Henry Fielding. (17071754). The History of Tom Jones.
The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction. 1917.
Book XV. In Which the History Advances about Two Days
IV. By Which It Will Appear How Dangerous an Advocate a Lady Is When She Applies Her Eloquence to an Ill Purpose
WHEN Lady Bellaston heard the young lords scruples, she treated them with the same disdain with which one of those sages of the law, called Newgate solicitors, treats the qualms of conscience in a young witness. My dear lord, said she, you certainly want a cordial. I must send to Lady Edgely for one of her best drams. Fie upon it! have more resolution. Are you frightened by the word rape? Or are you apprehensive? Well! if the story of Helen was modern, I should think it unnatural. I mean the behaviour of Paris, not the fondness of the lady; for all women love a man of spirit. There is another story of the Sabine ladiesand that too, I thank heaven, is very antient. Your lordship, perhaps, will admire my reading; but I think Mr. Hook tells us, they made tolerable good wives afterwards. I fancy few of my married acquaintance were ravished by their husbands. Nay, dear Lady Bellaston, cried he, dont ridicule me in this manner. Why, my good lord, answered she, do you think any woman in England would not laugh at you in her heart, whatever prudery she might wear in her countenance?You force me to use a strange kind of language, and to betray my sex most abominably; but I am contented with knowing my intentions are good, and that I am endeavouring to serve my cousin; for I think you will make her a husband notwithstanding this; or, upon my soul, I would not even persuade her to fling herself away upon an empty title. She should not upbraid me hereafter with having lost a man of spirit; for that his enemies allow this poor young fellow to be.
Let those who have had the satisfaction of hearing reflections of this kind from a wife or a mistress, declare whether they are at all sweetened by coming from a female tongue. Certain it is, they sunk deeper into his lordship than anything which Demostnenes or Cicero could have said on the occasion.
Lady Bellaston, perceiving she had fired the young lords pride, began now, like a true orator, to arouse other passions to its assistance. My lord, says she, in a graver voice, you will be pleased to remember, you mentioned this matter to me first; for I would not appear to you in the light of one who is endeavouring to put off my cousin upon you. Fourscore thousand pounds do not stand in need of an advocate to recommend them. Nor doth Miss Western, said he, require any recommendation from her fortune; for, in my opinion, no woman ever had half her charms. Yes, yes, my lord, replied the lady, looking in the glass, there have been women with more than half her charms, I assure you; not that I need lessen her on that account: she is a most delicious girl, thats certain; and within these few hours she will be in the arms of one, who surely doth not deserve her, though I will give him his due, I believe he is truly a man of spirit.
The remainder of this scene consisted entirely of raptures, excuses, and compliments, very pleasant to have heard from the parties; but rather dull when related at second hand Here, therefore, we shall put an end to this dialogue, and hasten to the fatal hour when everything was prepared for the destruction of poor Sophia.