Henry Fielding. (17071754). The History of Tom Jones.
The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction. 1917.
Book VIII. Containing about Two Days
V. A Dialogue between Mr. Jones and the Barber
THIS conversation passed partly while Jones was at dinner in his dungeon, and partly while he was expecting the barber in the parlour. And, as soon as it was ended, Mr. Benjamin, as we have said, attended him, and was very kindly desired to sit down. Jones then filling out a glass of wine, drank his health by the appellation of doctissime tonsorum. Ego tibi gratias, domine, said the barber; and then looking very steadfastly at Jones, he said, with great gravity, and with a seeming surprize, as if he had recollected a face he had seen before, Sir, may I crave the favour to know if your name is not Jones? To which the other answered, That it was.Pro deum atque hominum fidem! says the barber; how strangely things come to pass! Mr. Jones, I am your most obedient servant. I find you do not know me, which indeed is no wonder, since you never saw me but once, and then you was very young. Pray, sir, how doth the good Squire Allworthy? how doth ille optimus omnium patronus?I find, said Jones, you do indeed know me; but I have not the like happiness of recollecting you.I do not wonder at that, cries Benjamin; but I am surprized I did not know you sooner, for you are not in the least altered. And pray, sir, may I, without offence, enquire whither you are travelling this way?Fill the glass, Mr. Barber, said Jones, and ask no more questions.Nay, sir, answered Benjamin, I would not be troublesome; and I hope you dont think me a man of an impertinent curiosity, for that is a vice which nobody can lay to my charge; but I ask pardon; for when a gentleman of your figure travels without his servants, we may suppose him to be, as we say, in casu incognito, and perhaps I ought not to have mentioned your name.I own, says Jones, I did not expect to have been so well known in this country as I find I am; yet, for particular reasons, I shall be obliged to you if you will not mention my name to any other person till I am gone from hence.Pauca verba, answered the barber; and I wish no other here knew you but myself; for some people have tongues; but I promise you I can keep a secret. My enemies will allow me that virtue.And yet that is not the characteristic of your profession, Mr. Barber, answered Jones. Alas! sir, replied Benjamin, Non si male nunc et olim sic erit. I was not born nor bred a barber, I assure you. I have spent most of my time among gentlemen, and though I say it, I understand something of gentility. And if you had thought me as worthy of your confidence as you have some other people, I should have shown you I could have kept a secret better. I should not have degraded your name in a public kitchen; for indeed, sir, some people have not used you well; for besides making a public proclamation of what you told them of a quarrel between yourself and Squire Allworthy, they added lies of their own, things which I knew to be lies.You surprize me greatly, cries Jones. Upon my word, sir, answered Benjamin, I tell the truth, and I need not tell you my landlady was the person. I am sure it moved me to hear the story, and I hope it is all false; for I have a great respect for you, I do assure you I have, and have had ever since the good-nature you showed to Black George, which was talked of all over the country, and I received more than one letter about it. Indeed, it made you beloved by everybody. You will pardon me, therefore; for it was real concern at what I heard made me ask many questions; for I have no impertinent curiosity about me: but I love good-nature and thence became amoris abundantia ergo te.
Every profession of friendship easily gains credit with the miserable; it is no wonder therefore, if Jones, who, besides his being miserable, was extremely open-hearted, very readily believed all the professions of Benjamin, and received him into his bosom. The scraps of Latin, some of which Benjamin applied properly enough, though it did not savour of profound literature, seemed yet to indicate something superior to a common barber; and so indeed did his whole behaviour. Jones therefore believed the truth of what he had said, as to his original and education; and at length, after much entreaty, he said, Since you have heard, my friend, so much of my affairs, and seem so desirous to know the truth, if you will have patience to hear it, I will inform you of the whole.Patience! cries Benjamin, that I will, if the chapter was never so long; and I am very much obliged to you for the honour you do me.
Jones now began, and related the whole history, forgetting only a circumstance or two, namely, everything which passed on that day in which he had fought with Thwackum; and ended with his resolution to go to sea, till the rebellion in the North had made him change his purpose, and had brought him to the place where he then was.
Little Benjamin, who had been all attention, never once interrupted the narrative; but when it was ended he could not help observing, that there must be surely something more invented by his enemies, and told Mr. Allworthy against him, or so good a man would never have dismissed one he had loved so tenderly, in such a manner. To which Jones answered, He doubted not but such villanous arts had been made use of to destroy him.
And surely it was scarce possible for any one to have avoided making the same remark with the barber, who had not indeed heard from Jones one single circumstance upon which he was condemned; for his actions were not now placed in those injurious lights in which they had been misrepresented to Allworthy; nor could he mention those many false accusations which had been from time to time preferred against him to Allworthy: for with none of these he was himself acquainted. He had likewise, as we have observed, omitted many material facts in his present relation. Upon the whole, indeed, everything now appeared in such favourable colours to Jones, that malice itself would have found it no easy matter to fix any blame upon him.
Not that Jones desired to conceal or to disguise the truth; nay, he would have been more unwilling to have suffered any censure to fall on Mr. Allworthy for punishing him, than on his own actions for deserving it; but, in reality, so it happened, and so it always will happen; for let a man be never so honest, the account of his own conduct will, in spite of himself, be so very favourable, that his vices will come purified through his lips, and, like foul liquors well strained, will leave all their foulness behind. For though the facts themselves may appear, yet so different will be the motives, circumstances, and consequences, when a man tells his own story, and when his enemy tells it, that we scarce can recognise the facts to be one and the same.
Though the barber had drank down this story with greedy ears, he was not yet satisfied. There was a circumstance behind which his curiosity, cold as it was, most eagerly longed for. Jones had mentioned the fact of his amour, and of his being the rival of Blifil, but had cautiously concealed the name of the young lady. The barber, therefore, after some hesitation, and many hums and hahs, at last begged leave to crave the name of the lady, who appeared to be the principal cause of all this mischief. Jones paused a moment, and then said, Since I have trusted you with so much, and since, I am afraid, her name is become too publick already on this occasion, I will not conceal it from you. Her name is Sophia Western.
Pro deum atque hominum fidem! Squire Western hath a daughter grown a woman!Ay, and such a woman, cries Jones, that the world cannot match. No eye ever saw anything so beautiful; but that is her least excellence. Such sense! such goodness! Oh, I could praise her for ever, and yet should omit half her virtues!Mr. Western a daughter grown up! cries the barber: I remember the father a boy; well, Tempus edax rerum.
The wine being now at an end, the barber pressed very eagerly to be his bottle; but Jones absolutely refused, saying, He had already drank more than he ought: and that he now chose to retire to his room, where he wished he could procure himself a book.A book! cries Benjamin; what book would you have? Latin or English? I have some curious books in both languages; such as Erasmi Colloquia, Ovid de Tristibus, Gradus ad Parnassum; and in English I have several of the best books, though some of them are a little torn; but I have a great part of Stowes Chronicle; the sixth volume of Popes Homer; the third volume of the Spectator; the second volume of Echards Roman History; the Craftsman; Robinson Crusoe; Thomas à Kempis; and two volumes of Tom Browns Works.
Those last, cries Jones, are books I never saw, so it you please lend me one of those volumes. The barber assured him he would be highly entertained, for he looked upon the author to have been one of the greatest wits that ever the nation produced. He then stepped to his house, which was hard by, and immediately returned, after which, the barber having received very strict injunctions of secrecy from Jones, and having sworn inviolably to maintain it, they separated; the barber went home, and Jones retired to his chamber.