Billeder på siden




OHN HOWARD, whose name as a philanthropist must be familiar to a number of our readers, was born at Clapton, in the parish of Hackney, in the immediate vicinity of London, in or about the year 1727. His father was an upholsterer and carpet warehouseman, who had acquired a considerable fortune in trade, and had retired from business to live at Hackney. Being a dissenter, and a man of strong religious principles, he sent his son at an early age to be educated by a schoolmaster named Worsley, who kept an establishment at some distance from London, where tie sons of many opulent dissenters, friends of Mr Howard, were already boarded. The selection appears to have been injudicious; for in after-life Mr Howard assured an intimate friend, with greater indignation than he used to express on most subjects, that, after a continuance of seven years at this school, he left it No. 112. l

not fully taught any one thing." From Mr Worsley's school he was removed, probably about the age of fourteen, to one of a superior description in London, the master of which, Mr Eames, was a man of some reputation for learning. His acquisitions at both seminaries seem to have been of the meagre kind then deemed sufficient for a person who was to be engaged in commercial pursuits; and it is the assertion of Mr Howard's biographer, l)r Aikin, founded on personal knowledge, that he " was never able to speak or write his native language with grammatical correctness, and that his acquaintance with other languages—the French perhaps excepted—was slight and superficial." In this, however, he did not differ perhaps from the generality of persons similarly circumstanced in their youth, and destined, like him, for business.

At the age of fifteen or sixteen Mr Howard was bound apprentice by his father to Messrs Newnham and Shipley, extensive wholesale grocers in Watling Street, who received a premium of £700 with him. His father dying, however, shortly afterwards, and the state of his health or his natural tastes indisposing him for the mode of life for which he had been destined, he made arrangements with his masters for the purchase of the remaining; term of his apprenticeship, and quitted business. By the will of his father, who is described as a strict methodical man, of somewhat penurious disposition, he was not to come into possession of the property till he had attained his twenty-fourth year. On attaining that age, he was to be entitled to the sum of £7000 in money, together with all his father's landed and moveable property: his only sister receiving, as her share, £8000 in money, with certain additions of jewels, &c. which had belonged to her mother. Although nominally under the charge of guardians, Mr Howard was allowed a considerable share in the management of his own property. He had his house at Clapton, which his father's parsimonious habits had suffered to fall into decay, repaired or rebuilt, intending to make it his general place of residence. Connected with the repairing of this house an anecdote is told of Mr Howard, which will appear characteristic. He used to go everyday to superintend the progress of the workmen; and an old man who had been gardener to his father, and who continued about the house until it was let some time afterwards, used to tell, as an instance of Mr Howard's goodness of disposition when young, that every day during the repairs he would be in the street, close by the garden wall, just as the baker's cart was passing, when he would regularly buy a loaf and throw it over the wall, saying to the gardener as he came in, " Harry, go and look among the cabbiiges; you will find something for yourself and family."

After passing his twentieth year, Mr Howard, being of delicate health, quitted his native country, and made a tour through France and Italy, which lasted a year or two; but of the particulars of which we have no account. On his return to England, probably about the year 1750^ he took lodgings in Stoke Newington, living as a gentleman of independent property and quiet retired habits, and much respected by a small circle of acquaintances, chiefly dissenters. The state of his health, however, was such as to require constant care. His medical attendants, thinking him liable to consumption, recommended to him a very rigorous regimen in diet, which "laid the foundation," says one of his biographers, "of that extraordinary abstemiousness and indifference to the gratifications of the palate which ever after so much distinguished him." This condition of his health obliged him also to have recourse to frequent changes of air and scene. Newington, however, was his usual place of residence. Here, having experienced much kindness and attention during a very severe attack of illness from his landlady, Mrs Sarah Loidoire, an elderly widow of small property, he resolved to marry her ; and although she remonstrated with him upon the impropriety of the step, considering their great disparity of ages—he being in his twenty-fifth, . and she in her fifty-second year—the marriage was concluded in 1752. Nothing but the supposition that he was actuated by gratitude, can account for this singular step in Mr Howard's life. The lady, it appears, was not only twice as old as himself, but also very sickly; and that no reasons of interest can have influenced him, is evident, as well from the fact that she was poor in comparison with himself, as from the circumstance of his immediately making over the whole of her little property to her sister. Mr Howard seems to have lived very happily with his wife till her death shortly afterwards, in November 1755.

