Among the many mezzotints of that excellent craftsman, Valentine Green, is one which, at first sight, might easily be mistaken for a copy of Mieris or Gerard Dou. It is the portrait, framed by the stonework embrasure familiar in Dutch and Flemish art, of a man between seventy and eighty, whose abundant grey hair, unkempt as that of "Maypole Hugh" in Barnaby Rudge, encroaches upon his cheeks and flows freely round his ruddy, vigorous, and — it must be owned — irascible Irish face. His well-worn coat — the dilapidations of which are reproduced by the artist with scrupulous fidelity — has a short cape, and deep sleeve-cuffs covering the fore-arm; he wears a double vest; and he holds in his right hand a volume with unfolded frontispiece, entitled "History of the Loyal Town of Rippon." The picture, in short, is a representation by the York painter, Nathan Drake (father to Nathan Drake of the Essays), of Thomas Gent, Printer and Citizen of London, York, and Dublin, once notable for his useful topographical publications, but now remembered, if at all, by the characteristic account of his early years which he drew up about 1746. Nothing definite, indeed, seems to have been known of his career until the discovery of this document by the Covent Garden bookseller, Thomas Thorpe, who printed it in 1832. In common with the somewhat analogous Memoir of Bewick the engraver, it appears to have been materially abridged by its editor, the Rev. Joseph Hunter; and those who have inspected the original MS. which, until recently, was in the possession of a now-deceased collector, Mr. Edward Hailstone, of Walton Hall, affirm that much was omitted in addition to those initial pages of which (like the beginning of Prior's Alma) Time had already taken tithe. What is left, nevertheless, not only, as Southey says in chap. cxiv. of his Doctor, "contains much information relating to the state of the press in Gent's days, and the trade of literature," but it also, in an old-fashioned, self-educated way, throws curious light upon a curious personality in times more favourable to unfettered originality than our own. These are characteristics which should justify some account of this now not-often- encountered record.
It was "in fair Hibernia" that Thomas Gent "first sucked in breath," as he poetically puts it, being born in that country of English parents in the year 1693. At thirteen or thereabouts he was apprenticed to a Dublin printer named Powell, who seems to have possessed all the traditional disqualifications for appreciating an apprentice of parts. Consequently that apprentice, following the precedent of all traditional apprentices in similar case, ran away, and at the third page of his mutilated memoirs, is discovered hiding in the hold of a ship bound for England, hopelessly sick, and having about fourteenpence in his pocket. When they arrived in the Dee (this was in August, 1710), the poor boy tremulously offered his waistcoat to the skipper in payment for his passage. But the captain, whose name was Wharton, being, by good luck, more like Captain Coram of the Foundling than those brutal ship-masters under whom Silas Told sailed out of Bristol City, not only addressed him as "pretty lad," and gave him excellent fatherly advice of the best copy-book kind, but in addition presented him with his blessing and sixpence. He was then landed, still faint and dizzy, at Parkgate; and it may be noted, in passing, that it was in riding from this very Parkgate towards Chester, about three weeks later, that Jonathan Swift, Vicar of Laracor, Prebendary of Dunlavin in St. Patrick's Cathedral, and apparently an indifferent cavalier to boot, fell off his horse. From Parkgate Thomas Gent also set out for Chester, but on foot, his "compagnons de voyage" being a fat Englishwoman, travelling with an anchor-smith, and another couple passing for man and wife. The party admired the ancient city of Chester, and the "celebrated river Dee," where Gent's memory afterwards taught him to remember that "the famous king Edgar was rowed by eight tributary kings"; but finding no work was to be had in that place, they pushed forward to London. At first Mr. Powell's runaway apprentice was called Mr. Tommy, "by way of eminence." His companions, however, soon discovered his penniless condition, and promptly degraded him to the rank of baggage-bearer in ordinary. Worse than this, they brought discredit upon him by their unsportsmanlike proceedings, for they knocked down a goose in a roadside pond, and then compelled him to wade for the body. "But," comments Gent, grimly, "these, my now crooked friends, got no good by their hungry theft," for when, at a convenient place, the goose was boiled, it was found to be "almost as tough as parchment itself."
