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.
Messrs. EGERTON, Whitehall, LONDON,
Messrs. PEARSON and ROLLASON;
L O I T E R E R.
SATURDAY, February 28, 1789.
Sum Animi dubius. Virg. 3. Geor.
To the AUTHOR of the LOITERER,
As you have entered into a kind of contract to supply the public with a regular succession of amusement, you will no surely disdain accepting the contribution of one who is no distant relation of your family, an a great admirer of your undertaking.
On this presumption I have after much debate, and more hesitation (for it is not my way to do any thing in a hurry) set down to communicate to you some anecdotes of my family and myself; which, if sufficiently interesting to amuse your readers, neither my ancestors will have lived, nor I written in vain.
I am the only son of Sir Dilatory Doubtful, of Dubious–Hall, in this county, descended from an ancient and honourable family long settled at that place. Our ancestor was one of those Norman Barons who did William the Conqueror the honour of accompanying him in his descent against England: Of whom it is recorded, that after every thing was fully prepared, and part of the troops were embarked, and just as he himself was stepping on board, he, all at once recollected, that he might possibly perish in the expedition, or that his estate might suffer considerably in his absence; and would have inevitably turned back, had not some of his companions hinted to him, that malice might impute to cowardice what was really the effect of foresight. He therefore (after changing his mind about twenty times more) resolutely set forward; and in reward, I suppose, for his feats of valour, received from the hands of the Conqueror the lordship of Castle Dubious, with all its fiefs and appurtenances. The curious may search for the original grant in Doom's–day Book. –– From this time our family spread rapidly, and soon formed alliances with the most respectable of the English nobility –– the Shatterbrains –– the Daudlers –– the Loungers –– the Lingerers, and, as I before observed, the Loiterers were not ashamed to cultivate acquaintance, and acknowledge relation with the Doubtfuls. Neither the civil wars of the Henries or Edwards, nor the religious persecutions of Mary and her father, were at all destructive to our ancestors, who, in the true spirit of their family, changed their party under the first, and their religion under the last, on the most moderate computation, about six times; by which trifling sacrifice they escaped those severe punishments which more obstinate people deservedly incurred. Happy! could the same timeing system of politics have always preserved their persons and estates from the oppression of party, and the plunder of sequestration.
And here, were I to consult my own feelings, should I drop the pen, and leave any heroes in this state of meridian splendour, in imitation of those who finish the history of this country at the peace of sixty–three; but truth demands a different conduct, and bids me pursue the decline and fall of our race, with the same accurate impartiality, with which I have marked its rise, and traced its progress. –– In that melancholy period when"Civil dudgeon first grew high,My great grandfather, Sir Ralph Doubtful, was seized with the epidemic fury of the times, and after various resolutions and irresolutions, determined to raise a regiment of a thousand horse, at his own expence. One thing, however, a good deal embarrassed him; he had not yet made up his mind on which side he should employ them. Nor can it be matter of wonder that a point, which has puzzled the ablest legislators, should have been too much for the brains of Sir Ralph. He had perused indeed, with eagerness and attention, the remonstrances of the Parliament, and the manifestoes of the King, but their arguments were, unluckily, so equal, that he always found himself of the same opinion with that which he read last. In this dilemma, he determined to have recourse to history, and get himself perfectly acquainted with every part of the constitution. He, therefore, instantly fell to rummaging his library, which (having once belonged to a Convent, whose revenues had been granted at the dissolution of religious houses to our family) contained a most choice collection of books. –– Here he immediately fell foul on Fabian and John Rous, who gave him a prodigious deal of information –– hence proceeding in a kind of retrogressive motion; he next attacked the Chronicle of Croyland; and at last William of Malmsbury, Gildas, and venerable Bede himself were forced to descend from their dusty shelves, to increase the knowledge, and settle the tenets of this insatiable politician. –– As some of the above works are rather voluminous, and Sir Ralph was not a very fast reader, I think it much to his credit that he fairly read through them all, and had compeatly finished his course of historic studies in little more than two years. At the end of which period he found himself just as wise as when he first began. And the world would have been in danger of