Vanity Fair HTML version
I know that the tune I am piping is a very mild one (although there are some terrific
chapters coming presently), and must beg the good- natured reader to remember that we
are only discoursing at present about a stockbroker's family in Russell Square, who are
taking walks, or luncheon, or dinner, or talking and making love as people do in common
life, and without a single passionate and wonderful incident to mark the progress of their
loves. The argument stands thus--Osborne, in love with Amelia, has asked an old friend
to dinner and to Vauxhall--Jos Sedley is in love with Rebecca. Will he marry her? That is
the great subject now in hand.
We might have treated this subject in the genteel, or in the romantic, or in the facetious
manner. Suppose we had laid the scene in Grosvenor Square, with the very same
adventures--would not some people have listened? Suppose we had shown how Lord
Joseph Sedley fell in love, and the Marquis of Osborne became attached to Lady Amelia,
with the full consent of the Duke, her noble father: or instead of the supremely genteel,
suppose we had resorted to the entirely low, and described what was going on in Mr.
Sedley's kitchen--how black Sambo was in love with the cook (as indeed he was), and
how he fought a battle with the coachman in her behalf; how the knife-boy was caught
stealing a cold shoulder of mutton, and Miss Sedley's new femme de chambre refused to
go to bed without a wax candle; such incidents might be made to provoke much
delightful laughter, and be supposed to represent scenes of "life." Or if, on the contrary,
we had taken a fancy for the terrible, and made the lover of the new femme de chambre a
professional burglar, who bursts into the house with his band, slaughters black Sambo at
the feet of his master, and carries off Amelia in her night-dress, not to be let loose again
till the third volume, we should easily have constructed a tale of thrilling interest, through
the fiery chapters of which the reader should hurry, panting. But my readers must hope
for no such romance, only a homely story, and must be content with a chapter about
Vauxhall, which is so short that it scarce deserves to be called a chapter at all. And yet it
is a chapter, and a very important one too. Are not there little chapters in everybody's life,
that seem to be nothing, and yet affect all the rest of the history?
Let us then step into the coach with the Russell Square party, and be off to the Gardens.
There is barely room between Jos and Miss Sharp, who are on the front seat. Mr. Osborne
sitting bodkin opposite, between Captain Dobbin and Amelia.
Every soul in the coach agreed that on that night Jos would propose to make Rebecca
Sharp Mrs. Sedley. The parents at home had acquiesced in the arrangement, though,
between ourselves, old Mr. Sedley had a feeling very much akin to contempt for his son.
He said he was vain, selfish, lazy, and effeminate. He could not endure his airs as a man
of fashion, and laughed heartily at his pompous braggadocio stories. "I shall leave the
fellow half my property," he said; "and he will have, besides, plenty of his own; but as I
am perfectly sure that if you, and I, and his sister were to die to-morrow, he would say