The history of the life of the late mr. Jonathan wild the great



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CHAPTER FOURTEEN



IN WHICH THE HISTORY OF GREATNESS IS CONTINUED.
Matters being thus reconciled, and the gaming over, from reasons before hinted, the company proceeded to drink about with the utmost chearfulness and friendship; drinking healths, shaking hands, and professing the most perfect affection for each other. All which were not in the least interrupted by some designs which they then agitated in their minds, and which they intended to execute as soon as the liquor had prevailed over some of their understandings. Bagshot and the gentleman intending to rob each other; Mr. Snap and Mr. Wild the elder meditating what other creditors they could find out to charge the gentleman then in custody with; the count hoping to renew the play, and Wild, our hero, laying a design to put Bagshot out of the way, or, as the vulgar express it, to hang him with the first opportunity. But none of these great designs could at present be put in execution, for, Mr. Snap being soon after summoned abroad on business of great moment, which required likewise the assistance of Mr. Wild the elder and his other friend, and as he did not care to trust to the nimbleness of the count's heels, of which he had already had some experience, he declared he must LOCK UP for that evening. Here, reader, if them pleasest, as we are in no great haste, we will stop and make a simile. As when their lap is finished, the cautious huntsman to their kennel gathers the nimble-footed hounds, they with lank ears and tails slouch sullenly on, whilst he, with his whippers-in, follows close at their heels, regardless of their dogged humour, till, having seen them safe within the door, he turns the key, and then retires to whatever business or pleasure calls him thence; so with lowring countenance and reluctant steps mounted the count and Bagshot to their chamber, or rather kennel, whither they were attended by Snap and those who followed him, and where Snap, having seen them deposited, very contentedly locked the door and departed. And now, reader, we will, in imitation of the truly laudable custom of the world, leave these our good friends to deliver themselves as they can, and pursue the thriving fortunes of Wild, our hero, who, with that great aversion to satisfaction and content which is inseparably incident to great minds, began to enlarge his views with his prosperity: for this restless, amiable disposition, this noble avidity which increases with feeding, is the first principle or constituent quality of these our great men; to whom, in their passage on to greatness, it happens as to a traveller over the Alps, or, if this be a too far-fetched simile, to one who travels westward over the hills near Bath, where the simile was indeed made. He sees not the end of his journey at once; but, passing on from scheme to scheme, and from hill to hill, with noble constancy, resolving still to attain the summit on which he hath fixed his eve, however dirty the roads may be through which he struggles, he at length arrives----at some vile inn, where he finds no kind of entertainment nor conveniency for repose. I fancy, reader, if thou hast ever travelled in these roads, one part of my simile is sufficiently apparent (and, indeed, in all these illustrations, one side is generally much more apparent than the other); but, believe me, if the other doth not so evidently appear to thy satisfaction, it is from no other reason than because thou art unacquainted with these great men, and hast not had sufficient instruction, leisure, or opportunity, to consider what happens to those who pursue what is generally understood by GREATNESS: for surely, if thou hadst animadverted, not only on the many perils to which great men are daily liable while they are in their progress, but hadst discerned, as it were through a microscope (for it is invisible to the naked eye), that diminutive speck of happiness which they attain even in the consummation of their wishes, thou wouldst lament with me the unhappy fate of these great men, on whom nature hath set so superior a mark, that the rest of mankind are born for their use and emolument only, and be apt to cry out, "It is pity that THOSE for whose pleasure and profit mankind are to labour and sweat, to be hacked and hewed, to be pillaged, plundered, and every war destroyed, should reap so LITTLE advantage from all the miseries they occasion to others." For my part, I own myself of that humble kind of mortals who consider themselves born for the behoof of some great man or other, and could I behold his happiness carved out of the labour and ruin of a thousand such reptiles as myself I might with satisfaction exclaim, Sic, sic juvat: but when I behold one GREAT MAN starving with hunger and freezing with cold, in the midst of fifty thousand who are suffering the same evils for his diversion; when I see another, whose own mind is a more abject slave to his own greatness, and is more tortured and racked by it, than those of all his vassals; lastly, when I consider whole nations rooted out only to bring tears into the eyes of a GREAT MAN, not indeed because he hath extirpated so many, but because he had no more nations to extirpate, then truly I am almost inclined to wish that Nature had spared us this her MASTERPIECE, and that no GREAT MAN had ever been born into the world.
