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THE VICEROY'S GUEST.
grasped heartily as of old. “He urged me much,” writes Mr. Barry, "to go to Florence and take up literature as a pursuit, asking me to stay with him while I was unsettled. He told me then a good deal of his life there; said his house was always the great resort after the theatres, and I would see there everyone worth seeing in Italy. “I live,” he said, “for about £1200 a year, but I could not live as I do in London for £3000 -nor in Ireland at any outlay. People call me extravagant, and in a sense I am, no doubt; but this life is to me not merely a luxury but a necessity. It feeds my lamp, which would die out otherwise. My receptions are my studies. I find there my characters, and pick up a thousand things that are to me invaluable. You can't keep drawing the wine off the cask perpetually, and putting nothing in; and this is my way of replenishing my brain when I have exhausted it.'"*
The popular Ulster King-at-Arms, whom Ireland owes thanks to Lord St. Germans for bringing from the sister country to the home of his fathers, sat opposite to Lever at dinner at the Viceregal Lodge at this time. Nobody seemed to mind him, and it was clear that the society, not being literary, failed to appreciate his presence. The best table-talker of his time remained silent; and Sir Bernard was not much surprised to find, in a subsequent novel, a not over laudatory description of “a dinner in the Viceregal Lodge,” which mentioned that " of course "the Ulster King was present, and sat opposite
* Letter from M. J. Barry, Esq., Heidelberg, March 18, 1879.
to the hero of the tale then in hand. Seventeen years after, during the Viceroyalty of Lord Spencer, Sir Bernard Burke was much amused at finding himself once more seated opposite Lever at dinner, not only in the same room but in the same part of it. They had not, we believe, been formally introduced ; and, during the earlier courses, Sir Bernard's conversation was mainly addressed to the lady whom he had brought in to dinner. “I am just thinking,” the pleasant King-at-Arms said at last, but without alluding to the printed description, “ that you and I sat in precisely the same positions seventeen years since !” “And I have been engaged in precisely the same thought,” rejoined Lever, breaking into a joyous laugh. Like a mine exploded by a spark, his store of anecdotes was at once let loose, which continued uninterruptedly for the rest of the evening, and which, Lord Spencer addressing the present writer says, “greatly charmed and delighted us all.” Lever, on that occasion, remained for three days the guest of Lord Spencer.
But his impressions of the Viceregal Court of Lord St. Germans in 1854, were not so pleasant. At one of these dinners, he decried the notion of a speedy capture of Sebastopol; and incurred, as he said, as much ridicule as was consistent with Viceregal politeness to bestow and the small wit of small A.D.C.'s to inflict. He drops stinging satires on different dragoons with whom he came in contact; but the record of it must give place to a tragic episode which waits and wails.
Can we wonder that he who may be styled the son
HIS SON'S CAREER.
and representative of “ Charles O'Malley, the Irish Dragoon,” should himself have run such a dashing career in a dragoon regiment that difficulties at last caught him and heavily involved Lever?
“After he had left the Royal School at Armagh,” writes a friend of Lever's, “he entered the army, went to India, drew heavily on his father, and plunged him into debt, upsetting his financial arrangements, and leading him to make sacrifices of his novels.” Lever had been ignorant of the cost attending the life of a subaltern in India. “I first saw him," writes another, “at Lucknow in 1858. He was then a cornet in the Bays or 2nd Dragoon Guards, having joined the regiment on August the 17th, 1857.” “I only knew little Charlie as a boy," observes one who has still earlier recollections. “He was like his mother in face, hair, and complexion ; was a very good chess-player, even at the age of eight. As an only son he had been, naturally enough, petted. Though at no time a diligent student, he could, when he liked, exhibit proofs of a retentive memory.” A friend, one day visiting at Lever's house, astonished him by repeating the Thirty-nine Articles as framed in the year 1562. “Hollo Charlie,” he exclaimed, addressing his son, “this five-pound note shall be yours, if you commit them with equal accuracy, to memory.” The task was mastered and the premium won. Lever's efforts during Charley's boyhood, disclose laudable anxiety to provide his future with definite employment. He urges McGlashan to see if he could make a publisher of him,
and describes him (September, 1852) as thoroughly straightforward and honourable, and utterly incapable of a mean act. He at last binds him to a civil engineer, but the bias of the boy lay in another line. Lever thought often and with pain of the precipice to which that bias might lead.
“There is nothing,” he said, “in a single man's life so heavy to be borne as the cares of a family, and the future of children!. I am, as you know, neither fainthearted nor easily depressed, and yet there are moments when my courage fails me, and I feel that there is nothing of mere personal calamity could have that effect.”
Unlike Sir Walter Scott's son, who when quartered at Dublin boasted that he had never read his father's novels, the greatest pleasure of Charley's youth was to read those exciting stories of military life as shown in the careers of “O'Malley” and “Hinton.” And when he became a man he longed to do likewise, by emulating in a Dragoon Regiment their feats and fun. How little Lever dreamt when writing the laughable exploits of “Lorrequer” and his successors, that he was sowing on his own hearth the seeds of future mischief."
* The day had gone by for hard drinking, wrenching off knockers, beating watchmen, calling out fire-engines on a false alarm, breaking lamps, and fighting duels ; but readers are gradually led to like such details, and at last we take by the arm our rollicking companion ; for, just as Dodd and other characters improve us by their wisdom, Lorrequer is bad company in one sense while good company in another; his merry, musical laugh is infectious. “We first endure” and “then embrace ; ” becoming, as it were, an accomplice in his practical jokes. But no poison lurks in such details. A critic has freed Lever from reproach in words which claim more enduring record :-"Whatever of fast life he pourtrayed is refined and
AN OFFENDER HORSE WHIPPED.
“Jack Hinton ” administers personal chastisement to Ulick Burke; Charley used the argumentum baculinum too. When riding with his father one day at Baden, a peasant rudely crossed their path, driving a dray. and accompanying the act with an oath and a sneer. Charley, then aged fourteen only, sprang from his saddle, seized the whip from the peasant's hand, and belaboured him soundly. The elder Lever was not displeased by this display of spirit: he threw the rustic a few florins to allay his pain ; and both rode off rather proud of the achievement.
“You ask for details and characteristics of Cornet Lever, late 2nd Dragoon Guards,” writes Major O’Beirne, M.P., “I was well acquainted with him, as we served in the same regiment in India from 1858 until 1862. I could, of course, give you some anecdotes and incidents
purified by the artist himself. The air is cleared of the poison ; the sting is taken from the flower. In the devilry of Lever's scenes there may be much that is contagious ; there is nothing that is noxious. It is a very exceptional thing for him to touch at all upon topics of a doubtful character; but when he does—witness his novel of “Sir Brooke Fosbrooke”-how palpable, how intense, how unmitigated is his scorn for baseness, cowardice, vice. In all these matters Lever's strong sense of manly rectitude is apparent. There is no doubt on which side are his sympathies. He does not, as is the fashion with the fleshly school' palter with iniquity, and while denouncing sin in the abstract revel in the highly-coloured passages that to the youthful mind are the most fatal provocatives to sin in the concrete. As for his heroes, who does not know the infinite series of escapades and scrapes through which he conducts them? They are in difficulty often, sometimes they are in debt. They are always open to fun; but the fun is pure and wholesome. As for the debt, it is disposed of by some comfortable windfall ; the difficulties are honourably surmounted.”
Unhappily, however, for father and son, difficulties were not mastered with such ease in reality.