Everybody of the middle rank who walks through this life with a sympathy for his companions on the same journey--at any rate, every man who has been jostling in the world for some three or four lustres--must make no end of melancholy reflections upon the fate of those victims whom Society, that is, Snobbishness, is immolating every day. With love and simplicity and natural kindness Snobbishness is perpetually at war. People dare not be happy for fear of Snobs. People dare not love for fear of Snobs. People pine away lonely under the tyranny of Snobs. Honest kindly hearts dry up and die. Gallant generous lads, blooming with hearty youth, swell into bloated old-bachelorhood, and burst and tumble over. Tender girls wither into shrunken decay, and perish solitary, from whom Snobbishness has cut off the common claim to happiness and affection with which Nature endowed us all. My heart grows sad as I see the blundering tyrant's handiwork. As I behold it I swell with cheap rage, and glow with fury against the Snob. Come down, I say, thou skulking dulness! Come down, thou stupid bully, and give up thy brutal ghost! And I arm myself with the sword and spear, and taking leave of my family, go forth to do battle with that hideous ogre and giant, that brutal despot in Snob Castle, who holds so many gentle hearts in torture and thrall.
When Punch is king, I declare there shall be no such thing as old maids and old bachelors. The Reverend Mr. Malthus shall be burned annually, instead of Guy Fawkes. Those who don't marry shall go into the workhouse. It shall be a sin for the poorest not to have a pretty girl to love him.
The above reflections came to mind after taking a walk with an old comrade, Jack Spiggot by name, who is just passing into the state of old-bachelorhood, after the manly and blooming youth in which I remember him. Jack was one of the handsomest fellows in England when we entered together in the Highland Buffs; but I quitted the Cuttykilts early, and lost sight of him for many years.
Ah! how changed he is from those days! He wears a waistband now, and has begun to dye his whiskers. His cheeks, which were red, are now mottled; his eyes, once so bright and steadfast, are the colour of peeled plovers' eggs.
'Are you married, Jack?' says I, remembering how consumedly in love he was with his cousin Letty Lovelace, when the Cuttykilts were quartered at Strathbungo some twenty years ago.
'Married? no,' says he. 'Not money enough. Hard enough to keep myself, much more a family, on five hundred a year. Come to Dickinson's; there's some of the best Madeira in London there, my boy.' So we went and talked over old times. The bill for dinner and wine consumed was prodigious, and the quantity of brandy-and-water that Jack took showed what a regular boozer he was. 'A guinea or two guineas. What the devil do I care what I spend for my dinner?' says he.
'And Letty Lovelace?' says I.
Jack's countenance fell. However, he burst into a loud laugh presently. 'Letty Lovelace!' says he. 'She's Letty Lovelace still; but Gad, such a wizened old woman! She's as thin as a thread-paper; (you remember what a figure she had:) her nose has got red, and her teeth blue. She's always ill; always quarrelling with the rest of the family; always psalm-singing, and always taking pills. Gad, I had a rare escape there. Push round the grog, old boy.'
Straightway memory went back to the days when Letty was the loveliest of blooming young creatures: when to hear her sing was to make the heart jump into your throat; when to see her dance, was better than Montessu or Noblet (they were the Ballet Queens of those days); when Jack used to wear a locket of her hair, with a little gold chain round his neck, and, exhilarated with toddy, after a sederunt of the Cuttykilt mess, used to pull out this token, and kiss it, and howl about it, to the great amusement of the bottle-nosed old Major and the rest of the table.
'My father and hers couldn't put their horses together,' Jack said. 'The General wouldn't come down with more than six thousand. My governor said it shouldn't be done under eight. Lovelace told him to go and be hanged, and so we parted company. They said she was in a decline. Gammon! She's forty, and as tough and as sour as this bit of lemon-peel. Don't put much into your punch, Snob my boy. No man can stand punch after wine.'
'And what are your pursuits, Jack?' says I.
