Trials and Errors of Joseph Primrose


1774. In the evening of life, when all the ambitious projects of youth have been happily fulfilled, or, peradventure, laid aside with the lowly prayer of resignation, “ Thy will, not mine, O Lord, he done! ” one can well afford to look back along the vista of vanished years and smile at the recollection of many disappointments which, at the time of occurrence, seem limned in the most glaring colors upon the desponding imagination, but which, like the pictures of certain unskilled painters, — at first coarse and gaudy in tone, — become mellowed down to a very bearable degree of softness under the kindly touch of Time. From a, vintage gathered in sorrow and privation in the season of youth hath flowed a golden peace for my declining years, and as I recall the hard but valuable lessons I have learned from the stern teacher, Adversity, I own I can scarce regret that sad and humiliating epoch in my otherwise uneventful life. Blessed with a more than common share of comfort, even luxury, in the post of chaplain to a serene and pious household, with a commodious and costly chapel in course of erection for my sole use and behoof, I hope I may be pardoned a perhaps too ready compliance with the request of my generous patrons that I should set down in writing for their amusement, and as they are pleased to say instruction, the account of my voyage to America in the year 1742; my aspirations, disappointments, and failures; and, finally, my deliverance from the depths of despair, when almost ready to pray for death itself to release me. I do not choose, in the following narrative, to pass over any of the circumstances connected with or leading to my journey across the seas; my honored mistress hath long known the secret of a young man’s folly and presumption, and will smile indulgently, I trust, when an old man tells the woful tale anew. As for her deceased father, the mention I shall venture to make concerning him in these pages can give to none, I am sure, the least disquiet, nor diminish by one jot the deep respect and veneration due to his memory.

It was not without much self-communing, long wrestling with the rebellious flesh, and prayerful seeking for guidance where’t is never denied, that I wrought my courage to the serious task of imparting to my cousin and patron, my Lord Fairthorn, my fixed resolve to enroll me an avowed though most unworthy disciple of the New Light under the instructions of the pious and learned Mr. George Whitefield, whose clear expoundings and fervent exhortations had at last awakened my slothful conscience and pricked it into life and action. I was the more reluctant to take this important step as I was under deep obligations to my kinsman, who had been at the charges of my education from the dame school to the university (I having been left an orphan and friendless at a tender age); and I had dwelt at free quarters within his gates both before and since my ordination as a minister of the church, receiving many sweet proofs of condescension from my Lady Fairthorn and her daughter the Lady Catharine, now the beloved consort of the excellent Lord Hare. Beside all this, I had the promise of a certain lucrative charge in my lord’s gift, which was expected to fall in at no very distant, date, and for which I was meanwhile qualifying myself whilst holding the responsible post of chaplain in my patron’s household. When I vent ure to call cousins with my Lord Fairthorn, I do not desire to mislead: I am well aware that, the kinship is in so remote a degree as to be matter for very small consideration in a family of so exalted a rank; but on the other hand, to wit, from my point of view, the connection was and is of no little importance. Thus ’twill be understood that ’t was not without a sore Struggle I had brought my courage to the signing the deathwarrant, as it were, of my temporal advancement. But here was I, at that time a young man of thirty, or thereabouts, abounding in health, strength, and zeal, fitted by nature to bear the burdens of those less favored, and by faith to point out the sure way to the short-sighted, — here, I say, was I eating and drinking to repletion of the best, lying softly by night and preaching dull sermons by day to my lord and lady, who not infrequently dozed comfortably through their delivery, to my very great chagrin and indignation, whilst even my Lady Kitty, though she kept her lovely eyes bent upon me in duteous attention, could not forbear toying furtively with the silken ears of her lap spaniel, yawning abstractedly the while under my very nose. Here was an easy, comfortable life to lead, everything arranged for my pleasure and profit, now and in the future, and I do not pretend to deny that the allurements of such a state are almost sufficiently powerful at any time of life to pervert the most honest intentions and to stifle the voice of conscience. But what, after all is said and done, is this vile body that we comfort and pamper into sleekness, and before which we continually lay offerings of meat, drink, and fine raiment, — what is it in comparison with the immortal soul, which goes starving and naked through life, and yet survives triumphantly when the object of all our sweet cares is become but a moldering mass of dust, fit only to be hurried away under-ground as a thing too unsightly and unsavory to meet the fastidious eye of man? This seasonable reflection proved a strong prop to me in my hour of trial, and I had sore need of some such support, for my lord in his displeasure not only set before me in forcible terms my most odious sin of ingratitude to his family for favors past and to come, but cunningly portrayed in lively colors the certain loss of pretty preferment, world’s goods, fair repute, and so forth; nor did he fail to remind me that the aforementioned living should never suffer disgrace at the hands of a common bawler in the public fields. This unhandsome epithet he was pleased to bestow upon me on my making allusion to my intention to expound the Scriptures in the open air, like Whitefield and others before me; and truly the picture that he was enabled to call up before my mind’s eye (from a great fluency he had in speaking) was so little enticing that my fainting soul had like to have fallen vanquished on the very threshold of regeneration. However, by a mighty effort of inward prayer 1 cast Satan behind me, and lifted my voice in testimony against the world, the flesh, and the devil, to such good purpose that my patron, in a very ecstasy of ungodly wrath, bade me get out of his sight and hearing until I should so order my conduct as to render me a fitting inmate of his family. In some distress of mind, but. with a sweet peace settling down upon my hitherto uneasy conscience, I clapped my hat upon my head and went forth into the streets, betaking myself to a small house of entertainment nigh at hand, where I sat me down, and, when the flurry of my spirits was somewhat abated, indited a respectful epistle to my patron, begging of his cousinly love that he would dispatch to me, per bearer, my small stock of theological works, as that I should have great need of them in the new life about to commence for me. I did not mention a word concerning my other belongings, not choosing to be further beholden to my kinsman than absolute necessity called for; the books, tracts, and so forth were mine own, but the clothes T wore were gifts of my lord, even to the very shoes upon my feet, and I had no mind to increase my obligations in that direction. However, with the books arrived a goodly packet of linen and other essentials, accompanied by a vituperative letter inclosing a ten-pound note and a recommendation to betake myself to the master whom I served (to wit, the devil) by whatsoever route best pleased myself, all paths being sure to bring me up in the same place in the end. My blood was so roused by the tone of this injurious epistle and its contemptuous inclosure (as like casting a bone to a beaten cur) that I lost no time in returning the obnoxious money to the donor, wrapped about with two of the most powerful of Mr. Whitefield’s sermons (those on Regeneration and Intercession), which proceeding so enraged my noble patron that, as I am credibly informed, he instructed his lackeys to cudgel the bones of the bearer of any future message from the same quarter without even the ceremony of an inquiry into the nature of his business. I, however, had no desire further to disturb the peace of my kinsman’s household, and now proceeded to take serious counsel with myself regarding my future maintenance. No time must be lost in idleness, for, on casting forth the contents of my purse upon the table before me, I found to my great, chagrin that the whole amount barely summed up a couple of guineas and a few odd shillings and pence, the poor remnant of a handsome fee paid me by an opulent flesher who served my lord’s larder, for the composition of a Latin pastoral, introducing cattle, sheep, swine, and so forth in the approved rustical manner, which ode the man intended to recite at the annual feast of his guild, without comprehending a word of the Latin tongue. As I sat lost in reflection on the smallness of my means, a great noise of ribald singing broke out in the adjoining room, whence, indeed, much loud talking and laughter had already issued, and I started to my feet as blasphemous words, fit to make a decent man’s hair rise upon his head, reached thy offended ears. Resolving in my quality as a minister of the gospel to set my face as a flint against all such devilish diversion, I hastily gathered up my money, and going to the door of the other apartment banged upon it without ceremony. Receiving no reply, I made bold to walk in uninvited, and presently found myself in the midst of a choice company indeed: half a dozen men seated about a table, each with a jug of spirits at his elbow; the air of the room a cloud of abomination from pipes of tobacco; and presiding proudly over the festivities a seafaring man of a goodly presence, but with a face flaming red, doubtless from the quantity of liquor he had imbibed. I had no sooner set eyes upon him than I remembered him perfectly well as a late frequenter of Mr. Whitefield’s open-air expoundings, where indeed he had always assumed an air of great edification. Now, to see him in such misbehaving company was a sad commentary on the infirmity of human nature, and I longed to pluck him as a brand from the burning. He arose as I came forward, and civilly invited me to be seated, explaining that he was entertaining a few of his friends, as was his custom, prior to setting out on his yearly voyage to the port of Philadelphia, — his vessel only awaiting the completion of her cargo to weigh anchor. At the mention of America a new thought came into my mind with the quickness of lightning, but postponing it to a more favorable season I set about relieving my conscience of the business I had come upon. So, declining the man’s offer as civilly as it had been made, I took my stand firmly, demanding that the utterer of the blasphemous song I had interrupted should be pointed out to me, to the end that a fitting rebuke might be then and there administered and the offender be perhaps turned from his scandalous courses. Upon this there arose such a disturbance, the company all jumping from their seats with loud outcries, that I might possibly have sustained bodily injury had not the ship’s captain called them to order, even offering, in his heat, to lend a whack on the ear of the first man who should lay so much as the tip of his finger on my coat. All sitting once more, the ship’s captain pulled me into a chair beside him, confessing handsomely that none other than himself was the culprit, adding that he was “ plaguey glad to be able to lay his sin to the bottle, an ancient enemy of his, and continually playing him some scurvy trick or other.”

