« ForrigeFortsæt »
selves, for it does not always follow, somehow, that the possession of a ducal coronet argues a proportionate amount of brains. Lord Eskdale had been consulted as to the best school to which the heir of Bellamont could be sent, and he had recommended Eton-as a college, he had advised Christ Church. He was the trustee in the duke's marriage settlement; he was appointed, in the duke's will, guardian of his son ; equal favourite with the duchess, who was an austere lady of considerable personal attractions, deeply read in the theology of the nineteenth century— a precision in morals, she preferred "Chillingworth" to a French novel, and one of the ancient fathers to even the "Pilgrims of the Rhine." Lord Esk dale was a master of the feminine idiosyncracy, and guided the duchess without ever letting her feel the curb. When the Bellamonts got into any fix, they would write over to Lord Eskdale, and the peer, who was greatly averse to long letter-writing, would ride over, and listen, with imperturbable calmness, "something between that of a Turkish pacha and an English jockey," his back to the fire, and his hands in his pockets, to the united statements of his noble relatives, and when both of them were exhausted, would sum up the whole affair, and say three words which had the effect of removing all their difficulties. looked upon his cousins, although he respected their native ability, as two children when affairs of the world were in question.
There is a great fête in Bellamont Castle upon the occasion of the heir arriving at his majority, and Lord Eskdale is called in to relieve the troubles of the duke and duchess, who are in dire perplexity about a cook. He recommends, accordingly, an artiste of high repute, who resides in a "purlieu," which, having passed through very often, we are quite able to recognise admirably hit off in the following description:
"In that part of the celebrated parish of St. George which is bounded on one side by Piccadilly, and on the other by Curzon-street, is a district of a peculiar character. 'Tis a cluster of small streets, of little houses, frequently intersected by ruins, which here are numerous, and sometimes gradually, rather than abruptly, terminating in a ramification of these mysterious regions.
Sometimes a group of courts developes itself, and you may even chance to find your way into a small market-place. Those, however, who are accustomed to connect these hidden residences of the humbler with scenes of misery and characters of violence, need not apprehend in this district any appeal to their sympathies, or any shock to their tastes. All is extremely genteel, and there is almost as much repose as in the golden saloons of the contiguous palaces. At any rate, if there be as much vice, there is as little crime. No sight or sound can be seen, at any hour, which could pain the most precise or the most fastidious; even if a chance oath may float on the air from a stable-yard to the lodging of a French cook, 'tis of the newest fashion, and if responded to, with less of novel charm, the repartee is at least conveyed in the language of the most polite of nations. They bet upon the Derby in these parts; a little are interested in Goodwood, which they frequent; have, perhaps, in general, a weakness for play; live highly; and indulge those passions which luxury and refinement encourage: but that is all. A policeman would as soon think of reconnoitering these secluded streets, as of walking into a house in Park-lane or Berkeley-square, to which, in fact, this population, in a great measure belongs; for here reside the wives of house-stewards and of butlers, in tenements furnished by the honest savings of their husbands, and let in lodgings, to increase their swelling incomes. Here dwells the retired servant, who now devotes his practised energies to the occasional festival, which, with his accumulations in the three-per-cents, or in one of the public-houses of the quarter, secures him at the same time an easy living, and the casual enjoyment of that great world which lingers in his memory. Here may be found his grace's coachman, and here his lordship's groom, who keeps a book, and bleeds periodically to speculative footmen, by betting odds upon his master's horses. But, above all, it is in this district that the cooks have ever sought a favourite and elegant abode. An air of stillness and serenity, of exhausted passions and suppressed emotion, rather than of sluggishness and of dulness, distinguishes this quarter during the day. When you turn from the vitality and brightness of Piccadilly-the park, the palace, the terraced mansions, the sparkling equipages, the cavaliers cantering up the hill, the swarming multitude-and enter the region of which we are speaking, the effect is at first almost unearthly. Not a carriage, not a horseman, scarcely a passenger; there seems to be some great and sudden collapse in the metro
politan system, as if a fast had been announced. The spirit is allured to gentle thoughts as we wander in what is still really a lane, and turning down Stanhope-street behold that house which the great Lord Chesterfield tells us, in one of his letters, he was building in the fields. The cawing of rooks in his garden sustains the tone of mind; and Curzon-street, after a long straggling, twining course, ceasing to be a thoroughfare, and losing itself in the gardens of another place, is quite in keeping with all the accessories. In the night, however, the quarter of which we are speaking is alive. The manners of the population follow those of their masters: they keep late hours; the banquet and the ball dismiss them to their homes at a time when the trades of ordinary regions move in their last sleep, and dream of opening shutters, and decking the windows of their shops. At night the chariot wheels round the frequent corners of these little streets, and the opening valve of the mews vomit forth their legion of Broughams. At night, too, the footman, taking advantage of a ball at Holdernesse, or a concert at Lansdowne House, and guessing that, in either instance, the link-boy will answer, when necessary, in his summoned name, ventures to look in at his club, reads the paper, talks of his master or his mistress, and, perhaps, throws a main. The shops of this district, depending almost entirely for their custom on the classes we have indicated, and kept often by their relations, follow the order of the place, and are most busy when other places of business are closed."
