Saturday, December 30, 2017

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

Thomas Rowlandson, Portsmouth Point (circa 1810). Wiki Commons

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

In which we continue our exploration of Fielding's language, including expressions still employed in the 21st century.

[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.]

"Keeping the Coast clear" as in "the coast is clear." (VII: iv) (page 392). A Spanish version of this phrase dates back at least eight hundred years.

On sleeplessness: "he endeavored to close his Eyes, but all in vain; his Spirits were too lively and wakeful to be lulled to Sleep. So having amused, or rather tormented himself with the Thoughts of his Sophia, till it was open Day-light, he called for some Tea . . ."  (VIII: ii) (page 407).

Landlady: "'. . . it frightens me out o'my Wits . . .'" (VIII: ii) (page 408).

Barber/Shaver: "'Festina lente . . .'"  "Make haste slowly," a proverb popularized by Augustus Caesar (63 B.C. - 14 A.D.), from the Greek, σπεῦδε βραδέως. (VIII: iv) (page 414).

Landlady: "thof he was a Bye Blow . . ."  Thof = though (the "gh" is silent nowadays). "Bye Blow" = an outside child, or love child, as courteous people might now say. (VIII: v) (page 417).

Perfect for the Age of Trump: "For tho' the Facts themselves may appear, yet so different will be the  Motives, Circumstances, and Consequences, when a Man tells his own Story, and when his Enemy tells it, that we scarce can recognize the Facts to be one and the same." (VIII: v) (page 420).

"The very same" and "the very same one" -- often used in the HBO series Deadwood. "'Was that the Gentleman that dined with us?' 'The very same,' said the other." (VIII: viii) (page 433).
Thomas Rowlandson, Saloop (1820). Wiki Commons
Social comparison/contrast: "the Follies of either Rank do in reality illustrate each other. For Instance, the Affectation of High-life appears more glaring and ridiculous from the Simplicity of the Low; and against the Rudeness and Barbarity of this latter, strikes with much stronger Ideas of Absurdity, when contrasted with, and opposed to the Politeness which controls the former." (IX: ii) (page 494).

Hardwiring: "Jones could not avoid stealing a sly Peep or two, tho' he took all imaginable Care to avoid giving any Offence." (IX: iii) (page 500).

An amorous occasion: "Spicula et Faces Amoris, so often mentioned in Ovid; or, as they are sometimes called in our own Language, The whole Artillery of Love."  Latin = the darts and torches of love.

Fielding occasionally addresses the reader in ways that are a bit eerie and humorous more than 250 years later. "READER, it is impossible we should know what Sort of Person thou wilt be: For, perhaps, thou may'st be as learned in Human Nature as Shakespear[e] himself was, and perhaps, thou may'st be no wiser than some of his Editors." (X: i) (page [523]).

On the custom of knocking before entering: "It hath been a Custom long established in the polite World, and that upon very solid and substantial Reasons, that a Husband shall never enter his Wife's Apartment without first knocking at the Door. The many excellent Uses of this Custom need scarce be hinted to a Reader who hath any Knowledge of the World . . ." (X: ii) (page 529).

"Saucy Jackanapes" = I still hear (and use) the word "saucy," but rarely "Jackanapes," which dates to the 1400s and means "impudent person" (more or less), someone who is speaking "out of line." (X: v) (page 543).

Another sly quip about marriage (Fielding was married twice): "many a Woman who shrieks at a Mouse, or a Rat, may be capable of poisoning a Husband; or, what is worse, of driving him to poison himself." (X: ix) (page 559).

Harriet Fitzpatrick to her cousin Sophia: "'What is the Reason, my Dear, that we who have Understandings equal to the wisest and greatest of the other Sex so often make Choice of the silliest Fellows for Companions and Favourites? It raises my Indignation to the highest Pitch, to reflect on the Numbers of Women of Sense who have been undone by Fools.'" (XI: v) (page 586).

Harriet ditto: "'Perhaps all may yet end better than either you or I expect.'" 

More to come in bits, as the novel is nearly 1,000 pages long. 

Today's Rune: Breakthrough.

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