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BEGGARS EXTRAORDINARY !
PROPOSALS FOR THEIR SUPPRESSION.
I'm bubbled, I'm bubbled,
Salve magne perens! All hail to the parent Society for the suppression of Mendicity! so far from impugning its merits, I would applaud them to the very echo that should applaud again, always thanking Heaven that it was not established before the days of Homer, Belisarius, and Bampfylde Moore Carew, in which case we should have had three useful fictions the less, and lost three illustrations that have done yeoman's service, in pointing many a moral, and tagging as many tales. That I reverence the existing association, and duly appreciate its benevolent exertions, is best evidenced by my proposal for a branch or subsidiary company, not to interfere with duties already so fully and zealously discharged, bat to take cognizance of various classes of sturdy beggars who do not come within the professed range of the original institution. Mendicity is not confined to the asking of alms in the public streets ; it is not the exclusive profession of rags and wretchedness, of the cripple and the crone, but is publicly practised by able bodied and welldressed vagrants of both sexes, who, eluding the letter of the law while they violate its spirit, call loudly for the interference of some such repressive establishment as that which I am now advocating. When I inform the reader that I live by my wits, he will at once comprehend the tenuity of my cir, cumstances; and when I hint that I enact the good Samaritan to the best of my slender ability, in all such cases as fall within my owo observatiori, he
will not wonder that I should wish to provide some sort of amateur Bridewell for such personages as my neighbour Miss Spriggins.
This lady is universally acknowledged to be one of the very best creatures in the world, which is the reason, I suppose, why she never married, there being no instance, out of the records of Dunmow, of any wife of that description. Her unoccupied time and affections followed the usual routine in such cases made and provided ; that is to say, she became successively a bird-breeder, a dog-fancier, a blue-stocking, and lastly, the Lady Bountiful, not of our village only, (that I could tolerate,) but of the whole district; in which capacity she constitutes à central depöt for all the misfortunes that really happen, and a great many of those that do not. Scarcely a week elapses that she does not call upon me with a heart-rending account of a poor old woman who has lost her cow, a small farmer whose haystack has been burnt down, a shopkeeper whose premises have been robbed of his whole stock, or a widow who has been left with seven small children, the eldest only six years old, and that one a cripple, . and the poor mother likely to add to the number in a few weeks ; upon which occasions the subscription list is produced, beginning with the name of Sir David Dewlap, the great army contractor, and followed by those of nabobs, bankers, merchants, and brokers, (for I live but a few miles westward of London,) by whom a few pounds of money can no more be missed from their pockets, than the same quantity of fat from their sides: My visitant, knowing the state of my purse, is kind enough to point out to my observation that some have given so low as a half-sovereign ; but then she provokingly adds, that even Mr. Tag, a brother scribbler in the village, has put his name down for ten shillings, and surely a person of my superior talents Here she smirks, and bows, and leaves off;
and, parıly in payment for her compliment, partly to prove that I can write twice as well as Mr. Tag, 1 find it impossible to effect my ransom for less than a sovereign. Thus does this good creature torment we in every possible way: first, by bringing my feelings in contact with all the miseries that have occurred or been trumped up in the whole county ; and secondly, by compelling me to disbursements which I am conscious I cannot afford. Nor have I even the common consolations of charity; for, feeling that I bestow my money with an ill will, from false pride or pique, I accuse myself at once of vanity and meanness, of penúry and extravagance. This most worthy nuisance and insatiable beggar is the very first person I should recommend to the notice of the proposed Society and I hope they will be quick, or I shall myself be upon her list. I shall be soon suppressed, if she is
That the clergyman of the parish should put me in spiritual jeopardy whenever he preaches a charity sermon, threatening me with all sorts of cremation if I do not properly contribute to the collection, is a process to which I can submit patiently; for though his fulminations may be alarming, his is not the power
that can enforce them. But I do hold it to be a downright breach of the peace, that Sir David Dewlap aforesaid, and-doctor Alibury, should take their station on each side of the church door, thrusting in one's face a silver plate, in such cases quite as intimidating as a pistol, and exclaiming in looks and actions, if not in words“ Stand and deliver !” The former is the bashaw of the village, whose fiat can influence the reception or exclusion rom all those who mix in the better sort of society, while his custom can mar or make half the shopkeepers of the place. The latter is our principal house-proprietor, and really quarter-day comes round so excessively quick, that it is never quite convenient to be out of the good. graces of one's landlord. It is precisely on account of the undue influence they can thus exercise, that they undertake this species of legal extortion and robbery, for it deserves no better name. Is it not as bad to put us in mental or financial, as in bodily fear ? and is it not a greater offence when practised on the Lord's highway, (the churchyard,) than even on the king's ? Every farthing thus given, beyond what would otherwise have been bestowed, is so much swindled out of our pockets, or torn from us by intimidation, unless we admit the possibility of compulsory free-will offerings. I am a Falstaff, and hate to give money, any inore than reasons, upon compulsion : I submit, indeed, but it is an involuntary acquiescence. The end, I may be sanctifies the means : charity covereth a multitude of sins; true : but undue influence and extortion on the one side, hypocrisy and heart-burning on the other-these are not charity, nor do they hold any affinity with that virtue, whose quality is not strained, “but droppeth as the gentle dew froin heaven.” Does the reader recollect a fine old grizzle-headed Silenusfaced demi-Hercules of a cripple, who, with short crutches, and his limbless trunk on a kind of sledge, used to shovel briskly along the streets of London ? Disdaining to ask an alms, this counterpart of the Elgin Theseus would glance downwards at his own mutilated form, and upwards at the perfect one of the passengers, to whom he left it to draw the inference; and if this silent appeal failed to extract even a sympathising look, he would sometimes, in the waywardness of his mighty heart, wish, “ that the Devil might have them," (as who shall say he will not ?) In his paternal pride, he had sworn to give a certain sum as a marriage portion to his daughter; it was nearly accomplished, and he was stumping his painful rounds for its completion, when he was assailed by certain myrmidons as a vagavond, and, after a Nemæan resistance, was laid in Jurance vile. Was not his an end that might
indeed sanctify the means? And shall a man like this be held a beggar by construction, when such symbolic inendicants and typical pick pockets as Sir David Dewlap and Doctor Allbury may hold their plates at our throats, and rob us with impunity? No, if I have any influence with the new society, one of its earliest acts shall be the commitment of these Corinthian caterers to Bridewell, that they may dance a week's saraband together to the dainty measure of the tread mill.
There is another class of eleemosynaries, who would be indignant at the appellation of almsmen, since they make an att:ck upon your purse under the independent profession of borrowers, while they are most valorous professors also (but most pusillanimous performers) of repayment. If they be gentry of whom one wouid fairly be quit for ever, I usually follow the vicar of Wakefield's prescription, who was accustomed to lend a great coat to one, an old horse to a second, a few pounds to a third, and seldom was troubled by their reappear
If they be indifferent parties, whom one may reasonably hope to fob off with banter and evasion, I quote to them from Shakspeare
*« Neither a borrower nor lender be;
And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry." Be they matter of fact fetlows, who apprehend not a joke, I show them my empty purse, which, Heaven knows, is no joke to me, while it is the best of all arguments to them. But be they men of pith and promise, friends whom I well esteem and would long preserve, I refuse them at once : for these are companions whom I cannot afford to lose, and whom a loan would not long allow me to keep. Those who may be cooled by a refusal would have been alienated by an acquiescence. Friendship, to be permanent, must be perfectly independent; for