This description of that curious locality to which it relates is not excelled by any in the pages before us; but we think that it is in his sketches of personages and character that Mr. D'Israeli's main forte consists. The Marquis of Carabas, of his earliest novel, is a masterpiece, which is scarcely surpassed by even that of the Duke of Bellamont in the book now before us. He was the grandson of a mere country gentleman, who having won the favour of the heiress of the Montacutes, a rich family of the times of the Plantagenets, had taken the family name, and, by an artful jobbing of votes, had succeeded in working his way into the upper house as the Earl of Bellamont and Viscount Montacute. The French revolution made him a duke, in spite of old George the Third, who consoled himself for being forced to give him a
dukedom, by refusing him the garter. The duke disliked his son, because he feared he might prove his rival. young gentleman, naturally of extreme shyness, trembled before the parental frown, and sought consolation for the melancholy which clouded his life, in the affections of his beautiful cousin, Lady Katherine-his union with whom his father, of course, opposes; and just as Montacute, stung to resistance by this fresh instance of parental tyranny, is meditating matrimony, with a cottage by an Irish lake, and seven hundred a-year, he hears that the duke's death has made him the undisputed master of his own fortunes. Timid by nature, the natural moodiness of which was increased by his solitary life, the young duke evinced no inclination for society, and never entered the world of fashion except once a-year, when he and the duchess had the honour of dining at the palace, or of receiving some royal guest at the princely abode of the Bellamonts. Tancred, the son of this worthy pair, has just come of age; and preparations to celebrate the important event are being made upon a scale of princely magnificence, at Montacute, where dandies from London, and epicures from the clubs, in short, all the rank and fashion of the adjoining counties, are about to assemble. Scattered through the pages which describe their arrival are some very happy touches of that descriptive power which we have already intimated that Mr. D'Israeli most largely possesses. Let us glance at Lord Hull, as he is seated at the banquet-an Irish peer, and a bachelor with twenty thousand a-year :
"He was a man with a red face and a grey head, on whom coarse indulgence, and the selfish negligence of a country life, had already conferred a shapeless form, and who, dressed something like a groom, sat at dinner, in stolid silence, by Lady Hampshire."
Her ladyship examines him with curious pity through her eye-glass; and thought how it might have been possible for even him to have been fined down if his education had been properly attended to. His hair need not have been so grey, his complexion so glaring, nor his hands so large, had he lived in the civilized world, passed six months in May-fair, spent his car
nival in Paris, and occasionally visited a German Spa. We are able to appreciate the felicity of this portrait, having ourselves seen a similar specimen of the genus, although a reviewer is not much in the company of lords; and, like "Capen Cuttle," we had made a note of him, ready for use at some former occasion. But Mr. D'Israeli has taken the wind out of our sails, and after the picture we have just presented to our readers, any portrait of ours would not be worth a moment's inspection. There are several other portraits equally well painted in the description of the guests at Montacute, but we have not time to linger amongst them longer, as more important matter awaits us.
The sketch of the festivities at Montacute is most amusing and graphic. Got up upon a scale of princely magnificence, nothing was wanting which the gold of the Bellamonts could supply. There was a colossal pavilion in the Home park fit to hold two thousand persons, and for every other parish a similar erection, with the name to which it belonged inscribed thereon. Yeomen of Buddleton and Fuddleton, of Montacute Mare and Montacute Abbots, of Percy Bellamont and Mandeville Stokes, of Ingleton, and Padmore, and Hutton La Hale, and Bishopstowe all assembled, each in a separate procession, with distinctive colours, to quaff the duke's foaming ale. The blaze of the fire-works, the rattle of drums and trumpets, and the shouts of the multitude, inspired by copious libations of the jolly beverage, made the scene a most exhilirating one. The following episode is done in the author's happiest manner :
"It's nothing to what it will be at night,' said one of the duke's footmen to his family-his father and mother, two sisters, and a young brother, listening to him with open mouths, and staring at his state livery with mingled feelings of awe and affection. They had come over from Bellamont Friars, and their son had asked the steward to give him the care of the pavilion of that village, in order that he might look after his friends. Never was a family who esteemed themselves fortunate, or felt so happy. This was having a friend at court, indeed. It's nothing to what it will be at night,' said Thomas; you will have "Hail Star of Bellamont!" and "God save the Queen!" a crown, three
stars, four flags, and two coronets, all in coloured lamps, letters six feet high on the castle; there will be one hundred beacons lit over the space of fifty miles, the moment a rocket is shot from the round tower. And as for fire-works, Bob, you'll see them at last, Bengal lights, and the largest wheels will be as common as squibs and crackers, and I have heard say, though it is not to be mentioned. ', and he paused.
