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bed-chamber, and nursery-maids, and then they underwent the orthodoxical process. Many of them got nominations from the lady on the sack, and after examination, received orders of admission from Mistress Church, and then they became members of the household ; for after all their pretensions to exclusive eminence, these patricians at Almack’s were at best but the domestics of some higher dynasty, and enjoyed their honours in virtue of some office in itself abject or barbarous.
I strolled round the rooms, which had begun to fill during my examination, and was not a little surprised to find among the arrivals, several countenances with which I was familiar, having seen them on the stage.
These fair personages having some knowledge of stagetact, generally supported their characters tolerably well, even though some of them had difficult parts to perform, in reclaiming gambling or dissolute husbands. There was one of them, a widow lady, who reigned paramount, from the influence which unbounded wealth had given her. She had been obliged to content herself with the character of Mrs. Million, though report said that she would more willingly have figured as duchess. The celebrated leaders of the ton arrived in due time; the Hautons, Stavordales, Rocheforts, Wallensteins, Bellamonts, and Plinlimmons ; with their protegés, the Dorvilles, Hazlemeres, Fitzallans, and Leaches, whom every body of any pretension to fashionable intercourse must be fully acquainted with. The only difficulty is in distinguishing the features of the various characters; they possessed such an intimate resemblance in the only traits that mark them out as distinct dramatis persona ; the chief differer.ce appearing to me to consist in the degrees of boldness and recklessness with which they performed the same frivolous, urmeaning part. There was a vast deal of talent wasted in vying who should excel à ne faire que des riens. All appeared animated by the same ambition, and to have their energies bent towards the same end. Their passions centered in the same objects; and those objects were precisely those which a heart void of affections would contain. Undoubtedly their pursuits had obliterated all trace of cordial feeling; and the absence of the latter removed those distinctive expressions which give individuality to character. The greater or less degree of wit or vivacity was all that was discernible to the common spectator; and this was as likely to proceed from fits of humour as from variety of intellectual quality. Such a waste of smiles “ upon the desert air” I had never before witnessed; and yet it was evident, from their very fadeur, that they were put on like creams and cosmetics, for the mere purpose of beautifying the countenance. Their complexions of mind seemed to resemble each other as closely as their complexjons of face did, and both seemed to be the insipid, morbid product of some deceitful art. I watched the ladies of the haut passage, whose history I had read in Vivian Grey, Granby, Matilda, Tremaine, and Almack's ; but I could discover little of the bel-air which those books have assigned to their fashionable heroines. There was the same quantity of importance and ostrich-feathers, of condescension and perfume ; but the dignity and modesty combined were the attri-. butes of the author's imagination. Most of them appeared brought in pour remplir un fauteuil, a part which a waxen figure might
have done as well; this was the sum of the elegant insensibility and fashionable nonchalance. To give herself a peculiarity that might distinguish her from the rest, one was obliged to lisp, another to talk all manner of platitudes, a third to bolt out indecencies, and a fourth to variegate the phraseology with French expressions. No wonder, when distinction was the reigning passion, that many should resort to stranger methods to obtain it, and even consent to adopt, the caricature likenesses assigned them by the above authors, rather than not figure among people of the bon genre. But what is more odd, several laid claims to the same character, and some maintained that they had a right to two or three. The most contested character among the gentlemen was that of Tremaine. Numbers presented themselves that night as the man of refinement; melancholy gentlemen, exhausted of ordinary sympathies by the indulgence of aristocratical conceit, whose aspects were set to one expression of contemptuousness for all that was not fine, and who scemed internally to repeat,
Odi vulgum pecus, et arceo. But they possessed little other affinity to the written Tremaine, being paltry incomplete editions of him. When ordered to prove their reading, it was found that they had but “just sufficient learning to misquote." As to religion, they there indeed perfectly coincided with him, or else the cheat was too well concealed to be detected. They had no fixed principles, but were willing to adopt the creed in fashion, especially if it procured them mistresses to their hearts' desire, or even other objects of minor consideration. Georgina Evelyn, the heroine of Tremaine, was not even contended for by any of the votaries of fashion, principally because the country had been fixed upon for the constant residence of that new Eloise, modified to the local habits of English rural lifc. Her father, however, was there, represented by a number of soi-disant proxies, chiefly churchmen, who aimed at the reputation of learning and sentiment. But as well to enlarge the number of subscribers, as to reconcile inconsistencies, it was ultimately decreed, that this character should be done by two persons; the one a high churchman, enjoying a sumptuous hereditary incumbency; the advocate of abuses, and the engrafter of tithes upon the apostolic system, in short, a bon ton parson,--the other a liberal reformer, a genuine friend of all men, who founded his religion upon simple Deism, and supported it by arguments drawn from the poets; in short, a retired enthusiast.
