The Christmas Books

Author: William Makepeace Thackeray

Mrs. Perkins’s Ball.


I do not know where Ballymulligan is, and never knew anybody who did. Once I asked the Mulligan the question, when that chieftain assumed a look of dignity so ferocious, and spoke of "Saxon curiawsitee" in a tone of such evident displeasure, that, as after all it can matter very little to me whereabouts lies the Celtic principality in question, I have never pressed the inquiry any farther.

I don’t know even the Mulligan’s town residence. One night, as he bade us adieu in Oxford Street,—"I live THERE," says he, pointing down towards Oxbridge, with the big stick he carries—so his abode is in that direction at any rate. He has his letters addressed to several of his friends’ houses, and his parcels, &c. are left for him at various taverns which he frequents. That pair of checked trousers, in which you see him attired, he did me the favor of ordering from my own tailor, who is quite as anxious as anybody to know the address of the wearer. In like manner my hatter asked me, "Oo was the Hirish gent as ’ad ordered four ’ats and a sable boar to be sent to my lodgings?" As I did not know (however I might guess) the articles have never been sent, and the Mulligan has withdrawn his custom from the "infernal four-and-nine-penny scoundthrel," as he calls him. The hatter has not shut up shop in consequence.

I became acquainted with the Mulligan through a distinguished countryman of his, who, strange to say, did not know the chieftain himself. But dining with my friend Fred Clancy, of the Irish bar, at Greenwich, the Mulligan came up, "inthrojuiced" himself to Clancy as he said, claimed relationship with him on the side of Brian Boroo, and drawing his chair to our table, quickly became intimate with us. He took a great liking to me, was good enough to find out my address and pay me a visit: since which period often and often on coming to breakfast in the morning I have found him in my sitting-room on the sofa engaged with the rolls and morning papers: and many a time, on returning home at night for an evening’s quiet reading, I have discovered this honest fellow in the arm-chair before the fire, perfuming the apartment with my cigars and trying the quality of such liquors as might be found on the sideboard. The way in which he pokes fun at Betsy, the maid of the lodgings, is prodigious. She begins to laugh whenever he comes; if he calls her a duck, a divvle, a darlin’, it is all one. He is just as much a master of the premises as the individual who rents them at fifteen shillings a week; and as for handkerchiefs, shirt-collars, and the like articles of fugitive haberdashery, the loss since I have known him is unaccountable. I suspect he is like the cat in some houses: for, suppose the whiskey, the cigars, the sugar, the tea-caddy, the pickles, and other groceries disappear, all is laid upon that edax-rerum of a Mulligan.

The greatest offence that can be offered to him is to call him MR. Mulligan. "Would you deprive me, sir," says he, "of the title which was bawrun be me princelee ancestors in a hundred thousand battles? In our own green valleys and fawrests, in the American savannahs, in the sierras of Speen and the flats of Flandthers, the Saxon has quailed before me war-cry of MULLIGAN ABOO! MR. Mulligan! I’ll pitch anybody out of the window who calls me MR. Mulligan." He said this, and uttered the slogan of the Mulligans with a shriek so terrific, that my uncle (the Rev. W. Gruels, of the Independent Congregation, Bungay), who had happened to address him in the above obnoxious manner, while sitting at my apartments drinking tea after the May meetings, instantly quitted the room, and has never taken the least notice of me since, except to state to the rest of the family that I am doomed irrevocably to perdition.

Well, one day last season, I had received from my kind and most estimable friend, MRS. PERKINS OF POCKLINGTON SQUARE (to whose amiable family I have had the honor of giving lessons in drawing, French, and the German flute), an invitation couched in the usual terms, on satin gilt-edged note-paper, to her evening-party; or, as I call it, "Ball."

Besides the engraved note sent to all her friends, my kind patroness had addressed me privately as follows:—

MY DEAR MR. TITMARSH,—If you know any VERY eligible young man, we give you leave to bring him. You GENTLEMEN love your CLUBS so much now, and care so little for DANCING, that it is really quite A SCANDAL. Come early, and before EVERYBODY, and give us the benefit of all your taste and CONTINENTAL SKILL.

"Your sincere


"Whom shall I bring?" mused I, highly flattered by this mark of confidence; and I thought of Bob Trippett; and little Fred Spring, of the Navy Pay Office; Hulker, who is rich, and I knew took lessons in Paris; and a half-score of other bachelor friends, who might be considered as VERY ELIGIBLE—when I was roused from my meditation by the slap of a hand on my shoulder; and looking up, there was the Mulligan, who began, as usual, reading the papers on my desk.

"Hwhat’s this?" says he. "Who’s Perkins? Is it a supper-ball, or only a tay-ball?"

"The Perkinses of Pocklington Square, Mulligan, are tiptop people," says I, with a tone of dignity. "Mr. Perkins’s sister is married to a baronet, Sir Giles Bacon, of Hogwash, Norfolk. Mr. Perkins’s uncle was Lord Mayor of London; and he was himself in Parliament, and MAY BE again any day. The family are my most particular friends. A tay-ball indeed! why, Gunter . . ." Here I stopped: I felt I was committing myself.

