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of Human Judgment,” it occasioned an acquaintance between
He took great notice of me; called on me often to converse on those subjects; carried me to the Horns, a pale-ale house in
Lane, Cheapside, and introduced me to Dr. Mandeville, author of the “ Fable of the Bees,” who had a club there, of which he was the soul, — being a most facetious, entertaining companion. Lyons, too, introduced me to Dr. Pemberton, at Batson's Coffee-house, who promised to give me an opportunity, some time or other, of seeing Sir Isaac Newton, of which I was extremely desirous; but this never happened.
I had brought over a few curiosities, among which the principal was a purse made of the asbestos, which purifies by fire. Sir Hans Sloane heard of it, came to see me, and invited me to his house in Bloomsbury-square, showed me all his curiosities, and persuaded me to add that to the number; for which he paid me handsomely.
In our house lodged a young woman, a milliner, who, I think, had a shop in the Cloisters, She had been genteelly bred, was sensible, lively, and of a most pleasing conversation. Ralph read plays to her in the evenings, they grew intimate, she took another lodging, and he followed her. They lived together some time; but, he being still out of business, and her income not sufficient to maintain them with her child, he took a resolution of going from London, to try for a country school, which he thought himself well qualified to undertake, as he wrote an excellent hand, and was a master of arithmetic and accounts. This, however, he deemed a business below him; and, confident of future better fortune, when he should be unwilling to have it known that he was once so meanly employed, he changed his name, and did me the honor to assume mine; for I soon after had a letter from him, acquainting me that he was settled in a small village (in Berkshire, I think it was, where he taught reading and writing to ten or a dozen boys, at sixpence each per week); recommending Mrs. T— to my care, and desiring me to write to him, directing for Mr. Franklin, schoolmaster, at such a place.
He continued to write to me frequently, sending me large specimens of an epic poem, which he was then composing, and desiring my remarks and corrections. These I gave him from time to time, but endeavored rather to discourage his proceedings. One of Young's Satires was then just published. I copied and sent him a great part of it, which set in a strong light the folly of pursuing the Muses. All was in vain ; sheets of the poem continued to come by every post. In the mean time, Mrs. T
having on his account lost her friends and business, was often in distresses, and used to send for me, and borrow what money I could spare to help to alleviate them. I grew fond of her company, and, being at that time under no religious restraint, and taking advantage of my importance to her, I attempted to take some liberties with her (another erratum), which she repulsed, with a proper degree of resentment. She wrote to Ralph and acquainted him with my conduct; this occasioned a breach between us; and, when he returned to London, he let me know he considered all the obligations he had been under to me as annulled; from which I concluded I was never to expect his
repay. ing the
money I bad lent him, or that I had advanced for him. This, however, was of little consequence, as he was totally unable; and by the loss of his friendship I found myself relieved from a heavy burden. I now began to think of getting a little beforehand, and, expecting better employment, I left Palmer's to work at Watts's, near Lincoln's Inn Fields, a still greater printing-house. Here I continued all the rest of my stay in London.*
At my first admission into the printing-house I took to working at press, imagining I felt a want of the bodily exercise I had been used to in America, where press-work is mixed with the composing. I drank only water; the other workmen, near fifty in number, were great drinkers of beer. On occasion I carried up and down stairs a large form of types in each hand, when others carried but one in both hands. They wondered to see, from this and several instances, that the Water-American, as they called me, was stronger than themselves, who drank strong beer! We had an ale-house boy, who attended always in the house to supply the workmen. My companion at the press drank every day a pint before breakfast, a pint at breakfast with his bread and cheese, a pint between breakfast and dinner, a pint at dinner, a pint in the afternoon about six o'clock, and another when he had done his day's work. I thought it a detestable custom ; but it was necessary, he supposed, to drink strong beer that he might be strong to labor. I endeavored to convince him that the bodily strength afforded by beer could only be in proportion to the grain or flour of the barley dissolved in the
* In the year 1768, he visited this same printing-office, and, going up to a particular press, said to the men who were working at it : “ Come, my friends, we will drink together. It is now forty years since I worked, like you, at this press, as a journeyman printer.” Franklin then sent out for a gallon of porter, and drank with them. This press is now in the Patent Office at Washington.
water of which it was made ; that there was more flour in a pennyworth of bread; and therefore, if he could eat that with a pint of water, it would give him more strength than a quart of beer. He drank on, however, and had four or five shillings to pay out of his wages, every Saturday night, for that vile liquor ; an expense I was free from. And thus these poor devils keep themselves always under.
Watts, after some weeks, desiring to have me in the composing-room, I left the press-men ; a new bien venu for drink, being five shillings, was demanded of me by the compositors. I thought it an imposition, as I had paid one to the press-men; the master thought so too, and forbade my paying it. I stood out two or three weeks, was accordingly considered as an excommunicate, and had so many little pieces of private malice practised on me, by mixing my sorts, transposing and breaking my matter, &c. &c., if ever I stepped out of the room, - and all ascribed to the chapel ghost, which they said ever haunted those not regularly admitted, - that, notwithstanding the master's protection, I found myself obliged to comply and pay the money; convinced of the folly of being on ill terms with those one is to live with continually.
