The History of Tom Jones HTML version
In Which The History Advances About Two Days.
Too short to need a preface.
There are a set of religious, or rather moral writers, who teach that virtue is the
certain road to happiness, and vice to misery, in this world. A very wholesome
and comfortable doctrine, and to which we have but one objection, namely, that it
is not true.
Indeed, if by virtue these writers mean the exercise of those cardinal virtues,
which like good housewives stay at home, and mind only the business of their
own family, I shall very readily concede the point; for so surely do all these
contribute and lead to happiness, that I could almost wish, in violation of all the
antient and modern sages, to call them rather by the name of wisdom, than by
that of virtue; for, with regard to this life, no system, I conceive, was ever wiser
than that of the antient Epicureans, who held this wisdom to constitute the chief
good; nor foolisher than that of their opposites, those modern epicures, who
place all felicity in the abundant gratification of every sensual appetite.
But if by virtue is meant (as I almost think it ought) a certain relative quality,
which is always busying itself without-doors, and seems as much interested in
pursuing the good of others as its own; I cannot so easily agree that this is the
surest way to human happiness; because I am afraid we must then include
poverty and contempt, with all the mischiefs which backbiting, envy, and
ingratitude, can bring on mankind, in our idea of happiness; nay, sometimes
perhaps we shall be obliged to wait upon the said happiness to a jail; since many
by the above virtue have brought themselves thither.
I have not now leisure to enter upon so large a field of speculation, as here
seems opening upon me; my design was to wipe off a doctrine that lay in my
way; since, while Mr Jones was acting the most virtuous part imaginable in
labouring to preserve his fellow-creatures from destruction, the devil, or some
other evil spirit, one perhaps cloathed in human flesh, was hard at work to make
him completely miserable in the ruin of his Sophia.
This therefore would seem an exception to the above rule, if indeed it was a rule;
but as we have in our voyage through life seen so many other exceptions to it,
we chuse to dispute the doctrine on which it is founded, which we don't
apprehend to be Christian, which we are convinced is not true, and which is
indeed destructive of one of the noblest arguments that reason alone can furnish
for the belief of immortality.
But as the reader's curiosity (if he hath any) must be now awake, and hungry, we
shall provide to feed it as fast as we can.
In which is opened a very black design against Sophia.
I remember a wise old gentleman who used to say, "When children are doing
nothing, they are doing mischief." I will not enlarge this quaint saying to the most
beautiful part of the creation in general; but so far I may be allowed, that when