Part 4 out of 7
then began to be amazed and surprised, and indeed frightened,
and told him what I had really done, and how I had called after
him, as above.
When we had amused ourselves a while about this, I said to
him: 'Well, you shall go away from me no more; I'll go all
over the world with you rather.' He told me it would be very
difficult thing for him to leave me, but since it must be, he
hoped I would make it as easy to me as I could; but as for him,
it would be his destruction that he foresaw.
However, he told me that he considered he had left me to
travel to London alone, which was too long a journey; and
that as he might as well go that way as any way else, he was
resolved to see me safe thither, or near it; and if he did go
away then without taking his leave, I should not take it ill of
him; and this he made me promise.
He told me how he had dismissed his three servants, sold
their horses, and sent the fellows away to seek their fortunes,
and all in a little time, at a town on the road, I know not where.
'And,' says he, 'it cost me some tears all alone by myself, to
think how much happier they were than their master, for they
could go to the next gentleman's house to see for a service,
whereas,' said he, 'I knew not wither to go, or what to do
I told him I was so completely miserable in parting with him,
that I could not be worse; and that now he was come again,
I would not go from him, if he would take me with him, let
him go whither he would, or do what he would. And in the
meantime I agreed that we would go together to London; but
I could not be brought to consent he should go away at last
and not take his leave of me, as he proposed to do; but told
him, jesting, that if he did, I would call him back again as loud
as I did before. Then I pulled out his watch and gave it him
back, and his two rings, and his ten guineas; but he would not
take them, which made me very much suspect that he resolved
to go off upon the road and leave me.
The truth is, the circumstances he was in, the passionate
expressions of his letter, the kind, gentlemanly treatment I had
from him in all the affair, with the concern he showed for me
in it, his manner of parting with that large share which he gave
me of his little stock left--all these had joined to make such
impressions on me, that I really loved him most tenderly, and
could not bear the thoughts of parting with him.
Two days after this we quitted Chester, I in the stage-coach,
and he on horseback. I dismissed my maid at Chester. He
was very much against my being without a maid, but she being
a servant hired in the country, and I resolving to keep no
servant at London, I told him it would have been barbarous
to have taken the poor wench and have turned her away as
soon as I came to town; and it would also have been a needless
charge on the road, so I satisfied him, and he was easy enough
on the score.
He came with me as far as Dunstable, within thirty miles of
London, and then he told me fate and his own misfortunes
obliged him to leave me, and that it was not convenient for
him to go to London, for reasons which it was of no value to
me to know, and I saw him preparing to go. The stage-coach
we were in did not usually stop at Dunstable, but I desiring it
but for a quart of an hour, they were content to stand at an
inndoor a while, and we went into the house.
Being in the inn, I told him I had but one favour more to ask
of him, and that was, that since he could not go any farther,
he would give me leave to stay a week or two in the town with
him, that we might in that time think of something to prevent
such a ruinous thing to us both, as a final separation would be;
and that I had something of moment to offer him, that I had
never said yet, and which perhaps he might find practicable to
our mutual advantage.
This was too reasonable a proposal to be denied, so he called
the landlady of the house, and told her his wife was taken ill,
and so ill that she could not think of going any farther in the
stage-coach, which had tired her almost to death, and asked
if she could not get us a lodging for two or three days in a
private house, where I might rest me a little, for the journey
had been too much for me. The landlady, a good sort of
woman, well-bred and very obliging, came immediately to
see me; told me she had two or three very good rooms in a
part of the house quite out of the noise, and if I saw them,
she did not doubt but I would like them, and I should have
one of her maids, that should do nothing else but be appointed
to wait on me. This was so very kind, that I could not but
accept of it, and thank her; so I went to look on the rooms and
liked them very well, and indeed they were extraordinarily
furnished, and very pleasant lodgings; so we paid the stage-coach,
took out our baggage, and resolved to stay here a while.
Here I told him I would live with him now till all my money
was spent, but would not let him spend a shilling of his own.
We had some kind squabble about that, but I told him it was
the last time I was like to enjoy his company, and I desired he
would let me be master in that thing only, and he should govern
in everything else; so he acquiesced.
Here one evening, taking a walk into the fields, I told him I
would now make the proposal to him I had told him of;
accordingly I related to him how I had lived in Virginia, that
I had a mother I believed was alive there still, though my
husband was dead some years. I told him that had not my
effects miscarried, which, by the way, I magnified pretty much,
I might have been fortune good enough to him to have kept
us from being parted in this manner. Then I entered into the
manner of peoples going over to those countries to settle,
how they had a quantity of land given them by the Constitution
of the place; and if not, that it might be purchased at so easy a
rate this it was not worth naming.
I then gave him a full and distinct account of the nature of
planting; how with carrying over but two or three hundred
pounds value in English goods, with some servants and tools,
a man of application would presently lay a foundation for a
family, and in a very few years be certain to raise an estate.
I let him into the nature of the product of the earth; how the
ground was cured and prepared, and what the usual increase
of it was; and demonstrated to him, that in a very few years,
with such a beginning, we should be as certain of being rich
as we were now certain of being poor.
He was surprised at my discourse; for we made it the whole
subject of our conversation for near a week together, in which
time I laid it down in black and white, as we say, that it was
morally impossible, with a supposition of any reasonable good
conduct, but that we must thrive there and do very well.
Then I told him what measures I would take to raise such a
sum of #300 or thereabouts; and I argued with him how good
a method it would be to put an end to our misfortunes and
restore our circumstances in the world, to what we had both
expected; and I added, that after seven years, if we lived, we
might be in a posture to leave our plantations in good hands,
and come over again and receive the income of it, and live
here and enjoy it; and I gave him examples of some that had
done so, and lived now in very good circumstances in London.
In short, I pressed him so to it, that he almost agreed to it, but
still something or other broke it off again; till at last he turned
the tables, and he began to talk almost to the same purpose of
He told me that a man that could confine himself to country
life, and that could find but stock to enter upon any land,
should have farms there for #50 a year, as good as were here
let for #200 a year; that the produce was such, and so rich the
land, that if much was not laid up, we were sure to live as
handsomely upon it as a gentleman of #3000 a year could do
in England and that he had laid a scheme to leave me in London,
and go over and try; and if he found he could lay a handsome
foundation of living suitable to the respect he had for me, as
he doubted not he should do, he would come over and fetch me.
I was dreadfully afraid that upon such a proposal he would
have taken me at my word, viz. to sell my little income as I
called it, and turn it into money, and let him carry it over into
Ireland and try his experiment with it; but he was too just to
desire it, or to have accepted it if I had offered it; and he
anticipated me in that, for he added, that he would go and try
his fortune that way, and if he found he could do anything at
it to live, then, by adding mine to it when I went over, we
should live like ourselves; but that he would not hazard a
shilling of mine till he had made the experiment with a little,
and he assured me that if he found nothing to be done in Ireland,
he would then come to me and join in my project for Virginia.
He was so earnest upon his project being to be tried first, that
I could not withstand him; however, he promised to let me
hear from him in a very little time after his arriving there, to
let me know whether his prospect answered his design, that
if there was not a possibility of success, I might take the
occasion to prepare for our other voyage, and then, he assured
me, he would go with me to America with all his heart.
I could bring him to nothing further than this. However, those
consultations entertained us near a month, during which I
enjoyed his company, which indeed was the most entertaining
that ever I met in my life before. In this time he let me into
the whole story of his own life, which was indeed surprising,
and full of an infinite variety sufficient to fill up a much brighter
history, for its adventures and incidents, than any I ever say in
print; but I shall have occasion to say more of him hereafter.
We parted at last, though with the utmost reluctance on my
side; and indeed he took his leave very unwillingly too, but
necessity obliged him, for his reasons were very good why he
would not come to London, as I understood more fully some
I gave him a direction how to write to me, though still I
reserved the grand secret, and never broke my resolution,
which was not to let him ever know my true name, who I was,
or where to be found; he likewise let me know how to write a
letter to him, so that, he said, he would be sure to receive it.
I came to London the next day after we parted, but did not go
directly to my old lodgings; but for another nameless reason
took a private lodging in St. John's Street, or, as it is vulgarly
called, St. Jones's, near Clerkenwell; and here, being perfectly
alone, I had leisure to sit down and reflect seriously upon the
last seven months' ramble I had made, for I had been abroad
no less. The pleasant hours I had with my last husband I looked
back on with an infinite deal of pleasure; but that pleasure was
very much lessened when I found some time after that I was
really with child.
This was a perplexing thing, because of the difficulty which
was before me where I should get leave to lie in; it being one of
the nicest things in the world at that time of day for a woman
that was a stranger, and had no friends, to be entertained in
that circumstance without security, which, by the way, I had
not, neither could I procure any.
I had taken care all this while to preserve a correspondence
with my honest friend at the bank, or rather he took care to
correspond with me, for he wrote to me once a week; and
though I had not spent my money so fast as to want any from
him, yet I often wrote also to let him know I was alive. I had
left directions in Lancashire, so that I had these letters, which
he sent, conveyed to me; and during my recess at St. Jones's
received a very obliging letter from him, assuring me that his
process for a divorce from his wife went on with success,
though he met with some difficulties in it that he did not expect.
I was not displeased with the news that his process was more
tedious than he expected; for though I was in no condition to
have him yet, not being so foolish to marry him when I knew
myself to be with child by another man, as some I know have
ventured to do, yet I was not willing to lose him, and, in a
word, resolved to have him if he continued in the same mind,
as soon as I was up again; for I saw apparently I should hear
no more from my husband; and as he had all along pressed to
marry, and had assured me he would not be at all disgusted at
it, or ever offer to claim me again, so I made no scruple to
resolve to do it if I could, and if my other friend stood to his
bargain; and I had a great deal of reason to be assured that he
would stand to it, by the letters he wrote to me, which were
the kindest and most obliging that could be.
I now grew big, and the people where I lodged perceived it,
and began to take notice of it to me, and, as far as civility
would allow, intimated that I must think of removing. This
put me to extreme perplexity, and I grew very melancholy, for
indeed I knew not what course to take. I had money, but no
friends, and was like to have a child upon my hands to keep,
which was a difficulty I had never had upon me yet, as the
particulars of my story hitherto make appear.
In the course of this affair I fell very ill, and my melancholy
really increased my distemper; my illness proved at length to
be only an ague, but my apprehensions were really that I should
miscarry. I should not say apprehensions, for indeed I would
have been glad to miscarry, but I could never be brought to
entertain so much as a thought of endeavouring to miscarry,
or of taking any thing to make me miscarry; I abhorred, I say,
so much as the thought of it.
