Part Four
The Life of Thomas Gent

 

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  Part Four

THE learned Bishop Pearson has given a rhetorical abridgment of the life of man, from the time of weaning till under the rigid discipline of the rod, either by parents at home, or teachers in the schools; and might have added, the often too severe usage in long apprenticeships; above which, he ascends to that of a master, whom he wittily styles but as a servant general to his family: an office full of trouble, not to mention all those griefs that accompany us besides, through the strange vicissitudes that attend it, intermingled especially with the most serious thoughts of futurity, according as we do our duty.

From the late condition of a servant, was I changed to be a master! from a citizen of London, so much esteemed for urbanity, was become, through the virtue of twenty-seven pounds, the like at York; but over such servants that, becoming reluctant to my new authority, gave me exceeding great trouble in my proceedings, as they had done before to their too kind mistress, by neglect, in the time of her widowhood. What concerned me too was, that I found her temper much altered from that sweet natural softness, and most tender affection, that rendered her so amiable to me while I was more juvenile, and she a maiden. Not less sincere, I must own, but with that presumptive air and conceited opinion, like Mrs. Day, in the play of "The Committee," that made me imagine an epidemical distemper reigned among the good women, which too often unreasonably prevailed, even to ruin themselves and families, or if prevented by Divine Providence, frequently proved the sad cause of great contention and disquietude. However, as I knew I was but then a novice in the intricate laws of matrimony, and that nothing but a thorough annihilation can disentangle or break that chain which oft produces a strange concatenation for future disorders, I endeavoured to comply with a sort of stoical resolution, to some very harsh rules that, otherwise, would have grated my human understanding. For as, by this change, I had given a voluntary wound to my wonted liberty, now attacked in the maintenance partly of pretended friends, spunging parasites, and flatterers, who imposed on good nature to our great damage; so, in this conjugal captivity, as I may term it, I was fully resolved, likewise in a Christian sense, to make my yoke as easy as possible, thereby to give no offence to custom or law of any kind. The tender affection that a good husband naturally has to the wife of his bosom is such, as to make him often pass by the greatest insults that can be offered to human nature: such, I mean, are the senseless provoking arguments that can be used by the latter against the interest of the former, who is mostly concerned in defence for her safety, who will not be awoke from delusion till poverty appears, shews the ingratitude of false friends in prosperity, and brings her to sad repentance in adversity: she then will wish she had been foreseeing as her husband, when it is too late; condemn her foolish credulity, and abhor those who have caused her to differ from the sentiments of her truest friend, whose days she has embittered with the most undutiful aggravations, to render every thing uncomfortable to him.

My dear's uncle, White, as he called himself, kept a printing office at Newcastle-on-Tyne, where, having had no opposer, he heaped up riches in abundance; and yet so greedy of more, that, before our marriage, he offered my dear, his niece, fifty pounds a year to resign the materials and all that she was worth in stock to his management. The wretch (for so I call him) was formerly so much mistrusted by his own father, that he would not trust my predecessor to his proffered courtesy, but provided for him in his will: so obnoxious to his mother-in-law, Mrs. White, that she left him but little, or next to nothing; so disregarded by his nephew, that my dear could scarcely, through her good nature, prevail with him, whilst dying, to bequeath him his watch, cane, and about seven guineas, which she thought, perhaps, might induce him to future kindness towards her; but she ungratefully found the contrary, and had better reason to have kept it. He had done all he could to prevent our marriage, and breathed forth little else than the most destructive opposition against us; giving, as it were, a sanction to his malice, that what he intended was truly for the good of his family, which every honest man ought to regard antecedently superior to all other motives; that nieceship was now inconsistent with his interest: and told me plainly, that he would oppose me in all my doings to the very utmost of his power: though I had made it plainly appear that he need not esteem me so contemptible a person as he did, being sprung from reputable people, was a citizen of several cities, that I was not only free from debt but, by my great industry, had cleared about two hundred pounds. But what I said was disregarded; and nothing but a melancholy prospect of future diskindnesses was placed before my eyes; though my circumstances, I think, were as good as those of his niece, my spouse, who had a house, indeed, that eastward, next the bookseller's in Stonegate, held very precariously; which was, very unhappily, in the year 1723, the remainder of a prebendal lease, in the possession of Joseph Leach, a singing man, maker of starch, and sheriff of this city; which cost above two hundred pounds, (I think two hundred and two pounds ten shillings,) which was daily in danger of being lost, through the falling lives of people, whose names had been long inserted therein. An hundred pounds was borrowed of Francis Barrowby, an attorney, who drew the deeds, and who proved himself either fool or knave, or both, in promoting such a bargain; because, being prevented in the renewal, there was great danger of losing the whole in a little time; and did not get what was laid out during the fifteen years, &c. it was enjoyed, the interest of which would have yielded about one hundred and fifty pounds, and their principal secured; not to mention the various repairs, which cost considerable sums, and the disappointment of dwelling therein, to be freed from those wicked landladies that endeavoured to distress them by raising their rents.

Here I found a newspaper printed, but utterly spoiled by being compiled by a meanspirited, self-conceited Quaker, whom I discharged; but who had the wicked conscience to extort from me for half a year's service that way, pretending an engagement for it, though I performed the labour; and afterwards proved but a very sorry friend, if not an enemy. The servants, who were most ungovernable before our marriage, proved but very little better after, though I used them with the greatest lenity; they loitered away the time, were quite idle in my absence, and betrayed their malignity by bitter aspersions, so unworthy to many of our London youth, that I became sorry almost to death that I was ever placed over such incorrigible wretches.

1725. My dear parents, who approved of my marriage, growing very ancient, desired once more to see me, and to deliver into my own hands what money I had intrusted them with. I yielded to their desire, with the consent of my spouse, who was pretty far gone with child; and, riding to Liverpool, I could find no ship but one, bound for Ireland, a little vessel, commanded by a native of Portugal, who had no other hands but those of a French lad, his apprentice, and another tolerable sailor; in a vessel very tight, but too little and unfit, as she was heavy laden with earthenware, for those troublesome seas. However, we sailed pretty well the first day; and, at night, I was mightily taken with the harmonious voice of the French lad, who was guiding the helm, and singing really as delightfully as the poets have feigned of the melodious syrens of the Sicilian seas. The next day, as we approached nearer the Hill of Houth, a storm arose, which put us in exceeding danger, for want of sufficient number of sailors. The captain feeling a terrible squall of wind, as he called it, said he, "if such another comes quickly, we shall be all overturned and lost!" and a little after, he called to us under deck to prepare for death. This caused tears to trickle down some of our cheeks; for, indeed, the ship so terribly rolled, with such violence, from one side to the other, and the waters dashing in so fast, that we were more terrified every moment with fear of being overwhelmed.

