The History of John Bull
by John Arbuthnot
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"Your affectionate

"Friend and Servant,

"Nic. Frog."*

* Substance of the States letter.

John received this with a good deal of sang-froid; "Transeat," quoth John, "cum caeteris erroribus." He was now at his ease; he saw he could now make a very good bargain for himself, and a very safe one for other folks. "My shirt," quoth he, "is near me, but my skin is nearer. Whilst I take care of the welfare of other folks, nobody can blame me to apply a little balsam to my own sores. It's a pretty thing, after all, for a man to do his own business; a man has such a tender concern for himself, there's nothing like it. This is somewhat better, I trow, than for John Bull to be standing in the market, like a great dray-horse, with Frog's paws upon his head. What will you give me for this beast? Serviteur Nic. Frog, though John Bull has not read your Aristotles, Platos, and Machiavels, he can see as far into a mill-stone as another." With that John began to chuckle and laugh till he was like to have burst his sides.

CHAPTER XX. The discourse that passed between Nic. Frog and Esquire South, which John Bull overheard.*

* Negotiations between the Emperor and the Dutch for continuing the war, and getting the property of Flanders.

John thought every minute a year till he got into Ecclesdown Castle; he repairs to the "Salutation" with a design to break the matter gently to his partners. Before he entered he overheard Nic. and the Esquire in a very pleasant conference.

ESQUIRE SOUTH.—Oh, the ingratitude and injustice of mankind! That John Bull, whom I have honoured with my friendship and protection so long, should flinch at last, and pretend that he can disburse no more money for me! that the family of the Souths, by his sneaking temper, should be kept out of their own!

NIC. FROG.—An't like your worship, I am in amaze at it; I think the rogue should be compelled to his duty.

ESQUIRE SOUTH.—That he should prefer his scandalous pelf, the dust and dregs of the earth, to the prosperity and grandeur of my family!

NIC. FROG.—Nay, he is mistaken there, too; for he would quickly lick himself whole again by his vails. It's strange he should prefer Philip Baboon's custom to Esquire South's.

ESQUIRE SOUTH.—As you say, that my clothier, that is to get so much by the purchase, should refuse to put me in possession; did you ever know any man's tradesman serve him so before?

NIC. FROG.—No, indeed, an't please your worship, it is a very unusual proceeding; and I would not have been guilty of it for the world. If your honour had not a great stock of moderation and patience, you would not bear it so well as you do.

ESQUIRE SOUTH.—It is most intolerable, that's certain, Nic., and I will be revenged.

NIC. FROG.—Methinks it is strange that Philip Baboon's tenants do not all take your honour's part, considering how good and gentle a master you are.

ESQUIRE SOUTH.—True, Nic., but few are sensible of merit in this world. It is a great comfort to have so faithful a friend as thyself in so critical a juncture.

NIC. FROG.—If all the world should forsake you, be assured Nic. Frog never will; let us stick to our point, and we'll manage Bull, I'll warrant ye.

ESQUIRE SOUTH.—Let me kiss thee, dear Nic.; I have found one honest man among a thousand at last.

NIC. FROG.—If it were possible, your honour has it in your power to wed me still closer to your interest.

ESQUIRE SOUTH.—Tell me quickly, dear Nic.

NIC. FROG.—You know I am your tenant; the difference between my lease and an inheritance is such a trifle as I am sure you will not grudge your poor friend. That will be an encouragement to go on; besides, it will make Bull as mad as the devil: you and I shall be able to manage him then to some purpose.

ESQUIRE SOUTH.—Say no more; it shall be done, Nic., to thy heart's content.

John all this while was listening to this comical dialogue, and laughed heartily in his sleeve at the pride and simplicity of the Esquire, and the sly roguery of his friend Nic. Then of a sudden bolting into the room, he began to tell them that he believed he had brought Lewis to reasonable terms, if they would please to hear them.

Then they all bawled out aloud, "No composition: long live Esquire South and the Law!" As John was going to proceed, some roared, some stamped with their feet, others stopped their ears with their fingers.

"Nay, gentlemen," quoth John, "if you will but stop proceeding for a while, you shall judge yourselves whether Lewis's proposals* are reasonable."

* Proposals for cessation of arms and delivery of Dunkirk.

