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Reuben received and addressed them with the hammer in his hand; and illustrated by that instrument ingeniously enough the great secret of efficient political agitation, which consisted, he said, in a constant succession of blows, every blow driving the question a step further, a noisy and a monotonous process undoubtedly, but the only practicable mode of hammering a new principle or a broad view into the public understanding.
“ Now,” said Mr. Medlicott, tapping his library table repeatedly with the tool he was talking of, “this is what we all ought to do with every great popular question of the day; never stop hammering in the House and out of the House, battling in season and out of season, until we succeed in carrying our points.”
“ Thou wilt be always sure to hit the nail on the head," said Friend Harvey.
“ Thou hast hit the nail on the head already,” said Friend Wilson, using his nose, as usual, as an organ of speech,
66 when thou speakest of battling in season and out of season.
He that regardeth the winds will not sow, saith Solomon. If our Peace Society will follow thy excellent advice, it is strongly borne in upon my mind that thou wilt live to sit under the olive-tree thou hast been instrumental in planting; and peradventure we shall see the day when there will not be iron enough in England to make a cannon-ball.”
“ We must keep a little for our sledges,” said Reuben, with a bland smile, and bowed the deputation out so cleverly that he must either have taken a lesson on that head from Madame Beauvoisin, or studied Mr. Taylor's royal road to statesmanship very profoundly. We have mentioned this interview with the Peace Society only to show with what notions and intentions Mr. Medlicott entered Parliament, how deliberately he paved the way for his own failure, and adopted the very system most calculated of all others to ensure it.
Reuben's idea of working questions, and his mechanical elucidation of it, were regarded by his own clique, and by his friends the Quakers especially, as prodigies of wisdom and wit. A careful report of what he said to the deputation appeared in the newspapers, and caused a good deal of amusement, not unmixed with alarm in many quarters. The men of business were frightened at the prospect before them. Ministers, whose characters depended upon forcing a certain amount of legislation through the House before Easter, read of Mr. Medlicott and his hammer with feelings the most uncomfortable.
“Awful threatenings these," said one secretary to another, walking down St. James's Street.
These talking men,” said his colleague, “ are like the dog in the manger; they neither do any business themselves, nor permit us to do it.”
Who is this Mr. Medlicott, do you know?"
“Here is a man who will tell us,-eh, De Tabley, who is this formidable Mr. Medlicott ?”
De Tabley gave a substantially correct, but a good-natured account of his friend. The ministers, however, cared very little to hear of Reuben's amiable private qualities, having had long experience of the truth, that a man may have every domestic virtue, and yet be a bore of the first magnitude in the relations of public life.
“The bammer," said the Bishop, reading about it, just at the same moment, at breakfast, in his lodgings in Pall Mall, everything is to be done by hammering in future,—let me tell him the hammer is a tool not so easy to use as he imagines; I know that by experience. I remember one day at Westbury I thought I could hit the nail on the head as well as any carpenter; I certainly hit the nail but it was my thumb-nail; that was what I paid for my hammering. I never took a hammer in my hand since; but wise men learn by experience, which fools never do.”
Still Mr. Medlicott did not fail in the first instance. He spoke on the Address, an occasion eminently favourable to his peculiar powers, from the multiplicity of topics through which it is not only permissible, but necessary to ramble, in following the miscellaneous subjects introduced into the Royal speech. When he rose, there was that sort of buzz which is at once flattering and exciting to a speaker. There was, however, mingled with it the slightest possible tittering here and there, through the unsually crowded House, perhaps occasioned by the indiscreet zeal with which his friends had blown the trumpet before him, but more probably provoked by the elaborateness of his toilette, particulary the foppish arrangement of his bair, his white waistcoat, and a pair of canary-coloured gloves, which at once recalled to the memory of Winning and De Tabley, seated under the gallery, the gloves that Barsac was in the habit of wearing at his
suppers when he carved the ducks. But this slight disposition to laugh, whatever was the cause of it, ceased almost as soon as it showed itself; and Mr. Medlicott delivered himself with éclat of the only speech of equal length which it was ever his lot. to make in the Senate without the most painful and systematic interruptions. Experienced parliament-men saw clearly enough that his style of speaking would never suit that assembly; but, nevertheless, as a first speech, it was listened to with polite attention, and generally well received; everybody was surprised at the profusion of flowers, illustrations, anecdotes and quotations scattered through it; men of taste and judgment were offended, of course; but with a considerable number it passed for a superb effort, and their cheers at the time, and their congratulations afterwards, left a strong impression to the same effect upon the mind of the young member himself.
