Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

Yet where is the magnanimity of bearing misfo.la tunes when the whole world is looking on? men in such circumstances can act bravely even from molives of vanity. He only who, in the vale of obscurity, can brave adversity, who without friends to encourage, acquaintances to pity, or even without hope to alleviate his distresses, can behave with tranquillity and indifference, is truly great : whether peasant or courtier, he deserves admiration, and should be held up for our imitation and respect.

The miseries of the poor are however entirely disa regarded; though some undergo more real hardships in one day, than the great in their whole lives. It is indeed inconceivable what difficulties the meanest English sailor or soldier endures without murmuring or regret. Every day is to him a day of misery, and yet he bears his hard fate without repining.

With what indignation do I hear the heroes of tragedy complain of misfortunes and hardships, whose greatest calamity is founded in arrogance and pride! Their severest distresses are pleasures, compared to what many of the adventuring pool every day sustain, without murmuring. These may cat, drink, and sleep, have slaves to attend them, and are sure of subsistence for life, while many their fellow-creatures are obliged to wander, without a friend to comfort or to assist them, find enmity in every law, and are too poor to obtain even justice.

I have been led into these reflections from accidentally meeting some days ago a poor fellow hege ging at one of the outlets of this town, with a wooden leg. I was curious to learn what had reduced him to his present situation ; and after giving him what thought proper, desired to know the history of his

of

[graphic]

(the parish.

life and misfortunes, and the manner in which he was reduced to his present distress. The disabled soldier, for such he was, with an intrepidity truly British, leaning on his crutch, put himself into an attitude to comply with my request, and gave me his history as follows:

As for misfortunes, Sir, I cannot pretend to have gone through more than others. Except 'the loss of my limb, and my being obliged to

beg, I don't know any reason, thank Heaven, that 'I have to complain : there are some who have lost

both legs and an eye ; but thank Heaven, it is not quite so bad with me. “My father was a labourer in the country, and died when I was five years old ; so I was put upon

As he had been a wandering sort of a man, the parishoners were not able to tell to what parish I belonged, or where I was born ; so they sent me to another parish, and that parish sent me to a third ; till at last it was thought I belonged to no parish at all. At length, however, they fixed me. I had some disposition to be a scholar, and had actually learned my letters ; but the master of the workhouse put me to business as soon as I was able to handle a mallet. "Here I lived an easy kind of a life for five years. 1

only wrought ten hours in the day, and had my meat and drink provided for my labour. It is true, I

was not suffered to stir far from the house, for fear 'I should run away : but what of that: I had the li

berty of the whole house, and the yard before the door, and that was enough for me.

"I was next bound out to a farmer, where I was up both early and late, but I ate and drank well, and

my

business well enough, till he died. Being

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[graphic]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

then obliged to provide for myself, was resolved to go and seek my fortune. Thus I lived, and went

from town to town, working when I could get em• ployment, and starving when I could get none, and "might have lived so still ; but happening one day to í go through a field belonging to a magistrate, I spied

a hare crossing the path just before me. I believe “the devil put in my head to fling my stick at it :

well, what will you have on it? I killed the hare, ' and was bringing it away in triumph, when the jus• tice himself met me: he called me a villain, and

collaring me, desired I would give an account of

myself. I began immediately to give a full account ' of all that I knew of my breed, seed, and genera

tion : but though I gave a very long account, the justice said I could give no account of myself; so " I was indicted, and found guilty of being poor, and • sent to Newgate, in order to be transported to the plantations.

• People may say this and that of being in gaol ; 6 but for my part, I found Newgate as agreeable a

place as ever I was in, in all my life. I had my belly-full to eat and drink, and did no work ; but alas, this kind of life was too good to last for ever!

I was taken out of prison, after five months, put on • board of a ship, and sent off with two hundred more. . Our passage was but indifferent, for we were all * confined in the hold, and died very fast, for want of sweet air and provisions ; but for my part, I did not want meat, because I had a fever all the way ; providence was kind, when provisions grew short, it

took away my desire of eating. When we came ashore, we were sold to the planters. I was bound for seven years, and as I was no scholar, for I had • forgot my letters, I was obliged to work among the

[graphic]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

negroes; and served out my time, as in duty bound to do.

When my time was expired, I worked my passage home, and glad I was to see old England again, because I loved my country. O liberty, liberty, liberty! that is the property of every Englishman, and I will die in its defence; I was afraid, however, that I should be indicted for a vagabond once more, so did not much care to go into the country, but kept about town, and did little jobs when I could get them, I was very happy in this manner for some time; till one evening, coming home from work, two men knocked me down, and then desired me to stand still. They belonged to a press-gang ; I was carried before the justice, and as I could give no account of myself (that was the thing that always hob'bled me) I had my choice left, whether to go on 'board a man of war, or list for a soldier. I chose

to be a soldier; and in this post of a gentleman I served two campaigns, was at the battles in Flanders, and received but one wound through the breast, which is troublesome to this day.

When the peace came on, I was discharged ; and as I could not work, because my wound was sometimes painful, I listed for a landman in the East India Company's service. I here fought the French in six pitched battles; and verily believe that if I could read or write, our captain would have given me promotion, and made me a corporal. But that

was not my good fortune, I soon fell sick, and when 'I became good for nothing, got leave to return

home again with forty pounds in my pocket, which I saved in the service. This was at the beginning of

present war, so I hoped to be set on shore, and to have the pleasure of spending my money; but

[ocr errors]
[graphic]

6

[ocr errors]

the government wanted men, and I was pressed again, before ever I could set foot on shore.

• The boatswain found me, as he said, an obstinate « fellow: he swore that I understood my business perrfectly well, but that I pretended sickness merely to « be idle : God knows, I knew nothing of sea busi

ness; he beat me without considering what he was 6 about. But still my forty pounds was some comfort

to me under every beating ; the money was my com« fort, and the money I might have had to this day ;

but that our ship was taken by the French, and so I 6 lost it all!

• Our crew was carried into a French prison, and many of them died, because they were not used to - live in a gaol ; but for my part it was nothing to me, 6 for I was seasoned. One night, however, as I was

sleeping on the bed of boards, with a warm blanket

about me (for I always loved to lie well,) I was awak' ed by the boatswain, who had a dark lantern in his "hand. "Jack,' says he to me, will you knock out

the French sentry's brains ?' 'I dont care,' says I, ( striving to keep myself awake, if I lend a hand.'

Then follow me,' says he, and I hope we shall do (business.' So up I got, and tied my blanket, which (was all the clothes I had, about my middle, and went ( with him to fight the Frenchmen: we had no arms; . but one Englishman is able to beat five French at

any time ; so we went down to the door, where both < the sentries were posted, and rushing upon then,

seized their arms in a moment, and knocked them down. From thence, nine of us ran together to the

quay, and seizing the first boat we met, got out of the harbour, and put to sea : we had not been here • three days, before we were taken up by an English privateer, who was glad of so many good hands; and we consented to run our chance. However, we

[graphic]
« ZurückWeiter »