Lavengro - The Scholar, The Gypsy, The Priest
by George Borrow
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'What's a tanner?' said I.

'Lor! don't you know, dear? Why, a tanner is sixpence; and, as you were talking just now about crowns, it will be as well to tell you that those of our trade never calls them crowns, but bulls; but I am talking nonsense, just as if you did not know all that already, as well as myself; you are only shamming—I'm no trap, dear, nor more was the blessed woman in the book. Thank you, dear—thank you for the tanner; if I don't spend it, I'll keep it in remembrance of your sweet face. What, you are going?—well, first let me whisper a word to you. If you have any clies to sell at any time, I'll buy them of you; all safe with me; I never peach, and scores a trap; so now, dear, God bless you! and give you good luck. Thank you for your pleasant company, and thank you for the tanner.'


The tanner—The hotel—Drinking claret—London journal—New field—Commonplaceness—The three individuals—Botheration—Frank and ardent.

'Tanner!' said I musingly, as I left the bridge; 'Tanner! what can the man who cures raw skins by means of a preparation of oak bark and other materials have to do with the name which these fakers, as they call themselves, bestow on the smallest silver coin in these dominions? Tanner! I can't trace the connection between the man of bark and the silver coin, unless journeymen tanners are in the habit of working for sixpence a day. But I have it,' I continued, flourishing my hat over my head, 'tanner, in this instance, is not an English word.' Is it not surprising that the language of Mr. Petulengro and of Tawno Chikno is continually coming to my assistance whenever I appear to be at a nonplus with respect to the derivation of crabbed words? I have made out crabbed words in AEschylus by means of the speech of Chikno and Petulengro, and even in my Biblical researches I have derived no slight assistance from it. It appears to be a kind of picklock, an open sesame, Tanner—Tawno! the one is but a modification of the other; they were originally identical, and have still much the same signification. Tanner, in the language of the apple-woman, meaneth the smallest of English silver coins; and Tawno, in the language of the Petulengres, though bestowed upon the biggest of the Romans, according to strict interpretation signifieth a little child.

So I left the bridge, retracing my steps for a considerable way, as I thought I had seen enough in the direction in which I had hitherto been wandering; I should say that I scarcely walked less than thirty miles about the big city on the day of my first arrival. Night came on, but still I was walking about, my eyes wide open, and admiring everything that presented itself to them. Everything was new to me, for everything is different in London from what it is elsewhere—the people, their language, the horses, the tout ensemble—even the stones of London are different from others—at least it appeared to me that I had never walked with the same case and facility on the flagstones of a country town as on those of London; so I continued roving about till night came on, and then the splendour of some of the shops particularly struck me. 'A regular Arabian Nights entertainment!' said I, as I looked into one on Cornhill, gorgeous with precious merchandise, and lighted up with lustres, the rays of which were reflected from a hundred mirrors.

But, notwithstanding the excellence of the London pavement, I began about nine o'clock to feel myself thoroughly tired; painfully and slowly did I drag my feet along. I also felt very much in want of some refreshment, and I remembered that since breakfast I had taken nothing. I was now in the Strand, and, glancing about, I perceived that I was close by an hotel, which bore over the door the somewhat remarkable name of Holy Lands. Without a moment's hesitation I entered a well-lighted passage, and, turning to the left, I found myself in a well-lighted coffee-room, with a well-dressed and frizzled waiter before me, 'Bring me some claret,' said I, for I was rather faint than hungry, and I felt ashamed to give a humbler order to so well-dressed an individual. The waiter looked at me for a moment; then, making a low bow, he bustled off, and I sat myself down in the box nearest to the window. Presently the waiter returned, bearing beneath his left arm a long bottle, and between the fingers of his right hand two large purple glasses; placing the latter on the table, he produced a corkscrew, drew the cork in a twinkling, set the bottle down before me with a bang, and then, standing still, appeared to watch my movements. You think I don't know how to drink a glass of claret, thought I to myself. I'll soon show you how we drink claret where I come from; and, filling one of the glasses to the brim, I flickered it for a moment between my eyes and the lustre, and then held it to my nose; having given that organ full time to test the bouquet of the wine, I applied the glass to my lips, taking a large mouthful of the wine, which I swallowed slowly and by degrees, that the palate might likewise have an opportunity of performing its functions. A second mouthful I disposed of more summarily; then, placing the empty glass upon the table, I fixed my eyes upon the bottle, and said—nothing; whereupon the waiter, who had been observing the whole process with considerable attention, made me a bow yet more low than before, and, turning on his heel, retired with a smart chuck of his head, as much as to say, It is all right: the young man is used to claret.

{picture:The young man is used to claret: page209.jpg}

And when the waiter had retired I took a second glass of the wine, which I found excellent; and, observing a newspaper lying near me, I took it up and began perusing it. It has been observed somewhere that people who are in the habit of reading newspapers every day are not unfrequently struck with the excellence of style and general talent which they display. Now, if that be the case, how must I have been surprised, who was reading a newspaper for the first time, and that one of the best of the London journals! Yes, strange as it may seem, it was nevertheless true that, up to the moment of which I am speaking, I had never read a newspaper of any description. I of course had frequently seen journals, and even handled them; but, as for reading them, what were they to me? I cared not for news. But here I was now with my claret before me, perusing, perhaps, the best of all the London journals; it was not the —- , and I was astonished: an entirely new field of literature appeared to be opened to my view. It was a discovery, but I confess rather an unpleasant one; for I said to myself, If literary talent is so very common in London, that the journals, things which, as their very name denotes, are ephemeral, are written in a style like the article I have been perusing, how can I hope to distinguish myself in this big town, when, for the life of me, I don't think I could write anything half so clever as what I have been reading? And then I laid down the paper, and fell into deep musing; rousing myself from which, I took a glass of wine, and, pouring out another, began musing again. What I have been reading, thought I, is certainly very clever and very talented; but talent and cleverness I think I have heard some one say are very commonplace things, only fitted for everyday occasions. I question whether the man who wrote the book I saw this day on the bridge was a clever man; but, after all, was he not something much better? I don't think he could have written this article, but then he wrote the book which I saw on the bridge. Then, if he could not have written the article on which I now hold my forefinger—and I do not believe he could—why should I feel discouraged at the consciousness that I, too, could not write it? I certainly could no more have written the article than he could; but then, like him, though I would not compare myself to the man who wrote the book I saw upon the bridge, I think I could—and here I emptied the glass of claret—write something better.

Thereupon I resumed the newspaper; and, as I was before struck with the fluency of style and the general talent which it displayed, I was now equally so with its commonplaceness and want of originality on every subject; and it was evident to me that, whatever advantage these newspaper-writers might have over me in some points, they had never studied the Welsh bards, translated Kaempe Viser, or been under the pupilage of Mr. Petulengro and Tawno Chikno.

And as I sat conning the newspaper three individuals entered the room, and seated themselves in the box at the farther end of which I was. They were all three very well dressed; two of them elderly gentlemen, the third a young man about my own age, or perhaps a year or two older: they called for coffee; and, after two or three observations, the two eldest commenced a conversation in French, which, however, though they spoke it fluently enough, I perceived at once was not their native language; the young man, however, took no part in their conversation, and when they addressed a portion to him, which indeed was but rarely, merely replied by a monosyllable. I have never been a listener, and I paid but little heed to their discourse, nor indeed to themselves; as I occasionally looked up, however, I could perceive that the features of the young man, who chanced to be seated exactly opposite to me, wore an air of constraint and vexation. This circumstance caused me to observe him more particularly than I otherwise should have done: his features were handsome and prepossessing; he had dark brown hair and a high-arched forehead. After the lapse of half an hour, the two elder individuals, having finished their coffee, called for the waiter, and then rose as if to depart, the young man, however, still remaining seated in the box. The others, having reached the door, turned round, and, finding that the youth did not follow them, one of them called to him with a tone of some authority; whereupon the young man rose, and, pronouncing half audibly the word 'botheration,' rose and followed them. I now observed that he was remarkably tall. All three left the house. In about ten minutes, finding nothing more worth reading in the newspaper, I laid it down, and though the claret was not yet exhausted, I was thinking of betaking myself to my lodgings, and was about to call the waiter, when I heard a step in the passage, and in another moment the tall young man entered the room, advanced to the same box, and, sitting down nearly opposite to me, again pronounced to himself, but more audibly than before, the same word.

'A troublesome world this, sir,' said I, looking at him.

'Yes,' said the young man, looking fixedly at me; 'but I am afraid we bring most of our troubles on our own heads—at least I can say so of myself,' he added, laughing. Then, after a pause, 'I beg pardon,' he said, 'but am I not addressing one of my own country?'

'Of what country are you?' said I.


'I am not of your country, sir; but I have an infinite veneration for your country, as Strap said to the French soldier. Will you take a glass of wine?'

'Ah, de tout mon coeur, as the parasite said to Gil Blas,' cried the young man, laughing. 'Here's to our better acquaintance!'

