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“The Book of the Snobs” is a collection of satirical works by William Makepeace Thackeray, first published in Punch magazine as The Snobs of England by one of them. While the word “snob” had been used since the end of the eighteenth century, Thackeray adopted the term to refer to people who look down on others who are “socially inferior” have quickly gained popularity.
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Table of Contents
Chapter 1. The Snob Playfully Dealt With
Chapter 2. The Snob Royal
Chapter 3. The Influence Of The Aristocracy On Snobs
Chapter 4. The Court Circular, And Its Influence On Snobs
Chapter 5. What Snobs Admire
Chapter 6. On Some Respectable Snobs
Chapter 7. On Some Respectable Snobs
Chapter 8. Great City Snobs
Chapter 9. On Some Military Snobs
Chapter 10. Military Snobs
Chapter 11. On Clerical Snobs
Chapter 12. On Clerical Snobs And Snobbishness
Chapter 13. On Clerical Snobs
Chapter 14. On University Snobs
Chapter 15. On University Snobs
Chapter 16. On Literary Snobs
Chapter 17. A Little About Irish Snobs
Chapter 18. Party-Giving Snobs
Chapter 19. Dining-Out Snobs
Chapter 20. Dinner-Giving Snobs Further Considered
Chapter 21. Some Continental Snobs
Chapter 22. Continental Snobbery Continued
Chapter 23. English Snobs On The Continent
Chapter 24. On Some Country Snobs
Chapter 25. A Visit To Some Country Snobs
Chapter 26. On Some Country Snobs
Chapter 27. A Visit To Some Country Snobs
Chapter 28. On Some Country Snobs
Chapter 29. A Visit To Some Country Snobs
Chapter 30. On Some Country Snobs
Chapter 31. A Visit To Some Country Snobs
Chapter 32. Snobbium Gatherum
Chapter 33. Snobs And Marriage
Chapter 34. Snobs And Marriage
Chapter 35. Snobs And Marriage
Chapter 36. Snobs And Marriage
Chapter 37. Club Snobs
Chapter 38. Club Snobs
Chapter 39. Club Snobs
Chapter 40. Club Snobs
Chapter 41. Club Snobs
Chapter 42. Club Snobs
Chapter 43. Club Snobs
Chapter 44. Club Snobs
Concluding Observations On Snobs
THE BOOK OF SNOBS
WILLIAM MAKEPEACE THACKERAY
First digital edition 2018 by Gianluca Ruffini
(The necessity of a work on Snobs, demonstrated from History, and proved by felicitous illustrations: I am the individual destined to write that work - My vocation is announced in terms of great eloquence - I show that the world has been gradually preparing itself for the WORK and the MAN - Snobs are to be studied like other objects of Natural Science, and are a part of the Beautiful (with a large B). They pervade all classes - Affecting instance of Colonel Snobley.)
We have all read a statement, (the authenticity of which I take leave to doubt entirely, for upon what calculations I should like to know is it founded?), we have all, I say, been favoured by perusing a remark, that when the times and necessities of the world call for a Man, that individual is found. Thus at the French Revolution (which the reader will be pleased to have introduced so early), when it was requisite to administer a corrective dose to the nation, Robespierre was found; a most foul and nauseous dose indeed, and swallowed eagerly by the patient, greatly to the latter’s ultimate advantage: thus, when it became necessary to kick John Bull out of America, Mr. Washington stepped forward, and performed that job to satisfaction: thus, when the Earl of Aldborough was unwell, Professor Holloway appeared with his pills, and cured his lordship, as per advertisement, &c. &c.. Numberless instances might be adduced to show that when a nation is in great want, the relief is at hand; just as in the Pantomime (that microcosm) where when CLOWN wants anything, a warming-pan, a pump-handle, a goose, or a lady’s tippet, a fellow comes sauntering out from behind the side-scenes with the very article in question.