Journeying further southward, the travellers came up with a company of foot on their way to embark for Spain. (The year 1710, it will be remembered, was the year of that "glorious disaster" of Brihuega, when Stanhope's eight battalions surrendered to Vendome.) The soldiers had a recruiting sergeant with them, and a lank-jawed officer upon a horse as lean as Rozinante. Gent's male companions were at once annexed by "Sergeant Kite," but he himself, dropping his bundle without ado, beat a precipitate retreat. One of the new recruits, who had been himself entrapped, was speedily sent after him, and, pitying his condition, opened a way of escape. "The officer," he said, "will ride up to you, as I depart on one side; you may seem to agree with what he says, by bidding you live, as his men do, along with them; but rise up early next morning, and make the best of your way from us." Gent acted usefully and successfully on this timely counsel. The officer, however, overtook him next day; but beyond warning him that, "in spite of his teeth," he would assuredly be pressed in London, made no further attempt to persuade him to trail a half-pike for Queen Anne. What became of the two women history sayeth not. Probably, like the lady in the Jolly Beggars, they followed their "sodger laddies" — at all events to the port of departure. Meanwhile Gent tramped on alone to St. Albans, where, faint and footsore, he halted "at the sign of St. Catherine's Wheel." Twopence constituted his entire funds, but the landlord and his wife — and it says much for the boy's prepossessing appearance, or power of inspiring pity — gave him food and lodging for nothing.
Here, unfortunately, there is a gap of a leaf in the manuscript. When it begins again Gent has found employment in that Parnassus of farthing poets, Pie Corner, with Edward Midwinter, a printer of ballads and broadsheets. He has also recently renewed acquaintance with a former schoolfellow, named Levintz (the son of an Irish judge), who, having finished his studies at St. Paul's School, was at this time preparing to start upon a tour in the East. Before his departure, young Levintz, being "tall, exceedingly beautiful," and of "a fine address," found it easy to persuade Madam Midwinter to give his friend an occasional holiday, when, "in many pleasant arbours," at "Islington, Newington, Pancridge, and other towns" [!], he treated Gent to "wine, cider, ale, and cakes," seasoned by suitable talk of their "juvenile actions." Then Levintz set out on his travels, and his companion saw him no more. With Midwinter, working often, through "hurry with hawkers," from five in the morning till twelve at night, and not without one or two skirmishes, arising out of what he describes in his queer language as the "authentic nonsense" and "unreasonable contempt" of his fellow-servants, Gent remained till he was "about twenty." The date is more precisely fixed by the fact that one of his last duties was to take down the substance of the "long, dull sermon" (as Swift styles it to Stella) which, on March 29, 1713, Dr. Henry Sacheverell preached at St. Saviour's, Southwark, after his three years' enforced silence. This very unauthorized version — since, according to Swift, the doctor had already himself sold the copyright of his discourse to a bookseller for £100 — kept Gent waiting patiently at the church for several hours before the service began, but it brought in one week some £30 gain to the Midwinter household. Shortly afterwards, and somewhat to his surprise, Gent was released from his 'prenticehood. Having thus got his liberty, he proceeded to lay out the solitary sixpence he possessed in purchasing a copy of Ayres's Arithmetic at a Moorfields bookstall — a piece of extravagance which, for that day at least, obliged him, in his own phrase, "to dine with Duke Humphrey." But before sundown he had found work in Fetter Lane with a Quaker widow called Bradford. Here, applying himself closely to his craft, he rapidly earned enough to set himself up with tools. "I furnished myself," he says, "with a new composing iron, called a stick, because anciently that useful material [?implement] was made of wood; a pair of scissors, to cut scaleboards [i.e., thin strips of wood for obtaining close register in printing]; a sharp bodkin, to correct the letter; and a pretty sliding box to contain them, and preserve all from rustiness. I bought also a galley [to hold type] for the pages I was to compose, with other appurtenances that might be of service to me when occasion should require."
