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TWO P.M.: A LEVEE AT ST. JAMES'S PALACE
MORE than twoscore years ago I used to write a great deal
about life and manners in that most wonderful of all cities - London. The first
article that I contributed to Dickens's Household Words was called
"The Key of the Street," and was a description of the night-
wanderings of a Cockney who had been accidentally locked out of his own house,
and who, during the small hours, much to his own discomfort, had to make the
acquaintance of Oxford Street - Stony-hearted stepmother," as De Quincey
called that populous thoroughfare, - and many other streets, courts, lanes, and
alleys besides. In the same periodical I discoursed on the humours of "Jack
Alive," in Ratcliff Highway; on men and women and things in general
"Down Whitechapel way;" on divers phases of public-house life; on the
hospitality shown to the miserables who were "Houseless and Hungry,"
in Refuges for the Destitute; on pawnbrokers' shops; on furnished lodgings; on
[-2-] London eating-houses and coffee-shops; and on the squalor and the vice of
"Gibbet Street"-by which I meant an infamous place "off"
All these things, I am afraid, so far as my descriptions of them are concerned, have long since passed into the domain of ancient history. Younger and more graphic writers than I-and among them let me hasten to recognise Mr. G. R. Sims - have travelled over the ground which I once perambulated: but with firmer footsteps and more perceptive eyes. Mr. Thackeray once said that he had forgotten his way to Bohemia; but that he still considered the city of Prague to be the most picturesque one on the face of the globe. Longo intervallo, I may point out that I know little about what is called "low life" in London at the present day; chiefly because, during the last thirty-four years, I have had, when I was not absent in foreign climes, to write a leading article in a great daily newspaper on six days in every mortal week; and I have thus had literally no time to indulge in the instructive and now fashionable pursuit of "slumming;" and also because I am no longer active or agile - necessary qualifications, since the writer who is ambitious to be an efficient slummer must look as carefully to his training and his general physical condition as though he were a pugilist or a professional pedestrian. Yet has it seemed to me that there is a good deal of London left to be described, which has nothing to do with the East End, with the wretchedness of common "doss"-houses, the iniquities of slop-shop sweaters, or the woes of [-3-] dockers and match-box makers; so I intend to write a series of descriptive essays on "London Up to Date"- on what is to be heard and seen and commented upon in the British metropolis in the year of grace 1894.
For the nonce, my theme shall be a West End one, and altogether up-to-date in the London Occidental sense. What do you think of Two P.M., and a levee at St. James's Palace? They say at Rome that when the pilgrim thither has once drunk of the waters of the Fountain of Trevi, he is sure to return to the Eternal City. Qui a bu, boira; and I fancy that when you have once made your bow to Royalty, you will continue to do so, once a year, until you are bedridden, or have shut yourself up in entire seclusion with nothing but a briar-wood pipe, an Encyclopaedia Britannica, and the weekly Referee to comfort you in your old age. I have known men give up all their clubs; and very miserable they have generally been, in consequence. I have known old playgoers altogether abjure the theatre; and very dull dogs they have generally turned out to be. So, not wishing to be dull or miserable, or to put on the airs of misanthropy or of a hatred of shows and pageants, which I honestly consider to be interesting and picturesque as well as useful things-for the world without shows and pageants would be wearisome and uncouth and boorish, - I array myself in courtly garb once a year, on one of the days officially fixed for a levee at St. James's; get through the not very toilsome ceremony as quickly as I may; and then resume with all possible swiftness the garments of private life, [-4-] and resume my labours as a paper-stainer in monochrome. Did not the Right Hon. John Morley, after he had been sworn a Privy Councillor, quickly hail a hansom and go home to finish a leader?
Now, I will assume, my excellent male reader, that circumstances over which you have control have led you to gratify the very innocent wish to be presented at Court. You have communicated your aspirations to some exalted personage of your acquaintance having the privilege of the entrée. Your desire has been gracefully acceded to. The exalted personage has vouchsafed to be your sponsor; and you are to attend at the next levee (which is to be held at two in the afternoon); only your temporary godfather warns you that unless you wish to incur the risk of waiting a very long time on a possibly raw spring morning, in some slightly chilly apartments, you had best be at the side entrance of St. James's Palace as soon after one o'clock as you possibly can. This means practically that you have scarcely swallowed your breakfast and glanced through the Times leaders, "London Day by Day" in the Daily Telegraph, the fashionable intelligence of the Morning Post - you feel, oh! so fashionable this momentous morning - before you begin to think that it is nearly time to dress. Your servant brings you the shallow, oblong, japanned tin box, which has just come home from the obliging firm of tailors and accoutrement makers who have engaged to furnish your entire courtly equipment; and with trembling hands you turn the key in the patent lock, and take [-5-] out, one by one, the articles constituting what may irreverently be termed your "toggery."
