Cox's Diary, by William Makepeace Thackeray

A Tournament.

“I say, Tug,” said MacTurk, one day soon after our flareup at Beulah, “Kilblazes comes of age in October, and then we’ll cut you out, as I told you: the old barberess will die of spite when she hears what we are going to do. What do you think? we’re going to have a tournament!” “What’s a tournament?” says Tug, and so said his mamma when she heard the news; and when she knew what a tournament was, I think, really, she WAS as angry as MacTurk said she would be, and gave us no peace for days together. “What!” says she, “dress up in armor, like play-actors, and run at each other with spears? The Kilblazes must be mad!” And so I thought, but I didn’t think the Tuggeridges would be mad too, as they were: for, when Jemmy heard that the Kilblazes’ festival was to be, as yet, a profound secret, what does she do, but send down to the Morning Post a flaming account of


“The days of chivalry are NOT past. The fair Castellane of T-gg-r-dgeville, whose splendid entertainments have so often been alluded to in this paper, has determined to give one, which shall exceed in splendor even the magnificence of the Middle Ages. We are not at liberty to say more; but a tournament, at which His Ex-l-ncy B-r-n de P-nt-r and Thomas T-gr-g, Esq., eldest son of Sir Th — s T-gr-g, are to be the knights-defendants against all comers; a QUEEN OF BEAUTY, of whose loveliness every frequenter of fashion has felt the power; a banquet, unexampled in the annals of Gunter; and a ball, in which the recollections of ancient chivalry will blend sweetly with the soft tones of Weippert and Collinet, are among the entertainments which the Ladye of T-gg-ridgeville has prepared for her distinguished guests.”

The Baron was the life of the scheme; he longed to be on horseback, and in the field at Tuggeridgeville, where he, Tagrag, and a number of our friends practised: he was the very best tilter present; he vaulted over his horse, and played such wonderful antics, as never were done except at Ducrow’s.

And now — oh that I had twenty pages, instead of this short chapter, to describe the wonders of the day! — Twenty-four knights came from Ashley’s at two guineas a head. We were in hopes to have had Miss Woolford in the character of Joan of Arc, but that lady did not appear. We had a tent for the challengers, at each side of which hung what they called ESCOACHINGS, (like hatchments, which they put up when people die,) and underneath sat their pages, holding their helmets for the tournament. Tagrag was in brass armor (my City connections got him that famous suit); his Excellency in polished steel. My wife wore a coronet, modelled exactly after that of Queen Catharine, in “Henry V.;” a tight gilt jacket, which set off dear Jemmy’s figure wonderfully, and a train of at least forty feet. Dear Jemimarann was in white, her hair braided with pearls. Madame de Flicflac appeared as Queen Elizabeth; and Lady Blanche Bluenose as a Turkish princess. An alderman of London and his lady; two magistrates of the county, and the very pink of Croydon; several Polish noblemen; two Italian counts (besides our Count); one hundred and ten young officers, from Addiscombe College, in full uniform, commanded by Major-General Sir Miles Mulligatawney, K.C.B., and his lady; the Misses Pimminy’s Finishing Establishment, and fourteen young ladies, all in white: the Reverend Doctor Wapshot, and forty-nine young gentlemen, of the first families, under his charge — were SOME only of the company. I leave you to fancy that, if my Jemmy did seek for fashion, she had enough of it on this occasion. They wanted me to have mounted again, but my hunting-day had been sufficient; besides, I ain’t big enough for a real knight: so, as Mrs. Coxe insisted on my opening the Tournament — and I knew it was in vain to resist — the Baron and Tagrag had undertaken to arrange so that I might come off with safety, if I came off at all. They had procured from the Strand Theatre a famous stud of hobby-horses, which they told me had been trained for the use of the great Lord Bateman. I did not know exactly what they were till they arrived; but as they had belonged to a lord, I thought it was all right, and consented; and I found it the best sort of riding, after all, to appear to be on horseback and walk safely a-foot at the same time; and it was impossible to come down as long as I kept on my own legs: besides, I could cuff and pull my steed about as much as I liked, without fear of his biting or kicking in return. As Lord of the Tournament, they placed in my hands a lance, ornamented spirally, in blue and gold: I thought of the pole over my old shop door, and almost wished myself there again, as I capered up to the battle in my helmet and breastplate, with all the trumpets blowing and drums beating at the time. Captain Tagrag was my opponent, and preciously we poked each other, till, prancing about, I put my foot on my horse’s petticoat behind, and down I came, getting a thrust from the Captain, at the same time, that almost broke my shoulder-bone. “This was sufficient,” they said, “for the laws of chivalry;” and I was glad to get off so.

