Wednesday, June 20, 1711.
Mancipium domino, et frugi …
I have frequently read your Discourse upon Servants, and, as I am one my self, have been much offended that in that Variety of Forms wherein you considered the Bad, you found no Place to mention the Good. There is however one Observation of yours I approve, which is, That there are Men of Wit and good Sense among all Orders of Men; and that Servants report most of the Good or Ill which is spoken of their Masters. That there are Men of Sense who live in Servitude, I have the Vanity to say I have felt to my woful Experience. You attribute very justly the Source of our general Iniquity to Board-Wages, and the Manner of living out of a domestick Way: But I cannot give you my Thoughts on this Subject any way so well, as by a short account of my own Life to this the Forty fifth Year of my Age; that is to say, from my being first a Foot-boy at Fourteen, to my present Station of a Nobleman’s Porter in the Year of my Age above-mentioned. Know then, that my Father was a poor Tenant to the Family of Sir Stephen Rackrent: Sir Stephen put me to School, or rather made me follow his Son Harry to School, from my Ninth Year; and there, tho’ Sir Stephen paid something for my Learning, I was used like a Servant, and was forced to get what Scraps of Learning I could by my own Industry, for the Schoolmaster took very little Notice of me. My young Master was a Lad of very sprightly Parts; and my being constantly about him, and loving him, was no small Advantage to me. My Master loved me extreamly, and has often been whipped for not keeping me at a Distance. He used always to say, That when he came to his Estate I should have a Lease of my Father’s Tenement for nothing. I came up to Town with him to Westminster School; at which time he taught me at Night all he learnt; and put me to find out Words in the Dictionary when he was about his Exercise. It was the Will of Providence that Master Harry was taken very ill of a Fever, of which he died within Ten Days after his first falling sick. Here was the first Sorrow I ever knew; and I assure you, Mr. SPECTATOR, I remember the beautiful Action of the sweet Youth in his Fever, as fresh as if it were Yesterday. If he wanted any thing, it must be given him by Tom: When I let any thing fall through the Grief I was under, he would cry, Do not beat the poor Boy: Give him some more Julep for me, no Body else shall give it me. He would strive to hide his being so bad, when he saw I could not bear his being in so much Danger, and comforted me, saying, Tom, Tom, have a good Heart. When I was holding a Cup at his Mouth, he fell into Convulsions; and at this very Time I hear my dear Master’s last Groan. I was quickly turned out of the Room, and left to sob and beat my Head against the Wall at my Leisure. The Grief I was in was inexpressible; and every Body thought it would have cost me my Life. In a few Days my old Lady, who was one of the Housewives of the World, thought of turning me out of Doors, because I put her in mind of her Son. Sir Stephen proposed putting me to Prentice; but my Lady being an excellent Manager, would not let her Husband throw away his Money in Acts of Charity. I had sense enough to be under the utmost Indignation, to see her discard with so little Concern, one her Son had loved so much; and went out of the House to ramble wherever my Feet would carry me.