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easy way, as to astonish his mamma at home, who wondered where her boy could have acquired such a prodigious store of reading, and himself too, when he came to read over his articles two or three months after they had been composed, and when he had forgotten the subject and the books which he had consulted. At that period of his life Mr. Pen owns that he would not have hesitated, at twenty-four hours’ notice, to pass an opinion upon the greatest scholars, or to give a judgment upon the Encyclopaedia. Luckily he had Warrington to laugh at him and to keep down his impertinence by a constant and wholesome ridicule, or he might have become conceited beyond all sufierance; for Shandon liked the dash and flippancy of his young aide-de-camp, and was, indeed, better pleased with Pen’s light and brilliant flashes, than with the heavier metal which his elder coadjutor brought to bear.
But though he might justly be blamed on the score of impertinence and a certain prematurity of judgment, Mr. Pen was a perfectly honest critic; a great deal too candid for Mr. Bungay’s purposes, indeed, who grumbled sadly at his impartiality. Pen and his chief, the Captain, had a dispute upon this subject one day. “ In the name of common sense, Mr. Pendennis,” Shandon asked, “ what have you been doing —praising one of Mr. Bacon’s books ? Bungay has been with me in a fury this morning, at seeing a laudatory article upon one of the works of the odious firm over the way.”
‘Pen’s eyes opened with wide astonishment. “Do you mean to say,” he asked, “ that we are to praise no books that Bacon publishes: or that, if the books are good, we are to say they are bad ? ”
“ My good young friend, for what do you suppose a benevolent publisher undertakes a critical journal,—to benefit his rival? ” Shandon inquired.
“ To benefit himself certainly, but to tell the truth too,” Pen said—“ 'ruat coelum, to tell the truth.”
“And my prospectus,” said Shandon, with a laugh and a sneer; “do you consider that was a work of mathematical accuracy of statement ? ”
“Pardon me, that is not the question,” Pen said; “and I don’t think you very much care to argue it. I had some
qualms of conscience about that same prospectus, and debated the matter with my friend Warrington. We agreed, however,” Pen said, laughing, “that because the prospectus was rather declamatory and poetical, and the giant was painted upon the show-board rather larger than the original, who was inside the caravan, we need not be too scrupulous about this trifling inaccuracy, but might do our part of the show, without loss of character or remorse of conscience. We are the fiddlers, and play our tunes only; you are the showman.”
“And leader of the van,” said Shandon. “Well, I am glad that your conscience gave you leave to play for us.”
“Yes, but,” said Pen, with a fine sense of the dignity of his position, “we are all party men in England, and I will stick to my party like a Briton. I will be as good-natured as you like to our own side—he is a fool who quarrels with his own nest; and I will hit the enemy as hard as you like—but with fair play, Captain, if you please. One can’t tell all the truth, I suppose; but one can tell nothing but the truth: and I would rather starve, by Jove, and never earn another penny by my pen ” (this redoubted instrument had now been in use for some six weeks, and Pen spoke of it with vast enthusiasm and respect) “than strike an opponent an unfair blow, or, if called upon to place him, rank him below his honest desert.”
“ Well, Mr. Pendennis, when we want Bacon smashed, we must get some other hammer to do it,” Shandon said, with fatal good-nature ; and very likely thought within himself, “A few years hence perhaps the young gentleman won’t be so squeamish.” The veteran Condottiere himself was no longer so scrupulous. He had fought and killed on so many a side for many a year past, that remorse had long left him. “ Gad,” said he, “ you’ve a tender conscience, Mr. Pendennis. It’s the luxury of all novices, and I may have had one once myself; but that sort of bloom wears off with the rubbing of the world, and I’m not going to the trouble myself of putting on an artificial complexion, like our pious friend Wenham, or our model of virtue, Wagg.”
“I don’t know whether some people’s hypocrisy is not better, Captain, than others’ cynicism.”
“ It’s more profitable, at any rate,” said the Captain, biting his nails. “ That Wenham is as dull a quack as ever quacked: and you see the carriage in which he drove to dinner. Faith, it’ll be a long time before Mrs. Shandon will take a drive in her own chariot. God help her, poor thing! ” And Pen went away from his chief, after their little dispute and colloquy, pointing his own moral to the Captain’s tale, and thinking to himself, “ Behold this man, stored with genius, wit, learning, and a hundred good natural gifts: see how he has wrecked them, by paltering with his honesty, and forgetting to respect himself. Wilt thou remember thyself, 0 Pen? thou art conceited enough! Wilt thou sell thy honour for a bottle? No, by heaven’s grace, we will be honest, whatever befalls, and our mouths shall only speak the truth when they open.”
A punishment, or, at least, a trial, was in store for Mr. Pen. In the very next Number of the Pall Mall Gazette, Warrington read out, with roars of laughter, an article which by no means amused Arthur Pendennis, who was himself at work with a criticism for the next week’s Number of the same journal; and in which the “ Spring Annual” was ferociously maltreated by some unknown writer. The person of all most cruelly mauled was Pen himself. His verses had not appeared with his own name in the “ Spring Annual,” but under an assumed signature. As he had refused to review the book, Shandon had handed it over to Mr. Bludyer, with directions to that author to dispose of it. And he had done so effectually. Mr. Bludyer, who was a man of very considerable talent, and of a race which, I believe, is quite extinct in the press of our time, had a certain notoriety in his profession, and reputation for savage humour. He smashed and trampled down the poor spring flowers with no more mercy than a bull would have on a parterre ; and having cut up the volume to his heart’s content, went and sold it at a bookstall, and purchased a pint of brandy with the proceeds of the volume.