The London Spy (1703)

Ward, Edward
Frontispiece of The fourth part of Vulgus Britannicus: or, the British Hudibras. Printed: and sold by James Woodward, in St. Christopher's Church-Yard, near the Royal Exchange; and John Morphew, near Stationers-Hall (London), 1710.


"Then with a Hop, Stride, and Jump, ascended the Stair-Head before us, and from thence conducted us to a spacious Room, where about a dozen of my School-fellows Acquaintance were ready to receive us: Upon our Entrance they all started up, and on a suddain screw’d themselves into so many Antick Postures, that had I not seen them first Erect, I should have query’d with my self, whether I was fall­en into the Company of Men or Monkeys."

After a tedious Confinement to a Coun­try Hutt, where I dwelt like Diogenes in his Tub, or an Owl in a Hollow-Tree, taking as much delight in my Books, as an Alchymist does in Bellows; till tired with Seven Years search after Knowledge, I began to reckon with my self for my Time; and examine what a Solomon my diligent En­quiry into the uncertain Guesses of our Fore-Fathers had made me; but soon fell upon the Opinion of So­crates, and found my self as much the Wiser, as if, like the Looby Achilles, I had spent my Hours at a Distaff.

This was no little Vexation to a Man of my Genius, to find my Brains loaded to no purpose, with as many Antiquated Tringum Trangums as are lodg’d in the Whimsical Noddle of an Old Astrologer, and yet could make ’twice Ten no more than Junior Soph, or a Chalk Accountant. These Reflections put me into as great a Passion with my self, as a Beau when he dawbs his Clothes, or makes a false step in the Salutation of his Mistress, that I resolv’d to be no longer Aristotle’s Sumpter-Horse, or, like a Tinkers-Ass, carry a Budget for my Ancestors, stuff’d full of their Frenzical Notions, and the Musty Conceits of a parcel of dreaming Prophets, fabulous Poets, and old doating Philosophers; but shifted them off one by one, with a Fig for St. Austinand his Doctrines, a Fart for Virgil and his Elegancy, and a T—d for Descarts and his Philosophy: Till, by this means, I had rid my Brains of those troublesome Crotchets, which had rais’d me to the Excellence of being half Fool and half Madman, by studying the weighty difference between Up-side-down and Top-side-turvey, or to be more knowing in some such Nicety, than the rest of my Neighbours.

At last, I thank my Stars, I turn’d by Back-side upon Times-past, and began, like a wary Traveller, to look before me; and now having recover’d my Native Liberty, I found an Itching Inclination in my self to visit London; and to shun the Censure of my Sober Country Friends, I Projected, for their Satis­faction, and my own Diversion, the following Journal, wherein I purpose to expose the Vanities and Vices of the Town, as they shall by any Accident occur to my knowledge, that the Innocent may see by Reflection, what I should gain by Observation and Intelligence, and not by Practice or Experience. With this Design I pursu’d my Journey, and the Second Day enter’d our Metropolis, with as much Wonder and Amazement, as the Hatfield-Fiddler did Old-Nicks Palace, in the time of the Christmas Holy-days. I had just pas’d thro’ Aldgate, like a Ball thro’ a Port of a Billiard-Table, but by good Fortune met an old School-fellow, whom I found had laid down the Gown, and took up the Sword, being Trick’d up in as much Gaiety as a Dancing-Master upon a Ball-day, or a Young Sheriff at a County-Assizes. After we had mutually dispatch’d our Complements to each other, and I had Awkwardly return’d, in Country Scrapes, his All-a-mode Bows and Cringes, he would needs prevail with me to Dine with him at a Tavern hard by, with some Gentlemen of his Acquaintance, which I, being an utter Stranger in the Town, very readily Embrac’d. He enter’d the Tavern first, like a Young ’Squire attended with his Fathers Chaplin; for a Black Coat and Band, are as great signs of a Parson or a Pe­dagogue, as a Blew-Frock is of a Butcher or a Tallow-Chandler. Besides, my Hat, by often handling, being tug’d into the Canonical Flap, I look’d like a Dea­con who had laid by his Crape, in order to the Re-baptising of his Soul in Claret, without the danger of being seen Staggering in his Faith, to the Scandal of his Function.

