Vivian Grey, by Benjamin Disraeli

Chapter 7

The morning sun peeping through the window of the little summer-house roused its inmate at an early hour; and finding no signs of Mr. Beckendorff and his guest having yet risen from their slumbers, Vivian took the opportunity of strolling about the gardens and the grounds. Directing his way along the margin of the river, he soon left the lawn and entered some beautiful meadows, whose dewy verdure glistened in the brightening beams of the early sun. Crossing these, and passing through a gate, he found himself in a rural road, whose lofty hedge-rows, rich with all the varieties of wild fruit and flower, and animated with the cheering presence of the busy birds chirping from every bough and spray, altogether presented a scene which reminded him of the soft beauties of his own country. With some men, to remember is to be sad; and unfortunately for Vivian Grey, there were few objects which with him did not give rise to associations of a painful nature. The strange occurrences of the last few days had recalled, if not revived, the feelings of his boyhood. His early career flitted across his mind. He would have stifled the remembrance with a sigh, but man Is the slave of Memory. For a moment he mused over Power; but then he, shuddering, shrank from the wearing anxiety, the consuming care, the eternal vigilance, the constant contrivance, the agonising suspense, the distracting vicissitudes of his past career. Alas! it is our nature to sicken, from our birth, after some object of unattainable felicity, to struggle through the freshest years of our life in an insane pursuit after some indefinite good, which does not even exist! But sure and quick is the dark hour which cools our doting frenzy in the frigid waves of the ocean of oblivion! We dream of immortality until we die. Ambition! at thy proud and fatal altar we whisper the secrets of our mighty thoughts, and breathe the aspirations of our inexpressible desires. A clouded flame licks up the offering of our ruined souls, and the sacrifice vanishes in the sable smoke of Death.

But where are his thoughts wandering? Had he forgotten that day of darkest despair? There had that happened to him which had happened to no other man. He was roused from his reverie by the sound of a trotting horse. He looked up, but the winding road prevented him at first from seeing the steed which evidently was approaching. The sound came nearer and nearer; and at length, turning a corner, Mr. Beckendorff came in sight. He was mounted on a strong-built, rough, and ugly pony, with an obstinate mane, which, defying the exertion’s of the groom, fell in equal divisions on both sides of its bottle neck, and a large white face, which, combined with its blinking vision, had earned for it the euphonious title of Owlface. Both master and steed must have travelled hard and far, for both were covered with dust and mud from top to toe, from mane to hoof. Mr. Beckendorff seemed surprised at meeting Vivian, and pulled up his pony as he reached him.

“An early riser, I see, sir. Where is Mr. von Philipson?”

“I have not yet seen him, and imagined that both he and yourself had not yet risen.”

“Hum! how many hours is it to noon?” asked Mr. Beckendorff, who always spoke astronomically.

“More than four, I imagine.”

“Pray do you prefer the country about here to Turriparva?”

“Both, I think, are beautiful.”

“You live at Turriparva?” asked Mr. Beckendorff.

“As a guest,” answered Vivian.

“Has it been a fine summer at Turriparva?”

“I believe everywhere.”

“I am afraid Mr. von Philipson finds it rather dull here?”

“I am not aware of it.”

“He seems a ve-ry —?” said Beckendorff, looking keenly in his companion’s face. But Vivian did not supply the desired phrase; and so the Minister was forced to finish the sentence himself, “a very gentlemanlike sort of man?” A low bow was the only response.

“I trust, sir, I may indulge the hope,” continued Mr. Beckendorff, “that you will honour me with your company another day.”

“You are exceedingly obliging!”

“Mr. von Philipson is fond, I think, of a country life?” said Beckendorff.

“Most men are.”

“I suppose he has no innate objection to live occasionally in a city?”

“Few have.”

“You probably have known him long?”

“Not long enough to wish our acquaintance at an end.”

“Hum!”

They proceeded in silence for some moments, and then Beckendorff again turned round, and this time with a direct question.

