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London. If John has held such and such a brief; if Tom has been invited to such and such a ball; or George has met this or that great and famous man at dinner; what a delight there is in the hearts of mothers and sisters at home in Somersetshire ! How young Hopeful’s letters are read and remembered ! What a theme for village talk they give, and friendly congratulation! In the second winter, Pen came for a very brief space, and cheered the widow’s heart, and lightened up the lonely house at Fairoaks. Helen had her son all to herself; Laura was away on a visit to old Lady Rockminster ; the folks of Clavering Park were absent; the very few old friends of the house, Doctor Portman at their head, called upon Mr. Pen, and treated him with marked respect; between mother and son, it was all fondness, confidence, and afiection. It was the happiest fortnight of the widow’s whole life; perhaps in the lives of both of them. The holiday was gone only too quickly; and Pen was back in the busy world, and the gentle widow alone again. She sent Arthur’s money to Laura: I don’t know why this young lady took the opportunity of leaving home when Pen was coming thither, or whether he was the more piqued or relieved by her absence.
He was by this time, by his own merits and his uncle’s introductions, pretty well introduced into London, and known both in literary and polite circles. Amongst the former his fashionable reputation stood him in no little stead; he was considered to be a gentleman of good present means and better expectations, who wrote for his pleasure, than which there cannot be a greater recommendation to a young literary aspirant. Bacon, Bungay, and Co., were proud to accept his articles ; Mr. Wenham asked him to dinner ; Mr. Wagg looked upon him with a favourable eye; and they reported how they met him at the houses of persons of fashion, amongst whom he was pretty welcome, as they did not trouble themselves about his means, present or future; as his appearance and address were good; and as he had got a character for being a clever fellow. Finally, he was asked to one house, because he was seen at another house: and thus no small varieties of London life were presented to the young man: he was made
familiar with all sorts of people from Paternoster Row to Pimlico, and was as much at home at Mayfair dining-tables as at those tavern boards where some of his companions of the pen were accustomed to assemble.
Full of high spirits and curiosity, easily adapting himself to all whom he met, the young fellow pleased himself in this
strange variety and jumble of men, and made himself welcome, or at ease at least, wherever he went. He would breakfast, for instance, at Mr. Plover’s of a morning, in company with a peer, a bishop, a parliamentary orator, two blue ladies of fashion, a popular preacher, the author of the last new novel, and the very latest lion imported from Egypt or from America; and would quit this distinguished society for the back room at the newspaper office, where pens and ink and the wet proofsheets were awaiting him. Here would be Finucane, the subeditor, with the last news from the Row: and Shandon would come in presently, and giving a nod to Pen, would begin scribbling his leading article at the other end of the table, flanked by the pint of sherry, which, when the attendant boy beheld him, was always silently brought for the Captain: or Mr. Bludyer’s roaring voice would be heard in the front room, where that truculent critic would impound the books on the counter in spite of the timid remonstrances of Mr. Midge, the publisher, and after looking through the volumes would sell them at his accustomed bookstall, and having drunken and dined upon the produce of the sale in a tavern box, would call
(for ink and paper, and proceed to “ smash ” the author of his
dinner and the novel. Towards evening Mr. Pen would stroll in the direction of his club, and take up Warrington there for a constitutional walk. This exercise freed the lungs, and gave an appetite for dinner, after which Pen had the privilege to make his bow at some very pleasant houses which were opened to him; or the town before him for amusement. There was the Opera; or the Eagle Tavern; or a ball to go to in Mayfair; or a quiet night with a cigar and a book and a long talk with Warrington ; or a wonderful new song at the Back Kitchen ;—at this time of his life Mr. Pen beheld all sorts of places and men; and very likely did not know how much he enjoyed himself until long after, when balls gave ‘him no pleasure, neither did farces make him laugh; nor did the tavern joke produce the least excitement in him; nor did the loveliest dancer that ever showed her ankles cause him to stir from his chair after dinner. At his present mature age all these pleasures are over; and the times have passed away too. It is but a very very few years since—but the time is gone, and most of the men. Bludyer will no more bully authors or cheat landlords of their score. Shandon, the learned and thriftless, the witty and unwise, sleeps his last sleep. They buried honest Doolan the other day: never will he cringe or flatter, never pull long-bow or empty whiskynoggin any more.
