ePub 版

his leave of me, promising to discharge the debt he owed me with the first money he should receive; but I have heard nothing of him since.

The violation of the trust reposed in me by Vernon, was one of the first great errors of my life ; and it proves that my father was not mistaken when he sup posed me too young to be entrusted with the management of important affairs. But sir William, upon reading his letter, thought him too prudent. There was a difference, he said, between individuals: years of maturity were not always accompanied with discretion, neither was youth in every instance devoid of it. Since your father, added he, will not set you up in business, I will do it myself. Make out a list of what will be wanted from England, and I will send for the articles. You shall repay me when you can.

I am determined to have a good, printer here, and I am sure you will succeed. This was said with so much seeming cordiality, that I suspected not for an instant the sincerity of the offer. I had hitherto kept the project with which sir William had inspired me, of settling in business at Philadelphia, a secret, and I still continued to do so. Had my reliance on the governor been known, some friend, better acquainted with his character than myself, would doubtless have advised me not to trust him; for í afterwards learned that he was universally known to be liberal of promises, which he had no intention to perform. But having never solicited him, how could I suppose his offer to be deceitful ? On the contrary I believed him to be the best man in the world.

I gave him an inventory of a small printing office: the expense

of which I had calculated at about an hundred pounds sterling. He expressed his approbation; but asked if my presence in England, that I might choose the characters myself, and see that every article was good in its kind, would not be an advantage. You will also be able, said he, to form some acquaintance there, and establish a correspondence with stationers and booksellers. This I acknowledged was desirable. That being the case, added he, hold yourself in readiness to go with the Annis. This was the annual vessel, and the only one, at that time, which made regular voyages between the ports of London and Philadelphia. But the Annis was not to sail for some months. I therefore continued to work with Keimer, unhappy respecting the sum which Collins had drawn from me, and almost in continual agony at the thoughts of VerAon, who fortunately made no demand of his money till several


after. In the account of my first voyage from Boston to Philadelphia, I omitted, I believe, a trifling circumstance, which will not perhaps be out of place here. During a calm that stopped us above Block Island, the crew employed themselves in fishing for cod, of which they caught a great number. I had hitherto adhered to my resolution of not eating any thing that had possessed life; and I considered on this occasion, agreeably to the maxims of my master Tryon, the capture of every fish as a sort of murder, committed without provocation, since these animals had neither done, nor were capable of doing, the smallest injury to any one that should justify the measure.

This mode of reasoning I conceived to be unanswerable. Meanwhile I had formerly been extremely fond of fish; and when one of these cod was taken out of the frying-pan, I thought its flavour delicious. I hesitated some time between principle and inclination, till at last recollecting, that when the cod had been opened, some small fish were found in its belly, I said to myself, if you eat one another, I see no reason why we may not eat you. I accordingly dined on the cod with no small degree of pleasure, and have since continued to eat like the rest of mankind, returning only occasionally to my vegetable plan. How convenient does it prove to be a rational animal, that knows how to find or invent a plausible pretext for whatever it has an inclination to do!

I continued to live upon good terms with Keimer, who had not the smallest suspicion of my projected establishment He still retained a portion of his former enthusiasm ; and being fond of argument we frequently disputed together. I was so much in the habit of using my Socratic method, and had so frequently puzzled him by my questions, which appeared at first very distant from the point in debate, yet nevertheless led to it by degrees, involving him in difficulties and contradictions from which he was unable to extricate himself, that he became at last ridiculously cautious, and would scarcely answer the most plain and familiar question without previously asking me-What would you infer from that? Hence he formed so high an opinion of my talents for refutation, that he seriously proposed to me to become his colleague in the establishment of a new religious sect. He was to propagate the doctrine by preaching, and I to refute every opponent.

