Thomas Love Peacock



Vocem comoedia tollit*



I  Anthelia
II  Fashionable Arrivals
III  Hypocon House
XXI  The City of Novote
IV  to XX, and XXII to XLII will be added soon.


"NOUS nous moquons des Paladins! quand ces maximes romanesques commencèrent à devenir ridicules, ce changement fut moins l'ouvrage de la raison que celui des mauvaises m&oelig'urs."---Rousseau [Émile, ou l'education l. V., s. 1368.]*




Chapter I


ATHELIA MELINCOURT, at the age of twenty-one, was mistress of herself and of ten thousand a year, and of a very ancient and venerable castle in one of the wildest valleys in Westmoreland. It follows of course, without reference to her personal qualifications, that she had a very numerous list of admirers, and equally of course that there were both Irishmen and clergymen among them. The young lady nevertheless possessed sufficient attractions to kindle the flames of disinterested passion; and accordingly we shall venture to suppose, that there was at least one in the number of her sighing swains with whom her rent-roll and her old castle were secondary considerations; and if the candid reader should esteem this supposition too violent for the probabilities of daily experience in this calculating age, he will at least concede it to that degree of poetical license which is invariably accorded to a tale founded on facts.
  Melincourt Castle had been a place of considerable strength in those golden days of feudal and royal prerogative, when no man was safe in his own house unless he adopted every possible precaution for shutting out all his neighbours. It is, therefore, not surprising, that a rock, of which three sides were perpendicular, and which was only accessible on the fourth by a narrow ledge, forming a natural bridge over a tremendous chasm, was considered a very enviable situation for a gentleman to build on. An impetuous torrent boiled through the depth of the chasm, and after eddying round the base of the castle-rock, which it almost insulated, disappeared in the obscurity of a woody glen, whose mysterious recesses, by popular superstition formerly consecrated to the devil, are now fearlessly explored by the solitary angler, or laid open to view by the more profane hand of the picturesque tourist, who contrives, by the magic of his pencil, to transport their romantic terrors from the depths of mountain-solitude to the gay and crowded, though not very wholesome atmosphere of a metropolitan exhibition.
  The narrow ledge, which formed the only natural access to the castle-rock, had been guarded by every impediment which the genius of fortfication could oppose to the progress of the hungry Scot, who might be disposed, in his neighbourly way, to drop in without invitation and carouse at the expense of the owner, rewarding him, as usual, for his extorted hospitality, by cutting his throat and setting fire to his house. A drawbridge over the chasm, backed by a double portcullis, presented the only mode of admission. In this secure retreat, thus strongly guarded both by nature and art, and always plentifully victualled for a siege, lived the lords of Melincourt in all the luxury of rural seclusion, throwing open their gates on occasional halcyon days to regale all the peasants and mountaineers of the vicinity with roasted oxen and vats of October.
  When these times of danger and turbulence had passed, Melincourt Castle was not, as most of its brother edifices were, utterly deserted. The drawbridge, indeed, became gradually divorced from its chains; the double portcullis disappeared; the turrets and battlements were abandoned to the owl and the ivy; and a very spacious wing was left free to the settlement of a colony of ghosts, which, according to the report of the peasantry and domestics, very soon took repossession, and retained it most pertinaciously, notwithstanding the pious incantations of the neighbouring vicar, the Reverend Mr. Portpipe, who often passed the night in one of the dreaded apartments over a blazing fire with the.same invariable exorcising apparatus of a large venison pasty, a little prayer-book, and three bottles of Madeira: for the reverend gentleman sagaciously observed, that as he had always found the latter an infallible charm against blue devils, he had no doubt of its proving equally efficacious against black, white, and grey. In this opinion experience seemed to confirm him; for though he always maintained a becoming silence as to the mysteries of which he was a witness during his spectral vigils, yet a very correct inference might be drawn from the fact, that he was always found in the morning comfortably asleep in his large.arm-chair, with the dish scraped clean, the three bottles empty, and the prayer-book clasped and folded precisely in the same state and place in which it had lain the preceding night.
  But the larger and more commodious part of the castle continued still to be inhabited; and.while one half of the edifice was fast improving into a picturesque ruin, the other was as rapidly degenerating, in its interior at least, into a comfortable modern dwelling.
  In this romantic seclusion Anthelia was born. Her mother died in giving her birth. Her father, Sir Henry Melincourt, a man of great acquirements, and of a retired disposition, devoted himself in solitude to the cultivation of his daughter's understanding; for he was one of those who maintained the heretical notion that women are, or at least may be, rational beings; though, from the great pains usually taken in what is called education to make them otherwise, there are unfortunately very few examples to warrant the truth of the theory.
  The majestic forms and wild energies of Nature that surrounded her from her infancy, impressed their character on her mind, communicating to it all their own wildness, and more than their own beauty. Far removed from the pageantry of courts and cities, her infant attention was awakened to spectacles more interesting and more impressive: the misty mountain-top, the ash-fringed precipice, the gleaming cataract, the deep and shadowy glen, and the fantastic magnificence of the mountain clouds. The murmur of the woods, the rush of the winds, and the tumultuous dashing of the torrents, were the first music of her childhood. A fearless wanderer among these romantic solitudes, the spirit of mountain liberty diffused itself through the whole tenour of her feelings, modelled the symmetry of her form, and illumined the expressive but feminine brilliancy of her features: and when she had attained the age at which the mind expands itself to the fascinations of poetry, the muses of Italy became the chosen companions of her wanderings, and nourished a naturally susceptible imagination by conjuring up the splendid visions of chivalry and enchantment in scenes so congenial to their developement.
  It was seldom that the presence of a visitor dispelled the solitude of Melincourt; and the few specimens of the living world with whom its inmates held occasional intercourse, were of the usual character of country acquaintance, not calculated to leave behind them any very lively regret, except for the loss of time during the period of their stay. One of these was the Reverend Mr. Portpipe, whom we have already celebrated for his proficiency in the art of exorcising goblins by dint of venison and Madeira. His business in the ghost line had, indeed, declined with the progress of the human understanding, and no part of his vocation was in very high favour with Sir Henry, who, though an unexceptionable moral character was unhappily not one of the children of grace, in the theological sense of the word: but the vicar, adopting St. Paul's precept of being all things to all men, found it on this occasion his interest to be liberal; and observing that no man could coerce his opinions, repeated with great complacency the line of Virgil:

