Bust of John Passmore Edwards

The Autobiography of John Passmore Edwards

From Blackwater to Manchester


I had now to look about in earnest to do something for a living. I had certain literary aspirations, with only very little literary equipment. At last I summoned up sufficient courage to call on the editor of the West Briton in Truro, and offered him my services for anything he might consider they were worth. He listened kindly, but could promise nothing. When leaving the office I happened to meet Mr. R. K. Philp, who was travelling through the country in the interests of the Sentinel a sixpenny weekly newspaper just started in London. There were no half-penny, penny, twopenny, or threepenny newspapers in those days in London.
In the course of conversation Mr. Philp said he was instructed by his employers to appoint an agent for the paper in Manchester when he got there, and, hearing I had corresponded with the Chairman of the Anti-Corn Law League and made myself useful by distributing its literature, he thought, as I was in want of employment, I might represent the new paper in that town. I seized the proposal, and then and there undertook to go to Manchester and perform the necessary duties for £40 a year. So commenced an important change in my life. I returned to Blackwater with elastic steps and still more elastic hopes. But my joy for weeks was chequered with misgivings. Manchester was a long way off, and my intellectual and pecuniary means slender. Was I, without experience, equal to the duties I was expected to perform? Such thoughts, however, were swept aside by preparations for my venturesome journey from the West to the North from my small native village to mighty Manchester.
How to get to Manchester was a matter of some importance. To go by railway and have enough to live on for a week or two would cost more than I could command. After full inquiry I decided to go from Falmouth to Dublin as steerage passenger for ten shillings, from Dublin to Liverpool for three shillings, and then to Manchester by rail for two shillings and sixpence. Shillings and sixpences had to be carefully guarded by me in those days. In due time I made ready for the eventful journey. My luggage was neatly and tenderly packed into a carpetbag made for the occasion by my mother. It was made of stair carpet, and resembled a sack about two feet deep and eighteen inches in diameter. It was held together at the top by a brass chain, which passed through about a dozen small brass rings secured to the bag and fastened with a padlock. Into this were placed all my worldly possessions, and at last the parting day came, when, with overflowing emotion, I left home and friends to commence, in untried circumstances, an uncertain career.
  The passage from Falmouth to Dublin occupied forty-eight hours-forty-eight hours of misery. It was winter time; I was cold and ill nearly all the while, and had to pack myself away, as I best could, in the company of barrels, boxes, and luggage, under a large tarpaulin. It was not much better, but happily much shorter, from Dublin to Liverpool, when my fellow passengers were half a hundred pigs, whose united screams, until we got out to sea, made a more hideous noise than was ever before heard on sea or land.
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April 18, 2005
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© Dean Evans 2003