The Great Hoggarty Diamond, by William Makepeace Thackeray


Of Sam’s Private Affairs and of the Firm of Brough and Hoff

We took a genteel house in Bernard Street, Russell Square, and my aunt sent for all her furniture from the country; which would have filled two such houses, but which came pretty cheap to us young housekeepers, as we had only to pay the carriage of the goods from Bristol.

When I brought Mrs. H. her third half-year’s dividend, having not for four months touched a shilling of her money, I must say she gave me 50_l. of the 80_l., and told me that was ample pay for the board and lodging of a poor old woman like her, who did not eat more than a sparrow.

I have myself, in the country, seen her eat nine sparrows in a pudding; but she was rich and I could not complain. If she saved 600_l. a year, at the least, by living with us, why, all the savings would one day come to me; and so Mary and I consoled ourselves, and tried to manage matters as well as we might. It was no easy task to keep a mansion in Bernard Street and save money out of 470_l. a year, which was my income. But what a lucky fellow I was to have such an income!

As Mrs. Hoggarty left the Rookery in Smithers’s carriage, Mr. Brough, with his four greys, was entering the lodge-gate; and I should like to have seen the looks of these two gentlemen, as the one was carrying the other’s prey off, out of his own very den, under his very nose.

He came to see her the next day, and protested that he would not leave the house until she left it with him: that he had heard of his daughter’s infamous conduct, and had seen her in tears —“in tears, madam, and on her knees, imploring Heaven to pardon her!” But Mr. B. was obliged to leave the house without my aunt, who had a causa major for staying, and hardly allowed poor Mary out of her sight — opening every one of the letters that came into the house directed to my wife, and suspecting hers to everybody. Mary never told me of all this pain for many many years afterwards; but had always a smiling face for her husband when he came home from his work. As for poor Gus, my aunt had so frightened him, that he never once showed his nose in the place all the time we lived there; but used to be content with news of Mary, of whom he was as fond as he was of me.

Mr. Brough, when my aunt left him, was in a furious ill-humour with me. He found fault with me ten times a day, and openly, before the gents of the office; but I let him one day know pretty smartly that I was not only a servant, but a considerable shareholder in the company; that I defied him to find fault with my work or my regularity; and that I was not minded to receive any insolent language from him or any man. He said it was always so: that he had never cherished a young man in his bosom, but the ingrate had turned on him; that he was accustomed to wrong and undutifulness from his children, and that he would pray that the sin might be forgiven me. A moment before he had been cursing and swearing at me, and speaking to me as if I had been his shoeblack. But, look you, I was not going to put up with any more of Madam Brough’s airs, or of his. With me they might act as they thought fit; but I did not choose that my wife should be passed over by them, as she had been in the matter of the visit to Fulham.

Brough ended by warning me of Hodge and Smithers. “Beware of these men,” said he; “but for my honesty, your aunt’s landed property would have been sacrificed by these cormorants: and when, for her benefit — which you, obstinate young man, will not perceive — I wished to dispose of her land, her attorneys actually had the audacity — the unchristian avarice I may say — to ask ten per cent. commission on the sale.”

There might be some truth in this, I thought: at any rate, when rogues fall out, honest men come by their own: and now I began to suspect, I am sorry to say, that both the attorney and the Director had a little of the rogue in their composition. It was especially about my wife’s fortune that Mr. B. showed his cloven foot: for proposing, as usual, that I should purchase shares with it in our Company, I told him that my wife was a minor, and as such her little fortune was vested out of my control altogether. He flung away in a rage at this; and I soon saw that he did not care for me any more, by Abednego’s manner to me. No more holidays, no more advances of money, had I: on the contrary, the private clerkship at 150_l. was abolished, and I found myself on my 250_l. a year again. Well, what then? it was always a good income, and I did my duty, and laughed at the Director.

