John_Pilkington - CHAPTER III.


Life with My Uncle in Cork

            I shall not tire the reader with a further detail of my journey, nor would I have said so much, but that the reflections frequently cast on the people of Ireland made me wish for an occasion to show them to my English reader in their native simplicity. I don't know whether this expedition of mine has been tedious to the reader, but I know it was very much so to me; I have at length obtained the end of it, and you are to suppose me at the summit of my wishes, in the city of Cork: but, as Lord Chesterfield observes, in a letter to Colonel Newburgh, "most prospects are seen advantageously at a distance, and, lose much of their beauty on a nearer view."—I had wound my imagination up to expect a tender and affectionate reception the moment I discovered myself to my uncle; it was first, however, necessary to find out where he lived, and how the family were then situated.  Cobblers and barbers are not only well versed in such matters, but likewise prompt to bestow information on such as require it; therefore having passed into the principal street of the town, I had recourse to a facetious-looking old fellow, whom I saw industriously vamping old shoes for a second market:—to say the truth, my shoes were the worse for the wear, and as I had most part of my money about me, I imagined it discreet to furnish myself here, before I waited on the Doctor. The cobbler seeing my feet, immediately guessed my commands, and handing me a large assortment of his commodity, told me—they were pretty goods, and would do me service.—I sat down to try a pair on me, and in the meantime asked him if he knew one Doctor Vanlewen?—What old George, said he,—that I do, and have done any time this thirty years, and his father old Guisebert too: oh! that old Guisebert was an odd fish: when George was a boy, he was after all the wenches in town. Some of the neighbours told the old Doctor, their daughters were not safe, while his son was prowling about.—Egad, said the old man, coop up your hens, I let my game cocks loose. He would probably have continued the discourse till night, if I had not asked where the doctor now dwelt;—why, where the devil do you come from to ask me that, sure every child in Cork knows old George lives in Hanover-Street, over the way.—Pray what family has he?—Family enough, I warrant you: there's his wife, Peggy Crofts, and Betty Donavon; and their brother Barny M'Gomery; whom the doctor has bred to his own trade of midwifery.—Ah! it's a pity the dear gentleman has no children or relations of his own; for between you and I, he took the wife without a fortune, and has supported her two sisters and brother this many years, who are little better than they should be.—Having found how the ground lay, and being weary and dirty, I asked the cobbler if he knew, where I could sleep that night? He told me I might go to his house, as I seemed to be a sprightly lad, and he would accommodate me cheaper and better than any person whatsoever. In the interim I paid him for the shoes; and he obligingly shut up his bulk to conduct me to his house: after passing through one of the gates of the city, and a variety of blind alleys, lanes and passages, we arrived just by candle-light at the spacious confines of a smoky thatched cabin; in which there seemed to be all imaginable harmony, as the swine, the wife, the pigs and the children, lived very sociably together, and seemed to vie with each other in point of nastiness. When the light of a bulrush had discovered this delightful scene to me, I for the first time wished myself back in my father's kitchen. However, I made a virtue of necessity, and seemed quite satisfied with all I beheld; soon after a supper of salt fish and potatoes was produced, of which I made a hearty meal.—When I told the cobbler who I was, where I came from, and what I proposed, he seemed perfectly enraptured, and begged I would send him to the doctor,. as he would take care to incense him, (Note: Ignorantly spoken for convince.) because he was certain George would regard his recommendation:—But come, come wife, said he, this is no place for the doctor's nephew, go look out a clean good bed for him, let it cost what it will, I'll warrant old George will pay it. Ay, ay, boy, your bread is baked, you'll never want meal or malt, while your head's hot. I was much pleased with the simple sincerity of the poor man, and had no diffidence of finding his promises fulfilled. The cobbler's wife procured me a decent lodging, and set about washing a shirt for me immediately, which she had tolerably done up against morning; the cobbler himself brought it to my bedside, with clean shoes and stockings, so that I looked pretty smart.—You had better now, said he, write to your uncle, and I'll tell you what to say, and will carry it myself:—he brought me pen, ink and paper, and dictated, as near as I can remember, as follows:


