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Abashed by the failure of his first pun, for he was impudent and easily disconcerted, Wagg kept his conversation pretty much to Pen during the rest of dinner, and of course chiefly spoke about their neighbours. "This is one of Bungay's grand field-days," he said. "We are all Bungavians here.—Did you read Popjoy's novel? It was an old magazine story written by poor Buzzard years ago, and forgotten here until Mr. Trotter (that is Trotter with the large shirt-collar) fished it out and bethought him that it was applicable to the late elopement; so Bob wrote a few chapters apropos—Popjoy permitted the use of his name, and I dare say supplied a page here and there—and 'Desperation, or the Fugitive Duchess' made its appearance. The great fun is to examine Popjoy about his own work, of which he doesn't know a word.—I say, Popjoy, what a capital passage that is in Volume Three—where the Cardinal in disguise, after being converted by the Bishop of London, proposes marriage to the Duchess's daughter."
"Glad you like it," Popjoy answered; "it's a favourite bit of my own."
"There's no such thing in the whole book," whispered Wagg to Pen. "Invented it myself. Gad! it wouldn't be a bad plot for a high-church novel."
"I remember poor Byron, Hobhouse, Trelawney, and myself, dining with Cardinal Mezzocaldo, at Rome," Captain Sumph began, "and we had some Orvieto wine for dinner, which Byron liked very much. And I remember how the Cardinal regretted that he was a single man. We went to Civita Vecchia two days afterwards, where Byron's yacht was—and, by Jove, the Cardinal died within three weeks; and Byron was very sorry, for he rather liked him."
"A devilish interesting story, Sumph, indeed," Wagg said.
"You should publish some of those stories, Captain Sumph, you really should. Such a volume would make our friend Bungay's fortune," Shandon said.
"Why don't you ask Sumph to publish 'em in your new paper—the what-d'ye-call-'em—hay, Shandon?" bawled out Wagg.
"Why don't you ask him to publish 'em in your old magazine, the Thingumbob?" Shandon replied.
"Is there going to be a new paper?" asked Wenham, who knew perfectly well; but was ashamed of his connection with the press.
"Bungay going to bring out a paper?" cried Popjoy, who, on the contrary, was proud of his literary reputation and acquaintances. "You must employ me. Mrs. Bungay, use your influence with him, and make him employ me. Prose or verse—what shall it be? Novels, poems, travels, or leading articles, begad. Anything or everything—only let Bungay pay me, and I'm ready—I am now, my dear Mrs. Bungay, begad now."
"It's to be called the 'Small Beer Chronicle,'" growled Wagg, "and little Popjoy is to be engaged for the infantine department."
"It is to be called the Pali Mall Gazette,' sir, and we shall be very happy to have you with us," Shandon said.
"Pall Mall Gazette—why Pall Mall Gazette?" asked Wagg.
"Because the editor was born at Dublin, the sub-editor at Cork, because the proprietor lives in Paternoster Row, and the paper is published in Catherine Street, Strand. Won't that reason suffice you, Wagg?" Shandon said; he was getting rather angry. "Everything must have a name. My dog Ponto has got a name. You've got a name, and a name which you deserve, more or less, bedad. Why d'ye grudge the name to our paper?"
"By any other name it would smell as sweet," said Wagg.
"I'll have ye remember it's name's not what-d'ye-call-'em, Mr. Wagg," said Shandon. "You know its name well enough, and—and you know mine."
"And I know your address, too," said Wagg, but this was spoken in an undertone, and the good-natured Irishman was appeased almost in an instant after his ebullition of spleen, and asked Wagg to drink wine with him in a friendly voice.
When the ladies retired from the table, the talk grew louder still; and presently Wenham, in a courtly speech, proposed that everybody should drink to the health of the new journal, eulogising highly the talents, wit, and learning of its editor, Captain Shandon. It was his maxim never to lose the support of a newspaper man, and in the course of that evening, he went round and saluted every literary gentleman present with a privy compliment specially addressed to him; informing this one how great an impression had been made in Downing Street by his last article, and telling that one how profoundly his good friend, the Duke of So and So, had been struck by the ability of the late numbers.
