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should draw in my friends ; for · I had nothing of my
Hurt to see my
I had frequently heard that every man had, some time or other in his life, an opportunity of rising. As this was a received opinion, I would not contradict it. I had, however, watched many years for the high tide of my affairs, but thought it never yet had reached me. I still pursued the two trades.
three volumes of magazines in so degraded a state, I took them to pieces, and clothed them in a superior dress.
1749. It was now time to look out for a future place of residence. A large town must be the mark, or there would be no room for exertion. London was thought of, between my sister and me, for I had no soul else to consult. This was rejected for two reasons. I could not venture into such a place without a capital, and my work was not likely to pass among a crowd of judges.
My plan was to fix upon some market town, within a stage of Nottingham, and open shop there on the market day, till I should be better prepared to begin the world at Birmingham.
I fixed upon Southwell, as the first step of elevation. It was fourteen miles distant, and the town as despicable as the road to it. I went over at Michaelmas, took a shop at the rate of twenty shillings a-year, sent a few boards for shelves, a few tools, and about two hundredweight of trash, which might be dignified with the name of books, and worth, perhaps, a year's rent of my shop. I was my own joiner, put up the shelves and their furniture, and in one day became the most eminent bookseller in the place.
During this rainy winter, I set out at five every Saturday morning, carried a burden of from three pounds weight to thirty, opened shop at ten, starved in it all day upon bread, cheese, and half a pint of ale, took from one to six shillings, shut up at four, and by trudging through the solitary night and the deep roads five hours more, I arrived at Nottingham by nine; where I always found a mess of milk porridge by the fire, prepared by my valuable sister.
Nothing short of a surprising resolution and rigid economy could have carried me through this scene.
1750. Returning to Nottingham, I gave warning to quit at Southwell, and prepared for a total change of life.
On the 10th of April, I entered Birmingham, for the third time, to try if I could be accommodated with a small shop. If I could procure any situation, I should be in the way of procuring a better. On the 11th I travelled the streets of Birmingham, agreed with Mrs. Dix for the lesser half of her shop, No. 6 in Bull Street, at one shilling a-week; and slept at Lichfield in my way back to Nottingham.
On May 13th, Mr. Rudsdall, a dissenting minister of Gainsborough, with whom my sister had lived as a servant, travelling from Nottingham to Stamford, requested my company, and offered to pay my expenses, and give me eighteenpence a day for my time. The afternoon was wet in the extreme. He asked why I did not bring my greatcoat? Shame forbade an answer, or I could have said I had none. The water completely soaked through my clothes, but not being able to penetrate the skin, it filled my boots. Arriving at the inn, every traveller, I found, was wet; and every one produced a change of apparel but me. left out because the house could produce no more. obliged to sit the whole evening in my drenched garments, and to put them on nearly as wet on my return the next morning! What could I expect but destruction ? Fortupately I sustained no injury.
I was I was
It happened that Mr. Rudsdall, now declined housekeeping, his wife being dead. He told my sister that he should part with the refuse of his library, and would sell it
She replied, “ He has no money.” “We will not differ about that. Let him come to Gainsborough ; he shall have the books at his own price." I walked to Gainsborough on the 15th of May, stayed there the 16th, and came back on the 17th.
The books were about two hundred pounds' weight. Mr. Rudsdall gave me his corn chest for their deposit; and for payment, drew the following note, which I signed :
“I promise to pay to Ambrose Rudsdall, one pound seven shillings, when I am able." Mr. Rudsdall observed, “ You never need pay this note if you only say you are not able.” The books made a better show, and were more valuable than all I possessed beside.
I had now a most severe trial to undergo; parting with my friends, and residing wholly among strangers. May 23rd, I left Nottingham, and I arrived at Birmingham on the 25th. Having little to do but look into the street, it seemed singular to see thousands of faces pass, and not one that I knew. I had entered a new world, in which I led a melancholy life, a life of silence and tears. Though a young man, and of rather a cheerful turn, it was remarked " that I was never seen to smile."
The rude family into which I was cast added to the load of melancholy.
My brother came to see me about six weeks after my arrival, to whom I observed, that the trade had fully supported me. Five shillings a-week covered every expense ; as food, rent, washing, lodging, &c. Thus a solitary year rolled round, when a few young men of elevated character and sense took notice of me. I had saved about twenty pounds, and was become more reconciled to my situation. The first who took a fancy to me was Samuel Salte, a mercer's apprentice, who five years after, resided in London, where he acquired £100,000. He died in 1797. Our intimacy lasted his life.
In this first opening of prosperity, an unfortunate circumstance occurred which gave me great uneasiness, as it threatened totally to eclipse the small prospect before me. The overseers, fearful I should become chargeable to the parish, examined me with regard to my settlement; and, with the voice of authority, ordered me to procure a certificate, or they would remove me. Terrified, I wrote to my father, who returned for answer, “ That All Saints, in Derby, never granted certificates."
I was hunted by ill-nature two years. I repeatedly of. fered to pay the levies, which was refused. A succeeding overseer, a draper, of whom I had purchased two suits of clothes, value £10, consented to take them. The scruple exhibited a short sight, a narrow principle, and the exultations of power over the defenceless.
Among others who wished to serve me, I had two friends, Mr. Dowler, a surgeon, who resided opposite me, and Mr. Grace, a hosier at the Gateway, in the High-street. Great consequences often arise from small things. The house adjoining that of Mr. Grace's, was to be let. My friends both urged me to take it. I was frightened at the rent, eight pounds. However, one drew, and the other pushed, till they placed me there. A small house is too large for a man without furniture, and a small rent may be too large for an income which has nothing certain in it but the smallness. Having felt the extreme of poverty, I dreaded nothing so much; but I believed I had seized the tide, and I was unwilling to stop.
Here I pursued business in a more elevated style, and with more success.
No event in a man's life is more consequential than marriage; nor is any more uncertain. Upon this die his sum of happiness depends. Pleasing views arise, which vanish as the cloud; because, like that, they have no foundation. Circumstances change, and tempers with them. Let a man's prior judgment be ever so sound, he cannot foresee a change; therefore he is liable to deception. I was deceived myself, but, thanks to my kind fate, it was on the right side. I found in my wife more than I ever expected to find in woman. Just in proportion as I loved her, I must regret her loss. If my father, with whom I only lived fourteen years, who loved me less, and has been gone forty, never is a day out of my thoughts, what must be my thoughts towards ber, who loved me as herself, and with whom I resided an age !
1756.—My dear wife brought me a little daughter, who has been the pleasure of my life to this day. We had now a delightful plaything for both.
Robert Bage, an old and intimate friend, and a papermaker, took me to his inn, where we spent the evening. He proposed that I should sell paper for him, which I might either buy on my own account, or sell on his by commission. As I could spare one or two hundred pounds, I chose to purchase; therefore appropriated a room for the reception of goods, and hung out a sign—The Paper Warehouse. From this small bint I followed the stroke forty years, and acquired an ample fortune.
1763.-We took several pleasurable journeys; among others, one at Aston, and in a superior style to what we had done before. This is the peculiar privilege of us Birming