And better acquainted we soon became; and I found that, in making the acquaintance of the young man, I had indeed made a valuable acquisition; he was accomplished, highly connected, and bore the name of Francis Ardry. Frank and ardent he was, and in a very little time had told me much that related to himself, and in return I communicated a general outline of my own history; he listened with profound attention, but laughed heartily when I told him some particulars of my visit in the morning to the publisher, whom he had frequently heard of.

We left the house together.

'We shall soon see each other again,' said he, as we separated at the door of my lodging.


Dine with the publisher—Religions—No animal food—Unprofitable discussions—Principles of criticism—The book market—Newgate lives—Goethe a drug—German acquirements—Moral dignity.

On the Sunday I was punctual to my appointment to dine with the publisher. As I hurried along the square in which his house stood, my thoughts were fixed so intently on the great man, that I passed by him without seeing him. He had observed me, however, and joined me just as I was about to knock at the door. 'Let us take a turn in the square,' said he, 'we shall not dine for half an hour.'

'Well,' said he, as we were walking in the square, 'what have you been doing since I last saw you?'

'I have been looking about London,' said I, 'and I have bought the Dairyman's Daughter; here it is.'

'Pray put it up,' said the publisher; 'I don't want to look at such trash. Well, do you think you could write anything like it?'

'I do not,' said I.

'How is that?' said the publisher, looking at me.

'Because,' said I, 'the man who wrote it seems to be perfectly well acquainted with his subject; and, moreover, to write from the heart.'

'By the subject you mean—'


'And ain't you acquainted with religion?'

'Very little.'

'I am sorry for that,' said the publisher seriously, 'for he who sets up for an author ought to be acquainted not only with religion, but religions, and indeed with all subjects, like my good friend in the country. It is well that I have changed my mind about the Dairyman's Daughter, or I really don't know whom I could apply to on the subject at the present moment, unless to himself; and after all I question whether his style is exactly suited for an evangelical novel.'

'Then you do not wish for an imitation of the Dairyman's Daughter?'

'I do not, sir; I have changed my mind, as I told you before; I wish to employ you in another line, but will communicate to you my intentions after dinner.'

At dinner, beside the publisher and myself, were present his wife and son with his newly-married bride; the wife appeared a quiet respectable woman, and the young people looked very happy and good-natured; not so the publisher, who occasionally eyed both with contempt and dislike. Connected with this dinner there was one thing remarkable; the publisher took no animal food, but contented himself with feeding voraciously on rice and vegetables prepared in various ways.

'You eat no animal food, sir?' said I.

'I do not, sir,' said he; 'I have forsworn it upwards of twenty years. In one respect, sir, I am a Brahmin. I abhor taking away life—the brutes have as much right to live as ourselves.'

'But,' said I, 'if the brutes were not killed, there would be such a superabundance of them, that the land would be overrun with them.'

'I do not think so, sir; few are killed in India, and yet there is plenty of room.'

'But,' said I, 'Nature intended that they should be destroyed, and the brutes themselves prey upon one another, and it is well for themselves and the world that they do so. What would be the state of things if every insect, bird, and worm were left to perish of old age?'

'We will change the subject,' said the publisher; 'I have never been a friend of unprofitable discussions.'

I looked at the publisher with some surprise, I had not been accustomed to be spoken to so magisterially; his countenance was dressed in a portentous frown, and his eye looked more sinister than ever; at that moment he put me in mind of some of those despots of whom I had read in the history of Morocco, whose word was law. He merely wants power, thought I to myself, to be a regular Muley Mehemet; and then I sighed, for I remembered how very much I was in the power of that man.

The dinner over, the publisher nodded to his wife, who departed, followed by her daughter-in-law. The son looked as if he would willingly have attended them; he, however, remained seated; and, a small decanter of wine being placed on the table, the publisher filled two glasses, one of which he handed to myself, and the other to his son; saying, 'Suppose you two drink to the success of the Review. I would join you,' said he, addressing himself to me, 'but I drink no wine; if I am a Brahmin with respect to meat, I am a Mahometan with respect to wine.'

So the son and I drank success to the Review, and then the young man asked me various questions; for example—How I liked London?—Whether I did not think it a very fine place?—Whether I was at the play the night before?—and whether I was in the park that afternoon? He seemed preparing to ask me some more questions; but, receiving a furious look from his father, he became silent, filled himself a glass of wine, drank it off, looked at the table for about a minute, then got up, pushed back his chair, made me a bow, and left the room.

'Is that young gentleman, sir,' said I, 'well versed in the principles of criticism?'

'He is not, sir,' said the publisher; 'and, if I place him at the head of the Review ostensibly, I do it merely in the hope of procuring him a maintenance; of the principle of a thing he knows nothing, except that the principle of bread is wheat, and that the principle of that wine is grape. Will you take another glass?'

I looked at the decanter; but, not feeling altogether so sure as the publisher's son with respect to the principle of what it contained, I declined taking any more.

'No, sir,' said the publisher, adjusting himself in his chair, 'he knows nothing about criticism, and will have nothing more to do with the reviewals than carrying about the books to those who have to review them; the real conductor of the Review will be a widely different person, to whom I will, when convenient, introduce you. And now we will talk of the matter which we touched upon before dinner: I told you then that I had changed my mind with respect to you; I have been considering the state of the market, sir, the book market, and I have come to the conclusion that, though you might be profitably employed upon evangelical novels, you could earn more money for me, sir, and consequently for yourself, by a compilation of Newgate lives and trials.'

'Newgate lives and trials!'

'Yes, sir,' said the publisher, 'Newgate lives and trials; and now, sir, I will briefly state to you the services which I expect you to perform, and the terms which I am willing to grant. I expect you, sir, to compile six volumes of Newgate lives and trials, each volume to contain by no manner of means less than one thousand pages; the remuneration which you will receive when the work is completed will be fifty pounds, which is likewise intended to cover any expenses you may incur in procuring books, papers, and manuscripts necessary for the compilation. Such will be one of your employments, sir,—such the terms. In the second place, you will be expected to make yourself useful in the Review—generally useful, sir—doing whatever is required of you; for it is not customary, at least with me, to permit writers, especially young writers, to choose their subjects. In these two departments, sir, namely compilation and reviewing, I had yesterday, after due consideration, determined upon employing you. I had intended to employ you no farther, sir—at least for the present; but, sir, this morning I received a letter from my valued friend in the country, in which he speaks in terms of strong admiration (I don't overstate) of your German acquirements. Sir, he says that it would be a thousand pities if your knowledge of the German language should be lost to the world, or even permitted to sleep, and he entreats me to think of some plan by which it may be turned to account. Sir, I am at all times willing, if possible, to oblige my worthy friend, and likewise to encourage merit and talent; I have, therefore, determined to employ you in German.'

'Sir,' said I, rubbing my hands, 'you are very kind, and so is our mutual friend; I shall be happy to make myself useful in German; and if you think a good translation from Goethe—his Sorrows for example, or more particularly his Faust—'

'Sir,' said the publisher, 'Goethe is a drug; his Sorrows are a drug, so is his Faustus, more especially the last, since that fool—rendered him into English. No, sir, I do not want you to translate Goethe or anything belonging to him; nor do I want you to translate anything from the German; what I want you to do, is to translate into German. I am willing to encourage merit, sir; and, as my good friend in his last letter has spoken very highly of your German acquirements, I have determined that you shall translate my book of philosophy into German.'

'Your book of philosophy into German, sir?'

'Yes, sir; my book of philosophy into German. I am not a drug, sir, in Germany as Goethe is here, no more is my book. I intend to print the translation at Leipzig, sir; and if it turns out a profitable speculation, as I make no doubt it will, provided the translation be well executed, I will make you some remuneration. Sir, your remuneration will be determined by the success of your translation.'

'But, sir—'

'Sir,' said the publisher, interrupting me, 'you have heard my intentions; I consider that you ought to feel yourself highly gratified by my intentions towards you; it is not frequently that I deal with a writer, especially a young writer, as I have done with you. And now, sir, permit me to inform you that I wish to be alone. This is Sunday afternoon, sir; I never go to church, but I am in the habit of spending part of every Sunday afternoon alone—profitably I hope, sir—in musing on the magnificence of nature and the moral dignity of man.'

{picture:'I am in the habit of spending part of every Sunday afternoon alone, in musing on the magnificence of nature and the moral dignity of man.': page217.jpg}


The two volumes—A young author—Intended editor—Quintilian—Loose money.

'What can't be cured must be endured,' and 'it is hard to kick against the pricks.'

At the period to which I have brought my history, I bethought me of the proverbs with which I have headed this chapter, and determined to act up to their spirit. I determined not to fly in the face of the publisher, and to bear—what I could not cure—his arrogance and vanity. At present, at the conclusion of nearly a quarter of a century, I am glad that I came to that determination, which I did my best to carry into effect.

