CHAPTER XVIII

My Good Fortune Begins to Waver

And now, if any people should be disposed to think my history immoral (for I have heard some assert that I was a man who never deserved that so much prosperity should fall to my share), I will beg those cavillers to do me the favour to read the conclusion of my adventures; when they will see it was no such great prize that I had won, and that wealth, splendour, thirty thousand per annum, and a seat in Parliament, are often purchased at too dear a rate, when one has to buy those enjoyments at the price of personal liberty, and saddled with the charge of a troublesome wife.

They are the deuce, these troublesome wives, and that is the truth. No man knows until he tries how wearisome and disheartening the burthen of one of them is, and how the annoyance grows and strengthens from year to year, and the courage becomes weaker to bear it; so that that trouble which seemed light and trivial the first year, becomes intolerable ten years after.

I have heard of one of the classical fellows in the dictionary who began by carrying a calf up a hill every day, and so continued until the animal grew to be a bull, which he still easily accommodated upon his shoulders; but take my word for it, young unmarried gentlemen, a wife is a very much harder pack to the back than the biggest heifer in Smithfield and, if I can prevent one of you from marrying, the ‘Memoirs of Barry Lyndon, Esq.’ will not be written in vain. Not that my Lady was a scold or a shrew, as some wives are; I could have managed to have cured her of that; but she was of a cowardly, crying, melancholy, maudlin temper, which is to me still more odious: do what one would to please her, she would never be happy or in good-humour.

I left her alone after a while; and because, as was natural in my case, where a disagreeable home obliged me to seek amusement and companions abroad, she added a mean detestable jealousy to all her other faults: I could not for some time pay the commonest attention to any other woman, but my Lady Lyndon must weep, and wring her hands, and threaten to commit suicide, and I know not what.

Her death would have been no comfort to me, as I leave any person of common prudence to imagine; for that scoundrel of a young Bullingdon (who was now growing up a tall, gawky, swarthy lad, and about to become my greatest plague and annoyance) would have inherited every penny of the property, and I should have been left considerably poorer even than when I married the widow: for I spent my personal fortune as well as the lady’s income in the keeping up of our rank, and was always too much a man of honour and spirit to save a penny of Lady Lyndon’s income. Let this be flung in the teeth of my detractors, who say I never could have so injured the Lyndon property had I not been making a private purse for myself; and who believe that, even in my present painful situation, I have hoards of gold laid by somewhere, and could come out as a Croesus when I choose.

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