Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

the asbestos, which fire only purifies. Sir Hans Sloane hearing of it, called upon me, and invited me to his house in Bloomsbury-square, where, after showing me every thing that was curious, he prevailed on me to add this piece to his collection; for which he paid me very handsomely.

There lodged in the same house with us a young woman, a milliner, who had a shop by the side of the Exchange. Lively and sensible, and having received an education somewhat above her rank, her conversation was very agreeable. Ralph read pazys to her every evening. They became intiinate. She took another lodging, and be followed her. They lived for some time together ; but Ralph being without employment, she having a child, and the profits of her business not sufficing for the maintenance of three, he resolved to quit London, and try a country school. This was a plan in which he thought himself likely to succeed; as he wrote a fine hand, and was versed in arithinetic and accounts. But considering the office as beneath him, and expecting some day to make a better figure in the world, when he should be ashamed of its being known that he had exercised a profession so little honourable, he changed his name, and did me the honour of assuming mine. He wrote to me, soon after his departure, informing me that he was settled at a small village in Berkeshire. In his letter he recommended Mrs. T. the milliner, to my care, and requested an answer, directed to Mr. Franklin, schoolmaster, at N***

He continued to write to me frequently, sending me lange fragments of an epic poem he was composing, and which ne requested me to criticise and correct. I did so, but not without endeavou

ail on him to renounce this pursuit. Young had just published one of his Satires. I copied and sent him a great part of it; in which the author demonstrates the foliy of cultivating the muses, from the hope, by their instrumentality, of rising in the world. It was all to no purpose; paper after paper of his poem continued to arrive every post. .

Meanwhile Mrs. T*** haviog lost, on his account, tooth her friends and busiuess, was frequently in (lis

tress. In this dilemma she had recourse to me, and, to extricate her from her difficulties, I lent her all the money I could spare. I felt a little too much fond. ness for her. Having at that time no ties of religion, and, taking advantage of her necessitous situation, I attempted liberties (another error of my life,) which she repelled with becoming indignation. She informed Ralph of my conduct; and the affair occasioned a breach between us. When he returned to London, he gave me to understand that he considered all the obligations he owed me as annihilated by this proceeding; whence I concluded that I was never to expect the payment of what money had lent him, or advanced on his account. I was the less afflicted at this, as he was wholly unable to pay me; and as, by losing his friendship, I was relieved at the same time from a very heavy burden.

I now began to think of laying by some money. The printing-house of Watts, near Lincoln's-innfields, being a still more considerable one than that in which I worked, it was probable I might find it more advantageous to be employed there. I offered myself, and was accepted ; and in this house. I con. tinued during the remainder of my stay in London.

On my entrance, I worked at first as a pressman, conceiving that I had need of bodily exercise, to which I had been accustomed in America, where the printers work alternately as compositors and at the press. I urank nothing but water. The other workmen, to the numoer of about fifty, were great drinkers of beer. I carried, occasionally, a large form of letters in each hand, up and down stairs, while the rest employed both hands to carry one. They were surprised to see, by this, and many other examples, that the American Aquatic, as they used to call me, was stronger than those who drank porter. The beer boy had sufficient employment during the whole day in serving tha. bouse alone. My fellow-pressman drank, every day, a pint of heer before breakfast, a pint with bread and cheese for breakfast, one between breakfast and dinner, one at dinner, one again about six o'clock in the aftenoon, and another after he bad finished his stay's work. This custom appeared to me abomina

[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

ble; but he had need, he said, of all this beer, in or.* der to acquire strength to work.

I endeavoured to convince him that the bodily strength furnished by the beer, could only be in proportion to the solid part of the harley dissolved in the water of which the beer was composed ; that there was a larger portion of flour in a pemy loaf, and that consequently if he ate this loaf, and drank a pint of water with it, he would derive more strength from i than from a pint of beer. This reasoning, however did not prevent birn from drinking his accustomer! quantity of beer, and paying every Saturday night a . score of four or five shillings a-week for this cursed beverage; an expense from which I was wholly exempt. Thus do these poor devils continue all their lives in a state of voluntary wretchedness and poverty.

