The Book of Snobs, by William Makepeace Thackeray

Chapter xxxviii

Club Snobs

Such a Sensation has been created in the Clubs by the appearance of the last paper on Club Snobs, as can’t but be complimentary to me who am one of their number.

I belong to many Clubs. The ‘Union Jack,’ the ‘Sash and Marlin-spike’— Military Clubs. ‘The True Blue,’ the ‘No Surrender,’ the ‘Blue and Buff,’ the ‘Guy Fawkes,’ and the ‘Cato Street’— Political Clubs. ‘The Brummel’ and the ‘Regent’— Dandy Clubs. The ‘Acropolis,’ the ‘Palladium,’ the ‘Areopagus,’ the ‘Pnyx’ the ‘Pentelicus,’ the ‘Ilissus’ and the ‘Poluphloisboio Thalasses’— Literary Clubs. I never could make out how the latter set of Clubs got their names; I don’t know Greek for one, and I wonder how many other members of those institutions do? Ever since the Club Snobs have been announced, I observe a sensation created on my entrance into any one of these places. Members get up and hustle together; they nod, they scowl, as they glance towards the present Snob. ‘Infernal impudent jackanapes! If he shows me up,’ says Colonel Bludyer, ‘I’ll break every bone in his skin.’ ‘I told you what would come of admitting literary men into the Club,’ says Ranville Ranville to his colleague, Spooney, of the Tape and Sealing-Wax Office. ‘These people are very well in their proper places, and as a public man, I make a point of shaking hands with them, and that sort of thing; but to have one’s privacy obtruded upon by such people is really too much. Come along, Spooney,’ and the pair of prigs retire superciliously.

As I came into the coffee-room at the ‘No Surrender,’ old Jawkins was holding out to a knot of men, who were yawning, as usual. There he stood, waving the STANDARD, and swaggering before the fire. ‘What,’ says he, ‘did I tell Peel last year? If you touch the Corn Laws, you touch the Sugar Question; if you touch the Sugar, you touch the Tea. I am no monopolist. I am a liberal man, but I cannot forget that I stand on the brink of a precipice; and if were to have Free Trade, give me reciprocity. And what was Sir Robert Peel’s answer to me? “Mr. Jawkins,” he said —’

Here Jawkins’s eye suddenly turning on your humble servant, he stopped his sentence, with a guilty look — his stale old stupid sentence, which every one of us at the Club has heard over and over again.

Jawkins is a most pertinacious Club Snob. Every day he is at that fireplace, holding that STANDARD, of which he reads up the leading-article, and pours it out ORE ROTUNDO, with the most astonishing composure, in the face of his neighbour, who has just read every word of it in the paper. Jawkins has money, as you may see by the tie of his neckcloth. He passes the morning swaggering about the City, in bankers’ and brokers parlours, and says:—‘I spoke with Peel yesterday, and his intentions are so and so. Graham and I were talking over the matter, and I pledge you my word of honour, his opinion coincides with mine; and that What-d’ye-call-um is the only measure Government will venture on trying.’ By evening-paper time he is at the Club: ‘I can tell you the opinion of the City, my lord,’ says he, ‘and the way in which Jones Loyd looks at it is briefly this: Rothschilds told me so themselves. In Mark Lane, people’s minds are QUITE made up.’ He is considered rather a well-informed man.

He lives in Belgravia, of course; in a drab-coloured genteel house, and has everything about him that is properly grave, dismal, and comfortable. His dinners are in the MORNING HERALD, among the parties for the week; and his wife and daughters make a very handsome appearance at the Drawing-Room, once a year, when he comes down to the Club in his Deputy-Lieutenant’s uniform.

He is fond of beginning a speech to you by saying, ‘When I was in the House, I &c.’— in fact he sat for Skittlebury for three weeks in the first Reformed Parliament, and was unseated for bribery; since which he has three times unsuccessfully contested that honourable borough.

Another sort of Political Snob I have seen at most Clubs and that is the man who does not care so much for home politics, but is great upon foreign affairs. I think this sort of man is scarcely found anywhere BUT in Clubs. It is for him the papers provide their foreign articles, at the expense of some ten thousand a-year each. He is the man who is really seriously uncomfortable about the designs of Russia, and the atrocious treachery of Louis Philippe. He it is who expects a French fleet in the Thames, and has a constant eye upon the American President, every word of whose speech (goodness help him!) he reads. He knows the names of the contending leaders in Portugal, and what they are fighting about: and it is he who says that Lord Aberdeen ought to be impeached, and Lord Palmerston hanged, or VICE VERSA.

Lord Palmerston’s being sold to Russia, the exact number of roubles paid, by what house in the City, is a favourite theme with this kind of Snob. I once overheard him — it was Captain Spitfire, R.N., (who had been refused a ship by the Whigs, by the way)— indulging in the following conversation with Mr. Minns after dinner.

Why wasn’t the Princess Scragamoffsky at Lady Palmerston’s party, Minns? Because SHE CAN’T SHOW— why can’t she show? Shall I tell you, Minns, why she can’t show? The Princess Scragainoffsky’s back is flayed alive, Minns — I tell you it’s raw, sir! On Tuesday last, at twelve o’clock, three drummers of the Preobajinski Regiment arrived at Ashburnham House, and at half-past twelve, in the yellow drawing-room at the Russian Embassy, before the ambassadress and four ladies’-maids, the Greek Papa, and the Secretary of Embassy, Madame de Scragamoffsky received thirteen dozen. She was knouted, sir, knouted in the midst of England — in Berkeley Square, for having said that the Grand Duchess Olga’s hair was red. And now, sir, will you tell me Lord Palmerston ought to continue Minister?’

Minns: ‘Good Ged!’

Minns follows Spitfire about, and thinks him the greatest and wisest of human beings.

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