            Tros Tyriusque mihi nullo discrimine agetur;*

though he took especial care that this heterodox concession should not reach the ears of his bishop, who would infallibly have unfrocked him for promulgating a doctrine so subversive of the main pillar of all Orthodox establishments.
  When Anthelia had attained her sixteenth year, her father deemed it necessary to introduce her to that human world of which she had hitherto seen so little, and for this purpose took a journey to London, where he was received by the surviving portion of his old acquaintance as a ghost returned from Acheron. The impression which the gay scenes of the metropolis made on the mind of Anthelia---to what illustrious characters she was introduced---"and all she thought of all she saw,"Ņit would be foreign to our present purpose to detail: suffice it to say, that from this period Sir Henry regularly passed the winter in London and the summer in Westmoreland, till his daughter attained the age of twenty, about which period he died.
  Anthelia passed twelve months from this time in total seclusion at Melincourt, notwithstanding many pressing invitations from various match-making dowagers in London, who were solicitous to dispose of her according to their views of her advantage; in which how far their own was lost sight of, it may not be difficult to determine.
  Among the numerous lovers who had hitherto sighed at her shrine, not one had succeeded in making the slightest impression on her heart; and during the twelve months of seclusion which elapsed from the death of her father to the-commencement of this authentic history, they had all completely vanished from the tablet of her memory. Her knowledge of love was altogether theoretical; and her-theory, being formed by the study of Italian poetry in the bosom of mountain solitude, naturally and necessarily pointed to a visionary model of excellence which it was very little likely the modern world could realize.
  The dowagers at length despairing of drawing her from her retirement, respectively.came to various resolutions for the accomplishment of their ends; some resolving to go in person to Melincourt, and exert all their powers of oratory to mould her to their wishes, and others instigating their several protégés to set boldly forward in search of fortune, and lay siege to the castle and its mistress together.


