Henry Fielding. (17071754). The History of Tom Jones.
The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction. 1917.
Book XII. Containing the Same Individual Time with the Former
X. Mr. Jones and Mr. Dowling Drink a Bottle Together
MR. DOWLING, pouring out a glass of wine, named the health of the good Squire Allworthy; adding, If you please, sir, we will likewise remember his nephew and heir, the young squire: Come, sir, heres Mr. Blifil to you, a very pretty young gentleman; and who, I dare swear, will hereafter make a very considerable figure in his country. I have a borough for him myself in my eye.
Sir, answered Jones, I am convinced you dont intend to affront me, so I shall not resent it; but I promise you, you have joined two persons very improperly together; for one is the glory of the human species, and the other is a rascal who dishonours the name of man.
Dowling stared at this. He said, He thought both the gentlemen had a very unexceptional character. As for Squire Allworthy himself, says he, I never had the happiness to see him; but all the world talks of his goodness. And, indeed, as to the young gentleman, I never saw him but once, when I carried him the news of the loss of his mother; and then I was so hurried, and drove, and tore with the multiplicity of business, that I had hardly time to converse with him; but he looked so like a very honest gentleman, and behaved himself so prettily, that I protest I never was more delighted with any gentleman since I was born.
I dont wonder, answered Jones, that he should impose upon you in so short an acquaintance; for he hath the cunning of the devil himself, and you may live with him many years, without discovering him. I was bred up with him from my infancy, and we were hardly ever asunder; but it is very lately only that I have discovered half the villany which is in him. I own I never greatly liked him. I thought he wanted that generosity of spirit, which is the sure foundation of all that is great and noble in human nature. I saw a selfishness in him long ago which I despised; but it is lately, very lately, that I have found him capable of the basest and blackest designs; for, indeed, I have at last found out, that he hath taken an advantage of the openness of my own temper, and hath concerted the deepest project, by a long train of wicked artifice, to work my ruin, which at last he hath effected.
Alas, sir, cries Jones, you do me an honour to which I have no title. It is true, indeed, his goodness once allowed me the liberty of calling him by a much nearer name; but as this was only a voluntary act of goodness, I can complain of no injustice when he thinks proper to deprive me of this honour; since the loss cannot be more unmerited than the gift originally was. I assure you, sir, I am no relation of Mr. Allworthy; and if the world, who are incapable of setting a true value on his virtue, should think, in his behaviour to me, he hath dealt hardly by a relation, they do an injustice to the best of men: for Ibut I ask your pardon, I shall trouble you with no particulars relating to myself; only as you seemed to think me a relation of Mr. Allworthy, I thought proper to set you right in a matter that might draw some censures upon him, which I promise you I would rather lose my life than give occasion to.
I protest, sir, cried Dowling, you talk very much like a man of honour; but instead of giving me any trouble, I protest it would give me great pleasure to know how you came to be thought a relation of Mr. Allworthys, if you are not. Your horses wont be ready this half-hour, and as you have sufficient opportunity, I wish you would tell me how all that happened; for I protest it seems very surprizing that you should pass for a relation of a gentleman, without being so.
Jones, who in the compliance of his disposition (though not in his prudence) a little resembled his lovely Sophia, was easily prevailed on to satisfy Mr. Dowlings curiosity, by relating the history of his birth and education, which he did, like Othello.
Even from his boyish years,
To th very moment he was bad to tell:
the which to hear, Dowling, like Desdemona, did seriously incline;
Mr. Dowling was indeed very greatly affected with this relation; for he had not divested himself of humanity by being an attorney. Indeed, nothing is more unjust than to carry our prejudices against a profession into private life, and to borrow our idea of a man from our opinion of his calling. Habit, it is true, lessens the horror of those actions which the profession makes necessary, and consequently habitual; but in all other instances, Nature works in men of all professions alike; nay, perhaps, even more strongly with those who give her, as it were, a holiday, when they are following their ordinary business. A butcher, I make no doubt, would feel compunction at the slaughter of a fine horse; and though a surgeon can feel no pain in cutting off a limb, I have known him compassionate a man in a fit of the gout. The common hangman, who hath stretched the necks of hundreds, is known to have trembled at his first operation on a head; and the very professors of human blood-shedding, who, in their trade of war, butcher thousands, not only of their fellow-professors, but often of women and children, without remorse; even these, I say, in times of peace, when drums and trumpets are laid aside, often lay aside all their ferocity, and become very gentle members of civil society. In the same manner an attorney may feel all the miseries and distresses of his fellow-creatures, provided he happens not to be concerned against them.
Jones, as the reader knows, was yet unacquainted with the very black colours in which he had been represented to Mr. Allworthy; and as to other matters, he did not shew them in the most disadvantageous light; for though he was unwilling to cast any blame on his former friend and patron; yet he was not very desirous of heaping too much upon himself. Dowling therefore observed, and not without reason, that very ill offices must have been done him by somebody: For certainly, cries he, the squire, would never have disinherited you only for a few faults, which any young gentleman might have committed. Indeed, I cannot properly say disinherited: for to be sure by law you cannot claim as heir. Thats certain; that nobody need go to counsel for. Yet when a gentleman had in a manner adopted you thus as his own son, you might reasonably have expected some very considerable part, if not the whole; nay, if you had expected the whole, I should not have blamed you: for certainly all men are for getting as much as they can, and they are not to be blamed on that account.
Indeed you wrong me, said Jones; I should have been contented with very little: I never had any view upon Mr. Allworthys fortune; nay, I believe I may truly say, I never once considered what he could or might give me. This I solemnly declare, if he had done a prejudice to his nephew in my favour, I would have undone it again. I had rather enjoy my own mind than the fortune of another man. What is the poor pride arising from a magnificent house, a numerous equipage, a splendid table, and from all the other advantages or appearances of fortune, compared to the warm, solid content, the swelling satisfaction, the thrilling transports, and the exulting triumphs, which a good mind enjoys, in the contemplation of a generous, virtuous, noble, benevolent action? I envy not Blifil in the prospect of his wealth; nor shall I envy him in the possession of it. I would not think myself a rascal half an hour, to exchange situations. I believe, indeed, Mr. Blifil suspected me of the views you mention; and I suppose these suspicions, as they arose from the baseness of his own heart, so they occasioned his baseness to me. But, I thank Heaven, I know, I feelI feel my innocence, my friend; and I would not part with that feeling for the world. For as long as I know I have never done nor even designed, an injury to any being whatever,
He then filled a bumper of wine, and drunk it off to the health of his dear Lalage; and, filling Dowlings glass likewise up to the brim, insisted on his pledging him. Why, then, heres Miss Lalages health with all my heart, cries Dowling. I have heard her toasted often, I protest, though I never saw her; but they say shes handsome.
Though the Latin was not the only part of this speech which Dowling did not perfectly understand; yet there was somewhat in it that made a very strong impression upon him. And though he endeavoured by winking, nodding, sneering, and grinning, to hide the impression from Jones (for we are as often ashamed of thinking right as of thinking wrong), it is certain he secretly approved as much of his sentiments as he understood, and really felt a very strong impulse of compassion for him. But we may possibly take some other opportunity of commenting upon this, especially if we should happen to meet Mr. Dowling any more in the course of our history. At present we are obliged to take our leave of that gentleman a little abruptly, in imitation of Mr. Jones; who was no sooner informed, by Partridge, that his horses were ready, than he deposited his reckoning, wished his companion a good night, mounted, and set forward towards Coventry, though the night was dark, and it just then began to rain very hard.