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I left my friend as a journeyman to Mr. Cook, the printer, (who had bought the materials of the executors of the late Mr. Ince,) and arriving at London, I applied myself again to Mr. Watts, who readily employed me; but at a new lodging, near Long Acre, through carelessness of the landlady laying wet sheets on the bed, I had such a terrible night, with pain all over me, that, what with the sweat of my body, and the dampness through moisture, the sheets were as wet as if newly washed in the Thames; for my part, I could scarcely walk to the printing house, and when I came there, my ghastly appearance made the men desire me to return, for I was more fit for my bed than to work; but when I desired them to let me stay, and told what I thought was the reason, they cursed my kind hostess: when I returned at night I found her drying the sheets, she was sorry for what happened, and ever after took special care of my safety.
After all, that I had undergone, I must confess, I thought were but my just deserts for being so long absent from my dear, and yet I could not well help it. I had a little money, it is very true, but no certain home wherein to invite her. I knew she was well fixed; and it pierced me to the very heart to think if, through any miscarriage or misfortune, I should alter her condition for the worse instead of the better; upon this account my letters to her at that time was not so amorously obliging as they ought to have been from a sincere lover by which she had reason, however she might have been mistaken, to think that I had failed in my part of those tender engagements which had passed between us. But to proceed in my long narrative.
My friend and fellow traveller, Mr. Campbell, coming from Chester to London, got into the same house with me, when there happened an affair, soon after that, which entirely lost me that place. Near the office, it happened, that Mr. Francis Clifton, who had a liberal education at Oxford, but proved a Roman Catholic, had set up a press, and printed a newspaper. His journeyman sickening, he was in great distress for a hand; so hearing of me and others, we were sent for to an alehouse, where, opening his want, I ventured to assist him for a day or two. But this being discovered, was very ill interpreted, and Mr. Clifton offering me largely, though himself was in poor circumstances, made me resolve entirely to take my chance in his affairs; and so I did in that kind manner that, upon his being arrested for debt, I attended him while under custody of one Earle, so named, a rascally and cruel bailiff, to get out of whose clutches, I paid the money, without expecting any interest, and only took, as security, some furniture he could spare for my lodging.
The usage he received whilst in hold, gave me such horrid distaste to that sort of vermin, that I never cared to have the least society with them; for scarce one action was cleared, but another was ready to be clapped on, and a follower sent about to the creditors to prepare fresh ones. But Mr. Clifton had not been long delivered when he became apprehensive that an extent was designed to be levelled from powerful enemies; to shun the merciless effects of which, he moved his goods into the liberty of the fleet, and there became entered as a prisoner. Here an old Yorkshire gentlewoman who lived in St. John's street, let him have whatever he wanted; the Catholics often relieved him; and he was equally as ready to oblige them in his publications. He paid me honestly almost every week, as my constancy and labour deserved. Some time, in extreme weather have I worked under a mean shed, adjoining to the prison wall, when snow and rain have fallen alternately on the cases; yet the number of widemouthed stentorian hawkers, brisk trade, and very often a glass of good ale, revived the drooping spirits of me and other workmen. I have often admired at the success of this person in his station; for, whether through pity of mankind, or the immediate hand of Divine Providence to his family, advantageous jobs so often flowed upon him, as gave him cause to be merry under his heavy misfortunes. I remember once a piece of work came in from a reverend bishop, whose pen was employed in vindicating the reputation of Mr. Kesley, an honest clergyman, who was committed to the King's Bench prison, through an action of scandalum magnatum, though many thought the truth was, he had only hinted in private to a certain noble an heinous crime, that once brought down fire from heaven, and which was revealed to him by a valet de chambre upon a bed of sickness, when in a state of repentance. And, though I composed the letters, and think, if my memory does not fail me, that I helped to work the matter off at press, too, yet I was not permitted to know who was the author thereof but, however, when finished, the papers were packed up, and delivered to my care; and the same night, my master hiring a coach, we were driven to Westminster where we entered into a large sort of monastic building.
Soon were we ushered into a spacious hall, where we sat near a large table, covered with an ancient carpet of curious work, and whereon was soon laid a bottle of wine for our entertainment. In a little time, we were visited by a grave gentleman in a black lay habit, who entertained us with one pleasant discourse or other. He bid us be secret; "for," said he, "the imprisoned divine does not know who is his defender; if he did, I know his temper: in a sort of transport he would reveal it, and so I should be blamed for my good office; and, whether his intention was designed to show his gratitude, yet if a man is hurt by a friend, the damage is the same as if done by an enemy; to prevent which, is the reason I desire this concealment." "You need not fear me, sir," said my master; "and I, good sir," added I, "you may be less afraid of; for I protest I do not know where I am, much less your person; nor heard where I should be driven, or if I shall not be drove to Jerusalem before I get home again; nay, I shall forget I ever did the job by tomorrow; and, consequently, shall never answer any questions about it, if demanded. Yet, sir, I shall secretly remember your generosity, and drink to your health with this brimful glass." Thereupon, this set them both a laughing; and truly I was got merrily tipsy, so merry, that I hardly knew how I was driven homewards. For my part, I was ever inclined to secrecy and fidelity; and, therefore, I was no wise inquisitive concerning our hospitable entertainer; yet I thought the imprisoned clergyman was happy, though he knew it not, in having so illustrious a friend, who privately strove for his releasement. But, happening afterwards to behold a state prisoner in a coach, guarded from Westminster to the tower, God bless me, thought I, it was no less than the Bishop of Rochester, Dr. Atterbury, by whom my master and I had been treated! Then came to my mind his every feature, but then altered through indisposition, and grief for being under royal displeasure. Though I never approved the least thing whereby a man might be attainted, yet I generally had compassion for the unfortunate; I was more confirmed it was he, because I heard some people say at that visit, that we were got into the Dean's yard; and, consequently, it was his house, though I then did not know it; but afterwards learned that the Bishop of Rochester was always Dean of Westminster. I thanked God from my heart, that we had done nothing of offence, at that time, on any political account; a thing that produces such direful consequences.
During my stay with Mr. Clifton, which, without my design, drew many of Mr. Midwinter's customers from him, I was often solicited by the latter to return again, and he would allow the same premium as the former did, of twenty shillings per week. But not only was I afraid of an inducement to beguile me, and so turn me out, destitute of a friend, when his turn was again served, but also could not be without a just reprehension of acting a very dishonourable part, in causelessly leaving a person who had not, as yet, given me the least reason for separation.
Madam Midwinter did often desire that I should return again to their service; and, for that purpose, sent Mr. Robert Turner, who was formerly my fellow apprentice. But that awful reverence I knew I should be obliged to submit to, the fear of an alteration in their tempers, or that I should offend them so as to feel their displeasure, as I had done before, made me resolve to keep, as long as I could, where I seemed to be more steadily settled. Thus our affairs continued, both persons opposing each other; of which there happened this year, 1719, an unhappy occasion, through the execution of Mr. John Matthews, a young printer, for no less than high treason. I think, eleven of the judges were upon the bench at his trial; his own brother, happening to be in the court, proved his hand writing, as others did of his printing a work, called "Vox Populi, Vox Dei." I beheld him drawn on a sledge, as I stood near St. Sepulchre's church; his clothes were exceeding neat, the lining of his coat a rich Persian silk, and every other thing as befitted a gentleman. I was told he talked, like a philosopher, of death, to some young ladies, who came to take their farewell, and suffered with a perfect resignation. He was the son of an eminent printer in Towerditch, who died about three years before: and his body, through favor of the government, his corpse unquartered, was laid in the church of St. Botolph, near Aldersgate. One Vesey, a journeyman, who was principal evidence against him, did not long survive the youth; at his burial, in an obscure part of Islington churchyard, many of the printers' boys, who run of errands, called devils, made a noise like such, with their ball stocks, carried thither for that purpose; the minister was much interrupted thereby in the burial service, and shameful indignities were committed at the grave. But these indignities being taken notice of, what printers had been at Islington that day, had their names sent off to the courts at Westminster, where it cost their pockets pretty well before their persons were discharged from trouble. Happily I was informed, at Wood's close, of the intended procession; but desirous to be out of harm's way, I shunned the crew of demons, with their incendiaries to a mischief, and took another contrary way.
