Henry Fielding. (17071754). The History of Tom Jones.
The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction. 1917.
Book VI. Containing about Three Weeks
XIV. A Short Chapter, Containing a Short Dialogue between Squire Western and His Sister
MRS. WESTERN had been engaged abroad all that day. The squire met her at her return home; and when she enquired after Sophia, he acquainted her that he had secured her safe enough. She is locked up in chamber, cries he, and Honour keeps the key. As his looks were full of prodigious wisdom and sagacity when he gave his sister this information, it is probable he expected much applause from her for what he had done; but how was he disappointed when, with a most disdainful aspect, she cried, Sure, brother, you are the weakest of all men. Why will you not confide in me for the management of my niece? Why will you interpose? You have now undone all that I have been spending my breath in order to bring about. While I have been endeavouring to fill her mind with maxims of prudence, you have been provoking her to reject them. English women, brother, I thank heaven, are no slaves. We are not to be locked up like the Spanish and Italian wives. We have as good a right to liberty as yourselves. We are to be convinced by reason and persuasion only, and not governed by force. I have seen the world, brother, and know what arguments to make use of; and if your folly had not prevented me, should have prevailed with her to form her conduct by those rules of prudence and discretion which I formerly taught her. To be sure, said the squire, I am always in the wrong. Brother, answered the lady, you are not in the wrong, unless when you meddle with matters beyond your knowledge. You must agree that I have seen most of the world; and happy had it been for my niece if she had not been taken from under my care. It is by living at home with you that she hath learnt romantic notions of love and nonsense. You dont imagine, I hope, cries the squire, that I have taught her any such things. Your ignorance, brother, returned she, as the great Milton says, almost subdues my patience.1 Dn Milton! answered the squire: if he had the impudence to say so to my face, Id lend him a douse, thof he was never so great a man. Patience! An you come to that, sister, I have more occasion of patience, to be used like an overgrown schoolboy, as I am by you. Do you think no one hath any understanding, unless he hath been about at court? Pox! the world is come to a fine pass indeed, if we are all fools, except a parcel of roundheads and Hanover rats. Pox! I hope the times are a coming when we shall make fools of them, and every man shall enjoy his own. Thats all, sister; and every man shall enjoy his own. I hope to zee it, sister, before the Hanover rats have eat up all our corn, and left us nothing but turneps to feed upon.I protest, brother, cries she, you are now got beyond my understanding. Your jargon of turneps and Hanover rats is to me perfectly unintelligible.I believe, cries he, you dont care to hear oem; but the country interest may succeed one day or other for all that.I wish, answered the lady, you would think a little of your daughters interest; for, believe me, she is in greater danger than the nation.Just now, said he, you chid me for thinking on her, and would ha her left to you.And if you will promise to interpose no more, answered she, I will, out of my regard to my niece, undertake the charge.Well, do then, said the squire, for you know I always agreed, that women are the properest to manage women.
Mrs. Western then departed, muttering something with an air of disdain, concerning women and management of the nation. She immediately repaired to Sophias apartment, who was now, after a days confinement, released again from her captivity.