much for the heights of
etiquette, and for its depths we will go to Thackeray's account of an
incident stated to have occurred on the birth of the Duke of Connaught:
"Lord John he next alights.
And who comes here in haste?
The Hero of a Hundred Fights,
The caudle for to taste.
"Then Mrs. Lily the nuss,
Towards them steps with joy;
Says the brave old Duke, 'Come tell to us.
Is it a gal or boy?'
"Says Mrs. L. to the Duke,
'Your Grace, it is a _Prince_'
And at that nurse's bold rebuke
He did both laugh and wince."
Such was the etiquette of the Royal nursery in 1850; but little Princes,
even though ushered into the world under such very impressive
circumstances, grow up into something not very unlike other little boys
when once they go to school. Of course, in former days young Princes
were educated at home by private tutors. This was the education of the
Queen's uncles and of her sons. A very different experience has been
permitted to her grandsons. The Prince of Wales's boys, as we all
remember, were middies; Princess Christian's sons were at Wellington;
Prince Arthur of Connaught is at Eton. There he is to be joined next
year by the little Duke of Albany, who is now at a private school in the
New Forest. He has among his schoolfellows his cousin Prince Alexander
of Battenberg, of whom a delightful story is current just now. Like
many other little boys, he ran short of pocket money, and wrote an
ingenious letter to his august Grandmother asking for some slight
pecuniary assistance. He received in return a just rebuke, telling him
that little boys should keep within their limits, and that he must wait
till his allowance next became due. Shortly afterwards the undefeated
little Prince resumed the correspondence in something like the following
form: "My dear Grandmamma,--I am sure you will be glad to know that I
need not trouble you for any money just now, for I sold your last letter
to another boy here for 30s."
As Royalty emerges from infancy and boyhood into the vulgar and
artificial atmosphere of the grown-up world, it is daily and hourly
exposed to such sycophancy that Royal persons acquire, quite
unconsciously, a habit of regarding every subject in heaven and earth in
its relation to themselves. An amusing instance of this occurred a few
years ago on an occasion when one of our most popular Princesses
expressed a gracious wish to present a very smart young gentleman to the
Queen. This young man had a remarkably good opinion of himself; was the
eldest son of a peer, and a Member of Parliament; and it happened that
he was also related to a lady who belonged to one of the Royal
Households. So the Princess led the young exquisite to the august
presence, and then sweetly said, "I present Mr. ----, who is"--not Lord
Blank's eldest son or Member for Loamshire, but--"nephew to dear Aunt
Cambridge's lady." My young friend told me that he had never till that
moment realized how completely he lacked a position of his own in the
universe of created being.
 June 20-27, 1897.
 All this is now ancient history. 1903.
Archbishop Tait wrote on the 11th of February 1877: "Attended this week
the opening of Parliament, the Queen being present, and wearing for the
first time, some one says, her crown as Empress of India. Lord
Beaconsfield was on her left side, holding aloft the Sword of State. At
five the House again was crammed to see him take his seat; and Slingsby
Bethell, equal to the occasion, read aloud the writ in very distinct
tones. All seemed to be founded on the model, 'What shall be done to the
man whom the king delighteth to honour?'"
_Je ne suis pas la rose, mais j'ai vecu pres d'elle_. For the last
month our thoughts have been fixed upon the Queen to the exclusion
of all else; but now the regal splendours of the Jubilee have faded. The
majestic theme is, in fact, exhausted; and we turn, by a natural
transition, from the Royal Rose to its subservient primrose; from the
wisest of Sovereigns to the wiliest of Premiers; from the character,
habits, and life of the Queen to the personality of that extraordinary
child of Israel who, though he was not the Rose, lived uncommonly near
it; and who, more than any other Minister before or since his day,
contrived to identify himself in the public view with the Crown itself.
There is nothing invidious in this use of a racial term. It was one of
Lord Beaconsfield's finest qualities that he laboured all through his
life to make his race glorious and admired. To a Jewish boy--a friend of
my own--who was presented to him in his old age he said: "You and I
belong to a race which knows how to do everything but fail."
Is Lord Beaconsfield's biography ever to be given to the world? Not in
our time, at any rate, if we may judge by the signs. Perhaps Lord Rowton
finds it more convenient to live on the vague but splendid anticipations
of future success than on the admitted and definite failure of a too
cautious book. Perhaps he finds his personal dignity enhanced by those
mysterious flittings to Windsor and Osborne, where he is understood to
be comparing manuscripts and revising proofs with an Illustrious
Personage. But there is the less occasion to lament Lord Rowton's
tardiness, because we already possess Mr. Froude's admirable monograph
on Lord Beaconsfield in the series of _The Queen's Prime Ministers_, and
an extremely clear-sighted account of his relations with the Crown in
Mr. Reginald Brett's _Yoke of Empire_.
My present purpose is not controversial. I do not intend to estimate the
soundness of Lord Beaconsfield's opinions or the permanent value of his
political work. It is enough to recall what the last German
Ambassador--Count Muenster--told me, and what, in a curtailed form, has
been so often quoted. Prince Bismarck said, "I think nothing of their
Lord Salisbury. He is only a lath painted to look like iron. But that
old Jew means business." This is merely a parenthesis. I am at present
concerned only with Lord Beaconsfield's personal traits. When I first
encountered him he was already an old man. He had left far behind those
wonderful days of the black velvet dress-coat lined with white satin,
the "gorgeous gold flowers on a splendidly embroidered waistcoat," the
jewelled rings worn outside the white gloves, the evening cane of ivory
inlaid with gold and adorned with a tassel of black silk. "We were none
of us fools," said one of his most brilliant contemporaries, "and each
man talked his best; but we all agreed that the cleverest fellow in the
party was the young Jew in the green velvet trousers." Considerably in
the background, too, were the grotesque performances of his rural life,
when, making up for the character of a country gentleman, he "rode an
Arabian mare for thirty miles across country without stopping," attended
Quarter Sessions in drab breeches and gaiters, and wandered about the
lanes round Hughenden pecking up primroses with a spud.
When I first saw Mr. Disraeli, as he then was, all these follies were
matters of ancient history. They had played their part, and were
discarded. He was dressed much like other gentlemen of the 'Sixties--in
a black frock coat, gray or drab trousers, a waistcoat cut rather low,
and a black cravat which went once round the neck and was tied in a
loose bow. In the country his costume was a little more adventurous. A
black velveteen jacket, a white waistcoat, a Tyrolese hat, lent
picturesque incident and variety to his appearance. But the brilliant
colours were reserved for public occasions. I never saw him look better
than in his peer's robes of scarlet and ermine when he took his seat in
the House of Lords, or more amazing than when, tightly buttoned up in
the Privy Councillor's uniform of blue and gold, he stood in the
"general circle" at the Drawing-room or Levee. In his second
Administration he looked extraordinarily old. His form was shrunk, and
his face of a death-like pallor. Ever since an illness in early manhood
he had always dyed his hair, and the contrast between the artificial
blackness and the natural paleness was extremely startling. The one sign
of vitality which his appearance presented was the brilliancy of his
dark eyes, which still flashed with penetrating lustre.
The immense powers of conversation of which we read so much in his
early days, when he "talked like a racehorse approaching the winning
post," and held the whole company spellbound by his tropical eloquence,
had utterly vanished. He seemed, as he was, habitually oppressed by
illness or discomfort. He sat for hours together in moody silence. When
he opened his lips it was to pay an elaborate (and sometimes misplaced)
compliment to a lady, or to utter an epigrammatic judgment on men or
books, which recalled the conversational triumphs of his prime. Skill in
phrase-making was perhaps the literary gift which he most admired. In a
conversation with Mr. Matthew Arnold shortly before his death he said,
with a touch of pathos, "You are a fortunate man. The young men read
you; they no longer read me. And you have invented phrases which every
one quotes--such as 'Philistinism' and 'Sweetness and Light.'" It was a
characteristic compliment, for he dearly loved a good phrase. From the
necessities of his position as a fighting politician, his own best
performances in that line were sarcasms; and indeed sarcasm was the gift
in which from first to last, in public and in private, in writing and in
speaking, he peculiarly excelled. To recall the instances would be to
rewrite his political novels and to transcribe those attacks on Sir
Robert Peel which made his fame and fortune.
It was my good fortune when quite a boy to be present at the debates in
the House of Commons on the Tory Reform Bill of 1867. Never were Mr.
Disraeli's gifts of sarcasm, satire, and ridicule so richly displayed,
and never did they find so responsive a subject as Mr. Gladstone. As
schoolboys say, "he rose freely." The Bill was read a second time
without a division, but in Committee the fun waxed fast and furious, and
was marked by the liveliest encounters between the Leader of the House
and the Leader of the Opposition. At the conclusion of one of these
passages of arms Mr. Disraeli gravely congratulated himself on having
such a substantial piece of furniture as the table of the House between
himself and his energetic opponent. In May 1867 Lord Houghton writes
thus: "I met Gladstone at breakfast. He seems quite awed with the
diabolical cleverness of Dizzy, who, he says, is gradually driving all
ideas of political honour out of the House, and accustoming it to the
most revolting cynicism." Was it cynicism, or some related but more
agreeable quality, which suggested Mr. Disraeli's reply to the wealthy
manufacturer, newly arrived in the House of Commons, who complimented
him on his novels? "I can't say I've read them myself. Novels are not in
my line. But my daughters tell me they are uncommonly good." "Ah," said
the Leader of the House, in his deepest note, "this, indeed, is fame."
