The History Of Whittington

Dick Whittington was a very little boy when his

father and mother died; so little, indeed, that he never

knew them, nor the place where he was born. He

strolled about the country as ragged as a colt, till he met

with a wagoner who was going to London, and who gave

him leave to walk all the way by the side of his wagon

without paying anything for his passage. This pleased

little Whittington very much, as he wanted to see London

sadly, for he had heard that the streets were paved with

gold, and he was willing to get a bushel of it; but how

great was his disappointment, poor boy! when he saw

the streets covered with dirt instead of gold, and found

himself in a strange place, without a friend, without food,

and without money.

Though the wagoner was so charitable as to let him

walk up by the side of the wagon for nothing, he took

care not to know him when he came to town, and the

poor boy was, in a little time, so cold and hungry that

he wished himself in a good kitchen and by a warm fire

in the country.

In his distress he asked charity of several people, and

one of them bid him "Go to work for an idle rogue."

"That I will," said Whittington, "with all my heart; I

will work for you if you will let me."

The man, who thought this savored of wit and impertinence

(though the poor lad intended only to show his

readiness to work), gave him a blow with a stick which

broke his head so that the blood ran down. In this situation,

and fainting for want of food, he laid himself down

at the door of one Mr. Fitzwarren, a merchant, where the

cook saw him, and, being an ill-natured hussy, ordered

him to go about his business or she would scald him.

At this time Mr. Fitzwarren came from the Exchange,

and began also to scold at the poor boy, bidding him to

go to work.

Whittington answered that he should be glad to work

if anybody would employ him, and that he should be

able if he could get some victuals to eat, for he had had

nothing for three days, and he was a poor country boy,

and knew nobody, and nobody would employ him.

He then endeavored to get up, but he was so very weak

that he fell down again, which excited so much compassion

in the merchant that he ordered the servants to

take him in and give him some meat and drink, and let

him help the cook to do any dirty work that she had to

set him about. People are too apt to reproach those who

beg with being idle, but give themselves no concern to

put them in the way of getting business to do, or

considering whether they are able to do it, which is not


But we return to Whittington, who could have lived

happy in this worthy family had he not been bumped

about by the cross cook, who must be always roasting

and basting, or when the spit was idle employed her

hands upon poor Whittington! At last Miss Alice, his

master's daughter, was informed of it, and then she took

compassion on the poor boy, and made the servants treat

him kindly.

Besides the crossness of the cook, Whittington had

another difficulty to get over before he could be happy.

He had, by order of his master, a flock-bed placed for

him in a garret, where there was a number of rats and

mice that often ran over the poor boy's nose and

disturbed him in his sleep. After some time, however,

a gentleman who came to his master's house gave

Whittington a penny for brushing his shoes. This he put

into his pocket, being determined to lay it out to the

best advantage; and the next day, seeing a woman in

the street with a cat under her arm, he ran up to know

the price of it. The woman (as the cat was a good

mouser) asked a deal of money for it, but on Whittington's

telling her he had but a penny in the world, and

that he wanted a cat sadly, she let him have it.

This cat Whittington concealed in the garret, for fear

she should be beat about by his mortal enemy the cook,

and here she soon killed or frightened away the rats and

mice, so that the poor boy could now sleep as sound as a


Soon after this the merchant, who had a ship ready

to sail, called for his servants, as his custom was, in

order that each of them might venture something to try

their luck; and whatever they sent was to pay neither

freight nor custom, for he thought justly that God

Almighty would bless him the more for his readiness to let

the poor partake of his fortune.

All the servants appeared but poor Whittington, who,

having neither money nor goods, could not think of sending

anything to try his luck; but his good friend Miss

Alice, thinking his poverty kept him away, ordered him

to be called.

She then offered to lay down something for him, but

the merchant told his daughter that would not do, it

must be something of his own. Upon which poor Whittington

said he had nothing but a cat which he bought

for a penny that was given him. "Fetch thy cat, boy,"

said the merchant, "and send her." Whittington brought

poor puss and delivered her to the captain, with tears in

his eyes, for he said he should now be disturbed by the

rats and mice as much as ever. All the company laughed

at the adventure but Miss Alice, who pitied the poor

boy, and gave him something to buy another cat.