Two or three days after our last interview, the publisher made his appearance in my apartment; he bore two tattered volumes under his arm, which he placed on the table. 'I have brought you two volumes of lives, sir,' said he, 'which I yesterday found in my garret; you will find them of service for your compilation. As I always wish to behave liberally and encourage talent, especially youthful talent, I shall make no charge for them, though I should be justified in so doing, as you are aware that, by our agreement, you are to provide any books and materials which may be necessary. Have you been in quest of any?'

'No,' said I, 'not yet.'

'Then, sir, I would advise you to lose no time in doing so; you must visit all the bookstalls, sir, especially those in the by-streets and blind alleys. It is in such places that you will find the description of literature you are in want of. You must be up and doing, sir; it will not do for an author, especially a young author, to be idle in this town. To-night you will receive my book of philosophy, and likewise books for the Review. And, by the bye, sir, it will be as well for you to review my book of philosophy for the Review; the other reviews not having noticed it. Sir, before translating it, I wish you to review my book of philosophy for the Review.'

'I shall be happy to do my best, sir.'

'Very good, sir; I should be unreasonable to expect anything beyond a person's best. And now, sir, if you please, I will conduct you to the future editor of the Review. As you are to co-operate, sir, I deem it right to make you acquainted.'

The intended editor was a little old man, who sat in a kind of wooden pavilion in a small garden behind a house in one of the purlieus of the city, composing tunes upon a piano. The walls of the pavilion were covered with fiddles of various sizes and appearances, and a considerable portion of the floor occupied by a pile of books all of one size. The publisher introduced him to me as a gentleman scarcely less eminent in literature than in music, and me to him as an aspirant critic—a young gentleman scarcely less eminent in philosophy than in philology. The conversation consisted entirely of compliments till just before we separated, when the future editor inquired of me whether I had ever read Quintilian; and, on my replying in the negative, expressed his surprise that any gentleman should aspire to become a critic who had never read Quintilian, with the comfortable information, however, that he could supply me with a Quintilian at half-price, that is, a translation made by himself some years previously, of which he had, pointing to the heap on the floor, still a few copies remaining unsold. For some reason or other, perhaps a poor one, I did not purchase the editor's translation of Quintilian.

'Sir,' said the publisher, as we were returning from our visit to the editor, 'you did right in not purchasing a drug. I am not prepared, sir, to say that Quintilian is a drug, never having seen him; but I am prepared to say that man's translation is a drug, judging from the heap of rubbish on the floor; besides, sir, you will want any loose money you may have to purchase the description of literature which is required for your compilation.'

The publisher presently paused before the entrance of a very forlorn-looking street. 'Sir,' said he, after looking down it with attention, 'I should not wonder if in that street you find works connected with the description of literature which is required for your compilation. It is in streets of this description, sir, and blind alleys, where such works are to be found. You had better search that street, sir, whilst I continue my way.'

I searched the street to which the publisher had pointed, and, in the course of the three succeeding days, many others of a similar kind. I did not find the description of literature alluded to by the publisher to be a drug, but, on the contrary, both scarce and dear. I had expended much more than my loose money long before I could procure materials even for the first volume of my compilation.


Francis Ardry—Certain sharpers—Brave and eloquent—Opposites—Flinging the bones—Strange places—Dog-fighting—Learning and letters—Batch of dogs—Redoubled application.

One evening I was visited by the tall young gentleman, Francis Ardry, whose acquaintance I had formed at the coffee-house. As it is necessary that the reader should know something more about this young man, who will frequently appear in the course of these pages, I will state in a few words who and what he was. He was born of an ancient Roman Catholic family in Ireland; his parents, whose only child he was, had long been dead. His father, who had survived his mother several years, had been a spendthrift, and at his death had left the family property considerably embarrassed. Happily, however, the son and the estate fell into the hands of careful guardians, near relations of the family, by whom the property was managed to the best advantage, and every means taken to educate the young man in a manner suitable to his expectations. At the age of sixteen he was taken from a celebrated school in England at which he had been placed, and sent to a small French university, in order that he might form an intimate and accurate acquaintance with the grand language of the continent. There he continued three years, at the end of which he went under the care of a French abbe to Germany and Italy. It was in this latter country that he first began to cause his guardians serious uneasiness. He was in the heyday of youth when he visited Italy, and he entered wildly into the various delights of that fascinating region, and, what was worse, falling into the hands of certain sharpers, not Italian, but English, he was fleeced of considerable sums of money. The abbe, who, it seems, was an excellent individual of the old French school, remonstrated with his pupil on his dissipation and extravagance; but, finding his remonstrances vain, very properly informed the guardians of the manner of life of his charge. They were not slow in commanding Francis Ardry home; and, as he was entirely in their power, he was forced to comply. He had been about three months in London when I met him in the coffee-room, and the two elderly gentlemen in his company were his guardians. At this time they were very solicitous that he should choose for himself a profession, offering to his choice either the army or law—he was calculated to shine in either of these professions—for, like many others of his countrymen, he was brave and eloquent; but he did not wish to shackle himself with a profession. As, however, his minority did not terminate till he was three-and-twenty, of which age he wanted nearly two years, during which he would be entirely dependent on his guardians, he deemed it expedient to conceal, to a certain degree, his sentiments, temporising with the old gentlemen, with whom, notwithstanding his many irregularities, he was a great favourite, and at whose death he expected to come into a yet greater property than that which he inherited from his parents.

Such is a brief account of Francis Ardry—of my friend Francis Ardry; for the acquaintance, commenced in the singular manner with which the reader is acquainted, speedily ripened into a friendship which endured through many long years of separation, and which still endures certainly on my part, and on his—if he lives; but it is many years since I have heard from Francis Ardry.

And yet many people would have thought it impossible for our friendship to have lasted a week—for in many respects no two people could be more dissimilar. He was an Irishman—I, an Englishman;—he, fiery, enthusiastic, and open-hearted; I, neither fiery, enthusiastic, nor open- hearted;—he, fond of pleasure and dissipation; I, of study and reflection. Yet it is of such dissimilar elements that the most lasting friendships are formed: we do not like counterparts of ourselves. 'Two great talkers will not travel far together,' is a Spanish saying; I will add, 'Nor two silent people'; we naturally love our opposites.

So Francis Ardry came to see me, and right glad I was to see him, for I had just flung my books and papers aside, and was wishing for a little social converse; and when we had conversed for some little time together, Francis Ardry proposed that we should go to the play to see Kean; so we went to the play, and saw—not Kean, who at that time was ashamed to show himself, but—a man who was not ashamed to show himself, and who people said was a much better man than Kean—as I have no doubt he was—though whether he was a better actor I cannot say, for I never saw Kean.

Two or three evenings after Francis Ardry came to see me again, and again we went out together, and Francis Ardry took me to—shall I say?—why not?—a gaming-house, where I saw people playing, and where I saw Francis Ardry play and lose five guineas, and where I lost nothing, because I did not play, though I felt somewhat inclined; for a man with a white hat and a sparkling eye held up a box which contained something which rattled, and asked me to fling the bones. 'There is nothing like flinging the bones!' said he, and then I thought I should like to know what kind of thing flinging the bones was; I, however, restrained myself. 'There is nothing like flinging the bones!' shouted the man, as my friend and myself left the room.

Long life and prosperity to Francis Ardry! but for him I should not have obtained knowledge which I did of the strange and eccentric places of London. Some of the places to which he took me were very strange places indeed; but, however strange the places were, I observed that the inhabitants thought there were no places like their several places, and no occupations like their several occupations; and among other strange places to which Francis Ardry conducted me was a place not far from the abbey church of Westminster.

{picture:'There is nothing like flinging the bones!': page223.jpg}

Before we entered this place our ears were greeted by a confused hubbub of human voices, squealing of rats, barking of dogs, and the cries of various other animals. Here we beheld a kind of cock-pit, around which a great many people, seeming of all ranks, but chiefly of the lower, were gathered, and in it we saw a dog destroy a great many rats in a very small period; and when the dog had destroyed the rats, we saw a fight between a dog and a bear, then a fight between two dogs, then . . . .

After the diversions of the day were over, my friend introduced me to the genius of the place, a small man of about five feet high, with a very sharp countenance, and dressed in a brown jockey coat and top boots. 'Joey,' said he, 'this is a friend of mine.' Joey nodded to me with a patronising air. 'Glad to see you, sir!—want a dog?'

'No,' said I.

'You have got one, then—want to match him?'

'We have a dog at home,' said I, 'in the country; but I can't say I should like to match him. Indeed, I do not like dog-fighting.'

'Not like dog-fighting!' said the man, staring.

'The truth is, Joe, that he is just come to town.'

'So I should think; he looks rather green—not like dog-fighting!'

'Nothing like it, is there, Joey?'

'I should think not; what is like it? A time will come, and that speedily, when folks will give up everything else, and follow dog-fighting.'

'Do you think so?' said I.

'Think so? Let me ask what there is that a man wouldn't give up for it?'

'Why,' said I, modestly, 'there's religion.'

