« PreviousContinue »
MY BIRTH AND PARENTAGE-STRANGE DREAMS OF MY
MOTHER PREVIOUS TO MY BIRTH-MY EDUCATION—MY FATHER EXTREMELY INDULGENT-ON MY RETURN FROM OXFORD, HE PROPOSES MARRIAGE TO ME, WHICH I DECLINE, AND AM PERMITTED TO TRAVEL, ACCOMPANIED BY A YOUNG COLLEGE ACQUAINTANCE-JOURNEY FROM DOVER TO PARIS, AND INCIDENTS ON THE ROAD-ADVENTURES WHICH HAPPEN AT PARIS-ACCOUNT OF OUR JOURNEY. TO ITALY.
It may suffice the reader, without being very inquisitive after my name, that I was born in the county of Salop, in the year 1608; under the government of what star I was never astrologer enough to examine; but the consequences of my life may allow me to suppose some extraordinary influence affected my birth. If there be anything in dreams also, my mother, who was mighty observant that way, took minutes, which I have since seen in the first leaf of her Prayer Book, of several strange dreams she had while she was with child of her second son, which was myself. Once she noted that she dreamed she was carried away by a regiment of horse, and delivered in the fields of a scn, that as soon as it was born had two wings came out of its back, and in half an hour's time flew away from her; and the very evening before I was born she dreamed she was brought to bed of a son, and that all the while she was in labour a man stood under her window beating on a kettle-drum, which very much discomposed her.
My father was a gentleman of a very plentiful fortune, VOI. II.
having an estate of above 5,0001. per annum, of a family nearly allied to several of the principal nobility, and lived about six miles from the town of High-Excol; and my mother being at on some particular occasion, was surprised there at a friend's house, and brought me very safe into the world.
I was my father's second son, and therefore was not altogether so much slighted as younger sons of good families generally are ; but my father saw something in my genius also which particularly pleased him, and so made him take extraordinary care of my education.
I was taught therefore, by the best masters that could be had, everything that was needful to accomplish a young gentleman for the world ; and at seventeen years old my tutor told my father an academic education was very proper for a person of quality, and he thought me very fit for it: so my father entered me of — college in Oxford, where I continued three years.
A collegiate life did not suit me at all, though I loved books well enough. It was never designed that I should be either a lawyer, physician, or divine ; and I wrote to my father that I thought I had stayed there long enough for a gentleman, and with his leave I desired to give him a visit.
During my stay at Oxford, though I passed through the proper exercises of the house, yet my chief reading was upon history and geography, as that which pleased my mind best, and supplied me with ideas most suitable to my genius : by one I understood what great actions had been done in the world, and by the other I understood where they had been done.
My father readily complied with my desire of coming home, for besides that he thought, as I did, that three years' tine at the university was enough, he also most passionately loved me, and began to think of my settling near him.
At my arrival I found myself extraordinarily caressed by my father, and he seemed to take a particular delight in my conversation. My mother, who lived in perfect union with him, both in desires and affection, received me very pas. sionately: apartments were provided for me by myself, and horses and servants allowed me in particular.
My father never went a hunting, an exercise he was exceeding fond of, but he would have me with him; and it
NDULGENCE OF MY FATHER.
pleased him when he found me like the sport. I lived thus, in all the pleasures 'twas possible for me to enjoy, for about a year more; when going out one morning with my father to hunt a stag, and having had a very hard chase, and gotten a great way off from home, we had leisure enough to ride gently back; and as we returned, my father took occasion to enter into a serious discourse with me concerning the manner of my settling in the world.
He told me, with a great deal of passion, that he loved me above all the rest of his children, and that therefore he intended to do very well for me; and that my eldest brother being already married and settled, he had designed the same for me, and proposed a very advantageous match for me with a young lady of very extraordinary fortune and merit, and offered to make a settlement of 2,0001. per annum on me, which he said he would purchase for me without diminishing his paternal estate.