Again, when men commence an undertaking, they always are prepared to show that the absolute necessities of the world demanded its completion. Say it is a railroad: the directors begin by stating that ‘A more intimate communication between Bathershins and Derrynane Beg is necessary for the advancement of civilization, and demanded by the multitudinous acclamations of the great Irish people.’ Or suppose it is a newspaper: the prospectus states that ‘At a time when the Church is in danger, threatened from without by savage fanaticism and miscreant unbelief, and undermined from within by dangerous Jesuitism, and suicidal Schism, a Want has been universally felt, a suffering people has looked abroad, for an Ecclesiastical Champion and Guardian. A body of Prelates and Gentlemen have therefore stepped forward in this our hour of danger, and determined on establishing the BEADLE newspaper,’ &c. &c. One or other of these points at least is incontrovertible: the public wants a thing; therefore, it is supplied with it; or the public is supplied with a thing, therefore it wants it.
I have long gone about with a conviction on my mind that I had a work to do, a Work, if you like, with a great W; a Purpose to fulfil; a chasm to leap into, like Curtius, horse and foot; a Great Social Evil to Discover and to Remedy. That Conviction Has Pursued me for Years. It has Dogged me in the Busy Street; Seated Itself by Me in The Lonely Study; Jogged My Elbow as it Lifted the Wine-cup at The Festive Board; Pursued me through the Maze of Rotten Row; Followed me in Far Lands. On Brighton’s Shingly Beach, or Margate’s Sand, the Voice Outpiped the Roaring of the Sea; it Nestles in my Nightcap, and It Whispers, ‘Wake, Slumberer, thy Work Is Not Yet Done.’ Last Year, By Moonlight, in the Colosseum, the Little Sedulous Voice Came to Me and Said, ‘Smith, or Jones’ (The Writer’s Name is Neither Here nor There), ‘Smith or Jones, my fine fellow, this is all very well, but you ought to be at home writing your great work on SNOBS.
When a man has this sort of vocation it is all nonsense attempting to elude it. He must speak out to the nations; he must unbusm himself, as Jeames would say, or choke and die. ‘Mark to yourself,’ I have often mentally exclaimed to your humble servant, ‘the gradual way in which you have been prepared for and are now led by an irresistible necessity to enter upon your great labour. First, the World was made: then, as a matter of course, Snobs; they existed for years and years, and were no more known than America. But presently, INGENS PATEBAT TELLUS, the people became darkly aware that there was such a race. Not above five-and-twenty years since, a name, an expressive monosyllable, arose to designate that race. That name has spread over England like railroads subsequently; Snobs are known and recognized throughout an Empire on which I am given to understand the Sun never sets. PUNCH appears at the ripe season, to chronicle their history: and the individual comes forth to write that history in PUNCH.’
I have (and for this gift I congratulate myself with Deep and Abiding Thankfulness) an eye for a Snob. If the Truthful is the Beautiful, it is Beautiful to study even the Snobbish; to track Snobs through history, as certain little dogs in Hampshire hunt out truffles; to sink shafts in society and come upon rich veins of Snobore. Snobbishness is like Death in a quotation from Horace, which I hope you never have heard, ‘beating with equal foot at poor men’s doors, and kicking at the gates of Emperors.’ It is a great mistake to judge of Snobs lightly, and think they exist among the lower classes merely. An immense percentage of Snobs, I believe, is to be found in every rank of this mortal life. You must not judge hastily or vulgarly of Snobs: to do so shows that you are yourself a Snob. I myself have been taken for one.
When I was taking the waters at Bagnigge Wells, and living at the ‘Imperial Hotel’ there, there used to sit opposite me at breakfast, for a short time, a Snob so insufferable that I felt I should never get any benefit of the waters so long as he remained. His name was Lieutenant-Colonel Snobley, of a certain dragoon regiment. He wore japanned boots and moustaches: he lisped, drawled, and left the ‘r’s’ out of his words: he was always flourishing about, and smoothing his lacquered whiskers with a huge flaming bandanna, that filled the room with an odour of musk so stifling that I determined to do battle with that Snob, and that either he or I should quit the Inn. I first began harmless conversations with him; frightening him exceedingly, for he did not know what to do when so attacked, and had never the slightest notion that anybody would take such a liberty with him as to speak first: then I handed him the paper: then, as he would take no notice of these advances, I used to look him in the face steadily and, and use my fork in the light of a toothpick. After two mornings of this practice, he could bear it no longer, and fairly quitted the place.
