Page images
PDF
EPUB
[blocks in formation]

THE STORJI.

Now Jim was dying fast, and he What do they hunt to-night, the Took to the workhouse his old bones; hounds of the wind?

To earn some water, bread and sleep. I think it is joy they hunt, for joy has They made that dying man break fied from my heart.

stones. I only remember the hours when I sorrowed or sinned,

He swooned upon his heavy task; I only remember the hours when I They carried him to a black coach, stood apart

And tearless strangers took him outLonely and tired, in difficult dreams of corpse! at the infirmary porch.

entranced, And I forget the days when I loved. Since Jesus came with mercy and and laughed and danced.

love,

'Tis nineteen hundred years and five; Gray hounds of the wind I hear your They made that dying man break wistful cry,

stones, The cry of unsatisfied hearts hungry In faith that Christ is still alive. for happiness,

William H. Davier.

HENRY FIELDING AND HIS WRITINGS.

Some years ago the late Dr. Traill, in horse, to the land where all things are one of his witty dialogues written after forgotten. Lucian's manner, represented Samuel Whether that History of a foundling Richardson as inflamed with jealousy would continue to exist if nobody read because posterity had raised a statue to it, let metaphysicians decide. Dr. Henry Fielding and left him without Traill's statement, Sweeping as it is, one. Whereupon Fielding offered the must not be taken literally. Fielding satirical consolation that in one particu- still has readers, still has admirers. lar at least they had been treated im- But Dr. Traill, who was an excellent partially-for that posterity did not read judge of such matters, clearly thought the works of either of them.

tbat their number was not very exThis statement, whatever we may tensive, and I venture to believe that think of its probability, is scarcely sus he was right. If that were not the case, ceptible of proof. Publishers occasion if I supposed that all the readers of ally assure us that such and such an this Revieur knew as much of Henry author is “the favorite reading" of such Fielding and his works as they desire and such a great personage; the novels to know, I would hold my hand; but it of Gaboriau, for instance, have been de- is because I surmise the contrary that scribed as “the favorite reading of I have dared to string together some Prince Bismarck." The Waverley nov- random thoughts about the man and els accompanied Napoleon on his cam- his writings, now that the bi-centenary paigns, and Charles II. took especial de- of his birth approaches. Even so might light in Audibras. I have not discov- a Lilliputian who had made a study of ered that any person of note has ad- Gulliver during many nights and days mitted the works of Henry Fielding to discourse of the Man-Mountain to other the first place in his regard-Horace Lilliputians, whose avocations had deWalpole actually says he found them barred them from so close a scrutiny. stupid and vulgar-but I do know that For, whatever else we may think of a British admiral who came home from Fielding, he is admittedly among the his last cruise about 18.30 always made Titans; and as to the comparative negTom Jones a part of his sea library. lect which has overtaken him, it may These attested facts do not, of course, be partially explained by the fairly materially help us to gauge the taste of common feeling that the first half of *the great variety of readers." But as the eighteenth century, of which he the majority of them are usually cred- wrote, is an especially ignoble period in ited with a good appetite for fiction, it our annals. Yet it may be of service to would certainly be strange if Henry cast a backward glance at that noisy, Fielding, whom Sir Walter deemed robustious age, when our rude fore. the father of the English novel, were, fathers were (it appears) so very differin the multitude of his descendants, left ent from their polite descendants. stranded high and dry; if Tom Jones. There is little doubt that the most "that exquisite picture of human man striking instance of that contrast in ners," as Gibbon called it, so far from anners is to be found in the person outliving "the Palace of the Escurial of Squire Western, Tory, fox-hunter, and the Imperial Eagle of Austria,” and preserver of the game. Bred at were to pass, along with the hobby. the University, he talked the broad dialect of Somersetshire, cursed and swore not forget that his neighbor, Mr. Alland used foul language in the presence worthy, was in every respect his exact of his womenkind on any provocation, opposite. Allworthy, however, filled was a cruel tyrant to his daughter So- bis house (as did Ralph Allen, his origphia (whom at the same time he idol- inal) with educated men, so as to be inized) and got drunk every day of his dependent of the society of his fellowlife. What is worse, he constantly vil- squires-I had almost said, in Allified his late wife, an unhappy and in- worthy's case, with educated scounoffensive lady, in Sophia's hearing; to drels. no purpose, be it said, for Sophia loved But that “if" of Trollope's, though it and reverenced her mother's memory, may not have "much virtue," has at and could never be brought to assent least much suggestiveness. As to West. to his abuse. In this one particular he ern, Fielding is borne out by the eviwas, we may hope, rather worse than dence of his great contemporary, John bis neighbors, but in his other character. Wesley, who tells how at Newcastle istics Fielding would have us take him he “met a gentleman in the streets for an average specimen of his class. cursing and swearing in so dreadful a Thus the language with which he "be- manner that I could not but stop him." spattered" Jones on one occasion is de- Wesley managed to appease the gentlescribed as of that kind “which passes man, who said he would come and bear between country gentlemen who em him preach, "only he was afraid I brace opposite sides of the question," should say something against fighting ard included a certain invitation of cocks." 3 At Bradford-on-Avon, too, "which is generally introduced into all which is on the border of Squire Westcontroversies that arise among the ern's county, Wesley's discourse was inlower orders of the English gentry at terrupted “especially by one, called a horse-races, cock-matches, and other gentleman, who had filled his pockets public places." i Well might Anthony with rotten eggs; but a young man comTrollope exclaim, in describing a coun- ing unawares clapped his hands on each try gentleman of the mid-nineteenth side, and smashed them all at once. In century, that if Western was a true an instant," the entry concludes with representative of the race of squires, pardonable humor, "he was perfumed that race had made marvellous progress all over, though it was so sweet as in improvement in a hundred years.balsam." * Western's truth to nature, At the same time, he would be a bold then, I do not think that we need quesman who would take upon himself to tion; but the doubt which lurked in assert that there cannot be found to Trollope's mind crops up unbidden in day in that position any man as vio other connections, as one turns the lent, as brutal, and as drunken as West- pages of Tom Jones or of Amelia. Is ern; but the difference is, that such a there indeed (or was there then) such a man is now exceptional. He is preponderance in the mass of mankind frowned upon by his class, probably re- of meanness over generosity, of hyduced to a minority of one, and forced pocrisy over candor, of callousness over to fall back on the company of infe- humanity? Were women in general so riors, who drink with him and are bis careless of their honor, and men in gentoadies, but laugh at him behind his eral so ready to betray it? Were the back. Western, on the other hand, set manners and customs of eighteenththe tone in his country. Yet we must century England really so corrupted ? 1. Tom Jones," Book II., ch. ix.

