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William Hutton was the son of a poor wool-worker. He was brought up as a poor weaver, had not a penny in the world, became a bookbinder under the poorest auspices, and ended with being a rich man, and living in wealth and honour to the age of ninety-two. The passages selected are from a life of him written by himself, and in the original are accompanied with a great deal of additional matter, all worth reading, and in the course of which he gives an account of the rise and progress of his courtship of Mrs. Hutton, here only intimated. He was one of the sufferers from the Riots of Birmingham (which he has recorded), and author of amusing Histories of that town and of Derby. The Robert Bage whom he mentions as his friend and benefactor, and who was another man of his sort, though in every respect of a higher class, is better known by his writings than his name, being no other than the author of Hermsprong, Man as he Is, and other novels well known to the readers of circulating libraries, and admired by Walter Scott. Two such men of business as Hutton and Robert Bage have seldom come together, at least not in the eyes of the world ; and as they came in the shapes of bookseller and paper-maker, we have special pleasure in thus bringing them before the reader.
PASSAGES FROM THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF WILLIAM HUTTON.
1741. WHAT the mind is bent upon obtaining, the
hand seldom fails in accomplishing. I detested the frame, as totally unsuitable to my temper; therefore I produeed no more profit than necessity demanded. I made shift, however, with a little overwork and a little credit, to raise a genteel suit of clothes, fully adequate to the sphere in which I moved. The girls eyed me with some attention ; nay I eyed myself as much as any of them,
1743. At Whitsuntide I went to see my father, and was favourably received by my acquaintance. One of them played upon the bell-harp. I was charmed with the sound, and agreed for the price, when I could raise the sum, half
At Michaelmas I went to Derby, to pay for and bring back my bell-harp, whose sound I thought seraphic. This opened a scene of pleasure which continued many years. Music was my daily study and delight. But, perhaps, I laboured under greater difficulties than any one had done before me. I could not afford an instructor. I had no books, nor could I borrow, or buy; neither had I a friend to give me the least hint, or put my instrument in tune.
Thus I was in the situation of a first inventor, left to grope in the dark to find something. I had first my ear to bring into tune, before I could tune the instrument; for the ear is the foundation of all music. That is the best tune which best pleases the ear, and he keeps the best time who draws the most music from his tune.
For six months did I use every effort to bring a tune out of an instrument which was so dreadfully out, it had no tune in it. Assiduity never forsook me. I was encouraged by a couplet I had seen in Dyce's Spelling-book :
“Despair of nothing that you would attain,
When I was able to lay a foundation, the improvement and the pleasure were progressive. Wishing to rise, I borrowed a dulcimer, made one by it, then learned to play upon it. But in the fabrication of this instrument, I had neither timber to work upon, tools to work with, nor money to purchase either. It is said “necessity is the mother of invention.” I pulled a large trunk to pieces, one of the relics of my family, but formerly the property of Thomas Parker, the first Earl of Macclesfield. And as to tools, I considered that the hammer-key and the plyers belonging to the stocking-frame, would supply the place of hammer and pincers. My pocket-knife was all the edge-tools I could raise ; a fork, with one limb, was made to act in the double capacity of spring-awl and gimlet.
I quickly was master of this piece of music; for if a man can play upon one instrument he can soon learn upon any.
A young man, apprentice to a baker, happening to see the dulcimer, asked if I could perform upon it. Struck with the sound, and with seeing me play with what he thought great ease, he asked if I would part with the instrument, and at what price? I answered in the affirmative, and, for sixteen shillings. He gave it. I told him, "If he wanted advice, or his instrument wanted tuning, I would assist him." “ Oh no, there's not a doubt but I shall do." I bought a coat with the money, and constructed a better instrument.
1746. An inclination for books began to expand; but here, as in music and dress, money was wanting. The first article of purchase was three yolumes of the Gentleman's Magazine, 1742, 3, and 4. As I could not afford to pay for binding, I fastened them together in a most cobbled style. These afforded me a treat.
I could only raise books of small value, and these in worn-out bindings. I learned to patch, procured paste, varnisb, &c., and brought them into tolerable order ; erected shelves, and arranged them in the best manner I was able.
If I purchased shabby books, it is no wonder that I dealt with a shabby bookseller who kept his working apparatus in his shop. It is no wonder, too, if by repeated visits I became acquainted with this shabby bookseller, and often saw him at work; but it is a wonder and a fact, that I never saw him perform one act but I could perform it myself; so strong was the desire to attain the art.
I made no secret of my progress, and the bookseller rather encouraged me, and for two reasons: I bought such rubbish as nobody else would ; and he had often an opportunity of selling me a cast-off tool for a shilling, not worth a penny. As I was below every degree of opposition, a rivalship was out of the question.
The first book I bound was a very small one, Shakspeare's Venus and Adonis. I showed it to the bookseller. He seemed surprised. I could see jealousy in his eye. However, he recovered in a moment. He had no doubt but I should break.
He offered me a worn-down press for two shillings, which no man could use, and which was laid by for the fire. I considered the nature of its construction, bought it, and paid the two shillings. I then asked him to favour me with a hammer and a pin, which he brought with half a conquering smile, and half a sneer. I drove out the garter-pin, which, being galled, prevented the press from working, and turned another square, which perfectly cured the press. He said in
anger, “If I had known, you should not have had it.” However, I could see he consoled himself with the idea that all must return in the end. This proved for fortytwo years my best binding press.
I now purchased a tolerably genteel suit of clothes, and was so careful of them, lest I should not be able to procure another, that they continued my best for five years.
The stocking-frame being my own, and trade being dead, the hosiers would not employ me; they could scarcely employ their own frames. I was advised to try Leicester, and took with me half-a-dozen pair of stockings to sell. I visited several warehouses; but, alas! all proved blank. They would neither employ me, nor give for my goods anything near prime cost. As I stood like a culprit before a gentleman of the name of Bennet, I was so affected, that I burst into tears, to think that I should have served seven years to a trade at which I could not get bread.
My sister took a house, and to soften the rent, my brother and I lodged with her.
1747. It had been the pride of my life, ever since pride commenced, to wear a watch. I bought a silver one for thirty-five shillings. It went ill. I kept it for four years, then gave that and a guinea for another, which went as ill. I afterwards exchanged this for a brass one, which going no better, I sold it for five shillings; and to complete the watch farce, I gave the five shillings away, and went without a watch thirty years.
I had promised to visit my father on Whitsun eve, at Derby. Business detained me till it was eleven at night before I arrived. Expectation had for some time been on the stretch, and was now giving way. My father being elevated with liquor, and by my arrival, rose in ecstasy, and gave me the first kiss, and, I believe, the last he ever
This year I began to dip into rhyme. The stream was pleasant, though I doubt whether it flowed from Helicon. Many little pieces were the produce of my pen, which, perhaps, pleased; however, they gave no offence, for they slept on my shelf till the rioters burnt them in 1791.
1748. Every soul who knew me scoffed at the idea of my book-binding, except my sister, who encouraged and aided me; otherwise I must have sunk under it. I considered that I was naturally of a frugal temper; that I could watch every penny, live upon a little ; that I hated stocking-making, but not book-binding; that if I continued at the frame, I was certain to be poor; and if I ventured to leave it, I could not be so. My only fear was lest I