A Blighted Life/Supplemental Notes/Section 4

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A Blighted Life by Rosina Bulwer Lytton
Section 4 supplementary notes

THE LATE DUKE OF ATHOL.[edit]

One of Victoria's favourites, and one who knew a little more of her than we think it well to publish, was one of the Bulwer Lytton Gang, and is thus described:--

Another member of this worshipful clique of Stop-at-nothings, a few grades higher as to station, but quite on a par as to blackguardism, is the Duke of Twilglenon.

"Ah, I've seen the horrid fellow," broke in Mr. Phippen; "what a horrid-looking Wretch it is--for all the world like a low, drunken Grazier in appearance, looking as if he had just beaten or worried one of the poor animals he had been driving, to death."

"Well, sir, I believe he does kick and worry the only animal which every Englishman has a right to ill-treat to any amount, which is his wife; for beautiful and amiable as the poor Duchess is, it don't prevent her being well brutalized by her ruffianly-looking husband. Ah, sir, I often think that had Princess Charlotte lived, she would have had some feeling for her own sex, and that such notoriously profligate men as this Duke of Twilglenon, and his worthy associate, that Sir Janus Allpuff, would not have disgraced the English Court. But perhaps a man in my sphere of life is no judge of such matters; only I cannot help thinking, according to the Laws of God, Vice is Vice, and Infamy is Infamy, all over the world, whether in Queens, or Dukes, or Dustmen, or in Baronets or Bricklayers."

"To be sure it is," said Mr. Phippen, "only ten times worse in the Patrician than in the Plebeian, as they have not even the excuses of mesery, as provocation, to drive theminto low vice."

But Sir Janus Allpuff had other irons in the fire.

I am not aware, even from the insight I have had into the Sodom and Gomorrah of the literary world, that it is customary for Reviewers (?) previous to reviewing a work, to write anonymous letters to the author, stating that theirs was rather an influential Review, but that before they reviewed her last work, they must first assure her that the world did not care one straw whether she was well-used or ill-used, but the (the Reviewer, mind, and the Writer of the anonymous letters, for there were two) wished to know was it possible that she meant Mr. _____, one of the characters in the novel, for her own husband?--as though they should ask, "Is it possible you have dared to blaspheme your God!!" though indeed, among that class of notoriously infamous and profligate men, who have left no law of God unviolated, Husbands of course are generally given precedence to the Almighty in the awe and reverence such men dndeavour to inculcate in the female slaves of Great Britain. Now, with regard to that, the authoress had only to say "that it was impossible to write a novel without having bad characters in it, and it would be equally impossible to mention any vice or any meanness which would not be perfectly applicable, and which therefore might not appear personal to Sir Janus Allpuff, who having taken high degrees in them all, was at perfect liberty to take his choice, and fit them on as he pleased; and as for the sacredness of the mere word husband, as to her it was only the synonyme of the most extreme personal violence and brutality, terminating in being turned out of her home to make way for her legal tyrant's mistresses, and to having had one child destroyed physically and the other morally, being swindled out of very shilling, and hunted by a relentless Fiend through the world, it could not be very sacred, quoique sacré1, to her." "Oh, but respect to her position," said Conventionality; he had not lfet her any save one of honest superiority, which, as it arose from herself, it was not in his nor in his myrmidon's power to deprive her of. Then what was she to respect? Surely not the iniquitous laws that allowed a woman to be so treated, nor the vicious and immoral society which tolerates such conduct; and least of all the opinion of a certain obsequious clique of the press, which panders to, puffs, and protects such infamy. The silliest thing that ever tyrant did is to leave his slave nothing to lose, to hope, or to fear, for then comes the reaction: the pigmy springs into an armed giant, and the trampled worm is, for the sake of others, willing to become a martyr to a cause of which they have been so long a Victim; and of this overreaching folly the clever Sir Janus Allpuff had been guilty. "Oh! but his talents," simpers some Miss, to whom they no doubt appear, as compared with her ow, very great; but his Victim, being an exceedingly well-read Woman, could not even bow down to and worship them, looking upon him much in the light of the ass which carried the relics, from having read the most of his works in the authors from whom he transferred them; and, moreover, having more original ideas in her own head than he ever purloined from anybody else's. So, finding there was nothing to be done with a Wretch of this kind, and that he could not even hunt her to death, it was necessary to mae the Clique set up a hue-and-cry about the personality of her books; but who more personal, pray, without the excuse of gross outrage that she had had, than Sir Janus himself, even to formerly ridiculing the Assinæum and others of his now obedient vassals, to say nothing of his converting Her Majesty's ministry into highwaymen? Who more personal, either, than his friend Mr. Jericho Jabber, in his Caucasian romances? And who so personal, without any regard to vraisemblance2, much less to truth, as my Lady Gorgon, * in her trashy productions? But because she has made her house convenient to the English aristocracy for the last quarter of a century, she has a pension of three hundred a-year, while poor Haydon starved on an under-footman's wages of twenty-five--Shame! Shame! But Sir Janus had not done with his victim yet. The New Quarterly, The Literary Gazette, in old Silenus Jerdan's most unscrupulous strain, so that his reminiscences seemed to hiccup through every line; The Assinseum, and, in short, all Sir Janus' special tools and literary bravoes--