The passengers, beside me, were two women, one of them a Quaker, and a youth from Yorkshire, who said his intention was to apply for a gentleman's service. "Captain," said I, "don't despair, in God's name, and I'll help you as long as I am able." I got up, and did so hard labour at the pump, that I was in a lather with sweat, and frequently nigh covered with the waves. At length, being near spent, I besought some of them to call the young man, to ease me a little; but they told me he was very sick in the bed, and could not rise, nor would he lay down his beads, but resolved to continue earnest in his devotions to the last: upon which, taking breath, I reassumed my late post, till my hands were piteously blistered; but, unwilling to be washed away, I was resolved that the ship should serve for my coffin as well as others. As I was descending, the good woman who owned the earthenware, desired me to have them thrown overboard, that our lives might be saved; but we, more profitably for her, judged otherwise; and at last, our distress being espied from afar, some skilful pilots came, in a large boat, to our relief. We then cast anchor, as they directed; drank a cheeruping glass, congratulated each other on our happy deliverance, rallied the captain for his timidity, and patiently heard the good Quaker woman deliver such a sermon as made us conclude she was filled with inspiration.

Thus pleasantly we continued, till the tide began to flow towards the shore. "Captain," said the pilot, "had you persisted whilst the tide was against you, an hundred to one but, as night came on, you would have certainly been lost, not knowing where to cast anchor; but now, I thank God, you are safe for this voyage. I suppose you was never on this coast before; and I am very glad that it was my fortune to help a stranger." Then we sweetly sailed into the bay; and, entering into a large river, walled north and south, we viewed the pleasant town of Ringsend; and, soon after, landed upon Aston's Key, from whence, once more, I visited the house of my parents. I was invited to lodge at my rich sister Standish's, but not thinking to leave my dear father and mother while I stayed, I had a bed spread on the floor, near beside them. Besides this, as I heard that death had removed my beautiful fair niece, Anne Standish, I was less mindful of visiting the family; though I paid them all other respect that could be expected, and was acceptable to my nephew, who belonged to Trinity College, and is now a clergyman in the north of Ireland. My mother I found languishing upon her deathbed, and my poor father but in a weak condition; but what added to my grief was, that they were surrounded, as it were, by my sister Clark's unruly children. I continued with them about a fortnight, in which time I bought a quantity of linen cloth, as thinking it the best commodity I could dispose of in England.

Whilst I was thus employed, I received a letter from my spouse, that her villanous uncle being come again from Newcastle, was setting up, against us, a printing office, with one Robert Ward; and, therefore, she desired my quick return. I was then truly amazed at the knave's treachery, who, not long before, had desired my correspondence as a relation; which being granted, caused him, in writing, to approve of my dutiful behaviour. I now perceived, as it were, that the axe was laid to the root of my tree of life, to fell it down; or, at least, a wedge was driven that in time, by continued strokes, might split our needy affairs into pieces. I took shipping as soon as possible; but, while my goods were putting into stowage, I was much insulted, in a public house on the quay, by one Taylor, a pragmatic, drunken, and quarrelsome tinner, without any occasion, for which God forgive him. I entered into a far better ship than before; the master a stout comely man, and furnished with able sailors. Our voyage was very pleasant till we reached High Lake; and being, by stress of weather, obliged to anchor against the town, a seizure was made of some brandy, by the hardhearted officer; who took even what belonged to the poor apprentices, whose tears at that sad parting could not cause in him the least remorse of conscience. But at Liverpool we met with kinder usage; where I was very fortunate in getting my goods despatched away by the carrier, who was just setting out for York, and left me a brave strong horse to ride home at pleasure.

I had not rode above a few miles from the town but, overtaking a good looking countryman, and falling into discourse, I asked him what news was stirring? who answered "Sir, l know of nothing more or greater than that, this day, (November 3rd, 1725), is to be hanged the greatest rogue in England, called Jonathan Wild." I had seen that thiefcatcher several times about the Old Bailey in London; and particularly took notice of him when he rode triumphantly, with pistols before the criminals, whilst conveying to the place of execution; I hated him, because John Monk, my fellow apprentice, was seduced to become in his book, whom, peradventure, he would have hanged also, if a violent fever had not sent him to Islington Churchyard, to the alternate grief and joy of his aged father, as I have mentioned in the first part of my life. I thought the just judgment of the vindictive hand of fate was fallen upon the guilty wretch, so characterised in the Beggar's Opera, by the name of Informing Peachum, which will remain indelible to future ages; and I heard he was pelted by the populace to the place of execution: so those fleaing rascals, the surgeons, as the same piece styles them, stole his corpse from its grave, in St. Pancras's churchyard, in which sacred ground it seemed unfit he should be interred amongst many noble and pious personages.

The next day I continued my journey so briskly that, about twelve o'clock at night, I arrived at my house in York, to the great joy of my spouse, who told me that her barbarous uncle had dined with her in my absence; which shewed the fellow was a perfect compound of nonsense, villainy, hypocrisy, and impudence. His full malice appeared a little after, for he actually joined with the aforesaid Ward, who had been his father's footboy, but, having married a wife with a fortune, had bought a press, with other materials, in order to set up a master printer. They published a newspaper, which whilst they cried up, almost in the same breath they ran down mine with that eager bitterness of spirit which they had instilled into them, in which they were assisted by a relation, brother to his wife, with such a strange phiz, by a piked nose, fallen mouth, and projecting chin, that had he been likewise graced with a tail, would have made as complete a monkey as Asia, Africa, or America, nay, the whole world could produce.

His business was to go to the houses of my customers, and substituting his papers in the room of what I sent; and the prices of goods were lowered by one third, supposing their riches in Newcastle would support them through all expenses, whilst they endeavoured to ruin me at York. A melancholy reflection, to find that my marriage had made me as criminal as a person guilty of the greatest demerits; and that nothing appeared but a gloomy prospect of rage and power I was to struggle with, in order to preserve me and mine from seeming destruction! What a vast disparity was now from my former condition! in London, enjoying plenty of business, and beloved by the best; oppressed in York, and, as it were, prosecuted by a tyrannical villain; and that, too, after I had paid for a freedom, in order for a settlement, to be turned out, with scorn, as the worst of vagabonds! and this, too, by wretches that were inferior to me, as have been since proved in various respects, as have been apparent to the world. But it was not long before his partner, Ward, failed for debt; and was glad to become my journeyman, whom I screened, though he had threatened my ruin.

On Sunday the 10th of October, 1725, my dear spouse was happily brought to bed of a son, whom I had gotten privately baptized Charles, by the Rev. Mr. Dingley, and publicly, in the cathedral, by the Rev. Mr. Knight, at the font which then stood at the west end of the nave, near the venerable remains of Archbishop Melton. Mr. Lambert, a gentleman of the spiritual court, and Mr. Dowbiggin, schoolmaster, of Thornton, near Pickering, were godfathers; though one Mr. Bateman, another schoolmaster, stood for the latter, by proxy. It proved a beautiful child as possibly our eyes could have beheld; but, unhappily, was taken with convulsion fits. One Sunday, in particular, as just going to eat our dinner, (to which Mr. Ward and his wife were invited,) the child was suddenly taken, and turned as black as ebony itself; but, on its recovery, like the sun appearing through a cloud, all the charms of infant loveliness returned, and the features of an angel, which he was soon to be, resumed their wonted place in his amiable countenance. The Sunday following, having such another fit, all the assistance possible was administered on so mournful an occasion. I wished for its life, and yet I scarce knew well why; I was not very sorry to think of its death, considering what it might have been exposed to, through oppression of its woeful parents by the villain aforesaid, who was plotting our ruin to his utmost power, as that of his partner, my journeyman, Ward; whom I took, on horseback, August l9th, 1726, privately behind me to Hull, where I saw him on board a ship riding in the Humber.