losing the exploits of this hero, and the writings of his historian, had not the offer of a pension and a title, in case of success, determined this disinterested patriot to side with the King. –– From this moment my worthy kinsman was no longer wavering in opinion or lukewarm in zeal; his doubts were all cleared and his fears were all removed; he even made as much haste as he could to enroll, arm, and discipline his regiment; towards which he had not yet made the least preparation. –– I have already observed, that it is not the characteristic of the Doubtfuls ever to put themselves in a hurry; nor had his love of loyalty, or his hopes of a reward, any visible effect, on determining his measures, or quickening his motions: on the contrary, he continued in his usual course to doubt, to deliberate, to approve, and to reject. A twelvemonth passed away before he could enroll a proper number of men; six months more were spent in teaching them to ride gracefully; and in settling the colour of their uniform. It took him up at least an additional six –– to determine what plan of operations would be most effectually pursued. –– At last every thing was settled exactly to his mind, and on the thirty̵first of January, one thousand six hundred and forty–eight, Sir Ralph set forward, at the head of his corps, mounted on a most formidable charger, vowing to take signal vengeance on every ill̵fated puritan who should come his way. –– His plan was the most extensive, and at the same time the most simple, that can be conceived: as easy in its accomplishment as decisive in its effect. It was indeed no other than to march immediately to London, unperceived by the army of the Parliament, of which there were scarce twenty thousand between him and the metropolis –– as soon as they arrived there, they were to make themselves masters to the Tower, and, of course, of his Majesty's person. A troop was to be detached to take possession of Chatham, and all the forts on the river. About thirty privates, headed by a serjeant, were to beat the Train–bands out of the city; and Sir Ralph himself obligingly undertook to murder the Lord Mayor. Every particular being thus adjusted, there remained not the least possibility of a disappointment; the whole party moved on cheerfully, the men in spirits from the hopes of pay and plunder, and their chief elated with the thoughts of his pension and his title. They were not, however, suffered long to enjoy their delusion; for before they had marched many hours, they were informed that his Majesty had been executed the day before: this was a most terrible blow both to the new colonel and his followers, for the latter deserted by handfuls, and the former, with the small remainder, quietly surrendered themselves to a part of the Parliament horse, which soon after came up with them. But the worst was yet to come, for ats he was taken in arms, his family were instantly voted malignant, and his whole estate delivered over to the care of the Committee of Sequestration.
And men fell out, they knew not why."
The failure of his hopes, and the ruin of his estate, threw him into a violent fever –– hard fare, and the damps of an unwholesome prison, completed what disappointment had begun, and my unfortunate ancestor soon after finished his mortal career. –– From this period the glory of our house declined apace; neither my grandfather or father possessed the genius or spirit of enterprise which distinguished their ancestors, and consequently made not the same figure in history, as the illustrious personage whose memoirs I have been writing. –– Before the death of the latter indeed, the estate became so much encumbered, that he found it impossible to breed me up in the hereditary idleness of the family; a misfortune which he might lament, but could not avoid; he, therefore, wisely resolved to give me such an education as should qualify me for filling some very important employment, which he intended to procure me, at a proper time; but whether it was to be civil, military, or ecclesiastic, her was not quite determined. I was accordingly sent from home to school, from school to the University, and from thence abroad (where after passing a sufficient time) I returned ot my father's house, in order to take possession of the aforesaid employment; towards obtaining which, I have reason to think, he made as yet made no great advancement. However, about a week after my return, he took me into his study, and not without a great deal of previous preparation, made me a long harangue on the subject of his provident care and paternal affection; which he concluded with the following words –– "You are now, my son, entered into your twenty–eigth year, and it is not, therefore, too early to begin turning your thoughts to our future profession in life: I would not , however, wish you to hurry yourself in a pint of so much importance to your own happiness, and the good of the public. Take, therefore, time to consider the matter well, and at the end of two or three years, make me acquainted with your determination."
