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A CHAPTER ON LIFE ASSURANCE.
When bully Bottom, the Athenian beetle-browed Lords of the Exchange, weaver, confidently undertook to per- such as are occasionally represented form all the parts in “ the most on the stage in snuff-coloured coats lamentable comedy, and most cruel and bob-wigs; and who, in their own death of Pyramus and Thisby,” he day, drove many a profitable bargain bad, we doubt not, an entire belief in with Government, and exercised, the consummate universality of his through their money-bags, a powerful powers. Pyramus he would play, influence over the destinies of Europe. and Thisbe, as also the Lion and the The living objects of his admiration Wall-he put in for the prologue and are bank directors, chairmen of railepilogue — and, had there been an ways, pursy aldermen, and successful orchestra, he would doubtless also speculators. A European Congress have volunteered his services as first is, in his eyes, a matter of less consefiddle. There are yet extant among us, quence than a national loan ; he conmen who appear to be inspired by a siders no victory in the field half so like monopolising ambition. They are glorious as a successful operation on ready to turn their hands, not to any- the Funds. thing, but to everything. No subject Within the last few years he has comes amiss to them; they are willing favoured us with a History of the to afford us information on all topics, Bank of England, a History of the just as you may see in the window of English Railway, Chronicles and some miscellaneous warehouse in a Characters of the Stock Exchange; remote country town, tape and treacle, and now he comes before us with Antracts and tobacco, snuff, gingerbread, nals, Anecdotes, and Legends of Life combs, beads, bread, muslins, hard- Assurance. This, it must be acknowware, and red herrings displayed in ledged, is a pretty fair allowance; but alluring juxtaposition. The ambition we are by no means of opinion that of Mr Francis is to occupy the entire his vein is yet exhausted. “Anecdotes field of commercial literature, and to of the Common Council from the be considered, in all coming time, as earliest times, will doubtless, in due the Herodotus of the City. We are season, appear.
The Lives of the not disposed by any means to under- Lord Mayors is a desideratum in civic rate his natural qualifications for the literature which no one is so well task. He has no sort of sympathy qualified as Mr Francis to supply. for anything beyond the precincts of Sketches of the Tailors', Mercers', Temple Bar. The atmosphere of Lom- and Fishmongers' Companies are still bard Street is at all times more grate- vehemently wanted; and considerable ful to his nostrils than the spicy gales romantic interest might be excited by of Arabia ; nor can he reflect, without Legends of Wapping, and harrowing a sympathising shudder, upon the Tales of the Tariff. Some of these miserable destiny of those who are subjects, we apprehend, would afford doomed, for the greater part of their scope for a pleasing variety; which, lives, to absent themselves from the to say the truth, Mr Francis, for his felicity of Mincing Lane. If he were own sake, ought to exhibit as soon as to write an ecclesiastical history, the possible, seeing that it has been rarely foremost saints in his calendar would our lot to peruse a work so decidedly be St Martin Outwich, St Margaret wearisome as that which is now lying Lothbury, St Mildred Poultry, and St before us. Anne Blackfriars. What appetite for If treated philosophically, the subromance he has, was evidently foster- ject of Life Assurance is undoubtedly ed by an early perusal of the history one of great interest.
The system of Whittington and bis Cat. His affords by far the best means which traditionary heroes are the pot-bellied, have yet been discovered of placing
Annals, Anecdotes, and Legends : A Chronicle of Life Assurance. By John FRANCIS. London, 1853.