Probably the few months that succeeded this his first and only successful effort, were the most flourishing and satisfactory of his whole career in public. He had now, although he knew it not, like Wolsey,
The rocket had gone off
, exceedingly brilliant in its ascent, and “the observed of all observers ;" but it was short-lived as it was brilliant, and no sooner did it shoot to its full height than it began to fall
, much diminished in lustre, and only emitted fitful sparks at intervals, before it went out altogether and completed its destiny. An event, too, that occurred at Chichester during this period, made a substantial addition to its prosperity, although in itself as melancholy as it was sudden and unexpected. This was the decease of the good Mr. Broad, the most zealous and devoted of all Mr. Medlicott's friends, and who, in retiring from the world, gave an irrefragable proof of the sincerity of his friendship, by leaving him property to the amount of upwards of ten thousand pounds, a most important reinforcement of his slender means. It was also during this smiling period that, at the solicitation of many of his admirers, he sat to an eminent portrait-painter for his full-length picture, which was duly exhibited at Somerset House, among the other works of the modern British pencil. It attracted particular notice on account of the interesting situation in which Mr. Medlicott was represented. He was painted in is library, habited in the same sort of robe which his aunt had formerly presented him with, and diverting himself with his children. The table at his side was covered with drafts of bills, the floor was strewn with blue-books, upon a pile of which in the back-ground his wife was seated, intently poring over the Mirror of Parliament, no doubt perusing her husband's speech. To do Mr. Medlicott justice, this egregious piece of absurdity was not of his own devising; it was the doing of Friend Harvey principally, who, having once conceived this mode of treating the subject
, never rested until he persuaded everybody about him that there was no other way of doing it justice.
The Primroses particularly lamented indiscretions of this kind, and so did the worthy Mrs. Wyndham (always a warm and steadfast friend), because they tended greatly to increase the difficulty of bringing about a reconciliation between Reuben and his grandfather, which it was their desire of all things to accomplish. There was a portrait of the Bishop in the same exhibition, and by mere accident the two pictures chanced to be placed side by side, when the gallery was first opened to the public. At this the Bishop was so angry that he wrote to the Society of Artists, and requested them to place his portrait anywhere else in the room, or if that was not possible, to remove it altogether. The picture was actually removed to gratify his caprice, which was the less excusable, as he had himself entertained a serious design of having the portrait of little Tom executed on the same canvass with his own, and had only been diverted from it by the sensible remonstrances of his wife and daughter.
We must, however, do the Bishop justice to state that he did not contribute one farthing to the fund for resisting Mr. Medlicott's return to parliament. What he might have done, if Reuben's enemies had been more fortunate in their choice of a rival candidate, is matter of speculation; but he had no notion of spending his money to bring in such a person as Mr. Pigwidgeon; that was a length the Bishop's personal resentment did not transport him to, and accordingly he left Mr. Barsac to bear the whole expense of the contest, a just punishment for that gentleman's mean and malignant conduct in the transaction.
AIRS AND AFFECTATIONS-DISCORDS AND RECONCILEMENTS:
It may seem surprising that several months should have elapsed without a second speech from Mr. Medlicott, particularly after a first effort which inight fairly have been considered a triumph.
In fact it was not his fault that he did not make many orations in ihe same period; he came down to the House at least a dozen times, fully prepared to address it, an intention of which his toilette was always the most palpable evidence; but between the difficulty of catching the Speaker's eve, the countings out, and now and then the failure to make a House (which was sometimes more a personal matter than he suspected), his preparations were as often thrown away, his intentions baffled, and more than once parties of his friends disappointed, who had flocked to the strangers' gallery to hear him. As to his preparations, indeed, it is not correct to say that they were thrown away absolutely, for it was one of the advantages of his manner of treating most questions, that a speech of his never suffered much by postponement; if he failed to make it in one debate, he made it in another; and when the worst came to the worst, there was always the Freemasons' Tavern, or Exeter Hall, where there was no doubt of its making a hit.
Upon the whole, however, he had time enough on his hands for other employments than speech-making, and he divided it in fair proportions between preparing drafts of various bills, to immortalise his name as a law-giver, and defending his seat, (which he did successfully,) against the petition of Dr. Pigwidgeon.
This was one of the dining eras of Mr. Medlicott's variegated life. He brushed up his practical knowledge of gastronomy, revived the admirable corkscrew he had formerly invented, spared no expense with his banquets to have them récherché, and might have generally succeeded in making pleasant parties if he had been less parliamentary and loquacious at the head of his table, and if his inordinate vanity and desire to be in everybody's good graces had not led him to bring people together in the strangest possible groups, utterly incapable of amalgamation.
When the company was chosen from the list of his old friends and his near relatives and connections, all was well ; and in like manner when the Harveys and Trevors came to a little social meeting at 1443, nothing could be more successful of its kind; but Mr. Medlicott made a great mistake in trying to fuse his fussy Quakers and dreary Quakeresses, his French adventurers, and his Chichester Aldermen, with the men of wit, fashion, and parliamentary distinction, whom he was in the habit of inviting to his Saturday dinners. Indeed he was too fond of inviting people merely because they were personages or celebrities. While they honoured his little table, they proportionally fluttered