Holdsworthy of Dartmouth, who agreed to fit me out. I left Ashburton with little expectation of seeing it again, and indeed with little care, and rode with my godfather to the dwelling of Mr. I expected to be very ill received by my godfather, but he said nothing. He did not however choose to take me back himself, but sent me in the passage-boat to Totness, from [I, I] whence I was to walk home. On the passage, the boat was driven by a midnight storm on the rocks, and I escaped almost by miracle.
My godfather had now humbler views for me, and I had little heart to resist any thing. He proposed to send me on board one of the Torbay fishing-boats; I ventured, however, to remonstrate against this, and the matter was compromised by my consenting to go on board a coaster.
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A coaster was speedily found for me at Brixham, and thither I went when little more than thirteen. My master, whose name was Full, though a gross and ignorant, was not an ill-natured, man; at least, not to me: and my mistress used me with unvarying kindness; moved perhaps by my weakness and tender years. In return, I did what I could to requite her, and my good will was not overlooked.
Our vessel was not very large, nor our crew very numerous. In this vessel the Two Brothers I continued nearly a twelvemonth; and here I got acquainted with nautical terms, and contracted a love for the sea, which a lapse of thirty years has but little diminished. It will be easily conceived that my life was a life of hardship.
As my lot seemed to be cast, however, I was not negligent in seeking such information as promised to be useful; and I therefore frequented, at my leisure hours, such vessels as dropt into Torbay. On attempting to get on board one of these, which I did at midnight, I missed my footing, and fell into the sea. He immediately threw out several ropes, one of which providentially for I was unconscious of it intangled itself about me, and I was drawn up to the surface, till a boat could be got round.
The usual methods were taken to recover me, and I awoke in bed the next morning, remembering nothing but the horror I felt, when I first found myself unable to cry out for assistance. This was not my only escape, but I forbear to speak of them. An escape of another kind was now preparing for me, which deserves all my notice, as it was decisive of my future fate. On Christmas day I was surprised by a message from my godfather, saying that he had sent a man and horse to bring me to Ashburton; and desiring me to set out without delay.
My master, as well as myself, supposed it was to spend the holydays there; and he therefore made no objection to my going. We were, however, both mistaken. Since I had lived at Brixham, I had broken off all connection with Ashburton. I had no relation there but my poor brother,  who was yet too young for any kind of correspondence; and the conduct of my godfather towards me, did not entitle him to any portion of my gratitude, or kind remembrance. I lived therefore in a sort of sullen independence on all I had formerly known, and thought without regret of being abandoned by every one to my fate.
But I had not been overlooked. The women of Brixham, who travelled to Ashburton twice a week with fish, and who had known my parents, did not see me without kind concern, running about the beach in a ragged jacket and trousers. They mentioned this to the people of Ashburton, and never without commiserating my change of condition. This tale, often repeated, awakened at length the pity of their auditors, and, as the next step, their resentment against the man who had reduced me to such a state of wretchedness. In a large town, this would have had little effect; but in a place like Ashburton, where every report speedily becomes the common property of all the inhabitants, it raised a murmur which my godfather found himself either unable or unwilling to encounter: he therefore determined to recall me; which he could easily do, as I wanted some months of fourteen, and was not yet bound.
All this, I learned on my arrival; and my heart, which had been cruelly shut up, now opened to kinder sentiments, and fairer views. After the holydays I returned to my darling pursuit, arithmetic: my progress was now so rapid, that in a few months I was at the head of the school, and qualified to assist my master Mr. Furlong on any extraordinary emergency.
As he usually gave me a trifle on those occasions, it raised a thought in me, that by engaging with him as a regular assistant, and undertaking the instruction of a few evening scholars, I might, with a little additional aid, be enabled to support myself. God knows, my [I, I] ideas of support at this time were of no very extravagant nature.
I had, besides, another object in view. Hugh Smerdon my first master was now grown old and infirm; it seemed unlikely that he should hold out above three or four years; and I fondly flattered myself that, notwithstanding my youth, I might possibly be appointed to succeed him. I was in my fifteenth year, when I built these castles: a storm, however, was collecting, which unexpectedly burst upon me, and swept them all away.
On mentioning my little plan to Carlile, he treated it with the utmost contempt; and told me, in his turn, that as I had learned enough, and more than enough, at school, he must be considered as having fairly discharged his duty; so, indeed, he had; he added, that he had been negotiating with his cousin, a shoemaker of some respectability, who had liberally agreed to take me without a fee, as an apprentice.
I was so shocked at this intelligence, that I did not remonstrate; but went in sullenness and silence to my new master, to whom I was soon after bound,  till I should attain the age of twenty-one. The family consisted of four journeymen, two sons about my own age, and an apprentice somewhat older. In these there was nothing remarkable; but my master himself was the strangest creature! As these at least his portion of them were all on one side, he entertained no doubt of their infallibility, and being noisy and disputacious, was sure to silence his opponents; and became, in consequence of it, intolerably arrogant and conceited.
His custom was to fix on any word in common use, and then to get by heart the synonym, or periphrasis by which it was explained in the book; this he constantly substituted for the simple term, and as his opponents were commonly ignorant of his meaning, his victory was complete. With such a man I was not likely to add much to my stock of knowledge, small as it was; and, indeed, nothing could well be smaller.
At this period, I had read nothing but a black letter romance, called Parismus and Parismenus, and a few loose magazines which my mother had brought from South Molton. As I hated my new profession with a perfect hatred, I made no progress in it; and was consequently little regarded in the family, of which I sunk by degrees into the common drudge: this did not much disquiet me, for my spirits were now humbled. I did not however quite resign the hope of one day succeeding to Mr.
