Friday, December 01, 2017

Henry Fielding: 'The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling' (1749), Part III

Pietro Longhi, Il rinoceronte (1751). 

Henry Fielding (1707-1754), The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling. London: Andrew Millar, 1749. 

We now toggle back to Fielding's ideas and use of language. 

[The novel is divided into eighteen "books" (sections), each with its own chapter numbers starting with "i." References will be made to book number followed by chapter number; parenthetical page numbers correspond to the Modern Library edition published in 1985. For Part I, here's a magical link. Likewise, a hyperlink to Part II].

"The wise Man gratifies every Appetite and every Passion, while the Fool sacrifices all the rest to pall and satiate one." (VI: iv) (page 282). Obviously not a Puritan, Fielding pokes fun at the latest (in the 1740s) Protestant sectarian fad in England -- the Methodists.
Thomas Gainsborough, Mr. and Mrs. Andrews (1750).  
Upon "kicking" or "kissing ass" -- Fielding's take from the 1740s. Little has changed in this regard, despite the passage of 268+ years.

For instance, in 1984, George Herbert Walker Bush was asked, regarding a debate with Geraldine Ferraro the night before,

"Vice President Bush, did you say: 

'I kicked a little ass last night'? " . . . 

Q: Your quote, correct me if I'm wrong, is: "I kicked ass last night." 

[Bush]: "Very close -- I think that's it." 

(Source: Dale Russakoff, "Bush's 'Kick' Makes Waves," Washington Post, October 14, 1984. Link to article here). 

By now, we're far more familiar with Bush, Senior's antics regarding grabbing buttocks, rather than his kicking them. But I digress. Back to the 1740s.

'Allusions to this Part are . . . often made for the sake of the Jest. And here, I believe, the Wit is generally misunderstood.  In Reality, it lies in desiring another to kiss your Ass for having just threatened to kick his: For I have observed very accurately, that no one ever desires you to kick that which belongs to himself, nor offers to kiss this Part in another.

It may likewise seem surprising, that in the many thousand kind Invitations of this Sort, which every one who hath conversed with Country Gentlemen, must have heard, no one, I believe, hath ever seen a single Instance where the Desire hath been complied with. A great Instance of their Want of Politeness: For in Town, nothing can be more common than for the finest Gentlemen to perform this Ceremony every Day to their Superiors, without having that Favour once requested by them.'  (VI: ix) (page 303).

Finally, for this post, another expression still used in the 21st century: "a fine Kettle of Fish." (VI: x) (page 305).  I heard someone say this not too long ago, in fact. How about you?

Today's Rune: Signals. 

1 comment:

Charles Gramlich said...

There's something to be said for that delicate way of phrasing insults