Please to understand that the mysterious Fates who bold sway in the Lord Chamberlain's department have decreed that there shall be four distinct kinds of levee dress in which it is permissible for you, being a pékin, to present yourself before your Sovereign's representative. You may, if you please, array yourself in the old, old-fashioned Court dress, which includes, I think, a plum-coloured coat of the cut of the year 1789, a brocaded waistcoat, black silk smalls, pale pink silk stockings, shoes with buckles, and a small three-cornered hat. Stay! At the nape of the neck the coat should be adorned with a black silk bow - the dim survival of the ancient bag-wig. This costume, when I was young, was wont to be patronised by provincial mayors, and even by dignitaries of the Corporation of London, when they came to Court. But what I may term the "bag-wig" dress has fallen, practically into desuetude.
The second alternative costume is a very dignified and tasteful one-black velvet coat, waistcoat, and continuations, black silk stockings, shoes - with buckles if you like - point or Brussels lace cravat, lace ruffles, cut steel buttons for the coat, and a sword with a black scabbard and cut steel hilt; a cocked hat of the chapeau bras order "completing your attire," as Mr. G. P. R. James, the novelist, used to say. One problem, nevertheless, remains to be solved before you venture upon donning this stately habit, which always reminds me equally of [-6-] General Washington, as President of the United States, and of a modern Hamlet, Prince of Denmark.
The problem is a delicate and difficult one. It is a question of Legs. If Nature has not been so bounteous as to endow you, or art incapable of providing you, with lower extremities resembling in symmetry the legs of a dining-room table, you had much better abandon the idea of the black velvet Court dress altogether. It is a great thing to be born with dinner-table legs. Youths of the humbler classes, possessing shapely calves, may ultimately graduate as powdered footmen in the families of the nobility and gentry. An actor with a good leg may always hope to play Romeo - with shrunken shanks he would inevitably fail in that arduous part; while a curate with symmetrical supports may secretly, and not without reason, nourish the persuasion that, some day or another, he will be raised to the Episcopal Bench. Old King Ernest of Hanover used to say that the decline of the Church of England began with bishops' footmen ceasing to wear purple liveries. What would become of the Establishment, I wonder, if bishops themselves appeared in trousers? I shudder to think! I have heard, indeed, of one prelate who has unblushingly made a public appearance in pantaloons! I can scarcely believe the statement; but if it indeed be true, I sincerely hope that the Right Reverend innovator was only a Colonial.
Now there is yet a third levee dress, a very gay and glittering one, and quite military in its fashion, although its wearer may have no more to do with war than a [-7-] parish beadle has. This is a scarlet tunic with silver embroidery, a snowy-plumed cocked hat, bright crimson sash, brass-hilted and scabbarded sabre. Such raiment is worn by members of the Commission or Court of Lieutenancy of the City of London. Formerly, in lieu of the tunic, a swallow-tail scarlet coat with large silver epaulettes used to be donned. Gentlemen who were appointed to the Commission of Lieutenancy when this particular garb prevailed, are still suffered to wear it at St. James's. The tunic without epaulettes is, however, predominant at present; nor should it be confounded with the almost identical panoply worn by the Deputy Lieutenants of counties when they attend a levee. These provincial grandees are somewhat haughty parties, and look down on the civic "swells" with such a sublimity of contempt as the Lord High Chancellor, in his gold robe, with his purse-bearer before him and his train-bearer behind him, might look upon a process- server of the Westminster County Court.* (*Talking of Lord Chancellors, it is curious to read that Charles the Second's Lord Shaftesbury, who had never been bred to the law nor called to the bar, always presided in the Court of Chancery in a brown silk gown instead of a black one.)
