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notice; while he frankly avows, that Caius Marius was the son of a peasant, and Phocion, the offspring of a turner. Of the two greatest orators that Greece and Rome ever witnessed, it has never been denied, that the father of the one was a sword-cutler at Athens, while that of the other is generally supposed to have been a fuller at Arpinum.
The moderns, on the contrary, evince a feverish sensibility in respect to birth and family: on this subject, they have generally sacrificed fidelity to vanity, and attributed a portion of that merit to genealogy, which strictly appertains to virtue alone. This bad taste appears to have been originally imbibed during the middle ages, when the small portion of wealth, talents, and knowledge, then called into existence, was confined to one small, privileged class. Accordingly, the heroes of chivalry and romance were always sure to dazzle by the lustre of their descent, which appeared still more brilliant, when superadded to the splendid achievements of remote progenitors. To approach nearer to our own days, their biographers, with some hesitation, and not until after having invoked the aid of collateral gentility, reluctantly acknowledge, that the tuneful Pope was the son of an obscure linen-draper; and that the father of the illus
trious Milton had earned his bread as a humble money-scrivener. Even Benjamin Franklin himself, although in dress a Quaker, and in politics a republican, seems not a little solicitous about his descent, and is eager to deduce some trifling consequence from the original signification of his very name. It is only of late, and after the lapse of more than a century, we have been permitted to learn, that the mother of the Protector had been a brewer, at Huntingdon; and the grandmother of queen Anne a tub-woman, who carried beer about in the metropolis, before the introduction of drays!
The various orders of knighthood established throughout Europe, have also contributed not a little to encourage this propensity; while a college of arms has been erected in every polished state for the avowed purpose of perpetuating it. In this country, now that our heralds no longer make their periodical visitations, much, of course, is left to speculation; and the quarterings of a new family, are supposed to be to the full as vendible, as the carriage on which they are emblazoned.
But, notwithstanding the ominous aspect of public affairs, and the querulous disposition produced by the portentous times in which we live, it is not to be denied, that the situation of
mankind has, on the whole, been considerably meliorated; while new, as well as more liberal modes of thinking, have, of late, been gradually introduced. Riches and instruction are now more generally diffused; excellence, of every kind, entitles the fortunate possessor to the esteem of his contemporaries; while education, when extended to the higher branches of learning and science, seems actually to confer a species of nobility, which is only another term for distinction. Thanks, then, to the more generous notions of the present times! the adventitious aids of birth and fortune are no longer absolutely necessary to obtain respect. And a man of talents, like him, of whom we are about to treat, may contemplate the humble station of his forefathers, with the same noble contempt that Cicero did the vetch on the nose of his ancestor *, whence his family was ever after designated.
After these preliminary observations, I hasten, without hesitation, to relate, that John Horne, better known of late years by the appellation of
* Pliny supposes, that the person who first bore this name, originally derived it from a species of pulse (cicer) in the cultivation of which he had been employed. The Fabii, Lentuli, and Pisones, so illustrious in ancient history, also obtained their respective appellations from the humble esculents, beans, tarcs, and peas.
John Horne Tooke, was the son of a poulterer in Newport Market. He was born in Newport Street, Westminster, on the 25th of June, 1736, as appears from the register of the parish of St. Anne, Soho, and christened on the succeeding day; a circumstance which seems to indicate, either that his life had been in immediate jeopardy, or that he was of so puny and delicate a frame, as to render a speedy dissolution probable.
Mr. Horne, the father, whose name also was John, had a large family; and the following authentic account of his children, by Elizabeth his wife, has been communicated to me, by one of his descendants :
1. Benjamin, the eldest son, settled at Brentford, in the county of Middlesex, where he acquired considerable wealth and eminence as a market-gardener, in what is technically termed the fruit-line. It was he who first introduced the pine-strawberry, from Saratoga, in North America, through the kind intervention of the earl of Shelburne, afterwards created marquis of Lansdowne. That nobleman, being greatly addicted to horticulture before he entered on the career of politics, and finding him an ingenious man, delighted in his conversation, and slept frequently at his house. On these occa
sions, Mr. Benjamin Horne not only deemed himself highly honoured by the notice of a person of such distinction, but was also considerably benefited in consequence of the present just alluded to, and might have obtained a very large fortune from the exclusive monopoly of a fruit possessing such exquisite flavour and perfection, had not his grounds been repeatedly plundered by some of his neighbours, who thus risked all the rigours of the law, to procure a few runners of the new sort, and rival, as well as undersell him, at Covent Garden market. He died in the prime of life, after having acquired a very considerable property; and, leaving no children behind him, bequeathed his estate, both real and personal, to his immediate relatives.
2. Thomas, the second son, originally bred a fishmonger, afterwards followed his father's trade, as a poulterer, and succeeded him in the same shop and business. He is represented as a strong-minded man, but entirely regardless of his pecuniary concerns. Accordingly, he either lost or squandered the whole of his patrimony, and at length retired on an annuity of seventy pounds, left him by his elder brother; but, as this proved insufficient to support his extravagant course of life, he was admitted, and died