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Title: The Confessions of Harry Lorrequer, Complete


Author: Charles James Lever (1806-1872)


Release Date: May 31, 2004 [EBook #5240]


Language: English


Character set encoding: ASCII




Produced by Mary Munarin and David Widger

[NOTE: There is a list of bookmarks, or pointers, at the end of the file for those who may wish to sample the author's ideas before making an entire meal of them. D.W.]



[By Charles James Lever (1806-1872)]






[Note: Though the title page has no author's name inscribed, this work is generally attributed to Charles James Lever.] Volume 1. (Chapters I. to X.)


"We talked of pipe-clay regulation caps--


Long twenty-fours--short culverins and mortars--

Condemn'd the 'Horse Guards' for a set of raps, And cursed our fate at being in such quarters.
Some smoked, some sighed, and some were heard to snore; Some wished themselves five fathoms 'neat the Solway;
And some did pray--who never prayed before--
That they might get the 'route' for Cork or Galway."

Sir George Hamilton Seymour, G.C.H. &c. &c.

My Dear Sir Hamilton,

If a feather will show how the wind blows, perhaps my dedicating to you even as light matter as these Confessions may in some measure prove how grateful I feel for the many kindnesses I have received from you in the course of our intimacy. While thus acknowledging a debt, I must also avow that another motive strongly prompts me upon this occasion. I am not aware of any one, to whom with such propriety a volume of anecdote and adventure should be inscribed, as to one, himself well known as an inimitable narrator. Could I have stolen for my story, any portion of the grace and humour with which I have heard you adorn many of your own, while I should deem this offering more worthy of your acceptance, I should also feel more confident of its reception by the public.

With every sentiment of esteem and regard, Believe me very faithfully yours, THE AUTHOR


Bruxelles, December, 1839.




Dear Public,

When first I set about recording the scenes which occupy these pages, I had no intention of continuing them, except in such stray and scattered fragments as the columns of a Magazine (FOOTNOTE: The Dublin University Magazine.) permit of; and when at length I discovered that some interest had attached not only to the adventures, but to their narrator, I would gladly have retired with my "little laurels" from a stage, on which, having only engaged to appear between the acts, I was destined to come forward as a principal character.

Among the "miseries of human life," a most touching one is spoken of--the being obliged to listen to the repetition of a badly sung song, because some well-wishing, but not over discreet friend of the singer has called loudly for an encore.

I begin very much to fear that something of the kind has taken place here, and that I should have acted a wiser part, had I been contented with even the still small voice of a few partial friends, and retired from the boards in the pleasing delusion of success; but unfortunately, the same easy temperament that has so often involved me before, has been faithful to me here; and when you pretended to be pleased, unluckily, I believed you.

So much of apology for the matter--a little now for the manner of my offending, and I have done. I wrote as I felt--sometimes in good spirits, sometimes in bad--always carelessly--for, God help me, I can do no better.

When the celibacy of the Fellows of Trinity College, Dublin, became an active law in that University, the Board proceeded to enforce it, by summoning to their presence all the individuals who it was well known had transgressed the regulation, and among them figured Dr. S., many of whose sons were at the same time students in the college. "Are you married, Dr. S-----r?" said the bachelor vice-provost, in all the dignity and pride of conscious innocence. "Married!" said the father of ten children, with a start of involuntary horror;--"married?" "Yes sir, married." "Why sir, I am no more married than the Provost." This was quite enough--no further questions were asked, and the head of the University preferred a merciful course towards the offender, to repudiating his wife and disowning his children. Now for the application. Certain captious and incredulous people have doubted the veracity of the adventures I have recorded in these pages; I do not think it necessary to appeal to concurrent testimony and credible witnesses for their proof, but I pledge myself to the fact that every tittle I have related is as true as that my name is Lorrequer--need I say more?