I will assume that it is the fourth and last kind of levee uniform that you have selected, and the various articles of which have been carefully taken out of the japanned tin case, divested of the silver paper with which the decorative details have been covered, and laid one by one on the bed for your inspection. A coda di rondine single-breasted coat of dark claret-coloured cloth, with a stand-up collar - collar and cuffs [-8-] and the flaps of the pockets gay, but not gaudy, with gold lace; gilt buttons adorned with the Royal crown; white waistcoat with similar gilt buttons; a white cravat and "all-round collar"; trousers of the same hue as the coat, and embellished with a broad band of gold lace on the outward seams; a sword with a gilt hilt and bullion tassel ; white kid gloves, varnished boots, and a fore-and-aft cocked hat of silk beaver, with a gilt button and galloon of gold lace.
There you are, or rather there the things are; but the question now arises, How are you to get into them? The coat and trousers do not button in the same way as ordinary items of clothing do; the trousers have straps; and straps in civil attire went out, very likely, before you were born. You discover at the last moment that your boots should be Wellingtons, and not of mere ankle-altitude. If you wear half-boots, or, worse still, shoes, your sin - or rather your straps - will find you out; and the official who stands at the door of the Throne Room, and overhauls each incomer with his eagle eye, may scowl at the wearer of untopped boots. Then you are in a desperate state of uncertainty as to how you should wear your fore-and-aft cocked hat. Should the galloon he on the right or the left side? How are you to manage your sword-belt? Is it lawful to wear a watch-guard? All these doubts are best solved, if you have not an accomplished valet de chambre to attire you, by securing the services of some one who has been in the army and has fulfilled the functions of an officer's servant. He will dress you perfectly in ten [-9-] minutes. If you trust to self-help, the process may take you three-quarters of an hour, and you will come out wrong at last. It may be taken for granted that, although ever since you have begun to dress, you have been thinking you will be too late, you will find yourself fully caparisoned at least an hour before it is time to start.
On the precise manner in which you proceed to St. James's I need not discourse. Your locomotion must be according to your means. It was in a very shabby uniform, and in a cab, so the author of Vanity Fair tells us, that Colonel Rawdon Crawley, late of the Life Guards, waited on His Majesty George IV. Cabs were, to be sure, not introduced into the Metropolis until the succeeding reign; but that matters little. At all events, you must get to the palace somehow. If you have no brougham of your own, or you cannot find a friend to lend you one, there is no harm in a hansom. But I should strongly advise you not to travel palacewards in a tramcar or on the knifeboard of an omnibus. There will be no use in telling your possibly jocular travelling companions that you are a volunteer.
At all events, the Horse Guards clock, and the equally trustworthy horologe of the dingy brick gateway of the palace itself, facing St. James's Street, have scarcely proclaimed the hour of one, when you find yourself under an assuredly not magnificent colonnade east of the Colour Court, and north of the quadrangle, where the palace guard is daily trooped, and Lieutenant [-10-] Dan Godfrey, or some other bandmaster of the Household Brigade, incites his scarlet-coated minstrels to discourse the strains of martial music. The colonnade is crowded with a dazzling assemblage of gentlemen in sumptuous attire; the military predominating. Old generals and colonels revisit the scenes which have been familiar to them for perhaps half a century; while fresh, ruddy, brisk young subalterns flock for the first time to the levee, to be presented by their commanding officer. Others have to be presented on their promotion, or on their return from India.
Very curious is it to mark the contrast between the faded scarlet and tarnished lace of the veterans, and the brand-new uniforms, the glittering lace and dazzling accoutrements, of the youngsters - dashing young Hussars, peach-faced young Guardsmen, stalwart officers in Highland regiments, grand in the panoply of the garb of Old Gaul, with resplendent but somewhat more serious-looking "gunners" and engineers. Then there are a good many admirals and post-captains and naval officers of other grades, glorified in blue and gold; and at least those gallant sons of Neptune have not yet been deprived of their massive bullion epaulettes. In the courtly throng likewise will you discern doctors of divinity, Royal chaplains and rural deans in cassocks, and College Dons in full academic array, and proctors severely sumptuous in gowns with velvet sleeves. There, too, is a grandee in flowing sable robe and bands of lawn and a full-bottomed wig. He must be a judge of the Queen's Bench Division at least, you think! No, [-11-] he is only an eminent Q.C. Another, and even a more gorgeous addition to the crowd under the colonnade may be confidently reckoned upon at an up-to-date levee at St. James's. Behold the Oriental magnificoes. Gaze with rapt eyes upon Rum Jum Jellybag from Bengal, in a caftan of kincob, or cloth of gold, with a white muslin turban as big as a life-belt, and a pearl necklace round his chocolate-coloured neck. Observe Bobbachee-Lal, from Bogglywallah, with a cylindrical erection of silk, gold lace and jewels on his head, like the Leaning Tower of Pisa decked for a festa.
