The Complete English Tradesman Part 13

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_Wife_.--Don't tell me of mortifications; it would be a worse mortification, a thousand times over, to have you ruined, and have your creditors insult me with being the occasion of it.

_Husb_.--It is very kind in you, my dear, and I must always acknowledge it; but, however, I would not have you straiten yourself too much neither.

_Wife_.--Nay, this will not be so much a mortification as the natural consequence of other things; for, in order to abate the expense of our living, I resolve to keep less company. I a.s.sure you I will lay down all the state of living, as well as the expense of it; and, first, I will keep no visiting days; secondly, I'll drop the greatest part of the acquaintance I have; thirdly, I will lay down our treats and entertainments, and the like needless occasions of expense, and then I shall have no occasion for so many maids.

_Husb_.--But this, my dear, I say, will make as much noise almost, as if I were actually broke.

_Wife_.--No, no; leave that part to me.

_Husb_.--But you may tell me how you will manage it then.

_Wife_.--Why, I'll go into the country.

_Husb_.--That will but bring them after you, as it used to do.

_Wife_.--But I'll put off our usual lodgings at Hampstead, and give out that I am gone to spend the summer in Bedfords.h.i.+re, at my aunt's, where every body knows I used to go sometimes; they can't come after me thither.

_Husb_.--But when you return, they will all visit you.

_Wife_.--Yes, and I will make no return to all those I have a mind to drop, and there's an end of all their acquaintance at once.

_Husb_.--And what must I do?

_Wife_.--Nay, my dear, it is not for me to direct that part; you know how to cure the evil which you sensibly feel the mischief of. If I do my part, I don't doubt you know how to do yours.

_Husb_.--Yes, I know, but it is hard, very hard.

_Wife_.--Nay, I hope it is no harder for you than it is for your wife.

_Husb_.--That is true, indeed, but I'll see.

_Wife_.--The question to me is not whether it is hard, but whether it is necessary.

_Husb_.--Nay, it is necessary, that is certain.

_Wife_.--Then I hope it is as necessary to you as to your wife.

_Husb_.--I know not where to begin.

_Wife_.--Why, you keep two horses and a groom, you keep rich high company, and you sit long at the Fleece every evening. I need say no more; you know where to begin well enough.

_Husb_.--It is very hard; I have not your spirit, my dear.

_Wife_.--I hope you are not more ashamed to retrench, than you would be to have your name in the Gazette.

_Husb_.--It is sad work to come down hill thus.

_Wife_.--It would be worse to fall down at one blow from the top; better slide gently and voluntarily down the smooth part, than to be pushed down the precipice, and be dashed all in pieces.

There was more of this dialogue, but I give the part which I think most to the present purpose; and as I strive to shorten the doctrine, so I will abridge the application also; the substance of the case lies in a few particulars, thus:--

I. The man was melancholy, and oppressed with the thoughts of his declining circ.u.mstances, and yet had not any thought of letting his wife know it, whose way of living was high and expensive, and more than he could support; but though it must have ended in ruin, he would rather let it have gone on till she was surprised in it, than to tell her the danger that was before her.

His wife very well argues the injustice and unkindness of such usage, and how hard it was to a wife, who, being of necessity to suffer in the fall, ought certainly to have the most early notice of it--that, if possible, she might prevent it, or, at least, that she might not be overwhelmed with the suddenness and the terror of it.

II. Upon discovering it to his wife, or rather her drawing the discovery from him by her importunity, she immediately, and most readily and cheerfully, enters into measures to retrench her expenses, and, as far as she was able, to prevent the blow, which was otherwise apparent and unavoidable.

Hence it is apparent, that the expensive living of most tradesmen in their families, is for want of a serious acquainting their wives with their circ.u.mstances, and acquainting them also in time; for there are very few ladies so unreasonable, who, if their husbands seriously informed them how things stood with them, and that they could not support their way of living, would not willingly come into measures to prevent their own destruction.

III. That it is in vain, as well as unequal, for a tradesman to preach frugality to his wife, and to bring his wife to a retrenching of her expenses, and not at the same time to retrench his own; seeing that keeping horses and high company is every way as great and expensive, and as necessary to be abated, as any of the family extravagances, let them be which they will.

All this relates to the duty of a tradesman in preventing his family expenses being ruinous to his business; but the true method to prevent all this, and never to let it come so far, is still, as I said before, not to marry too soon; not to marry, till by a frugal industrious management of his trade in the beginning, he has laid a foundation for maintaining a wife, and bringing up a family, and has made an essay by which he knows what he can and cannot do, and also before he has laid up and increased his stock, that he may not cripple his fortune at first, and be ruined before he has begun to thrive.

FOOTNOTES:

[22] [Defoe's views on the subject of the too early marrying of young tradesmen, are in every particular sound. Though there are instances of premature marriages followed by no evil result, but rather the contrary, there can be no doubt, that the only prudent course is to wait till a settlement in life, and a regular income, have been secured. A young man, anxious for other reasons to marry, is sometimes heard to express his conviction that he might live more cheaply married than single.