The mention of novels reminds me of a story which I heard twenty years
ago; when Mr. Mallock produced his first book--the admirable _New
Republic_. A lady who was his constant friend and benefactress begged
Lord Beaconsfield to read the book and say something civil about it. The
Prime Minister replied with a groan, "Ask me anything, dear lady, except
this. I am an old man. Do not make me read your young friend's
romances." "Oh, but he would be a great accession to the Tory party, and
a civil word from you would secure him for ever." "Oh--well, then, give
me a pen and a sheet of paper," and sitting down in the lady's
drawing-room, he wrote: "Dear Mrs.----,--I am sorry that I cannot dine
with you, but I am going down to Hughenden for a week. Would that my
solitude could be peopled by the bright creations of Mr. Mallock's
fancy!" "Will that do for your young friend?" Surely, as an appreciation
of a book which one has not read, this is absolutely perfect.
When Lord Beaconsfield was driven from office by the General Election of
1880, one of his supporters in the House of Commons begged a great
favour--"May I bring my boy to see you, and will you give him some word
of counsel which he may treasure all his life as the utterance of the
greatest Englishman who ever lived?" Lord Beaconsfield groaned, but
consented. On the appointed day the proud father presented himself with
his young hopeful in Lord Beaconsfield's presence. "My dear young
friend," said the statesman, "your good papa has asked me to give you a
word of counsel which may serve you all your life. Never ask who wrote
the Letters of Junius, or on which side of Whitehall Charles I. was
beheaded; for if you do you will be considered a bore--and that is
something too dreadful for you at your tender age to understand." For
these last two stories I by no means vouch. They belong to the flotsam
and jetsam of ephemeral gossip. But the following, which I regard as
eminently characteristic, I had from Lord Randolph Churchill.
Towards the end of Lord Beaconsfield's second Premiership a younger
politician asked the Premier to dinner. It was a domestic event of the
first importance, and no pains were spared to make the entertainment a
success. When the ladies retired, the host came and sat where the
hostess had been, next to his distinguished guest. "Will you have some
more claret, Lord Beaconsfield?" "No, thank you, my dear fellow. It is
admirable wine--true Falernian--but I have already exceeded my
prescribed quantity, and the gout holds me in its horrid clutch." When
the party had broken up, the host and hostess were talking it over. "I
think the chief enjoyed himself," said the host, "and I know he liked
his claret." "Claret!" exclaimed the hostess; "why, he drank
brandy-and-water all dinner-time."
I said in an earlier paragraph that Lord Beaconsfield's flattery was
sometimes misplaced. An instance recurs to my recollection. He was
staying in a country house where the whole party was Conservative with
the exception of one rather plain, elderly lady, who belonged to a great
Whig family. The Tory leader was holding forth on politics to an
admiring circle when the Whig lady came into the room. Pausing in his
conversation, Lord Beaconsfield exclaimed, in his most histrionic
manner, "But hush! We must not continue these Tory heresies until those
pretty little ears have been covered up with those pretty little
hands"--a strange remark under any circumstances, and stranger still if,
as his friends believed, it was honestly intended as an acceptable
Mr. Brett, who shows a curious sympathy with the personal character of
Lord Beaconsfield, acquits him of the charge of flattery, and quotes his
own description of his method: "I never contradict; I never deny; but I
sometimes forget." On the other hand, it has always been asserted by
those who had the best opportunities of personal observation that Lord
Beaconsfield succeeded in converting the dislike with which he had once
been regarded in the highest quarters into admiration and even
affection, by his elaborate and studied acquiescence in every claim,
social or political, of Royalty, and by his unflagging perseverance in
the art of flattery. He was a courtier, not by descent or breeding, but
by genius. What could be more skilful than the inclusion of _Leaves from
the Journal of our Life in the Highlands_ with _Coningsby_ and _Sybil_
in the phrase "We authors"?--than his grave declaration, "Your Majesty
is the head of the literary profession"?--than his announcement at the
dinner-table at Windsor, with reference to some disputed point of regal
genealogy, "We are in the presence of probably the only Person in Europe
who could tell us"? In the last year of his life he said to Mr. Matthew
Arnold, in a strange burst of confidence which showed how completely he
realized that his fall from power was final, "You have heard me accused
of being a flatterer. It is true. I am a flatterer. I have found it
useful. Every one likes flattery: and when you come to Royalty you
should lay it on with a trowel." In this business Lord Beaconsfield
excelled. Once, sitting at dinner by the Princess of Wales, he was
trying to cut a hard dinner-roll. The knife slipped and cut his finger,
which the Princess, with her natural grace, instantly wrapped up in her
handkerchief. The old gentleman gave a dramatic groan, and exclaimed,
"When I asked for bread they gave me a stone; but I had a Princess to
bind my wounds."
The atmosphere of a Court naturally suited him, and he had a quaint
trick of transferring the grandiose nomenclature of palaces to his own
very modest domain of Hughenden. He called his simple drawing-room the
Saloon; he styled his pond the Lake; he expatiated on the beauties of
the terrace walks, and the "Golden Gate," and the "German Forest." His
style of entertaining was more showy than comfortable. Nothing could
excel the grandeur of his state coach and powdered footmen; but when the
ice at dessert came up melting, one of his friends exclaimed, "At last,
my dear Dizzy, we have got something hot;" and in the days when he was
Chancellor of the Exchequer some critical guest remarked of the soup
that it was apparently made with Deferred Stock. When Lady Beaconsfield
died he sent for his agent and said, "I desire that her Ladyship's
remains should be borne to the grave by the tenants of the estate."
Presently the agent came back with a troubled countenance and said, "I
regret to say there are not tenants enough to carry a coffin."
Lord Beaconsfield's last years were tormented by a bronchial asthma of
gouty origin, against which he fought with tenacious and uncomplaining
courage. The last six weeks of his life, described all too graphically
by Dr. Kidd in an article in the _Nineteenth Century_, were a
hand-to-hand struggle with death. Every day the end was expected, and
his compatriot, companion, and so-called friend, Bernal Osborne, found
it in his heart to remark, "Ah, overdoing it--as he always overdid
For my own part, I never was numbered among Lord Beaconsfield's
friends, and I regarded the Imperialistic and pro-Turkish policy of his
latter days with an equal measure of indignation and contempt. But I
place his political novels among the masterpieces of Victorian
literature, and I have a sneaking affection for the man who wrote the
following passage: "We live in an age when to be young and to be
indifferent can be no longer synonymous. We must prepare for the coming
hour. The claims of the Future are represented by suffering millions,
and the Youth of a Nation are the Trustees of Posterity."
 June 1897.
FLATTERERS AND BORES.
Can a flatterer be flattered? Does he instinctively recognize the
commodity in which he deals? And if he does so recognize it, does he
enjoy or dislike the application of it to his own case? These questions
are suggested to my mind by the ungrudging tributes paid in my last
chapter to Lord Beaconsfield's pre-eminence in the art of flattery.
"Supreme of heroes, bravest, noblest, best!"
No one else ever flattered so long and so much, so boldly and so
persistently, so skilfully and with such success. And it so happened
that at the very crisis of his romantic career he became the subject of
an act of flattery quite as daring as any of his own performances in the
same line, and one which was attended with diplomatic consequences of
great pith and moment.
It fell out on this wise. When the Congress of the Powers assembled at
Berlin in the summer of 1878, our Ambassador in that city of stucco
palaces was the loved and lamented Lord Odo Russell, afterwards Lord
Ampthill, a born diplomatist if ever there was one, with a suavity and
affectionateness of manner and a charm of voice which would have enabled
him, in homely phrase, to whistle the bird off the bough. On the evening
before the formal opening of the Congress Lord Beaconsfield arrived in
all his plenipotentiary glory, and was received with high honours at
the British Embassy. In the course of the evening one of his private
secretaries came to Lord Odo Russell and said, "Lord Odo, we are in a
frightful mess, and we can only turn to you to help us out of it. The
old chief has determined to open the proceedings of the Congress in
French. He has written out the devil's own long speech in French and
learnt it by heart, and is going to fire it off at the Congress
to-morrow. We shall be the laughing-stock of Europe. He pronounces
_epicier_ as if it rhymed with _overseer_, and all his pronunciation is
to match. It is as much as our places are worth to tell him so. Can you
help us?" Lord Odo listened with amused good humour to this tale of woe,
and then replied: "It is a very delicate mission that you ask me to
undertake, but then I am fond of delicate missions. I will see what I
can do." And so he repaired to the state bedroom, where our venerable
Plenipotentiary was beginning those elaborate processes of the toilet
with which he prepared for the couch. "My dear Lord," began Lord Odo, "a
dreadful rumour has reached us." "Indeed! Pray what is it?" "We have
heard that you intend to open the proceedings to-morrow in French."
"Well, Lord Odo, what of that?" "Why, of course, we all know that there
is no one in Europe more competent to do so than yourself. But then,
after all, to make a French speech is a commonplace accomplishment.
There will be at least half a dozen men at the Congress who could do it
almost, if not quite, as well as yourself. But, on the other hand, who
but you can make an English speech? All these Plenipotentiaries have
come from the various Courts of Europe expecting the greatest
intellectual treat of their lives in hearing English spoken by its
greatest living master. The question for you, my dear Lord, is--Will you
disappoint them?" Lord Beaconsfield put his glass in his eye, fixed his
gaze on Lord Odo, and then said, "There is much force in what you say. I
will consider the point." And next day he opened the proceedings in
English. Now the psychological conundrum is this--Did he swallow the
flattery, and honestly believe that the object of Lord Odo's appeal was
to secure the pleasure of hearing him speak English? Or did he see
through the manoeuvre, and recognize a polite intimation that a French
speech from him would throw an air of comedy over all the proceedings of
the Congress, and perhaps kill it with ridicule? The problem is well
fitted to be made the subject of a Prize Essay; but personally I incline
to believe that he saw through the manoeuvre and acted on the hint. If
this be the true reading of the case, the answer to my opening question
is that the flatterer cannot be flattered.
