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Money is sometimes strangely made. For instance, there is the case of Gully, who was M.P. for Pontefract in 1832. “He was taken out of prison,” writes Mr. Charles Greville, “twenty-five or thirty years ago by a gentleman to fight Pierce, surnamed the Game Chicken. He afterwards fought Belcher (I believe), and Gregson twice, and left the prize-ring with the reputation of being the best man in it. He then took to the turf, was successful in establishing himself at Newmarket, where he kept ‘a hell,’ and began a system of corruption of trainers, jockeys, and boys, which put the secrets of all Newmarket at his disposal, and in a few years made him rich. At the same time he connected himself with Mr. Watt, in the north, by betting for him; and this being at the time when Watt’s stable was very successful, he won large sums of p. 134money by his horses. Having become rich, he embarked in a great coal speculation, which answered beyond his hopes, and his shares soon yielded immense profits. His wife, who was a coarse, vulgar woman, in the meantime died, and he afterwards married the daughter of an innkeeper, who proved as gentlewoman-like as the other was the reverse, and who was very pretty besides. He now gradually withdrew from the betting-ring as a regular blackleg, still keeping horses, and betting occasionally in large sums. He ultimately bought an estate near Pontefract, and settled down as a gentleman of fortune.”

Of the beggarly race of misers, the most notorious was Thomas Cooke, born in the year 1726, at Clewer, a village near Windsor. His father, an itinerant fiddler, got his living by playing in alehouses and fairs, but dying while Thomas was an infant, his grandmother, who lived near Norwich, took care of him till he was able to provide for himself, at which time he obtained employment in a manufactory where there were a number of other boys who were paid according to the work they did. These boys always clubbed some money from their weekly earnings for the establishment of a mess; young Cooke, however, resolved to live cheaper, and when the other boys went to dinner he retired to the side of a brook, and made his breakfast and dinner at one meal upon an halfpenny loaf, an apple, and a draught of water from the running stream, taken up in the brim of his hat. With the money thus saved, he paid a youth, who was usher to a village schoolmaster, to instruct him in reading, writing, and arithmetic. Arrived at years of maturity, Cooke found employment at a Norwich warehouse as a porter. There his sobriety and industry caused his master to make him a journeyman, and raise his wages. Further, his master finding that he wished for an appointment as an exciseman, procured a situation for him near London, and he came to the capital by the Norwich waggon with only eight shillings in his pocket; but that is of little consequence. It is not money that makes a man succeed in life, but the want of it. In the world, a man who begins with money generally ends by losing it.

Being appointed to a district, Cooke found there was great delay, and some expense, before he could act as an exciseman; he therefore took the situation of porter to a sugar-baker, p. 135and, in course of time, became a journeyman. Here he did not neglect his appointment to the excise, but reserved sufficient time to himself to give it every necessary attention. By attending on the superior of the district in which he was to act, and by the money he saved while in the service of the sugar-baker, Cooke was at length enabled to assume the dignity to which he had so long aspired. Being appointed to inspect the exciseable concerns of a paper-mill and manufactory near Tottenham, Cooke was exceedingly well pleased; for, being already versed in some parts of the trade from the knowledge he had acquired at Norwich, he was desirous of learning those secrets in the trade to which he was still a stranger. During the time he was officially employed in this concern, the master of the paper-mills and manufactory died. The widow, however, by the advice of her friends, carried on the business with the assistance of the foreman. Cooke’s knowledge of the business, but particularly the regularity with which he rendered his accounts to the Board of Excise, induced the commissioners to continue him in the employ. In the meantime he took a regular and exact account of sundry infractions of the laws, which, either from design or inadvertence, were daily committed in this paper manufactory. Having calculated the value of the concern, and the several thousand pounds the penalties incurred by frauds on the revenue would amount to, he seized the opportunity of privately informing the widow, that the penalties, if levied, would amount to more than double the value of all her property, and expose her to beggary and the King’s Bench. He assured her that the frauds which had been at different times committed were only known to himself, and suddenly proposed marriage to her as the only means of insuring his secrecy. The widow, no doubt, convinced of the truth of the statement, and seeing in Cooke a man of comely countenance and of good figure, gave him a favourable answer, but suggested the propriety of deferring the marriage till the time allotted to the mourning for her first husband had expired. Cooke agreed to this delay, having taken care to obtain her consent and promise on parchment. At length his marriage with this lady took place, and Cooke became possessed of all her property, which was very large, and particularly of the mills at Tottenham, which were on a lease to her former husband. On the expiration of the lease, he p. 136applied to the proprietors for a renewal of it; but, in consequence of a previous treaty, the premises were, to his great mortification, let to another person. He next purchased a large sugar concern in Puddle Dock, and, as he knew something of the business, flattered himself that he would he able to add rapidly to his already large fortune. Here he carried his former habits of parsimony and abstemiousness to the utmost extent.