"Gunter!" says the Mulligan, with another confounded slap on the shoulder. "Don’t say another word: I’LL go widg you, my boy."

"YOU go, Mulligan?" says I: "why, really—I—it’s not my party."

"Your hwhawt? hwhat’s this letter? a’n’t I an eligible young man?— Is the descendant of a thousand kings unfit company for a miserable tallow-chandthlering cockney? Are ye joking wid me? for, let me tell ye, I don’t like them jokes. D’ye suppose I’m not as well bawrun and bred as yourself, or any Saxon friend ye ever had?"

"I never said you weren’t, Mulligan," says I.

"Ye don’t mean seriously that a Mulligan is not fit company for a Perkins?"

"My dear fellow, how could you think I could so far insult you?" says I. "Well, then," says he, "that’s a matter settled, and we go."

What the deuce was I to do? I wrote to Mrs. Perkins; and that kind lady replied, that she would receive the Mulligan, or any other of my friends, with the greatest cordiality. "Fancy a party, all Mulligans!" thought I, with a secret terror.


Following Mrs. Perkins’s orders, the present writer made his appearance very early at Pocklington Square: where the tastiness of all the decorations elicited my warmest admiration. Supper of course was in the dining-loom, superbly arranged by Messrs. Grigs and Spooner, the confectioners of the neighborhood. I assisted my respected friend Mr. Perkins and his butler in decanting the sherry, and saw, not without satisfaction, a large bath for wine under the sideboard, in which were already placed very many bottles of champagne.

The BACK DINING-ROOM, Mr. P.’s study (where the venerable man goes to sleep after dinner), was arranged on this occasion as a tearoom, Mrs. Flouncey (Miss Fanny’s maid) officiating in a cap and pink ribbons, which became her exceedingly. Long, long before the arrival of the company, I remarked Master Thomas Perkins and Master Giles Bacon, his cousin (son of Sir Giles Bacon, Bart.), in this apartment, busy among the macaroons.

Mr. Gregory the butler, besides John the footman and Sir Giles’s large man in the Bacon livery, and honest Grundsell, carpet-beater and green-grocer, of Little Pocklington Buildings, had at least half a dozen of aides-de-camp in black with white neck-cloths, like doctors of divinity.

The BACK DRAWING-ROOM door on the landing being taken off the hinges (and placed up stairs under Mr. Perkins’s bed), the orifice was covered with muslin, and festooned with elegant wreaths of flowers. This was the Dancing Saloon. A linen was spread over the carpet; and a band—consisting of Mr. Clapperton, piano, Mr. Pinch, harp, and Herr Spoff, cornet-a-piston arrived at a pretty early hour, and were accommodated with some comfortable negus in the tearoom, previous to the commencement of their delightful labors. The boudoir to the left was fitted up as a card-room; the drawing-room was of course for the reception of the company,—the chandeliers and yellow damask being displayed this night in all their splendor; and the charming conservatory over the landing was ornamented by a few moon-like lamps, and the flowers arranged so that it had the appearance of a fairy bower. And Miss Perkins (as I took the liberty of stating to her mamma) looked like the fairy of that bower. It is this young creature’s first year in PUBLIC LIFE: she has been educated, regardless of expense, at Hammersmith; and a simple white muslin dress and blue ceinture set off charms of which I beg to speak with respectful admiration.

My distinguished friend the Mulligan of Ballymulligan was good enough to come the very first of the party. By the way, how awkward it is to be the first of the party! and yet you know somebody must; but for my part, being timid, I always wait at the corner of the street in the cab, and watch until some other carriage comes up.

Well, as we were arranging the sherry in the decanters down the supper-tables, my friend arrived: "Hwhares me friend Mr. Titmarsh?" I heard him bawling out to Gregory in the passage, and presently he rushed into the supper-room, where Mr. and Mrs. Perkins and myself were, and as the waiter was announcing "Mr. Mulligan," "THE Mulligan of Ballymulligan, ye blackguard!" roared he, and stalked into the apartment, "apologoizing," as he said, for introducing himself.

Mr. and Mrs. Perkins did not perhaps wish to be seen in this room, which was for the present only lighted by a couple of candles; but HE was not at all abashed by the circumstance, and grasping them both warmly by the hands, he instantly made himself at home. "As friends of my dear and talented friend Mick," so he is pleased to call me, "I’m deloighted, madam, to be made known to ye. Don’t consider me in the light of a mere acquaintance! As for you, my dear madam, you put me so much in moind of my own blessed mother, now resoiding at Ballymulligan Castle, that I begin to love ye at first soight." At which speech Mr. Perkins getting rather alarmed, asked the Mulligan whether he would take some wine, or go up stairs.

"Faix," says Mulligan "it’s never too soon for good dhrink." And (although he smelt very much of whiskey already) he drank a tumbler of wine "to the improvement of an acqueentence which comminces in a manner so deloightful."

"Let’s go up stairs, Mulligan," says I, and led the noble Irishman to the upper apartments, which were in a profound gloom, the candles not being yet illuminated, and where we surprised Miss Fanny, seated in the twilight at the piano, timidly trying the tunes of the polka which she danced so exquisitely that evening. She did not perceive the stranger at first; but how she started when the Mulligan loomed upon her.

