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No. 082 [from The Spectator]
by [?]

Our Gentry are, generally speaking, in Debt; and many Families have put it into a kind of Method of being so from Generation to Generation. The Father mortgages when his Son is very young: and the Boy is to marry as soon as he is at Age, to redeem it, and find Portions for his Sisters. This, forsooth, is no great Inconvenience to him; for he may wench, keep a publick Table or feed Dogs, like a worthy English Gentleman, till he has out-run half his Estate, and leave the same Incumbrance upon his First-born, and so on, till one Man of more Vigour than ordinary goes quite through the Estate, or some Man of Sense comes into it, and scorns to have an Estate in Partnership, that is to say, liable to the Demand or Insult of any Man living. There is my Friend Sir ANDREW, tho’ for many Years a great and general Trader, was never the Defendant in a Law-Suit, in all the Perplexity of Business, and the Iniquity of Mankind at present: No one had any Colour for the least Complaint against his Dealings with him. This is certainly as uncommon, and in its Proportion as laudable in a Citizen, as it is in a General never to have suffered a Disadvantage in Fight. How different from this Gentleman is Jack Truepenny, who has been an old Acquaintance of Sir ANDREW and my self from Boys, but could never learn our Caution. Jack has a whorish unresisting Good-nature, which makes him incapable of having a Property in any thing. His Fortune, his Reputation, his Time and his Capacity, are at any Man’s Service that comes first. When he was at School, he was whipped thrice a Week for Faults he took upon him to excuse others; since he came into the Business of the World, he has been arrested twice or thrice a Year for Debts he had nothing to do with, but as a Surety for others; and I remember when a Friend of his had suffered in the Vice of the Town, all the Physick his Friend took was conveyed to him by Jack, and inscribed, ‘A Bolus or an Electuary for Mr. Truepenny.’ Jack had a good Estate left him, which came to nothing; because he believed all who pretended to Demands upon it. This Easiness and Credulity destroy all the other Merit he has; and he has all his Life been a Sacrifice to others, without ever receiving Thanks, or doing one good Action.

I will end this Discourse with a Speech which I heard Jack make to one of his Creditors, (of whom he deserved gentler Usage) after lying a whole Night in Custody at his Suit.


‘Your Ingratitude for the many Kindnesses I have done you, shall not make me unthankful for the Good you have done me, in letting me see there is such a Man as you in the World. I am obliged to you for the Diffidence I shall have all the rest of my Life: I shall hereafter trust no Man so far as to be in his Debt.’


[Footnote 1: Ludgate was originally built in 1215, by the Barons who entered London, destroyed houses of Jews and erected this gate with their ruins. It was first used as a prison in 1373, being then a free prison, but soon losing that privilege. Sir Stephen Forster, who was Lord Mayor in 1454, had been a prisoner at Ludgate and begged at the grate, where he was seen by a rich widow who bought his liberty, took him into her service, and eventually married him. To commemorate this he enlarged the accommodation for the prisoners and added a chapel. The old gate was taken down and rebuilt in 1586. That second gate was destroyed in the Fire of London.

The gate which succeeded and was used, like its predecessors, as a wretched prison for debtors, was pulled down in 1760, and the prisoners removed, first to the London workhouse, afterwards to part of the Giltspur Street Compter.]

[Footnote 2: Sir John Denham’s ‘Cooper’s Hill.’]