L O I T E R E R.
"Speak of us as we are."
PRINTED FOR THE AUTHOR,
And sold by C. S. RANN, OXFORD;
Messr. EGERTONS, Whitehall, LONDON; Messrs. PEARSON
And ROLLASON, BIRMINGHAM; Mr. W. MEYLER, Grove,
BATH; AND Messrs. COWSLADE and SMART, READING.
L O I T E R E R.
SATURDAY, July 4, 1789.
Magnas inter apes mops. HOR.
To the AUTHOR of the LOITERER.
SIR,I am the youngest son of a country Gentleman, who was so solicitous to preserve the credit and consequence of the Family, that he determined not to embarrass his Heir, by any unnecessary augmentation of the younger children’s fortunes; and therefore left us nothing more at his death than the Thousand Pounds a-piece, to which we were entitled by my Mother’s Marriage Settlement. — At this period I was at Oxford, where I had been sent by my Father in order to prepare myself for the Church; a line for which I had little ability, and less inclination. — As I was already of age, my Brother soon after paid me my pittance, and was preparing to give me a great deal of good advice gratis, but I saved him the trouble of preaching in vain, and went out of the room as soon as I had signed the receipt. — I had now the World all before me, and might choose any profession I pleased, but after a deliberate search, could find none that exactly suited me. The Church I had already taken a dislike to; the Law was a Fag, and I hated taking Physic myself too much to bear the thoughts of prescribing it to others. Besides it seemed to me extremely unjust that I should be obliged to exert my Talents for the good of society, while my elder Brother enjoyed the Luxury of doing nothing at all. — I therefore determined to be a Gentleman. A Profession every way suited to my Genius, and to which there was only one objection, namely — that it required more capital than I was at present master of, From this dilemma I was relieved by an accident. — The Son of a Neighbour (very few years older than myself) about this time returned from the East-Indies, with one of those sudden fortunes, which never fail to draw upon their possessors the admiration of the Vulgar, the envy of the Weak, and the pity of the Wise. — As we had been formerly Schoolfellows, and our Families were still upon terms of great intimacy, I was one of the first who were invited to a magnificent Villa, he had just purchased, on the banks of the Thames, where one fortnight spent amidst the luxury of fashionable dissipation, and the blaze of Oriental Grandeur, completely turned my head, and determined me to waste no more time in this dirty Island, but to go at once to that Country, were riches were so easily to be acquired. It was to no purpose, my Friends attempted to oppose this resolution: it had so entirely taken possession of my mind, that it haunted my very Dreams. Sometimes I found myself carried in an elegant Palanquin, attended by a long train of Blacks; and at others inclined at my ease on a rich Sopha, while my careful Slaves drove away the Mosquitoes with their fans. I now settled the accounts with my Circars, now counted imaginary Lacks, and admired the lustre of ideal Diamonds.
In short, after a number of fruitless expostulations, my Friends gave a reluctant consent, and soon after got me out in the capacity of Writer in the Company’s Service. I must not forget to tell you, that from the moment I had made my determination, I wisely considered, that taking money to the Indies, was carrying Coals to Newcastle, and therefore did my best to get rid of my Thousand Pounds, in the few months I had to remain in England: which, partly from having a natural turn that way, and partly by the help of some good Friends, I luckily effected: and when I embarked at Spithead, my whole fortune (after paying my passage) was within the compass of an hundred pounds. — I found on board the East-Indiaman several young men, who were going on the same errand with myself: some in the civil, and some in the military line, but all equally sure of making their fortunes: a circumstance which made our voyage extremely pleasant; for as we were alike young, enterprising, and thoughtless, we were soon on terms of the highest intimacy; communicated our schemes and hopes to each other, and parcelled out between us almost all the offices in Bengal. Nor did the eagerness of competition, or the jealousy of rivalship ever derange our plans, or interrupt our harmony; for though we were a numerous party, and each was sanguine in his particular expectations, yet we wisely considered that India was an extensive country, and that probably there was money enough for us all. For my own part, I had never once considered how the fortune, I expected to make, was to be earned; that I thought it was time enough to know when I got there, nor ‘till I arrived in India was I quite certain that Diamonds were not to be found in the Streets of Calcutta; or that the Ganges did not run, like the Pactolus, over Golden Sands. — At length, after an easy passage, which expectation had at last made tedious, we reached the place of our destination, and I entered on my new employment with the eager alacrity of a young man, enchanted with novelty and elated with hope. But alas! my happiness was of short duration, and a very few months experience awakened me from the visionary dreams of sudden grandeur, and easily-acquired opulence, to the painful reality of unremitted attention, and uninteresting labour. — I now found that the rapid acquisition of wealth, so dazzling to the eyes of youth and inexperience, was, comparatively speaking, the lot of but few; while the far greater part of those who ever returned home with any considerable fortunes, were content to make them after many years severe toil and close application. — It was now, however, too late to go back. I was in India, and must do as they did in India. I therefore made up my mind as well as I could, and submitted to my fate with that species of content, which is rather the effect of despair than resignation. I will not take up your time, Mr. Loiterer, by a minute account of all the various hopes and fears, the alternate expectations and disappointments, which occurred in thirty years, spent amidst the toil of business, the pressure of anxiety, and the pangs of ill health; and will only say that I was thought a lucky man in being able to return to my native country at the age of fifty-three, with an emaciated form, a shattered constitution, and an Hundred Thousand Pounds. My first care on my return home, after visiting my relations, was to look out for some eligible purchase in a healthy County, an agreeable Neighbourhood, and at a proper distance from the Metropolis. In a Country, where the luxury of a great, and the opulence of the commercial produce a continual change of property, such a purchase was not difficult to be found, and in a few months I took possession of a noble Mansion, situated in a well-wooded Park, and surrounded by a valuable Estate and