"Heavenlee enchanthress!" says Mulligan, "don’t floy at the approach of the humblest of your sleeves! Reshewm your pleece at that insthrument, which weeps harmonious, or smoils melojious, as you charrum it! Are you acqueented with the Oirish Melodies? Can ye play, ’Who fears to talk of Nointy-eight?’ the ’Shan Van Voght?’ or the ’Dirge of Ollam Fodhlah?’"

"Who’s this mad chap that Titmarsh has brought?" I heard Master Bacon exclaim to Master Perkins. "Look! how frightened Fanny looks!"

"O poo! gals are ALWAYS frightened," Fanny’s brother replied; but Giles Bacon, more violent, said, "I’ll tell you what, Tom: if this goes on, we must pitch into him." And so I have no doubt they would, when another thundering knock coming, Gregory rushed into the room and began lighting all the candles, so as to produce an amazing brilliancy, Miss Fanny sprang up and ran to her mamma, and the young gentlemen slid down the banisters to receive the company in the hall.


"It’s only me and my sisters," Master Bacon said; though "only" meant eight in this instance. All the young ladies had fresh cheeks and purple elbows; all had white frocks, with hair more or less auburn: and so a party was already made of this blooming and numerous family, before the rest of the company began to arrive. The three Miss Meggots next came in their fly: Mr. Blades and his niece from 19 in the square: Captain and Mrs. Struther, and Miss Struther: Doctor Toddy’s two daughters and their mamma: but where were the gentlemen? The Mulligan, great and active as he was, could not suffice among so many beauties. At last came a brisk neat little knock, and looking into the hall, I saw a gentleman taking off his clogs there, whilst Sir Giles Bacon’s big footman was looking on with rather a contemptuous air.

"What name shall I enounce?" says he, with a wink at Gregory on the stair.

The gentleman in clogs said, with quiet dignity,—


"Pump Court, Temple," is printed on his cards in very small type: and he is a rising barrister of the Western Circuit. He is to be found at home of mornings: afterwards "at Westminster," as you read on his back door. "Binks and Minchin’s Reports" are probably known to my legal friends: this is the Minchin in question.

He is decidedly genteel, and is rather in request at the balls of the Judges’ and Serjeants’ ladies: for he dances irreproachably, and goes out to dinner as much as ever he can.

He mostly dines at the Oxford and Cambridge Club, of which you can easily see by his appearance that he is a member; he takes the joint and his half-pint of wine, for Minchin does everything like a gentleman. He is rather of a literary turn; still makes Latin verses with some neatness; and before he was called, was remarkably fond of the flute.

When Mr. Minchin goes out in the evening, his clerk brings his bag to the Club, to dress; and if it is at all muddy, he turns up his trousers, so that he may come in without a speck. For such a party as this, he will have new gloves; otherwise Frederick, his clerk, is chiefly employed in cleaning them with India-rubber.

He has a number of pleasant stories about the Circuit and the University, which he tells with a simper to his neighbor at dinner; and has always the last joke of Mr. Baron Maule. He has a private fortune of five thousand pounds; he is a dutiful son; he has a sister married, in Harley Street; and Lady Jane Ranville has the best opinion of him, and says he is a most excellent and highly principled young man.

Her ladyship and daughter arrived just as Mr. Minchin had popped his clogs into the umbrella-stand; and the rank of that respected person, and the dignified manner in which he led her up stairs, caused all sneering on the part of the domestics to disappear.


A hundred of knocks follow Frederick Minchin’s: in half an hour Messrs. Spoff, Pinch, and Clapperton have begun their music, and Mulligan, with one of the Miss Bacons, is dancing majestically in the first quadrille. My young friends Giles and Tom prefer the landing-place to the drawing-rooms, where they stop all night, robbing the refreshment-trays as they come up or down. Giles has eaten fourteen ices: he will have a dreadful stomach-ache tomorrow. Tom has eaten twelve, but he has had four more glasses of negus than Giles. Grundsell, the occasional waiter, from whom Master Tom buys quantities of ginger-beer, can of course deny him nothing. That is Grundsell, in the tights, with the tray. Meanwhile direct your attention to the three gentlemen at the door: they are conversing.

1st Gent.—Who’s the man of the house—the bald man?

2nd Gent.—Of course. The man of the house is always bald. He’s a stockbroker, I believe. Snooks brought me.

1st Gent.—Have you been to the tea-room? There’s a pretty girl in the tea-room; blue eyes, pink ribbons, that kind of thing.

2nd Gent.—Who the deuce is that girl with those tremendous shoulders? Gad! I do wish somebody would smack ’em.

3rd Gent.—Sir—that young lady is my niece, sir,—my niece—my name is Blades, sir.

2nd Gent.—Well, Blades! smack your niece’s shoulders: she deserves it, begad! she does. Come in, Jinks, present me to the Perkinses.— Hullo! here’s an old country acquaintance—Lady Bacon, as I live! with all the piglings; she never goes out without the whole litter. (Exeunt 1st and 2nd Gents.)


