Imagini ale paginilor
PDF
ePub

LIFE

OF

JOHN HORNE TOOKE.

CHAPTER I.

FROM 1777 TO 1786.

Mr. Horne's Confinement and Treatment in Jail -Letter to Mr. Dunning-Is rejected by -the Society of the Inner Temple - Writes and publishes a political Pamphlet in Conjunction with Dr. Price Retires to the Country and becomes a Farmer- Returns to London -Joins Mr. Pitt in an Attempt to reform the House of Commons-A Plan for this Purpose His Conduct during the Westminster Election in 1784.

MEANWHILE, in consequence of the sentence pronounced against him, Mr. Horne had been committed to the King's Bench prison, in St. George's Fields, which, as I have often heard him observe, is far more unhealthy than Newgate, being actually built in the midst of a

VOL. II.

B

marsh. He was also accustomed to add, that the basement story is several feet below the level of the river Thames, at spring tides, and, consequently, both damp and insalubrious.

Conversant as he was, in the ordinary transactions of human life, the surprise of the subject of these memoirs cannot be supposed trifling, when, after being consigned to this jail, by the special command of the chief justice of England, he had still a habitation to seek; for, after stopping a few minutes in the lodge, he was conducted to a vacant space within the walls, and there left, in utter ignorance of his future fate, and an entire stranger to all around him! It may be supposed, perhaps, by the sons and daughters of affluence, who reside in splendid apartments, and repose every night on beds of down, that even for the most wretched prisoner there is due provision in respect to a decent lodging; where poverty, sorrow, or misfortunes, may be secluded from the gaze of mankind, and find an asylum at least, if comfort be denied them. But this would prove a grand mistake, for the captives being generally more numerous than the apartments, it is by seniority alone, that the unhappy inmates succeed to the occupancy of a small bedchamber, totally devoid of any furniture, or conveniency whatsoever.

All this, as Mr. Horne solemnly assured me, he learned, for the first time, on the parade, whither he proceeded in charge of two tipstaves, who took their leave without condescending to give him any information whatever. On his distress being made known to the spectators, a person, who proved to be a jew, offered, for a sum of money, to accommodate him immediately. Ten guineas were accordingly deposited in his hands; but it was speedily discovered, that this son of Israel had not any apartment at his command, being only the joint-tenant of a miserable little room, in common with four or five other debtors. To the honour of the prisoners, however, they immediately interposed, and obliged him to restore the money appertaining to the stranger; who, being charmed with their love of justice, and determined not to be outdone by them in point of generosity, divided the sum in question among the poorer sort of the inhabitants. The clerk of the papers, on learning this anecdote, immediately made his appearance, and offered, for five hundred pounds, delivered beforehand, to accommodate him with a small house, situate within the rules, during the whole period of his confinement; but as the payment of a weekly sum was preferred,

the negociation was instantly concluded on that basis.

No sooner was he settled in comfortable apartments, without the walls of the prison, than Mr. Horne received visits from all his friends, particularly the aldermen Oliver, Townsend, and Sawbridge; together with sir John Bernard and Mr. Tooke. These, and several others, soon after instituted a weekly meeting at a neighbouring tavern *; a circumstance, which gave birth, perhaps, to the Sunday dinners, at Wimbledon, many years after. Be this as it may, Wednesday was the day now fixed upon; and, on that occasion, the prisoner, who, hitherto, had either wholly abstained from wine, or, at least, partook of it with scrupulous moderation, used to indulge himself with a few glasses. In consequence of this, he constantly found himself better, during the next and succeeding day; after which his health regularly declined until the periodical return of the feast. In short, by this time, it was discovered that he had got the jail-distemper, which uniformly abated with the use of claret; and on ascertaining this fact, he daily recurred to that pleasant but delusive beve

*The Dog and Duck, in St. George's Fields.

« ÎnapoiContinuați »