« AnteriorContinuar »
Peter Puünce's Dialogue with Parson Adams. .
THERE was once in great vogue a book called Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded, the object of which was to show how a servant-maid might be very virtuous, in the heavenly sense of the word, and very prosperous, in the worldly; a combination which, in the author's opinion, was effected by making her resist all the efforts of a vicious master to ruin her, and then accept his hand in marriage when he found he could obtain her in no other way. Society is so much advanced in reflection since the writing of that book, that a moral so bad would now meet with contempt from critics of all classes, even though recommended by as rare and affecting a genius as his who taught it, and who was no less a person than Samuel Richardson, author of Clarissa Harlowe. With much that is admirable and noble, there is a great deal of false morality even in Clarissa; a dangerous exaltation of the formal, and literal, and self-worshipping, above the heartier dictates of prudence itself. But the moral in Pamela (with leave of a great name, be it said), was a pure vulgar mistake. The master was a scoundrel to whom an honest girl ought not to have been given in marriage at all; and the heroine was a prig and a schemer, with no real respect for the virtues she professed, otherwise she would not have jumped at the first “ honorable" offer from one who had done all he could to destroy her.
The healthier genius of Fielding saw the folly of these ethics; and, seasoning his wish to counteract them with a spice of no ill-natured malice against the author (who was in the habit of making another
vulgar mistake, and applying that epithet to all who wrote of humble life not in his own manner, particularly Fielding himself ), produced the exquisite novel of Joseph Andrews. In this, not his greatest, but in our opinion most delightful work, he has contrived, with a most unexpected, successful, and (to Richardson, we fear) most provoking admission of the value of his moral when put into right action, to make Joseph Andrews Pamela's own brother, both in blood and virtue; to maintain his manly character nevertheless, in spite of conventional jests and prejudices; and, at the same time, to show how little of her pretended purity and humility was in the sister, who in admirable keeping with the spirit of her matrimonial virtue, objects to her brother's marrying a girl in her own former condition of society, because it was lowering the family which her “dear Mr. B.” had “raised.” As a pleasant instance of Fielding's quickness and vivacity in small matters as well as great, this “ Mr. B." of Richardson (for his name never appears in that author except as an initial) is assumed by Fielding to have been a Mr. “Booby.” Mr. Booby's fine town-lady aunt, Lady B., thus becomes Lady Booby. She and her nephew enable us to see, that people of no real heart and goodness, whatever be their rank, riches, or gaiety, may deserve the appellation of fool, as well as humbler or more solemn pretenders; and this is one of the many instances, we think, in which an exception should be made in favor of those characteristical names of persons in works of fiction, to which critics make wholesale objection. Names of the kind often occur in real life, sometimes with ludicrous propriety; and if similar ones could be taken away from the novels in which we have been used to them, people would reasonably miss the Boobies palmed upon Richardson, the Pickles and Bowlings of Smollett, the Snakes and Sir Anthony Absolutes of Sheridan, and the Marplots and Aimwells of Cente livre and Farquhar. We confess we should be loth to lose even the Dryasdusts of Sir Walter, excessive as they may appear. Fortune herself, (not to say Nature) seems to take pleasure in these whims of cognomination. Who has not met with stout gentlemen of the name of Onslow and Heaviside ; lively Miss Quicks, and langaishing Mrs. Sweets ?
Joseph Andrews is a footman who marries a maid-servant. They are excellent persons, and have a delicious friend in Mr. Abraham Adams, a country curate, who prefers his Æschylus to everything but his duty. He is one of the simplest but at the same time manliest
of men; is anxious to read a man of the world his sermon on ity;" preaches patience under affliction, and is ready to lose his senses on the death of his little boy; in short, has “every virtue under heaven,” except that of superiority to the common failings of humanity, or of being able to resist knocking a rascal down when he insults the innocent. He is very poor; and, agreeably to the notions of refinement in those days, is treated by the rich as if he were little better than a servant himself. Even their stewards think it a condescension to treat him on equal terms. In the following scene, which is one of the most exquisite in all novel-writing, the reader experiences a delightful triumph in seeing how a vulgar upstart of this class is led to betray his baseness while he thinks he is most exalting himselfAdams, on the other hand, rising and becoming glorious out of the depths of his humble honesty. The picture gives you such a vivid idea of the two men, that not having read it for some years, we had fancied, in the interval, that when Pounce throws the curate's hat after him out of the window, Fielding had represented Adams as clapping it triumphantly on his head, and snapping his fingers at him. But this is the way with fine writers. In suggesting more than they say, they write more than they do.