About this time, in the beginning of 1824, the Jamaica Ginger Beer Company shut up shop — exploded, as Gus said, with a bang! The Patent Pump shares were down to 15_l. upon a paid-up capital of 65_l. Still ours were at a high premium; and the Independent West Diddlesex held its head up as proudly as any office in London. Roundhand’s abuse had had some influence against the Director, certainly; for he hinted at malversation of shares: but the Company still stood as united as the Hand-inHand, and as firm as the Rock.

To return to the state of affairs in Bernard Street, Russell Square: my aunt’s old furniture crammed our little rooms; and my aunt’s enormous old jingling grand piano, with crooked legs and half the strings broken, occupied three-fourths of the little drawing-room. Here used Mrs. H. to sit, and play us, for hours, sonatas that were in fashion in Lord Charleville’s time; and sung with a cracked voice, till it was all that we could do to refrain from laughing.

And it was queer to remark the change that had taken place in Mrs. Hoggarty’s character now: for whereas she was in the country among the topping persons of the village, and quite content with a tea-party at six and a game of twopenny whist afterwards — in London she would never dine till seven; would have a fly from the mews to drive in the Park twice a week; cut and uncut, and ripped up and twisted over and over, all her old gowns, flounces, caps, and fallals, and kept my poor Mary from morning till night altering them to the present mode. Mrs. Hoggarty, moreover, appeared in a new wig; and, I am sorry to say, turned out with such a pair of red cheeks as Nature never gave her, and as made all the people in Bernard Street stare, where they are not as yet used to such fashions.

Moreover, she insisted upon our establishing a servant in livery — a boy, that is, of about sixteen — who was dressed in one of the old liveries that she had brought with her from Somersetshire, decorated with new cuffs and collars, and new buttons: on the latter were represented the united crests of the Titmarshes and Hoggartys, viz., a tomtit rampant and a hog in armour. I thought this livery and crest-button rather absurd, I must confess; though my family is very ancient. And heavens! what a roar of laughter was raised in the office one day, when the little servant in the big livery, with the immense cane, walked in and brought me a message from Mrs. Hoggarty of Castle Hoggarty! Furthermore, all letters were delivered on a silver tray. If we had had a baby, I believe Aunt would have had it down on the tray: but there was as yet no foundation for Mr. Smithers’s insinuation upon that score, any more than for his other cowardly fabrication before narrated. Aunt and Mary used to walk gravely up and down the New Road, with the boy following with his great gold-headed stick; but though there was all this ceremony and parade, and Aunt still talked of her acquaintances, we did not see a single person from week’s end to week’s end, and a more dismal house than ours could hardly be found in London town.

On Sundays, Mrs. Hoggarty used to go to St. Pancras Church, then just built, and as handsome as Covent Garden Theatre; and of evenings, to a meeting-house of the Anabaptists: and that day, at least, Mary and I had to ourselves — for we chose to have seats at the Foundling, and heard the charming music there, and my wife used to look wistfully in the pretty children’s faces — and so, for the matter of that, did I. It was not, however, till a year after our marriage that she spoke in a way which shall be here passed over, but which filled both her and me with inexpressible joy.

I remember she had the news to give me on the very day when the Muff and Tippet Company shut up, after swallowing a capital of 300,000_l. as some said, and nothing to show for it except a treaty with some Indians, who had afterwards tomahawked the agent of the Company. Some people said there were no Indians, and no agent to be tomahawked at all; but that the whole had been invented in a house in Crutched Friars. Well, I pitied poor Tidd, whose 20,000_l. were thus gone in a year, and whom I met in the City that day with a most ghastly face. He had 1,000_l. of debts, he said, and talked of shooting himself; but he was only arrested, and passed a long time in the Fleet. Mary’s delightful news, however, soon put Tidd and the Muff and Tippet Company out of my head; as you may fancy.

