« PreviousContinue »
gathered with strange persons, deeply read in the mysteries of man. Among others, I one day, when I felt the wonted two o'clock pinkling in my belly, stepped into an eating-house, to get a cheek of something, and sat down at a table in a box where an elderly man of a salt-water complexion was sitting. Having told the lad that was the waiter what I wanted, I entered into discourse with the hard favoured stranger. His responses to me were at first very short, and it seemed as if he had made up his mind to stint the freedom of conversation. But there was a quickened intelligence in his eye, which manifested that his mind neither slumbered nor slept. I told him that I was come on purpose to inspect the uncas in London, and how content I was with all I saw; and my continued marvel of the great apparition of wealth that seemed to abound every where. "I think," said I, "that it's only in London a man can see the happiness of the British nation."—" And the misery," was his reply. This caustical observe led to further descant anent both sides of the question, until he opened up, and showed that his reserve was but a resolution, not habitual, nor from the custom of his nature. "The least interesting things about this town," said he, " to a man who looks deeper than the outside of the packing-case of society, are the buildings, the wealth, and the appearance of the people. The preeminence of London consists in the possession of a race of beings that I call the Effigies. They resemble man in action and external bearing; but they have neither passions, appetites, nor affections; without reason, imagination, or heart, they do all things that men do, but they move onward to the grave, and are covered up in the parent and congenial clay with as little regret by those who know them best, as you feel for the fate of that haddock you are now about to eat."
"And what are the things?" was my diffident question. "Why," says he, " they are for the most part foundlings of fortune; beings without relations; adventurers, who, at an early period of life, perhaps begged their way to London, and have raised themselves, not by talents or skill, but by a curious kind of alchemy, into great riches. I have known several. They are commonly bachelors, bachelors in the heart. They live in a snug way; have some crony that dines with them on Sunday, and who knows as little of their affairs as of their history. The friendship of such friends usually commences in the Hampstead or Hackney stages, and the one is commonly a pawnbroker and the other a banker. The professions of such friendshipless friends are ever intrinsically the same; nor can I see any difference between the man who lends money on bills and bonds, and him who does the same thing on the widow's wedding-ring, or the clothes of her orphans. They both grow rich by the expedients of the necessitous or the unfortunate. They make their money by habit, without motive, and they bequeath it some charity or public character, merely because they are by the force of custom required to make a will. I am a traveller; I know something of all the principal cities of Europe; but in no other has the Effigian species
any existence. Their element consists of the necessities of a commercial community, which embraces all the other vicissitudes to which mankind are ordinarily liable.
"One of the most decided, the purest blood of the Effigies, was the late old Joe Brianson. Whether he begged or worked his way to London is disputed; but he commenced his career as a porter. No one ever heard him mention the name of any of his kin; perhaps he had some good reason for the concealment. The first week he saved a crown, which he lent to a brother bearer of burdens who was in need, on condition of receiving six shillings on the Saturday following. In the course of the third week after his arrival he was worth one pound sterling; and he died at the age of seventy-three, leaving exactly a million, not taking out of the world one idea more than he brought into London fiftysix years before; and yet the history of Joe would be infinitely more interesting and important than that of all the men of fame and genius that ever existed. For although he was, in the truest sense of the times, a usurious huncks, he was never drawn into one transgression against the statutes. I knew him well in my younger years, for I had often occasion to apply to him. I was constituted somewhat differently, and without being so good a member of society, I do not say much for myself when I affirm that I was a better man. Joe was most faithful to his word; his promise was a bond; but, like a bond, it always contained a penalty. "If this bill," he used to say, " is not positively taken up, 1 pro
mise you it will be heard of;" and when it was not taken up, it was heard of, and that too with a vengeance. He never gave a groat in charity, because he never had one to give. He lived all his days as literally from hand to mouth as when he entered London without a penny. If you wanted a bill discounted, he never did it off hand. He had all his own cash previously put out at usury, and was obliged to apply to his bankers. They got at the rate of five per cent, per annum. Joe agreed to sell some article of merchandise to his customer; and the price he put on it left him not less in general than five per cent, per month, upon the principal of the bill discounted. But the wealth he thus gathered may almost be said to have been unblessed, for it brought him no new enjoyment. At the age of threescore, and possessed of half a million, he was taken ill with vexation, in consequence of a clerk dying insolvent, who had been in his service three-andtwenty years, and to whom he had discounted a bill for twenty pounds in anticipation of his salary; the poor man being at the time under the necessity of submitting to an operation for the stone.
Joe married when he was about fifty. His wife was the daughter of a man with whom he had formed an acquaintance in the Islington stage coach. She was beautiful and accomplished, and beloved by a handsome young butcher; but educated at a fashionable boarding-school, the butcher's trade was unsavoury to her imagination. Her own father was a nightman, a dealer in dunghills. There is some difference between a banker and a butcher; and old Joe was on that account preferred to the butcher by the nightman's daughter. They begat a son and daughter. The former, at the age of twenty-two, was elected into Parliament by his father's purse. The latter, at the age of nineteen, was married by the same potentiality to an earl. Joe died—his son and daughter put their servants into mourning when he ceased to discount, and in less than three months after gave them new liveries in honour of their mother's second marriage. There are no such beings as these in any other capital in Europe, and yet they are common in London. Father, mother, son and daughter, belong to a peculiar species, and it would be a libel on human nature to rank them with the race of man.
Here I could not refrain from saying to the strange man, having by this time well finished my dinner, that I thought he had a sour heart towards the sons and daughters of success and prosperity. "No," says he, " you misunderstand me, I was only speaking of the effigies, a species of the same genus as man, but widely different in the generalities of their nature." Gait.
I Paid a visit yesterday to my old friend Ned Drugget, at his country lodgings. Ned began trade with a very small fortune; he took a small house in an obscure street, and for some years dealt only in remnants. Knowing that " light gains make a heavy purse," he was content with moderate profit; having observed or heard the