'Sold out when the governor died. Mother lives at Bath. Go down there once a year for a week. Dreadful slow. Shilling whist. Four sisters--all unmarried except the youngest--awful work. Scotland in August. Italy in the winter. Cursed rheumatism. Come to London in March, and toddle about at the Club, old boy; and we won't go home till maw-aw-rning till daylight does appear.
'And here's the wreck of two lives!' mused the present Snobographer, after taking leave of Jack Spiggot. 'Pretty merry Letty Lovelace's rudder lost and she cast away, and handsome Jack Spiggot stranded on the shore like a drunken Trinculo.'
What was it that insulted Nature (to use no higher name), and perverted her kindly intentions towards them? What cursed frost was it that nipped the love that both were bearing, and condemned the girl to sour sterility, and the lad to selfish old-bachelorhood? It was the infernal Snob tyrant who governs us all, who says, 'Thou shalt not love without a lady's maid; thou shalt not marry without a carriage and horses; thou shalt have no wife in thy heart, and no children on thy knee, without a page in buttons and a French bonne; thou shalt go to the devil unless thou hast a brougham; marry poor, and society shall forsake thee; thy kinsmen shall avoid thee as a criminal; thy aunts and uncles shall turn up their eyes and bemoan the sad, sad manner in which Tom or Harry has thrown himself away.' You, young woman, may sell yourself without shame, and marry old Croesus; you, young man, may lie away your heart and your life for a jointure. But if 'you are poor, woe be to you! Society, the brutal Snob autocrat, consigns you to solitary perdition. Wither, poor girl, in your garret; rot, poor bachelor, in your Club.
When I see those graceless recluses--those unnatural monks and nuns of the order of St. Beelzebub, (1) my hatred for Snobs, and their worship, and their idols, passes all continence. Let us hew down that man-eating Juggernaut, I say, that hideous Dagon; and I glow with the heroic courage of Tom Thumb, and join battle with the giant Snob.
(1) This, of course, is understood to apply only to those unmarried persons whom a mean and Snobbish fear about money has kept from fulfilling their natural destiny. Many persons there are devoted to celibacy because they cannot help it. Of these a man would be a brute who spoke roughly. Indeed, after Miss O'Toole's conduct to the writer, he would be the last to condemn. But never mind, these are personal matters.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
In that noble romance called 'Ten Thousand a Year,' I remember a profoundly pathetic description of the Christian manner in which the hero, Mr. Aubrey, bore his misfortunes. After making a display of the most florid and grandiloquent resignation, and quitting his country mansion, the writer supposes Aubrey to come to town in a post-chaise and pair, sitting bodkin probably between his wife and sister. It is about seven o'clock, carriages are rattling about, knockers are thundering, and tears bedim the fine eyes of Kate and Mrs. Aubrey as they think that in happier times at this hour--their Aubrey used formerly to go out to dinner to the houses of the aristocracy his friends. This is the gist of the passage--the elegant words I forget. But the noble, noble sentiment I shall always cherish and remember. What can be more sublime than the notion of a great man's relatives in tears about--his dinner? With a few touches, what author ever more happily described A Snob?
We were reading the passage lately at the house of my friend, Raymond Gray, Esquire, Barrister-at-Law, an ingenuous youth without the least practice, but who has luckily a great share of good spirits, which enables him to bide his time, and bear laughingly his humble position in the world. Meanwhile, until it is altered, the stern laws of necessity and the expenses of the Northern Circuit oblige Mr. Gray to live in a very tiny mansion in a very queer small square in the airy neighbourhood of Gray's Inn Lane.
