SELF-DISPOSAL, BUT NOT SELF-CONTROL—FURTHER DEROGATION
AND CONSEQUENT TROUBLE.
AT this time the trade was going remarkably well,
and weaving was a very profitable employment. I went back to live at
Middleton, and got a loom with board and lodgings at an old acquaintance
of my father's. Being now master of my own time, I partook of
country amusements with the other young fellows of the neighbourhood, and
frequently went out a-hunting. After one of these gatherings when we
had a very hard run, during which I had footed it pretty cleverly, one of
the old hunters, Sam Stott by name, was so pleased with my performance,
that when the hunt was over he insisted on treating me. We
accordingly turned into the first public house we came to, and that
happened to be the identical one at Trub Smithy, at the door of which "Tummus'
Cawve " was unfortunately killed, which accident is so well described in
Tim Bobbin's celebrated "Lancashire Dialect." The clay had been
excessively wet, which had not, however, prevented a very large attendance
at the hunt. The public house was consequently crowded, but Old Sam
contrived to make a way into a corner, where he having ordered some "warm
ale and ginger," the best thing in the world, he said, after a wet day, we
sat drinking until our clothes were dry on our backs, that being the only
natural and proper way, as he insisted, in which clothes ought to be
dried, fires being intended for roasting and boiling meat only, and to
warm old women, but never meant for the drying of hunters' clothes.
So we made ourselves comfortable, and as may be supposed, by the time our
clothes were dry, we were rather far beyond the line of sobriety.
This was, I believe, my first decided offence of that nature, and well had
it been had it been my last.
This breach, slight as it appeared to me at the time, was
followed by grave consequences. It led to a new set of
acquaintances, to a wider and wilder range of enjoyment; it wonderfully
loosened my notions of propriety, already too much relaxed in one respect,
and brought me to the conclusion that "as a young man was not answerable
for the conduct of those whose company he kept, neither was he to be
damaged by the associating with them," that there was no great harm in
"doing as others did," and that "there were worse things after all, than a
young fellow getting a drop too much, now and then." This was a
pitiable state of mind for one of my age to be in; and though I did not,
in consequence, become a reprobate and a habitual drunkard, I became more
easy about the scandal and the sin of inebriety, and the path to other
transgressions was thus temptingly laid open.
One day I was startled by the sound of the fife and the drum,
and on going to learn the cause, I found the overseers and constables at
one of the public houses, enlisting volunteers for the "army of reserve."
I immediately offered myself, and was the first that was accepted.
After that a number of young men joined; we got a shilling each and a
cockade, with as much ale as we chose to drink, and the consequence was
that, like the rest of my comrades, I went home in much the same condition
as that in which I returned from the hunting bout. On the day
following we had another meeting with the town's officers, and after
parading round the neighbourhood with fife and drum, we enlisted as many
as we wanted, and we separated in the same state as we were in the night
before. After which we were never more mustered, or even called
upon; and all the money expended, as far as the township of Middleton was
concerned, was entirely thrown away. Constables and overseers had,
in those days, a very straightforward way of doing business. On
receiving an order, or even a direction less tangible, from a magistrate
or magistrate's clerk, it was forthwith carried into effect. The
magistrate was everything, the ratepayers and vestry nothing, and money
was expended which was never inquired into afterwards. If the
minister, or some one or two of the "gentleman ratepayers," put a question
or so to the overseer when he met him, and the reply was, "Oh, Mr. A. or
Mr. B. the magistrate ordered it," all would be right, and nothing further
would be said about the matter. These sort of affairs are managed
somewhat differently now in this year 1848, when I am writing these lines.
It was at this time, whilst I was a recruit with my cockade
in my hat, that I first heard the song of "Jone o' Grinfilt," at
Manchester. It was a sort of doggerel that took well, being just
suited to current events and the taste of the loyally vociferous
multitude. We have now been at peace during thirty years, and the
multitude is still here, many-headed, loud-tongued, as of yore, but where
is the loyalty? Here absolutely it is not. With no English
multitude is it to be found. How, then, has it been banished, and
whither is it gone? These are questions which I think are worthy of
the deep consideration of our philosophers and statesmen, and to their
elucidation I must leave them. One opinion, however, I, humble as I
am, may venture to propound, and that is, there have been great faults
somewhere, or all the ancient loyalty of our working population would not
have disappeared and left, as it has done, in its stead, Irish felony in
our towns, and riff-raff Chartism in our villages. Assuredly there
has been enormous mismanagement somewhere, and our gracious Queen, when
she meets her faithful Commons, would do well to put the question—What has
become of the loyalty of that "bold peasantry," once their "country's
pride"? Is it destroyed? Why has it been destroyed?—These
would be found to be potent and puzzling questions, I think.
Having thus wended my downward course pretty rapidly, with
now and then a pang of conscience which was soon quieted, and a flush of
shame which was soon suppressed: having become a hunter with the wildest,
a lover of company not the choicest, one no longer a stranger at the
tavern, and a follower of the fife and drum, the reader will scarcely be
surprised at learning that further humiliation awaited me; and that during
one of my wild outbreaks, having obtained the company of a Yorkshire lass,
as thoughtless as myself, it was not long before I became amenable to the
parish authorities, for certain expenses which were about to be incurred.
My old uncle and aunt, with whom I again lived, read me some
very grave lessons when the news of this affair broke out. For my
part, I was covered with confusion, and torn, by remorse, for I had early
discovered that, had there been no other female in the way, I never could
have made up my mind to become the husband of the one I had thus injured.
I was somewhat relieved, however, by learning that she took the affair
less to heart than many would have done, and that the obtainment of a
handsome weekly allowance was with her as much a subject of consideration
as any other. I say I was relieved, but I never hoped, never
attempted to palliate the wrong I had done, or to evade the shame I had
One morning about Christmas, after being out spending the
night, I returned home and flung myself on the bed with my clothes on.
It was just breaking day when I heard the front door, which I had left
unbolted, open, and a rough voice shout "Hallo!" I desired my cousin
Hannah, who I had heard was awake, and who slept in the same chamber with
her brother and myself, to ascertain who the person was, and she tried to
do so, but could only make out that it was some strange person, and that
he wanted her father. I being dressed, went downstairs at once, and
found a tall, powerful, broad-set man standing with his back against the
door-post, and holding the door catch with one hand. I knew him
instantly to be Samuel Fielding, the constable, for the shutters being
closed and the place quite dark, I could see him against the grey of the
morning whilst he could not distinguish me. "Whot," I said, "aryo
wantin' mi feyther, then?"
"Aye," he replied; " but dusno one Samhul Beamfort live heer?"
"Yoy he dus," I said ; "dunyo want him too?"
"Aye, I awnt him too," he replied, "thy name's Beamfort isno
"Nowe," I said, "my name's Taylior, but Samhul's upstairs; I
con coe on him deawn, as yo want'n him."
Meanwhile I had been getting my feet into my shoes, my hat
being beyond my reach, and now standing at the bottom of the stairs, I
shouted lustily, "Samhul! come deawn, theaw'rt wanted directly.
Dusto yer, Samhul? come deawn." "Yod'n better step in an' sit yo' deawn;"
I said to the constable, "Samhul will be heer in a minnit."
The cunning old fox, however, would neither come in nor sit
down; so I loitered about, as it were, in the dark, humming a snatch of a
tune, and shuffling to and fro, betwixt the house and the kitchen.
I could hear that some of the family were stirring
upstairs—in fact, my very unaccountable summons had awakened them all.
"He'll be heer directly," I said; "he's comin':" and with
that I shot the bolt of the back door, flung it open, and darted down the
street, never stopping to look at another man who made a grasp at me, and
the wind of whose fist, as I sprung past him, I felt on my ear.
Down the street I went, and this new foe at my heels.
He was one of the best "sprint-runners" in Middleton, but he might as well
have run after a hart-royal. I leaped the fence in the lane, crossed
the broad meadow, and was safe in Middleton Wood by the time the
disappointed official got back, puffing and blowing, to the bottom of my
uncle's stairs. For it would seem the constables were not quite
certain whether or not the delinquent had escaped. By that time my
uncle was coming down, as was his wont, part dressed, when the officers
eagerly inquired where Samhul was.
"Marry," he said (a common exclamation), "I reckon he went
eawt at th' back dur, an' I conno tell where he is neaw." "Wur that
really him, then?" asked the constables.
"Well, I believe it wur," said my uncle, laughing till his
sides shook as the two worthies hurried into the street.
By that time, however, I was walking leisurely towards
Prestwich, where I arrived at breakfast-time, just as Mary Wilde and her
father were sitting down to their porridge. They were very glad to
see me, though surprised that I came without hat. I, however,
explained my circumstances as briefly as possible on account of Mary.
I got a breakfast with them, good enough for a king; and the kind girl
cleaned my shoes, and washed my stockings, which were covered with mud.
She also borrowed me a hat, and after dinner, being again in travelling
trim, I went to my father at Manchester, who, after a sound rating, made
all things right with the overseers, and I returned to Middleton.
A LONG JOURNEY AND A NEW LIFE.
BUT I had become strangely unsettled, and it was
time that a change of some sort should take place. I again left
Middleton, and seeing bills up at Manchester that a number of young men
were wanted for the coasting trade betwixt South Shields and London, I
engaged with a person appointed to make contracts, and after parting from
my father, who went down on his knees and prayed earnestly that God would
recall me from sin, I went through Middleton, bade adieu to Mima, who was
heartbroken; and mounting a coach at Oldham, I, with seven
others—volunteers like myself—reached York that night, and stopped there.
The morning following our conductor led us through that wonderful
structure the Minster, after which we mounted coach again, and finished
our second day's journey at a large inn at Sunderland, where we again
stopped all night.
My companions were chiefly lads from factories and
dye-houses: a rude and simple set they were, and, I believe, pretty honest
also. I know not how it happened, but certainly the people of the
house seemed to feel an interest in my welfare. They knew for what
service we were destined, and I received more than one hint that I should
repent of the step I was taking. The cook and the bustling old
waiter both seemed to think that I was cut out for something else than a
sailor, and they dropped privately certain ominous intimations about
hardships, and dangers, and impressments. At last I was given to
understand that if I would remain at the inn, and make myself useful in
whatever I could do, my conductor should be satisfied, and I should be
well treated, and be protected from the press-gang; but thanking the
motherly-looking hostess for her kind offer, I declined it, and went
forward with my party to South Shields.
Here we were quartered at a public house by the quay side,
and at night slept on board a brig which lay alongside, my bed being made
of sails spread on the floor of the half deck, with a coil of rope for my
pillow. In the course of a few days we signed indentures to serve
Nicholas Fairles, Esquire, during three years, in return for which we were
to have £20 per annum, ship allowance, and protection from impressment,
every man receiving at the time a document from the Admiralty which was to
be his protection. Our ship was the brig Æneas,
Matthew Peacock, master; and after having received our outfit of clothes
and sea stock of groceries and other articles, we took on board a cargo of
coal, and heaving our anchor, we sailed with the night tide, and were soon
out of the harbour. Five of our Manchester party, with some old
hands, formed the crew of this vessel; and after the anchor was secured,
the spars lashed, and the sails set, the watch was called over, and I,
being on the captain's watch, went below with the rest; the mate, William
Peacock, the captain's son, a fine young seaman, remaining on deck with
his portion of the crew. And thus was I, at last, a sailor on the
From what appeared to me to have been a very short sleep, I
was aroused by three thundering knocks and a hoarse shout down the
hatchway, " Starboard watch, ahoy." I was on deck immediately,
indeed I had not undressed, but had slept on my old bed of sail and rope.
Our captain was standing near the companion, and after rubbing my eyes I
saw the shore with its green hills and homesteads on our starboard, or
right hand, whilst the open ocean lay glistening and heaving beneath the
new light of the morning on our left. I was not long, however, in
discerning that several ships seemed to be crossing towards the course we
were steering, and from a sense of duty, pointing them out to the captain,
I asked him whether they were not French? Though he was not much
given to pleasantry, he pretended to be of opinion that they possibly
might be "Frenchmen," and asked what I thought should be done in case they
were? "Well," I said very simply, "I reckon we shan hato feyght 'em
then." "I suppose we shall in that case," he said. "An' so,
Captain," I continued, "hadno we better be gettin' th' cannons ready,"
alluding to two carronades on the quarter-deck, and two stern chasers.
This answer so diverted him that he gave a hearty laugh, and afterwards I
was rather a favourite with him.
When we were off Robin Hood's Bay, one of the stern guns was
fired, and in a short time a fishing cobble came alongside, and the
captain went ashore. His family lived there, and as it was probable
we should go from London to Montreal for timber, he wished to bid them
good-bye. In a short time he returned, bringing his wife with him; a
clever, good-looking woman she was. She took leave of her son, and
the captain saw her back on shore, and then coming on board, we set sail
and again made for the open sea. We had scarcely got from under the
rocks of the bay, when the wind began to blow against us, and we had a
threatening sun-down, and a terrible night—at least, so it appeared to me.
