The Complete English Tradesman Part 18

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2. _Lady_.--Indeed, she has been used very ill by him, or somebody for him.

1. _Lady_.--Yes, he has reported strange things, but they are all lies.

2. _Lady_.--Well; but pray, Madam, what was the reason, if we may be so free, that she turned him off after she had entertained him so long?

1. _Lady_.--Oh, Madam! reason enough; I wonder he should pretend, when he knew his own circ.u.mstances too, to court a lady of her fortune.

2. _Lady_.--Why, are not his circ.u.mstances good, then?

1. _Lady_.--No, Madam. Good! alas, he has no bottom.

2. _Lady_.--No bottom! Why, you surprise me; we always looked upon him to be a man of substance, and that he was very well in the world.

1. _Lady_.--It is all a cheat, Madam; there's nothing in it; when it came to be made out, nothing at all in it.

2. _Lady_.--That cannot be, Madam; Mr ---- has lived always in good reputation and good credit in his business.

1. _Lady_.--It is all sunk again then, if it was so; I don't know.

2. _Lady_.--Why did she entertain him so long, then?

1. _Lady_.--Alas! Madam, how could she know, poor lady, till her friends inquired into things? But when they came to look a little narrowly into it, they soon found reason to give her a caution, that he was not the man she took him for.

2. _Lady_.--Well, it is very strange; I am sure he pa.s.sed for another man among us.

1. _Lady_.--It must be formerly, then, for they tell me his credit has been sunk these three or four years; he had need enough indeed to try for a greater fortune, he wants it enough.

2. _Lady_.--It is a sad thing when men look out for fortunes to heal their trade-breaches with, and make the poor wife patch up their old bankrupt credit.

1. _Lady_.--Especially, Madam, when they know themselves to be gone so far, that even with the addition they can stand but a little while, and must inevitably bring the lady to destruction with them.

2. _Lady_.--Well, I could never have thought Mr ---- was in such circ.u.mstances.

3. _Lady_.--Nor I; we always took him for a ten thousand pound man.

1. _Lady_.--They say he was deep in the bubbles, Madam.

2. _Lady_.--Nay, if he was gotten into the South Sea, that might hurt him indeed, as it has done many a gentleman of better estates than he.

1. _Lady_.--I don't know whether it was the South Sea, or some other bubbles, but he was very near making a bubble of her, and 3000 into the bargain.

2. _Lady_.--I am glad she has escaped him, if it be so; it is a sign her friends took a great deal of care of her.

1. _Lady_.--He won't hold it long; he will have his desert, I hope; I don't doubt but we shall see him in the Gazette quickly for a bankrupt.

2. _Lady_.--If he does not draw in some innocent young thing that has her fortune in her own hands to patch him up.

1. _Lady_.--I hope not, Madam; I hear he is blown where he went since, and there, they say, they have made another discovery of him, in a worse circ.u.mstance than the other.

2. _Lady_.--How, pray?

1. _Lady_.--Nothing, Madam, but a particular kind of illness, &c. I need say no more.

2. _Lady_.--You astonish me! Why, I always thought him a very civil, honest, sober man.

1. _Lady_.--This is a sad world, Madam; men are seldom known now, till it is too late; but sometimes murder comes out seasonably, and so I understand it is here; for the lady had not gone so far with him, but that she could go off again.

2. _Lady_.--Nay, it was time to go off again, if it were so.

1. _Lady_.--Nay, Madam, I do not tell this part of my own knowledge; I only heard so, but I am afraid there is too much in it.

Thus ended this piece of h.e.l.lish wildfire, upon the character and credit of a tradesman, the truth of all which was no more than this--that the tradesman, disliking his first lady, left her, and soon after, though not presently, courted another of a superior fortune indeed, though not for that reason; and the first lady, provoked at being cast off, and, as she called it, slighted, raised all this clamour upon him, and persecuted him with it, wherever she was able.

Such a discourse as this at a tea-table, it could not be expected would be long a secret; it ran from one t.i.ttle-tattle society to another; and in every company, snow-ball like, it was far from lessening, and it went on, till at length it began to meet with some contradiction, and the tradesman found himself obliged to trace it as far and as well as he could.

But it was to no purpose to confront it; when one was asked, and another was asked, they only answered they heard so, and they heard it in company in such a place, and in such a place, and some could remember where they had it, and some could not; and the poor tradesman, though he was really a man of substance, sank under it prodigiously: his new mistress, whom he courted, refused him, and would never hear any thing in his favour, or trouble herself to examine whether it were true or no--it was enough, she said, to her, that he was laden with such a report; and, if it was unjust, she was sorry for it, but the misfortune must be his, and he must place it to the account of his having made some enemies, which she could not help.

As to his credit, the slander of the first lady's raising was spread industriously, and with the utmost malice and bitterness, and did him an inexpressible prejudice; every man he dealt with was shy of him; every man he owed any thing to came for it, and, as he said, he was sure he should see the last penny demanded; it was his happiness that he had wherewith to pay, for had his circ.u.mstances been in the least perplexed, the man had been undone; nay, as I have observed in another case, as his affairs might have lain, he might have been able to have paid forty s.h.i.+llings in the pound, and yet have been undone, and been obliged to break, and shut up his shop.