He confessed, in fine, that gin-drinking was the only carnal indulgence he had not as yet been enabled to sacrifice to his sound religious convictions, adding, however, that he meant to take this evil habit well in hand as soon as he should be once more afloat, desiring my prayers and good wishes for his success in the forthcoming struggle. The man was so earnest in his self-upbraiding, and had taken my interference with such a perfect understanding of the intention, that I was vastly struck by his good sense and humility; so, rising from my seat, to the certain relief of the company, I took my leave without further parley, but not before I had appointed a meeting with the captain for the ensuing morning.


I got but small measure of sleep in my unaccustomed bed that night, and spent the long hours in turning over a certain project which was newly come into my mind, and upon the accomplishment of which I was fully bent: no less, in fact, than a journey across the seas to America, — a soil that Whitefield had lately turned up and sown with gospel seed, and that now lay ready for the blessed harvest of souls. London was become so distasteful to me, since the loss of all that had hitherto made it so precious, that I longed to shake its dust from my feet and hide myself in a far country from the unfeeling gaze and pointed finger of the scorner. I arose betimes in the morning, and waited impatiently until Captain Hewlett made his appearance, which he did in an hour or so, apparently not a whit the worser for his potations over night, although he professed to be mightily ashamed of himself. I found him to be a man of some parts and of a very particular soundness on doctrinal points. Indeed, he protested with most awful oaths that he was a religious man, and although at first his conversation, from its shocking profanity, caused my ears to burn outrageously, I was presently astonished to find myself becoming accustomed to his sea-faring manner of speech. I took care, however, not to allow a single trespass of this sort to pass without a fitting rebuke, so that my share in the conversation was occupied almost wholly in this manner, whilst he cursed and swore away his precious soul with the utmost unconcern. He had much that was cheering to tell me of the progress of the New Light in America, particularly in the town of Philadelphia, where Whitefield had preached to thousands, converting many and moving all by the wondrous power of his eloquence. There was yet, he said, a great work to be done in the New World, where the people were the more inclined to religion from the dearth of any excitement or amusement with which to relax their minds and bodies outside of working hours.

I was roused to such a pitch of enthusiasm by the man’s account that I opened my mind to him then and there, and was met with all the sympathy and encouragement that I could possibly desire. I frankly disclosed the dismal condition of my means, but he chose to make nothing of it., protesting that he should esteem it a favor, honor, and blessing to have me aboard his ship free of price, and that he looked to getting much profit from such decent companionship during the long evenings of this perilous voyage, the which he had hitherto wiled away with the aid of strong liquors and foolish books, to his very great detriment. Without much loss of time I now sallied forth to the lodging-house of the Rev. Mr. Whitefield, designing to take counsel with him concerning my new project and to ask of him letters to certain of his good friends in the town of Philadelphia. I learned, however, to my deep chagrin, that the reverend gentleman was in Scotland, purposing a stay of some weeks. To venture into an unknown country without the power to give a creditable account of my belongings was a sore trial, but to delay until Mr. Whitefield could communicate with me was to lose the free passage in Captain Hewlett’s ship, a matter not to be thought on under the circumstances. Returning to the inn in great perplexity, I was met by one of the servants, who whispered me that a young gentlewoman had just arrived with her maid in the chair then standing in the hall-way, and was awaiting my return in a private room above-stairs. My beating heart told me who this must be, and rushing up, two steps at a time, I found myself in the presence of my Lady Kitty, who sat by the window with a flushed face, her eyes full of tears. She came running to me (she was just eighteen, and distressingly lovely), giving me her two white hands, the which I kissed reverently, and “ Oh, cousin,” says she, “ thou wilt surely think me very bold, and indeed methinks I have done a forward thing in venturing here; but I did so fear that I might be forbidden to see thee or to speak to thee again, and I am bent upon telling thee that I do not think thee so wicked at all, for I too went once to Moorfields to hear the preaching of that good Mr. Whitefield whom you love, and I did so cry when I hoard tell of my sins. But thou must not tell of me, dost hear, cousin? ”

Now, was not this a sweet soul? Here she was, a tender young creature, her blue eyes looking so innocently into mine, her soft hands given so freely to my clasp; how did it happen that such joy and happiness were granted me? What had I done to deserve such condescension ? My heart so overflowed with pride and gratitude that I would fain have laid down my poor life then and there for this noble and gracious young lady, who had risked so much to give to her poor kinsman the sweet assurance of her sympathy. “ Nobody knows that I am come, cousin,” said she, as I led her to a seat., “ and I dare not stay long, for there is company bidden to dinner; but pray tell me what I shall do to serve thee. Alas! my honored father is bitterly angered against thee; he vows that he will never see thee more. Cousin, dost thou want for money? I can lend thee some. See here! I have a whole guinea. My mother gave it me in a birthday gift, and I have never changed it. Dost remember my last birthday feast, and the big plum-cake that made thee so dreadfully ill next day? ”

“ Honored lady,” said I, in great distress, “ put away thy guinea and let me, in Heaven’s name, lead thee to thy coach again; this place is not fit for one of thy condition.”

“Why, cousin,” said she, smiling through her tears, “ it seems that the place is good enough for thee, and I am not proud, as thou shouldst know. I find myself very well here indeed, but I protest thou art strangely anxious to have me gone. I had thought to give thee a pleasure, but have only brought thee pain; ” and she began to pout, the tears flowing afresh. I was truly beside myself with perplexity, for, as may be surmised, I was and had been for more than a year past in a perfect agony of love for this young creature, but had sooner plucked my tongue out by the roots than allow her the least suspicion of it. Ungrateful and contumacious I might be in a matter concerning my spiritual welfare, but never the base hound to turn upon and rend the master who had showered so many benefits upon me. At the sight of my young lady’s distress I was smitten with such a pang of love and longing as went nigh to betray my desperate condition and to ruin me forever. Cold shudders ran through and through me as she peeped at me over her kerchief, and my heart thumped loudly, such was the awful conflict betwixt man’s love and honor. Presently she broke into a girlish fit of laughter, as I verily believe at the spectacle of my disordered countenance, but as suddenly checked it, and, thrusting her kerchief into her side pocket, jumped from her seat and ran to the chimney glass to adjust her hood, and also, doubtless, the better to conceal the smiles that were dimpling her rosy cheeks.

Will it be believed? I found myself affronted at her innocent mirth, and bitterly mortified to be the occasion of it. Here was I, a minute ago, pained and affrighted at the sight of her tears, and now behold me wroth to perceive her comforted! Such a wretch was I become, and all through the elevating passion of love. Truly is the heart of man a most mysterious structure. At this moment came a smart rap upon the door, and, on my opening it, Captain Hewlett appeared with the news that all hands aboard the Polly were making ready to weigh anchor, and that she was expected to drop down stream in the course of the afternoon, should the present favorable wind hold out. “ Give me your bundle,” said he, good-naturedly, on seeing that I was engaged with company, “ and you can follow at your leisure, — that is, providing that you are still in the mind to go; ” and he winked and grinned over my shoulder into the room.

“ What is this? ” says my young lady, coming forward. “ Where art thou going, cousin ? What is it?” And she looked from me to the captain, who, on his part, was so ravished with the sight of her high - born beauty that he only stared with all his eyes, and never offered to open his mouth.

Suddenly a great uproar came from below, and the voice of the landlady clamored shrilly up the staircase: “ I tell you there is ne’er a gentlewoman in the whole house. Nobody is here but me and the reverend gentleman who lodges above, and no bullies shall go clattering in upon him, I promise you, until I get speech of him first; so you had as well content yourself below till I find whether he chooses to have you up.”

“ I tell you, woman, that I saw my daughter’s hood at the window, and I cannot be mistaken. Stand aside!” ’T was my lord’s voice, and at the sound Lady Kitty gave a faint cry and ran to the further end of the room, pale as death.

