Gryll Grange, by Thomas Love Peacock

Chapter 35

Rejected Suitors — Conclusion

(Greek passage)

May the Gods grant what your best hopes pursue,

A husband, and a home, with concord true;

No greater boon from Jove’s ethereal dome

Descends, than concord in the nuptial home

— Ulysses to Nausicaa, in the sixth book of the Odyssey.

What passed between Algernon and Morgana, when the twenty-eighth morning brought his probation to a close, it is unnecessary to relate. The gentleman being predetermined to propose, and the lady to accept, there was little to be said, but that little was conclusive.

Mr. Gryll was delighted. His niece could not have made a choice more thoroughly to his mind.

‘My dear Morgana,’ he said, ‘all’s well that ends well. Your fastidiousness in choice has arrived at a happy termination. And now you will perhaps tell me why you rejected so many suitors, to whom you had in turn accorded a hearing. In the first place, what was your objection to the Honourable Escor A’Cass?1 He was a fine, handsome, dashing fellow. He was the first in the field, and you seemed to like him.’

Miss Gryll. He was too dashing, uncle: he gambled. I did like him, till I discovered his evil propensity.

Mr. Gryll. To Sir Alley Capel? ‘My dear Marcotta, all’s well that mix well.

Miss Gryll. He speculated; which is only another name for gambling. He never knew from day to day whether he was a rich man or a beggar. He lived in a perpetual fever, and I wish to live in tranquillity.

Mr. Gryll. To Mr. Ballot?

Miss Gryll. He thought of nothing but politics: he had no feeling of poetry. There was never a more complete negation of sympathy, than between him and me.

Mr. Gryll. To Sir John Pachyderm?

Miss Gryll. He was a mere man of the world, with no feeling of any kind: tolerable in company, but tiresome beyond description in a tête-à-tête. I did not choose that he should bestow all his tediousness on me.

Mr. Gryll. To Mr. Enavant?

Miss Gryll. He was what is called a fast man, and was always talking of slow coaches. I had no fancy for living in an express train. I like to go quietly through life, and to see all that lies in my way.

Mr. Gryll. To Mr. Geront?

Miss Gryll. He had only one fault, but that one was unpardonable. He was too old. To do him justice, he did not begin as a lover. Seeing that I took pleasure in his society, he was led by degrees into fancying that I might accept him as a husband. I liked his temper, his acquirements, his conversation, his love of music and poetry, his devotion to domestic life. But age and youth cannot harmonise in marriage.

Mr. Gryll. To Mr. Long Owen?

Miss Gryll. He was in debt, and kept it secret from me. I thought he only wanted my fortune: but be that as it might, the concealment destroyed my esteem.

Mr. Gryll. To Mr. Larvel?

Miss Gryll. He was too ugly. Expression may make plain features agreeable, and I tried if daily intercourse would reconcile me to his. But no. His ugliness was unredeemed.

Mr. Gryll. None of these objections applied to Lord Curryfin?

Miss Gryll. No, uncle; but he came too late. And besides, he soon found what suited him better.

Mr. Gryll. There were others. Did any of the same objections apply to them all?

Miss Gryll. Indeed, uncle, the most of them were nothing; or at best, mere suits of good clothes; men made, as it were, to pattern by the dozen; selfish, frivolous, without any earnest pursuit, or desire to have one; ornamental drawing-room furniture, no more distinguishable in memory than a set of chairs.

Mr. Gryll. Well, my dear Morgana, for mere negations there is no remedy; but for positive errors, even for gambling, it strikes me they are curable.

Miss Gryll. No, uncle. Even my limited observation has shown me that men are easily cured of unfashionable virtues, but never of fashionable vices.

Miss Gryll and Miss Niphet arranged that their respective marriages and those of the seven sisters should be celebrated at the same time and place. In the course of their castle-building before marriage, Miss Niphet said to her intended:

‘When I am your wife, I shall release you from your promise of not trying experiments with horses, carriages, boats, and so forth; but with this proviso, that if ever you do try a dangerous experiment, it shall be in my company.’

