DRAFTS. ON. MY MEMORY.*
How to make a book when you have got nothing' to say, is a problem which has puzzled the brains of many abler writers than Lard William Lennox. To him, however, belongs the credit of having solved it successfully. Anybody who has lived a cer- tain time in the world, and has a passing knowledge of the
• nra/is on My Memory. By Lord W. Lennox. Loadvn: Chapman and Hall.
books of reference where anecdotes are to be found, might compose with the aid. of a pair of scissors a series of . biograph- ical memoirs of the calibre of Drafts on My Memory. The process, like all great inventions,; is eminently simple. We can best illustrate it by a specimen of Lord W. Lennox's mode of dealing with his reminiscences, taken haphazard from his work. Once upon a time he went to a ball, given by certain noblemen at Boyle Farm. Naturally enough he recollects nothing particular
about an entertainment given thirty years ago. So he contents himself with remarking, in his usual florid atyle,, " A. more mag- nificent entertainment never took placein, this or any-other country, for there was everything that money could produce or good taste could suggest." This fact in itself would seem a somewhat slight foundation for a chapter, but Lord William is equal to the occasion. The word " ball "naturally suggests dancing, so he tells an anecdote how Lord Byron was once made umpire on some point concern- ing the ballet in the green room at Drury Lane. Then we have a long quotation from some magazine article—the name of • which of course is not given—calculating the amounts spent on balls in one season in Paris. A quotation from Pepys as to a " Brante " he saw danced at Whitehall leads naturally to the topic of Court balls. Thereupon Lord William tells us how he was invited. on one
occasion to a State. bad costume at Buckingham Palace, but was unable to go, and how he once dined at Windsor Castle. The Royal dinner suggests "Albert the Good," and we are favoured with an anecdote told by Earl Russell about the. Prince Consort, and the chapter,concludes with a long extract. from a. Scotch news-
paper giving an account of the Prince's death.
This is really rather a favourable specimen than otherwise of the author's system of filling up his pages. Something like a thread of idea runs through the chapter, and if the stories told are not new, they are passably interesting. When we have once fathomed the secret of Lord William Lennox's composition our marvel is, not that he has succeeded in composing two volumes of recollections, but that he has not produced two hundred. If he is content with having his drafts cashed in such paper currency as this, there is no possi- bility of his account with the Bank of Memory being ever over- drawn, and as long as his readers will take his paper notes they are
as good as sterling coin. We are afraid, however, that this new art of writing is scarcely open to plebeian authors. Even in literature it is something to be a lord by courtesyy, and reminiscences bear- ing the noble name of Lennox possess a charm for the reading public not belonging to the recollections of Jones, Brown, and Robinson. There is no reason why a nobleman should not use his title to give a value to literary productions which otherwise
would be unmarketable. It is the fashion nowadays for the junior members- of the aristocracy to make incomes out of their names, by lending them to the promoters of limited-liability com- panies, and it would be hard to complain of Lord. William Len- nox because he knows that in. the field of letters it is an advantage to belong to the House of Riehmond, and has used his knowledge to the best purpose for himself.
Morally speaking, the only fault we find with this work is the extent to which it is filled with complimentary passages about Lord W-. Lennox's relatives, friends, and acquaintances. It is difficult to avoid a suspicion that the noble author repays his
entertainers by paragraphs and his dinners by puffs. To judge from his pages, he must be the most amiable of mankind.
For publishers themselves he has a good word, and considers they are hardly used by their authors; while even towards his elder brother, the head of the family, he expresses a feeling of Christian charity. If we could suspect. Lord Wil- liam of sarcasm, we' should indeed consider his eulogy upon the chief of his House to be, intended as ironical. Surely no one but the cadet of a noble British family could ever tell seriously the following anecdote, as "showing the extreme good humour and kindly feeling my brother displayed towards his family :"-
"One morning, coming down at rather an early hour, I found my brother with a trusty friend arranging who were to receive the game killed during the week. I listened to the names as they were read out, with the. claims attached to each. At last one was mentioned and approved of as having, although a Whig in politics, lent his valuable aid at an anti-free-trade-in-corn meeting recently held at Chichester. 'By the way,' I said, a gentleman attended that meeting whose speech has given so much offence to the free-trade party that three of their leading organs of the press have devoted columns to attacking him in no measured terms. Here is one of their attacks.' Without mentioning the name of the individual, I read a few lines to corroborate my state- ment.—' If,' said my brother, '1 hare been in the habit of seeding him game, I have no objection to continue to do so, but not as a reward for supporting a just cause.'—' I can vouch for his having had game,' I responded; and, moreover, that he will take it as a compliment, and not as a reward for his exertions last Monday.'—' What is his name and address 2' continued the Duke.—'Lord William Lennox, No. 1 Berkeley
Square, London,' I responded.—' Well, you deserve it,' he replied ; 'not for your speech, which went a little too far, but for your sharpness in bringing about your wish.' Of course, having gained my point, I told my brother that I would wait until a later period in the season ; but as the, return of 'killed' had been great, the game was sent to my London address, to be forwarded, to a friend for whom I had applied for it."
