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Then, somehow there coming a little lull in the noisy talk, he turned to me and asked how old I was, where I lived, and what I wanted to do in the great world some day whether I had ever been in England, and where I had learned to speak French; all which I answered, much to his apparent amusement and to the best of my small ability.

Then came supper, when I lost him in the crowd. If I felt any sorrow at losing him, it must have been a boyish sorrow, easily assuaged by the sight of divers comfits and good things on a well-spread table. I suppose there must have been a sense of gratified pride at being noticed by a distinguished man so publicly. Perhaps the sorrow has come with maturer years. At all events, I only saw him again just as he was taking his departure, when he turned and said a few kind words to me, and then was gone.


In approaching the name of William Makepeace Thackeray I feel a degree of delicacy, and even timidity, which his absence from the scene of his world-wide renown does not tend to diminish; for Thackeray was a man of such large mental proportions, and such far-seeing power in his mode of anatomizing and criticising human character, that one seems to be treading on volcanic ground in venturing to deal with him at all. But of what is biography composed? Assuredly not of the knowledge and experience of one privileged person, but of the aggregate contributions of many, who are willing, when occasion offers, to state what they know for the information and benefit of posterity. A hundred admirers of Thackeray might undertake to write a memoir of him, and yet the task of doing full justice to his character and career must necessarily be left to a chosen future historian, who shall zealously gather together all the bits and fragments to be found scattered among books and men, and blend them into a substantial and permanent shape. But it must be admitted that there is an exceptional difficulty in regard to Thackeray, inasmuch as there were few whom he allowed to know him, in the

true sense of the phrase that is to say, there was a constitutional reserve in his manner, accompanied, at times, by a cold austerity, which led to some misgivings as to the possibility of his being the pleasant social companion his intimates often described him to be. And yet it is well known to those who saw much of Thackeray in his familiar moments that he could be essentially “jolly” (a favorite term of his) when the humor suited him, and that he would, on such occasions, open his heart as freely as if the word “reticence ” formed no part of his vocabulary; whereas, at other times, he would keep himself entirely within himself, and answer a question by a monosyllable, or peradventure by a significant movement of the head. At one moment he would look you full in the face and greet you jauntily; at another he would turn from you with a peculiar waving of the hand, which of course indicated that he had no desire to talk. Men who were members of the same club with him have been heard to say that sometimes he would pass them in the lobbies unnoticed, and at others he would cheerfully initiate a conversation, and leave behind him an impression that sullenness or hauteur was wholly foreign to his nature. It should be stated, however, that his health for many years had never been entirely unimpaired, and that his acute sensibility often rendered it irksome to him to come in contact with his fellow-men. In short, he was essentially of a nervous temperament, and altogether deficient in that vigorous self-possession which enables a man to shine in public assemblies; for it was absolute pain to him to be called upon to make a speech, and even in ordinary conversation he showed no particular desire to hold a prominent place. But, the above considerations apart, it would be easier to know many men in a few days than it would be thoroughly to understand Thackeray in the same number of years. Douglas Jerrold, dating his acquaintance with Thackeray from the time that the latter, by some curious hazard, illustrated his book of "Men of Character," was often heard to say, "I have known Thackeray eighteen years, and I don't know him yet." But that the great novelist and satirist had a generous and sympathetic heart can

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hardly, I think, be disputed; and even the few brief letters which I received from him are sufficient to prove that, however austere he sometimes appeared to be externally, he was very rarely wanting in readiness to perform a kind office.

