« ZurückWeiter »
to renounce their abominable practice of bread and cheese with beer; and they procured, like me, from a neighbouring house, a good basin of warm git'**, I1i which was a small slice of butter, with toasted bread and nutmeg. This was a much better breakfast, which did not cost more than a pint of beer, namely, three-halfpence, and at the same time preserved 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; (heir 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 answerable for; and which sometimes amounted to nearly thirty shillings a week.
This circumstance, added to my reputation of being a tolerable good gabber, or, in other words, skilful #i '-he art of burlesque, kept up my importance in the chapel. I had besides recommended myself to the esteem of my master by my assiduous application to business, never observing Saint Monday. My extraordinary quickness in composing always procured me such work as was most urgent, and which is com monlv 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-strect, opposite the Roman Catholic chapel. It was at the back of an Italian warehouse. The house was kept by a widow, 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 Britain, to inquire into my character, she agreed to take me in at the same price, three and sixpence a week; 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 daughter of a clergyman. She had been educated a Protestant; but her husband, whose memory she highly revered, had converted her to the Catholic re■tion. She had lived in 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 confmed Jier 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 a.ii cbovy a-piece, upon a slice of bread and butter, with half a pint of ale between us. But the entertainutent i/as in her conversation.
Tiie ea.ly hours I kept, and the little trouble I occasioned in the family, made her loath to part with ■net and when I mentioned another lodging I had found, nearer the printing-house, at two shillings a week, 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 tne house there lived, in a most retired manner, a lady, "seventy years of age, of whom I received the following account from my landlady. She was a Roman Catholic. In her early years she had been sent to the continent, and entered a convent 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 circumstances 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 watergruei, and never making use of fire but to boil it. She had lived in this garret a great many years, without paying rent to the successive Catholic inhabits its that nan keri, the house; who indeed considered her abode with them as a blessing. A priest came every day to confess her. "I have asked her," said my landlady, 41 how, living as she did, she cou.d fmd so much employment 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' 3 •
ful and polite, and her conversation agreeable. Her apartment was neat; but the whole furniture consisted of a mattress, a table, on which was a crucifix and a book, a chair, which she gave me to sit on, and over the mantlepicce a picture of Sl Verouica displaying her handkerchief, on which was seen the miraculous impression of the face of Christ, which she explained to me with great gravity. Her countenance was pale, but she had never experienced sickneis; fend I may adduce her as another proof how little is sufficient to maintain life and health.
At the printing-house, I contracted an intimacy with a sensible young man of the name of Wygate, who, as his parents were in good circumstances, had received a better education than is common ationg printer's. He was a tolerable Latin scholar, spoke French fluently,and was fond of rendmg. I taught him, as well as a friend of his, to swim,by taking them twice only into the river; after which they stood in need of no farther assistance. We one day made a party to go by water to Chelsea, in order to see the College, and Don Soltero's curiosities. On our return, at the request of the company, whose curiosity Wygate had excited, I undressed myself, and leaped into the river. I swam from near Chelsea the whole way to Black-friars-bridge, exhibitmg, during my course, a variety of teats of "activity and address, both upon the surface of the water, as well as under it. This sight occasioned much astonishment and pleasure to those to whom it was new. In my youth I took great delight in this exercise. I knew, and could execute, all the evolutions and positions ol Theveno'; and I added to them some of my own invention, in which I endeavoured to unite graceful uess and utility. I took a pleasure in displaying them all on this occasion, and was highly flattered with the admiration they excited.
Wygate, besides his being desirous of perfecting himself in this ar . was the more attached to me from there being, in other respects, a conformity in our tastes and studies. He at length proposed to me to make the tour of Europe with him, maintaining our se'ves at the same time by working at our profession. DR. FRANKLIN. Bl
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 disi *tuded 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, but 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 woods, hi order to open a store; and he offered to take me with him in the capacity of clerk, to keep his honks* in which he would mstruct ire, copy lette-s, at.d 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 h.v3 parsed at Philadelphia presented themselves to my mind, and I wished to see them revive. I consequently engaged nrfyseif tfi 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 M/. Deuham to purchase goods, or in packing th r un» or in expediting the workmen, &,c. &c. When ever* liiing, however, was on board, I had at last a lew days leisure.
During this interval, I was one day sent for by 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 Che tsea and Blackfriars, and that I had taught the ar' '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 yo 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 business to settle with one of the sons of Sir William Wyndham, then Lord Egremont. But let us not anticipate events. \
X 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 play, 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, notwithranrting 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 tny .cnv-k of knowledge, either by the many excellent boons 1 had read, or the conversation of learned and literary persons with whom I was acquainted.
We sailed from Gravesend on the 23d of July, 5??G. For ti.e incidents of my voyage I refer you to my Journal, where you will find all itscircutnstancej