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'Specimen' Applications.

161

ladies; but Dr. Johnson is of a directly opposite opinion. 'A beggar in the street,' he says, 'will more readily ask alms from a man, though there should be no marks of wealth in his appearance, than from even a well-dressed woman;' which he accounted for by the great degree of carefulness as to money that is to be found in the female sex. One of the most common forms of application is to send a book, print, or other article, with an earnest solicitation that it may be purchased for the benefit of the writer; which failing, it is delicately suggested that a few postage-stamps may be transmitted along with the proffered enclosure, to defray the cost of circulars. Even if this modest proposal should not be complied with, it is requested that the circular itself may be returned, with the view of its being sent to some other person! The following is a choice specimen of a comparatively recent production in the begging line, copied from the columns of a weekly journal :

SIR,-At the suggestion of a friend, I sent my book and sermons, and if you could send anything for them, or obtain any subscribers, I should feel deeply grateful; for through having expended all my time and means upon the gratuitous delivery of my sermons and lectures in the

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A distressed Usher.

hope of doing good, I am left without a shilling. Unless

I can immediately meet a £10 the printing, I shall be ruined.

so ill I can scarcely write.

bill to finish paying for The thought makes me

If you could in the smallest degree assist me in this my great extremity of need, I should feel so thankful, and shortly repay you, for then brighter days would dawn upon me. I entreat you to grant my request, or a debtors' prison awaits me, and the disgrace would kill me. God grant that you may not refuse me, and may his blessing rest upon you and all dear to you, prays yours truly, De-.

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Oh! save me from the sad fate that awaits me.

S.W.

As an example of a different style, I may also give an extract from an epistle addressed to a nobleman by a distressed usher upwards of twenty years ago, in which the writer mentions, among other particulars connected with his early history, that he was educated either for a clergyman, an officer of marines, or a cadet in the E.I. Company's service!' He then proceeds to make a very touching statement :—

An early marriage, at Gretna Green, irrevocably estranged my relations from me, blasted all my prospects in life, and doomed me, before I was eighteen years of age, to become a teacher of youth, in which capacity, on the small salary of a school-assistant, I have had to contend with the serious cares of rearing fourteen children, the

The ideal Begging-Letter Writer. 163

eight youngest of whom, with their poor mother, who has been a cripple from the painful effects of rheumatism, are still dependent upon me for support. . . . Twenty years ago, my Lord, there were in this part of the country, about twenty-four boarding-schools; but they have all disappeared except five, and those, also, are waning. In one of those five, to which the publication of Nicholas Nickleby appears to have given the coup-degrace, I was engaged more than seventeen years; but my services are no longer wanted.

The following graphic description of the ideal begging-letter writer is from the pen of Charles Dickens:

The natural phenomena of which he has been the victim are of a most astounding nature. He has had two children who have never grown up: who have never had anything to cover them at night; who have been continually driving him mad by asking in vain for food; who have never come out of fevers and measles (which, I suppose, has accounted for his fuming his letters with tobacco-smoke, as a disinfectant); who have never changed in the least degree through fourteen long revolving years. As to his wife, what that suffering woman has undergone, nobody knows. She has always been in an interesting situation through the same long period, and has never been confined yet. His devotion to her has been unceasing. He has never cared for himself; he could have perished-he would rather, in short--but was it not his Christian duty as a man, a husband, and a father, to write begging-letters when he looked at her? (He has usually remarked that he would call in the evening for an answer to this question.)

He has been the sport of the strangest misfortunes.

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Painful Experiences.

What his brother has done to him would have broken anybody else's heart. His brother went into business with him, and ran away with the money; his brother got him to be security for an immense sum, and left him to pay it; his brother would have given him employment to the tune of hundreds a year, if he would have consented to write letters on a Sunday; his brother enunciated principles incompatible with his religious views, and he could not (in consequence) permit his brother to provide for him. His landlord has never shown a spark of human feeling. When he put in that execution I don't know, but he has never taken it out. The broker's man has grown grey in possession. They will have to bury him some day.

Once he wrote me rather a special letter, proposing relief in kind. He had got into a little trouble by leaving parcels of mud done up in brown paper, at people's houses, on pretence of being a railway-porter, in which character he received carriage-money. This sportive fancy he expiated in the House of Correction. Not long after his release, and on a Sunday morning, he called with a letter (having first dusted himself all over), in which he gave me to understand that, being resolved to earn an honest livelihood, he had been travelling about the country with a cart of crockery. That he had been doing pretty well until the day before, when his horse had dropped down dead near Chatham, in Kent. That this had reduced him to the unpleasant necessity of getting into the shafts himself, and drawing the cart of crockery to London-a somewhat exhausting pull of thirty miles. That he did not venture to ask again for money; but that if I would have the goodness to leave him out a donkey, he would call for the animal before breakfast!'

The science of epistolary fraud has very lately

Trans-Atlantic Villany.

165

reached an alarming point of refinement in the doings of a consummate villain on the other side of the Atlantic, bearing the name of Sprague. Not content with deceiving the living, in accordance with the practice of the ordinary impostor, this accomplished scoundrel has, for years, been successfully assaulting the reputation of the dead. His diabolical course of procedure appears to have been to watch the announcements of death in the obituary of the Times, and to appeal to the susceptibilities of widows and executors by transmitting a fictitious application for assistance, addressed to the deceased, in behalf of an alleged illegitimate child or a betrayed victim. His letters are said to have been so skilfully concocted that, in numerous instances, his nefarious scheme proved completely successful; but it is consoling to learn that, through the combined energy of an English gentleman and an American detective, Mr. Sprague is now enjoying a little leisure within the walls of a Philadelphia prison.

Guides to Letter-Writing.

The reduction of thought and labour to a minimum appears to be one of the grand

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