Other circumstances now occurred in the City of London which seemed to show that our Director was — what is not to be found in Johnson’s Dictionary — rather shaky. Three of his companies had broken; four more were in a notoriously insolvent state; and even at the meetings of the directors of the West Diddlesex, some stormy words passed, which ended in the retirement of several of the board. Friends of Mr. B.‘s filled up their places: Mr. Puppet, Mr. Straw, Mr. Query, and other respectable gents, coming forward and joining the concern. Brough and Hoff dissolved partnership; and Mr. B. said he had quite enough to do to manage the I. W. D., and intended gradually to retire from the other affairs. Indeed, such an Association as ours was enough work for any man, let alone the parliamentary duties which Brough was called on to perform, and the seventy-two lawsuits which burst upon him as principal director of the late companies.

Perhaps I should here describe the desperate attempts made by Mrs. Hoggarty to introduce herself into genteel life. Strange to say, although we had my Lord Tiptoff’s word to the contrary, she insisted upon it that she and Lady Drum were intimately related; and no sooner did she read in the Morning Post of the arrival of her Ladyship and her granddaughters in London, than she ordered the fly before mentioned, and left cards at their respective houses: her card, that is —“Mrs. Hoggarty of Castle Hoggarty,” magnificently engraved in Gothic letters and flourishes; and ours, viz., “Mr. and Mrs. S. Titmarsh,” which she had printed for the purpose.

She would have stormed Lady Jane Preston’s door and forced her way upstairs, in spite of Mary’s entreaties to the contrary, had the footman who received her card given her the least encouragement; but that functionary, no doubt struck by the oddity of her appearance, placed himself in the front of the door, and declared that he had positive orders not to admit any strangers to his lady. On which Mrs. Hoggarty clenched her fist out of the coach-window, and promised that she would have him turned away.

Yellowplush only burst out laughing at this; and though Aunt wrote a most indignant letter to Mr. Edmund Preston, complaining of the insolence of the servants of that right honourable gent, Mr. Preston did not take any notice of her letter, further than to return it, with a desire that he might not be troubled with such impertinent visits for the future. A pretty day we had of it when this letter arrived, owing to my aunt’s disappointment and rage in reading the contents; for when Solomon brought up the note on the silver tea-tray as usual, my aunt, seeing Mr. Preston’s seal and name at the corner of the letter (which is the common way of writing adopted by those official gents)— my aunt, I say, seeing his name and seal, cried, “now, Mary, who is right?” and betted my wife a sixpence that the envelope contained an invitation to dinner. She never paid the sixpence, though she lost, but contented herself by abusing Mary all day, and said I was a poor-spirited sneak for not instantly horsewhipping Mr. P. A pretty joke, indeed! They would have hanged me in those days, as they did the man who shot Mr. Perceval.

And now I should be glad to enlarge upon that experience in genteel life which I obtained through the perseverance of Mrs. Hoggarty; but it must be owned that my opportunities were but few, lasting only for the brief period of six months: and also, genteel society has been fully described already by various authors of novels, whose names need not here be set down, but who, being themselves connected with the aristocracy, viz., as members of noble families, or as footmen or hangers-on thereof, naturally understand their subject a great deal better than a poor young fellow from a fire-office can.

There was our celebrated adventure in the Opera House, whither Mrs. H. would insist upon conducting us; and where, in a room of the establishment called the crush-room, where the ladies and gents after the music and dancing await the arrival of their carriages (a pretty figure did our little Solomon cut, by the way, with his big cane, among the gentlemen of the shoulder-knot assembled in the lobby!)— where, I say, in the crush-room, Mrs. H. rushed up to old Lady Drum, whom I pointed out to her, and insisted upon claiming relationship with her Ladyship. But my Lady Drum had only a memory when she chose, as I may say, and had entirely on this occasion thought fit to forget her connection with the Titmarshes and Hoggarties. Far from recognising us, indeed, she called Mrs. Hoggarty an “ojus ‘oman,” and screamed out as loud as possible for a police-officer.

