Page images
PDF
EPUB

9

"my lord” and “my lady,” and the clowns, and paperbedizened boys, the whole confraternity of transmogrified sweeps, indeed, were in the habit, until lately, of going through on May Day. Everybody has heard of Sir Christopher Hatton, Queen Elizabeth's “ dancing chancellor;" yet everybody does not know that Sir Christopher was wont to dance in his inn hall very much after the fashion of Jack in the Green. Nor was the “ dancing chancellor” isolated as an instance of choregraphy combined with Coke upon Lyttleton. Coke himself, Selden, the mighty Francis Bacon, Baron Verulam, and Viscount St. Alban's—the “ greatest, wisest, meanest of mankind "-all the great magnates and pundits of the law were wont to dance in public at the appointed seasons. The quaint custom began to decline about Sir Matthew Hale's time. The grim Cromwellian commonwealth, indeed, gave the death blow to many customs as quaint and even more jovial; but dancing, by judges and benchers, lingered until very nearly the Revolution days. There is a legend that even the ferocious Jefferies was once so seen dancing in the hall. Perhaps it was a maniac that saw him. William the Dutchman was no dancer, and his countrymen and countrywomen wore too many pairs of galligaskins and linsey-woolsey petticoats to be very expert in the gracieuse science, although in some of Tenier's and Ostade's pictures you may see the heavy boors and booresses getting up some clumsy capers, the exhilaration of which is due more, I think, to the strength of the schnapps they have been drinking than to the lightness of the performers' limbs. Judges don't dance now-a-days, though, curiously, as I have heard, at the lust hausen of Amsterdam and the Hague, the Dutch do. Fashion, you see, has changed, and crossed the Zuyderzee. The Polka, or, as it is there pronounced,

Bolka,” has a great vogue in Holland; but who would not

be scandalised if Lord Chancellor Campbell were seen tripping on the light fantastic toe in Lincoln's Inn Hall, or if Mr. Justice Willes and Mr. Baron Martin were to have a heel-and-toe doubleshuffle set-to in the Temple Gardens ?

And yet you say you saw a judge dance at Lady Coseymore's Grand New Year's Fête, in Paris.

I have heard of a prime minister who makes plum puddings in his hat and cuts oranges into sucking-pigs for the amusement of his children at home. There is a Greek professor at one of our Universities, I believe, who is an admirable performer on the Jew's harp, and one of our famous English novelists is reckoned only a degree less expert than Gospodin Wiljalba Frikell as a conjuror. But a judge-a modern judge, dance, not en petit comité, but at a grand ball-never. It can't be.

You must have been inistaken. Ah! stay. He was a French judge. Not more than thirty-five years of age, you say. With neat whiskers, evidently pomaded, and a beautiful leg and foot. M. le Président de la Toque des Pasperdus, of the Imperial Court of Brives-la-Gaillarde, is high up in the magistracy, and is reckoned one of the most finished waltzers under the second Empire. He spends his vacations at Hombourg or Baden, where he is in tremendous request with German baronesses and Russo-Polish princesses, who want partners—for the Waltz. By the way, our own judicial sages are

not averse from taking an occasional holiday at the pleasant watering-places the Rhine. Mr. Nedwards, who ought to know, says that Mr. Thackeray once observed that the Hôtel des Quatres Saisons, at Hombourg, ought to be called the Hôtel de Quarter Sessions, from the number of legal gentlemen who frequented it during the long vacation ; but no judge was yet found foolish enough to trust himself with a convoy of gyrating crinoline on the well-waxed parquet

on

M

of the Kursaal ball-room.

The judges go up the Rhine to take the waters ; and sometimes, I have been told, they make a valorous onslaught on the roulette, or the rouge et noir table. Catch Owlett, C.J., or Miniver, B., dancing. As for your M. de la Toque des Pasperdus, I don't consider such things as he judges at all. He is a mere clerk, my dear, a lacquey in the Imperial livery, removable at his Imperial Majesty's pleasure, and no more to be compared with the stately, inscrutably and preternaturally wise old gentlemen with the powdered birds' nests on their heads, and the scarlet petticoats whom you see perched on a bench in the Queen's Pench or the Common Pleas, than these humble epistles are to be compared with the eloquent epistles to his son of my immortal namesake. I will grant all M. des Pasnerdus' agility in the ball-room, but I doubt and take ex ception to his law, his impartiality, and his learning.