Wesler's " Journal," January, 1743. 2. Barchester Towers," c. xxii.

+ Wesley's Journal." September 191 h. 1769.

In a word, has Henry Fielding drawn it does not do to overlook (if I may his picture with impartiality, or are we borrow an astronomical phrase) the perto allow for any bias due to the bent sonal equation. of his mind, to the sort of life he had Let us recall for a moment the cirled, or to that excessive employment of cumstances of his early manhood. Macontrast which perhaps no imaginative caulay, in a famous and justly admired writer, however great, has been able passage, has drawn a brilliant picture wholly to avoid ?

of the denizens of Grub Street in the One who promises to be an avid reader, first half of the eighteenth century, and upon whose eyes the wide and when Samuel Johnson joined their noble prospect of English literature has ranks; how they were "sometimes blazjust begun to dawn, said lately in mying in gold-laced hats and waistcoats; hearing that he did not want to know sometimes lying in bed because their anything about the lives or characters coats had gone to pieces, or wearing of authors, for such knowledge would paper cravats because their linen was tend to destroy the illusion created by in pawn; sometimes drinking chamtheir works. There is something to be pagne and tokay with Betty Careless; said for this view--if we are satisfied sometimes standing at the window of to rest in an illusion. But if we would an eating-house in Porridge Island, to see further into the matter, if we would snuff up the scent of what they could be assured how far the illusion is just not afford to taste," with much more we cannot afford to remain ignorant to the same effect, which is too well of the circumstances and temperament known to need repetition. This was of its creator. No man or writer can be the company in which Fielding found wholly impersonal. Shakespeare gets himself thrown at the age of twenty. very near it; he, of all writers, seems Practically without resources except most aloof from any bias due to dis- those afforded by a good education, good position or surroundings; his detach- health, and abundant animal spirits, he ment is Olympian. Yet even in his had, as he said afterwards, to choose be. works the voice of intimate personal tween turning hackney writer or hackexperience is occasionally heard. Were ney coachman. The choice was soon it otherwise, we should hardly think made. He determined to follow in the him human. But such aloofness as his footsteps of Dryden, and to challenge is extremely rare. We do not find it, fortune as a writer for the stage. He for instance, in Burns or Shelley, in met with a fair measure of success at Thackeray or Sterne. And hence it is once, and managed to rub along in this that two or more writers will survey fashion for a dozen years. His plays the features of their age, and will por served their purpose, and he was probtray them very variously. They look ably quite aware that they had, for at them through different glasses. the most part, only an ephemeral value. Three eighteenth-century novelists, He saw a great deal of the seamy side Fielding, Sterne, and Goldsmith-a real- of life, so much of it, indeed, that he ist, a sentimentalist, and an idealist, if ipclined to take a poor opinion of hua rough classification may be haz manity. He rubbed shoulders with arded-have recorded their impressions those noisy comrades described by Lord of their times, which impressions, as Macaulay, perhaps with Savage, for in every one is aware, are various and individual. Fielding was a more exact Essay on Crocker's Edition of "Boswell's observer than the other two, and their