At the end of a few weeks, Watts having occasion for me above stairs as a compositor, I quitted the presz. The compositors demanded of me garnishmoney afresh. This I considered as an imposition, having already paid below. The master was of the same opinion, and desired me not to comply. I thus remained two or three weeks out of the fraternity. I was consequently looked upon as excommunicated; and whenever I was absent, no little trick that malice could suggest was left unpractised upon me. I found iny letters mixed, my pages transposed, my matter broken, &c. &c. all which was attrihuted to the spirit that haunted the chapel,* and tormented those that were not regularly admitted. I was a last obliged to submit to pay, notwithstanding the protection of the master; convinced of the folly of not keeping up a good understanding with those among whoil; we are destined to live.

After this I lived in the utmost harmony witli Bay fellow-labourers, and soon acquired considerable influence among them. I proposed some alteration in the laws of the chapel, which I carried without apposition. My example prevailed with several of them

*Printing-houses in general are thus denominated by the workmen : the spirit they call by the name of Ralph

to renounce their abominable practice of bread and cheose with beer; and they procured, like me, from a neighbouring house, a good basın of warm gruel, in which was a small slice of butter, with toasted bread and nutmeg. This was a much better breakrast, which did not cost more than a pint of beer, namely, three-halfpence, and at the same time pre. served the head clearer. Those who continued to gorge themselves with beer, often lost their credit with the publican, from neglecting to pay their score. They Had then recourse to me, to become security for them; their light, as they used to call it, being out. I attended at the pay-table every Saturday evening, to take up the little sum which I had made myself ansferable for, and which sometimes amounted to nearly thirty shillings a week.

This circumstance, added to iny reputation of bestig a tolerable good gabber, or, in other words, skilful in the art of burlesque, kept up my importance in the chapel. I had besides recommended myself to the esteen of my master by iny assiduous application to business, never observing Saint Monday. My extra: ordinary quickness in composing always procured

Inc such work as was most urgent, and which is cominonly best paid; and thus my time passed away in a very pleasant manner.

My lodging in Little Britain being too far from the printing-house, I took another in Duke-street, oppoSite the Roman Catholic chapel. It was at the back of an Italian warehouse. The house was kept by a widot, who had a daughter, a servant, and a shopboy; but the latter slept out of the house. After sending to the people with whom I lodged in Little Britai, to inquire into my charaxter, she agreed to take ne ia at the same price, three and sixpence a wock, contenting herself, she said, with so little, because of the security she should derive, as they were all women, from having a man lodger in the house.

She was a woman rather advanced in life, the daugnter of a clergyman. She had been educated a Protestant; but her husband, whose memory she highly revered, had converted her to the Catholic religion. She had lived ili habits of intimacy with

persons of distinction; of whom she knew various anecdotes as far back as the time of Charles II. Being subject to fits of the gout, which often confined her to her room, she was sometimes disposed to see company. Her's was so amusing to me, that I was glad to pass the evening with her as often as she desired it. Our supper consisted only of half an ailchovy a-piece, upon a slice of bread and butter, with half a pint of ale between us. But the entertainment was in her conversation

The ea.ly hours I kept, and the little trouble I oc. casioned in the family, made her loth to part with me; and when I mentioned another lodging I had found, nearer the printing-house, at two shillings aweek, which fell in with my plan of saving, she persuaded me to give it up, making herself an abatement of two shillings: and thus I continued to lodge with her, during the remainder of my abode in London, at eighteen-pence a week.

In a garret of the house there lived, in a most retired manner, a lady, seventy years of age, cf whom I received the following account from my landlady. She was a Poman Catholic. In her early years she had been sent to the continent, and entered a concent with the design of becoming a nun; but the climate not agreeing with her constitution, she was obliged to return to England, where, as there were no monasteries, she made a vow to lead a monastic life, in as rigid a manner as circunstances would permit. She accordingly disposed of all her property to be applied to charitable uses, reserving to herself only twelve pounds a year: and of this small pittance she gave a part to the poor, living on watergruel, and never inaking use of fire but to boil it. She had lived in this garret a great many years, without paying rent to the successive Catholic inhabita ats that had kept the house; who indeed considered her abode with them as a blessing. A priest came every day to con. fess her. " I Lave asked her,” said my landlady. “ how, living as she did, she could find so much entnloyment for a confessor? To which she answered, that it was impossible to avoid vain thoughts.”

I was once permitted to visit her. She was cheer

« ZurückWeiter »