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MEMOIRS OF P. P.
CLERK OF THIS PARISH.
The Original of the following extraordinary Treatise consisted of two
Jarge volumes in folio ; which might justly be entitled, The Importance of a Man to Himself: but, as it can be of very little to any body besides, I have contented myself to give only this short Abstract of it, as a taste of the true spirit of Memoir-Writers.
In the name of the Lord, Amen. I, P. P., by the Grace of God, Clerk of this Parish, writeth this history.
Ever since I arrived at the age of discretion, I had a
It was impossible but that such a history as Burnet's, which these memoirs are intended to ridicule, relating recent events, so near the time of their transaction, should be variously represented by the violent parties that have agitated and disgraced this country ; though these parties arise from the very nature of our free government. Accordingly this prelate's History of his own Time was as much vilified and depreciated by the tories as praised and magnified by the whigs. As he related the actious of a persecutor and a benefactor, he was accused of partiality, injustice, malignity, flattery, and falsehood. Bevil Higgens, and Lord Lansdown, and others, wrote remarks on him ; as did the great Lord Peterborough, whose animadversions, as his amanuensis, a Mr. Holloway, assured me, were very severe ; they were never published. As Burnet was much trusted and consulted by King William, and had a great share in bringing about the revolution, his narrations, it must be owned, have a strong tincture of self-importance and egotism. These two qualities are chiefly exposed in these memoirs. Hume and Dalrymple have taken occasion to censure him.
After all, he was a man of great abilities, of much openness and frankness of nature, of much courtesy and benevolence, indefatigable in his studies, and in performing constantly the duties of his station. His character is finely drawn by the Marquis of Halifax ; one paragraph of which is too remarkable to be omitted : His indifference for preferment, his contempt not only of splendor, but of all unnecessary plenty ; his degrading himself to the lowest and most painful duties of his calling ; are such unprelatical qualities, that let him be never so orthodox in other things, in these he must be a dissenter.” Few persons or prelates would have had the boldness and honesty to write such a remonstrance to Charles II. on his dissolute life and manners, as did Burnet in the year 1680. We may easily guess what the sycophants of that profligate court, and their profligate master, said and thought of the piety and freedom of this letter.-Warton.
.call to take upon me the function of a parish-clerk ; and to that end it seemed unto me meet and profitable to associate myself with the parish-clerks of this land; such I mean as were right worthy in their calling, men of a clear and sweet voice, and of becoming gravity.
Now it came to pass, that I was born in the year of our Lord Anno Domini 1655, the year wherein our worthy benefactor, Esquire Bret, did add one bell to the ring of this parish. So that it hath been wittily said, “That one and the same day did give to this our church, two rare gifts, its great bell and its clerk ?."
Even when I was at school, my mistress did ever extol me above the rest of the youth, in that I had a laudable voice. And it was furthermore observed, that I took a kindly affection unto that black letter in which our bibles are printed. Yea, often did I exercise myself in singing godly ballads, such as The Lady and Death, The Children in the Wood, and Chevy Chace; and not, like other children, in lewd and trivial ditties. Moreover, while I was a boy, I always adventured to lead the psalm next after Master William Harris, my predecessor, who it must be confessed to the glory of God) was a most excellent parish-clerk in that his day.
Yet be it acknowledged, that at the age of sixteen I became a company-keeper, being led into idle conversation by my extraordinary love to ringing; insomuch, that in a short time I was acquainted with every set of bells in the whole country; neither could I be prevailed upon to absent myself from wakes, being called thereunto by the harmony of the steeple.
? There is certainly great humour in this narrative. Burnet's political principles were in direct opposition to those of Pope ; and his learning and eloquence are such, that we may say, pointed as Pope's weapon is, in the energetic language of Johnson, " The shaft fell harmless, as the dart of Priam from the shield of Achilles."-Bowles.
