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Little Travels and Roadside Sketches   By: (1811-1863)

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By William Makepeace Thackeray (AKA Titmarsh)



Ghent (1840)





. . . I quitted the "Rose Cottage Hotel" at Richmond, one of the comfortablest, quietest, cheapest, neatest little inns in England, and a thousand times preferable, in my opinion, to the "Star and Garter," whither, if you go alone, a sneering waiter, with his hair curled, frightens you off the premises; and where, if you are bold enough to brave the sneering waiter, you have to pay ten shillings for a bottle of claret; and whence, if you look out of the window, you gaze on a view which is so rich that it seems to knock you down with its splendor a view that has its hair curled like the swaggering waiter: I say, I quitted the "Rose Cottage Hotel" with deep regret, believing that I should see nothing so pleasant as its gardens, and its veal cutlets, and its dear little bowling green, elsewhere. But the time comes when people must go out of town, and so I got on the top of the omnibus, and the carpet bag was put inside.

If I were a great prince and rode outside of coaches (as I should if I were a great prince), I would, whether I smoked or not, have a case of the best Havanas in my pocket not for my own smoking, but to give them to the snobs on the coach, who smoke the vilest cheroots. They poison the air with the odor of their filthy weeds. A man at all easy in his circumstances would spare himself much annoyance by taking the above simple precaution.

A gentleman sitting behind me tapped me on the back and asked for a light. He was a footman, or rather valet. He had no livery, but the three friends who accompanied him were tall men in pepper and salt undress jackets with a duke's coronet on their buttons.

After tapping me on the back, and when he had finished his cheroot, the gentleman produced another wind instrument, which he called a "kinopium," a sort of trumpet, on which he showed a great inclination to play. He began puffing out of the "kinopium" a most abominable air, which he said was the "Duke's March." It was played by particular request of one of the pepper and salt gentry.

The noise was so abominable that even the coachman objected (although my friend's brother footmen were ravished with it), and said that it was not allowed to play toons on HIS 'bus. "Very well," said the valet, "WE'RE ONLY OF THE DUKE OF B 'S ESTABLISHMENT, THAT'S ALL." The coachman could not resist that appeal to his fashionable feelings. The valet was allowed to play his infernal kinopium, and the poor fellow (the coachman), who had lived in some private families, was quite anxious to conciliate the footmen "of the Duke of B.'s establishment, that's all," and told several stories of his having been groom in Captain Hoskins's family, NEPHEW OF GOVERNOR HOSKINS; which stories the footmen received with great contempt.

The footmen were like the rest of the fashionable world in this respect. I felt for my part that I respected them. They were in daily communication with a duke! They were not the rose, but they had lived beside it. There is an odor in the English aristocracy which intoxicates plebeians. I am sure that any commoner in England, though he would die rather than confess it, would have a respect for those great big hulking Duke's footmen.

The day before, her Grace the Duchess had passed us alone in a chariot and four with two outriders. What better mark of innate superiority could man want? Here was a slim lady who required four six horses to herself, and four servants (kinopium was, no doubt, one of the number) to guard her.

We were sixteen inside and out, and had consequently an eighth of a horse apiece.

A duchess = 6, a commoner = 1/8; that is to say,

1 duchess = 48 commoners.

If I were a duchess of the present day, I would say to the duke my noble husband, "My dearest grace, I think, when I travel alone in my chariot from Hammersmith to London, I will not care for the outriders... Continue reading book >>

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