Chapter II


IT WAS late in the afternoon of an autumnal day, when the elegant post-chariot of the Honourable Mrs. Pinmoney, a lady of high renown in the annals of match-making, turned the corner of a stupendous precipice in the narrow pass which formed the only access to the valley of Melincourt. This Honourable lady was accompanied by her only daughter Miss Danaretta Contantina; which names, by the by, appear to be female diminutives of the Italian words danaro contante, signifying ready money, and genteelly hinting to all fashionable Strephons, the only terms on which the commodity so denominated would be disposed of, according to the universal practice of this liberal and enlightened generation, in that most commercial of all bargains, marriage.
  The ivied battlements and frowning towers of Melincourt Castle, as they burst at once upon the sight, very much astonished the elder and delighted the younger lady;: for the latter had cultivated a great deal of theoretical romance---in taste, not in feeling---an important distinction---which enabled her to be most liberally sentimental in words, without at all influencing her actions; to talk of heroic.affection and self-sacrificing enthusiasm, without incurring the least danger of forming a disinterested attachment, or of erring in any way whatever on the score of practical generosity. Indeed, in all respects of practice the young lady was the true. counterpart of her mother, though they sometimes differed a little in the forms of sentiment: thus, for instance, when any of their dear friends happened to go, as it is called, down the world, the old lady was generally very severe on their imprudence, and the young lady very pathetic on their misfortune: but as to holding any further intercourse with, or rendering any species of assistance to, any dear friend so circumstanced, neither the one nor the other was ever suspected of conduct so very unfashionable. In the main point, therefore, of both their lives, that of making a good match for Miss Danaretta, their views perfectly coincided; and though Miss Danaretta, in her speculative conversations on this subject, among her female acquaintance, talked as young ladies always talk, and laid down very precisely the only kind of man she would ever think of marrying, endowing him, of course, with all the virtues in our good friend Hookham's Library; yet it was very well understood, as it usually is on similar occasions, that no other proof of the possession of the aforesaid virtues would be required from any individual, who might present himself in the character of Corydon sospiroso, than a satisfactory certificate from the old lady in Threadneedle Street, that the bearer was a good man, and could be proved so in the Alley.
  Such were the amiable specimens of worldly wisdom and affected romance, that prepared to invade the retirement of the mountain-enthusiast, the really romantic unworldly Anthelia.
  "What a strange-looking old place!" said Mrs. Pinmoney: "it seems like any thing but the dwelling of a young heiress. I am afraid the rascally postboys have joined in a plot against us, and intend to deliver us to a gang of thieves!"
  "Banditti, you should say, mamma," said Miss Danaretta: "thieves is an odious word."
  "Pooh, child!" said Mrs. Pinmoney. "The reality is odious enough, let the word be what it will. Is not a rogue a rogue, call him by what name you may?"
  "O certainly not," said Miss Danaretta; "for in that case a poor rogue without a title, would not be more a rogue than a rich rogue with one; but that he is so in a most infinite proportion, the whole experience of the world demonstrates."
  "True," said the old lady; "and as our reverend friend Dr. Bosky observes, to maintain the contrary would be to sanction a principle utterly subversive of all social order and aristocratical privilege."
  The carriage now rolled over the narrow ledge, which connected the site of the castle with the neighbouring rocks. A furious peal at the outer bell brought forth a venerable porter, who opened the gates with becoming gravity, and the carriage entered a spacious court, of much more recent architecture than the exterior of the castle, and built in a style of modern Gothic, that seemed to form a happy medium between the days of feudality, commonly called the dark ages, and the nineteenth century, commonly called the enlightened age: why, I could never discover
  The inner gates were opened by another grave and venerable domestic, who with all the imperturbable decorum and formality of the old school, assisted the ladies to alight, and ushered them along an elegant colonnade into the'library,-which we shall describe no farther than by saying, that the apartment was Gothic and the furniture Grecian: whether this be an unpardonable incongruity calculated to disarrange tall legitimate associations, or a judicious combination of solemnity and elegance, most happily adapted to the purposes of. study, we must leave: to the decision, or rather discussion, of picturesque and antiquarian disputants.
  The windows, which were of stained glass, were partly open to a shrubbery, which admitting the meditative mind into the recesses of nature, and excluding all view of distant scenes, heightened the deep seclusion and repose of the apartment. It consisted principally of evergreens; but the of the last flowers of autumn, and the lighter and now fading tints of a few deciduous shrubs, mingled with the imperishable verdure of the cedar and the laurel.
  The old domestic went in search of his young.mistress, and the ladies threw themselves on a sofa in graceful attitudes. They were shortly. joined by Anthelia, who welcomed them to Melincourt with all tlie politeness which the necessity of the case imposed.
  The change of dress, the dinner, the dessert, seasoned with the newest news of the fashionable world, which the visitors thought must be of all things the most delightful to the mountain-recluse, filled up a portion of the evening. When they returned from the dining-room to the library the windows were closed, the curtains drawn, and the tea and coffee urns bubbling on the table, and sending up their steamy columns: an old fashion, to be sure, and sufficiently rustic, for which we apologise in due form to the reader who prefers his tea and coffee brought in cool by the butler in little cups on a silver salver, and handed round to the simpering company till it is as cold as an Iceland spring. There is no disputing about taste, and the taste of Melincourt Castle on this subject had been always very poetically unfashionable; for the tea would have satisfied Johnson, and the coffee enchanted Voltaire.
  "I must confess, my dear," said the Honourable Mrs. Pinmoney, "there is a great deal of comfort in your way of living, that is, there would be in good company; but you are so solitary "
  "Here is the best of company," said Anthelia smiling, and pointing to the shelves of the library.

