The History of Tom Jones HTML version

Book X.
In Which The History Goes Forward About Twelve Hours.
Chapter 1.
Containing instructions very necessary to be perused by modern critics.
Reader, it is impossible we should know what sort of person thou wilt be; for,
perhaps, thou may'st be as learned in human nature as Shakespear himself was,
and, perhaps, thou may'st be no wiser than some of his editors. Now, lest this
latter should be the case, we think proper, before we go any farther together, to
give thee a few wholesome admonitions; that thou may'st not as grossly
misunderstand and misrepresent us, as some of the said editors have
misunderstood and misrepresented their author.
First, then, we warn thee not too hastily to condemn any of the incidents in this
our history as impertinent and foreign to our main design, because thou dost not
immediately conceive in what manner such incident may conduce to that design.
This work may, indeed, be considered as a great creation of our own; and for a
little reptile of a critic to presume to find fault with any of its parts, without
knowing the manner in which the whole is connected, and before he comes to
the final catastrophe, is a most presumptuous absurdity. The allusion and
metaphor we have here made use of, we must acknowledge to be infinitely too
great for our occasion; but there is, indeed, no other, which is at all adequate to
express the difference between an author of the first rate and a critic of the
Another caution we would give thee, my good reptile, is, that thou dost not find
out too near a resemblance between certain characters here introduced; as, for
instance, between the landlady who appears in the seventh book and her in the
ninth. Thou art to know, friend, that there are certain characteristics in which
most individuals of every profession and occupation agree. To be able to
preserve these characteristics, and at the same time to diversify their operations,
is one talent of a good writer. Again, to mark the nice distinction between two
persons actuated by the same vice or folly is another; and, as this last talent is
found in very few writers, so is the true discernment of it found in as few readers;
though, I believe, the observation of this forms a very principal pleasure in those
who are capable of the discovery; every person, for instance, can distinguish
between Sir Epicure Mammon and Sir Fopling Flutter; but to note the difference
between Sir Fopling Flutter and Sir Courtly Nice requires a more exquisite
judgment: for want of which, vulgar spectators of plays very often do great
injustice in the theatre; where I have sometimes known a poet in danger of being
convicted as a thief, upon much worse evidence than the resemblance of hands
hath been held to be in the law. In reality, I apprehend every amorous widow on
the stage would run the hazard of being condemned as a servile imitation of
Dido, but that happily very few of our play-house critics understand enough of
Latin to read Virgil.
In the next place, we must admonish thee, my worthy friend (for, perhaps, thy
heart may be better than thy head), not to condemn a character as a bad one,