extensive Manor. I next furnished my house in the most expensive style of fashionable elegance, and after having completed my household, and arranged every thing to my mind, threw open my doors to my acquaintance and neighbours, and resolved to by very happy. — But alas! I had soon reason to think that the possession of even an hundred thousand pounds does not always insure happiness, and ten years experience have since fully convinced me, that the plague of acquiring riches is by no means compensated by the pleasure of spending them. — My first mortification came from a quarter, which I did not respect, nor could have provided against if I had. The Mansion House and Estate I had lately purchased, had, it seems, been the patrimonial Inheritance of a Family long conspicuous for the soundness of their Principles, and the strength of their Liquor; and universally allowed to be the staunchest Patriots, and the hardest Drinkers in the County. Which said qualities had rendered their memories so justly dear to the Neighbourhood, that when, in consequence of a contested Election, the last Heir was obliged to part with it, it was unanimously resolved to shew the Purchaser as little respect as possible. — To have conciliated the good opinion, and acquired the confidence of me so justly prejudiced against all New-corners, would not have been an easy task for any one, but for me was totally impossible. For in political matters, I was at first entirely uninformed, and afterwards totally uninterested; and as the different Factions, or as they call them Interests, into which the County was divided, appeared to me equally violent, and equally wrong, I never could cordially join either, and was therefore considered as an Enemy by both. Nor shall self- partiality restrain me from confessing that in other respects I was by no means qualified for a country life: for I was as bad a Farmer as a Politician; and though in the younger part of my life, I had been a tolerable keen sportsman, and rather a convivial Companion, yet thirty years spent in a hot Climate had rendered me too much an Invalid, to brave either the cold of their morning, or the warmth of their evening parties. — To these deficiencies therefore, and not to any want of candour in my Neighbours, do I impute the small progress I have made in gaining their affections; for notwithstanding my most earnest and unremitting endeavours, it is with difficulty I can prevail on them to come and get drunk at my expense, above once in a twelvemonth; on which occasion they never fail to make me thoroughly sensible of the honour conferred on me; and harangue with fluency and zeal on the insignificancy of upstart East Indians, when contrasted with the Worth, Dignity, and Consequence of that greatest of all Characters, An Old English Country Gentleman. — Nor have I better reason to be satisfied with the reception I have met with from my own family, for though they have never been sparing of their visits, but on the contrary often spend many months together in my house, apparently much to their satisfaction, yet I am sometimes led to suspect their attachment to my company does not arise from the purest motives. I should have told you before, Mr. Loiterer, that at my return home I found my elder Brothers surrounded by a numerous Troop of tall Boys and Girls, every one of who (besides a long train of Cousins, who were all ready to claim kindred with me) I soon found I was to have the honour of providing for. For their Fathers and Mothers wisely considered they had done their duty in bringing them into the world, and therefore gave themselves no sort of trouble about supporting them in it. It would indeed have been superfluous to save any thing for their Children, as they had a rich Uncle in the East-Indies, who would soon return with money enough for them all. — Various in consequence are the demands on me for this purpose, all so pressing that to deny is impossible. Sometimes an Advowson, and at others a Commission is to be purchased remarkably cheap. — A second Cousin wants only five hundred pounds to set him up in business. — Or one of my Nieces has captivated a young Man of Family and Fortune in the Neighbourhood, whose Friends will not consent unless an additional Thousand is given down; and I have at this moment twenty letters by me, from people whom I never either saw or heard of, but who call themselves, perhaps not improperly, distant relations, and implore me in the most earnest manner to prevent their disgracing the Family by coming on the Parish, or being thrown into Prison, — Now would all these near and dear Relations content themselves with the run of my house for a few months in the year, or even an occasional hundred pound or two now and then, by way of paying them for their company and their compliments, I should not much complain. But they have unfortunately taken it into their heads, that I am nothing more than their Steward, and am accountable to them for every sixpence I lay out. The Male part of the Family therefore are continually giving me advice as to the management of my Farms and the regulation of my Household. While my Female Cousins on their side have good-naturedly undertaken to prevent me from ever marrying. And it would indeed be most gross injustice to them, not to own that their Zeal and Diligence in carrying this point are truly exemplary: for no Female from the age of fourteen to fifty is suffered to come near my house; and if ever in my rides or walks, I pay the least attention to any of the young Ladies in the Neighbourhood, or express the slightest approbation of their persons or manners, I am sure to be informed the next day, that she is either a Coquette or a Prude, either ill-tempered or weak, that her Fortune is small or her Birth low, and that Gout or Stone, Evil or Madness have been for generations hereditary in her family. — Thus, Sir, you see I have the happiness of enjoying at once the different disadvantages of Opulence and Poverty; for I am as little my own master as the meanest of my Dependants, and have all the torment of managing a large Estate, without the pleasure of spending it in the manner I like. — But I am now determined to bear it no longer, and address this letter to you, in hopes that my Relations (some of whom take in your Paper) may know my resolution and take theirs accordingly. And I do hereby give them to understand, that I will from henceforward be my own master, manage my own house, and see my own company; — that if they will comport themselves with respect and decency they shall always find a Knife and Fork laid for them at the Side-table. — But if they give themselves any more airs, or in any respect misbehave, that I will turn their names out of my Will, and their persons out of my House; marry a young Wife, and have a family of Children on purpose to spite them. — What can I say more?
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