A servant of mine, being corrupted to print an unstamped newspaper, one that had been stamped was taken from a customer's house, and the spurious one put into its place; of which, information was made to William Thompson, esq. that I had acted contrary to act of parliament, and incurred a penalty of fifty pounds. A search was made after more of them, but they were found stamped; yet I was sent for, and, knowing my innocence, my just anger rose in proportion to my sudden surprise. Mr. Carty, the lord mayor's clerk, perceiving me abused, examined the matter with the greatest scrutiny; and, on stamped paper, the following testimonials were exhibited:

William Bradley, apprentice to Thomas Gent, of the city of York, printer; John Macferson and William Nost, printers and journeymen to the said Thomas Gent; and Mary Pybus, spinster, his servant; jointly and severally make oath: and, first, the said William Bradley and John Macferson, for themselves, say and depose that they were servants to, and lived in the house of, the said Mr. Gent, some considerable time before he received the instructions from the Stamp office, to print his news upon stamped paper; and that, since his receiving the said instructions or orders, he was very exact, not only as to himself, but also in giving these deponents frequent orders and strict charge to yield all due obedience to the said instructions, by printing the news upon stamped paper. And, accordingly, these deponents never printed any newspapers for the said Thomas Gent, to be sold or published, but what were duly stamped according to the directions contained in the said instructions. Neither did he himself print or publish any news, to the privity or knowledge of these deponents, but what were duly stamped, as aforesaid.

And this deponent, William Nost, deposeth that, since his entering upon the said Mr. Gent's service, he has observed the said Mr. Gent's singular care and vigilance was very extraordinary, lest that any news should pass the press unstamped, and his frequent giving directions, as aforesaid .

And this deponent, Mary Pybus, heard her said master, Mr. Gent, frequently repeat his directions concerning the said news, as aforesaid; so great was his care in relation to the stamping of them: from all which, all these deponents, William Bradley, John Macferson, William Nost, and Mary Pybus, verily and sincerely believe that the said Mr. Gent never printed any news other than upon stamped paper since he received the foregoing instructions; and that he never defrauded, or intended to defraud his majesty of any part of the said duty; and that if a single sheet escaped, or came out of the press unstamped, it was intended for a proof sheet, and for no other use; and that if any such sheet came out of the printing house, it proceeded from the indiscretion of some of the servants at the press; who, through inadvertency, may carry the same in their pockets, when useless to Mr. Gent. And the deponent John Macferson, saith that he hath frequently carried such sheets in his pocket, with no other view than to light a pipe of tobacco; and that one night, meeting with Telpha, servant to Mr. John White, printer, he believes he gave him one of the said proof sheets, or other sheet, which this deponent printed for his own use, to keep for the use aforesaid, or to dispose of it as he thought fit, a thing too common with journeymen.

By this it very plainly appears that Scotch Macpherson, my journeyman, printed the paper unstamped, unknown to me, and gave it to Telpha, the Scot, White's journeyman. The two latter, the alehouse woman Mrs. Reynoldson told me, came to her house, and White asked for their newspaper, and privately changed the unstamped one for it; no doubt burning the right one, and making an information with what was as false as themselves were villainous.

White denied his having all hand in it; but Mr. Thompson told me, it was from one that was related to me, and yet my greatest enemy! And who could this be but White? in which, if he had proceeded, I might have brought the fellow's ears to prove my innocence, who thought to have forced me to London, before the commissioners. Such almost nefandous usage, stirred up Mr. Carty to write the following paragraph of my vindication, in the news, which I thus exactly transcribe.

YORK, Feb. 6th, 1725. From an attempt lately made upon me, I think myself obliged to beg my pardon and attention whilst I inform them of the misfortune which I am now likely to labour under; and which, I hope, may be applied by them severally, in some degree, to a favorable sense of me. Since I came into this city, I do not know any person I have offended in word or deed; and such was, and still shall be my desire and inclination to preserve and keep myself free from offence. Yet one dangerous and designing enemy unjustly endeavours, as much as possible, to circumvent me in my business, and transplant me from my place of settlement. And his efforts herein, not subsisting altogether with his emulation, he had recourse to an imaginary and more powerful frightful remedy, to terrify me with the approaching or ensuing fatal effects of it; and, consequently, make me fly, and thereby gain his ends. And in order to this, has been very dexterous and artful in the contrivance of his malicious and preconcerted design, by charging me with an information of having defrauded his majesty of a duty of one halfpenny, imposed by Parliament upon the single newspapers, or mercuries, sold and published by me; and this, with a view of drawing upon me the displeasure of the government, and subject me thereby, to the penalty of fifty pounds, limited by Act of Parliament, for such fraud. I must, therefore, acquaint my readers and the public that, since the prohibition I received in this behalf, I have complied, and still shall comply, with the tenour and meaning of the Act aforesaid; so as not to print, or direct to be printed, or knowingly suffered or permitted to be printed, or sold, or received money for, or published any newspapers since the receipt of the prohibition above mentioned, any other than what were duly stamped, according to the meaning of the said Act.

And for the truth whereof, I appeal to Heaven, and to the persons who are pleased to favour me with their custom, and who, when the ways by tempestuous storms, were rendered unpassable, were deprived of being supplied with the news by me, for want of stamps being brought to me, according to my expectation, as well as the deposition of my servant and journeymen, taken before a proper person, reciting my constant charge and direction to them, from time to time, to be cautious and exact not to print any news but upon stamps; and which they have sworn they have accordingly. And yet, after all this, my designing adversary, has found a single sheet unstamped at a public house, as he says, which may be a proof sheet, carried by one of my servants, inadvertently, in his pocket; or, by chance, misplaced; or, by corruption, obtained by him; which could not be very difficult, when the integrity of servants is not altogether to be relied on in this age. And thus is the thunderingbolt of his prosecution founded and balanced. And as none but my adversary, who by the foregoing matter, may be easily guessed, and hereafter shall be fully known in due time, could discern or find out this fraudulent contrivance of mine; I hope his judicious observation will furnish him with better reasons, and arguments more prevalent, than his quickening spirit of spleen and malice can suggest to justify him. From what has been said, I hope it will appear that the ruin of me, my wife, and family, is the only scope and design aimed at by this information; all his other underhand means proving weak and abortive.

