Vivian Grey, by Benjamin Disraeli

Chapter 2

A few days after the dinner at Mr. Grey’s, as the Marquess of Carabas was sitting in his library, and sighing, in the fulness of his ennui, as he looked on his large library table, once triply covered with official communications, now thinly besprinkled with a stray parliamentary paper or two, his steward’s accounts, and a few letters from some grumbling tenants, Mr. Vivian Grey was announced.

“I fear I am intruding on your Lordship, but I really could not refrain from bringing you the receipt I promised.”

“Most happy to see ye, most happy to see ye.”

“This is exactly the correct receipt, my Lord. TO EVERY TWO BOTTLES OF STILL CHAMPAGNE, ONE PINT OF CURAÇOA.” The Peer’s eyes glistened, and his companion proceeded; “ONE PINT OF CURAÇOA; CATCH THE AROMA OF A POUND OF GREEN TEA, AND DASH THE WHOLE WITH GLENLIVET.”

“Splendid!” ejaculated the Marquess.

“The nice point, however, which it is impossible to define in a receipt, is catching the aroma. What sort of a genius is your Lordship’s chêf?”

“First-rate! Laporte is a genius.”

“Well, my Lord! I shall be most happy to superintend the first concoction for you; and remember particularly,” said Vivian, rising, “remember it must be iced.”

“Certainly, my dear fellow; but pray don’t think of going yet.”

“I am very sorry, my Lord; but such a pressure of engagements; your Lordship’s kindness is so great, and, really, I fear, that at this moment especially, your Lordship can scarcely be in a humour for my trifling.”

“Why this moment especially, Mr. Vivian Grey?”

“Oh, my Lord! I am perfectly aware of your Lordship’s talents for business; but still I had conceived, that the delicate situation in which your Lordship is now placed, requiring such anxious attention such — ”

“Delicate situation! anxious attention! why man! you speak riddles. I certainly have a great deal of business to transact: people are so obstinate, or so foolish, they will consult me, certainly; and certainly I feel it my duty, Mr. Vivian Grey; I feel it the duty, sir of every Peer in this happy country (here his Lordship got parliamentary): yes, sir, I feel it due to my character, to my family, to, to, to assist with my advice all those who think fit to consult me.” Splendid peroration!

“Oh, my Lord!” carelessly remarked Vivian, “I thought it was a mere on dit.”

“Thought what, my dear sir? you really quite perplex me.”

“I mean to say, my Lord; I, I thought it was impossible the overtures had been made.”

“Overtures, Mr. Vivian Grey?”

“Yes, my Lord! Overtures; has not your Lordship seen the Post. But I knew it was impossible; I said so, I— ”

“Said what, Mr. Vivian Grey?”

“Said that the whole paragraph was unfounded.”

“Paragraph! what paragraph?” and his Lordship rose, and rang the library bell with vehemence: “Sadler, bring me the Morning Post.”

The servant entered with the paper. Mr. Vivian Grey seized it from his hands before it reached the Marquess, and glancing his eye over it with the rapidity of lightning, doubled up the sheet in a convenient readable form, and pushing it into his Lordship’s hands, exclaimed, “There, my Lord! there, that will explain all.”

His Lordship read:

“We are informed that some alteration in the composition of the present administration is in contemplation; Lord Past Century, it is said, will retire; Mr. Liberal Principles will have the —; and Mr. Charlatan Gas the — . A noble Peer, whose practised talents have already benefited the nation, and who, on vacating his seat in the Cabinet, was elevated in the Peerage, is reported as having had certain overtures made him, the nature of which may be conceived, but which, under present circumstances, it would be indelicate in us to hint at.”

It would have been impossible for a hawk to watch its quarry with eyes of more fixed and anxious earnestness than did Vivian Grey the Marquess of Carabas, as his Lordship’s eyes wandered over the paragraph. Vivian drew his chair close to the table opposite to the Marquess, and when the paragraph was read, their eyes met.

