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friendship strong through many years; but if George the Beau deserved the epithet of "selfish" so often given him, George the Prince was something more than selfish. He loved and respected only one person in the world, and that was himself; so opposition from any one meant enmity in return from him.
Brummell himself could never be quite certain as to the cause of offence; he had been allowed such latitude of speech, having been accustomed to saying to the Prince things which no one else would have dreamed of uttering, that it was with some surprise that he was forced to accept the fact that "the first gentleman in Europe" (so named as much because of his nicety in dress as for any other reason) was irrevocably set against him. This disfavour seems to have been shown in a series of snubs, but never openly put into words, and for a season Brummell met each snub with a complacent impertinence ; and having by far the sharper tongue, said many more disagreeable things to his royal master than that Prince could say to him. Such could have been his only consolation in the matter, coupled with the knowledge that he had never toadied for favour.
Beneath all the superficial play of ill-temper and biting repartee there must have lain in the Prince's mind a rancouring jealousy of the man who was even more elegantly dressed than himself, who kept his figure and his good looks while he-much to his chagrin-was getting fat, whose spirit was so high that he dared to show open disapproval of the treatment given to the Prince's wife, and of the attitude taken by the woman who looked upon herself as his wife. To-day we are inclined to regard Mrs. Fitzherbert with quite as much compassion as we do the uncrowned Queen, and to feel less uncertainty upon her moral life than upon that of her rival; but
Ben and Benina
then there were many who regarded the ci-devant actress as a presumptuous and light woman who dared to think herself, though a commoner, entitled to share the throne. And this was Beau Brummell's attitude.
There is probably nothing which provokes enmity quickly as satire, and though Brummell's satire was generally good-natured, yet that does not count when a person is annoyed with the satirist. For instance, there was a huge and corpulent person named Ben; some one says it was a gentleman who habitually rode in the Row. Jesse says it was a burly porter at Carlton House (the residence of the Prince), who was so tall that he could look over the gates. As the Regent was then increasing in size, Brummell often spoke of the Prince as "Our Ben," and of Mrs. Fitzherbert, who was also at that time getting more than plump, as " Benina." "Benina." Once, too, at a ball given by Lady Jersey, the Regent asked Brummell to call Mrs. Fitzherbert's carriage, and in doing so he loudly demanded Mistress Fitzherbert's carriage, laying particular emphasis on an epithet even then regarded as insulting.
This nickname of "Ben," or "Big Ben," stuck to the Regent, and was used by other people than Brummell, for when Moore visited Dr. Parr, that learned man told him that he had written whole sheets of Greek verse against Big Ben (the Regent) and showed them to his friend, upon which Moore said that the actual Greek word used meant inflated or puffy.
There is the story, so variously told and so consistently denied by Brummell, of the bell; a story, the truth of which most contemporary biographers also deny, though there seems to be no doubt that such an incident did happen.
It must be remembered that Brummell was a constant
guest at Carlton House, and had been extremely intimate with its royal master. One version runs that after the Prince had begun to feel antagonistic towards his favourite, Brummell won £20,000 at White's from George Hartley Drummond, which fact, being repeated to the Prince, induced him to invite Brummell again to his table. The latter, glad to be back in his accustomed place, became excited and drank too much wine. According to this story the Prince had only invited his old friend from a motive of revenge, and pretending to be annoyed by his hilarity, said to the Duke of York: "I think we had better order Mr. Brummell's carriage before he gets drunk." Whereupon he rang the bell, and Brummell left the royal presence.
The generally received, but quite unauthentic version, is that Brummell said at the dinner table: "George, ring the bell;" that the Prince rang the bell, and when the servant appeared ordered Mr. Brummell's carriage.
Jesse says that Brummell and Lord Moira were engaged in an earnest conversation at Carlton House, when the Prince asked the former to ring the bell. "Your Royal Highness is close to it," replied Brummell unthinkingly; upon which the Prince rang the bell and ordered his friend's carriage, but Lord Moira's intervention caused the liberty to be overlooked..
Brummell himself said, in the hearing of Jesse, "I was on such intimate terms with the Prince, that if we had been alone I could have asked him to ring the bell without offence; but with a third person in the room I should never have done so ; I know the Regent too well."
In any case it may be assumed that Brummell was too good a judge of his own interest to risk so much at a time when he hoped to be reinstated in favour, simply for a foolish display of intimacy.