However, speaking of it in the house, the gentlewoman who
kept the house proposed to me to send for a midwife. I
scrupled it at first, but after some time consented to it, but
told her I had no particular acquaintance with any midwife,
and so left it to her.
It seems the mistress of the house was not so great a stranger
to such cases as mine was as I thought at first she had been,
as will appear presently, and she sent for a midwife of the
right sort--that is to say, the right sort for me.
The woman appeared to be an experienced woman in her
business, I mean as a midwife; but she had another calling too,
in which she was as expert as most women if not more. My
landlady had told her I was very melancholy, and that she
believed that had done me harm; and once, before me, said to
her, 'Mrs. B----' (meaning the midwife), 'I believe this lady's
trouble is of a kind that is pretty much in your way, and
therefore if you can do anything for her, pray do, for she is a
very civil gentlewoman'; and so she went out of the room.
I really did not understand her, but my Mother Midnight began
very seriously to explain what she mean, as soon as she was
gone. 'Madam,' says she, 'you seem not to understand what
your landlady means; and when you do understand it, you need
not let her know at all that you do so.
'She means that you are under some circumstances that may
render your lying in difficult to you, and that you are not willing
to be exposed. I need say no more, but to tell you, that if you
think fit to communicate so much of your case to me, if it be so,
as is necessary, for I do not desire to pry into those things, I
perhaps may be in a position to help you and to make you
perfectly easy, and remove all your dull thoughts upon that
Every word this creature said was a cordial to me, and put
new life and new spirit into my heart; my blood began to
circulate immediately, and I was quite another body; I ate my
victuals again, and grew better presently after it. She said a
great deal more to the same purpose, and then, having pressed
me to be free with her, and promised in the solemnest manner
to be secret, she stopped a little, as if waiting to see what
impression it made on me, and what I would say.
I was too sensible to the want I was in of such a woman, not
to accept her offer; I told her my case was partly as she
guessed, and partly not, for I was really married, and had a
husband, though he was in such fine circumstances and so
remote at that time, as that he could not appear publicly.
She took me short, and told me that was none of her business;
all the ladies that came under her care were married women
to her. 'Every woman,' she says, 'that is with child has a father
for it,' and whether that father was a husband or no husband,
was no business of hers; her business was to assist me in my
present circumstances, whether I had a husband or no. 'For,
madam,' says she, 'to have a husband that cannot appear, is
to have no husband in the sense of the case; and, therefore,
whether you are a wife or a mistress is all one to me.'
I found presently, that whether I was a whore or a wife, I was
to pass for a whore here, so I let that go. I told her it was
true, as she said, but that, however, if I must tell her my case,
I must tell it her as it was; so I related it to her as short as I
could, and I concluded it to her thus. 'I trouble you with all
this, madam,' said I, 'not that, as you said before, it is much
to the purpose in your affair, but this is to the purpose, namely,
that I am not in any pain about being seen, or being public or
concealed, for 'tis perfectly indifferent to me; but my difficulty
is, that I have no acquaintance in this part of the nation.'
'I understand you, madam' says she; 'you have no security to
bring to prevent the parish impertinences usual in such cases,
and perhaps,' says she, 'do not know very well how to dispose
of the child when it comes.' 'The last,' says I, 'is not so much
my concern as the first.' 'Well, madam,' answered the midwife,
'dare you put yourself into my hands? I live in such a place;
though I do not inquire after you, you may inquire after me.
My name is B----; I live in such a street'--naming the street--
'at the sign of the Cradle. My profession is a midwife, and I
have many ladies that come to my house to lie in. I have given
security to the parish in general terms to secure them from any
charge from whatsoever shall come into the world under my
roof. I have but one question to ask in the whole affair, madam,'
says she, 'and if that be answered you shall be entirely easy for
all the rest.'
I presently understood what she meant, and told her, 'Madam,
I believe I understand you. I thank God, though I want friends
in this part of the world, I do not want money, so far as may
be necessary, though I do not abound in that neither': this I
added because I would not make her expect great things.
'Well, madam,' says she, 'that is the thing indeed, without
which nothing can be done in these cases; and yet,' says she,
'you shall see that I will not impose upon you, or offer anything
that is unkind to you, and if you desire it, you shall know
everything beforehand, that you may suit yourself to the
occasion, and be neither costly or sparing as you see fit.'
I told her she seemed to be so perfectly sensible of my condition,
that I had nothing to ask of her but this, that as I had told her
that I had money sufficient, but not a great quantity, she would
order it so that I might be at as little superfluous charge as
She replied that she would bring in an account of the expenses
of it in two or three shapes, and like a bill of fare, I should
choose as I pleased; and I desired her to do so.
The next day she brought it, and the copy of her three bills
was a follows:--
1. For three months' lodging in her house, including
my diet, at 10s. a week . . . . . . . . . . . 6#, 0s., 0d.
2. For a nurse for the month, and use of childbed
linen . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1#, 10s., 0d.
3. For a minister to christen the child, and to the
godfathers and clerk . . . . . . . . . . . . 1#, 10s., 0d.
4. For a supper at the christening if I had five friends
at it . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1#, 0s., 0d.
For her fees as a midwife, and the taking off the
trouble of the parish . . . . . . . . . . . . 3#, 3s., 0d.
To her maid servant attending . . . . . . . . 0#, 10s., 0d.
13#, 13s., 0d.
This was the first bill; the second was the same terms:--
1. For three months' lodging and diet, etc., at 20s.
per week . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13#, 0s., 0d.
2. For a nurse for the month, and the use of linen
and lace . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2#, 10s., 0d.
3. For the minister to christen the child, etc., as
above . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2#, 0s., 0d.
4. For supper and for sweetmeats
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3#, 3s., 0d.
For her fees as above . . . . . . . . . . . . 5#, 5s., 0d.
For a servant-maid . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1#, 0s., 0d.
26#, 18s., 0d.
This was the second-rate bill; the third, she said, was for
a degree higher, and when the father or friends appeared:--
1. For three months' lodging and diet, having two
rooms and a garret for a servant . . . . . . 30#, 0s., 0d.,
2. For a nurse for the month, and the finest suit
of childbed linen . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4#, 4s., 0d.
3. For the minister to christen the child, etc. 2#, 10s., 0d.
4. For a supper, the gentlemen to send in the
wine . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6#, 0s., 0d.
For my fees, etc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10#, 10s., 0d.
The maid, besides their own maid, only
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0#, 10s., 0d.
53#, 14s., 0d.
I looked upon all three bills, and smiled, and told her I did not
see but that she was very reasonable in her demands, all things
considered, and for that I did not doubt but her accommodations
She told me I should be judge of that when I saw them. I told
her I was sorry to tell her that I feared I must be her lowest-
rated customer. 'And perhaps, madam,' said I, 'you will make
me the less welcome upon that account.' 'No, not at all,' said
she; 'for where I have one of the third sort I have two of the
second, and four to one of the first, and I get as much by them
in proportion as by any; but if you doubt my care of you, I will
allow any friend you have to overlook and see if you are well
waited on or no.'
Then she explained the particulars of her bill. 'In the first place,
madam,' said she, 'I would have you observe that here is three
months' keeping; you are but ten shillings a week; I undertake
to say you will not complain of my table. I suppose,' says she,
'you do not live cheaper where you are now?' 'No, indeed,'
said I, 'not so cheap, for I give six shillings per week for my
chamber, and find my own diet as well as I can, which costs
me a great deal more.'
'Then, madam,' says she, 'if the child should not live, or should
be dead-born, as you know sometimes happens, then there is
the minister's article saved; and if you have no friends to come
to you, you may save the expense of a supper; so that take those
articles out, madam,' says she, 'your lying in will not cost you
above #5, 3s. in all more than your ordinary charge of living.'
This was the most reasonable thing that I ever heard of; so I
smiled, and told her I would come and be her customer; but I
told her also, that as I had two months and more to do, I might
perhaps be obliged to stay longer with her than three months,
and desired to know if she would not be obliged to remove me
before it was proper. No, she said; her house was large, and
besides, she never put anybody to remove, that had lain in, till
they were willing to go; and if she had more ladies offered, she
was not so ill-beloved among her neighbours but she could
provide accommodations for twenty, if there was occasion.
I found she was an eminent lady in her way; and, in short, I
agreed to put myself into her hands, and promised her. She
then talked of other things, looked about into my accommodations
where I was, found fault with my wanting attendance and
conveniences, and that I should not be used so at her house.
I told her I was shy of speaking, for the woman of the house
looked stranger, or at least I thought so, since I had been ill,
because I was with child; and I was afraid she would put some
affront or other upon me, supposing that I had been able to
give but a slight account of myself.
'Oh dear,' said she, 'her ladyship is no stranger to these things;
she has tried to entertain ladies in your condition several times,
but she could not secure the parish; and besides, she is not such a
nice lady as you take her to be; however, since you are a-going,
you shall not meddle with her, but I'll see you are a little better
looked after while you are here than I think you are, and it shall
not cost you the more neither.'
I did not understand her at all; however, I thanked her, and so
we parted. The next morning she sent me a chicken roasted
and hot, and a pint bottle of sherry, and ordered the maid to
tell me that she was to wait on me every day as long as I stayed
This was surprisingly good and kind, and I accepted it very
willingly. At night she sent to me again, to know if I wanted
anything, and how I did, and to order the maid to come to her
in the morning with my dinner. The maid had orders to make
me some chocolate in the morning before she came away, and
did so, and at noon she brought me the sweetbread of a breast
of veal, whole, and a dish of soup for my dinner; and after this
manner she nursed me up at a distance, so that I was mightily
well pleased, and quickly well, for indeed my dejections before
were the principal part of my illness.
I expected, as is usually the case among such people, that the
servant she sent me would have been some imprudent brazen
wench of Drury Lane breeding, and I was very uneasy at having
her with me upon that account; so I would not let her lie in
that house the first night by any means, but had my eyes about
me as narrowly as if she had been a public thief.
My gentlewoman guessed presently what was the matter, and
sent her back with a short note, that I might depend upon the
honesty of her maid; that she would be answerable for her upon
all accounts; and that she took no servants into her house
without very good security for their fidelity. I was then perfectly
easy; and indeed the maid's behaviour spoke for itself, for a
modester, quieter, soberer girl never came into anybody's family,
and I found her so afterwards.
