Chapter 1: My Father
My Father was born in Sommersdorf in Prussia, adjoining the Duchy of Brunswick, Helmstedt being the nearest Town from Sommersdorf, about 5 English miles from that place. My Father's Father was a Shepherd owning three hundred Sheep. These he lost in one night. They had strayed from their enclosure one night into a Clover Field, and had ate there until they burst: and Behold in the Morning they were all dead. This seems so to have affected my Grandfather that in a little he lingered and died, and left his Wife with my Father five years old.
He, on a Christmas Day after the death of his Father, was playing in the Street. Up comes the Village Boar, a Savage Beast. My father went up to it (having on a new Cap which his Mother had bought him, which no doubt made him consequential): he, no doubt, pushed at the Boar and said "go away, you old Boar!" Upon that the Boar turned upon him and trampled him under his feet and ripped up his side. Assistance came to his aid. They carried him to an Inn close by and laid him on the Table and sent for the Village Barber, who sewed up the rent.
When he was healed, his Mother left Sommersdorf and went to Magdeburg, having a Sister there. There she maintained herself and Child by her labour. In course of time as he grew up she apprenticed him to a Blacksmith. When he was out of his Time he went on his travels, as the manner is, or was then. He became a Wanderbusel, going from Town to Town perfecting himself in his Trade. After visiting the principal Towns in Germany, having an enterprising turn, he thought that he would like to see London, and to London he came. Whereupon a Jew Crimp got hold of him (being Wartime) and delivered him up to such as were appointed for that work.
They hurried him off to Chatham, and put him under drill for a Soldier. From thence he was shipped off to Gibralter to join the 60th regiment of German Rifles. From thence he was sent to the West Indies to fight the French. I have heard him say that he was at the taking and losing of Guadeloupe three times. After serving fifteen years he got his discharge, upon a pension of two shilling and one halfpenny per day. He was then about Forty years of age.
Being a stranger, he decided for the present to go into the College at Chelsea, as he got a good Appointment there. He remained there fifteen Years. From whence he Married my Mother, Catherine Ludwick, born in Whitechapel, whose Father and Mother were both German. Her Father had a Pottery in Kings Road, Chelsea. All us children were born while my Father was in the College. But now the time came that he had to leave. He was appointed Captain of his Ward, and consequently had to give up all his Appointments. This cut off his Means of supporting his Family.
A good opportunitv offered, as he thought. He got acquainted with a Countryman who had a Knowledge of Colour Manufacturing, who persuaded my Father to join him in that line, assuring him that it was a good thing. They took a place in Wilderness Row and started the Business. I just remember the Tubs about, and the canal along which was our Yard. While playing along the Bank I fell into the Mud. I was then about four years Old. But now about the Colour Business: they worked at the Business about a year, and then Came the Collapse. My father had about £150 which he put into the Business. He worked hard himself at it while his Partner Went out for Orders and to collect the Money. This he did, and spent the Money in Drunkenness and Riot; but paid no Accounts. When he had collected all he could he ran away.
That coming to the Creditors' ear, they were on my Father like a Shot, and demanded payment of their Accounts. This, of course, put my Father into a Fix: for what money he had was in the Plant and in Accounts scattered up and down among his Customers, which his Partner had collected and ran away with. So all that he had was seized on by his creditors, and himself thrown into White Cross Street Prison. I remembered going to that place with my Mother and the other Children to see him.
After he came out of Prison he looked upon himself as a broken Man; but, recovering himself he said: "Well, I have one hope left. There is still my Pension, which will support my Family in Germany! So, I suppose after next Quarter's Pension was drawn, we were off. I remember the getting away well: a great sorrow and care to my parents; but high Glee to us Children.
There we sat, high up on the Beds, in the Boat at the bottom of Bull's Wharf, Chelsea. There was Mrs Ambrose with an apron full of Beautiful red apples, throwing them down to Us in the Boat. This was ever after a fresh pleasure when we talked about it. Now we were off down the River below London Bridge. There lay our Vessel that was to take us to Germany. I think the Brig's name was 'Robin and Sarah'. When we got on Board I remember something about rolling our Apples on the Cabin floor; but bye and bye there was an End to that: for all began to be sick, excepting myself. In due time we landed at Bremerhaven. From there we went to Hanover, where my Father intended to stop, but the authorities would not let him. They said that he must take his Family to his Native Place, as they might be a Charge on them when he was dead.
This was a great disappointment to my Father, for his money was done. But, providentially, there was a man there to Whom he had lent five pounds. He found him, and received the five pounds, which enabled him to hire a Wagon with two Horses, which took us to Brunswick. From there to Sommersdorf it was a dreary Journey, for there had been much Rain, so that parts of the Road were flooded, coming up to the Horses' Bellies sometimes. One time at Night we got upset into a Ditch, but out again without sustaining any harm.