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
VIII. A Receipt to Regain the Lost Affections of a Wife, Which Hath Never Been Known to Fail in the Most Desperate Cases
THE CAPTAIN was made large amends for the unpleasant minutes which he passed in the conversation of his wife (and which were as few as he could contrive to make them), by the pleasant meditations he enjoyed when alone.
These meditations were entirely employed on Mr. Allworthys fortune; for, first, he exercised much thought in calculating, as well as he could, the exact value of the whole: which calculations he often saw occasion to alter in his own favour: and, secondly and chiefly, he pleased himself with intended alterations in the house and gardens, and in projecting many other schemes, as well for the improvement of the estate as of the grandeur of the place: for this purpose he applied himself to the studies of architecture and gardening, and read over many books on both these subjects; for these sciences, indeed, employed his whole time, and formed his only amusement. He at last completed a most excellent plan: and very sorry we are, that it is not in our power to present it to our reader, since even the luxury of the present age, I believe, would hardly match it. It had, indeed, in a superlative degree, the two principal ingredients which serve to recommend all great and noble designs of this nature; for it required an immoderate expense to execute, and a vast length of time to bring it to any sort of perfection. The former of these, the immense wealth of which the captain supposed Mr. Allworthy possessed, and which he thought himself sure of inheriting, promised very effectually to supply; and the latter, the soundness of his own constitution, and his time of life, which was only what is called middleage, removed all apprehension of his not living to accomplish.
Nothing was wanting to enable him to enter upon the immediate execution of this plan, but the death of Mr. Allworthy; in calculating which he had employed much of his own algebra, besides purchasing every book extant that treats of the value of lives, reversions, &c. From all which he satisfied himself, that as he had every day a chance of this happening, so had he more than an even chance of its happening within a few years.
But while the captain was one day busied in deep contemplations of this kind, one of the most unlucky as well as unseasonable accidents happened to him. The utmost malice of Fortune could, indeed, have contrived nothing so cruel, so mal-a-propos, so absolutely destructive to all his schemes. In short, not to keep the reader in long suspense, just at the very instant when his heart was exulting in meditations on the happiness which would accrue to him by Mr. Allworthys death, he himselfdied of an apoplexy.
This unfortunately befel the captain as he was taking his evening walk by himself, so that nobody was present to lend him any assistance, if indeed, any assistance could have preserved him. He took, therefore, measure of that proportion of soil which was now become adequate to all his future purposes, and he lay dead on the ground, a great (though not a living) example of the truth of that observation of Horace:
Tu secanda marmora
Locas sub ipsum funus; et sepulchri
Immemor, struis domos.
Which sentiment I shall thus give to the English reader: You provide the noblest materials for building, when a pickaxe and a spade are only necessary: and build houses of five hundred by a hundred feet, forgetting that of six by two.