While puss was beating the billows at sea, poor

Whittington was severely beaten at home by his tyrannical

mistress the cook, who used him so cruelly, and made

such game of him for sending his cat to sea, that at last

the poor boy determined to run away from his place, and

having packed up the few things he had, he set out very

early in the morning on All-Hallows day. He traveled

as far as Holloway, and there sat down on a stone to

consider what course he should take; but while he was thus

ruminating, Bow bells, of which there were only six,

began to ring; and he thought their sounds addressed

him in this manner:

"Turn again, Whittington,

Thrice Lord Mayor of London."

"Lord Mayor of London!" said he to himself, "what

would not one endure to be Lord Mayor of London, and

ride in such a fine coach? Well, I'll go back again, and

bear all the pummelling and ill-usage of Cicely rather

than miss the opportunity of being Lord Mayor!" So

home he went, and happily got into the house and about

his business before Mrs. Cicely made her appearance.

We must now follow Miss Puss to the coast of Africa.

How perilous are voyages at sea, how uncertain the winds

and the waves, and how many accidents attend a naval


The ship that had the cat on board was long beaten at

sea, and at last, by contrary winds, driven on a part of

the coast of Barbary which was inhabited by Moors

unknown to the English. These people received our

countrymen with civility, and therefore the captain,

in order to trade with them, showed them the patterns

of the goods he had on board, and sent some of them to

the King of the country, who was so well pleased that

he sent for the captain and the factor to come to his

palace, which was about a mile from the sea. Here they

were placed, according to the custom of the country,

on rich carpets, flowered with gold and silver; and the

King and Queen being seated at the upper end of the

room, dinner was brought in, which consisted of many

dishes; but no sooner were the dishes put down but an

amazing number of rats and mice came from all quarters

and devoured all the meat in an instant.

The factor, in surprise, turned round to the nobles and

asked if these vermin were not offensive. "Oh! yes,"

said they, "very offensive; and the King would give half

his treasure to be freed of them, for they not only

destroy his dinner, as you see, but they assault him in his

chamber, and even in bed, so that he is obliged to be

watched while he is sleeping, for fear of them."

The factor jumped for joy; he remembered poor

Whittington and his cat, and told the King he had a creature

on board the ship that would despatch all these vermin

immediately. The King's heart heaved so high at the

joy which this news gave him that his turban dropped off

his head. "Bring this creature to me," said he; "vermin

are dreadful in a court, and if she will perform what you

say I will load your ship with gold and jewels in exchange

for her." The factor, who knew his business, took this

opportunity to set forth the merits of Miss Puss. He

told his Majesty that it would be inconvenient to part

with her, as, when she was gone, the rats and mice might

destroy the goods in the ship--but to oblige his Majesty

he would fetch her. "Run, run," said the Queen; "I am

impatient to see the dear creature."

Away flew the factor, while another dinner was

providing, and returned with the cat just as the rats and

mice were devouring that also. He immediately put

down Miss Puss, who killed a great number of them.

The King rejoiced greatly to see his old enemies

destroyed by so small a creature, and the Queen was highly

pleased, and desired the cat might be brought near that

she might look at her. Upon which the factor called

"Pussy, pussy, pussy!" and she came to him. He then

presented her to the Queen, who started back, and was

afraid to touch a creature who had made such havoc

among the rats and mice; however, when the factor

stroked the cat and called "Pussy, pussy!" the Queen

also touched her and cried "Putty, putty!" for she had

not learned English.

He then put her down on the Queen's lap, where she,

purring, played with her Majesty's hand, and then sang

herself to sleep.

The King, having seen the exploits of Miss Puss, and

being informed that her kittens would stock the whole

country, bargained with the captain and factor for the

whole ship's cargo, and then gave them ten times as

much for the cat as all the rest amounted to. On which,

taking leave of their Majesties and other great personages

at court, they sailed with a fair wind for England,

whither we must now attend them.

The morn had scarcely dawned when Mr. Fitzwarren

arose to count over the cash and settle the business for

that day. He had just entered the counting-house, and

seated himself at the desk, when somebody came, tap,

tap, at the door. "Who's there?" said Mr. Fitzwarren.

