Containing what the reader will know, if he reads it.
ALTHOUGH the family, into which Pompey now arrived, are almost too inconsiderable for the dignity of history, yet as they had the honour of entertaining our hero for a time, we shall explain some few circumstances of their characters.
The master of it was son of a wealthy trader in the city, who had amassed together an immense heap of riches, merely for the credit of leaving so much money behind him. He had destined his son to the same honourable pursuit, and very early initiated him into all the secrets of business; but the young gentleman, marrying as soon as his father died, was prevailed upon by his loving spouse, whose head ran after genteel life, to quit the dirty scene of business, and take a house within the regions of pleasure. As neither of them had been used to the company they were now to keep, and both utterly unacquainted with all the arts of taste, their appearance in the polite world plainly manifested their original, and shewed how unworthy they were of those riches they so awkwardly enjoyed. A clumsy, inelegant magnificence prevailed in every part of their economy, in the furniture of their houses, in the disposition of their tables, in the choice of their clothes, and in every other action of their lives. They knew no other enjoyment but profuse expense, and their country-house was by the road-side at Highgate. It may be imagined such awkward pretenders to high-life, were treated with ridicule by all the people of genius and spirit; but immoderate wealth, and a coach and six, opened them a way into company, and few refused their visits, though all laughed at their appearance. For to tell the reader a secret, money will procure its owners admittance anywhere; and however people may pride themselves on the antiquity of their families, if they have not money to preserve a splendour in life, they may go a-begging with their pedigrees in their hands; whereas lift a grocer into a coach-and-six, and let him attend public places, and make grand entertainments, he may be sure of having his table filled with people of fashion, though it was no longer ago than last week that he left off selling plums and sugar.
The fruits of their marriage were three daughters and a son, who seemed not to promise long life, or at least were likely to be made wretched by distempers. For as the father was much afflicted with the gout, and the mother pale, unhealthy and consumptive, the children inherited the diseases of their parents, and were rickety, scrofulous, sallow in their complexions, and distorted in their limbs. Nor were their minds at all more amiable than their bodies, being proud, selfish, obstinate and cross-humoured; and the whole sum of their education seemed calculated rather to improve these vices than to eradicate them. For this purpose, instead of sending them to schools, where they would have been whipped out of many of their ill-tempers, and perhaps by conversation with other children, might have learnt a more open generous disposition, they were bred up under private teachers at home, who never opposed any of their humours, for fear of offending their parents, thus little master, the mother's darling, was put under the care of a domestic tutor, partly because she could not endure to have him at a distance from her sight, and partly because she had heard it was genteel to educate young gentlemen at home.
The tutor selected for this purpose, had been dragged out of a college-garret at thirty, and just seen enough of the world to make him impertinent and a coxcomb. For being introduced all at once into what is called life, his eyes were dazzled with the things he beheld, and without waiting the call of nature, he made a quick transition from college- reservedness to the pert familiarity of a London preacher. He soon grew to despise the books he had read at the university, and affected a taste for polite literature—that is, for no literature at all; by which he endeared himself so much to the family he lived in, by reading plays to them, bringing home stories from the coffee-house, and other arts, that they gave him the character of the 'entertainingest, most facetious, best-humoured creature that ever came into a house.' As his temper led him by any means to flatter his benefactors, he never failed to cry up the parts and genius of his pupil, as a miracle of nature; which the fond mother, understanding nothing of the matter, very easily believed. When therefore any of her female visitors were commending little master for the finest child they ever beheld, she could not help adding something concerning his learning, and would say on such occasions, 'I Assure you, Madam, his tutor tells me he is forwarder than ever boy was of his age. He has got already, it seems, into his syntax—I don't know what the syntax is ma'am, but I dare say 'tis some very good moral book, otherwise Mr. Jackson would not teach it him; for to be sure, there never was a master that had a better manner of teaching than Mr. Jackson—what is the syntax, my dear? Tell the ladies what the syntax is, child!' 'Why, mamma,' cries the boy, 'the syntax is—it is at the end of the as in presenti, and teaches you how to parse.' 'Ay, ay,' said the mother, 'I thought so my dear; 'tis some very good book I make no doubt, and will improve your morals as well as your understanding. Be a good boy, child, and mind what Mr. Jackson says to you, and I dare say, you'll make a great figure in life.'
This is a little specimen of the young gentleman's education, and that of the young ladies fell short of it in no particular: for they were taught by their mother and governesses to be vain, affected, and foppish; to disguise every natural inclination of the soul, and give themselves up to cunning, dissimulation, and insincerity; to be proud of beauty they had not, and ashamed of passions they had; to think all the happiness of life consisted in a new cap or a new gown, and no misfortune equal to the missing a ball.
Besides many inanimate play-things, this little family had likewise, as we before observed, several living favourites, whom they took a delight to vex and torture for their diversion. Among the number of these, little Pompey had the misfortune to be enrolled; I say misfortune, for wretched indeed are all those animals, that become the favourites of children. For a good while he suffered only the barbarity of their kindness, and persecuted with no other cruelties than what arose from their extravagant love of him; but when the date of his favour began to expire (and indeed it did not continue long) he was then taught to feel how much severer their hate could be than their fondness. Indeed he had from the first two or three dreadful presages of what might happen to him, for he had seen with his own eyes the two kittens, his play-fellows, drowned for some misdemeanour they had been guilty of, and the magpie's head chopped off with the greatest passion, for daring to peck a piece of plum-cake that laid in the window, without permission; which instances of cruelty were sufficient to warn him, if he had any foresight, of what might afterwards happen to himself.
But he was not left long to entertain himself with conjectures, before he felt in person and in reality the mischievous disposition of these little tyrants. Sometimes they took it into their heads that he was full of fleas, and then he was dragged through a canal till he was almost dead, in order to kill the vermin that inhabited the hair of his body. At other times he was set upon his hinder legs with a book before his eyes, and ordered to read his lesson; which not being able to perform, they whipped him with rods till he began to exert his voice in a lamentable tone, and then they chastised him the more for daring to be sensible of pain.
Much of this treatment did he undergo, often wishing himself restored to the arms of Lady Tempest, when fortune taking pity of his calamities, again resolved to change his lodgings. An elderly maiden lady, aunt to this little brood and sister to their papa, was one day making a visit in the family, and by great good luck happened to be witness of some of the ill-usage, which Pompey underwent: for having committed some imaginary fault he was brought down to be tormented in her presence. Her righteous spirit immediately rose at this treatment; she declared it was a shame to persecute poor dumb creatures in that barbarous manner, wondered their mamma would suffer it, and signified that she would take the dog home with her to her own house. Though the little tyrants had long been tired of him, yet mere obstinacy set them a-crying, when they found he was to be taken from them; but there was no contending; their aunt was resolute, and thus Pompey was happily delivered from this House of Inquisition.