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whence I was to walk home. On the passage, the boat was driven by a midnight storm on the rocks, and I escaped almost by miracle.
My godfather had now humbler views for me, and I had little heart to resist any thing. He proposed to send me on board one of the Torbay fishing-boats; I ventured, however, to remonstrate against this, and the matter was com promised by my consenting to go on board a Coaster. A coaster was speedily found for me at Brixham, and thither I went when little more than thirteen.
My master, whose name was Full, though a gross and ignorant, was not an ill-natured, man ; at least, not to me and my mistress used me with unvarying kindness; moved perhaps by my weakness and tender years. In return, I did what I could to requite her, and my good will was not overlooked.
Our vessel was not very large, nor our crew very numerous. On ordinary occasions, such as short trips to Dartmouth, Plymouth, &c. it consisted only of my master, an apprentice nearly out of his time, and myself: when we had to go further, to Portsmouth for example, an additional hand was hired for the voyage.
In this vessel (the Two Brothers) I continued nearly a twelvemonth; and here I got acquainted with nautical terms, and contracted a love for the sea, which a lapse of thirty years has but little diminished.
It will be easily conceived that my life was a life of hardship. I was not only a shipboy on the high and giddy mast," but also in the cabin, where every menial office fell to my lot: yet if I was restless and discontented, I can safely say, it was not so much on account of this, as of my being precluded from all possibility of reading; as my master did not possess, nor do I recollect seeing during the whole time of my abode with him, a single book of any description, except the Coasting Pilot.
As my lot seemed to be cast, however, I was not negligent in seeking such information as promised to be useful; and I therefore frequented, at my leisure hours, such vessels as dropt into Torbay. On attempting to get on board one of these, which I did at midnight, I missed my footing, and fell into the sea. The floating away of the boat alarmed the man on deck, who came to the ship's side just in time to see me sink. He immediately threw out several ropes, one of which providentially (for I was unconscious of it) intangled itself about me, and I was drawn up to the surface, till a boat could be got round. The usual methods were taken to recover me, and I awoke in bed the next morning, remembering nothing but the horror I felt, when I first found myself unable to cry out for assistance.
This was not my only escape, but I forbear to speak of them. An escape of another kind was now preparing for me, which deserves all my notice, as it was decisive of my future fate.
On Christmas day (1770) I was surprised by a message from my godfather, saying that he had
Since I had lived at Brixham, I had broken off all connection with Ashburton. I had no relation there but my poor brother, who was yet too young for any kind of correspondence; and the conduct of my godfather towards me, did not entitle him to any portion of my gratitude, or kind remembrance. I lived therefore in a sort of sullen independence on all I had formerly known, and thought without regret of being abandoned by every one to my fate. But I had not been overlooked. The women of Brixham, who travelled to Ashburton twice a week with fish, and who had known my parents, did not see me without kind concern, running about the beach in a ragged jacket and trousers. They mentioned this to the people of Ashburton, and never without commiserating my change of condition. This tale, often repeated, awakened at length the pity of their auditors, and, as the next step, their resentment against the man who had reduced me to such a state of wretchedness. In a large town, this would have had little effect; but in a place like Ashburton, where every report speedily becomes the common property of all the inhabitants, it raised a murmur which my godfather found himself either unable or unwilling to encounter: he therefore determined to recall me; which he could easily do, as I wanted some months of fourteen, and was not yet bound.
All this, I learned on my arrival; and my heart, which had been cruelly shut up, now opened to kinder sentiments, and fairer views.
After the holydays I returned to my darling pursuit, arithmetic: my progress was now so rapid, that in a few months I was at the head of the school, and qualified to assist my master (Mr. E. Furlong) on any extraordinary emergency. As he usually gave me a trifle on those occasions, it raised a thought in me, that by engaging with him as a regular assistant, and undertaking the instruction of a few evening scholars, I might, with a little additional aid, be enabled to support myself. God knows, my
Of my brother here introduced for the last time, I must yet say a few words. He was literally,
The child of misery baptized in tears; and the short passage of his life did not belie the melancholy presage of his infancy. When he was seven years old, the parish bound him out to a husbandman of the name of Leman, with whom he endured incred:ble hardships, which I had it not in my power to alle viate. At nine years of age he broke his thigh, and I took that opportunity to teach him to read and write. When my own situation was improved. I persuaded him to try the sea; he did so; and was taken on board the Egmont, on condition that his master should receive The time was now fast approaching when
1 could serve him, but he was doomed to know no favourable change of fortune: he fell sick, and died at Cork.
