The Earl of Beaconsfield
Part 9 out of 11
Essper's appearance had excited in him, still an unfortunate but innate
taste for the ludicrous did not allow him to be perfectly insensible to
the humour of the scene. Mr. Beckendorff listened quietly till Essper
had finished; he then rose.
"Mr. von Philipson," said he, "as a personal favour to yourself, and to
my own great inconvenience, I consented that in this interview you
should be attended by a friend. I did not reckon upon your servant, and
it is impossible that I can tolerate his presence for a moment. You know
how I live, and that my sole attendant is a female. I allow no male
servants within this house. Even when his Royal Highness honours me with
his presence he is unattended. I desire that I am immediately released
from the presence of this buffoon."
So saying, Mr. Beckendorff left the room.
"Who are you?" said Essper, following him, with his back bent, his head
on his chest, and his eyes glancing. The imitation was perfect.
"Essper," said Vivian, "your conduct is inexcusable, the mischief that
you have done irreparable, and your punishment shall be severe."
"Severe! Why, what day did my master sell his gratitude for a silver
groschen! Is this the return for finding you out, and saving you from a
thousand times more desperate gang than that Baron at Ems! Severe indeed
will be your lot when you are in a dungeon in Reisenburg Castle, with
black bread for roast venison and sour water for Rhenish!"
"Why, what are you talking about?"
"Talking about! About treason, and arch traitors, and an old scoundrel
who lives in a lone lane, and dares not look you straight in the face.
Why, his very blink is enough to hang him without trial!"
"Essper, cease immediately this rhodomontade, and then in distinct terms
inform his Highness and myself of the causes of this unparalleled
The impressiveness of Vivian's manner produced a proper effect; and
except that he spoke somewhat affectedly slow and ridiculously precise,
Essper George delivered himself with great clearness.
"You see, sir, you never let me know that you were going to leave, and
so when I found that you did not come back, I made bold to speak to Mr.
Arnelm when he came home from hunting; but I could not get enough breath
out of him to stop a ladybird on a rose-leaf. I did not much like it,
your honour, for I was among strangers, and so were you, you know. Well,
then, I went to Master Rodolph: he was very kind to me, and seeing me in
low spirits, and thinking me, I suppose, in love, or in debt, or that I
had done some piece of mischief, or had something or other preying on
my mind, he comes to me, and says, 'Essper,' said he; you remember
Master Rodolph's voice, sir?"
"To the point. Never let me hear Master Rodolph's name again."
"Yes, sir! Well, well! he said to me, 'Come and dine with me in my
room;' says I, 'I will.' A good offer should never be refused, unless we
have a better one at the same time. Whereupon, after dinner, Master
Rodolph said to me, 'We will have a bottle of Burgundy for a treat.' You
see, sir, we were rather sick of the Rhenish. Well, sir, we were free
with the wine; and Master Rodolph, who is never easy except when he
knows everything, must be trying, you see, to get out of me what it was
that made me so down in the mouth. I, seeing this, thought I would put
off the secret to another bottle; which being produced, I did not
conceal from him any longer what was making me so low. 'Rodolph,' said
I, 'I do not like my young master going out in this odd way: he is of a
temper to get into scrapes, and I should like very much to know what he
and the Prince (saving your Highness' presence) are after. They have
been shut up in that cabinet these two nights, and though I walked by
the door pretty often, devil a bit of a word ever came through the
key-hole; and so you see, Rodolph,' said I, 'it requires a bottle or two
of Burgundy to keep my spirits up.' Well, your Highness, strange to say,
no sooner had I spoken than Master Rodolph put his head across the
little table; we dined at the little table on the right hand of the room
as you enter--"
"I am going on. Well! he put his head across the little table, and said
to me in a low whisper, cocking his odd-looking eye at the same time, 'I
tell you what, Essper, you are a deuced sharp fellow!' and so, giving a
shake of his head and another wink of his eye, he was quiet. I smelt a
rat, but I did not begin to pump directly; but after the third bottle,
'Rodolph,' said I, 'with regard to your last observation (for we had not
spoken lately, Burgundy being too fat a wine for talking), we are both
of us sharp fellows. I dare say, now, you and I are thinking of the same
thing.' 'No doubt of it,' said Rodolph. And so, sir, he agreed to tell
me what he was thinking of, on condition that I should be equally frank
afterwards. Well, then, he told me that there were sad goings on at
"The deuce!" said the Prince.
"Let him tell his story," said Vivian.
"Sad goings on at Turriparva! He wished that his Highness would hunt
more and attend less to politics; and then he told me, quite
confidentially, that his Highness the Prince, and Heaven knows how many
other Princes besides, had leagued together, and were going to dethrone
the Grand Duke, and that his master was to be made King, and he, Master
Rodolph, Prime Minister. Hearing all this, and duly allowing for a tale
over a bottle, I made no doubt, as I find to be the case, that you, good
master, were about to be led into some mischief; and as I know that
conspiracies are always unsuccessful, I have done my best to save my
master; and I beseech you, upon my knees, to get out of the scrape as
soon as you possibly can." Here Essper George threw himself at Vivian's
feet, and entreated him to quit the house immediately.
"Was ever anything so absurd and so mischievous!" ejaculated the Prince;
and then he conversed with Vivian for some time in a whisper. "Essper,"
at length Vivian said, "you have committed one of the most perfect and
most injurious blunders that you could possibly perpetrate. The mischief
which may result from your imprudent conduct is incalculable. How long
is it since you have thought proper to regulate your conduct on the
absurd falsehoods of a drunken steward? His Highness and myself wish to
consult in private; but on no account leave the house. Now mind me; if
you leave this house without my permission, you forfeit the little
chance which remains of being retained in my service."
"Where am I to go, sir?"
"Stay in the passage."
"Suppose" (here he imitated Beckendorff) "comes to me."
"Then open the door and come into this room."
"Well," said the Prince, when the door was at length shut, "one thing is
quite clear. He does not know who Beckendorff is."
"So far satisfactory; but I feel the force of your Highness'
observations. It is a most puzzling case. To send him back to Turriparva
would be madness: the whole affair would be immediately revealed over
another bottle of Burgundy with Master Rodolph; in fact, your Highness'
visit would be a secret to no one in the country, your host would be
soon discovered, and the evil consequences are incalculable. I know no
one to send him to at Reisenburg; and if I did, it appears to me that
the same objections equally apply to his proceeding to that city as to
his returning to Turriparva. What is to be done? Surely some demon must
have inspired him. We cannot now request Beckendorff to allow him to
stay here; and if we did, I am convinced, from his tone and manner, that
nothing could induce him to comply with our wish. The only course to be
pursued is certainly an annoying one; but, so far as I can judge, it is
the only mode by which very serious mischief can be prevented. Let me
proceed forthwith to Reisenburg with Essper. Placed immediately under my
eye, and solemnly adjured by me to silence, I think I can answer,
particularly when I give him a gentle hint of the station of
Beckendorff, for his preserving the confidence with which it will now be
our policy partially to entrust him. It is, to say the least, awkward
and distressing to leave you alone; but what is to be done? It does not
appear that I can now be of any material service to you. I have assisted
you as much as, and more than, we could reasonably have supposed it
would have been in my power to have done, by throwing some light upon
the character and situation of Beckendorff. With the clue to his conduct
which my chance meeting with him yesterday morning has afforded us, the
only point for your Highness to determine is as to the length of time
you will resolve to wait for his communication. As to your final
agreement together, with your Highness' settled views and decided
purpose, all the difficulty of negotiation will be on his side.
Whatever, my dear Prince," continued Vivian, with a significant voice
and marked emphasis, "whatever, my dear Prince, may be your secret
wishes, be assured that to attain them in your present negotiation you
have only to be firm. Let nothing divert you from your purpose, and the
termination of this interview must be gratifying to you."
The Prince of Little Lilliput was very disinclined to part with his
shrewd counsellor, who had already done him considerable service, and he
strongly opposed Vivian's proposition. His opposition, however, like
that of most other persons, was unaccompanied by any suggestion of his
own. And as both agreed that something must be done, it of course ended
in the Prince being of opinion that Vivian's advice must be followed.
The Prince was really much affected by this sudden and unexpected
parting with one for whom, though he had known him so short a time, he
began to entertain a sincere regard. "I owe you my life," said the
Prince, "and perhaps more than my life; and here we are about suddenly
to part, never to meet again. I wish I could get you to make Turriparva
your home. You should have your own suite of rooms, your own horses,
your own servants, and never feel for an instant that you were not
master of all around you. In truth," continued the Prince, with great
earnestness, "I wish, my dear friend, you would really think seriously
of this. You know you could visit Vienna, and even Italy, and yet return
to me. Max would be delighted to see you: he loves you already; and
Sievers and his library would be at your command. Agree to my
proposition, dear friend."
"I cannot express to your Highness how sensible I am of your kindness.
Your friendship I sincerely value and shall never forget; but I am too
unhappy and unlucky a being to burden any one with my constant presence.
Adieu! or will you go with me to Beckendorff?"
"Oh, go with you by all means! But," said the Prince, taking a ruby ring
of great antiquity off his finger, "I should feel happy if you would
wear this for my sake."
The Prince was so much affected at the thoughts of parting with Vivian
that he could scarcely speak. Vivian accepted the ring with a cordiality
which the kind-hearted donor deserved; and yet our hero unfortunately
had had rather too much experience of the world not to be aware that,
most probably, in less than another week, his affectionate friend would
not be able to recall his name under an hour's recollection. Such are
friends! The moment that we are not at their side we are neglected, and
the moment that we die we are forgotten!
They found Mr. Beckendorff in his library. In apprising Mr. Beckendorff
of his intention of immediately quitting his roof, Vivian did not omit
to state the cause of his sudden departure. These not only accounted for
the abruptness of his movement, but also gave Beckendorff an opportunity
of preventing its necessity, by allowing Essper to remain. But the
opportunity was not seized by Mr. Beckendorff. The truth was, that
gentleman had a particular wish to see Vivian out of his house. In
allowing the Prince of Little Lilliput to be attended during the
interview by a friend, Beckendorff had prepared himself for the
reception of some brawny Jagd Junker, or some thick-headed chamberlain,
who he reckoned would act rather as an incumbrance than an aid to his
opponent. It was with great mortification therefore, that he found him
accompanied by a shrewd, experienced, wary, and educated Englishman. A
man like Beckendorff soon discovered that Vivian Grey's was no common
mind. His conversation with him of the last night had given him some
notion of his powers, and the moment that Beckendorff saw Essper George
enter the house he determined that he should be the cause of Vivian
leaving it. There was also another and weighty reason for Mr.
Beckendorff desiring that the Prince of Little Lilliput should at this
moment be left to himself.
"Mr. Grey will ride on to Reisenburg immediately," said the Prince,
"and, my dear friend, you may depend upon having your luggage by the day
after to-morrow. I shall be at Turriparva early to-morrow, and it will
be my first care."
This was said in a loud voice, and both gentlemen watched Mr.
Beckendorff's countenance as the information was given; but no emotion
"Well, sir, good morning to you," said Mr. Beckendorff; "I am sorry you
are going. Had I known it sooner I would have given you a letter. Mr.
von Philipson," said Beckendorff, "do me the favour of looking over that
paper." So saying, Mr. Beckendorff put some official report into the
Prince's hand; and while his Highness' attention was attracted by this
sudden request, Mr. Beckendorff laid his finger on Vivian's arm, and
said in a lower tone, "I shall take care that you find a powerful friend
As Vivian left the room Mr. Beckendorff was seized with an unusual
desire to converse with the Prince of Little Lilliput, and his Highness
was consequently debarred the consolation of walking with his friend as
far as the horses. At the little gate Vivian and Essper encountered the
only male attendant who was allowed to approach the house of Mr.