But, after some months, I went to the same town of Islington upon a very dutiful occasion, inspired with pure gratitude in memory to her, whom I shall remember whilst the sense of thought remains within me. 'Twas occasioned by the much lamented death of Mrs. Elizabeth Midwinter, [Interred in Islington, near the steeple, on Sunday the 14th. TG] who departed this mortal life on Wednesday, February 10th, 1719Ú20. Indeed, considering her former goodness, though it was sometimes mixed with severity, when she pleased to chastise her children and servants when she thought them deserving of punishment, yet being tempered with quick reconcilement, many times with presents, that overbalanced our light sufferings.
I was resolved to attend at her funeral though uninvited, were I obliged even to walk on foot ten miles from London. I procured a lock of her hair, which I intended to have curiously set in a neat stone ring, and so have worn it as a dear memorial. Her body, within a fine coffin covered with black cloth, was respectfully placed in a hearse, attended by her spouse in a mourning coach, by himself, who was followed by two or three more, filled with relations or friends. Arriving at the parish church of Islington whilst the office for the dead was reading, many tears were shed, particularly by a fellow servant, accompanied with mine, with the greatest sincerity, I am sure, for my own part. People of whom she had taken country lodgings in that town, and others, were not wanting in tender respect towards her. She was deposited on the west side of the churchyard, near her first husband, Mr. James Walker; and when the minister had ended this mournful solemnity, and the company departed, I concluded, upon a tombstone adjacent to her remains, the following
Lo! underneath this heap of mould,
My mistress dear is laid;
A wife, none better could behold,
None chaster when a maid.
Weep, passenger, when you pass by
This little space of earth;
And think the same death you and I
Must pay, with loss of breath.
In certain hope to rise again,
'Tis here her body lies,
'Till it ascends, with Christ to reign
In Heaven, above the skies.
So, reader, meditate your state,
And let your thoughts prepare
To meet, with solid joys complete,
Your Saviour in the air.
My behaviour whilst attending her funeral, did not pass unobserved by Mr. Midwinter, or his friends; he sent for me that night, and would fain have persuaded me to have given lawful warning to Mr. Clifton, and come to him. He told me that his daughter-in-law's unhappy marriage with a mean fellow had gone a great way to break the heart of his late spouse. He now urged his heavy grief and great distress; how honourable it would be to me, and acceptable to him, if I would but comply, or if not, to do it as soon as I could with convenience. Thus knowing the impetuosity of his desires, I soothed him as much as I could with obliging words; but inwardly was resolved to keep my station, till I had a juster reason than an invitation, which I thought, as before, somewhat precarious; though I judged wrong, I need must confess, as by what hereafter will appear. Nay, such was my strong attachment, that it made me also resist the arguments of some of the profession, against working for such a foreigner as Mr. Clifton was styled, and, as it were, slight that imminent danger which my master had vainly brought upon the family and particularly touched himself, for bold touches on political affairs.
Thus estranged, from certain hopes of quietude, I so continued for several months; in which time, I confess, I was willing to part from him, if I could gain his consent. But his averseness was beyond measure, even when I told him I could procure him a servant equal, if not superior, to me. His temper was very obstinate in relation, but this I looked upon as proceeding from respect and impartiality, though I afterwards found the contrary from him. As he had a desire for those goods that were in my hands, I let him have them without a penny interest; and thought it a particular satisfaction that I was able to relieve him in his extremity. He had, besides, obliged me in printing a little book I wrote, intitled, "Teague's Ramble," a satire I had written on some of our profession, who richly deserved for their unmerciful usage to me and others, their fellow creatures; wherein only the guilty were made to feel its sting, and the innocent commended. But, at length, an accident happening, and the strange violence of his temper therein, (contrary to the sentiment of the comic poet,) to preserve his reputation against the vile assault of a recorded villain that could not hurt it, caused a final separation, and a thorough annihilation of friendship; which, God knows, at least I think, I had never given the least occasion for. The matter was thus: There lived then a common hackney writer, named Richard Burridge, who sold written pamphlets, for about half a crown each, to the printers. This man I had known from the beginning of my apprenticeship at London; for my master used to send me to him, in Newgate, for copies: whether, at that time, he was confined there for debt, or for writing a burlesque, called "The Dutch Catechism," I will not positively affirm; but, to me, he appeared a cursing, profligate wretch, as any of his fraternity in that woeful prison. He, afterwards, was released; but, in a little time, came to be immured, for debt, I think, within the Gate house, at Westminster. So that it being too long a walk, and Mrs. Midwinter being fully satisfied with my genius at the pen, obliged me, in my apprenticeship, to turn author for them too; in which office, my harmless style in relating occurrences that daily happened, proved very acceptable to the public. This was not pleasing to Burridge, no more than he himself became agreeable to human and divine laws; for, whilst drinking Geneva to excess, he would frequently quarrel with the other prisoners; and one time, in company with George Taylor, he drank such healths, in a blasphemous manner, that I almost think are too nefandous to be repeated, though in pious detestation thereof. But, by what they said, 'twas plain they owned the power of Beelzebub as their master, against divine omnipotency, to whom they wished confusion! and, to the souls of the departed, horrid condemnation at the resurrection! words, that in some places would have brought them to the flames, as diabolical testimonies of wickedness. It was thought by some, that this their infernal policy was thus wickedly exhibited to get free of that prison, and to obtain a hole in Newgate, which they might think more proper for their interest. Whether themselves thought so or not, it proved, however, true; for they were moved thither by virtue of habeas corpus, tried at the Old Bailey, ordered to be pilloried; and I once saw them exalted without Temple bar. They had gotten skullcaps made of printing balls, stuffed with wool, which I was desired to carry to them, but these proved but weak helmets to avoid the eggs and stones that were made to fly at them by the furious mob, who had almost knocked out one of Burridge's eyes, who was thought the greatest villain of the two: but, with the other, he deeply marked the person whom he thought had hit such an unlucky blow; so that, when he came down, he drew out his penknife, strove to make up to the youth he mistrusted; and, I believe, would have stabbed him to the heart, were it not for the interposition of the attending officers of justice. Afterwards, he wrote a book, called "Religio Libertini," giving an account of his past life, humbly desiring pardon of God and man, and professing that, from an atheist, he was become a convert. People who did know him were deceived, and likewise those who had given him good advice; so that, what was said by the poet, of such who endeavoured to wash the Ethiopian, might have been applied: "Abluis Æthiopem, quid frustra? ah, desine; noctis;" "Illustrare nigræ nemo potest tenebras:" for the same Burridge afterwards stole a book of mine from out of Mr. Midwinter's printing house; and I lamenting and telling whom I suspected, he so taxed the fellow with it, that he brought it back to me, and said he only took it in jest, and designed to return it when he had read the Epicurean philosophy contained therein. My easy temper went so far as to believe him still a convert: but my opinion changed when invited to our weighgoose; he following the course of a disloyal health, I scorned to pledge the monster, to the great offence of the company; but giving them the reason, that I had lately taken allegiance to King George, on my commencing citizen of London, and that I should abide by my principle, without concerning myself about what they did, they appeared easy; otherwise, I believe I should have been basely treated, only that my master told them, if they hurt me, they would deprive him of his best servant. Besides, in truth, I judged it very dangerous to pledge one, on such an occasion, who, without the least remorse, had shot his blasphemous speeches against Heaven to such an high degree as I have mentioned; a wretch who valued not, for his ends, to turn informer against even those he had a hand in corrupting. However, neither Mr. Clifton or I were shortened as to our kindness towards this unworthy scribbler; supplying him not only with money, but even necessaries of life, till the following piece of villainy set us for ever against him in our defence.