I was awoke at one time by three thundering knocks as before, followed by
the summons—"All hands, ahoy," and on getting on deck the first
circumstance that took my attention was that waves, having the appearance
of streams of fire, were breaking over the bows of the vessel and sweeping
the deck. In a moment I was up to the knees, and I actually jumped,
thinking I should be burned, but I soon found out my mistake. The
scene on deck was such as made us young seamen feel very grave.
There was the vessel, climbing, as it were, up the huge billows, and next
plunging headlong as if she were going to the bottom at once. Then
the horrid tempest of waves uprushing, and of winds down-sweeping, filled
space with their terrible howl. The hoary old deep moaned as it were
rent into chasms, or sobbed as it closed weltering and rose into
precipices. Then would be a momentary lull, and presently the
tremendous strife would be renewed, as the heavens would at last rend the
deep from its bottom, and the deep would bury the heavens in its abyss.
Nothing else was heard save the thousand frightful tones of the wind
amongst the rigging-tones more appalling, if possible, than the roar of
the giant storm. When the captain's voice was at last distinguished,
he was giving rapid orders to the men to secure the sails and haul taut
the ropes. We young ones were not sent aloft, and we were but of
little use on the deck, except in helping the seamen to pull such ropes as
were pointed out to us. All that night the storm continued, the
waves continually breaking over us, and all hands constantly on deck.
We then began to compare our present situation with those we had left, and
most of us would have made any sacrifice, short of life, to have regained
our humble homes on shore. For my part, when daylight came, and I
beheld Whitby Abbey, and next Scarborough Castle, rock-grafted on their
stubborn heights, and steadfastly secure amid the drifting clouds, I
should have deemed myself fortunate had I been cast even naked amid their
dark and frowning ruins. I thought of my father and his earnest
prayer—I thought of dear Mima, and was not left without hope. One
consolatory reflection opportunely occurred, and that was—that I stood as
good a chance of outliving the storm as did my shipmates—and that whilst
there was a chance it was of no use to despair. And so, as the
saying is, "setting a hard heart agen hard wark," I did my best towards
bearing a hand wherever I could be of use. This our second day was
almost as stormy as the night had been, and bitter cold. The shrouds
were coated with ice, and the hands of us landsmen were blue and benumbed,
notwithstanding which, when the men had to go aloft to handle the sails, I
and a Welsh lad mounted with them, but the men sent us down, saying we
could not be of any use, and if we went on the yard we should only go
overboard. So we came on deck, and worked as well as we could there;
but our willingness to share danger and hardship with the old seamen got
us more favourably looked upon. The storm continued all this day and
all night again. The captain began to serve out grog, the seamen
muttered to each other, and exchanged cheerless glances. The pumps
were set to work, as the vessel was said to have too much water; and we
landsmen were useful at this labour, in doing which we also kept ourselves
warm. On the third morning the wind began to lull; it also changed
to the north, and after a pleasant run, we anchored in Yarmouth Roads.
The storm had done much damage all along the coast, and in
sailing betwixt Yarmouth and Lowestoft, we counted no fewer than nineteen
vessels, of various descriptions, which had been driven on shore. We
now went smartly before the wind, and soon had the Essex coast on our
right, and the Kentish one on our left, entering the mouth of the Thames.
And now, after getting a little inland, such a paradise opened before us
as I had never previously imagined could exist in England. Splendid
villas amid groves, fairy-looking little bowers, sweet nestling places for
happy families, peeping behind verdant shrubberies, or glimmering all
white in shadowy vistas; the gently waving foliage was of a living,
new-made green, whilst the shorn sward that came sloping to the water's
edge was of an emerald brilliancy, and hung lipping the waves as if it
would suck them for ever.
On the first Sunday after our arrival, we apprentices were
indulged with a walk on shore. Being provided with Admiralty
protections, and instructed how to act if we were molested by the
press-gang, we first made our way to St. Paul's, where we stood beneath
the wondrous dome, twice the height of our top-gallant mast, and with
almost awful surprise, expressed our doubts of the strange things we heard
about the whispering gallery; for we did not go up, the state of our
finances would not allow that. Next we went to Tower Hill, and
viewed the moat, and walls, and battlements of the tough old fortress, our
finances, as before, preventing us from going inside. Westminster
Abbey was the object which next attracted us, and here we stayed viewing
the monuments, many of which were in commemoration of authors by whose
works I had been delighted. Ah! and did I not stand, with
long-looking and tear-wet eyes, before the tablets of my old Homeric Pope,
and my divine Milton, my companions asking at last why the sleeve of my
jacket was put so often in requisition, and I replying by telling them
what wondrous books these two had written, a reason which soon satisfied
my comrades, who, the Welsh lad excepted, neither knew nor cared anything
about books. So having wandered about the city till we were tired,
we got some refreshment at a public house, and then returned to our ship.
In due time our cargo was discharged, and we took in ballast,
after which we weighed our anchor, and dropped down the river, and instead
of taking our course for Montreal, as we had at one time expected we
should, we steered back the same way as we had come, and, after a short
and pleasant trip, again entered the Tyne and anchored at South Shields,
where we again took in coal, and again returned to London.
The name of our vessel, as before mentioned, being the
Æneas, I took an opportunity one day of
leading our mate into a conversation on the subject, when he narrated the
old tale of Æneas carrying his father on
his shoulders out of the ruins of burning Troy, and said there was a book
in the cabin which told all about it. Was there, I said, what was
the name of the book? The name of the book, he said, was the
Æneid. Ah! that was a famous book;
once I had read it, and would now like to read it again. As for
that, he said, he could not make me a promise, but sometime when his
father was ashore, he would let me see the book. So accordingly one
day, after we had put his father ashore, he beckoned me into the cabin,
and there, lying on a table in a kind of state, as a family Bible does at
the head of a cottage, he showed me a handsome, old-fashioned looking
folio volume, which indeed I found to be the Æneid
in English, with notes. I would have sacrificed anything almost for
an opportunity to examine the interesting volume, but the mate seemed to
think he had indulged me enough, and so I thanked him, and withdrew.
I was always the first of our party to go aloft, and I could
soon mount to the top-gallant mast without going through "the lubber
hole." I also became expert at furling and reefing, working with the
other hands at whatever had to be done aloft. At handling the braces
I was also pretty clever, and at the windlass, the capstan, or the pump, I
was as good as any on board. I was also the bow oarsman of the
jolly-boat, and generally attended the captain when he went on shore.
The perils attending a sailor's life are no doubt many, but
those which have to be encountered on this coast are probably far greater
than are presented on any other coast of our island. The perils,
however, are almost as nothing when compared with the hardships which
young sailors in this trade have to endure. Hence, mere danger is
not so much thought of by them, and anything which interrupts the wear and
tear which they daily undergo is felt to be a relief rather than a
misfortune, and is accepted accordingly. Thus it is that our
unconquerable sailors are made, and such is the rude and ruthless school
in which they are nurtured and brought up. With them, a battle or a
storm is little more than a divertisement, the increased labour for the
occasion being forgotten in the excitement of action. The hardest
workers will always be the hardest and best fighters;—hardest because
assured and persevering, and best because, whatever situation they are
placed in, mind is ever present directing to the best effect. None,
save a working nation can, therefore, ever conquer England. And
where are such workers as ours to be found? Let us then cherish our
workers. Let them be anxiously cared for, they are the strength and
the defence of the country, and of everything within it which is worth
defending. Let them never have less than plenty of all comfortable
requisites, whatever other class is stinted. Let them be accepted
with respect, so long as that respect is merited. They are all
fellow-men; the honest hard-handed ones are the noblest of men in God's
High Court, and that is high enough for any ambition; and, take ours for
all in all, with their faults and depreciations, the wide world has not,
in this our day, such another race as that which guards the shores, and
labours on the fields and in the manufactories of Old England.
In one of our voyages, or rather trips, as we used to call
them, we passed through a fleet of ships of war, which lay at anchor in
Yarmouth Roads. We expected being overhauled for hands, but were
not, and we sailed forward without stopping. The sight of those huge
floating masses, instead of inspiring me with chivalrous feelings, called
forth those of a quite different description. I looked upon them as
so many prisons where men were hopelessly confined, and punished according
to the caprice of unreasonable and irresponsible taskmasters. The
bit of smart discipline which we now and then had on board our own little
craft gave me an idea of what these great fire-belching concerns must be.
Our old sailors also had given us a few lessons respecting the manner in
which order was maintained in those communities, and as I eyed them
unseen—for our captain ordered us not to show ourselves—I almost shuddered
at the idea of becoming one of their crew. The fleet, as a whole,
was certainly a noble spectacle to behold. A demonstration of that
sublimely audacious spirit by which Britain proclaimed to the world, "I
reign!" and the world submitted. But its details I could not
contemplate without a shudder, and I secretly wished that I was beyond the
chance of having some day a closer acquaintanceship forced upon me.
On our return trip the fleet was still there, but considerably augmented
by transport ships having troops on board. A large number of
coasting vessels were now returning to the north, and as they approached
the fleet nearly every vessel was brought to and boarded, the best of the
hands being transferred to the ships of war. From the vessel which
immediately proceeded ours several bands were pressed, but it so happened
that when ours came to pass, both the guard boats were full, and were
taking their prizes to the ship appointed to receive them, whilst in the
hurry of the moment we got clear through, and so escaped that very
I had now perhaps made some half-dozen trips betwixt Shields
and London, and having seen enough of a sailor's life to banish the
romantic notions with which the popular songs of the day had invested it,
wishful also to enjoy once more the sweets of liberty whilst yet its
attainment was possible, I secretly determined on leaving the ship
whenever an opportunity occurred for my doing so. On our next
arrival at London, therefore, with a view to disguise my intention, and
render my flight doubtful, a day or two before we were to proceed to sea
again, I laid in a good stock of groceries, and whatever other matters it
was our custom to procure. I washed my linen, mended my clothes, and
placed everything in excellent order in my berth, so that when the captain
and my shipmates went to examine it, as I calculated they would when I
became absent, they might find a complete preparation for my going to sea
with the vessel, and in consequence be impressed with the idea that I was
not a voluntary absentee, but that I must have been crimped into some of
the sponging houses, and smuggled on board a king's ship. This, I
supposed, would cause an advertisement to be immediately put out, or a hue
and cry to be issued after me, and inasmuch as the most probable course
which the captain would take would be to make a day or two's inquiry in
such places where he would suppose I was most likely to be found, I should
thus, at any rate, have a decent start of my pursuers, if, indeed, after
such a loss of time, they should deem it worth their trouble to follow at
all. My plans being thus arranged, I one evening asked permission to
go ashore for the purchase of one or two articles which I still wanted.
The permission was readily granted, and the boat landed me opposite to
Bell-wharf pier. I immediately proceeded to Ratcliffe Highway, and
after purchasing a pair of stockings—my own having been left on board as a
blind with my other things—I entered an eating-house, and there spent some
time till dusk was pretty well set in. I thence went into the city,
to St. Paul's, inquiring my way into Aldersgate Street, and when there I
ventured to accost a respectable-looking person and requested him to be so
kind as to direct me towards Islington, which, of course, he did, and I
passed through that suburb without stopping or being questioned. An
officer, in naval uniform, whom I met, certainly took more notice of me
than was quite to my liking, but he passed on and did not speak. I
next inquired the way to Highgate, knowing that if I got there I should be
on the direct great northern road, and at Highgate, whilst stopping at a
public house, I ascertained that the next place on my route would be
Whetstone, and the next after that Barnet. I accordingly walked
through Whetstone and through Barnet without stopping. I now
considered myself fairly launched on my journey. I had been
fortunate in getting clear of the vicinity of the shipping and of the city
without being questioned, and was now ten miles from St. Paul's. I
once more breathed the sweet country air; the smell of mown meadows
sometimes came across my path. I had seven shillings in my pocket,
and though as yet uncertain of my success, I was full of hope and
delighted with the present enjoyment of freedom. I had not gone far,
however, before I became somewhat embarrassed, the night was getting far
advanced, the country less populous, and I was uncertain both as to the
name of my next stage and the course I should keep. I had not gone
far, however, before I met a man to whom I put the necessary questions,
and who told me to keep on the broad highway, to the left, and that the
next town of any note which I should arrive at would be St. Albans.
I thanked the man for his information, when he said, "Stop; I know what
you are, and what you are about."
"Do you?" said I, rather surprised, but in a good-humoured
"Indeed I do," replied the man; "you are a sailor, and are
running away from your ship."
"You might be a wizard," I said, "for what you say is perfect
"Well, now," said he, "as you have been as candid as I was
frank, I'll tell you something which may be of use to you."
I thanked him.
"At St. Albans," he continued, "a party of marines are
stationed, who press every sailor that appears in the town. They
even press them off the coaches, or other vehicles, if they get a sight of
them. Through St. Albans, however, you must go, and you will be
pressed if you appear in the streets; you must, therefore, get through the
town without being seen, if possible. Fortunately it may be done.