But to proceed with our history, which will, we hope, produce much better lessons, and more instructive, than any we can preach: Wild was no sooner retired to a night-cellar than he began to reflect on the sweets he had that day enjoyed from the labours of others, viz., first, from Mr. Bagshot, who had for his use robbed the count; and, secondly, from the gentleman, who, for the same good purpose, had picked the pocket of Bagshot. He then proceeded to reason thus with himself: "The art of policy is the art of multiplication, the degrees of greatness being constituted by those two little words MORE or LESS. Mankind are first properly to be considered under two grand divisions, those that use their own hands, and those who employ the hands of others. The former are the base and rabble; the latter, the genteel part of the creation. The mercantile part of the world, therefore, wisely use of the term EMPLOYING HANDS, and justly prefer each other as they employ more or fewer; for thus one merchant says he is greater than another because he employs more hands. And now indeed the merchant should seem to challenge some character of greatness, did we not necessarily come to a second division, viz., of those who employ hands for the use of the community in which they live, and of those who employ hands merely for their own use, without any regard to the benefit of society. Of the former sort are the yeoman, the manufacturer, the merchant, and perhaps the gentleman. The first of these being to manure and cultivate his native soil, and to employ hands to produce the fruits of the earth. The second being to improve them by employing hands likewise, and to produce from them those useful commodities which serve as well for the conveniences as necessaries of life. The third is to employ hands for the exportation of the redundance of our own commodities, and to exchange them with the redundances of foreign nations, that thus every soil and every climate may enjoy the fruits of the whole earth. The gentleman is, by employing hands, likewise to embellish his country with the improvement of art and sciences, with the making and executing good and wholesome laws for the preservation of property and the distribution of justice, and in several other manners to be useful to society. Now we come to the second part of this division, viz., of those who employ hands for their own use only; and this is that noble and great part who are generally distinguished into conquerors, absolute princes, statesmen, and prigs [Footnote: Thieves.]. Now all these differ from each other in greatness only--they employ MORE or FEWER hands. And Alexander the Great was only GREATER than a captain of one of the Tartarian or Arabian hordes, as he was at the head of a larger number. In what then is a single prig inferior to any other great man, but because he employs his own hands only; for he is not on that account to be levelled with the base and vulgar, because he employs his hands for his own use only. Now, suppose a prig had as many tools as any prime minister ever had, would he not be as great as any prime minister whatsoever? Undoubtedly he would. What then have I to do in the pursuit of greatness but to procure a gang, and to make the use of this gang centre in myself? This gang shall rob for me only, receiving very moderate rewards for their actions; out of this gang I will prefer to my favour the boldest and most iniquitous (as the vulgar express it); the rest I will, from time to time, as I see occasion, transport and hang at my pleasure; and thus (which I take to be the highest excellence of a prig) convert those laws which are made for the benefit and protection of society to my single use."
Having thus preconceived his scheme, he saw nothing wanting to put it in immediate execution but that which is indeed the beginning as well as the end of all human devices: I mean money. Of which commodity he was possessed of no more than sixty-five guineas, being all that remained from the double benefits he had made of Bagshot, and which did not seem sufficient to furnish his house, and every other convenience necessary for so grand an undertaking. He resolved, therefore, to go immediately to the gaming-house, which was then sitting, not so much with an intention of trusting to fortune as to play the surer card of attacking the winner in his way home. On his arrival, however, he thought he might as well try his success at the dice, and reserve the other resource as his last expedient. He accordingly sat down to play; and as Fortune, no more than others of her sex, is observed to distribute her favours with strict regard to great mental endowments, so our hero lost every farthing in his pocket. This loss however he bore with great constancy of mind, and with as great composure of aspect. To say truth, he considered the money as only lent for a short time, or rather indeed as deposited with a banker. He then resolved to have immediate recourse to his surer stratagem; and, casting his eyes round the room, he soon perceived a gentleman sitting in a disconsolate posture, who seemed a proper instrument or tool for his purpose. In short (to be as concise as possible in these least shining parts of our history), Wild accosted this man, sounded him, found him fit to execute, proposed the matter, received a ready assent, and, having fixed on the person who seemed that evening the greatest favourite of Fortune, they posted themselves in the most proper place to surprise the enemy as he was retiring to his quarters, where he was soon attacked, subdued, and plundered; but indeed of no considerable booty; for it seems this gentleman played on a common stock, and had deposited his winnings at the scene of action, nor had he any more than two shillings in his pocket when he was attacked.
This was so cruel a disappointment to Wild, and so sensibly affects us, as no doubt it will the reader, that, as it must disqualify us both from proceeding any farther at present, we will now take a little breath, and therefore we shall here close this book.




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