We saw in my last chapter how careful Lord Beaconsfield was, in the
great days of his political struggles, to flatter every one who came
within his reach. To the same effect is the story that when he was
accosted by any one who claimed acquaintance but whose face he had
forgotten he always used to inquire, in a tone of affectionate
solicitude, "And how is the old complaint?" But when he grew older, and
had attained the highest objects of his political ambition, these little
arts, having served their purpose, were discarded, like the green velvet
trousers and tasselled canes of his aspiring youth. There was no more
use for them, and they were dropped. He manifested less and less of the
apostolic virtue of suffering bores gladly, and though always delightful
to his intimate friends, he was less and less inclined to curry favour
with mere acquaintances. A characteristic instance of this latter manner
has been given to the world in a book of chit-chat by a prosy gentleman
whose name it would be unkind to recall.
This worthy soul narrates with artless candour that towards the end of
Lord Beaconsfield's second Administration he had the honour of dining
with the great man, whose political follower he was, at the Premier's
official residence in Downing Street. When he arrived he found his host
looking ghastly ill, and apparently incapable of speech. He made some
commonplace remark about the weather or the House, and the only reply
was a dismal groan. A second remark was similarly received, and the
visitor then abandoned the attempt in despair. "I felt he would not
survive the night. Within a quarter of an hour, all being seated at
dinner, I observed him talking to the Austrian Ambassador with extreme
vivacity. During the whole of dinner their conversation was kept up; I
saw no sign of flagging. _This is difficult to account for._" And the
worthy man goes on to theorize about the cause, and suggests that Lord
Beaconsfield was in the habit of taking doses of opium which were so
timed that their effect passed off at a certain moment!
This freedom from self-knowledge which bores enjoy is one of their most
striking characteristics. One of the principal clubs in London has the
misfortune to be frequented by a gentleman who is by common consent the
greatest bore and buttonholer in London. He always reminds me of the
philosopher described by Sir George Trevelyan, who used to wander about
asking, "Why are we created? Whither do we tend? Have we an inner
consciousness?" till all his friends, when they saw him from afar, used
to exclaim, "Why was Tompkins created? Is he tending this way? Has he an
inner consciousness that he is a bore?"
Well, a few years ago this good man, on his return from his autumn
holiday, was telling all his acquaintances at the club that he had been
occupying a house at the Lakes not far from Mr. Ruskin, who, he added,
was in a very melancholy state, "I am truly sorry for that," said one of
his hearers. "What is the matter with him?" "Well," replied the
buttonholer, "I was walking one day in the lane which separated Ruskin's
house from mine, and I saw him coming down the lane towards me. The
moment he caught sight of me he darted into a wood which was close by,
and hid behind a tree till I had passed. Oh, very sad indeed." But the
truly pathetic part of it was one's consciousness that what Mr. Ruskin
did we should all have done, and that not all the trees in Birnam Wood
and the Forest of Arden combined would have hidden the multitude of
brother-clubmen who sought to avoid the narrator.
The faculty of boring belongs, unhappily, to no one period of life. Age
cannot wither it, nor custom stale its infinite variety. Middle life is
its heyday. Perhaps infancy is free from it, but I strongly suspect that
it is a form of original sin, and shows itself very early. Boys are
notoriously rich in it; with them it takes two forms--the loquacious and
the awkward; and in some exceptionally favoured cases the two forms are
combined. I once was talking with an eminent educationist about the
characteristic qualities produced by various Public Schools, and when I
asked him what Harrow produced he replied, "A certain shy
bumptiousness." It was a judgment which wrung my Harrovian withers, but
of which I could not dispute the truth.
One of the forms which shyness takes in boyhood is an inability to get
up and go. When Dr. Vaughan was Head Master of Harrow, and had to
entertain his boys at breakfast, this inability was frequently
manifested, and was met by the Doctor in a most characteristic fashion.
When the muffins and sausages had been devoured, the perfunctory
inquiries about the health of "your people" made and answered, and all
permissible school topics discussed, there used to ensue a horrid
silence, while "Dr. Blimber's young friends" sat tightly glued to their
chairs. Then the Doctor would approach with Agag-like delicacy, and,
extending his hand to the shyest and most loutish boy, would say, "Must
you go? Can't you stay?" and the party broke up with magical celerity.
Such, at least, was our Harrovian tradition.
Nothing is so refreshing to a jaded sense of humour as to be the
recipient of one of your own stories retold with appreciative fervour
but with all the point left out. This was my experience not long ago
with reference to the story of Dr. Vaughan and his boy-bores which I
have just related. A Dissenting minister was telling me, with extreme
satisfaction, that he had a son at Trinity College, Cambridge. He went
on to praise the Master, Dr. Butler, whom he extolled to the skies,
winding up his eulogy with, "He has such wonderful tact in dealing with
shy undergraduates." I began to scent my old story from afar, but held
my peace and awaited results. "You know," he continued, "that young men
are sometimes a little awkward about making a move and going away when a
party is over. Well, when Dr. Butler has undergraduates to breakfast, if
they linger inconveniently long when he wants to be busy, he has such a
happy knack of getting rid of them. It is so tactful, so like him. He
goes up to one of them and says, '_Can't you go? Must you stay?_' and
they are off immediately." So, as Macaulay says of Montgomery's literary
thefts, may such ill-got gains ever prosper.
My Dissenting minister had a congener in the late Lord P----, who was a
rollicking man about town thirty years ago, and was famous, among other
accomplishments, for this peculiar art of so telling a story as to
destroy the point. When the large house at Albert Gate, which fronts the
French Embassy and is now the abode of Mr. Arthur Sassoon, was built,
its size and cost were regarded as prohibitive, and some social wag
christened it "Gibraltar, because it can never be taken." Lord P----
thought that this must be an excellent joke, because every one laughed
at it; and so he ran round the town saying to each man he met--"I say,
do you know what they call that big house at Albert Gate? They call it
Gibraltar, because it can never be let. Isn't that awfully good?" We all
remember an innocent riddle of our childhood--"Why was the elephant the
last animal to get into the Ark?"--to which the answer was, "Because he
had to pack his trunk." Lord P--asked the riddle, and gave as the
answer, "Because he had to pack his portmanteau," and was beyond measure
astonished when his hearers did not join in his uproarious laughter.
Poor Lord P--! he was a fellow of infinite jest, though not always
exactly in the sense that he intended. If he had only known of it, he
might with advantage have resorted to the conversational device of old
Samuel Rogers, who, when he told a story which failed to produce a
laugh, used to observe in a reflective tone, "The curious part of that
story is that stupid people never see the point of it," and then loud,
though belated, guffaws resounded round the table.
Lately, when hunting for some notes which I had mislaid, I came upon a
collection of Advertisements. No branch of literature is more suggestive
of philosophical reflections. I take my specimens quite at random, just
as they turn up in my diary, and the first which meets my eye is printed
on the sad sea-green of the _Westminster Gazette:_--
"GUARDIAN, whose late ward merits the highest encomiums, seeks for him
the POSITION of SECRETARY to a Nobleman or Lady of Position: one with
literary tastes preferred: the young gentleman is highly connected,
distinguished-looking, a lover of books, remarkably steady, and
exceptionally well read, clever and ambitious: has travelled much: good
linguist, photographer, musician: a moderate fortune, but debarred by
timidity from competitive examination."
I have always longed to know the fate of this lucky youth. Few of us can
boast of even "a moderate fortune," and fewer still of such an
additional combination of gifts, graces, and accomplishments. On the
other hand, most of us, at one time or another in our career, have felt
"debarred by timidity from competitive examination." But, unluckily, we
have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and college dons who
forced us to face the agonies of the Schools, instead of an amiable
guardian who bestowed on us "the highest encomiums," and sought to
plant us on Ladies of Position, "with literary tastes preferred."
Another case, presenting some points of resemblance to the last, but far
less favoured by fortune, was notified to the compassionate world by the
_Morning Post_ in 1889:--
"Will any rich person TAKE a gentleman and BOARD him? Of good family:
age 27: good musician: thoroughly conversant with all office-work: _no
objection to turn Jew_: lost his money through dishonest trustee:
I earnestly hope that this poor victim of fraud has long since found his
desired haven in some comfortable Hebrew home, where he can exercise his
skill in writing and office-work during the day and display his musical
accomplishments after the family supper. I have known not a few young
Gentiles who would be glad to be adopted on similar terms.
The next is extracted from the _Manchester Guardian_ of 1894:--
"A Child of God, seeking employment, would like to take charge of
property and collect rents; has a slight knowledge of architecture and
sanitary; can give unexceptionable references; age 31; married."
What offers? Very few, I should fear, in a community so shrewdly
commercial as Manchester, where, I understand, religious profession is
seldom taken as a substitute for technical training. The mention of that
famous city reminds me that not long ago I was describing Chetham
College to an ignorant outsider, who, not realizing how the name was
spelt, observed that it sounded as if Mr. Squeers had been caught by the
Oxford Movement and the Gothic Revival, and had sought to give an
ecclesiastical air to his famous seminary of Dotheboys Hall by
transforming it into "Cheat'em College."