Another objection has been made to my narrative, and I cannot pass it by without a word of remark;--"these Confessions are wanting in scenes of touching and pathetic interest" (FOOTNOTE: We have the author's permission to state, that all the pathetic and moving incidents of his career he has reserved for a second series of "Confessions," to be entitled "Lorrequer Married?"--Publisher's Note.)--true, quite true; but I console myself on this head, for I remember hearing of an author whose paraphrase of the book of Job was refused by a publisher, if he could not throw a little more humour into it; and if I have not been more miserable and more unhappy, I am very sorry for it on your account, but you must excuse my regretting it on my own. Another story and I have done;--the Newgate Calendar makes mention of a notorious housebreaker, who closed his career of outrage and violence by the murder of a whole family, whose house he robbed; on the scaffold he entreated permission to speak a few words to the crowd beneath, and thus addressed them:--"My friends, it is quite true I murdered this family; in cold blood I did it--one by one they fell beneath my hand, while I rifled their coffers, and took forth their effects; but one thing is imputed to me, which I cannot die without denying--it is asserted that I stole an extinguisher; the contemptible character of this petty theft is a stain upon my reputation, that I cannot suffer to disgrace my memory." So would I now address you for all the graver offences of my book; I stand forth guilty--miserably, palpably guilty--they are mine every one of them; and I dare not, I cannot deny them; but if you think that the blunders in French and the hash of spelling so widely spread through these pages, are attributable to me; on the faith of a gentleman I pledge myself you are wrong, and that I had nothing to do with them. If my thanks for the kindness and indulgence with which these hastily written and rashly conceived sketches have been received by the press and the public, are of any avail, let me add, in conclusion, that a more grateful author does not exist than





Volume 1.




Arrival in Cork--Civic Festivities--Private Theatricals




Detachment Duty--The Burton Arms--Callonby




Life at Callonby--Love-making--Miss O'Dowd's Adventure




Botanical Studies--The Natural System preferable to the Linnaean




Puzzled--Explanation--Makes bad worse--The Duel

The Priest's Supper--Father Malachi and the Coadjutor--Major Jones and the Abbe

CHAPTER VII The Lady's Letter--Peter and his Acquaintances--Too late




Congratulations--Sick Leave--How to pass the Board




The Road--Travelling Acquaintances--A Packet Adventure




Upset--Mind and Body


Volume 2.




Cheltenham--Matrimonial Adventure--Showing how to make love for a friend




Dublin--Tom O'Flaherty--A Reminiscence of the Peninsula




Dublin--The Boarding-house--Select Society






Mems Of the North Cork


CHAPTER XVI Theatricals


CHAPTER XVI* (The chapter # is a repeat) The Wager


CHAPTER XVII The Elopement


Volume 3.




Detachment Duty--An Assize Town


CHAPTER XIX The Assize Town

CHAPTER XX A Day in Dublin CHAPTER XXI A Night at Howth





Volume 4.






The Inn at Chantraine




Volume 5.




Captain Trevanion's Adventure


CHAPTER XXX Difficulties


CHAPTER XXXI Explanation




Mr O'Leary's First Love




Mr O'Leary's Second Love



Early Recollections--A First Love CHAPTER XXXVI Wise Resolves


Thoughts upon Matrimony in general, and in the Army in particular--The Knight of Kerry and Billy M'Cabe

CHAPTER XXXIX A Reminiscence


CHAPTER XL The Two Letters




Mr O'Leary's Capture


Volume 6.








A Reminscence of the East




A Day in the Phoenix




An Adventure in Canada




The Courier's Passport




A Night in Strasbourg



Jack Waller's Story CHAPTER LI. Munich

CHAPTER LII. Inn at Munich




CHAPTER LIV. A Discovery


CHAPTER LV. Conclusion




"Story! God bless you; I have none to tell, sir."

It is now many--do not ask me to say how many--years since I received from the Horse Guards the welcome intelligence that I was gazetted to an insigncy in his Majesty's __th Foot, and that my name, which had figured so long in the "Duke's" list, with the words "a very hard case" appended, should at length appear in the monthly record of promotions and appointments.