The London season was now blooming in its full vigour, and the fashionable newspapers abounded with information regarding the grand banquets, routs, and balls which were enlivening the polite world. Our gracious Sovereign was holding levees and drawing-rooms at St. James’s: the bowwindows of the clubs were crowded with the heads of respectable red-faced newspaper-reading gentlemen: along the Serpentine trailed thousands of carriages: squadrons of dandy horsemen trampled over Rotten Row: everybody was in town in a word; and of course Major Arthur Pendennis, who was somebody, was not absent.
With his head tied up in a smart bandanna handkerchief, and his meagre carcass enveloped in a brilliant Turkish dressing-gown, the worthy gentleman sate on a certain morning by his fireside, letting his feet gently simmer in a bath, whilst he took his early cup of tea, and perused his Morning Post. He could not have faced the day without his two hours’ toilet, without his early cup of tea, without his lllorm‘ng Post. I suppose nobody in the world except Morgan, not even Morgan’s master himself, knew how feeble and ancient the Major was growing, and what numberless little comforts he required.
If men sneer, as our habit is, at the artifices of an old beauty, at her paint, perfumes, ringlets ; at those innumerf able, and to us unknown, stratagems with which she is said to remedy the ravages of time and reconstruct the charms whereof years have bereft her; the ladies, it is to be presumed, are not on their side altogether ignorant that men are vain as well as they,,and that the toilets of old bucks are to the full as elaborate as their own. How is it that old Blushington keeps that constant little rose-tint on his cheeks; and where does old Blondel get the preparation which makes his silver hair pass for golden? Have you ever seen Lord Hotspur get off his horse when he thinks nobody is looking? Taken out of his stirrups, his shiny boots can hardly totter up the steps of Hotspur House. He is a dashing young nobleman still as you see the back of him in Rotten Row: when you behold him on foot, what an old, old fellow! Did you ever form to yourself any idea of Dick Lacy (Dick has been Dick these sixty years) in a natural state, and without his
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stays? All these men are objects whom the observer of human life and manners may contemplate with as much profit as the most elderly Belgravian Venus, or inveterate Mayfair Jezebel. An old reprobate daddy-longlegs, who has never said his prayers (except perhaps in public) these fifty years: an old buck who still clings to as many of the habits of youth as his feeble grasp of health can hold by: who has given up the bottle, but sits with young fellows over it, and tells naughty stories upon toast-and-water—who has given up beauty, but still talks about it as wickedly as the youngest rmté in company—such an old fellow, I say, if any parson in Pimlico or St. James’s were to order the beadles to bring him into the middle aisle, and there set him in an armchair, and make a text of him, and preach about him to the congregation, could be turned to a wholesome use for once in his life, and might be surprised to find that some good thoughts came out of him. But we are wandering from our text, the honest Major, who sits all this while with his feet cooling in the bath : Morgan takes them out of that place of purification, and dries them daintily, and proceeds to set the old gentleman on his legs, with waistband and wig, starched cravat, and spotless boots and gloves.
It‘ was during these hours of the toilet that Morgan and his employer had their confidential conversations, for they did not meet much at other times of the day—the Major abhorring the society of his own chairs and tables in his lodgings; and Morgan, his master’s toilet over and letters delivered, had his time very much on his own hands.
This spare time the active and well-mannered gentleman bestowed among the valets and butlers of the nobility, his acquaintance: and Morgan Pendennis, as he was styled—for by such compound names gentlemen’s gentlemen are called in their private circles—was a frequent and welcome guest at some of the very highest tables in this town. He was a member of two influential clubs in Mayfair and Pimlico; and he was thus enabled to know the whole gossip of the town, and entertain his master very agreeably during the two hours’ toilet conversation. He knew a hundred tales and legends regarding persons of the very highest ton, whose valets can