The Great Hoggarty Diamond, by William Makepeace Thackeray


Of the West Diddlesex Association, and of the Effect the Diamond Had There

Well, the magic of the pin was not over yet. Very soon after Mrs. Brough’s grand party, our director called me up to his room at the West Diddlesex, and after examining my accounts, and speaking awhile about business, said, “That’s a very fine diamond-pin, Master Titmarsh” (he spoke in a grave patronising way), “and I called you on purpose to speak to you upon the subject. I do not object to seeing the young men of this establishment well and handsomely dressed; but I know that their salaries cannot afford ornaments like those, and I grieve to see you with a thing of such value. You have paid for it, sir — I trust you have paid for it; for, of all things, my dear — dear young friend, beware of debt.”

I could not conceive why Brough was reading me this lecture about debt and my having bought the diamond-pin, as I knew that he had been asking about it already, and how I came by it — Abednego told me so. “Why, sir,” says I, “Mr. Abednego told me that he had told you that I had told him —”

“Oh, ay-by-the-bye, now I recollect, Mr. Titmarsh — I do recollect — yes; though I suppose, sir, you will imagine that I have other more important things to remember.”

“Oh, sir, in course,” says I.

“That one of the clerks did say something about a pin — that one of the other gentlemen had it. And so your pin was given you, was it?”

“It was given me, sir, by my aunt, Mrs. Hoggarty of Castle Hoggarty,” said I, raising my voice; for I was a little proud of Castle Hoggarty.

“She must be very rich to make such presents, Titmarsh?”

“Why, thank you, sir,” says I, “she is pretty well off. Four hundred a year jointure; a farm at Slopperton, sir; three houses at Squashtail; and three thousand two hundred loose cash at the banker’s, as I happen to know, sir — that’s all.”

I did happen to know this, you see; because, while I was down in Somersetshire, Mr. MacManus, my aunt’s agent in Ireland, wrote to say that a mortgage she had on Lord Brallaghan’s property had just been paid off, and that the money was lodged at Coutts’s. Ireland was in a very disturbed state in those days; and my aunt wisely determined not to invest her money in that country any more, but to look out for some good security in England. However, as she had always received six per cent. in Ireland, she would not hear of a smaller interest; and had warned me, as I was a commercial man, on coming to town, to look out for some means by which she could invest her money at that rate at least.

“And how do you come to know Mrs. Hoggarty’s property so accurately?” said Mr. Brough; upon which I told him.

“Good heavens, sir! and do you mean that you, a clerk in the West Diddlesex Insurance Office, applied to by a respectable lady as to the manner in which she should invest property, never spoke to her about the Company which you have the honour to serve? Do you mean, sir, that you, knowing there was a bonus of five per cent. for yourself upon shares taken, did not press Mrs. Hoggarty to join us?”

“Sir,” says I, “I’m an honest man, and would not take a bonus from my own relation.”

“Honest I know you are, my boy — give me your hand! So am I honest — so is every man in this Company honest; but we must be prudent as well. We have five millions of capital on our books, as you see — five bona fide millions of bona fide sovereigns paid up, sir — there is no dishonesty there. But why should we not have twenty millions — a hundred millions? Why should not this be the greatest commercial Association in the world? — as it shall be, sir — it shall, as sure as my name is John Brough, if Heaven bless my honest endeavours to establish it! But do you suppose that it can be so, unless every man among us use his utmost exertions to forward the success of the enterprise? Never, sir — never; and, for me, I say so everywhere. I glory in what I do. There is not a house in which I enter, but I leave a prospectus of the West Diddlesex. There is not a single tradesman I employ, but has shares in it to some amount. My servants, sir — my very servants and grooms, are bound up with it. And the first question I ask of anyone who applies to me for a place is, Are you insured or a shareholder in the West Diddlesex? the second, Have you a good character? And if the first question is answered in the negative, I say to the party coming to me, Then be a shareholder before you ask for a place in my household. Did you not see me — me, John Brough, whose name is good for millions — step out of my coach-and-four into this office, with four pounds nineteen, which I paid in to Mr. Roundhand as the price of half a share for the porter at my lodge-gate? Did you remark that I deducted a shilling from the five pound?”

“Yes, sir; it was the day you drew out eight hundred and seventy-three ten and six — Thursday week,” says I.

