Miss Rebecca Sharp to Miss Amelia Sedley,
Russell Square, London.
MY DEAREST, SWEETEST AMELIA,
With what mingled joy and sorrow do I take up the
pen to write to my dearest friend! Oh, what a change
between to-day and yesterday! Now I am friendless and
alone; yesterday I was at home, in the sweet company
of a sister, whom I shall ever, ever cherish!
I will not tell you in what tears and sadness I passed
the fatal night in which I separated from you. YOU went
on Tuesday to joy and happiness, with your mother and
YOUR DEVOTED YOUNG SOLDIER by your side; and I thought
of you all night, dancing at the Perkins's, the prettiest,
I am sure, of all the young ladies at the Ball. I was
brought by the groom in the old carriage to Sir Pitt
Crawley's town house, where, after John the groom had
behaved most rudely and insolently to me (alas! 'twas
safe to insult poverty and misfortune!), I was given over
to Sir P.'s care, and made to pass the night in an old
gloomy bed, and by the side of a horrid gloomy old
charwoman, who keeps the house. I did not sleep one
single wink the whole night.
Sir Pitt is not what we silly girls, when we used to
read Cecilia at Chiswick, imagined a baronet must have
been. Anything, indeed, less like Lord Orville cannot be
imagined. Fancy an old, stumpy, short, vulgar, and very
dirty man, in old clothes and shabby old gaiters, who
smokes a horrid pipe, and cooks his own horrid supper
in a saucepan. He speaks with a country accent, and
swore a great deal at the old charwoman, at the hackney
coachman who drove us to the inn where the coach went
from, and on which I made the journey OUTSIDE FOR THE
GREATER PART OF THE WAY.
I was awakened at daybreak by the charwoman, and
having arrived at the inn, was at first placed inside the
coach. But, when we got to a place called Leakington,
where the rain began to fall very heavily--will you
believe it?--I was forced to come outside; for Sir Pitt is a
proprietor of the coach, and as a passenger came at
Mudbury, who wanted an inside place, I was obliged to
go outside in the rain, where, however, a young
gentleman from Cambridge College sheltered me very
kindly in one of his several great coats.
This gentleman and the guard seemed to know Sir
Pitt very well, and laughed at him a great deal. They
both agreed in calling him an old screw; which means a
very stingy, avaricious person. He never gives any money
to anybody, they said (and this meanness I hate); and
the young gentleman made me remark that we drove
very slow for the last two stages on the road, because
Sir Pitt was on the box, and because he is proprietor
of the horses for this part of the journey. "But won't I
flog 'em on to Squashmore, when I take the ribbons?"
said the young Cantab. "And sarve 'em right, Master
Jack," said the guard. When I comprehended the
meaning of this phrase, and that Master Jack intended to
drive the rest of the way, and revenge himself on Sir
Pitt's horses, of course I laughed too.
A carriage and four splendid horses, covered with
armorial bearings, however, awaited us at Mudbury,
four miles from Queen's Crawley, and we made our
entrance to the baronet's park in state. There is a fine
avenue of a mile long leading to the house, and the woman
at the lodge-gate (over the pillars of which are a serpent
and a dove, the supporters of the Crawley arms), made
us a number of curtsies as she flung open the old iron
carved doors, which are something like those at odious
"There's an avenue," said Sir Pitt, "a mile long.
There's six thousand pound of timber in them there
trees. Do you call that nothing?" He pronounced avenue
--EVENUE, and nothing--NOTHINK, so droll; and he had
a Mr. Hodson, his hind from Mudbury, into the carriage
with him, and they talked about distraining, and selling
up, and draining and subsoiling, and a great deal about
tenants and farming--much more than I could
understand. Sam Miles had been caught poaching, and Peter
Bailey had gone to the workhouse at last. "Serve him
right," said Sir Pitt; "him and his family has been
cheating me on that farm these hundred and fifty years."
Some old tenant, I suppose, who could not pay his rent.