“ Your daughter’s hood, forsooth! ” cries the foolish woman. “ And pray is there ne’er a damson hood in the whole town but the one atop your daughter’s head ? ”

“ Who talked of damson hoods, hussy?” cries my lord, in a voice of thunder. “ Stand out of my way! Zounds, woman! move aside, I say, or I’ll pull your house about your ears! ” Before I could collect my senses my lord was on the stairs. I ran to the door to bar the way, but he was aforeliand with me. “ How now, dog! ” says he, drawing his sword with a clash and glitter that made my blood run cold, “ where is my child? Tell me, before 1 thrust your coward soul out of your body! Make way there!” and he rushed past me into the room.

Never shall I forget the look of rage and chagrin that shot from his eyes as he beheld his daughter, half dead with fright, in the arms of her woman, who on her part set up a great outcry at the sight of her master’s drawn sword. “ Oh, Catharine,” cries my lord, “can I believe my senses? What hast thou done, cruel, cruel girl?” and he sank into a chair, covering his eyes with his hand.

“ Oh, my dear, dear papa,” cried she, running to him and pulling down his hand, “ forgive your own Kitty for coming away without leave! Think, our poor cousin hath scarce a friend in the world but me ; thou art so angered against him that my mother dared not mention his name, and I did so want to comfort him a little. I meant to give him my guinea, only he won’t have it. Indeed, papa, I cannot forget that poor cousin taught me all I know, — my prayers and all; and some day, when I am married to a rich lord, — as I mean to be, — I shall give him a whole bag full of gold, so I will! ” and she kissed her father’s hand again and again, in the prettiest way, never dreaming that her childish prattle was stabbing to the quick the poor heart already bursting with its load of love and pain.

“ A bag full of gold? ” said my lord, drawing a great, deep breath, and lifting her on his knee with a loving smile. “ God bless thee, pretty wench; it must needs be a heart of stone that can resist thy coaxing,” and he folded her tenderly in his arms, scowling at me over her shoulder the while. “ And now, child, get thee home. And here, hark ye, hussy, leave off your noise, and take your mistress to her chair; d’ye hear? ”

“ But, papa, thou wilt not be hard with cousin Joseph, promise me now ; and pray let me bid him farewell. Be sure I’ll never forget thee, cousin.” With a smile she gave me her hand, which I held for a moment in mine without a word; a minute more and she was gone, leaving me in a depth of misery of which the recollection, even at this late day, causes my heart to stir and swell with a familiar feeling of the old pain. I cannot quite call to mind what followed; I think that there was further talk of money, and passion got quite the better of me. Well, ’t is best forgotten. The good captain led me away quite bewildered with wretchedness, and when I came out of my stupor it was midnight; we were tossing wildly on the waters, and all the horrors of a death-like nausea were added to the burden of my woes.


In those days — it is of the year 1742 I write — the American voyage was a much more serious undertaking than at the present time, when a swift-sailing packet crosses every six weeks or so. It will scarce be credited that we were well-nigh three months the plaything of wind and wave: now tossing about wildly, and, as it seemed to me, in defiance of chart and compass; anon lying becalmed for days, languishing vainly for a brisk breeze to send us forward cheerily, and to clear away the intolerable odor of bilge that pervaded our clothing and bed-furniture, and tainted every morsel we ate or drank. I was so long in recovering from my sea nausea that Captain Hewlett was sadly put about on my account, and brought, as I verily believe, all the remedies in his medicine chest to bear upon my ease, weighing out great doses from the printed directions he kept by him, — I looking on languidly from the berth where I lay, — and going nigh to murder me outright by the mistakes into which his affectionate zeal occasionally led him. More than four weeks passed by before I was able to leave my bed; but a couple of Dover’s powders, which at first brought me to the very verge of dissolution, were the means by which I was finally restored to health, and in the fifth week of our voyage I was walking about the deck of the vessel, a thing of skin and bones, surveying the “wonders of the mighty deep.” I now took the sensible resolution to put from me, in the future, all thoughts concerning the passion of love, doubting not that with the powerful aid of prayer and by dint of persistent meditation on religious subjects I should soon he enabled to get the better of this sweet foe to my peace. But alas! notwithstanding all my praiseworthy intentions, it seemed that banker I must, and for months there was scarce an hour in the day but the enchanting figure of my sweet mistress floated before my mind’s eye, tantalizing me with visions of impossible happiness, and making of me a creature for self-scorn and reprobation. As soon as I was able to bold forth, prayers and worship were set afoot, and I hope, at this late day, that ’twill not be accounted as boastful if I set down here the statement that my labors aboard the Polly were not allowed to go unrewarded. More thanhalf the godless, unregenerate crew were brought to a full sense of their perilous condition,— tottering, as it were, on the brink of the awful pit, their mouths full of blasphemy, and their hearts hard as the nether millstone. It was a heavenly sight to see those strong, weather-worn men kneeling round about me on the bare deck of the vessel, and ejaculating with choking sobs and sighs, “ God be merciful to me a sinner!” It was a season of great refreshment, and I was so encouraged by this first triumph of my ministry that I felt myself secretly puffed up and exalted, projecting still greater conquests when I should be in the way to exhort multitudes, thus losing sight of the work in vainglorious anticipations for the worker. Truly did a great pride go before a most grievous fall. There were aboard the Polly several of the crew who viewed our religious exercises askance. These men bad been foremost in a general indignant uprising that had ensued upon the stoppage of their daily allowance of rum, which step had been taken on my earnest recommendation. For this injurious drink we had substituted a harmless and refreshing beverage concocted of molasses, vinegar, and water, from a choice recipe T had come upon in a medical book aboard the vessel. The sailors, to a man, refused to touch it, estred on by these contumacious fellows, and more especially by one Springer, a daring villain, who reviled me with bitter execrations. In fine, the captain was obliged, for our own safety, to restore the cherished dram, and I had the mortification to find myself, from that time forth, an object of dislike and suspicion to these men, who were kept within decent bounds only by their respect for their master. I became convinced, on reflection, that I had gone the wrong way about this unfortunate piece of business, having, in fact, made a very serious error in the beginning, gentle argument and good example being more apt to bring about the desired end than compulsory measures, these dulling the understanding by rousing the temper, especially among persons of the meaner sort.

