Brummell in Gaol


At the gaol he was put into a room with common criminals, in which the only furniture was the three truckle beds of his companions; and he was left to pace the stone floor until a chair was found upon which he could sit. He felt it as a child would feel; and when a friend went to see him the next day, he flung himself into his arms and sobbed. Later, one of the judges used his interest and got him permission to share a room in the daytime with a political prisoner, and in the night he slept in a narrow passage a few inches wider than his bed, which was infinitely better than the common


When his horror and distress had subsided with time, the first thing Brummell asked for was a looking-glass! And though he considered he had not enough to eathalf the skeleton of a pigeon, a mutton-chop the size of half-a-crown, and a biscuit like a bad halfpenny-he was even more troubled over his toilette. Eventually his dressing-case was taken to him, and the editor-the political prisoner-with whom he shared the sittingroom, was amazed at the three hours' operation which then went on daily.

"He shaves himself each day! each day he washes every part of his body in a vast basin brought for his use, for which his valet Lafleur carries twelve or fifteen litres of water and two of milk."

Lafleur was another prisoner, a drummer-so named by Brummell, after one of his servants, but really known as Levine-who amused himself by waiting on the Beau, and who did not mind bringing the water that cost nothing, but the milk! how it could have been converted into a glass of wine!

So even in prison Brummell was extravagant and selfish. As friends eventually sent him his dinner from

outside, the good-natured "valet " was paid by receiving the Beau's "diurnal portion" in addition to his prison fare.

At one time Brummell was reduced to rubbing himself down with his dirty shirts, and then they went to the wash! Think of him with no towel! He had to beg his friend Armstrong to send him from his lodgings some patched boots! Yet he would descend at two o'clock into the debtors' court with his neckcloth as white and well tied, his hat smoothed to a hair, and his whole exterior as perfect as if going to pay a call, and there he would entertain visitors-both French and English-for his friends never forgot him. And when they were gone he received the attentions of the other poor debtors with kindliness-a bow to one, an amusing remark to another, made him popular with them all.

Once again Lord Alvanley and the Duke of Beaufort did their best to help Brummell, for Armstrong went again to England to gather what he could, and was so successful-King William himself sent a hundred pounds -that the debt to Leveux as well as everything he owed at Caen was paid. The attorney who came to tell Brummell the good news that he was free was astonished that it was received without any manifestation of emotion, for he did not understand the training of the Beau's earlier life, which made it a law to endure joy or sorrow alike with calmness. That evening Brummell went to a large soirée at the house of a general, and as he came into the room every one rose with surprise and congratulation, for they did not yet know of his release. He bowed his thanks, saying: "Gentlemen, I am most obliged for your kindness and charmed to find myself once more among you. I can assure you that to-day is the happiest of my life, for I have come

[blocks in formation]

The Last of the Cravat


out of prison"; after a slight pause he gravely added, " and I have eaten some salmon."

Whether Brummell really had a heart is a problem ; if so it was very small and entirely enveloped in his vanity. He seems to have shown little gratitude to the friends who had made his prison life bearable, and then only to those people whom he liked and approved. Indeed, he appeared to desire nothing so much as to forget that time of humiliation. Yet he sent partridges and kind messages to the still imprisoned editor, and did not forget Levine and other prisoners. But one gentleman who carried a toothpick, evidently an heirloom, which he used not only for his teeth but for his nails and his ears, so horrified Brummell that he would not call upon him, though indebted to him for much kindness during his prison term.

As long as his mind was clear Brummell received his money, but he was so extravagant in small ways that gradually Armstrong paid everything for him, protesting when absurdities, such as blacking at 5s. a bottle, were bought. He also spoke strongly about the old Beau's washing bills, for he still had a change of linen every day. This was a sorrow and perplexity to Brummell, until once a lady laughingly told him that he would look better if he wore a black cravat. The advice took hold of him; he bought a black cravat, and from henceforth the man of fashion, even the shadow of him, had disappeared. Brummell, relieved of debtor's fears, curtailed of credit and money, was like any ordinary poor old man reduced to doing and wearing just what his circumstances allowed.

His mind weakened, he would forget where he was, and mistake the person to whom he talked. He became wretchedly poor, his clothes even falling to tatters, and

« VorigeDoorgaan »