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Arthur Pendennis
by [?]

Early in the Regency of George the Magnificent there lived in a small town in the west of England, called Clavering, a gentleman whose name was Pendennis. At an earlier date Mr. Pendennis had exercised the profession of apothecary and surgeon, and had even condescended to sell a plaster across the counter of his humble shop, or to vend tooth-brushes, hair-powder, and London perfumery. And yet that little apothecary was a gentleman with good education, and of as old a family as any in the county of Somerset. He had a Cornish pedigree which carried the Pendennises back to the time of the Druids. He had had a piece of University education, and might have pursued that career with honour, but in his second year at Oxford his father died insolvent, and he was obliged to betake himself to the trade which he always detested. For some time he had a hard struggle with poverty, but his manners were so gentleman-like and soothing that he was called in to prescribe for some of the ladies in the best families of Bath. Then his humble little shop became a smart one; then he shut it up altogether; then he had a gig with a man to drive in; and before she died his poor old mother had the happiness of seeing her beloved son step into a close carriage of his own; with the arms of the family of Pendennis handsomely emblazoned on the panels. He married Miss Helen Thistlewood, a very distant relative of the noble family of Bareacres, having met that young lady under Lady Pentypool’s roof.

The secret ambition of Mr. Pendennis had always been to be a gentleman. By prudence and economy, his income was largely increased, and finally he sold his business for a handsome sum, and retired forever from handling of the mortar and pestle, having purchased as a home the house of Fair-Oaks, nearly a mile out of Clavering.

The estate was a beautiful one, and Arthur Pendennis, his son, being then but eight years of age, dated his earliest recollections from that place.

Fair-Oaks lawn comes down to the little river Brawl, and on the other side were the plantations and woods of Clavering Park. The park was let out in pasture when the Pendennises came first to live at Fair-Oaks. Shutters were up in the house; a splendid free stone palace, with great stairs, statues and porticos. Sir Richard Clavering, Sir Francis’s grandfather, had commenced the ruin of the family by the building of this palace: his successor had achieved the ruin by living in it. The present Sir Francis was abroad somewhere, and until now nobody could be found rich enough to rent that enormous mansion; through the deserted rooms, mouldy, clanking halls, and dismal galleries of which Arthur Pendennis many a time walked trembling when he was a boy. At sunset from the lawn of Fair-Oaks there was a pretty sight: it and the opposite park of Clavering were in the habit of putting on a rich golden tinge, which became them both wonderfully. The upper windows of the great house flamed so as to make your eyes wink; the little river ran off noisily westward and was lost in sombre wood, behind which the towers of the old abbey church of Clavering (whereby that town is called Clavering St. Mary’s to the present day) rose up in purple splendour. Little Arthur’s figure and his mother’s cast long blue shadows over the grass: and he would repeat in a low voice (for a scene of great natural beauty always moved the boy, who inherited this sensibility from his mother) certain lines beginning, “These are thy glorious works. Parent of Good; Almighty! thine this universal frame,” greatly to Mrs. Pendennis’s delight. Such walks and conversation generally ended in a profusion of filial and maternal embraces; for to love and to pray were the main occupations of this dear woman’s life; and I have often heard Pendennis say in his wild way, that he felt that he was sure of going to heaven, for his mother never could be happy there without him.