The Memoirs of George Sperryhawke

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Chapter 7: The Tea Trade At Lloyd's

Lloyd’s coffeehouse was then housed at number Sixteen Lombard Street before its activity was moved to the Royal Exchange. It was much as you should imagine; a smallish cafe choked with tobacco Smoke, and stuffed full with little tables and chairs, and all-together too many patrons. In those days, Coffee houses were still democratic societies, and men of Rank were prohibited from requiring tradesmen or the lower gentry from giving up their seat.

I barged in through the front door, before I was detained and required to divulge an admission fee of one-pence. I called for coffee, put my nose into a newspaper, and tried my best to look inconspicuous. But try as I did, a man Dressed as the Lord Marbury can no more go unnoticed at Lloyd’s than the Risen Christ could have remain’d inconspicuous at Cambuslang. It was not twenty minutes before I was recognized.

“Heaven’s, I do believe it is Master Marbury!” called a scrawny old Gentleman seated at the table next me. He introduced himself as Louis Archibald, Second Baronet of Newcastle. How that stately Baronet returns to me as I write this. His face was painted like a haypenny whore, his whig nearly thrice the size of his head, and he held a sprig of Juniper berries before his nose & face. As great a Macaroni as I ever met in my life. I tipped my hat, confirmed that I was the Lord Marbury, and was thereafter Requested to join the Baronet at table. The Baronet caused an introduction to his companion, a Mr. Phipps, a rather stern looking fellow dressed in all black, and though he gave a nod, he quickly returned to his newspapers.

“Do you know Lord Marbury that only last month I spent a Most enjoyable afternoon with your Sister, the Marchioness of Somerset,” said the Baronet. “I was staying with the Howards at Carlton Towers for the Wicklow.”

The Baronet rambled on about an afternoon’s entertainments.

“Of course I do not hunt, and so we ladies spent the afternoon at Tea; myself, and the Marchioness, and the Marquessese of Buckingham, and the Lady Ashby, who is married to the Bishop of Kent, and her two daughters, Phillipa and Phillamine. And then there was the Duchess of Kent and her sister the Baroness of Sussex; although I’m sure you’ve heard of the scandal within the house of Sussex?”

Archibald gave a devious smile, and explained that certain letters had been found between Sussex’s mother and a Lieutenant Alfred of the King’s Seventh Fusiliers, revealing a tumultuous love-affair. “And would you believe that rather than destroying the letters, the Baron’s younger brother published the beastly things, and is now threatening to seek legal Recourse to have his elder brother declared a bastard and steal the Baronetcy for himself? I’ve never heard of such a scandal! But I am told Parliament won’t allow it. And besides even if Parliament were to conduct an investigation, there are no witnesses because the Lieutenant later died in India, of malaria I think, or perhaps it was dropsy. But in any event, the Countess of Darlington, and her mother-in-law the Dowager Duchess of Rutland, and of course Mr. Grenville’s wife were all there too.”

I could tell this Earl was a great man for genealogy, and had Excellent connections in the highest circles.

“But of course your Sister’s husband is a Monstrous commoner!” laughed the Baronet. “I met him as he returned from the Hunt, and we were all appalled by his appearance. Such a common looking fellow, and your Sister, such a delicate beauty! I believe his father was a Grocer -- yes, I’m sure I heard that. Is that right? And yet his Lordship yet consented to the marriage? The Grocer’s son must surely be rich! Or is he the Grocer’s grandson? I think that is important. Very important in fact. And of course whatever else one may say of the Trades, I’m told there is good money to be made in Grocering.”

It was fortunate that this Baronet did not require very much from me except the occasional confirmation or denial. “Just so” I would say, or else, “I don’t believe it happened just that way.”

“And yet we were all shocked when we learned that your father had settled upon the couple the Estate at Tring Park; but it is a rather garish place I think. I had heard there were plans to sell it to Mr. Rothschild. Do you know Mr. Rothschild? I have not met him, though everyone suspects your father is grossly indebted to him for the South Sea debacle. Do you know that when the Spectator ran the article about your father’s financial troubles I wrote a letter to the editor complaining of the treatment of so eminent a figure? I did! I swear it. But he never published the thing. But Tring Park -- I think it is rather a hideous place, perhaps the worst of the County houses. Was it designed by Mr. Wren?”

“And what a silly accent you have?” said the Baronet, sipping his coffee and moving onto new subjects. “I’m quite certain that I had heard that you were living on the Continent? Or is it America? Have you gone to the New World? I think it’s most exciting.”

I confirmed that I had indeed been traveling on the Continent, and in America too, and thence explained to the Baronet that while I had been traveling, I had contracted with a tea merchant from Boston to import the commodity into the New World.

“Oh yes?” said Mr. Phipps, whose curiosity was now excited in our conversation. He put down his newspaper, and gave me a stern look. “Are you trading for tea then?”

“To be sure,” said I. “I am in fact just today to the Auction to procure for my investors a shipment of not less than Fifteen tons of Indian Caylon.”

“For the colonists then?” asked Mr. Phipps.

“Indeed,” I replied.

“Ten tons you say?” said Mr. Phipps, “I have been watching the tea prices all week -- but you say that you intend to purchase at market? You have no contracts now to redeem?”

“No sir, I intent to purchase at Auction,” said I.

“Yes yes, there’s plenty of time for all that,” laughed the Baronet, and swatted away Mr. Phipps’ interest like a horse fly. His voice then fell into a whisper, and he cupped my ear for a piece of private conversation. “But tell me Lord Marbury -- I heard a Vicious rumor of the reason for you recent sojourn. Coitus? Coitus with your manservant? Is it so? Can it be so! Why I think it is simply Marvelous! Rapports sexuels avec votre serviteur!”

I felt obliged to defend the honor of Lord Marbury, but it seemed to me that this Baronet had a rather devious sense of wit, and so I consented to humor him.

“Ah yes, the coitus,” I slapped the Baronet on the back to show him I knew us to be equals. “I fear I was rather Indiscreet with my manservant, and the poor sop could not keep it in his mouth. So for the present I shall have to make my own way.”

“Lord Marbury,” said the quivering Baronet, and fanned himself with a Chinese Wand. “I do believe we shall become very good friends, c’est un ami de la Chamber o coucher.”

It was then I recall that another Enormous fellow -- a Mr. Amesbury I was to learn -- burst through the front door in a Great Commotion and waddled up to our table like a Walrus attending the Opera. He removed his hat, threw it upon the table, and fell heavily into a wooden chair next to Mr. Phipps and the flamboyant Baronet. His face was hot with sweat, and his wig, though clearly of the highest fashion, was yet sliding off his bald-head from lack of paste & glue.

“I am ruined Gentlemen!” said Mr. Amesbury, and placed his fingers underneath his wig and scratched violently at his bald head. “Ruined by this Abominable Duty!”

Mr. Amesbury explained that he had only then returned from his solicitors, who informed him that his appeal of his Tax for the windows in his new home in Tyburn lane had been rejected, and that he had been assessed the full Duty under the law.

“Six pounds, four shillings! For Windows, Sir! For nothing more than enjoying the Light & Air that is God’s alone, sir!”

“Nonsense sir!” said Mr. Phipps, who peered out from his newspaper to chastise his companion. “I know to a Certainty that you Grossed Thirty-two-Thousand pounds last year. You can afford tuppence for windows, Sir.”

“Tuppence Sir!” Cried Mr. Amesbury. “Tis nowhere a Tuppence, tis six pounds, four shillings.”

