The History of Pendennis

The History of Pendennis

THE HISTORY OF PENDENNIS WILLIAM MAKEPEACE THACKERAY TO DR. JOHN ELLIOTSON My Dear Doctor Thirteen months ago when it seemed likely that this story had come to a close a kind friend brought you to my bedside whence in all probability I never should have risen but for your constant watchfulness and skill. I like to recall your great goodness and kindness (as well as many acts of others showing quite a surprising friendship and sympathy) at that time when kindness and friendship were most needed and welcome. And as you would take no other fee but thanks let me record them here in behalf of me and mine and subscribe myself Yours most sincerely and gratefully W. M. THACKERAY. PREFACE If this kind of composition of which the two years' product is now laid before the public fail in art as it constantly does and must it at least has the advantage of a certain truth and honesty which a work more elaborate might lose. In his constant communication with the reader the writer is forced into frankness of expression and to speak out his own mind and feelings as they urge him. Many a slip of the pen and the printer many a word spoken in haste he sees and would recall as he looks over his volume. It is a sort of confidential talk between writer and reader which must often be dull must often flag. In the course of his volubility the perpetual speaker must of necessity lay bare his own weaknesses vanities peculiarities. And as we judge of a man's character after long frequenting his society not by one speech or by one mood or opinion or by one day's talk but by the tenor of his general bearing and conversation; so of a writer who delivers himself up to you perforce unreservedly you say Is he honest? Does he tell the truth in the main? Does he seem actuated by a desire to find out and speak it? Is he a quack who shams sentiment or mouths for effect? Does he seek popularity by claptraps or other arts? I can no more ignore good fortune than any other chance which has befallen me. I have found many thousands more readers than I ever looked for. I have no right to say to these You shall not find fault with my art or fall asleep over my pages; but I ask you to believe that this person writing strives to tell the truth. If there is not that there is nothing. Perhaps the lovers of 'excitement' may care to know that this book began with a very precise plan which was entirely put aside. Ladies and gentlemen you were to have been treated and the writer's and the publisher's pocket benefited by the recital of the most active horrors. What more exciting than a ruffian (with many admirable virtues) in St. Giles's visited constantly by a young lady from Belgravia? What more stirring than the contrasts of society? the mixture of slang and fashionable language? the escapes the battles the murders? Nay up to nine o'clock this very morning my poor friend Colonel Altamont was doomed to execution and the author only relented when his victim was actually at the window. The 'exciting' plan was laid aside (with a very honourable forbearance on the part of the publishers) because on attempting it I found that I failed from want of experience of my subject; and never having been intimate with any convict in my life and the manners of ruffians and gaol-birds being quite unfamiliar to me the idea of entering into competition with M. Eugene Sue was abandoned. To describe a real rascal you must make him so horrible that he would be too hideous to show; and unless the painter paints him fairly I hold he has no right to show him at all. Even the gentlemen of our age--this is an attempt to describe one of them no better nor worse than most educated men--even these we cannot show as they are with the notorious foibles and selfishness of their lives and their education. Since the author of Tom Jones was buried no writer of fiction among us has been permitted to depict to his utmost power a MAN. We must drape him and give him a certain conventional simper. Society will not tolerate the Natural in our Art. Many ladies have remonstrated and subscribers left me because in the course of the story I described a young man resisting and affected by temptation. My object was to say that he had the passions to feel and the manliness and generosity to overcome them. You will not hear--it is best to know it--what moves in the real world what passes in society in the clubs colleges mess-rooms--what is the life and talk of your sons. A little more frankness than is customary has been attempted in this story; with no bad desire on the writer's part it is hoped and with no ill consequence to any reader. If truth is not always pleasant at any rate truth is best from whatever chair--from those whence graver writers or thinkers argue as from that at which the story-teller sits as he concludes his labour and bids his kind reader farewell. Kensington Nov. 26th 1850. CONTENTS CHAPTER I Shows how First Love may interrupt Breakfast II A Pedigree and other Family Matters III In which Pendennis appears as a very young Man indeed IV Mrs. Haller V Mrs. Haller at Home VI Contains both Love and War VII In which the Major makes his Appearance VIII In which Pen is kept waiting at the Door while the Reader is informed who little Laura was IX In which the Major opens the Campaign X Facing the Enemy XI Negotiation XII In which a Shooting Match is proposed XIII A Crisis XIV In which Miss Fotheringay makes a new Engagement XV The Happy Village XVI More Storms in the Puddle XVII Which concludes the First Part of this