As soon as we came near the Bar, a thing started up all Ribbons, Lace and Feathers, and made such a Noise with her Bell and her Tongue together, that had half a dozen Paper-Mills been at work within three Yards of her, they’d have been no more than so many Lutes to a Drum, or Ladies Farts to a Peal of Ordnance, which alarm’d Two or Three nimble heeld Fellows aloft, who shot themselves down Stairs with as much Cele­rity as a Mountebanks Mercury upon a Rope from the top of a Church-Steeple, every one charged with a mouthful of Coming, Coming. This suddain clutter at our Appearance, so surpriz’d me, that I look’d as Silly as a Bumpkin Translated from the Plough-Tail to the Play-House, when it Rains-Fire in the Tempest, or when Don John’s at Dinner with the Subteranean Assembly of terrible Hobgoblins. He that got the start, and first approach’d us, of these Grey-hound-footed Emissaries, desir’d us to walk up, telling my Companion, his Friends were above. Then with a Hop, Stride, and Jump, ascended the Stair-Head before us, and from thence conducted us to a spacious Room, where about a dozen of my School-fellows Acquaintance were ready to receive us: Upon our Entrance they all started up, and on a suddain screw’d themselves into so many Antick Postures, that had I not seen them first Erect, I should have query’d with my self, whether I was fall­en into the Company of Men or Monkeys.

This Academical Fit of Rigling Agility was almost over, before I rightly understood the meaning on’t; and found at last, they were only showing one another how many sorts of Apes Gestures, and Fop’s Cringes, had been invented since the French Dancing-Masters under­took to teach our English Gentry to make Scaramou­ches of themselves; and how to Entertain their Poor Friends, and Pacify their Needy Creditors, with Complements and Congies. When every Person, with abundance of Pains, had shown the Ultimate of his Breeding, contending about a quarter of an hour, who should sit down first, showing great want of a Herauld to fix us in our proper Places, which with much difficulty being at last agreed on, we proceeded to a Whet of Old Hock, to sharpen our Ap­petites to our approaching Dinner. Tho’, I confess (as to my own part) my Stomach was as keen already as a Grey-Hounds to his Supper after a Days Coursing, or a Miserly Livery-Man’s, who had fasted three days to prepare himself for a Lord-Mayors Feast. The Honest Cook gave us no Leasure to tire our Ap­petites, by a tedious expectancy; for in a little time the Cloth was laid, and our first Course was usher’d up by the Dominus Factotum, in great order to the Table, which consisted of two Calves-Heads and a couple of Geese; I could not but Laugh in my Conceit, to think with what Judgement the Caterer had provi­ded so lucky an Entertainment for so suitable a Company. After the Victuals was pretty well cool’d, in Complementing who should begin first, we all fell to; and Efaith I found by their Eating, they were no ways affronted at their Fare; for in less time than an Old Woman can crack a Nut, we had not left enough to Dine the Bar-Boy. The Conclusion of our Dinner was a Stately Cheshire Cheese, of a Groaning Size, of which we devour’d more in three Minutes, than a Million of Maggots could have done in three Weeks. After Cheese comes nothing; then all we desir’d was a clear Stage and no Favour; accordingly every thing was whip’d away in a Trice, by so cleanly a Conveyance, that no Jugler, by Virtue of Hocus Pocus, cou’d have conjur’d away his Balls with more Dexterity. All our empty Plates and Dishes were in an instant chang’d into full Quarts of Purple Nectar, and Unsullied Glasses: Then a Bumper to the King in General, another to the Church Establish’d in particular, a third left to the Whimsey of the Toaster, till at last their Slippery Engines of Ver­bosity, coin’d Nonsence with such a facil fluency, that a parcel of Alley Gossips at a Christening, after the Sack has gone twice round, could not with their Tattling Tormenters, be a greater Plague to a Fumbling God-Father, than their lame Jests and impertinent Cunnun­drums were to a Man of my Temper. Oaths were as plenty as Weeds in an Alms-House Garden, and in Triumph flew about from one to t’other, like Squibs and Crackers in Cheap-side, when the Cuckolds all-a-Row March in Splendour thro’ the City. But thanks to good Fortune, my Friend in a little time redeem’d me out of this Purgatory, perceiving my uneasiness, made an apology for our going; and so we took our Leaves. I offer’d to pay my Proportion, but the whole Body of the Society stood up, Nemine Contradicente, with a Thousand Thanks to me for my good Company; tho’ I had sat all the time as silent as a Quaker, unmov’d by the Spirit, at a Hum Drum Meeting. As we walk’d out we were attended by the whole Family to the Door, with as many Welcomes at our Arses, as a Man has Thank ye’s and Lord Bless ye’s, from a Gang of Mum­pers, for a Penniworth of Charity.