"Cursed by the goose's and the critic's quill,"

were ordered to affect to treat her book as the production of a mad woman. Nay, more, Bob Clapper, another star of this galaxy, and quite worthy of being one, considering that he lives with another man's wife and is always drunk, was also set to bell all over London that Sir Janus's victim was mad, which really was unfair towards Fudgester, as they had just concocted a job appointment for him, and inducted him into it, under the very appropriate title of Purveyor of Lunatics to the Literary Fund. But if Sir Janus had only had the goodness, instead of saying and telling his gang to say all this, to have instituted a medical inquiry, or any other inquiry, that could have


* Lady Morgan

Bob Clapper--the late Mr. Robert Bell, author of "Marriage, a Comedy." Jericho Jabber is Disraeli.


his Wife's conduct and his own examined into, thoroughly sifted, and brought before the public, she would have been, and still would be, infinitely obliged to him. But no! the calumnies of this most loathsome and utterly contemptible Clique, like their charities (?), are upon the principle of publicity and self-security. With regard to the former, they stab in the back and in the dark; with regard to the latter--via the Times--they dip their hands into other people's pockets; and no matter, so far as Sir Janus Allpuff is concerned, if his Victim wife has been hunted down to the lowest straits of pecuniary destitution, as long as his name figures in £100 subscriptions for restoring Churches, or any other sound-of-trumpet doings, he will still have the Reverend Incumbent of any living in his gift, swearing that he is a reformed character!! and Fudgester endeavouring to demonstrate to the British public, by dint of brass and ink, that what might have the appearance of a bare-faced plagiary in others, is the highest proof and evidence of profound originality in Sir Janus Allpuff, and that so any generous critic must admit; and certainly it is very easy for critics, à la Fudgester is quite right to give his friends as much honour, originality, and generosity as he possibly can. But it was not to be supposed that the celver Sir Janus, with suc a corps d'esprit3 (?) at his command, would let his Victim rest; so he next sets a fellow calling himself a theatrical manager (?), of the name of "Leyton," to write to her, demanding permission to dramatise one of her Novels. Now the motive of this was two-fold: first, it inculpated the rare jest of leading the poor, struggling, financially-crippled Wife to suppose that she was about to get a little money, which would be a great godsend to her, considering the terrible embarrassments his ceaseless conspiracies had entailed on her; and next, it established a correspondence under the pretext of arranging the scenes and condensing the plot of the play, which correspondence was drawled out over the space of several months, which of course kept Sir Janus perfectly in possession of his Victim's whereabouts. But at length even such a very bungling plotter as this very "clever" man felt the hum of the play could not last for ever; consequently the plot began to thicken, and the soi-disant4 Mr. Leyton was sent with a woman, who had every appearance of being a street-walker, in person, and under the name of Barnes. This phase of the plot consisted in getting into the same house as Sir Janus's victim, and giving her the trouble and expense of getting out of it; and at a later period of the plot, this low fellow Barnes wrote her a most infamous letter, the handwriting of which was precisely the same as the letters of the soi-disant Leyton. But as Sir Janus Allpuff invariably adopts the opposite verbal virtue to the particular vice he may be at the moment practising, about this time he was seized in the House of Commons with such a "generous" (a favourite word of his) horror of the under-hand and the anonymous, that he would like to have very article in a newspaper signed with the writer's name! But surely he must have uttered this fanfarronade under the full conviction that such an absurd law never would or could be passed; for otherwise, what dreadful high wages some of his doers of dirty work would rquire for some of the paragraphs, pro and con., which they are ordred to indite! Shocking to think of! for it almost makes one see, in one's mind's eye, Sir Janus himself reduced to such a state of pecuniary destitution as not to have coin sufficient to pay for a raspberry puff, much less for a literary one! Thus hunted out of the miserable and remote village in which she had taken refuge, Sir Janus's victim left it, not letting anyone know the place she was going to, which so exapserated her tyrant to think that she should for even a week, a day, or an hour, escape from his persecutions, that the next time the miserable pittance he doles out to her became due, and from which he even deducts the Income Tax! he positively refused to pay it to one of her solicitors till he had a clergyman's certificate from the place where she then was, guaranteeing that she was alive, and this he no doubt thought a very clever way of finding out where she was. But honesty is always not only braver, but shrewder, than rascality, not only because it has nothing to fear, but because all resources are within its grasp, and as his Victim was determined not to yield to this disgusting, though too ridiculous, piece of petty tyranny--a very clever lawyer of hers, and one as honest as he is clever, soon brought that contemptible wretch Sir Janus and his rascally attorney to his senses by writing them word what he would do if this disgraceful swindle which he calls an allowance was not paid instantly. Of course he soon hunted out his Victim again, but his spy (everyone being now forewarned) was sent about her business in a manner that must have rather surprised her and her "gifted" employer, and as now there is a talk of a general election, with what he himself and Fudgester would call those "high and generous instincts" for his own safety which never quit him, I suppose he will keep quiet for some little time, and he had better!

"What a contemptible, dastardly set of Blackguards, to be sure!"

"You'd say so, sir, if you knew as much of them as I do."

"Egad! I think you've told me quite enough. How old is this Sir Janus Allpuff, and what sort of a looking fellow is he?"

"Well, sir, in years, I don't believe he is much more than fifty, but from the horrible life he has led he looks eighty; however, in the puffs of course, all this is attributed to his literary labours. His person is not so easy to describe; it is the head of a goat on the body of a grasshopper. But it's the expression of his face that is so horrible; the lines in it make it look like an intersected map of Vice, bounded on one side by the Black Sea of Hypocrisy, on the other by the Falsehood Mountains."

Endnotes[edit]

  1. quoique sacré: although sacred
  2. vraisemblance: probability
  3. corps d'sprit: body of spirit
  4. soi-disant: so-called