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Taunton, and had also more work and higher wages, we often added something or other to our stock of wearing apparel.
" Industrious habits in each bosom reign,
GOLDSMITH. Nor did I forget the old book-shops : but frequently added an old book to my small collection; and I really have often purchased books with the money that should have been expended in purchasing something to eat; a striking instance of which follows:
At the time we were purchasing household goods we kept ourselves very short of money, and on Christmas eve we had but half-a-crown left to buy a Christmas dinner. My wife desired that I would go to market and purchase this festival dinner, and off I set for that purpose ; but in the way I saw an old book-shop, and I could not resist the temptation of going in; intending only to expend sixpence or ninepence out of my half-a-crown. But I stumbled upon Young's Night Thoughts-forgot my dinner-down went my half-crown-and I hastened home, vastly delighted with the acquisition. When my wife asked me where was our Christmas dinner, I told her it was in my pocket.—"In your pocket (said she); that is a strange place! How could you think of stuffing a joint of meat into your pocket?” I assured her that it would take no harm. But as I was in no haste to take it out, she began to be inore particular, and enquired what I had got, &c. On which I began to harangue on the superiority of intellectual pleasures over sensual gratifications, and observed that the brute creation enjoyed the latter in a much higher degree than man. And that a man, that was not possessed of intellectual enjoyments, was but a twolegged brute.
I was proceeding in this strain : “ And so, (said
she,) instead of buying a dinner, I suppose you have, as you have done before, being buying books with the money?” “ Pray what is the value of Newton or Locke?
Do they lessen the price of potatoes or corn ?
Or teach us how hunger is patiently borne ?
What a mountain of wit must be cramm'd in that skull ! And yet, if a man were to judge by your looks,
Perhaps he would think you confoundedly dull.”
I confessed I had bought Young's Night Thoughts “ And I think (said I) that I have acted wisely; for had I bought a dinner we should have eaten it tomorrow, and the pleasure would have been soon over: but should we live fifty years longer, we shall have the Night Thoughts to feast upon.” This was too powerful an argument to admit of any
farther debate ; in short, my wife was convinced. Down I sat, and began to read with as much enthusiasm as the good doctor possessed when he wrote it; and so much did it excite my attention as well as approbation, that I retained the greatest part of it in my memory: A couplet of Persius, as Englished, might have been applied to me:
“ For this you gain your meagre looks,
And sacrifice your dinner to your books.” Sometime in June 1774, as we sat at work in our room, Mr Boyd, one of Mr Wesley's people, called and informed me that a little shop and parlour were to be let in Featherstone street, adding, that if I was to take it, I might there get some work as a master. I without hesitation told him that I liked the idea, and hinted that I would sell books also. Mr Boyd then asked me how I came to think of selling books ? I informed him that until that moment it had never once entered into my thoughts; but that when he proposed my taking the shop it instantaneously oc
curred to my mind, that for several months past I had observed a great increase in a certain old book shop; and that I was persuaded I knew as much of old books as the person who kept it. I farther observed, that I loved books, and that if I could but be a bookseller I should then have plenty of books to read, which was the greatest motive I could conceive to induce me to make the attempt. My friend on this assured me, that he would get the shop for me, and with a loud laugh added, “When you are lord mayor, you shall use all your interest to get me made an alderman.” Which I engaged not to forget to perform.
“ In all my wanderings round the world of care,
I still had hopes to see some better days." My private library at this time consisted of Fletchers's Checks to Antinomianism, &c. 5 volumes ; Watts's Improvement of the Mind ; Young's Night Thoughts ; Wake's Translation of the Apostolical Epistles ; Fleetwood's Life of Christ ; the first twenty numbers of Hinton's Dictionary of the Arts and Sciences; some of Wesley's journals, and some of the pious lives published by him ; and about a dozen other volumes of the latter sort, besides odd magazines, &c. And to set me up in style, Mr Boyd recommended me to the friends of a holy brother lately gone to heaven, and of whom I purchased a bagful of old books, chiefly divinity, for a guinea.
With this stock, and some odd scraps of leather, which, together with all my hooks, were worth about five pounds, I opened shop on Midsummer day 1774, in Featherstone street, in the parish of St Luke; and I was as well pleased in surveying my little shop with my name over it, as was Nebuchadnezzar, when he said, “ Is not this great Babylon that I have built ?” and my good wife often perceiving the pleasure that I took in my shop, piously cautioned me against set
ting my mind on the riches of this world, and assured me that it was all but vanity. “You are very right, my dear, (I sometimes replied ;) and to keep our minds as spiritual as we can, we will always attend our class and band meetings, hear as many sermons, &c. at the Foundery, on week days, as possible, and on sabbath days we will mind nothing but the good of our souls : our small beer shall be fetched in on Saturday nights, nor will we dress even a potatoe on the sabbath. We will still attend the preaching at five o'clock in the morning ; at eight go to the prayer meeting ; at ten to the public worship at the Foundery ; hear Mr Perry at Cripplegate at two; be at the preaching at the Foundery at five; meet with the general society at six; meet in the united bands at seven, and again be at the prayer meeting at eight; and then come home, and read and pray by ourselves.”
I am, dear friend, yours.
Strange vicissitudes of human fate! Still alt'ring, never in a steady state; Good after ill, and after pain delight; Alternate, like the scenes of day and night. Since every one who lives is born to die, And none can boast entire felicity : With equal mind what happens let us bear, Nor joy nor grieve too much for things beyond our care, Like pilgrims, to the appointed place we tend : The world's an inn, and death's the journey's end."
DRYDEN's Palemon and Arcite.
Dear FRIEND, Notwithstanding the obscurity of the street, and the mean appearance of my shop, yet I soon found
customers for what few books I had, and I as soon laid out the money in other old trash, which was daily brought for sale.
At that time Mr Wesley's people had a sum of money which was kept on purpose to lend out, for three months, without interest, to such of their society whose characters were good, and who wanted a temporary relief. To increase my little stock, I borrowed five pounds out of this fund, which was of great service to me.
In our new situation we lived in a very frugal manner, often dining on potatoes, and quenching our thirst with water, being absolutely determined, if possible, to make some provision for such dismal times as sickness, shortness of work, &c., which we had been so frequently involved in before, and could scarcely help expecting to be our fate again. My wife foreboded it much more than I did, being of a more melancholy turn of mind.
Women ever love
Francklin's Sophocles. I lived in this street six months, and in that time increased my stock from five pounds to twenty-five pounds.
“ London-the public there are candid and generous, and before my merit can have time to create me enemies, I'll save money, and a fig for the Sultan and Sophy."-Rover.
This immense stock I deemed too valuable to be buried in Featherstone street; and a shop and parlour being to let in Chiswell street, No 46, I took them. This was at that time, and for fourteen years afterwards, a very dull and obscure situation; as few ever passed through it besides Spitalfields weavers hanging days, and Methodists on preaching nights ; but still it was much better adapted for business than Featherstone street.