Should the Colonel see this, will he remember the Gent who asked him if he thought Publicoaler was a fine writer, and drove him from the Hotel with a four-pronged fork?
There are relative and positive Snobs. I mean by positive, such persons as are Snobs everywhere, in all companies, from morning till night, from youth to the grave, being by Nature endowed with Snobbishness and others who are Snobs only in certain circumstances and relations of life.
For instance: I once knew a man who committed before me an act as atrocious as that which I have indicated in the last chapter as performed by me for the purpose of disgusting Colonel Snobley; viz, the using the fork in the guise of a toothpick. I once, I say, knew a man who, dining in my company at the ‘Europa Coffee-house,’ (opposite the Grand Opera, and, as everybody knows, the only decent place for dining at Naples,) ate peas with the assistance of his knife. He was a person with whose society I was greatly pleased at first, indeed, we had met in the crater of Mount Vesuvius, and were subsequently robbed and held to ransom by brigands in Calabria, which is nothing to the purpose, a man of great powers, excellent heart, and varied information; but I had never before seen him with a dish of pease, and his conduct in regard to them caused me the deepest pain.
After having seen him thus publicly comport himself, but one course was open to me, to cut his acquaintance. I commissioned a mutual friend (the Honourable Poly Anthus) to break the matter to this gentleman as delicately as possible, and to say that painful circumstances, in nowise affecting Mr. Marrowfat’s honour, or my esteem for him had occurred, which obliged me to forego my intimacy with him; and accordingly we met and gave each other the cut direct that night at the Duchess of Monte Fiasco’s ball.
Everybody at Naples remarked the separation of the Damon and Pythias, indeed, Marrowfat had saved my life more than once, but, as an English gentleman, what was I to do?
My dear friend was, in this instance, the Snob RELATIVE. It is not snobbish of persons of rank of any other nation to employ their knife in the manner alluded to. I have seen Monte Fiasco clean his trencher with his knife, and every Principe in company doing likewise. I have seen, at the hospitable board of H.I.H. the Grand Duchess Stephanie of Baden, (who, if these humble lines should come under her Imperial eyes, is besought to remember graciously the most devoted of her servants), I have seen, I say, the Hereditary Princess of Potztausend-Donnerwetter (that serenely-beautiful woman) use her knife in lieu of a fork or spoon; I have seen her almost swallow it, by Jove! like Ramo Samee, the Indian juggler. And did I blench? Did my estimation for the Princess diminish? No, lovely Amalia! One of the truest passions that ever was inspired by woman was raised in this bosom by that lady. Beautiful one! long, long may the knife carry food to those lips! the reddest and loveliest in the world!
The cause of my quarrel with Marrowfat I never breathed to mortal soul for four years. We met in the halls of the aristocracy, our friends and relatives. We jostled each other in the dance or at the board; but the estrangement continued, and seemed irrevocable, until the fourth of June, last year.
We met at Sir George Golloper’s. We were placed, he on the right, your humble servant on the left of the admirable Lady G.. Peas formed part of the banquet, ducks and green peas. I trembled as I saw Marrowfat helped, and turned away sickening, lest I should behold the weapon darting down his horrid jaws.
What was my astonishment, what my delight, when I saw him use his fork like any other Christian! He did not administer the cold steel once. Old times rushed back upon me, the remembrance of old services, his rescuing me from the brigands, his gallant conduct in the affair with the Countess Dei Spinachi, his lending me the 1,700L. I almost burst into tears with joy, my voice trembled with emotion. ‘George, my boy!’ I exclaimed, ‘George Marrowfat, my dear fellow! a glass of wine!’
