Vanity Fair HTML version
Captain Dobbin Proceeds on His Canvass
What is the secret mesmerism which friendship possesses, and under the operation of
which a person ordinarily sluggish, or cold, or timid, becomes wise, active, and resolute,
in another's behalf? As Alexis, after a few passes from Dr. Elliotson, despises pain, reads
with the back of his head, sees miles off, looks into next week, and performs other
wonders, of which, in his own private normal condition, he is quite incapable; so you see,
in the affairs of the world and under the magnetism of friendships, the modest man
becomes bold, the shy confident, the lazy active, or the impetuous prudent and peaceful.
What is it, on the other hand, that makes the lawyer eschew his own cause, and call in his
learned brother as an adviser? And what causes the doctor, when ailing, to send for his
rival, and not sit down and examine his own tongue in the chimney Bass, or write his
own prescription at his study-table? I throw out these queries for intelligent readers to
answer, who know, at once, how credulous we are, and how sceptical, how soft and how
obstinate, how firm for others and how diffident about ourselves: meanwhile, it is certain
that our friend William Dobbin, who was personally of so complying a disposition that if
his parents had pressed him much, it is probable he would have stepped down into the
kitchen and married the cook, and who, to further his own interests, would have found the
most insuperable difficulty in walking across the street, found himself as busy and eager
in the conduct of George Osborne's affairs, as the most selfish tactician could be in the
pursuit of his own.
Whilst our friend George and his young wife were enjoying the first blushing days of the
honeymoon at Brighton, honest William was left as George's plenipotentiary in London,
to transact all the business part of the marriage. His duty it was to call upon old Sedley
and his wife, and to keep the former in good humour: to draw Jos and his brother-in-law
nearer together, so that Jos's position and dignity, as collector of Boggley Wollah, might
compensate for his father's loss of station, and tend to reconcile old Osborne to the
alliance: and finally, to communicate it to the latter in such a way as should least irritate
the old gentleman.
Now, before he faced the head of the Osborne house with the news which it was his duty
to tell, Dobbin bethought him that it would be politic to make friends of the rest of the
family, and, if possible, have the ladies on his side. They can't be angry in their hearts,
thought he. No woman ever was really angry at a romantic marriage. A little crying out,
and they must come round to their brother; when the three of us will lay siege to old Mr.
Osborne. So this Machiavellian captain of infantry cast about him for some happy means
or stratagem by which he could gently and gradually bring the Misses Osborne to a
knowledge of their brother's secret.
By a little inquiry regarding his mother's engagements, he was pretty soon able to find
out by whom of her ladyship's friends parties were given at that season; where he would
be likely to meet Osborne's sisters; and, though he had that abhorrence of routs and