With "that knowing gentlewoman," Mrs. Bradford, Gent might have remained happily. But being "over fond of novelty," he was foolish enough to leave her service upon the invitation of a Blackfriars printer named Mears. Here the ceremonious character of his admission seemed to augur exceptional advantages. Being first kindly permitted to pay the usual "Ben-money" (benvenue, or bienvenue-money, a tribute approximating very closely to the "garnish" of Lockit in the Beggar's Opera), he was, in consideration thereof, initiated into the mysterious rites of "Cuzship." The proceedings began by a solemn procession round the "chapel," a name which printing-rooms are said to derive from Caxton's first workshop in Westminster Abbey. This was accompanied by the performance of an alphabetical anthem, "tuned literally to the vowels," after which the kneeling neophyte was stricken with a broadsword, ale was poured over him, and he was saluted by the titles of "Thomas Gent, baron of College Green, earl of Fingall, with power to the limits of Dublin bar, captain-general of the Teagues, near the Lake of Allen, and lord high admiral over all the bogs in Ireland" — titles which at least exhibit a certain ingenuity of nomenclature. But alas! for human grandeur, all this purchased dignity proved no more than the "prologue to an egg and butter," since a week or two later, not being yet a freeman, he was discharged as "a foreigner." Being justly ashamed, in the circumstances, to apply to his old mistress, he became a "smouter," or "grass-hand," that is to say, he took odd jobs. This, upon the whole, proved more profitable than the promises of "Cuzship," and afforded him a tolerable subsistence.
After some months of this desultory work, much of which must have been done for his old Smithfield employer, Midwinter, an offer came to Gent from John White, who — because he had printed the Declaration of William of Orange when it was refused by all the London presses — had in 1689 been made King's printer for the city of York and the five northern counties. White offered eighteen pounds a year, "besides board, washing, and lodging" — an offer which Gent accepted. Finding that it would cost him about five-and-twenty shillings to get to York by waggon, he set out, with the guinea allowed for his charges safe in his shoe-lining, to make the journey on foot. This he began on Tuesday, April 20, 1714. With a chance lift on a led-horse, and the usual delay from losing his road, he reached York on the following Sunday. Two coincidences signalized his arrival in "ancient Ebor's city" — one being that his first inquiry for White was made at a house in Petergate, which afterwards became his own; the other that White's door was opened to him by the "upper or head maiden" of the establishment, one Mistress Alice Guy, a young woman of "very good natural parts, quick understanding, a fine complexion, and very amiable in her features," who afterwards — but not until she had first become a widow — bestowed her hand upon him. He narrates nothing of importance while in York save hearing the proclamation of King George I. from the steps of York Cathedral. In the dearth of printers, however — for at this time, except in London, they were few and far between — White's hands were always full, and his journeyman had prospered so much by the end of the year that he was able to purchase a watch and chain of "Mr. Etherington, a Quaker, in High Ouse Gate," for six guineas. In April, 1715, from causes apparently connected with the indiscreet revelation by a compatriot of the fact that he had run away from his first master, he quitted White's service, and after relieving himself of the "melancholy humour" induced by this mishap in some very pedestrian verses, set out to visit his friends in Ireland. Already Mrs. White's "head maiden" must have regarded him with favour, for she presented him with a little dog as a road companion; but, although there was a rival in the field, in the shape of his master's grandson, Gent's prudence seems to have overmastered his affections.
Sea-voyages under the first Georges were wearisome affairs, and one remembers how it took Henry Fielding seven weeks to get from the Thames to the Tagus. Gent was only going from York to Dublin, but he was not at once to reach his destination. He started on May 15. Progressing modestly as what Mrs. Nosebag in Waverley calls a "foot-wobbler," he made his way through Yorkshire and Lancashire to Liverpool. At Liverpool he would have halted had work offered. In default of this, he took ship in the "Betty" galley, Captain Briscoe, then waiting at Parkgate for a wind. Starting next day, the weather obliged them at nightfall to put into a creek near Holyhead. Here, unhappily, the captain took on board one Mr. Dubourdieu, a "tall, swarthy, venerable, and pious" clergyman of "the Episcopal French church in the cathedral dedicated to St. Patrick, in Dublin." This clerical addition to the passenger-list the crew considered to be of evil omen; and, as ill-luck would have it, a fearful storm that followed seemed to justify their forebodings. For some days the "Betty" was beaten about by the waves, running at last for shelter to Douglas, Isle of Man. At Douglas they remained considerably more than a week, waiting for fair weather. Gent found lodgings on shore with a last-maker, who, "besides, was very acute in making viols," and he records that, until prices were raised by the arrival of other vessels in distress, you could buy at Douglas "a good pullet for fourpence, and a quart of strong brandy for an English shilling." These advantages failed, however, to relieve his melancholy thoughts, which (he says) now "inspired him with a sort of poetical genius to contemplate on the unsettled affairs of this transitory life." How much this was promoted by his attendance at a sermon over a suicide and by a theological dispute with an infidel exciseman possessed of "a sort of mathematical genius," is unexplained but it does not seem to have been succeeded by the threatened metrical attack. At last the "Betty" set sail, and got safe to Dublin Harbour, to the delight of many besides Gent's father and mother, who had concluded her lost with all hands. He was, of course, warmly welcomed by the old people and by his numerous nephews and nieces. One of these latter, Anne Standish, he describes, not only as "a perfect beauty," but a very modest and pious young gentlewoman. "Often did we walk till late hours in the garden; she could tell me almost every passage in Cassandra, a celebrated romance that I had bought for her in London." At this date it wanted four years to the publication of Robinson Crusoe (which Gent was hereafter to abridge), and twenty-five to Pamela. Neither Defoe nor Richardson had yet dethroned the sempiternal Seigneur de la Calprenede, whom Mistress Anne probably studied in that version of Sir Charles Cotterell afterwards illustrated by Hogarth.