Sir Pitt might have said "he and his family," to be sure;
but rich baronets do not need to be careful about
grammar, as poor governesses must be.
As we passed, I remarked a beautiful church-spire
rising above some old elms in the park; and before them,
in the midst of a lawn, and some outhouses, an old red
house with tall chimneys covered with ivy, and the
windows shining in the sun. "Is that your church, sir?"
"Yes, hang it," (said Sir Pitt, only he used, dear, A MUCH
WICKEDER WORD); "how's Buty, Hodson? Buty's my
brother Bute, my dear--my brother the parson. Buty and
the Beast I call him, ha, ha!"
Hodson laughed too, and then looking more grave
and nodding his head, said, "I'm afraid he's better, Sir
Pitt. He was out on his pony yesterday, looking at our
"Looking after his tithes, hang'un (only he used the
same wicked word). Will brandy and water never kill
him? He's as tough as old whatdyecallum--old
Mr. Hodson laughed again. "The young men is home
from college. They've whopped John Scroggins till he's
well nigh dead."
"Whop my second keeper!" roared out Sir Pitt.
"He was on the parson's ground, sir," replied Mr.
Hodson; and Sir Pitt in a fury swore that if he ever caught
'em poaching on his ground, he'd transport 'em, by the
lord he would. However, he said, "I've sold the
presentation of the living, Hodson; none of that breed
shall get it, I war'nt"; and Mr. Hodson said he was quite right:
and I have no doubt from this that the two brothers are
at variance--as brothers often are, and sisters too. Don't
you remember the two Miss Scratchleys at Chiswick,
how they used always to fight and quarrel--and Mary
Box, how she was always thumping Louisa?
Presently, seeing two little boys gathering sticks in the
wood, Mr. Hodson jumped out of the carriage, at Sir
Pitt's order, and rushed upon them with his whip. "Pitch
into 'em, Hodson," roared the baronet; "flog their little
souls out, and bring 'em up to the house, the vagabonds;
I'll commit 'em as sure as my name's Pitt." And presently
we heard Mr. Hodson's whip cracking on the
shoulders of the poor little blubbering wretches, and
Sir Pitt, seeing that the malefactors were in custody,
drove on to the hall.
All the servants were ready to meet us, and
. . .
Here, my dear, I was interrupted last night by a
dreadful thumping at my door: and who do you think it
was? Sir Pitt Crawley in his night-cap and dressing-
gown, such a figure! As I shrank away from such a
visitor, he came forward and seized my candle. "No
candles after eleven o'clock, Miss Becky," said he. "Go to
bed in the dark, you pretty little hussy" (that is what
he called me), "and unless you wish me to come for the
candle every night, mind and be in bed at eleven." And
with this, he and Mr. Horrocks the butler went off
laughing. You may be sure I shall not encourage any more
of their visits. They let loose two immense bloodhounds
at night, which all last night were yelling and howling
at the moon. "I call the dog Gorer," said Sir Pitt; "he's
killed a man that dog has, and is master of a bull, and
the mother I used to call Flora; but now I calls her
Aroarer, for she's too old to bite. Haw, haw!"