VOL. I. G G 3
The evening came to a close, and in spite of all the precautions to the contrary, poor Shandon reeled in his walk, and went home to his new lodgings, with his faithful wife by his side, and the cabman on his box jeering at him. Wenham had a chariot of his own, which he put at Popjoy's service; and the timid Miss Bunion seeing Mr. Wagg, who was her neighbour, about to depart, insisted upon a seat in his carriage, much to that gentleman's discomfiture. Pen and Warrington walked home together in the moonlight. "And now," Warrington said, "that you have seen the men of letters, tell me, was I far wrong in saying that there are thousands of people in this town, who don't write books, who are, to the full, as clever and intellectual as people who do?"
Pen was forced to confess that the literary personages with whom he had become acquainted had not said much, in the course of the night's conversation, that was worthy to be remembered or quoted. In fact, not one word about literature had been said during the whole course of the night:—and it may be whispered to those uninitiated people who are anxious to know the habits and make the acquaintance of men of letters, that there are no race of people who talk about books, or perhaps, who read books, so little as literary men.
CHAPTER XXXV. THE "PALL MALL GAZETTE."
ONSLDERABLE success at first attended the new journal. It was generally stated, that an influential political party supported the paper; and great names '.were cited amongst the contributors to its columns. Was there any foundation for these rumours? We are not at liberty to say whether they were well or ill founded; but this much we may divulge, that an article upon foreign policy, which was generally attributed to a noble Lord, whose connection with the Foreign Office is very well known, was in reality composed by Captain Shandon, in the parlour of the Bear and Staff public-house near Whitehall Stairs, whither the printer's boy had tracked him, and where a literary ally of his, Mr. Bludyer, had a temporary residence; and that a series of papers on finance questions, which were universally supposed to be written by a great Statesman of the House of Commons, were in reality composed by Mr. George Warrington of the Upper Temple.
That there may have been some dealings between the Pail Mall Gazette and this influential party, is very possible. Percy Popjoy (whose father, Lord Falconet, was a member of the party) might be seen not unfrequently ascending the stairs to Warrington's chambers; and some information appeared in the paper which gave it a character, and could only be got from very peculiar sources. Several poems, feeble in thought, but loud and vigorous in expression, appeared in the "Pall Mall Gazette," with the signature of "P.P."; and it must be owned that his novel was praised in the new journal in a very outrageous manner. In the political department of the paper Mr. Pen did not take any share; but he was a most active literary contributor. The Pall Mali Gazette had its offices, as we have heard, in Catherine Street in the Strand, and hither Pen often came with his manuscripts in his pocket, and with a great deal of bustle and pleasure; such as a man feels at the outset of his literary career, when to see himself in print is still a novel sensation, and he yet pleases himself to think that his writings are creating some noise in the world.
Here it was that Mr. Jack Finucane, the sub-editor, compiled with paste and scissors the journal of which he was supervisor. With an eagle eye he scanned all the paragraphs of all the newspapers which had anything to do with the world of fashion over which he presided. He didn't let a death or a dinner-party of the aristocracy pass without having the event recorded in the columns of his journal; and from the most recondite provincial prints, and distant Scotch and Irish newspapers, he fished out astonishing paragraphs and intelligence regarding the upper classes of society. It was a grand, nay, a touching sight, for a philosopher to see Jack Finucane, Esquire, with a plate of meat from the cookshop, and a glass of porter from the public-house, for his meal, recounting the feasts of the great, as if he had been present at them; and in tattered trousers and dingy shirt-sleeves, cheerfully describing and arranging the most brilliant fetes of the world of fashion. The incongruity of Finucane's avocation, and his manners and appearance, amused his new friend Pen. Since he left his own native village, where his rank probably was not very lofty, Jack had seldom seen any society but such as used the parlour of the taverns which he fre