ideas of support at this time were of no very extravagant nature. I had, besides, another object in view. Mr. Hugh Smerdon (my first master) was now grown old and infirm; it seemed unlikely that he should hold out above three or four years; and I fondly flattered myself that, notwithstanding my youth, I might possibly be appointed to succeed him. I was in my fifteenth year, when I built these castles: a storm, however, was collecting, which unexpectedly burst upon me, and swept them all
On mentioning my little plan to Carlile, he treated it with the utmost contempt; and told me, in his turn, that as I had learned enough, and more than enough, at school, he must be considered as having fairly discharged his duty; (so, indeed, he had;) he added, that he had been negotiating with his cousin, a shoemaker of some respectability, who had liberally agreed to take me without a fee, as an apprentice. I was so shocked at this intelligence, that I did not remonstrate; but went in sullenness and silence to my new master, to whom I was soon after bound,* till I should attain the age of twenty-one.
The family consisted of four journeymen, two sons about my own age, and an apprentice somewhat older. In these there was nothing remarkable; but my master himself was the strangest creature!-He was a Presbyterian, whose reading was entirely confined to the small tracts published on the Exeter Controversy. As these (at least his portion of them) were all on one side, he entertained no doubt of their infallibility, and being noisy and disputacious, was sure to silence his opponents; and became, in consequence of it, intolerably arrogant and conceited. He was not, however, indebted solely to his knowledge of the subject for his triumph: he was possessed of Fenning's Dictionary, and he made a most sirgular use of it. His custom was to fix on any word in common use, and then to get by heart the synonym, or periphrasis by which it was explained in the book; this be constantly substituted for the simple term, and as his opponents were commonly ignorant of his meaning, his victory was complete.
With such a man I was not likely to add mnch to my stock of knowledge, small as it was; and, indeed, nothing could well be smaller. At this period, I had read nothing but a black letter romance, called Parismus and Parismenus, and a few loose magazines which my mother had brought from South Molton. With the Bible, indeed, I was well acquainted; it was the favourite study of my grandmother, and reading it frequently with her, had impressed it strongly on my mind; these then, with the Imitation of Thomas à Kempis, which I used to read to my mother on her death-bed, constituted the whole of my literary acquisitions.
As I hated my new profession with a perfect
My indenture, which now lies before me, is dated the 1st of January, 1772.
hatred, I made uo progress in it; and was consequently little regarded in the family, of which I sunk by degrees into the common drudge: this did not much disquiet me, for my spirits were now humbled. I did not however quite resign the hope of one day succeeding to Mr. Hugh Smerdon, and therefore secretly prosecuted my favourite study, at every interval of leisure.
These intervals were not very frequent; and when the use I made of the.n was found out, they were rendered still less so. I could not guess the motives for this at first; but at length discovered that my master destined his youngest son for the situation to which I aspired.
I possessed at this time but one book in the world: it was a treatise on algebra, given to me by a young woman, who had found it in a lodging-house. I considered it as a treasure; but it was a treasure locked up; for it supposed the reader to be well acquainted with simple equation, and I knew nothing of the matter. My master's son had purchased Fenning's Introduction: this was precisely what I wanted; but he carefully concealed it from me, and I was indebted to chance alone for stumbling upon his hiding-place. I sat up for the greatest part of several nights successively, and, before he suspected that his treatise was discovered, had completely mastered it. I could now enter upon my own; and that carried me pretty far into the science.
This was not done without difficulty. I had not a farthing on earth, nor a friend to give me one: pen, ink, and paper, therefore, (in despite of the flippant remark of Lord Orford,) were, for the most part, as completely out of my reach, as a crown and sceptre. There was indeed a resource; but the utmost caution and secrecy were necessary in applying to it. I beat out pieces of leather as smooth as possible and wrought my problems on them with a blunted awl: for the rest, my memory was tenacious, and I could multiply and divide by it, to a great extent.
