Cox's Diary, by William Makepeace Thackeray

Striking A Balance.

Next door to us, in Portland Place, lived the Right Honorable the Earl of Kilblazes, of Kilmacrasy Castle, County Kildare, and his mother the Dowager Countess. Lady Kilblazes had a daughter, Lady Juliana Matilda MacTurk, of the exact age of our dear Jemimarann; and a son, the Honorable Arthur Wellington Anglesea Blucher Bulow MacTurk, only ten months older than our boy Tug.

My darling Jemmy is a woman of spirit, and, as become her station, made every possible attempt to become acquainted with the Dowager Countess of Kilblazes, which her ladyship (because, forsooth, she was the daughter of the Minister, and Prince of Wales’s great friend, the Earl of Portansherry) thought fit to reject. I don’t wonder at my Jemmy growing so angry with her, and determining, in every way, to put her ladyship down. The Kilblazes’ estate is not so large as the Tuggeridge property by two thousand a year at least; and so my wife, when our neighbors kept only two footmen, was quite authorized in having three; and she made it a point, as soon as ever the Kilblazes’ carriage-and-pair came round, to have out her own carriage-and-four.

Well, our box was next to theirs at the Opera; only twice as big. Whatever masters went to Lady Juliana, came to my Jemimarann; and what do you think Jemmy did? she got her celebrated governess, Madame de Flicflac, away from the Countess, by offering a double salary. It was quite a treasure, they said, to have Madame Flicflac: she had been (to support her father, the Count, when he emigrated) a FRENCH dancer at the ITALIAN Opera. French dancing, and Italian, therefore, we had at once, and in the best style: it is astonishing how quick and well she used to speak — the French especially.

Master Arthur MacTurk was at the famous school of the Reverend Clement Coddler, along with a hundred and ten other young fashionables, from the age of three to fifteen; and to this establishment Jemmy sent our Tug, adding forty guineas to the hundred and twenty paid every year for the boarders. I think I found out the dear soul’s reason; for, one day, speaking about the school to a mutual acquaintance of ours and the Kilblazes, she whispered to him that “she never would have thought of sending her darling boy at the rate which her next-door neighbors paid; THEIR lad, she was sure, must be starved: however, poor people, they did the best they could on their income!”

Coddler’s, in fact, was the tip-top school near London: he had been tutor to the Duke of Buckminster, who had set him up in the school, and, as I tell you, all the peerage and respectable commoners came to it. You read in the bill, (the snopsis, I think, Coddler called it,) after the account of the charges for board, masters, extras, &c. —“Every young nobleman (or gentleman) is expected to bring a knife, fork, spoon, and goblet of silver (to prevent breakage), which will not be returned; a dressing-gown and slippers; toilet-box, pomatum, curling-irons, &c. &c. The pupil must on NO ACCOUNT be allowed to have more than ten guineas of pocket-money, unless his parents particularly desire it, or he be above fifteen years of age. WINE will be an extra charge; as are warm, vapor, and douche baths. CARRIAGE EXERCISE will be provided at the rate of fifteen guineas per quarter. It is EARNESTLY REQUESTED that no young nobleman (or gentleman) be allowed to smoke. In a place devoted to THE CULTIVATION OF POLITE LITERATURE, such an ignoble enjoyment were profane.


“Chaplain and late tutor to his Grace the Duke of Buckminster.


To this establishment our Tug was sent. “Recollect, my dear,” said his mamma, “that you are a Tuggeridge by birth, and that I expect you to beat all the boys in the school; especially that Wellington MacTurk, who, though he is a lord’s son, is nothing to you, who are the heir of Tuggeridgeville.”

Tug was a smart young fellow enough, and could cut and curl as well as any young chap of his age: he was not a bad hand at a wig either, and could shave, too, very prettily; but that was in the old time, when we were not great people: when he came to be a gentleman, he had to learn Latin and Greek, and had a deal of lost time to make up for, on going to school.