But as soon as we were got clear of our Noisie Flatterers, I began to ask of my Friend, what sort of generous Gentlemen those were who had so kindly Treated us? He smil’d at my Enquiry, and told me, I could scarce guess by what Measures they Bouy’d up such a seeming Grandeur. Did you take Notice (says he) of the Gentleman in a Blew Coat, Red-Stoc­kins, Silver-hilted Sword, and Edg’d-Hat, who sat at the upper end of the Table? He was a Sword-Hilt Ma­ker by his Trade, but prov’d so very Ingenious at his Tools, that he hath acquir’d the Art of Cutting Medals or Stamps, and is mighty great with most of the Bankers and topping Goldsmiths about Town; you may guess from thence how he employs his Talent: He keeps his Brace of Geldings, and a great many Brace of worse Cattle, living at the rate of a thousand Pounds a Year, and passes, to those that know him not, for a Gentleman of good account in the North of England; and his Bills will pass as Currant in Lombard-street as the best Merchants in the City.

There was a Handsome lusty young Fellow who sat next him, with a Wheel-Barrow full of Periwig on, and a whole piece of Muslin about his Neck, and stunk as strong of Orange-Flower-Water as a Spaniard does of Gar­lick. He was the other Day but a Wine-Coopers Pren­tice, and a brisk young Dame in the City, who was forced by her Father to Marry an Old Merchant for the sake of his Riches, maintains him in that Equipage you see, for supplying the Defects of her feeble Husband, and now he is grown so Prodigal, that he won’t wash his Hands in anything but Juice of Oranges and Hungary-Water, Dines every day at the Tavern, at the Play-House every Night, stirs no where without a Coach; and has his Fencing-Master, Dancing-Master, Singing-Master, French-Master, and is as Compleat a City Beau (notwithstanding he was bred to the Adds and Driver) as you shall see in Lombard-street Church of a Sunday, or in Drapers-Garden an Hour before Dinner-time.

If you observ’d, there was a little Demure Spark, in a Diminutive Cravat, and Fox-colour’d Wig, with a Hat as broad as an Umbrella, whose level Brims discover’d it was carefully preserv’d in that order by a Hat-Case and Smoothing-Iron: He seems greatly to affect Antiquity, you might see by his Garb, tho’ the Coat he has on has not been made above this two Months, yet he would have it in the Ancs­ient Mode, with little Buttons, round Cuffs, narrow Skirt, and Pockets within two Inches of the Bottom, as the most proper Fashion for his Business; and for all ’tis so scanty, he makes it serve him for a Cloak, with which it covers abundance of Shame, and a great deal of Knavery. He’s an Incomparable Herauld, and will give you an exact Ge­nealogy of most good Families in England; and has the Art of making himself a Kin, when he sees it convenient. To be short with you, he is one of those Gentile Mumpers we call Cadators; he goes a Circuit round England once a year, and under pretence of a Decay’d Gentleman, gets both Money and Entertainment at every good House he comes at. And if be has opportunity to handsomely convey away a Silver Beaker, or a Spoon or two, he holds no long dispute with his Conscience about the Honesty of the matter; Then comes up to Town, and enjoyes the be­nefit of his Rural Labours.