Hitherto I had not so much as dreamed of poetry indeed I scarcely knew it by name; and, whatever may be said of the force of nature, I certainly never "lisp'd in numbers." I recollect the occasion of my first attempt: it is, like all the rest of my non-adventures, of so unimportant a nature, that I should blush to call the attention of the idlest reader to it, but for the reason alleged in the introductory paragraph. A person, whose name escapes me, had undertaken to paint a sign for an ale-house: it was to have been a lion, but the unfortunate artist produced a dog. On this awkward affair, one of my acquaintance wrote a copy of what we called verse: I liked it; but fancied 1 could compose something more to the purpose: I made the experiment, and by the unanimous suffrage of my shopmates was allowed to have succeeded. Notwithstanding this encourage. ment, I thought no more of verse, till another occurrence, as trifling as the former, furnished
me with a fresh subject: and thus I went on, till I had got together about a dozen of them. Certainly, nothing on earth was ever so deplorable: such as they were, however, they were talked of in my little circle, and I was sometiraes invited to repeat them, even out of it. I never committed a line to paper for two reasons; first, because I had no paper; and secondly perhaps I might be excused from going further; but in truth I was afraid, as my master had already threatened me, for inadvertently hitching the name of one of his customers into a rhyme.
The repetitions of which I speak were always attended with applause, and sometimes with favours more substantial: little collections were now and then made, and I have received sixpence in an evening To one who had long lived in the absolute want of money, such a resource seemed a Peruvian mine: I furnished myself by degrees with paper, &c., and what was of more importance, with books of geometry, and of the higher branches of algebra, which I cautiously concealed. Poetry, even at this time, was no amusement of mine: it was subservient to other purposes; and I only had recourse to it, when I wanted money for my mathematical pursuits.
But the clouds were gathering fast. My master's anger was raised to a terrible pitch, by my indifference to his concerns, and still more by the reports which were daily brought to him of my presumptuous attempts at versification. I was required to give up my papers, and when 1 refused, my garret was searched, and my little hoard of books discovered and removed, and all future repetitions prohibited in the strictest manner.
This was a very severe stroke, and I felt it most sensibly; it was followed by another severer still; a stroke which crushed the hopes I had so long and so fondly cherished, and resigned me at once to despair. Mr. Hugh Smerdon, on whose succession I had calculated, died, and was succeeded by a person not much older than myself, and certainly not so well qualified for the situation.
I look back on that part of my life which immediately followed this event, with little satisfaction; it was a period of gloom, and savage ansociability by degrees I sunk into a kind of coporeal torpor; or, if roused into activity by the spirit of youth, wasted the exertion in spler.etic and vexatious tricks, which alienated the few acquaintances whom compassion had yet left me. So I crept on in silent discontent, unfriended and unpitied; indignant at the present, careless of the future, an object at once of apprehensiou and dislike.
From this state of abjectness I was raised by a young woman of my own class. She was a neighbour; and whenever I took my solitary walk, with my Wolfius in my pocket, she usuaily came to the door, and by a smile, or a short question, put in the friendliest manner, endcavoured to solicit my attention. My heart had
been long shut to kindness, but the sentiment was not dead in me: it revived at the first encouraging word; and the gratitude I felt for it, was the first pleasing sensation which I had ventured to entertain for many dreary months.
Together with gratitude, hope, and other passions still more enlivening, took place of that uncomfortable gloominess which so lately possessed me: I returned to my companions, and by every winning art in my power, strove to make them forget my former repulsive ways. In this I was not unsuccessful; recovered their good will, and by degrees grew to be somewhat of a favourite.
My master still murmured, for the business of the shop went on no better than before: I comforted myself, however, with the reflection that my apprenticeship was drawing to a conclusion, when I determined to renounce the employment for ever, and to open a private school.
In this humble and obscure state, poor beyond the common lot, yet flattering my ambition with day-dreams, which, perhaps, would never have been realized, I was found in the twentieth year of my age by Mr. William Cookesley, a name never to be pronounced by me without veneration. The lamentable doggerel which I have already mentioned, and which had passed from mouth to mouth among people of my own degree, had by some accident or other reached his ear, and given him a curiosity to inquire after the author.
It was my good fortune to interest his benevolence. My little history was not untinctured with melancholy, and I laid it fairly before him: his first care was to console; his second, which he cherished to the last moment of his existence, was to relieve and support me.
Mr. Cookesley was not rich: his eminence in his profession, which was that of a surgeon, procured him, indeed, much employment; but in a country town, men of science are not the most liberally rewarded: he had, besides, a very numerous family, which left him little for the purposes of general benevolence that little, however, was cheerfully bestowed, and his activity and zeal were always at hand to supply the deficiencies of his fortune.
