Part 6 out of 12
constrained to bestow the strong affections that glowed consciously
within me upon a few. My mother and sister had a large share of them.
To skreen them from the indigence, obscurity, and neglect, to which
without my aid they must be doomed, was a hope that encouraged me in
the bold project I had conceived.
'I determined to dedicate myself to literature, poetry, and
particularly to the stage. Essays of the dramatic kind indeed had been
made by me very early. At length, I undertook a tragedy; as a work
which, if accomplished with the degree of perfection that I hoped it
would be, must at once establish my true rank in society, relieve the
wants of my family, and be a passport for me to every man of worth
and understanding in the world. How little did I know the world! Fond
fool! Over credulous idiot! What cares the world for the toils and
struggles, the restless days and sleepless nights of the man of
genius! I am ashamed to think I could be so miserably mistaken!
'The ardour with which I began my work, the deep consideration I gave
to every character, the strong emotions I felt while composing it,
the minute attention I paid to all its parts, and the intense labour
I bestowed in planning, writing, correcting, and completing it, were
such as I believed must insure success.
'Surely mankind can be but little aware of the uncommon anxieties,
pains, and talents that must contribute to the production of such
a work; or their reception of it, when completed, would be very
different! They would not suffer, surely they would not, as they so
frequently do, this or that senseless blockhead to frustrate the
labour of years, blast the poet's hopes, and render the birth of
'My tragedy at length was written; and by some small number, whose
judgment I consulted, was approved: never indeed with that enthusiasm
which I, perhaps the overweening author, imagined it must have
excited; but it was approved. "I was a young man of some merit; it
was more than they had expected." Nay, I have met with some liberal
critics, who have appeared modestly to doubt whether they themselves
should have written better!
'Before I made the experiment, I had supposed that every man, whose
wealth or power gave him influence in society, would start up, the
moment it was known that an obscure individual, the usher of a school,
had written a tragedy; not only to protect and produce it to the
world, but to applaud and honour the author! Would secure him from
the possibility of want, load him with every token of respect,
and affectionately clasp him to their bosom! The indifference and
foolish half-faced kind of wonder, as destitute of feeling as of
understanding, with which it was received, by the persons on whom I
had depended for approbation and support, did more than astonish me;
it pained, disgusted, and jaundiced my mind!
'The only consolation I could procure was in supposing that the
inhabitants of the city were I resided, were deficient in literary
taste; and that at a more polished place, where knowledge, literature,
and poetry were more diffused, I should meet a very different
reception. Experience only can cure the unhackneyed mind of its
'London however and its far famed theatres were the objects at which
my ambition long had aimed; and thither after various doubts and
difficulties it was decreed I should go. The profits of my place I had
dedicated to the relief of my family, and my mother's great fear was
that, going up to London so ill provided, I should perish there for
want. Of this I was persuaded there could be no danger, and at length
'The danger however was not quite so imaginary as I in the fervour of
hope had affirmed it to be. The plan I proposed was to get another
usher's place, in or near town, till I could bring my piece upon the
stage. This I attempted, and made various applications, which all
failed; some because, though I understood Greek, I could not teach
merchant's accounts, or spoil paper by flourishes and foppery, which
is called writing a fine hand; and others because, as I suppose,
persons offered themselves whose airs, or humility, or other
usher-like qualifications, that had no relation to learning, pleased
their employers better than mine.
'I soon grew weary of these degrading attempts and turned my
thoughts to a more attractive resource. While in the country, I had
frequently sent little fugitive pieces, to be inserted in periodical
publications; and now, on inquiry, I found there were people who were
paid for such productions. I made the experiment; and after a variety
of fruitless efforts succeeded in obtaining half a guinea a week
from an evening paper; which I supplied with essays, little poetical
pieces, and other articles, much faster than they chose to print them.
'In the interim, the grand object for which I had left the country
was not neglected. It is a common mistake to imagine that, to get a
piece upon the stage, it is necessary to procure a patron, by whom it
shall be recommended. To this I was advised; and, in consequence of
this advice, wrote letters to three different persons, whose rank in
society I imagined would insure a reception at the theatre to the
piece which they should protect. I supposed that every such person,
who should hear of a poet who had written a tragedy, would rejoice in
the opportunity of affording him aid, and instantly stand forth his
'In this spirit I wrote my three letters; and received no answer to
any one of them! Amazed at this, I went to the houses of the great
people I had addressed; but my face was unknown! Not one of them was
at home! I could gain no admission! When now and then suffered to wait
in the hall, I saw dancing-masters, buffoons, gamblers, beings of
every species that could mislead the head and corrupt the heart, come
and go without ceremony; but to a poet all entrance was denied; for
such chosen society he was unfit. The very rabble, with which these
pillared lounging places swarm, looked on him with a suspicious and
half contemptuous eye; that insolently inquired what business had he
there? Were the slaves and menials of Męcenas such? Was it thus at the
Augustan court; when the lord of the conquered world sat banqueting
with Virgil on his right hand and Horace on his left?
'Why did I read and remember stories so seductive? Why did I foolishly
place all my happiness in the approbation of the great vulgar or
the small; forgetting that approbation neither adds to virtue nor
diminishes? Perhaps, and indeed I fear, my mind was warped. Yet surely
the neglect and even odium in which the unobtruding man of genius is
at present overwhelmed, is a damning accusation against the rich and
'It was long however before I entirely disdained these abject and
fruitless efforts. On one occasion I was fortunate enough, as I
absurdly thought, to get introduced to a Marquis. It was an awful
honour, to which I was unused; and instead of addressing him with the
frothy and impertinent levity which characterized his own manners,
and which he encouraged in the creatures that were admitted to his
familiarity, I stood confounded, expecting he should have read my
play, which I had transcribed for his perusal, have understood the
value of the poet who could write it, and have been anxious to relieve
that acuteness of sensibility which overclouded and hid the man of
genius in the timid, abashed, and too cowardly author. He spoke to me
indeed, nay condescended to repeat two or three of the newest literary
anecdotes that had been retailed to him from the blue-stocking-club,
and then civilly dismissed me to give audience to a Dutch
bird-fancier, who had brought him a piping bulfinch. But I saw him no
more, he was never afterward at home. I was one of a class of animals
that a Marquis never admits into his collection. My tragedy when
applied for by letter was returned; with "sorrow that indispensible
engagements had prevented him from reading it; but requested a copy as
soon as it should appear in print." For which, should such a strange
event have come to pass, I suppose I should have been insulted with
the gift perhaps of one guinea, perhaps of five. And thus a Marquis
discharged a duty which his rank and power so well enabled him to
perform! But, patience! The word poet shall be remembered with
everlasting honour, when the title Marquis shall--Pshaw!
'On another occasion an actress, who, strange to tell, happened very
deservedly to be popular, and whom before she arrived at the dignity
of a London theatre I had known in the country, recommended me to a
dutchess. To this dutchess I went day after day; and day after day
was subjected for hours to the prying, unmannered, insolence of her
countless lacquies. This time she was not yet stirring, though it was
two o'clock in the afternoon; the next she was engaged with an Italian
vender of artificial flowers; the day after the prince and the devil
does not know who beside were with her; and so on, till patience and
spleen were at daggers drawn.
'At last, from the hall I was introduced to the drawing-room, where I
was half amazed to find myself. Could it be real? Should I, after all,
see a creature so elevated; so unlike the poor compendium of flesh and
blood with which I crawled about the earth? Why, it was to be hoped
that I should!
'Still she did not come; and I stood fixed, gazing at the objects
around me, longer perhaps than I can now well guess. The carpet was so
rich that I was afraid my shoes would disgrace it! The chairs were so
superb that I should insult them by sitting down! The sofas swelled
in such luxurious state that for an author to breathe upon them would
be contamination! I made the daring experiment of pressing with a
single finger upon the proud cushion, and the moment the pressure was
removed it rose again with elastic arrogance; an apt prototype of the
dignity it was meant to sustain.--Though alone, I blushed at my own
'Two or three times, the familiars of the mansion skipped and glided
by me; in at this door and out at that; seeing yet not noticing me. It
was well they did not, or I should have sunk with the dread of being
mistaken for a thief; that had gained a furtive entrance, to load
himself with some parcel of the magnificence that to poverty appeared
'This time however I was not wholly disappointed: I had a sight of
the dutchess, or rather a glimpse. "Her carriage was waiting. She had
been so infinitely delayed by my lord and my lady, and his highness,
and Signora! Was exceedingly sorry! Would speak to me another time,
to-morrow at three o'clock, but had not a moment to spare at present",
and so vanished!
'Shall I say she treated me proudly, and made me feel my
insignificance? No. The little that she did say was affable; the tone
was conciliating, the eye encouraging, and the countenance expressed
the habitual desire of conferring kindness. But these were only
aggravating circumstances, that shewed the desirableness of that
intercourse which to me was unattainable. I say to me, for those who
had a less delicate sense of propriety, who were more importunate,
more intruding, and whose forehead was proof against repulse, were
more successful. By such people she was besieged; on such she lavished
her favours, till report said that she impoverished herself; for a
tale of distress, whether feigned or real, if obtruded upon her, she
knew not how to resist.
'What consolation was this to me? I was not of the begging tribe. I
came with a demand at sight upon the understanding, which whoever
refused to pay disgraced themselves rather than the drawer.
'She mistook my character, and the next day at three o'clock, instead
of seeing me herself, sent me ten guineas in a note, by her French
maitre d'hotel; which chinked as they slided from side to side, and
proclaimed me a pauper! My heart almost burst with indignation! Yet,
coward that I was! I wanted the fortitude to refuse the polluted
paper! I thought it would be an affront, and still fed myself with the
vain hope of procuring from her that countenance to my own labours
which I imagined they deserved, and which therefore I did not think it
any disgrace to solicit. The disgrace of reducing men of merit to such
humiliating situations was not mine.
'I went twice more; and was both times interrogated in French, by
the insolent maitre d'hotel, so as to convince me that he thought my
coming again so soon was a proof of no common degree of impudence.
'Oh Euripides! Oh Sophocles! Did not your sublime shades glide
wrathful by and menace the wretch in whom your divine art had been so
degraded? How did I pray, as I passed the scowling porter, for the
death of your great predecessor; that some eagle would drop a tortoise
on my head, and instantly crush me to atoms!
'I had been the more anxious after patronage, because I wished the
actress whom I have mentioned to play my heroine. There was no
tragedian whose powers were in the least comparable to hers. But
the difficulty of getting a piece on the stage, at the theatre to
which she belonged, all the town told me was incredible. It was a
chancery-suit, which no given time could terminate. The manager was
the most liberal of men, the best of judges, and the first of writers;
as void of envy as he was noble minded, and friendly to merit. Yes,
friendly in heart and act, when he could be prevailed on to act. But
his rare virtues and gifts were rendered useless, extinguished, by the
killing vice of procrastination. He never listened to a story that he
did not sympathize with the teller of it. The request must be a wild
one indeed which he did not feel an instant desire to grant. He would
promise with the most sincere and honest intentions to perform; but,
hurried away by new petitioners, or projects of a more grand and
important nature, he would with still greater facility forget. All who
knew him uniformly affirmed, a soul more expansive, more munificent,
could not inhabit a human form; yet, from this one defect, it was
frequently his fate where he intended an essential benefit to commit
an irreparable injury. He encouraged hopes that were never realized,
retarded the merit he meant to promote, and raised up personal enemies
who impeded his own utility; conspicuous and grand as this utility was
and is, it would otherwise have been unexampled.
