Tth Life and Adventures of Joseph Emin




IV. 1753-1755.

[Stephanos in great distress - Returning good for evil - Mr. Davis and Rs. 500 for Emin - Money refused - Two years a porter - Writer to an attorney - But Charles XII of Sweden and Peter the Great may not intrude into copies of law-suits! - Lodging with a grocer - In the Park - Edmund Burke - His great kindness. ]

One of those days he received a very pressing letter, dated twelve o’clock in the forenoon, from Mr. Stephenus, the Armenian Jew, begging for Christ’s sake that he would go to him; which accordingly he did. In going up stairs, he first stept into the parlour to visit Mrs. Newman, whom he had not seen for almost two years. Inquiring for the petitioner, she said, "Go up stairs into his room, and see the condition he has brought himself to; I do not know but it may be the judgment of Heaven upon the man for his behaviour towards you, as I have told you before a hundred times that you will thrive, and do not know how he will end his life at last; go up, Sir, go up. " When he entered the mansion, he found the windows all covered with flannels, caulked up like a ship, smelling most disagreeably, with a candle burning before him, and himself sitting by the fireside: as his tongue, mouth, and lips, were swelled so that he was not able to speak a word, there were pen, ink, and paper, ready on the table; he took a pen and wrote the following words: "Emin, you are sensible that I have been your great enemy, and endeavoured to ruin you all the time you have been in this country; but God was with you: - help me, for the bloody cross of Christ! - if you do not go this instant to Mr. Muilman, and tell him my deplorable case (who has taken for granted that I am in the country), to-morrow I shall be sent away to prison by another Armenian, called Peter Paul, and by a Jew, to whom I owe 300 l. sterling, on a joint bond. " He finished the letter, and fell down on his knees. The miserable object of pity affected the author so deeply, that he forgot his own hardships. Immediately he ran to Mr. Muilman, a merchant in Old Broad Street, acquainted him with the affair, and thus was the means of saving both the life and credit of Stephenus. This happened in December; the poor man lived some years after, extremely reduced, and died at last in great misery, in the same honourable employment of a porter, which Emin himself was obliged to undertake. But he was, and is, really sorry to the heart, without the least dissimulation; for he thinks, that to rejoice at the down fall of an evil-doer, is one of the meanest emotions of a cowardly mind, and ought to be disdained by every man of humanity.

The author, from the time of his coming to London, during eighteen months at the academy, and twenty-one months in the service of Mr. Roberts (almost three years and a half), never missed an opportunity of writing to his father in Calcutta, from whom he received no answer; which made him the more uneasy in his servile situation, as he had given over even the hopes of his existence. But the same Armenian jeweller mentioned before, named Peter Paul, had on his arrival from Madras brought with him a servant from Bengal, who said to Emin, "Your father is angry with you; he cannot hold up his head among the Armenians, who continually in conversation are casting reflections upon him in that place, and laughing at him for his imprudence, in venturing to let his son go to learn English; well knowing the wildness of his temper before, and how untameable he was while in chains of strictness, which with his own hands he had broken, and let him loose to fly to the remotest part of the world, there to be lost for ever. " The author was made happy in his exile, hearing his father was alive; but could not help laughing at those cowardly gentlemen, who, not observing the beams in their own eyes, try to take the mote out of a neighbour’s eye, without sense enough to distinguish the moon from a piece of green cheese.

Some time after, about ten in the morning, the author, working in the shop, taking some sugar out of a hogshead, looking as dirty as a chimney sweeper, saw a gentleman stop at the door in his coach-and four, named William Davis, Esq., formerly chief at Dacca, in the honourable company’s employment. He inquired for Joseph Emin, gave him a letter from his father, and stood till he read it over. The contents were, that he was to receive from Mr. Davis 500 rupees, upon condition that he would return to Bengal, otherwise not to be entitled to a penny of the sum. He said to Mr. Davis, "Since my father mistrusts me, be pleased to write to him, that his son will neither receive the remitted money, nor submit to such severity, as he trusts himself to God, who will take care of him. " Mr. Davis much, on the whole, approved the author’s declaration, and said, "Call me upon in Norfolk-street, when an opportunity offers. " Mr. Roberts was surprised, with all his family, to think what could be his servant’s reason for chusing to stay in the house as a labouring porter, rather than receive 500 rupees, and return to his father like a gentleman: "Our country is depopulated, " said he, "for the sake of India; yet this man, in this low condition of life, prefers the former to the latter; he must know something which is a mystery to us. Well, well, Mrs. Roberts, Joseph is an honest fellow, and I am very glad he does not go for our own sakes: you know we like him as one of the family; and as he likes us as well, let him stay as long as he pleases. " The author was not mindless of Mr. Robert’s humane care, who now and then, when he had a great deal to do in the house, employed a ticket porter to do part of his work.