‘No, dear Alice,’ he answered; ‘you will make my life too dear to me, to risk it in any experiment. You shall be my guiding star, and the only question I shall ask respecting my conduct in life will be, Whether it pleases you?’

Some natural tears they shed, but wiped them soon, might have been applied to the sisters, when they stepped, on their bridal morning, into the carriages which were to convey them to the Grange.

It was the dissipation of a dream too much above mortal frailty, too much above the contingencies of chance and change, to be permanently realised. But the damsels had consented, and the suitors rejoiced; and if ever there was a man on earth with ‘his saul abune the moon,’ it was Harry Hedgerow, on the bright February morning that gave him the hand of his Dorothy.

There was a grand déjeuner at Gryll Grange. There were the nine brides and the nine bridegrooms; a beautiful array of bridesmaids; a few friends of Mr. Gryll, Mr. Niphet, Lord Curryfin, and Mr. Falconer; and a large party at the lower end of the hall, composed of fathers, mothers, and sisters of the bridegrooms of the seven Vestals. None of the bridegrooms had brothers, and Harry had neither mother nor sister; but his father was there in rustic portliness, looking, as Harry had anticipated, as if he were all but made young again.

Among the most conspicuous of the party were the Reverend Doctor Opimian and his lady, who had on this occasion stepped out of her domestic seclusion. In due course, the reverend doctor stood up and made a speech, which may be received as the epilogue of our comedy.

The Rev. Dr. Opimian. We are here to do honour to the nuptials; first, of the niece of our excellent host, a young lady whom to name is to show her title to the love and respect of all present; with a young gentleman, of whom to say that he is in every way worthy of her, is to say all that can be said of him in the highest order of praise: secondly, of a young lord and lady, to whom those who had the pleasure of being here last Christmas are indebted for the large share of enjoyment which their rare and diversified accomplishments, and their readiness to contribute in every way to social entertainment, bestowed on the assembled party; and who, both in contrast and congeniality — for both these elements enter into perfect fitness of companionship — may be considered to have been expressly formed for each other: thirdly, of seven other young couples, on many accounts most interesting to us all, who enter on the duties of married life with as fair expectation of happiness as can reasonably be entertained in this diurnal sphere. An old Greek poet says:—‘Four things are good for man in this world: first, health; second, personal beauty; third, riches, not dishonourably acquired; fourth, to pass life among friends.’2 But thereon says the comic poet Anaxandrides: ‘Health is rightly placed first; but riches should have been second; for what is beauty ragged and starving?’3

Be this as it may, we here see them all four: health in its brightest bloom; riches in two instances; more than competence in the other seven; beauty in the brides, good looks as far as young men need them, in the bridegrooms, and as bright a prospect of passing life among friends as ever shone on any. Most earnestly do I hope that the promise of their marriage morning may be fulfilled in its noon and in its sunset: and when I add, may they all be as happy in their partners as I have been, I say what all who knew the excellent person beside me will feel to be the best good wish in my power to bestow And now to the health of the brides and bridegrooms, in bumpers of champagne. Let all the attendants stand by, each with a fresh bottle, with only one uncut string. Let all the corks, when I give the signal, be discharged simultaneously; and we will receive it as a peal of Bacchic ordnance, in honour of the Power of Joyful Event,4 whom we may assume to be presiding on this auspicious occasion.

1 To-the-Crows: the Athenian equivalent for our o’-the-Devil: a gambler’s journey: not often a long one.

2 (Greek passage) SIMONIDES.

3 Athenæus: 1. xv. p. 694.

4 This was a Roman deity. Invocato hilaro atque prospéra Eventu. — APULEIUS: Metamorph. 1. iv.

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Last updated Thursday, March 6, 2014 at 16:24