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, March 21, 1789.
Perlege quodcunque est - Quid epistola lecta nocehit?
Te quoque, in hac aliquid quodjuvat, esse potest.
To the LOITERER.Sir,
As I understand that your design is, by a weekly distribution of wit and advice, to amuse and instruct the University, of which I was once a member; and as I have already perceived that you have resolution enough to expose the vices and follies, which have sprung up in a soil so friendly to each, I hope that you will not despise the communications of one, who in a former part of his life has been a considerable sufferer from both.
I was the only child of honest, though not wealthy parents, who discovering in me early symptoms of very extraordinary abilities (a discovery which parents frequently make) could not prevail upon themselves to deprive the literary world of so promising a genius; and therefore; instead of breeding me up to assist my father in his shop, they were determined to make a scholar of me. To this end, at the age of nine I was sent to the free school of the town in which we resided, where, in the nine succeeding years, I completed my classical education, that is, I could construe Latin pretty well with an Ordo verborum, and generally knew Greek when I saw it. At this juncture I had the good fortune of being recommended by the Master of our School to the Head of - College, in Oxford, and soon after had the inexpressible pleasure of being elected to a scholarship worth at least 15l. per annum .
Language is not adequate to express the joy, which spread itself through my family at the news of such an unlooked for acquisition of fortune; and I need not say, that both my father and mother thought it an indispensable duty, to accompany their 'common hope to the theatre of science, that they might see me take possession of my estate, and make my first entrance on the world. Generous friends! I blush to think how much good advice, and good furniture ye enriched me with, and how little I regarded either. The pleasing surprise which a new place, and new acquaintance always occasion in the mind of a young man, equally disposed to please, and to be pleased, had not altogether subsided, and I had scarcely convinced myself that it was not all enchantment, when on looking about me I concluded, from several reasons, that I was the happiest man alive. In the first place I was totally my own master, and might do what I pleased; that is, I might do nothing at all. Secondly, I was convinced that I had money enough to last for ever. And thirdly, I had already made several friends, who were willing to lay down their lives to oblige me. This latter opinion, indeed, I had very reasonably drawn from seeing with what ardour they proposed to me, and with what eagerness they joined in every species of pleasure, merely to amuse me. To be sure, it often came to my lot to be general paymaster, but this might be the effect rather of their thoughtlessness, than any intention to defraud, or any inability to disburse; and flushed, as I then was, with the enjoyment of present, and the schemes of future pleasure, I thought (if I thought at all) that the continuance of such friends was cheaply purchased by defraying some of their extravagancies.
To convince you, Mr. Loiterer, that my daily employment left not much time for study or reflection. I shall, without sending you a journal, briefly inform you, that the morning was dissipated in doing nothing, and the evening in doing what was worse; the first part wasted in idleness, the latter drowned in intemperance. As it would be tedious to relate in what various scenes I played the fool and the rake, or to describe the many difference expedients, which I adopted to lessen my knowledge, my fortune, and my health: suffice it to say, that in about six years I had so far succeeded as to have very little left of any, and when I took my degree, I was as ignorant as emaciated, and as much in debt as the first peer of the realm. I had lost every thing which I ought to have preserved; I had acquired nothing but habits of expense, which long outlived the means of gratifying them, and a relish for indolence at a time when I had my bread to earn.
The first thing which roused me from this dream of pleasure, was the gradual departure of my College acquaintance, and the melancholy change which I saw take place in the fate of those whom common pleasures, and common extravagancies, had made in some degree dear to me. The Orators of the Coffee- house, the Jockies of the Port-meadow, and the Champions of the High-street, were alike forced to relinquish the sphere of their glory, and sinking into Country Curates. grew old on fifty pounds a year. Such is the melancholy, but certain change, which vicious extravagance may depend upon experiencing. Such are the comforts in store for their latter years! Age has ever its peculiar infirmities, but the weaknesses of declining life impart double anguish, when attended by the recollection of past pleasures, which our eagerness to enjoy cut short in the enjoyment; and whilst we see what we might, and what we ought to have been, we feel too late what we are.
I now gradually recovered from my mental intoxication, in exact proportion as the companions of it decreased; and I acquired a knowledge of my real situation, by the time that I remained the last solitary member of our once gay, and numerous party.