And, again, cast your eyes on a little old man with a face like an over-ripe quince, and a white beard, who wears immense blue spectacles with gold rims, and robes of green silk, and a blue bonnet resembling in shape an extinguisher. That is Krammejee Baboo, the most learned Moonshee - I beg pardon, Munshi - in the Bombay Presidency. You do not see, under that colonnade opposite the German chapel and the garden entrance of Marlborough House, the exalted personage who has so condescendingly promised to present you. Will he turn up in good time? This you ask yourself as you glance nervously at a card inscribed with cabalistic characters which he has forwarded to you. But you seek for him in vain. He and other exalted ones, having the privilege of the entrée, have entered, or will enter, the palace by a special door in the Ambassadors' Court. That is also the reason why, as yet, there are not visible to you any members of the Corps Diplomatique, any noblemen or gentlemen in [-12-] Ministerial uniforms, any Chancellor, any Bishops or great officers of State. But suddenly a great oaken door under the colonnade is thrown open; there is a great rustling of robes and a clattering of sabres, and the glittering throng begins to flow into St. James's Palace.
NOTE.-I have designedly omitted to print the word "levee" in italics, because, in the sense of a reception by British Royalty, it is not a French, but an English word of laughably illegitimate extraction. Levee, in French, means a removal, a gathering, a dyke, a causeway, a trick at cards. The embankment which prevents the city of New Orleans from being flooded by the Mississippi is rightly called "the Levee"; but the receptions held by the French monarchs of the ancien regime were called Levers - the royal getting out of bed. It was at a Lever at Versailles that Louis XIV., to the confusion of his courtiers, asked Moliere to breakfast.
TWO P.M.: A LEVEE AT ST. JAMES'S PALACE-(Continued)
THE first sensation of the individual to be presented, on
entering the palace, is one of blank disappointment. The corridor into which you
press with a splendidly apparelled throng before, behind, and around you,
presents anything but a palatial aspect. It is, to say the least, somewhat
narrow, somewhat dark, and decidedly gloomy. Well; there are many historic
palaces in Europe, the approaches to which are the reverse of sumptuous or
stately. Into the Tuileries, of which not one stone now remains upon another,
you stepped at once into magnificence; and the great white marble staircase by
which the State apartments of the palace of the Kremlin at Moscow are reached is
an imposing, although steep structure.
On the other hand, it is by the meanest of tile-paved steps that the Sala Regia, the Sala Ducale, and the Sistine Chapel, in the Palace of the Vatican, are entered; and the approaches to the splendid saloons of the Pitti Palace at Florence are even meaner and [-14-] steeper, and not too clean. But you emerge from these shabby stairways to find yourself in apartments of colossal proportions, full of costly furniture, from the ceilings of which hang gigantic chandeliers of Venetian crystals, the cornices and columns of the doorways radiant with gilt mouldings, and the walls hung with priceless tapestry, with historic frescoes, or with gallery pictures by the very greatest masters the world has ever seen. You leave the darksome, intricate, and not too sweetly smelling stairs, and suddenly find yourself in the presence of Michel Angelo and Raffaele, of Titian and Correggio, of Sir Peter Rubens and Sir Anthony Vandyck. That, you will be dejected to find, is not the case at St. James's Palace. Indeed, but for the presence of a couple of the Royal marshalmen in scarlet and gold coatees and black and gold shakos of flower-pot form, and who bear gilt batons of command in their hands, there is scarcely anything Royal about the vestibule of the palace, which, all things considered, is an edifice not up to any date save that of the most tasteless and the dingiest period of the early Georgian era.