In a short time you will overtake a waggon which carries goods on this
main road. You must get to ride inside of it, get, stowed amongst
the packages, and never show your face until you are clearly on the other
side of the town."
I thanked him most gratefully for his information, and begged
that he would not mention to any one having seen such a person as myself
on the road. He desired that I would make myself easy on that score,
and so with expressions of thankfulness on my part, and of kindly wishes
on his, we separated.
It was now about midnight, all was still and silent on the
road. I was about eight miles from St. Albans, and by the time I had
shortened the distance by three I overtook the waggon, the tail of which
being full of soldiers' wives and their children, I could not get in
there; the driver, however, offered me a snug place in the hay-sheet—a
large and strong horse-hair cloth which fastened in front of the vehicle,
and presented a resting-place as comfortable as a hammock, and quite large
enough to conceal me. I, therefore, got into my hiding-place, and
was almost instantly fast asleep. I must have ridden about four
miles, though to me it seemed but a few minutes since I got in, when the
driver awoke me and asked which road I was going when I got through the
"Why the main road, to be sure," I said.
"Yes, but which main road?" asked the man.
"The main road down into the north; into Lancashire," I said.
"There is none other, is there?"
"Oh, yes," said the man, there is the main road to Bedford
and those parts, and that's the road I'm a-going."
Instead of saying, "Well, drive me to Bedford then, or
anywhere else, so you don't land me here in sight of the pressgang;
"—instead of so considering in my own mind, I might have suddenly become
demented, for I alighted from my covert, and shaking the hay-seeds from my
clothes as well as I could, I gave the man some copper, and walked right
into the broad street of St. Albans.
Had I been acquainted with the topography of the country, the
road to Bedford was the very road I should have taken after being once at
St. Albans. But as it happened, I was ignorant of these
things, else the main road was the one I should have most avoided.
After all, however, though the Old One himself seemed to be leading me, it
was, perhaps, for the best.
It was a very fine summer's morning, and being Saturday, the
market-place was occupied by numbers of country people setting out their
standings of butter, eggs, poultry, and vegetables. Directly through
the midst of these market people lay my way, and I stepped it with seeming
equanimity, and as much of real indifference as I could muster, for, after
all, as I reflected, if the very worst happened, I should only be
disappointed in present hope, and be sent on board a ship of war as many
hundreds had been before me. So I walked forward, the people almost
lifting their eyes in wonder at seeing a tall, gaunt, weather-browned
sailor traversing that perilous ground.
I had got clear of the market-place, and was proceeding down
a flagged footpath leading to the outskirts of the town, and already
breathing more freely, when the sound of a light slip-shod step approached
behind me. I thought it was some servant girl going out for her
morning's milk or hot-roll, and never turned my head. A slap on the
shoulder, however, and the salutation, "Hollo, shipmate," caused me to
face about, when what should stand before me but a marine, in his blue
over-coat and girdled hat without feather.
At that moment I felt as little ruffled as if we had been old
acquaintance, determined, however, not to be taken if either presence of
mind or resistance could prevent it.
"Hollo, shipmate," said I.
"What are you?" asked the man.
"What am I? I'm a servant," I replied. A term not
used in the Royal Navy, but by which persons under contract are
distinguished in the trade of our Eastern Coast.
"A servant?—what's that?"
"Why, a servant—that's all," I replied.
By this time three other marines had joined us.
"Where's your pass, to pass you through the country?" asked
the first man.
"I have no pass," I said; "I'm a free-born subject of this
kingdom, and can travel this or any other high-road without carrying a
pass at all."
The men looked at each other, and then at me. They
could not comprehend the reason of my cool manner and unusual language.
They had no idea of free-born subjects, nor of sailors travelling without
"Then you have no papers?" said the first man, who seemed to
be the superior of the party.
"Why, as for that," I said, "I daresay I can show a kind of a
small matter which will, perhaps, satisfy you for the present."
Saying which, I took my protection from an old black pocket-book which I
carried in my hat.
"Oh, if you have any written papers to show," he said, "you
must go with us to our captain, I can't read writing." So much the
better, I thought, and straightway displayed the document at length,
knowing if it could do me no good, neither could it do me any harm.
"Do you see that?" I asked, pointing to the broad seal of the Admiralty,
stamped with an anchor.
"Oh! be d—d," said the man; "you have been discharged from a
"Why, you lubber," I said, in a half-familiar way, "do you
think if I hadn't I should have come here?"
"Ah! he won't do," said one or two of the party.
"You may go about your business," said the first man, turning
to walk off with the others.
"Ahoy, there," I said, "are you going to stop a shipmate on
shore this way, without standing so much as a glass of grog for him?"
"You be d—d," said the corporal, and hastened up the street
to join his comrades.
Several decent-looking farmers, who had left their produce in
the market, stood in the cart-road watching the whole proceeding, and when
the marines had left, they said, "Well, young fellow, you are the first
blue-jacket that has slipt through the fingers of yonder scoundrels this
long time." I entered into friendly conversation with these men, and
as they were going my way I had their company on the road as far as
Redburn, where, after partaking with them a glass or two of ale, we
I next passed through Hemel Hempstead, Market Street, and
Dunstable, always concealing myself, as well as I could, when I heard a
coach coming either way, until it passed. At Hockliffe I rested some
time, and had a good sleep behind a hedge. I thence went through
Woburn, and afterwards through Newport Pagnell, and when night came, and
the glow-worms were shining in the hedges I found myself opposite to a
small lone public house, near the village of Stoke Goldington, in
Buckinghamshire, and about eleven miles from Northampton.
INTO this humble hostelry I entered and got some
bread and cheese and ale for supper. The house appeared to be kept
by an elderly couple, with a woman servant, and when I mentioned my wish
to stop there for the night, they said they could not find me a bed in the
house, but if I would put up with a good litter of straw in the stable, I
should be welcome to rest there. I accepted their kind offer with
pleasure, and lay down, thanking God that I could rest without the hated
"Starboard watch, ahoy" breaking my slumbers; and save that once or twice
I was awaked by rats tripping over me, and by the cackling of fowls and
the quacking of ducks, a king never enjoyed sounder repose. In the
morning, it being Sunday, I brushed my shoes, washed myself well at the
pump, and turned my linen the cleaner side out, after which I got a basin
of milk and bread for breakfast, and demanding my shot, the old folks told
me I had nothing to pay, and so with truly grateful thanks for their
kindness I bade them farewell, and continued my journey.
It was a lovely morning, and my way lay through a tract of
country which at every bend and undulation of the road, presented some
object, or group, or opening upon scenery, which was continually
suggestive of the fact, that this was indeed a land where men and women
knew how to live and be happy at their own homes. Here, on one hand,
would be a substantial farmhouse, with its open door displaying much
plenty within, its strong-limbed hinds feeding the horses or cleaning the
stables, and its ruddy-brown damsels milking the kine, which stood
sleepily lashing their tails on their backs or flapping their ears in the
sun. The next habitation would probably be a little white cottage,
with a low door, and small leaded windows shadowed by vinery, and the
eaves of the thatch slouched down, as if to prevent the wind from up
turning them. A whine and a grunt would be heard in the sty, and a
broad garden, darkened at one end by fruit trees, would be abundant
"Of herbs and other country messes."
Next a clear tiny rill comes trickling by the road-side; soon we are under
a tall young wood, with an old tree here and there matted with ivy or
robed in hoar lichen. Soon we perceive a house of the higher order,
with its palisades, its gravelled walk, its bright evergreens, its clean
steps, and its stately and decent quietude; although if the white blinds
were rolled up instead of being down, it would seem all the more frank,
cheerful, and Christian like. Next, perhaps, we have a glimpse of a
spire rising above tall trees, or the turret of a grey old-looking bell
tower sends forth its summons to the villagers for their morning's
devotion. Wending on our journey, hills and vales, with meads,
pastures, and green crops spread all over their ridges and down to their
brook margins, are laid out luxuriantly before the ever-pleased eye;
whilst far off, in the opening of hoary old woods, are seen tower and
battlement of some lordly hall. Such, O England! are the objects
constantly presented to the eye of travellers amid thy rural scenes.
Such are the cause and the results of thy true greatness. First
labour and its reward, from which follow plenty, peace, reverence,
obedience, order, security, opulence; and, as a consequence of these,
encouragement to continued exertion. Cherish, then, these elements
of giant power for the sake of their inestimable results, which are the
guarantees of untold blessings for all. Promote honest labour.
Honour it wherever or however found. Have respect to the horny hand
and the dewy forehead, and oh! with kindliness endeavour to attach the
heart which has the courage to encounter peril, hardship, and stringent
toil day by day, without a murmur, and without a wish, save only that it
may be duly rewarded. Yes; be just, noble England, to thy sons of
labour. Then, so long as thy rock foundations endure shalt thou be
happy: the conservator of thy own strength, the arbiter of thy own
Through such a country as this, and breathing an air sweeter
than which none ever wafted over Paradise, had I walked some five or six
miles, when the bark of a dog, and the appearance of sundry low tents, a
horse, a mare and her foal, an ass or two, a heap of panniers, a lurcher
and a couple of terriers, pans, pots, and a kettle on a fire, which a lad
was blowing into red heat, made me aware that I was, for the first time,
about to behold a family of gipsies, in their favourite state of
encampment. The tribe consisted of three stout men and as many
women, one of them very old and deformed, and one, a superb being, with
majestic golden pendants, that touched the crimson hood on her shoulders;
a coil of luxuriant hair lay across her knees, as thick as a mainshroud
and as glossy as a skein of silk, whilst her magnificently black and
darkly shadowed eyes were like two gems, light-emittent through midnight.
Two of the men and one female were asleep in tents, some children were
also at rest, a boy or two were engaged with the dogs; the horses and the
asses were pasturing, one man was smoking a short pipe, and skinning a
rabbit the while, the queen sat plaiting what seemed to be a girdle of
many colours, and the old one was tending a cake in the embers. A
young damsel sat there—a beauty such as I had never before beheld, not
even in Lancashire, for she was different from them all, though not
surpassing—nothing human could do that—but this had a feminine grace, and
a faultless beauty of a type which was entirely new to me. A scarlet
strap and a short sleeve were the only covering to her shoulders, her neck
and arms being entirely bare. Over the front of a laced bodice of
various hues, hung a small bib of fine linen, which so far covered her
bosom as modesty required. A green kirtle bound her waist and fell
below her knees, leaving her legs and feet, which were models of symmetry,
as innocent of hose or pumps as they were at her birth. Her
complexion was a clear olive, whilst her features I can only describe as
being strikingly impressive from their beauty, and much like those which I
had seen in the portraits and on the statues of Oriental nymphs and
goddesses of antiquity. Her hair, of raven lustre, was plaited and
wreathed on her head, where it was bound with ribbons of bright and grave
colours mingled, and held by a comb, and thence dividing, fell in graceful
locks over her shoulders, and below her bosom. She was on her knees,
sipping broth from a china basin, and with a silver spoon. I
accosted the party with the usual salutation of "good morning," to which
the man and the two women replied. We chatted as I stood there
respecting various matters, as the road, the weather, fellow wayfarers
whom I had met, and things of that kind, and in the course of our
conversation the man informed me that my best way to Leicester would be
through Welford, and not through Market Harborough, which was the more
common route. After satisfying my curiosity as well as I could
consistently with a decent observation, I bade them good-bye, and was
coming away when the mistress of the party, or queen, as I may call her,
asked me if a mess of broth would be acceptable. I had been thinking
before that never had broth smelled so temptingly as this did; I therefore
expressed my thankful acceptance of her offer, and taking a seat on the
sod I partook of a breakfast such as I had little expected to find at such
a table, for besides the broth, the young nymph, by direction of the
queen, placed before me bread, cold mutton, fowl, cheese, with mustard,
and green onion as a relish, so I laid to as freely and as plenteously,
according to my wants, as ever did alderman at a corporation feast.
My kind entertainers seemed the more pleased the more freely I partook,
and after making a most excellent meal, during which I was neither annoyed
by many questions, nor embarrassed by ceremony—for they mostly spoke to
each other, and that in a language I did not understand—I again expressed
my sincere thanks and pursued my journey, deeply interested by the scene I
had quitted, and particularly so by the two amazing beauties I had beheld.