Beckendorff. As Vivian quietly walked his horse up the rough turf road,
he could not refrain from recurring to his conversation of the previous
night; and when he called to mind the adventures of the last six days,
he had new cause to wonder at, and perhaps to lament over, his singular
fate. In that short time he had saved the life of a powerful Prince, and
being immediately signalled out, without any exertion on his part, as
the object of that Prince's friendship, the moment he arrives at his
castle, by a wonderful contingency, he becomes the depositary of state
secrets, and assists in a consultation of importance with one of the
most powerful Ministers in Europe. And now the object of so much
friendship, confidence, and honour, he is suddenly on the road to the
capital of the State of which his late host is the Prime Minister and
his friend the chief subject, without even the convenience of a common
letter of introduction; and with little prospect of viewing, with even
the usual advantages of a common traveller, one of the most interesting
of European Courts.
When he had proceeded about halfway up the turf lane he found a private
road to his right, which, with that spirit of adventure for which
Englishmen are celebrated, he immediately resolved must not only lead to
Reisenburg, but also carry him to that city much sooner than the regular
high road. He had not advanced far up this road before he came to the
gate at which he had parted with Beckendorff on the morning that
gentleman had roused him so unexpectedly from, his reverie in a green
lane. He was surprised to find a horseman dismounting at the gate.
Struck by this singular circumstance, the appearance of the stranger was
not unnoticed. He was a tall and well proportioned man, and as the
traveller passed he stared Vivian so fully in the face that our hero did
not fail to remark his handsome countenance, the expression of which,
however, was rather vacant and unpleasing. He was dressed in a
riding-coat exactly similar to the one always worn by Beckendorff's
messenger, and had Vivian not seen him so distinctly he would have
mistaken him for that person. The stranger was rather indifferently
mounted, and carried his cloak and a small portmanteau at the back of
"I suppose it is the butler," said Essper George, who now spoke for the
first time since his dismissal from the room. Vivian did not answer him;
not because he entertained any angry feeling on account of his
exceedingly unpleasant visit. By no means: it was impossible for a man
like Vivian Grey to cherish an irritated feeling for a second. But he
did not exchange a syllable with Essper George, merely because he was
not in the humour to speak. He could not refrain from musing on the
singular events of the last few days; and, above all, the character of
Beckendorff particularly engrossed his meditation. Their conversation of
the preceding night excited in his mind new feelings of wonder, and
revived emotions which he thought were dead or everlastingly dormant.
Apparently, the philosophy on which Beckendorff had regulated his
career, and by which he had arrived at his pitch of greatness, was
exactly the same with which he himself, Vivian Grey, had started in
life; which he had found so fatal in its consequences; which he believed
to be so vain in its principles. How was this? What radical error had he
committed? It required little consideration. Thirty, and more than
thirty, years had passed over the head of Beckendorff ere the world felt
his power, or indeed was conscious of his existence. A deep student, not
only of man in detail, but of man in groups; not only of individuals,
but of nations; Beckendorff had hived up his ample knowledge of all
subjects which could interest his fellow-creatures, and when that
opportunity which in this world occurs to all men occurred to
Beckendorff he was prepared. With acquirements equal to his genius,
Beckendorff depended only upon himself, and succeeded. Vivian Grey, with
a mind inferior to no man's, dashed on the stage, in years a boy, though
in feelings a man. Brilliant as might have been his genius, his
acquirements necessarily were insufficient. He could not depend only
upon himself; a consequent necessity arose to have recourse to the
assistance of others; to inspire them with feelings which they could not
share; and humour and manage the petty weaknesses which he himself could
not experience. His colleagues were, at the same time, to work for the
gratification of their own private interests, the most palpable of all
abstract things; and to carry into execution a great purpose, which
their feeble minds, interested only by the first point, cared not to
comprehend. The unnatural combination failed, and its originator fell.
To believe that he could recur again to the hopes, the feelings, the
pursuits of his boyhood, he felt to be the vainest of delusions. It was
the expectation of a man like Beckendorff, whose career, though
difficult, though hazardous, had been uniformly successful; of a man who
mistook cares for grief, and anxiety for sorrow.
The travellers entered the city at sunset. Proceeding through an ancient
and unseemly town, full of long, narrow, and ill-paved streets, and
black unevenly built houses, they ascended the hill, on the top of which
was situated the new and Residence town of Reisenburg. The proud
palace, the white squares, the architectural streets, the new churches,
the elegant opera house, the splendid hotels, and the gay public
gardens, full of busts, vases, and statues, and surrounded by an iron
railing cast out of the cannon taken from both sides during the war by
the Reisenburg troops, and now formed into pikes and fasces, glittering
with gilded heads: all these, shining in the setting sun, produced an
effect which, at any time and in any place, would have been beautiful
and striking; but on the present occasion were still more so, from the
remarkable contrast they afforded to the ancient, gloomy, and filthy
town through which Vivian had just passed, and where, from the lowness
of its situation, the sun had already set. There was as much difference
between the old and new town of Reisenburg as between the old barbarous
Margrave and the new and noble Grand Duke.
On the second day after his arrival at Reisenburg, Vivian received the
following letter from the Prince of Little Lilliput. His luggage did not
accompany the epistle.
"My Dear Friend,
"By the time you have received this I shall have returned to Turriparva.
My visit to a certain gentleman was prolonged for one day. I never can
convey to you by words the sense I entertain of the value of your
friendship and of your services; I trust that time will afford me
opportunities of testifying it by my actions. I return home by the same
road by which we came; you remember how excellent the road was, as
indeed are all the roads in Reisenburg; that must be confessed by all. I
fear that the most partial admirers of the old régime cannot say as much
for the convenience of travelling in the time of our fathers. Good roads
are most excellent things, and one of the first marks of civilisation
and prosperity. The Emperor Napoleon, who, it must be confessed, had,
after all, no common mind, was celebrated for his roads. You have
doubtless admired the Route Napoleon on the Rhine, and if you travel
into Italy I am informed that you will be equally, and even more, struck
by the passage over the Simplon and the other Italian roads. Reisenburg
has certainly kept pace with the spirit of the time; nobody can deny
that; and I confess to you that the more I consider the subject it
appears to me that the happiness, prosperity, and content of a state are
the best evidences of the wisdom and beneficent rule of a government.
Many things are very excellent in theory, which are quite the reverse
in practice, and even ludicrous. And while we should do our most to
promote the cause and uphold the interests of rational liberty, still,
at the same time, we should ever be on our guard against the crude ideas
and revolutionary systems of those who are quite inexperienced in that
sort of particular knowledge which is necessary for all statesmen.
Nothing is so easy as to make things look fine on paper; we should never
forget that: there is a great difference between high-sounding
generalities and laborious details. Is it reasonable to expect that men
who have passed their lives dreaming in colleges and old musty studies
should be at all calculated to take the head of affairs, or know what
measures those at the head of affairs ought to adopt? I think not. A
certain personage, who by-the-bye is one of the most clear-headed and
most perfect men of business that I ever had the pleasure of being
acquainted with; a real practical man, in short; he tells me that
Professor Skyrocket, whom you will most likely see at Reisenburg, wrote
an article in the Military Quarterly Review, which is published there,
on the probable expenses of a war between Austria and Prussia, and
forgot the commissariat altogether. Did you ever know anything so
ridiculous? What business have such fellows to meddle with affairs of
state? They should certainly be put down: that, I think, none can deny.
A liberal spirit in government is certainly a most excellent thing; but
we must always remember that liberty may degenerate into licentiousness.
Liberty is certainly an excellent thing, that all admit; but, as a
certain person very well observed, so is physic, and yet it is not to be
given at all times, but only when the frame is in a state to require it.
People may be as unprepared for a wise and discreet use of liberty, as a
vulgar person may be for the management of a great estate unexpectedly
inherited: there is a great deal in this, and, in my opinion, there are
cases in which to force liberty down a people's throat is presenting
them, not with a blessing, but a curse. I shall send your luggage on
immediately; it is very probable that I may be in town at the end of the
week, for a short time. I wish much to see and to consult you, and
therefore hope that you will not leave Reisenburg before you see
"Your faithful and obliged friend,
Two days after the receipt of this letter Essper George ran into the
room with a much less solemn physiognomy than he had thought proper to
assume since his master's arrival at Reisenburg.
"Lord, sir; whom do you think I have just met?"
"Whom?" asked Vivian, with eagerness, for, as is always the case when
such questions are asked us, he was thinking of every person in the
world except the right one. "It might be--"
"To think that I should see him!" continued Essper.
"It is a man, then," thought Vivian; "who is it at once, Essper?"
"I thought you would not guess, sir! It will quite cure you to hear it;
"Ay! and there's great news in the wind."
"Which of course you have confidentially extracted from him. Pray let us
"The Prince of Little Lilliput is coming to Reisenburg," said Essper.
"Well! I had some idea of that before," said Vivian.
"Oh! then, you know it all, sir, I suppose," said Essper, with a look of
"I know nothing more than I have mentioned," said his master.
"What! do you not know, sir, that the Prince has come over; that he is
going to live at Court; and be, Heaven knows what! That he is to carry a
staff every day before the Grand Duke at dinner; does not my master
"I know nothing of all this; and so tell me in plain German what the
"Well, then," continued Essper, "I suppose you do not know that his
Highness the Prince is to be his Excellency the Grand Marshal, that
unfortunate but principal officer of state having received his dismissal
yesterday. They are coming up immediately. Not a moment is to be lost,
which seems to me very odd. Master Rodolph is arranging everything; and
he has this morning purchased from his master's predecessor his palace,
furniture, wines, and pictures; in short, his whole establishment: the
late Grand Marshal consoling himself for his loss of office, and
revenging himself on his successor, by selling him his property at a
hundred per cent. profit. However, Master Rodolph seems quite contented
with his bargain; and your luggage is come, sir. His Highness, the
Prince, will be in town at the end of the week; and all the men are to
be put in new livery. Mr. Arnelm is to be his Highness' chamberlain, and
Von Neuwied master of the horse. So you see, sir, you were right; and
that old puss in boots was no traitor, after all. Upon my soul, I did
not much believe you, sir, until I heard all this good news."
About a week after his arrival at Reisenburg, as Vivian was at
breakfast, the door opened, and Mr. Sievers entered.
"I did not think that our next meeting would be in this city," said Mr.
"His Highness, of course, informed me of your arrival," said Vivian, as
he greeted him cordially.
"You, I understand, are the diplomatist whom I am to thank for finding
myself again at Reisenburg. Let me, at the same time, express my
gratitude for your kind offices to me, and congratulate you on the
brilliancy of your talents for negotiation. Little did I think, when I
was giving you, the other day, an account of Mr. Beckendorff, that the
information would have been of such service to you.
"I am afraid you have nothing to thank me for; though, certainly, had
the office of arranging the terms between the parties devolved on me, my
first thoughts would have been for a gentleman for whom I have so much
regard and respect as Mr. Sievers."
"Sir! I feel honoured: you already speak like a finished courtier. Pray,
what is to be your office?"
"I fear Mr. Beckendorff will not resign in my favour; and my ambition is
so exalted that I cannot condescend to take anything under the
"You are not to be tempted by a Grand Marshalship!" said Mr. Sievers.
"You hardly expected, when you were at Turriparva, to witness such a
rapid termination of the patriotism of our good friend. I think you said
you have seen him since your arrival: the interview must have
"Not at all. I immediately congratulated him on the judicious
arrangements which had been concluded; and, to relieve his awkwardness,
took some credit to myself for having partially assisted in bringing
about the result. The subject was not again mentioned, and I dare say
never will be."