Burridge having sold a copy to Mr. Clifton, likewise disposed of a transcript of the same to another printer, which is very unfair dealing, as it was done without consent, in a private manner; for there should be no more proprietors but the first, to whom it is disposed, since he that is first published will render the other's endeavours of none effect, but rather a great loss to one of them that is so deceived. And now, as Kingston assizes was approaching, my master would not trust him on another account, lest, in a careless manner, he should take the trials so as not to be acceptable to the public; therefore, by him, and the family, it was resolved that I should be sent on Saturday, when judge Eyre was to enter into that town. I had not been long there before I perceived him, attended with a numerous company of gentlemen, and others, who, either in respect or curiosity, besides business, compose such like grand appearances; whilst, on the other hand, the poor creatures, either through crimes or misfortunes, turn to our view the different scenes of infelicity and misery.
I heard the trial of one Carrick, a young man who looked like a subaltern officer, for killing one of his companions, at which a soldier standing by, said he deserved to he hanged: he came off with "guilty of manslaughter," but was afterwards executed at Tyburn, for a robbery of Squire Young, in Lincoln's Inn Fields. I took notice of a very pretty young damsel, of the town of Dorking, in Surrey, who had unhappily given a lad a blow or two in a ditch, where she had followed him, of which, it was presumed, he sickened and died; but she was cleared, as having no intention of his death. There was also tried Mr. Reeves, whose wife kept an haberdasher's shop on the Strand, while he, with one Ryley, an Irishman, were unlawful collectors on the highway. Never did I hear a person plead for his life with greater argument or eloquence: he got clear of about three indictments, though one swore he had met him disguised in a minister's gown and cassock; and I well knew, by sight, the gentleman he borrowed them of, near St. Bartholomew close, after he had escaped from jail, who was taken up and put there in his room, and irons put upon him: which so affected the good clergyman, that though his innocence soon cleared him, he died with grief, at the very thoughts of the scandal that had been thrown upon him. But at last, a gentleman, who had been robbed of about seventy pounds, and knew him, by the crape mufflers being blown from his face, swore so positively that he was the very man that took it from him, when he could ill spare it from his family, that the jury could do no less than find him guilty, and, according to his sentence for death, he suffered with resignation: it was a pity a man, who understood the French and other tongues so well as he did, had not taken to good ways, whereby he might have been an ornament to his country. Another trial was of a wretched sexton, (who seems to have been imitated lately by one Burton, a glazier, in York,) for stealing dead bodies out of their graves, and selling them, as represented in the Beggar's Opera, to those fleaing rascals, the surgeons: but he was cleared of the new indictment, in consideration that he had already suffered a year's imprisonment on former accusations of the like nature. But a poor old man being brought to the bar for sheep stealing, loaded with age and infirmities, was as moving a spectacle as could demand compassion: weeping and trembling, he was led to the bar, craving mercy, saying it was his first crime, and that, if he was pardoned, he would not do so any more. It was so brought in, that the judge ordered him a smart whipping but not with too much severity, and immediately after to be discharged, in consideration of his poverty. But a man, who had been a builder, had passed through several offices in the parish, was sentenced to be transported, because, having an house to repair for another, and there being goods locked up in one particular room, he and his servants mistook them for their own, and disposed of them to make themselves merry: but I believe this judgment was in terrorem to others, lest they should happen to commit the like mistake, for I never heard that the prisoner was sent beyond the sea. These, and other trials, too many to enumerate here, I carefully wrote down, and sent to Mr. Clifton, then in Old Bailey, who took care to get them composed, till I should return with their determinate acquittals, or condemnations.
Whilst from the court, I had leisure time to take notice of the antiquity of the town so called from an ancient royal castle, which had been the residence of the Saxon kings, and where the two Ethelreds, Athelstane, Edwin, and Edward the martyr, had their coronation; for several of their pictures, as also that of King John, are in the church, as benefactors. Abundance of pretty epitaphs ornament the stone pavement, one of which I particularly took notice of, was that of a pious young lady.
But one morning, rising very early, I passed over its stately bridge with twenty arches; and being told his lordship would not be very early that morning on trials, I was resolved to see Hampton Court. Never had I a pleasanter walk, of about two or three miles, between such lofty trees on each side of the road, while the birds were singing their early matins, and every natural production looked with a solemn majesty, as became the work of the divine Creator of the universe; but art shone with a surprising perfection whilst I viewed the three grand areas of that illustrious palace, the noble staircases, the lofty stately pillars leading to the park, near the pleasant banks of the river Thames, that I thought myself blessed within a terrestrial paradise; neither did the stream, when all was over, afford me less entertainment, whilst I returned in a large boat, with several others, towards London: the shores on each side being adorned with fair towns, with adjacent gardens, such as Richmond, Brentford, Thistleworth, and other delightful views, as were sufficient to melt or raise the soul into various ecstasies or raptures; from contemplation of which, I am sorry to return to talk of the rogue who occasioned this excursion.
I had not been, I think, above two days at London after this journey and voyage, and happening to stand at Mr. Clifton's door, but up comes Burridge, and called me many abusive names, telling me I had taken his property from him, and without much more formality, I suppose through a previous knavish design, struck me over the face. I could do no less, I thought, than defend myself, by kicking up his heels, and laying him upon his back, just before the gate of Black and White court, in the Old Bailey; and for all his repeated blows, methinks I should have dealt pretty even with him, if my master had not come out of the house, to whom he had the greatest malice, for then he left me, and I went in; but he flew directly at Mr. Clifton, who laid him sprawling in the middle of the kennel, and then came in likewise. The villain, quick at revenge, first broke the windows; and then, in his mad fit, went directly to Sir William Withers, and unjustly swore that we had robbed him of half a guinea in the king's high way, or open street, at four o'clock in the afternoon: whereas, I never saw a piece of gold with the fellow in my life, but, on the contrary, had often relieved him, as I wrote before. But the magistrate, who was suspicious that what he said was through malice, was very unwilling to grant such a warrant, till he violently insisted upon it; and then he went about vapouring that as for him, he did not value his own reputation, but as he knew we did ours, he would take it from us, by sending us to jail, which then neither he would not do, till the near approaching sessions was just past, that so we might have the longer confinement before the succeeding meeting of the court. This I was acquainted of, by Mr. Pollington, an Exeter gentleman; upon which, I went to Sir William Withers, and when I told him the whole affair, to which he gave most serious attention: "Young man," said he, "I thought, indeed, that the fellow was a mere villain, by his words and actions; and by your coming to me, whom he has sworn against, I take you to be an honest person, and therefore wont secure you, which I might, if I pleased; and if he should get the constable to serve my warrant, though I cannot free you from prison, yet I shall be your friend so much as to acquaint the court with your behaviour." So I parted, between joy and sorrow; for as I did not care to be falsely imprisoned on a rogue's account, if I could avoid it, 1 got some of my friends to argue with the wretch himself; nay, his wife and children cried " Don't hurt poor young Mr. Gent, whatever you do with Clifton," they so wrought with the fellow, who, knowing his guilt, was for letting all cease, if Mr. Clifton would do so too. But far from that, Mr. Clifton insisted to have his character openly justified, and, arresting him for breaking the windows, Burridge was sent to the Compter.