Before the house of Queen's Crawley, which is an
odious old-fashioned red brick mansion, with tall
chimneys and gables of the style of Queen Bess, there is a
terrace flanked by the family dove and serpent, and on
which the great hall-door opens. And oh, my dear, the
great hall I am sure is as big and as glum as the great
hall in the dear castle of Udolpho. It has a large
fireplace, in which we might put half Miss Pinkerton's
school, and the grate is big enough to roast an ox at the
very least. Round the room hang I don't know how
many generations of Crawleys, some with beards and
ruffs, some with huge wigs and toes turned out, some
dressed in long straight stays and gowns that look as
stiff as towers, and some with long ringlets, and oh, my
dear! scarcely any stays at all. At one end of the hall is
the great staircase all in black oak, as dismal as may be,
and on either side are tall doors with stags' heads.over
them, leading to the billiard-room and the library, and
the great yellow saloon and the morning-rooms. I think
there are at least twenty bedrooms on the first floor; one
of them has the bed in which Queen Elizabeth slept;
and I have been taken by my new pupils through all
these fine apartments this morning. They are not
rendered less gloomy, I promise you, by having the shutters
always shut; and there is scarce one of the apartments,
but when the light was let into it, I expected to
see a ghost in the room. We have a schoolroom on the
second floor, with my bedroom leading into it on one
side, and that of the young ladies on the other. Then
there are Mr. Pitt's apartments--Mr. Crawley, he is
called--the eldest son, and Mr. Rawdon Crawley's rooms
--he is an officer like SOMEBODY, and away with his
regiment. There is no want of room I assure you. You
might lodge all the people in Russell Square in the
house, I think, and have space to spare.
Half an hour after our arrival, the great dinner-bell
was rung, and I came down with my two pupils (they
are very thin insignificant little chits of ten and eight
years old). I came down in your dear muslin gown
(about which that odious Mrs. Pinner was so rude,
because you gave it me); for I am to be treated as one of
the family, except on company days, when the young
ladies and I are to dine upstairs.
Well, the great dinner-bell rang, and we all assembled
in the little drawing-room where my Lady Crawley
sits. She is the second Lady Crawley, and mother of the
young ladies. She was an ironmonger's daughter, and
her marriage was thought a great match. She looks as
if she had been handsome once, and her eyes are always
weeping for the loss of her beauty. She is pale and
meagre and high-shouldered, and has not a word to say
for herself, evidently. Her stepson Mr. Crawley, was
likewise in the room. He was in full dress, as pompous
as an undertaker. He is pale, thin, ugly, silent; he has
thin legs, no chest, hay-coloured whiskers, and straw-
coloured hair. He is the very picture of his sainted
mother over the mantelpiece--Griselda of the noble
house of Binkie.
"This is the new governess, Mr. Crawley," said Lady
Crawley, coming forward and taking my hand. "Miss
"0!" said Mr. Crawley, and pushed his head once
forward and began again to read a great pamphlet
with which he was busy.
"I hope you will be kind to my girls," said Lady
Crawley, with her pink eyes always full of tears.
"Law, Ma, of course she will," said the eldest: and I
saw at a glance that I need not be afraid of THAT woman.
"My lady is served," says the butler in black, in an
immense white shirt-frill, that looked as if it had been
one of the Queen Elizabeth's ruffs depicted in the hall;
and so, taking Mr. Crawley's arm, she led the way to the
dining-room, whither I followed with my little pupils in
Sir Pitt was already in the room with a silver jug. He
had just been to the cellar, and was in full dress too;
that is, he had taken his gaiters off, and showed his little
dumpy legs in black worsted stockings. The sideboard
was covered with glistening old plate--old cups, both
gold and silver; old salvers and cruet-stands, like
Rundell and Bridge's shop. Everything on the table was in
silver too, and two footmen, with red hair and canary-
coloured liveries, stood on either side of the sideboard.
Mr. Crawley said a long grace, and Sir Pitt said amen,
and the great silver dish-covers were removed.
"What have we for dinner, Betsy?' said the Baronet.
"Mutton broth, I believe, Sir Pitt," answered Lady
"Mouton aux navets," added the butler gravely
(pronounce, if you please, moutongonavvy); "and the
soup is potage de mouton a l'Ecossaise. The side-dishes
contain pommes de terre au naturel, and choufleur a l'eau."
"Mutton's mutton," said the Baronet, "and a devilish
good thing. What SHIP was it, Horrocks, and when did
"One of the black-faced Scotch, Sir Pitt: we killed on Thursday.
"Who took any?"
"Steel, of Mudbury, took the saddle and two legs, Sir
Pitt; but he says the last was too young and confounded
woolly, Sir Pitt."
