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This may serve for a preface to the history of poor Will Rosin, the fiddler of Wapping, who is a man as much made for happiness and a quiet life, as any one breathing; but has been lately entangled in so many intricate and unreasonable distresses, as would have made him, had he been a man of too nice honour, the most wretched of all mortals. I came to the knowledge of his affairs by mere accident. Several of the narrow end of our lane having made an appointment to visit some friends beyond Saint Katharine's, where there was to be a merry meeting, they would needs take with them the old gentleman, as they are pleased to call me. I who value my company by their good-will, which naturally has the same effect as good-breeding, was not too stately, or too wise, to accept of the invitation. Our design was to be spectators of a sea-ball; to which I readily consented, provided I might be incognito, being naturally pleased with the survey of human life in all its degrees and circumstances. In order to this merriment, Will Rosin, who is the Corelli of the Wupping side, as Tom Scrape is the Bononcini of Redriffe, was immediately sent for; but, to our utter disappointment, poor Will was under an arrest, and desired the assistance of all his kind masters and mistresses, or he must go to gaol. The whole company received his message with great humanity, and very generously threw in their half-pence a-piece in a great dish, which purchased his redemption out of the hands of the bailiffs. During the negotiation for his enlargement, I had an opportunity of acquainting myself with his history.
Mr. William Rosin, of the parish of Saint Katharine, is somewhat stricken in years, and married to a young widow, who has very much the ascendant over him; this degenerate age being so
perverted in all things, that, even in the state of matrimony, the young pretend to govern their elders. The musician is extremely fond of her ; but is often obliged to lay by his fiddle, to hear louder notes of hers, when she is pleased to be angry with him: for you are to know, Will is not of consequence enough to enjoy her conversation but when she chides him, or makes use of him to carry on her amours; for she is a woman of stratagem; and even in that part of the world, where one would expect but very little gallantry, by the force of natural genius, she can be sullen, sick, out of humour, splenetic, want new cloaths, and more money, as well as if she had been bred in Cheapside, or Cornhill. She was lately under a secret discontent, upon account of a lover she was like to lose by his marriage ; for her gallant, Mr. Ezekiel Boniface, had been twice asked in the church, in order to be joined in matrimony with Mrs. Winifred Dimple, spinster, of the same parish. Hereupon Mrs. Rosin was far gone in that distemper which well-governed husbands know by the description of, “I am I know not how ;” and Will soon understood that it was his part to inquire into the occasion of her melancholy, or suffer as the cause of it himself. After much importunity, all he could get out of her
was, “ that she was the most unhappy and the most wicked of all women, and had no friend in the world to tell her grief to." Upon this, Will doubled his importunities; but she said, “ that she should break her poor heart, if he did not take a solemn oath upon a book, that he would not be angry; and that he would
the had wronged her to all the world, for the ease of her mind, which was no way else to be quieted.” The fiddler' was so melted, that he immediately kissed her, and afterwards the book. When his
oath was taken, she began to lament herself, and revealed to him, “ That, miserable woman as she was, she had been false to his bed." Will was glad to hear it was no worse ; but, before he could reply, “ Nay,” said she, “ I will make you all the atonement I can, and take shame upon me, by proclaiming it to all the world, which is the only thing that can remove my present terrors of mind. This was indeed too 'true, for her design was to prevent Mr. Boniface's marriage, which was all she apprehended. Will was thoroughly angry, and began to curse and swear, the ordinary expressions of passion in persons of his condition. Upon which his wife“ Ah, William! how well you mind the oath you have taken, and the distress of your poor wife, who can keep nothing from you! I hope you will not be such a perjured wretch as to forswear yourself.” The fiddler answered, “that his oath obliged him only not to be angry at what had passed; but I find you intend to make me laughed at all over Wapping.” — “ No, no,” replied Mrs. Rosin, “I see well enough what you would be at, you poorspirited cuckold ! You are afraid to expose Boniface, who has abused your poor wife, and would fain persuade me still to suffer the stings of conscience ; but I assure you, sirrah, I will not go to the devil for you.” Poor Will was not made for contention, and, beseeching her to be pacified, desired “she would consult the good of her soul her own way, for he would not say her nay in any thing."
Mrs. Rosin was so very loud and public in her invectives against Boniface, that the parents of his mistress forbad the banns, and his match was prevented, which was the whole design of this deep stratagem. The father of Boniface brought his action of defamation, arrested the fiddler, and recovered damages.
This was the distress from
which he was relieved by the company; and the good husband's air, history, and jollity upon his enlargement, gave occasion to very much mirth; especially when Will, finding he had friends to stand by him, proclaimed himself a cuckold, by way of insult over the family of the Bonifaces. Here is a man of tranquillity without reading Seneca! What work had such an incident made among persons of distinction! The brothers and kindred of each side must have been drawn out, and hereditary hatred entailed on the families as long as their very names remained in the world. Who would believe that Herod, Othello, and Will Rosin, were of the same species?
There are quite different sentiments which reign in the parlour and the kitchen ; and it is by the point of honour, when justly regulated, and inviolably observed, that some men are superior to others, as much as mankind in general are to brutes. This puts me in mind of a passage in the admirable poem called “ The Dispensary," where the nature of true honour is artfully described in an ironical dispraise of it: “ But ere we once engage in honour's cause,
First know what honour is, and whence it was.
*** A very odd fellow visited me to-day at my lodgings, and desired encouragement and recom
mendation from me for a new invention of knockers to doors, which he told me he had made, and professed to teach rustic servants the use of them. I desired him to show me an experiment of this invention; upon which he fixed one of his knockers to my parlour-door. He then gave me a complete set of knocks, from the solitary rap of the dun and beggar, to the thunderings of the saucy footman of quality, with several flourishes and rattlings never yet performed. He likewise played over some private notes, distinguishing the familiar friend or relation from the most modish visitor: and directing when the reserve candles are to be lighted. He has several other curiosities in his art. He waits only to receive my approbation of the main design. He is now ready to practise to such as shall apply themselves to him; but I have put off his public licence until next court-day.
N.B. He teaches under-ground..
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 13, 1709.
Invenies disjecti membra poeta.
Hlor. I Sat. iv. 62. You will find the limbs of a dismem ber'd poet.
Will's Coffee-house, Decen.iber 12. I was this evening sitting at the side-table, and reading one of my own papers with great satisfaction, not knowing that I was ob served by any in