At Dublin Gent would doubtless have settled, having engaged himself as journeyman to a printer in Copper Alley. But to this, unexpected obstacles presented themselves from the action of his first master, Powell, who endeavoured to repossess himself of the person of his runaway apprentice. As Powell proved intractable, Gent, philosophically reflecting that even "the best of men had their troubles, nay, that King George himself just then, had an unnatural rebellion raised in his kingdom" (an obvious reference to the first Jacobite rising), decided once more to flee his native country — a resolve in which he was possibly fortified by the receipt of "a letter from his dearest, at York." On July 8, 1715, he left Ireland, and on the 12th reached Parkgate, whence, in a market boat "mostly filled with a parcel of lovely damsels," he made his way from Eastham Ferry to Liverpool. Again a chasm occurs in the manuscript, which must be filled with a residence in York, where in January 1716 his master John White died, leaving his business to his widow and grandson, and forty shillings to his maid-servant, Alice Guy. In 1716 Gent was once more in London, working for Midwinter, and corresponding with his "dear," whom he had again been ill-judged enough to leave single, seeing that her other admirer was the very grandson, Charles Bourne, to whom White's business was to fall. In the following year he was made a Member of the Stationers' Company, and a freeman of the City. About the same time news came from Dublin that Powell had compounded his claims for £5; and thus his old apprentice became absolutely free. Joy, like grief, seems to have disposed Thomas Gent to "drop into poetry," and "thinking of his kind usage in the Isle of Man," he fell to versify the attractions of that favoured spot. One wonders if Mr. Hall Caine has ever met with this artless performance! "What," writes the poet, concerning the Manx children
What tho' they barefoot walk upon the sand,
To save their shoes, — How pleasing is the strand! etc.
Also he praises the cheapness of the provisions, and the absence of sectarianism:
No Papists here, or Presbyterians dwell
Within your isle, as I am informed well.
Towards the close, he apostrophises Lord Nairne, who, after his reprieve, had apparently been banished to the island for his share in the rebellion. Gent regards him as exceptionally fortunate in his place of exile:
Let him, then, bless King George. Nairne cannot crave
What's fit for man but he in MAN may have:
Doth he want liquor that is strong and stout?
No better brandy in the world throughout:
There good and wholesome beer and ale is found,
There foreign products plenteously abound;
and so forth, the conclusion of the matter being that he may, for "summum bonum,"
Live near the bishop, in fam'd Castle Town,
And, acting well, not value mortal's frown.
The "Bishop" was, of course, that worthy and pious Thomas Wilson, who fills so large a part in the story of the Manx Church, and whom Gent had actually seen presiding as judge at a visitation of the clergy. But he must have been "ill" not "well" informed as to the Papists, since the good prelate's biographer, in speaking of his toleration, specially refers to them. "The Papists who resided in the island loved and esteemed him, and not unfrequently attended his sermons and prayers."
