Page:The Yellow Book - 03.djvu/286

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250
A Note on George the Fourth

and it is only at the music halls that we are privileged to see strong men. We are born into a poor, weak age. We are not strong enough to be wicked, and the Nonconformist Conscience makes cowards of us all.

But this was not so in the days when George was walking by his tutor's side in the gardens of Kew or of Windsor. London must have been a splendid place in those days—full of life and colour and wrong and revelry. There was no absurd press nor vestry to see that everything should be neatly ordered, nor to protect the poor at the expense of the rich. Every man had to shift for himself and, in consequence, men were, as Mr. Clement Scott would say, manly, and women, as Mr. Clement Scott would say, womanly. A young man of wealth and family in that period found open to him a vista of such license as had been unknown to any since the barbatuli of the Roman Empire. To spend the early morning with his valet, gradually assuming the rich apparel that was not then tabooed by a false sumptuary standard; to saunter round to White's for ale and tittle-tattle and the making of wagers; to attend a "drunken déjeûner" in honour of "la très belle Rosaline" or the Strappini; to drive a friend out into the country in his pretty curricle, "followed by two well-dressed and well-mounted grooms, of singular elegance certainly," and stop at every tavern on the road to curse the host for not keeping better ale and a wench of more charm; to reach St. James in time for a random toilet and so off to dinner. Which of our dandies could survive a day of pleasures such as this? Which would be ready, dinner done, to scamper off again to Ranelagh and dance and skip and sup in the rotunda there? Yet the youth of this period would not dream of going to bed before he had looked in at White's or Crockford's for a few hours' faro. This was the kind of life that young George found opened to

him.