            Honoured Uncle,
            BEING told of your great honour and kindness, I have walked all the way from Dublin to you, hoping your kindness will provide for your own flesh and blood, as my father has proved ungrateful: I am at present with the cobbler, your old friend, who will tell you where I am; which is all from your loving .nephew and kinsman to command till death,

            Having finished this elegant epistle, I dispatched my envoy with it, and waited impatiently at the cobbler's house till he returned, which happened in about an hour's time: he entered with a strange contraction of countenance, that seemed, "The title page of a tragic volume." I asked him what news? Why, I'll tell you. I went to the house and knocked at the street door; the footman opened it; I asked if I could see the doctor? he told me he was at breakfast: upon this the doctor himself opened the parlour door, and said, well my old friend, what do you want? He made me come in and sit down (for George always does if the room was full of company) but he was by himself, as God would have it:—so I told him there was a pretty young youth, the very moral (Note: for model) of himself, at my house, who had sent his honour that letter. He read it over and over, and then said, so you tell me honest friend, this pretty young youth is the moral of myself; you mean, I suppose, he is like me in the face. Yes, please your honour, said I, as like as if he was spit out of your mouth, though I lied too, for he's damned ugly, but no matter for that you know.—Well friend, said the doctor, this very dutiful nephew of mine writes me word, that he has walked all the way from Dublin to know what I would do for him: you may tell him to walk all the way back again, and inform his friends there that I will do nothing; and if the impostor continues in this town, I'll send him to Bridewell.—But won't your honour, said I, give him a trifle to carry him? Not a penny, said he; and so giving me the letter back, he pushed me out of doors:—therefore I advise you, while your shoes is good, and you have a trifle of money, to leave this place; for George is as positive as the devil, when he says a thing.—Judge, reader, of my surprise and confusion, to find all my promising hopes and long expeactions of comfort, dashed in a moment: Philosophy had not then armed me against the vicissitudes of fortune, I burst into tears, and gave a loose to the agonies of my mind. The poor people were moved at my condition, and told me I might stay a day or two with them, and perhaps the doctor's heart would relent. I embraced the offer.—This was of a Saturday. I continued with them really dejected in spirit the remainder of the day, and 'till about nine o'clock on Sunday night; at which hour, a watchman knocked at the door, and enquired if it was here the doctor's nephew lodged? The poor people imagining he came to take me away, told him I had been there, but was gone off to Dublin: the words were scarcely delivered, when the doctor and a gentlewoman entered. The moment the lady saw me, she cried with emotion; that's he, doctor, I'll take my oath to his curly head, and the likeness he has to his father. At this the doctor winked, and coming up to me with a stern countenance, cried; Who are you Sir, that dare to say I'm your uncle? I was about to reply, when the lady said, don't you know me Jack? don't you know your cousin Crofts?—Yes, madam, I remember your name perfectly well—This is indeed your nephew, doctor, said she, and no impostor; with that she took my hand and presented me to him. He embraced me very affectionately, holding me some time in his arms, while the tears streamed from his eyes, and he cried, this is all I wished for. He held me fast by the hand, and turning to the cobbler, thanked him for the regard he had shown to his little run-away, presenting him, at the same time, a couple of guineas, as a gratuity for his kindness. My uncle's coach waited for us at the end of the lane, into which he conducted me, and brought me safe to his fireside.

            An entire new scene now opened to me, and from a state of the most abject distress, I saw myself in the midst of genteel friends, who seemed sincerely to regard me. I was received by the doctor's lady with all imaginable tenderness, to whom my uncle introduced me in these words: "Here, Kate, I have brought you the prettiest little vagrant I ever saw;—take him, and look on him henceforth as my son." She affectionately embraced me; assuring the doctor, he could not have assigned her a more pleasing office, since love and gratitude taught her to esteem everyone who belonged to him.