'I speak the sentiments of men who I believe were incapable of
exaggeration. For my own part I have read his works, and I love him
almost to adoring.
'He is I know assaulted by an infinite number of affairs, that all
demand his attention. Many of them are totally beneath it, yet are
undertaken by him with a too ready compliance; averse as he is to give
the solicitor pain, and continually desirous to make every creature
happy. He can do but one thing at once. Of the multitude of things to
be done, not half are present to the memory at any one time; and, of
those that are remembered, what can he do but select the most urgent?
The mistake has often been rather in the too ready promise than in the
non-performance. If prevented by serious occupation, by love of the
chosen companions of his convivial hours, or by habits of forgetful
revery, from reading my tragedy and being just to me, I attribute
the neglect to its true cause; which certainly was not jealousy of,
or indifference to, the man of talents. How can he honour merit,
granting it to exist, with which he is unacquainted? Yet let me not be
misunderstood; though I love his comprehensive benevolence of soul, I
wish it were less undistinguishing:--I cannot applaud or approve the
errors into which it leads, both himself and those he means to serve.
'In a word, I could find no mode of securing his attention. I
endeavoured to fix it by the intervention of the great; who delighted
in his social qualities, did homage to his wit, and were ambitious of
his friendship. But in these attempts I likewise failed.
Hopeless therefore of aid from my favourite actress, I sent my play to
the other house. How was I relieved, after the delay I had endured
and the continual anxiety in which I had been kept, how delighted,
by hearing from the manager within a fortnight! He appointed an
interview, received me with affability, and immediately proceeded to
the business in question.
He began with telling me, he could have wished I had rather turned
my thoughts to the comic than the tragic muse; for tragedy was less
fashionable, and consequently less profitable both to the house and
the author, than comedy or opera. I sighed and answered, it was an ill
proof of public taste, when it could receive greater pleasure from
the unconnected scenes of an opera than from the fable, pathos, and
sublime emotions of tragedy. But I feared the fault was less in the
audience than in the poet; and added that the first fortunate writer
who should produce a tragedy such as had been written, and such as
I hoped it was possible again to write, would find audiences not
insensible to his merit.
'He replied, it may be so. I can only answer that each author
thinks himself the chosen bard you have described, and that each is
disappointed. I am pleased, Sir, continued he, with many parts of your
tragedy; but I think it has one great fault; it is too tragical: it
rather excites horror than terror. Whether the age be more refined or
more captious, more humanized or more effeminate than other ages have
been I will not pretend to determine; but you have written some scenes
that would not at present be endured. If you think proper to make such
alterations as shall soften and adapt them to the present taste, and
if I approve them when made, your piece shall then be performed.
'I knew not what to reply. The scenes to which he referred were
conceived, as I had imagined, in the bold but true stile of tragedy. I
intended them to produce a great effect; and was sorry to be informed,
as among other things I had been, that ladies would faint, fall into
hysterics, and be taken shrieking out of the boxes at hearing them. I
had no remedy but to submit, re-consider, and, by lowering the tone of
passion, perhaps spoil my tragedy!
'Oh what a tormenting trade is that of author! He that makes a chair,
a table, or any common utensil, brings his work home, is paid for his
labour, and there his trouble ends. It was quickly begun, and quickly
over; it excited little hope, but it met with no disappointment. The
author, on the contrary, has the labour of days, months, and years
to encounter. When he begins, his difficulties are immeasurable; and
while as he proceeds they seem to disappear, nay at the very moment
when he sometimes thinks them all conquered, he discovers that they
are but accumulated! Every part, every page, every period, have been
considered, and re-considered, with unremitting anxiety. He has
revised, re-written, corrected, expunged, again produced, and again
erased, with endless iteration. Points and commas themselves have been
settled with repeated and jealous solicitude.
'At length, as he thinks, his labour is over! He knows indeed that no
work of man was ever perfect; but, circumstanced as he is, the eager
prying of his own sleepless eye cannot discover what more to amend.
He produces the tedious fruits of incessant fatigue to the world, and
hopes the harvest will be in proportion to the unwearied and extreme
care he has bestowed. Poor man! Mistaken mortal! How could he imagine
that the sensations of multitudes should all correspond with his own?
Educated in schools so various, under circumstances so contradictory
and prejudices so different and distinct, how could he suppose
his mind was the common measure of man? Faultless? Perfect? Vain
supposition! Extravagant hope! The driver of a mill-horse, he who
never had the wit to make much less to invent a mouse-trap, will
detect and point out his blunders. All satisfied? No; not one! Not a
man that reads but will detail, reprove, and ridicule his dull witted
'Well! he finds he is mistaken, he pants after improvement, and
listens to advice. He follows it, alters, and again appears. What
is his success? Are cavilers less numerous? Absurd expectation! Do
critics unite in its praise? Ridiculous hope! If he would escape
censure, he must betake himself to a very different trade.
'It was the month of February when my tragedy was returned. The
season was far advanced: I had then been nearly twelve months held in
suspence; seeking the means of appearing before the public, soliciting
patronage, and indulging hope. My mother and sister depended much on
my aid. Out of the small pittance which the newspaper essays afforded,
I at first made a proportionate deduction; and lived, that is
contrived to exist, on the remainder.
'This could not long endure, and I sought other channels of emolument.
I wrote a novel, which I hawked about among the booksellers. Some of
them printed nothing in that way; others would venture to publish it,
and share the profits, but not advance a shilling. One of them offered
me five guineas for the two volumes, and told me it was a great price,
for he seldom gave more than three.
'At last, I was fortunate enough to obtain double the sum. It was
printed; but, being written in haste and in a state of mind entirely
adverse to that fine flow which is the token, the test, and the
triumph of genius, its success was less than I expected. Still however
it more than answered the hopes of the bookseller; and I think I may
safely affirm, it had marks of mind sufficient to excite applause,
mingled with the censure of just criticism.
'Did it obtain this applause? No--"A vulgar narrative of uninteresting
incidents"--was the laconic character given of it in that monthly
publication in which, from its reputed impartiality, I most hoped for
just and candid inquiry.
'Finding what a terrible animal a critic is, I determined to become
one myself. I made the first essay of my talents for censure on such
books as I could borrow, and sent my remarks to the magazines; into
which they were immediately admitted.
'Thus encouraged, I applied to the publisher of a new review, and
informed him of my course of reading, and of the languages and
sciences with which I was acquainted. My proposal was graciously
received, and I was admitted of that corps which has certainly done
much good, and much harm to literature.
'I entered on my new office with great determination; but I soon
discovered that, to a man of principle, who dare neither condemn nor
approve a book he has not read, it was a very unproductive employment.
It is the custom of the trade to pay various kinds of literary labour
by the sheet, and this among the rest. Thus it frequently happened
that a book, which would demand a day to peruse, was not worthy of
five lines of animadversion.
'This is the true source of feeble and false criticism; a task in
itself most difficult, and to which the chosen few alone are equal.
Deep investigation, scientific acquirement, an acute and comprehensive
mind, a correct and invigorating stile, and intelligence superior to
prejudice, and an undeviating conscientious spirit of rectitude, are
the rare endowments it requires. Its seat should be the summit of
mental attainment; for its office is to enlighten. It has to instruct
genius itself, and its powers should be equal to the hardy enterprise.
In fine, its object ought to be the love of truth; it is the lust of
gain. I need not expatiate on the consequences; they are self-evident.
Poor as the trade is, I exercised it with the scrupulous assiduity
of which I knew it to be worthy. My labour therefore was as great as
my emoluments were trifling; and, though I made no progress toward
fame and fortune, my efforts were unremitting. I mention these
circumstances to shew that my failure, in my attempts to gain what I
believe to be my true rank in society, did not originate either in
indolence, want of oeconomy, or any other neglect of mine. Day or
night, I was scarcely ever without either a book or a pen in my hand.
With the most sedulous industry and caution I endeavoured to render
justice as well to the works of others as to my own. My uniform study
was to increase knowledge, diffuse good taste, and, as I fondly hoped,
promote the general pleasure and happiness of mankind.
But, while I was anxiously caring for all, no one seemed to care for
me. I and my learning, taste and genius, if I possessed them, wandered
through the croud unnoticed; or noticed only to be scorned: insulted
by the vulgar, for the something in my manner which pretended to
distinguish me from themselves; and contemned by the proud and the
prosperous, because of the forlorn poverty of my appearance. Among
the fashionable and the fortunate, where I might have hoped to find
urbanity and the social polish of a civilized nation, I could gain
no admittance; for I had no title, kept no carriage, and was no
sycophant. The doors of the learned were shut upon me; for they were
doctors or dignitaries, in church, physic, or law. Of science they
were all satisfied they had enough: of profit, promotion, and the
other good things of which they were in full pursuit, I had none to
give. By my presence they would have been retarded, offended at the
freedom of my conversation, and by my friendship disgraced. They
sought other and far different associates.
'Bowed to the earth as I was by this soul-killing injustice, and
wearied by these incessant toils, I still did not neglect my tragedy
for an hour. I considered and reconsidered the objections that had
been made. I was convinced they were ill founded: but I was not left
to the exercise of my own judgment. I had no alternative. To lower the
tone of passion was in my opinion to injure my tragedy; but it must
be done, or must not be performed. The manager urged arguments that
were and perhaps could not but be satisfactory, to any man in his
situation: his experience of public taste was long and confirmed: the
nightly expences of a theatre made it a most serious concern: the risk
of every new piece was great, for the town was capricious. To obtain
all possible security against risk, therefore, was a duty.
'The reluctance with which alterations were made occasioned them to
be rather slow. At last however I finished them, as much to my own
satisfaction as could under such circumstances be expected; and a fair
copy, written as all the copies made of it were with my own hand, was
again sent to the manager.
'A week longer than in the former instances elapsed, before I heard
from him; and, when I did hear, the substance of his letter was that
he had a new comedy in preparation; which, it being then the middle of
March, would entirely fill up the remainder of the season!
'What could I do? No blame was imputable to him for the delay. It was
no fault of his that I was pursued by the malice of poverty; that I
was tormented with the desire of effectually relieving the necessities
of my family; that I had written to my mother and sister, in the
elated moment of hope, an assurance of being able to grant this relief
in a very few weeks; and that, buoyed up by these calculations, I had
indulged myself in procuring a suit of clothes and other necessaries,
of which I was in extreme need, on credit.