As soon as I was well enough to go abroad, I went with the
maid to see the house, and to see the apartment I was to have;
and everything was so handsome and so clean and well, that,
in short, I had nothing to say, but was wonderfully pleased
and satisfied with what I had met with, which, considering
the melancholy circumstances I was in, was far beyond what
I looked for.
It might be expected that I should give some account of the
nature of the wicked practices of this woman, in whose hands
I was now fallen; but it would be too much encouragement to
the vice, to let the world see what easy measures were here
taken to rid the women's unwelcome burthen of a child
clandestinely gotten. This grave matron had several sorts of
practice, and this was one particular, that if a child was born,
though not in her house (for she had occasion to be called to
many private labours), she had people at hand, who for a piece
of money would take the child off their hands, and off from
the hands of the parish too; and those children, as she said,
were honestly provided for and taken care of. What should
become of them all, considering so many, as by her account
she was concerned with, I cannot conceive.
I had many times discourses upon that subject with her; but
she was full of this argument, that she save the life of many an
innocent lamb, as she called them, which would otherwise
perhaps have been murdered; and of many women who, made
desperate by the misfortune, would otherwise be tempted to
destroy their children, and bring themselves to the gallows. I
granted her that this was true, and a very commendable thing,
provided the poor children fell into good hands afterwards,
and were not abused, starved, and neglected by the nurses
that bred them up. She answered, that she always took care
of that, and had no nurses in her business but what were very
good, honest people, and such as might be depended upon.
I could say nothing to the contrary, and so was obliged to say,
'Madam, I do not question you do your part honestly, but what
those people do afterwards is the main question'; and she
stopped my mouth again with saying that she took the utmost
care about it.
The only thing I found in all her conversation on these subjects
that gave me any distaste, was, that one time in discouraging
about my being far gone with child, and the time I expected
to come, she said something that looked as if she could help
me off with my burthen sooner, if I was willing; or, in English,
that she could give me something to make me miscarry, if I
had a desire to put an end to my troubles that way; but I soon
let her see that I abhorred the thoughts of it; and, to do her
justice, she put it off so cleverly, that I could not say she really
intended it, or whether she only mentioned the practice as a
horrible thing; for she couched her words so well, and took my
meaning so quickly, that she gave her negative before I could
To bring this part into as narrow a compass as possible, I quitted
my lodging at St. Jones's and went to my new governess, for
so they called her in the house, and there I was indeed treated
with so much courtesy, so carefully looked to, so handsomely
provided, and everything so well, that I was surprised at it, and
could not at first see what advantage my governess made of it;
but I found afterwards that she professed to make no profit of
lodgers' diet, nor indeed could she get much by it, but that
her profit lay in the other articles of her management, and she
made enough that way, I assure you; for 'tis scarce credible
what practice she had, as well abroad as at home, and yet all
upon the private account, or, in plain English, the whoring
While I was in her house, which was near four months, she
had no less than twelve ladies of pleasure brought to bed within
the doors, and I think she had two-and-thirty, or thereabouts,
under her conduct without doors, whereof one, as nice as she
was with me, was lodged with my old landlady at St. Jones's.
This was a strange testimony of the growing vice of the age,
and such a one, that as bad as I had been myself, it shocked
my very senses. I began to nauseate the place I was in and,
about all, the wicked practice; and yet I must say that I never
saw, or do I believe there was to be seen, the least indecency
in the house the whole time I was there.
Not a man was ever seen to come upstairs, except to visit the
lying-in ladies within their month, nor then without the old lady
with them, who made it a piece of honour of her management
that no man should touch a woman, no, not his own wife, within
the month; nor would she permit any man to lie in the house
upon any pretence whatever, no, not though she was sure it
was with his own wife; and her general saying for it was, that
she cared not how many children were born in her house, but
she would have none got there if she could help it.
It might perhaps be carried further than was needful, but it was
an error of the right hand if it was an error, for by this she kept
up the reputation, such as it was, of her business, and obtained
this character, that though she did take care of the women when
they were debauched, yet she was not instrumental to their being
debauched at all; and yet it was a wicked trade she drove too.
While I was there, and before I was brought to bed, I received
a letter from my trustee at the bank, full of kind, obliging things,
and earnestly pressing me to return to London. It was near a
fortnight old when it came to me, because it had been first sent
into Lancashire, and then returned to me. He concludes with
telling me that he had obtained a decree, I think he called it,
against his wife, and that he would be ready to make good his
engagement to me, if I would accept of him, adding a great
many protestations of kindness and affection, such as he would
have been far from offering if he had known the circumstances
I had been in, and which as it was I had been very far from
I returned an answer to his letter, and dated it at Liverpool,
but sent it by messenger, alleging that it came in cover to a
friend in town. I gave him joy of his deliverance, but raised
some scruples at the lawfulness of his marrying again, and told
him I supposed he would consider very seriously upon that
point before he resolved on it, the consequence being too great
for a man of his judgment to venture rashly upon a thing of that
nature; so concluded, wishing him very well in whatever he
resolved, without letting him into anything of my own mind,
or giving any answer to his proposal of my coming to London
to him, but mentioned at a distance my intention to return the
latter end of the year, this being dated in April.
I was brought to bed about the middle of May and had another
brave boy, and myself in as good condition as usual on such
occasions. My governess did her part as a midwife with the
greatest art and dexterity imaginable, and far beyond all that
ever I had had any experience of before.
Her care of me in my travail, and after in my lying in, was
such, that if she had been my own mother it could not have
been better. Let none be encouraged in their loose practices
from this dexterous lady's management, for she is gone to her
place, and I dare say has left nothing behind her that can or
will come up on it.
I think I had been brought to bed about twenty-two days when
I received another letter from my friend at the bank, with the
surprising news that he had obtained a final sentence of divorce
against his wife, and had served her with it on such a day, and
that he had such an answer to give to all my scruples about his
marrying again, as I could not expect, and as he had no desire
of; for that his wife, who had been under some remorse before
for her usage of him, as soon as she had the account that he
had gained his point, had very unhappily destroyed herself that
He expressed himself very handsomely as to his being concerned
at her disaster, but cleared himself of having any hand in it,
and that he had only done himself justice in a case in which he
was notoriously injured and abused. However, he said that
he was extremely afflicted at it, and had no view of any
satisfaction left in his world, but only in the hope that I would
come and relieve him by my company; and then he pressed me
violently indeed to give him some hopes that I would at least
come up to town and let him see me, when he would further
enter into discourse about it.
I was exceedingly surprised at the news, and began now
seriously to reflect on my present circumstances, and the
inexpressible misfortune it was to me to have a child upon my
hands, and what to do in it I knew not. At last I opened my
case at a distance to my governess. I appeared melancholy
and uneasy for several days, and she lay at me continually to
know what trouble me. I could not for my life tell her that I
had an offer of marriage, after I had so often told her that I
had a husband, so that I really knew not what to say to her. I
owned I had something which very much troubled me, but at
the same time told her I could not speak of it to any one alive.
She continued importuning me several days, but it was
impossible, I told her, for me to commit the secret to anybody.
This, instead of being an answer to her, increased her
importunities; she urged her having been trusted with the
greatest secrets of this nature, that it was her business to
conceal everything, and that to discover things of that nature
would be her ruin. She asked me if ever I had found her tattling
to me of other people's affairs, and how could I suspect her?
She told me, to unfold myself to her was telling it to nobody;
that she was silent as death; that it must be a very strange case
indeed that she could not help me out of; but to conceal it was
to deprive myself of all possible help, or means of help, and to
deprive her of the opportunity of serving me. In short, she had
such a bewitching eloquence, and so great a power of persuasion
that there was no concealing anything from her.
So I resolved to unbosom myself to her. I told her the history
of my Lancashire marriage, and how both of us had been
disappointed; how we came together, and how we parted; how
he absolutely discharged me, as far as lay in him, free liberty to
marry again, protesting that if he knew it he would never claim
me, or disturb or expose me; that I thought I was free, but was
dreadfully afraid to venture, for fear of the consequences that
might follow in case of a discovery.
Then I told her what a good offer I had; showed her my friend's
two last letters, inviting me to come to London, and let her see
with what affection and earnestness they were written, but
blotted out the name, and also the story about the disaster of
his wife, only that she was dead.
She fell a-laughing at my scruples about marrying, and told
me the other was no marriage, but a cheat on both sides; and
that, as we were parted by mutual consent, the nature of the
contract was destroyed, and the obligation was mutually
discharged. She had arguments for this at the tip of her tongue;
and, in short, reasoned me out of my reason; not but that it
was too by the help of my own inclination.
But then came the great and main difficulty, and that was the
child; this, she told me in so many words, must be removed,
and that so as that it should never be possible for any one to
discover it. I knew there was no marrying without entirely
concealing that I had had a child, for he would soon have
discovered by the age of it that it was born, nay, and gotten
too, since my parley with him, and that would have destroyed
all the affair.
But it touched my heart so forcibly to think of parting entirely
with the child, and, for aught I knew, of having it murdered,
or starved by neglect and ill-usage (which was much the same),
that I could not think of it without horror. I wish all those
women who consent to the disposing their children out of the
way, as it is called, for decency sake, would consider that 'tis
only a contrived method for murder; that is to say, a-killing
their children with safety.
It is manifest to all that understand anything of children, that
we are born into the world helpless, and incapable either to
supply our own wants or so much as make them known; and
that without help we must perish; and this help requires not
only an assisting hand, whether of the mother or somebody
else, but there are two things necessary in that assisting hand,
that is, care and skill; without both which, half the children
that are born would die, nay, though they were not to be
denied food; and one half more of those that remained would
be cripples or fools, lose their limbs, and perhaps their sense.
I question not but that these are partly the reasons why affection
was placed by nature in the hearts of mothers to their children;
without which they would never be able to give themselves up,
as 'tis necessary they should, to the care and waking pains
needful to the support of their children.
Since this care is needful to the life of children, to neglect them
is to murder them; again, to give them up to be managed by
those people who have none of that needful affection placed
by nature in them, is to neglect them in the highest degree; nay,
in some it goes farther, and is a neglect in order to their being
lost; so that 'tis even an intentional murder, whether the child
lives or dies.