Very true: books are very good things in their way; but an hour or two at most is quite enough of them for me: more can serve no purpose but to muddle one's head. If I were to live such a life for a week as you have done for the last twelve months, I should have more company than I like, in the shape of a whole legion of blue devils.

Nay, I think there is something delightfully romantic in Anthelia's mode of life: but I confess I should like now and then, peeping through the ivy of the battlements, to observe a preux chevalier exerting all his eloquence to persuade the inflexible porter to open the castle gates, and allow him one opportunity of throwing himself at the feet of the divine lady of the castle, for whom he had been seven years dying a lingering death.

And growing fatter all the while.---Heaven defend me from such hypocritical a fops! Seven years indeed! It did not take as many weeks to bring me and poor dear dead Mr. Pinmoney together.

I should have been afraid that so short an acquaintance would scarcely have been sufficient to acquire that mutual knowledge of each other's tastes, feelings and character, which I should think the only sure basis of matrimonial happiness.

Tastes, feelings, and character! Why, my love, you really do seem to believe yourself in the age of chivalry, when those words certainly signified very essential differences. But now the matter is very happily simplified. Tastes:---they depend on the fashion. There is always a fashionable taste: a taste for driving the mail---a taste for acting Hamlet---a taste for philosophical lectures---a taste for the marvellous---a taste for the simple---a taste for the brilliant---a taste for the sombre---a taste for the tender---a taste for the grim---a taste for banditti---a taste for ghosts---a taste for the devil---a taste for French dancers and Italian singers, and German whiskers and tragedies---a taste for enjoying the country in November, and wintering in London till the end of the dog-days---a taste for making shoes---a taste for picturesque tours---a taste for taste itself, or for essays on taste:---but no gentleman would be so rash as to have a taste of his; own, or his last winter's taste, or any taste, my love, but the fashionable taste. Poor dear Mr. Pinmoney was reckoned a man of exquisite taste among all his acquaintance; for' the new taste, let it be what it would, always fitted him as well as his new coat, and he was the very pink and mirror of fashion, as much in the one as the other. So much for tastes, my dear.

I am afraid I shall always be a very unfashionable creature; for I do not think I should have sympathised with any one of the tastes you have just enumerated.

You are so contumacious, such a romantic heretic from the orthodox supremacy of fashion. Now, as for feelings, my dear, you know there are no such things in the fashionable world; therefore that difficulty vanishes even more easily than the first.

I am sorry for it.

Sorry!---Feelings are very troublesome things, and always stand in the way of a person's own interests. Then, as to character---a gentleman's character is usually in the keeping of his banker, or his agent, or his steward, or his solicitor; and if they can certify and demonstrate that he has the means of keeping a handsome equipage, and a town and country house, and of giving routs and dinners, and of making a good settlement on the happy object of his choice---what more of any gentleman's character would you desire to know?

A great deal more. I would require him to be free in all his thoughts, true in all his words, generous in all his actions---ardent in friendship, enthusiastic in love, disinterested in both---prompt in the conception, and constant in the execution, of benevolent enterprise---the friend of the friendless, the champion of the feeble, the firm opponent of the powerful oppressor---not to be enervated by luxury, nor corrupted by avarice, nor intimidated by tyranny, nor enthralled by superstition---more desirous to distribute wealth than to possess it, to disseminate liberty than to appropriate power, to cheer the heart of sorrow than to dazzle the eyes of folly.

And do you really expect to find such a knight-errant? The age of chivalry is gone.

It is, but its spirit survives. Disinterested benevolence, the mainspring of all that is really admirable in the days of chivalry, will never perish.for want of some minds calculated to feel its influence, still less.for want of a proper field of exertion. To protect the feeble---to raise the fallen---to liberate the captive---to be the persevering foe of tyrants (whether the great tyrant of an overwhelming empire, the petty tyrant of the fields, or the "little tyrant of a little corporation"), it is not necessary to wind the bugle before enchanted castles, or to seek adventures in the depths of mountain-caverns and forests of pine: there is no scene of human life but presents sufficient scope to energetic generosity: the field of action, though less splendid: in its accompaniments, is not less useful in its results, nor less attractive to a liberal spirit: and I believe it possible to find as true a knight-errant in a brown coat in the nineteenth century, as in a suit of golden armour in the days of Charlemagne.

Well! well! my-dear, when you have seen a little more of the world, you will get rid of some of your chivalrous whimsies; and I think you will then agree with me, that there is not, in the whole sphere of fashion, a more elegant, fine-spirited, dashing, generous fellow than my nephew Sir Telegraph Paxarett, who by the by will be driving his barouche this way shortly, and if you do not absolutely forbid it, will call on me in his route.

