Endymion, by Benjamin Disraeli

Chapter 42

Endymion had now passed three years of his life in London, and considering the hard circumstances under which he had commenced this career, he might on the whole look back to those years without dissatisfaction. Three years ago he was poor and friendless, utterly ignorant of the world, and with nothing to guide him but his own good sense. His slender salary had not yet been increased, but with the generosity and aid of his sister and the liberality of Mr. Vigo, he was easy in his circumstances. Through the Rodneys, he had become acquainted with a certain sort of miscellaneous life, a knowledge of which is highly valuable to a youth, but which is seldom attained without risk. Endymion, on the contrary, was always guarded from danger. Through his most unexpected connection with the Neuchatel family, he had seen something of life in circles of refinement and high consideration, and had even caught glimpses of that great world of which he read so much and heard people talk more, the world of the Lord Roehamptons and the Lady Montforts, and all those dazzling people whose sayings and doings form the taste, and supply the conversation, and leaven the existence of admiring or wondering millions.

None of these incidents, however, had induced any change in the scheme of his existence. Endymion was still content with his cleanly and airy garret; still dined at Joe’s; was still sedulous at his office, and always popular with his fellow clerks. Seymour Hicks, indeed, who studied the “Morning Post” with intentness, had discovered the name of Endymion in the elaborate lists of attendants on Mrs. Neuchatel’s receptions, and had duly notified the important event to his colleagues; but Endymion was not severely bantered on the occasion, for, since the withdrawal of St. Barbe from the bureau, the stock of envy at Somerset House was sensibly diminished.

His lodging at the Rodneys’, however, had brought Endymion something more valuable than an innocuous familiarity with their various and suggestive life. In the friendship of Waldershare he found a rich compensation for being withdrawn from his school and deprived of his university. The care of his father had made Endymion a good classical scholar, and he had realised a degree of culture which it delighted the brilliant and eccentric Waldershare to enrich and to complete. Waldershare guided his opinions, and directed his studies, and formed his taste. Alone at night in his garret, there was no solitude, for he had always some book or some periodical, English or foreign, with which Waldershare had supplied him, and which he assured Endymion it was absolutely necessary that he should read and master.

Nor was his acquaintance with Baron Sergius less valuable, or less fruitful of results. He too became interested in Endymion, and poured forth to him, apparently without reserve, all the treasures of his vast experience of men and things, especially with reference to the conduct of external affairs. He initiated him in the cardinal principles of the policies of different nations; he revealed to him the real character of the chief actors in the scene. “The first requisite,” Baron Sergius would say, “in the successful conduct of public affairs is a personal acquaintance with the statesmen engaged. It is possible that events may not depend now, so much as they did a century ago, on individual feeling, but, even if prompted by general principles, their application and management are always coloured by the idiosyncrasy of the chief actors. The great advantage which your Lord Roehampton, for example, has over all his colleagues in la haute politique, is that he was one of your plenipotentiaries at the Congress of Vienna. There he learned to gauge the men who govern the world. Do you think a man like that, called upon to deal with a Metternich or a Pozzo, has no advantage over an individual who never leaves his chair in Downing Street except to kill grouse? Pah! Metternich and Pozzo know very well that Lord Roehampton knows them, and they set about affairs with him in a totally different spirit from that with which they circumvent some statesman who has issued from the barricades of Paris.”

Nor must it be forgotten that his debating society and the acquaintance which he had formed there, were highly beneficial to Endymion. Under the roof of Mr. Bertie Tremaine he enjoyed the opportunity of forming an acquaintance with a large body of young men of breeding, of high education, and full of ambition, that was a substitute for the society, becoming his youth and station, which he had lost by not going to the university.

With all these individuals, and with all their circles, Endymion was a favourite. No doubt his good looks, his mien — which was both cheerful and pensive — his graceful and quiet manners, all told in his favour, and gave him a good start, but further acquaintance always sustained the first impression. He was intelligent and well-informed, without any alarming originality, or too positive convictions. He listened not only with patience but with interest to all, and ever avoided controversy. Here are some of the elements of a man’s popularity.

What was his intellectual reach, and what his real character, it was difficult at this time to decide. He was still very young, only on the verge of his twentieth year; and his character had no doubt been influenced, it might be suppressed, by the crushing misfortunes of his family. The influence of his sister was supreme over him. She had never reconciled herself to their fall. She had existed only on the solitary idea of regaining their position, and she had never omitted an occasion to impress upon him that he had a great mission, and that, aided by her devotion, he would fulfil it. What his own conviction on this subject was may be obscure. Perhaps he was organically of that cheerful and easy nature, which is content to enjoy the present, and not brood over the past. The future may throw light upon all these points; at present it may be admitted that the three years of seemingly bitter and mortifying adversity have not been altogether wanting in beneficial elements in the formation of his character and the fashioning of his future life.

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Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 15:19