What is the more remarkable is, that Gray has a wife there. Mrs. Gray was a Miss Harley Baker: and I suppose I need not say that is a respectable family. Allied to the Cavendishes, the Oxfords, the Marrybones, they still, though rather déchus from their original splendour, hold their heads as high as any. Mrs. Harley Baker, I know, never goes to church without John behind to carry her prayer-book; nor will Miss Welbeck, her sister, walk twenty yards a-shopping without the protection of Figby, her sugar-loaf page; though the old lady is as ugly as any woman in the parish and as tall and whiskery as a grenadier. The astonishment is, how Emily Harley Baker could have stooped to marry Raymond Gray. She, who was the prettiest and proudest of the family; she, who refused Sir Cockle Byles, of the Bengal Service; she, who turned up her little nose at Essex Temple, Q.C., and connected with the noble house of Albyn; she, who had but 4,000L. Pour tout potage, to marry a man who had scarcely as much more. A scream of wrath and indignation was uttered by the whole family when they heard of this mes alliance. Mrs. Harley Baker never speaks of her daughter now but with tears in her eyes, and as a ruined creature. Miss Welbeck says, 'I consider that man a villain;' and has denounced poor good-natured Mrs. Perkins as a swindler, at whose ball the young people met for the first time.
Mr. and Mrs. Gray, meanwhile, live in Gray's Inn Lane aforesaid, with a maid-servant and a nurse, whose hands are very full, and in a most provoking and unnatural state of happiness. They have never once thought of crying about their dinner, like the wretchedly puling and Snobbish womankind of my favourite Snob Aubrey, of 'Ten Thousand a Year;' but, on the contrary, accept such humble victuals as fate awards them with a most perfect and thankful good grace--nay, actually have a portion for a hungry friend at times--as the present writer can gratefully testify.
I was mentioning these dinners, and some admirable lemon puddings which Mrs. Gray makes, to our mutual friend the great Mr. Goldmore, the East India Director, when that gentleman's face assumed an expression of almost apoplectic terror, and he gasped out, 'What! Do they give dinners?' He seemed to think it a crime and a wonder that such people should dine at all, and that it was their custom to huddle round their kitchen-fire over a bone and a crust. Whenever he meets them in society, it is a matter of wonder to him (and he always expresses his surprise very loud) how the lady can appear decently dressed, and the man have an unpatched coat to his back. I have heard him enlarge upon this poverty before the whole room at the 'Conflagrative Club,' to which he and I and Gray have the honour to belong.
We meet at the Club on most days. At half-past four, Goldmore arrives in St. James's Street, from the City, and you may see him reading the evening papers in the bow-window of the Club, which enfilades Pall Mall--a large plethoric man, with a bunch of seals in a large bow-windowed light waistcoat. He has large coat-tails, stuffed with agents' letters and papers about companies of which he is a Director. His seals jingle as he walks. I wish I had such a man for an uncle, and that he himself were childless. I would love and cherish him, and be kind to him.
At six o'clock in the full season, when all the world is in St. James's Street, and the carriages are cutting in and out among the cabs on the stand, and the tufted dandies are showing their listless faces out of 'White's,' and you see respectable grey-headed gentlemen waggling their heads to each other through the plate-glass windows of 'Arthur's:' and the red-coats wish to be Briareian, so as to hold all the gentlemen's horses; and that wonderful red-coated royal porter is sunning himself before Marlborough House;--at the noon of London time, you see a light-yellow carriage with black horses, and a coachman in a tight floss-silk wig, and two footmen in powder and white and yellow liveries, and a large woman inside in shot-silk, a poodle, and a pink parasol, which drives up to the gate of the Conflagrative, and the page goes and says to Mr. Goldmore (who is perfectly aware of the fact, as he is looking out of the windows with about forty other 'Conflagrative' bucks), 'Your carriage, Sir.' G. wags his head. 'Remember, eight o'clock precisely,' says he to Mulligatawney, the other East India Director; and, ascending the carriage, plumps down by the side of Mrs. Goldmore for a drive in the Park, and then home to Portland Place. As the carriage whirls off, all the young bucks in the Club feel a secret elation. It is a part of their establishment, as it were. That carriage belongs to their Club, and their Club belongs to them. They follow the equipage with interest; they eye it knowingly as they see it in the Park. But halt! we are not come to the Club Snobs yet. O my brave Snobs, what a flurry there will be among you when those papers appear!
