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down such particulars of my passage through life, as, though not adorned with an elegance of style, will, I assure you, possess what to you, I flatter myself, will be a greater recommendation, viz. a strict adherence to truth.
“ To pomp, or pathos I make no pretence,
Nor ever burrow in the dark sublime.” And though no doubt you will meet with some occurrences in which you may find cause for censure, yet I hope others will present themselves which your candour will induce you to commend.
“ Disdain not then these trifles to attend,
LORD HERVEY. Should you be able to afford the whole a patient perusal, and think the account meriting the public eye,
I shall cheerfully submit to your decision, convinced that you will not,
“With mean complacence e'er betray your trust,
Nor be so civil as to prove unjust.” John Dunton, a brother bibliopole, long since exhibited a whole volume of dulness, which he called his “Life and Errors." The latter term I believe might be a very proper appendage to the title-page of the innumerable lives which have been, and which will be published: for what man will dare to say of himself, his life has not been loaded with errors? That mine has been such I readily acknowledge; and should this narrative be published, many perhaps may deem that act another (possibly the greatest) error.
To those I shall only observe, that “to err is human, to forgive divine.”
As an additional stimulus, I can assure you as an absolute fact, that several gentlemen have at different periods (one very lately) intimated to me their intentions of engaging in the task, if I any longer declined it.
Of my first-mentioned kind biographers I shall take my leave, with a couplet, many years since written by an eminent poet, and not inapplicable to the present case.
“ Let B-- charge low Grub street on iny quill,
And write whate'er he please, except my Will." And of you, for the present, after informing you my next shall contain a faithful account of particulars relative to the early part of my life, with assuring you
Dear friend, your ever obliged.
that I am,
“Why should my birth keep down my mounting spirit?
SHAKESPEAR's Cromwell. Dear FRIEND, In my last I hinted that I should confine myself to a plain narrative of facts, unembellished with the meretricious aid of lofty figures, or representations of things which never had existence, but in the brain
of the author. I shall therefore not trouble you with a history of predictions which foretold the future greatness of your humble servant, nor with a minute account of the aspects of the planets at the very auspicious and important crisis when first I inhaled the air of this bustling orb.
“Whatever star did at my birth prevail,
HORACE. For, extraordinary as it may appear, it has never yet occurred to me, that any of the adepts in the astrological science have made a calculation of my nativity: 'tis probable this high honour is by the planets destined to adorn the sublime lucubrations of the very ingenious Mr Sibley, in the next edition of his stup—endous work! And here, for the honour of the craft, let me remark, that this most sublime genius has, with myself, to boast (and who would not boast of their genealogy in having a prince for their ancestor?) in being a son of the renowned prince Crispin.
A volume has been written with the title of « The Honour of the Taylors; or the History of Sir John Hawkwood.” But were any learned writer to undertake the honour of the shoemakers, or the history of — how insignificant a figure would the poor taylors make, when compared with the honourable craft!
“ Coblers from Crispin boast their public spirit,
And all are upright downright men of merit.” Should I live to see as many editions of my Memoirs published, as there have been of the Pilgrim's Progress, I may be induced to present the world with a folio on that important subject.
But to begin
Were I inclined to pride myself in genealogical descent, I might here boast, that the family were originally settled at White Lackington, in Somersetshire, which obtained its name from one of my famous ancestors, and give you a long detail of their grandeur, &c., but, having as little leisure as inclination to boast of what, if true, would add nothing to my merits, I shall for the present only say, that I was born at Wellington in Somersetshire, on the 31st of August, (old style) 1746. My father, George Lackington, was a journeyman shoemaker, who had incurred the displeasure of my grandfather for marrying my mother, whose maiden name was Joan Trott. She was the daughter of a poor weaver in Wellington; a good honest man, whose end was remarkable, though not very fortunate: in the road between Taunton and Wellington, he was found drowned in a ditch, where the water scarcely covered his face: he was, 'tis con. jectured,
Drunk when he died." This happened some years before the marriage of my father and mother.
My grandfather, George Lackington, had been a gentleman-farmer at Langford, a village two miles from Wellington, and acquired a pretty considerable property. But my father's mother dying when my father was but about thirteen years of age, my grandfather, who had two daughters, bound my father apprentice to a Mr Hordly, a master-shoemaker in Wellington, with an intention of setting him up in that business at the expiration of his time. But my father worked a year or two as a journeyman, and then displeased his father by marrying a woman without a shilling, of a mean family, and who supported herself by spinning of wool into yarn, so that my mother was delivered of your friend and humble servant, her first-born, and hope of the family, in my grandmother Trott's poor cottage; and that good old
woman carried me privately to church, unknown to my father, who was (nominally) a Quaker, that being the religion of his ancestors.
About the year 1750, my father having three or four children, and my mother proving an excellent wife, my grandfather's resentment had nearly subsided, so that he supplied him with money to open a shop for himself. But that which was intended to be of very great service to him and his family, eventually proved extremely unfortunate to himself and them; for, as soon as he found he was more at ease in his circumstances, he contracted a fatal habit of drinking, and of course his business was neglected; so that after several fruitless attempts of my grandfather to keep him in trade, he was, partly by a very large family, but more by his habitual drunkenness, reduced to his old state of a journeyman shoemaker. Yet so infatuated was he with the love of liquor, that the endearing ties of husband and father could not restrain him: by which baneful habit himself and family were involved in the extreme poverty.
“ To mortal men great loads allotted be;
HERRICK. So that neither myself, my brothers, or sisters, are indebted to a father scarcely for anything that can endear his memory, or cause us to reflect on him with pleasure.
“ Children, the blind effects of love and chance,
“ How adverse runs the destiny of some creatures ! Some only can get riches and no children; We only can get children and no riches ; Then 'tis the prudent part to check our will, : And, till our state rise, make our blood stand still.”