The Grey tribe, the Alhambras, the Carabases, and the rest, were all admitted in propria persona, on the testimony of John Bull, and the Key to Vivian Grey, that testimony being supposed to have been the authentic declaration of the author: but it is to be observed, that many of the characters shuffled through their parts very badly. The hero himself, instead of performing those wonderful feats anticipated by his friends, was satisfied with feeding his ambition on the smiles of some wealthy dowager, from whom he might now and then expect an invitation to a repast. The Granby and Matilda set showed off, to admiration, the characteristics of their class. The gambling scenes in the former were enacted with great spirit by a noble lord and his gang, who had undertaken to instruct young gentlemen in the mysteries of unlimited loo. The young pigeon on this occasion was understood to be admitted, for the last time, to fashionable society, because he had demurred about paying the conventional price. There were some tables laid out for écarté in one room, at which were some of the most respectable-looking, dignified characters in the assembly; who, however, were altogether unknown to all the great from whom I made inquiries. A sly old Bow-street officer at last told me, that they were sharpers à la mode, whose persons were incog. and sacred by common consent, that the spirit of gaming might not suffer from the exclusion of its chief supporters. Like the Knights of Malta, they had all the virtues which their order required them to profess. They were sworn to continency, temperance, and unbounded courteousness; they were bound to fight for their order ; and even to suffer martyrdom on the scaffold, if required, without betraying their lofty associates. These vows gave an air of religious earnestness to their whole deportment, which very much relieved the mawkish languor and frivolous levity of the rest. Contiguous to these, were a crowd of shabby-looking fellows, resembling the
groups that assemble sometimes upon 'Change. I could not imagine that they were any thing better than brokers, and miserly stockjobbers; but I found out that I was very much mistaken indeed, for there were Honourables and M. P.'s among them. One non-descript party came habited, as they asserted, à la Grecque; but every one said, that there was as much of the Turk or Jew in their appearapce, as of the Hellenist. Among the élite of the nobility who filled the foreground of the picture, I observed several noisy awkward gentlemen in black, whose constrained air, and unsubdued sallies, showed that they had none but borrowed pretensions to be there. These were authors in favour with the fashionable world, introduced, like professional wits, to enliven the dialogue, or to set off a good thing; but the consciousness of being looked up to for amusement, rendered their efforts as clumsy as the jokes of the clown in pantomime: still character required that they should let nothing slip, be it pure bon mot, quibble, double entendre, or crambo rhyme; and it may be added, that their success in raising a laugh was infinitely less uncertain than the object at which the laugh was directed.
Among the celebrated unknown, of whom there was no small number present, the author of Waverley was pre-eminent: for he rendered himself tolerably conspicuous by his attentions to royalty, dancing, all in mourning as he was, with one of the handmaidens of the court, whose fair fame was somewhat suspect, and whom his indiscreet attentions only rendered more publicly the object of severe comment. The country dance on this occasion was once more adopted, and was led off, to a martial tune, by the foreign secretary, dancing off with one of the noble family of Guards, decidedly the best dancer in the room, but not at all fitted, poor thing! as it was reported, for the arduous duty which she wonld be likely to encounter in tending upon one of her mamma's relations in Portugal, whose constitution was impaired by the climate to which she had been sent. Her partner had very great difficulty in gaining admittance, as it was understood that a great party of the aristocracy was ranged against him, and above all, that the Lady Patroness on the woolsack was unfavourable to him: however, by a successful course of fawning and bullyism, he asserted claims to the character of Bombastes Furioso, and procured admittance accordingly. The Duke of Wellington, after having danced off with Mistress Ordnance, and the Governess of the Tower, is said to have offered his hand to the relict of an august Prince, whose tears were still flowing for his loss; but at the time, she could not make up her mind to accept him, especially as her children wept afresh at the thoughts of having such a stepfather. I cannot enumerate the other partners of the fashionables, who were all ladies of splendid incomes, whose connexions conferred respectability on those whom they honoured with their choice. Suffice to say, that I did not propose for any of them; for I saw so many humble attentives disappointed, after a long course of crouching and cringing, by being told that the lady was engaged, that I despaired of making myself agreeable. Besides, my prepossession for fashionable intercourse was much abated by the utter insipidity of all its votaries, by the arranged smiles and conceited laughter of its formalists, as well as by the heartlessness which the system seemed fitted to produce; só that I retired, heartily ashamed of the efforts which I had made to procure admission at Almack's.