Lady B.—Leonora! Maria! Amelia! here is the gentleman we met at Sir John Porkington’s.

[The MISSES BACON, expecting to be asked to dance, smile simultaneously, and begin to smooth their tuckers.]

Mr. Flam.—Lady Bacon! I couldn’t be mistaken in YOU! Won’t you dance, Lady Bacon?

Lady B.—Go away, you droll creature!

Mr. Flam.—And these are your ladyship’s seven lovely sisters, to judge from their likenesses to the charming Lady Bacon?

Lady B.—My sisters, he! he! my DAUGHTERS, Mr. Flam, and THEY dance, don’t you, girls?

The Misses Bacon.—O yes!

Mr. Flam.—Gad! how I wish I was a dancing man!

[Exit FLAM.


I have not been able to do justice (only a Lawrence could do that) to my respected friend Mrs. Perkins, in this picture; but Larkins’s portrait is considered very like. Adolphus Larkins has been long connected with Mr. Perkins’s City establishment, and is asked to dine twice or thrice per annum. Evening-parties are the great enjoyment of this simple youth, who, after he has walked from Kentish Town to Thames Street, and passed twelve hours in severe labor there, and walked back again to Kentish Town, finds no greater pleasure than to attire his lean person in that elegant evening costume which you see, to walk into town again, and to dance at anybody’s house who will invite him. Islington, Pentonville, Somers Town, are the scenes of many of his exploits; and I have seen this good-natured fellow performing figure-dances at Notting-hill, at a house where I am ashamed to say there was no supper, no negus even to speak of, nothing but the bare merits of the polka in which Adolphus revels. To describe this gentleman’s infatuation for dancing, let me say, in a word, that he will even frequent boarding-house hops, rather than not go.

He has clogs, too, like Minchin: but nobody laughs at HIM. He gives himself no airs; but walks into a house with a knock and a demeanor so tremulous and humble, that the servants rather patronize him. He does not speak, or have any particular opinions, but when the time comes, begins to dance. He bleats out a word or two to his partner during this operation, seems very weak and sad during the whole performance, and, of course, is set to dance with the ugliest women everywhere.

The gentle, kind spirit! when I think of him night after night, hopping and jigging, and trudging off to Kentish Town, so gently, through the fogs, and mud, and darkness: I do not know whether I ought to admire him, because his enjoyments are so simple, and his dispositions so kindly; or laugh at him, because he draws his life so exquisitely mild. Well, well, we can’t be all roaring lions in this world; there must be SOME lambs, and harmless, kindly, gregarious creatures for eating and shearing. See! even goodnatured Mrs. Perkins is leading up the trembling Larkins to the tremendous Miss Bunion!


The Poetess, author of "Heartstrings," "The Deadly Nightshade," "Passion Flowers," &c. Though her poems breathe only of love, Miss B. has never been married. She is nearly six feet high; she loves waltzing beyond even poesy; and I think lobster-salad as much as either. She confesses to twenty-eight; in which case her first volume, "The Orphan of Gozo," (cut up by Mr. Rigby, in the Quarterly, with his usual kindness,) must have been published when she was three years old.

For a woman all soul, she certainly eats as much as any woman I ever saw. The sufferings she has had to endure, are, she says, beyond compare; the poems which she writes breathe a withering passion, a smouldering despair, an agony of spirit that would melt the soul of a drayman, were he to read them. Well, it is a comfort to see that she can dance of nights, and to know (for the habits of illustrious literary persons are always worth knowing) that she eats a hot mutton-chop for breakfast every morning of her blighted existence.

She lives in a boardinghouse at Brompton, and comes to the party in a fly.


It is worth twopence to see Miss Bunion and Poseidon Hicks, the great poet, conversing with one another, and to talk of one to the other afterwards. How they hate each other! I (in my wicked way) have sent Hicks almost raving mad, by praising Bunion to him in confidence; and you can drive Bunion out of the room by a few judicious panegyrics of Hicks.

Hicks first burst upon the astonished world with poems, in the Byronic manner: "The Death-Shriek," "The Bastard of Lara," "The Atabal," "The Fire-Ship of Botzaris," and other works. His "Love Lays," in Mr. Moore’s early style, were pronounced to be wonderfully precocious for a young gentleman then only thirteen, and in a commercial academy, at Tooting.

Subsequently, this great bard became less passionate and more thoughtful; and, at the age of twenty, wrote "Idiosyncracy" (in forty books, 4to.): "Ararat," "a stupendous epic," as the reviews said; and "The Megatheria," "a magnificent contribution to our pre- Adamite literature," according to the same authorities. Not having read these works, it would ill become me to judge them; but I know that poor Jingle, the publisher, always attributed his insolvency to the latter epic, which was magnificently printed in elephant folio.

Hicks has now taken a classical turn, and has brought out "Poseidon," "Iacchus," "Hephaestus," and I dare say is going through the mythology. But I should not like to try him at a passage of the Greek Delectus, any more than twenty thousand others of us who have had a "classical education."

Hicks was taken in an inspired attitude regarding the chandelier, and pretending he didn’t know that Miss Pettifer was looking at him.