'Thou world of vice! thou iron-hearted senseless mass of madness
and folly! why did I ever dream that I had the power to arrest thy
headlong course, and fix thy bewildered wits, thy garish idiot eye
on me? On my weak efforts! my humble wishes! my craving wants! What
signs of luxury, what tokens of dissipation, what innumerable marks of
extravagant waste did I every where see around me, at the moment that
poverty was thus pinching me to the very bone! Here a vain mortal,
as insolent as uninstructed, drawn by six ponies; with a postillion
before and three idle fellows behind, pampered in vice, that he might
thus openly insult common sense, and thus publicly proclaim the folly
of his head to be as egregious as the insensibility of his heart was
hateful. There trifling and imbecile creatures, who, not satisfied
with the appellation woman, call themselves ladies, and expend
thousands on their routs, masked-balls, whipped creams, and other
froth and frippery, procured from the achs and pains and blood and
bones of the poor! Wretches more bent and weighed down by misery than
even I was!
'What need I to recall such pictures to your imaginations? Can
you look abroad and not behold them? Are not the vices of unequal
distribution to be met with in every corner, nook, and alley? Is not
the despotism of wealth, that is, of that property which the folly of
man so much reveres and worships, every where visible? Does it not
varnish vice, generate crime, and trample virtue and the virtuous in
the dust? Is the deep sense which I have entertained of the relentless
injustice of society all false?
'Impelled as I was by paltry yet pressing wants and debts that would
admit of no delay, I sought relief in endeavouring to raise money on
the presumptive profits of my tragedy. What can the wretch who is thus
besieged, thus hunted do, but yield? I had promised aid to my family;
and, depending on that promise which had been much too confidently
given, my mother was in danger of having her trifling effects seized;
my sister, whom I then tenderly loved, of being turned loose perhaps
into the haunts of infamy; and myself of being thrown into a loathsome
'My first attempt was a very wild one, and proved how little I yet
knew of mankind. I wrote a letter to a woman of great fame in the
literary world; the reputed writer of a work, the praises of which had
been often echoed, and whose wealth was immense. To such a person I
thought the appeal I had to make must come with resistless force. For
a man of literature, a poet, capable of writing a tragedy, that had
already been deemed worthy at least of attention from the theatre, and
of the merits of which she so well could judge, for such a man she
would be all kindness! all sensibility! all soul! What an incurable
dolt was I! Thus repeatedly to degrade the character of bard, and thus
too in vain. I blush!--No matter!
'I minutely detailed the circumstances of my case, to this female
leader of literature; and, assiduously endeavouring to avoid every
feature of meanness, requested the loan of one hundred pounds;
appealing for the probability of reimbursement to her own conceptions
of the rectitude of the mind that could produce the tragedy I sent,
and which I requested her first to read. She herself would judge of
the danger there might be of its condemnation. If she thought it would
fail, I then should be anxious that she should run no risk: but, if
not, the loan would be a most essential benefit to me, and perhaps a
pleasure to herself.
'Fool that I was, thus to estimate ladies' pleasures! Whether she
did or did not read my play I never knew; but this learned lady,
this patroness of letters, this be-prosed and be-rhymed dowager,
who professed to be the enraptured lover of poetry, wit and genius,
returned it with a formal cold apology, that was insulting by its
affected pity. "She was _extremely_ sorry to be obliged to refuse me!
_extremely_ sorry indeed! It would have given her _infinite_ pleasure
to have advanced me the sum I required; but she was then building
a _fine_ house, which demanded all the money she could _possibly_
'Why ay! She must have a fine house, with fifty fine rooms in it,
forty-nine of which were useless; while I, my mother, my sister, and
millions more, might perish without a hovel in which to shelter our
'Convinced at last of the futility of applications like these, I
sought an opposite resource. If men would not lend money to benefit
me, they would perhaps to benefit themselves. One of the actors,
with whom I became acquainted, informed me that there was a Jew, who
frequented all theatrical haunts, knew I had a play in the manager's
hands, and might possibly be induced to lend me the sum I wanted.
To this Jew I addressed myself, stated the merits of the case, and,
fearful of making too high a demand, requested a loan of seventy
'His first question was concerning the security I had to give? I had
none! The Jew shook his head, and told me it was impossible to lend
money without security. I replied, that if making over the profits
of my tragedy to the amount of the principal and interest would but
satisfy him, to that I should willingly consent. Again he shrugged his
shoulders, and repeated it was very dangerous. Jews themselves, kind
as they were, could not lend money without security. Beside, money
was never so scarce as just at that moment. Indeed he had no such sum
himself; but he had an uncle, in Duke's Place, who, if I could but
get good _personal_ security, would supply me, on paying a premium
adequate to the risk.
'I must avoid being too circumstantial. I urged every incitement my
imagination could honestly suggest: he pretended to state the matter
to his uncle. The affair was kept in suspence, and I was obliged to
travel to Duke's Place at least a dozen times: but, at last I gave my
bond for a hundred pounds; for which I received fifty, and paid two
guineas out of it, on the demand of the nephew, for the trouble he
had taken in negociating the business; the uncle being the ostensible
person with whom it was transacted.
'Determined to secure my mother from want as far as was in my power,
I remitted the whole sum to her, except what was necessary to pay
my immediate debts; and blessed the Jew extortioner, as a man who,
compared to the learned lady, abounded in the milk of human kindness!
'By the continuance of my literary drudgery, the time passed away
to the middle of September; the season at which the winter theatres
usually open. I now felt tenfold anxiety concerning my tragedy. The
bond I had given at six months would soon become due; failure would
send me to prison, perhaps for life; it would disgrace me, would
distract my family, would cut short my hopes of fame, and the grand
progress which I sometimes fondly imagined I should make. Every way it
would be fatal! I trembled at its possibility. Success, which had so
lately appeared certain, seemed to become more and more dubious.
'During the summer, I had heard nothing from the manager. I now
inquired at the theatre, and was told he was at Bath, and would not
be in town in less than a fortnight. I waited with increasing fears,
haunted the play-house, and teazed the attendants at it with my
inquiries. Of these I soon perceived not only the sneers but the
duplicity; for, when the manager was returned to town, and, as I was
told by a performer, was actually in the theatre, they affirmed the
contrary! He had been, but was gone! I plainly read the lie in their
looks to each other. At that time it was new to me, and gave me
great pain; but I soon became accustomed though never reconciled to
their manners; which were characterized by that low cunning, that
supercilious mixture of insolence and meanness, that is always
detested by the honest and the open. A set of--Pshaw! They are
unworthy my remembrance.
'Finding the manager was now returned, I immediately wrote to him;
and a meeting was appointed three days after, at the theatre. He
then informed me there were still some few alterations, which he was
desirous should be immediately made; after which the tragedy should be
put into rehearsal, and performed in about three weeks.
This was happy news to me. I returned with an elated heart to make the
proposed corrections, finished them the same day, and again delivered
the piece into the manager's hands. He proceeded with a punctuality
that delighted me: the parts were cast, and the performers called to
the theatre to hear it read.
'This was a new scene, a new trial of patience, a new degradation.
Instead of that steady attention from my small audience which I
expected, that deep interest which I supposed the story must inspire,
suffusing them in tears or transfixing them in terror, the ladies and
gentlemen amused themselves with whispers, winks, jokes, titters, and
giggling; which, when they caught my attention and fixed my eye upon
the laughers, were turned into an affected gravity that added to the
insult. No heart panted! no face turned pale! no eye shed a tear!
and, if I were to judge from this experiment, a more uninteresting
soul-less piece had never been written. But the manager was not
present, and I was not a person of consequence enough to command
respect or ceremony, from any party. I complained to him of the total
want of effect in my tragedy, over the passions of the actors; but he
treated that as a very equivocal sign indeed, and of no worth.
'There was another circumstance, of which he informed me, that to him
and as it afterward proved to me was of a much more serious nature.
They had not been altogether so inattentive as I had imagined. Amid
their monkey tricks and common place foolery, their hearts had been
burning with jealousy of each other. Neither men nor women were
satisfied with their parts. I had three male and two female characters
of great importance in the play, but rising in gradation. Of the first
of these all the actors were ambitious; and one of them who knew his
own consequence, and that the manager could not carry on the business
of the theatre at that time without him, threw up his part.
'In vain did I plead, write, and remonstrate. No reasons, no motives
of generosity or of justice, to the manager, the piece, or the public,
could prevail; and his aid, though most essential, could not be
obtained. Had the part been totally beneath his abilities, his plea
would have been good; but it was avowedly, in the manager's opinion
and in the opinion of every other performer, superior to half of
those he nightly played. That it could have disgraced or injured him
partiality itself could not affirm.
'And is the poet, after having spent a life in that deep investigation
of the human heart which alone can enable him to write a play, whose
efforts must be prodigious, and, if he succeed, his pathos, wit, and
genius, rare, is he, after all his struggles, to be at the mercy of an
ignorant actor or actress? who, so far from deeply studying the sense,
frequently do not remember the words they ought to repeat!
'Every _mister_ is discontented with the character allotted him, each
envies the other, and mutters accusations against both author and
manager. Sir won't speak the prologue, it is not in his way; and Madam
will have the epilogue, or she will positively throw up her part.
One gentleman thinks his dialogue too long and heavy, and t'other
too short and trifling. This fine lady refuses to attend rehearsals:
another comes, but has less of the spirit of the author at the fifth
repetition than she had at the first. Of their parts individually
they know but very little; of the play as a whole they are absolutely
ignorant. On the first representation, by which the reputation of a
play is decided, they are so confused and imperfect, owing partly to
their imbecility but more still to their indolence, that the sense
of the author is mutilated, his characters travestied, and his piece
rather burlesqued than performed. The reality of the scene depends
on the passions excited in the actor listening almost as essentially
as in the actor speaking; but at the end of each speech the player
supposes his part is over: the arms, attitude, and features, all sink
into insignificance, and have no more meaning than the face of Punch
when beating Joan.
'Of the reality of this picture I soon had full proof. My tragedy,
after a number of rehearsals, during which all these vexatious
incidents and many more were experienced by me, was at length
performed. To say that the applause it received equalled my
expectations would be false: but it greatly exceeded the expectations
of others. It was materially injured by the want of the actor who
had refused his part. The reigning vice of recitation, which since
the death of Garrick has again prevailed, injured it more. The tide
of passion, which should have rushed in torrents and burst upon the
astonished ear, was sung out in slow and measured syllables, with a
monotonous and funeral cadence, painful in its motion, and such as
reminded me of the Sloth and his horrid cry: plaintive indeed, but
exciting strange disgust!
