« ZurückWeiter »
&C. &c. if ever I stept out of the room; and all ascribed to the chapel ghost, which they said ever haunted those not regularly admitted; that notwithstanding the master's protection, I found myself obliged to comply and pay the money; convinced of the folly of being on ill-terms with those one is to live with continually. I was now on a fair footing with them, and soon acquired considerable influence. I proposed some reasonable alterations in their chapel1 laws, and carried them against all opposition. From my example, a great many of them left their muddling breakfast of beer, bread, and cheese, finding they could with me be supplied from a neighbouring house, with a large porringer of hot water-gruel, sprinkled with pepper, crumbled with bread, and a bit of butter in it, for the price of a pint of beer; viz. threehalfpence. This was a more comfortable as well as a cheaper breakfast, and kept their heads clearer. Those who continued sotting with their beer all day, were often, by not paying, out of credit at the alehouse, and used to make interest with me to get beer, their light, as they phrased it, being out. I watched the pay-table on Saturday-night, and collected what I stood engaged for them, having to pay sometimes near thirty shillings a week on their accounts. This and my being esteemed a pretty good riggite, that is a jocular verbal satyrist, supported my consequence in the society. My constant attendance, (I never making a St. Monday) recommended me to the master; and my uncommon quickness at composing occasioned my being put upon work of dispatch, which was generally better paid. So I went on now very agreeably.
My lodgings in Little Britain being too remote, I found another in Duke Street, opposite to the Romish Chapel. It was up three pair of stairs backwards, at an Italian warehouse. A widow lady kept the house; she had a daughter, and a maid servant, and a journeyman who attended the warehouse, but lodged abroad. After sending to enquire my character at the house where I last lodged, she agreed to take me in at the same rate 3s. 6d. per week; cheaper, as she said, from the protection she expected in having a man to lodge in the house. She was a widow, an elderly woman; had been bred a Protestant, being a clergyman s daughter, but was converted to the Catholic religion by her husband, whose memory she much revered; had lived much among people of distinction, and knew a thousand anecdotes of them as far back as the times of Charles the Second. She was lame in her knees with the gout, and therefore seldom stirred out of her room; so sometimes wanted company; and hers was so highly amusing to me, that I was sure to spend an evening with her whenever she desired it. Our supper was only half an anchovy each, on a very little slice of bread and butter, and half a pint of ale between us; but the entertainment was in her conversation. My always keeping good hours and giving little trouble in the family, made her unwilling to part with me; so that when I talked of a lodging I had heard of, nearer my business, for 2s. a week, which, intent as I was on saving money, made some difference, she bid me not think of it, for she would abate me 2s. a week for the future; so I remained with her at ls. 6"d. as long as I staid in London.
* A printing-house is always called a chapel, by the workmen.
In a garret of her house there lived a maiden lady of seventy in the most retired manner, of whom my landlady gave me this account; that she was a Roman Catholic, had been sent abroad when young, and lodged in a nunnery with an intent of becoming a nun; but the country not agreeing with her, she returned to England, where there being no nunnery, she had vowed to lead the life of a nun, as near as might be done in those circumstances. Accordingly she had given all her estate to charitable purposes, reserving only twelve pounds a year to live on, and out of this sum she still gave a part in charity, living herself on water gruel only, and using no fire but to boil it. She had lived many years in that garret, being permitted to remain there gratis by successive Catholic tenants of the house below, as they deemed it a blessing to have her there. A priest visited her, to confess her every day: "from this I asked her," said my landlady, "how she, as she lived, could possibly find so much employment for a confessor?" " Oh," said she, "it is impossible to avoid vain thoughts." I was permitted once to visit her: she was cheerful and polite, and conversed pleasantly. The room was clean, but had no other furniture than a mattrass, a table with a crucifix, and a book, a stool which she gave me to sit on, and a picture over the chimney of St. Veronica displaying her handkerchief, with the miraculous figure of Christ's bleeding face on it, which she explained to me with great seriousness. She looked pale, but was never sick, and I give it as another instance, on how small an income life and health may be supported.
At Watts's printing house, I contracted an acquaintance with an ingenious young man, one Wygate, who having wealthy relations, had been better educated than most printers ; was a tolerable Latinist, spoke French, and loved reading. I taught him and a friend of his to swim at twice going into the river, and they soon became good swimmers. They introduced me to some gentlemen from the country, who went to Chelsea by water, to see the college and Don Saltero's curiosities. In our return, at the request of the company, whose curiosity Wygate had excited, I stripped and leaped into the river, and swam from near Chelsea to Blackfriars; performing in the way many feats of activity both upon and under the water, that surprised and pleased those to whom they were novelties. I had from a child been delighted with this exercise, had studied and practised Thevenot's motions and positions, added some of mine own; aiming at the graceful and easy, as well as the useful. All these I took this occasion of exhibiting to the company, and was much flattered by their admiration; and Wygate, who was desirous of becoming a master, grew more and more attached to me on that account, as well as from the similarity of our studies. He at length proposed to me travelling all over Europe together, supporting ourselves everywhere by working at our business. I was once inclined to it; but mentioning it to my good friend Mr. Denham, with whom I often spent an hour when I had leisure, he dissuaded me from it; advising me to think only of returning to Pennsylvania, which he was now about to do.
I must record one trait of this good man's character: he had formerly been in business at Bristol, but failed in debt to a number of people, compounded and went to America: there, by a close application to business as a merchant, he acquired a plentiful fortune in a few years. Returning to England in the ship with me, he invited his old creditors to an entertainment, at which he thanked them for the easy composition they had favored him with, and when they expected nothing but the treat, every man at the first remove found under his plate an order on a banker for the full amount of the unpaid remainder, with interest.
