Henry Fielding. (17071754). The History of Tom Jones.
The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction. 1917.
Book XIII. Containing the Space of Twelve Days
II. What Befel Mr. Jones on His Arrival in London
THE LEARNED Dr. Misaubin used to say, that the proper direction to him was To Dr. Misaubin, in the World; intimating that there were few people in it to whom his great reputation was not known. And, perhaps, upon a very nice examination into the matter, we shall find that this circumstance bears no inconsiderable part among the many blessings of grandeur.
The great happiness of being known to posterity, with the hopes of which we so delighted ourselves in the preceding chapter, is the portion of few. To have the several elements which compose our names, as Sydenham expresses it, repeated a thousand years hence, is a gift beyond the power of title and wealth; and is scarce to be purchased, unless by the sword and the pen. But to avoid the scandalous imputation, while we yet live, of being one whom nobody knows (a scandal, by the bye, as old as the days of Homer,1) will always be the envied portion of those, who have a legal title either to honour or estate.
From that figure, therefore, which the Irish peer, who brought Sophia to town, hath already made in this history, the reader will conclude, doubtless, it must have been an easy matter, to have discovered his house in London without knowing the particular street or square which he inhabited, since he must have been one whom everybody knows. To say the truth, so it would have been to any of those tradesmen who are accustomed to attend the regions of the great; for the doors of the great are generally no less easy to find than it is difficult to get entrance into them. But Jones, as well as Partridge, was an active stranger in London; and as he happened to arrive first in a quarter of the town, the inhabitants of which have very little intercourse with the householders of Hanover or Grosvenor-square (for he entered through Grays-innlane), so he rambled about some time before he could even find his way to those happy mansions where fortune segregates from the vulgar those magnanimous heroes, the descendants of antient Britons, Saxons, or Danes, whose ancestors, being born in better days, by sundry kinds of merit, have entailed riches and honour on their posterity.
Jones, being at length arrived at those terrestrial Elysian fields, would now soon have discovered his lordships mansion; but the peer unluckily quitted his former house when he went for Ireland; and as he was just entered into a new one, the fame of his equipage had not yet sufficiently blazed in the neighbourhood; so that, after a successless enquiry till the clock had struck eleven, Jones at last yielded to the advice of Partridge, and retreated to the Bull and Gate in Holborn, that being the inn where he had first alighted, and where he retired to enjoy that kind of repose which usually attends persons in his circumstances.
Early in the morning he again set forth in pursuit of Sophia; and many a weary step he took to no better purpose than before. At last, whether it was that Fortune relented, or whether it was no longer in her power to disappoint him, he came into the very street which was honoured by his lordships residence; and, being directed to the house, he gave one gentle rap at the door.
The porter, who, from the modesty of the knock, had conceived no high idea of the person approaching, conceived but little better from the appearance of Mr. Jones, who was drest in a suit of fustian, and had by his side the weapon formerly purchased of the serjeant; of which, though the blade might be composed of well-tempered steel, the handle was composed only of brass, and that none of the brightest. When Jones, therefore, enquired after the young lady who had come to town with his lordship, this fellow answered surlily, That there were no ladies there. Jones then desired to see the master of the house; but was informed that his lordship would see nobody that morning. And upon growing more pressing the porter said, he had positive orders to let no person in; but if you think proper, said he, to leave your name, I will acquaint his lordship; and if you call another time you shall know when he will see you.
Jones now declared, that he had very particular business with the young lady, and could not depart without seeing her. Upon which the porter, with no very agreeable voice or aspect, affirmed, that there was no young lady in that house, and consequently none could he see; adding, sure you are the strangest man I ever met with, for you will not take an answer.
I have often thought that, by the particular description of Cerberus, the porter of hell, in the 6th Æneid, Virgil might possibly intend to satirize the porters of the great men in his time; the picture, at least, resembles those who have the honour to attend at the doors of our great men. The porter in his lodge answers exactly to Cerberus in his den, and, like him, must be appeased by a sop before access can be gained to his master. Perhaps Jones might have seen him in that light, and have recollected the passage where the Sibyl, in order to procure an entrance for Æneas, presents the keeper of the Stygian avenue with such a sop. Jones, in like manner, now began to offer a bribe to the human Cerberus, which a footman, overhearing, instantly advanced, and declared, if Mr. Jones would give him the sum proposed, he would conduct him to the lady. Jones instantly agreed, and was forthwith conducted to the lodging of Mrs. Fitzpatrick by the very fellow who had attended the ladies thither the day before.
