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William Makepeace Thackeray (1811-1863) one of the leading writers of the Victorian age, was born in Calcutta; at six he was sent to England to be educated. He entered the Charterhouse school in London, a place that appears as Greyfriars in his novel Pendennis. He attended Trinity College, Cambridge, but did not graduate. He spent some years abroad, partly in rambling over Europe, partly in studying art in Paris. His ability in this direction was shown later in the illustrations he made for his own books. He learned German at Weimar; the essay On a Lazy Idle Boy, contains a reminiscence of this period. On his return to England he became a contributor to various magazines, writing sketches of Paris and Irish life. His first novel, The Great Hoggarty Diamond, appeared in 1841, but it was not until the publication of Vanity Fair (1847) that he became famous as a novelist. He delivered a course of lectures on English history; his success in this field led him to make lecture tours to America in 1852 and 1855. His lectures were later published in two volumes, English Humorists of the Eighteenth Century and The Four Georges. He was the first editor of the Cornhill Magazine, and contributed to it a series of essays entitled The Roundabout Papers. These reveal the personality of a man whom Thomas Carlyle-a man not given to sentiment-always called “dear old Thackeray." Easy in style, yet never undignified; worldly-wise, yet not cynical; shrewd, but not sarcastic, the essays are the best talk of one of the best of gentlemen.

WILLIAM MAKEPEACE THACKERAY

ON A LAZY IDLE BOY

(From the Roundabout Papers)

I had occasion to pass a week in the autumn in the little old town of Coire or Chur, in the Grisons,* where lies buried that very ancient British king, saint, and martyr, Lucius,t who founded the Church of St. Peter, on Cornhill. Few people note the church nowadays, and fewer ever heard of the saint. In the cathedral at Chur, his statue appears surrounded by other sainted persons of his family. With tight red breeches, a Roman habit, a curly brown beard, and a neat little gilt crown and sceptre, he stands, a very comely and cheerful image: and from what I may call his peculiar position with regard to Cornhill, I beheld this figure of St. Lucius with more interest than I should have bestowed upon personages who, hierarchically, are, I dare say, his superiors.

The pretty little city stands, so to speak, at the end of the world

of the world of to-day, the world of rapid motion, and rushing railways, and the commerce and intercourse of men. From the northern gate, the iron road stretches away to Zürich, to Basle, to Paris, to home. From the old southern barriers, before which a.

Grisons, a canton of Switzerland. Chur is the capital. † Stow quotes the inscription still extant “from the table fast: chained in St. Peter's Church, Cornhill"; and says, “he was after some chronicle buried at London, and after some chronicle buried. at Glowcester”-but, oh! these incorrect chroniclers! when Alban Butler, in the Lives of the Saints, v. 12, and Murray's Handbook, and the sacristan at Chur, all say Lucius was killed there, and I saw his tomb with my own eyes. (Thackeray's note.)

little river rushes, and around which stretch the crumbling battlements of the ancient town, the road bears the slow diligence or lagging vetturino * by the shallow Rhine, through the awful gorges of the Via Mala, and presently over the Splügen to the shores of Como.

I have seldom seen a place more quaint, pretty, calm, and pastoral, than this remote little Chur. What need have the inhabitants for walls and ramparts, except to build summer-houses, to trail vines, and hang clothes to dry on them? No enemies approach the great mouldering gates: only at morn and even the cows come lowing past them, the village maidens chatter merrily round the fountains, and babble like the ever-voluble stream that flows under the old walls. The schoolboys, with book and satchel, in smart uniforms, march up to the gymnasium, t and return thence at their stated time. There is one coffee-house in the town, and I see one old gentleman goes to it. There are shops with no customers seemingly, and the lazy tradesmen look out of their little windows at the single stranger sauntering by. There is a stall with baskets of queer little black grapes and apples, and a pretty brisk trade with half-a-dozen urchins standing round. But, beyond this, there is scarce any talk or movement in the street. There's nobody at the bookshop. “If you will have the goodness to come again in an hour," says the banker, with his mouth full of dinner at one o'clock, "you can have the money." There is nobody at the hotel, save the good landlady, the kind waiters, the brisk young cook who ministers to you. Nobody is in the Protestant church-(Oh! strange sight, the two confessions are here at peace!)-nobody in the Catholic church: until the sacristan, from his snug abode in the cathedral close, espies the traveller eying the monsters

* Vetturino, a four-wheeled carriage.
Gymnasium, a school which prepares for the university.

and pillars before the old shark-toothed arch of his cathedral, and comes out (with a view to remuneration possibly) and opens the gate, and shows you the venerable church, and the queer old relics in the sacristy, and the ancient vestments (a black velvet cope, amongst other robes, as fresh as yesterday, and presented by that notorious "pervert,” Henry of Navarre and France), and the statue of St. Lucius who built St. Peter's Church, on Cornhill.

What a quiet, kind, quaint, pleasant, pretty old town! Has it been asleep these hundreds and hundreds of years, and is the brisk young Prince of the Sidereal Realms in his screaming car drawn by his snorting steel elephant coming to waken it? Time was when there must have been life and bustle and commerce here. Those vast, venerable walls were not made to keep out cows, but men-at-arms, led by fierce captains, who prowled about the gates, and robbed the traders as they passed in and out with their bales, their goods, their pack-horses, and their wains. Is the place so dead that even the clergy of the different denominations can't quarrel? Why, seven or eight, or a dozen, or fifteen hundred years ago (they haven't the register of St. Peter's up to that remote period. I dare say it was burned in the fire of London)-a dozen hundred years ago, when there was some life in the town, St. Lucius was stoned here on account of theological differences, after founding our church in Cornhill.

There was a sweet pretty river walk we used to take in the evening and mark the mountains round glooming with a deeper purple; the shades creeping up the golden walls; the river brawling, the cattle calling, the maids and chatterboxes round the fountains babbling and bawling; and several times in the course of our sober walks we overtook a lazy slouching boy, or hobbledehoy, with a rusty coat, and trousers not too long, and big feet trailing lazily one after the other, and large lazy hands dawdling from out the tight sleeves, and in the lazy hands a little book, which my lad held up to his face, and which I dare say so charmed and ravished him, that he was blind to the beautiful sights around him; unmindful, I would venture to lay any wager, of the lessons he had to learn for tomorrow; forgetful of mother waiting supper, and father preparing a scolding;-absorbed utterly and entirely in his book.

What was it that so fascinated the young student, as he stood by the river shore? Not the Pons Asinorum.* What book so delighted him, and blinded him to all the rest of the world, so that he did not care to see the applewoman with her fruit, or (more tempting still to sons of Eve) the pretty girls with their apple-cheeks, who laughed and prattled round the fountain! What was the book? Do you suppose it was Livy, or the Greek grammar? No; it was a Novel that you were reading, you lazy, not very clean, good-for-nothing, sensible boy! It was D'Artagnan locking up General Monk in a box, or almost succeeding in keeping Charles the First's head on. It was the prisoner of the Château d'If cutting himself out of the sack fifty feet under water (I mention the novels I like best myself-novels without love or talking, or any of that sort of nonsense, but containing plenty of fighting, escaping, robbery, and rescuing)-cutting himself out of the sack, and swimming to the island of Monte Cristo. O Dumas! O thou brave, kind, gallant old Alexandre! I hereby offer thee homage, and give thee thanks for many pleasant hours. I have read thee (being sick in bed) for thirteen hours of a happy day,

* Pons Asinorum, literally “bridge of asses," an old name for the proposition in geometry which sets forth that if a triangle has two sides of equal length the angles opposite those sides are also equal. This is the first difficult proposition in geometry, hence its name.

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