"We'll not open our mouths,' said his father, earnestly.
"You had better not tell us,' said his mother, in a nervous paroxysm, 'for I am in such a fluster, I am sure I cannot answer for myself, and then our Thomas may lose his place for a breach of conference.'
"Nonsense, mother,' said his sisters, who snubbed their mother almost as readily as is the gracious habit of their betters. Pray, tell us, Tom.'
Ay, ay, Tom,' said his younger
Well,' said Tom, in a confidential whisper, won't there be a transparency! I have heard say the Queen never had anything like it; you won't be able to see it for the first quarter of an hour, there will be such a blaze of fire and rockets; but when it does come, they say it's like heaven opening! the young markiss on a cloud, with his hand on his heart, in his new uniform.'
"How I long to see him!' exclaimed one of the daughters.
"And so do I!' said her sister, 'and in his uniform; how beautiful it must be.'
"Well, I don't know,' said the mother, and perhaps you will laugh at me for saying so, but after seeing my Thomas in his state livery, I don't care much for seeing anything else.'
"Mother, how can you say such things? I am afraid the crowd will be very great at the fire-works; we must try to get a good place.'
"I have arranged all that,' said Thomas, with a triumphant look; 'there will be an immense circle for the steward's friends, and you will be let in.' "Oh!' exclaimed his sisters.
Well, I hope I shall get through the day,' said his mother, but it's rather a trial, after our quiet life.""
Mr. D'Israeli is the founder of a new school of novel writing, and hence one source of his popularity. The credit is certainly due to him of having struck out a path for himself. While we had the historical romance, the philosophical novel, the poetical essay, and the fictions of St. Giles's, "usque
ad nauseam," no one ever dreamt of turning up the apparently barren field of politics; and yet from this soil, seemingly so unfruitful, our author has contrived to rear a very good crop of romances, possessing the usual complement of pages and volumes. To write up a race, or to write down a principle, or rather the want of one, seems to be alike the object of Mr. D'Israeli's gifted pen. In "Coningsby," we have a thoughtful youth, just emerged from Cambridge, pondering over doctrines of political economy, abstruse enough to puzzle a professor, or inquiring, with eager zeal, into the truth of conservatism, and the political dogmas on which it is founded; or drinking in, with attentive ear, arguments to prove that our credit, political as well as commercial, for the main part depends upon that Caucasian race, to whom our laws deny the right of citizenship, whether in turning the scale of an important election at a doubtful moment, endowing a church when the state funds are inadequate, or in maintaining the credit or even the existence of the empire. All is to be attributed, if not to the Jewish laws, without doubt to the living Hebrew intellect.
To establish a principle of power, to sustain the realm, and secure the happiness of the people, or to penetrate a great mystery, is, by turns, the object of Mr. D'Israeli's heroes. We are bound to admit there is something of a sameness pervading the mechanism of all his novels. The young aspirant after political or theological truth, is usually brought into the august presence of his grandfather or his uncle, as the case may be, and then, after having undergone a sifting cross-examination as to his peculiar principles, and the manner in which he came to have them-astounds his worthy governor by a solemn declaration, that he considers him a humbug, and cannot, in consequence, afford him his political support. In "Coningsby," Lord wishes his grandson to go into parliament for a certain borough, in order that he may add to his aristocratic honors a ducal coronet. Coningsby declares that he is not as yet prepared to incur the responsibility of a seat in the House of Commons; that political faith has
vanished from the earth, and that he is in no case inclined to support the conservative party. The earl stands aghast with horror-"Some woman," he exclaims, starting from his chair, "has got hold of the boy, and made him a whig." And Coningsby is accordingly dismissed with much contumely from the august presence, and finally disinherited.
The turning point of the story of "Tancred" is somewhat similar. The Duke of Bellamont, the father of our hero, is in is library, consisting of the statutes at large, Hansard, and big blue books-a cabinet, containing his correspondence with the secretary of state, and ticketed with dates and summary of contents (for his grace, being an adept in the arts of routine), occupies one side of the apartment; and on the top of it are marble busts of the younger Pitt, George III., and Wellington. The duke is in his chair, leaning back, with an expression of painful surprise-his son Tancred, Lord Montacute, is on his legs, looking pale and serious; and a discussion is going on between the pair as to the propriety of Tancred entering parliament a course to which he has just expressed his extreme distaste.