"Will you take some potage, Miss ah--Miss Blunt?
said Mr. Crawley.
"Capital Scotch broth, my dear," said Sir Pitt, "though
they call it by a French name."
"I believe it is the custom, sir, in decent society," said
Mr. Crawley, haughtily, "to call the dish as I have called
it"; and it was served to us on silver soup plates by the
footmen in the canary coats, with the mouton aux
navets. Then "ale and water" were brought, and served
to us young ladies in wine-glasses. I am not a judge of
ale, but I can say with a clear conscience I prefer water.
While we were enjoying our repast, Sir Pitt took
occasion to ask what had become of the shoulders of
"I believe they were eaten in the servants' hall," said
my lady, humbly.
"They was, my lady," said Horrocks, "and precious
little else we get there neither."
Sir Pitt burst into a horse-laugh, and continued his
conversation with Mr. Horrocks. "That there little black
pig of the Kent sow's breed must be uncommon fat
"It's not quite busting, Sir Pitt," said the butler with
the gravest air, at which Sir Pitt, and with him the young
ladies, this time, began to laugh violently.
"Miss Crawley, Miss Rose Crawley," said Mr. Crawley,
"your laughter strikes me as being exceedingly out
"Never mind, my lord," said the Baronet, "we'll try
the porker on Saturday. Kill un on Saturday morning,
John Horrocks. Miss Sharp adores pork, don't you, Miss
And I think this is all the conversation that I remember
at dinner. When the repast was concluded a jug of
hot water was placed before Sir Pitt, with a case-bottle
containing, I believe, rum. Mr. Horrocks served myself
and my pupils with three little glasses of wine, and a
bumper was poured out for my lady. When we retired,
she took from her work-drawer an enormous interminable
piece of knitting; the young ladies began to play at
cribbage with a dirty pack of cards. We had but one
candle lighted, but it was in a magnificent old silver
candlestick, and after a very few questions from my lady,
I had my choice of amusement between a volume of
sermons, and a pamphlet on the corn-laws, which Mr.
Crawley had been reading before dinner.
So we sat for an hour until steps were heard.
"Put away the cards, girls," cried my lady, in a great
tremor; "put down Mr. Crawley's books, Miss Sharp";
and these orders had been scarcely obeyed, when Mr.
Crawley entered the room.
"We will resume yesterday's discourse, young ladies,"
said he, "and you shall each read a page by turns; so
that Miss a--Miss Short may have an opportunity of
hearing you"; and the poor girls began to spell a long
dismal sermon delivered at Bethesda Chapel, Liverpool,
on behalf of the mission for the Chickasaw Indians.
Was it not a charming evening?
At ten the servants were told to call Sir Pitt and the
household to prayers. Sir Pitt came in first, very much
flushed, and rather unsteady in his gait; and after him
the butler, the canaries, Mr. Crawley's man, three other
men, smelling very much of the stable, and four women,
one of whom, I remarked, was very much overdressed,
and who flung me a look of great scorn as she plumped
down on her knees.
After Mr. Crawley had done haranguing and
expounding, we received our candles, and then we
went to bed; and then I was disturbed in my writing, as
I have described to my dearest sweetest Amelia.
Good night. A thousand, thousand, thousand kisses!
Saturday.--This morning, at five, I heard the
shrieking of the little black pig. Rose and Violet introduced
me to it yesterday; and to the stables, and to the kennel,
and to the gardener, who was picking fruit to send to
market, and from whom they begged hard a bunch of
hot-house grapes; but he said that Sir Pitt had numbered
every "Man Jack" of them, and it would be as much as
his place was worth to give any away. The darling girls
caught a colt in a paddock, and asked me if I would
ride, and began to ride themselves, when the groom,
coming with horrid oaths, drove them away.
