« ForrigeFortsæt »
the commencement of a busy and extended literary career. The farce, although only acted once, was well received, and it soon -encouraged him to new efforts of the same kind. Yet he continued for many years involved in difficulties, from which it required all his exertions to extricate himself. The remainder of Mr Holcroft's history, with the exception of a short but stormy period, during which he was subjected to very severe usage on account of certain political opinions which he was supposed to hold, is merely that of a life of authorship. He never became a good actor, and after some time dedicated himself entirely to literary occupation. His industry in his new profession is abundantly evidenced by the long list of his works, which comprise several of high talent and established popularity. In his maturer years, besides many other acquirements, he made himself master of the French and German languages, from both of which he executed several well-known translations. This ingenious and enterprising man, whose life affords some useful lessons for the young', died in 1809.
. This individual, who was latterly associated with one of the chief periodical publications of the day, had as humble an origin as Lackington and Holcroft, and, like them, at one time wrought at the craft of shoemaking. Gifford was born in 1755, at Ashburton, in Devonshire, and for several years led the miserable kind of life which is common among the children of a drunken and reckless father. This worthless man died when only forty years of age, leaving his wife with two children, the youngest little more than eight months old, and no available means for their support. In about a year afterwards his wife followed, and thus was William, at the age of thirteen, and his infant hrother, thrown upon the world in an utterly destitute condition. The parish workhouse now received the younger of the orphans, and William was taken home to the house of a person named Carlile, his godfather—who, whatever might have been his kindness in this respect, had at least taken care of his own interests, by seizing on every article left by the widow Gifford, on pretence of repaying himself for money which he had advanced to her in her greatest necessities. The only benefit derived by "William from this removal was a little education, Carlile sending him to school, where he acquired the elements of instruction. His chief proficiency, as he tells us, was in arithmetic; but he was not suffered to make much progress in his studies, for, grudging the expense, his patron took him from school, with the object of making him a ploughboy. To the plough he would accordingly have gone, but for a weakness in his chest, the result of an accident some years before. It was now proposed to send him to a storehouse in Newfoundland; but the person who wag to be benefited by his services declared him to be too small, and this plan was also dropped. "My godfather," says William, "had now humbler views for me, and I had little heart to resist anything. He proposed to send me on board one of the Torbay fishing-boats. I ventured, however, to remonstrate against this, and the matter was compromised by my consenting to go on board a coaster. A coaster was speedily found for me at Brixham, and thither I went when little more than thirteen."
In this vessel he remained for nearly a twelvemonth. "It will be easily conceived," he remarks, " that my life was a life of hardship. I was not only ' a ship-boy on the high and giddy mast/ but also in the cabin, where every menial office fell to my lot; yet if I was restless and discontented, I can safely say it was not so much on account of this, as of my being precluded from all possibility of reading; as my master did not possess, nor do I recollect seeing during the whole time of my abode with him, a single book of any description except the ' Coasting Pilot.'"
While in this humble situation, however, and seeming to himself almost an outcast from the world, he was not altogether forgotten. He had broken off all connexion with Ashburton, where his godfather lived; but " the women of Brixham," says he, " who travelled to Ashburton twice a-week with fish, and who had known my parents, did not see me without kind concern running about the beach in a ragged jacket and trousers." They often mentioned him to their acquaintances at Ashburton; and the tale excited so much commiseration in the place, that his godfather at last found himself obliged to send for him home. At this time he wanted some months of fourteen. He proceeds with his own story as follows:—
"After the holidays, I returned to my darling pursuit—arithmetic. My progress was now so rapid, that in a few months I was at the head of the school, and qualified to assist my master (Mr E. Furlong) on any extraordinary emergency. As he usually gave me a trifle on these occasions, it raised a thought in me that, by engaging with him as a regular assistant, and undertaking the instruction of a few evening scholars, I miffht, with a little additional aid, be enabled to support myself. God knows my ideas of support at this time were of no very extravagant nature. I had, besides, another object in view. Mr Hugh Smerdon (my first master) was now grown old and infirm; it seemed unlikely that he should hold out above three or four years; and I fondly flattered myself that, notwithstanding my youth, I might possibly be appointed to succeed him. I was in my fifteenth year when I built these castles. A storm, however, was collecting, which unexpectedly burst upon me, and swept them all away.
"On mentioning my little plan to Carlile, he treated it with the utmost contempt; and told me, in his turn, that as I had learned enough, and more than enough, at school, he must be considered as having1 fairly discharged his duty (so indeed he had); he added that he had been negotiating with his cousin, a shoemaker of some respectability, who had liberally agreed to take me, without a fee, as an apprentice. I was so shocked at this intelligence, that I did not remonstrate, but went in sullenness and silence to my new master, to whom I was soon after bound, till I should attain the age of twenty-one.
"At this time," he continues, " I possessed but one book in the world: it was a treatise on algebra, given to me by a young woman, who had found it in a lodging-house. I considered it as a treasure: but it was a treasure locked up; for it supposed the reader to be well acquainted with simple equations, and I knew nothing of the matter. My master's son had purchased Fenning"'s Introduction: this was precisely what I wanted; but he carefully concealed it from me, and I was indebted to chance alone for stumbling upon his hiding-place. I sat up for the greatest part of several nights successively, and, before he suspected that his treatise was discovered, had completely mastered it. I could now enter upon my own, and that carried me prettyfar into the science. This was not done without difficulty. I had not a farthing on earth, nor a friend to give me one; pen, ink, and paper, therefore, were for the most part as completely out of my reach as a crown and sceptre. There was indeed a resource; but the utmost caution and secrecy were necessary in applying to it. I beat out pieces of leather as smooth as possible, and wrote my problems on them with a blunted awl; for the rest my memory was tenacious, and I could multiply and divide by it to a great extent."
