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graphically descriptive of the country in which it was written, and in which the scene is laid, yet the great interest with which it is read, wherever our language is understood, would seem to confute the observation so often made, that none but an Englishman can fully relish the beauties of Fielding. The great popularity of that work in this country, inay be accounted for, perhaps, by our Auglo-Saxon origin; but many of us who have never been in the land of our fathers, in perusing the charming pages of Joseph Andrews, seem insensibly transported to its towns, hamlets, vallies, mountains, and, for the time, feel entirely at home. Its scenery, its characters, the very pebbles along the road side, are all English, and where but in England, in the person of a protestant clergyman, can the original of Parson Adams be found. Where else, amidst poverty and sickness, can be seen at once, the purity and benevolence, the eccentricity, the learning, dogmatism, child-like simplicity, and fearless courage of this kind-hearted curate? This tale has also the charm of being comparatively exempt from that grossness and indelicacy, which has left so strong a taint on the history of a Foundling, certainly a more distinguished effort of Fielding, and equally marked by an adherence in its characters, scenery, incidents, and we might almost say, plot, to the peculiarities of his own country. We would not, if we could, extenuate the indecency and licentiousness of too many passages, both in the incidents and dialogue of Tom Jones, which disfigure this otherwise beautiful, interesting, and we may add, instructive fiction. It is just, however, to Fielding, that the fact should be stated, that if the drama holds the “mirror up to nature, by showing the body and pressure of the times,” these violations of decency, had their justification in a prevalent contemporary license in conversation at least, if not in morals, which would be highly revolting to the taste of the age in which we live.
We confess, however, we are not among those who assign any very extraordinary important, to what is called the moral of a Novel-We believe, that in the most licentious Novel, there is always a redeeming virtue in some of the characters, which restores the balance, and we have never yet met with a fictitious narrative, in which the canons of poetical justice were entirely violated, in which villainy and vice are made ultimately triumphant, without a shadow of repentance or restitution. A writer of Novels, on the plan upon which Fielding conceived and executed his fictions, had to take human nature as he found it, because he saw with an unclouded vision, into the deepest recesses of the human heart. He migbt, it is true, have made Tom Jones a Simon Pure, but after all, “the faultless mon
ster,” would not have been the natural product of that soil, in which the generous Foundling grew in all the luxuriance of his virtues and his vices. The question presented for the test of the judgment, is what sort of character, under the adverse destiny of Jones' birth, exposed to the temptations which beset his early life, is likely to be developed, and whether Fielding bas given us a just picture of the consequences of such a destiny, in the traits and fortunes of his hero. We think he has, with a fidelity to nature, that is almost without a parallel. It may be said, and we shall not stop to examine the justice of the opinion, that it would be better, if characters, presenting such variegated lustre, their very vices rendered attractive by the splendour of the virtues that surround them, were never drawn forth, even from real life, to dazzle and fascinate in the seductive forms of fictitious representation-an opinion, however, which if carried out to its ultimate consequences, would forbid the diama to give us any more than half the man, and would render an expurgated edition of the history of the world, necessary to satisfy the scruples of a too fastidious morality. A very slight survey of human life will satisfy us, that the exhibition of vice, is whatsAristotle thought it, the best means of purifying us from it; and although the vicious pleasures which form the reproach of Jones' youth, are related with a censurable piquancy by Fielding, yet are they not followed by their natural consequences, disgraceful embarrassment, and complicated distress? And from the whole context and sequel of the tale, does it seem anything more than fair poetical justice, that his charity, benevolence, generosity, and let us add, christian forgiveness of injuries should be rewarded, by happiness—the possession of Sophia Western, and the blessings of Allworthy ? Fielding has, moreover, made the world an ample compensation for the perilous fascination which he has thrown around the vices of his hero, by the odious light in wbich he has presented those of Blifil, a character to the shame of human nature, be it spoken) of more probable and frequent occurrence, than that of the Foundling, and one against which the human heart should be not the less fortified. Hypocrisy, avarice, malice, and the most despicable meanness, have never been more instructively delineated, or with a bigher moral justice brought to detection, discomfiture, and punishment. But if this contrast is not enough to vindicate the final moral of the “ History of a Foundling," surely it may be seen in the beautiful combination of the benevolent virtues that shine with such mild and steady lustre in the character of Allworthy, VOL. IV.NO. 8.
the lights of which are managed with such inimitable skill, that his alınost superhuman kindness and charity, seem placed within the compass of our emulation and practice. It is in this way that Fielding, by a thousand examples of human worth, atones for holding out a dangerous temptation, and in the long run, in his fictions, gives a decided preponderance to the side of virtue. It is consoling to the pride of human nature, that he should bave found the prototype of Allworthy, in the amiable and philanthrophic individual, on whom Pope bas conferred the immortality of his verse in the well remembered lines,
Let hunible Allen with an awkward shame
Do good by stealth and blush to call it fame. Nor is it less a subject of sympathy and interest, that the beautiful wife of poor Fielding, should have sat for the likeness of the charming Sophia Western, however much the affection of the husband might have heightened the colouring of the painter.