Qualified to obtain employment, and equipped with a sweetheart, as Gent now was, it might be imagined that his aspirations would tend in the direction of wedlock. But though he "entirely loved the young woman" — Alice Guy to wit — he dreaded the responsibilities and expenses of the married state. He continued to labour unremittingly at his craft, taking little care for aught else, or he might (as he says), "on play nights, have seen Prince George and Princess Caroline visiting the theatre." But his old "over-fondness for novelty" led him often to change his masters. From Midwinter he passed to Wilkins of Little Britain, who printed the Whitehall Evening Post; from Wilkins again to John Watts, whose name figures with that of Jacob Tonson on so many title-pages. Then in a fit of morbid despondency over his prospects, he practically broke off his engagement with Alice Guy, and set out, not without misgivings, to visit his parents in Dublin, renewing with Anne Standish, "in the garden ... near the Strand," the old "Cassandra talk "of history, travels, and the transactions of the most illustrious personages of both sexes." "Now and then," he adds, "when she would touch of their love, I believe, to know if I had ever felt its unerring dart, my dearest in England quickly recurred to my wandering thoughts, and filled my heart with such strong emotions, that my sudden sighs could not but reveal my inward trouble, which did not pass by unobserved, though I strove to hide them." He was, however, soon back again in London, where, after a short interval with Watts, he cast in his fortunes with one Francis Clifton, a Roman Catholic, who had been educated at Oxford. Much of Clifton's work was done for members of his unpopular faith, who "financed" him; but he was always in difficulties, and always in fear of the "shoulder-dabbers." Eventually, both he and his staff, Gent included, moved into the sheltering Liberties of the Fleet, where they were at least relieved from apprehension. They must, however, have been but poorly accommodated, since, by Gent's account, their only printing-room, in all weathers, was often nothing better than a mean shed adjoining the prison wall, where rain and snow fell in turn upon the cases. But Clifton contrived to pay his men; and brisk trade, the encouragement of the "wide-mouthed stentorian hawkers," and the occasional solace of "a glass of good ale," made life endurable. Now and then came commissions of a mysterious kind. Once Gent and his master were ordered to carry the worked-off sheets of a pamphlet to "a large sort of monastic building" in Westminster, where they were visited in a spacious chamber by "a grave gentleman in a black lay habit," who chatted pleasantly, treated them to a bottle of wine, and then politely but plainly enjoined the strictest secrecy. Neither master nor man knew the name of his employer. But not very long afterwards, in the drawn features of a State prisoner going in a guarded coach to the Tower, the obscure "smouter" of the Fleet recognized his courteous and hospitable entertainer, and learned that he was none other than that finished gentleman and factious politician, Francis Atterbury, Bishop of Rochester.
But business with Jacobite prelates, who were friends of Bolingbroke and Swift, was a hazardous distinction even in an already sufficiently hazardous calling. Almost the next thing which Gent records is the trial at the Old Bailey of a mere boy named John Matthews, who, having been convicted of printing a seditious libel in favour of the Pretender, entitled Vox Populi, Vox Dei, was drawn on a sledge from Newgate to Tyburn, and executed. "I beheld him," says Gent, "as I stood near St. Sepulchre's Church; his clothes were exceeding neat, the lining of his coat a rich Persian silk, and every other thing as befitted a gentleman. I was told he talked, like a philosopher, of death, to some young ladies who came to take their farewell, and suffered with a perfect resignation." This was in November, 1719. Little more than a year later, Gent himself had a narrow escape of quitting this world by "the steps and the string" — otherwise the gallows. He was suddenly arrested by a king's messenger on suspicion of treasonable printing, and with several others hurried into hold at Manchester Court (Cannon Row, Westminster), then used for the temporary confinement of political prisoners. Fortunately, nothing could be proved against him, and he was honourably discharged. At this date he had left Clifton, and gone back to Midwinter. In a small way he was prospering. He had acquired some experience as a reporter of assize trials; he had saved a little money, and bought some furniture and some founts of type. When he was released from prison, he set up a press of his own near the Two Fighting Cocks in Fleet Lane (still, it would seem, within the "sweet security" of the Liberties), and began to think once more of his York sweetheart. But "he that will not when he may" runs risks. Almost simultaneously with the first definite beams of better fortune came tidings that Alice Guy had become Alice Bourne. As of old, Gent sought solace in song, producing, to (he popular tune of Such Charms has Phillis," etc., a lengthy ballad, "proper for the flute," upon which instrument he was a performer. This effusion, in which he posed — rather unfairly, looking to the circumstances — as a "forsaken" lover, he presented to Mr. Dodd, a master printer, who sold thousands of it in broadsheet form. But Gent, with a nicer sense of fitness than he had exhibited in the composition of the verses, though he was not averse from the gift of "a glass of comfort or so," declined to receive any money payment for his "melodious tear."
