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CHAPTER I. o Contains the Erordium, &c.
The various accidents which befel a very worthy couple, after their uniting in the state of Imatrimony, will be the subject of the following history. The distresses which they waded through, were some of them so exquisite, and the incidents which produced these so extraordinary, that they seemed to require not only the utmost malice, but the utmost invention which superstition hath ever attributed to Fortune: though whether any such being interfered in the case, or, indeed, whether there be any such being in the universe, is a matter which I by no means resume to determine in the affirmative. ospeak a bold truth, I am, after much mature deliberation, inclined to suspect, that the public voice hath, in all ages, done much injustice to Fortune, and hath convicted her of many facts in which she had not the least concern. I question much, whether we may not, by natural means, account for the success of knaves, the calamities of fools, with all the miseries in which men of sense someties involve themselves, by quitting the directions of Prudence, and following the blind guidance of a predominant passion; in short, for all the ordinary phenomena which are imputed to Fortune; whom, perhaps, men accuse with no less absurdity in life, than a bad player complains of ill luck at the game of chess. But if men are sometimes guilty of laying improper blame on this imaginary being, they are altogether as apt to make her amends, by ascribing to her honours which she as little deserves. To retrieve the ill consequences of a foolish conduct, and by struggling manfully with distress to subdue it, is one of the noblest efforts of wisdom and virtue. Whoever, therefore, calls such a man fortunate, is guilty of no less impropriety in speech, than he would be, who, should call the statuary or the poet fortunate, who carved a Venus, or who writ an Iliad. Life may as properly be called an art as any other: and the great incidents in it are no more to be considered as mere accidents, than the several members of a fine statue, or a noble poem. The critics in all these 13
are not content with seeing anything to be great, without knowing why and how it came to be so. By examining carefully the several gradations which conduce to bring every model to perfection, we learn truly to know that science in which the model is formed. As histories of this kind therefore, may properly be called models of HUMAN Life; so by observing minutely the several incidents which tend to the catastrophe or completion of the whole, and the minute causes whence those incidents are produced, we shall best be instructed in this most useful of all arts, which I call the ART OF Llr'E.
The history sets out. Observations on the ercellency of the English constitution, and curious examinations before a justice of peace.
On the first of April, in the year , the watchman of a certain parish, (I know not W. which,) within the liberty of Westminster, brought several persons whom they had apprehended the preceding night, before Jonathan Thrasher, Esq. one of the justices of the peace for that liberty. But here, reader, before we proceed to the trials of these offenders, we shall, after our usual manner, premise some things which it may be necessary for thee to know. It hath been observed, I think, by many, as well as the celebrated writer of three letters, that no human institution is capable of consummate perfection. An observation which, perhaps, that writer at least gathered from discovering some defects in the polity even of this well-regulated nation. And, indeed, if there should be any such defect in a constitution which my Lord Coke long ago told us, ‘the wisdom of all the wise men in the world, if they had all met together at one time, could not have equalled, which some of our wisest men who were met together long before, said, was too good to be altered in any particular; and which, nevertheless, hath been mending ever since, by a very great number of the said wise men: if, I say, this constitution should be imperfect, we may be allowed, othink, to doubt whether any such faultless model can be found among the institutions of men. It will probably be objected, that the small imperfections which I am about to #. do not lie in the laws themselves, ut in the ill execution of them; but, with submission, this appears to me to be no less an absurdity, than to say of any machine that it is excellently made, though incapable of performing its functions. Good laws should execute themselves,ina well-regulated state; at least, if the same legislature which provides the laws, doth not provide for the execution of them, they act as Graham would do, if he should form all the parts of a clock in the most exquisite manner, . put them so together that the clock could not go. In this case, surely we might say that there was a small defect in the constitution of the clock. To say the truth, Graham would soon see the fault, and would easily remedy it. The fault, indeed, could be no other than the parts were improperly disposed. Perhaps, reader, I have another illustration which will set my intention in still a clearer light before you. Figure to yourself, then, a family, the master of which should dispose of the several economical offices in the following manner; viz. should ut his butler on the coach-box, his steward hind his coach, his coachman in the butlery, and his footman in the stewardship, and in the same ridiculous manner should misemploy the talents of every other servant; it is easy to see what a figure such a family must make in the world. As ridiculous as this may seem, I have often considered some of our lower officers in our civil government to be disposed in this very manner. To begin, I think, as low as I well can, with the watchmen in our metropolis; who being to guard our streets by night from thieves and robbers, an office which at least requires strength of body, are chosen out of those poor old decrepit people, who are, from their want of bodily strength, rendered incapable of getting a livelihood by work. These men, armed only with a pole, which some of them are scarce able to lift, are to secure the persons and houses of his majesty's subjects from the attacks of o of young, bold, stout, desperate, and well-armed villains.
