The History of Tom Jones HTML version
Containing The Same Individual Time With The Former.
Showing what is to be deemed plagiarism in a modern author, and what is to be
considered as lawful prize.
The learned reader must have observed that in the course of this mighty work, I
have often translated passages out of the best antient authors, without quoting
the original, or without taking the least notice of the book from whence they were
This conduct in writing is placed in a very proper light by the ingenious Abbe
Bannier, in his preface to his Mythology, a work of great erudition and of equal
judgment. "It will be easy," says he, "for the reader to observe that I have
frequently had greater regard to him than to my own reputation: for an author
certainly pays him a considerable compliment, when, for his sake, he suppresses
learned quotations that come in his way, and which would have cost him but the
bare trouble of transcribing."
To fill up a work with these scraps may, indeed, be considered as a downright
cheat on the learned world, who are by such means imposed upon to buy a
second time, in fragments and by retail, what they have already in gross, if not in
their memories, upon their shelves; and it is still more cruel upon the illiterate,
who are drawn in to pay for what is of no manner of use to them. A writer who
intermixes great quantity of Greek and Latin with his works, deals by the ladies
and fine gentlemen in the same paultry manner with which they are treated by
the auctioneers, who often endeavour so to confound and mix up their lots, that,
in order to purchase the commodity you want, you are obliged at the same time
to purchase that which will do you no service.
And yet, as there is no conduct so fair and disinterested but that it may be
misunderstood by ignorance, and misrepresented by malice, I have been
sometimes tempted to preserve my own reputation at the expense of my reader,
and to transcribe the original, or at least to quote chapter and verse, whenever I
have made use either of the thought or expression of another. I am, indeed, in
some doubt that I have often suffered by the contrary method; and that, by
suppressing the original author's name, I have been rather suspected of
plagiarism than reputed to act from the amiable motive assigned by that justly
Now, to obviate all such imputations for the future, I do here confess and justify
the fact. The antients may be considered as a rich common, where every person
who hath the smallest tenement in Parnassus hath a free right to fatten his muse.
Or, to place it in a clearer light, we moderns are to the antients what the poor are
to the rich. By the poor here I mean that large and venerable body which, in
English, we call the mob. Now, whoever hath had the honour to be admitted to
any degree of intimacy with this mob, must well know that it is one of their
established maxims to plunder and pillage their rich neighbours without any
reluctance; and that this is held to be neither sin nor shame among them. And so