“I wonder if Mr. Von Philipson can make it convenient to honour me with his company another day. Can you tell me?”

“I think the best person to inform you of that would be his Highness himself,” said Vivian, using his friend’s title purposely to show Mr. Beckendorff how ridiculous he considered his present use of the incognito.

“You think so, sir, do you?” answered Beckendorff, sarcastically.

They had now arrived at the gate by which Vivian had reached the road.

“Your course, sir,” said Mr. Beckendorff, “lies that way. I see, like myself, you are no great talker. We shall meet at breakfast.” So saying, the Minister set spurs to his pony, and was soon out of sight.

When Vivian reached the house, he found the bow window of the library thrown open, and as he approached he saw Mr. Beckendorff enter the room and bow to the prince. His Highness had passed a good night in spite of not sleeping in a bed, and he was at this moment commencing a delicious breakfast. His ill-humour had consequently vanished. He had made up his mind that Beckendorff was mad; and although he had given up all the secret and flattering hopes which he had dared to entertain when the interview was first arranged, he nevertheless did not regret his visit, which on the whole had been amusing, and had made him acquainted with the person and habits, and, as he believed, the intellectual powers of a man with whom, most probably, he should soon be engaged in open hostility. Vivian took his seat at the breakfast, table, and Beckendorff stood conversing with them with his back to the fireplace, and occasionally, during the pauses of conversation, pulling the strings of his violin with his fingers. It did not escape Vivian’s observation that the Minister was particularly courteous and even attentive to the Prince; and that he endeavoured by his quick and more communicative answers, and occasionally by a stray observation, to encourage the good humour visible on the cheerful countenance of his guest.

“Have you been long up, Mr. Beckendorff?” asked the Prince; for his host had resumed his dressing-gown and slippers.

“I generally see the sun rise.”

“And yet you retire late! out riding last night, I understand?”

“I never go to bed.”

“Indeed!” said the Prince. “Well, for my part, without my regular rest I am nothing. Have you breakfasted, Mr. Beckendorff?”

“Clara will bring my breakfast immediately.”

The dame accordingly soon appeared, bearing a tray with a basin of boiling water and one large thick biscuit. This Mr. Beckendorff, having well soaked in the hot fluid, eagerly devoured; and then taking up his violin, amused himself until his guests had finished their breakfast.

When Vivian had ended his meal he left the Prince and Beckendorff alone, determined that his presence should not be the occasion of the Minister any longer retarding the commencement of business. The Prince, who by a private glance had been prepared for his departure, immediately took the opportunity of asking Mr. Beckendorff, in a decisive tone, whether he might flatter himself that he could command his present attention to a subject of importance. Mr. Beckendorff said that he was always at Mr. von Philipson’s service; and drawing a chair opposite him, the Prince and Mr. Beckendorff now sat on each side of the fireplace.

“Hem!” said the Prince, clearing his throat; and he looked at Mr. Beckendorff, who sat with his heels close together, his toes out square, his hands resting on his knees, which, as well as his elbows, were turned out, his shoulders bent, his head reclined, and his eyes glancing.

“Hem!” said the Prince of Little Lilliput. “In compliance, Mr. Beckendorff, with your wish, developed in the communication received by me on the — inst., I assented in my answer to the arrangement then proposed; the object of which was, to use your own words, to facilitate the occurrence of an oral interchange of the sentiments of various parties interested in certain proceedings, by which interchange it was anticipated that the mutual interests might be respectively considered and finally arranged. Prior, Mr. Beckendorff, to either of us going into any detail upon those points of probable discussion, which will, in all likelihood, form the fundamental features of this interview, I wish to recall your attention to the paper which I had the honour of presenting to his Royal Highness, and which is alluded to in your communication of the — lost. The principal heads of that document I have brought with me, abridged in this paper.”

Here the Prince handed to Mr. Beckendorff a MS. pamphlet, consisting of several sheets closely written. The Minister bowed very graciously as he took it from his Highness’ hand, and then, without even looking at it, laid it on the table.

“You, sir, I perceive,” continued the Prince, “are acquainted with its contents; and it will therefore be unnecessary for me at present to expatiate upon their individual expediency, or to argue for their particular adoption. And, sir, when we observe the progress of the human mind, when we take into consideration the quick march of intellect, and the wide expansion of enlightened views and liberal principles; when we take a bird’s-eye view of the history of man from the earliest ages to the present moment, I feel that it would be folly in me to conceive for an instant that the measures developed and recommended in that paper will not finally receive the approbation of his Royal Highness. As to the exact origin of slavery, Mr. Beckendorff, I confess that I am not, at this moment, prepared distinctly to speak. That the Divine Author of our religion was its decided enemy, I am informed, is clear. That the slavery of ancient times was the origin of the feudal service of a more modern period, is a point on which men of learning have not precisely made up their minds. With regard to the exact state of the ancient German people, Tacitus affords us a great deal of most interesting information. Whether or not, certain passages which I have brought with me marked in the Germania are incontestable evidences that our ancestors enjoyed or understood the practice of a wise and well-regulated representative system, is a point on which I shall be happy to receive the opinion of so distinguished a statesman as Mr. Beckendorff. In stepping forward, as I have felt it my duty to do, as the advocate of popular rights and national privileges, I am desirous to prove that I have not become the votary of innovation and the professor of revolutionary doctrines. The passages of the Roman author in question, and an ancient charter of the Emperor Charlemagne, are, I consider, decisive and sufficient precedents for the measures which I have thought proper to sanction by my approval, and to support by my influence. A minister, Mr. Beckendorff, must take care that in the great race of politics the minds of his countrymen do not leave his own behind them. We must never forget the powers and capabilities of man. On this very spot, perhaps, some centuries ago, savages clothed in skins were committing cannibalism in a forest. We must not forget, I repeat, that it is the business to those to whom Providence has allotted the responsible possession of power and influence (that it is their duty, our duty, Mr. Beckendorff), to become guardians of our weaker fellow-creatures; that all power is a trust; that we are accountable for its exercise; that from the people, and for the people, all springs, and all must exist; and that, unless we conduct ourselves with the requisite wisdom, prudence, and propriety, the whole system of society will be disorganised; and this country, in particular, will fall a victim to that system of corruption and misgovernment which has already occasioned the destruction of the great kingdoms mentioned in the Bible, and many other states besides, Greece, Rome, Carthage, &c.”

Thus ended the peroration of an harangue consisting of an incoherent arrangement of imperfectly-remembered facts and misunderstood principles; all gleaned by his Highness from the enlightening articles of the Reisenburg journals. Like Brutus, the Prince of Little Lilliput paused for a reply.

“Mr. von Philipson,” said his companion, when his Highness had finished, “you speak like a man of sense.” Having given this answer, Mr. Beckendorff rose from his seat and walked straight out of the room.

The Prince at first took the answer for a compliment; but Mr. Beckendorff not returning, he began to have a faint idea that he was neglected. In this uncertainty he rang the bell for his friend Clara.

“Mrs. Clara! where is your master?”

“Just gone out, sir.”

“How do you mean?”

“He has gone out with his gun, sir.”

“You are quite sure he has — gone out?”

“Quite sure, sir. I took him his coat and boots myself.”

“I am to understand, then, that your master has gone out?”

“Yes, sir; Mr. Beckendorff has gone out. He will be home for his noon meal.”

“That is enough! Grey!’ called out the indignant Prince, darting into the garden.

“Well, my dear Prince,” said Vivian, “what can possibly be the matter?”

“The matter! Insanity can be the only excuse; insanity can alone account for his preposterous conduct. We have seen enough of him. The repetition of absurdity is only wearisome. Pray assist me in getting our horses immediately.”

“Certainly, if you wish it; but remember you brought me here as your friend and counsellor. As I have accepted the trust, I cannot help being sensible of the responsibility. Before, therefore, you finally resolve upon departure, pray let me be fully acquainted with the circumstances which have impelled you to this sudden resolution.”