Well, you may judge, from the above description, what sort of a man Goldmore is. A dull and pompous Leadenhall Street Croesus, good-natured withal, and affable--cruelly affable. 'Mr. Goldmore can never forget,' his lady used to say, 'that it was Mrs. Gray's Grandfather who sent him to India; and though that young woman has made the most imprudent marriage in the world, and has left her station in society, her husband seems an ingenious and laborious young man, and we shall do everything in our power to be of use to him.' So they used to ask the Grays to dinner twice or thrice in a season, when, by way of increasing the kindness, Buff, the butler, is ordered to hire a fly to convey them to and from Portland Place.
Of course I am much too good-natured a friend of both parties not to tell Gray of Goldmore's opinion in him, and the nabob's astonishment at the of the briefless barrister having any dinner at all. Indeed, Goldmore's saying became a joke against Gray amongst us wags at the Club, and we used to ask him when he tasted meat last? whether we should bring him home something from dinner? and cut a thousand other mad pranks with him in our facetious way.
One day, then, coming home from the Club, Mr. Gray conveyed to his wife the astounding information that he had asked Goldmore to dinner.
'My love,' says Mrs. Gray, in a tremor, 'how could you be so cruel? Why, the dining-room won't hold Mrs. Goldmore.'
'Make your mind easy, Mrs. Gray; her ladyship is in Paris. It is only Croesus that's coming, and we are going to the play afterwards--to Sadler's Wells. Goldmore said at the Club that he thought Shakspeare was a great dramatic poet, and ought to be patronized; whereupon, fired with enthusiasm, I invited him to our banquet.'
'Goodness gracious! what can we give him for dinner? He has two French cooks; you know Mrs. Goldmore is always telling us about them; and he dines with Aldermen every day.'
'"A plain leg of mutton, my Lucy, I prythee get ready at three; Have it tender, and smoking, and juicy, And what better meat can there be?"'
says Gray, quoting my favourite poet.
'But the cook is ill; and you know that horrible Pattypan the pastrycook's---'
'Silence, Frau!' says Gray, in a deep tragedy voice. 'I will have the ordering of this repast. Do all things as I bid thee. Invite our friend Snob here to partake of the feast. Be mine the task of procuring it.'
'Don't be expensive, Raymond,' says his wife.
'Peace, thou timid partner of the briefless one. Goldmore's dinner shall be suited to our narrow means. Only do thou in all things my commands.' And seeing by the peculiar expression of the rogue's countenance, that some mad waggery was in preparation, I awaited the morrow with anxiety.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Punctual to the hour--(by the way, I cannot omit to mark down my hatred, scorn, and indignation towards those miserable Snobs who come to dinner at nine when they are asked at eight, in order to make a sensation in the company. May the loathing of honest folks, the backbiting of others, the curses of cooks, pursue these wretches, and avenge the society on which they trample!)--Punctual, I say, to the hour of five, which Mr. and Mrs. Raymond Gray had appointed, a youth of an elegant appearance, in a neat evening-dress, whose trim whiskers indicated neatness, whose light step denoted activity (for in sooth he was hungry, and always is at the dinner hour, whatsoever that hour may be), and whose rich golden hair, curling down his shoulders, was set off by a perfectly new four-and-ninepenny silk hat, was seen wending his way down Bittlestone Street, Bittlestone Square, Gray's Inn. The person in question, I need not say, was Mr. Snob. He was never late when invited to dine. But to proceed my narrative:--
Mr. Snob may have flattered himself that he made a sensation as he strutted down Bittlestone with his richly gilt knobbed cane (and indeed I vow I saw heads looking at me from Miss Squilsby's, the brass-plated milliner opposite Raymond Gray's, who has three silver-paper bonnets, and two fly-blown prints of fashion in the window), yet what was the emotion produced by my arrival, compared to that which the little street thrilled, when at five minutes past five the floss-wigged coachman, the yellow hammer-cloth and flunkeys, the black horses and blazing silver harness of Mr. Goldmore whirled down the street!