All those things represented themselves to my view, and that
is the blackest and most frightful form: and as I was very free
with my governess, whom I had now learned to call mother,
I represented to her all the dark thoughts which I had upon
me about it, and told her what distress I was in. She seemed
graver by much at this part than at the other; but as she was
hardened in these things beyond all possibility of being touched
with the religious part, and the scruples about the murder, so
she was equally impenetrable in that part which related to
affection. She asked me if she had not been careful and tender
to me in my lying in, as if I had been her own child. I told her
I owned she had. 'Well, my dear,' says she, 'and when you
are gone, what are you to me? And what would it be to me
if you were to be hanged? Do you think there are not women
who, as it is their trade and they get their bread by it, value
themselves upon their being as careful of children as their own
mothers can be, and understand it rather better? Yes, yes,
child,' says she, 'fear it not; how were we nursed ourselves?
Are you sure you was nursed up by your own mother? and
yet you look fat and fair, child,' says the old beldam; and with
that she stroked me over the face. 'Never be concerned, child,'
says she, going on in her drolling way; 'I have no murderers
about me; I employ the best and the honestest nurses that can
be had, and have as few children miscarry under their hands
as there would if they were all nursed by mothers; we want
neither care nor skill.'
She touched me to the quick when she asked if I was sure
that I was nursed by my own mother; on the contrary I was
sure I was not; and I trembled, and looked pale at the very
expression. 'Sure,' said I to myself, 'this creature cannot be
a witch, or have any conversation with a spirit, that can inform
her what was done with me before I was able to know it myself';
and I looked at her as if I had been frightened; but reflecting
that it could not be possible for her to know anything about
me, that disorder went off, and I began to be easy, but it was
She perceived the disorder I was in, but did not know the
meaning of it; so she ran on in her wild talk upon the weakness
of my supposing that children were murdered because they
were not all nursed by the mother, and to persuade me that
the children she disposed of were as well used as if the mothers
had the nursing of them themselves.
'It may be true, mother,' says I, 'for aught I know, but my
doubts are very strongly grounded indeed.' 'Come, then,' says
she, 'let's hear some of them.' 'Why, first,' says I, 'you give
a piece of money to these people to take the child off the
parent's hands, and to take care of it as long as it lives. Now
we know, mother,' said I, 'that those are poor people, and
their gain consists in being quit of the charge as soon as they
can; how can I doubt but that, as it is best for them to have
the child die, they are not over solicitous about life?'
'This is all vapours and fancy,' says the old woman; 'I tell you
their credit depends upon the child's life, and they are as careful
as any mother of you all.'
'O mother,' says I, 'if I was but sure my little baby would be
carefully looked to, and have justice done it, I should be happy
indeed; but it is impossible I can be satisfied in that point
unless I saw it, and to see it would be ruin and destruction to
me, as now my case stands; so what to do I know not.'
'A fine story!' says the governess. 'You would see the child,
and you would not see the child; you would be concealed and
discovered both together. These are things impossible, my
dear; so you must e'en do as other conscientious mothers have
done before you, and be contented with things as they must be,
though they are not as you wish them to be.'
I understood what she meant by conscientious mothers; she
would have said conscientious whores, but she was not willing
to disoblige me, for really in this case I was not a whore,
because legally married, the force of former marriage excepted.
However, let me be what I would, I was not come up to that
pitch of hardness common to the profession; I mean, to be
unnatural, and regardless of the safety of my child; and I
preserved this honest affection so long, that I was upon the
point of giving up my friend at the bank, who lay so hard at
me to come to him and marry him, that, in short, there was
hardly any room to deny him.
At last my old governess came to me, with her usual assurance.
'Come, my dear,' says she, 'I have found out a way how you
shall be at a certainty that your child shall be used well, and
yet the people that take care of it shall never know you, or
who the mother of the child is.'
'Oh mother,' says I, 'if you can do so, you will engage me to
you for ever.' 'Well,' says she, 'are you willing to be a some
small annual expense, more than what we usually give to the
people we contract with?' 'Ay,' says I, 'with all my heart,
provided I may be concealed.' 'As to that,' says the governess,
'you shall be secure, for the nurse shall never so much as dare
to inquire about you, and you shall once or twice a year go
with me and see your child, and see how 'tis used, and be
satisfied that it is in good hands, nobody knowing who you are.'
'Why,' said I, 'do you think, mother, that when I come to see
my child, I shall be able to conceal my being the mother of it?
Do you think that possible?'
'Well, well,' says my governess, 'if you discover it, the nurse
shall be never the wiser; for she shall be forbid to ask any
questions about you, or to take any notice. If she offers it,
she shall lose the money which you are suppose to give her,
and the child shall be taken from her too.'
I was very well pleased with this. So the next week a
countrywoman was brought from Hertford, or thereabouts,
who was to take the child off our hands entirely for #10 in
money. But if I would allow #5 a year more of her, she would
be obliged to bring the child to my governess's house as often
as we desired, or we should come down and look at it, and see
how well she used it.
The woman was very wholesome-looking, a likely woman,
a cottager's wife, but she had very good clothes and linen, and
everything well about her; and with a heavy heart and many a
tear, I let her have my child. I had been down at Hertford, and
looked at her and at her dwelling, which I liked well enough;
and I promised her great things if she would be kind to the
child, so she knew at first word that I was the child's mother.
But she seemed to be so much out of the way, and to have no
room to inquire after me, that I thought I was safe enough.
So, in short, I consented to let her have the child, and I gave
her #10; that is to say, I gave it to my governess, who gave it
the poor woman before my face, she agreeing never to return
the child back to me, or to claim anything more for its keeping
or bringing up; only that I promised, if she took a great deal
of care of it, I would give her something more as often as I
came to see it; so that I was not bound to pay the #5, only
that I promised my governess I would do it. And thus my
great care was over, after a manner, which though it did not
at all satisfy my mind, yet was the most convenient for me,
as my affairs then stood, of any that could be thought of at
I then began to write to my friend at the bank in a more kindly
style, and particularly about the beginning of July I sent him a
letter, that I proposed to be in town some time in August. He
returned me an answer in the most passionate terms imaginable,
and desired me to let him have timely notice, and he would
come and meet me, two day's journey. This puzzled me scurvily,
and I did not know what answer to make of it. Once I resolved
to take the stage-coach to West Chester, on purpose only to
have the satisfaction of coming back, that he might see me
really come in the same coach; for I had a jealous thought,
though I had no ground for it at all, lest he should think I was
not really in the country. And it was no ill-grounded thought
as you shall hear presently.
I endeavoured to reason myself out of it, but it was in vain;
the impression lay so strong on my mind, that it was not to
be resisted. At last it came as an addition to my new design
of going into the country, that it would be an excellent blind
to my old governess, and would cover entirely all my other
affairs, for she did not know in the least whether my new lover
lived in London or in Lancashire; and when I told her my
resolution, she was fully persuaded it was in Lancashire.
Having taken my measure for this journey I let her know it,
and sent the maid that tended me, from the beginning, to take
a place for me in the coach. She would have had me let the
maid have waited on me down to the last stage, and come up
again in the waggon, but I convinced her it would not be
convenient. When I went away, she told me she would enter
into no measures for correspondence, for she saw evidently
that my affection to my child would cause me to write to her,
and to visit her too when I came to town again. I assured her
it would, and so took my leave, well satisfied to have been
freed from such a house, however good my accommodations
there had been, as I have related above.
I took the place in the coach not to its full extent, but to a
place called Stone, in Cheshire, I think it is, where I not only
had no manner of business, but not so much as the least
acquaintance with any person in the town or near it. But I
knew that with money in the pocket one is at home anywhere;
so I lodged there two or three days, till, watching my opportunity,
I found room in another stage-coach, and took passage back
again for London, sending a letter to my gentleman that I should
be such a certain day at Stony-Stratford, where the coachman
told me he was to lodge.
It happened to be a chance coach that I had taken up, which,
having been hired on purpose to carry some gentlemen to West
Chester who were going for Ireland, was now returning, and
did not tie itself to exact times or places as the stages did; so
that, having been obliged to lie still on Sunday, he had time to
get himself ready to come out, which otherwise he could not
However, his warning was so short, that he could not reach
to Stony-Stratford time enough to be with me at night, but he
met me at a place called Brickhill the next morning, as we
were just coming in to tow.
I confess I was very glad to see him, for I had thought myself
a little disappointed over-night, seeing I had gone so far to
contrive my coming on purpose. He pleased me doubly too
by the figure he came in, for he brought a very handsome
(gentleman's) coach and four horses, with a servant to attend
He took me out of the stage-coach immediately, which stopped
at an inn in Brickhill; and putting into the same inn, he set up
his own coach, and bespoke his dinner. I asked him what he
meant by that, for I was for going forward with the journey.
He said, No, I had need of a little rest upon the road, and that
was a very good sort of a house, though it was but a little town;
so we would go no farther that night, whatever came of it.
I did not press him much, for since he had come so to meet
me, and put himself to so much expense, it was but reasonable
I should oblige him a little too; so I was easy as to that point.
After dinner we walked to see the town, to see the church,
and to view the fields, and the country, as is usual for strangers
to do; and our landlord was our guide in going to see the
church. I observed my gentleman inquired pretty much about
the parson, and I took the hint immediately that he certainly
would propose to be married; and though it was a sudden
thought, it followed presently, that, in short, I would not refuse
him; for, to be plain, with my circumstances I was in no
condition now to say No; I had no reason now to run any more
But while these thoughts ran round in my head, which was the
work but of a few moments, I observed my landlord took him
aside and whispered to him, though not very softly neither, for
so much I overheard: 'Sir, if you shall have occasion----' the
rest I could not hear, but it seems it was to this purpose: 'Sir,
if you shall have occasion for a minister, I have a friend a little
way off that will serve you, and be as private as you please.'
My gentleman answered loud enough for me to hear, 'Very
well, I believe I shall.'
I was no sooner come back to the inn but he fell upon me with
irresistible words, that since he had had the good fortune to
meet me, and everything concurred, it would be hastening his
felicity if I would put an end to the matter just there. 'What
do you mean?' says I, colouring a little. 'What, in an inn, and
upon the road! Bless us all,' said I, as if I had been surprised,
'how can you talk so?' 'Oh, I can talk so very well,' says he,
'I came a-purpose to talk so, and I'll show you that I did'; and
with that he pulls out a great bundle of papers. 'You fright me,'
said I; 'what are all these?' 'Don't be frighted, my dear,' said
he, and kissed me. This was the first time that he had been so
free to call me 'my dear'; then he repeated it, 'Don't be frighted;
you shall see what it is all'; then he laid them all abroad. There
was first the deed or sentence of divorce from his wife, and
the full evidence of her playing the whore; then there were the
certificates of the minister and churchwardens of the parish
where she lived, proving that she was buried, and intimating
the manner of her death; the copy of the coroner's warrant for
a jury to sit upon her, and the verdict of the jury, who brought
it in Non compos mentis. All this was indeed to the purpose,
and to give me satisfaction, though, by the way, I was not so
scrupulous, had he known all, but that I might have taken him
without it. However, I looked them all over as well as I could,
and told him that this was all very clear indeed, but that he
need not have given himself the trouble to have brought them
out with him, for it was time enough. Well, he said, it might
be time enough for me, but no time but the present time was
time enough for him.
