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Amelia -- Volume 2 By Henry Fielding Characters: 21634

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:03


In which are many profound secrets of philosophy.

Booth, having had enough of the author's company the preceding day, chose now another companion. Indeed the author was not very solicitous of a second interview; for, as he could have no hope from Booth's pocket, so he was not likely to receive much increase to his vanity from Booth's conversation; for, low as this wretch was in virtue, sense, learning, birth, and fortune, he was by no means low in his vanity. This passion, indeed, was so high in him, and at the same time so blinded him to his own demerits, that he hated every man who did not either flatter him or give him money. In short, he claimed a strange kind of right, either to cheat all his acquaintance of their praise or to pick their pockets of their pence, in which latter case he himself repaid very liberally with panegyric.

A very little specimen of such a fellow must have satisfied a man of Mr. Booth's temper. He chose, therefore, now to associate himself with that gentleman of whom Bondum had given so shabby a character. In short, Mr. Booth's opinion of the bailiff was such, that he recommended a man most where he least intended it. Nay, the bailiff in the present instance, though he had drawn a malicious conclusion, honestly avowed that this was drawn only from the poverty of the person, which is never, I believe, any forcible disrecommendation to a good mind: but he must have had a very bad mind indeed, who, in Mr. Booth's circumstances, could have disliked or despised another man because that other man was poor.

Some previous conversation having past between this gentleman and Booth, in which they had both opened their several situations to each other, the former, casting an affectionate look on the latter, exprest great compassion for his circumstances, for which Booth, thanking him, said, "You must have a great deal of compassion, and be a very good man, in such a terrible situation as you describe yourself, to have any pity to spare for other people."

"My affairs, sir," answered the gentleman, "are very bad, it is true, and yet there is one circumstance which makes you appear to me more the object of pity than I am to myself; and it is this-that you must from your years be a novice in affliction, whereas I have served a long apprenticeship to misery, and ought, by this time, to be a pretty good master of my trade. To say the truth, I believe habit teaches men to bear the burthens of the mind, as it inures them to bear heavy burthens on their shoulders. Without use and experience, the strongest minds and bodies both will stagger under a weight which habit might render easy and even contemptible."

"There is great justice," cries Booth, "in the comparison; and I think I have myself experienced the truth of it; for I am not that tyro in affliction which you seem to apprehend me. And perhaps it is from the very habit you mention that I am able to support my present misfortunes a little like a man."

The gentleman smiled at this, and cried, "Indeed, captain, you are a young philosopher."

"I think," cries Booth, "I have some pretensions to that philosophy which is taught by misfortunes, and you seem to be of opinion, sir, that is one of the best schools of philosophy."

"I mean no more, sir," said the gentleman, "than that in the days of our affliction we are inclined to think more seriously than in those seasons of life when we are engaged in the hurrying pursuits of business or pleasure, when we have neither leisure nor inclination to sift and examine things to the bottom. Now there are two considerations which, from my having long fixed my thoughts upon them, have greatly supported me under all my afflictions. The one is the brevity of life even at its longest duration, which the wisest of men hath compared to the short dimension of a span. One of the Roman poets compares it to the duration of a race; and another, to the much shorter transition of a wave.

"The second consideration is the uncertainty of it. Short as its utmost limits are, it is far from being assured of reaching those limits. The next day, the next hour, the next moment, may be the end of our course. Now of what value is so uncertain, so precarious a station? This consideration, indeed, however lightly it is passed over in our conception, doth, in a great measure, level all fortunes and conditions, and gives no man a right to triumph in the happiest state, or any reason to repine in the most miserable. Would the most worldly men see this in the light in which they examine all other matters, they would soon feel and acknowledge the force of this way of reasoning; for which of them would give any price for an estate from which they were liable to be immediately ejected? or, would they not laugh at him as a madman who accounted himself rich from such an uncertain possession? This is the fountain, sir, from which I have drawn my philosophy. Hence it is that I have learnt to look on all those things which are esteemed the blessings of life, and those which are dreaded as its evils, with such a degree of indifference that, as I should not be elated with possessing the former, so neither am I greatly dejected and depressed by suffering the latter. Is the actor esteemed happier to whose lot it falls to play the principal part than he who plays the lowest? and yet the drama may run twenty nights together, and by consequence may outlast our lives; but, at the best, life is only a little longer drama, and the business of the great stage is consequently a little more serious than that which is performed at the Theatre-royal. But even here, the catastrophes and calamities which are represented are capable of affecting us. The wisest men can deceive themselves into feeling the distresses of a tragedy, though they know them to be merely imaginary; and the children will often lament them as realities: what wonder then, if these tragical scenes which I allow to be a little more serious, should a little more affect us? where then is the remedy but in the philosophy I have mentioned, which, when once by a long course of meditation it is reduced to a habit, teaches us to set a just value on everything, and cures at once all eager wishes and abject fears, all violent joy and grief concerning objects which cannot endure long, and may not exist a moment."