ALL.—Very fine, indeed; stop proceeding, and so lose a term.

JOHN BULL.—Not so neither; we have something by way of advance: he will put us in possession of his Manor and Castle of Ecclesdown.

NIC. FROG.—What dost talk of us? thou meanest thyself.

JOHN BULL.—When Frog took possession of anything, it was always said to be for us, and why may not John Bull be us as well as Nic. Frog was us? I hope John Bull is no more confined to singularity than Nic. Frog; or, take it so, the constant doctrine that thou hast preached up for many years was that thou and I are one; and why must we be supposed two in this case, that were always one before? It's impossible that thou and I can fall out, Nic.; we must trust one another. I have trusted thee with a great many things—prithee trust me with this one trifle.

NIC. FROG.—That principle is true in the main, but there is some speciality in this case that makes it highly inconvenient for us both.

JOHN BULL.—Those are your jealousies, that the common enemies sow between us: how often hast thou warned me of those rogues, Nic., that would make us mistrustful of one another!

NIC. FROG.—This Ecclesdown Castle is only a bone of contention.

JOHN BULL.—It depends upon you to make it so; for my part, I am as peaceable as a lamb.

NIC. FROG.—But do you consider the unwholesomeness of the air and soil, the expenses of reparations and servants? I would scorn to accept of such a quagmire.

JOHN BULL.—You are a great man, Nic., but in my circumstances I must be e'en content to take it as it is.

NIC. FROG.—And you are really so silly as to believe the old cheating rogue will give it you?

JOHN BULL.—I believe nothing but matter of fact; I stand and fall by that. I am resolved to put him to it.

NIC. FROG.—And so relinquish the hopefullest cause in the world: a claim that will certainly in the end make thy fortune for ever.

JOHN BULL.—Wilt thou purchase it, Nic.? thou shalt have a lumping pennyworth; nay, rather than we should differ, I'll give thee something to take it off my hands.

NIC. FROG.—If thou wouldst but moderate that hasty, impatient temper of thine, thou shouldst quickly see a better thing than all that. What shouldst thou think to find old Lewis turned out of his paternal estates and mansion-house of Claypool?* Would not that do thy heart good, to see thy old friend, Nic. Frog, Lord of Claypool? Then thou and thy wife and children should walk in my gardens, buy toys, drink lemonade, and now and then we should have a country dance.

* Claypool, Paris—Lutetia.

JOHN BULL.—I love to be plain: I'd as lief see myself in Ecclesdown Castle as thee in Claypool. I tell you again, Lewis gives this as a pledge of his sincerity; if you won't stop proceeding to hear him, I will.

CHAPTER XXI. The rest of Nic.'s fetches to keep John out of Ecclesdown Castle.*

* Attempts to hinder the cessation, and taking possession of Dunkirk.

When Nic. could not dissuade John by argument, he tried to move his pity; he pretended to be sick and like to die; that he should leave his wife and children in a starving condition, if John did abandon him; that he was hardly able to crawl about the room, far less capable to look after such a troublesome business as this lawsuit, and therefore begged that his good friend would not leave him. When he saw that John was still inexorable, he pulled out a case-knife, with which he used to snicker-snee, and threatened to cut his own throat. Thrice he aimed the knife to his windpipe with a most determined threatening air. "What signifies life," quoth he, "in this languishing condition? It will be some pleasure that my friends will revenge my death upon this barbarous man that has been the cause of it." All this while John looked sedate and calm, neither offering in the least to snatch the knife, nor stop his blow, trusting to the tenderness Nic. had for his own person. When he perceived that John was immovable in his purpose, he applied himself to Lewis.

"Art thou," quoth he, "turned bubble in thy old age, from being a sharper in thy youth? What occasion hast thou to give up Ecclesdown Castle to John Bull? His friendship is not worth a rush. Give it me, and I'll make it worth thy while. If thou dislikest that proposition, keep it thyself; I'd rather thou shouldst have it than he. If thou hearkenest not to my advice, take what follows; Esquire South and I will go on with our lawsuit in spite of John Bull's teeth."

LEWIS BABOON.—Monsieur Bull has used me like a gentleman, and I am resolved to make good my promise, and trust him for the consequences.

