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think I have the least hesitation about it. And so my mother went down stairs. I will deposit thus far; and as I know you will not think me too minute in the relation of particulars so very interesting to one you honour with your love, proceed in the same way. As matters stand, I don't care to have papers so freely written about me. Pray let Robert call every day, if you can spare him, whether I have anything ready or not. I should be glad you would not send him empty handed. What a generosity will it be in you, to write as frequently from friendship as I am forced to do from misfortune! The letters being taken away will be an assurance that you have them. As I shall write and deposit as I have opportunity, the formality of super and sub-scription will be excused. For I need not say how much I am Your sincere and ever affectionate Cl. Harlowe.
HENRY FIELDING (1707–1754)
TOM JONES BOOK I
CHAP. I. — THE INTRoduction to the Work, OR BILL OF FARE TO THE FEAST
An author ought to consider himself, not as a gentleman who gives a private or eleemosynary treat, but rather as one who keeps a public ordinary, at which all persons are welcome for their money. In the former case, it is well known that the entertainer provides what fare he pleases; and though this should be very indifferent and utterly disagreeable to the taste of his company, they must not find any fault: nay, on the contrary, good breeding forces them outwardly to approve and to commend whatever is set before them. Now the contrary of this happens to the master of an ordinary: men who pay for what they eat, will insist on gratifying their palates, however nice and whimsical these may prove; and if everything is not agreeable to their taste, will challenge a right to censure, to abuse, and to d—n their dinner without control.
To prevent, therefore, giving offence to their customers by any such disappointment, it has been usual with the honest and wellmeaning host to provide a bill of fare, which all
persons may peruse at their first entrance into
the house; and, having thence acquainted
themselves with the entertainment which they may expect, may either stay and regale with what is provided for them, or may depart to some other ordinary better accommodated to their taste. As we do not disdain to borrow wit or wisdom from any man who is capable of lending us either, we have condescended to take a hint from these honest victuallers, and shall prefix not only a general bill of fare to our whole entertainment, but shall likewise give the reader particular bills to every course which is to be served up in this volume. The provision, then, which we have here made, is no other than Human Nature: nor do I fear that my sensible reader, though most luxurious in his taste, will start, cavil, or be offended because I have named but one article. The tortoise, as the alderman of Bristol, well learned in eating, knows by much experience, besides the delicious calipash and calipee, contains many different kinds of food; nor can the learned reader be ignorant, that in human nature, though here collected under one general name, is such prodigious variety, that a cook will have sooner gone through all the several species of animal and vegetable food in the world, than an author will be able to exhaust so extensive a subject. An objection may perhaps be apprehended from the more delicate, that this dish is too common and vulgar; for what else is the subject of all the romances, novels, plays, and poems, with which the stalls abound? Many exquisite viands might be rejected by the epicure, if it was a sufficient cause for his contemning of them as common and vulgar, that something was to be found in the most paltry alleys under the same name. In reality, true nature is as difficult to be met with in authors, as the Bayonne ham, or Bologna sausage, is to be found in the shops. But the whole, to continue the same metaphor, consists in the cookery of the author; for, as Mr. Pope tells us,
True wit is nature to advantage dress'd;
The same animal which hath the honour to have some part of his flesh eaten at the table of a duke, may perhaps be degraded in another part, and some of his limbs gibbetted, as it were, in the vilest stall in town. Where then lies the difference between the food of the nobleman and the porter, if both are at dinner on the same ox or calf, but in the seasoning, the dressing, the garnishing, and the setting forth? Hence the one provokes and incites the most languid appetite, and the other turns and palls that which is the sharpest and keenest.
In like manner the excellence of the mental entertainment consists less in the subject than in the author's skill in well dressing it up. How pleased, therefore, will the reader be to find that we have, in the following work, adhered closely to one of the highest principles of the best cook which the present age, or perhaps that of Heliogabalus, hath produced? This great man, as is well known to all lovers of polite eating, begins at first by setting plain things before his hungry guests, rising afterwards by degrees, as their stomachs may be supposed to decrease, to the very quintessence of sauce and spices. In like manner we shall represent human nature at first, to the keen appetite of our reader, in that more plain and simple manner in which it is found in the country, and shall hereafter hash and ragout it with all the high French and Italian seasoning of affectation and vice which courts and cities afford. By these means, we doubt not but our reader may be rendered desirous to read on for ever, as the great person just above mentioned is supposed to have made some persons eat.
Having premised thus much, we will now detain those who like our bill of fare no longer from their diet, and shall proceed directly to serve up the first course of our history for their entertainment.
