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The Moore family were not penniless. George Moore was not one of the men who came to London with half-a-crown, and with that half-a-crown swell out into Rothschilds. His father was a man of ancient descent, though of moderate p. 157means, and was one of the old Cumberland statesmen—a race of landed proprietors unfortunately fast vanishing away. His godfather left him a legacy of £100, and a hair-trunk studded with nails. His mother, who was a statesman’s daughter, died when he was six years old. At eight the boy was sent to school. The master was drunken and brutal, and naturally the school was unattractive. Under a new master, however, the lad did better. When twelve, his father sent him to a finishing school at Blennerhasset, and he remained there for a quarter, at an expense of eight shillings. “The master,” he adds, “was a good writer, and a superior man—indeed, a sort of genius. For the first time I felt that there was some use in learning, and then I began to feel how ignorant I was. However, I never swerved from my resolve to go away from home. I had no tastes in common with my brother. I felt that I could not hang about half idle, with no better prospect before me than of being a farm servant. So I determined that I would leave home at thirteen, and fight the battle of life for myself.” It was while an apprentice that this feeling strengthened and matured. Card-playing had been to him a snare; but he conquered the temptation, and became all the better for the struggle with inclination, which appears to have been sharp and severe.

But let us return to Moore’s London life. After he had been six months at Grafton House, one day Moore observed a bright little girl come tripping into the warehouse, accompanied by her mother. “Who are they?” he asked. “Why, don’t you know?” was the reply. “That’s the governor’s wife and daughter.” “Well,” said George, “if ever I marry, that girl shall be my wife;” and he kept his word.

In 1826, somewhat disgusted with the retail trade (especially as, owing to a mistake of his own, his integrity had been called in question by one of the customers, a lady of title), Moore entered the house of Fisher, Stroud, and Robinson, Watling Street, then the first lace-house in the City of London. His salary was to be £40 a-year, and he wrote word to his father that he was now a made man. How came this to be so? In the first place, Moore had earned a good character at Grafton House; and, secondly, Mr. Fisher, the head of the lace-house, was a Cumberland man. Provincial ties were stronger half a century back in London than they are now; but be that as it may, Moore had much to learn in p. 158his new place. He was inaccurate—he lacked briskness and promptitude. Mr. Fisher blamed his stupidity; he said he had seen many a stupid blockhead from Cumberland, but that he was the greatest of them all. This censure seems to have done Moore good. He set about educating himself. He was so ashamed of his ignorance, that he actually went into a night-school. It was at Fisher’s that Moore met with Mr. Crampton, afterwards his partner. The latter writes—“We became close companions. His friends were my friends, and so intimate were we, that I seemed to merge into a Cumberland lad. George was very patriotic. All our friends were Cumberlanders; and though I was a Yorkshireman, I was almost induced to feign that I was Cumberland too. I was gayer than he, and he never failed to tell me of my faults. He was a strong, round-shouldered fellow. He was very cheerful and very willing. He worked hard, and seemed to be bent on improvement; but in other respects he did not strike me as anything remarkable. Among the amusements which we attended together were the wrestling matches at St. John’s Wood. The principal match was held on Good Friday. One day we went to the wrestling-field, and George entered his name. The competitors drew lots. George’s antagonist was a Life-Guardsman, over six feet high. I think I see Moore’s smile now as he stood opposite the giant. The giant smiled too. Then they went at it gat hod, and George was soon gently laid on his back. By this time he was out of practice, and I don’t think he ever wrestled again. Besides, he was soon so full of work as to have little time for amusement.”

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After this Mr. Moore became traveller to the firm, and excelled, not only in increasing the business of his employers, but in the shortness of time in which he performed his journeys. He used afterwards to remark, that it was the best testing-work for a young man before his promotion to places of greater trust. At the inns which he frequented he was regarded as a sort of hero. To show the energy with which he carried on his business, it may be mentioned that on one occasion he arrived in Manchester, and after unpacking his goods, he called upon his first customer. He was informed that one of his opponents had reached the town the day before, and would remain there for a day or two more. “Then,” said Moore, “it is no use wasting my time with my p. 159competitor before me.” He returned to his hotel, called some of his friends about him to help him repack his stock, drove off to Liverpool, commenced business next day, and secured the greater part of the orders before the arrival of his opponent. It was while travelling in Ireland that Moore met Groucock, then travelling for a rival firm. They had a keen fight for trade, and Moore succeeded in regaining a good deal of it for his own firm. Groucock, convinced of Moore’s value, offered him £500 a-year (he was only getting £150 from Fisher) to travel for his firm. Moore’s reply was, “I will be a servant for no other house than Fisher’s; the only condition on which I will leave him is a partnership.” At length Groucock gave way; and in 1830, at the age of twenty-three, Moore entered as partner in the firm of Groucock, Copestake, and Moore. The firm was originally established in 1825, and their first place of business was over a trunk-shop at No. 7, Cheapside. In 1834, the firm removed to Bow Churchyard. The capital contributed by George Moore was £670, supplied him by his father. His line was to travel for the firm, which he did with increased assiduity. Frequently he was up two nights in the week.

There are many amusing stories told of the way in which Moore got his orders. A draper in a Lancashire town refused to deal with him. The travellers at the hotel bet him five pounds that he could not get an order, and Moore started off. When the draper saw him entering the shop, he cried out, “All full, all full, Mr. Moore; I told you so before!” “Never mind,” said George, “you won’t object to a crack?” “Oh, no,” said the draper. They cracked about many things, and then George Moore, calling the draper’s attention to a new coat which he wore, asked what he thought of it? “It is a capital coat,” said the draper. “Yes; made in the best style, by a first-rate London tailor.” The draper looked at it again, and again admired it. “Why,” said George, “you are exactly my size; it’s quite new; I’ll sell it you.” “What’s the price?” “Twenty-five shillings.” “What? That’s very cheap.” “Yes, it’s a great bargain.” “Then I’ll buy it,” said the draper. George went back to his hotel, donned another suit, and sent the great bargain to the draper. George again calling, the draper offered to pay him. “No,” said George, “I’ll book it; you’ve opened an account.” Mr. Moore had sold the coat at a loss, but he was recouped by the p. 160£5 bet which he won, and he obtained an order besides. The draper afterwards became one of his best customers.

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On another occasion, a draper at Newcastle-upon-Tyne was always called upon, many times without a result. He was always full; in fact, he had no intention of opening an account with the new firm. Mr. Moore got to know that he was fond of a particular kind of snuff—rappee, with a touch of beggar’s brown in it. He provided himself with a box in London, and had it filled with the snuff. When at Newcastle he called upon the draper, but was met, as usual, with the remark, “Quite full, quite full, sir.” “Well,” said Mr. Moore, “I scarcely expected an order, but I called upon you for a reference.” “Oh, by all means.” In the course of conversation George took out his snuff-box, took a pinch, and put if in his pocket. After a short interval he took it out again, took another pinch, and said, “I suppose you are not guilty of this bad habit?” “Sometimes,” said the draper. George handed him the box; he took a pinch with zest, and said through the snuff, “Well, that’s very fine.” George had him now. He said, “Let me present you with the box; I have plenty more.” The draper accepted the box; no order was asked, but the next time George called upon him he got his first order. No wonder Moore succeeded; and it was well he did. Times were bad; and it was his opinion, that had he been laid up for three months the firm would have stopped payment. At the end of three years Moore was made equal as a partner with the rest.

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In 1840, after one refusal, Moore led his first love to the altar; and in 1841 he partially abandoned travelling; but the change from travelling to office-work at first materially told upon his health. To remedy this he took to fox-hunting, and went to America, partly on business and partly on pleasure. One of the results of his visit to the great republic, was the establishment of a branch of the firm at Nottingham, and the erection of a lace factory in that town. After this he became a director of the Commercial Travellers’ Benevolent Institution, and one of the most ardent supporters of the Cumberland Benevolent Society, and of the Commercial Travellers’ Schools. From the first he was the treasurer of the latter institution. His partners were glad to see him thus employed. They called them his safety-valves. His holidays were spent in Cumberland, a county p. 161for which his love was strong till the last, and to the schools of which he was ever a liberal contributor. Indeed, educational reform in that county may be said to be almost entirely due to him. In 1852, Mr. Moore was nominated by the Lord Mayor of London as Sheriff; but his time was so occupied that he paid the fine of £400 rather than serve. For the same reason, also, he declined to be an alderman, though twice pressed to fill that honourable post. He said, “I once thought that to be Sheriff of London, or Lord Mayor, would have been the height of my ambition; but now I have neither ambition nor the inclination to serve in either office. To men who have not gained a mercantile position, corporation honours are much sought after; but to those who have acquired a prominent place in commerce, such honours are not appreciated. At the same time, I am bound to say that I have always received the most marked courtesy and consideration from the corporation, even although I did not feel inclined to join it.” Dr. Smiles reprints this without note or comment; but surely it betrays a spirit not to be commended. Great city merchants might well be proud to serve in such a corporation as that of London, not as a stepping-stone for themselves, but as an honour of which the proudest may well be proud. As regards parliament, that is another matter. Mr. Moore always refused to be a candidate for parliamentary honours, on the plea that parliament should be composed of the best, wisest, and most highly educated men in the country. In this respect it is to be regretted that a large number of M.P.’s are not of Mr. Moore’s way of thinking. In politics it may be mentioned that Mr. Moore was a Moderate-Liberal, and a strong Free-Trader from the very first. He was an ardent admirer of Lord John Russell, and had much to do with his return for the City in 1857.

In 1854, Mr. Moore removed to his mansion in Kensington Palace Gardens. “Although,” he writes, “I had built the house at the solicitation of Mrs. Moore, I was mortified at my extravagance, and thought it both wicked and aggrandising, mere ostentation and vain show to build such a house. It was long before I felt at home in it, nor did it at all add to our happiness. I felt that I had acted foolishly. But, strange to say, a gentleman offered to take the house off my hands, and to give me 3,000 guineas profit. I made up my mind to accept this offer; but my dear wife had taken p. 162such an interest in the house that we could not decide to sell it.” He accordingly declined the offer. But the house-warming was at any rate characteristic. He determined that the young men and women should be the first guests, and accordingly they were, to the number of 300. A second ball was given to all the porters and their wives, the drivers, and the female servants, to the number of about 200. Afterwards they had, at different times, about 800 of their friends and acquaintances to dinner. But this was abandoned. “Happiness,” wrote Mr. Moore, “does not flow in such a channel. Promiscuous company takes one’s mind away from God and His dealings with men, and there is no lasting pleasure in the excitement.” Mrs. Moore did not long enjoy her new home; she died in 1858. At that time Mr. Moore had become a decidedly religious man. He had a serious illness in 1850, which seems to have had great effect, and more than ever he gave himself up to philanthropic work—such as aiding in the establishment of a Reformatory for Discharged Prisoners, of the Royal Hospital for Incurables, of the London General Porters’ Benevolent Association, and the Warehousemen and Clerks’ School, &c., &c. At Kilburn he said, “If the world only knew half the happiness that a man has in doing good, he would do a great deal more.” George Moore lived under the increasing consciousness of this every year. He wrote in his pocket-book:—

“What I spent I had,

What I saved I lost,

What I gave I have.”

At this time, Mr. Moore seems to have made special efforts for the spiritual improvement of the young men and women in his employment in London, and to have retained the services of the Rev. Thomas Richardson as chaplain. And then, as was natural, his thoughts reverted to his native county of Cumberland, for which already he had done so much, and for which he felt inclined to do much more on his becoming the purchaser of the Whitehall estate, very near the parish of Mealsgate, in which he was born.