Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

diet, (videlicit, cabbage,) whose eventful journey to Brentford has so frequently and so justly afforded amusement to the rising generation, who chose his horse by its colour, and decided on that colour by his patternbook; who obstinately persisted, contrary to all precedent, in sitting cross-legged, and different from all other equestrians (from Castor, that twin-god of riders, downwards to Mr. Ducrow, who, at Astley's, doth nightly “'witch the world with noble horsemanship,”) determined on riding dos-à-dos, his hands firmly grasping the tail for a bridle, while, in all its proud rotundity, his “rear rank kept close order” on the crupper. In vain is such a man a candidate for admission into what is technically termed genteel society. No person can see him without fancying that he smells goose : in vain does he, on his bended knees, solicit the hand of the fair enslaver of his soul-no, there is not a lady in the land that has not “a soul above buttons:"-like a leper, he is driven from society-he is completely goosed off the stage, and he drags out his weary life in solitude, lamenting his unfortunate name, and the world's unjust antipathy to buttons. Nay, not even when he is dead, does he escape the rancour of the world, for in his epitaph he is represented as having had his thread of life clipped short by the shears of death, and his grave is unfeelingly called a button-hole.

We ask our fair reader, whether if a Mr. Sheepshanks were ushered into her presence, her first impulse would not be to look at his legs? Or a Mr. Butcher, whether she would not immediately think of a lamb, and the murder of the innocents, in which she supposes him to “out Herod Herod ?”. And if Mrs. Snipe, her milliner, be announced, doth she not forth with conclude that she has come to present her bill? Or to ask our candid male reader, if he met with a Mr. Partridge in company, whether he is not tempted to make game of him? Or a Mr. Hare, to roast him? Or a Mr. Fow), to baste him? I once knew a very respectable and learned man-a parson and a pedagogue, who found, to his great dismay and astonishment, that all his friends, one by one, were dropping away from him: he was perfectly unconscious of the reasonhe knew of no offence given in word or deed to cause this “ decline and fall” of friendship; in his sermons there were no personal allusions, no side-wipes, no individual castigation; he never attacked gluttony, winebibbing, and drunkenness, if the vicar were there; he preached not against want of charity, hardness of heart, profane swearing, chamber. ing and wantonness, if the justice were there; and if the justice's wife and family honoured the church with their presence,-if they had no vi. sitors, and the roads were too dusty for riding, or too wet for walking, he did not denounce pride, vanity, and worldly-mindedness; neither did he preach against envy, hatred, and malice, scandal, tea-sipping, and goss-sipping, if certain elderly damsels of the old school were seen in their pew nodding their paralytic heads. And to his pupils, though he was frequently severe, yet he never brought blood, and never actually laid open a boy's skull but once, and that was under peculiar circum. stances, so that poor Syntax was quite dumb-foundered and at sea. At length the cause was discovered, which was this :- A master of a schooner, trading in the Mediterranean, had made him a present of a huge, black "she-dog," which he had received as a mark of respect from a Greek, with whom, to use the cant phrase, “ he did business," and who, it seems, was not always prepared to “ tip the ready." This Greek boasted of being a lineal descendant of Menelaus, so the last recipient, the learned Theban, had given her the classical soubriquet of Helena, she being of the softer sex. Now Helena being too long a word, he more frequently called her by the first syllable, which was Hel. Be it understood, that this “rearer of the tender thought” was very ugly, being exceedingly tall and spare, his bones starting from his skin,

like an alarmed rabbit, peeping from her hole; his nose being of the “ hawk's-bill” species, an eye minus, and the remaining one squinting, as if it were looking after its “ absent friend,” which, though lost to sight, was still to memory dear;" his black oleaginous hair, flowing in elf locks down his shoulders, his complexion in colour bearing a resemblance to brown pasteboard, and his teeth, or rather tusks, of elephantine size and saffron hue, denoting magnanimous powers of mastication and small acquaintance with the brush. To proceed to his dog, she was a “towsy tyke, black, grim, and large,” (precisely the same as Burns describes in his “Tam O'Shanter,”) having a fearful and portentous aspect, though in reality (as her master assured every one) perfectly harmless. Be that as it may, when the good preacher called out Hel., Hel., his friends shrank back aghast, and the vulgar fled in trepidation and alarm, and all agreed that she was no bad type of the nether regions ; whilst they were forced to confess, that her master was no indifferent representation of the devil, for the parson's exterior was fierce as ten furies,” and his dog “ looked terrible hell.” Well what was the consequence of this ? None of his friends would call upon him, lest they should see Hel.: if they met him on the road, like the Levite, they passed over to the other side, lest they should come in the way of “ Hel. ;' there was no alternative—“ Hel.” must be parted with, but no person would have her, so little (unlike the wise steward) had she made friends with the children of this world, that all with one consent refused to take her into their houses. What was to be done? The pedagogue, though severe, was not sanguinary, and tender, though a taskmaster; he pitied the poor animal and pleaded for her life, but parishioners were clamorous, and the circumstance coming to the ears of the justice, he said, that though the parson was privileged to introduce hell in the pulpit, he had no business to frighten people with it out of church, it was therefore unanimously decided that poor Hel. should be hanged. This story illustrates the truth of the saying, “ Give a dog a bad name and hang him.” What we have related is a fact, and we could name names, only that it would be invi. dious, and might bring ridicule upon a worthy man, and a preacher of the Gospel, whose only fault, or rather failing, was a misplaced affection.