Blushing, deeply moved, almost as tremulous as I was myself, George answered, ‘FRANK, SHALL IT BE HOCK OR MADEIRA? I could have hugged him to my heart but for the presence of the company. Little did Lady Golloper know what was the cause of the emotion which sent the duckling I was carving into her ladyship’s pink satin lap. The most good-natured of women pardoned the error, and the butler removed the bird.
We have been the closest friends over since, nor, of course, has George repeated his odious habit. He acquired it at a country school, where they cultivated peas and only used two-pronged forks, and it was only by living on the Continent where the usage of the four-prong is general, that he lost the horrible custom.
In this point, and in this only, I confess myself a member of the Silver-Fork School; and if this tale but induce one of my readers to pause, to examine in his own mind solemnly, and ask, ‘Do I or do I not eat peas with a knife?’, to see the ruin which may fall upon himself by continuing the practice, or his family by beholding the example, these lines will not have been written in vain. And now, whatever other authors may be, I flatter myself, it will be allowed that I, at least, am a moral man.
By the way, as some readers are dull of comprehension, I may as well say what the moral of this history is. The moral is this, Society having ordained certain customs, men are bound to obey the law of society, and conform to its harmless orders.
If I should go to the British and Foreign Institute (and heaven forbid I should go under any pretext or in any costume whatever), if I should go to one of the tea-parties in a dressing-gown and slippers, and not in the usual attire of a gentleman, viz, pumps, a gold waistcoat, a crush hat, a sham frill, and a white choker, I should be insulting society, and EATING PEASE WITH MY KNIFE. Let the porters of the Institute hustle out the individual who shall so offend. Such an offender is, as regards society, a most emphatical and refractory Snob. It has its code and police as well as governments, and he must conform who would profit by the decrees set forth for their common comfort.
I am naturally averse to egotism, and hate selflaudation consumedly; but I can’t help relating here a circumstance illustrative of the point in question, in which I must think I acted with considerable prudence.
Being at Constantinople a few years since (on a delicate mission), the Russians were playing a double game, between ourselves, and it became necessary on our part to employ an EXTRA NEGOTIATOR, Leckerbiss Pasha of Roumelia, then Chief Galeongee of the Porte, gave a diplomatic banquet at his summer palace at Bujukdere. I was on the left of the Galeongee, and the Russian agent, Count de Diddloff, on his dexter side. Diddloff is a dandy who would die of a rose in aromatic pain: he had tried to have me assassinated three times in the course of the negotiation; but of course, we were friends in public, and saluted each other in the most cordial and charming manner.
The Galeongee is, or was, alas! for a bow-string has done for him, a staunch supporter of the old school of Turkish politics. We dined with our fingers, and had flaps of bread for plates; the only innovation he admitted was the use of European liquors, in which he indulged with great gusto.
He was an enormous eater. Amongst the dishes a very large one was placed before him of a lamb dressed in its wool, stuffed with prunes, garlic, assafoetida, capsicums, and other condiments, the most abominable mixture that ever mortal smelt or tasted.
The Galeongee ate of this hugely; and pursuing the Eastern fashion, insisted on helping his friends right and left, and when he came to a particularly spicy morsel, would push it with his own hands into his guests’ very mouths.
I never shall forget the look of poor Diddloff, when his Excellency, rolling up a large quantity of this into a ball and exclaiming, ‘Buk Buk’ (it is very good), administered the horrible bolus to Diddloff. The Russian’s eyes rolled dreadfully as he received it: he swallowed it with a grimace that I thought must precede a convulsion, and seizing a bottle next him, which he thought was Sauterne, but which turned out to be French brandy, he drank off nearly a pint before he know his error. It finished him; he was carried away from the dining-room almost dead, and laid out to cool in a summer-house on the Bosphorus.
When it came to my turn, I took down the condiment with a smile, said ‘Bismillah,’ licked my lips with easy gratification, and when the next dish was served, made up a ball myself so dexterously, and popped it down the old Galeongee’s mouth with so much grace, that his heart was won. Russia was put out of court at once and THE TREATY of Kabobanople WAS SIGNED. As for Diddloff, all was over with HIM: he was recalled to St. Petersburg, and Sir Roderick Murchison saw him, under the No. 3967, working in the Ural mines.