PETER POUNCE, being desirous of having some one to
whom he might communicate his grandeur, told the parson he would convey him home in his chariot. This favor was, by Adams, with many bows and acknowledgments, accepted, though he afterwards said he ascended the chariot rather that he might not offend, than from any desire of riding in it, for that in his heart he preferred the pedestrian even to the vehicular expedition.
The chariot had not proceeded far before Mr Adams observed it was a very
“ Aye, and a very fine country, too,” answered Pounce.
“ I should think so more," returned Adams,“ if I had not lately travelled over the Downs, which I take to exceed this, and all other prospects in the universe."
"A fig for prospects," answered Pounce; "one acre here is worth ten there ; for my part, I have no delight in the prospect of
land but my own." “Sir," said Adams, "you can indulge yourself in many fine prospects of that kind."
“I thank God I have a little," replied the other," with which I am content, and envy no man. I have a little, Mr. Adams, with which I do as much good as I can."
Adams answered, “That riches, without charity, were nothing worth ; for that they were a blessing only to him who made them a blessing to others."
“ You and I," said Peter," have different notions of charity. I own, as it is generally used, I do not like the word, nor do I think it becomes one of us gentlemen ; it is a mean, parson-like quality; though I would not infer that many parsons have it neither.”
Sir," said Adams,“ my definition of charity is a generous disposition to relieve the distressed."
“ There is something in that definition," answered Peter, 6 which I like well enough; it is, as you say, a dispositionand does not so much consist in the act as in the disposition to do it; but, alas ! Mr. Adams, who are meant by the distressed ? believe me, the distresses of mankind are mostly imaginary, and it would be rather folly than goodness to relieve them.”
“Sure, sir," replied Adams, “ hunger and thirst, cold and nakedness, and other distresses which attend the poor, can never be said to be imaginary evils."
“ How can any man complain of hunger," said Pounce, “in a country where such excellent salads are to be gathered almost in every field ?-or of thirst, where every stream and river produce such delicious potations ?—and as for cold and nakedness, they are evils introduced by luxury and custom.
A man naturally wants clothes no more than a horse or any other animal; and there are whole nations who go
without them. But these are things, perhaps, which you, who do not know the world
“ You will pardon me, sir," returned Adams; “ I have read of the Gymnosophists.”
" A plague of your Jehosaphats," cried Peter; "the greatest fault in our constitution is the provision made for the poor, except that perhaps made for some others. Sir, I have not an estate which doth not contribute almost as much again to the poor as to the land-tax; and I do assure you I expect myself to come to the parish in the end."
To which Adams giving a dissenting smile, Peter thus proceeded " I fancy, Mr. Adams, you are one of those who imagine I am a lump of money; for there are many who I fancy believe that not only my pockets, but my whole clothes, are lined with bank bills; but, I assure you, you are all mistaken; I am not the man the world esteems me. hold my head above water, it is all I can. I have injured myself by purchasing; I have been too liberal of my money. Indeed I fear my heir will find my affairs in a worse situa tion than they are reputed to be. Ah ! he will have reason to wish I had loved money more and land less. Pray, my good neighbor, where should I have that quantity of money the world is so liberal to bestow on me? Where could I possibly, without I had stole it, acquire such a treasure ?"
“Why truly," said Adams, "I have been always of your opinion; I have wondered, as well as yourself, with what con fidence they could report such things of you, which bave te me appeared as mere impossibilities; for you know, sir, and I have often heard you say it, that your wealth is of your own Acquisition; and can it be credible that in your short time vou should have amassed such a heap of treasure as these
If I can