TURNER'S REIGN OF HENRY THE EIGHTH.*
In order to attain that degree of calmness and impartiality of feeling which is the eternal boast of historians, it has been laid down as a general maxim, that the history of a particular period should not be composed until after such a lapse of time as may allow the conflict of personal animosities and personal interests to subside. Unhappily our prejudices outlive our immediate interests, and create illusions quite as powerful, and quite as detrimental to the cause of truth. There are a thousand circumstances also, which may serve to connect the passions and excitements of the day with the events of periods the most remote; so that, notwithstanding the sobering influence of time, the modern historian of Constantine or Mahomet may be as little exempt from the charge of gross partiality and misrepresentation as the contemporary biographer of George iv. If this remark needed confirmation, Turner's History of the Reign of Henry VIII. would abundantly furnish it.
We necd go no farther than Mr. Turner's preface to discover the strong prevailing bias of his mind when he commenced this history, and to estimate the credit to which his opinions and reasoning are entitled. He informs us that he was induced to renew his historical labours in consequence of the recent controversy upon the subject of the Reformation; a controversy which sprang out of the catholic question, although to dispassionate minds it may appear that the two subjects have no real connexion. Thus it is, that for the hundredth time the character of Henry is viewed, not in its natural proportions, but through the delusive medium of religious prepossessions. It is true, that on more than one occasion, Mr. Turner is constrained to admit, that religious considerations had no share in the momentous changes effected by Ilenry, and that the monarch himself was an unconscious instrument, co-operating with various other causes, in the great work of Reformation. But it is not the less evident that that very instrumentality, unwitting and involuntary as it was, is the chief circumstance that influences the pen of the author in tracing Henry's character; it is that which converts his revolting atrocities into venial excesses, and gives to his superficial, tinsel qualities, the solidity of virtues. That a passion for originality, and a disinclination to follow in the beaten track of former historians, may have contributed to render Mr. Turner's history such as it is, is not by any means improbable. And it must be confessed that he has the merit of surpassing all those among his predecessors who have been inclined to regard Henry with a favourable eye, in consequence of the fortuitous aid which he gave to the Reformation. Even Mr. Southey, in his Book of the Church, only goes so far as to insinuate that Henry“ was not the mere monster, which, upon a cursory view, he must needs appear to every young and ingenuous mind.” But Mr. Turner represents him as a model of perfection, endued with every intellectual and moral excellence. The fact is, that modern historians too often resemble modern actors, who think that celebrity is only to be gained by surprising and startling the spectators, and shocking received opinions. What actor of spirit would submit to the drudgery of pausing, and starting, and ranting, and beating his breast, and clasping his hands, where others have paused, and started, and ranted before him? What historian of genius can condescend to praise and censure what others have praised and censured, and to draw the same inferences as others from the same facts? That Mr. Turner is not insensible to the charms of this species of fame is sufficiently evidenced by parts of his earlier historical labours ;-the apologist of Richard III, may, with some exertion of courage, well become the eulogist of Henry VIII.
* The History of the Reign of Henry the Eighth. By Sharon Turner, F.S.A. and R.A.S.L. London : 1826. - 410.
A general outline of the history before us may be given in a few words. In Mr. Turner's conception, Henry was a prince gifted with all those amiable and popular qualities which are calculated to win the esteem and affection of mankind. Warm-hearted, gentle, and affable, in private life; dignified, yet condescending, in public; possessed of chivalrous courage as well as moral resolution ; profoundly learned himself, and a liberal patron of learning in others; a lover of peace and the arts of peace; untainted in morals and sincere in religion; respected abroad and beloved at home. Such is the impression which Mr. Turner would wish to convey to his readers of Henry's character and conduct during “ nearly three-fourths of his reign;” in which time, to use the historian's sonorous language, “ his celebrity shone unchallenged and unclouded, and was accompanied through all Europe with the harmonious voices, from all parts, of unanimous applause." The various unpopular acts of this period, the errors of domestic administration and foreign policy, are all attributed, without scruple, to Cardinal Wolsey and other convenient scape-goats; while every measure from which honour is to be gained is appropriated exclusively to Henry. In the latter years of his reign, it is confessed by Mr. Turner, that “ his suavity was displaced by vexation, suspicion, and bursts of anger; and that his cheerful equanimity was, from his disquiets, and their increasing perturbations whenever bis personal safety, kingly