History of John Bull

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Author: John Arbuthnot

Chapter VII. Of the Hard Shifts Mrs. Bull Was Put to Preserve the Manor of Bullock’s Hatch, With Sir Roger’s Method to Keep Off Importunate Duns.*

* Some attempts to destroy the public credit at that time. Manners of the Earl of Oxford.

As John Bull and his wife were talking together they were surprised with a sudden knocking at the door. "Those wicked scriveners and lawyers, no doubt," quoth John; and so it was, some asking for the money he owed, and others warning to prepare for the approaching term. "What a cursed life do I lead!" quoth John; "debt is like deadly sin. For God’s sake, Sir Roger, get me rid of the fellows." "I’ll warrant you," quoth Sir Roger; "leave them to me." And, indeed, it was pleasant enough to observe Sir Roger’s method with these importunate duns. His sincere friendship for John Bull made him submit to many things for his service which he would have scorned to have done for himself. Sometimes he would stand at the door with his long staff to keep off the duns, until John got out at the back door. When the lawyers and tradesmen brought extravagant bills Sir Roger used to bargain beforehand for leave to cut off a quarter of a yard in any part of the bill he pleased; he wore a pair of scissors in his pocket for this purpose, and would snip it off so nicely as you cannot imagine. Like a true goldsmith he kept all your holidays; there was not one wanting in his calendar; when ready money was scarce, he would set them a-telling a thousand pounds in sixpences, groats, and threepenny-pieces. It would have done your heart good to have seen him charge through an army of lawyers, attorneys, clerks, and tradesmen; sometimes with sword in hand, at other times nuzzling like an eel in the mud. When a fellow stuck like a bur, that there was no shaking him off, he used to be mighty inquisitive about the health of his uncles and aunts in the country; he could call them all by their names, for he knew everybody, and could talk to them in their own way. The extremely impertinent he would send away to see some strange sight, as the Dragon of Hockley the Hole, or bid him call the 3Oth of next February. Now and then you would see him in the kitchen, weighing the beef and butter, paying ready money, that the maids might not run a tick at the market, and the butchers, by bribing of them, sell damaged and light meat.* Another time he would slip into the cellar and gauge the casks. In his leisure minutes he was posting his books and gathering in his debts. Such frugal methods were necessary where money was so scarce and duns so numerous. All this while John kept his credit, could show his head both at ’Change and Westminster Hall; no man protested his bill nor refused his bond; only the sharpers and the scriveners, the lawyers and other clerks pelted Sir Roger as he went along. The squirters were at it with their kennel water, for they were mad for the loss of their bubble, and that they could not get him to mortgage the manor of Bullock’s Hatch. Sir Roger shook his ears and nuzzled along, well satisfied within himself that he was doing a charitable work in rescuing an honest man from the claws of harpies and bloodsuckers. Mrs. Bull did all that an affectionate wife, and a good housewife, could do; yet the boundaries of virtues are indivisible lines. It is impossible to march up close to the frontiers of frugality without entering the territories of parsimony. Your good housewives are apt to look into the minutest things; therefore some blamed Mrs. Bull for new heel-pieceing of her shoes, grudging a quarter of a pound of soap and sand to scour the rooms**; but, especially, that she would not allow her maids and apprentices the benefit of "John Bunyan," the "London Apprentices," or the "Seven Champions," in the black letter.***

* Some regulations as to the purveyance in the Queen’s family. ** Too great savings in the House of Commons. *** Restraining the liberty of the Press by Act of Parliament.

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Chicago: John Arbuthnot, "Chapter VII. Of the Hard Shifts Mrs. Bull Was Put to Preserve the Manor of Bullock’s Hatch, With Sir Roger’s Method to Keep Off Importunate Duns.*," History of John Bull, trans. Evans, Sebastian in History of John Bull Original Sources, accessed January 31, 2023, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=84N88WFKBQP4HSY.

MLA: Arbuthnot, John. "Chapter VII. Of the Hard Shifts Mrs. Bull Was Put to Preserve the Manor of Bullock’s Hatch, With Sir Roger’s Method to Keep Off Importunate Duns.*." History of John Bull, translted by Evans, Sebastian, in History of John Bull, Original Sources. 31 Jan. 2023. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=84N88WFKBQP4HSY.

Harvard: Arbuthnot, J, 'Chapter VII. Of the Hard Shifts Mrs. Bull Was Put to Preserve the Manor of Bullock’s Hatch, With Sir Roger’s Method to Keep Off Importunate Duns.*' in History of John Bull, trans. . cited in , History of John Bull. Original Sources, retrieved 31 January 2023, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=84N88WFKBQP4HSY.