"You take me quite by surprise,' said the Duke; I thought it was an arrangement that would have deeply gratified you.'
"Lord Montacute slightly bowed his head, but said nothing. His father continued
"Not wish to enter parliament at present! Why, that is all very welland if, as was once the case, we could enter parliament when we liked, and how we liked, the wish might be very reasonable. If I could ring my bell, and return you member for Montacute, with as much ease as I can order a special train to take me into town, you might be justified in indulging a fancy. But how and when, I should like to know, are you to enter parliament now? This parliament will last-it will go on to the lees-Lord Eskdale told me so not a week ago. Well, then, at any rate you have three years-for three years you are an idler. I never thought such was your character.' "Lord Montacute cast his dark intelligent eyes upon the ground, and seemed plunged in thought.
"Besides,' added the Duke, after a moment's pause, 'suppose Hungerford is not in the same humour this time three
years which he is in now. Probably he may be possibly he may not. Men do not like to be baulked, when they think that they are doing a very kind, or a very generous thing. I should be placed in a most painful position if, this time three years, I had to withdraw my support from Hungerford, in order to secure your return.'
"There would be no necessity, under any circumstances, for that, my dear father,' said Lord Montacute; for, to be frank, I believe I should feel as little disposed to enter parliament three years hence, as now.'
"The Duke looked still more surprised. Mr. Fox was not of age when he took his seat,' said his grace. You
know how old Mr. Pitt was, when he was a minister. Sir Robert, too, was in harness very early. I have always heard judges say that a man might speak in parliament too soon, but that it was impossible to go in too soon.'
"If he wished to succeed in that assembly,' replied Lord Montacute, 'I can easily believe it; it must be of advantage but I have not that wish.'
"I don't like to see a man take his seat in the House of Lords, who has not been in the House of Commons. He seems to me always in a manner unfledged.'
It will be a long time, I hope, my dear father, before I take my seat in the House of Lords,' said Lord Montacute, 'if, indeed I ever do.'
666 In the course of nature it is a certainty.'
Suppose the Duke's plan for perpetuating an aristocracy do not succeed,' said Lord Montacute, and one house ceases to exist.'
"His father shrugged his shoulders. It is not our business to suppose that; I hope it never will be the business of any one, at least seriously. This is a great country, and it has become great by its aristocracy.'
"You think, then, our sovereigns did nothing for our greatness? Queen Elizabeth, for example, of whose visit to Montacute you are so proud.'
"They performed their part.'
"And have ceased to exist. We may have performed our part, and may meet the same fate.'
"Why, you are talking liberalism.' "Hardly that, my dear father, for I have not expressed an opinion.'
"I wish I knew what your opinions were, my dear son, or even your wishes.' "Well, then, to do my duty.' "Exactly-you are a pillar of the state; support the state.'
"Ah! if any one would but tell me what the state is,' said Lord Montacute,
sighing. It seems to me your pillars remain, but they support nothing. In that case, though the shafts may be perpendicular, and the capitals very ornate, they are no longer props-they are a
"You would then hand us over to the ten-pounders ?'
They do not even pretend to be a state,' said Lord Montacute, "they do not even profess to support anything; on the contrary, the essence of their philosophy is, that nothing is to be established, and that everything is to be left to itself.'
"And how would you act, then?what are your plans?-have you any?' "I have.'
"Well, that is satisfactory,' said the Duke, with animation. Whatever they are, you know you may count upon my doing everything that is possible to meet your wishes. I know they cannot be unworthy ones, for I believe you are incapable of a thought that is not good and great.'
'My father,' said Lord Montacute, and moving, he drew a chair to the table, and seated himself by the Duke, 'you possess, and have a right to my confidence; I ought not to have said that I doubted what was good, for I knew you.'
"Sons like you make good fathers.' "It is not always so,' said Lord Montacute; You have been to me more than a father, and I bear to you and to my mother a profound and fervent affection; an affection,' he added in a faltering tone, that is rarer, I believe, in this age, than it was in old days; I feel it at this moment more deeply,' he continued in a firmer tone, because I am about to propose that we should, for a time, separate.'
"The duke turned pale, and leant forward on his chair, but did not speak. You have proposed to me to-day,' continued Lord Montacute, after a momentary pause, "to enter public life." I do not shrink from its duties; on the contrary, from the position in which I am born, still more from the impulse of my nature, I am desirous to fulfil them. I have meditated on them, I may say, for years. But I cannot find that it is part of my duty to maintain the order of things, for I will not call it system, which at present prevails in our country. It seems to me that it cannot last, as nothing can endure, or ought to endure, that is not founded upon principle, and its principle I have not discovered. In nothing, whether it be religion, or government, or manners, sacred, or political, or social life, did I find faith, and if there be no faith, how