Vivian Grey, by Benjamin Disraeli

Chapter 7

In England, personal distinction is the only passport to the society of the great. Whether this distinction arise from fortune, family, or talent, is immaterial; but certain it is, to enter into high society, a man must either have blood, a million, or a genius.

The reputation of Mr. Grey had always made him an honoured guest among the powerful and the great. It was for this reason that he had always been anxious that his son should be at home as little as possible; for he feared for a youth the fascination of London society. Although busied with his studies, and professing “not to visit,” Vivian could not avoid occasionally finding himself in company in which boys should never be seen; and, what was still worse, from a certain social spirit, an indefinable tact with which Nature had endowed him, this boy of nineteen began to think this society delightful. Most persons of his age would have passed through the ordeal with perfect safety; they would have entered certain rooms, at certain hours, with stiff cravats, and Nugee coats, and black velvet waistcoats; and after having annoyed all those who condescended to know of their existence, with their red hands and their white gloves, they would have retired to a corner of the room, and conversationised with any stray four-year-older not yet sent to bed.

But Vivian Grey was a graceful, lively lad, with just enough of dandyism to preserve him from committing gaucheries, and with a devil of a tongue. All men will agree with me that the only rival to be feared by a man of spirit is a clever boy. What makes them so popular with women it is difficult to explain; however, Lady Julia Knighton, and Mrs. Frank Delmington, and half a score of dames of fashion, were always patronising our hero, who found an evening spent in their society not altogether dull, for there is no fascination so irresistible to a boy as the smile of a married woman. Vivian had passed such a recluse life for the last two years and a half, that he had quite forgotten that he was once considered an agreeable fellow; and so, determined to discover what right he ever had to such a reputation, he dashed into all these amourettes in beautiful style.

But Vivian Grey was a young and tender plant in a moral hothouse. His character was developing itself too soon. Although his evenings were now generally passed in the manner we have alluded to, this boy was, during the rest of the day, a hard and indefatigable student; and having now got through an immense series of historical reading, he had stumbled upon a branch of study certainly the most delightful in the world; but, for a boy, as certainly the most perilous, THE STUDY OF POLITICS.

And now everything was solved! the inexplicable longings of his soul, which had so often perplexed him, were at length explained. The want, the indefinable want, which he had so constantly experienced, was at last supplied; the grand object on which to bring the powers of his mind to bear and work was at last provided. He paced his chamber in an agitated spirit, and panted for the Senate.

It may be asked, what was the evil of all this? and the reader will, perhaps, murmur something about an honourable spirit and youthful ambition. The evil was great. The time drew nigh for Vivian to leave his home for Oxford, that is, for him to commence his long preparation for entering on his career in life. And now this person, who was about to be a pupil, this stripling, who was going to begin his education, had all the desires of a matured mind, of an experienced man, but without maturity and without experience. He was already a cunning reader of human hearts; and felt conscious that his was a tongue which was born to guide human beings. The idea of Oxford to such an individual was an insult!

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