This and other rebuffs made my aunt perceive the vanities of this wicked world, as she said, and threw her more and more into really serious society. She formed several very valuable acquaintances, she said, at the Independent Chapel; and among others, lighted upon her friend of the Rookery, Mr. Grimes Wapshot. We did not know then the interview which he had had with Mr. Smithers, nor did Grimes think proper to acquaint us with the particulars of it; but though I did acquaint Mrs. H. with the fact that her favourite preacher had been tried for forgery, she replied that she considered the story an atrocious calumny; and he answered by saying that Mary and I were in lamentable darkness, and that we should infallibly find the way to a certain bottomless pit, of which he seemed to know a great deal. Under the reverend gentleman’s guidance and advice, she, after a time, separated from St. Pancras altogether —“sat under him,” as the phrase is, regularly thrice a week — began to labour in the conversion of the poor of Bloomsbury and St. Giles’s, and made a deal of baby-linen for distribution among those benighted people. She did not make any, however, for Mrs. Sam Titmarsh, who now showed signs that such would be speedily necessary, but let Mary (and my mother and sisters in Somersetshire) provide what was requisite for the coming event. I am not, indeed, sure that she did not say it was wrong on our parts to make any such provision, and that we ought to let the morrow provide for itself. At any rate, the Reverend Grimes Wapshot drank a deal of brandy-and-water at our house, and dined there even oftener than poor Gus used to do.

But I had little leisure to attend to him and his doings; for I must confess at this time I was growing very embarrassed in my circumstances, and was much harassed both as a private and public character.

As regards the former, Mrs. Hoggarty had given me 50_l.; but out of that 50_l. I had to pay a journey post from Somersetshire, all the carriage of her goods from the country, the painting, papering, and carpeting of my house, the brandy and strong liquors drunk by the Reverend Grimes and his friends (for the reverend gent said that Rosolio did not agree with him); and finally, a thousand small bills and expenses incident to all housekeepers in the town of London.

Add to this, I received just at the time when I was most in want of cash, Madame Mantalini’s bill, Messrs. Howell and James’s ditto, the account of Baron Von Stiltz, and the bill of Mr. Polonius for the setting of the diamond pin. All these bills arrived in a week, as they have a knack of doing; and fancy my astonishment in presenting them to Mrs. Hoggarty, when she said, “Well, my dear, you are in the receipt of a very fine income. If you choose to order dresses and jewels from first-rate shops, you must pay for them; and don’t expect that I am to abet your extravagance, or give you a shilling more than the munificent sum I pay you for board and lodging!”

How could I tell Mary of this behaviour of Mrs. Hoggarty, and Mary in such a delicate condition? And bad as matters were at home, I am sorry to say at the office they began to look still worse.

Not only did Roundhand leave, but Highmore went away. Abednego became head clerk: and one day old Abednego came to the place and was shown into the directors’ private room; when he left it, he came trembling, chattering, and cursing downstairs; and had begun, “Shentlemen —” a speech to the very clerks in the office, when Mr. Brough, with an imploring look, and crying out, “Stop till Saturday!” at length got him into the street.

On Saturday Abednego junior left the office for ever, and I became head clerk with 400_l. a year salary. It was a fatal week for the office, too. On Monday, when I arrived and took my seat at the head desk, and my first read of the newspaper, as was my right, the first thing I read was, “Frightful fire in Houndsditch! Total destruction of Mr. Meshach’s sealing-wax manufactory and of Mr. Shadrach’s clothing depot, adjoining. In the former was 20,000_l. worth of the finest Dutch wax, which the voracious element attacked and devoured in a twinkling. The latter estimable gentleman had just completed forty thousand suits of clothes for the cavalry of H.H. the Cacique of Poyais.”

Both of these Jewish gents, who were connections of Mr. Abednego, were insured in our office to the full amount of their loss. The calamity was attributed to the drunkenness of a scoundrelly Irish watchman, who was employed on the premises, and who upset a bottle of whisky in the warehouse of Messrs. Shadrach, and incautiously looked for the liquor with a lighted candle. The man was brought to our office by his employers; and certainly, as we all could testify, was even then in a state of frightful intoxication.

As if this were not sufficient, in the obituary was announced the demise of Alderman Pash — Alderman Cally-Pash we used to call him in our lighter hours, knowing his propensity to green fat: but such a moment as this was no time for joking! He was insured by our house for 5,000_l. And now I saw very well the truth of a remark of Gus’s — viz., that life-assurance companies go on excellently for a year or two after their establishment, but that it is much more difficult to make them profitable when the assured parties begin to die.

The Jewish fires were the heaviest blows we had had; for though the Waddingley Cotton-mills had been burnt in 1822, at a loss to the Company of 80,000_l., and though the Patent Erostratus Match Manufactory had exploded in the same year at a charge of 14,000_l., there were those who said that the loss had not been near so heavy as was supposed — nay, that the Company had burnt the above-named establishments as advertisements for themselves. Of these facts I can’t be positive, having never seen the early accounts of the concern.

Contrary to the expectation of all us gents, who were ourselves as dismal as mutes, Mr. Brough came to the office in his coach-and-four, laughing and joking with a friend as he stepped out at the door.

“Gentlemen!” said he, “you have read the papers; they announce an event which I most deeply deplore. I mean the demise of the excellent Alderman Pash, one of our constituents. But if anything can console me for the loss of that worthy man, it is to think that his children and widow will receive, at eleven o’clock next Saturday, 5,000_l. from my friend Mr. Titmarsh, who is now head clerk here. As for the accident which has happened to Messrs. Shadrach and Meshach — in that, at least, there is nothing that can occasion any person sorrow. On Saturday next, or as soon as the particulars of their loss can be satisfactorily ascertained, my friend Mr. Titmarsh will pay to them across the counter a sum of forty, fifty, eighty, one hundred thousand pounds — according to the amount of their loss. They, at least, will be remunerated; and though to our proprietors the outlay will no doubt be considerable, yet we can afford it, gentlemen. John Brough can afford it himself, for the matter of that, and not be very much embarrassed; and we must learn to bear ill-fortune as we have hitherto borne good, and show ourselves to be men always!”

Mr. B. concluded with some allusions, which I confess I don’t like to give here; for to speak of Heaven in connection with common worldly matters, has always appeared to me irreverent; and to bring it to bear witness to the lie in his mouth, as a religious hypocrite does, is such a frightful crime, that one should be careful even in alluding to it.

Mr. Brough’s speech somehow found its way into the newspapers of that very evening; nor can I think who gave a report of it, for none of our gents left the office that day until the evening papers had appeared. But there was the speech — ay, and at the week’s end, although Roundhand was heard on ‘Change that day declaring he would bet five to one that Alderman Pash’s money would never be paid — at the week’s end the money was paid by me to Mrs. Pash’s solicitor across the counter, and no doubt Roundhand lost his money.

Shall I tell how the money was procured? There can be no harm in mentioning the matter now after twenty years’ lapse of time; and moreover, it is greatly to the credit of two individuals now dead.

As I was head clerk, I had occasion to be frequently in Brough’s room, and he now seemed once more disposed to take me into his confidence.

“Titmarsh my boy,” said he one day to me, after looking me hard in the face, “did you ever hear of the fate of the great Mr. Silberschmidt of London?” Of course I had. Mr. Silberschmidt, the Rothschild of his day (indeed I have heard the latter famous gent was originally a clerk in Silberschmidt’s house)— Silberschmidt, fancying he could not meet his engagements, committed suicide; and had he lived till four o’clock that day, would have known that he was worth 400,000_l. “To tell you frankly the truth,” says Mr. B., “I am in Silberschmidt’s case. My late partner, Hoff, has given bills in the name of the firm to an enormous amount, and I have been obliged to meet them. I have been cast in fourteen actions, brought by creditors of that infernal Ginger Beer Company; and all the debts are put upon my shoulders, on account of my known wealth. Now, unless I have time, I cannot pay; and the long and short of the matter is that if I cannot procure 5,000_l. before Saturday, our concern is ruined!”

“What! the West Diddlesex ruined?” says I, thinking of my poor mother’s annuity. “Impossible! our business is splendid!”

“We must have 5,000_l. on Saturday, and we are saved; and if you will, as you can, get it for me, I will give you 10,000_l. for the money!”

B. then showed me to a fraction the accounts of the concern, and his own private account; proving beyond the possibility of a doubt, that with the 5,000_l. our office must be set a-going; and without it, that the concern must stop. No matter how he proved the thing; but there is, you know, a dictum of a statesman that, give him but leave to use figures, and he will prove anything.

I promised to ask Mrs. Hoggarty once more for the money, and she seemed not to be disinclined. I told him so; and that day he called upon her, his wife called upon her, his daughter called upon her, and once more the Brough carriage-and-four was seen at our house.

But Mrs. Brough was a bad manager; and, instead of carrying matters with a high hand, fairly burst into tears before Mrs. Hoggarty, and went down on her knees and besought her to save dear John. This at once aroused my aunt’s suspicions; and instead of lending the money, she wrote off to Mr. Smithers instantly to come up to her, desired me to give her up the 3,000_l. scrip shares that I possessed, called me an atrocious cheat and heartless swindler, and vowed I had been the cause of her ruin.

How was Mr. Brough to get the money? I will tell you. Being in his room one day, old Gates the Fulham porter came and brought him from Mr. Balls, the pawnbroker, a sum of 1,200_l. Missus told him, he said, to carry the plate to Mr. Balls; and having paid the money, old Gates fumbled a great deal in his pockets, and at last pulled out a 5_l. note, which he said his daughter Jane had just sent him from service, and begged Mr. B. would let him have another share in the Company. “He was mortal sure it would go right yet. And when he heard master crying and cursing as he and missus were walking in the shrubbery, and saying that for the want of a few pounds — a few shillings — the finest fortune in Europe was to be overthrown, why Gates and his woman thought that they should come for’ard, to be sure, with all they could, to help the kindest master and missus ever was.”

This was the substance of Gates’s speech; and Mr. Brough shook his hand and — took the 5_l. “Gates,” said he, “that 5_l. note shall be the best outlay you ever made in your life!” and I have no doubt it was — but it was in heaven that poor old Gates was to get the interest of his little mite.

Nor was this the only instance. Mrs. Brough’s sister, Miss Dough, who had been on bad terms with the Director almost ever since he had risen to be a great man, came to the office with a power of attorney, and said, “John, Isabella has been with me this morning, and says you want money, and I have brought you my 4,000_l.; it is all I have, John, and pray God it may do you good — you and my dear sister, who was the best sister in the world to me — till — till a little time ago.”

And she laid down the paper: I was called up to witness it, and Brough, with tears in his eyes, told me her words; for he could trust me, he said. And thus it was that I came to be present at Gates’s interview with his master, which took place only an hour afterwards. Brave Mrs. Brough! how she was working for her husband! Good woman, and kind! but you had a true heart, and merited a better fate! Though wherefore say so? The woman, to this day, thinks her husband an angel, and loves him a thousand times better for his misfortunes.

On Saturday, Alderman Pash’s solicitor was paid by me across the counter, as I said. “Never mind your aunt’s money, Titmarsh my boy,” said Brough: “never mind her having resumed her shares. You are a true honest fellow; you have never abused me like that pack of curs downstairs, and I’ll make your fortune yet!”

* * * * *

The next week, as I was sitting with my wife, with Mr. Smithers, and with Mrs. Hoggarty, taking our tea comfortably, a knock was heard at the door, and a gentleman desired to speak to me in the parlour. It was Mr. Aminadab of Chancery Lane, who arrested me as a shareholder of the Independent West Diddlesex Association, at the suit of Von Stiltz of Clifford Street, tailor and draper.

I called down Smithers, and told him for Heaven’s sake not to tell Mary.

“Where is Brough?” says Mr. Smithers.

“Why,” says Mr. Aminadab, “he’s once more of the firm of Brough and Off, sir — he breakfasted at Calais this morning!”

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