“And why did I deduct that shilling, sir? Because it was my commission — John Brough’s commission; honestly earned by him, and openly taken. Was there any disguise about it? No. Did I do it for the love of a shilling? No,” says Brough, laying his hand on his heart, “I did it from principle — from that motive which guides every one of my actions, as I can look up to Heaven and say. I wish all my young men to see my example, and follow it: I wish — I pray that they may. Think of that example, sir. That porter of mine has a sick wife and nine young children: he is himself a sick man, and his tenure of life is feeble; he has earned money, sir, in my service — sixty pounds and more — it is all his children have to look to — all: but for that, in the event of his death, they would be houseless beggars in the street. And what have I done for that family, sir? I have put that money out of the reach of Robert Gates, and placed it so that it shall be a blessing to his family at his death. Every farthing is invested in shares in this office; and Robert Gates, my lodge-porter, is a holder of three shares in the West Diddlesex Association, and, in that capacity, your master and mine. Do you think I want to cheat Gates?”

“Oh, sir!” says I.

“To cheat that poor helpless man, and those tender innocent children! — you can’t think so, sir; I should be a disgrace to human nature if I did. But what boots all my energy and perseverance? What though I place my friends’ money, my family’s money, my own money — my hopes, wishes, desires, ambitions — all upon this enterprise? You young men will not do so. You, whom I treat with love and confidence as my children, make no return to me. When I toil, you remain still; when I struggle, you look on. Say the word at once — you doubt me! O heavens, that this should be the reward of all my care and love for you!”

Here Mr. Brough was so affected that he actually burst into tears, and I confess I saw in its true light the negligence of which I had been guilty.

“Sir,” says I, “I am very — very sorry: it was a matter of delicacy, rather than otherwise, which induced me not to speak to my aunt about the West Diddlesex.”

“Delicacy, my dear dear boy — as if there can be any delicacy about making your aunt’s fortune! Say indifference to me, say ingratitude, say folly — but don’t say delicacy — no, no, not delicacy. Be honest, my boy, and call things by their right names — always do.”

“It was folly and ingratitude, Mr. Brough,” says I: “I see it all now; and I’ll write to my aunt this very post.”

“You had better do no such thing,” says Brough, bitterly: “the stocks are at ninety, and Mrs. Hoggarty can get three per cent. for her money.”

“I will write, sir — upon my word and honour, I will write.”

“Well, as your honour is passed, you must, I suppose; for never break your word — no, not in a trifle, Titmarsh. Send me up the letter when you have done, and I’ll frank it — upon my word and honour I will,” says Mr. Brough, laughing, and holding out his hand to me.

I took it, and he pressed mine very kindly —“You may as well sit down here,” says he, as he kept hold of it; “there is plenty of paper.”

And so I sat down and mended a beautiful pen, and began and wrote, “Independent West Diddlesex Association, June 1822,” and “My dear Aunt,” in the best manner possible. Then I paused a little, thinking what I should next say; for I have always found that difficulty about letters. The date and My dear So-and-so one writes off immediately — it is the next part which is hard; and I put my pen in my mouth, flung myself back in my chair, and began to think about it.

“Bah!” said Brough, “are you going to be about this letter all day, my good fellow? Listen to me, and I’ll dictate to you in a moment.” So he began:—

“My Dear Aunt — Since my return from Somersetshire, I am very happy indeed to tell you that I have so pleased the managing director of our Association and the Board, that they have been good enough to appoint me third clerk —”

“Sir!” says I.

“Write what I say. Mr. Roundhand, as has been agreed by the board yesterday, quits the clerk’s desk and takes the title of secretary and actuary. Mr. Highmore takes his place; Mr. Abednego follows him; and I place you as third clerk — as

“third clerk (write), with a salary of a hundred and fifty pounds per annum. This news will, I know, gratify my dear mother and you, who have been a second mother to me all my life.

“When I was last at home, I remember you consulted me as to the best mode of laying out a sum of money which was lying useless in your banker’s hands. I have since lost no opportunity of gaining what information I could: and situated here as I am, in the very midst of affairs, I believe, although very young, I am as good a person to apply to as many others of greater age and standing.

“I frequently thought of mentioning to you our Association, but feelings of delicacy prevented me from doing so. I did not wish that anyone should suppose that a shadow of self-interest could move me in any way.

