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I was on the point of consenting, when I mentioned it to my friend, Mr. Denham, with whom I was glad to pass an hour whenever I had leisure. He dissuaded me from the project, and advised me to think of returning to Philadelphia, which he was about to do himself. I must relate in this place a trait of this worthy man's character.
He had formerly been in business at Bristol, bu failing, he compounded with his creditors, and departed for America, where, by assiduous application as a merchant, he acquired in a few years a very considerable fortune. Returning to England in the same vessel with myself, as I have related above, he invited all his old creditors to a feast. When assembled, he thanked them for the readiness with which they had received his small composition; and, while they expected nothing more than a simple entertainment, each found under his plate, when it came to be removed, a draft upon a banker for the residue of his debt, with interest.
He told me that it was his intention to carry back with him to Philadelphia, a great quantity of goods, in order to open a store; and he offered to take me with him in the capacity of clerk, to keep his books, in which he would instruct me, copy letters, and superintend the store. He added, that as soon as I had acquired a knowledge of mercantile transactions, he would improve my situation, by sending me with a cargo of corn and flour to the American islands, and by procuring me other lucrative commissions; so that, with good management and economy, I might in time begin business with advantage for myself.
I relished these proposals. London began to tire me; the agreeable hours I had passed at Philadelphia presented themselves to my mind, and I wished to see them revive. I consequently engaged myself to Mr. Denham, at a salary of fifty pounds a year. This was indeed less than I earned as a compositor, but then I had a much fairer prospect. I took leave, therefore, as I believed for ever, of printing, and gave myself up to my new occupation, spending all my time either in going from house to house with Mr. Denham to purchase goods, or in packing them up,
or in expediting the workmen, &c. &c. When every thing however, was on beard, I had at last a few days leisure.
During this interval, I was one day sent for oy a gentleman, whom I knew only by name. It was Sir William Wyndham. I went to his house. He had by some means heard of my performances between Chelsea and Blackfriars, and that I had taught the art of swimming to Wygate and another young man in the course of a few hours. His two sons were on the point of setting out on their travels; he was desirous that they should previously learn to swim, and offered me a very liberal reward if I would undertake to instruct them. They were not yet arrived in town, and the stay I should make was uncertain; I could not therefore accept his proposal. I was led, however, to suppose from this incident, that if I had wished to remain in London, and open a swimming school, I should perhaps have gained a great deal of money. The idea struck me so forcibly, that, had the offer been made sooner, I should have dismissed the thought of returning as yet to America. Some years after, you and I had a more important busi ness to settle with one of the sons of Sir William Wyndham, then Lord Egremont. But let us not anticipate events.
I thus passed about eighteen months in London, working almost without intermission at my trade, avoiding all expense on my own account, except going now and then to the plav, and purchasing a few books. But my friend Ralph kept me poor. He owed me about twenty-seven pounds. which was so much money lost; and when considered as taken from my little savings, was a very great sum. I had. notwithstanding this, a regard for him, as he possessed many amiable qualities But though I had done nothing for myself in point of fortune. I had increased my stock of knowledge, either by the many excellent books I had read, or the conversation of learned and literary persons with whom I was acquainted
We sailed from Gravesend on the 23d of July, 1726. For the incidents of my voyage I refer you to my Journal, where you will find all its circumstances
minutely related. We landed at Philadelphia on the 11th of the following October.
Keith had been aeprived of his office of governor, and was succeeded by Major Gordon. I met him walking in the streets as a private individual. He appeared a little ashamed at seeing me, but passed on without saying any thing.
I should have been equally ashamed myself at meeting Miss Read, had not her family, justly despairing of my return after reading my letter, advised her to give me up, and marry a potter, of the name of Rogers; to which she consented: but he never made her happy, and she soon separated from him, refusing to cohabit with him, or even bear his name, on account of a report which prevailed, of his having another wife. His skill in his profession had seduced Miss Read's parents; but he was as bad a subject as he was excellent as a workman. He involved himself in debt, and fled, in the year 1727 or 1728, to the West Indies, where he died.
