The History of Pendennis: His Fortunes and Misfortunes, His Friends and His Greatest Enemy

By William Makepeace Thackeray | Go to book overview

last month, at dinner at my Lord Hobanob's, a young man, who has lately been received among us, young Mr. Suckling (author of a work, I believe), began to speak lightly of Admiral Bowser's conduct for ratting to Ministers, in what I must own is the most audacious manner. But who do you think sate next and opposite to this Mr. Suckling? Why -- why, next to him was Lady Grampound, Bowser's daughter, and opposite to him was Lord Grampound, Bowser's son-in-law. The infatuated young man went on cutting his jokes at the Admiral's expense, fancying that all the world was laughing with him, and I leave you to imagine Lady Hobanob's feelings -- Hobanob's! -- those of every well-bred man, as the wretched intru was so exposing himself. He will never dine again in South Street. I promise you that."

With such discourses the Major entertained his nephew, as he paced the terrace in front of the house for his two hours' constitutional walk, or as they sate together after dinner over their wine. He grieved that Sir Francis Clavering had not come down to the Park to live in it since his marriage, and to make a society for the neighbourhood. He mourned that Lord Eyrie was not in the country, that he might take Pen and present him to his Lordship. "He has daughters," the Major said. "Who knows? you might have married Lady Emily or Lady Barbara Trehawk; but all those dreams are over; my poor fellow, you must lie on the bed which you have made for yourself."

These things to hear did young Pendennis seriously incline. They are not so interesting in print as when delivered orally; but the Major's anecdotes of the great George, of the Royal Dukes, of the statesmen, beauties, and fashionable ladies of the day, filled young Pen's soul with longing and wonder; and he found the conversations with his guardian, which sadly bored and perplexed poor Mrs. Pendennis, for his own pt never tedious.

It can't be said that Mr. Pen's new guide, philosopher, and friend, discoursed him on the most elevated subjects, or treated the subjects which he chose in the most elevated manner. But his morality, such as it was, was consistent. It might not, perhaps, tend to a man's progress in another world, but it was pretty well calculated to advance his interests in this; and then it must be remembered, that the Major never for one instant doubted that his views were the only views practicable, and that his conduct was perfectly virtuous and respectable. He was a man of honour, in a word: and had his eyes what he called open. He took pity on this young greenhorn of a nephew, and wanted to open his eyes too.

No man, for instance, went more regularly to church when in the country than the old bachelor. "It don't matter so much in town, Pen," he said, "for there the women go and the men are not missed. But when a gentleman is sur ses terres, he must give an example to the country people: and if I could turn a tune, I even think I should sing. The Duke of St. David's, whom I have the honour of knowing, always sings in the country, and let me tell you, it has a doosed fine effect from the family pew. And you are somebody down here. As long as the Claverings are away you are the first man in the parish; and as good as any. You might represent the town if you played your cards well. Your poor dear father would have done so had he lived; so might you. -- Not if you marry a lady, however amiable, whom the country people won't meet. -- Well, well: it's a painful subject. Let us change it, my boy." But if Major Pendennis changed the subject once he recurred to it a score of times in the day: and the moral of his discourse always was, that Pen was throwing himself away. Now it does not require much coaxing or wheedling to make a simple boy believe that he is a very fine fellow.

Pen took his uncle's counsels to heart. He was glad enough, we have said, to listen to his elder's talk. The conversation of Captain Costigan became by no means pleasant to him, and the idea of that tipsy old father-in-law haunted him with terror. He couldn't bring that man, unshaven and reeking of punch, to associate

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