The moral of this tale, I need not say, is, that there are many disagreeable things in society which you are bound to take down, and to do so with a smiling face.
Long since at the commencement of the reign of her present Gracious Majesty, it chanced ‘on a fair summer evening,’ as Mr. James would say, that three or four young cavaliers were drinking a cup of wine after dinner at the hostelry called the ‘King’s Arms,’ kept by Mistress Anderson, in the royal village of Kensington. ‘Twas a balmy evening, and the wayfarers looked out on a cheerful scene. The tall elms of the ancient gardens were in full leaf, and countless chariots of the nobility of England whirled by to the neighbouring palace, where princely Sussex (whose income latterly only allowed him to give tea-parties) entertained his royal niece at a state banquet. When the caroches of the nobles had set down their owners at the banquethall, their varlets and servitors came to quaff a flagon of nut-brown ale in the ‘King’s Arms’ gardens hard by. We watched these fellows from our lattice. By Saint Boniface ‘twas a rare sight!
The tulips in Mynheer Van Dunck’s gardens were not more gorgeous than the liveries of these pie-coated retainers. All the flowers of the field bloomed in their ruffled bosoms, all the hues of the rainbow gleamed in their plush breeches, and the long-caned ones walked up and down the garden with that charming solemnity, that delightful quivering swagger of the calves, which has always had a frantic fascination for us. The walk was not wide enough for them as the shoulder-knots strutted up and down it in canary, and crimson, and light blue.
Suddenly, in the midst of their pride, a little bell was rung, a side door opened, and (after setting down their Royal Mistress) her Majesty’s own crimson footmen, with epaulets and black plushes, came in.
It was pitiable to see the other poor Johns slink off at this arrival! Not one of the honest private Plushes could stand up before the Royal Flunkeys. They left the walk: they sneaked into dark holes and drank their beer in silence. The Royal Plush kept possession of the garden until the Royal Plush dinner was announced, when it retired, and we heard from the pavilion where they dined, conservative cheers, and speeches, and Kentish fires. The other Flunkeys we never saw more.
My dear Flunkeys, so absurdly conceited at one moment and so abject at the next, are but the types of their masters in this world. HE WHO MEANLY ADMIRES MEAN THINGS IS A SNOB, perhaps that is a safe definition of the character.
And this is why I have, with the utmost respect, ventured to place The Snob Royal at the head of my list, causing all others to give way before him, as the Flunkeys before the royal representative in Kensington Gardens. To say of such and such a Gracious Sovereign that he is a Snob, is but to say that his Majesty is a man. Kings, too, are men and Snobs. In a country where Snobs are in the majority, a prime one, surely, cannot be unfit to govern. With us they have succeeded to admiration.
For instance, James I. was a Snob, and a Scotch Snob, than which the world contains no more offensive creature. He appears to have had not one of the good qualities of a man, neither courage, nor generosity, nor honesty, nor brains; but read what the great Divines and Doctors of England said about him! Charles II., his grandson, was a rogue, but not a Snob; whilst Louis XIV., his old squaretoes of a contemporary, the great worshipper of Bigwiggery, has always struck me as a most undoubted and Royal Snob.
I will not, however, take instances from our own country of Royal Snobs, but refer to a neighbouring kingdom, that of Brentford, and its monarch, the late great and lamented Gorgius IV. With the same humility with which the footmen at the ‘King’s Arms’ gave way before the Plush Royal, the aristocracy of the Brentford nation bent down and truckled before Gorgius, and proclaimed him the first gentleman in Europe. And it’s a wonder to think what is the gentlefolks’ opinion of a gentleman, when they gave Gorgius such a title.