Upon this, I represented to Mr. Clifton, that the oath of a villain could never affect his character, but imprisonment, though innocent, might hurt it, and mine, on whom my daily bread depended; for malicious persons would never then want matter of reproach when they were evil-minded: if, as a master, he was above the frowns of fortune himself, I besought him to consider me, and my friends, who would be much afflicted by such a report; that the trouble and expense would be great on our side, and would be nothing to him, who had neither money nor reputation to lose; and that if he would not oblige me so far, since I was sure I could make all envy cease, he must not wonder if he had obliged me to seek peace in another place, where I could find it. I could not help bursting into tears at our condition; but all was in vain, he would scarcely listen to me; and a little after, Burridge, though in prison, got the warrant served upon Mr. Clifton, stuck to his false oath, and sent him to Newgate, whilst I was obliged to keep awhile concealed.
My neighbours and friends knowing that, if I was taken, I must have been committed also, they thought it pity that I should suffer through the villainy of one, or the folly of the other; I visited the pleasant country towns, taking a useful book or two for my comforters, when I fetched many a melancholy sigh; and when I returned, used to amuse my spirit with the antiquities of Westminster abbey.
I received a letter from Mr Clifton, to visit him in his confinement; but as I heard he was enraged that the warrant had not reached me to bear him company, I had the less reason to trust myself to a man of so ungovernable a temper, who thought his opinion was always to be preferred. I then considered the axiom, "Non fidendum iis, qui impetu voluntatis, non ratione feruntur," and he seemed to be one of those whose will would grasp at more power than reason sometimes allowed; besides, I did not care to come to a jail governed by keepers little inferior to so many infernal devils, who, like Democritus's head on a mopstick, were laughing at the miseries of mankind, living by the crimes, and, too often, the deplorable misfortunes of others. Whilst I remained in this melancholy condition, Mr. Midwinter set on some persons to find my retirement, and to persuade me now to leave Mr. Clifton; who accordingly represented to me, that he deserved it for his obstinacy, and for his desire to have me in prison with him; that I could never expect to live safe with such a man hereafter, who taxed me with ingratitude for deserting him, when, with greater reason, that bad vice might have been applied to him; that I should have eight weeks' payment beforehand, for working so long a time, which would be some comfort, though a future disagreement should happen, which should not be Mr. Midwinter's fault, and hoped it would not be my own.
These pressing reasons, added to my distress, prevailed with me to comply; and then it was I became loaded with reproaches from Mr. Clifton and his friends. God knows if I deserved them, for I am not my own judge in that case; but many said that I chose the better way in such a dilemma. Still I escaped the warrant, though sought after as if I had really been a highwayman. But the sessions being come, as Mr. Clifton was brought to the bar, the court (who well knew the vile character of the prosecutor,) smiled upon the prisoner; and the learned judge, having heard of the villain's malice, seemed angry that such a cause should be brought before the bench, commanding immediately that Mr. Clifton should be set at liberty; by which judgment I became released from any apprehension on account of the warrant. Nor was it long before Burridge, by some flaw he found, or advantage taken, by omission in the law, got clear of his imprisonment for breaking the windows; so, being equally malicious, they were thought the fittest persons to deal with one another. But my greatest friend was Mr. James Read, a worthy master printer, who, in a manner, obliged Burridge to forbear hurting of me, however he used his mortal adversary, Mr. Clifton, who was ill respected; and, indeed, I soon after found, that the latter deserved the usage) in part, that he had received; for it was contrived, that some of his friends should get into my company, and, to extort money, draw words from me that might bring me under the lash of the law, though they perjured themselves by this combination.
When they could not get their vile ends as they would of me, a Scotch rascal, with a vile harlot, and himself, heinously contrived to terrify me, by asserting I had abused their characters, which, truly, then was not worth mentioning; aye, and revenge they would have, if they ransacked the common law and ecclesiastical court for justice; and to such an amazing height of impudence and nonsense were they grown, that they abused me in the open streets. But I, bearing their vile usage with utter silence, and yet resolving to spend the last farthing in my just vindication, they never durst attack me, fearing I might bring them to open shame.
Afterwards, the same Clifton proved himself a villain, in moving off to France with the money of a brewer, to whom he was steward, and left his bondsmen to answer for what damage he had done thereby. There he died, but his family returned to London; and his son, I believe, though he did not discover himself, visited me, as a wretched traveller, at York, some years after, whom I kindly entertained, as my general custom is to strangers. I continued with Mr. Midwinter, happy enough, till such time that he was resolved to marry again: his choice was of Mrs. Elizabeth Norris, a young widow, daughter of Mr. Thomas Norris, a very rich bookseller, on London Bridge, whose country seat was at Holloway, about a short mile from Islington. Mrs. Ann Desternell, [She died in childbed about the year 1725. TG] a poetess, used to carry his letters, under pretext of being a customer.
His presents were extraordinary, as I heard, proportionable to his expectations: he presented her with a fine necklace, worth thirty pounds; and so much got the master of her affections, that she resolved, at all hazards, to be married to him, though her father was rather against it, but, being his only child, and fearing her loss, would not lay any absolute commands upon her; in short, she obtained her desire, and our new mistress was brought home, who, indeed, was a very meek, good-natured gentlewoman. Both the dwelling house and printing office, in Pye Corner, were made larger, by addition of the next tenements thereto; and a lease being granted, my master, at his own expense, had employed workmen, in a manner, to metamorphose the whole. They told him, at first, a less charge, by half, than what they wrote in their bills; and I know not how, from being thought rich a little before their courtship, there suddenly appeared a visible alteration to the contrary. I was much grieved thereat, and fain would have gotten another place, as thinking my wages were too extraordinary for him to pay; and I ever was for having Good hands, good hire, neither more nor less than what I honestly had earned, which would be good both to master and man. But while I was in this tottering condition, I was sent for by a young man, of late married to a widow, to the Fortune of War alehouse, near the entrance into West Smithfield and being seated, he told me, he was sure that I was a kinsman of his, for he had often inquired for me amongst the sadlers, thinking I had been one, as my father was, but happily heard, by a lodger of his, one Mrs. Mickle, that I was a printer, for her husband had been fellow workman with me at York. He also declared that his name was Thomas Gent, as well as mine; that his own father, Ralph, once a creditable baker at Uttoxeter, came up to London after his mother deceased, and died at his house, the sign of the Unicorn, in Kent street, Southwark; was own brother to my dear father in Ireland, who, long since, had visited his English relations, with his daughter, Rebekah; and giving other plain testimonies, desired me to write to my dear father, if it was not true. I was very glad to see him, believed what he said authentic, because Mr. Mickle, then dead, had been my fellow workman at York, and an honest Scot he was, if ever there was such; and when I wrote to my dear father of these things, he answered he was sufficiently satisfied that I might own him for my kinsman. Accordingly, I often visited Southwark; and his spouse, he, and I, respected one another as kindred.
