He had to leave the ancestral home of
the Myttons. But it was no primeval
man, glowing with health, bristling
with energy, but a “round-shouldered
tottering old-young man bloated by 
drink” who joined the company of 
shady adventurers whose necessities 
obliged them to live at Calais. Even 
in that society his burden was upon 
him; still he must shine; still he 
must excel. No one should call him 
Johnny Mytton with impunity. Four 
horses must draw Mr. Mytton the 
three hundred yards to his rooms or 
he preferred to walk. And then the hic-
cough attacked him. Seizing his bedroom 
candle, he set alight to his shirt and 
staggered, burning and blazing, to show 
his friends how he cured it. What more 
could human beings ask of him? To 
what further frenzies would the gods 
dare their victim? Now that he had 
burnt himself alive it seemed as if he had 
discharged his obligation to society and 
could lay the primeval man to rest
whose antics had dazzled the world,
and revive for a few seconds the
scholar, the peaceful English Squire,
who, if fate had been kinder, might also
have had his day. He quoted Sophocles,
as he lay burnt and bloated in bed….
“the beautiful passage . . . wherein 
Œdipus recommends his children to the 
care of Creon.” He remembered the 
Greek anthology. When they moved 
him to the seaside he began to pick up 
shells, and could hardly sit out dinner 
in his eagerness to be at the work of 
brushing them “with a nail brush 
dipped in vinegar.” “He to whom the 
whole world had appeared insufficient 

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to afford pleasure . . . was now com-
pletely happy.” But alas, shells and 
Sophocles, peace and happiness, were 
whelmed in the general dissolution 
which could not be delayed. The King's 
Bench prison seized him, and there, 
corrupt in body, ruined in fortune, 
worn out in mind he died at the age of 
thirty-eight, and his wife cried that she 
could not “help loving him with all his 
faults,” and four horses drew his
hearse, and three thousand poor people 
sobbed for the loss of one who had 
somehow acted out for the benefit of 
the crowd an odious, monstrous part, 
laid on him by the gods, for the 
edification of mankind and their 
pleasure too, but for his own un-
utterable boredom.

For the truth is we like these 
exhibitions of human nature. We like 
to see exalted above us some fox-hunter, 
like Jack Mytton, burning himself alive 
to cure the hiccough, some diver like 
Madame Rosalba, who, mounting 
higher and higher, wraps herself about 
in sacking, and then, with a look of 
indifference and satiety as if she had 
renounced and suffered and dedicated 
herself to some insane act of defiance 
for no pleasure of her own, dives into the 
Channel and brings up a twopenny-half-
penny soup plate between her teeth. 
The lady on the pier feels gratified.