There were other papers rolled up, and I asked him what they
were. 'Why, ay,' says he, 'that's the question I wanted to have
you ask me'; so he unrolls them and takes out a little shagreen
case, and gives me out of it a very fine diamond ring. I could
not refuse it, if I had a mind to do so, for he put it upon my
finger; so I made him a curtsy and accepted it. Then he takes
out another ring: 'And this,' says he, 'is for another occasion,'
so he puts that in his pocket. 'Well, but let me see it, though,'
says I, and smiled; 'I guess what it is; I think you are mad.'
'I should have been mad if I had done less,' says he, and still
he did not show me, and I had a great mind to see it; so I says,
'Well, but let me see it.' 'Hold,' says he, 'first look here';
then he took up the roll again and read it, and behold! it was
a licence for us to be married. 'Why,' says I, 'are you distracted?
Why, you were fully satisfied that I would comply and yield
at first word, or resolved to take no denial.' 'The last is
certainly the case,' said he. 'But you may be mistaken,' said I.
'No, no,' says he, 'how can you think so? I must not be denied,
I can't be denied'; and with that he fell to kissing me so violently,
I could not get rid of him.
There was a bed in the room, and we were walking to and
again, eager in the discourse; at last he takes me by surprise
in his arms, and threw me on the bed and himself with me,
and holding me fast in his arms, but without the least offer of
any indecency, courted me to consent with such repeated
entreaties and arguments, protesting his affection, and vowing
he would not let me go till I had promised him, that at last I
said, 'Why, you resolve not to be denied, indeed, I can't be
denied.' 'Well, well,' said I, and giving him a slight kiss, 'then
you shan't be denied,' said I; 'let me get up.'
He was so transported with my consent, and the kind manner
of it, that I began to think once he took it for a marriage, and
would not stay for the form; but I wronged him, for he gave
over kissing me, and then giving me two or three kisses again,
thanked me for my kind yielding to him; and was so overcome
with the satisfaction and joy of it, that I saw tears stand in his eyes.
I turned from him, for it filled my eyes with tears too, and I
asked him leave to retire a little to my chamber. If ever I had
a grain of true repentance for a vicious and abominable life
for twenty-four years past, it was then. On, what a felicity is
it to mankind, said I to myself, that they cannot see into the
hearts of one another! How happy had it been for me if I had
been wife to a man of so much honesty, and so much affection
from the beginning!
Then it occurred to me, 'What an abominable creature am I!
and how is this innocent gentleman going to be abused by me!
How little does he think, that having divorced a whore, he is
throwing himself into the arms of another! that he is going to
marry one that has lain with two brothers, and has had three
children by her own brother! one that was born in Newgate,
whose mother was a whore, and is now a transported thief!
one that has lain with thirteen men, and has had a child since
he saw me! Poor gentleman!' said I, 'what is he going to do?'
After this reproaching myself was over, it following thus:
'Well, if I must be his wife, if it please God to give me grace,
I'll be a true wife to him, and love him suitably to the strange
excess of his passion for me; I will make him amends if possible,
by what he shall see, for the cheats and abuses I put upon him,
which he does not see.'
He was impatient for my coming out of my chamber, but
finding me long, he went downstairs and talked with my
landlord about the parson.
My landlord, an officious though well-meaning fellow, had sent
away for the neighbouring clergyman; and when my gentleman
began to speak of it to him, and talk of sending for him, 'Sir,'
says he to him, 'my friend is in the house'; so without any more
words he brought them together. When he came to the minister,
he asked him if he would venture to marry a couple of strangers
that were both willing. The parson said that Mr. ---- had said
something to him of it; that he hoped it was no clandestine
business; that he seemed to be a grave gentleman, and he
supposed madam was not a girl, so that the consent of friends
should be wanted. 'To put you out of doubt of that,' says my
gentleman, 'read this paper'; and out he pulls the license. 'I
am satisfied,' says the minister; 'where is the lady?' 'You
shall see her presently,' says my gentleman.
When he had said thus he comes upstairs, and I was by that
time come out of my room; so he tells me the minister was
below, and that he had talked with him, and that upon showing
him the license, he was free to marry us with all his heart, 'but
he asks to see you'; so he asked if I would let him come up.
''Tis time enough,' said I, 'in the morning, is it not?' 'Why,'
said he, 'my dear, he seemed to scruple whether it was not
some young girl stolen from her parents, and I assured him we
were both of age to command our own consent; and that made
him ask to see you.' 'Well,' said I, 'do as you please'; so up
they brings the parson, and a merry, good sort of gentleman
he was. He had been told, it seems, that we had met there by
accident, that I came in the Chester coach, and my gentleman
in his own coach to meet me; that we were to have met last
night at Stony-Stratford, but that he could not reach so far.
'Well, sir,' says the parson, 'every ill turn has some good in it.
The disappointment, sir,' says he to my gentleman, 'was yours,
and the good turn is mine, for if you had met at Stony-Stratford
I had not had the honour to marry you. Landlord, have you a
Common Prayer Book?'
I started as if I had been frightened. 'Lord, sir,' says I, 'what
do you mean? What, to marry in an inn, and at night too?'
'Madam,' says the minister, 'if you will have it be in the church,
you shall; but I assure you your marriage will be as firm here
as in the church; we are not tied by the canons to marry nowhere
but in the church; and if you will have it in the church, it
will be a public as a county fair; and as for the time of day, it
does not at all weigh in this case; our princes are married in
their chambers, and at eight or ten o'clock at night.'
I was a great while before I could be persuaded, and pretended
not to be willing at all to be married but in the church. But
it was all grimace; so I seemed at last to be prevailed on, and
my landlord and his wife and daughter were called up. My
landlord was father and clerk and all together, and we were
married, and very merry we were; though I confess the
self-reproaches which I had upon me before lay close to me,
and extorted every now and then a deep sigh from me, which
my bridegroom took notice of, and endeavoured to encourage
me, thinking, poor man, that I had some little hesitations at
the step I had taken so hastily.
We enjoyed ourselves that evening completely, and yet all was
kept so private in the inn that not a servant in the house knew
of it, for my landlady and her daughter waited on me, and
would not let any of the maids come upstairs, except while we
were at supper. My landlady's daughter I called my bridesmaid;
and sending for a shopkeeper the next morning, I gave the young
woman a good suit of knots, as good as the town would afford,
and finding it was a lace-making town, I gave her mother a
piece of bone-lace for a head.
One reason that my landlord was so close was, that he was
unwilling the minister of the parish should hear of it; but for
all that somebody heard of it, so at that we had the bells set
a-ringing the next morning early, and the music, such as the
town would afford, under our window; but my landlord
brazened it out, that we were married before we came thither,
only that, being his former guests, we would have our
wedding-supper at his house.
We could not find in our hearts to stir the next day; for, in
short, having been disturbed by the bells in the morning, and
having perhaps not slept overmuch before, we were so sleepy
afterwards that we lay in bed till almost twelve o'clock.
I begged my landlady that we might not have any more music
in the town, nor ringing of bells, and she managed it so well
that we were very quiet; but an odd passage interrupted all my
mirth for a good while. The great room of the house looked
into the street, and my new spouse being belowstairs, I had
walked to the end of the room; and it being a pleasant, warm
day, I had opened the window, and was standing at it for some
air, when I saw three gentlemen come by on horseback and go
into an inn just against us.
It was not to be concealed, nor was it so doubtful as to leave
me any room to question it, but the second of the three was
my Lancashire husband. I was frightened to death; I never
was in such a consternation in my life; I though I should have
sunk into the ground; my blood ran chill in my veins, and I
trembled as if I had been in a cold fit of ague. I say, there
was no room to question the truth of it; I knew his clothes, I
knew his horse, and I knew his face.
The first sensible reflect I made was, that my husband was
not by to see my disorder, and that I was very glad of it. The
gentlemen had not been long in the house but they came to
the window of their room, as is usual; but my window was
shut, you may be sure. However, I could not keep from
peeping at them, and there I saw him again, heard him call out
to one of the servants of the house for something he wanted,
and received all the terrifying confirmations of its being the
same person that were possible to be had.
My next concern was to know, if possible, what was his business
there; but that was impossible. Sometimes my imagination
formed an idea of one frightful thing, sometimes of another;
sometime I thought he had discovered me, and was come to
upbraid me with ingratitude and breach of honour; and every
moment I fancied he was coming up the stairs to insult me; and
innumerable fancies came into my head of what was never in
his head, nor ever could be, unless the devil had revealed it to
I remained in this fright nearly two hours, and scarce ever kept
my eye from the window or door of the inn where they were.
At last, hearing a great clatter in the passage of their inn, I ran
to the window, and, to my great satisfaction, saw them all three
go out again and travel on westward. Had they gone towards
London, I should have been still in a fright, lest I should meet
him on the road again, and that he should know me; but he
went the contrary way, and so I was eased of that disorder.
We resolved to be going the next day, but about six o'clock
at night we were alarmed with a great uproar in the street, and
people riding as if they had been out of their wits; and what
was it but a hue-and-cry after three highwaymen that had
robbed two coaches and some other travellers near Dunstable
Hill, and notice had, it seems, been given that they had been
seen at Brickhill at such a house, meaning the house where
those gentlemen had been.
The house was immediately beset and searched, but there were
witnesses enough that the gentlemen had been gone over three
hours. The crowd having gathered about, we had the news
presently; and I was heartily concerned now another way. I
presently told the people of the house, that I durst to say those
were not the persons, for that I knew one of the gentlemen to
be a very honest person, and of a good estate in Lancashire.
The constable who came with the hue-and-cry was immediately
informed of this, and came over to me to be satisfied from my
own mouth, and I assured him that I saw the three gentlemen
as I was at the window; that I saw them afterwards at the
windows of the room they dined in; that I saw them afterwards
take horse, and I could assure him I knew one of them to be
such a man, that he was a gentleman of a very good estate, and
an undoubted character in Lancashire, from whence I was just
now upon my journey.