NIC. FROG.—Then I tell thee thou art an old doating fool.—With that Nic. bounced up with a spring equal to that of one of your nimblest tumblers or rope-dancers, and fell foul upon John Bull, to snatch the cudgel* he had in his hand, that he might thwack Lewis with it: John held it fast so that there was no wrenching it from him. At last Squire South buckled to, to assist his friend Nic.: John hauled on one side, and they two on the other. Sometimes they were like to pull John over, then it went all of a sudden again on John's side, so they went see-sawing up and down, from one end of the room to the other. Down tumbled the tables, bottles, glasses, and tobacco-pipes; the wine and the tobacco were all spilt about the room, and the little fellows were almost trod under foot, till more of the tradesmen joining with Nic. and the Squire, John was hardly able to pull against then all, yet would he never quit hold of his trusty cudgel: which by the contrary force of two so great powers broke short in his hands.** Nic. seized the longer end, and with it began to bastinado old Lewis, who had slunk into a corner, waiting the event of this squabble. Nic. came up to him with an insolent menacing air, so that the old fellow was forced to scuttle out of the room, and retire behind a dung-cart. He called to Nic., "Thou insolent jackanapes, time was when thou durst not have used me so; thou now takest me unprovided; but, old and infirm as I am, I shall find a weapon by-and-by to chastise thy impudence."

* The army.

** The separation of the army.

When John Bull had recovered his breath, he began to parley with Nic.: "Friend Nic., I am glad to find thee so strong after thy great complaints; really thy motions, Nic., are pretty vigorous for a consumptive man. As for thy worldly affairs, Nic., if it can do thee any service, I freely make over to thee this profitable lawsuit, and I desire all these gentlemen to bear witness to this my act and deed. Yours be all the gain, as mine has been the charges. I have brought it to bear finely: however, all I have laid out upon it goes for nothing—thou shalt have it with all its appurtenances; I ask nothing but leave to go home."

NIC. FROG.—The counsel are fee'd, and all things prepared for a trial; thou shalt be forced to stand the issue; it shall be pleaded in thy name as well as mine. Go home if thou canst; the gates are shut, the turnpikes locked, and the roads barricaded.*

* Difficulty of the march of part of the army to Dunkirk.

JOHN BULL.—Even these very ways, Nic., that thou toldest me were as open to me as thyself, if I can't pass with my own equipage, what can I expect for my goods and wagons? I am denied passage through those very grounds that I have purchased with my own money. However, I am glad I have made the experiment; it may serve me in some stead.

John Bull was so overjoyed that he was going to take possession of Ecclesdown, that nothing could vex him. "Nic.," quoth he, "I am just a-going to leave thee; cast a kind look upon me at parting."

Nic. looked sour and glum, and would not open his mouth.

JOHN BULL.—I wish thee all the success that thy heart can desire, and that these honest gentlemen of the long robe may have their belly full of law.

Nic. could stand it no longer, but flung out of the room with disdain, and beckoned the lawyers to follow him.

JOHN BULL.—B'ye, b'ye, Nic,; not one poor smile at parting? won't you shake your day-day, Nic? b'ye, Nic.—With that John marched out of the common road, across the country, to take possession of Ecclesdown.

CHAPTER XXII. Of the great joy that John expressed when he got possession of Ecclesdown.*

* Dunkirk.

When John had got into his castle he seemed like Ulysses upon his plank after he had been well soused in salt water, who, as Homer says, was as glad as a judge going to sit down to dinner after hearing a long cause upon the bench. I daresay John Bull's joy was equal to that of either of the two; he skipped from room to room, ran up-stairs and down-stairs, from the kitchen to the garrets, and from the garrets to the kitchen; he peeped into every cranny; sometimes he admired the beauty of the architecture and the vast solidity of the mason's work; at other times he commended the symmetry and proportion of the rooms. He walked about the gardens; he bathed himself in the canal, swimming, diving, and beating the liquid element like a milk-white swan. The hall resounded with the sprightly violin and the martial hautbois. The family tripped it about, and capered like hailstones bounding from a marble floor. Wine, ale, and October flew about as plentifully as kennel-water. Then a frolic took John in the head to call up some of Nic. Frog's pensioners that had been so mutinous in his family.

JOHN BULL.—Are you glad to see your master in Ecclesdown Castle?

ALL.—Yes, indeed, sir.

JOHN BULL.—Extremely glad?