  These words seemed to portend that the Honourable Mrs. Pinmoney's visit would be a visitation, and at the.same time threw a clear light on its motive; but they gave birth in the mind of Anthelia to a train of ideas which concluded in a somewhat singular determination.


Chapter III


ATHELIA had received intimations, from various quarters, of similar intentions on the part of various individuals, not less valuable than Sir Telegraph Paxarett in the scale of moral utility; and though there was not one among them for whom she- felt the slightest interest, she thought it would be too uncourteous in a pupil :of chivalry, and too inhospitable in the mistress of an old English castle, to bar her gates against them. At the same time she felt the want of a lord seneschal to receive and entertain visitors so little congenial to her habits and inclinations: and it immediately occurred to her, that no one would be more fit for this, if he could be prevailed on to undertake it, than an old relation, medium, as it were, between cousin and great uncle; who had occasionally passed: a week or a month with her father at Melincourt. The name of this old gentleman was Hippy: Humphrey Hippy, Esquire, of Hypocon House, in the county of Durham. He was a bachelor, and his character exhibited a singular compound of kind-heartedness, spleen, and melancholy, which governed him by turns, and sometimes in such rapid succession that they seemed almost co-existent. To him Anthelia determined on sending an express, with a letter entreating him to take on himself, for a short time, the superintendence of Melincourt Castle, and giving as briefly as possible her reasons for the request. In pursuance of this determination, old Peter Gray, a favourite domestic of Sir Henry, and I believe a distant relation of little Lucy,* was dispatched the following morning to Hypocon House, where the gate was opened to him by old Harry Fell, a distant relation of little Alice, who, as the reader well knows, "belonged to Durham." Old Harry had become, by long habit, a curious species of animated mirror, and reflected all the humours of his master with wonderful nicety. When Mr. Hippy was in a rage, old Harry looked fierce: when Mr. Hippy was in a good humour; old Harry was the picture of human kindness: when Mr. Hippy was blue-devilled, old Harry was vapourish: when Mr. Hippy was as melancholy as a gib cat, old Harry was as dismal as a-screech-owl. The latter happened to be the case, when old Peter presented himself at the gate, and old Harry accordingly opened it with a most rueful elongation of visage. Peter Gray was ready with a warm salutation for his old acquaintance Harry Fell; but the lamentable cast of expression in the physiognomy of the latter froze it on his lips, and he contented himself with asking in a hesitating tone, "Is Mr. Hippy at home?"
  "He is," slowly and sadly articulated Harry Fell, shaking his head.
  "I have a letter for him," said Peter Gray.
  "Ah!" said Harry Fell, taking the letter, and stalking off with it as solemnly as if he had been following a funeral.
  "A pleasant reception," thought Peter Gray, "instead of the old ale and cold sirloin I dreamed of."
  Old Harry tapped three times at the door of his master's chamber, observing the same interval between each tap as is usual between the sounds of a muffled drum: then, after a due pause, he entered the apartment. Mr. Hippy was in his nightgown and slippers, with one leg on a cushion, suffering under an imaginary attack of the gout, and in the last stage of despondency. Old Harry walked forward in the same slow pace till he found himself at the proper distance from his master's chair. Then putting forth his hand as deliberately as if it had been the hour-hand of the kitchen clock, he presented the letter. Mr. Hippy took it in the same manner, sunk back in his chair as if exhausted with the effort, and cast his eyes languidly on the seal. Immediately his eyes brightened, he tore open the letter, read it in an instant, sprang up, flung his night-gown one way, his night-cap another, kicked off his slippers, kicked away his cushion, kicked over his chair, and bounced down stairs, roaring for his coat and boots, and his travelling chariot, with old Harry capering at his heels, and re-echoing all his requisitions. Harry Fell was now a new man: Peter Gray was seized by the hand and dragged into the buttery, where a cold goose and a flagon of ale were placed before him; to which he immediately proceeded to do ample justice; while old Harry rushed off with a cold fowl and ham, for the refection of Mr. Hippy, who had been too seriously indisposed in the morning, to touch a morsel of breakfast. Having placed these and a bottle of Madeira in due form and order before his master, he flew back to the buttery to assist old Peter in the demolition of the goose and ale, his own appetite in the morning having sympathized with his master's, and being now equally disposed to make up for lost time.
  Mr. Hippy's travelling chariot was rattled up to the door by four high.mettled posters from the nearest inn. Mr. Hippy sprang into the carriage, old Harry vaulted into the dicky, the postillions cracked their whips, and away they went,

            "Over the hills and the plains,
            over the rivers and rocks,"

leaving old Peter gaping after them at the gate, in profound astonishment at their sudden metamorphosis, and in utter despair of being able, by any exertions of his own, to be their forerunner and announcer at Melincourt. Considering, therefore, that when the necessity of being too late is inevitable, hurry is manifestly superfluous, he mounted his galloway with great gravity and deliberation, and trotted slowly off towards the mountains, philosophising all the way in the usual poetical style of a Cumberland peasant. Our readers will of ccourse feel much obliged to us for not presenting them with his meditations. But instead of jogging back with old Peter Gray, or travelling post with Humphrey Hippy, Esquire, we shall avail ourselves of the four-in-hand barouche which is just coming in view, to take a seat on the box by the side of Sir Telegraph Paxarett, and proceed in his company to Melincourt.


