Henry Fielding. (17071754). The History of Tom Jones.
The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction. 1917.
Book II. Containing Scenes of Matrimonial Felicity in Different Degrees of Life
III. The Description of a Domestic Government Founded upon Rules Directly Contrary to Those of Aristotle
MY reader may please to remember he hath been informed that Jenny Jones had lived some years with a certain schoolmaster, who had, at her earnest desire, instructed her in Latin, in which, to do justice to her genius, she had so improved herself, that she was become a better scholar than her master.
Indeed, though this poor man had undertaken a profession to which learning must be allowed necessary, this was the least of his commendations. He was one of the best-natured fellows in the world, and was, at the same time, master of so much pleasantry and humour, that he was reputed the wit of the country; and all the neighbouring gentlemen were so desirous of his company, that as denying was not his talent, he spent much time at their houses, which he might, with more emolument, have spent in his school.
It may be imagined that a gentleman so qualified and so disposed, was in no danger of becoming formidable to the learned seminaries of Eton or Westminster. To speak plainly, his scholars were divided into two classes: in the upper of which was a young gentleman, the son of a neighbouring squire, who, at the age of seventeen, was just entered into his Syntaxis; and in the lower was a second son of the same gentleman, who, together with seven parish-boys, was learning to read and write.
The stipend arising hence would hardly have indulged the schoolmaster in the luxuries of life, had he not added to this office those of clerk and barber, and had not Mr. Allworthy added to the whole an annuity of ten pounds, which the poor man received every Christmas, and with which he was enabled to cheer his heart during that sacred festival.
This woman was not very amiable in her person. Whether she sat to my friend Hogarth, or no, I will not determine; but she exactly resembled the young woman who is pouring out her mistresss tea in the third picture of the Harlots Progress. She was, besides, a profest follower of that noble sect founded by Xantippe of old; by means of which she became more formidable in the school than her husband; for, to confess the truth, he was never master there, or anywhere else, in her presence.
Though her countenance did not denote much natural sweetness of temper, yet this was, perhaps, somewhat soured by a circumstance which generally poisons matrimonial felicity; for children are rightly called the pledges of love; and her husband, though they had been married nine years, had given her no such pledges; a default for which he had no excuse, either from age or health, being not yet thirty years old, and what they call a jolly brisk young man.
Hence arose another evil, which produced no little uneasiness to the poor pedagogue, of whom she maintained so constant a jealousy, that he durst hardly speak to one woman in the parish; for the least degree of civility, or even correspondence, with any female, was sure to bring his wife upon her back, and his own.
In order to guard herself against matrimonial injuries in her own house, as she kept one maid-servant, she always took care to chuse her out of that order of females whose faces are taken as a kind of security for their virtue; of which number Jenny Jones, as the reader hath been before informed, was one.
As the face of this young woman might be called pretty good security of the before-mentioned kind, and as her behaviour had been always extremely modest, which is the certain consequence of understanding in women; she had passed above four years at Mr. Partridges (for that was the schoolmasters name) without creating the least suspicion in her mistress. Nay, she had been treated with uncommon kindness, and her mistress had permitted Mr. Partridge to give her those instructions which have been before commemorated.
But it is with jealousy as with the gout: when such distempers are in the blood, there is never any security against their breaking out; and that often on the slightest occasions, and when least suspected.
Thus it happened to Mrs. Partridge, who had submitted four years to her husbands teaching this young woman, and had suffered her often to neglect her work in order to pursue her learning. For, passing by one day, as the girl was reading, and her master leaning over her, the girl, I know not for what reason, suddenly started up from her chair; and this was the first time that suspicion ever entered into the head of her mistress.
This did not, however, at that time discover itself, but lay lurking in her mind, like a concealed enemy, who waits for a reinforcement of additional strength before he openly declares himself and proceeds upon hostile operations; and such additional strength soon arrived to corroborate her suspicion; for not long after, the husband and wife being at dinner, the master said to his maid, Da mihi aliquid potum: upon which the poor girl smiled, perhaps at the badness of the Latin, and, when her mistress cast her eyes on her, blushed, possibly with a consciousness of having laughed at her master. Mrs. Partridge, upon this, immediately fell into a fury, and discharged the trencher on which she was eating, at the head of poor Jenny, crying out, You impudent whore, do you play tricks with my husband before my face? and at the same instant rose from her chair with a knife in her hand, with which, most probably, she would have executed very tragical vengeance, had not the girl taken the advantage of being nearer the door than her mistress, and avoided her fury by running away: for, as to the poor husband, whether surprize had rendered him motionless, or fear (which is full as probable) had restrained him from venturing at any opposition, he sat staring and trembling in his chair; nor did he once offer to move or speak, till his wife, returning from the pursuit of Jenny, made some defensive measures necessary for his own preservation; and he likewise was obliged to retreat, after the example of the maid.
Mr. Partridge had profited too much by experience to interpose in a matter of this nature. He therefore had recourse to his usual receipt of patience; for, though he was not a great adept in Latin, he remembered, and well understood, the advice contained in these words:
Leve fit, quod bene fertur onus.
A burden becomes lightest when it is well borne
which he had always in his mouth; and of which, to say the truth, he had often occasion to experience the truth.
Jenny offered to make protestations of her innocence; but the tempest was too strong for her to be heard. She then betook herself to the business of packing, for which a small quantity of brown paper sufficed; and, having received her small pittance of wages, she returned home.
The schoolmaster and his consort passed their time unpleasantly enough that evening; but something or other happened before the next morning, which a little abated the fury of Mrs. Partridge; and she at length admitted her husband to make his excuses: to which she gave the readier belief, as he had, instead of desiring her to recall Jenny, professed a satisfaction in her being dismissed, saying, she was grown of little use as a servant, spending all her time in reading, and was become, moreover, very pert and obstinate; for, indeed, she and her master had lately had frequent disputes in literature; in which, as hath been said, she was become greatly his superior. This, however, he would by no means allow; and as he called her persisting in the right, obstinacy, he began to hate her with no small inveteracy.