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moner. Yet, again, as the Commoner does but rarely avail himself of this immunity, as he drinks no less wine than the Gentleman Commoner, and, generally speaking, wine not worse in quality, it is difficult to see any ground for a regular assumption of higher expenditure in the one class than the other. However, the universal impression favors that assumption. All people believe that the rank of Gentleman Commoner imposes an expensive burden, though few people ever ask why. As a matter of fact, I believe it to be true that Gentlemen Commoners spend more by a third, or a half, than any equal number of Commoners, taken without selection. And the reason is obvious: those who become Gentlemen Commoners are usually determined to that course by the accident of having very large funds; they are eldest sons, or only sons, or men already in possession of estates, or else (which is as common a case as all the rest put together) they are the heirs of newly-acquired wealth- sons of the nouveaux riches- a class which often requires a generation or two to rub off the insolence of a too conscious superiority. I have called them an "aristocratic" class; but, in strictness, they are not such; they form a privileged class, indeed, but their privileges are few and trifling, not to add that these very privileges are connected with one or two burdens, more than outweighing them in the estimate of many; and, upon the whole, the chief distinction they enjoy is that of advertising themselves to the public as men of great wealth, or great expectations; and, therefore, as subjects peculiarly adapted to fraudulent attempts. Accordingly, it is not found
that the sons of the nobility are much inclined to enter this order: these, if they happen to be the eldest sons of earls, or of any peers above the rank of viscount, so as to enjoy a title themselves by the courtesy of England, have special privileges in both universities as to length of residence, degrees, &c.; and their rank is ascertained by a special dress. These privileges it is not usual to forego; though sometimes that happens, as, in my time, in the instance of Lord George Grenville (now Lord Nugent); he neither entered at the aristocratic college (Christ Church), nor wore the dress of a nobleman. Generally, however, an elder son appears in his true character of nobleman; but the younger sons rarely enter the class of Gentlemen Commoners. They enter either as "Commoners," or under some of those various designations ("scholars," "demies," "students," "junior fellows") which imply that they stand upon the foundation of the college to which they belong, and are aspirants for academic emoluments.
Upon the whole, I am disposed to regard this order of Gentlemen Commoners as a standing temptation held out by authority to expensive habits, and a very unbecoming proclamation of honor paid to the aristocracy of wealth. And I know that many thoughtful men regard it in the same light with myself, and regret deeply that any such distribution of ranks should be authorized, as a stain upon the simplicity and general manliness of the English academic laws. It is an open profession of homage and indulgence to wealth, as wealth - to wealth disconnected from everything that might ally it to the ancestral honors
and heraldries of the land. It is also an invitation, or rather a challenge, to profuse expenditure. Regularly, and by law, a Gentleman Commoner is liable to little heavier burdens than a Commoner; but, to meet the expectations of those around him, and to act up to the part he has assumed, he must spend more, and he must be more careless in controlling his expenditure, than a moderate and prudent ComIn every light, therefore, I condemn the institution, and give it up to the censures of the judicious. So much in candor I concede. But, to show equal candor on the other side, it must be remembered that this institution descends to us from ancient times, when wealth was not so often divided from territorial or civic honors, conferring a real precedency.
THERE was one reason why I sought solitude at that early age, and sought it in a morbid excess, which must naturally have conferred upon my character some degree of that interest which belongs to all extremes. My eye had been couched into a secondary power of vision, by misery, by solitude, by sympathy with life in all its modes, by experience too early won, and by the sense of danger critically escaped. Suppose the case of a man suspended by some colossal arm over an unfathomed abyss, pended, but finally and slowly withdrawn, —it is probable that he would not smile for years. That was my case: for I have not mentioned, in the "Opium Confessions," a thousandth part of the suf ferings I underwent in London and in Wales; partly because the misery was too monotonous, and, in that respect, unfitted for description; but, still more, because there is a mysterious sensibility connected with real suffering which recoils from circumstantial rehearsal or delineation, as from violation offered to something sacred, and which is, or should be, dedicated to privacy. Grief does not parade its pangs, nor the anguish of despairing hunger willingly count again its groans or its humiliations. Hence it was that Ledyard, the traveller, speaking of his Russian
experiences, used to say that some of his miseries were such, that he never would reveal them. Besides all which, I really was not at liberty to speak, without many reserves, on this chapter of my life, at a period (1821) not twenty years removed from the actual occurrences, unless I desired to court the risk of crossing at every step the existing law of libel, so full of snares and man-traps, to the careless equally with the conscientious writer. This is a consideration which some of my critics have lost sight of in a degree which surprises me. One, for example, puts it to his readers whether any house such as I describe as the abode of my money-lending friend could exist "in Oxford-street;" and, at the same time, he states, as circumstances drawn from my description, but, in fact, pure coinages of his own, certain romantic impossibilities, which, doubtless, could as little attach to a house in Oxford-street as they could to a house in any other quarter of London. Meantime, I had sufficiently indicated that, whatsoever street was concerned in that affair, Oxford-street was not: and it is remarkable enough, as illustrating this amiable reviewer's veracity, that no one street in London was absolutely excluded but one; and that one, Oxford-street. For I happened to mention that, on such a day (my birth-day), I had turned aside from Oxford-street to look at the house in question. I will now add that this house was in Greek-street: so much it may be safe to say. But every candid reader will see that both prudential restraints, and also disinterested regard to the feelings of possibly amiable descendants from a vicious man, would operate with any thoughtful writer, in