That immortal pedagogue owed much of his deserved success to his skill
in the art of drawing an advertisement:--
"At Mr. Wackford Squeers's Academy, Dotheboys Hall, at the delightful
village of Dotheboys, near Greta Bridge, in Yorkshire, Youth are
boarded, clothed, booked, furnished with pocket-money, provided with all
necessaries, instructed in all languages, living and dead, mathematics,
orthography, geometry, astronomy, trigonometry, the use of the globes,
algebra, singlestick (if required), writing, arithmetic, fortification,
and every other branch of classical literature. Terms, twenty guineas
per annum. No extras, no vacations, and diet unparalleled."
Now, mark what follows. Wackford Squeers the younger was, as we all
know, destined by his parents to follow the schoolmaster's profession,
to assist his father as long as assistance was required, and then to
take the management of the Hall and its pupils into his own hands. "Am I
to take care of the school when I grow up a man, father?" said Wackford
junior. "You are, my son," replied Mr. Squeers in a sentimental voice.
"Oh, my eye, won't I give it to the boys!" exclaimed the interesting
child, grasping his father's cane--"won't I make 'em squeak again!" But
we know also that, owing to the pressure of pecuniary and legal
difficulties, and the ill-timed interference of Mr. John Browdie, the
school at Dotheboys Hall was at any rate temporarily broken up. So far
we have authentic records to rely on; the remainder is pure conjecture.
But I am persuaded that Wackford Squeers the younger, with all the
dogged perseverance of a true Yorkshireman, struggled manfully against
misfortune; resolved to make a home for his parents and sister; and, as
soon as he could raise the needful capital, opened a private school in
the South of England, as far as possible from the scene of earlier
misfortune. Making due allowance for change of time and circumstances, I
trace a close similarity of substance and style between the
advertisement which I quoted above and that which I give below, and I
feel persuaded that young Wackford inherited from his more famous
father this peculiar power of attracting parental confidence by means
of picturesque statement. We have read the earlier manifesto; let us now
compare the later:--
"Vacancies now occur in the establishment of a gentleman who undertakes
the care and education of a few backward boys, who are beguiled and
trained to study by kind discipline, without the least severity (which
too often frustrates the end desired). Situation extremely healthy. Sea
and country air; deep gravelly soil. Christian gentility assiduously
cultivated on sound Church principles. Diet unsurpassed. Wardrobes
carefully preserved. The course of instruction comprises English,
classics, mathematics, and science. Inclusive terms, 30 guineas per
annum, quarterly in advance. Music, drawing, and modern languages are
extras, but moderate. Address--------, Chichester." Was it Vivian Grey
or Pelham who was educated at a private school where "the only extras
were pure milk and the guitar"?
I believe that there is no charitable institution which more thoroughly
deserves support than the Metropolitan Association for Befriending Young
Servants, affectionately contracted by its supporters into the "MABYS."
Here is one of its advertisements, from which, I am bound to say, the
alluring skill displayed by Mr. Squeers is curiously absent:--
"Will any one undertake as SERVANT a bright, clean, neat girl, who is
deceitful, lazy, and inclined to be dishonest? Address, Hon. Secretary,
M.A.B.Y.S., 21 Charlotte Street, S.E."
I remember some years ago an advertisement which sought a kind master
and a pleasant home for a large, savage dog; and I remember how
admirably _Punch_ described the kind of life which the "large, savage
dog" would lead the "kind master" when he got him. But really the vision
of a bright maid-servant who is "deceitful, lazy, and inclined to be
dishonest," and the havoc which she might work in a well-ordered
household, is scarcely less appalling. A much more deserving case is
this which I append:--
"Under-Housekeeper, under-Matron, desired by a Young Woman, age 22.
Energetic, domesticated. Great misfortune in losing right arm, but good
artificial one. Happy home, with small remuneration."
It is not, I fear, in my power to make a contribution of permanent value
to the "Great Servant Question." But, having given instances of
insufficient qualification in people seeking to be employed, I now turn
to the opposite side of the account, and, after perusing what follows,
would respectfully ask, Who is sufficient for these things?
"Can any lady or gentleman recommend a MAN and WIFE (Church of England)?
Man useful indoors and out. Principal duties large flower-garden, small
conservatory, draw bath-chair, must wait at table, understand lamps,
non-smoker, wear dress suit except in garden. Clothes and beer not
found. Family, lady and child, lady-help. House-parlourmaid kept. Must
not object to small bedroom. Wife plain cook (good), to undertake
kitchen offices, dining-room, and hall (wash clothes). Joint wages L50,
Now there is really a study in exacting eccentricity which Thackeray
might have made the subject of a "Roundabout Paper." In the first place,
the two servants must be man and wife--unmarried people need not
apply--and yet they must be contented with a small bedroom. The family
consists of a lady (apparently an invalid), a child, a lady-help, and a
house-parlourmaid. For these the wife must cook, and cook well, besides
cleaning the dining-room, hall and offices, and washing the clothes. Her
husband, yet more accommodating, must attend to a large flower-garden
and a small conservatory, must draw a bath-chair, wait at table and
clean lamps. After all these varied and arduous labours, he is denied
the refreshment of a pipe; but, as a kind of compensation, he is not
obliged to wear his dress suit when he is gardening! The joint wages are
L50, with all found except clothes and beer; and the lucky recipients of
this overpowering guerdon must be members of the Church of England.
This last requirement reminds me of a letter from a girl-emigrant
written to Lady Laura Ridding, wife of the Bishop of Southwell, who had
befriended her at home. "Dear Madam,--I hope this finds you as well as
it leaves me. The ship is in the middle of the Red Sea, and it is
fearfully hot. I am in a terrible state of melting all day long. But,
honoured Madam, I know you will be pleased to hear that I am still a
member of the Church of England." I hope the good plain cook and her
non-smoking, bath-chair drawing, large-gardening husband may be able to
comfort themselves with the same reflection when the varied toils of the
day are ended and they seek their well-earned repose in the "small
From these lowly mysteries of domestic life I pass to the Debatable Land
between servitude and gentility. "MAN AND WIFE, superior and active,
seek, in gentleman's family, PLACE OF TRUST; country, houseboat, &c.
Wife needlewoman or Plain Cook, linen, &c.: man ride and drive, waiting,
or useful. _Can teach or play violin in musical family;_ sight-reader in
classical works. Both tall, and refined appearance."
From the Debatable Land I pass on to the exalted regions of courtly
"The Great-niece of a Lord Chamberlain to King George III. REQUIRES a
SITUATION as COMPANION to a lady, or Cicerone to young ladies. Her mind
is highly cultivated. _English habits and Parisian accent._"
"Vieille ecole bonne ecole, begad!" cried Major Pendennis, and here
would have been a companion for Mrs. Pendennis or a cicerone for Laura
after his own heart. The austere traditions of the Court of George III.
and Queen Charlotte might be expected to survive in the great-niece of
their Lord Chamberlain; and what a tactful concession to the prejudices
of Mrs. Grundy in the statement that, though the accent may be Parisian,
the habits are English! This excellent lady--evidently a near relation
to Mrs. General in _Little Dorrit_--reintroduces us to the genteel
society in which we are most at home; and here I may remark that the
love of aristocracy which is so marked and so amiable a feature of our
national character finds its expression not only in the advertisement
columns, but in the daily notices of deaths and marriages. For example:
"On the 22nd inst., at Lisbon, William Thorold Wood, cousin to the
Bishop of Rochester, to Sir John Thorold of Syston Park, and brother to
the Rector of Widmerpool. He was a man of great mental endowments and
exemplary conduct." I dare say he was, but I fear they would have gone
unrecorded had it not been for the more impressive fact that he was
kinsman to a Bishop and a Baronet.
While we are on the subject of Advertisements a word must be said about
the Medical branch of this fine art; and knowing the enormous fortunes
which have often been made out of a casual prescription for _acne_ or
_alopecia_, I freely place at the disposal of any aspiring young chemist
who reads this paper the following tale of enterprise and success. A few
years ago, according to the information before me, a London doctor had a
lady patient who complained of an incessant neuralgia in her face and
jaw. The doctor could detect nothing amiss, but exhausted his skill, his
patience, and his remedies in trying to comfort the complainant, who,
however, refused to be comforted. At length, being convinced that the
case was one of pure hypochondria, he wrote to the afflicted lady,
saying that he did not feel justified in any longer taking her money for
a case which was evidently beyond his powers, but recommended her to
try change of air, live in the country, and trust to that _edax rerum_
which sooner or later cures all human ills.
The lady departed in sorrow, but in faith; obeyed her doctor's
instructions to the letter, and established herself not a hundred miles
from the good city of Newcastle. Once established there, her first care
was to seek the local chemist and to place her doctor's letter in his
hands. A smart young assistant was presiding at the counter; he read the
doctor's letter, and promptly made up a bottle which he labelled "_Edax
Rerum_. To be taken twice a day before meals," and for which he demanded
7s. 6d. The lady rejoicingly paid, and requested that a similar bottle
might be sent to her every week till further notice. She continued to
use and to pay for this specific for a year and a half, and then,
finding her neuralgia considerably abated, she came up to London for a
week's amusement. Full of gratitude, she called on her former doctor,
and said that, though she had felt a little hurt at the abrupt manner in
which he had dismissed so old a patient, still she could not forbear to
tell him that his last prescription had done her far more good than any
of its predecessors, and that, indeed, she now regarded herself as
practically cured. Explanations followed; inquiries were set on foot;
the chemist's assistant sailed for South Africa; and "_Edax Rerum_" is
now largely in demand among the unlettered heroes who bear the banner of
the Chartered Company.
That combination of pietism with money-making, which critics of our
national character tell us is so peculiarly British, was well
illustrated in the _Christian Million_ of September 22, 1898:--
"BETHESDA, Hest Bank. Beautiful country home, near the sea. Christian
fellowship, 3s. per day. Sickly persons desiring to trust the Lord will
be considered financially. Apply Miss----. Stamped Envelope."