“Utterly untrue,” whispered the Peer, with an agitated voice, and with a countenance which, for a moment, seemed intellectual.

“But why Mr. Vivian Grey should deem the fact of such overtures having been made ‘impossible,’ I confess, astonishes me.”

“Impossible, my Lord!”

“Ay, Mr. Grey, impossible, that was your word.”

“Oh, my Lord! what should I know about these matters?”

“Nay, nay, Mr. Grey, something must have been floating in your mind: why impossible, why impossible? Did your father think so?”

“My father! Oh! no, he never thinks about these matters; ours is not a political family; I am not sure that he ever looks at a newspaper.”

“But, my dear Mr. Grey, you would not have used the word without some meaning. Why did you think it impossible? impossible is such a peculiar word.” And here the Marquess looked up with great earnestness to a portrait of himself, which hung over the fire-place. It was one of Sir Thomas’s happiest efforts; but it was not the happiness of the likeness, or the beauty of the painting, which now attracted his Lordship’s attention; he thought only of the costume in which he appeared in that portrait: the court dress of a Cabinet Minister. “Impossible, Mr. Grey, you must confess, is a very peculiar word,” reiterated his Lordship.

“I said impossible, my Lord, because I did conceive, that had your Lordship been of a disposition to which such overtures might have been made with any probability of success, the Marquess of Carabas would have been in a situation which would have precluded the possibility of those overtures being made at all.”

“Hah!” and the Marquess nearly started from his seat.

“Yes, my Lord, I am a young, an inexperienced young man, ignorant of the world’s ways; doubtless I was wrong, but I have much to learn,” and his voice faltered; “but I did conceive, that having power at his command, the Marquess of Carabas did not exercise it, merely because he despised it: but what should I know of such matters, my Lord?”

“Is power a thing so easily to be despised, young man?” asked the Marquess. His eye rested on a vote of thanks from the “Merchants and Bankers of London to the Right Honourable Sydney Lorraine, President, &c., &c., &c.,” which, splendidly emblazoned, and gilt, and framed, and glazed, was suspended opposite the President’s portrait.

“Oh, no! my Lord, you mistake me,” eagerly burst forth Vivian. “I am no cold-blooded philosopher that would despise that, for which, in my opinion, men, real men, should alone exist. Power! Oh! what sleepless nights, what days of hot anxiety! what exertions of mind and body! what travel! what hatred! what fierce encounters! what dangers of all possible kinds, would I not endure with a joyous spirit to gain it! But such, my Lord, I thought were feelings peculiar to inexperienced young men: and seeing you, my Lord, so situated, that you might command all and everything, and yet living as you do, I was naturally led to believe that the object of my adoration was a vain glittering bauble, of which those who could possess it, knew the utter worthlessness.”

The Peer sat in a musing mood, playing the Devil’s tattoo on the library table; at last he raised his eyes, and said in a low whisper, “Are you so certain that I can command all and everything?”

“All and everything! did I say all and everything? Really, my Lord, you scan my expressions so critically! but I see your Lordship is smiling at my boyish nonsense! and really I feel that I have already wasted too much of your Lordship’s valuable time, and displayed too much of my own ignorance.”

“My dear sir! I am not aware that I was smiling.”

“Oh! your Lordship is so very kind.”

“But, my dear sir! you are really labouring under a great mistake. I am desirous, I am particularly desirous, of having your opinion upon this subject.”

“My opinion, my Lord! what should my opinion be, but an echo of the circle in which I live, but a faithful representation of the feelings of general society?”

“And, Mr. Grey, I should be glad to know what can possibly be more interesting to me than a faithful representation of the feelings of general society on this subject?”

“The many, my Lord, are not always right.”

“Mr. Grey, the many are not often wrong. Come, my dear sir, do me the favour of being frank, and let me know why the public is of opinion that all and everything are in my power, for such, after all, were your words.”