I tried to keep my attention upon the Subject of the Window Tax, hoping thereby to endear myself to these prosperous gentlemen, but my attention was at times diverted by the Baronet. His Grace was much impressed by the finery of my hosiery, and could not keep his hands off my personage; he enjoyed stroking, and pulling his fingers across the very fine stitching and very fine buttons, and then began to play with the curls in my hair, and then feel the velvet lining on my waistcoat. I allowed him Liberty -- as one man of Fashion to another -- and he demonstrated his Appreciation by Complimenting not only my Costume, but also my Scent.

“An amorous looking glass? Tis not an amorous looking glass, Sir!” shouted Mr. Amesbury, whose protestations roused me from me intimacy with the Baronet. “But merely a Window, a wondrous Orifice through which honest Residents may received Air & Light, and Sunshine!”

“Is my Home not filled with Light & Air?” rejoined Mr. Phipps, making a great show of his position on the matter with his hands. “Where have I condemned the Light & Air? No Sir! I have condemned the Decadence of the Window, and the Effeminacy that must accompany their Multiplication.”

“And how do you keep out the Ice & Sleet in Winter?” laughed Mr. Amesbury “Are we to imagine that you allow snow to fill up your rooms in Park Lane?”

“No Sir!” said Mr. Phipps, “I am no savage; in winter, I board up the Holes in my wall with flattened Cow Horn, as a gentleman have done since the days of good King Henry.”

Mr. Amesbury seem’d stopped by this Retort, and his face grew heavy with heat, and puffed up in a great shade of Scarlet.

“You have obscured the Subject, sir,” said Mr. Amesbury. “We are not discussing the morality of the Window, but only the Tyrannical duty imposed upon the King’s subjects.”

“No Sir!” cried Mr. Phipps, “It is the Duty Sir! The Duty is the concern Sir, the Duty. If you wish to turn your House into a Whoredome of Stained Glass & feather beds, you sir shall be compelled to pay the Duty!”

“My lord,” said Mr. Amesbury to the Baronet, “You are in agreement with me are you not? The Lords know this Tax is unpardonable Violence against the People?”

The Baronet quite agreed with Mr. Amesbury, “Oh yes indeed, I have hear many a High Lord condemn the Window Duty.”

“Thank you sir,” said Mr. Amesbury, feeling himself triumphant over Mr. Phipps. “The illegality, the Wanton confiscation of our Rights & Property, that is the issue upon which you must concern yourself, Mr. Phipps. I have here the Opinion of the Lord Commissioner -- will you have it, Sir?”

But Mr. Phipps said he would not have the opinion.

“You will have the opinion Sir!” cried Mr. Amesbury, who began sifting through his papers on the table. “I have it right here, just wait a moment. I will read it to you gentlemen; and you shall hear how the King’s Ministers have turned the Law from the service of the King’s subjects, into a tool of Oppression.”

Mr. Amesbury thence found the paper and began to recite from the Magistrate’s Opinion.

“Let it be known to all who so chuse to Examine, that the Occupant of Number Twelve Tyburn Lane has been found liable in the amount of six pounds, four shillings, in accordance with his Majesty’s Law, known to all His Subjects as the ‘Act granting his Majesty Rates and Duties Upon Houses for Making good the Deficiency of clipped Money.’ Each of the Appellants’ Arguments is hereby Rejected for Cause, and found unlawful by this Commission.”

“Argument the First is hereby rejected in its entirety; for although it be True that Rooms which are not accustomed to Habitation are not liable under the Tax, more is required than the Shameless appendage of the word ‘Cheeseroom’ above the doorframe; and furthermore, contrary to Appellant’s contention, that the definition of a Cheeseroom is not simply a room that has cheese in it, where cheese my lay & ripen and be ready to be consumed by the Residents & guests of the Manor; instead, a Cheeseroom is and Must only be a room whose entire Purpose & Essence is devoted to the ripening, preparation & culturizing of Cheese; that if any room which has cheese in it also be used for music, or drawing, or entertaining, that Room cannot also be called a Cheeseroom, but must instead be called a drawing room, or a music room according to its Purpose; and any windows through which Light may be received into that room shall and must be taxed at two shillings.”