When poetry is forced into the service of advertisements, the result is
peculiarly gratifying. This is an appeal for funds to repair the church
in which Nelson's father officiated:--
"The man who first taught Englishmen their duty,
And fenced with wooden walls his native isle,
Now asks ONE SHILLING to preserve in beauty
The Church that brooded o'er his infant smile."
An electioneering address is, in its essence, an advertisement; and in
this peculiar branch of literature it would be difficult to excel the
following manifesto recently issued by a clergyman when candidate for a
benefice to which the appointment is by popular election:--
"I appeal with the utmost confidence for the full support of the IRISH
AND ROMAN CATHOLICS, because I am a Son of the Emerald Isle; to
FOREIGNERS, because they love Ireland; to HIGH CHURCH, LOW CHURCH, and
BROAD CHURCH, because I am tolerant to all parties; to NONCONFORMISTS,
because I have stated in my pamphlet on Reunion that they are "the salt
of the earth and the light of the world;" to JEWS, because my love for
the Children of Promise is well known; to ATHEISTS, because they have
often heard me in Hyde Park telling them of the Author of Nature in its
endless beauties;--to one and all I appeal with the utmost confidence,
and feel sure that the whole electorate will vote for me and do
themselves honour, when they consider who I am, and when a person of my
social and ecclesiastical standing allowed my name at all to be
mentioned for a popular election."
I am thankful to say that this "Son of the Emerald Isle" was left at the
bottom of the poll.
 Kindly communicated by "J.C.C."
PARODIES IN PROSE.
"Parody," wrote Mr. Matthew Arnold in 1882, "is a vile art, but I must
say I read _Poor Matthias_ in the _World_ with an amused pleasure." It
was a generous appreciation, for the original _Poor Matthias_--an elegy
on a canary--is an exquisite poem, and the _World's_ parody of it is a
rather dull imitation. On the whole, I agree with Mr. Arnold that parody
is a vile art; but the dictum is a little too sweeping. A parody of
anything really good, whether in prose or verse, is as odious as a
burlesque of _Hamlet_; but, on the other hand, parody is the appropriate
punishment for certain kinds of literary affectation. There are, and
always have been, some styles of poetry and of prose which no one
endowed with an ear for rhythm and a sense of humour could forbear to
parody. Such, to a generation brought up on Milton and Pope, were the
styles of the various poetasters satirized in _Rejected Addresses_; but
excellent as are the metrical parodies in that famous book, the prose is
even better. Modern parodists, of whom I will speak more particularly in
a future chapter, have, I think, surpassed such poems as _The Baby's
Debut_ and _A Tale of Drury Lane_, but in the far more difficult art of
imitating a prose style none that I know of has even approached the
author of the _Hampshire Farmer's Address_ and _Johnson's Ghost_. Does
any one read William Cobbett nowadays? If so, let him compare what
follows with the recorded specimens of Cobbett's public speaking:--
"Most thinking People,--When persons address an audience from the stage,
it is usual, either in words or gesture, to say, 'Ladies and gentlemen,
your servant.' If I were base enough, mean enough, paltry enough, and
_brute beast_ enough to follow that fashion, I should tell two lies in a
breath. In the first place, you are not ladies and gentlemen, but, I
hope, something better--that is to say, honest men and women; and, in
the next place, if you were ever so much ladies, and ever so much
gentlemen, I am not, _nor ever will be_, your humble servant."
With Dr. Johnson's style--supposing we had ever forgotten its masculine
force and its balanced antitheses--we have been made again familiar by
the erudite labours of Dr. Birkbeck Hill and Mr. Augustine Birrell. But
even those learned critics might, I think, have mistaken a copy for an
original if in some collection of old speeches they had lighted on the
"That which was organized by the moral ability of one has been executed
by the physical efforts of many, and DRURY LANE THEATRE is now complete.
Of that part behind the curtain, which has not yet been destined to glow
beneath the brush of the varnisher or vibrate to the hammer of the
carpenter, little is thought by the public, and little need be said by
the Committee. Truth, however, is not to be sacrificed to the
accommodation of either, and he who should pronounce that our edifice
has received its final embellishment would be disseminating falsehood
without incurring favour, and risking the disgrace of detection without
participating the advantage of success."
An excellent morsel of Johnsonese prose belongs to a more recent date.
It became current about the time when the scheme of Dr. Murray's
Dictionary of the English Language was first made public. It took the
form of a dialogue between Dr. Johnson and Boswell:--
"_Boswell_. Pray, sir, what would you say if you were told that the next
dictionary of the English language would be written by a Scotsman and a
Presbyterian domiciled at Oxford?
"_Dr. J_. Sir, in order to be facetious it is not necessary to be
When Bulwer-Lytton brought out his play _Not so Bad as we Seem_, his
friends pleasantly altered its title to _Not so Good as we Expected_.
And when a lady's newspaper advertised a work called "How to Dress on
Fifteen Pounds a Year, as a Lady. By a Lady," _Punch_ was ready with the
characteristic parody: "How to Dress on Nothing a Year, as a Kaffir. By
Mr. Gladstone's authority compels me to submit the ensuing imitation of
Macaulay--the most easily parodied of all prose writers--to the judgment
of my readers. It was written by the late Abraham Hayward. Macaulay is
contrasting, in his customary vein of overwrought and over-coloured
detail, the evils of arbitrary government with those of a debased
"The misgovernment of Charles and James, gross as it had been, had not
prevented the common business of life from going steadily and
"While the honour and independence of the State were sold to a foreign
Power, while chartered rights were invaded, while fundamental laws were
violated, hundreds of thousands of quiet, honest, and industrious
families laboured and traded, ate their meals, and lay down to rest in
comfort and security. Whether Whig or Tories, Protestants or Jesuits
were uppermost, the grazier drove his beasts to market; the grocer
weighed out his currants; the draper measured out his broadcloth; the
hum of buyers and sellers was as loud as ever in the towns; the
harvest-home was celebrated as joyously as ever in the hamlets; the
cream overflowed the pails of Cheshire; the apple juice foamed in the
presses of Herefordshire: the piles of crockery glowed in the furnaces
of the Trent; and the barrows of coal rolled fast along the timber
railways of the Tyne."
This reads like a parody, but it is a literal transcript of the
original; and Hayward justly observes that there is no reason why this
rigmarole should ever stop, as long as there is a trade, calling, or
occupation to be particularized. The pith of the proposition (which
needed no proof) is contained in the first sentence. Why not continue
"The apothecary vended his drugs as usual; the poulterer crammed his
turkeys; the fishmonger skinned his eels; the wine merchant adulterated
his port; as many hot-cross buns as ever were eaten on Good Friday, as
many pancakes on Shrove Tuesday, as many Christmas pies on Christmas
Day; on area steps the domestic drudge took in her daily pennyworth of
the chalky mixture which Londoners call milk; through area bars the
feline tribe, vigilant as ever, watched the arrival of the cat's-meat
man; the courtesan flaunted in the Haymarket; the cab rattled through
the Strand; and, from the suburban regions of Fulham and Putney, the
cart of the market gardener wended its slow and midnight way along
Piccadilly to deposit its load of cabbages and turnips in Covent
Twice has Mr. Gladstone publicly called attention to the merits of this
"effective morsel of parody," as he styles it; and he judiciously adds
that what follows (by the late Dean Hook) is "a like attempt, but less
happy." Most people remember the attack on the constitution of the Court
of Chancery in the preface to _Bleak House_. Dean Hook, in a laudable
attempt to soothe the ruffled feelings of his old friend Vice-Chancellor
Page Wood, of whom Dickens in that preface had made fun, thus endeavours
to translate the accusation into Macaulayese:--
"REIGN OF VICTORIA--1856.
"THE COURTS OF JUSTICE.
"The Court of Chancery was corrupt. The guardian of lunatics was the
cause of insanity to the suitors in his court. An attempt at reform was
made when Wood was Solicitor-General. It consisted chiefly in increasing
the number of judges in the Equity Court. Government was pleased by an
increase of patronage; the lawyers approved of the new professional
prizes. The Government papers applauded. Wood became Vice-Chancellor. At
the close of 1855 the Equity Courts were without business. People had
become weary of seeking justice where justice was not to be found. The
state of the Bench was unsatisfactory. Cranworth was feeble; Knight
Bruce, though powerful, sacrificed justice to a joke; Turner was heavy;
Romilly was scientific; Kindersley was slow; Stuart was pompous; Wood
was at Bealings."
If I were to indulge in quotations from well-known parodies of prose,
this chapter would soon overflow all proper limits. I forbear,
therefore, to do more than remind my readers of Thackeray's _Novels by
Eminent Hands_ and Bret Harte's _Sensation Novels_, only remarking, with
reference to the latter book, that "Miss Mix" is in places really
indistinguishable from _Jane Eyre_. The sermon by Mr. Jowett in Mr.
Mallock's _New Republic_ is so perfect an imitation, both in substance
and in style, that it suggested to some readers the idea that it had
been reproduced from notes of an actual discourse. On spoken as
distinguished from written eloquence there are some capital skits in the
_Anti-Jacobin_, where (under the name of Macfungus) excellent fun is
made of the too mellifluous eloquence of Sir James Mackintosh.