It is a very little street, of very little houses, most of them with very large brass plates like Miss Squilsby's. Coal-merchants, architects and surveyors, two surgeons, a solicitor, a dancing-master, and of course several house-agents, occupy the houses--little two-storeyed edifices with little stucco porticoes. Goldmore's carriage overtopped the roofs almost; the first floors might shake hands with Croesus as he lolled inside; all the windows of those first floors thronged with children and women in a twinkling. There was Mrs. Hammerly in curl-papers; Mrs. Saxby with her front awry; Mr. Wriggles peering through the gauze curtains, holding the while his hot glass of rum-and-water--in fine, a tremendous commotion in Bittlestone Street, as the Goldmore carriage drove up to Mr. Raymond Gray's door.
'How kind it is of him to come with both the footmen!' says little Mrs. Gray, peeping at the vehicle too. The huge domestic, descending from his perch, gave a rap at the door which almost drove in the building. All the heads were out; the sun was shining; the very organ-boy paused; the footman, the coach, and Goldmore's red face and white waistcoat were blazing in splendour. The herculean plushed one went back to open the carriage-door.
Raymond Gray opened his--in his shirt-sleeves. He ran up to the carriage. 'Come in, Goldmore,' says he; 'just in time, my boy. Open the door, What-d'ye-call'um, and let your master out,'--and What-d'ye-call'um obeyed mechanically, with a face of wonder and horror, only to be equalled by the look of stupefied astonishment which ornamented the purple countenance of his master.
'Wawt taim will you please have the cage, sir?' says What-d'ye-call'um, in that peculiar, unspellable, inimitable, flunkefied pronunciation which forms one of the chief charms of existence.
Best have it to the theatre at night,' Gray exclaims; 'it is but a step from here to the Wells, and we can walk there. I've got tickets for all. Be at Sadler's Wells at eleven.'
'Yes, at eleven,' exclaims Goldmore, perturbedly, and walks with a flurried step into the house, as if he were going to execution (as indeed he was, with that wicked Gray as a Jack Ketch over him). The carriage drove away, followed by numberless eyes from doorsteps and balconies; its appearance is still a wonder in Bittlestone Street.
'Go in there, and amuse yourself with Snob,' says Gray, opening the little drawing-room door. 'I'll call out as soon as the chops are ready. Fanny's below, seeing to the pudding.'
'Gracious mercy!' says Goldmore to me, quite confidentially, 'how could he ask us? I really had no idea of this--this utter destitution.'
'Dinner, dinner!' roars out Gray, from the diningroom, whence issued a great smoking and frying; and entering that apartment we find Mrs. Gray ready to receive us, and looking perfectly like a Princess who, by some accident, had a bowl of potatoes in her hand, which vegetables she placed on the table. Her husband 'was meanwhile cooking mutton-chops on a gridiron over the fire.
Fanny has made the roly-poly pudding,' says he; the chops are my part. Here's a fine one; try this, Goldmore.' And he popped a fizzing cutlet on that gentleman's plate. What words, what notes of exclamation can describe the nabob's astonishment?
The tablecloth was a very old one, darned in a score places. There was mustard in a teacup, a silver fork for Goldmore--all ours were iron.
'I wasn't born with a silver spoon in my mouth,' says Gray, gravely. 'That fork is the only one we have. Fanny has it generally.'
'Raymond!'--cries Mrs. Gray, with an imploring face. 'She was used to better things, you know: and I hope one day to get her a dinner-service. I'm told the electro-plate is uncommonly good. Where the deuce is that boy with the beer? And now,' said he, springing up, 'I'll be a gentleman.' And so he put on his coat, and sat down quite gravely, with four fresh mutton-chops which he had by this time broiled.
'We don't have meat every day, Mr. Goldmore,' he continued, 'and it's a treat to me to get a dinner like this. You little know, you gentlemen of England, who live at home at ease, what hardships briefless barristers endure.'