It was in June, 1721, that Alice Guy was married, and her half-hearted admirer was consequently still under thirty. His ballad for the flute was not his first appearance as a printed author, since, two years before, Clifton had issued for him a Hudibrastic poem, entitled Teague's Ramble, in which he satirized some of his craft "who had used him unkindly." For Midwinter he abridged, in 1722, the three parts of the then recent Robinson Crusoe, adorning the same with thirty rude wood-cuts in the text, designed by himself. Besides this, from his Fleet Lane press he put forth ballads and broadsides on his own account. He also issued a collection of songs "for the Summer's Entertainment," a treatise on Preparation for Death, and a book of Emblems based on Quarles and the Pia Desideria of Herman Hugo. Moreover, the better to justify the title of "High Flyer" given to him by malicious rivals, he struck off for an old school- fellow a Latin Ode on the Return of King George the First from Germany, with all the ceremony of an orthodox imprint: "Londini, typis Thomae Gent, in vico vulgo dicto Fleet-lane, pro usu Authoris, ann. 1724." But the bulk of his business lay in cockpit bills, and such "Last Dying Speeches" as one meets with in Hogarth's prints. One of these was that of Counsellor Christopher Layer, who was executed for high treason in 1723. This, which Gent expanded from a few words into a handsome valedictory oration, had such a run that, for about three days, the "wide-mouthed stentorian hawkers" were ready to pull his press to pieces in their eagerness for copies. At such times as he could not get enough work for himself he jobbed for others — for the first of the Woodfalls, and for the yet undistinguished Samuel Richardson, of Salisbury Court, then engaged with Woodfall in printing a polyglot Dictionary. With one of his temporary employers, the new-made widow of the Dodd above mentioned, it seems probable that he might have entered into a double partnership, when suddenly news arrived that, by the death of her husband, his old sweetheart was free. Upon this occasion Gent took time by the forelock. He saw plainly that he must "not trifle with a widow as he had formerly done with a maid," and, making such excuses as occurred to him, he set off without delay, not on foot as of old, but by the stage which started from the Black Swan in Holborn, and carried him to York in four days. Here he found his "dear" once more, though much altered. "There was no need for new courtship; but decency suspended the ceremony of marriage for some time" — to be exact, for a little over three months. They were married at York Minster on December 10, 1724.
With his marriage Gent brings to a close Part 1. of his Life, and accomplishes about three-fourths of his book (as we have it). Like most of its class, and here again it resembles that Memoir of Bewick to which it has already been compared, the concluding part is the least fruitful in incident and interest. To all appearance his fortune was made. He had married the woman of his choice, and, what was more, had married a business as well. Where he had been a servant, he was now a master. But these advantages were not without their drawbacks, for something of freshness departs from a happiness too long deferred by prudence. His wife, he found, had lost her old amiability of disposition, and his own temper had never been good. There was war with his wife's uncle, a printer at Newcastle, who not only brought out a York Courant in opposition to Gent's York Journal, but set up a rival press as well in York itself. Other presses followed in the vicinity, and the once prosperous business established by White, and inherited by Bourne, began perceptibly to decline. All this tended to embarrass Gent, to embroil him with those about him, and to salt the second portion of his record with a good many doleful ejaculations and vindictive utterances. Nevertheless, for more than forty years he continued to print and to produce, and it is to this period of his life that his most memorable work belongs. The long list of the books he issued may be read, to the profit of the inquirer, in such official records as Davies' Memoir of the York Press. Of those with which he is directly associated as author or compiler, his topographical efforts are the best. These, which he commenced in order to supplement his failing business, were heralded in 1730 by the little octavo entitled the Antient and Modern History of the Famous City of York. He followed up this in 1733 by the Antient and Modern History of the Loyal Town of Rippon, and to this again succeeded, two years later, the History of the Royal and Beautiful Town of Kingston-upon-Hull. That these volumes make no pretence to compete with the copious, copper-plated folios of the Drakes and Thoresbys of their writer's day, need scarcely be said. The type deserves that stigma of "scurvy letter" once applied to Steele's Tatler; the style is poor and prolix; the "portraitures and views" are (as the author confesses) sadly wanting in "the prospective." But he had many qualifications for his task. He was interested himself, and he tried to interest his reader he made personal inquiries wherever he could he risked his neck in the investigation of stained glass, and he was indefatigable in copying out epitaphs and inscriptions. This last is of itself almost enough to give his work an independent value. Occasionally he had collaborators. The History of Rippon, for example, is introduced by a poem on the "surprising Beauties of Studley Park," by Mr. Peter Aram, a gardener. The verses are less remarkable than the fact that this was the father of Hood's hero, who, as "Mr. Eugenius Aram," figures in the List of Subscribers. And here, by the way, it may be noted that, under the year 1741, the Memoir contains a brief reference to another well-known person, the new Prebendary of York, Mr. Laurence Sterne, who succeeded one of Gent's patrons, the Rev. Robert Hitch. Gent may, indeed, have witnessed Sterne's marriage in the cathedral on the preceding Easter Monday. But it is, perhaps, more curious still, in this connection, that one of the earliest of the pamphlets which Gent printed was dedicated to Daniel Diaper, Esq., afterwards a Bombay Counsellor, and the husband of the "Bramine" of that curious sentimental Journal by "Mr. Yorick," the original MS. of which is now to be inspected at the British Museum.