The differentiating absurdities of after-dinner oratory are photographed
in Thackeray's _Dinner in the City_, where the speech of the American
Minister seems to have formed a model for a long series of similar
performances. Dickens's experience as a reporter in the gallery of the
House of Commons had given him a perfect command of that peculiar style
of speaking which is called Parliamentary, and he used it with great
effect in his accounts of the inaugural meeting of the "United
Metropolitan Improved Hot Muffin and Crumpet Baking and Punctual
Delivery Company" in _Nicholas Nickleby_ (where he introduces a capital
sketch of Tom Duncombe, Radical Member for Finsbury); and in the
interview between Mr. Gregsbury, M.P., and his constituents in a later
chapter of the same immortal book.
The parliamentary eloquence of a later day was admirably reproduced in
Mr. Edward Jenkins's prophetic squib (published in 1872) _Barney
Geoghegan, M.P., and Home Rule at St. Stephen's_. As this clever little
book has, I fear, lapsed into complete oblivion, I venture to cite a
passage. It will vividly recall to the memory of middle-aged politicians
the style and tone of the verbal duels which, towards the end of Mr.
Gladstone's first Administration, took place so frequently between the
Leader of the House and the Leader of the Opposition. Mr. Geoghegan has
been returned, a very early Home Ruler, for the Borough of Rashkillen,
and for some violent breaches of order is committed to the custody of
the Sergeant-at-Arms. On this the leader of the House rises and
addresses the Speaker:--
"Sir,--The House cannot but sympathize with you in the eloquent and
indignant denunciation you have uttered against the painful invasion of
the decorum of the House which we have just witnessed. There can be no
doubt in any mind, even in the minds of those with whom the hon. member
now at the bar usually acts, that of all methods of argument which could
be employed in this House, he has selected the least politic. Sir, may I
be permitted, with great deference, to say a word upon a remark that
fell from the Chair, and which might be misunderstood? Solitary and
anomalous instances of this kind could never be legitimately used as
arguments against general systems of representation or the course of a
recent policy. I do not, at this moment, venture to pronounce an opinion
upon the degree of criminality that attaches to the hon. member now
unhappily in the custody of the Officer of the House. It is possible--I
do not say it is probable, I do not now say whether I shall be prepared
to commit myself to that hypothesis or not--but it is not impossible
that the hon. member or some of his friends may be able to urge some
extenuating circumstances--(Oh! oh!)--I mean circumstances that, when
duly weighed, may have a tendency in a greater or less degree to modify
the judgment of the House upon the extraordinary event that has
occurred. Sir, it becomes a great people and a great assembly like this
to be patient, dignified, and generous. The honourable member, whom we
regret to see in his present position, no doubt represents a phase of
Irish opinion unfamiliar to this House. (Cheers and laughter.) ... The
House is naturally in a rather excited state after an event so unusual,
and I venture to urge that it should not hastily proceed to action. We
must be careful of the feelings of the Irish people. (Oh! oh!) If we are
to govern Ireland according to Irish ideas, we must make allowance for
personal, local, and transitory ebullitions of Irish feeling, having no
general or universal consequence or bearing.... The course, therefore,
which I propose to take is this--to move that the hon. member shall
remain in the custody of the Sergeant-at-Arms, that a Committee be
appointed to take evidence, and that their report be discussed this day
To this replies the Leader of the Opposition:--
"The right hon. gentleman is to be congratulated on the results of his
Irish policy. (Cheers and laughter.) ... Sir, this, I presume, is one of
the right hon. gentleman's contented and pacified people! I deeply
sympathize with the right hon. gentleman. His policy produces strange
and portentous results. A policy of concession, of confiscation, of
truckling to ecclesiastical arrogance, to popular passions and ignorant
prejudices, of lenity to Fenian revolutionists, has at length brought us
to this, that the outrages of Galway and Tipperary, no longer restricted
to those charming counties, no longer restrained to even Her Majesty's
judges, are to reach the interior of this House and the august person of
its Speaker. (Cheers.) Sir, I wash my hands of all responsibility for
this absurd and anomalous state of things. Whenever it has fallen to the
Tory party to conduct the affairs of Ireland, they have consistently
pursued a policy of mingled firmness and conciliation with the most
distinguished success. All the great measures of reform in Ireland may
be said to have had their root in the action of the Tory party, though,
as usual, the praise has been appropriated by the right hon. gentleman
and his allies. We have preferred, instead of truckling to prejudice or
passion, to appeal, and we still appeal, to the sublime instincts of an
I hope that an unknown author, whose skill in reproducing an archaic
style I heartily admire, will forgive me for quoting the following
narrative of certain doings decreed by the General Post Office on the
occasion of the Jubilee of the Penny Post. Like all that is truly good
in literature, it will be seen that this narrative was not for its own
time alone, but for the future, and has its relevancy to events of the
"1. Now it came to pass in the month June of the Post-office Jubilee,
that Raikes, the Postmaster-General, said to himself, Lo! an opening
whereby I may find grace in the sight of the Queen!
"2. And Raikes appointed an Executive Committee; and Baines, the
Inspector-General of Mails, made he Chairman.
"3. He called also Cardin, the Receiver and Accountant-General; Preece,
Lord of Lightning; Thompson, the Secretarial Officer; and Tombs; the
"4. Then did these four send to the Heads of Departments, the
Postmasters and Sub-Postmasters, the Letter-Receivers, the
Clerks-in-Charge, the Postal Officers, the Telegraphists, She Sorters,
the Postmen; yea from the lowest even unto the highest sent they out.
"5. And the word of Baines and of them that were with him went forth
that the Jubilee should be kept by a conversazione at the South
Kensington Museum on Wednesday the second day of the month July in the
"6. And Victoria the Queen became a patron of the Jubilee Celebration;
and her heart was stirred within her; for she said, For three whole
years have I not had a Jubilee.
"7. And the word of Baines and of them that were with him went forth
again to the Heads of Departments; the Postmasters and Sub-Postmasters,
the Letter-Receivers, the Clerks-in-Charge, the Postal Officers and
Telegraphists, the Sorters and the Postmen.
"8. Saying unto them, Lo! the Queen is become Patron of the Rowland Hill
Memorial and Benevolent Fund, and of the conversazione in the museum;
and we the Executive Committee bid you, from the lowest even to the
highest, to join with us at the tenth hour of the conversazione in a
great shouting to praise the name of the Queen our patron.
"9. Each man in his Post Office at the tenth hour shall shout upon her
name; and a record thereof shall be sent to us that we may cause its
memory to endure for ever.
"10. Then a great fear came upon the Postmasters, the Sub-Postmasters,
and the Letter-Receivers, which were bidden to make the record.
"11. For they said, If those over whom we are set in authority shout not
at the tenth hour, and we send an evil report, we shall surely perish.
"12. And they besought their men to shout, aloud at the tenth hour,
lest a worse thing should befall.
"13. And they that were of the tribes of Nob and of Snob rejoiced with
an exceeding great joy, and did shout with their whole might; so that
their voices became as the voices of them that sell tidings in the
street at nightfall.
"14. But the Telegraphists and the Sorters and the Postmen, and them
that were of the tribes of Rag and of Tag, hardened their hearts, and
were silent at the tenth hour; for they said among themselves, 'Shall
the poor man shout in his poverty, and the hungry celebrate his lack of
"15. Now Preece, Lord of Lightning, had wrought with a cord of metal
that they who were at the conversazione might hear the shouting from the
"16. And the tenth hour came; and lo! there was no great shout; and the
tribes of Nob and Snob were as the voice of men calling in the
"17. Then was the wrath of Baines kindled against the tribes of Rag and
Tag for that they had not shouted according to his word; and he
commanded that their chief men and counsellors should be cast out of the
Queen's Post Office.
"18. And Raikes, the Postmaster-General; told the Queen all the travail
of Baines, the Inspector-General, and of them that were with him, and
how they had wrought all for the greater glory of the Queen's name.
"19. And the Queen hearkened to the word of Raikes, and lifted up Baines
to be a Centurion of the Bath; also she placed honours upon Cardin, the
Receiver-General and Accountant-General; upon Preece, Lord of Lightning;
upon Thompson, the Secretarial Officer; and upon Tombs, the Controller,
so that they dazzled the eyes of the tribe of Snob, and were favourably
entreated of the sons of Nob.
"20. And they lived long in the land; and all men said pleasant things
"21. But they of Tag and of Rag that had been cast out were utterly
forgotten; so that they were fain to cry aloud, saying, 'How long, O ye
honest and upright in heart, shall Snobs and Nobs be rulers over us,
seeing that they are but men like unto us, though they imagine us in
their hearts to be otherwise?'
"22. And the answer is not yet."
 June 1897.
PARODIES IN VERSE.
Here I embark on the shoreless sea of metrical parody, and I begin my
cruise by reaffirming that in this department _Rejected Addresses_,
though distinctly good for their time, have been left far behind by
modern achievements. The sense of style seems to have grown acuter, and
the art of reproducing it has been brought to absolute perfection. The
theory of development is instructively illustrated in the history of
Of the same date as _Rejected Addresses_, and of about equal merit, is
the _Poetry of the Anti-Jacobin_, which our grandfathers, if they
combined literary taste with Conservative opinions, were never tired of
repeating. The extraordinary brilliancy of the group of men who
contributed to it guaranteed the general character of the book. Its
merely satiric verse is a little beside my present mark; but as a parody
the ballad of _Duke Smithson of Northumberland_, founded on _Chevy
Chase_, ranks high, and the inscription for the cell in Newgate where
Mrs. Brownrigg, who murdered her apprentices, was imprisoned, is even
better. Southey, in his Radical youth, had written some lines on the
cell in Chepstow Castle where Henry Marten the Regicide was confined:--
"For thirty years secluded from mankind
Here Marten lingered ...
Dost thou ask his crime?
