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STRATEGICS; OR, A CHAPTER ON DUNS.
“ Armati terram exercent, semperqne recentes
Virg. Æneid. L. 3.
I am not going, like old Montaigne, to write a treatise on Experience. Were I to string together maxim upon maxim till doomsday, so numerous and irresistible are the seductions and temptations of this great city, that they would sport with my axioms like the ruthless simoon with the sands of the Desert. Experience is, doubtless, an admirable counseilor, but one that makes its appearance when it is too late
Après la mort vient le médecin." Debt, says a profound modern philosopher, is a necessary evil. My object is, therefore, by a course of strategy, to point out how the ills, which this moral gangrene brings in its train, are to be avoided; and, assuming that nineteen-twentieths of the community are at the present day over head and ears in debt, I shall be conferring a benefit upon society, who, in its gratitude, will, I should think, erect a statue in my honour high as the far-famed Colossus at Rhodes.
When a man first enters life, he generally conducts his operations upon the approved English system of paying for every thing, even in an enemy's country. This may be all very well with a well-filled military chest; but without this mighty sinew of war, he must observe the maxim of Cæsar and Napoleon, make the war feed itself, and subsist his forces by requisitions levied upon the enemy. Study well, therefore, the carte du pays, and remember, that in forming a plan of campaign, the passions and the prejudices of the enemy cannot be too deeply taken into consideration. As tradespeople must be considered in the light of depots and magazines, from which you are to draw your supplies, deal only with what are called fashionable tradespeople: their enormous profits not only enable them to give long credits, but, as they one day hope to amalgamate with the gentry of the country by means of their great wealth, the vulgar tactique of dunning is beneath their dig. nity. It is the subalterns who are to be dreaded. Whether from the pressure of the times or the march of radicalism, certain it is, that that prestige which used to hover round rank, and which, like death and the sun, could not be looked steadfastly upon by the tradesman, is daily losing its influence. With these latter deal not, therefore, or you will, from the force of things, be exposed to a guerrilla warfare that will destroy you in detail. The former are an aspiring race; they on every occasion endeavour to assume the character of gentlemen, à term now-a-days so vague and indefinite in its application, that we cannot quarrel with them for the assumption. Their style of living too is princely. Who sports a better bit of blood than G-1-t, the boot-maker in Bond-street ? Who gives more recherché dinners than his neighbour S--th, the perfumer; and whose fancy balls display more beauty and splendour of costume than those of the high priestess of fashion, M-r-1 C-r-n, in Hanover-square? If Monsieur le Baron d'Haussez had had his entrée to their tables, he would scarcely have indulged in such a philippic against la cuisine Anglaise. But, should you have neglected
Feb.-VOL, XL. NO, CLVIII.
these precautions, and be once seriously in debt, la guerre des positions is your only.resource. It is under cover of the morning mists that Duns invariably make their attack. Too much precaution, therefore, cannot be observed in posting the outlaying pickets. This duty of course will devolve upon your servant. Now, an Irishman would betray you by his blunders;- a Scotchman by his morality; thorough-bred English tigers are the best for this duty; they are perfect Cossacks at outposts. However, the safest plan is to shift your camp as often as possible, and studiously conceal your march from the enemy. Having effected this, never venture out before one or two o'clock in the day; till that time all the tradespeople of the metropolis are on foot, waiting on their different customers. After that hour they are seldom seen abroad, knowing that a gentleman does not like to be elbowed by his tailor. Some of the more assuming ones are, however, seen at all hours in the most fashionable places of resort. When you meet them, a nod of recognition will do you no harm; it flatters their vanity, and may baffle a projected attack: In this kind .of tactics, the following example will, I think, be found classical in its application, and fully illustrate my meaning.
Two summers ago I was strolling on the Steyne, at. Brighton, with an officer in a dragoon regiment quartered there, when we suddenly encountered his tailor, upon whose book his name had occupied a conspicuous place for more than three years. A lovely female was hanging on the tailor's arm, upon whom he was evidently endeavouring to pass himself off for what he really was not; she, perhaps, in return, was likewise playing the same game. Such scenes are of daily occurrence at watering places, though it must be confessed that
“ Corsaire contre Corsaire
Font de bien mauvaises affaires." The major, with a tactical eye, saw that he had the advantage of ground, and skilfully made the most of it. Extending his hand to the schneider, he exclaimed, -n, how are you? Happy to see you! Let me see you at the Barracks;” and so forth. To be so noticed by an officer of a crack regiment, and at so particular a moment, so flattered the vanity of the artiste tailleur, that his bill was not sent in for nearly eighteen months after. However, when you are not in the clutches of these reptiles, mortify their vanity on every occasion.
