Fervently I do believe in my richer neighbor;
I hold the same opinions as my patrons in trade;
Gold, I do believe, os a great and mighty saviour;
I believe in politics by party ready-made.
I am at church this morning in a business mind;
I join in the responses, looking off my book;
I’m pleas’d our wealthy squire and patrons here to find,
And slyly try to see if they cast on me a look!
Last week I sold squire’s wife a splendid silken gown;
Parson’s wife bought one like it only yesterday;
They’ll be advertisements for me about the town;
My prayer and supplication are that business may pay.
Bless Heaven for mercies! Its pleasant to behold
In this life the profit on whatever you may sell:
And pleasing here my betters multiplies the gold;
My manners when at church my gentility will tell.
I had some qualms of conscience in my earlier years,
And thought I’d speculate in freedom’s dreamy hope;
I calculated loss, so still’d my mental fears
Ready to be slave to bishop, priest, or pope.
I have home and lands, in this old country a stake;
My sons and daughters look with scorn upon the poor;
At election times the squire gives my hand a shake,
And nods when in his carriage he passes by my door.
“I’ve done things I should not,” I say so every week,
When others say it in the usual fashion’s style;
I scarcely think it true, as written so I speak,
And how respectable it keeps e all the while.
Captain Fussy’s looking, “Good Lord deliver me,”
I wonder when he means to pay his yearly bill?
In that pew’s a lady, whoever an she be?
“And teach us pray at all times to do Thy will[.]”
What’s orthodox with squire is orthodox you see;
My patrons say dissenters are a vulgar crew;
One thing is very certain, they don’t deal with me;
I don’t like party when adherents are but few.
I pay my debts; with smiles I try in life to rise,
I don’t dispute, but yielding gently smooth my way,
On downy pillows I will mount into the skies,
Believing that is right that will the piper pay.
Daughter Jane went to school three quarters with the best;
John’s in the cotton trade – the golden twist and weft;
They are not common children, seeking worldly rest;
For Jane will marry well; and John of me bereft,
Be rich and great; and who in this strange world can tell,
But Well-to-do’s may bear in time some titled name?
I’ll come to church and mind the way; it will be well
For them to know most of the glory through me came.
The squire has looked at me! Jane’s dress looks well to-day[,]
“We are poor and weak;” must pay homage where ‘tis due;
And that depends entirely where from comes they pay,
At least it does with me if it does not with you.
When I read my bible I find a goodly text
Bearing out my creed in the best and fullest way;
It says we are to honor our superiors, and next
I think my patrons and the squire I will obey.
“Generation after generation” – who can tell
But our Jane and John may amongst the lofty be?
If I live, as I hope, to see them bear the bell
They will be pretty sprouts from my humility.
I believe my patrons, and I believe the squire,
And I believe in gold and comfort by the way;
And I believe I shall have whatever I desire
If I come to church in the manner it will pay.
My father wore old shoes; my mother a winsey gown
“For all those who in peril are by land or sea.”
(I don’t like that new tradesman who has come to town;)
“Protect and guide them wheresoever they may be.”
The last “Amen” was said, then out from his seat
John Well-to-do proudly mixed among the throng;
And John and Jane and all in great family state
Did scorn the sinners as they pass’d the streets along.
Great one day is duty; and the week’s sacrifice
John Well-to-do in custom and in conscience brought,
Answer’d the query to which the Evil One gave rise,
When he inquired if Job served God for nought?
Thus fashion makes a show, and many call it trade?
Who blames the harsh interpretations of the poor?
Where fashion sways the most hypocrisy is made,
Has always been, is now, and will be evermore.

Title:John Well-to-do's Business Mixed with His Sunday Prayers


Publication:The Blackburn Times

Published in:Blackburn

Date:September 5th 1863

Keywords:greed, morality, religion


This poem by an anonymous author satirises a local character who is a ‘self-made' man for his avarice and lack of reverence in church. The figure of the nouveau riche tradesman was satirised throughout the Victorian period and afterwards as attaining economic status without the accompanying appropriate cultural sophistication. Here, the accusation is of a more serious nature, being a sacrilegious practice similar to the money lenders in the temple of the New Testament story. Although the Cotton Famine is not referred to in this poem it would have increased it resonance as many local traders were seen to be unsympathetic to the poor during the crisis, and indeed, ‘John Well-to-Do’s ‘sons and daughters look with scorn upon the poor’. – SR