The assurance with which I delivered this gave the mob gentry
a check, and gave the constable such satisfaction, that he
immediately sounded a retreat, told his people these were not
the men, but that he had an account they were very honest
gentlemen; and so they went all back again. What the truth of
the matter was I knew not, but certain it was that the coaches
were robbed at Dunstable Hill, and #560 in money taken;
besides, some of the lace merchants that always travel that way
had been visited too. As to the three gentlemen, that remains
to be explained hereafter.
Well, this alarm stopped us another day, though my spouse
was for travelling, and told me that it was always safest travelling
after a robbery, for that the thieves were sure to be gone far
enough off when they had alarmed the country; but I was afraid
and uneasy, and indeed principally lest my old acquaintance
should be upon the road still, and should chance to see me.
I never lived four pleasanter days together in my life. I was a
mere bride all this while, and my new spouse strove to make
me entirely easy in everything. Oh could this state of life have
continued, how had all my past troubles been forgot, and my
future sorrows avoided! But I had a past life of a most wretched
kind to account for, some if it in this world as well as in another.
We came away the fifth day; and my landlord, because he saw
me uneasy, mounted himself, his son, and three honest country
fellows with good firearms, and, without telling us of it,
followed the coach, and would see us safe into Dunstable. We
could do no less than treat them very handsomely at Dunstable,
which cost my spouse about ten or twelve shillings, and
something he gave the men for their time too, but my landlord
would take nothing for himself.
This was the most happy contrivance for me that could have
fallen out; for had I come to London unmarried, I must either
have come to him for the first night's entertainment, or have
discovered to him that I had not one acquaintance in the whole
city of London that could receive a poor bride for the first
night's lodging with her spouse. But now, being an old married
woman, I made no scruple of going directly home with him,
and there I took possession at once of a house well furnished,
and a husband in very good circumstances, so that I had a
prospect of a very happy life, if I knew how to manage it; and
I had leisure to consider of the real value of the life I was likely
to live. How different it was to be from the loose ungoverned
part I had acted before, and how much happier a life of virtue
and sobriety is, than that which we call a life of pleasure.
Oh had this particular scene of life lasted, or had I learned
from that time I enjoyed it, to have tasted the true sweetness
of it, and had I not fallen into that poverty which is the sure
bane of virtue, how happy had I been, not only here, but perhaps
for ever! for while I lived thus, I was really a penitent for all
my life past. I looked back on it with abhorrence, and might
truly be said to hate myself for it. I often reflected how my
lover at the Bath, struck at the hand of God, repented and
abandoned me, and refused to see me any more, though he
loved me to an extreme; but I, prompted by that worst of
devils, poverty, returned to the vile practice, and made the
advantage of what they call a handsome face to be the relief
to my necessities, and beauty be a pimp to vice.
Now I seemed landed in a safe harbour, after the stormy voyage
of life past was at an end, and I began to be thankful for my
deliverance. I sat many an hour by myself, and wept over the
remembrance of past follies, and the dreadful extravagances
of a wicked life, and sometimes I flattered myself that I had
But there are temptations which it is not in the power of human
nature to resist, and few know what would be their case if
driven to the same exigencies. As covetousness is the root of
all evil, so poverty is, I believe, the worst of all snares. But I
waive that discourse till I come to an experiment.
I lived with this husband with the utmost tranquillity; he was a
quiet, sensible, sober man; virtuous, modest, sincere, and in
his business diligent and just. His business was in a narrow
compass, and his income sufficient to a plentiful way of living
in the ordinary way. I do not say to keep an equipage, and
make a figure, as the world calls it, nor did I expect it, or desire
it; for as I abhorred the levity and extravagance of my former
life, so I chose now to live retired, frugal, and within ourselves.
I kept no company, made no visits; minded my family, and
obliged my husband; and this kind of life became a pleasure to me.
We lived in an uninterrupted course of ease and content for
five years, when a sudden blow from an almost invisible hand
blasted all my happiness, and turned me out into the world in
a condition the reverse of all that had been before it.
My husband having trusted one of his fellow-clerks with a sum
of money, too much for our fortunes to bear the loss of, the
clerk failed, and the loss fell very heavy on my husband, yet it
was not so great neither but that, if he had had spirit and courage
to have looked his misfortunes in the face, his credit was so
good that, as I told him, he would easily recover it; for to sink
under trouble is to double the weight, and he that will die in it,
shall die in it.
It was in vain to speak comfortably to him; the wound had
sunk too deep; it was a stab that touched the vitals; he grew
melancholy and disconsolate, and from thence lethargic, and
died. I foresaw the blow, and was extremely oppressed in my
mind, for I saw evidently that if he died I was undone.
I had had two children by him and no more, for, to tell the
truth, it began to be time for me to leave bearing children, for
I was now eight-and-forty, and I suppose if he had lived I
should have had no more.
I was now left in a dismal and disconsolate case indeed, and
in several things worse than ever. First, it was past the
flourishing time with me when I might expect to be courted
for a mistress; that agreeable part had declined some time, and
the ruins only appeared of what had been; and that which was
worse than all this, that I was the most dejected, disconsolate
creature alive. I that had encouraged my husband, and
endeavoured to support his spirits under his trouble, could not
support my own; I wanted that spirit in trouble which I told
him was so necessary to him for bearing the burthen.
But my case was indeed deplorable, for I was left perfectly
friendless and helpless, and the loss my husband had sustained
had reduced his circumstances so low, that though indeed I
was not in debt, yet I could easily foresee that what was left
would not support me long; that while it wasted daily for
subsistence, I had not way to increase it one shilling, so that
it would be soon all spent, and then I saw nothing before me
but the utmost distress; and this represented itself so lively to
my thoughts, that it seemed as if it was come, before it was
really very near; also my very apprehensions doubled the misery,
for I fancied every sixpence that I paid for a loaf of bread was
the last that I had in the world, and that to-morrow I was to
fast, and be starved to death.
In this distress I had no assistant, no friend to comfort or
advise me; I sat and cried and tormented myself night and day,
wringing my hands, and sometimes raving like a distracted
woman; and indeed I have often wondered it had not affected
my reason, for I had the vapours to such a degree, that my
understanding was sometimes quite lost in fancies and
I lived two years in this dismal condition, wasting that little I
had, weeping continually over my dismal circumstances, and,
as it were, only bleeding to death, without the least hope or
prospect of help from God or man; and now I had cried too
long, and so often, that tears were, as I might say, exhausted,
and I began to be desperate, for I grew poor apace.
For a little relief I had put off my house and took lodgings;
and as I was reducing my living, so I sold off most of my goods,
which put a little money in my pocket, and I lived near a year
upon that, spending very sparingly, and eking things out to the
utmost; but still when I looked before me, my very heart would
sink within me at the inevitable approach of misery and want.
Oh let none read this part without seriously reflecting on the
circumstances of a desolate state, and how they would grapple
with mere want of friends and want of bread; it will certainly
make them think not of sparing what they have only, but of
looking up to heaven for support, and of the wise man's prayer,
'Give me not poverty, lest I steal.'
Let them remember that a time of distress is a time of dreadful
temptation, and all the strength to resist is taken away; poverty
presses, the soul is made desperate by distress, and what can
be done? It was one evening, when being brought, as I may
say, to the last gasp, I think I may truly say I was distracted
and raving, when prompted by I know not what spirit, and, as
it were, doing I did not know what or why, I dressed me (for
I had still pretty good clothes) and went out. I am very sure
I had no manner of design in my head when I went out; I neither
knew nor considered where to go, or on what business; but as
the devil carried me out and laid his bait for me, so he brought
me, to be sure, to the place, for I knew not whither I was going
or what I did.
Wandering thus about, I knew not whither, I passed by an
apothecary's shop in Leadenhall Street, when I saw lie on a
stool just before the counter a little bundle wrapped in a white
cloth; beyond it stood a maid-servant with her back to it,
looking towards the top of the shop, where the apothecary's
apprentice, as I suppose, was standing upon the counter, with
his back also to the door, and a candle in his hand, looking
and reaching up to the upper shelf for something he wanted,
so that both were engaged mighty earnestly, and nobody else
in the shop.
This was the bait; and the devil, who I said laid the snare, as
readily prompted me as if he had spoke, for I remember, and
shall never forget it, 'twas like a voice spoken to me over my
shoulder, 'Take the bundle; be quick; do it this moment.' It
was no sooner said but I stepped into the shop, and with my
back to the wench, as if I had stood up for a cart that was
going by, I put my hand behind me and took the bundle, and
went off with it, the maid or the fellow not perceiving me, or
any one else.
It is impossible to express the horror of my soul all the while
I did it. When I went away I had no heart to run, or scarce to
mend my pace. I crossed the street indeed, and went down
the first turning I came to, and I think it was a street that went
through into Fenchurch Street. From thence I crossed and
turned through so many ways and turnings, that I could never
tell which way it was, not where I went; for I felt not the
ground I stepped on, and the farther I was out of danger, the
faster I went, till, tired and out of breath, I was forced to sit
down on a little bench at a door, and then I began to recover,
and found I was got into Thames Street, near Billingsgate. I
rested me a little and went on; my blood was all in a fire; my
heart beat as if I was in a sudden fright. In short, I was under
such a surprise that I still knew not wither I was going, or
what to do.
After I had tired myself thus with walking a long way about,
and so eagerly, I began to consider and make home to my
lodging, where I came about nine o'clock at night.
When the bundle was made up for, or on what occasion laid
where I found it, I knew not, but when I came to open it I
found there was a suit of childbed-linen in it, very good and
almost new, the lace very fine; there was a silver porringer of
a pint, a small silver mug and six spoons, with some other
linen, a good smock, and three silk handkerchiefs, and in the
mug, wrapped up in a paper, 18s. 6d. in money.