'Religion! How you talk. Why, there's myself bred and born an Independent, and intended to be a preacher, didn't I give up religion for dog-fighting? Religion, indeed! If it were not for the rascally law, my pit would fill better on Sundays than any other time. Who would go to church when they could come to my pit? Religion! why, the parsons themselves come to my pit; and I have now a letter in my pocket from one of them, asking me to send him a dog.'

'Well, then, politics,' said I.

'Politics! Why, the gemmen in the House would leave Pitt himself, if he were alive, to come to my pit. There were three of the best of them here to-night, all great horators.—Get on with you, what comes next?'

'Why, there's learning and letters.'

'Pretty things, truly, to keep people from dog-fighting. Why, there's the young gentlemen from the Abbey School comes here in shoals, leaving books, and letters, and masters too. To tell you the truth, I rather wish they would mind their letters, for a more precious set of young blackguards I never seed. It was only the other day I was thinking of calling in a constable for my own protection, for I thought my pit would have been torn down by them.'

Scarcely knowing what to say, I made an observation at random. 'You show, by your own conduct,' said I, 'that there are other things worth following besides dog-fighting. You practise rat-catching and badger- baiting as well.'

The dog-fancier eyed me with supreme contempt.

'Your friend here,' said he, 'might well call you a new one. When I talks of dog-fighting, I of course means rat-catching, and badger-baiting, ay, and bull-baiting too, just as when I speaks religiously, when I says one I means not one but three. And talking of religion puts me in mind that I have something else to do besides chaffing here, having a batch of dogs to send off by this night's packet to the Pope of Rome.'

But at last I had seen enough of what London had to show, whether strange or commonplace, so at least I thought, and I ceased to accompany my friend in his rambles about town, and to partake of his adventures. Our friendship, however, still continued unabated, though I saw, in consequence, less of him. I reflected that time was passing on—that the little money I had brought to town was fast consuming, and that I had nothing to depend upon but my own exertions for a fresh supply; and I returned with redoubled application to my pursuits.


Occupations—Traduttore traditore—Ode to the Mist—Apple and pear—Reviewing—Current literature—Oxford-like manner—A plain story—Ill-regulated mind—Unsnuffed candle—Strange dreams.

I compiled the Chronicles of Newgate; I reviewed books for the Review established on an entirely new principle; and I occasionally tried my best to translate into German portions of the publisher's philosophy. In this last task I experienced more than one difficulty. I was a tolerable German scholar, it is true, and I had long been able to translate from German into English with considerable facility; but to translate from a foreign language into your own is a widely different thing from translating from your own into a foreign language; and, in my first attempt to render the publisher into German, I was conscious of making miserable failures, from pure ignorance of German grammar; however, by the assistance of grammars and dictionaries, and by extreme perseverance, I at length overcame all the difficulties connected with the German language. But, alas! another difficulty remained, far greater than any connected with German—a difficulty connected with the language of the publisher—the language which the great man employed in his writings was very hard to understand; I say in his writings—for his colloquial English was plain enough. Though not professing to be a scholar, he was much addicted, when writing, to the use of Greek and Latin terms, not as other people used them, but in a manner of his own, which set the authority of dictionaries at defiance; the consequence was that I was sometimes utterly at a loss to understand the meaning of the publisher. Many a quarter of an hour did I pass at this period, staring at periods of the publisher, and wondering what he could mean, but in vain, till at last, with a shake of the head, I would snatch up the pen, and render the publisher literally into German. Sometimes I was almost tempted to substitute something of my own for what the publisher had written, but my conscience interposed; the awful words, Traduttore traditore, commenced ringing in my ears, and I asked myself whether I should be acting honourably towards the publisher, who had committed to me the delicate task of translating him into German; should I be acting honourably towards him, in making him speak in German in a manner different from that in which he expressed himself in English? No, I could not reconcile such conduct with any principle of honour; by substituting something of my own in lieu of these mysterious passages of the publisher, I might be giving a fatal blow to his whole system of philosophy. Besides, when translating into English, had I treated foreign authors in this manner? Had I treated the minstrels of the Kaempe Viser in this manner?—No. Had I treated Ab Gwilym in this manner? Even when translating his Ode to the Mist, in which he is misty enough, had I attempted to make Ab Gwilym less misty? No; on referring to my translation, I found that Ab Gwilym in my hands was quite as misty as in his own. Then, seeing that I had not ventured to take liberties with people who had never put themselves into my hands for the purpose of being rendered, how could I venture to substitute my own thoughts and ideas for the publisher's, who had put himself into my hands for that purpose? Forbid it every proper feeling!—so I told the Germans, in the publisher's own way, the publisher's tale of an apple and a pear.

I at first felt much inclined to be of the publisher's opinion with respect to the theory of the pear. After all, why should the earth be shaped like an apple, and not like a pear?—it would certainly gain in appearance by being shaped like a pear. A pear being a handsomer fruit than an apple, the publisher is probably right, thought I, and I will say that he is right on this point in the notice which I am about to write of his publication for the Review. And yet I don't know—said I, after a long fit of musing—I don't know but what there is more to be said for the Oxford theory. The world may be shaped like a pear, but I don't know that it is; but one thing I know, which is, that it does not taste like a pear; I have always liked pears, but I don't like the world. The world to me tastes much more like an apple, and I have never liked apples. I will uphold the Oxford theory—besides, I am writing in an Oxford Review, and am in duty bound to uphold the Oxford theory. So in my notice I asserted that the world was round; I quoted Scripture, and endeavoured to prove that the world was typified by the apple in Scripture, both as to shape and properties. 'An apple is round,' said I, 'and the world is round—the apple is a sour, disagreeable fruit; and who has tasted much of the world without having his teeth set on edge?' I, however, treated the publisher, upon the whole, in the most urbane and Oxford-like manner; complimenting him upon his style, acknowledging the general soundness of his views, and only differing with him in the affair of the apple and pear.

{picture:I did not like reviewing at all—it was not to my taste: page228.jpg}

I did not like reviewing at all—it was not to my taste; it was not in my way; I liked it far less than translating the publisher's philosophy, for that was something in the line of one whom a competent judge had surnamed Lavengro. I never could understand why reviews were instituted; works of merit do not require to be reviewed, they can speak for themselves, and require no praising; works of no merit at all will die of themselves, they require no killing. The Review to which I was attached was, as has been already intimated, established on an entirely new plan; it professed to review all new publications, which certainly no Review had ever professed to do before, other Reviews never pretending to review more than one-tenth of the current literature of the day. When I say it professed to review all new publications, I should add, which should be sent to it; for, of course, the Review would not acknowledge the existence of publications, the authors of which did not acknowledge the existence of the Review. I don't think, however, that the Review had much cause to complain of being neglected; I have reason to believe that at least nine-tenths of the publications of the day were sent to the Review, and in due time reviewed. I had good opportunity of judging—I was connected with several departments of the Review, though more particularly with the poetical and philosophic ones. An English translation of Kant's philosophy made its appearance on my table the day before its publication. In my notice of this work I said that the English shortly hoped to give the Germans a quid pro quo. I believe at that time authors were much in the habit of publishing at their own expense. All the poetry which I reviewed appeared to be published at the expense of the authors. If I am asked how I comported myself, under all circumstances, as a reviewer—I answer,—I did not forget that I was connected with a Review established on Oxford principles, the editor of which had translated Quintilian. All the publications which fell under my notice I treated in a gentlemanly and Oxford-like manner, no personalities—no vituperation—no shabby insinuations; decorum, decorum was the order of the day. Occasionally a word of admonition, but gently expressed, as an Oxford undergraduate might have expressed it, or master of arts. How the authors whose publications were consigned to my colleagues were treated by them I know not; I suppose they were treated in an urbane and Oxford-like manner, but I cannot say; I did not read the reviewals of my colleagues, I did not read my own after they were printed. I did not like reviewing.

Of all my occupations at this period I am free to confess I liked that of compiling the Newgate Lives and Trials the best; that is, after I had surmounted a kind of prejudice which I originally entertained. The trials were entertaining enough; but the lives—how full were they of wild and racy adventures, and in what racy, genuine language were they told! What struck me most with respect to these lives was the art which the writers, whoever they were, possessed of telling a plain story. It is no easy thing to tell a story plainly and distinctly by mouth; but to tell one on paper is difficult indeed, so many snares lie in the way. People are afraid to put down what is common on paper, they seek to embellish their narratives, as they think, by philosophic speculations and reflections; they are anxious to shine, and people who are anxious to shine can never tell a plain story. 'So I went with them to a music booth, where they made me almost drunk with gin, and began to talk their flash language, which I did not understand,' says, or is made to say, Henry Simms, executed at Tyburn some seventy years before the time of which I am speaking. I have always looked upon this sentence as a masterpiece of the narrative style, it is so concise and yet so very clear. As I gazed on passages like this, and there were many nearly as good in the Newgate lives, I often sighed that it was not my fortune to have to render these lives into German rather than the publisher's philosophy—his tale of an apple and pear.

