A penny-worth of wit

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A Penny-Worth of Wit (c. 1800)
by unknown author
4465548A Penny-Worth of Witc. 1800unknown






Part I. Shewing how a rich Merchant was deluded from his Lady by a Harlot.

Part II. How he ſailed to a far Country.

Part III. And how he returned to the Britiſh ſhore.

Edinburgh; Printed by J. Morren, Cowgate.



HERE is a penny worth of wit,
for thoſe that never went aſtray,
If warning they will take by it,
'twill do them good another day.
It is a touch ſtone of true love,
between a Harlot and a Wife.
The former doth deſtruction prove,
the latter yields the joys of life.
As in this book you may behold,
ſet forth by famous William Lane;
A wealth merchant brave and bold,
who did a harlot long maintain;
Although a virtuous wife he had,
likewiſe a youthful daughter dear,
Which have made his heart full glad,
yet ſeldom would he them come near.
The treaſure which he traded for,
on the tempeſtuous ocean wide,
His harlot had, he brought it her,
but nothing to his virtuous bride.
The fineſt ſilks that could be bought,
nay, jewels, robes, diamonds, rings,
He to his wanton harlot brought,
with many other coſtly things.
She ſtill receiv'd him with a ſmile,
when he came from the raging ſeas,
And ſaid with words as ſmooth as oil,
my deareſt come and take thy eaſe,
To thy ſoft bed of linen fie,
thou art welcome, love, ſaid ſhe,
Both I and all that e'er was mine,
ſhall ſtill at thy devotion be.
He brought two hundred pounds of gold,
and after that two hundred more,

With chains and jewels many ſold,
and bid her lay them up in ſtore
Aye, that I will, thou need not fear
and ſo embrac'd him with a kiſs,
Then took the wealth, and ſaid my dear,
I'll have a ſpecial care of this.
Then they did banquet many days,
feaſting on delicious fare,
Thus by her falſe deluding words,
ſhe drew him in a fatal ſnare.
When he had liv'd ſome time on ſhore,
he muſt go to the ſea again,
With traffic to increaſe his ſtore,
the wanton harlot to maintain.
To whom he ſaid, My joy, my dear,
with me what venture wilt thou ſend?
A good return thou need not fear,
I'll be thy factor and thy friend.
In goods, my dear, I'll ſend above
ten pound, which thou ſhalt take on board
I know that unto me, my love,
a triple gain thou wilt afford.
This ſaid next to his wife he goes
and aſk'd her, in a ſcornful way,
What venture ſhe would now propoſe,
to ſend with him for merchandiſe.
I'll ſend a penny, love, by thee:
be ſure you take good care of it,
When you're in foreign parts, ſaid ſhe,
pray buy a penny worth of wit.
She laid the penny in his hand,
and ſaid, I pray now don't forget,
When you are in a foreign land,
to buy a penny worth of wit.
He put the penny up ſecure,
and ſaid, I'll take a ſpecial care,
To lay it out you may be ſure,
ſo to his Miſs he did repair,

And told her what he was to buy,
at which ſhe laugh'd his wife to ſcorn;
On board he went immediately
and ſail'd to ſea that very morn.


NOW they are gone with merry hearts,
the merchant and his jovial crew,
From port to port, in foreign parts,
to trade as they were wont to do.
At length when he had well beſtow'd
the cargo, which was outward bound,
He did his trading veſſel load,
with richer treaſure which he found,
As he his merchandiſe did vend,
they turn'd to gems and golden ore,
Which crown'd his labours with content,
he never was ſo rich before.
The wanton Harlot's venture then,
did run to great account likewiſe,
For every pound ſhe would have ten,
ſuch was their lucky merchandiſe,
For joy of which the merchant cried,
one merry bout my lads ſhall have;
A ſplendid ſupper I'll provide,
of all the danties you can crave;
Before you ſet to ſea again.
this ſaid, they to a tavern went,
Where they did feaſt and drink amain,
till many crowns and pounds were ſpent.
The merchant then with laughter mov'd,
ſaid he for wit had never ſought,
My Harlot's venture is improv'd,
but of my Wife's I never thought.
One ſingle penny and no more,
ſhe has a venture ſent with me,
I was to lay it out therefore,
in what you'll call a rarity.
She bid me uſe my utmost ſkill,

to buy a penny-worth of wit.
But I have kept the penny ſtill,
and ne'er ſo much as thought of it.
Where ſhall I go to lay it out?
true wit is ſcarce and hard to find;
But come my lads let's drink about.
my wife's ſmall venture we'll not mind.
There is a proverb often us'd,
Wit's never good till bought too dear,
Where I right well may be excus'd
there's little for a penny here.
An aged Father ſiting by,
whoſe venerable locks were gray,
Straight made the merchant this reply,
hear me a word or two I pray.
Thy Harlot in proſperity,
ſhe will embrace for thy gold,
But if in want and miſery,
you'll nought but frowns from her behold,
And ready to betray thy life,
when wretched, naked, poor and low
But thy true hearted faithful wife,
will ſtand by thee in well or woe;
If thou wilt prove the truth of this,
ſtrip off thy gaudy rich array,
And ſo return to thy proud Miſs,
declare that thou was caſt away.
Thy riches buried in the main;
beſides, as you paſs'd through a wood,
One of your ſervants you had ſlain,
for which your life in danger ſtood.
Beſeech her for to ſhelter thee,
declare on her you do depend:
And then, alas! full ſoon you'll ſee.
how far ſhe'd prov'd a faithful friend,
Then if ſhe frowns go to thy Wife;
tell her this melancholy thing.
Who labours moſt to ſave thy life,