What is it to be a gentleman? Is it to be honest, to be gentle, to be generous, to be brave, to be wise, and, possessing all these qualities, to exercise them in the most graceful outward manner? Ought a gentleman to be a loyal son, a true husband, and honest father? Ought his life to be decent, his bills to be paid, his tastes to be high and elegant, his aims in life lofty and noble? In a word, ought not the Biography of a First Gentleman in Europe to be of such a nature that it might be read in Young Ladies’ Schools with advantage, and studied with profit in the Seminaries of Young Gentlemen? I put this question to all instructors of youth, to Mrs. Ellis and the Women of England; to all schoolmasters, from Doctor Hawtrey down to Mr. Squeers. I conjure up before me an awful tribunal of youth and innocence, attended by its venerable instructors (like the ten thousand red-cheeked charity-children in Saint Paul’s), sitting in judgment, and Gorgius pleading his cause in the midst. Out of Court, out of Court, fat old Florizel! Beadles, turn out that bloated, pimple-faced man! If Gorgius MUST have a statue in the new Palace which the Brentford nation is building, it ought to be set up in the Flunkeys’ Hall. He should be represented cutting out a coat, in which art he is said to have excelled. He also invented Maraschino punch, a shoe-buckle (this was in the vigour of his youth, and the prime force of his invention), and a Chinese pavilion, the most hideous building in the world. He could drive a four-in-hand very nearly as well as the Brighton coachman, could fence elegantly, and it is said, played the fiddle well. And he smiled with such irresistible fascination, that persons who were introduced into his august presence became his victims, body and soul, as a rabbit becomes the prey of a great big boa-constrictor.
I would wager that if Mr. Widdicomb were, by a revolution, placed on the throne of Brentford, people would be equally fascinated by his irresistibly majestic smile and tremble as they knelt down to kiss his hand. If he went to Dublin they would erect an obelisk on the spot where he first landed, as the Paddylanders did when Gorgius visited them. We have all of us read with delight that story of the King’s voyage to Haggisland, where his presence inspired such a fury of loyalty and where the most famous man of the country, the Baron of Bradwardine, coming on board the royal yacht, and finding a glass out of which Gorgius had drunk, put it into his coatpocket as an inestimable relic, and went ashore in his boat again. But the Baron sat down upon the glass and broke it, and cut his coat-tails very much; and the inestimable relic was lost to the world for ever. O noble Bradwardine! what old-world superstition could set you on your knees before such an idol as that?
If you want to moralise upon the mutability of human affairs, go and see the figure of Gorgius in his real, identical robes, at the waxwork. Admittance one shilling. Children and flunkeys sixpence. Go, and pay sixpence.
Last Sunday week, being at church in this city, and the service just ended, I heard two Snobs conversing about the Parson. One was asking the other who the clergyman was? ‘He is Mr. So-and-so,’ the second Snob answered, ‘domestic chaplain to the Earl of What-d’ye-call’im.’ ‘Oh, is he’ said the first Snob, with a tone of indescribable satisfaction. The Parson’s orthodoxy and identity were at once settled in this Snob’s mind. He knew no more about the Earl than about the Chaplain, but he took the latter’s character upon the authority of the former; and went home quite contented with his Reverence, like a little truckling Snob.
This incident gave me more matter for reflection even than the sermon: and wonderment at the extent and prevalence of Lordolatory in this country. What could it matter to Snob whether his Reverence were chaplain to his Lordship or not? What Peerageworship there is all through this free country! How we are all implicated in it, and more or less down on our knees. And with regard to the great subject on hand, I think that the influence of the Peerage upon Snobbishness has been more remarkable than that of any other institution. The increase, encouragement, and maintenance of Snobs are among the ‘priceless services,’ as Lord John Russell says, which we owe to the nobility.
