Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

himself still more strongly in favor of what he thought my production; having restrain’d himself before, as he said, lest I should think it flattery. “But who would have imagin'd,” said he, “that Franklin had been capable of such a performance; such painting, such force, such fire | He has even improv’d the original. In his common conversation he seems to have no choice of words; he hesitates and blunders; and yet, good God l how he writes 1" When we next met, Ralph discovered the trick we had plaid him, and Osborne was a little laught at. This transaction fixed Ralph in his resolution of becoming a poet. I did all I could to dissuade him from it, but he continued scribbling verses till Pope cured him. He became, however, a pretty good prose writer. More of him hereafter. But, as I may not have occasion again to mention the other two, I shall just remark here, that Watson died in my arms a few years after, much lamented, being the best of our set. Osborne went to the West Indies, where he became an eminent lawyer and made money, but died young. He and I had made a serious agreement, that the one who happen'd first to die should, if possible, make a friendly visit to the other, and acquaint him how he found things in that separate state. But he never fulfill'd his promise. The governor, seeming to like my company, had me frequently to his house, and his setting me up was always mention'd as a fixed thing. I was to take with me letters recommendatory to a number of his friends, besides the letter of credit to furnish me with the necessary money for purchasing the press and types, paper, etc. For these letters I was appointed to call at different times, when they were to be ready; but a future time was still named. Thus he went on till the ship, whose departure too had been several times postponed, was on the point

of sailing. Then, when I call'd to take my leave and receive the letters, his secretary, Dr Bard, came out to me and said the governor was extremely busy in writing, but would be down at Newcastle before the ship, and there the letters would be delivered to me. Ralph, though married, and having one child, had determined to accompany me in this voyage. It was thought he intended to establish a correspondence, and obtain goods to sell on commission; but I found afterwards, that, thro’ some discontent with his wife's relations, he purposed to leave her on their hands, and never return again. Having taken leave of my friends, and interchang'd some promises with Miss Read, I left Philadelphia in the ship, which anchor'd at Newcastle. The governor was there; but when I went to his lodging, the secretary came to me from him with the civillest message in the world, that he could not then see me, being engaged in business of the utmost importance, but should send the letters to me on board, wished me heartily a good voyage and a speedy return, etc. I returned on board a little puzzled, but still not doubting. Mr Andrew Hamilton, a famous lawyer of Philadelphia, had taken passage in the same ship for himself and son, and with Mr Denham, a Quaker merchant, and Messrs Onion and Russel, masters of an iron work in Maryland, had engag’d the great cabin; so that Ralph and I were forced to take up with a berth in the steerage, and none on board knowing us, were considered as ordinary persons. But Mr Hamilton and his son (it was James, since governor) return'd from Newcastle to Philadelphia, the father being recall’d by a great fee to plead for a seized ship ; and, just before we sail'd, Colonel French coming on board, and showing me great respect, I was more taken notice of, and, with my friend Ralph, invited by the other gentlemen to come into the cabin, there being now room. Accordingly, we remov’d thither. Understanding that Colonel French had brought on board the governor's despatches, I ask'd the captain for those letters that were to be under my care. He said all were put into the bag together and he could not then come at them; but, before we landed in England, I should have an opportunity of picking them out; so I was satisfied for the present, and we proceeded on our vovage. We had a sociable company in the cabin, and lived uncommonly well, having the addition of all Mr Hamilton's stores, who had laid in plentifully. In this passage Mr Denham contracted a friendship for me that continued during his life. The voyage was otherwise not a pleasant one, as we had a great deal of bad weather. When we came into the Channel, the captain kept his word with me, and gave me an opportunity of examining the bag for the governor's letters. I found none upon which my name was put as under my care. I picked out six or seven, that, by the handwriting, I thought might be the promised letters, especially as one of them was directed to Basket, the king's printer, and another to some stationer. We arriv'd in London the 24th of December, 1724. I waited upon the stationer, who came first in my way, delivering the letter as from Governor Keith. “I don't know such a person,” says he ; but, opening the letter, “O ! this is from Riddlesden. I have lately found him to be a compleat rascal, and I will have nothing to do with him, nor receive any letters from him.” So, putting the letter into my hand, he turn'd on his heel and left me to serve some customer. I was surprized to find these were not the governor's letters; and, after recollecting and comparing circumstances, I began to doubt his sincerity. I found my friend Denham, and opened the whole affair to him. He let me into Keith's character; told me there was not the least probability that he had written any letters for me; that no one, who knew him, had the smallest dependence on him ; and he laught at the notion of the governor's giving me a letter of credit, having, as he said, no credit to give. On my expressing some concern about what I should do, he advised me to endeavor getting some employment in the way of my business. “Among the printers here,” said he, “you will improve yourself, and when you return to America, you will set up to greater advantage.” We both of us happen'd to know, as well as the stationer, that Riddlesden, the attorney, was a very knave. He had half ruin’d Miss Read's father by persuading him to be bound for him. By this letter it appear'd there was a secret scheme on foot to the prejudice of Hamilton (suppos'd to be then coming over with us); and that Keith was concerned in it with Riddlesden. Denham, who was a friend of Hamilton's thought he ought to be acquainted with it; so, when he arriv'd in England, which was soon after, partly from resentment and ill-will to Keith and Riddlesden, and partly from good-will to him, I waited on him, and gave him the letter. He thank'd me cordially, the information being of importance to him; and from that time he became my friend, greatly to my advantage afterwards on many OCCaS1OnS. But what shall we think of a governor's playing such pitiful tricks, and imposing so grossly on a poor ignorant boy It was a habit he had acquired. He wish'd to please everybody; and, having little to give, he gave expectations. He was otherwise an ingenious, sensible man, a pretty good writer, and a good governor for the people, tho’ not for his constituents, the proprietaries, whose instructions he

sometimes disregarded. Several of our best laws
were of his planning and passed during his ad-
ministration.
Ralph and I were inseparable companions. We
took lodgings together in Little Britain at three
shillings and sixpence a week—as much as we could
then afford. He found some relations, but they
were poor, and unable to assist him. He now let
me know his intentions of remaining in London,
and that he never meant to return to Philadelphia.
He had brought no money with him, the whole he
could muster having been expended in paying his
passage. I had fifteen pistoles; so he borrowed
occasionally of me to subsist, while he was looking
out for business. He first endeavored to get into
the playhouse, believing himself qualify’d for an
actor; but Wilkes, to whom he apply'd, advis'd
him candidly not to think of that employment, as it
was impossible he should succeed in it. Then he
propos'd to Roberts, a publisher in Paternoster Row,
to write for him a weekly paper like the Spectator,
on certain conditions, which Roberts did not ap-
prove. Then he endeavored to get employment as
a hackney writer, to copy for the stationers and
lawyers about the Temple, but could find no
vacancy.
I immediately got into work at Palmer's, then a
famous printing-house in Bartholomew Close, and
here I continu'd near a year. I was pretty diligent,
but spent with Ralph a good deal of my earnings in
going to plays and other places of amusement. We
had together consumed all my pistoles, and now just
rubbed on from hand to mouth. He seem’d quite
to forget his wife and child, and I, by degrees, my
engagements with Miss Read, to whom I never
wrote more than one letter, and that was to let her
know I was not likely soon to return. This was
another of the great errata of my life, which I should

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]
« ZurückWeiter »