He had rebell'd against the King, and sate
In judgment on him."
Here is Canning's parody:--
"For one long term, or e'er her trial came,
Here Brownrigg lingered ...
Dost thou ask her crime?
She whipped two female 'prentices to death,
And hid them in a coal-hole."
The time of _Rejected Addresses_ and the _Anti-Jacobin_ was also the
heyday of parliamentary quotation, and old parliamentary hands used to
cite a happy instance of instantaneous parody by Daniel O'Connell, who,
having noticed that the speaker to whom he was replying had his speech
written out in his hat, immediately likened him to Goldsmith's village
"And still they gazed, and still the wonder grew
That one small _hat_ could carry all he knew."
Another instance of the same kind was O'Connell's extemporized
description of three ultra-Protestant members, Colonel Verner, Colonel
Vandeleur, and Colonel Sibthorp, the third of whom was conspicuous in a
closely shaven age for his profusion of facial hair.
"Three Colonels, in three different counties born,
Armagh and Clare and Lincoln did adorn.
The first in direst bigotry surpassed:
The next in impudence: in both the last.
The force of Nature could no further go--
To beard the third, she shaved the former two."
A similarly happy turn to an old quotation was given by Baron Parke,
afterwards Lord Wensleydale. His old friend and comrade at the Bar, Sir
David Dundas, had just been appointed Solicitor-General, and, in reply
to Baron Parke's invitation to dinner, he wrote that he could not accept
it, as he had been already invited by seven peers for the same evening.
He promptly received the following couplets:--
"Seven thriving cities fight for Homer dead
Through which the living Homer begged his bread."
"Seven noble Lords ask Davie to break bread
Who wouldn't care a d--were Davie dead."
The _Ingoldsby Legends_--long since, I believe, deposed from their
position in public favour--were published in 1840. Their principal
merits are a vein of humour, rollicking and often coarse, but genuine
and infectious; great command over unusual metres; and an unequalled
ingenuity in making double and treble rhymes: for example--
"The poor little Page, too, himself got no quarter, but
Was served the same way, And was found the next day,
With his heels in the air, and his head in the water-butt."
There is a general flavour of parody about most of the ballads. It does
not as a rule amount to more than a rather clumsy mockery of
mediaevalism, but the verses prefixed to the _Lay of St. Gengulphus_ are
really rather like a fragment of a black-letter ballad. The book
contains only one absolute parody, borrowed from Samuel Lover's _Lyrics
of Ireland_, and then the result is truly offensive, for the poem chosen
for the experiment is one of the most beautiful in the language--the
_Burial of Sir John Moore_, which is transmuted into a stupid story of
vulgar debauch. Of much the same date as the _Ingoldsby Legends_ was the
_Old Curiosity Shop_, and no one who has a really scholarly acquaintance
with Dickens will forget the delightful scraps of Tom Moore's amatory
ditties with which, slightly adapted to current circumstances, Dick
Swiveller used to console himself when Destiny seemed too strong for
him. And it will be remembered that Mr. Slum composed some very telling
parodies of the same popular author as advertisements for Mrs. Jarley's
Waxworks; but I forbear to quote here what is so easily accessible.
By way of tracing the development of the Art of Parody, I am taking my
samples in chronological order. In 1845 the Newdigate Prize for an
English poem at Oxford was won by J.W. Burgon, afterwards Dean of
Chichester. The subject was Petra. The successful poem was, on the
whole, not much better and not much worse than the general run of such
compositions; but it contained one couplet which Dean Stanley regarded
as an absolute gem--a volume of description condensed into two lines:--
"Match me such marvel, save in Eastern clime--
A rose-red city, half as old as time."
The couplet was universally praised and quoted, and, as a natural
consequence, parodied. There resided then (and long after) at Trinity
College, Oxford, an extraordinarily old don called Short. When I was
an undergraduate he was still tottering about, and we looked at him with
interest because he had been Newman's tutor. To his case the parodist of
the period, in a moment of inspiration, adapted Burgon's beautiful
couplet, saying or singing:--
"Match me such marvel, save in college port,
That rose-red liquor, half as old as Short."
The Rev. E.T. Turner, till recently Registrar of the University, has
been known to say: "I was present when that egg was laid." It is
satisfactory to know that the undergraduate who laid it--William Basil
Tickell Jones--attained deserved eminence in after-life, and died Bishop
of St. David's.
When Burgon was writing his prize-poem about Petra, Lord John Manners
(afterwards seventh Duke of Rutland), in his capacity as Poet Laureate
of Young England, was writing chivalrous ditties about castles and
banners, and merry peasants, and Holy Church. This kind of mediaeval
romanticism, though glorified by Lord Beaconsfield in _Coningsby_,
seemed purely laughable to Thackeray, and he made rather bitter fun of
it in _Lines upon my Sister's Portrait, by the Lord Southdown._
"Dash down, dash down yon mandolin, beloved sister mine!
Those blushing lips may never sing the glories of our line:
Our ancient castles echo to the clumsy feet of churls.
The spinning-jenny houses in the mansion of our Earls.
Sing not, sing not, my Angelina! in days so base and vile,
'Twere sinful to be happy, 'twere sacrilege to smile.
I'll hie me to my lonely hall, and by its cheerless hob
I'll muse on other days, and wish--and wish I were--A SNOB."
But, though the spirit of this mournful song is the spirit of _England's
Trust_, the verbal imitation is not close enough to deserve the title of
The _Ballads of Bon Gaultier_, published anonymously in 1855, had a
success which would only have been possible at a time when really
artistic parodies were unknown. Bon Gaultier's verses are not as a rule
much more than rough-and-ready imitations; and, like so much of the
humour of their day, and of Scotch humour in particular, they generally
depend for their point upon drinking and drunkenness. Some of the
different forms of the Puff Poetical are amusing, especially the
advertisement of Doudney Brothers' Waistcoats, and the Puff Direct in
which Parr's Life-pills are glorified after the manner of a German
ballad. _The Laureate_ is a fair hit at some of Tennyson's earlier
"Who would not be
The Laureate bold,
With his butt of sherry
To keep him merry,
And nothing to do but pocket his gold?"
But _The Lay of the Lovelorn_ is a clumsy and rather vulgar skit on
_Locksley Hall_--a poem on which two such writers as Sir Theodore Martin
and Professor Aytoun would have done well not to lay their sacrilegious
We have now passed through the middle stage of the development which I
am trying to trace; we are leaving clumsiness and vulgarity behind us,
and are approaching the age of perfection. Sir George Trevelyan's
parodies are transitional. He was born in 1838, three times won the
prize poem at Harrow, and brought out his Cambridge squibs in and soon
after the year 1858. _Horace at the University of Athens_, originally
written for acting at the famous "A.D.C.," still holds its own as one
of the wittiest of extravaganzas. It contains a really pretty imitation
of the 10th Eclogue, and it is studded with adaptations, of which the
only possible fault is that, for the general reader, they are too
topical. Here is a sample:--
"_Donec gratus eram tibi_."
_Hor_. While still you loved your Horace best
Of all my peers who round you pressed
(Though not in expurgated versions),
More proud I lived than King of Persians.
_Lyd_. And while as yet no other dame
Had kindled in your breast a flame,
(Though Niebuhr her existence doubt),
I cut historic Ilia out.
_Hor_. Dark Chloe now my homage owns,
Skilled on the banjo and the bones;
For whom I would not fear to die,
If death would pass my charmer by.
_Lyd_. I now am lodging at the _rus-
In-urbe_ of young Decius Mus.
Twice over would I gladly die
To see him hit in either eye.
_Hor_. But should the old love come again,
And Lydia her sway retain,
If to my heart once more I take her,
And bid black Chloe wed the baker?
_Lyd_. Though you be treacherous as audit
When at the fire you've lately thawed it,
For Decius Mus no more I'd care
Than for their plate the Dons of Clare.
Really this is a much better rendering of the famous ode than
nine-tenths of its more pompous competitors; and the allusions to the
perfidious qualities of Trinity Audit Ale and the mercenary conduct of
the Fellows of Clare need no explanation for Cambridge readers, and
little for others. But it may be fairly objected that this is not, in
strictness, a parody. That is true, and indeed as a parodist Sir George
Trevelyan belongs to the metrical miocene. His Horace, when serving as a
volunteer in the Republican Army, bursts into a pretty snatch of song
which has a flavour of Moore:--
"The minstrel boy from the wars is gone,
All out of breath you'll find him;
He has run some five miles, off and on,
And his shield has flung behind him."
And the Bedmaker's Song in one of the Cambridge scenes is sweetly
reminiscent of a delightful and forgotten bard:--
"I make the butler fly, all in an hour;
I put aside the preserves and cold meats,
Telling my master the cream has turned sour,
Hiding the pickles, purloining the sweets."
"I never languish for husband or dower;
I never sigh to see 'gyps' at my feet;
I make the butter fly, all in an hour,
Taking it home for my Saturday treat."
This, unless I greatly err, is a very good parody of Thomas Haynes
Bayly, author of some of the most popular songs of a sentimental cast
which were chanted in our youth and before it. But this is ground on
which I must not trench, for Mr. Andrew Lang has made it his own. The
most delightful essay in one of his books of Reprints deals with this
amazing bard, and contains some parodies so perfect that Mr. Haynes
Bayly would have rejoicingly claimed them as his own.
Charles Stuart Calverley is by common consent the king of metrical
parodists. All who went before merely adumbrated him and led up to him;
all who have come since are descended from him and reflect him. Of
course he was infinitely more than a mere imitator of rhymes and
rhythms. He was a true poet; he was one of the most graceful scholars
that Cambridge ever produced; and all his exuberant fun was based on a
broad and strong foundation of Greek, Latin, and English literature.