Another you needs must take particular notice of, that pluck’d out a pair of Pocket-Pistols, and laid them in the Window, who had a great Scar cross his Forehead, a twist­ed Wig, and lac’d Hat on; the Company call’d him Cap­tain; he’s a Man of considerable Reputation amongst Birds of the same Feather, who I have heard say thus much in his Praise, that he is as Resolute a Fellow as ever Cock’d Pistol upon the Road; and indeed I do believe he fears no Man in the World but the Hang-Man; and dreads no Death but Choaking. He’s as generous as a Prince, treats any Body that will keep him Company; loves his Friend as dearly as the Ivy does the Oak, will never leave him till be has Hug’d him to his Ruine. He has drawn in twenty of his Associates to be Hang’d; but had always Wit and Money enough to save his own Neck from the Halter. He has good Friends at Newgate, who give him now and then a Squeeze when he is full of Juice; and give him their Words to stand by him, which he takes as a Verbal Policy of In­surance from the Gallows, till he grows Poor thro’ Idle­ness, and then (he has Cunning enough to know) he may be Hang’d thro’ Poverty. He’s well acquainted with the Ostlers about Bishopsgate-street and Smithfield; and gains from them Intelligence of what Booties goe out that are worth attempting. He accounts them very honest Tikes, and can with all safety trust his Life in their Hands, for now and then Gilding their Palms for the good Services they do him. He pretends to be a Disbanded Officer, and reflects very feelingly upon the hard usage we poor Gen­tlemen meet with, who have hazarded our Lives and For­tunes for the Honour of our Prince, the Defence of our Coun­try, and Safety of Religion; and after all to be Broke without our Pay, turn’d out without any consideration for the dangers and difficulties we have run thro’; at this rate, Wounds who the Devil wou’d be a Soldier? As such sort of Cant he is excellent, and utters himself with as little He­sitation, and as great Grace as a Town-Stallion when he Dissembles with his Generous Benefactress, who believes all he says to be as true as the Gospel.

He that sat over-against him, in the Plate-button’d Suit and White-Beaver Hat, is a kind of an Amphibe­ous Rascal, a Compound of two sorts of Villany; He is one half Town-Trap, and the other half Sweetner. He always keeps at his beck three or four handsome young Wenches, well Equip’d, and in good Lodgings, who are all Modesty without, and nothing but Lewd­ness within; who can seem as Innocent as Doves, and be as Wicked as Devils. Whose Education from their Cradles, under some skilful Matron in Iniquity, have made them pleasant Companions, taking Bedfellows, expert Jilts, incorrigible Sinners, and good managers of a bad Design: Who had Whores to their MothersRogues to their FathersBawds to their Tutors; and under a Deceitful Countenance, are so Case-harden’d in Impudence, that they never were sorry for any thing, but that they were too Young to be Whores, when they were Old enough to endeavour it. These are his Working Tools, who by their Beauty, Youth, and Airyness, Insinuate into the Affections of Young Merchants, Shopkeepers Prentices, &c. whose Juvenal Fury carries them too often into the Ruinous Embraces of these Treacherous Strumpets; who when with their Wanton-Tails seem most obliging to their Admirers, their Mercenary Thoughts are Projecting something to their Injury; like a Water-Lane Protestant, who when at Church seems most Devout, is picking the Pocket of some over-Penitent Christian, who is so Zealous at his Prayers, that he neglects to Watch; and whilst he has God in his Heart, has the Devil fumbling a­bout his Breeches.

He accounts them rare Cattle, if they Calve once in a Year; for there’s never a Child they have, but is worth two or three Hundred Pounds to him, besides By-Advantages he makes by their inspecting into the Affairs and Secrets of such whom they can manage; and when the Filthiness of their Practice hath render’d them like a Path-way, by common Treading, Nasty and Infertile, he ransacks their Wardrobe, strips them of their Plumes, and Discards ’em; who are forc’d to fly to some common Bawdy-House for Refuge, and walk the Streets for Subsistence; thus Sin on in Publick Shame and Misery, till the Gallows or an Hospital at last brings them to Repentance.

The other part of his Life is Tricking People out of their Money by false Dice and Cards, which he handles with more gainful Dexterity than the German Artist; and Preaches the Parson with such a fraudelent Deception of the Sight, that he will drain the Pockets of a large Company in six Minutes, as clean as the Royal-Oak-Lottery shall in six Hours. He is often to be seen with a Country Cloth Coat on, all over Dirt, or according to the Weather, as if he had come a Fifty Mile Journey, tho’ he’s only travel’d from Salisbury-Court to Smithfield, where he keeps the Market as constantly as a Young Whore does Bartholomew-Fair, or an Old One the Sacrament; Looking in his Rustick Garb, as much like an Honest Grasier, as a City Hypocrite, in his Black Coat and Band, does like a Good Christian. He is constant to no sort of Dress, but changes his Cloaths as often as a Whimsical Woman does her Mind; and, States-man like, always suits his Apparrel to his Project: Being a rare Tongue-Pad, and excellent at these following Qualifications; He can out-flatter a Poet, out-huff a Bully, out-wrangle a Lawyer, out-cant a Puritan, out-cringe a Beau, out-face Truth, and out-lie the Devil. The rest that you see were a kind of Supernumerary Men, Assistants to the rest; who have not cunning enough to Project a piece of Roguery themselves; but, like a well-meaning Brother, will lend a Shoulder to the Villany: The former are your rare Sycamore Rogues, who flourish and spread finely for a Season; and the other are the Caterpillars that hang upon ’em.

