William Hone to Basil Montagu, 10 May, 1830

William Hone to Basil Montagu, 10 May, 1830.1-TEI-

13 Gracechurch Street
10 May 1830
Dear Sir

"Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh,"2 and, out of that abundance, addresseth those with whom it hath no claim to discourse. At this moment mine is charged to overflowing, and, though on an ordinary occasion I should scarcely think of speaking to you except encouraged by your wonted courtesy, a hope I entertain that you may be enabled to mitigate my anxiety is the only cause I can offer for this, which in calmer mood I should call unseemly intrusion.

It may be easily conceived that, since the day you kindly proffered me your aid if it were requisite in the Bankrupts' Court at Guildhall, I have not been "tried with riches" — no one, however, can imagine the distress and heart-sickenings I endured with my wife and eight children while we secretly struggled through a subsequent twelvemonth of concealed distitution. Literary employment was precarious, & a friend advised & assisted in the taking of these premises, which he judiciously conceived might be opened as a respectable Coffee house under the management of the eldest daughters. They are prudent active business-like girls, & , in the judgment of persons qualified to determine, the house is most eligibly situated — indeed, upon that point there prevails but one opinion. By writing letters, & taking long journeys, a sum deemed sufficient to effect our object was ultimately obtained, & with this the lease & fixtures were secured, alterations made, & the place handsomely yet economically filled up & adapted. The cost however has exceeded the calculations & exhausted the money — and, with the house in all other respects quite ready, we are now utterly without means for purchasing a great variety of requisites so absolutely indispensible to the final arrangements for the business that, without them, it cannot be commenced. The sum required for this purpose is about £300, but as every probable channel has been resorted to for the supplies already obtained & expended, I am at a loss whither to go for aid. After an expense of upwards of £700, got together with infinite pains, & actually laid out upon the premises, I cannot persuade myself to relax exertions for putting into motion a concern from which, by the united effort of the family, a comfortable & permanent maintenance may be derived. In this situation which way to turn we know not, & stand still we cannot. To retreat, after successfully proceeding so far, would be to relinquish without a struggle an enviable position, which, by prompt assistance may be preserved. If the required sum can be obtained, without loss of time, it will enable the family to open the Coffee house immediately, & thereby put an end to the grievous disadvantages & expenses inseparable from delay.

Among the readers of the Every-Day Book there must be, I think, many, who if they knew the situation of its author & his family, would gladly lend them a helping hand. If I could discover them I would appeal to them — but, in truth, for the last four years I have been out of the way of the world, & while I was writing the book I was ignorant [of] who read it. Thus, I neither became acquainted with approvers of the work, nor formed intimacies. Indeed it has been my practice rather to shun than to court intimates, & hence I was not a tyro in that policy which cultivates friendships for ladders to ascend by, or for walking-sticks. Mr. Southey's recent most generous notice of what I have done, with a view to render me service with the public, is, as regards the Every Day Book & Table Book, of no avail — for I have lost everything. That gentleman's unlooked for kindness was of the very chivalry of friendship, and for Mr. Southey's I had as little endeavoured as I had hoped.3

Under these exigent circumstances I presume to present my family to you, as a suppliant for whatever you can afford or obtain for us, and, especially, to represent my persuasion, that if the matter were mentioned to some gentlemen at the bar, they might dispose to assist us. If it were broken to them by you, it seems to me that it would be of the utmost avail. Were my brother in England, & as prosperous as I am happy to think he is in Van Diemens' Land, I should expect that he would cheerfully aid us from his own sources. It occurs to me as probable, that some of the professional gentlemen4 who eminently befriended him might not be indifferent to our situation were they acquainted with it. I enclose the names of several, from a list that came into my hands after he left England, with a brief statement of our case which might perhaps be shown in quarters deemed favorable. It would afford me unspeakable gratification if you would do me the great kindness to consider the matter with a view to our object, and permit me to wait upon you at an hour & place least inconvenient to your engagements. I am aware that they are important and pressing, & therefore have abstained form personally intruding myself, lest I might have selected an unreasonable moment for disclosing my anxieties. With perfect sincerity,

I am, Dear Sir,
Your most respectful & obedient Servant
W Hone

Basil Montagu, Esq.

NYPL, Pforzheimer Collection, Misc 263. [return]
Luke 6:45; Matthew 12:34. [return]
The reference here is to Southey's notice of Hone in his Life of Bunyan. For further details, see the correspondence between Hone and Southey during the spring and fall of 1830, and see as well the Hone-Southey "Conversation." [return]
It is not clear who these "professional gentlemen" might be, but it seems likely that Hone refers to his brother's former colleagues in the legal profession. Quite possibly, Hone refers to the gentlemen who circulated a letter on Joseph's behalf just prior to his departure from England and which Hone later printed in his Aspersions Answered (1824). [return]
William Hone Basil Montagu. Date: 2014-10-14