'My success however was thought extraordinary. The actors when the
play was over swarmed into the green-room, to congratulate me. The
actresses were ready to kiss me; good natured souls! The green-room
loungers, newspaper critics, authors, and pretended friends of the
house flocked round me, to wish me joy and stare at that enviable
animal a successful poet. One of them, himself an approved writer of
comedy, offered me five hundred pounds for the profits of my piece,
and as far as money was concerned I thought my fortune was made:
doubts and difficulties were fairly over, and the reward of all my
toils was at last secure. Sanguine blockhead, thus everlastingly to
embitter my own cup of sorrow! Secure? Oh no! The nectar of hope was
soon dashed from my lips.
'I must detail the causes of this reverse; they were various and
'It had been the custom on the appearance of every new play to give
it what is called a run, that is to perform it without intermission
as many nights as the house should continue to be tolerably filled.
The managers of both theatres had at this time deemed the practice
prejudicial, and determined to reform it. Of this reform I was the
victim. My play was the first that appeared after the resolution
had been taken; and, in the bills of the day which announced the
performance of my tragedy for the Saturday evening, the public were
advertised that another piece would be acted on Monday. Ignorant of
the true reason, the town misinterpreted this notice into an avowal
that no favourable expectations were formed of my tragedy; and, as
the author was an obscure person whose name was totally unknown to
the world, none of that public curiosity on which popularity depends
'This was but one of the damning causes. My play appeared about the
middle of October, when the season continued to be fine: the citizens
were all at the watering places, the court was at Windsor, the
parliament had not met, and the town was empty.
'To add to all this, one of the performers was taken ill on the second
night. Another of them thought proper to ride over to Egham races, on
the third; where he got drunk and absented himself from the theatre;
so that substitutes were obliged to be found for both the parts. In
fine though some few, struck as they affirmed with the merits of the
play, were just enough to attempt to bring it into public esteem, it
gradually sunk into neglect. My third night, after paying the expences
of the house, produced me only twenty pounds. On the sixth night, the
receipts were less than the charges, and it was played no more. The
overplus of the third night was little more than sufficient to defray
the deficiences of the sixth; and thus vanished my golden dreams of
profit, prosperity, and fame!
'The evil did not rest here. I was in danger of all the misfortunes I
had foreseen from the Jew, and the bond. There was not only hardship
and severity but injustice in my case, and I determined to remonstrate
to the manager. My mind was sore and my appeal was spirited, but
proper: it was an appeal to his equity.
'He listened to me, acknowledged I had been unfortunate, and said
that, though the theatre could not and ought not to be accountable
for my loss, yet some compensation he thought was justly my due. He
therefore gave me a draft on his treasurer for one hundred pounds, and
wished me better success in future.
'This it is true was of the most essential service to me; it relieved
me, not only from imprisonment, but from the degradation of having my
honesty questioned. It did not however restore me to the hope that
should have rouzed me to greater exertions.
'Some new efforts indeed I was obliged to make; for the time consumed
in revising my tragedy, and attending rehearsals, had occasioned me
to neglect other pursuits, and I was again some few pounds in debt.
No dread of labour, no degree of misery could induce me to leave
these debts unpaid. I therefore worked and starved till they were all
discharged: after which I returned to the country, and became usher at
the school where I first knew you, Mr. Trevor.
'To paint the family distresses that succeeded, the disgrace, the
infamy that attended them, the wretchedness that afterward preyed upon
me, till I could endure no more, were needless. I was satisfied that I
had a right to end a state of suffering, and to be rid of a world that
considers itself as burthened not benefited by such creatures as I am.
At torments after death, concerning which bigotry and cunning have
invented such horrid fables, accusing and blaspheming a God whom they
pretend to adore of tyranny the most monstrous, and injustice the most
abhorred, at tales like these I laughed.
'You, Mr. Turl, say you can shew me better arguments, moral motives
that are indispensable, why I ought to live. These are assertions, of
which I must consider. You have restored me to life: prove that you
have done me a favour! Of that I doubt! My first sensation, after
recovering my faculties, was anger at your officious pity: shew me
that it was ill timed and unjust. If you have reduced me to the
necessity of again debating the same painful and gloomy question, if
you cannot give that elasticity to my mind which will animate it to
despise difficulty and steel it against injustice, however good your
intentions may have been, I fear you have but imposed misery upon me.'
_Remarks on the mistakes of Mr. Wilmot, by Turl: Law, or important
truths discussed; to which few will attend, fewer will understand, and
very few indeed will believe_
The state of mind into which his mistakes had brought him rendered
Wilmot an object of compassion. The tone in which he concluded
testified the alarming errors into which he was still liable to fall.
For this reason, though Turl treated him with all possible humanity
and tenderness, he considered it as dangerous to him, and scarcely
less so to me, on whom he perceived the strong impression the
narrative had made, to be silent. With a voice and countenance
therefore of perfect urbanity, he thus replied.
'Do not imagine, Mr. Wilmot, that I have not been deeply penetrated
by your sufferings; that I am insensible of your uncommon worth, or
that I approve the vices of society, and the injustice and unfeeling
neglect with which you have been treated. Thousands are at this moment
subject to the same oppression.
'But the province of wisdom is not to lament over our wrongs: it is
to find their remedy. Querulous complaint (Pardon me, if my words
or expressions have any ill-timed severity: indeed that is far from
my intention.) Querulous complaint is worthy only of the infancy of
understanding. The world is unjust: and why? Because it is ignorant.
Ought that to excite either complaint or anger? Would not the energies
of intellect be more worthily employed in removing the cause, by the
communication of knowledge?
'You bid me restore the elasticity of your mind. Can you look round on
the follies and mistakes of men, which you have the power to detect,
expose, and in part reform, and be in want of motive? You demand
that I should communicate to you the desire of life. Can you have a
perception of the essential duties that you are fitted to perform, and
dare you think of dying?
'You have been brooding over your own wrongs, which your distorted
fancy has painted as perhaps the most insufferable in the whole circle
of existence! How could you be so blind? Look at the mass of evil, by
which you are surrounded! What is its origin? Ignorance. Ignorance is
the source of all evil; and there is one species of ignorance to which
you and men like you have been egregiously subject: ignorance of
the true mode of exercising your rare faculties; ignorance of their
unbounded power of enjoyment.
'You have been persuaded that this power was destroyed, by the
ridiculous distinctions of rich and poor. Oh, mad world! Monstrous
absurdity! Incomprehensible blindness! Look at the rich! In what are
they happy? In what do they excel the poor? Not in their greater
stores of wealth: which is but a source of vice, disease, and death;
but in a little superiority of knowledge; a trifling advance toward
truth. How may this advantage be made general? Not by the indulgence
of the desires you have fostered; the tendency of which was vicious;
but by retrenching those false wants, that you panted to gratify; and
thus by giving leisure to the poor or rather to all mankind, to make
the acquirement of knowledge the grand business of life.
'This is the object on which the attention of every wise man should
be turned. He that by precept or example shall prevail on community
to relinquish one superfluous dish, one useless and contemptible
trapping, will be the general friend of man. He who labours for
riches, to countenance by his practice their abuse, is labouring to
secure misery to himself, and perpetuate it in society. Who ought to
be esteemed the most rich? He whose faculties are the most enlarged.
How wealthy were you, had you but known it, at the moment your mind
was distracting itself by these dirges of distress.
'He that would riot in luxury, let him wait the hour of appetite; and
carry his morsel into the harvest field. There let him seat himself on
a bank, eat, and cast his eyes around. Then, while he shall appease
the cravings of hunger (not pamper the detestable caprice of gluttony)
let him remember how many thousands shall in like manner be fed, by
the plenty he every where beholds. How poor and pitiable a creature
would he be, were his pleasure destroyed, or narrowed, because the
earth on which it was produced was not what he had absurdly been
taught to call his own!
'You complain that the titled and the dignified rejected your
intercourse. How could you thus mistake your true rank? How exalted
was it, compared to the ridiculous arrogance you envied! Were you now
visiting Bedlam, would you think yourself miserable because its mad
inhabitants despised you, for not being as mighty a monarch as each of
themselves? But little depth of penetration is necessary, to perceive
that the lunatics around us are no less worthy of our laughter and our
'If I do not mistake, you, Mr. Trevor, are hurrying into the very
errors that have misled your noble minded friend and instructor.
Your active genius is busying itself how to obtain those riches and
distinctions on which you have falsely supposed happiness depends. You
are in search of a profession, by which your fortune is to be made.
Beware! Notwithstanding that I am frequently assaulted by the same
kind of folly myself, I yet never recollect it without astonishment!'
While Turl confined the application of his precepts to Wilmot, I
listened and assented with scarcely a doubt: but, the moment he
directed them against me, I turned upon him with all the force to
which by my passions and fears I was rouzed.
'What,' said I, 'would you persuade me to renounce those pursuits by
which alone I can gain distinction and respect in society? Would you
have me remain in poverty, and thus relinquish the dearest portion of
Olivia was full in my thoughts, as I spoke.
'Of what worth would life be, were I so doomed? Rather than accept it
on such terms, were there ten thousand Serpentine rivers I would drown
in them all!'
Turl glanced significantly first at me and then at Wilmot. 'Do you
consider the danger, the possible consequences, of the doctrine you
are now inculcating, Mr. Trevor?'
Too much devoured by passion to attend to his reproof, in the sense
he meant it, I retorted in a still louder key. 'I can discover no ill
consequences in being sincere. I repeat, were there millions of seas,
I would sooner drown in them all! You are continually pushing your
philosophy to extremes, Mr. Turl.'
'You should rather say, Mr. Trevor, you are pushing your want of
philosophy to an extreme.'
'The self denial you require is not in the nature of man.'
'The nature of man is a senseless jargon. Man is that which he is made
by the various occurrences to which he is subjected. Those occurrences
continually differ; no two men, therefore, were ever alike. But how
are you to obtain the wealth and dignity you seek? By honest means?'
'Can you suppose me capable of any other?'
'Alas! How universal, how dangerous, are the mistakes of mankind! Your
hopes are childish. The law, I understand, is your present pursuit.
Do you suppose it possible to practise the law, in any form, and be
'Sir!--Mr. Turl?--You amaze me! Where is the dishonesty of pleading
for the oppressed?'
'How little have you considered the subject! How ignorant are you of
the practice of the law! Oppressed? Do counsel ever ask who is the
oppressed? Do they refuse a brief because the justice of the case is
doubtful? Do they not always inquire, not what is justice, but, what
is law? Do they not triumph most, and acquire most fame, when they can
gain a cause in the very teeth of the law they profess to support and
revere? Who is the greatest lawyer? Not he who can most enlighten, but
he who can most perplex and confound the understanding of his hearers!
He who can best brow-beat and confuse witnesses; and embroil and
mislead the intellect of judge and jury. Yet the mischiefs I have
mentioned are but the sprouts and branches of this tree of evil; its
root is much deeper: it is in the law itself; and in the system of
property, of which law is the support.'
'Pshaw! These are the distempered dreams of reform run mad.'
'Are they? Consider! Beware of the mischief of deciding rashly! Beware
of your passions, that are alarmed lest they should be disappointed.'
'It is you that decide. Prove this rooted evil of law.'
