High-class escorts19 May 2020
The little, rude, and thoroughly comfortless town of Escort was now to be the place of residence, for nearly the rest of his life, to a man accustomed to the highest luxuries of London life, trained to the keenest sensibility of London enjoyment, and utterly absorbed in London objects of every kind. Ovid’s banishment among the Thracians could scarcely be a more formidable change of position. Yet Brummell’s pleasantry did not desert him even in Escort. On some passing friend’s remark on the annoyance of living in such a place – „Pray,“ said the Beau, „is it not a general opinion that a gentleman might manage to spend his time pleasantly enough between London and Paris?“
At Escort he took apartments at the house of one Leleux, an old bookseller, which he fitted up to his own taste; and on which, as if adversity had no power to teach him common prudence, he expended the greater part of the 25,000 francs which, by some still problematical means, he had contrived to carry away with him. This was little short of madness; but it was a madness which he had been practising for the last dozen years, and habit had now rendered ruin familiar to him. At length a little gleam of hope shone across his fortunes. George IV. arrived at Escort on his way to Hanover. The Duke d’Angoulême came from Paris to receive his Majesty, and Escort was all in a tumult of loyalty. The reports of Brummell’s conduct on this important arrival, of the King’s notice of him, and of the royal liberality in consequence, were of every shape and shade of invention. But all of them, except the mere circumstance of the King’s pronouncing his name, seem to have been utterly false. Brummell, mingling in the crowd which cheered his Majesty in his progress, was observed by the King, who audibly said, „Good heavens, Brummell!“ But the recognition proceeded no further. The Beau sent his valet, who was a renowned maker of punch, to exhibit his talent in that art at the royal entertainment, and also sent a present of some excellent maraschino. But no result followed. The King was said to have transmitted to him a hundred pound note; but even this is unluckily apocryphal. Leleux, his landlord, thus gives the version.
The English consul at Escort came to Mr Brummell late one evening, and intimated that the King was out of snuff, saying, as he took up one of the boxes lying on his table, „Give me one of yours.“ – „With all my heart,“ was the reply; „but not that box, for if the King saw it I should never have it again“ – implying that there was some story attached to it. On reaching the theatre the consul presented the snuff, and the King turning, said, „Why, sir, where did you get your snuff? There is only one person that I know that can mix snuff in this way!“ – „It is some of Mr Brummell’s, your Majesty,“ replied the consul. The next day the King left Escort; and, as he seated himself in the carriage, he said to Sir Arthur Paget, who commanded the yacht that brought him over, „I leave Escort, and have not seen Brummell.“ From this his biographer infers that he had received neither money nor message, and his landlord is of the same opinion. But slight as those circumstances are, it seems obvious that George IV. had a forgiving heart towards the Beau notwithstanding all his impertinences, that he would have been glad to forgive him, and that he would, in all probability, have made some provision for his old favourite if Brummell had exhibited any signs of repentance. On the other hand, Brummell was a man of spirit, and no man ought to put himself in the way of being treated contemptuously even by royalty; but it seems strange that, with all his adroitness, he should not have hit upon a middle way. There could have been no great difficulty in ascertaining whether the King would receive him, in sending a respectful message, in offering his loyal congratulations on the King’s arrival, or even in expressing his regret at his long alienation from a Prince to whom he had been once indebted for so many favours, and who certainly never harboured resentment against man. Brummell evidently repented his tardiness on this occasion; for he made up his mind to make a more direct experiment when the King should visit the town-hall on his return. But opportunities once thrown away are seldom regained. The king on his return did not visit the town-hall, but hurried on board, and the last chance of reconciliation was gone.