But, pray, Old Acquaintance, said I, what is your Employment in the World, that you are so well acquainted with this Scandalous Society? Why, I’ll tell you, says he, I study’d a little Physick at the University, and some small Knowledge in Surgery I gain’d since I came to Town, which the narrowness of my Fortune hath oblig’d me to the use of; and I have had most of these Dark Engineers you saw, my Patients; for they are seldom free from Clap, Pox, Thumps, Cuts, or Bruises; and Pay as generously for their Cure, as an old Maid would do for a Nights Recreation with the Man she likes best; parting with Pounds to their Surgeon, as freely as Fools did with their Pence to the Wheel of Fortune.

Come, says my Friend, let us step into this Coffee-House here, as you are a Stranger in the Town, it will afford you some Diversion. Accordingly in we went, where a parcel of Muddling Muck-Worms were as busie as so many Rats in an old Cheese-Loft; some Go­ing, some Coming, some Scribbling, some Talking, some Drinking, some Smoaking, others Jangling; and the whole Room stinking of Tobacco, like a Dutch-Scoot, or a Boatswains-Cabbin. The Walls being hung with Gilt Frames, as a Farriers-shop with Horse-shoes; which contained abundance of Rarities, viz. Nectar and Ambrosia, May-Dew, Golden-Elixers, Popular-Pills, Liquid-Snuff, Beautifying-Waters, Dentifrices, Drops, Lozenges, all as infallible as the Pope, Where every one (as the famous Saffold has it) above the rest, Deservedly has gain’d the Name of Best. Good in all cases, curing all Distempers; every Medicine being so Catholick, it pretends to nothing less than Universality: That in­deed had not my Friend told me ’twas a Coffee-House, I should have took it for Quacks-Hall, or the Parlour of some Eminent Mountebank.

