Page:The Yellow Book - 03.djvu/287

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251
By Max Beerbohm

him, when, in his nineteenth year, he at length was given an establishment of his own in Buckingham House. How his young eyes must have sparkled, and with what glad gasps must he have taken the air of freedom into his lungs. Rumour had long been busy with the confounded surveillance under which his childhood had been passed. A paper of the time says significantly that "the Prince of Wales, with a spirit which does him honour, has three times requested a change in that system." For a long time King George had postponed permission for his son to appear at any balls, and the year before had only given it, lest he should offend the Spanish Minister, who begged it as a personal favour. I know few pictures more pathetic than that of George, then an overgrown boy of fourteen, tearing the childish frill from around his neck and crying to one of the royal servants, "See how they treat me!" Childhood;has always seemed to me the tragic period of life—to be subject to the most odious espionage at the one age when you never dream of doing wrong, to be deceived by your parents, thwarted of your smallest wish, oppressed by the terrors of manhood and of the world to come, and to believe, as you are told, that childhood is the only happiness known: all this is quite terrible. And all Royal children, of whom I have read, particularly George, seem to have passed through greater trials in childhood than do the children of any other class. Mr. Fitzgerald, hazarding for once an opinion, thinks that "the stupid, odious, German, sergeant-system of discipline that had been so rigorously applied, was, in fact, responsible for the blemishes of the young Prince's character." Even Thackeray, in his essay upon George III., asks what wonder that the son, finding himself free at last, should have plunged, without looking, into the vortex of dissipation. In Torrens's "Life of Lord Melbourne" we learn that Lord Essex, riding one day with the King, met the young prince wearing a wig, and that the culprit, being

sternly