Mine was an ill-regulated mind at this period. As I read over the lives of these robbers and pickpockets, strange doubts began to arise in my mind about virtue and crime. Years before, when quite a boy, as in one of the early chapters I have hinted, I had been a necessitarian; I had even written an essay on crime (I have it now before me, penned in a round boyish hand), in which I attempted to prove that there is no such thing as crime or virtue, all our actions being the result of circumstances or necessity. These doubts were now again reviving in my mind; I could not, for the life of me, imagine how, taking all circumstances into consideration, these highwaymen, these pickpockets, should have been anything else than highwaymen and pickpockets; any more than how, taking all circumstances into consideration, Bishop Latimer (the reader is aware that I had read Foxe's Book of Martyrs) should have been anything else than Bishop Latimer. I had a very ill-regulated mind at that period.

My own peculiar ideas with respect to everything being a lying dream began also to revive. Sometimes at midnight, after having toiled for hours at my occupations, I would fling myself back on my chair, look about the poor apartment, dimly lighted by an unsnuffed candle, or upon the heaps of books and papers before me, and exclaim,—'Do I exist? Do these things, which I think I see about me, exist, or do they not? Is not everything a dream—a deceitful dream? Is not this apartment a dream—the furniture a dream? The publisher a dream—his philosophy a dream? Am I not myself a dream—dreaming about translating a dream? I can't see why all should not be a dream; what's the use of the reality?' And then I would pinch myself, and snuff the burdened smoky light. 'I can't see, for the life of me, the use of all this; therefore why should I think that it exists? If there was a chance, a probability, of all this tending to anything, I might believe; but—' and then I would stare and think, and after some time shake my head and return again to my occupations for an hour or two; and then I would perhaps shake, and shiver, and yawn, and look wistfully in the direction of my sleeping apartment; and then, but not wistfully, at the papers and books before me; and sometimes I would return to my papers and books; but oftener I would arise, and, after another yawn and shiver, take my light, and proceed to my sleeping chamber.

They say that light fare begets light dreams; my fare at that time was light enough; but I had anything but light dreams, for at that period I had all kind of strange and extravagant dreams, and amongst other things I dreamt that the whole world had taken to dog-fighting; and that I, myself, had taken to dog-fighting, and that in a vast circus I backed an English bulldog against the bloodhound of the Pope of Rome.


My brother—Fits of crying—Mayor-elect—The committee—The Norman arch—A word of Greek—Church and State—At my own expense—If you please.

One morning I arose somewhat later than usual, having been occupied during the greater part of the night with my literary toil. On descending from my chamber into the sitting-room I found a person seated by the fire, whose glance was directed sideways to the table, on which were the usual preparations for my morning's meal. Forthwith I gave a cry, and sprang forward to embrace the person; for the person by the fire, whose glance was directed to the table, was no one else than my brother.

'And how are things going on at home?' said I to my brother, after we had kissed and embraced. 'How is my mother, and how is the dog?'

'My mother, thank God, is tolerably well,' said my brother, 'but very much given to fits of crying. As for the dog, he is not so well; but we will talk more of these matters anon,' said my brother, again glancing at the breakfast things: 'I am very hungry, as you may suppose, after having travelled all night.'

Thereupon I exerted myself to the best of my ability to perform the duties of hospitality, and I made my brother welcome—I may say more than welcome; and, when the rage of my brother's hunger was somewhat abated, we recommenced talking about the matters of our little family, and my brother told me much about my mother; he spoke of her fits of crying, but said that of late the said fits of crying had much diminished, and she appeared to be taking comfort; and, if I am not much mistaken, my brother told me that my mother had of late the Prayer-book frequently in her hand, and yet oftener the Bible.

We were silent for a time—at last I opened my mouth and mentioned the dog.

'The dog,' said my brother, 'is, I am afraid, in a very poor way; ever since the death he has done nothing but pine and take on. A few months ago, you remember, he was as plump and fine as any dog in the town; but at present he is little more than skin and bone. Once we lost him for two days, and never expected to see him again, imagining that some mischance had befallen him; at length I found him—where do you think? Chancing to pass by the churchyard, I found him seated on the grave!'

'Very strange,' said I; 'but let us talk of something else. It was very kind of you to come and see me.'

'Oh, as for that matter, I did not come up to see you, though of course I am very glad to see you, having been rather anxious about you, like my mother, who has received only one letter from you since your departure. No, I did not come up on purpose to see you; but on quite a different account. You must know that the corporation of our town have lately elected a new mayor, a person of many qualifications—big and portly, with a voice like Boanerges; a religious man, the possessor of an immense pew; loyal, so much so that I once heard him say that he would at any time go three miles to hear any one sing "God save the King"; moreover, a giver of excellent dinners. Such is our present mayor; who, owing to his loyalty, his religion, and a little, perhaps, to his dinners, is a mighty favourite; so much so that the town is anxious to have his portrait painted in a superior style, so that remote posterity may know what kind of man he was, the colour of his hair, his air and gait. So a committee was formed some time ago, which is still sitting; that is, they dine with the mayor every day to talk over the subject. A few days since, to my great surprise, they made their appearance in my poor studio, and desired to be favoured with a sight of some of my paintings; well, I showed them some, and, after looking at them with great attention, they went aside and whispered. "He'll do," I heard one say; "Yes, he'll do," said another; and then they came to me, and one of them, a little man with a hump on his back, who is a watchmaker, assumed the office of spokesman, and made a long speech—(the old town has been always celebrated for orators)—in which he told me how much they had been pleased with my productions—(the old town has been always celebrated for its artistic taste)—and, what do you think? offered me the painting of the mayor's portrait, and a hundred pounds for my trouble. Well, of course I was much surprised, and for a minute or two could scarcely speak; recovering myself, however, I made a speech, not so eloquent as that of the watchmaker of course, being not so accustomed to speaking; but not so bad either, taking everything into consideration, telling them how flattered I felt by the honour which they had conferred in proposing to me such an undertaking; expressing, however, my fears that I was not competent to the task, and concluding by saying what a pity it was that Crome was dead. "Crome," said the little man, "Crome; yes, he was a clever man, a very clever man in his way; he was good at painting landscapes and farm- houses, but he would not do in the present instance were he alive. He had no conception of the heroic, sir. We want some person capable of representing our mayor striding under the Norman arch out of the cathedral." At the mention of the heroic an idea came at once into my head. "Oh," said I, "if you are in quest of the heroic, I am glad that you came to me; don't mistake me," I continued, "I do not mean to say that I could do justice to your subject, though I am fond of the heroic; but I can introduce you to a great master of the heroic, fully competent to do justice to your mayor. Not to me, therefore, be the painting of the picture given, but to a friend of mine, the great master of the heroic, to the best, the strongest, [Greek text]" I added, for, being amongst orators, I thought a word of Greek would tell.'

'Well,' said I, 'and what did the orators say?'

'They gazed dubiously at me and at one another,' said my brother; 'at last the watchmaker asked me who this Mr. Christo was; adding, that he had never heard of such a person; that, from my recommendation of him, he had no doubt that he was a very clever man; but that they should like to know something more about him before giving the commission to him. That he had heard of Christie the great auctioneer, who was considered to be an excellent judge of pictures; but he supposed that I scarcely—Whereupon, interrupting the watchmaker, I told him that I alluded neither to Christo nor to Christie; but to the painter of Lazarus rising from the grave, a painter under whom I had myself studied during some months that I had spent in London, and to whom I was indebted for much connected with the heroic.

'"I have heard of him," said the watchmaker, "and his paintings too; but I am afraid that he is not exactly the gentleman by whom our mayor would wish to be painted. I have heard say that he is not a very good friend to Church and State. Come, young man," he added, "it appears to me that you are too modest; I like your style of painting, so do we all, and—why should I mince the matter?—the money is to be collected in the town, why should it go into a stranger's pocket, and be spent in London?"

'Thereupon I made them a speech, in which I said that art had nothing to do with Church and State, at least with English Church and State, which had never encouraged it; and that, though Church and State were doubtless very fine things, a man might be a very good artist who cared not a straw for either. I then made use of some more Greek words, and told them how painting was one of the Nine Muses, and one of the most independent creatures alive, inspiring whom she pleased, and asking leave of nobody; that I should be quite unworthy of the favours of the Muse if, on the present occasion, I did not recommend them a man whom I considered to be a much greater master of the heroic than myself; and that, with regard to the money being spent in the city, I had no doubt that they would not weigh for a moment such a consideration against the chance of getting a true heroic picture for the city. I never talked so well in my life, and said so many flattering things to the hunchback and his friends, that at last they said that I should have my own way; and that if I pleased to go up to London, and bring down the painter of Lazarus to paint the mayor, I might; so they then bade me farewell, and I have come up to London.'

'To put a hundred pounds into the hands of—'

'A better man than myself,' said my brother, 'of course.'

'And have you come up at your own expense?'

'Yes,' said my brother, 'I have come up at my own expense.'

I made no answer, but looked in my brother's face. We then returned to the former subjects of conversation, talking of the dead, my mother, and the dog.

