Axidava

Life The Plagiarist

I once asked a lady, who knew Thackeray intimately, whether he had had any model for Becky Sharp.  She told me that Becky was an invention, but that the idea of the character had been partly suggested by a governess who lived in the neighbourhood of Kensington Square, and was the companion of a very selfish and rich old woman.  I inquired what became of the governess, and she replied that, oddly enough, some years after the appearance of Vanity Fair, she ran away with the nephew of the lady with whom she was living, and for a short time made a great splash in society, quite in Mrs. Rawdon Crawley’s style, and entirely by Mrs. Rawdon Crawley’s methods.  Ultimately she came to grief, disappeared to the Continent, and used to be occasionally seen at Monte Carlo and other gambling places.  The noble gentleman from whom the same great sentimentalist drew Colonel Newcome died, a few months after The Newcomer had reached a fourth edition, with the word ‘Adsum’ on his lips.  Shortly after Mr. Stevenson published his curious psychological story of transformation, a friend of mine, called Mr. Hyde, was in the north of London, and being anxious to get to a railway station, took what he thought would be a short cut, lost his way, and found himself in a network of mean, evil-looking streets.  Feeling rather nervous he began to walk extremely fast, when suddenly out of an archway ran a child right between his legs.  It fell on the pavement, he tripped over it, and trampled upon it.  Being of course very much frightened and a little hurt, it began to scream, and in a few seconds the whole street was full of rough people who came pouring out of the houses like ants.  They surrounded him, and asked him his name.  He was just about to give it when he suddenly remembered the opening incident in Mr. Stevenson’s story.  He was so filled with horror at having realised in his own person that terrible and well-written scene, and at having done accidentally, though in fact, what the Mr. Hyde of fiction had done with deliberate intent, that he ran away as hard as he could go.  He was, however, very closely followed, and finally he took refuge in a surgery, the door of which happened to be open, where he explained to a young assistant, who happened to be there, exactly what had occurred.  The humanitarian crowd were induced to go away on his giving them a small sum of money, and as soon as the coast was clear he left.  As he passed out, the name on the brass door-plate of the surgery caught his eye.  It was ‘Jekyll.’  At least it should have been.

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