"It is a curious business," said Sievers. "The Prince is a man who,
rather than have given me up to the Grand Duke; me, with whom he was not
connected, and who, of my own accord, sought his hospitality; sooner, I
repeat, than have delivered me up, he would have had his castle razed to
the ground and fifty swords through his heart; and yet, without the
slightest compunction, has this same man deserted, with the greatest
coolness, the party of which, ten days ago, he was the zealous leader.
How can you account for this, except it be, as I have long suspected,
that in politics there positively is no feeling of honour? Every one is
conscious that not only himself, but his colleagues and his rivals, are
working for their own private purpose; and that however a party may
apparently be assisting in bringing about a result of common benefit,
that nevertheless, and in fact, each is conscious that he is the tool of
another. With such an understanding, treason is an expected affair; and
the only point to consider is, who shall be so unfortunate as to be the
deserted, instead of the deserter. It is only fair to his Highness to
state that Beckendorff gave him incontestable evidence that he had had a
private interview with every one of the mediatised Princes. They were
the dupes of the wily Minister. In these negotiations he became
acquainted with their plans and characters, and could estimate the
probability of their success. The golden bribe, which was in turn
dandled before the eyes of all, had been always reserved for the most
powerful, our friend. His secession and the consequent desertion of his
relatives destroy the party for ever; while, at the same time, that
party have not even the consolation of a good conscience to uphold them
in their adversity; but feel that in case of their clamour, or of any
attempt to stir up the people by their hollow patriotism, it is in the
power of the Minister to expose and crush them for ever."
"All this," said Vivian, "makes me the more rejoice that our friend has
got out of their clutches; he will make an excellent Grand Marshal; and
you must not forget, my dear sir, that he did not forget you. To tell
you the truth, although I did not flatter myself that I should benefit
during my stay at Reisenburg by his influence, I am not the least
surprised at the termination of our visit to Mr. Beckendorff. I have
seen too many of these affairs not to have been quite aware, the whole
time, that it would require very little trouble, and very few sacrifices
on the part of Mr. Beckendorff, to quash the whole cabal. By-the-bye,
our visit to him was highly amusing; he is a singular man."
"He has had, nevertheless," said Sievers, "a difficult part to play. Had
it not been for you, the Prince would have perhaps imagined that he was
only trifling with him again, and terminated the interview abruptly and
in disgust. Having brought the Grand Duke to terms, and having arranged
the interview, Beckendorff of course imagined that all was finished. The
very day that you arrived at his house he had received despatches from
his Royal Highness, recalling his promise, and revoking Beckendorff's
authority to use his unlimited discretion in this business. The
difficulty then was to avoid discussion with the Prince, with whom he
was not prepared to negotiate; and, at the same time, without letting
his Highness out of his sight, to induce the Grand Duke to resume his
old view of the case. The first night that you were there Beckendorff
rode up to Reisenburg, saw the Grand Duke, was refused, through the
intrigues of Madame Carolina, the requested authority, and resigned his
power. When he was a mile on his return, he was summoned back to the
palace; and his Royal Highness asked, as a favour from his tutor,
four-and-twenty hours' consideration. This Beckendorff granted, on the
condition that, in case the Grand Duke assented to the terms proposed,
his Royal Highness should himself be the bearer of the proposition; and
that there should be no more written promises to recall, and no more
written authorities to revoke. The terms were hard, but Beckendorff was
inflexible. On the second night of your visit a messenger arrived with a
despatch, advising Beckendorff of the intended arrival of his Royal
Highness on the next morning. The ludicrous intrusion of your amusing
servant prevented you from being present at the great interview, in
which I understand Beckendorff for the moment laid aside all his
caprices. Our friend acted with great firmness and energy. He would not
be satisfied even with the personal pledge and written promise of the
Grand Duke, but demanded that he should receive the seals of office
within a week; so that, had the Court not been sincere, his situation
with his former party would not have been injured. It is astonishing how
very acute even a dull man is when his own interests are at stake. Had
his Highness been the agent of another person, he would probably have
committed many blunders, have made disadvantageous terms, or perhaps
have been thoroughly duped. Self-interest is the finest eye-water."
"And what says Madame Carolina to all this?"
"Oh! according to custom, she has changed already, and thinks the whole
business admirably arranged. His Highness is her grand favourite, and my
little pupil Max her pet. I think, however, on the whole, the boy is
fondest of the Grand Duke, whom, if you remember, he was always
informing you in confidence that he intended to assassinate. And as for
your obedient servant," said Sievers, bowing, "here am I once more the
Aristarchus of her coterie. Her friends, by-the-bye, view the accession
of the Prince with no pleased eyes; and, anticipating that his juncture
with the Minister is only a prelude to their final dispersion, they are
compensating for the approaching termination of their career by unusual
violence and fresh fervour, stinging like mosquitoes before a storm,
conscious of their impending destruction from the clearance of the
atmosphere. As for myself, I have nothing more to do with them. Liberty
and philosophy are fine words; but until I find men are prepared to
cultivate them both in a wiser spirit I shall remain quiet. I have no
idea of being banished and imprisoned because a parcel of knaves are
making a vile use of the truths which I disseminate. In my opinion,
philosophers have said enough; now let men act. But all this time I have
forgotten to ask you how you like Reisenburg."
"I can hardly say; with the exception of yesterday, when I rode Max
round the ramparts, I have not been once out of the hotel. But to-day I
feel so well that, if you are disposed for a lounge, I should like it
above all things."
"I am quite at your service; but I must not forget that I am the bearer
of a missive to you from his Excellency the Grand Marshal. You are
invited to join the court dinner to-day, and be presented--"
"Really, my dear sir, an invalid--"
"Well! if you do not like it, you must make your excuses to him; but it
really is the pleasantest way of commencing your acquaintance at Court,
and only allowed to distingués; among which, as you are the friend of
the new Grand Marshal, you are of course considered. No one is petted so
much as a political, apostate, except, perhaps, a religious one; so at
present we are all in high feather. You had better dine at the palace
to-day. Everything quite easy; and, by an agreeable relaxation of state,
neither swords, bags, nor trains are necessary. Have you seen the
palace? I suppose not. We will look at it, and then call on the Prince."
The gentlemen accordingly left the hotel; and proceeding down the
principal street of the New Town, they came into a large square, or
Place d'Armes. A couple of regiments of infantry were exercising in it.
"A specimen of our standing army," said Sievers. "In the war time, this
little State brought thirty thousand highly-disciplined and
well-appointed troops into the field. This efficient contingent was, at
the same time, the origin of our national prosperity and our national
debt. For we have a national debt, sir! I assure you we are proud of it,
and consider it the most decided sign of being a great people. Our force
in times of peace is, of course, much reduced. We have, however, still
eight thousand men, who are perfectly unnecessary. The most curious
thing is, that, to keep up the patronage of the Court and please the
nobility, though we have cut down our army two-thirds, we have never
reduced the number of our generals; and so, at this moment, among our
eight thousand men, we count about forty general officers, being one to
every two hundred privates. We have, however, which perhaps you would
not suspect, one military genius among our multitude of heroes. The
Count von Sohnspeer is worthy of being one of Napoleon's marshals. Who
he is no one exactly knows; some say an illegitimate son of Beckendorff.
Certain it is that he owes his nobility to his sword; and as certain it
is that he is to be counted among the very few who share the Minister's
confidence. Von Sohnspeer has certainly performed a thousand brilliant
exploits; yet, in my opinion, the not least splendid day of his life was
that of the battle of Leipsic. He was on the side of the French, and
fought against the Allies with desperate fury. When he saw that all was
over, and the Allies triumphant, calling out 'Germany for ever!' he
dashed against his former friends, and captured from the flying Gauls a
hundred pieces of cannon. He hastened to the tent of the Emperors with
his blood-red sword in his hand, and at the same time congratulated them
on the triumph of their cause, and presented them with his hard-earned
trophies. The manoeuvre was perfectly successful; and the troops of
Reisenburg, complimented as true Germans, were pitied for their former
unhappy fate in being forced to fight against their fatherland, and were
immediately enrolled in the allied army; as such, they received a due
share of all the plunder. He is a grand genius, young Master von
"Decidedly! Worthy of being a companion of the fighting bastards of the
middle ages. This is a fine square."
"Very grand indeed! Precedents for some of the architectural
combinations could hardly be found at Athens or Rome; nevertheless the
general effect is magnificent. Do you admire this plan of making every
elevation of an order consonant with the purpose of the building? See,
for instance, on the opposite side of the square is the palace. The
Corinthian order, which is evident in all its details, suits well the
character of the structure. It accords with royal pomp and elegance,
with fêtes and banquets, and interior magnificence. On the other hand,
what a happy contrast is afforded to this gorgeous structure by the
severe simplicity of this Tuscan Palace of Justice. The School of Arts,
in the farthest corner of the square, is properly entered through an
Ionic portico. Let us go into the palace. Here not only does our monarch
reside, but (an arrangement which I much admire) here are deposited, in
a gallery worthy of the treasures it contains, our superb collection of
pictures. They are the private property of his Royal Highness; but, as
is usually the case under despotic Princes, the people, equally his
property, are flattered by the collection being styled the 'Public
The hour of the court dinner at Reisenburg was two o'clock, about which
time, in England, a man first remembers the fatal necessity of shaving;
though, by-the-bye, this allusion is not a very happy one, for in this
country shaving is a ceremony at present somewhat obsolete. At two
o'clock, however, our hero, accompanying the Grand Marshal and Mr.
Sievers, reached the palace. In the saloon were assembled various
guests, chiefly attached to the Court. Immediately after the arrival of
our party, the Grand Duke and Madame Carolina, followed by their
chamberlains and ladies in waiting, entered. The little Prince
Maximilian strutted in between his Royal Highness and his fair Consort,
having hold of a hand of each. The urchin was much changed in appearance
since Vivian first saw him; he was dressed in the complete uniform of a
captain of the Royal Guards, having been presented with a commission on
the day of his arrival at Court. A brilliant star glittered on his
scarlet coat, and paled the splendour of his golden epaulettes. The
duties, however, of the princely captain were at present confined to the
pleasing exertion of carrying the bon-bon box of Madame Carolina, the
contents of which were chiefly reserved for his own gratification. In
the Grand Duke Vivian was not surprised to recognise the horseman whom
he had met in the private road on the morning of his departure from Mr.
Beckendorff's; his conversation with Sievers had prepared him for this.
Madame Carolina was in appearance Parisian of the highest order: that is
to say, an exquisite figure and an indescribable tournure, an invisible
foot, a countenance full of esprit and intelligence, without a single
regular feature, and large and very bright black eyes. Madame's hair was
of the same colour, and arranged in the most effective manner. Her
cashmere would have graced the Feast of Roses, and so engrossed your
attention that it was long before you observed the rest of her costume,
in which, however, traces of a creative genius were immediately visible;
in short, Madame Carolina was not fashionable, but fashion herself. In a
subsequent chapter, at a ball which we have in preparation, we will make
up for this brief notice of her costume by publishing her court dress.
For the sake of our fair readers, however, we will not pass over the
ornament in her hair. The comb which supported her elaborate curls was
invisible, except at each end, whence it threw out a large Psyche's wing
of golden web, the eyes of which were formed of rubies encircled with
The Royal party made a progress round the circle. Madame Carolina first
presented her delicate and faintly-rouged cheek to the hump-backed Crown
Prince, who scarcely raised his eyes from the ground as he performed the
accustomed courtesy. One or two Royal relatives, who were on a visit at
the palace, were honoured by the same compliment. The Grand Duke bowed
graciously and gracefully to every individual; and his lady accompanied
the bow by a speech, which was at the same time personal and piquant.