Quae non viribus istis Munera conveniunt.
If the poor old fellows should run away from such enemies, no one I think can wonder, unless it be that they were able to make their escape.
The higher we proceed among our public officers and magistrates, the less defects of this kind will, perhaps, be observable. Mr.
the prisoners above-mentioned were now brought, had some few imperfections in his magistratical capacity. I own, I have been sometimes inclined to think, that this office of a justice of peace requires some knowledge of the law: for this simple reason; bc.cause in every case which comes before him, he is to judge and act according to law. Again, as these laws are contained in a o variety of books; the statutes which relate to the office of a justice of peace, making of themselves at least two large volumes in folio; and that part of his jurisdiction which is founded on the common law being dispersed in above a hundred volumes, I cannot conceive how this knowledge should be acquired without reading; and yet certain it is, Mr. Thrasher never read one syllable of the matter. This, perhaps, was a defect; but this was not all; for where mere ignorance is to decide a point between two litigants, it will always be an even chance whether it decides right or wrong: but sorry am I to say, right was often in a much worse situation than this, and wrong hath often had five hundred to one on his side before that magistrate; who, if he was ignorant of the laws of England, was yet well versed in the laws of nature. He perfectly well understood that fundamental principle so strongly laid down in the institutes of the learned Rochefoucault; by which the duty of selflove is so strongly enforced, and every man is taught to consider himself as the centre of gravity, and to attract all things thither. To speak the truth plainly, the justice was never indifferent in a cause, but when he could get nothing on either side. Such was the justice, to whose tremendous bar, Mr. Gotobed, the constable, on the day above-mentioned, brought several delinquents, who, as we have said, had been apprehended by the watch for divers outrages. The first who came upon this trial, was as bloody a spectre as ever the imagination of a murderer or a tragic poet conceived. This poor wretch was charged with a battery by a much stouter man than himself; indeed the accused person bore about him some evidence that he had been in an affray, his clothes being very bloody, but certain open sluices on his own head sufficiently showed whence all the scarlet stream had issued, whereas the accuser had not the least mark or appearance of any wound. The justice asked the defendant, What he meant y breaking the king's peace?—To which he answered—‘Upon my shoul I do love the king very well, and I have not been after breaking any thing of his that I do know, but upon my shoul this man hath brake my head, and my head did break his stick ; that's all, gra.” He then offered to produce
Thrasher, however, the justice before whom
several witnesses against this improbable accusation; but the justice presently interrupted him, saying, “Sirrah, your tongue betrays your guilt. You are an Irishman, and that is always sufficient evidence with me.’ The second criminal was a poor woman, who was taken up by the watch as a streetwalker. It was alleged against her, that she was found walking the streets after twelve o’clock, and the watchman declared he believed her to be a common strumpet. She pleaded in her defence, (as was really the truth,) that she was a servant, and was sent by her mistress, who was a little shopkeeper, and upon the point of delivery, to fetch a midwife; which she offered to prove . several of the neighbours, if she was lowed to send for them. The justice asked her, Why she had not done it before? to which she answered, She had no money, and could get no messenger. The justice then called her several scurrilous names; and declaring she was guilty within the statute of street-walking, ordered her to Bridewell for a month. A genteel young man and woman were then set forward, and a very grave-looking person swore he caught them in a situation which we cannot as particularly describe here, as he did before the magistrate: who having received a wink from his clerk, declared with much warmth, that the fact was incredible and impossible. He presently discharged the accused parties, and was going, without any evidence, to commit the accuser for perjury; but this the clerk dissuaded him from, saying, he doubted whether a justice of peace had any such power. The justice at first differed in opinion; and said, “He had seen a man stand in the pillory about perjury; nay, he had known a man in jail for it too; and how came he there, if he was not committed thither?” “Why, that is true, sir,’ answered the clerk; ‘and yet I have been told by a very great lawyer, that a man cannot be committed for perjury before he is indicted : and the reason is, I believe, because it is not against the peace before the indictment makes it so.”