Since then my life has been passed in all the vicissitudes of war and peace. The camp and the bivouac--the reckless gaiety of the mess-table
--the comfortless solitude of a French prison--the exciting turmoils of active service--the wearisome monotony of garrison duty, I have alike partaken of, and experienced. A career of this kind, with a temperament ever ready to go with the humour of those about him will always be sure of its meed of adventure. Such has mine been; and with no greater pretension than to chronicle a few of the scenes in which I have borne a part, and revive the memory of the other actors in them--some, alas! Now no more--I have ventured upon these "Confessions."

If I have not here selected that portion of my life which most abounded in striking events and incidents most worthy of recording, my excuse is simply, because being my first appearance upon the boards, I preferred accustoming myself to the look of the house, while performing the "Cock," to coming before the audience in the more difficult part of Hamlet.

As there are unhappily impracticable people in the world, who, as Curran expressed it, are never content to know "who killed the gauger, if you can't inform them who wore his corduroys"--to all such I would, in deep humility, say, that with my "Confessions" they have nothing to do--I have neither story nor moral--my only pretension to the one, is the detail of a passion which marked some years of my life; my only attempt at the other, the effort to show how prolific in hair-breadth 'scapes may a man's career become, who, with a warm imagination and easy temper, believes too much, and rarely can feign a part without forgetting that he is acting. Having said thus much, I must once more bespeak the indulgence never withheld from a true penitent, and at once begin my "Confessions."




It was on a splendid morning in the autumn of the year 181_ that the Howard transport, with four hundred of his Majesty's 4_th Regt., dropped anchor in the beautiful harbour of Cove; the sea shone under the purple light of the rising sun with a rich rosy hue, beautifully in contrast with the different tints of the foliage of the deep woods already tinged with the brown of autumn. Spike Island lay "sleeping upon its broad shadow," and the large ensign which crowns the battery was wrapped around the flag-staff, there not being even air enough to stir it. It was still so early, that but few persons were abroad; and as we leaned over the bulwarks, and looked now, for the first time for eight long years, upon British ground, many an eye filled, and many a heaving breast told how full of recollections that short moment was, and how different our feelings from the gay buoyancy with which we had sailed from that same harbour for the Peninsula; many of our best and bravest had we left behind us, and more than one native to the land we were approaching had found his last rest in the soil of the stranger. It was, then, with a mingled sense of pain and pleasure, we gazed upon that peaceful little village, whose white cottages lay dotted along the edge of the harbour. The moody silence our thoughts had shed over us was soon broken: the preparations for disembarking had begun, and I recollect well to this hour how, shaking off the load that oppressed my heart, I descended the gangway, humming poor Wolfe's well-known song--

"Why, soldiers, why


Should we be melancholy, boys?"

And to this elasticity of spirits--whether the result of my profession, or the gift of God--as Dogberry has it--I know not--I owe the greater portion of the happiness I have enjoyed in a life, whose changes and vicissitudes have equalled most men's.

Drawn up in a line along the shore, I could scarce refrain from a smile at our appearance. Four weeks on board a transport will certainly not contribute much to the "personnel" of any unfortunate therein confined; but when, in addition to this, you take into account that we had not received new clothes for three years--if I except caps for our grenadiers, originally intended for a Scotch regiment, but found to be all too small for the long-headed generation. Many a patch of brown and grey, variegated the faded scarlet, "of our uniform," and scarcely a pair of knees in the entire regiment did not confess their obligations to a blanket. But with all this, we shewed a stout, weather-beaten front, that, disposed as the passer-by might feel to laugh at our expense, very little caution would teach him it was fully as safe to indulge it in his sleeve.

The bells from every steeple and tower rung gaily out a peal of welcome as we marched into "that beautiful city called Cork," our band playing "Garryowen"--for we had been originally raised in Ireland, and still among our officers maintained a strong majority from that land of punch, priests, and potatoes--the tattered flag of the regiment proudly waving over our heads, and not a man amongst us whose warm heart did not bound behind a Waterloo medal. Well--well! I am now--alas, that I should say it--somewhat in the "sear and yellow;" and I confess, after the experience of some moments of high, triumphant feeling, that I never before felt within me, the same animating, spirit-filling glow of delight, as rose within my heart that day, as I marched at the head of my company down George's-street.