_Verses and Translations, by C.S.C._, which appeared in 1862, was a
young man's book, although its author had already established his
reputation as a humorist by the inimitable Examination Paper on
_Pickwick_; and, being a young man's book, it was a book of unequal
merit. The translations I leave on one side, as lying outside my present
purview, only remarking as I pass that if there is a finer rendering
than that of Ajax--645-692--I do not know where it is to be found. My
business is with the parodies. It was not till ten years later that in
_Fly Leaves_ Calverley asserted his supremacy in the art, but even in
_Verses and Translations_ he gave good promise of what was to be.
Of all poems in the world, I suppose _Horatius_ has been most frequently
and most justly parodied. Every Public School magazine contains at least
one parody of it every year. In my Oxford days there was current an
admirable version of it (attributed to the Rev. W.W. Merry, now Rector
of Lincoln College), which began,--
"Adolphus Smalls, of Boniface,
By all the powers he swore
That, though he had been ploughed three times,
He would be ploughed no more,"
and traced with curious fidelity the successive steps in the process of
preparation till the dreadful day of examination arrived:--
"They said he made strange quantities,
Which none might make but he;
And that strange things were in his Prose
Canine to a degree:
But they called his _Viva Voce_ fair,
They said his 'Books' would do;
And native cheek, where facts were weak,
Brought him triumphant through.
And in each Oxford college
In the dim November days,
When undergraduates fresh from hall
Are gathering round the blaze;
When the 'crusted port' is opened,
And the Moderator's lit,
And the weed glows in the Freshman's mouth,
And makes him turn to spit;
With laughing and with chaffing
The story they renew,
How Smalls of Boniface went in,
And actually got through."
So much for the Oxford rendering of Macaulay's famous lay. "C.S.C." thus
adapted it to Cambridge, and to a different aspect of undergraduate
"On pinnacled St. Mary's
Lingers the setting sun;
Into the street the blackguards
Are skulking one by one;
Butcher and Boots and Bargeman
Lay pipe and pewter down,
And with wild shout come tumbling out
To join the Town and Gown.
* * * * *
"'Twere long to tell how Boxer
Was countered on the cheek,
And knocked into the middle
Of the ensuing week;
How Barnacles the Freshman
Was asked his name and college,
And how he did the fatal facts
Quite different, but better because more difficult, is this essay in
"I heard the wild notes of the lark floating far over the blue sky,
And my foolish heart went after him, and, lo! I blessed him as he
Foolish; for far better is the trained boudoir bullfinch,
Which pipeth the semblance of a tune and mechanically draweth up
For verily, O my daughter, the world is a masquerade,
And God made thee one thing that thou mightest make thyself
A maiden's heart is as champagne, ever aspiring and struggling
And it needed that its motions be checked by the silvered cork of
He that can afford the price, his be the precious treasure,
Let him drink deeply of its sweetness nor grumble if it tasteth of
_Enoch Arden_ was published in 1864, and was not enthusiastically
received by true lovers of Tennyson, though people who had never read
him before thought it wonderfully fine. A kinsman of mine always
contended that the story ended wrongly, and that the really human, and
therefore dramatic, conclusion would have been as follows:--
"For Philip's dwelling fronted on the street,
And Enoch, coming, saw the house a blaze
Of light, and Annie drinking from a mug--
A funny mug, all blue with strange device
Of birds and waters and a little man.
And Philip held a bottle; and a smell
Of strong tobacco, with a fainter smell--
But still a smell, and quite distinct--of gin
Was there. He raised the latch, and stealing by
The cupboard, where a row of teacups stood,
Hard by the genial hearth, he paused behind
The luckless pair, then drawing back his foot--
His manly foot, all clad in sailors' hose--
He swung it forth with such a grievous kick
That Philip in a moment was propelled
Against his wife, though not his wife; and she
Fell forwards, smashing saucers, cups, and jug
Fell in a heap. All shapeless on the floor
Philip and Annie and the crockery lay.
Then Enoch's voice accompanied his foot,
For both were raised, with horrid oath and kick,
Till constables came in with Miriam Lane
And bare them all to prison, railing loud.
Then Philip was discharged and ran away,
And Enoch paid a fine for the assault;
And Annie went to Philip, telling him
That she would see old Enoch further first
Before she would acknowledge him to be
Himself, if Philip only would return.
But Philip said that he would rather not.
Then Annie plucked such handfuls of his hair
Out of his head that he was nearly bald.
But Enoch laughed, and said, 'Well done, my girl.'
And so the two shook hands and made it up."
In 1869 Lewis Carroll published a little book of rhymes called
_Phantasmagoria_. It related chiefly to Oxford. Partly because it was
anonymous, partly because it was mainly topical, the book had no
success. But it contained two or three parodies which deserve to rank
with the best in the language. One is an imitation of a ballad in
"YE CARPETTE KNYGHTE.
"I have a horse--a ryghte goode horse--
Ne doe I envye those
Who scoure ye playne yn headye course
Tyll soddayne on theyre nose
They lyghte wyth unexpected force--
Yt ys a Horse of Clothes."
Then, again, there is excellent metaphysical fooling in _The Three
Voices_. But far the best parody in the book--and the most richly
deserved by the absurdity of its original--is _Hiawatha's
Photographing_. It has the double merit of absolute similarity in
cadence and lifelike realism. Unluckily the limits of space forbid
"From his shoulder Hiawatha
Took the camera of rosewood,
Made of sliding, folding rosewood;
Neatly put it all together.
In its case it lay compactly,
Folded into nearly nothing.
But he opened out the hinges,
Pushed and pulled the joints and hinges,
Till it looked all squares and oblongs,
Like a complicated figure
In the Second Book of Euclid.
This he perched upon a tripod,
And the family in order
Sate before him for their portraits.
* * * * *
Each in turn, as he was taken,
Volunteered his own suggestions,
His ingenious suggestions.
First the Governor, the Father:
He suggested velvet curtains,
And the corner of a table,
Of a rosewood dining-table.
He would hold a scroll of something,
Hold it firmly in his left hand;
He would keep his right hand buried
(Like Napoleon) in his waistcoat;
He would contemplate the distance
With a look of pensive meaning,
As of ducks that die in tempests.
Grand, heroic was the notion,
Yet the picture failed entirely,
Failed, because he moved a little;
Moved, because he couldn't help it."
Who does not know that Father in the flesh? and who has not seen
him--velvet curtains, dining-table, scroll, and all--on the most
conspicuous wall of the Royal Academy? The Father being disposed of,
"Next his better half took courage,
She would have her picture taken."
But her restlessness and questionings proved fatal to the result.
"Next the son, the Stunning-Cantab:
He suggested curves of beauty,
Curves pervading all his figure,
Which the eye might follow onward
Till they centered in the breastpin,
Centered in the golden breastpin.
He had learnt it all from Ruskin,
Author of the _Stones of Venice_."
But, in spite of such culture, the portrait was a failure, and the elder
sister fared no better. Then the younger brother followed, and his
portrait was so awful that--
"In comparison the others
Seemed to one's bewildered fancy
To have partially succeeded."
Undaunted by these repeated failures, Hiawatha, by a great final effort,
"tumbled all the tribe together" in the manner of a family group, and--
"Did at last obtain a picture
Where the faces all succeeded--
Each came out a perfect likeness
Then they joined and all abused it,
Unrestrainedly abused it,
As the worst and ugliest picture
They could possibly have dreamed of;
'Giving one such strange expressions--
Sullen, stupid, pert expressions.
Really any one would take us
(Any one that didn't know us)
For the most unpleasant people.'
Hiawatha seemed to think so,
Seemed to think it not unlikely."
How true to life is this final touch of indignation at the unflattering
truth! But time and space forbid me further to pursue the photographic
song of Hiawatha.
_Phantasmagoria_ filled an aching void during the ten years which
elapsed between the appearance of _Verses and Translations_ and that of
_Fly Leaves_. The latter book is small, only 124 pages in all, including
the _Pickwick_ Examination Paper, but what marvels of mirth and poetry
and satire it contains! How secure its place in the affections of all
who love the gentle art of parody! My rule is not to quote extensively
from books which are widely known; but I must give myself the pleasure
of repeating just six lines which even appreciative critics generally
overlook. They relate to the conversation of the travelling tinker.
"Thus on he prattled like a babbling brook.
Then I: 'The sun hath slipt behind the hill,
And my Aunt Vivian dines at half-past six,'
So in all love we parted; I to the Hall,
He to the village. It was noised next noon
That chickens had been missed at Syllabub Farm."
Will any one stake his literary reputation on the assertion that these
lines are not really Tennyson's?
 Rev. Thomas Short, 1789-1879.
PARODIES IN VERSE--_continued_.
When I embarked upon the subject of metrical parody I said that it was a
shoreless sea. For my own part, I enjoy sailing over these rippling
waters, and cannot be induced to hurry. Let us put in for a moment at
Belfast. There in 1874 the British Association held its annual meeting;
and Professor Tyndall delivered an inaugural address in which he revived
and glorified the Atomic Theory of the Universe. His glowing peroration
ran as follows: "Here I must quit a theme too great for me to handle,
but which will be handled by the loftiest minds ages after you and I,
like streaks of morning cloud, shall have melted into the infinite azure
of the past." Shortly afterwards _Blackwood's Magazine_, always famous
for its humorous and satiric verse, published a rhymed abstract of
Tyndall's address, of which I quote (from memory) the concluding
"Let us greatly honour the Atom, so lively, so wise, and so small;
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