—“Why, that may be, cries the justice, ‘and indeed perjury is but scandalous words, and I know a man cannot have a warrant for those, unless you put for rioting” them into the warrant. The witness was now about to be discharged, when the lady whom he had accused, declared she would swear the peace against him; for that he had called her a
whore several times. “Oho! you will swear the peace, madam, will you;’ cries the justice, ‘give her the peace, presently; and pray, Mr. Constable, secure the prisoner, now we have him, while a warrant is made to take him up.’ All which was immediate y performed, and the poor witness, for want of sureties, was sent to prison. A young fellow, whose name was Booth, was now charged with beating the watchman, in the execution of his office, and breaking his lanthorn. This was deposed by two witnesses; and the shattered remains of a broken lanthorn, which had been long preserved for the sake of its testimony, were produced to corroborate the evidence. The justice, perceiving the criminal to be but shabbily dressed, was going to commit him without asking any further questions. At length, however, at the earnest request of the accused, the worthy magistrate submitted to hear his defence. The young man then alleged, as was in reality the case, ‘That as he was walking home to his lodgings, he saw two men in the street cruelly beating a third, upon which he had stopped and endeavoured to assist the person who was so unequally attacked ; and that the watch came up during the affray, and took them all four into custody; that they were immediately carried to the roundhouse, where the two original assailants, who appeared to be men of fortune, found means to make up the matter, and were discharged by the constable; a favour which he himself, having no money in his pocket, was unable to obtain. He utterly denied having assaulted any of the watchmen, and solemnly declared, that he was offered his liberty at the price of half a crown.” Though the bare word of an offender can never be taken against the oath of his accuser; yet the matter of this defence was so pertinent, and delivered with such an air of truth and sincerity, that had the magistrate been endued with much sagacity, or had he been very moderately gifted with another quality, very necessary to all who are to administer justice, he would have employed some labour in cross-examining the watchmen; at least he would have given the defendant the time he desired to send for the other persons who were present at the asfray; neither of which he did. In short, the magistrate had too great an honour for truth to suspect that she ever appeared in sordid apparel; nor did he ever sully his sublime notions of that virtue, by uniting them with the mean ideas of poverty and distress. There remained now only one prisoner, and that was the poor man himself in whose defence the last-mentioned culprit was engaged. . His trial took but a very short time. A cause of battery and broken lanthorn was instituted against him, and proved in the same manner; nor would the justice hear one word in defence: but though his patience was exhausted, his breath was not; for against this last wretch, he poured forth a great many vollies of menaces and abuse. he delinquents were then all despatched to prison, under a guard of watchmen; and the justice and the constable adjourned to a neighbouring alahouse, to take their morning repast.
* Opus est interprete. By the laws of England abusive words are not punishable by the magistrate : some commissioners of the peace, therefore, when one arold hath applied to them for a warrant against another, from a too eager desire of doing justice, have constructed a little harmless scolding into a riot, which is in law an outrageous breach of the peace
committed by several persons, by three at least, nor can a less number be convicted of it. Under this word rioting, or riotting, (for I have seen it spelt both ways, many thousands of old women have been arreste and put to expense, sometimes in prison, for a little intemperate use of their tongues. This practice began to decrease in the year 1749.