'Suppose me unable to prove it: are its consequences the less real?
But I will endeavour.
'He, who is told that, "to do justice is to conduce with all his power
to the well being of the whole," has a simple intelligible rule for
'He, on the contrary, who is told that, "to do justice is to obey the
law," has to inquire, not what is justice! but, what is the law? Now
to know the law, (were it practicable!) would be not only to know
the statutes at large by rote, but all the precedents, and all the
legal discussions and litigations, to which the practitioners of law
appeal! Innumerable volumes, filled with innumerable subtleties and
incoherencies, and written in a barbarous and unintelligible jargon,
must be studied! Memory is utterly inadequate to the task; and reason
revolts, spurns at and turns from it with loathing.
'A short statement of facts will, in my opinion, demonstrate that law,
in its origin and essence, is absolutely unjust.
'To make a law is to make a rule, by which a certain class of future
events shall be judged.
'Future events can only be partially and imperfectly foreseen.
'Consequently, the law must be partial and imperfect.
'Let us take the facts in another point of view--The law never varies.
'The cases never agree.
'The law is general.
'The case is individual.
'The penalty of the law is uniform.
'The justice or injustice of the case is continually different.
'To prejudge any case, that is, to give a decided opinion on it while
any of the circumstances remain unknown, is unjust even to a proverb.
Yet this is precisely what is done, by making a law.'
'This is strange doctrine, Mr. Turl!'
'Disprove the facts, Mr. Trevor. They are indisputable; and on them
the following syllogism may indisputably be formed.
'To make a law is publicly to countenance and promote injustice.
'Publicly to countenance and promote injustice is a most odious and
'Consequently, to make a law is a most odious and pernicious action.
'How unlimited are the moral mischiefs that result! To make positive
laws is to turn the mind from the inquiry into what is just, and
compel it to inquire what is law!
'To make positive laws is to habituate and reconcile the mind to
injustice, by stamping injustice with public approbation!
'To make positive laws is to deaden the mind to that constant and
lively sense of what is just and unjust, to which it must otherwise be
invariably awake, by not only encouraging but by obliging it to have
recourse to rules founded in falsehood!
'Each case is law to itself: that is, each case ought to be decided by
the justice, or the injustice arising out of the circumstances of that
individual case; and by no other case or law whatever; for the reason
I have already given, that there never were nor ever can be two cases
that were not different from each other.
'I therefore once more warn you, Mr. Trevor, that law is a pernicious
mass of errors; and that the practitioners of it can only thrive by
the mischiefs which they themselves produce, the falsehoods they
propagate, and the miseries they inflict!'
'This would be dangerous doctrine to the preacher, were it heard in
'I am sorry for it! I am sorry that man can be in danger from his
fellow men, because he endeavours to do them good!'
_Painful meditations: A new project for acquiring wealth: A journey to
That the reader may judge of the arguments of Turl, I have been
anxious to state them simply; and not perplexed with the digressions,
commentaries, cavils, and violent opposition they met with from me.
Striking as they did at the very root of all my promised pleasures,
how could I listen and not oppose? Destroying as they did all my
towering hopes at a breath, what could I do but rave? When my
arguments and my anger were exhausted, I sat silent for a while,
sunk in melancholy revery. At length I recovered myself so far as to
endeavour to console Mr. Wilmot, offer him every assistance in my
power, and persuade him to an interview with his sister. Aided by
the benevolent arguments of Turl, this purpose was with some little
difficulty effected, and I returned home to relate to Miss Wilmot what
In very bitterness of soul I then began to meditate on the prospect
before me. The sensations I experienced were at some moments
agonizing! Could I even have renounced fame and fortune, and patiently
have resigned myself to live in obscure poverty, yet to live, as in
such a case I must do, without Olivia would be misery to which no
arguments could induce me to submit. But how obtain her? Where were
all my bright visions fled? Poor Wilmot! What an example did he afford
of ineffectual struggles, talents neglected, and genius trampled in
the dust! Was there more security for me? Turl indeed seemed to resign
himself without a murmur, and to be happy in despite of fate. But he
had no Olivia to regret! If he had, happiness without her would be
To attempt to repeat all the tormenting fears that hurried and
agitated my mind, on this occasion, were fruitless. Suffice it to
say, this was one of those severe conflicts to which by education and
accident I was subject; and it was not the least painful part of the
present one that I could come to no decision.
I persuaded myself indeed that, with respect to law, Turl's reasoning
was much too severe and absolute. It was true I could not but own
that law was inclined to debase and corrupt the morals of its
practitioners; but surely there were exceptions, and if I pursued the
law why should not I be one of them. If therefore the happiness at
which I aimed were attainable by this means, I asserted to myself that
I had heard no reasons which ought to deter me from practising the
In the mean time, I had conceived a project that related to the
immediate state of my feelings; the acuteness of which I was obliged
to seek some method to appease. Olivia was gone to Bath, with her
aunt; and thither I was determined to follow her.
Full of this design, I dispatched Philip with orders that a post
chaise should be ready at the door by nine o'clock the next morning;
after which, to rid myself as much as possible of the thoughts that
haunted me, I once more went in search of the false Belmont.
I found him at the usual place engaged at play. The betting was high,
he appeared to be overmatched, and for a few games his antagonist,
who like himself was a first rate player, triumphed. My passions
were always of the touch-wood kind. Rouzed and tempted by the bets
that were so plentifully offered, the thought suddenly occurred how
possible it was for a man of penetration, who could keep himself
perfectly cool, as I was persuaded I could (What was there indeed
that I persuaded myself I could not do?) to make a fortune by
gambling! I did not indeed call it by the odious term gambling: it
was calculation, foresight, acuteness of discernment. My morality was
fast asleep; so intent was I on profiting by this new and surprisingly
certain source of wealth! and so avaricious of the means that at a
glance seemed to promise the gratification of all my desires!
I had not frequented a billiard table without have exercised my own
skill, learned the odds, and obtained a tolerable knowledge of the
game itself. So fixed was my cupidity on its object that I began with
the caution of a black-leg; made a bet, and the moment the odds turned
in my favour secured myself by taking them; hedged again, as the
advantage changed; and thus made myself a certain winner. I exulted in
my own clearness of perception! and wondered that so palpable a method
of winning should escape even an idiot!
The experience however of a few games taught me that my discovery was
not quite of so lucrative a nature as I had supposed. The odds did not
every game vary, from side to side; people were not always inclined
to bet the odds; and, if I would run no great risk, I even found it
necessary to bet them sometimes myself. Every man who has made the
experiment knows that the thirst of lucre, when thus awakened in a
young mind, is insatiable, impetuous, and rash. I was weary of petty
gains, and riches by retail. The ardour with which I examined the
players, and each circumstance as it occurred, persuaded me that there
were tokens by which an acute observer might discover the winning
party. I had on former occasions remarked that players but rarely win
game and game alternately, even when they leave off equal; but that
success has a tide, with a kind of periodical ebb and flow. This said
I may be attributed to the temper of the players; the loser is too
angry to attend with sufficient caution to his game; he persuades
himself that luck is against him, strikes at random, and does mischief
every stroke. After a while the winner grows careless, loses a game,
and becomes angry and conquered in turn.
Exulting in my prodigious penetration, and fortified in my daring by
reasoning so deep, I determined to hedge no more bets. Belmont, whose
notice my sudden rage for betting had by no means escaped, was at this
time losing, and I was backing his antagonist. To one of the bets I
offered, he said, 'Done;' and, though I felt a reluctance to win his
money, it seemed ungentlemanlike to refuse. I won the first three
bets; and, exulting in my own acuteness and certainty, intreated
him in pity to desist. He refused, and I pleaded the pain I felt at
winning the money of a friend. Beside, it was not only dishonourable
but dishonest; it was absolutely picking his pocket!
My triumph was premature. From this time fortune veered, and he began
to win. I was then willing to have taken the other side, but could
not procure a bet. He bantering bade me not be afraid of winning my
friend's money; it was neither dishonourable, dishonest, nor picking
his pocket. Piqued by his sarcasms, I continued till I had lost five
and twenty guineas; and then my vexation and pride, which almost
foamed at the suspicion of my own folly, made me propose to bet double
or quit. I lost again, again resorted to the same desperate remedy,
and met with the same ill success. My frenzy was such that I a third
time urged him to continue. Fortunately for me his antagonist would
play no more, and I was left to reflect that my calculations and
avaricious arts to rob fools and outwit knaves were as crude as they
Wrung as I was to the heart, I was ashamed of having it supposed that
the loss of my hundred guineas in the least affected me. Belmont
insisted that I should sup with him, and when I attempted to decline
his invitation bantered me out of my refusal, by asking if I had
parted with my hundred guineas to purchase the spleen. During supper
I informed him of my intended journey to Bath; and he immediately
proposed to accompany me, telling me that he had himself had the
same intention. On this we accordingly agreed, and I left him early
and retired to bed; but not to rest. The quick decay of my small
substance, the helpless state in which I found myself, the impatience
with which I desired wealth and power, and the increasing distance at
which I seemed to be thrown from Olivia by this last act of folly,
kept me not only awake but in a fever of thought.
The next day we set off, and arrived at Bath the same evening; where
the first inquiries I made were at the Pump-room, to learn where
Olivia and her aunt were lodged. So inconsiderate and eager were my
desires, that I endeavoured to obtain apartments in the same house;
but ineffectually, they were all let. I was recommended to others
however in Milsom-street, in which I fixed my abode. There was not
room for Belmont, and he got lodgings on the South Parade.
_Desperate measures: Olivia and her aunt: A rash accusation; and its
strange consequences: Affairs brought to a crisis_
Before I proceed to the history of my Bath adventures, it is necessary
to take a brief retrospect of the state of my affairs. The total of
my expences, from the time that I received the four hundred and fifty
pounds of Thornby, to my arrival at Bath, was about two hundred and
forty pounds, including the sum I had lost at billiards, the money I
had paid for printing my pamphlet (the last sheet of which I corrected
before I left town) thirty pounds that in consequence of a letter from
my mother I remitted to her, and twenty for the purchase of a lottery
ticket; for, among other absurd and vicious ways of becoming rich,
that suggested itself to my eager fancy.
The quick decay of my very small inheritance lay corroding at my
heart, and prompted me to a thousand different schemes, without the
power of determining me to any. My general propensity however was
more to the desperate, which should at once be decisive, than to the
slow and lingering plans of timid prudence. In reality both seemed
hopeless, and therefore the briefest suffering was the best. At some
short intervals the glow of hope, which had lately been so fervid,
would return, and those powers of thought that seemed to be struggling
within me would promise great and glorious success; but these were
only flashes of lightening darting through a midnight sky, the texture
of which was deep obscurity; 'darkness visible.'
To one point however I was fixed, that of using every endeavour
to learn the true sentiments of Olivia respecting me; and, if any
possible opportunity offered, of declaring my own. To effect this I
resolved, since I knew not what better method to take, that I would
watch the few public places to which all the visitors at Bath resort.