The first great duty of a monarch is to know how to bow skilfully!
nothing is more difficult, and nothing more important. A Royal bow may
often quell a rebellion, and sometimes crush a conspiracy. It should at
the same time be both general and individual; equally addressed to the
company assembled, and to every single person in the assembly. Our own
sovereign bows to perfection. His bow is eloquent, and will always
render an oration on his part unnecessary; which is a great point, for
harangues are not regal. Nothing is more undignified than to make a
speech. It is from the first an acknowledgment that you are under the
necessity of explaining, or conciliating, or convincing, or confuting;
in short, that you are not omnipotent, but opposed.
The bow of the Grand Duke of Reisenburg was a first-rate bow, and always
produced a great sensation with the people, particularly if it were
followed up by a proclamation for a public fête or fireworks; then his
Royal Highness' popularity was at its height. But Madame Carolina, after
having by a few magic sentences persuaded the whole room that she took a
peculiar interest in the happiness of every individual present, has
reached Vivian, who stood next to his friend the Grand Marshal. He was
presented by that great officer, and received most graciously. For a
moment the room thought that his Royal Highness was about to speak; but
he only smiled. Madame Carolina, however, said a great deal; and stood
not less than sixty seconds complimenting the English nation, and
particularly the specimen of that celebrated people who now had the
honour of being presented to her. No one spoke more in a given time than
Madame Carolina; and as, while the eloquent words fell from her deep red
lips, her bright eyes were invariably fixed on those of the person she
addressed, what she did say, as invariably, was very effective. Vivian
had only time to give a nod of recognition to his friend Max, for the
company, arm-in-arm, now formed into a procession to the dining saloon.
Vivian was parted from the Grand Marshal, who, as the highest officer of
state present, followed immediately after the Grand Duke. Our hero's
companion was Mr. Sievers. Although it was not a state dinner, the
party, from being swelled by the suites of the royal visitors, was
numerous; and as the Court occupied the centre of the table, Vivian was
too distant to listen to the conversation of Madame, who, however, he
well perceived, from the animation of her countenance, was delighted and
delighting. The Grand Duke spoke little, but listened, like a lover of
three days, to the accents of his accomplished consort. The arrangement
of a German dinner promotes conversation. The numerous dishes are at
once placed upon the table; and when the curious eye has well examined
their contents, the whole dinner, untouched, disappears. Although this
circumstance is rather alarming to a novice, his terror soon gives
place to self-congratulation when he finds the banquet re-appear, each
dish completely carved and cut up.
"Not being Sunday," said Mr. Sievers, "there is no opera to-night. We
are to meet again, I believe, at the palace, in a few hours, at Madame
Carolina's soirée. In the meantime, you had better accompany his
Excellency to the public gardens; that is the fashionable drive. I shall
go home and smoke a pipe."
The circle of the public gardens of Reisenburg exhibited exactly,
although upon a smaller scale, the same fashions and the same
frivolities, the same characters and the same affectations, as the Hyde
Park of London, or the Champs Elysées of Paris, the Prater of Vienna,
the Corso of Rome or Milan, or the Cascine of Florence. There was the
female leader of ton, hated by her own sex and adored by the other, and
ruling both; ruling both by the same principle of action, and by the
influence of the same quality which creates the arbitress of fashion in
all countries, by courage to break through the conventional customs of
an artificial class, and by talents to ridicule all those who dare
follow her innovating example; attracting universal notice by her own
singularity, and at the same time conciliating the support of those from
whom she dares to differ, by employing her influence in preventing
others from violating their laws. The arbitress of fashion is one who is
allowed to be singular, in order that she may suppress singularity; she
is exempted from all laws; but, by receiving the dictatorship, she
ensures the despotism. Then there was that mysterious being whose
influence is perhaps even more surprising than the dominion of the
female despot of manners, for she wields a power which can be analysed
and comprehended; I mean the male authority in coats, cravats, and
chargers; who, without fortune and without rank, and sometimes merely
through the bold obtrusion of a fantastic taste, becomes the glass of
fashion in which even royal dukes and the most aristocratic nobles
hasten to adjust themselves, and the mould by which the ingenious youth
of a whole nation is enthusiastically formed. There is a Brummell in
Vivian, who, after a round or two with the Grand Marshal, had mounted
Max, was presented by the young Count von Bernstorff, the son of the
Grand Chamberlain, to whose care he had been specially commended by the
Prince, to the lovely Countess von S----. The examination of this high
authority was rigid and her report satisfactory. When Vivian quitted
the side of her britzska half a dozen dandies immediately rode up to
learn the result, and, on being informed, they simultaneously cantered
up to young von Bernstorff, and requested to have the honour of being
introduced to his highly-interesting friend. All these exquisites wore
white hats lined with crimson, in consequence of the head of the
all-influential Emilius von Aslingen having, on the preceding day, been
kept sacred from the profaning air by that most tasteful covering. The
young lords were loud in their commendations of this latest evidence of
von Aslingen's happy genius, and rallied with unmerciful spirit the
unfortunate von Bernstorff for not having yet mounted the all-perfect
chapeau. Like all von Aslingen's introductions, it was as remarkable for
good taste as for striking singularity; they had no doubt it would have
a great run, exactly the style of thing for a hot autumn, and it suited
so admirably with the claret-coloured riding coat which Madame
considered von Aslingen's chef-d'oeuvre. Inimitable von Aslingen! As
they were in these raptures, to Vivian's delight and to their dismay,
the object of their admiration appeared. Our hero was, of course,
anxious to see so interesting a character; but he could scarcely believe
that he, in fact, beheld the ingenious introducer of white and crimson
hats, and the still happier inventor of those chef-d'oeuvres,
claret-coloured riding coats, when his attention was directed to a
horseman who wore a peculiarly high heavy black hat and a frogged and
furred frock, buttoned up, although it was a most sultry day, to his
very nose. How singular is the slavery of fashion! Notwithstanding their
mortification, the unexpected costume of von Aslingen appeared only to
increase the young lords' admiration of his character and
accomplishments; and instead of feeling that he was an insolent
pretender, whose fame originated in his insulting their tastes, and
existed only by their sufferance, all cantered away with the
determination of wearing on the next day, even if it were to cost them
each a calenture, furs enough to keep a man warm during a winter party
at St. Petersburg, not that winter parties ever take place there; on the
contrary, before the winter sets in, the Court moves on to Moscow,
which, from its situation and its climate, will always, in fact,
continue the real capital of Russia.
The royal carriage, drawn by six horses and backed by three men
servants, who would not have disgraced the fairy equipage of Cinderella,
has now left the gardens.
Madame Carolina held her soirée in her own private apartments, the Grand
Duke himself appearing in the capacity of a visitor. The company was
numerous and brilliant. His Royal Highness, surrounded by a select
circle, dignified one corner of the saloon; Madame Carolina at the other
end of the room, in the midst of poets, philosophers, and politicians,
in turn decided upon the most interesting and important topics of
poetry, philosophy, and politics. Boston, and Zwicken, and whist
interested some, and puzzles and other ingenious games others. A few
were above conversing, or gambling, or guessing; superior intelligences,
who would neither be interested nor amused, among these Emilius von
Aslingen was most prominent. He leant against a door in full uniform,
with his vacant eyes fixed on no object. The others were only awkward
copies of an easy original; and among these, stiff or stretching,
lounging on a chaise-lounge, or posted against the wall, Vivian's quick
eye recognised more than one of the unhappy votaries of white hats lined
When Vivian made his bow to the Grand Duke he was surprised by his Royal
Highness coming forward a few steps from the surrounding circle and
extending to him his hand. His Royal Highness continued conversing with
him for upwards of a quarter of an hour; expressed the great pleasure he
felt at seeing at his Court a gentleman of whose abilities he had the
highest opinion; and, after a variety of agreeable compliments
(compliments are doubly agreeable from crowned heads), the Grand Duke
retired to a game of Boston with his royal visitors. Vivian's reception
made a sensation through the room. Various rumours were
"Who can he be?"
"Don't you know? Oh! most curious story. Killed a boar as big as a
bonasus, which was ravaging half Reisenburg, and saved the lives of his
Excellency the Grand Marshal and his whole suite."
"What is that about the Grand Marshal and a boar as big as a bonasus?
Quite wrong; natural son of Beckendorff; know it for a fact. Don't you
see he is being introduced to von Sohnspeer! brothers, you know, managed
the whole business about the leagued Princes; not a son of Beckendorff,
only a particular friend; the son of the late General--, I forget his
name exactly. Killed at Leipsic, you know; that famous general; what was
his name? that very famous general; don't you remember? Never mind;
well! he is his son; father particular friend of Beckendorff; college
friend; brought up the orphan; very handsome of him! They say he does
handsome things sometimes."
"Ah! well, I've heard so too; and so this young man is to be the new
under-secretary! very much approved by the Countess von S----."
"No, it can't be! your story is quite wrong. He is an Englishman."
"An Englishman! no!"
"Yes he is. I had it from Madame; high rank incog.; going to Vienna;
"Something to do with Greece, of course; independence recognised?"
"Oh! certainly; pay a tribute to the Porte, and governed by a hospodar.
Admirable arrangement! have to support their own government and a
foreign one besides!"
It was with pleasure that Vivian at length observed Mr. Sievers enter
the room, and extricating himself from the enlightened and enthusiastic
crowd who were disserting round the tribunal of Madame, he hastened to
his amusing friend.
"Ah! my dear sir, how glad I am to see you! I have, since we met last,
been introduced to your fashionable ruler, and some of her most
fashionable slaves. I have been honoured by a long conversation with his
Royal Highness, and have listened to some of the most eloquent of the
Carolina coterie. What a Babel! there all are, at the same time, talkers
and listeners. To what a pitch of perfection may the 'science' of
conversation be carried! My mind teems with original ideas, to which I
can annex no definite meaning. What a variety of contradictory theories,
which are all apparently sound! I begin to suspect that there is a great
difference between reasoning and reason!"
"Your suspicion is well founded, my dear sir," said Mr. Sievers; "and I
know no circumstance which would sooner prove it than listening for a
few minutes to this little man in a snuff-coloured coat near me. But I
will save you from so terrible a demonstration. He has been endeavouring
to catch my eye these last ten minutes, and I have as studiously avoided
seeing him. Let us move."
"Willingly; who may this fear-inspiring monster be?"
"A philosopher," said Mr. Sievers, "as most of us call ourselves here;
that is to say, his profession is to observe the course of Nature; and
if by chance he can discover any slight deviation of the good dame from
the path which our ignorance has marked out as her only track, he claps
his hands, cries [Greek: euraeka]! and is dubbed 'illustrious' on the
spot. Such is the world's reward for a great discovery, which generally,
in a twelvemonth's time, is found out to be a blunder of the
philosopher, and not an eccentricity of Nature. I am not underrating
those great men who, by deep study, or rather by some mysterious
inspiration, have produced combinations and effected results which have
materially assisted the progress of civilisation and the security of our
happiness. No, no! to them be due adoration. Would that the reverence of
posterity could be some consolation to these great spirits for neglect
and persecution when they lived! I have invariably observed of great
natural philosophers, that if they lived in former ages they were
persecuted as magicians, and in periods which profess to be more
enlightened they have always been ridiculed as quacks. The succeeding
century the real quack arises. He adopts and develops the suppressed,
and despised, and forgotten discovery of his unfortunate predecessor!
and Fame trumpets this resurrection-man of science with as loud a blast
of rapture as if, instead of being merely the accidental animator of the
corpse, he were the cunning artist himself who had devised and executed
the miraculous machinery which the other had only wound up."