There is, however, a blazing fire, quite regal in its wealth of incandescence; and there you warm yourself for a while, waiting for the barriers to be removed, and for the great crowd of gentlemen in gala attire to ascend the grand staircase into the State apartments. There is a baize-covered counter to your right as you enter, behind which there is a courteous official. You take from a great stack of pasteboards two large blank [-15-] cards, on which you write your name as legibly as you can; and then you cool your heels, or warm them, as the case may be, for another quarter of an hour: speculating as to the identities of the sparkling throng around you; wondering at the variety and comeliness of the military uniforms; and if there be any foreign warriors present, contrasting their equipment with those of the British sons of Mars, and arriving, perhaps at the conviction that, after all, the Queen's scarlet and the Queen's blue are the handsomest uniforms in the world.
Perchance, if you are more than middle-aged or quite elderly when you first attend a levee, just one little touch of envy may pass through your mind, like the shadow of a summer cloud on a green field, when you look on the throng of very young men, all spruce and smart in their gay regimentals, laughing and carrying themselves with the alertness and elasticity of youth, and muse upon the bright, happy, prosperous time that is before them. They come here for the first time, inexperienced young subs ; they return some day, bronzed with Indian suns, their breasts covered with stars and crosses, the emblems of the laurels they have won in far-off fields. They may have lost a leg or an arm or so; but the empty sleeve or the artificial limb is only another leaf in the chaplet of valour.
After waiting a while a barrier is lifted or a glass door opened and you pass into another larger, and somewhat statelier vestibule, where you first become aware of the presence of some of the Royal footmen, [-16-] duly powdered and in full State livery. By this time you may have grown slightly flustered, and have but an indistinct idea whither you should proceed; but the best course to adopt is the one recommended by the late Rev. Henry Ward Beecher to an admirer from Europe, who, being in New York, and meeting the famous preacher in society, asked how he should find his way to the Brooklyn Tabernacle. "Take the ferry, and follow the crowd," was the advice of the then amazingly popular pastor. Truly, when you have passed through the second vestibule there is no ferry to take; still you may advantageously "follow the crowd"; and as you follow it, you will give up one of your cards to another official; but whether he be a Royal lackey, or a Marshalman, or a Yeoman of the Guard, you are unable afterwards for the life of you to remember.
Next, you will find yourself at the base of a really handsome staircase, ascending which in serried array you may hear, if you keep your ears open, a good deal of lively small talk as to what is going on, not only in "smart" London, at the clubs, and in West End coteries, but in the "City"; for here, disguised in the scarlet and carrying the plumed cocked hats of deputy lieutenants or members of the Court of Lieutenancy, are a large contingent of City Aldermen, Common Councilors, Town Clerks, City Solicitors, and so forth. So far as I am concerned, the first time I ascended the staircase I remembered that my dear mother used to tell me that in William IV.'s time, when the Sailor King and Queen Adelaide held a Drawing Room at St. James's - [-17-] Buckingham Palace was not then completed - a certain number of privileged London milliners and dressmakers used to be allowed to stand behind the Yeomen of the Guard, lining the stairs, and take note of the fashions of the ladies' dresses.
Nowadays, illustrated fashion books are as plentiful as peas; industrious lady journalists go round the "studios" of the Court dressmakers to take notes of the newest things in Drawing Room dress; and there are even five-o'clock Drawing Room teas, to which the ladies who have just returned from Buckingham Palace repair in all the splendour of their costly panoply to be gazed upon by admiring or perhaps secretly disparaging friends who have not yet had the honour of entering the Royal presence. And if the fortunate fair ones, who have been presented that afternoon, do stop on their way home at Elliott and Fry's or at Van der Weyde's to be photographed - trains, Brussels lace, bouquets, diamonds, ostrich plumes and all - who shall blame them? I doubt whether any male creature privileged to wear levee dress would care much about being focussed, negatived, and positived in that apparel.