On examining into the nature of my literary attainments, he found them absolutely nothing: he heard, however, with equal surprise and pleasure, that amidst the grossest ignorance of books, I had made a very considerable progress in the mathematics. He engaged me to enter into the details of this affair, and when he learned that I had made it in circumstances of peculiar discouragement, he became more warmly interested in my favour, as he now saw a possibility of serving me.
The plan that occurred to him was naturally that which had so often suggested itself to me. There were indeed several obstacles to be overcome; I had eighteen months yet to serve; mv handwriting was bad, and my language very incorrect; but nothing could slacken the zeal of this excellent man; he procured a few of my
THE TABLE BOOK.
poor attempts at rhyme, dispersed them amongst his friends and acquaintance, and when my name was become somewhat familiar to them, set on foot a subscription for my relief. I still treserve the original paper; its title was not ery magnificent, though it exceeded the most sanguine wishes of my heart: it ran thus, "A Subscription for purchasing the remainder of the time of William Gifford, and for enabling him to improve himself in Writing and English Grammar." Few contributed more than five shillings, and none went beyond ten-and-six dence: enough, however, was collected to free me from my apprenticeship, and to maintain me for a few months, during which I assiduously attended the Rev. Thomas Smerdon.
At the expiration of this period, it was found that my progress (for 1 will speak the truth in modesty) had been more considerable than my patrons expected: I had also written in the interim several little pieces of poetry, less rugged, I suppose, than my former ones, and certainly with fewer anomalies of language. My preceptor, too, spoke favourably of me; and my benefactor, who was now become my father and my friend, had little difficulty in persuading my patrons to renew their donations, and to continue me at school for another year. Such liberality was not lost upon me; I grew anxious to make the best return in my power, and I redoubled my diligence. Now, that I am sunk into indolence, I look back with some degree of scepticism to the exertions of that period.
In two years and two months from the day of my emancipation, I was pronounced by Mr. Smerdon, fit for the University. The plan of opening a writing school had been abandoned almost from the first; and Mr. Cookesley looked round for some one who had interest enough to procure me some little office at Oxford. This person, who was soon found, was Thomas Taylor, Esq. of Denbury, a gentleman to whom I had already been indebted for much liberal and friendly support. He procured me the place of Bib. Lect. at Exeter College; and this, with such occasional assistance from the country as Mr. Cookesley undertook to provide, was thought sufficient to enable me to live, at least, till I had taken a degree.
During my attendance on Mr. Smerdon I had written, as I observed before, several tuneful trifles, some as exercises, others voluntarily, (for poetry was now become my delight.) and not a few at the desire of my friends.
The sum my master received was six pounds. + As I have republished one of our old poets, it may be allowable to mention that my predilection for the drama began at an early period. Before I left school, I had written two tragedies, the Oracle and the Italian. My qualifications for this branch of the art may be easily appreciated; and, indeed, I cannot think of them without a smile. These rhapsodies were placed by my indulgent friend, who thought well of them, in the hands of two respectable gentlemen, who undertook to convey them to the manager of: I am ignorant of their fate. The death of Mr. Cookesley broke every link of my connection with the majority of my subscrí
I became capable, however, of reading Latin
On my removing to Exeter College, however,
When I had got thus far, we thought it a fi time to mention our design; it was very generally approved of by my friends; and on the first of January, 1781, the subscription was opened by Mr. Cookesley at Ashburton, and by myself at Exeter College.
So bold an undertaking so precipitately announced, will give the reader, I fear, a higher opinion of my conceit than of my talents; neither the one nor the other, however, had the smallest concern with the business, which origi nated solely in ignorance: I wrote verses with great facility, and I was simple enough to imagine that little more was necessary for a translator of Juvenal! I was not, indeed, un conscious of my inaccuracies: I knew that the. were numerous, and that I had need of som friendly eye to point them out, and some jude cious hand to rectify or remove them: but fo these, as well as for every thing else, I looke to Mr. Cookesley, and that worthy man, wi his usual alacrity of kindness, undertook the laborious task of revising the whole translation. My friend was no great Latinist, perhaps I w the better of the two; but he had taste ats
bers, and when subsequent events enabled me to renew them, I was ashamed to inquire after what was most probably anworthy of concern.
judgment, which I wanted. What advantages might have been ultimately derived from them, there was unhappily no opportunity of ascertaining, as it pleased the Almighty to call him to himself by a sudden death, before we had quite finished the first Satire. He died with a letter of mine, unopened, in his hands.
