“And pray,” said I, “what may you be at present!” “At present,” said he, “I am a regular job writer, and turn my hand to anything. I work up the writings of others at so much a sheet; turn off translations; write second-rate articles to fill up reviews and magazines; compile travels and voyages, and furnish theatrical criticisms for the newspapers. All this authorship, you perceive, is anonymous; it gives no reputation, except among the trade, where I am considered an author of all work, and am always sure of employ. That’s the only reputation I want. I sleep soundly, without dread of duns or critics, and leave immortal fame to those that choose to fret and fight about it. Take my word for it, the only happy author in this world is he who is below the care of reputation.”
The preceding anecdotes of Buckthorne’s early schoolmate, and a variety of peculiarities which I had remarked in himself, gave me a strong curiosity to know something of his own history. There was a dash of careless good humor about him that pleased me exceedingly, and at times a whimsical tinge of melancholy ran through his humor that gave it an additional relish. He had evidently been a little chilled and buffeted by fortune, without being soured thereby, as some fruits become mellower and sweeter, from having been bruised or frost-bitten. He smiled when I expressed my desire. “I have no great story,” said he, “to relate. A mere tissue of errors and follies. But, such as it is, you shall have one epoch of it, by which you may judge of the rest.” And so, without any farther prelude, he gave me the following anecdotes of his early adventures.
I was born to very little property, but to great expectations; which is perhaps one of the most unlucky fortunes that a man can be born to. My father was a country gentleman, the last of a very ancient and honorable, but decayed family, and resided in an old hunting lodge in Warwickshire. He was a keen sportsman and lived to the extent of his moderate income, so that I had little to expect from that quarter; but then I had a rich uncle by the mother’s side, a penurious, accumulating curmudgeon, who it was confidently expected would make me his heir; because he was an old bachelor; because I was named after him, and because he hated all the world except myself.