Lastly, I humbly beseech my readers, to prevent this designing man's gaining more of his ends over me, to secure the person who shall bring, sell, or publish any news unstamped in my name; and that he, my said adversary, would seriously consider how every honest man will censure him for endeavouring to force an innocent person from his spouse and family by such unaccountable ways, and unchristian proceedings.

P.S. Any other might, notwithstanding the utmost precaution, be made liable to the same unhappiness in the like manner and occasion.

Thus concluded Mr. Carty's kindness for me.

But, afterwards, I found Macpherson a corrupted villain to others; and well, by a perverse rascal, might be made a rogue. For he was hired by Woodhouse, a bailiff, to betray his fellow servant, Ward, into his clutches; for which he was obliged to run away from my service, with fiddlers and pipers, before I returned from Hull, fearing my just resentment for his knavery, August 1726.

I would not have made this digression, were it not to lay open the cruelty of our barbarous uncle, who yet had some periodical fits of goodness, in considering what he had done to us, when too late to be recalled.

One time he vouchsafed to visit the nurse, gave her a shilling, and blessed my child, who, he said, was a lovely creature. But, alas! better had it been for his interest and ours, that he had not commenced so great an enemy. The child having its continuance of fits, my spouse caused the nurse to bring it home; but its cries and sighs being so piercing to our souls, she returned with him to her house.

The last fit came on it on the 12th of March, 1725, [1726 NS] just as it was fully dressed in its perfect beauty, which overcame that sable colour that was wont to shade its lovely countenance in those terrible attacks; but then it was conquered by death, who left its body in so sweet a condition, that any spectator might have imagined it an angel asleep, newly arrived in this transitory world. It only gave a sigh, as the nurse told me, and then parted for ever.

I paid the church funeral expenses to that covetous priest Bradley, who did nothing for it, though I buried its pretty corpse in the church of St. Michael le Belfrey; where it was laid, on the breast of Mr. Charles Bourne, my predecessor, in the chancel on the south side of the altar.

I continued, though without profit, but rather lost, to print the news, that our adversaries should not suddenly triumph over us.

1726. In these times, I printed some books learnedly translated into English by Mr. John Clarke, schoolmaster, in Hull; the columns of the two languages being opposite one to the other, for the greater ease of young tyros in learning, as well as those who had obtained some indifferent proficiency therein. Two editions I did of Erasmus. To my journeyman I had Mr. Whitburne Wells, nephew to the celebrated doctor in divinity of that surname, who wrote a book in geography, in Greek and Latin; but having no goodwill to his kinsman, he listed in the army, where his merit and wit obtained him the honour of being a serjeant at Gibraltar. Another journeyman was John Brooker, originally from Ireland; little better, when mellow, than a lunatic, and, quite drunk, a perfect madman. Another was called Thomas Dickenson, a sort of interloper, but a good workman, considering his lameness; saucy, sly, conceited, and very offensive when there was no other occasion, but only requiring him to be cleanly, and not offensive to others by his rubbish, which his unreasonable covetousness would not allow time to make away. He had been long in Scotland, where he married; became a stroller; was sent from constable to constable, to Belfrey's parish; afterwards wrought at Doncaster with Mr. Ward; and, at length, died in or near London. I had also for my journeyman, Mr. Pattison, a good-natured, honest Scot, the best that ever I knew of the sort; and Smith, of the same country, but I think as false a loon as ever came out of it. I was often grieved that my necessity should oblige me to employ some of those ungrateful vermin, and others, particularly one Jackson, a mean senseless wretch, to whom yet I gave the best London prices.

1728. The opposition continuing still against me by our unmerciful uncle, I was obliged to contrive some business, rather than go back in the world; and, by an almost unheard of attempt, to seek a living by recalling the dead, as it were, to life, to afford me and mine that sustenance which the living seemed to deny me. The thought sprung from some curiosities that I had found, and by what I was likely to procure, relating to the antiquities of York. My resolution became so rivetted in me, and being spurred on by necessity, that I published the proposals of my design in the year 1729. It was very far from real pleasure when I heard that some people had scrupled my real ability, and that others feared to trust me with the subscription money. I was one time, I believe, for half an hour, very indecently abused at a merry meeting, by a fellow who reflected on Mr. Gent, as he called me, though he knew not I was the very person he was talking to; and should, for me, have continued ignorant, through my innocent nature, if one of the company, who had suffered him to prate a long while, could bear no longer, but discovering his mistake, called him a blockhead for his vile imprudence; and obliged him to leave the place. But what most of all astonished me was the usage of old Hildyard, a neighbouring bookseller, who sent to my shop his then simple son John, to tell me that, if I printed any thing relating to the city, he would sue me in an action of two thousand pounds damages. I asked why, and for what? The silly fellow told me that his father had printed a book of the mayors and sheriffs of York already, and would have no other to be done. So had the impudence to mark out those periods of my proposals that had given him offence, by clashing against his interest. This put me upon viewing that book; and, upon inquiry, I found that his production was mere theft from a lawyer's copy, only with an addition of a fulsome dedication or two, as much for instruction to the readers, as the almost bare catalogue of names it contained. Upon which, being provoked a second time by the said simple coxcomb, I returned word to the old fellow that, if I copied after such a wretched threadbare piece, he might arrest me if he pleased; so turned the blockhead out of my house. I still went on and received subscription money, though my timorous spouse, for some time, would have had me desisted, because the old man was powerfully rich; and, beside, had stood as a father when we were married. Thus was I tormented with her whimpering note of, perhaps, sincere love, on the one hand, and on the other, with reproaches and threatenings, which were all counterbalanced with the merry subscribers that displayed their goodness on my pious design. As a grateful recompense, I took, indeed, great pains in every church, having many of the sepulchral monuments washed and cleansed, to come as perfectly as I could to the characters; many of which were almost delible, and diurnally conveyed them to my press. It so happened that Lord Percival and Mr. Scawen, viewing the antiquities of the Minster, were informed by Mr. Moon, the verger, what I was upon; and that it was a great pity if my generous proposals did not meet that encouragement that was due to so worthy an undertaking. And who should they inquire of me, but of old Mr. Hildyard, where I lived, that they might subscribe! Unquestionably a great mortification to him, who had thus insulted me, a citizen as good as himself; and who should he send with them but the empty-brained, puffing, puppylike fellow his son, to shew them the way, and to examine what I had collected for that purpose. And though all seemed in embryo, by the many divided pieces and interlineations of what I had written, they were pleased to give my price for six books; and promised, if I enlarged more than I then intended, they would reward me in proportion to my industry. While I was upon the work, Hammond, the quacking bookseller, who reported he had some manuscripts relating to the purpose, in a manner pretended to oblige me to take him in a partner. He told Beckwith, his half brother, being a running stationer, that he would print a book of York too, if I did not let him join with me. I was not willing at first, but thinking him a fit antagonist against old Hildyard, I returned word by old Tom, he should have his desire, provided he had no part of what I had received from subscribers. Upon this, agreeing, the impression, which I only designed to be five hundred, was augmented to one thousand, with a clause that, whoever was out of books first, should sell for the other, paying two shillings each in sheets, till the whole number were disposed of. [I took Hammond in partly also to ease me in the great expense I had been at; but the wretch would never communicate to me any of his manuscripts, which might have done me some good, but reserved them for sale to Dr. D--ke, my contemporary historian: so that the whole weight lay upon me, which made me venture to ascend the most lofty dangerous places, to explore the curious paintings in glass; as well as into gloomy cemeteries, to restore the long dead to recent memory. TG]