Persevering under these untoward difficulties, he at length, obtained some alleviation of his poverty. Having attempted to write some verses, his productions were received with applause, and sometimes, he adds, " with favours more substantial: little collections were now and then made, and I have received six
Iience in an evening. To one who had long lived in the absoute want of money, such a resource seemed a Peruvian mine. I furnished myself by degrees with paper, &c. and, what was of more importance, with books of geometry, and of the higher branches of algebra, which I cautiously concealed. Poetry, even at this time, was no amusement of mine—it was subservient to other purposes; and I only had recourse to it when I wanted money for my mathematical pursuits."
Gilford's master having capriciously put a stop to these literary recreations, and taken away all his books and papers, he was
freatly mortified, if not reduced to a state of despair. "I look ack," he says, "on that part of my life which immediately followed this event with little satisfaction: it was a period of gloom and savage unsociability. By degrees I sunk into a kind of corporeal torpor; or, if roused into activity by the spirit of youth, wasted the exertion in splenetic and vexatious tricks, which alienated the few acquaintances which compassion had yet left me."
Fortunately, this despondency in time gave way to a natural buoyancy of his disposition; some evidences of kindly feeling from those around him tended a good deal to mitigate his recklessness; and especially as the term of his apprenticeship drew towards a close, his former aspirations and hopes began to return to him. Working with renewed diligence at his craft, he, at the end of six years, came under the notice of Mr William Cookesley, and, struck with his talents, this benevolent person resolved on rescuing him from obscurity. "The plan," says Gifford, "that occurred to him was naturally that which had so often suggested itself to me. There were indeed several obstacles to be overcome. My handwriting was bad, and my language very incorrect; but nothing could slacken the zeal of this excellent man. He procured a few of my poor attempts at rhyme, dispersed them amongst his friends and acquaintance, and when my name was become somewhat familiar to them, set on foot a subscription for my relief. I still preserve the original paper; its title was not very magnificent, though it exceeded the most sanguine wishes of my heart. It ran thus:—' A subscription for purchasing the remainder of the time of William Gifford, and for enabling him to improve himself in writing and English grammar.' Few contributed more than five shillings, and none went beyond ten and sixpence; enough, however, was collected to free me from my apprenticeship, and to maintain me for a few months, during which I assiduously attended the Rev. Thomas Smerdon."
Pleased with the advances he made in this short period, it was agreed to maintain him at school for an entire year. "Such liberality," says Gifford, "was not lost upon me: I grew anxious to make the best return in my power, and I redoubled my diligence. Now that I am sunk into indolence, I look back with some degree of scepticism to the exertions of that period." In two years and two months from what he calls the day of his emancipation, he was pronounced by his master to be fit for the university; and a small office having been obtained for him, by Mr Cookesley's exertions, at Oxford, he was entered of Exeter College, that gentleman undertaking to provide the additional means necessary to enable him to live till he should take his degree. Mr Gifford's first patron died before his protege had time to fulfil the good man's fond anticipations of his future celebrity; but he afterwards found, in Lord Grosvenor, another much more able, though it was impossible that any other could have shown more zeal, to advance his interests.
Gifford was now on the way to fame, and he may be said to have ever afterwards enjoyed a prosperous career. On the commencement of the Quarterly Review in 1809, he was appointed editor of that periodical, and under his management it attained a distinguished success. After a useful literary career, Mr Gifford died in London on the 31st of December 1826, in the seventyfirst year of his age. Reversing the Latin proverb, it might be justly observed, that in him a shoemaker happily went beyond his last.
NOAH WORCESTER, D.D.
Noah was bor n in 1758 at Hollis, New Hampshire, United States, where some of his ancestors had been ministers; but his father was a farmer. In early life he received very little education, and the greater part of his time was consumed working as a labourer in the fields. He afterwards became a soldier; but, horrified with the vices of that profession, and the slaughter which he saw take place at Bunker's Hill, he abandoned it for ever, and betook himself to farming. He now commenced a course of self-instruction; and to lose no time while so engaged, he employed himself in shoemaking. His diligence was unrelaxing. At the end of his bench lay his books, pens, ink, and
Eaper; and to these he made frequent application. In this way e acquh-ed much useful learning; and a pamphlet which he wrote had the effect of recommending him to a body of ministers, by whom he was advanced to the clerical profession.
In a short time an opening occurred for a preacher in a small town in the neighbourhood, and to this he was promoted by universal consent; yet, in a worldly sense, it was a poor promotion. His salary scantily supported life, being only two hundred dollars (about £45); and as many could ill afford to pay their proportion of even that small sum, he was accustomed, as the time of collecting it drew nigh, to relinquish his claims, by giving to the poorer among them receipts in full. The relief granted in this way sometimes amounted to a fourth, or even a third part of his salary. He was thus made to continue still dependent for his support in a great measure on the labour of his hands, partly on the farm, and partly in making shoes. But he was far from fancying this scantiness of pay and necessity of toil any exemption from his obligation to do the utmost for his people. On the contrary, he was ready to engage in extra labour for them; and when it happened, for example, as it sometimes did, that the provision for a winter school failed, he threw open the doors of his own house, invited the children into his study, and gave them his time and care as assiduously as if he had been their regularlyappointed teacher.
1'his is an engaging picture of a self-sacrificing country minister; but we shall not advert farther to his pastoral life, nor shall we allude to the progress of his religious opinions, but