When we had each of us Stuck in our Mouths a Pipe of Sotweed, we began to look about us; do you mind (says my Friend) yonder Old Sophister with an Indian Pipe between his Meager Jaws, who sits staring at the Candle with as much stedfastness as a Country Passenger at Bow-Steeple, or a Child at a Raree-Show, that’s a strange Whimsie-headed Humorist; observe his Po­sture, he looks like the Picture of Aesculapius behind an Apothecaries Counter: And has as many Maggots in his Noddle, as there are Mice in an old Barn, or Nits in a Mumpers Doublet. He has a wonderful Projecting Head, and has lately contriv’d one of the prettiest Pocket-Engines for the speedy Blanching of Hasle-Nuts and Filbert-Kernels, that ever was invented; he’ll Crack and Skin Two for a Squirrels One; and in few Years, by a little Alteration, will improve it to the use of Wallnuts. I’ll assure you, he’s a Member of the Roy­al Society, and had as great a hand, for many Years to­gether, in bringing the Weather-Glass to Perfection, as any of them. He puts great Faith in the Philosophers-Stone, and believes he shall one time or other be as Rich as Croesus, tho’ he has almost Beggar’d himself in the search on’t. And has as large a pair of Bellows in his Labo­ratory, as ever an Alchymist in Town. He try’d a Not­able Experiment the other day, in setting Fire to a large Hay-stack he had in the Country, and order’d the Ashes to be brought to Town, from whence he propos’d to prepare a Medicine, call’d Sall-Graminis, which should infallibly Cure all Distempers in Horses, and be the rarest Medicine for Cows, Sheep, or Oxen, and all sorts of Creatures that feed upon Grass, that any Graisier or Farrier can use in all such cases. But sending it up in an ill Season, the Ashes got wet in their Carriage, and quite lost their Virtue, that he was forc’d to sell them to a West-Country Barge-Man in order to Dung Land. But it’s thought by the Wise, he might have sold it in the Hay to as good an advantage. He has a­bundance of Whims in him very remarkable; he lives over-against a Church, that when he dies he might not have far to Travel upon four Mens Shoulders. As soon as the Clock begins Nine, if he gets not his Shoes off before it has done Striking, in order for Bed, he is immediately seiz’d with such a violent Fit of the Gout, that he Roars like a Tower-Lyon at a Woman going with a Male-Child. If he is not up just as the Clock strikes Five in the Morning, he thinks himself Bedrid­den. If his Victuals be not brought to the Table whilst the Clock goes Twelve, he Eats nothing all that Day; his Stomach is always at the Meridian height the same time as the Sun is; and if he finds by his Observation, it’s Declin’d, he is as much out of Humour for letting slip the Critical Minute, as a Married Lady (without Children to employ her Thoughts) is for losing of her Lap-Dog. He’s a wonderful Antiquary, and has a Clo­set of Curiosities out-does Gresham-Colledge: He tells ye, that he has a Tooth-picker of Epicurus, which he always us’d after Eating; it is made of the Claws of an American Humming-Bird; and is to be us’d like a Rake, and will pick four Teeth at once. He has Diogenes’s Lanthorn, which he carry’d about Athens at Noon-Day to seek for an Honest-man. He says he has some of Heraclitus’s Tears, which drop’d from him in a hard Winter, and are Frozen into Christal; they are set in a Locket, and every time any Body looks upon it, they cannot forbear Weeping. Also a Tenpenny Nail drawn out of the Ark; and tho’ it’s Iron, toss it into a Tub of Water, and ’twill Swim like a Feather; he pretends to have one of Judas’s Thirty Pence; and every time he looks upon’t, he is ready to Hang him­self. A mighty Collection of these sort of Trinkets, he tells the World he’s Master of, and some give Cre­dit to his Ridiculous Romances.

Mind that Spark who is just come in, Four Years since his Reputation was but slender; and in so little a time he has had Three Wives, and all good Fortunes to him, and now is look’d upon to be worth Ten Thousand Pounds. ’Tis observ’d, said I, that Money is thrown into the very Mouths of Fortunes Minions; and some Men must grow Rich, if all the Lucky Acci­dents that Chance can give, will make them so. My Friend, in pursuance to this particular, expres’d him­self to this purpose, That he believ’d there was some foul Play practic’d, because (says he) it is a thing so common in this City for a Man to grow Rich by Plu­rality of Wives, and send them one after another so Methodically to the Grave, as if he had a slight of Transferring them into another World, a little before their time: For I must confess, says he, I know an A­pothecary, who if a Man will trust him with the Care of his Family, once in a Twelve-Months time he’ll take an Opportunity to do him such a piece of Service, if he gives him but the least Item of his slender Affecti­ons towards his Help-mate. And I have often heard him say, that Women are always the best Patients, es­pecially if they Die under his hands; for then, says he, let me make never so unreasonable a Bill, it’s never disputed, but generally satisfied, with as good a Will as a Married Man pays the Tax for the Birth of his first Child or an Extravagant Heir the charges of his Fathers Funeral.