CHAP. I. — SHowing what KIND OF HISTORY THIS Is; what IT IS LIKE, AND WHAT it is NOT LIKE
Though we have properly enough entitled this our work a history, and not a life; nor an apology for a life, as is more in fashion; yet we intend in it rather to pursue the method of those writers who profess to disclose the revolutions of countries, than to imitate the painful and voluminous historian, who, to preserve the regularity of his series, thinks himself obliged to fill up as much paper with the details of months and years in which nothing remarkable happened, as he employs upon those notable eras when the greatest scenes have been transacted on the houman stage. Such histories as these do in reality very much resemble a newsPaper, which consists of just the same number of words, whether there bé any news in it or not.
They may likewise be compared to a stage coach, which performs constantly the same course empty as well as full: the writer indeed seems to think himself obliged to keep even pace with Time, whose amanuensis he is; and like his master, travels as slowly through centuries of monkish dulness, when the world seems to have been asleep, as through that bright and busy age so nobly distinguished by the excellent Latin poet:
Ad confligendum venientibus undique Poenis, Omnia cum belli trepido concussa tumultu Horrida contremuere sub altis aetheris auris; In dubioque fuit sub utrorum regna cadendum Omnibus humanis esset, terraque marique:
of which we wish we could give our reader a more adequate translation than that by Mr. Creech:
When dreadful Carthage frighted Rome with arms, And all the world was shook with fierce alarms; Whilst undecided yet which part should fall, Which nation rise the glorious lord of all.
Now it is our purpose, in the ensuing pages, to pursue a contrary method: when any extraordinary scene presents itself, as we trust will often be the case, we shall spare no pains nor paper to open it at large to our reader; but if whole years should pass without producing any thing worthy his notice, we shall not be afraid of a chasm in our history, but shall hasten on to matters of consequence, and leave such periods of time totally unobserved. These are indeed to be considered as blanks in the grand lottery of Time: we therefore, who are the registers of that lottery, shall imitate those sagacious persons who deal in that which is drawn at
Guildhall, and who never trouble the public
with the many blanks they dispose of; but when a great prize happens to be drawn, the newspapers are presently filled with it, and the world is sure to be informed at whose office it was sold: indeed commonly two or three different offices lay claim to the honour of having disposed of it; by which I suppose the adventurers are given to understand that certain brokers are in the Secrets of Fortune, and indeed of her cabinet council. My reader then is not to be surprised, if in the course of this work he shall find some chapters very short and others altogether as long; some that contain only the time of a single day and others that comprise years; in a word, if my history sometimes seems to stand still, and sometimes to fly: for all which I shall not look on myself as accountable to any court of critical jurisdiction whatever; for as I am in reality the founder of a new province of writing, so I am at liberty to make what laws I please therein; and these laws my readers, whom I consider as my subjects, are bound to believe in and to obey; with which, that they may readily and cheerfully comply, I do hereby assure them that I shall principally regard their ease and advantage in all such institutions; for I do not, like a jure divino tyrant, imagine that they are my slaves or my commodity. I am indeed set over them for their own good only, and was created for their use and not they for mine; nor do I doubt, while I make their interest the great rule of my writings, they will unanimously concur in supporting my dignity, and in rendering me all the honour I shall deserve or desire.
CHAP. I. — OF THE SERIous IN WRITING, AND FOR WHAT PURPOSE IT IS INTRODUCED
Peradventure there may be no parts in this prodigious work which will give the reader less pleasure in the perusing, than those which have given the author the greatest pain in composing. Among these probably may be reckoned those initial essays which we have prefixed to the historical matter contained in every book; and which we have determined to be essentially necessary to this kind of writing, of which we have set ourselves at the head. For this our determination we do not hold ourselves strictly bound to assign any reason; it being abundantly sufficient that we have laid it down as a rule necessary to be observed in all prosai-comi-epic writing. Who ever demanded the reasons of that nice unity of time or place which is now established to be so essential to dramatic poetry? What critic has ever been asked, why a play may not contain two days as well as one? or why the audience, provided they travel like electors, without any expense, may not be wafted fifty miles as well as five? Has any commentator well accounted for the limitation which an ancient critic has set to the drama, which he will have contain neither more nor less than five acts? or has any one living attempted to explain what the modern judges of our theatres mean by that word Low; by which they have happily succeeded in banishing all humour from the stage, and have made the theatre as dull as a drawing-room? Upon all these occasions the world seems to have
