Cox's Diary, by William Makepeace Thackeray

First Rout.

We were speedily installed in our fine house: but what’s a house without friends? Jemmy made me CUT all my old acquaintances in the Market, and I was a solitary being; when, luckily, an old acquaintance of ours, Captain Tagrag, was so kind as to promise to introduce us into distinguished society. Tagrag was the son of a baronet, and had done us the honor of lodging with us for two years; when we lost sight of him, and of his little account, too, by the way. A fortnight after, hearing of our good fortune, he was among us again, however; and Jemmy was not a little glad to see him, knowing him to be a baronet’s son, and very fond of our Jemimarann. Indeed, Orlando (who is as brave as a lion) had on one occasion absolutely beaten Mr. Tagrag for being rude to the poor girl: a clear proof, as Tagrag said afterwards, that he was always fond of her.

Mr. Crump, poor fellow, was not very much pleased by our good fortune, though he did all he could to try at first; and I told him to come and take his dinner regular, as if nothing had happened. But to this Jemima very soon put a stop, for she came very justly to know her stature, and to look down on Crump, which she bid her daughter to do; and, after a great scene, in which Orlando showed himself very rude and angry, he was forbidden the house — for ever!

So much for poor Crump. The Captain was now all in all with us. “You see, sir,” our Jemmy would say, “we shall have our town and country mansion, and a hundred and thirty thousand pounds in the funds, to leave between our two children; and, with such prospects, they ought surely to have the first society of England.” To this Tagrag agreed, and promised to bring us acquainted with the very pink of the fashion; ay, and what’s more, did.

First, he made my wife get an opera-box, and give suppers on Tuesdays and Saturdays. As for me, he made me ride in the Park: me and Jemimarann, with two grooms behind us, who used to laugh all the way, and whose very beards I had shaved. As for little Tug, he was sent straight off to the most fashionable school in the kingdom, the Reverend Doctor Pigney’s, at Richmond.

Well, the horses, the suppers, the opera-box, the paragraphs in the papers about Mr. Coxe Coxe (that’s the way: double your name and stick an “e” to the end of it, and you are a gentleman at once), had an effect in a wonderfully short space of time, and we began to get a very pretty society about us. Some of old Tug’s friends swore they would do anything for the family, and brought their wives and daughters to see dear Mrs. Coxe and her charming girl; and when, about the first week in February, we announced a grand dinner and ball for the evening of the twenty-eighth, I assure you there was no want of company: no, nor of titles neither; and it always does my heart good even to hear one mentioned.

Let me see. There was, first, my Lord Dunboozle, an Irish peer, and his seven sons, the Honorable Messieurs Trumper (two only to dinner): there was Count Mace, the celebrated French nobleman, and his Excellency Baron von Punter from Baden; there was Lady Blanche Bluenose, the eminent literati, author of “The Distrusted” “The Distorted,” “The Disgusted,” “The Disreputable One,” and other poems; there was the Dowager Lady Max and her daughter, the Honorable Miss Adelaide Blueruin; Sir Charles Codshead, from the City; and Field-Marshal Sir Gorman O’Gallagher, K.A., K.B., K.C., K.W., K.X., in the service of the Republic of Guatemala: my friend Tagrag and his fashionable acquaintance, little Tom Tufthunt, made up the party. And when the doors were flung open, and Mr. Hock, in black, with a white napkin, three footmen, coachman, and a lad whom Mrs. C. had dressed in sugar-loaf buttons and called a page, were seen round the dinner-table, all in white gloves, I promise you I felt a thrill of elation, and thought to myself — Sam Cox, Sam Cox, who ever would have expected to see you here?

After dinner, there was to be, as I said, an evening-party; and to this Messieurs Tagrag and Tufthunt had invited many of the principal nobility that our metropolis had produced. When I mention, among the company to tea, her Grace the Duchess of Zero, her son the Marquis of Fitzurse, and the Ladies North Pole her daughters; when I say that there were yet OTHERS, whose names may be found in the Blue Book, but shan’t, out of modesty, be mentioned here, I think I’ve said enough to show that, in our time, No. 96, Portland Place, was the resort of the best of company.