            A supper was now brought in, where plenty and elegance spoke the hospitality of the man, and the good economy of the woman:—but I was so smitten with a sense of my happy revolution of fortune, that though I had an excellent appetite at the cobbler's, I could not eat a morsel: the doctor observing it, and guessing the cause, ordered some wine whey to be made for me, and sent me to bed. The first visit he paid in the morning was to me, and he was pleased to find me very well, as he afterwards told me, that he apprehended such a surprise might have occasioned a fever.—He acquainted me at breakfast, that when I had sent the letter he concluded I was an impostor, especially as the messenger assured him of my exact resemblance to him, and egad I know I'm the ugliest of the whole family; nor should I have thought further about it, but that the women importuned me; and Mrs. Crofts assured me, she would know your face in any part of Europe. He then demanded every particular of my former life, and my father's behaviour; at the relation of which he was so incensed, that he swore by G——d he would go directly to Dublin, and horse-whip the rascally priest, that dared to use one of George Vanlewen's family in that manner: nay, I seriously believe he would have done it, had not female entreaties prevented him. He was pleased to find I had some share of education, which, said he, as you don't seem to be a dunce, may be improved here; and I'll send you to the university, and make you a brighter, and, I hope, an honester man than your father. A tailor and sempstress were employed to equip me for a decent appearance; in short, I had everything provided, that could answer my convenience or flatter my vanity (for, oh!, reader, with shame do I own, that. I had a strong dash of the coxcomb in my nature) my uncle engaged masters to teach me music, the languages, and the sword; in the acquisition of which sciences, I did not manifest so much of the blockhead as the fine gentleman: for while I was seemingly applying close to study, my thoughts were ranging the world. I had such volatility and inattention, that I cannot help admiring, how I ever even learned to read. At my hours of leisure from business, my uncle took me amongst all his friends, where his virtues occasioned many civilities being shown to me, which I modestly imputed to my own merits, as many unthinking people do: nay I took as cordial and sincere, all the complimentary professions of friendship paid to me on his account. I perceived that my uncle was a boon companion wherever he went, and never started from his bottle till pretty late at night. It generally happened; that at his return he found the ladies at cards, perhaps, with some of the neighbours, who were to sup: he used, at his entrance, to salute them in a friendly manner, and then taking me on his knee, by the fireside, behind them, every now and then he lolled out his tongue at the company, and whisper' d softly to me—Bitches! Bitches!—As I had no conception of this being the effect of drink; I was quite at a loss what to think of it; nor could I get from him, for he held me fast, saying, now nephew, you are undoubtedly my flesh and blood, and I am determined to tell you the whole affair:—then he'd look at the company and put his tongue again out, in an ironical contemptuous manner, which the homeliness of his face, and the gravity of his wig, rendered so whimsically absurd, that I could not forbear laughing at: this pleased the old gentleman infinitely, as he imagined I laughed at the company.—Well, said he, but nephew, I will now tell you the affair.—What this affair might have been, heaven only knows, but I never could learn a word more about it, though the same scene was acted almost every night.