embraced a maxim of our law, viz., cuicumque in arte sua perito credendum est: for it seems perhaps difficult to conceive that any one should have had enough of impudence to lay down dogmatical rules in any art or science without the least foundation: in such cases, therefore, we are apt to conclude there are sound and good reasons at the bottom, though we are unfortunately not able to see so far. Now in reality the world have paid too great a compliment to critics, and have imagined them men of much greater profundity than they really are: from this complaisance the critics have been emboldened to assume a dictatorial power, and have so far succeeded that they have now become the masters, and have the assurance to give laws to those authors from whose predecessors they originally received them. The critic, rightly considered, is no more than the clerk, whose office it is to transcribe the rules and laws laid down by those great judges, whose vast strength of genius has placed them in the light of legislators in the several sciences over which they presided: this office was all which the critics of old aspired to; nor did they ever dare to advance a sentence, without supporting it by the authority of the judge from whence it was borrowed. But in process of time, and in ages of ignorance, the clerk began to invade the power and assume the dignity of his master; the laws of writing were no longer founded on the practice of the author, but on the dictates of the critic: the clerk became the legislator, and those very peremptorily gave laws whose business it was at first only to transcribe them. Hence arose an obvious and perhaps an unavoidable error; for these critics, being men of shallow capacities, very easily mistook mere form for substance: they acted as a judge would who should adhere to the lifeless letter of law, and reject the spirit. Little circumstances, which were perhaps accidental in a great author, were by these critics considered to constitute his chief merit, and transmitted as essentials to be observed by all his successors; to these encroachments, time and ignorance, the two great supporters of imposture, gave authority; and thus many rules for good writing have been established, which have not the least foundation in truth or nature; and which commonly serve for no other purpose than to curb and restrain genius in the same manner as it would have restrained the dancing master, had the many excellent treatises on that art laid it down as an essential rule that every man must dance in chains. To avoid, therefore, all imputation of laying down a rule for posterity, founded only on the authority of ipse dixit, — for which, to say the truth, we have not the profoundest veneration, — we shall here waive the privilege above contended for, and proceed to lay before the reader the reasons which have induced us to intersperse these several digressive essays in the course of this work. And here we shall of necessity be led to open a new vein of knowledge, which, if it has been discovered, has not to our remembrance been wrought on by any ancient or modern writer: this vein is no other than that of contrast, which runs through all the works of the creation, and may probably have a large share in constituting in us the idea of all beauty, as well natural as artificial: for what demonstrates the beauty and excellence of anything but its reverse? Thus the beauty of day, and that of summer, is set off by the horrors of night and winter; and I believe, if it was possible for a man to have seen only the two former, he would have a very imperfect idea of their beauty. But to avoid too serious an air; can it be doubted but that the finest woman in the world would lose all benefit of her charms in the eyes of a man who had never seen one of another cast? The ladies themselves seem so sensible of this, that they are all industrious to procure foils; nay, they will become foils to themselves: for I have observed, at Bath particularly, that they endeavour to appear as ugly as possible in the morning, in order to set off that beauty which they intend to show you in the evening. Most artists have this secret in practice, though some perhaps have not much studied the theory; the jeweller knows that the finest brilliant requires a foil; and the painter, by the contrast of his figures, often acquires great applause. A great genius among us will illustrate this matter fully. I cannot indeed range him under any general head of common artists, as he has a title to be placed among those
Inventas qui vitam excoluere per artes:
Who by invented arts have life improved.
I mean here, the inventor of that most exquisite entertainment, called the English pantomime. This entertainment consisted of two parts, which the inventor distinguished by the names of the serious and the comic. The serious exhibited a certain number of heathen gods and heroes, who were certainly the worst and dullest Company into which an audience was ever in
troduced; and, which was a secret known to few, were actually intended so to be, in order to contrast the comic part of the entertainment, and to display the tricks of Harlequin to the better advantage. This was, perhaps, no very civil use of such personages, but the contrivance was, nevertheless, ingenious enough, and had its effect. And this will now plainly appear, if, instead of serious and comic, we supply the words duller and dullest, for the comic was certainly duller than anything before shown on the stage, and could be set off only by that superlative degree of dullness which composed the serious. So intolerably serious, indeed, were these gods and heroes, that Harlequin (though the English gentleman of that name is not at all related to the French family, for he is of a much more serious disposition) was always welcome on the stage, as he relieved the audience from worse company. Judicious writers have always practised this art of contrast, with great success. I have been surprised that Horace should cavil at this art in Homer; but, indeed, he contradicts himself in the very next line:
Indignor quandoque bonus dormitat Homerus, Verum opere in longo fas est obrepere somnum:
I grieve if e'er great Homer chance to sleep;
for we are not here to understand, as perhaps some have, that an author actually falls asleep while he is writing. It is true that readers are too apt to be so overtaken. But if the work was as long as any of Oldmixon, the author himself is too well entertained to be subject to the least drowsiness: he is, as Mr. Pope observes,
Sleepless himself to give his readers sleep.
