Some excerpts from the 'Memoir of Dru Drury'
taken from 'Introduction of Mammalia'
by Charles Hamilton Smith--1843.
He carried on the business in Wood Street for many years, it would appear with considerable success at first, although it ultimately began to fall off, and he became desirous to effect some change. " When my father resigned his business to me,"
we find him writing to one of his correspondents, " it was sufficient for a man to live on, but not to lay up any great sum. The industry I constantly exercised enabled me to live for about eighteen years with much happiness and satisfaction, at which time, finding my trade gradually diminish, I was determined to embrace the first opportunity of engaging in some other that was more likely to reward my labour. I already Mentioned that I have had " seventeen children, besides nine miscarriages, the heavy expense of which, together with some severe blows of fortune, had prevented me acquiring that wealth I probably might otherwise have done, and therefore my resolution of pursuing some other trade every day increased. About that time Mr. Jeffreys, my predecessor, wanted to retire from business, and applying to me for a person to succeed him, I embraced the opportunity, and have the honour of being made Goldsmith to the Queen and also Cutler to the King,–a feather I would at any time resign, if no advantage arose from, it, for I have lived long enough to be able to laugh most heartily at the fools that can think happiness dependent on titles, or content flourishing amidst pomp and distinctions."
The business, however, in Wood Street enabled him to realise about Â£ 6000, and likewise to keep a country-house at Enfield, in Middlesex, at which his family for the most part resided.
It was in February, 1771, that he purchased the stock in trade and good will of the business of Mr. Nathaniel Jeffreys, gold and silversmith and cutler, at No. 32 Strand, London, for the sum of Â£ 11,500, paying him partly in cash, and the balance by instalments at stated periods. The business to which he had been brought up, he himself states, was that of a working silversmith, and the change to a goldsmith, he adds, was so considerable, that it was necessary for him to devote the whole of his time to it in order to become acquainted with the details of management. He appears to have conducted the business for several years with great success, realising an income of nearly Â£ 2000 per annum. He made great efforts to extend his mercantile transactions, and formed extensive contracts for supplying several regiments with swords and other military accoutrements. Still, however, he had various difficulties to encounter, and a perusal of his letters about this period makes us aware that the business had not equalled his expectations, and the obligations he had contracted to obtain it threatened ultimately to become oppressive. It was in all probability this conviction that led him to enter the more readily into a speculation which promised at first to be highly advantageous, but which in the end was attended with the most disastrous consequences.
In 1777, he entered into an arrangement with certain parties* to supply them with goods, principally plate and jewellery, to a large amount. For a time he accepted of their bills, but these he was soon informed by them they were unable to pay, accompanying this intelligence with a proposal which they thought likely to satisfy Drury for the whole sum they might become due to him. One of the parties represented himself as entitled to a very considerable estate in Yorkshire, which his father then enjoyed, but which must come to him after his father's decease, it being entailed on the male heir, so that it was not in his father's power to deprive him of it. The estate was alleged to be worth between twenty and thirty thousand pounds, and to be let for about a thousand pounds per annum, and it was proposed to convey a mortgage of the reversion of the property to Drury as security. This proposal was urged with great plausibility, and Drury's desire to send a lawyer to examine the validity of the title to the estate at once acquiesced in, and every other facility offered for completing the arrangement. The attorney was absent for some time, and his report must have been such as to satisfy Mr. Drury, for the necessary deeds were afterwards duly drawn up and signed. On the belief that the transaction was managed in good faith, and the parties men of honour and integrity, Drury advanced goods at various times, till they ultimately amounted to the value of upwards of Â£ 10,000. It unfortunately turned out on future investigation, that the security for this large sum was of no value, the parties not having a legal right to the estate in question, and having concerted the scheme to plunder him of his property. To aggravate this evil, he had met with several severe losses in trade only a short time before, and his freehold property had previously been assigned over to Mr. Jeffreys as security for the balance of the purchase-money of the business. He thus felt himself stripped of all his property.
In these circumstances he had no alternative but to call a meeting of his creditors, and lay before them a statement of his affairs. He was thereupon declared bankrupt, and surrendered all his property under the commission.