In the prefatory remarks affixed to this work, Lord William frankly confesses that many of the stories contained in it are not new, and " sometimes creep. out of little known books." In spite, however, of the extreme latitude thus given, the author has not been fortunate in his anecdotical researches. Throughout nearly eight hundred pages of reminiscences, there are scarcely halfl-iedozen anecdotes which the reader can remember half an ,hour after he has perused-them. One of the best, we think, is the account of an interview at Bedlam between Lord Adolphus Fitz- Clarence and a female lunatic, which occurred just about the time of the passing of the Reform Bill : -
"Upon one occasion he visited Bedlam, in company with the late Sir George Wombwell, and among other patients in that excellent and ad- mirably arranged asylum, was a female suffering from temporary derangement of intellect. When the two visitors entered her apart-. ment, she asked- Lord Adolphus what his name was, and without thinking he replied Mr. Brown. Nothing- more occurred, and the cir- cumstance had completely departed from his, memorn until he again visited the building, where almost the first person ha met was the female in question. He addressed her politely, and inquired after her health. He saw plainly that something embarrassed her, and not wish- ing to. prolong a conversation which seemed from someinknown cause to give her pain, he was about to walk on, when gazing at his good- humoured countenance, the poor deluded creature said, May I speak a word to your Lordship?' His answer was, Certainly.'—'I felt, hurt,' she proceeded, at your deceiving me by giving a false name. I knew you well at the time from your likeness to the King on the gold and silver coin.' Adolphus stammered out an apology. Say no more,' continued the female. 'But perhaps, as you did hurt my feelings, you would not object to render me an act of kindness.'—' I shall be de- lighted,' rejoined the kind-hearted nobleman. Then,' she added, in a moat impressive tone, convey this message, to your father. Tell him I am mad, often very ;Enad, although I have lucid intervals ; but mad as I am,—and' promise me to repeat my words,—I am not half as mad as His. Majesty waif when he signed his name to the Reform BilL'" Here, again, is another concerning Fauntleroy, which is certainly not new, but-.has about it a. grim humour which makes, itwlways welcome:— " A story is told of Fauntleroy's last momenta which does not redound to the credit of all his friends. Among the delicacies he, was in the habit of giving at his table was some remarkably fine Lune], imported by himself, and kept to himself so far that he would never put any, of his friends on the scent of it. The day before his execution some. of his oldest friends came to take leave of him, and one outstayed the rest. Fauntleroy,' said this last visitor, with due solemnity, ' we have tried all means to save you, we have done everything in our power, but all is in vain, and we have only to take leave of you for ever. Consider the position in which you stand. The dread veil of life is about to be with- drawn. You are on the brink of that chasm which separates, time from eternity. If there is anything you leave unsaid in this world you will have no chance of saying it then. Ia there nothing more you have to say to us? Do.you. not think you owe us some return for our. exer- tions? It will soon be too late. Tell us where you get that LuneL' But Fauntleroy was resolute. He died and made no sign."
The only valuable part of these reminiscences is that relating to Theodore Hook. At one period of his life, Lord W.' Lennox appears to have been on terms of close intimacy with the most brilliant of English wits. Many indeed of the jokes attributed to him read somewhat fiat, possibly because their narrator has not the art of telling a story well, still more because the point is unintelligible to us. For instance, Hook and all his friends appear to have. found' a never failing source of merriment in adding the termination " ems " to every word they used. Now the first time a gentleman remarked, at a convivial moment, ‘‘. Hookems, have you brought the ginnems and the mackerelems ?" it is possible his hearers may have been amused, but when the same joke was repeated all day, and every day, we should have thought the company must have grown as weary as residents at Paris did lately, when it was- deemed humorous- to add " rama" to the end of every word, or as Londoners did, in the Albert Smith era, when comic young men called smoking a pipe "poking a smipe," and were supposed by this process of inversion to establish. a repute for wit. Still, in judging of the merits of all jokes of this nature, too great allowance can hardly be made for the absence of the time at which they were spoken, the look with which they, were accompanied. The specimens cited by Lord William of Barhania humour do not at all justify his reputation as a professed wit ; but then, as we have said, they are jewels without the setting, of whose merit it is hard to give any satisfactory opinion.
With Hook, however, the case is different. There is a wit about his jokes which cannot be destroyed by, indifferent repeti- tion, or by the ignorance of the circumstances ander whick.they were delivered. Here is one amongst the Hookiana quoted in these pages. At a dinner given by the author, the turtle soup was spoilt by some mistake of the cook.