It is true, he worked through it, and he carried it so far as to fix the malice of all the reports pretty much upon the first lady, and particularly so far as to discover that she was the great reason of his being so positively rejected by the other; but he could never fix it so upon her as to recover any damages of her, only to expose her a little, and that she did not value, having, as she said wickedly, had her full revenge of him, and so indeed she had.

The sum of the matter is, and it is for this reason I tell you the story, that the reputation of a tradesman is too much at the mercy of men's tongues or women's either; and a story raised upon a tradesman, however malicious, however false, and however frivolous the occasion, is not easily suppressed, but, if it touches his credit, as a flash of fire it spreads over the whole air like a sheet; there is no stopping it.

My inference from all this shall be very brief; if the tongues of every ill-disposed envious gossip, whether man-gossip or woman-gossip, for there are of both sorts, may be thus mischievous to the tradesman, and he is so much at the mercy of the tattling slandering part of the world, how much more should tradesmen be cautious and wary how they touch or wound the credit and character of one another. There are but a very few tradesmen who can say they are out of the reach of slander, and that the malice of enemies cannot hurt them with the tongue. Here and there one, and those ancient and well established, may be able to defy the world; but there are so many others, that I think I may warn all tradesmen against making havoc of one another's reputation, as they would be tenderly used in the same case.

And yet I cannot but say it is too much a tradesman's crime, I mean to speak slightly and contemptibly of other tradesman, their neighbours, or perhaps rivals in trade, and to run them down in the characters they give of them, when inquiry may be made of them, as often is the case.

The reputation of tradesmen is too often put into the hands of their fellow-tradesmen, when ignorant people think to inform themselves of their circ.u.mstances, by going to those whose interest it is to defame and run them down.

I know no case in the world in which there is more occasion for the golden rule, Do as you would be done unto; and though you may be established, as you may think, and be above the reach of the tongues of others, yet the obligation of the rule is the same, for you are to do as you would be done unto, supposing that you were in the same condition, or on a level with the person.

It is confessed that tradesmen do not study this rule in the particular case I am now speaking of. No men are apter to speak slightly and coldly of a fellow-tradesman than his fellow-tradesmen, and to speak unjustly so too; the reasons for which cannot be good, unless it can be pleaded for upon the foundation of a just and impartial concern in the interest of the inquirer; and even then nothing must be said but what is consistent with strict justice and truth: all that is more than that, is mere slander and envy, and has nothing of the Christian in it, much less of the neighbour or friend. It is true that friends.h.i.+p may be due to the inquirer, but still so much justice is due to the person inquired of, that it is very hard to speak in such cases, and not be guilty of raising dust, as they call it, upon your neighbour, and at least hurting, if not injuring him.

It is, indeed, so difficult a thing, that I scarce know what stated rule to lay down for the conduct of a tradesman in this case:--A tradesman at a distance is going to deal with another tradesman, my neighbour; and before he comes to bargain, or before he cares to trust him, he goes, weakly enough perhaps, to inquire of him, and of his circ.u.mstances, among his neighbours and fellow-tradesmen, perhaps of the same profession or employment, and who, among other things, it may be, are concerned by their interest, that this tradesman's credit should not rise too fast. What must be done in this case?

If I am the person inquired of, what must I do? If I would have this man sink in his reputation, or be discredited, and if it is for my interest to have him cried down in the world, it is a sore temptation to me to put in a few words to his disadvantage; and yet, if I do it in gratification of my private views or interest, or upon the foot of resentment of any kind whatever, and let it be from what occasion it will, nay, however just and reasonable the resentment is, or may be, it is utterly unjust and unlawful, and is not only unfair as a man, but unchristian, and is neither less nor more than a secret revenge, which is forbidden by the laws of G.o.d and man.

If, on the other hand, I give a good character of the man, or of his reputation, I mean, of his credit in business, in order to have the inquirer trust him, and at the same time know or believe that he is not a sound and good man (that is, as to trade, for it is his character in trade that I am speaking of), what am I doing then? It is plain I lay a snare for the inquirer, and am at least instrumental to his loss, without having really any design to hurt him; for it is to be supposed, before he came to me to inquire, I had no view of acting any thing to his prejudice.

Again, there is no medium, for to refuse or decline giving a character of the man, is downright giving him the worst character I can--it is, in short, shooting him through the head in his trade. A man comes to me for a character of my neighbouring tradesman; I answer him with a repulse to his inquiry thus--

_A_.--Good sir, do not ask me the character of my neighbours--I resolve to meddle with n.o.body's character; pray, do not inquire of me.

_B_.--Well, but, sir, you know the gentleman; you live next door to him; you can tell me, if you please, all that I desire to know, whether he is a man in credit, and fit to be trusted, or no, in the way of his business.

_A_.--I tell you, sir, I meddle with no man's business; I will not give characters of my neighbours--it is an ill office--a man gets no thanks for it, and perhaps deserves none.

_B_.--But, sir, you would be willing to be informed and advised, if it were your own case.

The Complete English Tradesman Part 18

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The Complete English Tradesman Part 18 summary

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