'Gracious mercy!' says Mr. Goldmore.
'Where's the half-and-half? Fanny, go over to the 'Keys' and get the beer. Here's sixpence.' And what was our astonishment when Fanny got up as if to go!
'Gracious mercy! let me,' cries Goldmore.
'Not for worlds, my dear sir. She's used to it. They wouldn't serve you as well as they serve her. Leave her alone. Law bless you!' Raymond said, with astounding composure. And Mrs. Gray left the room, and actually came back with a tray on which there was a pewter flagon of beer. Little Polly (to whom, at her christening, I had the honour of presenting a silver mug ex officio) followed with a couple of tobacco-pipes, and the queerest roguish look in her round little chubby face.
'Did you speak to Tapling about the gin, Fanny, my dear?' Gray asked, after bidding Polly put the pipes on the chimney-piece, which that little person had some difficulty in reaching. 'The last was turpentine, and even your brewing didn't make good punch of it.'
'You would hardly suspect, Goldmore, that my wife, a Harley Baker, would ever make gin-punch? I think my mother-in-law would commit suicide if she saw her.'
'Don't be always laughing at mamma, Raymond,' says Mrs. Gray.
'Well, well, she wouldn't die, and I don't wish she would. And you don't make gin-punch, and you don't like it either and--Goldmore do you drink your beer out of the glass, or out of the pewter?'
'Gracious mercy!' ejaculates Croesus once more, as little Polly, taking the pot with both her little bunches of hands, offers it, smiling, to that astonished Director.
And so, in a word, the dinner commenced, and was presently ended in a similar fashion. Gray pursued his unfortunate guest with the most queer and outrageous description of his struggles, misery, and poverty. He described how he cleaned the knives when they were first married; and how he used to drag the children in a little cart; how his wife could toss pancakes; and what parts of his dress she made. He told Tibbits, his clerk (who was in fact the functionary who had brought the beer from the public-house, which Mrs. Fanny had fetched from the neighbouring apartment)--to fetch 'the bottle of port-wine,' when the dinner was over; and told Goldmore as wonderful a history about the way in which that bottle of wine had come into his hands as any of his former stories had been. When the repast was all over, and it was near time to move to the play, and Mrs. Gray had retired, and we were sitting ruminating rather silently over the last glasses of the port, Gray suddenly breaks the silence by slapping Goldmore on the shoulder, and saying, 'Now, Goldmore, tell me something.'
'What?' asks Croesus.
'Haven't you had a good dinner?'
Goldmore started, as if a sudden truth had just dawned upon him. He had had a good dinner; and didn't know it until then. The three mutton-chops consumed by him were best of the mutton kind; the potatoes were perfect of their order; as for the rolypoly, it was too good. The porter was frothy and cool, and the port-wine was worthy of the gills of a bishop. I speak with ulterior views; for there is more in Gray's cellar.
'Well,' says Goldmore, after a pause, during which he took time to consider the momentous question Gray put to him--' 'Pon my word--now you say so--I--I have--I really have had a monsous good dinnah--monsous good, upon my ward! Here's your health, Gray my boy, and your amiable lady; and when Mrs. Goldmore comes back, I hope we shall see you more in Portland Place.' And with this the time came for the play, and we went to see Mr. Phelps at Sadler's Wells. The best of this story (for the truth of every word of which I pledge my honour) is, that after this banquet, which Goldmore enjoyed so, the honest fellow felt a prodigious compassion and regard for the starving and miserable giver of the feast, and determined to help him in his profession. And being a Director of the newly-established Antibilious Life Assurance Company, he has had Gray appointed Standing Counsel, with a pretty annual fee; and only yesterday, in an appeal from Bombay (Buckmuckjee Bobbachee v. Ramchowder-Bahawder) in the Privy Council, Lord Brougham complimented Mr. Gray, who was in the case, on his curious and exact knowledge of the Sanscrit language.