At one period of my intercourse with Mr. Thackeray I had been reading his "Journey from Cornhill to Grand Cairo,” and, having always been an enthusiastic admirer of his writings, long before I knew that the "Michael Angelo Titmarsh " of “Fraser's Magazine” was identical with W. M. Thackeray, I could not refrain from expressing to him by letter the delight I had drawn from his Egyptian pages. Among other things, I remember being deeply impressed by the graphic power displayed in the poem of "The White Squall," and by the charming burst of parental feeling with which it concludes.1

Mr. Thackeray's answer was as follows:

"DEAR HODDER, I thank you very much for your note, and am very glad that my little book has given you pleasure. I hope that the future works of the same author will please you, and, indeed, am quite anxious to have as many people as may be of your opinion. It is not my intention to return to Constantinople at present, and when there I hope I shall be more moral than in former days, and have no desire to fling the handkerchief to any members whatsoever of his Highness's seraglio. Yours truly,


I cannot at this distant date precisely call to mind the circumstances under which I continued, at intervals, to meet Mr. Thackeray, but the various letters I received from him contain the most gratifying proof that he was always well affected toward writers who could not possibly aspire to his

1 "And when, its force expended,
The harmless storm was ended,
And as the sunrise splendid

Came blushing o'er the sea ;
I thought as day was breaking,
My little girls were waking,
And smiling, and making

A prayer at home for me."

own rank in the literary army; and the following extract is one of the best evidences of this fact I can adduce, because, at the time he wrote it, my knowledge of him did not extend beyond that which was derived from a few brief conversations with him at the chambers of a friend, upon matters in no way relating to business, such as afterward brought me more closely in contact with him.

The letter refers to a loss which had just befallen me, in consequence of some changes which had taken place in a newspaper establishment with which I was then connected. It is dated May 19, 1855, and says:

“I am sincerely sorry to hear of your position, and send the little contribution which came so opportunely from another friend whom I was enabled once to help. When you are wellto-do again I know you will pay it back, and I dare say somebody else will want the money, which is meanwhile most heartily at your service."


It was afterward explained to me that Mr. Thackeray made a practice of acting upon the principle embodied in the above Like many other generous men, he had always a few pounds floating about among friends and acquaintances whom he had been able to oblige in their necessity, and whenever he received back money which he had lent, he did not put it into his pocket with a glow of satisfaction at having added so much to his exchequer; but congratulated himself that he could transfer the same sum to another person who he knew was in need of it.

To my great satisfaction I received one evening a note from Mr. Thackeray, which I had been expecting for several days, as he had promised to write to me on the subject; but, as the delay seemed ominous, I began to think he had changed his determination, and would not require my services as now suggested. In this note, which is dated Onslow Square, September 6, 1855, he says, after referring to other matters :

“I want a little work done in the way of arranging papers, copying at the B. M., etc.—if you are free, and will come here

on Tuesday morning next, I can employ your services, and put some money in your way."

To Onslow Square I accordingly went on the morning fixed upon, and found Mr. Thackeray in his study to receive me; but, instead of entering upon business in that part of the house, he took me up-stairs to his bedroom, where every arrangement had been made for the convenience of writing. I then learned that he was busily occupied in preparing his lectures on the "Four Georges," and that he had need of an amanuensis to fill the place of one who was now otherwise occupied. In that capacity, it was my task to write to his dictation, and to make extracts from books, according to his instructions, either at his own house or at the British Museum. This duty called me to his bedchamber every morning, and, as a general rule, I found him up and ready to begin work, though he was sometimes in doubt and difficulty as to whether he should commence operations sitting, or standing, or walking about, or lying down. Often he would light a cigar, and, after pacing the room for a few minutes, would put the unsmoked remnant on the mantle-piece, and resume his work with increased cheerfulness, as if he had gathered fresh inspiration from the "gentle odors " of the "sublime tobacco."

It was not a little amusing to observe the frequency with which Mr. Thackeray, in the moments of dictation, would change his position, and I could not but think that he seemed most at his ease when one would suppose he was most uncomfortable. He was easy to "follow," as his enunciation was always clear and distinct, and he generally "weighed his words before he gave them breath,” so that his amanuensis seldom received a check during the progress of his pen. He never became energetic, but spoke with that calm deliberation which distinguished his public readings; and there was one peculiarity which, among others, I especially remarked, viz., that when he made a humorous point, which inevitably caused me to laugh, his own countenance was unmoved, like that of the comedian Liston, who, as is well known, looked as if he

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