Her name is Anna Maria (daughter of Higgs and Pettifer, solicitors, Bedford Row); but Hicks calls her "Ianthe" in his album verses, and is himself an eminent drysalter in the city.


Poor Miss Meggot is not so lucky as Miss Bunion. Nobody comes to dance with HER, though she has a new frock on, as she calls it, and rather a pretty foot, which she always manages to stick out.

She is forty-seven, the youngest of three sisters, who live a mouldy old house, near Middlesex Hospital, where they have lived for I don’t know how many score of years; but this is certain: the eldest Miss Meggot saw the Gordon Riots out of that same parlor window, and tells the story how her father (physician to George III.) was robbed of his queue in the streets on that occasion. The two old ladies have taken the brevet rank, and are addressed as Mrs. Jane and Mrs. Betsy: one of them is at whist in the back drawing-room. But the youngest is still called Miss Nancy, and is considered quite a baby by her sisters.

She was going to be married once to a brave young officer, Ensign Angus Macquirk, of the Whistlebinkie Fencibles; but he fell at Quatre Bras, by the side of the gallant Snuffmull, his commander. Deeply, deeply did Miss Nancy deplore him.

But time has cicatrized the wounded heart. She is gay now, and would sing or dance, ay, or marry if anybody asked her.

Do go, my dear friend—I don’t mean to ask her to marry, but to ask her to dance.—Never mind the looks of the thing. It will make her happy; and what does it cost you? Ah, my dear fellow! take this counsel: always dance with the old ladies—always dance with the governesses. It is a comfort to the poor things when they get up in their garret that somebody has had mercy on them. And such a handsome fellow as YOU too!


Mr. W. Miss Mullins, look at Miss Ranville: what a picture of good humor.

Miss M.—Oh, you satirical creature!

Mr. W.—Do you know why she is so angry? she expected to dance with Captain Grig, and by some mistake, the Cambridge Professor got hold of her: isn’t he a handsome man?

Miss M.—Oh, you droll wretch!

Mr. W.—Yes, he’s a fellow of college—fellows mayn’t marry, Miss Mullins—poor fellows, ay, Miss Mullins?

Miss M.—La!

Mr. W.—And Professor of Phlebotomy in the University. He flatters himself he is a man of the world, Miss Mullins, and always dances in the long vacation.

Miss M.—You malicious, wicked monster!

Mr. W.—Do you know Lady Jane Ranville? Miss Ranville’s mamma. A ball once a year; footmen in canary-colored livery: Baker Street; six dinners in the season; starves all the year round; pride and poverty, you know; I’ve been to her ball ONCE. Ranville Ranville’s her brother, and between you and me—but this, dear Miss Mullins, is a profound secret,—I think he’s a greater fool than his sister.

Miss M.—Oh, you satirical, droll, malicious, wicked thing you!

Mr. W.—You do me injustice, Miss Mullins, indeed you do.

[Chaine Anglaise.]


Mr. B.—What spirits that girl has, Mrs. Joy!

Mr. J.—She’s a sunshine in a house, Botter, a regular sunshine. When Mrs. J. here’s in a bad humor, I . . .

Mrs. J.—Don’t talk nonsense, Mr. Joy.

Mrs. B.—There’s a hop, skip, and jump for you! Why, it beats Ellsler! Upon my conscience it does! It’s her fourteenth quadrille too. There she goes! She’s a jewel of a girl, though I say it that shouldn’t.

Mrs. J. (laughing).—Why don’t you marry her, Botter? Shall I speak to her? I dare say she’d have you. You’re not so VERY old.

Mr. B.—Don’t aggravate me, Mrs. J. You know when I lost my heart in the year 1817, at the opening of Waterloo Bridge, to a young lady who wouldn’t have me, and left me to die in despair, and married Joy, of the Stock Exchange.

Mrs. J. Get away, you foolish old creature.

[MR. JOY looks on in ecstasies at Miss Joy’s agility. LADY JANE RANVILLE, of Baker Street, pronounces her to be an exceedingly forward person. CAPTAIN DOBBS likes a girl who has plenty of go in her; and as for FRED SPARKS, he is over head and ears in love with her.]


This is Miss Ranville Ranville’s brother, Mr. Ranville Ranville, of the Foreign Office, faithfully designed as he was playing at whist in the card-room. Talleyrand used to play at whist at the "Travellers’," that is why Ranville Ranville indulges in that diplomatic recreation. It is not his fault if he be not the greatest man in the room.

If you speak to him, he smiles sternly, and answers in monosyllables he would rather die than commit himself. He never has committed himself in his life. He was the first at school, and distinguished at Oxford. He is growing prematurely bald now, like Canning, and is quite proud of it. He rides in St. James’s Park of a morning before breakfast. He dockets his tailor’s bills, and nicks off his dinner-notes in diplomatic paragraphs, and keeps precis of them all. If he ever makes a joke, it is a quotation from Horace, like Sir Robert Peel. The only relaxation he permits himself, is to read Thucydides in the holidays.