"But in this country," said Vivian, "surely you have no reason to
complain of the want of moral philosophers, or of the respect paid to
them. The country of Kant--, of ----"
"Yes, yes! we have plenty of metaphysicians, if you mean them. Watch
that lively-looking gentleman, who is stuffing kalte schale so
voraciously in the corner. The leader of the Idealists, a pupil of the
celebrated Fichte! To gain an idea of his character, know that he
out-Herods his master; and Fichte is to Kant what Kant is to the
unenlightened vulgar. You can now form a slight conception of the
spiritual nature of our friend who is stuffing kalte schale. The first
principle of his school is to reject all expressions which incline in
the slightest degree to substantiality. Existence is, in his opinion, a
word too absolute. Being, principle, essence, are terms scarcely
sufficiently ethereal even to indicate the subtile shadowings of his
opinions. Some say that he dreads the contact of all real things, and
that he makes it the study of his life to avoid them. Matter is his
great enemy. When you converse with him you lose all consciousness of
this world. My dear sir," continued Mr. Sievers, "observe how
exquisitely Nature revenges herself upon these capricious and fantastic
children. Believe me, Nature is the most brilliant of wits; and that no
repartees that were ever inspired by hate, or wine, or beauty, ever
equalled the calm effects of her indomitable power upon those who are
rejecting her authority. You understand me? Methinks that the best
answer to the idealism of M. Fichte is to see his pupil devouring
"And this is really one of your great lights?"
"Verily! His works are the most famous and the most unreadable in all
Germany. Surely you have heard of his 'Treatise on Man?' A treatise on a
subject in which everyone is interested, written in a style which no one
"You think, then," said Vivian, "that posterity may rank the German
metaphysicians with the later Platonists?"
"I hardly know; they are a body of men not less acute, but I doubt
whether they will be as celebrated. In this age of print, notoriety is
more attainable than in the age of manuscript; but lasting fame
certainly is not. That tall thin man in black that just bowed to me is
the editor of one of our great Reisenburg reviews. The journal he edits
is one of the most successful periodical publications ever set afloat.
Among its contributors, may assuredly be classed many men of eminent
talents; yet to their abilities the surprising success and influence of
this work is scarcely to be ascribed. It is the result rather of the
consistent spirit which has always inspired its masterly critiques. One
principle has ever regulated its management; it is a simple rule, but an
effective one: every author is reviewed by his personal enemy. You may
imagine the point of the critique; but you would hardly credit, if I
were to inform you, the circulation of the review. You will tell me that
you are not surprised, and talk of the natural appetite of our species
for malice and slander. Be not too quick. The rival of this review, both
in influence and in sale, is conducted on as simple a principle, but not
a similar one. In this journal every author is reviewed by his personal
friend; of course, perfect panegyric. Each number is flattering as a
lover's tale; every article an eloge. What say you to this? These are
the influential literary and political journals of Reisenburg. There
was yet another; it was edited by an eloquent scholar; all its
contributors were, at the same time, brilliant and profound. It numbered
among its writers some of the most celebrated names in Germany; its
critiques and articles were as impartial as they were able, as sincere
as they were sound; it never paid the expense of the first number. As
philanthropists and admirers of our species, my dear sir, these are
gratifying results; they satisfactorily demonstrate that mankind have no
innate desire for scandal, calumny, and backbiting; it only proves that
they have an innate desire to be gulled and deceived."
"And who is that?" said Vivian.
"That is von Chronicle, our great historical novelist. When I first came
to Reisenburg, now eight years ago, the popular writer of fiction was a
man, the most probable of whose numerous romances was one in which the
hero sold his shadow to a demon over the dice-box; then married an
unknown woman in a churchyard; afterwards wedded a river nymph; and,
having committed bigamy, finally stabbed himself, to enable his first
wife to marry his own father. He and his works are quite obsolete; and
the star of his genius, with those of many others, has paled before the
superior brilliancy of that literary comet, Mr. von Chronicle. According
to von Chronicle, we have all, for a long time, been under a mistake. We
have ever considered that the first point to be studied in novel writing
is character: miserable error! It is costume. Variety of incident,
novelty, and nice discrimination of character; interest of story, and
all those points which we have hitherto looked upon as necessary
qualities of a fine novel, vanish before the superior attractions of
variety of dresses, exquisite descriptions of the cloak of a signer, or
the trunk-hose of a serving man.
"Amuse yourself while you are at Reisenburg by turning over some volumes
which every one is reading; von Chronicle's last great historical novel.
The subject is a magnificent one, Rienzi; yet it is strange that the
hero only appears in the first and the last scenes. You look astonished.
Ah! I see you are not a great historical novelist. You forget the effect
which is produced by the contrast of the costume of Master Nicholas, the
notary in the quarter of the Jews, and that of Rienzi, the tribune, in
his robe of purple, at his coronation in the Capitol. Conceive the
effect, the contrast. With that coronation von Chronicle's novel
terminates; for, as he well observes, after that, what is there in the
career of Rienzi which would afford matter for the novelist? Nothing!
All that afterwards occurs is a mere contest of passions and a
development of character; but where is a procession, a triumph, or
"One of von Chronicle's great characters in this novel is a Cardinal. It
was only last night that I was fortunate enough to have the beauties of
the work pointed out to me by the author himself. He entreated, and
gained my permission to read to me what he himself considered 'the great
scene.' I settled myself in my chair, took out my handkerchief, and
prepared my mind for the worst. While I was anticipating the terrors of
a heroine he introduced me to his Cardinal. Thirty pages were devoted to
the description of the prelate's costume. Although clothed in purple,
still, by a skilful adjustment of the drapery, von Chronicle managed to
bring in six other petticoats. I thought this beginning would never
finish, but to my surprise, when he had got to the seventh petticoat, he
shut his book, and leaning over the table, asked me what I thought of
his 'great scene.' 'My friend,' said I, 'you are not only the greatest
historical novelist that ever lived, but that ever will live.'"
"I shall certainly get Rienzi," said Vivian; "it seems to me to be an
"Von Chronicle tells me that he looks upon it as his masterpiece, and
that it may be considered as the highest point of perfection to which
his system of novel-writing can be carried. Not a single name is given
in the work, down even to the rabble, for which he has not contemporary
authority; but what he is particularly proud of are his oaths. Nothing,
he tells me, has cost him more trouble than the management of the
swearing: and the Romans, you know, are a most profane nation. The great
difficulty to be avoided was using the ejaculations of two different
ages. The 'sblood' of the sixteenth century must not be confounded with
the 'zounds' of the seventeenth. Enough of von Chronicle! The most
amusing thing," continued Mr. Sievers, "is to contrast this mode of
writing works of fiction with the prevalent and fashionable method of
writing works of history. Contrast the 'Rienzi' of von Chronicle with
the 'Haroun Al Raschid' of Madame Carolina. Here we write novels like
history, and history like novels: all our facts are fancy, and all our
imagination reality." So saying, Mr. Sievers rose, and, wishing Vivian
good night, quitted the room. He was one of those prudent geniuses who
always leave off with a point.
Mr. Sievers had not left Vivian more than a minute when the little
Prince Maximilian came up and bowed to him in a condescending manner.
Our hero, who had not yet had an opportunity of speaking with him,
thanked him cordially for his handsome present, and asked him how he
liked the Court.
"Oh, delightful! I pass all my time with the Grand Duke and Madame:" and
here the young apostate settled his military stock and arranged the
girdle of his sword. "Madame Carolina," continued he, "has commanded me
to inform you that she desires the pleasure of your attendance."
The summons was immediately obeyed, and Vivian had the honour of a long
conversation with the interesting Consort of the Grand Duke. He was, for
a considerable time, complimented by her enthusiastic panegyric of
England, her original ideas of the character and genius of Lord Byron,
her veneration for Sir Humphry Davy, and her admiration of Sir Walter
Scott. Not remiss was Vivian in paying, in his happiest manner, due
compliments to the fair and royal authoress of the Court of Charlemagne.
While she spoke his native tongue, he admired her accurate English; and
while she professed to have derived her imperfect knowledge of his
perfect language from a study of its best authors, she avowed her belief
of the impossibility of ever speaking it correctly without the
assistance of a native. Conversation became more interesting.
When Vivian left the palace he was not unmindful of an engagement to
return there the next day, to give a first lesson in English
pronunciation to Madame Carolina.
Vivian duly kept his appointment with Madame Carolina. The chamberlain
ushered him into a library, where Madame Carolina was seated at a large
table covered with books and manuscripts. Her costume and her
countenance were equally engaging. Fascination was alike in her smile,
and her sash, her bow, and her buckle. What a delightful pupil to
perfect in English pronunciation! Madame pointed, with a pride pleasing
to Vivian's feelings as an Englishman, to her shelves, graced with the
most eminent of English writers. Madame Carolina was not like one of
those admirers of English literature whom you often meet on the
Continent: people who think that Beattie's Minstrel is our most modern
and fashionable poem; that the Night Thoughts is the masterpiece of our
literature; and that Richardson is our only novelist. Oh, no! Madame
Carolina would not have disgraced May Fair. She knew Childe Harold by
rote, and had even peeped into Don Juan. Her admiration of the Edinburgh
and Quarterly Reviews was great and similar. To a Continental liberal,
indeed, even the Toryism of the Quarterly is philosophy; and not an
Under-Secretary ever yet massacred a radical innovator without giving
loose to some sentiments and sentences which are considered rank treason
in the meridian of Vienna.
After some conversation, in which Madame evinced eagerness to gain
details about the persons and manners of our most eminent literary
characters, she naturally began to speak of the literary productions of
other countries; and in short, ere an hour was passed, Vivian Grey,
instead of giving a lesson in English pronunciation to the Consort of
the Grand Duke of Reisenburg, found himself listening, in an easy-chair,
and with folded arms, to a long treatise by that lady de l'Esprit de
Conversation. It was a most brilliant dissertation. Her kindness in
reading it to him was most particular; nevertheless, for unexpected
blessings we are not always sufficiently grateful.
Another hour was consumed by the treatise. How she refined! what
unexpected distinctions! what exquisite discrimination of national
character! what skilful eulogium of her own! Nothing could be more
splendid than her elaborate character of a repartee; it would have
sufficed for an epic poem. At length Madame Carolina ceased de l'Esprit
de Conversation, and Vivian was successful in concealing his weariness
and in testifying his admiration. "The evil is over," thought he; "I may
as well gain credit for my good taste." The lesson in English
pronunciation, however, was not yet terminated. Madame was charmed with
our hero's uncommon discrimination and extraordinary talents. He was the
most skilful and the most agreeable critic with whom she had ever been
acquainted. How invaluable must the opinion of such a person be to her
on her great work! No one had yet seen a line of it; but there are
moments when we are irresistibly impelled to seek a confidant; that
confidant was before her. The morocco case was unlocked, and the
manuscript of Haroun Al Raschid revealed to the enraptured eye of
"I flatter myself," said Madame Carolina, "that this work will create a
great sensation; not only in Germany. It abounds, I think, with
interesting story, engaging incidents, and animated and effective
descriptions. I have not, of course, been able to obtain any new matter
respecting his Sublimity the Caliph. Between ourselves, I do not think
this very important. So far as I have observed, we have matter enough in
this world on every possible subject already. It is manner in which the
literature of all nations is deficient. It appears to me that the great
point for persons of genius now to direct their attention to is the
expansion of matter. This I conceive to be the great secret; and this
must be effected by the art of picturesque writing. For instance, my
dear Mr. Grey, I will open the Arabian Nights' Entertainments, merely
for an exemplification, at the one hundred and eighty-fifth night; good!