Independently of the fidelity of the pictures of Fielding, not only to English manners, but to truth and nature, there is nothing which characterizes him more, than the fascinating simplicity with which his finest touches, both of wisdom and pathos, are executed apparently without an effort, and although it is not our business or purpose to review Fielding's works we are templed, in confirmation of our remarks, to enrich our pages with two examples, the first of his fidelity to nature, and the second, of the ease and simplicity with which matters of the greatest wisdom and reflection are discussed. In the interview between Nightingale and Mrs. Miller, who come to obtain, if possible, Allworthy's forgiveness of his nephew, the narrative tells us :
“ That here Nightingale was going to cease, when Mrs. Miller again begged him to relate all the many dutiful expressions he had heard bim (Jones) make use of towards Mr. Allworthy. To say the utmost good of Mr. Allworthy (cries Nightingale) is doing no more than strict justice, and can have po merit in it; but indeed, I must say, no man can be more sensible of the obligations he hath to so good a man than is poor
Jones. Indeed, sir, I am convinced, the weight of your displeasure is the heaviest burden he lies under. He hath often lamented it to me, and hath as often protested in the most solemn manner, he hath never been intentionally guilty of any offence towards you; nay, he hath sworn, that he would rather die a thousand deaths, than he would have his conscience upbraid him with one disrespectful, ungrateful, or undutiful thought towards you. But I ask pardon, sir, I am afraid I presume, to intermeddle too far in so tender a point."
“ You have spoken no more than a Christian ought, (cries Mrs: Miller.)
Indeed, Mr. Nightingale, (answered Allworthy) I applaud your generous friendship, and wish he may merit it of you. I confess I am gled to hear the report you bring from this unfortunate gentleman, and if this matter should turn out as you represent it, (and indeed I doubt nothing of what you sav) I may, perhaps, in time, be brought to think beiter than lately I have of this young man; for this good gentlewoman here, nay, all who know me, can witness that I loved him as dearly as if he had been my own son. Indeed, I have considered him as a child sent by fortune to my care. I still remember the innocent, the heipless situation in which I found him. I feel the tender pressure of his little hands this moment."
In the whole range of our reading, we know not where to find anything which so exquisitely echoes the very breathings of nature. What breast that has ever known a parent's love, can contemplate without emotion, the touching picture of infant helplessness and affection, which induce Allworthy still “ to feel the tender pressure of his little hands,” or who can fail to recognize, what a master of the human heart Fielding was, and what an affectionate one he must have carried in his own bosom? That a man, thus gifted with the tenderest and most ennobling sensibilities (of which we have authentic evidence than his fictions afford,) should have tasted in their bitterest forms, both degradation and sorrow, and have sunk to such a depth, as to have formed the principal figure in one of the cold-blooded, yet lively pictures of low life, sketched without one jot of sympathy or compassion, by the heartless Horace Walpole, is a subject at once of inexpressible astonishment and pain. Shall we speak in more tenderness " of the fears of the brave, and of the follies of the wise,” than of the moral infirmities of the virtuous? We would fain hope not—we wish, at least, not to belong to that school, in which a kind, generous and feeling heart will not plead something even in the midst of its failings.
The last example which we shall offer of the ease and simplicity of bis style, and the depth of his reflections, is not the less curious as furnishing a very singular contrast between the theory and practice of poor Fielding, between the wisdom of his reflections and the imprudence of his conduct—he says:
“ And here, in defiance of all the barking critics in the world, I must and will introduce a digression concerning true wisdom, of which Mr. Allworthy was in reality as great a pattern as he was of goodness.
" True wisdom, then, notwithstanding all which Mr. Hogarth's poor poet may have writ against riches, and in spite of all which any rich,
well-fed divine may have preached against pleasure, consists not in the contempt of either of them. A man may have as much wisdom in the possession of an affluent fortune, as any beggar in the streets; or may enjoy a handsome wife, or a hearty friend, and still remain as wise as any sour popish recluse, who buries all his social faculties, and starves his belly while he lashes bis back. To say the truth, the wisest man is likeliest to possess all worldly blessings in an eminent degree; for, as that moderation which wisdom prescribes, is the surest way to useful wealth, so can it alone qualify us to taste many pleasures. The wise man gratifies every appetite, and every passion, while the fool sacrifices all the rest to pall and satiate one. It may be objected, that very wise men have been notoriously avaricious. I
I answer, not wise in that iustance. It may, likewise, be said, that the wisest men have been in their youth, immoderately fond of pleasure. I answer, they were not wise then. Wisdom, in short, whose lessons have been represented as so hard to learn, by those who never were at her school, only teaches us to extend a simple maxim, universally known and followed, even in the lowest life, a little farther than that life carries it, and this is, not to buy at too dear a price. Now, whoever takes this maxim abroad with him, into the grand market of the world, and constantly applies it to honours, to riches, to pleasures, and to every other commodity which that market affords, is, I will venture to affirm, a wise man, and must be so acknowledged in the worldly sense of the word; for he makes the best of bargains, since in reality, he purchases everything at the price, only of a little trouble, and carries home all the good things I have mentioned, while he keeps bis health, his innocence and his reputation, the common prices which are paid for them by others, entire and to himself. From this moderation likewise, he learns two other lessons, which complete his character. First, never to be intoxicated when he hath made the best bargain, nor dejected when the market is empty, or when its commodities are too dear for his purchase.”
At what price Fielding purchased his pleasures, we need not remind the reader-more especially him who is fully sensible how much the stock of his own amusement has been augmented by the wit, pathos, humour, taste and wisdom, of this original and emphatically English Novelist, whose genius gave a new impulse and direction to the fictions of his own country, and extended their celebrity abroad.
Differing essentially from Fielding in the characteristics both of his own genius and the plan and execution of his Novels, Richardson must, nevertheless, be classed among the strictly national Novelists of England, as his scenes, incidents, and characters, are essentially English.
This writer, undoubtedly, deserved the distinction, which Dr. Johnson conferred on him, as one who had “enlarged the knowledge of human nature, and taught the passions to move at the command of virtue,” as well as that of being one of the earlier