“If I did use them, my Lord, it was because I was thinking, as I often do, what, after all, in this country is public life? Is it not a race in which the swiftest must surely win the prize; and is not that prize power? Has not your Lordship treasure? There is your moral steam which can work the world. Has not your Lordship’s treasure most splendid consequence, pure blood and aristocratic influence? The Millionaire has in his possession the seeds of everything, but he must wait for half a century till his descendant finds himself in your Lordship’s state; till he is yclept noble, and then he starts fair in the grand course. All these advantages your Lordship has apparently at hand, with the additional advantage (and one, oh! how great!) of having already proved to your country that you know how to rule.”

There was a dead silence, which at length the Marquess broke. “There is much in what you say; but I cannot conceal it from myself, I have no wish to conceal it from you; I am not what I was.” O, ambition! art thou the parent of truth?

“Ah! my Lord!” eagerly rejoined Vivian, “here is the terrible error into which you great statesmen have always fallen. Think you not, that intellect is as much a purchasable article as fine parks and fair castles? With your Lordship’s tried and splendid talents, everything might be done; but, in my opinion, if, instead of a practised, an experienced, and wary Statesman, I was now addressing an idiot Earl, I should not see that the great end might not equally be consummated.”

“Say you so, my merry man, and how?”

“Why, my Lord: but, but, I feel that I am trespassing on your Lordship’s time, otherwise I think I could show why society is of opinion that your Lordship can do all and everything; how, indeed, your Lordship might, in a very short time, be Prime Minister.”

“No, Mr. Grey; this conversation must be finished. I will just give orders that we may not be disturbed, and then we shall proceed immediately. Come, now! your manner takes me, and we shall converse in the spirit of the most perfect confidence.”

Here, as the Marquess settled at the same time his chair and his countenance, and looked as anxious as if Majesty itself were consulting him on the formation of a ministry, in burst the Marchioness, notwithstanding all the remonstrances, entreaties, threats, and supplications of Mr. Sadler.

Her Ladyship had been what they style a splendid woman; that was now past, although, with the aid of cashmeres, diamonds, and turbans, her general appearance was still striking. Her Ladyship was not remarkable for anything save a correct taste for poodles, parrots, and bijouterie, and a proper admiration of Theodore Hook and John Bull.

“Oh! Marquess,” exclaimed her Ladyship, and a favourite green parrot, which came flying in after its accustomed perch, her Ladyship’s left shoulder, shrieked at the same time in concert, “Oh! Marquess, my poor Julie! You know we have noticed how nervous she has been for some days past, and I had just given her a saucer of arrow-root and milk, and she seemed a little easier, and I said to Miss Graves. ‘I really do think she is a leetle better’ and Miss Graves said, ‘Yes, my Lady, I hope she is; ‘when just as we flattered ourselves that the dear little creature was enjoying a quiet sleep, Miss Graves called out, ‘Oh, my Lady! my Lady! Julie’s in a fit!’ and when I turned round she was lying on her back, kicking, with her eyes shut.’ And here the Marchioness detected Mr. Grey, and gave him as sublime a stare as might be expected from a lady patroness of Almack’s.

“The Marchioness, Mr. Vivian Grey, my love, I assure you we are engaged in a most important, a most — ”

“Oh! I would not disturb you for the world, only if you will just tell me what you think ought to be done; leeches, or a warm bath; or shall I send for Doctor Blue Pill?”

The Marquess looked a little annoyed, as if he wished her Ladyship in her own room again. He was almost meditating a gentle reprimand, vexed that his grave young friend should have witnessed this frivolous intrusion, when that accomplished stripling, to the astonishment of the future minister, immediately recommended “the warm bath,” and then lectured, with equal rapidity and erudition, on dogs, and their diseases In general.

The Marchioness retired, “easier in her mind about Julie than she had been for some days,” as Vivian assured her “that it was not apoplexy, but only the first symptom of an epidemic.” And as she retired, she murmured her gratitude gracefully to Julie’s young physician.