Lady Crawley is always knitting the worsted. Sir Pitt
is always tipsy, every night; and, I believe, sits with
Horrocks, the butler. Mr. Crawley always reads sermons
in the evening, and in the morning is locked up in his
study, or else rides to Mudbury, on county business,
or to Squashmore, where he preaches, on Wednesdays
and Fridays, to the tenants there.
A hundred thousand grateful loves to your dear papa
and mamma. Is your poor brother recovered of his rack-
punch? Oh, dear! Oh, dear! How men should beware of
Ever and ever thine own
Everything considered, I think it is quite as well for
our dear Amelia Sedley, in Russell Square, that Miss
Sharp and she are parted. Rebecca is a droll funny
creature, to be sure; and those descriptions of the poor lady
weeping for the loss of her beauty, and the gentleman
"with hay-coloured whiskers and straw-coloured hair,"
are very smart, doubtless, and show a great knowledge
of the world. That she might, when on her knees, have
been thinking of something better than Miss Horrocks's
ribbons, has possibly struck both of us. But my kind
reader will please to remember that this history has
"Vanity Fair" for a title, and that Vanity Fair is a
very vain, wicked, foolish place, full of all sorts of
humbugs and falsenesses and pretensions. And while the
moralist, who is holding forth on the cover ( an accurate
portrait of your humble servant), professes to wear
neither gown nor bands, but only the very same long-
eared livery in which his congregation is arrayed: yet,
look you, one is bound to speak the truth as far as one
knows it, whether one mounts a cap and bells or a shovel
hat; and a deal of disagreeable matter must come out
in the course of such an undertaking.
I have heard a brother of the story-telling trade, at
Naples, preaching to a pack of good-for-nothing honest
lazy fellows by the sea-shore, work himself up into such a
rage and passion with some of the villains whose wicked
deeds he was describing and inventing, that the audience
could not resist it; and they and the poet together would
burst out into a roar of oaths and execrations against
the fictitious monster of the tale, so that the hat went
round, and the bajocchi tumbled into it, in the midst of
a perfect storm of sympathy.
At the little Paris theatres, on the other hand, you will
not only hear the people yelling out "Ah gredin! Ah
monstre:" and cursing the tyrant of the play from the
boxes; but the actors themselves positively refuse to play
the wicked parts, such as those of infames Anglais,
brutal Cossacks, and what not, and prefer to appear
at a smaller salary, in their real characters as loyal
Frenchmen. I set the two stories one against the other,
so that you may see that it is not from mere mercenary
motives that the present performer is desirous to show
up and trounce his villains; but because he has a sincere
hatred of them, which he cannot keep down, and which
must find a vent in suitable abuse and bad language.
I warn my "kyind friends," then, that I am going to
tell a story of harrowing villainy and complicated--but,
as I trust, intensely interesting--crime. My rascals are
no milk-and-water rascals, I promise you. When we come
to the proper places we won't spare fine language--No,
no! But when we are going over the quiet country we
must perforce be calm. A tempest in a slop-basin is
absurd. We will reserve that sort of thing for the mighty
ocean and the lonely midnight. The present Chapter is
very mild. Others--But we will not anticipate THOSE.
And, as we bring our characters forward, I will ask
leave, as a man and a brother, not only to introduce
them, but occasionally to step down from the platform,
and talk about them: if they are good and kindly, to
love them and shake them by the hand: if they are silly,
to laugh at them confidentially in the reader's sleeve:
if they are wicked and heartless, to abuse them in the
strongest terms which politeness admits of.
Otherwise you might fancy it was I who was sneering
at the practice of devotion, which Miss Sharp finds so
ridiculous; that it was I who laughed good-humouredly
at the reeling old Silenus of a baronet--whereas the
laughter comes from one who has no reverence except
for prosperity, and no eye for anything beyond success.
Such people there are living and flourishing in the world
--Faithless, Hopeless, Charityless: let us have at them,
dear friends, with might and main. Some there are, and
very successful too, mere quacks and fools: and it was
to combat and expose such as those, no doubt, that
Laughter was made.