On his wife's death, he resolved to leave England for another tour on the continent. In his former tour he had visited most of the places of usual resort in France and Italy; during the present, therefore, he intended to pursue some less common route. After some deliberation, he determined to sail first to Portugal, in order to visit its capital, Lisbon, then in ruins from the effects of that tremendous earthquake the news of which had appalled Europe. Nothing is more interesting than to observe the effects which great public events of a calamitous nature produce on different minds; indeed one of the most instructive ways of contrasting men's dispositions, is to consider how they are severally affected by some stupendous occurrence. It is to be regretted, therefore, that we are not informed more particularly by Howard's biographers of the reasons which determined him to visit the scene of the awful catastrophe which had recently occurred in Portugal—whether they were motives of mere curiosity, or whether they partook of that desire to place himself in contact with misery, that passion for proximity to wretchedness which formed so large an element in Howard's character, and marked him out from the first as predestined for a career of philanthropy.

Before leaving England to proceed on his tour to the south of Europe, Mr Howard broke up his establishment at Stoke Newington, and, with that generosity which was so natural to him, made a distribution among the poorer people of the neighbourhood of those articles of furniture for which he had now no necessity. The old gardener already mentioned used to relate that his dividend of the furniture on this occasion consisted of a bedstead and bedding complete, a table, six new chairs, and a scythe. A few weeks after this distribution of his furniture, Mr Howard set sail in the Hanover, a Lisbon packet. Unfortunately, the vessel never reached her destination, being captured during her voyage by a French privateer. The crew and passengers were treated with great cruelty by their captors, being kept for forty hours under hatches without bread or water. They were carried into Brest, and confined all together in the castle of that place as prisoners of war. Here their sufferings were increased; and after lying for many hours in their dungeon without the slightest nourishment, they had a joint of mutton thrown in amongst them, which, not having a knife to cut it, they were obliged to tear with their hands, and gnaw like dogs. For nearly a week they lay on straw in their damp and unwholesome dungeon, after which they were separated, and severally disposed of. Mr Howard was removed first to Morlaix, and afterwards to Carpaix, where he was allowed for two months to go about on parole— an indulgence usually accorded to officers only, but which Mr Howard's manners and behaviour procured for him from the authorities. He was even furnished, it is said, with the means of returning to England, that he might negotiate his own exchange for some French naval officer, a prisoner of war in the hands of the English. This exchange was happily accomplished, and Mr Howard was once more at liberty, and in England. His short captivity in France, however, was not without its good effects, by interesting him strongly in the condition of those unfortunate men who, chancing like himself to be captured at sea during war, were languishing in dungeons both in France and England^ and atoning by their sufferings for the mutual injuries or discords of the nations to which they belonged. Mr Howard's imprisonment may be said to have first given a specific direction to his philanthropic enthusiasm. In his "Account of the State of Prisons," published a considerable time afterwards, he subjoins the following note to a passage in which he contrasts the favourable treatment which prisoners of war usually receive, with the cruelties which domestic prisoners experience :—" I must not be understood here to mean a compliment to the French. How they then treated English prisoners of war I knew by experience in 1756, when a Lisbon packet in which I went passenger, in order to make the tour of Portugal, was taken by a French privateer. Before we reached Brest, f suffered the extremity of thirst, not having, for above forty hours, one drop of water, nor hardly a morsel of food. In the castle of Brest I lay for six nights upon straw; and observing how cruelly my countrymen were used

« ForrigeFortsæt »