1730. When I had published the work, my joy was inexpressible, to be told what a kind reception it met with from persons of both sexes, and all ranks and conditions. I returned thanks to Heaven that I had written what was thought worthy to be read; and not misjudged, by the most learned, to have treated that church with the least want of respect, which our ancestors had raised to the glory of Almighty God; and which, I believe, for a fine Gothic building, is not to be excelled by an illustrious piece of architecture in the whole universe. That I had done my best, was taken as candidly as the most beautiful work of the ablest artist; so that, as I was sensible of my own inability, I held myself to be under the highest obligation to the public. In a particular manner, I could not but reverence that noble lord, my generous subscriber, who wrote to me the following letter:

Charlton; June 23, 1730.

Your three books of the History of York were delivered me yesterday in London, on my return from the Bath. I have not had time yet to peruse them, but I perceive there is a great deal of curious and uncommon matter laboriously collected, which cannot fail to entertain and instruct. I thank you, sir, for your care in sending them so punctually and safely, and am,

Sir,

Your very humble servant,

PERCIVAL.

 

But I had a very merry epistle on a serious subject, concerning an omission; the author thinking I was quite in the wrong to entitle my work a sacred history, since, as he said, only evangelical writings ought to be termed such. But yet he kindly seemed to excuse me, as thinking I did it purely in honour of Almighty God; and desired me, if ever I reprinted the book, not to omit a memorial of the Rev. Anthony Wright, who was interred beneath the great lantern, or largest tower; which I took notice of when I came to publish a second volume of antiquities, as hereafter will be mentioned.

I had several admirers, who were surprised to think a person so obscure as I was generally deemed, should have the courage to venture on so noble and pious a design; nor was I free from the sarcastic scoffs of others, whose envy was far superior to their judgments: for, at a perambulation, one Mr. Wiseacre reported, in ridicule, what a parcel of stuff I had collected, such as old illegible monuments and inscriptions in churches, before the days of their ancient grannams. "Aye," said the Rev. Mr. Knight, "has he done so? And do you, sir, call these affectionate memorials only wretched stuff? I assure you I think quite contrary; that, instead of base reflections, he deserves commendable praises; and, please God, I will buy one of them for my serious perusal:" which the good gentleman accordingly did, and was pleased to tell me that, what I had collected deserved a larger volume, and worthy of a better price. Mr. Hildyard, from an enemy turned my friend also, bought and sold many, and continued in kindness to his dying day; being sorry, I had reason to believe, for the great trouble he at first had given to me and my family, by his unreasonable threatenings: so that I had an almost general approbation, which so grieved our silly uncle, and those people under him, as to presume to disgrace my works in their newspapers; but I returned them such smart usage as cured them.

It was in this year, on the 3rd of April, that I took Henry Addison for my apprentice. He was nephew to the Rev. Mr. James Addison, vicar of Bishopsthorpe, near this city, who gave me with him fifteen pounds. The lad was brought up at Sedbergh school, proved very skilful in the business, honestly served his time, and handsomely provides for his wife and three lovely young daughters, brought up by an affectionate mother. About the time of his first coming to me, I printed Suetonius in Latin and English, for the aforesaid Mr. John Clarke, of Hull, in a demy octavo, closely exhibited.

In 1731, having printed a translation of Oppian's Cynegeticks, for Dr. Mawer, the Supplement for the Polyglott Bible passed through my press. And then my dear and I, considering our woeful purchase in Stonegate, in which we durst not enter lest, if the old gentlewoman should die, we should fall into the mercy of the great R, who waited for that melancholy period to us; we bought the house where we now live, in Petergate, opposite Mr. Shaw's, which we let to the ingenious Mr. Henry Hindeley, clockmaker, for seven pounds a year.

1732. I printed a book for Mr. Thomas Baxter, schoolmaster, in Crathorn, Yorkshire, intituled, "The Circle Squared," but as it never proved of any effect, it was converted to waste paper, to the great mortification of the author. A different reception Mr. Clarke's Justin received this year, which was learnedly translated.

1733. My nephew, Arthur Clarke, aforesaid, was sent with materials to furnish a printing office in Scarborough; from which we had a fair prospect of the ocean. The gentry from the Spa used to visit us, to have their names, and see the playhouse bills and other work printed; and, at York, I published my History of Rippon, with the antiquities of the most noted towns in the county. An eminent and learned clergyman reading my Treatise of Christianity, with the sufferings of our blessed Saviour and his apostles, was pleased to tell Mr. Knowlton, that he had never perused a more instructive and pathetic abstract, that melted him even into tears. Too great an approbation I might, in modesty, justly suppose; however, it gave me infinite satisfaction to find those things approved, which some vile wretches had condemned.

In 1734, I printed "Miscellanea Curiosa," for Mr. Thomas Turner; a work which got credit both to the author and to me, for the beautiful performance thereof: it was published quarterly; but for want of sufficient encouragement, the work ceased in less than a year's time, when the mathematic types ceased also to be of any use to me. On the 7th of June this year, I took Francis Hildyard, grandson to the old bookseller aforesaid, to be my apprentice, but so dull and slow a fellow I never had before or since. I oft repented I had such an unprofitable servant, and had little redress upon my complaint to Mr. Lambert, his uncle, who put him to me, or his poor father, of mean condition, who having lost a place, for wrong voting, in the government, was at length glad to be clerk to the company of the smiths; whose fate it was to fall down dead in the open street. His unfortunate son, to me, on King Charles's day of martyrdom, as he was fowling, missed his mark, and shot his fellow apprentice, Stephen Clarke, into the thigh, to my great loss; but, providentially, no bone was broken, and the most dangerous parts untouched; so that, by the skill and care of that ingenious surgeon, Mr. Shipton, he became perfectly sound again, in about a quarter of a year's time. But Hildyard, though sensible of my damage, never exerted himself in his duty to me; but, instead thereof, worked in my absence some senseless reflections upon election matters, for his own profit, which my good nature passed by; and I assure my reader that, at the expiration of his time, I delivered his indenture with great satisfaction.