Chapter XXI


ON THE evening of the tenth day, the barouche rattled triumphantly into the large and populous city of Novote, which was situated at a short distance from the ancient and honourable borough of Onevote. The city contained fifty thousand inhabitants, and representative in the Honourable House, the deficiency being virtually supplied by the two members for Onevote; who, having no affairs to attend to for the borough, or rather the burgess, that did return them, were supposed to have more leisure for those of the city which did not: a system somewhat analogous to that which the learned author of Hermes calls a method of supply by negation.
  Sir Oran signalised his own entrance by playing on his French horn, See the conquering hero comes! Bells were ringing, ale was flowing, mobs were hozzaing, and it seemed as if the inhabitants of the large and populous city were satisfied of the truth of the admirable doctrine, that the positive representation of one individual is a virtual representation of fifty thousand. They found afterwards, that all this festivity had been set in motion by Sir Oran's brother candidate, Simon Sarcastic, Esquire, to whom we shall shortly introduce our readers.
  The barouche stopped at the door of a magnificent inn, and the party was welcomed with some scores of bows from the whole corps d'hôtel, with the fat landlady in the van, and Boots in the rear. They were shown into a splendid apartment, a glorious fire was kindled in a minute, and while Mr. Hippy looked over the bill of fare, and followed mine hostess to inspect the state of the larder, Sir Telegraph proceeded to peel, and emerged from his four benjanins, like a butterfly from its chrysalis.
  After dinner they formed, as usual, a semicircle round the fire, with the table in front supported by Mr. Hippy and Sir Telegraph Paxarett.
  "Now this," said Sir Telegraph, rubbing his hands, "is what I call devilish comfortable after a cold day's drive---an excellent inn, a superb fire, charming company, and better wine than has fallen to our lot since we left Melincourt Castle."
  The waiter had picked up from the conversation at dinner, that one of the destined members for Onevote was in company; and communicated this intelligence to Mr Sarcastic, who was taking his solitary bottle in another apartment. Mr. Sarcastic sent his compliments to Sir Oran Haut-ton, and hoped he would allow his future colleague the honour of being admitted to join his party. Mr. Hippy, Mr. Forester, and Sir Telegraph, undertook to answer for Sir Oran, who was silent on the occasion: Mr Sarcastic was introduced, and took his seat in the semicircle.

Your future colleague, Mr. Sarcastic, is a man of few words; but he will join in a bumper to your better acquaintance.---(The collision of glasses ensued between Sir Oran and Mr. Sarcastic.)

        MR. SARCASTIC.
I am proud of the opportunity of this introduction. The day after to-morrow is fixed for the election. I have made some preparations to give a little éclat to the affair, and have begun by intoxicating half the city of Novote, so that we shall have a great crowd at the scene of election, whom I intend to harangue from the hustings, the great benefits and blessings of virtual representation.

        MR. FORESTER.
I shall, perhaps, take the opportunity of addressing them also, but with a different view of the subject.

        MR. SARCASTIC.
Perhaps our views of the subject are not radically different, and the variety is in the mode of treatment. In my ordinary intercourse with the world, I reduce practice to theory: it is a habit, I believe, peculiar to myself, and a source of inexhaustible amusement.

Fill and explain.

        MR. SARCASTIC.
Nothing, you well know, is so rare as the coincidence of theory and practice. A man who "will go through fire and water to serve a friend" in words, will not give five guineas to save him from famine. A poet will.write Odes to Independence, and become; the obsequious parasite of any great man who will hire him. A burgess will hold up one hand for purity of election, while the price of his own vote is slily dropped into the other. I need not accumulate instances.

        MR. FORESTER.
You would find it difficult, I fear, to adduce many to the contrary.