In a rude copperplate prefixed to some of his works, Gent is shown sitting in his printing-room in Petergate, a gray-haired old man, with a flageolet at his side, a music-book on his knees, and a fiddle and bow upon the wall. "Having but too much time to spare, rather than be indolent, I studied music on the harp, flute, and other instruments," he writes in 1737. Over his head, on a shelf surmounting a row of unnamed smaller volumes, are the three books mentioned above, together with three others, to which, from their prominence, it must be assumed that he attached a special importance. They are the Histories of England and Rome, both issued in 1741, and the Most Delectable, Scriptural, and Pious History of the famous and magnificent Great Eastern Window in St. Peter's Cathedral, York, 1762 — the last-named, which is copiously (and deplorably) illustrated by "wooden cuts of his own," being long delayed in its production by the author's want of means. His fortunes were already steadily on the wane when he concluded his Memoir in 1746. But they must have got worse in the years that remained, for in February, 1761, while the Great Eastern Window was still at press, he was reduced to speak a Prologue and Epilogue to a representation, for his benefit, by puppets or fantoccini, of Rowe's tragedy of Jane Shore. This "pathetick Prologue" and "benedictive Epilogue of Thanks" he subsequently published with the characteristic title of "The Contingencies, Vicissitudes, or Changes of this transitory Life." "Strange," the Prologue begins—
Strange, that a Printer, near worn out thro' Age,
Should be impell'd, so late, to mount the Stage!
In silver'd Hairs, with Heart nigh fit to break,
Thus to amuse, who scarce has Words to speak.
Yet when we ponder on Event of Things,
How vary'd Fortune changes mighty Kings;
How rebel Traytors cause most sad Disasters;
Like treach'rous Servants to ingenuous Masters!
How cruel Combats alter pow'rful States;
And Wealth or Want proceed from dire Debates;
How num'rous Interceptors, fierce, invade
Each deep-learn'd Science; ev'ry Art, or Trade:
'Twill be no Myst'ry I descend so low
Here to harangue before a Puppet Show.
And it goes on at some length to dwell feelingly on his misfortunes and his forlorn position. Between the delivery of these two addresses and their appearance in type, he had further evidence of life's vicissitudes, for his wife died, an event which he records in his own peculiar way. "It was," he says, "on Wednes., April 1, 1761, N.S. between the Hours of x. and xi. in the Night, that my beloved Dear, Mrs. ALICE GENT, meekly resigned up her precious Soul (that curious and unsearchable Particle of Divinity) to its Maker; leaving me in a disconsolate Condition." He survived her for seventeen years; — it is to be feared in extreme indigence, and often subsisting upon what one account calls "eleemosynary offers of meat and drink." He might early have had parochial relief, but he clung tenaciously to his old books, his scanty belongings, and his Petergate house, where, in May 1778, he died, aged eighty-six. In his will he desired to be buried near the remains of his "Dear" at St. Olave, Mary-gate. But the executor renounced his office; and Thomas Gent was laid in the parish church of St. Michael-le-Belfrey, "where," adds Davies, "more than fifty years before, he and his wife had wept together over the grave of their infant and only child."