“But I believe, without any sort of doubt, that the West Diddlesex Association offers the best security that you can expect for your capital, and, at the same time, the highest interest you can anywhere procure.

“The situation of the Company, as I have it from the very best authority (underline that), is as follows:—

“The subscribed and bona fide capital is five millions sterling.

“The body of directors you know. Suffice it to say that the managing director is John Brough, Esq., of the firm of Brough and Hoff, a Member of Parliament, and a man as well known as Mr. Rothschild in the City of London. His private fortune, I know for a fact, amounts to half a million; and the last dividends paid to the shareholders of the I. W. D. Association amounted to 6.125 per cent. per annum.”

[That I know was the dividend declared by us.]

“Although the shares in the market are at a very great premium, it is the privilege of the four first clerks to dispose of a certain number, 5,000_l. each at par; and if you, my dearest aunt, would wish for 2,500_l. worth, I hope you will allow me to oblige you by offering you so much of my new privileges.

“Let me hear from you immediately upon the subject, as I have already an offer for the whole amount of my shares at market price.”

“But I haven’t, sir,” says I.

“You have, sir. I will take the shares; but I want you. I want as many respectable persons in the Company as I can bring. I want you because I like you, and I don’t mind telling you that I have views of my own as well; for I am an honest man and say openly what I mean, and I’ll tell you why I want you. I can’t, by the regulations of the Company, have more than a certain number of votes, but if your aunt takes shares, I expect — I don’t mind owning it — that she will vote with me. Now do you understand me? My object is to be all in all with the Company; and if I be, I will make it the most glorious enterprise that ever was conducted in the City of London.”

So I signed the letter and left it with Mr. B. to frank.

The next day I went and took my place at the third clerk’s desk, being led to it by Mr. B., who made a speech to the gents, much to the annoyance of the other chaps, who grumbled about their services: though, as for the matter of that, our services were very much alike: the Company was only three years old, and the oldest clerk in it had not six months’ more standing in it than I. “Look out,” said that envious M’Whirter to me. “Have you got money, or have any of your relations money? or are any of them going to put it into the concern?”

I did not think fit to answer him, but took a pinch out of his mull, and was always kind to him; and he, to say the truth, was always most civil to me. As for Gus Hoskins, he began to think I was a superior being; and I must say that the rest of the chaps behaved very kindly in the matter, and said that if one man were to be put over their heads before another, they would have pitched upon me, for I had never harmed any of them, and done little kindnesses to several.

“I know,” says Abednego, “how you got the place. It was I who got it you. I told Brough you were a cousin of Preston’s, the Lord of the Treasury, had venison from him and all that; and depend upon it he expects that you will be able to do him some good in that quarter.”

I think there was some likelihood in what Abednego said, because our governor, as we called him, frequently spoke to me about my cousin; told me to push the concern in the West End of the town, get as many noblemen as we could to insure with us, and so on. It was in vain I said I could do nothing with Mr. Preston. “Bah! bah!” says Mr. Brough, “don’t tell me. People don’t send haunches of venison to you for nothing;” and I’m convinced he thought I was a very cautious prudent fellow, for not bragging about my great family, and keeping my connection with them a secret. To be sure he might have learned the truth from Gus, who lived with me; but Gus would insist that I was hand in glove with all the nobility, and boasted about me ten times as much as I did myself.

The chaps used to call me the “West Ender.”

“See,” thought I, “what I have gained by Aunt Hoggarty giving me a diamond-pin! What a lucky thing it is that she did not give me the money, as I hoped she would! Had I not had the pin — had I even taken it to any other person but Mr. Polonius, Lady Drum would never have noticed me; had Lady Drum never noticed me, Mr. Brough never would, and I never should have been third clerk of the West Diddlesex.”

I took heart at all this, and wrote off on the very evening of my appointment to my dearest Mary Smith, giving her warning that a “certain event,” for which one of us was longing very earnestly, might come off sooner than we had expected. And why not? Miss S.‘s own fortune was 70_l. a year, mine was 150_l., and when we had 300_l., we always vowed we would marry. “Ah!” thought I, “if I could but go to Somersetshire now, I might boldly walk up to old Smith’s door” (he was her grandfather, and a half-pay lieutenant of the navy), “I might knock at the knocker and see my beloved Mary in the parlour, and not be obliged to sneak behind hayricks on the look-out for her, or pelt stones at midnight at her window.”