Everybody asks him out to dinner, on account of his brass-buttons with the Queen’s cipher, and to have the air of being well with the Foreign Office. "Where I dine," he says solemnly, "I think it is my duty to go to evening-parties." That is why he is here. He never dances, never sups, never drinks. He has gruel when he goes home to bed. I think it is in his brains.

He is such an ass and so respectable, that one wonders he has not succeeded in the world; and yet somehow they laugh at him; and you and I shall be Ministers as soon as he will.

Yonder, making believe to look over the print-books, is that merry rogue, Jack Hubbard.

See how jovial he looks! He is the life and soul of every party, and his impromptu singing after supper will make you die of laughing. He is meditating an impromptu now, and at the same time thinking about a bill that is coming due next Thursday. Happy dog!


Dear Emma Trotter has been silent and rather ill-humored all the evening until now her pretty face lights up with smiles. Cannot you guess why? Pity the simple and affectionate creature! Lord Methuselah has not arrived until this moment: and see how the artless girl steps forward to greet him!

In the midst of all the selfishness and turmoil of the world, how charming it is to find virgin hearts quite unsullied, and to look on at little romantic pictures of mutual love! Lord Methuselah, though you know his age by the peerage—though he is old, wigged, gouty, rouged, wicked, has lighted up a pure flame in that gentle bosom. There was a talk about Tom Willoughby last year; and then, for a time, young Hawbuck (Sir John Hawbuck’s youngest son) seemed the favored man; but Emma never knew her mind until she met the dear creature before you in a Rhine steamboat. "Why are you so late, Edward?" says she. Dear artless child!

Her mother looks on with tender satisfaction. One can appreciate the joys of such an admirable parent!

"Look at them!" says Miss Toady. "I vow and protest they’re the handsomest couple in the room!"

Methuselah’s grandchildren are rather jealous and angry, and Mademoiselle Ariane, of the French theatre, is furious. But there’s no accounting for the mercenary envy of some people; and it is impossible to satisfy everybody.


Those three young men are described in a twinkling: Captain Grig of the Heavies; Mr. Beaumoris, the handsome young man; Tom Flinders (Flynders Flynders he now calls himself), the fat gentleman who dresses after Beaumoris.

Beaumoris is in the Treasury: he has a salary of eighty pounds a year, on which he maintains the best cab and horses of the season; and out of which he pays seventy guineas merely for his subscriptions to clubs. He hunts in Leicestershire, where great men mount him; he is a prodigious favorite behind the scenes at the theatres; you may get glimpses of him at Richmond, with all sorts of pink bonnets; and he is the sworn friend of half the most famous roues about town, such as Old Methuselah, Lord Billygoat, Lord Tarquin, and the rest: a respectable race. It is to oblige the former that the good-natured young fellow is here to-night; though it must not be imagined that he gives himself any airs of superiority. Dandy as he is, he is quite affable, and would borrow ten guineas from any man in the room, in the most jovial way possible.

It is neither Beau’s birth, which is doubtful; nor his money, which is entirely negative; nor his honesty, which goes along with his money-qualification; nor his wit, for he can barely spell,—which recommend him to the fashionable world: but a sort of Grand Seigneur splendor and dandified je ne scais quoi, which make the man he is of him. The way in which his boots and gloves fit him is a wonder which no other man can achieve; and though he has not an atom of principle, it must be confessed that he invented the Taglioni shirt.

When I see these magnificent dandies yawning out of "White’s," or caracoling in the Park on shining chargers, I like to think that Brummell was the greatest of them all, and that Brummell’s father was a footman.

Flynders is Beaumoris’s toady: lends him money: buys horses through his recommendation; dresses after him; clings to him in Pall Mall, and on the steps of the club; and talks about ’Bo’ in all societies. It is his drag which carries down Bo’s friends to the Derby, and his cheques pay for dinners to the pink bonnets. I don’t believe the Perkinses know what a rogue it is, but fancy him a decent, reputable City man, like his father before him.

As for Captain Grig, what is there to tell about him? He performs the duties of his calling with perfect gravity. He is faultless on parade; excellent across country; amiable when drunk, rather slow when sober. He has not two ideas, and is a most good-natured, irreproachable, gallant, and stupid young officer.


This is my friend Bob Hely, performing the Cavalier seul in a quadrille. Remark the good-humored pleasure depicted in his countenance. Has he any secret grief? Has he a pain anywhere? No, dear Miss Jones, he is dancing like a true Briton, and with all the charming gayety and abandon of our race.

When Canaillard performs that Cavalier seul operation, does HE flinch? No: he puts on his most vainqueur look, he sticks his thumbs into the armholes of his waistcoat, and advances, retreats, pirouettes, and otherwise gambadoes, as though to say, "Regarde moi, O monde! Venez, O femmes, venez voir danser Canaillard!"

When De Bobwitz executes the same measure, he does it with smiling agility, and graceful ease.

But poor Hely, if he were advancing to a dentist, his face would not be more cheerful. All the eyes of the room are upon him, he thinks; and he thinks he looks like a fool.

