The Sussex Diarists. 33
"I think is a proper book for any person at this critical juncture of affairs"—it was in April, 1756—and from politics to poetry; for on the same day he read "Homer's Odysseyss" (sic), and thus records his opinion of it:—
" I think the character which Menelaus gives Telemachus of Ulisses, when he is a speeking of his warlike virtues, in the 4th Book, is very good. Read the 13th Book after supper; I think the soliloquy which Ulysses makes when he finds the Phoenicians have in his sleep left him on his native shore of Ithaca, with all his treasure, contains a very good lesson of morality."
At the same time he copies out in full the passages he admired from Pope's translation.
As some explanation, however, of this unusual taste for literature in a Sussex tradesman of that day, it should be noted that Mr. Turner began his career at East Hothly as a schoolmaster. It was not a long nor apparently a successful career, for in May, 1756, he resigned his school and scholars to Mr. Francis Ellis and entered on the more lucrative vocation of a general shopkeeper. But he did not give up his reading. To the last we find him deep in such solid works as "Burnett's History of the Reformation," and Beveredge's " Thoughts," varied by Shakspeare's plays and John Wilkes's "North Briton."
It would have been well for Thomas Turner if he had been constant to his books, and had not indulged in another habit more in keeping with the times; and that was of excessive drinking. The reader will not forget the good resolution with which he started, "never upon any terms or persuasion to drink more than eight glasses (of wine or punch), each glass to hold no more than half a quarter of a pint."
Quite enough, one might have thought, for a moderate man. But Thomas Turner was, it is evident, not proof against temptation, and his lapses from sobriety commence early and recur only too frequently. Here is the first set down :—" I went to the audit and came home drunk. But I think never to exceed the bounds of moderation more." D