"You have exprest yourself extremely well," cries Booth; "and I entirely agree with the justice of your sentiments; but, however true all this may be in theory, I still doubt its efficacy in practice. And the cause of the difference between these two is this; that we reason from our heads, but act from our hearts:

--Video meliora, proboque; Deteriora sequor.

Nothing can differ more widely than wise men and fools in their estimation of things; but, as both act from their uppermost passion, they both often act like. What comfort then can your philosophy give to an avaricious man who is deprived of his riches or to an ambitious man who is stript of his power? to the fond lover who is torn from his mistress or to the tender husband who is dragged from his wife? Do you really think that any meditations on the shortness of life will soothe them in their afflictions? Is not this very shortness itself one of their afflictions? and if the evil they suffer be a temporary deprivation of what they love, will they not think their fate the harder, and lament the more, that they are to lose any part of an enjoyment to which there is so short and so uncertain a period?"

"I beg leave, sir," said the gentleman, "to distinguish here. By philosophy, I do not mean the bare knowledge of right and wrong, but an energy, a habit, as Aristotle calls it; and this I do firmly believe, with him and with the Stoics, is superior to all the attacks of fortune."

He was proceeding when the bailiff came in, and in a surly tone bad them both good-morrow; after which he asked the philosopher if he was prepared to go to Newgate; for that he must carry him thither that afternoon.

The poor man seemed very much shocked with this news. "I hope," cries he, "you will give a little longer time, if not till the return of the writ. But I beg you particularly not to carry me thither to-day, for I expect my wife and children here in the evening."

"I have nothing to do with wives and children," cried the bailiff; "I never desire to see any wives and children here. I like no such company."

"I intreat you," said the prisoner, "give me another day. I shall take it as a great obligation; and you will disappoint me in the cruellest manner in the world if you refuse me."

"I can't help people's disappointments," cries the bailiff; "I must consider myself and my own family. I know not where I shall be paid the money that's due already. I can't afford to keep prisoners at my own expense."

"I don't intend it shall be at your expense" cries the philosopher; "my wife is gone to raise money this morning; and I hope to pay you all I owe you at her arrival. But we intend to sup together to-night at your house; and, if you should remove me now, it would be the most barbarous disappointment to us both, and will make me the most miserable man alive."

"Nay, for my part," said the bailiff, "I don't desire to do anything barbarous. I know how to treat gentlemen with civility as well as another. And when people pay as they go, and spend their money like gentlemen, I am sure nobody can accuse me of any incivility since I have been in the office. And if you intend to be merry to-night I am not the man that will prevent it. Though I say it, you may have as good a supper drest here as at any tavern in town."

"Since Mr. Bondum is so kind, captain," said the philosopher, "I hope for the favour of your company. I assure you, if it ever be my fortune to go abroad into the world, I shall be proud of the honour of your acquaintance."

"Indeed, sir," cries Booth, "it is an honour I shall be very ready to accept; but as for this evening, I cannot help saying I hope to be engaged in another place."

"I promise you, sir," answered the other, "I shall rejoice at your liberty, though I am a loser by it."

"Why, as to that matter," cries Bondum with a sneer, "I fancy, captain, you may engage yourself to the gentleman without any fear of breaking your word; for I am very much mistaken if we part to-day."

"Pardon me, my good friend," said Booth, "but I expect my bail every minute."

"Lookee, sir," cries Bondum, "I don't love to see gentlemen in an error. I shall not take the serjeant's bail; and as for the colonel, I have been with him myself this morning (for to be sure I love to do all I can for gentlemen), and he told me he could not possibly be here to-day; besides, why should I mince the matter? there is more stuff

in the office."

"What do you mean by stuff?" cries Booth.

