Page images




certain amount of good-nature, if not absolutely of good heart, at least sufficient sense of what became a prince, to prevent his doing so shabby an act, though he may have defrauded a hundred tradesmen. In these days there were such things as “debts of honor,” and they were punctiliously attended to. There are, as we have said, various versions of this story, but all tend to show that Brummell courted the notice of his late master and patron on his way through the place of his exile; and it is not remarkable in a man who borrowed so freely from all his acquaintances, and who was, in fact, in such a state of dependence on their liberality.

Brummell made one grand mistake in his career as a Beau: he outlived himself. For some twenty-four years he survived his flight from England, to which country he never returned. For a time he was an assiduous writer of begging-letters and the plague of his friends. At length he obtained the appointment of consul at the good old Norman town of Caen. This was almost a sinecure, and the Beau took care to keep it so. But no one can account for the extraordinary step he took soon after entering on his consular duties. He wrote to Lord Palmerston, stating that there were no duties attached to the post, and recommending its abolition. This act of suicide is partly explained by a supposed desire to be appointed to some more lively and more lucrative consulate; but in this the Beau was mistaken. The consulate at Caen was vacated in accordance with his suggestion, and Brummell was left penniless, in debt, and to shift for himself

. With the aid of an English tradesman,

half grocer, half banker, he managed to get through a period of his poverty, but could not long subsist in this way, and the punishment of his vanity and extravagance came at last in his old age. A term of existence in prison did not cure him, and when he was liberated he again resumed his primrose gloves, his Eau de Cologne, and his patent vernis for his boots, though at that time literally supported by his friends with an allowance of £120 per annum. In the old days of Caen life this would have been equal to £300 a year in England, and certainly quite enough for any bachelor; but the Beau was really a fool. For whom, for what should he dress and polish his boots at such a quiet place as Caen? Yet he continued to

and to run into debt for the polish. When he confessed to having," so help him Heaven," not four francs in the world, he was ordering this vernis de Guiton, at five francs a bottle, from Paris, and calling the provider of it "a scoundrel,” be

” cause he ventured to ask for his money. What foppery, what folly was all this! How truly worthy of the man who built his fame on the reputation of a coat! Terrible indeed was the

do so,




hardship that followed his extravagance; he was actually compelled to exchange his white for a black cravat. Poor martyr! after such a trial it is impossible to be hard upon him. So, too, the man who sent repeated begging-letters to the English grocer, Armstrong, threw out of window a new dressinggown because it was not of the pattern he wished to have.

Retribution for all this folly came in time. His mind went even before his health. Though only some sixty years of age, almost the bloom of some men's life, he lost his memory and his powers of attention. His old ill-manners became positively bad manners. When feasted and fêted, he could find nothing better to say than “What a half-starved turkey!" At last the Beau was reduced to the level of that slovenliness which he had considered as the next step to perdition. Reduced to one pair of trowsers, he had to remain in bed till they were mended. He grew indifferent to his personal appearance, the surest sign of decay. Driveling, wretched, in debt, an object of contempt to all honest men, he dragged on a miserable existence. Still with his boots in holes, and all the honor of beaudom gone forever, he clung to the last to his Eau de Cologne, and some few other luxuries, and went down, a fool and a fop, to the grave. To indulge his silly tastes he had to part with one piece of property after another; and at length he was left with little else than the locks of hair of which he had once boasted.

I remember a story of a laborer and his dying wife. The poor woman was breathing her last wishes.

And, I say, William, you'll see the ould sow don't kill her young uns ?” “Ay, ay, wife, set thee good.” “And, I say, William, you'll · see Lizzy goes to schule regʻlar?” “Ay, ay, wife, set thee good." "And, I say, William, you'll see Tommy's breeches is mended against he goes to schule again ?” “Ay, ay, wife, set thee good.” “And, I say, William, you'll see I'm laid proper in the yard ?” William grew impatient. “Now never thee mind them things, wife, I'll see to 'em all, you just go on with your dying." No doubt Brummell's friends heartily wished that he would go on with his dying, for he had already lived too long; but he would live on. He is described in his last days as a miserable, slovenly, half-witted old creature, creeping about to the houses of a few friends he retained or who were kind enough to notice him still, jeered at by the gamins, and remarkable now, not for the cleanliness, but the filthiness and raggedness of his attire.

Poor old fool! one can not but pity him, when wretched, friendless, and miserable as he was, we find him, still graceful, in a poor café near the Place Royale, taking his cup of coffee,




[ocr errors]


and when asked for the amount of his bill, answering very vaguely, “Oui, Madame, à la pleine lune, à la pleine lune."

The drivelings of old age are no fit subject for ridicule, yet in the case of a man who had sneered so freely at his fellowcreatures, they may afford a useful lesson. One of his fancies was to give imaginary parties, when his tallow dips were all set alight and his servant announced with proper decorum, “The Duchess of Devonshire,” “Lord Alvanley,” “Mr. Sheridan," or whom not. The poor old idiot received the imaginary visitors with the old bow, and talked to them in the old strain, till his servant announced their imaginary carriages, and he was put driveling to bed. At last the idiocy became mania. He burnt his books, his relics, his tokens. He ate enormously, and the man who had looked


beer as the plus ultra of vulgarity, was glad to imagine it champagne. Let us not follow the poor maniac through his wanderings. Rather let us throw a veil over all his driveling wretchedness, and find him at his last gasp, when coat and collar, hat and brim, were all forgotten, when the man who had worn three shirts a day was content to change his linen once a month. What a lesson, what a warning! If Brummell had come to this

pass in England, it is hard to say how and where he would have died. He was now utterly penniless, and had no prospect of receiving any remittances. It was determined to remove him to the Hospice du Bon Sauveur, a Maison de Charité, where he would be well cared for at no expense. The mania of the poor creature took, as ever, the turn of external preparation. When the landlord of his inn entered to try and induce him to go, he found him with his wig on his knee, his shaving apparatus by his side, and the quondam beau deeply interested in lathering the peruke as a preliminary to shearing it. He resisted every proposal to move, and was carried down stairs kicking and shrieking: Once lodged in the Hospice, he was treated by the seurs de charité with the greatest kindness and consideration. An attempt was made to recall him to a sense of his future peril, that he might at least die in a more religious mood than he had lived; but in vain. It is not for us, erring and sinful as we are, to judge any fellow-creature; but perhaps poor Brummell was the last man to whom religion had a meaning. His heart was good ; his sins were more those of vanity than those of hate; it may be that they are regarded mercifully where the fund of mercy is unbounded. God grant that they may be so; or who of us would escape ? None but devils will triumph over the death of any man in sin. Men are not devils; they must and will always feel for their fellow-men, let them die as they will. No doubt



Brummell was a fool—a fool of the first water-but that he was equally a knave is not so certain. Let it never be certain to blind man, who can not read the heart, that any man is a knave. He died on the 30th of March, 1840, only twenty years ago, and so the last of the Beaux passed away. People have claimed, indeed, for D'Orsay, the honor of Brummell's descending mantle, but D’Orsay was not strictly a beau, for he had other and higher tastes than mere dress. It has never been advanced that Brummell's heart was bad, in spite of his many faults. Vanity did all. Vanitas vanitatum. O young.

. men of this age, be warned by a Beau, and flee his doubtful reputation! Peace then to the coat-thinker. Peace to allto the worst. Let us look within and not judge. It is enough that we are not tried in the same balance.

[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »