« PreviousContinue »
Monmouth, after whose execution he retired to Shrewsbury, apprehensive, perhaps, of a fate similar to that of College, his brother-in-trade, well known in those times by the title of the Protestant Joiner, who was executed for high treason in the reign of Charles II.
Having sustained severe losses in trade, the elder Richardson was unable to give his son Samuel more than a very ordinary education; and our author, who was to rise so high in one department of literature, was left unacquainted with any language excepting his own. Under all these disadvantages, and perhaps in some degree owing to their existence, young Richardson very early fol. lowed, with a singular bias, the course which was inost likely to render his name immortal. We give his own words, for they cannot be amended :
“I recollect, that I was early noted for having invention. I was not fond of play, as other boys : my school-fellows used to call me Serious and Gravity; and five of them particularly delighted to single me out, either for a walk, or at their fathers' houses, or at mine, to tell them stories, as they phrased it. Some I told them, from my reading, as true; others from my head, as mere invention ; of which they would be most fond, and often were affected by them. One of them particularly, I remember, was for putting me to write a history, as he called it, on the model of Tommy Pots ;' I now forget what it was, only that it was of a servantman preferred by a fine young lady (for his good
i Tommy Potts is the name of an old ballad published in Ritson's Ancient Songs.
ness) to a lord, who was a libertine. All my stories carried with them, I am bold to say, an useful moral.” 1
But young Richardson found a still more congenial body of listeners among the female sex. An old lady, indeed, seems to have resented an admonitory letter, in which the future teacher of morals contrasted her pretensions to religion with her habitual indulgence in slander and backbiting ; but with the young and sentimental his reception was more gracious. “ As a bashful and not forward
1 Life of Richardson, vol. i., p. 36, 37. [It is impossible to consider without delight and admiration the contrast between Richardson's boyish fictions and those of his kiographer himself, as described in the General Preface to the Waverley Novels. There Sir Walter Scott says, “I must refer to a very early period of my life, were I to point out my first achievements as a tale-teller, but I believe some of my old school-fellows can still bear witness that I had a distinguished character for that talent, at a time when the applause of my companions was my recompense for the disgraces and punishments which the future romance-writer incurred for being idle himself, and keeping others idle, during hours that should have been employed on our tasks. The chief enjoyment of my holidays was to escape with a chosen friend, who had the same taste with myself, and alternately to recite to each other such wild adventures as we were able to devise. We told, each in turn, interminable tales of knight-errantry, and battles, and enchantments, which were continued from one day to another as opportunity offered, without ever thinking of bringing them to a conclusion. As we observed a strict secrecy on the subject of this intercourse, it acquired all the character of a concealed pleasure, and we used to select, for the scenes of our indulgence, long walks through the solitary and romantic environs of Arthur's Seat, Salisbury Craigs, Braid Hills, and similar places in the vicinity of Edinburgh; and the recollection of those holidays still forms an oasis in the pilgrimage which I have to look back upon.”]
uld, to boi vith them
boy,” he says, “ I was an early favourite with all the young women of taste and reading in the neighbourhood. Half-a-dozen of them, when met to work with their needles, used, when they got a book they liked, and thought I should, to borrow me to read to them ; their mothers sometimes with them ; and both mothers and daughters used to be pleased with the observations they put me upon making.“ I was not more than thirteen, when three of these young women, unknown to each other, having an high opinion of my taciturnity, revealed to me their love secrets, in order to induce me to give them copies to write after, or correct, for answers to their lovers' letters ; nor did any one of them ever know that I was the secretary to the others. I have been directed to chide, and even repulse, when an offence was either taken or given, at the very time when the heart of the chider or repulser was open before me, overflowing with esteem and affection ; and the fair repulser, dreading to be taken at her word, directing this word, or that expression, to be softened or changed. One, highly gratified with her lover's fervour, and vows of everlasting love, has said, when I have asked her direction, I cannot tell you what to write ; but (her heart on her lips) you cannot write too kindly. All her fear was only, that she should incur slight for her kindness."! · His father had nourished some ambitious views of dedicating young Richardson to the ministry, but, as his circumstances denied him the means of giving him necessary education, Samuel was destined to that profession most nearly connected with literature, and was bound apprentice to Mr John Wilde, of Stationers' Hall, in the year 1706. Industrious as well as intelligent, regulated in his habits, and diverted by no headstrong passion from the strictest course of duty, Richardson made rapid progress in his employment as a printer.
1 Life of Richardson, vol. i., p. 39, 40. [Mrs Barbauld adds, “ Human nature is human nature in every class; the hopes and the fears, the perplexities and struggles, of these low-bred girls, in probably an obscure village, supplied the future author with those ideas which, by their gradual developement, produced the characters of a Clarissa and a Clementina; nor was he probably happier, or amused in a more
“ I served,” he says, “ a diligent seven years to it; to a master who grudged every hour to me that tended not to his profit, even of those times of leisure and diversion, which the refractoriness of my fellow-servants obliged him to allow them, and were usually allowed by other masters to their apprentices. I stole from the hours of rest and relaxation my reading times for improvement of my mind ; and, being engaged in a correspondence with a gentleman, greatly my superior in degree, and of ample fortune, who, had he lived, intended high things for me, those were all the opportunities I had in my apprenticeship to carry it on. But this little incident I may mention; I took care that even my candle was of my own purchasing, that I might not, in the most trifling instance, make my master a sufferer, (and who used to call me the pillar of his house,) and not to disable myself by watching or sitting up, to perform my duty to him in the day-time.”..
lively manner, when sitting in his grotto, with a circle of the best-informed women in England about him, who, in after times, courted his society, than in reading to these girls in, it may be, a little back shop, or a mantuamaker's parlour, with a brick floor."-Ib., p. 40, 41.]
The correspondence betwixt Richardson and the gentleman who had so well selected an object of patronage, was voluminous; but at the untimely death of his friend, it was, by his particular desire, consigned to the flames.
Several years more were spent in the obscure drudgery of the printing-house ere Richardson took: out his freedom, and set up as a master printer. His talents for literature were soon discovered ; and, in addition to his proper business, he used to oblige the booksellers, by furnishing them with prefaces, dedications, and such like garnishing of the works submitted to his press. He printed several of the popular periodical papers of the day, and at length, through the interest of Mr Onslow, the Speaker, obtained the lucrative employment of printing the Journals of the House of Commons, by which he must have reaped considerable advantages, although he occasionally had to complain of delay of payment on the part of government.
Punctual in his engagements, and careful in the superintendence of his business—fortune, and respect, its sure accompaniment, began to flow in upon Richardson. In 1754, he was chosen Master of the Stationers' Company; and, in 1760, he purchased a moiety of the patent of Printer to the King, which seems to have added considerably to his revenue. He was now a man in very easy circumstances ; and, besides his premises in Salis
1 Life of Richardson, vol. i., p. 41, 42.