In the year 1829, I was standing, with another military friend, at the door of the Hotel de Treves at Coblentz. Presently, claque, claque, went the whip, and up galloped an avant courier,
Chapeau bas, chapeau bas;
Place au Marquis de Carabas!" followed soon afterwards by a handsome English travelling chariot and a light German waggon. The former contained Der Hoch Vohlgeboren Baron Von S-tz. Out rushed our host Herr Mars, at the head of a host of obsequious kellners, to usher the illustrious stranger into the house, who, as he ascended the steps, was addressed by my, companion, doubtless to his infinite mortification, with a—“ Halloa, s--tz, what the devil brings you here ?.” Mons. Le Baron made no stay at Coblentz
Another maxim to be observed, is never to venture into one of those ambulatory cul-de-sacs, an omnibus. I was in Paris when first these machines were introduced, and well do I recollect the pauvre Duchesse
de Berri making a bet with Charles Dix, that she would ride in one of them from La Madelaine to the Barrière du Temple without being discovered ; the duchess won her wager too." Ces lourdes machines,?? said an old royalist gentleman to me one evening, as we were watching the passing crowd on the steps of the Café Tortoni—“Ces lourdes machines finiront par renverser la monarchie! Le peuple vole." I smiled incredulously at the time at this royalist prophecy; yet not many months afterwards this formed the chief element of the system of barricades, from behind which the Chiffonniers of Paris hurled death and destruction upon the Royal Guards, and in which, after their victory, they advanced upon Rambouillet to dictate an abdication to their fallen monarch. Such is, therefore, the republican " genus loci” of these vehicles, that it would be particularly awkward to have a creditor for a vis-à-vis. But this is not the worst; the myrmidons of the law frequently lie perdu in them, and numerous have been the unlucky wights who, thinking to execute a march à la dérobée upon the city, have no more returned to glad their “ teneras conjuges,” but have been left to mourn over the instability of all human greatness in the gloomy. solitude of a sponging-house." Quis talia fando," &c.
Some professors who have treated this subject, have laid it down as a rule never to venture into Hyde Park on a Sunday. Such a maxim might have held good fifty years ago, but now it is obsolete; " tempora mutantur.” Sunday, in fact, is now the only day on which a man can enjoy a walk there with any degree of comfort. A more approved axiom is never to be seen in Fop's-alley at the Opera on a Saturday night, or on the following day in the Zoological Gardens, or in those of Kensington during the fashionable season; for in all those places of fashionable resort the aristocracy of trade swarm. During the whole of the last season the two most conspicuous figures in Kensington Gardens were the illustrious G-1-t, the Bond-street boot-maker, and his brother. The latter apes Lord R-n-1-h, of the Life Guards, in his dress and manner; and, as they employ the same tailor, he is always enabled to turn out in a coat of the precise cut and colour of his lordship’s. Even the military jerk on horseback of the noble Viscount is imitated to a T, by this aspiring son of Crispin, who, at the fancy ball of the superb M-rd-n, I have no doubt, elicited the same admiration from his peers for his elegance and grace in the Parisian gallopade, as his aristocratic prototype did at the late grand ball at St. Petersburg.
To this active, and perhaps somewhat harassing système de guerre, many
my readers would perhaps prefer the more dignified retirement of the King's Bench, or a retreat across the channel. The latter is not always practicable--there may be circumstances that chain a man to the spot; but the former doctrine will be rejected by all masters of the art with horror.
A prison is a social grave; and when once its ponderous gates are closed upon us, our best friends, in time, look upon us as dead. Defend your liberty to the last. “ La libertad, Sancho,” says the hero of La Mancha, es uno de los mas preciosos dones que a los hombres dieron los Cielos.” And a little further on, by way of corollary, he adds “ Venturoso aquel a quien el Cielo diò un pedaço de pan sen que le quede obligacion de agredecer å otro que al mismo Cielo." Venturoso, indeed ! : And were this condition but only partially realized in this
country, we might exclaim with the poet, “ Redeunt Saturnia regna !" But, to resume my subject; keep the field, and show an imposing front to the last. A great captain is always formidable, and never more so than in the hour of defeat, for then his mighty energies are roused.
And now, one example more of the folly and vanity of the London tradesmen, and I have done with them. Only a few months ago, countered, in the lobby of one of the patent theatres, a tailor with mustachios, who, I presume, had acquired a taste for these military decorations from his recent connexion with Don Pedro's condottieri, many of whom he had fitted out.
“ A tailor with mustachios!” I think I hear some griffin, as we say in India, exclaiming. Yes, my dear griffin ; although, in plain matterof-fact Old England, a mustachioed schneider is somewhat of a rara avis in terra, still the existence of such an animal is no fable; and when you have extended your peregrinations across the Channel, you will learn to think that a tailor without them is quite a phenix,-and may it never be your fate to fall into the clutches of one of them!