A little after, I happened to take lodgings at a widow woman's house, opposite Sea Cole lane; there I had a bed to myself, because I never cared, after my 'prenticeship was expired, to lie with any man whatever. The landlady, it seems, made a journeyman barber in the place to lie in another room, that I might have a little one fitting for me, which I knew nothing of, or had any desire after what was another's property. The fellow owed me a grudge, however; and the old jade, I believe, was a very wicked woman, as may appear, by the danger that I fell into. It happened, that one Sunday, being invited to dine with Mr. Dodd, a master printer, (whose wife, the daughter of Mr. Bliss, from Exeter, I knew before he married her,) I was shewn, afterwards, the beauties of his house, and turning the last stairs, which went a different way from the rest, and not minding them, through talk of the pictures on the staircase, I fell slanting over the bannister to the bottom, and bruised my side in a very sad manner. I soon, upon that accident, took my leave, and went from thence, which was opposite the ancient palace of St. Bride's Well, to a brandy shop, near the stairs ascending to the Black Fryars, where, in as proper spiritual liquor as they gave me, I pretty well bathed myself, and then went to tell the misfortune to my kinsman and his spouse. At night, as I returned by water, I had scarce landed from one boat, but a person was brought in another, who had been taken out of the river, where he was cast by the oversetting of one of those vessels, by which his companion was drowned, and the waterman had swam to shore. "Lord! thy name be praised," said I, privately, "that through thy providence I am yet preserved, though worthy, for my omissions, to be punished with thy heavy displeasure!"
Coming to my lodgings, who should I see, but my landlady and the said barber drinking Geneva, or drams, together, which I did not know, till then, she had sold: the fellow asked me how I did, and if I would keep them company, but I innocently told them my misfortune, got a candle, and so went to bed. I had scarce got between the sheets, but the rogue came up, and whilst he was bursting open the door, I slipt out, and stood on one side in the dark, trembling, whilst he struck violently against the boards at the bed's head: the cowardly scoundrel, for aught I know, designed to ruin me, and took the advantage by my illness; but as I was escaping down stairs, he got hold of me, at which, finding my life was at stake, I fell furiously at him, and brought him down to the lowest room. The hussy, taking his part, would have had me up again, but calling a watchman, I would not return, but lay in her bed, while she ascended with the villain. In the morning, I ordered my trunk to be carried away: and, by ten o'clock, she waited on me at the printing office, to excuse the matter; she offered to fall on her knees, to beg pardon for herself and the fellow, knowing that if I had catched him by a constable, I might have sent him to Newgate; but her crocodile tears proved vain; I paid the wretch what I owed. She lost a good lodger; and that day, or next, I purchased a bed, which cost me forty shillings, with a chair, table, candlestick, earthenware, and other little necessaries, till, by degrees, I had many pretty things to fill a larger room than what I had taken from Mr. Franklin, watchmaker, in Fleet lane; and found great comfort that I could live as I pleased, whilst master of my own habitation.
Happening, at a lucky time, to meet my old friend, Mr. Evan Ellis, who printed the bellman's verses at Christmas, for which, sometimes, I had the honour of being the poet, and used to get heartily treated: "Tommy," said he, "I am persuaded that, some time or other, you'll set up a press in the country, where, I believe, you have a pretty northern lass at heart; and, as I believe you save money, and can spare it, I can help you to a good pennyworth, preparatory to your design." Accordingly, they proved to be some founts of letters that Mr. Mist designed for the furnace, of which I bought a considerable quantity: that gentleman using me very courteously, in regard of a paper I wrote, which was printed and sold, concerning his misfortunes whilst under the government's displeasure, before his news became, as it were, lost in a Fog. [That is, Mist's journal was after called "Fog's." TG] For, as I treated his moral character with great tenderness, as indeed he deserved, so he was now pleased to remember it, in a very kind manner, in the price that he set me to give for them. Some time after, I purchased a fount of Pica, almost new, of the widow Bodingham, resolving to venture in the world with my dearest, who, at first, gave me encouragement; but my purse being much exhausted by these two purchases, I still worked on for further supplies: after which, I bought my little press, with which I did, now and then, a job of my own, for diversion, though these preparations, I found, were not very pleasing to Mr. Midwinter, which were not bought with a design to hurt him; but it was purely the effect of Providence, that seemed to push me forward in this continually transient life. Having a promise of business from a bookseller, when I did set up entirely, I bought of Mr. James a new fount of Small Pica, which cost, one time or other, above twenty pounds, and several other materials, of various people, till my stock became much enlarged: but still I worked with Mr. Midwinter.
I hope it will not seem downright enthusiasm if I mention a strange dream that I had one night: it was, that being seized by some men, I was conducted by them to a small room, shaped like an oblong, at one end of which seemed a smoky hole, wherein they told me was hell itself, but that they had not commission to put me therein. I desired to peep if I could spy Elysieum, but thought I perceived nothing but vapours and flames mingle together; that then I was taken into another apartment, rather larger, where they consulted awhile: and then they locked me in a third, as though I was, by its awful gloominess, to prepare for death, where were a bed, chair, table, book, and candle. Being left here to meditate, as I thought, the face of a fine grey haired old man, I remember, much like a grandfather of mine, appeared on the wall, with his eyes moving, that I was satisfied could be no image or picture; that, in amazement, I took the courage to ask, Why he seemed to visit me in that melancholy situation? He answered, 'Twas through Almighty goodness and power. "If so," said I, "I pray you then assist me:" at which, smiling, he seemed to vanish in a gliding manner; and I awoke, much surprised, about the deadtime of the night. I slept little after, till towards the morning, and the clock struck seven before I awakened, when, rising, I went to work; but about ten, a deep oppression seized my spirits, and my body was affected with an unusual trembling. I left the printing office, and returned to my lodgings, where, complaining to my neighbour, I was advised to take something that might make me sweat; and telling them my dream, "I pray God," said Mr. Parry to his spouse, "that nothing soon befalls the poor young man, for I do not like it."