At the summit of the staircase you find yourself in a large - a very large - apartment, handsome enough from an old-fashioned point of view, and with some rather misty portraits and battle-pieces on the walls. This the guide-books will tell you is the old Presence Chamber. But your remembrance of the guide-books under the excitement of the moment gets very mixed [-18-] and muddled indeed. There should be a saloon called the Tapestry Chamber, the walls of which are hung with arras made for Charles II., but never actually suspended, until the marriage, in 1795, of the Prince of Wales. You have read that over the fireplace in this room exist some relics of the period of Henry VIII., including the carved initials, "H. A." (Henry and Anne Boleyn), united by a true lover's knot; the Fleur-de-lys of France, the Portcullis of Westminster, and the Rose of Lancaster; but afterwards, when you go to luncheon at your club, having previously divested yourself of your gala garments in one of the dressing-rooms, you ask yourself, usually without any satisfactory result, whether you have really passed through a chamber that was tapestried, or whether, in leaving the Presence, you had walked through an armoury, the walls of which were decorated with daggers, muskets, and swords, arranged in various devices, such as stars, circles, lozenges, and vandyke zigzags. In entering, you know that you were for a while stationary in one very splendidly furnished room, hung with crimson damask, the sofas, ottomans, and chairs covered with crimson velvet and trimmed with gold lace, the walls hung with crimson damask, the window curtains of the same sumptuous fabric. You have a dim remembrance of a full-length portrait of George II. in his robes, of a very large mirror, and a big chandelier. Was this the great Council Chamber? You are not at all certain about the matter. The fact is that, in the first place, you were too nervous to take [-19-] stock, from an upholsterer's point of view, of the furniture and decorations of the apartments. In the next place, you bad no convenient opportunity for examining the localities, seeing that you were penned up with a constantly thickening crowd of gentlemen in uniform in a narrow aisle or gangway extending the entire length of the room, on the side of the great windows overlooking the garden of the palace, and cut off from the remaining portion of the saloon by a barrier covered with crimson cloth.
In the space left open stand at ease, quietly chatting, the members of Her Majesty's Honourable Corps of Gentlemen-at-Arms, formerly known as the Gentlemen Pensioners, the patrician section of the Queen's bodyguard. These gentlemen are superbly clad in scarlet uniforms of a cavalry cut. They wear plumed helmets, and carry glistening steel partisans with heavy bullion tassels. They are, at the present day, all commissioned officers of distinction, many of their number well stricken in the vale of years. They are appointed to their honourable station by the Crown; and they have their mess-room in the palace, where Royalties sometimes dine with them. But up to the time of the accession of Her Majesty the place of a Gentleman-at-Arms was purchasable, and very odd fish were sometimes taken in the net of scarlet and gold. One of the corps was Alfred Bunn, sometime lessee and manager of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, author of the words of "Then you'll remember me," and "I dreamt that I dwelt in marble halls"- the "Poet Bunn," in fine, [-20-] whom Punch in his early days used so unmercifully to ridicule. Bunn, whom I knew very well, and who was, on the whole, not at all a bad fellow, had a singular but very practical reason for serving as one of Her Majesty's bodyguard. Theatrical managers have their ups and their downs, occasionally more of a disastrously downward than of a pleasantly upward tendency; and the Gentlemen-at-Arms were, ex officio, exempt from arrest for debt.
The remembrance, however, of Poet Bunn soon fades away as you are gently moved on by imperceptible official impulsion into another apartment, which may or may not be Queen Anne's Room, most superbly upholstered, and containing a full-length portrait of George III. in his robes of the Order of the Garter. You know that there is at least one lofty pier-glass in this room; and there is a gilt clock and a console table by the side of a tall window. You know this, because in front of that window you will be wedged for the next twenty minutes-possibly longer. You look from the casement; and beyond the garden wall you see the Mall of St. James's Park, and the trees, perhaps leafless, perhaps just putting on their spring livery of verdure, and at their base a crowd of sightseers, anxious to obtain a peep at the Royalties in their State carriages, coming from Marlborough House.