"'Never mind—mistakes will happen in the best-regulated families. That's the soup—get that ready—put back the turbot and all will be well.' Happily all was well, the turtle after a short pause appeared, the cook sent a moat humble apology, I helped my hungry guests, gave Cannon an extra aldermanic allowance of green fat to conciliate him. filled a tumbler of punch for Hook, which inspired him with the first pun of the evening. Never mind,' said he, as I was deploring the ruinous effect that the absence of turtle would produce on the feast, we do not judge of the dinner by the test-u-do (test you do).'"
Again, in the course of conversation at the same dinner, Cannon—the Dean of Patcham, as his friends used to call him— asked Hook if he had seen the Eccaleobion, in Leicester Square.
" Hookems, have you seen the Eccaleobion, or the place where breed- ing is made easy to the meanest capacity ?'—'Egatatic thought!' re- sponded Theodore.—' But where is it?' we all inquired.—' Next to some book-shop,' replied Cannon.—' Ah !' said Hook, I understand- "' The Egg-aleobion' where by heat, Dean of Patcham, By chicken-rie foul, birds by dozen they hatch 'em, Is next to a book-shop, the address, never mind it, For, failing a-t Egg's, you at Hatch-hard's will find it.'"
Most marvellous of all Hook's many talents seems to have been his power of improvization. As Lord W. Lennox says truly, "This talent is no secret to the world, although the world unfor- tunately possesses so little evidence of it beyond the assertions of the more fortunate few who enjoyed his intimacy, and witnessed the astonishing ease with which he composed while he sung." As Lord William only quotes Hook's improvizxtions from memory, and has, moreover, a neat knack of turning out verses himself, which he has used to fill up the gaps in his recollection, it is not easy to say how far these reprints correspond with the originals. That they do so approximately we have, however, no doubt. Hook's genius in this respect must have been unique. We can only afford space to quote a few stanzas of a poem Hook threw off at a dinner party in honour of one of the guests, a theatrical manager called Price :—
" 'Come, fill your glasses up, while I sing a song of prices, And show men's market value at the date of last advices ; For, since 'tis pretty clear, you know, that every man has his price, 'Tie well to make inquiries before the terms are riz, Price.
"'Some shabby rogues there are, that are knock'd down at a low price, Some blockheads so superlative they can't be sold at no price ; Some, free of soul in youth, sell in middle life at half-price ; And some go when they're old—why the devil don't you laugh, Price ?
"'The world is but an auction; if to-day we fetch a shy price, To-morrow turns the lot about, and shows ns worth a high price. You want to know what learning's worth, you ask me what is wit's price ;
I answer, "Push the claret round, whatever may be its price."
"'The shortest actors now contrive to get a rather long price ; And singers, too, although sometimes they're hardly worth a song, Price ; With fiddles, dancers, fresh from France, well liking a John Bull price, Though some, when they get nothing, may be said to fetch their full price.' "
It is to be regretted that the author of the Drafts has not given us a fuller picture of that gay, bon-vivant, Bohemian society of which Hook was the chief leader, and where "plays and politics, wine and women, debts and duels, were discussed with an absence of all restraint." Unfortunately there was a gloomy as well as a bright side to the picture, and from unpleasant topics of any kind Lord William seems to shrink systematically.
We have pointed out the defects in this work. Let us do its author the justice to add that he has the singular merit for a col- lector of reminiscences of not treading on forbidden ground, or of retailing anecdotes whose publication would be painful to the persons concerned. In conclusion, we may quote an anecdote con- cerning the Emperor Napoleon :—
" Soon after the Prince arrived in London he was followed by a pug- nacious Frenchman, who, for some public grievance or private pique, was anxious to fix a quarrel upon him. A challenge ensued, and the Prince's foe was looked upon as an expert shot with pistols. Although brave as a lion, Napoleon felt that he ought not to throw away a chance, and named the broadsword as his weapon. This led to some discussion. Lieutenant-Colonel Radcliffe, the French challenger's second, held a commission in the Inniskilling Dragoons, a regiment which had recently been commanded by my brother George; and anxious, upon so important an occasion, to consult a friend as to the line he ought to take, he re- quested Louis Napoleon to allow him half an hour to consider the matter. With this view he called upon my brother' who was then lodging in the same house as myself in St. James's Street, but not finding him at home, he asked for me. He narrated the circumstance, and I at once took upon my- self to say that unquestionably the Prince, being the challenged party, had the right to name the weapons. Radcliffe adopted my suggestion, and the duel was arranged to take place with swords on Wimbledon Common. The combatants met there at seven o'clock on the 3rd of March, 1840, but the police interfered, and all parties concerned were taken to Bow Street. The principals were released on entering into their own recognizances of 500/. each, and one security each of the same amount. Hearing that I had advised the use of the sword, Louis Napoleon expressed much gratitude to me."