Let us attend to the following passage:--
"'In the reign of the Caliph Haroun Al Raschid, there was at Bagdad a
druggist, called Alboussan Ebn Thaher, a very rich, handsome man. He had
more wit and politeness than people of his profession ordinarily have.
His integrity, sincerity, and jovial humour made him beloved and sought
after by all sorts of people. The Caliph, who knew his merit, had entire
confidence in him. He had so great an esteem for him that he entrusted
him with the care to provide his favourite ladies with all the things
they stood in need of. He chose for them their clothes, furniture, and
jewels, with admirable taste. His good qualities and the favour of the
Caliph made the sons of Emirs and other officers of the first rank be
always about him. His house was the rendezvous of all the nobility of
"What capabilities lurk in this dry passage!" exclaimed Madame Carolina;
"I touch it with my pen, and transform it into a chapter. It shall be
one of those that I will read to you. The description of Alboussan alone
demands ten pages. There is no doubt that his countenance was oriental.
The tale says that he was handsome: I paint him with his eastern eye,
his thin arched brow, his fragrant beard, his graceful mustachio. The
tale says he was rich: I have authorities for the costume of men of his
dignity in contemporary writers. In my history he appears in an upper
garment of green velvet, and loose trousers of pink satin; a jewelled
dagger lies in his golden girdle; his slippers are of the richest
embroidery; and he never omits the bath of roses daily. On this system,
which in my opinion elicits truth, for by it you are enabled to form a
conception of the manners, of the age; on this system I proceed
throughout the paragraph. Conceive my account of his house being the
'rendezvous of all the nobility of the Court.' What a brilliant scene!
what variety of dress and character! what splendour! what luxury! what
magnificence! Imagine the detail of the banquet; which, by the bye,
gives me an opportunity of inserting, after the manner of your own
Gibbon, 'a dissertation on sherbet.' What think you of the art of
"Admirable!" said Vivian; "von Chronicle himself--"
"How can you mention the name of that odious man!" almost shrieked
Madame Carolina, forgetting the dignity of her semi-regal character in
the jealous feelings of the author. "How can you mention him! A
scribbler without a spark, not only of genius, but even of common
invention. A miserable fellow, who seems to do nothing but clothe and
amplify, in his own fantastic style, the details of a parcel of old
Madame's indignation reminded Vivian of a true but rather vulgar proverb
of his own country; and he extricated himself from his very awkward
situation with a dexterity worthy of his former years.
"Von Chronicle himself," said Vivian; "von Chronicle himself, as I was
going to observe, will be the most mortified of all on the appearance of
your work. He cannot be so blinded by self-conceit as to fail to observe
that your history is a thousand times more interesting than his fiction.
Ah! Madame, if you can thus spread enchantment over the hitherto weary
page of history, what must be your work of imagination!"
Vivian met Emilius von Aslingen in his ride through the gardens. As that
distinguished personage at present patronised the English nation, and
astounded the Reisenburg natives by driving an English mail, riding
English horses, and ruling English grooms, he deigned to be exceedingly
courteous to our hero, whom he had publicly declared at the soirée of
the preceding night to be "very good style." Such a character from such
a man raised Vivian even more in the estimation of the Reisenburg world
than his flattering reception by the Grand Duke and his cordial greeting
by Madame Carolina.
"Shall you be at the Grand Marshal's to-night?" asked Vivian.
"Ah! that is the new man, the man who was mediatised, is not it?"
"The Prince of Little Lilliput."
"Yes!" drawled out Mr. von Aslingen. "I shall go if I have courage
enough; but they say his servants wear skins, and he has got a tail."
The ball-room was splendidly illuminated. The whole of the Royal Family
was present, and did honour to their new officer of state; his Royal
Highness all smiles, and his Consort all diamonds. Stars and uniforms,
ribbons and orders, abounded. The diplomatic body wore the dresses of
their respective Courts. Emilius von Aslingen, having given out in the
morning that he should appear as a captain in the Royal Guards, the
young lords and fops of fashion were consequently ultra military. They
were not a little annoyed when, late in the evening, their model lounged
in, wearing the rich scarlet uniform of a Knight of Malta, of which
newly-revived order von Aslingen, who had served half a campaign against
the Turks, was a member.
The Royal Family had arrived only a few minutes: dancing had not yet
commenced. Vivian was at the top of the room, honoured by the notice of
Madame Carolina, who complained of his yesterday's absence from the
palace. Suddenly the universal hum and buzz which are always sounding in
a crowded room were stilled; and all present, arrested in their
conversation and pursuits, stood with their heads turned towards the
great door. Thither also Vivian looked, and, wonderstruck, beheld--Mr.
Beckendorff. His singular appearance, for, with the exception of his
cavalry boots, he presented the same figure as when he first came
forward to receive the Prince of Little Lilliput and Vivian on the lawn,
immediately attracted universal attention; but in this crowded room
there were few who, either from actual experience or accurate
information, were not ignorant that this personage was the Prime
Minister. The report spread like wildfire. Even the etiquette of a
German ball-room, honoured as it was by the presence of the Court, was
no restraint to the curiosity and wonder of all present. Yes! even
Emilius von Aslingen raised his glass to his eye. But great as was
Vivian's astonishment, it was not only occasioned by this unexpected
appearance of his former host. Mr. Beckendorff was not alone: a woman
was leaning on his left arm. A quick glance in a moment convinced Vivian
that she was not the original of the mysterious picture. The companion
of Beckendorff was very young. Her full voluptuous growth gave you, for
a moment, the impression that she was somewhat low in stature; but it
was only for a moment, for the lady was by no means short. Her beauty it
is impossible to describe. It was of a kind that baffles all phrases,
nor have I a single simile at command to make it more clearer more
confused. Her luxurious form, her blonde complexion, her silken hair,
would have all become the languishing Sultana; but then her eyes, they
banished all idea of the Seraglio, and were the most decidedly European,
though the most brilliant that ever glanced; eagles might have proved
their young at them. To a countenance which otherwise would have been
calm, and perhaps pensive, they gave an expression of extreme vivacity
and unusual animation, and perhaps of restlessness and arrogance: it
might have been courage. The lady was dressed in the costume of a
Chanoinesse??? of a Couvent des dames nobles; an institution to which
Protestant and Catholic ladles are alike admitted. The orange-coloured
cordon of her canonry was slung gracefully over her plain black silk
dress, and a diamond cross hung below her waist.
Mr. Beckendorff and his fair companion were instantly welcomed by the
Grand Marshal; and Arnelm and half-a-dozen Chamberlains, all in new
uniforms, and extremely agitated, did their utmost, by their exertions
in clearing the way, to prevent the Prime Minister of Reisenburg from
paying his respects to his Sovereign. At length, however, Mr.
Beckendorff reached the top of the room, and presented the young lady to
his Royal Highness, and also to Madame Carolina. Vivian had retired on
their approach, and now found himself among a set of young officers,
idolators of von Aslingen, and of white hats lined with crimson. "Who
can she be?" was the universal question. Though all by the query
acknowledged their ignorance, yet it is singular that, at the same time,
every one was prepared with a response to it. Such are the sources of
"And that is Beckendorff, is it?" exclaimed the young Count of
Eberstein; "and his daughter, of course! Well; there is nothing like
being a plebeian and a Prime Minister! I suppose Beckendorff will bring
an anonymous friend to Court next."
"She cannot be his daughter," said Bernstorff. "To be a Chanoinesse of
that order, remember, she must be noble."
"Then she must be his niece," answered the young Count of Eberstein. "I
think I do remember some confused story about a sister of Beckendorff
who ran away with some Wirtemberg Baron. What was that story,
"No, it was not his sister," said the Baron of Gernsbach; "it was his
aunt, I think."
"Beckendorff's aunt; what an idea! As if he ever had an aunt! Men of his
calibre make themselves out of mud. They have no relations. Well, never
mind; there was some story, I am sure, about some woman or other. Depend
upon it that this girl is the child of that woman, whether she be aunt,
niece, or daughter. I shall go and tell every one that I know the whole
business; this girl is the daughter of some woman or other." So saying,
away walked the young Count of Eberstein, to disseminate in all
directions the important conclusion to which his logical head had
allowed him to arrive.
"Von Weinbren," said the Baron of Gernsbach, "how can you account for
this mysterious appearance of the Premier?"
"Oh! when men are on the decline they do desperate things. I suppose it
is to please the renegado."
"Hush! there's the Englishman behind you."
"On dit, another child of Beckendorff."
"Oh no! secret mission."
"Here comes von Aslingen! Well, great Emilius! how solve you this
"What mystery? Is there one?"
"I allude to this wonderful appearance of Beckendorff."
"Beckendorff! what a name! Who is he?"
"Nonsense! the Premier."
"You have seen him, of course; he is here. Have you just come in?"
"Beckendorff here!" said von Aslingen, in a tone of affected horror; "I
did not know that the fellow was to be visited. It is all over with
Reisenburg. I shall go to Vienna to-morrow."
But hark! the sprightly music calls to the dance; and first the stately
Polonaise, in easy gradation between walking and dancing. To the
surprise of the whole room and the indignation of main of the high
nobles, the Crown Prince of Reisenburg led off the Polonaise with the
unknown fair one. Such an attention to Beckendorff was a distressing
proof of present power and favour. The Polonaise is a dignified
promenade, with which German balls invariably commence. The cavaliers,
with an air of studied grace, offer their right hands to their fair
partners; and the whole party, in a long file, accurately follow the
leading couple through all their scientific evolutions, as they wind
through every part of the room. Waltzes in sets speedily followed the
Polonaise; and the unknown, who was now an object of universal
attention, danced with Count von Sohnspeer, another of Beckendorff's
numerous progeny, if the reader remember. How scurvily are poor single
gentlemen who live alone treated by the candid tongues of their
fellow-creatures! The commander-in-chief of the Reisenburg troops was
certainly a partner of a different complexion from the young lady's
previous one. The crown Prince had undertaken his duty with reluctance,
and had performed it without grace; not a single word had he exchanged
with his partner during the promenade, and his genuine listlessness was
even more offensive than affected apathy. Von Sohnspeer, on the
contrary, danced in the true Vienna style, and whirled like a Dervish.
All our good English prejudices against the soft, the swimming, the
sentimental, melting, undulating, dangerous waltz would quickly
disappear, if we only executed the dreaded manoeuvres in the true
Austrian style. One might as soon expect our daughters to get
sentimental in a swing.
Vivian did not choose to presume upon his late acquaintance with Mr.
Beckendorff, as it had not been sought by that gentleman, and he
consequently did not pay his respects to the Minister. Mr. Beckendorff
continued at the top of the room, standing between the State chairs of
his Royal Highness and Madame Carolina, and occasionally addressing an
observation to his Sovereign and answering one of the lady's. Had Mr.
Beckendorff been in the habit of attending balls nightly he could not
have exhibited more perfect nonchalance. There he stood, with his arms
crossed behind him, his chin resting on his breast, and his raised
"My dear Prince," said Vivian to the Grand Marshal, "you are just the
person I wanted to speak to. How came you to invite Beckendorff, and how
came he to accept the invitation?"
"My dear friend," said his Highness, shrugging his shoulders, "wonders
will never cease. I never invited him; I should just as soon have
thought of inviting old Johannisberger."
"Were you not aware, then, of his intention?"