“Now, Mr. Grey,” said his Lordship, endeavouring to recover his dignity, “we were discussing the public sentiments you know on a certain point, when this unfortunate interruption — ”

Vivian had not much difficulty in collecting his ideas, and he proceeded, not as displeased as his Lordship with the domestic scene.

“I need not remind your Lordship that the two great parties into which this State is divided are apparently very unequally proportioned. Your Lordship well knows how the party to which your Lordship is said to belong: your Lordship knows, I imagine, how that is constituted. We have nothing to do with the other. My Lord, I must speak out. No thinking man, and such, I trust, Vivian Grey is, no thinking man can for a moment suppose, that your Lordship’s heart is very warm in the cause of a party, which, for I will not mince my words, has betrayed you. How is it, it is asked by thinking men, how is it that the Marquess of Carabas is the tool of a faction?”

The Marquess breathed aloud, “They say so, do they?”

“Why, my Lord, listen even to your servants in your own hall, need I say more? How, then! is this opinion true? Let us look to your conduct to the party to which you are said to belong. Your votes are theirs, your influence is theirs; and for all this, what return, my Lord Marquess, what return? My Lord, I am not rash enough to suppose, that your Lordship, alone and unsupported, can make yourself the arbiter of this country’s destinies. It would be ridiculous to entertain such an idea for a second. The existence of such a man would not be endured by the nation for a second. But, my Lord, union is strength. Nay, my Lord, start not; I am not going to advise you to throw yourself into the arms of opposition; leave such advice for greenhorns. I am not going to adopt a line of conduct, which would, for a moment, compromise the consistency of your high character; leave such advice for fools. My Lord, it is to preserve your consistency, it is to vindicate your high character, it is to make the Marquess of Carabas perform the duties which society requires from him, that I, Vivian Grey, a member of that society, and an humble friend of your Lordship, speak so boldly.”

“My friend,” said the agitated Peer, “you cannot speak too boldly. My mind opens to you. I have felt, I have long felt, that I was not what I ought to be, that I was not what society requires me to be; but where is your remedy? what is the line of conduct that I should pursue?”

“The remedy, my Lord! I never conceived, for a moment, that there was any doubt of the existence of means to attain all and everything. I think that was your Lordship’s phrase. I only hesitated as to the existence of the inclination on the part of your Lordship.”

“You cannot doubt it now,” said the Peer, in a low voice; and then his Lordship looked anxiously round the room, as if he feared that there had been some mysterious witness to his whisper.

“My Lord,” said Vivian, and he drew his chair close to the Marquess, “the plan is shortly this. There are others in a similar situation with yourself. All thinking men know, your Lordship knows still better, that there are others equally influential, equally ill-treated. How is it that I see no concert, among these individuals? How is it that, jealous of each other, or each trusting that he may ultimately prove an exception to the system of which he is a victim; how is it, I say, that you look with cold hearts on each other’s situation? My Lord Marquess, it is at the head of these that I would place you, it is these that I would have act with you; and this is the union which is strength.”

“You are right, you are right; there is Courtown, but we do not speak; there is Beaconsfield, but we are not intimate: but much might be done.”

“My Lord, you must not be daunted at a few difficulties, or at a little exertion. But as for Courtown, or Beaconsfield, or fifty other offended men, if it can be shown to them that their interest is to be your Lordship’s friend, trust me, that ere six months are over, they will have pledged their troth. Leave all this to me, give me your Lordship’s name,” said Vivian, whispering most earnestly in the Marquess’s ear, and laying his hand upon his Lordship’s arm; “give me your Lordship’s name, and your Lordship’s influence, and I will take upon myself the whole organisation of the Carabas party.”

“The Carabas party! Ah! we must think more of this.”

The Marquess’s eyes smiled with triumph, as he shook Vivian cordially by the hand, and begged him to call upon him on the morrow.

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