ALL.—Extremely glad, sir.

JOHN BULL.—Swear to me that you are so.

Then they began to sink their souls to the lowest pit if any person in the world rejoiced more than they did.

JOHN BULL.—Now hang me if I don't believe you are a parcel of perjured rascals; however, take this bumper of October to your master's health.

Then John got upon the battlements, and looking over he called to Nic. Frog.—

"How d'ye do, Nic.? D'ye see where I am, Nic.? I hope the cause goes on swimmingly, Nic. When dost thou intend to go to Claypool, Nic.? Wilt thou buy there some high heads of the newest cut for my daughters? How comest thou to go with thy arm tied up? Has old Lewis given thee a rap over thy fingers' ends? Thy weapon was a good one when I wielded it, but the butt-end remains in my hands. I am so busy in packing up my goods that I have no time to talk with thee any longer. It would do thy heart good to see what wagon-loads I am preparing for market. If thou wantest any good office of mine, for all that has happened I will use thee well, Nic. B'ye, Nic."


It has been disputed amongst the literati of Grub Street whether Sir Humphry proceeded any farther into the history of John Bull. By diligent inquiry we have found the titles of some chapters, which appear to be a continuation of it, and are as follow:—

CHAP. I.—How John was made angry with the Articles of Agreement. How he kicked the Parchment through the House, up-stairs and down-stairs, and put himself in a great Heat thereby.

CHAP. II.—How in his Passion he was going to cut off Sir Roger's head with a Cleaver. Of the strange manner of Sir Roger's escaping the blow, by laying his Head upon the Dresser.

CHAP. III.—How some of John's Servants attempted to scale his House with Rope Ladders, and how many unfortunately dangled in the same.

CHAP. IV.—Of the Methods by which John endeavoured to preserve the Peace amongst his Neighbours. How he kept a pair of Stillyards to weigh them, and by Diet, Purging, Vomiting, and Bleeding, tried to bring them to equal Bulk and Strength.

CHAP. V.—Of False Accounts of the Weights given in by some of the Journeymen, and of the Newmarket Tricks that were practised at the Stillyards.

CHAP. VI.—How John's New Journeymen brought him other guess Accounts of the Stillyards.

CHAP. VII.—How Sir Swain Northy* was, by Bleeding, Purging, and a Steel Diet, brought into a Consumption, and how John was forced afterwards to give him the Gold Cordial.

* King of Sweden.

CHAP. VIII.—How Peter Bear* was overfed, and afterwards refused to submit to the course of Physic.

* Czar of Muscovy.

CHAP. IX.—How John pampered Esquire South with Tit-bits, till he grew wanton; how he got drunk with Calabrian Wine, and longed for Sicilian Beef, and how John carried him thither in his barge.

CHAP. X.—How the Esquire, from a foul-feeder, grew dainty: how he longed for Mangoes, Spices, and Indian Birds' Nests, etc., and could not sleep but in a Chintz Bed.

CHAP. XI.—The Esquire turned Tradesman; how he set up a China Shop* over against Nic. Frog.

* The Ostend Company.

CHAP. XII.—How he procured Spanish Flies to blister his Neighbours, and as a Provocative to himself. As likewise how he carried off Nic. Frog's favourite Daughter.

CHAP. XIII.—How Nic. Frog, hearing the Girl squeak, went to call John Bull as a Constable.

CHAP. XIV.—How John rose out of his Bed on a cold Morning to prevent a Duel between Esq. South and Lord Strutt; how, to his great surprise, he found the Combatants drinking Geneva in a Brandy Shop, with Nic.'s favourite Daughter between them; how they both fell upon John, so that he was forced to fight his way out.

CHAP. XV.—How John came with his Constable's Staff to rescue Nic.'s Daughter, and break the Esquire's China Ware.

CHAP. XVI.—Commentary upon the Spanish Proverb, "Time and I against any Two;" or Advice to Dogmatical Politicians exemplified in some New Affairs between John Bull and Lewis Baboon.

CHAP. XVII.—A Discourse of the delightful Game of Quadrille. How Lewis Baboon attempted to play a Game Solo in Clubs, and was bested; how John called Lewis for his King, and was afraid that his own Partner should have too many tricks; and how the Success and Skill of Quadrille depends upon calling a right King.


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