At this time his artfulness and meanness seem to have quite gained the upper hand. One of his plans was to have his table well supplied by the generosity of other people. His colloquial powers were admirable. In his latter days it was his practice, when he had marked out any one for his prey, to find his way, by some means or other, into the house, by pretending to fall down in a fit, or asking permission to enter and sit down, in order to prevent its coming on. No humane person could well refuse admission to a man in apparent distress, of respectable appearance, whose well-powdered wig and long ruffles induced a belief that he was some decayed citizen of better days. The host would soon learn that this was the rich Mr. Cooke, the sugar-baker, worth £100,000; and this would lead to an introduction to the family, all of whom the artful sugar-baker would pretend to admire, asking the fond mamma particularly for their names all in writing. The parents, of course, considered that there could be but one motive for asking such a question, and the consequence was, as he pursued the plan with a score or two of people, that so great was the quantity of poultry, game, vegetables, and provisions of every kind which used to be sent him, that it did not cost him in housekeeping, for himself and his domestics, more than fifteen-pence a-day on an average; but it was considered as great extravagance when the expenses of a day amounted to as much as two shillings.

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Alas! however, in spite of all his parsimony, the sugar-baking business did not pay. At the end of twelve months he found himself considerably the poorer. This would never do; and in order to discover the secrets of the trade to which he had been a stranger, he was induced to invite several sugar-bakers to dine with him, and, after plying them with plenty of wine, he put questions to some of the younger and more unguarded of the trade, who, in a state of intoxication, made the desirable discoveries. His wife, astonished at his being so unusually p. 137generous, expressed her apprehensions about the expenses of the wine, but he told her he would suck as much of the brains—his usual phrase—of some of the fools as would amply repay him. His wife was as much a victim as any one else. She died of a broken heart. After he had retired from business, Cooke went to reside in Winchester Street, Pentonville, where he cultivated his own cabbages on a plot of ground which had been originally laid out for a garden. To get manure for his cabbages he would sally out on moonlight nights, with a little shovel and a basket, and take up the horse-dung that had been dropped in the course of the day in the City Road. He seldom passed by a pump without taking a hearty drink. In his daily visits to the Bank, he regaled himself at the pump near the Royal Exchange. He was in the constant habit of pocketing the Bank paper, as he never bought anything if he could get it for nothing.

Notwithstanding Cooke’s inordinate love of money, he was fond of amusement. It was said of Gilpin’s wife, that—

“Though on pleasure she was bent,

She had a frugal mind.”

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It seems the same could be said of Cooke. For instance, he was very fond of going to Epsom races. But these excursions never cost him anything, for he always took care to fasten himself upon some of those people whom he used to buoy up with assurances of making them his heirs. Thus he had his ride to Epsom in his friend’s gig and back to town, his bed during the time of the races, his meals, and every other accommodation at the expense of his fellow-traveller, to whom, for all this treating, he never had the generosity to offer so much as a bottle of wine in return.

Cooke died as he had lived, a pauper in heart. To the last he cheated everybody. In 1811, he took to his bed, and sent for several medical men in the hope of obtaining some relief; but all knew him so well that not one would attend, except Mr. Aldridge, who resided close by. Cooke permitted this gentleman to send some medicine. On his last visit the old man very earnestly entreated him to say candidly how long he thought he might live. Mr. Aldridge answered that he might last six days. Cooke collected as much of his exhausted strength as he could, raised himself in his bed, and, darting a look of keenest indignation at the surgeon, exclaimed, p. 138“And are not you a dishonest man, a rogue, a robber to serve me so?” “How, sir?” asked the doctor, with surprise. “Why, sir, you are no better than a pickpocket to rob me of my gold by sending two draughts a-day to a man that all your physic will not keep alive for above six days. Get out of my house, and never come near me again.” During the last days of his existence he was extremely weak, and employed his few remaining hours in arranging matters with his creditors. Some short time before his death, one of his executors observed to him that he had omitted to remember his two servants in his will; the one who had served him as his housekeeper and nurse faithfully for upwards of ten years; the other who used to lead him about the streets, particularly to the Exchange Pump, to regale himself, and who was also a good nurse during the time she lived with him; but Cooke answered, “Let them be paid their wages to the day of my death—nothing more.” On the gentleman remonstrating on the very great injustice it would be not to leave them something, all he could obtain was twenty-five pounds for one and ten pounds for the other, and even from that twenty-five, after his friend had left the room, he took the will and struck out the word five. He treated Dr. Lettisom quite as shabbily. In order to evince his gratitude, he told the doctor that he would make an ample donation to any public charity which he should recommend. After the doctor had taken the pains to explain to him the objects of different charitable institutions, Cooke fixed upon the Humane Society for the Recovery of the Apparently Dead, intimating, at the same time, the extent of his fortune, and confirming it by bringing his will in his pocket, which he submitted to the doctor’s inspection. About three weeks before his decease, he confidently assured Dr. Lettisom that, besides the ample provision he had made for his numerous relatives and friends, and his two maid-servants, and still more ample bequests to almshouses, he was in possession of a surplus fund of £40,000 unappropriated, and desired the doctor to specify such hospitals and dispensaries as he deemed most in want of funds their support. The doctor gave himself an immense of trouble in the matter, but all to no purpose, the will was read, it was found that he had left but pounds to the Royal Humane Society, and to the doctor, for all the trouble and plague he had given him, a plain gold ring.