Upon my word, if you press the point with me, dear Miss Jones, I think he is not very far from right. I think that while Frenchmen and Germans may dance, as it is their nature to do, there is a natural dignity about us Britons, which debars us from that enjoyment. I am rather of the Turkish opinion, that this should be done for us. I think . . .

"Good-by, you envious old fox-and-the-grapes," says Miss Jones, and the next moment I see her whirling by in a polka with Tom Tozer, at a pace which makes me shrink back with terror into the little boudoir.



Canaillard. Oh, ces Anglais! quels hommes, mon Dieu! Comme ils sont habilles, comme ils dansent!

Bobwitz.—Ce sont de beaux hommes bourtant; point de tenue militaire, mais de grands gaillards; si je les avais dans ma compagnie de la Garde, j’en ferai de bons soldats.

Canaillard.—Est-il bete, cet Allemand! Les grands hommes ne font pas toujours de bons soldats, Monsieur. Il me semble que les soldats de France qui sont de ma taille, Monsieur, valent un peu mieux . . .

Bobwitz.—Vous croyez?

Canaillard.—Comment! je le crois, Monsieur? J’en suis sur! Il me semble, Monsieur, que nous l’avons prouve.

Bobwitz (impatiently).—Je m’en vais danser la Bolka. Serviteur, Monsieur.

Canaillard.—Butor! (He goes and looks at himself in the glass, when he is seized by Mrs. Perkins for the Polka.)



Mr. Brown.—You polk, Miss Bustleton? I’m SO delaighted.

Miss Bustleton.—[Smiles and prepares to rise.]

Mr. Smith.—D--- puppy.

(Poor Smith don’t polk.)


Though a quadrille seems to me as dreary as a funeral, yet to look at a polka, I own, is pleasant. See! Brown and Emily Bustleton are whirling round as light as two pigeons over a dovecot; Tozer, with that wicked whisking little Jones, spins along as merrily as a May-day sweep; Miss Joy is the partner of the happy Fred Sparks; and even Miss Ranville is pleased, for the faultless Captain Grig is toe and heel with her. Beaumoris, with rather a nonchalant air, takes a turn with Miss Trotter, at which Lord Methuseleh’s wrinkled chops quiver uneasily. See! how the big Baron de Bobwitz spins lightly, and gravely, and gracefully round; and lo! the Frenchman staggering under the weight of Miss Bunion, who tramps and kicks like a young cart-horse.

But the most awful sight which met my view in this dance was the unfortunate Miss Little, to whom fate had assigned THE MULLIGAN as a partner. Like a pavid kid in the talons of an eagle, that young creature trembled in his huge Milesian grasp. Disdaining the recognized form of the dance, the Irish chieftain accommodated the music to the dance of his own green land, and performed a double shuffle jig, carrying Miss Little along with him. Miss Ranville and her Captain shrank back amazed; Miss Trotter skirried out of his way into the protection of the astonished Lord Methuselah; Fred Sparks could hardly move for laughing; while, on the contrary, Miss Joy was quite in pain for poor Sophy Little. As Canaillard and the Poetess came up, The Mulligan, in the height of his enthusiasm, lunged out a kick which sent Miss Bunion howling; and concluded with a tremendous Hurroo!—a war-cry which caused every Saxon heart to shudder and quail.

"Oh that the earth would open and kindly take me in!" I exclaimed mentally; and slunk off into the lower regions, where by this time half the company were at supper.


The supper is going on behind the screen. There is no need to draw the supper. We all know that sort of transaction: the squabbling, and gobbling, and popping of champagne; the smell of musk and lobster-salad; the dowagers chumping away at plates of raised pie; the young lassies nibbling at little titbits, which the dexterous young gentlemen procure. Three large men, like doctors of divinity, wait behind the table, and furnish everything that appetite can ask for. I never, for my part, can eat any supper for wondering at those men. I believe if you were to ask them for mashed turnips, or a slice of crocodile, those astonishing people would serve you. What a contempt they must have for the guttling crowd to whom they minister—those solemn pastry-cook’s men! How they must hate jellies, and game-pies, and champagne, in their hearts! How they must scorn my poor friend Grundsell behind the screen, who is sucking at a bottle!

This disguised green-grocer is a very well-known character in the neighborhood of Pocklington Square. He waits at the parties of the gentry in the neighborhood, and though, of course, despised in families where a footman is kept, is a person of much importance in female establishments.

Miss Jonas always employs him at her parties, and says to her page, "Vincent, send the butler, or send Desborough to me;" by which name she chooses to designate G. G.

When the Miss Frumps have post-horses to their carriage, and pay visits, Grundsell always goes behind. Those ladies have the greatest confidence in him, have been godmothers to fourteen of his children, and leave their house in his charge when they go to Bognor for the summer. He attended those ladies when they were presented at the last drawing-room of her Majesty Queen Charlotte.






Carpets Beat.—Knives and Boots cleaned per contract.—Errands
faithfully performed—G. G. attends Ball and Dinner parties,
and from his knowledge of the most distinguished Families in
London, confidently recommends his services to the
distinguished neighbourhood of Pocklington Square.