“What say you Sir?” Mr. Amesbury asked Mr. Phipps. “Will you Condemn this Theft sanctioned by Law, this Gross illegality, and be counted?”

“I will do no such thing,” replied Mr. Phipps, “I think it a Reasonable finding and I wonder that you are not ashamed for having contrived so Juvenile an attempt to evade the King’s Law.”

“Parte Second!” shouted Mr. Amesbury, his face growing ever Redder, and hotter under his collar. “That the so assessed Window appearing from the Second Floor of the Northeast Corner of the House at Sixteen Tyburn Lane, is indeed a Window, and not a miniature door made of Glass and Worsted Pig Iron; the Commission is unpersuaded by the Appellant’s contention -- so wanting in sincerity -- that the threat of Fire compelled the Architext to design this miniature door through which occupants might escape the heat & danger of giant Flames; for though the threat of Fire may be great, and the danger real to Life & Limb, and yet this threat alone cannot transform a sheet of rectangular Glass from a Window into a miniature door; that simply, the King’s English is not so elastic or wanting in integrity to permit this violence upon our beloved language.”

“What say you Sir? Will you now acknowledge the Tyranny, and be counted?”

But Mr. Phipps said that he only counted the solicitor’s integrity on a par with a dancing-master, and the architext’s ingenuity on par with a hottentot. Mr. Amesbury stood aghast at this condemnation, and suddenly there erupt’d great Shouting as the conversation descended into a Most cantankerous row, now denouncing the Window Duty, now condemning the Whig Party, now chastising someone called Buckingham, and now critiquing the War with France.

“My lord!” shouted Mr. Amesbury, and beseeched the Baronet, “I beg you to inform Mr. Phipps that his appeasement of Tyranny is Counted!”

The Baronet, whose hands by this time had found their way deep inside the pockets of my shag vest, nodded in agreement.

“Thank you Sir,” said Mr. Amesbury to the Baronet, who was now determined the take the conversation back from Mr. Phipps. “The defining characteristic of an Englishman is his Liberty -- as dear and sacred to him as wings are to a bird, or massive jaws are to the Crocodile. Thus, to Impose upon the Englishman a Duty to which he has not consented is to thus deprive him of his Essence. To emasculate him before the eyes of the Law & the commonwealth, in effect, it is a Public castration of his Rights & Privileges! Shall we allow it?”

“Never Sir!” shouted the Baronet, who stood firmly with Mr. Amesbury regarding the Window Duty.

“Consider sir that Tyranny has often been established without law, and sometimes against it, but the history of mankind does not produce another instance, in which it has been established by law. It is an audacious Outrage upon civil government, and if allowed to, will Devour the virility of all Englishmen. Are we in agreement, my Lord?”

“Here, here!” cried to Baronet, who thence began to work himself into a great Enthusiasm.

“Thank you my Lord,” Mr. Amesbury continued, “And how stands the Law today? Righteousness is everywhere in retreat, Liberty is hunted, the Law conspires with Villainy to make erect a Monstrous & Vile Tyranny! This Parliament of highwaymen has replaced the King’s Scepter with a Despot’s Rod which is now being used to violate the innermost cavities of all Englishmen.”

Cheers from the Baronet.

“Shall we be Penalized for our love of Liberty & our Hatred of Tyranny?” roared Mr. Amesbury. “Nay, we lovers of liberty, and Enemies of Wanton punishment; we liberphiles, we penalphobes, we must Resist that Oppression which seeks to deprive us of our Essence. What says the Baronet?”

“I am counted a penalphile!” said the Baronet, whose Devotion to Liberty and Contempt for Tyranny at that moment could not be better’d by Mr. Thomas Paine himself.

“Counted!” cried Mr. Amesbury, “The Noble Baronet is counted for Liberty. And what does this Liberty oppose? Tyranny Sir! Nor is this an idle Tyranny, but an active, and pulsating Tyranny . . .”

