The History of Tom Jones HTML version
Containing Scenes Of Matrimonial Felicity In Different Degrees Of Life; And
Various Other Transactions During The First Two Years After The Marriage
Between Captain Blifil And Miss Bridget Allworthy.
Showing what kind of a history this is; what it is like, and what it is not like.
Though we have properly enough entitled this our work, a history, and not a life;
nor an apology for a life, as is more in fashion; yet we intend in it rather to pursue
the method of those writers, who profess to disclose the revolutions of countries,
than to imitate the painful and voluminous historian, who, to preserve the
regularity of his series, thinks himself obliged to fill up as much paper with the
detail of months and years in which nothing remarkable happened, as he
employs upon those notable aeras when the greatest scenes have been
transacted on the human stage.
Such histories as these do, in reality, very much resemble a newspaper, which
consists of just the same number of words, whether there be any news in it or
not. They may likewise be compared to a stage coach, which performs constantly
the same course, empty as well as full. The writer, indeed, seems to think himself
obliged to keep even pace with time, whose amanuensis he is; and, like his
master, travels as slowly through centuries of monkish dulness, when the world
seems to have been asleep, as through that bright and busy age so nobly
distinguished by the excellent Latin poet--
Ad confligendum venientibus undique poenis,
Omnia cum belli trepido concussa tumultu
Horrida contremuere sub altis aetheris auris;
In dubioque fuit sub utrorum regna cadendum
Omnibus humanis esset, terraque marique.
Of which we wish we could give our readers a more adequate translation than
that by Mr Creech--
When dreadful Carthage frighted Rome with arms,
And all the world was shook with fierce alarms;
Whilst undecided yet, which part should fall,
Which nation rise the glorious lord of all.
Now it is our purpose, in the ensuing pages, to pursue a contrary method. When
any extraordinary scene presents itself (as we trust will often be the case), we
shall spare no pains nor paper to open it at large to our reader; but if whole years
should pass without producing anything worthy his notice, we shall not be afraid
of a chasm in our history; but shall hasten on to matters of consequence, and
leave such periods of time totally unobserved.
These are indeed to be considered as blanks in the grand lottery of time. We
therefore, who are the registers of that lottery, shall imitate those sagacious
persons who deal in that which is drawn at Guildhall, and who never trouble the
public with the many blanks they dispose of; but when a great prize happens to
be drawn, the newspapers are presently filled with it, and the world is sure to be