Anthony Trollope, Can You Forgive Her?: Vol. 2, Ch. 5

[+] | [-] | reset

Chapter XLV: George Vavasor Takes His Seat 

George Vavasor's feeling of triumph was not unjustifiable. It is something to have sat in the House of Commons, though it has been but for one session! There is on the left-hand side of our great national hall,—on the left-hand side as one enters it, and opposite to the doors leading to the Law Courts,—a pair of gilded lamps, with a door between them, near to which a privileged old dame sells her apples and her oranges solely, as I presume, for the accommodation of the Members of the House and of the great policeman who guards the pass. Between those lamps is the entrance to the House of Commons, and none but Members may go that way! It is the only gate before which I have ever stood filled with envy,—sorrowing to think that my steps might never pass under it. There are many portals forbidden to me, as there are many forbidden to all men; and forbidden fruit, they say, is sweet; but my lips have watered after no other fruit but that which grows so high, within the sweep of that great policeman's truncheon.

Ah, my male friend and reader, who earnest thy bread, perhaps, as a country vicar; or sittest, may-be, at some weary desk in Somerset House; or who, perhaps, rulest the yard behind the Cheapside counter, hast thou never stood there and longed,—hast thou never confessed, when standing there, that Fate has been unkind to thee in denying thee the one thing that thou hast wanted? I have done so; and as my slow steps have led me up that more than royal staircase, to those passages and halls which require the hallowing breath of centuries to give them the glory in British eyes which they shall one day possess, I have told myself, in anger and in grief, that to die and not to have won that right of way, though but for a session,—not to have passed by the narrow entrance through those lamps,—is to die and not to have done that which it most becomes an Englishman to have achieved.

There are, doubtless, some who come out by that road, the loss of whose society is not to be regretted. England does not choose her six hundred and fifty-four best men. One comforts one's self, sometimes, with remembering that. The George Vavasors, the Calder Joneses, and the Botts are admitted. Dishonesty, ignorance, and vulgarity do not close the gate of that heaven against aspirants; and it is a consolation to the ambition of the poor to know that the ambition of the rich can attain that glory by the strength of its riches alone. But though England does not send thither none but her best men, the best of her Commoners do find their way there. It is the highest and most legitimate pride of an Englishman to have the letters M.P. written after his name. No selection from the alphabet, no doctorship, no fellowship, be it of ever so learned or royal a society, no knightship,—not though it be of the Garter,—confers so fair an honour. Mr Bott was right when he declared that this country is governed from between the walls of that House, though the truth was almost defiled by the lips which uttered it. He might have added that from thence flow the waters of the world's progress,—the fullest fountain of advancing civilization.