The History of Tom Jones HTML version
Containing As Much Of The Birth Of The Foundling As Is Necessary Or Proper
To Acquaint The Reader With In The Beginning Of This History.
The introduction to the work, or bill of fare to the feast.
An author ought to consider himself, not as a gentleman who gives a private or
eleemosynary treat, but rather as one who keeps a public ordinary, at which all
persons are welcome for their money. In the former case, it is well known that the
entertainer provides what fare he pleases; and though this should be very
indifferent, and utterly disagreeable to the taste of his company, they must not
find any fault; nay, on the contrary, good breeding forces them outwardly to
approve and to commend whatever is set before them. Now the contrary of this
happens to the master of an ordinary. Men who pay for what they eat will insist
on gratifying their palates, however nice and whimsical these may prove; and if
everything is not agreeable to their taste, will challenge a right to censure, to
abuse, and to d--n their dinner without controul.
To prevent, therefore, giving offence to their customers by any such
disappointment, it hath been usual with the honest and well-meaning host to
provide a bill of fare which all persons may peruse at their first entrance into the
house; and having thence acquainted themselves with the entertainment which
they may expect, may either stay and regale with what is provided for them, or
may depart to some other ordinary better accommodated to their taste.
As we do not disdain to borrow wit or wisdom from any man who is capable of
lending us either, we have condescended to take a hint from these honest
victuallers, and shall prefix not only a general bill of fare to our whole
entertainment, but shall likewise give the reader particular bills to every course
which is to be served up in this and the ensuing volumes.
The provision, then, which we have here made is no other than Human Nature.
Nor do I fear that my sensible reader, though most luxurious in his taste, will
start, cavil, or be offended, because I have named but one article. The tortoise--
as the alderman of Bristol, well learned in eating, knows by much experience--
besides the delicious calipash and calipee, contains many different kinds of food;
nor can the learned reader be ignorant, that in human nature, though here
collected under one general name, is such prodigious variety, that a cook will
have sooner gone through all the several species of animal and vegetable food in
the world, than an author will be able to exhaust so extensive a subject.
An objection may perhaps be apprehended from the more delicate, that this dish
is too common and vulgar; for what else is the subject of all the romances,
novels, plays, and poems, with which the stalls abound? Many exquisite viands
might be rejected by the epicure, if it was a sufficient cause for his contemning of
them as common and vulgar, that something was to be found in the most paltry
alleys under the same name. In reality, true nature is as difficult to be met with in
authors, as the Bayonne ham, or Bologna sausage, is to be found in the shops.