A thorough conviction of the sterling worth of his character, distinguished, as it had always been, for integrity, honourable feeling, and great diligence in business, predisposed his creditors to treat him with the utmost lenity. By the assistance of his friends (among whom we find the names of Dr. Fothergill and Mr. Banks), he was enabled to repurchase his stock in trade, and resume his business in his former premises. He appears to have borne this reverse of fortune with great fortitude, but his constitutional sensibility led him to feel deeply on the occasion. The state of his mind in some measure appears from the following extract from a letter addressed to a reverend friend at Warnham, near Horsham. It is dated 11th December, 1777-– " There was a time when the subjects that occupied my pen in writing to my worthy friend, were very different from those which now occasion the same employ. There was a time when those subjects were all of a gay and cheerful cast; when no dark and gloomy thoughts prevailed to cloud and tarnish the happy hours of my worthy friends at Warnham Place. There was also a time when, with a bold and open brow, I feared not to look each man in the face, well knowing none could ask me for debts I was not able to pay,–a time when I was happy, pleased, and solvent. But now I am, what ? a B–! though an honest man. I repeat the word an honest man, well knowing myself to be so. God forbid that I should make the terms incompatible with each other, for it is certainly true. 'Tis not in the power of mortals to command success, but it is in the power of every one to be just and honest, and that I have been so, witness, kind Heaven! No action of my life hangs heavy on my heart, no crime to make me wretched or unhappy; but yet I drop a tear while I relate the mournful news. I beseech you do not think I rave. Men of sensibility cannot think like the common herd, and it has been my misfortune to be cursed with too great a portion of that ingredient. Cursed did I say? Forgive me Heaven! for thus arraigning the justice of thy dispensations. I hope I do not write amiss in saying so, but if I had possessed less sensibility, less credulity and fewer feelings, I had now been a wealthier man; I had now enjoyed the fortune I formerly possessed; but alas! who can tell what is reserved in store for him? The very misfortune that I now so heavily deplore, may turn out to be the happiest period of my life, and what I consider as the greatest evil, may, in the hand of Providence, be the greatest blessing. Shall I then distrust His goodness ? Shall I consider that Being whose works I have ever viewed with wonder and delight, whose infinite wisdom, goodness, and power have been so plainly manifested; shall I consider Him, I say, in such a light as to suppose He will not extend that goodness and power towards me which in thousands of instances I have experienced in my life ? Certainly not. Believe me, my dear friend, when I tell you that He is my only support, my strongest prop and stay, and the only ground on which I build my future hopes. Do not think I rant when I tell you, in the full bitterness of soul, that these thoughts are my only comfort, and it is from the interposition of His Providence that I hope to be extricated from all my present troubles. I do not think I am wrong in my judgment, if I get reinstated in my business, to say it is owing to His interference that I obtain that happiness; and although the goodness of my own character, the kindness of my friends, and the clemency of mankind, may be the medium by which that end is accomplished, yet the other is the primary and unseen Cause to whom all my thanks will be due, together with all the sacrifice of prayer and praise that a grateful heart can give."
Mr. Drury obtained from his creditors a certificate of discharge in April 1778. After recommencing business he proved most successful, his friends and former customers vying with each other in promoting his interests and testifying their respect for his character. In his letters of this date, we find many expressions of gratitude for the sympathy and support he was receiving: among others is the following: " I have got reinstated in my business, which I really think is much greater than it ever was; the civilities and kindness I have received from the public are beyond conception, and I have no doubt but a few years, if Providence allows me health, will place me in a much happier and better situation than I ever was. Would you believe it ? The Queen herself, to whom I am goldsmith, has been so very kind as to say that " She hoped I would do well again." Thus you see Providence never permits an evil to befall us but it also has some good in store, and in that light I now view my late misfortunes."
In the year 1787 Drury lost his wife, by whom he had seventeen children; all of these, however, died young, excepting three who survived him. In the spring of 1789 he retired from trade, relinquishing his share of the business to his son, who paid him a sum of money in hand, and allowed him an annuity for the rest of his life.
He then took a house at Broxbourne, in Hertfordshire, at which he went to reside, but occasionally came to London to visit his son, remaining for a few weeks at a time. While at Broxbourne he continued to collect insects as formerly, and spent much of the leisure time he now enjoyed in arranging and improving his cabinet. He became very fond of gardening; and amused himself by fishing in the river Lea, and the adjoining New River. But his favourite amusement for some years consisted of making wines from various kinds of fruits, and attempting experiments in distillation. An entire memorandum book is filled with notices of the qualities of his different wines, and some of them are not a little amusing. His taste seems to have been somewhat fastidious, a quality it probably owed to his being a member of the worshipful corporation of Goldsmiths, and not unacquainted with the festivities of Guildhall and the Mansion House.
In 1797, Drury removed from Broxbourne to Turnham Green, near Brentford, Middlesex, where he continued to reside until near the time of his death. During many of the latter years of his life, he was much afflicted with stone in the bladder, and was obliged to have recourse to the frequent use of laudanum as an anodyne. Other disorders also began to assail him, indicating that the powers of his constitution were beginning to decay. He still however, continued to make frequent visits to London, and even to take part occasionally in matters of a public nature. Thus we find the following notice in his memorandum book: " Attended Mr. Rawlins, upholsterer, and Mr. Cox, goldsmith, being the sheriffs elect, to the London Tavern, where the company breakfasted and proceeded to Guildhall, where they gave bond to serve the office, and returned to the Tavern to an elegant entertainment. On Wednesday I attended them again to Goldsmiths' Hall, where we breakfasted, and proceeded in the goldsmiths' barge to Westminster, where they were sworn into their office before one of the Barons of Exchequer, and afterwards returned in the barge to dinner at Goldsmiths' Hall."
The very last entries in his pocket book, written in such an unsteady hand as to be scarcely legible, chiefly refer to what may truly be called his ruling passion, consisting of the names of vessels by which he expected consignments of what he was in the habit of calling Naturalia, of individuals to whom he had sent collecting instruments, or the addresses of his correspondents, who continued to he numerous even to the last. He died in London, in the house of his son, William Drury, in the Strand, on the 15th January, 1804, having nearly attained his seventy-ninth year. He was huried in the vault under the church of St. Martin's in the Fields, London.
*Grimwade identifies these persons as 'William Tate and John Thomas Wheate, with a shady knight Sir William Desse in the background'