“Willingly, my good friend, could I only command my temper; and yet to fall into a passion with a madman is almost a mark of madness. But his manner and his conduct are so provoking and so puzzling, that I cannot altogether repress my irritability. And that ridiculous incognito! Why I sometimes begin to think that I really am Mr. von Philipson! An incognito forsooth! for what? to deceive whom? His household apparently only consists of two persons, one of whom has visited me in my own castle; and the other is a cross old hag, who would not be able to comprehend my rank if she were aware of it. But to the point! When you left the room I was determined to be trifled with no longer, and I asked him, in a firm voice and very marked manner, whether I might command his immediate attention to important business. He professed to be at my service. I opened the affair by taking a cursory, yet definite, review of the principles in which my political conduct had originated, and on which it was founded. I flattered myself that I had produced an impression. Sometimes we are in a better cue for these expositions than at others, and to-day I was really unusually felicitous. My memory never deserted. I was at the same time luminous and profound; and while I was guided by the philosophical spirit of the present day, I showed, by my various reading, that I respected the experience of antiquity. In short, I was satisfied with myself; and with the exception of one single point about the origin of slavery, which unfortunately got entangled with the feudal system, I could not have got on better had Sievers himself been at my side. Nor did I spare Mr. Beckendorff; but, on the contrary, I said a few things which, had he been in his senses, must, I imagine, have gone home. Do you know I finished by drawing his own character, and showing the inevitable effects of his ruinous policy: and what do you think he did?”

“Left you in a passion?”

“Not at all. He seemed much struck by what I had said, and apparently understood it. I have heard that in some species of insanity the patient is perfectly able to comprehend everything addressed to him, though at that point his sanity ceases, and he is unable to answer or to act. This must be Beckendorff’s case; for no sooner had I finished than he rose up immediately, and, saying that I spoke like a man of sense, abruptly quitted the room. The housekeeper says he will not be at home again till that infernal ceremony takes place called the noon meal. Now, do you not advise me to be off as soon as possible?”

“It will require some deliberation. Pray did you not speak to him last night?”

“Ah! I forgot that I had not been able to speak to you since then. Well! last night, what do you think he did? When you were gone, he had the insolence to congratulate me on the opportunity then afforded of playing double dummy; and when I declined his proposition, but said that if he wished to have an hour’s conversation I was at his service, he coolly told me that he never talked, and bade me good night! Did you ever know such a madman? He never goes to bed. I only had a sofa. How the deuce did you sleep?”

“Well and safely, considering that I was in a summer-house without lock or bolt.”

“Well! I need not ask you now as to your opinion of our immediately getting off. We shall have, however, some trouble about our horses, for he will not allow a quadruped near the house, except some monster of an animal that he rides himself; and, by St. Hubert! I cannot find out where our steeds are. What shall we do?” But Vivian did not answer. “What are you thinking of?” continued his Highness. “Why don’t you answer?”

“Your Highness must not go,” said Vivian, shaking his head.

“Not go! Why so?”

“Depend upon it you are wrong about Beckendorff. That he is a humorist there is no doubt; but it appears to me to be equally clear that his queer habits and singular mode of life are not of late adoption. What, he is now he must have been these ten, perhaps these twenty years, perhaps more; of this there are a thousand proofs about us. As to the overpowering cause which has made him the character he appears at present, it is needless for us to inquire; probably some incident in his private life in all likelihood connected with the mysterious picture. Let us be satisfied with the effect. If the case be as I state it in his private life and habits, Beckendorff must have been equally incomprehensible and equally singular at the very time that, in his public capacity, he was producing such brilliant results as at the present moment. Now then, can we believe him to be insane? I anticipate your objections. I know you will enlarge upon the evident absurdity of his inviting his political opponent to his house for a grave consultation on the most important affairs, and then treating him as he has done you, when it must be clear to him that you cannot be again duped, and when he must feel that, were he to amuse you for as many weeks as he has days, your plans and your position would not be injuriously affected. Be it so; probably a humorist like Beckendorff cannot, even in the most critical moment, altogether restrain the bent of his capricious inclinations. However, my dear Prince, I will lay no stress upon this point. My opinion, indeed my conviction, is that Beckendorff acts from design. I have considered his conduct well, and I have observed all that you have seen, and more than you have seen, and keenly; depend upon it that since you assented to the interview Beckendorff has been obliged to shift his intended position for negotiation; some of the machinery has gone wrong. Fearful, if he had postponed your visit, you should imagine that he was only again amusing you, and consequently would listen to no future overtures, he has allowed you to attend a conference for which he is not prepared. That he is making desperate exertions to bring the business to a point is my firm opinion; and you would perhaps agree with me were you as convinced as I am that, since we parted last night, our host has been to Reisenburg and back again.”

