The Book of Snobs, by William Makepeace Thackeray

Chapter vii

On Some Respectable Snobs

Look at the next house to Lady Susan Scraper’s. The first mansion with the awning over the door: that canopy will be let down this evening for the comfort of the friends of Sir Alured and Lady S. de Mogyns, whose parties are so much admired by the public, and the givers themselves.

Peach-coloured liveries laced with silver, and pea-green plush inexpressibles, render the De Mogyns’ flunkeys the pride of the ring when they appear in Hyde Park where Lady de Mogyns, as she sits upon her satin cushions, with her dwarf spaniel in her arms, bows to the very selectest of the genteel. Times are altered now with Mary Anne, or, as she calls herself, Marian de Mogyns.

She was the daughter of Captain Flack of the Rathdrum Fencibles, who crossed with his regiment over from Ireland to Caermarthenshire ever so many years ago, and defended Wales from the Corsican invader. The Rathdrums were quartered at Pontydwdlm, where Marian wooed and won her De Mogyns, a young banker in the place. His attentions to Miss Flack at a race ball were such that her father said De Mogyns must either die on the field of honour, or become his son-inlaw. He preferred marriage. His name was Muggins then, and his father — a flourishing banker, army-contractor, smuggler, and general jobber — almost disinherited him on account of this connection.

There is a story that Muggins the Elder was made a baronet for having lent money to a R-y-l p-rs-n-ge. I do not believe it. The R-y-l Family always paid their debts, from the Prince of Wales downwards.

Howbeit, to his life’s end he remained simple Sir Thomas Muggins, representing Pontydwdlm in Parliament for many years after the war. The old banker died in course of time, and to use the affectionate phrase common on such occasions, ‘cut up’ prodigiously well. His son, Alfred Smith Mogyns, succeeded to the main portion of his wealth, and to his titles and the bloody hand of his scutcheon. It was not for many years after that he appeared as Sir Alured Mogyns Smyth de Mogyns, with a genealogy found out for him by the Editor of ‘Fluke’s Peerage,’ and which appears as follows in that work:—‘De Mogyns. — Sir Alured Mogyns Smyth, Second Baronet. This gentleman is a representative of one of the most ancient families of Wales, who trace their descent until it is lost in the mists of antiquity. A genealogical tree beginning with Shem is in the possession of the family, and is stated by a legend of many thousand years’ date to have been drawn on papyrus by a grandson of the patriarch himself. Be this as it may, there can be no doubt of the immense antiquity of the race of Mogyns.

‘In the time of Boadicea, Hogyn Mogyn, of the hundred Beeves, was a suitor and a rival of Caractacus for the hand of that Princess. He was a person gigantic in stature, and was slain by Suetonius in the battle which terminated the liberties of Britain. From him descended directly the Princes of Pontydwdlm, Mogyn of the Golden Harp (see the Mabinogion of Lady Charlotte Guest,) Bogyn-Merodac-ap-Mogyn, (the black fiend son of Mogyn,) and a long list of bards and warriors, celebrated both in Wales and Armorica. The independent Princes of Mogyn long held out against the ruthless Kings of England, until finally Gam Mogyns made his submission to Prince Henry, son of Henry IV., and under the name of Sir David Gam de Mogyns, was distinguished at the battle of Agincourt.

From him the present Baronet is descended. (And here the descent follows in order until it comes to) Thomas Muggins, first Baronet of Pontydwdlm Castle, for 23 years Member of Parliament for that borough, who had issue, Alured Mogyns Smyth, the present Baronet, who married Marian, daughter of the late general P. Flack, of Ballyflack, in the Kingdom of Ireland of the Counts Flack of the H. R. Empire. Sir Alured has issue, Alured Caradoc, born 1819, Marian, 1811, Blanche Adeliza, Emily Doria, Adelaide Obleans, Katinka Rostopchin, Patrick Flack, died 1809.

‘Arms — a mullion garbled, gules on a saltire reversed of the second. Crest — a tom-tit rampant regardant. Motto — UNG ROY UNG MOGYNS.’

It was long before Lady de Mogyns shone as a star in the fashionable world. At first, poor Muggins was the in the hands of the Flacks, the Clancys, the Tooles, the Shanahans, his wife’s Irish relations; and whilst he was yet but heir-apparent, his house overflowed with claret and the national nectar, for the benefit of Hibernian relatives. Tom Tufto absolutely left the street in which they lived in London, because he said ‘it was infected with such a confounded smell of whisky from the house of those IWISH people.’

It was abroad that they learned to be genteel. They pushed into all foreign courts, and elbowed their way into the halls of Ambassadors. They pounced upon the stray nobility, and seized young lords travelling with their bear-leaders. They gave parties at Naples, Rome, and Paris. They got a Royal Prince to attend their SOIREES at the latter place, and it was here that they first appeared under the name of De Mogyns, which they bear with such splendour to this day.