Northampton, a garrison town, was the next place through
which I had to pass, and as a recruiting party of marines was stationed
there—as my friend the gipsy had informed me, though whether or not they
had orders to press he could not tell—I waited outside until the quiet
hour when people had all gone home from church, and had got seated at
their dinners, before I essayed the perilous experiment of walking
through. The wished-for time soon came, the bells had all ceased
tolling, and the streets were nearly deserted, when I stepped at a
leisurely calm pace, as if in no great haste to be gone, along the clear
broad causeway of that neat and cleanly town. Everything seemed to
my wish; it was a hot day: the sun glared on the pavement and against the
windows; the blinds and curtains were nearly all closed; the doors were
open to let in air, and I could hear the children laughing, the mothers
scolding, and the knives and forks clattering as the good folks were
partaking their happy meal. I envied them not, I only wished in my
heart that every soul in the place might be compelled to eat, and never
cease eating, until I had walked clear and far away of that burning
pavement and blistering flag-road; and in sooth I began to think it
certainly would be so, the streets were so quiet, when all at once,
pondering as I went, and with my hat pulled over my brow, I found I was
approaching a marine, who was crossing me at right angles. I would
have given the world if the fellow had only been like the towns-folks,
quietly employed with his pudding, instead of being where he was, but I
took care not to betray any outward sign of either alarm or
dissatisfaction. He was alone, and no other person was in sight, and
if he stopped me, and my old protection trick failed, I had nothing to do,
but either to out-run him, or knock him down, or both, and so decide the
matter. These thoughts, however, and these resolves, which came as
quick as a throb, were no sooner present, than, to my surprise as well as
satisfaction, the man merely looked at me in an ordinary way, and nodding,
said, "Good voyage, shipmate," to which I readily replied, "Good quarters,
shipmate," and each passed on.
And now, as the protection which I have once or twice
mentioned will not be any more alluded to, I may as well explain, that
these documents which were given to apprentices, were no protection at all
save whilst the apprentice was on board the ship to which he belonged, or
if on shore, was engaged in the lawful service of his master. If the
navy was greatly short of hands, as in the expedition we passed in
Yarmouth Roads, for instance, not only apprentices were seized despite of
their protections, but even carpenters and mates of coasting vessels would
sometimes be made free with. In my case, therefore, who was
absconding from my service, the document, had it been perused, instead of
being a protection would have been a detection, inasmuch as it would have
required a degree of ingenuity beyond my command to have shown why I, an
apprentice on board a coasting vessel on the North Sea, should be found
traversing the streets of St. Albans, or of Northampton, the king's
veritable terra firma—instead of being on his other element, the
This escapade was a great relief to my mind, since having now
passed this second garrison town I had not much fear of being interfered
with by press-gangs, though, wherever there was a party of marines it was
possible that I might be questioned. The weather was, as I have
intimated, that of a truly English summer's day. Towards evening,
when the heat was mitigated to a joyous coolness, came a breeze that swept
odours from the wild rose and the honey-bine. Then, by the
hill-sides, or along the valleys, or up the meadow paths, appeared young
and happy couples, the lads in their clean smock-frocks, and the lasses in
their new pumps, smart caps and ribbons, and all seemingly so full of
happy, contented, and hopeful love, that the tears dimmed my eyes as I
looked towards them. "Ah!" I thought, "and will not I be walking
with one as dear and as bonny as any of them before long." And thus
as I wandered forward waned that sweet Sabbath eve, and small indeed was
the amount of "cash in my locker," wherewith to procure a lodging, but on
I went, and I must have passed some seven or eight miles beyond Welsford,
when it being nearly dark, I stopped at a good-looking public house, and
after paying for a glass of beer, which took nearly the last copper I had,
I asked the landlord if there was not a snug corner in his stable or
hay-loft in which I could be allowed to rest till morning? He said
the cattle all slept and pastured out, and he had not so much as a lap of
straw on the premises; but if I would walk on a couple of miles or so, I
should arrive at a place called Wigston, where the yearly feast was being
held, and if I only got amongst the young fellows there, I would have all
I wanted, and that too for nothing. So thus discouraged in one
respect, and encouraged in another, I again commenced my journey, and
walked a long way, the eve settling into darkness, and not a glimmer from
a house, nor the bark of a sheep-dog, nor any other indication of
inhabitants to be seen or heard. I kept on in this way until I
became quite tired, and looked in vain for some barn, or outhouse, or
cattle-shed, in which I might lay down, but not a vestige of cattle or
cattle-shed was to be seen. Not even the tinkle of a sheep-bell
could be heard in that vast stillness. At length I thought I espied
something like swathes of grass on the other side of a low fence, and
climbing over, I found them to be what I expected. I straightway
therefore commenced making my bed, and collecting a number of swathes
together I lay down on part of them, and pulled the remainder over me
until I was pretty well covered, and so, with a bunch under my head for a
pillow, and my hat for a sleeping cap, I bade good-night to one star which
hung winking above, and in a moment care was no more. When I awoke
it was broad day, and the lark was singing overhead. I jumped up,
shook off the dewy grass and clover, and thanking God for so excellent a
bed, with freedom, I leaped over the fence, and pursued my journey.
It was now evident that unless I could hit upon some plan
whereby I could procure sustenance on the road, my travels must soon
cease. My last penny had been expended that morning in the purchase
of a cake, and I had not a single halfpenny towards carrying me eighty-six
miles. As for having recourse to dishonest means, that never entered
my thoughts, whilst to beg I could not yet bemean myself. Something,
however, must be devised, and as I wore under my trousers a pair of stout
woollen drawers, nearly new, I concluded on selling them, if I could meet
with a customer; and accordingly I went over the hedge into a quiet little
corner, and stripped off my drawers, tying them up in a small pocket
handkerchief which I had taken care to preserve. I was so entirely
satisfied with this proceeding, so easy with respect to present means of
subsistence, that I fell into a profound sleep, and so continued during a
considerable time. On arriving at Leicester, I stopped at a clothes
shop, at the door of which an elderly female stood, of a very decent
appearance. I accosted her, and entering the shop, offered her my
drawers on sale. She examined them, and asked how much I expected
for them? Well, I said, I should not be very particular, but I
thought they would be cheap at two shillings.
"Two shillings!" said the dame—her keen eyes fixed upon
me—"Why, young man, I would not give two shillings for all the clothes you
have on your back."
I said I was sorry to hear her say that, but how much would
she give then.
"You are a sailor I suppose."
"I am, or at least have been," I replied.
"I have a son that is a sailor also," she said. "I wish
him a safe return then," I replied.
"Aye, a safe return, with plenty of prize money," she quickly
"Be it as you wish," I replied.
"Are you going to see your friends?" she asked.
"I'm going to stay with them I hope."
" Well, I'll tell you what I'll do," said the dame.
"I'll just give you sixpence for the drawers, and that's what I call
dealing handsomely with you."
"Could you not give me something more, mother," I said,
trying to soften her by that tender appellation, though but with small
hope of success.
"Not one half-farthing more shall I give, if you talk till
night," said the dame, "and if I ever get the money back again, I shall be
I still chaffered with her, trying to obtain a small advance,
but it was of no use, and considering that I might dodge round the whole
town and be no better, I resigned the drawers.
"Where's the napkin they were tied in?" she asked.
"It's here I replied," showing it.
"Oh," she said, " I must have that you know, I bid at the
My anger was equalled only by my disgust—the little napkin
was very dear to me—and taking up the drawers I was about replacing them
in the napkin with a view to leave the shop, when judging as I supposed my
purpose, she threw down a sixpence, saying, "Give me the drawers: if you
were my own son I could not behave better to you."
I first secured the sixpence, and, then putting down the
drawers, said, "God help the son who has such a mother as you to come to,"
and left the place.
My next business was to buy a small loaf, which I soon did,
and eat it with a voracious appetite as I went on my way. I
proceeded down the street and out of the town without being once annoyed
by the appearance of either marine or recruiting party. I passed
through Montsorrel and Loughborough without stopping, and took my rest and
a draught of porter at a small public house beyond the latter place.
After this, towards evening, I met a company of women coming from the
hayfield; they were disposed to be merry, and dancing and singing with
their forks and rakes on their shoulders, they formed a ring around me.
At length one of the youngest of them sung a snatch of a popular song:
"I will be sure to return back
If I go ten thousand miles, my dear,
If I go ten thousand miles."
They next produced a keg and a basket, and the kind creatures made me sit
down amidst them, and partake of their brown bread and hard cheese, which
I did heartily, and quenched my thirst with a good draught of their
home-brewed ale, after which, with many thanks on my part, and kind wishes
on theirs, we separated.
If I could have made up my mind to begging, here had been a
fine opportunity for trying my talents in that line on these kind and
sisterly beings, but I could not find in my heart to inform them how
sorely I was distressed: and though I knew that unless I either solicited
relief on the road, or some unforeseen assistance came to hand, I must at
least endure two days of horrible starvation and fatigue, I could not
humble myself to the act of craving charity. So still cherishing a
kind of irrational and gloomy hope beyond hope—whilst my benefactors
returned to their cheerful and welcome homes, I advanced into the shades
of evening, and the grey and solemn stillness of a summer's night had
enshrouded all around when I arrived at the village of Shardlow.
At one little window only could I see a blinking light.
I knocked at the door, and it was opened; an old couple who were preparing
to retire to rest seemed somewhat alarmed at my entrance, so I hastened to
make known to them that I was a stranger on the road, and would thank them
to direct me either to a hayrick or a cattle-shed, where I could find
shelter for the might. They commiserated the hardship of my lot in
being necessitated to ask such a question, and directed me to a stable
connected with a public house a little farther on the way, the residents
of which would probably be gone to bed. I thanked the old folks, and
without much trouble found out the house and the stable alluded to.
All was dark and silent around; the stable was quite unoccupied, and not a
straw, nor a lock of hay could I find within the place. I tried to
make the manger my sleeping berth not without a grateful remembrance of
the one at Bethlehem—but I could not fit my shoulders to the trough, and
sleep being denied me there, I lay down on the bare pavement below,
thinking, carnal though I was, that if the manger once served as a bed for
a heavenly Lord, the stones beneath one might even suffice for a wandering
sinner like me; and so I stretched my wearied limbs on the floor and fell
asleep. In the morning I rose as refreshed as if my bed had been one
of down, and leaving my sleeping apartment in as tidy a condition as I
found it, I quietly shut the door after me, and continued my journey.
I spent my last penny in the purchase of a cake as I entered Derby, and as
penny cakes were rather small concerns in those days, mine was quickly
I passed through the town without stopping, and soon found
myself once more amid the beautiful scenery of which our island is so
rife. After walking a mile or two I overtook a little
crabbed-looking middle-aged man, who, notwithstanding that he limped on
one foot, and travelled with a stick, got over the ground rather cleverly.
I soon found out that he was a stay and corset-maker by trade, was a great
professor of religion, and was going to Manchester, as he said, to pick up
a penny in the way of business, and "to speak a word to the heathen," when
opportunity offered. And now, I thought to myself, if this man has
only money enough about him to carry us both to Manchester, and will
undertake to provide for me on the way, I shall look upon him as one sent
by Divine providence. I was not long in ascertaining that he had the
means to assist me, and then, in return for his communication, I gave him
a short history of my adventures, without letting him know the whole
truth, and concluded by a proposal that as we were both journeying to one
town, we should keep company, and that he should furnish the means for my
very frugal subsistence till we arrived there, when I would introduce him
to my friends, who would thank him for his kindness, and amply repay him
besides. The prospect of turning a good penny on the road appeared,
from the manner in which I stated the case, so plain and certain, that the
little man assented to the proposal, and we jogged on to Ashborne, where
he paid for a basin of milk, and a pennyworth of bread for each, and this
was our breakfast. Soon after leaving Ashborne, we fell into company
with a private of light dragoons, going home on furlough. At first
his presence was not very agreeable to me, but I soon had reason to
conclude that he had not, for the present at least, any designs of
entrapping me, so we three journeyed together. We now began to mount
the hills over which we had to pass to Buxton, and a long, dreary twenty
four miles the journey would be, as I was given to understand. The
day was very hot, and I required refreshment in order to enable me to
support the heat and fatigue, but I found my commissary was not going to
be at all prodigal of supplies. In walking about ten miles he paid
for one gill of sorry treacle beer only, and shortly afterwards, finding I
could not keep pace with my comrades, I sat down on a knoll by the
roadside, and they went forward, disappearing over the long moors.
After some time, having got a draught of blessed water at a little rill, I
made an essay to proceed, and had not gone far ere I arrived at a large
inn and posting-house called New Haven. A haven it was indeed to me.
I asked one of the stable men for permission to lie down on the
hay-baulks, which he civilly granted, and there I remained sleep-bound
until far in the afternoon. On awaking I set forward again, quite
refreshed and in good spirits, and was the more anxious to get to Buxton
since I should then be only twenty-two miles from home, a distance which I
thought I should be able to walk with the refreshment of water only,
should chance not throw in my way a particle of solid food.
Encouraged thus by the consciousness of being almost on the verge of my
native county, and of being now traversing the tops of some of those hills
which I had so often contemplated from our play-ground at Middleton, I
stepped forward with a light heart, over a country of waste and cheerless
moors, and of rolling, billowy hills. Though greatly fatigued, as
much probably from the heat of the three last days as from the want of
food, I continued, with many cheering anticipations, to urge my feeble
steps in the direction of my hoped-for resting-place for the night, though
God only knew what sort of a resting-place that was to be. Another
opportunity now occurred for my asking charity, and I made up my mind to
do it. It was a secluded place in the bottom of a valley. I
was descending one side, and a gentleman, mounted and walking his horse at
a quiet pace, was coming down the other. We met nearly at the
bottom, and I looked at him and lifted my hat, but when my hand should
have been extended, and the words of supplication should have passed my
lips, I could not do either the one or the other, and the gentleman,
merely nodding in return to my civility, passed on.