        MR. SARCASTIC.
This then is my system. I ascertain the practice of those I talk to, and present it to them as from myself, in the shape of theory: the consequence of which is, that I am universally stigmatised as a promulgator of rascally doctrines. Thus I said to Sir Oliver Oilcake, "When I get into Parliament I intend to make the sale of my vote as notorious as the sun at noon-day. I will have no rule of right, but my own pocket. I will support every measure of every administration, even if they ruin half the nation for the purpose of restoring the Great Lama, or of subjecting twenty millions of people to be hanged, drawn, and quartered at the pleasure of the man-milliner of Mahomet's mother. I will have ship-loads of turtle and rivers of Madeira for myself, if I send the whole swinish multitude to draft and husks." Sir Oliver flew into a rage, and swore he would hold no further intercourse with a man who maintained such infamous principles.

        MR. HIPPY.
Pleasant enough, to show a man his own picture, and make him damn the ugly rascal.

        MR. SARCASTIC.
I said to Miss Pennylove, whom I knew to be laying herself out for a good match, "When my daughter becomes of marriageable age, I shall commission Christie to put her up to auction, 'the highest bidder to be the buyer; and if any dispute arise be.tween two or more bidders, the lot to be put up again and resold.'" Miss Pennylove professed herself utterly amazed and indignant, that any man, and a father especially, should imagine a scheme so outrageous to the dignity and delicacy of the female mmd.

A most horrid idea certainly.

        MR. SARCASTIC.
The fact, my dear ladies, the fact: how stands the fact? Miss Pennylove afterwards married a man old enough to be her grandfather, for no other reason, but because he was rich; and broke the heart of a very worthy friend of mine, to whom she had been previously engaged, who had no fault but the folly of loving her, and was quite rich enough for all purposes of matrimonial happiness. How the dignity and delicacy of such a person could have been affected, if the preliminary negotiation with her hobbling Strephon had been conducted through the instrumentality of honest Christie's hammer, I cannot possibly imagine.

        MR. HIPPY.
Nor I, I must say. All the difference is in the form, and not in the fact. It is a pity the form does not come into fashion: it would save a world of trouble.

        MR. SARCASTIC.
I irreparably offended the Reverend Doctor Vorax by telling him, that having a nephew, whom I wished to shine in the church, I was on the look-out for a luminous butler, and a cook of solid capacity, under whose joint tuition he might graduate. "Who knows," said I, "but he may immortalize himself at the University, by giving his name to a pudding?"---I lost the acquaintance of Mrs. Cullender, by saying to her, when she had told me a piece of gossip as a very particular secret, that there was nothing so agreeable to me as to be in possession of a secret, for I made a point of telling it to all my acquaintance;

            Intrusted under solemn vows,
            Of Mum, and Silence, and the Rose,
            To be retailed again in whispers,
            For the easy credulous to disperse.

Mrs. Cullender left me in great wrath, protesting she would never again throw away her confidence on so leaky a vessel.

Ha! ha! ha! Bravo! Come, a bumper to Mrs. Cullender.

        MR. SARCASTIC.
With all my heart; and another if your please to Mr. Christopher Corporate, the free, fat, and dependent burgess of Onevote, of which "plural unit" the Honourable Baronet and myself are to be the joint representatives.---(Sir Oran Haut-ton bowed.)

        MR. HIPPY.
And a third, by all means, to His Grace the Duke of Rottenburgh.

        MR. SARCASTIC.
And a fourth, to crown all, to the blessings of virtual representation, which I shall endeavour to impress on as many of the worthy citizens of Novote, as shall think fit to be present the day after to-morrow, at the proceedings of the borough of Onevote.

And now for tea and coffee. Touch the bell for the waiter.

  The bottles and glasses vanished, and the beautiful array of urns and cups succeeded. Sir Telegraph and Mr. Hippy seceded from the table, and resigned their stations to Mrs. and Miss Pinmoney.

        MR. FORESTER.
Your system is sufficiently amusing, but I much question its utility. The object of moral censure is reformation, and its proper vehicle is plain and fearless sincerity: VERBA ANIMI PROFERRE, ET VITAM IMPENDERE VERO.*

        MR. SARCASTIC.
I tried that in my youth, when I was troubled with the passion for reforming the world;* of which I have been long cured, by the conviction of the inefficacy of moral theory with respect to producing a practical change in the mass of mankind. Custom is the pillar round which opinion twines, and interest is the tie that binds it. It is not by reason that practical change can be effected, but by making a puncture to the quick in the feelings of personal hope and personal fear. The Reformation in England is one of the supposed triumphs of reason. But if the passions of Henry the Eighth had not been interested in that measure, he would as soon have built mosques as pulled down abbies: and you will observe, that, in all cases, reformation never goes as far as reason requires, but just as far as suits the personal interest of those who conduct it. Place Temperance and Bacchus side by side, in an assembly of jolly fellows, and endow the first with the most powerful eloquence that mere reason can give, with the absolute moral force of mathematical demonstration,' Bacchus need not take the trouble of refuting one of her arguments; he will only have to say, "Come, my boys; here's Damn Temperance in a bumper," and you may rely on the toast being drank with an unanimous three times three.

