Nonfiction > Lionel Strachey, et al., eds. > The World’s Wit and Humor > British
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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes.  1906.
Vols. VI–IX: British
 
Leonard and Paul
By Henry Fielding (1707–1754)
 
From “Joseph Andrews”

LEONARD and Paul were two friends, who, having been educated together at the same school, commenced a friendship which they preserved a long time for each other. It was so deeply fixed in both their minds that a long absence, during which they had maintained no correspondence, did not eradicate nor lessen it. But it revived in all its force at their first meeting, which was not till after fifteen years’ absence, most of which time Leonard had spent in the East, while Paul had served his king and country in the army. In which different services they had found such different success, that Leonard was now married and retired with a fortune of thirty thousand pounds; and Paul was arrived to a degree of a lieutenant of foot and was not worth a single shilling.
  1
  The regiment in which Paul was stationed happened to be ordered into quarters within a small distance from the estate which Leonard had purchased, and where he was settled. This latter, who was now become a country gentleman and a justice of peace, came to attend the quarter sessions in the town where his old friend was quartered, soon after his arrival. Some affair in which a soldier was concerned occasioned Paul to attend the justices. Manhood and time and the change of climate had so much altered Leonard that Paul did not immediately recollect the features of his old acquaintance. But it was otherwise with Leonard. He knew Paul the moment he saw him; nor could he contain himself from quitting the bench and running hastily to embrace him. Paul stood at first a little surprised, but had soon sufficient information from his friend, whom he no sooner remembered than he returned his embrace with a passion which made many of the spectators laugh, and gave to some few a much higher and more agreeable sensation. Leonard insisted on his friend’s returning with him to his house that evening; which request was complied with, and leave for a month’s absence for Paul obtained of the commanding officer.  2
  If it were possible for any circumstance to give any addition to the happiness which Paul proposed in this visit, he received that additional pleasure by finding, on his arrival at his friend’s house, that his lady was an old acquaintance which he had formerly contracted at his quarters, and who had always appeared to be of a most agreeable temper; a character she had ever maintained among her intimates, being of that number every individual of which is called quite the best sort of woman in the world.  3
  But, good as this lady was, she was still a woman; that is to say, an angel, and not an angel. For though her person was of that kind to which men attribute the name of angel, yet in her mind she was perfectly womanly. Of which a great degree of obstinacy gave the most remarkable and perhaps most pernicious instance.  4
  A day or two passed after Paul’s arrival before any instances of this appeared; but it was impossible to conceal it long. Both she and her husband soon lost all apprehension from their friend’s presence, and fell to their disputes with as much vigour as ever. These were still pursued with the utmost ardour and eagerness, however trifling the causes were whence they first arose. Nay, however incredible it may seem, the little consequence of the matter in debate was frequently given as a reason for the fierceness of the contention, as thus: “If you loved me, sure you would never dispute with me such a trifle as this.” The answer to which is very obvious; for the argument would hold equally on both sides, and was constantly retorted with some addition, as, “I am sure I have much more reason to say so, who am in the right.” During all these disputes Paul always kept strict silence, and preserved an even countenance, without showing the least visible inclination to either party. One day, however, when madam had left the room in a violent fury, Leonard could not refrain from referring his cause to his friend. “Was ever anything so unreasonable,” says he, “as this woman? What shall I do with her? I dote on her to distraction; nor have I any cause to complain of, more than this obstinacy in her temper; whatever she asserts, she will maintain against all the reason and conviction in the world. Pray give me your advice.” “First,” says Paul, “I will give my opinion, which is, flatly, that you are in the wrong; for, supposing she is in the wrong, was the subject of your contention any ways material? What signified it whether you were married in a red or a yellow waistcoat? For that was your dispute. Now, suppose she was mistaken; as you love her, you say, so tenderly—and I believe she deserves it—would it not have been wiser to have yielded, though you certainly knew yourself in the right, than to give either her or yourself any uneasiness? For my own part, if ever I marry, I am resolved to enter into an agreement with my wife that in all disputes, especially about trifles, that party who is most convinced they are right shall always surrender the victory; by which means we shall both be forward to give up the cause.” “I own,” said Leonard, “my dear friend,” shaking him by the hand, “there is great truth and reason in what you say, and I will for the future endeavour to follow your advice.”  5
  They soon after broke up the conversation, and Leonard, going to his wife, asked her pardon, and told her his friend had convinced him he had been in the wrong. She immediately began a vast encomium on Paul, in which he seconded her, and both agreed that he was the worthiest and wisest man upon earth. When next they met, which was at supper, though she had promised not to mention what her husband told her, she could not forbear casting the kindest and most affectionate looks on Paul, and asked him, with the sweetest voice, whether she should help him to some potted woodcock. “Potted partridge, my dear, you mean,” says the husband. “My dear,” says she, “I ask your friend if he will eat any potted woodcock; and I am sure I must know, who potted it.” “I think I should know, too, who shot them,” replied the husband, “and I am convinced that I have not seen a woodcock this year. However, though I know I am in the right, I submit, and the potted partridge is potted woodcock, if you desire to have it so.” “It is equal to me,” says she, “whether it is one or the other; but you would persuade one out of one’s senses. To be sure, you are always in the right in your own opinion; but your friend, I believe, knows which he is eating.” Paul answered nothing, and the dispute continued, as usual, the greatest part of the evening.  6
