Extract from

Memoirs of Count Boruwlaski ...written by himself

Durham: published by Francis Humble and Co. 1820

The following extract, pp327/348 gives a humorous account of his stay in Douglas. The author was a dwarf musician (he states he did not grow past 3ft 6in) who paid his way by giving concerts on the violin etc. Somewhat difficult to date precisely but my guess is c.1810 as he refers slightly later to the illness of the King (George III who went 'mad' in 1811 and died 1815). The protection for these debtors was removed in 1814.


The rest of this little story, I am sorry to say, has escaped my memory. I must therefore return to General Humbert, who made such an impression on the whole Irish nation, as proved particularly distressing to my strong box : so that I retreated as quickly as my horses could carry me to Newtown, where I could not find a ship, and was obliged to take a fishing boat, in which I went to the Isle of Man, and landed without accident at Peele. I did not think it worth my while to make any stay in this little naked town, nor did curiosity induce me to examine the castle and monastery near the sea, which had been destroyed by some renowned warrior, as I had seen in Great Britain more remarkable ancient ruins.

Castletown I understood to be the chief place of the island, and the seat of the governor’s residence ; notwithstanding which, it is far from being so populous as Douglas, on account of its harbour. I thought it would answer my purpose better to visit Douglas, and quit Castletown, which I accordingly did, and arrived at Douglas, where I was received with the utmost hospitality by the worthy inhabitants; and I can never forget my obligations to them, nor the powerful claim which they have upon my warmest gratitude.

This island attracts a number of strangers of every kind, who resort to it on account of debts contracted in their own country, as this is a general refuge for such persons as are not disposed to pay a visit to a gaol. Those people seemed to me to have neglected the principles of good management at home, and to have acquired a habit of living upon the public industry.

A performer from the Dublin stage arrived soon after me, who made an addition to the number of those who professed themselves enemies to the cares and labours of life. I have often seen those people form a cheerful society, and have beheld their tables furnished with luxuries. The last-mentioned gentleman, being well known in public, wanted to prove his abilities in private, by collecting those gentry who professed the same principles as himself ; amongst whom he thought me of the number, and honoured me with an invitation to dine. I was at first inclined not to accept this favour, thinking he might employ his money to a better purpose, namely, to pay his creditors ; but the Mayor of the town, who was present when I received this invitation, prevented my sending a message to that effect, by the introduction of some remarks on the imprudence of those persons, who having the enjoyment of many thousands per annum, and being sufficiently entitled to be called rich, act contrary to the rules of good order, and contract such enormous debts, that it is impossible to think on their conduct without laughing at their folly. In his observations, however, the worthy Mayor had forgotten to distinguish the case of those who are dissolute, idle, and extravagant, from that of those rich persons who are often to be found gifted. by nature with brilliant powers and extraordinary talents; but, living in kingdoms governed nearly on principles of equality, are consequently obliged to expose their fortune amongst the general mass of the people, in order to become useful members of their nation ; so that before they are brought forward to shew their zeal in serving the kingdom, they find themselves deprived of their income.

On further consideration, the situation of this performer of the stage excited my . curiosity, and I accepted his invitation, merely to see what sort of persons he and his friends were ; and, to my astonishment, I found his table covered with delicacies : his manners, I could perceive, were such as did not betoken a solid mind ; nor was his situation calculated to afflict a man of sensibility. I enjoyed a sort of gratification, in being admitted to a close inspection of persons who led a dissipated life, yet preserved a specious shew of honesty, the reality of which only belongs to a good man, in the continual exercise of virtue. My performer celebrated his birthday in so splendid a manner, and assumed such personal dignity, that you would have supposed him a Prince of the greatest fortune. He was reported to be a learned man ; and possibly he might be so. There was, however, an air of melancholy in his countenance, which might be perceived even in the midst of his gaiety, and which, like soap in hard water, could never be thoroughly blended with that sprightly quality.

The unfortunate situation of this man brought to my recollection an observation of our eminent writer, Kobylanski, that he had found many learned in different branches of science, yet unsteady in their actions, which arise from the defects of their natural dispositions having been overlooked, and from their giving way to hurtful inclinations, which administered constant fuel to a corrupt life, and subdued all the active principles of their mind. Experience has taught me the correctness of this author’s ideas.

I was highly disgusted with listening to a variety of empty conversation, which at last terminated with the greatest spirit, produced by the influence of the bottle. I bade them good night, and very gladly retreated to my quiet room. I was very well satisfied that I was not present at a tragic scene, which I since learned was performed by the master of the feast, after my departure, in the part of the cruel Tyrrel, when he announced to Richard the Third, that he had executed his orders, and put to death both the young Princes. It happened at that time, that one of the company, being much in liquor, took it in earnest, and thinking he had killed those innocent infants, without further explanation, approached him with fury, and gave him a blow, which produced a black eye, hallooing at the same time out of the window, for a constable to take him into custody. The people in the street hearing the alarm, and not knowing the real state of the affair, procured a constable, who finding nothing but a drunken man, left the room with contempt. Next day, one of those fellows did not fail to bring me the news, with all the particulars of the affront received by this actor ; in consequence of which, he was determined to fight a duel, as soon as he could find a second, but he found it difficult to obtain one.

