Henry Fielding. (17071754). The History of Tom Jones.
The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction. 1917.
Book VIII. Containing about Two Days
IV. In Which Is Introduced One of the Pleasantest Barbers That Was Ever Recorded in History, the Barber of Bagdad, or He in Don Quixote, Not Excepted
THE CLOCK had now struck five when Jones awaked from a nap of seven hours, so much refreshed, and in such perfect health and spirits, that he resolved to get up and dress himself; for which purpose he unlocked his portmanteau, and took out clean linen, and a suit of cloaths; but first he slipt on a frock, and went down into the kitchen to bespeak something that might pacify certain tumults he found rising within his stomach.
Meeting the landlady, he accosted her with great civility, and asked, What he could have for dinner?For dinner! says she; it is an odd time a day to think about dinner. There is nothing drest in the house, and the fire is almost out.Well, but, says he, I must have something to eat, and it is almost indifferent to me what; for, to tell you the truth, I was never more hungry in my life.Then, says she, I believe there is a piece of cold buttock and carrot, which will fit you.Nothing better, answered Jones; but I should be obliged to you, if you would let it be fried. To which the landlady consented, and said, smiling, she was glad to see him so well recovered; for the sweetness of our heroes temper was almost irresistible; besides, she was really no ill-humoured woman at the bottom; but she loved money so much, that she hated everything which had the semblance of poverty.
This barber, who went by the name of Little Benjamin, was a fellow of great oddity and humour, which had frequently let him into small inconveniencies, such as slaps in the face, kicks in the breech, broken, &c. For every one doth not understand a jest; and those who do are often displeased with being themselves the subjects of it. This vice was, however, incurable in him; and though he had often smarted for it, yet if ever he conceived a joke, he was certain to be delivered of it, without the least respect of persons, time, or place.
Jones being impatient to be drest, for a reason which may be easily imagined, thought the shaver was very tedious in preparing his suds, and begged him to make haste; to which the other answered with much gravity, for he never discomposed his muscles on any account, Festina lentè, is a proverb which I learned long before I ever touched a razor.I find, friend, you are a scholar, replied Jones. A poor one, said the barber, non omnia possumus omnes.Again! said Jones; I fancy you are good at capping verses.Excuse me, sir, said the barber, non tanto me dignor honore. And then proceeding to his operation, Sir, said he, since I have dealt in suds, I could never discover more than two reasons for shaving; the one is to get a beard, and the other to get rid of one. I conjecture, sir, it may not be long since you shaved from the former of these motives. Upon my word, you have had good success; for one may say of your beard, that it is tondenti gravior.I conjecture, says Jones, that thou art a very comical fellow.You mistake me widely, sir, said the barber: I am too much addicted to the study of philosophy; hinc illæ lacrymæ, sir; thats my misfortune. Too much learning hath been my ruin.Indeed, says Jones, I confess, friend, you have more learning than generally belongs to your trade; but I cant see how it can have injured you.Alas! sir, answered the shaver, my father disinherited me for it. He was a dancing-master; and because I could read before I could dance, he took an aversion to me, and left every farthing among his other children.Will you please to have your templesO la! I ask your pardon, I fancy there is hiatus in manuscriptis. I heard you was going to the wars; but I find it was a mistake.Why do you conclude so? says Jones. Sure, sir, answered the barber, you are too wise a man to carry a broken head thither; for that would be carrying coals to Newcastle.
Upon my word, cries Jones, thou art a very odd fellow, and I like thy humour extremely; I shall be very glad if thou wilt come to me after dinner, and drink a glass with me; I long to be better acquainted with thee.
O dear sir! said the barber, I can do you twenty times as great a favour, if you will accept of it.What is that my friend? cries Jones. Why, I will drink a bottle with you if you please; for I dearly love good-nature; and as you have found me out to be a comical fellow, so I have no skill in physiognomy, if you are not one of the best-natured gentlemen in the universe. Jones now walked downstairs neatly drest, and perhaps the fair Adonis was not a lovelier figure; and yet he had no charms for my landlady; for as that good woman did not resemble Venus at all in her person, so neither did she in her taste. Happy had it been for Nanny the chambermaid, if she had seen with the eyes of her mistress, for that poor girl fell so violently in love with Jones in five minutes, that her passion afterwards cost her many a sigh. This Nanny was extremely pretty, and altogether as coy; for she had refused a drawer, and one or two young farmers in the neighbourhood, but the bright eyes of our heroe thawed all her ice in a moment.
When Jones returned to the kitchen, his cloth was not yet laid; nor indeed was there any occasion it should, his dinner remaining in statu quo, as did the fire which was to dress it. This disappointment might have put many a philosophical temper into a passion; but it had no such effect on Jones. He only gave the landlady a gentle rebuke, saying, Since it was so difficult to get it heated he would eat the beef cold.
But now the good woman, whether moved by compassion, or by shame, or by whatever other motive, I cannot tell, first gave her servants a round scold for disobeying the orders which she had never given, and then bidding the drawer lay a napkin in the Sun, she set about the matter in good earnest, and soon accomplished it.
This Sun, into which Jones was now conducted, was truly named, as lucus a non lucendo; for it was an apartment into which the sun had scarce ever looked. It was indeed the worst room in the house; and happy was it for Jones that it was so. However, he was now too hungry to find any fault; but having once satisfied his appetite, he ordered the drawer to carry a bottle of wine into a better room, and expressed some resentment at having been shown into a dungeon.
The drawer having obeyed his commands, he was, after some time, attended by the barber, who would not indeed have suffered him to wait so long for his company had he not been listening in the kitchen to the landlady, who was entertaining a circle that she had gathered round her with the history of poor Jones, part of which she had extracted from his own lips, and the other part was her own ingenious composition; for she said he was a poor parish boy, taken into the house of Squire Allworthy, where he was bred up as an apprentice, and now turned out of doors for his misdeeds, particularly for making love to his young mistress, and probably for robbing the house; for how else should he come by the little money he hath; and this, says she, is your gentleman, forsooth!A servant of Squire Allworthy! says the barber; whats his name?Why he told me his name was Jones, says she: perhaps he goes by a wrong name. Nay, and he told me, too, that the squire had maintained him as his own son, thof he had quarreled with him now.And if his name be Jones, he told you the truth, said the barber; for I have relations who live in that country; nay, and some people say he is his son.Why doth he not go by the name of his father?I cant tell that, said the barber; many peoples sons dont go by the name of their father.Nay, said the landlady, if I thought he was a gentlemans son, thof he was a bye-blow, I should behave to him in another guess manner; for many of these bye-blows come to be great men, and, as my poor first husband used to say, never affront any customer thats a gentleman.