After some time my brother said, 'I will now go to the painter, and communicate to him the business which has brought me to town; and, if you please, I will take you with me and introduce you to him.' Having expressed my willingness, we descended into the street.


Painter of the heroic—I'll go!—A modest peep—Who is this?—A capital Pharaoh—Disproportionably short—Imaginary picture—English figures.

The painter of the heroic resided a great way off, at the western end of the town. We had some difficulty in obtaining admission to him; a maid- servant, who opened the door, eyeing us somewhat suspiciously: it was not until my brother had said that he was a friend of the painter that we were permitted to pass the threshold. At length we were shown into the studio, where we found the painter, with an easel and brush, standing before a huge piece of canvas, on which he had lately commenced painting a heroic picture. The painter might be about thirty-five years old; he had a clever, intelligent countenance, with a sharp gray eye—his hair was dark brown, and cut a-la-Rafael, as I was subsequently told, that is, there was little before and much behind—he did not wear a neck-cloth; but, in its stead, a black riband, so that his neck, which was rather fine, was somewhat exposed—he had a broad, muscular breast, and I make no doubt that he would have been a very fine figure, but unfortunately his legs and thighs were somewhat short. He recognised my brother, and appeared glad to see him.

'What brings you to London?' said he.

Whereupon my brother gave him a brief account of his commission. At the mention of the hundred pounds, I observed the eyes of the painter glisten. 'Really,' said he, when my brother had concluded, 'it was very kind to think of me. I am not very fond of painting portraits; but a mayor is a mayor, and there is something grand in that idea of the Norman arch. I'll go; moreover, I am just at this moment confoundedly in need of money, and when you knocked at the door, I don't mind telling you, I thought it was some dun. I don't know how it is, but in the capital they have no taste for the heroic, they will scarce look at a heroic picture; I am glad to hear that they have better taste in the provinces. I'll go; when shall we set off?'

Thereupon it was arranged between the painter and my brother that they should depart the next day but one; they then began to talk of art. 'I'll stick to the heroic,' said the painter; 'I now and then dabble in the comic, but what I do gives me no pleasure, the comic is so low; there is nothing like the heroic. I am engaged here on a heroic picture,' said he, pointing to the canvas; 'the subject is "Pharaoh dismissing Moses from Egypt," after the last plague—the death of the first-born; it is not far advanced—that finished figure is Moses': they both looked at the canvas, and I, standing behind, took a modest peep. The picture, as the painter said, was not far advanced, the Pharaoh was merely in outline; my eye was, of course, attracted by the finished figure, or rather what the painter had called the finished figure; but, as I gazed upon it, it appeared to me that there was something defective—something unsatisfactory in the figure. I concluded, however, that the painter, notwithstanding what he had said, had omitted to give it the finishing touch. 'I intend this to be my best picture,' said the painter; 'what I want now is a face for Pharaoh; I have long been meditating on a face for Pharaoh.' Here, chancing to cast his eye upon my countenance, of whom he had scarcely taken any manner of notice, he remained with his mouth open for some time. 'Who is this?' said he at last. 'Oh, this is my brother, I forgot to introduce him.' . . .

We presently afterwards departed; my brother talked much about the painter. 'He is a noble fellow,' said my brother; 'but, like many other noble fellows, has a great many enemies; he is hated by his brethren of the brush—all the land and water scape painters hate him—but, above all, the race of portrait-painters, who are ten times more numerous than the other two sorts, detest him for his heroic tendencies. It will be a kind of triumph to the last, I fear, when they hear he has condescended to paint a portrait; however, that Norman arch will enable him to escape from their malice—that is a capital idea of the watchmaker, that Norman arch.'

I spent a happy day with my brother. On the morrow he went again to the painter, with whom he dined; I did not go with him. On his return he said, 'The painter has been asking a great many questions about you, and expressed a wish that you would sit to him as Pharaoh; he thinks you would make a capital Pharaoh.' 'I have no wish to appear on canvas,' said I; 'moreover he can find much better Pharaohs than myself; and, if he wants a real Pharaoh, there is a certain Mr. Petulengro.' 'Petulengro?' said my brother; 'a strange kind of fellow came up to me some time ago in our town, and asked me about you; when I inquired his name, he told me Petulengro. No, he will not do, he is too short; by the bye, do you not think that figure of Moses is somewhat short?' And then it appeared to me that I had thought the figure of Moses somewhat short, and I told my brother so. 'Ah!' said my brother.

On the morrow my brother departed with the painter for the old town, and there the painter painted the mayor. I did not see the picture for a great many years, when, chancing to be at the old town, I beheld it.

The original mayor was a mighty, portly man, with a bull's head, black hair, body like that of a dray horse, and legs and thighs corresponding; a man six foot high at the least. To his bull's head, black hair, and body the painter had done justice; there was one point, however, in which the portrait did not correspond with the original—the legs were disproportionably short, the painter having substituted his own legs for those of the mayor, which when I perceived I rejoiced that I had not consented to be painted as Pharaoh, for, if I had, the chances are that he would have served me in exactly a similar way as he had served Moses and the mayor.

Short legs in a heroic picture will never do; and, upon the whole, I think the painter's attempt at the heroic in painting the mayor of the old town a decided failure. If I am now asked whether the picture would have been a heroic one provided the painter had not substituted his own legs for those of the mayor—I must say, I am afraid not. I have no idea of making heroic pictures out of English mayors, even with the assistance of Norman arches; yet I am sure that capital pictures might be made out of English mayors, not issuing from Norman arches, but rather from the door of the 'Checquers' or the 'Brewers Three.' The painter in question had great comic power, which he scarcely ever cultivated; he would fain be a Rafael, which he never could be, when he might have been something quite as good—another Hogarth; the only comic piece which he ever presented to the world being something little inferior to the best of that illustrious master. I have often thought what a capital picture might have been made by my brother's friend, if, instead of making the mayor issue out of the Norman arch, he had painted him moving under the sign of the 'Checquers,' or the 'Three Brewers,' with mace—yes, with mace,—the mace appears in the picture issuing out of the Norman arch behind the mayor,—but likewise with Snap, and with whiffler, quart pot, and frying-pan, Billy Blind and Owlenglass, Mr. Petulengro and Pakomovna;—then, had he clapped his own legs upon the mayor, or any one else in the concourse, what matter? But I repeat that I have no hope of making heroic pictures out of English mayors, or, indeed, out of English figures in general. England may be a land of heroic hearts, but it is not, properly, a land of heroic figures, or heroic posture-making. Italy . . . what was I going to say about Italy?


No authority whatever—Interference—Wondrous farrago—Brandt and Struensee—What a life!—The hearse—Mortal relics—Great poet—Fashion and fame—What a difference—Oh, beautiful—Good for nothing.

And now once more to my pursuits, to my Lives and Trials. However partial at first I might be to these lives and trials, it was not long before they became regular trials to me, owing to the whims and caprices of the publisher. I had not been long connected with him before I discovered that he was wonderfully fond of interfering with other people's business—at least with the business of those who were under his control. What a life did his unfortunate authors lead! He had many in his employ toiling at all kinds of subjects—I call them authors because there is something respectable in the term author, though they had little authorship in, and no authority whatever over, the works on which they were engaged. It is true the publisher interfered with some colour of reason, the plan of all and every of the works alluded to having originated with himself; and, be it observed, many of his plans were highly clever and promising, for, as I have already had occasion to say, the publisher in many points was a highly clever and sagacious person; but he ought to have been contented with planning the works originally, and have left to other people the task of executing them, instead of which he marred everything by his rage for interference. If a book of fairy tales was being compiled, he was sure to introduce some of his philosophy, explaining the fairy tale by some theory of his own. Was a book of anecdotes on hand, it was sure to be half filled with sayings and doings of himself during the time that he was common councilman of the City of London. Now, however fond the public might be of fairy tales, it by no means relished them in conjunction with the publisher's philosophy; and however fond of anecdotes in general, or even of the publisher in particular—for indeed there were a great many anecdotes in circulation about him which the public both read and listened to very readily—it took no pleasure in such anecdotes as he was disposed to relate about himself. In the compilation of my Lives and Trials I was exposed to incredible mortification, and ceaseless trouble, from this same rage for interference. It is true he could not introduce his philosophy into the work, nor was it possible for him to introduce anecdotes of himself, having never had the good or evil fortune to be tried at the bar; but he was continually introducing—what, under a less apathetic government than the one then being, would have infallibly subjected him, and perhaps myself, to a trial,—his politics; not his Oxford or pseudo politics, but the politics which he really entertained, and which were of the most republican and violent kind. But this was not all; when about a moiety of the first volume had been printed, he materially altered the plan of the work; it was no longer to be a collection of mere Newgate lives and trials, but of lives and trials of criminals in general, foreign as well as domestic. In a little time the work became a wondrous farrago, in which Konigsmark the robber figured by the side of Sam Lynn, and the Marchioness de Brinvilliers was placed in contact with a Chinese outlaw. What gave me the most trouble and annoyance was the publisher's remembering some life or trial, foreign or domestic, which he wished to be inserted, and which I was forthwith to go in quest of and purchase at my own expense: some of those lives and trials were by no means easy to find. 'Where is Brandt and Struensee?' cries the publisher; 'I am sure I don't know,' I replied; whereupon the publisher falls to squealing like one of Joey's rats. 'Find me up Brandt and Struensee by next morning, or—' 'Have you found Brandt and Struensee?' cried the publisher, on my appearing before him next morning. 'No,' I reply, 'I can hear nothing about them'; whereupon the publisher falls to bellowing like Joey's bull. By dint of incredible diligence, I at length discover the dingy volume containing the lives and trials of the celebrated two who had brooded treason dangerous to the state of Denmark. I purchase the dingy volume, and bring it in triumph to the publisher, the perspiration running down my brow. The publisher takes the dingy volume in his hand, he examines it attentively, then puts it down; his countenance is calm for a moment, almost benign. Another moment and there is a gleam in the publisher's sinister eye; he snatches up the paper containing the names of the worthies which I have intended shall figure in the forthcoming volumes—he glances rapidly over it, and his countenance once more assumes a terrific expression. 'How is this?' he exclaims; 'I can scarcely believe my eyes—the most important life and trial omitted to be found in the whole criminal record—what gross, what utter negligence! Where's the life of Farmer Patch? where's the trial of Yeoman Patch?'