All my efforts — and they were not few — to place myself upon a friendly footing with these men wore of no avail; they had conceived the notion that. I was their enemy, and met all my advances with obstinate coldness. As Captain Hewlett exacted the daily attendance at prayers of every soul on board, these knaves were compelled to be on hand with their fellows, but they rarely failed to conduct themselves with such indecent levity as made me rue their presence, playing covertly at. cat’s - cradle, jackstraws, and what not, besides grinning familiarly in my face whenever they could contrive to catch my eye. This unseemly behavior, which I thought a very great trial at the time, sank into nothing, however, when compared with the serious injury they were enabled to do me afterwards; and to this day I doubt not. that their plans for my overthrow were being laid at the very time I was striving to implant in their stubborn hearts some seeds of repentance, and watching vainly for the first faint signs of sprouting grace.

It was about the break of a beautiful day in the month of June that the Polly entered the Delaware River, and coming up to Philadelphia before a stiff breeze anchored at High Street, wharf an hour or two before sunset. Leaving the vessel in charge of his mate, Captain Hewlett led the way to a decent dwelling on Second Street, where dwelt one Mistress Prinkett, a wholesome widow of the middle age, who was used to board and lodge the captain in his visits to Philadelphia. She readily agreed to take me under her roof at a moderate charge, and I soon found myself bestowed in a neat chamber smelling most enticingly of clean sun-aired linen and dried lavender. On the following morning I waited upon one Mr. Benjamin Franklin, a printer of some weight and importance in the town, and of whose controversial dispositions I had frequently heard Mr. Whitefield speak with sorrow. He had, however, been a good friend to the reverend gentleman during his stay in Philadelphia, and I thought I might best serve my cause by introducing myself to his notice without delay.

I was most cordially received by that remarkable man, with whom, indeed, I have ever since maintained a friendly commerce, although I was never able to get the better of his persistent spiritual blindness, he being always ready to serve me in any way save the admitting the truth of my arguments in favor of predestination, — a dogma that I have seen again and again exemplified, even as concerns the affairs of this life. We had much pleasant talk together, and he agreed to insert in his paper, the Gazette, a notice to the effect that “the Reverend Joseph Primrose, newly arrived out of England, purposed the delivery of a discourse on the Comparative Nothingness of Works to such as might choose to repair to Society Hill on the following Friday evening at six o’clock.” This was Tuesday, and much of the time that intervened betwixt that day and Friday was spent by me wrestling in prayer and striving to divert my mind from the dwelling too much on earthly success, for I was yet full of the old vainglory and carnal longings for renown.

When the eventful day was come round, Captain Hewlett was suddenly called away to New Castle on urgent business touching the disposition of a part of his cargo. This was a sore disappointment to us all, but there was no remedy for it, the matter pressing. Mistress Prinkett and myself walked over to the Hill at the appointed hour, I engaging privately in prayer by the way, so that I was more than once in the mire, my companion not venturing to call my abstracted attention to the dry places. A goodly assemblage awaited me, and as I came forth on the balcony of the house whence I was to discourse, and beheld the multitude sitting and standing round about me, I could not forbear secretly thinking of John the Baptist preaching in the wilderness, whereby such an exaltation of soul possessed me, such a fullness of mingled pride and joy distended my heart, that I gushed forth in prayer like a stream that bursts its bounds and carries all before it. During the exhortation that followed the people listened with becoming attention, but toward the close began to be distracted by the movements of some unmannerly fellows who had just arrived with a great clatter and were elbowing their way to the front with a vast deal of dexterity. The moment I clapped eyes upon them I knew them for the sailors who had so persecuted me aboard the Polly, and my heart sank at the bare sight of them. The discourse being ended, these knaves now joined in the beautiful hymn that followed, singing, or rather bawling, ribald words of their own to the sacred tune, scandalizing the older portion of the assembly and bringing some of the young people in their vicinity to great disgrace, they being led into unseemly mirth against their wishes. In fine, the villains conducted themselves with such flagrant indecency that a gentleman near by sternly bade them hold their peace or be taken into custody on the spot. This rebuke only served to make matters worse, for one of the party, the miscreant Springer, whipped a cutlass from his belt, and offered to cut at the gentleman, swearing such awful oaths that I well-nigh lost my presence of mind, especially at the sight of a naked weapon, so unsuited to the gravity of the occasion. With a mighty effort I roused my courage, and declared firmly that the exercises should proceed no further until these fellows were driven from the ground. A dozen hands were ready to execute the sentence, when Springer cried aloud, with devilish malice, “ Down with the Jesuit! Drag the wolf out of his sheep-skin and duck him in the creek! Don’t you know a Papist when you see him ? ’ ’ On this arose the most horrible clamor to be conceived this side of Bedlam. “ A Jesuit! A Jesuit!” resounded on all sides. Females screamed, children were trampled, and men vociferated, shaking their fists at me and cursing me for an impostor. The better class of people made haste to escape from the throng, but the evildisposed remained, greeting me with a shower of mud, sticks, and stones when I attempted to make myself heard above the din. At length I was compelled to retire for very bodily safety, and joined Mistress Prinkett below-stairs, she having taken refuge in the house at the beginning of the outbreak. The windows were smashed before the shutters could be put up, and having sated their rage the rabble set off in the direction of the town, but it was night ere the coast was cleared and we could venture forth, — I with the sorest heart, sure, that ever beat in man’s bosom, and Mistress Prinkett in vain striving to rouse my flagging spirit, beaten down to the dust in the very moment of success. Could the malice of fiends imagine a more diabolical revenge? No blessed sleep came to my relief that night: I could not close my eyes but horrid yells of “ Drag down the Jesuit! ” rang in my ears; bright lights danced fitfully before me in the pitchy darkness; my heart beat with leaden thumps; my hands and feet seemed made of ice; whilst the awful wauling of a homeless cat beneath the windows froze my very blood with horror. With what a sick yearning my disordered thoughts flew to that elegant and secure household whence I had been driven forth to wander, like Cain, upon the face of the earth! How I longed for the refined sympathy and companionship of the gracious ladies my kinswomen ! And the torturing reflection that I was now probably cut off forever from all hope of rejoining that elevated circle in which I had once basked with such carnal security filled my soul with unspeakable anguish. Hope died within my breast, and — will it be credited ? — religion was no longer a compensation to my wounded spirit. With the dawning of a beautiful day came relief from the horror that oppressed me; as the first streaks of early morning stole into the chamber I crept from my bed, and, after pouring forth my sorrows in prayer for an hour or so, rose from my knees wondrously lightened in mind and body. In the course of the forenoon Mr. Franklin waited upon me, and, expressing his deep regret at the affront that had been put upon me, strongly urged me to abandon all further intention of preaching for some time to come, — the prejudice against Roman Catholics being so universal at that time in Philadelphia that the towns-people were ready to bolt doors, bar windows, and gather theirchildren about their knees at the mention of the name of Jesuit, be it never so undeservedly bestowed. Though loth to be convinced of the soundness of this counsel, I could not but admit that my entire lack of letters, credentials, and the like might render it an extremely difficult matter for me to disprove the charge of papistry if brought in due form, and so reluctantly agreed to postpone my appointed task for the present, Mr. Franklin offering to give me a little work from his office to enable me to preserve a becoming independence till the times should mend. After the good man had taken his leave, I found myself greatly disordered in body, having taken a painful crick in the back of my neck, probably from standing too long in the wet shoes I had gotten the preceding day on my way to the Hill. Peggy, the maid, was had up with a hot sad-iron to heat the affected part, but Mistress Prinkett did so confound the poor wench with manifold directions that, the cloth shifting, she clapped the thing upon my bare skin, burning me a place twice the bigness of a penny piece, and causing me excruciating pain. The neighbors were roused by the noise that ensued, for Peggy, on the strength of it, thought proper to fall into a hystericky fit, like her betters, probably to be rid of a chiding. People flocked to the door, all agog to learn what sort of doings were on hand at the house where the Jesuit lodged, and Mistress Prinkett had much ado to prevent their entering the premises, so eager were they for startling and horrid revelations. The accident being fully explained from the window, the crowd dispersed with evident discontent, whilst Mistress Prinkett, entirely overcome, seated herself and, putting up her apron, broke into a fitof bitter weeping. My distress was now become almost insupportable, for I doubted not that the poor woman was lamenting the folly she had committed in giving the shelter of her roof to such a Jonah as I had proved to be, and, although scarce able to turn my head from the pain I was suffering, I very properly made offer to remove myself to some other place, as I had no mind to bring discredit upon a decent household. The good matron, however, protested that she would not hear to such a step, and, bravely drying her tears, went away to the kitchen to prepare a healing poultice to soothe the anguish of my hurt.


On the following day a “Hue and Cry ” was printed and the town officer instructed to ferret out and take into custody the authors of the late outrage; but although the houses about the waterside, where ’t was thought they would go into hiding, were well searched, nothing was heard of them, and Captain Hewlett, who had meanwhile returned, held the opinion that they had left the town without loss of time, shipping possibly aboard a West Indian vessel that had cleared the following morning.

About the beginning of September, the Polly, having taken on her cargo, set out on the return voyage to England, bearing away from my straining gaze one of the best friends, sure, man ever had on earth. I sent no letter or message to my old home, for what had I to tell that could give the least satisfaction to any that loved me, and why gratify my enemies by the dismal tale of failure? However, I begged of Captain Hewlett that he would send to me, by the earliest opportunity, what tidings he should be able to glean concerning my kinsman’s family, the which he readily promised to do. I contrived, during the ensuing four months, to defray the charges for my board and lodging, Mr. Franklin continuing to send me such odd jobs of work as he could spare; but that gentleman setting out on a journey to Boston in the month of January, his foreman took it upon himself to deprive me entirely of employment, alleging that there was now no more work coming in than sufficed to keep the journeyman and two apprenticed lads in the proper occupation of their time. ’T was a piece of petty spite, the man having taken affront at a friendly remonstrance on my part touching the profanity of his language, a matter wherein he habitually offended; doubtless he hath since seen reason to regret his hasty action. At this juncture Mistress Prinkett had a good opportunity to rent out the room I occupied in her house to a newly married pair, who were willing to pay nearly twice the sum for it that i could afford; and, though loth to disoblige me, the good woman could not forbear mentioning the matter in my hearing, saying at the same time that she had a small room in the roof, containing a cot-bed and chair or two, where a person not overly nice might be comfortable at a trifling charge. I seized upon the hint at once, and betook me to this apartment, — if such it might be called, — deeming myself mighty fortunate to have it at the small price, although I sorely missed the little fire by which I was used to read and meditate in the evenings in my old chamber, there being no chimney-place in that I had removed to; the wind, too, whistled shrilly through chink and cranny, even lifting the boards of the flooring on hard nights, till I was more than once half frozen as I lay in my bed. About this time, my worsted stockings being nigh given out, despite the several skeins of wool I had been at the pains to darn into the soles, 1 laid by all the cash 1 had in hand as the nucleus of a sufficient sum with which to purchase new pairs, seeing that my feet must otherwise be on the bare leather before many weeks should elapse. The disastrous stoppage of my sole source of maintenance put me at my wits’ end, and I actually had it in serious consideration to offer my services as a sort of porter to one of the great warehouses about the wharves, when a circumstance occurred that diverted my mind from personal anxieties for a season. One morning a message was fetched me, to the effect that a person then languishing of a desperate complaint at the Sailor’s Rest, a small tavern at the water-side, greatly desired to have speech with me, — the matter pressing. I followed the messenger to that place, and was greatly shocked to find myself brought into the presence of my old enemy Springer, who turned his dull eyes upon me from the squalid bed whereon he lay, and entreated my forgiveness in an humble and broken voice. I was so disordered at the sight of this man and at the recollection of the horrid mischief he had wrought me that my heart grew hard as a flint; but, thanks be to God, ’t was only for a moment, for I was presently enabled to get the better of Satan, and falling contritely upon my knees prayed no less fervently for myself than for mine adversary. I found, upon inquiry, that he had been desperately cut in a brawl with his comrades on the night following the outrage at the Hill, and those miscreants, fleeing the town before morning, had left him in the tavern, where he had lain in hiding ever since, his wound refusing to close. He was in sore need of proper nourishment and medicines, and feeling that he was drawing nigh the end of his career had sent for me, in order to be forgiven ere it should be too late. Here was a work that exactly jumped with my humor; full of love and compassion, I yearned over the poor, forsaken creature, and set about bettering his condition at once, lest he should slip from my hands ere he was come to a full sense of the awful peril in which he stood, and be totally lost for want of a little time for repentance. As may be surmised, I thought no more of new stockings, but laid out my hoarded money in the purchase of suitable food and drink to support the poor sinner in his groping quest for his Lord and Master. At first he was much more concerned about the disposition of his body after death than the ultimate fate of his soul; but I soon fetched him to another way of thinking, and in a week or so he made such an edifying end as gives me a vast satisfaction to reflect upon, even after the lapse of thirty years. This circumstance was a great refreshment to me in such a season of perplexity and privation, and I have no doubt that ’t was brought about for that especial end, for a merciful Providence never leaves us to utter despair, as I have had occasion to observe time and again in the course of my experience.