I therefore immediately subscribed to the upper and lower rooms, and
traversed the city in every direction.
People, not confined to their chamber, are here sure to be soon met
with; and, on the second morning after my arrival, I discovered
Olivia, seated at the farther end of the Pump-room. She had an old
lady, who proved to be her aunt, by her side; and a circle round her,
in which were several handsome fellows, who my jealous eye instantly
discovered were all ambitious of her regard.
The moment I had a glimpse of her, I was seized with a trembling that
shook my whole frame, and a sickness that I with difficulty subdued.
I approached, stopped, turned aside, again advanced, again hesitated,
and was once more almost overcome by a rising of the heart that was
suffocating, and a swimming of the brain that made my limbs stagger,
my eyes roll, and deprived me of sight.
It was sometime before I could make another attempt. At length I
caught her eye. With the rapidity of lightening her cheek was suffused
with blushes, and as instantaneously changed to a death-like pale. It
was my habitual error to interpret every thing in my own favour; and
the conviction that she was suffering emotions similar to my own was
transport to me.
For some minutes I mingled with the croud, fearful of a relapse on my
own part and on hers, but keeping her in sight, and presenting myself
to her view, till I was rouzed by an apparent motion of the aunt to
rise. I then advanced, but still in an ague fit of apprehension. I
attempted to bow, and in a faltering and feeble voice pronounced her
name, 'hoped she was well, and'--I could proceed no farther.
My disease was infectious. She sat a moment, severely struggling with
her feelings, and then returned a kind of inarticulate complimentary
'What is the matter Olivia?' said the aunt. 'How strangely you look
child? Who is the gentleman?'
Olivia made another effort. '--It is Mr. Trevor, Madam; the grandson
of the rector of ***.'
'Oh ho! The young Oxonian that my nephew Hector tells the comical
story about; of the methodist preacher, and of his throwing you into
the water, and then taking you out again.'
The tone, form, and features of the old lady, with this short
introductory dialogue, gave me a strong, but no encouraging picture,
of her character. Her voice was masculine, her nose short, her mouth
wide, her brow bent and bushy, and the corners of her eyes and cheeks
deeply wrinkled. I attempted to enter into conversation, but my
efforts were aukward; the answers of the aunt were broad, coarse, and
discouraging; and Olivia, though embarrassed, I accused of being cold.
The manner of the old lady clearly indicated, that she suspected my
design; and an endeavour in me to prolong the conversation, by turning
it on my native county, drew from her the following animadversions.
'I have heard a great deal about your family, Mr. Trevor; and of the
ridiculous opposition which your grandfather pretended to make to my
late brother, Mowbray. Your mother, I think, was twice married, and,
as I have been told, both times very imprudently; so that the proud
hopes which the rector entertained of raising a family were all
overthrown. But that is always the case with clandestine matches.
Many families, of much greater consequence than ever yours was, Mr.
Trevor, have been brought low by such foolish and wicked doings. Young
girls that have indulged improper connections, and secret lovers,
have involved themselves, and all their relations, in ruin by their
guilty proceedings. You are but a petty instance of the base and
bad consequences of the crimes of such foolish young hussies. Come,
They both rose to go. The dialogue that had just passed had no
listeners, though of that circumstance the aunt was evidently
regardless. The circle round Olivia had presently dispersed, as good
manners required, when I a stranger came up. The repugnant and ominous
behaviour of the aunt did but increase the impetuous haste that I felt
to know the worst, and addressing myself to Olivia, I asked with some
eagerness, 'If I might be permitted to pay her my respects while she
continued at Bath?'
The aunt fixed her eye on me, 'Look you,' said she, 'Mr. Trevor, you
are a handsome young fellow, and I do not want handsome young fellows
about my niece. I see too many of them: they have little fortune, and
less shame; they give me a deal of trouble; no good can come of their
smirking and smiling, their foppery and their forward prate. My niece
I believe has much more prudence than is usual with the young minxes
of the present day. But no matter for that: I am sure there is no
prudence in setting gunpowder too near the fire. I have heard her talk
of your taking her out of the water in a manner that, if I did not
know her, I should not quite like. So I must plainly tell you, Sir,
as I can see no good that can come of your acquaintance, I shall take
care to prevent all harm. Not that there is much fear, for she knows
her duty, and has always done it. Neither can you have entertained any
impertinent notions: it would be too ridiculous! Though what my nephew
and Mr. Andrews told me, I own, did seem as if you could strangely
forget yourself. But at once to cut matters short, I now tell you
plainly, and down right, her choice is made. Yes, Sir, her choice is
positively made; and so, though I do not suppose you have taken any
foolish crotchets, and improper whims into your head, for that would
be too impertinent, yet as you knew one another when children, and so
forth, it was best to be plain with you at once, because, though such
ridiculous nonsense was quite impossible, I hear on all hands you
are a bold and flighty young gentleman, and that you have no little
opinion of yourself.'
Dumb founded as I was by this undisguised refusal, this hard,
unfeeling reprimand, I made no attempt to reply or follow. The
flushings of Olivia's face indeed were continual; but what were they
more than indignant repellings of her aunt's broad surmises? Had they
been favourable to me why did she not declare them with the openness
of which she had so striking an example? She curtsied as she went; but
it was a half-souled compliment, that while I attempted to return my
They disappeared, and I remained, feeling as if now first made
sensible of the extreme folly, the lunacy of all my actions! The
dialogue I had just heard vibrated in my brain, burning and wasting it
with the frenzy of agonizing recollection. 'I was a forward prating
fop, of little fortune, and less shame! Bold and flighty, with no
little opinion of myself; again and again I was ridiculous, and
impertinent! My crotchets, whims, and nonsense were impossible!'
Nor was this all! There was another piece of intelligence; an
additional and dreadful feature of despair; the name of Andrews!
Detested sound! Racking idea! 'Her choice is made; positively made!'
Excruciating thought! Why then, welcome ruin! sudden and irrevocable
As soon as I could recover sufficient recollection, I hurried home;
where I remained in a trance of torment, and disposed to a thousand
acts of madness that were conceived and dismissed with a rapidity of
pain that rendered my mind impotent to all, except the inflicting
torture on itself.
At last, the agony in which I sat was interrupted by the appearance of
Belmont. We had agreed to go to Lansdown races, he told me it was now
time, took me by the arm, and hurried me away.
Reckless of where I went, or what I did, I obeyed. The course was at
no great distance, a carriage was not to be procured, and we walked.
The steepness of the hill, the heat of the day, and above all
the anguish of my heart, threw me into a violent heat. The drops
rolled down my cheeks, and I put my handkerchief lightly into my
hat, to prevent its pressure. Lost in a revery of misery, I acted
instinctively, and breathed the dust, heard the hubbub, and saw the
confusion around me without perceiving them.
After the first heat there was a battle, toward which I was dragged by
Belmont. In the tumult and distraction of my thoughts, I scarcely knew
what happened; and feeling in my pocket for my handkerchief I missed
it. A croud and a pick-pocket was an immediate suggestion. Neither
coolness nor recollection were present to me. I saw a man putting up a
red and white handkerchief, which I supposed to be mine, and springing
forward, I caught him by the collar, and exclaimed, 'Rascal, you have
robbed me!' In an instant the mob flocked round us, and the supposed
pick-pocket was seized. 'Duck him! Duck him!' was the general cry; and
away the poor fellow was immediately hurried. Half awakened by the
unpremeditated danger into which I had brought him, I began to repent.
Belmont, who had lost sight of me, came up, and asked what was the
'A fellow has picked my pocket,' said I.
'Of my handkerchief.'
'Your handkerchief? Is it not under your hat?'
I snatched it off, examined, and there the handkerchief was!--I was
The man whom I had falsely accused made a violent resistance; the
mob was dragging him along, rending his clothes off his back, and
half-tearing him in pieces. The state of my mind was little short of
frenzy. In a tone of command, I bade Belmont follow, made my way into
the thickest of the croud, and furiously began to beat the people
who were ill-using the prisoner; calling till I was hoarse, 'Let him
alone! He is innocent! I am to blame!'
My efforts were vain. A mob has many hands but no ears. My blows were
returned fifty fold. I was inveloped by one mob myself, while the poor
wretch was hauled along by another. Not all my struggles could save
him. I could not get free; and the man, as Belmost afterward informed
me, was half drowned; after which he escaped, and nobody knew what was
become of him.
These were but a part of the accidents of the day. My mind was
maddening, and I was ripe for mischief. Belmont in the evening went
to the hazard table, and I determined to accompany him, to which
he encouraged me. The impetus was given, and, as if resolved on
destruction, I put all my money, except a ten pound note to pay my
Bath debts, in my pocket. Though ignorant of the cause of them,
Belmont discovered my inclinations. He took care to be at the place
before the company assembled.
An accomplice (as I afterward learned) was present, who displayed
guineas and bank notes sufficient to convince me that he was my man,
if I could but win them. I was as eager as they could desire, and to
increase my ardour was occasionally suffered to win a rich stake. My
success was of short duration; I soon began to lose and foam with
rage. In the midst of this scene, Hector Mowbray and tall Andrews came
in; who unknown to me were at Bath. They saw me close my accounts, and
by their looks enjoyed my fury. The whole company, which now began to
be numerous, understood that I left off play because I had no more
money to lose. The pigeon was completely plucked.
This was the climax of misery, at which I seemed ambitious to arrive.
During six hours, I sat in a state of absolute stupor; and echoed the
uproar and blasphemy that surrounded me with deep but unconscious
groans. I do not know that I so much as moved, till the company was
entirely dispersed, and I was awakened from my torpor by the groom
porter. I then languidly returned to my lodging, exhausted and unable
longer to support the conflicting torture.
END OF VOLUME III
_The pains and penalties of illicit attempts to become rich: The sleep
of a gamester: Morning meditations_
The pungency of extreme grief acts as a temporary opiate: for a short
time it lulls the sufferer to insensibility, and sleep; but it is only
to recruit him and awaken him to new torments.
When I reached my lodgings, I appeared to myself to have sunk into
a state of quiescent resignation. The die was cast. My doom was
irrevocable; and despair itself seemed to have lost its charm: the
animation, the vigour, of misery was gone. I was reduced to an
inevitable post-horse kind of endurance; and had only now to be
thankful if I might be permitted to exist. From an audacious and
arrogant confidence in my own strength, I had suddenly yet by
perceptible gradations declined, though with excruciating pangs at
every step, till I now at last found myself in a state of sluggish and
Staggering home in this temper, I undressed myself, went to bed with
stupid composure, and felt like a wretch that had been stretched on
the rack, and, having just been taken off, was suffered to sink into
lifeless languor, because he could endure no more. I was mistaken.
My sleeping sensations soon became turbulent, oppressive, fevered,
terrific, yet cumbrous, and impossible to awake from and escape.
It was seven in the morning, when I returned to my lodging. When I
went to bed, my heaviness was so great that I seemed as if I could
have slept for centuries; and, so multifarious and torturing were the
images that haunted me, that, the time actually appeared indefinitely
protracted: a month, a year, an age: yet it was little more than
two hours. The moment struggling nature had cast off her horrible
night-mares, and I had once more started into identity, the anguish
of the past day and night again seized me. Pains innumerable, and
intolerable, rushed upon me. Each new thought was a new serpent. Mine
was the head of Medusa: with this difference; my scorpions shed all
their venom inward.
Confusion of mind is the source of pain: but confusion is the greatest
in minds that are the seldomest subject to it; and with those the pain
is proportionably intense. The conflict was too violent to be endured,
without an endeavour to get rid of it. I rose, traversed my room I
know not how long, and at last rushed into the street; with a sort
of feeling that, when in the open air, the atmosphere of misery that
enveloped me would be swallowed up, and lost, in the infinite expanse.
The hope was vain: it wrapped me round like a cloak. It was a
universal caustic, that would not endure to be touched; much less
torn away. I groaned. I gnashed my teeth. I griped my hands. I struck
myself violent blows. I ran with fury, in circles, in zigzag, with
sudden turns and frantic bounds; and, finding myself on the banks of
the Avon, plunged headlong in.
I acted from no plan, or forethought; therefore was far from any
intention to drown myself; and, being in the water, I swam as I had
run, like a mad or hunted bull.
That unpremeditated sensation which enforces immediate action is
what, I suppose, Philosophers mean by instinct: if the word ever had
any definite meaning. Thousands of these instinctive experiments
are, no doubt, injurious to the animals that make them: but, their
number being unlimited, some of them are successful. The benefit is
remembered; they are repeated; and a future race profits by the wisdom
that becomes habitual. I am well persuaded that my immersion in
the stream was assuaging; and gamesters hereafter, or the faculty
themselves, may, if they please, profit by the experiment.
I have no distinct recollection of coming out of the water: though
I remember walking afterward, two or three hours, till my cloaths
were again entirely dry. My feelings, in the interval, were somewhat
similar to those of the preceding evening; declining from frantic
agitation to stupidity, and torpor.
_An unexpected rencontre; and a desperate contest: Victory dearly
Man is, or, which is the same thing, his sensations are, continually
changing; and it may be truly affirmed that he is many different
animals in the course of a day. A very unexpected, yet very natural,
incident again rouzed me, to a state of activity.
During my ramble, I had strayed among the new buildings, below the
Crescent. I know not whether I had any latent hope, or wish, of having
a distant sight of Olivia, walking there as is customary for air and
exercise: though I was certainly far too much degraded, in my own
opinion, to intend being seen myself, even by her; much less by any
of those proud beings, those ephemera; of fortune, with whom, while I
despised their arrogance, not to associate, not to be familiar, nay
not to treat with a sort of conscious superiority, was misery. We
all practise that haughtiness, ourselves, which, in others, is so
irritating to our feelings; and for which we pretend to have so
sovereign a contempt.
As I passed a number of workmen, my moody apathy, though great, did
not prevent me from hearing one of them exclaim, with a loud and
suddenly angry surprize, 'By G---- that is he!'
I was at some little distance. I heard the steps of a man running
speedily toward me. I turned round. He looked me full in the face;
and, with no less eagerness, repeated--'Yes! D--mn me if it is not!
Dick! Will! Come here! Run!'
I stood fixed. I did not recollect ever to have seen the exact
figure before me; but I had a strong and instantaneously a painful
impression, of the same form in a different garb. It was the man whom
I had accused, the day before, of picking my pocket: the poor fellow
who had been so unmercifully ducked, and ill treated, by the mob.
His impatience of revenge was furious. Without uttering another word,
he made a desperate blow at me. I was unprepared; and it brought me to
the ground. His foot was up, to second it with as violent a kick; but,
fortunately, the generous spirit of my opponent and the laws of mob
honour were mutually my shield. He recollected the cowardice as well
as the opprobrium of kicking a combatant, when down; and, in the tone
of rage, commanded me to get up.
I was not slow in obeying the mandate; nor he in repeating the
assault. I warded several of his blows, which were dealt with too much
thoughtless fury to be dangerous; but again and again called on him to
stop, for a moment, and hear me. I felt I had been the cause of much
mischief to the man; and had no alacrity to increase the wrong. My
behaviour was not that of fear; and his companions at length got
between us, and for a moment prevented the battle.
We were at the bottom of the hill: the beginning of the fray had been
seen, and the crowd was collecting in every direction. The beaus
descended from the crescent; and left the belles to view us through
their opera-glasses, and pocket-telescopes, while they came to collect
more circumstantial information. The Mowbray family had just arrived
at this public _promenade_. Hector and tall Andrews joined the mob:
the aunt and Olivia remained on the walk.
The story of the false accusation, the ducking, and the injuries
done to my antagonist, ran, varied and mangled, from mouth to mouth:
a general sensation of rage was excited against me; and Hector and
Andrews very charitably gave it every assistance in their power.
Not satisfied with this, they proposed the _Lex Talionis_; and
called--'Duck him!' 'Duck him!' They took care, however, to turn their
backs; imagining that, amid the hubbub, I should not distinguish their
My antagonist, though but a journeyman carpenter, had too much of the
hero in him to admit of this mean revenge. His anger could only be
appeased by chastising me with his own arm; and proving to me, as well
as to the crowd, how unworthy he was of that contemptible character
which my accusation had endeavoured to fix upon him. He was therefore
determined to oblige me to fight.
I never remember to have felt greater repugnance, than I now had, to
defend myself, by committing more hurt and injury upon this indignant,
but brave, fellow. I tried to expostulate, nay to intreat, but in
vain: my remonstrances were construed into cowardice, and fight I
must, or suffer such disgrace as my tyro-philosophy was ill calculated
My antagonist was stripped in form; and, as the diversion of a battle
is what an English mob will never willingly forego, I found partisans;
who determined to see fair play, encouraged, instructed me, clapped
me on the back, and, partly by intreaty partly by violence, stripped
off my coat. They were vexed at my obstinate refusal to part with my
waistcoat and shirt.
With their usual activity, they soon made a ring; and I stood
undetermined, and excessively reluctant; not very willing to receive,
but infinitely averse to return the blows he now once more began to
The carpenter was an athletic and powerful man; famous for the battles
he had fought, and the victories he had gained. His companions, who
evidently had an affection for him, and who knew his prowess, had no
supposition that I could withstand him for five minutes: though the
hopes of those who were the most eager for the sport had been a little
raised, by the alertness with which I rose, after being at first
knocked down, and the skill with which I then stood on my defence.
The doubts that pervaded my mind imparted, I suppose, something of
that appearance to my countenance which is occasioned by fear; for my
adversary approached me with looks of contempt; and, as I retreated,
bade me stand forward and face him like a man. The crowd behind
seconded him; and, fearing it should be a run-away victory, was rather
willing to press upon and push me forward than to recede, and give
me any play. Hector and Andrews were all the while very active, as
My indecision occasioned me to receive several severe blows, without
returning one; till, at length, I was again extended on the ground, by
a very desperate blow near the ear; which, for a few seconds, deprived
me of all sense and recollection.
This was no longer to be endured. As soon as I recovered, I sprang on
my feet, condescended to strip, and became in turn the assailant. The
joy and vociferation of the mob were immense. They thought it had been
all over; and to see me now rise, stand forward, and fight, as I did,
with so much determination and effect, was, to them, rapture. They
had discovered a hero. Their education had taught them, for such is
education, that the man who has the power to endure and to inflict the
most misery is the most admirable.
For six successive rounds, I had completely the advantage; during
which my brave foe had received five knock-down blows: for that is the
phrase. His companions and friends were astonished. The beau pugilists
were vociferating their bets; five pounds to a crown in my favour.
The carpenter was as hardy as he was courageous. He collected himself;
I had become less circumspect, and he threw in another dangerous blow
near my temple, with the left hand, that again felled me insensible to
I now recovered more slowly, and less effectually. I had been severely
breathed, by the violence of exertion. The laws of pugilistic war will
not suffer a man to lie, after being knocked down, more than a certain
number of seconds. Hector had his stop-watch in his hand; and tall
Andrews joined him, to enforce the rule in all its rigour. I was
lifted on my feet before I had perfectly recovered my recollection;
and was again knocked down, though with less injury. While down, I
received a kick in the side; of which my partisans instantly accused
Meaning to do me mischief, he did me a favour. The wrangling that took
place gave me time to recover; and being again brought in face of
my opponent, I once more proposed a reconciliation; and, stretching
out my arm, asked him to shake hands. But, no. The ducking was too
bitterly remembered. 'He would beat me; or never go alive from the
For a moment, the generous thought of acknowledging myself vanquished
suggested itself: but rising vanity, and false shame, spurned at the
proposal, therefore, since he was so desperate, I had no resource but
in being equally savage. Accordingly, I bent my whole powers to this
detestable purpose, brought him twice more to the ground, and, on the
third assault, gave him a blow that verified his own prediction; for
he fell dead at my feet, and was taken up lifeless from the place.
Agony to agony! Vice to vice! Such was my fate! Where, when, how, was
it to have an end? Were not my own personal sufferings sufficient?
Accuse an innocent man of theft; deliver him over to the fury of a
mob; and, not contented with that, meet him again to fight, beat,
murder him! And without malice; without evil intention! Nay, with the
very reverse: abhorring the mischief I had done him; and admiring the
intrepidity and fortitude he had displayed!
Nor did it end here: the intelligence that was instantly sent round
was horror indeed. He had left a wife and seven children!
_The kind behaviour of old friends: A joyful recovery: More
misfortunes: Patience per force_
Never were sensations more truly tragical than mine: yet, as is
frequent, they had a dash of the ridiculous; which resulted from the
machinations of my good friends, Hector and Andrews. To inspire others
with the contempt in which they held, or rather endeavoured to hold,
me, and to revenge the insults which they supposed themselves to have
received from me, were their incentives. They knew I had been stripped
of my money at the gaming-table: they mingled with the partisans of
the carpenter; and, informing them that I was a pretended gentleman,
advised them to have me taken before a magistrate; for that the law
would at least make me provide for the widow and children. Perhaps it
would hang me: as I deserved. They farther proposed a subscription, to
begin with me; and accordingly they came up to me, as by deputation,
with the murdered man's hat.
The mortification they intended me had its full effect. I was
pennyless; and the epithets which generous souls like these
appropriate, to such upstart intruders upon their rights and
privileges as myself, were muttered with as much insolence as they had
the courage to assume.
I was not yet tamed. I could not endure this baiting. I hated,
almost abhorred, Andrews. He dared to pretend love to Olivia: he had
brought me into disgrace with her; nay was soon to rob me of her
everlastingly; and, recollecting the kick he had bestowed upon me when
down, I called him a scoundrel; and accompanied the coarse expression
with a blow.