Life of Johnson."

6 Letter of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu to superior in talent; but even in his case the Countess of Bute, June 23rd, 1754.

stance, whose act of bloodshed in an in any particular actions of his hero unlucky broil may have suggested the he has registered or pilloried his own. similar misfortune which befell Tom In Fielding's picture of Horatio there Jones. But we need not suppose he had is, it seems to me, a touch which it no better society, though Boswell says is very important to remark. Horatio he never kept any polite company in "had wit and humor, with an inclinahis life. His friendship with Lyttle- tion to satire which he indulged rather ton, for instance, which began at Eton too much." » This is an exact descriplasted till the end, and his family con- tion of one aspect of our author's gennections must socially have stood him in ius. The wit and humor will be acsome stead. In the main, however, we knowledged at once by anyone who may suppose that the majority of his has made acquaintance with Parson intimates-and he was the most so- Adams or with Partridge, figures in the ciable of men-were occupied with very front rank of humorous portrayal. much the same pursuits as himself. The inclination to satire is only less apTheir moral standard, even after mak- parent than the wit and humor. It is ing allowances for Macaulay's rhetoric, explicitly the driving-power of Jonawas not a high one, and Fielding now than Wild and Joseph Andreus, implicitly where pretends to have been any bet- of Tom Jones and Amelia. And Horatio ter than his fellows. It is hardly too indulged it rather too much. That is :1 much to suppose that the confession to statement of considerable moment. Minos of the narrator of A Journey from The would-be satirist looks round this World to the Vert is Fielding's own. upon the society which he knows, and The narrator admits that he had been sees it full of imperfections. These, in far from strait-laced in his youth, “but the interests of virtue, he makes it his had never done an injury to any man business to expose. His task is not in living, nor avoided an opportunity of pleasant one, any more than the scardoing good."There is also an explicit (nger's, but insensibly he grows to like statement in Amelia which puts the it. His gaze is fixed so constantly matter beyond a doubt.

upon the blemishes and blots of huIt is generally agreed that we may manity that he is in danger of becomlook for autobiographical touches in the ing unable to see anything else. He inpersons of Tom Jones, Captain Booth, dulges his inclination to satire rather too Horatio, and Mr. Wilson. Lady Mary much. Wortley Montagu, Fielding's second This propensity Fielding did not altocousin, bluntly identifies him with gether escape. The social conditions Booth. “I wonder," she adds, refer- amid which he lived while connected ring to Jones and Booth, "he does not with the theatre are reflected and inperceive them to be sorry scoundrels." tensified in his plays, and their operaTo this description of these gentlemen tion is not limited to the purlieus of I must return a little later. As to the Covent Garden, but extended, not alidentification, it is to be accepted with ways fairly, to other strata of society. the reserve that while in the general He has eyes, at this period of his caoutline of character Booth may stand reer, for imperfections only. Virtue, foi a likeness of Henry Fielding, it is epshrined in her remote fane, is for the unfair and unnecessary to suppose that time forgotten. Satire, unchecked by

her frown, runs into exaggeration and ?" A Journey from this world to the Next,” degenerates into indecency. The very ch, vii.

stones of Grub Street cry out against * Letter to the Countess of Bute, above quoted.

" Joseph Andrews," Book II., ch. iv.

« PreviousContinue »