  The next morning the lady, accidentally meeting Paul, and being convinced he was her friend and of her side, accosted him thus: “I am certain, sir, you have long since wondered at the unreasonableness of my husband. He is indeed, in other respects, a good sort of man, but so positive that no woman but one of my complying temper could possibly live with him. Why, last night, now, was ever any creature so unreasonable? I am certain you must condemn him. Pray, answer me, was he not in the wrong?” Paul, after a short silence, spoke as follows: “I am sorry, madam, that, as good manners obliges me to answer against my will, so an adherence to truth forces me to declare myself of a different opinion. To be plain and honest, you were entirely in the wrong; the cause I own not worth disputing, but the bird was undoubtedly a partridge.” “Oh sir!” replied the lady, “I cannot possibly help your taste.” “Madam,” returned Paul, “that is very little material; for, had it been otherwise, a husband might have expected submission.” “Indeed, sir,” says she, “I assure you!” “Yes, madam,” cried he, “he might, from a person of your excellent understanding. And pardon me for saying, such a condescension would have shown a superiority of sense even to your husband himself.” “But, dear sir,” said she, “why should I submit when I am in the right?” “For that very reason,” answered he; “it would be the greatest instance of affection imaginable; for can anything be a greater object of our compassion than a person we love in the wrong?” “Aye, but I should endeavour,” said she, “to set him right.” “Pardon me, madam,” answered Paul, “I will apply to your own experience if you ever found your arguments had that effect. The more our judgments err, the less we are willing to own it. For my own part, I have always observed the persons who maintain the worst side in any contest are the warmest.” “Why,” says she, “I must confess there is truth in what you say, and I will endeavour to practise it.”  7
  The husband then coming in, Paul departed. And Leonard, approaching his wife with the air of good humour, told her he was sorry for their foolish dispute the last night; but he was now convinced of his error. She answered, smiling, she believed she owed his condescension to his complacence; that she was ashamed to think a word had passed on so silly an occasion, especially as she was satisfied she had been mistaken. A little contention followed, but with the utmost good-will to each other, and was concluded by her asserting that Paul had thoroughly convinced her she had been in the wrong. Upon which they both united in the praises of their common friend.  8
  Paul now passed his time with great satisfaction, these disputes being much less frequent, as well as shorter than usual. But the devil, or some unlucky accident in which perhaps the devil had no hand, shortly put an end to his happiness. He was now eternally the private referee of every difference; in which, after having perfectly, as he thought, established the doctrine of submission, he never scrupled to assure both privately that they were in the right in every argument, as before he had followed the contrary method.  9
  One day a violent litigation happened in his absence, and both parties agreed to refer it to his decision. The husband professing himself sure the decision would be in his favour; the wife answered, he might be mistaken; for she believed his friend was convinced how seldom she was to blame; and that if he knew all— The husband replied: “My dear, I have no desire of any retrospect; but I believe, if you knew all, too, you would not imagine my friend so entirely on your side.” “Nay,” says she, “since you provoke me, I will mention one instance. You may remember our dispute about sending Jackey to school in cold weather, which point I gave up to you from mere compassion, knowing myself to be in the right; and Paul himself told me afterward he thought me so.” “My dear,” replied the husband, “I will not dispute your veracity; but I assure you solemnly, on my applying to him, he gave it absolutely on my side, and said he would have acted in the same manner.” They then proceeded to produce numberless other instances, in all of which Paul had, on vows of secrecy, given his opinion on both sides. In the conclusion, both believing each other, they fell severely on the treachery of Paul, and agreed that he had been the occasion of almost every dispute which had fallen out between them. They then became extremely loving, and so full of condescension on both sides, that they vied with each other in censuring their own conduct, and jointly vented their indignation on Paul, whom the wife, fearing a bloody consequence, earnestly entreated her husband to suffer quietly to depart the next day, which was the time fixed for his return to quarters, and then drop his acquaintance.  10
  However ungenerous this behaviour in Leonard may be esteemed, his wife obtained a promise from him (though with difficulty) to follow her advice. But they both expressed such unusual coldness that day to Paul, that he, who was quick of apprehension, taking Leonard aside, pressed him so home that he at last discovered the secret. Paul acknowledged the truth, but told him the design with which he had done it. To which the other answered, he would have acted more friendly to have let him into the whole design, for that he might have assured himself of his secrecy. Paul replied, with some indignation, he had given him a sufficient proof how capable he was of concealing a secret from his wife. Leonard concluded with warmth, he had more reason to upbraid him, for that he had caused most of the quarrels between them by his strange conduct, and might (if they had not discovered the affair to each other) have been the occasion of their separation.  11
 
 
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