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Hugh Smerdon, and therefore secretly prosecuted my favourite study, at every interval of leisure. These intervals were not very frequent; and when the use I made of them was found out, they were rendered still less so. I could not guess the motives for this at first; but at length I discovered that my master destined his youngest son for the situation to which I aspired. I possessed at this time but one book in the world: it was a treatise on algebra, given to me by a young woman, who had found it in a lodging-house.
I considered it as a treasure; but it was a treasure locked up; for it supposed the reader to be well acquainted with simple equation, and I knew nothing of the matter. I sat up for the greatest part of several nights successively, and, before he suspected that his treatise was discovered, had completely mastered it.
36 erthygl ar y dudalen hon
I could now enter upon my own; and that carried me pretty far into the science. This was not done without difficulty. I had not a farthing on earth, nor a friend to give me one: pen, ink, and paper, therefore, in despite of the flippant remark of Lord Orford, were, for the most part, as completely out of my reach, as a crown and sceptre. There was indeed a resource; but the utmost caution and secrecy were necessary in applying to it. I beat out pieces of leather as smooth as possible and wrought my problems on them with a blunted awl: for the rest, my memory was tenacious, and I could multiply and divide by it, to a great extent.
A person, whose name escapes me, had undertaken to paint a sign for an ale-house: it was to have been a lion, but the unfortunate artist produced a dog. On this awkward affair, one of my acquaintance wrote a copy of what we called verse: I liked it; but fancied I could compose something more to the purpose: I made the experiment, and by the unanimous suffrage of my shopmates was allowed to have succeeded. Notwithstanding this encouragement, I thought no more of verse, till another occurrence, as trifling as the former, furnished [I, I] me with a fresh subject: and thus I went on, till I had got together about a dozen of them.
Certainly, nothing on earth was ever so deplorable: such as they were, however, they were talked of in my little circle, and I was sometimes invited to repeat them, even out of it. I never committed a line to paper for two reasons; first, because I had no paper; and secondly—perhaps I might be excused from going further; but in truth I was afraid, as my master had already threatened me, for inadvertently hitching the name of one of his customers into a rhyme. The repetitions of which I speak were always attended with applause, and sometimes with favours more substantial: little collections were now and then made, and I have received sixpence in an evening.
Poetry, even at this time, was no amusement of mine: it was subservient to other purposes; and I only had recourse to it, when I wanted money for my mathematical pursuits. But the clouds were gathering fast. I was required to give up my papers, and when I refused, my garret was searched, and my little hoard of books discovered and removed, and all future repetitions prohibited in the strictest manner. This was a very severe stroke, and I felt it most sensibly; it was followed by another severer still; a stroke which crushed the hopes I had so long and so fondly cherished, and resigned me at once to despair.
Hugh Smerdon, on whose succession I had calculated, died, and was succeeded by a person not much older than myself, and certainly not so well qualified for the situation. I look back on that part of my life which immediately followed this event, with little satisfaction; it was a period of gloom, and savage unsociability: by degrees I sunk into a kind of coporeal torpor; or, if roused into activity by the spirit of youth, wasted the exertion in splenetic and vexatious tricks, which alienated the few acquaintances whom compassion had yet left me.
So I crept on in silent discontent, unfriended and unpitied; indignant at the present, careless of the future, an object at once of apprehension and dislike.
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From this state of abjectness I was raised by a young woman of my own class. She was a neighbour; and whenever I took my solitary walk, with my Wolfius in my pocket, she usually came to the door, and by a smile, or a short question, put in the friendliest manner, endeavoured to solicit my attention. My heart had been long shut to kindness, but the sentiment was not dead in me: it revived at the first encouraging word; and the gratitude I felt for it was the first pleasing sensation which I had ventured to entertain for many dreary months.
Together with gratitude, hope, and other passions still more enlivening, took place of that uncomfortable gloominess which so lately possessed me: I returned to my companions, and by every winning art in my power, strove to make them forget my former repulsive ways. In this I was not unsuccessful; I recovered their good will, and by degrees grew to be somewhat of a favourite.
My master still murmured, for the business of the shop went on no better than before: I comforted myself, however, with the reflection that my apprenticeship was drawing to a conclusion, when I determined to renounce the employment for ever, and to open a private school. In this humble and obscure state, poor beyond the common lot, yet flattering my ambition with day-dreams, which, perhaps, would never have been realized, I was found in the twentieth year of my age by Mr.
William Cookesley, a name never to be pronounced by me without veneration. The lamentable doggerel which I have already mentioned, and which had passed from mouth to mouth among people of my own degree, had by some accident or other reached his ear, and given him a curiosity to inquire after the author. It was my good fortune to interest his benevolence. My little history was not untinctured with melancholy, and I laid it fairly before him: his first care was to console; his second, which he cherished to the last moment of his existence, was to relieve and support me.
Cookesley was not rich: his eminence in his profession, which was that of a surgeon, procured him, indeed, much employment; but in a country town, men of science are not the most liberally rewarded: he had, besides, a very numerous family, which left him little for the purposes of general benevolence: that little, however, was cheerfully bestowed, and his activity and zeal were always at hand to supply the deficiencies of his fortune. On examining into the nature of my literary attainments, he found them absolutely nothing: he heard, however, with equal surprise and pleasure, that amidst the grossest ignorance of books, I had made a very considerable progress in the mathematics.