When he explained to me his tenets, I found many absurdities, which I refused to admit, unless he would agree in turn to adopt some of my opinions. Keimer wore his beard long, because Moses had somewhere said, Thou shalt not mar the corners of thy beard. He likewise observed the Sabbath ; and these were with him two very essential points, I disliked them both; but I consented to adopt them, provided he would abstain from animal food. I doubt, said he, whether my constitution will be able to support it I assured him on the contrary, that he would find himself the better for it. He was naturally a glutton, and I wished to amuse myself by starving him. He consented to make trial of this regimen, if I would bear him company; and in reality we continued it for three months. A woman in the neighbourhood prepared and brought us our victuals, to whom I gave a list of forty dishes ; in the composition of which there entered neither flesh nor fish. This fancy was the more agreeable to me, as it turned to good account ; for the whole expence of our living did not exceed for each eighteen-pence a week.

I have since that period observed several Lents with the greatest strictness, and have suddenly returned again to my ordinary diet, without experiencing the smllest


inconvenience; which has led me to regard as of no importance the advice commonly given of introducing gradually such alterations of regimen.

I continued it cheerfully ; but poor Keimer suffered terribly. Tired of the project, he sighed for the flesh pots of Egypt. At length he ordered a roast pig, and invited me and two of our female acquaintance to dine with him; but the pig being ready a little too soon, he could not resist the temptation, and eat it all up before we arrived

During the circumstances I have related, I had paid some attention to Miss Read. I entertained for her the utmost esteem and affection; and I had reason to believe that these sentiments were mutual. But we were both young, scarcely more than eighteen years of age; and as I was on the point of undertaking a long voyage, her mother thought it prudent to prevent matters being carried too far for the present, judging that if marriage was our object, there would be more propriety in it after my return, when, as at least I expected, I should be established in my business. Perhaps also she thought that my expectations were not so well founded as I imagined.

My most intimate acquaintance at this time were Charles Osborne, Joseph Watson, and James Ralph; young men who were all fond of reading. The two first were clerks to Mr. Charles Brockdon, one of the principal attornies in the town, and the other clerk to a merchant. Watson was an upright, pious and sensible young man : the others were somewhat more loose in their principles of religion, particularly Ralph, whose faith, as well as that of Collins, I had contributed to shake; each of whom made me suffer a very adequate punishment. Osborne was sensible, and sin cere and affectionate in his friendships, but too much inclined to the critic in "matters of literature. Ralph was ingenious and shrewd, genteel in his address, and extremely eloquent. I do not remember to have met with a more agreeable speaker. They were both enamoured of the muses, and had already evinced their passion by some small poetical productions.

It was a custom with us to take a charming walk on Sundays, in the woods that border on the Schuylkill. Here we read together, and afterwards conversed on what we read. Ralph was disposed to give himself up entirely to poetry. He flattered himself that he should arrive at great eminence in the art, and even acquire a fortune. The sublimest poets, he pretended, when they first began to write, committed as many faults as himself. Osborne endeavoured to dissuade him from it, by assuring him that he had no genius for poetry, and advised him to stick to the trade, in which he had been brought up. In the road of commerce, said he, you will be sure, by diligence and assiduity, though you have no capital, of so far succeeding as to be employed as a factor, and may thus, in time, acquire the means of setting up for yourself. I concurred in these sentiments, but at the same time expressed my approbation of amusing ourselves sometimes with poetry, with a view to improve our style. In consequence of this it was proposed, that, at our next meeting, each of us should bring a copy of verses of his own composition. Our object in this competition was to benefit each other by our mutual remarks, criticisms, and corrections; and as style and expression were all we had in view, we excluded every idea of invention, by agreeing that our task should be a version of the eighteenth Psalm, in which is described the descent of the Deity.

The time of our meeting drew near, when Ralph called upon me, and told me his piece was ready. I informed him that I had been idle, and, not much liking the task, had done nothing. He shewed me his piece, and asked what I thought of it. I expressed myself in terms of warm approbation ; because it really appeared to have considerable merit. He then said, Osborne will never acknowledge the smallest degree of excellence in any production of mine. Envy alone dic

« 上一頁繼續 »