As Sundays are free to all servants in the city, Emin’s delight was to rise every Sunday in the morning, early enough to march up to St. James’s Park to see the guard relieved, and back again to breakfast. In his way he called on Mr. Davis, who told him, he would write to his father that he could not come that season but would the next: "I shall keep, " added he, "the money in my possession till then. " Emin not thinking it proper to contradict him, thanked him, and went away to the city. Some time after, he answered his father in the negative, that he would neither receive the remittance, nor return to Bengal to hear his reprimand, and to have the mortification of seeing others laugh at him in their sleeves, who stretch forth their mouth unto heaven, and their tongue goeth through the world: he further declared, that he would not come away easily, without an ample satisfaction to his mind: he humbly begged of his father not to be displeased, but to pray for his son, whose honour was so much at stake. He concluded, "every thing in good time, dear father; patience overcomes all. "

He stayed three months more in the same house, which was exactly two years complete; but found the work too hard; and by carrying heavy loads in a basket on the knot upon his shoulders, hurt himself at last, and was obliged to take leave with three pounds thirteen shillings, which, he had saved, in his pocket.

He went thence to one Mr. Webster, attorney-at-law in Queen Street, Cheapside, upon whom he used to call twice a-week, to know if he could get a place as a writer in some gentleman’s counting-house, as he had been recommended two years before by a Mr. Philpot, one of the gentlemen boarders of Mr. Middleton’s academy. Mr. Webster, on inquiry, found Emin to be out of place; and knowing well that he could write a tolerable hand, employed him to write in his office, favouring him with board and lodging in his house. This little genteel success became a great subject of conversation among his brother porters, and the servant maids in Bishopsgate-street, who said, "Oh, Lord! the little Armenian porter is turned a gentleman"; not knowing it was but for a short time.

There he copied cases of law-suits about six weeks. He never missed a page without some quotation from the lives of Peter the Great of Russia, Charles the Twelfth of Sweden, and Telemachus; which, by mere chance, he found in the room, and thoughtlessly inserted them among the lines of his writing. Poor Mr. Webster was obliged to scratch them out for hours together, saying, in the meantime, to his Armenian clerk, "Sure, Mr. Emin, you have some very odd notions in your head; I believe you will be a soldier at last. " Finding it impossible for him, in spite of the utmost caution, to avoid errors, which dashed him with chagrin; good Mr. Webster could bear it no more; paid him twenty-six shillings, telling him politely, that the term was over, and there was no more business for him to do.

He went away; and took a lodging somewhere about the Temple, where he staid a week; thence he removed to Holborn; thence to the Strand, to one Mr. Philpot’s, who kept a grocery, cyder and perry shop. He became a father, and his wife a mother, to Emin; who took his lodging up two pairs of stairs, bought his own sugar and tea, and every morning had a pennyworth of buttered roll for his breakfast. He resided with them in this economical manner. The kettle on the fire in a small room below stairs near the shop, was boiling gratis; each person put a spoonful of tea in the jointpot; and each had his cup and saucer, in which he took care to put sparingly a certain quantity of sugar. If he dined with them on common days, he paid three pence for his dinner; and if on Sunday, a groat. He kept no company with those of the same station with himself; nor had he, indeed, even from the time of his arrival in London. Now and then Mr. Philpot procured some writing jobs for him: when he had time to spare, he generally read those heroic books before-mentioned; and constantly attended every morning the drilling of the recruits in St. James’s Park, as well as the exercise of the king’s guards.

One Sunday afternoon, as he was walking in the park, he saw among the multitude, Mr. Bodly the lawyer, whom he had seen at Calcutta, at the Old Court House, pleading at the bar, when he was a school-boy there. His heart jumped for joy with thinking he should hear some news from him about his father. This gentleman was accompanied by another, very tall and well made, but a stranger to the author; who followed them up and down before Buckingham-Gate four times, but had not courage enough to speak; when observing the countenance of Mr. Bodly’s noble-looking companion to be more affable, he took off his hat, and accosting him told him that he knew that person. He immediately returned the compliment, and asked Emin what the gentleman’s name was? He answered, Mr. Bodly. He then said, "Tell me your reason for not speaking to him, since you know him?" The author said, as he had been so many years in the East, breathing the air of that quarter, he feared some rebuking word from him, such as he had heard on the self-same ground some months ago from captain Grady, who was the chief mate of the Old Walpole Indiaman, in which he had been a lascar. The noble-looking gentleman was much taken by the observation, as well as the remark of the author, and desired him to walk with them. In a few minutes he satisfied himself with Mr. Bodly in regard to Emin’s father. The noble stranger began to inquire very closely the reason for his coming away from Bengal. The author perceiving him to be fond of conversation in his walk, thought it proper to open to him the wounds of his heart.