When I went to bed, and they concluded I was warm, they sent what they had prepared I should take, by their young daughter, of about eleven years of age: after I had supped it, the child locked the door, and returned to her parents. I was blessed with fine slumbers till, about one or two o'clock in the morning, I was alarmed by a strange thundering noise at the door. I asked who was there; and what they would have? They answered they must and would come in; and, without assigning any other reason, they violently burst open the door. Being undrest, and all over in a sweat, in miserable pain, I looked in a woeful condition; when Mr. Crawford, one of the king's messengers, took hold of my hands, and seized a pretty pistol that lay near me, a pair of which I had procured, from Holland, as a defence against thieves or housebreakers, which was never after returned me: but the insolence of Kent, his companion, I could scarce bear, when, helping on my clothes, he went to search my pockets for what written papers he could find therein. I called him blockhead, and told him, had I been in another condition, I might, perhaps, have laid him by the heels; at which he scornfully said, he never should fear a ghost, intimating that I seemed little better than a Spirit at that time. Being obliged to submit, I only besought them to let me know if their warrant specified any crime that I had done, for I was truly insensible of any that could occasion such usage? They then told me of an information lodged at the Secretary's office, before Mr. De la Faye, about some lines concerning the imprisoned Bishop of Rochester, that had given offence, and which I should be, in time, made sensible of; but as I knew it was a notorious falsity, and, as I thought, contrived by some wicked enemy, whom I partly guessed, I insisted no further, only desired, whilst I was fully dressing myself, that, as they beheld me defenceless, without a family to look after my effects, they would be so good as to see the door fastened which they had broken, so that I might not be robbed, during my confinement, of what I had so honestly and painfully earned. This, indeed, they complied with, and descending the stairs with them, I found the passages below and the courtyard filled to the very gate with constables, watchmen, and others, which called to my remembrance my injured Saviour's apprehension in the garden of Gethsemane, where He, all innocence and divine, sweat drops of blood; but I, a poor sinful wretch, thought much, at this time, to feel what only seemed like water. They made me get into a coach, which they ordered to drive towards Newgate; and coming near St. Sepulchre's church, I was brought to the pavement on the east side, into a publichouse, and placed in a room with a guard at the door, so that I could not stir, but I was carefully attended by a grimlooked, ill-natured fellow.
My pains came to that extremity, that I was obliged to alleviate them with a quartern of brandy; after which, I was amazed to find my master, Mr. Midwinter, brought in as a prisoner, and left with me also. "What, sir," said I, "have they made me appear greater than you, by placing me first in the warrant for our apprehension? me, who am but your servant, and, you know, has wrote nothing for you this long time, except an abridgment of three volumes of 'Crusoe' into one, or being otherwise employed in the affairs of printing only?" But we had not long communed, before others were brought in, and who, amongst the rest, but my beloved friend, Mr. Clifton, also! upon which, I observed a profound silence. But when we were to be carried to Westminster, I besought the messenger that I might not be seated in the same coach with him, but accompany Mr. Midwinter, which he granted.
At length we arrived at Manchester court, where we found a very fine house, with a centinel at the door; but within, though very spacious, we felt the fusty smell of a prison. When I came into my apartment, it answered exactly, in the bigness and form, to that I had imagined in my dream: in the morning, I viewed on the staircase a fine picture of St. Augustine, which, I judged, had once been the property of some state prisoner; I could, from the high window, behold the spacious river Thames, and hear the dashing of the flowing waters against the walls that kept it within due bounds. Such a pleasant prospect appeared from my humble back apartment, where I had a bed without curtains, a table, with a little looking glass, and a chair to sit on; but in the next room, forward, was confined that unhappy young Irish clergyman, Mr. Neypoe: unhappy gentleman indeed! through the reflections of the Bishop of Rochester, (how deserving I cannot tell,) as well as of the noted Mr. Dennys Kelly, then both prisoners in the Tower. I used to hear him talk to himself, when his raving fits came on; and now and then would he sing psalms with such a melodious voice as produced both admiration and pity from me, who was an object of commiseration myself, in being awhile debarred from friends to see me, or the use of pen, ink, and paper, to write to them.
But scarce two days were past, when I was ordered to have my apartment changed to one below, more gloomy, but larger, where I had opportunity to inquire, of the genteel and handsome maiden, Hannah, what was the reason of Mr. Neypoe's confinement: she told me it was something in a high degree relating to the Bishop of Rochester. Here my friends were allowed to visit me, my bed was decently curtained, and softer, and my table handsomer spread. I had, afterwards, further liberties in the house and yard; and, after three days more, as nothing could be proved against me, I was honourably discharged. Immediately I took boat, I think it was from palaceyard stairs, in which my head seemed to be affected with a strange giddiness; and when I safely arrived at home, some of my kinder neighbours appeared very joyful at my return. My poor linnet, whose death I very much feared would come to pass, saluted me with her long, pleasant, chirping notes, and, indeed, the pretty creature had occasion to be the most joyful, for her necessary stock was almost exhausted, and I was come just in the critical time to yield her a fresh supply.
I had not been long at liberty before Mrs. Hannah, the messenger's maid, by whom I was used very courteously, made me a visit, and acquainted me that the Rev. Mr. Neypoe was found dead in the Thames, as though he had been drowned. "When you left us," said she, "the high room you first was in was judged, by the messenger, to be the securest place to keep him from making an escape." "It's very strange to me," said I, "if that was the reason; because I think no apartment was stronger than where he was confined, through the nails that I see driven into some of the boards; nor any place fitter, from which he might have been secured by the sentry at the door of the house, had he attempted to break from thence: but proceed, I pray." "Why," said she, "the evening before, I went up to wait on him, as usual, and found him sitting on the bed in a very melancholy condition: he had on his hands a new pair of white gloves, which, he supposed, would serve him till his funeral; and that he thought his death was approaching: that same night he tied the sheets and blankets fast together, and made all to the stancheon of the window; descending, without noise to wake us, from that vast height into the paved yard. He then must have climbed over the high walls, and passed over two or three others, till he came to the river, into which descending, hoping, no doubt, it might not have been out of his depth, he experienced the contrary, for there he was immerged and lost! The neighbouring justice," added she, "made inquiry as if he had been on purpose made away with; but it coming to nothing but a noise, the corpse was interred." Thus ended the maiden, Hannah, whom I went to see afterwards, but never could find her. But I often pitied the poor gentleman's fate, because, if he had lived, he might have defended his reputation, which was so bitterly inveighed against by the learned Bishop I have mentioned, as well as by the speech of his countryman, Mr. Kelly, the year after; for a nation has a right to be satisfied on such important occasions.