industry beyond the reach of casual- in this world or the next, they have ties, and of removing those barassing consented to lead the life of muckcares and torturing anxieties regard-worms, and insure the contempt of ing the future, which have so often their race. For, of all creatures upon the effect of embittering existence, earth, none is so despicable as the and even of paralysing activity. If, miser. It is not impossible that the by a regular annual payment out of profligate may have a friend, for there his income, a man has secured to bis is usually left about him some tonch family, in the event of his death, of humanity-someone unbroken whenever that may occur, an ade- chord of the finer feelings of our naquate provision, he has contributed ture ; but the miser meets with no most materially to his own happiness sympathy. Even the nurse who is and comfort. His last hours cannot hired to attend him in his latest hours, be haunted by the agonising thought loathes the ghastly occupation, and that, in spite of all his efforts, fruga- longs for the moment of her release ; lity, and self-denial, he is leaving his for, although the death-damp is alwife and children to the cold charity ready gathering on his brow, the of the world, or to the grudging care thoughts of the departing sinner are of relatives. Those who desire to be still upon his gold, and, at the mere absolutely rich may, if their lives are jingle of a key, he starts from bis torspared long enough, attain that object por, in a paroxysm of terror, lest a by sordid and perpetual pinching, and surreptitious attempt is being made rigorous abstinence from the enjoy- upon the sanctity of his strong-box. ments, hospitalities, and charities of Deeds there are many in that box; existence. It is not difficult to accu- but where are the deeds that should mulate gold, if a man has courage to have comforted the dying man? What be an Elwes; indeed, cases are al- blessings has he purchased for himself most daily cited of apparent paupers, through his long and useless life? amongst whose rags and gallimaufry, There are no prayers of the orphan or in the corner of some fetid cellar, ex- widow for him-not a solitary voice traordinary hoards are discovered. No has ever breathed his name to Heaven one, however, but a mere caitiff would as a benefactor. One poor penny, addict himself to this kind of metallic given away in the spirit of true chaaccumulation; and it is noticeable, rity, would now be worth more to him that the practice is chiefly confined to than all the gold that the world condried-up bachelors, who have either tains; but, notwithstanding that he no relatives to succeed to them, or was a church-going man, and familiar who hate their relatives cordially. from his infancy with those awful Poor wretches! If, ere they have texts in which the worship of mamgiven up the ghost on their ill-tended mon is denounced, and the punishcouch, and been deposited in the pal- ment of Dives told, he has never yet try shells which they have bespoken been able to divorce himself from his from a motive of posthumous econo- solitary love or lust, or to part with my, they could obtain a vision of the one atom of his pelf. And so, from a serene or lively countenances of those miserable life, detested and despised, who shall walk at their funeral and he passes into a drear eternity; and divide their gains—if they could be those whom he has neglected, or misprospectively present at the banquet used, make merry with the hoards of which is to follow the ceremony, and the miser ! witness the enormous consumption of The system of Life Assurance bas, liquor quaffed, not in honour of their we think, a decided and wholesome memories, but by way of congratula- tendency towards checking the early tion to the inebriated heirs—if they development of extremely sordid could hear, by anticipation, the re- habits. If we were to put faith in marks of the jocular guests, the retail- the representations of play-wrights ed anecdotes of their meannesses, and and novelists, we should be apt to the commentaries on their cruel sel. imbibe the notion that avarice, parsifishness—they might possibly, before mony, and extreme selfishness are the spirit has left the clay, ask them- vices from which youth is generally selves seriously for what end, either exempt, and that they are rarely exhibited in early manhood. Never was son amounts to a nervous terror, a more fallacious idea promulgated. dreads the effects of his intimacy with The child is, emphatically, the father some gay companion whose high of the man; and there is scarce one spirits occasionally lead him into of the corruptions of maturity which scrapes, and who, it may very well was not engendered in the days of be, is more reckless in his expendinonage. Give a boy the uncontrolled ture than his station in life will justify. use of money before he knows its She sees the faults, but she does not value---or, what is even worse, give see the good qualities which redeem him the license of credit, and you such a character. Granted that the make him a spendthrift through life. young man may be imprudent; he is The earliest lessons are by far the nevertheless frank, generous, honourmost difficult to get rid of-nay, it is able, and sincere;-and these are attrinext to impossible altogether to escape butes which can hardly be rated too from their influence. Teach a child, highly. Rated, however, they are on the contrary, to hoard his Satur- not at all by the timid matron, who day's penny, for the mere sake of naturally looks upon her own dear gathering money, and to a moral Henry as the pink of unalloyed innocertainty you make him a miser. cence, and is determined that, if posWe are convinced