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THE “FALL MALL GAZETTE.”
ONSIDERABLE 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 OfiSce is very well known, was in reality composed by Captain Shandon, in the parlour of the Bear and Staff publichouse 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 Pall 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 Mall 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 fétes 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
quented, whereas from his writing you would have supposed that he dined with ambassadors, and that his common lounge was the bow-window of White’s. Errors of description, it is
true, occasionally slipped from his pen; but the Ballinafad Sentinel, of which he was own correspondent, suffered by these, not the Pall Mall Gazette, in which Jack was not permitted to write much, his London chiefs thinking that the scissors and the paste were better wielded by him than the’
Pen took a great deal of pains with the writing of. his reviews, and having a pretty fair share of desultory reading, acquired in the early years of his life, an eager fancy and a keen sense of fun, his articles pleased his chief and the public, and he was proud to think that he deserved the money which he earned. We may be sure that the Pall Mall Gazette was taken in regularly at Fairoaks, and read with delight by the two ladies there. It was received at Clavering Park, too, where we know there was a young lady of great literary tastes; and old Doctor Portman himself, to whom the widow sent her paper after she had got her son’s articles by heart, signified his approval of Pen’s productions, saying that the lad had spirit, taste, and fancy, and wrote, if not like a scholar, at any rate like a gentleman.
And what was the astonishment and delight of our friend Major Pendennis, on walking into one of his clubs, the Regent, where Wenham, Lord Falconet, and some other gentlemen of good reputation and fashion were assembled, to hear them one day talking over a number of the Pail ltfall Gazette, and of an article which appeared in its columns, making some bitter fun of a book recently published by the wife of a celebrated member of the opposition party. The book in question was a Book of Travels in Spain and Italy, by the Countess of Muffborough, in which it was difficult to say which was the most wonderful, the French or the English, in which languages her ladyship wrote indifi‘erently, and upon the blunders of which the critic pounced with delighted mischief. The critic was no other than Pen: he jumped and danced round about his subject with the greatest jocularity and high spirits: he showed up the noble lady’s faults with admirable mock gravity and decorum. There was not a word in the article which was not polite and gentlemanlike; and the unfortunate subject of the criticism was scarified and laughed at during the operation. Wenham’s bilious countenance was puckered up with malign pleasure as he read the critique. Lady Muffborough had not asked him to her parties during the last year. Lord Falconet giggled and laughed with all his heart;
Lord Mufi’borough and he had been rivals ever since they began life; and these complimented Major Pendennis, who until now had scarcely paid any attention to some hints which his Fairoaks correspondence threw out of “ dear Arthur’s constant and severe literary occupations, which I fear may undermine the poor boy’s health,” and had thought any notice of Mr. Pen and his newspaper connections quite below his dignity as a Major and a gentleman.
But when the oracular Wenham praised the boy’s production; when Lord Falconet, who had had the news from Percy Popjoy, approved of the genius of young Pen; when the great Lord Steyne himself, to whom the Major referred the article, laughed and sniggered over it, swore it was capital, and that the Mufiborough would writhe under it, like a whale under a harpoon, the Major, as in duty bound, began to admire his nephew very much, said, “By gad, the young rascal had some stuff in him, and would do something; he had always said he would do something; ” and with a hand quite tremulous with pleasure, the old gentleman sate down to write to the widow at Fairoaks all that the great folks had said in praise of Pen; and he wrote to the young rascal, too, asking when he would come and eat a chop with his old uncle, and saying that he was commissioned to take him to dinner at Gaunt House, for Lord Steyne liked anybody who could entertain him, whether by his folly, wit, or by his dulness, by his oddity, afiectation, good spirits, or any other quality. Pen flung his letter across the table to Warrington ; perhaps he was disappointed that the other did not seem to be much affected by it.
The courage of young critics is prodigious: they clamber up to the judgment seat, and, with scarce a hesitation, give their opinion upon works the most intricate or profound. Had Macaulay’s History or Herschel’s Astronomy been put before Pen at this period, he would have looked through the volumes, meditated his opinion over a cigar, and signified his august approval of either author, as if the critic had been their born superior and indulgent master and patron. By the help of the “ Biographie Universelle ” or the British Museum, he would be able to take a rapid résumé of a historical period, and allude to names, dates, and facts, in such a masterly,