"A friend," answered the other. "What friend can come

at this unseasonable time?" "A real friend is never

unseasonable," answered the other. "I come to bring you

good news of your ship Unicorn." The merchant

bustled up in such a hurry that he forgot his gout;

instantly opened the door, and who should be seen waiting

but the captain and factor, with a cabinet of jewels, and

a bill of lading, for which the merchant lifted up his eyes

and thanked heaven for sending him such a prosperous

voyage. Then they told him the adventures of the cat,

and showed him the cabinet of jewels which they had

brought for Mr. Whittington. Upon which he cried out

with great earnestness, but not in the most poetical


"Go, send him in, and tell him of his fame,

And call him Mr. Whittington by name."

It is not our business to animadvert upon these lines;

we are not critics, but historians. It is sufficient for us

that they are the words of Mr. Fitzwarren; and though

it is beside our purpose, and perhaps not in our power to

prove him a good poet, we shall soon convince the reader

that he was a good man, which was a much better character;

for when some who were present told him that this

treasure was too much for such a poor boy as Whittington,

he said: "God forbid that I should deprive him of

a penny; it is his own, and he shall have it to a farthing."

He then ordered Mr. Whittington in, who was at this

time cleaning the kitchen and would have excused himself

from going into the counting-house, saying the room

was swept and his shoes were dirty and full of hob-nails.

The merchant, however, made him come in, and ordered

a chair to be set for him. Upon which, thinking they

intended to make sport of him, as had been too often the

case in the kitchen, he besought his master not to mock

a poor simple fellow, who intended them no harm, but

let him go about his business. The merchant, taking

him by the hand, said: "Indeed, Mr. Whittington, I am

in earnest with you, and sent for you to congratulate

you on your great success. Your cat has procured you

more money than I am worth in the world, and may you

long enjoy it and be happy!"

At length, being shown the treasure, and convinced

by them that all of it belonged to him, he fell upon his

knees and thanked the Almighty for his providential care

of such a poor and miserable creature. He then laid all

the treasure at his master's feet, who refused to take any

part of it, but told him he heartily rejoiced at his

prosperity, and hoped the wealth he had acquired would be a

comfort to him, and would make him happy. He then

applied to his mistress, and to his good friend Miss Alice,

who refused to take any part of the money, but told him

she heartily rejoiced at his good success, and wished him

all imaginable felicity. He then gratified the captain,

factor, and the ship's crew for the care they had taken of

his cargo. He likewise distributed presents to all the

servants in the house, not forgetting even his old enemy

the cook, though she little deserved it.

After this Mr. Fitzwarren advised Mr. Whittington to

send for the necessary people and dress himself like a

gentleman, and made him the offer of his house to live

in till he could provide himself with a better.

Now it came to pass when Mr. Whittington's face was

washed, his hair curled, and he dressed in a rich suit of

clothes, that he turned out a genteel young fellow; and,

as wealth contributes much to give a man confidence, he

in a little time dropped that sheepish behavior which was

principally occasioned by a depression of spirits, and soon

grew a sprightly and good companion, insomuch that

Miss Alice, who had formerly pitied him, now fell in love

with him.

When her father perceived they had this good liking

for each other he proposed a match between them, to

which both parties cheerfully consented, and the Lord

Mayor, Court of Aldermen, Sheriffs, the Company of

Stationers, the Royal Academy of Arts, and a number

of eminent merchants attended the ceremony, and were

elegantly treated at an entertainment made for that purpose.

History further relates that they lived very happy, had

several children, and died at a good old age. Mr.

Whittington served as Sheriff of London and was three times

Lord Mayor. In the last year of his mayoralty he

entertained King Henry V and his Queen, after his

conquest of France, upon which occasion the King, in

consideration of Whittington's merit, said: "Never had

prince such a subject"; which being told to Whittington

at the table, he replied: "Never had subject such a king."

His Majesty, out of respect to his good character,

conferred the honor of knighthood on him soon after.

Sir Richard many years before his death constantly fed

a great number of poor citizens, built a church and a college

to it, with a yearly allowance for poor scholars, and near

it erected a hospital.

He also built Newgate for criminals, and gave liberally

to St. Bartholomew's Hospital and other public charities.

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