After that the gentlemen riders, of whom there were no less than seven, in complete armor, and the professionals, now ran at the ring; and the Baron was far, far the most skilful.

“How sweetly the dear Baron rides,” said my wife, who was always ogling at him, smirking, smiling, and waving her handkerchief to him. “I say, Sam,” says a professional to one of his friends, as, after their course, they came cantering up, and ranged under Jemmy’s bower, as she called it:—“I say, Sam, I’m blowed if that chap in harmer mustn’t have been one of hus.” And this only made Jemmy the more pleased; for the fact is, the Baron had chosen the best way of winning Jemimarann by courting her mother.

The Baron was declared conqueror at the ring; and Jemmy awarded him the prize, a wreath of white roses, which she placed on his lance; he receiving it gracefully, and bowing, until the plumes of his helmet mingled with the mane of his charger, which backed to the other end of the lists; then galloping back to the place where Jemimarann was seated, he begged her to place it on his helmet. The poor girl blushed very much, and did so. As all the people were applauding, Tagrag rushed up, and, laying his hand on the Baron’s shoulder, whispered something in his ear, which made the other very angry, I suppose, for he shook him off violently. “Chacun pour soi,” says he, “Monsieur de Taguerague,”— which means, I am told, “Every man for himself.” And then he rode away, throwing his lance in the air, catching it, and making his horse caper and prance, to the admiration of all beholders.

After this came the “Passage of Arms.” Tagrag and the Baron ran courses against the other champions; ay, and unhorsed two apiece; whereupon the other three refused to turn out; and preciously we laughed at them, to be sure!

“Now, it’s OUR turn, Mr. CHICOT,” says Tagrag, shaking his fist at the Baron: “look to yourself, you infernal mountebank, for, by Jupiter, I’ll do my best!” And before Jemmy and the rest of us, who were quite bewildered, could say a word, these two friends were charging away, spears in hand, ready to kill each other. In vain Jemmy screamed; in vain I threw down my truncheon: they had broken two poles before I could say “Jack Robinson,” and were driving at each other with the two new ones. The Baron had the worst of the first course, for he had almost been carried out of his saddle. “Hark you, Chicot!” screamed out Tagrag, “next time look to your head!” And next time, sure enough, each aimed at the head of the other.

Tagrag’s spear hit the right place; for it carried off the Baron’s helmet, plume, rose-wreath and all; but his Excellency hit truer still — his lance took Tagrag on the neck, and sent him to the ground like a stone.

“He’s won! he’s won!” says Jemmy, waving her handkerchief; Jemimarann fainted, Lady Blanche screamed, and I felt so sick that I thought I should drop. All the company were in an uproar: only the Baron looked calm, and bowed very gracefully, and kissed his hand to Jemmy; when, all of a sudden, a Jewish-looking man springing over the barrier, and followed by three more, rushed towards the Baron. “Keep the gate, Bob!” he holloas out. “Baron, I arrest you, at the suit of Samuel Levison, for —”

But he never said for what; shouting out, “Aha!” and “Sapprrrristie!” and I don’t know what, his Excellency drew his sword, dug his spurs into his horse, and was over the poor bailiff, and off before another word. He had threatened to run through one of the bailiff’s followers, Mr. Stubbs, only that gentleman made way for him; and when we took up the bailiff, and brought him round by the aid of a little brandy-and-water, he told us all. “I had a writ againsht him, Mishter Coxsh, but I didn’t vant to shpoil shport; and, beshidesh, I didn’t know him until dey knocked off his shteel cap!”


Here was a pretty business!

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