that, if an accurate sible, he shall escape contamination. moral census could be taken, the re- Inquisition is made as to the habits sult would be a positive majority of of the young companion, for whom living misers under the age of thirty- Henry has lately manifested an unacfive. Of course, we do not mean to countable degree of attachment; and aver that a young miser can equal most hideous to the maternal ear is the his senior in sordidness. The veriest catalogue of revelations. Can Damon screw, so long as his blood is ontor- be allowed to associate with a Pythias pid, must have some amusements; who has taken down signs, wrenched but he buys such indulgences at the knockers, and even insulted the cheapest rate, and is, in consequence, dignity of the law by committing an a marked man among bis contem- assault upon a policeman ? Is he poraries. All his tastes are low, and not already, despite his tender years, parsimony controls his dissipation. ranked in the list of condemned felons, He frequents the meanest tavern, seeing that he bas appeared in the climbs up to the shilling gallery in dock before the awful presence of a the theatres, prefers parliamentary sitting magistrate, and been fined trains, and smokes nothing but pig five shillings for his active participatail. It may be that he is poor, and, tion in a row? Once, according to in that case, great allowance is to be the testimony of a virtuous and scanmade for him. But, in nine cases dalised abigail, who was so much out of ten, be is positively richer than affected while giving evidence that the men in his own rank of life, and she had to be sustained by cinnahas begun to hoard systematically for mon water, he returned home at a the mere sake of accumulation. He late hour decidedly the worse of has heard and measured the maxim liquor ; and the extent of his fami. that more fortunes are made by saving liarity with such horrid orgies may be than by enterprise; and, as his am- gathered from the fact, that next bition is not of a daring nature, he is morning, about eleven o'clock, he content to confine himself solely to had the audacity to ask for sodasuch renown as a millionaire is cer- water. There is yet more, which the tain to achieve, and early to lay that tongue of the aged serving-woman foundation which is necessary for a almost refuses to utter, until, comfuture monetary fame.
forted by more cordial, she reveals the False estimates of character are on- awful secret, that, in the recklessness fortunately too common in this world; of the young man's guilt, he has even and by many persons such despic- made proposals for a pass-key! How able habits, when exhibited in youth, is it possible that Henry can be alare regarded as the signs and token lowed to associate with such a monof a laudable prudence. The mother, ster? On the other hand, there is whose anxiety for the welfare of her Charley Skrimp, her own beloved
nephew. What a boy that is—what perhaps a little surly and morose in a pattern to all around him! It is his manner, but strictly to be relied recorded that, at twelve years of age, on for integrity, and a first-rate man he bad established a box with a slit in of business. If he marries, it will be the lid, into which went every penny for money, no matter how old, ugly, accorded to him for the purchase of or stupid, the female incumbrance may sweetmeats, and a good many other be : indeed, it is to be hoped that she stray coppers, which, lying upon the may be old, so that the race may not mantel-piece, seemed to claim the be perpetuated; ugly, because othercare of a proprietor. What became wise she would add to her misery by of that hoard, when, swelled by occa- exciting the jealousy of her spouse; sional argentine windfalls, it reached and stupid, in order that she may the enormous amount of five pounds ? never fully discover the enormous Was it wasted in juvenile dissipation, depth of his debasement. or did he lay it out on a present to Skrimp, however, must be regarded his mother, or did he expend it on as an instance of the innate natural the purchase of a silver watch, once miser. Such persons are to be found the object of his ambition ? Not so. in every station of life, from the peer The earliest arithmetical attempts of to the peasant, and perhaps in them the sucking Ricardo were applied to the sordid vice cannot be eradicated. the investigation of the interest-tables, But there are others, naturally more and he lodged his money in a savings generous, who are made misers by bank. Out of the allowance made circumstance. Most laudable is that bim for dress while at college, he ambition which prompts a man to eleregularly laid by one-half-philosophi- vate himself in the ranks of society, cally disregarding the lam poons aimed and which suggests frugality and selfat his greasy coat and baggy trou- denial as the best, and sometimes the sers, by his more natty and less pro- only, means of attaining that distincvident class-fellows. Now, as an ap- tion. Even more praiseworthy and prentice to a Writer to the Signet, he commendable are the efforts of a youth makes no end of threepences by copy- who for a long series of years abstains ing papers, and never was known to from the enjoyments so natural to his expend a shilling in the enjoyment of age, for the sake of fulfilling a pious ale and oysters. It is true that he is duty to an indigent parent, or of premortally detested by all of his com- paring a comfortable home for one peers ; but when did virtue, in this whom he has loved from boyhood. wicked world of ours, escape persecu- Such exertions and sacrifices bring tion? To Henry's mother, therefore, with them their own reward and blessCharley Skrimp appears the very pat. ing. But