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[William Kenrick], from Fun: a Parodi-tragi-comical Satire
Henry Fielding on authorial propriety
From Henry Fielding, Amelia, 4 vols, published by A.Millar, 1752, vol. II,
book IV, ch. 1. An oblique reference to Smollett’s publication of Lady
Vane’s Memoirs in Peregrine Pickle.
The Governor then, having received his Fee, departed; and turning the Key, left the
Gentleman and the Lady to themselves.
In Imitation of him, we will lock up likewise a Scene which we do not think proper to
expose to the Eyes of the Public. If any over curious Readers should be disappointed on
this Occasion, we will recommend such Readers to the Apologies with which certain
gay Ladies have lately been pleased to oblige the World, where they will possibly find
everything recorded, that past at this Interval.
But though we decline painting the Scene, it is not our intention to conceal from the
World the frailty of Mr Booth, or of his fair partner, who certainly passed that evening
in a manner inconsistent with the strict rules of Virtue and Chastity.
Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, letter
16 February 1752
From a letter to the Countess of Bute, The Complete Letters of Lady Mary
Wortley Montagu, ed. Robert Halsband, Oxford, 1966, vol. III, pp. 2–3.
I receiv’d yesterday, Feb. 15 N.S., the case of Books you were so good to send to
me. The entertainment they have allready given me has recompens’d me for the long
time I expected them. I begun, by your direction, with Peregrine Pickle. I think Lady V
[ane]’s memoirs contain more Truth and less malice than any I ever read in my Life.
When she speaks of her own being disinterested, I am apt to beleive she really thinks
her selfe so, as many highway men, after having no possibility of retreiving the
character of Honesty, please themselves with that of being Generous, because whatever
they get on the road they allways spend at the next ale House, and are still as beggarly as
ever. Her History, rightly consider’d, would be more instructive to young Women
than any Sermon I know. They may see there what mortifications and variety of misery
are the unavoidable consequences of Galant[r]ys. I think there is no rational Creature
than [sic] would not prefer the life of the strictest Carmelite to the round of Hurry and
misfortune she has gone through.
Her Style is clear and concise, with some strokes of Humour which appear to me so
much above her I can’t help being of opinion the whole has been modell’d by the
Author of the Book in which it is inserted, who is some subaltern admirer of hers.1 I
may judge wrong, she being no Acquaintance of mine, thô she has marry’d two of my
1 March 1752, Lady Mary writes to the Countess of Bute, ‘There is something Humourous in
R.Random that makes me believe the Author is H.Fielding.’ Letters, vol. III, p. 9.
Mary Granville Delany, letter
7 October 1752
From a letter to Mrs Dewes, in The Autobiography and Correspondence of
Mary Granville: Mrs Delany, ed. Lady Llanover, 1861, vol. III, p. 162.
Mary Delany (1700–88) was a friend of Swift, and she introduced the
novelist Fanny Burney to Court.
At candlelight D.D., and I read by turns, and what do you think has been part of our
study? —why truly Peregrine Pickle! We never undertook it before, but it is wretched
stuff; only Lady V’s history is a curiosity. What a wretch! ‘For sure at heart was never
yet so great a wretch as Helen.’
Smollett’s Dedication to Ferdinand Count Fathom
From the Dedication, addressed ‘TO DOCTOR——, by Smollett.
Opinion is that this Dedication is to Smollett himself, in what George
Saintsbury called an ‘autocritical’ manner. The extract given below gives
Smollett’s views on the nature of the novel form in 1753.
A Novel is a large diffused picture, comprehending the characters of life, disposed in
different groupes, and exhibited in various attitudes, for the purposes of an uniform
plan, and general occurrence, to which every individual figure is subservient. But this
plan cannot be executed with propriety, probability or success, without a principal
personage to attract the attention, unite the incidents, unwind the clue of the labyrinth,
and at last close the scene by virtue of his own importance.
Almost all the heroes of this kind, who have hitherto succeeded on the English stage,
are characters of transcendent worth, conducted through the vicissitudes of fortune, to
that goal of happiness, which ever ought to be the repose of extraordinary desert.—
Yet the same principle by which we rejoice at the remuneration of merit, will teach us
to relish the disgrace and discomfiture of vice, which is always an example of extensive
use and influence, because it leaves a deep impression of terror upon the minds of those
who were not confirmed in the pursuit of morality and virtue, and while the balance
wavers, enables the right scale to preponderate.
In the Drama, which is a more limited field of invention, the chief personage is often
the object of our detestation and abhorrence; and we are as well pleased to see the
wicked schemes of a RICHARD blasted, and the perfidy of a MASKWELL exposed, as
to behold a BEVIL happy, and an EDWARD victorious.1
The impulses of fear, which is the most violent and interesting of all the passions,
remain longer than any other upon the memory; and for one that is allured to virtue, by
the contemplation of that peace and happiness which it bestows, an hundred are
deterred from the practice of vice, by that infamy and punishment to which it is liable,
from the laws and regulations of mankind.
Let me not therefore be condemned for having chosen my principal character from
the purlieus of treachery and fraud, when I declare my purpose is to set him up as a
beacon for the benefit of the unexperienced and unwary, who from the perusal of these
82 TOBIAS SMOLLETT
memoirs, may learn to avoid the manifold snares with which they are continually
surrounded in the paths of life; while those who hesitate on the brink of iniquity, may be
terrified from plunging into that irremeable gulph, the surveying the deplorable fate of
FERDINAND Count FATHOM.
That the mind might not be fatigued, nor the imagination disgusted by a succession of
vitious objects, I have endeavoured to refresh the attention with occasional incidents of
a different nature; and raised up a virtuous character, in opposition to the adventurer, with
a view to amuse the fancy, engage the affection, and form a striking contrast which
might heighten the expression, and give a Relief to the moral of the whole.
If I have not succeeded in my endeavours to unfold the mysteries of fraud, to
instruct the ignorant, and entertain the vacant; if I have failed in my attempts to subject
folly to ridicule, and vice to indignation; to rouse the spirit of mirth, wake the soul of
compassion, and touch the secret springs that move the heart; I have at least, adorned
virtue with honour and applause; branded iniquity with reproach and scheme, and
carefully avoided every hint or expression which could give umbrage to the most
delicate reader: circumstances which (whatever may be my fate with the public) will
with you always operate in favour of
Your very affectionate
friend and servant,
1 The references are to Richard in Shakespeare’s Richard III, Maskwell in Congreve’s The
Double Dealer, Bevil in Steele’s The Conscious Lovers, and probably Edward the Black Prince in
Shirley’s play of that name acted at Drury Lane in 1750.