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are mixed up as in all the series of novels, so as at once to suggest and confound conjecture; and this, as will be seen afterwards, is particularly the case with Mr. Sidney Wilton, who remains an abiding figure in the story. The elder Ferrars passes away, his high hopes ending in sad collapse. He is a sufficiently definite figure clearly outlined to the close. But we cannot pretend to find his analogue in the parliamentary period which intervened between the accession of the Duke of Wellington's Ministry and the great Reform Ministry which shattered all his dreams of ambition, and drove him into an obscure exile in the country from which he never emerged.
The brief brilliancy of Mr. Ferrars' official career, his great friend Zenobia, the Queen of London, of fashion, and the Tory party;' his father-the grandfather of our hero-who had served under Pitt and Grenville, and was exactly the man they liked, unwearied, vigilant, clear, and cold; with a dash of natural sarcasm developed by a sharp and sound experience,' but who had never entered the Cabinet 'nor dared to hope to enter;' his wife, who had been the beauty of a season, and who, without being a regular beauty, had a voluptuous face and form, with a brilliant complexion and large, long-lashed eyes of blue;' their twin children, Myra and Endymion-all are described elaborately in the first volume. So much is made of the parents, their surroundings, their ambitions, social and political, their prospects, their hopes, their fears, that the reader begins to wonder how the novel is to advance, and the son come upon the stage. This is a fault of art, to begin with, which is never sufficiently redeemed. Endymion is never really the chief figure, and to the last he stirs the reader's sympathy languidly in comparison with his sister and some of the other characters. Throughout the most of the first volume he and his twin sister are little more than children, although children of a very marked and splendid type. Here is their first introduction. At a great entertainment given by their father, at which Zenobia and her husband are present, an entertainment of such magnificence that Zenobia's husband declared to himself that he never dined so well, though he gave his chef 500l. a year,' and old Lord Pomeroy, who had not yet admitted French wines to his own table,' seemed quite abashed with the number of his wine-glasses and their various colours, and at the succulent dishes, one after another, set before him. With the dessert, and with ceremony, the twins make their appearance children of singular beauty, and dressed, if possible, more fancifully and brilliantly than their mamma.'
They resembled each other, and had the same brilliant complexions, rich chestnut hair, delicately arched brows, and dark blue eyes. Though only eight years of age, a most unchildlike self-possession distinguished them. The expression of their countenances was haughty, disdainful, and supercilious. Their beautiful features seemed quite unimpassioned, and they moved as if they expected everything to yield to them. The girl, whose long ringlets were braided with pearls, was ushered to a seat next to her father, and, like her brother, who was placed by Mrs. Ferrars, was soon
engaged in negligently tasting delicacies, while she seemed apparently unconscious of anyone being present, except when she replied to those who addressed her with a stare and a haughty monosyllable. The boy, in a black velvet jacket with large Spanish buttons of silver filagree, a shirt of lace, and a waistcoat of white satin, replied with reserve, but some condescension, to the good-natured but half-humorous inquiries of the husband of Zenobia.
'And when do you go to school?' asked his lordship in a kind voice and with a laughing eye.
'I shall go to Eton in two years,' replied the child without the slightest emotion, and not withdrawing his attention from the grapes he was tasting, or even looking at his inquirer, and then I shall go to Christchurch, and then I shall go into Parliament.'
Myra,' said an intimate of the family, a handsome private secretary of Mr. Ferrars, to the daughter of the house, as he supplied her plate with some choicest delicacies, I hope you have not forgotten your engagement to me which you made at Wimbledon two years ago?'
'What engagement?' she haughtily inquired.
'To marry me.'
'I should not think of marrying anyone who was not in the House of Lords,' she replied, and she shot at him a glance of contempt.
The ladies rose. As they were ascending the stairs, one of them said to Mrs. Ferrars, 'Your son's name is very pretty, but it is very uncommon, is it not?'
"Tis a family name. The first Carey who bore it was a courtier of Charles the First, and we have never since been without it. William wanted our boy to be christened Pomeroy, but I was always resolved, if I ever had a son, that he should be named ENDYMION.'