It is luckily a day of sunshine, and, after waiting the time I have mentioned, you see over the coping of the wall the sun flashing on the helmets and cuirasses and drawn swords of the escort of Life Guards, soon followed [-21-] by the scarlet and gold lace of the Royal coachmen and footmen. Then the great garden gate is opened, you bear the cheers of the crowd, and the strains of a military band playing the National Anthem; and golden coach after golden coach drawn by stately black steeds drive rapidly into the courtyard of the palace. The Prince of Wales and his brother princes, his two sons-alas! his two sons-and the Duke of Cambridge have arrived. You wait another ten minutes or so, and then comes a fresh gentle intimation to "move on," and the crowd of gentlemen in levee dress stream in to the Presence Chamber, the centre of which is occupied by the Ambassadors and Ministers, and noblemen having the entrée; while you file five or six deep along the windowed wall of the chamber. You see in the distance the throne, on a raised dais of crimson velvet adorned with gold lace, and surmounted by a canopy of the same. You don't see anything else, since your whole system of nerves seems to be singing and dancing "Tar-ra-ra-boom-de-ay !" within you. There is a swimming in your eyes, and your knees knock a little. Bear up! Pull yourself together! Keep a stiff upper lip! It will soon be over, and Royalty won't eat you. You blunder on, somehow, till you are brought up with mild firmness by a glorified gentleman who takes from you your second card. He hands it to an even more gorgeous personage, carrying a white wand, and who reads out your name in a, to you, embarrassingly sonorous voice.
A few steps more and you find yourself in front of a Gracious Gentleman in the uniform of a Field-Marshal.
[-22-] If it be a "collar day," the Heir Apparent will wear the full insignia of his various Orders. If you have the honour of being known to the Prince he will shake hands with you and greet you with a pleasant smile. If you be not known to him, you will bow and pass on; but you will not be deprived of the pleasant smile, and the inclination of the head from H.R.H. In the heavy shadows thrown by the curtains and the canopy of the throne, you will dimly discern other Royalties: the Duke of Edinburgh in the blue and gold of an Admiral, the Duke of Cambridge in Field-Marshal's panoply, Prince George of Wales in naval attire, Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale, in the uniform of the 10th Hussars. Alack! what have I written? You would have seen, I should have said, for the beloved young prince, for whose untimely death a whole nation wept, and with whose bereaved parents every nation in the civilised world sympathise, will be seen no more at a levee at St. James's Palace.
Your tribulations are over. You hasten, so soon as you have left the Presence, through a lofty corridor lined by the Beef-eaters. Down the staircase you speed into the narrow corridor, whence you approach the state apartments. You put on your cocked hat, and emerge a gain into the open under the colonnade, close to the quadrangle facing eastwards, and the proper name of which you will remember, now, is the " Chair Court," so called from the number of sedans which, in olden days, used to set down their bedizened burdens in this precinct of St. James's Palace.
[-23-] Aha! I hear my enemies ejaculate, Flunkey! parasite! Snob! Toad-eater! Tuft-hunter! Flunkey! - while those who sit in the chair of the scornful will hurl their derisive flouts and jeers at me, and ask why I, a mere working journalist, presume to ape the mien of a courtier? There may be others who will insinuate that I have never seen a levee at all; that I have evolved this paper from my internal consciousness; or that I have vamped up my description of the function from accouts which I have read, or the narratives of the people whom I have met.
I beg respectfully to state that ten years ago I was no more ambitious of paying my respects to the Gracious Personage who represents Her Majesty on such occasions, and presentation to whom is equivalent to one to the Queen herself, than of becoming Vice-Chancellor of the University of Honolulu, or an Elder Brother of the Trinity House, or a member of the Balloon Society, or of offering myself as a candidate to the electors of the borough of Smokely-cum-Sewer. It was owing to circumstances over which I had no control that I first donned levee dress. I had, in the pursuit of my harmless and necessary vocation, to go to Moscow to witness the coronation of the Czar Alexander III. The Russian Ambassador in London politely but plainly intimated to my colleagues and myself that we could not be admitted to the Kremlin or to the Imperial Palace without we were either in military uniforms or in Court dress. As I am the most civil of civilians and bad never been presented at Court, I found myself for a [-24-] short time confronted by a slight dilemma. I might perhaps have solved the difficulty by going to Madame Auguste (which her name is Harris), and entreating that eminent costumière to obtain a levée uniform for me on hire; but I adopted the bolder and better course of asking my old and kind friend Lord Wolseley to present me at the next levée at St. James's. This his lordship very cordially consented to do, and I sped on my journey without fear of the contingency of being detected as an impostor.
NOTE.-The Duke of Edinburgh is now, obviously, the Duke of Coburg; and Madame "Auguste," the esteemed mother of Sir Augustus Harris, is dead.
[-nb. grey numbers in brackets indicate page number, (ie. where new page begins), ed.-]