All sorts of stories are told of the desperate efforts made by the indomitable Lady de Mogyns to gain the place she now occupies, and those of my beloved readers who live in middle life, and are unacquainted with the frantic struggles, the wicked feuds, the intrigues, cabals, and disappointments which, as I am given to understand, reign in the fashionable world, may bless their stars that they at least are not FASHIONABLE Snobs. The intrigues set afoot by the De Mogyns to get the Duchess of Buckskin to her parties, would strike a Talleyrand with admiration. She had a brain fever after being disappointed of an invitation to Lady Aldermanbury’s THE DANSANT, and would have committed suicide but for a ball at Windsor. I have the following story from my noble friend Lady Clapperclaw herself — Lady Kathleen O’Shaughnessy that was, and daughter of the Earl of Turfanthunder:—

‘When that odious disguised Irishwoman, Lady Muggins, was struggling to take her place in the world, and was bringing out her hidjous daughter Blanche,’ said old Lady Clapperclaw —(Marian has a hump-back and doesn’t show, but she’s the only lady in the family)—‘when that wretched Polly Muggins was bringing out Blanche, with her radish of a nose, and her carrots of ringlets, and her turnip for a face, she was most anxious — as her father had been a cowboy on my father’s land — to be patronized by us, and asked me point-blank, in the midst of a silence at Count Volauvent’s, the French Ambassador’s dinner, why I had not sent her a card for my ball?

‘“Because my rooms are already too full, and your ladyship would be crowded inconveniently,” says I; indeed she takes up as much room as an elephant: besides I wouldn’t have her, and that was flat.

‘I thought my answer was a settler to her: but the next day she comes weeping to my arms —“Dear Lady Clapperclaw,” says she, “it’s not for ME; I ask it for my blessed Blanche! a young creature in her first season, and not at your ball! My tender child will pine and die of vexation. I don’t want to come. I will stay at home to nurse Sir Alured in the gout. Mrs. Bolster is going, I know; she will be Blanche’s chaperon.”

‘“You wouldn’t subscribe for the Rathdrum blanket and potato fund; you, who come out of the parish,” says I, “and whose grandfather, honest man, kept cows there.”

‘“Will twenty guineas be enough, dearest Lady Clapperclaw?”

‘“Twenty guineas is sufficient,” says I, and she paid them; so I said, “Blanche may come, but not you, mind:” and she left me with a world of thanks.

‘Would you believe it? — when my ball came, the horrid woman made her appearance with her daughter!

“Didn’t I tell you not to come?” said I, in a mighty passion. “What would the world have said?” cries my Lady Muggins: “my carriage is gone for Sir Alured to the Club; let me stay only ten minutes, dearest Lady Clapperclaw.”

‘“Well as you are here, madam, you may stay and get your supper,” I answered, and so left her, and never spoke a word more to her all night.

‘And now,’ screamed out old Lady Clapperclaw, clapping her hands, and speaking with more brogue than ever, ‘what do you think, after all my kindness to her, the wicked, vulgar, odious, impudent upstart of s cowboy’s granddaughter, has done? — she cut me yesterday in Hy’ Park, and hasn’t sent me a ticket for her ball to-night, though they say Prince George is to be there.’

Yes, such is the fact. In the race of fashion the resolute and active De Mogyns has passed the poor old Clapperclaw. Her progress in gentility may be traced by the sets of friends whom she has courted, and made, and cut, and left behind her. She has struggled so gallantly for polite reputation that she has won it: pitilessly kicking down the ladder as she advanced degree by degree.

Irish relations were first sacrificed; she made her father dine in the steward’s room, to his perfect contentment: and would send Sir Alured thither like-wise but that he is a peg on which she hopes to hang her future honours; and is, after all, paymaster of her daughter’s fortunes. He is meek and content. He has been so long a gentleman that he is used to it, and acts the part of governor very well. In the day-time he goes from the ‘Union’ to ‘Arthur’s,’ and from ‘Arthur’s’ to the ‘Union.’ He is a dead hand at piquet, and loses a very comfortable maintenance to some young fellows, at whist, at the ‘Travellers’.’

His son has taken his father’s seat in Parliament, and has of course joined Young England. He is the only man in the country who believes in the De Mogynses, and sighs for the days when a De Mogyns led the van of battle. He has written a little volume of spoony puny poems. He wears a lock of the hair of Laud, the Confessor and Martyr, and fainted when he kissed the Pope’s toe at Rome. He sleeps in white kid-gloves, and commits dangerous excesses upon green tea.

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