“To Reisenburg and back again!”

“Ay! I rose this morning at an early hour, and imagining that both you and Beckendorff had not yet made your appearance, I escaped from the grounds, intending to explore part of the surrounding country. In my stroll I came to a narrow winding road, which I am convinced lies in the direction towards Reisenburg; there, for some reason or other, I loitered more than an hour, and very probably should have been too late for breakfast had not I been recalled to myself by the approach of a horseman. It was Beckendorff, covered with dust and mud; his horse had been evidently hard ridden. I did not think much of it at the time, because I supposed he might have been out for three or four hours and hard worked, but I nevertheless was struck by his appearance; and when you mentioned that he went out riding at a late hour last night, it immediately occurred to me that had he come home at one or two o’clock it was not very probable that he would have gone out again at four or five. I have no doubt that my conjecture is correct; Beckendorff has been to Reisenburg.”

“You have placed this business in a new and important light,” said the Prince, his expiring hopes reviving; “what then do you advise me to do?”

“To be quiet. If your own view of the case be right, you can act as well to-morrow or the next day as this moment; on the contrary, if mine be the correct one, a moment may enable Beckendorff himself to bring affairs to a crisis. In either case I should recommend you to be silent, and in no manner to allude any more to the object of your visit. If you speak you only give opportunities to Beckendorff of ascertaining your opinions and your inclinations; and your silence, after such frequent attempts on your side to promote discussion upon business, will soon be discovered by him to be systematic. This will not decrease his opinion of your sagacity and firmness. The first principle of negotiation is to make your adversary respect you.”

After long consultation the Prince determined to follow Vivian’s advice; and so firmly did he adhere to his purpose that when he met Mr. Beckendorff at the noon meal, he asked him, with a very unembarrassed voice and manner, “what sport he had had in the morning.”

The noon meal again consisted of a single dish, as exquisitely dressed, however, as the preceding one. It was a haunch of venison.

“This is my dinner, gentlemen,” said Beckendorff; “let it be your luncheon. I have ordered your dinner at sunset.”

After having eaten a slice of the haunch, Mr. Beckendorff rose from the table and said, “We will have our wine in the drawing-room, Mr. von Philipson, and then you will not be disturbed by my birds.”

He left the room.

To the drawing-room, therefore, his two guests soon adjourned; they found him busily employed with his pencil. The Prince thought it must be a chart, or a fortification at least, and was rather surprised when Mr. Beckendorff asked him the magnitude of Mirac in Boötes; and the Prince confessing his utter ignorance of the subject, the Minister threw aside his unfinished planisphere and drew his chair to them at the table. It was with satisfaction that his Highness perceived a bottle of his favourite Tokay; and with no little astonishment he observed that to-day there were three wine glasses placed before them. They were of peculiar beauty, and almost worthy, for their elegant shapes and great antiquity, of being included in the collection of the Grand Duke of Johannisberger.

After exhausting their bottle, in which they were assisted to the extent of one glass by their host, who drank Mr. von Philipson’s health with cordiality, they assented to Mr. Beckendorff’s proposition of visiting his fruitery.