"Not in the least! you should rather say attention; for, I assure you, I
consider it a most particular one. It is quite astonishing, my dear
friend, how I mistook that man's character. He really is one of the most
gentlemanlike, polite, and excellent persons I know; no more mad than
you are! And as for his power being on the decline, we know the
nonsense of that!"
"Better than most persons, I suspect. Sievers, of course, is not here?"
"No! you have heard about him, I suppose?"
"Heard! heard what?"
"Not heard! well, he told me yesterday, and said he was going to call
upon you directly to let you know."
"He is a very sensible man, Sievers; and I am very glad at last that he
is likely to succeed in the world. All men have their little
imprudences, and he was a little too hot once. What of that? He has come
to his senses, so have I; and I hope you will never lose yours."
"But, pray, my dear Prince, tell me what has happened to Sievers."
"He is going to Vienna immediately, and will be very useful there, I
have no doubt. He has got a good place, and I am sure he will do his
duty. They cannot have an abler man."
"Vienna! that is the last city in the world in which I should expect to
find Mr. Sievers. What place can he have? and what services can he
"Many! he is to be Editor of the Austrian Observer, and Censor of the
Austrian Press. I thought he would do well at last. All men have their
imprudent day. I had. I cannot stop now. I must go and speak to the
Countess von S----."
As Vivian was doubting whether he should most grieve or laugh at this
singular termination of Mr. Sievers' career, his arm was suddenly
touched, and on turning round he found it was by Mr. Beckendorff.
"There is another strong argument, sir," said the Minister, without any
of the usual phrases of recognition; "there is another strong argument
against your doctrine of Destiny." And then Mr. Beckendorff, taking
Vivian by the arm, began walking up and down part of the saloon with
him; and in a few minutes, quite forgetting the scene of the discussion,
he was involved in metaphysics. This incident created another great
sensation, and whispers of "secret mission, Secretary of State,
decidedly a son," &c. &c. &c. were in an instant afloat in all parts
of the room.
The approach of his Royal Highness extricated Vivian from an argument
which was as profound as it was interminable; and as Mr. Beckendorff
retired with the Grand Duke into a recess in the ball-room, Vivian was
requested by von Neuwied to attend his Excellency the Grand Marshal.
"My dear friend," said the Prince, "I saw you talking with a certain
person, I did not say anything to you when I passed you before; but, to
tell you the truth now, I was a little annoyed that he had not spoken to
you. I knew you were as proud as Lucifer, and would not salute him
yourself; and between ourselves I had no great wish you should, for, not
to conceal it, he did not even mention your name. But the reason of this
is now quite evident, and you must confess he is remarkably courteous.
You know, if you remember, we thought that incognito was a little
affected; rather annoying, if you recollect. I remember in the green
lane you gave him a gentle cut about it. It was spirited, and I dare say
did good. Well! what I was going to say about that is this; I dare say
now, after all," continued his Excellency, with a knowing look, "a
certain person had very good reasons for that; not that he ever told
them to me, nor that I have the slightest idea of them; but when a
person is really so exceedingly polite and attentive I always think he
would never do anything disagreeable without a cause; and it was
exceedingly disagreeable, if you remember, my dear friend. I never knew
to whom he was speaking. Von Philipson indeed! Well! we did not think,
the day we were floundering down that turf road, that it would end in
this. Rather a more brilliant scene than the Giants' Hall at Turriparva,
I think, eh? But all men have their imprudent days; the best way is to
forget them. There was poor Sievers; who ever did more imprudent things
than he? and now it is likely he will do very well in the world, eh?
What I want of you, my dear friend, is this. There is that girl who
came with Beckendorff; who the deuce she is, I don't know: let us hope
the best! We must pay her every attention. I dare say she is his
daughter. You have not forgotten the portrait. Well! we all were gay
once. All men have their imprudent day; why should not Beckendorff?
Speaks rather in his favour, I think. Well, this girl; his Royal
Highness very kindly made the Crown Prince walk the Polonaise with her;
very kind of him, and very proper. What attention can be too great for
the daughter or friend of such a man! a man who, in two words, may be
said to have made Reisenburg. For what was Reisenburg before
Beckendorff? Ah! what? Perhaps we were happier then, after all; and then
there was no Royal Highness to bow to; no person to be condescending,
except ourselves. But never mind! we will forget. After all, this life
has its charms. What a brilliant scene! but this girl, every attention
should be paid her. The Crown Prince was so kind as to walk the
Polonaise with her. And von Sohnspeer; he is a brute, to be sure; but
then he is a Field Marshal. Now, I think, considering what has taken
place between Beckendorff and yourself, and the very distinguished
manner in which he recognised you; I think, that after all this, and
considering everything, the etiquette is for you, particularly as you
are a foreigner, and my personal friend; indeed, my most particular
friend, for in fact I owe everything to you, my life, and more than my
life; I think, I repeat, considering all this, that the least you can do
is to ask her to dance with you; and I, as the host, will introduce you.
I am sorry, my dear friend," continued his Excellency, with a look of
great regret, "to introduce you to--; but we will not speak about it. We
have no right to complain of Mr. Beckendorff. No person could possibly
behave to us in a manner more gentlemanlike."
After an introductory speech in his Excellency's happiest manner, and in
which an eulogium of Vivian and a compliment to the fair unknown got
almost as completely entangled as the origin of slavery and the history
of the feudal system in his more celebrated harangue, Vivian found
himself waltzing with the anonymous beauty. The Grand Marshal, during
the process of introduction, had given the young lady every opportunity
of declaring her name; but every opportunity was thrown away. "She must
be incog.," whispered his Excellency; "Miss von Philipson, I suppose?"
Vivian was not a little desirous of discovering the nature of the
relationship or connection between Beckendorff and his partner. The
rapid waltz allowed no pause for conversation; but after the dance
Vivian seated himself at her side, with the determination of not quickly
deserting it The lady did not even allow him the satisfaction of
commencing the conversation; for no sooner was she seated than she
begged to know who the person was with whom she had previously waltzed.
The history of Count von Sohnspeer amused her; and no sooner had Vivian
finished his anecdote than the lady said, "Ah! I so: you are an amusing
person. Now tell me the history of everybody in the room."
"Really," said Vivian, "I fear I shall forfeit my reputation of being
amusing very speedily, for I am almost as great a stranger at this Court
as you appear to be yourself. Count von Sohnspeer is too celebrated a
personage at Reisenburg to have allowed even me to be long ignorant of
his history; and as for the rest, as far as I can judge, they are most
of them as obscure as myself, and not nearly as interesting as you are!"
"Are you an Englishman?" asked the lady.
"I supposed so, both from your travelling and your appearance: I think
the English countenance very peculiar."
"Indeed! we do not flatter ourselves so at home."
"Yes! it is peculiar." said the lady, in a tone which seemed to imply
that contradiction was unusual; "and I think that you are all handsome!
I admire the English, which in this part of the world is singular: the
South, you know, is generally francisé."
"I am aware of that," said Vivian. "There, for instance," pointing to a
pompous-looking personage who at that moment strutted by; "there, for
instance, is the most francisé person in all Reisenburg! that is our
Grand Chamberlain. He considers himself a felicitous copy of Louis the
Fourteenth! He allows nothing in his opinions and phrases but what is
orthodox. As it generally happens in such cases, his orthodoxy is rather
"Who is that Knight of Malta?" asked the lady.
"The most powerful individual in the room," answered Vivian.
"Who can he be?" asked the lady, with eagerness.
"Behold him, and tremble!" rejoined Vivian: "for with him it rests to
decide whether you are civilised or a savage; whether you are to be
abhorred or admired: idolised or despised. Nay, do not be alarmed! there
are a few heretics, even in Reisenburg, who, like myself, value from
conviction, and not from fashion, and who will be ever ready, in spite
of a von Aslingen anathema, to evince our admiration where it is due."
The lady pleaded fatigue as an excuse for not again dancing; and Vivian
did not quit her side. Her lively remarks, piquant observations, and
singular questions highly amused him; and he was flattered by the
evident gratification which his conversation afforded her. It was
chiefly of the principal members of the Court that she spoke: she was
delighted with Vivian's glowing character of Madame Carolina, whom she
said she had this evening seen for the first time. Who this unknown
could be was a question which often occurred to him; and the singularity
of a man like Beckendorff suddenly breaking through his habits and
outraging the whole system of his existence, to please a daughter, or
niece, or female cousin, did not fail to strike him.
"I have the honour of being acquainted with Mr. Beckendorff," said
Vivian. This was the first time that the Minister's name had been
"I perceived you talking with him," was the answer.
"You are staying, I suppose, at Mr. Beckendorff's?"
"Not at present."
"You have, of course, been at his retreat; delightful place!"
"Are you an ornithologist?" asked Vivian, smiling.
"Not at all scientific; but I, of course, can now tell a lory from a
Java sparrow, and a bullfinch from a canary. The first day I was there,
I never shall forget the surprise I experienced, when, after the noon
meal being finished, the aviary door was opened. After that I always let
the creatures out myself; and one day I opened all the cages at once. If
you could but have witnessed the scene! I am sure you would have been
quite delighted with it. As for poor Mr. Beckendorff, I thought even he
would have gone out of his mind; and when I brought in the white peacock
he actually left the room in despair. Pray how do you like Madame Clara
and Owlface too? Which do you think the most beautiful? I am no great
favourite with the old lady. Indeed, it was very kind of Mr. Beckendorff
to bear with everything as he did: I am sure he is not much used to lady
"I trust that your visit to him will not be very short?"
"My stay at Reisenburg will not be very long," said the young lady,
with rather a grave countenance, "Have you been here any time?"
"About a fortnight; it was a, mere chance my coming at all. I was going
on straight to Vienna."
"To Vienna, indeed! Well, I am glad you did not miss Reisenburg; you
must not quit it now. You know that this is not the Vienna season?"
"I am aware of it; but I am such a restless person that I never regulate
my movements by those of other people"
"But surely you find Reisenburg agreeable?"
"Very much so; but I am a confirmed wanderer.'
"Why are you?" asked the lady, with great naïveté.
Vivian looked grave; and the lady, as if she were sensible of having
unintentionally occasioned him a painful recollection, again expressed
her wish that he should not immediately quit the Court, and trusted that
circumstances would not prevent him from acceding to her desire.
"It does not even depend upon circumstances," said Vivian; "the whim of
the moment is my only principle of action, and therefore I may be off
to-night, or be here a month hence."
"Oh! pray stay then," said his companion eagerly; "I expect you to stay
now. If you could only have an idea what a relief conversing with you
is, after having been dragged by the Crown Prince and whirled by that
von Sohnspeer! Heigho! I could almost sigh at the very remembrance of
that doleful Polonaise."
The lady ended with a faint laugh a sentence which apparently had been
commenced in no light vein. She did not cease speaking, but continued to
request Vivian to remain at Reisenburg at least as long as herself. Her
frequent requests were perfectly unnecessary, for the promise had been
pledged at the first: hint of her wish; but this was not the only time
during the evening that Vivian had remarked that his interesting
companion occasionally talked without apparently being sensible that she
The young Count of Eberstein, who, to use his own phrase, was "sadly
involved," and consequently desirous of being appointed a forest
Councillor, thought that he should secure his appointment by
condescending to notice the person whom he delicately styled "the
Minister's female relative." To his great mortification and surprise,
the honour was declined; and "the female relative," being unwilling to
dance again, but perhaps feeling it necessary to break off her
conversation with her late partner, it having already lasted an unusual
time, highly gratified his Excellency the Grand Marshal by declaring
that she would dance with Prince Maximilian. "This, to say the least,
was very attentive of Miss von Philipson."