            I took an opportunity one morning to ask my aunt the occasion of this droll behaviour, as I knew she could not but observe it, though good manners induced her to take no notice of it. She told me it was his whim, whenever he had drank a glass too freely, but withal, that he meant nothing by it, and gave no offence; and that he was far from having either peevishness or ill-nature in him. She told me that he used to tease my mother in the same manner, when she was there; and my uncle, Captain Vanlewen, used to steal off to bed the moment the doctor came in. In these vagaries, sometimes, says the, he takes it into his head to sing; words or time of anything he has not—except "Ballo my Boy lie down and sleep;" that he chants so loud, that you may hear him half a mile, and repeats till he has deafened the company, and put himself to sleep;—and yet in the midst of his humour, if he is sent for to attend a labour, he becomes in one instant as sober as an infant, as clear-headed as any man living, and as capable of business. When your grandfather, said she, the doctor's brother, had got an accidental wound, that occasioned his death, my husband, when he heard he was given over, took horse and rode night and day till he came to his house, in Molesworth-street, Dublin: your uncle, to fortify his mind against so affecting a sight, as a departing brother, took a hearty glass of Madeira in the morning, before breakfast. When he entered the dining-room, he found a consultation of all the grave eminent gentlemen of the faculty: he came in with his whip and hunting cap, and without noticing one of the physicians, began to eat some of a cold rice pudding that lay on a sideboard: then turning about with a large piece in one hand, a knife in the other, and his mouth full, Well, gentlemen, said he, I find you have killed my brother, and I'm much obliged to you for it. The doctors assured him that they had most assiduously attended their patient, and prescribed everything, they could possibly think would promote his recovery. You did, says the doctor, turning again to the rice pudding, it's apparent to me you know nothing of the affair: with that he put his tongue out at one side (as your mother told me, who saw it) well, upon my word, you're a parcel of pretty little gentlemen: here is all the great physicians in Dublin to kill one poor man, and old George must come all the way from Cork to cure him. The gentlemen suffered the doctor, they had not the least doubt of his superior abilities, or of the success that might be consequent to it; that they for their parts, could do nothing farther, and would be glad to improve by the recipe of so skilful a gentleman. They then related what methods they had proceeded upon, and what medicines they had used; at all which the doctor shrugged up his shoulders, put out his tongue, took a pinch of snuff, and then turned to your mother, who was ready to sink with shame, saying, are not these a parcel of pretty little gentlemen? It's apparent to me they know nothing of the affair. Mr. Nicholls, the surgeon-general, who had a great love for your grandfather, besought the doctor earnestly to prescribe something before it was too late. He assured him he did not come there to make them as wise as himself, and, therefore, when he had made a hearty breakfast, he departed, sans ceremonie, having only just crept into his brother's room, and felt his pulse, but without ordering anything for his relief, which was the very motive of his journey to Dublin (such and so whimsical is his disposition.) I could not suppress the curiosity I had to know, why my uncle, who was, from every circumstance I had heard or seen, a humane benevolent man, should, at such an exigence, demean himself in that manner. I therefore took an occasion one morning at breakfast, when there were none present but ourselves, to introduce that topic. He could not even hear of it without tears, but told me the condition he found his brother in, gave him no room to hope that any prescription could serve him; and that as the Dublin physicians might possibly have a contemptible opinion of him, he was resolved, by finding those faults, to keep up his dignity in their esteem; and not to risk his reputation, by attempting impossibilities. After saying this, he conjured me never to mention my grandfather to him again, which I took care to observe.

            I had by this time made a tolerable progress in my studies particularly in music, having a good voice and an easy manner; but though this advantage rendered my company desirable almost everywhere, yet it was attended with many bad consequences; such as sitting up at night, which disqualified me in some measure for school in the morning, though I never drank. The musical gentlemen (I don't mean fiddlers) of the city, had formed themselves into a society, and were all of them to perform at a concert, once a week; the money arising from which, was to be applied to the building of an hospital. Some of them entreated my uncle would permit me to sing a song or two of a concert night, when I was not otherwise engaged; to this he readily consented, both as it was to promote a good end and that no hirelings were admitted into the band. A passion for applause is predominant in most minds, particularly those of young persons; and when the object from whence we can expect it is truly great, nothing can be more praiseworthy. To this single passion, is owing the rise and progress of arms and arts: had we no emulation to excel, we should never exert the nobler faculties of the soul, that lead us on in the pursuits of fame and glory. I am far from concluding, that every great and good action takes its rise from a thirst of applause. No, I'm persuaded, a Legge, a Pitt, and a Boyle [*see note], are only actuated in the service of their country, by that sincere pleasure, that must warm a patriot bosom from a consciousness of having acted as it ought, equally contemning censure and commendation.
[Note: The Right Hon. Henry Bilson Legge, Esq.; The Right Hon. William Pitt, Esq.; The Right Hon. the Earl of Shannon.]

            Now my Lord, or my Lady, Sir or Madam, or whoever you are that I have the honour to converse with, you'll find that I have made this pompous digression, only to apologize for my honestly confessing, that I was infinitely delighted when the audience clapped their hands at the end of a song:—for whether I pleased them or no by my singing, yet they heartily pleased me by giving me room to imagine I had done it. At the end of each song I went into a side box, where I had a thousand compliments and invitations, to the no small pleasure of my uncle and the ladies, who generally accompanied me there.