History XVIII Alma Mater XIX Pendennis of Boniface XX Rake's Progress XXI Flight after Defeat XXII Prodigal's Return XXIII New Faces XXIV A Little Innocent XXV Contains both Love and Jealousy XXVI A House full of Visitors XXVII Contains some Ball-practising XXVIII Which is both Quarrelsome and Sentimental XXIX Babylon XXX The Knights of the Temple XXXI Old and New Acquaintances XXXII In which the Printer's Devil comes to the Door XXXIII Which is passed in the Neighbourhood of Ludgate Hill XXXIV In which the History still hovers about Fleet Street XXXV Dinner in the Row XXXVI The Pall Mall Gazette XXXVII Where Pen appears in Town and Country XXXVIII In which the Sylph reappears XXXIX In which Colonel Altamont appears and disappears XL Relates to Mr. Harry Foker's Affairs XLI Carries the Reader both to Richmond and Greenwich XLII Contains a Novel Incident XLIII Alsatia XLIV In which the Colonel narrates some of his Adventures XLV A Chapter of Conversations XLVI Miss Amory's Partners XLVII Monseigneur s'amuse XLVIII A Visit of Politeness XLIX In Shepherd's Inn L In or near the Temple Garden LI The Happy Village again LII Which had very nearly been the last of the Story LIII A Critical Chapter LIV Convalescence LV Fanny's Occupation's gone LVI In which Fanny engages a new Medical Man LVII Foreign Ground LVIII 'Fairoaks to let' LIX Old Friends LX Explanations LXI Conversations LXII The Way of the World LXIII Which accounts perhaps for Chapter LXII LXIV Phillis and Corydon LXV Temptation LXVI In which Pen begins his Canvass LXVII In which Pen begins to doubt about his Election LXVIII In which the Major is bidden to Stand and Deliver LXIX In which the Major neither yields his Money nor his Life LXX In which Pendennis counts his Eggs LXXI Fiat Justitia LXXII In which the Decks begin to clear LXXIII Mr. and Mrs. Sam Huxter LXXIV Shows how Arthur had better have taken a Return Ticket LXXV A Chapter of Match-making LXXVI Exeunt Omnes PENDENNIS CHAPTER I Shows how First Love may interrupt Breakfast One fine morning in the full London season Major Arthur Pendennis came over from his lodgings according to his custom to breakfast at a certain Club in Pall Mall of which he was a chief ornament. As he was one of the finest judges of wine in England and a man of active dominating and inquiring spirit he had been very properly chosen to be a member of the Committee of this Club and indeed was almost the manager of the institution; and the stewards and waiters bowed before him as reverentially as to a Duke or a Field-Marshal. At a quarter past ten the Major invariably made his appearance in the best blacked boots in all London with a checked morning cravat that never was rumpled until dinner time a buff waistcoat which bore the crown of his sovereign on the buttons and linen so spotless that Mr. Brummel himself asked the name of his laundress and would probably have employed her had not misfortunes compelled that great man to fly the country. Pendennis's coat his white gloves his whiskers his very cane were perfect of their kind as specimens of the costume of a military man en retraite. At a distance or seeing his back merely you would have taken him to be not more than thirty years old: it was only by a nearer inspection that you saw the factitious nature of his rich brown hair and that there were a few crow's-feet round about the somewhat faded eyes of his handsome mottled face. His nose was of the Wellington pattern. His hands and wristbands were beautifully long and white. On the latter he wore handsome gold buttons given to him by his Royal Highness the Duke of York and on the others more than one elegant ring the chief and largest of them being emblazoned with the famous arms of Pendennis. He always took possession of the same table in the same corner of the room from which nobody ever now thought of ousting him. One or two mad wags and wild fellows had in former days and in freak or bravado endeavoured twice or thrice to deprive him of this place; but there was a quiet dignity in the Major's manner as he took his seat at the next table and surveyed the interlopers which rendered it impossible for any man to sit and breakfast under his eye; and that table--by the fire and yet near the window--became his own. His letters were laid out there in expectation of his arrival and many was the young fellow about town who looked with wonder at the number of those notes and at the seals and franks which they bore. If there was any question about etiquette society who was married to whom of what age such and such a duke was Pendennis was the man to whom every one appealed. Marchionesses used to drive up to the Club and leave notes for him or fetch him out. He was perfectly affable. The young men liked to walk with him in the Park or down Pall Mall; for he touched his hat to everybody and every other man he met was a lord. The Major sate down at his accustomed table then and while the waiters went to bring him his toast and his hot newspaper he surveyed his letters through his gold double eye-glass. He carried it so gaily you would hardly have known it was spectacles in disguise and examined one pretty note after another and laid them by in order. There were large solemn dinner cards suggestive of three courses and heavy conversation; there were neat little confidential notes conveying female entreaties; there was a note on thick official paper from the Marquis of Steyne telling him to come to Richmond to a little party at the Star and Garter and speak French which language the Major possessed very perfectly; and