It can’t be otherwise. A man becomes enormously rich, or he jobs successfully in the aid of a Minister, or he wins a great battle, or executes a treaty, or is a clever lawyer who makes a multitude of fees and ascends the bench; and the country rewards him forever with a gold coronet (with more or less balls or leaves) and a title, and a rank as legislator. ‘Your merits are so great,’ says the nation, ‘that your children shall be allowed to reign over us, in a manner. It does not in the least matter that your eldest son be a fool: we think your services so remarkable, that he shall have the reversion of your honours when death vacates your noble shoes. If you are poor, we will give you such a sum of money as shall enable you and the eldest-born of your race for ever to live in fat and splendour. It is our wish that there should be a race set apart in this happy country, who shall hold the first rank, have the first prizes and chances in all government jobs and patronages. We cannot make all your dear children Peers, that would make Peerage common and crowd the House of Lords uncomfortably, but the young ones shall have everything a Government can give: they shall get the pick of all the places: they shall be Captains and Lieutenant-Colonels at nineteen, when hoary-headed old lieutenants are spending thirty years at drill: they shall command ships at one-and-twenty, and veterans who fought before they were born. And as we are eminently a free people, and in order to encourage all men to do their duty, we say to any man of any rank, get enormously rich, make immense fees as a lawyer, or great speeches, or distinguish yourself and win battles, and you, even you, shall come into the privileged class, and your children shall reign naturally over ours.’
How can we help Snobbishness, with such a prodigious national institution erected for its worship? How can we help cringing to Lords? Flesh and blood can’t do otherwise. What man can withstand this prodigious temptation? Inspired by what is called a noble emulation, some people grasp at honours and win them; others, too weak or mean, blindly admire and grovel before those who have gained them; others, not being able to acquire them, furiously hate, abuse, and envy. There are only a few bland and not-in-the-least-conceited philosophers, who can behold the state of society, viz., Toadyism, organised: base Man-and-Mammon worship, instituted by command of law: Snobbishness, in a word, perpetuated, and mark the phenomenon calmly. And of these calm moralists, is there one, I wonder, whose heart would not throb with pleasure if he could be seen walking arm-in-arm with a couple of dukes down Pall Mall? No, it is impossible in our condition of society, not to be sometimes a Snob.
On one hand, it encourages the commoner to be snobbishly mean, and the noble to be snobbishly arrogant. When a noble marchioness writes in her travels about the hard necessity under which steam-boat travellers labour of being brought into contact ‘with all sorts and conditions of people:’ implying that a fellowship with God’s creatures is disagreeable to her Ladyship, who is their superior: when, I say, the Marchioness of —— writes in this fashion, we must consider that out of her natural heart it would have been impossible for any woman to have had such a sentiment; but that the habit of truckling and cringing, which all who surround her have adopted towards this beautiful and magnificent lady, this proprietor of so many black and other diamonds, has really induced her to believe that she is the superior of the world in general: and that people are not to associate with her except awfully at a distance. I recollect being once at the city of Grand Cairo, through which a European Royal Prince was passing India-wards. One night at the inn there was a great disturbance: a man had drowned himself in the well hard by: all the inhabitants of the hotel came bustling into the Court, and amongst others your humble servant, who asked of a certain young man the reason of the disturbance. How was I to know that this young gent was a prince? He had not his crown and sceptre on: he was dressed in a white jacket and felt hat: but he looked surprised at anybody speaking to him: answered an unintelligible monosyllable, and, BECKONED HIS AID-DE-CAMP TO COME AND SPEAK TO ME. It is our fault, not that of the great, that they should fancy themselves so far above us. If you WILL fling yourself under the wheels, Juggernaut will go over you, depend upon it; and if you and I, my dear friend, had Kotow performed before us every day, found people whenever we appeared grovelling in slavish adoration, we should drop into the airs of superiority quite naturally, and accept the greatness with which the world insisted upon endowing us.
Here is an instance, out of Lord L——’s travels, of that calm, good-natured, undoubting way in which a great man accepts the homage of his inferiors. After making some profound and ingenious remarks about the town of Brussells, his lordship says: ’Staying some day at the Hotel de Belle Vue, a greatly overrated establishment, and not nearly as comfortable as the Hotel de France, I made acquaintance with Dr. L——, the physician of the Mission. He was desirous of doing the honours of the place to me, and he ordered for us a DINER EN GOURMAND at the chief restaurateur’s, maintaining it surpassed the Rocher at Paris. Six or eight partook of the entertainment, and we all agreed it was infinitely inferior to the Paris display, and much more extravagant. So much for the copy.