In the course of this conversation, we were interrupted by two officers of my acquaintance, with whom I have often spent a pleasant day. After the usual ceremony of shaking hands, I made an apology to the man for the interruption which had been given to his interesting and serious narrative, and begged of him to continue his story, which he politely did ; and the officers, on hearing the insult which had been offered to the performer, engaged themselves to be seconds to the parties. Meantime, I used my endeavours to reconcile, if possible, both parties; but the officers obstinately rejected my proposal. I was surprised at their inhumanity, until, at the departure of the man, they declared to me the trick they intended to play upon them. They soon found out their lodgings, which were in appearance tolerably neat rooms, and might be distinguished by the nose as well as by the eye ; for the one was at a butcher’s, the other at a fishmonger’s, house. My performer did not refuse to behave like a man of courage ; but his adversary, on the proposal being made to him, appeared not at all to relish it, as he replied, with a hollow voice, that he was an emigrant, a French master, from Dieppe ; that he understood drawing a little, and had already made a map of England, with all the country seats of the great lords, accompanied with remarks, so that no traveller could mistake them ; from which work he expected to gain considerable profit. But, as to fighting, he had a very slight knowledge of it ; and it was not at all convenient to him to exhibit talents which he had cultivated so little : besides this, there was another obstacle ; for his feelings would not allow him to fight against a man belonging to a nation from which he received a pension as an emigrant.

This excuse, according to my judgment, was sufficient ; but my friends the officers, wishing to enjoy some fun, persuaded him to appear in the field of battle. But when lie was near the appointed spot, we perceived no small terror in his countenance, while with a confused voice he said, " That unfortunate evening there must have been a malicious and evil spirit in the wine, which introduced madness and mischief, whose effects are too visible in the eyes of my adversary : if I only escape from this disaster, it shall be a warning to me to keep my hands and tongue quiet ever after, and to retire to a solitary state of life, where I may find peace of mind, and a freedom from such snares as this in which-I am now caught." No doubt he was so far right : retirement has a variety of resources, and affords a perfect security for study and meditation, and a harbour from those tremendous storms of the passions which often overwhelm minds unable to bear them.

One of the greatest advantages arising from a retired life I may illustrate, by comparing it to the inoculation of infants, to prevent in a future age the many serious disorders which arise from the smallpox. It will be seen from this comparison, that I mean the care of children’s education, which I think is the first duty of parents, and no difficult matter to be put into execution. Of course, religious principles of any kind may easily be instilled into, and strongly impressed upon, their minds. We have an example in the case of Perigune, the daughter of Sinnis, the famous pine-bender, who, after her father was killed, took refuge in a remote place, where she was found in a spot overgrown with shrubs ; and, according to the author’s account who relates the story, she addressed her prayers to the wild asparagus and other plants : and her descendants, in process of time, venerated and worshipped the plants which had afforded an asylum to their ancient mother. When once a religious persuasion is fixed by education, it strenuously resists every other form of belief, as if custom were the criterion of the true faith. Similar pains and trouble in other branches of education, will, where the understanding is naturally good, produce a great fund of knowledge ; but the main object must always be, to instil the principles of virtue, and teach scholars to know themselves and the world, which will afford them the means of enjoying a happy life : thus instructed, they will a! ways have materials ready to engage their attention, which is of great benefit ; and they may therefore, at any time, enjoy a perfect independence, and the opportunity of improving their minds in a happy retirement.

But to return to my Frenchman : Who could possibly expect that he would adopt such a quiet life as this, for himself as well as for his companions, as professors of a dissipated life ? And, very probably, he had arrived at the degree of doctor in that profession of dissipation. Such a man would find himself in a deplorable situation in the solitude he talked of, stretching his inactive limbs in his arm chair, and anxiously wishing for the time when he might retire to his bed, which is the grand luxury of such insignificant beings. So that, when I consider his speech more closely, the anxiety which he expressed for such a tranquil life, seems to me to have been merely the effects of his fright and cowardly disposition, which manifested it self by very strong symptoms at the place appointed for the duel ; for he trembled like the leaf of a tree in a high wind, and his head shook like its branches, whilst he declared, that he wished he could guess what would be the consequence, before he gave the blow, and that this was a more painful tribute to pay than the income tax, looking all the time he spoke, to see if he could make a safe retreat.

We found no less consternation in the face of the player, who would have drawn back from the combat, had not the officers insisted on his going through the business without delay. They then presented to them balls, which in fact were large pills ingeniously prepared, so that no one could discover they were artificial, and a small quantity of powder, and obliged them both to fire. At the discharge of the pistols, their ideas became confused, so that they ran from each other in different directions : one fell into a hole full of water, the other against a stone, which bruised his nose in such a manner, that Lavater, the great observer of that organ, could have made nothing of it. When he perceived the blood, he was in despair, thinking it was occasioned by the ball passing through his head. In fact, both the champions were terribly alarmed; whilst the officers employed themselves in acquainting the public with the joke, and in shewing the pretended balls ; which excited great merriment among the spectators. The appearance of the combatants was truly ludicrous, and afforded a fine subject for mirth, when the one was drawn out from the hole, with his clothes covered with dirt, his face besmeared, and his head like one of the mops they wash rooms with ; and the other with his eyes patched, and his nose bruised, looked like a beggar scraping ballad tunes on the violin.

Both those worthy gentlemen, whose abilities only served them to pamper their bodies with good living, and who might justly be considered a discredit to their own country, and not fit to be admitted into a foreign kingdom, were driven with disgrace and with the hootings of the mob to their lodgings.


AFTER the extraordinary duel related in the preceding chapter, I went to dine with the officers at the barracks, where I met my worthy friend the Mayor, who acquainted the Colonel, that I had spent the preceding evening with the emigrants. I perceived the Colonel. was not very well pleased with my visiting them, the motive for which was his kind attention to my welfare ; and I have experienced in my travels, that not only he, but the public in general, looked sharp upon my movements, and generously directed my conduct, considering that I had little experience, and that accident had thrown me into the bustling world, which made them take a more than fatherly interest, to give me good morals for my future welfare. When the amiable Mayor explained to him, for what purpose I had gone, the Colonel was soon satisfied, and expressed his conviction, that no harm was done ; but that it would serve to show me the varied shades of human life, and their ill example would give light to my mind, how to avoid bad principles. I could not be more overjoyed than at that moment,, in witnessing the interest lie took for my person, but was a little afraid my visit might injure my reputation. It seems, he was aware of the authority of public opinion, and that there is no appeal from their judgment, even for the greatest Monarchs, who, great as they are, are often not exempt from bowing before their tribunal.

In the course of my apprenticeship to the world, during which I have been obliged closely to study the immensity of objects which present themselves to our notice, I have found, that as it is mere accident to he born of poor or of rich parents, so this accident does not allow arrogance to one, nor meanness to another, but both should keep an even balance in their station. Reflecting also on the singular corruption of our nature, I strove to banish all ridiculous chimeras of fancy, and to curb the unruly passions of envy, and of others which I shall not describe, and which we often see presented to our eyes, like so many strange pictures disguised with all the art of the painter, in order to deceive the public eye, which is ever watchful over our actions. But we must not forget, that the public will continue to exercise their privilege, and nothing can prevent their looking at the concerns of men. A quiet man may sleep secure under the inspection of such legislators : and although this turbulent society often exercises its unlimited power amiss, yet it is good daily to attend its lectures. I have been in the midst of those good conductors and debating advocates, and have heard sentence pronounced on imprudent members, and have remarked, that no respect was paid to their rank or their high abilities. This opened my mind to the nature of their judgments, and I could not adopt their practice ; but it served me for a lesson, how to find the true method, by which I might not only avoid the censure of their high tribunal, but so far become their master, as to dispose of them as far as the limited nature of my own affairs would permit, and as far as my political interest could extend. As to this contrivance which I have so boldly exposed, and which, if it will not serve for example, may remain with me ; it is not to be supposed a science, but the simple dictate of nature, without the labour of study, and such as does not stand in need of any laboured explanation, I may explain it by this similitude : The smith can without fear touch cold metals, and examine their qualities, which differ greatly one from another; then, understanding the nature of his metal, he is aware that keeping it in such a state of hardness will not give him any profit, and that it must be prepared in a furnace and made flexible, for which purpose these three articles are useful- fire to make it manageable, pincers to prevent accident, and the hammer to shape it to his fancy. So I think that if we know well their nature, we may by a proper process manage the public, which, to say the truth, is pleased with greater ease, than soups are skimmed and made clear.

Those who have seen as many nations and remote kingdoms as I have passed through, will agree, that not only empires, but particular towns offer to us various natures of men, which ought to be consulted. The event of this method was visible in Turkey, where the invention of the Koran produced a multitude of sects, as numerous as maggots in a rotten cheese, and government was in no better condition, but nearly in a state of anarchy ; therefore, to avoid such errors, the law should. be adapted as closely as possible to the nature of the people’s disposition, otherwise the government is in danger.

What I have said of the different natures of mankind, may be illustrated by the remarkable contrast I observed between the town of Douglas and the rich Whitehaven.

Douglas inspired me with respect and love, and taught me to remember its kind reception; the town of Whitehaven seemed like a hive of industrious bees, with watchful care, forbidding the butterfly to taste their honey. I therefore took leave, and crossed the county of Cumberland, which abounding in barren mountains cannot boast of the fertility of her soil. I went into the country no further than Carlisle, finding nothing to attract my attention, and from thence proceeded to Newcastle-upon-Tyne. I had no reason to repent my visit to that town, the inhabitants of which generously took notice of me, and by their kindness changed the gloomy aspect of my affairs, putting me in a state of defence, which enabled me briskly to repulse the attacks of want.


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