another from the Bishop of Ealing and Mrs. Trail requesting the honour of Major Pendennis's company at Ealing House all of which letters Pendennis read gracefully and with the more satisfaction because Glowry the Scotch surgeon breakfasting opposite to him was looking on and hating him for having so many invitations which nobody ever sent to Glowry. These perused the Major took out his pocket-book to see on what days he was disengaged and which of these many hospitable calls he could afford to accept or decline. He threw over Cutler the East India Director in Baker Street in order to dine with Lord Steyne and the little French party at the Star and Garter--the Bishop he accepted because though the dinner was slow he liked to dine with bishops--and so went through his list and disposed of them according to his fancy or interest. Then he took his breakfast and looked over the paper the gazette the births and deaths and the fashionable intelligence to see that his name was down among the guests at my Lord So-and-so's fete and in the intervals of these occupations carried on cheerful conversation with his acquaintances about the room. Among the letters which formed Major Pendennis's budget for that morning there was only one unread and which lay solitary and apart from all the fashionable London letters with a country postmark and a homely seal. The superscription was in a pretty delicate female hand and though marked 'Immediate' by the fair writer with a strong dash of anxiety under the word yet the Major had for reasons of his own neglected up to the present moment his humble rural petitioner who to be sure could hardly hope to get a hearing among so many grand folks who attended his levee. The fact was this was a letter from a female relative of Pendennis and while the grandees of her brother's acquaintance were received and got their interview and drove off as it were the patient country letter remained for a long time waiting for an audience in the ante-chamber under the slop-bason. At last it came to be this letter's turn and the Major broke a seal with 'Fairoaks' engraved upon it and 'Clavering St. Mary's' for a postmark. It was a double letter and the Major commenced perusing the envelope before he attacked the inner epistle. "Is it a letter from another Jook" growled Mr. Glowry inwardly "Pendennis would not be leaving that to the last I'm thinking." "My dear Major Pendennis" the letter ran "I beg and implore you to come to me immediately "--very likely thought Pendennis and Steyne's dinner to-day--"I am in the very greatest grief and perplexity. My dearest boy who has been hitherto everything the fondest mother could wish is grieving me dreadfully. He has formed--I can hardly write it--a passion an infatuation"--the Major grinned--"for an actress who has been performing here. She is at least twelve years older than Arthur--who will not be eighteen till next February--and the wretched boy insists upon marrying her." "Hay! What's making Pendennis swear now?"--Mr. Glowry asked of himself for rage and wonder were concentrated in the Major's open mouth as he read this astounding announcement. "Do my dear friend" the grief-stricken lady went on "come to me instantly on the receipt of this; and as Arthur's guardian entreat command the wretched child to give up this most deplorable resolution." And after more entreaties to the above effect the writer concluded by signing herself the Major's 'unhappy affectionate sister Helen Pendennis.' "Fairoaks Tuesday"--the Major concluded reading the last words of the letter--"A d---d pretty business at Fairoaks Tuesday; now let us see what the boy has to say;" and he took the other letter which was written in a great floundering boy's hand and sealed with the large signet of the Pendennises even larger than the Major's own and with supplementary wax sputtered all round the seal in token of the writer's tremulousness and agitation. The epistle ran thus: "Fairoaks Monday Midnight. "My Dear Uncle--In informing you of my engagement with Miss Costigan daughter of J. Chesterfield Costigan Esq. of Costiganstown but perhaps better known to you under her professional name of Miss Fotheringay of the Theatres Royal Drury Lane and Crow Street and of the Norwich and Welsh Circuit I am aware that I make an announcement which cannot according to the present prejudices of society at least be welcome to my family. My dearest mother on whom God knows I would wish to inflict no needless pain is deeply moved and grieved I am sorry to say by the intelligence which I have this night conveyed to her. I beseech you my dear Sir to come down and reason with her and console her. Although obliged by poverty to earn an honourable maintenance by the exercise of her splendid talents Miss Costigan's family is as ancient and noble as our own. When our ancestor Ralph Pendennis landed with Richard II. in Ireland my Emily's forefathers were kings of that country. I have the information from Mr. Costigan who like yourself is a military man. "It is in vain I have attempted to argue with my dear mother and prove to her that a young lady of irreproachable character and lineage endowed with the most splendid gifts of beauty and genius who devotes herself to the exercise of one of the noblest professions for the sacred purpose of maintaining her family is a being whom we should all love and reverence rather than avoid;--my poor mother has prejudices which it is impossible for my logic to overcome and refuses to welcome to her arms one who is disposed to be her most affectionate daughter