There could be no a.s.sertion more inconsistent with all common experience. Even if no positively ruinous consequences arise from an over-early marriage, it almost always occasions much hards.h.i.+p. It saddens a period of life which nature has designed to be peculiarly cheerful. The whole life of such a man becomes like a year in which there has been no May or June. The grave cares of matrimony do not appear to be naturally suitable to the human character, till the man has approached his thirtieth, and the woman her twenty-fourth year.]

CHAPTER XII

OF THE TRADESMAN'S LEAVING HIS BUSINESS TO SERVANTS

It is the ordinary excuse of the gentlemen tradesmen of our times, that they have good servants, and that therefore they take more liberty to be out of their business, than they would otherwise do. 'Oh!' says the shopkeeper, 'I have an apprentice--it is an estate to have such a servant. I am as safe in him as if I had my eye upon the business from morning till night; let me be where I will, I am always satisfied he is at home; if I am at the tavern, I am sure he is in the counting-house, or behind the counter; he is never out of his post.

'And then for my other servants, the younger apprentices,' says he, 'it is all one as if I were there myself--they would be idle it may be, but he won't let them, I a.s.sure you; they must stick close to it, or he will make them do it; he tells them, boys do not come apprentices to play, but to work; not to sit idle, and be doing nothing, but to mind their master's business, that they may learn how to do their own.'

'Very well; and you think, Sir, this young man being so much in the shop, and so diligent and faithful, is an estate to you, and so indeed it is; but are your customers as well pleased with this man, too, as you are? or are they as well pleased with him, as they would be, if you were there yourself?'

'Yes, they are,' says the shopkeeper; 'nay, abundance of the customers take him for the master of the shop, and don't know any other; and he is so very obliging, and pleases so well, giving content to every body, that, if I am at any other part of the shop, and see him serving a customer, I never interrupt them, unless sometimes (he is so modest) he will call me, and turning to the ladies say, "There's my master, Madam; if you think he will abate you any thing, I'll call him;" and sometimes they will look a little surprised, and say, "Is that your master?

indeed, we thought you had been the master of the shop yourself."'

'Well,' said I, 'and you think yourself very happy in all this, don't you? Pray, how long has this young gentleman to serve? how long is it before his time will be out?' 'Oh, he has almost a year and a half to serve,' says the shopkeeper. 'I hope, then,' said I, 'you will take care to have him knocked on the head, as soon as his time is out.' 'G.o.d forbid,' says the honest man; 'what do you mean by that?' 'Mean!' said I, 'why, if you don't, he will certainly knock your trade on the head, as soon as the year and a half comes to be up. Either you must dispose of him, as I say, or take care that he does not set up near you, no, not in the same street; if you do, your customers will all run thither. When they miss him in the shop, they will presently inquire for him; and as, you say, they generally take him for the master, they will ask whether the gentleman is removed that kept the shop before.'

All my shopkeeper could say, was, that he had got a salve for that sore, and that was, that when Timothy was out of his time, he resolved to take him in partner.

'A very good thing, indeed! so you must take Timothy into half the trade when he is out of his time, for fear he should run away with three-quarters of it, when he sets up for himself. But had not the master much better have been Timothy himself?--then he had been sure never to have the customers take Timothy for the master; and when he went away, and set up perhaps at next door, leave the shop, and run after him.'

It is certain, a good servant, a faithful, industrious, obliging servant, is a blessing to a tradesman, and, as he said, is an estate to his master; but the master, by laying the stress of his business upon him, divests himself of all the advantages of such a servant, and turns the blessing into a blast; for by giving up the shop as it were to him, and indulging himself in being abroad, and absent from his business, the apprentice gets the mastery of the business, the fame of the shop depends upon him, and when he sets up, certainly follows him. Such a servant would, with the master's attendance too, be very helpful, and yet not be dangerous; such a servant is well, when he is visibly an a.s.sistant to the master, but is ruinous when he is taken for the master.

There is a great deal of difference between a servant's being the stay of his master, and his being the stay of his trade: when he is the first, the master is served by him; and when he is gone, he breeds up another to follow his steps; but when he is the last, he carries the trade with him, and does his master infinitely more hurt than good.

A good tradesman has a great deal of trouble with a bad servant, but must take heed that he is not wounded by a good one--the extravagant idle vagrant servant hurts himself, but the diligent servant endangers his master. The greater reputation the servant gets in his business, the more care the master has upon him, lest he gets within him, and worms him out of his business.

The only way to prevent this, and yet not injure a diligent servant, is that the master be as diligent as the servant; that the master be as much at the shop as the man. He that will keep in his business, need never fear keeping his business, let his servant be as diligent as he will. It is a hard thing that a tradesman should have the blessing of a good servant, and make it a curse to him, by his appearing less capable than his man.

Let your apprentice be in the business, but let the master be at the head of the business at all times. There is a great deal of difference between being diligent in the business _in_ the shop, and leading the whole business _of_ the shop. An apprentice who is diligent may be master of his business, but should never be master of the shop; the one is to be useful to his master, the other is to be master of his master; and, indeed, this shows the absolute necessity of diligence and application in a tradesman, and how, for want of it, that very thing which is the blessing of another tradesman's business is the ruin of his.

The Complete English Tradesman Part 13

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The Complete English Tradesman Part 13 summary

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