A Rogue's Life
gentleman--failed--and then spiritlessly availed himself of the oleaginous refuge
of the soap and candle trade. His mother always looked down upon him after
this; but borrowed money of him also--in order to show, I suppose, that her
maternal interest in her son was not quite extinct. My father tried to follow her
example--in his wife's interests, of course; but the soap-boiler brutally buttoned
up his pockets, and told my father to go into business for himself. Thus it
happened that we were certainly a poor family, in spite of the fine appearance we
made, the fashionable street we lived in, the neat brougham we kept, and the
clumsy and expensive footman who answered our door.
What was to be done with me in the way of education?
If my father had consulted his means, I should have been sent to a cheap
commercial academy; but he had to consult his relationship to Lady Malkinshaw;
so I was sent to one of the most fashionable and famous of the great public
schools. I will not mention it by name, because I don't think the masters would be
proud of my connection with it. I ran away three times, and was flogged three
times. I made four aristocratic connections, and had four pitched battles with
them: three thrashed me, and one I thrashed. I learned to play at cricket, to hate
rich people, to cure warts, to write Latin verses, to swim, to recite speeches, to
cook kidneys on toast, to draw caricatures of the masters, to construe Greek
plays, to black boots, and to receive kicks and serious advice resignedly. Who
will say that the fashionable public school was of no use to me after that?
After I left school, I had the narrowest escape possible of intruding myself into
another place of accommodation for distinguished people; in other words, I was
very nearly being sent to college. Fortunately for me, my father lost a lawsuit just
in the nick of time, and was obliged to scrape together every farthing of available
money that he possessed to pay for the luxury of going to law. If he could have
saved his seven shillings, he would certainly have sent me to scramble for a
place in the pit of the great university theater; but his purse was empty, and his
son was not eligible therefore for admission, in a gentlemanly capacity, at the
The next thing was to choose a profession.
Here the Doctor was liberality itself, in leaving me to my own devices. I was of a
roving adventurous temperament, and I should have liked to go into the army.
But where was the money to come from, to pay for my commission? As to
enlisting in the ranks, and working my way up, the social institutions of my
country obliged the grandson of Lady Malkinshaw to begin military life as an
officer and gentleman, or not to begin it at all. The army, therefore, was out of the
question. The Church? Equally out of the question: since I could not pay for
admission to the prepared place of accommodation for distinguished people, and
could not accept a charitable free pass, in consequence of my high connections.
The Bar? I should be five years getting to it, and should have to spend two