As he was going on with rapidity, inadvertently the gentleman dropped a reflecting word on two officers who were walking within fifteen yards before them, and said, "Those red-coats are the willing slaves of the nation. " This made Emin stop short, and hold his peace. They took him with them into the small Wilderness where they ate some rusks and drank some milk, and came out of the park. When it was just dark, Mr. Bodly went to his habitation, and his noble companion invited Emin to his apartment, up two pair of stairs, at the sign of Pope’s Head, at a bookseller’s near the Temple.

No sooner had they sat down, than the gentleman, beginning the conversation, asked the author the reason of his stopping short in the midst of his narrative; he answered, "On account of your reflection concerning the military gentlemen. " "My friend, " said he, "you did not understand my meaning; there is as vast a difference between you and them, as between mid-day and mid-night; they are inlisted in the service for a livelihood; you have left that fine country for improvement, that you may become considerable, and be of service to your countrymen. " This soothing way of talking made Emin lay open every particular of his honourable motives; and he then begged to be favoured with the name of a gentleman who treated him with so much courtesy. He very politely answered, "Sir, my name is Edmund Burke, at your service; I am a runaway son from a father, as you are. " He then took half-a-guinea out of his pocket, presented it to Emin, and said, "Upon my honour, this is what I have at present, please to accept it. " Emin thanked him, took three guineas and a half out of his own pocket and said, "I am worth so much; it will not be honest to accept of that; not because it is a small sum; if it were a thousand pounds, I would not. I am not come away from my friends to get money; but if you will continue your kind notice towards me, that is all I want; and I shall value it more than a prince’s treasure. " When Mr. Burke understood that he could read and write, he gave him the Tatler, and made him read a paragraph of it. He approved him, and said, "Very well; lay it down. I am your friend, as much as it lies in my power. " He took Emin’s direction; who bade him good night, and went away.

The next morning, Mr. Burke had the condescension to visit him in his room; and advised him to read such books. Emin begged of him to indulge him with the liberty to wait on him now and then. Mr. Burke said, "As often as you please; I shall be glad to see you: " and a few days after, introduced him to his relation Mr. William Burke, who is now sometimes here, and sometimes at Madras; and who has been equally kind ever since. For the space of thirty-one years, neither of them shewed the least reserve; the former distinguishing him by polite correspondence, the latter by personal kindness, which his grateful heart has obliged him to remember all the days of his life.

Emin had been at Mr. Philpot’s about a month before he was made happy by the acquaintance of Mr. Burke; his three guineas and a half lasted him another month; and he was obliged at last to apply to Mr. Davis, and received ten guineas, part of the 500 rupees, and promised one of two things, either to pay it back, or to receive the whole when he returned to Bengal. He did this through necessity; but he did not give over his hopes, and he trusted that the providence of God would assist him to the very hour of his setting out for that country, and would not let him go without compassing his design, to appear among people, who, like Banians, are entire strangers to humanity; standing ready to spit out their poison without remorse or consideration. They would say, "He is come at last; a lascar he went, a booby he has returned. " The weight of this thought he felt heavier than all his past misfortunes. Had not Mr. Burke consoled him now and then, he might have been lost for ever through despair; but his friend always advised him to put his trust in God; and he never missed a day without seeing Emin. He was writing books at the time, and desired the author to copy them; the first was, as imitation of the late Lord Bolingbroke’s Letter; the second, The Treatise of Sublime and Beautiful.


EDMUND BURKE. - It was about this time (1755) that Mr. Burke accidentally formed an acquaintance in St. James’s Park with a very enterprising and original character, who, though a native of the East, nearly friendless in England, and who, consequently, appeared in rather a "questionable shape, " presented evidence of a mind so much above his situation, that he instantly, to the best of his power, befriended him. This man, with a little more of the favour of fortune, might have turned out one of the most conspicuous, as he was one of the most adventurous spirits of modern times.

Previous to his introduction to the Duke of Northumberland, Emin had become acquainted with Edmund Burke, whom, as already stated, he accidentally met in the Park. After some conversation, Mr. Burke invited Emin to his apartments at the sign of Pope’s Head, a bookseller’s near the Temple. Emin, ignorant of the name of the gentleman who had treated him with so much courtesy, begged to be favoured with it, and Mr. Burke politely answered, " Sir, my name is Edmund Burke, at your service. I am a runaway son from a father, as you are. " He then presented half a guinea to Emin, saying "Upon my honour, this is what I have at present - Please to accept of it. "

Mr. Burke next day visited Emin and assisted him with his advice as to the books which he should read. He introduced him to his relation, Mr. William Burke; and for thirty years Emin acknowledges that he was treated with unceasing kindness by both.

At the period of the commencement of his acquaintance with Mr. Burke, Emin had little left for his maintenance, and the prospect of accomplishing the purpose of his voyage to England became daily more gloomy. . . . . . The whole of this story is characterised in a high degree by the humanity and generosity which always distinguished this great and virtuous ornament of our nation. (Prior’s Life of Edmund Burke, p. 29).