Shortly after this I began to feel sickly; my head became
confused, and I sat down merely as I thought to rest and take breath, but
I probably fainted, since when consciousness returned night had completely
set in. I however got up as well as I could, and again put my now
stiffened limbs in motion, and had not proceeded more than a mile ere I
became aware that I was approaching numerous habitations, and pressing
forward I was soon at the entrance into the village of Buxton.
My first endeavour was to discover, if I could, a stable or
outhouse of some sort, in which I could take up my lodgings—the last of
the sort which I should want on my present journey. I had not
hovered about the street long ere I espied a ladder reared against what
appeared to be a hay-loft; so I crept up as daintily as if I had been
mounting to a curtained bed of down, and found to my great joy that I was
on a boarded floor, well stored with hay. Here, then, was my bed at
once, and now all my troubles were over. I was groping about for a
place to make my bed, when, as sudden as a flash, I fell through the
floor, and found myself lying on my back in a lower place. I was
rather confused at first, and scarcely conscious of what had happened, but
was soon made aware that something was vastly wrong by screams of murder,
with occasional prayers and imprecations. Presently a door opened,
and several men entered the place with lights, when I found that I was
lying in the stall of a stable, with my legs across the body of a female,
who continued making a great noise, and whose dress was not in the most
decorous condition. Though shaken by the fall and still confused, I
immediately got upon my feet, when one of the men, holding a lanthorn to
my face, demanded to know why I brought my strumpet into his stable.
In vain I protested that I knew nothing whatever of the woman. He
insisted that I did, and that probably I should have laid hands on other
game also if I had found anything worth carrying away. To this
insinuation I had no reply save a repetition of the assertion that I was
innocent, and I added that I only became aware that any living being was
in the place by the accident of falling through the hole in the floor
above, which I pointed out, and also stated my motive for going there.
By this time the woman had risen from the straw, and was busy arranging
"Why," said one of the men, "is not that the girl that has
been in company with the limping fellow and the soldier all night?"
"The very same," said another.
"Oh! I see how it is," rejoined a third—" where is the old
fox concealed? he has not been in the tap-room since this woman left it."
"He's somewhere in the place," said one of the men.
"He'll be found not far off," said another.
Instantly they began to search, when a slight noise in the
next stall led them to look that way, and they discovered a pair of legs
sticking out from under some straw.
Straight that hunting note which is raised on the taking of a
fox was shouted by half-a-dozen voices, and seizing the legs, they pulled
out my little lame friend, the stay and corset-maker, with whom I joined
company that morning.
"Here he is, sure enough," said one of the men, when they had
"The old dog bagged alive," said another.
"Well, how has this come about?" asked the owner of the
place. "What account can you give of yourselves?" he continued.
Here a scene and a dialogue ensued, which, however diverting
it might be to those present, I will take the liberty to omit from my
narrative. Suffice it to say, that the landlord cleared the place,
locked the door, and put the key in his pocket, the whole of the party,
the woman excepted, entering the public house to which the stable was
attached, and from whence the greater part of them had issued on hearing
the noise. Here several persons were drinking, smoking, and singing
in a kind of kitchen or family room, and amongst them, drunk and nearly
asleep, was my other fellow traveller of the morning, the young dragoon.
The stay-maker was now sadly bantered on account of his adventure, and at
last, in order to make his peace with the landlord and the company, he
paid for a quart of hot ale and gin, of which I took one or two small
glasses, though I would much rather have had something to eat.
After I had sat in this company a considerable time, weary
and longing for repose, I espied an opportunity to slip out of the place,
and again mounting the ladder to the hay-loft, I made sure of not falling
through that time. Quickly was I oblivious of all care, and did not
awaken until the morning was far advanced. On descending from my bed
I inquired about the soldier and the stay-maker, and being informed that
they had started three hours before, I turned my steps through the village
and followed them.
Wearily, and rather faintly, though with a good heart, I
mounted the hills which enclose Buxton on the Lancashire side, and then,
with greater ease, I began to descend the long road down to Whaley Bridge,
my only refreshment being now and then a draught of water from the small
mountain rills which trickled through their rock channels on the moors.
After passing Whaley Bridge I began to ascend, slowly enough, the steep
old road to Disley. The day was again very hot, and when I had
mounted this hard path of the olden time to a considerable distance, I
rested on a stone wall opposite some cottages, at the door of one of which
I soon espied an old woman winding bobbins. I asked her for a
draught of water, when she immediately rose to oblige me, and brought
forth a basin of delicious butter-milk. I thanked her most
gratefully, and as I stood leaning against the doorpost, much fatigued,
she asked if I could eat some oaten cake, and on my saying I could with
pleasure, she invited me to come in and sit down, and speedily presented
me with half of a good substantial cake, baked thick and without being
riddled. I quickly dispatched the cake, when the old woman—a
fine-looking old mother she was—casting on me a glance of womanly feeling
said, "Bless me, lad—for thou art somebody's lad, I dare say—thou hast
been famished, almost dying of hunger, I'm sure; couldst thou eat another
piece of cake?" I said I could, and informed her that this was the
first food I had tasted since I left Ashborne the morning previous.
She accordingly gave me the other half of the cake, part of which I ate,
and the remainder, with some cheese, she made me put in my pocket as a
snack on the road.
Blessings on the memory of that kind old woman! I
thought she was much like what I remembered of my own mother, only more
aged. I stole many a look at her as she moved about the house.
Blessings be ever with her memory!
After leaving this cottage, refreshed and somewhat rested, I
was soon at Disley, and from thence I passed through Bullock Smithy (now
Hazel Grove) and Stockport to Manchester, where I arrived at dusk, and
took up my quarters at the house of a friend until night had set in, when
I visited my father and other relations, and was received by them with a
joyful welcome. I thought it rather strange, however, that they
expressed not any surprise at my return, and on further conversation I
learned that my kind friend, the little staymaker, had visited them the
same day, and had prepared them for my coming. He had made them
quite easy respecting my condition, having told them that he had advanced
me money sufficient to carry me home comfortably, and that I was coming on
at my leisure. The rascal was consequently very well received by
them, and went away trebly repaid for what he said he had advanced to me.
My father, however, though he abhorred the fraud and the deception, said,
"Never mind the money, 'My son was dead, and is alive again, he was lost,
and is found.'"
And now, if we would derive a benefit beyond the mere
amusement which the perusal of this book may afford, we should here pause
and survey that career of life which I had lately been pursuing, and then
note down the events which followed from it. The dangers, the
hardships which I had undergone, and many of them I have not set down, not
liking to amplify on such matters, were only the natural results of a
course of parental disobedience, and a disregard of conscientious
warnings, which, like good angels, would have turned me from the path of
error—of sin—but I would not.
From such a course what could be expected save a retaliation
of evil for the evil I had committed; for as surely as night succeeds day,
as certainly as death comes after life, so inevitably does good beget
good, and sin produce misery. Let the reader then, the youthful one
especially, who seeks to benefit by the reading of this book, note what,
in my case, followed a vicious irregularity of living; and then, if he
would escape providential chastisement, let him, with a steady
determination, eschew evil, on the track of which chastisement quickly
follows, and is never turned aside.
WAREHOUSE WORK AGAIN—READINGS—CATHERINE.
HAVING now had enough of an unsettled life, at least
for the present, I endeavoured to obtain constant employment, and a
regular situation, in a warehouse, and shortly I got an engagement in that
of Messrs. Hole, Wilkinson, and Gartside, an eminent printing concern,
whose works were at Cross Hall, near Chorley, and whose sale warehouse was
in Peel Street, Manchester. Here my business was to unlock the
warehouse at morning, to kindle a fire in the counting-house during
winter, to sweep the floor, to dust down the desks and tables, and
generally to make the place tidy and comfortable against the arrival of
the book-keepers and my employers. My next morning's job was to
sweep the floors of the sale-rooms, to dust the counters, benches, and
shelves, to lay all the prints straight, and place them in regular piles
according to their several sorts. My own place, the packing-room on
the upper floor, was next to be swept and made ready for work; and the
like having been done to a small print-room adjoining, I either took a
seat in the counting-house until relieved by the bookkeeper, or I remained
at my own desk in this upper storey. This desk was a snug concern,
or at least so I deemed it. It was furnished with writing materials,
convenient drawers and recesses; a ruler, a penknife, a folding-up slate
and pencil, and on it were deposited a file, with notes from the sale-room
of every parcel of goods which I had to deliver or pack; a book in which
every parcel or pack which had to go by carrier was entered and signed for
by him; and a smaller book in which were noted down, and duly signed for,
every parcel of goods which was delivered in Manchester. Such was
the routine of my duty on three mornings in the week, and such the place
of retirement which was my own peculiar right when not called to action by
the requirements of my situation.
My employers were George Hole, a son of an extensive farmer
near Newark-on-Trent, who managed the selling department of the concern at
this Manchester warehouse; John Wilkinson, a manufacturer, who attended to
the buying of the cloth necessary for the concern; and Henry Gartside, a
first-rate practical printer, who managed that branch of the business with
great ability. On the mornings of Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, the
warehouse was opened at seven o'clock; and on the three market mornings of
Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, it was opened at six o'clock. By
half-past six a large cart, drawn by two stout horses, would be at the
door. Before seven, Mr. Hole and Mr. M., the salesman, would have
arrived, and would probably find from a dozen to a score of country
drapers chatting and walking about in the counting-house, the lobby, and
the sale-room. Exactly at seven o'clock the sheets were thrown off
the cart, and the delivery commenced. Mr. M. counted the pieces by
twenties, and placing them on my shoulder I carried them upstairs, and
threw them down on a clean white cloth, which was spread on the floor of
the sale-room. A scramble then commenced amongst the buyers which
should get the most pieces; sometimes they met me at the sale-room door
and tore them off my back; and many a good coat have I seen slit up, or
left with the laps dangling, after a struggle of that sort. The
pieces having all been delivered in this manner, the old carter drove off
to put his horses up, whilst Mr. M. hastened to assist in the sale-room,
and I, from a wish to be as useful as I could to my employers, also
attended, handing pieces to the customers, and now and then taking
occasion respectfully to point out a piece which was a better one than
common. For having naturally a taste for objects of a beautiful or
striking description, I soon acquired a tolerably correct judgment of
prints also; and though I made not any parade of my talent, I had not been
accustomed to prints long ere I could form a rather sure guess whether or
not a style of work would sell. Such was a print delivery and a
morning's sale at a Manchester warehouse in the year 1808.
The pieces which had been selected were left doubled up,
piled in lots, and ticketed with the name of the buyer. Mr. Hole and
Mr. M. would then go to breakfast, and if a buyer who had missed the
delivery came in, I showed him the prints which were left, when he
selected what he approved of, gave his name, and I piled and ticketed them
the same as the former lots were.
By this time the book-keeper would have arrived, and I went
to breakfast, and on my return would be despatched to the post-office for
letters. The way-bill of articles wanted for the works was next put
into my hand, and I went round to the chemists, the drysalters, the
block-makers, the engravers, or to any other parties who had to supply
materials to go back by the cart, and ordered whatever was required.
I next delivered all lots of prints purchased by Manchester houses, or
ordered to be left with them for package with other goods. The cart
was next loaded for its return, and by the time that was despatched the
old church bell would have dropped ringing one o'clock, and the doors were
then locked and we went to dinner. At two o'clock we again opened,
and I commenced my afternoon's work by carrying up to my packing room the
first lot of prints that, having been entered in the day-book, was ready
for being sent off. That lot having been packed, or trussed, and
neatly marked—at which feat I soon became no common hand—the other lots
were successively made up in their respective forms, and, having been
entered in the carrier's book, were duly signed for by him, and sent to
their several destinations. By this time it would probably be five
or six o'clock in the evening, and the goods which had been ordered for
that day having been all disposed of, our employers would retire at
tea-time, and at six, after I had carefully raked out the fire, closed the
shutters of the counting-house, and walked round the rooms to see that all
was right, I and the bookkeeper—if he was present—locked up the warehouse,
and I took the keys to Mr. Hole's residence in Faulkner Street, and so
terminated my employment for the day.
I have been thus particular in describing the transactions of
one market day, inasmuch as that description may suffice for those of any
other market day of the busy seasons of spring and autumn, when new
patterns and styles of prints were produced in the market; and inasmuch
also as that I am rather of opinion that morning sales, like the one I
have described, are no longer known in Manchester, nor ever will be again.
I was well satisfied with my situation, and used my best
endeavours to please my employers, and to promote their interest in every
way which my humble condition permitted. Nor were they unmindful of
my exertions, and I had not been long in their service before they
voluntarily advanced my wages from eighteen to twenty shillings a week.
This was a great encouragement to me, since it gave me to understand in a
most pleasing manner that my endeavours were appreciated. I
continued those endeavours, and in a short time my wages were increased to
a guinea a week.
As spring and autumn were our only really busy seasons, I had
occasionally, during other parts of the year, considerable leisure, which,
if I could procure a book that I considered at all worth the reading, was
spent with such book at my desk in the little recess of the packing-room.