At a moment when the rage of absenteeism is pervading almost every rank of society, a few strategic rules upon the “ système de guerre be followed in the French capital will be read with interest. Of all the duns who walk this earth, Heaven preserve me from the French ! and if ever, like Saint Simon, I found a new religion, this shall be one of the formule of my litany. As we have already observed, there still exists in England a certain prestige in favour of rank, (in spite of Reform Bills and Political Unions,) which extends its Ægis over a gentle
But in France, la Révolution a changé tout cela. Be thou Duke or Peer, Marshal or Deputy, c'est égal to a French dun, who neither respects rank nor station, time nor place: the higher the rank, the greater his triumph; the more public the place, the more signal his revenge. With the ruthless fury of Russian irregulars, they hang upon the flanks and rear of their ill-fated debtors; and in their partisan warfare display more fertility of resource, and skill in execution, than even the Curate Merino, or any other Guerrilla worthy that Spain ever produced.
Some five or six years ago, Captain M of the Grenadier Guards, was lounging in the Tuileries Gardens, when they were filled by all the beauty and fashion of the French capital. M-
beau idéal of a guardsman-so extravagant, that had he been master of the diamond mines of the Serra do Frio, they would have proved insufficient to gratify his costly tastes. He possessed, in an eminent degree, that vacant stare so peculiar to the corps, which enables a man to cut his most intimate friend, when he wishes it, without offending him. Mwas lounging up and down the principal allée, with the listless air I have described, when he was espied by his tailor, who had long sought in vain for the payment of his bill. The opportunity was too good to. be lost. Accordingly, the Frenchman threw himself upon his flanks, and commenced operations, to the great amusement of the bystanders. The Captain, however, pursued his walk, apparently unconscious that the tirade of invective and abuse was directed at him, till his persecutor, enraged at the imperturbable sang-froid of the Englishman, by a demitour à gauche, wheeled up to his front; and “ sans plus ou moins de circonlocution,” said, “ Mons. M., vous êtes un escroc.” Not a muscle of the guardsman's countenance underwent the slightest change; he was
cool and unimpassioned as a statue, till, raising his powerful arm, he sent the audacious Frenchman, head over heels, some ten yards before him, where he lay completely disabled. The chastisement was inflicted with such ease, with so little apparent effort, that the spectators appeared awe-struck, and the Captain resumed his walk with the same nonchalance as if nothing had occurred. However, this tactique might prove a rather dangerous experiment now-a-days. In la jeune France, tout le monde est militaire, -your tailor may, perchance, be a captain in the National Guard; and, moreover, in the habit of dining with citizen Royalty itself. So universal is now the “ point d'honneur, that the wearer of a worsted epaulette is censé to be entitled to the satisfaction of a gentleman; and such are the prejudices or the reason of society (for I shall not examine the question), that it cannot be refused without dishonour. Should a man, therefore, happen, in one of these rencontres, to catch a Tartar, and to come off second best, some goodnatured friend
his tomb in Père la Chaise the following epitaph :
“Ci git Monsieur un tel-oh douleur !
Tué sur le champ d'honneur par son tailleur.” By the beard of the Prophet ! the fate of the Mexican Montezuma were a lit de roses to this. Thank Heaven, I left France before “ les trois Jours," or my mortal light might, ere this, have been extinguished by a lamplighter!
In the hotel in which I resided in Paris there was a billiard-table. Having breakfasted one morning earlier than usual, and the weather being wet, I strolled into the salon to chase away the demon of ennui, by knocking about the balls. Its only inmate was a man trimming some lamps, who, to my untutored imagination, appeared nothing more than a garçon de l'hôtel.
“Mon ami,” said I, addressing him, “ Ôtez moi ce drap là,” pointing to the cloth which covered the table. To my utter astonishment, however, he turned round, and, d'un ton courroucé, exclaimed," Monsieur, je vous prie de savoir que je ne suis pas
domestique : je suis lampiste,”-a distinction, I certainly thought at the time, without a difference.
The late revolution is certainly more popular with the men than with the women of France. Under the old system, in the Monde Marchand, it was the female part of it who were charged with the entire comptabilité dans les affaires; and the present military mania, the reorganization of the Garde Nationale, by abstracting their husbands and brothers so much from home has greatly extended the sphere of their duties; while
many of these heroes are figuring away at the Tuileries, their partners are behind a counter. “Depuis les trois jours,” said a coiffeuse to a lady of my acquaintance, who had been scolding her for her want of punctuality,“ je ne sais plus où donner de la tête. Mon Mari n'est jamais au Magasin,-taritôt il est de service, tantôt au club, tantôt à exécuter de grandes manœuvres sur la plaine de Grenelle." where is he, then, to-day ?”' inquired my fair friend. “ Mais, Madame, il dine chez Louis Phillipe.” Gentle reader, just imagine an English perruquier executing grand manæuvres on Hounslow Heath, or dining at St. James's. Yet
“ To this, Horatio, we must come at last!" French female duns, like the Turkish Saphis, are devils incarnate, as the following anecdote will prove :--Towards the close of last season