THE COMEDY THAT WROTE ITSELF AS RELATED BY G. A. RICHARDSON.
How pleasant it is to have money, heigho!
How pleasant it is to have money!
Sings (I think) Clough. Well, I had money, and more of it than I felt any desire to spend; which is as much as any reasonable man can want. My age was five-and-twenty, my health good, my conscience moderately clean, and my appetite excellent: I had fame in some degree, and a fair prospect of adding to it: and I was unmarried. In later life a man may seek marriage for its own sake, but at five-and-twenty he marries against his will–because he has fallen in love with a woman; and this had not yet happened to me. I was a bachelor, and content to remain one.
To come to smaller matters–The month was early June, the weather perfect, the solitude of my own choosing, and my posture comfortable enough to invite drowsiness. I had bathed and, stretched supine in the shade of a high sand-bank, was smoking the day’s first cigarette. Behind me lay Ambleteuse; before me, the sea. On the edge of it, their shrill challenges softened by the distance to music, a score of children played with spades and buckets, innocently composing a hundred pretty groups of brown legs, fluttered hair, bright frocks and jerseys, and innocently conspiring with morning to put a spirit of youth into the whole picture. Beyond them the blue sea flashed with its own smiles, and the blue heaven over them with the glancing wings of gulls. On this showing it is evident that I, George Anthony Richardson, ought to have been happy; whereas, in fact, Richardson was cheerful enough, but George Anthony restless and ill-content: by reason that Richardson, remembering the past, enjoyed by contrast the present, and knew himself to be jolly well off; while George Anthony, likewise remembering the past, felt gravely concerned for the future.
Let me explain. A year ago I had been a clerk in the Office of the Local Government Board–a detested calling with a derisory stipend. It was all that a University education (a second in Moderations and a third in Literae Humaniores) had enabled me to win, and I stuck to it because I possessed no patrimony and had no ‘prospects’ save one, which stood precariously on the favour of an uncle–my mother’s brother, Major-General Allan Mclntosh, C.B. Now the General could not be called an indulgent man. He had retired from active service to concentrate upon his kinsfolk those military gifts which even on the wide plains of Hindostan had kept him the terror of his country’s foes and the bugbear of his own soldiery. He had an iron sense of discipline and a passion for it; he detested all forms of amusement; in religion he belonged to the sect of the Peculiar People; and he owned a gloomy house near the western end of the Cromwell Road, where he dwelt and had for butler, valet, and factotum a Peculiar Person named Trewlove.
In those days I found my chief recreation in the theatre; and by-and-by, when I essayed to write for it, and began to pester managers with curtain-raisers, small vaudevilles, comic libretti and the like, you will guess that in common prudence I called myself by a nom de guerre. Dropping the ‘Richardson,’ I signed my productions ‘George Anthony,’ and as ‘George Anthony’ the playgoing public now discusses me. For some while, I will confess, the precaution was superfluous, the managers having apparently entered into league to ensure me as much obscurity as I had any use for. But at length in an unguarded moment the manager of the Duke of Cornwall’s Theatre (formerly the Euterpe) accepted a three-act farce. It was poorly acted, yet for some reason it took the town. ‘Larks in Aspic, a Farcical Comedy by George Anthony,’ ran for a solid three hundred nights; and before it ceased my unsuspecting uncle had closed his earthly career, leaving me with seventy thousand pounds (the bulk of it invested in India Government stock), the house in the Cromwell Road, and, lastly, in sacred trust, his faithful body-servant, William John Trewlove.