The political career of Endymion's father antedates Lord Beaconsfield's own entrance into Parliament, but not of course his entrance into London life, and the excitements of early authorship. He had already published Vivian Grey,' 'Popanilla,' and 'The Young Duke. He was in 1828-9 a man of society, well known in London drawing-rooms; like his hero, a favourite with women, and no doubt well versed in all the political intrigues and badinage which he has reproduced. In the interval from 1829 to 1831 he was on his travels abroad, extending to the East; but on his return he was again a favoured inmate of such salons as those of Lady Blessington, who may suggest to some the 'Zenobia' of the novel. Here he met young Louis Napoleon and his friend and companion Count de Morny, both of whom are placed on the canvas. The first, indeed, plays a conspicuous part in the story, under the name of Prince Florestan, and then Colonel Albert, and latterly the King,' who attains by a bold ruse his kingdom, having never ceased, like his prototype, to believe in his destiny. During these early years our author was a keen observer of men and things. Quicquid agunt homines, the motto he has given to the novel, was then as always his motto; and there is evidence, in the delineation which he has given us of the society of the time, and the popular as well as official forces moving it, of that keen and shrewd scrutiny of facts for which his writings, in the
midst of all their extravagance and fantasy, are distinguished. He has an eye, often veiled, but still keen, to the realities of modern English life, and the powers stirring below its surface. He sees a breath moving on the face of waters which to others seem to show no tremor. The real interest of much that he has written lies in this power of observation, and an insight, penetrating if sometimes distorted, into the phenomena of social and political movement. So clear-sighted can he be, and so vividly does he picture some aspects of his time-as notably in Coningsby' and Sybil '-that the reader is left astonished that one who can see so clearly and paint so felicitously, can at the same time indulge in such fantastic combinations of incident, such mistakes of fact, and such exaggeration and even tawdriness of description, as he sometimes does. Endymion is not free from this extravagance. In all that relates to Prince Florestan and his marriage, and again in the vagrant and desultory narrative of the Tournament at Montfort Castle, designed to represent the famous Eglinton folly, there is a bizarre picturesqueness which is often feeble and pompous in its flights. The pen is hardly more than that of a supreme penny-a-liner-as unlike as possible to the incisive weapon with which he draws other scenes on his canvas, and stamps bright or odd features in a few happy touches upon the mind of the reader.
The first and second volumes are particularly full of passages of more or less felicitous description. The following is the manner in which the author paints London society at the beginning of the novel :
The great world then, compared with the huge society of the present period, was limited in its proportions, and composed of elements more refined though far less various. It consisted inainiy of the great landed aristocracy, who had quite absorbed the nabobs of India, and had nearly appropriated the huge West Indian fortunes. Occasionally, an eminent banker or merchant invested a large portion of his accumulations in land, and in the purchase of parliamentary influence, and was in time duly admitted into the sanctuary. But those vast and successful invasions of society by new classes which have since occurred, though impending, had not yet commenced. The manufacturers, the railway kings, the colossal contractors, the discoverers of nuggets, had not yet found their place in society and the senate. There were then, perhaps, more great houses open than at the present day, but there were very few little ones. The necessity of providing regular occasions for the assembling of the miscellaneous world of fashion led to the institution of Almack's, which died out in the advent of the new system of society, and in the fierce competition of its inexhaustible private entertainments.
The season then was brilliant and sustained, but it was not flurried. People did not go to various parties on the same night. They remained where they were assembled, and, not being in a hurry, were more agreeable than they are at the present day. Conversation was more cultivated; manners, though unconstrained, were more stately; and the world, being limited, knew itself much better. On the other hand, the sympathies of society were more contracted than they are at present. The pressure of
The world attended to its
population had not opened the heart of man. poor in its country parishes, and subscribed and danced for the Spitalfields weavers when their normal distress had overflowed, but their knowledge of the people did not exceed these bounds, and the people knew very little more about themselves. They were only half born.
The description of the English Church at the same period is equally true and spirited :—
The English Church had no competent leaders among the clergy. The spirit that has animated and disturbed our latter times seemed quite dead, and no one anticipated its resurrection. The bishops had been selected from college dons, men profoundly ignorant of the condition and the wants of the country. To have edited a Greek play with second-rate success, or to have been the tutor of some considerable patrician, was the qualification then deemed desirable and sufficient for an office, which at this day is at least reserved for eloquence and energy. The social influence of the episcopal bench was nothing. A prelate was rarely seen in the saloons of Zenobia. It is since the depths of religious thought have been probed, and the influence of woman in the spread and sustenance of religious feeling has again been recognised, that fascinating and fashionable prelates have become favoured guests in the refined saloons of the mighty, and, while apparently indulging in the vanities of the hour, have re-established the influence which in old days guided a Matilda or the mother of Constantine.