            One evening, in the midst of the concert, my uncle was called on to attend a lady, so that we went home without him: about eleven o'clock at night he knocked a thundering sasarara at the door; I flew to open it, and, to my unspeakable surprise, saw him with his sword drawn, and bloody, in his hand, his wig with one tie over his face, and his whole frame in the utmost agitation. He entered the parlour in this pickle, when my aunt, though well used to his temper, fainted back in her chair. While we were using means to recover her, he strutted about the room like Ancient Pistol, crying; villains! scoundrels! to attack me at my own door; but. I have pinked one of them; I promise you he'll never attack old George again; no, no, he's quiet, if a lunge through the guts could make him so.

            By this time my aunt recovered, and cried, surely, doctor, you have killed nobody: no, my dear, said he, but I have certainly killed somebody; ecce signum, look at his blood, the dog. For heaven's sake, dear doctor, tell us how or what it was? Why, Kate, you know I'm as peaceable as the devil, though as cross as the devil, when put upon. Just turning Hanover-street, three fellows set upon me, one of them collared me, while the, two others stood behind; so I just run him through the body, that's all child; and he lies, now where I left him. The footman was immediately ordered to get a lanthorn, and we all, except my uncle, precipitately ran to behold this tragic event; but neither man, living or dead, was to be found, which was some consolation to my aunt. While the doctor enjoyed his triumph, and extolled himself as a prodigy of skill and courage, we were all in the utmost panic, lest he should have killed some of his innocent neighbours. Under these anxieties we retired to bed, hoping that morning would afford us a more particular knowledge of the affair.

            When we were seated at breakfast, one Hignet Keeling, a tavern keeper, came in, and told us he was in great trouble about his mastiff dog, who had, followed the doctor from his house last night, and came home, with a wound of a sword quite through his neck. It seems the dog had a great love for my uncle, and: as the tavern was pretty remote from his house, used to come by way of a safeguard with him; and of a dark night frequently jumped up to his breast, to let him know Pompey was with him: but my uncle being, I suppose, wrapped up in wine, contemplation, and the idea of robbers, proved a shrewd Caesar to poor Pompey; since it appeared from all circumstances, that the three robbers were neither more nor less than one unfortunate mastiff. Though my uncle was sufficiently mortified at the laugh this occasioned against him, yet he immediately went and dressed the wounded Pompey, who became his patient till he had made an entire cure; but Pompey never could be prevailed on to escort the doctor home after that.

            I now began to enjoy that serenity of mind, that results from circumstances entirely at ease; my studies were a pleasure, rather than labour to me, and everything seemed to concur to make me extremely happy; but, alas! my felicity was too great to be permanent, as will appear from what follows: I have before observed, that my uncle supported his wife's two sisters, and brought her brother up to his business: though the obligations they all were under to him, made them treat me with the utmost civility; yet they could not avoid secretly repining at the share I had in his affection, who indeed seemed to attract all his regard; insomuch, that he took but little notice of my cousin, from the time I came. He was a proud sullen young man, who never spoke as much as he thought: though my entertaining faculties afforded them some. amusement, yet they were such as made me too much the object of popular regard. My uncle's sole design, in educating me, was to make me one of the faculty, and they justly foresaw, that if I settled in Cork, I should be more probable to succeed him in his practice, than a man who had no talents to endear him to society. These considerations were too important and interesting, not first to create a jealousy of me, and afterwards an absolute hatred; that in the end obtained their wishes of procuring a separation between my uncle and myself.