CHAPTER III. Containing the inside of a prison, MR. Booth (for we shall not trouble you with the rest) was no sooner arrived in the prison, than a number of persons gathered round him, all demanding garnish; to which Mr. Booth not making a ready answer, as, indeed, he did not understand the word, some were going to lay hold of him, when a rson of apparent dignity came up, and insisted that no one should affront the gentleman. This person, then, who was no less than the master or keeper of the prison, turning towards Mr. Booth, acquainted him, that it was the custom of the place, for every prisoner, upon his first arrival there, to give something to the former prisoners to make them drink. This, he said, was what they called garnish; and concluded with advising his new customer to draw his purse upon the present occasion. Mr. Booth answered, ‘That he would very readily comply with this laudable custom, was it in his power; but that in reality he had not a shilling in his pocket, and, what was worse, he had not a shilling in the world.”—“Oho! if that be the case, cries the keeper, “it is another matter, and I have nothing to say.” Upon which, he immediately departed, and left poor Booth to the mercy of his companions, who, without loss of time, applied themselves to uncasing, as they termed it, and with such dexterity, that his coat was not only stript off, but out of sight in a minute. Mr. Booth was too weak to resist, and too wise to complain of this usage. As soon, therefore, as he was at liberty, and declared free of the place, he summoned his philosophy, of which he had no inconsiderable share, to his assistance, and resolved to make himself as easy as possible under his present circumstances. Could his own thoughts, indeed, have suffered him a moment to forget where he
was, the dispositions of the other prisoners might have induced him to believe that he had been in a happier place; for much the greater part of his fellow-sufferers, instead of wailing and repining at their conditions, were laughing, singing, and diverting themselves with various kinds of sports and gambols. The first person that accosted him was called Blear-eyed Moll, a woman of no very comely appearance. Her eye, (for she had but one,) whence she derived her nick-name, was such as that nick-name bespoke; besides which, it had two remarkable qualities; for first, as if nature had been careful to provide for her own defect, it constantly .. towards her blind side; and secondly, the ball consisted almost entirely of white, or rather yellow, with a little gray spot in the corner, so small that it was scarce discernible. Nose she had none; for Venus, envious perhaps at her former charms, had carried oftthe gristly part; and some earthly damsel, perhaps, from the same envy, had levelled the bone with the rest of her face: indeed it was far beneath the bones of her cheeks, which rose proportionally higher than is usual. About half a dozen ebony teeth fortified that large and long canal which nature had cut from ear to ear, at the bottom of which was a chin preposterously short, nature having turned up the bottom, instead of suffering it to grow to its due length. Her body was well adapted to her face; she measured full as much round the middle as from head to foot; for besides the extreme breadth of her back, her vast breasts had long since forsaken their native home, and had settled themselves a little below the girdle. I wish certain actresses on the stage, when they are to perform characters of no amiable cast, would study to dress themselves with the propriety with which Blear-eyed Moll was now arrayed. For the sake of our squeamish reader, we shall not descend to particulars: let it suffice to say, nothin more ragged or more dirty was ever emptie out of the roundhouse at St. Giles's. We have taken the more pains to describe this person, for two remarkable reasons: the one is, that this unlovely creature was taken in the fact with a very pretty young fellow; the other, which is more productive of moral lesson, is, that however wretched her fortune may appear to the reader, she was one of the merriest persons in the whole prison. Blear-eyed Moll then came up to Mr. Booth with a smile, or rather grin on her countenance, and asked him for a dram of in ; and when Booth assured her that he had not a penny of money, she replied,— ‘D—n your eyes, I thought by your look you had been a clever fellow, and upon the snaffling lay" at least; but d n your body andeyes, I find you are somesneaking o rascal.” She then launched forth a volley of dreadful oaths, o . . guage not proper to be repeated here, o: going to lay hold on poor Booth, when a tall prisoner, who had been very earnestly eyeing Booth for some time, came up, and taking her by the shoulder, flung her off at some distance, cursing her for