Nothing more aggravates ill success than the near approach to good. The gamester, who loses his party at piquet by a single point, laments his bad luck ten times as much as he who never came within a prospect of the game. So in a lottery, the proprietors of the next numbers to that which wins the great prize are apt to account themselves much more unfortunate than their fellow-sufferers. In short, these kind of hairbreadth missings of happiness look like the insults of Fortune, who may be considered as thus playing tricks with us, and wantonly diverting herself at our expense.
Jones, who more than once already had experienced this frolicsome disposition of the heathen goddess, was now again doomed to be tantalized in the like manner; for he arrived at the door of Mrs. Fitzpatrick about ten minutes after the departure of Sophia. He now addressed himself to the waiting-woman belonging to Mrs. Fitzpatrick; who told him the disagreeable news that the lady was gone, but could not tell him whither; and the same answer he afterwards received from Mrs. Fitzpatrick herself. For as that lady made no doubt but that Mr. Jones was a person detached from her uncle Western, in pursuit of his daughter, so she was too generous to betray her.
Though Jones had never seen Mrs. Fitzpatrick, yet he had heard that a cousin of Sophia was married to a gentleman of that name. This, however, in the present tumult of his mind, never once recurred to his memory; but when the footman, who had conducted him from his lordships, acquainted him with the great intimacy between the ladies, and with their calling each other cousin, he then recollected the story of the marriage which he had formerly heard; and as he was presently convinced that this was the same woman, he became more surprized at the answer which he had received, and very earnestly desired leave to wait on the lady herself; but she as positively refused him that honour.
Jones, who, though he had never seen a court, was better bred than most who frequent it, was incapable of any rude or abrupt behaviour to a lady. When he had received, therefore, a peremptory denial, he retired for the present, saying to the waiting-woman, That if this was an improper hour to wait on her lady, he would return in the afternoon; and that he then hoped to have the honour of seeing her. The civility with which he uttered this, added to the great comeliness of his person, made an impression on the waiting woman, and she could not help answering; Perhaps, sir, you may; and, indeed, she afterwards said everything to her mistress, which she thought most likely to prevail on her to admit a visit from the handsome young gentleman; for so she called him.
Jones very shrewdly suspected that Sophia herself was now with her cousin, and was denied to him; which he imputed to her resentment of what had happened at Upton. Having, therefore, dispatched Partridge to procure him lodgings, he remained all day in the street, watching the door where he thought his angel lay concealed; but no person did he see issue forth, except a servant of the house, and in the evening he returned to pay the visit to Mrs. Fitzpatrick, which the good lady at last condescended to admit.
There is a certain air of natural gentility, which it is neither in the power of dress to give, nor to conceal. Mr. Jones, as hath been before hinted, was possessed of this in a very eminent degree. He met, therefore, with a reception from the lady somewhat different from what his apparel seemed to demand; and after he had paid her his proper respects, was desired to sit down.
The reader will not, I believe, be desirous of knowing all the particulars of this conversation, which ended very little to the satisfaction of poor Jones. For though Mrs. Fitzpatrick soon discovered the lover (as all women have the eyes of hawks in those matters), yet she still thought it was such a lover, as a generous friend of the lady should not betray her to. In short, she suspected this was the very Mr. Blifil, from whom Sophia had flown; and all the answers which she artfully drew from Jones, concerning Mr. Allworthys family, confirmed her in this opinion. She therefore strictly denied any knowledge concerning the place whither Sophia was gone; nor could Jones obtain more than a permission to wait on her again the next evening.
When Jones was departed Mrs. Fitzpatrick communicated her suspicion concerning Mr. Blifil to her maid; who answered, Sure, madam, he is too pretty a man, in my opinion, for any woman in the world to run away from. I had rather fancy it is Mr. Jones.Mr. Jones! said the lady, what Jones? For Sophia had not given the least hint of any such person in all their conversation; but Mrs. Honour had been much more communicative, and had acquainted her sister Abigail with the whole history of Jones, which this now again related to her mistress.
Mrs. Fitzpatrick no sooner received this information, than she immediately agreed with the opinion of her maid; and, what is very unaccountable, saw charms in the gallant, happy lover, which she had overlooked in the slighted squire. Betty, says she, you are certainly in the right: he is a very pretty fellow, and I dont wonder that my cousins maid should tell you so many women are fond of him. I am sorry now I did not inform him where my cousin was; and yet, if he be so terrible a rake as you tell me, it is a pity she should ever see him any more; for what but her ruin can happen from marrying a rake and a beggar against her fathers consent? I protest, if he be such a man as the wench described him to you, it is but an office of charity to keep her from him; and I am sure it would be unpardonable in me to do otherwise, who have tasted so bitterly of the misfortunes attending such marriages.
Here she was interrupted by the arrival of a visitor, which was no other than his lordship; and as nothing passed at this visit either new or extraordinary, or any ways material to this history, we shall here put an end to this chapter.