So much for dogs. In the next article we shall proceed up the scale of creation to men.

THE LIFE, OPINIONS, AND PENSILE ADVENTURES OF

JOHN KETCH 1

WITH RECOLLECTIONS OF HIS CONTEMPORARIES DURING

THE LAST THREE REIGNS.

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

As I would, if I could, make my life at last useful, to make amends for the injuries I have done, I will pause here to make a few observations upon this subject. We have an institution for the reception of abandoned females, and an infinity of other charities, but none to which a repentant or compelled thief, when he may be disposed to mend his ways, can apply for assistance in finding the road to honesty. Habit, it must be allowed, is very powerful; but no man ever wholly parts with his conscience, or that internal sense which shows us right from wrong ; thieves, therefore, like other men, are subject, under their vicissitudes and difa ferent states of constitutional health and feeling, to remorse, and alternate resolutions to pursue their evil courses; and it is certain, judging from my experience, that if a place of reception were open, and some good system laid down to train them into a path of honest industry, that every day, men, who have been involved in crime, would come in and submit themselves to any, regulations which were calculated to effect the object. It is a popular notion, that once a thief always a thief; this is only so far true as relates to the fact, that once in the line of dishonesty there are no bye turnings, or branch roads, by which men can cut across into the direct and main path to honesty. To me it appears very surprising, that in this monied and would-be thought charitable country, there should be no port open for men who (if I may be allowed the expression) are at sea in society. It is equally surprising that all the moralists and legislators, who are considered the wise men of the age, should have allowed themselves to fall into so gross an error as to suppose that any class of men are morally and irrecoverably lost. In the course of my experience I have conversed with very many men, belonging to what we call the family, who were anxious to be honestly engaged ; and frequently made resolutions to embark in any petty way of trade when they could realize sufficient capital to do so, rather than live in a continual state of alarm under the lashing of a reproaching conscience ; and I can now point out a number of families holding a respectable station in life as middling tradesmen, the fathers of which were at one time regularly on the town, living wholly upon the cross; but who possessed virtue and resolution enough, when in possession of money, to make ariends for the manner in which it was acquired, by using it honestly. Please to remember, reader, that I have not, for a moment, employed myself in apologizing for a course of dishonesty, because the party, if successful, means to become an honest man hereafter; I am not quite so uninformed as to suppose that we are, or ought to be, allowed to make any such terms with our consciences or the law. A man may possess a great deal of virtue, and yet not have enough to make him become a martyr to his conscience, and starve for the cause of honesty.

1 Continued from p. 294.

It is my object to remove a popular prejudice, viz. that all thieves, old or young, are irreclaimable, or as writers on this subject express it, the exceptions are so few as not to be worth a consideration. The practice of stealing for a livelihood injures the health, shakes the constitution, and makes men nervous in the extreme; showing that whatever face may be put on, or hardihood assumed, the conscience and the fear of punishment are always in operation ; hence it is, that most offenders in the end become great drinkers, flying to it in the first instance to raise their spirits, and drown for a temporary season their own compunctions of conscience. No men existing are so much subject to fits of lowness of spirits, cursing themselves and the fates which made them to endure such a horrible life as that of living, as it were, upon the top of the Monument, in momentary expectation of falling headlong to the bottom. Now if, when these fits were on them in their strongest moments of action, a ladder were placed within their reach to descend out of danger, is it not reasonable to suppose they would avail themselves of it? But the thief, however he become so, never has a ladder offered him, except it be to help him out of the world. There is a monstrous blunder made in these matters; the Christian, proud and vain of his reputation for honesty, says, “ Give a thief no consideration, if you do, you will encourage crime, and countenance criminals ;” but I say, the people, for want of understanding the question, withhold the means for their escape from the profession, and thus increase the number of offenders every year.