Mr. Grundsell’s state costume is a blue coat and copper buttons, a white waistcoat, and an immense frill and shirt-collar. He was for many years a private watchman, and once canvassed for the office of parish clerk of St. Peter’s Pocklington. He can be intrusted with untold spoons; with anything, in fact, but liquor; and it was he who brought round the cards for MRS. PERKINS’S BALL.


I do not intend to say any more about it. After the people had supped, they went back and danced. Some supped again. I gave Miss Bunion, with my own hands, four bumpers of champagne: and such a quantity of goose-liver and truffles, that I don’t wonder she took a glass of cherry-brandy afterwards. The gray morning was in Pocklington Square as she drove away in her fly. So did the other people go away. How green and sallow some of the girls looked, and how awfully clear Mrs. Colonel Bludyer’s rouge was! Lady Jane Ranville’s great coach had roared away down the streets long before. Fred Minchin pattered off in his clogs: it was I who covered up Miss Meggot, and conducted her, with her two old sisters, to the carriage. Good old souls! They have shown their gratitude by asking me to tea next Tuesday. Methuselah is gone to finish the night at the club. "Mind to-morrow," Miss Trotter says, kissing her hand out of the carriage. Canaillard departs, asking the way to "Lesterre Squar." They all go away—life goes away.

Look at Miss Martin and young Ward! How tenderly the rogue is wrapping her up! how kindly she looks at him! The old folks are whispering behind as they wait for their carriage. What is their talk, think you? and when shall that pair make a match? When you see those pretty little creatures with their smiles and their blushes, and their pretty ways, would you like to be the Grand Bashaw?

"Mind and send me a large piece of cake," I go up and whisper archly to old Mr. Ward: and we look on rather sentimentally at the couple, almost the last in the rooms (there, I declare, go the musicians, and the clock is at five)—when Grundsell, with an air effare, rushes up to me and says, "For e’v’n sake, sir, go into the supper-room: there’s that Hirish gent a-pitchin’ into Mr. P."


It was too true. I had taken him away after supper (he ran after Miss Little’s carriage, who was dying in love with him as he fancied), but the brute had come back again. The doctors of divinity were putting up their condiments: everybody was gone; but the abominable Mulligan sat swinging his legs at the lonely suppertable!

Perkins was opposite, gasping at him.

The Mulligan.—I tell ye, ye are the butler, ye big fat man. Go get me some more champagne: it’s good at this house.

Mr. Perkins (with dignity).—It IS good at this house; but—

The Mulligan.—Bht hwhat, ye goggling, bow-windowed jackass? Go get the wine, and we’ll dthrink it together, my old buck.

Mr. Perkins.—My name, sir, is PERKINS.

The Mulligan.—Well, that rhymes with jerkins, my man of firkins; so don’t let us have any more shirkings and lurkings, Mr. Perkins.

Mr. Perkins (with apoplectic energy).—Sir, I am the master of this house; and I order you to quit it. I’ll not be insulted, sir. I’ll send for a policeman, sir. What do you mean, Mr. Titmarsh, sir, by bringing this—this beast into my house, sir?

At this, with a scream like that of a Hyrcanian tiger, Mulligan of the hundred battles sprang forward at his prey; but we were beforehand with him. Mr. Gregory, Mr. Grundsell, Sir Giles Bacon’s large man, the young gentlemen, and myself, rushed simultaneously upon the tipsy chieftain, and confined him. The doctors of divinity looked on with perfect indifference. That Mr. Perkins did not go off in a fit is a wonder. He was led away heaving and snorting frightfully.

Somebody smashed Mulligan’s hat over his eyes, and I led him forth into the silent morning. The chirrup of the birds, the freshness of the rosy air, and a penn’orth of coffee that I got for him at a stall in the Regent Circus, revived him somewhat. When I quitted him, he was not angry but sad. He was desirous, it is true, of avenging the wrongs of Erin in battle line; he wished also to share the grave of Sarsfield and Hugh O’Neill; but he was sure that Miss Perkins, as well as Miss Little, was desperately in love with him; and I left him on a doorstep in tears.

"Is it best to be laughing-mad, or crying-mad, in the world?" says I moodily, coming into my street. Betsy the maid was already up and at work, on her knees, scouring the steps, and cheerfully beginning her honest daily labor.


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William Makepeace Thackeray

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Chicago: William Makepeace Thackeray, "Mrs. Perkins’s Ball.," The Christmas Books, ed. Macaulay, G. C. (George Campbell), 1852-1915 and trans. Curtin, Jeremiah, 1835-1906 in The Christmas Books (Boston: John W. Luce and Company, 1911), Original Sources, accessed December 1, 2023,

MLA: Thackeray, William Makepeace. "Mrs. Perkins’s Ball." The Christmas Books, edited by Macaulay, G. C. (George Campbell), 1852-1915, and translated by Curtin, Jeremiah, 1835-1906, in The Christmas Books, Boston, John W. Luce and Company, 1911, Original Sources. 1 Dec. 2023.

Harvard: Thackeray, WM, 'Mrs. Perkins’s Ball.' in The Christmas Books, ed. and trans. . cited in 1911, The Christmas Books, John W. Luce and Company, Boston. Original Sources, retrieved 1 December 2023, from