In 1735, a Scotchman, whom Mr. White had owned for a servant seven years, seceding from the newspaper as to the name which was mentioned, young Mr. Alexander Staples, son to my old back friend, Mr. Robert Staples, at London, the celebrated disposer of Dr. Daffy's elixir, was instigated by White to do good in York, which he was not able himself to accomplish with satisfaction. The young man accordingly arrived, took a gallant house in Coney street, printed the news, and really was as great a puff as ever I had seen before. I really judged him to be a good-natured youth, till I inserted some lines in my journal which gave him umbrage; as though his pretty advertising pictures and Daffy's elixir were reflected upon, though his name or paper were not mentioned therein.

I was charged with being the author; the shorthand writer of Turpin's Life, Kyle, fell into a passion, and proceeded to lying interpretations: Staples was, like Hudibras, going to the lawyer to find out in what manner he could deal with me: but after full consultation at a club, a resolution was taken to wound, and, if possible, jolt my brains out with English and Latin verses; and truly, such jargon was printed against me, that was enough to infect a man with Scotch scabbado, but not in the least to impair his understanding. I never took notice of their unlearned filth, or such like cannibal vermin as Dugdale writes of in the Monasticon, in various centuries, utter enemies to our natives of England or Ireland, especially to the latter, and even false to themselves. But, by the by, in a future work, I compared the devourers of people's reputations to those cannibals whom the Conqueror, William the first, punished: "Pictura vitrea quæ, est in claustro de Strenshale monstrat Scotos, qui prope fines Anglorum habitant, fuisse vel ad Gulielmi Nothi tempora anthropophagos & hanc immanitatem à Gulielmi gladio fuisse punitam." But as Mr. Staples, I knew, was born in England, and seduced by Mr. White, I had a respect for him as a youth, that was unacquainted with my nature. We after became friends, and did mutual kindnesses for each other; and as he became more entangled in the world, and found the cruel deceit thereof, he treated me the more obligingly in his requesting letters. To his great expense, he courted a young lady at Newcastle, in which being unsuccessful, his circumstances became more suspected by discerning people.

1736. This year I published my History of Hull: after which my publisher, Mr. Wilford, failed in London. I comforted, instead of afflicting the man, under his heavy misfortunes, which he after gratefully remembered in mentioning my work in his "Lives of Illustrious Personages," in folio, and generously ordered one of them to be given, as a present, as some small atonement (the utmost he was able,) for the loss that I had sustained by him.

In 1736, Mr. Francis Drake published his "Eboracum," or York History, in two volumes: a noble work, to give him his due, as my friend, Browne Willis, esq. styles it in his letter to me, which contains also most curious and entertaining accounts of the adjoining Aynsty. But, amongst other writers, he has thus exhibited these words of me and my humble performance: "The last thing," saith he, "which I shall mention, is to inform the public, that I have seen and read a small octavo printed tract, the title page of which bears this inscription, 'The Antient and Modern History of the Famous City of York, and, in a particular manner, of its magnificent Cathedral, commonly called York Minster, &c.; the whole diligently collected by T. G.: York, printed, &c., 1730.' I have nothing to say to this work, but to assure my contemporary historian, that I have stolen little or nothing from his laborious performance, wherein Mr. T. G., as author, printer, and publisher of the work himself, endeavouring to get a livelihood for his family, deserves commendation for his industry."

I could expatiate very justly and sharply on the whole of this ridiculous paragraph, unbecoming his character as a gentleman: but I shall touch on it a very little; for he proved a threatener, too, by telling me, that authors had already treated of the Minster, and that if I did any thing to border on their copies, I should incur the penalty of an Act of Parliament. What he uttered in terrorem I could but inwardly smile at, which, no doubt, he perceived well enough; and, being ascertained of my resolution, lent me Willis's Book of Cathedrals, which I accepted of, but would not copy after, having the church so near me, and perceiving the wretched mistakes of that publication. Besides, Mr. Drake was a subscriber to, but a reflector on me to Mr. Samuel Smith, when he perceived a discourse I had made, introductory to History, in my newspapers. As to the smallness of the tract, I am sure the book was multum in parvo, and it should have been larger, if the city had but blessed me with one fourth of fifty pounds which he received, which, with other contributions from a willing party, and the generosity of others, could not but impel him forcibly to make a shining work, whether otherwise he would or no. And as to his stealing any thing of mine, that expression, so exceeding vulgar, might well have been spared in a polite doctor, since such are seldom charged with theft, except stealing people out of their graves; besides, he was very welcome to any thing that I had painfully collected. I never called any a fool in folio, as the inveterately provoked Sam Smith did, before an assembly in Scarborough: and if any of my friends had said that he was obliged to what I had performed, their offence was none of mine. And therefore, thinking his character like his commendation, and both very ludicrous, I esteemed myself under no obligation to thank him, in the least, for what he had written; but much rather those gentlemen and ladies who pleased to approve of my performance, and took it as a pocket companion in their pleasant journey on the roads, whilst riding in their coaches, or as an entertainer in their closets. [There is no vindicating the manner in which Drake speaks of this performance of Gent; which was not, like too many modern books of topography, a mere bundle of pillage from the works of ingenious and painstaking authors, but consisting, for the most part, of matter honestly collected, and not, before his time, made public by the press. The passage, therefore, deserves to stand; but it must not be concealed, as a trait of good feeling in Gent, that he has cancelled this passage, and, with a hand enfeebled with age and misfortune, has added this note: "1766. The Doctor has proved, since, a great friend to me,--I pray God bless him most sincerely, and shall do, I trust, to my life's end." JH]

This year, on the 4th of May, I took Stephen Clarke for my apprentice: he was the son of the Rev. Mr. Stephen Clarke, M.A., rector of Burythorpe, near Malton, who gave me with him twenty pounds. The youth honestly served his time, and went to London, where I wish him all the good fortune that he can expect or desire, according to his merits.

1737. Having but too much time to spare, rather than be indolent, I studied music on the harp, flute, and other instruments. And, on the 15th of August, I took apprentice Robert Moon, nephew to Mr. Moon, one of the vergers, who gave me twenty guineas with him: he served his time, and is now a master in Preston, Lancashire, where he wed a handsome young woman, who brought him an agreeable fortune.

1738. This year I wrote and printed a pastoral dialogue on the much lamented death of the Right Honourable and illustrious Charles Howard, Earl of Carlisle, who died the 1st of May, at Bath; which poem was universally received with kindness and approbation, more, I may well think, in regard to the merits of the deceased, than to any of mine in the performance, though I dressed it up in as soft a manner as I could wish; with which a most learned doctor in divinity, Dr. John Mawer, rector of Middleton Tyas, near Richmond, and an excellent poet, was graciously pleased to send me his kind approbation, to my no small consolation.