To this affectionate speech I made as affectionate an answer, and from that moment began my deliberations; but whether the different professions are really so very equal, or whether I am but an inaccurate distinguisher, whether my genius was alike fitted for all or for none, I know not ; certain it is, that at the expiration of three years I was obliged to beg a little more time to fix my determination, which my father most readily granted, and even greatly commended me for not having decided too hastily. –– This was certainly not the way to quicken me, and accordingly month passed away after month, and year after year, in the same way, and it was not till the age of thirty–five, that I found my talents were best adapted to a military life. This determination was made a little too late, for just as my father was endeavouring to procure me a commission, he was suddenly cut off in his eightieth year by a paralytic stroke, and left me, as his father had left him, the inheritor of an incumbered estate and a ruinous house.
With the death of my father expired all my love of a military life, and I resolved to sit quietly down, and endeavour to find some expedient for paying off my mortgages, and re–building my mansion–house. For effecting this purpose numberless schemes occurred, and each had their peculiar advantages, but as each had their peculiar disadvantages too, I was most exceedingly embarrassed in m choice, and some more years elapsed before I could fix upon any. –– At length, after approving and rejecting a variety of plans, just as I had entered my forty–sixth year, I was fully convinced, that to marry some pretty sensible girl of eighteen, of a good family and large fortune, would be the most eligible step I could take.
This resolution being once formed, there remained only to find among my female acquaintance, some person worthy of this high honour: and soon two candidates started up, whose claims were in every respect so very equal, that never throughout a life of doubt and hesitation, do I remember being so terribly put to it before. –– The young ladies in question were both heiresses of good fortunes, and descendants from good families; both very amiable and very pretty. Nor do I at all know whether I should ever have settled this point, had not one of them obligingly settled it for me, by marrying a man who, it seems had been debating the matter with the lady, while I was debating it with myself. –– The difficulty of choice was now most happily removed, and I set forward the next day with the most desperate intention of making an offer in from to the other, who now reigned sole mistress of my affections. Great, however, was my surprise to find on my arrival, the whole house was in confusion, and still greater to hear that Miss had, that very morning, eloped with a young officer, who had been some time quartered at a neighbouring town. –– Struck with such complicated instances of female perfidy, I returned home in a frenzy worthy the occasion, and should certainly have made away with myself, could I have determined i what manner to effect my bloody purpose. But I was fortunately so long in deciding, which was the most fashionable mode of suicide, that before this doubt was settled, another arose, namely, whether the reception I should meet with in the other world, would be such as to make me amends for having quitted this in such a hurry; and I therefore deferred to some other opportunity, my journey to that country from whose bourn no traveler returns. –– This adventure having perfectly cured me of my matrimonial inclination, I have ever since led a very quiet and tolerably happy life, having my peace of mind disturbed by scarce any other doubts and uncertainties, than whether I shall put on my blue or my brown coat, and whether my Sunday's pudding shall be boiled or baked. –– One thing, and one only, has at times indeed a little ruffled me, but that I have now settled to my satisfaction, and I hope, Sir, to your's also. –– For it having some how occurred to me, that as I am turned of threescore, and do not intend to marry, I may possibly leave no legitimate issue to emulate my virtues, and continue my name, I have determined therefore to bequeath to you, Mr. Loiterer, my whole estate, real and personal, on condition you take the name and arms of Doubtful, and promise to lay cut the profits of your work in repairing the old mansion, and improving the estates. –– And I do hereby assure you, on the word of a gentleman, that it is my most irrevocable determination (if you do not forfeit my good opinion, and it I do not change my mind) to make you my heir and sole executor; in token whereof, I assure you that I am,
Your affectionate Relation,
and humble Servant,
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