Here, therefore, I had opportunities for reading many books of which I had
only heard the names before, such as Robertson's "History of Scotland,"
Goldsmith's "History of England," Rollin's "Ancient History," Gibbon's
"Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire," Anacharsis's "Travels in Greece,"
and many other works on travel, geography, and antiquities. I also
enlarged my acquaintance with English literature, read Johnson's "Lives of
the Poets," and, as a consequence, many of their productions also.
Macpherson's "Ossian," whilst it gave me a glimpse of our most ancient
lore, interested my feelings and absorbed my attention. I also bent
my thoughts on more practical studies, and at one time had nearly the
whole of Lindley Murray's "Grammar" stored in my memory, although I never
so far benefited by it as to become ready at parsing. A publication
of a different description also fell in my way. Mr. Hole was a
reader of Cobbett's Weekly Register, and as I constantly saw the
tract lying on the desk at the beginning of the week, I at length read it,
and found within its pages far more matter for reflection than, from its
unattractive title and appearance, I had expected to find there. The
nervous and unmistakable English of that work there was no withstanding.
I thenceforth became as constant a reader of Cobbett's writings as was my
master himself, and was soon, probably, a more ardent admirer of his
doctrines than was my employer. As I generally attended the
counting-house when the book-keeper and salesman were absent—unless called
out by other employment—I had many opportunities for these perusals.
I seldom indeed failed to examine whatever book I found upon the desk, and
if I happened to be left to lock up at noon, which would sometimes be the
case, I would hasten to the next shop and buy a cold lunch for dinner,
thence return to the warehouse and lock myself in, that I might have an
opportunity for examining some book which had attracted my attention.
And in this way, during nearly all the four years which I passed in the
employ of this firm, I continued to examine or to read every book which
fell in my way, or which I could readily procure.
Such was the manner in which I was employed whilst with
Messrs. Hole, Wilkinson, and Gartside, namely, alertly busy during two
months each of spring and autumn; occasionally busy at other times; and
with a comparatively small amount of warehouse labour during the remainder
of the year. Our early openings gave us a good start of the day;
everything was understood and done promptly, and when our neighbours were
hurrying and packing to get ready for the carriers, we, having cleared all
off, would probably be closing the warehouse. Very rarely indeed did
we stay after six o'clock; not unfrequently did we close at half-past
five, and sometimes we shut up at five. I then went to my lodgings,
got tea, washed and put on some better clothing, and spent the evening
either in a country walk or a stroll in the town. Those were some of
the most satisfactory days which I had experienced during a long time.
Not unfrequently my evening walks would extend as far as
Middleton, for the separation which ensued on my going to sea had not in
the least degree diminished my regard for the dear object of my affection,
whilst on her part it seemed only to have increased her attachment.
Again, therefore, we had our walks through the leas of Hopwood or
Middleton. Sometimes, on fine Sunday afternoons, we would ramble as
far as the wood-crowned Tandles—ancient fire-hills—and descending by their
romantic footpaths into the sunny valley, and thence through the shadowy,
mysterious, old Druid-haunted wood, returned to Middleton at the closing
of another blessed day, my heart repeating, in reference to the scene in
Northamptonshire, "Ah! And have not I been walking, as I thought I
would, with one as dear and as bonny as the best of them!"
Having heard that one of my fellow apprentices on shipboard
had returned, and was living at Cheetham Hill, I took an opportunity for
going over there, in order to find him out. At the door of a small
cottage, the site of which is now enclosed in a shrubbery, stood an old
woman whom I thought I must have seen before. I looked again, and
who should she be but the mother of my once dear Catherine; but oh, how
altered! aged, attenuated, and sadly humble in her apparel; humble in the
material, but still proud and particular in its cleanness and the
formality of its adjustment. I at once determined to speak to her,
and as a pretence for so doing I crossed over the highway, and asked her
if she could inform me where the person I was in search of lived?
With a quick and inquisitive look, which I seemed not to notice, she
scanned me over, and said she did not know the person I was asking about.
Lingering a moment till my look met hers, I said, in affected
surprise—"Surely I should know your features; are not you Mrs. W. who once
lived at a farm in Crumpsall?"
"I am," she replied.
"And will you permit me to ask one question, which I assure
you is not prompted by curiosity, but arises from a sincere respect for
the person I would ask about?"
Here I heard a slight coughing within the cottage, and the
old woman leaned her arm, which was now tremulous, against the door-frame.
"What is your question, young man?" asked she.
"I wish to know how your daughter Catherine is?" I replied.
"Catherine is very poorly," said the old woman; and looking
at me again, "does Catherine know you?" she asked.
"She did know me once," I said, "and I think she cannot have
quite forgotten me yet."
"I think I know now who you are," she said, with a more
"Perhaps you do; I have no objection that you should know
me," I said. "But pray, where is Catherine then, if she is so
"She is here," replied the old woman.
"Might I be allowed to speak to her?"
"Yes," said the dame, "there cannot be any harm in that now.
Only"—whispering in my ear— do not speak loud, nor say anything that may
fluster her, or put her out of the way."
"God forbid," I said, entering the cottage with a careful
Catherine was seated in a low chair near the fire, a pillow
was behind her head, and her left arm rested on another, which lay on a
white table, on which also were a prayer-book, open, another small book or
two, and some fruit.
The moment I entered the room there was a brightening in her
eye, and a flushing on her cheek, but instantly, seeming to check herself,
she appeared calm, and motioned me to come near.
The old woman placed a chair for me, on that side of the
table where her arm lay, and doffing my hat, and wiping my forehead, and
eyes also by the way, I sat down, and taking her hand gently in mine, I
"Dear Catherine, I am truly grieved at seeing you so unwell."
"Ah, Samuel!" she said, "are you come at last? I did
not expect this; I dared not hope for it."
"Why not, dear Catherine?"
"I thought you were too happy elsewhere ever to think of me."
"Indeed, I have been very happy, and very unhappy also but I
have never ceased to love you as a sister—as a dear friend."
"That is quite enough," she said, "since I have now no love
to bestow, save that for my Redeemer."
"Are you happy?" I asked.
"I am," she replied, "very happy. I know that my time
in this world is short, and I am prepared for the change, but I wished to
see you, God permitting, and now you are come at last, and I shall have
done with things of this world."
"Dear Catherine," I said, "I am glad that I have come then."
She then desired me to state particularly how it happened
that I was in the company of the young woman with whom she last saw me at
Manchester; and I thereupon narrated the circumstances exactly as they
occurred. She then said she was satisfied, for that my account
corresponded in every particular with that given by the girl herself.
I asked her if she had seen the girl, and she said she had met her one
day, some time since, on the road to Manchester. The girl was
travelling with wares in a basket, and she having become a customer, led
the girl into conversation, and at length asked her if she remembered
coming down the Mill Gate with a young man, and being led by him into a
cook-shop. The girl, she said, at once acknowledged the fact, and
gave the same account of the circumstance which I had done. And now,
Catherine said, she had only to ask my forgiveness for having thought
wrongfully, and perhaps injuriously of me.
I said I had nothing to forgive her for, but if she wished me
to say the words, why then I as freely forgave her as I hoped to be
forgiven. She said we had both been sufferers. That dangerous
old sibyl in whom she had placed her confidence had misrepresented my
actions, and abused her too easy belief. But it was now all over,
and she had only to implore me to prepare for the same great change which
she had shortly to undergo. Sooner or later I should have to come to
the same state, and I should then find it a blessed thing so
"To have lived that I might dread
The grave as little as my bed."
I asked her if she was quite prepared for the change. "Oh quite
prepared," she said, "blessed be my Redeemer."
She leaned back, rather exhausted. Her mother motioned
me not to speak any more. Catherine gave me her hand again. I
felt the pressure of her burning fingers, and placing them reverentially
to my lips, I intimated that I would shortly come again, and withdrew.
On my second visit, with a small present of fruit and confectionery,
Catherine was too ill to speak, but she knew me, and held out her hand.
Her cheeks kept blushing and paling, and her eyes were almost painfully
brilliant. On my third visit she was in her coffin, shrouded and
knotted with white love-ribbon, and decked with sweet herbs and flowers.
Her mother stood weeping behind the curtain, and the attendants were
downstairs, so I touched her cold forehead and pale cheek with my lips,
and placing one little memorial on her bosom, I took my last look and came
ROBERT BURNS—A WEDDING—A RIOT.
AT the time when I was in the employ of Messrs.
Hole, Wilkinson, and Gartside, it was the custom for porters and
warehousemen, such as myself, to go round on New Year's Day a
Christmas-gifting, to the block-makers, engravers, carriers, and others
employed by the firm. On the first New Year's Day of this my
servitude, I refused to exercise this privilege, and so lost my Christmas
gifts for that year. The porters of the neighbourhood could not
comprehend the motives for such an act of disinterestedness and
independence; and when we fell into company, which we sometimes did, at
Dolly Burton's, who kept an excellent tap at the "Red Lion," in Church
Street, I was lucky if I did not hear my self-denial characterised in
disparaging terms. They said I could be nothing less than a fool, to
miss a legal and honest chance of putting a pound or two into my pocket,
for the trouble of a forenoon's walk; and they talked to me so, that, in
sooth, I began myself to think I was not so bright about the head as some
folks. Accordingly, the next New Year's Day I went with two others
on that, to me, distasteful errand, and in about three hours I had
pocketed thirty shillings. But I resolved never to go again.
There was so much humiliation mixed up with the thing, that though the
money was useful, I felt self-reproached when I reflected how it had been
obtained. So there was no more New Year's gifting for me.
I think it was about this time that Chatterton's life and
poems fell in my way. They interested me very deeply, though I could
not help believing that his account of the Rowley manuscripts was scarcely
credible. Burns's life and writings next fell into my hands—Robert
Burns, the Scottish ploughman, of whom I had heard mention made so often,
and yet, strangely enough, had never read one sentence. Well now the
poems, and an account of the manner in which this gifted man wore out his
life in this world, were before me. And did I not sit down, beside
my quiet desk, under the skylight, and read, or rather compress to my very
soul, every word of that precious book? Aye, through, and through,
and through again did I note it, line by line, and sentence by sentence.
And this man, whom methought I saw before me as plainly as if he had stood
there, was Robert Burns, the deathless-named, the world-wide famed Robert
Burns. There he was, a tall, stooping, lank-haired, weather-browned,
dreamy-eyed, God crowned, noble-minded ploughman. And this, too, was
of his writing, of his soul uttering; this "Lass o' Ballochmoyle" was one
strain of his never-dying melody! If this be really so—-if this be
indeed his poetry—what can these sensations possibly be, which awaken
within me whenever I read a true poet's verse; these strange and undefined
emotions which have brooded over my heart ever since I knew what love and
poetry were. If these expressed sensations of the noble poet peasant
constituted his imperishable wreath, what could these unexpressed but
somewhat identical feelings of mine be, save poetry without the form—a
spirit without the body. What then, methought, if I tried to throw
them into form? what if I dared an essay to give them utterance in verse?
Burns thereat looked kindly—or so I dreamed—and with a sweet, strong voice
said encouragingly, "Try mon, and fear not." So I tried, and the
result was such that when vanity whispered, "I also am a poet," I knew not
that it was vanity; and from that time I became an occasional writer of
So greatly was I pleased with the character of Burns that in
accepting him as an example I made a too faint distinction betwixt his
genius and his failings, and in striving to emulate the one I sometimes
fell into an imitation of the other, which was quite a different thing.
My visits to Dolly Burton's became more frequent, after warehouse time,
and were occasionally prolonged beyond the limits of sober refreshment.
A few clerks, tradesmen, and some of the better sort of porters, used to
meet in the little parlour there, and after discussing the news of the
town, or of the nation, during which pipes and glasses were replenished
pretty freely, and joke and banter were not spared, singing would
commence, and a strange thing would it have been indeed had it terminated
"Wha first shall rise to gang awa,
A cuckold coward loon is he;
Wha first beside his chair does fa,
He shall be king amang us three."
But then, Mother Burton's ale was of so excellent a tap, and she was so
kindly an old landlady, at once discreet and obliging, that we respected
her as much as we liked her ale, and there might be something in that also
which detained us. But whatever was the cause of our frequent
meetings, whether the ale, or the landlady, or the music, or all together,
it would be greatly probable indeed, that before we separated a couple or
two of our cronies would be in a condition to enact Shanter or Souter
Johnny on their way home.
I was not so unreflective as not to perceive to what this
course must inevitably tend, and with a view to put an end to it at once,
I resolved to marry. This was the more likely to be effected without
much difficulty, inasmuch as my courtship had been duly paid, and it was
long now since my intended fair had entertained any other expectation than
the one I now purposed to accomplish. So one forenoon, when she came
to Manchester on an errand, I asked leave out of the warehouse for an
hour, and having met her at a place appointed, we proceeded to a
goldsmith's shop, and I contrived to fit her neat finger with a ring,
worth nine shillings, which she folded in tissue paper, and then in
another paper, and next wrapped in a huzzif, tying it round and round with
the tape band, and next placed it in a pocket-book which she carefully
folded and conveyed to the very deepest recess of her pocket, feeling
again, to make sure that it was there. This important business being
settled, I helped her to mount her little tit Trim, bade her good-bye for
the present, and seeing her off at a trot towards home, I returned to my
work, happy in the certainty that when I was wed, I should have a wife who
would create for me an ever-welcome home.