'What a life! what a dog's life!' I would frequently exclaim, after escaping from the presence of the publisher.

One day, after a scene with the publisher similar to that which I have described above, I found myself about noon at the bottom of Oxford Street, where it forms a right angle with the road which leads or did lead to Tottenham Court. Happening to cast my eyes around, it suddenly occurred to me that something uncommon was expected; people were standing in groups on the pavement—the upstair windows of the houses were thronged with faces, especially those of women, and many of the shops were partly, and not a few entirely, closed. What could be the reason of all this? All at once I bethought me that this street of Oxford was no other than the far-famed Tyburn way. Oh, oh, thought I, an execution; some handsome young robber is about to be executed at the farther end; just so, see how earnestly the women are peering; perhaps another Harry Simms—Gentleman Harry as they called him—is about to be carted along this street to Tyburn tree; but then I remembered that Tyburn tree had long since been cut down, and that criminals, whether young or old, good- looking or ugly, were executed before the big stone gaol, which I had looked at with a kind of shudder during my short rambles in the City. What could be the matter? just then I heard various voices cry, 'There it comes!' and all heads were turned up Oxford Street, down which a hearse was slowly coming: nearer and nearer it drew; presently it was just opposite the place where I was standing, when, turning to the left, it proceeded slowly along Tottenham Road; immediately behind the hearse were three or four mourning coaches, full of people, some of whom, from the partial glimpse which I caught of them, appeared to be foreigners; behind these came a very long train of splendid carriages, all of which, without one exception, were empty.

'Whose body is in that hearse?' said I to a dapper-looking individual, seemingly a shopkeeper, who stood beside me on the pavement, looking at the procession.

'The mortal relics of Lord Byron,' said the dapper-looking individual, mouthing his words and smirking—'the illustrious poet, which have been just brought from Greece, and are being conveyed to the family vault in —-shire.'

'An illustrious poet, was he?' said I.

'Beyond all criticism,' said the dapper man; 'all we of the rising generation are under incalculable obligation to Byron; I myself, in particular, have reason to say so; in all my correspondence my style is formed on the Byronic model.'

I looked at the individual for a moment, who smiled and smirked to himself applause, and then I turned my eyes upon the hearse proceeding slowly up the almost endless street. This man, this Byron, had for many years past been the demigod of England, and his verses the daily food of those who read, from the peer to the draper's assistant; all were admirers, or rather worshippers, of Byron, and all doated on his verses; and then I thought of those who, with genius as high as his, or higher, had lived and died neglected. I thought of Milton abandoned to poverty and blindness; of witty and ingenious Butler consigned to the tender mercies of bailiffs; and starving Otway: they had lived neglected and despised, and, when they died, a few poor mourners only had followed them to the grave; but this Byron had been made a half god of when living, and now that he was dead he was followed by worshipping crowds, and the very sun seemed to come out on purpose to grace his funeral. And, indeed, the sun, which for many days past had hidden its face in clouds, shone out that morn with wonderful brilliancy, flaming upon the black hearse and its tall ostrich plumes, the mourning coaches, and the long train of aristocratic carriages which followed behind.

'Great poet, sir,' said the dapper-looking man, 'great poet, but unhappy.'

Unhappy? yes, I had heard that he had been unhappy; that he had roamed about a fevered, distempered man, taking pleasure in nothing—that I had heard; but was it true? was he really unhappy? was not this unhappiness assumed, with the view of increasing the interest which the world took in him? and yet who could say? He might be unhappy, and with reason. Was he a real poet after all? might he not doubt himself? might he not have a lurking consciousness that he was undeserving of the homage which he was receiving? that it could not last? that he was rather at the top of fashion than of fame? He was a lordling, a glittering, gorgeous lordling: and he might have had a consciousness that he owed much of his celebrity to being so; he might have felt that he was rather at the top of fashion than of fame. Fashion soon changes, thought I, eagerly to myself—a time will come, and that speedily, when he will be no longer in the fashion; when this idiotic admirer of his, who is still grinning at my side, shall have ceased to mould his style on Byron's; and this aristocracy, squirearchy, and what not, who now send their empty carriages to pay respect to the fashionable corpse, shall have transferred their empty worship to some other animate or inanimate thing. Well, perhaps after all it was better to have been mighty Milton in his poverty and blindness—witty and ingenious Butler consigned to the tender mercies of bailiffs, and starving Otway; they might enjoy more real pleasure than this lordling; they must have been aware that the world would one day do them justice—fame after death is better than the top of fashion in life. They have left a fame behind them which shall never die, whilst this lordling—a time will come when he will be out of fashion and forgotten. And yet I don't know; didn't he write Childe Harold and that ode? Yes, he wrote Childe Harold and that ode. Then a time will scarcely come when he will be forgotten. Lords, squires, and cockneys may pass away, but a time will scarcely come when Childe Harold and that ode will be forgotten. He was a poet, after all, and he must have known it; a real poet, equal to—to—what a destiny! Rank, beauty, fashion, immortality,—he could not be unhappy; what a difference in the fate of men—I wish I could think he was unhappy . . . .

I turned away.

'Great poet, sir,' said the dapper man, turning away too, 'but unhappy—fate of genius, sir; I, too, am frequently unhappy.'

Hurrying down a street to the right, I encountered Francis Ardry.

'What means the multitude yonder?' he demanded.

'They are looking after the hearse which is carrying the remains of Byron up Tottenham Road.'

'I have seen the man,' said my friend, as he turned back the way he had come, 'so I can dispense with seeing the hearse—I saw the living man at Venice—ah, a great poet.'

'Yes,' said I, 'a great poet, it must be so, everybody says so—what a destiny! What a difference in the fate of men; but 'tis said he was unhappy; you have seen him, how did he look?'

'Oh, beautiful!'

'But did he look happy?'

'Why, I can't say he looked very unhappy; I saw him with two . . . very fair ladies; but what is it to you whether the man was unhappy or not? Come, where shall we go—to Joey's? His hugest bear—'

'Oh, I have had enough of bears, I have just been worried by one.'

'The publisher?'


'Then come to Joey's, three dogs are to be launched at his bear: as they pin him, imagine him to be the publisher.'

'No,' said I, 'I am good for nothing; I think I shall stroll to London Bridge.'

'That's too far for me—farewell.'


London Bridge—Why not?—Every heart has its bitters—Wicked boys—Give me my book—Such a fright—Honour bright.

So I went to London Bridge, and again took my station on the spot by the booth where I had stood on the former occasion. The booth, however, was empty; neither the apple-woman nor her stall was to be seen. I looked over the balustrade upon the river; the tide was now, as before, rolling beneath the arch with frightful impetuosity. As I gazed upon the eddies of the whirlpool, I thought within myself how soon human life would become extinct there; a plunge, a convulsive flounder, and all would be over. When I last stood over that abyss I had felt a kind of impulse—a fascination; I had resisted it—I did not plunge into it. At present I felt a kind of impulse to plunge; but the impulse was of a different kind; it proceeded from a loathing of life, I looked wistfully at the eddies—what had I to live for?—what, indeed! I thought of Brandt and Struensee, and Yeoman Patch—should I yield to the impulse—why not? My eyes were fixed on the eddies. All of a sudden I shuddered; I thought I saw heads in the pool; human bodies wallowing confusedly; eyes turned up to heaven with hopeless horror; was that water or—? Where was the impulse now? I raised my eyes from the pool, I looked no more upon it—I looked forward, far down the stream in the far distance. 'Ha! what is that? I thought I saw a kind of Fata Morgana, green meadows, waving groves, a rustic home; but in the far distance—I stared—I stared—a Fata Morgana—it was gone. . . . '

I left the balustrade and walked to the farther end of the bridge, where I stood for some time contemplating the crowd; I then passed over to the other side with an intention of returning home; just half-way over the bridge, in a booth immediately opposite to the one in which I had formerly beheld her, sat my friend, the old apple-woman, huddled up behind her stall.