  (At the sound of the word bumper, with which Captain Hawltaught had made him very familiar, Sir Oran Haul-ton looked round for his glass, but, finding it vanished, comforted himself with a dish of tea from the fair hand of Miss Danaretta, which, as his friend Mr. Forester had interdicted him from the use of sugar, he sweetened as well as he. could with a copious infusion of cream.)

As an opposition orator in the Honourable House will bring forward a long detail of unanswerable arguments, without even expecting that they will have the slightest influence on the vote of the majority.

        MR. SARCASTIC.
A reform of that honourable body, if ever it should take place, will be one of the "triumphs of reason." But reason will have little to do with it. All that reason can say on the subject, has been said for years, by men of all parties---while they were out; but the moment they were in, the moment their own interest came in contact with their own reason, the victory of interest was never for a moment doubtful. While the great fountain of interest, rising in the caverns of borough patronage and ministerial influence, flowed through the whole body of the kingdom by the channels of paper-money, and loans, and contracts, and jobs, and places either found or made for the useful dealers in secret services, so long the predominant interests of corruption overpowered the true and permanent interests of the country: but as those channels become dry, and they are becoming so with fearful rapidity, the crew of every boat that is left aground are convinced not by reason---that they had long heard and despised---but by the unexpected pressure of personal suffering, that they had been going on in the wrong way. Thus the re-action of interest takes place; and when the concentrated interests of thousands, combined by the same pressure of personal suffering, shall have created an independent power, greater than the power of the interest of corruption, then, and not till then, the latter will give way, and this will be called the triumph of reason, though, in truth, like all the changes in human society, that have ever taken place from the birth-day of the world, it will be only the triumph of one mode of interest over another: but as the triumph in this case will be of the interest of the many, over that of the few, it is certainly a consummation devoutly to be wished.

        MR. FORESTER.
If I should admit that "the hope of personal advantage, and the dread of personal punishment,"* are the only springs that set the mass of mankind in action, the inefficacy of reason, and the inutility of moral theory, will by no means follow from the admission. The progress of truth is slow, but its ultimate triumph is secure; though its immediate effects may be rendered almost imperceptible, by the power of habit and interest. If the philosopher cannot reform his own times, he may lay the foundation of amendment in those that follow. Give currency to reason, improve the moral code of society, and the theory of one generation will be the practice of the next. After a certain period of life, and that no very advanced one, men in general become perfectly unpersuadable to all practical purposes. Few philosophers, therefore, I believe, expect to produce much change in the habits of their contemporaries, as Plato proposed to banish from his republic all above the age of ten, and give a good education to the rest.

        MR. SARCASTIC.
Or, as Heraclitus the Ephesian proposed to his countrymen, that all above the age of fourteen should hang themselves, before he would consent to give laws to the remainder.*


will be added later

[All notes are Peacock's except those within square brackets---which Informal added.]


  1  ["Comedy raises her voice." Horace, Ars Poetica, 93.]. [back]

  2  ["We mock the Paladins! when such romantic maxims became ridiculous, this change was less the work of reason than that of loose morals."
  The full quotation is: "Nous nous moquons des paladins? c'est qu'ils connaissoient l'amour, et que nous ne connaissons plus que la débauche. Quand ces maximes romanesques commencèrent à devenir ridicules, ce changement fut moins l'ouvrage de la raison que celui des mauvaises moeurs." which is translated by Grace Roosevelt and Barbara Foxley as: "We scoff at the knights of old, and yet they knew the meaning of love while we know nothing but debauchery. When the teachings of romance began to seem ridiculous, it was not so much the work of reason as of immorality."].


      Chapter I

  1  ["'Twixt Trojan and Tyrian, I shall make no distinction." Virgil. Aen. I. 574.] [back]

      Chapter II

  1   [back]

      Chapter III

  1   For Lucy Gray and Alice Fell, see Mr. Wordworth's Lyrical Ballads. [back]

      Chapter XXI

  3   Hudibras: Part III. ii. l. 493. [back]

  4   ["To give the words in one's heart, and stake one's life on the truth." Juvenal, Sat. IV. 91.] [back]

  5   See Forsyth's Principles of Moral Science. [back]

  6   [Mr. Escot quotes from the same passage of Drummond's Academical Questions in Chapter V of Headlong Hall.] [back]

  7   [Diogenes Laetes, IX, 2.] [back]

[Melincourt was first published (anonymously, 'by the Author of "Headlong Hall"') in 1817]

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