The History of Tom Jones HTML version
Containing The Time Of A Year.
Containing five pages of paper.
As truth distinguishes our writings from those idle romances which are filled with
monsters, the productions, not of nature, but of distempered brains; and which
have been therefore recommended by an eminent critic to the sole use of the
pastry-cook; so, on the other hand, we would avoid any resemblance to that kind
of history which a celebrated poet seems to think is no less calculated for the
emolument of the brewer, as the reading it should be always attended with a
tankard of good ale--
While--history with her comrade ale,
Soothes the sad series of her serious tale
For as this is the liquor of modern historians, nay, perhaps their muse, if we may
believe the opinion of Butler, who attributes inspiration to ale, it ought likewise to
be the potation of their readers, since every book ought to be read with the same
spirit and in the same manner as it is writ. Thus the famous author of
Hurlothrumbo told a learned bishop, that the reason his lordship could not taste
the excellence of his piece was, that he did not read it with a fiddle in his hand;
which instrument he himself had always had in his own, when he composed it.
That our work, therefore, might be in no danger of being likened to the labours of
these historians, we have taken every occasion of interspersing through the
whole sundry similes, descriptions, and other kind of poetical embellishments.
These are, indeed, designed to supply the place of the said ale, and to refresh
the mind, whenever those slumbers, which in a long work are apt to invade the
reader as well as the writer, shall begin to creep upon him. Without interruptions
of this kind, the best narrative of plain matter of fact must overpower every
reader; for nothing but the ever lasting watchfulness, which Homer has ascribed
only to Jove himself, can be proof against a newspaper of many volumes.
We shall leave to the reader to determine with what judgment we have chosen
the several occasions for inserting those ornamental parts of our work. Surely it
will be allowed that none could be more proper than the present, where we are
about to introduce a considerable character on the scene; no less, indeed, than
the heroine of this heroic, historical, prosaic poem. Here, therefore, we have
thought proper to prepare the mind of the reader for her reception, by filling it with
every pleasing image which we can draw from the face of nature. And for this
method we plead many precedents. First, this is an art well known to, and much
practised by, our tragick poets, who seldom fail to prepare their audience for the
reception of their principal characters.
Thus the heroe is always introduced with a flourish of drums and trumpets, in
order to rouse a martial spirit in the audience, and to accommodate their ears to
bombast and fustian, which Mr Locke's blind man would not have grossly erred in
likening to the sound of a trumpet. Again, when lovers are coming forth, soft
music often conducts them on the stage, either to soothe the audience with the