The Book of Snobs, by William Makepeace Thackeray

Chapter xxix

A Visit to Some Country Snobs

Notable as my reception had been (under that unfortunate mistake of Mrs. Ponto that I was related to Lord Snobbington, which I was not permitted to correct), it was nothing compared to the bowing and kotooing, the raptures and flurry which preceded and welcomed the visit of a real live lord and lord’s son, a brother officer of Cornet Wellesley Ponto, in the 120th Hussars, who came over with the young Cornet from Guttlebury, where their distinguished regiment was quartered. This was my Lord Gules, Lord Saltire’s grandson and heir: a very young, short, sandy-haired and tobacco-smoking nobleman, who cannot have left the nursery very long, and who, though he accepted the honest Major’s invitation to the Evergreens in a letter written in a school-boy handwriting, with a number of faults of spelling, may yet be a very fine classical scholar for what I know: having had his education at Eton, where he and young Ponto were inseparable.

At any rate, if he can’t write, he has mastered a number of other accomplishments wonderful for one of his age and size. He is one of the best shots and riders in England. He rode his horse Abracadabra, and won the famous Guttlebury steeple-chase. He has horses entered at half the races in the country (under other people’s names; for the old lord is a strict hand, and will not hear of betting or gambling). He has lost and won such sums of money as my Lord George himself might be proud of. He knows all the stables, and all the jockeys, and has all the ‘information,’ and is a match for the best Leg at Newmarket. Nobody was ever known to be ‘too much’ for him at play or in the stable.

Although his grandfather makes him a moderate allowance, by the aid of POST-OBITS and convenient friends he can live in a splendour becoming his rank. He has not distinguished himself in the knocking down of policemen much; he is not big enough for that. But, as a light-weight, his skill is of the very highest order. At billiards he is said to be first-rate. He drinks and smokes as much as any two of the biggest officers in his regiment. With such high talents, who can say how far he may not go? He may take to politics as a DELASSEMENT, and be Prime Minister after Lord George Bentinck.

My young friend Wellesley Ponto is a gaunt and bony youth, with a pale face profusely blotched. From his continually pulling something on his chin, I am led to fancy that he believes he has what is called an Imperial growing there. That is not the only tuft that is hunted in the family, by the way. He can’t, of course, indulge in those expensive amusements which render his aristocratic comrade so respected: he bets pretty freely when he is in cash, and rides when somebody mounts him (for he can’t afford more than his regulation chargers). At drinking he is by no means inferior; and why do you think he brought his noble friend, Lord Gules, to the Evergreens? — Why? because he intended to ask his mother to order his father to pay his debts, which she couldn’t refuse before such an exalted presence. Young Ponto gave me all this information with the most engaging frankness. We are old friends. I used to tip him when he was at school.

‘Gad!’: says he, ‘our wedgment’s so DOOTHID exthpenthif. Must hunt, you know. A man couldn’t live in the wedgment if he didn’t. Mess expenses enawmuth. Must dine at mess. Must drink champagne and claret. Ours ain’t a port and sherry light-infantry mess. Uniform’s awful. Fitzstultz, our Colonel, will have ’em so. Must be a distinction you know. At his own expense Fitzstultz altered the plumes in the men’s caps (you called them shaving-brushes, Snob, my boy: most absurd and unjust that attack of yours, by the way); that altewation alone cotht him five hundred pound. The year befaw latht he horthed the wegiment at an immenthe expenthe, and we’re called the Queen’th Own Pyebalds from that day. Ever theen uth on pawade? The Empewar Nicolath burtht into tearth of envy when he thaw uth at Windthor. And you see,’ continued my young friend, ‘I brought Gules down with me, as the Governor is very sulky about shelling out, just to talk my mother over, who can do anything with him. Gules told her that I was Fitzstultz’s favourite of the whole regiment; and, Gad! she thinks the Horse Guards will give me my troop for nothing, and he humbugged the Governor that I was the greatest screw in the army. Ain’t it a good dodge?’

With this Wellesley left me to go and smoke a cigar in the stables with Lord Gules, and make merry over the cattle there, under Stripes’s superintendence. Young Ponto laughed with his friend, at the venerable four-wheeled cruelty-chaise; but seemed amazed that the latter should ridicule still more an ancient chariot of the build of 1824, emblazoned immensely with the arme of the Pontos and the Snaileys, from which latter distinguished family Mrs. Ponto issued.

I found poor Pon in his study among his boots, in such a rueful attitude of despondency, that I could not but remark it. ‘Look at that!’ says the poor fellow, handing me over a document. ‘It’s the second change in uniform since he’s been in the army, and yet there’s no extravagance about the lad. Lord Gules tells me he is the most careful youngster in the regiment, God bless him! But look at that! by heaven, Snob, look at that and say how can a man of nine hundred keep out of the Bench?’ He gave a sob as he handed me the paper across the table; and his old face, and his old corduroys, and his shrunk shooting-jacket, and his lean shanks, looked, as he spoke, more miserably haggard, bankrupt, and threadbare.

L. s. d
Dress Jacket, richly laced with gold . 35 0 0
Ditto Pelisse ditto, and trimmed with sable . . 60 0 0
Undress Jacket, trimmed with gold 15 15 0
Ditto Pelisse . . 30 0 0
Dress Pantaloons 12 0 0
Ditto Overalls, gold lace on sides. 6 6 0
Undress ditto ditto. 5 5 0
Blue Braided Frock 14 14 0
Forage Cap . . 3 3 0
Dress Cap, gold lines, plume and chain . . . 25 0 0
Gold Barrelled Sash 11 18 0
Sword . . 11 11 0
Ditto Belt and Sabretache .. 16 16 0
Pouch and Belt. 15 15 0
SwordKnot .. 1 4 0
Cloak . .. 13 13 0
Valise . .. 3 13 6
Regulation Saddle . 7 17 6
Ditto Bridle, complete . .. 10 10 0
A Dress Housing, complete .. 30 0 0
A pair of Pistols. 10 10 0
A Black Sheepskin, edged . . . 6 18 0
Total L347 9 0

That evening Mrs. Ponto and her family made their darling Wellesley give a full, true, and particular account of everything that had taken place at Lord Fitzstultz’s; how many servants waited at dinner; and how the Ladies Schneider dressed; and what his Royal Highness said when he came down to shoot; and who was there? “What a blessing that boy is to me!” said she, as my pimple-faced young friend moved off to resume smoking operations with Gules in the now vacant kitchen; — and poor Ponto’s dreary and desperate look, shall I ever forget that?

O you parents and guardians! O you men and women of sense in England! O you legislators about to assemble in Parliament! read over that tailor’s bill above printed, read over that absurd catalogue of insane gimcracks and madman’s tomfoolery — and say how are you ever to get rid of Snobbishness when society does so much for its education?

Three hundred and forty pounds for a young chap’s saddle and breeches! Before George, I would rather be a Hottentot or a Highlander. We laugh at poor Jocko, the monkey, dancing in uniform; or at poor Jeames, the flunkey, with his quivering calves and plush tights; or at the nigger Marquis of Marmalade, dressed out with sabre and epaulets, and giving himself the airs of a field-marshal. Lo! is not one of the Queen’s Pyebalds, in full fig, as great and foolish a monster?

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