« السابقةمتابعة »
seeing him clench his fist, interposed, and begged him not to fight, but show himself a true Christian, and take the law of him. As nothing could provoke Adams to strike but an absolute assault on himself or his friend, he smiled at the angry look and gestures of Trulliber, and, telling him he was sorry to see such men in orders, departed without further ceremony.
THE HISTORY OF TOM JONES, A FOUNDLING
[Each of the eighteen Books of Tom Jones is opened with an introductory chapter, sometimes an informal digression, sometimes a formal critical essay, giving, like the Preface to Joseph Andrews, important views of the novelist's conception of his art. The following extracts include the introductory chapters of Books I, X, and XIII, together with an episode from Book XVI, chapter v.]
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 offense to their customers by any such disappointment, it hath been usual, with the honest and well-meaning 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 victualers, 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 and the ensuing volumes.
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 calibash 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 dressed,
The same animal which hath the honor 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 gibbeted, 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 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 forever, as the great person just above mentioned is supposed to have made some persons eat.
CONTAINING INSTRUCTIONS VERY NECESSARY TO BE PERUSED BY MODERN CRITICS
Reader, it is impossible we should know what sort of person thou wilt be: for perhaps thou mayst be as learned in human nature as Shakespeare himself was, and perhaps thou mayst be no wiser than some of his editors. Now lest this latter should be the case, we think proper, before we go any farther together, to give thee a few wholesome admonitions, that thou mayst not as grossly misunderstand and misrepresent us, as some of the said editors have misunderstood and misrepresented their author.
First, then, we warn thee not too hastily to condemn any of the incidents in this our history as impertinent and foreign to our main design, because thou dost not immediately conceive in what manner such incident may conduce to that design. This work may, indeed, be considered as a great creation of our own; and for a little reptile of a critic to presume to find fault with any of its parts, without knowing the manner in which the whole is connected, and before he comes to the final catastrophe,
is a most presumptuous absurdity. The allusion and metaphor we have here made use of, we must acknowledge to be infinitely too great for our occasion, but there is indeed no other which is at all adequate to express the difference between an author of the first rate and a critic of the lowest.
Another caution we would give thee, my good reptile, is that thou dost not find out too near a resemblance between certain characters here introduced; as for instance, between the landlady who appears in the seventh book, and her in the ninth. Thou art to know, friend, that there are certain characteristics in which most individuals of every profession and occupation agree. To be able to preserve these characteristics, and at the same time to diversify their operations, is one talent of a good writer. Again, to mark the nice distinction between two persons actuated by the same vice or folly is another; and as this last talent is found in very few writers, so is the true discernment of it found in as few readers, though I believe the observation of this forms a very principal pleasure in those who are capable of the discovery. Every person, for instance, can distinguish between Sir Epicure Mammon and Sir Fopling Flutter;1 but to note the difference between Sir Fopling Flutter and Sir Courtly Nice' requires a most exquisite judgment; for want of which, vulgar spectators of plays very often do great injustice in the theatre, where I have sometimes known a poet in danger of being convicted as a thief, upon much worse evidence than the resemblance of hands hath been held to be in the law. In reality, I apprehend every amorous widow on the stage would run the hazard of being condemned as a servile imitation of Dido, but that happily very few of our playhouse critics understand enough of Latin to read Virgil.
In the next place, we must admonish thee, my worthy friend (for perhaps thy heart may be better than thy head), not to condemn a character as a bad one, because it is not perfectly a good one. If thou dost delight in these models of perfection, there are books enow written to gratify thy taste; but as we have not, in the course of our conversation, ever happened to meet with any such person, we have not chosen to introduce any such here. To say the truth, I as little question whether
1 In Jonson's Alchemist and Etherege's Man of Mode.
mere man ever arrived at this consummate degree of excellence, as well as whether there hath ever existed a monster bad enough to verify that
— nulla virtute redemptum vitiis1
in Juvenal. Nor do I, indeed, conceive the good purposes served by inserting characters of such angelic perfection or such diabolical depravity, in any work of invention: since from contemplating either, the mind of man is more likely to be overwhelmed with sorrow and shame, than to draw any good uses from such patterns. For in the former instance he may be both concerned and ashamed to see a pattern of excellence, in his nature, which he may reasonably despair of ever arriving at; and in contemplating the latter, he may be no less affected with those uneasy sensations, at seeing the nature of which he is a partaker degraded into so odious and detestable a creature.
In fact, if there be enough of goodness in a character to engage the admiration and affection of a well-disposed mind, though there should appear some of those little blemishes, quas humana parum cavit natura,2 they will raise our compassion rather than our abhorrence. Indeed nothing can be of more moral use than the imperfections which are seen in examples of this kind, since such form a kind of surprise, more apt to affect and dwell upon our minds, than the faults of very vicious and wicked persons. The foibles and vices of men in whom there is great mixture of good, become more glaring objects, from the virtues which contrast them and show their deformity; and when we find such vices attended with their evil consequence to our favorite characters, we are not only taught to shun them for our own sake, but to hate them for the mischiefs they have already brought on those we love.
Come, bright love of fame, inspire my glowing breast: not thee I call, who, over swelling tides of blood and tears, dost bear the hero on to glory, while sighs of millions waft his spreading sails; but thee, fair, gentle maid, whom Mnesis, happy nymph, first on the banks of Hebrus didst produce. Thee whom Ma
1 "Redeemed from vice by not a single virtue."