In a similar manner he draws many sketches of this earlier time. London, he says, was then very dull, especially for bachelors, with few theatres, and those no longer redeemed by the stately genius of the Kembles, the pathos of Miss O'Neil, or the fiery passion of Kean,' with no Alhambras, no Cremornes, no palaces of crystal or terraced gardens; no casinos, no music-halls, no aquaria, no promenade concerts.' He gives a picture of the drive to and from the Derby, which we commend to any of our sporting readers :
What with the fineness of the weather, the impatience of the excited and countless multitude, the divine stimulus of the luncheon, the kindness of his charming companions, and the general feeling of enjoyment and success that seemed to pervade his being, Endymion felt as if he were almost acting a distinguished part in some splendid triumph of antiquity, as, returning home, the four splendid dark chestnuts swept along, two of our gay company playing bugles, and the grooms sitting with folded arms and haughty indifference.
Then, turning to other aspects of society, we have, as usual, the great financial world, the lesser social world, the railway mania, and the literary journalism of the time, all pictured with very lively, if sometimes overdone, touches. There are interesting glimpses of the House of Commons, of the feelings which animate a parliamentary aspirant, when he thinks the spoils of high office after which he has long toiled within his grasp, and of the bitterness of baffled effort when they have finally gone from his grasp. The story itself does not move with much excitement; there is, as in all his novels, little entanglement
of plot, and but a faint development of passion. Ambition, not love, is the spring that moves his characters; and here he is also true to his familiar role as a fictionist. Henrietta Temple' is a love story,' and, to a lesser extent, Venetia' draws vital interest from delineation of the tender passion. But he has never sought his chief inspiration in this quarter. Women move through his pages with unceasing zest and charm; they are often the prime actors in the scenes and the schemes which he paints; they give a fragrance to his satirical and descriptive flights; but they are seldom, as with other great novelists, the centre of impassioned and powerful emotion, colouring all the flow of his narrative and working itself into supreme crises. In this respect Endymion' is no exception. Women are indeed the chief friends of the hero. They surround and literally spoil him from first to last. His sister never ceases to inspirit, console, and manage him. Her first marriage is the beginning of his fortunes as well as her own. The fair daughter of the wealthy financier cherishes a love for him to which he cannot respond; and at a moment when all the bright prospects of his life seem vanishing, he owes to female interest a cheque for 20,000l. Consols which enables him to enter Parliament. Again, the beautiful Imogene, whose large dark eyes beamed with a softness and sweetness of expression which were irresistibly attractive, and seemed to indicate sympathy with everything that was good and beautiful,' is kind to him as a girl, and gracious as a woman, and a countess. When only a clerk in Somerset House, and an inhabitant of the upper storey of her sister's house in Warwick Street, not absolutely a garret, but a modern substitute for that sort of apartment,' she insists on waiting upon him and arranging his clothes; and when he aspires to the House of Commons, she paves his way, by the help of her noble husband, through difficulties that seem insurmountable. Then, finally, Lady Montfort, the famous Berengaria, queen of society, and the genius of Whiggism,' as Zenobia was of Toryism, not only pets him and makes him fall in love with her, but finally, by her wealth, position, and spirit, carries him forward to his triumphant goal. Yet in all this there is little or none of the ordinary romance of love. The taint of ambition is mixed even with his sister's affection, and her own magnificent alliances make no pretence of being dictated by any less lofty motive. Pride mingles with all the sentiment which brings him and Lady Montfort so much together, and is hardly purged even from his own heart at the last, when he longs so passionately to see her once more and to lay his devotion at her feet. The sweet and piquant Imogene, who brought him so near a confession on his entrance into higher official life, is probably nearer the image of a love-maiden touching his heart than any of the other fascinating women around him. And yet she too marries, apparently to order, and the stream of love in her case also runs smoothly towards heights of social advancement. At the ceremony of her marriage, Endymion was present with his sister, who had become by this time Lady Roehampton.