My stock of goods growing larger by my careful industry, I moved into the next house, where I set up my press and letters in a light room that was adjoining to the garden of the fleet prison, where the gentlemen prisoners took their diversion; and here I published, truly, some things relating to the Bishop, worked by hired servants, that made some amends for what I had suffered through wrong information on his account; and whilst I pleased the people by an artful taking title, I strove to instil into them the principles of loyalty, love, and obedience. Thus I helped an under class of my fellow creatures by keeping servants on occasion, and Mr. Midwinter, as a servant, by my constancy in his business; though, I confess, the fatigue was exceedingly great, and almost above what I could manage. I imagined that, after some little time, things would so fall out, that I should have occasion to invite my dear to London; but one Sunday morning, as my shoes were japanning by a little boy, at the end of the lane, there came Mr. John Hoyle, who had been a long time in a messenger's custody on suspicion for reprinting " Vox Populi, Vox Dei," under direction of Mrs. Powell, whom he wrought with as journeyman: "Mr. Gent," said he, "I have been to York to see my parents, and am but just, as it were, returned to London; I am heartily glad to see you, but sorry to tell, that you have lost your old sweetheart, for I assure you, that she is really married to your rival, Mr. Bourne." I was so thunderstruck, that I could scarcely return an answer: all former thoughts crowding into my mind; the consideration of spending my substance on a business I would not have engaged in as a master but for her sake, my own remissness that had occasioned it, and withal, that she could not, in such a case, be much blamed for mending her fortune: all these threw me under a very deep concern, and occasioned me to misjudge on many occasions. My old vein of poetry flowed in upon me, which gave some vent to my passion; so I wrote a copy of verses, agreeing to the tune of "Such Charms has Phillis," &c., then much in request, and proper for the flute, that I became acquainted with. When I had done, as I did not care that Mr. Midwinter should know of my great disappointment, I gave the copy, except the last stanza, to Mr. Dodd, who, printing the same, sold thousands of them, for which he offered me a price; but as it was on my own proper concern, I scorned to accept of any thing, except a glass of comfort or so, and became so gracious with him and his spouse, that if I did not often visit them, they were offended. Yet here I perceived something in matrimony that might have weaned me from affection that way; for this couple often jarred for very trifling occasions, as I thought; she would twit him with a former lover of his, and this jealousy of hers would just drive him to madness. Once he threw a thing at her, which struck me in the forehead, and set me bleeding, with which they both appeared mightily concerned, and craved pardon, which I readily granted, though I came not so frequently afterward; but one time, taking notice of a stone ring on my finger, in which was some of my dear mother's hair, she requested, that if I died first, I might bequeath it to her: "Pray, madam," said I, "and what, on the like consideration of death, will you please to leave me?" "This pretty picture of Narcissus," answered she, "which my own hands painted on the glass." To this we agreed, only speaking to her husband: "My dear," said she, "if I die first, pray let it be handsomely framed, and delivered, for my sake, to Mr. Gent." The dear creature shortly after fell ill; so bad that, expecting death, she earnestly desired that I would receive the blessed sacrament with her; though unworthy, I could not refuse it; but the parson, being brought from a coffeehouse, was extremely ill-natured, quarrelled with the nurse about the cleanliness of a cup, and, having administered it, hoped that she would die in pleasure, without giving him much more trouble. Her devotion in receiving it was extraordinary; she embraced the heavenly viaticum in a degree of transport, and she had the good nature not to answer his indifferent speech at departure. It was not long before she sweetly departed this life: I saw her coffin when brought home, which indeed was very handsome; but I thought it strange that her lovely corpse (for she was a beautiful young gentlewoman,) should be laid therein by the joiner's servants, whilst the unconcerned husband and his relations were joyfully carousing belowstairs. She was buried in St. Bride's churchyard; and before my acquaintance ceased with him, he delivered me the picture, handsomely framed, which I now keep in my bedchamber. I made him no more visits, because I did not know if they might be acceptable; especially I thought it prudent to omit them when I heard of his sudden new marriage, little thinking that I should afterwards become her servant: she was a neat person, daughter to a sea captain, who had her educated at the boarding school at Hackney. She was a widow, left with a pretty son, when Mr. Dodd married her, who only lived till he also had a child by her; and on his deathbed desired, if possible, she might procure me as a journeyman to manage the business, which came to pass, as towards the sequel of the first part of my life will appear.
It was, as near as I can remember, about the beginning of the year 1723, when Mr. Midwinter ordered me to paper up all the printing letters, in so extraordinary a manner that is seldom or never done but with a design of removal to move off, and prevent a seizure for debt. I implicitly obeyed, without the least inquiry why he did it, but I was not so blind as not to perceive the drift, nor well pleased that others were acquainted with the secret, and my fidelity mistrusted; but as I had a sincere respect for him, I kept all within my breast, till I knew the carts were to come in the night time, and carry all away into the Mint; then it was I took my little box, in which I had my own necessaries, and several pounds in silver, for I never trusted all my money in one place, I had put an hundred pounds out to use in Ireland, the interest of which I allowed to my dear parents, who were my faithful stewards; but Mr. Midwinter falling out with me, as I had it privately under my coat lap, fearing it should be lost, gave me some uneasiness, before I could get liberty to convey it to my own lodgings. "Sir," said I, "you never need fear any discovery through me: your misfortune becomes mine, since, I know, I am never to serve you any more; but I always dreaded such a parting, which never was through any fault of mine, nor do I impute it to yours, but your misfortune, not to be described, since, by this means, our mistress is separated from you too, in being sent home to her father, or, as I hear, will soon be." He looked fiercely sullen at me, neither paying my accustomary wages, or requiring my attendance the next day, as he had done others. This I took very unkindly, but thought it my duty to submit, except in privately moving off my own, without the least intention of hurt, nor was there in that the least occasion of fear, it being a very dark night. However, I waited upon him at his new habitation in the Mint, on Monday, where I found him so strange that he would scarcely speak to me: God forgive the wretch who made the difference! I think I have guessed him; and if so, I lent him what he never had the honesty to pay. As I found my master not willing I should so much as look into the house, for fear, I suppose, I should learn how to order my own materials, as I afterwards heard, I turned about to depart; but told him, that his coldness was more grievous to me than any woeful prospect I could conceive. He said it could not be helped: I said I wished him and his all imaginary happiness, and that what I came for was, purely to crown our separation in a friendly manner. "Nay," said he, "rather for the money I owe you." "For that," I answered, "you are heartily welcome to, and more, sir, if you please, since I have earned sufficiently in your service." "Why then," said he, "it shall not be said that your old master, though now a Minter, shall now be outdone in point of generosity:" and so, obliging me to go into an alehouse, he gave me my money to a farthing, with as kind wishes as I used to him; "Though," added he, "I must act against you in trade, as the world, through necessity, obliges most people to do, even amongst the nearest relations." Thus parting, I became quite out of subjection to any master.
Being near Kent street, I thought it proper to visit my new relations: but alas! they, too, were flown in the Mint, from whence I was but just come. Strange vicissitudes in life! and happy asylum, thought I, for the distressed! I sought and found my poor cousin sick in bed of a fever, his spouse attending him, and their numerous goods huddled together in very little room: having mutually comforted each other, I went to my apartments, and put my goods in better order. I printed a collection of songs proper for the summer's entertainment: a little book of Emblems, and a "Preparation for Death," kept me at work for some months after, with bills for the cockpits, which were done twice a week; but business failing, and journeywork being brisk in great houses, I applied to Mr. Henry Woodfall, who readily accepted me, and I helped to finish the part that he had of a learned Dictionary.
Whilst with him, I got servants of my own to print, at my press, "the Bishop of Rochester's Effigy," to which were added some inoffensive verses that pleased all parties, which sold very well. When I finished what Mr. Woodfall had to do, I kept at home a little while, and was sent for again, with whom I continued till the banishment of the aforesaid prelate, and the execution of Counsellor Layer: on whose few dying words I formed observations in nature of a large speech, and had a run of sale for about three days successively, which obliged me to keep in my own apartments, the unruly hawkers being ready to pull my press in pieces for the goods. After the hurry was over, I returned to my master, and continuing some time, he, one morning, told me that, the night before, being in the club of master printers of the higher class, he laughed heartily upon my account. "Pray, why so, sir!" said I; "how came I to be the theme?" "Why," said he, "has not that fellow, Sam Negus, put you amongst the catalogue of masters, and placed you in Pye Corner?" ["GENT, Pye Corner," occurs among the printers, whom Negus denominates "High flyers." The list may be seen in "Literary Anecdotes of the Eighteenth Century," vol. i. pp.289, 312.JH] "It's like his blunders," said I; "but how came he to print such a catalogue?" "Why," replied he, "the creature, who is now set up as a master himself, is not satisfied, but wants to be messenger of the press; so that he has exhibited what printing houses there are in England to the Secretary of State, to shew his readiness to visit them, provided he is furnished with authority and profit; he has mentioned who he thought were of high or low principles, but is sadly mistaken, for he has called whigs tories, and tories whigs, as wretched in calculations as Sir John Wronghead in his vote; and I'll assure you, Mr. Gent, that you're amongst the tories." "'Tis through such a rascal as him," answered I, " that I was made a state prisoner; but has he obtained his ends?" "No," said Mr. Woodfall, "the Secretary, laughing at the list, bantered Mr. Watts with what a hopeful company there was of the profession, and gave him a copy, which being brought into Wild court, the men joyfully put it to the press, and dispersed the paltry petition, too much honoured by the names of creditable persons he had traduced, throughout the members of the profession, that so the vile wretch might be justly exposed." "He well deserved it!" thought I, and so dropt him.
