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upon with a jealous eye, notwithstanding he was noted for a quiet and inoffensive man, he thought proper, on the decollation of the first-named unhappy nobleman, to quit his London business, and to retire to Derbyshire, though to his great detriment; and there I, and three other children out of nine, were born,
It was the intention of the elder Mr. Richardson to have brought up his son Samuel to the Church; but the occurrence of some severe pecus. niary losses compelled him to relinquish the design; he was, therefore, restricted to a common school education, and, according to his own confession, was acquainted with no other language than his mother-tongue; a deficiency which is: very apparent in the structure of his composition.
He early exhibited, however, the most decisive marks of genius; he was of a serious and contemplative disposition, and fond of exercising his inventive powers, among his play-mates, in the narration of stories, the incidents of which he threw: together with extraordinary facility. He was, likewise, remarkably partial to letter-writing, and to the company of his young female friends, with whom he maintained a constant correspondence, and ever, ventured, though only in his eleventh
* Barbauld's Life of Richardson prefixed to his Correspondence, vol. 1, p. 29, 30.
year, to become their occasional monitor and ad. viser.
The very intimate knowledge which he afterwards displayed of the female heart, had probably its first source from this juvenile attachment to the sex, which appears to have been returned, whilst he was yet a mere boy, by the most unlimited confidence on the part of his fair friends.
“ As a bashful and not forward boy," he relates, “ I was an early favourite with all the young women of taste and reading in the neighbourhood. Half-a-dozen of them, when met to work with their needles, used, when they got a book they liked, and thought I should, to borrow me to read to them; their mothers sometimes with them; and both mothers and daughters used to be pleased with the observations they put me upon making.
“ I was not more than thirteen, when three of these young women, unknown to each other, having an high opinion of my taciturnity, revealed to me their love-secrets, in order to induce me to give them copies to write after, or correct, for answers to their lovers' letters: nor did any one of them ever know that I was the secretary to the others. I have been directed to chide, and even repulse, when an offence was either taken or given, at the very time that the heart of the chider
or repulser was open before me, overflowing with esteem and affection; and the fair repulser, dreading to be taken at her word, directing this word, or that expression, to be softened or changed. One highly gratified with her lover's fervour, and vows of everlasting love, has said, when I have asked her direction, 'I cannot tell you what to write; but (her heart on her lips) you cannot write too kindly;' all her fear was only, that she should incur slight for her kindness.”*
At the age of sixteen it became necessary that our young secretary should fix upon some occupation for his future life; and, as his father left him to his free option, he decided for the business of a Printer; principally induced to the choice by the opportunities that he imagined it would afford him for reading, to which he was strongly attached. He was accordingly apprenticed in 1706- to Mr. John Wilde, of Stationers Hall; but he soon found that the advantages which he had so sanguinely expected were illusory, and that the only time left for his mental improvement must be snatched from the hours of rest and relaxation. In ardour and perseverance, however, he was not wanting, for he not only secured time for his private studies, but for a long-continued correspondence with a gentleman much
Barbauld's Life of Richardson, p. 39, 40.
his superior in station, in fortune, and in literature. His attention to the interests of his master was never, in the smallest degree, diminished by these stolen engagements; and such was his zeal in the execution of his duty, that he was termed by Mr. Wilde, who was singularly rigid in exacting what he thought capable of being performed, the pillar of his house.
On the termination of his apprenticeship, which had lasted seven years, young Richardson became a compositor and corrector of the press; an office which he continued to fill for nearly six years, and on declining which, he acquired his freedom and entered into business for himself. His first residence was small, and in an obscure court, but, his employment rapidly encreasing, he exchanged it for a larger in Salisbury-court, Fleet-street.
The industry, punctuality, and integrity of Richardson as a tradesman, were in due time followed by the usual result, a wide-extending reputation and accumulating wealth. He was the printer, for a short period, of the Duke of Wharton's “ True Briton,” a publication that appeared in 1723, and the purport of which was to excite an opposition in the city to the measures of Government. The politics of this paper, however, were so violent, that at the close of the sixth number he declined any further connexion with it, having indeed narrowly escaped a prosecution; for, four of the six essays being deemed libels, Mr. Payne the publisher was found guilty, while Richardson, although intimate with the Duke, was passed over, owing to the non-appearance of his name on the title-page. He was likewise occupied, about this time, in printing two newspapers, “ The Daily Journal” and “ The Daily Gazetteer," and he soon after obtained, through his interest with the Speaker Onslow, the lucrative situation of printer to the House of Commons. From his press issued the first edition of the
Journals of the House of Commons,” in twentysix folio volumes, an undertaking for which he at length obtained upwards of three thousand pounds.
He suffered not, however, the pressure of his business, though great, and requiring much superintendence, to preclude his mental progress; he was fond of exercising his pen, and frequently 'employed it, at the requisition of the booksellers, in composing for them prefaces and dedications. With these they were so much pleased, that, knowing his partiality to letter-writing, they requested him to furnish them with a volume of Familiar Letters, which might serve as a kind of manual or director for persons in inferior life.