Eighteen Months' Imprisonment (Illustrated)

Eighteen Months' Imprisonment (Illustrated)

by Donald Shaw

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On a dreary afternoon in November, cheerless and foggy as befitted the occasion, and accompanied by that gentle rain which we are told “falleth on the just and on the unjust,” I suddenly, though hardly unexpectedly, found myself in the hands of the law, as represented by a burly policeman in a waterproof cape and a strong Somersetshire accent. The circumstances that led up to this momentous change can be briefly described. I had gone to the office of a solicitor—one White, with whom I had had previous monetary transactions—with reference to a new loan on a bill of exchange; and it must be distinctly understood that any allusions I may make to this individual’s p. 2vocations are not to be misinterpreted, for I have the highest respect for his integrity and aptitude for business, legal or otherwise, and cannot but admire (as I’m sure every honest reader will) the horror with which any dishonest act inspired him, which, though it did not deter him from conscientiously completing the transaction as a matter of business, was equally swift in retributive justice, and condemnatory (to use his own expression) of compounding a felony. Mr. White, in short, is a money-lender, who, in addition to the advantages derivable from his legal assistance, is always prepared on undoubted security—such as a bill of sale or a promissory note—to make cash advances at the rate of 240 per cent. I am justified in quoting this as the gentleman’s rate of interest, for I paid him £5 for a loan of £45 for fourteen days, a transaction that his cheque on a Holborn bank will testify. The only marvel that suggests itself to my mind is, that a person who is so scrupulous in refusing to “compound a felony,” as he termed it when he assisted in involving me in the meshes of the law, should retain the ill-gotten and usurious sum of £5 one moment after he was aware (as he has been for a year) that it was the proceeds of a p. 3forgery. But perhaps I am wronging the worthy man; he may have subscribed it towards the Hunt he honours with his patronage, or have paid it as his subscription to the London and Discounty Club, to which, I presume, he belongs.

At first sight this rate of interest may appear somewhat high, but a moment’s reflection will dispel the idea. Here was a gentleman, a member of the honourable profession of the law—one who (as he told me) actually hunted with Her Majesty’s hounds, and, for aught I know, may have been honoured with a nod from the Master of the Buckhounds—one, moreover, who occasionally dined with impecunious Irish lords, with whom he had transacted business, and talked of such aristocratic clubs as the “Wanderers’” and the “Beaconsfield” with as much sang-froid and a degree of familiarity such as you and I, gentle reader, might refer to the “Magpie and Stump” at Holloway, and which to me at the time was truly appalling; here, I say, was a gentleman endowed with all these recommendations actually condescending to minister to one’s pecuniary wants; and one would indeed have been unworthy of such advantages had one carped or squabbled over such p. 4vulgar trifles as a paltry 240 per cent. There is certainly another point of view from which this “financial” business may be regarded; but if the Master of the Rolls and the “Incorporated Law Society” take no exception to this occupation of one of their members, it is clearly no business of ours to find fault with a gentleman who materially adds to his income by combining the profitable trade of usury with the profitless profession of the law.

It is a prevalent and very erroneous impression to associate voracity and sharp dealings with the Hebrew race, for I’ve found from experience (and I’m admittedly an authority) that for meanness, haggling, and exorbitant terms, with a cloak of hypocrisy to cover this multitude of sins, the Hebrew is considerably out-distanced by his Christian confrère. I might indeed go a step further, and add, that, barring a repellent manner during the preliminaries of a transaction, but which is purely superficial, the dealings of the children of Israel are based on strictly honourable and considerate grounds. No one has ever heard of a Jew robbing you first and then prosecuting you; they are invariably satisfied with one course or the other. p. 5(I may here be permitted a slight digression to note that I intend ere long to publish a list of usurers never before attempted, based on my personal experience of them, including members of almost every trade and profession, and which for completeness and accuracy of detail will put to the blush the hitherto feeble attempts of such society journals as Town Talk, Truth, &c.)

Product Details

BN ID: 2940148187929
Publisher: Lost Leaf Publications
Publication date: 01/28/2014
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
File size: 824 KB

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