About the 13th of January, 1738, Mr. Alexander Staples was quite broken up by Dr. Burton; and, not long after, the Messrs. Cæsar Ward and Richard Chandler became possessors of his printing materials: besides, they carried on abundance of business in the bookselling way, having had shops at London, York, and Scarborough. The latter collected divers volumes on Parliamentary affairs, and by the run they seemed to take, one would have imagined that he would have ascended to the apex of his desires; but, alas! his thoughts soared too high, and sunk his fortunes so low, by the debts he had contracted, that rather than become a despicable object to the world, or bear the miseries of a prison, he put a period to his life, by discharging a pistol into his head, as he lay reclined on his bed. As I knew the man formerly, I was very sorry to hear of his tragical suicide, an action that for awhile seemed to obumbrate the glories of Cæsar, who found such a deficiency in his partner's accounts, so great a want of money, and such a woeful sight of flowing creditors, that made him succumb under the obligation to a statute of bankruptcy; during which time he has been much reflected on by a Scot, who had been his servant, and obnoxious for awhile to many persons, who were not thoroughly acquainted with him. But he now brightly appears again, amidst the dissipating clouds of distress, in the publication of a paper, that transcends those of his contemporaries as much as the rising sun does the falling stars.

In January 1739, the frost having been extremely intense, the rivers became so frozen, that I printed names upon the ice. It was a dangerous spot on the south side of the bridge, where I first set up, as it were, a new kind of press, only a roller wrapt about with blankets. Whilst reading the verses I had made to follow the names, wherein King George was most loyally inserted, some soldiers round about made great acclamations, with other good people; but the ice suddenly crackling, they almost as quickly run away, whilst I, who then did not hear well, neither guessed the meaning, fell to work, and wondered at them as much for retiring so precipitately as they at me for staying: but taking courage, they stoutly returned back, brought company, and I took some pence amongst them. After this, I moved my shop to and fro, to the great satisfaction of young gentlemen, ladies, and others, who were very liberal on the occasion. [Here is introduced a long and uninteresting account of the manner in which he was deprived of the house in Stonegate, which was held under a prebendal lease. JH]

1741. Having printed the news for several years, for want of encouragement, I was obliged to give it up about this time: I had studied and endeavoured, to my utmost ability, to make it bear, but the strength of the Craftsman, with my misfortunes, had now quite overcome me. I peaceably dropt into oblivion, without any ludicrous animadversions of my contemporary brethren. I lost, by death, one of the best of lodgers, in room of whom I got one of the worst; but, what grieved me not a little, was the death of that fine tall personage, my patron, the Rev. Mr. Hitch: he had, I believe, overheated himself at the strife about obtaining votes for members of Parliament, that threw him into a mortal fever, which, on the 26th of December, conveyed his precious soul, I hope, into the blessed regions of a glorious immortality. [From York Courant, Number 846, printed by Caesar Ward, York, December 29, 1741: "Last week, died, the Rev. Mr. Hitch, rector of Boswell, and chaplain to H. R. Highness the Prince of Wales." TG] Now all my hopes were arrived at their final period; what my late patron might have gained, had he renewed, was entirely lost to his friends. But he was of a honourable disposition, and scorned that the church or his successors should suffer through any base compliance: he well knew how I was served, and what the alderman intended, as well as his right interest, not to be imposed upon. I am told, had he lived longer, such was the favor he found at court, that he was in a fair way of getting a bishopric in Ireland, but God thought fit to take him to himself; on whom I made the following lines:

 

Lamented shade! thy kindness done to me,

But, what was dearer, pity shewn to mine,

Though now amongst the shining saints you be,

Thy fate we'll mourn, and venerate your shrine!

Till heaven, like you, who stops our streaming tears,

Shall, through death's summons, free our souls from cares.

 

Mr. Laurence Sterne, nephew to a doctor of divinity of that surname, having obtained his prebend, how he agreed with the alderman I cannot tell; but I found it was in vain for me to make application to him, since Mr. Hitch could not relieve me; however, it was some comfort to see how Henry Hitch, esq. wrote of me from London to the Rev. Mr. Wilkinson, in the following year:

"By your directions," said he, "given me to you, I find you are with Mr. Gent, the printer: that honest man had hard treatment from Alderman Read. If my dead relation had had longer days, he would have relieved him; I wish you would recommend him to Mr. Sterne."

But as I perceived I was for ever ejected, my friends thought it vain to make fresh application. God forgive the alderman! with the same breath I pray, sincerely, that none of my concerns may have any entanglement with such a great r-- like him, that so I may be freed from utter destruction.

But to the increase of my misfortunes, the then steward, as he called himself, Jeremiah Rudsdell, a presbyterian baker, began to assert a right to receive the rents of the house I lived in in Coffee yard, though, on the 15th of June, the year before, he disclaimed all right, for the future, to being concerned, before Mr. Thomas Oliver, and told me to pay it to Mrs. Atkinson, (widow of John Atkinson, vulgarly called Sir John Cheese,) for she only was empowered to receive it, not only as part of her own share, but to take the share of her daughter and Mr. Gouge, to whom she was to be accountable. After this, he troubled himself no further about repairs, which were left entirely to the said Mrs. Jane Atkinson, who lodged in my house about a year, or a year within two or three days, and owed me for board, and attendance given her by my servants as a gentlewoman; but she, and her sister, and brother-in-law, Gouge, falling out, Rudsdell gets, I suppose, a new power, and (when I least expected any such matter,) seizes part of my goods in the shop and kitchen, and claps bailiffs into my house, through the direction of Yawood, an attorney. My house in Petergate being then empty, I was repairing it for another tenant, in the room of the ingenious Mr. Hendley, who had given me warning, and was removed into Stonegate, meanwhile Mrs. Atkinson repleving the goods. But a little after my spouse, fearing a fresh seizure, through what she had heard, consented I should repair our own, so as to be fit for a printing office, and leave our former abode for ever. Through its wretched owners, that unhappy estate was purchased in Stonegate, which the alderman before mentioned had gotten possession from us. 'Twas fresh oppression that, in 1729, had so provoked us, that we were very near taking a lease of Mr. Sheriff Lambert's house, in Petergate; and now this last insult which had flown about, that I was near broke, besides other dangers, were sufficient reason to give our landlady warning to seek a new tenant, if she pleased: Mr. Blanchard, of the Spiritual Court, was present when I spoke, and more fully repeated after I had ceased, and then I presented her a paper, in which was written

"May 1, 1742.

"TO MRS. JANE ATKINSON:

"MADAM, this is to give you notice, and your daughter, likewise your brother and sister Gouge, and Mrs. Remmington, or any who are, or may be concerned, as landlord or landladies of the house in Coffee Yard and stable adjacent, that I shall leave entirely your or their house and stable, and be no more a tenant to any of your or their agents, in anywise, after Martinmas next: and as I have with you (although with some reluctancy,) been, as it were, obliged to sign a bond for replevin of my seized goods, I shall, God willing, clear them of all demands, where appears a right upon balance, when the law of the kingdom shall settle matters according to justice and equity. You have been set over me as a landlady, and yet is my lodger and boarder, notwithstanding, indebted to me, which, you know, must be allowed.

"I am, madam,

"Your humble servant,

"THOMAS GENT."

She said she accepted my warning, and I might go when I pleased: I told her I blamed not her so much as I did others, and gave her soft expressions to please her. But I heard, when we were departed, she fell into tears, and so alternately into other strange passions.

