Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. IV. Eighteenth Century
Partridge on Valour
By Henry Fielding (17071754)
From Tom Jones
AS Partridge was inhibited from that topic which would have first suggested itself, he fell upon that which was next uppermost in his mind, namely, the Man of the Hill. Certainly, sir, says he, that could never be a man, who dresses himself and lives after such a strange manner, and so unlike other folks. Besides, his diet as the old woman told me, is chiefly upon herbs, which is a fitter food for a horse than a Christian; nay, landlord at Upton says the neighbours thereabouts have very fearful notions about him. It runs strangely in my head that it must have been some spirit, who perhaps might be sent to forewarn us; and who knows but all that matter which he told us, of his going to fight, and of his being taken prisoner, and of the great danger he was in of being hanged, might be intended as a warning to us, considering what we are going about? Besides, I dreamt of nothing all last night but of fighting; and methought the blood ran out of my nose as liquor out of a tap. Indeed, sir, infandum, regina, jubes renovare dolorem.
Thy story, Partridge, answered Jones, is almost as ill-applied as thy Latin. Nothing can be more likely to happen than death to men who go into battle. Perhaps we shall both fall in itand what then?What then? replied Partridge, why then there is an end of us, is there not? When I am gone, all is over with me. What matters the cause to me, or who gets the victory, if I am killed? I shall never enjoy any advantage from it. What are all the ringing of bells, and bonfires to one that is six foot under ground? there will be an end of poor Partridge.And an end of poor Partridge, cries Jones, there must be one time or other. If you love Latin I will repeat you some fine lines out of Horace, which would inspire courage into a coward.
Thats very certain, cries Partridge. Ay, sure, Mors omnibus communis; but there is a great difference between dying in ones bed a great many years hence, like a good Christian, with all our friends crying about us, and being shot to-day or to-morrow like a mad dog; or perhaps hacked in twenty pieces with the sword, and that too before we have repented of all our sins. O Lord have mercy upon us! to be sure the soldiers are a wicked kind of people. I never loved to have anything to do with them. I could hardly bring myself ever to look upon them as Christians. There is nothing but cursing and swearing among them. I wish your honour would repent, I heartily wish you would repent before it is too late, and not think of going among them. Evil communication corrupts good manners. That is my principal reason. For as for that matter, I am no more afraid than another man, not I, as to matter of that. I know all human flesh must die; but yet a man may live many years for all that. Why, I am a middle-aged man now, and yet I may live a great number of years. I have read of several who have lived to be above a hundred. Not that I hope, I mean that I promise myself, to live to any such age as that, neither. But if it be only to eighty or ninety. Heaven be praised, that is a great way off yet; and I am not afraid of dying then, no more than another man; but, surely, to tempt death before a mans time is come seems to me downright wickedness and presumption. Besides, if it was to do any good indeed; but, let the cause be what it will, what mighty matter of good can two people do? and, for my part, I understand nothing of it. I never fired off a gun above ten times in my life, and then it was not charged with bullets. And for the sword, I never learned to fence, and know nothing of the matter. And then there are those cannons, which certainly it must be thought the highest presumption to go in the way of; and nobody but a madmanI ask pardon; upon my soul I meant no harm: I beg I may not throw your honour into another passion.
Be under no apprehension, Partridge, cries Jones; I am now so well convinced of thy cowardice, that thou couldst not provoke me on any account.Your honour, answered he, may call me a coward, or anything else you please. If loving to sleep in a whole skin makes a man a coward, non immunes ab illis malis sumus. I never read in my grammar that a man cant be a good man without fighting. Vir bonus est quis? Qui consulta patrum, qui leges juraque servat. Not a word of fighting; and I am sure the Scripture is so much against it that a man shall never persuade me he is a good Christian while he sheds Christian blood.