However, we had no fear; for the Reverend Mr. Coddler used to send monthly accounts of his pupil’s progress, and if Tug was not a wonder of the world, I don’t know who was. It was

General behavior. . . . ..excellent.
English. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . very good.
French. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . tres bien.
Latin. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .optime.

And so on:— he possessed all the virtues, and wrote to us every month for money. My dear Jemmy and I determined to go and see him, after he had been at school a quarter; we went, and were shown by Mr. Coddler, one of the meekest, smilingest little men I ever saw, into the bedrooms and eating-rooms (the dromitaries and refractories he called them), which were all as comfortable as comfortable might be. “It is a holiday, today,” said Mr. Coddler; and a holiday it seemed to be. In the dining-room were half a dozen young gentlemen playing at cards (“All tip-top nobility,” observed Mr. Coddler); — in the bedrooms there was only one gent: he was lying on his bed, reading novels and smoking cigars. “Extraordinary genius!” whispered Coddler. “Honorable Tom Fitz-Warter, cousin of Lord Byron’s; smokes all day; and has written the SWEETEST poems you can imagine. Genius, my dear madam, you know — genius must have its way.” “Well, UPON my word,” says Jemmy, “if that’s genius, I had rather that Master Tuggeridge Coxe Tuggeridge remained a dull fellow.”

“Impossible, my dear madam,” said Coddler. “Mr. Tuggeridge Coxe COULDN’T be stupid if he TRIED.”

Just then up comes Lord Claude Lollypop, third son of the Marquis of Allycompane. We were introduced instantly: “Lord Claude Lollypop, Mr. and Mrs. Coxe.” The little lord wagged his head, my wife bowed very low, and so did Mr. Coddler; who, as he saw my lord making for the playground, begged him to show us the way. —“Come along,” says my lord; and as he walked before us, whistling, we had leisure to remark the beautiful holes in his jacket, and elsewhere.

About twenty young noblemen (and gentlemen) were gathered round a pastry-cook’s shop at the end of the green. “That’s the grub-shop,” said my lord, “where we young gentlemen wot has money buys our wittles, and them young gentlemen wot has none, goes tick.”

Then we passed a poor red-haired usher sitting on a bench alone. “That’s Mr. Hicks, the Husher, ma’am,” says my lord. “We keep him, for he’s very useful to throw stones at, and he keeps the chaps’ coats when there’s a fight, or a game at cricket. — Well, Hicks, how’s your mother? what’s the row now?” “I believe, my lord,” said the usher, very meekly, “there is a pugilistic encounter somewhere on the premises — the Honorable Mr. Mac —”

“Oh! COME along,” said Lord Lollypop, “come along: this way, ma’am! Go it, ye cripples!” And my lord pulled my dear Jemmy’s gown in the kindest and most familiar way, she trotting on after him, mightily pleased to be so taken notice of, and I after her. A little boy went running across the green. “Who is it, Petitoes?” screams my lord. “Turk and the barber,” pipes Petitoes, and runs to the pastry-cook’s like mad. “Turk and the ba — ” laughs out my lord, looking at us. “HURRA! THIS way, ma’am!” And turning round a corner, he opened a door into a court-yard, where a number of boys were collected, and a great noise of shrill voices might be heard. “Go it, Turk!” says one. “Go it, barber!” says another. “PUNCH HITH LIFE OUT!” roars another, whose voice was just cracked, and his clothes half a yard too short for him!

Fancy our horror when, on the crowd making way, we saw Tug pummelling away at the Honorable Master MacTurk! My dear Jemmy, who don’t understand such things, pounced upon the two at once, and, with one hand tearing away Tug, sent him spinning back into the arms of his seconds, while, with the other, she clawed hold of Master MacTurk’s red hair, and, as soon as she got her second hand free, banged it about his face and ears like a good one.

“You nasty — wicked — quarrelsome — aristocratic” (each word was a bang)—“aristocratic — oh! oh! oh!”— Here the words stopped; for what with the agitation, maternal solicitude, and a dreadful kick on the shins which, I am ashamed to say, Master MacTurk administered, my dear Jemmy could bear it no longer, and sunk fainting away in my arms.

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