I do not pretend to be wise enough to dictate to the government how the business ought to be done ; but this I know, that there should be a bye-door provided, through which a repentant rogue might escape from his fellows; one which would act as a safety valve, and keep down the power and influence of the brotherhood, protecting society against explosions. These observations have all sprung out of my supposing myself to be set adrift again upon the world, by those who knew I must return to my old calling ; this, however, did not happen, as will presently be shown; but it does occur eight times a year at the Old Bailey, where from fifty to one hundred, like what I then was, are let loose without there being one effort made to save them, or to protect society from the depredations they must, on their liberation, commit. Look also at the number which are daily discharged, of the same stamp, from all the metropolitan prisons, after various short terms of imprisonment. I say, when it is considered that the whole body of offenders in London do (as I did) pass many times through the hands of justice, what can be thought of the government, or of the sanctified members of the community, who send men to preach to, and disturb, foreign society, while they let pass such an opportunity to exert themselves at their own threshhold ? " If these missionary saints, and many other useless societies, would but use their money in building asylums for the reception of one or two thousand men, they might much more usefully employ their emissaries at home, than in writing foolish letters from the other side of the globe to gull people out of their money, for no earthly purpose than to support a few individuals who are too loose in their ideas to settle at home in any regular calling, and therefore go vagabondizing about in strange Jands under the pretext of serving the cause of religion.* Now, as I say, if these asylums were built, I should recommend the following course to be pursued, viz. that no individual, who entered a prison under a sentence of a criminal court, should be allowed to go out of it without being frequently visited

* We do not coincide with all this.-Ep.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

by agents which should be employed for that purpose; the main object of the visitors should be to address each prisoner in something after this style: “I am here for the purpose of ascertaining who and what you are, the cause, which have led you into crime, your friends and connexions, and what are your prospects when you shall leave this place." The an. swers to these queries should be taken down in writing, and diligent inquiry made regarding their correctness: this mode of proceeding would very soon inform the agents employed how many positive and genuine regular offenders they had to deal with, each of which should be addressed as follows: * We know that you are a thief by trade, and that you cannot now, through loss of character, ever again, without help, get

into the path of honesty; we are here for the purpose of giving you that • help; we have an asylum for your reception when your imprisonment is

at an end. If you have a trade you may work at it for tweve months in our establishment, during which we will endeavour to offer you every facility for recovering proper habits to enable you in future to obtain your own bread honestly. If you have none, we will take you in and provide for your present wants, until your friends, if you have any, shall advise with us and make some arrangements for your future path; if you are entirely destitute, we will convey you to a country where work is abundant and wages high, upon the equitable terms of your undertaking to repay our agent in the colony the charge for your passage, out of the money you are sure to earn when there."

This is already a long digression; I will not, therefore, stop to discuss all the advantages which might arise out of this or some other similar plan; certain it is that none, after the first conviction, could have an excuse for going again to prison.

Suppose a father, with an abundant and well-stocked larder, to withhold food from his hungry son, and every time the famished boy helped himself, the father gave him a severe flogging, still withholding and prohibiting his taking any food from the larder. It is evident the boy would dread the whipping, but would not his hunger impel him to brave it for food ? Now let the father increase the punishment to any extent he may, still if the boy can reach the food, nature will compel him to eat until the punishment disables or destroys the functions of the stomach. The world is the larder, the father is the government, and the boy the thief, who is so against his will. But to return to my own case. The following day the ordinary told me that he had found out my late master's female servant, and that from all she said, he was tolerably well satisfied, as regarded the last charge against me, of my innocence; and moreover added, that he would help me all he could. The servant girl had promised to find out the man who served in the shop, and to attend on the day of my trial, which it appears she did ; but meeting with somebody who told her I was a real thief, and that if she went into court, she would be asked some very rude questions how she could know that I was at home in bed at the time of the robbery, unless she was in the same room with me, she took fright, and left the place with the shopman, who said he would have nothing to do with such a bad business. Many thousands besides me have suffered from the shuffling of witnesses, who will scarcely ever come up for the accused party; and a man in prison can rarely obtain the means to enforce or punish them for neglect, even when served with a subpæna to appear.

On the first day of session we were all three arraigned at the bar, when the prosecutor and his wife again giving the same evidence as before the magistrate, we were found guilty and forth with sent to the cells, where we remained until the last day of the session, when we were brought up with thirty others and sentenced to suffer death.

As I said in the former part of this work, my life was of such a nature

« ForrigeFortsæt »