While I was in these societies, I gave myself up to unspiritual pastimes, such as wrestling, dancing, and cudgel-playing; so that I often returned to my father's house with a broken pate. I had my head broken at Milton by Thomas Wyat, as we played a bout or two for a hat that was edged with silver galloon. But in the year following I broke the head of Henry Stubbs, and obtained a hat not inferior to the former. At Yelverton I encountered George Cummins, weaver, and behold my head was broken a second time! At the wake of Waybrook I engaged William Simkins, tanner, when lo! thus was my head broken a third time, and much blood trickled therefrom. But I administered to my comfort, saying within myself, “What man is there, howsoever dexterous in any craft, who is for aye on his guard ?” A week after I had a baseborn child laid unto me; for in the days of my youth I was looked upon as a follower of venereal fantasies. Thus was I led into sin by the comeliness of Susanna Smith, who first tempted me, and then put me to shame; for indeed she was a maiden of a seducing eye, and pleasant feature. I humbled myself before the justice, I acknowledged my crime to our curate; and to do away mine offences, and make her some atonement, was joined to her in holy wedlock on the sabbath-day following.
How often do those things which seem unto us misfortunes, redound to our advantage! For the minister (who had long looked on Susanna as the most lovely of his parishioners) liked so well of my demeanour, that he recommended me to the honour of being his clerk, which was then become vacant by the decease of good Master William Harris.
Here ends the first chapter ; after which follow fifty or sixty chapters of his amours in general, and that particular one with Susanna, his present wife ; but I proceed to chapter the ninth.
No sooner was I elected into mine office, but I laid aside the powdered gallantries of my youth, and became a new man. I considered myself as in some wise of ecclesiastical dignity, since by wearing a band, which is no small part of the ornament of our clergy, I might not unworthily be deemed, as it were, a shred of the linen vestment of Aaron.
Thou mayest conceive, O Reader, with what concern I perceived the eyes of the congregation fixed upon me, when I first took my place at the feet of the priest. When I raised the psalm, how did my voice quiver for fear! And when I arrayed the shoulders of the minister with the surplice, how did my joints tremble under me! I said within myself, “Remember, Paul, thou standest before men of high worship, the wise Mr. Justice Freeman, the grave Mr. Justice Tonson, the good Lady Jones, and the two virtuous gentlewomen her daughters, nay the great Sir Thomas Truby, , Knight and Baronet, and my young Master the Esquire, who shall one day be Lord of this Manor.” Notwithstanding which, it was my good hap to acquit myself to the good liking of the whole congregation; but the Lord forbid I should glory therein.
The next chapter contains an account how he discharged the several duties of his office ; in particular he insists on the following:
I was determined to reform the manifold corruptions and abuses which had crept into the church.
First, I was especially severe in whipping forth dogs from the Temple, all excepting the lap-dog of the good widow Howard, a sober dog, which yelped not, nor was there offence in his mouth.
Secondly, I did even proceed to moroseness, though sore against my heart, unto poor babes, in tearing from them the half-eaten apples which they privily munched at church. But verily it pitied me, for I remembered the days of my youth.
Thirdly, With the sweat of my own hands, I did make plain and smooth the dogs-ears throughout our great Bible.
Fourthly, The pews and benches, which were formerly swept but once in three years, I caused every Saturday to be swept with a besom, and trimmed.
Fifthly and lastly, I caused the surplice to be neatly darned, washed, and laid in fresh lavender, (yea, and sometimes to be sprinkled with rose-water,) and I had great laud and praise from all the neighbouring clergy, forasmuch as no parish kept the minister in cleaner linen.
Notwithstanding these his public cares, in the eleventh chapter he informs us he did not neglect his usual occupations as a handicraftsman.
Shoes, saith he, did I make, (and, if entreated, mend,) with good approbation. Faces also did I shave, and I clipped the hair. Chirurgery also I practised in the worming of dogs; but to bleed ventured I not, except the poor. Upon this my twofold profession, there passed among men
among men a merry tale delectable enough to be rehearsed: How that being overtaken with liquor one Saturday evening, I shaved the priest with Spanish blacking for shoes instead of a washball, and with lamp-black powdered his periwig. But these were sayings of men delighting in their own conceits more than in the truth. For it is well known, that