let her be moſt in thy eſteem.
Father, the merchant then replied,
you moſt this ſingle penny take;
When I have paſt the ocean wide,
a proof of this I mean to make.
And loving friend, for ought I know,
I may this ſingle penny prize,
As being the beſt I did beſtow,
in all my wealthy merchandize.
Taking his leave, away they came,
both he and his brave hearts of gold.
To whom he ſaid, I'll prove the ſame,
when I my native land behold.


WITH full ſpread ſail to ſea they went,
Neptune the golden cargo bore,
Through foaming waves to their content,
at laſt they reach'd the Britiſh ſhore.
The merchant put on poor array;
the very worſt of ragged clothes,
And then without the leaſt delay,
he to his wanton harlot goes.
When ſhe beheld him in diſtreſs,
ſhe cried, what is the matter now?
He ſaid I'm poor and penny-leſs,
with that he made a courteous bow.
Crying no man was e'er ſo croſs'd
as I have been my ſweet heart's delight,
My ſhip and all I had is loſt,
without thy help I'm ruin'd quite.
My loſs is great, yet that's not all,
one of my ſervants I have ſlain,
As we did both at variance fall;
ſome ſhelter let me here obtain.
I dare not now go to my wife,
whom I have wrong'd for many a year,
Into thy hands I'll put my life,
take pity on my melting tear.

Ye bloody villain! ſhe replied,
don't on me the leaſt depend.
Begone! or as I live ſhe cry'd,
I for an officer will ſend,
I'll give you neither meat nor drink,
nor any ſhelter ſhall you have,
Of muſty, louſy rags you ſtink,
begone you baſe perfidious ſlave,
Don't think that I'll your counſel keep,
or harbour any ſuch as you.
He turn'd way and ſeem'd to weep,
and bid the wanton jilt adieu.
Then to his loving wife he came,
both poor and naked in diſtreſs,
He told her all the very ſame,
yet ſhe reliev'd him ne'ertheleſs.
My dear, ſhe cry'd, ſince it is ſo,
take comfort in thy loveng wife,
All that I have ſhall freely go,
to gain a pardon for thy life.
I'll lodge the in a place ſecure,
where I ſhall daily nouriſh thee;
Believe me, love, you may be ſure,
to find a faithful friend in me.
When he this perfect proof had made,
which of them two did love him beſt,
Unto his virtuous he ſaid,
my jewel ſet thy hear at reſt:
Behold I have no ſervant ſlain!
nor have I ſuffer'd any loſs,
Enough I have us to maintain,
the ocean ſeas I'll no more croſs;
My loaded ſhip lies near the ſhore,
with gold a jewels richly fraught,
So much I never had before:
thy penny-worth of I've bought.
Once more he to his harlot goes,
with fourteen ſailors brave and bold;

All clothed with new and coſtly clothes,
of rich embroider'd ſilk and gold.
The Miſs when ſhe this pomp beheld,
did offer him a kind embrace,
But he with wrath and anger fill'd,
did ſtraight upbraid her to her face.
But ſhe with ſmiles, theſe words exreſs'd,
I have a faithful love love for thee,
Whate'er I ſaid, was but a jeſt,
why did'ſt thou go ſoon from me,
It was full time to go from thee,
you have another love in ſtore,
Whom you have furniſh'd with my gold
and jewels, which I have brought on ſhore.
'Tis falſe, ſhe ſaid, I have them all;
with that the merchant ſtraight rplied,
Lay them before me, then I ſhall
be ſooh convinc'd and ſatisfy'd.
Then up ſhe ran and fetch'd them down,
the jewels, gold and rubies bright,
He ſeiz'd them all, and with a frown,
he bid the wanton jilt good night.
When he had ſeiz'd the golden purſe,
and ſweep'd up every precious ſtone,
She cried, what, will you rob me thus?
yes that I will of what's my own.
You wanted to betray my life,
but thanks to God, there's no ſuch fear,
Theſe jewels ſhall adorn my wife,
henceforth your houſe I'll not come near.
Home he return'd to his ſweet wife,
and told her all that he had done,
Ever ſince they live a happy life,
and he'll to harlots' no more run.
Thus he the wanton harlot bit,
who long had his deſtruction ſought,
This was Penny-Worth of Wit,
the beſt that e'er a merchant bought.


This work was published before January 1, 1929, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.

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