The banns had been duly published, the day agreed upon, and
all was ready. So I made an appointment with my friend Booth to rise
early on Sunday morning, and take a good swim in the river before I went
to meet my bride and her friends. Booth and I were up betimes, and
as speedily in the water at Sandy Well, luxuriating in the cool element
most gleesomely, when what should start us from our enjoyment but the
sound of the old church bell ringing seven o'clock, within a quarter of an
hour of the very time at which we should have met Mima and her company at
Harpurhey. We had been mistaken in the time an hour. So we put
on our clothes, and hastened towards the place appointed, but before we
arrived there we espied the party coming on the road, and meeting them, we
all came to Manchester, in a very good humour, as wedding folks ought to
be. After breakfasting at my sister's in Greengate, where I lodged,
we proceeded to the Old Church, and lo! when the ring was produced, the
bride's finger was so swollen with walking, that the ring could not be
passed over the joint. The minister, who was the Reverend Joshua
Brooks, seeing that the ring was not placed according to custom, began, as
he read the service, to thumb it with his nail, in order to force it over.
I was afraid he would hurt the dear little woman, and was about to
remonstrate, when he suddenly quitted us, and hastening to one side of the
communion rails, he gave a boy who stood leaning against them a smart box
on the ear, and then, without saying a word, he returned to us.
Meantime, in order to prevent his further annoyance, I had taken hold of
the whole of the finger, and held it with the ring on in my hand.
But he now attempted to thrust my hand away, and tried to commence forcing
the ring up again.
"Let the ring go over," he said.
"It can't go further," I replied, "her finger is swelled."
"It can go further, and it shall go further," said the
irritable little being, and I, almost as irritable, said quickly, "It
sha'n't go further."
"Oh; very well," then observed he, "stand down, you are not
man and wife until I have bestowed the benediction."
"Benediction? indeed!" thought I, "a blessed benediction it
must be that has to pass those lips."
However we stood back, and as he had finished the ceremony
for us, except the benediction, he went through the same form with four or
five other couples, after which the clerk ordered us all to kneel down; we
of course kneeled with the others, and the benediction having been
bestowed indiscriminately, we rose from our knees, and I suppose each
bridegroom did as I did, for there was a sound of kisses in the place.
"How stupid you were," said the reverend personage, when we
went into the vestry to sign the registers, and to pay the fees—No, I had
forgotten, the fees were paid beforehand—"How stupid you were," said he,
"not to let the ring go on the finger."
"The ring was on the finger," I said.
"Yes, but not properly; not over the joint."
"That is not required," I said. "Besides, the finger was
swollen, and it was painful."
"But the ring is over the joint now," said he.
"Yes, but not through your endeavours; and whether it were or
not you had no right to interfere in the manner you did. The ring
was on the finger, and the form of solemnisation does not require more."
" Pho, pho, man," said he, "sign the book; sign the book."
Both Mimi and I signed the book. Thus we were married,
and I was happy.
The morning following, I opened the warehouse, and prepared
it as usual, and the remainder of the day was given me to keep my wedding
on. Mima and I went to Middleton, and whilst we sat at a merry tea
party at my uncle's, a being which was dearest to me of any in the world,
save my wife, was brought in, and presented. A young girl held in
her arms a sweet infant, just of age to begin noticing things. It
fixed its good-tempered look upon me, smiled, and stretched forth its
hands.—"Bless thee," I said in my heart—taking it in my arms, and pressing
it to my bosom—"Bless thee, my dear babe, though my coming has been late,
and after long looking for, I will be a kind father to thee. Yes,
though a proud and supercilious world may view with contempt the
misfortune of thy birth, the more it disparage thee, the greater shall be
my love. Bless thee, my little innocent," and I held it fondly, for
my heart yearned towards it. Meanwhile, as if its mother had heard
what my heart alone spoke to my child and to God, she sat looking at us
through trembling tears. I gave the babe to her, saying kindly,
"Dear love, be happy. The fault was mine, and it shall be my life's
endeavour to repair it."
Soon after this we commenced housekeeping at Manchester, and
a brief period having elapsed, my wife and child again returned to live at
Middleton, I generally, in summer time, walking over after warehouse
hours; in winter visiting them twice or thrice a week, and always spending
my Saturday nights and Sundays at home. I was now a settled family
man, serving my employers duly, and, God knows, I can with truth say, that
I served them honestly also. My greatest ambition was to please
them, and to provide for my family, and as I was tolerably successful in
both objects, I was as happy as a mortal need be in this world.
It was about this time, that the authorities and some of the
ultra-loyal inhabitants of Manchester made their first grand political
mistake, which occurred within the sphere of my observation. Charles
Wood, I recollect, was Borough reeve that year, and a placard with—if I
mistake not—his name appended, was exhibited, calling on the inhabitants
of Manchester and its vicinity to meet in St. Ann's Square, for the
purpose of passing a congratulatory address to the Prince Regent,
afterwards George IV. On the day appointed there was a large muster
of people from the neighbouring towns and villages, and the original
concocters of the measure, fearing they would not be able to carry it,
kept entirely away, and abandoned their intention altogether. The
crowd, seeing there was not to be any meeting, formed a ring in the
square, and appointed a chairman, and passed some resolutions of a
tendency contrary to those originally purposed to be carried.
Meantime, groups of people were in other parts beginning to commit
excesses. About half a dozen, who from their appearance seemed to be
countrymen, accosted a gentleman at the entrance from Exchange Street into
the square, and after some opprobrious expressions they laid hands on him,
and then began to strike him with sticks which they carried. He
tried to escape into some of the shops, but the doors and windows being
mostly fastened he was disappointed. The men continued striking him;
his hat was knocked off, and on his head, which I saw was a little bald in
the front, he received several blows. My feelings and partialities
had hitherto been all on the side of the populace, but I could not witness
this cowardly outrage without feelings of indignation and disgust.
Pushing in amongst them, "For shame, men," I said, and warding off two or
three blows, I received several on my arms and shoulders. At that
moment, some one in a shop, opening the door, as if to see what was the
matter, the gentleman slipped in, and the door was again closed and bolted
in an instant.
Just then a great shout was set up near the Exchange, and the
whole party hastened off in that direction, I following leisurely.
When I got there a number of fellows were throwing chairs, tables, and
benches through the windows above the post office, and the furniture being
quickly broken up, the fragments were used in smashing the lamps, and
front windows of the building. Another party of the mob were in the
large room, breaking and destroying everything that stood in their way, or
that excited their spirit of mischief. Fragments of tables and
chairs were hurled through the windows into the street, and thence back
again; the costly chandeliers were shivered to atoms, and at length, a
heap of straw was piled up and set on fire. At this juncture the
police and a party of the Cumberland militia arrived; the fire was
extinguished, and several of the rioters were taken into custody. A
troop or two of the Scots Greys soon afterwards made their appearance, and
began clearing the streets, when, it being then warehouse time, I hastened
to my work.
A CRITICISM—MIDDLETON FIGHT—A PARTING—CONCLUSION.
IN the exercise of my talent for verse-making, I had
so well pleased myself that at length I determined to test the merit of
one of my productions by offering it for publication, in the Manchester
Gazette. The office of that paper was then at the top of
Hunter's Lane, and William Cowdroy was the editor; a gentleman of whom I
had a very high opinion, for, though he was rather satirical, and at
times, somewhat crusty with his correspondents, he on the whole, evinced
an encouraging spirit; at all times he exhibited a quick and just
perception, and to his judgment, therefore, was this piece of mine
submitted. It was a description, in verse, of my first visit to
Oldham, and described in an ironical strain the interior of a cottage at
Priest Hill, and scenery in the immediate neighbourhood. It was in
the Lancashire dialect, and commenced as follows :—
"‘Twur on a Sunday afternoon,
I don'd me shoynin' Sunday shoon,
An off I seet wi' Jim an' Jack,
We beawnc'd to Owdham in a crack."
After the description of the place, which was certainly doggerelish, it
concluded with this stanza:—
"An' neaw yon meawntuns hee and far,
Curtain'd the god o' day;
Gone to the west his feyery car,
An sunk his blazin ray.
Wi evening mild, we tripp'd the plain,
An' merrily hied us whom again."
I put it in the letter box, and on the Saturday
following a note to correspondents desired the writer to call at the
office. Accordingly, on an evening of the week following, I, in a
state of mind betwixt doubt and assurance, called, and was shown into a
room, where I awaited the appearance of the literary Solon as if death or
fate had depended on the issue. At length he came, a man about sixty
years of age; of middle height and somewhat fat and fussy; his complexion
was a little rubicund; his nose, with spectacles on it, somewhat snubby;
his eyes, as he looked under or over the glasses, grey and piercing; and
his general appearance and manner that of one possessing power, and
disposed to use it in his own way.
"Well, young man," said he, holding his head back, and
looking at me, "what is the business you are come upon?"
I said I was come about a piece of poetry. "What
poetry?" asked he.
"It was a piece entitled 'A Trip to Oldham,' and the writer
was requested to call at the office."
"Are you the writer of that? " he asked. I said I was.
"And how the d—l could you expect that I should give it a
place in my paper?"
I said I hardly did expect so much as that, but I hoped to
obtain his opinion as to its merits.
"Well, then, my opinion is that it has no merits," he said.
I said I was but a young hand at verse making, and if he
would state whether it was the subject, or the manner of treating it,
which rendered the piece objectionable, I should feel obliged.
"Oh! both are objectionable; it is trumpery doggerel
throughout. Here is your paper, and I hope you will never offer me
any more such." Saying which, he took up the candle, and went out of
the place, leaving me to grope my way down the lobby and out at the door
as well as I could.
Such was the first reception which my verses met with from a
Manchester editor. Sorely indeed were my expectations disappointed,
and sadly humbled was my ambition, yet I was not disheartened. "This
being a failure," I said to myself, as I was going down Hunter's Lane, "I
must e'en try to do better the next time, as many a poor genius has done
before me. And notwithstanding what the critic has said, I am as
certain as I am of my own existence that there are redeeming passages in
the poem. He does not understand it. It is written in a rude
dialect. He is testy and out of humour. And besides, he is no
Solomon after all." Thus I criticised the critic, and settled the
matter, in my way.
One afternoon we were astonished and alarmed at the warehouse
by a report which had come into the town that the power-loom manufactory
of Messrs. Burton and Sons, at Middleton, had been attacked by a numerous
mob, with the intent of destroying the machinery, and that several of the
mob had been shot dead, and a number wounded. As soon as we had
locked up for the evening, I, of course, hastened off to Middleton, and on
my arrival found the report to be true.
About two o'clock on the afternoon of this day (the 20th of
April) the inhabitants of the town were surprised by the appearance of
numbers of men, many of them armed with sticks and bludgeons, who
simultaneously arrived in the town from various districts of the
surrounding country. Several provision shops in the upper part of
the town were entered and plundered of bread, cheese, bacon, and
groceries, and in some instances plunder was prevented by presents of
money. The mob seemed to arrive from all parts at once, and the
smaller parties having formed into one main body in the turnpike road, the
whole proceeded to the lower part of the town, and there joined another
large crowd, which seemingly had been waiting for their arrival. In
this year—1812—there had been much destruction of machinery in various
parts of the manufacturing districts of the kingdom, and when the
infatuation spread into Lancashire, the power looms of Messrs. Burton seem
to have attracted the early attention and hostility of a great portion of
the hand-working operatives, who, by means of secret delegations, held
frequent private meetings for the purpose of concertina measures for the
stoppage or destruction of the obnoxious machines. Of these
proceedings the Messrs. Burton were probably informed, since a number of
their weavers, dressers, and overlookers had been for some time drilled to
the use of firearms within the mill. A piece or two of small
ordnance were also placed within the yard, opposite the main entrance, and
such other precautions had been taken as were deemed necessary for the
defence of the place. These measures were superintended by Mr.
Emanuel Burton, who was greatly respected by the workmen, and had inspired
them with a portion of his own spirit of resistance.