To say the truth, these soporific parts are so many serious scenes artfully interwoven, in order to contrast and set off the rest; and this is the true meaning of a late facetious writer, who told the public that, whenever he was dull, they might be assured there was a design in it. In this light, then, or rather in this darkness, I would have the reader to consider these initial essays; and, after this warning, if he shall be of opinion that he can find enough of serious in other parts of this history, he may pass over these, in which we profess to be laboriously dull, and begin the following books at the second chapter.
CHAP. I. — A wonDERFUL LONG CHAPTER CONCERNING THE MARVELLOUs; BEING MUCH THE LONGEST OF ALL our INTRODUCTORY CHAPTERs
As we are now entering upon a book, in which the course of our history will oblige us to relate some matters of a more strange and surprising kind than any which have hitherto occurred, it may not be amiss, in the prolegomenous or introductory chapter, to say something of that species of writing which is called the marvellous. To this we shall, as well for the sake of ourselves as of others, endeavour to set some certain bounds; and, indeed, nothing can be more necessary, as critics of very different complexions are here apt to run into very different extremes; for while some are, with M. Dacier, ready to allow, that the same thing which is impossible may yet be probable, others have so little historic or poetic faith, that they believe nothing to be either possible or probable, the like to which has not occurred to their own observation. First, then, I think it may very reasonably be required of every writer, that he keeps within the bounds of possibility; and still remembers that what it is not possible for man to perform, it is scarce possible for man to believe he did perform. This conviction, perhaps, gave birth to many stories of the ancient heathen deities, for most of them are of poetical original. The poet, being desirous to indulge a wanton and extravagant imagination, took refuge in that power, of the extent of which his readers were no judges, or rather which they imagined to be infinite, and consequently they could not be shocked at any prodigies related of it. This has been strongly urged in defence of Homer's miracles: and it is perhaps a defence; not, as Mr. Pope would have it, because Ulysses told a set of lies to the Pheacians, who were a very dull nation; but because the poet himself wrote to heathens, to whom poetical fables were articles of faith.
For my own part, I must confess, so compassionate is my temper, I wish Polypheme had confined himself to his milk diet, and preserved his eye; nor could Ulysses be much more concerned than myself, when his companions were turned into swine by Circe, who showed, I think, afterwards too much regard for man's flesh, to be supposed capable of converting it into bacon. I wish, likewise, with all my heart, that Homer could have known the rule prescribed by Horace, to introduce supernatural agents as seldom as possible: we should
not then have seen his gods coming on trivial errands, and often behaving themselves so as not only to forfeit all title to respect, but to become the objects of scorn and derision; a conduct which must have shocked the credulity of a pious and sagacious heathen; and which could never have been defended, unless by agreeing with a supposition to which I have been sometimes almost inclined, that this most glorious poet, as he certainly was, had an intent to burlesque the superstitious faith of his own age and country. But I have rested too long on a doctrine which can be of no use to a Christian writer; for as he cannot introduce into his works any of that heavenly host which make a part of his creed, so is it horrid puerility to search the heathen theology for any of those deities who have been long since dethroned from their immortality. Lord Shaftesbury observes, that nothing is more cold than the invocation of a Muse by a modern: he might have added, that nothing can be more absurd. A modern may, with much more elegance, invoke a ballad, as some have thought Homer did, or a mug of ale, with the author of Hudibras; which latter may perhaps have inspired much more poetry, as well as prose, than all the liquors of Hippocrene or Helicon. The only supernatural agents which can in any manner be allowed to us moderns, are ghosts; but of these I would advise an author to be extremely sparing. These are indeed, like arsenic, and other dangerous drugs in physic, to be used with the utmost caution: nor would I advise the introduction of them at all in those works, or by those authors, to which, or to whom, a horse-laugh in the reader would be any great prejudice or mortification. As for elves and fairies, and other such mummery, I purposely omit the mention of them, as I should be very unwilling to confine within any bounds those surprising imaginations, for whose vast capacity the limits of human nature are too narrow; whose works are to be considered as a new creation; and who have, consequently, just right to do what they will with their own. Man, therefore, is the highest subject, unless on very extraordinary occasions indeed, which presents itself to the pen of our historian, or of our poet; and, in relating his actions, great care is to be taken that we do not exceed the capacity of the agent we describe. Nor is possibility alone sufficient to justify us; we must keep likewise within the rules of probability. It is, I think, the opinion of Aristotle; or, if not, it is the opinion of some