There was too much tenderness in this discourse not to affect me exceedingly. I told him I would perfectly resign myself unto his disposal. But, as my father had, together with his love for me, a very nice judgment in his discourse, he fixed his eyes very attentively on me; and though my answer was without the least reserve, yet he thought he saw some uneasiness in me at the proposal, and from thence concluded that my compliance was rather an act of discretion than inclination; and, that however I seemed so absolutely given up to what he had proposed, yet my answer was really an effect of my obedience rather than my choice; so he returned very quick upon me, Look you, son, though I give you my own thoughts in the matter, yet I would have you be very plain with me; for if your own choice does not agree with mine, I will be your adviser, but will never impose upon you; and therefore let me know your mind freely. I don't reckon myself capable, sir, said I, with a great deal of respect, to make so good a choice for myself as you can for me; and though my opinion differed from yours, its being your opinion would reform mine, and my judgment would as readily comply as my duty. I gather at least from thence, said my father, that your designs lay another way before, however they may comply with mine; and therefore I would know what it was you would have asked of me if I had not offered this to you; and you must not deny me your
obedience in this, if you expect I should believe your seadi. ness in the other.
Sir, said I, 'twas impossible I should lay out for myself just what you have proposed; but if my inclinations were never so contrary, though at your command you shall know them, yet I declare them to be wholly subjected to your order. I confess my thoughts did not tend towards marriage or a settlement; for though I had no reason to question your care of me, yet I thought a gentleman ought always to see something of the world before he confined himself to any part of it; and if I had been to ask your consent to anything, it should have been to give me leave to travel for a short time, in order to qualify myself to appear at home like a son to so good a father.
In what capacity would you travel ? replied my father; you must go abroad either as a private gentleman, as a scholar, or as a soldier. If it were in the latter capacity, sir, said I, returning pretty quick, I hope I should not misbehave myself; but I am not so determined as not to be ruled by your judgment. Truly, replied my father, I see no war abroad at this time worth while for a man to appear in, whether we talk of the cause or the encouragement; and indeed, son, I am afraid you need not go far for adventures of that nature, for times seem to look as if this part of Europe would find us work enough. My father spake then relating to the quarrel likely to happen between the king of England and the Spaniard (upon the breach of the match between the king of England and the infanta of Spain, and particularly upon the old quarrel of the king of Bohemia and the Palatinate), for I believe he had no notions of a civil war in his head.
In short, my father, perceiving my inclinations very forward to go abroad, gave me leave to travel, upon condition I would promise to return in two years at farthest, or sooner, if he sent for me.
While I was at Oxford I happened into the society of a young gentleman, of a good family, but of a low fortune, being a younger brother, and who had indeed instilled into me the first desires of going abroad, and who I knew passionately longed to travel, but had not sufficient allowance to defray his expenses as a gentleman. We had contracted a very close friendship, and our humours being very agreeable
START ON MY TRAVELS.
to one another, we daily enjoyed the conversation of letters. He was of a generous free temper, without the least affectation or deceit, a handsome proper person, a strong body, very good mien, and brave to the last degree. His name way Fielding, and we called him captain, though it be a very unusual title in a college ; but fate had some hand in the title, for he had certainly the lines of a soldier drawn in his countenance. I imparted to him the resolutions I had taken, and how I had my father's consent to go abroad; and would know his mind, whether he would go with me: he sent me word, he would go with all his heart.
My father, when he saw him, for I sent for him immediately to come to me, mightily approved my choice; so we got our equipage ready, and came away for London.
'Twas on the 22nd of April, 1630, when we embarked at Dover, landed in a few hours at Calais, and immediately took post for Paris. I shall not trouble the reader with a journal of my travels, nor with the description of places, which every geographer can do better than I; but these memoirs being only a relation of what happened either to ourselves, or in our own knowledge, I shall confine myself to that. part of it.
We had indeed some diverting passages in our journey to Paris; as, first, the horse my comrade was upon fell so very lame with a slip, that he could not go, and hardly stand; and the fellow that rid with us express, pretended to ride away to a town five miles off to get a fresh horse, and so left us on the road with one horse between two of us; we followed as well as we could, but being strangers, missed the way, and wandered a great way out of the road. Whether the man performed in reasonable time or not, we could not be sure, but if it had not been for an old priest, we had never found him. We met this man, by a very good accident, near a little village whereof he was curate : we spoke Latin enough just to make him understand us, and he did not speak it much better himself; but he carried us into the village to his house, gave us wine and bread, and entertained us with wonderful courtesy. After this he sent into the village, hired a peasant and a horse for my captain, and sent him to guide us into the road. At parting, he made a great many compliments to us in French, which we could just understand ; but the sum was, to excuse him for a question he had a mind to ask us. After