We were soon settled in barracks; and then began a series of entertainments on the side of the civic dignities of Cork, which soon led most of us to believe that we had only escaped shot and shell to fall less gloriously beneath champagne and claret. I do not believe there is a coroner in the island who would have pronounced but the one verdict over the regiment--"Killed by the mayor and corporation," had we so fallen.

First of all, we were dined by the citizens of Cork--and, to do them justice, a harder drinking set of gentlemen no city need boast; then we were feasted by the corporation; then by the sheriffs; then came the mayor, solus; then an address, with a cold collation, that left eight of us on the sick-list for a fortnight; but the climax of all was a grand entertainment given in the mansion-house, and to which upwards of two thousand were invited. It was a species of fancy ball, beginning by a dejeune at three o'clock in the afternoon, and ending--I never yet met the man who could tell when it ended; as for myself, my finale partook a little of the adventurous, and I may as well relate it.

After waltzing for about an hour with one of the prettiest girls I ever set eyes upon, and getting a tender squeeze of the hand, as I restored her to a most affable-looking old lady in a blue turban and a red velvet gown who smiled most benignly on me, and called me "Meejor," I retired to recruit for a new attack, to a small table, where three of ours were quaffing "ponche a la Romaine," with a crowd of Corkagians about them, eagerly inquiring after some heroes of their own city, whose deeds of arms they were surprised did not obtain special mention from "the Duke." I soon ingratiated myself into this well-occupied clique, and dosed them with glory to their hearts' content. I resolved at once to enter into their humour; and as the "ponche" mounted up to my brain I gradually found my acquaintanceship extend to every family and connexion in the country.

"Did ye know Phil Beamish of the 3_th, sir?" said a tall, red-faced, red-whiskered, well-looking gentleman, who bore no slight resemblance to Feargus O'Connor.

"Phil Beamish!" said I. "Indeed I did, sir, and do still; and there is not a man in the British army I am prouder of knowing." Here, by the way, I may mention that I never heard the name till that moment.

"You don't say so, sir?" said Feargus--for so I must call him, for shortness sake. "Has he any chance of the company yet, sir?"

"Company!" said I, in astonishment. "He obtained his majority three months since. You cannot possibly have heard from lately, or you would have known that?"

"That's true, sir. I never heard since he quitted the 3_th to go to Versailles, I think they call it, for his health. But how did he get the step, sir?"

"Why, as to the company, that was remarkable enough!" said I, quaffing off a tumbler of champagne, to assist my invention. "You know it was about four o'clock in the afternoon of the 18th that Napoleon ordered Grouchy to advance with the first and second brigade of the Old Guard and two regiments of chasseurs, and attack the position occupied by Picton and the regiments under his command. Well, sir, on they came, masked by the smoke of a terrific discharge of artillery, stationed on a small eminence to our left, and which did tremendous execution among our poor fellows--on they came, Sir; and as the smoke cleared partially away we got a glimpse of them, and a more dangerous looking set I should not desire to see: grizzle-bearded, hard-featured, bronzed fellows, about five-and-thirty or forty years of age; their beauty not a whit improved by the red glare thrown upon their faces and along the whole line by each flash of the long twenty-fours that were playing away to the right. Just at this moment Picton rode down the line with his staff, and stopping within a few paces of me, said, 'They're coming up; steady, boys; steady now: we shall have something to do soon.' And then, turning sharply round, he looked in the direction of the French battery, that was thundering away again in full force, 'Ah, that must be silenced,' said he, 'Where's Beamish?'--"Says Picton!" interrupted Feargus, his eyes starting from their sockets, and his mouth growing wider every moment, as he listed with the most intense interest. "Yes," said I, slowly; and then, with all the provoking nonchalance of an Italian improvisatore, who always halts at the most exciting point of his narrative, I begged a listener near me to fill my glass from the iced punch beside him. Not a sound was heard as I lifted the bumper to my lips; all were breathless in their wound-up anxiety to hear of their countryman who had been selected by Picton--for what, too, they knew not yet, and, indeed, at this instant I did not know myself, and nearly laughed outright, for the two of our men who had remained at the table had so well employed their interval of ease as to become very pleasantly drunk, and were listening to my confounded story with all the gravity and seriousness in the world.