It was our first dinner, and dressed by our new cook, Munseer Cordongblew. I bore it very well; eating, for my share, a filly dysol allamater dotell, a cutlet soubeast, a pully bashymall, and other French dishes: and, for the frisky sweet wine, with tin tops to the bottles, called Champang, I must say that me and Mrs. Coxe-Tuggeridge Coxe drank a very good share of it (but the Claret and Jonnysberger, being sour, we did not much relish). However, the feed, as I say, went off very well: Lady Blanche Bluenose sitting next to me, and being so good as to put me down for six copies of all her poems; the Count and Baron von Punter engaging Jemimarann for several waltzes, and the Field-Marshal plying my dear Jemmy with Champagne, until, bless her! her dear nose became as red as her new crimson satin gown, which, with a blue turban and bird-of-paradise feathers, made her look like an empress, I warrant.

Well, dinner past, Mrs. C. and the ladies went off:— thunder-under-under came the knocks at the door; squeedle-eedle-eedle, Mr. Wippert’s fiddlers began to strike up; and, about half-past eleven, me and the gents thought it high time to make our appearance. I felt a LITTLE squeamish at the thought of meeting a couple of hundred great people; but Count Mace and Sir Gorman O’Gallagher taking each an arm, we reached, at last, the drawing-room.

The young ones in company were dancing, and the Duchess and the great ladies were all seated, talking to themselves very stately, and working away at the ices and macaroons. I looked out for my pretty Jemimarann amongst the dancers, and saw her tearing round the room along with Baron Punter, in what they call a gallypard; then I peeped into the circle of the Duchesses, where, in course, I expected to find Mrs. C.; but she wasn’t there! She was seated at the further end of the room, looking very sulky; and I went up and took her arm, and brought her down to the place where the Duchesses were. “Oh, not there!” said Jemmy, trying to break away. “Nonsense, my dear,” says I: “you are missis, and this is your place.” Then going up to her ladyship the Duchess, says I, “Me and my missis are most proud of the honor of seeing of you.”

The Duchess (a tall red-haired grenadier of a woman) did not speak.

I went on: “The young ones are all at it, ma’am, you see; and so we thought we would come and sit down among the old ones. You and I, ma’am, I think, are too stiff to dance.”

“Sir!” says her Grace.

“Ma’am,” says I, “don’t you know me? My name’s Cox. Nobody’s introduced me; but, dash it, it’s my own house, and I may present myself — so give us your hand, ma’am.”

And I shook hers in the kindest way in the world; but — would you believe it? — the old cat screamed as if my hand had been a hot ‘tater. “Fitzurse! Fitzurse!” shouted she, “help! help!” Up scuffled all the other Dowagers — in rushed the dancers. “Mamma! mamma!” squeaked Lady Julia North Pole. “Lead me to my mother,” howled Lady Aurorer: and both came up and flung themselves into her arms. “Wawt’s the raw?” said Lord Fitzurse, sauntering up quite stately.

“Protect me from the insults of this man,” says her Grace. “Where’s Tufthunt? he promised that not a soul in this house should speak to me.”

“My dear Duchess,” said Tufthunt, very meek.

“Don’t Duchess ME, sir. Did you not promise they should not speak; and hasn’t that horrid tipsy wretch offered to embrace me? Didn’t his monstrous wife sicken me with her odious familiarities? Call my people, Tufthunt! Follow me, my children!”

“And my carriage,” “And mine,” “And mine!” shouted twenty more voices. And down they all trooped to the hall: Lady Blanche Bluenose and Lady Max among the very first; leaving only the Field-Marshal and one or two men, who roared with laughter ready to split.

“Oh, Sam,” said my wife, sobbing, “why would you take me back to them? they had sent me away before! I only asked the Duchess whether she didn’t like rum-shrub better than all your Maxarinos and Curasosos: and — would you believe it? — all the company burst out laughing; and the Duchess told me just to keep off, and not to speak till I was spoken to. Imperence! I’d like to tear her eyes out.”

And so I do believe my dearest Jemmy would!

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00