« VorigeDoorgaan »
IX. VISIT TO THE ROYAL EXCHANGE.
Saturday, May 19, 1711.
Hic segetes, illic veniunt felicius uvæ:
This ground with Bacchus, that with Ceres suits;
And soft Idume weeps her od❜rous tears:
Thus Pontus sends her beaver stones from far:
(In hopes of palms) a race of running steeds.
This is th' original contract; these the laws
THERE is no place in the town which I so much love to frequent as the Royal Exchange. It gives me a secret satisfaction, and, in some measure, gratifies my vanity, as I am an Englishman, to see so rich an assembly of countrymen and foreigners consulting together upon the private business of mankind, and making this metropolis a kind of emporium for the whole earth. I must confess I look upon high-change to be a great council, in which all considerable nations have their representatives. Factors in the trading world are what ambassadors are in the politic world; they negotiate affairs, 30 conclude treaties, and maintain a good correspondence between those wealthy societies of men that are divided from one another by seas and oceans, or live on the different
extremities of a continent. I have often been pleased to hear disputes adjusted between an inhabitant of Japan and an alderman of London, or to see a subject of the Great Mogul entering into a league with one of the Czar of Muscovy. I am infinitely delighted in mixing with these several ministers of commerce, as they are distinguished by their different walks and different languages: sometimes I am jostled among a body of Armenians; sometimes I am lost in a crowd of Jews; and sometimes make one in a group 10 of Dutchmen. I am a Dane, Swede, or Frenchman at different times; or rather fancy myself like the old philosopher, who upon being asked what countryman he was, replied that he was a citizen of the world.
Though I very frequently visit this busy multitude of people, I am known to nobody there but my friend Sir Andrew, who often smiles upon me as he sees me bustling in the crowd, but at the same time connives at my presence without taking any further notice of me. There is indeed a merchant of Egypt, who just knows me by sight, having 20 formerly remitted me some money to Grand Cairo ; but as I am not versed in the modern Coptic, our conferences go no further than a bow and a grimace.
This grand scene of business gives me an infinite variety of solid and substantial entertainments. As I am a great lover of mankind, my heart naturally overflows with pleasure at the sight of a prosperous and happy multitude, insomuch, that at many public solemnities I cannot forbear expressing my joy with tears that have stolen down my cheeks. For this reason
I am wonderfully delighted to see such a body of men thriv30 ing in their own private fortunes, and at the same time promoting the public stock; or, in other words, raising estates for their own families, by bringing into their country whatever is wanting, and carrying out of it whatever is superfluous.
Nature seems to have taken a peculiar care to disseminate the blessings among the different regions of the world, with an eye to this mutual intercourse and traffic among mankind,
that the natives of the several parts of the globe might have a kind of dependence upon one another, and be united together by this common interest. Almost every degree produces something peculiar to it. The food often grows in one country and the sauce in another. The fruits of Portugal are corrected by the products of Barbadoes; the infusion of a China plant sweetened with the pith of an Indian cane. The Philippic Islands give a flavour to our European bowls. The single dress of a woman of quality is often the product of a hundred climates. The muff and the fan come together 10 from the different ends of the earth. The scarf is sent from the torrid zone, and the tippet from beneath the pole. The brocade petticoat rises out of the mines of Peru, and the diamond necklace out of the bowels of Indostan.
If we consider our own country in its natural prospect, without any of the benefits and advantages of commerce, what a barren, uncomfortable spot of earth falls to our share ! Natural historians tell us, that no fruit grows originally among us besides hips and haws, acorns and pig-nuts, with other delicacies of the like nature; that our climate of itself, 20 and without the assistance of art, can make no further advances towards a plum than to a sloe, and carries an apple to no greater a perfection than a crab that our melons, our peaches, our figs, our apricots, and cherries, are strangers among us, imported in different ages, and naturalized in our English gardens; and that they would all degenerate and fall away into the trash of our own country, if they were wholly neglected by the planter, and left to the mercy of our sun and soil. Nor has traffic more enriched our vegetable world, than it has improved the whole face of nature among 30 us. Our ships are laden with the harvest of every climate : our tables are stored with spices, and oils, and wines; our rooms are filled with pyramids of China, and adorned with the workmanship of Japan; our morning's draught comes to us from the remotest corners of the earth; we repair our bodies by the drugs of America, and repose ourselves under
Indian canopies. My friend Sir Andrew calls the vineyards of France our gardens; the spice-islands our hot-beds; the Persians our silk-weavers, and the Chinese our potters. Nature indeed furnishes us with the bare necessaries of life, but traffic gives us a great variety of what is useful, and at the same time supplies us with everything that is convenient and ornamental. Nor is it the least part of this our happiness, that while we enjoy the remotest products of the north and south, we are free from those extremities of weather which 10 give them birth; that our eyes are refreshed with the green fields of Britain, at the same time that our palates are feasted with fruits that rise between the tropics.
For these reasons there are not more useful members in a commonwealth than merchants. They knit mankind together in a mutual intercourse of good offices, distribute the gifts of nature, find work for the poor, and wealth to the rich, and magnificence to the great. Our English merchant converts the tin of his own country into gold, and exchanges his wool for rubies. The Mahometans are clothed in our 20 British manufacture, and the inhabitants of the frozen zone warmed with the fleeces of our sheep.
When I have been upon the Change, I have often fancied one of our old kings standing in person, where he is represented in effigy, and looking down upon the wealthy concourse of people with which that place is every day filled. In this case, how would he be surprised to hear all the languages of Europe spoken in this little spot of his former dominions, and to see so many private men, who in his time would have been the vassals of some powerful baron, negotiating like 30 princes for greater sums of money than were formerly to be met with in the royal treasury! Trade, without enlarging the British territories, has given us a kind of additional empire it has multiplied the number of the rich, made our landed estates infinitely more valuable than they were formerly, and added to them an accession of other estates as valuable as the lands themselves.
X. ACCOUNT OF THE EVERLASTING CLUB.
Wednesday, May 23, 1711.
Genus immortale manet, multosque per annos
Virg. Georg. iv. 208.
Th' immortal line in sure succession reigns,
And grandsires' grandsons the long list contains.-Dryden.
HAVING already given my reader an account of several extraordinary clubs, both ancient and modern, I did not design to have troubled him with any more narratives of this nature, but I have lately received information of a club which I can call neither ancient nor modern, that I daresay 10 will be no less surprising to my reader than it was to myself, for which reason I shall communicate it to the public as one of the greatest curiosities in its kind.
A friend of mine complaining of a tradesman who is related to him, after having represented him as a very idle worthless fellow who neglected his family, and spent most of his time over a bottle, told me, to conclude his character, that he was a member of the Everlasting Club. So very odd a title raised my curiosity to inquire into the nature of a club that had such a sounding name, upon which my friend 20 gave me the following account :—
The Everlasting Club consists of a hundred members, who divide the whole twenty-four hours among them in such a manner that the club sits day and night from one end of the year to another, no party presuming to rise till they are relieved by those who are in course to succeed them. By this means a member of the Everlasting Club never wants company, for though he is not upon duty himself he is sure to find some who are; so that if he be disposed to take a whet, a nooning, an evening's draught, or a bottle after midnight, 30