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man was a hop-merchant in the borough of Southwark, and, upon closer inquiry, it appeared that he had often dealt with my father at Wey-Hill. He knew the danger I was in ; he was himself a father, and he felt for my parents. His house became my home; he wrote to my father, and endeavoured to prevail on me to obey his orders, which were to return immediately hone. I am ashamed to say that I was disobedient. It was the first time I had ever been so, and I have repented of it from that moment to this. Willingly would I have returned ; þut pride would not suffer me to do it. I feared the scoffs of my acquaintances more than the real evils that threatened me.
My generous preserver, finding my obstinacy not to be overcome, began to look out for an employment for me. He was preparing an advertisement for the newspaper, when an acquaintance of his, an attorney, called in to see him. He related
adventure to this gentleman, whose name was Hol. land, and who, happening to want an understrapping quill-driver, did me the honour to take me into his service, and the next day saw me perched upon a great high stool, in an obscure chamber in Gray's Inn, endeavouring to decipher the crabbed drauglits of my employer.
I could write a good plain hand, but I could not read the pot-hooks and hangers of Mr. Holland, He was a month in learning me to copy without almost continual assistance, and even then I was of but little use to him ; for, besides that I wrote a snail's pace, my want of knowledge in orthography, gave him infinite trouble : so that, for the first two months, I was a dead weight upon his hands. Time, however, rendered me useful; and Mr. Holland was pleased to tell me, that he was very well satisfied with me, just at the very moment when I began to grow extremely dissatisfied with him.
No part of my life has been totally unattended with pleasure, except the eight or nine months I passed in Gray's Inn. The office (for so the dungeon where I wrote was called) was so dark, that, on cloudy days, we were obliged to burn candle. I worked like a galley-slave from five in the morning till eight or nine at night, and sometimes all night long. How many quarrels have I assisted to fo-, ment and perpetuate between those poor innocent fellow's, John Doe and Richard Roe! How many times (God forgive me !) have I set them to assault each other with guns, swords, staves and pitchforks, and then brought them to answer for their misdeeds before our Sovereign Lord the King seated in His Court of Westminster! When I think of the saids and soforths, and the counts of tautology that I scribbled over; when I think of those sheets of seventy-two words, and those lines two inches a part, my brain turns. Gracious heaven ! if I am doomed to be wretched, bury me beneath Iceland snows, and let me feed on blubber; stretch me under the burning line, and deny me thy propitious dews; nay, if it be thy will, suffocate me with the infected and pestilential air of a democratic clubroom ; but save me from the desk of an attorney!
Mr. Holland was but little in the chambers himself. He always went out to dinner, while I was left to be provided for by the laundress, as he called her. Those gentlemen of the law, who have resided in the Inns of Court in London, know very well what a laundress means. Ours was, I believe, the oldest and ugliest of the sisterhood. She had age and experience enough to be Lady Abbess of all the nuns in all the convents of Irish-Town. It would be wronging the witch of Endor to compare her to this hag, who was the only creature that deigned to enter into conversation with me. All except the name, I was in prison, and this weird
sister was my keeper. Our chambers were, to me, what the subterraneous cavern was to Gil Blas: his description of the Dame Leonarda exactly suited my laundress ; nor were the professions, or rather the practice, of our masters altogether dissimilar.
I never quitted this gloomy recess except on Sundays, when I usually took a walk to St. James's Park, to feast my eyes with the sight of the trees, the grass, and the water. . In one of these walks I happened to cast my eye on an advertisement, inviting all loyal young men, who had a mind to gain riches and glory, to repair to a certain rendezvous, where they might enter into His Majesty's marine service, and have the peculiar happiness and honour of being enrolled in the Chatham Division. I was not ignorant enough to be the dupe of this morsel of military bombast ; but a change was what I wanted : besides, I knew that marines went to sea, and my desire to be on that element had rather increased than diminished by my being penned up in London. In short, I resolved to join this glorious corps ; and, to avoid all possibility of being discovered by my friends, I went down to Chatham and enlisted, into the marines as I thought, but the next morning I found myself before a Captain of a marching regiment. There was no retreating: I had taken a shilling to drink his Majesty's health, and his further bounty was ready for my reception.
When I told the Captain (who was an Irishman, and who has since been an excellent friend to me), that I thought myself engaged in the marines : " By Jasus ! my lad," said he," and you have " had a narrow escape.' He told me, that the regiment into which I had been so happy as to enlist, was one of the oldest and boldest in the whole army, and that it was at that moment serving in that fine, flourishing, and plentiful country, Nova Scotia. He dwelt long on the beauties and riches of this
terrestrial paradise, and dismissed me, perfectly enchanted with the prospect of a voyage thither.
I enlisted early in 1784, and, as peace had then taken place, no great haste was made to send recruits off to their regiments. I remained upwards of a year at Chatham, during which time I was employed in learning my exercise, and taking my tour in the duty of the garrison. My leisure time, which was a very considerable portion of the twenty-four hours, was spent, not in the dissipations common 10 such a way of life, but in reading and study. In the course of this year I learnt more than I had ever done before. I subscribed to a circulating library at Brompton, the greatest part of the books in which I read more than once over. The library was not very considerable, it is true, nor in my reading was I directed by any degree of taste or choice. Novels, plays, history, poetry, all were read, and nearly with equal avidity.
Such a course of reading could be attended with but little profit : it was skimming over the surface of every thing. One branch of learning, however, I went to the bottom with, and that the most essential branch too, the grammar of my mother tongue. I had experienced the want of a knowledge of grammar during my stay with Mr. Holland, but it is very probable that I never should have thought of encountering the study of it, had not accident placed me under a nian whose friendship extended beyond his interest. Writing a fair hand procured me the honour of being copyist to Colonel Debeig, the commandant of the garrison. I transcribed the famous correspondence between hin, and the Duke of Richmond, which ended in the good and gallant old Colonel being stripped of the reward, bestowed on him for his long and meritorious servitude,
Being totally ignorant of the rules of grammar, I necessarily made many mistakes in copying, because no one can copy letter by letter, nor even word by word. The Colonel saw my deficiency, and strongly recommended study. He enforced his advice with a sort of injunction, and with a promise of reward in case of success.
I procured me a Lowth's grammar, and applied inyfelf to the study of it with unceasing assiduity, and not without some profit; for, though it was a considerable time before I fully comprehended all that I read, still I read and studied with such unremitted attention, that, at last, I could write without falling into any very gross errors. The pains I took cannot be described : I wrote the whole grammar out two or three tiines; I got it by heart; I re. peated it every morning and every evening, and, when on guard, I imposed on myself the task of saying it all over once every time I was posted sentinel. To this exercise of my memory I ascribe the retentiveness of which I have since found it capable, and to the success with which it was attended, I ascribe the perseverance that has led to the acquirement of the little learning of which I am miaster.
This study was, too, attended with ano:her advantage : it kept me out of mischief. I was al- ways sober, and regular in my attendance; and, not being a clumsy fellow, I met with none of those reproofs, which disgust so many young men with the service.
There is no situation where merit is so sure to meet with reward as in a well-disciplined army. Those who command are obliged to reward it for their own ease and credit. I was soon raised to the rank of corporal; a rank, which, however .contemptible it may appear in some people's eyes, brought me in a clear twopence per diem, and put a