On the report reaching the factory that the mob was coming,
the works were stopped, and all the hands, save those detained for the
defence of the mill, were sent home. The mob, after a short delay in
the market place, proceeded to the bottom of Wood Street, where the
factory was situated, and halted in front of the building, and a score or
two of boys who led the mob set up a shout, and began to throw stones and
break the windows. A number of discharges from the mill followed,
but as no one seemed to have been hurt another shout was set up, and the
cry went round, "Oh! they're nobbu feyerin peawther; they darno shoot
bullets," and the stone throwing was recommenced. Other discharges
from the mill now took place, and some of the mob who had experience in
such matters remarked that the crack was different, and that ball was
being fired. A moment only confirmed this opinion, for several were
wounded, and three fell dead, on seeing which the mob fled in all
directions. In a short time a troop of the Scots Greys were in the
town, and they were quickly followed by a company of the Cumberland
militia. The streets and lanes were then cleared, after which the
horsemen returned to Manchester, and the militia took up their quarters in
the mill. The number of the wounded on this unfortunate occasion was
never truly known, but it was soon ascertained that four persons, all
young men, had been killed. Joseph Jackson, sixteen years of age,
and David Knott, aged twenty, both from Oldham, were killed at the end of
Chapel Street; John Siddall, of Radcliffe Bridge, aged twenty-two, was
killed lower down the street; and George Albison, a young man from Rhodes,
was wounded whilst going along the highway, and shortly after bled to
death, there being no surgical aid promptly at hand.
On my arrival the streets were all quiet, the doors closed,
and the alehouses silent. People's minds were, however, sadly
agitated, and fierce denunciations were uttered against "Burton and his
shooters," whilst very little anger was expressed against the men who had
plundered shops. In the coat pocket of one of the killed was found a
half-pound of currants, the fruit, no doubt, of such plunder.
I state these things because they are facts, and not from any
feeling which I now have, one way or the other, except for truth; though
at the time I entertained perhaps as strong a dislike towards the
"shooters" and their employers as did any man in the town. My dear
wife and child I found safe at home, but greatly was I alarmed, and
exceedingly thankful, when I learned that my wife, in her curiosity to
watch a mob, had gone down the town, and, with another thoughtless woman
or two, had stood at the window of a cottage nearly opposite to the
factory, within range of the shot, and only a few yards from the spot
where one man was killed. I gave her a lecture for so doing, the
first perhaps since our marriage, and being convinced of her folly, she
promised never to transgress in that way again, and I daresay she never
The morning following this eventful day I went to my work at
Manchester, as usual, and in the afternoon we were again startled by the
intelligence that a mob larger than that of the day before had visited
Middleton, and had burned the dwelling of Mr. Emanuel Burton and those of
several of his workmen to the ground. On my way to Middleton that
evening I met individuals on the road who were returning to Manchester
with fragments of picture frames and mahogany goods in their hands.
The mob had indeed been desperately bent on destruction that day, but,
more wary than on the day preceding, they had divided their forces, and
whilst one strong party threatened the factory, and by that means detained
the militia at that post, others went to the houses of certain of the
workmen who had defended the factory the day before, and not finding them
at home, had piled their furniture in the street, and had destroyed it by
fire. In this manner the furniture of one cottage at Back-o'th'-brow,
and that of two others at the Club houses was destroyed. The mob, it
should be understood, was on this day armed with guns, scythes, old
swords, bludgeons, and pitchforks. A party of colliers from the
neighbourhoods of Oldham and Hollinwood carried mattocks, and with these
tools were in the act of knocking the end of a house down, when they were
called off to another place. For whilst these outrages were in
progress at Back-o'th'-brow and Club houses, another party of rioters set
off towards Rhodes, and it was to aid these latter that the colliers were
called away. The house of Mr. Emanuel Burton, at Parkfield, was the
first object which attracted their vengeance. It had been abandoned
by the family, and the mob immediately ransacked the cellars and larder,
the younger ones crunching lumps of loaf sugar or licking out preserve
jars, whilst the older hands tapped the beer barrels and the spirit
bottles, or devoured the choice but substantial morsels of the pantry or
store-room. This part of the business having been accomplished, the
work of destruction commenced, and nearly every article of furniture was
irretrievably broken. Amongst the rioters were two sisters, who
might have been taken for young Amazons, so active were they in the
pillage, and so influential in directing others. To some of those
around them they were, however, known only as "Clem" and "Nan," the two
tall, dark-haired, and handsomely formed daughters of a venerable old
weaver, who lived on one of the borders of the township. These two
were in a room, the windows of which were hung with light muslin curtains,
and a sofa, with a cover of light cotton, was also in the same room.
Nothing further in the way of breakage remaining to be done, and these two
being the only ones in this room, "Come," said one to the other, "let's
put a finish to this job," and taking up a shred which lay on the floor,
she lighted it at the fire which had been left burning in the grate.
In a moment the sofa was on fire; the sofa set the curtains in a blaze,
and sofa and curtains communicated the flames to the floor and window, and
at the expiration of probably half an hour not a beam nor a board remained
unconsumed in the whole building.
The next place intended for destruction was the mansion and
farmstead of Mr. Burton, senr., at Rhodes, and only a very short distance
from the scene which has just been described. A part of the mob was
already hovering about the grounds, and some individuals had advanced into
the yard and begun operations, when a tumult and a clatter of hoofs caused
them to look around, and they beheld the Scots Greys close upon them.
Their flight and dispersion were the work of an instant, and this valuable
property was saved.
Whilst the Greys were dispersing the mob at Park House and
Rhodes, others of the same regiment, assisted by the Militia, were
clearing the rioters out of Middleton, which they did speedily and
effectively. In the performance of these services, however, greater
severity was exercised than had been the wont of these two corps on former
occasions. A man named John Nield, from Oldham, was shot through the
body by one of the Greys whilst attempting to escape near Alkrington Hall;
another man was shot by one of the Greys, and left for dead, near Tonge
Lane; a woman, also, who was looking through her own window, was fired at
by another of the same party, and a bullet went through her arm. But
a serjeant of the Militia earned deathless execration by shooting an old
man, named Johnson, from Oldham. Johnson had never been nearer to
the mob or the factory than the Church public house, where he had sat in
the kitchen with the family, and had smoked his pipe and drunk a glass or
two of ale. Towards evening, when it was supposed that all the
disturbance was over, he strolled into the churchyard, and was standing
with his hands in his coat pockets, reading the inscription on a
grave-stone at the steeple end, when a serjeant and private of the
Militia, having ascended the Warren, caught sight of him from amongst the
trees; the serjeant went down on one knee, levelled, fired, and killed the
old man dead, the ball passing through his neck. A number of shots
were fired at the soldiers during the pursuit, but none of them, I
believe, were wounded, except from casualties with their horses. A
number of persons were made prisoners during the riot, and subsequently
many left the country for a time. The two Amazonian damsels escaped
seizure, and few only of the real leaders were ever prosecuted; whilst
several who had as little to do with the outrage as I had myself were, on
the information of a bad, half-crazed, but artful doxey, named Kent,
lodged in jail, tried, found guilty, and sentenced to long imprisonments.
And now, friend reader, I have to return to my own affairs,
and to relate an incident, which, next to my grandfather's rejection of
Madam Ann Bamford's overtures, and my father's refusal to let me learn
Latin, had probably a greater influence in determining my subsequent
condition than had any other event of my life. I allude to the
circumstance of my leaving the employ of my old masters, in Peel Street,
and to my preference of a country residence with domestic employment,
which consigned me at once to a life of independence, with alternate ease,
exigency, and poverty.
Our young gentleman, Mr. M. the salesman, having been
recently married, and become a housekeeper, it happened that he wanted a
load of coals, and as I was always glad to render him a service, I
undertook to get him a load of real Oldham Black Mine. We had been
very slack at the works of late, and the cart had often returned almost
without any load, and as no intimation had been given me of a change in
that respect, I went out after breakfast, although it was a market day,
and bought the coals for Mr. M., and saw them delivered and paid for.
On my return to the warehouse, the cart had, to my surprise, been waiting
to be loaded with grey goods. On my meeting Mr. Hole in the passage,
he looked displeased, and asked where I had been? I told him, and he
said I was neglectful; that I ought not to have gone off when I knew the
cart would have to be loaded, and if I could not attend to their business
better I had best look out for another situation. I merely replied
that I had not been wilfully neglectful, for that I did not expect the
cart would have to be loaded that day; and so I went to work, and had the
cart loaded and off in quick time. Those expressions of my employer
sunk deep into my mind: they sorely wounded my feelings. I pondered
them over and over, trying to discover some ameliorative meaning in them,
but as I could not disguise or qualify their intention, I told Mr. M. at
the week's end that I understood Mr. Hole's words as a notice to leave,
and that I should accordingly do so at the expiration of a month.
I am not assured that Mr. M, said anything in my favour to my
employer respecting this business, though I daresay he would not omit so
fair a course. Nothing, however, was said to me, until the month was
out, when Mr. M. said they were not yet suited with a man, and it would
put them to great inconvenience if I left at that time. I
accordingly stopped another fortnight, and as they were not yet prepared,
I stopped another week and then left the situation.
As trade was now going well, work for the loom was readily
obtainable, and good wages were given. After, therefore, I had made
up my mind to leave, I turned my attention to employment of this sort,
purchased looms, bespoke work for myself and wife, who had become
tolerably handy at the business, so that when I left Messrs. Hole and Co.
I was in a degree pledged to become a weaver.
I should, however, mention that, pursuant to my habit of
versifying on nearly every occasion in which my feelings were interested,
I had composed a couple of stanzas on this momentous event, which stanzas,
on the day of my departure, I wrote on the slate on my desk, and left them
there. They were as follows:
"To-morrow's sun beholds me free,
Come night, and I no more will own
A master's high authority,
Nor bend beneath his angry frown;
But to my native woods and plains
I'll haste, and join the rustic swains.
Gay printed 'fancies,' 'plates,' nor 'chintz,'
No more with wonder shall I view,
Nor criticise the various tints
Of pink or azure, green or blue,
Save when I pluck the flow'ret sweet
That clasps my lonely wandering feet."
A farewell, I may surely be allowed to say, quite
poetical, and sentimental enough for a hard-fisted warehouse porter.
Well! on the Tuesday after I had left, I went to Manchester
about the work I was to have, and as one warehouse which I had to call at
was in Watling Street, and another was in Marsden's Square, I must go past
my old warehouse or take a circuit, and I chose the direct road.
When I got into Peel Street, old Bob, the carter, who was never very
active, was sadly hobbled in the loading of carboys and other unhandy
articles, and as I stopped to inquire how he was, he asked me to lend him
a hand, and I did so. My place had not yet become occupied by
another, and Mr. M. seeing me helping about the door, called me in, and
asked me where the scissors were with which we used to cut patterns?
So I found them, and he desired me to take them to Mr. Hole, who was
upstairs in the sale room, and that I did also. Mr. Hole, on seeing
me, was quite free, and asked very kindly how I was, to which I replied in
that tone of becoming respect which I never could suppress when treated
with proper regard. He sent me upstairs into the smaller print room
for some pattern shreds, and taking a passing glance at my little recess
and the desk, I noticed that the slate was removed, an intimation to me
that the place had been overhauled, and my verses probably discovered.
I was therefore the less surprised when on my return to the sale room Mr.
Hole asked me whether or not I had got another situation? I said I
had not got another. He asked whether I had any expectations of one,
and I replied that I had not yet made any application. Because, he
said, "You are qualified for a more respectable situation than the one you
have had with us, and if you think proper to look out, and apply for one
such as I have alluded to, I will give you a recommendation, with which
you will not need to be ashamed in asking for one highly respectable; and
as you are at present disengaged, if you choose to come back and stop with
us until something more befitting you offers, you will find everything
agreeable as heretofore." I thanked him in terms of fervent and
sincere gratitude; stated to him what were my views relative to present
employment, and said that should I have occasion to change my plans, and
to revert to the prospects which he had opened before me, I would, with
every sentiment of grateful respect, hasten to avail myself of his kind
He said he was afraid I was acting on a mistaken view of what
was most conductive to my welfare, and he should be glad if I did not
regret it hereafter.
I said I hoped I should not, and that at any rate, for the
present I should be happy with my family.
And so, with mutual kind wishes, we parted.
And here, for the present at least, must the reader and I
part also. A narrative of the course of my life from 1813 to 1816
may perhaps engage my pen on some future day. Meantime, the reader
may be given to understand, that having, on my leaving Manchester, secured
plenty of material for the loom, my wife and myself working in one place,
she soon became an expert weaver, and we were as happy, probably, as two
human beings of our condition could be; our little girl, the light of our
eyes, and the joy of our hearts, playing beside us. Afterwards we
went to reside with my wife's uncle and aunt, she assisting the old people
in the house and shop, and I, on the recommendation of Mr. Hole, taking
the situation of putter-out to weavers at Middleton, for Messrs. Dickinson
and Wilde. Afterwards they offered me an engagement at their
warehouse in Manchester, which I declined. Subsequently, for a short
time I was engaged in the bookselling or publication business; and, in
1816, was a member of a Committee of Parliamentary Reformers, and
secretary to the Hampden Club, at Middleton. Should the reader,
during any leisure moment, wish to hear my narrative resumed, he may
consult my book entitled "Passages in the Life of a Radical," and if that
does not suffice, but he wishes for further acquaintance, he may peruse my
"Walks in South Lancashire," which I purpose shortly to resume.
Those walks may perhaps lead us to "The End," after which some abler hand
will probably take up the task of marker for history, which I have so
END OF VOL. I.