This event, which took place on the 15th of January, 1781, afflicted me beyond measure.' I was not only deprived of a most faithful and affectionate friend, but of a zealous and ever active protector, on whom I confidently relied for support the sums that were still necessary for me, he always collected; and it was to be feared that the assistance which was not solicited with warmth, would insensibly cease to be afforded.
In many instances this was actually the case: the desertion, however, was not general; and I was encouraged to hope, by the unexpected friendship of Servington Savery, a gentleman who voluntarily stood forth as my patron, and watched over my interests with kindness and
Some time before Mr. Cookesley's death, we had agreed that it would be proper to deliver out, with the terms of subscription, a specimen of the manner in which the translation was executed. To obviate any idea of selection, a sheet was accordingly taken from the beginning of the first Satire. My friend died while it was in the press
After a few melancholy weeks, I resumed the translation; but found myself utterly incapable of proceeding. I had been so accustomed to connect the name of Mr. Cookesley with every part of it, and I laboured with such delight in the hope of giving him pleasure, that now, when he appeared to have left me in the midst of my enterprise, and I was abandoned to my own efforts, I seemed to be engaged in a hopeless struggle, without motive or end: and his idea, which was perpetually recurring to me, brought such bitter anguish with it, that I shut up the work with feelings bordering on distraction.
To relieve my mind, I had recourse to other pursuits. I endeavoured to become more intimately acquainted with the classics, and to acquire some of the modern languages: by per mission too, or rather recommendation, of the Rector and Fellows, I also undertook the care of a few pupils: this removed much of my anxiety respecting my future means of support. I have
I began this unadorned narrative on the 15th of anuary. 1801: twenty years have therefore elapsed since I lost my henefactor and my friend. In the interval I have wept a thousand times at the recollection of his goodness; I yet cherish his memory with filial respect; and at this distant period, my heart sinks within me at every repetition of his name.
+ Many of these papers were distributed; the terms, which I extract from one of them, were these: "The work shall be printed in quarto, (without notes,) and be delivered to the Subscribers in the month of December next.
The price will be sixteen shillings in boards, half to be paid at the time of subscribing, the remainder on delivery of the book."
a heartfelt pleasure in mentioning this Indulgence of my college: it could arise from nothing but the liberal desire inherent, I think, in the members of both our Universities, to encourage every thing that bears even the most distant resemblance to talents; for had no claims on them from any particular exertions.
The lapse of many months had now soothed and tranquillized my mind, and I once more returned to the translation, to which a wish to serve a young man surrounded with difficulties had induced a number of respectable characters to set their names; but alas, what a mortification! I now discovered, for the first time, that my own inexperience, and the advice of my too, too partial friend, had engaged me in a work, for the due execution of which my literary attainments were by no means sufficient. Errors and misconceptions appeared in every page. I had, perhaps, caught something of the spirit of Juvenal, but his meaning had frequently escaped me, and I saw the necessity of a long and painful revision, which would carry me far beyond the period fixed for the appearance of the volume. Alarmed at the prospect, I instantly resolved (if not wisely, yet I trust honestly,) to renounce the publication for the present.
In pursuance of this resolution, I wrote to my friend in the country, (the Rev. Servington Savery,) requesting him to return the subscription money in his hands to the subscribers. He did not approve of my plan; nevertheless he promised, in a letter, which now lies before me, to comply with it; and, in a subsequent one, added that he had already begun to do so.
For myself, I also made several repayments; and trusted a sum of money to make others, with a fellow collegian, who, not long after, fell by his own hands in the presence of his father. But there were still some whose abode could not be discovered, and others, on whom to press the taking back of eight shillings would neither be decent nor respectful: even from these I ventured to flatter myself that I should find pardon, when on some future day I should present them with the Work, (which I was still secretly determined to complete,) rendered more worthy of their patronage, and increased by notes, which I now perceived to be absolutely necessary, to more than double its proposed size.
In the leisure of a country residence, I imagined that this might be done in two years: perhaps I was not too sanguine: the experiment, however, was not made, for about this time a circumstance happened, which changed my views, and indeed my whole system of life. I had contracted an acquaintance with a person of the name of recommended to my particular notice by a gentleman of Devonshire, whom I was proud of an opportunity to oblige. This person's residence at Oxford was not long, and when he returned to town I maintained a correspondence with him by letters. At his particular request, these were enclosed in covers, and sent to Lord Grosvenor: one day I inadvertently omitted the direction, and his lordship,