Page images

that the present spirit of dissoluteness and freethinking must unavoidably bring this honourable profession more and more into vogue, and that every sessions may soon be expected to afford an instance of a gentleman-highwayman.-W.

No 117. THURSDAY, APRIL 22, 1756.

Ergò haud difficile est perituram arcessere summam
Lancibus oppositis, vel matris imagine fractâ.-Juv.
Here to the spendthrift ready cash is lent,
On plate, or rings, or watches, cent. per cent. :
Here, from its frame th' enamell'd portrait drawn,
The circling brilliants are receiv'd in pawn.

I HAVE often amused myself with considering the mean and ridiculous shifts, to which the extravagant are sometimes reduced. When the certain supplies of a regular income are exhausted, they are obliged to cast about for ready cash, and set the invention to work, in order to devise means of repairing their finances. Such attempts to enlarge their revenue have frequently driven those, whose great souls would not be curbed by the straitness of their circumstances, into very uncommon undertakings: they have sent lords to Arthur's, and ladies to assemblies, or sometimes worse places. We may safely conclude, that whoever breaks through all economy, will soon discard honesty; though perhaps it might be deemed scandalum magnatum to aver, that prodigal men of quality have often sold their country to redeem their estates, and that extravagant ladies have been known to make up the deficiencies of their pin-money by pilfering and larceny.

One of the first and chief resources of extravagance, both in high and low life, is the pawnbroker's. I never pass by one of these shops, without considering them as the repositories of half the jewels, plate, &c. in town. It is true, indeed, that the honest and industrious are sometimes forced to supply their necessities by this method: but if we were to inquire, to whom the several articles in these miscellaneous warehouses belong, we should find the greatest part of them to be the property of the idle and infamous among the vulgar, or the prodigal and luxurious among the great: and if, in imitation of the ancients, who placed the temple of Honour behind the temple of Virtue, propriety should be attempted in the situation of pawnbrokers' shops, they would be placed contiguous to a gin-shop, as in the ingenious print of Hogarth, or behind a tavern, gaming-house, or bagnio.

Going home late last Saturday night, I was witness to a curious dialogue at the door of one of these houses. An honest journeyman carpenter, whose wife, it seems, had pawned his best clothes, having just received his week's pay, was come to redeem them; but, it being past twelve o'clock, the man of the house, who kept up the conversation by means of a little grate in the door, refused to deliver them; though the poor carpenter begged hard for his holiday clothes, as the morrow was Easter Sunday. This accident led me to reflect on the various persons in town, who carry on this kind of commerce with the pawnbrokers, and gave occasion to the following dream.

I was scarce asleep before I found myself at the entrance of a blind alley, terminated by a little hatch; where I saw a vast concourse of people, of different ages, sex, and condition, going in and com. ing out. Some of these I observed, as they went

up, very richly drest; and others were adorned with jewels and costly trinkets: but I could not help remarking, that at their return they were all divested of their finery; and several had even their gowns and coats stript off their backs. A lady, who strutted up in a rich brocaded suit, sneaked back again in an ordinary stuff night-gown; a second retreated with the loss of a diamond solitaire and pearl necklace; and a third, who had bundled up her whole stock of linen, scarce escaped with what she had upon her back. I observed several gentlemen, who brought their sideboards of plate to be melted down, as it were, into current specie; many had their pockets disburdened of their watches; and some, even among the military gentlemen, were obliged to deliver up their swords. Others of the company marched up, heavy laden with pictures, household goods, and domestic utensils: one carried a spit; another brandished a gridiron; a third flourished a frying-pan; while a fourth brought to my remembrance the old sign of the dog's head in the porridge-pot. I saw several trot up merrily with their chairs, tables, and other furniture; but I could not help pitying one poor creature among the rest, who, after having stript his own house, even to his feather-bed, stalked along like a Lock-patient, wrapt up in the blankets, while his wife accompanied him doing penance in the sheets.

As I was naturally curious to see the inside of the receptacle, where all these various spoils were deposited, I stept up to the hatch; and meeting a grave old gentleman at the threshold, I desired him to inform me what place it was, and what business was transacted there. He very courteously took me by the hand, and leading me through a dark passage, brought me into a spacious hall, which he told me was the temple of usury, and that he himself was the

chief priest of it. One part of this building was hung round with all kinds of apparel, like the sale shops in Monmouth-street; another was strewed with a variety of goods, and resembled the brokers' shops in Harp-alley; and another part was furnished with such an immense quantity of jewels and rich plate, that I should rather have fancied myself in the church of the Lady of Loretto. All these, my guide informed me, were the offerings of that crowd, which I had seen resorting to this temple. The churches in Roman Catholic countries have commonly a cross fixed upon them; the Chinese erect dragons and hang bells about their pagods; and the Turkish mosques have their peculiar hieroglyphics; but I could not help taking particular notice, that this temple of usury had its vestibule adorned with three wooden balls painted blue; the mystery of which, I was told, was as dark and unfathomable as the Pythagorean number, or the secret doctrines of Trismegist.

[ocr errors]

When I had in some measure satisfied my curiosity, in taking a general survey of the temple, my instructor led me to an interior corner of it, where the most splendid offerings were spread upon a large altar. This bauble,' said he, shewing me an elegant sprig of diamonds, is an aigret, sent in last week by a lady of quality, who has ever since kept home, with her head muffled up in a double clout, for a pretended fit of the tooth-ache. She has, at different times, made an offering of all her jewels: and, besides these, her whole wardrobe was very lately lodged here, which threw her into an hysteric fever, and confined her to her bed-gown for upwards of a month. Those earrings and other jewels are the paraphernalia of a young bride; who was so constant a votary to this place, that, when nothing else remained for an offering, she even brought in her

wedding-ring. You may be surprised, perhaps, to behold such a variety of necklaces, girdlebuckles, solitaires, and other female ornaments, as are here collected but it is observable, that their devotions in the temple of usury have been chiefly encouraged and kept alive, by their assisting at the midnight orgies of avarice.

[ocr errors]

Nor are the gentlemen,' continued he, less encouragers of our rites. That gold watch laid snug for a considerable time, in the fob of a young man of quality; but it was one night jerked out by a single throw of the dice at a gaming-table, and made its way into the pocket of a stranger, who placed it here to keep company with several others, brought here on a similar occasion. Those brilliant buckles once glittered on the shoes of a very pretty fellow, who set out last winter on his travels into foreign parts, but never got farther than Boulogne: and that sword, with the rich fillagree hilt and elegantlyfancied sword-knot with gold tassels, once dangled at the side of a spirited buck; who left it here two years ago, when he went off in a great hurry, to take possession of a large estate in his native country, Ireland, whence he is not yet returned. You may see many others of these instruments of death, which rust peacefully in their scabbards, as being of no use whatever to their owners: that, which commonly hangs upon the vacant peg there, belongs, you must know, to a noble captain: it is called upon duty once a month, and is at this instant mounting guard at St. James's.'

[ocr errors]

Not far from these rich ornaments hung several embroidered coats, laced waistcoats, point d'espagne hats, &c. This suit,' said my venerable instructor, pointing to one richly embroidered, was made up for a noble lord on the last birth-day, and conveyed hither the very next morning after it had appeared

[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »