Page images

starves himself in the midst of riches and plenty. He stints the comforts of his family and dependents, imparting to them the necessaries of life in shreds and crumbs, and stooping to the meanest and most debasing expedients, in order to save a shilling or to increase his store days and years

roll on and carry

him near to the verge of time. As he approaches nearer the grave, into which his riches cannot descend, his desires after them still increase, and he clings to them with a more eager grasp;

His last sickness seizes him while he is counting his gold, arranging his bills, collecting his rents, or prosecuting the poor debtors who have come under his grasp. He is determined to hold fast his treasures till the last moment ; even the near prospect of dissolution is insufficient to make his heart relent over a poor family whom he is hurrying into ruin, and in the very article of death, his heart is glued to earthly treasures, in spite of every remonstrance; sometimes grasping the keys of his coffers with a desperate resolution, till, at length, his soul takes its downward flight to that world for which it is prepared.

Such is a faint picture of the covetous man who lays up treasures for himself, and is not rich towards God.” Such is the character, more or less deeply marked, of not a few who pass under the Christian name, and have a place in thè- Christian church. When they are dextrous in the exercise of cunning and deceit, and their conduct is unmarked with any flagrant vice, they may long continue their course without much reprobation from general and even Christian society, especially if they have acquired the habit of dissimulation and hypocritical canting. But the principle which pervades the souls of such persons, if permitted to operate without control, would display itself in a still more glaring and disgustful manner, of which we have many examples recorded in biography and history: In order to exhibit covetousness in its real light, and to impress the mind with the baseness and revolting nature of this passion, it may not be improper to select twoor three examples.

His coat,

Edward Nokes was by trade a tinker, at Hornchurch in Essex. His apartments portrayed symptoms of the most abject poverty, though, at his death, he was found to be possessed of between five and six thousand pounds. He had a wife and several children whom he brought up in the most parsimonious manner, often feeding them on grains and offals of meat which he purchased at reduced prices. In order to save the expense of shaving, he would encourage the dirt to gather on his face, to hide in some measure this defect. He never suffered his shirt to be washed in water, but after wearing it till it became intolerably black, he used to wash it in wine to save the



soap. which time had transformed into a jacket, would have puzzled the most accomplished chemist to determine its original color, so covered was it with shreds and patches of different colors, and those so diversified as to resemble the trophies of the different nations of Europe. The interest of his money, together with all he could heap up, he used to deposit in a bag, which bag was covered up in a tin pot, and then conveyed to a brick kitchen where one of the bricks was taken up, and a hole made just large enough to hold the pot; the brick was then carefully marked, and a tally kept behind the doors of the sum deposited. One day his wife discovered the hoard, and took from the pot one of 16 guineas that were placed therein ; but when her husband came to count. his money, on finding it not to agree with the tally, behind the door, which his wife did not know of, he taxed her with the theft, and to the day of his death-even on his death bed, he never spoke to her, without adding the epithet thiefto every expression. A short time before his death he gave strick charge that his coffin should not have a nail in it, which was actually the case, the lid being fastened with hinges made of cords. His shroud was made of a pound of wool, the coffin was covered with a sheet instead of a pall

, and was carried by six men, to each of whom he left half a crown. At his particular desire, no one who followed him to the grave wore mourning ; even the undertaker was habited in a blue coat and scarlet

waistcoat. He died in 1802, a wretched example of the degrading effects of avarice.

In November, 1821, a person of the name of Harrison died in Bennet street, Rathbone place, Oxford road, London, where he had lodged 20 years. The furniture of his room consisted of one old chair, a table, an old stump bed-stead, and a bed of straw; in one corner was a heap of ashes; and the cupboard, the day after his decease, contained a few potatoe' peelings and a stale roll. His body presented a picture of extreme misery and starvation, though he had no family, and had property in the funds to the amount of £1500. A female friend who was in the habit of visiting him, deposed before the Coroner, that he would let no person but her enter his room, which he always kept padlocked on the inside, for fear of being robbed. He lay on his bed in the day time, and sat up at night without any fire, always burning a lamp. A few evenings before his death, he told her, that many persons wanted to finger his cash, but they should not. He then desired her to lock him in, and take the key with her, which she did ; but on going again next day, she found him lying on his bed, with his clothes on, quite dead. He was in the practice of carrying large sums of money, and sewing them up in different parts of his clothes, for which reason he never pulled them off. Upwards of £100 was found upon

him at the time of his death ;-on the night previous to which he sent for one oyster, half a pint of beer, and a pennyworth of figs, which he ate. Such is the wretchedness and degradation to which covetousness reduces those miserable beings who live under its influence. Such examples form a striking commentary on the words of Solomon: _" There is a sore evil, which I have seen under the sun ; riches kept by the owners thereof to their hurt, and those riches perish by evil travail. As he came forth of his mother's womb, naked shall he return, to go as he came, and shall take nothing of his labor which he may carry away in his hand. All his days also he eateth in darkness, or wretchedness,' and hath much sorrow and wrath with his sickness” under the curse and displeasure of God.

Numerous examples of this kind might be brought forward ; but I shall adduce only the following, well authenticated instance, in relation to John Elwes, Esq., who was for some time a member of parliament for Berkshire.

The father of this gentleman was a brewer, of great eminence, but his mother, though she was left nearly £100,000 by her husband, literally starved herself to death. About the age of 40, Mr. Elwes succeeded to the property of his uncle which amounted to no less than £250,000. Yet this wretched man, notwithstanding his immense wealth, denied himself of almost every comfort, in order to increase his store. He would walk home in the rain in London, rather than pay a shilling for a coach; he would sit in wet clothes sooner than have fire to dry them ; he would eat his provisions in the last stage of putrefaction, sooner than have a fresh joint from the butchers; and he wore a wig for a certain time, which his biographer saw him pick up out of a rut in a lane where they were riding; which had all the appearance of the cast off wig of some beggar. When setting out on a journey, his first care was to put two or three eggs, boiled hard, into his great coat pocket, or any scraps of bread which he found; then mounting his horse, his next attention was to get out of London into that road where turnpikes, were the fewest ; then stopping under any hedge whose grass presented stuff for his horse, and a little water for himself, he would sit down and refresh himself and his horse together, without ever once stopping on the road at any house. Two of his residences he chiefly visited were, Marcham in Suffolk, and another in Berkshire. Marcham was the place he most frequently visited as he advanced in life; for this reason, that the journey into Suffolk cost him only two pence half penny, while that into Berkshire amounted to four pence. To save fire he would walk about the remains of an old green house, or sit with a servant in the kitchen. During the harvest, he would go into the fields to glean the corn on the grounds of his own tenants, and they used to leave a little more than common, to please the old gentleman,


who was as eager after it as aný pauper' in the parish. In the advance of the season, his morning employment was to pick up any stray chips, bones, or other things, to carry to the fire in his pocket; and he was one day surprised by a neighboring gentleman, in the act of pulling down, with some difficulty, a crow's nest, for this purpose. On the gentleman wondering how he would give himself this trouble, “ Oh! sir,” he replied “it is really a shame that these creatures should do so. Do but see what waste they make they dont care how extravagant they are.”

As he approached to the close of life, his avaricious disposition increased, and his penurious habits became still more inveterate. He used still to ride about the country on one of his mares, but he rode her on the soft turf, adjoining the road, to save the expense of shoes, , as he observed, " the turf is very pleasant for a horse's

When any gentleman called to pay him a visit, and the stable boy was profuse, enough to put a little hay before the horse, old Elwes would slily steal back into the stable, and take the hay very carefully away. He would continue to eat game in the last state of putrefaction, and meat that walked about his plate, rather than have new things killed before the old provision was finished —a species of provisions not altogether unsuitable to so degraded a mind. During this period, he one day dined upon the remaining part of a moorhen, which had been brought out of the river by a rat; and soon after ate an undigested part of a pike, which a larger one had swallowed, but had not finished, and which were taken in this state in a net-remarking to a friend with a kind of satisfaction, “ Aye! this is killing two birds with one stone." It is supposed that if his manors and some grounds in his own hands, had not furnished a subsistence, where he had not any thing actually to buy, he would have suffered himself to have starved rather than have bought any thing with money. His dress was in unison with his mode of living. He would walk about in a tattered brown-colored hat, and sometimes in a red and white colored cap, like a prisoner confined for debt. His shoes he would never suffer to

« PreviousContinue »