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THESE Memoirs seem naturally to commence with the account mentioned in the Preface, and which I here transcribe :
"I was born in London the 24th of July, 1725, old style. My parents, though not wealthy, were respectable. My father was many years master of a ship in the Mediterranean trade. In the year 1748 he went governor of York Fort in Hudson's Bay, where he died in the year 1750.
My mother was a dissenter, a pious woman, and a member of the late Dr. Jennings's church. She was of a weak, consumptive habit, loved retirement, and as I was her only child, she made it the chief business and pleasure of her life to instruct me, and bring me up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. I have been told, that from my birth she had, in her mind, devoted me to the ministry; and that, had she lived till I was of a proper age, I was to have been sent to St. Andrews in Scotland to be educated. But the Lord had appointed otherwise. My mother died before I was seven years of
"I was rather of a sedentary turn, not active and playful, as boys commonly are, but seemed as willing to learn as my mother was to teach me. I had some capacity, and a retentive memory. When I was four years old, I could read (hard names excepted) as well as I can now, and could likewise repeat the answers to the questions in the Assembly's Shorter Catechism, with the proofs; and all Dr. Watts's smaller Catechisms, and his Children's Hymns.
"When my father returned from sea, after my mother's death, he married again. My new mother was the daughter of a substantial grazier at Aveley in Essex. She seemed willing to adopt and bring me up; but, after two or three years, she had a son of her own, who engrossed the old gentleman's notice. My father was a very sensible and a moral man, as the world rates morality, but neither he nor my step-mother were under the impressions of religion; I was, therefore, much left to myself, to mingle with idle and wicked boys, and soon learnt their ways.
"I never was at school but about two years (from my eighth to my tenth year); it was a boarding-school at Stratford in Essex. Though my father left me much to run about the streets, yet, when under his eye, he kept me at a great distance. I am persuaded he loved me, but he seemed not willing that I should know it. I was with him in a state of fear and bondage. His sternness, together with the severity of my schoolmaster, broke and overawed my spirit, and almost made me a dolt; so that part of the two years I was at school, instead of making a progress, I nearly forgot all that my good mother had taught me.
"The day I was eleven years old, I went on board my father's ship in Longreach. I made five voyages with him to the Mediterranean. In the course of the last voyage, he left me some months at Alicant in Spain, with a merchant, a particular friend of his: with him I might have done well, if I had behaved well. But, by this time, my sinful propensities had gathered strength by habit: I was very wicked, and therefore very foolish; and, being my own enemy, I seemed determined, that nobody should be my friend.
"My father left the sea in the year 1742. I made one voyage afterwards to Venice before the mast, and soon after my return was impressed on board the Harwich. Then began my awfully mad career, as recorded in the Narrative; to which, and to the Letters to a Wife, I must refer you for any farther dates and incidents.
"I am truly yours,
"DEC. 19, 1795."