Mind the little Blade in the Cloak, that’s talking to a Parson; he’s a Bookseller in this City, and has got an Estate by Starving of Authors. I’ll warrant you, the Priest has been Conjuring his Brain together, and has rais’d some Wonderful Work to the Churches Glory and his own Fame. He has been Providing a Scourge for the Popes Jacket, or a Cudgel for Antichrist; or else a Mess of good Protestant Porridge to Scald the Mouth of an Unbeliever; or some such Business. But as to the Wit-monger, I’ll tell you, he’s as Honest a Man as ever betray’d his Trust, or Built his own Welfare up­on the hazard of anothers Ruine; he was appointed Trustee for a Young Gentlewoman, and had the charge of an Estate of between two or three Hundred Pounds per Annum, which he has very carefully secured to himself by Marrying her to his Prentice, and obliging him, upon that consideration to buy his Stock; whereby he became well pay’d for a great deal of Waste-Paper: So he is crept into the Estate, and they are got into his Books for it. There is abundance of such sort of Plain-Dealing practic’d amongst our wor­thy Citizens: for you must know they do not always tell Truth in their Shops, or get their Estates by their Honesty. Being half choak’d with the Steem that arose from their Soot-colour’d Ninny-Broth, their stinking Breaths, and Suffocating Fumes of their Nasty Puffing-Engines, my Friend and I pay’d for our Mahometan-Gruel, and away we came; and passing along Leaden-Hall-Street, I saw some Ships Painted upon the out-side of a great Wall, which occasion’d me to enquire of my School-Fellow what place that was? He told me, ’twas the House belonging to the East-India Company, which are a Corporation of Men with Long Heads and Deep Purses; who had purchas’d that with their Money that no-Body ought to sell; and dealt in those Com­modities to get Money, which it’s pity any Body should Buy. They are very Rich in England, and ve­ry Poor in the Indies. Were a Schedule of their Effects Drawn on one side, and their Indian-Debts Scor’d on the other, it is believ’d more Bad Debts would arise upon the Reverse, than are due to Trades-Men from all the Persons of Quality in Town, or perhaps than were ever found owing to either Army or Navy; which they have neither Will to Pay, or Power to Sa­tisfie, to the great Honour of Christianity in so Hea­thenish a Country. There are two Companies now, and it’s greatly hop’d by many Honest Traders and Merchants in the City, that they may luckily prove the Breaking of each other; both have sent Ships to the Indies, and ’tis thought they will give one another a warm Salutation by the way, and maintain the Truth of the old Proverb, That two of a Trade can never agree.

Pray take Notice (says my Friend) of that Gentle­man that is stepping into his Coach, I will tell you a pretty Story of him: There was a Poor Woman, not far from this Place, who Sold Earthen-Ware, and had lately the good Fortune to have a Rich Relation Die, and leave her worth Forty Thousand Pounds; which he hearing on (tho’ a Man of considerable Quality) thought it a Bait worth Snapping at; in order to which, he became one of her Earliest Suitors, and was very Importunate with her to have the Cracking of her Pip­kin; but she soon gave him a Repulse, and told him Man was an Earthen Vessel too brittle for her to deal in; and she had heard he had a great many Flaws in his Fortune, which she would not be at the Expence of mending; and since she had never received any Testimonials of his Affection before the happy change of her Condition, she had Reasons to believe his de­sires tended to her Money, and not her Person, and there­fore would not be made a Lady at so great an Expence. Adding, his Pretensions would be ineffectual, and hop’d he would give himself no farther Trouble; assuring him as her Mind was Stedfast, so would his Pains be Fruitless. Upon which, he feign’d a Melancholy humour; and Sighing like a Man at his Wives Funeral, told her his Passion was so great for her, that unless she gave him a more satisfactory Answer, he would Drown himself in the Tower-Ditch. To which she reply’d, Smiling, Perhaps Sir, You Propose that to your self, which is not in your Power to do, you know not but Heaven has Decreed for you a Dryer Destiny. Upon which, he rose in a great Passion, crying, Zounds, Madam! Do you think I’ll Hang my Self? And so departed.

Now, says my School-fellow, we’ll spend the Evening over a chearful Glass; here’s a Tavern hard by, where a parcel of pleasant Companions of my Ac­quaintance use, we’ll see what Diversion we can find in their Society. Accordingly we stept in, and in the Kitchen found half a Dozen of my Friends Ass­ociates, in the height of their Jollitry, as Merry as so many Cantabridgians at Sturbridge-Fair, or Coblers at a Crispins Feast. After a Friendly Salutation, free from all Foppish Ceremonies, down we sat; and when a Glass or two round had given fresh Motion to our
drousy Spirits, and abandon’d all those careful thoughts which makes Man’s Life uneasie, Wit begot Wit, and Wine a Thirsty Appetite to each Succeeding Glass: Then open were our Hearts, and Unconfin’d our Fancies; my Friend and I contributed our Mites to the Treasure of our Felicity. Songs and Catches Crown’d the Night, and each Man in his Turn pleased his Ears with his own Harmony. Amongst the rest, we had one Song against Musick, which because of its being the first Essay in that Nature, I have thought it worth Inserting.


Text taken from The London Spy CompleatBy the Author of the Trip to Jamaica. London: Printed and Sold by J. How, at the Se­ven Stars in Talbot-Court in Grace-Church-street,1703, part 1. Full text by ECCO.