And so much for the gentleman who gave the dinner. Dr. L——, desirous to do his lordship ‘the honour of the place,’ feasts him with the best victuals money can procure—and my lord finds the entertainment extravagant and inferior. Extravagant! it was not extravagant to HIM; Inferior! Mr. L—— did his best to satisfy those noble jaws, and my lord receives the entertainment, and dismisses the giver with a rebuke. It is like a three-tailed Pasha grumbling about an unsatisfactory backsheesh.
But how should it be otherwise in a country where Lordolatry is part of our creed, and where our children are brought up to respect the ‘Peerage’ as the Englishman’s second Bible?
Example is the best of precepts; so, let us begin with a true and authentic story, showing how young aristocratic snobs are reared, and how early their Snobbishness may be made to bloom. A beautiful and fashionable lady (pardon, gracious madam, that your story should be made public; but it is so moral that it ought to be known to the universal world), told me that in her early youth she had a little acquaintance, who is now indeed a beautiful and fashionable lady too. In mentioning Miss Snobky, daughter of Sir Snobby Snobky, whose presentation at Court caused such a sensation, need I say more?
When Miss Snobky was so very young as to be in the nursery regions, and to walk off early mornings in St. James’s Park, protected by a French governess and followed by a huge hirsute flunkey in the canary coloured livery of the Snobkys, she used occasionally in these promenades to meet with young Lord Claude Lollipop, the Marquis of Sillabub’s younger son. In the very height of the season, from some unexplained cause, the Snobkys suddenly determined upon leaving town. Miss Snobky spoke to her female friend and confidante. ‘What will poor Claude Lollipop say when he hears of my absence?’ asked the tender-hearted child.
‘Oh, perhaps he won’t hear of it,’ answers the confidante.
‘MY DEAR, HE WILL READ IT IN THE PAPERS,’ replied the dear little fashionable rogue of seven years old. She knew already her importance, and how all the world of England, how all the would-be-genteel people, how all the silver-fork worshippers, how all the tattle-mongers, how all the grocers’ ladies, the tailors’ ladies, the attorneys’ and merchants’ ladies, and the people living at Clapham and Brunswick Square, who have no more chance of consorting with a Snobky than my beloved reader has of dining with the Emperor of China, yet watched the movements of the Snobkys with interest and were glad to know when they came to London and left it.
Here is the account of Miss Snobky’s dress, and that of her mother, Lady Snobky, from the papers:
Habit de Cour, composed of a yellow nankeen illusion dress over a slip of rich pea-green corduroy, trimmed en tablier, with bouquets of Brussels sprouts: the body and sleeves handsomely trimmed with calimanco, and festooned with a pink train and white radishes. Head-dress, carrots and lappets.
‘Costume de Cour, composed of a train of the most superb Pekin bandannas, elegantly trimmed with spangles, tinfoil, and red-tape. Bodice and underdress of sky-blue velveteen, trimmed with bouffants and noeuds of bell-pulls. Stomacher a muffin. Head-dress a bird’s nest, with a bird of paradise, over a rich brass knocker en ferroniere. This splendid costume, by Madame Crinoline, of Regent Street, was the object of universal admiration.’
This is what you read. Oh, Mrs. Ellis! Oh, mothers, daughters, aunts, grandmothers of England, this is the sort of writing which is put in the newspapers for you! How can you help being the mothers, daughters, &c. of Snobs, so long as this balderdash is set before you?
You stuff the little rosy foot of a Chinese young lady of fashion into a slipper that is about the size of a salt-cruet, and keep the poor little toes there imprisoned and twisted up so long that the dwarfishness becomes irremediable. Later, the foot would not expand to the natural size were you to give her a washing-tub for a shoe and for all her life she has little feet, and is a cripple. Oh, my dear Miss Wiggins, thank your stars that those beautiful feet of yours, though I declare when you walk they are so small as to be almost invisible, thank your stars that society never so practised upon them; but look around and see how many friends of ours in the highest circles have had their BRAINS so prematurely and hopelessly pinched and distorted.
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