I am delighted, my beloved child, that since your return to England our kind friends have taken you to very many parties and soirées dansantes, where you have had the opportunity of mixing in unexceptionable society, but I cannot conceal from myself the fact that the entertainment in which you participated, and due to the sumptuous hospitality of my Lady Coseymore, was of a nature far more and truly aristocratic than

you could hope to see, or have seen, in England, under the auspices of our worthy friends the De Fytchetts. My heart positively glowed at reading your graphic details of that magnificent festivity, and of the distinguished personages there present, and with so many of whom you had the honour -although I dare say they thought, and very properly too, that the honour was on their side-of dancing.

There are some very worthy and perfectly genteel persons of my acquaintance who affect to think nothing of foreign rank and title,

if there had never been any conquerors but our

as

a

own with whom patrician families might have come over. Put all that nonsense out of your head, my dearest Louisa. It is illiberal, narrow-minded, and—worse than all—it is, in the highest degree, ignorant to hold such tenets. There is as good blood in the red ocean of heraldry as ever came out of it in England ; and yonder German baron, with his forty-seven quarterings, and his thread-braided surtout, and yonder Italian count, with his long hair and questionable linen, who dines on macaroni for fourpence in an alley near Leicester Square, may -although the one teaches the oboe, and the other Ganganelli's letters, for a livelihood-have better blood in their veins than some purse-proud descendant of a Georgian contractor ennobled for his peculations, or some pedigree proud offshoot from a Highland cattle-stealer. The most repulsive feature in English genealogical pretensions is, that we have a plutocracy grafted on aristocracy; and that the great-grandson of a coal-merchant, who has espoused the distant relative on the mother's side of an Irish peer, and is ridiculously proud of the alliance, really in his heart despises a Montmorency, a Noailles, an Orsini, or a Batthyani-who may have kept his good name, but has lost his broad acres. 'Tis the same in America. There are families in the United States absurdly vain of some English progenitor, who, very likely, was transported to the plantations, and who, from some perhaps fortuitous similarity in name, they persist in connecting with some great English family, such as the Howards or the Percys; while they are ashamed to mention their grandfather who fought in the revolutionary war, or their mother who strewed flowers in the path of George Washington when he entered New York. I generally find, in matters genealogical, that people are always proud of tracing their descent from the very last person whom they should be proud of being descended from.

As my Lady Coseymore is exceedingly bien vue by nearly every section of good French society, I do not wonder that the assemblage you met on New Year's night was as miscellaneous as it was illustrious. An English duke, my dear, you say was there. I am rejoiced that his Grace of Toppletoton should have condescended to make, by his presence, that brilliant gathering even more coruscatingly dazzling His Grace wore the culotte courte, and the garter, and the blue ribbon en sautoir belonging thereto. I am enchanted. And there was the Marquis of Barefoot, who, they say, is too wicked to live in England, although he has £250,000 a year—à revenue, I should think, which might entitle a man to live anywhere, were he as wicked as Ahab. His Lordship resides wholly in Paris; he has a charming wicked mansion in the Champs Elysées. He spends £10,000 a year in the purchase of pictures by the old masters, and never was known to give away a penny in charity. Some of our great noblemen have very peculiar fancies. Perhaps in his youth he had a disappointment in love, and that has soured him, and made a misanthrope of him, as it did of Dirty Dick of Leadenhall Street-or Fenchurch, was it ?—whom my poor dear mother used to tell us about. His Lordship did not dance, you say, but passed the whole soirée whispering in a corner to the Princess Criminil. Okholska. I am glad that she stared at you through her eye-glass, and that you thought her rude, and refused to be présentée to her. The Princess Criminil-Okholska belongs to one of the first Mingrelian families, and is immensely rich 50,000 peasants, or slaves rather, Mr. Nedwards says. She goes everywhere, both here and abroad; and makes more treaties, dit-on, in her boudoir than MM. the plenipotentiaries do in their solemn congresses. But I have heard of her Highness, and of her Highness's doings, when her poor

« PreviousContinue »