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A Sordid Rich Man Post by :cleodog Category :Essays Author :John Earle Date :September 2011 Read :2546

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A Sordid Rich Man

Is a beggar of a fair estate, of whose wealth we may say as of other men's unthriftiness, that it has brought him to this: when he had nothing he lived in another kind of fashion. He is a man whom men hate in his own behalf for using himself thus, and yet, being upon himself, it is but justice, for he deserves it. Every accession of a fresh heap bates him so much of his allowance, and brings him a degree nearer starving. His body had been long since desperate, but for the reparation of other men's tables, where he hoards meats in his belly for a month, to maintain him in hunger so long. His clothes were never young in our memory; you might make long epochas from them, and put them into the almanack with the dear year(1) and the great frost,(2) and he is known by them longer than his face. He is one never gave alms in his life, and yet is as charitable to his neighbour as himself. He will redeem a penny with his reputation, and lose all his friends to boot; and his reason is, he will not be undone. He never pays any thing but with strictness of law, for fear of which only he steals not. He loves to pay short a shilling or two in a great sum, and is glad to gain that when he can no more. He never sees friend but in a journey to save the charges of an inn, and then only is not sick; and his friends never see him but to abuse him. He is a fellow indeed of a kind of frantick thrift, and one of the strangest things that wealth can work.


(1) The dear year here, I believe, alluded to, was in 1574, and is thus described by that faithful and valuable historian Holinshed:--"This yeare, about Lammas, wheat was sold at London for three shillings the bushell: but shortlie after, it was raised to foure shillings, fiue shillings, six shillings, and, before Christmas, to a noble, and seuen shillings; which so continued long after. Beefe was sold for twentie pence, and two and twentie pence the stone; and all other flesh and white meats at an excessiue price; all kind of salt fish verie deare, as fiue herings two pence, &c.; yet great plentie of fresh fish, and oft times the same verie cheape. Pease at foure shillings the bushell; ote-meale at foure shillings eight pence; baie salt at three shillings the bushell, &c. All this dearth notwithstanding, (thanks be given to God,) there was no want of anie thing to them that wanted not monie." Holinshed, Chronicle, vol. 3, page 1259, a. edit. folio, 1587.

(2) On the 21st of December, 1564, began a frost referred to by Fleming, in his Index to Holinshed, as the "frost called the great frost," which lasted till the 3rd of January, 1565. It was so severe that the Thames was frozen over, and the passage on it, from London-bridge to Westminster, as easy as, and more frequented than that on dry land.

(The end)
John Earle's essay: Sordid Rich Man

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