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[From Ballantyne's Novelist's Library.]
Samuel RICHARDSON was born in Derbyshire, in the year 1689.
Having sustained severe losses in trade, the elder Richardson was unable to give his son Samuel more than a very ordinary education; and our author, who was to rise so high in one department of literature, was left unacquainted with any language excepting his own. Under all these disadvantages, and perhaps in some degree owing to their existence, young Richardson very early followed, with a singular bias, the course which was most likely to render his name immortal. We give his own words, for they cannot be amended :
“I recollect, that I was early noted for having invention. I was not fond of play, as other boys: my school-fellows used to call me Serious and Gravity; and five of them particularly delighted to single me out, either for a walk, or at their fathers' houses, or at mine, to tell them stories, as they phrased it. Some I told them, from my reading, as true; others from my head, as mere invention; of which they would be most fond, and often were affected by VOL. VII. No. 37.-Museum.
them. One of them particularly, I remember, was for putting me to write a history, as he called it, on the model of Tommy Pots; I now forget what it was, only that it was of a servant man preferred by a fine young lady (for his goodness) to a lord, who was a libertine. All my stories carried with them, I am bold to say, an useful moral."*
But young Richardson found a still more congenial body of listeners among the female sex.--An old lady, indeed, seems to have resented an admonitory letter, in which the future teacher of morals contrasted her pretensions to religion with her habitual indulgence in slander and backbiting; but with the young and sentimental his reception was more gracious. " As a bashful and not forward boy,” he says, “I was an early favourite with all the young women of taste and reading in the neighbourhood. Half-a-dozen of them, when mct to work with their needles, used, when they got a book they likeri, and thought I should, to borrow me to read to them; their mothers sometimes with them; and both mothers and daughters used to be pleased with the observations they put me upon making.- I was not more than thirteen, when three of these young women, unknown to each other, having an high opinion of my taciturnity, revealed to me their love-secrets, in order to induce me to give them copies to write after, or correct, for answers to their lovers' letters; nor did any one of them ever know that I was the secretary to the others. I have been directed to chide, and even repulse, when an offence was either taken or given, at the very time that the heart of the chider or repulser was open before me; overflowing with esteem and affection; and the fair repulser, dreading to be taken at her word, directing this word, or that expression, to be softened or changed. One, highly gratified with her lover's fervour, and vows of everlasting love, has said, when I have asked her direction, I cannot tell you what to write; but, (her heart on her lips) you cannot write too kindly. All her fear was only, that she should incur slight for her kindness."'*
His father had nourished some ambitious views of dedicating young Richardson to the ministry, but, as his circumstances denied him the means of giving him necessary education, Samuel was destined to that profession most nearly connected with literature, and was bound apprentice to Mr. John Wilde, of Stationers' Hall, in the year 1706. Industrious as well as intelligent, regulated in his habits, and diverted by no headstrong passion from the strictest course of duty, Richardson made rapid progress in his employment as a printer. “ I served,” he says,
a diligent seven years to it; to a master who grudged every hour to me that tended not to his profit, even of those times of leisure and diversion, which the refractoriness of my fellow servants obliged him to allow them, and were usually allowed by other masters to their apprentices. I stole from the
* Life of Richardson, vol. i. p. xxxvi. xxxvii.
hours of rest and relaxation, my reading times for improvement of my mind; and, being engaged in a correspondence with a gentleman, greatly my superior in ciegree, and of ample fortune, who, had he lived, intended high things for me; those were all the opportunities I had in my apprenticeship to carry it on. But this little incident I may mention; I took care that even my candle was of my own purchasing, that I might not, in the most triling instance, make my master a sufferer, (and who used to call me the pillar of his house,) and not to disable myself by watching or sitting up, to perform my duty to him in the day-time."*
The correspondence betwixt Richardson and the gentleman who had so well selected an object of patronage, was voluminous; but at the untimely death of his friend, it was, at his particular desire, consigned to the flames.
Several years more were spent in the obscure drudgery of the printing house ere Richardson took out his freedom, and set up as a Master-printer. His talents for literature were soon discovered; and, in addition to his proper business, he used to oblige the booksellers, by furnishing them with prefaces, dedications, and such like garnishing of the works submitted to his press. He printed several of the popular periodical papers of the day, and at length, through the interest of Mr. Onslow, the Speaker, obtained the lucrative employment of printing the Journals of the House of Commons, by which he must have reaped considerable advantages, although he occasiopally had to complain of delay of payment on the part of government.
Punctual in his engagements, and careful in the superintendence of his business, fortune, and respect, its sure accompaniment, began to flow in upon Richardson. In 1754, he was chosen Master of the Stationers' Company; and in 1760, he purchased a moiety of the patent of printer to the king, which seems to have added considerably to his revenue. He was now a man in very easy circumstances; and, besides his premises in Salisbury Court, he enjoyed the luxury of a villa, first at North-End, near Hammersmith, afterwards at Parsons-green.
Richardson was twice married; first to Allington Wilde, his master's daughter, and after her death, in 1731, to the sister of James Leake, bookseller, who survived her distinguished husband. He has made a feeling commemoration of the family misfortunes which he sustained, in a letter to lady Bradshaigh. “ I told you, madam, that I have been married twice; both times happily: you will guess so, as to my first, when I tell you that I cherish the memory of my lost wife to this hour: and as to the second, when I assure you that I can do so without derogating from the merits of, or being disallowed by, my present, who speaks of her, on all occasions, as respectfully and affectionately as I do myself.
“By my first wife I had five sons and one daughter; some of
• Life of Richardson, vol. i. p. xli, xlii
them living, to be delightful prattlers, with all the appearances of sound health, lively in their features, and promising as to their minds; and the death of one of them, I doubt, accelerating, from grief, that of the otherwise laudably afflicted mother. I have had, by my present wise, five girls and one boy; I have buried of these the promising boy, and one girl: four girls I have living, all at present very good; their mother a true and instructing mother to them.
6. Thus have I lost six sons (all my sons) and two daughters, every one of which, to answer your question, I parted with with the utmost regret. Other heavy deprivations of friends, very near, and very dear, have I also suffered. I am very susceptible, I will venture to say, of impressions of this nature. A father, an honest, worthy father, I lost by the accident of a broken thigh, snapped by a sudden jerk, endeavouring to recover a slip passing through his own yard. My father, whom I attended in every stage of his last illness, I long mourned for. Two brothers, very dear to me, I lost abroad. A friend, more valuable than most brothers, was taken from me. No less than eleven affecting deaths in two years! My nerves were so affected with these repeated blows, that I have been forced, after trying the whole materia medica, and consulting many physicians, as the only palliative (not a remedy to be expected) to go into a regimen; and, for seven years past, have I forborne wine, and flesh, and fish; and, at this time, I and all my family are in mourning for a good sister, with whom neither 1 would have parted, could I have had my choice. From these affecting dispensations, will you not allow me, madam, to remind an unthinking world, immersed in pleasure, what a life this is that they are so fond of, and to arm them against the affecting changes of
But this amiable and excellent man was not deprived of the most pleasing exercise of his affections, notwithstanding the breaches which had been made among his offspring. Four daughters survived to render those duties which the affectionate temper of their father rendered peculiarly precious to him. Mary was married during her father's lifetime to Mr. Ditcher, a respectable surgeon at Bath. His daughter Martha, who had been his principal amanuensis, became, after his decease, the wife of Edward Bridgen, Esq.; and Sarah married Mr. Crowther, surgeon, in Boswell's Court. Anne, a woman of a most amiable disposition, but whose weak health had often alarmed the affection of her parents, survived, nevertheless, her sisters, as well as her parents. A nephew of Richardson paid him, in his declining years, the duties of a son, and assisted him in the conducting of his business, which concludes all it is necessary to say concerning the descendants and connexions of this distinguished author.
The private life of Richardson has nothing to detain the biogra
* Life of Richardson, vol. i. p. xlvüi. xlix. 1.
pher. We have mentioned the successive opportunities which cautiously, yet ably improved, led him to eminence in his highly respectable profession. He was unceasingly industrious; led astray by no idle views of speculation, and seduced by no temptations to premature expenditure. Industry brought independence, and, finally, wealth in its train; and that well-won fortune was husbanded with prudence, and expended with liberality. A kind and liberal master, he was eager to encourage his servants to persevere in the same course of patient labour by which he had himself attained fortune; and it is said to have been his common practice to hide half a crown among the types, that it might reward the diligence of the workman who should first be in the office in the morning. His hospitality was of the most unlimited, as well as the most judicious kind. One of his correspondents describes him as sitting at his door like an old patriarch, and inviting all who passed by to enter, and be refreshed;-and this, says Mrs. Barbauld, “ whether they brought with them the means of amusing their host, or only required his kind notice and that of his family.” He was generous and benevolent to distressed authors, a class of men with whom his profession brought him into contact; and had occasion, more than once, to succour Dr. Johnson during his days of poverty, and to assist his efforts to force himself into public notice. The domestic revolutions of his life, after mentioning the losses he had sustained in his family, may be almost summed up in two great events. He changed his villa, in which he indulged, like other wealthy citizens, from North-End to Parsons-Green; and his printing establishment, from the one side of Salisbury-Court to the other; which last alteration, he complains, did not meet Mrs. Richardson's approbation.
If we look yet closer into Richardson's private life, (and who loves not to know the slightest particulars concerning a man of his genius?) we find so much to praise, and so very little deserving censure, that we almost think we are reading the description of one of the amiable characters he has drawn in his own works. A love of the human species, a desire to create happiness and to witness it; a life undisturbed by passion, and spent in doing good; pleasures which centered in elegant conversation, in bountiful hospitality, in the exchange of all the kindly intercourse of life, marked the worth and unsophisticated simplicity of the good man's character. He loved children, and knew the rare art of winning their attachment; for, partaking in that respect the sagacity of the canine race, they are not to be deceived by dissembled attention. A lady, who shared the hospitality of Richardson, and gives an excellent account of the internal regulation of his virtuous and orderly family, remembers creeping to his knee, and hanging on his words, as well as the good nature with which he backed her petitions, to be permitted to remain a little longer when she was summoned to bed, and his becoming her guarantee, that she would not require the servant's assistance to put her to bed, and to extinguish