THE HISTORY OF WHITTINGTON
ICK 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 waggoner who was going to London, and who gave
him leave to walk all the way by the side of his waggon
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 waggoner was so charitable as to let him
walk up by the side of the waggon 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 savoured 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 hussey, 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
any-  body 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 endeavoured 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 would 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
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."
 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 travelled
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 which 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 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
 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 behaviour 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
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 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 honour 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.