My aunt, in a few days, wrote a pretty gracious reply to my letter. She had not determined, she said, as to the manner in which she should employ her three thousand pounds, but should take my offer into consideration; begging me to keep my shares open for a little while, until her mind was made up.

What, then, does Mr. Brough do? I learned afterwards, in the year 1830, when he and the West Diddlesex Association had disappeared altogether, how he had proceeded.

“Who are the attorneys at Slopperton?” says he to me in a careless way.

“Mr. Ruck, sir,” says I, “is the Tory solicitor, and Messrs. Hodge and Smithers the Liberals.” I knew them very well, for the fact is, before Mary Smith came to live in our parts, I was rather partial to Miss Hodge, and her great gold-coloured ringlets; but Mary came and soon put her nose out of joint, as the saying is.

“And you are of what politics?”

“Why, sir, we are Liberals.” I was rather ashamed of this, for Mr. Brough was an out-and-out Tory; but Hodge and Smithers is a most respectable firm. I brought up a packet from them to Hickson, Dixon, Paxton, and Jackson, our solicitors, who are their London correspondents.

Mr. Brough only said, “Oh, indeed!” and did not talk any further on the subject, but began admiring my diamond-pin very much.

“Titmarsh, my dear boy,” says he, “I have a young lady at Fulham who is worth seeing, I assure you, and who has heard so much about you from her father (for I like you, my boy, I don’t care to own it), that she is rather anxious to see you too. Suppose you come down to us for a week? Abednego will do your work.”

“Law, sir! you are very kind,” says I.

“Well, you shall come down; and I hope you will like my claret. But hark ye! I don’t think, my dear fellow, you are quite smart enough — quite well enough dressed. Do you understand me?”

“I’ve my blue coat and brass buttons at home, sir.”

“What! that thing with the waist between your shoulders that you wore at Mrs. Brough’s party?” (It was rather high-waisted, being made in the country two years before.) “No — no, that will never do. Get some new clothes, sir — two new suits of clothes.”

“Sir!” says I, “I’m already, if the truth must be told, very short of money for this quarter, and can’t afford myself a new suit for a long time to come.”

“Pooh, pooh! don’t let that annoy you. Here’s a ten-pound note — but no, on second thoughts, you may as well go to my tailor’s. I’ll drive you down there: and never mind the bill, my good lad!” And drive me down he actually did, in his grand coach-and-four, to Mr. Von Stiltz, in Clifford Street, who took my measure, and sent me home two of the finest coats ever seen, a dress-coat and a frock, a velvet waist-coat, a silk ditto, and three pairs of pantaloons, of the most beautiful make. Brough told me to get some boots and pumps, and silk stockings for evenings; so that when the time came for me to go down to Fulham, I appeared as handsome as any young nobleman, and Gus said that “I looked, by Jingo, like a regular tip-top swell.”

In the meantime the following letter had been sent down to Hodge and Smithers:—

Ram Alley, Cornhill, London: July 1822.

Dear Sirs,

* * * * *

[This part being on private affairs relative to the cases of Dixon v. Haggerstony, Snodgrass v. Rubbidge and another, I am not permitted to extract.]

* * * * *

“Likewise we beg to hand you a few more prospectuses of the Independent West Diddlesex Fire and Life Insurance Company, of which we have the honour to be the solicitors in London. We wrote to you last year, requesting you to accept the Slopperton and Somerset agency for the same, and have been expecting for some time back that either shares or assurances should be effected by you.

“The capital of the Company, as you know, is five millions sterling (say 5,000,000_l.), and we are in a situation to offer more than the usual commission to our agents of the legal profession. We shall be happy to give a premium of 6 per cent. for shares to the amount of 1,000_l., 6.5 per cent. above a thousand, to be paid immediately upon the taking of the shares.

“I am, dear Sirs, for self and partners, Yours most faithfully, Samuel Jackson.”

This letter, as I have said, came into my hands some time afterwards. I knew nothing of it in the year 1822, when, in my new suit of clothes, I went down to pass a week at the Rookery, Fulham, residence of John Brough, Esquire, M.P.

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