"'Where's Beamish?' said Picton. 'Here, sir,' said Phil stepping out from the line and touching his cap to the general, who, taking him apart for a few minutes, spoke to him with great animation. We did not know what he said; but before five minutes were over, there was Phil with three companies of light-bobs drawn up at our left; their muskets at the charge, they set off at a round trot down the little steep which closed our flank. We had not much time to follow their movements, for our own amusement began soon; but I well remember, after repelling the French attack, and standing in square against two heavy charges of cuirassiers, the first thing I saw where the French battery had stood, was Phil Beamish and about a handful of brave fellows, all that remained from the skirmish. He captured two of the enemy's field-pieces, and was 'Captain Beamish' on the day after."

"Long life to him," said at least a dozen voices behind and about me, while a general clinking of decanters and smacking of lips betokened that Phil's health with all the honours was being celebrated. For myself, I was really so engrossed by my narrative, and so excited by the "ponche," that I saw or heard very little of what was passing around, and have only a kind of dim recollection of being seized by the hand by "Feargus," who was Beamish's brother, and who, in the fullness of his heart, would have hugged me to his breast, if I had not opportunely been so overpowered as to fall senseless under the table.

When I first returned to consciousness, I found myself lying exactly where I had fallen. Around me lay heaps of slain--the two of "ours" amongst the number. One of them--I remember he was the adjutant--held in his hand a wax candle (three to the pound). Whether he had himself seized it in the enthusiasm of my narrative of flood and field, or it had been put there by another, I know not, but he certainly cut a droll figure. The room we were in was a small one off the great saloon, and through the half open folding-door I could clearly perceive that the festivities were still continued. The crash of fiddles and French horns, and the tramp of feet, which had lost much of their elasticity since the entertainments began, rang through my ears, mingled with the sounds "down the middle," "hands across," "here's your partner, Captain." What hour of the night or morning it then was, I could not guess; but certainly the vigor of the party seemed little abated, if I might judge from the specimens before me, and the testimony of a short plethoric gentleman, who stood wiping his bald head, after conducting his partner down twenty-eight couple, and who, turning to his friend, said, "Oh, the distance is nothing, but it is the pace that kills."

The first evidence I shewed of any return to reason, was a strong anxiety to be at my quarters; but how to get there I knew not. The faint glimmering of sense I possessed told me that "to stand was to fall," and I was ashamed to go on all-fours, which prudence suggested.

At this moment I remembered I had brought with me my cane, which, from a perhaps pardonable vanity, I was fond of parading. It was a present from the officers of my regiment--many of them, alas, since dead--and had a most splendid gold head, with a stag at the top--the arms of the regiment. This I would not have lost for any consideration I can mention; and this now was gone! I looked around me on every side; I groped beneath the table; I turned the sleeping sots who lay about in no very gentle fashion; but, alas, it was gone. I sprang to my feet and only then remembered how unfit I was to follow up the search, as tables, chairs, lights, and people seemed all rocking and waving before me. However, I succeeded in making my way, through one room into another, sometimes guiding my steps along the walls; and once, as I recollect, seeking the diagonal of a room, I bisected a quadrille with such ill-directed speed, as to run foul of a Cork dandy and his partner who were just performing the "en avant:" but though I saw them lie tumbled in the dust by the shock of my encounter--for I had upset them--I still held on the even tenor of my way. In fact, I had feeling for but one loss; and, still in pursuit of my cane, I reached the hall-door. Now, be it known that the architecture of the Cork Mansion House has but one fault, but that fault is a grand one, and a strong evidence of how unsuited English architects are to provide buildings for a people whose tastes and habits they but imperfectly understand--be it known, then, that the descent from the hall-door to the street was by a flight of twelve stone steps. How I should ever get down these was now my difficulty. If Falstaff deplored "eight yards of uneven ground as being three score and ten miles a foot," with equal truth did I feel that these twelve awful steps were worse to me than would be M'Gillicuddy Reeks in the day-light, and with a head clear from champagne.

While I yet hesitated, the problem resolved itself; for, gazi