It was a sad business, though, concerning my stockings; the darns began to intrude above the backs of my shoes, and I could not always remember to stand face front to the enemy; ’t is too paltry a part for a man of brains to play, and although I can smile now when I think on the unmanly straits to which I was then reduced, I can certify that I did not feel merry at the time. The wonderful death-bed conversion of Springer had drawn a great number of people of the common sort, about the tavern where he died, and I had delivered an awakening sort of discourse over his remains to a vast assemblage, making, as I judged, no small impression upon the consciences of those benighted beings. This put me upon thinking whether a great work might not be performed in this humble direction, and I was in deep consideration of the matter when an English ship coming into port brought me a letter from Captain Hewlett, containing news of sorrowful yet joyful import: no less, in fact, than the marriage of my Lady Kitty Fairthorn to that friend and patron of the Wesleys, the pious young Lord Hare, one of the most considerable noblemen in the kingdom. I have the letter before me now, and can well recall the strange medley of contending feelings with which I read its contents. “ You will wonder,” wrote the captain, “ that my lord would give his daughter to so lax a churchman as my Lord Hare, but allow me to tell you that a man with ten thousand pounds a year purchases the right to think as he pleases. He first saw my lady at Moorfields, where she was gone on the sly with her mother to hear Mr. Whitefield expound, and ’t is said he made up his mind to be after her on the spot.”

I could not but reflect long and bitterly on the open inconsistency that consigned one man to perdition for venturing to follow the teachings of his own conscience, whilst rewarding another of precisely similar opinions with the choicest gift of fortune. Envy and jealousy, indeed, found no place in my heart, for was she not the bride of the man of her choice? and what more could be wished for her, even by those who loved her fondest? But ’t was a long time ere I could dwell with even decent composure upon that enticing picture of newly wedded happiness. Must there always be hungry, shivering wretches, who wander in the cold and darkness outside the house of happiness, snatching now and then only a hasty glimpse of the feasting and merry-making going on within? In those days, I gnawed my dry crust with., I humbly hope, a not unthankful heart, but dare 1 assert that its savor was sweet in my mouth? I had gotten a hurt that took away, for a season, all relish for wholesome food, — a hurt of which but a slight scar now remains, and which throbs occasionally with a not all-unpleasant memory of pain, as I sit a hale and happy old man basking before my evening fire.


I now entered into consultation with the landlord of the Sailor’s Rest concerning the delivery of a series of discourses from the balcony over the tavern door. He seemed a civil and obliging person, and met my proposition with astounding heartiness; but observe the sequel. I was greatly in the mind to take up my lodging in his house, Mistress Prinkett’s neighbors eying my poverty-stricken appearance somewhat askance of late, and I was loth to cause that excellent person the least inconvenience; but she opposed the notion so obligingly that I forbore to make further mention of it. Would that I had carried out my intention, for, being on the spot, I should the sooner have perceived the mischief of which I was about to become the occasion. I cannot here forbear casting a retrospective glance at the singular appearance I must have made in the streets of Philadelphia at this time. Pale and lean (I had shrunken strangely in flesh of late), wrapped about with an ancient brown roquelaure, its color in nowise improved by copious drencliings of salt water gotten aboard ship, my stockings curiously needle-worked about the ankles, my shoes (loose and shapeless from long wear) clattering abominably as I walked, it is small wonder that I rarely took the air without a delighted rabble at my heels. But my mind was so intent upon the business I now had in hand that personal vanity was quite laid asleep; observe, I do not say dead, for of all human weaknesses that, I think, survives longest, else why, at this late day, do I strut proudly forth in silk and linen, when better men content themselves with woolen and not a few must needs go bare?