In a moment, the mob were again in agitation, expected another battle,
admired my hardy valour, and called for a ring. Andrews knew better:
he saved them the trouble; and shuffled away; followed though scouted
even by Hector himself, for his cowardice. Mowbray remembered the
battle of the rats; and, by comparison, found himself a very hero.
The moment I was permitted, I enquired to what place the poor
carpenter had been taken; and followed with infinite terror, but with
a faint degree of hope; some affirming that he was dead, others that
he was not. I was attended by several of my admirers.
It would be vain to attempt any picture of what my feelings were,
when, coming into his dwelling, I found him alive! sitting surrounded
by his wife, children, and companions! I fell on my knees to him. I
owned all the mischief I had done him. I conjured him, for God's sake,
to forgive me. I was half frantic; and the worthy fellow, in the same
free spirit with which he had fought, stretched out his hand, in token
of his forgiveness and friendship.
His unaffected magnanimity prompted me instantly to execute a design
which I had before formed. 'Stay where you are, my good friends,'
said I, to the people that stood round him. 'I will be back in a few
minutes. The little reparation that I can make I will make: to shew
you that it was from error, and not ill intention, that I have done
this brave man so much injury.'
So saying, I ran out of the house, directed my course to my lodgings,
and hastened to my trunk; to take out the ten-pound note, which I had
reserved to pay my Bath debts. My passions were too much in a hurry to
admit of any enquiry how these debts were to be paid, when I should
have given the bank-note to the carpenter. I was determined not to
enquire; but to appease my feelings, rescue my character, and bestow
it on him.
Where were my troubles to end? The persecuting malice of fortune was
intolerable. Philip, the footman whom I had hired, but scarcely ever
employed, had disappeared: having previously broken open my trunk, and
taken, with the ten pounds, such of my linen and effects as he could
carry under his cloaths, and in his pockets, without being seen.
This was a stroke little less painful than the worst of the accidents
that had befallen me: yet, so harassed was my mind, and so wearied
with grieving, that I did not feel it with half the poignancy.
Act however I must. But how? I had left the carpenter and his family
in suspense. Must I talk of favours which I could not confer? or
mention remuneration that would but seem like mockery? This was
painful: but not so painful as falsehood.
I therefore returned, related the story of the robbery, and added
that 'my intentions were to have endeavoured to afford some small
recompence, for the unintentional injury I had committed. I was sorry
that, at present, this accident had deprived me of the power: but I
hoped I should not always be so very destitute. I certainly should
neither forget the debt I had incurred, nor the noble behaviour of
the man who had suffered so much from me. At present I was very
unfortunate: but, if ever I should become more prosperous, I should
remember my obligation, and in what manner it would become me to see
I was heard with patience, and with no disappointment. My auditors,
though poor, were far from selfish. Beside, as I had not previously
declared what I had intended, I had excited little expectation. My
vanquished opponent, whose name was Clarke, was soothed by the justice
I did him, in defending his innocence and praising his courage; and
said 'I had given him the satisfaction of a man, and that was all he
asked.' He rather sympathized with my loss than felt a loss of his
own; and gave various indications of a generous spirit, such as is
seldom to be found among persons who would think themselves highly
disgraced by any comparison between them and a poor carpenter. I own I
quitted him with a degree of esteem, such as neither the lord nor the
bishop I had once been so willing, or rather so industrious, to revere
had the good fortune to inspire.
Having said every thing I could recollect, to remove the doubts which
the whole transaction might have excited against me, I was eager to
return to my lodging, and consider what was best to be done.
The probability of tracing my footman and recovering the bank note,
a considerable portion of which by the bye was due to him for wages,
suggested itself. I recollected that when I rose, after my two hours
sleep, he had brought the breakfast; and had manifested some tokens
of anxiety, at perceiving the perturbation of my mind. I had hastily
devoured the bread and butter that was on the table, and drank a
single bason of tea; after which he enquired as I went out, when I
should be back? And I had answered, in a wild manner, 'I did not know.
From the degree of interest that he had shewn, the robbery appeared
the more strange; and the remembrance of his enquiring and
compassionate looks made me the less eager to pursue, and have him
hanged: though, at that time, I considered hanging as a very excellent
Beside, I had not the means of pursuit: I had no money. He had
probably taken the London road; and, profiting by the first
stage-coach that passed, was now beyond my reach.
But how was I to act? How discharge my debts? What was to become of
me? I could find no solution to these difficulties. I was oppressed
by them. I was wearied by the excess of action on my body, as well as
mind. I sunk down on the bed, without undressing or covering myself,
and fell into a profound sleep.
_A fever: Bad men have good qualities: More proofs of compassion: A
scandalous tale does not lose in telling: Farewell to Bath_
The emptiness of my stomach (for I had eaten nothing except the
bread and butter I mentioned, since the preceding day at dinner) the
heats into which my violent exertions had thrown me, and the sudden
reverse of cold to which my motionless sleep subjected me, produced
consequences that might easily have been foreseen: I awoke, in the
dead of the might, and found myself seized with shivering fits, my
teeth chattering, a sickness at my stomach, my head intolerably heavy,
and my temples bruised with the blows I had received, and having a
sensation as if they were ready to burst. To all this was added the
stiffness that pervaded the muscles of my arms, and body, from the
bruises, falls, and battering they had received.
It was with difficulty I could undress myself, and get into bed;
where, after I had lain shaking with increasing violence I know not
how long, my agueish sensations left me; and were changed into all the
soreness, pains, and burning, that denote a violent fever.
During this paroxysm, I felt consolation from its excess; which
persuaded me that I was now on my death bed. I remembered all the
wrongs, which I conceived myself to have suffered, with a sort of
misanthropical delight; arising from the persuasion that, in my loss,
the world would be punished for the vileness of its injustice toward
me. Perhaps every human being conceives that, when he is gone, there
will be a chasm, which no other mortal can supply; and I am not
certain that he does not conceive truly. Young men of active and
impetuous talents have this persuasion in a very forcible degree.
All that I can remember of this fit of sickness, till the violence and
danger of it were over, is, that the people of the house came to me
in the morning, I knew not at what hour, and made some enquiries. A
delirium succeeded; which was so violent that, at the beginning of my
convalescence, I had absolutely lost my memory; and could not without
effort recollect where I was, how I had come there, or what had
befallen me. The first objects that forcibly arrested my attention,
and excited memory, were the honest carpenter, Clarke, and his wife
sitting by my bedside, and endeavouring to console me.
The particulars which I afterward learned were, that Belmont had come,
the first day of my illness; had seen me delirious; had heard the
account of my having been robbed, and had left a twenty-pound note for
my immediate necessities.
So true is it that the licentious, the depraved, and the unprincipled
are susceptible of virtue; and desirous of communicating happiness.
The most ignorant only are the most inveterately brutal: but nothing
less than idiotism, or madness, can absolutely deprive man of his
propensity to do good.
I was further informed that a sealed paper, addressed to Mr. Trevor,
had been received, and opened in the presence of the physician,
containing another twenty-pound bank-bill; but the paper that inclosed
it was blank: and that Clarke, unable to go immediately to work, and
reflecting on what he had heard from me concerning the destitute state
in which I, a stranger in Bath, was left by the robbery of my servant,
had walked out the next day, had come with fear and diffidence to
enquire after me, and that, finding me in a high fever, his wife had
been my first nurse.
Her own large family indeed prevented her from watching and continuing
always with me; and therefore another attendant was obliged to be
hired: but she was by my bed side the greatest part of every day; and
her husband the same till he was again able to work; after which he
never failed to come in the evening.
He was a generous fellow. I had won his heart, by my desire to do him
justice; and my condescension excited a degree of adoration in him,
when he found that I was really what the world calls a gentleman. He
had visited me before Belmont had left the money; and, hearing the
landlady talk of sending me to the hospital, had proposed to take me
to his home; that he and his wife might do a Christian part by me, and
I not be left to the mercy of strangers.
And here, as they are intimately connected with my own history, it is
necessary I should mention such particulars as I have since learned,
Hector and Andrews had been busy, in collecting all the particulars
they could, relating to me, from the mob; among whom the strangest
rumours ran: of which these my fast friends were predisposed to select
the most unfavourable, and to believe and report them as true. All
of these they carried to Olivia, and her aunt; and the chief of them
were, that I had falsely accused a man of theft, had seized him by the
collar, dragged him to the water, and had been the principal person
in ducking him to death. The brother of this man had discovered who I
was; and had followed me, with his comrades, to have me taken before a
magistrate: but I had artfully talked to the people round me, had got
a part of the mob on my side, and had then begun to beat and ill use
the brother. They added that I had stripped like a common bruiser,
of which character I was ambitious; that the brother had fought with
uncommon bravery; that he had been treated with foul play, by me and
my abettors; and that, in conclusion, I had killed him: that, in
addition to this, I had prevented a subscription, for the widow and
_nine_ young children, which had been proposed by them; that I had
insulted them, struck at Andrews, and challenged him to box with me,
for this their charitable endeavour to relieve the widow and her
children; and that, having lost my last guinea at the gaming table the
night before in their presence, I should probably run away from my
lodgings, or perhaps turn highwayman; for which they thought me quite
It may well be imagined what effect a story like this would produce,
on the mind of Olivia: corroborated as it was, though not proved in
every incident, by the circumstances which she herself had witnessed
from the crescent, by those which she gathered on enquiry from other
people, by her own experience of my rash impetuosity, and these all
heightened by the conjectures of an active imagination, and a heart
not wholly uninterested. She hoped indeed that I had not actually
killed two men: but she had the most dreadful doubts.
The impression it made upon her did not escape the penetration of the
aunt; and she determined to quit Bath, and take Olivia with her, the
very next day. Terrified by the possibility that the predictions of
Hector and Andrews should be fulfilled, Olivia ventured secretly to
instruct her maid to search the book in the pump room, and find my
address, and afterward to send her with the twenty-pound bank-bill:
hoping that this temporary resource might have some small chance of
preventing the fatal consequences which she feared.
Had they returned to London, by the aid of Miss Wilmot and Mary, she
might have made further enquiries: but the cautious aunt directed her
course to Scarborough.
I was excessively reduced by the fever. According to the physician
and apothecary, my life had been in extreme danger; and eight weeks
elapsed before I was able to quit Bath. The expences I had incurred
amounted to between eight and nine and twenty pounds. I was fully
determined to bestow the ten pounds I had originally intended on
Clarke. Thus, after distributing such small gifts among the servants
as custom and my notion of the manners of a gentleman demanded, the
only choice I had was, either to sell my cloaths, or, with four and
sixpence in my pocket, to undertake a journey to London on foot.
I preferred the latter, sent my trunk to the waggon, returned for
the last time to my lodging, inclosed a ten pound note in a letter,
in which I expressed my sense of the worth of Clarke, and my sorrow
for the evil I had done him, and, sending it by the maid-servant, I
followed, and watched her to his dwelling.