"I mean that there is another writ," answered the bailiff, "at the suit of Mrs. Ellison, the gentlewoman that was here yesterday; and the attorney that was with her is concerned against you. Some officers would not tell you all this; but I loves to shew civility to gentlemen while they behave themselves as such. And I loves the gentlemen of the army in particular. I had like to have been in the army myself once; but I liked the commission I have better. Come, captain, let not your noble courage be cast down; what say you to a glass of white wine, or a tiff of punch, by way of whet?"

"I have told you, sir, I never drink in the morning," cries Booth a little peevishly.

"No offence I hope, sir," said the bailiff; "I hope I have not treated you with any incivility. I don't ask any gentleman to call for liquor in my house if he doth not chuse it; nor I don't desire anybody to stay here longer than they have a mind to. Newgate, to be sure, is the place for all debtors that can't find bail. I knows what civility is, and I scorn to behave myself unbecoming a gentleman: but I'd have you consider that the twenty-four hours appointed by act of parliament are almost out; and so it is time to think of removing. As to bail, I would not have you flatter yourself; for I knows very well there are other things coming against you. Besides, the sum you are already charged with is very large, and I must see you in a place of safety. My house is no prison, though I lock up for a little time in it. Indeed, when gentlemen are gentlemen, and likely to find bail, I don't stand for a day or two; but I have a good nose at a bit of carrion, captain; I have not carried so much carrion to Newgate, without knowing the smell of it."

"I understand not your cant," cries Booth; "but I did not think to have offended you so much by refusing to drink in a morning."

"Offended me, sir!" cries the bailiff. "Who told you so? Do you think, sir, if I want a glass of wine I am under any necessity of asking my prisoners for it? Damn it, sir, I'll shew you I scorn your words. I can afford to treat you with a glass of the best wine in England, if you comes to that." He then pulled out a handful of guineas, saying, "There, sir, they are all my own; I owe nobody a shilling. I am no beggar, nor no debtor. I am the king's officer as well as you, and I will spend guinea for guinea as long as you please."

"Harkee, rascal," cries Booth, laying hold of the bailiff's collar. "How dare you treat me with this insolence? doth the law give you any authority to insult me in my misfortunes?" At which words he gave the bailiff a good shove, and threw him from him.

"Very well, sir," cries the bailiff; "I will swear both an assault and an attempt to a rescue. If officers are to be used in this manner, there is an end of all law and justice. But, though I am not a match for you myself, I have those below that are." He then ran to the door and called up two ill-looking fellows, his followers, whom, as soon as they entered the room, he ordered to seize on Booth, declaring he would immediately carry him to Newgate; at the same time pouring out a vast quantity of abuse, below the dignity of history to record.

Booth desired the two dirty fellows to stand off, and declared he would make no resistance; at the same time bidding the bailiff carry him wherever he durst.

"I'll shew you what I dare," cries the bailiff; and again ordered the followers to lay hold of their prisoner, saying, "He has assaulted me already, and endeavoured a rescue. I shan't trust such a fellow to walk at liberty. A gentleman, indeed! ay, ay, Newgate is the properest place for such gentry; as arrant carrion as ever was carried thither."

The fellows then both laid violent hands on Booth, and the bailiff stept to the door to order a coach; when, on a sudden, the whole scene was changed in an instant; for now the serjeant came running out of breath into the room; and, seeing his friend the captain roughly handled by two ill-looking fellows, without asking any questions stept briskly up to his assistance, and instantly gave one of the assailants so violent a salute with his fist, that he directly measured his length on the floor.

Booth, having by this means his right arm at liberty, was unwilling to be idle, or entirely to owe his rescue from both the ruffians to the serjeant; he therefore imitated the example which his friend had set him, and with a lusty blow levelled the other follower with his companion on the ground.

The bailiff roared out, "A rescue, a rescue!" to which the serjeant answered there was no rescue intended. "The captain," said he, "wants no rescue. Here are some friends coming who will deliver him in a better manner."

The bailiff swore heartily he would carry him to Newgate in spite of all the friends in the world.

"You carry him to Newgate!" cried the serjeant, with the highest indignation. "Offer but to lay your hands on him, and I will knock your teeth down your ugly jaws." Then, turning to Booth, he cried, "They will be all here within a minute, sir; we had much ado to keep my lady from coming herself; but she is at home in good health, longing to see your honour; and I hope you will be with her within this half-hour."