p. 139“Thus lived and died,” writes his biographer, “unpitied and unlamented, in the eighty-sixth year of his age, and possessed of a property of £127,205 Three per Cent. Consolidated Bank Annuities, a man whose life was chequered with as few good actions as ever fell to the share of any person that has lived to an advanced age.”

It is not often that money is made by gambling; yet now and then this is the case. General Scott, the father-in-law of George Canning and the Duke of Portland, was known to have won at White’s £200,000, thanks to his notorious sobriety and knowledge of the game of whist. The general possessed a great advantage over his companions by avoiding those indulgences at the table which used to muddle other men’s brains. He confined himself to dining off a boiled chicken, with toast-and-water. By such a regimen he came to the whist-table with a clear head, and possessing, as he did, a remarkable memory, with great coolness of judgment, he was enabled honestly to win the sum of £200,000. If the general was not an eccentric money-getter, he evidently got his money in an eccentric way.

Equally successful was the millionaire Crockford, who was originally a fishmonger, keeping a shop near Temple Bar. His fortune was all made at his gambling-house in fifteen or sixteen years. A vast sum, perhaps half a million, was sometimes due to him; but as he won all his debtors were able to raise, and gave credit, it was hard for men of fashion, fond of play, to keep out of his lures. He retired in 1840, much as an Indian chief retires from a hunting country when there is not game enough left for his tribe; and the club, which bore his name, tottered to its fall. It really seems that at that time there were no more very high players visiting the place. It was said that there were persons of rank and station who had never paid their debts to Crockford up to 1844.

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Morissey, the well-known American gambler, has passed away. At one time he kept a small drinking-saloon of the lowest character. So disreputable was the place that it was closed by the authorities. Morissey was also a prize-fighter. Drunken, brutal, without friends or money, he came from Troy to New York to see what would turn up. At that time an election was in progress; and elections were carried by brute force. There was no registry law; and the p. 140injunction to vote early and vote often was literally obeyed. In such a city, and at such a time, Morissey was in his element. Having acquired a little money, he opened a place for play. He became thoroughly temperate. He resolved to behave well, to be sober, and not gamble. Those resolutions he carried out. His house in New York was the most elegantly furnished of any of the kind in the State; the table, the attendants, and the cooking, were of the first order. He followed his patrons to Saratoga, and opened there what was called a club-house; judges, senators, merchants, bankers, millionaires, became his guests: the disguise was soon thrown off, and the club-house assumed the form of a first-class gambling-house at the Springs. Horse-racing and attendant games followed, all bringing custom and profit to Morissey’s establishment; and thus he amassed a large fortune, and died in the odour of respectability which wealth confers. Morissey, as Congress man, was not exactly a working member. When he first went to Washington, Mr. Colfax hardly knew on which of the committees of the House it would be best to put him; so he said, in a very apologetic tone, “Well, Mr. Morissey, I should be very glad to oblige in regard to a great many old members, and all the best places belong by right to them. Still, I will see what I can do for you.” “Well, Mr. Speaker,” said the new member, “I am pretty particular; but 1 will, at any rate, tell you what I want. If there is a committee that has no committee-room, never has any business sent to it, and never meets, I should like to be put on the tail-end of that committee. How does it strike you?” “You relieve me wonderfully,” said Mr. Colfax. “I will put you on the Committee of Revolutionary Pensions.”