The Newcomes, by William Makepeace Thackeray

CHAPTER XVIII

New Companions

Clive used to give droll accounts of the young disciples at Gandish’s, who were of various ages and conditions, and in whose company the young fellow took his place with that good temper and gaiety which have seldom deserted him in life, and have put him at ease wherever his fate has led him. He is, in truth, as much at home in a fine drawing-room as in a public-house parlour; and can talk as pleasantly to the polite mistress of the mansion, as to the jolly landlady dispensing her drinks from her bar. Not one of the Gandishites but was after a while well inclined to the young fellow; from Mr. Chivers, the senior pupil, down to the little imp Harry Hooker, who knew as much mischief at twelve years old, and could draw as cleverly as many a student of five-and-twenty; and Bob Trotter, the diminutive fag of the studio, who ran on all the young men’s errands, and fetched them in apples, oranges, and walnuts. Clive opened his eyes with wonder when he first beheld these simple feasts, and the pleasure with which some of the young men partook of them. They were addicted to polonies; they did not disguise their love for Banbury cakes; they made bets in ginger-beer, and gave and took the odds in that frothing liquor. There was a young Hebrew amongst the pupils, upon whom his brother-students used playfully to press ham sandwiches, pork sausages, and the like. This young man (who has risen to great wealth subsequently, and was bankrupt only three months since) actually bought cocoa-nuts, and sold them at a profit amongst the lads. His pockets were never without pencil-cases, French chalk, garnet brooches, for which he was willing to bargain. He behaved very rudely to Gandish, who seemed to be afraid before him. It was whispered that the Professor was not altogether easy in his circumstances, and that the elder Moss had some mysterious hold over him. Honeyman and Bayham, who once came to see Clive at the studio, seemed each disturbed at beholding young Moss seated there (making a copy of the Marsyas). “Pa knows both those gents,” he informed Clive afterwards, with a wicked twinkle of his Oriental eyes. “Step in, Mr. Newcome, any day you are passing down Wardour Street, and see if you don’t want anything in our way.” (He pronounced the words in his own way, saying: “Step id, Bister Doocob, ady day idto Vordor Street,” etc.) This young gentleman could get tickets for almost all the theatres, which he gave or sold, and gave splendid accounts at Cavendish’s of the brilliant masquerades. Clive was greatly diverted at beholding Mr. Moss at one of these entertainments, dressed in a scarlet coat and top-boots, and calling out, “Yoicks! Hark forward!” fitfully to another Orientalist, his younger brother, attired like a midshipman. Once Clive bought a half-dozen of theatre tickets from Mr. Moss, which he distributed to the young fellows of the studio. But, when this nice young man tried further to tempt him on the next day, “Mr. Moss,” Clive said to him with much dignity, “I am very much obliged to you for your offer, but when I go to the play, I prefer paying at the doors.”

Mr. Chivers used to sit in one corner of the room, occupied over a lithographic stone. He was an uncouth and peevish young man; for ever finding fault with the younger pupils, whose butt he was. Next in rank and age was M’Collop, before named: and these two were at first more than usually harsh and captious with Clive, whose prosperity offended them, and whose dandified manners, free-and-easy ways, and evident influence over the younger scholars, gave umbrage to these elderly apprentices. Clive at first returned Mr. Chivers war for war, controlment for controlment; but when he found Chivers was the son of a helpless widow; that be maintained her by his lithographic vignettes for the music-sellers, and by the scanty remuneration of some lessons which he gave at a school at Highgate; — when Clive saw, or fancied he saw, the lonely senior eyeing with hungry eyes the luncheons of cheese and bread, and sweetstuff, which the young lads of the studio enjoyed, I promise you Mr. Clive’s wrath against Chivers was speedily turned into compassion and kindness, and he sought, and no doubt found, means of feeding Chivers without offending his testy independence.

Nigh to Gandish’s was, and perhaps is, another establishment for teaching the art of design — Barker’s, which had the additional dignity of a life academy and costume; frequented by a class of students more advanced than those of Gandish’s. Between these and the Barkerites there was a constant rivalry and emulation, in and out of doors. Gandish sent more pupils to the Royal Academy; Gandish had brought up three medallists; and the last R.A. student sent to Rome was a Gandishite. Barker, on the contrary, scorned and loathed Trafalgar Square, and laughed at its art. Barker exhibited in Pall Mall and Suffolk Street: he laughed at old Gandish and his pictures, made mincemeat of his “Angli and Angeli,” and tore “King Alfred” and his muffins to pieces. The young men of the respective schools used to meet at Lundy’s coffee-house and billiard-room, and smoke there, and do battle. Before Clive and his friend J. J. came to Gandish’s, the Barkerites were having the best of that constant match which the two academies were playing. Fred Bayham, who knew every coffee-house in town, and whose initials were scored on a thousand tavern doors, was for a while a constant visitor at Lundy’s, played pool with the young men, and did not disdain to dip his beard into their porter-pots, when invited to partake of their drink; treated them handsomely when he was in cash himself; and was an honorary member of Barker’s academy. Nay, when the guardsman was not forthcoming, who was standing for one of Barker’s heroic pictures, Bayham bared his immense arms and brawny shoulders, and stood as Prince Edward, with Philippa sucking the poisoned wound. He would take his friends up to the picture in the Exhibition, and proudly point to it. “Look at that biceps, sir, and now look at this — that’s Barker’s masterpiece, sir, and that’s the muscle of F. B., sir.” In no company was F. B. greater than in the society of the artists, in whose smoky haunts and airy parlours he might often be found. It was from F. B. that Clive heard of Mr. Chivers’ struggles and honest industry. A great deal of shrewd advice could F. B. give on occasion, and many a kind action and gentle office of charity was this jolly outlaw known to do and cause to be done. His advice to Clive was most edifying at this time of our young gentleman’s life, and he owns that he was kept from much mischief by this queer counsellor.