Little Max, who had just tact enough to discover that to be the partner
of the fair incognita was the place of honour of the evening, now
considered himself by much the most important personage in the room. In
fact, he was only second to Emilius von Aslingen. The evident contest
which was ever taking place between his natural feelings as a boy and
his acquired habits as a courtier made him an amusing companion. He
talked of the Gardens and the Opera in a style not unworthy of the young
Count of Eberstein. He thought that Madame Carolina was as charming as
usual to-night; but, on the contrary, that the Countess von S---- was
looking rather ill, and this put him in mind of her ladyship's new
equipage; and then, apropos to equipages, what did his companion think
of the new fashion of the Hungarian harness? His lively and kind
companion encouraged the boy's tattle; and, emboldened by her good
nature, he soon forgot his artificial speeches, and was quickly rattling
on about Turriparva, and his horses, and his dogs, and his park, and his
guns, and his grooms. Soon after the waltz, the lady, taking the arm of
the young Prince, walked up to Mr. Beckendorff. He received her with
great attention, and led her to Madame Carolina, who rose, seated Mr.
Beckendorff's "female relative" by her side, and evidently said
something extremely agreeable.
Vivian had promised Madame Carolina a second English lesson on the day
after the Grand Marshal's fete. The progress which the lady had made,
and the talent which the gentleman had evinced during the first, had
rendered Madame the most enthusiastic of pupils, and Vivian, in her
estimation, the ablest of instructors. Madame Carolina's passion was
patronage: to discover concealed merit, to encourage neglected genius,
to reveal the mysteries of the world to a novice in mankind, or, in
short, to make herself very agreeable to any one whom she fancied to be
very interesting, was the great business and the great delight of her
existence. No sooner had her eyes lighted on Vivian Grey than she
determined to patronise. His country, his appearance, the romantic
manner in which he had become connected with the Court, all pleased her
lively imagination. She was intuitively acquainted with his whole
history, and in an instant he was the hero of a romance, of which the
presence of the principal character compensated, we may suppose, for the
somewhat indefinite details. His taste and literary acquirements
completed the spell by which Madame Carolina was willingly enchanted. A
low Dutch professor, whose luminous genius rendered unnecessary the
ceremony of shaving; and a dumb dwarf, in whose interesting appearance
was forgotten its perfect idiocy, prosy improvisatore, and a South
American savage, were all superseded by the appearance of Vivian Grey.
As Madame Carolina was, in fact, a charming woman, our hero had no
objection to humour her harmless foibles; and not contented with making
notes in an interleaved copy of her Charlemagne, he even promised to
read Haroun Al Raschid in manuscript. The consequence of his courtesy
and the reward of his taste was unbounded favour. Apartments in the
palace were offered him, and declined; and when Madame Carolina had
Income acquainted with sufficient of his real history to know that, on
his part, neither wish nor necessity existed to return immediately to
his own country, she tempted him to remain at Reisenburg by an offer of
a place at Court; and doubtless, had he been willing, Vivian might in
time have become a Lord Chamberlain, or perhaps even a Field Marshal.
On entering the room the morning in question he found Madame Carolina
writing. At the end of the apartment a lady ceased, on his appearance,
humming an air to which she was dancing, and at the same time imitating
castanets. Madame received Vivian with expressions of delight, saying
also, in a peculiar and confidential manner, that she was just sealing
up a packet for him, the preface of Haroun; and then she presented him
to "the Baroness!" The lady who was lately dancing came forward. It was
his unknown partner of the preceding night. "The Baroness" extended her
hand to Vivian, and unaffectedly expressed her great pleasure at seeing
him again. Vivian trusted that she was not fatigued by the fête, and
asked after Mr. Beckendorff. Madame Carolina was busily engaged at the
moment in duly securing the precious preface. The Baroness said that Mr.
Beckendorff had returned home, but that Madame Carolina had kindly
insisted upon her staying at the palace. She was not the least wearied.
Last night had been one of the most agreeable she had ever spent; at
least she supposed she ought to say so: for if she had experienced a
tedious or mournful feeling for a moment, it was hardly for what was
then passing so much as for--"
"Pray, Mr. Grey," said Madame Carolina, interrupting them, "have you
heard about our new ballet?"
"I do not think you have ever been to our Opera. To-morrow is Opera
night, and you must not be again away. We pride ourselves here very much
upon our Opera."
"We estimate it even in England," said Vivian, "as possessing perhaps
the most perfect orchestra now organised."
"The orchestra is perfect. His Royal Highness is such an excellent
musician, and he has spared no trouble or expense in forming it: he has
always superintended it himself. But I confess I admire our ballet
department still more. I expect you to be delighted with it. You will
perhaps be gratified to know that the subject of our new splendid
ballet, which is to be produced to-morrow, is from a great work of your
illustrious poet, my Lord Byron."
"The Corsair. Ah! what a sublime work! what passion! what energy! what
knowledge of feminine feeling! what contrast of character! what
sentiments! what situations! I wish this were Opera night; Gulnare! my
favourite character; beautiful! How do you think they will dress her?"
"Are you an admirer of our Byron?" asked Vivian, of the Baroness.
"I think he is a very handsome man. I once saw him at the carnival at
"But his works; his grand works! ma chère petite," said Madame Carolina,
in her sweetest tone: "you have read his works?"
"Not a line," answered the Baroness, with great naïveté; "I never saw
"Pauvre enfant!" said Madame Carolina; "I will employ you, then, while
you are here."
"I never read," said the Baroness; "I cannot bear it. I like poetry and
romances, but I like somebody to read to me."
"Very just," said Madame Carolina; "we can judge with greater accuracy
of the merit of a composition when it reaches our mind merely through
the medium of the human voice. The soul is an essence, invisible and
indivisible. In this respect the voice of man resembles the principle of
his existence; since few will deny, though there are some materialists
who will deny everything, that the human voice is both impalpable and
audible only in one place at the same time. Hence, I ask, is it
illogical to infer its indivisibility? The soul and the voice, then, are
similar in two great attributes: there is a secret harmony in their
spiritual construction. In the early ages of mankind a beautiful
tradition was afloat that the soul and the voice were one and the same.
We may perhaps recognise in this fanciful belief the effect of the
fascinating and imaginative philosophy of the East; that mysterious
portion of the globe," continued Madame Carolina, "from which we should
frankly confess that we derive everything; for the South is but the
pupil of the East, through the mediation of Egypt. Of this opinion,"
said Madame with fervour, "I have no doubt: of this opinion," continued
the lady with enthusiasm, "I have boldly avowed myself a votary in a
dissertation appended to the second volume of Haroun: for this opinion I
would die at the stake! Oh, lovely East! why was I not oriental! Land
where the voice of the nightingale is never mute! Land of the cedar and
the citron, the turtle and the myrtle, of ever-blooming flowers and
ever-shining skies! Illustrious East! Cradle of Philosophy! My dearest
Baroness, why do not you feel as I do? From the East we obtain
"Indeed!" said the Baroness, with simplicity; "I thought we only got
This puzzling answer was only noticed by Vivian; for the truth is,
Madame Carolina was one of those individuals who never attend to any
person's answers. Always thinking of herself, she only asked questions
that she herself might supply the responses. And now having made, as she
flattered herself, a splendid display to her favourite critic, she began
to consider what had given rise to her oration. Lord Byron and the
ballet again occurred to her; and as the Baroness, at least, was not
unwilling to listen, and as she herself had no manuscript of her own
which she particularly wished to be perused, she proposed that Vivian
should read to them part of the Corsair, and in the original tongue.
Madame Carolina opened the volume at the first prison scene between
Gulnare and Conrad. It was her favourite. Vivian read with care and
feeling. Madame was in raptures, and the Baroness, although she did not
understand a single syllable, seemed almost equally delighted. At length
Vivian came to this passage:
My love stern Seyd's! Oh, no, no, not my love!
Yet much this heart, that strives no more, once strove
To meet his passion; but it would not be.
I felt, I feel, love dwells with, with the free.
I am a slave, a favour'd slave at best,
To share his splendour, and seem very blest!
Oft must my soul the question undergo,
Of, "Dost thou love?" and burn to answer, "No!"
Oh! hard it is that fondness to sustain,
And struggle not to feel averse in vain;
But harder still the heart's recoil to bear,
And hide from one, perhaps another there;
He takes the hand I give not nor withhold,
Its pulse nor checked nor quickened, calmly cold:
And when resign'd, it drops a lifeless weight
From one I never loved enough to hate.
No warmth these lips return by his imprest,
And chill'd remembrance shudders o'er the rest.
Yes, had I ever prov'd that passion's zeal,
The change to hatred were at least to feel:
But still, he goes unmourn'd, returns unsought,
And oft when present, absent from my thought.
Or when reflection comes, and come it must,
I fear that henceforth 'twill but bring disgust:
I am his slave; but, in despite of pride,
'Twere worse than bondage to become his bride.
"Superb!" said Madame, in a voice of enthusiasm; "how true! what
passion! what energy! what sentiments! what knowledge of feminine
feeling! Read it again, I pray: it is my favourite passage."
"What is this passage about?" asked the Baroness, with some anxiety;
"I have a French translation, ma mignonne," said Madame; "you shall have
"No! I detest reading," said the young lady, with an imperious air;
"translate it to me at once."
"You are rather a self-willed beauty!" thought Vivian; "but your eyes
are so brilliant that nothing must be refused you!" and so he
On its conclusion Madame was again in raptures. The Baroness was not
less affected, but she said nothing. She appeared agitated; she changed
colour, raised her beautiful eyes with an expression of sorrow, looked
at Vivian earnestly, and then walked to the other end of the room. In a
few moments she returned to her seat.
"I wish you would tell me the story," she said, with earnestness.
"I have a French translation, ma belle!" said Madame Carolina; "at
present I wish to trouble Mr. Grey with a few questions." Madame
Carolina led Vivian into a recess.
"I am sorry we are troubled with this sweet little savage; but I think
she has talent, though evidently quite uneducated. We must do what we
can for her. Her ignorance of all breeding is amusing, but then I think
she has a natural elegance. We shall soon polish her. His Royal Highness
is so anxious that every attention should be paid to her. Beckendorff,
you know, is a man of the greatest genius." (Madame Carolina had lowered
her tone about the Minister since the Prince of Little Lilliput's
apostasy.) "The country is greatly indebted to him. This, between
ourselves, is his daughter. At least I have no doubt of it. Beckendorff
was once married, to a lady of great rank, died early, beautiful woman,
very interesting! His Royal Highness had a great regard for her. The
Premier, in his bereavement, turned humorist, and has brought up this
lovely girl in the oddest possible manner; nobody knows where. Now that
he finds it necessary to bring her forward, he, of course, is quite at a
loss. His Royal Highness has applied to me. There was a little coldness
before between the Minister and myself. It is now quite removed. I must
do what I can for her I think she must marry von Sohnspeer, who is no
more Beckendorff's son than you are: or young Eberstein, or young
Bernstorff, or young Gernsbach. We must do something for her. I offered
her last night to Emilius von Aslingen; but he said that, unfortunately,
he was just importing a savage or two of his own from the Brazils, and
consequently was not in want of her."
A chamberlain now entered, to announce the speedy arrival of his Royal
Highness. The Baroness, without ceremony, expressed her great regret
that he was coming, as now she should not hear the wished-for story.
Madame Carolina reproved her, and the reproof was endured rather than
His Royal Highness entered, and was accompanied by the Crown Prince. He
greeted the young lady with great kindness; and even the Crown Prince,
inspired by his father's unusual warmth, made a shuffling kind of bow
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