LITTLE TRAVELS AND ROADSIDE SKETCHES
LITTLE TRAVELS AND ROADSIDE SKETCHES
WILLIAM MAKEPEACE THACKERAY
I.--FROM RICHMOND IN SURREY TO BRUSSELS IN BELGIUM
. . . 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
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
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. In these days when there is so much poverty and so
much disaffection in the country we should not eclabousser the
canaille with the sight of our preposterous prosperity.
But this is very likely only plebeian envy and I dare say if I
were a lovely duchess of the realm I would ride in a coach-and-
six with a coronet on the top of my bonnet and a robe of velvet
and ermine even in the dog-days.
Alas! these are the dog-days. Many dogs are abroad--snarling dogs
biting dogs envious dogs mad dogs; beware of exciting the fury of
such with your flaming red velvet and dazzling ermine. It makes
ragged Lazarus doubly hungry to see Dives feasting in cloth-of-
gold; and so if I were a beauteous duchess . . . Silence vain
man! Can the Queen herself make you a duchess? Be content then
nor gibe at thy betters of "the Duke of B----'s establishment--
ON BOARD THE "ANTWERPEN" OFF EVERYWHERE.
We have bidden adieu to Billingsgate we have passed the Thames
Tunnel; it is one o'clock and of course people are thinking of
being hungry. What a merry place a steamer is on a calm sunny
summer forenoon and what an appetite every one seems to have! We
are I assure you no less than 170 noblemen and gentlemen
together pacing up and down under the awning or lolling on the
sofas in the cabin and hardly have we passed Greenwich when the
feeding begins. The company was at the brandy and soda-water in
an instant (there is a sort of legend that the beverage is a
preservative against sea-sickness) and I admired the penetration
of gentlemen who partook of the drink. In the first place the
steward WILL put so much brandy into the tumbler that it is fit to
choke you; and secondly the soda-water being kept as near as
possible to the boiler of the engine is of a fine wholesome heat
when presented to the hot and thirsty traveller. Thus he is
prevented from catching any sudden cold which might be dangerous to
The forepart of the vessel is crowded to the full as much as the
genteeler quarter. There are four carriages each with piles of
imperials and aristocratic gimcracks of travel under the wheels of
which those personages have to clamber who have a mind to look at
the bowsprit and perhaps to smoke a cigar at ease. The carriages
overcome you find yourself confronted by a huge penful of Durham
oxen lying on hay and surrounded by a barricade of oars. Fifteen
of these horned monsters maintain an incessant mooing and
bellowing. Beyond the cows come a heap of cotton-bags beyond the
cotton-bags more carriages more pyramids of travelling trunks and
valets and couriers bustling and swearing round about them. And
already and in various corners and niches lying on coils of rope
black tar-cloths ragged cloaks or hay you see a score of those
dubious fore-cabin passengers who are never shaved who always
look unhappy and appear getting ready to be sick.
At one dinner begins in the after-cabin--boiled salmon boiled
beef boiled mutton boiled cabbage boiled potatoes and parboiled
wine for any gentlemen who like it and two roast-ducks between
seventy. After this knobs of cheese are handed round on a plate
and there is a talk of a tart somewhere at some end of the table.
All this I saw peeping through a sort of meat-safe which ventilates
the top of the cabin and very happy and hot did the people seem
"How the deuce CAN people dine at such an hour?" say several
genteel fellows who are watching the manoeuvres. "I can't touch a
morsel before seven."
But somehow at half-past three o'clock we had dropped a long way
down the river. The air was delightfully fresh the sky of a
faultless cobalt the river shining and flashing like quicksilver
and at this period steward runs against me bearing two great
smoking dishes covered by two great glistening hemispheres of tin.
"Fellow" says I "what's that?"
He lifted up the cover: it was ducks and green pease by jingo!
"What! haven't they done YET the greedy creatures?" I asked.
"Have the people been feeding for three hours?"
"Law bless you sir it's the second dinner. Make haste or you
won't get a place." At which words a genteel party with whom I
had been conversing instantly tumbled down the hatchway and I
find myself one of the second relay of seventy who are attacking
the boiled salmon boiled beef boiled cabbage &c. As for the
ducks I certainly had some pease very fine yellow stiff pease
that ought to have been split before they were boiled; but with
regard to the ducks I saw the animals gobbled up before my eyes by
an old widow lady and her party just as I was shrieking to the
steward to bring a knife and fork to carve them. The fellow! (I
mean the widow lady's whiskered companion)--I saw him eat pease
with the very knife with which he had dissected the duck!
After dinner (as I need not tell the keen observer of human nature
who peruses this) the human mind if the body be in a decent state
expands into gayety and benevolence and the intellect longs to
measure itself in friendly converse with the divers intelligences
around it. We ascend upon deck and after eying each other for a
brief space and with a friendly modest hesitation we begin anon to
converse about the weather and other profound and delightful themes