To the Prince’s great relief, dinner-time soon arrived; and having employed a couple of hours on that meal very satisfactorily, he and Vivian adjourned to the drawing-room, having previously pledged their honour to each other that nothing should again induce them to play dummy whist. Their resolutions and their promises were needless. Mr. Beckendorff, who was sitting opposite the fire when they came into the room, neither by word nor motion acknowledged that he was aware of their entrance. Vivian found refuge in a book; and the Prince, after having examined and re-examined the brilliant birds that figured on the drawing-room paper, fell asleep upon the sofa. Mr. Beckendorff took down the guitar, and accompanied himself in a low voice for some time; then he suddenly ceased, and stretching out his legs, and supporting his thumbs in the armholes of his waistcoat, he leant back in his chair and remained motionless, with his eyes fixed upon the picture. Vivian, in turn, gazed upon this singular being and the fair pictured form which he seemed to idolise. Was he, too, unhappy? Had he, too, been bereft in the hour of his proud and perfect joy? Had he, too, lost a virgin bride? His agony overcame him, the book fell from his hand, and he sighed aloud! Mr. Beckendorff started, and the Prince awoke. Vivian, confounded, and unable to overpower his emotions, uttered some hasty words, explanatory, apologetical, and contradictory, and retired. In his walk to the summer-house a man passed him. In spite of a great cloak, Vivian recognised him as their messenger and guide; and his ample mantle did not conceal his riding boots and the spurs which glistened in the moonlight.

It was an hour past midnight when the door of the summer-house softly opened and Mr. Beckendorff entered. He started when he found Vivian still undressed, and pacing up and down the little chamber. The young man made an effort, when he witnessed an intruder, to compose a countenance whose agitation could not be concealed.

“What, are you up again?” said Mr. Beckendorff. “Are you ill?”

“Would I were as well in mind as in body! I have not yet been to rest. We cannot command our feelings at all moments, sir; and at this, especially, I felt that I had a right to count upon being alone.”

“I exceedingly regret that I have disturbed you,” said Mr. Beckendorff, in a kind voice, and in a manner which responded to the sympathy of his tone. “I thought that you had been long asleep. There is a star which I cannot exactly make out. I fancy it must be a comet, and so I ran to the observatory; but let me not disturb you;” and Mr. Beckendorff was retiring.

“You do not disturb me, sir. I cannot sleep: pray ascend.”

“Never mind the star. But if you really have no inclination to sleep, let us sit down and have a little conversation; or perhaps we had better take a stroll. It is a warm night.” As he spoke, Mr. Beckendorff gently put his arm within Vivian’s, and led him down the steps.

“Are you an astronomer, sir?” asked Beckendorff.

“I can tell the Great Bear from the Little Dog; but I confess that I look upon the stars rather in a poetical than a scientific spirit.”

“Hum! I confess I do not.”

“There are moments,” continued Vivian, “when I cannot refrain from believing that these mysterious luminaries have more influence over our fortunes than modern times are disposed to believe. I feel that I am getting less sceptical, perhaps I should say more credulous, every day; but sorrow makes us superstitious.”

“I discard all such fantasies,” said Mr. Beckendorff; “they only tend to enervate our mental energies and paralyse all human exertion. It is the belief in these, and a thousand other deceits I could mention, which leach man that he is not the master of his own mind, but the ordained victim or the chance sport of circumstances, that makes millions pass through life unimpressive as shadows, and has gained for this existence the stigma of a vanity which it does not deserve.”

“I wish that I could think as you do,” said Vivian; “but the experience of my life forbids me. Within only these last two years my career has, in so many instances, indicated that I am not the master of my own conduct; that no longer able to resist the conviction which is hourly impressed on me, I recognise in every contingency the preordination of my fate.”

“A delusion of the brain!” said Beckendorff, quickly. “Fate, Destiny, Chance, particular and special Providence; idle words! Dismiss them all, sir! A man’s fate is his own temper; and according to that will be his opinion as to the particular manner in which the course of events is regulated. A consistent man believes in Destiny, a capricious man in Chance.”

