Mrs. Perkin's Ball, by William Makepeace Thackeray

Mr. Ranville Ranville and Jack Hubbard.

Mr. Ranville Ranville and Jack Hubbard.

This is Miss Ranville Ranville’s brother, Mr. Ranville Ranville, of the Foreign Office, faithfully designed as he was playing at whist in the card-room. Talleyrand used to play at whist at the “Travellers’,” that is why Ranville Ranville indulges in that diplomatic recreation. It is not his fault if he be not the greatest man in the room.

If you speak to him, he smiles sternly, and answers in monosyllables he would rather die than commit himself. He never has committed himself in his life. He was the first at school, and distinguished at Oxford. He is growing prematurely bald now, like Canning, and is quite proud of it. He rides in St. James’s Park of a morning before breakfast. He dockets his tailor’s bills, and nicks off his dinner-notes in diplomatic paragraphs, and keeps precis of them all. If he ever makes a joke, it is a quotation from Horace, like Sir Robert Peel. The only relaxation he permits himself, is to read Thucydides in the holidays.

Everybody asks him out to dinner, on account of his brass-buttons with the Queen’s cipher, and to have the air of being well with the Foreign Office. “Where I dine,” he says solemnly, “I think it is my duty to go to evening-parties.” That is why he is here. He never dances, never sups, never drinks. He has gruel when he goes home to bed. I think it is in his brains.

He is such an ass and so respectable, that one wonders he has not succeeded in the world; and yet somehow they laugh at him; and you and I shall be Ministers as soon as he will.

Yonder, making believe to look over the print-books, is that merry rogue, Jack Hubbard.

See how jovial he looks! He is the life and soul of every party, and his impromptu singing after supper will make you die of laughing. He is meditating an impromptu now, and at the same time thinking about a bill that is coming due next Thursday. Happy dog!

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