’T was now about the middle of February. and the weather being extremely inclement, I got but a meagre attendance during the first week or two of my expoundings; but as the season advanced the assemblage increased, and in the course of a month or so I had the satisfaction to exhort upwards of three hundred persons daily, — all, however, of the meaner sort. This, of course, gave me no disquiet, it being a pleasing work to scatter seed in such ground, and one for which I concluded I must surely be fitted, as I had had no sort of success in any other quarter. I was, however, sorely troubled by my extreme straitness of means at this time, numerous cases for charity coming under my notice that I was utterly powerless to relieve, and many a bitter pang did I puffer in being unable to provide for the pressing wants of my poor people. Although I now procured a little work from a scrivener, through the unfailing kindness of Mr. Franklin, the proceeds no more than sufficed to pay the charges for my board and lodging, and I was never able to command more than a penny or two to disburse to the most necessitous; however, my ministry in this direction soon came to untimely end. A West Indian vessel coming into port about the middle of. April, and a horde of roystering sailors gathering in the common room of the Sailor’s Rest to drink spirits and throw dice, I announced a discourse on the subject of gin-guzzling, choosing one that I had delivered aboard the Polly, and which seemed to fit the occasion to a nicety. No sooner had the landlord seen the notice to this effect that I had attached to his door-cheek than he sends for me to repair to the tavern without loss of time, and on my appearing in great haste comes blustering up to me in a most offensive manner, demanding if I purposed the ruin of his trade by the putting forth of such a mischievous paper; adding, with astounding audacity, that he should certainly lose all the custom I had been the means of fetching to his house did I persist in my intent. Mark the cunning of the knave: he had encouraged my labors for none other purpose than the bringing of fresh grist to his mill, and here was I blindly leading precious souls to destruction, the poor dupe of a specious villain, — a wretch without bowels. My agony of mind on being thus suddenly enlightened was of such a desperate sort that, gnashing my teeth, I leaped upon the miscreant, and, hearing him to the ground with an awful crash, beat him about the head and shoulders with the stout cane I carried, and with such good will that I presently found myself lying in the town jail, covered with the blood of my enemy, and every bone in my body aching from the unaccustomed exercise. I was in such a frenzy that I doubt I had the proper use of my wits for a while; but when I at length realized all the horror of my situation, the bitter humiliation and disgrace I felt had like to have made au end of me then and there. All was now over for me in America. I could never hope to regain the ground I had lost in being haled away by the hair of the head to durance vile, like a common malefactor. Truly was I as forlorn and friendless a creature as any the world ever saw. My clothing had been rent beyond repair in the shameful struggle, and, yet worse, one of my shoes was gone, how and where I knew not; and although I promised the jailer’s little lad a penny in the event of his finding it, nothing was ever heard of it from that, day to this. One thought alone cheered me in the dark abyss into which I was fallen: I had administered wholesome and righteous correction in proper season; hip and thigh had I hewed my enemy, and to reflect upon that was as a healing balm to my sore bones. During the afternoon Mistress Prinkett arrived, quite disheveled, and drowned in tears of compassion. That good creature had already been at the trouble to wait upon Mr. Franklin, who had promised to see the mayor of the town as soon as might he, to bespeak his kindly interest in my sad case, feeling pretty confident of my speedy enlargement when that official should come to hear the true statement of the matter. I was so heartened by the certainty that good friends were stirring in my behalf that I had most refreshing sleep that night, notwithstanding the comfortless nature of the bed I lay upon. Next morning, the jailer, a man of kindly dispositions, lent me the Journal (a new weekly paper, printed by one Bradford), and behold! the first thing my eye lit upon was a ribald account of the sad transaction of the preceding day, portraying it as a “ drunken brawl,” in which a certain notorious Jesuit had figured in company with the keeper of a tavern of bad repute on the wharves, giving such a false version of the affair that my reputation — had 1 any left at that time, which is something doubtful — was ruined forever as far as concerned the town of Philadelphia. After poring over this shameless account with feelings I care not to dwell on, I threw myself recklessly across my bed, and sank into a sort of dull lethargy, not even thinking to seek comfort where I had never yet failed to find it, a prey to a sullen despair, from which the certainty of immediate dissolution would have been absolute relief. I scarce, know how long I lay thus, but the day was far advanced when Mr. Franklin appeared, and with him Mr. Till, the good mayor, who had made the proper inquiries concerning the matter in hand, and who, being satisfied of the iniquitous part the landlord of the Sailor’s Rest had played in the business, was pleased to grant me immediate release, the villain declining to come into court to testify against me, well knowing that the day could not fail to go against him. We sallied forth from the. jail, and indeed’t was time, for affairs were come to such a desperate pass with me that. I really think my wits were on the eve of departure. Howbeit,

I was soon bestowed snugly in Mistress Prinkett’s best feather bed, a comfortable dish of tea at my elbow, and the faithful woman herself nigh at hand to minister to my wants. “And now,” says she, “ now, reverend sir, I think I may venture to give you certain news that I dared not mention sooner. This morning I had a letter from Captain Hewlett inclosing another for yourself; but before you break the seal I think it my duty to prepare you in some degree for the contents, which are not wholly unknown to me. In the first place, you must know that the captain hath been with my Lady Hare; she spied him from her coach windows, and knowing him on the instant condescended to invite him within that she might learn news of you. The captain could not forbear, when once she got her eye upon him, giving her a full account of matters as far as he knew, and he writes that the sweet young lady wept most prettily on itThen, my Lord Fairthorn is dead of a fit these two months, and my lady is lodging with her daughter.” Thus saying, Mistress Prinkett put the letter she had drawn from her side pocket upon the bed, and stepped softly out of the chamber, leaving me well-nigh stunned with the suddenness and nature of the news she had communicated. ’T was more than a few minutes ere I was sufficiently calmed to break the seal of the letter, which was in my dear young mistress’s hand, and inclosed a goodly sum of money, —— praying also my ret urn to England without delay, her loving lord having granted her leave to tender me the post of chaplain in his own household, there to partake of the sweets of family affection, and to expound the gospel according to the blessed tenets of the New Light. A flood of sunshine burst into my darkened soul and lit up every nook and corner there, and slipping out of my bed I fell upon my knees, crying aloud, “ O God, thy wondrous goodness droppeth upon me as a mantle, hiding all mine infirmities from the eyes of mine enemies; in my extremity, when I sought thee not, thou didst not forsake me, and I will continue to praise thy name forevermore! ”

Mrs. C. M. Town.