To render my distress more afflicting, I at this time lost a most indulgent father, to whom I had looked up for present support, and who, though he died, as I then thought, much too soon, had lived long enough to see his hopes and designs, for my future fortune and reputation, defeated by my own imprudence. But till the very last, he had been too liberal in supporting the expenses of a son, whose conduct he had long since condemned; and though it required. a much larger income than his had ever been to satisfy my wishes, yet I am too well assured, that he often deprived himself of innocent pleasures, and reasonable gratifications, to supply the drain of a son's prodigality. Notwithstanding that he had been many years in trade, and had pursued his business with uninterrupted application, yet the smallness of his original capital, and some subsequent and inevitable losses, left it in his power to die only not insolvent. My mother spent the few remaining months of a widowhood, which grief and sickness soon cut short, in a most œconomical retirement; and when she died, I found my real property to be rather under 100l. my debts above four times that sum, and my prospects of future subsistence very uncertain. Something was to be done, and quickly too. I immediately hit upon the wisest action of my life. I left Oxford and I have been wise enough never to return. Having previously taken orders, I put myself and my portmanteau into one of the northern coaches, nor suffered myself to make any considerable delay in my journey, till I arrived at York. Here, after having kept myself in privacy for a few days to fetch breath, after so precipitate and seasonable an escape from duns and destruction, I waited on a Reverend Doctor, who was the rector of two livings, which lay about fifty miles farther to the North, and to whom I had letters of recommendation as a Curate. After a short interview, I obtained my appointment, with a stipend of 35/. per ann. for which I was to undertake only three churches on a Sunday, constant weekly duty, and the care of two large parishes. As my Rector had been engaged near twenty years in a law-suit with the Squire of the parish, who was one of his patrons, he never went near the livings himself, but constantly resided in this Northern Capital, where I had forgot to mention that he had also a prebend.
After he had given me the direction to his villages, advised me to cultivate the good opinion of my flock, and to avoid all disputes, we parted, I hope to our mutual satisfaction. At least for myself I can say, that the prospect of approaching tranquillity appeared to me more and more pleasing each moment as I advanced.
When I arrived at my cure, I found that the face of the country could be beautiful even at the distance of three hundred miles from London; and I soon felt no small degree of affection for my habitation, which, though small and unornamented, was perfectly neat.
In short, at the end of six years, I found that my partiality to my present situation was rather increased than diminished, and that by some good fortune or other, I had recommended myself so well as a companion to the Squire of the parish, and his only sister, that I gained at once their common consent to become the brother-in-law of the one, and the husband of the other. My wife was to be sure a few years older than myself. But though the good-natured world may therefore put an unfavourable opinion on the motives of her regard to me, I can only say that fifteen years of the tenderest attention and uninterrupted contentment on both sides convinced me too well, what a friend I lost at the end of them. A little while after my marriage, my Rector was obliged by some other preferment to resign the living, of which I was still Curate; and my brother-in- law unasked immediately presented me to it. Its value was upwards of Three Hundred Pounds a year. An income, which joined to my wife's fortune, enabled us to enjoy all the comforts, and some of the luxuries of life; at least the luxuries of Yorkshire. But my first care was to discharge all my Oxford debts, which I gradually accomplished in four or five years, and long before I was a widower, had not a thought to trouble me on that head.
Four years have passed away since I first entered my retreat, and during that time I have not been twenty miles distant from it. My patron has followed his sister to the grave, and though most of my first acquaintance have retired to the same home, that can give but little concern to one, who recollects that at sixty-five, he need not be afraid of living much longer.
Thus much of myself, Mr. Loiterer. If I have been tedious, remember that this is the last opportunity I have of talking to the world. To the rising age say something more. Tell them to look on me as a beacon, held up for their observance, but not a model for their imitation. Let them shun my footsteps as they would avoid that precipice on which I tottered: and let them be well assured, that the guilty pleasures of a few months will entail many years of shame and remorse. Nor shall they urge in their defence, "that they only do as the rest do." This is the defence of the fool. Individuals make the community. Let every one begin the reformation at home; for, were there no imitators, there would soon be no examples.
I am, Sir, yours, &c.
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