And now three gentlemen entered the room; these were an attorney, the person whom the serjeant had procured in the morning to be his bail with Colonel James, and lastly Doctor Harrison himself.

The bailiff no sooner saw the attorney, with whom he was well acquainted (for the others he knew not), than he began, as the phrase is, to pull in his horns, and ordered the two followers, who were now got again on their legs, to walk down-stairs.

"So, captain," says the doctor, "when last we parted, I believe we neither of us expected to meet in such a place as this."

"Indeed, doctor," cries Booth, "I did not expect to have been sent hither by the gentleman who did me that favour."

"How so, sir?" said the doctor; "you was sent hither by some person, I suppose, to whom you was indebted. This is the usual place, I apprehend, for creditors to send their debtors to. But you ought to be more surprized that the gentleman who sent you hither is come to release you. Mr. Murphy, you will perform all the necessary ceremonials."

The attorney then asked the bailiff with how many actions Booth was charged, and was informed there were five besides the doctor's, which was much the heaviest of all. Proper bonds were presently provided, and the doctor and the serjeant's friend signed them; the bailiff, at the instance of the attorney, making no objection to the bail.

[Illustration: Lawyer Murphy]

Booth, we may be assured, made a handsome speech to the doctor for such extraordinary friendship, with which, however, we do not think proper to trouble the reader; and now everything being ended, and the company ready to depart, the bailiff stepped up to Booth, and told him he hoped he would remember civility-money.

"I believe" cries Booth, "you mean incivility-money; if there are any fees due for rudeness, I must own you have a very just claim."

"I am sure, sir," cries the bailiff, "I have treated your honour with all the respect in the world; no man, I am sure, can charge me with using a gentleman rudely. I knows what belongs to a gentleman better; but you can't deny that two of my men have been knocked down; and I doubt not but, as you are a gentleman, you will give them something to drink."

Booth was about to answer with some passion, when the attorney interfered, and whispered in his ear that it was usual to make a compliment to the officer, and that he had better comply with the custom.

"If the fellow had treated me civilly," answered Booth, "I should have had no objection to comply with a bad custom in his favour; but I am resolved I will never reward a man for using me ill; and I will not agree to give him a single farthing."

"'Tis very well, sir," said the bailiff; "I am rightly served for my good-nature; but, if it had been to do again, I would have taken care you should not have been bailed this day."

Doctor Harrison, to whom Booth referred the cause, after giving him a succinct account of what had passed, declared the captain to be in the right. He said it was a most horrid imposition that such fellows were ever suffered to prey on the necessitous; but that the example would be much worse to reward them where they had behaved themselves ill. "And I think," says he, "the bailiff is worthy of great rebuke for what he hath just now said; in which I hope he hath boasted of more power than is in him. We do, indeed, with great justice and propriety value ourselves on our freedom if the liberty of the subject depends on the pleasure of such fellows as these!"

"It is not so neither altogether," cries the lawyer; "but custom hath established a present or fee to them at the delivery of a prisoner, which they call civility-money, and expect as in a manner their due, though in reality they have no right."

"But will any man," cries Doctor Harrison, "after what the captain hath told us, say that the bailiff hath behaved himself as he ought; and, if he had, is he to be rewarded for not acting in an unchristian and inhuman manner? it is pity that, instead of a custom of feeing them out of the pockets of the poor and wretched, when they do not behave themselves ill, there was not both a law and a practice to punish them severely when they do. In the present case, I am so far from agreeing to give the bailiff a shilling, that, if there be any method of punishing him for his rudeness, I shall be heartily glad to see it put in execution; for there are none whose conduct should be so strictly watched as that of these necessary evils in the society, as their office concerns for the most part those poor creatures who cannot do themselves justice, and as they are generally the worst of men who undertake it."

The bailiff then quitted the room, muttering that he should know better what to do another time; and shortly after, Booth and his friends left the house; but, as they were going out, the author took Doctor Harrison aside, and slipt a receipt into his hand, which the doctor returned, saying, he never subscribed when he neither knew the work nor the author; but that, if he would call at his lodgings, he would be very willing to give all the encouragement to merit which was in his power.

The author took down the doctor's name and direction, and made him as many bows as he would have done had he carried off the half-guinea for which he had been fishing.

Mr. Booth then took his leave of the philosopher, and departed with the rest of his friends.

END OF VOL. II.

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