Our business not being so brisk as usual, I returned to my own apartments; and, joining in work with a master in the Fleet, printed some small pieces on religion. An old schoolfellow, who had studied physic in foreign parts, and really commenced doctor, John Greev, M.D. having found me out, invited me to his house, near the Minories. I dined with him and his spouse, who had lately borne him a pretty infant: and King George the First returning from Germany, I printed for him this year (1724) an ode thus intituled, " Ad Cæsarem Britannicum e Germaniâ redeuntem Ode; Londini, typis Thomæ Gent, in vico vulgo dicto Fleet lane, pro usu Authoris, ann. 1724." After this, Mr. Woodfall was so kind to recommend me to the ingenious Mr. Richardson, in Salisbury court; with whom I staid to finish his part of the Dictionary which he had from the booksellers, composed of English, Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. On my return home, I adventured to do a book of Emblems, in duodecimo, imitating the learned Hermanius Hugo, of the order of the Holy Jesus; and Mr. Hotham, on London bridge, being partner, we ventured to print off a thousand, which, at this time, seem to be near sold off. This, I think, was the last work I did of any great consequence in London: and, having little to do at home, I wrought in the house of Mrs. Susannah Collins, an ancient gentlewoman, who lived near me, in Black and White Court, in the Old Bailey. For some weeks, I lived in great felicity, for I found the art of gaining her temper. She had a wicked son, called Master John, who, contracting debts by his extravagant living, was thrown into the Counter: she, good gentlewoman, forgetting how he once sued her for some legacy, almost to an excommunication, had pity for him, who had not the least regard for her. She gave me money to release him, which, with some difficulty, I did, from that close prison; and took the loathsome wretch from his filthy bed on the ground, in a coach with me home. It was great Providence that, in the unpleasant action, I became not smitten with the jail distemper that he was then afflicted with; considering that, a little afterwards, it fell to his aged mother's lot, and then a wicked maidservant took opportunity to make off with some of her riches, and particularly a gold repeating watch, with all the costly trinkets about it; but, whilst sailing in a boat, towards Gravesend, the striking thereof alarmed a gentleman that was therein, who, perceiving her person nor habit to agree with so rich a prize, command the boatman to land near the next town, carried her before a justice, to whom she confessed the whole matter, was, by habeas corpus, brought to Newgate, at the sessions received condemnation to death, but through the goodness of her mistress, languishing on her deathbed, she was sent beyond the sea; after which, Madam Collins departed this mortal life, it was on Sunday the 2nd of June; and about two days after, was interred in the west end of St. Sepulchre's church, near the north aisle; I believe, near the body of the deputy of the ward, her once affectionate husband. The executors continued me in their service, at twenty shillings per week, in bringing the materials from their confused condition, and helping to weigh the letters, in order to make a division of the substance amongst them, and cease their jarring disagreements. After which, I was paid very honestly, and honourably discharged, which set me once more at liberty, either to contrive business in my own habitation, or else to work as a journeyman with others.
And now it happened, that the widow of the late Mr. Dodd, who had desired, on his deathbed, to get me to assist her whenever opportunity served, wanted a person to manage her printing business. Mr. Richard Purser, whom I used to employ, informed me of it; and that she was willing to allow what others had given me. Indeed, I had formed an intention to dispose of my materials, since I was disappointed of my first love; and, therefore, was more willing to enter into the service of this gentlewoman. Accordingly, I made my application, to which she readily consented. I found the printing office in great confusion; but, by hard working, convinced her that she did not part with her money in vain. Indeed, she was a most agreeable person, and I thought her worthy of the best of spouses: for, sure, there never could be a finer economist, or sweeter mother to her dear children, whom she kept exceedingly decent. I have dined with her, but then, as in reason, I allowed what was fitting for my meals; and her conversation, agreeably to her fine education, almost wounded me with love, and, at the same time, commanded a becoming reverence. What made her excellent carriage the more endearing was, that I now must never expect to behold my first love at York; though I heard, by travellers, that not only she, but her husband used to inquire after me. Indeed, I was sensible that Mr. Bourne, though a likely young man, was not one of the most healthful persons, but far from imagining otherwise than that he might have outlived me, who then was worn almost to a shadow. But see the wonderful effects of Divine Providence in all things!
It was one Sunday morning that Mr. Philip Wood, a quondam partner at Mr. Midwinter's, entering my chambers, where I sometimes used to employ him too, when slack of business in other places, "Tommy," said he, "all these fine materials of yours must be moved to York:" at which, wondering, "What mean you?" said I. "Aye," said he, "and you must go too, without it's your own fault; for your first sweetheart is now at liberty, and left in good circumstances by her dear spouse, who deceased but of late." "I pray heaven," answered I "that his precious soul may be happy; and, for aught I know, it may be as you say, for indeed I think I may not trifle with a widow, as I have formerly done with a maid." I made an excuse to my mistress, that I had business in Ireland, but that I hoped to be at my own lodgings in about a month's time; if not, as I had placed every thing in order, she might easily, by any other person, carry on the business. But she said, she would not have any beside me in that station I enjoyed; and, therefore, should expect my return to her again: but, respectfully taking leave, I never beheld her after; though, I heard, she was after very indifferently married. I had taken care that my goods should be privately packed up, and hired a little warehouse to put them in, ready to be sent, by sea or land, to where I should order; and I pitched upon Mr. Campbell, my fellow traveller, as my confidant in this affair, desiring my cousins to assist him; all of whom I took leave of at the Black Swan in Holborn, where I had paid my passage, in the stagecoach, which brought me to York in four days' time. Here I found my dearest once more, though much altered to what she was about ten years before, that I had not seen her: there was no need for new courtship; but decency suspended the ceremony of marriage for some time. I wrote to her uncle, Mr. White, at Newcastle; but he, having more his own interest at heart than our good, not only was very much against us, but did all that was in his power to keep us asunder: however, acquainting my parents with my design, they did not think fit to contradict my inclinations, but sent me their blessing. My goods being safely arrived from London, added greatly to the former printing house; but very bad servants occasioned great uneasiness to me. However, I continued peaceable against all opposition of her uncle, or those who unjustly cast reflections upon my being a stranger; till my dearest, at length, considering the ill consequences of delay in her business, as well as the former ties of love that passed innocently between us, by word and writing, gave full consent to have the nuptials celebrated, which were performed that very day of the late Archbishop's installation [Launcelot Blackburne, D.D. formerly Bishop of Exeter. TG], by the Rev. Mr. Knight, being the 10th of December, in the stately cathedral, dedicated to St. Peter.