I was now on a fair footing with them, and soon acquired considerable influence. I proposed some reasonable alterations in their chapel* laws, and carried them against all opposition. From my example, a great many of them left their muddling breakfast of beer, bread and cheese, finding they could with me be supplied from a neighboring house with a large porringer of hot water-gruel, sprinkled with pepper, crumbled with bread, and a bit of butter in it, for the price of a pint of beer, namely, three halfpence. This was a more comfortable as well as a cheaper breakfast, and kept their heads clearer. Those who continued sotting with their beer all day were often, by not paying, out of credit at the ale-house, and used to make interest with me to get beer; their light, as they phrased it, being out. I watched the pay-table on Saturday night, and collected what I stood engaged for them, having to pay sometimes near thirty shillings a week on their accounts. This, and my being esteemed a pretty good riggite, – that is, a jocular verbal satirist, — supported my consequence in the society. My constant attendance (I never making a St. Monday) recommended me to the master; and my uncommon quickness at composing occasioned my being
* A printing-house was formerly called a chapel in England, from a tradition that printing was first carried on in an old chapel.
put upon work of despatch, which was generally better paid. So I went on now very agreeably.
My lodgings in Little Britain being too remote, I found another in Duke-street, opposite to the Romish chapel. It was up three pair of stairs backwards, at an Italian warehouse. A widow lady kept the house ; she had a daughter, and a maidservant, and a journeyman who attended the warehouse, but lodged abroad. After sending to inquire my character at the house where I last lodged, she agreed to take me in at the same rate, three shillings and sixpence a week; cheaper, as she said, from the protection she expected in having a man to lodge in the house. She was a widow, an elderly woman; had been bred a Protestant, being a clergyman's daughter, but was converted to the Catholic religion by her husband, whose memory she much revered ; had lived much among people of distinction, and knew a thousand anecdotes of them as far back as the time of Charles the Second. She was lame in her knees with the gout, and therefore seldom stirred out of her room; so sometimes wanted company; and hers was so highly amusing to me, that I was sure to spend an evening with her whenever she desired it. Our supper was only half an anchovy each, on a very little slice of bread and butter, and half a pint of ale between us; but the entertainment was in her conversation. My always keeping good hours, and giving little trouble in the family, made her unwilling to part with me; so that, when I talked of a lodging I had heard of, nearer my business, for two shillings a week, which, intent as I was on saving money, made some difference, she bid me not think of it, for she would abate me two shillings a week for the future; so I remained with her at one shilling and sixpence as long as I stayed in London.
In a garret of her house there lived a maiden lady of seventy, in the most retired manner, of whom my landlady gave me this account : that she was a Roman Catholic; had been sent abroad when young, and lodged in a nunnery with an intent of becoming a nun; but, the country not agreeing with her, she returned to England, where, there being no nunnery, she had vowed to lead the life of a nun, as near as might be done in those circumstances. Accordingly, she had given all her estate to charitable purposes, reserving only twelve pounds a year to live on; and out of this sum she still gave a part in charity, living herself on water-gruel only, and using no fire but to boil it. She had lived many years in that garret, being permitted to remain there gratis by successive Catholic tenants of the house below, as they deemed it a blessing to have her there. A priest
visited her, to confess her, every day. “ From this, I asked her,” said my landlady, “how she, as she lived, could possibly find so much employment for a confessor. “0,” said she, “it is impossible to avoid vain thoughts.” I was permitted once to visit her. She was cheerful and polite, and conversed pleasantly. The room was clean, but had no other furniture than a mattress, a table with a crucifix and a book, a stool which she gave me to sit on, and a picture over the chimney of St. Veronica displaying her handkerchief, with the miraculous figure of Christ's bleeding face on it, which she explained to me with great seriousness. She looked pale, but was never sick; and I give it as another instance on how small an income life and health may be supported.
At Watts's printing-house I contracted an acquaintance with an ingenious young man, one Wygate, who, having wealthy relations, had been better educated than most printers; was a tolerable Latinist, spoke French, and loved reading. I taught him and a friend of his to swim, at twice going into the river, and they soon became good swimmers. They introduced me to some gentlemen from the country, who went to Chelsea by water, to see the College and Don Saltero's curiosities. In our return, at the request of the company, whose curiosity Wygate had excited, I stripped and leaped into the river, and swam from near Chelsea to Blackfriars ; performing in the way many feats of activity, both upon and under the water, that surprised and pleased those to whom they were novelties.
I had from a child been delighted with this exercise,* had studied and practised Thevenot's motions and positions, and added some of my own, - aiming at the graceful and easy, as well as the useful. All these I took this occasion of exhibiting to the company, and was much flattered by their admiration; and Wygate, who was desirous of becoming a master, grew more and more attached to me on that account, as well as from the similarity of our studies. He at length proposed to me travelling all over Europe together, supporting ourselves everywhere by working at our business. I was once inclined to it; but, mentioning it to my good friend Mr. Denham, with whom I often spent an hour when I had leisure, he dissuaded me from it; advising me to think only of returning to Pennsylvania, which he was now about to do.
* The experiments of Franklin in floating with a kite-string in his hand, &c., and his sleeping an hour by the watch while floating, are worthy of note. He wrote two interesting letters on the art of swimming.