He now told me he was about to return to Philadelphia, and should carry over the great quantity of goods in order to open a Store there. He proposed to take me , over as his clerk, to keep his books, (in which he would instruct me) copy his letters, and attend the Store. He added that as soon as I should be acquainted with mercantile business, he would promote me by sending me with a cargo of flour and bread, &c. to the West Indies, and procure me commissions from others which would be profitable; and if I managed well would establish me handsomely. The thing pleased me ; for I was grown tired of London, remembered with pleasure the happy months I had spent in Pennsylvania, and wished again to see it; therefore I immediately agreed on the terms of fifty pounds a year Pennsylvania money; less ■ indeed than my then present gettings as a compositor, but affording better prospect .
I now took leave of printing, as I thought, for ever, and was daily employed in my new business, going about with Mr. Denham among the tradesmen to purchase various articles, and see them packed up, delivering messages, calling upon workmen to dispatch, &c, and when all was on board, I had a few days' leisure. On one of these days, I was, to my surprise, sent for by a great man, I knew only by name, (Sir William Wyndham,) and I waited upon him. He had heard by some means or other of my swimming from Chelsea to Blackfriars, and of my teaching Wygate and another young man to swim in a few hours. He had two sons, about to set out on their travels; he wished to have them first taught swimming, and proposed to gratify me handsomely if I would teach them. They were not yet come to town, and my stay was uncertain; so I could not undertake it. But from the incident I thought it likely, that if I were to remain in England and open a swimming school, I might get a good deal of money; and it struck me so strongly that had the overture been made me sooner, probably I should not so soon have returned to America. After many years you and I had something of more importance to do with one of those sons of Sir William Wyndham, become Earl of Egremont, which I shall mention in its place.
Thus I passed about eighteen months in London; most part of the time I worked hard at my business, and spent but little upon myself except in seeing plays, and in books. My friend Ralph had kept me poor; he owed me about twenty seven pounds, which I was now never likely to receive; a great sum out of my small earnings. I loved him notwithstanding, for he had many amiable qualities. I had improved my knowledge, however, though I had by no means improved my fortune: but I had made some very ingenious acquaintance, whose conversation was of great advantage to me; and I had read considerably.
We sailed from Gravesend on the 23d of July, 1726. For the incidents of the voyage, I refer you to my journal, * where you will find them all minutely related. Perhaps the most important part of that journal is the plan2 to be found in it, which I formed at sea for regulating the future conduct of my life. It is the more remarkable as being formed when I was so young, and yet being pretty faithfully adhered to quite through to old age.
We landed at Philadelphia the 11th of October, where I found sundry alterations. Keith was no longer governor, being superseded by Major Gordon; I met him walking the streets as a common citizen. He seemed a little ashamed at seeing me, and passed « ithout saying any thing. I should have been as much ashamed at seeing Miss Read, had not her friends, despairing with reason of my return, after the receipt of my letter, persuaded her to marry another, one Rogers, a potter, which was done in my absence. With him however she was never happy, and soon parted from him, refusing to cohabit with him, or bear his name, it being now said he had another wife. He was a worthless fellow, though an excellent workman, which was the temptation to her friends: he got into debt, ran away in 1727 or 1728 ; went to the West Indies, and died there. Keimer had got a better house, a shop well supplied with stationary, plenty of new types, and a number of hands, though none good, and seemed to have a great deal of business.
* See Appendix, No. 1 * This plan does not exist in the manuscript journal found among
Dr. Franklin's papers; which appears, by a note thereon, to be a " copy made at Reading, (N. America) the 2d Oct. 1787"
Mr. Denham took a Store in Water Street, where we opened our goods; I attended the business diligently, studied accounts, and grew in a little time expert at selling. We lodged and boarded together; he counselled me as a father, having a sincere regard for me: I respected and loved him, and we might have gone on together very happily; but in the beginning of February 1727, when I had just passed my 21st year, we both were taken ill. My distemper was a pleurisy, which very nearly carried me off; I suffered a good deal, gave up the point in my own mind, and was at the time rather disappointed when I found myself recovering; regretting in some degree, that I must now some time or other, have all that disagreeable work to go over again. I forget what Mr. Denham's distemper was; it held him a long time, and at length carried him off. He left me a small legacy in a nuncupative will, as a token of his kindness forme, and he left me once more to the wide world; for the Store was taken into the care of his executors, and my employment under him ended. My brother-in-law, Holme, being now at Philadelphia, advised my return fto my business; and Keimer tempted me with an offer of large wages by the year, to come and take the management of his printing-house, that he might better attend to his stationer's shop. I had heard a bad character of him in London, from his wife and her friends, and was not for having any more to do with him. I wished for employment as a merchant's clerk, but not meeting with any, I closed again with Keimer. I found in his house these hands: Hugh Meredith, a Welsh Pennsylvania^ 30 years of age, bred to country work; he was honest, sensible, a man of experience, and fond of reading, but addicted to drinking. Stephen Potts, a young countryman of full age, bred to the same, of uncommon natural parts, and great wit and humor; but a little idle. These he had agreed with at extreme low wages per week, to be raised a shilling every three months, as they would deserve by improving in their business; and the expectation of these high wages to come on hereafter, was what he had drawn them in with. Meredith was to work at press, Potts at bookbinding, which he by agreement was to teach them, though he knew neither one nor the other. John , a wild Irishman, brought up to no business, whose service for four years Keimer had purchased from the captain of a ship; he too was Vol. I. F