After this, I was at great expense and labour in moving my goods; and, I remember, my new building was but just covered with the leads and surrounded by a walk, when it was told me, that the house I was leaving was advertised to be let, in the public newspaper, which I purchased of Thomas Wilson, baker, in Stonegate. It was in the "York Courant," Number 868, printed for Cæsar Ward, bookseller, dated Tuesday, June 1, 1742, viz.

"TO BE LET,

"The house where Mr. Thomas Gent, printer, now lives, in Coffee Yard, York, to be entered on at Martinmas next: inquire of Mr. Bernard Awmonds, grocer, in Castle Gate, York.

"N.B. It hath been a printing office above an hundred years."

During my troubles, I received two letters from Browne Willis, esq. which I beg leave to mention here, as a grateful memorial of him.

"To Mr. Thomas Gent, in the City of York.

"Whaddon Hall, near Fenny, Stratford, Bucks." November 22, l 740.

"SIR,

"I AM concerned to let a brother antiquary's letter lie near three weeks unanswered; but the truth is, I wanted some of my relations, members of Parliament, to frank my scroll; and also hoped to have had your new work sent me down hither, and have wrote two letters to my bookseller to despatch it to me: but he is in so bad a state of health, and not like to live, that it is neglected, and so I sent to a gentleman to take it at Mr. Overton's. If I am pretty well, as indeed I am very much otherwise, I hope, at Christmas, or soon after, to be in town, and shall be glad to recommend your performance. I thought you proposed another edition of the History of York; if you do intend it, exhibit one, perhaps I may help you, as I would have done had you put any queries to me. Cannot you give any dedications in Yorkshire, &c. not printed already by me? Any corrections or improvements to what I have published will be very acceptable, and shall rejoice if any forward your laborious designs, as being, good sir, your most assured friend and devoted servant to command,

"BROWNE WlLLIS.

"P. S. I hope Mr. Selby and Dr. Drake are well.

The aforesaid letter was the last I received from Browne Willis, esq., who, I hear, is departed this mortal life, happy for him, I trust, though much lamented by others who, with pleasure, have perused his indefatigable labours.

About August 1744, I built a tower upon my house, which very much strengthened the whole building and platform, by joining the chimney with a communication to the southern wall, so that there appeared a regular conjunction and uniformity; besides, the floor of the tower, was a shelter to the door of the leads, which, before, let in the rain, and rotted my new stairs. By this addition, my house seems the highest in the city, and affords an agreeable prospect round the country: we have an wholesome air whenever we please to ascend, especially the mornings and evenings, with great conveniency for my business, when overcrowded in the narrow rooms below; and several gentlemen have, occasionally, taken a serious pipe, to talk of affairs in printing; as well as neighbours, to satisfy their curiosity, in viewing the flowers that grow almost round about upon the walls. One of my apprentices, Joseph Nickson, cut the following sketch hereof, which I here place as a memorial, to be remembered when I am in the grave, should the building, by some future possessor, happen to be demolished.

[This cut, which like too many of Gent's book embellishments will not bear to be copied, is at the head of an advertisement, of which a copy is pasted on the last leaf of the manuscript. It is characteristic of him. JH]


THOMAS GENT

ÆTAT. 50

 

Laus Deo:

 

A person descended from the Gents in Staffordshire, freeman of London, York, and two other remarkable cities, lawful printer and stationer; a lover of these English northern parts, in which, as a right master, he has brought up several reputable servants; and, under God's divine providence, hitherto protected his family, to the comfort also of some needy, but honest deserving people. Within his new well-contrived office, abovesaid, printing work is performed in a curious and judicious manner, having sets of fine characters for the Greek, Latin, English, Mathematics, &c. He sells the Histories of Rome, France, England, particularly of this ancient City, Aynsty, and extensive County, in five volumes; likewise a book of the holy life of St. Winifred, and her wonderful Cambrian fountain. He has stimulated an ingenious founder to cast such musical types, for the common press, as never yet were exhibited; and has prepared a new edition for his York History against the time when the few remaining of that first and large impression are disposed of, wherein will appear several remarkable occurrences and amendments, if it pleases the Divine Majesty to grant him life at the publication thereof.

Psallite Domino, in citharâ, in citharâ et voce Psalmi: in tubis ductilibus, et voce tubæ corneæ.

Ipsi vero in vanum quæsierunt animam meam, introibunt in inferiora terræ:

tradentur in manus gladii: partes vulpium erunt.

[This is presumably one of Gent's advertisements, printed in 1743. FJG]

 

Gent's affairs, we may perceive, were beginning to decline at the time when this narrative is closed. It does not appear that he ever continued the story: it would, it is to be feared, have been but a narrative of a course of life which was bound in shallows and in miseries. He continued, indeed, to reside at his house in Petergate; but new and more enterprising printers arose in that northern metropolis; till, at length, Gent's press became in little request. His topographical resources were exhausted in his three works on York, Rippon, and Hull; and it is little of valuable information of any kind that is to be derived from his "History of the East Window in York Minster," which he published in 1762, when, as Mr. Gough says, he was sinking under age and necessity. [British Topography, vol. ii. p. 428.]

Still he had friends who respected him, and were willing to assist him. A portrait was painted of him by one of the Drakes, a family who were particularly attentive to him in his old age. This portrait appears to have been exhibited for his benefit; and there was a mezzotinto engraving from it by Valentine Green, of which a copy is prefixed to this volume. It is said by some who knew him, to be an admirable resemblance of him, with his fine loose flowing silvery hair, and wanting only the fresh and ruddy appearance of his countenance. A play was twice performed for his benefit. These things contributed "To smooth the harsh severities of age;" one of his own lines, and not the worst, in perhaps the latest of his compositions.

Were any one to attempt to make a catalogue of the works of Gent, he would find it a harder task than ever bibliographer performed. All his principal writings have been mentioned: but beside them, he who could be at once author, printer, and publisher, and who was driven by necessity to make every exertion, must, we are sure, have produced numerous smaller tracts, some with his name, and some without; neither, indeed, is it a very tempting inquiry.

But the writer of this little supplementary notice possesses one of the later tracts of Gent, which deserves to be taken notice of, as being the longest of his attempts in verse, and on account of the singularity of its mode of publication: it is a translation into English verse, with some additions, of the "Reliquiæ Eboracenses," an elegant poem, on the Roman affairs in Brigantia, by Dr. Heneage Dering, sometime Dean of Rippon. It is printed on the coarsest paper, and in the rudest manner; it has no title page, but the following note is prefixed, in the handwriting of Gent himself:

Designed to be advertised and published, soon as proper paper can be afforded, either through beneficent subscription, or generosity to the laborious well-known author, whose Icon was lately exhibited, to general satisfaction.

This must have been about the year 1772. He died at his house in York, on the 19th of May, 1778, in the eighty-seventh year of his age; and was interred in the church of St. Michael le Belfrey.