'Well, mother,' said I, 'how are you?' The old woman lifted her head with a startled look.

'Don't you know me?' said I.

'Yes, I think I do. Ah, yes,' said she, as her features beamed with recollection, 'I know you, dear; you are the young lad that gave me the tanner. Well, child, got anything to sell?'

'Nothing at all,' said I.

'Bad luck?'

'Yes,' said I, 'bad enough, and ill usage.'

'Ah, I suppose they caught ye; well, child, never mind, better luck next time; I am glad to see you.'

'Thank you,' said I, sitting down on the stone bench; 'I thought you had left the bridge—why have you changed your side?'

The old woman shook.

'What is the matter with you,' said I; 'are you ill?'

'No, child, no; only—'

'Only what? Any bad news of your son?'

'No, child, no; nothing about my son. Only low, child—every heart has its bitters.'

'That's true,' said I; 'well, I don't want to know your sorrows; come, where's the book?'

The apple-woman shook more violently than before, bent herself down, and drew her cloak more closely about her than before. 'Book, child, what book?'

'Why, blessed Mary, to be sure.'

'Oh, that; I ha'n't got it, child—I have lost it, have left it at home.'

'Lost it,' said I; 'left it at home—what do you mean? Come, let me have it.'

'I ha'n't got it, child.'

'I believe you have got it under your cloak.'

'Don't tell any one, dear; don't—don't,' and the apple-woman burst into tears.

'What's the matter with you?' said I, staring at her.

'You want to take my book from me?'

'Not I, I care nothing about it; keep it, if you like, only tell me what's the matter?'

'Why, all about that book.'

'The book?'

'Yes, they wanted to take it from me.'

'Who did?'

'Why, some wicked boys. I'll tell you all about it. Eight or ten days ago, I sat behind my stall, reading my book; all of a sudden I felt it snatched from my hand, up I started, and see three rascals of boys grinning at me; one of them held the book in his hand. "What book is this?" said he, grinning at it. "What do you want with my book?" said I, clutching at it over my stall; "give me my book." "What do you want a book for?" said he, holding it back; "I have a good mind to fling it into the Thames." "Give me my book," I shrieked; and, snatching at it, I fell over my stall, and all my fruit was scattered about. Off ran the boys—off ran the rascal with my book. Oh dear, I thought I should have died; up I got, however, and ran after them as well as I could; I thought of my fruit, but I thought more of my book. I left my fruit and ran after my book. "My book! my book!" I shrieked, "murder! theft! robbery!" I was near being crushed under the wheels of a cart; but I didn't care—I followed the rascals. "Stop them! stop them!" I ran nearly as fast as they—they couldn't run very fast on account of the crowd. At last some one stopped the rascal, whereupon he turned round, and flinging the book at me, it fell into the mud; well, I picked it up and kissed it, all muddy as it was. "Has he robbed you?" said the man. "Robbed me, indeed; why he had got my book." "Oh, your book," said the man, and laughed, and let the rascal go. Ah, he might laugh, but—'

'Well, go on.'

'My heart beats so. Well, I went back to my booth and picked up my stall and my fruits, what I could find of them. I couldn't keep my stall for two days I got such a fright, and when I got round I couldn't bide the booth where the thing had happened, so I came over to the other side. Oh, the rascals, if I could but see them hanged.'

'For what?'

'Why, for stealing my book.'

'I thought you didn't dislike stealing,—that you were ready to buy things—there was your son, you know—'

'Yes, to be sure.'

'He took things.'

'To be sure he did.'

'But you don't like a thing of yours to be taken.'

'No, that's quite a different thing; what's stealing handkerchiefs, and that kind of thing, to do with taking my book? there's a wide difference—don't you see?'

'Yes, I see.'

'Do you, dear? well, bless your heart, I'm glad you do. Would you like to look at the book?'

'Well, I think I should.'

'Honour bright?' said the apple-woman, looking me in the eyes.

'Honour bright,' said I, looking the apple-woman in the eyes.

'Well then, dear, here it is,' said she, taking it from under her cloak; 'read it as long as you like, only get a little farther into the booth— Don't sit so near the edge—you might—'

I went deep into the booth, and the apple-woman, bringing her chair round, almost confronted me. I commenced reading the book, and was soon engrossed by it; hours passed away, once or twice I lifted up my eyes, the apple-woman was still confronting me: at last my eyes began to ache, whereupon I returned the book to the apple-woman, and, giving her another tanner, walked away.


Decease of the Review—Homer himself—Bread and cheese—Finger and thumb—Impossible to find—Something grand—Universal mixture—Some other publisher.

Time passed away, and with it the Review, which, contrary to the publisher's expectation, did not prove a successful speculation. About four months after the period of its birth it expired, as all Reviews must for which there is no demand. Authors had ceased to send their publications to it, and, consequently, to purchase it; for I have already hinted that it was almost entirely supported by authors of a particular class, who expected to see their publications foredoomed to immortality in its pages. The behaviour of these authors towards this unfortunate publication I can attribute to no other cause than to a report which was industriously circulated, namely, that the Review was low, and that to be reviewed in it was an infallible sign that one was a low person, who could be reviewed nowhere else. So authors took fright; and no wonder, for it will never do for an author to be considered low. Homer himself has never yet entirely recovered from the injury he received by Lord Chesterfield's remark that the speeches of his heroes were frequently exceedingly low.

So the Review ceased, and the reviewing corps no longer existed as such; they forthwith returned to their proper avocations—the editor to compose tunes on his piano, and to the task of disposing of the remaining copies of his Quintilian—the inferior members to working for the publisher, being to a man dependants of his; one, to composing fairy tales; another, to collecting miracles of Popish saints; and a third, Newgate lives and trials. Owing to the bad success of the Review, the publisher became more furious than ever. My money was growing short, and I one day asked him to pay me for my labours in the deceased publication.

'Sir,' said the publisher, 'what do you want the money for?'

'Merely to live on,' I replied; 'it is very difficult to live in this town without money.'

'How much money did you bring with you to town?' demanded the publisher.

'Some twenty or thirty pounds,' I replied.

'And you have spent it already?'

'No,' said I, 'not entirely; but it is fast disappearing.'

'Sir,' said the publisher, 'I believe you to be extravagant; yes, sir, extravagant!'

'On what grounds do you suppose me to be so?'

'Sir,' said the publisher, 'you eat meat.'

'Yes,' said I, 'I eat meat sometimes; what should I eat?'

'Bread, sir,' said the publisher; 'bread and cheese.'

'So I do, sir, when I am disposed to indulge; but I cannot often afford it—it is very expensive to dine on bread and cheese, especially when one is fond of cheese, as I am. My last bread and cheese dinner cost me fourteenpence. There is drink, sir; with bread and cheese one must drink porter, sir.'

'Then, sir, eat bread—bread alone. As good men as yourself have eaten bread alone; they have been glad to get it, sir. If with bread and cheese you must drink porter, sir, with bread alone you can, perhaps, drink water, sir.'

However, I got paid at last for my writings in the Review, not, it is true, in the current coin of the realm, but in certain bills; there were two of them, one payable at twelve, and the other at eighteen months after date. It was a long time before I could turn these bills to any account; at last I found a person who, at a discount of only thirty per cent, consented to cash them; not, however, without sundry grimaces, and, what was still more galling, holding, more than once, the unfortunate papers high in air between his forefinger and thumb. So ill, indeed, did I like this last action, that I felt much inclined to snatch them away. I restrained myself, however, for I remembered that it was very difficult to live without money, and that, if the present person did not discount the bills, I should probably find no one else that would.

But if the treatment which I had experienced from the publisher, previous to making this demand upon him, was difficult to bear, that which I subsequently underwent was far more so: his great delight seemed to consist in causing me misery and mortification; if, on former occasions, he was continually sending me in quest of lives and trials difficult to find, he now was continually demanding lives and trials which it was impossible to find; the personages whom he mentioned never having lived, nor consequently been tried. Moreover, some of my best lives and trials which I had corrected and edited with particular care, and on which I prided myself no little, he caused to be cancelled after they had passed through the press. Amongst these was the life of 'Gentleman Harry.' 'They are drugs, sir,' said the publisher, 'drugs; that life of Harry Simms has long been the greatest drug in the calendar—has it not, Taggart?'

Taggart made no answer save by taking a pinch of snuff. The reader, has, I hope, not forgotten Taggart, whom I mentioned whilst giving an account of my first morning's visit to the publisher. I beg Taggart's pardon for having been so long silent about him; but he was a very silent man—yet there was much in Taggart—and Taggart had always been civil and kind to me in his peculiar way.

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