a b—h, and bidding her let the gentleman alone. This person was not himself of the most inviting aspect. He was long visaged, and pale, with a red beard of above a fortnight's growth. He was attired in a brownish black coat, which would have showed more holes than it did, had not the linen which appeared through it, been entirely of the same colour with the cloth. This gentleman, whose name was Robinson, addressed himself very civilly to Mr. Booth, and told him he was very sorry to see one of his appearance in that place: “For as to your being without your coat, sir,’ says he, ‘I can easily account for that; and, indeed, dress is the least part which distinguishes a gentleman.” At which words he cast a significant look on his own coat, as if he desired they should be applied to himself. He then proceeded in the following manner: ‘I perceive, sir, you are but just arrived in this dismal place, which is, indeed, rendered more detestable by the wretches who inhabit it, than by any other circumstance; but even these, a wise man will soon bring himself to bear with indifference: for what is, is: and what must be, must be. The knowledge of this, which, simple as it appears, is in truth, the height of . philosophy, renders a wise man superior to every evil which can befal him. I hope, sir, no very dreadful accidentis the cause of your coming hither; but whatever it was, you may be assured it could not be otherwise: for all things happen by an inevitable fatality; and a man can no more resist the impulse of fate, than a wheelbarrow can the force of its driver.” Besides the obligation which Mr. Robinson had conferred on Mr. Booth, in delivering him from the insults of Blear-eyed Moll, there was something in the manner of Robinson, which notwithstanding the meanness of his dress, seemed to distinguish him from the crowd of wretches who swarmed in those regions; and above all, the sentiments which he had just declared, very nearly coincided with those of Mr. Booth: this gentleman was what they call a freethinker; that is to say, a deist; or perhaps,
* A cant term for robbery on the highway. i Another cant term for pilfering. highway
an atheist; for though he did not absolutely deny the existence of a God; yet he entirely denied his providcnce. A doctrine, which, if it is not downright atheism, hath a direct tendency towards it; and, as Dr. Clarke observes, may soon be driven into it. And as to Mr. Booth, though he was in his heart an extreme well-wisher to religion, (for he was an honest man,) yet his notions of it were very slight and uncertain. To say the truth, he was in the wavering condition so finely described by Claudian:
labefacta cadebat Religio, causarque viam non sponte sequeba. Alterius; vacuo quae currere semina motu Affirmat; magnumque novas per inane figuras Fortuna, non arte, regi; quae numina sensu Ambiguo, vel nulla putat, vel nescia nostri.
This way of thinking, or ratherofdoubting, he had contracted from the same reasons which Claudian assigns, and which had induced Brutus in his latter days to doubt the existence of that virtue which he had all his life cultivated. In short, poor Booth imagined, that a larger share of misfortune had fallen to his lot than he had merited; and this led him, who, (though a good classical scholar.) was not deeply learned in religious matters, into a disadvantageous opinion of Providence. A dangerous way of reasoning, in which our conclusions are not only too hasty, from an imperfect view of things; but we are likewise liable to much error from partiality to ourselves; viewing our virtues and vices as through a perspective in which we turn the glass always to our own advantage, so as to diminish the one, and as greatly to magnify the other,
From the above reasons, it can be no wonder that Mr. Booth did not decline the acquaintance of this person, in a place which could not promise to afford him any better. He answered him, therefore, with great courtesy, as indeed he was of a very good and gentle disposition, and, after expressing a civil surprise at meeting him there, declared himself to be of the same opinion with regard to the necessity of human actions; adding, however, that he did not believe men were under any blind impulse or direction of fate; but that every man acted merely from the force of that passion which was uppermost in his mind, and could do no otherwise.
A discourse now ensued between the two gentlemen, on the necessity arising from the impulse of fate, and the necessity arising from the impulse of passion, which, as it will make a pretty pamphlet of itself, we shall reserve for some future opportunity. When this was ended, they set forward to survey the jail, and the prisoners, with the several cases of whom Mr. Robinson, who had been some time under confinement, undertook to make Mr. Booth acquainted.