there is danger in too tern of prudence and perfection, and close and unremitting an attention to earnestly does she entreat her boy to money-getting, and great risk lest it cultivate the friendship and profit degenerate into an absolute miserly by the example of his cousin. She habit. We are of those who main. had better have handed him over to tain that it is the bound duty of a the tender mercies of Fagan. Young man to regulate his expenditure by as he is, every seed of generous or bis income-that the former ought to manly feeling has already withered in be increased or diminished according the mind of Skrimp. His whole soul to the ratio of the latter-and that any is devoted to pelf, to gain which he other rule of conduct is absolutely opwill flatter, lie, or cozen—not, how- posed to the interests of society at ever, so as to be detected; for caution large. The disparity of fortunes in is his leading attribute, and he knows this country has been made a subject full well the marketable value of a of commentary and reproach. Longgood character. He is too consum- winded treatises have been written to mate a knave to practise the usual account for this unnatural distribucant of hypocrisy. He assumes a tion of property ; and socialists franblunt, downright demeanour, which tically insist upon the propriety of a has all the appearance of honesty ; general partition. There can be no and in a few years will be considered doubt whatever as to the method by as an eccentric, independent creature, which fortunes are generally made in this mechanical age of ours. A man
the breed becomes sufficiently purified of intelligence and enterprise, but with to claim through a fictitious pedigree out the social ideas which rank and a place among the ancient gentry of education engender, applies himself England. diligently to his calling, and straight- In this way, or in the higher way begins to prosper. What he gets, branches of commerce, many large he saves ; and from a mechanic be- modern fortunes are made, instances comes a mill-owner or an iron-master. of accumulation in the learned profesHe discovers or purchases some im- sions being comparatively rare. We portant invention, which gives him a do not undervalue the enterprise and tremendous start. Trade is brisk, sagacity which have led to such reorders plentiful; and no very long sults; although we scorn and despise time elapses ere he can count his in- the degrading averment which we come by thousands. Many of that have seen more than once hazarded class are, we know, remarkably liberal in print, to the effect that the disin their expenditure, and do much coverer of some mechanical improvetowards the promotion both of arts ment has done more for humanity and letters. But there are others who than has been accomplished by the entertain no such enlightened views, genius of Newton or Shakspeare. and we instance the case of one of But we do not think that society at them. What is the object of all the large profits by these undue accumuwealth which is thus accumulating ? lations. Every day we are told of Just this—he is possessed with the the immense quantity of capital which very common but most vulgar am- is seeking employment, and which bition of becoming what he calls cannot be invested in the ordinary the founder of a family. At present legitimate channels. The men of mil. he is fully as rich as the neighbour- lions moan because they cannot meet ing peer, into whose gardens his with a safe and profitable investment; chimney-stalks shed their soot : but and yet misery is clamorous in our he is not content with that; for, in streets. the dim vista of futurity, he thinks This is not a matter which can be he can descry his illiterate son, now amended by law or legislative enactlounging about the mill, with a lordly ment. The social inquirer can hardly mantle on his shoulders, and a glisten- hope to devise a practical remedy, ing coronet on his head. Radical as though he may discover the causes he is, or was, that vision is never ab- which lead to an undue distribution sent from his thought. Clap him on of wealth. It is of the very essence a platform at Manchester, and he will of freedom that a man should be left denounce the aristocracy as a con- to the uncontrolled disposal of the temptible set of humbugs; listen to fruits of his own industry. His inhim in his own drawing-room, when come, indeed, may be taxed; but, half-intoxicated with heavy port, and beyond that, he may employ the suryou may hear him promise his daugh- plus as he pleases. He cannot be ter the prefix of Honourable to her compelled to expend more or less name.
than his own inclination may dictate. When this worthy descends to his If he is a miser, he must be allowed to grave, unbedewed by the tears of the save-if open-handed, to give freely. thousands who have sweltered and But we have a right, at all events, toiled in his factory, he leaves behind to express our opinion as to the moral him a colossal fortune. Not by the and social effects of undue accumulanext generation, however, is that for- tion. tane properly enjoyed. The son and We question not that it is the duty heir still retains bis pot-house habits of a man to labour for the sake of his and low propensities — has a turn, children ;-that is, he is under a disperhaps, for horse-racing, but, tinct moral obligation to have them the whole, prefers a cock-fight - is properly educated and instructed, and wretched if, by any accident, he gets fairly launched into the world. With into polished society, and frantic if regard to sons, we maintain that he society refuses to take notice of his is obliged to do little further. We claims. In the third descent, perhaps, speak of those who have been the