A few months after Clive and J. J. had entered at Gandish’s, that academy began to hold its own against its rival. The silent young disciple was pronounced to be a genius. His copies were beautiful in delicacy and finish. His designs were for exquisite grace and richness of fancy. Mr. Gandish took to himself the credit for J. J.‘s genius; Clive ever and fondly acknowledged the benefit he got from his friend’s taste and bright enthusiasm and sure skill. As for Clive, if he was successful in the academy he was doubly victorious out of it. His person was handsome, his courage high, his gaiety and frankness delightful and winning. His money was plenty and he spent it like a young king. He could speedily beat all the club at Lundy’s at billiards, and give points to the redoubted F. B. himself. He sang a famous song at their jolly supper-parties: and J. J. had no greater delight than to listen to his fresh voice, and watch the young conqueror at the billiard-table, where the balls seemed to obey him.

Clive was not the most docile of Mr. Gandish’s pupils. If he had not come to the studio on horseback, several of the young students averred, Gandish would not always have been praising him and quoting him as that professor certainly did. It must be confessed that the young ladies read the history of Clive’s uncle in the Book of Baronets, and that Gandish jun., probably with an eye to business, made a design of a picture, in which, according to that veracious volume, one of the Newcomes was represented as going cheerfully to the stake at Smithfield, surrounded by some very ill-favoured Dominicans, whose arguments did not appear to make the least impression upon the martyr of the Newcome family. Sandy M’Collop devised a counter picture, wherein the barber-surgeon of King Edward the Confessor was drawn, operating upon the beard of that monarch. To which piece of satire Clive gallantly replied by a design, representing Sawney Bean M’Collop, chief of the clan of that name, descending from his mountains into Edinburgh, and his astonishment at beholding a pair of breeches for the first time. These playful jokes passed constantly amongst the young men of Gandish’s studio. There was no one there who was not caricatured in one way or another. He whose eyes looked not very straight was depicted with a most awful squint. The youth whom nature had endowed with somewhat lengthy nose was drawn by the caricaturists with a prodigious proboscis. Little Bobby Moss, the young Hebrew artist from Wardour Street, was delineated with three hats and an old-clothes bag. Nor were poor J. J.‘s round shoulders spared, until Clive indignantly remonstrated at the hideous hunchback pictures which the boys made of his friend, and vowed it was a shame to make jokes at such a deformity.

Our friend, if the truth must be told regarding him, though one of the most frank, generous, and kind-hearted persons, is of a nature somewhat haughty and imperious, and very likely the course of life which he now led and the society which he was compelled to keep, served to increase some original defects in his character, and to fortify a certain disposition to think well of himself, with which his enemies not unjustly reproach him. He has been known very pathetically to lament that he was withdrawn from school too early, where a couple of years’ further course of thrashings from his tyrant, old Hodge, he avers, would have done him good. He laments that he was not sent to college, where if a young man receives no other discipline, at least he acquires that of meeting with his equals in society and of assuredly finding his betters: whereas in poor Mr. Gandish’s studio of art, our young gentleman scarcely found a comrade that was not in one way or other his flatterer, his inferior, his honest or dishonest admirer. The influence of his family’s rank and wealth acted more or less on all those simple folks, who would run on his errands and vied with each other in winning the young nabob’s favour. His very goodness of heart rendered him a more easy prey to their flattery, and his kind and jovial disposition led him into company from which he had been much better away. I am afraid that artful young Moss, whose parents dealt in pictures, furniture, gimcracks, and jewellery, victimised Clive sadly with rings and chains, shirt-studs and flaming shirt-pins, and such vanities, which the poor young rogue locked up in his desk generally, only venturing to wear them when he was out of his father’s sight or of Mr. Binnie’s, whose shrewd eyes watched him very keenly.

Mr. Clive used to leave home every day shortly after noon, when he was supposed to betake himself to Gandish’s studio. But was the young gentleman always at the drawing-board copying from the antique when his father supposed him to be so devotedly engaged? I fear his place was sometimes vacant. His friend J. J. worked every day and all day. Many a time the steady little student remarked his patron’s absence, and no doubt gently remonstrated with him, but when Clive did come to his work he executed it with remarkable skill and rapidity; and Ridley was too fond of him to say a word at home regarding the shortcomings of the youthful scapegrace. Candid readers may sometimes have heard their friend Jones’s mother lament that her darling was working too hard at college: or Harry’s sisters express their anxiety lest his too rigorous attendance in chambers (after which he will persist in sitting up all night reading those dreary law books which cost such an immense sum of money) should undermine dear Henry’s health; and to such acute persons a word is sufficient to indicate young Mr. Clive Newcome’s proceedings. Meanwhile his father, who knew no more of the world than Harry’s simple sisters or Jones’s fond mother, never doubted that all Clive’s doings were right, and that his boy was the best of boys.

“If that young man goes on as charmingly as he has begun,” Clive’s cousin, Barnes Newcome, said of his kinsman, “he will be a paragon. I saw him last night at Vauxhall in company with young Moss, whose father does bills and keeps the bric-a-brac shop in Wardour Street. Two or three other gentlemen, probably young old-clothes-men, who had concluded for the day the labours of the bag, joined Mr. Newcome and his friend, and they partook of rack-punch in an arbour. He is a delightful youth, cousin Clive, and I feel sure he is about to be an honour to our family.”

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Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 19:07