All the while I was opening these things I was under such
dreadful impressions of fear, and I such terror of mind, though
I was perfectly safe, that I cannot express the manner of it. I
sat me down, and cried most vehemently. 'Lord,' said I, 'what
am I now? a thief! Why, I shall be taken next time, and be
carried to Newgate and be tried for my life!' And with that I
cried again a long time, and I am sure, as poor as I was, if I
had durst for fear, I would certainly have carried the things
back again; but that went off after a while. Well, I went to
bed for that night, but slept little; the horror of the fact was
upon my mind, and I knew not what I said or did all night,
and all the next day. Then I was impatient to hear some news
of the loss; and would fain know how it was, whether they
were a poor body's goods, or a rich. 'Perhaps,' said I, 'it
may be some poor widow like me, that had packed up these
goods to go and sell them for a little bread for herself and a
poor child, and are now starving and breaking their hearts for
want of that little they would have fetched.' And this thought
tormented me worse than all the rest, for three or four days'
But my own distresses silenced all these reflections, and the
prospect of my own starving, which grew every day more
frightful to me, hardened my heart by degrees. It was then
particularly heavy upon my mind, that I had been reformed,
and had, as I hoped, repented of all my past wickedness; that
I had lived a sober, grave, retired life for several years, but now
I should be driven by the dreadful necessity of my circumstances
to the gates of destruction, soul and body; and two or three
times I fell upon my knees, praying to God, as well as I could,
for deliverance; but I cannot but say, my prayers had no hope
in them. I knew not what to do; it was all fear without, and
dark within; and I reflected on my past life as not sincerely
repented of, that Heaven was now beginning to punish me on
this side the grave, and would make me as miserable as I had
Had I gone on here I had perhaps been a true penitent; but I
had an evil counsellor within, and he was continually prompting
me to relieve myself by the worst means; so one evening he
tempted me again, by the same wicked impulse that had said
'Take that bundle,' to go out again and seek for what might
I went out now by daylight, and wandered about I knew not
whither, and in search of I knew not what, when the devil put
a snare in my way of a dreadful nature indeed, and such a one
as I have never had before or since. Going through Aldersgate
Street, there was a pretty little child who had been at a dancing-
school, and was going home, all alone; and my prompter, like
a true devil, set me upon this innocent creature. I talked to it,
and it prattled to me again, and I took it by the hand and led
it along till I came to a paved alley that goes into Bartholomew
Close, and I led it in there. The child said that was not its way
home. I said, 'Yes, my dear, it is; I'll show you the way home.'
The child had a little necklace on of gold beads, and I had my
eye upon that, and in the dark of the alley I stooped, pretending
to mend the child's clog that was loose, and took off her
necklace, and the child never felt it, and so led the child on
again. Here, I say, the devil put me upon killing the child in
the dark alley, that it might not cry, but the very thought
frighted me so that I was ready to drop down; but I turned the
child about and bade it go back again, for that was not its way
home. The child said, so she would, and I went through into
Bartholomew Close, and then turned round to another passage
that goes into St. John Street; then, crossing into Smithfield,
went down Chick Lane and into Field Lane to Holborn Bridge,
when, mixing with the crowd of people usually passing there,
it was not possible to have been found out; and thus I
enterprised my second sally into the world.
The thoughts of this booty put out all the thoughts of the first,
and the reflections I had made wore quickly off; poverty, as I
have said, hardened my heart, and my own necessities made
me regardless of anything. The last affair left no great concern
upon me, for as I did the poor child no harm, I only said to
myself, I had given the parents a just reproof for their negligence
in leaving the poor little lamb to come home by itself, and it
would teach them to take more care of it another time.
This string of beads was worth about twelve or fourteen pounds.
I suppose it might have been formerly the mother's, for it was
too big for the child's wear, but that perhaps the vanity of the
mother, to have her child look fine at the dancing-school, had
made her let the child wear it; and no doubt the child had a
maid sent to take care of it, but she, careless jade, was taken
up perhaps with some fellow that had met her by the way,
and so the poor baby wandered till it fell into my hands.
However, I did the child no harm; I did not so much as fright
it, for I had a great many tender thoughts about me yet, and
did nothing but what, as I may say, mere necessity drove me to.
I had a great many adventures after this, but I was young in
the business, and did not know how to manage, otherwise than
as the devil put things into my head; and indeed he was seldom
backward to me. One adventure I had which was very lucky
to me. I was going through Lombard Street in the dusk of the
evening, just by the end of Three King court, when on a sudden
comes a fellow running by me as swift as lightning, and throws
a bundle that was in his hand, just behind me, as I stood up
against the corner of the house at the turning into the alley.
Just as he threw it in he said, 'God bless you, mistress, let it
lie there a little,' and away he runs swift as the wind. After
him comes two more, and immediately a young fellow without
his hat, crying 'Stop thief!' and after him two or three more.
They pursued the two last fellows so close, that they were
forced to drop what they had got, and one of them was taken
into the bargain, and other got off free.
I stood stock-still all this while, till they came back, dragging
the poor fellow they had taken, and lugging the things they
had found, extremely well satisfied that they had recovered
the booty and taken the thief; and thus they passed by me, for
I looked only like one who stood up while the crowd was gone.
Once or twice I asked what was the matter, but the people
neglected answering me, and I was not very importunate; but
after the crowd was wholly past, I took my opportunity to turn
about and take up what was behind me and walk away. This,
indeed, I did with less disturbance than I had done formerly,
for these things I did not steal, but they were stolen to my hand.
I got safe to my lodgings with this cargo, which was a piece of
fine black lustring silk, and a piece of velvet; the latter was but
part of a piece of about eleven yards; the former was a whole
piece of near fifty yards. It seems it was a mercer's shop that
they had rifled. I say rifled, because the goods were so
considerable that they had lost; for the goods that they
recovered were pretty many, and I believe came to about six
or seven several pieces of silk. How they came to get so many
I could not tell; but as I had only robbed the thief, I made no
scruple at taking these goods, and being very glad of them too.
I had pretty good luck thus far, and I made several adventures
more, though with but small purchase, yet with good success,
but I went in daily dread that some mischief would befall me,
and that I should certainly come to be hanged at last. The
impression this made on me was too strong to be slighted, and
it kept me from making attempts that, for ought I knew, might
have been very safely performed; but one thing I cannot omit,
which was a bait to me many a day. I walked frequently out
into the villages round the town, to see if nothing would fall
in my way there; and going by a house near Stepney, I saw on
the window-board two rings, one a small diamond ring, and
the other a gold ring, to be sure laid there by some thoughtless
lady, that had more money then forecast, perhaps only till
she washed her hands.
I walked several times by the window to observe if I could
see whether there was anybody in the room or no, and I could
see nobody, but still I was not sure. It came presently into my
thoughts to rap at the glass, as if I wanted to speak with
somebody, and if anybody was there they would be sure to
come to the window, and then I would tell them to remove
those rings, for that I had seen two suspicious fellows take
notice of them. This was a ready thought. I rapped once or
twice and nobody came, when, seeing the coast clear, I thrust
hard against the square of the glass, and broke it with very
little noise, and took out the two rings, and walked away with
them very safe. The diamond ring was worth about #3, and
the other about 9s.
I was now at a loss for a market for my goods, and especially
for my two pieces of silk. I was very loth to dispose of them
for a trifle, as the poor unhappy thieves in general do, who,
after they have ventured their lives for perhaps a thing of value,
are fain to sell it for a song when they have done; but I was
resolved I would not do thus, whatever shift I made, unless I
was driven to the last extremity. However, I did not well know
what course to take. At last I resolved to go to my old governess,
and acquaint myself with her again. I had punctually supplied
the #5 a year to her for my little boy as long as I was able, but
at last was obliged to put a stop to it. However, I had written
a letter to her, wherein I had told her that my circumstances
were reduced very low; that I had lost my husband, and that I
was not able to do it any longer, and so begged that the poor
child might not suffer too much for its mother's misfortunes.
I now made her a visit, and I found that she drove something
of the old trade still, but that she was not in such flourishing
circumstances as before; for she had been sued by a certain
gentleman who had had his daughter stolen from him, and who,
it seems, she had helped to convey away; and it was very
narrowly that she escaped the gallows. The expense also had
ravaged her, and she was become very poor; her house was
but meanly furnished, and she was not in such repute for her
practice as before; however, she stood upon her legs, as they
say, and a she was a stirring, bustling woman, and had some
stock left, she was turned pawnbroker, and lived pretty well.
She received me very civilly, and with her usual obliging
manner told me she would not have the less respect for me for
my being reduced; that she had taken care my boy was very
well looked after, though I could not pay for him, and that the
woman that had him was easy, so that I needed not to trouble
myself about him till I might be better able to do it effectually.
I told her that I had not much money left, but that I had some
things that were money's worth, if she could tell me how I
might turn them into money. She asked me what it was I had.
I pulled out the string of gold beads, and told her it was one
of my husband's presents to me; then I showed her the two
parcels of silk, which I told her I had from Ireland, and brought
up to town with me; and the little diamond ring. As to the
small parcel of plate and spoons, I had found means to dispose
of them myself before; and as for the childbed-linen I had, she
offered me to take it herself, believing it to have been my own.
She told me that she was turned pawnbroker, and that she
would sell those things for me as pawn to her; and so she sent
presently for proper agents that bought them, being in her
hands, without any scruple, and gave good prices too.
I now began to think this necessary woman might help me a
little in my low condition to some business, for I would gladly
have turned my hand to any honest employment if I could have
got it. But here she was deficient; honest business did not
come within her reach. If I had been younger, perhaps she
might have helped me to a spark, but my thoughts were off
that kind of livelihood, as being quite out of the way after fifty,
which was my case, and so I told her.
She invited me at last to come, and be at her house till I could
find something to do, and it should cost me very little, and this
I gladly accepted of. And now living a little easier, I entered
into some measures to have my little son by my last husband
taken off; and this she made easy too, reserving a payment
only of #5 a year, if I could pay it. This was such a help to me,
that for a good while I left off the wicked trade that I had so
newly taken up; and gladly I would have got my bread by the
help of my needle if I could have got work, but that was very
hard to do for one that had no manner of acquaintance in the
However, at last I got some quilting work for ladies' beds,
petticoats, and the like; and this I liked very well, and worked
very hard, and with this I began to live; but the diligent devil,
who resolved I should continue in his service, continually
prompted me to go out and take a walk, that is to say, to see
if anything would offer in the old way.
One evening I blindly obeyed his summons, and fetched a long
circuit through the streets, but met with no purchase, and came
home very weary and empty; but not content with that, I went
out the next evening too, when going by an alehouse I saw the
door of a little room open, next the very street, and on the table
a silver tankard, things much in use in public-houses at that
time. It seems some company had been drinking there, and the
careless boys had forgot to take it away.
I went into the box frankly, and setting the silver tankard on
the corner of the bench, I sat down before it, and knocked with
my foot; a boy came presently, and I bade him fetch me a pint
of warm ale, for it was cold weather; the boy ran, and I heard
him go down the cellar to draw the ale. While the boy was
gone, another boy came into the room, and cried, 'D' ye call?'
I spoke with a melancholy air, and said, 'No, child; the boy is
gone for a pint of ale for me.'
While I sat here, I heard the woman in the bar say, 'Are they
all gone in the five?' which was the box I sat in, and the boy
said, 'Yes.' 'Who fetched the tankard away?' says the woman.
'I did,' says another boy; 'that's it,' pointing, it seems, to
another tankard, which he had fetched from another box by
mistake; or else it must be, that the rogue forgot that he had
not brought it in, which certainly he had not.
I heard all this, much to my satisfaction, for I found plainly
that the tankard was not missed, and yet they concluded it was
fetched away; so I drank my ale, called to pay, and as I went
away I said, 'Take care of your plate, child,' meaning a silver
pint mug, which he brought me drink in. The boy said, 'Yes,
madam, very welcome,' and away I came.
I came home to my governess, and now I thought it was a
time to try her, that if I might be put to the necessity of being
exposed, she might offer me some assistance. When I had
been at home some time, and had an opportunity of talking to
her, I told her I had a secret of the greatest consequence in the
world to commit to her, if she had respect enough for me to
keep it a secret. She told me she had kept one of my secrets
faithfully; why should I doubt her keeping another? I told her
the strangest thing in the world had befallen me, and that it
had made a thief of me, even without any design, and so told
her the whole story of the tankard. 'And have you brought it
away with you, my dear?' says she. 'To be sure I have,' says
I, and showed it her. 'But what shall I do now,' says I; 'must
not carry it again?'
'Carry it again!' says she. 'Ay, if you are minded to be sent
to Newgate for stealing it.' 'Why,' says I, 'they can't be so
base to stop me, when I carry it to them again?' 'You don't
know those sort of people, child,' says she; 'they'll not only
carry you to Newgate, but hang you too, without any regard
to the honesty of returning it; or bring in an account of all the
other tankards they have lost, for you to pay for.' 'What must
I do, then?' says I. 'Nay,' says she, 'as you have played the
cunning part and stole it, you must e'en keep it; there's no
going back now. Besides, child,' says she, 'don't you want it
more than they do? I wish you could light of such a bargain
once a week.'
This gave me a new notion of my governess, and that since
she was turned pawnbroker, she had a sort of people about
her that were none of the honest ones that I had met with
I had not been long there but I discovered it more plainly than
before, for every now and then I saw hilts of swords, spoons,
forks, tankards, and all such kind of ware brought in, not to be
pawned, but to be sold downright; and she bought everything
that came without asking any questions, but had very good
bargains, as I found by her discourse.
I found also that in following this trade she always melted
down the plate she bought, that it might not be challenged;
and she came to me and told me one morning that she was
going to melt, and if I would, she would put my tankard in,
that it might not be seen by anybody. I told her, with all my
heart; so she weighed it, and allowed me the full value in silver
again; but I found she did not do the same to the rest of her
Some time after this, as I was at work, and very melancholy,
she begins to ask me what the matter was, as she was used to
do. I told her my heart was heavy; I had little work, and
nothing to live on, and knew not what course to take. She
laughed, and told me I must go out again and try my fortune;
it might be that I might meet with another piece of plate.
'O mother!' says I, 'that is a trade I have no skill in, and if I
should be taken I am undone at once.' Says she, 'I could help
you to a schoolmistress that shall make you as dexterous as
herself.' I trembled at that proposal, for hitherto I had had
no confederates, nor any acquaintance among that tribe. But
she conquered all my modesty, and all my fears; and in a little
time, by the help of this confederate, I grew as impudent a
thief, and as dexterous as ever Moll Cutpurse was, though,
if fame does not belie her, not half so handsome.
The comrade she helped me to dealt in three sorts of craft, viz.
shoplifting, stealing of shop-books and pocket-books, and
taking off gold watches from the ladies' sides; and this last she
did so dexterously that no woman ever arrived to the performance
of that art so as to do it like her. I liked the first and the last
of these things very well, and I attended her some time in the
practice, just as a deputy attends a midwife, without any pay.
At length she put me to practice. She had shown me her art,
and I had several times unhooked a watch from her own side
with great dexterity. At last she showed me a prize, and this
was a young lady big with child, who had a charming watch.
The thing was to be done as she came out of church. She goes
on one side of the lady, and pretends, just as she came to the
steps, to fall, and fell against the lady with so much violence
as put her into a great fright, and both cried out terribly. In
the very moment that she jostled the lady, I had hold of the
watch, and holding it the right way, the start she gave drew
the hook out, and she never felt it. I made off immediately,
and left my schoolmistress to come out of her pretended fright
gradually, and the lady too; and presently the watch was missed.
'Ay,' says my comrade, 'then it was those rogues that thrust
me down, I warrant ye; I wonder the gentlewoman did not miss
her watch before, then we might have taken them.'
She humoured the thing so well that nobody suspected her,
and I was got home a full hour before her. This was my first
adventure in company. The watch was indeed a very fine one,
and had a great many trinkets about it, and my governess
allowed us #20 for it, of which I had half. And thus I was
entered a complete thief, hardened to the pitch above all the
reflections of conscience or modesty, and to a degree which
I must acknowledge I never thought possible in me.
Thus the devil, who began, by the help of an irresistible poverty,
to push me into this wickedness, brought me on to a height
beyond the common rate, even when my necessities were not
so great, or the prospect of my misery so terrifying; for I had
now got into a little vein of work, and as I was not at a loss
to handle my needle, it was very probable, as acquaintance
came in, I might have got my bread honestly enough.
I must say, that if such a prospect of work had presented itself
at first, when I began to feel the approach of my miserable
circumstances--I say, had such a prospect of getting my bread
by working presented itself then, I had never fallen into this
wicked trade, or into such a wicked gang as I was now embarked
with; but practice had hardened me, and I grew audacious to
the last degree; and the more so because I had carried it on so
long, and had never been taken; for, in a word, my new partner
in wickedness and I went on together so long, without being
ever detected, that we not only grew bold, but we grew rich,
and we had at one time one-and-twenty gold watches in our
I remember that one day being a little more serious than
ordinary, and finding I had so good a stock beforehand as I
had, for I had near #200 in money for my share, it came
strongly into my mind, no doubt from some kind spirit, if such
there be, that at first poverty excited me, and my distresses
drove me to these dreadful shifts; so seeing those distresses
were now relieved, and I could also get something towards a
maintenance by working, and had so good a bank to support
me, why should I now not leave off, as they say, while I was
well? that I could not expect to go always free; and if I was
once surprised, and miscarried, I was undone.
This was doubtless the happy minute, when, if I had hearkened
to the blessed hint, from whatsoever had it came, I had still a
cast for an easy life. But my fate was otherwise determined;
the busy devil that so industriously drew me in had too fast
hold of me to let me go back; but as poverty brought me into
the mire, so avarice kept me in, till there was no going back.
As to the arguments which my reason dictated for persuading
me to lay down, avarice stepped in and said, 'Go on, go on;
you have had very good luck; go on till you have gotten four
or five hundred pounds, and they you shall leave off, and then
you may live easy without working at all.'
Thus I, that was once in the devil's clutches, was held fast
there as with a charm, and had no power to go without the
circle, till I was engulfed in labyrinths of trouble too great to
get out at all.
However, these thoughts left some impression upon me, and
made me act with some more caution than before, and more
than my directors used for themselves. My comrade, as I
called her, but rather she should have been called my teacher,
with another of her scholars, was the first in the misfortune;
for, happening to be upon the hunt for purchase, they made
an attempt upon a linen-draper in Cheapside, but were snapped
by a hawk's-eyed journeyman, and seized with two pieces of
cambric, which were taken also upon them.
This was enough to lodge them both in Newgate, where they
had the misfortune to have some of their former sins brought
to remembrance. Two other indictments being brought against
them, and the facts being proved upon them, they were both
condemned to die. They both pleaded their bellies, and were
both voted quick with child; though my tutoress was no more
with child than I was.
I went frequently to see them, and condole with them, expecting
that it would be my turn next; but the place gave me so much
horror, reflecting that it was the place of my unhappy birth,
and of my mother's misfortunes, and that I could not bear it,
so I was forced to leave off going to see them.
And oh! could I have but taken warning by their disasters, I
had been happy still, for I was yet free, and had nothing brought
against me; but it could not be, my measure was not yet filled
My comrade, having the brand of an old offender, was executed;
the young offender was spared, having obtained a reprieve,
but lay starving a long while in prison, till at last she got her
name into what they call a circuit pardon, and so came off.
This terrible example of my comrade frighted me heartily, and
for a good while I made no excursions; but one night, in the
neighbourhood of my governess's house, they cried 'Fire.'
My governess looked out, for we were all up, and cried
immediately that such a gentlewoman's house was all of a light
fire atop, and so indeed it was. Here she gives me a job. 'Now,
child,' says she, 'there is a rare opportunity, for the fire being
so near that you may go to it before the street is blocked up
with the crowd.' She presently gave me my cue. 'Go, child,'
says she, 'to the house, and run in and tell the lady, or anybody
you see, that you come to help them, and that you came from
such a gentlewoman (that is, one of her acquaintance farther
up the street).' She gave me the like cue to the next house,
naming another name that was also an acquaintance of the
gentlewoman of the house.
Away I went, and, coming to the house, I found them all in
confusion, you may be sure. I ran in, and finding one of the
maids, 'Lord! sweetheart,' says I, 'how came this dismal
accident? Where is your mistress? Any how does she do?
Is she safe? And where are the children? I come from
Madam ---- to help you.' Away runs the maid. 'Madam,
madam,' says she, screaming as loud as she could yell, 'here
is a gentlewoman come from Madam ---- to help us.' The
poor woman, half out of her wits, with a bundle under her arm,
an two little children, comes toward me. 'Lord! madam,' says
I, 'let me carry the poor children to Madam ----,' she desires
you to send them; she'll take care of the poor lambs;' and
immediately I takes one of them out of her hand, and she lifts
the other up into my arms. 'Ay, do, for God's sake,' says she,
'carry them to her. Oh! thank her for her kindness.' 'Have
you anything else to secure, madam?' says I; 'she will take
care of it.' 'Oh dear! ay,' says she, 'God bless her, and thank