            Amongst the many invitations that were offered me, I had one from some officers in the barrack, and acquainted my uncle with it overnight, requesting his permission to go the next morning, and he accordingly gave it to me. As I had a long walk, I rose betimes, to be there by breakfast: there were a very polite set of gentlemen to be there at dinner, and they pressed me to spend the day with them. I told them I should think .myself happy in their company, but was apprehensive my uncle might be disobliged at my staying: one of them promised to send a footman to make an excuse to him, which quite contented me. We had an elegant dinner, and after coffee was over, a ball, where there was a number of the first rate beauties. My little heart was so elated with music, gaiety and cheerfulness, that I never observed how the hours rolled on; so that it was past two in the morning before I remembered I was to go home: in short, it was too late, and I had a bed with one of my friends. Though I judged my uncle would not be altogether pleased at my staying, yet, as I was in some of the genteelest company in town, I hoped to find remission of the first fault; and the more readily to obtain it, I brought Captain F——r and Captain A——y to apologize for me, and take the reproach of my offence on themselves. My uncle was abroad, but my aunt received them and myself with a coolness and formality, that expressed rather her contempt of me than care for my welfare. The gentlemen excused my misdemeanour in the best terms friendship and truth could dilate; assuring her, my being out was entirely their faults. She told them she was sorry they had the trouble of coming; but that as for me, she was not in the least disobliged at my conduct, who was really too fine a gentleman to be under her direction, or my uncle's either: that the Doctor was determined to send me back to my father, whose family had already been too expensive to him. My father's family, madam, said I, with surprise? Yes, Sir, your mother cost me fifty pounds at Mallow, a sum that her son shall never have from us, The gentlemen finding her begin to grow indelicate, took their leave, and promised to call some other time.

            When my uncle came in he took no manner of notice of me, further than by bidding me get ready to go to Dublin, as he was determined to have no more plague with any of my family. I could make no reply to this injunction, my heart was so full of sorrow; but immediately left the room, and retired to my bed chamber, to contemplate my unhappy condition. As nothing appeared half so dreadful to me as a thought of returning to my father, assured that my treatment would there be infinitely more rigorous than in a galley, the more I studied what to do, the more I was perplexed; till at length I recollected, that my school master, Doctor Bayley, was very fond of me, and that, perhaps, by opening my bosom to him, he might become a mediator with my uncle for our reconciliation. Inspired with this hope, I went to him, which gave my good-natured aunt and her sisters a happy occasion to observe the pride and haughtiness of my spirit, that I was ready to burst with it, even while I stayed in the room; and that, instead of falling on my knees to implore forgiveness, I flew like a tiger out of the house, without rhyme or reason; so that if I was encouraged, would I would in another year turn them out of doors: this discourse I learned after from my uncle's footman.

            My poor uncle, whose real good nature was not accompanied by an equal share of penetration, saw things in the manner they were represented to him, without giving the eye of his understanding room to meditate on the real causes of them: he instantly swallowed this palpable bait, and became now earnestly incensed against my pride and ingratitude. The ladies then seemed to plead for me, kindly confessing I was a pretty youth, and had great abilities for my years; but withal, that they had never told the doctor half the state I took upon me, or the contemptuous airs I gave myself to them and their servants. These they illustrated by many instances, but, notwithstanding, they would by no means advise the doctor to part with me, as I was the only exposed branch of his family, and might, with proper care and correction, become an honour and comfort to him: all these arguments had their desired effect, of putting my uncle into a great rage, in which he swore a solemn oath, I should never sleep under his roof. In the meantime, I had reached doctor Bayley's, to whom I ingenuously unfolded the anguish of my heart, and the unfeigned regret I felt, at having given the shadow of an offence to my most generous preserver and benefactor. After he had very warmly remonstrated on the fault I had committed, and the ill consequences of keeping too good company, which he said was almost equal to keeping too bad, he entered on his office of advocate, and went directly to my uncle, leaving me to drink tea with his wife and family.

            I sincerely believe the good man said and did all that Christianity and benevolence could inspire, to mollify the rigour of the sentence my uncle had pronounced of never receiving me again into his family: but, alas! it was vain and fruitless, as he told me at his return, my uncle valued himself upon being positive and unchangeable in his decrees; and the gentlewomen had so completely fermented that temper, experience had taught them to manage, that the doctor and he had very high words before they parted, and it has occasioned a mutual coolness from that day to this, if they are still living.

            Mr. Bayley had too just an idea of my father, from various accounts, as well as the plain simple ones he had from myself, not sincerely to lament my adversity: he assured me, that if he was not cramped by a small fortune and large family from giving a scope to his good intentions in my favour, he would support me like his son, till I was fit for the university, which he said I should have been in another year; where, he was kind enough to add, he made no doubt my genius would be sufficient to advance my fortune. But in the present case, added he, I am at a loss what to do with you; however, you are welcome to remain with us, either till your uncle comes into better temper, or you return to your father.


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