“But, sir, what is a man’s temper? It may be changed every hour. I started in life with very different feelings from those which I profess at this moment. With great deference to you, I imagine that you mistake the effect for the cause; for surely temper is not the origin, but the result of those circumstances of which we are all the creatures.”

“Sir, I deny it. Man is not the creature of circumstances. Circumstances are the creatures of men. We are free agents, and man is more powerful than matter. I recognise no intervening influence between that of the established course of nature and my own mind. Truth may be distorted, may be stifled, be suppressed. The invention of cunning deceits may, and in most instances does, prevent man from exercising his own powers. They have made him responsible to a realm of shadows, and a suitor in a court of shades. Re is ever dreading authority which does not exist, and fearing the occurrence of penalties which there are none to enforce. But the mind that dares to extricate itself from these vulgar prejudices, that proves its loyalty to its Creator by devoting all its adoration to His glory; such a spirit as this becomes a master-mind, and that master-mind will invariably find that circumstances are its slaves.”

“Mr. Beckendorff, yours is a bold philosophy, of which I myself was once a votary. How successful in my service you may judge by finding me a wanderer.”

“Sir! your present age is the age of error: your whole system is founded on a fallacy: you believe that a man’s temper can change. I deny it. If you have ever seriously entertained the views which I profess; if, as you lead me to suppose, you have dared to act upon them, and failed; sooner or later, whatever may be your present conviction and your present feelings, you will recur to your original wishes and your original pursuits. With a mind experienced and matured, you may in all probability be successful; and then I suppose, stretching your legs in your easy-chair, you will at the same moment be convinced of your own genius, and recognise your own Destiny!”

“With regard to myself, Mr. Beckendorff, I am convinced of the erroneousness of your views. It is my opinion that no one who has dared to think can look upon this world in any other than a mournful spirit. Young as I am, nearly two years have elapsed since, disgusted with the world of politics, I retired to a foreign solitude. At length, with passions subdued, and, as I flatter myself, with a mind matured, convinced of the vanity of all human affairs, I felt emboldened once more partially to mingle with my species. Bitter as my lot had been, I had discovered the origin of my misery in my own unbridled passions; and, tranquil and subdued, I now trusted to pass through life as certain of no fresh sorrows as I was of no fresh joys. And yet, sir, I am at this moment sinking under the infliction of unparalleled misery; misery which I feel I have a right to believe was undeserved. But why expatiate to a stranger on sorrow which must be secret? I deliver myself up to my remorseless Fate.”

“What is grief?” said Mr. Beckendorff; “if it be excited by the fear of some contingency, instead of grieving, a man should exert his energies and prevent its occurrence. If, on the contrary, it be caused by an event, that which has been occasioned by anything human, by the co-operation of human circumstances, can be, and invariably is, removed by the same means. Grief is the agony of an instant; the indulgence of Grief the blunder of a life. Mix in the world, and in a month’s time you will speak to me very differently. A young man, you meet with disappointment; in spite of all your exalted notions of your own powers, you immediately sink under it. If your belief of your powers were sincere, you should have proved it by the manner in which you have struggled against adversity, not merely by the mode in which you laboured for advancement. The latter is but a very inferior merit. If, in fact, you wish to succeed, success, I repeat, is at your command. You talk to me of your experience; and do you think that my sentiments are the crude opinions of an unpractised man? Sir! I am not fond of conversing with any person, and therefore far from being inclined to maintain an argument in a spirit of insincerity merely for the sake of a victory of words. Mark what I say: it is truth. No Minister ever yet fell but from his own inefficiency. If his downfall be occasioned, as it generally is, by the intrigues of one of his own creatures, his downfall is merited for having been the dupe of a tool which in all probability he should never have employed. If he fall through the open attacks of his political opponents, his downfall is equally deserved for having occasioned by his impolicy the formation of a party, for having allowed it to be formed, or for not having crushed it when formed. No conjecture can possibly occur, however fearful, however tremendous it may appear, from which a man, by his own energy, may not extricate himself, as a mariner by the rattling of his cannon can dissipate the impending water-spout!”

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