“Pulsating & Overwhelming!” cried the Baronet, who now seized upon my bulbous Thigh muscle, and began gyrating in his seat. His face was hot with sweat, so Possessed was he by a Love of Liberty.

“Thank you sir!” cried Mr. Amesbury. “It is a Despotism secreting the basest and Vilest seeds of Disharmony, Discontent, & Disorder, seeds that are now spill’ng over onto these blessed shores of Albion! What says the Baronet?”

“Oh vile seeds!” cried the Baronet, who shoved his fingers into his mouth at that very moment and began stomping his feet repeatedly on the floor. “They must be loosed, though it violate Nature!”

“Control yourself, Archibald!” interrupt’d Mr. Phipps, shaking his head in fury and pounding his fist upon the table. “This is a commercial Coffee-house, not one of your Dens for he-Strumpets!”

The Baronet was thence dislodged from his Intoxycation and wiped his forehead with a very fine silken hankerchief, “Forgive me gentlemen. I was most taken with the Protestations of Mr. Amesbury.”

“And you sir,” said Mr. Phipps, and pointed a long finger in the face of Mr. Amebsury, “I’ll have no more of this nonsense about Tyranny from you! You have made yourself look ridiculous before our guest Mr. Sperryhawke, who has come here upon Important business!”

“Now Sir,” asked Mr. Phipps, turning towards me, “let us continue our discussion. You say that you are in the market for a large quantity of Tea for transport to the Colonies?”

“Indeed,” replied I, “I am under orders by my investors to purchase not less than Fifteen tonnes of Indian Caylon, at the Right Price.”

“I see,” said Mr. Phipps and removed the newspapers. He put a pair of glass spectacles to his eye, and began reviewing. “Now see here in the shipping news. There have been not fewer than six insurance claims filed this past fortnight.” Mr. Phipps explain’d that this meant the supply of tea was reduced, and that therefore during the forthcoming auction Tea would be dear, and so the price would rise in order to compensate demand. I inquired of Mr. Phipps what the price of Tea should be at the Auction.

“I shouldn’t know to the shilling,” said Mr. Phipps, “but surely more than two-hundred-fifty pounds a tonnage.”

“Two-hundred-and-fifty per tonnage?” I rejoined, calculating in my head that I should have the capital to purchase only ten tonnes at such a price. “No, no that shan’t do at all. I must have at the very least Twelve, nay -- Fifteen tons!”

“It just so happens that I have twenty contracts with a Dutch House to purchase Sri Lankan Caylon at one hundred sixty-four pounds per ton. Thus, with these contracts, you have the right to buy Fifteen tons of Caylon at £160 per ton, for a total of two-Thousands four-Hundreds pounds.”

I told Mr. Phipps that this seemed like a proper arrangement, depending on the price with which he would let me have the contracts.

“At face value, these contracts are each worth Ninety quid -- that is, the difference between the market price, and the price with the contracts.”

I calculated the sum in my head, and told Mr. Phipps that I should not be prepared to pay such a price as it would deplete my capital beyond capacity to purchase the necessary quantity of tea.

“Nay, nor should you. You say you only need Fifteen tons, yes? That’s One-Thousand three-hundred quid taken together at Par, which I’ll cut in half, and round it off to make it more gentlemanly. Six-hundred quid. I assure you when your Captain sees the list price on the exchange, he will marvel at your ingenuity.”

I considered this proposition, and gave the Baronet a look to see if he should like to comment on the exchange.

“And why, might I ask, would you be inclined to do me such a service as to sell me a cargo of tea at so handsome a price?”

“I have no interest in attending the Auction, and am pleased enough with the profit such as it is this moment.”

I thus accepted this arrangement without any great deal of quibbling over price, and Mr. Phipps explained to me that I must approach a Mr. Oswald Fitzroy of the East India Company to redeem their value.

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