Whether he knows Sanscrit or not, I can't say; but Goldmore got him the business; and so I cannot help having a lurking regard for that pompous old Bigwig.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
'We Bachelors in Clubs are very much obliged to you,' says my old school and college companion, Essex Temple, 'for the opinion which you hold of us. You call us selfish, purple-faced, bloated, and other pretty names. You state, in the simplest possible terms, that we shall go to the deuce. You bid us rot in loneliness, and deny us all claims to honesty, conduct, decent Christian life. Who are you, Mr. Snob, to judge us. Who are you, with your infernal benevolent smirk and grin, that laugh at all our generation?
'I will tell you my case,' says Essex Temple; 'mine and my sister Polly's, and you may make what you like of it; and sneer at old maids, and bully old bachelors, if you will.
'I will whisper to you confidentially that my sister was engaged to Serjeant Shirker--a fellow whose talents one cannot deny, and be hanged to them, but whom I have always known to be mean, selfish, and a prig. However, women don't see these faults in the men whom Love throws in their way. Shirker, who has about as much warmth as an eel, made up to Polly years and years ago, and was no bad match for a briefless barrister, as he was then.
Have you ever read Lord Eldon's Life? Do you remember how the sordid old Snob narrates his going out to purchase twopence-worth of sprats, which he and Mrs. Scott fried between them? And how he parades his humility, and exhibits his miserable poverty--he who, at that time, must have been making a thousand pounds a year? Well, Shirker was just as proud of his prudence--just as thankful for his own meanness, and of course would not marry without a competency. Who so honourable? Polly waited, and waited faintly, from year to year. he wasn't sick at heart; his passion never disturbed his six hours' sleep, or kept his ambition out of mind. He would rather have hugged an attorney any day than have kissed Polly, though she was one of the prettiest creatures in the world; and while she was pining alone upstairs, reading over the stock of half-a-dozen frigid letters that the confounded prig had condescended to write to her, he, be sure, was never busy with anything but his briefs in chambers--always frigid, rigid, self-satisfied, and at his duty. The marriage trailed on year after year, while Mr. Serjeant Shirker grew to be the famous lawyer he is.
'Meanwhile, my younger brother, Pump Temple, who was in the 120th Hussars, and had the same little patrimony which fell to the lot of myself and Polly, must fall in love with our cousin, Fanny Figtree, and marry her out of hand. You should have seen the wedding! Six bridesmaids in pink, to hold the fan, bouquet, gloves, scent-bottle, and pocket-handkerchief of the bride; basketfuls of white favours in the vestry, to be pinned on to the footmen and horses; a genteel congregation of curious acquaintance in the pews, a shabby one of poor on the steps; all the carriages of all our acquaintance, whom Aunt Figtree had levied for the occasion; and of course four horses for Mr. Pump's bridal vehicle.
'Then comes the breakfast, or déjeuner, if you please, with a brass band in the street, and policemen to keep order. The happy bridegroom spends about a year's income in dresses for the bridesmaids and pretty presents; and the bride must have a trousseau of laces, satins, jewel-boxes and tomfoolery, to make her fit to be a lieutenant's wife. There was no hesitation about Pump. He flung about his money as if it had been dross; and Mrs. P. Temple, on the horse Tom Tiddler, which her husband gave her, was the most dashing of military women at Brighton or Dublin.
How old Mrs. Figtree used to bore me and Polly with stories of Pump's grandeur and the noble company he kept! Polly lives with the Figtrees, as I am not rich enough to keep a home for her.
'Pump and I have always been rather distant. Not having the slightest notions about horseflesh, he has a natural contempt for me; and in our mother's lifetime, when the good old lady was always paying his debts and petting him, I'm not sure there was not a little jealousy. It used to be Polly that kept the peace between us.
'She went to Dublin to visit Pump, and brought back grand accounts of his doings--gayest man about town--Aide-de-Camp to the Lord-Lieutenant--Fanny admired everywhere--Her Excellency godmother to the second boy: the eldest with a string of aristocratic Christian-names that made the grandmother wild with delight. Presently Fanny and Pump obligingly came to London, where the third was born.