through life. "Although Miss Costigan is some years older than myself that circumstance does not operate as a barrier to my affection and I am sure will not influence its duration. A love like mine Sir I feel is contracted once and for ever. As I never had dreamed of love until I saw her--I feel now that I shall die without ever knowing another passion. It is the fate of my life. It was Miss C.'s own delicacy which suggested that the difference of age which I never felt might operate as a bar to our union. But having loved once I should despise myself and be unworthy of my name as a gentleman if I hesitated to abide by my passion: if I did not give all where I felt all and endow the woman who loves me fondly with my whole heart and my whole fortune. "I press for a speedy marriage with my Emily--for why in truth should it be delayed? A delay implies a doubt which I cast from me as unworthy. It is impossible that my sentiments can change towards Emily--that at any age she can be anything but the sole object of my love. Why then wait? I entreat you my dear Uncle to come down and reconcile my dear mother to our union and I address you as a man of the world qui mores hominum multorum vidit et urbes who will not feel any of the weak scruples and fears which agitate a lady who has scarcely ever left her village. "Pray come down to us immediately. I am quite confident that--apart from considerations of fortune--you will admire and approve of my Emily.--Your affectionate Nephew Arthur Pendennis Jr." When the Major had concluded the perusal of this letter his countenance assumed an expression of such rage and horror that Glowry the surgeon-official felt in his pocket for his lancet which he always carried in his card-case and thought his respected friend was going into a fit. The intelligence was indeed sufficient to agitate Pendennis. The head of the Pendennises going to marry an actress ten years his senior-- a headstrong boy going to plunge into matrimony. "The mother has spoiled the young rascal" groaned the Major inwardly "with her cursed sentimentality and romantic rubbish. My nephew marry a tragedy queen! Gracious mercy people will laugh at me so that I shall not dare show my head!" And he thought with an inexpressible pang that he must give up Lord Steyne's dinner at Richmond and must lose his rest and pass the night in an abominable tight mail-coach instead of taking pleasure as he had promised himself in some of the most agreeable and select society in England. And he must not only give up this but all other engagements for some time to come. Who knows how long the business might detain him. He quitted his breakfast table for the adjoining writing-room and there ruefully wrote off refusals to the Marquis the Earl the Bishop and all his entertainers; and he ordered his servant to take places in the mail-coach for that evening of course charging the sum which he disbursed for the seats to the account of the widow and the young scapegrace of whom he was guardian. CHAPTER II A Pedigree and other Family Matters Early in the Regency of George the Magnificent there lived in a small town in the west of England called Clavering a gentleman whose name was Pendennis. There were those alive who remembered having seen his name painted on a board which was surmounted by a gilt pestle and mortar over the door of a very humble little shop in the city of Bath where Mr. Pendennis exercised the profession of apothecary and surgeon; and where he not only attended gentlemen in their sick-rooms and ladies at the most interesting periods of their lives but would condescend to sell a brown-paper plaster to a farmer's wife across the counter--or to vend tooth-brushes hair-powder and London perfumery. For these facts a few folks at Clavering could vouch where people's memories were more tenacious perhaps than they are in a great bustling metropolis. And yet that little apothecary who sold a stray customer a pennyworth of salts or a more fragrant cake of Windsor soap was a gentleman of good education and of as old a family as any in the whole county of Somerset. He had a Cornish pedigree which carried the Pendennises up to the time of the Druids and who knows how much farther back? They had intermarried with the Normans at a very late period of their family existence and they were related to all the great families of Wales and Brittany. Pendennis had had a piece of University education too and might have pursued that career with great honour but that in his second year at Cambridge his father died insolvent and poor Pen was obliged to betake himself to the pestle and apron. He always detested the trade and it was only necessity and the offer of his mother's brother a London apothecary of low family into which Pendennis's father had demeaned himself by marrying that forced John Pendennis into so odious a calling. He quickly after his apprenticeship parted from the coarse-minded practitioner his relative and set up for himself at Bath with his modest medical ensign. He had for some time a hard struggle with poverty; and it was all he could do to keep the shop and its gilt ornaments in decent repair and his bed-ridden mother in comfort: but Lady Ribstone happening to be passing to the Rooms with an intoxicated Irish chairman who bumped her ladyship up against Pen's very door-post and drove his chair-pole through the handsomest pink bottle in the surgeon's window alighted screaming from her vehicle and was accommodated with a chair in Mr. Pendennis's shop where she was brought round with cinnamon and sal-volatile. ...