During my absence, Keimer had taken a more considerable house, in which he kept a shop, that was well supplied with paper, and various other articles. He had procured some new types, and a number of workmen ; among whom, however, there was not one who was good for any thing; and he appeared not to want business.
Mr. Denham took a warehouse in Water-street, where he exhibited our commodities. I applied myself closely, studied accounts, and became in a short time very expert in trade. We lodged and eat toge ther He was sincerely attached to me, and acted towards me as if he had been my father. On my side, I respected and loved him. My situation was happy; but it was a happiness of no long duration.
Early in February, 1727. when I entered into my twenty second year, we were both taken ill. I was attacked with a pleurisy, which had nearly carried me off; 1 suffered terribly, and considered it as all over with me. I felt indeed a sort of disappointment when I found myself likely to recover, and regretted that I had still to experience, sooner or later, the same disagreeable scene again.
I have forgotten what was Mr. Denham's disorder; but it was a tedious one, and he at last sunk under it. He left me a small legacy in his will, as a testimony of his friendship; and I was once more abandoned to myself in the wide world, the warehouse being confided to the care of the testamentary executor, who dismissed me.
My brother-in-law, Holmes, who happened to be at Philadelphia, advised me to return to my former profession; and Keimer offered me a very considerable salary if I would undertake the management of his printing office, that he might devote himself entirely to the superintendence of his shop. His wife and relations in London had given me a bad character of him; and I was loth, for the present, to have any concern with him. I endeavoured to get employment as a clerk to a merchant; but not readily finding a situation, I was induced to accept Keimer's proposal.
The following were the persons I found in his printing-house.
Hugh Meredith, a Pennsylvanian, about thirty-five years of age. He had been brought up to husbandry, was honest, sensible, had some experience, and was fond of reading; but too much addicted to drinking.
Stephen Potts, a young rustic, just broke from school, and of rustic education, with endowments rather above the common order, and a competent portion of understanding and gayety; but a little idle. Keimer had engaged these two at very low wages, which he had promised to raise every three months a shilling a week, provided their improvement in the typographic art should merit it. This future increase of wages was the bait he had made use of to ensnare them. Meredith was to work at the press, and Potts to bind books, which he had engaged to teach them, though he understood neither himself.
John Savage, an Irishman, who had been brought up to no trade, and whose service, for a period of four years, Keimer had purchased of the captain of a ship. He was also to be a pressman.
George Webb, an Oxford scholar, whose time he had in like manner bought for four years, intending
him for a compositor. I shall speak more of him presently,
Lastly, David Harry, a country lad, who was apprenticed to him.
I soon perceived that Keimer's intention, in engaging me at a price so much above what he was accustomed to give, was, that I might form all these raw journeymen and apprentices, who scarcely cost him any, thing, and who, being indentured, would, as soon as hey should be sufficiently instructed, enable him to do without me. I nevertheless adhered to my agreement. I put the office in order, which was in the utmost confusion, and brought his people, by degrees, to pay attention to their work, and to execute it in a more masterly style.
It was singular to see an Oxford scholar in the condition of a purchased servant. He was not more than eighteen years of age; and the following are the particulars he gave me of himself. Born at Gloucester, he had been educated at a grammar-school, and had distinguished himself among the scholars, by his superior style of acting, when they represented dramatic performances. He was member of a literary club in the town; and some pieces of his composition, in prose as well as in verse, had been inserted in the Gloucester papers. From hence he was sent to Oxford, where he remained about a year; but he was not contented, and wished above all things to see London, and become an actor. At length, having received fifteen guineas to pay his quarter's board, he decamped with the money from Oxford, hid his gown in a hedge, and travelled to London. There, having no friend to direct him, he fell into bad company, soon squandered his fifteen guineas, could find no way of being introduced to the actors, became contemptible, pawned his clothes, and was in want of bread. As he was walking along the streets, almost famished with hunger, and not knowing what to do, a recruiting bill was put into his hand, which offered an immediate treat and bounty-money to whoever was disposed to serve in America. He instantly repaired to the house of rendezvous, enlisted himself, was put on board a ship, and conveyed to America,