'Polly was godmother to this, and who so loving as she and Pump now? "Oh, Essex," says she to me, "he is so good, so generous, so fond of his family; so handsome; who can help loving him, and pardoning his little errors?" One day, while Mrs. Pump was yet in the upper regions, and Doctor Fingerfee's brougham at her door every day, having business at Guildhall, whom should I meet in Cheapside but Pump and Polly? The poor girl looked more happy and rosy than I have seen her these twelve years. Pump, on the contrary, was rather blushing and embarrassed.
'I couldn't be mistaken in her face and its look of mischief and triumph. She had been committing some act of sacrifice. I went to the family stockbroker. She had sold out two thousand pounds that morning and given them to Pump. Quarrelling was useless--Pump had the money; he was off to Dublin by the time I reached his mother's, and Polly radiant still. He was going to make his fortune; he was going to embark the money in the Bog of Allen--I don't know what. The fact is, he was going to pay his losses upon the last Manchester steeple-chase, and I leave you to imagine how much principal or interest poor Polly ever saw back again.
'It was more than half her fortune, and he has had another thousand since from her. Then came efforts to stave off ruin and prevent exposure; struggles on all our parts, and sacrifices, that' (here Mr. Essex Temple began to hesitate)--'that needn't be talked of; but they are of no more use than such sacrifices ever are. Pump and his wife are abroad--I don't like to ask where; Polly has the three children, and Mr. Serjeant Shirker has formally written to break off an engagement, on the conclusion of which Miss Temple must herself have speculated, when she alienated the greater part of her fortune.
'And here's your famous theory of poor marriages!' Essex Temple cries, concluding the above history. 'How do you know that I don't want to marry myself? How do you dare sneer at my poor sister? What are we but martyrs of the reckless marriage system which Mr. Snob, forsooth, chooses to advocate?' And he thought he had the better of the argument, which, strange to say, is not my opinion.
But for the infernal Snob-worship, might not every one of these people be happy? If poor Polly's happiness lay in linking her tender arms round such a heartless prig as the sneak who has deceived her, she might have been happy now--as happy as Raymond Raymond in the ballad, with the stone statue by his side. She is wretched because Mr. Serjeant Shirker worships money and ambition, and is a Snob and a coward.
If the unfortunate Pump Temple and his giddy hussy of a wife have ruined themselves, and dragged down others into their calamity, it is because they loved rank, and horses, and plate, and carriages, and Court Guides, and millinery, and would sacrifice all to attain those objects.
And who misguides them? If the world were more simple, would not those foolish people follow the fashion? Does not the world love Court Guides, and millinery, and plate, and carriages? Mercy on us! Read the fashionable intelligence; read the Court Circular; read the genteel novels; survey mankind, from Pimlico to Red Lion Square, and see how the Poor Snob is aping the Rich Snob; how the Mean Snob is grovelling at the feet of the Proud Snob; and the Great Snob is lording it over his humble brother. Does the idea of equality ever enter Dives' head? Will it ever? Will the Duchess of Fitzbattleaxe (I like a good name) ever believe that Lady Croesus, her next-door neighbour in Belgrave Square, is as good a lady as her Grace? Will Lady Croesus ever leave off pining the Duchess's parties, and cease patronizing Mrs. Broadcloth whose husband has not got his Baronetcy yet? Will Mrs. Broadcloth ever heartily shake hands with Mrs. Seedy, and give up those odious calculations about poor dear Mrs. Seedy's income? Will Mrs. Seedy who is starving in her great house, go and live comfortably in a little one, or in lodgings? Will her landlady, Miss Letsam, ever stop wondering at the familiarity of tradespeople, or rebuking the insolence of Suky, the maid, who wears flowers under her bonnet like a lady?
But why hope, why wish for such times? Do I wish all Snobs to perish? Do I wish these Snob papers to determine? Suicidal fool, art not thou, too, a Snob and a brother?
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